Preparation for my first Ultra Marathon

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Only 2 more sleeps until my first ever ultra marathon and I am beside myself with excitement!!

This Saturday I will be competing in the 30th anniversary edition of the Six Foot Track Marathon, a 45km trail run from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves, the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

As it’s a Saturday race I have taken Friday off work so that I can sleep in and get to the mountains easily by avoiding the Friday afternoon traffic. And I’m getting a lift with one of my fellow Sydney Striders running buddies Sherin. As I won’t have my car it means I won’t be able to just throw everything in the boot in case i need it, so I need to pack smart. I’ve started a list as I think it’s the best way to make sure that I don’t forget anything, and I have to pack light so I’m keeping it simple.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the people who have supported me and helped me get to where I am today.

Firstly to my husband, who puts up with me leaving the house at 4am most weekends (lately on both Saturday and Sunday), and then coming home to nap on the couch all afternoon with my feet up. Jared is my rock and I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have had without his love, encouragement and support.

To my family who have put up with my crazyness since I was a kid. I know it will be hard to believe (cough, cough) but I haven’t always been who I am today, and I know I must have given my folks some grief through my teenage years and maybe even later than that. But as least I got there in the end right?! When I was a kid my mum gave up countless hours, afternoons and weekends to drive me around the countryside, supporting me at various sporting events. But she always did it with ease. My parents have always supported me and taught me that anything is possible if you believe in yourself – so reach for the stars.

To Todd and the rest of my running buddies at SHR (and previously NRC), you have shown me how to become a runner. We have shared countless hours pounding the pavements and I’ve learnt more from you guys than I ever could have imagined. You show me that anything is possible with the right training and the right attitude. I owe my first marathon to you guys and I thank you for guiding me to the wonderful path that we follow today.

To Andy and all of the Sydney Striders members and especially the Six Foot Training Crew, wow! You have really opened my eyes to trail running. Sharing the mountains, the streams, the ups, and the downs with you has taught me so much about myself and also shown me how beautiful our world can be. The hours that we have spent together on the trails will never be forgotten, and I know that we will have many more adventures together in the future. I hope you all have a fantastic experience on Saturday and I look forward to seeing you for a celebratory drink at the finish.

And thank you to my friends who don’t see me enough because my schedule doesn’t allow much more than training, working, eating and sleeping. You know who you are and you always support me and encourage me with my running adventures. This includes all my work buddies at PwC too!

I really hope that I haven’t forgotten anyone and I promise you will all see much more of me after TNF100 in May! 

Now all that’s left to do is run the race – bring on the Six Foot Track Marathon!!

Happy Running 😀

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 2 – Trail Run

Day 2 of our camp started with breakkie and meeting at the bus by 8am for a morning run. I wasn’t sure if my legs had recovered from the night before but I was about to find out.

Simon drove both groups out to the Iron Pot Ridge section of the course, and both groups would be running this section day. On the drive down (which took about 45mins) we passed some of the 6ft track and I felt like I was starting to get to know the area a little better (even if only by car at the moment).

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Todays section of the course called the Iron Port Ridge is normally off limits to the public as it is private property, however they had gained permission from the landowners for us to run it on that day, so we were all feeling very fortunate. We were also very fortunate to have Brendan Davies join us for the run, he won TNF100 last year in a record time of 9hrs 16mins, wow!!!

It was heating up and this would be a tough run, but I stuck to the longer distance (16km) and put myself in the slower group again, this time our leader would be Graham Hammond. Graham is a very smiley, positive, bubbly guy and you can tell he really loves the outdoors.

We set off down the hill from where the bus dropped us and Hanny started the session with some tips on downhill & uphill running. She explained her Butler pose and how to use gravity to your advantage to pull yourself forward. We did a few intervals up and down the hills for practise and then we got stuck into the course. These tips were most useful and I really started to feel comfier using the technique, so I made a conscious effort to try and make sure I used the tips during the whole run.

Our group of 7 runners including Graham our leader were an awesome bunch to run with. There was the speedy Collette & David up front, followed by Ian (who lost a toenail that day, ouch!) & Claude (our Noosa representative), then Louise and myself running at the tail.

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The first section of the course we went through paddocks and fields, opening and closing gates as we passed them, and we saw a beautiful horse roaming around on our path.

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Then we got to the tricky part which was a steep rocky ascent that was very technical. It wasn’t a long way up, but it was very rugged and you really had to concentrate and watch where you were going, it was easy to lose the path and in fact we did at some spots. Thankfully the trees weren’t too thick in this area (probably due to the large amount of rock) so we could easily look up and see which way the group was supposed to be heading. Here’s a shot of the view from the top of the Iron Pot Ridge.

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And here’s the spot where we started to head back down, very steep and uneven but we were all smiling!

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And I almost forgot to mention these little holes that Graham pointed out to us up on the ridge, they are said to be from when the aborigines lived on the ridge they used these to grind cook etc. Apparently there are some drawings in the area too but we weren’t fortunate enough to see them that day.

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Graham gave us some good advice for the next downhill sections too and we made like ducks (heel to toe) all the way to the bottom. We even quacked a few times to help re-iterate the point (and because it’s fun). We slipped and slided down the loose leaves which covered the downhill section and used trees as brakes at some parts. It was important to keep the body low, almost squatting into the hill, and use small steps to keep moving. When we got to the bottom of the tricky section Graham pointed out some landmarks and we took a 2 min break to take in the view, spectacular.

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We were now making our way back to the bus, back towards the big hill at the end and I wasn’t looking forward to that. However I was determined that it wasn’t going to beat me, I just had to keep moving. Collette and David had been speedy & were ahead of us and I now ran with Ian and Claude. We egged each other on and took the winding hill, with it’s thousands of bends (well, it felt like thousands, and I’m sure it was much longer on the way back up!!) and eventually it flattened out at the top just before the bus so I convinced the guys we should run the last part and not let this hill beat us. And we did! We felt great for it too. What a blast!

The crew lumbered back onto the bus and we headed down the road to pick up the speedy guys who had added an extra few km’s to pass the time. It was starting to heat up and we all planned to take a dip in the hotel pool when we got back. After a quick swim & some lunch we were headed into the conference room for an afternoon of learning about Nutrition, Hydration and the mandatory gear required for TNF in May.

It had been so rugged out there on the trails today, but there was so much to see and do that I didn’t really even think about running on this course. I was so amazed at how much these trails brought me back to earth, made me feel so relaxed and at ease. It had been another top run and again something that I would never forget!

Happy Trail Running! 😀

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 1

Last Friday I took the day off work as I was booked into a training camp in the Blue Mountains with Find Your Feet, a camp specifically designed to assist with training & preparation for The Northface100 in May.  We didn’t have to be there till after lunch so I decided to visit my grandmother in the morning as it was on the way.

I will be running The Northface100 for my grandmother and raising funds for Dementia research, as she has Alzheimer’s disease. I had not told her yet so I thought it fitting to spend the morning with her and give her some information about the race, the course and that I would be running it for her. She was very excited and a little overwhelmed, and I know her smile and positivity will be with me during the race.

So I gave Nan a hug and I got into my car feeling very nervous about the camp and not really sure what to expect. I was also freaking out a little about the 100km journey that awaits me in a couple of months. Can I really do this? Is this a really stupid thing to be putting my body through?

I’m not sure why I started being so negative, probably the fact that 100km is a FRIKIN long way, but I hoped that the camp might give me some tools to prepare myself through training and learning about proper nutrition and hydration. So I was on my way, there was no turning back now.

I pulled into the Waldorf Laura Gardens Hotel and checked-in at the reception desk. I went to my room and started unpacking and I met Louise from Melbourne who would be my roomie for the weekend and a fellow TNF100 runner. Then the phone rang and we were asked if we didn’t mind changing rooms to share with another lady too, so we packed up our stuff again and moved to our new room. There we met Matilda who was from Canberra and even though she wasn’t competing in TNF she was a client of Hanny’s and had come along for the experience.

We got organised (me stealing the double bed, thanks ladies) and then heading to our conference room for the first session which included a little Introduction on what the camp would entail, followed by an insightful talk from our camp leader Hanny Allston about her life and career up to this point.

Hanny is an amazing women and she has come so far in her life thus far. A lot of what she said I could relate to very easily, and her openness and honestly helped me to relax into the camp. It’s amazing the journey that life can take you on and I had an inkling that this weekend would be one I would never forget.

So we finished up and headed to our rooms to gear up for the first run. We had to pack mandatory items and I was going to need my new headlamp and backup thermal gear (just as a precaution). The 50km runners would be doing a 9km route from the Resort along Hordern Road and the 100km runners would be doing a 20km night run from the Queen Victoria Hospital, through Kedumba Pass and up the Furber Steps. All of our training runs would be the course sections that we would be running on race day, and I was really looking forward to seeing the different areas so I could prepare for them now and mentally during the race.

We all hopped on the bus driven by Simon (Hanny’s Dad) our chauffeur for the weekend, and we headed to the start of our trail run. The section we were running tonight is the last section of our 100km journey. It’s probably going to be the hardest part of our course as there is a huge drop at the 80km mark, followed by some very tough ups and downs, then the Furber Steps.

I was the only female runner doing the 20km run and I chose to go in the slow group which would be lead by Julie Quinn, a three time winner of TNF100 (how awesome!). Turns out all of the men thought they were speedy so that left Julie and I to run the course together. I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn from Julie and find out as much as I could from her during the run. She must have got sick of me asking so many questions, but she never showed it. I watched her technique and foot placement as we went down the hills, and she filled me in on lots of information about the area and what to expect.

The first downhill section was on fire trail and it was pretty speedy compared to everything else that would follow, but I didn’t want to go too hard as I knew it was going to be a hilly end. We made a sharp right turn at the bottom of the track and started the trek of challenging ups and downs, twists and turns….. some of the course looks so similar in so many parts, and during the race I will be coming through this section at night which will be even tougher as I’m guessing we won’t be able to see the top and know when we’re getting closer.

Julie was so positive and even though we walked up most of the hills, she said that we were holding a nice steady pace and that’s what I should aim for on the day. I was felling it, it was quite tough, but I knew there was a flatter section coming up soon. Soon just took a lot longer than I was expecting.

Finally we reached the section where it turned into a single track, fern covered rainforest and the light was starting to fade. We stopped at a picnic table and got out our headlamps (I wore a Petzl R+) and fluro vests, good practise as I would have to wear both on race day too. Julie let me take the lead from this point so that I could get some practise in with my headlamp (I wore a buff underneath to keep it steady & prevent rubbing) and I must say this was my favourite part of all the runs we did that weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I was blown away at so many views and sections of our runs this weekend, but this was my favourite. There was just Julie and I and the flowing track and it felt like were in the middle of nowhere. The green shrubs, the cool night air, the small rain drops that called as we ran….. it was magical.

Then our silence was broken by some walkers above, they seemed to come from nowhere, but apparently there was another track above us that came down and would meet us up ahead. We said ‘hi’ to the walkers and kept going.

I stopped in my tracks, a huge spider had started spinning it’s web right in front of me and there was no way I was running through that. Julie found a stick and we cleared the path so we could get through. I had run through a few webs previously but thankfully there were no spiders. And on we went.

As we approached the Furber steps some of the fast group came up behind us, they’d taken a wrong turn and ended up behind us somehow. So we all started to make our way up the steps that would be the last ascent for the night (and also what would be the last ascent during the race). And boy was it tough! Steps of different sizes and terrain, some rock steps, some wood, some steel, and some so steep that you had to use the handrail to pull yourself up (well I had to use them, but maybe not everyone). At one point we looked back and we could see the three sisters lit up behind us, more magic.

When we got to the top of the stairs we met up with all of the other runners and we all chatted about how hard it was, but also how much we enjoyed the course. We all agreed it would be the toughest section during the race, but also quite a spectacular one.

And I forgot to mention the leeches!! Most of the guys had them on their ankles and thankfully all I found was a bit of blood on the back of my ankle so it had dropped off. They are gross! I think I’ll make sure my legs are covered for the night section!!

We piled back onto the bus and headed to the hotel for some much earned dinner and rest. I knew I was going to sleep well that night!

I wish I had taken some pictures that night, but they may not have turned out very well due to the lighting. However the memories and feelings from that run will stay with me for a long time, it felt so amazing like I was connected to the earth in some way. Just awesome!

Stay tuned for more information about Day 2 of the training camp.

Happy Running! 😀

If you are interested in reading a bit more about my grandmother and/or donating towards Dementia research, here’s the link to my fundraiser page: https://CHeBA2.everydayhero.com/au/running-hailey

Look good, feel good.

I love Sportswear and the brighter, the better! Even though i’m not one of those girls who spends hours shopping and fantasizing about labels (in fact I buy most of my clothes online these days), but I really like to look good when i’m running or hitting the gym.

I was thinking about this yesterday when I went on a shopping spree in my lunch break at the Nike Sydney City Store. I had a voucher to spend and there was no stopping me. I bought shoes, shorts, tights, shirts and a visor (check out the photos below).

When i first started running & became a gym goer again, I made sure I bought clothes and shoes that were bright and pretty. My theory was that if I wanted to wear them then I had to exercise, so in some strange way it helped motivate me.

It’s really interesting when you start looking at what motivates people. I know myself I have to set goals and register for events and that helps keep me in line. But I also love the motivational pictures and quotes that get posted on facebook daily, some of them you can really relate to and they help to keep me focused.

I would love to hear any comments on what motivates you?

Happy Running!

My shopping spree items