Extra. Extra. Read all about it.

So what’s the new goss I hear you say. What new races have I signed up for to keep me entertained for the rest of 2014……?

Firstly, I went to the physio on Monday after doing the half marathon last weekend and he was very impressed at the lack of pain, inflammation or anything of a negative effect so has given me permission to start being AWESOME again. Which means that I can plan some more big races for the res of the year.

So what did i register for first? The M7 Marathon at the end of July. The M7 Marathon was my first marathon in 2013 and it was now going to be my second marathon. I know quite a lot of people doing the M7 this year too so it will be lovely knowing there smiling faces are out on the course too and hopefully i’ll get to see them at the finish line too.

And what else have I signed up for? Not another 100km I hear you say! But yes, I was asked by my good mate Emma to join her team for the Oxfam Trailwalker in August and i’m very excited about this opportunity. The teams have lots of weekend day and night training runs planned as we plan to run the course (not walk) and aim to complete it within 20 hours.

How exciting is that – woohoo!! 😀

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What’s next?

A lot of people have been asking me “What’ next?” on my running journey and that’s a very good question.

If you’ve read my earlier blog about my TNF100 experience you’ll know that I plan to be back to conquer the course in 2015 so that’s the next big goal, however it has left me wondering “What else” I should do in the meantime. I had spent so much time and energy preparing for that 100km race and waiting 12 months for it to come around again would be painful without some small goals in between. So let’s see shall we…

Maybe I should find another 100km run in Australia that’s within the next 6 months?

Maybe I should do another marathon?

So I started looking back through my running CV (I have an excel spreadsheet, very nerdy) and I thought I might share the following information on the number of races i have done.

Ultra Marathons x 4

Marathons x 1

Half Marathons x 4

Looking at the above it seems i’m a bit lob-sided so my plan is to run another marathon within the next 6 months, now I just need to decide which one….?

Happy Running 🙂

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It’s a good thing I love hills!

I feel like I say this every week, but I can honestly say that last Saturday’s Mt Solitary 45km Ultra Marathon was the toughest course I have ever attempted. But it was also the most fun!!

Here are some stats to give you an idea of the course (as per my Garmin):

Distance – 46.3 km

Time – 8 hrs 36 mins 33 secs

Elevation Gain – 2,308 m

Elevation Loss – 2,292 m

Fastest km – 3’43” (running down Kedumba walls)

Slowest km – 28’44” (climbing up Mt Solitary)

I got up at 3.30am on Saturday morning to have some breakfast (toast, banana & peppermint tea) before jumping in the car and driving to the Blue Mountains. It’s about a 2 hour drive from my place which includes a toilet stop at the servo near the end of the journey to avoid the queues at the start line.

When I arrived it was still dark but thankfully not as cold as I had been expecting. There were a few other runners who were earlier than me and we got our mandatory gear ready for checking by the organisers. We were required to carry a course map, waterproof jacket, food for 3-5hrs, compression bandage, mobile phone, whistle, compass, space blanket and 2L of fluid. Plus they had added thermal gloves and a beanie/buff.

I chatted with Craig from the Striders at the start line and ran into lots of running friends as we prepared for the race. I even ran into Simon & Mike from my run club in the city, I had no idea they were doing this race but it was awesome to see them out there! Sam from PwC was also there getting another long run in before TNF100 and feeling much better than when I last saw him at Six Foot Track. And the lovely Sherin who was having difficulty with her hydration pack which was leaking and I worried that she would not have enough water, but tried to stay positive and reassure her that it would be fine.

We positioned ourselves at the start, a field of 168 runners with only 28 females. I know this means that I am guaranteed a Top 30 finish, but it would be great to see many more women out there competing.

The gun went off and we all made our way up the first section towards the top of Kedumba walls for the first descent. My goal for the day was to make it to the Checkpoint at 25km before the cut-off time which was 5hrs 15mins, which meant doing roughly 5km per hour (or faster). There were some really funny guys running just ahead of me and we all laughed at their jokes and it put me in a really good mood from the start. They were hilarious!

We ran down Kedumba and I love the downhill sections so I used it to get past a couple of people, knowing full well that they would catch me on the next flat or uphill, but you have to work your strengths. I used the downhill technique that Hanny and Graham had taught us at the training camp, and I was warming up and feeling good.

The first big hill we had to climb on this course was Mount Solitary and you knew it when you hit it. This was the slowest section of the course but it was also lots of fun. I had been chatting with a few of the runners around me and a Strider friend got some great shots of us making the climb so the next 4 photos are courtesy of Craig Thom.

The first shot below is probably the least steep section, it only got rockier and steeper after this point and you had to get your hands dirty too.

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Here’s me holding up the speedsters (below). I let a few go past me on several sections as I need to make sure i left some fuel in the tank for the rest of the course.

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And that’s me having a drink break (below).

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And another break (below) for some air I think, but still smiling and thumbs up!

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Once we got to the top it was rolling ups and downs and the views were magnificent. It was quite jaw dropping to think that we had started in the valley below and climbed our way to the top of the mountain….. the fog was so low beneath us too and i felt like I was up in the heavens.

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And then even more fun began! You would be running a long and all of a sudden there would be a cliff in front of you and the only way to go was down the rocks on the cliff edge. Here’s one of the first climb down sections that was a good taster for what was still to come.

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A new running friend (who I would later find out is called Blake) stopped to take in a shot of the view, and me being the tourist trail runner did exactly the same thing. So we decided to swap cameras and get a shot for each other. The view from Mt Solitary was amazing to say the least!!

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The steepest section of rock climbing took me a little by surprise. I had been running through some thicker bush for a while and then all of a sudden there was an edge with some pink tape.

For the non-trail runners out there we always follows the tape along a course (today’s was pink) and it helps you to stay on track and not get lost. They are usually place every couple of kilometers and are most useful.

So I could see this pink tape flapping in the breeze ahead of me and I approached it slowly and with caution….

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To say I have a slight fear of heights would be an understatement, so I crept closer and closer to the edge….

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and realised this was going to be a very tough section for me. Look at that drop! I had to get photos because something a pictures tells a thousand words. And this one below should tell you that I was packing it!!

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But slowly I made it down the rocky section and back onto some much loved dirt. It was a most beautiful course, rolling hills everywhere you looked.

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We ran along some more dirt sections and rocky sections and then we hit the rainforest. The changes in scenery around me were so impressive that day. It was breathtaking.

Apologies for the awful selfie, but at least i’m still smiling 🙂

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I took a break from photos through the middle sections which included the Furber Steps, as i concentrated on making it to the checkpoint within the cutoff time. I ran a few sctions with a lady called Tina, she was a lot faster than me on the flats so we played leap frog through a couple of sections here.

She was a bit lost as we approached the Scenic Railway and thankfully i knew this section so I guided her towards the Furber Steps. When I was about halfway up Furber Steps I looked back and saw Sarah-Jane, and if you’ve read the blog about my first marathon then you’ll probably remember this name. SJ  kept me company during my first marathon and we ran most of the second half of the race together. She’s an amazing ultra runner (who sparked the idea of doing an ultra long ago) and has a heart of gold. I was so happy to see her and we chatted all the way to the top of the stairs. She encouraged me all the way to the top and I was so glad to have bumped into her on the course.

I made it to the checkpoint in 4 hrs 45 mins, so that gave me half an hours grace. I was so happy to have made it within the cut off time, as they had strictly told me that I would be pulled from the race if I did not meet the cut off. I wanted to get in and out as quick as possible too, as I still needed to make it to the finish line within 9 hours, and there was another 20km of tough course to come.

We also ran into Sherin who unfortunately had to pull herself out of the race due to problems with her foot. But it was a mart idea for her as she didn’t want to jeopardise her TNF chances. So I wished her well and re-filled my water bladder and 2 electrolyte flasks, grabbed a banana and some lollies and headed with SJ and a few others back down the Furber stairs, I wanted to try and stay with them for as long as possible.

They pulled ahead of me a little while after we had reached the flat section below and i settled in for some quiet alone running time with yours truly. It was a great time for me to clear my head and assess how I was feeling. I had not had enough water and so I started making an effort to try and drink more than I had been all morning.

The time alone was very relaxing and it geared me up ready for the final hills that were to come. I knew there was another rocky section ahead of me and then the infamous Kedumba walls as the final climb.

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There were more and more rocks developing along the trail and it was getting steeper.

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I looked up to my left at one point and the cliffs were amazing (below).

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The next 2 photos are the official race photographers shots (GeoSnapShot.com) and they give you an idea of how steep some of the sections were. I’ve even got my hand on my knee to help me up at this point.

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The photographer just sort of appeared out of nowhere, so i’m glad I was smiling.

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Then we left the rocks behind again and headed through another rainforest section. The colours and landscapes were all so different and it was almost surreal to be running in this place. Here’s Tina giving me a smile for the camera (below).

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Then we headed for Kedumba walls and I was on track to make it within the cut off time. I ran a large section with Blake and we chatted about life and about running. He and his wife were expecting a baby soon so she’d had to stop running only recently, which was driving her nuts. One day I will probably have to do the same, but not for a little while yet… Margie, don’t get excited. You can sit back down! (ha ha)

Kedumba was tough, very tough. After all the grueling kilometers it was a slow journey to the end and i spent most of it by myself when I pushed Blake to go on ahead and not let me hold him back.

I climbed and climbed and it felt like it was never going to end. But I managed to catch up to a guy called Darren who had run with SJ and i earlier. We chatted a little and eventually I let him go ahead too as he was speeding up and i didn’t have it in me.

However he did encourage me to keep running and moving to get to the line quicker and with that I started running again as soon as I hit the peak of the hill. I ran the last couple of kilometers and crossed the line in 8 hours 36 minutes and 22 seconds, 3rd last over all.

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You could not wipe the smile off my face and as i crossed the finish line SJ was waiting for me with my medal and to give me a big hug!! I’d had my doubts the week before the run and I was so happy to have completed another exciting chapter in my journey to TNF100.

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I came away from the race feeling a lot more confident about the big challenge that lies ahead in May, as i had handled this race and the course very well in my eyes. Especially when you consider that there were 11 people who unfortunately DNF (did not finish).

Garmin

Now it’s time to taper and prepare for the biggest race of my life – bring on The NorthFace100 – 3 weeks to go!!

Happy Trail Running 😀

 

2014 Six Foot Track Marathon

Wow, where do I start. I am still on such a massive high from the best race I have ever run and I don’t know where to start. Saturday was one of the best days of my life and one that I will never forget.

One of the things I had done in preparation for this race was to put up the elevation chart at work. I also included the splits needed at each timing mat to hit the 6 hour mark. If I could beat 6 hours then I would qualify for the Mt Solitary run in April which would be a good training run in the lead up to TNF100. But honestly I would be happy just to beat the ‘Grim Sweepers’ as the cut off for this race was 7 hours.

Looking at this chart every day for the past few weeks has really helped me to know the course and make it seem more familiar.

6ft elevation

I would also like to introduce you to Kokopelli, he is the TrailRunner Nation Performance Enhancing God and he follows me on all my trail runs now. TrailRunner nation is a great site and a friend introduced me to their podcasts not long ago and they have been invaluable. If you’re into trails then you should definitely check them out.

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Now, let’s get to the good stuff 😉

Friday morning I had a nice little sleep in and then got up and packed my bag for the mountains. I was feeling very nervous and excited but so happy that tomorrow I would finally get the chance to run the Six Foot track marathon.

I met Sherin at Milsons Point around 12.30pm and we headed for the mountains. We were staying at the beautiful Carrington Hotel, which was also the location for collecting our race bibs. The Carrington is where Jared and I got married last year so it has a very special place in my heart.

We arrived at the hotel, checked-in and picked up our race bibs and race shirts. I really liked the shirts and I was so excited that our names were on our bibs, I’ve never had that before!

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Our room was on the first floor, had a lovely window seat outlook and an original bathroom with a claw foot bath. Very comfortable but unfortunately, as we found out later on, not in the best position as all we could hear until around 1.30am was the music and rowdiness from the nearby pubs 😦

Sherin and I went for a walk down the main street of Katoomba so she could buy a jacket from the Mountain Sports store, having forgotten to bring one. And we both must have checked the Weatherzone App about a thousand times. It was raining and thundery that afternoon and into the evening, with lots of fog hanging around when night fell. At least it would be cool, I’d prefer the cool over the heat any day.

Some friends of our suggested the pizza & pasta place across the road from the hotel for dinner, so we decided to head there just after 5pm as apparently it gets full by 6pm and you can’t book tables. We made our way over there at 5.15pm and the place only had a few people inside, but by 6pm it was full and there was a queue forming to either wait for tables or get takeaway. Lucky we came early! We ended up giving our table to some of our running friends so they were very thankful not to have to line up too. Then it was back to our room for some rest and chill out time to get prepped for the morning’s run.

Unfortunately I had a horrible nights sleep as the pub noise kept me up and when I did fall asleep I ended up waking every 1-2 hours checking the time and feeling nervous. Oh well, not much you can do about it so no point stressing about it. In the week leading up to the race I had slept very well every night, so I hoped that would be enough to get me through.

The alarm sounded at 5.00am and I made my way out of bed for a morning snack, which consisted of a mini blueberry muffin, a banana, coffee and a peppermint tea (to calm the stomach). Then I got into my race gear which consisted of Nike WildHorse trail shoes, Sigvaris compression socks, BSC tights (short length), Sydney Striders singlet top, Nike sports bra and Nike sun visor. I had also decided to wear my Salomon hydration vest as it would make carrying my gels/electrolytes easy, while also being good training practice for TNF100.

Sherin and I gathered our things, checked-out of the hotel and headed for the car. We drove to Katoomba High School where the buses would take us to the start line.

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The buzz at the start line was like nothing i have seen or felt before. There were runners everywhere and everyone was smiling and excited. We ran into many of our fellow Striders and I also saw a work colleague Sam who came over to wish me good luck. Sam had been sick for a few weeks prior to the race so didn’t feel all that well prepared unfortunately.

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Sarah and Tanya (in the blue bibs above) were in Wave 3 and are both super speedy, Sherin was in Wave 4 (green bib) and I was in the lucky last Wave 5. We talked and laughed and the excitement was filling the air. The gun for Wave 1 went off at 7am and everybody cheered with excitement. The gun had actually been fired by Max BogenHuber, who at the ripe young age of 71 years has had the privilege to run in every race since Day 1. Max had run 30 x Six Foot Track Marathons, what a legend!

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As our Wave 5 readied for the start we hugged and wished each other well, it was race time!

The gun went off and we ran about 20 metres before we had to slow to a walk and head down the narrow path towards Nellie’s Glen. And the pace stayed at walking speed until we got all the way to the bottom of Nellie’s Glen. The Glen is a narrow, slippery, muddy, uneven, challenging section of stairs that last for a couple of kms down the mountain. We were about halfway in the pack the going was very slow, which I thought was perfect. Perfect because this section has been known to take ankles and break bones, so my game plan has always been to take this section as slowly and carefully as possible.

Unfortunately my GPS didn’t work until I was already a couple of km’s into the race, so I was a bit annoyed but wasn’t going to let it get me down. I would just have to add a few kms and about 20-25 minutes to the time and remember to do this for the whole race.

At the bottom of the Glen we hit the fire trail and I got to run with my training buddy Maria. We had spent many hours together on the trails in the lead up to this race, and had qualified with the same marathon time (4hr 14mins) so we are well matched in terms of pace. We even got race bibs with sequential numbers, i was 912 and she was 913!! I always enjoyed my runs with Maria so it was wonderful that we ended up spending majority of the race together on Saturday too.

I desperately needed a toilet stop (I think it was the nerves), so i snuck into the bush at about the 4km mark and then snuck back onto the course making my way back up to meet Maria. We also had another training buddy Emma run with for some of the first section, and it was so nice to have my friends with me, supporting and encouraging each other. We talked to other runners as we ran and worked out our plan of attack for the race. Basically we were going to take it easy all the way up to the Pluviometer (26km), as that was the hardest, hilliest section of the course. Then try to run consistently through the Black Ranges, an undulating section that was mostly a slow up hill scramble. And then we would try to continue that pace, if not a little faster through the next section towards the final 2km downhill, quad killer finale. My plan was to run the whole downhill section at the end, no matter how my legs felt – I was going to run that sucker!

We made our way down to the Cox’s river crossing which was the 15.5km mark and we giggled our way across the river, wading most of it as it was up to hip height. The cool water was quite refreshing on my feet and calves, and our shoes squelched as we made our way out the other side. Due to the slow start and being held up by a slow group through the narrow section down to the creek we hit the first timing mat before the crossing in 1 hour and 54 minutes, and I had was the 780th person to this checkpoint.

Our minds turned to the sweepers, and we definitely wanted to try and put some distance between us and them, but as we turned the corners as we started to make our way up mini mini saddle we saw the 7hr pacers from Wave 4, which meant ours were at least 10 minutes behind our position. I think this gave us confidence and we walked and chatted to those pacers as we passed them on our way up the hill.

Maria was looking very strong and I new that at some stage I would have to give her a kick and tell her to leave me behind. I very much welcomed her company but there was no way I was going to hold her back!

We started the next climb up to the Pluviometer and were thankful the fog had stuck around to shade us for most of this open section. The weather could not have been any more perfect. We were very quiet through this tough uphill section, but we stuck together, encouraged each other and had mini celebrations when we finally got to the peak, hitting the timing mat at 3 hours 44 minutes in 776th position (I had moved up 4 places).

We were over halfway!!

I should mention that we had water/aid stations scattered all the way along this course, and they were run by the local Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service (RFS). They all greeted us with smiling faces and encouraging words and I made sure I said hello and thanked every group that I passed. After all, they had volunteered there time to assist us so the least I could do was say thank you.

From here I pushed Maria to go ahead of me. She was looking strong and I was feeling a little light-headed, so i told her I needed to slow down a little to get my breath back and find a comfortable rhythm. She wished me well and crept ahead as we made our way through the Black Ranges.

I slowed for a few kms until I started to feel better and then decided it was now or never. There was a chance I could hit the 6 hour mark and I felt like I might get there. I ran a lot more of this section than I thought I would and I actually started to feel quite comfortable even when i decided to pick up the pace and start looking to pick off people in front of me, wishing them well as I overtook them. I found that moving at this faster pace actually felt more comfortable than walking, so i stuck with it and overtook more and more people.

As I passed another water/aid station I heard my name being called, I turned around and Sam was sitting on a chair under the tent with a blanket wrapped around him, he looked very pale and told me that he couldn’t go on and that he’d had to pull out of the race. What a tough decision. He asked me how I was going and was I going to finish the race? I told him that I felt good and that ‘Yes, definitely!’ (I was going to finish the race).

I kept Maria in my sights for most of the last section, but I did not catch her. I did catch up to a few people i knew from our weekend training runs and had a chat with some fellow Striders. Plus I ovetook my friends husband Craig who told me I wasn’t allowed to and we had a laugh!!

I was smiling from ear to ear and nothing, no run had ever felt like this. It’s hard to describe, but I felt so comfortable and so right being there in that moment, in that race, at one with the world. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what i was supposed to be doing.

I had caught up to a few friends Leonor and Margaret, and we spotted the Pine forest ahead – the Black Range was over. Then on the side of the trail I spotted Anne, a friend from work and also an avid runner who has given me great advice and encouragement in the short time that I have known here. I gave her a huge hug and she wished me well.

There wasn’t far to go now.

At the Caves Road Crossing (38km) I saw a sign for the Jenolan Caves and I burst into tears…. I was really doing this. I was going to run 45km, the furthest I had ever run and on the toughest course I have ever seen. I had to get control of my emotions, so i used them to pick up the pace and I don’t know how it was possible, but my mood shifted up another gear and I felt amazing.

I kept moving forward and over taking more and more people. Lots of runners told me I looked great and to keep pushing and one lovely old man yelled at me telling me I looked like I was flying. The energy in his voice was so powerful, I will never forget that moment.

The downhill section had begun, the rocky, dusty path near the end was before me and I kept running. I shortened my steps and stuck to the technique that I had been taught for downhill and I kept the speed up. I saw others walking in front of me and I caught them quickly.

And then I heard it….. I heard the crowd and I burst into tears. I could see the cars as I peered through the trees and I knew I was on the final descent down to Caves House. The terrain turned into a flat concrete path which required hardly any focus, so I decided to give it everything I had left. I increased my stride length and sprinted down those ramps, zig-zagging my way to the last set of stairs and rounding the corner towards the finish line.

I sprinted over the line in 6 hours 8 minutes in a position of 691st, which meant I picked up 85 places from Pluviometer to the finish line. How awesome is that?!

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My medal was placed around my neck and the next 10 minutes are a bit of a blur to me. I hugged many of my friends and we all shared our results and experiences. It truly was the best race of my life and I cannot believe the high that I was on. Here’s a shot of Maria, Nigel and I with our winning medals and grinning faces!

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I ran into David from the Find Your Feet training camp in the Blue Mountains that I had done a couple of months ago and he told me that Hanny Alston (my mentor) had won, so i raced over to wish her Congratulations (she had also finished in the 2nd fastest time ever!). I also bumped into Julie (David’s wife, who I had also met at the camp and run many trails with) and she gave me a big hug as the tears ran down my face. Later I found out that she had come third, what a legend – I wish I had given her my congratulations at the time but I was so emotional when I saw her that I forgot to ask how she’d gone. Silly me!!

I saw Mark from work who had successfully finished the race, and had a photo with Craig (below) who had also had a great run! The noise and the atmosphere in that finish area was like nothing before. Very powerful.

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We watched more and more people cross the finish line, cheering them as they finished and eventually the sweepers crossed the line just after the 7 hour cut off.  It was all over and i felt a little sad for all the people who hadn’t made it to the line that day.

I picked up my drop bag and they made us walk up a hill after the race to collect our drop bags ( ha ha) with our dry clothes and we had some more photos with our running crew. Check out our bib numbers below, ha ha

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I started to feel a bit light headed and decided that I should sit down for a while. Maria grabbed us some salty hot chips (yum) and a beer, while I got some water and electrolytes into me. We managed to secure some chairs and eventually a small group of us gathered there to chat and celebrate.

What a magical day. It truly was the best organised race, on the best course I have ever run. I have never enjoyed myself as much as I did on that run, for the entire run and I couldn’t be happier. If you are considering entering this run, don’t even think twice – just register, as you will not be disappointed.

Happy (trail) Running 😀 !!

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The Marathon

For this post I’m going to give you every boring detail about my race, the good the bad and the ugly. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For 3 days prior to the marathon I had been on a strict meal plan set by the lovely Megan, my friend from run club. Her husband had used the same meal plan leading up to his last marathon and said that it was the first time he hasn’t hit the wall. It was a good enough reason for me as I wanted to be as prepared as possible. It was a lot of food and I have never felt so bursting at the seams, but it would all be worth it come race day.

I had my clothes out ready the night before and a list for the morning so that way I wouldn’t forget anything. I had my gels, hydralite, waist belt & hat ready. I had pre-pinned my race bib to the shirt. All I had to do now was sleep, get up, get dressed and get to the start line.

My alarm went off at 4:45am on race morning and I couldn’t wait to get out of bed. I had stayed at my folks place the night before as it was much closer to the start line and my Dad & Sister where going to drop me at the start line then follow me along the course at all the spectator meeting points. My sister was my official photographer and my mum would later join them, so I’d see her just after the halfway point too. The last section of the course was a double back, so they would end up staying in the one place and cheer me on twice, then rush to see me again at the finish line.

For breakfast I had Turkish toast with honey and a peppermint tea to settle the tummy. I had this as soon as I got up so my body had time to process it. Then I got myself ready to go. We were leaving the house at 5.45am.

Well, where was the start line? We had an address and a thousand print outs of maps for everything but we had great difficulty finding the start line as our GPS took us to the right street but when we got there the road was blocked of. So we tried to get through a few other ways using the GPS but that way was blocked off too. Luckily my sister was on her phone on the Internet and found another cross street and we eventually got there, how frustrating. Must not forget to give them that feedback to prevent it from happening to others in the future.

So we eventually got to the start line (phew!) and people were starting to warm up. I spotted the portable toilets as I wanted to have one last pit stop before I got running (just in case). So they dropped me off to go park the car and we agreed to meet back up at the start line.
There were about 150 marathoners taking the challenge and about 400 people competing in the relay (half marathon) so I estimated that about 350 people would be at the start line. A nice small group to run with.

I met up with my support crew and got some photos at the start line, then started warming up for the run. It was only 8 degrees and I really didn’t want to give up my jacket but it had to be done.

I had chosen to wear my Nike LunarGlide4 shoes (green, purple and grey), my black BSC compression racing leggings and a green Nike singlet. I had a lightweight belt with a stretch pocket section that was carrying my gels & my hydralite. And I also had my visor & sunnies on top for later. Sunrise was at 6.52am and the race started at 7am.

People started moving towards the start line more and more and I gave my crew one last hug. It was go time, so I positioned myself between the 4:00 & 4:30 hour finish time pacers as I roughly thought that’s where I would end up. However my goal was the get to the finish line in one piece.

The gun went off and we all started running, the first section was a little out and back loop so I got to run past my crew twice already, ha ha. I made sure I was in the right spot for them to get a few happy snaps and I hoped I would still be smiling each time I saw them.

There was a small hill at the start as we made our way up and onto the M7 and to be honest I had a horrible start. I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. My calves were tight as ever and my right ankle felt like it was locked in position unable to move. By 2 km I could really notice that my right foot was struggling, you could even hear it in my footsteps but everything I did seemed to have no effect. I stopped at the 3km mark to stretch my calves as I had to do something, but unfortunately this did not have much effect.

I tried to stay calm but I was worried that my running style would be doing damage to my foot/leg so I slowed my pace right down and let more people overtake me. I knew the biggest hill started at 7km and I hoped it would ease before then. I had to consciously relax my body and realised that I was just going to have to run through this. So I took a deep breath and tried to take in the surroundings and not think about the pain.

When I saw my support crew at the first few stops it really made me smile. It was so nice knowing they were there for me and hat I would see them again many times on the course. I made sure I smiled and gave them a thumbs up, this pain wasn’t going to beat me. I was just tight, I just had to run it out. Just keep running.

When I got to the first big hill and reassessed, my calves were marginally better but I was going to have to keep plodding on at a slow pace. It was quite painful but I kept going, nothing was going to stop me today. This was my marathon.

Finally when I got to 13 km I realised the pain had slowly subsided and I was running free and easy. It seems that the hills had actually helped. So I started to pick up the pace and I started overtaking people one by one, picking them off in the distance and then slowly hunting them down. I felt like I was flying, but I knew I couldn’t push it too much as there was still a long way to go.

I ran past meadows with cows and a huge equestrian centre which was in full swing. And we got beeped by cars that saw us running next to the motorway. And the weather was spectacular, I could not have asked for a better day!

I kept slowly overtaking people and set my sights for the halfway point which was just before we crossed over the M4. When I got there I said hello to a runner called SJ and we bantered as runners do sometimes on a long journey. She was a very experienced runner and when I learned that she had done longer distances than the marathon I was even more impressed. Plus this was her third marathon this month, what a machine!!

SJ has been having trouble with her knees during the run though and she was having to take it easy. She was such a positive and motivational person, it was hard not to want to run with her. So I stuck with her for most of the run from that point onwards, she helped me more than she knows and I will be forever thankful for that.

We passed the point were the turnoff was for the stadium (and finish line) and began the loop out to the turn around point which was roughly at 32 km. We had a nice shady spot to run in which helped. At this point I really had an urge to spit because i had a lot of phlegm building up, but it didn’t go well and I spat on my arm. Gross!!

At the 27km mark I got the biggest surprise of all. As I headed for the drink station on a turn that took us under the motorway, I heard loud cheers and my name being called, but I knew it wasn’t my family as I had only just seen them about 1km back.

My fellow Nike Run Club leaders were there in full force, jumping and screaming and cheering me on. They had our team shirts on and big smiling faces, it was such a beautiful gesture to have them all here supporting me. I made sure I hugged them all and took in the moment, it’s one that I will never forget.

SJ and I kept plodding along and she knew many of the other runners who ran toward us heading for the finish line. We cheered everyone on and wished them well, it was actually nice to be able to see these sprinters in action as normally I’m so far behind that I haven’t a clue how they run. Some were struggling and you could see it in their form, others had their heads held high. But they all had one thing in common, this look of determination and focus. That’s what I had to do, stay focused on the goal – get to the finish line.

The journey to the turn around point seemed to take an age. We saw so many other runners and it just felt like I would never get there. And when we finally approached it I realised that this was the longest run I had ever done. Everything from here on was new and exciting and I s going to celebrate. SJ and I high-fived and we got back to business. She had been giving me pointers about the course and the return trip and I was ready for it. She persuaded me to speed up and push myself on the hills and I did, so I slowly began to get ahead from her. I was really looking forward to seeing the run club crew again so I kept that on my mind as I ran the next section. From there it would only be 5km to the finish line. Just get there.

Again this section seemed to drag on, it was long and tough and I felt like walking a few times but then I let that thought pass. I was here to run, just keep running and you will get there quicker. A couple of times I heard SJ cheering me along in the distance and I kept giving her a thumbs up, what a champion.

And then when I came running down the hill towards the point where i had last seen my run club crew, there they were. They came in next to me and behind me and we ran together, it was an amazing experience. They made me feel on top of the world and I know they couldn’t see it but I had tears in my eyes. It was magical and it will be forever etched in my memory.

Now I knew I only had 5km to go. 5km!! I had run just over 38km and I was going to make it.

So I walked. That’s right, I walked. I don’t know why, but I think I just needed a timeout. So I walked about 100m and then said to myself “Hello! You’ve got less than 5km to go and you’re walking!! Get running!!” and with that I was running again. SJ had caught up to me again and helped me push through, she helped me to keep moving at a faster pace than I had been going and it felt pretty good.

At this point it came to my attention that there was a small pain in the bottom of my left foot, but I out it out of my mind and kept that finish line in my sights.

We reached the last hill and SJ pushed me to go hard for the finish and I did. I flew up that hill and used gravity to speed my way down the other side. Now all I had to do was take the path towards the stadium and do one last victory lap towards the finish.

Entering the stadium was sensational. There were so many people cheering and people everywhere. I spotted an older guy ahead of me and as i turned the last bend I decided to make a sprint for it. I was going to catch him and these legs were going to get me there.

I don’t know where the energy came from, or the determination, maybe it was knowing all my family & friends were there watching and supporting. But I did it, I caught that older guy and overtook him and went blazing over the line. Well what I thought was the line, and then it was alerted to me that I had another 10 metres to go, oops! ha ha (what an idiot). I quickly crossed the proper finish line and i had the biggest smile ever.

I had just run a marathon. I was a marathoner. I has run 42.195km!!

I have so many people to thank for getting me here and supporting me. There are so many to list so I hope I don’t miss anyone. A big thank you to Jared for putting up with my crazy training routine and healthy eating plans and everything else!!To my family for always supporting and encouraging me in everything (crazy) that I do. Thank you to Todd for giving my first marathon advice and information about the M7 Marathon, it really helped having your insight. To Megan for sharing the 3 day pre-marathon eating plan which no doubt helped me stay on track and avoid hitting the dreaded wall. To everyone who came and supported me on the day, it was so amazing to see you all there… Margie Maxwell, Johnnie Maxwell, Megan Purcell, Joe Purcell, Darcy Purcell, Trish Cassidy, Alison Archer, Kayley Archer, Chloe Archer, Elly Archer, Holly Archer, Todd Alcock, Shaun Hardy, Megan Maurice, Kate Stanton, Michael Hyams, Laura Roemekso, Laura Pagni. Plus all my friends who emailed, texted with well wishes – thank you!!

You guys all rock and i’m lucky to have you all in my life!!

Happy Running!

Me @ the start lineon my waythumbs upMe and Sarah-JaneSurprised to see my friends from run club, the smile says it allMy Run Club support crew sharing the roadMy mum cheering in the backgroundThe final lapThe final lap 2Overtaking the older guyI made itMy recovery crewMy wonderful friends and family

The final countdown

There are 5 more sleeps until I compete in my very first marathon. It’s very hard to describe the feelings that I am going through at the moment, but I am mostly excited.

Last night I had Run Club and I took the 7 km group at 6 minute pace, a nice comfortable pace with mostly new runners. It’s one of my favorite groups and I must say that I felt really good. Really strong. And i even had a comment from a runner that “I make it look easy”. Which is pretty much how the run felt last night so it’s nice to know I looked that way too.

I have been tapering for about a week with only a few small runs and not much else. So I feel like I have this energy inside me that is going to waste, but I know come Sunday I can use it to my advantage for the marathon.

Wednesday night will be my last run before the marathon and I am taking the 5 km group at 6 minute pace which is usually also a beginner group. I love helping the new runners reach their weekly goals and it always leaves me feeling good inside to see their smiling faces when they thank you at the end of the run. It’s great to give back to a sport that has helped me so much.

So other than that I will be spending my time mentally preparing for the race. Many thoughts have been whizzing through my mind but they are all positive and i’m keeping it that way. I know that on the day there will be battles to face and walls to climb, but if i stay positive then nothing can stop me.

 

I know i’m not alone when I say that I really do love running and it’s helped me in more ways than I can ever put in words.