Race Report: Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon

It’s here! Last night I finally got around to finishing my race report from the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon in New Zealand which is almost a month ago now!! This race was like nothing I have ever attempted before, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable because it’s a long one.

They day before the race I collected my race pack from the Rydges hotel which was also the hotel where i was staying. I got there at the start of the rego time and the room was already buzzing with people getting their gear checks done. A lovely kiwi lady checked all my gear and gave me my race kit which included a race t-shirt, race bib, timing strap for my ankle, and some sponsor brochures. I chatted to a few other runners and then headed back up to my room to re-pack my things into my race pack ready for the next morning. Having picked up my gear i started to get nervous and some doubts crept into my mind. It always happen to me before a race and luckily I was able to shut out the negative thoughts quickly as i went over my race plan and goals.

My race plan was to finish, well actually my initial race plan had been to ‘try not to die’, but I revised it and thought that a finish would be super. The course had over 2,300m of elevation which meant it was the hilliest marathon I have ever attempted. There were 3 main peaks to conquer and I’d been staring at the elevation chart for months, as it was on display at my desk at work. Seeing the chart on a regular basis helps me to get to know the course a little better, especially when you don’t have the option to do any training on the course. Looking at it scared me a lot, but I do love a challenge! A friend of mine had taken just over 7 hours to complete the course in 2014 and I thought that seemed like a reasonable time to aim for (boy was i wrong, ha ha).

I spent the day resting my legs which included reading a book by the lake for a few hours, going for a dip in the hotel pool & chilling out watching tv in my room. James (from Sydney Striders) and I caught up in the afternoon and had dinner at a quaint little restaurant called Cow in town that was highly recommended. It took us a while to find it as it’s hidden up an alley way. We both had garlic bread and spaghetti bolognese, good carbohydrate loading food. James had not completed his gear check yet so after dinner he went to get his gear while I went to the hotel and stalled the organisers till James could arrive. He got his gear checked and we went for a cheeky beverage at the bar as it was too early to crash. I had a peach cider (which would later prove to be a bad choice!). We chatted about the upcoming race and past trips James had done around the world with rogaining and running, he has done so much and achieved many great feats in his life so far. I was very impressed (and jealous, more to add to the wish list). We finish our drinks and organised to meet at the bus departure point the next morning.

As i headed up to my room I felt a sense of calm and confidence that would stay with me and keep me strong the next day. I hadn’t slept very well for the past week which always happens when i’m away from home. I had visited Auckland for 3 days, plus had a side trip to Christchurch for the Foo Fighters concert (which was awesome!!) and had arrived in Queenstown with 2 days of planned rest before the race. And thankfully I got a good sleep that night (which is rare before a race) so i woke feeling ready to go.

When I got up I had some breakfast (honey on bread and a banana), took a shower and got dressed ready to race. I was wearing my Brooks Adrenaline Trail shoes, BSC compression tights (long) and my Running Wild t-shirt, as it’s the most comfortable running shirt I own (you don’t want something that rubs or is uncomfortable when you know you’re going to be out there a long time). I also had my Salomon S-Lab 12 Hydration Back pack and my fuel for the day would be water (only carried 1L as plenty of aid stations on the course), SIS gels (Orange & Tropical flavor) & Shotz mixed with water in my front 2 flasks (for electrolytes). I have been using this combination with good results for the past year or so, and I wasn’t going to change anything now. I also packed a bag for the finish with some dry clothes and thongs to change into, plus a large feather down jacket in case it got cold.

Once I was ready I headed down to the Queenstown Rafting store where the bus was collecting us at 6.15am, and within a few minutes James turned up and we nervously chatted about our race plans. We managed to score a seat on the first bus out of town which meant that we would also be first in line for the toilets at the start point, score!!

The bus trip to the start line was an experience in itself. Once we got off the main road it was all single fire trail to the start area in Skippers Canyon. The driver was probably going a little too fast for my liking but I guessed that he drove this route a lot so was confident and knew where he was going. I felt a bit of motion sickness halfway through the journey, so there was some very deep breathing took place, especially when you looked out the window and there was a massive (gigantic) drop right next to the bus and i tried not to picture us plummeting to our deaths – eeeeek!

We got to the start area (below picture) and I visited the ladies (the first of 3 trips before the start) before the other runners arrived. The 30km and marathon runners all started at the same point so it was nice to have a big crew assembled here together. I was lucky enough to be given a GPS tracker for the race (thanks Adrian!!), but didn’t have time (or reception) to let anyone back home know about it. So after my final pit stop, James and I lined up to cross the bridge which took us to the start line. It was a very high bridge that used to be used for Bungy, and the more I looked at it the more scared I got. I hate heights and nobody had mentioned this bridge to me. It wasn’t in the race briefing document. Shit!

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The next thing I know i’m on the bridge (pictured below), i’m hyperventilating and crying and being steered over to the other side by a lovely lady who I had grabbed, while James made encouraging comments pushing me along. The bridge swayed and bounced and I thought I was going to die. The only thing that kept me moving was the fact that I HAD to cross the bridge to get to the start line, if I didn’t cross the bridge then my whole trip would be for nothing.

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I made it over the bridge and i thanked and apologised profusely to the people around me, as I’d never experienced or felt anything like that before. I think it was a panic attack. It was like my mind was out of control and fighting my body that didn’t want to cooperate. I honestly don’t know how I made it to the other side of that bridge, but thankfully I did. And I did not die. I later learnt this bridge was 71 meters above the river below and 95 meters in length, and used to be the highest bungee bridge jump in the world (until Pipeline Bungy’s 103 meter which is just down the road). Below is the view of bridge from the start line, bloody high up if you ask me!!

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We all made our way down the hill to the (beach) start and the views were already amazing (below). This was going to be one GREAT race!

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Race Director Adrian Bailey gave us the obligatory pre-race information and wished us all well before sending us on our merry way.The energy at the start line was fantastic!

First up was a short soft sand hill followed by the first of many hills to come. The only flat(ish) section of this course was the last few (gradual uphill) kms into the finish at Moke Lake, I was looking forward to that section but it was a long, long way off.

Once we got up the first little hill there was a brief flat(ter) section then another climb, check out the runner-ants in the picture below.

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I actually ran over an carcass of some animal during the first couple of kms, I think it was a deer but I didn’t look that closely, all I saw was a lot of fur and horns. Gross!

We crossed a few creeks early on and i chatted to a guy from the Terrigal Trotters, actually I was talking so much that i probably wasn’t paying enough attention to the trail and fell off the side of the mountain at about 6km! I clung to the long grass that grew onto the side of the mountain so I didn’t fall too far, but it was a close call. It reminded me to focus and get into race mode. I must have twisted/jarred my finger when i fell too as it throbbed for the rest of the race (and still feels sore even today).

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The scenery is hard to describe with words, breathtaking comes to mind. And although my coach will kill me for stopping to take photos, I only ever took one photo of the same view and never stopped for longer than 4-5 seconds (well almost, but i’ll talk about that later).

I think it was at about this point we lost the 30km runners as they went a different direction, and then I came up to 2 huge rocks with officials standing on them to help people up. When I got to the rocks he said they were here to help us if we couldn’t climb up the rocks, but my stubborness and will to not be beaten overtook and I scrambled up the rocks unassisted. There!!

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The mountains were nothing like what we have back home. Here the hills were exposed and vulnerable, not covered in trees and shrubs and protected. It was brown and there was long (slippery) grass and goat tracks to content with, and boy did they test your patience. The thin goat tracks were what i like to call ankle grinders. Imagine a thin gutter that’s the width of your foot (barely) and then try to run along inside that gutter for hours, one foot immediately in front of the other. It’s hard work, and i kept kicking the inside of my other ankle which hurt like hell after doing it a thousand times. I had to pick up my feet, something Damon (my coach) was always saying to me. I should probably listen to him more often.

My plan had been to run a lot more of the course than I ended up doing, but this was purely because the trail (if you could call it that) was not runnable. One guy behind me was swearing and cursing at the ground as he tried to run along and kept tripping, and i could feel his pain. We were all going through the same motions. I did gain a little more confidence on the goat tracks later in the race, but having never run on anything like this meant I was not prepared.

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It was at this point that my stomach felt like I needed a number 2 badly. It has been building up and i’d been trying to ignore it, but damn that ‘peach cider’ from the night before, i knew I should have avoided it. I finally came to an area covered in trees and made my way into the scrub for a pitstop. Thankfully it was just a fart (ha ha), so i pulled up my pants and ran back up onto the trail before anybody could spot me.

We ran along bluffs and ridgelines and I chatted to other runners along the way, many of which were doing this race as their first marathon – talk about picking a tough course for your first marathon!! And you thought I was crazy 😉

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After this hill we had a tricky downhill section to conquer and I nailed it. I passed about 10-15 runners as I got my confidence on the goat tracks and flew down the hill. I felt really good here but halted at the bottom when I saw an awful skinny bridge crossing, but pushed myself to cross it quickly without thinking too much!

Just like the views, the climbs were endless. I ran along through rainforests and on top of giants (what I like to call the mountains) and I met 2 runners from RunLab in Newcastle (below). I think there names were Clint and Karen. Karen (?) was training for the Anzac Ultra in May and I stuck with them for quite a long time during the run. It was nice to have their company and hear Clint getting yelled at (ha ha). We stopped for a few quick photos (below) before heading down the side of a sandy scree hill.

How much fun was the scree…?!?! I laughed like a 10 years old as I was slipping and sliding down that scree slope. With every step I moved about 4 metres down the hill. It felt like my feet were skis and I laughed loudly all the way down. If only all of the downhill sections were that easy.

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My gaiters survived the scree slope (thanks Carolyn from Trail Gaiters) which was an amazig accomplishment! After the scree slope we made a few more river crossings, including a river that we had to wade through for a section, before climbing a ladder up to the next section (A ladder!! Just as nature intended it, ha ha).

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We saw waterfalls and gorges and I started to feel very tight and my legs were feeling pretty shattered when I got to the halfway point at the Ben Lomond Station, it had taken me dead on 4hrs just to get there, insane!! I remember wondering how the heck my legs were going to cope for another 21kms of punishment but only time would tell.

I kept telling myself to toughen up and “Just F**king Run?”!! And when you looked up around you, there really was nothing to be complaining about…..

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Just after the halfway point there was a checkpoint at the bottom of a very large mountain, my legs were not feeling very good (they were smashed from the huge descent) when i got to the bottom of this hill but I was delighted to see Anna Frost, an ultra running god (see below pic). She was assisting at the aid station and I chatted to her about her win at this race last year and tips for the rest of the course. She explained the next few climbs and the terrain and encouraged us all there to get moving again. Seeing her was a great motivator to get my butt back into race mode and moving up the next hill. And I overtook a few people as i power walked up the next climb, including a guy from Sweden who has raced all over the world.

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The biggest climb of the race was coming up so I backed off a little and prepared myself for that, a 6km steep climb to the highest point of the race. I think it was about this point that i started to hear the helicopters again too, so I waved at a couple of them.

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When I got to the top of that hill i felt dizzy and out of breath, so i decided to sit down and get some food and water into me. I stayed there for about 5 mins and chatted to the girls manning the water station here. They told me how they had been flown into the location, and that the helicopter didn’t actually land, they just had to jump out with the gear and duck for cover. Incredible!!

I can’t remember much of the last part of the run and i’m not sure if that’s because it was so much like the first part, or because I was struggling and have put it out of my memory.  The backs of my legs were feeling very tight and on  couple of occasions i stopped to stretch which seemed to help a little.

There was a group of about 5-6 runners who had been ahead of me and i had been chasing for a few hours. Just when I thought I was getting close they’d somehow get ahead of me again. So when they stopped at the last aid station for food and refills I flew past them and carried on up the hill trying to put some distance between me and them. It worked, as I never saw them again!

There was lots of uphill and more downhill, and I lost count of the river crossings. When i finally got to the last flat(ish) runnable section I was so relieved that I could finally run at a consistent pace. There were a few (thousand) river crossings that slowed me down, but the rest was wide fire trail, slightly uphill all the way to the finish line. I remember stopping to drink from all of the creeks because the water in my pack was hot and the rivers we went through were icey cold, the water was so refreshing as I cupped it in my hands and drank away.

I remember looking behind me at one point and seeing a another lady closing in on me and I was determined not to let her pass me. i kicked it up a notch (god knows where the energy came from) and kept checking behind me to see if she was gaining or not. Eventually i lost her and caught up to some other male runners who were struggling. I passed another 4 or 5 runners on my way to the finish line and was so excited when I saw the shed next to the finish that I started crying.

Luckily nobody could tell I was crying as it was now sprinkling with rain. I saw a few walkers coming back towards me and they cheered me on. I was going to make it, how amazing! I ran my little heart out up that last hill, with many spectators and runners cheering me home.

I crossed the line and Adrian gave me a hug to congratulate me on the race. I had tears in my eyes and the biggest grin on my face, wow – I had really done it! What an amazing race!

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After getting my finishers medal and free beer I headed for the heated spa (yes, how cool is that) and went for a quick dip in my undies and bra. It was so nice and warm and i thought I was never going to get out of there as the temperature had really dropped so it was getting quite cool now.

Eventually i dragged myself out of the tub after some banter with other runners doing the same. I put on my warm, dry clothes and got myself some food and a coke (it’s my reward to myself after a race, I love it but it’s so bad for you). They were about to stop selling food and James wasn’t even back yet so i saved some of my sushi in case.

I rested my weary body in the big shed and watched the presentations to the winners. James walked in about halfway through and I gave him some food and drink (he was very thankful). We chatted about our races and the course and scored a lift back to Queenstown with a lovely couple from the Central Coast.

When I got back to the hotel I had a quick shower (which revealed a large chaffing spot from my ripped tights, ouch!!) and sat on the bed to ring my hubby and my mum. I cried as I told them my news and they were very happy and excited to hear from me. What an incredible day! I was completely shattered and feeling exhausted but i felt on top of the world!

Somehow I dragged myself into the main part of town for some dinner/drinks with other runners. When I got there James had met some other runners Diane and Jill (plus her adorable family) and we ended up joining them at the same Italian restaurant I’d eaten at 2 night’s before (it was a great restaurant so I didn’t mind).

Diana, Jill, James and I got on like a house on fire! They were such great company and we shared many laughs and stories about this run and others we had done. We were so lucky to have met them and I know we will be in touch for many years to come.

I had the most rewarding experience for my first overseas marathon. And I highly recommend this race to anyone who has contemplated registering, it’s bloody tough but totally worth all the hard work. I’ll never forget the amazing views, the scary heights and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.

Happy running 😀

Race Report: SMH 10km SunRun

As I cautiously got out of bed this morning I was expecting to feel more Tin-man than human being after the tough running I put my body through this weekend, but instead I was pleasantly surprised. Usually after a weekend like that my joints are stiff, the muscles are sore and i’m exhausted. I Still feel exhausted but the body is holding up really well, perhaps i’m getting stronger than I thought.

So what did I do on the weekend?

On Saturday I entered a 10km race called the SMH SunRun which starts in Dee Why and ends in Manly. My friend Maria and I met at her place for 4.30am and we drove to Dee Why for the start at 6.45am. We arrived just early enough to get free parking and only have to queue a few mins for the toilet, which was a huge bonus because as we walked out the toilet queue had grown to about 50+ people deep. Score!

We headed to the start line and saw some familiar Strider faces and chatted about the course and what goals everyone was setting out for today. My coach and I had chosen a goal of 49 mins as I desperately wanted to go under 50 mins. He had given me some good tips and reminded me to ‘race’ instead of ‘run’ the course like I usually do. I felt very nervous. I hadn’t ‘raced’ and event ever and it had been a long time since I had run a 10km event. I had actually woken with a headache and not feeling great that morning, but I was determined to stay positive and had decided on my mantra when the going got tough…… “Just fucking run”.

Maria and I did a 10 minute warm up to get the legs moving and then edged our way through the crowd. We found some speedy friends near to the front of our (blue) group and we readied ourselves for the start. (That’s me hiding at the back right in the picture below)

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The gun went off at 6.45am and the first section was the first hill, great! I tried to make my way through the crowd of runners and sneakily headed up the footpath on the left hand side which meant I could keep my rhythm and no have to weave around the other runners. I felt grateful that I had warmed up as it meant my legs were feeling ready to go and I went up the first hill right on my target pace. I was out of breath but I knew there was a down hill section i could use to get it back and about another 1.5km till the narrow section where I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get stuck behind any slow runners.

I had been speaking to a local runner who works in my office and he has given me some tips about the course, these proved tobe most useful as I could plan out my run and knew when and where to expect things like the narrow path, the never ending hills etc.

We got to the narrow section and I was feeling good. I was breathing heavy but thought it was a pace I could keep up for the remainder of the run. I tried not to get stuck behind people through the narrow section, which was a bit challenging, but I just kept repeating my mantra when the negative comments crept in. It’s funny (and annoying) how lots of males do not like being overtaken by a woman, so they speed up when you try to pass them. I tried not to let it affect my speed, but maybe it made me go faster too, i’m not sure.

We got through the narrow path section and hit the road, a slight incline was coming but it wouldn’t last long so I just kept running as consistently as I could through the undulating sections and kept picking off runners ahead of me to keep me focused.

There was a nice little out/around/back section where you got to see the other runners just ahead and just behind you and this was great as i saw some friends and we all cheered each other on as we headed for the next hill. The hill was at about 7km so I backed off the pace slightly before that hill to get some big breaths in and then muscled my way through it to the top getting out of breath again. I knew it had slowed me down and I remember my coaches words about not slowing at the top but pushing through and over, so i dug deep and overtook some more runners who were struggling after the hill.

Usually what comes after a hill is a downhill, and I was looking forward to using that to gain some time I’d lost, so i powered down passing several more people and I was now on the home stretch, less than 2km to go, running along the beachfront to the main part of Manly.

I picked a female runner in front of me who looked strong and had overtaken me just moments beforehand, and tried to stick with her for the last effort. I kept trying to catch her but only just managed to stay the same pace a few steps behind. It was then I heard a familiar voice, it was Richard from work, the loacl runner who had given me some tips. He cheered me along and i got a burst of energy to sprint for the finish. So I ran my little heart out and overtook the girl who I had been charging down and sprinted over the finish line doing my best ‘Darth Vader’ impersonation.

I looked at my watch – 47:07 and tears welled up in my eyes. I had done it. I had smashed my goal and I could not have been happier. What an achievement. I couldn’t breath and I could hardly stand up, but you could not have wiped the grin off my face!

Slowly I walked around trying to get my breath back and I headed back towards the finish line to look for Maria, i knew she wouldn’t be far behind me. And there she was, blazing over the line in 49:18, she had also cracked the 50 minute target too, wonderful!

We celebrated with some Strider friends we saw at the finish line and collected our race medals to prove our efforts. Another one to add to my collection.

And what better way to recover than i dip in the ocean, how could you not when it was right there! The water was so refreshing and we all laughed and chatted while we swam in our running gear. Then we even got a free coffee from the lovely people at the Virgin Active tent.

What a great way to start a weekend. It truly was a race I won’t forget in a hurry and I can’t wait for the next challenge.

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Happy Running 😀

Race Report: Narrabeen Allnighter

How does one prepare for running a 5km lap race for 6hrs? That’s a very good question, as I’ve never done anything like this before. I know I’m good at working with a distance goal, so I estimated that I would be able to run 50km in that time and based my plan on that.

Now let’s start at the beginning when Brad talked me into doing the run, and then I talked some other friends into doing it too (FOMO plays strong with us), so we could all blame Brad if it went pear shaped on the day/night, ha ha

So I picked up my teammate Brad on Saturday afternoon around 7pm and we headed for Jamieson Park in Narrabeen. I parked the car and we walked up to the registration area to collect our bibs, t-shirts and buff/cooler (the gear was very cool) and then headed back to the car to pick up all our gear. We ran into lots of familiar faces, some fellow competitors and others who had come to cheer off the start. There was a really nice buzz in the air and it set a great mood for the start.

We setup an area with a table and chair and offered the team location to my mates who I had convinced to take part in the event too, it was the least I could do. Somehow I had managed to convince my good friends Maria & Emma to enter and they teamed up for the challenge. plus another friend Tom from SHRunners had dived in for the 12hr trail solo event, his first ultra!!

Brad, Maria and Tom readied themselves and we all headed over for the race briefing at about 8:10pm (a little late). There was a 12hr road race happening as part of the same event, just on a separate 1km lap (!!!!!) tarmac course, however the runners cross paths for a brief section which was the location of the timing mat. Each group took up their posts and shortly after the countdown began…. and they were off.

I knew I had about 30-40mins before I would see my mates again so I took the time to have some food and water and also to chat to other runners and supporters. Despite the humidity there was actually a cool breeze flowing and I ended up putting on a jacket and blanket to keep warm.

I stayed awake till about 10:30 and got to see the runners come through for a few laps. The comments were all about how hot it was (they were covered and dripping in sweat) and how boring it was (oh no!!). I saw my mates a few times and then then made a beeline for the car to try and get some sleep, and although I nodded off a couple of times they were only for very short periods. My small Yaris is not built for 6tt tall people and I was quite stiff when I got out of the car. My alarm went off at 1:00am but I was already awake. So I got my gear together, got changed and headed over to stretch and get my food and electrolytes out ready.

When I got back to our gear location I had just missed seeing Brad and Maria, but they were both on track to hit their 50km targets. Maria came flying in just before her last lap, the little pocket rocket wasn’t going to let anything stop her from achieving 50km and she smashed it with 10mins to spare. Well done Maria!! And only a few mins later Brad came flying through the checkpoint reaching his 50km goal too. What a champion!!

So Emma and I readied ourselves to start and chatted nervously with the other runners doing the same. It was great to see Sam Isbell toeing the line too! We were all a little sleepy but ready to go. The 6hour alarm sounded and we were out running.

I felt very sluggish to start but eventually fell into a rhythm and Emma and I ran and reminisced about Oxfam and other running funnies from the past. It was great to have her company. We actually saw a snake on the first lap but luckily it was only a python (not poisonous) and we continued around it on our way. During the night I also saw about 3 possums and decided they had sharper claws than we so let them cross before i continued on my run. I can’t remember at what time or km they were (I wonder why) so I thought I’d just mention it here.

And then I took a tumble. After the turnaround and when we got closer to the snake location again, someone told us it was up in the tree, so as I was looking up I tripped on a rock and went flying knees and hands first onto the gravel. I got up and dusted myself off, hands were ok but the knees took most of the fall and the right one was bleeding. I told myself to run it off and Emma asked if I was ok, I told her I was (even though it was starting to throb) but that’s because I wanted to stay positive and I thought I could run it off. And it worked for a while, so I took some pain killers later in the race and it helped me get through. It wasn’t a sharp pain so I didn’t think it was anything too serious, but it just didn’t feel quite right.

I’m not sure what else to mention as there’s not too much to mention when doing a lap race. We had a beautiful full moon which lit a most of the trail and some runners didn’t even use head torches (crazy if you ask me, more risk of tripping). The course had a lot of rocky gravel areas and a little bit of concrete at the turnaround point. I ran on the grass next to the path a few times as its softer on my legs, but there was also a ditch you had to be careful of, which luckily Em pointed out to me. Emma lives only 10mins drive from the course so was a local and had run this track before. I kept up with Em for as long a I could, which turned out to only be a few laps, then told her go ahead and I slowed to a more comfortable pace that I was used to.

Most of the laps ticked by pretty quickly and although I had some negative patches around the 20km mark I just kept running and drinking lots of water and electrolytes at each of the ends, plus a few gels along the way. I was dripping with sweat so needed more water than normal, and many of the guys ran shirtless throughout the night due to the humidity.

I looked forward to the high energy music and cheers from the start/finish area on each lap. I tried to guess the song that would be playing next and then sung whatever was playing for the start of the next lap. Great idea for the music guys!! Thanks!!

The best part of the course were the other runners, some of them who had been out there since 8pm the night before. I love chatting and helping others so I made a point of smiling and encouraging as much as I could, which is hard to do in the dark when all you can see is headlamps. This task was much easier once the sun started to rise and I think we all felt relief once we could ditch the headlamps and the finish drew closer.

It was so good to finally be able to see the other runners faces. The encouragement and support from other runners, not just the ones I knew, was awesome. My smiles and encouragement were returned by all but 1 (grumpy looking tattooed) runner who never responded and didn’t even look up once despite my cheers lap after lap, maybe he was suffering.

My buddy Tom doing his first 12hr/ultra was still out there going hard, Emma had lapped me and was looking very strong for 60km (!!) with Sam chasing her tail very closely, Wayne was holding onto 2nd and looking determined, my mate Darren was still going strong and we ran together for part of what was going to be his final lap (picture below). You guys are the best!!

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

I hit a speedbump at 37km and had been walking sections of the laps. I was feeling light-headed so kept stopping to walk when it got really bad but it made the knee feel 10 times worse when I walked. I was out of ideas, so I just kept alternating walk/run. But seeing these familiar faces and hearing the support from others out there I pushed and ran some more to make sure that I’d hit 50km before the time ran out.

I saw Andy from Striders on one of my final laps and also Tanya & her kids, Carolyn, Nigel and Em’s lovely family. They cheered us on and my mood lifted a little, so great to see familiar faces and know they’d be there when I finished.

Here are a few photos from the wee early hours of the morning on Sunday. Stefica Key did an absolutely smashing job with these and I thank you very much for taking the time to capture these and encourage us while out on the course. Seeing you always makes me smile 🙂

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

Eventually I crossed the finish line and squinted at the bright sun now pouring over the lake and Jamieson Park. I stopped my Garmin and headed over to meet everyone and get into recovery mode.

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Photo Credit: Stefica Key

My team mate Brad and i were all thumbs up and very happy with our results. Between us we had managed to run 100km in under 12 hours, woohoo!!

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I still felt quite dizzy and my right leg started to cramp up too, I’ve never had that happen in a race before! Thankfully my buddies Nigel and Carolyn were keeping an eye out for me and they assisted me to remove my shoes and socks, elevate my legs, feed me bacon & eggs, and got some gel for me to rub on my cramping hamstring. I also sculled some electrolytes to help get the salt back into my body and hopefully stop the cramping. Here’s me stuffing my face with bacon (yum). it defintiely took my mind off how sore my knee was feeling too.

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Photo Credit: Nigel Huband

Emma gave me a compression bandage for my knee and I took some pain killers, i also made a mental note to ice the knee and elevate it for the rest of the day/night. I hoped it wasn’t anything too serious, but only time will tell.

Within about 20 minutes the dizziness stopped and I began to feel much better. We all chatted about the course and our run and how much we enjoyed it, then packed up our gear and the cars and headed over to the presentation area for the awards.

Would you believe that I actually scored the ‘Courageous’ female runner award due to the fact I had taken a bad stack early in the run yet kept going. I didn’t even know such an award existed and I think I know who to thanks for the nomination (Nigel?), ha ha. Here’s me accepting the award from organisers Horrie and Ron.

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Photo Credit: Nigel Huband

And how tired do i look here!!

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Photo Credit: Nigel Huband

I want to send a big, no huge THANK YOU out to all the organisers, volunteers, crews and runners in the event. It was well organised, well supported and without the friendly runner camaraderie it would not have been the same. This was a great event that i will not forget in a hurry and I encourage anyone who is thinking about doing it in 2016 to sign up now!!

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Photo Credit: Unknown

Congratulations to all the runners, new friends and old. We are a crazy bunch of people but you are what make it so special. I hope to see you all on the trails again soon.

Happy Running 😀

Packing for an ultra

Packing for an ultra marathon is a little bit like packing for a holiday. You write your list of clothes and items to take to cover all bases, then you end up over packing and only wearing/using half the items in your luggage. But that won’t stop me doing it all again next holiday, but I have learnt to pack a little smarter for my ultras.

On Saturday my friend Brad and I will be running the Narrabeen Alnighter which involves us running 6 hours each in blocks between 8pm to 8am. I scored the second half of the journey so my run commences at 2am Sunday morning after Brad has been running for 6 hours. The course we run on is a 5km trail loop and the aim is to run as far as you can in the time given. Brad and I are both aiming to reach 50km so if we can reach 100+ total that would be awesome!

So that’s where the packing comes in, to run 50km, or to run for 6 hours means that you need to have a plan for Nutrition and clothing. It’s summer here so could be very hot, which means very sweaty, so a change of clothes is needed. I think I might also take a second pair of shoes to put on if needed too. I also plan to use Cliff bars and gels for the run, along with water and Shotz for electrolytes, as this is what I have used in the past and never had any issues. And you never change anything on race day. I also like to have real food during long runs, so will probably throw in a few vegemite or nutella sandwiches (or both) and some rice pudding, gummy bears, bananas and coke.

Then I sit and pray that I haven’t forgotten anything and start to mentally prepare for my run. Staying positive and in control of your thoughts and emotions plays a huge part in long distance running, so you need to be ready inside and out. Sometimes I think too much, buy maybe I can do more than 50km…? Only time will tell 😉

Wishing all my other running mates a happy run for this weekend, some at the same race as me and others like Ganesh doing his first 12hr race in Singapore – Go Ganesh! We will be thinking of you during our run too, run strong! I can’t wait to hear all about your journey and I know you’ll be fantastic!

Happy Running 😀

Tis the season to be running

Wow! I just realised it’s been about 3 weeks since my last post (slacker) and there’s been a lot of running in that time, fantastic runs too. You might want to grab a cuppa, it’s not a short read but it’s an enjoyable one 😉

Firstly, I was really happy to hear that ParkRun was starting in Menai on Saturday 13 December and one of my coaches from RunLab was going to be the Race Director. So instead of doing my long run that Saturday my friend Troy and I decided to volunteer and marshall for the first race. If you have never done Parkrun then you should definitely look it up, great for runners of all abilities, ages and speeds (they even have people who walk the whole way), they have kids and dogs running the event every week and it’s a great community atmosphere.  Troy and I decided to run to Menai, volunteer, then run home which meant we would get in about 20km (with a big break in the middle) to cover our long run that we’d be missing, score. It was really great to be a part of the first race and there was a great turnout so hopefully the council will be happy with the trials and permit it to be a permanent event. And our long run was lots of fun, we even found a trail to explore on the way home.

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The Sunday after ParkRun was the Sydney Striders STaR as Middle Harbour, followed by the end of year Awards Brunch. So we all set out for a morning run, had a showers and then headed to the Yacht Club for a cooked brekkie AND I won an award! I won the Super Series for my age group, and if you’re wondering what that is then click here to find out more information. It really has been such an amazing year for me and to get this award really meant a lot to me, I may have even shed a little tear on the way home, but don’t tell anyone.

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Last weekend our Striders 6ft training crew headed out to the race start for an out and back long training run and it was most enjoyable. Maria, Troy and myself car pooled our way to Nellie’s Glen for an early start and to try and beat some of the heat. Lots of others had the same idea so we set off with a big group at about 6:30am. The start of this course is 500+ stairs all the way down to the valley floor, they were relatively dry compared to the other times I have been there which meant they felt a little safer, but these steps have ruined runners for many years, so it’s always best to take it easy for this section. The trail then opens up and is made up of mostly fire trail and some single track. We got to about 11km and then turned back and when we did we started to see many other runners who had started later and it was great to see their smiley faces and have a (quick) chat to everyone as they passed by. I was feeling really strong that day and was charing up most of the hills and really pushing myself more than normal. When you feel good I think you just have to go for it. We eventually got back to Nellie’s Glen and made the slow trip back up the 500+ stairs, it was tough going but eventually we got to the top and we were very pleased with how much ground we had covered on the return trip, much faster than the first half of the run. Well done team Maria, Carolyn, Troy and I 🙂

Photo Credit: Andy Stiddard

The next day I (stupidly) decided to do a soft sand run with my dog down at Wanda and although we had a great time as my dog loves the beach, my legs afterwards were pretty shattered. The accumulation of those stairs and the sand meant my quads were not very happy with me. It had been a tough training week so I eased off a little in the days after and feel like i’m getting stronger.

On Christmas Eve I went for a trail run with Damon and we did around 24km in the Royal National Park. This run included a huge hill near the very end. If you know the road from Audley Weir up to the highway then you’ll know what i’m talking about, it’s steep, it’s long and it’s tough. When we approached the hill I was thinking to myself, “just run as far as you can and then give yourself a break”. Early on we had been moving at a faster pace than I was normally comfortable to run, so I felt like I was struggling even before we got to the hill. But Damon encouraged me to find a rhythm and keep moving, no matter how slow, all the way up the hill. And it seemed to go forever, and ever, and ever….. I was breathing like Darth Vader (his new nickname for me) but I was comfortable and steadily moving up the hill without walking. And the road just kept on going…and going… but I kept on running and eventually we made it to the top of the hill. I had run the entire hill. Wow! I never could have done that by myself and Damon’s encouragement is what got me there so thanks Damon – you really know how to get me to work hard and push myself. What a great run!

Then on Boxing Day, Maria and I headed to Quarry Road for Horrie’s Bush Bash, as many laps as you want. We decided that 1 lap would be enough and so we pushed each other and our pace was much quicker than usual (there seems to be a patter forming!!). We ended up doing our fastest lap ever and were very proud of the achievement. It also meant we felt better about all the food/drink we’d had the day before! Great running everyone and great to see so many familiar faces out enjoying this trail.

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Yesterday I ran ParkRun for the first time ever and I managed to drag along the hubby, my friend Nat (Birthday Girl) and her daughter Chelsea so we were all running it for the first time. I finished in 23:56 and managed to beat my hubby by more than a minute, yay! ha ha Thanks for taking our dog too Nat, I know she can be a bit painful on the lead but she loves to run!!

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And now I have saved the best update for last.

Term 4 of RunLab came to a close with a week of high intensity training followed the next week by our 3km time trial (TT) and I was thrilled with my improvements. The first TT we had done at the beginning of the term was tough and I had run 3km in 14:53, at the time I was pretty happy with that pace (4:58/km) and felt it was a true indication of where I was at the time in terms of speed. So after weeks of training under (majority) Damon and a few other coaches I smashed the TT and finished in 13:05, a pace of 4:22/km – what an improvement! When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch I actually thought it was wrong as my goal had been to try and get as close to 14:30 as possible….. Ummm, smashed that!! I will definitely be back in Term 1 for more RunLab sessions and I look forward to pushing myself to see how much faster I can go.

Seeing such big improvement and getting results has led me to reflect on all of the running I have done recently. It has really given me boost as I never thought I’d be capable of such things and I wonder what else is around the corner for 2015. It just shows that with the right kind of training, and with the right work-hard attitude you can absolutely achieve anything.

Happy Running 😀

Getting on track

I’m finally back in the habit of running on a more regular basis and i’m loving the challenges and hard work that I’ve had to put in lately. From starting to increase distance on my long weekend runs and also pushing myself harder and harder at the RunLab interval sessions I do twice a week.

Our Striders 6ft training group have run the Equalizer course (14km) and the Buffalo Creek Reserve (16km) over the past 2 weeks and while I will admit that they haven’t been easy they have been rewarding and it feels great to be on track towards my next marathon.

This Saturday we are heading to the infamous Quarry Road and let’s just say that last year it was not a very good experience for me, however it taught me a lot. The key lesson I learnt last year was not to try any new or exciting (spicy) foods within 2 days before a long run, or you’ll spend the rung making many, many trips to the pit toilet located in the campgroud on the course. But god was i lucky the pit toilet was there!!

Quarry Road is an out and back trail full of hills and the return trip is about 13km. This weekend we aim to do 2 laps and I’m hoping that it’s nice and cool as the track is quite exposed.

And the other exciting news for this week is that my friend Brad and I have decided to run the Narrabeen Allnighter on 3 January. Brad and I chatted about this race ages ago and he contacted me recently to see if I was still interested so of course I jumped at the chance. This means I will be more disciplined with my eating and drinking over Christmas and new year and head into 2015 on a good note.

The Allnighter is set on a 5km trail and starts at 8pm and goes through till 8am the next day. We have decided to run the option that means we will each do a 6hr block. This will be good night training for TNF100 and we have agreed to use it as a training run so there is no pressure on how far we want to get, although Brad is much faster than me.

Stay tuned for more running updates and happy running 😀

Where have I been….

It’s been over a month since my last post which was also my last race and my last long run. Since then I’ve battled pneumonia which went undiagnosed for more than 3 weeks, and cruised for 12 days through the South Pacific to 5 ports around New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The latter being much more enjoyable!

About a month ago I also joined RunLab, an interval training group that I go to twice a week (with the exception of the week spent cruising) to work on my speed and technique. There have been some really tough sessions but I really feel like I’m starting to get somewhere. I know that I am no good at pushing myself to go faster and always err on the slow side as a precaution, but it’s time I pushed myself and got outside of my comfort zone. It’s working!

So what’s next on the agenda for my running? Where do I start! Let’s start with my A race next year, the big kahuna – TNF100 in May. That race will be my #1 priority in 2015 and all my training and preparation will be in the build up to this great race, which beat me in 2014. I have unfinished business that needs tending to and the plan is to smash it in under 20 hours. It goes on sale next week 😉

In the lead up to my main race I will also be running in the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon in Queenstown New Zealand during February. This is a trail marathon that some of my Strider buddies did last year and they really talked me into it. Plus if you look at the photos…. breathtaking! This will be used as a training run and not a race. Not that I ever race, but it just means I’ll be taking it easy and stopping for lots of pictures and sightseeing. I’ve already signed up for this and have tagged on a 2 week holiday as I have never been to NZ before – score!

My second big run before TNF100 will be the 6 Foot Track Marathon in March in the gorgeous Blue Mountains.  I will be training with the Sydney Striders 6ft training group from next weekend for this event, a fantastic group that I trained with last year. I have learnt so much from them and they taught me the fundamentals of trail running. Our group is open to all so let me know if you’re interested and i’ll send you an invite on Facebook. Last year this race was my first Ultra and it was a day I will never forget, so rewarding and an amazing finish line that takes your breath away. It goes on sale soon so make sure you’re ready as it sells out super fast!

So there are my 3 key races for 2015, it’s going to be an exciting year!

Happy Running 😀

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