Southern Highlands Challenge 19km

On Sunday 30th August I competed in the 19km Southern Highlands Challenge in the beautiful Wingello State Forest, and I have to thank Runners Kitchen for providing me with the entry as I won a competition they advertised on facebook. I literally won the entry a week before the event so there was not a lot of preparation. I’m also very lucky that I have 2 wonderful friends who live 10 mins drive from the start line, as apparently there will little or no accommodation available in the area at this late stage. So thank you Urusula and Carlos for letting me crash again this year!

This race was a favourite of mine lat year, so many good friends and a great start/finish area with stands and food stalls to suite very runners needs. Hats off the April for organising such a great event, if you haven’t run it then you’re missing out and need to get in marked in your calendar for 2016.

A couple of days before the race I decided to drop back to the 19km (instead of the 22km) as I felt I hadn’t really done enough training and in hindsight I think I should have stuck with the 22km as apparently it had less hills (and perhaps would have been a little easier, oh well). So I toed the start line with some fellow Striders and chatted to ‘Mr Ultra’ Craig Thom. We stuck together for the first part of the run but eventually I think I let him go ahead, or was it the other way around (?), I think I let him go ahead. My knee was giving me a little pain but I focused on improving my technique and it get better.

AA_SHC_Start shot

This was a tough course, lots of hills early on and I felt really good at the start, I felt strong. But eventually the gas wore off a little and this meant my technique faltered and brought on more knee pain.

I had to slow down, I event walked. Not happy with myself. Watched lots of people go past who were all so lovely and asked if I was okay, “was i limping?”. Crap. Kept telling myself to stand up tall and just keep moving, get to that finish line. It was ugly, my legs felt like lead weights and I probably should have been resting after the C2S the week prior.

We runners are so stubborn, we hate to miss out on a run. So I plodded on, found a way to run that didn’t hurt (as much) and kept moving.

About 2km from the finish line I was overjoyed to see some of my Striders friends who were doing the longer course versions, as we shared the course at this point. I got to see my buddy Maria who I ran with at TNF100 and that brought the smile back to my face. She was looking strong and enjoying the run, it really raised my spirits.

I bid Maria farewell with less than 1km to go and picked up the pace to finish strong. Maria had given me the kick up the butt I needed, even if she didn’t know it. And I crossed that line with a smile on my face after having conquered the inner demons pulling me down.

AA_SHC_Finish Shot

After a sausage, bacon & egg sandwich (included in the entry) and a coke (my treat after long runs) I met up with all my mates and we cheered others over the finish line as they came in with smiling faces.

AA_SHC_Group Medals

Every run teaches me something new not only about myself, but about others. I learnt that I can ignore my brain (ha ha) and talk myself into (or out of) anything. Then there are the people I meet on the trails, they are such genuine, caring people and it’s good to know that there is kindness in the world which can seem so cruel at times.

I went home with a smile on my face and a medal around my neck. And I had made the conscious decision that the negativity which had been creeping into my brain during recent runs needed to stop. From now on only positive, encouraging thoughts and actions were allowed. Wish me luck!

Happy running 🙂

Southern Highlands Challenge 2014

Although feeling a little stiff and sore from the previous weeks Oxfam run I headed down to the Southern Highlands last weekend to take part in the SHC Half Marathon (advertised as closer to 22km, nice) organised by Race Director April Palmerlee (Pink Skirt Promotions). And after having a weeks worth of rain we were blessed with fantastic weather!

I was lucky enough to score a free room for the night with an old friend from Tafe who now lives in Penrose (10 minutes from the start line), and we spent Saturday afternoon catching up and reminiscing about old times. I must make sure I visit again soon as it’s a gorgeous area and I’ve missed her company so much! She even spoiled me with home cooked spaghetti the night before to help carb-load, how lucky am I!

After filling my belly and catching up on my celebrity gossip (thanks to Foxtel in the background) I headed for bed. I didn’t sleep too well but I don’t think anyone ever does the night before a race so I wasn’t too worried. I woke and scoffed down a crumpet and a banana then geared up and headed to the Wingello state Forest.

Someone had organised for road signs to guide the way so there was no chance of me getting lost (that would come later during the race), and when I got to the entrance there was a lovely display pf balloons which made me smile. I parked the car and ran into some of my Sydney Striders mates Anthony, Sarah, (me) & Andy are pictured in the photo below. It was great to catch up with them.

before the race

I also ran into Carol, Leonor & Mick at the start line – more of our wonderful Striders family.

Start line

We talked so much at the start line that we missed the race briefing… oops! This is probably where I made my first mistake. Leonor and I did a lot of runing together when we were training for the Six Foot Track and she was planning on using this run as a training run so we spent the first lap of the course catching up. And I must say thank you to Leonor for lending me one of her gloves so that I could warm my hands, it was so cold!!

The first section of the course was a 6km loop and at about the 4km mark the whole group in front of us turned around and started running towards us… what the?! Apparently there was a dead end and we had to run up the hill of the other path next to us, so we went halfway up that fire trail and then all of a sudden everyone started turning around and coming back towards us again – what the…?! AGAIN!!

Eventually we got back on track after another wrong turn and we figure somebody must have moved the arrow sign as it was pointing the wrong way. Oh well, I love a good adventure.

When we got to the end of the first loop I saw a friend Ian from one of Hanny’s camps I had done last year, I also saw Sarah and her kids who ran with me and she took the happy snap below. Gavin was there too cheering us on and it was great to have people supporting us and the kids running along next to us, that does not happen much during a race and it was a great vibe.

end of first loop B

I did not take many photos during the run as it was all fire trail and we were mostly surrounded by pine trees, however we did manage to escape the trees during the last few kms of the course and the fog had lifted to reveal a gorgeous day!

6km to go

leaving him in my wake

My goal during the second half of the run was to pick up the pace a bit and try to make up some of the time i had lost getting lost…. and I slowly made progress at this and overtook quite a few people but was cautious not to over-do it.

I chatted to some other runners to take my mind of the pain that had developed in my left knee, it had been a little niggly after Oxfam. They were all such lovely people, trail runners are the best. I even got told by another lady that I had the best butt she’d ever seen, hilarious!!

And I did a few pirouettes… apparently!


I decided to ush it hard for the last 500m and crossed the line in 2.5hrs, not a PB for me but a comfortable run in a beautiful spot. Very, very enjoyable.

finish line shot

After the race I scoffed down a bacon & egg roll provided by the local school’s sausage sizzle and was given lots of freebies by the event sponsors. I saw Victoria Mitchell who had won the 6km race & Brendan Davies who had come 2nd in the 50km race, both great athletes and awesome people.

April did a great job organising the race and it was nice to see that families had been catered for too, not that I have any kids, but if I did they would not have been bored. Thanks for putting on such a great event.

Happy Running 🙂