A long weekend in the Victorian Mountains

A couple of months ago we noticed a new race was being held in Victoria on the June long weekend and we thought this would be a great opportunity to experience some solid climbs in race conditions. So we signed up, me for the 14km (1,150m) and Roger for the 27km (2,250m).

We both managed to get Friday off work too which meant we could drive down on Thursday afternoon, and we arrived in Tawonga South (near Mount Beauty) close to midnight. Roger accidentally missed the driveway, and as we did a u-turn we were faced with a large deer that has previously camouflaged into the surrounding trees. It was beautiful.

Eventually we made it up the long, steep driveway and into our cosy, shed-looking Air BnB. It had a fireplace and plenty of room for us with all our running and hiking gear. I wondered what views it might have when we awoke the next morning…..

Friday morning was cold and I got the air conditioner firing as soon as I stumbled out of bed. I opened the curtains to a misty view of Mount Bogong and its surrounds, this was going to be a great weekend!

Today I was going to do a short hike and Roger would do a few repeats of Mount Bogong. He is in training for the 100 mile Hardrock Endurance run in the USA in July and he planned to do a lot of running with elevation over the next 3 days. We geared up and drove to the Mountain Creek Camping and Picnic Area which was about 20mins away. We parked the car and headed about 2km up the trail towards the staircase that heads to Mount Bogong.

I waved goodbye to Roger as he headed up the staircase and I kept going on the flat(ter) trail for a light hike.

Ever since being given the all clear to start training again a few months back, I have been cautiously easing back into running. I’ve also still been recovering from the flu and throat infection that saw me DNS (did not start) at the UTA22 a few weeks earlier, so I was conscious to wear a few more warm layers than usual, and I was thankful because it was foggy and cold with sprinkles of rain every now and then.

The sound of Black Cockatoos could be heard overhead so I stopped to take in their beautiful melody. I walked along a few more km’s along and came to a creek which covered the trail. If I walked through the creek it would mean getting my feet soaked, so I searched for another way to cross and found a thin log that had been put over the creek. I cautiously put one foot on the log and it wobbled under my feet, I tried to gain balance on one foot but the log was also slippery and impossible.

So I made the decision to stay warm and dry and turned around to head back down the hill to the car. There was nobody around, not one single person or car at the campground and I worried a little that Roger would be up on that mountain in the cold (snow?) by himself. What if something happened? I know he is very experienced in harsh conditions and he had packed very sensibly for the cold, but you cannot help worrying sometimes. I assured myself he would be fine and the regular text messages that he later kept sending helped to ease my nerves.

When I got back at the Air BnB I had a (long) hot shower and settled in to read my book with a cup of hot chocolate. Tough life. I picked up Roger from the campground at 6pm as planned and later headed to Flour + Water for a hard earned feast. After dinner we readied our gear for Saturday’s Wandi Cross race and got an early night. Check out the sunset below with Mount Bogong peeking through the clouds on the left.

Wandi Cross 14km – Race Report

We were up early to get organised and the drive over to Wandiligong would take at least 45 minutes unless we got stuck behind a slow truck/bus/camper on the mountain towards Bright. It was foggy and the temperature got down to about 4 degrees on the drive over. We arrived, parked and walked over to the Alpine Park to register and use the toilets. We collected our race bibs and headed back to the car to get our gear.

Unlike most of the past trail races I had done I knew nobody and that was largely due to the fact that we were in a different state. Still, it felt weird. We readied ourselves at the start line for a quick briefing and then we were off, the 14km and 27km runners all started together.

The first section of the course was along a hilly road section for about 2km before we ducked into a trail and started to climb the first hill. Most of the road section had been quite hilly but we had pushed ourselves to run it because everyone around us had been running too. I figured they were probably locals and knew the course well, turns out most of them were.

Our first climb was up Goldmine Spur and if there had not been runners ahead of me and pink tape to mark the way, then I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to make out the trail. It had clearly rained for quite a few days leading up the race and the ground was very wet and slippery underfoot, but thankfully my trusty new Speedgoats were up to the challenge.

I overtook a few people going up this mountain and got into a rhythm with my steps even though the terrain was quite steep and uneven. There was no clear trail aside from where the runners had pinned down the long grass,  and made way over the fallen branches and rocks. I think if I had been here outside of race conditions it would be easy to lose the trail.

Eventually we got to the top and I made my way downhill towards the first aid station. Here I said goodbye to Roger as the 27km course took off in a different direction, and headed down a fire trail which led to the first big descent. Talk about slippery! About 70% of this downhill section was slippery clay that meant you practically slid your way down the mountain. It was almost impossible to stay upright and I heard many streaks and groans from in front and behind me while going through that section. If you imagine the position you take while standing on a surfboard riding a wav, that was how I slid down the mountain for the best part. It’s a miracle that I didn’t land on my butt, as I noticed after the race most people came in with clay all over their legs and butt.

The course eventually looped back around towards the Alpine Park starting area where my race number was ticked off. I had carried all my own food and drink so I didn’t waste any time at the aid stations. Heading out of the park we took a right hand turn up a fire trail and then took a sharp left up into ‘The Goat’. The description on the race website said “hands in the dirt scrambling” and they were not wrong. There was actually a rope to pull yourself up the first section onto the trail because it was so steep. I had to really concentrate for this section as it was crucial to get your feet on the right surface/spot for every step up this mountain. One wrong foot and you would slide down and lose ground, banging your knees, ankles and elbows all over the place. This was really the toughest climb I have ever seen, and what made it harder was that so many other runners had come through here earlier today.

It got me thinking about the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in New Zealand that some of my friends and clients had raced in earlier this year, as they had completed 50-100 miles in conditions similar to (or worse than) this.

I passed a local going up ‘The Goat’ and he was starting to struggle big-time. We had a chat as I went past and I felt strong as I kept climbing further and further ahead. Surely it couldn’t be that much further to the top. It kept going, and going, and going. We would cross a fire trail and climb up the next section using ropes and whatever means possible. By the time I got to the top there was nobody around me, behind or in front and I kind of liked that. The view we had been promised was hidden by a curtain of mist and I could barely see 10 metres in front of me. There was a bell hanging from a tree at the top of Mystic Mountain so I gave it a ring and kept running towards the markers and the aid station. I rounded the cone, said hello to the volunteers, then smiled as I left because I knew it was all downhill from here.

This is the point where I got a bit excited and may not have been paying as much attention as I should have been. Somewhere as I pummelled down the steep first trail I missed a turn and ended up at the bottom of the mountain with not a pink trail marker to be seen. I walked back up the hill,, then down the hill, then up to another spot, then down. it was useless. I could not find a pink course marker anywhere. I was soo annoyed at myself and it upset me more than it should have. I looked at my watch and it said I had run 13.6km, my heart sank as I knew it was further than 400m to get to the finish now. I just hoped it wasn’t too much further as I had been pushing myself and wasn’t too sure how much was left in the tank.

Finally I got out my phone and worked out that the road below me should wind its way back to the Alpine Park and I hoped that it would link back up with the course. I ran along the road and thankfully it re-joined the course, however I had lost too many places to count and it made me disappointed with myself. I chatted to a guy who asked me where I had come from and I told him what had happened, I’d actually passed him going up the first hill and he had not seen me since then. There was another lady in front of me so I set my sights on trying to catch her, but it was useless as my legs didn’t have anymore speed to give. I felt like an idiot and had no-one to blame but myself for getting lost as I should have been paying more attention.

I tried to focus on the positives and snap myself out of the bad mood I’d fallen into. The trail followed the Horses Creek back which was trickling with water, a nice calming sound that helped improve my mood as it snaked its way towards Alpine Park. Once in the park we did a victory lap of the field and I crossed the finish line in 2hrs 55mins. My goal had been to finish in 2hrs 30mins, however my Garmin told me that I had run 16.5km so I’d say I would have been pretty close to that without the added kms. I’ll take it.

About 2 minutes after I crossed the finish line I saw Roger coming into the aid station at Alpine Park, great timing. He still had ‘The Goat’ to come and an another bonus trail that we did not travel on, so I wished him well and told him to be careful on the last downhill because I had missed the markers. He left in good spirits and I caught up with our good friend George Mihalakellis who had driven up from Melba to cheer us on and spend some time in the mountains. George and I then headed back to the car and off to get some brunch before heading back to wait for Roger’s race finish. Roger crossed the line in 5hrs 39minutes and we celebrated with a bacon & egg wrap and coffee.

The Wandi Cross organisers had advertised this as a ‘technology free run’ so I had decided not to take any photos while out on course, that is why I have not included any here in this blog. I did however wear my Garmin GPS watch during the run but I kept it hidden under a buff so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it, and the only time I looked at my watch was when I had gotten lost.

Once we were all back at the Air BnB showered and warm, I opened up a 13 yr old bottle of Sullivans Cove whisky that Roger had given me for my birthday. I had been saving it to celebrate my return to trail running/racing, and we even convinced George to have a glass too.

We went to Roi’s Restaurant for dinner on Saturday night and as always the food and service were top notch. We also found the Mt Beauty Taxi Service (a one man band) to be most helpful and friendly.

Sunday Hike – Mount Feathertop

On Sunday George and Roger were heading to Bogong for some more repeats and after looking up the local hiking trails I had decided to hike Bungalow Spur to Mount Feathertop. I drove about 45mins to get to the trailhead and the car told me that it was 2 degrees at the spot where I was starting my hike. I had worn a few layers of warm clothing and had some extras plus wet weather gear in my pack in case I needed it.

The first section of the trail was nice and flat and it followed along next to a small running creek, but the ‘flat’ would not last for long. The trail crossed the creek and started to wind up and up around the mountains before me. It was not too long before I had to remove my wind & water proof jacket because I was getting too hot. I stuffed the jacket into my pack and twisted my cap around so I could see the trail ahead and above me. About 2km up the trail I realised that my sunglasses had been on top of my hat and that when I had twisted the cap around I had dropped them. There was no way I was going back for them, or should I? I decided that I didn’t want to have to back-track and kept moving up the trail.

There was a large section of the trail that was overgrown with shrubs and I noticed as I pushed through them that it was soaking my clothes and making me feel a little cooler than I anticipated. I kept going and tried to steer clear of the branches but it was almost impossible. I decided I would just have to speed up and hike fast so my clothes would stay dry from the heat of my body. There was a small break in the shrubs and I stopped to look up….

It was about this point that it dawned on me I was actually hiking to the 2nd highest peak (1,899 metres) in Victoria, and that the entire trail to the summit would probably not have any flat or downhill sections. Great. My quads and calves had felt very stiff that morning when I had awoken and they were now reminding me that I probably wasn’t in as good shape as I could have been to attempt this, especially the day after my first trail race in 18 months. My coach had written ‘Easy Hike’ on my training program and I’m afraid this was nowhere close to being an easy hike. Sorry Andy!

Then I began to notice the ice had begun covering the leaves and the branches around me, and the trees were no longer green and flourishing. It was eerie and magical all at once.

The higher I got the more ice and snow I could see, and the temperature had dropped so much that I put my jacket and gloves on to keep warm.

My legs were burning by the time I reached the Federation Hut and thankfully it had only been about 8.6km to this point, not 10.5km as per the trail markers. I stopped at the Hut to chat to some campers so I could have a rest and take in the view while I also threw in some more food.

It was only about 2km from here to the summit so I put on all my warm clothes and wet weather gear and headed up the trail.

I passed a few walkers coming down the mountain and they commented on how lucky we were to be here on such a clear day. They were locals and had hiked this many times before but said this was the best weather they had ever seen. I felt lucky and sped up to reach the top.

I felt on top of the world. The couple at the top took my photo and then left me alone to enjoy the summit all by myself. It was magical. I felt like I was flying.

I must have taken a thousand photos at the top and I could have kept taking them all afternoon, but I started to get cold and knew I had already taken a lot longer than I had expected. I was not sure how long it would take me to get back down to the car so I took a final video and then made my way back down the slopes.

The trip down was painful. I felt like a robot as my quads and calves just didn’t want to budge, it was not pleasant. I tried running instead of walking and that seemed to feel better, for a little while anyway. I alternated between slow running and fast hiking back down the mountain and got back to the car about 5 hours after I had started. I was so relieved to get there.

Driving home was easy and I took in the views of the beautiful place I was in as I knew it was my last day before we headed home. I stopped halfway home to get a photo of Mt Feathertop from the road too. Today had been tough but it has been worth it. It reminded of the famous quote “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow”.

I slumped into the door at the Air BnB and spent what felt like a lifetime under the hot stream of the shower, then spent the next few hours with my feet in the ‘Air pants’ by Air Relax Australia. They help circulation to help speed up recovery, kind of like a massage for your legs. At some point I fell asleep and I woke when the guys returned. We had dinner at Roi’s Restaurant again which was another delicious meal, and we all crashed into a slumber exhausted from the day’s work.

I felt so good to be free and alive.

On Monday morning we said our goodbyes to George and packed the car heading for home. What a top weekend in the mountains! All I could think about was the next time that I would be in mountains, and that would be in July as we were heading to Colorado, USA.

See you on the trails…

2016 GNW100 Miler

I’ve been dreaming about this race for a few years now. I’ve seen every video on youtube, read every race reports and heard about so many DNF (Did Not Finish) stories that I’ll admit it had me a little scared. But I’m always up for a challenge and the Great North Walk 100s sounded like it was just my cup of tea.

I eventually started telling people about my race plans and thankfully had 2 wonderful humans volunteer to crew (Sally Dean) and pace (Brad Smithers) for me at the race. Sally and I met when we crewed together for Jane Trumper at the 2015 Coast2Kosci, she was very experienced and I learnt so much from her over that weekend, an invaluable asset to have on my team! And that’s also where I met my pacer Brad, he was crewing for another runner at Coast2Kosci, his bubbly personality and helpful nature meant we became good friends straight away. Brad had also run the GNW miler in 2015 so he knew the course well and was experienced in ultra running, another invaluable asset to have on my team.

Like most of my races I would also use this event to fundraise for Dementia research at the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) and run this race in honour of my grandmother Betty who passed away recently after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Since 2013 I have run many events and raised almost $20,000 for this cause and I think my Nan would be very proud.

Months of training went past with the experienced help of my coach Andy Dubois, and it was not without the usual speed bumps of life along the way. I got to run on most of the course before race day, and I also spent a couple of days hiking solo and camping on the course, which I later realised was one of the toughest sections. It was a great experience for me as I love the outdoors, even if it meant getting a few blisters along the way!

Fast forward to the day before race day, where I met Sally in Woy Woy near the hotel I would be staying after the race. I would leave my car there and Sally would drive us to Warners Bay where we would stay the night before the race. We checked into our Hotel (pub, big mistake!) and went to do the usual final shopping trip. We also drove to the start area, a large football field which would be flooded with runners, supporters, organisers and volunteers the next morning. We went back to the hotel and Sally meticulously organised my food bags, she’s awesome! I’d also given her a 7 page document which outlined my plan so we chatted about the finer points on that too ( I know, run nerd). I also (half) taped my feet which took took much longer than expected, next time i’m just going to call Berny, ha ha!

Now all that was left to do was sleep, but that didn’t really go to plan as it sounded like the pub band were playing directly below our room and when they stopped playing at midnight we were treated to more ‘doof doof’ from the DJ until about 2am. Not the best way to spend the night before you are about to run 175kms, but hey what could I do?!

The alarms went off and we sleepily got up and prepared for the day. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

We parked the car at the start area and checked in, weighed in, and I visited the toilet 5,000 times (okay, slight exaggeration). Always happens to me before a race, and thankfully I found a toilet that didn’t have a queue. I spent time chatting to lots of friends who were running both the 100km and 100 mile events and I sat down to rest my legs before the race briefing.

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Wayne (Blue Dog) Gregory and I had planned to start the race together and run together as long as we could. We had not done any training runs together but he said that he was going to be slow and being my first miler I told him I would be taking it slow and easy to ensure I could make the distance, it would be nice to have his company.

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And we were off, I was talking so much I missed the starting gun (if there was one?) but everyone started running and we joined them.

I was running GNW100 Miler!! Woohoo!!

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I started the race with Blue Dog as planned, and we ran with friends Seb, George and his friend Simon for most of the first road section. I also saw my physio Pete as we crossed over the railway bridge, he was looking fit and I wished him well. It was raining at this point but only very lightly and it was actually very nice as the temperature was quite warm that morning (15 degrees if you believe the Liquorland sign near our hotel).

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Photo Credit: George Mihalakellis

Eventually we hit some trail and some hills, Blue Dog. And so it began, the power hiking up and the running down, plus running the flats. We hit our first steep, technical hill and Blue Dog commented on how strong I was going up them. I felt good, no I felt great.

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It was during the jungle that Blue Dog slowed and I kept getting ahead. It was a beautiful section of the course, very much like a rainforest and I took lots of time to look around and enjoy the view while I waited for Blue Dog to catch up, but eventually he told me to go on ahead and stop waiting for him and by the look in his eye I knew it was the right thing to do, he was struggling. I wished him well and caught up to another group of runners just ahead, one of them was Michael that I’d met at C2K, then there was Nick who has done this race 7 times before (!!), plus another first timer who from the Ukraine. They told me about a ‘huggy’ post that was at the top of the climb. We eventually got there and after a few laughs I managed to snap a shot of us all leaning on the post.

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I got to CP1 (28.6km) with relative ease and was greeted by John Love from Terrigal Trotters. I had never met him before but he was a friend of my massage therapists and he was going to help look out for me. From then on I was known to all of the volunteers as “John’s (only) friend”, the joke of the day/night/day! ha ha

I saw Sally straight away when I came into the checkpoint and she gave me all the supplies I needed, dead set legend. I made a quick dash to the bathroom and hoped that I would be able to leave with the same runners I had come in with. Unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen as I Checked-Out and got on my way. Here’s me heading out of CP1.

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Being alone for part of this section took me back to when I had hiked it a few months earlier, only this time I was not carrying a 28kg pack!! It was beautiful to hear only the sounds of my feet and the birdsongs all around me. Just beautiful.

After a while I caught up to Nick and the crew again, and our group chatted and laughed about so many things I can’t even remember. It was fun and I was loving this. Eventually it was just Nick and I and we were running along the road to Congewoi, it was an undulating section and we took the run/walk/run/walk approach. It was getting quite warm and the sun was beaming down on us at this time, but we were thankful of a few clouds and large trees and ran whenever we got a shady spot too.

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As we approached the checkpoint a lady who has been crewing for someone came past and offered us a Boost chocolate bar, she was running just ahead of us holding it out to show us and as we chased her we could not stop laughing, it was like dangling a carrot in front of us to make us run into the cp. I wish someone had filmed it as it would have been very funny!

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Coming into CP2 (52.5) it seemed there was a lot more excitement and atmosphere than CP1, lots more cheering and smiley faces. Sally found me straight away and got me weighed, seated and fed. I saw the smiling face of Roger Hanney too, he had just got back from his UTMB challenge and he filled my bladder up with iced water – it was divine, thanks Roger!

I did a quick toilet stop, changed my underwear & put on some tights as I was getting some chaff between my legs (TMI?) and I didn’t want it to get any worse, better to prevent if you can! Here are some pictures from the checkpoint.

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Getting my mandatory gear checked off.

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As I was leaving the cp Roger from Hoka One One made an embarrassing impromptu video interview that you can watch here (sorry about the swearing mum): https://www.facebook.com/HokaOneOneAustralia/videos/pcb.1099883286726723/1099879683393750/?type=3&theater

I left the cp feeling good, scoffing some ginger kisses into my mouth (god they were good) and hoping I would catch Nick who had left just before me. And thankfully I did. The next section of the course was a brutal one, two of the biggest climbs and not a lot of flat at all. We ran along and another runner called Roberto (from Argentina) caught up to us and we chatted about the next section. We also learned that Roberto was doing 8 milers on 8 continents, this was number 7 in his quest – wow!

The first climb was tough but I was ready. I’d hiked it before with a heavy pack and I knew I could do it again. Nick and I chatted the whole way up and it seemed to make the time go faster which was great. I pointed out the spot where I had camped during my hike and Nick named it Haileys Corner, which sounded a bit rude to me (ha ha) and I re-named it Haileys Campsite.

When we got to the top we realised we had caught up to a few runners, one of them being a good friend of mine Adam, and we were also joined by another good friend of mine Leah. So we decided to have a log party and get some food into us, good times!!

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After a few shenanigans we were soon up and on our way, it felt great to be running again on the fire trail that lay before us. We chatted to some more runners that caught up to us and continued with our running banter and stories. None that I can share with you i’m afraid, as ‘whatever happens on the trail stays on the trail’ (ha ha).

We eventually came to a property and we had to pass through some gates, past some cows, over a stream, through some more gates and then up towards the next big climb. Adam, Leah and I chatted as we made our way up the next steep hill, it seemed that it would never end. It was here that we also caught up to a friend Kurt, I hadn’t seen him for a while so it was really nice to run into him (pun intended).

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The next part I cannot remember too well, probably because it all looked the same or I’ve decided to erase it from my memory (ha ha) but I know that I somehow lost Leah and ended up heading into the Basin by myself. It was dark now and I’d prepared for this as it was a tricky section, but I had the trail etched in my memory so that I wouldn’t get lost. And as I was heading into the Basin I managed to catch up to my friends Kurt and Adam, and we chatted about the food we would consume and the things we needed to do at the next cp. We all decided that we should try and stick together for the next section and leave at the same time, it seemed like a great plan to me.

Coming into the Basin (81.6km) you could hear some (awful) Karaoke singers who had clearly been living it up by the campfire all afternoon/evening, and there was a buzz in the air as we flew into the check-in tent and collapsed on the chairs ready to get stuck into some tucker. I’m pretty sure I had 3 cups of soup and more, it was so tasty and felt good going down. I changed my shoes here and put on the trusty Hoka that feel like clouds, they were so good on already sore and blistered feet. Sally was an angel and made sure I had everything I needed, that I was fed, that I was warm, and gave me updates about other runners she knew of. I was feeling so excited and positive. This was going well and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I chatted to Nick & Pete who had come into the cp earlier than we had, but were both struggling. Pete hadn’t been able to keep food down and Nick had decided to lay down for a nap. I hoped they would be able to get up and keep running.

Sally also gave me some emails from my family, they had such lovely words of encouragement and they brought a happy tear to my eye. So thoughtful, so motivating.

After lots of laughs, lots of food, some name calling and a toilet stop we eventually got our butts organised and headed out into the night. The next cp would be Yarramalong and the finish for the 100km runners, a massive tick off the list i’d been keeping my head. My plan was to get in and out of that cp as quickly as possible. And I was really looking forward to seeing my pacer Brad, his smile had a way of making everything okay and he would be very welcome company for the rest of the race.

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It really was so much fun running with Kurt and Adam, both had a great sense of humour and were easy to talk to. We planned to take the trail section here petty easy and then once we hit the road we were going to opt for a run/walk/run/walk option along the 10km+ road section. As we were approaching the road we somehow got a tiny bit off course and poor Kurt and Adam ran into some stinging nettle. I’m glad they had been ahead of me as it meant I had fair warning and could avoid it. The trail was just 4 metres to our right and we back tracked onto it and then onto the road. As we got to the road we saw a few other runners who had stopped and were reading a map. We told them they needed to go left and just keep running.

It really did feel good to be running again and I wanted to use this road section to make up some time, so I promised myself I had to keep the run/walk momentum going. We took turns saying let’s run to that post, or that tree, or that letterbox, or that scarecrow. Yes that’s right, the road was littered with houses that had dressed up their own scarecrows in costume and themes and the local town were having a competition for the best one, you could even go online to vote for them! They were fantastic, check them out here: http://www.yarramalongvalleyspringfestival.com.au/spring-festival-events/scarecrow-competition/

We kept up the run/walk but there seemed to be more walking than running, and I remember at one point thinking shit I need to run some more, so I told the boys and thankfully they followed behind me as we put some distance between us and the other runners we had seen earlier. It was dark, but it wasn’t cold. Thankfully it was a beautiful night and you should have seen the stars, thousands of them filtered the sky…!!!

It was at this point I thought of my friend Jill who at the same time was running the Glasshouse 100miler in Queensland. I wondered how she was going, how she was feeling and felt like part of her was there with me edging me along the road.

Eventually we got closer to town and we headed into the Yarramalong cp (103.7km) where I saw the smiling faces of my friends from Trailblazers Brad, Emma & Filimon. I made a quick dash to the toilet and then headed to find trusty Sally who would get me re-fueled, re-energized and back out there.

I saw Brad and he commented on how fresh I looked and I said I was feeling good. I really was looking forward to his company and being able to ‘switch-off’ a little, as I’d been cautiously searching for trail markers and stressing that I’d get lost for most of the day. It was nice to know I had a fresh pair of eyes looking out for me and to help share the journey to Patonga. We ate and ate and ate, and I stretched a little too. The body was holding up well and I reminded myself to keep re-assessing and making smart decisions. I was surprised how alert I felt and that I was still eating real food, usually for the second half of the 100km races the only thing going in would be gels at this point. But the food tasted good. I had soup and chips and coke and whatever else I could get my hands on. I was still loving those ginger kisses!!

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Kurt, Adam, Brad and I departed the cp together as we headed for another tough section. I think we were all very glad to have Brad join our crew and he chatted to us about a plan of attack. I was so excited to be past Yarramalong and told the gents this was the furthest I had even run before. We had a mini celebration and then got stuck into the hard work that lay before us.

After a few hours into this section, probably at around 3:00am I started to get sleepy and was slowing down. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy and they wanted to close. Picture micro-sleeping while on the run, that was me. I told the gents how I was feeling and Kurt said he was a bit the same. So we tried to keep talking to each other and keep the brain awake, but it was really starting to slow me down. Brad went ahead chatted to the other guys to tell them to go ahead as I was slowing everyone down. There were only a few hours until sunrise and prior to the race everyone had told me that once the sun comes up your body will re-charge, I hoped that was true.

Brad kept me alert and upright as we kept moving through the early hours of the morning and sure enough once we started to hear the sounds of the early morning birds we knew the sun was on it’s way, and a new day could start. You could see the sky starting to lighten and as the sun lifted high into the sky so did my spirits.

I started running again and it felt great. I felt awake and alive, and was looking forward to getting into the next cp at Somersby. The sleepiness had gone and i was very thankful. We caught up to Kurt who was now alone and we ran past him wishing him well.

We ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, walked, and ran some more until we eventually go to the next cp at Somersby (132.1km). I was looking forward to some breakfast and some coffee which we had planned to have here. I had porridge and a delicious cup of ‘real’ coffee, thanks volunteer lady for sticking around and making it for me – you rocked!!

Sally gave me a blanket and food and took care of my emptying and re-filling my pack. I told her what I had eaten and she was impressed (ha ha). Such a caring, thoughtful woman. I really had chosen the best crew-lady ever!!

Brad surprised me with a beautiful little bunch of lavender, something for me to remind me of my grandmother. It brought a happy tear to my eye as I remembered her and reminded me of the struggles her and my family had been through with her dementia. She was a beautiful lady and I was going to get back out there and do her proud.

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I chatted to Sarah (Adam’s wife) and she said that he has left only moments before we had arrived, it was great to hear he was doing so well. I did some more stretching just to get the body moving and eventually Sally had us all prepared and on our way. I’d even filled my bladder with Coca Cola to help get me caffeinated and ensure no more sleepy patched would appear on the next section. And I only had one more cp to go, then the finish. How awesome was that!

Brad and I got up and on our way heading back out onto the road section, over a little hill and then back onto the trail. Only a marathon to go now!!

This was a gorgeous section to run and having Brad’s company was great. We chatted and laughed and I was feeling so much better than the low point I had had earlier during the morning. The new day brought new opportunities and eventually it would bring that finish line. It was in my mind, I could picture it, and I was going to do whatever it took to get there.

We got to Mooney Mooney cp (149.9km) and were greeted by the smiling faces of the volunteers and gorgeous Sally. We also met the lady who would be sweeping the course and I started to get very aware of the cut-off times and wanted to make sure we stayed comfortably ahead of them. This meant that we didn’t stay very long as we had to keep moving.

As we left the cp I waved to Sally and we headed off dancing down the hill with big grins, as we knew the next stop would be the finish at Patonga!!

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There was some lovely trail at the start of this section before we hit some nasty hills and a sh!tload of rock, rock and more rock. Oh and there was some rock too! By this point my feet were aching, the blisters had formed nicely around my toes but I was determined to ignore that and get the job done. So we went up on the rock, down on the rock, up on the rock, down on the rock, and Brad put up with my groans and sighs as we made our way through this section. It felt like we were going round in circles and not getting anywhere and I was starting to get frustrated. When would this rock ever end?!

I remember going quiet for a long time, and internally I was stressing about the next cut-off. I also remember saying to Brad “I feel like we have been on this rock forever” and he replied, “That’s because we’ve been on it for over 2 hours”. It made sense. I tried to relax my body and focus on the finish. I remembered the quote Blue Dog had said, ‘It’s going to get ugly, but it’s going to get done’, and i’m pretty sure my style at this point was very ugly! ha ha

The last cut-off was 3:00pm at the Staples Lookout Track (160.8km) and thoughts of not reaching the lookout in time seemed to consume my thoughts, no matter how much I tried to think of something else. And I’m sure I asked Brad about a thousand times ‘are we there yet?’. I’m sure he was getting sick of me now!

Brad and I sat down for a minute to rest during this section, and he read me an email that my husband had written for me to encourage me along. It was beautiful. It was perfect. We shared some more tears and then we got back up and on our way, getting back to business.

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I was still feeling pretty good, tired but better than I expected to feel at this point. I felt very alert and awake and was determined to run as much as I could, and I did.

Eventually we went past the cut-off point with 30 minutes to spare, I said my prayers to the trail running gods and promised myself to lighten up and enjoy the rest of the journey. And as soon as we got off that god awful rock I started running again, further and further than I expected to be running at this point.

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I could almost smell that finish line. I could hear it calling me. And I ran, I ran even though my head wanted me to stop. I ran. I pushed harder. I even managed to cachet up to a few runners as I hit the fire trail before the last downhill section to the beach. When I got closer I realised one of the runners was Adam, and I was hoping that he would tag along and speed up with me so we could get to the finish together, but he stayed with his pace and I wished him well (with a slap on the butt) as I went past.

The down hill section in front of me had a little bit of concrete and rock, and after that it was my favourite type of trail. I decided to give it everything I had and finish the race running from here on. I felt like I flew down the last hill. It was single track, stairs, rocky, it had lots of turns and I was having lots of fun. I passed another 2 runners on that section and Brad and I eventually hit the beach.

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We heard the bell sound telling everyone that there was a runner on the beach and we made our way along the sand to the finish area. I could see the finishers post, I was really doing this, I was going to finish the GNW100 Miler!!

I fell to my knees in awe of the race and all that it entails, I could’t believe I had made it. My eyes were filled with tears. I kissed the post. I hugged the post. I did it Nan!

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Finish line Video: https://www.facebook.com/jill.saker/videos/10153990253633380/

Tears are filling my eyes as I type this and I have so many people to thank for getting me to the start line and supporting me on this journey so far. Without them I would not have been able to plan and prepare for the event in the way that I had. I truly believe that my race could not have gone any smoother and it thanks to my wonderful crew Sally, pacer Brad, coach Andy, massage therapist Faye, husband Jared and my beautiful family & friends.

Thank you to Dave Byrnes the race director and all of the wonderful volunteers who gave up their time to support us crazies, you people are wonderful and the world would be a better place if there were more people like you.

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Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and helped me raise funds for UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, we got to $2,00 and i’m thrilled. So thanks for the support team!

You can still donate here if you have a few spare dollars: https://cheba2.everydayhero.com/au/hailey-runs-gnw100mile

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So what’s next for me? I’ve applied for a little race that’s coming up in December and I’ve got everything crossed in the hope that I get chosen to race this spectacular beast. It would be a dream come true!

Stay tuned and happy running 🙂

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Running Wild Lawson Long Course

I think i’m still in shock!

Yesterday I somehow managed to score my first ever trail running podium and I was so overcome with happiness when I crossed the line that I burst into tears.

Last weekend while I was sitting in the car being chauffeured home from the Six Foot Track Marathon, Maria and I got talking about the Running Wild race in Lawson that was being held the next weekend. I had contemplated entering earlier in the week when I received an email reminder about the race letting me know that registrations were still open, but hadn’t fully committed as I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel a week later. Somehow Maria and I came to the conclusion that it was a good idea for me to enter and before I got home I was registered for the 17km event.

The Monday after Six Foot was tough. My quads and calfs were very, very sore and I was hoping that my massage on Thursday would help alleviate some of that before the race. Thankfully it did and by Saturday my legs were feeling normal again.

I spent Saturday morning taking the walk/run group at the gym where I work and training a few PT clients, then headed into Pyrmont for the Nike Training Club Tour Sydney, a day of fitness and fun. I took it pretty easy as I knew I had a tough run coming the next day.

Sunday I was up at 4.30am and heading to the Blue Mountains. I had convinced my friend Amanda to come and join me for the run too so I was looking forward to seeing her. We are both doing UTA100 in May so we have been trying to schedule some weekend runs together and this would be the first! (ha ha)

I parked at the Lawson Bowling Club and headed down the (hilly) road to the start/finish area and collected my bib. There weren’t many familiar faces but a few people said hi and asked me about 6 foot (I wore my race t-shirt). My plan was to take the race pretty easy as I knew my body would still be recovering so this was to be my long, slow run for the week.

Amanda and her friend Vicki arrived and we chatted as we waited for the race to start.

There were 2 distances being run on the same course at the same time, so the 17km (long) option were doing 2 laps of the course, and the shorter course was just 1 lap of the trail. We eventually started and the pack seemed to be very slow moving. I had planned to stick with Amanda for the first section of the trail, but as I started to overtake people I noticed that she wasn’t behind me anymore. I didn’t think i was going that fast but maybe she was still recovering from her run at 6 foot the week before, or perhaps she had decided to run with Vicki. I hoped that she wouldn’t be upset I had abandoned her as it was not intentional.

There are thousands of thoughts that go through my mind while running, sometimes they are run-related and sometimes that are not.

The first out and back section was short and brought us back past the start area where we made a left turn onto an uphill section, we would have to do this section 3 times. Most of this course was fire trail so it was quite wide and meant for easy passing, which I seemed to be doing without too much effort. I noticed that I still felt cold as we went up the first incline, my hands were freezing so I decided to keep running up the first hill so I could try and warm up. Normally I would have walked a hill that steep but I was feeling pretty good and was keen to get warm.

The trail was very rocky and I was thankful for my new Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes, today was the first time I had worn them on trails as I was breaking them in and they felt really good. There were lots of ups and downs and I worked hard to overtake several people on the down sections as this seems to be my strength.

We passed through a gate and headed down another steep hill as I shuffled my feet in small, quick steps moving fast and calculated. My left eye kept watering which blurred my vision a little and make it tricky, but I didn’t let that bother me.

Eventually (after another short uphill section & a spot for a photo) we got to the turnaround point and I saw my friend Luke who is a volunteer for the Running Wild Club and he cheered me on. I made a mental note to grab food there when I came past next as I knew i’d be out of my drink by then. I was carrying a 600ml soft flask with Tailwind (grape) and it was already over half empty. I had started the race with a grumbly belly (even though I had eaten breakfast before I left home and had also eaten a banana as I walked from my car to the start line) so I had been trying to get the liquids in for my body to use during the race.

We passed back down the steep hill and along the trail seeing many runners coming the other way. I cheered them on and chatted to a few others near me too, it always helps make the time fly past.

As we went through the gates we were directed down a trail to the right and it was a beautiful downhill single track section, my favourite! I raced down there to try and make up some time and really enjoyed this section. I was already  looking forward to doing it again on the second lap!

The single track ended and we were back near the start area and heading off up to the original out and back section. I saw many of the front runner as they motored back towards me and noticed that there were lots of females breathing down my tail. Little did I know that these ladies were all doing the short course and there run was almost over as they were only doing the 1 lap.

I got to the turnaround and headed back trying to keep up a descent pace on this flat section. My friend Kathy caught up to me and we chatted about Mile 27 and our coach Andy. I learned she was only doing the 1 lap as she was taking it easy and it got me thinking about how many other runners were almost done too, or were they speeding up trying to catch me too?

She motored off towards the finish line and I pulled up my socks for another lap of the course. I hit the steep first hill again and this time I power walked up that section. I kept trying to maintain a comfortable breathing pattern and staying positive. It was about this time that I met Dave and we chatted about 6 foot which he had also done the week before (and had beaten me by 10 minutes, ha ha). I ran with him for a while but he kept pulling ahead of me on the flats and the uphill. My plan was to try and stick with him as long as i could, so i kept him in my sights and caught up to him a few times on the downhills.

I got to the turnaround point and I had been pushing it a bit harder than the first lap so was starting to feel a little tired. I grabbed a piece of banana and scoffed it down as Luke cheered me off down the hill again. It was the last leg.

There was a lot of downhill here and I managed to catch up to Dave again so we chatted some more. I had been cheering on the runners coming in the other direction and if I was correct there were only 3 ladies in front of me, could that be right? Oh well, surely I was wrong and I should just stick to my race plan and enjoy the trails.

And then I saw the photo man again who confirmed it for me, he told me I was in 3rd place (but I knew he meant 4th place, surely I could not be 3rd!). How the hell did that happen?

And then the brain started ticking over….. would it be possible to get a podium? If i pushed it here and caught up to that lady I could see ahead would I be in 3rd place? Was it possible? Should I go for it?

I told Dave about my debacle and he made the call for me. He was going to help me get 3rd! (I owe him big time for that, thanks again Dave!). I told him I’d be happy with Top 5 but he said ‘screw that we are getting you 3rd place!’

And with that Dave motored me up the hills and told me that I would catch her on the downhills as she was slow and cautious going down. He was so encouraging and positive and his winning attitude seemed to rub off on me. The lady in front seemed to be pulling away from me on the hills but we had a lot of downhill coming and I hoped it would be her weakness (sorry Ros).

We passed through the gates and Dave cheered me on to “go for it”, so I turned right onto my favourite single track section and (with a hidden smile on my face) gave it my all as I headed down the trail and motored past the lady in front as she slowly clambered down the rocks. I felt like I was flying! I was now in 3rd place – far out! Really?!?!

Now there was the pressure of thinking about her creeping up behind me trying to catch up. I kept telling myself that she was closing in, that I could hear her breathing down my neck and it kept me pushing all the way down to the bottom of the track and also as i climbed back up the final stairs. At the end of the single track I turned right and just had the original out and back section to conquer.

I took a quick glance behind me to see if I could spot the other lady and she was nowhere to be seen. Could this be possible? Keep your head down Hailey, it’s not over yet. I knew I had about 1km to go so I tried to find another gear to increase the gap so she wouldn’t come flying past me on the last section, but I also wanted to leave something in the tank in case I needed to make a sprint finish. God this was stressful, but so exciting!

I’ve never felt anything like it.

We got to the turnaround and I anxiously kept an eye out for the lady runner behind me. Eventually I saw her and she wasn’t that far behind. She was smaller than me so probably much quicker on the flat sections so I had to keep up my pace and finish strong.

The trail went up and down and around and eventually I could see the finish line, this was it. I was going to do it. Oh my god!

I crossed the line and a lady walked over to me holding a wine glass and a voucher, she congratulated me and told me that i was the 2nd female. 2nd female! Was that right? Surely she was wrong. I burst into tears and bent forward as I tried to catch my breath and let my legs rest. She asked me if something was wrong and I told her it was my first podium, then she gave me a big hug and congratulated me again. Her name was Annie and she told me to go get a drink, some food and then come back for a photo.

As I wiped my tears I saw Dave crossing the finish line and I made my way over to thank him for pushing me and helping me so much, what a great guy. Trail runners really are a whole different breed of awesome humans!

After some food and water I walked bak over to Anne and we got a photo together. I think I was still in shock at the result, but you could not wipe the smile off my face! 😀

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I chatted to some other friends Stephane, and Jill and then I found the ladies who had come 1st and 3rd and congratulated them on their race. They were both super friendly and really nice, genuine people. Below is a photo of us, there’s Ros (3rd) on the left, Alicia (1st)in the middle, and me (2nd) on the right.

I’m so glad i got to meet these 2 ladies, they were so kind and I wish them both congratulations again 🙂

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A big thank you to all of the volunteers and organisers at the Running Wild event. They do an amazing job and it really is the quality people who bring it all together so well. Thank you for such a well organised and well supported event. I’ll be back for Series 7, see you then!

😀 😀 Happy Running 😀 😀

Aussie 10 Peaks Adventure

I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful country and a few weeks ago I got to spend over 10 hours climbing our 10 highest peaks with a wonderful bunch of trail runners.

My friend Dan and I drove down to Smiggins Holes on the Friday with a few pit stops on the way. When we left Sydney it was hot and sunny, but the closer we got to Mount Kosciusko National Park the more fog and cloud covered the sky. We had spots of rain on the way down and when we got out of the car to check out the area we realised we were not suitably dressed and decided to test out our new rain jackets.

We had a short wait till our mates arrived with the keys so we had a cheeky beer from my esky and then went exploring the area. Smidgins Holes is full of chalets that would ordinarily be packed in the winter time, but today it was like a ghost town, not another soul in sight. We wandered to the slopes and saw the chair lifts and ran into a kangaroo who looked at us like we were lost. Or maybe he was just hungry and looking for food.

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Eventually the rest of our crew arrived and we checked out the sleeping quarters at the Clancy Alpine Club, our lodgings for the next few days. I was sharing in Room #3 with 2 girls called Caroline and Kit (both I had never met) and our room had a bunk bed and an upstairs double bed, plus an ensuite. I decided that first in was first served, and scored the double bed for myself, usually I don’t fit into bunk beds due to my height so I was very happy with this!

There was a large communal kitchen with several fridges and cupboards for us to store our food. There were a few couches and a large open log fire to warm up next to (and we did). I got all my food unpacked and kept hydrated as much as possible, plus I had about 4 of my banana paleo cupcakes (carb loading, ha ha).

As everyone unpacked it was clear they were big drinkers! Everyone had brought a couple of bottles of (mostly) red wine and they were stacked above the fridges, I wish I had taken a photo as you would not have thought it was a healthy running group, ha ha. I had brought a bottle of wine but did not think i’d be able to finish it (and I didn’t in the end).

I chatted to Scott Enfield who was one of the founders of the Trailblazers Running Club which is situated on the Northern Beaches, and also David Bristow who had been the organiser of our adventure weekend. I met a lot of other smiley faces and everyone talked about the upcoming run with nerves and excitement.

One by one all of the runners turned up and those who arrived early watched the others carefully measure and pack all of their food, water & gear for the next days adventure. Many were nervous and not sure they would make the distance, myself included!

We got up early and left the chalet at 6.30am. We drove in car loads up to Charlotte’s Pass where we parked the cars, visited the loos and took some photos. It was quite cool, very foggy but we managed to start on time at 7.00am (apparently the first ever Trailblazers run to start on time).

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Charlottes Pass - Start

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We set off down the first trail, quite steep and a little slippery and before long we were crossing our first river (pictured below), that’s me one the left being a fool. I managed to keep my feet dry but a few of the runners decided to wade through the water instead of balancing on the rocks with the others. Tough!

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Photo Credit: David Bristow

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As we exited the river we headed up a steep hill and I was surprised to see small patches of snow on the mountains beside and around us, little did I know that around the next corner there would be rather large patches of snow AND we would be running through them! Below is Richard and I embarking on the first snow slope, who would have thought?! (not me)

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We followed the trail for a few kms and then took a sharp right towards the first peak, as instructed by our navigator David and packed up by our expert orienteer Brook ( who both I must thank for teaching me so much about reading maps that day). We were power walking most of this uphill section and before long we were having our first grelfie (group selfie, ha ha) shown below.

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Peak 1 – Mt Twynam 2,195m

Peak 1 - Mt Twynam

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We then headed back down the peak and were told that there would be a few extra (incidental) peaks along the way, and it didn’t take long until we hit one of those and posed for our next grelfie. Who says you need a selfie stick when you have a great camera and long arms like David! 😉

Peak 1b – 2,136m

Peak 1b - 2136m

Photo Credit: David Bristow

There was not much ‘trail’ on our journey that day, but lots of cross country hiking, climbing, power walking and the thick shrub was quite hard in sections, but lots of fun.

Peak 2 – Caruthers Peak 2,145m

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Scotty and I (above) on Caruthers Peak, such fun!

Peak 2 - Carruthers Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We had all been assigned a buddy for the day, which meant you had to keep an eye on that person to make sure they were eating enough & drinking enough etc. throughout the day. Dan was my buddy and he did a top job! Dan also got the whole crew doing a ‘squat’ at the top of each peak, it’s good for the legs he said as they can rest (even though some of us could not get all the way down to ground due to poor mobility). It got harder and harder to get back up as the day went on though, because the muscles were getting tighter and tighter (ouch!).

And we hit another incidental peak….

Peak 2b – Mt Lee

Peak 2b - Mt Lee

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 3 – Mt Northcote 2,131m

Peak 3 - Mt Northcote

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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I won’t bore you with too much information, but there was a lot of walking involved, so don’t be fooled to think that we ran it all. I think we ran about 20% (if that).

Peak 3b – Muellers Peaks

Peak 3b - Muellers Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 4 – Alice Rawson Peak 2,160m

Peak 4 - Alice Rawson Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

And climbing more snow, it was very slippery!!

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Peak 5 – Mt Townsend 2,209m

Peak 5 - Mt Townsend

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 6 – Abbott Peak 2,145m

Peak 6 - Abbott Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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And then we were headed for the highest peak in Australia, most of the group decided to run up this hill but I was trying to conserve energy and stuck with a few of the slower guys while we chatted up the mountain. You could not see the top as you climbed the trail up towards the top, around every corner youthought it would reveal itself but it just wasn’t there. And then it WAS there! And I could not believe the amount of people who were sitting around enjoying the view up there, it was amazing! They cheered us on and asked us what we were doing, several of them telling us we were crazy – what’s new?!

Peak 7 – Mt Kosciusko 2,228m

Peak 7 - Mt Kosciusko

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Here’s me standing on the highest point of Australia – woohoo!!

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We headed back down from Kosciusko on a high, running, and it was good to be moving fast again. We ran on trail for a portion, over some more snow and hit the Seamans hut where unfortunately Scott was having ITB issues and decided to head for the shortcut back to the finish. He was in a lot of pain so it seemed like a smart move.

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We continued along the trail and hit some metal boardwalks, there were signs that said ‘No Running’ which was a little frustrating, but it meant we could chat more and take in the view. And then some of the peaks were a lot more rocky and involved a lot more ‘climbing’ than expected, but it was lots of fun (did I mention that already?!).

Finally a bit of sun came out…!

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Peak 8 – North Rams Head 2,177m

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Peak 8 - North Ramshead

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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Drop it like a SQUAT! This one (below) is for you Dan – ha ha

Peak 9 – Rams Head 2,190m

Peak 9 - Ramshead

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We deviated off the trail one more time and headed up another steep incline, we were headed for the final peak and i couldn’t believe that I had made it. I was going to finish the Aussie 10 Peaks – how exciting!

Peak 10 – unnamed peak at Etheridge Ridge 2,180m

Peak 10 - Etheridge Ridge

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We climbed back down the hill towards the trail and it was a lovely (slight) downhill section all the way back to the cars at Charlotte’s Pass. I had been sticking with the ladies at the back of the pack to make sure they were okay, and I got to run some of this section. It felt so good to run again. I noticed that some of the girls were falling behind so i slowed to see how they were going and to help them along.

We re-grouped at the bridge crossing the Snowy River (pictured below) and had our photo taken by some trekkers from Canberra. We were so happy and excited to have made it and now we just had about 8km of trail to go.

Survivors

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We set off running again and my buddy had taken off, he was no good to me anymore (ha ha). I stuck with Kit who was alternating between running and walking, she looked like she could do with the company and I was happy to walk to the finish if she needed me to. We chatted and got to know each other as the time passed and the rain started to set in. We took longer than I had expected to get back to the cars, but were greeted with big smiles and hugs when we got there. We had done it!

Here’s the group celebrating our accomplishments with a victory dinner and (many) drinks, although most of us were in bed by 9.30pm (ha ha). So many laughs had, and many lasting friendships forged that weekend, it’s an experience I will treasure for many years to come.

the lodge

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Thank you to everyone who came and made it such an incredible weekend. Lisa for organising such awesome accommodation (and your wonderful Dad). David for having the idea and following it through, and dragging us kicking and screaming along (Not! ha ha), and also big thanks to my super buddy Dan! Thanks for looking after me 😀 😀

For more information about time and distance please refer to my Strava upload: https://www.strava.com/activities/433405416

Our wonderful organiser David Bristow also took some video footage with his GoPro, and he has complied a fantastic video (with great & appropriate music, ha ha). Check it out here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN4aX5sa8xc

Happy Running 😀

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 🙂

Woronora Dam 10km

I was having lunch with my friend Amanda a few weeks back and she mentioned the upcoming Woronora Dam run, a local trail run organised by JORG. She was entered in the half marathon and there was also a 10km option that she suggested I should enter too, so I signed up.

The weather on the day was not ideal and I was prepared for a muddy trail as it had rained the few days prior and also on the morning of the race, but that never gets me down. I actually like playing in the mud. The course was unknown to me, I hadn’t looked up the elevation chart but I was assured it was one hilly bugger.

I chatted to Amanda and some other friends at the race HQ and after hearing more about the course I decided that my goal would be to run the entire trail to use it as hill training, I didn’t set myself and goal time and wanted to just go out and enjoy it.

The half marathoners set off first and Amanda looked strong and ready, she was coming back from injury and I hoped she would do well. After a short break it was our turn to start the race, I was nervous but feeling good.

The gun went off and we ran up the first hilly road section towards the trail. It was a tough slog at first running up the wet road and having to dodge other runners, and my right knee didn’t like the concrete too much either.

Eventually we hit the trail and it got hillier, great (ha ha). This was an out and back course and there were mostly downs on the way out, which meant only one thing….. lots of ups on the way back! So I slowed a little and made sure that I reserved some energy for the way back. There were some nasty steep declines at the moment and I knew it was going to take a lot to run them all on the way back up, it sure would be challenging.

It was great to be able to see the front runners smashing it back up the hill as we came down, they looked pretty puffed which only confirmed my fears of how hard it was going to be to run all the way back up!

There was a drink station at the turn around point so I grabbed a water and turned to head back up the steep hill we had just come down. This was it, time to hit the run button and just keep running no matter what.

I don’t remember looking up much on those hills. I had my head down concentrating on finding a rhythm with my breathing, to keep swinging my arms and lifting my legs. I managed to pass quite a few people as I ran up the hills, most of them were surprised I was able to run them and they encouraged me along. This gave me even more determination to not stop and to finish strong. They were some steep bloody hills! I had my coach Damon’s voice in my head the whole time, pushing me and telling me that it was possible, to just keep running, and that’s exactly what i did. He would have been proud if he saw my run that day.

During the last few kms I had the pleasure of running with a young girl called Sian, she was running her first trail 10km and doing really well. We chatted a lot about running and life and it made the time fly past. We were making good speed and I was surprised to note that we might possibly finish in under 60mins, i’d be VERY happy with that considering the hills!

We flew down the last hill both pushing ourselves to try and make attainder the hour. We overtook a lady as we neared the finish line and crossed in 58:37 – wow! I hugged Sian and we celebrated our fortunate race result, it was a great way to end a run!

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After some food & drink I went for a short walk after the run to check out the pipeline and the views, it’s a great spot and i will definitely be back for some training runs.

I waited for Amanda to come into the finish line and chatted to the race director Jim as I hadn’t seen him for a while. Eventually Amanda came flying home to finish in under 2 hours, a very great time!! Go Amanda!!

It really was a great event and you should all come down and run it with me next year!

Happy Running 🙂

Back into the swing of things

After a few bumps in the road I’m just starting to get back into running again on a regular basis, and the time off really did make me appreciate the fact that I can run. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how far I have come over the past couple of years, and all of the wonderful friendships I have made along the way, and I feel super lucky to be where I am today!

I can still remember the first few run group sessions in the city with my bestie Megan, who dragged me along each week and got me to enter events with her. I remember meeting Todd for the first time, our run group leader who helped push me along and got me running a full 5kms without stopping, a major feat for me back then. Both Megan and Todd have seen me grow from these early days, and supported me at everything from from 5km to 100km events. I’m very lucky to have met both of them and will be forever grateful.

From my beginnings at Nike Run Club, to run leading at Sydney Harbour Runners, to learning the trails with Sydney Striders, and working on my speed with Runlab, I have improved and learnt so much from each of these groups, and I know I will continue to do so in years to come. Every group has offered me so much and the friendships I’ve made along the way are ones that will last a lifetime.

Last weekend really highlighted to me just how much I love the sport and how much it means to me. I spent the day volunteering at the Centennial Park Ultra and I was surprised at just how many runners I knew and could assist/encourage while they were out there on the course. Their smiles, hard work and determination made me really appreciate what we have and are capable of doing when we put our mind to something. The sky is the limit!

So back to my running.

Term 3 of Runlab started 2 weeks ago and I was very nervous about getting back into the interval sessions as it had been longer than 6 months since my last session. The first week was Kenyan Hills and it destroyed me… I went out too hard and had nothing left for the last few reps. I was knackered.

Second week back at Runlab was Time Trial (TT) week, and this scared me even more. First up we did some intervals of 800/400/400/800 and to my surprise my average pace for these was 4:05, much quicker than I thought I would be (especially with my lack of speed training). We then had a short break and got stuck into the TT, which was a 1 mile distance. We all set off and I tried to stay with the front 2 runners as long as I could, which went well for the first 2 laps and then they started to pul away from me. I felt pretty good and pushed myself quite hard so I didn’t have much left in the tank when I finished. My time was 6:33 for the mile which equates to an average pace of 3:45, a massive sock to me as I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast before at any distance!!

The funny thing is, I did’t realise my average pace times for these Runlab sessions until last Sunday when my friend Maria pointed them out to me. I had been feeling a bit down and felt slow on the day, so I didn’t even bother to look what the pace had been, silly me!

So there you have it, i’m getting faster and i’m coming back stronger than before. So who knows what’s in store for me next…. bring on City2Surf this weekend, stay tuned!

Happy Running 🙂