Cadbury half marathon – race recap

Event 2 of our epic running weekend away – the Cadbury half marathon in Hobart (prepare yourself for a long post!). This one had been on my running wishlist for a while – how can you turn down the combination of running and chocolate?!

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Flat me all ready to run 🙂

 

We spent our afternoon relaxing, resting our legs and fuelling up for the next day (pretzels and powerade!) and generally trying to get into the right headspace. The one I was in was very much a ‘just get this done’. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to it, I just really didn’t know what to expect from my body or mind and I suspected it was going to be slower than the half I ran this time last year. So I worked on being ok with that. Spending this time before the event with running friends was absolutely brilliant – we were all going through the same thoughts, doubts and nerves and it made it feel ok. Preparations finished with a pasta dinner and a very early night to bed.

4.00am and our alarms went off. I’d slept pretty well and it wasn’t too bad getting out of bed – the nerves were starting to feel more excited than terrified so I just kept going through various mantras while I got ready (you’ve done this before, you can do it; pain is temporary, pride is permanent; you paid for this so you may as well enjoy it!).

We taxied it out to the event and arrived about 5.30ish – it was just starting to think about getting light and all the marathoners were there, preparing for their 6am start. We found the VIP area and joined the toilet queue then hung around, soaking it all in. The finish line was right next to the VIP area and I tried to picture how I would feel crossing over it as they blew up the arch and got it all ready.

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First km and feeling good

Soon enough, it was 6.30am and our turn to start. Being a small event, everyone starts together and you just figure out where to put yourself in the crowd – we headed for the back. We took a final selfie and off we went. The first part of the course is a little loop around the streets surrounding the Cadbury factory then back over the start line before heading down the hill. I ran with one of my friends for the first 2km which was great – she helped slow me down and get into the right rhythm. Starting off with a downhill was also great for my confidence as it kicked the first 2km off feeling strong and happy.

The first drink station was at the bottom of the hill and we said good luck and parted at our own paces. At this stage, I was still really unsure how the run would turn out and needed to get into the zone and figure out a comfortable pace.

The next couple of kilometres to the second drink station were quite quick – I started running some very loose intervals but then got sick of looking at my watch so just ran by feel. Run when I want, slow down when I want. Just after the drink station, I had a very brief ‘this is hard’ moment because I’d allowed myself to think about the run in its entirety and 21km seemed like a very long way. I pushed the thought from my head by thinking again in chunks – 5km to the bridge (and the turn around point) or 4km to the next drink station. Smaller distances seemed ok and my brain could cope with them so I just kept plodding along.

I had worried that I’d feel disheartened as, being at the back of the pack, you’re often out there on your own. I didn’t feel that once on this course. Firstly, I wasn’t alone at the back of the pack – there were some other runners with similar speeds who were not far away. I could actually see my friends in front until about 9km – consistently ahead but just too far to catch. And we were also out there with the marathoners who had started half an hour before us. The first one overtook me (on his second lap of the course) somewhere before the halfway point and it started a steady stream of marathoners running in both directions. So there was never any question of feeling alone.

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I also hadn’t thought about how scenic the course was going to be. I’d only briefly looked at the course map and had focused on the ‘highway’ bit, not how close it was to the river. Hobart is gorgeous and the course didn’t disappoint, with frequent mountain and river views to both distract me and remind me of the positives of running.

20160110_080617.jpgIn fact, it was definitely a day of happy running. Of course it wasn’t all easy – there were some undulations on the course, particularly the long hill on the bridge before the turn around point. But it wasn’t hard to remember why I’d paid to do this and I had lots of random smiling moments and even a few moments of tearing up, thinking about how lucky I was to get to fly somewhere gorgeous to indulge in one of my favourite things to do.

I saw my friends just before the turn around point which was a big boost – one was running her first half and looked so happy to be there. From the turn around point, the distance felt ok – I was on the way back and could almost sniff the chocolate at the finish. Probably the hardest stretch was between the 13km and 18km drink station which felt longer than 5km as I was starting to get thirsty. I had another Clif shot block at 14km, even though I really didn’t feel like eating anything by then but knew I’d need it to get me through the last bit.

The big difference between my first half and this one is that I didn’t run out of ‘run’ at all. In my first half, I’d pretty much turned it into a walk with about 7km to go, mostly as the sun was out and I was baking. This time, with perfect overcast weather, I kept up my run/walk throughout and, even on the walking bits, was power-walking and managing 9:30min/kms. I just was in the zone and got on with it, smiling all the way. Seeing some of the back of the pack marathoners starting on their second lap as I was approaching my last 2km was also quite stirring – I couldn’t imagine having to run another 21km on top of what I’d done and made sure I applauded each of them for their efforts and determination.

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Turning back into Cadbury road and getting ready for the hill up to the finish line……and chocolate!

We’d been warned about the hill at the end (and had run down it at the start so knew what to expect) but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought. The incentive of the finish line at the top was enough to keep me going. As was my time – I’d been running really well and, all along, had known that I was on track for a PB. My 5km time was about the same as my current parkrun times, my 10km was my equal best in 12 months and I thought my 15km time might be a PB (turns out I missed out by 20 seconds!). Getting to the bottom of the hill with 1.2km to go, I knew it was definitely going to be a PB and that helped get me up the hill quicker. I ran a bit and power walked the rest then ran for the finish as fast as my tired legs could carry me.

20160110_095044.jpgI crossed the finish line having knocked 11 minutes and 41 seconds off my previous best half marathon time and feeling absolutely amazing. A fellow five30 runner was there to offer congratulations, give me a hug and present me with my goodie bag (including chocolate!) then I made my way to the VIP area to see my friends. We’d all finished in times we were elated about, having achieved our personal goals. The VIP area was the perfect place to celebrate with post-race massages (nothing like a physio’s elbow in your glutes to make you feel alive!), bacon and egg roll breakfast (which I couldn’t actually bring myself to eat), all the sugary drinks we needed and chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate (which, ironically, I wasn’t up to eating!).

The rest of the day was spent relaxing back in our apartment and celebrating – pizza, cider and a km by km recount of our race for dinner then a long and happy sleep, thoroughly exhausted.

2 days later and I’m still on a high, so proud of what I achieved and basking in the memories of a fabulous weekend. When can we do it all again!?!

 

 

 

Sussan women’s fun run – race recap

My favourite run of the year was on this morning – the Sussan women’s fun run – and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

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This year, I was lucky enough to be at this event with some great friends – Jo, Jill & Maggi – which all just added to the fantastic atmosphere. We left home rather early but were rewarded with my usual easy and close car park and time to meander through the event village to pick up bibs and my prize (I won some Natio sunscreen, which will definitely come in handy over the next few months!). We queued for the porta-loos (clean and with real toilet paper – bonus!), browsed the stands and entered a competition to win some shoes then it was time to gather at the start. We wished each other all the best and set off at our own paces.

20151206_084515.jpgThe thing I love most about this run in the atmosphere and general camaraderie of all who participate. The looping course also means you’re never on your own as you get to see the same people multiple times and cheer on those faster and slower than you. The huge cheers for the fastest 10km runners were a great sign of this but there was equally large support for those at the back of the field.

The first few km whizzed by and I felt good. My foot was giving its usual twinges but I had energy and, most of all, felt happy to be doing this. I’d worried that I had lost my running mojo with City2Sea and the general flatness I felt at the start of that but it was well and truly back this morning. I even had a few vaguely teary moments at particularly loud cheers from the crowd – it’s that sort of event where you can’t help but be lifted by the generally positive mood.

I stuck to my 3 min run/1 min walk throughout and felt strong and happy. Coming in to the finish shute, Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ came on my iPod which made me smile (brilliant song!) and felt like an anthem worthy of pushing me over the finish line. Hearing my friends cheer me over the line was great – so much more fun to be doing this event with others.

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It wasn’t a PB although wasn’t far off it and it was my 2nd best 10km time this year. But it really wasn’t about the time today (not that it ever is!) – it was about enjoying the run and I certainly achieved that. Most importantly, it reminded me how much I enjoy running and how grateful I am to have met some awesome running friends this year. Bring on 2016!

Lara fun run – race recap

The 5th anniversary of the Lara fun run was held yesterday but, despite being local, it’s the first time I’ve actually run it. I was convinced to join by some friends and signed up for the 10km, which is 2 laps of the beautiful Serendip Sanctuary.

The start/finish line in the grounds of Pirra homestead

The start/finish line in the grounds of Pirra homestead

Being a small event, it was all very friendly and low-key with around 700 participants overall (105 finishing the 10km). The conditions weren’t ideal – it was already 20 degrees when I arrived and starting at 9am meant the sun was up and at its relentless best.

From the first few minutes, I knew this one was going to be hard. The heat and the humidity made it such a challenge, despite the flat and easy course. It is also a two-lap course which is always a challenge and starting the 2nd lap, I was close to giving up. The only thing that kept me going was my friend’s voice in my head – “parkrunners don’t pay for 5km”!!!

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The 2nd lap actually turned out to be a lot better – there were no crowds left (as all the 5 km runners were now gone), the course was no longer an unknown stretch of road and I knew I was on the home stretch, regardless of it being a fairly long stretch. And I was last. You’d think this was a negative thing but it was actually a bit of a relief. I had known going into this that I was probably going to come last as I’d checked out times from last year and knew they were all faster than my best. Realising I really was last therefore took the pressure off – the worst had happened, the world hadn’t ended and I couldn’t come any further behind.

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This emu hung around a while after crossing the road in front of me

A big bonus of running after all the crowds had gone was that the animals came out to play and I was treated to an emu crossing the road and some wallabies stepping up to say hello.

I’m also really pleased to say that the volunteers were all absolutely lovely. In bigger events, you don’t always get treated well at the back of the pack but I was encouraged and supported all the way to the finish line and didn’t feel I was holding anyone up. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved to see a finish line – it was beautiful but a tough, tiring run.

Will I do this one again? I’m not sure. The course is stunning and the organisers and volunteers are friendly which are both huge pluses. However I really don’t like multi-lap courses and the late start time meant it was hotter than it needed to be. I can see this becoming one of those events which I enter on the day if I happen to feel like it 🙂

Race recap – Run for the kids

I really wasn’t sure whether I’d make it to the start line this morning as I’ve had a cold and been feeling pretty rubbish for the past week. I’ve been resting up for the last few days but still wasn’t 100% when my alarm went off at 6am and got ready with a ‘I’m not sure if I should be doing this’ kind of feeling.

I’m pleased to say that the excitement took over once I made it to the start area of Run for the kids and my sniffles were well and truly relegated to the back of my mind. It was a perfect, crisp, blue skyed Melbourne morning – gorgeous running weather.

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Hanging out at the start line

Despite all the people (the event attracted about 33,000 runners), it didn’t feel crazily crowded and, soon enough, the starting gun for our wave was going off and we began the shuffle forwards to make it across the start. I had my head down in concentration (and contemplation) when I heard someone say to me ‘Don’t look so serious – have a great run!’. Steve Moneghetti was standing at the start line cheering people on and these encouraging words instantly put a smile on my face and sent me off with enthusiasm.

I had previously worried about the number of runners and had heard lots of people say how crowded it was at the start. However I didn’t feel boxed in at all felt the crowd were mostly moving together, with very few people attempting to weave in and out. We ran over the Swan St bridge and along the Yarra before turning sharply for our descent into the Domain tunnel. It was definitely an experience to get to run through here – warm and muggy but pretty spectacular. The hum of traffic was replaced by the hum of breathless runners and excited bits of conversation.

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Running through the Domain tunnel

Coming out of the tunnel brought cool relief – I hadn’t realised how warm it was in there until we were out in the fresh air again and it felt divine. Not far out of the tunnel, I came across my friend, Jill, from my local parkrun and was so pleased to be able to share much of the rest of the run with her.

Running along the freeway then up on the Bolte Bridge wasn’t as challenging as I had imagined. I thought the hill was going to feel really steep but I don’t even remember it, just feeling really lucky to be getting to run over the bridge and see the views across the city and the bay. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one struck with the feeling as the majority of those around me stopped (or at least slowed down) for selfies and the volunteers on top of the bridge were kept busy with photo requests.

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Blurry but happy selfie on top of the Bolte Bridge

Once we were off the bridge and weaving our way through the Docklands, I started to find things a bit tough, with the usual bits starting to hurt as they tend to do over longer distances. The hill up Collins Street was probably the most brutal on the course – it might be small but it’s also pretty steep and, having already run over 10km, my legs were feeling it.

Soon after this, we were heading back over the Yarra and turning in to Southbank which was actually really good. The crowds eating brunch in the many restaurants and tourists out for a stroll added to the atmosphere and I felt really proud to be running in this event. And, with only a couple of kilometres to go, I knew I was going to make it.

Heading back along St Kilda Road, I saw the finish line and had a renewed burst of energy – 15.5km done! Just over the finish line, I caught up with my friends and was so happy to be able to share this event with them. I usually run events like this alone and it really does make a difference to have someone to chat to afterwards and share in the experience.

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15.5km – done!

Summary: It was my 2nd time running this event – my first was my first ever fun run back in 2009 and I had just as much fun today as I did then.

+ Atmosphere: The event volunteers are so enthusiastic and supportive and the crowd is a perfect mix of serious runners, those out there for fun and those who are there to celebrate and raise funds for the amazing work of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. That mix really makes for an incredible atmosphere.

+ The course: There is no other event in Melbourne’s calendar where you get to go through a tunnel and over a bridge so it’s definitely a winner from that perspective. Add into that the other fabulous sights of Melbourne that the course winds through – it’s the perfect snapshot of inner city life.

+ Entry fees: The entry fee for this event is a very reasonable $53, of which $31.60 is donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital. So as well as being a great run, you’re doing something worthwhile for others as well.

The late start. This one is a really, really minor point and I almost didn’t list it as I know some people might prefer this. Our wave didn’t start until 9am which felt quite late on an early Autumn day that was heading for 28C. However the late start also meant a lot of people could travel in by public transport and help reduce overcrowding in the city. So I guess there’s pros and cons of this one. And I’m just an early bird 🙂

Race recap – Sussan Women’s 10km (Melbourne)

When my alarm went off at 5am, I surprised myself by springing out of bed without much convincing. This was despite the rain and wind that had persisted all night and was still lingering today. The Sussan Women’s Fun Run is probably my favourite event of the year and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying it.

The race is held along St Kilda foreshore and is a flat, straight course along the road with very little shade so I had been more concerned that it might be hot (not unusual considering it is supposed to be Summer!). The rain was welcome but I had to stop off and buy a poncho on my way to keep me dry until the event started.

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The reason I love this run so much is the atmosphere – so positive, friendly and non-competitive. Despite the weather, there was clearly the same buzz there this morning. I chatted to some fellow runners while we were lined up to start – so different to other big runs I’ve done where everyone is in their own headspace and the only communication is furtive looks when someone’s space is encroached. Definitely none of that here.

Soon enough, the starting gun went and we were off. It was a crowded start and, with the wet road, I didn’t want to risk zipping in and out so I just cooled my pace and sat behind a couple of other runners at one side of the road. There was still some dodging as there were huge puddles left over from last night’s downpour. There is a good mix in this event of runners and walkers which is probably another reason it counts as one of my favourites – I don’t feel guilty or in the way for going too slow.

The first few kms flew by and, before I knew it, I was halfway. My first half time was about average for my 5km split so I knew I wasn’t in for a personal best but didn’t care – this one was really about enjoying the run and the crowd. It’s always funny once you settle in to a longer event, you find yourself running with/past/being passed by a similar group of runners. There were 3 or 4 runners who I saw at the 2km mark and who were still somewhere either just in front or just behind me at 7km. It was these unknown runners who helped when my feet had had enough – I shuffled along behind them and tried to keep to their pace so I didn’t have to think about setting my own. Because of the rain, my feet were absolutely soaked and were my most uncomfortable body part. It felt a bit like I was running in wet, concrete boots for the last km.

Approaching the finish brought its own challenges – the run down to the finish chute was through Catani Gardens and along paths which didn’t cope well with so much water. However I was still smiling as I ran towards the finish line. I only missed a 10km personal best by 30 seconds so I wasn’t unhappy with my run. More importantly, I knocked 5 minutes off my time for the same event last year – great to see my progress over a year of running.

wpid-20141207_090111.jpgI hung around for a short time afterwards to cheer a fellow five30runner over the finish line. It actually made me quite emotional to cheer on the women coming in – you could read on their faces both the elation at reaching the finish and the strain it had taken to get there.

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I wandered back to my car and changed into dry clothes for the drive home. Most entertaining was trying to get my compression socks on (a ritual for me after a long race). This is usually challenging enough with tired arms and limited energy but was even more of a contortionist act today with wet legs.

Summary: A great event with a fabulous atmosphere. My 4th year of running this one – I’ll be back!

+ a sparkly medal that can also be used as a keyring
+ great goody bag (both virtual and real) including jelly beans (essential after a run!)
+ the race village has a really good atmosphere both before and after a run – worth hanging around for
+ love the t-shirt – not a running one but will be a favourite to wear

the km markings were out. Doesn’t matter a lot to me as I run with my Garmin but it would be an issue for those without a GPS
the results were supposed to be up immediately but seem to be having issues. Again, not a big deal for me as I tend to go by what my watch said but would still like to know my official time

A letter to event organisers – what I want from a running event

I recently ran in Melbourne’s City2Sea. And it got me thinking about all the different elements that go into making a really good running event. I appreciate the huge amount of work that goes into them, so am in no way undermining the complexity of staging such an event. However there are a few things that make it a bit more pleasant for the running public who enter.

1. Race bib collection
The fact I had to physically go into Melbourne to pick up my race bib the day before the event was pretty annoying. I live an hour from Melbourne – close enough to drive in the morning of the event but far enough way that I don’t want to have to go in the day before, just to pick up my bib. Having the option to either pick it up on the day or have it sent out beforehand makes life so much easier. And yes, I’m willing to pay for postage 🙂

2. Be fair with your cut off times
I’m not the fastest runner in the world – I’m at the back of the pack in most events I enter and I’m ok with that. Knowing my limits, I always check out cut off times for events and previous results to make sure I’ll be able to participate at my own pace and not have to be stressed about reaching the finish line before being swept.

At City2Sea, the overall cut off time was generous and easily allowed walkers – no problem. However there were other segment cut off times for different parts of the course that didn’t tally up with this – eg, the 10km cut off was 15 minutes before the 7.7km cut off. Reaching the 10km point late would see you diverted, rather than ending your run, but it still annoyed me. I’ve paid the same as everyone else and want to run the course that everyone else runs. If that can’t happen because of outside factors (eg, the need to open roads), think about amending the overall cut off to make that clear to those who enter, rather than making me read the fine print.

3. Aid stations matter. A lot.
This is something I have to commend City2Sea for doing well. The drinks stations were organised, efficient and, mostly importantly, full of drinks! I’ve been in events before where there was little left at the back of the pack so I appreciated seeing smiling volunteers and tables full of Gatorade and water for all runners, regardless of our times. The added bonus of Gatorade and a banana at the end was also much appreciated and not something you see consistently at events.

What are your tips for event organisers?