I have been trying to deny this for a while now but I think the day has finally come when I need to admit it – my trail shoes may have reached the end of their life. Before you start to attempt to placate me with ‘they’re just shoes’, I need to tell you about what this particular object means to me.
My first running adventures were definitely road running. Well, actually, they were treadmill in my garage running as I was too embarrassed to run outdoors but, eventually, I took up road running. I remember seeing trail runners and thinking how much fun it looked but didn’t think I could do it. I’m not really sure why, just that trail runners were somehow cooler and more serious and absolutely fearless (or that’s what it looked like from the outside).
After a considerable amount of time, I signed up for and attended my first trail event. I wore road running shoes which was ok as it wasn’t too technical but I jealously looked at those who had trail shoes as they threw themselves down muddy hills without fear. And knew I had to get some.
And that is how my trail shoes came into my life. It was love from first wear. They contained some strange sort of magic. In them, I suddenly felt more confident to leap (kind of) over fallen trees, run through muddy puddles and weave along rocky trails. Realistically I know it’s not the shoes themselves but what they represented – with them on, I felt like the trail runner I wanted to be. Bit by bit, I became that trail runner.
Just putting these shoes on makes me smile because I know that I only run in amazing places when wearing them. These shoes have seen me through over 700km of trail adventures. Some of them have been small, local and pretty gentle. Others have been large, distant and hard. But there has rarely been a moment on the trail that I haven’t been grateful that I get to be there, experiencing this country’s beauty and either enjoying peaceful solitude or hanging out with fabulous trail running friends. Even when throwing up at various points of the Surf Coast half marathon last year, I was still (strangely) grateful and determined to see it through. It appears that I’ve become one of those ‘absolutely fearless’ trail runners (or rather full of fear but doing it anyway).
I do get that they’re ‘just shoes’ and that I can get new ones which I’m sure I’ll love. Just not quite as much. There is something about that first pair of trail shoes that I don’t think I’ll feel again – a membership card to a world I wasn’t expecting to be invited to and am so happy to be in.
It’s all getting very close and very real now and I think that’s making the training a mentally much harder task. Not to mention the fact that Term 4 is the most draining of all school terms for teachers (ignore all comments about ‘Aren’t you winding down for the end of the year?’) with a constant and demanding ‘to do’ list. And, while I know neither of those are an excuse, they may go towards explaining my mood this week.
So I didn’t run on Tuesday. I can’t even remember why or whether there was a particular reason. I just didn’t. I know I was ridiculously tired and our side of the planet has heated up considerably this week so both were contributing factors. I set the alarm for Wednesday morning instead…..then turned it off and had a sleep in. ‘I can make it up’ I told myself and moved on.
On Thursday, I knew I really had to do it so went out after school, showing some resilience as it was raining when I left and built up to a drenching by the last 2 kms. I ran around the block, which I haven’t done for a while and enjoyed it. Even more shocking, I was quite speedy for the first time in ages and felt strong throughout my run. I guess that’s what the combination of long runs and rested legs do for you. I dripped my way back into the house (literally) with a smile on my face.
I was due to do my 2nd 45 minute run of the week on Saturday at parkrun and was intending to head to Melbourne for my friend’s 50th parkrun. I woke up feeling rather ill but pushed through it and got ready. Just before turning onto the freeway, feeling ill had grown into a panic attack so I turned around and headed home. For whatever reason, my body and brain had decided that it wasn’t a running day for me and had given me no choice but to listen. Would I have felt better if I had somehow made myself? Probably. Husband kindly came with me for a no pressure walk on the beach later in the afternoon to get me out of the house which helped me reset. I say it often but brains really are amazing things – who knows why they do the things they do? I can only assume, after an intense week (and with a wisdom tooth causing both pain and anxiety) that I couldn’t cope with any expectations or commitments and needed to give myself a rest day. So I did.
It clearly worked as I was back at it again this morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and ready to go. I drove out to the You Yangs and set off along a new trail for me. It turned out to be exactly the tonic I needed. There was a weird fog hanging around thanks to the humid weather which added to the atmosphere. I was alone in terms of humans but stopped counting at 20 kangaroos so definitely had animal company which made me smile. The track I followed went along the edge of the park for a few kilometres before heading through the middle and gave me a different perspective than I usually get. And, as usual, my mind wandered a lot. I was thinking about how easy this run was, not the individual minutes (which were suitably challenging) but the whole thing. There was a time not that long ago that going out for an 11km run was a major undertaking whereas this just involved getting up, eating a banana and heading out. Before I knew it, the 11km were done and I was back at the car. Tonic taken, stress levels reduced and another week of training done.
Training started off a bit slowly this week – I decided to push Tuesday’s run to later in the week, partly due to work commitments and partly because my leg was still feeling a bit dodgy. So my first 45 minute run of the week ended up being on Thursday. It’s been pretty rainy and wintery all week so waiting for the perfect weather was definitely not an option – it was either run and take your chances or don’t run. I took my chances, managed to get away from work on time and headed for a park in town. I managed 2 laps before the rain started and I headed down to and along the beach to finish off my 45 minutes. As always, I grinned maniacally while the rain and wind battered me – there is something distinctly satisfying about fighting it out with the elements to get your run done. While I’m not a fan of heading out into the rain, I don’t really mind running once it starts. Although I did have some problems feeling my fingers, especially while trying to take this photo 🙂
Saturday was my second 45 minute run – this time at Brimbank parkrun launch. I had a great run – a beautiful trail and fabulous company, this one was definitely measured in smiles.
And then today I did my long run. There was definitely a time, not that long ago, when I didn’t like long runs at all. Nothing about them. I now feel I’ve moved on to a love/hate relationship with them. And I’m equally as passionate about both sides. All week, I’ve been excitedly looking forward to the weekend for the chance to do my long run. Each day, I’d deliberate about where to go, which route to take. Last night, I was looking at the clock from 7.30pm, wanting to go to bed so I could get up and get it done. The ‘hate’ kicked in this morning when it actually came to getting out of my warm pjs and into running gear but, once I was out there, I was in love again. I chose one of my favourite trails – the Surf Coast Trail from Jan Juc to Ironbark Basin – and soaked up the stunning sunshine that we’re lucky enough to have today. I took it easy today – it was about getting the kilometres done and enjoying some solitude, not cranking out PBs. I started with set run/walk intervals as per the plan but then decided to just go by feel instead. And I made sure I took some time to stop and smell the wattle. Spring is definitely on its way!
Thursday – 5.7km (47:03)
Saturday – 5.2km (43:11)
Sunday – 15km (2:18:50)
I’m linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run – today’s topic is my biggest run challenge. For me, that’s an easy one – my long runs.
As I reach the peak kilometre bit of my half marathon training, my long runs are getting up to 17km. I have never been particularly friends with long runs and, now that they’re stretching out to these distances, we’re definitely not getting along. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them once I’m out there – I certainly do. It’s just getting out there that is the problem. I tend to spend the days before plotting out appropriate courses and trying to positively visualise myself on the run. I then spend the night before getting things ready so I’ll have no excuses the next day. And yet, I spend the morning finding excuses.
I’m not really sure what puts me off. It’s not exactly the distance – I run those distances regularly in events and don’t have any issue with them. I think it’s the whole issue of motivating myself. When it’s an event, once I’ve made it to the start line, I have little choice but to keep going. Long runs aren’t quite as easy – there’s always the possibility in the back of my mind that I might stop.
So, knowing all of this, I can honestly say I was actually very excited to be heading out on Sunday for my long run. I’d chosen the trails around Yarra Bend Park and had mapped out a course which I’d only run part of so it had both familiarity and new experiences. The sun was shining, the scenery was beautiful and I really didn’t need to talk myself into it – I couldn’t wait to get started.
The trails along the Yarra are simply gorgeous – ranging from wide footpaths to rocky single tracks and you always feel a long way from civilisation, even though you can hear the freeway from much of the trail. It is also easy to find loop tracks so you don’t have to retrace your footsteps. I can see this becoming a favourite for my long run Sundays – such a serene place and all within an hour’s drive.
I have thoroughly enjoyed running in the Hoka series of trail events this year and was really, really looking forward to the night run. Just to add to this, the weather forecast was for perfect running conditions (not always guaranteed in Spring).
The Yarra River looking serene and beautiful at the end of a perfect Spring day
I trekked over to Melbourne quite early – I had some things to do on the way and assumed that, being a Friday night, traffic might be a bit of an issue. This was indeed true – traffic was a big issue. In the end, what should have been a 1 hour drive took just over 2 hours. Still, thanks to me leaving ridiculously early, I got there with time to spare and wandered the event village, soaking up the atmosphere and getting into my zen mood. I also bumped into a work friend who I haven’t seen for ages which was great. Half of my running friends arrived and we headed to the start line (the other half were still stuck in traffic and arrived a bit after the start).
We had to be quite creative about our start line selfies this time as night time had descended but we managed it then it was time for me to go. After we started, I wanted to get the road bit done as quickly as possible and just get onto the trail. And once I was on the trail, I absolutely loved it. I had wondered whether it would be a bit creepy or whether I’d feel unsafe (not from the bogeyman but more likely from tree roots!) but I didn’t feel either of those things. I just loved it. After about 3km, I caught up with a running friend and we ran together for the rest of it, over the bridge (shaky as ever!) and through the bushland circuit onto the single track very close to the river.
Start line selfies, made slightly more complicated in the dark
The finish line actually crept up too soon for my liking – I found myself finishing and wishing I’d done the medium course instead. The atmosphere at the finish was great – the finish line literally delivered you to Studley Boathouse where the kiosk was awaiting with lots of energy replenishing goodies while we waited for our other friends to finish.
This event and this series gets a huge thumbs up from me – I loved each of the courses and found the whole thing to be really well organised. Most importantly, the events had a very friendly, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere which is probably what I’d worried most about at the start, being new to trail running and not particularly speedy. I needn’t have worried – great events, friendly volunteers and fellow runners and amazing locations. See you all again next year!
After adding ‘run a trail event’ to my goals for this year, I’ve managed to not just run one but quite a few, thanks mostly to the Hoka series of trail events. Last weekend I ran #4 of the 5 event series at Anglesea. This was timed to occur the day after the Surf Coast Century event so it was a massive weekend for trail running and had an atmosphere to match. I was running this without the usual crowd of running buddies so it was a little different for me – not bad, just different. Start lines with friends are about shared chatter and excitement, motivational talk and lots of pictures. Start lines alone are about quiet contemplation, positive self talk and taking it all in. This particular start line was on the beach which added to the whole zen thing. Again, it’s funny to think how far I’ve come as beach running used to terrify me. Now it’s just a bit of a pain but nothing I can’t handle….slowly!
Start lines don’t get much more picturesque than this
Warm up done, we were off and running along a bit of the beach before turning back past the start to then head up into the trees.
The first part of the course looked familiar from the Surf Coast trail half which was good as I don’t know Anglesea in general and really couldn’t picture where I was. After running along the edge of the caravan park, the trail took us into the bushland and, after a short while, up a rather steep hill that started at the football ground. It certainly wasn’t as sharp and nasty as the hill at Silvan but was challenging enough and slowed me right down.
Once we were on the other side of it (and I had more oxygen to spare), I could give more attention to the scenery around me, especially as I was pretty much out there on my own. It was a real mix of very skinny single tracks and wide roads as well as some weaving amongst buildings at the local Scout camp. Very scenic.
Soon enough, I rejoined the main trail where the long, medium and short courses converged and was heading back along the Surf Coast walk. Back down onto the beach then along the soft sand and into the finish chute. Thanks to the location and it being part of a trail festival weekend, there were more people at the finish than usual which gave me the motivation needed to get myself over the line.
Another great event in a fantastic location. What I’ve been loving about this series of runs is the variety of scenery and terrain that you run through – challenging enough for the experienced and fast mountain goats but also perfect for trail newbies like myself. One more event in the series to go which I am looking forward to immensely – the night run back at Studley Park later in September.
I knew I needed to do a long run on the weekend and didn’t relish the thought of running over familiar ground. So husband and I headed off to Barongarook to explore another segment of the Old Beechy Rail Trail.
I had opted to start from Barongarook as the previous section was on the road and not particularly fun for running. Husband dropped me at a dirt road just past Barongarook Hall and off I went, feeling a little bit nervous as I always do when I’m not 100% sure where I’m going. Regardless, the scenery was pretty, the weather was perfect and I was surrounded only by cows – what more could you ask for?
After about a kilometre, I turned onto the trail and was treated to a stunning trail experience – lush Otways forest; a soft, gravel trail underfoot and sounds of birds and wildlife all around. Blissful. My only companions on the trail were 2 cyclists who passed me – other than that, it was me and the birds. Every now and then I’d hear some cars, tractors or motorbikes but very distantly and I felt like I was far away from everything.
Travelling on this section, the trail goes steadily downhill although you don’t particularly notice when you’re running on it. Coming off this section of trail and passing Birnam, there is a very sharp but short incline as you head into another level of forest. Not particularly painful and the descent on the other side makes up for it – I seriously felt like I was flying down the hill and it was only the thought of injuring myself and having no one to help me that slowed me down.
At Kawarren, I felt like I’d returned to civilisation as the rest of the trail runs within sight of the road (not to mention the fact that there are toilets there – luxury!). Just after this, I also ran into my husband who had parked at Gellibrand so we stuck together and headed back towards the car. 16km done – a great way to spend a Sunday.
So, the verdict? I’ve decided I’m well and truly hooked on trail running and madly in love with the Otways 🙂