Barossa Brave half marathon – race recap

I didn’t seek out this little half marathon, it found me. After our Dopey challenge, I’d been looking for an event to stretch me and had found a marathon in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Even better, we found cheap flights from our local airport and locked it all in. And then the company that was organising the marathon cancelled the event. I have a lot to say about that but, rather than go into details, I have just learnt not to trust that they’re going to actually run events that they allow you to register for so won’t be bothering with their offerings in other places.

However all was not lost – the fabulous organiser of South Australia’s ‘Coastal fun runs’ stepped in and organised a smaller, charity event in its place and I signed up for that instead.

And so it was that I found myself meeting a bunch of other eager runners at Bethany Reserve in the Barossa Valley on Saturday morning. The distances on offer were a marathon, half marathon, 14km and 7km and I’d opted for the half. There were about 100 runners in the event and it had such a warm, friendly, local vibe to it. Even the huntsman who joined me in the toilet pre-departure seemed friendly and welcoming. Possibly a little too welcoming.

We all gathered at the start line, had a group picture taken and set off. The course was a 7km loop running out from the reserve, along a vineyard and a road before taking us on a creek crossing (dry but fun) and then out along an out and back arm which had a bit of an incline. And then it was time for the main event – the hill in the middle of the loop which rewarded us for the climb with spectacular views over the Barossa. And then it was down the hill, along the out and back arm again and back to the reserve…..to do it all again.

I had known from the start that this was going to be tough because of the hills but the pressure had been taken away by the very generous cut off time allowed. So I was measuring this one by how much enjoyment I could get out of it – a smile PB, not a time one. It wasn’t hard to achieve – what a glorious course on a glorious day with a glorious crowd. The hills were challenging as were the surfaces – longish grass and rutted dirt on some bits, rocks and cow pats hidden in grass on others and the always fun dry creek bed to navigate. The views were ample distraction – vineyards and farmland wherever you looked and the odd cow to say hello to. We even had gates to go through (others climbed the stiles but there was no way my legs would sign up for that so I got used to opening and closing gates). The weather was perfect – crisp and a little cloudy at the start while we warmed up then brilliant blue sky and sunshine by the last lap to bring it home. Magnificent.

Due to the loop and the out and back sections, we also all got to know each and there were lots and lots of smiles, high fives and encouragement from those completing all distances. Whenever I found it hard going, I remembered that, while I was doing the big hill 3 times, the marathoners had to do it 6 times and I couldn’t fathom how much my glutes would be screaming if that were me. So I smiled as I plodded my way up.

Husband had dropped me off then gone to parkrun and made it back in time for me to start my final lap. I definitely was plodding up the hill on that one but was still doing it with a smile – so grateful to be there and was as mentally strong as ever. My physical fitness might not quite have been keeping up with what I wanted but my mind was strong – there was no point where I felt like giving up or that it was too hard. Husband joined me for the last bit and I managed to run across the finish line to lots of applause from the crowd who were enjoying their post run wines.

What an event! Well organised, contributing to charities, a beautiful course with enough challenge to keep us amused and a great crowd of volunteers and fellow runners. Besides, any event where you’re standing at the finish with your medal and a glass of wine has to be a good thing.

parkrun tourism @ jells

I have an apology to make to Jells parkrun – I’ve been pushing you down the list. I had heard a rumour that there were hills and, while I might grimace while saying “Hills are my friends! Hills make me stronger!”, it’s a complicated relationship. When people say ‘hills’ and ‘parkrun’, I picture hills like those at Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds and my calves start to ache.

However the time had come. The thought of ‘only’ having to drive a little over an hour to tick off a new parkrun was too good of a draw card and as for the hills? I just had to pack my charm and hope I could make friends with these ones too.

Jells parkrun is very easy to find – not far off the main roads leading through and out that side of the Melbourne sprawl. Once you arrive, the facilities are great – ample parking and bathrooms that are so much nicer than what I’ve learnt to expect from suburban parks (with real toilet paper!) as well as a playground in case you want to amuse yourself before briefing.

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The briefing was friendly, welcoming and brief – all good qualities to have! Very soon we were gathered around the starting area and setting off. Up a hill. Now is probably a good time to discuss these so that I can reassure any of you who had heard the rumours I had – it’s really not that hilly. Yes, it has hills but I would call them more undulations and the upside is that for every up there is a down. The first downhill stretch is absolute bliss and I found myself gliding down it happily, soaking up the blue skies of this gorgeous Spring morning.

The rest of the course has some flat bits, some inclines and another short downhill before the gentle climb back up to the finish….so you can do it all again on your second lap! I’m normally not a fan at all of multi lap courses but this was great – I felt like the first lap had gone too quickly and I was grateful to have another chance to go around again. And I enjoyed the looong downhill just as much the second time.

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Another particularly wonderful thing about this parkrun is the variety of people it attracts – runners, walkers and run/walkers of all speeds. I’m often out on course on what feels like my own (although I’ve obviously in front of the tail walker) but there were people around me the whole time today and it was great.

And then it was done as I ran the last up and down hill bit to the finish.

There are some parkruns I’ve visited and enjoyed but probably wouldn’t choose to go back to – this is definitely not one of them. Jells was great. Not sure if it was just the right combination of weather, people and how I’m feeling but this morning was fabulous and I loved every minute, up or down hill and would happily come back and visit again. These hills and I are definitely friends 🙂

City2Surf – race recap

2 years ago today, I ran my first City2Surf in Sydney which was absolutely incredible. I remember thinking at the time that it was probably going to be a one off and I was just grateful to have been able to do it.

And then my husband became a runner too and decided he wanted to give it a go, opening the door for me to have another turn.

Running an event for the second time always makes me somewhat nervous. The first time, you have nothing to compare it to so the experience is unique and whatever time you get is great. The second time? There are pressures. Will it be as good? Will I beat my time? These were definitely the thoughts swimming in my head as we gathered in our hotel lobby and walked the short distance to our blue start corral at City2Surf on Sunday.

My self talk was all positive and realistic. I’m not as fit as I was 2 years ago and have had some big gaps in training so, in the spirit of meeting myself where I am at (rather than where I wished I was), I was aiming for a PB of smiles rather than time. Since Disney, I’ve struggled a little with the whole ‘love of running’ thing – I’ve seen it fleetingly but not consistently and I want it back. City2Surf was about reclaiming it. Because really, if you can’t have fun at this event, give up running. The crowds, the atmosphere, the entertainment, the views – all of it combine to the perfect blend.

Actually, before we hit start on this thing, let’s talk about crowds. If you don’t like them, don’t do this event. They advertise crowds of 80,000 and, even though they’re spread quite well into separately timed corrals, it still equates to a lot of people on the course at all times. They’re also a very varied bunch with elite runners, first event runners, costumed athletes and ‘enjoying the sunshine and a chat’ walkers. Not all of them start in the corral best suited to their speed so there is some dodging and lots of patience required. And I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So it was time to start. I kissed goodbye to the speedy husband and set off at my own pace. I ran a comfortable pace and wanted to keep at that but was pleasantly surprised that I was keeping up with many of those around me. The spectators in this event are great and added to the smiles and, before I knew it, the first kilometre had ticked by.

I vaguely remembered the course from last time so didn’t quite have the same allure of the unknown but instead some comfort of mild familiarity. The police band at Rose Bay Police Station, the views of the harbour at different points, the undulations along the way and then Heartbreak Hill (which, again, was not heartbreaking). All kilometres flew by and my grin seemed to just get bigger and become more embedded. I was loving it. All of it. The scenery, the people and, most importantly, the running. I ran the bits I wanted to at the speeds that made me happy then walked the bits I didn’t feel like running (mostly the uphill bits).

And then there were the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds but these were different, despite the frequent ducking and weaving and the odd accidental elbow. I felt like I got some of the Disney magic back – these were my people. People who moved at all sorts of speeds in all sorts of ways and without judgement. There were people around me the whole time, from start line to finish chute and that created the supportive atmosphere that did so much to keep my spirits high. An event where I felt I belonged.

Coming back down the hill towards Bondi, I saw that I had 3km to go and looked at my watch, curious about how I was doing in numbers. Even in long run fog, I could see that there was a chance of a course PB if I kept up my current pace. This was way beyond what I had hoped out of the day and pushed me along. At the bottom of the hill, the course loops past the finish to an out and back and, for the last kilometre, I ignored my watch and ran my heart out. As I crossed the finish, I stopped my watch and looked – a 2 minute PB. Not only did I love every step of it but I’d also managed to run it faster than before. Yes, I cried. It’s becoming something of a theme but they were such happy tears. I made my way to our meet up point in a smiley, happy cloud and floated on it for the rest of the day.

To City2Surf and all that ran her, a hearty thank you. Who knows how long it will stay but my ‘run happy’ is definitely back 😁

marathon training – week 3

Back to real life this week and familiar places to run. Along with the time and tiredness constraints that real life tends to bring.

Tuesday was another treadmill run – not only did I have further Glee episodes to keep me company, I also wanted to try out the indoor run function on my watch. Turns out it was fairly close to the distance the treadmill said (a little under but I can live with that) and gave me speed and heart rate data. It’s not going to make me a treadmill convert – I can tolerate it for short runs when I have to but it’s definitely harder.

Thursday was one of those days that, despite everything going against me, I ran anyway. It had been a massive day at work including a meeting at the end and my headache told me I had forgotten to include time with my water bottle in the day. But my training plan said run so I ran. It was a neighbourhood meander, complete with headlamp as the sun was going down and it included a lap of the wetlands in the dark. It was great.

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Saturday’s parkrun was a volunteering one as I was Run Director at You Yangs so I headed into town for a waterfront run to make up for it afterwards. Again, perfect run. I kept it ‘easy’ pace and just enjoyed it. So much so that I decided to try for my favourite sprint around the boardwalk at the end. This has been a consistent over the last few years – throwing a fast lap around it at the end of waterfront runs as a benchmark to measure how I’m tracking. And, on Saturday, I ran a PB. I only knocked 2 seconds off my time but that was a time that was set quite a while ago so it’s great to know that I’m getting back to where I was.

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Today’s long run was not perfect and it took a lot of effort to get out of the door. I woke up feeling like I might be succumbing to the germs my students have been sharing this week so I took a bit longer to get ready but ended up dressed, out the door and off to the Bellarine Rail Trail. I loved being outdoors and in the sunshine and was grateful for that, just had to suck it up and get through the running bits which weren’t great. I was thankful that the required pace on my training plan was super easy.

It’s been an interesting week of fabulous running and hard running and that’s why this blog is a handy record for me of both. It can be hard, when the ‘I don’t want to’ hits to remember the good runs so this is here to remind me. Bring on week 4 🙂

Weekly summary – 25.4km (3hr 48min):
Tuesday – 4.32km (40:05)
Thursday – 6.4km (55:49)
Saturday – 4.61km (40:01)
Sunday – 10.01km (1:32:41)

 

marathon training – week 2

I was fortunate to be on long service leave last week and took the opportunity to head up to Sydney for a few days of much needed ‘away time’ with my Dad and sister. It also served to get me excited about running as, away from normal routines and places, there were suddenly a whole new world of possibilities for my runs.

On Tuesday, I headed out of our hotel and up to Hyde Park then through that, around the Botanic Gardens and down to the harbour where I happened to arrive just before sunset. It was an absolutely magical run – warmer than it’s been in Melbourne and, without the weight of the world on my shoulders, I felt positively springy.

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For Thursday morning’s run, I’d planned another special, tourist-laden route – running across Sydney Harbour Bridge. It took a bit of navigation to get there and be on the right side for the pedestrian footbridge but it was worth it. Views from the top were beautiful and, again, the weather was absolutely perfect for running. I ran across the bridge, down and under it before soaking up the sights of Luna Park and then catching a ferry back to my hotel. I love running in the morning, just can’t generally get myself out of bed before work so this was a real treat.

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Saturday, I was back in Victoria and hubby and I headed for another different parkrun, this time visiting Lancefield (blog post to follow). A very early start but more glorious weather and a delicious breakfast afterwards.

I wasn’t sure where to go for today’s long run, especially as they’re not yet that long. I had contemplated some of my favourite routes but decided I just didn’t want to leave the house so opted for the treadmill while watching a couple of ‘Glee’ episodes. Not my preferred method but obviously what I needed today.

So week 2 is done. I didn’t add in any strength training this week due to being away from home – hard enough to juggle things to fit in the runs. But I’m feeling pretty happy about things. None of the runs were terribly hard, which is how it should be this early on and I’m looking forward to (gradually) building up to bigger things.

Weekly summary (26kms total):
Tuesday – 5.1km (45:17)
Thursday – 7.8km (68:58)
Saturday – 5.1km (44:02)
Sunday – 7.8km (1:10:02)

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Marathon training – take 2

And so marathon training begins again. It took a bit to commit to a second marathon and, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure that I am completely committed to it. I’ve paid my entry but there’s still the little “oh, you don’t actually have to do it” voice in the back of my head as a ‘get out jail free’ card. I think I’m suffering a bit from ‘second syndrome’. You know – you finish any distance for the first time and you’ve achieved a huge milestone in the fact you finished. The second (and all subsequent) event, you feel you’ve got something to prove and a target to beat. And I just don’t cope well with that pressure. But, either way, I’ve started the training.

This time I’ve opted for a McMillan training plan and, so far, am really impressed. It allowed me to plug in my times so I’ve been given what look like realistic paces to aim for during training runs, rather than those aimed at elites. It also incorporates strength training and form drills which are certainly pushing me outside of my comfort zone but, so far, I’m really enjoying it.

In fact, I’ve really enjoyed running this week. I’ve had a few weeks of really sporadic running so was nervous that this week would hit like a freight train but it appears my legs have remembered what to do and my lungs are going along for the party. I’ve even had some zen like moments where it all just came together and I grinned maniacally as I ran. Perhaps it’s the ‘easy’ paced runs my plan is currently calling for or the fact I’ve really missed the routine of a training plan. Whatever the reason, I’m really, really grateful for the warm, fuzzy feelings running is giving me this week – they are much needed and very welcome.

Today’s long run (baby long run – 7.5km) was bliss. The first half was with a friend and was the perfect mix of easy running and chatting while soaking up the sights on our favourite trail. Then the return journey back to the car was a chance to push myself up hills and let myself go running down them – just enjoying all the fun of the trail. The fact I was sad when I got back to the car tells you everything – I didn’t want it to be over and am already looking forward to longer long runs.

Weekly summary (total 22.3km):
Tuesday – 4.0km (36:01)
Thursday – 5.7k (50:32)
Saturday – 5.0km (43:39)
Sunday – 7.5k (1:10:23)

parkrun tourism @ hastings foreshore

There’s been a lot going on in my running and non-running life of late so forgive the out of order recaps of my parkrun tourism.

A few weeks ago we headed to Hastings Foreshore on, completely not coincidentally, their 4th birthday. Not that we wouldn’t have visited anyway but the lure of cake made the very early wake up call slightly easier. 🤣

We arrived with plenty of time and found the meeting point easily (having spotted a Baldwin as we looked for a car park) then took advantage of the facilities (clean and plentiful) before chatting to friends that were unexpectedly also on the hunt for a cake breakfast. The run briefing was a lovely snapshot of kilometres covered, volunteer roles filled and parkrunners brought into the family and, with that, we moved to the start to get it done.

The course is a 2 lap (and a tiny bit more) around a park path and is very easy to follow. I’m always pleasantly surprised by how picturesque suburban parks are and this one has the added bonus of being by the waterfront, giving us lovely views. It’s a flat course so great if you’re after a fast time (like the first few finishers who lapped me).

The temperature was perfectly crisp and ideal for running and, by my second lap, I was warmed up enough and running happy. So much so that I actually had negative splits which might not be a big deal for others but it’s a very big deal for me!

The finish is a little bit past the start and involves turning off and I gave it all I had. As well as the usual parkrun warm welcome to the finish line, I also partook of a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast along with a piece of the most delicious birthday cake ever – absolutely perfect way to start a Saturday. We then moved ourselves across the road for (amazing) coffee and chats.

As always, I am constantly impressed by how welcoming and inviting parkruns are, regardless of which town or location they’re attached to and Hastings Foreshore is no exception. I love that you can arrive at the set time on a Saturday and be welcomed like family, regardless of where you’re from or what speed you’re moving at. Happy birthday to the event team at Hastings Foreshore and keep doing exactly what you’re doing – you’re clearly doing it right 😄