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.

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)

Run Forrest 2018 – race recap

I ran this event last year and had no intention of doing it again. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely enjoyed it but know that I’m not as fit as I was and definitely not as trail fit. Add to that a still dodgy ankle and I figured it was safer to sit it out. This is not a trail to be taken lightly.

And then fate intervened and I got an entry (ask my husband – it’s a funny story) so I had to run it. Thus it was that I found myself heading to Forrest with husband this morning.

One of my absolute favourite things about this one is the event village. It’s not what you might expect if you’re used to big events – there’s a couple of sponsors tents and a coffee cart but there’s also fires to stand around and hay bales to sit on. And it’s in an absolute fairy grotto on the edge of a gorgeous little country town. You just can’t beat it.

Thank goodness for the great atmosphere because, truth be told, I wasn’t feeling it. My sleep had been somewhat fractured, I was feeling queasy and just not really wanting to be there. We chatted to our friend, took advantage of the portaloos, dropped our bag under the baggage tent and headed for the start line. Somewhat reluctantly. Well, I was – husband was bouncing like Tigger, full of excitement.

It began. We started off with a loop around the outside of the event village and then back behind it to tackle the hill. I remembered this hill and it was just as unpleasant this year as it was last year. However this year brought the added difficulty of me not being as fit so it possibly felt harder. About halfway up, I was done – I didn’t want to be there anymore and seriously considered just walking back down to the event village and sitting by the fire to wait for my husband. It was such a large and prominent thought, I’m not sure what stopped me acting on it. Fear of failure? Sheer stubborn determination? Who knows? Whatever it was, I didn’t give in to it and kept going.

I turned off the hill and onto the path leading through the tree ferns – magical fairy forest time. By now, I was nearly last – I couldn’t see anyone behind me but suspected there were a few and felt a bit of a sting. Again, I wanted to give up. Another louder thought interrupted – “Why today? You’ve been last before. It’s been hard before. Why give up today?” and I think that kept me going. I can do hard things. Besides, this trail is absolutely stunning and there are much worse places to spend the morning.

So I got on with it. By now, I was trekking up to West Barwon Reservoir and decided I was hot so stopped to take off my thermal top and took a moment to enjoy the view. Then it was back to the trail and I did my best to throw myself down the hills. I’m finding this much harder since spraining my ankle – it’s 75% healed and mostly stable but I still have some pain, particularly under the pressure of downhill running so had to take it easier than I wanted to.

Before long, it was time to go back uphill to the single track loop between about 4km and 6km. I was very careful about foot placement but felt strong enough through here and found a couple of other runners who were about my speed who I adopted as pacers. My times in this section don’t reflect this strength and there is a simple reason for this – half marathon runners. Unfortunately the timing of me reaching this section coincided with the half marathon runners coming back down from Lake Elizabeth and, on a single track, there was no room for them to pass unless I stopped and stepped off the trail. Which I did many, many times. I was grateful that some of these runners thanked me and the other 10km runners for letting them through and was disappointed at those that didn’t – I understand how frustrating it must be to have slower runners blocking your path and having to wait for them to get out of your way but a small slice of manners goes a long way, especially when I’ve stopped in my event for you to continue in yours. Anyway, mini rant over. Let’s move on.

As we ran down through the mountain bike trails and back toward the village, I made sure I followed the path correctly this year then went up the hill for the final frolic through the ferns before the finish shute. By now, I was enjoying it and soaking up the surroundings, back in my usual long run mood. All thoughts of not finishing were gone and I was speedier than I had been for the rest of the run.

And then it was done. Not quite the 10km planned – I was a bit short at 9.5km but that’s normal for trail events, especially with the potential gps issues you have on the trail. We had a banana and coffee in the village before heading off to the Forrest Soupfest to partake of delicious soup and cider – perfect recovery foods.

Run Forrest is one of those special events that I feel very lucky to have in our backyard. It’s hard, much harder than you think it’s going to be with hills, rocks, tree roots, bridges and prickly things (which I picked out my leg afterwards). But it’s also stunning with views that belong in oil paintings and air so fresh you can feel it cleansing you from the inside out. I wasn’t that enamoured when I started but it worked it’s magic by the end and had me grinning as I leapt over tree roots and dodged low hanging branches. Just the tonic needed.

Time for a rant – people over size 14 like to run too.

For a while now, I’ve wanted a waterproof running jacket. I know it’s not an essential piece of kit however I do live in southern Victoria where the Winters are wet and cold so it’s certainly a desirable item to have. I’m also contemplating running UTA22 at some time in the future and a waterproof jacket is on their mandatory kit list.

This morning, after parkrun, we headed into the city to try some on. I approached this with a sense of trepidation as I already had an idea of the reality that would face me – they wouldn’t fit. And it turned out I was completely correct. Not a single women’s waterproof running jacket fit me. I had naively thought ‘Oh well, perhaps I’ll just swallow my pride and try on a men’s’ but that was also not to be as the arms were obviously a ridiculous length and completely impractical for me. I tried on multiple brands but the story was repeated over and over.

I left the shops (yes, multiple ones) feeling dejected, slightly embarrassed and, if truth be told, like a fraud. I AM a runner. I’ve overcome all sorts of mental obstacles to give myself that title and my speed, my place in an event nor any other factor has ever made me doubt it as much as not finding a jacket to fit today. Is it not acceptable for people over size 14 to want to exercise? There are definitely, slowly, more general exercise clothes becoming available in a range of sizes but not the specialist stuff that you need when you get to some serious, more intense events like those in the trail world. Am I not welcome at these events? Do manufacturers and retailers think I’m unworthy?

I scoured the internet and the situation in general is a reflection of what I saw today in the shops – most technical clothing for women is restricted to size 14 and below. While there are some token pieces at larger sizes, there are few and with almost no choice of style, colour or functionality. As if you should be grateful that they’ve bothered and be happy with their meagre offerings.

Just for the record, this isn’t limited to clothing. I also tried on some hydration vests today and found that, despite claiming to be designed ‘for women’, that they are actually designed ‘for small women’ or ‘women without breasts’.

The whole experience has left me disheartened and quite angry really. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to embrace a life of exercise and activity. Particularly if you’re considered to be overweight on visual inspection (because, unless you sneak into my house and watch me on the scales, you’re actually passing judgement on something you don’t know), all sorts of people like to have an opinion about how you should join a gym/take up a sport/get active. However those who make and sell activewear don’t think so. I’m sure, if asked, they’ll argue that there is no demand but I don’t think that’s the true picture at all. Lorna Jane suggested a few years ago that there was no demand but how do you know if you refuse to stock it? She recently tried to redeem herself by saying they’ve always stocked above a size 12 (even stating in the article that they stock up to size 18!) but a quick check of the website shows that a) the largest is size 16 and b) even items at that size are very few.

I’m not specifically picking on Lorna Jane – it’s just one example in an industry that’s littered with them.

To the manufacturers and retailers, if you’re waiting to be asked, here it is. I’m asking – PLEASE consider those of us who don’t fit YOUR idea of ‘normal’ or ‘average’ and extend your clothing sizes to be inclusive of all of us who want them. Don’t be complicit in locking active lifestyles down to those that fit the mould, leaving the rest of us feeling unwelcome and without the tools we need to live the lives we want to.

Dopey training – week 24

Last week’s entry ended with positive thoughts for an injury free journey to the start line. As I continued to feel tweaks in my leg, I chose to rest instead of run on Tuesday and then booked in to see the physio on Thursday. Even before attending, this was anxiety-inducing – my regular physio was no longer there. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal to others, it’s a huge deal to me. I’m not one to cultivate relationships with my healthcare providers – I don’t even have a regular GP, choosing instead to see whoever is available at the clinic when I need a doctor. However, once I find someone I feel comfortable with, I stick to them and I had found an absolute gem of a physio. He took me seriously as an athlete, never flinched at any of my aspirations (regardless of how wacky) and, most importantly, put niggles into perspective with a spoonful of reality and a prescription of ‘You’ll be fine – keep going’! So it was with some trepidation that I approached a new physio. It turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about – she’s great. Equally supportive and just as good at (softly) telling me to stop whingeing and get back to training. I still have soreness at the top of my calf but she massaged it and assured me it was nothing big enough to stop training for.

So, on Saturday, I got back into it with a parkrun fix, at home for once. And it was lovely. My legs felt great, my lungs felt great and it was, generally, a pretty easy and relatively speedy run. It was made even better as I was tag teaming with another parkrunner along the way and we were pushing each other – she was running continually while I was run/walking but we were pretty much the same pace. She crossed the finish line with a PB and I was so pleased for her – almost as good as getting one myself! I also tested out my new RunFaster gear and can confirm it feels as good as it looks 🙂

Today, it was time for a long run although a run of 11km doesn’t feel long anymore. It’s an interesting point really – I like the fact that it doesn’t feel long and hope it never does again but I obviously can’t keep these kms up forever. Anyway, I digress. I chose my favourite Surf Coast Trail as I didn’t really feel like running and needed something special to get me out the door. Seeing all of my friends posting on Strava and Facebook about their runs was the final push I needed and I got my gear on and went. I also saw a couple of friends at the start of the run which was great – set me off in the right mood. My leg was pretty good throughout the run – a bit pinchy on the hills but not terrible. I did take it easy but also tried not to shirk on intervals until my leg had had enough and kept up a solid pace overall.

Next week is our mock-Dopey runs and our final looooong run. I’m not 100% convinced my leg will let me do it but we shall see.

Weekly summary:
Saturday – 5km (39:20)
Sunday – 11km (1:41:31)

Dopey training – Week 21

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.

Dopey training – week 17

After last week’s mega-mileage, this is technically a low mileage week although the ‘long runs’ of 5km are now behind us as we ramp up towards the big event.

I was really, really pleased with how well I pulled up after last Sunday’s 27km – I wasn’t sore the next day at all, just a bit tired so I took it easy in the first half of the week. I’m sure I could have run on Tuesday but work and other things got in the way and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a few extra days so I headed out for my first run of the week on Thursday. I made a last minute decision to go up to the You Yangs and got there just before they shut the gate to get in. I ran our usual loop and managed to equal my best time, well under balloon lady pace despite the large hill in the middle of it. So that gave me a confidence boost.

Saturday was parkrun day and, as is often the case, I wasn’t sure how I was feeling or what I wanted to do. My friend and I settled in to 2 min run/1 min walk although I had rather speedy legs and definitely pushed the run segments to the edge of my comfort zone. And it paid off – I got a course PB and my 6th fastest 5km ever so was very pleased with that. I was starting to feel like all this endurance training was slowing me down (which I’m ok with) but, again, it was a great confidence boost to know that I can still pull out something quick if I set my mind to it.

2017-10-21_Balyang_Sanctuary_parkrun

Apologies for the blurry photo – must be an indication of our speed this morning!

I’ve said before that my training plan tells me how far to run but my soul tells me where. For my long run today, it was being quite specific. Somewhere near the water, with trees but not too familiar. I drove a little further than usual to a part of the Surf Coast trail I’ve only done in the Surf Coast trail half marathon last year. It was perfect. The weather was warm-ish with blue skies but enough cloud to not be burnt to a crisp. The start of the trail went uphill (which I had completely forgotten) which was the perfect way to clear everything else from my mind – all I cared about was getting up that hill. The views from the top of the cliffs were spectacular and running down the other side towards the beach was bliss. I even enjoyed running along the beach today, lost in my thoughts and feeling very contemplative. It was definitely with a degree of reluctance that I turned around – I pondered whether I should just keep running but thought, in the mood I was in, that I might not stop and then where would I be? So I smiled as I let the waves eat my feet then headed back towards my car. In the last few hundred metres, I had to sprint and weave as I was being chased by some very protective duck parents, having clearly gotten too close to their babies. It made me giggle and was the perfect conclusion to my run.

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Weekly summary:

Thursday: 5km (45:58)

Saturday: 5km (37:20)

Sunday: 8km (1:16:47)