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.

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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)

Dopey training – week 8

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!

Weekly summary:

Thursday – 5.7km (47:03)

Saturday – 5.2km (43:11)

Sunday – 15km (2:18:50)

parkrun tourism @ brimbank

I’ve been to many parkrun launches. They all have something a bit special about them – like a victory lap for the event team who have put in often months of work to get it off the ground. They are full of smiling faces, expectant faces and, sometimes, slightly nervous faces wanting it all to go well. It’s always interesting guessing how many people might turn up. Those attending are usually an excited bunch – local first timers mingle with a large crowd of parkrun tourists who love nothing more than gathering at a launch and catching up. This morning it was Brimbank’s turn…with a slightly different flavour.

Brimbank parkrun is not so much a ‘slow burner’ of an event as a ‘firecracker’. While most parkruns gently brew on a back burner for a long time, this one seems to have had a much shorter gestation period, thanks in part to the generosity of Medibank’s sponsorship through their free + active initiative. It is the first of quite a few launches that have been greatly financially assisted by this. And, with the donation of what I assume to be a large amount of dollars, a reciprocal amount of advertising will necessarily follow so you could have been mistaken when turning up to this morning’s event in thinking that it was a Medibank event first, parkrun second. There were red flags everywhere, large marquees and lots of Medibank attired staff/volunteers (not sure which?) on hand to direct and manage it all. There was even a bag drop area and, believe it or not, a tv crew on hand. So it was rather unlike any parkrun launch I’ve ever attended before.

Proceedings kicked off with speeches and a run briefing with introduction to the fabulous parkrun volunteers then a warmup by Michelle Bridges. It is at this point that I want it to be noted that I was far more excited to see the now famous parkrunner Jess here than Michelle Bridges and regret not going over to say hi :). Warm up over, we headed for the wide open space of the start line. We were held there for a while and weren’t quite sure why as we’d ticked over 8am by this stage – no one minded as launches often run a bit late due to speeches and celebrations. However the delay today was apparently to do with the tv crew and their broadcast schedule – again, not something experienced elsewhere.

Soon enough, we were off and running. And, despite all of the strangeness and un-parkrun like feel of the preamble, once we were on the course, it felt like parkrun again. And it was beautiful. Brimbank park really is a hidden gem. I’ve driven past it so many times and never thought that this trailrunning gold lay tucked in between houses and the freeway. On course this morning, we traversed river crossings (without getting wet feet) and were treated to as much trail goodness as we could handle. There were undulations, a range of surfaces (all gentle) and then an impressive hill which, when you reached the top, showed you just how magical this place is – popped in amongst suburbia. The surrounding bush is gorgeous and the course wends its way through it all in a meandering fashion. In the second half, there is a loop which is great for greeting other parkrunners coming the other way and then, before you know it, you’re passing the cafe and turning into the well organised finish shute. Where we were given a water bottle (thoughtfully, already full of water – thanks).

Following today’s event, there were post-run drinks and nibbles, massages and free health checks, all provided by Medibank. I was appreciative particularly of the large marquees they’d put up as the rain had decided now was as good a time as any to show up. We sheltered, enjoyed the hospitality and chatted to the crowd. And picked up a free running singlet. Which doesn’t fit as, in a fairly standard yet annoying assumption often made by health promoting corporations, only people up to size 16 would possibly turn up at an event like this and like to enjoy a free singlet. (At this point, when I’m clearly having a small rant, I could also go off on a tangent and talk about how I feel the commercialisation of parkrun has affected things but I haven’t fully decided how I feel about it and I should stick to the topic at hand. Let’s assume it might be the topic of a future blog post and leave it at that.)

A huge well done to the event team at Brimbank parkrun – what a beautiful location with so much going for it. While it seemed like a friendly and welcoming event, it was really hard to get a feel for the local parkrun community this morning as it was an ‘event’ rather than a community. What I look forward to most is coming back to visit without all the pomp and ceremony to fully appreciate this parkrun’s spirit as I certainly loved the course.