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Afterglow – race recap

There are runs that are serious. Where you want to get a good time and you’ve followed your training plan to get there. Then there are runs which are really designed for fun and frivolity. Afterglow is definitely one of those. The dress code? Fluoro running gear (the brighter the better), tutus, sparkly bits and pieces, something to light up the night. The venue? Along the gorgeous trails of the Surf Coast of Victoria, from Southside to Torquay.

So, we dressed accordingly and rocked up to the meeting point where we chatted, added our glowsticks, sorted out where our battery packs would go (because of course we all had fairy lights on our tutus!) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Soon enough, we jumped onto the bus (having managed to somehow time it completely wrongly so we weren’t on the one our friend was driving!) and were taken to our start point at Southside. The bus driver had to give us some persuading to actually get off the bus as the wind felt like it was coming straight from Antarctica. We huddled together and waited patiently for the other buses to arrive so that we could be briefed. The briefing was…well…brief. Ocean on your right, keep moving forward, head towards the lights. And then, finally, time to start.

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If you look closely, you can see the fluorescent runners making their way along Bells Beach

The first part was great – a gentle downhill wind through a beautiful trail, ultimately spilling us out onto the iconic sands of Bells Beach. These sands are of the soft and challenging variety so took a bit of time and then ended up taking longer as one of our friends dropped her keys so a search ensued. Keys rediscovered, we continued our trek back up the stairs at the other end of Bells.

From there, the track continues its general up and down, twisty path towards Torquay. We were all taking it easy – definitely here for a good time, not a fast time. There were some spectacular jumps, a few wardrobe malfunctions (running with fairy lit tutus was always going to have its problems) and lots of chatter.

As we ran into Torquay itself, we encountered some of the nightlife – some kids hanging out in the park and some drunk, beer gutted men yelling ‘encouragement’. I had enjoyed my run up to this point but was starting to lose interest once we were back in civilisation. The cruel part of this run is that they take you right next to the finish line, only to send you out onto the beach for a couple of kilometres. If I had lost interest before, this was the ‘enough’ point. In the darkness, the beach seemed to stretch on forever and it felt like my friend and I were the only people out there. I was so grateful for her company but at the same time, I wanted to be anywhere but there. We finally reached the wonderful volunteer marshall who directed us up the dune from hell (albeit fringed with pretty lights) back to the path.

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Glowing my way across the finish line

Once at the top, we were again engulfed in darkness and felt like we were miles from anywhere or anyone. We shuffled our way back towards the finish line. The beauty and treachery of the trails is that you might not really be far away but the twists, turns and scrub throw your sense of distance. We crested a hill and saw (and heard) the finish line. As a sign of how long it had taken, there were a couple of marshals ahead of us, coming off duty. I found a final burst of energy and sprinted for the line, crossing it with cheers from my ever patient husband and friends as my soundtrack.

So, the verdict? This is definitely a fun event – the volunteers are as zanily dressed as the runners and give such a happy vibe to the proceedings. The course is gorgeous but tougher than I’d given it credit for (despite having run it all previously in reverse). And the bling at the end is very funky. If you’re up for something different and want to end your year with a bang, this is the event for you🙂 Just make sure you bring a crowd – it’s not an event to do on your own and, as with so many events this year, wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without my fabulous running friends.

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parkrun tourism @ warrnambool

You will already have realised that I love travel and being able to combine a run with it makes it twice as good. Even better than that is the chance to head back to a favourite spot and that was definitely the case as I headed to Warrnambool last night for their parkrun launch today. Also felt quite pleased that it’s my 70th parkrun and 25th different location – still a long way to go to tick off all the events in the state!

The course begins at the Lake Pertobe adventure playground which is easy to find, has plentiful parking, toilets and shelter. This latter item will, no doubt, come in handy in future months as Warrnambool is not generally known for its fantastic weather. However today, no shelter was needed as we were treated to an absolutely perfect morning – blue skies, sunshine, no wind and warm enough to not require a jacket on our walk down to the start from the nearby caravan park.

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Beautiful views can be found all along the course

The welcome and briefing was done and we gathered for a group shot – essential for a launch event. Very promptly, we were then on the start line and off and running. This parkrun begins with a run across the grass and down towards the lake before heading over the bridge and onto a gravel path. Having a wide space across the grass meant that, despite there being over 200 parkrunners there today, I didn’t feel crowded as we all had room to find our own pace before funnelling down onto the path. The surface was great – very easy on the feet. Most importantly, the course is gorgeous – running around the lake and surrounded by nature and greenery. Added to that, I was running and chatting with a friend which made the time and kilometres tick by and we were soon turning around and heading back towards the finish.

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The event volunteers were friendly and encouraging as were our fellow parkrunners and walkers – there was a huge mix of people, speeds and ages which was wonderful and everyone just seemed to be having fun.

Within a five minute walk is the best breakfast venue you could imagine – Simons Waterfront with its stunning views and delicious food.

We then topped off a great morning with a trip home along the Great Ocean Road, making the most of the magical weather.

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Loch Ard gorge

Congratulations to all at Warrnambool parkrun – you’ve achieved a great launch and have all the ingredients for a wonderful parkrun. Will definitely be tempted to come back and visit this one again🙂

Desert Runners – review

I am going to make something abundantly clear from the outset of this review – I have no intention of running an ultra. Ever. I know I once said that about marathons and I’m now contemplating one of those but this is different. Ultras are a whole other level of craziness beyond the general craziness of running. I can now happily view 21km as something fun to do on a Sunday morning but the idea of put in twice that….just for a training run?! No.

I do, however, hold a great deal of respect and admiration for those who do run ultras. And so, when I was looking for something inspiring to watch, I stumbled across the documentary ‘Desert Runners‘ and found myself mesmerised.

Desert Runners is the story of a band of runners who decide not just to run an ultra but to compete in the Four Desert Grand Slam. This consists of four events in one year across some of the toughest terrain you can imagine – the Atacama Desert in Chile, Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara event Namibia (as of 2016 due to political instability in North Africa) and, finally, Antarctica. Each event covers 250km in 7 days. Just take that in for a moment – 250km across a desert in 7 days. The marathon I am contemplating is 42.2km through Disneyworld. Hmm. Enough said.

Aside from the immense scale of this event, what I loved about the documentary was the people and their stories. Over the last few years of running and volunteering at parkrun, I’ve found a universal truth about runners – we’re really all very similar. Whether you’re running a 40 minute 5km, an 18 minute 5km or a 7 day 250km across a dry, barren desert, you have many of the same thoughts, hopes and dreams. Not wanting to get injured (and then furiously trying to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there when you do). Just wanting to finish. Feeling amazing when you cross a finish line. Bonding with your fellow runners over blisters, running gear and war stories. The participants in the Four Deserts would be just as at home at my local parkrun and I found them easy to identify with as the story unfolded.

So, if you’re looking for some inspiration or want to some fodder for your family and friends when they say you’re mad for running as much as you do, this one is a ‘must watch’.

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Checking in on my running goals

With a mere 2 months of the year to go, my mind has already started drifting to what my running goals might be for next year…..which then brings me back to how I’m tracking for this year’s goals.

Reach my 50 parkruns
Done – still very proud of this achievement and love wearing my 50 shirt. Clearly my new goal in this vein is to reach my 100 next year🙂

Try out as many new parkruns as possible
Definitely have been doing this. I haven’t counted up how many I’ve done this year but I’ve certainly racked up some kilometres trying out parkruns near and far.

Improve my parkrun time
This was a goal I didn’t think I’d be able to do much about but, recently, I’ve managed 2 PBs and have knocked a minute off my time which I’m really pleased with.

Try out a trail event
Tick. I haven’t just tried out a trail event, I took on a huge one in the Surf Coast trail half marathon. As well as a few smaller ones with the Hoka series. I’m officially hooked. Wish I’d tried them out sooner🙂 I’ve also discovered how much I love the trails in my own backyard and run them whenever I can.

Dream goal – 1000km for the year
Still a bit of a dream and I’m not sure I have it in me to reach it this year. I’m currently on 723km for the year which is over 100km more than I was at this time last year but still quite a way off my dream goal. And I’m far too sensible these days to push the kilometres beyond what I should. Probably😉

So, 4 out 5 goals achieved (and 1 that I’ll get very close to) – nothing to complain about there! My running has definitely been more consistent this year and I have my amazing running friends to thank a lot for that. It’s so much easier to make yourself get out there and run when you know you have people waiting for you and the chance for a coffee and chat at the end. Here’s to dreaming big in 2017.

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Surf Coast trail half marathon – my toughest event of the year but such great memories

Melbourne marathon festival – Half marathon – race recap

There is something alluring about an event with an iconic start or finish line. My favourite start lines so far have been for Hoka event #4 in Anglesea and the Surf Coast Trail half marathon, both of which started on beautiful, pristine beaches. And my favourite finish line? That of the Melbourne marathon festival which finishes with a lap on the hallowed turf of the MCG.

The path to this event had its own story, as they usually do. I wasn’t going to do it. I had run the 10km in this festival a few times and felt like I’d kind of ‘done’ it. I’ve always been a bit scared of the half in this festival – it feels a bit serious and I had always assumed it was really aimed at faster people and that I’d stick out like a sore thumb. So why exactly did I enter? Two reasons finally swayed me – a bunch of five30runners were heading down for it and, after a couple of unconventional half marathons, I was interested to see how I would go on a road one again. So I signed up, plugged my times into My Asics and got myself a training plan.

Most unusually, I actually stuck to my training plan. It required me to run 3 times a week with weekday runs somewhere between 5km and 10km and weekend runs getting up to 17km. I don’t have a good history with training plans – I usually start with good intentions then fall off the wagon somewhere around the point where it seems to get a bit challenging. This time, I stuck with it and started to see results even in my shorter distances with PBs at 5km and 10km.

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Carb loading & PB cider – both traditions that simply have to be done

And so it was that I arrived at the MCG to meet my friends this morning. I had trained. I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t sick. I had no excuses left. And it scared me. I have probably not been that nervous before a run since my first event. I knew I was running well and knew that my times had been faster than usual but still didn’t really know what I could expect from myself.

Pre-start, we followed our usual routine of multiple toilet stops, bag drop and selfies then moved along to the start line. The forecast had been for strong winds and possible rain but it was a relatively calm morning at the start and, mercifully, overcast so we didn’t have to put up with the Spring sun.

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Hanging out in the MCG before our run

The start takes you up a hill towards Flinders Street then along to Federation Square before turning onto St Kilda Road. I haven’t always been friends with this bit of road as it crops up in many Melbourne events and seems to go on forever. Today, it flew by pretty quickly and I felt good – I was tracking my pace and was running well. As always, there was the voice in the back of my head saying ‘How long can you keep this up?’ but I tried to ignore it and just focus on each kilometre.

Before long, we were turning for the lap around Albert Park and there were a few gusts of wind here which made things interesting – at least they helped keep the flies at bay which were out in droves. I think it was here where my feet started to hurt – I have managed to rub blisters on the inside of my big toes which just get added to on each long run. Whatever. My mantra of ‘This isn’t pain. It’s just a blister’ is quite useful and I just kept powering on.

The far side of the lake seemed rather long, especially as I could see the little extra loop we had to do to make up the distance. I put my head down and ran a bit faster, trying to get it over with quicker. It was on this loop that I saw my friend Jill which was great – always gives you a lift to see friends out on the course. Just after the drink station, I decided I needed a quick toilet stop which is completely out of character on my long runs but I don’t think I got my hydration right yesterday and this morning. It really didn’t matter as it was very short and I just checked my watch as I came out then ran a bit faster for the remainder of the kilometre to keep my pace up.

Turning back onto St Kilda Road, I felt tired but great – that was the ‘I’m going to finish this’ moment. Even though I’ve done the distance before, there’s still moments at the start of every run where I think I might not be able to do it and then a sense of relief where I pass my point of ‘Yes I can’. This was also where the marathoners merged back with us which was great as it meant there were a lot of people around and a great atmosphere along with it.

I power walked up William Barak bridge then ran down the other side and along the crowds before turning into the MCG. I was absolutely spent and didn’t know if I had it in me to actually keep running to the finish line but I did it anyway and was elated to cross the line with a 9 minute half marathon PB.

It was clearly a PB kind of day as many of my friends at the event also scored personal bests and I loved being able to share those moments with them. We celebrated with burgers on our way home – a perfect way to end a great weekend.

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Finished!

parkrun tourism @ point cook

It’s quite funny that it’s taken me 2 years and lots of touristing elsewhere to finally make it to Point Cook parkrun. It’s 30 minutes drive from my house, only a few minutes further than my regular parkrun in Geelong.

This is very much a suburban parkrun running through an estate parkland area and with the scenic view of the backs of houses on one side and the creek and accompanying parkland on the other. While it isn’t the most scenic of spots, it has a lot going for it – very easy to get to (a short detour from the freeway), good facilities and a committed and friendly event team.

The course itself is easy to follow – an out and back which follows the concrete path and has good signage on the path itself. It was also a nice change to find that it’s pretty much flat – the description said ‘undulations’ but I didn’t really notice any (or none that compared to Balyang’s) and wide enough to overtake for most the way.

Most importantly, I had a fantastic run because I was there with one of my great running friends who I met through five30runners a while ago. We don’t get to run together often but, when we do, I know it will be fun and that the kilometres will tick by with me barely noticing them. Hence why the only photos of this run are those taken by the parkrun photographer of the day – far too busy chatting to get my phone out on the run!

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Talking myself into my long run

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.

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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.