Trail running in the Otways

 

I haven’t done much trail running and, as much as I love being out in the bush, I still get a bit nervous about my capabilities out there. On Saturday, I took myself off for a little, tame adventure – part of the Old Beechy Rail Trail from Beech Forest to Ferguson.

I headed first for Colac then south through Gellibrand – a gorgeous little town nestled in the forest. The winding road to get to Beech Forest is dramatic and stunning, taking you deep into the heart of the Otways. Beech Forest itself is a very small hamlet, gaining some popularity years ago as the home of shuffling marathoner Cliff Young.

20160326_125722.jpgIn fact, the trail starts near the Beech Forest rest stop and crosses over the road to the Cliff Young Memorial Park with a gumboot as a fitting tribute to this character.

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From here, the trail weaves along beside the road but, for the most part, a million miles away as you run through fantasy movie worthy scenery. Trees and ferns provide cover and a green corridor to run through with a wonderful soft trail underfoot. Simply magical.

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After running through this corridor, you run up a short incline and are among farmland with open, dramatic views across the rolling hills with the ocean just tantalisingly out of sight beyond the final hill.

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At this point, the road is alongside but you don’t at all feel encroached on and I didn’t see anyone else on the trail, either cyclists, walkers or runners.

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The scenery is constantly varied and always beautiful – one minute having open views, the next being accompanied by tall and imposing trees in a plantation. With a kilometre to go, you cross the main road and run down and then back up the only real hill on this part of the trail (and nothing like those you’ll encounter on the rest of it!) then you’re in Ferguson. Here, you can stop for a drink and some food at the cafe – I turned around and headed back towards Beech Forest but it certainly seemed popular.

20160326_133708.jpgOn the way back, the rain started to roll in and I was lucky enough to get a sprinkling just when I needed it, helping me cool down from my run.

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An absolutely beautiful trail in an stunning part of the world. I feel so lucky that it’s a mere couple of hours drive from my house and I will definitely be back.

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Movie review – Run Free: The true story of Caballo Blanco

If you’ve read the amazing ‘Born to run‘ by Christopher McDougall, you’ll know something of the story of Caballo Blanco, also known as Micah True. (If you haven’t read this book, stop reading this post immediately, purchase said book from your preferred supplier and read it before you do anything else. You must.)

This documentary, available to download through Vimeo or iTunes,  is part travel documentary, part running documentary and part biography. It opens with a news report about Caballo Blanco broadcast shortly after his death in March 2012 which positions this documentary well – it was begun prior to his death with many interviews already complete but necessarily changed tack after his death.

Interviews with key players in the Copper Canyons Ultra event as well as Caballo himself are interspersed with footage of spectacular scenery, glimpses into the lives of the Tarahumara and film of the race. The various characters involved with the event are a little crazy but immediately likeable and draw you into their world.

Obviously, it is a documentary that will interest runners of all sorts as you won’t be able to stop yourself dreaming of running it yourself (even if, like me, you’ve never had any wish to run an ultra). However I think it does have a wider appeal. Caballo himself was a fascinating character as are the Tarahumara people and their stories are compelling in their own right. If you’ve read the book, you’ll feel like you’re visiting old friends but my husband (non-runner and definitely hasn’t read the book, despite my insistence!) enjoyed it without this background knowledge.

So, whatever your interest, it’s highly worth a watch. And it’s inspired me to go out in search of some trails….

 

Being a running role model

This blog post has been brewing a little while and came to me again while completing ‘Run for the kids‘ this weekend. I never post my race times on my blog. This was very much a conscious decision early in my blogging adventures but it’s something I’ve really started to think about recently – why did I choose not to? And are those reasons actually valid?

If I’m being honest, I didn’t post my run times because many would consider them slow (or very slow or barely more than a walk) and I wasn’t confident enough to share them because of that. I already was my own harshest critic, telling myself I wasn’t a ‘real runner’ (whatever that is!) and felt like, if the world knew my times, they’d reinforce that idea.

While on the bus to the start of the Bellarine Sunset Run, I was in a discussion with a fellow runner and he asked my 5km PB. So I told him – 37.12. His reply – ‘Wow, that IS slow!’. I think that’s the first comment I’ve had from anyone about my times not being those that are considered good enough to be a ‘real runner’ and it was interesting that, other than wanting to call him very rude names about his insensitivity and general lack of tact, I really didn’t care. I guess that shows how far I’ve come. I AM a real runner because I run. I train 3-4 days a week (most weeks) and enter 8-10 events a year plus parkrun every Saturday. I train at the top of my personal limit, as other real runners do. As John Bingham said, you don’t need a licence to run and there is no test to pass. You’re a runner if you run, end of story.

Another reason I’ve come back to this is that I want to be a positive role model. While I’m passionate about running, I’m also passionate about teaching and spend my working hours with a fabulous bunch of Grade 4 students. I talk to them a lot about my running, particularly when we talk about setting and achieving goals. And I tell them about how I’ve come last at events and sometimes can’t enter certain events because I’m not fast enough. I also tell them how much I love it and how I never give up, regardless how fast or slow I am compared to others. I want them to see that adults don’t only do things they’re good at. And that my self esteem is not dependent on how I compare to others.

So, for all these reasons, I shall no longer be hiding my times or referring to myself as ‘slow’. It doesn’t mean I’ll be posting them regularly, just that I will share ones I’m proud of and not fear being shunned by the running community in doing so.

Run for the kids – race recap

Run for the kids was my first ever public, out there for everyone to see ‘fun run’ so it does hold a special place in my heart. This morning, I ran the long course again – 16km of fabulous course, brilliant atmosphere and, most of all, dollars going to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

It was an early start with my alarm going off at 4.45am and us leaving at 5.30am. The drive was kind and we arrived with heaps of time to wander down to Southbank for a toilet stop before heading over to the event village. It was already getting busy and the atmosphere was buzzing. We dropped off our bags, admired the sunrise and stopped off for another toilet stop before heading to our starting area. Selfies and group pictures done, it was very soon time to start. In fact, a bit too soon. Despite having been there a while, for some reason I wasn’t really ready and felt a bit rushed.

Regardless, the start had happened; we crossed the line and headed over the Swan Street bridge and along the river towards the Domain tunnel. I absolutely love this part of the course – even though you’re quite crowded, everyone is happy and moving well and there is an undeniable buzz as you enter a tunnel that is normally the realm only of cars.

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A blurry vision of running through the tunnel – quite eerie.

The gentle slope down into the tunnel is wonderful and I easily found a comfortable pace. Coming up the other side is equally as gentle but getting quite warm and stuffy which makes it more challenging. The breath of refreshing cool air as you exit is brilliant and makes up for the slightly steeper incline as you head along the freeway.

By now, I’d dropped back from my friends as I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up but didn’t feel at all lonely. I’m not sure if I started further ahead than last year or whether there were just more people but I felt like I had more company than in 2015. This was the point that the faster runners passed us, coming back in the other direction including 2 incredible wheelchair athletes.

Soon enough, we were heading around the bend and up onto the Bolte Bridge. It’s not a terrible incline but it does seem to stretch on and on, particularly once you get to the base of the bridge itself. However it’s well worth it for the selfie opportunities at the top, made better this year by Nova’s selfie zone with willing volunteers ready to take your picture with the stunning backdrop.

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Photos done, I headed back down the other side and did my fastest stretch of the day, taking advantage of the lovely downhill slope to make up some time. We then turned back towards the Docklands and zigzagged along roads and between buildings before coming out at Victoria Harbour to another favourite spot, running along the boardwalk.

Turning right, we headed along the back of Etihad stadium then onto Jim Stynes bridge which was quite fitting – it was just about this time that I was drawing on some of my mantras, one of which is being proud to run for those who can’t. Not a difficult mantra to say when you saw all the tribute t-shirts and signs around you, remembering children who were either taken too soon or having to endure all sorts of medical issues at far too young an age.

Back onto the freeway and heading quickly towards the finish. Up to this point, the kilometres had absolutely flown and there were only about 4km to go. This probably felt like the longest stretch but was seriously not that bad. I was thinking in parkruns (less than 1 to go!) which helped and realising how far I’d already come certainly made it seem doable.

As I headed off the freeway, there was a much needed hose being used as a temporary shower to run through at the drinks station and this gave me the boost I needed to keep going. We then snaked through the back streets of Southbank and under the Arts Centre before the final stretch along Alexandra Avenue. By this stage, I’d slowed to a walk (although a fairly fast one) and was saving energy until I saw the finish line – it still seemed a long way away! Turning right, the finish line was finally close and I headed steadily towards it, feeling incredible.

Summary: Brilliant event and an absolute ‘must do’, at least once

+ The course – You simply cannot get bored on this course and it really does make the distance fly. It is constantly changing and providing you with different scenery, as well as the excitement of running through a tunnel and over a bridge. Perfect!

+ Atmosphere – There is such a diverse mix of people at this event – serious speed demons, everyday runners, first timers, walkers, costume wearers – everyone! Added to that are those who are running in tribute to the little people who this event is all about – no wonder the atmosphere is so good.

+ Event fee – There is no medal at this event and I couldn’t be happier. The majority of your entry fee goes directly to the hospital through Good Friday Appeal and that is so much more important than adding to my bling. And, even with that, the event fee is very reasonable, encouraging more people to enter.

+ Event village – The event village has everything you could need – friendly volunteers at the bag drop (and an easy to follow, non-time consuming process), entertainment to divert you afterwards and delicious apples to start the refuelling process as you exit the finish chute. Yum.

No negatives. Seriously. It’s just a great event and I wouldn’t change a thing. Last year I commented on the start time, this year it was 7.45am which was perfect.

more parkrun tourism @ Wyndham Vale

One of the things on my running goals list for 2016 was to run as many different parkruns as possible and I’m certainly embracing that idea wholeheartedly. So far, I’ve managed to run at 6 different courses this year – 6!!! And, in this spirit, I was very keen to attend another launch, this time for Wyndham Vale in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
Wyndham Vale is what could be considered a ‘local’ parkrun for me and it only took us about 30 minutes to get there which was an absolute bonus. I’m so used to having to get up in the very early hours to go to parkrun launches so we arrived feeling refreshed and happy. Lots of parking, shelter if needed and toilet facilities – what more can you ask for?

Briefing done, we were soon headed to the start line and were greeted by a buzzing noise – we were accompanied in the early stages by a drone, capturing the inaugural event.

The course starts out around a small lake before heading down to run along the river. I wasn’t really expecting it to be picturesque – Wyndham Vale might be relatively local but I really don’t know much about the area. However the river was attractive and serene with enough curves and undulations to keep you interested. It is an out and back course with a very clearly marked turn around point and lots of marshals to keep us on the right track and offer encouragement along the way.

Coming back, the finish line is visible as you start the last kilometre so it feels like the

longest finish line in history but it’s worth it for the loud cheers and never ending support – it’s a great local crowd and very supportive of runners and walkers of all abilities.

After having your barcode 20160220_085125.jpgscanned, you can even grab yourself a snack and a drink without even leaving the area which is quite unusual and much appreciated.

Well done to the team on a fantastic launch – definitely another one to visit if I feel like mixing it up, especially as it’s just down the road!