Run Melbourne 2016 – race recap

I had vaguely contemplated not doing this event as I’ve signed up for heaps of events this year but it has become one of my staples over the years and, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to miss it.

I met my friends on board the train and we had a very relaxed start to our day. Definitely the best way to travel to an event – no stress over traffic, no worries about parking, just time to sit back, chat and get mentally ready. We arrived at Southern Cross, caught a train around to Flinders Street and had a perfect amount of time to spare for all the necessary bits – photos, bag drop, toilet stop and, slightly traumatically, stripping off the layers to prepare for the start. Melbourne had put on a glorious sunny day but with a temperature in the single digits and occasional puffs of wind which felt like they were travelling to us straight from Antarctica.

We made our way to our ‘wave c’ pen then stood around waiting for what felt like a very long time. The crowd of bodies were actually quite a good way to ward off the cold but we all just wanted to get moving – nerves and anxiety was starting to bubble. Our wave actually started so far back we couldn’t see the start line and, once we were moving, we seemed to go a long way before we were finally running under our arch and onto the course.

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I got myself into a steady rhythm and managed to avoid the general ducking and weaving which tends to happen at the start. I hadn’t known what I would feel like – just running or run/walk intervals – so I didn’t have a plan. I ended up doing run/walk intervals – 3 mins/1 min. Most importantly, everything felt good. No twinges from my achilles, no dull ache from my calf, no tightness in my hamstring. My lungs were coping just fine and I was moving at a decent pace. I had a quick ‘can I keep it up?’ at the back of my mind then I pushed it from my head with a ‘who cares?’. I was out to run and enjoy the event, that was all.

The kilometres ticked by pretty quickly – the course is quite scenic, as city courses go and the twists and turns and little inclines and declines keep you suitably distracted. Drink stations were plentiful and well stocked, popping up before I had even started to feel thirsty. And still I kept plodding along at a pretty steady pace.

I ran over the 5km mat with a better time than those I’ve been achieving at parkrun and was really pleased with how things were going. I was getting tired but not unbearably so and nothing was hurting so I told myself to suck it up and keep moving. The pep talk worked. Soon enough, I was heading for the footbridge between Rod Laver Arena and the MCG and into the last kilometre. Probably the hardest bit of the course for me was the slight hill going back up towards Flinders Street – I ran it very slowly but very steadily. I’d looked at my watch and thought maybe, just maybe, I could pull off a PB so was determined to give it my all.

Thankfully, what goes up must come down and we headed down the Batman Avenue hill then turned in to the finish chute along Birrarung Marr. I didn’t have much sprint left in me but did my best and was so pleased to come in just under 1:20 – a 10km PB.

As always, the thing that makes these events so much fun is hanging out with running friends and we all met up then headed for breakfast before our relaxing journey home on the train (with some photography fun thanks to a competition being run by the event organisers).

So will I do this one again? Most likely. I kind of like collecting the medals which are in a series. The atmosphere did seem a little less buoyant this year but the volunteers were all friendly and efficient. I preferred the old course (and really, really miss the bubble bridge) but it was still scenic enough and full of ample distraction. And it’s kind of a tradition now, a quintessential Melbourne experience complete with crisp Wintery conditions – perfect running weather in a beautiful running city. What’s not to love?

trail shoe dilemmas

I have decided that buying new running shoes is actually kind of traumatic. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being the proud new owner of shiny, clean running shoes (and love even more the first chance to get them dirty!) – I just don’t like the act of buying them. This has been made blatantly obvious to me this week as I went in search of my first pair of trail shoes.

My first mistake was letting my enthusiasm take over from my common sense. I’d headed over to Melbourne to pick up my bib for ‘Run Melbourne’ and browsed the running shoes at the time. I’d been curious about Hokas for a while and tried some on then listened to the sales assistant go on about how amazing they were. They felt a bit odd – cushioned, definitely but odd. I asked to try on another pair of a different brand but he assured me there were none in my size so I made my second mistake – I made a rash, on the spot decision and just bought them.

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I got them home and, unfortunately, gave in to the cold that had been brewing for a few days so ended up in bed and unable to test them out until later in the week. When I finally took them for a spin on the treadmill, I knew they just weren’t right. I’m all for cushioned shoes, believe me. I absolutely adore my Brooks Transcend which feel like I’m running on clouds. But these felt like I was running with mattresses strapped to my feet and my calves, which have to work hard enough anyway, were not happy. They also felt weird at the back, as if my feet were slipping out of them. Maybe I would have got used to them. Maybe running on the treadmill didn’t give me the best experience. Maybe I’d already talked myself into not liking them. But they had to go back.

The impact of my first mistake became more obvious when I went to return them. Obviously, the shop were unwilling to refund me for changing my mind (fair enough) but gave me a store credit. Great. Except they really didn’t have many trail shoes to choose from and, finally having done my homework, they didn’t have the ones I actually wanted. The store credit was also only valid in their actual store, not their online one which further limited my selection (and meant I couldn’t browse and spend online, instead having to drive an hour again to spend it). And, having already got my money, it felt like they weren’t really interested in helping me find more suitable shoes. I probably should have just walked away with my store credit, spent it later and got my shoes elsewhere but I was conscious that I have a trail event in 2 weeks and need time to try out the shoes so I made another snap decision – buy the Brooks.

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I’ve now got some sturdy but pretty looking Brooks Cascadias waiting for me to take them out and get them dirty. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually run in them and am a little nervous as they weren’t the ones I wanted but I’m a lot happier with them than I was with the previous pair.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Stick to running shops where I actually feel comfortable and valued. I’m not saying that to bag the shop I went to – they did nothing ‘wrong’, it’s just there are varying degrees of ‘right’ when it comes to customer service and I’ve definitely experienced better elsewhere.
  2. Don’t make rash decisions, buoyed by pre-race enthusiasm.
  3. Listen to my instinct – if it doesn’t feel right, walk away and give it time.
  4. Just buy the Brooks. Have adored every pair of shoes of theirs I’ve ever worn and I have my fingers crossed that the Cascadias will follow that pattern. Stay tuned…

Hitting the trails – my introduction to Saddleback

I was lucky enough to explore a new trail in the holidays in the You Yangs which is virtually in my backyard. So I was actually lucky in a couple of ways – firstly, that’s it’s so close and secondly, that I had an awesome running buddy, Jill, who wasn’t put off by crappy weather forecasts.

I’d been lying in bed for a few hours, listening to the howling wind and occasional bursts of rain, thinking “Surely she’ll cancel” or more like “I hope she’ll cancel”. I had checked my phone multiple times, just in case. With 5 minutes until my alarm was due to go off, it was obvious that she was a lot tougher than I was and wasn’t going to cancel, wind or no wind so I had to do my ‘toughen up’ self talk and get out of bed.

By the time we got to the car park, I was so glad she’d ignored the weather as it was absolutely perfect – cold, crisp, a very light breeze and no rain. Weather to scare off the school holiday crowds but perfect for running in. We headed down the Branding Yard trail until we reached the bottom then we paused as we stared up at our goal – The Saddleback. It didn’t look too terrible – just a rather long hill. The fact I couldn’t see the top wasn’t scaring me. Much.

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Not a huge hill but big enough

We set off at a very gentle run. And it wasn’t long before I had to walk. And then, after not much longer, I needed to stop, turn around and take in the view (while I gasped for breath). This was indeed an impressive hill.

I lost track of how many times I had to stop but, ultimately, I didn’t care as we made it to the top. I very much felt like it was the start of a journey – my first ascent and that I’d do it faster next time. And regardless of how tough it was, it was absolutely beautiful, surrounded by stunning landscape and even escorted briefly by a trio of kangaroos bounding along with us.

We then took a much easier track back around to the car park, a trail which was much more compatible with breathing and talking while running. Soon enough, we were back at the car with 5km having been ticked off and feeling absolutely on top of the world.

It’s funny how, after just going for a little run, you spend the rest of the day feeling like you can conquer the world.
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parkrun tourism @ torrens

I was in Adelaide for a conference over the weekend and couldn’t resist the chance to tick off another South Australian parkrun – Torrens parkrun.

It was a rather chilly morning when I turned up to the weir on Torrens Lake for the start. I was impressed at the set up at the start area including a Run Director with a microphone and speaker – definitely preferable to shouting over the excited chatter of the crowd (or the chattering of our teeth!). The briefing confused me slightly as the course being described wasn’t the one listed on the website; in fact, it goes the other direction along the river. Not that it bothered me – I was there to run and didn’t really mind where.

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Soon enough, we headed to the other side of the weir, got ourselves into some sort of order and set off. The course is very easy to follow and runs alongside the river on quite a scenic path. A marshall was at the relevant point to ensure we crossed a bridge then ran back along the river to the halfway point (with another encouraging marshall) before turning around and heading back. It’s flat, pretty and not particularly lonely, being an out and back course.

The finish line requires you to run back across the weir which is a nice touch and provides the perfect short sprinting stretch. Add to that the friendly cheers from the volunteers at the finish.

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Overall, a friendly and very efficient parkrun, clearly used to quite large numbers and welcoming to tourists visiting the city. So pleased to be able to include this one in my itinerary.

 

Nathan Zeal review

Yes, this is a review however, before I begin, let me assure you that I paid for the item myself and have no connection with or sponsorship by Nathan. I wish I did 🙂

If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’d know that I’m giving trail running more of a try and, in the lead up to the Surf Coast trail half marathon, decided I needed a hydration vest. I didn’t make the final decision particularly early though and ended up buying said hydration vest the night before the run, 10 minutes before picking up my running bib.

I had previously been looking at the wide range of hydration vests and was in a bit of a quandry as to what to get – I didn’t want to spend a fortune on something I wasn’t sure how much I’d use and was also wary buying it so close to an event and not having time to test it.

While browsing through The Happy Runner (amazing running shop in Torquay), I saw the Nathan Zeal and thought it was perfect (especially as they were offering 20% off for Surf Coast trail entrants!). Holding a 2L bladder and still having room for all the other bits and pieces, this seemed to balance being big enough but not too cumbersome.

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I got it home and adjusted it to fit – I’d read advice which said to loosen everything to the max then put it on and readjust and that worked perfectly.

The next day, full of all my essentials, I put it on and set off for the 21kms of the Surf Coast trail half marathon. Probably not the best idea to test this on such a long run but I didn’t have much of a choice. I’m pleased to say it passed with flying colours.

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My biggest concern had been chafing (which, frankly, I get on every run anyway, usually in new and spectacular places) and I did get a little from the chest strap but I’ve since adjusted where it sits and haven’t had further problems. I had also been worried about it moving around or the water sloshing but I barely felt it once it was on and didn’t have any movement from it. It was very comfortable and so convenient to be able to drink as I went and not rely on aid stations. Having a big enough compartment to stow my long sleeve top once I heated up was also great.

So, my verdict is that I love it. I had only heard great things about this brand of hydration packs and can confirm that I am now a devotee 🙂

More exploring on the surf coast trail

I find it harder to get myself moving and out the door for a run during school holidays. That seems really odd – after all, I have time on my hands but I think that’s actually the problem. With all that time, there’s no hurry, no need to cram a run into a small slot. I can procrastinate to my heart’s content, knowing I can always get it done later. Then later comes and I don’t feel like it.

Today was like that. I didn’t make it to parkrun yesterday so knew I needed to get out there today but couldn’t decide where. There’s a chunk of the surf coast walk I’ve wanted to do for ages (since I started on the trail a looooong time ago) but wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I let my husband convince me that I was.

This section, from Bells Beach to Ironbark Basin, is not particular challenging and is very different to the previous sections I’ve done, running inland after a very short bit of sand running. It’s a gradual climb up some steps and mild hills into the trees then it’s gentle undulations from there.

It was exactly what I needed. Closely blanketed all around by trees and bushland and with a light rain falling, it was the perfect day and perfect trail to clear my head and remind me why I do this.