Bellarine Rail Trail run – race recap

One way of making sure I stick to my training plan is to enter events, particularly long ones. I’m not super motivated when it comes to lacing up the shoes and knocking out my long runs (even though I always love them once I get the first few kilometres done) so events really are the only way to keep me honest. My event of choice on the weekend was the Bellarine Rail Trail run.

Despite it being fairly close to home, I’ve never run along the rail trail so was looking forward to a bit of new scenery. My husband delivered me to the start line and I met up with friends who had caught the train up from Queenscliff. This is quite a small event (about 300 runners) and very low key, in stark contrast to the mega event of last weekend. Before I really had time to think about it, we were being gathered and set off on our way.

I ran with my friend Maggi and those first few kilometres ticked by easily (read her blog of the event here). It was overcast with a suitably low temperature – perfect weather for running. We chatted as we ran and stuck together for about the first 7km then went off at our own paces.

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The scenery is pretty – running along the rail line with farms in the background (and friendly cows) although, as you get closer to Queenscliff, you start to get water glimpses. The surface is gravel until you hit civilisation again – very easy on the feet.

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I had, mostly, a great run. There were a few moments of ‘gee I’m tired’ on this one, possibly compounded by it being a small event and, therefore, me feeling alone out on the course. When I was passed by the 34km runners, they were all fabulously friendly and supportive however there felt like long stretches where I didn’t see anyone. Coming in to Queenscliff, I wondered whether I’d gone the right way but always had the rail line close by so figured I had.

The finish line snuck up on me a bit and I was very happy to be running across it, with my husband waiting at the end. I was pretty happy with my time – I had treated this all along as a training run so wasn’t out to set any records, just was pleased to have ticked off 17km from my training plan.

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My friend Maggi running over the finish line

City 2 surf – race recap

Where do I begin? This one is a truly iconic event that is beyond my bucket list. What I mean is that, while I was fully aware of it and frequently watched and admired those that did it, I just never actually dreamed that would one day be me. I remember hearing about it as a child, long before I learned that running was fun. I loved the costumes, the crowds, the sights….but it never, ever entered my head that I could run it. I saw some friends do it last year, watched the coverage on tv and still didn’t think about it. I wonder now why that was. The idea of flying off to far off events is obviously not completely alien to me but I just didn’t think about it. Too iconic. Too big. Too ‘out there’.

I don’t remember what changed my mind but I do remember, as a birthday present to myself, booking my flights and accommodation, without really giving it much thought at all. And being very, very excited.

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Goodies from the expo

That excitement only built as the event got closer and reached ridiculous levels on the morning itself. I slept well, jumped out of bed at 6, got ready then actually had time to kill. Meeting up with my brilliant running friends helped calm me down a bit or, rather, share the hype with them. After a minor delay due to a couple of friends who had managed to sleep in, we opted to skip the port-a-loo queue and use the facilities back at my hotel then joined the blue start group. I think the most overwhelming thing about this event is the number of people – somewhere around 80,000 had signed up, a number just too big for me to comprehend. And here many of them were, crowding around us and gathering to begin.

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Selfies and group photos done and layers shed, we began the shuffle toward the start line and after only the shortest of waits, we were off. Watching the crowds of runners streaming ahead made me grin and it was a grin that I don’t think left my face for the entire event. I had chosen to start off without listening to music and was well and truly kept entertained by the crowds of runners, on course entertainment and cheers from spectators along the route. The fact I knew nothing about the course or the places we were running through helped keep me amused – this was a real novelty for me and made the kilometres tick by.

The entertainment on course seemed to be timed to be there just when I needed a little pick-me-up. The Australian Army Rock band and NSW Police Rock band were great and could be heard long before they could be seen. I also loved the YMCA crew and couldn’t help but join in with the dance – fairly sure it did nothing to slow down my running 🙂

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NSW Police rock band, appropriately located at Rose Bay Police Station 🙂

Amidst all of this revelry, I knew that the infamous Heartbreak Hill was coming and wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I think ‘curious’ summed it up. I wasn’t scared of it – I figured it couldn’t be worse than the hill from hell I’d encountered on last week’s trail run and knew, no matter how big it was, it wouldn’t last forever. So I stopped for a selfie at the bottom and began the climb.

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And, it turned out, it really didn’t break my heart at all. Yes, it does go on a bit and tries to trick you into thinking its done when it isn’t. But it really isn’t that steep (clearly, as I actually managed to run most of it) and gives the reward of gorgeous views back to the harbour bridge to keep you going. In fact some of the short but steep inclines after that are actually more annoying as you’re not expecting them and don’t need them in the last stage of an event.

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Gorgeous views from the top of Heartbreak Hill

With about 3km to go, the descent into Bondi started in earnest and the crowd seemed to thicken even more, stopping me from hurtling down the hill like I wanted to. However this event is about so much more than your time – the atmosphere was incredible and the diversity of runners around me was magnificent. As I weaved and plodded along into Bondi, that’s what I thought about and was grateful for – the fact that we were all able to come out on a glorious sunny Winter’s day and run together on this great course.

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The last few kilometres as we headed down to Bondi

Lost in my thoughts, the finish line crept up on me – we turned a corner and were there, crossing the finish line, still surrounded by almost as many people as I had been at the start. Again, the impressive logistics were on display as we were shepherded along to collect our medals, grab some rehydration and head up to the spectator village. I met my friends in the Rebel Sport zone (thanks to handy wristbands we’d collected at the expo).

Post event, we quickly got the hungries and sought out whatever salty thing we could – fish and chips served in a slightly intimidating but very efficient shop fit the bill perfectly and we enjoyed them in the event village while we shared our running moments.

Clearly the whole event is a well rehearsed logistical exercise, as demonstrated by the buses to Bondi Junction which were fast (fast-ish or would have been if we’d joined the other queue) and efficient – we were soon on the train heading back into town. A quick change of clothes, collection of bags then I headed out to relax in the QANTAS lounge with a friend before the flight home.

So did this event live up to the hype? Absolutely. Having done a lot of different running events over the last 3 years and a heap of them this year in particular, it is a bit too easy for me to take them for granted and have the start line start to merge in my memory. This one is in no danger of that. The butterflies I felt before the start stayed with me as I ran and the smile really didn’t leave my face, even when I was sitting on the plane, still wearing my medal. Definitely an epic event, made better, as always, by having my fabulous running friends with me to share in the celebrations.

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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?

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.

Race recap – Run for the kids

I really wasn’t sure whether I’d make it to the start line this morning as I’ve had a cold and been feeling pretty rubbish for the past week. I’ve been resting up for the last few days but still wasn’t 100% when my alarm went off at 6am and got ready with a ‘I’m not sure if I should be doing this’ kind of feeling.

I’m pleased to say that the excitement took over once I made it to the start area of Run for the kids and my sniffles were well and truly relegated to the back of my mind. It was a perfect, crisp, blue skyed Melbourne morning – gorgeous running weather.

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Hanging out at the start line

Despite all the people (the event attracted about 33,000 runners), it didn’t feel crazily crowded and, soon enough, the starting gun for our wave was going off and we began the shuffle forwards to make it across the start. I had my head down in concentration (and contemplation) when I heard someone say to me ‘Don’t look so serious – have a great run!’. Steve Moneghetti was standing at the start line cheering people on and these encouraging words instantly put a smile on my face and sent me off with enthusiasm.

I had previously worried about the number of runners and had heard lots of people say how crowded it was at the start. However I didn’t feel boxed in at all felt the crowd were mostly moving together, with very few people attempting to weave in and out. We ran over the Swan St bridge and along the Yarra before turning sharply for our descent into the Domain tunnel. It was definitely an experience to get to run through here – warm and muggy but pretty spectacular. The hum of traffic was replaced by the hum of breathless runners and excited bits of conversation.

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Running through the Domain tunnel

Coming out of the tunnel brought cool relief – I hadn’t realised how warm it was in there until we were out in the fresh air again and it felt divine. Not far out of the tunnel, I came across my friend, Jill, from my local parkrun and was so pleased to be able to share much of the rest of the run with her.

Running along the freeway then up on the Bolte Bridge wasn’t as challenging as I had imagined. I thought the hill was going to feel really steep but I don’t even remember it, just feeling really lucky to be getting to run over the bridge and see the views across the city and the bay. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one struck with the feeling as the majority of those around me stopped (or at least slowed down) for selfies and the volunteers on top of the bridge were kept busy with photo requests.

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Blurry but happy selfie on top of the Bolte Bridge

Once we were off the bridge and weaving our way through the Docklands, I started to find things a bit tough, with the usual bits starting to hurt as they tend to do over longer distances. The hill up Collins Street was probably the most brutal on the course – it might be small but it’s also pretty steep and, having already run over 10km, my legs were feeling it.

Soon after this, we were heading back over the Yarra and turning in to Southbank which was actually really good. The crowds eating brunch in the many restaurants and tourists out for a stroll added to the atmosphere and I felt really proud to be running in this event. And, with only a couple of kilometres to go, I knew I was going to make it.

Heading back along St Kilda Road, I saw the finish line and had a renewed burst of energy – 15.5km done! Just over the finish line, I caught up with my friends and was so happy to be able to share this event with them. I usually run events like this alone and it really does make a difference to have someone to chat to afterwards and share in the experience.

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15.5km – done!

Summary: It was my 2nd time running this event – my first was my first ever fun run back in 2009 and I had just as much fun today as I did then.

+ Atmosphere: The event volunteers are so enthusiastic and supportive and the crowd is a perfect mix of serious runners, those out there for fun and those who are there to celebrate and raise funds for the amazing work of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. That mix really makes for an incredible atmosphere.

+ The course: There is no other event in Melbourne’s calendar where you get to go through a tunnel and over a bridge so it’s definitely a winner from that perspective. Add into that the other fabulous sights of Melbourne that the course winds through – it’s the perfect snapshot of inner city life.

+ Entry fees: The entry fee for this event is a very reasonable $53, of which $31.60 is donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital. So as well as being a great run, you’re doing something worthwhile for others as well.

The late start. This one is a really, really minor point and I almost didn’t list it as I know some people might prefer this. Our wave didn’t start until 9am which felt quite late on an early Autumn day that was heading for 28C. However the late start also meant a lot of people could travel in by public transport and help reduce overcrowding in the city. So I guess there’s pros and cons of this one. And I’m just an early bird 🙂

Race recap – Sussan Women’s 10km (Melbourne)

When my alarm went off at 5am, I surprised myself by springing out of bed without much convincing. This was despite the rain and wind that had persisted all night and was still lingering today. The Sussan Women’s Fun Run is probably my favourite event of the year and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying it.

The race is held along St Kilda foreshore and is a flat, straight course along the road with very little shade so I had been more concerned that it might be hot (not unusual considering it is supposed to be Summer!). The rain was welcome but I had to stop off and buy a poncho on my way to keep me dry until the event started.

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The reason I love this run so much is the atmosphere – so positive, friendly and non-competitive. Despite the weather, there was clearly the same buzz there this morning. I chatted to some fellow runners while we were lined up to start – so different to other big runs I’ve done where everyone is in their own headspace and the only communication is furtive looks when someone’s space is encroached. Definitely none of that here.

Soon enough, the starting gun went and we were off. It was a crowded start and, with the wet road, I didn’t want to risk zipping in and out so I just cooled my pace and sat behind a couple of other runners at one side of the road. There was still some dodging as there were huge puddles left over from last night’s downpour. There is a good mix in this event of runners and walkers which is probably another reason it counts as one of my favourites – I don’t feel guilty or in the way for going too slow.

The first few kms flew by and, before I knew it, I was halfway. My first half time was about average for my 5km split so I knew I wasn’t in for a personal best but didn’t care – this one was really about enjoying the run and the crowd. It’s always funny once you settle in to a longer event, you find yourself running with/past/being passed by a similar group of runners. There were 3 or 4 runners who I saw at the 2km mark and who were still somewhere either just in front or just behind me at 7km. It was these unknown runners who helped when my feet had had enough – I shuffled along behind them and tried to keep to their pace so I didn’t have to think about setting my own. Because of the rain, my feet were absolutely soaked and were my most uncomfortable body part. It felt a bit like I was running in wet, concrete boots for the last km.

Approaching the finish brought its own challenges – the run down to the finish chute was through Catani Gardens and along paths which didn’t cope well with so much water. However I was still smiling as I ran towards the finish line. I only missed a 10km personal best by 30 seconds so I wasn’t unhappy with my run. More importantly, I knocked 5 minutes off my time for the same event last year – great to see my progress over a year of running.

wpid-20141207_090111.jpgI hung around for a short time afterwards to cheer a fellow five30runner over the finish line. It actually made me quite emotional to cheer on the women coming in – you could read on their faces both the elation at reaching the finish and the strain it had taken to get there.

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I wandered back to my car and changed into dry clothes for the drive home. Most entertaining was trying to get my compression socks on (a ritual for me after a long race). This is usually challenging enough with tired arms and limited energy but was even more of a contortionist act today with wet legs.

Summary: A great event with a fabulous atmosphere. My 4th year of running this one – I’ll be back!

+ a sparkly medal that can also be used as a keyring
+ great goody bag (both virtual and real) including jelly beans (essential after a run!)
+ the race village has a really good atmosphere both before and after a run – worth hanging around for
+ love the t-shirt – not a running one but will be a favourite to wear

the km markings were out. Doesn’t matter a lot to me as I run with my Garmin but it would be an issue for those without a GPS
the results were supposed to be up immediately but seem to be having issues. Again, not a big deal for me as I tend to go by what my watch said but would still like to know my official time