2017 Great Ocean Road half marathon – race recap

The Great Ocean Road running festival feels like the kind of event you only get to do once in a lifetime so I felt very, very lucky to be heading down on Friday night to complete my second event. As always, I wasn’t undertaking this alone but was part of the usual running crew, ensuring a fun weekend ahead.

My friends and I had booked a house in Skenes Creek which was a great place to relax and get ourselves mentally prepared for the task. On Saturday, we slept in (beyond parkrun time – eeeek!) and chatted before popping into Apollo Bay to shop for GOR merchandise, wander the event village and grab some lunch which we took back to eat on our balcony with amazing views of the ocean.

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Our balcony view – just gorgeous

We spent the afternoon with more relaxing and then headed into the Apollo Bay Brewhouse for dinner. They had put on a pasta selection for those running people requiring such things and I was grateful for it – running long distances is hard enough without messing with routines and, stereotypical as it is, eating pasta the night before is one of my rituals.

Back to our holiday home and time to get all our things ready for our early start in the morning then a relatively early night. My 5am wake up call wasn’t too harsh although I’m not sure I slept that well. I wasn’t exactly nervous – I knew the course and what to expect but, as always, felt pressure from within to do ‘well’, whatever that means. I’m always my harshest critic and the one most likely to inflict judgement.

This year, we were lucky enough to skip the buses as one of our fabulous support crew drove us to Kennett River which saved me from having to stave off travel sickness in the back of a bus driving through the dark on the Great Ocean Road. We arrived before the crowds and headed to the beach to savour the sunrise – definitely a highlight of this event. Today’s sunrise didn’t disappoint although the photos don’t do it justice.

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All the usual rituals then ensued – portaloo queuing (not too long actually), photo taking and, soon enough, heading to our starting positions. It seemed a lot busier this year than last and saw us start further back and amid thicker crowds. Neither of these things were a problem – it’s a large road with plenty of room and I knew we’d spread out easily after the start.

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The fabulous running trio about to start

So we started. I figured 23km was far enough to run so I walked until I got the start line then began my run. I hadn’t really decided on a game plan other than to a) try to beat my time from last year and b) enjoy myself. Run when I felt like it, walk when I felt like it, instead of sticking to set intervals. From the start line, you head very quickly uphill and, having fresh legs, I felt ok to run a bit. In fact, I felt great. I had my Garmin on the lap screen so just tracked my pace for that kilometre and ran enough to keep it below the pace I needed. This was a pretty easy strategy for the first couple of kilometres as there were plentiful downhills to bank some time.

Somewhere around the 5km mark I had a couple of things that ate into my time – koala spotting and the large hill taking you up to Cape Patton. I still managed a respectable pace, just inevitably a bit slower, especially as the view demanded some snapshots before moving on. If you’re running too fast to enjoy the scenery in this event, then you really are missing the best part.

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The view from Cape Patton

After Cape Patton, the hills are smaller and you begin to spend some time inland, running alongside farmland. You still have undulations along the course but nothing too draining and I was able to keep my pace within my target. My biggest challenge was that, while I had trained for this, much of my training was on trails which are much softer on the feet than road. The constant pounding was starting to take a toll – on the soles of my feet, on my joints and on my knees.

I was lucky enough to be running close to one of my friends – we kept catching each other up and it helped keep me motivated and happily distracted from the task. We were also pleasantly surprised by how many other runners were around us throughout – no doubt partly a result of record numbers but also related to us being quicker than last year. The runners around us were a great bunch and definitely added to the fun atmosphere – no one taking it too seriously but also clearly pushing themselves to achieve their own goals.

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As we ran through Skenes Creek, my friend showed her consistency and determination as she went on ahead while I was finding it hard to keep up the pace. So I put my head down and power walked it out. And when I say power walked, I mean power walked. I couldn’t slow down – the finish line was edging closer and I needed to get there.

This event is an ‘ultra half marathon’ (ie, a bit longer than a half marathon) so you actually cross over timing mats for an official half marathon distance 2km before the actual event finish. I crossed the half marathon mats having knocked 18 minutes off my time from 2016. I was elated. However it did nothing to make my body feel better which was telling me in no uncertain terms that it had had enough. That I managed to keep moving still astounds me – all I wanted to do was stop and sit. By now, there were crowds starting to gather along the route which was wonderful as it gave me motivation and encouragement.

Amidst the general ‘go’ and ‘you’re doing great’ there was one gentleman who could learn the art of what to say to someone who looks like they’re struggling. He decided advise was the best thing and told me ‘You’re doing well. Push up to a shuffle so you can finish strong.’ Had I been capable of speech at that point, I would have told him that this was finishing strong, because the act of finishing at all showed my strength in that moment.

The cow cheer squad were there again this year and were just as lovely – I don’t remember what one lady said but I appreciated it and thanked her, telling her I was doing my best. She put her hand on my shoulder and said ‘I know you are. You’re amazing’ which brought on the tears that I then had to work hard to hold back.

I continued my power walk until I finally saw the finish line as I knew it was the longest finish shute in history and would take everything I had. And possibly then some. According to Strava, it was about 300metres and I ran it proudly and as quick as I could. The finish shute is lined with people, many of which were cheering for me thanks to my name on my bib and the absence of other runners at that moment. Every step I wondered if I was capable of taking another and it was an extra strain as I was fighting back the tears. I’m normally pretty emotional when I run but this was another level – a combination of pain, exhaustion and elation. I crossed the line having knocked exactly 19 minutes off my time from last year.

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Finish line in sight, I just try to get it over with quickly

This event is nothing short of epic. Epic in the way it takes over Apollo Bay for the weekend, epic in the logistics which ensure smooth running and movement of 7000 athletes and epic in the views along the way. There really is something truly magical about getting to run on this road with no interruptions or distractions, surrounded by a diverse mix of athletes and supported by a township of locals and visitors. If you haven’t done it, add it to your list and make it a priority. It will hurt but is definitely an event you won’t regret.

 

Cadbury half marathon – race recap

Part 2 of another epic running weekend (in case you missed part 1, it naturally involved a parkrun!).

After returning to Hobart (and dropping the car off with a minute to spare), we wandered a bit then headed back to our apartment to relax and prepare for the morning. It’s funny how strictly we stick to routines before a big event – eating the same things, laying out our clothes and accessories to make sure everything is ready to go, resting the legs, calming the nerves. Most importantly, getting enough sleep. This last one is probably the most challenging and was even more so in our apartment which was stunning but without curtains so heading to bed at 7.30pm with Summer sunlight streaming in felt odd.

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The view from my bed as I went to sleep

Regardless, I slept well enough and felt quite rested when the alarm went off some time after 4am. We got up, got ready and headed out to our cab to trek out to the Cadbury factory. We’d bought entry to the VIP area which was completely worth it – an area to chill next to the finish line (with dedicated portaloos) and even a red carpet to welcome us.

As we moved towards the start line, we met up with the five30 clan who were doing a range of events throughout the morning.

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I felt a lot calmer at the start this year. Last year, this had been my 2nd half marathon with all the niggling doubts that came with it, particularly about whether or not I’d finish. This year, there was no such doubt as, being half marathon #6, I knew I could do the distance.

Shortly after crossing the start line, I heard my name called out from the side and saw a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen for years – the perfect distraction and boost that I needed. The start of this event is a short loop around the streets surrounding the factory which then takes you back over the start line – meaning more cheers from the five30 crew and my friend! Once the loop is over you head down the hill – the perfect start to a run as you feel strong and fast with the encouragement helping you along.

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And then the 3rd kilometre hits. Last year, that was when I thought about how far I had to go. This year, I had new doubts. In every half marathon before this, I’d just been worried about finishing. This year, I had no such worries but new ones had taken over – worried that I wouldn’t achieve the time I wanted. Obviously I hoped to get a PB although knew I hadn’t trained enough to warrant one however I knew I would be sorely disappointed if I couldn’t come in under 3 hours. However I was letting the negative voices in my head take over so everything was feeling hard. I got my music out and tried to just get into the zone.

The Cadbury course is very enjoyable, despite being all on the road. Scenic water and mountain views as well as passing landmarks such as MONA and the Entertainment Centre keep you entertained and prevent boredom. There are also slight undulations along the course which I quite like – not enough uphills to stress you out but enough downhills to have those strong moments. And I just kept going, trying not to worry about time and enjoy it. I mostly succeeded. There were certainly a lot of mantras I was drawing on and mentally was breaking it into chunks, particularly after my watch ticked over the first hour.

It was actually just after the half way point that my attitude improved a little. Mentally, it’s always easier to be heading back than heading out. But I also realised that I was doing ok for time. The race predictor on my watch was predicting a PB although I knew that wasn’t going to happen – I don’t do negative splits and was starting to get tired. However under 3 hours felt very possible. Two mantras became important – ‘pain is temporary, pride is permanent’ and ‘head up, wings out’ (which I had written on my arm to remind me when running brain hit).

I was pleased to see that the kilometres ticked by a lot quicker this year and soon enough I was saying to myself ‘one parkrun to go’. Having others around me on the course certainly helped as the marathon runners have to do 2 loops of the course so there were always some nearby. There were also more runners this year at my speed (or it felt that way) so there was no chance of feeling lonely.

I continued to analyse my time and was trying to bank some time for the inevitable slow down that would happen when I hit the hill in the last kilometre. Interestingly enough, there was no slow down – I determinedly powered up the hill, longing for that finish arch at the top. As I came over the crest, I was disappointed not to see the arch but could definitely see the finish line (apparently the arch had had a deflating moment!) and steadily ran towards it – not much sprint left in me. My official time – 2:57.31. A Cadbury PB and only 4 minutes slower than my best half marathon time.

Somehow I managed to bend down to untie my shoelaces and retrieve my timing chip (a considerable effort!), chatted to one of the five30 crew who had finished not only the half but also the 5km, then I made my way to the VIP area. I felt great which is no mean feat at the end of a half – no significant pain, no ridiculous chafing and even the bottoms of my feet felt ok. I had my massage, tried to eat something (which I never find easy after a long run) and generally soaked up the atmosphere and post-run endorphins.

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Going into this weekend, I’d wondered whether we were just trying to relive what was an amazing trip last year and whether we’d end up a bit disappointed. This weekend turned out to be just as fantastic with new adventures and I’m so glad we did it. The Cadbury run is so much fun and with such a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere, regardless of your distance or pace. Thanks again Tassie – we had a ball!

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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!

Surf coast trail half marathon – race recap

If you had asked me last night whether I would be writing a race recap about this, I wouldn’t have known what to tell you. I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to run it until I actually found myself at the start line and, even then, I doubted my ability to finish it. Surf coast trail half is my 4th half marathon so I knew I was capable of the distance but the terrain was a complete unknown and more than a bit daunting – 4km of beach running and a variety of ‘inclines’. I love a good trail and this was sure to be one but I hadn’t run a trail event of this length and really wasn’t sure what I was capable of.

We arrived at the start with plenty of time, thanks to our fabulous friend Grant who was acting as our driver and support crew for the day. It was a very crisp morning and a lot of the talk was about whether or not to run with or ditch various layers of clothing. Having bought myself a hydration pack yesterday, I opted to run with one longer top, knowing I could stow it away if I needed to.

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Hanging out at the start line

After the mandatory 2 toilet stops, we made our way down onto the beach for the briefing, keeping out of the way of the marathoners coming through. This briefing consisted mainly of ‘That’s the ocean. Keep it on your left’ – definitely advice to follow! Soon enough, it was time to start and we all headed off along the rather soft sand, running down towards the water looking for elusive ‘hard sand’. We really didn’t find any and ended up laughing hysterically while jog/walking as we had to keep running back up the beach every time a wave came near.

If we had thought the beach was a challenge, the steps we needed to climb to get off it and the hill that followed were so much worse. It was the hill that kept on giving….and giving….and giving. I was again starting to doubt my ability to do this. Thankfully it did flatten out eventually and we were rewarded with frequent amazing views that reminded us why we were doing it.

The wonderful thing about this course is how you are treated not only to stunning ocean views at regular intervals but also the variety of running through bush a little inland and we were treated to some of this approaching Anglesea. We also had a bit more beach running to face as we descended down to run across the river mouth and back up the river to the first aid station. As aid stations go, this was fabulous with pumping music to motivate, water and Tailwind hydration as well as a selection of food. On top of that, friendly and encouraging volunteers to look after us and keep us moving.

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The glorious trail – such a great variety of surfaces and scenery

Back on the trail, I was feeling a little more positive although still quite overwhelmed by the distance and terrain still to be covered. However, as always, running with Jill was fabulous and distracted me perfectly so the kilometres ticked by quite quickly. On this part of the trail, there were some gorgeous little paths which looked almost like fairy grottos and enough twists and turns to keep us interested. It’s funny looking on the map – we were so close to civilisation but really had no idea and felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere. If I wasn’t running with someone, it could have been quite lonely as there weren’t many other runners near us.

We zipped around the carpark at Point Roadknight and then started to have more glimpses of the lighthouse at Airey’s which was getting closer all the time. Along a bit further and we were met again by our support crew, Grant, who wanted to see us run down on the beach. This was the part I’d been dreading but, through our usual brand of general shenanigans, it ended up being a heap of fun with jump shots, selfies galore and more wave dodging. However I still felt every bit of the 3.3km of beach – a long way to run, even with relatively hard sand. We were very grateful for the aid station at the end of it and paused for refreshment.

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Urquhart’s Beach – 3.3km of running goodness

 

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Couldn’t possibly miss a chance for a selfie (or 10!)

Back on the trail again and it was now starting to feel like the end was in sight but also felt hard – everything by now was hurting, including bits that didn’t normally (like the inside of my big toes – what’s with that?!?!). The frequent glimpses of the lighthouse were much needed and we very much had the ‘getting it done’ attitude. Thankfully, there was some downhill towards the lighthouse which allowed us to get into a bit of a running groove. We also had another small beach detour and another hill to follow it although neither were terrible.

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Airey’s lighthouse not looking too far away…

Finally, we were approaching the lighthouse then on the last stretch, in sight of Fairhaven Surf Club, but knowing there was one last hill to climb. Climb it we did – it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but it was done. We were directed by the fabulous volunteers down onto the beach for the final stretch then, after dodging the waves lapping at the base, had to climb stairs to reach the finish line at the top.

All done, we took our finish line shots and wandered around a little aimlessly, as you tend to after a long run. After pulling ourselves together, we headed for Airey’s pub for our free beer – just the tonic needed to start our rehydration!

So, was it awesome? Yes, absolutely. The scenery was the best I’ve seen in an event, the volunteers were outstanding and the trail was as varied as you could possibly want. Add to that our brilliant support crew and you couldn’t ask for more in an event. Will I do it again? No. Never. I’m really, really happy I did it and I’ll be equally happy to keep this as a ‘once in a lifetime’ sort of event. Probably 🙂

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Great Ocean Road half marathon – race recap

(alternative title: 1 long road, 23km of scenery and all 4 seasons)

This particular quest started about a year ago when I met a fellow five30 runner visiting Balyang Sanctuary parkrun as a stop off on her way to the Great Ocean Road half marathon. We chatted and it sounded amazing although seemed like a far off dream. I’d only done one half marathon and that had been hard enough on the flat – the hills scared me.

Roll forward a year and I found myself packing my bags and racing to meet my friends for the trip to Apollo Bay to complete my 3rd half marathon – how things change! In particular, I was proud to be running this one to raise funds for the Indigenous Marathon Project and possibly wouldn’t have made it to the start line without that motivation.

We opted to drive the Great Ocean Road itself to check out the hills for ourselves and did a bit of a running commentary as we went – “Ok, so this is hill 1. It’s not too bad. Hmm, it does keep going though. Yeah, it’s quite high actually. Eeek.” By the time we got to Apollo Bay, I was feeling mildly carsick and more than nervous. We unpacked, met some friends for dinner then slept, trying not to think too much about what we were going to do.

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A pantry of essential running items

Saturday brought glorious weather as more friends arrived for the 6km and 14km events. We started with some breakfast then took up our spots to cheer on our friends along the main street. I was surprised how emotional I was – it didn’t take much for me to tear up and, with runners giving it their best, kids & parents running and some runners clearly in pain, there were lots of cheering opportunities.

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Checking out the finish line on Saturday … and trying to picture reaching it on Sunday

While we were waiting for the 14km runners to finish, we wandered the event village and generally soaked up the atmosphere. We also chatted to some parkrun friends which was wonderful for my nerves as they reminded me what a big and amazing thing it was to be doing this, regardless of the time it took me.

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So lucky – great scenery, wonderful friends and perfect weather

We wandered back to our caravan park for some chill time then back out for dinner which was a bit of a challenge with so many runners in a small town. We opted for pizza again which was tasty enough but I can’t say I enjoyed it – I was definitely eating for fuel, not fun and just wanted to go to bed.

Back at our cabin, we sorted our things for the morning, chatted a bit then jumped into our sleeping bags. I didn’t sleep much. The wind was whipping up and making me worry about the morning’s conditions and I was in a general state of ‘why am I doing this?’. I was actually glad when the alarm went off at 5am so

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Nervous and excited as we set off for our start lines

we could get it started and I could stop worrying about it.

At 5.45am, we headed down to the buses and the nervous energy around us was intense. We said goodbye and good luck to Geoff who was heading off to the marathon bus and boarded our own for the trip to Kennett River. It wasn’t great for my travel sickness to be sitting in the back of a bus travelling along a windy road in the dark but I couldn’t really tell what was travel sickness and what was nerves.

We arrived at Kennett River to the most beautiful sight – sunrise over the ocean. If anything could help me get into my usual zen like running mood, that was it.

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Fellow runners silhouetted in the sunrise on Kennett River beach

Multiple toilet stops done and warm clothing bags dropped off, there was nothing left to do but get to our starting positions. At the back. I find the first few moments of a race are probably the worst for me as I don’t cope well with feeling like sheep in a pen and I wanted space as well as knowing I wouldn’t be overtaken by a few thousand people when the inevitable hills arrived.

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Hanging out at the start line – let’s get this done!

Standing at the back, the start was pretty amazing. Before we even crossed the timing mats, we could see people streaming up the road and approaching the first hill, all with the incredible backdrop of the ocean. We were privileged to be able to run that road and that was the thought that stayed with me throughout.

I ran with my friend, Jill and we steadily approached the first hill, careful not to go out too fast, knowing there were more to come. Surprisingly, we reached the top of the first hill without really feeling it and I felt amazing. My nerves pre-event had been about two things – the fear of being alone at the back of the pack and the fear of massive hills. We had just conquered the first hill with minimal effort, were surrounded by heaps of people who were taking it at a similar pace and were having a ball.

As we ran inland a little, Jill started scanning for koalas and soon enough found one tucked sleepily away, letting the other runners around us know and turning it into the probably most photographed koala on the course. That moment epitomised what I love about the tail end of events – the people there are working hard but not taking themselves or the event too seriously and still have time to pause and enjoy the moment. The weather was glorious – only a breath of wind, blue skies and just enough crispness in the air to keep us cool.

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Before long, we were heading up the second hill – Cape Patton. I kept picturing what this had looked like on the elevation map and comparing that to the real thing which was nowhere near as bad as I’d imagined. Again, we cruised up it fairly easily although were less than pleased at the race photographer who was perching near the top – downhill photos are much more flattering! Running down the other side, I felt fantastic and couldn’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be. We were running on the Great Ocean Road! We had lots of excited moments celebrating this fact (as well as spreading our arms wide to acknowledge all the space we had at our disposal!).

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Looking out from Cape Patton

Oddly, after the big hills were done, my energy levels dropped. It was as if I’d been working myself up for those challenges and hadn’t prepared myself for the long slog that came after them. The rest of the course is best described as ‘undulating’ with no big hills and with wonderful ocean and farmland views. We even had a kind farmer handing out jelly snakes (as well as many scattered on the road, a kind of unique roadkill) and locals scattered along for encouragement. However I was finding it harder, feeling a bit nauseous and finding various bits and pieces starting to hurt. The wind wasn’t terrible but there were a few bursts here and there and the clouds hanging out over Apollo Bay looked a bit unfriendly.

At Skenes Creek, with 6km to go, Jill & I parted and, just after that, the rain/hail hit. I love running in the rain but this came in heavy bursts and seemed directly angled to hit me in the eyes, making it hard to see. Yet still I smiled. Even though I hurt and was cold and wet, I still felt lucky and grateful to be able to do this, just kept focusing on the finish line.

With about 3km to go, the spectators were more frequent as were the marathoners coming up behind me which all provided good distractions. With the finish line finally in sight, I shuffled my way along and could hear people calling my name as they read it on my bib – very motivational and got me a bit emotional. I had friends at both sides of the course calling out as well and knew all of that would get me over the line. I gratefully accepted my medal and headed over to the water table, my mind empty and body numb. Two friends, Frank & Issy were there and were incredible – helping me with food and drink then collecting my bag and leading me to the others – all things I was rather incapable of thinking about after 23km.

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We slowly made our way back to our car to change, cheering another friend in as he finished his first marathon, then we gathered for a well deserved lunch before the long drive home.

In a word, the weekend was amazing. The event itself is nothing short of spectacular -stunning scenery, meticulously organised, chirpy and encouraging volunteers and a wonderful atmosphere. However more than that, I’m grateful, as always, for the crowd of running friends I’ve fallen in with, who turn an amazing event into weekend of happy memories. Here’s to many more!

 

Scenes from my run

I live in an amazing part of the world and am so lucky to run where I do. Hence why I’m very excited this week to link up with Erika, Patty and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run to share ‘scenes from my run’.

I’ve got some picturesque neighbourhood runs through man-made wetland areas which I tend to stick to during the week as they’re close (although are starting to get a little too familiar!). On weekends, I like to take my long run somewhere a little different so head either for the hills (5 minutes drive) or the beach (from about 20 minutes drive). My absolutely favourite place to run at the moment is along the Surf Coast trail & Great Ocean Road – they can only be described as stunning!

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In fact, I’m about to do something a little crazy and sign up for the Surf Coast trail half marathon in June. I’ve got the Great Ocean Road half in May along some amazing coastline so this just seems to make it the perfect pair. I’m a little nervous about it being a trail half (including some beach running!) but I used to think 5km seemed like a ridiculously long way so I just have to keep remembering that I’ve overcome self-doubt before and can do it again. Wish me luck!

Cadbury half marathon – race recap

Event 2 of our epic running weekend away – the Cadbury half marathon in Hobart (prepare yourself for a long post!). This one had been on my running wishlist for a while – how can you turn down the combination of running and chocolate?!

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Flat me all ready to run 🙂

 

We spent our afternoon relaxing, resting our legs and fuelling up for the next day (pretzels and powerade!) and generally trying to get into the right headspace. The one I was in was very much a ‘just get this done’. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to it, I just really didn’t know what to expect from my body or mind and I suspected it was going to be slower than the half I ran this time last year. So I worked on being ok with that. Spending this time before the event with running friends was absolutely brilliant – we were all going through the same thoughts, doubts and nerves and it made it feel ok. Preparations finished with a pasta dinner and a very early night to bed.

4.00am and our alarms went off. I’d slept pretty well and it wasn’t too bad getting out of bed – the nerves were starting to feel more excited than terrified so I just kept going through various mantras while I got ready (you’ve done this before, you can do it; pain is temporary, pride is permanent; you paid for this so you may as well enjoy it!).

We taxied it out to the event and arrived about 5.30ish – it was just starting to think about getting light and all the marathoners were there, preparing for their 6am start. We found the VIP area and joined the toilet queue then hung around, soaking it all in. The finish line was right next to the VIP area and I tried to picture how I would feel crossing over it as they blew up the arch and got it all ready.

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First km and feeling good

Soon enough, it was 6.30am and our turn to start. Being a small event, everyone starts together and you just figure out where to put yourself in the crowd – we headed for the back. We took a final selfie and off we went. The first part of the course is a little loop around the streets surrounding the Cadbury factory then back over the start line before heading down the hill. I ran with one of my friends for the first 2km which was great – she helped slow me down and get into the right rhythm. Starting off with a downhill was also great for my confidence as it kicked the first 2km off feeling strong and happy.

The first drink station was at the bottom of the hill and we said good luck and parted at our own paces. At this stage, I was still really unsure how the run would turn out and needed to get into the zone and figure out a comfortable pace.

The next couple of kilometres to the second drink station were quite quick – I started running some very loose intervals but then got sick of looking at my watch so just ran by feel. Run when I want, slow down when I want. Just after the drink station, I had a very brief ‘this is hard’ moment because I’d allowed myself to think about the run in its entirety and 21km seemed like a very long way. I pushed the thought from my head by thinking again in chunks – 5km to the bridge (and the turn around point) or 4km to the next drink station. Smaller distances seemed ok and my brain could cope with them so I just kept plodding along.

I had worried that I’d feel disheartened as, being at the back of the pack, you’re often out there on your own. I didn’t feel that once on this course. Firstly, I wasn’t alone at the back of the pack – there were some other runners with similar speeds who were not far away. I could actually see my friends in front until about 9km – consistently ahead but just too far to catch. And we were also out there with the marathoners who had started half an hour before us. The first one overtook me (on his second lap of the course) somewhere before the halfway point and it started a steady stream of marathoners running in both directions. So there was never any question of feeling alone.

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I also hadn’t thought about how scenic the course was going to be. I’d only briefly looked at the course map and had focused on the ‘highway’ bit, not how close it was to the river. Hobart is gorgeous and the course didn’t disappoint, with frequent mountain and river views to both distract me and remind me of the positives of running.

20160110_080617.jpgIn fact, it was definitely a day of happy running. Of course it wasn’t all easy – there were some undulations on the course, particularly the long hill on the bridge before the turn around point. But it wasn’t hard to remember why I’d paid to do this and I had lots of random smiling moments and even a few moments of tearing up, thinking about how lucky I was to get to fly somewhere gorgeous to indulge in one of my favourite things to do.

I saw my friends just before the turn around point which was a big boost – one was running her first half and looked so happy to be there. From the turn around point, the distance felt ok – I was on the way back and could almost sniff the chocolate at the finish. Probably the hardest stretch was between the 13km and 18km drink station which felt longer than 5km as I was starting to get thirsty. I had another Clif shot block at 14km, even though I really didn’t feel like eating anything by then but knew I’d need it to get me through the last bit.

The big difference between my first half and this one is that I didn’t run out of ‘run’ at all. In my first half, I’d pretty much turned it into a walk with about 7km to go, mostly as the sun was out and I was baking. This time, with perfect overcast weather, I kept up my run/walk throughout and, even on the walking bits, was power-walking and managing 9:30min/kms. I just was in the zone and got on with it, smiling all the way. Seeing some of the back of the pack marathoners starting on their second lap as I was approaching my last 2km was also quite stirring – I couldn’t imagine having to run another 21km on top of what I’d done and made sure I applauded each of them for their efforts and determination.

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Turning back into Cadbury road and getting ready for the hill up to the finish line……and chocolate!

We’d been warned about the hill at the end (and had run down it at the start so knew what to expect) but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought. The incentive of the finish line at the top was enough to keep me going. As was my time – I’d been running really well and, all along, had known that I was on track for a PB. My 5km time was about the same as my current parkrun times, my 10km was my equal best in 12 months and I thought my 15km time might be a PB (turns out I missed out by 20 seconds!). Getting to the bottom of the hill with 1.2km to go, I knew it was definitely going to be a PB and that helped get me up the hill quicker. I ran a bit and power walked the rest then ran for the finish as fast as my tired legs could carry me.

20160110_095044.jpgI crossed the finish line having knocked 11 minutes and 41 seconds off my previous best half marathon time and feeling absolutely amazing. A fellow five30 runner was there to offer congratulations, give me a hug and present me with my goodie bag (including chocolate!) then I made my way to the VIP area to see my friends. We’d all finished in times we were elated about, having achieved our personal goals. The VIP area was the perfect place to celebrate with post-race massages (nothing like a physio’s elbow in your glutes to make you feel alive!), bacon and egg roll breakfast (which I couldn’t actually bring myself to eat), all the sugary drinks we needed and chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate (which, ironically, I wasn’t up to eating!).

The rest of the day was spent relaxing back in our apartment and celebrating – pizza, cider and a km by km recount of our race for dinner then a long and happy sleep, thoroughly exhausted.

2 days later and I’m still on a high, so proud of what I achieved and basking in the memories of a fabulous weekend. When can we do it all again!?!