Hoka One One trail event #5 – Night run @ Studley Park

I have thoroughly enjoyed running in the Hoka series of trail events this year and was really, really looking forward to the night run. Just to add to this, the weather forecast was for perfect running conditions (not always guaranteed in Spring).

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The Yarra River looking serene and beautiful at the end of a perfect Spring day

I trekked over to Melbourne quite early – I had some things to do on the way and assumed that, being a Friday night, traffic might be a bit of an issue. This was indeed true – traffic was a big issue. In the end, what should have been a 1 hour drive took just over 2 hours. Still, thanks to me leaving ridiculously early, I got there with time to spare and wandered the event village, soaking up the atmosphere and getting into my zen mood. I also bumped into a work friend who I haven’t seen for ages which was great. Half of my running friends arrived and we headed to the start line (the other half were still stuck in traffic and arrived a bit after the start).

We had to be quite creative about our start line selfies this time as night time had descended but we managed it then it was time for me to go. After we started, I wanted to get the road bit done as quickly as possible and just get onto the trail. And once I was on the trail, I absolutely loved it. I had wondered whether it would be a bit creepy or whether I’d feel unsafe (not from the bogeyman but more likely from tree roots!) but I didn’t feel either of those things. I just loved it. After about 3km, I caught up with a running friend and we ran together for the rest of it, over the bridge (shaky as ever!) and through the bushland circuit onto the single track very close to the river.

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Start line selfies, made slightly more complicated in the dark

The finish line actually crept up too soon for my liking – I found myself finishing and wishing I’d done the medium course instead. The atmosphere at the finish was great – the finish line literally delivered you to Studley Boathouse where the kiosk was awaiting with lots of energy replenishing goodies while we waited for our other friends to finish.

This event and this series gets a huge thumbs up from me – I loved each of the courses and found the whole thing to be really well organised. Most importantly, the events had a very friendly, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere which is probably what I’d worried most about at the start, being new to trail running and not particularly speedy. I needn’t have worried – great events, friendly volunteers and fellow runners and amazing locations. See you all again next year!

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Hoka One One Trail event #4 – Anglesea

After adding ‘run a trail event’ to my goals for this year, I’ve managed to not just run one but quite a few, thanks mostly to the Hoka series of trail events. Last weekend I ran #4 of the 5 event series at Anglesea. This was timed to occur the day after the Surf Coast Century event so it was a massive weekend for trail running and had an atmosphere to match. I was running this without the usual crowd of running buddies so it was a little different for me – not bad, just different. Start lines with friends are about shared chatter and excitement, motivational talk and lots of pictures. Start lines alone are about quiet contemplation, positive self talk and taking it all in. This particular start line was on the beach which added to the whole zen thing. Again, it’s funny to think how far I’ve come as beach running used to terrify me. Now it’s just a bit of a pain but nothing I can’t handle….slowly!

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Start lines don’t get much more picturesque than this

Warm up done, we were off and running along a bit of the beach before turning back past the start to then head up into the trees.

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The first part of the course looked familiar from the Surf Coast trail half which was good as I don’t know Anglesea in general and really couldn’t picture where I was. After running along the edge of the caravan park, the trail took us into the bushland and, after a short while, up a rather steep hill that started at the football ground. It certainly wasn’t as sharp and nasty as the hill at Silvan but was challenging enough and slowed me right down.

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Photo courtesy of Supersport Images

Once we were on the other side of it (and I had more oxygen to spare), I could give more attention to the scenery around me, especially as I was pretty much out there on my own. It was a real mix of very skinny single tracks and wide roads as well as some weaving amongst buildings at the local Scout camp. Very scenic.

Soon enough, I rejoined the main trail where the long, medium and short courses converged and was heading back along the Surf Coast walk. Back down onto the beach then along the soft sand and into the finish chute. Thanks to the location and it being part of a trail festival weekend, there were more people at the finish than usual which gave me the motivation needed to get myself over the line.

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Another great event in a fantastic location. What I’ve been loving about this series of runs is the variety of scenery and terrain that you run through – challenging enough for the experienced and fast mountain goats but also perfect for trail newbies like myself. One more event in the series to go which I am looking forward to immensely – the night run back at Studley Park later in September.

Hoka One One trail series – event #3 Silvan

It’s a busy time for running events and this weekend was no exception with both a parkrun launch and the third event in the Hoka One One trail series, this one at Silvan Reservoir.

I was really excited about this one which shows how far I’ve come – hills used to terrify me, now I relish the challenge. It was also another chance for a great weekend away with my husband and running friends so definitely something I was looking forward to.

Our accommodation was only about 15 minutes drive so it wasn’t too early a start; it was definitely rather chilly as we got out of the car at the top of the hill and headed down to the event village. The long, medium and short courses had much closer start times for this event which made things a lot better – not so much standing around waiting after we’d waved people off. I waved off friends in the long course then, 5 minutes later, the medium course and had time for a toilet stop before I headed off for the short course start 30 minutes later.

The short course at Silvan was simply gorgeous. We headed up a road as we left the start then turned onto some single tracks which wove through the bushland, fringed by tree ferns. The weather was absolutely perfect for running – cold but not ridiculously so and spots of blue sky here and there.

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One of many logs, trees and branches that needed to be negotiated

The short course runners were bunched up for a little while but soon spread out and I felt for a long time like I was running on my own which was wonderful. I felt no pressure to run a particular time or keep up with anyone – just wanted to be out there, enjoying it. There were 2 women close by who I played leapfrog with for most of the event and it was good to share a quick laugh then get back to it.

There were some undulations but nothing too terrible – some good downhill stretches complete with mud for me to test out my new trail shoes; I’m pleased to say they acquitted themselves perfectly. While others around me were very carefully weaving down the hills, I just went, confident that I wasn’t going to slip and slide my way to the bottom.

And then, after what seemed like rather a short time, we met the hill we’d all been waiting for. The hill from hell. I knew it would be bad but actually found myself laughing when I saw it as it was so much worse than bad. But not impossible. As I climbed it, it was funny to hear people’s reactions as they turned the corner and saw it for the first time – there were definitely a few expletives shared although talking pretty much stopped once they started up it. Breath could not be spared for such things. I had to stop multiple times although, again, was glad of my trail shoes as at least I wasn’t slipping and sliding my way on the clay surface. However I didn’t stop grinning. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I walked it and yes, I had to stop a lot. But I felt amazing when I got to the top and even better as I was enjoying the feeling of flying down the other side.

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A photo cannot possibly capture the pain of this but perhaps the body language of the others runners gives a better idea

The last part involved running along a creek then crossing over a road before heading back to the finish chute where my friends and husband were waiting. Overall, it was an absolutely stunning course and I was really happy with my run. It obviously wasn’t the fastest but that just meant I got to enjoy the scenery for that bit longer. Bring on event #4 at Anglesea!

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Lots of single track magic at Silvan

 

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…

#hokaoneoneseries = time to hit the trails

I’ve had ‘try out a trail event’ on my list of goals for the last 2 years and finally made it to my first trail event today. The Hoka trail series kicked off this morning at Melbourne’s Studley Park, somewhere I had already fallen in love with via the parkrun launch I attended there.

I headed up to Melbourne with a carload of friends who were covering all of the distances on offer (5km, 10km, 15km). My chosen distance was 5km – I figured I was stretching enough out of my comfort zone with the terrain and didn’t want to push it too much. I was surprised and so pleased to bump into some other friends there – always better to run with friendly faces around.

We saw one friend off on the 15km and then hung out for our 5km start. (The 10km start was 40 minutes after this so it was a long wait for our other friend, unfortunately). Soon enough, it was time for our warm up then time to go. The course starts out on the road which is wide enough for people to get into their rhythm and find where they fit. After about 1km, you head onto the path and down towards the river on a trail of mostly gravel (with a few mud spots), along the side of the freeway. I was glad to leave the road behind and get amongst the trees – such a gorgeous part of the world. I frequently wanted to stop and take a few photos but was enjoying the run too much and didn’t want to break my zen-like state.

Getting down to the river, I remembered that what goes down, must go back up again and we headed up then down one of the ‘undulations’. Going back down was a bit slippery and I was stuck behind quite a tentative runner, picking their way amongst the mud but I didn’t mind slowing down and taking it all in. More gorgeous glimpses of the river then time to head back up the hill towards the bridge. We ran past the 10km runners milling at their start and I saw my friend then ran across the wibbly, wobbly bridge (which really is much easier to run across than walk!). We then turned left for the last loop – a run through bushland where you feel a million miles away from the city and civilisation. This was my absolute favourite part – a quiet and serene gravel trail through the bush on the out section before heading back on a single track of pure muddy awesomeness, constantly threatening to slip you into the Yarra. Add to that the complication of having fast 15km runners wanting to pass and it definitely makes for some fun times!

Almost too soon, it was over and we headed under the bridge and along to the finish line. Having my name announced as I crossed the finish was pretty cool and I’m sure I had the biggest grin on my face – simply can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

My friend and I then hung out in the drizzle for the rest of our crew, cheering them each over the line and rewarding ourselves with a couple of coffee stops in between. It wasn’t a chore to hang out for them as the event village had a good vibe, even in the typical Melbourne Winter weather.

Verdict? I absolutely loved my first trail event experience and am really looking forward to the next event in the series that I’m running in Silvan in a couple of months time. Bring it on!

First trail event but clearly didn’t try hard enough – not enough mud!!! #running #traillove

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