surf coast trail marathon – not a race recap

It was one of my running goals this year to not run. Odd, I know. I wanted to make sure I gave up some of my potential runs and chose to volunteer instead. The running community has given me so much over the last few years, I wanted to be able to give something back and make sure others could experience what I have. Hence why I didn’t run the Surf Coast trail half marathon today but instead chose to don a high vis vest and volunteer instead.

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Sunrise from our briefing point in Torquay

For those who haven’t volunteered at a running event before, it’s not hard. I was a marshal today which involved turning up for briefing (easy), finding my given marshal point (quite easy) and raising my arm every now and then to point in the appropriate direction, accompanied by cheering and words of encouragement (very easy). The hardest part was probably not running although I did quite a lot of pacing around to keep myself warm while I waited enthusiastically for some runners to cheer on.

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My marshal point

In fact, I’m actually quite enamoured with this whole volunteering thing. You get a whole different perspective on running, events and the human spirit. I saw fast runners today for whom the whole thing looked completely effortless. And many of them gave up some much needed breathing time to thank me for volunteering.

I saw a whole range of different runners with different styles and different levels of concentration and pain on their faces. I saw some runners at the back of the pack who I thought were just amazing. It’s one thing to run with a group of people around you for motivation or with crowds awaiting you at the aid stations. It’s quite another to be out there almost alone, knowing you’ll be out there for twice as long as the ones at the front. All running requires you to draw deep but I feel like that sort of running requires you to draw into a magical well of miraculous depth. A well that most of us never have to find out whether we have access to. So my loudest and most enthusiastic cheers of the day went to those runners who had been out on the course the longest.

And, when the sweepers came through, letting me know that my shift was over, I headed along to the next aid station to continue cheering people on and gaining further appreciation for the human spirit as I watched runners wading across a river on the course which they probably hadn’t realised was going to be there. Resulting in my very wet feet thanks to the king tide that engulfed them when I was paying more attention to the runners than I was to where I was standing. All in the name of running fun.

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So, all in all, a very successful volunteering experience. If you haven’t volunteered at an event before, do it. Not as daunting as you’d think and a great way to spend a few hours. A huge congratulations to every single runner out there on the course today – you’re all simply incredible 🙂

 

 

Afterglow – race recap

There are runs that are serious. Where you want to get a good time and you’ve followed your training plan to get there. Then there are runs which are really designed for fun and frivolity. Afterglow is definitely one of those. The dress code? Fluoro running gear (the brighter the better), tutus, sparkly bits and pieces, something to light up the night. The venue? Along the gorgeous trails of the Surf Coast of Victoria, from Southside to Torquay.

So, we dressed accordingly and rocked up to the meeting point where we chatted, added our glowsticks, sorted out where our battery packs would go (because of course we all had fairy lights on our tutus!) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Soon enough, we jumped onto the bus (having managed to somehow time it completely wrongly so we weren’t on the one our friend was driving!) and were taken to our start point at Southside. The bus driver had to give us some persuading to actually get off the bus as the wind felt like it was coming straight from Antarctica. We huddled together and waited patiently for the other buses to arrive so that we could be briefed. The briefing was…well…brief. Ocean on your right, keep moving forward, head towards the lights. And then, finally, time to start.

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If you look closely, you can see the fluorescent runners making their way along Bells Beach

The first part was great – a gentle downhill wind through a beautiful trail, ultimately spilling us out onto the iconic sands of Bells Beach. These sands are of the soft and challenging variety so took a bit of time and then ended up taking longer as one of our friends dropped her keys so a search ensued. Keys rediscovered, we continued our trek back up the stairs at the other end of Bells.

From there, the track continues its general up and down, twisty path towards Torquay. We were all taking it easy – definitely here for a good time, not a fast time. There were some spectacular jumps, a few wardrobe malfunctions (running with fairy lit tutus was always going to have its problems) and lots of chatter.

As we ran into Torquay itself, we encountered some of the nightlife – some kids hanging out in the park and some drunk, beer gutted men yelling ‘encouragement’. I had enjoyed my run up to this point but was starting to lose interest once we were back in civilisation. The cruel part of this run is that they take you right next to the finish line, only to send you out onto the beach for a couple of kilometres. If I had lost interest before, this was the ‘enough’ point. In the darkness, the beach seemed to stretch on forever and it felt like my friend and I were the only people out there. I was so grateful for her company but at the same time, I wanted to be anywhere but there. We finally reached the wonderful volunteer marshall who directed us up the dune from hell (albeit fringed with pretty lights) back to the path.

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Glowing my way across the finish line

Once at the top, we were again engulfed in darkness and felt like we were miles from anywhere or anyone. We shuffled our way back towards the finish line. The beauty and treachery of the trails is that you might not really be far away but the twists, turns and scrub throw your sense of distance. We crested a hill and saw (and heard) the finish line. As a sign of how long it had taken, there were a couple of marshals ahead of us, coming off duty. I found a final burst of energy and sprinted for the line, crossing it with cheers from my ever patient husband and friends as my soundtrack.

So, the verdict? This is definitely a fun event – the volunteers are as zanily dressed as the runners and give such a happy vibe to the proceedings. The course is gorgeous but tougher than I’d given it credit for (despite having run it all previously in reverse). And the bling at the end is very funky. If you’re up for something different and want to end your year with a bang, this is the event for you 🙂 Just make sure you bring a crowd – it’s not an event to do on your own and, as with so many events this year, wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without my fabulous running friends.

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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.

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.

 

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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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!

back on the trail…

When I saw that today’s weather was forecast to be a sunny, blue skied day (coming at the end of a week of Autumn drizzle), I knew I had to make the most of it and get back out on the trails.

I headed down to Torquay and picked up where I stopped last time I went on the Surfcoast walk. There were lots and lots of families, walkers, runners and riders out enjoying the sunshine so the first part through Torquay was a bit of a ducking and weaving exercise. However, once I was heading away from town towards Jan Juc, the people mostly disappeared.

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The scenery on this part of the trail is absolutely stunning. Once you’re around the boardwalk at Jan Juc, the trail climbs slowly up onto the cliffs and you are rewarded for your efforts with frequent, breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean.

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This part of the trail is a combination of surfaces – concrete, dirt and sand. The sand parts in this section are short and easy – they were actually a lot of fun as I can’t say I have huge experience of running in sand and it took me a while to figure out the best technique (in case you’re wondering – landing on my forefoot, like I do when going up hills!). I still ended up with shoes full of the stuff – I’m assuming that’s just an accepted hazard that I’ll have to get used to!

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There are also some hills on this section but not particularly big ones and the downhills make up for it 🙂

My achilles was starting to make its presence felt on the last km coming into Bells Beach so I was glad to be stopping there and waiting for my husband taxi service to collect me. Bells is as popular as ever with the car parks full of temporary wetsuit changing techniques (mostly involving a towel and the occasional accidental flash of flesh) and the waves dotted with surfers, bobbing up and down, waiting for the next amazing wave. I can’t say I like swimming in the ocean but I found it very relaxing sitting and watching them.

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So, another section done. I believe the next part heads into much more of a traditional trail – away from civilisation and into more rugged territory. Bring it on!