Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restart 2012

It's been nearly year since I blogged. It's been over a year since I ran properly. I've started both again, and hope to continue for a long time to come.

2011 was not a great year. It saw yet another move from one state to another, anxious times with kids, jobs, and a multitude of other things. I broke my toe early in the year, and really it took about 9 months to heal... which was painful! Towards the end of the year I became very sick and ended up in hospital with pneuomonia.

Still though I managed a couple of races (or attempts at them anyway). The Kokoda Challenge 96k on the Gold Coast was a highlight for me. Undertrained and overworked, but loving every minute of the time spent with 3 mates (Deb, one of my best friends; Claire, an old friend from years ago; and Scott, my little brother and long suffering male member of the team).

Doubting our ability to finish with a full team due a variety of factors, I was soundly proven wrong when we all crossed the finish line together in a bit over 24hrs! It was a shining moment in a year of blah.

After this event, I did zero running, compared to the minimal amount I did before it. I was working 60-70hours a week,days and nights, and frankly was just too tired to care. By the time December rolled around, I was keen to get moving again, mostly to get myself back to state of happiness I used to enjoy.

I was asked to help crew for a friend who was running the Coast to Kosi race in mid December. This is a 240km road race, from the ocean shores in New South Wales, to the top of the highest moutain in Australia. Since I will never enter this event, I was excited to help someone else make the journey. Wonderful!

The only other race I attempted this year (apart from 10km at Glasshouse... just for fun) was TNF 100k in May. I failed horribly. This was the 4th year for the event, and so far I had 3 finishes from 3 races. I was very proud of that, but 2011 saw me break the streak.

Lessons were learned... such as 'working all week, with no sleep, then driving 1000km to a race, bunking in with 5 people in a small room, and attempting to run 100k in some of the toughest conditions around is possibly asking too much'.

For those who are still reading (thanks) as this post is mostly to remind me about the bad times, as well as the good ones. And to remember that though things are sometimes tough, if you hang in there, it gets better.

Well I hung on, and now 2012 is already better. I've decided to run to work and back (12.5k each way) as my training. I still struggle to find the time to run, so adding a little to my 'work day' seems more feasible than coming home and then going out again. So far, so good.....

My brother is once again motivating me to move, checking on me each day to make sure I'm running enough and not getting slack :)

So here's to 2012. A year of renewing my passion for many things, but firstly for running.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hellfire Pass

Wow, Kokoda Trail 2011 is going to be amazing!

A nice long trail run out on the Kokoda Challenge Trail in the Gold Coast Hinterland with the 4 team members and an extra. We started at 3.30am to get in a few hours of night training.

I had worked a full day shift, then a full night shift, then a drive and now a long run. We had planned for 40k and I was already tired!

Night running is the best, my favourite bit of any event. We started at Check point 8, following the road up a hill before heading off into the bush, right up the side of a huge hill. A couple of our group were learning how to use their headlamps and after a few stops to make sure everyone could see.... carrying spare batteries is a lesson best learned here :)

The trails were spectacular, lots of single technical stuff and some open fire trail thrown in. We quickly came to Syd Duncan Park (CP10) and a most gorgeous sunrise. After only a short stop here we moved on. It was already cold... how freezing will this point be in July??

Up the road a bit and then a sign "Hellfire Pass" and the steepest downhill I've seen for a long time! Not wrongly signed... What a great trail.

The last section was the worst. I got so tired I was ready to nap on the track, but a sneaky double espresso in a can (latest find in my arsenal of legitimate trail snacks) and I was ready for the last section!

We had a lot of fun, learned a bit about ourselves and trail running. Looking forward to TNF100 in just a few weeks time.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Running on Empty - But Feeling Great

Well it's 3am on Sunday morning. I have worked 4 days shifts and 5 night shifts since Monday. I am officially shattered. I've also run 4 times this week. Twice doing hill repeats and the other times just around the local streets. I'm due to meet a friend at 7am for another run. I hope that this can all balance out somehow, as squeezing running in between shifts of work makes for tired, slow running (more slow than normal) Pleased to say though, that all this activity has seen the kg's dropping off me. I should be able to hit TNF 100k the lightest I've been in about 4 years, making for easier movement all round. Being active is what makes me happy. Although I'm rushing from place to place, I get more done this way. The house is clean, the kids are sorted, I'm running more, and working twice as much. Even started getting dinner cooked early so I can go to the boys footy practises. And why am I telling you all this? No idea. Sometimes this page is just for me to spill some thoughts that I can look back on in later times and remember the path I've taken and what happened along the way. I'm happy again, which has been a long time coming. I feel settled and content in myself. My children are happy at a good school, and I have sufficient work to keep us all fed and clothed. I'm running with 4 different people, who keep me motivated and upbeat. Strength training has been added to routine for great results. My family is close by, and I'm running with my wonderful little brother again. Life is Good. Selah.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

North Face for the Fourth Time

My favourite race is coming up soon. 8 weeks away.

The North Face 100k in the Blue Mountains, Australia.

I'm excited and terrified. I'm not ready, with a busted foot, and a head space that can barely deal with the day to day things, let alone decent training.

I've only been doing long walks, but enjoying them. I've taken my friend out on a few. She's training for the Kokoda challenge on the Gold Coast in July. She wants me to join her team. I think I will.

Last weekend was 40k on the Kokoda track, walking time just over 9hours. So at that rate I should be able to finish TNF100 in the 28hrs allowed.

I have finished all 3 other TNF100's and want to keep going and try to always do this race, every year... so even if I have to walk all of it, I'll be there.

My favourite event. Can't wait!


Yes, shoes. I am wearing shoes.

It all started when I went out for my first decent trail run in Queensland after moving back here just before Christmas.

My long suffering brother is getting me back into it after a long break. It was Australia Day and we celebrated by going for a run 'in the bush'. Vibrams at the ready, as usual.

I was tired and tripped a few times during our relatively short trot. Looking back, I was so tired I shouldn't have run. But after a few stumbles, I managed to hook my little toe on a tree root while falling sideways into the mud. The pain was immediate and intense. I got up and tried to keep moving without much success. Limping the 2k back to the car was all that happened. I slipped once in a puddle of mud and felt the pain shoot me again!

At the car, I eventually took my VFF off, scared at what I'd find. My little toe was sticking out at an awkward angle, obvioulsy not good.... I cried, not from pain, but worried I'd need to find a doctor who'd hurt it more (Funny now). I decided on my usual course of action. Ignore it and hope it will get better on its own.

Scott helpfully told me it was probably dislocated and to pull it back into line. Yeah... not gonna happen bro. I drove home and spent the rest of the day lying down with as many painkillers as I could take. I decided after a few days that it was the metatarsal that had been damaged, rather than my toe.

That was 8 weeks ago. I can almost bend my toe now. It's only swollen after standing all day, or walking. Running has been cancelled since then. Shame really, as TNF100k is only 8 weeks away now. Oh well, it'll be a long walk.

But this post is about shoes. My toe was too swollen for VFF, and I needed to keep moving, so I purchased a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves. They were wide enough in the toe box for my ? broken metatarsal, and I could limp along in them without fear of catching my toe again and doing more damage.

Turns out they are pretty good shoes. I did an initial 13k in them on rough terrain, and with no extra damage to my foot, declared them perfect! Since then I've done a few long walks in them (18k, 12k) and found them to be hard on my achilles and heels, but otherwise great.

Last weekend I did 40k with 2400m of climb/drop in the Merrells, through water, mud, rocks, road, dirt... everything. They protected my still tender foot, while still being a good 'barefoot' option.

Bring on The North Face 100k I say.... where 'RunBare' will be wearing shoes :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kokoda.... the Ultimate

Well its been a long while since I blogged.

My motivation has been at an all time low.

After The North Face 100 in May, I stopped running. Totally. I stepped out for a 5k run at the Canberra Bush Capital, and walked City 2 Surf in August (my 8th in a row) with a friend.

I began working again, at first just a couple of days a week, but it has quickly become a 5-6day a week job and I am working physcially hard, which has been good for my body and soul.

I have begun running again this week. Although only 3 times... 5k, 4.5k and 5k... it felt so good!

My goals for 2011 have already been set and after a long bout of sitting, I'm off again.

Next year I would like to break 20hours at TNF to finally get a buckle and the big goal...

The Kokoda Track Race in August. In Papua New Guinea, the place of my childhood. A long held dream of mine to complete this mammoth track. The race has not been run for a few years now, due to problems with logistics etc. But next year, its back!

96k, mud, heat, 6000m of elevation gain, mud, dozens of raging rivers to cross, mud, 39 hours to finish, climbing hand over hand up huge hills... did I mention mud??

I can't wait! My 2 younger brothers are coming with me to run the race, and my parents are going to walk it, starting about 5 days before us to meet us at the end. From Owers Corner to Popondetta, across the Owen Stanley Range, this race is not your standard ultra, so I'm pretty excited.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in PNG, and I have never yet returned. I still speak the local lingo and can't wait to get back there and take in the sights, sounds and smells of my childhood.

Everyone I talk to tells me it's ridiculous to even try. I don't do well running in heat (but I do ok walking strongly), I'm slow (but I'm consistent and persistent), and only a couple of other non PNG national women have ever tried it, one of them taking abouy 55hours to finish (well I intend to make it 3, and maybe the quickest to date)

For me I see it as a coming together of my worlds... my childhood, my family, and my love of running trails.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Closer to the Buckle

Well it was 2 weeks ago I was lying in a bunk bed in Leura, sleeplessly waiting for the alarm to go off. I never sleep well the night before a big race. Particularly if I'm really hoping for a good result. Which is very counterproductive, but that's another story.

It's North Face 100 time! The third running of this race, and my third start. I'm not sure why I love this race so much... it could be the stunning scenery, the fact that to get to the end is so hard, the friends, the tonnes of gear... who knows, but I love it.

5am, and I figured 'Bugger it, everyone can get up now'. So I woke up my 3 room mates with my muttering and shuffling around with food and gear. Bart, from my old running club in Sydney, who will run another blinder today. Brett, my neighbour from Wodonga, who last year watched me run a few 100ker's and thought he'd like to have a go. And Scott. My little bro, who is graciously running with me again today/tonight/tomorrow. The brother and sister Freaky Footwear Act :)

Breakfast, joking, repacking, water, more breakfast, and we're set. All formalities out of the way, we stand on the start line, not at all cold. I took off my thermal and jacket since it was about 6 degrees. Much warmer than Canberra. Scott was cold... Queensland boy :)

We set off, with Sonia and Scott just in front of me. Last year Sonia met me at Check Point4 with some pasta and help to warm me up. This year she's tackling the 54k. She is seriously the best dressed runner out there :) Looking gorgeous! Anyhow after a few km on the road, we headed into the first bush section. There was a huge bottleneck here, and we waited in line for abut 15-20 minutes to get moving. Which just became a slow conga line down to the water. I love the downhill technical sections, but we just walked down.

Once it opened out a bit, we got moving. The first section went by quickly, and the stairs up to Check Point 1 were as brutal as I remember. Scott talked me up the steps, waiting patiently for me when I needed to rest. At the top I grabbed some food, and kept moving. Up the steep concrete path.... how did I forget this bit??? Yuk!

Soon the path opened up to some gorgeous firetrail, with spectacular views and sunny skies. Down to Tarros Ladders which had NO wait at all this year. I am dead scared of the ladders, but scurry down them each time, knowing it will be over in only a couple of minutes.

There are so many parts to this race that I enjoy. The steep downhill where your legs are screaming for rest, the steep uphills and steps where your lungs are screaming to burst... the little creek crossings.... but my favourite bit is Iron Pot Ridge. It's on private land so no one can train here. In fact, you can't go out here except in this race. There is no trail. You have to climb a horribly steep hill and pick your way through nasty sharp rocky outcrops, on hands and knees if you're a chicken like me. Then some scrubby bush to the turn around and one of the most amazing views I've ever seen. The whole valley laid out before you... I long for this point in the race every time. And so quickly it's gone.

Check Point 2 was going quickly, and we moved on, Scott calling out times and paces to me to keep me going. I found this really helpful. He judged the pace needed to keep at about 20 hour time, and I just had to follow. He had started to cramp at only 20k, so was hurting in his own run, and here he is, keeping me going.

CP3 is the first for crew, so we got some hot food and a change of gear, headlamps and snacks to head off with. Some nice flat running for a while before heading up Nellies Glen. Brett caught us here and overtook us. I struggle up steps, I just hate them. I don't mind a hill, but not steps. Not a good race if you hate steps... Once at the top, we trotted off again, though I was starting to feel tired by now. We pulled into the checkpoint, got some hot food again, and headed off with Brett into the night.

This is the part of the race I usually find quite enjoyable. Down the Giant Staircase and then 10k of mostly downhill running. This time I was tired. Just weary. I wanted to rest. But we kept on moving and hit the 3 water crossings before the long uphill of Kedumba. Here is was that I wished I had rememberd to put No-Doze in my pack. I just wanted to sleep. My vision was being partially blocked out, so I felt like was looking through binoculars. My brain convinced me that it would be a good idea to stop, get all my gear out, put it on, wrap myself in the space blanket and have a little rest. Just for half an hour or so... Really you'll feel better if you do. So I shared this cunning plan with Scott, who sensibly yelled 'NO! That's crazy! Keep moving'.

Half way up we encountered the SES guys, and I begged for caffiene, but to no avail. Their tent looked inviting and warm and my brain again told me to stop and have a rest. But no, push on. This was the lowest point for me. I desperately wanted to sleep so told Scott I wanted to quit at the next check point. He told me in no uncertain terms that there was NO way I was quitting. He did not come all this way to DNF. There would running, walking, and crawling, if required, but no DNF. I warmed to this idea, particularly after CP5 and some food. And several No Doze.

Leaving here with only 11k to go you can be lulled into believing that it all be over soon. Folly! Utter folly! The road is easy to move on and move we did. Faster and faster... till we going about 7km/hour at times :) But mostly about 6k/hour ;) The sandy tracks give way to rough rocky single file technical trail. My favourite kind. We moved even faster, overtaking many people during this section. At one stage we picked up Ray (eagle from CoolRunning) and he tacked on with us. I was very feeling very emotional at this point, with my long suffering brother in front, and a dear friend (and someone I ran with in my first ultra) behind me. Ray matched my steps, running when I ran, walking when I did. What a great place to be!

Down the steps into the valley and Lillians Bridge. Why did Lillian put her silly bridge all the way down here?? I'll never know, but at least after last year I knew we had 2km to go to the finish. By now the extra pace I'd put on meant I was feeling quite sick, and every time I stopped to catch my breath, I felt I would be ill. So I stopped stopping. Each step hurt, but no stopping. No talking, just moving.

We came out onto the grass and launched into my speech about how much I valued Scott's company, about how much he meant to me and how grateful I was to him for staying with me. And of course how much I love him.... We managed a slow trot here, and out of the dark came Brett, who had waited for us to arrive so we could all cross the finish together. How blessed I am!

22.22.18 And a very nice PB for me. We didn't make 20 hours, so for the third year in a row I go home without a buckle. But I am proud of what I did. The last section tested me beyond my normal level of running, and I kept going. I moved faster than the previous 2 sections, and managed to hold it all together to the end. We sat around eating and drinking, wrapped in blankets, trading stories of the trail.

I love this sport. This stupid, crazy, maddening, obsessive, ridiculous excuse for a hobby. Anything would be easier. But this is where I find joy. The friends, the hills, the tiredness, the pain, the tears, the laughter.

It sounds so cliched, but I come alive here.