Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sydney Marathon Clinic April

Today was the 8th race at Sydney Marathon Clinic for the season and the 8th I've finished :) Just one more to go to gain the coveted 'whole lot' series t-shirt. This was a goal I set myself in the middle of 2007, after completing the 5k series last year. Another Half Marathon, while not the fastest time I've ever done, not the slowest either and certainly done under the most pressure physically.

I'm tired. Actually that's an understatement. I've done 4 big runs in 2 weeks. This time last year I would have needed 2-3 weeks to recover from even one of those runs. In fact, three of those I would not have been able to complete.

My body has been pushed and hasn't broken. I have no injuries and I'm gearing up for a go at a 100k race. That challenge is in 3 weeks and I'm so excited! I'm going to take this time to rest and recover, so I can face the race strong and ready.

Bring on the long mountain trail run!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The North Face 100 Training Run

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better......

Another early morning gathering of runners, again in the rain and fog of the Blue Mountains. The buglar played the last post, a fitting start to an ANZAC day run. After a minutes silence, we split into different groups to cover various sections of The North Face 100 run.

Our small group (Craig, Belinda, Lynda and myself) decided to do the last 40k of the course . We knew this would done at night and we wanted to see the terrain during the day. The rain didn't last very long, but the ground was extremely slippery. We followed Rod down about 500 stairs (at a guess) and by the time we reached the base my legs were shaking badly. I hate heights and I hate stairs. This course will be a challenge!

There was some navigating required and between us we managed to find our way through almost everything. Only once did we do an unecessary loop when faced with the option of 4 different paths at once!

I had a test run with the new VFF Flows today. Perfect conditions to try them out. It was cold, rainy and very very wet. There was water all over the trail, thick mud and slippery conditions. We also ran in sand and on rocks at some points. These 'shoes' are the best I've worn yet. My feet were 100% protected with not even a grain of sand getting in! The mud stayed out and the neoprene uppers kept my feet quite warm, even when wet. These shoes get 2 thumbs up from me.

The views we were rewarded with towards the end of the run were simply incredible. Wentworth Falls, The Undercliff Walk, Kedumba Walls.... this gorgeous part of the world is virtually in my backyard, and yet I'd never seen it.

After about 32k, I began to tire badly. This was my 3rd long run in 13 days. (50k Canberra, 50k Hellgate and now today). I told the others to carry on to finish the 40k and I would walk back to car through the streets of Katoomba and meet them there. They all graciously decided to stay with me and we walked back what turned out to be about 8k anyway! To top it all off, the streets were up and down huge hills ;)

After a simply delicious hot chocolate and brownie at the cafe, I drove home, satisfied with yet another day running in the great Aussie bush.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ninja Chicken Feet

Well I now have the lastest version of the Vibram Five Fingers. These are called "Flows" or "Ninja Chicken Feet" for fun :)

This model is made of neoprene (like a wetsuit) so much suited to the cold/wet conditions of the winter mountain trails. Can't wait to take them for a spin on Friday in the Blue Mountains.

N.B. Any and all credit for the clever name "ninja chicken feet" is hereby credited to Tim. At no point was I witty enough to come up with such a cool name :)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hellgate Gorge Fat Ass

A handful of brave or perhaps foolhardy souls lined up at the Deviation on the Six Foot Track for a crack at Hellgate. A 'somewhat difficult' trail run through some of the most beautiful countryside this planet has to offer. The rain did little to dampen our spirits, and possibly made the pace for the first few km just that little bit faster.

Down into Jenolan Caves, then through the caves area as the rain cleared was very enjoyable. It's here that Craig, one of our party, turned around and headed back up to the Deviation. Across a pretty stream and into a charming field, then the person I was following said 'up there' and pointed up a steep bush section of a mountain. After I realised it wasn't a joke, off we went. There was no trail, just slowly picking my way up, trying not to slide back down. The views were awesome!

This lead out on to a fire trail, which we followed, before running on the road for while, then back on to another fire trail. After many kms had passed and it had become evident that we may have chosen an alternate route, I recall saying "I don't mind how much futher we've run, as long as we don't have to go back up THAT hill". Famous last words!!

We saw another runner at the water drop and double checked with him as to our whereabouts. He kept us company for a short while before shooting off into the distance, with our message of possibly being slightly longer than planned.

Time was made up for our detour as we picked up the pace a little in the section leading down into the Gorge. Apart from the 6 or 7 times I fell over down the slippery slopes... (I really need to get used to this shoe wearing concept), this was welcome relief from the uphills. Stopped once to remove a leech from inside my sock, who had sucked enough of my blood to nearly choke itself.

The view from the bottom of the gorge was frighteningly spectacular. I felt I was seeing something very special, seldom witnessed in this couch loving, relaxation seeking world.

Then came the understanding of why this place was named Hellgate. I think I could count about 15 times I wished to die on that climb back up. By now the 50k of last weekend and the extra kms earlier in the run were starting to bite me badly. My running partner encouraged me up that mountain, step by step at times. To see the gate at the top was magic.

But not quite as magical as seeing headlights in the distance on the Black Range Road and finding out it was a rescuer in the form of Gareth. My brain was set to finish the distance off if necessary, but my body was much keener on the ride.

Upon reaching the end and realising we had covered 50k in about 10 hours I felt quite satisfied. There are some experiences money can't buy. Many of these can be found running the trails. Knowing that there are others willing to drive 2-3 hours to stand in the rain for a photo before embarking on a 6-10 hour run. Seeing scenery that takes your breath away, realising only a relative few have also been here. Finding that extra bit inside yourself that you weren't sure was there, when the hill seems to go on endlessly upward. Feeling at one with the world when your body is at odds with its own pain.....

I did feel sorry for the people on the train who shared a carriage with me on my trip back down to Sydney. By this time of night most were youngsters dressed up and off for a night on the town in Sydney and here was I, filthy dirty, blood filled shoe, with my bags of gear beside me, dressed like a reject from a Paddy Pallin store, ravenously stuffing down vegemite sadwiches. Ahhh good times.

I can't wait to do it all again!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Five for the price of One

Canberra Marathon - April 2008, perhaps one of the most interesting days I've ever had running.

I met some great people at the pre race pick up/registration afternoon and watched a few friends compete in the 5k and 10k races. Then it was off to a slightly cramped motel room with all 6 of us eventually finding a spot to sleep. Well to lie awake and wonder why on earth I was doing this run.

I lay there with the familiar thoughts going through my head
"I'm not really a runner, who do I keep showing up at this things?"
"I will once again, be at the back of the pack and feel like I haven't trained hard enough"
"What if I find that I can't actually do this race in Five Fingers and look like a fool?"

I'm still struggling to let go of the person who never participated in any sport for fear of looking foolish. I have glimpses of what I'd like to see myself as, but mostly my brain trips me up. With this in mind I decided I would finish the 50k no matter what, if only to further put behind me the mental image of a girl who always gave up.

I arrived very early at the event, in fact before much activity had begun. I find this helps me start the day more relaxed. I like to watch the goings-on before a race. The organisers frantically adjusting things at the last minute, nervous competitors going through pre-race rituals, supporters fussing over family and friends.

Waiting in the hall before the start, chatting to others, it became apparent that today would be wet and cold. Rain started to fall and the decision to start in Five Fingers was easy to make. I can't run on bitumen in the rain with bare feet. It hurts.

And cold it was, freezing really. The drizzle went on for quite a while and I don't think I was ever quite dry during the whole race. The first couple of hours ticked by nicely, and I felt comfortable. I kept telling myself not to rush as people ran past me... I was here for 50k. At 25k I worried for a bit that I would not get there, but realised I'd set a new PB for this distance by about 6 minutes (2.48), which gave a much needed boost. Again at 30k another PB, this time by 15 minutes (3.27).

I had taken my 5 Fingers off at 28k, as the soles of my feet were desperate to feel the ground, and the seams of the shoes were starting to cut my into my feet. I carried the shoes for the rest of the way to the marathon finish, which must have looked rather ridiculous.

Although I had wanted to go under 5 hours for the marathon, I didn't quite make it. 5.07.54 for 42.2k today. Still it was another PB by 12 minutes this time. Tim and Lorna cheered me through the line and I plodded on to finish the last 7.8k.

I started walking, as the will to push on had basically dried up. After a quick drink and a couple of lollies I found some new energy and started running, albeit slowly, down the path.

After posting another PB at 45k (5.33) a most unsual thing happened. The black skies opened up and huge rain drops began to fall. These quickly turned into little hailstones, then larger hailstones. I laughed out loud, thinking no one would believe me that I'd run in the hail... but it didn't stop. It got heavier and harder and more difficult to run in. People sheltered under bridges and building awnings, but I stubbornly carried on. Running on ice pellets while being hit with yet more ice pellets is strangely difficult to do!

I actually passed one person in this last stretch of the race, which to me was a victory... especially as he called to me "You're way too fast for me today!"

The hail eventually stopped and I ran through the finish line for a second time, sore and sorry but satisfied. 6.18.31 was my time and I'll take that as my 5th PB for the day.

The race organiser checked to see if all was ok, as I was barefoot, and once assured I was, he delivered the slightly disappointing news that they had run out of medals for finishers. I'll wait patiently for that at some point in the future....

As always I learned a lot about life and myself while running today. There are so many people out there, all with their own goals and ambitions for the day. Those who are out to win, in blistering times that make my head spin, others going for that elusive PB. Some out to conquer fear, others to tick another item off their 'bucket list'. New runners, old runners, parents, grandparents, husbands and wives... I watched others around me as I ran and realised all our experiences are the 'most important' of the day.

There are 1041 'finishers' stories from this day and I was one of them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Six Foot Track Video

Will's video of the 2008 Six Foot Track......Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I came to some conclusions yesterday. I did some hill training and felt so good, I ran a bit more. Then I just was done. This meant that for the month of March, I'd run 247k. I wanted it to be 250k up till that point.

But I realised I'm a runner, I'll go again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. 3k extra to make up 250/300k for the month won't change my chance of lining up at a 100mile race later this year. And trying to impress others with a 'huge' total won't make me any better, or heighten my enjoyment of running. It's about the happiness, simplicity, satisfaction in your emotional life :)

Only Six Foot Track and one other trail run was in 5Fingers, so 192k barefoot this month. I also realised last night, that I have not worn shoes (except 5F's) to run at all this year. 544k, with 175k in slippers :) all the rest totally barefoot.

We have wide strong feet for a reason. They are meant to CARRY us, walking or running. Shoes can be pretty, but I don't think they help our bodies work better. I feel stronger now, and more in control of my running.

And if it makes me stronger, why go back to the weaker way? I'm still being asked when I'll go back to running in shoes. never...

When I finish a run, people always ask how my feet are. Even a long run, they only ask about my feet. My feet are great, strong, no pain, brilliant. My muscles hurt though, and I'm tired... the same as everyone else. But not injured.

If my whole body felt as good as my feet, I'd never stop running.