I’ve got some pretty good mates. A fair few of them have been brought to me via the parkrun community – Kelly and Jeremy are perfect examples. Absolutely the best kind of people (who love to send cowbells to friends … Continue reading
I refuse to sulk over my ITB injury setting me back I dunno, like a whole friggin year. Eager to soak up some glory from fellow parkrunners I went down to spectate and cheer at the Lark Hill 50km and 100km ultra marathon last night. As far as events go, this one was perfect for spectating. It’s a 3km loop. Yeah – round and round and ROUND for 50km or 100km. Craaaazyyyyy!!!
My husband honestly shakes his head when I tell him I’m off to watch a running event. He just doesn’t understand why I’d be bothered. Watching a marathon or any running event is awesome. You get to witness greatness. Whether it’s the front runners powering past you at a pace you couldn’t even dream of maintaining for 1km to those at the back, slogging away and putting one foot in front of the other determined to finish the distance. ALL of them are inspiring. Watching an ultra marathon is just the same as going to watch an AFL game. You get to cheer everyone on, you get to chat with other spectators, share some laughs and a few beers maybe, and generally you get wrapped up in the joy of it all. You see strength, you see weakness, you see people urging others to continue, you see all the good, bad and ugly involved in sport. It’s cool. But unlike watching an AFL game, watching an ultra marathon has its own special bonus: the “players” are your friends. You actually personally know, or are acquainted with, those runners out there. You’ve watched them train, you’ve had chats about the upcoming event and you’re watching them sweat out a PB or grit their teeth to just get to the finish line.
So, we got to Lark Hill just as the race had started. Within 13 minutes or so the front runners had finished the first 3km and were back at the start. It took about 2 laps for the field to spread out along the whole course and then from then no matter where you stood on the course you’d have runners going past you every few seconds.
Bec, Kelly and I set up station maybe 500m? from the start/finish. I was a bit dismayed that after a 5km walk that morning my knee was completely fucked and even walking that far hurt a lot. Anyway…. At the Perth marathon last year I saw a group of people rock up with cowbells and they clanged them loudly for the runners and made a helluva noise! It created a really cheery atmosphere and made me smile. So, I found myself a cowbell and some Christmas bells and took them with me to Lark Hill. Initially I was a bit self conscious about shaking them. What if people hated them? What if the event was about enjoying the serenity of the darkness? Jeeeez… but the bells made ME so happy surely they’d make other people happy? I decided I’d not hauled my arse all the way down to Port Kennedy to spectate silently for hours. I busted out the bells.
Seriously. It was a whole lotta clanging jangly goodness going on. For 4 hours I cheered the 100 or so race entrants past me again and again. In the dark it’s damn hard to distinguish a runner and in fact some of them ran without a head torch so sometimes I looked up to see that they were almost past me! Chris Lark was gunning around and I recognised him by how he runs. Just for the record I can also pick out Ben Harris, Jon Storey, Gary Wilmot and Emma Luscombe by the way they move :) Everyone else got a cheer and once they’d come close enough (and their head torch was not shining in my face) I could see who it was so there was a belated “Go Pam! Go Chris! Go guy dressed as a unicorn!”
One guy shouted “Ole” at me every time he came past. What a champ. A few runners said thank you every single time. I saw a few people taking a walk break, and urged them to continue. I knew a big swag of the entrants and Jeremy, Kelly and Bec knew more as well so between us we identified and cheered on individuals we knew. Randy in the green shirt, Barb, Abdul, Jez and Marnie Selton, Adilah, Hunter!… There were two “Running Mums Australia” ladies out there pushing hard in the 50km. One guy who we could only identify as Chris Lark’s mate got cheered as “Go Chris’ mate” for a few laps until we finally asked him his name (Justin) and could finally cheer “Go Justin”!
Some people were rocking some impressive glowy action. A lady had some glowsticks in her hair and someone else had cool glowing green shoelaces. Ben had green glow sticks on the back of his shoes so we could see him a mile away. At one stage we saw a guy coming quite close to us and were wondering “wth is that runner coming at us for?!!!” and it was bloody Ben who’d taken off his shoe glow sticks (so we couldn’t tell it was him) and he came in shrieking and laughing. Hahahhahaaha… idiot.
It took me ages to figure out that the runners couldn’t actually see us standing there. It was so dark. But they could definitely hear us!!
I had a great time standing there for 4 hours shouting encouragement. I’d accidentally become a course marker. Bells then aid station. Bells then aid station. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere! The bells were needed! Hahahaah… I eventually had to head home about 11pm so we waited for Ben to pass us one more time to wish him all the best and then drove home.
I’ve never been to this event before, and while I dunno if I could run 50km round and round like that I know I could definitely bring the cow bell action again.
Thanks to Dave Kennedy for putting on another great event and thanks to all the runners for an awesome night of spectating. You are all superstars to me.
It has been almost 4 weeks since I had a cortisone injection into my right knee to calm down the inflammation caused by my ITB friction syndrome. Since then, I’ve done absolutely fuck all exercise.
For the first 2 weeks it was because my knee actually hurt a goddamn lot more than expected and I couldn’t bear the thought of even rolling my leg on a foam roller.
In the 3rd week I saw my physio Marc who didn’t seem to think my ITB was too tight but took the doctor’s word for it and after pummeling my leg with his elbow, prescribed another week’s rest and some foam rolling and stretches. I’ll admit to not doing the rolling and stretching every day. I think I did it twice in 6 days and I know the roller should hurt, but the pain should be a good pain. When I rolled I felt like I was pushing on a bruise (ie where Marc had recently been with his bloody elbow) and basically the whole exercise made me cranky. The stretches were actually uncomfortable so I canned those too. Just all round a shit week for recovery. I loathe swimming which is currently my only form of approved exercise (arms only) so motivation to get in the pool is damn low.
On my second visit to Marc in my 4th recovery week he needled my leg and continued to encourage me to be positive and said I’d improved my ITB stretchyness since the week before which was a good sign. I left him feeling a bit more positive that things might be ok after all. I was limited to 30 minutes of riding or walking and swimming with no legs was permitted. No deep water running allowed or anything with a repetitive knee movement past 30 degrees.
Tomorrow I get to go for my “test run” before seeing Gary. I can tell you right now it’s not going to go well. I managed to walk parkrun in a full 60 minutes on Saturday and the knee pain was there. Mild. But there. Just with walking. Pffffffffft. Then in the afternoon I ran maybe 10 steps with the kids in the park and whammo! my knee pain was severe. And then I had to walk down about 8 steps and that was almost the end of me. So much pain.
I am in a huge funk over this. On Saturday night I saw an ad for the race in Bunbury that was meant to be my next event. I saw the date: April and I knew I’d never make it. I bawled my eyes out. I just couldn’t help it. I was just so overwhelmed with sadness that I just criedn and cried. I felt awful. Cue online support – my running buddies there to talk me down off the ledge.
There’s a huge void in my life when I’m not training. It’s depressing. I miss the endorphins. I miss my friends. I can’t participate in any running event. I can barely get myself over the line at parkrun. I’m just so flat. And the thought of this being a longer term thing is really making me cranky. I’m grumpy. I’m so very very sad about things. I think a huge part of it is the uncertainty. I just don’t know why my knee isn’t improving. I don’t know when I’ll be able to run again. I can’t even bloody speed walk (a form of exercise that I consider incredibly untrendy to do but I’m even willing to do that). I’m not eating properly. I’ve lost weight. My mood swings are back. I’m not sleeping well. Goddammit.
I’m seeing my sports doc on Thursday. Watch this space.
A week ago I saw sports doctor Gary Couanis to get a diagnosis for my persistent knee pain. It took him 15 minutes to give me a 100% certain diagnosis of ITB friction syndrome. Basically my ITB is tight and that tightness causes it to get inflamed as it rubs over the bone in my knee as I run. Sounds simple enough. I had a cortisone injection in my knee. The actual injection itself was bearable, though my guts churned a little bit at the scratchy sensation as Gary scraped away at the scar tissue with the point of the needle. Blerrrghhhhhh…. The next few days were horrendously miserable. My knee hurt terribly and I got my grumps on in magnificent style. Husband has been suitably unimpressed but ever the silent supporter of all that his ultra-running wife must endure.
I caught up with my fav physio Marc See at The Running Centre today and he was surprised Gary had said my ITB was incredibly tight as he didn’t think it was. I brushed aside some kind of thought relating to “glad I’m paying top dollar for conflicting opinions” as Marc wrangled my ITB into submission. With his elbow. Fuck. Ouchy. I also had my glutes pummeled and at one point Marc provoked hilarious laughter with a deep jab in my side. That shit is ticklish dude.
Recovery plan has been advanced. It’s sucky but achievable:
REST FOR ANOTHER WEEK.
Wooooooooooo…. Not allowed to do any long walks even. No lunges, no squats, nothing with too much knee movement. No swimming (unless it’s arms only) and no deep water running. Nada. Need to stretch daily. Marc made me sit my arse cheek on a spiky ball.
I successfully found a horrendous spot that hurt a fuckload (this means it’s the right spot), however I was not allowed a spiky ball today. I pouted a little bit. Marc still said no. No spiky ball. Apparently I’ll just hurt myself. If I’m good I’m allowed to have one next week. Fine.
Next Thursday I’ll be allowed to start some strength work. Marc has said my core, hips and glutes are definitely stronger than when I first started training for 6 inch. And baby my calves are out of control! Midfoot strike ftw!
Then right before I go back to see Gary I’m to do a 10 minute decent run to see how things feel. It’s not allowed to be too slow and steady, it’s to be at a comfortable pace. So… that day is 25 February… only 20 days to go. Yissssss…… Potentially, I rest for this 4 week period and then I’m back running again. That is a possibility. A real one.
I’m getting my volly on again for parkrun this week, as I did last week at Bibra Lake. I just neeeeeeed to touch base with my parkrun family one way or another. I’ll be at Canning River this week taking some happy snaps – don’t forget to say CHEEEEEESE!!!!
I am injured. It is beyond shit. Today’s “test run” was failed so it’s off to a sports doctor for me to sort out what the fuck is happening with my right knee. I am pissed off. Sad. Grumpy. Irritated. So… in an effort to pull myself out of my grumpy arse slump I thought I’d reflect a little bit on the riding I’ve managed to do in lieu of running over the past few weeks.
1. Bike Paths
Right, so I’m new to riding. A bit like running, I don’t know where the hell TO ride. So on my adventures around the neighbourhood it becomes clear pretty quickly that riding in the burbs is shit. Crossing over streets, watching out for cars etc. Balls. So I found myself a bike path next to the train line. Excellent. 3 kms up the road my ride literally comes to a screeching halt as some arsehole has just ended the bike path at a road intersection. Ummmmm… wut? Where is my path? Where the fuck do I go now? Literally, no path on the other side of the road. Waahhhhhh…. So I turned around and rode home. Awesome. Suddenly you start thinking about how fucking annoying that was, and who should do something about it. Also, you become aware of just how shit it is when some dickhead smashes glass on the path. One random act of idiocy can cause you to:
(a) blow a tyre on your bike; or
(b) fall off your bike as you attempt to swerve the glass so as to avoid (a).
Never thought about it before. As a runner, you can just step over glass. I can’t express how pissed off I’d be if I was kilometres from home with a bike I could not ride. Then what happens?
Oh and if you’re on the footpath – the same issue with glass applies AND you get to deal with inconsiderate pricks who park their car across the footpath. Whyyyyyyyyy?? I’ll admit I’ve done that before (I am an inconsiderate prick it seems)… but I won’t ever again. In the past I’ve always thought, oh fuck it they can just go around…. yeah – do you know how difficult it is to navigate around a car on a bike when that car is like a foot behind another car in a driveway? Fucking hell. Oh and on my last ride I was on the footpath which I understand to be for pedestrians and slow cyclists and a lady was walking towards me. I slowed down and realised way too late that she was NOT moving to her left to allow me to pass. What the actual fuck lady? She continued to walk, in the middle of the path and as a result I had to come to a skidding stop right at her toes and she just kept walking! Whaaaaaaaat ladyyyyyyyy????
2. Bike helmets
Nobody looks good in a helmet. You just have to get over it.
3. My Bike
Good news is that I have a decent bike. My physio asked about it and I proudly said yes I own a bike and it is white and it was $400. Those are the 2 things I know about my bike. Physio was positive and agreed that riding that bike would be like learning to drive in my mum’s 1981 Toyota Corona: perfectly acceptable mode of transport lacking all the luxuries that make your life easier. By virtue of the fact that my bike is not a $5,000 racing bike, it will be giving me a better workout. Winning.
4. New injuries
Pain in the crotch is inevitable. Why can’t they make a bike seat like a couch or something? Jesus… And when your husband puts your seat up to “the right height” and you accidentally slip off your pedals while mounting (I’m a novice ok) well… dayum…. someone bring me my icepack. Also, who knew it was possible to whack yourself in the shins with your own bike pedal. What a winner.
5. Riding is faster
It’s a shitload faster than running. And once you DO discover where exactly to ride, it’s pretty good. You feel athletic. You can go fast or slow. You can listen to music. You can take in the scenery. Now when I drive 2kms to the shop I think “I should ride here”… I may just do that. And some arsehole may just steal my locked up bike.
6. It’s a family affair
You can take your whole family out riding. Unlike running which elicits epic complaining from all family members, everyone wants to go riding. We have attempted a few family rides, and I must say, you have to remember you can only ride as fast as your slowest rider, in my case our 4 year old with little legs. So forget trying to punch out a session with the kids on the weekend, unless of course you want to master the thigh burn. This happens when your 4 year old needs to stop halfway up a big hill. So you stop. Then you push off again and he needs to stop again. And repeat 6 times til the top of the hill as stubborn child refuses to just walk it. And the wheels will come off quite quickly when one bigger child rides off ahead and you have to stop for a smaller child whose bikestand has come loose and will not go back up (fuck I have too many children)…
7. The bike lane
I finally realised that some of our local streets have bike lanes. Wow, I never really noticed before. So on my last ride I braved the big road. My first thoughts as I pulled off the footpath and out onto the road where “Oh my god I hope the cars realise this is a bike lane” and just like that my whole perception about cyclists changed. Yes they are a pain in the arse sometimes when you’re driving and you have to go around them, and they’re not always adhering to the road rules exactly but jesus, who’s going to come off second best in an accident? No good running over a rider and saying “yeah but he wasn’t in his lane”… he’s still dead… I really was very nervous. And the bike lane ends as the road hits a roundabout forcing a rider into the main traffic stream. Holy shit if the car behind me doesn’t see me (despite my ridiculous high vis shirt) he’s going to run me over! So I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder and hoping I was going to be ok. It was stressful!
So as I lament the extent of my knee injury and wistfully watch my 2015 running events go down the toilet, I know at least I can jump on my bike and still try to maintain some fitness… No doubt I’ll have other observations to share about riding soon :)
Given that my blog is about my running awesomeness, it’s a little bit quiet when I’m resting my knee for a few weeks! Today I have a guest blog post to share. It’s written by my friend Bill. Our friendship is a direct product of parkrun, even though Bill lives in Albany! We shared a virtual journey to the 6 Inch Trail Marathon last year. I leaned on him a fair bit and last night I asked him to lean on me because I could see that he really needed to… here’s what happened…
I’m never really quite sure how I end up in these situations, although it’s not without precedent. Last night, in the midst of one of my terrible black moods Didi asked me to run for her. Just like that. As casual as you like. I know she’s been injured recently and going stir-crazy at not being able to run, so why wouldn’t living vicariously through your mates be a suitable solution. She was also reaching out to help her friend who was struggling with some serious mental demons. Never mind the fact that just over a week ago I ran my fastest ever half marathon. Or the bit where I had done a little bit of mountain goating in the heat the day before on some trails and struggled. Even the part about having no desire to do anything at all other than sleep until Armageddon didn’t faze her…
“Wanna run for me?”
“Sure. How far?”
“I think maybe 15km would be nice.”
I tried to brush her off, but she’s persistent. She demanded proof of commitment, including a gear setup shot and 5am selfie. Yeah, 5am. Dammit. Honestly, I don’t usually do mornings. We have a standing agreement not to bother each other until I’m 3 coffees down or it’s 11am (which ever comes first). But 5am it is. Set the alarm, suck it up princess. So I made my way to the bedroom, pulled out the shirt, shorts, tights (don’t judge me, they work) and shoes. I linger briefly on going with my hydration belt, but decide that if I’m getting up at Oh Bloody Early then I will do it properly. Grab the UD vest, which has sat unloved and unused in the wardrobe since 6Inch. It pongs. Hopefully everything else in there hasn’t been infested with the stank. Off to the kitchen and mix up some Powerade, then sort out the remaining baby food custards and random gel I have in the fridge left over from other events. Make a mental note to look in to getting a proper run fuel. Back to snap a shot for Didi.
“Hydration pack for 15km?”
“I may go a little further.”
Yes I said it. The plan was to run a half marathon (and a bit) that took in the two major summits that dominate Albany – Mt Melville and Mt Clarence.
It’s not a new thing for me, I ran the route a number of times in the lead up to 6 Inch and usually enjoy the run. Still, the way I had struggled the previous day over 7k I wasn’t exactly leaping out of my skin with excitement. Slow and steady would see me through. Have my nightly ritual of a cup of tea and pudding (lemon sponge tonight) and then off to sleep – that’s where I’m a pirate.
Gee it’s bright in here … wut? 04:55. Great. Cancel the alarm, throw on the clothes and head to the bathroom. Obligatory 5am selfie…
Oh yes, I’m pumped up.
Grab food and drinks out of the fridge, pack the vest, punch down a muesli bar and banana to put something in the stomach and slip quietly out the door and in to the morning sun.
The first 5k is pretty uneventful. My lower legs grumble at me (as they often do) and my pack is annoyingly light minus the water bladder in the back causing it to shift about and slosh the water in the bottles up front which adds to the already super mood I’m in. Briefly exchange pleasantries with a fellow parkrunner coming in the opposite direction. No hi-5. I am disappoint. I gets no respect I tells ya! #eventdirectorproblems. Chuck a left and head down Hanrahan Rd briefly before another left on to Serpentine Rd. Here’s where the fun starts and we begin to climb.
Now I’m mentally beginning to whine. I don’t want to do this; stupid Didi making me get out of bed; stupid me for saying yes; stupid hills; stupid legs, shut up legs… grizzle, moan groan. Still, this isn’t going to get it done so I pull up the big boy pants and keep pressing forward, past a very flat and quite dead Racehorse Goanna and past the hilariously named Dicks St. Brief pause to take a photo for Dids, she’ll appreciate that. Then wheel right on to Melville Drive to have my backside handed to me. Just a pleasant 80m of elevation in 750m of road to the lookout. Short, sharp and very much to the point. My legs are already feeling toasted and now I’ve got this freaking hill to climb. Slowly, slowly I wind up the hill, the gradient not relenting below 15% until the summit. Once I get there I stop for a breather and pretending to wait for Didi who is riding shotgun in my mind. Take perverse pleasure in the knowledge that I would be called all manner of profanities under the sun if I ever took her up this hill in real life. Time for that gel – it tastes like cough syrup. Ugh. Remember why I don’t use gels as a rule. Big swig of Powerade to wash it down and off we go again. All downhill for the next few km’s. Back out on to Hanrahan for a bit and then down Parade St. Thump thump thump … now my footsteps are annoying me. Fantastic. Spin past the Vancouver Cafe, down to Stirling Terrace and through town starting the second, much longer climb for the morning (160 or so metres over 3.5km) which will take me to the Padre White lookout and the summit of Mt Clarence.
It’s a long slog, and with my low energy levels it’s also a slow one. I alternate between footpath, verge and the gutter as I push upwards, turning on to Forts Rd and the Avenue of Heroes for the final lift to the summit. Cross the start line for the soap box car racers (which should give an idea of what this climb is like), and then spill out on to the false flat of the car park. Yay. Ah bollocks, one last little climb. And by climb, I mean virtual wall. 19% of gradient. It kills me every time, today being no exception. I’m about 15m from it topping out and decide to walk the rest. Deal with it. The reward is the view and the silent majesty that is the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial.
I feel a deep connection to the site, being a former serviceman myself. I take a few landscape pictures on the phone of King George Sound and trot up to the Padre White lookout, which was the site of the first ANZAC Day dawn service in 1932. I follow this up by disrespecting everything everywhere taking another selfie and send it to Didi.
Get out of bed!
Now to get home, only a lazy 7k or there about. Le sigh. Suck back a baby custard for some fuel and throw myself back down the hill. Now my heel hurts. Seriously, just quit it already body, I’ll sit around and watch the tennis with you tomorrow. Let’s just get home in one piece mm’kay? Back on to the verge/gutter again and manage to avoid getting run over by the traffic. On to the path on Brunswick Rd and past the port. Here I bump in to another parkrunner Ian, visiting from Bunbury. He asks if he can run with me and I’m more than happy to have something other than the cacophony of mental complaining currently in my head. Hit the return leg of Mt Clarence parkrun, and the ego kicks in by picking up the pace. There are enough rises on the course to start setting off alarm bells, but surprisingly I’m not blowing up too hard. Just that last hill and then it’s Jynnan Tonnyx all round to the surf club. Over the boardwalk, past the Three Anchors and the half marathon from Hell is done. Praise the Lord it’s done. A brief chat with Ian, a five minute sit down to laugh at the solo cross fitter on the grass (nice steps bro!) and then I wander off to start the 1k trek home. The least of my worries. In through the front gate and that’s all she wrote.
So what’s the moral of the story? Friends don’t let friends wallow in self pity. Friends challenge your thinking, push you to push yourself and friends appreciate a good selfie from on top of a mountain. Didi relied on me to help her in the dark times pre 6 Inch. She then smashed it out of the park. Today she returned the favour. I didn’t set any PB’s, but I had to fight to get myself over the mental hurdles. I knew that if I quit she would be disappointed, and that drove me on. Thanks buddy, see you soon.
On Sunday 21 December 2014 I had the most awesome run of my life.
After all the build up and the emotional roller coaster it was finally “the day before”. I was wound tight, I hovered over my race gear and my drop bag hoping I’d not forgotten anything. I managed to put myself to bed about 8:30pm and my husband kept the kids quiet so I could wind down and hopefully get some sleep. I’d already spent hours and hours on the therapy couch with my coach Scott. Poor guy – talking me down off the ledge over and over again. And in his place (he’s 7 hours behind me in the UK) poor Bill and sometimes Ben. Virtual handholding at its finest. Plus I’d been cajoled and encouraged by my running besties Natalie, Renee and Michelle and countless parkrunners (Alicia, Cordelia, Dan, Richard, Andrew, Adrian, Kate, Salena, Abdul… so many). Seriously, it’s not that hard. JFDI.
And so my alarm went off at 2am. My husband grabbed my phone and plonked it unceremoniously on my pillow before rolling over to go back to sleep. Cheers babe. I had actually managed to get some sleep! I think all the mental anguish of the days leading in had really taken it out of me and I had slept solidly. I took my obligatory early morning selfie. I put my hydration pack together, packed up my stuff and headed round to Ben and Alicia’s place. It’s a bit weird driving around at 2:30am all decked out in running gear. You see people stumbling home from a big night out! This was surely the biggest night out I was ever going to have!
Ben and Alicia were packed and ready to go. I shoved all my stuff in their car and we headed off to pick up Damon and Ash. I was squished in between the two as we took off down the highway to North Dandalup. We were chirpy and excited. Nobody farted in the car and nobody complained when I ate my breakfast on the go – oats and yoghurt looks a lot like vomit. I taped up my toes as best as I could without shoving my feet in the boys’ faces and all of a sudden we had arrived! We were a little bit early and got a good park. As we stepped out of the car the cool morning air was buzzing. Cars were driving in one after the other and runners were everywhere. We took our gear into the hall and saw a tonne of parkrunners! It was just so nice to see so many smiling faces! People were excited. I was excited! I was wrestling with my drop bag and I heard someone say “Hey shortstuff” – I looked up and it was Bill. He’d come from Albany to crush this race and I was almost overwhelmed to see him again. I gave him a big hug.
Finally we were ushered onto the bus. I got chatting with a guy next to me who was wearing only a hydration belt that carried 600mL of fluid (there’s me hauling around my hydration pack with everything in it like a bloody sherpa). He was super nice and encouraged me to have a great run out there. After he’d gone past I realised he was wearing #4 on his bib. Shit. That meant he was a super speedy! There I was going on about how maybe he might need more water (omfg) but in actual fact that guy would make it to the first aide station before he even had a chance to drink the water he was carrying! Ha! I looked him up afterwards – that was Michael Carroll and he ran the 48km course in 3:36:15 ffs. He ran 5th. Hopefully he found my tips helpful.
We were deposited at the start line. Goldmine Hill. There were approximately 220 runners. We’d heard that some runners had tried to register but had missed the memo about needing to run with a mobile phone. They didn’t take one with them so weren’t allowed to run! Can you imagine training for this kind of race then being denied registration last minute? Omg.
Dawn was breaking and I was fucking cold! My teeth were chattering. Ash was flashing his birthday boy badge – it was his 30th birthday! What a way to celebrate with his first ultra race. Indeed his first run over 24km ever. Way to knock a PB distance out of the park! We mingled around for a few minutes before Ben and Bill and a few other guys started to make their way to the front of the crowd and before I even knew what was happening people started running! Fuck! We were off!!! The whole crowd surged forward up the hill. I was astounded that 200+ people thought they were going to run up it. That hill is walking material only IMO. I lagged at the back (followed the plan) and hauled arse up that goddamn hill with Emma, Alicia, Kelly, Jez and Ash. As predicted, 500m in and my back was getting all whiny…. “whhhyyyyy are you walking this hiiiiiiiiillll??” but I was so thankful that I’d walked the hill before. I knew what to expect. I was ready for it. Didn’t make it any less sucky. I watched my garmin stats blow out. I was supposed to be up the 2km at a 10 minute average pace. I was already at 11 minutes. Fuck. I couldn’t believe I would be adding time on in the first 3 fucking kilometres. My head started to get a bit down.
We passed the King of the Mountain check point and I summited the hill (223m of elevation) in 28:05. Once at the top I looked around and then thought “ok, let’s go Didi”. I’d insisted that Scott do me up a plan for a 6 hour finishing time. I knew it was ambitious. More than one person told me so and I teetered on the cusp of “I can smash it” and “I can’t do it” for weeks leading in. Scott had told me to take it easy, be calm, follow the plan and just enjoy the run. I had a time in my head for leaving aide station 1 (and I couldn’t remember the time I needed to leave aide station 2 eep!). Overall average pace needed to be 7:33. 7:33. 7:33. 7:33…. after Goldmine hill I took the race for myself. I deliberately pushed ahead of the people I knew and put my headphones in. I changed my watch to the second screen where I couldn’t see my overall average pace, or my time, or the distance. All I could see was the time for each single km at a time. So, pace, time and distance covered for each km. One at a time. I didn’t want to get bogged down in hours and minutes and average pace going up and down. It was going to do my head in. So I focussed on one km at a time. The music pumped inside my head and it was like someone had started up my very own movie theme music. I was suddenly immersed in the music and surrounded by the bush and nothing else mattered.
I steadily warmed up and ticked over the kms. There was a spectator point at the 5km mark and before I knew it I was through it! I knew I’d see my mum at 18km at the next spectator point where we cross Del Park Road so I focussed on that distance. My legs just turned over and the distance fell behind me. I glanced at my watch occasionally and pulled back a little bit on the flats, I was going too fast. Follow. The. Plan. I was absolutely busting to go to the loo for the first 20kms. Each time I thought “Oh I’ll just duck in there” I just couldn’t help think about that I might be seen, or I’d lose too much time or whatever… So I held it for 20kms!!! Finally I knew I’d have to go otherwise I wouldn’t be able to continue. I just picked the best spot I could and launched through the bush. Ah relief. Pro tip ladies: keep a good hold of your headphones while you’re down there! Jesus… nearly had a disaster there. Also, pick a spot that you can stand behind and not be seen. Yes you need to squat down, however if you’re only behind a low log (like I was) you can’t then stand up and make adjustments because you’ll be seen by other runners. FML. My knickers were a bit crooked because I was hasty with the pulling up and my shirt was all tucked into my shorts. I needed desperately to rearrange myself and alas, too many people! Ha! I ended up getting everything back into place over the next few kms when I was in between runners….
I knocked off 18km and was feeling damn excellent. I sent a text to Natalie and to mum saying I was feeling great. As I crossed Del Park Road I realised mum had not made the spectator spot (she missed me by a few minutes). It was ok though, I didn’t feel I needed her so I wasn’t upset. I’d seen Paul van der Mey with his big camera (and his big smile) along the way and it was nice to see a friendly face. He took some great shots.
I rolled into aide station 1 at 24km. It was cool. There was a marshall with binoculars looking for runners and calling out bib numbers so the volunteers could grab your bag out for you. I felt hell special! I grabbed my bag and scoffed 3 big bites of my vegemite sandwich and added the gingernut biscuits to my pack. I took out the tailwind powder and wrestled my pack into submission as I tried to add water and powder and not spill anything. A volunteer gave me a hand which was awesome. I saw a couple of people I knew. I actually had to laugh at myself at the amount of shit in my drop bag. Seriously. I didn’t need any of it. Sunblock. Shoes. Socks. Shorts. Hat. Lots of things. I finally looked down at my watch as I left the aide station: 2 hours 57 minutes. Fuck. I couldn’t remember my plan but it was pretty close to that. I was on track!!! I was actually on track for a 6 hour time! Oh my god! But then as my legs got moving again my right hip started to complain and my feet started to feel a bit cut up. My toes really hurt. I thought, oh yeah, well here’s where the wheels come off then. I pushed on. Alicia had told me that the aide stations were inverse numbers so 23km and 32km. That’s where I was headed. Aide station number 2. 32km. Only 9km away? Ok then, let’s do it. I flicked my watch back over to the lap screen and pushed on.
I actually managed to FB a few friends while I was trudging up one huge fuck off hill. It was a long slow hill and I had service so why not?!! It was so nice to hear from them, and to know they were hanging out watching to see how I was going. That gave me a huge lift. I flew through the next 10kms and then started to freak out a bit – ummmmm… no aide station? Arghhhhhh please don’t say I’ve missed it!!! I knocked down 34kms…. 35kms…. panic set in a little bit. I passed a guy who’d hurt himself and asked him if he’d seen aide station 2. He told me it was at 36kms… Ohhhhh I’d got that wrong… wow what a head fuck!
And then there it was. Not the aide station as I’d expected. The turn to the aide station. Two volunteers were at the turning point with water pistols and they were spraying water over everyone. What a relief! People were laughing and having a great time and it was the only point on the course where you got to pass other runners as the aide station was out and back up a huge hill. I thought the hill was right at the start of the out and back. No. You have to run a fair way out first, THEN there’s “hell’s gate”… A huge HUGE hill that just beggared belief. Oh fucking hell! I took a few photos and then made my way up.
The ground is so ravined that it was really difficult to find your footing and more than once I saw people take a decent stack coming down it. I was still really happy at this stage. A few people asked me later “Were you really feeling that good?”… honestly yes I was! I snaffled a hug from all the kids, my husband and my mum with her ipad wedged firmly between us. I felt super strong. My music was pumping and I was seriously in the zone. I had to activate “princess mode” to get back down the hill or a bit more accurately “look like I just pooped my pants mode” as I hopped from one promising bit of gravel to the next desperately hoping I’d not go tits up in front of everyone else. Good news: didn’t fall.
I rounded the corner at the bottom and took off again. Only 11kms to go and fuck I felt good. The trail narrowed considerably at one point and I thought “Ha, totally wouldn’t want to be much taller or wider than me and try to get through here”… being teeny has its benefits! Zig zag, up down, another goddamn mother fucking hill and I was flying. I still can’t get over how good Sunday’s run was. I was running until I hit the wall and I was hoping I’d banked enough time to get me through in maybe 6:20… but I never hit that wall.
I caught up with another parkrunner Chris and I was stoked to see him. He saw me safely through the caravan park and up into the next bit of bush trail (I’d nearly missed the marker!) and then I said seeya and just. kept. running. I’d made a rookie mistake only having 3 hours of music on my phone so the tunes were getting a little bit old, but Muse thrills me no matter what I’m doing so on they went. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Awesome. One foot. Next foot. One after the other. Over and over and over again. I did pause for a moment to revel in the fact I’d run a marathon. A whole goddamn marathon and I was still standing and still running. Wow. Just wow.
I still did not know what time it was. I had no idea how I was travelling since aide station 2. What time would I finish? I had no idea and didn’t want to know. I knew that if I looked and it was coming well into the 6:20 range I’d be a bit shitty and I wouldn’t enjoy the last part of the race so I just didn’t look. I wanted a 6 hour time. If I didn’t look then it was still achievable. It hadn’t been taken from me yet.
At 4km to go there was another little aide station. I didn’t need anything but my ears perked up when I heard someone say it was the 5km to home aide station. What? Meh… keep running. I’ll admit that at the 46km mark I started to feel a bit beat up. My feet were really hurting, my hip was complaining and I was honestly happy to finish. Just one more km to go. Where the finish line should have been at the 47km mark there was a smiley lady. A single marshal standing on the trail. Did she have my medal? Where were my friends? What’s that? They’re 1km away? What? Did she say 1km to go? Mother goddamn fucker. Oh my god seriously? Ohhhh fucking hell!!! The course was closer to 48km than 47km. Oh just kill me now… I thought I was done. That last 1,000m was brutal. My body had decided it was done at 47.01km… All I could do was tell myself to just keep moving. Just. Move. Forward. Don’t stop. If you stop you won’t get up again. Fuck.
Finally… as I watched my last km tick down I came across the road to the finish line. I wasn’t expecting a big cheer from the crowd. I wasn’t expecting the applause and the smiling faces. It was epic. I felt amazing. Someone put my medal around my neck and I got a big hug from Bill who was standing at the finish line grinning like a champion. I stopped my watch but couldn’t bear to look at it. No matter what it said I was stoked with my run and nothing was going to change that. I had some cheery hugs and “good on ya’s” from my friends and then I made my way over to my family to give them a big hug too. My friends Fran and Josh had even made it down to see me finish!! I was just so overwhelmed and so chuffed. When I had a moment I snuck a look at my watch.
I couldn’t believe it. That was the icing. Fuck it, that was the whole bloody cake. I could NOT believe I’d just done that. I thought I’d have to wear a 6:20 or maybe slower time even. And I’d been prepared to accept that. 6 hours was “ambitious” as I’d been told by a few people. Fuck. I did it.
We hung around to wait for other runners we knew to finish. Alicia came in sub 7 hours just like she’d wanted to. I was thrilled for her. Sub 7 was awesome! Jeremy and Kelly also came in sub 7 notwithstanding the fact that Kell had taken an epic stack before aide station 1 and taken out half her bum on the gravel. Omg the bruising! I was stoked that she was brave enough to continue and finish with a smile on her face. And Ash made it home within the 7.5 hour time limit. I was thrilled to see him finish in time. He’d been out with an injury for most of the time he should have actually been training and showed up to run anyway. What a legend. He turned 30 on Sunday remember… awesome.
I scoffed hot chips in the car on the way home and then enjoyed luxurious laziness for the rest of the day. I also enjoyed use of the disability hand rail in our ensuite (there when we bought the house) because my legs well and truly had packed it in.
It’s been a few days now and I can say that my body has bounced back surprisingly well. I have had no knee issues whatsoever and only one minor blister (bonds socks ftw). I’m completely hooked. I’ve been chatting to people about what’s next. Haven’t told my husband just yet but this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to run another one of these… the joy I experienced on Sunday was addictive. It was immense. It was overwhelming. Scott was right. You can’t finish an ultramarathon and still be the same person you were at the start. What a shift. If you’re still here reading this epic blog entry thanks very much :)
Just in case you think I’ve slipped into a world of seriousness, here’s a snapshot of what happened in my head on Saturday after I asked my mate Ben if I could run with him on Sunday…
Ok so Ben’s said I can jump in on his run tomorrow. Sweet. Wait. Just Ben was going on that run though, so that probably means he wants to go at his usual pace which is much faster than mine. So he was probably just being polite when I asked to run with him. OMG. I’ve just hijacked his run! Oh no! How did that conversation actually go? Think back…
Me: Hey Ben where are you running tomorrow?
Ben: Heading out for 9km at Bickley Brook.
Me: Oh cool, that’d be awesome I’ll come with you?
Ben: Yeah sure sounds good.
OMG was there an awkward pause?
There was no actual invitation. Poor Ben just answered my question about where he was running. I just invited myself! Noooooooo! Ok don’t stress it’s fine. We organised for 6:45am pickup with 7am run.
Later that day
Oh yes I don’t have to go out until 2pm! We can head out later than stupid o’clock! I’ll message Ben and let him know. Ok good good Ben’s fine with that. Phew, what a stuff around.
10 minutes later
Oh my actual god I have to be back at home by 9am. Seriously cringing. I have to ask Ben to start earlier again after I just said later. Ohhh noooo I look like a moron. A run hijacking moron. Ohh fucking hell… I’ll just have to message Ben and deal with the fallout of being an unorganised moron. Breathe. Just breathe. It’s ok. It’s ok.
PHEW! Ben unphased…. Though it’s hard to tell by text. Dammit he’s probably thinking I’m an idiot for crashing his solo run and then dictating the time… oh my actual god I feel awful. I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t I just say “oh hey cool hope it’s a good one?” when I asked about his run this morning. Ohhhhhhh Ben I’m sorrrryyyyyyy!!!!! Play it cool, play it cool. It’s fine.
(what I anticipate his actual reactions were with any luck)
15 weeks ago I started training for 6 Inch.
Scott emailed me a training plan that would get me to the start line. He admitted that the 15 week time frame was a little bit tight, but he was confident I could at least give it a try. It would mean no “falling off the wagon” and losing a week or two of training. It would mean doing the damn hills if he said do the damn hills. It would mean taking it easy so I didn’t hurt myself. It would mean just seeing how my knee (and indeed the rest of my body) would hold up.
Two weeks later I finally cracked the sweet sweet goodness of the mid-foot strike. Yes. 2 weeks into a 15 week ultra trail marathon training plan and I started a transition into a MFS. My calves raged at me; suffering the huge indignity of being properly engaged for the first time ever.
Day 4 of the MFS transition and I couldn’t even make 2km into parkrun before the DOMS in my calves quite literally stopped me in my tracks. I had to walk the rest of the way. I felt a bit shattered.
Over the following weeks I nudged my calves into superhero mode. Calves… ACTIVATE! Weeks and weeks of running them out and I could finally get out of bed in the morning without my legs buckling underneath me with surprise morning “my legs don’t fucking work” pain… Although I did provide some amusement for my husband and work colleagues (I’ll admit it was pretty funny the day I got up too quickly out of my office chair, took two steps and fell on my face because my legs wouldn’t play ball) I was happy to finally get over the “newbie” MFS. I am now a confident mid foot striker.
In September all I thought about preparing for this race as that you get a training plan, you complete the training plan and then you run the race.That’s about as much thought as I’d put into this “journey” in September. You just do the training and then you line up and run your race and hope you get the time you want. Pretty basic.
That is not correct.
There is nothing basic about training like this, and I’m not talking about the body hits. My body has survived about 500km in the past 3 and a half months.
I did not realise how emotional this would be. I have had some huge wins, some great times, some amazing runs. And I have had some very low lows. Doubts. Confusion. Disappointment. I have fended off those saying “why would you even want to do this?” and “you know you could die in a bushfire” and “you’re running again?”. And in my army against the disbelievers I have some excellent friends. A whole community of people who continue to say “you are awesome” and “look how far you’ve come” and “let me help you make it” and “come run with us” and probably most importantly “we understand”.
As I enter my second tapering week, my emotions have strapped themselves into the front seats of a roller coaster usually reserved for adolescent girls. In the space of an hour I can go from elated to severe self doubt. I swing from loving myself sick to feeling overwhelmed and small. I am up and bloody down and sideways for fuck sake. How can you feel so awesome one minute and then suddenly go “oh wait… maybe I haven’t actually done enough training”. I think about runs I missed. I think about whether or not I’ve run enough hills? Have I? Didn’t I? Can I really make my goal time? Is it ok if I don’t? IS IT??????
Having not yet run this kind of race, I am looking forward to learning how it’s going to make me feel. I was skeptical when Scott started telling me it would be a very personal experience, almost spiritual. How could that be? It’s just a big long run. But as a nudge closer and closer to the 21st of December I am beginning to realise what Scott means. This run is going to be epic. For me. It will be MY run. It will be all mine. Just for me. It will be MY joy. It will be MY pain. It will be ME who gets me to the finish. Nobody can do this for me. Am I good enough? Have I done enough? We’ll have to wait and see.
Lesson 1: Marathon training involves some great highs and some low lows
This month I ran a 30 minute parkrun to support new 50 club member Clinton to a 30 minute PB. Ben brought the right pace, Adrian brought the music, I brought the camera and Clinton brought his heart and soul. The 30 minute train left the start line and pumped all the way around the 5km course. I was happy to learn that I’m not the only one who starts to get audible when the pain sets in about the 4km mark. Clinton gave it everything and while he only just missed his sub 30 goal, he still set a 5km PB. The parkrun spirit flowed freely that Saturday and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
On a side note, if you ever fancy sprinting ahead of a running pack in order to secure some great video footage with your phone, note that your phone will record the greatness, the determination, the anguish. It will also record your ridiculous heavy breathing over all of that.
It’s been an emotional month. I have no doubt the emotions run with hormonal cycles. At the start of November I had an entire week off running. I just. Couldn’t. I didn’t even think about “getting back out there” for a whole week. I didn’t miss it. I didn’t want it. I was happy to go without it. I always hear about runners who are gagging for a run if they’re on holiday or something but I dunno, maybe the fact that I did not miss it meant I’m not a serious runner? Does it? Is it ok to miss a whole week without regret?
I ticked off my very longest runs ever (30km and 32km) and I felt wonderful after both of these runs. The first 30km run I did with Alicia who is also training for 6 Inch. It was cruisy, we chatted a lot and at the end of it we timed it so we could toe the start line with the parkrunners at 8am. It was really lovely to be swept into the parkrun community by our friends who knew we’d punched out 25kms already and they encouraged us to keep going!
Before my 32km run I put the call out for a buddy as I didn’t fancy running at 5am alone. Running bestie Renee put her hand up even though 5am isn’t really her style and I was thankful for the support. I was even more stoked to rock up to the carpark at 5am to see 2 other parkrunners who’d come down to join us for a 5km lap (5am people – wtf!!). Abdul, Tom, Renee and I cruised around the course. We chatted, laughed, I nearly fell over… the boys said seeya after 5km and Renee and I continued on until Renee had completed 21.1km (ftw!) and on my final lap I was alone, until Tom popped up again unexpectedly with his daughter India in a pram and he helped me finish the final 5km. He’d been home, got India up, fed and dressed and come back down again! I am incredibly thankful for how much support I got from my friends. I’ll admit, the night before I actually had a cry because I thought I’d not be able to get my long run in because I couldn’t go alone at 5am. Parkrunners to the rescue. I love the parkrun community.
I’d ummed and ahhed about the prospect of running the 100km Anzac Ultra in Sydney in April 2015. Only 5 months away but coming off the back of 6 Inch training, I was at least flirting with the idea. My husband (a quiet supporter) sighed, but said I could do it if I really wanted to provided the house didn’t go to shit with all the training. Coach Scott was hesitant. Not because he didn’t think I could do it, but because the training would be a lot, and there’s a family/running life balance to be struck and this might tip the scales. Anzac Day is my birthday. Also the 100 year anniversary won’t come around again. The race is a one off. I really wanted to do it. However, I have 4 sons. Two of whom will start high school next year. There just are not enough hours in my day to be able to do the right amount of training AND keep my family together. Maybe. But it’d be a fucking stretch, I’d probably be grumpy a lot, and I’d likely push my very tolerant husband to the edge. And that’s no fun for everyone. So, sadly, I had to set this one aside. People I spoke to said I was crazy for considering it because I have so many kids to care for. It bums me out a bit that as a woman, as a runner, I have to put some goals aside. Apparently I need to wait until they’re older and it will be easier. I’ll tell the world right now, I’m not waiting for 15 years before I get going on my ultra dream. Fuck that. Yes I am a mother. But I am also a woman separate from that role. That’s a whole blog post on its own I think….
So… November has had its ups and downs….
Lesson 2: Blisters are absolute balls
Seriously – I have socks almost literally worth their weight in gold and every long run I’m plagued with some serious blisters. I tape all my toes (do you know how hard it is to tape little toes at 4am?). I tape down the insides of my feet. I think my shoes take on the “Pimp My Feet” challenge with every long run. They see how many new blister additions can be squeezed into the available space. Toes are taped? No worries, we can squeeze in some painful skin rubbing just above that tape. Oh heyyy… how about a blister underneath the tape just for something different. Haven’t taped an area? Let’s see how tough it is… And yes yes yes! A double whammy challenge: blister on a blister. That shit is possible. And painful. Jerk feet. Jerk socks. Jerk shoes. My feet are getting rougher and take more punishment than usual, but still, I almost couldn’t finish my last 5km on the weekend because my feet were all chopped up.
Lesson 3: Don’t be offended when people underestimate you
This speaks for itself really.
This “cute” “pocket rocket” runner right here has her feelings hurt just a little bit when people tell her she’s crazy for wanting to run so far, or perhaps, so fast.
Lesson 4: I take a mean “4am up for a long run” selfie