2016 GNW100 Miler

September 28, 2016

I’ve been dreaming about this race for a few years now. I’ve seen every video on youtube, read every race reports and heard about so many DNF (Did Not Finish) stories that I’ll admit it had me a little scared. But I’m always up for a challenge and the Great North Walk 100s sounded like it was just my cup of tea.

I eventually started telling people about my race plans and thankfully had 2 wonderful humans volunteer to crew (Sally Dean) and pace (Brad Smithers) for me at the race. Sally and I met when we crewed together for Jane Trumper at the 2015 Coast2Kosci, she was very experienced and I learnt so much from her over that weekend, an invaluable asset to have on my team! And that’s also where I met my pacer Brad, he was crewing for another runner at Coast2Kosci, his bubbly personality and helpful nature meant we became good friends straight away. Brad had also run the GNW miler in 2015 so he knew the course well and was experienced in ultra running, another invaluable asset to have on my team.

Like most of my races I would also use this event to fundraise for Dementia research at the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) and run this race in honour of my grandmother Betty who passed away recently after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Since 2013 I have run many events and raised almost $20,000 for this cause and I think my Nan would be very proud.

Months of training went past with the experienced help of my coach Andy Dubois, and it was not without the usual speed bumps of life along the way. I got to run on most of the course before race day, and I also spent a couple of days hiking solo and camping on the course, which I later realised was one of the toughest sections. It was a great experience for me as I love the outdoors, even if it meant getting a few blisters along the way!

Fast forward to the day before race day, where I met Sally in Woy Woy near the hotel I would be staying after the race. I would leave my car there and Sally would drive us to Warners Bay where we would stay the night before the race. We checked into our Hotel (pub, big mistake!) and went to do the usual final shopping trip. We also drove to the start area, a large football field which would be flooded with runners, supporters, organisers and volunteers the next morning. We went back to the hotel and Sally meticulously organised my food bags, she’s awesome! I’d also given her a 7 page document which outlined my plan so we chatted about the finer points on that too ( I know, run nerd). I also (half) taped my feet which took took much longer than expected, next time i’m just going to call Berny, ha ha!

Now all that was left to do was sleep, but that didn’t really go to plan as it sounded like the pub band were playing directly below our room and when they stopped playing at midnight we were treated to more ‘doof doof’ from the DJ until about 2am. Not the best way to spend the night before you are about to run 175kms, but hey what could I do?!

The alarms went off and we sleepily got up and prepared for the day. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

We parked the car at the start area and checked in, weighed in, and I visited the toilet 5,000 times (okay, slight exaggeration). Always happens to me before a race, and thankfully I found a toilet that didn’t have a queue. I spent time chatting to lots of friends who were running both the 100km and 100 mile events and I sat down to rest my legs before the race briefing.

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Wayne (Blue Dog) Gregory and I had planned to start the race together and run together as long as we could. We had not done any training runs together but he said that he was going to be slow and being my first miler I told him I would be taking it slow and easy to ensure I could make the distance, it would be nice to have his company.

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And we were off, I was talking so much I missed the starting gun (if there was one?) but everyone started running and we joined them.

I was running GNW100 Miler!! Woohoo!!

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I started the race with Blue Dog as planned, and we ran with friends Seb, George and his friend Simon for most of the first road section. I also saw my physio Pete as we crossed over the railway bridge, he was looking fit and I wished him well. It was raining at this point but only very lightly and it was actually very nice as the temperature was quite warm that morning (15 degrees if you believe the Liquorland sign near our hotel).

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Photo Credit: George Mihalakellis

Eventually we hit some trail and some hills, Blue Dog. And so it began, the power hiking up and the running down, plus running the flats. We hit our first steep, technical hill and Blue Dog commented on how strong I was going up them. I felt good, no I felt great.

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It was during the jungle that Blue Dog slowed and I kept getting ahead. It was a beautiful section of the course, very much like a rainforest and I took lots of time to look around and enjoy the view while I waited for Blue Dog to catch up, but eventually he told me to go on ahead and stop waiting for him and by the look in his eye I knew it was the right thing to do, he was struggling. I wished him well and caught up to another group of runners just ahead, one of them was Michael that I’d met at C2K, then there was Nick who has done this race 7 times before (!!), plus another first timer who from the Ukraine. They told me about a ‘huggy’ post that was at the top of the climb. We eventually got there and after a few laughs I managed to snap a shot of us all leaning on the post.

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I got to CP1 (28.6km) with relative ease and was greeted by John Love from Terrigal Trotters. I had never met him before but he was a friend of my massage therapists and he was going to help look out for me. From then on I was known to all of the volunteers as “John’s (only) friend”, the joke of the day/night/day! ha ha

I saw Sally straight away when I came into the checkpoint and she gave me all the supplies I needed, dead set legend. I made a quick dash to the bathroom and hoped that I would be able to leave with the same runners I had come in with. Unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen as I Checked-Out and got on my way. Here’s me heading out of CP1.

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Being alone for part of this section took me back to when I had hiked it a few months earlier, only this time I was not carrying a 28kg pack!! It was beautiful to hear only the sounds of my feet and the birdsongs all around me. Just beautiful.

After a while I caught up to Nick and the crew again, and our group chatted and laughed about so many things I can’t even remember. It was fun and I was loving this. Eventually it was just Nick and I and we were running along the road to Congewoi, it was an undulating section and we took the run/walk/run/walk approach. It was getting quite warm and the sun was beaming down on us at this time, but we were thankful of a few clouds and large trees and ran whenever we got a shady spot too.

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As we approached the checkpoint a lady who has been crewing for someone came past and offered us a Boost chocolate bar, she was running just ahead of us holding it out to show us and as we chased her we could not stop laughing, it was like dangling a carrot in front of us to make us run into the cp. I wish someone had filmed it as it would have been very funny!

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Coming into CP2 (52.5) it seemed there was a lot more excitement and atmosphere than CP1, lots more cheering and smiley faces. Sally found me straight away and got me weighed, seated and fed. I saw the smiling face of Roger Hanney too, he had just got back from his UTMB challenge and he filled my bladder up with iced water – it was divine, thanks Roger!

I did a quick toilet stop, changed my underwear & put on some tights as I was getting some chaff between my legs (TMI?) and I didn’t want it to get any worse, better to prevent if you can! Here are some pictures from the checkpoint.

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Getting my mandatory gear checked off.

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As I was leaving the cp Roger from Hoka One One made an embarrassing impromptu video interview that you can watch here (sorry about the swearing mum): https://www.facebook.com/HokaOneOneAustralia/videos/pcb.1099883286726723/1099879683393750/?type=3&theater

I left the cp feeling good, scoffing some ginger kisses into my mouth (god they were good) and hoping I would catch Nick who had left just before me. And thankfully I did. The next section of the course was a brutal one, two of the biggest climbs and not a lot of flat at all. We ran along and another runner called Roberto (from Argentina) caught up to us and we chatted about the next section. We also learned that Roberto was doing 8 milers on 8 continents, this was number 7 in his quest – wow!

The first climb was tough but I was ready. I’d hiked it before with a heavy pack and I knew I could do it again. Nick and I chatted the whole way up and it seemed to make the time go faster which was great. I pointed out the spot where I had camped during my hike and Nick named it Haileys Corner, which sounded a bit rude to me (ha ha) and I re-named it Haileys Campsite.

When we got to the top we realised we had caught up to a few runners, one of them being a good friend of mine Adam, and we were also joined by another good friend of mine Leah. So we decided to have a log party and get some food into us, good times!!

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After a few shenanigans we were soon up and on our way, it felt great to be running again on the fire trail that lay before us. We chatted to some more runners that caught up to us and continued with our running banter and stories. None that I can share with you i’m afraid, as ‘whatever happens on the trail stays on the trail’ (ha ha).

We eventually came to a property and we had to pass through some gates, past some cows, over a stream, through some more gates and then up towards the next big climb. Adam, Leah and I chatted as we made our way up the next steep hill, it seemed that it would never end. It was here that we also caught up to a friend Kurt, I hadn’t seen him for a while so it was really nice to run into him (pun intended).

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The next part I cannot remember too well, probably because it all looked the same or I’ve decided to erase it from my memory (ha ha) but I know that I somehow lost Leah and ended up heading into the Basin by myself. It was dark now and I’d prepared for this as it was a tricky section, but I had the trail etched in my memory so that I wouldn’t get lost. And as I was heading into the Basin I managed to catch up to my friends Kurt and Adam, and we chatted about the food we would consume and the things we needed to do at the next cp. We all decided that we should try and stick together for the next section and leave at the same time, it seemed like a great plan to me.

Coming into the Basin (81.6km) you could hear some (awful) Karaoke singers who had clearly been living it up by the campfire all afternoon/evening, and there was a buzz in the air as we flew into the check-in tent and collapsed on the chairs ready to get stuck into some tucker. I’m pretty sure I had 3 cups of soup and more, it was so tasty and felt good going down. I changed my shoes here and put on the trusty Hoka that feel like clouds, they were so good on already sore and blistered feet. Sally was an angel and made sure I had everything I needed, that I was fed, that I was warm, and gave me updates about other runners she knew of. I was feeling so excited and positive. This was going well and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I chatted to Nick & Pete who had come into the cp earlier than we had, but were both struggling. Pete hadn’t been able to keep food down and Nick had decided to lay down for a nap. I hoped they would be able to get up and keep running.

Sally also gave me some emails from my family, they had such lovely words of encouragement and they brought a happy tear to my eye. So thoughtful, so motivating.

After lots of laughs, lots of food, some name calling and a toilet stop we eventually got our butts organised and headed out into the night. The next cp would be Yarramalong and the finish for the 100km runners, a massive tick off the list i’d been keeping my head. My plan was to get in and out of that cp as quickly as possible. And I was really looking forward to seeing my pacer Brad, his smile had a way of making everything okay and he would be very welcome company for the rest of the race.

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It really was so much fun running with Kurt and Adam, both had a great sense of humour and were easy to talk to. We planned to take the trail section here petty easy and then once we hit the road we were going to opt for a run/walk/run/walk option along the 10km+ road section. As we were approaching the road we somehow got a tiny bit off course and poor Kurt and Adam ran into some stinging nettle. I’m glad they had been ahead of me as it meant I had fair warning and could avoid it. The trail was just 4 metres to our right and we back tracked onto it and then onto the road. As we got to the road we saw a few other runners who had stopped and were reading a map. We told them they needed to go left and just keep running.

It really did feel good to be running again and I wanted to use this road section to make up some time, so I promised myself I had to keep the run/walk momentum going. We took turns saying let’s run to that post, or that tree, or that letterbox, or that scarecrow. Yes that’s right, the road was littered with houses that had dressed up their own scarecrows in costume and themes and the local town were having a competition for the best one, you could even go online to vote for them! They were fantastic, check them out here: http://www.yarramalongvalleyspringfestival.com.au/spring-festival-events/scarecrow-competition/

We kept up the run/walk but there seemed to be more walking than running, and I remember at one point thinking shit I need to run some more, so I told the boys and thankfully they followed behind me as we put some distance between us and the other runners we had seen earlier. It was dark, but it wasn’t cold. Thankfully it was a beautiful night and you should have seen the stars, thousands of them filtered the sky…!!!

It was at this point I thought of my friend Jill who at the same time was running the Glasshouse 100miler in Queensland. I wondered how she was going, how she was feeling and felt like part of her was there with me edging me along the road.

Eventually we got closer to town and we headed into the Yarramalong cp (103.7km) where I saw the smiling faces of my friends from Trailblazers Brad, Emma & Filimon. I made a quick dash to the toilet and then headed to find trusty Sally who would get me re-fueled, re-energized and back out there.

I saw Brad and he commented on how fresh I looked and I said I was feeling good. I really was looking forward to his company and being able to ‘switch-off’ a little, as I’d been cautiously searching for trail markers and stressing that I’d get lost for most of the day. It was nice to know I had a fresh pair of eyes looking out for me and to help share the journey to Patonga. We ate and ate and ate, and I stretched a little too. The body was holding up well and I reminded myself to keep re-assessing and making smart decisions. I was surprised how alert I felt and that I was still eating real food, usually for the second half of the 100km races the only thing going in would be gels at this point. But the food tasted good. I had soup and chips and coke and whatever else I could get my hands on. I was still loving those ginger kisses!!

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Kurt, Adam, Brad and I departed the cp together as we headed for another tough section. I think we were all very glad to have Brad join our crew and he chatted to us about a plan of attack. I was so excited to be past Yarramalong and told the gents this was the furthest I had even run before. We had a mini celebration and then got stuck into the hard work that lay before us.

After a few hours into this section, probably at around 3:00am I started to get sleepy and was slowing down. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy and they wanted to close. Picture micro-sleeping while on the run, that was me. I told the gents how I was feeling and Kurt said he was a bit the same. So we tried to keep talking to each other and keep the brain awake, but it was really starting to slow me down. Brad went ahead chatted to the other guys to tell them to go ahead as I was slowing everyone down. There were only a few hours until sunrise and prior to the race everyone had told me that once the sun comes up your body will re-charge, I hoped that was true.

Brad kept me alert and upright as we kept moving through the early hours of the morning and sure enough once we started to hear the sounds of the early morning birds we knew the sun was on it’s way, and a new day could start. You could see the sky starting to lighten and as the sun lifted high into the sky so did my spirits.

I started running again and it felt great. I felt awake and alive, and was looking forward to getting into the next cp at Somersby. The sleepiness had gone and i was very thankful. We caught up to Kurt who was now alone and we ran past him wishing him well.

We ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, walked, and ran some more until we eventually go to the next cp at Somersby (132.1km). I was looking forward to some breakfast and some coffee which we had planned to have here. I had porridge and a delicious cup of ‘real’ coffee, thanks volunteer lady for sticking around and making it for me – you rocked!!

Sally gave me a blanket and food and took care of my emptying and re-filling my pack. I told her what I had eaten and she was impressed (ha ha). Such a caring, thoughtful woman. I really had chosen the best crew-lady ever!!

Brad surprised me with a beautiful little bunch of lavender, something for me to remind me of my grandmother. It brought a happy tear to my eye as I remembered her and reminded me of the struggles her and my family had been through with her dementia. She was a beautiful lady and I was going to get back out there and do her proud.

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I chatted to Sarah (Adam’s wife) and she said that he has left only moments before we had arrived, it was great to hear he was doing so well. I did some more stretching just to get the body moving and eventually Sally had us all prepared and on our way. I’d even filled my bladder with Coca Cola to help get me caffeinated and ensure no more sleepy patched would appear on the next section. And I only had one more cp to go, then the finish. How awesome was that!

Brad and I got up and on our way heading back out onto the road section, over a little hill and then back onto the trail. Only a marathon to go now!!

This was a gorgeous section to run and having Brad’s company was great. We chatted and laughed and I was feeling so much better than the low point I had had earlier during the morning. The new day brought new opportunities and eventually it would bring that finish line. It was in my mind, I could picture it, and I was going to do whatever it took to get there.

We got to Mooney Mooney cp (149.9km) and were greeted by the smiling faces of the volunteers and gorgeous Sally. We also met the lady who would be sweeping the course and I started to get very aware of the cut-off times and wanted to make sure we stayed comfortably ahead of them. This meant that we didn’t stay very long as we had to keep moving.

As we left the cp I waved to Sally and we headed off dancing down the hill with big grins, as we knew the next stop would be the finish at Patonga!!

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There was some lovely trail at the start of this section before we hit some nasty hills and a sh!tload of rock, rock and more rock. Oh and there was some rock too! By this point my feet were aching, the blisters had formed nicely around my toes but I was determined to ignore that and get the job done. So we went up on the rock, down on the rock, up on the rock, down on the rock, and Brad put up with my groans and sighs as we made our way through this section. It felt like we were going round in circles and not getting anywhere and I was starting to get frustrated. When would this rock ever end?!

I remember going quiet for a long time, and internally I was stressing about the next cut-off. I also remember saying to Brad “I feel like we have been on this rock forever” and he replied, “That’s because we’ve been on it for over 2 hours”. It made sense. I tried to relax my body and focus on the finish. I remembered the quote Blue Dog had said, ‘It’s going to get ugly, but it’s going to get done’, and i’m pretty sure my style at this point was very ugly! ha ha

The last cut-off was 3:00pm at the Staples Lookout Track (160.8km) and thoughts of not reaching the lookout in time seemed to consume my thoughts, no matter how much I tried to think of something else. And I’m sure I asked Brad about a thousand times ‘are we there yet?’. I’m sure he was getting sick of me now!

Brad and I sat down for a minute to rest during this section, and he read me an email that my husband had written for me to encourage me along. It was beautiful. It was perfect. We shared some more tears and then we got back up and on our way, getting back to business.

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I was still feeling pretty good, tired but better than I expected to feel at this point. I felt very alert and awake and was determined to run as much as I could, and I did.

Eventually we went past the cut-off point with 30 minutes to spare, I said my prayers to the trail running gods and promised myself to lighten up and enjoy the rest of the journey. And as soon as we got off that god awful rock I started running again, further and further than I expected to be running at this point.

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I could almost smell that finish line. I could hear it calling me. And I ran, I ran even though my head wanted me to stop. I ran. I pushed harder. I even managed to cachet up to a few runners as I hit the fire trail before the last downhill section to the beach. When I got closer I realised one of the runners was Adam, and I was hoping that he would tag along and speed up with me so we could get to the finish together, but he stayed with his pace and I wished him well (with a slap on the butt) as I went past.

The down hill section in front of me had a little bit of concrete and rock, and after that it was my favourite type of trail. I decided to give it everything I had and finish the race running from here on. I felt like I flew down the last hill. It was single track, stairs, rocky, it had lots of turns and I was having lots of fun. I passed another 2 runners on that section and Brad and I eventually hit the beach.

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We heard the bell sound telling everyone that there was a runner on the beach and we made our way along the sand to the finish area. I could see the finishers post, I was really doing this, I was going to finish the GNW100 Miler!!

I fell to my knees in awe of the race and all that it entails, I could’t believe I had made it. My eyes were filled with tears. I kissed the post. I hugged the post. I did it Nan!

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Finish line Video: https://www.facebook.com/jill.saker/videos/10153990253633380/

Tears are filling my eyes as I type this and I have so many people to thank for getting me to the start line and supporting me on this journey so far. Without them I would not have been able to plan and prepare for the event in the way that I had. I truly believe that my race could not have gone any smoother and it thanks to my wonderful crew Sally, pacer Brad, coach Andy, massage therapist Faye, husband Jared and my beautiful family & friends.

Thank you to Dave Byrnes the race director and all of the wonderful volunteers who gave up their time to support us crazies, you people are wonderful and the world would be a better place if there were more people like you.

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Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and helped me raise funds for UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, we got to $2,00 and i’m thrilled. So thanks for the support team!

You can still donate here if you have a few spare dollars: https://cheba2.everydayhero.com/au/hailey-runs-gnw100mile

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So what’s next for me? I’ve applied for a little race that’s coming up in December and I’ve got everything crossed in the hope that I get chosen to race this spectacular beast. It would be a dream come true!

Stay tuned and happy running 🙂

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It’s only taken me 4 months to finally blog about this race, but my lack of speed in getting this written down is quite the opposite of how my race went on the day.

I had the Friday off work and got the train into the city to meet Maria as we were traveling and staying together at Caves House in the Blue Mountains, the finish location of the race. On the way up to the mountains we called into The Carrington Hotel to collect our race packs and chatted to many friends doing the same, the nerves and excitement were building. We ordered takeaway across the road at the pasta joint which took more than an hour to get (second busiest day of the year for them), and then we drove to our hotel arriving in the dark. After originally being given the wrong room (with no bathroom), we finally got checked into a new room (still not the spa room we had booked) with a bathroom. We ran into Leah and her husband Russell who were checking into their room, they were both running the next day too.

After getting our race outfits organised and everything out ready for the morning, we headed to get some rest. I had been fighting a head cold for the past week and hoped that I would not snore and keep Maria awake (sorry Maria).

It was race day!

We got up, had breakfast (banana, coffee & muffin for me) then got ready and headed down to the buses that would take us to the start line. After a long bus ride on some very narrow, rocky, cliff-side roads we eventually got to the start area and the air was electric! We made our usual last minute toilet stop and then found some other Striders to chat with as we waited for the start of the race.

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Our friend Nigel (below) was planning to run the whole race with his light saber, awesome!!

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I ran into 2 of my good friends, Kaori and Ganesh (above), who I used to run with in the city after work. It was so great to see them both and we chatted nervously about this race and others planned for the year, they were both also entered in UTA100 and that made me very happy to know some other familiar faces would be there in May.

Maria had originally been placed in the start wave/group before mine, however I had sent an email to the race organisers requesting to be moved up a group, as my friend and I wanted to run together. We were roughly the same pace but had not done much training together lately (if at all) so we were just going to ‘see how it went’.

A few people had been asking me what my goal was for the race, however I really didn’t want to put an expected time in my head, rather I just wanted to run to how I was feeling on the day. The reason I started trail running was because I loved being out in the bush, amongst nature, to help me de-stress and get away from the everyday pressures of the world. So at this time it just didn’t seem right to start putting pressure on myself. My answer to those who prodded and asked was ‘anything quicker than 2014 would be great” (my official 2014 finish time was 6:08:26), but my actual plan was to go out and enjoy the course, enjoy the company of other runners, and to finish in one piece.

Eventually it was our turn to start and the gun went off as we slowly made our way towards the ankle-breaking Nellie’s Glen. There was usually a short, slow run towards the top of the stairs and then it would be a slow trip down the stairs before we would start running again. Maria and i chatted and caught up on what had been happening in our lives and with her new-ish job and it was great to be running with her again.

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Our friend Bruce caught up to us and we had a quick chat before sending him forward on his way. He had caught up to us from the start of the wave behind us and was looking fast and strong.

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It was around this point that Maria got ahead of me. She is a faster runner than me and although I was sad to not be running with her anymore, I was glad she was going to have a crack and run hard.

After the fog cleared the day was gorgeous, much warmer than anticipated which I thought would probably affect a lot of people, and it was early on that I made a mental note to drink plenty and encourage others to do the same. I love the heat!

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As I was nearing the Mini Mini Saddle I ran into Michael, his wife Stefica is also a good friend of mine and he told me of their plans to pack up their house and go travel and hike around the world. I was thrilled, excited and even a little jealous of their upcoming adventure!

Somehow I managed to catch up to Maria as I started the climb up to the Pluviometer, and I realised that I was finding it quite easy-going compared to previous attempts. I passed Maria and we wished each other well.

I kept pushing up the hill as I was chatting to some new friends Ian and Cora, actually I think I had met Ian before (?). They were both lovely and it helped pass the time going up that big mother of a hill, although before we could reach the top I had to let them go as they seemed to be a little stronger than me and I didn’t want to be holding anybody back.

When I got to the top of the Pluvi I saw my buddy Changa, he was volunteering and shouting out race numbers so I ran over and gave him a hug then continued on my way.

After this point the trails gets quite runnable and this year I planned to run all of it. I don’t usually use headphones and music but this year I was going to give it a try and see if it made a difference. Lately I had been using an App called ‘Pace DJ’ which picks songs from your phone that have the right beat for your designated cadence. It seemed to work and I even managed to catch up to my friend Leah who seemed to be struggling, sh had been sick leading into there race too. I wanted to stop and chat but I had a really good rhythm going and I didn’t want to break it now, so I waved, wished her well, stuck my head down and got back to work.

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Not long after one of my Trailblazer buddies Allan passed me, he was looking very strong and gave me some thoughtful and encouraging words. Such a great guy! His lead on me didn’t last long though and I eventually caught him and didn’t see him again (sorry Allan!).

I was feeling hot, but I was also feeling fantastic. I was having a great run. At this rate I would definitely finish under my time from 2014 so I was very happy about that.

The time seemed to fly past quickly and before I knew it there was less than 10kms to go.

At one point there was a large crowd of NRG’ers cheering runners on , and I could hear them well before I could see them. It gave me a boost and as I ran past I realised some familiar faces that I had met at C2K.

My favourite section was coming, the final downhill.

I felt amazing, so alive and I decided to push myself to the limit and give this last section everything that I had left. I hardly even noticed some good friends Tanya, Sarah and Anthony as I passed them on a downhill section. They had moved aside for me and i didn’t even realise who they were until they shouted out to cheer me on.

I was in the zone and I would finish with nothing left in the tank.

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As I crossed the finish line I attempted a ‘Nigel-like’ jumping air shot, but my calf cramped and I stumbled almost knocking over the gentleman in front of me. Too funny!

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When I looked up I saw many familiar faces and received a warm hug from Dale, a champion Strider who gives so much to so many. She gave me my finishers medal and goodie bag and I searched for a seat to rest my legs.

My time was 5:22:56, a Personal Best by 45mins+!!

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Our friend Brad was not coping well after his run and we spent some time looking after him whilst he recovered in the medic tent, but he was in good hands and there was nothing more we could do so we headed back out to cheer on more runners.

We watched many others across the finish line and eventually made our way up to the room to get changed into some clean, dry clothes. Then made our way back to the finish line to celebrate with a few drinks & cheer the last of the runners over the line.

It had been a tough day for many runners given the heat and not very many PB’s on the cards, so I felt very proud of my result. My new coach and his training methods were clearly paying off, thanks Andy, you make me want to be a better runner! I must also give thanks to Faye my massage therapist who looks after me and always gets me back on track, despite the ridiculously tight muscles I bring to her table every week.

A huge thanks to all the Sydney Striders who organised and ran such a fantastic event. Thanks must also go to all for the volunteers including the wonderful SES crews who manned the water stations along the way. You all help to make it such a magical experience and we cannot thank you enough!

After the crowds had died down and the last of the tents packed away, our crew prepared for it’s bbq feast, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, it was a fun afternoon and evening.

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Happy running 😀

I think i’m still in shock!

Yesterday I somehow managed to score my first ever trail running podium and I was so overcome with happiness when I crossed the line that I burst into tears.

Last weekend while I was sitting in the car being chauffeured home from the Six Foot Track Marathon, Maria and I got talking about the Running Wild race in Lawson that was being held the next weekend. I had contemplated entering earlier in the week when I received an email reminder about the race letting me know that registrations were still open, but hadn’t fully committed as I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel a week later. Somehow Maria and I came to the conclusion that it was a good idea for me to enter and before I got home I was registered for the 17km event.

The Monday after Six Foot was tough. My quads and calfs were very, very sore and I was hoping that my massage on Thursday would help alleviate some of that before the race. Thankfully it did and by Saturday my legs were feeling normal again.

I spent Saturday morning taking the walk/run group at the gym where I work and training a few PT clients, then headed into Pyrmont for the Nike Training Club Tour Sydney, a day of fitness and fun. I took it pretty easy as I knew I had a tough run coming the next day.

Sunday I was up at 4.30am and heading to the Blue Mountains. I had convinced my friend Amanda to come and join me for the run too so I was looking forward to seeing her. We are both doing UTA100 in May so we have been trying to schedule some weekend runs together and this would be the first! (ha ha)

I parked at the Lawson Bowling Club and headed down the (hilly) road to the start/finish area and collected my bib. There weren’t many familiar faces but a few people said hi and asked me about 6 foot (I wore my race t-shirt). My plan was to take the race pretty easy as I knew my body would still be recovering so this was to be my long, slow run for the week.

Amanda and her friend Vicki arrived and we chatted as we waited for the race to start.

There were 2 distances being run on the same course at the same time, so the 17km (long) option were doing 2 laps of the course, and the shorter course was just 1 lap of the trail. We eventually started and the pack seemed to be very slow moving. I had planned to stick with Amanda for the first section of the trail, but as I started to overtake people I noticed that she wasn’t behind me anymore. I didn’t think i was going that fast but maybe she was still recovering from her run at 6 foot the week before, or perhaps she had decided to run with Vicki. I hoped that she wouldn’t be upset I had abandoned her as it was not intentional.

There are thousands of thoughts that go through my mind while running, sometimes they are run-related and sometimes that are not.

The first out and back section was short and brought us back past the start area where we made a left turn onto an uphill section, we would have to do this section 3 times. Most of this course was fire trail so it was quite wide and meant for easy passing, which I seemed to be doing without too much effort. I noticed that I still felt cold as we went up the first incline, my hands were freezing so I decided to keep running up the first hill so I could try and warm up. Normally I would have walked a hill that steep but I was feeling pretty good and was keen to get warm.

The trail was very rocky and I was thankful for my new Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes, today was the first time I had worn them on trails as I was breaking them in and they felt really good. There were lots of ups and downs and I worked hard to overtake several people on the down sections as this seems to be my strength.

We passed through a gate and headed down another steep hill as I shuffled my feet in small, quick steps moving fast and calculated. My left eye kept watering which blurred my vision a little and make it tricky, but I didn’t let that bother me.

Eventually (after another short uphill section & a spot for a photo) we got to the turnaround point and I saw my friend Luke who is a volunteer for the Running Wild Club and he cheered me on. I made a mental note to grab food there when I came past next as I knew i’d be out of my drink by then. I was carrying a 600ml soft flask with Tailwind (grape) and it was already over half empty. I had started the race with a grumbly belly (even though I had eaten breakfast before I left home and had also eaten a banana as I walked from my car to the start line) so I had been trying to get the liquids in for my body to use during the race.

We passed back down the steep hill and along the trail seeing many runners coming the other way. I cheered them on and chatted to a few others near me too, it always helps make the time fly past.

As we went through the gates we were directed down a trail to the right and it was a beautiful downhill single track section, my favourite! I raced down there to try and make up some time and really enjoyed this section. I was already  looking forward to doing it again on the second lap!

The single track ended and we were back near the start area and heading off up to the original out and back section. I saw many of the front runner as they motored back towards me and noticed that there were lots of females breathing down my tail. Little did I know that these ladies were all doing the short course and there run was almost over as they were only doing the 1 lap.

I got to the turnaround and headed back trying to keep up a descent pace on this flat section. My friend Kathy caught up to me and we chatted about Mile 27 and our coach Andy. I learned she was only doing the 1 lap as she was taking it easy and it got me thinking about how many other runners were almost done too, or were they speeding up trying to catch me too?

She motored off towards the finish line and I pulled up my socks for another lap of the course. I hit the steep first hill again and this time I power walked up that section. I kept trying to maintain a comfortable breathing pattern and staying positive. It was about this time that I met Dave and we chatted about 6 foot which he had also done the week before (and had beaten me by 10 minutes, ha ha). I ran with him for a while but he kept pulling ahead of me on the flats and the uphill. My plan was to try and stick with him as long as i could, so i kept him in my sights and caught up to him a few times on the downhills.

I got to the turnaround point and I had been pushing it a bit harder than the first lap so was starting to feel a little tired. I grabbed a piece of banana and scoffed it down as Luke cheered me off down the hill again. It was the last leg.

There was a lot of downhill here and I managed to catch up to Dave again so we chatted some more. I had been cheering on the runners coming in the other direction and if I was correct there were only 3 ladies in front of me, could that be right? Oh well, surely I was wrong and I should just stick to my race plan and enjoy the trails.

And then I saw the photo man again who confirmed it for me, he told me I was in 3rd place (but I knew he meant 4th place, surely I could not be 3rd!). How the hell did that happen?

And then the brain started ticking over….. would it be possible to get a podium? If i pushed it here and caught up to that lady I could see ahead would I be in 3rd place? Was it possible? Should I go for it?

I told Dave about my debacle and he made the call for me. He was going to help me get 3rd! (I owe him big time for that, thanks again Dave!). I told him I’d be happy with Top 5 but he said ‘screw that we are getting you 3rd place!’

And with that Dave motored me up the hills and told me that I would catch her on the downhills as she was slow and cautious going down. He was so encouraging and positive and his winning attitude seemed to rub off on me. The lady in front seemed to be pulling away from me on the hills but we had a lot of downhill coming and I hoped it would be her weakness (sorry Ros).

We passed through the gates and Dave cheered me on to “go for it”, so I turned right onto my favourite single track section and (with a hidden smile on my face) gave it my all as I headed down the trail and motored past the lady in front as she slowly clambered down the rocks. I felt like I was flying! I was now in 3rd place – far out! Really?!?!

Now there was the pressure of thinking about her creeping up behind me trying to catch up. I kept telling myself that she was closing in, that I could hear her breathing down my neck and it kept me pushing all the way down to the bottom of the track and also as i climbed back up the final stairs. At the end of the single track I turned right and just had the original out and back section to conquer.

I took a quick glance behind me to see if I could spot the other lady and she was nowhere to be seen. Could this be possible? Keep your head down Hailey, it’s not over yet. I knew I had about 1km to go so I tried to find another gear to increase the gap so she wouldn’t come flying past me on the last section, but I also wanted to leave something in the tank in case I needed to make a sprint finish. God this was stressful, but so exciting!

I’ve never felt anything like it.

We got to the turnaround and I anxiously kept an eye out for the lady runner behind me. Eventually I saw her and she wasn’t that far behind. She was smaller than me so probably much quicker on the flat sections so I had to keep up my pace and finish strong.

The trail went up and down and around and eventually I could see the finish line, this was it. I was going to do it. Oh my god!

I crossed the line and a lady walked over to me holding a wine glass and a voucher, she congratulated me and told me that i was the 2nd female. 2nd female! Was that right? Surely she was wrong. I burst into tears and bent forward as I tried to catch my breath and let my legs rest. She asked me if something was wrong and I told her it was my first podium, then she gave me a big hug and congratulated me again. Her name was Annie and she told me to go get a drink, some food and then come back for a photo.

As I wiped my tears I saw Dave crossing the finish line and I made my way over to thank him for pushing me and helping me so much, what a great guy. Trail runners really are a whole different breed of awesome humans!

After some food and water I walked bak over to Anne and we got a photo together. I think I was still in shock at the result, but you could not wipe the smile off my face! 😀

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I chatted to some other friends Stephane, and Jill and then I found the ladies who had come 1st and 3rd and congratulated them on their race. They were both super friendly and really nice, genuine people. Below is a photo of us, there’s Ros (3rd) on the left, Alicia (1st)in the middle, and me (2nd) on the right.

I’m so glad i got to meet these 2 ladies, they were so kind and I wish them both congratulations again 🙂

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A big thank you to all of the volunteers and organisers at the Running Wild event. They do an amazing job and it really is the quality people who bring it all together so well. Thank you for such a well organised and well supported event. I’ll be back for Series 7, see you then!

😀 😀 Happy Running 😀 😀

Aussie 10 Peaks Adventure

December 7, 2015

I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful country and a few weeks ago I got to spend over 10 hours climbing our 10 highest peaks with a wonderful bunch of trail runners.

My friend Dan and I drove down to Smiggins Holes on the Friday with a few pit stops on the way. When we left Sydney it was hot and sunny, but the closer we got to Mount Kosciusko National Park the more fog and cloud covered the sky. We had spots of rain on the way down and when we got out of the car to check out the area we realised we were not suitably dressed and decided to test out our new rain jackets.

We had a short wait till our mates arrived with the keys so we had a cheeky beer from my esky and then went exploring the area. Smidgins Holes is full of chalets that would ordinarily be packed in the winter time, but today it was like a ghost town, not another soul in sight. We wandered to the slopes and saw the chair lifts and ran into a kangaroo who looked at us like we were lost. Or maybe he was just hungry and looking for food.

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Eventually the rest of our crew arrived and we checked out the sleeping quarters at the Clancy Alpine Club, our lodgings for the next few days. I was sharing in Room #3 with 2 girls called Caroline and Kit (both I had never met) and our room had a bunk bed and an upstairs double bed, plus an ensuite. I decided that first in was first served, and scored the double bed for myself, usually I don’t fit into bunk beds due to my height so I was very happy with this!

There was a large communal kitchen with several fridges and cupboards for us to store our food. There were a few couches and a large open log fire to warm up next to (and we did). I got all my food unpacked and kept hydrated as much as possible, plus I had about 4 of my banana paleo cupcakes (carb loading, ha ha).

As everyone unpacked it was clear they were big drinkers! Everyone had brought a couple of bottles of (mostly) red wine and they were stacked above the fridges, I wish I had taken a photo as you would not have thought it was a healthy running group, ha ha. I had brought a bottle of wine but did not think i’d be able to finish it (and I didn’t in the end).

I chatted to Scott Enfield who was one of the founders of the Trailblazers Running Club which is situated on the Northern Beaches, and also David Bristow who had been the organiser of our adventure weekend. I met a lot of other smiley faces and everyone talked about the upcoming run with nerves and excitement.

One by one all of the runners turned up and those who arrived early watched the others carefully measure and pack all of their food, water & gear for the next days adventure. Many were nervous and not sure they would make the distance, myself included!

We got up early and left the chalet at 6.30am. We drove in car loads up to Charlotte’s Pass where we parked the cars, visited the loos and took some photos. It was quite cool, very foggy but we managed to start on time at 7.00am (apparently the first ever Trailblazers run to start on time).

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Charlottes Pass - Start

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We set off down the first trail, quite steep and a little slippery and before long we were crossing our first river (pictured below), that’s me one the left being a fool. I managed to keep my feet dry but a few of the runners decided to wade through the water instead of balancing on the rocks with the others. Tough!

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Photo Credit: David Bristow

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As we exited the river we headed up a steep hill and I was surprised to see small patches of snow on the mountains beside and around us, little did I know that around the next corner there would be rather large patches of snow AND we would be running through them! Below is Richard and I embarking on the first snow slope, who would have thought?! (not me)

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We followed the trail for a few kms and then took a sharp right towards the first peak, as instructed by our navigator David and packed up by our expert orienteer Brook ( who both I must thank for teaching me so much about reading maps that day). We were power walking most of this uphill section and before long we were having our first grelfie (group selfie, ha ha) shown below.

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Peak 1 – Mt Twynam 2,195m

Peak 1 - Mt Twynam

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We then headed back down the peak and were told that there would be a few extra (incidental) peaks along the way, and it didn’t take long until we hit one of those and posed for our next grelfie. Who says you need a selfie stick when you have a great camera and long arms like David! 😉

Peak 1b – 2,136m

Peak 1b - 2136m

Photo Credit: David Bristow

There was not much ‘trail’ on our journey that day, but lots of cross country hiking, climbing, power walking and the thick shrub was quite hard in sections, but lots of fun.

Peak 2 – Caruthers Peak 2,145m

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Scotty and I (above) on Caruthers Peak, such fun!

Peak 2 - Carruthers Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We had all been assigned a buddy for the day, which meant you had to keep an eye on that person to make sure they were eating enough & drinking enough etc. throughout the day. Dan was my buddy and he did a top job! Dan also got the whole crew doing a ‘squat’ at the top of each peak, it’s good for the legs he said as they can rest (even though some of us could not get all the way down to ground due to poor mobility). It got harder and harder to get back up as the day went on though, because the muscles were getting tighter and tighter (ouch!).

And we hit another incidental peak….

Peak 2b – Mt Lee

Peak 2b - Mt Lee

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 3 – Mt Northcote 2,131m

Peak 3 - Mt Northcote

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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I won’t bore you with too much information, but there was a lot of walking involved, so don’t be fooled to think that we ran it all. I think we ran about 20% (if that).

Peak 3b – Muellers Peaks

Peak 3b - Muellers Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 4 – Alice Rawson Peak 2,160m

Peak 4 - Alice Rawson Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

And climbing more snow, it was very slippery!!

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Peak 5 – Mt Townsend 2,209m

Peak 5 - Mt Townsend

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Peak 6 – Abbott Peak 2,145m

Peak 6 - Abbott Peak

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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And then we were headed for the highest peak in Australia, most of the group decided to run up this hill but I was trying to conserve energy and stuck with a few of the slower guys while we chatted up the mountain. You could not see the top as you climbed the trail up towards the top, around every corner youthought it would reveal itself but it just wasn’t there. And then it WAS there! And I could not believe the amount of people who were sitting around enjoying the view up there, it was amazing! They cheered us on and asked us what we were doing, several of them telling us we were crazy – what’s new?!

Peak 7 – Mt Kosciusko 2,228m

Peak 7 - Mt Kosciusko

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Here’s me standing on the highest point of Australia – woohoo!!

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We headed back down from Kosciusko on a high, running, and it was good to be moving fast again. We ran on trail for a portion, over some more snow and hit the Seamans hut where unfortunately Scott was having ITB issues and decided to head for the shortcut back to the finish. He was in a lot of pain so it seemed like a smart move.

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We continued along the trail and hit some metal boardwalks, there were signs that said ‘No Running’ which was a little frustrating, but it meant we could chat more and take in the view. And then some of the peaks were a lot more rocky and involved a lot more ‘climbing’ than expected, but it was lots of fun (did I mention that already?!).

Finally a bit of sun came out…!

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Peak 8 – North Rams Head 2,177m

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Peak 8 - North Ramshead

Photo Credit: David Bristow

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Drop it like a SQUAT! This one (below) is for you Dan – ha ha

Peak 9 – Rams Head 2,190m

Peak 9 - Ramshead

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We deviated off the trail one more time and headed up another steep incline, we were headed for the final peak and i couldn’t believe that I had made it. I was going to finish the Aussie 10 Peaks – how exciting!

Peak 10 – unnamed peak at Etheridge Ridge 2,180m

Peak 10 - Etheridge Ridge

Photo Credit: David Bristow

We climbed back down the hill towards the trail and it was a lovely (slight) downhill section all the way back to the cars at Charlotte’s Pass. I had been sticking with the ladies at the back of the pack to make sure they were okay, and I got to run some of this section. It felt so good to run again. I noticed that some of the girls were falling behind so i slowed to see how they were going and to help them along.

We re-grouped at the bridge crossing the Snowy River (pictured below) and had our photo taken by some trekkers from Canberra. We were so happy and excited to have made it and now we just had about 8km of trail to go.

Survivors

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We set off running again and my buddy had taken off, he was no good to me anymore (ha ha). I stuck with Kit who was alternating between running and walking, she looked like she could do with the company and I was happy to walk to the finish if she needed me to. We chatted and got to know each other as the time passed and the rain started to set in. We took longer than I had expected to get back to the cars, but were greeted with big smiles and hugs when we got there. We had done it!

Here’s the group celebrating our accomplishments with a victory dinner and (many) drinks, although most of us were in bed by 9.30pm (ha ha). So many laughs had, and many lasting friendships forged that weekend, it’s an experience I will treasure for many years to come.

the lodge

Photo Credit: David Bristow

Thank you to everyone who came and made it such an incredible weekend. Lisa for organising such awesome accommodation (and your wonderful Dad). David for having the idea and following it through, and dragging us kicking and screaming along (Not! ha ha), and also big thanks to my super buddy Dan! Thanks for looking after me 😀 😀

For more information about time and distance please refer to my Strava upload: https://www.strava.com/activities/433405416

Our wonderful organiser David Bristow also took some video footage with his GoPro, and he has complied a fantastic video (with great & appropriate music, ha ha). Check it out here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN4aX5sa8xc

Happy Running 😀

What an amazing weekend with a great bunch of people!

Last Sunday was the inaugural Stadium Run in Newcastle, our RunLab founder Vlad (who just ran the Berlin marathon in 2:18, what an inspiration!!) had rallied a crew to organise this amazing event and he did an exceptional job. Aside from a little hiccup with road closures that delayed the start, I throughly enjoyed the event and thank everyone involved for the wonderful experience.

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As a RunLab(ber) we were given the ‘elite’ treatment at this event, which meant we had our very own personalised bibs, an ‘elite’ room to use before and after the race, and the best part…… I was lucky enough to toe the line with Victoria Mitchell, a running hero of mine and a beautiful sole! My bets were on her for 1st woman over the line, she runs like a gazelle and is amazing to watch. Go Vic!

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I have never been on the start line of a race before and the atmosphere was electric. Usually I self seed myself somewhere near the back and find a pacer to stick with during the run, but today I wasn’t sure what pace I should run. I can hear you thinking “what was my race plan?” and to be honest I didn’t have one. My running mate Robbo was trying to get me to stick with him but i didn’t think I’d be able to keep up and didn’t want to go out too hard then crash later on. Another good friend Amanda and I decided that we would run together and just see how we felt, perhaps trying to stick with the 1:50 pacer for as long as we could.

The gun eventually went off and we watched the elites go flying ahead with beautiful motion. Amanda and I chatted and realised we were going way too fast, but we couldn’t slow down (crap!). The hype of the start was exciting and we got carried away with it. But I felt good, so we chatted and kept trying to slow ourselves down to a pace that was manageable.

Unfortunately I lost Amanda at one of the drink stations and couldn’t see her when I looked back. I like to run through the drink stations, I’ve (almost) perfected the art so that I can keep moving while drinking, as i find it hard to get running again once stopped. As i ran along without her and without being able to locate a pacer, I changed my game plan. I decided to keep pushing at this pace and run to feel, this meant I would try to not look at my watch (to check pace) and just run to how I was feeling. It has worked for me in the past in time trials so I was hoping it would work now too. Fingers crossed!!

Okay, so I cracked and looked at the pace on my watch a few times and I was surprised to find that i was sitting between 5’00 and 5’10 pace, could I keep this up? There was only one way to find out.

So i kept pushing myself and picking people off in the distance to catch them. I was looking forward to getting close to the turnaround point as it meant some beautiful beach views and a chance to see the front runners in action as they ran back towards us (and the finish).

There were a few little hills as we approached the beach and along the waterfront, but nothing compared to the mountains I’ve run (walked) in the past, so I pushed myself to maintain pace all the way up the hills and over them just as coach Damon has trained us to do, he would have been proud! I saw the front runners battling it out along the beachfront and they looked ‘in the zone’ but comfortable and flying! I cheered them on and many others behind them as I approached the turn around point.

I was lucky enough to see Julianna, Amanda, Crystal, Robbo and a few other Runlabbers near the turn around point, we were not that far apart after all and I decided to try and catch Robbo, I told him “I was coming to get him” (ha ha).

Reaching halfway is always a massive boost for me, and I attacked the last few hills as I left the beachfront and cheered on as many other runners as possible. I did a check of how I was feeling and I felt good, well, as good as one can feel halfway through a 21km race at a pace they’ve never run before!

This course was all on road so i had been worried about my knee leading into the race, and also the lack of training, but my knee had not given me any niggles and I was feeling pretty good. I was getting a bit tired at one point and a lady in a pink shirt came past me, I looked at my watch and I had slowed to 5’20. I wasn’t going to let this slip away. I made a decision to pick up my feet and get the pace back to 5’10 and I did, I caught the pink shirt lady and we chatted. I told myself to stick with her and i’d get to that finish line. So i put my head down and worked on my form making sure i was running efficiently and kept her in my sights.

There was another turnaround section and i got to see Robbo again, he was just ahead of me. I cheered him on and told him that I was getting closer, I told him he looked good and should finish strong. Helping others always helps me forget about myself and makes the run go quicker, plus i’m sure it helps them to hear positive encouragement so I do it as much as I can, even if I don’t know the person.

We rounded another bend and another water station, I didn’t need any water between here and the finish so kept pushing on. I passed pink shirt girl but she caught up to me (again) and we chatted with what breath we had. After a little while she got ahead of me (yes, again) and I just tried to get into a comfy pace not thinking about her and trying to relax into my strides. I felt tired and hot, but like I could push myself and hopefully keep up the pace till the finish. Here is an action shot, I think we had about 4km to go from this point.

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I kept pink shirt girl in my sights, she was only 20-30 metres ahead of me and there was less than 3km to go now. We ran back along the road we had earlier and saw the start of the 5km race. We actually had to cross in front of the runners to get to our course which was a bit of a challenge, but we found a break and made it through. I was starting to feel the heat of the day and i’m sure my face had gone bright red, maybe I should have stopped for more water? I’d taken a gel at 10km and had stopped 3 times for water/electrolytes so hopefully that had been enough.

Then I looked up and who did I see in front of me? It was Nat Lennon, she was doing the 10km and had only just got back into running, she looked good. I sped up to catch her and gave her a wave and some well wishes as I went past. It was so nice to see another friendly face along the course!

Gosh it was hot.

But there wasn’t far to go now and I could hear the stadium noise building the closer i got. Pink shirt girl was still not far in front of me and with about 1km to go I decided to pick up the pace and finish strong. I went past her and thankfully didn’t see her again (yay!).

As I entered the stadium the buzz was incredible, it pushed me to keep up the speed as I did a lap of the field. I rounded the last corner and heard people cheering my name as I approached the finish line. I saw the clock at 1:48 (and something seconds) and thought “My god, i’m going to break the 1:50!!” so I sped up and managd to finish in 1:48:51 – a half marathon PB for me!

I was wrecked, I was dizzy but I was so, so happy. I was given my finishers medal, then found some water, food and some RunLab friends. Below pic with Justine and Robbo.

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We chatted as I tried to get my breath back and I kept moving my legs which were ever so tight now. The dizziness got worse, so I made my way back to the ‘elite’ room to recover, chatting to a few other friends on the way back. I got to the room and lay on the ground with my feet in the air up against the wall, and eventually the dizziness subsided.

What an amazing run, an amazing event, with amazing people. I knew I had given it my all, I could not have given anything more and I was so proud for not giving up. And the best part was that it had been pain-free!!

Happy Running 😀

On Sunday 30th August I competed in the 19km Southern Highlands Challenge in the beautiful Wingello State Forest, and I have to thank Runners Kitchen for providing me with the entry as I won a competition they advertised on facebook. I literally won the entry a week before the event so there was not a lot of preparation. I’m also very lucky that I have 2 wonderful friends who live 10 mins drive from the start line, as apparently there will little or no accommodation available in the area at this late stage. So thank you Urusula and Carlos for letting me crash again this year!

This race was a favourite of mine lat year, so many good friends and a great start/finish area with stands and food stalls to suite very runners needs. Hats off the April for organising such a great event, if you haven’t run it then you’re missing out and need to get in marked in your calendar for 2016.

A couple of days before the race I decided to drop back to the 19km (instead of the 22km) as I felt I hadn’t really done enough training and in hindsight I think I should have stuck with the 22km as apparently it had less hills (and perhaps would have been a little easier, oh well). So I toed the start line with some fellow Striders and chatted to ‘Mr Ultra’ Craig Thom. We stuck together for the first part of the run but eventually I think I let him go ahead, or was it the other way around (?), I think I let him go ahead. My knee was giving me a little pain but I focused on improving my technique and it get better.

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This was a tough course, lots of hills early on and I felt really good at the start, I felt strong. But eventually the gas wore off a little and this meant my technique faltered and brought on more knee pain.

I had to slow down, I event walked. Not happy with myself. Watched lots of people go past who were all so lovely and asked if I was okay, “was i limping?”. Crap. Kept telling myself to stand up tall and just keep moving, get to that finish line. It was ugly, my legs felt like lead weights and I probably should have been resting after the C2S the week prior.

We runners are so stubborn, we hate to miss out on a run. So I plodded on, found a way to run that didn’t hurt (as much) and kept moving.

About 2km from the finish line I was overjoyed to see some of my Striders friends who were doing the longer course versions, as we shared the course at this point. I got to see my buddy Maria who I ran with at TNF100 and that brought the smile back to my face. She was looking strong and enjoying the run, it really raised my spirits.

I bid Maria farewell with less than 1km to go and picked up the pace to finish strong. Maria had given me the kick up the butt I needed, even if she didn’t know it. And I crossed that line with a smile on my face after having conquered the inner demons pulling me down.

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After a sausage, bacon & egg sandwich (included in the entry) and a coke (my treat after long runs) I met up with all my mates and we cheered others over the finish line as they came in with smiling faces.

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Every run teaches me something new not only about myself, but about others. I learnt that I can ignore my brain (ha ha) and talk myself into (or out of) anything. Then there are the people I meet on the trails, they are such genuine, caring people and it’s good to know that there is kindness in the world which can seem so cruel at times.

I went home with a smile on my face and a medal around my neck. And I had made the conscious decision that the negativity which had been creeping into my brain during recent runs needed to stop. From now on only positive, encouraging thoughts and actions were allowed. Wish me luck!

Happy running 🙂

Woronora Dam 10km

September 20, 2015

I was having lunch with my friend Amanda a few weeks back and she mentioned the upcoming Woronora Dam run, a local trail run organised by JORG. She was entered in the half marathon and there was also a 10km option that she suggested I should enter too, so I signed up.

The weather on the day was not ideal and I was prepared for a muddy trail as it had rained the few days prior and also on the morning of the race, but that never gets me down. I actually like playing in the mud. The course was unknown to me, I hadn’t looked up the elevation chart but I was assured it was one hilly bugger.

I chatted to Amanda and some other friends at the race HQ and after hearing more about the course I decided that my goal would be to run the entire trail to use it as hill training, I didn’t set myself and goal time and wanted to just go out and enjoy it.

The half marathoners set off first and Amanda looked strong and ready, she was coming back from injury and I hoped she would do well. After a short break it was our turn to start the race, I was nervous but feeling good.

The gun went off and we ran up the first hilly road section towards the trail. It was a tough slog at first running up the wet road and having to dodge other runners, and my right knee didn’t like the concrete too much either.

Eventually we hit the trail and it got hillier, great (ha ha). This was an out and back course and there were mostly downs on the way out, which meant only one thing….. lots of ups on the way back! So I slowed a little and made sure that I reserved some energy for the way back. There were some nasty steep declines at the moment and I knew it was going to take a lot to run them all on the way back up, it sure would be challenging.

It was great to be able to see the front runners smashing it back up the hill as we came down, they looked pretty puffed which only confirmed my fears of how hard it was going to be to run all the way back up!

There was a drink station at the turn around point so I grabbed a water and turned to head back up the steep hill we had just come down. This was it, time to hit the run button and just keep running no matter what.

I don’t remember looking up much on those hills. I had my head down concentrating on finding a rhythm with my breathing, to keep swinging my arms and lifting my legs. I managed to pass quite a few people as I ran up the hills, most of them were surprised I was able to run them and they encouraged me along. This gave me even more determination to not stop and to finish strong. They were some steep bloody hills! I had my coach Damon’s voice in my head the whole time, pushing me and telling me that it was possible, to just keep running, and that’s exactly what i did. He would have been proud if he saw my run that day.

During the last few kms I had the pleasure of running with a young girl called Sian, she was running her first trail 10km and doing really well. We chatted a lot about running and life and it made the time fly past. We were making good speed and I was surprised to note that we might possibly finish in under 60mins, i’d be VERY happy with that considering the hills!

We flew down the last hill both pushing ourselves to try and make attainder the hour. We overtook a lady as we neared the finish line and crossed in 58:37 – wow! I hugged Sian and we celebrated our fortunate race result, it was a great way to end a run!

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After some food & drink I went for a short walk after the run to check out the pipeline and the views, it’s a great spot and i will definitely be back for some training runs.

I waited for Amanda to come into the finish line and chatted to the race director Jim as I hadn’t seen him for a while. Eventually Amanda came flying home to finish in under 2 hours, a very great time!! Go Amanda!!

It really was a great event and you should all come down and run it with me next year!

Happy Running 🙂

City 2 Surf 2015

September 20, 2015

I know i’t very late, but here it is…

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This years was my 9th City 2 Surf and I woke up very nervous on the morning of the race. If you’ve been reading my posts I’ve been having a few niggles with my right knee and running on the road seems to aggravate it sometimes, so I knew there was a chance today’s run could be painful.

Last year I had to line up for over 30mins to deposit my drop bag and almost missed the cut-off time for those so I decided to arrive (very) early this year to avoid the hassle and stress of that happening again. So I dropped off my bag and waited around stretching and trying to keep warm until my friends arrived. Ganesh was there and I had a chat to him about his running, such a lovely bloke and he has achieved so much with his running.

I had organised to meet Emma & Maria before the race as we were all in the same red start group, so once they arrived we made our way over to the start area after another quick pit stop to make sure I wouldn’t have to stop for the toilet on course.

My goal with this race every year is to beat my time from the previous year and in 2014 my time was 74:04. It wasn’t going to be easy to beat that time as I had not done a lot of speedwork and most of my training had been long, slow distance, but I always give it my all.

We ran a little warm up in the small area that we had and ran into some other Striders friends who were also in the same group. We chatted nervously at the start line and my thoughts turn to my grandmother… I had been raising funds for dementia research with CHeBA for the past few years and today we had a large CHeBA contingency which was wonderful to see. Today when I was struggling I would think of her to help push me along, I do this in so many of my runs and it always brings a calmness over me.

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When the gun went off we all passed on our best wishes and I tried to stay calm and comfortable with my running. I wasn’t sure if I would see the girls again along the course but I secretly hoped I would!

I felt pretty good that morning but felt that my goal time of under 74mins would not be doable, so I just tried to maintain a pace a little faster than what I was comfortable with and see how long I could hold it for. And I had decided weeks before that today I was going to make Heartbreak Hill my bitch!!

City2Surf is such a massive run, there’s so many people to dodge around and trip hazards on the road, but it also has a wonderful atmosphere and this year we were promised more music along the course which I was very much looking forward to.

I remember thinking how focused I felt in the first couple of kms, trying to remain relaxed in my body but pushing myself at the same time. A wonderful friend Brendan called out to me at one point as I was coming down one of the hills and we chatted for a short time about how he was running with his sister. I”m not sure how much I said to him at the time and I hope that I wasn’t rude, but I just had no breath to talk as I was really pushing myself to make up time on the downhills. Sorry Brendan!

Then I started to think about that Heartbreak Hill, it wasn’t far off and I was going to run it and push myself the whole way up and over the hill (like we had practised at Runlab so many times). So I dug in and kept my arms driving which kept the legs spinning over. I found a rhythm with my breath and tried to hold it the hold way up that bugger. I managed to pass a lot of people on this hill and when I got to the top I felt fantastic!I tried to keep up the pace on the next few sections and prepared myself for the several small hills that were coming up.

I remember looking at my watch at the halfway point and doing some calculations in my head, I wasn’t going as fast as I needed to get my goal time but there were quite a few downhills to come (a strength of mine) which I could possibly make up some time.

When I started to hurt I turned my actions top encourage other runners who had began to walk, most of them started running again and thanked me for the push. I like to do this and take the focus off myself when i’m running, plus I know how much it helps to encourage someone as I’ve been in their boat before and it sucks when you feel alone and beaten. They always smile and have a crack, just what I like to see!

And we finally approached the last hill, I ramped it up a notch as I knew that I had slowed for some reason, probably just getting tired. I was going to smash these few last downhills and I kept doing the calculations in my head to see if I would make the goal… it was going to be close.

Secretly my goal had been to get under 70mins…. and I started to think it may be possible!

The last 3km of that race are the hardest I have ever pushed myself before. I knew I really had to finish strong if I was to get close to either of my goals and I just ran my little heart out, passing many people as I headed towards the last bend on the road and down the small section to the finish line.

I was sprinting, I was hurting but I felt like I was flying….. I made it in 70:35!

To be completely honest, as I crossed that line and looked at my time the first thought that came into my head was negative as I had not cracked the 70min mark. I kept thinking how or what could I have done different during the race to get that 35 seconds back, what had I missed?! I kept playing over scenarios in my head, I shouldn’t have stopped for those 2 drinks stops, I should have positioned myself better at the start to avoid the crowds and having to dodge people, I should have….

Some much needed friendly faces appeared at the finish line, it was Georgie & Michael and a few others from SHR (Sydney Harbour Runners). I hadn’t seen them for a while so it really made me smile and we chatted and laughed about the race. I also chatted to a group of Runlabbers near the finish and then made my way over with Georgie to collect our drop bags.

We grabbed our bags and put on some warm clothes, it was a beautiful sunny day but I always get a little chill after a race, it’s the body taking time to recover from the exertions you’ve just put it through. I ran into Peta from work and some other SHRunners and it was great to see so many familiar faces, especially amongst an entry field of 65,000 people!

I planned to call past the Sydney Striders tent and the RunLab tent however after searching for 20-30mins and not being able to find them I gave up and headed to meet my CHeBA team mates for a bbq at one of the beaches south of Bondi. The walk to meet them gave me some time to reflect and take in the beautiful surroundings. The weather was picture perfect and I felt so lucky to be able to be a part of this sport we call running.

My mood started to lift and then it dawned on me, I had just run a PB by almost 4 minutes. Now that was something to be happy about!!

Heidi and a few others from CHeBA were there to greet us with big smiles! Most of them were very impressed with my time and I thought about how much of an idiot I had been for being so hard on myself. We are our own worst enemies sometimes!

I got some food and drink into me and was so happy when Megan arrived excited and happy with her run, she had smashed her goal and also done an amazing job in raising funds for CHeBA. Megan is a friend and PT client of mine and I had introduced her to CHeBA, I was very proud.

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We chatted for a long while as other CHeBA champions arrived and we heard there race stories. Unfortunately we also learnt that Prof Sachdev, one of CHeBA’s founders, had taken a fall during the run, he’d hurt his shoulder and been rushed to hospital. He was such a lovely man and we all felt sad when we heard the news.

Aside from the Professor’s bad luck it has been a pretty awesome day. I had learnt a lot and would be back in 2016 for my 10th time at this race, and I wold be ready to crack that 70mins!!

Happy running 😀

After a few bumps in the road I’m just starting to get back into running again on a regular basis, and the time off really did make me appreciate the fact that I can run. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how far I have come over the past couple of years, and all of the wonderful friendships I have made along the way, and I feel super lucky to be where I am today!

I can still remember the first few run group sessions in the city with my bestie Megan, who dragged me along each week and got me to enter events with her. I remember meeting Todd for the first time, our run group leader who helped push me along and got me running a full 5kms without stopping, a major feat for me back then. Both Megan and Todd have seen me grow from these early days, and supported me at everything from from 5km to 100km events. I’m very lucky to have met both of them and will be forever grateful.

From my beginnings at Nike Run Club, to run leading at Sydney Harbour Runners, to learning the trails with Sydney Striders, and working on my speed with Runlab, I have improved and learnt so much from each of these groups, and I know I will continue to do so in years to come. Every group has offered me so much and the friendships I’ve made along the way are ones that will last a lifetime.

Last weekend really highlighted to me just how much I love the sport and how much it means to me. I spent the day volunteering at the Centennial Park Ultra and I was surprised at just how many runners I knew and could assist/encourage while they were out there on the course. Their smiles, hard work and determination made me really appreciate what we have and are capable of doing when we put our mind to something. The sky is the limit!

So back to my running.

Term 3 of Runlab started 2 weeks ago and I was very nervous about getting back into the interval sessions as it had been longer than 6 months since my last session. The first week was Kenyan Hills and it destroyed me… I went out too hard and had nothing left for the last few reps. I was knackered.

Second week back at Runlab was Time Trial (TT) week, and this scared me even more. First up we did some intervals of 800/400/400/800 and to my surprise my average pace for these was 4:05, much quicker than I thought I would be (especially with my lack of speed training). We then had a short break and got stuck into the TT, which was a 1 mile distance. We all set off and I tried to stay with the front 2 runners as long as I could, which went well for the first 2 laps and then they started to pul away from me. I felt pretty good and pushed myself quite hard so I didn’t have much left in the tank when I finished. My time was 6:33 for the mile which equates to an average pace of 3:45, a massive sock to me as I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast before at any distance!!

The funny thing is, I did’t realise my average pace times for these Runlab sessions until last Sunday when my friend Maria pointed them out to me. I had been feeling a bit down and felt slow on the day, so I didn’t even bother to look what the pace had been, silly me!

So there you have it, i’m getting faster and i’m coming back stronger than before. So who knows what’s in store for me next…. bring on City2Surf this weekend, stay tuned!

Happy Running 🙂

Having recently become injured and told it ‘could’ be a couple months before I should run again, I thought I would reflect on some of the benefits that time off from running can have in our lives. So here are 10 of the benefits I see from a little time off from running:

  1. Getting to sleep in on Sundays (but knowing you’ll probably wake up at some ungodly hour anyway and not be able to get back to sleep, ha ha)
  2. Giving your body a well earned rest (I have been training pretty hard for the past 18 months without much of a break so it’s probably good timing really…)
  3. Cross training in the pool or on the bike (which I’ve been told I can do as long as there is no pain, yay!!)
  4. Constantly getting emails from Strava letting you know that someone has ‘Stolen your CR’ (Course Record) for a section & then adding that section to your list of ‘things to do’ when you’re allowed to get back out there (am I alone in this?)
  5. Catching up with non-running friends (because i’m a slacker & usually I can’t handle your 9pm starts – that’s by bedtime, seriously)
  6. Getting to leave the house in ‘real clothes’ (which is especially exciting for me as a full time Personal Trainer who lives in training clothes 24/7)
  7. Getting some housework done (ha ha – wrong, that’s what a husband is for)
  8. Spending hours on Youtube catching up on Salomon Trail Running TV (if you haven’t checked it out yet then what are you waiting for?)
  9. Having time to bite your fingernails (no wait….. that’s not a benefit, I must try to kick that habit, they look terrible!)
  10. Having time to write funny posts like this one on a Friday night because you have nothing better to do (ha ha).

Happy non-running 😀

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