About the running I do, wherever I go. It's the greatest thing in the world to seek out fresh places to run. With a map, a river or lake or even city streets, I can plot my own adventures and be an explorer. And now I’m hiking too so there’s a whole new world of exploration.
Four races and some patchwork
I’ve been doing a few trail races over the past month, actually one each weekend for the past three weekends, and then a road race, my only road race this year. I started with the Hume and Hovell 50 km along the trail of that name just out of Tumbarumba, NSW. This is a fabulous trail with lots to look at and some tough climbing. Last year I dehydrated badly but I had high hopes this year as I used my hydration vest and was able to carry more water than previously. I secretly wanted to break 7 1/2 hours.
The route starts with an out and back across farmland and in a bit of forest. It’s not hilly but the ground is rather rough, pockmarked with ruts and holes made by the cows. Plus there are numerous stiles to clamber over, which is ok at the start when you’re fresh.
Then you pass the start/finish and head out on another, longer, out and back, starting along the Tumbarumba Creek. It’s lovely. There are some good waterfalls and the creek flows fast, and then you cross on a big swing bridge. On my return I saw an echidna along here; actually I think I saw it before it saw me because it looked startled and then stepped off the path, but by the time the runner behind me reached it he said it was all curled up.
The climb up and over and down the other side of Mount Garland is the main feature after the creek. You climb for a long time through the forest, with several false summits and several slight descents. Both years I’ve been climbing here as the half marathoners, who start from Manus Lake, have been coming down, fast. Eventually you get to the aid station at the top, which was very enthusiastically manned this year with lots of food and loud music. From there it’s a descent to Manus Lake and I’d forgotten about going right down to the lake and then having to climb all the way back up on the trip home. Once you hit the lake shore there's a very difficult out and back to some point further up the road. It’s mildly undulating but what makes it hard is that the road is in the full sun and seems far longer than the 2 1/2 kilometres it is supposed to be.
The climb back over Mount Garland was hard and I walked a lot, but on the whole I felt better than last year. I felt my time goal slipping away however and settled for enjoying the great scenery. The last five kilometres along the creek were fun despite my fatigue.
As I came back to the start/finish area I made a spurt and passed a couple running just ahead. By doing this I was not only able to scrape in under 7 1/2 hours (in 7:29:38) but also made third in my age group. That was a big improvement on last year and I was happy. But I had really rinsed myself (my favourite expression these days).
The next weekend I went to Canberra for the Bush Capital Bush Marathon which is usually held in early August. So I was a bit worried about the heat. Last time I ran this one, two years ago, I had a terrible back problem and could hardly stand up, but I ran fine in the race; the following day I couldn’t move at all.
The race was lovely, as always, and there were more kangaroos out than ever, so I loved that. I ran alone most of the time, playing cat and mouse for a while with another female who had also been at the Hume and Hovell. Then I concentrated on catching another female ahead of me, which I finally managed with five kilometres to go. Then I had to work hard to be sure to keep ahead; exactly the same happened to me at this race once before in the same place, but that time I ran into third whereas this time I was running into fourth. I ran the whole way, unusually for this hilly course, and I’m not sure if it helped me achieve a great result, since I was slower than last time, but maybe due to the higher temperature. I can’t say I rinsed myself at this one!
The following weekend I decided to do the Halloween Howler 50 km at short notice. It starts at 3pm on Saturday. I made it a part of my training for my next trip to America, and planned to run about 100 kilometres over the course of three days, going 16km on Thursday, 16km on Friday, 16km in the morning and the 50km in the afternoon on Saturday.
It was very warm at the start in the You Yangs. We had to do ten laps of the five kilometre course in the forest. Quite daunting as I don’t like running laps, but it turned out fine. I was in dead last place out of 13 by the end of the first lap and I felt lightheaded in the heat, but this proved to be my fastest lap. For the next two laps I carried a water bottle. Some of the course was very sandy which made for slow going but it was very pleasant with lots of birds. By lap three I passed one of the five women and hoped to get onto the podium. I ran lap five with Cheryl (who was doing the marathon not the 50) and we passed another women so I was in third place. By lap six it was cooling down but I was starting to get bored. Laps seven and eight were the hardest from the boredom factor. On lap nine it was dusk and I looked forward to finishing. I ran lap ten in the dark with my head light. I passed a few runners who were walking but I didn’t realise they were in the ultra. So I was most surprised when I finished to find that I was half way up the field in third place and ahead of the male third place getter.
And finally I went to Portland for the marathon on Melbourne Cup weekend. As part of my heavy training I ran 20 km on the Friday then drove to Portland; I ran 20 km on the marathon route on Saturday in Portland and did a six km walk to see the seals; I ran the marathon on Sunday.
The marathon went well although I was still tired from last weekend. I started out with David Styles to make sure I didn’t slack off at the beginning and we ran together past half way over the big hills. Then I thought I should get on ahead but he remained at my shoulder. Every time I broke away it wasn’t long before he was back again. I knew that if he made a spurt ahead of me I would not be able to match it, but fortunately that didn’t happen. At the 35 km aid station I managed to get ahead. The last kilometres were hard and I was well on the way to rinsing myself. I passed a youngish guy who clearly didn’t like being chicked - I had to pass him three times to get clear. The late hills in the race were a surprise, as they are every time. In the final kilometre I passed Brian Glover who was walking his 200th marathon, so I was able to see him finish. I finished in a respectable sixth place, in 4:18, not as fast as four years ago but the conditions may not have been as good. We had a head wind for the last part. This marked the end of my six week training block.
Where to begin? The lovely name, maybe, Never Summer 100 kilometres. I'm a 'never summer' person, always chasing a winter somewhere, so the race had my name all over it. I knew it was going to be hard and I suspected it was going to be awe inspiringly beautiful. I love a loop course. Even though I read the info on the website carefully I was caught unawares by just how difficult and just how beautiful it was. But I had come here for beauty and I had done the training; I kept reminding myself that I had done the training. Not that I was able to train for the specific demands of this high altitude, midsummer Colorado race in the Australian winter, living at sea level, with a distinct shortage of talus, snow and mountains near my house. Downed trees are unusual at home. Bog dries out. Shade is plentiful. But you prepare as best you can. In running well over six hundred kilometres in a six week period before I left for the US I had already outdone any previous burst of training …
It was wet and windy for my marathon today, quite a change from the hot weather I’ve had almost all summer in Europe. The Marathon Touraine Loire Valley (yes, English spelling) sounded like a pretty race going through little villages and along the Loire river, starting in the centre of Tours. I found it quite humid at first and I worried about that, and also the road seemed slippery in the wet. The route took us along small roads and bike tracks (Loire à vélo) through farmland (that means cornfields and other vegetables) - I recall a huge field of bright green spinach leaves - and some light forest. We ran alongside a small river for a while. The highlight at 19 km was running through the grounds of Chateau Villandry, a pretty castle in pretty grounds, although the path was very slippery. Next door to the castle was a nice looking Romanesque church. A lot of the route wasn’t all that exciting, a bit like running the Traralgon Marathon with a castle thrown in and the supporters calling …
To be honest I did not expect to enjoy this race, 100 kilometres on a 400 metre track starting at 7pm. Why would anyone do this? I saw some benefits in terms of gaining mental toughness so I signed up. It didn’t go any better than I had anticipated but I learnt some lessons. The best thing I did before the race was to download eight episodes of a podcast called “The Teachers Pet” about an unresolved murder investigation; I would have downloaded all 15 eps but I used up my motel internet allowance. Anyway, I had about 10 hours of audio and I listened to every last minute, credits, ads and all. I have never listened to a podcast while running before and while loading the episodes I was not too sure I would use them but I am so glad I took them with me. Music was not going to do it for me this time. The podcast was repetitive and easy listening, while harrowing, and I will be on the lookout for similar, but possibly happier, material next time I have a boring task to complete. My other mai…