Coming soon: Roller Coaster 2016 Run Report

Bear with me please. After an awesome run last Saturday, and a full day of cleaning my very dirty home Sunday, Monday saw me laid low with the flu! Surprise, I know, that after three great races in four months, at the end of it all, like after university exams, my body shouted “enough!”.

I’ll have to give you the full report next week when I’m not sick, but here are a couple of my fave photos in the meantime…

And now I’m off to rest.

Hope all of you are keeping well!


Two Bays 2016: tail of the snake (part 2)

So my iPhone 4s perished.  But phoenix-like, in its place, my iPhone 6s arose, golden, beautiful, and larger than ever.  It would even synch to my computer, something my old iPhone had refused to do.  I wondered, belatedly, if I had done this thing on purpose.  I contemplated jumping in the pool with my very old HP computer, but only briefly, as sadly, the early photos of my new puppy Billy seemed to be gone, and their loss taught me to be more careful.  The photos remain, elusively, somewhere in iCloud storage.  If ever I find the courage, I will try to retrieve them at the Apple Store in Southland, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Meanwhile, Two Bays race day approached rapidly.

So did Christmas.

And it was seeming like one of the hottest summers I had ever experienced, at least in the pre-Christmas period.  I was officially signed up for Two Bays 28k, but still uncertain about my race fitness.

I should tell you I was trying a novel approach to long-distance running.  After the repeated injuries of the last couple of years, I had decided to go back to cross-training.  For most of my running life, I had only run once a week, 1o miles on a Sunday, and the rest of the week, lifted weights, cycled, did classes, swam.  I didn’t want to give up any of the things I loved doing in pursuit of just running.  Until I found ultra-running, and completed my first 50k event.  Then running took over.  I got faster and stronger, but I crumbled over time without cross-training to support my muscles.

So in 2015, I was experimenting with replacing 20-40% of my running kilometres with swimming, as well as teaching three Bodypump classes a week.  It worked for Marysville – I completed the half-marathon there feeling stronger than ever before.  But Two Bays?  I kept checking the online training guide, my mouth dropping open each time I looked at the suggested weekly distances.  I’d never reached them; I would never want to.


The week after the iPhone debacle and my 20k run, my feet hurt again.  I cut my long run back from the planned 23 in the Dandenongs, to 12 on the Bayside Coastal Track.  The next week, again, I aimed at 22, but my long run in my training diary at the end of that week was only 13, with the notes, “Too hot, too tired.”

Now, this was 17 December.  I was undecided if I would go ahead with Two Bays.  Christmas with two young kids was exhausting anyway – did I really need the extra stress of training hard?  I didn’t want to hurt myself, more than anything.

16 December came, the last week before school holidays.  I didn’t even dream of training in the Dandenongs, though I needed some hill training.  There were school parties and presents to buy and wrap, there was last-minute everything plus dozens of Christmas Carols to attend (maybe it just felt that way), and there was a new trampoline to build for the kids.

But I was getting a bit angry – my own goals kept slipping away.  So on Monday, I ran 16k Bayside.  It must have been hot; December seemed hot every time I ran, except when the cool changes happened every other day, and then it rained on me.  But I did it.

Now, I was obsessively checking on the distance one needed to run in training to complete 28k.  I quizzed my husband, who had done a half-marathon once in the late 1980s.  He thought 18k was far enough.  I doubted him.  I asked my Facebook Groups, pleading for reassurance and selecting the answers that fit what I wanted most to hear (thanks everyone!).

Then the unthinkable happened: the air conditioner in our car died.  You have to live an Australian summer to understand the drama – we traveled with our cats, dogs, and kids to our beach house two hours away.  Someone would die without that a/c.  So 23 December saw me at the car service centre, paying out a small fortune to fix the a/c.  And I had to get home.  Perfect!  I had a 10k adventure run from the middle of nowhere off a major highway, navigating my way home.

And something stirred in me.  Awakened.  The thirst for adventure; the quest had begun.

That’s about when I started taking some risks.  I made it through Christmas (joy, presents, blah blah blah), made it to Ocean Grove, and then dashed into the distance to complete a 22k run on the Surfcoast Trail from White’s Beach in Torquay to beyond Bells Beach and back.  Beautiful.  Brilliant.  People celebrating all along the trail (It was, after all, the 28th of December).  I was a tiny bit bereft to be all alone, running so far, but I was determined.  Celebrating in a different way.  I was utterly exhausted at the end, but thrilled.

This race was seeming do-able.  Some runners had said 20k was long enough to guarantee a finish at Two Bays, and I had conquered this.  It wasn’t pretty, and there weren’t enough hills, but maybe, just maybe I could do this.

After three years, and two DNS, perhaps I was going to make it to the start line.

I had just one more bright idea – a 24k run on 4 January, along the Surfcoast Trail again, just to be sure.  Because I don’t like to feel unprepared.

Race day was looming – the 17 of January, a few short weeks away.  I wondered if I was pushing too far, too late.  I wondered if it was safe to run so far alone along the Surfcoast Trail when the summer holiday crowds were dispersing.

And I wondered about snakes.  I’d read many people’s posts noting the increased presence of venomous snakes on every single trail this summer.

So much was riding against me.  Was I going to make it?


The new logo for the Two Bays Trail Run. Fitting, somehow.


To be continued…


The long road to Marysville Half-Marathon 2015

Screw your courage to the sticking place.

That’s what I’m telling myself a few days before the Marysville Half-Marathon.  And oddly, it’s not even the running that has me scared.

It’s the two-hour solo drive.

I wish I could be one of those fearless people who just do things.  Like drive solo to a trail race without terror.  But I’m not from around these parts.  I’m from New York.  Place names and road names don’t mean as much and navigating alone to a new place is hard for me.

But so what?

I’ve been aiming at this race ever since the Roller Coaster Run Half-Marathon back in March.  Back then, I was running with a bad case of heel and calf pain, and right afterwards, I commenced a six-week break from running.  The plan was to cross-train and get strong again, in all the ways I had lost over my last two years of long-distance running.

A very gradual build from a 3k walk/run in late April has finally got me to the 20k mark, and relatively healthy.  My heel still hurts now and again, but the strength has returned to my gluts so I can power up hills in a brand-new way.  I managed my favorite run at Mount Dandenong two weeks ago, for 20k in 2:47 (heaps of elevation, though I was consciously going slow, I say defensively).  So I’m ready.

But always, at the back of my mind, there are these niggling doubts. Which hydration device to use?  Will there be snakes around and will I step on one?  Is Red Hill as bad as I remember from the Marathon a few years ago?  Will the roads be twisty and windy and scary to nagivate?  Will the cars back up behind me and beep and force me to go faster than I want?  Was substituting two swims a week for two runs a good cross-training plan or utter stupidity? Blah, blah, blah.

Usually, my family would go with me to Marysville.  My husband would drive, and I’d relax and nagivate.  This year, we’ve added a ten-week old Cavoodle to our home, an adorable puppy named Billy (a Cavoodle is a poodle and King Charles Cavalier cross – he looks like a tiny black teddy bear with sharp teeth but he thinks he is a Labrador-Kelpie because that’s what his sister is). He was going to the source of a blog called “The Stupidest Thing I’ve ever done: Part 2” but I’ve been too busy cleaning up after him, and laughing at the antics of the two dogs playing to write.

Anyway, strangely, my husband doesn’t fancy shepherding the two kids and two dogs around Marysville while I gallivant in the woods for a few hours. Go figure.

So I’m on my own (except for all the cool trail running friends I can’t wait to see!).

Trouble is, those cool friends won’t be in my car with me to tell me where to turn.  And where not to. So I’m going to have to harden up and do this on my own.

Screw my courage to the sticking place.  That quote is from Lady Macbeth, according to my Google search.  If I recall my Shakespeare from college correctly, that story didn’t turn out so well .

Perhaps I’ll think of this other old favorite from Mark Twain, that I’ve borrowed from

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.  ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894

Please be kind if you see me on the road (I’ll be the one backing up traffic), and know I’m summoning up all my courage to get to the start line.

“So the dentist says, if I punch you in the face, it will induce healing inflammation…

and your tooth won’t hurt anymore,” my husband giggles. “We won’t even have to drill it.  Imagine what they’ll say about this type of therapy in twenty years.”  I see the humor.  But I can’t giggle — I’m too frustrated.

I’ve just been telling him about needling, a technique I tried at physio today to help my plantar fasciitis, sore posterior tibialis, and struggling Achilles tendon.  That was the explanation the physio gave me – that these structures are poor at inflaming themselves in response to injury, so by jabbing a needle into the right spot in my foot, it would induce healing inflammation.  It certainly induced tears.  She hadn’t said anything about wiggling the needle around once it was in my foot.

My husband was less than convinced.

Me?  I’d try anything to be able to run pain-free at the moment.

In fact, I have.  I ran in my old Asics that I ditched three years ago in pursuit of minimalist running.  I managed 600 meters before I turned back to home, and got my Inov-s back on.  This morning, I tried heel lifts in my minimalist shoes.  The thinking goes something like, it will unload the underfoot and Achilles to lift the heel up a bit, so I can continue running while I heal.  Heal. Heel. Hell.

I managed 2km with the heel lifts in, at which point I sat down on a bench alongside the Coastal Track, tore off my shoes, and left the heel lifts under a bush.  The next eight kilometers were bliss.  I could feel my feet working the way they want to work.  The hip and knee pain, which came back nearly instantly upon lifting my heels, magically disappeared.  My gluts fired up the hills, and my footstrike became lighter and quicker.  My thinking:  I don’t want to cause a different injury by changing my gait at this point.

What has been working nicely is taping.  I’ve got a cool patterned tape that my kids say reminds them of Minecraft – it is a great conversation starter too.  “Oh, Patricia…are you injured again?  Poor thing…”  (though I put in the subtext, “You idiot.  You obviously are getting too old to run so far.  Slow down.  It’s your own stupid fault.”).  Several times in the school-yard, I have the same conversation, which I usually finish by dashing off to complete another hobbling run.

I miss myself.  I miss running pain-free, signing up for races with abandon.  I miss walking around barefoot in my home without pain.

I remind myself that I had major surgery on 27 October last year, which is not even four months ago, and that I only began running again on 1 December.  It’s now 17 February.  Obviously I went out too fast. Though I tried so hard to be conservative.  I expect the muscles in my feet and hips atrophied much quicker than I anticipated, and that’s the source of all this.  I can feel things getting stronger and more stable as I lift my heavy weights again, and even though running hurts, it is helping.

I’ve been thinking lately of what will soothe me (me being the dragon that keeps breathing fire on my family).  Playing piano works.  Cleaning (strangely) does too.  Letting my dog run free in the dog park helps.

And those very brief moments in my running where my body feels like it used to – those moments soothe me the most.

They are the moments I’m trying to string together to finally have a joyous 10k run again.  In pursuit of this, I’ll let strangers stab needles in my feet.  I’ll try (and discard) heel lifts and more structured shoes.  I’ll do eccentric Achilles training and endless clam-shells.

And I will learn the lesson that this experience has come to teach me: going slowly is okay.  Healing takes time.  There is no magic answer.  There will always be another race.

And most importantly:  I want to be healthy and strong again, and this is the goal I am going to pursue for 2015.

 Surf Coast Century- my first 100km event by Belle Campbell

A terrific write-up of a first-timers 100 km journey. What an inspiration! I hope you enjoy reading her story…

After 6 long months of training, race morning was upon me! My alarm went off at 4:30am after a very restless night sleep. I got up & had my usual pre-event breakfast of coffee & peanut butter toast, then checked through all my mandatory gear for the millionth time!

We left the house for the start line & arrived about 5:45. The energy in the cold, beachside air was absolutely amazing, even at this early hour!! The race announcer was already pumping up the crowd & before I knew it, we were at the 30 second countdown! I kissed my hubby goodbye til the first checkpoint & headed into the starters chute. We were off!!!

Leg 1- Anglesea-Torquay-0- 21km

After about a km race nerves had settled & I’d found a comfortable, consistent pace. We had to climb over a few sets of rocks which slowed things a little, but…

View original post 1,458 more words

Running in the dark.

I’d been waiting all day.  And it’s school holidays, so a day can be a very long thing indeed.  All I needed was one short hour, and yet, it was hard to find.  I didn’t want to miss the trip to Waves that my husband had suggested (the local swimming pool), because such trips will be the things of memories in a few years.  Even though it was frigid cold and the last thing I wanted to do was strip off any of the four layers of wool I had on and get into a swimming pool.  So I tricked myself (yet again).  I got changed in our super-heated laundry room/drying room, and double-tricked myself by packing my running gear to change straight into after the pool.  We set out at 2:30 pm, and I was doing the calculations in my mind, okay, if I’m out running by 4 that will be just enough daylight to squeeze in my hour…I can do that…

At the pool, it struck me again how much the kids have grown, how waves in the wave pool that used to be terrifying, now seemed calm and easy to manage.  Both my kids have had swimming lessons for years, and my son in now in swim squad.  They can bob in the water without danger, and my daughter has the knowledge to be afraid of the appropriate things.  I was glad I’d gone.  My husband played with our son in the deep water, and I shared time with my daughter, laughing in the shallows, hopping in the waves.

The car ride home was ugly though, with tired children and spitting and nasty words directed my way.  Like most moms, I become the target when things go awry.  I held it together, as I’ve done many, many times.  But it is tiring.  And it hurt.  Despondency crept in and sat with me in the front seat.  I stared out the window and noted it was already growing dark.  The clock on the dashboard read 4:43.

Yet I was determined.  And a little bit angry at the way things had turned out.  We got home, and I bolted from the car, raced in the door, changed to my running shoes, got my cap, and found the head torch I’d bought for the North Face 50 but never had cause to use.  I tested it; it still worked.  It was 4:45 and with an hour’s run, it would be well dark on my trail on my return.  But I was upset and frustrated, so I went anyway.

Oh, the freedom.  Even though I’d run 18k in the Dandenongs the day before, my legs felt fresh and bouncy.  It was meant to be an easy run, but I was wound up and didn’t feel like going easy.  I pushed the pace, in pursuit of a calmer self, and also conscious of the orange sun setting over my shoulder.  If I made it out fast, it might not be totally dark on the way back.

The kilometers flew by, my stride was short and strong.  I was alert to tree roots and rocks but I knew the placement of most of them on this, my usual trail, so I could still run fast.  I switched on my head torch early, thinking it would lull me a bit as the darkness increased, that it might not seem so scary as sudden darkness.  At the halfway mark, up on the cliffs on Red Bluff, I stopped for only a moment to stare at the horizon, then sprinted back down the way I’d come, taking care on the steep set of stairs.

By this time, dusk had gathered and I had five kilometers between me and home, along a narrow, wooded trail.  I felt strangely unafraid; somehow my headlamp reassured me.  It lit up the trail well in front of me, and I thought any bad guys would be simply blinded by the light, and that would give me time to get away.  I also figured I would make an unappealing target, moving fast, and with assurance.  And I just loved the freedom of being out there.

Night came quickly, and I noticed how my feet became more sensitive to the earth, feeling their way on undulations and rocks.  I felt more stable than I’d expected.  Running in the dark on a trail felt glorious, I discovered, similar to running in the fog on Mount Dandenong.  I had a sense of being cocooned somehow, and safe.  A woman ran by in the other direction, and commented that my head torch was a great idea, and I smiled and thanked her.  I agreed.

Though the run was meant to be easy, I made it back in 57 minutes, one of my faster efforts on that particular trail.  I’m not sure whether it was emotion or fitness or fear that enabled my feet to fly a bit more than usual.

Returning home, all the gunk that had built up over the long, long day had suddenly disappeared.  I was calm and content, and I wasn’t up for a fight with anyone at all.

Running in the dark had somehow brought me back out into the light.