Tuesday
Oct172017

Melbourne Marathon October 2017

The last time I attempted Melbourne Marathon was in 2007. I had run 2.58 at Gold Coast in July and represented Australia in Switzerland in the Long Distance Mountain Running World Championships in September. I was pretty tired and probably shouldn’t have lined up to race. I was exhausted and running slow (or so I thought, now I would probably think it was fast!!!!) and pulled out at 15ks. That was my last attempt at a road marathon.\

The start of the race

Fast forward to 2017 (has 10 years really passed????) and I’m lining up again. No nerves this time, because I’m not going for a time! It’s a bit of a weird feeling. I’m quite far up the back self-corralled into a group according to time. The race starts and I have to walk to the start line!! So different to starting up near the front like I used to!

I needed the toilet before the race started, but figured it was probably just nerves (not that I was nervous…I think I just didn’t want to wait in the port-a-loo queue!!). However, as I ran I realized I actually did need the toilet!! So much so, that just running through the water stations made it worse! I made an executive decision and ran off the course to a block of toilets….and unfortunately so did everyone else!! 15 minutes, later I was running back to join the race. When I had exited the course I was just behind the 4 hour pacers (yes, I was planning a cruisey training run!!), but when I rejoined the race I was behind the 4.20 pacers!! As much as I didn’t really care about my time, I wanted to go sub-4, so I put the foot down and worked my way back through the crowds, a meandering journey as I dodged and weaved my way through the crowds. In fact, at the end of the race I ended up with nearly 1.5 extra kilometres from my toilet detour and subsequent run through the crowds. It took me nearly an hour to get back to where I had been before my toilet break!!

One thing I noticed weaving through the crowds was that there were many cases of inadequate personal hygiene!! How hard is it to spray on some deodorant?? Or to wash running clothes before re-wearing?? Honestly, sometimes I had to hold my breath! I mean, I understand people sweat, but this was ridiculous!! Rant over…

The Melbourne Marathon finishes on the MCG; it was great as the sun was shining and my friend Nikki had just passed me (damn, pipped at the post!) and I was trying to catch her. It was nice to have a finish hug and share stories and laughs. Running is such a fun, social sport, I’m so glad I am putting myself out there again. It’s like a circle; as I feel better mentally I put myself out there more, which makes me feel better, which makes me want to join in with life again, which makes me feel better…and so on…I’m sure you get the picture!!!

I hope you had a great weekend of running and racing yourself!


Saturday
Oct142017

The Brisbane Track Ultra 2017

I had put in many long, lonely training runs on Knox track and the surrounding suburbs over the last few months. The weather I had trained in had been typical for Melbourne; ranging from rain, wind, snow, and hail to sunny days. The week of the race I had been running in 5 degrees Celsius and less. So, it was with fear I saw that the race day weather prediction was for 35 degrees!!!

Anyway, as I have well learnt (and I’m sure many of you have too!!) there are somethings we just can’t control, and the weather is one of them! I would just have to adapt. I bought some super-strength sunscreen and ensured I had lots of electrolytes. What more can you do??

I had been reducing my caffeine for two weeks prior to the race, and was completely caffeine-free for the last 3 days before the race. For this reason, I spent a bit of time the day before napping, and went to bed super-early the night before. The good thing about 24 hour track races is that they start a bit later so you can have a proper breakfast. The hotel my crew and I were staying at provided breakfast, so I had eggs, toast and cereal. I don’t like to race feeling hungry, nor do I like to race feeling overly full, so it’s a fine line to tread.

We were kindly given a lift to the track by one of the Brisbane Track Runners, which was greatly appreciated. We had to take all our luggage as well as my race supplies, as there was no point leaving our stuff at the hotel! There was not going to be any sleep this night!

I had done my long training runs at the track with 12 minutes running, 3 minutes brisk walking. This is how you run these long races. You don’t have the luxury of terrain to break up which muscles you use, so this helps with that. It also provides rest. It would be very difficult to run for 24 hours on a flat track with no rest at all.

I started the race doing 12/3’s. After about 12 hours, this degenerated to 10/5s. Towards the end, as the suffering really began, it went to 7/3, then 6/4, then 3/2…then finally to run 200/walk 200. I was truly suffering by this stage!! The heat had really taken its toll from the day before and the new day was heating up a lot too.

My crew had been great; providing me with food and drinks all day and night. I was pretty good with eating for the first 6 hours or so, but after that it became a struggle, as always. I mainly sucked on lollies and drank watered-down Gatorade to keep me going. Even so, it was way more than I normally consume in such a long race. My stomach always goes south!!

Another problem I encountered was related to the heat. Due to the heat, the runners were getting sprayed with water and provided with sponges. My crew was also pouring water on me. This was great, except it ended up getting in my shoes. Thus I ran for a good 12 hours with wet feet….the results are evident:

 

In saying that, I still think I needed the water. I don’t think I could’ve handled the heat otherwise. And the feet didn’t hurt that much when I was running. I knew there were problems with the toe as it was tingling, but I chose to ignore it, and the feeling went away!! The brain is an amazing thing!!

The last hour was, of course, the most difficult. I just wanted to stop. I was exhausted. The last half an hour or so, my body started leaning to the right and I was listing to the tight. I could not run in a straight line, I was struggling big time.

  


I want to thank my crew; John, Nikki and Leanne. I couldn’t have done it without them. I went into it wanting to get 200kms. The hot weather put paid to that, but that’s ok, it just means I have to try again!!



 

Sunday
Feb192017

Supplements, the pill and the female athlete.

I have been wanting to write this blog for quite some time but wasn’t sure how to approach it.

I have had a lot of stress in my life the last couple of years and I have been blaming that for the downturn in my running. However, there may have been other factors in play…..

In 2015 I went to the doctor to go on the pill because it seemed that I always got my period on the day of a big race, and I was sick of it. He prescribed me a pill that would stop my periods for 4 months at a time, but he recommended taking it all the time and only stopping it once every 6 months. I thought that a period every 6 months sounded fantastic!! It worked as promised, but over the coming months I got more and more tired and got terrible leg pains, specifically in my calves. The pain in my right calf was so bad I would have to constantly stop running to massage it. When I was able to run, it was with a limp. My masseur could feel nothing wrong with the muscle.

I went to Bali in mid-2015, and the leg cramps were particularly bad. I could barely run, it was very frustrating. I also was extremely exhausted all the time.

I returned home and went to the doctors to find out what was causing my fatigue. I thought maybe my cortisol levels were up from the stress I had been under. They checked everything, and my doctor said my cortisol and iron levels, and everything else, were normal. I was stumped. I didn’t know what to do. So, I kept plodding along, with the pain in my calf ruining my runs.

A couple of months later, and I was getting ready to go to Europe to race the CCC and then have a holiday with my daughter. I suddenly had the feeling that I HAD to go off the pill I was on. It was an irresistible urge that I MUST go off them. I still wasn’t sure, because I wanted to have a holiday and race without the stress of getting a period. However, I had to because the feeling was so strong. I went off it about 10 days before we flew out. During this time I researched the side effects of this pill, simply because this feeling made me wonder why my body was sending me this signal. Also, inexplicably the severe calf cramps had stopped.

Unbelievably this is what I found:

As of January 2012, there are approximately 10,000 lawsuits against Bayer by women who have suffered blood clots and by the families of those women who have died whilst taking Yaz or Yasmin. It is considered the most complained-about drug on the Internet, with thousands of women voicing concerns in online forums and support groups over health issues both physical and emotional.

Two studies conducted with funding from Bayer revealed that Yaz and Yasmin held no higher risk of blood clots than other birth control pills. However, last month it was revealed that five other studies undertaken independent of Bayer suggested a 50-to-75 percent increased risk of clots for those taking these birth control pills in comparison to others. 

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2012/02/09/just-how-safe-is-yaz-women-need-to-know/comment-page-1/

Just a couple of the common side effects:

  • ·         pain in the chest, groin, or legs, especially the calves
  • ·         unusual tiredness or weakness

https://www.drugs.com/sfx/yaz-side-effects.html

 

Although all birth control pills carry the risk of blood clots because of fluctuating estrogen levels, the risk of DVT is significantly higher with Yaz users, studies show.

https://www.drugwatch.com/yaz/pulmonary-embolism.php

 

I couldn’t believe it!! I was so glad I went off it before the long flight…long flights can cause DVT without putting drugs into the mix!! Added to that, I know many drugs say there is only a small percentage of people who might get the side effects, but I have been one of those small percentages before. After the birth of my son I went on a drug to dry up my breast milk. There was a negligible risk of seizures. I had a grand mal seizure and was unconscious for over half an hour. Someone has to be that small percentage!

I went and raced in Europe, already feeling much better with more energy, however, I still felt not 100% right. This continued after I got home. Running was so exhausting. I felt like I was running through molasses. My legs felt heavy, and my pace got slower and slower (if that was possible!!).

I went on a running camp with Glenhuntly Athletics Club in December. There was a talk for female athletes. One of the women said that female athletes need to have iron levels of a minimum 30, better to be closer to 50. Hmmm, I thought, better check that out….

When I got home I rang my doctor and got my results from my blood test 5 months earlier. My iron level was 18!!! Normal maybe for inactive people, but not someone who runs as much as me. I have now been on iron tablets since January and I am no longer tired. I have energy! It is the most amazing and wonderful feeling! I enjoy running again! My pace has picked up unbelievably!

This has been a huge learning experience for me. I urge any women out there on the pill to check the side effects, and choose wisely.

Also, if you are tired, get your iron levels checked….sometimes it’s just that simple!

I hope this blog has been informative, please let me know your thoughts.

Monday
Sep122016

CCC Race Report.

How often do we say, ‘That was the hardest race I have ever done.’? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve said it a few times, and now I’ll say the CCC was actually the hardest race I have ever done! Really. Truly. Until the next race I do that feels like the hardest. 

It felt like the hardest race for many reasons. Some of them of my own making, some of them because of the course. 

I entered the CCC because I did not have enough points to do the UTMB. At first I was disappointed about this, but then I came to accept it as it would mean I would have more energy for my whirlwind European trip to follow! 

My training leading into this event was not the best. My health has not been great for a variety of reasons (a blog on this will follow, as I think it might be relevant to many people). I also was very busy with work, and organising the logistics of a cross-Europe trip for my daughter and I. Anyway, enough of the excuses!


I went into this race deciding that, because I had not had the best lead up, I would view it as a race for fun, to complete. This led me to being a bit lazy on my due diligence. I did not do much research on the course or aid stations. I just rocked up to the start line. Dumb mistake.

The first problem I encountered was when I sucked on my Nathan hydration pack….which had been sealed up in my case for about 2 weeks. Yes, not the best thing to realise on the start line with the forecast for temperatures in the mid-30s. And someone told me the first aid station was at the top of the first big hill, which could take a couple of hours!

Anyway, I sucked it up, literally, drinking my mouldy water up for the first 15kms or so. Luckily, I had brought a small flexible drink bottle that was stuffed into my pack as a back up, just in case. Thank god for that!!! So I used this for the rest of the course, filling it at every aid station and at the water points in every village. Still, I was basically dehydrated for the whole race as a 500ml bottle is not enough to hydrate for a 100km race in such temperatures.


My next rookie error was in regards to nutrition. I basically under-fed myself for the whole course, which led to severe lack of energy. The reason for this was again the heat. The bars I had were okay at first, but went soft and unpalatable (to me) in the heat, and I did not have enough gels to compensate. The food at the aid stations were not what I was used to (obviously!). I just couldn’t eat cheese and salami with the temperatures in the mid-30s and 50ks into a race! There were salty biscuits available and they were my main form of sustenance. It was great to get a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise at Champex-Lac. That went down a treat! 

Next on my list of errors was completely and utterly underestimating the course. I thought; ‘I’ve done big hills!’ (think Buffalo Stampede); ‘I’ve done long races’ (think Alpine Challenge), but boy oh boy, this was different. The big hills just went on forever! Nothing in Australia can possibly compare to the climbs simply because we just don’t have the mountains. I was eternally grateful for my poles, I just I couldn’t have done the race without them. The worst climb for me was the last to Tete aux Vents. I did  this in the dark, and my lights just lit up the reflective tape that seemed to be vertically above me…and seemed to go on forever. I felt like crying! In fact, in some parts of the race I did. I was so spent and exhausted the only thing I could do was cry. I just wanted the pain to end. But that’s what ultra running is about; getting through the tough times.

Speaking of lights earlier, I have to say that I think mine were one of the best sets around. I use Ay-Up lights and because of the two torches on the head set, the beam is spread. I saw many people with torches that gave them a circle of light at their feet. I seriously don’t know how they managed!

The course itself was not overly technical. Testament to that is that I only fell over twice (whilst going downhill, in the dark, and talking). Normally I trip much more! Some of the forest sections reminded me a lot of the pine plantations actions of the Buffalo Stampede and the alpine sections reminded me of the Victorian high country. In all, it was a beautiful course, but I was suffering too much to really enjoy it.

I had hoped to complete the course in about 18 hours….it actually took me 21 hours and 52 minutes. Which equated to about 20 hours of suffering. Normally when I finish a race and think ‘never again will I do that race’, it takes a few hours and I’m already thinking about doing it again, as I’m sure many of you will find is a familiar scenario. It took me about a week to think maybe I could do it again. 

It is tough…but to me that is what ultra running is about. So many times I wanted to pull out, but I don’t DNF just because I am suffering and not achieving what I wanted. I will only DNF if I’m injured, not because it hurts. We wouldn’t do this if it was easy, and suffering is what we sign up for. Otherwise, what’s the point? Where would the challenge be if it was easy?

 

 Some Stats:

In the CCC there were 2130 entrants

1386 finished with 744 DNFs (35%)

13 Aussies entered, only 4 finished, myself being the only Australian female to finsh (from 4 Australian female starters). One Australian male finished before me, 2 after me.

Equipment Used:

Shoes: La Sportiva helios

Injinji socks

Ay-Up Lights

Far End Gear ear buds

EverestSports Saltsticks

Ryders Eyewear sunglasses

Rocktape

 

Post-race:
CW-X compression tights

Oofos recovery thongs 

Tuesday
Apr262016

Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam

No matter which way you look at it, this 3 day race was always going to be a tough challenge! However, coming back from a draining year that left me barely able to run, followed by 3 months completely off running, was going to make it even tougher…..

Looking back at my training diary, I completed 8 weeks of training for this event….some of which was not of the best ‘quality’ as I tried to regain my running legs…and change my running gait at the same time!! A big ask! Therefore, although I would have liked to have finished the 3 days in a much faster time….I think that I finished it at all is something of which I can be proud.

Day 1 was 25kms with about 2,500m elevation. I had a fun day out…making a few new friends on the trail and sharing some laughs. It was good to finish at a reasonable time of the day and know that I had some rest and recovery time ahead of me. What was not so nice was knowing I had to do Mystic and Clearspot both ways again the next day…..

 end of the first day

I was up bright and early again the next morning to do the 78k…I was not feeling as nervous as the day before but I still knew it was going to be a long day at the office.. I was right! I was run/hiking for 13 hours and 26 minutes! That’s a long time for 78k….but there was over 4,600m elevation to contend with…and a dodgy stomach. I had lots of trouble with my stomach when I did the Razorback 65k three weeks previously. This was mainly due to the sweet foods I was eating. This time I chose to eat more savoury foods. The best was the beef, almond and cranberry bar….salty and savoury and a good texture. I was rapt I had them!

I still had to eat some sweet stuff, however, for the instant energy…and I did pay for it. I shall hopefully continue to refine my nutrition plan for my racing…one day I will nail it!

I did hit a flat spot at about 50kms, which left me in the position that I had to go back down Clearspot in the dark…this was really tricky. My Ay-Ups are fantastic and made being able to see possible, but it’s still not the same as daylight. I slid down one section on my butt…I still have grazes two weeks later!

I finally finished at 8.26 on the Saturday night. Then I had to race back to our accommodation and get ready for the next race! Of course, I had John, my partner, helping me (he had also been crewing for me both days), which was great, but there was still a bit to do. The main thing was food…John raced out to get me a pizza….but all the take away shops were shut. He saw someone in one of the shops, and pleaded with them to make a pizza…and they did!! Thank goodness he was there to do that for me, or who knows what I would have done for food! Nothing else appealed and it’s hard when your stomach is dodgy to force unappealing food down. So, thanks John!

The next day when the alarm went off I felt sick with nerves.

can you tell I'm not looking forward to the start??

We started, and I trotted along for nearly 1km, then my legs just seized…I couldn’t run. I tried, but it just wasn’t happening…I limped along crying and feeling sorry for myself. My friend Anja passed me and gave me a big hug and kind words of encouragement…then I saw my friends John and Glenda Signorini and they did the same…but I was still left wondering how I was going to complete 45kms with over 2500m climbing..

Miraculously…after climbing up Mystic, my legs warmed up and I was able to run again…I had a lot of catching up to do! I kept pushing on, passing people as I went..I think quite a few were amazed to see me, I think they may have expected me to DNF. Well, I didn’t DNF, instead I slogged it out in 8 long hours…I would never have thought it would take that long! I think that is evidence of my lack of fitness. Not to say that I was unfit, but I know I can do much better…I just hadn’t had the time to get to the level I would have liked. But, I finished! I was so happy!

This was a tough challenge, and one I am glad I completed. Although I was not as fit as I would have liked, I knew I had the mental and physical capabilities to finish. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it again next year…faster…

Thank god that's over!!!

 

Massive thanks to all my sponsors:

La Sportiva: I wore the Helios; light, grippy and comfortable. What more do you want? Also, fabulously comfortable apparel.

Ryders Eyewear: Heat Sunglasses: fantastic for when the light changes a lot through the bush from bright to dappled.

Ay-Up lights: couldn’t have done the night run without them!

Rocktape: Helped keep my niggly leg in check and for taping my feet.

CW-X tights: absolutely essential for recovery between the races.

Oofos recovery thongs: the best thing ever to put on weary feet.

Far End Gear: It was great to be able to listen to tunes when I was feeling flat or needed the motivation.

Everest Sports Australia: Saltstick tablets were vital for keeping my electrolytes in balance.

Injinji toes socks: Fantastic for keeping blisters at bay.

Nathan Performance Gear: fantastic packs that carry all I need without chafing

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