Sunday
Apr132014

BUFFFALO STAMPEDE 75KM ULTRA. 

As the quote from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens goes;

 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times……it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way....”

This quote is the best representation of my racing experience! First, let me begin at the beginning.

I signed up for this race months ago, thinking that with 6 weeks before TNF 100, it would be ideal to race then recover. For a variety of reasons, the time for this race arrived and I felt underprepared and out of my depth. I felt I did not have sufficient long run training under my belt, and not enough speed work completed to give me the faster leg turn-over I felt was required. I was extremely worried that this race would take so much out of me I would be derailed in my preparations for TNF. I was seriously considering down-grading to the marathon, until Kirsten Maplestone saw me at rego and happily told me how the Surf Coast Trail runners were depending on me for points as the only female in the team! What the heck, might as well go for it now!

Race day dawned clear and not too cold, albeit dark. I did a short warm-up (necessary with my persistent quad issues), then waited nervously for the start. I had my brand new Black Diamond ‘Ultra Distance’ poles with me. My husband had picked them up from Bogong Equipment just that week for me when I had started freaking out about the hills. Nothing like trying something new on race day!!

Soon we were off and running. I felt good, but was really unsure when to unfold my poles. I ran with them folded for quite a while, nearly to the top of Mystic, but some of the slippery spots encouraged me to get them going. Coming to the top of Mystic was really special. The sun had just come up and there were still some clouds in the valley. It was truly beautiful and reminded me why I love this sport.

From the top of Mystic it was downhill on a fire road till we hit Mick’s hill, which was a slippery steep downhill. My poles were amazingly a help on this too!

After this was the next climb up to Clear Spot. The poles were just magic and helped me push up the hill, passing lots of people on the way. I was still feeling good at this stage.

At the top of Clear Spot 

The next major downhill was Warner’s Wall, which was really tricky, and I slipped and cut my hand (luckily the other one than last time!!). This had tired my legs a bit, and the following steady downhill (not steep, but required effort) saw me feeling a bit average. I was wondering if I would be able to make it to the finish if I felt this bad and hadn’t even made it to Buckland Valley (15kms)!! However, I am nothing if not persistent, and I focused on just keeping on going. Soon, I was climbing again. The poles were my new best friend as they dragged me up this climb too! The hardest thing about using them was being able to eat, but I found gels were going down the best anyway.

I was still feeling good as I negotiated my way through the course to the top of Buffalo. The little loop after this was when the wheels started to fall off. There was a flattish section, and my legs were displaying their lack of turn-over by feeling heavy and clunky. I pushed through, and soon I was at the technical section where you had to crawl through rocks. I had not expected this! Hmmmm, someone clearly hadn’t done their due diligence!!! Oh well, at least I will know for next time!!

I had a lot of trouble at the aid stations, especially the top of Buffalo. Finding my bag here was difficult, then re-filling my bladder and food stocks with no help and fumbly fingers made it tricky. I also had to go to the toilet, so there was a lot of wasted time!

I was in third position at this point, but sadly this was not to last. Fourth woman came through as I ran down the big walk, and stormed off. She ran so fast downhill, she ended up coming second! What a great run!

My legs were now showing their lack of long run training and I was feeling pretty dodgy. I just pushed on, as I do.

The climb after Eurobin Creek would normally be considered runnable, but my poor tired legs demanded I walk. I managed to march, pulling with my poles to get a bit of speed up. However, things were about to get worse for me!

Warner’s Wall was hideous!!!! I could see people ahead using their hands to crawl up the hill. I used my poles, but still it was horrible. Why was I doing this??? Where was the fun??? It just didn’t seem to end. It was around this point I ran out of water. Of course, with no water, I couldn’t eat either. I was really suffering. The climb was relentless. I was nearly back at Clearspot when I started crying from lack of water. I couldn’t stop myself, I was that desperate. I managed to get to the next checkpoint and refill.

All that was left was Mick’s Hill. And I had thought Warner’s Wall was hideous. This took the cake! I used the poles to drag my sad and sorry body up the climb. Half way up I was sure I would never make it. I just wanted to sit down and give up. Then, to top it all off, I got a stone in my shoe right under my arch. I knew if I stopped to get it out I would never get going again. Finally at the top I got the annoying thing out. I was well and truly over it by this stage.

Although the last hill was over, the race itself was far from over. I was struggling with tired legs even on the downhills. Numerous times I had to stop running and walk. I just wanted it to be over.

After what seemed an eternity, the finish line was eventually there. Thank god that was over!! I finished in 11 hours and 27 minutes as 4th woman. I swore I would never do it again, but 5 minutes later was thinking about how I could improve for next year. Thank god for runner’s memory: you seem to forget the pain and remember only the good bits. And there were good bits. Going back to my original Charles Dickens quote; there were good parts (the first half mainly!) and there were awful parts where my lack of race toughness showed up. Nothing a bit of training and a positive mindset won’t fix!

 

Equipment used:
Hydration: Nathan Vapor Wrap which held all the nutrition I needed, I’ve just got to remember to fill the bladder more often!1

Shoes: La Sportiva Helios; perfect for this course! Another link here.

Clothes: SkirtSports Jubilee Tee and Redemption Shorts, Injinji trail socks.

Ear buds: One good earphone from Far End Gear.  The tunes I was listening to were essential for keeping me going!

Tape: Rocktape for keeping my quad supported!

Sunglasses: Ryders Eyewear Apex sunglasses.

Head torch: Ay-Up lights. we started in the dark, so I really needed the lights. They were so light on my head I forgot to take them off till 40kms!

Sunday
Mar232014

Ryders Eyewear Apex Sunglasses

I received a pair of the Apex sunglasses a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to write a review on them since! Every time I wear them, I think to myself how much I love them; it’s just that I have been so busy I’ve had no time! Anyway, better late than never!

Like all Ryders sunglasses, the Apex are lightweight, scratch resistant and offer 100% UV protection. They are so light, I sometimes forget I am wearing them! I am really fussy about the comfort level of any sunnies that I wear, and the adjustable non-slip nose pads hold the glasses to my face without squeezing or rubbing on my nose. Also, as most of you know, I wear a hearing aid in my left ear. It is really important to me that glasses don’t press on my hearing aid, as that is really annoying, or bang up and down on it as I run. Nothing worse than hearing that magnified for hours on end! Well, the Apex really match up well with my hearing aid, and would be my favourite sunglasses for that reason alone.

Of course, there are other great features! The 100% UV protection gives me peace of mind because I am often out running for hours, and this could potentially involve significant UV damage without such protection. They also cut out glare, without reducing my ability to see. I run through the bush and this can involve dappled light, as well as areas of light and dark, when the trees block the sun. The Apex cope with this so that I am not constantly taking them on and off.

Another important feature is how they look. I don’t know about you, but I reckon they look really good! And at only $89 (check out the website here), they are an absolute bargain!

Tuesday
Feb252014

My daughter reviews OOfos!

Recently my daughter reviewed Oofos recovery thongs. She had tried my pair and was very desperate for her own. Everyone I talk to has such positive comments to say about OOfos! This is her reveiw:

My name is Zara Bespalov and I am thirteen, and have had very painful bunions all my life. Having bunions has always made it very hard to find the right shoe. In summer everyone else can wear thongs but because my bigger toe goes underneath and across my others toes (picture) it makes it extremely painful to have a hard piece of plastic jabbing into the bone of my big toe. Because everyone wears “regular” thongs (the plastic ones) it makes it very hard to find cloth thongs (the cloth goes in between the toes instead of the plastic). We had only managed to find one pair, and they broke in about three weeks. That was two or so years ago, since then I haven’t been able to wear thongs at all.

 Recently I found out about OOfos. My mother is a sponsored athlete and got some OOfos thongs. I tried them on, to see if they suited my feet and reduced the pain. They were so comfortable! The piece of squishy plastic/foam for between the toes changed shape and fit snuggly in between my toes. Also because of my bunions, I also have other feet problems; I have no arch in my foot when I stand up with no shoes on. With my mum’s pair of OOfos on, I could feel the arch support, and I really badly wanted to take them and call them my own.

So about a week later, I started begging my mum to me some. I managed to convince her to get me a pair, and then I started bugging her about when they would come! I finally got them, and even with a friend in the car I ripped open the plastic and slipped them on straight away. They are the most comfortable thongs I have ever worn, and I wish I could wear them to school!

 

 

Wednesday
Jan152014

BOGONG 2 HOTHAM 64K MOUNTAIN RACE. 

I have to admit to feeling quite nervous before this race. I had only ever run the 35k version before, many years ago, and had got miserably lost. I was sure that with an extra 29k to do, I would get even more lost! Added to that, I knew that this race involved lots of climbing.

It’s funny, because as soon as you start a race, the nerves go away. Then, it’s down to business! My plan for this race was to keep my effort under control to the top of Bogong, so that I didn’t wreck the rest of my race. For this reason, lots of people passed me in the first undulations. We turned onto the Staircase, and that’s when the real climbing began! Bogong2Hotham is one of those races where there is more climbing than descending, check out the elevation profile below!

After the climb to the top of Bogong, it was a relief to be able to run again. It was still hard going, but at least the sun wasn’t properly up and burning yet! Even so, it was still quite warm. I had put 1.75 litres in my Nathan Wrap hydration pack, but had to refill at Ropers Hut (23kms in). It was such a relief to have some cool water!

Next was the beautiful trail of T-Spur to run down, followed by the crossing of Big River. My feet thanked me for the cool change! Of course, what goes down must go up! And boy did it go up! The climb up Duane Spur was steep, but bearable. My wet feet kept me cool too! I was passing more people as I climbed.

I was starting to feel the effect of the heat and effort by this stage, but of course, everyone was in the same boat. The next big aid station was at Langford Gap. I was looking forward to this because I needed more water, and I had a caffeine shot waiting for me there that I was in dire need of!

The volunteers at this aid station were amazing! First, Brett Saxon helped me refill my pack with lots of icy cold water. Then, as assistant RD, he had to run off to attend to some important issues, but two other guys (unfortunately I didn’t get their names!) helped me re-stock with food (which all looked unpalatable at that stage!) They opened my drink bottle of electrolytes for me, took my rubbish and were upbeat and encouraging. It was a real boost!

I ran off, repeating my mantra that had got me to that stage “One foot in front of the other”. I ran to the beat of this for those parts of the race where I didn’t feel like running, which was quite regularly, and it really got me in sync and running again. It was something my mum used to say to me when I was little and we were out bushwalking (which I hated! How life comes full circle!!).

Next was Cope Hut, where I had a few cups of water, and poured a few over my boiling head too! I crossed the bitumen road of the Alpine Discovery Drive and was amused to see a sign on the track saying ‘Mt. Hotham. 2 days’. I bloody hope not!

This section was a bit more runnable than some of the high plains due to the matting. This made it much easier to keep up a rhythm. After Cope Saddle Hut things got bad for me. The poles that marked the track just seemed to stretch into the distance, and there were lots of rocks underfoot. It took all my mental strength to keep running and to be honest, sometimes (often!!) I was down to a fast march (something else all those years of bushwalking taught me!) This part of the course was up high with no trees, so there was no hiding from the full force of the sun. The heat was wearing me down and my water was running low again. Then, I got a blood nose. I never get these! I think it was just the heat. I didn’t even clean myself up because I was hesitant to waste my water! I rocked up to the aid station at Pole 333 a bloody mess. The volunteers here refilled my bladder again, and helped me clean up and poured water over me in an effort to cool me down. To be honest, they must have been feeling the heat too; there was nowhere for them to hide from the sun or the heat either! Thank god they were there; it takes special people to go to that effort for others, with no more than a thanks for reward!

I trundled off again, repeating my mantra to get me through. The run down Swindlers Spur was lovely, but I couldn’t really enjoy it because my legs were very tired! I got to Dibbens Hut and Clare Weatherly kindly directed me to a bucket of water from the river, which I promptly threw over myself, forgetting about my hearing aid! It put up a big squeak of protest, and squealed and hissed at me all the way up Swindlers Spur. Oh well, it gave me something else to think about other than the relentless climb and the ants biting me!!

From the top of Swindlers Spur there was ‘only’ about 8kms to go. Honestly, they felt like the longest 8kms of my life! I just wanted it to end so I could sit down!

Before I knew it (alright, more like what felt like after an eternity!!), I was out on the fire trail that lead to the top of Mt. Hotham. This was undulating, but even the downhill was exhausting! I ran through Mt. Loch Car Park, then walk/ran up the bitumen road to the small off-road climb to the cairn at the summit. I had made it, and I even managed to run over the finish to touch the cairn!

What a relief it was to finish and sit down. Of course, the legs started cramping pretty soon after and I had to get up and walk around again!! It was great to watch other finishers coming in, and to chat with the people who had finished in front of me.

I finished the course in 9.43 and was the 6th woman. I was pretty happy with this, as it was my first time on this course. It was the toughest race I have ever done! Certainly one well worth doing!

Many thanks to my sponsors who helped me get there; La Sportiva for the fantastic Helios I wore on the day, SkirtSports for the comfortable and wicking clothes, Injinji for the socks that enabled me to run with wet feet without blisters! Also, Ryders for the Apex sunglasses that were so light and comfortable, but really cut out the glare, Everest Sports for the saltsticks tabs that were a lifesaver, and for the QM anti-friction cream, a wonder product! Rocktape for their fantastic kinesiology tape that makes such a difference! Of course, at the end of the race I grabbed my drop bag and pulled out my OOfos and they went straight on my feet, what a difference after being inside runners all day! The CW-X compression gear has been helping with my recovery too! As I always say, I couldn’t do these events without the support of my sponsors, and it was especially true for this race!

 Just before the race..note the nervous smile!!

Monday
Jan062014

OOfos recovery footwear.

Recently I received a pair of OOfos recovery thongs from my sponsors at CW-X who now stock this footwear. OOfos recovery thongs are made with a new material called OOfoam that, along with supportive footbed, provide relief and comfort to feet tired out from trail running!

I first tried these on after a long run. The first thing I noticed was how nice it was to have an arch supporting my feet, something sadly missing from either standard thongs, or other supposed ‘supportive’ thongs/slides I have tried in the past. The next thing I noticed was the squishy luxuriousness of OOfos foam. Just what I needed after a number of hours running over rocks and hard ground!

I really felt like my feet were properly supported, and the cushioning gave my sore feet great relief. Not only that, but I could feel the difference in my legs too. There was less impact as I was walking around. Everytime I get home from a run I put on my CW-X compression tights to aid recovery, now I also put on my OOfos thongs!

Although the thongs look a bit thick and bulky, they are surprisingly lightweight. Also, the part that goes between your toes is soft and comfy. I find most thongs hideously uncomfortable because they irritate my skin where it rubs between my toes. Not so with the OOfos thongs! I can wear these for hours with no problems whatsoever.

Check out the pictures below to see what the OOfos are like! Also, click here to order your own pair.

 

Now all I need is some proper summer weather here in Melbourne so I can wear my thongs more often. Although, I have discovered that they work very well with Injinji socks…..

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