If the eyes are the window to the soul then this blog is a window to my mind. For those wondering how my most recent race, the Belair marathon, went here’s a Jack Bauer-esq ‘24‘ style play-by-play recap. Important information is highlighted in bold for those skim readers wishing to save time. Shoutout to my sponsors in Snowys and Tarkine for supporting me with products and helping out with the entry fee to make my involvement possible.
5:30 am. Wake up. Check the French Open scores from the night before. No major upsets. Richmond v Sydney finished in an unexpected way, have to check that out later. Time for breakfast, 1 cup of rolled oats, two teaspoons of peanut butter microwaved for 1:45. Instant coffee, some water and some dry rolled oats to finish off.
5:57 am. Breakfast done. Time to relax and start reading the Weekend Australian and wait for my digestive system to empty itself. A pre-race poop is important.
6:45 am. Collect Salomon water bottles pre-loaded with water and Thorzt electrolyte mix from the fridge. Load them in my Salomon vest along with my Clif Shot gels and head out the door. Only a fifteen minute drive to Belair for the race, listen to ABC on the way.
7:15 am. Get to Race HQ and check-in, collect my bib and timing chip and find a spot in the pavilion to dump my bag. Felt like walking into a footy changeroom which was cool. Threw my headphones in so any Chatty Cathy’s would get the message I was happy with my own company. Wasn’t actually listening to anything, was just happy embracing the cool Saturday morning vibe at Belair and the opportunity to race again. Tested out the legs and the vest set-up with a quick 10 minute warm up. Felt good. Felt ready. Refreshed my goals in my head of; testing a different fuelling strategy, reminding myself how far a marathon feels and what pace to run in preparation for the Pichi Richi marathon, and being exposed to how Ultra Series SA events are organised so I have a better idea of what the Heysen 105 will look like.
8:02 am. Race starts. Started off running next to a guy with no vest who was running strong. Have to be wary of folk like this. Are they not wearing a vest because they are planning on stopping at aid stations each time to fuel or do they not need fuel because they’re that quick? It’s a bit nosy to ask these questions in my view so I just sat behind him and tried to find a rhythm.
8:12 am. Wooshka, first downhill section and a younger runner with a handheld bottle and some flash race kit comes flying through. His name was Jack (discovered he goes by Jacko Laycock on Instagram) and he was a Chatty Cathy. I sat behind him for a bit and noticed also in this front pack that was being established was Mark Hollingsworth. Mark and I raced right next to each other earlier in the year. He’s a strong, consistent runner from a road background and was someone to keep an eye on.
8:50 am. Just ticked over the first uphill on Queens Jubilee Drive and my comfortable pace had given me a fifteen metre lead over the other three which was a nice confidence boost but I also tempered this with the fact that it’s a long day and we’re not even halfway yet so a fifteen metre lead means jack shit. Cracked open my first Clif Shot gel and it was fricken awesome. Easy to open on the go, easy to suck down and was very tasty. Thanks Snowys!!!
9:03 am. Down Pony Ridge and the others had come in behind me a bit closer. All good I was happy to stay with them for a bit. The switchbacks were a little frightening in the wet conditions but the Tarkine Goshawks handled them fine. Heading down Brownhill Creek Old Mate No Vest was putting down the hammer a bit and Mark was dropping off. Mr. Laycock had also disappeared a bit too. I stayed with Old Mate for a bit so I could try and work out what his deal was and why he was running so fast. Next minute, it feels as if he noticeably slows up and wants me to set the pace so I oblige and slow it up a touch.
9:08 am. Spot Brodie, of 21 holes at the Moon fame, out on course which was a very pleasant surprise!
9:15 am. Start heading up Brownhill. All the others back off to a walk while I enjoy bouncing up in a very slow run. I focus on dropping my heels low whilst staying on my toes to get some spring from my achilles. Works well. I get to the top with a little lead.
9:28 am. At the top of Brownhill I know there’s a left hand turn to take to loop back to the bottom but there’s no obvious track or marker so I continue straight for a few hundred metres. I feel a bit unsure so stop to check people are following me. Shit. They’re not. I feel like a cricketer who’s just realised they’re about to be run out and have to sprint back to make their crease.
9:33 am. Off I go, in a bit of a huff chasing after Mark and Old Mate. I click the music into gear and relish in the idea that my hat is called the ‘Predator hat‘ as I begin to hunt the others. Spot Brodie again and he’s also joined by Michaela Mooney (Mooney), another close friend of mine and a good surprise but I was disappointed to have blown my little lead while they’re watching. Imagine if you’ve ever told someone you’re specialty is cooking Lasagne and then you serve up one that is still really nice but just looks a bit sloppy. That’s how I felt in front of my friends.
9:40 am. It didn’t really matter how I felt though. What did matter is where the f*** is Mark? I’d passed Old Mate pretty quick again but Mark seemed to be a bit further in front. Following the trail up Brownhill Creek Rd I began to hit a few more dubiously marked course sections where I began to second guess myself. Suddenly Mark pops out of the grass having taken a wrong turn himself. We settle into a rhythm together again and start making our way uphill on a section of the course we know will be pretty straight for a while. I throw down a second gel hoping that it will help me recover from my little chase to find Mark. Second Gel is just as good as the first.
9:57 am. Mark’s rhythm up the hill is a bit quicker than mine. My technical trail advantage can’t help here and the fact I spent some energy trying to catch up probably played a side role. The rain starts to come down and as we climb higher up the hill the fog gets thicker around us too. I think about the fact that once we top out on this hill, it’s a bit tricky navigation wise and then mostly downhill to the finish line. I don’t want to be fiddling around with a gel or food in either of those cases so I go for the Clif Bar I packed in my vest for a bit of a longer lasting energy dose. Yep it was only fifteen minutes ago I had a gel but my theory is that if I dose up now I’ll be able to last the next hour or so easily. Plus the Clif bar is a bit of comfort food that’s nice to have when it’s pouring…
10:14 am. After going uphill for a while, through the rain and fog, and losing sight of Mark I started to feel a little confused. I didn’t exactly know where the next turn was so I had a heightened sense of anxiety because I didn’t want to get lost again. Brodie and Mooney appeared like a helping hand right when I needed them, standing at the next intersection. I made the turn, smiled, thought it’s nice to have friends out on course and then thought, shit, where’s the next turn now?
10:29 am. Managed my way through the next kilometre or so but was never really comfortable that I was on course. Passed through the 32km aid station and hit a section of the course that didn’t appear to have any markings whatsoever. I was pretty frustrated by now but just thought, screw it, it’s all running in the end and made a decision to follow a trail and see where it took me.
10:36 am. It took me straight to Mark! Here he was again stumbling out of the bushes. A quick consult of his GPS and we both eventually found the right trail. I thought I might be in for the shot again here as I hung off the back of him for the next few km’s down Sheoak Rd but he was really flying.
10:53 am. Its pouring as we enter Belair but I bunch up with Mark again as he almost took a wrong turn that I called him back from. We take off downhill on some single track and I get a bit confident. Belair is my house and Mark is a guest so I push the pace a bit. I go as hard as I can to open a lead to see if Mark might crack after almost 3 hours of racing and to also confirm to myself that I am giving this race a red hot crack despite getting lost so frequently. Maybe I’ll get the edge on him here.
11:01 am. Alas no, Mark has had his Weetbix this morning and as soon as we hit some open fire track he takes off again. I settle into a rhythm and just try and enjoy finishing of the race at my own pace that will leave me spent by the end. Here is where my mindset shifts to focus on getting the most out of myself in pursuit of my holistic development. I also know that there is still 3 and a bit km’s to go and anything can happen between now and the finish line!
11:31 am. I finish off in second place in 3:31 and am pretty happy with how my body has held up. I’m a couple of minutes off Mark in the end but almost thirty minutes in front of third. Towards the end I got a few little warning cramps telling me I had pushed it enough both in terms of effort and the right fuelling strategy. Waiting at the finish was Brodie, Mooney, Mum and Dad and a mate from uni Mr. Tom Dalby who was practicing some of his amateur photography skills which was cool!
12:15 pm. After chatting with my posse about the race and some of my misfortunes I entered into the waiting game for presentations. A chat with Mark about our different plans for races in the future was good but mostly while Tom and I waited for Preso’s to start I was thinking about getting home for a shower and some lunch.
12:50 pm. Presentations happen, I received my trophy, Tom gets a photo and I head off home to get on with the rest of my weekend. One of the aims for me to be a better Outdoor Athlete is to be able to recover quickly from these events so that I can spend the rest of my weekend enjoying watching some local sport, going out for some personal runs and even heading out for a climb. All things I was able to achieve which was nice! In summing up the outcomes from the race:
- Nutrition strategy was a success. Gels are awesome. 42~44km ~ 3 hr 30 mins of running is the cut-off for having enough water and food without doing a re-stock along the way. Any longer and I should stop at an aid station somewhere, any shorter and I can be confident in my set-up I used this race which was:
– 500ml Water.
– 500ml Electrolyte. I try to drink a little bit of either fluid every 20 minutes or so while I’m out there.
– 3 gels. 2 of which I consumed, one was spare.
– 1 Clif Bar.
- Pacing strategy for a marathon. Started out relaxed, turned it on a bit between hours 1 and 2 and then after 3 hrs felt I lost a bit of capacity. I’ll employ a similar strategy for the Pichi Richi Marathon where I hope to finish under 3 hrs. It was also good to see Mark’s speed on the road as that gives me a good visual goal to aim for and train to. Makes me glad to know that by entering this race I was exposed to this lesson of what it’s like to run with good pace on the roads.
- Course marking familiarisation. Big lessons to gain here from my participation in this race. I now know that for the Heysen 105 I need to commit some training time on course so I can be comfortable with the course. It is very hard to race confidently when you don’t know where you are going. Each race I complete is just another investment into the ‘Bank of Running Experiences’ that I’m creating and helping me to reach my potential in running.
It’s Monday morning after the race and the body has pulled up well which is always nice, but that’s also what happens when you prepare your body well and feed it well afterwards with more electrolyte and good food. Next item on the calendar is Parkrun at Seacliff on Saturday to try and work on some speed and then Trail Running SA’s first Winter Series Race at Mt.Misery on Sunday.
At the top of this post I thanked my sponsors and I’m going to do so again here. I never set out to get sponsors but both Snowys and Tarkine have generously offered their services in different ways to help support me on my journey to becoming a better runner. Check out their websites and keep them in your head next time you need anything for the outdoors (try Snowys) or some specific running gear (try Tarkine). When I first started this blog one of the aims I had for it was to share my experiences about running and the outdoors in the hope that others will be able to gain something from my experiences. Therefore if Snowys and Tarkine can help reduce my costs and give me the opportunity to enter more races then that’s a big positive and means I can spread the message about how good being in the outdoors and trail running is a little bit further!