Monday, October 3, 2016

Walsh's Pyramid - Cairns, always a challenge

Walsh's Pyramid here in Cairns. 922 m high.
For the past 7 years, Euan and I have run the Pyramid Race, which involves a 3 km run to the mountain from the town of Gordonvale, a climb up the mountain, race down, then run back to Gordonvale.
We often train on the mountain, but it never gets any easier.

Although over the years my race times have improved as you can see below - there are still good and bad days where I go faster or much slower.  Today was one of those much slower days!

Pyramid Race Times over 7 Years

2009   3 hrs 15 mins 19 secs          135th place
2010   2 hrs 39 mins 32 secs          86th place
2011   2 hrs 36 mins 35 secs         103rd place
2012   2 hrs 37 mins 0 secs           102nd place
2013   2 hrs 28 mins  58 secs          93rd place
2014   2 hrs 31 mins   42 secs        112th place
2015   2 hrs  9 mins    45 secs          64th place   2nd in age category
2016   2 hrs 16 mins   19 secs         64th place   3rd in age category

In the 2 hours 40 minutes it took me today to run from Gordonvale, go up and down the mountain and run back today - I had plenty of time to think.

At the start

On the run to the mountain we took it easy and I felt good. Then came the first 5 minutes of climbing (which is just non-stop steep climbing from the word go).  Every time I climb this mountain, the first five minutes is spent thinking - 'this is hard', 'I'm not getting any stronger'  'what made me think I could do this faster'..... and other such things.  I'm generally a very positive thinker, but haven't managed to conquer the negative effects of the first five minutes of climbing this mountain yet.  Maybe when I conquer that and turn it around to positive, I'll make more progress!

Uphill slog

A slog is what it felt like today. Sometimes I feel strong, but not today. It was hot, humid and I felt old and unfit.  I spent my time thinking about the exercise and training I want to do so that I can feel strong on my trail runs and so enjoy them more.
Generally I do enjoy my runs, even slower ones, but I know that the stronger, fitter and more prepared I am, the more I will enjoy them!

I thought about how I'm going to be more consistent in my training and more careful about what I eat - to get better nutrition into my body and fewer over indulgences!

It's like the hangover where you say I'm never going to drink again!  This was my time to feel the pain and figure out how to not feel like this again!  

The Top

Reaching the top is always an achievement and worth it every time for the view out over Cairns and out to sea.

I don't always stop at the top - sometimes it's just a turn around and straight into the downhill.  Today I needed to stop and remind myself why I was doing this!


Coming down is such a relief after an hour of constant uphill strain on the leg muscles and my breathing.  That's what I most look forward to about going down - having my breath back.

Over the years I've gotten much better at the downhill - more confident to run more and more of it as I get to know the course more and feel more sure of my legs and footing. On a good day - I love the downhill, feeling strong and flying down, plenty of (small) jumps and leaps.  

Passing people walking up the mountain as I fly down is a great confidence boost. Seeing them at the tough uphill stage, I'm reminded again that I've completed that part and that makes me feel good.  It also makes me feel good when I hear people saying, "here comes a runner" and I think..that's me!   One of the relatively few people that 'run' the Pyramid!

The run back to Gordonvale

The run back after climbing up and down the mountain is always tough.  When I'm nearing the end of the downhill - I always think that I'm looking forward to just being able to run on the flat and give my downhill muscles a break, but then when I actually reach the flat part at the base, I realise quite how tired ALL of my leg muscles are and it's not really much of a relief to run on the flat.

Today I could have run all the way back (I can't always) but it was honestly just too hard and my head was in the wrong place to push myself to do it.  Everything hurt, I was hot and tired, so I ran and walked back. I couldn't find the motivation to push on and keep running.


A few hours later, I've had a nap, and some food and am feeling much better.  The motivation is still there and I'm determined to make it last and get stronger and fitter.
The weather up here in Cairns has really turned hot and humid over the past couple of weeks, which makes long runs that little bit extra tiring, but that's not going to go away, so I just have to deal with it and let my body adapt to that heat and humidity.

Running the Pyramid is one of my favourite runs to do - although today you wouldn't think so!  It's never easy, always a challenge, but there's always that great sense of achievement from having done it!  
And that's what I'm focusing on today.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let's try to run a marathon!

A while ago, my husband Euan suggested we try to run a marathon. We've done a few half marathons, and I finally cracked the 2 hour mark (just) earlier this year. Last year I also did my longest ever run - at 24km. However - a marathon, at 42km is much much further and did seem rather a crazy step up.

However, when we first started out running a few years ago, we started out with the Pyramid Race which is a tough race up a mountain. We didn't do a lot of training for it, and at the time it was one of the hardest things we'd ever done - but we had so much support from friends who came to watch, and we completed the race - exhausted but victorious!

So run a marathon? Why not!

We figured we're pretty fit, and could always just walk when we needed to. It would be an adventure and as always nice to be able to run together.

We started out at 6am up at Palm Cove. A friend drove us up there, which was great as it meant we wouldn't have to drive back up there later in the day to collect a car!

It was a beautiful morning and we set off from the end of the pier in good spirits, with our plan to just jog at a slow sustainable pace.  
Euan had worked out the route which would be around 42km, but I had my phone with Runkeeper on to track and check our distance to make sure we ran the full marathon.

Most of our run was alongside the highway. For a lot of it there were paths off the road, with trees and shade and even wallabies!

About halfway in we reached the Esplanade, which was a welcome relief after running along the side of the highway for so long.

At this stage we had started the walk a little, run a little, which soon deteriorated into just walking as we needed more fuel.
A stop at McDonalds provided us with some much needed salt, sugar and carbs!

We managed to keep on with the jog a little walk a little until about the 34 km mark, when we found even a slow jog was too hard.  Everything hurt. I felt that it wasn't really my muscles that were sore and tired (although I'm sure they were!) it felt more like my joints were struggling - my hips and knees were just exhausted and aching.

Those last 8 km were some of the hardest we've ever walked.  It was hot, we were exhausted but determined to finish what we'd started. We did talk about what we'd do if a friend happened to drive by and offered us a lift home, and agreed we'd have to say no, and complete the marathon distance, no matter how long it took us and how much it hurt!

We finally finished the 42 km in just under 7 hours. We managed a slow jog together to cross our imaginary finishing line.

It was so nice to walk through the door at home to our waiting girls who had been cheering us on with supportive text messages along the way! 

I don't think I've ever felt quite so exhausted and the rest of that day was spent resting and recovering, grateful for our pool!

I think my body took a good week to recover from this marathon attempt. The aches went after just a couple of days, but the fatigue was still there. 6 days later we did one of our regular 10 km trail runs which was much tougher and slower than usual!

Would I do it again? Absolutely - but not for a while.

We probably could have walked the marathon distance in much the same time at a steady strong walking pace, but it's made me want to build up to be able to run for that long and that far because right now I can't even imagine being able to do it.

We have a goal to run the Great Wall of China marathon for my 50th birthday in a little over 6 years time.  I'd like to be able to complete that strongly and enjoy the experience. I know I have a lot of work to do between now and then to get to that stage, but I do like a challenge and it's good have goals to strive for!

Let the training begin!

Have you ever run a marathon?  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cairns Ironman 70.3 Run Leg - my first sub 2 hour half marathon

This year I competed in the Cairns Ironman 70.3 (Half Ironman) as part of a team with my friend. I ran the run leg which is 21.1 km (a half marathon). As the runner of the team I got to wear the nice tattoo with our team number on!

I've run this distance a few times before, with my best time being 2 hours and 9 minutes in last year's Great Barrier Reef Half Marathon in Port Douglas.

This year I've been concentrating more on trail runs as most of the races we do are trails and I felt I needed more uphills in my training. As a consequence I've done fewer longer runs just on the roads than I did in my training for last year's half marathon.  

Road Running Vs Trail Running

I find running on the flat for longer distances harder than running up and down hills as I feel it's more of a mental challenge. With trail runs there is always variety in the terrain, incline and muscles you're using. It can be a relief to finish a flat section of a run and go into an uphill just for the change.
However, when road running there's no such change and variety, it's just flat, and flat, and more flat.

The half marathon in the ironman 70.3 was dead flat.  It was also a looped course with a couple of dog leg doublebacks in there too.  This made it feel like I was going round in circles a bit. At least the course was on familiar ground where I've walked and run lots over the past few years. Familiar courses are always easier to run I find.

The course was along the esplanade here in Cairns and the whole course was lined with people.  This again was another change from the trail races I'm used to where often I'm running totally alone on a bush trail up in the hills!

I enjoyed having the support of crowds along the way, people constantly cheering and holding up signs. I touched every sign that said, "tap here for power" ! I figured anything was worth a try!

Drinks stations

There were plenty of drinks stations along the road, offering water, ice, flat coke, Endura, watermelon, bananas, energy gels and protein bars! What a smorgasbord of delights! I mostly stuck to water with the occasional cup of coke. Again different to the trail runs where you have to take your own hydration and I now run with a CamelBak 

Team race vs Individual

Another change was running as part of a team. When running as an individual, you start the race at the beginning and run for yourself. This time I just started when my friend finished her bike leg, so not with a crowd of other starters.  
Being part of a team also helped mentally when things got tough and my body wanted to give up. More than just my own time was at stake, I had to do the team proud.

Having just done one leg of the race also meant a strange feeling at the end in the recovery area. I'd given the run my all and was totally exhausted, yet I was surrounded by people who had swum, cycled AND run. I somehow felt a bit of a fraud having done only a third of what they had and felt that I shouldn't have been quite as spent as they were!

1 hour 59 minutes, 20 seconds

For my time in this race I was hoping to go under the 2 hour mark. From my training runs I knew I was capable of it but just had never actually done it.  
The day was cool and a little wet, and with a totally flat, familiar course I felt I had a really good chance to go under the 2 hour mark.

I started out really strong, and went through the first 10 km in just over 50 minutes. At that stage I was feeling great and that I was running at a pace I could keep going at for a long time!

However, by the 14 km mark I checked my time and realised I'd slowed quite considerably, but still was on track to go under 2 hours.  
By 17 km I was exhausted. My legs wanted to stop, everything hurt and it was only my mind that kept me going. I found myself chanting in my head, "don't stop, don't stop, don't stop."

When I reached the end of the race and the finishers chute was in sight, I figured it was about a 2 minute run to the finish. Checking my watch I saw 1 hour 58 minutes and dug as deep as I could to sprint (or so it felt) that last couple of hundred metres!

Crossing the line and checking my watch to find I'd done it was the best feeling - you can see how happy I was!

The medal is one I'm really proud of.

And one thing I was really looking forward to at the end was the cool towel they give to all race finishers!

I loved being a part of the Ironman this year, The atmosphere is amazing, the race takes over Cairns for the whole weekend, and after several years of being a volunteer at the finish line, it was a good feeling to cross the line as a competitor.

I'm so happy to have broken the 2 hour mark for my half marathon time. My goal is now to get that down to 1 hour 50 minutes - which would be to run the whole race at the pace I ran for the first 10 km of this one!

I'm already back on the trails though, with a race next weekend as part of the NQ Games.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dirty 30 Sweaty 60

Yesterday our family drove up to Lake Tinaroo for a fun event - the Dirty 30 Sweaty 60.
This is the second year we've participated in this race and will definitely be going back for more next year!

The race is an obstacle course trail run that you do as many circuits as you can in either 30 or 60 minutes.  Our girls did the 'Dirty 30' and Euan and I did the 'Sweaty 60'. This meant that we could cheer each other on in our respective races - and take photos, which was great!

The race started down by the lake shore,

 with running through the water,
clambering over hay bales, 

ducking under tyres in the water 
and a larger hay bale to scale before heading up into the trees and the trail.

The trail then led up and up through the forest on trail and part sealed road, then down to the lake at the other side, where there was a small sand dune to climb up before heading back towards the start again along another short trail through more forest 
and a little on a section of beach strewn with driftwood.

Just before the end of the circuit you came to a choice of monkey bars, or climbing through 3 inflated inner tubes.  

I think most people chose the inner tubes! I certainly did - I don't think my arms can hold me up on the monkey bars these days - maybe something to work on for next year!

The end of the circuit was the most fun part of the whole race - a giant slip and slide. A black plastic slide with water being hosed down it and someone standing at the top squirting washing up liquid on to make you slide better! Awesome fun!

Our girls and their friend all did 2 circuits in their race and Euan and I managed to do 4 laps in our 60 minutes. Exhausting but so much fun!

The girls enjoyed cooling off in the lake afterwards too!

All in all a great race. We're already looking forward to next year's!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cairns Parkrun

Yesterday I joined in a Parkrun for the first time. Parkruns are 5km runs held all over the world at the weekend. Once you're registered and have your 'barcode' you can join in a Parkrun at any location they run worldwide!

We have one right here in Cairns on the esplanade, on Saturday mornings at 7am.

There was a good turn out of people and a clearly marked nice flat route up and down the esplanade.

It was a hot and humid morning, and I've been struggling with the heat the past couple of days since cooking myself out in the sun at the waterslides with my kids the other day.

My time was 25 mins 35 secs. Not bad in the heat and humidity
 (my best 5km time in winter is 22 mins 58 secs).

There was a bit of a mix up with the tokens being handed out as we crossed the finish line - and I ended up with a number one back from the one I was told and a few seconds slower time on my results.  That doesn't matter though - it's quite amazing that the results were emailed so soon afterwards with all sorts of other info!

Congratulations on completing your 1st parkrun and your 1st at Cairns parkrun today. You finished in 66th place and were the 18th female out of a field of 157 parkrunners and you came 4th in your age category VW40-44.

Not bad for a first Parkrun PB and plenty of room for improvement! I also earned 83 points for my run for this year's Parkrun competition, but I don't think I'll be running it often enough to win anything in the competition!

Have you ever run a Parkrun? Where?