My love of running and the Southern Highlands Challenge 50k Ultra Marathon recap.

This time last year I had just upgraded from what was to be my fourth half marathon at the Sydney Blackmores running festival to my first full marathon in Sydney with only 3 weeks lead in. My then, amazing coach was crazily adapting my program to accomodate my very random and last minute race decisions. I’m sure she was thinking “what have I got myself into here with this client?” We had only been together for about 4 weeks at that stage and Nicole Bunyon and I had just snagged very last minute late entries into The Coastal Classic 30km event, which, of course, was another adaptation to my programme for my coach.
Alas, I secured another CC entry with my local RMA Running Besty Natalie Murdoch and Nicole Bunyon, so we all raced through mud and amazing scenery to conquer a race that was to become a love of trails for us all. That race was my longest ever run further than 21.2km.
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The following weekend my coach had me do a final 30km long run In prep for my marathon allowing somewhat of a two week taper. I ran 30.5 to prove to myself I can exceed 30km. Haha. I ran my first marathon in Sydney in a 3:43 not really expecting the so called proverbial “wall” at 35km but it hit!! Anyway I knew there were lessons to be learned from that experience. That race inspired me to run longer and  see what I can do with this running caper.
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My next planned event was The Bloody Long Walk 35km in late October. During training in the lead up I ignored a glute issue that became a much bigger problem and unfortunately I had to retire injured at 14km during the BLW, hopefully my first and last DNF.
Of course being new to this running thing I had never heard of events such as Six Foot Track 45km Ultra Marathon or North Face50 Ultra Marathon, however Nat had previously run 6foot and the next thing I was doing was registering for both events in a flurry of RMA excitement!! I secured race qualifiers for 6foot with my CC result and my Sydney Marathon. These events were to be held in March 2015 and May 2015.. Crazy? Maybe?
My hip issues continued so running halted for a bit. My coach and I parted ways as a result but of course still closely connected with RMA and our friendship. I was diagnosed with a laberal tear in my left hip after an MRI and an expensive Sports Doctor appointment. However with some advice from another coach, (later to become my coach) at a running event in December I was able to get back running and training properly again.
My NF and 6foot training began in January with several weekends to the Blue Mountains to train on course with RMA planned training weekends with Brendan Davies. It was beneficial and a must for anyone considering either events. I ran other events at Manly Dam during their summer Trail Series, also gaining more experience on trails.
So March came and I ran 6foot Track with a grin from ear to ear!! It was gruelling and a bloody long way, but a 5:28 finish secured me well placed, somewhere around top 50 female, and thinking, I’m doing all right at this. Certainly no front runner and no expectations ever to be, I was quite happy to finish strong and look back knowing I did my best.
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Only 4 weeks  later with another last minute decision, I volunteered to assist RMA Ambassador, ApriI Palmerlee and Sydney Striders and paced the Canberra Marathon 4:15 bus and loved every minute of it. I was criticised by many for coming in too quickly.. I ran a 4:03 and agree it was an error on my part but alas some runners achieved PBs.. Job done!! I would love to do it again but get it right next time.
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Next on the agenda was Northface a tough 50km ultra trail marathon through Katoomba, finishing with 900m of steps. It tested me and took a lot out of me however I came in with a 6:35 time and again was well placed in top 30. Still nothing awesome, but happy to finish and enjoy my achievement.
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I ran these events without coaching and trained hard and usually on my own. I knew to finish races of this distance I had to put in the work.
Next for me was GCAM15, hopefully  where I would PB my road marathon. I believed I was a better runner than Sydney and wanted a 3:35. Boy was I wrong. I did a PW and although a desired time by many, of 3:53, I really thought it was my chance to get that PB. There were many issues for me on course but no excuse!! I came away deflated and wanting more.
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I chatted to a friend about my feelings and perhaps coaching would get me that desired PB.. I signed up the following week with a new coach, and a new running journey began. Melbourne marathon this October was to now be my goal race. Although I was registered for Southern Highlands Challenge Ultra first.
Having a coach regulates my running and makes me strive harder. I’m not sure if it’s a fit but I am feeling fitter and stronger.
Last weekend I ran a local 14.5k race, Pub2Pub improving on last years placing of 61st female to 32nd.. An improvement, I was happy. So it brings me to what has inspired me to write this long winded race recap. If you’re still reading. Awesome!!!
I haven’t been on trails since NF50, and questioned my coach of whether I was ready. I was not really running many hills but I was stronger than ever.
My son and I drove down to Wingello on Saturday with Nicole’s RMA tent and flags. Nicole and I set up the tent. The nerves were not there? I was strangely calm. At this point before a big race I am usually quite a mess.
We stayed in a quirky and quaint little place very close to race central with great RMA gals, Luisa, Mel and Kath.. We all met for race registration and dinner at The Bundanoon hotel and caught up with a few more RMA ladies. Some running on trails for the first time and some increasing distances having a love for trails. Our children were also with us to run either the 6km trail or the 1km fun run.
Race day!!! Up at 5, breakfast, get dressed, drive to race central and April briefed us at 6:45am. I was still calm and keen to get running.
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We were asked to self seed ourselves so I pushed close to the front. I have run the Red loop 25km before, the first section of the ultra which is single track to start and I wanted to be out front and not caught up behind too many.  The gun went and off we went.
I was settled in and looking forward to the many hours ahead.  At the second kilometre I tripped and fell and rolled off the track. I was helped up, dusted myself off, uninjured and kept going. I was thinking, really?? This is going to be a long day!!
I soldiered on, got into a rhythm and ran on. Chatting to some runners, but mostly trying to focus on the trail and not tripping again.
It happened at about 18km. I was cranky with myself. A little dirtier this time and a graze to my right forearm, but otherwise still intact.
We continued on, the red loop runners were finishing and I ran through checkpoint one, with Nicole yelling out and cheering, telling me I was running in third place. I was shocked and knew it would be hard to hold but wanted a placing as I have never achieved this before.
I ran ahead, fuelling when I needed, drinking small amounts, staying hydrated and comfortable. At the 32km mark a female runner passed me. I was somehow okay with this. 4th place I can accept.. Haha.
I had a lovely surprise shortly after. I was alone on a wide track when I heard a snake before I saw it. Let’s say I let out a few choice words and ran a fast minute there!!! I was forever watchful for snakes from then on. I ran on, chatted to, and ran with some lovely men, no women, I wasn’t passed again!!
I came in at fourth place, running through the finishing chute to wild cheers of all of you beautiful RMA ladies and your families. Nicole was there to hug me and reward me with my finishers Medal.

 

After a moment of emotion and slight inability to breathe I was helped by Kath White, Melanie Bryce and Emma Munro to the RMA tent to relax, get warm and refuel.

I was the fourth female finisher and was elated with my run. I am not a place getter, not an elite runner and not a fast runner compared to a lot of people. My main goal now is to achieve my marathon PB in Melbourne that I wanted in July at the Gold Coast.
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Dream to be better and you can achieve the impossible!! This time last year I was planning to run my first Marathon. I’ve now run 3 road marathons and 3 ultra trail marathons. Train hard and see what you can do. I’m just a beginner in this running caper.
Most of all, have fun running mums.

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