Running On THE Road

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The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic stretches of tarmac in the world.

Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, it is both a testament to human endeavour and a striking memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War.

The Road is featured in many a Top 10 traveller list and thousands of tourists traverse it every day in buses, cars, campervans and motorcycles.

What they can’t do, if they value their lives, is travel the road on foot.

Except for one special day in the year.

The Great Ocean Road Running Festival is a two day event in May incorporating races for everyone from the 1.5km Kids’ Gallop to the 60km Ultra Marathon. There are also multiple distances for walkers.

The shorter races are held around the township of Lorne on the Saturday and has quite the party atmosphere.

But it’s the Sunday that is special. On Sunday, the Great Ocean Road is closed to traffic between Lorne and Apollo Bay and thousands of runners and walkers line up to complete the 23km Half Marathon, the 44km Marathon or the 60km Ultra Marathon. (Yes, they run the Half and Full Marathons hard here, tacking on an extra couple of kilometres.)

With a 24km run on the training schedule, it seemed logical to run the GOR Half Marathon instead. Run much the same distance and gain some bling at the end? Easy decision.

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Very nice bling it is, too.

I think because I only saw it as a training run, I didn’t really take the run all that seriously. I didn’t chase up accommodation, choosing instead to travel from home on the morning. The night before, I was wondering about the wisdom of that decision as I was facing a 5am departure. Meh. Who sleeps before a race anyway?

The Marathon and Ultra Marathon both kick off from Lorne and finish in Apollo Bay (the Ultra taking a detour or two off the road to add the extra distance). The Half Marathon starts (predictably) half way at Kennett River. Shuttle buses run from both Lorne and Apollo Bay to the start line.

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Kennett River – Not a bad place to start a race

For some, this is not the optimum start to a race. The Great Ocean Road is a very windy road and those of a travel sickness disposition can find the bus ride to the start a bit unsettling. Hard to face 23km of running when you feel like you’re going to throw up at the start line.

We’ve been having some unseasonably warm and sunny days this Autumn but typically, Mother Nature decided to pull out a cold, misty and windy day for Race Day.

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I loved it. I am most definitely a cold weather runner. I am also a winter beach person. I would much rather a walk beside a wintry, wild ocean than a warm, crystal blue lagoon.

I had registered in the 2.5 hours plus group since I’ve only just got back into a proper training program and it being a bit further than a normal half marathon.

I surprised myself and finished in 2:15:17. I had a great run. So much so, that I actually got a bit of a shock when I reached the 18km aid station. I was beginning to wonder if I’d miscounted the stops until I saw a walking track sign saying “5km to Apollo Bay”. Only 5km to go? Sweet!

Now, that time of 2:15:17 is the actual time it took from the start line to the finish – my “net time”. My “official” time is more than two minutes longer than that.

Results

This is the injustice of the humble runner. You put yourself at the back of the group and then it takes you several minutes to reach the start line when the gun goes off. I noticed a runner on the list who crossed the finish line a few minutes after I did but her official time was almost the same as her net time. This means she stood right on the line at the start but took longer to run the race than I did. Sometimes I wish I had that level of nerve. You can see the difference the time makes in the rankings between the two times.

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Feels like a half marathon just to get to the start line

Of course, it must be confessed that as a white-bibbed more-than-2.5-hour runner, there was some measure of psychological boost whenever I overtook a red-bibbed less-than-2.5-hour runner who got to start closer to the line than I did. There’s always a silver lining.

The Great Ocean Road Marathon is included in the book “50 Place to Run Before You Die” and I can definitely say it’s a run to be experienced. Of course, the great thing is that you don’t even have to run it. With the option to walk 5km, 10km or the Half Marathon (or, if you’re a bit sneaky and can walk fast, even the full Marathon), it’s an experience open to more than marathoners. Put it on your bucket list.

 

 

 

Now, what else is in that book….?

Run Forrest, Run!

Run Forrest 4

She’s mad, I tell you. Completely bonkers.

That’s me. Talking to me. I do that a lot.

I don’t listen.

Which is how I found myself lining up to run 21km through hilly rainforest* yesterday morning. Some people never learn. At least I had company. My friend Carolyn, otherwise regularly known as the Spreadsheet Enforcer, was lining up with me. Foolish woman.

(*’Rainforest’ in my part of the world does not mean ‘humidity’. Certainly not in winter anyway. It’s cool temperate rainforest.)

Called Run Forrest, it is a race described as follows: “Staged in the hinterland township of Forrest, nestled in the heart of the Otway Ranges, Run Forrest will showcase the region’s world class trails and breathtaking natural beauty – undulating hills, flowing rivers, dense fern gullies and the cool, fresh air of the Otway Ranges.”

Sounds kind of pretty, right?

It was. Pretty damned hard is what it was.

Now, before I get into the whole torturous saga, let me pull my Pollyanna act. On the plus side, for a winter’s day in one of the wettest places in the state, we miraculously scored a mild and sunny day. Also, I did not score any leeches. (That’s for Joanne.)

So, here goes on the rest of the story:

After a meandering loop that took us almost back to the start line (wow, that was a quick 21k!), we were sent up a steep rocky track. Nice.

There was some rather pleasant ferny rainforest with a bit of a hill before a quick jog along the road to the local reservoir.

Run Forrest 1

The run across the dam wall was pretty easy. (Taking this photo, I said to my then-patient friend, “Sorry, this is what happens when you run with a blogger.”)

Run Forrest 2

And then off we went into the rainforest proper. And it was beautiful.

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Run Forrest 5

And that’s it for the photos. Because after that it got nasty. Nasty, nasty hills. Steep, muddy and endless. I ran them at first until I couldn’t any more. Besides, I’d reached a point where a long-legged walking stride (I do this weird, doubled-over thing where my face is almost on the ground but it works) was just as fast as the grandma shuffle I had been doing.

At the top, we crossed a road and then! Oh glory! Downhill!!

We’d moved onto the famous Red Carpet, a well-known, heart-stopping mountain bike trail with sharp twisty turns. (No mountain bikes – the beauty of this run is the chance to take to this track without worrying about getting bowled over by Evel Knievel wannabes.)

Well, this was fun!

Until we noticed runners coming the other way. Oh, are you lost? Or are you doing the 10km run?

It took a few minutes for the truth to dawn.

We had to run back up the hill.

Here’s what went on in my head at this point:

Me: ohmygod! ohmygod! ohmygod!

Other Me: Get a grip!

Me: But we have to run back up! We have to run back up! I can’t! I can’t! ohmygod! ohmygod! ohmygod!

Other Me: Oh, for heaven’s sake, chill!! Yes, you have to run back up. But remember that nasty uphill you just ran? You get to run DOWN that one.

Me: ohmyg…. Oh. That’s true.

I wanted a photo of our loop around Lake Elizabeth at the bottom of the hill but I nearly fell in just trying to enjoy the scenery so I concentrated on my feet instead.

We made it back up that hill, actually not as bad as I’d remembered and then it was down the other side, whooping and hollering and doing the ‘flappy bird’ thing around the bends until we emerged near the finish line.

Wooho….wha’?

But…..but……the finish line is that way. Why are you sending us in the opposite direction?

Okay, we’re on the wrong side of the creek and you’re sending us up to the bridge. Okay. Breathe.

We crossed the bridge and looked for the markers to point us to the finish line. Nope. Still in the opposite direction.

I nearly lost it at this point. I got very sooky.

Pfft. That was nothing. Rounding the corner we saw………

……one more hill.

Really??? A hill?? 500m from the finish line??? You evil, nasty, sadistic…..

Nothing for it but to push on. Muttering obscenities under our breath.

Somehow we dug out enough energy to make a (not super fast) sprint to the finish line. I’d joked about joining arms and skipping across the finish line but that was early in the race when it seemed like a fun idea. Twenty-one kilometres later…. not so much.

Run Forrest Result

Equal 70th out of 134 starters in the Female 21km runners, 21st out of 49 in our age group, 50m40s behind the winner. I can live with that.

Would I do it again?

Are you mad?

Hm. Well, you may not be but I clearly am so…………

THANKS: I’d like to express my deepest love and gratitude to my friend Carolyn who is not only the Spreadsheet Enforcer but Mentor and Encourager Extraordinaire. I think I would still have finished the race (given my inherent stubbornness), but I would not have done nearly as well and I certainly would not have had anywhere near as much fun. (Yes, bits of it were fun.)

Postscript: I got up at 6.30am the next morning to go rowing. She’s mad, I tell you. Stark, raving mad.

Postscript Two: It was my father’s birthday yesterday. Our first without him. As I wrote on Facebook that morning: “I’m not sure what he’d make of me spending it running for two hours through the Otways but I think he would smile encouragingly and bemusedly, wish me luck and then segue into a story about that time he was driving through Forrest and…”

(ICYMI: My memories of my father on the day he died are here.)

Dad and his wine

 

 

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The Flying Beetroot: Still Flyi….er….Flapping

The Flying Beetroot Still Flying

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the vegetable crisper.

[puts on sing-song voice] She’s ba-ack.

I see dead-tired people.

……….

Okay, enough of the scary movie references. It’s bad enough you have to face the aviated vegetable again as it is.

I thought you might be thinking that the purple running shoes had been hung up for good – or at least for winter – post-mildly-acceptable-half-marathon-running-event.

However, if you were really paying attention you may have picked up in a post (way back when) that before I even knew if I could run a half marathon, I’d signed up for another one. It was a moment of momentary insanity. Or, given my usual state of insanity, perhaps a moment of weird sanity.

But being a Bear of Very Little Attention Span, running yet another half marathon on asphalt (or bitumen or whatever you call that black stuff) roads or bike tracks would be boring. If I was going to tackle this distance again it had to be something different.

Enter Run Forrest. (Yes, yes, let’s get the movie reference out of the way early. All together now: “Run, Forrest, run!” Thank you. Can we move on now?)

Here’s a description of the course:

The 21km course will start in the township of Forrest at the beautiful Barwon River.

The trail run will follow the Barwon River along the famous Red Carpet to Lake Elizabeth. The Red Carpet is a favourite amongst mountain bikers for its dynamic technical sections, fern covered single track and fast downhill corners.

Now we get a chance to run it…..

Run Forrest also gives trail runners access to the beautiful fern banks surrounding the majestic Lake Elizabeth.

The course is tough with tight, off cambered turns, fast down hills and undulating with plenty of flow.

The course is a circuit ending at the race village on the banks of the Barwon River.

I’m rather attracted to the phrases “dynamic technical sections” and “fast down hills”, providing, of course, that there are no “very slow up hills” to go with them.

Naturally, a course of this description has necessitated the purchase of more er… grippy shoes (otherwise known as trail runners) and a modified training regimen.

Unfortunately, trail-like running tracks are not immediately handy – the most suitable being at least a twenty minute drive away – so in these time-pressured days of work and family life, I have had to make do with running on nature strips* and gravel tracks where available. Fortunately, footpaths* are in short supply close to home so running on grass is readily available.

(*See International Vocabulary Reference at the bottom of the post.)

Winter has also arrived so as the days have become more heavily discounted, I have often found myself running in the dark. This actually has some advantages, mostly in regard to speed:

  1. Racing the light home with the darkness hot on one’s heels can tend to make one pick up the pace.
  2. In the increasingly chillier weather, one is compelled to move a little quicker to prevent certain extremities from freezing.
  3. Running along the river in the dark by oneself adds a feeling of “thrill” that does make the legs move faster. (I prefer the term “thrill” to “shit-scared”.)
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Racing the light

What I keep forgetting is to bring along a head torch so I can see properly once the darkness inevitably catches up with me (a speedy runner I am not as evidenced by my first half marathon time). Here’s a stretch of nature strip near my home that is ripe for running along:

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Sorry, that’s in the dark without a flash. Here it is with a flash:

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Hm. Not much better, is it? Do you want to see what it looks like in daylight?

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Yeah. A head torch is probably a good idea. One inconvenient wobble on that stretch…..

Before you ask, yes, I have a training spreadsheet. No, I will not be publishing it.

Because I don’t want to.

Because, unlike the glorious evergreen of the previous spreadsheet, this one is widely stained with the blood red of failure.

One week into the set training I came down with a bad case of “Falling Into A Hole” with a side order of “Losing The Plot”. There was no running for a week while I clambered my way back out of the hole. I got back on track (figuratively and literally) but was left with a debilitating dose of the “Can’t Be Bothered”s. Add some cold and wet winter weather and a stressful workload and it’s been too easy to take the “I’ll do it tomorrow” route to non-compliance.

I’m not overly concerned about it. One advantage of choosing a second race drastically different to the first is that there is no time to beat. It’s a picturesque location, it’s something different and this one I will not be running alone. My friend Carolyn, the notorious Spreadsheet Enforcer, is running with me.

I’ve decided (for the sake of my sanity and not to be overwhelmed with regret) that it is not a race on Sunday. It is a (admittedly hopefully rather rapid) stroll through the beautiful southern Victorian rainforest on a lovely winter morning.

Lake Elizabeth

Lake Elizabeth in the Otways. (Photo: http://www.runforest.com.au)

I’ll let you know exactly how that works out…

 


International Vocabulary Reference

Nature Strip –  berm, curb strip, devil strip / devil’s strip, parking strip, planting strip, sidewalk buffer, utility strip, verge, neutral ground

Footpath – pavement, sidewalk, footway, platform

(With thanks to Wiktionary)


 

 

 

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The Flying Beetroot: Crossing The Finish Line

The Flying Beetroot Finish Line

That’s it. The deed has been done. Your patient five-month following of the adventures of a rustic vegetable has been rewarded. The Half Marathon has been run.

Here’s where we started:

Training runs

And here’s where things stood as I lined up at the start line yesterday:

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Things got a little weird in the last couple of weeks of training due to a little trip to New York City (more on that later):

Thursday’s run got moved to Wednesday so as not to be required to run up and down the aisle of an aeroplane.

Friday’s run was allocated to a Golden Ticket since jet lag and running don’t mix well.

Sunday’s run was two laps of Central Park (just about) in the late afternoon when temperatures were sub-10°C. That was a great run and I felt really fresh at the end of it. So fresh I couldn’t feel my arms.

Tuesday’s and Thursday’s runs were done on the treadmill in the hotel gym. I really hate treadmills. I have a whole new appreciation of living in a climate that allows me to run outdoors all year round.

Sunday’s allocated training run was moved to Saturday and called the Scotland Run. Funnest training I’ve ever undertaken.

One more go on the treadmill on Tuesday. Thank all the gods.

Friday’s last training run before the big day was about an hour after we arrived home. It was more of a Cliff Young shuffle than a run but I covered the distance.

And thus on Sunday the Big Day arrived.

Half Marathon 1

I have no photographic evidence of the start because I was alone. Getting a jet-lagged husband and three teenage boys down to a race start line by 8am on a Sunday morning? Not going to happen.

I was grateful I had participated in the Scotland Run the week before (my first ever fun run). Having experienced a start with 8,000 runners, Sunday’s start line with less than 900 runners was a breeze.

The run went reasonably well. I guess asking an ageing body to work its guts out for a couple of hours isn’t going to go completely smoothly. My right hamstring grumbled and my left knee sniggered but it never rose above a mere complaint. But the stitches were bitches. The last one, stabbing me in the chest for the last two kilometres, was nicknamed Cruella De Vil.

While I started alone, there was support when I needed it from the Spreadsheet Enforcer and the Gauntlet Thrower and family arrived at the 17 kilometre mark to provide photographic evidence that I actually ran. Just the Husband and Youngest Son. Eldest Son and Middle Son stayed in bed. No prizes for guessing who is my favourite child.

Half Marathon 2

Very grateful to be allocated the number 96 so if my jet-lagged brain put my bib on upside down it wouldn’t matter.

Half Marathon 3

That singlet is from my days in the Spreadsheet Enforcer’s running group a few years ago. It says “Run Hard, Eat Cake”. That’s my kind of running.

There was a clock at the finish line so I could know my time. I didn’t even see it, I was so focussed on just getting across that line. While my running app gave me a time, I’ve not always been overly confident of its veracity so I waited for the official results.

Half Marathon results

For those not in the know: Finish Time is based on when I crossed the line after the gun went off. If you’re well back in the starting pack, you’re disadvantaged (by 40 seconds in my case). Net Time is based on my actual timing chip registering me crossing the start and finish lines and thus a more accurate picture of how long it took me to run the distance.

 

Two hours, two minutes and 56 seconds. I was thrilled. I was hoping for two hours in a sort of wishful, wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-do-it-in-two-hours kind of way so to have come a few minutes close was exciting. Besides, who wants to crack a super time for their first race? It just means too much hard work to beat it next time.

And today I received notification of official photographs in which I appear and fortunately there is one of me crossing the finish line:

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I look relieved. I wonder why?

So now I have a week off running, apparently, but then I’d best get back into it. I’ve already booked in for Run Forrest in June. (And no, it has nothing to do with the Tom Hanks movie.)

So thank you all for coming along on the runs through the heat and the rain, through knee troubles and headaches, through frustrations and triumphs. We made it. Now, can I offer you some beetroot relish?

Postscript: For those who may have remembered that as well as the race this weekend, I also had to sing in a concert on Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, that all went smoothly. And I made the interesting discovery on Friday night while waiting out the back to go on stage that it is actually literally possible to fall asleep standing up. You just don’t stay standing up for long. (It’s okay, I grabbed the back of a chair in front of me before I hit the floor.)

 

 

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The Flying Beetroot: Beware of Canoes

Canadians have their moose crossings, Americans have to watch out for deer crossing the road and people in Thailand probably have elephants crossing their paths but here in this town, it’s the canoes you have to watch out for. Unpredictable, temperamental buggers they are, too.

Canoes Crossing

The things a person has to take into account when undertaking a running challenge….

Now, let’s put on a little running music while I update you on the Flying Beetroot‘s exploits, shall we? I love this one. I could run a marathon with this song on loop, I reckon.

“Forget And Not Slow Down” – Relient K

 

On Tuesday, I reasoned that I didn’t need to get up early because even if I got called into work, I could run after school as nobody had commitments. Well, I did have to work. And it was a 30ºC day. Running in the heat after a full day of work was Not Fun. Lesson One: Get your ass…cough…assorted limbs out of bed early and run in the morning.

I’ve already stated that I love a spreadsheet. It’s very motivating and satisfying. Except on Thursday when the alarm went off at 6am and I knew I had to get up and run 5km before work. “Bloody spreadsheet,” I thought. I still went. And I enjoyed it. Lesson Two: Get out there even when you don’t feel like it. It will Be Fun.

Thank heavens the longer 10km run was Sunday. Plenty of time to fit that one in whenever I felt like it. That turned out to be about lunchtime. Mainly because I was hanging about here in the blogosphere, procrastinating about going all morning. Lesson Three: Go back to Lesson Two.

So here’s the spreadsheet with its little green boxes. I’m into the minimalist look. It has a simple colour scheme. Green means I did it, Red means I didn’t, Yellow means I tried to do it but didn’t manage the distance. There will be no Red or Yellow. The Flying Beetroot has spoken.

Training runs 2

I’ve also started recording my runs on an app but I’m not making the results public yet. I’m not exactly breaking any land speed records at the moment (it’s less The Flying Beetroot and more The Ambling Beetroot) but my current focus is on achieving the distances. Speed can develop once a 10km run feels like a jog around the block and not [insert time here] minutes of torture.

Thanks for joining me on the run. Watch out for those canoes.

The Flying Beetroot Meets The Canoes

The Flying Beetroot encounters a herd of canoes.

 

 

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See A Gauntlet, Pick It Up…

…and all day long you’ll wonder what you were thinking.

The problem with writing a blog is that it can give people ideas.

Like the friend who, after reading my posts about returning to running, decided to issue me with the challenge to enter our local half marathon event next April. Sigh. She knows I can’t resist a challenge.

I’ve never run in a fun run. Ever. Not even a 3km stroll in the park. But, you know, why muck about with piddling little distances?

So training has begun in earnest rather than in the haphazard, hope-for-the-best nature I usually do things.

Runner Me

I was wondering if I were to give myself a running nickname, it might give me further motivation, don’t you think? Emil Zátopek was the ‘Czech Locomotive’, Marjorie Jackson the ‘Lithgow Flash’, Usain Bolt is the ‘Lightning Bolt’ and Eric Liddle was the ‘Flying Scotsman’.

I was thinking about what name I might choose when I looked in the mirror after a 5km run on a warm afternoon. And there it was. Behold! The Flying Beetroot!

The Flying Beetroot

The Flying Beetroot

To help me keep on track, I asked another friend to give me some training guidance. She sent me a spreadsheet. Sigh. I can’t resist a spreadsheet. I suspect she knows that. A non-checked-off spreadsheet can send me into a nervous breakdown so she knows I’ll stick to the training plan.

Here’s what my future holds:

Training runs

All those boxes with distances in them have to turn green.

I love that she expects me to run 9km on Christmas Day. She probably knows I will, too, just to prove I can.

But if all else fails, I suspect I will cross that finish line anyway through sheer bloody-mindedness.

And they know that, too.

 

 

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