Thursday, August 29, 2013

Matching set - North Pole Marathon

I had been exploring my options as to which continent marathon I would complete in 2011, there were lots of options I was spoiled for choice. At around this time one of the runners I had run with in Antarctica told me she was planning on running the North Pole Marathon in 2011. This sparked my interest and I loved the idea of sharing the South and North Pole run with a friend. So despite the fact the North Pole Marathon doesn't actually count towards my continent marathons - its a polar ice cap there is no actual land - I decided to sign up.

flying out to the North Pole this afternoon in the advance crew - apparently we get to mark the course and help set up camp. The North Pole camp only opened on April 1, before that there was just ice and snow and a few random polar bears!

unfortunately 30 minutes before we were supposed to land at the North Pole we were informed that the runway had cracked and that the plane was turning around and heading back to Spitsbergen!

Take two - we fly to theNorth Pole tonight after they extended the runway, planning to run the marathon sometime tomorrow! Checkout the link to see the 1m crack in the ice runway 

finished the ice marathon in 6h28min, in temps of -32C, ten fingers and ten toes intact - no polar bears! with blue skies and temperatures of -32C. A 2 mile loop repeated 14 times and tough conditions underfoot - very happy girl now :)

just saw a video about the North Pole Marathon 2011, check it out PS my Number is 8 and I am the only one wearing white pants!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bucket List - Lorne Pier to Pub Ocean Swim

One of the reasons I chose running for fitness is that I am a terrible swimmer - in fact it would be fair to say I have a morbid fear of swimming. It is not exactly rational because logically I know I will be okay in the water but the simple fact is humans were not designed to breathe underwater so I don't see why when you are swimming and breathing hard that you should put your head under water.

Despite my issue with swimming I have wanted to complete the Lorne double since 2003. This event consists of an 8km Mountain to Surf run on the friday evening and a 1.2km Pier to Pub ocean swim on the saturday morning. So 7 years later the swim event is now based on a lottery system and in November 2010 I was sent a reminder to enter the lottery if I wanted to compete in the swim.

 I have never been very lucky with winning lotteries so I thought the chances were pretty good that I would enter the ocean swim lottery but not get a place. As luck would have it I was one of the fortunate few to secure a place in the Pier to Pub swim and I had just over 8 weeks to train for the swim. The last time I had been swimming was in 2002 when I did a crazy race series in Sweden called the Swedish Women's Classic - the swim portion consisted of a 1km swim upriver and some very bad breaststroke on my part!

It was clear that I needed to do some intensive swimming training and luckily my good friend Mr Kevin Cassidy was happy to offer some advice. I am in awe of Kevin's swimming pedigree he swam the English Channel in 16 hours. Because of the tidal nature of the channel apparently at one point he was swimming for an hour and not actually making any distance.

I met up with Kevin very early one morning at the Mentone Beach - so early in fact that it was still dark. We went out the water and I attempted to swim along the foreshore - of course I made sure that we didn't go out far and that I could touch the ocean bottom with my feet. I paddled along for a while with Kevin gliding alongside me and and it grew lighter. At one point I felt something touch my leg and I let out a screech - Kevin quickly turned around and identified the culprit, a jellyfish. This promptly ended our swimming lesson and Kevin commented that my technique needed some work but that he had seen people of my ability (or more correctly lack of ability) successfully complete the Lorne Pier to Pub.
I decided to bite the bullet and take some swimming lessons at my local pool. Fortunately it was an adults class and ironically enough some of the other students had even greater fears than me. I then started swimming a couple of days a week at the pool and threw in the occassional ocean swim at the Brighton Sea Baths.

I realised that a wetsuit was going to be an important part of my swimming success (the additional buoancy would give me confidence in the water). So when I saw an add to trade in my old wetsuit (that I had since I was 16 and could still stretch into) for a new wetsuit I decided to upgrade. In my shiny new black wetsuit I at least looked the part!.

The anticipation was building and fortunately I was able to do the run first and hopefully wear out some nervous energy on the friday night run. It was quite warm and very hilly including a fearsome uphill start but it was only 8kms. I finished the run in 44:15 and placed 50/152 for women in my age class (young at heart). This statistic is important when you compare it to my relative placing in the swim!!!!

I don't think I slept much that night, becoming more and more anxious about the swimming event ahead. The first challenge was finding a car park, the second was getting into my wetsuit. The swim event is coordinated a little differently to running with all swimmers starting in waves - groupings of participants based on gender and age, I would be starting out with 300 other senior females.  They lined us up and proceeded to explain that we would need to swim ~200m to the start line - I was concerned enough about making the 1.2km swim and now I had to do a 200m warm-up!!!

I wisely chose to hang at the back of the swimming pack, to avoid the race start pandemonium. The gun went off and we started and from that point on the only thing I could do was keep on swimming until my feet touched the ground.The rest of the group very quickly swam away from me and there were really only a couple of other swimmers close by. Fortunately the surf lifesavers were hanging around and I knew if I really got  desperate and in trouble I just had to raise my hand and they would come and get me.

Swimming is different to running and you really don't get the impression of moving across distance. The only way I could tell that I was actually progessing forward was the buoy markers and I eagerly ticked off the markers as I swam by. It was probably around this time that I was overtaken by the next wave of swimmers, which really wasn't much fun with a few pokes and prods and of course seeing how easily they got ahead of me! Sadly a second wave of swimmers also overtook me before I completed the swim.

After swimming for more than 30 minutes I finally touched the ground and though my legs were feeling like jelly I was able to start running and crossed over the finish line in 34min12sec. With this time I placed 298 in a field of 300 swimmers!!!! Although my time was incredibly slow it was a very exciting moment for me to have stepped up and faced a challenge that I was actually very scared about and to finally achieve that goal that I had been thinking about for over 7 years!

Lessons learnt:
1) I am a much better runner than a swimmer - stick to runnning
2) humans really can't breath under water
3) it doesn't matter how long it takes, acheiving your goals always feels good
4) it is good to challenge ourselves in areas that make us nervous and scared - it lets us know that we are alive and sets new benchmarks of what we can achieve
5) jellyfish sting when you swim into them

And finally I leave you with a quote that sums up my experience:

              "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." – John Bingham

3 weeks between marathons!

I am a little bit behind in reporting my marathon efforts - almost two years behind and 5 marathons later I am still at it. I felt great after the Sydney marathon, no injuries and a good recovery. I decided that it wanted to run the Melbourne HALF marathon a mere 3 weeks after completing the Sydney marathon. Unfortunately by the time I had finally decided to enter the HALF marathon that distance was fully booked. The only places available were for the full marathon, so I signed up, well it seemed like a good idea at the time! This would be my third time running the Melbourne Marathon and my 8th marathon so I had a fair idea about what I was in for. Surpisingly enough the time passed very quickly after my Sydney marathon and I was once again lined up for a marathon. This time I wasn't running with a running buddy, just me and over 5000 other crazy runners! I decided to just keep an even pace with the aim of completing the event in under 4 hours. As always running a marathon took some basic physical ability and lots of mental toughness. I was thrilled to enter the MCG and run around the oval to complete the marathon in 3hours and 56minutes - a full minute faster than my marathon 3 weeks earlier I found some race stats below that might put my efforts in perspective, not the fastest female but definitely above average :) Melbourne Marathon - Results Melbourne, Australia October 10, 2010 Finishers: 5053, Males - 3670 , Females - 1383 Male Winner: 2:11:02 | Female Winner: 2:32:18 Average Finish Time: 4:01:02

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sydney Marathon

While we stood waiting for the start of the marathon Grizzly shared his race strategy: 1) do your best 2) have fun 3) no crying till the finish line. Well it gave me something to think about for the next 4 hours! We took off and starting running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have to admit it was kind of cool running over the bridge with 100s of other runners. Grizzly was the time keeper and kept us (hmm well actually me) in check - in fact I never looked at my watch at all the entire race - I had confidence that Grizzly would bring us in under 4 hours and all I had to do was follow his lead.

I was really looking forward to Centennial Park where my friend and her family were waiting to cheer us on. I have to admit when I did finally see them around 20km I was really happy to see them and for them to share in my challenge. We continued on our merry way and then it was just a matter of keeping on going to the end. One highlight was as we left Centennial park, the two guys standing on the corner playing a ukelele and signing Suspicious Minds. Along various sections of the course we had people running with us, but it was consistently Grizzly and I. The section through Darling Harbour wasn't much fun, in fact I was quite grumpy the bridges were hard work but it did bring me closer to my next markers - the Blue Peril and the little Red Car.

The last 1km was promoted by the Coolrunning Cheer Squad - which was much appreciated! I actually really enjoyed the last 500m, the street was lined with people and I clapped the hands of the little kids along the way. Just before the finish line Grizzly and I held hands to cross the line in 3hr 57min. I was estatic 33 minutes faster than my last marathon, I had run it with a good friend and I was greeted at the finish line by another friend. A great day was had by all.

So just because I like to reflect on these things what did I learn from marathon number 7?
1) Good company always makes the time go faster 2) sharing the marathon experience with non-running friends is very special for me 3) I have my running mojo back :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lucky Number 7 Marathon - Sydney

Well its been a long time between blogs but I have been keeping busy after finishing the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. Despite or maybe because of my disappointing marathon in Pittsburgh I decided I wanted to run another marathon in Australia in 2010 and to continue another challenge. That is, along with my goal of running the 7 continents marathon I also have a plan to run all the states and territories in Australia. I can then join the Australian All States Marathon Club :). At that point I had completed marathons in one state (Victoria) and two territories (Northern Territory and the ACT) so I thought Sydney Marathon in September would work out well.

After the Pittsburgh Marathon I had a week off from running and then had an easy month and a half of relaxed running. I also graduated from my Masters of Public Health which my sister and parents came to watch .

Before I knew it, there was only 12 weeks left till Sydney Marathon so I had to ramp up my training and start doing those really long runs on the weekend. The long runs are hard work but absolutely necessary to the successful completion of a marathon. Luckily for me I had training buddies to run with for all of my long runs and to share the yummy breakfast afterwards!! During that time along with my normal training runs I did a 30k race around Princes Park, and a 32 and 34km run along the beach.

I was really looking forward to the Sydney Marathon because: 1) I got to catch up with an old running buddy who had moved to Sydney 2) I stayed with a good friend and her husband and twin sons 3) I got to catch up with a running buddy from Antarctica 4) and last but definitely not least I was going to run the marathon with a good running buddy!

The Sydney Marathon starts at 7.30am, that's quite an early start particularly if you are taking public transport to get there. I was really lucky that the friend I stayed with was willing and able to drop me off at the train station- thanks Chickie! At this stage the nerves were definitely kicking in and I was again realising the enormity of running 42kms - that's a very long way to run just for fun!

I got to the race starting line with plenty of time to spare and as always the first stopping point was the queue for the toilets! As I moved forward in the queue I heard someone call out my name to discover that standing in the queue right next to me was a Dutchy from Perth who had run the Antarctic Ice Marathon with me last year. It was fantastic to catch up with him and to meet his wife who was running her first ever marathon with a goal time of under 5 hours in order to qualify for the Comrades run (I can happily report that they made their goal time with minutes to spare). We had a lovely time catching up and he promised me that on his next visit to Melbourne we would meet up at the Ice Bar - to relive our Antarctic experience.

Around this time I also found my running buddy who had generously agreed to run with me with the aim of completing the Sydney marathon in under 4 hours.... more to follow!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Third Continent Marathon - Pittsburgh, North America!

I wasn't really sure what to do with myself after successfully completing the Antarctic Ice Marathon. It was truly an inspirational, rewarding, outstanding, unique and fantastic experience and I can't imagine undertaking anything else to compare to it. But as some of you might be aware after following my blog I love a challenge and having a plan motivates me to keep going, so this meant I had to come up with a new plan!

After chatting with a number of fellow runners in Antarctica it became clear what my new plan should be - to run a marathon in every continent. For those of you who can't remember primary school geography that is 7 marathons. I had already completed marathons in two continents, Australia (in 2005, 2008 and 2009) and Antarctica in 2009. My next question was - which continent to run next? Interestingly enough around this time a good friend had mentioned she was planning on running her first marathon in Pittsburgh. Now I actually did my first ever fun run (5km) with this friend and I thought it would be a great idea to be there when she and another good friend completed their first marathons!

With my next continent marathon decided it was almost time to start training again - although I did take a month off following the Antarctic Marathon. The timing of the Pittsburgh Marathon (2 May) meant that I could use the training for my annual King Island run (32km) as part of my marathon training. This did mean I was training long runs in the middle of Melbourne summer but luckily I had some great training buddy's to keep me company.

The King Island race came up quickly, this was my 6th time running this event and the race never gets any easier. In fact this year it was my worst ever run. It was quite warm and humid for the first part of the race and I really suffered as a result. I was already struggling by the 8km mark and at that point the only thing that kept me going was the video camera filming the runners. I managed to keep running past the camera and then had to slow to walk - I attempted a run/walk strategy but the rest of the field quickly overtook me and I was now the last person in the race.

I was quite disheartened and was planning my wooden spoon speech, right up until 20km when I finally caught up with a runner. Unfortunately for this runner he was feeling even worse than me and was cramping up pretty badly. Ironically enough just knowing I wasn't the last person inspired me enough to pick up the pace (still run/walking though). At this stage I caught up with a second runner who was running his first ever 32km race and had been ill with a cold all week so wasn't feeling so great. I finally got myself together and managed to run the last 3km into town to finish just on 40 minutes slower than last year!!!

The King Island run really had me doubting my running abilities, and in fact there were moments during the run when I thought I should give it all away. I could do the long-distance running training with no problems but if I couldn't get through a race without my dizzy spells than what was the point! I had already registered for the Pittsburgh Marathon so decided to keep going with the training and hope for the best. Interestingly enough I did a longish run the following weekend and had no problems - go figure! I continued my regular training runs along the beach (see the picture of my beach trail)

The training went quickly and before I knew it I was on a plane heading to America for my next big event, the Pittsburgh Marathon. The race website stated average temps of 10-16C with approx 4000 runners - quite a contrast from my previous marathon in Antarctica -4 to -9C with 20 runners!! Unfortunately for me the race conditions weren't so kind and the temperature was closer to 25C and quite humid for the first 5km.

I caught up with my two friends who were undertaking their first marathon and we all were feeling the tension before the start of the marathon. This was my 6th marathon and I don't think it gets any easier, I still get to the starting line and wonder why the heck I am doing this and 42km is really a long way to run! The gun went off and we started running, I spent the first couple of kilometers dodging and weaving around other runners and then settled into a rhythm. At around 4km it finally started raining and in fact didn't stop raining until near the end of the run but I was actually pleased since it cooled me down - although my shoes were quite water logged!

I have to say despite the rain there was fantastic crowd support along the way and I enjoyed hearing the bands. My favorite was the high school band and I also thought the nuns in full habits were pretty cool too! I was counting down the kilometers and really looking forward to the finish line at about 39km the hash house harriers were offering free beer - I did see a couple of runners take the beer!!! As always the last 2 kilometers just took forever but with crowds lining the streets there was no way I was stopping now!!

I finally got to the finish line and completed the marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes. I then waited and cheered on my friends as they successfully completed their first marathons.

So what do I take away from this marathon experience?
1) I specifically chose this marathon to share the first time marathon experience with two friends and that made the whole experience worthwhile. To see their joy in undertaking this massive effort and successfully completing the marathon was priceless.
2) Although I was disappointed with time I can say that I was really pleased that I didn't have any dizzy spells (I paced smarter and didn't push hard in the humid conditions) and I ran the entire marathon with no major walk breaks.
3)Do I still want to give up long distance running? NO, in fact I signed up for my next race, the Williamstown Half Marathon at the end of May and I am thinking about plans for the next marathon!!!!
4)I enjoyed the big crowd support but ultimately the event is still an individual pursuit, with that constant inner struggle to keep running when all logic says you should stop!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Antarctica Rocks!!

Okay so I am still on a high from my experience in Antarctica - it has been the trip of a lifetime for me, enhanced by meeting a fabulous group of runners and the wonderful camp staff at Patriot Hills.

Well what can I say the Antarctic Ice Marathon was amazing and surreal and bloody hard work! Poor weather conditions delayed our arrival into Antarctica - although by the time we arrived the weather was amazing big blue skies and snow everywhere! It would be fair to say I was starting to feel trepidacious about actually running a marathon under Antarctic conditions. And while those following the progress of the marathon may have wondered how I was coping with the delays of the marathon (we had planned to run on December 12 but didn't actually start until December 15) particularly since I am not a very patient person. But actually each delay felt like a reprieve and for once I was actually happy to wait!

The day of the marathon finally dawned at we started running at 11.32am on the 15th of December and 7 hours and 9 minutes later I finished the Antarctic Ice Marathon - exactly 3 hours longer than the Alice Springs Marathon in August! I was the second woman across the line and came 7th in a field of 18 marathon runners!

But I am sure you all might be more interested in the gory details of the actual run! Well the fog horn went off and 17 runners sprinted away to be immediately brought up short by the soft snow. We all spread out and settled into a rhythm - well as much as the conditions would allow. I spent a lot of time watching the track and trying and to identify the harder sections of the snow-covered track but in reality there wasn't any good line to follow. I found the first 8km particularly hard work and it wasn't till I got to the first check point that I discovered that I had actually been running on an incline. With no real markers and a totally white horizon it was particularly difficult to get a visual perspective that identified an incline.

I got to the first check point had a hot orange juice and went on my merry (okay not so merry) way. I was assured that this section of the course was downhill - but it took a really long time till I found the downhill section. Around 14km I was feeling pretty low but it was at this point that I caught up with Mark who was on his third 25km lap of the 100km Ultra Marathon. Mark gently reminded me that this marathon was all about the embracing the experience of running in sub-zero conditions in the Antarctic and not to focus on the 'race' it was a great pep talk and really helped to lift my spirits.
I made it to the second checkpoint at 19km for some more hot orange juice and then ran the best section of the course. A lovely sweeping downhill section leading into the campsite. Although once again distances in Antarctica are deceptive and it took quite a while to reach campsite. However, I was re-inspired at this point since I could see one runner ahead of me maybe one kilometre and one runner behind me about 500m - so you all can imagine my game plan try to catch one and stay ahead of the other!

I eventually made it back into campsite (checkpoint 3) at about 25km and had a quick change of tops because my thermal top was dripping wet. I actually ran with a camelbak (and insulated tubing) and drank the entire 2 litres during the run - with no stops for pee-breaks!

The last 12km or so was an out and back section and was just a hard slog and difficult to judge the distances as we were running off into the wide, white horizon! I finally resorted to alternating a run/walk program between the red flags, spaced about 50 metres apart! I was relieved to make it to the final turnaround point and only had 6km to go but let's just say it was the longest 6km of my life! Once again I had one runner ahead of me and one runner behind me and my goal was to try to catch one and stay ahead of the other. Ironically in speaking later to the the two runners, they shared similar goals, one was trying to stay ahead of me and the other was trying to catch me, so we were all driving each other forward :).

I didn't actually see the campsite finish line until about 1km to go and it took forever to reach but as you can my happy face I was ever so pleased to finally finish!

So what did I think of the Antarctica Ice Marathon? A truly awesome, amazing stunning experience.

Would I do it again? Right now I would have to say Maybe and if I did it again I would at least be better prepared mentally and physically for the experience.

Would I recommend the event to other runners? Absolutely, without a doubt, the camp staff were amazingly supportive, the food was outstanding, the tents were relatively comfortable and the race was well organised - just be prepared to wait on the weather gods for the starting date! In fact I waiting for the next Coolrunner to take up the challenge.