Archive for Running

Gold Coast half marathon race report

I registered for the Gold Coast half marathon with a bit confidence after running 1.25 at the SMH half marathon. After a slightly sporadic month of training in June, I arrived at the start line happy to just do whatever I could on the day.

I travelled with two friends, Kate and Tony, and we arrived on Friday night with time to get dinner and have drinks, before an early start on Saturday for the 10km event. Even though we were up early, Kate and I relaxed while Tony ran his first 10km in a year, but by 4am on Sunday morning it was our turn. Despite some issues with the transport, we made it to the start line with a bit of time to spare.

My plan was to start at 3.55 pace, and make sure I didn’t get caught up in the fast course and go out too hard. It worked well for the first few kilometres, before I started to notice I was running a little bit faster than I had planned. I was caught in between feeling really good, and wanting to conserve energy, but as the kilometres ticked over and I found myself enjoying the pace I decided to go for it and see what I could do.

My favourite part of out and back courses is that you get to see people during the run. At about 12km, I saw Kate, and while I was feeling good, it was her acrobatic cheering that got a smile out of me. Not long later, I saw another friend, whole told me I was around 20th female.

heading in to the last third of the race, I heard two guys chatting away behind me. They came up next to me at about the 15km mark, and a quick glance at my watch showing 3.56 pace convinced me that I was slowing down. Looking at my splits after the run suggest I may not have been, a good reminder that a single moment on your garmin might not reflect your overall pace! It worked to my advantage though, because I decided I needed to stick with them to avoid slowing down.

Leading up to the 16km mark, one dropped off and the other, realising I was trying to keep up with them, started to chat and offer a bit of encouragement. With about 4km to go, I was working hard to keep up with him, and it made sense why when I went through the 19th km not far off my 5km pace! Being ahead of the 1.24 pacer, I knew if I could hang on I would run a PB.

At 20km, the guy I was running with disappeared off to the side. It turned out he wasn’t even officially in the race! I briefly realised I wouldn’t be able to say thank you since he wouldn’t be at the end, then turned my focus back to the long stretch of road ahead to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 1.22.13 and 19th female, taking almost 3 minutes off my time from SMH.

The funniest part of the day came after Kate had finished (in PB time as well!), and I said how much I wanted to go in the spa back at the hotel. Tony pointed out that cold water was probably better, and to highlight the point we noticed groups of people standing in the water next to the finish area. After laughing over how funny it was, we decided to join them! I think my legs definitely appreciated it.

I enjoyed this event and the fast course is a definite plus. Gold Coast marathon might be on the cards in the future!

Central Coast 10km

The past few weeks of running have highlighted the highs and lows of returning from my injury.

In what was a huge surprise to myself, my third and fourth runs at Parramatta Park Run resulted in two PBs in a row, both under the all important 20 minute mark for 5km. I thought that speed would have been the first thing I lost, so I wasn’t expecting to run anywhere my current best of 19.32.

I think it ended up giving me a false sense of security about how well I was doing, because stepping up to 10km at the Central Coast event on Sunday was another story altogether. I did have some doubts before the run how I would go over the distance, but it was overshadowed by the feeling that my 5km time suggested I could run a PB. That was definitely out of the question.

The first half of the run wasn’t too bad, although I wasn’t feeling my best. By about 6km I could tell I had slowed down a lot and the temptation to quit was almost overwhelming. I nearly did just before the 7km mark, when I stopped to walk.

The night before, I had a seen a post on Facebook that said something along the lines of running not being about beating the other athletes, but beating the voice that tells you to quit. I shared it on my page, along with a comment about how it’s totally about winning. I’m competitive, and I my finishing position is important to me, but on that day it actually was about not giving up.

I started running again simply because I didn’t want a DNF just because I was a bit tired. The last 3km felt like they took longer than the first 7km, and I was ecstatic to cross the finish line and stop running.

My dad summed it up best when he said that it probably just meant I was fit enough for 5km, but not 10km. It makes sense and is a natural part of recovering from an injury – rebuilding conditioning. And on that day, it was a good reminder that these things to take time and patience. One step at a time!

Even though it wasn’t close to PB pace, I still achieved the target for November in my comeback timeline – 10km. Next race distance, half marathon in January!

Parramatta parkrun and Carcoar Cup

In the last few weeks, the feeling associated with running has gone from pure happiness just to be out there, to fear of reinjuring my foot, to excitement over being able to race and finally landed at that feeling where I’m itching to do more, like yesterday.

My first race was almost three weeks ago, when I lined up for Parramatta parkrun. I promised myself I would take it easy, and just focus on getting through the 5km run pain free. I managed to stick to it, and after being conservative for the first half I picked it up for the run home and finished in 22.25 – not a bad effort for 8 weeks off running. The following weekend was the Bay Run, and after a 6km training run during the week I felt confident that I could manage 7. Not sure of how long it would take, I estimated 32 minutes, starting slowly once again to feel out how my foot was going. When I wasn’t in any pain, I increased the pace and finished in 29.50, two seconds slower than my Bay Run PB. That wasn’t part of the plan!

Last weekend started with parkrun again, and I wanted to try run it closer to PB pace. Sticking to my strategy of not going out too hard, I tried to push the pace in the second half, finishing in 20.49. That afternoon I went to Carcoar in country NSW for the annual Carcoar Cup, running the approx 6km Carcoar to Creek Dash. There was a bit of explaining about my formerly broken foot each time I mentioned what distance I was doing. I definitely would have loved to have been out there with the half marathon runners, but following on from Park Run, my hilly 6.39km event was tough enough.

Mostly a mental battle with myself, I had convinced myself I couldn’t catch the girl in front of me because I thought I was too tired for a race to the finish line. I decided to go for it with about 500m to go, willing the finish line to come closer because I was almost out of energy. The fast pace on the steep downhill at the end meant my ITB was complaining the next day, but it was great to win back to back runs! Getting my first prize money was nice as well.

That little taste of competition has made me want to do more, and I’m feeling pretty excited for events I have coming up. First goal is 10km at the end of this month, but my thoughts are already drifting towards Canberra Marathon in April.

One step at a time, bring it on!

Broken metatarsal.. picture progress

While I was walking to lunch today, I saw a colleague who noticed that I was back to walking with normal shoes and was surprised that my foot healed so quickly (7 weeks). Since the injury, I’ve done a lot of online research about broken metatarsal bones. I’ve read a lot of stories about bad breaks and the time they took to heal, that made me realise I’m pretty lucky to be back on my feet already. Most of them were from more serious accidents, like falling off a swing or a roof, not a running related stress fracture that turned into a real fracture. But the good news is that my injury is evidence that a non displaced fracture can heal relatively quickly.

A few weeks ago, I took this picture showing the progress from 3 days after the fracture happened to 33 days after. Big difference!

And yesterday, for the first time in seven weeks I went out without supportive shoes on.

The aftermath of the City2Surf.. How I fractured my right third metatarsal

A few months ago I blogged about why we (runners) keep signing up for the City2Surf year after year, even though it’s a challenging event.

It turned out this year was more challenging than ever for me, because I fractured the third metatarsal in my right foot during the race. I had some pain on and off in that part of my foot in the two weeks leading up to the race, and the official diagnosis says that stress on my foot and old running shoes contributed the fracture during the run.

I made it through 9km before the pain started, and stopped at a first aid station around 11km on the downhill stretch to the beach. After icing it for about 15 mins and taking some pain killers, I hobbled the rest of the way to Bondi, having no idea that my foot was broken at that point.

There were some tears, mostly over the disappointment of not finishing. After going for drinks and hobbling up the hill to the car, I still had no idea how serious it was. I remember thinking that I would take about two weeks off running and see how it went.

When I woke up the next day and couldn’t lift my foot without serious pain, I decided a visit to the doctor was on the cards, and he immediately referred me for an x-ray. I knew it was going to be bad news, but seeing “recent non displaced spiral fracture” on the report was still extremely disappointing. The doctor estimated that it would take 6 weeks to heal, and that I might need a boot. I made another appointment to go back and see him after a week.

That was almost seven weeks ago – this is what has happened since then:

Week 1 – After the x-ray confirmed I had managed to fracture my foot, I was told no weight bearing, which meant crutches. It’s a cliche, but you don’t realise how easy everything is when you have the ability to walk. Some basic things, I switched to a backpack because I couldn’t carry a bag on my shoulder, getting into the shower was difficult, and so was cooking standing on one foot. I had to start taking the bus to work and, the hardest part, I couldn’t get coffee in the morning because I couldn’t carry it with crutches. On the plus side, using the crutches was a killer workout, and the pain in my foot dissipated when I stopped trying to walk on it.

Week 2 – After going back to see the doctor, he was happy that I wasn’t in pain and that the swelling had gone down. I got a boot, which he told me meant I could partially weight bear but said I could still use the crutches if need be. I definitely needed to, walking the few steps from the doctor’s office to the reception was quite painful. Later that week I worked up the confidence to try walking a few steps without the crutches which I was able to do without much pain.

Week 3 – The boot allowed more mobility which I was grateful for (being able to carry coffee made me a very happy girl). I learnt to walk with it without feeling much or any pain. I was glad to be able to take it off to sleep and shower, but it still felt uncomfortable the times I couldn’t avoid putting small amounts of weight on it, and I did a lot of hopping around my apartment.

Week 4 – The week started with another appointment and a follow up x-ray. I had a feeling that I would see improvement, and set myself up for disappointment when it showed no union. There was callus formation though, which was positive. The doctor was happy with the progress, so I tried to be despite being told it was still too soon to swim or cycle. He did say that I could fully weight bear in the boot, meaning the crutches were gone for good. My right heel was hurting, so I tried to walk more naturally in the boot and put more weight on the front of my foot.

Week 5 – I decided it might be time to get another opinion on the exercise I could do, and started looking into finding a physio. I noticed a lot of improvement this week, and was able to walk much further and faster with the boot. I was managing the 25 minute walk to work without any pain, and generally feeling pretty positive.

Week 6 – This week started with a physio appointment, I was recommended someone who is also a runner. He looked at my training program and didn’t think I was doing too much which was the first positive thing to come out of the appointment. He got me to stand on my toes, which I could do without any pain, but I was heavily favouring my left foot. The best outcome from the appointment was that I could start walking without the boot, which I did gradually over the week. It was very strange at first, and my leg felt weak, but the more I did it the easier it got. My achilles was sore, and so was my calf, but my foot was generally okay.

Week 7 – My follow up physio appointment this week resulted in the news that I can start to run again over the long weekend. I have to start slowly, building up to a 40 minute walk, and run for a few minutes within that. The aim is to do that twice over the long weekend. My foot has felt a bit sore this week, but as I said to the physio sometimes I can’t tell if it’s real pain or me being paranoid. Google research tells me it’s not abnormal to have a bit of pain and swelling recovery, and the phsyio wasn’t concerned. I do the “tiptoe test” every day and no longer favour my good foot.

The plan from here is build up slowly to run a half marathon in January, and then if all goes well – Canberra marathon next year. I have a few goals along the way – 5km by the end of October, 10km by the end of November and half marathon by January. Here goes…

Cooks River Fun Run race review

I wrote this for work, not sure if it will get published so I thought I’d put it on my blog :)

The Cooks River Fun Run is becoming a popular event among Sydney runners, with a record number of entrants in 2013 despite heavy rain on the weekend of the event. Perfectly timed for a hit out in the lead up to the big events on the Sydney running calendar, the run offers a 5km, 10km and 2km kids run. This year, 512 runners and walkers signed up, ready to target their individual goals. As part of my training for the City2Surf, I entered the 10km and was aiming to run sub 41 minutes.

I will never forget the time that as an overly enthusiastic 12 year old, I ran too fast at my Friday Little Athletics competition the night before my region carnival, because I was trying to beat the boys. Not surprisingly, I struggled through my 1500m the next day and finished well off PB pace. Over 15 years later, it seems that I still haven’t learnt my lesson.

Feeling pretty good with where I was at, I pushed my speed session the Thursday before the Cooks River Fun Run. The phrase “quit while you are ahead” couldn’t be more relevant. I remember thinking I should stop before the last few reps, but didn’t listen to my own advice and it definitely came back to haunt me.

The weather watch in the week leading up to the event wasn’t looking promising, but it was fantastic to see that the rain the night before the race didn’t deter many runners. With the sun peaking through the clouds, spirits were high as people gathered in Freshwater Park for the warm up led by Captain Running Man from Anytime Fitness. Anticipation was building as the start time drew closer, with runners excited for the opportunity to run a fast time or qualifying time for another event on the flat, certified course.

The weather held off while the 5km and 2km kids run got underway, and I did a warm up, trying to ignore the lethargic feeling of not being fully recovered from my speed session a few days earlier.

About 170 runners lined up for the 10km, two laps of the 5km course along the Bay to Bay Cycleway. With the only incline being a small hill as the course briefly detoured from the cycleway through Dean Reserve, it was always going to be a fast race.

Despite the muddy conditions, the start was fairly smooth. The only person I saw slip over ended up finishing 3rd overall, so it didn’t seem to have much of an impact on his run! With visions of triumph through adversity (aka delusions of grandeur), I started out competitively (aka too fast), and found myself thinking that I would have run an awesome 5km race that day (aka wanted to stop half way).

Back in reality, encouragement from the friendly marshalls helped me get through 4km, before I was passed by a friend who I can usually keep up with and the mental battle of running kicked in. Feeling like I was running in slow motion, I was surprised to see that my 5km split was just over 20 minutes. Realising that my goal time was still possible, I made it my focus not to lose sight of my friend in front of me and hung on to finish in 41.23.

The competitive male records set in 2012 proved hard to beat, and in 2013 the women were the stars of the show. The top three female finishers in the 10km all went under the previous record, with Elise Baker winning in 38:58. The 5km was taken out by future champion Taylor Porter (19.51) who, at 11 years of age, was only 50 seconds off the race record. In the male events, Jake Stollery won the 5km in 16:39 and Deak Zsombor won the 10km in 34:36.

The entire field in the 10km put in a fantastic effort in tough conditions, finishing the run in a heavy downpour.

For the first time in 2013 the Cooks River Fun Run supported a charity partner, with $5 from each entry donated to Bowel Cancer Australia. A total of $2560 was raised to assist with education and community awareness. Their presence was felt strongly on the morning, with an inflatable super colon on display and runners who had raised additional funds for the charity proudly wearing their Bowel Cancer shorts.

Overall, this was a great event with a fun, community atmosphere. I’m looking forward to participating again in 2014. And the moral of the story is – don’t run too hard at your last training session before you race!

Why do we do the City2Surf?

As much as I love finding the best free things to do in Sydney, the topic of this post is definitely not one of them. It’s actually about as far from free as you can get, but it’s one of the most important events on the Sydney calendar.

I’m just going to say it straight out. The City2Surf is a tough run! Sometimes I even go as far as referring to it as torture. Out of the 9 or so times that I’ve done it (my memory is fuzzy), there is only one result I was happy with. Other years, I’ve spent most of the run swearing to never do it again.

Sydney’s (and the world’s) biggest fun run is a logistical nightmare. With 85,000 entrants, navigating your way through the crowds is almost a bigger achievement than finishing the race.

The race has evolved significantly since the first time I did it when I was in high school. Before chip timing was introduced, you had to deduct the amount of time it took you to cross the start line from your official finish time. The three start groups that formed the race back when I first participated have split into five groups that take over an hour and half to cross the start line. Thousands of runners will be over the finish line in Bondi while the “Back of the Pack” group are huddled together in Hyde Park trying to stay warm.

For frequent runners, the City2Surf has a lot of frustrations. The biggest one is cost. For the $70 it cost to enter during the early bird window this year, you could run in three smaller races. The second one is the number of entrants. No matter which group you start in, it’s almost impossible to avoid weaving around people for the first few kilometers as everyone sets into their rhythm. Lastly, it’s a tough course. I’m not just talking about Heartbreak Hill, although its name is more than justified. The section between 9km and 11km before the course dips down into Bondi contains a series of short, sharp rises that can be challenging when you are starting to tire. It’s about that point every time I run that I start to question why I paid such a ridiculously high amount of money to do such a ridiculously hard event

Yet despite all of these things, year after year, we sign up. We talk about how entering Fairfax events means taking out another mortgage on your house, how frustrating it is to have to arrive early for a good start, how you have to skip your warm up, how hard it is to get out of Bondi after the race and how hard the training is.

But we still enter.

So the question is why? There must be some positives for so many people to keep coming out year after year.

One friend says it’s a great event for bragging rights, since so many people run you can compare your time to all your friends. A few other friends who have moved here recently think that it’s something you have to do once, because of the events notoriety.

I think they are all right, and would also add that despite it being hard, expensive and crowded, it’s actually a great event.

The course covers some beautiful parts of the city, the stretch along Rose Bay is particularly nice. It’s hard to top a finish line that is set parallel to the most famous beach in the country. The atmosphere along the way is something that is unique to the City2Surf.

People come out in numbers to support their family and friends, giving runners a cheer squad for the entire 14 kilometers. Bands set up on the rooves of shops, playing for an audience of 85,000 as they run past. It’s common to hear an “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” chant echoing through the Kings Cross Tunnel in the first stretches of the race. The people who live along the course love to help runners out, with many of them turning on their hoses or sprinklers for people to run through as it gets hotter throughout the day. Others bring their speakers outside for musical entertainment as you run past their house. Extravagant costumes are a popular part of the event. The downside of this are the times when you have to accept that Superman carrying his briefcase is faster than you!

When you make it to the finish line, sitting on the beach or the park overlooking the ocean after completing your run is amazing feeling.

There is no denying that Bondi Beach is chaos on City2Surf day. Marquees from sponsors and corporate entrants cover the beach for their runners to relax in after their run. Massage tents, drink tents, baggage claim and free newspaper collection are clustered around the finish area. Runners sharing stories with their friends and family fill the park next to the beach. Crossing Campbell Parade to leave Bondi gives you a full perspective of how many people enter, runners and walkers stream along the road until the early afternoon.

The post City2Surf celebration might be the best part of the day. The crowd spreads out to the surrounding beaches with people keen to celebrate their achievement with breakfast, lunch or a few beers.

All in all, it is a great day out. The atmosphere is fantastic, the finishing point is one of Sydney’s best and the feeling of conquering Heartbreak Hill is always rewarding.

This year’s City2Surf will be held on August 11. Since I’m here in Sydney and not travelling, I’ve entered for the first time since 2010.

I’ve always joked with my dad about how one day I’m going to beat his best C2S time from when he was at uni (56 minutes). The one result I was happy with was in 2009 when I did the race in under 60 minutes. I feel like I haven’t reached my full potential, aka trained well enough, in this event yet. So this year, I’m setting two goals – another sub 60 mins and seeing how close I can get to catching my dad. It’s on!

Are you running the City2Surf this year? Tweet me @where_is_bron

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