Tuesday, 24 April 2018

NOT running the Krakow marathon....

I was invited to run the Krakow marathon in 2017 and, despite being knocked down at the start, acquitted myself fairly well by finishing in 4th place. I was invited back for the 17th edition this year and things couldn't have been more different. It would have been a totally different experience to (re)run the race, as the course had changed from a 2-lapper (with a very sharp downhill switchback to connect the 2 laps) to a single loop, and the 2018 weather (sunny and warm) was the complete opposite of 2017's cold rain!
 
The main reason why I got such a different view of the race this year was because I was still not running (this pesky leg of mine isn't making many friends). Despite this, the elite organiser still invited me out to Poland for the weekend, so I took my friend and GB teammate Sue Harrison along to run instead. The race was also applying to become a "Bronze Label" event with the IAAF so Hilary Walker was there assessing it on behalf of the IAAF. I have known Hilary for many years (as she also wears IAU and British Athletics hats) so it was also a chance to catch up with her and learn about how these events earn their accreditation.

The Elite photoshoot
Saturday was taken up with the usual duties of having photos taken, being presented to the general public on stage, and a "technical meeting" (where start details, antidoping, pacemaker times and bottle drops are discussed) but I decided not to go on a drive over the race route. Instead of this I pored over the course map and worked out that there were several places I could get to during the race to support without having to "run" between them in order to make it. 

I left Sue making up her drinks bottles after the technical meeting and headed to the Main Square in the Old Town for the sound and light show followed by the night 10K. It had sounded rather interesting last year, but I had been tucked up in the hotel resting my legs.....and the poor weather hadn't exactly been conducive to going along to watch.
 
"Running" the course
It was definitely worth attending this year....as they put on a great performance. Figures of runners moving along the course lit up the old buildings, and certain historical features were also portrayed in coloured lights. Then there were lasers, music and a lot of smoke (but a slight downside to standing up on the VIP platform was that some of the lasers shone directly into your eyes!).

The laser show
Everyone lined up for the 10K, and the starter fired a gun from right next to myself and Hilary. Hundreds of runners swarmed past just below us (it was rather reminiscent of the scene of the stampede in The Lion King) though I was rather surprised to see people wearing headphones in the race considering how loudly the music was blaring out of multiple speakers (in fact it was so loud that our platform was shaking and I had to stand on one leg to prevent feeling pain in my fracture site).

Catching up with friends at the 10K
Despite the time of the event (to be fair, it was run mainly in the city centre and so was relatively well lit) there were some speedy times recorded with the winning man coming home in just over 30minutes and the leading ladies under 36minutes. The time limit for the event was 90minutes which meant I had to negotiate runners when crossing the course on my way back to the hotel (I didn't want to get back late and keep Sue up before the marathon the next day), but at least they all seemed to be really enjoying themselves.

I confess it was very tempting to just lounge around in my bed while Sue went and raced, but I couldn't do that to her so I went down for a first breakfast with her, did my sunscreen application duties, made sure I knew how her camera worked and planned where I'd be to support her, and then had a second breakfast once all of the elite field had gone off on the official bus to the start and I had the dining room (and hence whole buffet) to myself.

With Sue pre-race
I'd worked out a quick route from the start to the 2k point that I could make while the runners did a big loop...and managed to be there well before the leaders came through. I started taking photos of the front men and then the ladies as they passed but didn't spot Sue. By the time the 3:15 and 3:30 pacers had gone past, I was starting to worry. I made sure that I could also see the runners coming back towards me at the 3K point, but didn't want to turn away from my first viewing position as Sue had told me that she would be starting slowly.......though I doubted it would have been so slow that she'd be this far back.
Supporting is obviously a tough job!!

Suddenly my phone rang, and my heart sank when I saw it was Sue calling me - her hamstring had gone within the first half mile and so she had been forced to stop and make her way back to the start - she was obviously very upset so I made my way back there as fast as I could (but not running). I was so upset for Sue as there was nothing she could have done about it, but she felt that she'd let people down. We got her some ice and a massage (or two)...and the massage therapists kindly offered to give my legs a rub as they had little to do until the rest of the elites finished.

We stayed around the race area to watch how it unfolded. Unlike the previous year, it was a nice warm sunny day, so although I made sure that Sue got treatment on her leg and didn't have to walk around much, I enjoyed wandering backwards and forwards across the square checking on her but also watching the big TV screen showing the runners at the sharp end of the field. I heard the race announcer talking about me and saying that he hadn't spotted me running this year, so I went and explained the situation to him. This seemed to earn me a media pass which meant that I could be right on the finish line when the leaders came in.

The leading ladies early on
It was quite exciting in the end as the Kenyan man who'd won the race in  2016 and 2017 was actually beaten by two Ethiopians this year...the first of whom missed the course record by a mere 7 seconds!! In the ladies' race, there had been a lead pack consisting of a Kenyan, an Ethiopian and a Moldovan (paced by the Moldovan Ukrainian husband). I didn't see "the move" but in the latter stages the Moldovan lady was running alone some distance ahead of the others, and took a fine victory by several minutes.

It was very difficult to be an impartial bystander rather than a medic at the end of the race, as I wanted to get the exhausted runners into the shade rather than having them sitting/standing in direct sunlight for photographs and interviews.....but it was important not to interfere, especially as Hilary was watching to see how the race organisers had prepared and how they reacted to developing situations, eg the 3rd placed lady's legs giving way when she finished necessitating her being carried back to the Elite tent, yet also needing to go to antidoping.

 
My new roles...
Although I really did wish that I had been able to run, I found it a very "educational" event. I hope that I was also useful to the organisers as I helped to make sure they understood the IAAF rules and protocols (as they were all written in English), eg what was required of an invited Elite field, and also learnt some of the issues facing a race organiser (who wanted to give advice to runners on course, eg to slow down in the early stages so they had more chance of running faster times overall, but was obviously not allowed as that would be "coaching them"), and some of the frustrations with interpretations of rules, eg that struggling runners do not realise that they can get assistance from someone outwith the race such as water without being DQ'd as long as that assistance does not constitute forward propulsion.

Hmmm.....maybe I could develop my skills in the race accreditation department...either that or athlete support/management.....

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A cyclist's paradise

Mallorca
When my friend Mark initially invited me along to join his cycling trip to Mallorca, the hope was that my leg would be better, I'd have settled back into a routine of work since returning from Oz, and I'd be keen for a trip back to some sunshine to be able to start running regularly again. The three guys going were all keen cyclists, but it sounded like I would be able to split my time between going for a few runs, possibly hiring a bike to find new run locations, and spending some time chilling with the girls round the pool (ie the bar).
 

Enjoying post-dinner drinks together
Unfortunately, an xray on return from Australia showed no change in my stress fracture so I forbade myself any running at all. The guys were taking their precious bikes out with them, so I packed my helmet, pedals and shoes with the hope of hiring a bike and joining them for their "easy days"/"recovery rides". The complex we were staying in had a few outdoor pools (for the brave triathletes with their wetsuits), a small indoor one, and a gym (as well as a couple of restaurants, cafes and bars).


On my own cycle adventures...
Tracey and I couldn't resist the wine!
I knew that I wasn't a very good cyclist, so my aim was to get out and enjoy myself, and maybe alternate this with visiting the indoor pool, gym or spa. As it turned out, I ended up cycling every day that I had my bike (doing more mileage that week that I would normally do in a year)......and probably drinking almost as much wine as I did miles on the bike. I did discover that the 3-lane indoor pool was deep enough to aquajog in, but on each occasion that I ventured there, I was turfed out by German triathletes claiming that they'd booked sole use of it (I later found out that this wasn't the case as it wasn't possible to do so, but I wasn't brave enough to argue with them). I did however, make a few visits to the spa with its saunas, steam room (great for the manflu I developed midweek), infinity pool, massage jets and ?stony bottom to walk along (!!) - No, I didn't visit the nude area!!

Loving "chicking" some of the guys
 on the climbs

If you had a chance to look away from the
road and at the views they were amazing
The guys were great at looking after me and so I managed to ride with them on most days. I skipped their longest day and just enjoyed exploring the local area by myself before cycling along to the nearby village to join the girls for coffee. I'm not very good at cycling down hills as steep slopes, blind bends and sharp drop offs scare me, but I loved the ascents, especially on such smooth road surfaces. The guys would kindly wait for me at the bottom of the hills but I held my own going up - which was reassuring to me, as it meant that although I hadn't been running, I still had a decent cardiovascular base of fitness.

Having made it to the Cap
Formentor lighthouse
I loved every climb going out to the iconic lighthouse at Cap Formentor but panicked on every descent (even worse when you suddenly ended up in a long dark tunnel going downhill still wearing your sunglasses). They had 1 other day planned that sounded a little scary to me, so after a long climb up to Coll de Sabataia (and a cafe break), I peeled off to make my own way back down to Puerto Pollentia while they went on a side trip which had them descending round many 180 degree bends (I think 1 was about 360 degrees at they ended up cycling under the road they'd just been on).

The cafĂ© at the summit of Coll de Sabataia
As I made my way down on my own, I passed hundreds of cyclists coming up the other way, but as luck would have it, the road stretched away from me without a soul to be seen just when I needed a helping hand. I had hit a pothole, which had made my chain jump rings, jam and then fall off. Although I felt rather smug to have fixed it all by myself, I was a bit surprised to be asked if I wanted to go to the toilet when I stopped for a celebratory piece of cake and coffee and the next cafe I found - it turned out that the waiter was trying to politely let me know that I'd smeared chain grease all over my face....a nice look!!!
After the best value coffee stop



A trip highlight for me was feeling like a "proper cyclist" following the guys over cobbles to a square in a local town (where we got 4 coffees for 5 euros), and i couldn't wipe the grin off my face.


At the top of Christmas Climb
On the final day, Mark and I actually "outcycled" the other two (well, to be fair they'd all cycled further than me the day before), as we headed up Christmas Climb for great views out over the bay we'd been staying in.



How could you not go back to somewhere that
has this view at breakfast time?
All in all, it was an amazing trip and I'd heartily recommend Mallorca for a cycling trip and it actually wouldn't have been that much fun if I'd been trying to run whilst there, as the only way to go from the resort, was out along the mainroad by the sea in either direction...not very inspiring, espeically as most of the other people running were all doing it in trisuits!! However, unless I can get over my fear of corners, descents and dropoffs, I'm never really going to be a cyclist...............

Monday, 12 March 2018

Getting Perspective....

The run route
When I originally entered Motatapu (an off-road 42k run from Wanaka to Arrowtown) it had been as a recovery event after Tarawera.....and as an excuse to visit the South Island of NZ, which doubled up as a perfect opportunity to catch up with friends. Having not been able to run, I decided to still go for the catchup, but the run itself didn't seem that likely. 

 
The run profile
Beautiful Queenstown in the cool early morning
Motatapu is an interesting event as the land is privately owned (by Shania Twain.....hence the views "don't impress me much") and access to the public is only allowed on one day a year, hence the glut of events (four off road runs, a mtnbike race and a triathlon) on that day. The course profile of the 42k looked like it climbed steadily up to the highest point (at about 27km) and then was a constant descent to the finish. As I was only in the country for a short period of time, there was no point to even try to persuade the organisers to defer my place for a year, so I talked it through with my cousin Anne, and decided that I might as well enjoy the day out. Many people enter the event as "walkers" so I'd aim to run/jog/walk up to the high point at 27km and then do a controlled walk downhill for the last 15k limiting the impact on my recovering shin (and hopefully letting me enjoy the scenery with my current fitness level).

How amazing is the "Wanaka tree" in the lake?
I did wonder why I had to catch the bus to the start (the 10:15am start) at 7:15 am in Queenstown, but it became clear when I realised how slowly the bus travelled along the winding roads as we only got to the start area just before 10. I can't complain about the drive there too much (although I did end up eating a significant amount of the food I'd put in my "post run" bag as we went) as the scenery was beautiful, especially as we travelled along the edge of Lake Wanaka. 

Obviously a nonsponsored runner
from the variety of kit!
Both the triathlon and the mountain bike race had started earlier in the morning by the shores of the lake, but we were driven a further 5k up the dirt road to our start (well, to where they were hastily trying to erect a gantry across the track). The day didn't exactly bode well for the couple of bikers we saw that were already walking, pushing their bikes up the hills.

There was a van to dump bags in for transport to the finish, a line of portaloos for "panicpees", a briefer than brief briefing, no compulsory kit check, and we were off. Surprisingly (well to me anyway) the dirt road descended rather steeply down to a creek after the start, but then started to ascend. The first 10k were undulating but generally uphill and the field quickly spread out. By the time I'd run a couple of kms, I'd started to pick off the slowest bikers and had settled into a "position" into the field. I could see the leading lady quite a distance ahead, and another lady (from Dunedin) and I kept swopping positions. I found this quite unsettling as I felt that I was running a relatively constant pace, but I'd either drop her quickly or she'd shoot past.

Looking down on some of the route
The first aid station was just after 9km and I managed to hold back on the descent into it (even though my shin wasn't hurting). I only found water and electrolyte drink there, which was rather disappointing as cliff bars had been advertised and I wanted to restock some of the food in my pack which I'd started to eat. After that aid station the route climbed more and more. After another km or two, I realised that I'd opened up a decent gap between us after passing the other lady, and now I was more focussed on avoiding mountain bikers. I'd pass them on the climbs but they'd pick up speed on any slight descents......though the biggest problem came with people cycling in groups as they'd spread/wobble across the track as the incline increased, or there'd be a pack sitting on a bend waiting for slower friends to catch up. I was still managing to run every step, but as the leading lady had been doing some power walking, I was reeling her back in gradually.

The rescue helicopter crew
I had heard that there were many "river" crossings in the latter stages of the event, but by the 14-15k point, I was still splashing my way through my 4th creek. As I rounded a corner climbing out of this I spotted  (well I couldn't miss him) a man lying on his back in the track with a group huddled around him. People say that I "made the right decision" in stopping to offer my help, but to my mind there was no decision to make......I don't think you would hesitate but to offer assistance to anyone that needed it. 

Let's just say that despite CPR performed by myself and passing paramedics, we were unsuccessful in out resuscitation, but, as I said to the gentleman's partner (who he'd been cycling with), he passed away doing what he loved, with the woman he loved, in a beautiful place.....and it did rather put everything else we might have all been moaning about recently (yes, I know I've probably been a nightmare going on about my leg and not being able to run) into perspective. 


Arriving back at the airport
Coming back towards Queenstown
Not exactly how I thought the day would turn out, and my heartfelt sympathies are with his family, though I guess that I now have a reason to return - as amazing as the helicopter ride was, I would have loved to have finished the course on my own 2 feet!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Carcrash......errr Christchurch Half Marathon

Having arriving into New Zealand on a Friday evening, I had been planning to support my friend Hannah in a marathon that weekend.....but it appeared that it was going to be too hard to sort the logistics for getting there and so she decided to run the Christchurch Motorway Half marathon instead. This was a new event, and as it is always good to support local events, especially to help them get off the ground in their infancy, I checked out the route.  
Not the most exciting of courses!!

The course was up and down the cycle path alongside a short local motorway and involved three 180 degree turns to make up the distance. It didn't exactly look like the most scenic race to spectate so I decided to enter it as the multiple out and back stretches gave me ample opportunity to stop if I felt like it, and hopefully lots of chances to cheer Hannah on running further up the field.

It seemed rather an expensive race to enter, but I gather that race costs are rather higher than I'm used to over in the other side of the world. Still, it was a bit odd that we "had" to register in a 2 hour window on the Saturday morning (you were only allowed to pick up your number on the day if you could prove you lived outside of Christchurch.....which Hannah clearly didn't) and "registration" consisted solely of a rather grumpy lady handing you a number .....no chips, no tags, no further info on the course or a goody bag.

Sunday morning was rather warmer and more humid than I'd thought it would be for early March so Hannah kindly lent me a vest and we made our way to the startline. We were told to line up with half marathon "runners" at the front, then the "half marathon hybrid (ie run/walk) entrants", and then the "walkers behind. All 10k participants (both runners and walkers) were assembled behind that, but still, there was not exactly a bumper field of participants. 

And they're off....
We set off with Hannah right up with the guys at the sharp end, and me further back. The first kilometre wound round the sheds of the agricultural showground with many 90 degree corners. This enabled me to ease myself into the race and as we turned onto the narrowest portion of the cycle path I was in about 4th place. We passed through an underpass and the path became rather wider, which was lucky as there were a few other locals out walking/on bikes. I spotted a couple of signs stating that the path was "closed" for a race, but this was not an official closure and so not exactly enforceable.

I cannot comment on the accuracy of the distance markers as they were in kilometres and my watch clicks over in miles, but I did spot the race leader of the 10k turning round the sign that said "10k turn ahead" rather than at the actual turning point about 30m further on. I can't really blame him as it wasn't exactly obvious, especially if he was running on his limit, and there were no marshals about. 

There was a marshal about half a km further on at our first switchback. By this time I'd seen Hannah coming back in the opposite direction looking comfortable with no female opposition at all. In fact, I was actually now in second place, though the lady I'd just overtaken was being paced by a male friend who passed her cups of drink (which she then discarded over the fence instead of passing them back to him). 

All was not well at the front of the field, as I heard later that the lead runners were actually misdirected by a marshal who hadn't been briefed on the different races and so they ran several hundred metres the wrong way before being turned back. Luckily this did not affect me, and I was able to continue on my way when I got back to the underpass. This time we stayed on the same side of the motorway and headed slightly away from it to run along some pavements up and over a hill before ending up back on the cycle track. 

I knew my lack of running was catching up with me as I could feel myself slowing down more than I should be despite the strong headwind, but at least I managed to hold my position when to the far turnaround (a male runner did catch me, but I didn't mind that as I'd been convinced it was the next lady whose friend/pacer was now shielding her from the wind). This turnaround marked halfway as we then repeated the route we'd just run, and so I was now on a mile (well kilometre) countdown, knowing I'd already done my longest run for a couple of months.

Repeating the first out and back section was really a struggle for me but it was nice to be cheered on and encouraged by runners going on both directions, in all of the events. Hannah still looked strong and so it was nice to give her a cheer and a wave everytime I saw her......though I was rather jealous when I considered how much sooner she'd finish than me. 

Hannah and I with our Finishers' bottles
I managed to stay under the 1:30 mark to finish 13th overall with Hannah in 4th place. On finishing, you were given a bottle of wine marked "Half Marathon Finisher" but that was it......we even had to go and find and pour our own cups of water (and the 10k finishers didn't even get the wine bottle). It was only 10:30am and the prize giving wasn't due to be until 12:30-1 so we went back to Hannah's for a shower and a feed.

On returning at 12:15, we found out that the prizegiving for the junior 1500m race (for which there were only about 8 entrants....probably due to the price) which had happened right after we started, was also scheduled for the same time as ours. This seemed rather ridiculous as there were no facilities at the start/finish area.....not even any shade or anywhere to change.

I ended up having to leave shortly before 1pm to visit another friend but Hannah was going to pick up my prizes (2nd lady and 1st V40) along with some prizes for her club members in the junior race. Well, that was the plan anyway.....

The prizegiving didn't actually happen until after 1:30 (so I'm glad I didn't keep my pregnant friend hanging around in the sun waiting for me) and they wouldn't give any prizes to anyone that wasn't there......so Hannah couldn't get mine. It wasn't exactly anything to write home about anyway......another bottle of the Finishers' wine with a couple of glasses (she got the same thing for winning)......and the kids' prizes were just a bar of chocolate (which was melted after it had been sitting in the sun since their race 4 hours earlier) and a McDonalds water bottle.

To say that there were a lot of disgruntled people who travelled to do the race, paid a considerable amount of money, and hung around for no real reason is rather an understatement. As they refused to give prizes to anyone not present at the actual prizegiving, the race organiser was even heard to comment (along with making some disparaging remarks about how long the last finisher/walker had taken) that they would have lots of wine left over to enjoy at home!

I have to say that I cannot see much of a future for the race, unless things change drastically as people will talk with their feet and not return! 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Orange Running Festival

Running can take you to visit different parts of the world, but it can also take you to interesting new places within a country. When a friend first suggested a road trip to the "Orange Running Festival", I had hoped that my leg would have been sufficiently recovered for me to take part in either the half or the full marathon. As it was, I wasn't even sure if I should attempt one of the shorter runs, but as we had decided to head up there anyway, I kept my options open by entering the 10k and the 5k (there were no entries available on the day) figuring I could take a view on the morning of the event.

We got up there on the Friday night and so, after a cheeky parkrun on the Saturday morning, we decided to spend the rest of the day sightseeing......ie wine tasting.....not exactly something I thought the "serious" runners would be doing! 

Saturday's parkrun
I was really undecided about what to do the next day......for starters, it felt like the parkrun had nearly killed me. Not my shin as such, but my (perceived) lack of fitness. Yes, it was hot and humid, but I was so close to stopping (even within the first mile) that I wondered what "the point" was. Still, although slightly short, it was an interesting testy course and I hadn't run too badly.....so several wines later, I'd put it to the back of my mind.

The wine tasting had an interesting twist to it, in that the lady host at the first vineyard had been at boarding school with my mother (in the same year but neighbouring houses) back in the uk, so I got to try more expensive (and just plain more) wine than the regular punter got. Another unusual thing was that we also found a cider orchard that offered tastings......and I've certainly never had a "dessert cider" before!

The 10K route
On the Sunday morning, I still hadn't quite decided what to do, but on finding out that there were 2 female Australian Olympians competing for the win in the 10k (as well as the lady who'd been the overall first finisher on a "leg stretch" at parkrun the previous day) I opted for that distance, as I knew they would take away any pressure I might put on myself for a podium finish.

There were a few sharp corners, speed bumps and pot holes to negotiate very early on....and I was also almost taken out by a man with a buggy, but as we turned on to a narrow path (paved though slightly irregular due to tree roots rising up), I'd settled into a comfortable pace. After passing the location of Orange parkrun, we were marshalled off onto an "undulating" rough gravel road. I guess that a slight positive of the headwind was that it made the humidity feel a few percent lower. 

Finishing the 10K
This rough section was several kms out and back so I got to see the race leaders (as well as some of the marathoners who'd started much earlier in the day but had the same run in as us). There was a small pack of men at the sharp end, but the leading 3 ladies were well strung  out and each running their own race. By the time I reached the turnaround I realised that I was 4th (and probably the first LV40). 

Running back in, I got to see all those still coming out in the 10k, and also to encourage  those marathoners I was now passing. Fair play to them, they'd been out a long time. Back onto tarmac for the last few kms (again, not the flattest kms you've ever seen), and finally I was turning into the finishing straight. 

I'd finished 4th (first LV40) in what wasn't exactly a good time for me, but it was actually a few minutes faster than the winning time from the previous year.....although a long way adrift of the speedy ladies on the podium this year.

The 5K route
I received my medal, some water and an electrolyte drink gratefully, and then a gentleman asked me where I was from. He was wearing a Scottish top (though he now lives in Orange) and had spotted my "home club" in the parkrun results from the previous day. As I wanted to go for a little cool down jog, he encouraged me to use my number and join the 5K race which was about to start. I was worried that the 5k was geared at juniors, but it was actually one of the most popular events with runners of all ages and physiques taking part.

The day's medal haul!!!
The start was quite crowded but I ignored everyone else and just ran to feel. I knew the route by now as it was the same as the 10k bar the gravel road, so I didn't worry about watching to see which way the runners ahead of me went. As there were still 10k runners on course, it became much more crowded after the gravel section and it was hard to know who had set off at breakneck pace in the 5k and was fading and who was in the 10k. I wasn't bothered about how I was doing as I figured that I'd be a long way back from any decent female 5k runners (and I certainly hadn't any in my sights) but I did make sure that I overtook a "race mascot" in the last couple of kms.

As it turned out, I was actually second female in the 5k....though first and third places were taken by 13 year olds (though I bet they hadn't spent the whole of the previous day drinking  wine and cider!) so a podium photo must've looked a little odd! I was over the moon to have managed to run a total of 15k without a big flare-up, but as it did feel tender afterwards, I erred on the side of caution and didn't run again during the week.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Possibly the Worst Value Race ever?

Adelaide parkrun
Having rested up with no running for what seemed like forever, I did a parkrun when staying with a friend down in Adelaide (her husband had registered for his first parkrun in my honour and so it seemed churlish not to run too). After that I decided to step up to a 10k, but I thought a low key trail run would be softer underfoot and give me no pressure to "run" a certain pace/time.

Manly Dam start line
I headed out to Manly Dam in North Sydney and manfully ignored the 12 and 21k options (though I was probably too unfit to get round them anyway) and entered the 10k. It seemed rather expensive for such a small event once I got there, but then again, I was on holiday and why not?

Lining up for the start
Low key was definitely the order of the day......the 10k and 12k runners lined up behind the gantry (after just leaving your bag/bottle/clothes lying around in the bushes) and everyone in front of an arbitrary rope they moved through the field started to run. They then started another ropeload a couple of minutes later, and then another lot after that again and so you didn't know what distance those people you were running near were doing, or if there were faster people who had been caught behind different sections of rope. 

Starting out along the road
Back past the start again...
We ran cross the scrubby grass and onto the road, up a hill and then down to a mini roundabout. After skirting the roundabout we headed back up the way we'd come, past the start line (and runners coming the other way, but they seemed to be in a continuous stream so the "waves" weren't exactly obvious) unto, we took a very sharp right hand turn back on ourselves off the road onto single track.

This track climbed steeply upwards and gave me my first clue that a "trail race" in Australia doesn't exactly mean the same thing as a trail race in the UK. It was impossible to keep running as there were huge steps and boulders to climb both up and down, and on occasion it was impossible not to use your hands. There were runnable sections, but also stretches of boardwalk/duckboards, the aforementioned boulders and steps, roots to avoid underfoot and tree branches to duck underneath. I did only slip and fall once on some wet rocks by a creek crossing and the guys near me did check to see that I was ok.

Some steps and a bridge..
The routes
There were occasional bits of tape tied to branches to mark the way and at one point a marshal was standing at a route junction waving 12k runners ahead and 10k runners to turn to the right. Everyone ahead of me went ahead but I turned round to my right onto a wide rough forest road which climbed steadily uphill. I hoped the marshal had directed me the right way as I couldn't see anyone else in front but as the trail steepened I spotted some flashes of a blue singlet ahead. 

I passed the owner of that singlet just before a few runners appeared from a trail to my left. They were doing the half marathon and so had started much earlier but we're going at such a lick as to suggest they were high up the field. I shouted at the girl I saw  that she should ignore me running behind her, as I was in a different race (as it turned out, she won the half marathon in a new CR).

I didn't feel much like stopping at the only water station I came across as I reckoned that I couldn't be far from the finish (though the jelly sweets were tempting), but it was hard to tell as the other runners had vanished again as the track narrowed, twisted and and turned and developed many more steps. I tried my hardest to always descend the steps landing on my left leg, but it wasn't always possible due to their spacing. 

The finish
A rather low-key finish funnel
I suddenly found myself out of the bush and running along a stretch of beach consisting of both soft sand and rough rocks designed to catch your feet, but then a piece of tape directed me up another climb back into the undergrowth. This twisted and turned again before I emerged onto a "bridge" across the bottom of the dam. It was rather springy underfoot and had some concrete steps at the end of it. The man in the blue singlet caught me up and passed me as I left the dam to head across a final bit of rough ground to the finish, but we had a really good chat afterwards (he said that he always saved a bit for the final run it, and just pipped me over the line, but I had the marginal victory on chip time).

Someone wanted to steal my breakfast roll!
A peaceful post-run swim spot!
The finish line was also low key with tables so you could help yourself to water, coke, dates and some fresh fruit.....and then you could queue up for a couple of slices of bread with a fried egg and bacon. I opted to wander off a short way for a quiet swim in the reservoir before returning for a very welcome second breakfast sandwich, and then hung around for prizegiving as it turned out that I'd been 1st lady and 5th or 6th overall in the 10k. Due to the cost of entry I figured it was probably worth hanging around as if you weren't there at the presentation, you didn't get a prize!

The prize giving was amazing as the race director obviously had his favourites. I can understand prizes being given in order as there were three races but as all had steep entry fees and the 10k had by far the most entrants, you wouldn't really expect to be an afterthought. 

My prize (with added contribution)
It started of with the top 3 men from the half marathon, then the ladies (I'd actually finished before the third lady in the half), then the 12k men and women, then some age group winners, then the men from the 10k....and then finally the woman. People won wireless headphones, Suunto watches, shoes, huge bags of sports nutrition, clothing such as running shorts etc......and I won......a sock. Well actually a voucher for a sock so the incentive was to make me give the race sponsors more money so I could actually have a pair......ridiculous but I did it as it did seem rather churlish not to.....but what a farce!

Anyway....1 sock or 2, I was glad that I'd had the chance to get out and run, especially as it was in a place I didn't know, that was recommended as a place to go bush walking in Sydney!