Changan Ford Ultra Challenge

Changan Ford Ultra Challenge

Late in 2015 I heard about an event in China, the organisers were looking for International athletes of a certain standard to participate in a 50km event in the Gobi Desert.  They would cover much of our expenses.  It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.  That year had been a great year for me performance wise. I had achieved personal bests over 50km, 100km, 12 hours, 100 miles and 24 hours.

Four years later I am one of just a handful of athletes from around the World that has attended every event conducted by the Kirin Sports company and major sponsor Changan Ford.  Each event gets better in regards to organisation and attendance. Each experience was different, set in vastly different areas of China.  The Gobi Desert was dry and cool there was not much vegetation.   The Fuxian Lake Ultra was hot and humid and we ran past small farms where farmers tended their crops by hand.  In Xianning we started in a busy city centre and ran through the country side and then completed a couple of loops of recently developed lakes district.

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Some of the souvenirs I have collected at events in China over the years.

The first year I was competitive finishing 4thin a 50km trail type event the field was competitive.  At that time I had undiagnosed Breast Cancer a small lump in my left breast.  I returned to the Gobi Desert to run 100km recovering from Breast Conservation surgery and Radiation Treatment and determined that Breast Cancer would not get the better of me and I finished not last but in the back end of a competitive international field.  In 2017 I attended the 50km Trial event for the 50km World Championships. I competed in the 50km discovering that I was still very much in recovery from Breast Cancer and now realise my Breast Cancer medication was now hampering my training and competing.  I finished again enjoying the experience afforded me.

The fourth year I am considering a comeback year. My training had gone well, I was hampered by a hamstring injury in July but otherwise my progress has been great. I was thrilled to be invited by the race organisers to return to China.  This year the race would be held in central China, we crossed many rivers and passed lakes on our 1 hour 45 minute bus ride from Wuhan airport to Xianning.

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On arriving at Race HQ the Honeymoon Resort race and accommodation check in and payment of travel grants was seamless.  I was soon settled into my container room at the Sweetbox Hotel and headed out the door to explore the facilities.  I soon hooked up with the Australian’s and New Zealanders joining in the fun and several headed out for an easy run to shake out the legs after travelling so far.   I was pleased to discover I was rooming yet again with fellow Brisbane athlete Marita Eisler, we roomed together at the 100km Championships in Qatar and again in Winschoten.

The meals were provided in either Restaurant A or B and it was a pretty good spread even for a vegetarian.  I enjoyed noodles at every meal including breakfast and there was always plenty of fresh fruit and salad.  Volunteers were everywhere in the café come bar and also the little general store all contained within the resort.  Volunteers make an event and the majority were students from Wuhan studying English who were respectful but if approached were really engaging and helpful.  I now have several new Instragram friends thank goodness for the translate option.

 

Thursday, 25thOctober

I slept well but woke up early the body clock still firmly tuned to Brisbane time.  China has one time zone and it is 2 hours behind Brisbane so I woke very early.  A small group headed out for a short run the road was smooth and the surrounds recently landscaped was pleasant but the humidity was noticeable.  I took easy pleased to find I felt reasonably fresh and took some photos and video on the run.

I enjoyed banter over breakfast with the Oceania team followed by coffee at the café.  I think the staff had not had so many orders at once but we had all morning and the company was great so we didn’t mind.  The race organisers appear to have engaged a media team and we were often photographed and interviewed.  I was interviewed in front of the gang but it was fun, it’s not the first time but it is always strange to have this attention as an ultra runner.

The focus for the rest of the day was race preparation, a technical briefing was provided in English and Chinese.  Walter Hill the IAU representative lead the English briefing and introduced those of us who had attended all 4 events which was nice.  The competition guideline provided some amusing translations.  Runners often called ‘players’, and the following are just some amusing examples.

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“race number will be marked as a sign of finishing, please do not doodle on the race number.”

“Processes at the finish: participants dash out-get finish items-recovery massage-collect finish line bag-leave in shuttle bus for athlete hotel.”

“it is suggested that runners should immediately fill in dehydrated water”

“dressing and warm keeping”

The rules were in keeping of the standard of a competitive international event.  No portable music devices, no outside assistance is allowed, no pacing, no littering. The Chinese are very proud of the pristine environment in which this event was held and runners appeared to really respect it.  Aid stations were every 5km and personal drink bottles had to be dropped in before 6pm. Everyone was to be on the bus at 6:45am SHARP.   Our race would start at 9:00am.

An early dinner more noodles although the meal was lighter this time and we headed to bed.

26thOctober 2018 – Race Day

An early start again.  I’m still firmly on Brisbane time so it was not hard to wake before 5am and head down to breakfast.  Then it’s a last minute check of race finish bag and we are on the bus.  Ready to run.  The bus ride to the start is uneventful we arrive in downtown Xianning a city in Central China which appears to be bustling.  We travel down a six lane road which will be completely closed to traffic for a couple of hundred ultra runners in an hour or so.   I’ve packed snacks for the bus ride and put away a banana and a Clif bar and share around some Revvies.

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The race precinct is impressive as usual.  A helicopter buzzes around and we make good use of the toilets.  In Asia most often the toilets are a squat set up, luckily this is pre race not post race although I have managed to squat mid race in a 24 hour event.

We take a few photos, pose for selfies with anyone who asks and enjoy the buzz.  Then it’s time to run.  Rain and a cool start to the day had been forecast but this doesn’t eventuate and as the sky clears I regret for a second forgetting a visor and not bringing my sunglasses.  The field soon spreads out down the road but there are locals intermittently watching from the roadside, we pass what I later learn is a school with a small group of children waving flags I high five a few as I pass.

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My run is challenging, the course was considered flat but I certainly notice the slight undulations.  I ease through the first 40km feeling comfortable and happy and I feel this will be a good day. I note around this time that I am missing lunch as I am passing our accommodation at this point.  Police line the course every 500m or so standing attention on the roadside.  They do rotate shifts and at one point I spy a police motorbike with a side car and 5 Police on board.  Three on the motorbike and 2 in the sidecar.  I was pleased that they didn’t have to stand in one place for too long just for me.

Through the heat of the day I made good use of the sponges sitting in iced water to cool me down and walked through the aid stations to ensure I took in water.  Briefly I wished I had taken the 50km option but it soon passes.  I soldier on, as 50km runners finish the number of runners on the road dwindles.   The road stretches out in front of me from time to time and I take in the fields of flowers at certain points on the course. I marvel at the sunset over the lake as I run, later the sun large, heavy with a pink hue sets around 6:40pm and I have about 15km to go.  I relish the cool that comes with sunset and enjoy the final stretch in the dark, ticking off the final kilometres I am constantly doing mental math to work out how much under 10 hours I will finish.

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The finishers medal is one of the prettiest I have seen and another handy finishers token was a towel which I will use often.  I finished in 9 hours 57 minutes and 10 seconds, 12th female in an Internationally competitive field.  I am extremely pleased with the result the culmination of a good few months of training.

It was an amazing day.  Another fantastic China experience. I arrived home Sunday morning after flying all night and in transit for 18 hours or so a little tired and with very sore quads but otherwise in one piece and into the great hands of the team at Body Leadership Physio who do a fantastic job of keeping me running.  THANK YOU.

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My Journey from Marathon Hack to Australian Ultramarathon Representative

My Journey from Marathon Hack to Australian Ultramarathon Representative

Should you run an ultra?

Why would you commit to running 100km?  It’s a long way to run, it will take you the better part of a day and it will leave you sore, tired and possibly broken.  To even consider such a feat you need to have a well established base,  you should have run a few shorter events in preparation, you need to be standing on the start line fully committed to finishing.  If you have any doubt, are thinking you preemptively need some sort of medication to get through and are not 100% healthy then you need to be seriously considering whether you should be starting.

The event that was the turning point in my running career such as it is, was the Comrades Marathon. The Worlds most competitive ultra marathon staged in South Africa between Durban and Pietermaritzberg it’s just under 90km of hilly road running.   My running friends back then would spend the first half of their year preparing for this event. Every year they would go off to South Africa to run and come back with a raft of amazing stories from their experience. I knew many who had run it and I was intrigued.   At that time I was running and racing regularly every other weekend a 10km or so event, a few marathons and half marathons a year, all local low-key events. My limited experience of ultra’s was the 6 Inch Trail marathon a challenging 46km trail event in Western Australia and the 6 Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains.   They were events that needed minimal gear that had aid stations that supplied practically everything you needed to finish.

It was an afternoon over a Gin and Tonic in 2011 with my friend Trish while our kids played in the pool after a morning of Little Athletics that we hatched a plan to run the Boston Marathon.  At that time we planned to achieve a sub 3 hour 30 minute marathon and we had decided to run the Gold Coast Marathon to qualify.  As is often the case our plans went awry when training to complete such a task took its toll and my running mates succumbed to injury.  I successfully ran the Gold Coast achieving a break through finish for me in 3 hours 23 minutes but our Boston Marathon plan for 2012 was shelved at least temporarily and I had decided to attempt the Comrades Marathon instead.

So January 2012 training for the Comrades began.  I enjoyed training most weekends with the ‘C’ Team in the Perth hills.  In March my preparation included my first 50km the inaugural Lark Hill 50km on my husbands 40th birthday no less.  I am eternally grateful for my husbands love and support of my running.  It was a night run on a 3km loop and I ran with my mate Justin who was also celebrating his birthday.   He ran with a sparkly Birthday headband right through the race which looked quite comical silhouetted in the dark.  It was a fun and special night for me, it was the first time I had run 50km, the first time I had run a loop course, the first time I had run at night and the first race I had ever won.

The second event I ran as preparation was the iconic 40 Miler, held most years on Easter Weekend, a race run back and forth along a Heritage Rail Trail from the Mt Helena Tavern with a relay option.  I completed the 64km was again first female in a small field my preparation for Comrades was going well.

My final event as preparation was the Bunbury Marathon.  It made for a fun weekend away with friends many also running Comrades.  I aimed to run a negative split and enjoyed the day but was also very excited to achieve a personal best by less then 30 seconds and 2nd place and my first ever prize money.  Nothing significant but still a nice sweetener.

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Simon, Bruce Fordyce (Comrades King), Jodie, Justin and Andre. Andre who is sadly no longer with us would run his 10th Comrades in 2012 and Justin ran with me in the Lark Hill 50km, we all spent a lot of time running together in our preparation for the 2012 Comrades.

I treated the Comrades as an experience I did not have any overly ambitious goals.  I aimed to finish and enjoy the event, soaking up the views and atmosphere it would be my first international event.  While I was not traveling with family I was with my ‘running family’.  My extended running family who I had spent much time chatting with on the run agreed that a sub 9 hour finish or the coveted Bill Rowan medal as well within my capability.  I roughly knew the splits required and I knew I was within them on race day but I didn’t push things.

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The ‘C’ Team my running family, we spend a lot of time running together and it is this group of people that really made the event for me.

I certainly loved that run.  Yes it was hard, my quads were taking a beating on the journey down Fields Hill,  I ran/walked up Cowies and the steep incline onto the motorway for that final run through Tollgate to the finish in Kingsmead.  I spent a lot of time waving to ALL the people on the side lines who on seeing me in my Western Australia singlet called out go Aussie, or Aussie Aussie Aussie, Go Sheila, Go lady from Australia.  I was so excited to finally run into Kingsmead and to be well within the Bill Rowan cut off.  So much so I literally danced across the line as you can see from this youtube clip.

It was the event that revealed my inherent capabilities as a ultra runner and which lead me to attempt to qualify for the Australian 100km team.  I went on to represent Australia on numerous occasions.  There are two ultra events that are up there as my favourite to date.  The first would have to be the Comrades, the other Ultra Trail Australia or the Northface 100 as it was known at the time.  Two vastly different events but both iconic in their own right.  I finished both with results that far exceeded my expectations.  I ran within my capabilities and felt no need to compare my performance with that of others.  The joy of completing the event was not in the finishing time or place but the experiences and memories created on the journey there and in the retelling of the stores after.

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I returned in 2013 to run do the ‘Up’ run and finished 21st in hot head winds. I ran down 3 women after summiting Polly Shotts but there was no dancing over the finish line this time.

Family 101: Margaret River Ultra Marathon & Relay

Family 101: Margaret River Ultra Marathon & Relay
It occurred to me sometime over the week that I was in Margaret River, Western Australia that despite the fact that I have now completed over 30 ultra events all over the World including 5 World Championships running one is something my immediate family my sisters, and Mum and Dad and co had never experienced first hand with me. They have always followed me and I have felt their support whenever I have competed in the big events overseas but this time they were right there and as a team got to run with me along the way.
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Sisters doing it for themselves.  Alison Kidman (top) and Josie Kidman who ran two legs a total of 36km. 
When I made the decision to run the inaugural Margaret River Ultra Marathon they very quickly agreed to form a team just because I was doing it too. So my Mum, Josie Kidman an Aunt, Alison Kidman who both ran their first marathon at the age of 59 and my little sisters Georgia Kidman and Marcia Norrish who’s longest events have been a half marathon formed the team ‘Just Kidding’. No one had any idea how hard it would be. We did over the weekend between us run 101 miles.  I’m not kidding.
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Coming into Checkpoint 3 seriously hoping Bethaney remembered I wanted an Iced Coffee here.  I got it.  Awesome work Bethaney.
There was quite a bit of discussion on who would do which leg. Georgia took the first forest section, Josie took over from her, Marcia took on the rock hopping role, Alison took over for a long stretch of sandy beach running and Josie ran 2 legs covering a total of 36km on the day and had to run for a while in the dark to finish.
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Bethaney did a great job of crewing, always there in plenty of time with everything I might need.
Lots of great memories were made and as hard as it was , slogging into a headwind in soft sand for what feels like ages, sand and more sand, rocky cliffs to climb a scary chasm of water to leap across I am sure no one regrets it. We are not a family who shies away from a challenge and I think we all have Grandpa Andrew to thank for numerous rambles through some of the most amazing terrain on offer in Western Australia. My dad also used to take us on adventures driving a 2 wheel car on tracks better suited to a 4WD in search of disused mine shafts or just to see what was there. I’ve spent many a day exploring granite outcrops and scaling random peaks and picnics of polony sandwiches. Ugh.  I didn’t even mind when my Dad attempted to ease the cramp when I sat down at Checkpoint 4 to empty out my shoes and he vigorously rubbed my calf instead of my thigh.
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My niece Brooke getting ready for the Kids run on Sunday morning. Proud Aunty here
I have a new appreciation that these adventures which I thought was something everyone did and perhaps something I took for granted, I have great respect as a consequence for the natural world and a sense of adventure. To never hesitate to take every opportunity to travel and explore.
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Pocket Rocket Mallani who finished 4th female and 2nd in her category.  Great stuff Mallani. Note it’s not a beach but there is still soft sand to run in.  Amazing scenery though.
It wasn’t just my immediate family that were there in force.  My running sisterhood from Brisbane were there too.  There was a large contingent of the Brisbane Trail Running community and I was excited they were going to experience all that the South West has to offer I’m not sure they feel the same about the soft sand running, very different to what we have in South East Queensland.  The following ladies who I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee and running with certainly did Queensland proud Mallani Maloney, Jaimi Greenslade, Raquel Warren, Cheryl Court and Deb Zigenbine.

Moving Forward, Always with Purpose

Moving Forward, Always with Purpose

I’ve represented Australia five times with pride as an ultra runner. I currently hold an Australian Record for 100 miles.  At the youthful age of 46 I could be content with these accomplishments.  I’m not.  I have the determination and desire to do it at least one more time.  I want to prove that Breast Cancer at the age of 44 did not get the better of me.

On Christmas Eve while out on an annual traditional run with my running club I had a less than courteous encounter with a runner unknown to me.   I was down right rude, I actually swore.  I immediately felt remorse but the opportunity to apologise had passed.  It was behaviour so unlike me, I couldn’t explain it at the time and it took some weeks before the penny dropped.

That low in December carried through into the new year. I was functioning in the real world but only just.  I was prone to bouts of depression and I was hard to live with.   I survived thanks to my running. Despite it feeling really hard and even harder in the heat and humidity here in Brisbane I craved the company of my running friends where I could tag along often just slipping through the forest, one foot after the other, running in the company of friends, nature, the chatter, the easy silence and coffee afterwards the best type of therapy.

I recently wrote about road blocks.  I had identified that the chemotherapy medication I was taking to reduce the risk of my Breast Cancer returning was what had been holding me back, both mentally and physically in my running.  I sought the advice of my Oncologist and we agreed that the best way forward for my personal situation was to stop taking it.  For someone who was so fit and healthy before the diagnosis the side effects of such a drug were really noticeable.  It was a relief to find that the risk in my case due to my health and physical activity was low and for my long term well being the decision was easy.  I was advised that it can take a few months for things to improve and I am happy to say they have.

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My family L-R Gordon (Dad), sister Marcia, (sister) Bethaney (bride), Roger (groom), me, Georgia (sister) and Josie (Mum).
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The people who have put up with a LOT my son Cale (gun XC runner and hockey player), me, husband Tim (sub 3 hour marathoner) and daughter Kira (going to run a half marathon when she turns 21).

A quick trip to the Albany in Western Australia for an event leading into my sisters wedding and my Mum’s 65th birthday was a great distraction and the opportunity to run in some much cooler conditions a great relief.  March brought a commitment as a volunteer, a Games Shaper at the Commonwealth Games and April more Commonwealth Games highlights and a family holiday in Singapore for my sisters wedding and I continued to train with purpose. More running in some different places.  I explored trails at the Mac Ritchie Reservoir in Singapore and the monkeys came out to play but the breakthrough was at parkrun East Coast Park Singapore.  It was there despite the heat and humidity and some long days on the feet I managed a credible 2nd place in 23 minutes or so.  A significant improvement (4 minutes) on my parkrun personal worst in January in similar conditions.

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parkrun East Coast Park Singapore, a family outing and we weren’t the only Aussies in Singapore there either.

I adjusted my ambitious running plans in February and settled for now for events that I considered more ‘fun’.  So it is with some excitement that I am now finalising my plans for a trip to Western Australia’s wine country for the inaugural Margaret River Ultra.  I’m excited to be traveling with friends from Queensland I can’t wait for them to see the magnificent South West for themselves.   I’m race ambassador at the Darkness to Daylight Challenge in May and I am returning to the Whitsundays in August for a trail ultra.  All good fun.

During these tough times I’ve drawn much of my inspiration from the athletes I coach.  I’m grateful for their patience from time to time when I haven’t completely had my shit together.  I live vicariously through their successes and my heart goes out to them when things don’t quite go to plan.  But we are always learning.  Learning what it is to be human, to be humble, to be proud, to celebrate our achievements, to plan, to fall and get up again. to take pleasure in the simple things and to leap for joy.  That success requires hard work, determination, perseverance and most of all patience.

Hurry up already.

 

 

 

 

 

Road Blocks

Road Blocks

It’s been 2 years now since my Breast Cancer diagnosis but I am still adjusting. I feel well but my running has left me disappointed. I had a great run at the Lamington Classic easily managing to run a technical trail half marathon on both days and managing to remain on my feet while many tripped on the terrain. However the fatigue, muscle tightness and soreness, sore knees and depression seem to plague me.   I find it hard to accept that I am so tired as I have trained harder and currently sleep better but find recovery from the hard sessions indeed recovery at all much slower.

I have attempted to reason why, reflected on my past training and concluded that I shouldn’t feel this way. I checked again the side effects of my medication. I have been taking Tamoxifen for over 18 months now. My Breast Cancer had very strong hormone receptors so taking Tamoxifen to block estrogen is a preventative measure. I believe it is this medication that is holding me back, leaving me depressed and I am starting to question whether it is worth it.  I an now seeking more information and assessment of the risks with my Medical Team.  I am hopeful of a solution soon.

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Soochow 24 Hour Ultramarathon, I set the Australian Record for 100 miles and was 1st female.

I am physically very fit but mentally unwell. This is compounded when given my past ability and current training there is an expectation that I will continue to perform. I expect it for myself but I can’t physically do it. Mostly my mind lets me down but the body is also affected. I know what I am capable of I have to believe this is simply a roadblock temporarily in my way.  I instinctively know that it is possible and I have evidence in a wide number of ultra running friends who continue to challenge the concept that age is just a number.

When I wrote about my diagnosis two years ago I considered it a speed bump and at that time it simply was. At the time I was in peak physical and mental health. I underwent surgery and quickly recovered and was able to race competitively afterwards. I finished the 6 Foot Track Marathon 2016 in a time good enough to secure a Women’s Team Trophy for the UP Coaching team.   I went on to race in a 24 hour race in China finishing 3rd and secured a Boston Qualifier at the Sunshine Coast Marathon and ran the Boston Marathon in 2017 under 4 hours. But I know under different circumstances I could do better. In 2013 I ran the Boston Marathon in 3 hours 16 minutes. Since I ran Boston in 2013 I have become a better runner and achieved some amazing results. I’m not done yet.

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Competing in Taiwan 21st November 2015, here there was a lump in my breast that turned out to be Cancer.

I still very much enjoy my running and the people it connects me with. I want to run, I want to be able to push myself in my training but the side effects of the drug I take to prolong my life is limiting me. I need a solution. I don’t want to accept that this is how it will be for me. My treatment options centred around returning to running. I ran through Radiation treatment but running is practically my life. While I can accept that I won’t always be competitive that I will slow down I am not willing to accept at this time that I can’t do better.   I am determined to prove that I can produce an outstanding result after Breast Cancer to provide inspiration for those who find themselves in my situation.

The last two years have been all about acceptance.  Accepting I had Breast Cancer, accepting I needed treatment, accepting help and accepting that my running would be affected but it has also been frustrating.  Especially now that I have recovered from the surgery and Radiation Treatment I expect to be able to resume my training.  So at this time I accept that maintaining consistency in my training in the hope of building on that in the near future is my best option.  I fight on. Always. There are always other amazing opportunities often hidden just around the corner.

Salming Trail 5

Salming Trail 5

I previously wore, reviewed and loved the Salming Trail 2. It’s safe to say they never let me down but shoes wear out and their integrity is compromised with use so it’s inevitable they will need to be replaced. In comes the Salming Trail 5. There are lots of modifications on it’s predecessors but it felt comfortable when I put it on and I was keen to try it out.

I’ve now really worn the Salming Trail 5 in, taking them for a ride at the South East Queensland Trail Running Series at Enoggera where it rained and conditions were wet and muddy. To the Sunshine Coast Hinterland where it was wet muddy and raining and a long run at Mt Cootha in dry humid conditions.

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My shoes now well worn in and nicely dirty and dusty but not showing any signs or wear.

At the SEQ Trail Series at Enoggera I was sure footed and comfortable charging up the hills, splashing through the puddles and bombing down the descents often overtaking others as I sure footedly bounded the short steep technical down sections.

On the Sunshine Coast I ran from Mapleton past the falls through rainforest, picked my way through the slippery mud and then made my way via the Leafy Lane Track to the Ubajee Workers Camp and negotiated the switchbacks down to the Gheerulla Falls which were flowing fast. I ran in the rain on muddy, rocky and leafy trails, waded my way through several creeks and I always felt I had good grip but wet feet.

I can spend several hours over the weekend on the trails so a shoe that is comfortable hour after hour is a must. When I first ran and raced long trail events one thing that troubled me later in races was sore feet, really feeling the rocks on the souls of my feet.   These shoes gave me comfort and responsiveness to the ground as a traveled across it for the duration of my run and on this occasion we were out and about at Mt Coot-Tha, the Brisbane Forest Park and the Enoggera Reservoir for 4 hours or so. The Recoil Midsole a super lightweight cushioning compound gave me good rebound energy or essentially a spring in my step.

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The toe box is also roomier, easily accommodating my broad forefoot and also allowing for expansion and swelling after many hours on the feet.

And finally the Vibram megagrip on the soul which had me confidently picking my way across wet, muddy and loose gravel and stay on my feet and upright.  In the image above I launched off a rock sticking up out of the creek ensuring my feet and shoes didn’t get wet on this occasion.

I am sure to enjoy many more hours on the trails over summer in this bright comfortable pair of shoes. I plan to run most of the upcoming SEQ Trail Series Events and a number of Run Queensland events, Beerwah @ Daybreak and the Aus’Trail’ia Day Trail Marathon or Beerwah @ Night.

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Steve and Lisa Walton and the team at Slaming Australia supported the Brisbane Track Ultra an event at which I was co Race Director.  I also wear the Salming Distance 5 for my road running recently taking them for a tough but enjoyable road run at the World 50km Championships Trial event in China.

 

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need (Keith Richards/Mick Jagger)

What I wanted was to run over 200km and to get kind of close to the 220km World A Standard mark. At the previous 24 Hour World Championships in April 2015 I ran an amazing 230.244km and finished 6th. This time around things were different. Later that year I discovered a lump in breast. Early in 2016 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. All of 2016 was consumed with treatment and recovery but my intention was always to get to the IAU 24 Hour World Championships again.

When you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer you are put in the care of a team. My team of health professionals was extensive and I sought from each and every one of them treatment that had me returning to running and indeed training as soon as possible. I worked with a Sports Dietitian, Sports Psychologist, Podiatrist, Physiotherapist, my GP, Surgeon and Oncologist. It was great to hear from my Oncologist that for me as an athlete my running was just as effective as chemotherapy.

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Jodie enjoying a run Heathrow Moors en route to Ireland.

I arrived in the UK the Saturday evening prior to the race and stopped overnight briefly at a hotel near the London Heathrow airport. Sunday morning I enjoyed a run and found some trails adjacent to the airport easily accessible from my accommodation. That run felt good and I seemed to have handled the long day travelling well. I set off for Dublin and enjoyed some casual runs along the River Liffey, walked and rested. Dublin was the perfect venue for a few lazy days.

I caught the train from Dublin to Belfast in typical English weather (it was raining). I was met at the airport by a volunteer on behalf of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and before I knew it I was crammed into a vehicle with a bunch of Canadians, I was in good company and was soon settled in my accommodation at the Event Head Quarters the Queens Elms which is student accommodation for the nearby university. I was excited to be amongst athletes preparing for the World Championships and to reconnect with those I had met at the previous championships and other international events that I have attended in the last 2 years.  I feel extremely fortunate that my running has presented me with these amazing opportunities and experiences and brought all sorts of awesome people into my life. My life is certainly richer and fuller for it.

The usual pre event activities included a walk to the local supermarket for extra food, water and any other race essentials, a few easy runs around the surrounding area and the Opening Ceremony is always a highlight. The Event Organiser did well to attempt to say hello in all the languages represented including an Aussie ‘G’day’.

So did Breast Cancer detract 50km from my potential performance. Probably not entirely but it certainly has impacted my performance. There were other factors and external stressors which I certainly didn’t need. This time I traveled without family. While I am happy to travel solo and have traveled to 3 out of the 4 previous Championships on my own on this occasion when I realised everyone else had someone close to them around I felt really isolated. While I have made some really strong connections with my team mates and consider them practically family I still felt something was missing.  Race morning I was not the usual happy relaxed person.  Some issues I had tried to sort out a month or so prior were unresolved.  However, once we made our way to the start line I focused on my run and enjoyed the challenge, camaraderie and soaked up the atmosphere.

So as I have alluded to in an earlier blog Breast Cancer has been a major speed bump in my race through life. As an athlete I have lost a little of the speed I once had.  A few additional injury niggles have troubled but not stopped me.  I sought regular treatment from Paul and the team at Body Leadership Physio. With their support I was able to be competitive and to keep on top of the niggles.  I certainly tested the limits of my body over the last 6 months.

TeamAUSBelfast
Team Australia at the Opening Ceremony. Ewan Horsburgh, Kevin Muller, Jodie Oborne, John Pearson, Nicole Barker, Nikki Wynd, Matthew Eckford, Sharon Scholz and Mick Thwaites. 

I worked really hard for what I wanted, that World A Standard, a result I have achieved on 2 occasions.  I know now that I didn’t have enough time to rebuild from the ravages of my Breast Cancer treatment.  I had no way of knowing or information to gauge how an athlete competing at my level as an ultra runner might recover from the treatment I received. I worked hard to get to these Championships in the best possible shape, while the result wasn’t what I wanted I am extremely grateful for the honour and proud of my achievement.  We compete as individuals and a team at these Championships and it is the team effect and the support of fellow Australians and friends from around the World that keeps us going or helps us to push through the discomfort to achieve what we do.

I feel I just need time.  At these Championships it had been just over 12 months since I completed my Breast Cancer treatment.  Since then I have struggled with adjusting to life as a survivor consequently diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, a mild form of depression.  I have always remained positive that I could return to running and to once again be competitive on the World Stage.  I do still have the best running ahead of me.  Stay tuned.

What’s my next adventure?  I have been offered an opportunity to return to China to race.  You bet I will be seriously considering that opportunity.  I continue to live life to the fullest, one run at a time.