Tag Archives: mt cotton

Mountain biking with friends

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Heading down Grass Trees track

R messaged me yesterday afternoon to invite me out mountain biking in Bayview  Conservation Park with M, a mutual friend’s husband. I jumped at the chance for some social exercise.

At 7am we saddled up and hit the trails. We rode a mix of fire trail and single track enjoying a yarn and laugh along the way. R and I managed to stay upright but poor M ate dirt three times. He didn’t hurt himself though so it was funny.

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Goanna in tree

We saw a goanna while out riding. R spotted it. All I heard was scurrying in the bush and I hoped it wasn’t a big snake.

Total: about 15km mountain biking.

Spills and giggles on the MTBs

At the end of our evening ride

“Would you like to come mountain biking at Days Road at 4:30pm?”

I’m glad I said ‘yes’. My friends and I spent a fun hour cruising around Bayview Conservation Park on our mountain bikes. One of the girls has just got a brand new bike that she was trying out. We were all rolling in stitches within a few minutes when she fell off while doing donuts at the trail head. She couldn’t get her feet out of her cleats and fell off. Let me clarify that she didn’t hurt herself.

We rode the You’re Kidding trail then rode some fire trails before squeezing in a second cruise down You’re Kidding before the sun went down. While it did hurt my foot a little bit, I enjoyed being outdoors in the bush.

Total: 10km MTB at unknown pace.

Loving life on the trails

Fog and trees

I lie back in the bathtub and close my eyes. The cold water has stopped stinging my skin so I relax my legs into it trusting that this routine after my longer runs will help keep me injury free. I let my mind wander back to this morning’s run.

About eight of us met at Bayview Conservation Park to tackle the trails. We followed a fun 5km loop along rocky single track and a short stretch of fire trail. The run started with a long slow uphill gradient to a saddle. N and I talked about our decision to enter next year’s Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane while the rest of the group held their own conversations along the line. It felt good to pick our way over the rocky trail discussing exciting plans for the future.

From the saddle we scurried down a zig-zagging trail until we reached a fire trail. We crossed the main track and continued skipping down the single track. The track has been cut for mountain bikers so it twisted and turned smoothly to the bottom of the hill. We turned right along some more single track that undulated gently along the edge of a gully. I felt strong and rhythmic as we moved; my feet picking the way confidently and my body relaxing into the bush.

We came to another fire trail but turned hard left along the other side of the gully. The trail here was less twisting and allowed me to pick up a consistent cadence for a while. At the end of the trail we crossed a fire trail to another uphill section of single track. This track was cut into the side of the hill so it dropped away sharply; not that the drop was high because the hills here are only about 100m above sea level.

At the top of the hill we turned right onto fire trail for the first time. We had to drop down a steep hill of loose gravel, which caught some of our group by surprise. This was followed by a short sharp uphill climb before we were able to turn off the fire trail back onto single track.

At the end of our first lap a few of our group had to travel home so we farewelled them and continued down along fire trail to the You’re Kidding track. We ran this loop backwards, which meant we had to go slightly uphill all the way. You’re Kidding doesn’t flow as well in reverse as it does running it downhill but it was still glorious. A slight fog rose between the trees as we made our way along the trail. It’s likely to be the last fog we see before May or June next year because our summer has definitely started.

We ran a short distance down fire trail before our group had to split again; three of us wanted to keep running while three had to leave due to family and work commitments. We went our separate ways at a point where the fire trail led those leaving safely to their cars.

We continued our run by following the fire trail to where the single track we ran on our first lap took off. We followed the trail in reverse back to our cars; picking up the pace quite a bit now that we were a smaller group of just three. It felt good to power up the hills and cruise all the way back to our cars.

Total: 11.89km. Elevation gain: 251m. Average temperature: 11’C.

Single track pleasure

The sun is just about to rise over the horizon and the birds are singing like there’s no tomorrow. For the first 3 minutes, I’m the only person at the end of Days Road waiting for our run and I’m simply absorbed by the sound of the birds.

My friends arrived and we set off on our trot. The single track felt so good beneath my feet as I took up my place at the rear of our little foursome. We wound our way through the grass and ferns of the lowlands before contouring around a big hill. The trail became rockier and exposed roots tried to trip us as we climbed. But we stayed the course and reached the top of a saddle where we turned off onto a downhill trail.

Young shoots of bright green grass form a strong contrast to blackened tree trunks. The bush along some sections of winding single track are coming alive with regrowth after last season’s fuel reduction burns. It’s a magical juxtaposition: destruction next to new life. With the undergrowth burned back we can see the trail twist and turn ahead of us. It’s been cut for mountain bike riders but it’s also fun to run switch backs and berms.

We run 4.5km on single track before returning to the fire trail to head back to the cars. Two of our group have to get their kids off to school; so they leave us here. My friend R and I decide to do a second loop. We both want to run 10km and have enjoyed the 5km loop enough to repeat it together. Only this time we take another single track back to the cars instead of following the fire trail.

It’s a brilliant way to start the day.

Total: 10.1km @ 7:59 pace. Average temperature: 16.1’C. Elevation gain: 240m.

Sunday lovely Sunday

A perfect Sunday morning

It’s 7am on Sunday morning. I see my running friend AJ waiting in his car at the end of Days Road. It was a pleasant surprise to have his company for the morning run.

The last cool wisps of winter lingered in the air as I took off my long pants and jumper. In a few weeks I’ll be grateful to strip down to shorts and singlet but this morning it was still slightly cool. But the sun was warm on my skin as I ran along the trail through dappled sunlight. Cool-warm-cool-warm; that’s how my skin felt as I moved from shade to sun and back again. it was a subtle but noticeable change that only happens in late autumn and early spring.

The single track wound it’s way through the grassy bushland. Gum trees rose all around us; the mature Moreton Bay ash and bloodwoods reaching up towards the bright blue sky. Smaller wattle and banksia shrubs grew as an understory amidst the native grasses.

We didn’t run quickly but it was a relaxed and natural experience. We picked our way over exposed tree roots and through sections of loose rocks. And then we cruised the comfortable sections in between.

My GPS is playing up so I couldn’t measure our run but I think we ran between 4-5km at about 6:30-7:00 pace.

After the run I returned home and thought my partner had already left home on her daily walk so I ran an extra 2.05km along he route to try to catch up with her. I was about 200m from home when I saw my partner walking down the road. She hadn’t heard me calling out to her when I returned home from my trail run so hadn’t responded. She was only just heading out so I joined her for her walk.

Total: 6-7km run at unknown pace.

First run in Merrell Trail Gloves

My new Merrells after my run

I must be becoming a proper runner because I now have two pairs of running shoes and a perfectly good set of bare feet for shorter road and grass events. While I love my Vibram FiveFingers, they have limitations for me at the moment. I do a lot of running on gravel fire trails that are covered in small sharp rocks. While my feet are tough enough to wear the FiveFingers for about 10-15km of this punishment, anything more and I start to focus on my feet rather than on running. Though I do have to say that my feet recover quickly afterwards so they are not being unduly bruised.

Anyway, I bought myself a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves yesterday afternoon. After phoning almost every distributor in Brisbane, I finally found a shop that had my size in stock. They also had a fantastic sale ($129 down from $169). The shoes fit in the store and felt comfortable so I bought them.

This morning I pulled them on for a trial run. I started by running about 2.5km on the road and concrete footpaths through my estate. The shoes felt okay on these surfaces but not as good as bare feet or the Vibram FiveFingers.

I then ran about 1km on a gravel road. The shoes handled well on the gravel though for the fine gravel that we have on roads here, the Vibram FiveFingers would have handled just as well.

It was out on the fire trails in the bush that the Merrells really came into their own. While I had excellent ground feel, I didn’t have to worry about hurting the webbing between my toes on the sharp rocks that covered the trail. I also found that the grip on the bottom of the shoes was perfectly placed to give me traction and support while running uphill. I didn’t have to waste energy gripping the ground.

I ran a total of 7.31km in my new Merrell Trail Gloves this morning. I think they will be an excellent option for me when running on rocky fire trails. I certainly prefer the Vibram FiveFingers as a barefoot-style running shoe but that’s probably because I started out last year as a full barefoot runner and I am only using shoes to protect the soles of my feet so that I can run further sooner. In time, I hope to be able to run road marathons and all but the rockiest fire trails fully barefoot. But for now, I am very happy with my choice of Vibram FiveFingers and Merrell Trail Gloves as protection for the soles of my feet on long or rocky runs.

Total: 7.31km @ 6:17 pace. Average temperature: 12.2’C. Elevation gain: 180m.

Long run

My favourite part of the run

I got this crazy idea earlier this week: I decided to run to and from running club. I haven’t been to running club in ages because I always seem to be busy on Saturday mornings but since I’ve decided to run ultras I have also decided to try to get to running club more often because I enjoy it a lot. And without the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers club, I would never have got the courage to enter running events because I was always scared to run. That sounds silly but I always equated running with pain, not pleasure. But being with the club and all those runners who get out every week to enjoy the experience of running inspires me. What I like most is that you don’t have to be fast or run marathons. You just have to turn up and enjoy the run along the waterfront, choosing your own distance and pace. And then we get to hang out at the bakery afterwards.

So I woke at 4am to get dressed and eat something before setting off into the darkness. Mentally, I split my run into three segments: the run to club, the club run, the walk-a-bit run-a-bit home.

Stars shone in the sky as I ran down the grassy verge of the main road. The rain has left the verge more mud bath than grass and my feet were saturated in no time. I find the Vibrams handle wet surfaces well. When my feet get wet in the Vibrams they don’t get heavy like shoes; it just feels like my bare feet are wet. I cruised along by the light of my headlamp for the 12.71km from home to running club at 6:19 pace. There wasn’t much to see due to the darkness.

I arrived at running club just as everyone was arriving and preparing to set off. I had a few minutes to catch my breath before we all set off towards the esplanade leading to Point O’Halloran. The tide was way out this morning so we had a lovely view of the mud flats, which seemed to stretch forever. But today I didn’t go down to club for the view; I went to socialise. And socialise I did, running with my friends for the 6.18km course. I also intended to take the run easy but found myself pushing to keep up with the blokes I was chatting with. My average pace for the club run was 5:45. The other blokes ran faster but I got dropped and worked my way back through the field.

I spent at least an hour at the bakery after the club run before I set off back home. I started walking a few kilometres with some of my club mates who were walking home. After dropping them off I set off running back home. My legs had cooled down a lot at the bakery and I struggled to get going again. But I didn’t mind too much. I just wanted to get some time on my feet. So I walked-a-bit and ran-a-bit all the way back home, enjoying the sensation of warm sun on my skin and the views of my home area. By the time I was home I was a bit sore but I know it was partly because I pushed too hard during the club run instead of pacing myself. The run home was 10.54km at 8:06 pace. Which was still fast enough for me to complete the 50km trail run next week within the cut-offs.

Total: 29.42km @ 6:49min/km pace (6:35 moving pace). Elevation gain: 274m. Average temperature: 18.6’C.

Running home and patting miniature horses

Miniature ponies came to say hello

Cars race down the freeway across the road from my office; their engines making a drone like the buzzing of a swarm of bees. It’s still daylight as I turn up the road past some industrial properties and office buildings. I stop at the shops 500m from work to buy a box of tea bags for my partner. And then I turn for home.

I run past the Golden Arches and KFC bucket. Commuter traffic zips by along the main road. Down at the sports fields there’s a queue of cars waiting to park at the gym. I don’t check to see who’s playing on the soccer fields because I’m enjoying the sensation of putting one foot in front of the other.

By the 5km mark I’m out in a more suburban area padding along a concrete footpath. There’s fewer cars because this is an alternate route to cut the corner off two main roads that run perpendicular to each other. At 6km the concrete paths ends and I am left pattering along a soggy grassy verge. Occasionally I need to run along the road to cross deep drains but I run towards the traffic, which is lighter than the commuter traffic heading the same way as me. It’s dark now so my glow sticks are glowing purple and yellow on the back of my hyrdopack.

I cross the busy main road at 7.5km. Headlights careen past at 80kph and it’s difficult to find a break. I exercise patience and eventually get across the road. I backtrack along the main for the scariest 135m I’ve ever run as I get stuck on the main road between the two side roads. There’s no real verge so I’m just running in the emergency stopping lane where cars are driving at 80kph and all I have is three purple and yellow glow sticks for visibility.

As I turn down the side street everything gets quiet. I’ll see no more cars for over 4km because this is a dead end road. It’s silent but for the song of the crickets and the sloshing of water in my hydropack.

At 9km I see about eight miniature ponies standing in a paddock. They are outdoor ponies with thick slightly muddy winter coats. The braver among them starts to move towards me. They take a few steps forward, stop, watch, consider then move a few more steps forward. I talk to them and ask whether they want a pat. A pretty cheeky looking paint, and a bay with a big blaze and small paint spots let me pat them. A palomino stands just out of reach, watching intently. I think he’s the pack leader because he stops a gorgeous chestnut and white pony from coming closer. I love horses and can’t help but stop to pat and talk to them when I see them.

As I leave the ponies the road gets narrower. It winds through tall gums. It’s a beautiful section of road and my favourite kilometre of the whole journey. I get totally lost in the moment and realise I no longer see running as training but as recreation.

The road ends in a big mud pile, strategically placed to stop cars and motorbikes from traveling on what is actually a continuing road that has been cut short by developers. So once I navigate my way around the mud pile (there’s no way I wanted to sink waist deep in mud), I continue down the gravel road to the grass field near my home.

I might have to get my colleague to give me  a lift to work on his way past again sometime so that I can run home again.

Total: 12.05km @ 6:11 min/km pace (6:00 min/km moving). Elevation gain: 133m (one of the troubles with living at 54m above sea level is that I don’t get much chance to get any real elevation gain in training). Average temperature: 20.2’C (the subtropics are boringly warm).

Horses and single track

Horses and cattle always make a scene look so country

What could be more perfect than starting the day with a trail run in good company? Not much.

After a few weeks of sporadic training, I’ve finally got some antibiotics and good cough syrup so am confident that my flu will soon be gone. Last night was the first night in weeks that I’ve actually been able to sleep right through, making it possible for me to wake early for a pre-work trail run.

And what a perfect return to morning training it was. In fact, after such a long period of trying to take things easy, it didn’t even feel like training. It felt like I was going out to play for an hour. And that’s just how running should feel.

Rosemary from running club joined me this morning for a beautiful little jaunt through Bayview Conservation Park. We started running in the dark along gravel fire trails. There was a big hill on the trail and I suggested that we walk up it. My excuse is that I’m training for ultras and I read somewhere that it’s good to practice walking up big hills in training if that’s what you are going to do in races. Any excuse really 😉

After a power walk up the hill we cruised down and along a circuitous fire trail for about 4km. The trail rolled up and down some more hills, providing us with a lovely view of the sun rising through the trees. Poor Rosemary has to listen to me chat away as we ran but I’m sure everyone at running club is used to that by now.

Enjoying the morning

After about 5km we got to the You’re Kidding mountain bike trail, which is one of my favourite single tracks in Bayview. We turned down it and spent a glorious few kilometres running through the grass trees and banksias. Banksias flower in winter so it’s the perfect season to enjoy their bright yellow candles, which rise from their dark green leaves. The single track just flowed beautifully and the running was easy.

We turned left at the end of You’re Kidding to head back to the carpark along fire trails that were soft under foot. The trail ran along the boundary of a hobby farm and we were treated to views of gums standing in open grassland with the changing colours of the dawn sky behind. Then we rounded a corner and were greeted with the pretty sight of horses and cattle standing in a paddock. It’s a scene that always invokes poetry in my mind; perhaps because I was always a fan of Banjo Patterson when I was a child and he wrote a lot about rural scenery.

There was a sole grey horse in the paddock who came wandering over as soon as he saw us. Naturally we had to stop and pat him. The smell of damp musty horse (it’s been raining) reminded me so much of my youth when I had my own horse who I rode along these very trails.

My decision to run ultras has totally changed the way I think and feel about running. When I was a triathlete, running filled me with anxiety because I felt I had to train to be fast and competitive. But I feel less pressure now that I’m training for ultras. I always thought that training for longer distances would be more stressful because there’s more miles to get under my feet. But for me it was always the speed and discipline issue that stressed me about running. Now that I’m training for ultras I just let myself relax into my running and enjoy the scenery a little more. Sure, I run a lot more slowly but I don’t think that will matter; in fact, it might be just the thing I need to get me across the finish line.

Total: 8.34km @ 7:30 pace (7:04 moving pace). Elevation gain / loss: 189m / 198m. Average temperature: 17.9’C.

First run in new Vibrams

Tingalpa Creek in Venman Bushland Reserve

I managed to leave work early today. Instead of hitting the trails after dark, I got in some time before the sunset and still got to enjoy over half my run in the quiet of darkness. I rode my motorbike up to Venman Bushland National Park, changed my motorbike gear for my new Vibrams and took off into the bush.

My shoes didn’t stay dry long because the unseasonal rains have left all the creeks full and all the swamp sections muddy. Fortunately, I’m not afraid of mud and water; they’re just part and parcel of trail running.

Gravel fire trail

I followed the Venman Circuit for a few kilometres before turning off along a trail to Leo Lindo Drive. Most of the trails leading to Leo Lindo were gravel fire trails. While I could never have run these trails full barefoot, the Vibrams allowed me to cruise along without any troubles. I followed the bitumen Leo Lindo Drive for a few hundred metres between the end of the fire trail and start of the single track. The shoes also handled the bitumen well.

At the end of the bitumen I stepped over a small fence and set off down the 2.5km long Nirvana single track trail. It’s actually a mountain bike trail but I didn’t expect there would be too many riders tackling it now that the sun had gone down. I enjoyed the narrow, steep and winding trail by head torch.

Armed with my new shoes I felt so much more confident than on the trails than ever before. The ITB pain and shin splints that have been bothering me on-and-off for months didn’t bother me at all.

Night is visibly creeping across the sky

After Nirvana I ran along fire trails all the way back to where I’d parked my motorbike, making a full loop. At the lookout above the old quarry I watched the black of night push the last glows of orange out of the western sky. With the world in darkness I cruised back along the second half of the Venman Trail all the way back to my motorbike. I sloshed through muddy puddles and shallow sections of creek, giving the new Vibrams a really solid test, which they passed.

I always feel privileged when I get to run at night. There’s something magical about being alone in the bush knowing the rest of the world thinks they are ‘safely’ at home while really you can also be safe in the bush. It’s just totally magical out there in the darkness.

Total: 13.58km @ 7:19 pace. Average temperature: 19.9’C.