Tag Archives: South-East Queensland

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.

Scribbly Gum trail run

Scribbly Gum run

The late afternoon sun warmed my skin as my feet skipped smoothly over the gravel fire trail. I’d never run at Scribbly Gum before, despite it being so close to home. We turn down a gloriously soft and sandy single track. I enjoy the softness even though I’m wearing my Merrells. Soft grasses occasionally brush gently against my ankles.

Ahead of me M’s cadence is rhythmic as he leads the way. It’s S’s first time trail running and she seems to be enjoying it. The three of us chat as we run. It’s the first time we’ve actually run together so there’s a lot of ‘getting to know you’ to be done. It’s pleasant and comfortable.

We complete a slow 6km loop of the bush before M and I set off to do a second 4km loop. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Total:

  • 6.18km @ 7:59 pace
  • 4.10km @ 5:57pace

Elevation gain: 91m. Average temperature: 21.1’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.

Stockyard Creek Orienteer

Found the control

After starting my day with the club run, I went home for a few hours to relax before heading off to the Stockyard Creek Orienteer event, hosted by the Toohey Forest Orienteering club. I’ve decided to give orienteering and rogaining a go because I want to advance my navigation skills and confidence.

I arrived early for the 1pm start. After a chat with some experienced orienteers I decided to attempt the most difficult and furthest course on offer: a 5km ‘red’ course. The controls on this course were all away from the trails that criss-cross the Stockyard Creek area and they were flung all over the field of play.

I set off at 1pm to try to find my way around the eleven controls. I underestimated the challenge of orienteering a fully off-track course and had a bit of a panic on my way to the first control. While I wouldn’t have had any difficulty navigating to the location under recreational circumstances, I felt pressure under ‘race’ conditions; not because I wanted to win but because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

Once I relaxed and trusted my navigation skills I found the first control easily and ran cross-country through the scrub to the second control. Then I got overconfident. I checked the map but not my compass and ran off in the wrong direction. It didn’t take me long to realise my mistake but the only way to correct it was to backtrack to the second control. Then I made the mistake of not trusting my compass because I was frazzled. It probably took me twenty minutes to get from the second to third control.

Once I found the third control I regained my confidence and found the fourth and fifth controls easily before again making a mistake on my way to the sixth control. I got three-quarters of the way to the control when I made an error. Instead of trusting my compass, I made an incorrect assumption about where I thought the control would be and went off in the wrong direction. I was tired and hadn’t drunk enough water. While that’s not an excuse it does put my confusion into context.

I might have been last but I finished

Once I found the sixth control, the final five controls fell into place easily. It took me 84:44 to complete the course, which was 60 minutes slower than the winner and 20 minutes slower than the next orienteer. But I am pretty happy with my effort. It was my first orienteer and instead of playing safe I went out on a limb by entering the most difficult event. I found all the controls, didn’t get lost and learned a lot.

Next time I enter an event, I’m going to take 5 minutes at the start to plan my routes, note the compass directions I need to take off each control, and identify attack and catching features so that I don’t have to stop and route-find as much at each control.

I can’t see myself taking up orienteering as a sport because I don’t get the same heart thumping excitement about it as I do about trail running. But it will be a good training tool to help me keep improving my off-track navigation skills and confidence. And it is a nice way to develop leg strength and concentration skills through cross-country running (which, believe me, is really tough).

Total:

  • 6.85km club run in bare feet @ 5:34 pace. Average temperature: 14.7’C. Elevation gain: 2 m.
  • 5km long course orienteer (I probably ran closer to 7km with all the geographical embarrassment I endured).

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.

Lake Manchester Trail Run

The start

There are four of us from Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers (or is that Talkers?) who have come to the 22km Lake Manchester Trail Run. For C, it’s his third half marathon in as many weeks. For R, who is an experienced road runner, it’s her first trail running event. And for L, this will be her first run at a distance further than 14km. My goal for this race is to enjoy the experience by running with R and L.

The hills were plentiful, steep and long

Yep, another hill

The race material said that there were seven hills that the race director called ‘seven dwarfs’ at the start of the trail and that the middle section was flat around the lake. Well, that will teach me for believing event material; the course was a string of hills all tacked after each other for 22km. There were almost no flat sections and the downhills were covered in loose scree-like gravel that made it feel like we were skiing on ball bearings. So, for us, it was not a fast course. But we did get a hard core glute workout.

There were creek crossings galore

The course crossed a number of very pretty creeks. Some were ankle-deep and wide, while others could be crossed by walking on rocks. We walked through some creeks, enjoying the cool water on our feet. However, where possible, we crossed over the rocks to try to keep our feet moderately dry. The water was clear and the vegetation around the creeks was lush.

The course was lovely

Despite the challenging hills, the course was lovely. It took us through tall gum trees that reached high into the sky and through rain forested areas. At the top of the ridges we could see the mountain ranges of Brisbane Forest Park and D’Aigular National Park stretching out into the distance. The bell birds’ song rang through the bush and the crack of the whip bird call punctuated the tune. There was a light breeze that kept the temperature mild but not cold. It was a perfect day for running.

Heading for home around the lake

As we ran around the course, we talked about running and events we might like to enter. I thoroughly enjoyed R and L’s company. M didn’t run with us because he was flying the flag for our club out in the front of the field. But I enjoyed his company during the pre- and post-race periods. R and I decided to enter the 2013 Oxfam Trailwalker in Brisbane. We decided to do it in the same style as the Lake Manchester Trail Run: a relaxed style.

Mmmm … soft grass with 500m to go

We had a glorious run out on the course. While my time was a lot slower than I had intended when I first entered the event, it doesn’t matter because R, L and I all were able to finish together. We ran as a team, ensuring that L completed her first half-marathon distance event. It was a huge achievement on such a tough course for a runner who had previously never run more than 14km. For me, personally, the event was a huge confidence boost because I learned that I can just cruise around a 22km course without experiencing any distress.

Total: 22km in 3hrs 14 minutes

Glasshouse Mountains Trail Run: Flinders Tour

At 12.5km. I was feeling strong.

I did it! I completed my first 50km trail run today. And I did it the day after I completed the Conondale Range Great Walk so I am doubly proud of my efforts.

The Flinders Tour is part of the Glasshouse Mountains Trail Running series, which has a history dating back to 1990 when the Glasshouse 100 was the first 100 mile trail run in Australia. The Flinders Tour event, held every July, has a 10km, 25km and 50km option; I took the 50km options.

A lot of the course was on fire trail

I took the early start option because I wasn’t sure I’d make the cut-offs. I was moderately confident of making the 7 hours cut-off for the finish but didn’t think I’d make the 3:15 cut-off for 27km. I also didn’t want to run with the pressure of time chasing me. I wanted the luxury of knowing that I could totally bonk and walk half the course while still finishing within the adjusted 8 hour cut-off.

The course started with a nasty run up Mt Beerburrum. While the mountain is only about 289m high, the trail is bitumen and heads straight up. All but one of us in the early start walked the entire bitumen section of the climb. The views of the breaking dawn creeping over the Glasshouse Mountains were a brilliant way to start the run.

At 25km. Still feeling strong.

After Mt Beerburrum the course followed fire trails and short sections of single track through the pine forest plantations that surround the Glasshouse Mountains. I traveled well for the first 18km. I ran all the flats and downhills, and walked only some of the hills. At 18km I hit a small wall because my feet started to hurt a lot from the sharp gravel that covered much of the fire trail. But I walked my way through it for about 500m and then decided I was going to run to the 20km mark. That was all I needed because just after 20km I reached the third checkpoint where they had Endura, watermelon and salty pretzel sticks.

After the aid station I decided to run to 25km, take a photo and keep running to the 27km turn around. And that’s exactly what I did. I ran. I wanted to prove that I could reach 27km in 3:15. While I would have missed the cut-off if I’d started at the actual start time because I left the turn around checkpoint at 3:20, I was happy to have made it to the turn around in 3:15 and to be feeling strong. Just before the turn around I passed all the 25km runners who were running towards us. There were a lot of them and passing each other was difficult but it was a lovely change to running alone (I ran alone from about 8km to just before the 27km turn around).

A small stretch of single track through long grass.

After the turn around I felt strong as I ran towards the 30km mark but then started to get a bit lost in the enormity of the challenge. I had to fight my mind telling me that it was silly to be out there. But I was prepared for this eventuality and simply kept reminding myself what a blessing it is to be able to participate in this type of event. Just after 32km we ran down a short section of single track. I knew it was coming so for the 2km I was struggling I waited for the checkpoint so that I could enjoy the single track. It was rough and grassy; a fun area to run.

Occasionally we actually saw the Glasshouse Mountains

After the single track we ran on more fire trail. I was finding the going tough on my feet. While the Vibrams are great for my form, my feet definitely aren’t yet tough enough to handle this type of rocky terrain. I think it’s because I couldn’t move my toes to change the way they impacted against the rocks; they were just splayed in the shoes’ toes. So I decided to buy a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves as an alternate running shoe for this type of longer run where the surface will be too hard for my feet in the Vibrams. No doubt I’ll be able to run this type of course in Vibrams in future; I just need to give my feet time (you have all seen my training reports and probably realise I don’t really do enough miles to have tough feet yet).

This is where I hit the wall bad!

At 37.56km I hit the wall really badly. I had been running steadily more slowly since 30km with bursts of energy. I was still happy with my speed of 7.8kph. Fortunately, there were three ladies who were walking the 25km course who I came across as I hit the wall. I spent 2km walking with them. They kept me going by chatting to me. It was amazing. I was feeling horribly low and talking to them took my mind off the pain in my feet and the struggle in my mind.

And then I hit a checkpoint. I had eaten a Powerbar while I was walking, and stocked up on Endura, Coke, watermelons and salty pretzel sticks at the checkpoint. It did the trick. I started to run. And I felt so empowered and high that I took this short video clip to share with you all.

We had to run through this virtual obstacle course twice.

At the top of the hill I was walking up in that clip I had to navigate my way through an obstacle course of fallen tree trunks that were laying across the track. They were probably put there to stop dirt bikers from traveling on the trail but they also made life difficult for me. But not so difficult that I couldn’t keep going. After crossing the tree trunks I ran all the way down the next hill and then started to catch back up to the runners who had overtaken me when I was struggling with the wall.

The view back at the 50km mark

Exhausted at 50km and hating the fact that the course was an extra 1.64km long

And then it happened. I hit that sweet spot where I could keep running through my exhaustion. I caught up with and overtook five experienced ultra runners who I’d been trading places with all day (they had also taken the early start). And I just kept going! I decided that I wanted to finish the race in less than 7 hours. My mind took over and I was able to ignore the pain in my body (to an extent). The extra 1.64km over 50km was really tough but I pushed through. The mind is stronger than the body.

I took these two video clips with my phone to share the final stretch of my 50km trail run with you. Sorry about the quality though.

Total: 51.64km in 6:48.

Packing for the Conondale Range Great Walk

Ready to rock and roll with my 20kg pack

Tomorrow’s the big day. I’m finally taking my parents on their first overnight hike. They’re seasoned bushwalkers and have walked almost every day walk in the South-East Queensland area but have never done a through walk. That’s going to change  tomorrow when we set off to walk the 56km Conondale Range Great Walk over the recommended four day period.

The food pile

Today my parents and I went out to make all the last minute purchases: self-inflating matts for my parents, gas for cooking, food and a pocket knife. Tonight I went around to my parents’ place to help them pack. It was mildly chaotic because my parents aren’t used to traveling with backpacks; they have an awesome camper-trailer set up so usually have plenty of space for what we are calling ‘luxury items’. That was the phrase of the night ‘it’s now a luxury item’, as we came across progressively more things that didn’t fit into our packs. Things that I wouldn’t normally take anyway that I associate more with car camping.

Though we do have some luxury items with us, including a solar powered battery charger so that we can have phones and GPS devices. That means I will at least be able to get my daily writing outlet; even if I don’t have internet coverage I can still draft my blog posts from my tent after lights out.

Mum has borrowed a 40+10L pack from my best friend. It’s big enough for her clothes, both my parents’ sleeping bags and Mum’s water. Once packed, Mum’s pack weighed 13kg. It fits snugly and looks comfortable.

Dad has a borrowed 65L pack from one of my cousins. It’s big enough for his clothes, my parents’ tent and self-inflating mats, and a few other bits and pieces. Once packed, Dad’s pack weighed 16kg. It’s a reasonable fit and will do the job for our hike.

I have my old 65L pack. I have my own tent, sleeping bag, clothes and water. I also have all our food (for all three of us), billy, gas stove, gas, toilet paper and navigation equipment. When I stood on the scales, the pack came in at 21kg. It’s been a long time since I did a multi-day pack hike (exactly six years on 29 June to be precise). I know I’m going to struggle with the weight by the end of the first day but I also know I’m fit and strong right now. I have a pair of hiking poles that I’m going to bring with me to spread the load.

We leave at 6:30am tomorrow for the three hour drive to the trail head followed by an 11km hike to the Wongai Walkers Camp. I’m looking forward to getting out bush for a few days. And to finally testing out my new tent.

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.