Tag Archives: Vibram Five Fingers

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

Perth River Run

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Dawn at the Windham Bridge

I set off before the dawn to run about 6km this morning. I don’t have my GPS with me so I decided to just follow the Swan River from East Perth past The Causeway, across the Windham Bridge and back to East Perth along Plain Street. Without knowing exactly how far I was going to be running, I just figured that I’d make sure I ran for 35-40 minutes.

This was my first run along the Swan River on the far side of the Causeway. I don’t know why I’ve never run there before; it’s beautiful. The eastern side of the river houses the Burswood entertainment and casino complexes, which have pretty lights that reflect off the dark river. And then, around 6:15am, the sun started to rise just as I ran across the Windham Bridge. At the exact moment, as if planned, a rower made his way down the river so that I could get one of those quintessential river dawn photos. Later, as I ran back across the Windham Bridge, a group of stand-up paddle boarders were making their way down towards me; their silhouettes striking against the sky.

It was a beautiful run this morning. So much so that I have finally found that barefoot rhythm I’ve been searching for this past year. Sure, I’ve been running barefoot (and now in Vibrams) for over 12 months but I’ve been struggling to find that rolling forefoot rhythm that makes bare footing look so graceful. And this morning I found myself able to do it. Sure, not for the whole run, but for entire 10-15 minute sections of running. It was magical. All that practice and focus I’ve been putting into the style is finally starting to pay off. I think having the Vibrams is helping with it because it means I don’t have to focus as much on avoiding rocks and glass; I can focus more on technique. When I found that forefoot rhythm I felt my speed increase … so I’m just going to keep practising until it becomes second nature.

Total: 8.1km in 46:10 (5:41 pace).

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.

A very slow run

Sunrise

I wasn’t feeling it today, but I still ran. Well, I ran and walked. Slowly.

It’s Monday morning so I think I have a combination of Mondayitis and fatigue from Saturday’s long run. I struggled to get out of bed, hitting snooze about five times. By the time I got up it was actually starting to get a bit light outside. I grabbed my running gear, threw on my motorbike jacket and rode down to Victoria Point to enjoy the sunrise over the water.

My legs felt tight as I ran so I tried to focus on my technique. Rather than letting myself stride out, I tried keeping my legs underneath my body and my steps gentle. Like my past two runs, I ran on a combination of deep soft damp grass and concrete footpath. I think this combination has added to my leg fatigue. Running on the grass is a bit like running in beach sand while the concrete paths have no give at all.

While I really wasn’t feeling it at all in my run, I worked on not letting my mind get to me. I think nerves about Sunday’s event are part of the reason my legs were tense today. So I spent time enjoying the scenery as I ran along the waterfront. And I have done the maths: I can definitely complete 50km in 8 hours because that’s only a pace of just over 6kph and I know from Saturday that I can cover 30km at a pace of just under 9kph. So that gives me plenty of breathing space (and time to enjoy the scenery and take a few photos).

Tomorrow morning I might just head out to the single track near home to give my legs a rest from the hard work. With my first 50km ‘race’ on Sunday, I am going to keep the mileage low this week. Tomorrow I might just do a 5-10km trot at about 7:00-7:30 pace. Then Wednesday to Sunday I am going on a 4-day hike with my parents. We’ll be covering 56km over the course of the four days but will be carrying all our camping gear and food. It should still be relaxing and good preparation for Sunday.

Total: 5.00km @ 7:14 pace. Elevation gain: 0m. Average temperature: 13.2’C.

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.

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.