Lyn Robertson’s Trail Adventure
Lyn Robertson’s Trail Adventure
Some time ago, Tracy asked me to write a report on my trail running experiences and I have finally put something together for her. In case you only read a little of this, can I just say that the support from everyone at Intraining New Farm has been invaluable, and I could not have done any of this without the advice, encouragement and the unwavering belief in my abilities that I received from super coach Tracy.
When I first joined this group two years ago, I watched in awe as Tracy, Suz and Kate trained for and completed the 100k at Surf Coast Century in Victoria, and Emma did the same for the 50k. I though then that I might enter a couple of ‘short’ trail events, my first being a wee 15k run up and down Mt Tamborine – what were we thinking Karen S and Julia B! This was closely followed by my first SEQ Trail Series event at Redland Bay – this day I learned 2 things – that ‘Those Guys’ run great events, and that if you take a (not serious) tumble, live with the dirt, grit and dried blood as long as you can as it looks much more impressive than a cleaned up leg and a small band aid!!
After doing the rest of the SEQ Trail series that season, with the trail running bug well and truly caught and with encouragement from Tracey I entered the Surf Coast 50k, being held in Sept 2017. I trained mostly on the road up until July as I was running at Gold Coast, then right after that, with Cushla to keep me company and armed with a printed map of the trails there (had no clue really…), we hit Mt Cootha every Sat morning. This of course was after I visited the running shop to buy all the ‘necessary’ equipment – running vest, new shoes etc – whoever said running was a cheap sport clearly was not a runner ????. Though my trail training was a little limited prior to my first 50k, and from memory the longest run I did was 30k, it gave me time to get used to running with a pack and practice my nutrition.
The weekend in Victoria for Surf Coast was fantastic – weather leading up to the race weekend was wet and miserable but the day itself gave us perfect running conditions. My race plan was really to finish and to feel good at the end, however I did work out an average pace and time to reach each aid station to aim to complete the course in 8 hours – being my first Ultra I really had no idea but I hoped to finish in between 8 and 9 hours.
I had a great run up until about 30k, when I then started suffering intermittently with cramping in my legs and was forced to walk / shuffle quite a lot in the last 10-15k – very frustrating as I had made great (for me) time up until then and had told Tracey at the 27k checkpoint that maybe I could come in under 7 hours– her response was to stop talking and get back out there!!
I must say how great it was to come into that checkpoint and see Kate and Tracey there. I was not allowed assistance as a 50k runner but everyone from our group was out either running as part of a 100k relay team, running the 100k solo (the fab Suz) and/or supporting and cheering everyone on in between times. It makes a huge difference to see all the familiar faces out on the course on race day, and have the support in the lead up to and recovery from the run. Special mention to David Wood here who, despite having to pull out of the 100k due to an injury, he then spent the rest of the day out there supporting the rest of us ????.
After SC50 I had a slight detour back to road running with a little trip to Sydney for the Half Marathon, then focused on training for the 100k in the Tarawera Forest in Rotorua, NZ. Tracey wrote me a plan and off I went. And so began the 5am starts every Saturday from Channel 9 for trail running training – I am so grateful to Anna and Cushla for joining me for weeks on end out there on the trails over these months.
Tarawera was my dream event, I am from NZ and love that they make the culture of the country so much a part of this event. I couldn’t wait to get there and be a part of it but, on the day the conditions were like nothing I had ever run in before – there had been heavy rain in the two weeks prior to the event, and it rained (poured some of the time!) on and off during the event. The first 35k or so was for me fantastic – some great single track and fire trails through gorgeous countryside and with lots of company and enthusiasm from fellow runners, and even a bit of sunshine in between the drizzle. I recall getting to Tarawera Falls, stopping to take pics and feeling perhaps a little smug as I was ahead of my goal times and feeling great. Then I hit the mud – volcanic black ankle deep mud – most of the course from this point till about the 80k was very slippery and muddy. At times I felt like I was on ice skates…. I ended up walking a lot of the course from about the 45k mark I think, and, as many of you will know, downhills are not my strong point so, combined with the slippery muddy conditions I was rather slower than usual on these! The advantage of all this mud was of course that a fall did no damage, apart from to your clothes and your pride!
My aim to finish by midnight of course went out the window but I learned that I don’t give up too easily, focused on getting from one checkpoint to the next and finally crossed the finish line after 22hrs 17 mins. The support from the volunteers at all the aid stations was fantastic and in particular I remember a crew member for a 100 miler being my support crew when I reached the aid station at 58km– things like that are invaluable! I also remember one volunteer and one fellow runner giving me their (spare) headlamps when mine went flat – note to self ‘don’t leave your spare headlamp in a drop bag as it belongs in your pack’.
I often wonder if I would have started knowing what the conditions would be like and how long it would take me – a pointless question really… Did I love it – some of the time in that 22 hours when I was by myself in the Tarawera Forest, I promised myself that if I ever made it out of this damn (I may have used slightly stronger language at the time….) forest, I would never do another trail run EVER…. The feeling of crossing the finish line and having that medal put around your neck though – priceless ????.
Apart from one black toenail and dodgy knees the morning after, I recovered pretty well and decided to enter UTA50 and see what all the fuss is about ????. Poor Tracy – yet another training plan was required! My training was a bit spasmodic (entirely my own doing – had the plan in front of me) as I stayed in the ‘I’m in recovery from a 100k zone’ perhaps a little too long. I do love being in recovery – no time trials, easy runs, pretend speed sessions – what is there not too love! I did finally take note of Tracy’s advice though and (a little belatedly) incorporated jump squats ,step-ups and lots of stairs into my training – a wise move given the terrain I was about to run in!
It was another great weekend away with good friends and a wonderful, scenic, well run event – now I do understand what all the fuss is about!! The course was harder than what I imagined – so many more steps than just the ‘Furber’ steps at the end and quite (I thought) technical – but a great atmosphere and we were lucky enough to have fantastic weather. Wonderful to have the support of Bob, Tracy & Suz out on the course – I now understand from Tracy that being support crew is so much more tiring than actually running the course ????
So, that is my story of going from a beginner trail runner to running 3 ultras in 9 months…. I was lucky enough to have awesome support and advice from Tracy and certainly would be a sorry and broken woman without this… Of course there were setbacks along the way – a strained calf kept me away from a weekend trail event prior to SC50 (a weekend of training that, at the time, I felt was essential and was horrified to not be able to do it) , I missed the cutoff in a run in Sydney and had to do the ‘short course’ (mortified!!), I had a few falls, some worse than others, and I am still working on my downhill skills!!
The best two pieces of advice I was given:
- From Tracy – always leave a little space between you and the person in front of you on a single track to allow for reaction time in case something happens eg they fall, have to stop suddenly etc
- From Anna – when you enter an aid station, look for the exit and keep working your way towards it i.e. don’t hang around in there too long with your feet up having a cuppa and a bikkie ( it can certainly be tempting to do exactly that!), and eat something solid at every one of these aid stations.
Six of the many important things I have learned and/or realised along the way:
- Get yourself a good Coach, follow your training plan and take note of their advice.
- Join Intraining New Farm – what an awesome bunch of coaches and peeps to run with.
- Look after your body – massage, stretching, rolling, rest and recovery days.
- I am scared of snakes – which is an improvement on being terrified of them a year ago – as they are out there and you will see them!
- I love trail running!
- That I will pretty much run anywhere, over any terrain and distance for an event t-shirt and a finisher’s medal ????
There are many people who supported me over these months, way too many to mention of course but special thanks to:
- Anna – great training partner and so much knowledge and experience on the trails, I was very grateful to be on the receiving end of this info and her company.
- Cushla – another awesome training partner who braved the wilds of Mt Cootha with me before we had any idea what we were doing and/or where we were going, listened to all my concerns, and remained a constant presence (along with the old Rubes) eating scones and sending messages of support for every Ultra I have done!
- Bob – seriously, what would we do without Bob’s unwavering support, lifts to events, coffee runs, bag handler, fab photos, FB posts – the list goes on and on. Thanks so much Bob!
- Everyone in our trail running group and Intraining New Farm who ran with me, followed my race progress and encouraged and supported me!
And last but not least, the awesome Tracy Baker – nothing more to say really.