Being Fit and Able for anything that comes my way

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The Story of the Surf Coast Trail Marathon.

Back when I was 16 or 17 I did a 10km fun run around Eastern Gardens, it hurt like hell. But somehow I would go out for for random runs even though I was fairly bad at it. No talent scouts ever tapped me on the shoulder as I plodded my way around the streets of my neighbourhood of Whittington. I was not Lee Troop who was also pounding the pavement at the same time and is only 1 month younger than me.  He ran so good he went to the Olympics and Commonwealth games and his best marathon was a 2:09.  Anyways...I was not a natural lithe runner like Lee!

In fact I was scared of sport believing sport was for people only good enough to represent their country or at best their state. So I found solice in riding my bike around the river and going to the gym for aerobics and other workouts.  But running also resonated with me. It was a meditation on the process of willing the next foot forward to follow the prior footstep and not stop and breathe and relax.

Though I was never a runner.

Cycling was my thing, though I never competed until I was 19 on the Gold Coast in road and mountain bike. I then became a mum and Norm and I were limited to big commitments and financial spend on leisure.  Running along river whilst Saskia grew older riding her bike was fun and doable. But I was still NOT a runner.

It wasn’t until I started Surf Boat rowing at Torquay where we did cross training running stairs at Bird Rock and Jan Juc.  I still loved the feeling running gave me whilst I rowed boats.

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Then one day I saw an article in the local free paper in Geelong that the East Geelong Football club were starting a women’s team to join the Victorian Women’s Football League, this was early 2000.  I was not a natural at this either, zero skill but loads of enthusiasm and a low centre of gravity!  Footy was fun and hard, with bruises that lasted into the next week, corkers and ice baths a plenty.  It was here that Norm was not entirely happy with the umpiring being offered to the girls teams and he thought he would do his part and become an umpire, as he was already a basketball referee, he liked being in charge!  

It looked like a great way to earn extra $$ and keep fit for footy.

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So I started umpiring too. In time I was running 100km a week with training and games on weekends.  Field umpiring in the morning for u18’s and Boundary umpire in the afternoon for the seniors. Then playing football on Sunday in the women’s team.  

We did 10km fun runs in summer and even did a half marathon but only once.

So there was about 6 years of my life where I umpired and played football.  
Running was how I earnt some extra $$ and participated in sport.  
I still was not amazing but had been taught some efficiencies to get me faster.

During this time I was also a personal trainer and a bootcamp instructor, a spin bike & boxing instructor.

It was one day in December 2005 though that we ran at the You Yangs, running around the trails and up Flinders Peak, a friend suggested that we should ride mountain bikes next weekend. I had not ridden my mountain bike in over 10 years on trails, it seemed to have been deleted from my possibilities of sports to do.  So we did it, ran in the morning, and rode in the afternoon. I was hooked as was Norm. We went out and bought new bikes and entered a race in 2 weeks time.  We slowly left running behind and by the end of they year we were riding bikes and not running much at all. Norm kept umpiring but I committed to improving my cycling.

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Photo by Chris Ord

Over the next 5 years I built up my resume to become a very accomplished endurance mountain biker and it was winning the World 24hr MTB Championships in Canberra in 2010 that offered me the chance to do a photo shoot with Chris Ord in the Grampians for Australian Geographic Outdoor magazine.  We ran 40km of trails and rode mtb’s and paddled on the lake.  I was embarking on the journey to do an Adventure race with a few noteable athletes.  

Unfortunately for me, I fell in a heap of depression towards the end of 2010 after having reached a pinnacle and withdrew from the chance to do the AR.

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After pulling myself together I got back into my cycling, won a few more races, started some hectic businesses, got busier than ever but somehow randomly found times to go for beautiful runs at Mt Buller, in Forrest and the You Yangs on the trails.

My dad had always taken me bushwalking and it was my greatest love to explore the outdoors.

I was keen to do Larapinta trail run, the Surfcoast century and so many other smaller runs but it just never seemed to fit in with my life and training.

And then last year in 2016 I retired from 24hr racing and started doing whatever the hell I liked.  It was only 5 weeks ago that I decided upon seeing a friend Sandra, sign up for the Surf Coast Trail Marathon that it was exactly what I was going to do.

I opened up the website, entered my info and hovered my finger over the payment button about to delete the whole transaction but instead pressed GO! And I was in.

A declaration to the world via Facebook needed to be made so it was real. And then I started training.

It would have been awesome to have more time, but I had 4 weeks to get it sorted. 2 x 21km runs, 3 x 10km, 3 x 5km runs, and a 5km walk every single day. Yoga every day and stretching and core sessions at the gym.  I think I did about 100km running to train for this race.  The plan was to draw upon my 24hr endurance mindset and process application.

The week arrived and I couldn’t bring myself to run, I had never tapered for such a thing so walked twice a day for 5km in the morning 5km in the arvo.  I continued to ride my bike.

Saturday morning came and I was nervous but not doubting I could do it, just normal nerves before you are going to do something big. Good people were there, many I knew and the vibe was friendly and inviting. At 8:30am we were off.

We had soft sand with an incoming tide to deal with and then we crossed a creek and then my feet were wet.  But so were everyone else’s.  

I found my tempo and it was a nice pace, 5:30 or so per km. I felt good and kept holding this pace without trying. Up to Bells Beach I could not wait to see the surf, and it was huge, the king tide was here and the swell was up.  More very soft wet sand and an incoming tide to deal with here. Still feeling good. Passing runners but not lifting just settling. Got chatting with a few runners and someone yelled out ⅓ of the way through! Already! Wow. That went so quick.

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It was dropping down to Point Addis car park on the trail that I grabbed something to eat and tripped on a root. That could have ended my day instead hurt like crazy and grazed my elbow. Shit that hurt. Do not trip again Jess!

Arrived at the ½ way mark in 1hr 58 mins for 21km.
The beach from Pt Addis to Red rock was a bit wetter and tougher but short and then it was up up up to the cliff walk and then to Anglesea where we crossed the river mouth with some knee deep water.  I felt the fatigue start to hit me here. Drink eat drink eat! Probably too late now.  From here on I know nothing of the trail or the terrain, and it was also very much unknown territory of kms ran in one hit.

This is where lack of training started to hit me, so I came up with a process mantra to follow.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10...pain only hurts, pain only hurts, pain only hurts, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 etc…. And also focusing on my hips, but butt, my posture, my shoulders, my foot strike and breathing. Before I knew it there was the beach section I had heard about and the high HIGH tide that had arrived. It was a matter of knowing you were going to get wet, but keep running anyway. About 3.5km of this. Wow! My hips and groin were now starting to feel the hard work. But I continued to run. Why walk?

Arriving at Urquarts Bluff SLSC I grabbed lollies and emptied some sand out of my shoes. I was off,and it all started to hurt, uphill was fine, flat was fine, but down hurt bad. My quads were very tender and shaky. So I had to walk some stairs to regain control.

I was losing time now and getting passed instead of me passing. In my mind I am getting shitty at my inability to react, but I had to overrule this with common sense and remind self that I had 4 weeks training and this was my 1st marathon.  Just finishing is good.  My goal was sub 5hrs. I thought if all went well 4.5hrs was more like my finish time.

lighthouse17 01961The final 2km was agony. So much downhill. I felt I would crash and could not hold myself up and welcomed any uphill.  Thankfully the finish was up some stairs.

In 4hrs and 32 mins I was done. I grabbed my medal. Stopped my watch. Got 2 bits of watermelon and had to go. All I could think of was my recovery. Get home, eat and drink, have a salt bath and all that.

I finished and I loved it. I never once thought that I wish I had not done it, or that I will never do it again. My thoughts were can’t wait to do the next one.

I got home, did my recovery plan and was exhausted. My legs were aching and ceased up pretty quickly. As I got ready to go to bed I realised I had to go up stairs to do so. This was tough, holding onto the bannister with death grip pulling myself up. Bed that night was on my back and not moving. I just could not roll over, my legs were too sore.

It is now Monday - 2 days later, I can walk, I can climb stairs, take Max for a walk and feeling recovery is going well.

I entered the Melbourne Marathon in October and the 36km Wonderland Trail run in Halls Gap in August.

I love it.  
I am trying hard to not focus on being competitive, just about being better myself and improving my pace and pacing and staying injury free.
I still have many cycling goals, and races I have entered, so my new life goal is simple.

Be fit and able to say YES to any exciting challenge that comes my way and this makes me so very happy!

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