Surprise! Part One – Screw The Half Marathon

Matilda was surprised

Oh. My. Dog. What HAS she done now?

I have a surprise for you today.  Because I’ve written a race report that nobody saw coming… Even me, to an extent.

Admittedly, I started writing this ‘introduction section’ which I’m calling Part One a week and a half ago, with nervously shaking hands and shallow breath.  Because I had an inkling about what might happen and I wanted to document some of the crazy thoughts I had in the lead-up.

Even though I had no intention of sharing such information until today, just in case I chickened out.

Chickened out of what?  You ask.  Be patient, I reply, I need to build it up.

You see, I accidentally found a race I wasn’t ready for.  And even though I knew it was ridiculous, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I woke up at 2am thinking about it, night after night after night.  As I sat typing emails at work, dramatic and crystal-clear visions of the race interrupted my thoughts ominously.  I had butterflies in my stomach and a tingling in my toes whenever I thought about it.

This accidentally-found race, I felt, was calling to me.

I must reiterate: I wasn’t searching for another race.  I didn’t need a ridiculous challenge.  Regular readers will remember that I was (am!) already engrossed in training for a momentous running race: in fact the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon was only 40 days away when I sat myself down to begin writing this prelude to the race report. Today there are just 4 weeks to go until that highly-anticipated event.

I already have enough on my plate.

And let’s not forget that I find comfort in sticking to the training plan I map out, which allows me to follow logical and progressively harder steps that I set myself to gradually reach bigger goals.  That’s the smart way to train.

It would seem ridiculous, then (and totally stupid, probably) to skip some steps and sign up for a 26.4km trail run, which would take me over 3 hours to complete this morning.  Ridiculous.

But, well…


The Flinders Tour is a trail run that forms part of the Glasshouse Trail Run Series.  I’m not doing any other runs in the series because I’ve either missed them or they clash with other races.  But the organisers have my details from when I did the Bribie Island Triathlon so they emailed me about it.  And when I looked it up, the ‘Flinders Tour’ fell on a date that stared blankly back at me from my calendar. I was available.

So I decided to investigate further.

The date is significant, I learned, because on the 26th of July in 1798, Matthew Flinders was the first European to climb one of the Glasshouse Mountains here on The Sunshine Coast in Queensland.  Every year on the Sunday closest to the 26th July, the organisers of the Glasshouse Trail Run Series hold the Flinders Tour commemorative run at Beerburrum Mountain – the mountain that Flinders climbed.

Oh, and the course description also mentioned running around or over (I couldn’t make out which) both Mount Tibberoowuccum and Mount Tunbubudla (also known as Twins) for good measure.  For those from outside of Australia, you pronounce the former as ‘Tib-rah-wuck-um’ and the latter as ‘Twins’.

So initially, this run started to appeal to me as a nice history and geography lesson for you, my blog readers.  Rolled up, of course, into a not-so-nice PE lesson for me.

SIDENOTE: Do you see how I’m blaming you guys for this?

Matthew Flinders

A picture of Matthew Flinders. Pay attention because some of this may be part of the pop quiz at the end of the lesson.

The problem, needless to say, was the distance.  Twenty six point four kilometres is a bloody long way.  I Googled some facts about 26.4 kilometres and found out that with an average stride length, I’d be looking at 33000 steps to make my way across the distance, which is 16.4 miles for non-Australians, which is the exact length of the Figgjoelva (or Figgjo) river in Rogaland county, Norway.

Guys, 26.4km is the length of an entire river!

The Figgjoelva

International geography lesson – The Figgjoelva in Norway. See, we are learning together. Picture by Erlend Tossebro.

At this point of the story I should probably admit that I hadn’t yet passed the 20km mark in my running training.  I’d kind of got stuck at the 16km-ish distance, when I realised that the pain of running farther than that was fairly unappealing.  But my experience of entering an organised event to help me push the boundaries has so far been very positive and, as I mentioned above, something deep down inside me couldn’t let this race pass by without checking out the website a further 725 times.

Clicking through the course information , I found something I’d not encountered before: an elevation map.  The fact that it was there, in the fairly limited race information section, seemed to suggest that the course was going to be very hilly.  But I am not a great interpreter of maps or data (I don’t have the brain cells) and Google searching ‘is a 244m elevation gain over 26km a lot?’ yielded no useful results so I couldn’t be sure.  In fact I convinced myself that the elevation map was included to actually reassure competitors that it wasn’t a hilly course, in case we had been frightened by the inclusion of the aforementioned mountain names in the course description.

steep bits

The Elevation Map provided by the race organisers.  I was entirely unsure whether it was good or bad news.

So, not at all hilly, I decided.  And in case that wasn’t enough ‘information’ for me to go ahead and approve the course, the website also explained that the 26.4km would be one loop with 3 checkpoints, which sounded rather nice because I find it difficult to do repeated loops in a run.  It’s very disheartening to run in the opposite direction of the finish line more than once; I like to know that when I reach half way I’m heading towards beer home.

Further research revealed another enticing thing about this race; it promised a BBQ and ‘finisher’s mug’ to all competitors.  This intrigued me because normally with running races you get a medal.  But I do like mugs.

Ultimately, the clincher for me was the impending Half Marathon.  Yes, the greatest reason for not doing the race was actually the greatest reason for me to do it.  To have a trail run attempt at 21km (well, a bit more) before my hit-out on the roads of The Sunshine Coast in a few weeks suddenly seemed like the perfect answer to my nervousness.  Screw the half marathon, I decided.  I was no longer going to be intimidated by a measly 21.1km running race.

It’s possible that I was riding a false high after conquering the smallest of the Glasshouse Mountains a few weeks ago, in my first ever trail run.  I enjoyed that race immensely (except in the times I was wishing I’d died) and I didn’t even feel too sore afterwards because my legs enjoyed the soft mud and sand.  In signing up for the Flinder’s Tour Commemorative Run, it’s possible that I thought trail running might become ‘my thing’.

And the advantage of trail running is real.  Time doesn’t mean the same thing on a trail run!  Because unless they also did the trail, nobody really knows whether the course involved scaling vertical cliff faces and trudging through quicksand, or whether it was a flat, shady gravel track the whole way.  So even though you know my time is probably pretty bad, you can’t know quite how bad.  It’s very liberating for me as a blogger.

In fact, the cut-off for the 26km race this morning was 5 hours.  As I sat at my computer just over a week ago, weighing up whether or not to sign myself up for the longest run of my life, I reassured myself with the thought that I could probably walk 26km in 5 hours without too much trouble.  My target of just over 3 hours sounded rather impressive in comparison to the cut-off. While I was on the race website, I had a sneaky peek at the results from last year’s race and saw that a handful of people had taken more than 4 hours to finish.  Approximately 13 people had taken more than 3 hours.  If I needed the whole 5 hours, I wouldn’t have to feel too embarrassed about that.

SIDENOTE: There were also three competitors who Did Not Finish last year, according to the results.  But I chose to ignore them and did not dwell on the possible injuries/pain/death they had suffered.

As if I hadn’t already been won over by the promise of a free mug, when I finally got around to checking out the cost of entry for the event I was sold by the bargain $60 price tag, which was set to increase the very next day to $72.  What a clever marketing trick!  I entered my details, and clicked submit.

Fancy scroll

My entry confirmation. No,they didn’t send it via carrier pigeon a hundred years ago, I just used a fancy editing thingo to make the email look more interesting.

OK, so you’re looking at the computer screen like you’re still confused.  You can’t believe this chick who could barely run 7 months ago is now attempting a 26.4km race, for no real reason.

I guess it has been a while since I proved myself deserving of the title ‘Grade A Pork Chop’ so you may have forgotten what an idiot I am.  But really, you shouldn’t be surprised if you cast your memory back far enough.  As we know, the thought process when signing up for races is not one of logic or clear thinking.

And frankly, the more I thought to myself ‘no one is going to believe that I entered this race willingly’ the more I became worried this blog might be slipping down the Moronic Scale (or would it be up?) and I really needed to jump head-first into a witless decision such as this just to remind myself and everyone reading that I am still a moron.  Because let’s face it, that’s why you keep coming back for more.

So please try to understand, that there is no understanding this decision. Just accept that I signed up and let’s move on.

With only a week to fit in all my usual freaking out, I had to act fast and make some decisions.

Firstly, what to wear.  In my recent running training sessions, I have become great friends with chafe.  In particular, bottom chafe.  My fabulously voluptuous bottom cheeks have taken to squeaking against each other as I run, and together they have conspired to create a bit of a sore spot right in the middle between them.  I apologise if that’s too much information, but again I assume that’s why you’re here.

Other chafes that I have befriended include the little bits under my arms, where my furious arm pumping over multiple kilometres has left crescent moons of burn on each of my armpits.  There is also (if you count blisters as chafing) my feet.  I have blisters on my arches and my little toes.  Over 26km, I knew the blisters could get pretty bad.

To counter these things, I bought some anti-chafe cream for my bottom (very sensible, well done Lauren, should have done that 10 months ago really) and carefully chose some very expensive socks.  They cost me $35 for one pair and look like just about every other sock I’ve ever seen.  But they’re from The Athlete’s Foot (the same shop I got my running shoes from) and they lady behind the desk said they would stop me getting blisters.  So she’d better be right.

I will also be wearing my trusty compression top to stop the underarm issues.  Like the cream, this is something I could have been wearing all along in training but frankly it’s not very attractive and although the glamour of triathlon was lost to me very early on, I do try to maintain a modicum of dignity when prancing around the local streets in front of my neighbours.

SIDENOTE: I have been reliably informed that if you are male, an often-overlooked chafe-potential spot is the nipples.  Obviously we females cleverly invented bras to wear to prevent nipple chafe but you idiots with the Y chromosome haven’t yet cottoned onto the idea.  Until you do, apparently boys should consider putting a band-aid over the nipples in very long runs, to prevent extreme pain. You’re welcome.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE: I’m aware that I’m creating a blog post that is going to show up in so many unusual Google searches.  I dread to think of the weirdos who will stumble across my website by searching ‘bum chafe elevation maps pork chop and nipples’.

With my outfit almost sorted, a curve-ball was thrown when the dastardly Grandpa had a Garmin Forerunner 920xt watch sent to me as a gift this week.  By the time it arrived on Wednesday, I had decided not to do another big run before today’s mammoth event, so as to rest my legs.  I was on a strict diet of swimming, cycling and walking only (I couldn’t really afford to taper for this run, but I did try to make sure my running legs were as fresh as could be)

So I had to decide whether to wear a Garmin on a run for the first time ever… on my longest run ever.

This may not sound like a very big conundrum but it was because I have my feet firmly planted in the First World.  The question was whether I’d feel encouraged or discouraged by the knowledge the watch would be able to give me.  How would I feel about looking down at my wrist in a moment of pain, to see I was only 9km into a 26km run?  Did I want to know if the first 15km of the race took me 2 hours?

I’d never even trained with a data watch.  I’d never been able to look down on a run and think ‘I have x amount to go’. I had successfully convinced myself that I was perfectly happy running without this knowledge and even wrote a whole post about how liberating I believed running without data to be.

And all the advice I’ve ever read about any kind of racing says to not try new things on the day of a big race.

On the other hand, I reminded myself how badly I craved a bit of knowledge at the end of my 16km trail run on Wild Horse Mountain.  And I knew it would make Grandpa happy and proud to know he’d been able to help me with such a big challenge.  He had no idea I’d signed up for this race (I honestly didn’t tell anyone other than Shane) so I liked the idea of giving him a surprise in return for the one he’d given me.

Yes it’s true, I don’t really hate him.

I decided to where the watch.

Flat lay

All the gear

What else to take?  As with my last trail run, taking my own water was a mandatory requirement so the Camelbak was prepared for use.  I didn’t need to take my headlamp this time as the race started at 9am, so I swapped that for my Nike baseball cap that I wear when running.  I decided to take my little runner’s belt (bought from Aldi for 5 bucks as you may recall) with my phone and some energy gels inside, because I found it very reassuring to have a phone with me last time and it seemed like a good idea on a 26.4km run.

I spent all day yesterday eating bananas and crying.  Well not really crying, but feeling very nervous and stupid for committing to something so thoroughly beyond my proven ability.

But today is Sunday.  I should have crossed the finish line just after midday.  So did I finish?  Did I run any part of it?  Did I regret wearing the watch?  Did I fall over again?  Stay tuned for the race report, coming to a blog near you in just a few hours…

6 thoughts on “Surprise! Part One – Screw The Half Marathon

  1. You’re a very bad girl, I thought I told you to let me know as soon as you signed up so that I can worry with you all the way to the finish line, as soon as my back is turned off you go doing your own thing, not only that but you then put me in jeopardy of another heart attack by delaying sending the result. More care and attention must be taken or the watch (which you no doubt love by now) will magically turn into a turnip. Miss you lots xxxxxx can’t wait for next blog.xxxx

    • Sorry Grandpa, yes I did make you a promise but I really didn’t know for sure if this was going to happen! I didn’t want to let you down if I chickened out! The other blog post is up now so get reading and please do not have a heart attack. I do love the watch – I just spent half an hour poring over the fascinating data it has given me! Also, it awarded me three medals this morning – one for ‘fastest 10km’ and one for ‘fastest half marathon’ and one for ‘longest run ever’! So I have been giving it kisses all afternoon for being so nice 🙂

  2. I love the sound of trail running, though think I’m more of a walker than runner. Lots of great scenery I imagine. Also, appreciating the ‘knolling’ in the photo of your ‘gear’! Look forward to part 2.

    • Thanks Lesley, yes the scenery is definitely a major plus point of a trail run, it’s not just that there is something pretty to look at but it kind of puts the whole thing into perspective as well. It makes you feel powerful, but also small and insignificant. Very strange. And I am glad you like the picture 🙂

  3. Pingback: Surprise! Part Two – The 26.4km Blow-By-Blow Race Report | She Can Try

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