How to run 5 Peaks (Adelaide Hills)
The plan was to not taper into this race. This was a bit of a bonus on the training schedule as the Belair Marathon is the focus on the 26th April. The 5 Peaks Ultramarathon was just a good training run, a bit more experience at running a shorter ultra-distance race plus an opportunity to dive in and see what the ultra-scene was like here in SA.
The week leading into the race had been a pretty standard training week, a few indoor Zwift bike sessions, Vinyasa yoga classes and some run speed work including hill reps. BUT the one mistake I did make was doing a Bikram yoga class on the Thursday evening which on reflection, took more out of me than expected.
Consistent yoga, in particular Vinyasa has been a new addition to my training schedule since moving to Adelaide in late December. I wanted to challenge the body in a different way as well as gain strength and after trialling this class in February, the mindfulness and strength of this class gelled with me right from the get go.
Yoga has now been a constant in my training at least 3 times a week however with one of my Vinyasa classes being cancelled and still yearning for energy and flow, Bikram seemed like the next best class. Hmm Bikram is hot, challenging and a complete sweat fest and my mistake, not consuming adequate water to replenish and failing to realise how fatigued my muscles would be, even days after. Lesson learnt.
The ultimate save
When running on the trails, the surface beneath your feet is unpredictable and with undulation and numerous tripping hazards, you can trip at any moment especially if you are feeling somewhat fatigued. Although I had fuelled well during this race, a simple trip on a tree root found me flying through the air like superwoman counter balancing myself from front to back, side to side in order to save myself from landing headfirst on the rocks in front of me. I struggled to yell but said enough to have those in front of me stop and turn around to see me not so gracefully flying through the air.
I thank yoga for the strength and balance to somehow managing to save myself from going over and causing an injury that still makes me shutter just thinking about it.
The warm up to this race is about 300m of flat as you cross the oval at Athelstone and then it’s up, up, up! Although I think of myself as somewhat an uphill specialist, my body just didn’t have what it took to fly up the hills in this race, I was exposed and deflated.
The ascent continued for quite a while as we marked off the first of the peaks; Black Hill followed by Rocky Hill, Norton Summit, Mount Lofty and Brown Hill. The trails in the Adelaide Hills are so very different from what I have run in Victoria and I love them; they are exposed, rocky, harsh, unforgiving and a trail runners paradise – they are fun especially more so if you are having a good day.
The course elevation profile is 2280m of elevation gain and 2150 elevation loss so what goes up must come down but certainly the first half of the race just felt like we were going up the whole time. I didn’t so much yearn for a downhill, I just yearned for flow and more energy.
From one side of Adelaide to the other, the city funny enough is always on your right side so the chances of getting lost are pretty minimal. We ran through:
- Black Hill Conservation Park
- Morialta Conservation Park
- Giles Conservation Park
- Horsnell Gully Conservation Park
- Cleland Conservation Park
- Waite Conservation Reserve
- Brownhill Creek Recreation Park
- Belair National Park
All of which had their own special landscape and charm, oh and hurt too.
Fighting the mental demons
From the get go in the race, I failed to feel comfortable; the start was a bit hectic for me with a last-minute equipment failure (my bladder sprung a leak) which meant I was running around trying to locate some electrical tape to help stop the flow of water which was running down my back!
Never a dull moment, I lined up on the start line with little to no warm up and just a bit flustered. And then the course took us up; I already felt a little behind the 8-ball but this start just burnt a few too many matches which I struggled to then relight.
My mental thought process was dark, it was negative and it was harsh but I knew from experience, I had to be kind, I had to change the channel or else the race was going to be way harder than it needed to be.
I channelled my run mentors; Kellie Emmerson, Fiona Hayvice and race ambassador, Simone Brick. Each of these runners offer something different but essential to my training both physically and mentally. I needed to call upon their positively and honesty when it comes to racing; it hurts but it’s how you deal with the hurt that makes all the difference. I had to be the difference, I had to pull myself out of my slump.
I made it to the Coach Road (25kkm) aid station where it resembled more of a Hawaiian party and sucked back two oranges which seemed to fill me with pure joy; vitamin C was my savour. For this race anyway. I ran off on my merry way and suddenly the dark cloud that has been over me was somewhat lifted.
Time only becomes a focal point in a race when you are all of a sudden racing against it. There comes a time in a race when you suddenly become conscious of time, there are no external clocks around you only your personal device on your wrist and for some reason or another, you don’t pay too much attention to it until you do.
I had a time goal for this race, most of the race I was lost in just the action of running; the irregular flow of movement and the mental battle of torment and peace. It wasn’t until around 35km in did I realise that my time goal had passed, where I thought I would be was where I wasn’t. I had to deal with this.
You cannot do more than just keep moving, keep pushing and do your best to limit further loss of time. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line (still smiling mind you) and debriefed with my coach that I was reminded that this was not my ‘A’ race, this was a bonus race. I was right where I needed to be BUT the problem is, I wanted to be somewhere else.
The hills are alive
The Adelaide Hills have stolen my heart; the soundtrack of nature and the energy felt has given me a renewed lease of life and enthusiasm to love even more, the world around me. The hills life has made me appreciate the simplify of life’s offerings; from food to fitness it’s about making the most of what is around to drives you forward.
The Adelaide trail running scene has a special life force of its own; it’s about community, support, friendship and kick-arse aid stations! I look forward to embracing further my new community in 2021 and exploring further the brutal and beautiful hills that are on my door step.
No losses, just learnings
I may not have won the race but I didn’t lose it either, I just learnt. I may not be where I was in 2018, an ongoing Achilles injury has put a stop to that but I am not throwing in the towel just yet either. I have more in me to discover. Physically I am training my body daily and mentally I am training every single minute of each day; my greatest growth needs to be in my mind and the body will follow. It just takes time but I realise now, I have plenty of that.
Footwear – Salomon Slab Sense 8
Socks – Injinji toe socks
Pack – Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set
Shin Gaitors – Moxie
Nutrition – Koda Nutrition Gels
Clothing – Slab Shorts, Salomon T-shirt and BKT- Trail Cap and Snug