Running my first ultra marathon

On Sunday 7 June, I woke to my alarm going off at 2am. It was dark and cold, but I was excited to get out of bed.

About two weeks earlier, Janine and I decided to enter the 50km run at the Gold Coast Super Marathon. We wanted to support the amazing Liz, who had been training for the 80km, and we thought if we were going down for the event, we might as well do our weekly long run at the same time. We considered entering the 25km event, but were already past that distance in our marathon training, so we thought we would have a crack at the 50.

Here is a little photo journey of the day.

*********Warning! Photos of super-sexy naked feet below.

Feet prep #1

Feet prep #1 – band aids, toe sausages and strapping tape

Feet prep #2

Feet prep #2 – injinji toe socks!

Feet prep #3

Feet prep #3 – Altra Intuition 1.5

My Altra Intuition running shoes are pretty much brand new. Before the run on Sunday, I had only done 5km in them. After running the 50km, I can’t sing their praises enough. All Altra shoes are zero drop, and this is my second pair. I got them online at Injinji Performance Products. I have to give the guys there a plug – their service is excellent, they have free delivery, and they often dispatch on the same day that you place an order.

New shoes on, bags packed, we made it down to the Gold Coast with plenty of time to spare. We cheered the 100km runners off as they started at 6.20am, and Liz was next off at 6.30am. Janine and I watched her until she disappeared from view, then we quickly made our way back to the heater to wait for our event to be called at 7am.

Before we knew it, we were at the starting line, and then we were off. We had a plan of running very slowly so that we could keep going for as much of the 50km as possible. We were strong and confident for the first 25km, but there were a few challenges after that. Without going into too much detail, long distance runnning can do unpleasant things to your body. Luckily, as we were running at the beach, there were plenty of toilets along the way. It wasn’t all bad, though. Because it was a looped course, we got to know the drink station people quite well. They were so friendly and supportive, and really added to our enjoyment on the day. One of the women was knitting a pillow case, and we were amazed to see the progress she made between our sweaty visits.

Just under 7 hours later, we made it over the finish line. The man who won the 100km event had crossed the line a few seconds before us (that’s right – he had finished his 100 in the time it took us to run our 50) , and he was in the middle of his winner’s interview when we came in. I think we must have been a bit delirious because we gatecrashed his interview to congratulate him, but he was wonderful, and told his interviewer that the support you get from other runners is one of the best things about long distance events.

Approaching the finish line

Approaching the finish line

Gatecrashing the winner's interview

Gatecrashing the winner’s interview

Nice and sweaty at the finish line

Nice and sweaty at the finish line

For the next two hours, Janine and I waited for Liz to finish her 80km. We cheered all the runners as they came through, but two amazing women from China deserve special mention. Running together in the 50km event, one of the women was blind, and the other was acting as her guide. It was just incredible to see them come over the line together. Truly inspirational women.

Amazing women running together

Amazing women running together

Just after the 9 hour mark, we caught a glimpse of Liz coming towards the finish. She had picked up the pace and crossed the line looking as strong as she did at the start. She was the first woman to finish the 80km event. I can’t say enough about her strength, determination and focus. Mostly because it makes me teary. Just wow!

The three of us when Liz finished

The three of us when Liz finished

One last thing………………………..

Since I started running and participating in organised events, I have come to understand two very important things.

  1. The official event photos will, without exception, be awful.
  2. The shirt or singlet you get for finishing the event will easily rate as the ugliest, most ill-fitting item of clothing you own.
Behold the Gold Coast Super Marathon shirt!

Behold the Gold Coast Super Marathon shirt! The cut! The colour! The puff paint-like finish of the design! It’s a keeper.

A big thank you to Erica from Running Divas for the amazing work she does to empower women so they can achieve their running goals.

Good friends, good times

Jeremy and I recently came back to Vietnam after having lots of fun in Cambodia and Thailand. We stayed a few nights in Ho Chi Minh City, then headed up to Hoi An to spend some time with Gary and meet up with the fabulous Janine who was visiting from Australia. We were also lucky enough to catch up with Mandy and Peter, Pandy, and Sue. It was great to see you all, and I hope you continue to enjoy living in Vietnam. We are a bit jealous because we will be back to our working grind in less than eight weeks. Janine very much enjoyed staying at the Alma Courtyard Hotel, but when they wanted to charge me $12 ++ to swim in the pool, we knew it was time to leave. Gary, Janine, Jeremy and I took a road trip up to Hue for three nights. At this point, I’d like to say a big thank you to Gary for:

  1. putting us up, and
  2. putting up with us.

You are a great friend and we will miss you and your antics very much.

Here is a photo narrative of our last visit to Hue for this year.

First we cycled out to Thanh Toan village. We got a bit lost and rode around for 12km instead of taking the direct 6km route. It didn’t matter because the journey was fun. At one point, Gary was swarmed by a small army of primary school children. When we finally arrived at Thanh Toan, we went to the Japanese covered bridge to cool off in the beautiful breeze that was coming across the water. It was there that we met the lady in the picture below. She told us about her life. It turns out she had a brief affair with an American soldier that she kept secret from her VC father. She later married a local man and had three children. Parts of the story were difficult to understand, but generally we could follow what she was saying. She offered to read our palms, but no takers.


Next stop, Janine had a go at river fishing. She caught some weed and a few take-away containers.


After a Ca Phe Sua Da, we went for a walk around the village and came across these men looking to purchase a fighting cock. The man who was selling put the cock in question through its paces and got bitten on the butt a few times. I am not sure if a deal was struck, but the village’s reputation as Choi Ga Central lives on.


Next stop was lunch, followed by a fruitless search for the residence of the last Queen Mother. We found the building, but it was closed, abandoned, or both. Further along the same road, we visited an abandoned temple.


Janine and I thought it was great, but Gary was a little underwhelmed.


It was a huge day, because we also rode to the citadel, dropping in at Big C on the way.


We enjoyed looking around but at some point, Janine and I lost Gary. We looked for him, called out, and even whistled, but no Gary.


Eventually we headed home, but on the way we found some children playing in the empty allotment near our hotel.


They were collecting bits of wood to start a fire. Just for fun. Janine made a small friend and we finally called it a day.


The next day we visited the Dong Ba market. Jeremy pointed out stuff and told the stall holders that he caught much bigger fish than those they were selling.


Janine wanted to buy a hat, so we visited this stall. The lady proceeded to jam every hat she had onto Janine’s head, proclaiming that each one was beautiful. Janine decided that she didn’t want to purchase from the lady’s considerable range. As we walked away, she got a little slap on the arm for being so difficult to please. Really, Janine, that floral hat is gorgeous!


Last adventure was to charter a dragon boat for a cruise on the river. It was sunny at first so Jeremy had to protect his precious skin.


We had pre-arranged some bubbles and ice, which made the journey very relaxing and pleasant. By the way, this is Jeremy’s ‘serious’ pose. The lady who owned the boat was very impressed that we had brought ice and glasses.


Dinner was at the DMZ bar where Gary purchased a shirt. The staff gave him a name tag and put him straight to work behind the bar.


Jeremy and I had a really great time, and I think the dragon boat trip was definitely the highlight. Thank you to Gary and Janine for such a memorable week.