Stawell Gift Fun Run & Pinnacle Training

With a half-eaten dark chocolate Easter bunny and a bottle of Seppelt sparkling wine split between two concealed Gatorade bottles, Fiona and I are on the train between Ararat and Melbourne. This weekend was a bit of a weekend get-a-way to see the 136th running of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious running race, the Stawell Gift. I also did as much training as I could for my 11th Ironman, Cairns in 8 weeks time as well as have some special moments between family and friends, and an amazing “Bachelor Date” with my wife.

Friday morning in Alice Springs involved an early 75min bike trainer session watching the 2015 Ironman World Championship DVD. After some packing and I did a decent 55minute run along the Flynn’s Grave path on 134HR and 7:42/mile, roughly Ironman race pace. Fi’s sister Jennifer dropped us off at the airport and we flew the 2 ½ hours to Melbourne enjoying our vegetarian bean toastie. We hopped on the bus to Melbourne and then hopped on the train to Ballarat where Fiona’s sister Jacinta picked us up. We met one Fi’s old friends and ate dinner at an old pub with a picture from the 30’s or 40’s where both cars and horses shared the main road.

The next morning I enjoyed a 4.9KM swim at the 50meter indoor Ballarat Aquatic Center right next to the school that Jacinta teaches at. The swim was decent consisting of a 1km w/u, 1km TT in 16:39, 1km TT pull/paddles in 16:00, and 1km TT fins/paddles in 14:34. Compared to last week, I am 10s/100m faster with a wetsuit and swimming with fins/paddles is nearly equivalent to racing in a wetsuit; I held 14:36 for the first 1km of last weeks Olympic Distance triathlon which was in a 50m pool. Another 600m and c/d to make the set. Thanks Rob!

Unfortunately, that was all the training I was able to fit in for the day but that’s because my wife is amazing and surprised me with an incredible “Bachelor Date”. Jacinta drove us from Ballarat to Stawell and hour away; their hometown. At the town airport we were welcomed by Fiona’s parents, Wendy and Neil where Mom had joined us on an airplane tour over the Grampians during our Stawell Training Camp 2015 heading into Ironman Western Australia.

Well, this time we went up in a Chopper! Fiona and I flew in a brand new 4 passenger helicopter for 10-15minutes over some of the local mountains and then landed smack in the middle of Bests Winery. With Shiraz grapes on both sides, wine tasters looked out to see our arrival. Then, we had a VIP tour with our pilot of Bests, the second oldest winery in Australia. (Seppelt is the first and where Fiona and I had our wedding reception back in 2014, just down the road). After our tour, we had an elegant wine tasting experience with all the fixings and I still don’t like pate! Yuck! We even got to try a Cabernet from 1999. We bought 4 bottles of wine including a 1993 and 1995 Pinot Noir that we stashed in the cargo hold under Fiona’s front seat. As the rotors powered up, a crowed of parents and children stood by to see these young celebrities take off into the sun at 120mph. (I had my Garmin GPS on). Mom and Dad chauffeured us back in their elegant 20 year old Camry Wagon with 420,000km on it and the ceiling falling in like an Arabian circus.

Later in the night we joined the large Harris-Collier-Coyle contingent at the local Chinese Restaurant. It was amazing to have a large part of the family together as the last time this large group came together was in 2014 when we were married. We headed to the Carnival I won Fiona an imitation “Care-Bear”.

Sunday morning we woke and headed over to the 35th running of the Stawell Fun Run held the same weekend as the Stawell Gift. My stomach was full from all the food I’d eaten the last two days including lots of meat, so I felt yuck. I actually didn’t decide I was going to go for it until I started and a few minutes into the 5km race. But, by that moment Fiona had overtaken me in her first run back since her varicose vein surgery and Mom/Dad/Mr. Whippy (Jacinta’s Whippet) were heading to the 3km walk. The mostly dirt track had a few hills climbing to the half way on the mostly out and back and I was running Anaerobic in Zone 5 and HR of 152. I clocked the first mile in 6:58, past Fiona en-route with a 6:55 second mile and down the incline past the horse track with a mile 3 of 6:47. GPS 5KM of 21:22 and official time of 21:53. Fiona finished 1min 20 behind me and 2nd female overall. I was much further back than her placing with at least 200ppl in total racing. But, we took in 3 of 4 for the spot prizes. Mom got $10 to the florist, Dad won a bottle of wine from Bests, and Fiona won a $200 voucher for blinds that we swapped with dad for the wine and drank together later on.

Race thoughts: I didn’t stop pushing. I had 16:22 in Zone 4 and 4:10 in Zone 5. I stayed positive but lost lots of traction of the bitumen and gravel paths. I was much slower at 6:53/mile vs the Intersport 4km of 6:21/mile but that is on cement and shorter. I held essentially the same pace as the ASRWC Time Tease at 6:52/mile which was also the same pace as the Reindeer 5KM Fun Run in Franklin Lakes, NJ USA in on December 3, 2016. So while I haven’t gained any speed, I have gained some economy since my HR was 146/avg vs the Reindeer 5K of 149 in freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, this essentially humbled me because I thought I was a lot faster than this. If I plug this 21:22 result in the Jack Daniels VDOT Calculator it predicts a 3:24 marathon…. My average marathon time is a 3:20ish of the 30 I’ve done and I have a 3:02PR. So, filling up on unhealthy food, having early morning wakeups all week, and getting relatively intoxicated the night before put this into perspective. I know I’m better than this; I have to be better than this.

We head out, threw on some clothes and dropped into St. Patrick’s church where Fiona and I were married June 21, 2014. Of course we were standing at the doors and the very cheeky old Pastor, Fr Eric who had married us was miraculously still there. We enjoyed the mass and I thought of the last time being there, my dad having made the 12,000 mile journey over, and the happiness I felt in my heart seeing my bride walk down the aisle surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Off to Ararat I completed a 2hour bike ride while watching GoPro video’s and the news at the local Anytime Fintess. Back in Stawell we headed over to “The Gift” and saw local Alice Springs athlete and friend Emma Kraft run the 1,600meter. We put $20 on her at the bookies…. Let’s just say she owes us $20. Hahaha just kidding!

Fiona volunteered me months ago to cook a meal for Auntie Norma. I didn’t realize until Sunday that I was cooking her and 16 other of our family and friends Easter Dinner! It’s a pretty big deal where I come from so we tried to bring as much American flair as we could by brining “Pigs in a blanket” i.e. hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry. I made my go-to recipe of Peanut Satay with fresh Broccoli and Carrots in pasta from the best Vegan cookbook you can get Simple, Tasty, Good. We were well prepared and a first for me, I trippled the recipe in someone else’s kitchen with plenty for all! More catch-ups and just great memories of our families coming together wrapped around food, laughter, and love on a day given by Jesus Christ.

The training continues and Monday morning Fiona and I drove her father’s car to the base of The Grampians in Halls Gap. In the cool brisk air we headed off through the sold-out caravan park heading up up and up, all 1,800’ of climb to The Pinnacle. My calf’s were burning and while I don’t know how much you can say we were running, we were moving as fast as we could. 40minutes later we were at the top and the views were more impressive than the last time we hiked the route in 2015. We continued on the backside to the carpark, past the waterfall, ran past one fellow ultra-marathoner, (Fi and I have both run the 45km Larapinta Ultra and a 50KM Ultra from Standley Chasm – Alice Springs. Back in Halls Gap we extended the run to 2 hours in total and I commented to Fiona how incredible it was to run with her, sharing in the things that we love to do. We met up with Mom, Dad, and Jacinta at a very nice café we’ve eaten at before and then headed back the 20minutes to Stawell.



3rd pair of shoes I’ve destroyed trail running… don’t use race shoes on trails!


And if it’s broken, wrip that shit off


A quick stop at the Stawell Bakery and to the Gift we walked. We walked around the stadium that is reflective of Beaverton, Oregon; site of The Prefontaine and the birthplace of Nike. (It’s also where Fiona and I had our wedding photos taken). We saw many runners complete in regular and odd distance races most notably the 136th running of the handicap race called The Stawell Gift. At 120meters long, athletes run across the center of the oval to thousands in attendance on a race watched live Australia-wide on TV. A 16 year old girl won the women’s race taking home $40,000AUD, wtf? The favorite of the men’s race won and at 18years old also took home $40,000AUD. WOW! Then it was the 3.2km race and we happily watched Alice Springs runners Emma Kraft from 400m scratch (she had to run 2.8km of 3.2km and her fiancée Brad White who is a miler and 14X participant of the Stawell Gift who came in 3rd in the mile last year. He was running from 200 scratch. Again, we put $10 on both of the win and place…. Now they owe us $40, or maybe just dinner? J As someone who doesn’t really spectate events, it was enjoyable to cheer these two on. And it was fitting. Fiona and I, without sounding too cocky are the fastest triathletes in town and a married couple supporting another soon-to-be married and arguably the fastest two runners in town. I thought that was cool but I say this with respect for them, for our peers, and for both of our sports. After all, I could never run as fast as them and I admire them for it! And best of luck to them in the Gold Coast Marathon and trail running championships!

The sun is setting and we just past Ballarat. Tonight we see the hilarious Ryce at the Melbourne Comedy Festival after a dinner of dumplings. Then tomorrow we’ll be on the same flight back to Alice with our running mates.

With just under 8 weeks to go and no more intermittent holidays, I’m going to take from this renewed focus to join my crew mates of Duncan, Nat, Fiona, and Chelsea and see how I can go in the 2017 Cairns Ironman. Life is too short to sit on your ass. Get out there and do something. And the chocolate rabbit is dead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s