27 September, 2012

A world of rivers

This Sunday, 30th September, 2012 is:
The Barwon River, Geelong at sunset
Despite having maintained this blog for over a year and a half, I had not until recently heard of this celebration of all things river-related. A little research on the topic tells me that World Rivers Day is held on the last Sunday in September every year and was first held in 2005.
The idea grew from an earlier initiative in British Columbia: BC Rivers Day, which was first held in 1980 and was the idea of renowned river conservationist Mark Angelo. The aim of the day was to highlight the importance of rivers not only to humans but to recognise the role they play in the wider environment. The day provided an opportunity for community groups to focus on river health issues, get involved with clean up activities and revegetation programs or just to get to know their local river a little better.
The Barwon River flowing high, Bunyip Pool, Buckley Falls
So, when the United Nations launched their Water For Life Decade in 2005 Angelo felt that an international day recognising the importance of rivers around the world would compliment some of the aims of the UN. It was from this concept that World Rivers Day was born.
With all of this in mind, I thought it would be timely to put together a post on this blog to highlight what Geelong and the other communities along the Barwon are doing to bring the community together to celebrate the event...

The Moorabool River, Batesford
Well, I searched high, I searched low, I searched here and I searched there.
I discovered that the Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority who are responsible for the management of that "other" Barwon River in the north are holding a community breakfast barbeque at Inverell on the banks of the Macintyre River (an extension of the northern Barwon River) which will also include interactive water testing and other educational activities designed to inform the local community of the various river rehabilitation projects underway and to increase awareness of environmental issues as they relate to local waterways.

The Leigh River, Inverleigh
The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority wanted to tell me about World Environment Day, International World Wetlands Day and even National Threatened Species Day, but neither they nor any of the other government or community groups with an interest in our Barwon River wanted to tell me anything at all about World Rivers Day. Parks Victoria didn't seem to know, nor did any of the "Friends of" groups, The City of Greater Geelong or Geelong Otway Tourism.
The one exception to this complete lack of information was a little group very familiar to me: Geelong Runners. In recognition of the day, they are hosting a barbeque and run around the river trail(10am-2pm this Sunday, 30th September at Barwon Valley Fun Park on the river). Run or walk as much or as little as you like. You are never too old - or too young - to start running, so come and join us!

22 September, 2012

A mill story!

Okay, enough of running for the moment! Time to get back to some local history with "a mill story" which for the record I am informed, is an old phrase referring to a piece of dubious gossip.
A couple of weeks back, I was involved in a very informative and extended exchange concerning flour mills in and around Fyansford and of course, the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. For anyone interested, read this post and the comments attached thereto.
After quite a bit of scrounging through on-line sources, discussion and a little deduction my co-theorist and I reached some conclusions about flour milling in Fyansford in the mid-19th century.
The first problem we came up against in trying to sort out who owned what, when and where was the following statement which appears repeatedly on many sites, including some which should be relatively authoritative:
"In 1845 the first flour mill was erected by William Henry Collins on the banks of the Barwon."
Now, this statement is not as it turns out in and of itself incorrect. Collins did in fact open a flour mill on the Barwon in that year. The Union Steam Flour Mill. However, rather than being at Fyansford as is implied on various websites, this mill was located in Geelong next to where the Albion Woollen Mill was built, close to what is today, the James Harrison Bridge. This early flour mill eventually became the Union Woollen Mill which I have mentioned in a previous post. For the record, Collins also went on to establish the Collins Bros. Woollen Mill in the same area some years later.
Looking south towards the site of the Fyansford Steam Flour Mill,
September, 2012
All this however, is a separate issue to the Fyansford Steam Flour Mill which was built in the town of Fyansford.
This building was a 3 storey bluestone structure overlooking the banks of the Moorabool River. On 26th July, 1855, The Argus newspaper in describing Fyansford referred to "a very complete flour-mill". Records will show that the land on which the mill was built and the nearby Flour Mill House which still stands, were purchased by GJ Barthold at Fyansford's first land sales in 1854. Barthold and a business associate by the name of T Lowe appear to have run the mill until 1861 at which point they were declared insolvent and the mill sold. Exactly when this mill was built is not clear, but presumably it was not until the much later date of 1854 (not 1845) when Barthold bought the land.
To complicate things somewhat, by 1873 William Henry Collins to whom the building of the mill is wrongly attributed, was indeed the owner. In the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser of 25th July, 1873 refers to "his [Collins'] mill at Fyansford". Whether he purchased it in 1861 when Barthold and Lowe went bust I cannot determine.
According to the Victorian Heritage Database (which is one of those responsible for perpetuating the myth that Collins built the mill), following on from Collins' tenure, the mill passed through various hands, serving at one point as a dance hall before being demolished in 1930. The associated Mill House (pictured below) has however survived to the present day.
Flour Mill House, Atkins St, Fyansford September, 2012

All this is of course, not to be confused with the 5 storey bluestone Barrabool Flour Mill which was built in about 1851 (perhaps as early as 1849 if some sources are to be believed) by John Highett. This water-powered mill was situated on Mount Brandon Peninsula overlooking the Barwon River about 1.5km upstream of the confluence of the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. It is about 1km from Fyansford as the crow flies  and on the opposite side of the Barwon.

The Barrabool Flour Mill, held by the State Library of Victoria
And for the sake of completeness, the Barwon Paper Mill and its associated water race both of which still stand today on the Barwon, were built quite some years later in 1875 and are located a few hundred metres downstream from Highett's flour mill and on the opposite bank.

21 September, 2012

Running around in circles

On Sunday in near perfect running conditions, I ran my 5th official half marathon. In many ways it was the same and yet different. As with the others, the race was staged by the Geelong Cross Country Club but came without the fanfare and the numbers of competitors of the Geelong Half Marathon which is held on the first Sunday after Easter each year.
This race was a little more intimate as the field was much smaller and for those members of the Cross Country Club who ran, it was a handicap race. For the rest of us (invitational runners) it was a scratch race.
I was delivered to the start line in enough time to collect my race kit - number and chip only no promotional freebies, caps or t-shirts here, this was definitely the economy version half. It didn't take long to find my fellow Geelong Runners and after a bit of a chat and a pre-race briefing we were off.

Start of the DeGrandi Cycle and Sport Half Marathon, 16th September 2012
This race was quite different for me in several respects. Firstly, the route, whilst still around the Barwon River Trail, was a loop course consisting of a short out and back section followed by two laps of a roughly 9.5km circuit starting just downstream of the Moorabool St Bridge. The loop took us down to Breakwater and over the old bridge, back up to Princes Bridge on the east and north bank of the river before crossing again to the opposite bank and heading back to Moorabool St. Whilst it was not perhaps as scenic as the full course run in the race after Easter, this was a slightly easier run as it included only the flattest section of the trail.
DeGrandi Cycle and Sport Half marathon about 2km into the race
Secondly, I have never competed in a race whilst running in company before. This meant that the first several kilometres were spent chatting and settling into what turned out to be a very comfortable pace before we each found our rhythm and spread out a little. Also in contrast to previous runs, I did all the right things. I settled for a comfortable pace from the start, I carried a gel for later in the race to fend off those lead-legs which I knew from experience were waiting for me somewhere near the 16km mark, I slowed down enough to drink all the water in the cup at the drink stations and just generally stuck to my own pace.
It felt like a really good run and I certainly enjoyed it - until I crossed the finish line and saw my time which was my slowest official time by some 35 seconds. Somehow, I had managed to run faster over the significantly warmer and slightly more uneven course in April than I did on Sunday. No wonder it felt so comfortable! Despite telling myself prior to the race that the time didn't matter, that I hadn't run the full half marathon distance since the race at Easter and that I was only doing the run as a warm up for the planned run in from Queenscliff to Geelong the following Sunday (stay tuned...) I was still unimpressed!
Clearly I have not achieved that final aim outlined in my last blog post and a good deal more therapy is still required. I'm hoping some of it will come in the form of an entertaining concept in charity fun runs which is about to hit Australia's shores. This is the Color Run Australia which has just arrived from the US.
Photo of Color Runners from the US taken from the Color Run website
The basic concept is that you start a 5km race in white clothes and each time you pass a kilometre marker, you are bombarded with (guaranteed non-toxic) paint powder. The colour is different at each kilometre so by the end you come out looking rather like the victim of a very colourful explosion.
Color Run events are planned for most capital cities and some of the larger regional towns across the country in the coming months. The date for Melbourne has just been announced as 25th November, 2012 and registrations are now open.
This should be one fun run where posting a good time is not even vaguely important!

14 September, 2012

Running on empty

My last two blog posts looked at who I run with and how I run. Now I want to look at why I run. The reason being that for quite some time I have struggled for motivation, which of course begs the question: why do I bother?
Well, that's easy to answer. Firstly, I like the benefits of being fit, secondly, I don't want to say "I used to be able to run ??km..." and thirdly, I am a competitive beast. Not particularly fast, but competitive none-the-less.
Geelong Half Marathon 2011
I also know why I started running - because I was already fit and I wanted to make sure I stayed that way. I am not a runner by nature. If I had to run to get fit, then I would never be fit. Staying fit is a struggle if all I do is run. No, I'm really a netballer (the Aussies and Kiwis will know what I mean and possibly the Poms and Jamaicans). For several years I have routinely played multiple games of social netball per week at a variety of levels.
About four years back I decided that some distance running would improve my endurance on the netball court. I was right, it did. It still does. It helps me run the legs off the guys when I play in mixed competitions and the women half my age in most of the other comps. I can't be taller and I can't be younger, but I can be fitter and faster and maybe occasionally I can be a bit smarter.
I play netball five days per week and squeeze in a run (or maybe two) somewhere in between.
At the start, the running was a nice change and didn't take too long, but then it began to take on a life of its own. First, I progressed to short fun runs and then to half marathons. If I didn't do at least a 15km run per week, then I'd slacked off. Times mattered too - not that they were anything special.
I ran my fastest half marathon in April 2010, then promptly tore my calf playing netball and four weeks later broke my hand. The injuries recovered but my times never quite did, nor did my motivation.
Whilst I was researching running cliches for the title of this (and probably subsequent running-related posts), I came across the following t-shirt slogan:
Garmin running slogan
Okay, so I don't wear a Garmin, but the same goes for my Nike Sportband. I wanted to know how far and how fast and anything which affected my time was not welcome! And assuming I was running a reasonably familiar course - say, oh...around the Barwon... after the run I could tell from the change in pace on my Sportband roughly where I was at any given point.
The problem with all this was the expectation it created. If I didn't run fast enough, I wasn't happy. So, I decided it was time for a change. But what to change?
Well, I could change my route. That was reasonably easy. I could still incorporate some sections of the river, but also include other trails like the Bellarine Rail Trail, the Waterfront and Eastern Gardens, the linear trail along the old train line from the Fyansford Cement Works to North Geelong, even a couple of laps around good old Kardinia Park. Perhaps one day when they complete the loop I'll even run out to Corio on the Ted Wilson Ring Road Trail and come back via the Waterfront. Incidentally, I've marked most of these routes using Google Maps at this address which is listed under the "riding/walking trails" option in the "links" section of this blog.
Distance? Well, that was another easy change. One long run became a couple of shorter runs each week. Running 5 or 6km to my coffee shop of choice seemed like a reasonable incentive. Running to meet the family for a picnic here and there worked too.
Corio Bay - not a bad view for a run
What else? Well, I had never really run with a group before, so I decided to give it a try. I didn't want a competitive environment, but I figured having a time and a place to start running on a regular basis and someone to do it with might help so I joined Geelong Runners. Once again, it did help. I am now running more, my distances are starting to creep back up and I have found some great new people to run with.
The other thing I could do was to change my pace. Now that was easier said than done and something I am still struggling with. If I was running with the group, if I chose a new route which didn't come with a time to beat then pace wasn't really a problem. But there were still the timed runs with results posted at the end for all to see.
I hate not posting a PB and the above picture sums up most of my problem! A problem I will have to face on Sunday when I run the next half marathon which is being hosted by the Geelong Cross Country Club. I have been advised that I shouldn't worry about my time and that I should feel pleased for the people who out run me - and there will be plenty. Needless to say, this was not a concept which had occurred to me before, but one perhaps with which I will need to become better acquainted on Sunday.

05 September, 2012

Running naked!

Well, no, not precisely naked - but more running without distractions and unnecessary equipment, allowing runners to interact more with those around them and with their environment.
This is the philosophy of the Naked Runners as they like to call themselves. In reality they are Silas Moss (an exercise scientist) and Dave Robertson (a physiotherapist) both from Newcastle and they have made it their mission to get people moving more and having fun at the same time.
Reading their blog made me think about what kind of runner I was. I'm not exactly a naked runner in the purest sense. I do measure distance and time with my Sportband and I do wear traditional running shoes. The purists would have us wear no shoes at all as shoes change our natural running style. My husband is somewhere in between. He wears Vibram FiveFingers - monkey feet as we like to call them - which are a little like foot gloves.
Vibram Fivefingers
In some respects however, I am a naked runner. I don't wear a heart rate monitor, carry a phone (unless I'm running to a coffee date), take fluids or gels (there's always a drinking fountain somewhere if I need one) or even wear loose clothing as I find it flaps around and distracts me or makes me far too hot. But most importantly for me, I don't run with music. I did for a while when I first got into running, but I soon found I'd really rather listen to the sounds around me - usually on the Barwon where of course I have done the majority of my running.
For instance, the sound of someone on a fast moving bike approaching from behind is always something I'd prefer to hear! But aside from safety concerns, listening to the sounds of the plants (yes) and animals and the river itself can be fascinating.
Sunset on the Barwon
Whenever I am by the river - run, walk or ride - I always count how many species of birds I can see or hear. Trying to keep track of which I've seen tends to take a little of my mind off what my lungs are trying to tell me while I'm running. Not surprisingly, I notice far more whilst walking than running or riding.
Other sounds along the river can also be of interest and are often weather- dependant. Wind tends to blow away most of the birds, but brings the noise of the trees to the fore. Running under the sheoaks on a windy day is almost like moving into another world. Their sound is unmistakable - as is the sensation of bare skin being stabbed by their falling needles! Now, there's a sensory experience! Likewise, on a still, overcast day when the Currawongs congregate in the sheoaks the tension is palpable.
Pied Currawong
Snippets of conversation from passing pedestrians can also be intriguing. As a couple jogged past me the other day I heard him say to her: "the first 21km shouldn't be too hard..." Who was he kidding?? Marathon runners I'm thinking.
So, I'm not exactly a naked runner, more a minimally clad runner perhaps. Now I'm off to have a think about how and why I run...perhaps there's another post in it...

02 September, 2012

Running riot!

I don't know whether it is the weather, the change of season or any number of other reasons, but there seems to be rather an upsurge in the amount of running happening around town and along the Barwon at the moment. This is a good thing - really!
I have also noticed an increase in the number of people saying that they want to run, but either can't find a suitable group to run with, don't know how to get started or - as in my case - were struggling to find the motivation to get back into some sort of running form. Hopefully this post, whilst not exhaustive will address a few of these issues.

Around the bend at Balyang Sanctuary
Of course there are the running groups which are well established and have been around for a long time, such as the Geelong Cross Country Club which hosts the annual Geelong Half Marathon around the river. The club makes regular use of the river - having its clubrooms just near the Moorabool Street Bridge - and many of the other trails around town, the Bellarine Peninsula and beyond. Their season starts with the half marathon which is held each year on the first Sunday after Easter and continues with a race each Sunday morning until about September.
Geelong Half Marathon 2012
Then there is the Geelong Run Club which meets each Tuesday evening at 5:45pm for a 6pm start at The Running Company, Shop 2/222 Pakington Street, Geelong West. They run from there up and over the Melbourne Road and railway line to Western Beach and then head round to Eastern Beach before returning along the same course, covering a distance of between 5-6km. They advertise a variable pace and an atmosphere of fun and participation and have been around for a few years now.
In addition, there are any number of individuals who find their own routes around town and a variety of private groups who do their own thing. Recently however, there have been some new additions to the running fraternity. First of all, back in July we saw the opening of the Troop Loop. Not a running group, but an improvement on the running facilities available for those wanting to run between Breakwater and Newtown.
Doing a reverse Troop Loop?
At about the same time, I was given a heads up by an old netballing foe about a new running group due to start on a Saturday morning by the river. And thus the Parkrun phenomenon came to Geelong. For the uninitiated, the Parkrun concept evolved from a single race established in England in 2004. Since then, it has grown into a series of timed, 5km runs held weekly in countries around the world. Each Parkrunner registers on-line and receives a unique barcode. At the end of each race, this is scanned and results are posted on individual Parkrun websites. There is no cost to participants as Parkrun is supported by sponsors and administered by volunteers. It is pitched to be accessible to everyone from kids and beginners to experienced athletes.
Geelong's first Parkrun was held on 26th August, 2012 around a course starting by the Barwon at Balyang Sanctuary, heading downriver to the Moorabool Street Bridge, crossing over and heading back upstream to cross again at Princes Bridge before a short dash to the finish line. I completed my first Parkrun yesterday morning (1st September, 2012), finishing 21st out of a mixed field of 69 runners.
For those with time to spare after the run (it is not a race), there is always an invitation to coffee at the nearby Barwon Edge Cafe.
Jogging out of the sunset
In the meantime however, as I waited for Parkrun to arrive, I saw a small article in the newspaper about another running group which was just beginning. Calling themselves Geelong Runners (or more fully, the Geelong Social Running Club), they ran from the BBQ area in the Eastern Gardens at 5:30pm (soon to be 6pm as the days grow longer) on a Wednesday afternoon and 9am on a Saturday morning. They were happy to accept anyone from experienced runners to absolute beginners.

Less intimidating that an established group, covering a relatively short distance, accepting of all levels of ability, free of charge and starting at the reasonably respectable time of 9am on a Saturday. This sounded like just the thing to improve my failing motivation.
So, on a cool morning just over a month ago I joined Geelong Runners and now on most Saturday mornings I pull on my runners and head for the gardens. And yes, it worked! My motivation is back. They are indeed a varied group. Coming from across the globe and with ages spanning about four decades, they range from complete novices to runners with considerable experience and skill. For the quicker runners it is a leisurely workout, but from little things, larger things grow and those of us who are up for it have since been on some longer runs with more in the offing.
Alternatively, for those perhaps with limited time or "commitment issues", there are the one off fun runs which crop up each year. They are often sponsored charity events and open to all ages and fitness levels.
In February, Geelong hosts its own Multi Sport Festival, incorporating a variety of events including 5km and 10km fun runs along the Waterfront in aid of the Give Where You Live charity.
Not a bad place for a run! Looking across Corio Bay at  the Eastern Gardens.
During March, the Australian arm of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team stage a run around a loop course on the Barwon between Princes and Queen's Park Bridges, over 6km, 12km or 18km distances. This can be a handy warm up for the Geelong Half Marathon which is usually only  a few weeks later.
On Mother's Day each year, Geelong stages its own version of the Mother's Day Classic, the largest community fundraiser for breast cancer research in Australia. The Geelong event is a 4km or 8km walk or run around the Eastern Gardens.
However, the biggest annual fun run  is the Cotton On Foundation's Run Geelong, held in November it offers a 6km or a 12km course taking in the sights of the bay, the river, Eastern Gardens and the hallowed turf of Simmonds Stadium - home of the Cats. Established by Lee Troop in 2009, it is a major fundraiser for the Geelong Hospital's Children's Ward.
Possibly one of the longest runs around would have to be the Bellarine Rail Trail Run. This is a return course along the Rail Trail from Queenscliff to Drysdale (17km event) and back (34km event). It is a free training run - not a race - which was originally held along the full length of the track from the Geelong Show Grounds to Queenscliff. It became an out and back event when safety concerns and the logistics of an increasing field size became a problem for the organisers. The total distance remains the same.
And then finally, if you haven't spent enough time running throughout the year, there is one last chance to get a run in before the start of each new year with the Dawnbusters Fun Run, which as the name suggests is run early on the morning (a 7 am start) of 31st December. It is a 5km course around the Waterfront hosted jointly by the Geelong Cross Country Club and Give Where You Live.
The links below will take you to the websites for the particular clubs or events:



Mother's Day Classic 2007 (Sport Event)
 Geelong Mulit-Sport Festival 8-10 February 2012