As runner knows processes of getting to goals can’t be achieved through shortcuts. The countless hours on the roads, trails or tracks all add up to trying to reach a set goal. Planning for this is made easier these days through a plethora of online apps meticulously plotting a course towards a sub 4 hour marathon or a sub 2 hour half. Yet these plans always seem to overlook something that I know I use to aid my preparation for the bigger events that I always circle on the calendar for a coming year.
It’s no secret that my aims revolve around marathons and even further distances. Yet getting there for me wouldn’t be possible without running smaller, shorter events several weeks out from the event. This blog hopefully may answer a few questions based on my experiences as to why running in an event before the big days of the year is more helpful than just another dull boring training weekend.
REASON 1: THERE’S NOTHING LIKE RACE PRACTICE
It sounds rather obvious when you think about it and put it into practice. Sure there’s a buzz when you run for long distances by yourself or with others leading into major events. In theory it’s also the cheap alternative when these smaller events given half marathons in Australia can cost anywhere between $A50 and $A75. Yet replicating race pace when all you have is an open road, an open app and perhaps a cheap pair of earphones is a whole lot different to doing it when there are hundreds sharing the same surface at varying speeds.
Of course these smaller events (gee it sounds almost disrespectful saying that) are often run in the same manner (and sometimes better) than your goal event. It can be intimidating to some to use shared toilet facilities, or being confident enough to utilise bag drop. The enthusiasm of those at water stations can often be better motivation than trying to reach a distance because an app says you have to run this far to reach this goal. Finally, if you are a little more advanced and have game plans set for later runs, this is the best way to test them.
REASON 2: GET OUT AND EXPLORE
Familiarity and comfort can certainly assist in training, after all running the same paths in order to gauge your progress has been effective for many (I know I’ll be running a 10km course sometime this week that I ran last week to see if I have improved fitness levels for example). Yet there’s always a part of you that has that sense of adventure and running elsewhere, particularly under race conditions, can be liberating. It’s incredible where some runs can take you, I know the second ever race run that I did was in Geelong, not all that far from Melbourne where I was born yet a city that I had very limited exposure to. You may even see parts of cities that you may only ever visit through sheer boredom, yet discover that this area has its own charm!
Of course it does help being based away from major cities that I have to travel in order to use events as training. If you find that where you are residing is about as exciting as staring at mould in the bathtub, then there’s nothing like heading elsewhere for the soul. Plus it also helps with the frequent flyer miles!
REASON 3: PASSING THE CHECKPOINT
Every year the City2Surf in Sydney is a goal event for the majority of the 80000 that take part, and with the iconic status and the start and finish precincts there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. For me however this event usually signifies the beginning of the tilt towards another Melbourne Marathon. Other times you may do events such as Brisbane’s Twilight Run in March to kick off the tapering period in anticipation for Canberra’s suite of events. It’s so easy to get carried away in building up the distance in the legs that you forget when events actually are (as opposed to entering events and forgetting to train before realising there’s 3 weeks to go, that’s another story).
REASON 4: EXTRA GOODIES!
I know there are some that enter events motivated by picking up freebies. Some are satisfied with a free feed like they have after Point to Pinnacle where I am once again amongst the entries. Others look for free or discounted vouchers to businesses such as massage parlours. A number of events have merchandise thrown into the price, although as I mentioned last blog entry I’m still confused over why an event would send you a finishers T-Shirt BEFORE you even cross the start line. I know I still have finishers T-Shirts from the Gold Coast that I wear often, and train in Twilight run singlets (and this year’s long sleeved top) which do the job as effectively as an expensive muscle top from a so called big brand name company.
Which brings me to the main reason why I’m doing this blog entry, the Bay Twilight Run at Wynnum which kicks off again this Saturday. The fact that it returned to a Saturday run as opposed to a Sunday run last year lured me back. The fact that work commitments prevented me from doing the Sydney Half Marathon last weekend means this so called small event takes on greater significance heading into Melbourne. I anticipate performing better this weekend that I did at the “Brother” event (well if the event spawning from similar runs are known as Sister events then why can’t I use this terminology?) given the relative freshness compared to March when football and training for Ultra Marathon distances didn’t help. Like Perth’s City to Surf I have a goal in mind in terms of time, although this time this will relate to the finish as opposed to the midpoint of the event. Training has been a little sloppy at times, not getting the distances that I want in a single run until the last couple of weeks, but this event will likely be one of a trio of runs beyond 20km that I anticipate doing prior to October 16. Therefore the motivation to do well is there, knowing that I need to hit this distance in order to get close to the sub 4 hour goal in Melbourne that I’m desperate for. Expect a debrief of some description sometime early next week folks, and feel free to remind me if I don’t come up with the goods!
When many people think of the City to Surf, they’ll probably and rightly tell you that they’ve either never heard of it or they’ll associate it with the iconic event in Sydney that I’ve now completed 4 times. Yet last weekend I was able to do it all over again, this time over a longer distance and across the other side of the country. Sure there were fewer participants, but I wonder how many can say they’ve run both August runnings of the City to Surf on either side of the continent? (Yes Darwinites, I’m aware of your City to Surf and one day when the schedule allows I’m coming to conquer that as well)
The journey to get there was my typical exercise in mismanagement. Getting a train to Brisbane less than an hour after having worked a full shift sorting mail was bad enough. Then waiting around in Brisbane all afternoon before it was early enough to get to the airport with 13kg of luggage was worse. At least I got a row to myself on the big A330 although the rain upon landing at Perth on the stroke of midnight didn’t fill me with confidence. Well maybe I’m lying a little, I don’t mind a little rain, but the winds that came with it were what got me concerned.
It was a positive Saturday even though a plan to join in a local parkrun fell through (I loved the little sleep in until 9:30 local time, and I forgot my barcode anyway that would have recorded the time. Funny how I’ve never done the local parkrun yet have joined in the Cairns version once and may do the same in other cities). At least part of the mission for the weekend was accomplished. Like last year I am going to be wearing a pair of shoes not previously worn in a race (rest assured the breaking in process has begun however). Unlike last year when I opted for a New Balance pair of clogs, I found a nice pair in the Asics range that hasn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Obviously I was going to use the well worn NB pair on Sunday which served me reasonably well throughout the year.
Sunday dawned dry but cold and windy, and unlike other events I also had to pack my room given the schedule wouldn’t allow me to return before I was scheduled to depart Perth that evening. The process took longer than anticipated, and despite the short distance from apartment to baggage drop I felt I had to run in order to get a decent warm up in as well as get the baggage sorted before it blasts off to the finish area at City Beach. I always intended to leave an older jumper at the start area as well so the top would at least stay warm until about 15 minutes to go time, so hopefully someone less fortunate than myself is enjoying a little warmth from my generosity.
At almost precisely 6AM WST, the gun blasted and the small field compared to many of the other runs I do set off for the whole 42km. It is a course of contrasts, the first half basically flat although exposed in many areas to the Swan River, the sections within the carparks of the University of WA being the main exception. Then after passing through the start area with the crowds building before the half marathon and the main 12km event start, it’s basically rolling hills through Kings Park and onward to the finish. With Melbourne being the main goal and the fact I was using this as a training run, the aim was to post a decent split at the half way mark then coast to the finish without expending too much gas.
The first part of the deal was pretty easy to accomplish. Thankfully the winds that were strong in the warm up were not as bad as I anticipated and I was able to get a decent mid race split. I even remembered to lower the shades from the visor to the face as the sun rose, something easy to forget when in the midst of the run. Rather than try to sprint kilometres 19-21 on the course as I did last year, I decided to try to maintain the steady tempo to get what I wanted yet leave a little for the second half. The official 20km split came in at 1:49, which equated to a 1:54 first half. My Strava app comfirmed that the tempo was nice and consistent, so mission accomplished…..
At least the first half anyway. Now for the coast to the finish at my own leisure. I decided to walk up many of the hills before trotting gracefully down at a slower tempo. The plan worked OK with other like minded participants alongside for the ride (he sounded like an Englishman). There were also times where I came to a standstill in an attempt not to impede the lead competitors in the half marathon, whose course was much like ours for a number of kilometres. About a 8 kilometres from home I started feeling some pain in my knee, although it wasn’t the knee I was expecting to feel pain from. Before the Sydney City2Surf I actually had trouble waking up thanks to pain in the right knee. Figuring that prevention was better than the cure, I decided to go a little old school and put a brace over the knee. Little did I expect that the pain in my left knee would make the uphill sections approaching and passing the Challenge Stadium complex more than challenging. I did manage to jog some flatter sections of the course but the finish line couldn’t come quick enough.
Amazingly I even managed to reach the line a minute quicker than the previous year, but then the issues really began. Bending the knee became a near impossibility, although I somehow managed to find terra firma on my posterior. A quick session with a masseuse at least gave me some movement in the area, although the pain was still present when I limped for a coffee (I still shake my head over why I drink it) then towards the buses which were better managed this year compared to 12 months ago. It took the best part of a week before the knee became relatively pain free, and Melbourne is still on the agenda, but if the problem reappears in any of the last 3 events on the 2016 agenda (Point to Pinnacle and City2Sea are the others I’ve entered) I may have to swallow some pride to seek professional advice. In the interim the knee has pulled up well from some of the training runs I’ve managed to do, and hopefully a torture test this Saturday (2 hours plus) will ensure I can pass my own mind’s fitness test.
First of all let me apologise for the lack of content recently. Maybe as I get older I get overly forgetful in doing what I do best for the readers out there. Now that the schedule is opening up a little away from the running I should be able to keep everyone updated. The build up to Melbourne, which is as usual the Grand Final for me, is well and truly on so stay tuned here for all the latest.
Last Sunday saw yet another running of the world famous City2Surf. This year’s renewal was buried by a small time event in Rio de Janeiro which I doubt will take the world’s attention as it claims (JUST KIDDING!). Heck this year the entry process was condensed with the early bird period that usually opens in January not opening until April. Still for many it meant that it was harder to forget that you actually entered and it took the mailing of your bib to remind you to head to Sydney.
By this time having raced the course a number of times I didn’t really need any course familiarisation. At least that was the case until a few days prior to departure when the course map indicated a change to the final approach. Instead of taking the whole road adjacent to Bondi Beach, the left hand hairpin turn was brought forward from the roundabout to an area before an intersection into Bondi Mall. Still that wasn’t going to cause concern on race day, with where I would be planning the final kick the only alteration needed.
The routine was usually well-rounded, but unlike the last couple of years when I used basic budget accommodation, I splashed out on an apartment in Pitt Street close to Wynyard station. It meant that instead of walking to the start line as I had done in previous years, I would take advantage of the bib being a train ticket, to travel 2 stops on Sydney’s city loop from Wynyard to St.James skipping through Circular Quay. Again I didn’t see this as an issue.
My first sign of trouble was when I woke up on schedule at 4AM. Sure I have tried to manage niggles throughout the footy season as well as anyone, but with everything relatively healthy (an Achilles issue having been overcome earlier in the week) I wasn’t anticipating having pain in my knee on race morning. There were no warning signs of it happening, for I had walked with no impediment the previous day. A shower and the walk to Wynyard freed the knee up to walk, but there was still pain by the time I reached the Hyde Park precinct. Fortunately a small convenience store stocked some Nurofen to at least put my mind at ease.
Then came an issue that would have a bigger effect on the younger generation than older runners. Normally I would listen to a playlist on the iPod to both serve to pump me up yet calm my nerves. There were problems however getting the earphones to properly connect in the jack. In my desperate attempts to listen to some tunes I tried to squeeze the area around the input with my teeth…..and a crack confirmed the screen had been tempered with beyond its limit. I’ll probably purchase a replacement in the coming days, having that Nano for about 2 years was a good run anyway.
Thankfully on what was a cool morning the warm up freed my knee up to the extent where I was able to perform final stride throughs behind the start area in Park St. It was probably a waste of time waiting for about 25 minutes in the pack waiting to start, certainly I still had the earphones in whilst The Veronicas were trying to get people interested in them. I guess the organisers didn’t learn from the RedFoo disinterest from a couple of years ago, but perhaps those in later start waves may have been stimulated better than I was.
We started on time and I ran according to plan pre-Heartbreak Hill. Whilst many others were either utilising their superior top end speed or looking to go like the clappers early wasn’t my concern. All I was looking to do was to get into a comfortable fast rhythm and find space by the time I reached the Kings Cross tunnel. As per the plan I steadily ignored the drink stations that many others crowded around. As is usually the case in my training, my aim is to be able to run comfortably for at least 8-10km before looking for refreshments, and it is something that if others are looking to replicate I suggest that you train to do it first before trying it in a race.
Heartbreak Hill usually arrives about half an hour into the run. For many it’s time to slow down to crawling pace if not slower. From my perspective, it’s time to keep a good tempo and pick my way through the traffic. Usually I tend to take about 8 minutes or so to complete the climb, and again this proved to be the case. The trickiest part is not so much the climbing and the elevation change, but trying to pick the quick lines up the hill whilst negotiating the slower runners and/or walkers. I know I dislike running up the middle of the hill preferring to choose one side of the road, but when hundreds of people are in the way going at variable speeds that generally are slower than your own, the ability to run close to the middle of the road is important. Practising for this however is almost impossible unless you know of a secluded hill where traffic seldom occupies the road.
Unfortunately like last year it was the section coming off the peak of the climb which cost me a decent time and has caused me disappointment (and that’s being kind). It can be a battle to find a tempo to run effectively but basically coming to a standstill at the drink station following the hill wasn’t in the plans. It was anticipated that this would be the only drink stop during the entire run (although in future years I may even consider trying to do the whole lot without a drink), and although I didn’t consume the entire contents of the cup of Hydralite, the delay probably cost me at least a minute in slowing, walking and then regaining the running tempo required.
The last few kilometres was both as expected and not as planned at the same time (if that makes any sense). I expected to make up a little time on the downhill sections in the 12th and 13th kilometre. However I wasn’t able to increase the tempo as I had liked and by the time I glanced at the clock as the final stages approached, I knew I had to try to basically sprint the last kilometre but as I usually do on this course I had spent too many pennies too early and could only retain tempo around the hairpin turn whilst trying to stay out of the way of the North Bondi lifesavers carrying their apparatus as a unit.
When I saw the clock at the final turn before the short chute to the finish, the reaction was one of anger and frustration. The goal time had passed, my efforts were as successful as an Australian swimmer in Rio, and having to run a qualifying time elsewhere to remain in the Red wave for the next year became a reality. Even though the chip time upon later scrutiny of the official times read a 1:10 rather than the gun time of 1:11, both times were not satisfactory to me. Sure I put on a brave face as I accepted a medal more befitting of the event than the guitar pick knock off from 2015 (and I gave the lass who gave me my medal the customary kiss, my tradition it seems is to pick out a lass that hands out medals in order to kiss them). Yes I restrained my disappointment as I collected my gear and wandered across the road for a light breakfast (calling McDonalds a light breakfast isn’t exactly accurate mind you). The bottom line is this was a performance that pride wasn’t an emotion I felt and no person can change that feeling.
The questions and possible answers that arise from that run I suppose are as follows…
– SHOULD I HAVE PAID MORE ATTENTION TO RUN SPECIFIC TRAINING?
Certainly shift rotation and interrupted sleep patterns during a working week don’t help and the distraction of training for and playing footy means endurance training can go out the window. Perhaps I need to manage it better in future years although I do realise that getting enough sleep to be effective in work and recreation is vital. The fact that I had a hamstring problem a month out from the event didn’t help but I was able to do a 5km Parkrun in Cairns a week later without any pain blows that injury excuse out of the water.
– IS THIS RUN GOING TO BE USEFUL WITH REGARDS TO FUTURE EVENTS?
The result certainly isn’t going to alter future plans to tackle events for this year. Physically I am OK and training will resume shortly. Melbourne is still the main goal but there are a couple of other race runs to come before that and there are goals in those runs I’m looking to achieve. For example in Perth I’m looking like last year to run a strong first half with a good time at 21km (around 1:55 would be useful) before coasting to the finish.
– WILL I BE RETURNING TO SYDNEY FOR REDEMPTION, IF ANYTHING ELSE?
Certainly the long term plan at this stage will be to have another crack at the City2Surf. At this point I haven’t looked to see if anything overseas comes up at the corresponding time for future years, given I’m looking away from Australia for events. But this event usually is the opener to the Melbourne Marathon preparations and as long as I am committed to doing that every year then I can’t see why I won’t be doing this either.
– WAS NOT STARTING BRISBANE’S CITY2SOUTH A FACTOR IN THE POOR RESULT?
A date clash with the local Rocky River Run prevented my participation in Brisbane for the first time in that event’s history (this year was the 4th running). The fact that the local event was a longer event made even longer with a marshalling error was better preparation for Gold Coast, which is the main reason why I often do Brisbane. It was more a case of reduced training on hills that didn’t help in the lead in to Sydney.
– SO WHAT IS NEXT ON THE AGENDA?
Next weekend I’ll be in Perth doing their City to Surf Marathon. Naturally I’ll be underdone in terms of kilometres but again I have goals that I would like to achieve that have nothing to do with a finish time. Then comes the Bay Twilight run in September which has thankfully moved back to a Saturday run by popular demand. After Melbourne will be the now annual trek to Hobart for Point to Pinnacle (complete with trip to Bellerive for the Cricket) and a return to Melbourne and the City to Sea just a week after having missed the last couple of editions.
It seems that the first weekend of June is a popular time to hold running events throughout the country. With the Gold Coast Marathon a matter of days away it’s little wonder that people looking to use that as their Grand Final will look for decent lead up runs under race conditions. Naturally with me building up to a 3rd successive appearance on the Coast, a lead up run was essential to the build up in order to get the kilometres in the legs and to get used to race morning procedures.
The choices were eventually narrowed down to 4. In the past 3 years I have ventured down to Brisbane to do their City2South event. Their 14km event (even though it’s measured officially at 13.6 according to many GPS systems) includes elevation changes which provide a good workout, although last year saw numbers down with many complaining that free entries were given away in promotions to build the numbers. I would have been entitled to start towards the front in the fast class just behind the elite runners, but this year the distance would probably have been a little too short.
Other options would have been to be a first time participant at venues where I have spent time in past years. The Mackay Marina Run offers a Half Marathon and would have been relatively easy to get to via Greyhound Bus (although accommodation may have been another matter given I have never spent more than a single night in the town at any stage of my life), whilst the NT version of the City 2 Surf in Darwin may have only gone for 12km, but would have offered different training conditions given the tropical Dry Season would have kicked in. Returning to Darwin to run this event offers appeal in later years for the Northern Territory is the only part of Australia where I haven’t run in any type of event in apart from school carnivals (which really don’t count given participation in these is about as compulsory as they get without being compulsory). Plus Darwin is a nice place to wander around by day if one can handle the humidity and heat.
Despite all of this the local event will often win the day when it comes to where I spend my hard earned on entry fees. After all, I can sleep in my own bed, and not have to shell out anything for public transport or airfares. Usually the Rocky River Run is held on the final weekend of May, but the move to June came as the organisers changed from the Rotary club to the local CTC company. Apart from adding a Zombie run on the Saturday (something that football in Tannum Sands prevented my from taking part in, not that I would have considered running in that anyway) there wasn’t significant change to the courses or start times, so familiarity would be a source of comfort. Race package pick up too was as it was last year, and fortunately for me a Saturday pick up not only helped me on the Sunday morning to focus on the running, but also gave me a chance to even record some thoughts much to the confused looks on the faces of footy team mates. (Yes I do look ugly don’t I!)
Thankfully the wet weather that lashed the East Coast of Australia largely avoided the area (the bigger falls in the Central Queensland actually were inland, where rain is always welcomed), but with the course passing through the Norbridge Park junior World Game complex I thought that the second lap would see the course boggy with runners looking for better ground, particularly with 10km runners hot on our tail. Apart from cool conditions which saw me wear the long sleeved top as opposed to a singlet, the weather was very nice at race start. For once I was able to get a decent warm up, and I wasn’t as anxious as I was at Canberra for example where everything was rushed.
It was a controlled race start as the main contenders would dash off into the distance. I found myself close enough to a good pack of runners just behind a 1:45 pace runner. For once time wasn’t the main aim of this day, but final race position was what I was looking for with a spot inside the top 50 being the pass marker. It was all going smoothly at a nice tempo…..and then came the stuff up.
This blog is not going to cast accusations over whose fault it was for the failing, but being sent in a direction other than what the course was intended to be seemed strange at the time. From what I believe last year there were some that complained that the course was not long enough to be of half marathon distance, and if they had actually read the small print on the maps provided last year they would have been correct with the course being about 300m short for the half marathon. What probably happened was an over correction, where the runners completed a second loop of the Rockhampton Showgrounds before being sent back where we were supposed to go. At the time I didn’t hear anyone else arguing with the SES volunteers manning that corner, concentration on reaching the distance would have been too great and those folks would have been the wrong people to complain to in any case. Perhaps the local press would have been well served to actually ask someone who ran the course for a comment as opposed to organisers who mentioned a second lap around the World Game fields which was as truthful as a politician promising not to lie for 5 minutes in parliament.
With the times out of sync it was a case of just hanging in to the finish. It was a lonely trip up the straight for the first time just as the 10km runners were warming up, which is something I try to avoid. Knowing the PA announcer personally I try to hide so I don’t get embarrassed but as usual I was spotted. Maybe I should have just worn a singlet and dispensed with the zinc across the nose! The second lap basically passed without incident, although the last 3 kilometres were a struggle with the legs still suffering from the footy on the Saturday. Thankfully I managed to pass a few on the second lap which I can’t recall happening in previous years, and the only runners that passed me were running the shorter distance so all I had to do was stay out of their way. In the end a 47th placing was about as good as I could hope for, it was after all within what I would call a good day personally.
It was only then that I checked the Strava app on the phone which had been recording the time and distance (something I won’t be doing for the Gold Coast, worried too much about battery life). Usually I don’t worry about the distance on the iPod, given any type of movement is recorded, heck it even says you’ve run a kilometre if you jog on the spot at a set of traffic lights. When I saw the active distance of 22.7km, and having seen others using the same app also record in excess of 22km, I instantly looked for the facebook page to see if anyone else had similar distances. My mind was eased when I saw that there were a few others that asked about the distance. Of course given that the organisers were in their first year of running the event, teething problems are expected and usually ironed out in their second year. Hopefully next year will be the case, although a change in the course has been rumoured.
As for the preparation for the Gold Coast, the extra distance actually paves the way for me to take on another 2 long runs before the big day in less than 4 weeks time. I’m planning for a 2 week taper, meaning that a long run this Sunday (12 June) and the next (June 19) would be closer to 30 than 20 kilometres. Not having a June long weekend this year in Queensland isn’t helpful in some ways, but I also think my preparation for this year is better than last year’s in so many ways. Touch wood I stay niggle free and hit that start line on the Gold Coast aiming for that sub 4 hour time.
Before I go another reminder of my fundraising efforts for the City2Surf in Sydney. Any donation to Beyond Blue accepted, they’ll be as appreciative as I will be. Visit https://city2surf2016.everydayhero.com/au/mhjeffrey027running-com to give today!
Disappointment can come in many ways, and usually arrives when you least expect it. The build up to what you look forward to often spurs you onto greatness, yet by the end of the event you are left broken both physically and mentally. Regrettably this is an experience I felt as I started, but did not finish, my first attempt at an Ultra Marathon.
It all started so promisingly on race week. The final 40 minute training session was brisk and hit all the targets I had wanted to achieve. The plans were all in place for what I had wanted to do on race day and on the Saturday before. Heck it was the most relaxed I had felt in some time as I slept on the flight from Brisbane to Canberra, then stayed calm as I checked in again to the University of Canberra’s on-campus accommodation, and purchased supplies for the weekend.
Perhaps I may have gotten a little excited on the Saturday before the run. Sure the physical activities were restricted to walking to the nearby Belconnen Westfield centre to purchase sunglasses and a few other things, but perhaps the fuelling went a little OTT. Perhaps the Hungry Jack’s burgers before the whole Crust Pizza for lunch and the early lasagne were to blame (the pre-packaged mashed potato tasted about as appealing as snot on toast and was discarded accordingly after 2 bites). Still I felt good as I managed to retire about 10:30 AM and slept until the 3:00 AM alarm the next morning.
Maybe it was the taxi driver not being as useful as he should have been that had an affect. After all, I’m usually anxious waiting for other vehicular transportation to events such as this. It’s why for events like the City2Surf or the Melbourne Marathon I try to book in a location where walking to the start zone is a viable option. I was dropped off a reasonable walking distance from the start area, but if the cabbie was smart enough to drive via the city as opposed to via the freeway system (half of which was closed off as it was part of the route for the race). Still I managed to get to the start area with enough time to not have to be in a total panic unlike at Wynnum in 2014 so it was still so far so good.
With the time available and the other routines needing to be followed (bag drop and toilet stop amongst others), a proper warm up couldn’t really be done as it would have been had I entered the “normal” marathon. Even chilling out to tunes wasn’t an option for I discovered I had left the earphones in the taxi and a hasty post ultra purchase had to be made. However I consoled myself that the energy not spent on the usual dynamic style warm-up would actually help me later on. As the first signs of light were appearing over Captial Hill, it was time to join about 170 others to start what I anticipated to be a 5 hour slog.
Everything was going perfectly in the first 20km. I was moving at the pace that I had set myself to run, checking the timepiece after a couple of kilometres at first then every 5km or so to ensure I was maintaining what I was looking for. I was content to once again seek out every second drink station as I have almost always done at such races, even though the training had me drinking a lot earlier than anticipated due to the excessively warm conditions. It may have been a lonely slog, but eventually by the time I hit the freeways I was keeping up with a number of others, even passing them on the way.
The slight uphill section towards the turning point at the Northern most point of the course saw me slow to walking pace for the first time, but even through this I was still on track through the 30km marker to achieve the goal. Sadly it wouldn’t be more than 5km later when the worst sign of trouble hit, and hit suddenly. Even though I had troubles with knees leading up to the Twilight Run a few weeks earlier, I contented myself that the injury was a contact injury and that it wouldn’t prevent me running freely when it counted. Indeed for the first 34km there were no signs of any type of injury. But knee problems surfaced very quickly and caused my movement to slow from decent running pace to a limp. I found it was a struggle to effectively put the necessary weight on the knee to continue running.
Foolishly I passed a medical tent at the drinks station signifying 35km, and limped on for another 3km to the next station, which in the ultimate ironical insulting sign was the same place where I had stopped for 10 minutes about 364 days earlier. Last year stopping there was little short of relief, this year stopping there was nothing short of a kick to the balls. All I could do was sit in a chair and await was was known as the “Sad Wagon”, my race officially over, the first DNF of my time as a runner confirmed.
Pride could well have dictated me to walk onwards towards home, although it would have been a struggle for another 2.5 hours and the threat of not making the time cut off to finish would have been real. Of course there was also the future to worry about, where unlike Melbourne when I only had one other event for the year to fulfil, there is too much at stake for future events this year to take the big risk of damaging the knee to an extent where I would require a level of medical assistance that would have meant long periods away from physical activity. Plus there is the fact that my age means that there are plenty of other opportunities in future years to have another crack at the distance. It just may be that doing this in a city where I am not seemingly cursed may be where this happens (nothing against Canberra, it’s just that I haven’t had any luck over the year from running there).
So without a medal to reward me for persistence and with the proverbial tail placed between the legs, I had to somehow limp to a bus stop to catch a bus into town, then collect a cab back to base. The knee took a number of days to recover fully, and I feel no pain in that area today. Unfortunately I was convinced to play a game of footy the next weekend against my better judgement, and rolled an ankle thanks to the strapping not being secure enough. Whilst it hasn’t affected my ability to run, and the Gold Coast campaign has officially started, I still have to manage the pain upon commencing running, a bit like waiting for an engine to warm up. There are just over 9 weeks to go until Gold Coast dawns upon us, and with training already started, redemption for this failure is well and truly the motivation I need to succeed on the big stage.
I promise to write a review of the Canberra Ultra Marathon experience in the coming days (it’s not all positive, stay tuned), but first here’s something I don’t normally do but I figure this year it’s something I should try to support.
Too many of my mates have either had personal problems or even are no longer with us because of the signs of depression taking too much of a hold over their psyche. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s sometimes a sad reality of life that I hate confronting. But these days there are many people and organisations who are at least trying to help each other out by giving a shoulder to cry on, a ear to listen to or a person to converse with to share their problems.
In Australia Beyondblue is the highest profile of these organisations, and many have chosen to raise money doing various activities. One such event is this year’s City2Surf in Sydney. Normally I just do the event taking it seriously enough as a training event for future marathons. This year however I’m going to try to raise a few funds to do my bit to help others. Whilst there is a goal of $750 on the fundraising page stated, to me there is no upper or lower limit to how much I’d like to raise.
Any monetary donations are accepted from now right up until race day on August 14, and even a few weeks beyond that event.
The page to raise money and to find out more is https://city2surf2016.everydayhero.com/au/mhjeffrey027running-com
To find out more information about Beyondblue or if you are struggling to cope with what life is throwing up at you, then visit https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
The City2Surf is on in Sydney on August 14, and stay tuned to this blog closer to the date as the big day in the Harbour City gets closer.
If you can’t remember back 12 months, and let’s be honest many of you readers out there can’t remember what happened 12 minutes ago, the Twilight Run based in the Brisbane suburb of St.Lucia was probably more suited to be held at Wet N Wild on the Gold Coast as opposed to the University of Queensland. With unfinished business and preparation for the big event in Canberra in less than a month away providing the motivation, it was a no brainer to return to UQ for the 2016 renewal of the event.
Much like in 2014, my pre race preparation involved football on the Saturday in Bundaberg. Unfortunately the oppressive conditions at game time and the reduced numbers in our side probably made me use more petrol than I had anticipated. Still the plan to catch the overnight bus from Bundaberg to Brisbane before a train commute to the Gold Coast for a recovery swim went without a hitch. It was during that swim however where doubts over my physical being surfaced, particularly in my right knee and groin areas. I was convinced that the knee was basically bone bruising as opposed to any type of ligament or nerve damage, and I felt I would be able to run through that pain. The groin however required massage treatment, and it wasn’t until I applied some heat cream to the area (making sure I didn’t spread it to more awkward areas which I had done in the past) saw the groin loosen.
It was a relief to see the organisational aspect of the run had improved this year. Last year there were issues with the lack of portable toilets until it was too late for the longer runners, but upon arrival seeing a whole row of loos near the start area (which I never had to use) was a relief. If anything else it meant heading into what was usually the visitors dressing rooms during Rugby season wouldn’t mean fighting the crowds. Bag drop had moved to upstairs into the grandstand this year, which took a little time to find but in it was probably a better area to keep my belongings.
After deciding to wear the long sleeve shirt that I ordered in addition to the singlet (still in the packaging but I intend to use it in training over the course of the year) it was time to enact the race plan. It turned out to be a blessing when my position in the start area was right behind the 1:55 pace runner and his wife. The plan was to run splits that would help me to reach the goal of a sub 5 hour run in Canberra. After all, this event doubled as the best training run I could possibly want.
In thankfully dry conditions (and no threat of rain or storms ever eventuated, must have been a relief to the organisers) I set off with a small group around the pacer at a comfortable tempo. As usual I was looking for fluids every 2nd or 3rd station, a tactic I will look to repeat in Canberra at least for the first half of the event. The kids on the drink stations like in previous years showed greater enthusiasm than a kid who had consumed 10 coffees with 3 teaspoons of sugar in each. We were right on the pace at the halfway point, although the group started to dwindle.
I began to lose a little touch crossing the bridge across the Brisbane River for the second time, but I thought I was going OK and keeping somewhat in contact until the 15km marker. It was at that stage where instead of the right leg starting to show signs of fatigue and hurt, it was the left lower calf region that started to tighten. Despite others trying to persuade me to keep going, I could only jog for about half a kilometre before needing to stop to stretch the calf. What made it worse was that the loop at Yeronga that would make the extra kilometre for the half marathon (the course on lap 1 catered for the 10km racers which once again started at the same time) had a lack of lighting (not so bad for me given where I’ve done early morning training runs in the past) and was made narrower by a World Game match being played at an adjacent venue. It wasn’t easy to stay in the middle of the lane trying to watch out for slower runners/walkers ahead, trying to keep out of the way of quicker runners behind and looking left to make sure you don’t get skittled by a vehicle.
By the time I passed the 20km marker, I had conceded that at least I had matched what I had aimed for with Canberra on my mind, which was breaking 2 hours for 20km. The intention was to cruise towards the athletics track and the finish, but of course I started to increase the tempo with not a lot to gain. I was then considering launching into a cartwheel just for the cameras and the crowds that were still in the venue. The launch was about to take place………….and then came the cramp in the left hamstring. Fortunately I knew it was only a cramp and not a pull or a tear given I’ve had a history of hamstring injuries (one of which I feel completely ruined last year’s program). It took a couple of minutes for the cramp to ease so I could walk somewhat properly, but the leg now feels normal a few days later.
So another Twilight has been done and dusted, another running year has commenced, another pair of legs has been battered into submission so badly training this week has been minimal. Hopefully the legs hold up for the last long run this weekend in Melbourne, where conditions thankfully may be conducive to better training compared to up here!