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COMRADES 2020 – COVID-19 INSPIRED VLOG

Just a blog recorded of thoughts for my upcoming schedule as Covid-19 climbs to levels before a plateau of fresh cases arrives sometime in the next 6 weeks or so (probably, who’s to say?). If there are any further changes or will likely be based on official correspondence rather than social media scuttlebutt which is the primary fear driver.

In case you can’t hear it, the gist is that I’m still intending to travel in June, with possible deletions to the schedule between April and early May.

 

 

 

PORT MACQUARIE – BUSTING FOR THE 3rd TIME

Three races, one day, one challenge, two running tops…..well that last element wasn’t exactly part of the script until the night before the race but we’ll get to that a little later. For the third consecutive year it was off to Port Macquarie for another crack at the Treble Breakwall Buster, which gives runners the chance to run a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km race all in the one day. Once again I’m using this run as part of the Comrades preparation as opposed to, for example, heading to Orange to run their marathon which was something I half considered in planning the whole “Operation Mabhida” last year before deciding it would be easier in terms of transport and logistics to head to the Port.

There were delays that would have made things for the average runner nervous, for the flight out of Brisbane was close to 40 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately with the renovations at Port Macquarie Airport ensuring baggage claim was relatively easy I was still able to make bib collection on the Saturday Afternoon with plenty of time to spare. Perhaps I could have used one of the three vouchers that would have given me a 10% discount on my pre-race shopping at the local IGA Supermarket, but it would have been pointless as the toilet paper allocation was exhausted (not that I need it). It wasn’t until I was laying out the gear that I decided to incorporate a second top (which was a long sleeved footy jumper) for the 10km. I figured that a fresh top may help me complete the 2nd leg a little quicker and that I could then make a choice over what top I want to wear for the final 5km.

Come race morning and the misty rain turned into showers. This was a little more concerning given the course, despite changes to combat congestion on a bridge, still had a fair bit of running on the grass particularly at the start and at the bottom turn of the half marathon loops. Despite the conditions the start went pretty much as planned, and I actually caught up to the pace runner that I wanted to be with almost at the commencement of the second lap. From there it was a case of trying to stay with as many purple bibs as possible, trying to find a little group to run with, but by the finish I was pretty much alone although certainly far from the last to finish.

It was a fairly quick transition which I felt was aided by a rapid top change. I initially tried to get my arms out of the sleeves before entering the finishing chute but found that to be too difficult to do on the run (plus my arms are probably too big to effectively do it quickly anyway). So as soon as I crossed the finish line for the first time the shirt immediately went off, and I managed to get through the crowds (some of them had finished their only run for the day, others were preparing for the 5km, and a few were after the coffee tent) to change shirts, down a water at the recovery table, then trudge off for leg 2. It wasn’t all that pleasant in that I had to stop with reasonable frequency with some soreness in the upper quad/lower groin region. That didn’t stop me from completing the 10km in a pedestrian 1:18 (official times would have it closer to a 1:30 as the clock for each leg started when the gun went off rather than when you crossed the line). Again I was thankful that I was able to see some purple bibs still completing the journey behind me, but I was also extremely mindful particularly on lap 2 of staying out of the way of the leading 5km competitors, which given the race was run on paths with runners coming in both directions, wasn’t as easy as avoiding the front running half marathoners at Perth’s City to Surf for example.

Three fingers signifying three Buster finishes. PHOTO CREDIT: TLC Photography Port Macquarie

The transition between 10km and 5km was a little bit slower, although I was thankful that nobody gave me a tap on the shoulder to say “sorry mate, you can’t continue”. Changing the bib was a little tricky, and I only bothered to pin the top of the bib to the top. I also managed to find the bottle of orange Lucozade which made the start even slower as I was making sure the fluids went down easily. I was able to run much of the 5km leg even if I was disappointed to not go all the way along the breakwall. Yet when I crossed the line I was pretty much on my lonesome, well behind the previous competitor, but well ahead of 15 others which was a change from previous years when I was closer to the last 5. There was even time to run a little bit of the last 200m backwards just for a laugh and to see if anyone noticed (the MC did), but it felt awkward around the final corner so I just wandered across the line to have 4 medals around the neck. Pleasingly this year for the first time, there were no duplicate medals to complete the set when in previous years I ended up getting 2 medals for 10km but no medal for say the 5km.

Apart from the blisters where my big toenails once were and a little fatigue in the legs, everything seemed to be pretty well fine post race. It would be the catalyst for the biggest block of training in the Comrades program, with my aims now being closer to 60-65 kilometres per week over the next month as opposed to the usual 50km. At this stage everything is all systems go, and unless we get told otherwise that we can’t go then I’m certainly planning to board the flight over on what would be the Queen’s Birthday in southern states, much less fly down for the Canberra Ultra at the start of April. For now it’s looking for climbs, hitting some 20km+ training runs, and generally getting myself more ready for this year’s edition than any other in my time running.

PORT MACQUARIE 2020 – RACE EVE

Twas the night before my 3rd run in the Treble Breakwall Buster, and I just had to get a few things off the chest. Looks like a lovely day for a training race run so hopefully everything goes somewhat according to plan.

 

WANGARATTA 2020 – SORT OF HAPPY, KIND OF DISAPPOINTED

First marathon of the year has been done and dusted, which brings the completed marathon tally up to 20 from 22 starts. Of course I normally wouldn’t consider taking on the full marathon distance before March at the earliest in normal circumstances, but I felt that a change in Comrades preparation was needed in a bid to avoid a 4th consecutive non finish. Hence instead of the half marathon that I normally run, the decision was made to step up in distance.

Getting there did hit a couple of snags during race week which I was fortunate to iron out before departing on Friday afternoon. Fortunately my frequent flyer status enabled me to get into Melbourne an hour earlier than originally planned, and I even scored a nice little hotel upgrade for the night….which saw me sleep in and missed the planned parkrun appearance at Parkville. Well I suppose a good night’s sleep after working a 4AM shift all week was in order. The train north to Wang however became a bus journey due to a derailment of the XPT service from Melbourne to Sydney earlier in the week. Not that I was fazed by it but others at Broadmeadows station just after 12PM on a Saturday Afternoon were more confused and impatient after having several buses come and go, but not to their destination. Personally I wasn’t that concerned unless there was a cancellation, which there wasn’t. I did arrive at 3PM, checked into a motel that in reality probably looked a little out of place in a town like Wangaratta (very stylish complete with mini bar), had the almost ritualistic pizza the night before the race (typical Dominos crap, only ate there because it was easy to order online), purchased supplies for the next day, and fell asleep a little later than planned.

Race day was well and truly cooler than the weather had been at any stage in Rockhampton this year, and if anyone asked me how I was the response was always along the lines of “just relieved to be in a place cooler and less humid than home”. Perhaps that was why I went far too quickly for any race plan I had thought about in the first 10km. Sure I knew the course very well as it was the 3rd time I had run here, but as I passed the 10km marker on the first of 2 laps I looked at the phone and shook my head at seeing a time close to the 56:30 marker. I hadn’t gone that fast in training over that distance at all that year, not that I was getting the quality runs over longer distances that others had, and I would have been content with a figure in the 58/59 minute bracket knowing I could probably comfortably run that at least until half distance. Indeed it wasn’t entirely easy to remember to continue going to the left of the course as I entered the race precinct and finish area for the first time knowing I had to cross the start line to begin the second lap. A glance at the clock saw me just outside the 2:05 range which was at the upper end of what I had wanted to achieve through the first half of the day (the aim was somewhere between 1:55 and 2:05), but I knew the second half due to not having had the quality or longer distance training runs would be tougher.

The pace did slacken off in the second half as the legs, particularly the left achilles began to ache without threatening to get any worse. Perhaps I was also overly conscious of getting fluid into the tank during the second half, as I spent probably a little too much time stopped at the drink stations taking in “sports drink” which was in essence fruit cup cordial. I did manage to keep some pace with a few of the other slower competitors as I was just trying to make occasional efforts without referring to the Strava app given the GPS had gone haywire (as seems to be the new norm when running routes for the first time in the year) adding kilometres to the actual distance. That said I was able to get some good mileage and race based training in which I think will help in the long term. The final time of 5:06:19 in the scheme of the race was largely irrelevant, it should be seen as 5:06:19 of training time for the big goal race coming in a matter of months.

I was a little worried about the post race refuelling, and the lack of solids that I seemed to consume compared to what fluids I guzzled down. The only things I had to eat for the entire day of the Wangaratta Marathon, both before and after, was a half a banana both before and after the race, a large chocolate sundae from McDonalds before heading on the bus back to Melbourne (blogger tip: book this train to Broadmeadows and get the public bus to Tullamarine to save big money if you’re booked on a same day flight, even if you have to buy a Myki before getting on board. Trust me you’ll save at least an hour too), a plate of something advertised as “Nasi Goreng with fried shallots” which suspiciously looked like fried rice in the airport lounge and a bag of chips before boarding the plane to the Gold Coast just before 8PM that night (I was hoping there would be something like a chicken sandwich to purchase, no luck). I probably overdosed on fluids post race consuming a Gatorade that I kept in the bag for an after race drink, a small 350mL carton of Chocolate Milk, a 600mL bottle of an orange drink which was closer to a mineral water than a soft drink…and a 1.25L bottle of coke which is something I haven’t purchased and consumed for many years. Not sure what the mindset was when purchasing that, but I’m back to the weight that I was earlier in the year so I guess everything’s relatively OK now.

Now it’s onto Port Macquarie, and my 3rd time running the Treble Breakwall Buster. More on that plan later this week as there are some changes that mean my approach has to change compared to previous years. It also signifies a week where I’ll want to up the weekly distances with South Africa getting closer, with the goal now being 60km a week through the next 4 weeks compared to 50 which I’ve hit several times in the first 2 months of the year. Pleasingly I’m about 92km ahead in terms of distance covered in training/racing as training compared to 2018, but I also know I need to find some 20km and 30km training runs rather than relying on race runs to get the big mileage that I want, even if it involves any number of walks which are a necessity in June.

COMRADES 2020 – BRISBANE WEEK TRAINING REPORT

Certainly it has been a heavy week in terms of how the preparations for not only Comrades 2020, but also the lead up events with it now being under a month before Wangaratta comes around. I guess preparing for a full marathon rather than the usual half has seen me lift my game in terms of hard work, but there’s part of me who isn’t all that satisfied with how the training has been. It’s not necessarily a bad thing either, after all there’s nothing wrong with wanting things to improve knowing the past hasn’t gone as well as hoped.

SUNDAY JANUARY 26: GYM SESSION

One of the positives from this week was booking the right accommodation for the week, which this time has seen me stay in the Ridge Apartment Hotel. Sure the cooking facilities could have been better but at least I can cook my own meals there, and unlike other places I’ve booked there was an on facility small gym and pool to utilise. In some ways it saved me time and money by not having to take a train to the Gold Coast for a beach recovery….anyway upon arriving I decided a short gym session would be sufficient for the Australia Day holiday. Usually I’d plan to run up around Mount Coot-Tha or something similar but landing at lunchtime on Sunday can alter plans accordingly. It was nothing flash compared to other gym junkies, with the session consisting of 25 minutes on the bike followed by 25 minutes on the cross trainer, and a few leg presses at increasing weights.

MONDAY JANUARY 27: AFTERNOON RUN

A short and sweet 10km was all I had planned for on the Monday, although my lazy sleepy butt meant the morning session was turned into an afternoon set. Probably the greatest challenges were using my new race shoes for the first time, and deciding which side of the story bridge I was going to cross the river on (I chose the side heading outbound from the city, running to my right hand side). The shoes felt OK on the right foot, but was tight on the left leaving my big toe sore (I’m guessing there’s a blister under the nail, it has happened before but I haven’t attempted to pop it yet) and some blistering on the heal which is still recovering from the work boots creating similar problems. Despite this I described this day on Strava as a “Reasonable” follow up to the gym work.

TUESDAY JANUARY 28: GYM AND POOL

Decided a lunchtime gym session was in order, and with the place to myself I was able to get a little bit more done weight wise. Again I started with 25 minutes on the bike before hitting the machines with leg extensions and leg presses (3 sets of 15 per weight, with a couple of increases in weights). To try to have some recovery time for the legs and perhaps to provide some balance, I did some overhead pull downs at the same weights as the leg extensions (sets of 10). The upper body does get sore when exerting big efforts and with the arms as much needed as the legs to propel up the hills (yes it’s a down run but there’s still enough climbing before the mega downhill in the last third of the race). With a single 500m set on the rowing machine all I could manage, the pool suddenly looked inviting although the water was a lot warmer than anticipated. Managed to wade in there and keep moving for about 45 minutes or so before retiring for the day.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 29: ABORTED RUN THAT CHANGED THE PLANNING

It was all set to be a great day, covering the long distance in reasonable time run at a reasonable hour. Instead it turned out to be a wasted opportunity and frustration. The plan was to either do a Coot-Tha lap, or do a loop incorporating the University of Queensland campus at St.Lucia and Highgate Hill. It was going to be an early wake up, get everything done by 7:00-7:30, then chill for the rest of the day.

What ended up happening was nothing of the sort. It was a late wake up and a mid afternoon start when the day was reasonably warm by the standards of training days this year. Things were going OK for the first 3km…..then I had a little difficulty breathing. After slowing down a little I was able to do a few more kilometres until the upper leg around the groin area in the right leg started feeling sore. There are days when pushing through the pain barrier can be and should be done, but late January for a goal race in June isn’t that time. The run was aborted about 7km in, although for some reason I waddled another few kilometres to a CityCat stop (basically like a ferry) to get back to the city. Later I probably realised that wearing so much compression gear was likely a hindrance rather than an aid, so now wearing what amounts to 2 pairs of compression tights and a knee brace under the patella strap, even if it supports the left knee, probably isn’t a great idea.

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY: SORT OF THE PLAN BUT SHORT OF TOTAL SATISFACTION

With yesterday’s “failure” still fresh in the mind, I knew I had to get some big kilometres in before heading back home. Again a late wake up meant that it would be a late afternoon Highgate loop via St.Lucia, yet the run was very stop start. It took nearly 8 minutes to get to the river walk thanks to the numerous crossings needed to be negotiated within the city, and it also proved to be a headache at the end of Highgate Hill although by that stage the respite may have been more beneficial.

Basically the session was not the continuous run that would have helped for Wangaratta and Port Macquarie, but it did give me some answers on how I might contend in South Africa as well as finding a few answers on what the limits are at this stage on tired legs. Getting to just over 18km to some would seem a nice day’s work, particularly for a midweek run when most of the long runs are done on the weekend. To me I wanted to get to 21km to show mentally I can get to halfway even if it wasn’t easily with Wangaratta in mind. It was good to get as far as I did, particularly in light of the stopping and starting but it leaves me looking for a big weekend. Hopefully I’ll be up early enough Saturday to pull the triple header of Easy run to Parkrun, the 5km of Parkrun, and an easier finish to wind down from Parkrun.

 

On the whole it was infinitely more successful than last year in so many ways (accommodation, distances, workload) and with tomorrow unlikely to see any training whatsoever, the official final kilometre count for January will be 184 kilometres which to my knowledge would be as big a workload as I’ve had ever in just training distance for a month. Next month will probably see just as many training kilometres (hopefully) given that Wangaratta is a training run. Logistically things are in place to get down there, getting back is the next item on the agenda which will need to be sorted out next week.

Speaking of travel, there has been a flight cancellation out of Abu Dhabi which has necessitated an itinerary change and a plan alteration. Now I’ll be leaving Australia on the Monday, travelling from Brisbane to Sydney rather than direct to Abu Dhabi, then connecting into Johannesburg for an 8AM arrival on Tuesday Morning. At this stage I have a room booked in Jo’Burg although I may even look to again alter the Durban booking to arrive on Tuesday rather than Wednesday (which I hope won’t annoy the motel). I have plenty of time to make up my mind so I can concentrate on more pressing travel arrangements instead.