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November 15, 2013

Profuse apologies for the lack of updates and posting since the marathon. Much has been on my plate (mainly Lean Cuisines with a little work thrown in if you must know) and suddenly blogging has taken a back seat. But I have managed to find time before this weekend’s City2Sea in Melbourne to come up with at least something to tide the readers over for a while. After all, if I am going to have a blog complete with my own domain name I better make use of it don’t I?

Let’s begin with the Run Sydney half marathon, which was completed a mere fortnight after the Melbourne Marathon based around the Sydney Olympic Park precinct. Entering this event was almost an afterthought and as such performance expectations were low to non-existent. But once again a chance to be part of an inaugural race (as opposed to event, Run Sydney is a rebranding of the Run For Fun whose maximum distance was 10km) and to finish at the Olympic Stadium were the obvious lures. That said the entry process was not last-minute enough to make me have to make an early trip to Sydney for bib collection, but late enough for me to seek last-minute deals on flights and accommodation. There were worries earlier in the week that bushfires in the area would cause course alterations if not event cancellations, but come Sunday morning there was little smoke present to affect air quality and it turned out to be nice conditions.

With rail transport not available until a time unsuitable for someone reliant on warm-up routines, it was a surprisingly cheap $22 cab fare from Strathfield to Homebush early on the Sunday Morning that saw me arrive at the start line. What followed was slightly shambolic in terms of bag drop. Having arrived earlier than some anticipated, track workers had no idea where bag drop was located, necessitating trips between where it eventually was constructed and the start line. It was almost comical to see competitors cross back and forward under ropes only to cross the road as though they were playing the classic arcade game Frogger.

The delay was nothing for me compared to the wait suffered by many needing a pre-race leak. Although the start was delayed by 15 minutes due to what was described as course workers erecting final barriers to ensure the safety of competitors, my theory was that it was to make sure those who were 10 deep in line for the porta-loos were able to do their business before heading into the starting pen. Sadly this meant we were subjected to the usual crappy modern sappy pop at the start line masquerading as motivational tuneage, but I’m sure those around me would have settled for this knowing what was ahead.

So many venues made famous during the Sydney Olympic games formed part of the backdrop of the course. In the first 5 kilometres the field passed (amongst others, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few):

– Sydney Showgrounds (Baseball venue for the games, now home of the GWS Giants)
– The Superdome (Basketball and Gymnastics, it hosted One Direction the previous night but thankfully no groupies were waiting the morning after)
– The main Olympic Stadium (more on that shortly, Athletics as well as the Football final and the ceremonies
– The Hockey stadia
– The State Sports Centre (hosted some of the indoor sports)

Much like the other longer distance courses I have tackled, this course was relatively flat with a component of the run utilising the roads and others using a pathway adjacent to the Parramatta River. The “off-road” section seemed a little narrow particularly when the faster traffic was about to pass on their second loop yet the spirit of co-operation existed within the brotherhood and sisterhood on this day and they got plenty of room to pass. Due to the lack of width there was a reasonable space between drink stations, but on this day I wasn’t going to utilise all of them in any case figuring that if I was going to run some sort of time being held up for minutes behind a Gatorade guzzler wasn’t a solution worth taking.

It was in the limited training for the event where I also felt I had a little advantage. On the Wednesday prior to the event, I decided to change the routine of my training, and instead of an early morning long distance road run I thought it may be a good idea to head down to the local footy oval for some grass running in the late afternoon. Whilst I didn’t run as far or as well as I had anticipated that afternoon, there was a section of the loop across the grass where the small amount of training at a footy oval actually proved to be of valuable assistance. I’m sure it would have been a shock to many others who would have based their run training purely on pavement, for it takes a little extra effort to run effectively on grass.

Physically this was as good as I had felt after a long distance run almost ever, there was no pain in the usual trouble areas (calves, quads, hips, ankles) and having used the slipstream of other runners to good effect, there was still plenty in the tank towards the end of the 21km. It seemed as though the last 1500m around the perimeter of the Olympic Stadium was three times as far, but I suppose long flat straight sections of track can do that to you. Then before you feel the course would never end and getting into the stadium for the finish seemed impossible, it was down the ramp to an entrance for service vehicles (trying to avoid slow 5km walkers in the process), and a sprint through the tunnel where the Swans enter the arena when they play their AFL matches at the ground, to eventually hit the final 80 metres down the broadcast wing.

I can boast proudly (and believe me, I did after the event on the social media outlets) that I have a new personal best time for the distance of a shade over the 1 hour 50 minute marker. After expecting a similar time to what I ran in Yeppoon at the start of October or even going slower as a result of a physical let down following a full marathon just a fortnight earlier, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the time later that afternoon. The challenge for me for 2014 is to not only further reduce that time, but to try to replicate this form of smart running into the marathons that I have planned to compete in next year. After all, a replication of that pace in a full marathon would see me break that PB by over 35 minutes, but of course energy use and strategies are vastly different when comparing half and full marathons.


So we move onto this weekend’s final event of the year. Being spoilt for choice was one thing, but having to choose between a trio of events was almost agonising until I made the decision in July this year. The three events in mind were

– Point To Pinnacle, labelled the world’s toughest half marathon basically climbing up Mount Wellington. This event is something I’d love to tackle one day, especially given I’ve never set foot in Tasmania let alone Hobart
– Run Geelong, an event which I participated in last year over 6km. The longer event is a 12km run which I thought I was going to tackle this year until the date clash.
– City2Sea, a sister event to the City2Surf and the City2South, events I came saw and conquered in 2013.

Admittedly the lure of running in a 3rd event much like another couple was a lure, but for me the course itself (reasonably flat, and after the Melbourne Marathon, reasonably familiar) and the fact that I am able to stay with relatives was the biggest draw. I have resolved also that the distance of 14km would just about be the minimum in terms of distances for run events in the future.  It’s not that I have anything against the 12 and 10km events I have tackled this year, they serve a great purpose for not only myself but charities and the community at large. It’s just that I feel that those events don’t quite satisfy someone who aims to consistently run marathons, and that those distances can be easily covered on training runs.

Stay tuned for the debrief of this Sunday’s event that will be posted on either Tuesday or Wednesday next week. It is there that I will confirm the 2014 plans that of course are always subject to alteration.

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