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August 20, 2016

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…

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.


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