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WANGARATTA 2017: CONFIDENCE BOOSTER IN THE COUNTRY

February 26, 2017

No doubt that training for something where the goal is so far away can be difficult. Motivation can be lacking for the average person who would understandably think that peaking in February for an event in June is a waste of time. Frustration that the fitness levels aren’t where they should be can be very common. The draining nature of summertime conditions, particularly in tropical environments that some may see Central Queensland to be, can often play tricks with the mind making the best intended plans to go further become useless.

I’m sure that the prospect of more favourable conditions in southern centres is a lure to attract those from the north looking for a good training run or 3. Yet those favourable conditions can also double as an ideal place for the first race of the new year. I had first heard of the event in Wangaratta a couple of years ago during a random internet session in the Virgin lounge at Tullamarine, yet it wasn’t until this year that the schedule allowed time to travel there, and also the fact that I needed some race conditioning with less than 100 days to Comrades gave me the best chance to head up country.

Traveling to country locations in Australia often can be tricky logistically, but the fact I was able to utilise the train service passing through Wang eased such concerns. For many arriving in a race city at 9:15PM the night before the event could have been cause for panic, but I would have been more panicked if I had tried to make the previous service that departed Melbourne at lunchtime, plus I was able to get an hour’s kip on the train before being awoken in Seymour. To be honest I was more worried about the constant toilet trips in the 24 hours previous having had similar problems in the lead in to Canberra in 2015. Still everything felt pretty good as I finally rose from my slumber just after 4:30 AM.

This was the first time in a long time where I didn’t really have a decent warm up before the run. Normally I’d partake in some sort of dynamic stretching covering a couple of kilometres in the process. This time all I could muster was some static stretching focusing on calves (which were sore after footy training a couple of weeks earlier, preventing me from training properly for a number of days, could have risked it but I have had a history of calf problems so I may have been overly cautious). I was also concerned that I had taken a position to far forward in the starting area, knowing that there would have been a number of quicker runners behind looking to pass quickly and thinking that the best laid plans would be immediately thrown out the window.

IN MY PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRY I had tried to underline what I was hoping to achieve in this half marathon, with a focus on working hardest in the 10km block from the 6-16 kilometre mark. It turned out that this plan was very quickly thrown out the window. Following a bloke in a Manchester United shirt (figuring that following in the tracks of someone else would be useful, nothing new in that plan as I often use that in any race) I was a little stunned to discover that I had covered the first 2km in a tick over 10 minutes. I knew I had to try to slow down a little in order to finish strongly but for some reason I felt I was feeling decent in the slipstream of this bloke. At least I followed the hydration plan skipping the first 2 stations and taking on board my first drink as I entered the part of the course where I had intended to start to motor.

Obviously going harder at such an early stage of the event would have a price in the later stages, and my pace normalised after the 12th kilometre. Part of this was probably attributed to trying to run at the slower pace of other runners who were doing the full marathon distance rather than the half. That strategy couldn’t be used for a few kilometres in the run home when I found myself in virtual no mans land, too far behind another runner to be able to rest the legs and judge pace, too far in front of another runner to drop back and use them as a pacemaker. I had to keep alert when re-entering the only road section of the course (the bulk of the event was run using paths and car parks) as a couple of runners required transportation back to the start area owing to injury. Thankfully I was able to keep going and not hold up any vehicle, although the timing of my entrance into the final 1500 metres could have been better. At that stage shorter events had begun and negotiating traffic proved not only a challenge for myself but also for the volunteers who had to somehow try to pick me out of a crowd of runners in other events, as by this time there was no chance of catching anyone nor being caught.

For the first time I was able to use a watch rather than have to rely on phone apps to judge the time. For the last few kilometres I was able to use this to try to calculate if I was going to get to the goal time. It turned out to be much better than expected. It had been a couple of years since I was able to say that I was able to run a sub 1:55 half marathon, so to see the clock at 1:53:40 at the finish line brought a smile and a sense of satisfaction. Sure I would have liked to run the race differently to get that result but when you exceed your own expectations sometimes it doesn’t really matter about the process. Still there are lessons to be learned from the event that I would like to put into practice for future events and even longer training runs which is what the next 4 weeks will be all about.

Looking forward, I’d feel the best thing that I can take from this run is the confidence to be able to run over these distances and further. With temperatures surely looking like falling (here’s hoping) hitting the 30km marker in training runs should be a big goal in the next month. Constant hill running incorporated into those distances will be a challenge given the minimal elevation change in this course, but with a week in Brisbane coming up and a couple of Mt Coot-tha climbs scheduled I’m sure the distances will take care of themselves. As for a return to Wang in future years, I’m hopeful the schedule with work will align well enough and perhaps even a step up to the full distance, even though it is early in the year, is not out of the question.

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