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CANBERRA ULTRA 2017: AT LEAST I FINISHED (PART 2)

April 14, 2017

In drizzling conditions, the small band of troopers set off to complete the 50 kilometre challenge. Despite the conditions there was a decent throng present to see us off, many of them waiting for us to clear the start zone in order to prepare for their own 42 kilometre voyage some 15 minutes after our departure. The course hadn’t changed from the previous year, yet this year would probably be a bigger challenge given the weather conditions. At least the drizzle had cleared by the time we reached Parliament House just after the completion of the first kilometre.

I had settled into a steady tempo trying to run a pace of about 60 minutes per 10 kilometres (or 6 minutes per kilometre if you think that way). It was helped by a few fellow Comrades runners doing their training being in the vicinity, and for about the first 40 minutes I was able to judge the pace from them. Trying to explain the escape from the floodwaters at least ensured a relaxed atmosphere, although I was also at pains to tell the folks that I wasn’t intending to bring the rain with me.

There was an unscheduled pit stop after 8 kilometres as happened in 2015, although this time there was a toilet block as opposed to a big tree. Still the little pause in proceedings enabled me hit the first 10 kilometre split basically right on the 60 minute marker. I was still basing my pace off another runner until reaching the bridge at Kings Avenue, when the lack of recent training and long runs started to take a toll. Whilst stopping was certainly not an option, particularly after the DNF in 2016, my hamstrings were causing enough trouble for me to slow into a nursing pattern. Still I wasn’t in panic mode after a 63 minute split, so I was thinking that I could maybe make up some of the gap needed to get to the 5 hour mark.

On the run along Parkes Way, arguably the longest section of the event, I managed to catch up with the slowest pacing group for the 42km marathon event. Knowing they were unlikely to be told to remove themselves from the course, I knew that if I was able to stay near them if not in front that I would be able to finish. It also meant that I was also among the tail enders for the marathon, so at least if I struck trouble I could be able to wobble at their pace if needed. Sadly it was just after the turn at about 26.5 kilometres that the weather turned for the worst and the motivation of getting a time started to wane. It turned into a battle for survival rather than a challenge to vault myself up the starting order for Durban in 8 weeks time.

The plan therefore reverted to running as many of the downhill sections as possible, and perhaps conserving a little too much energy on the flat and uphill parts of the course. With no sleeves being worn, it was the coldest I had felt on any run between kilometres 30 and 36, and probably the most demoralised I had felt in many years. Certainly thoughts such as “Do I Have To?” and “What’s the point?” entered the mind, thoughts that I didn’t think I would consider happening at any stage during the preparation.

So the focus now, having long passed the point of wanting a time rather than just finishing, would be to bury a couple of demons from past Canberra Marathons and Ultras. It was all about passing points where I had hit difficulty in past years, and this year I took some pleasure in passing those points as well as letting anyone who cared (mainly the pace runners) know about the past demons. It did give me a slight boost but by the time I passed those points there was still over 11 kilometres to go.

Fortunately I was able to run the bulk of the remainder of the run with others who were managing niggles in order to make the finish line. The plan of running the downhills and the odd flat section before slowing to walking pace on the uphill sections was working. This could even be of more assistance for Durban in a number of weeks than I had hoped, for it’s almost certain that I would be employing similar tactics and plans for the many uphill sections of Comrades. There was enough energy in the legs though for a final push in the last kilometre, ensuring that my finishing time, however poor it may seem, would be quicker than anticipated at the 35 kilometre mark.

By the time the end came, the crowds around the finish area had thinned out although there still was a number of people around the area. The final pack up had commenced to the extent where my gear had been moved to inside the volunteer tent. The bands had all packed up, as had the exhibits around the finish area as a few of us late finishers. At least this time I had the satisfaction of actually crossing the finish line under my own steam as opposed to in the back of a van. In the end it was 50 kilometres in the bank that will surely hold me in good stead for Comrades, and it also will form a base for the next 4 weeks training with the week after basically all about recovery.

 

On the road from Canberra to Melbourne, I decided to record the following video that may explain some of the bogey points I was referring to earlier in this piece. It also explains the noise around me whilst recording, for it seemed something near the window may have needed fixing.

 

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