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March 7, 2019

So we arrive at the time of the year where Comrades preparations have to step up. At least this year I have been able to so far cover more kilometres even if there are times where I haven’t been that happy with the quality of what I’ve been producing. Perhaps the odd hill session in the next few weeks post Port Macquarie is on the agenda to set that straight, and hopefully once the roads of Mt.Archer reopen (scheduled for the end of March, personally not holding my breath knowing how councils work) some real climbing to at least try to somewhat simulate the roads of the trio of climbs in the first half can commence.

That said the logistical side is now a little more complex, with everyone outside of South Africa now needing a clearance from the governing body to be allowed to compete. Not such a problem for many, but in Australia with a separate body governing athletics (Athletics Australia) and ultra distance running (AURA) the big issue for me is who to get the clearance letter from. At this stage the advice from many wiser heads is to wait until some sort of mass solution can be found, but given I have just provisionally joined AURA and have become a member of a recreational runners arm of Athletics Queensland known as Qrun (whose base membership incorporates membership with Qrun, Athletics Queensland and Athletics Australia), I should at least have some sort of method to obtain said clearance prior to May, and the worst case scenario would be to try to obtain and submit clearances from both AA and AURA figuring one of them would be sufficient. To be fair the rule has always been in the regulations, but it has rarely been enforced unless a runner has been in contention to win an age group category or the overall race. Just how the governing body of athletics in South Africa will be able to handle this remains to be seen.

As for the domestic front, it was a return trip to Wangaratta just over 11 days ago to run their half marathon and in so many ways to escape the heat of Central Queensland. Who would have thought that 16 degrees would have been sufficient to see me pull the jacket out of storage! I was a little worried about not waking up in time especially given it’s not the easiest place to get to for someone without a car (3 hours of plane trips, followed by 3 hours on a train, even if said train had snacks on board), yet I was able to get to the start area with plenty of time to spare. The plan was just to take it relatively easy and concentrate on completing the run rather than aim for any specific time, as time on the feet was most important in the whole scheme. The fact that I hadn’t run close to the distance in training was concerning, but with conditions more suitable if not ideal compared to home I was reasonably confident that I would get what I wanted from this event.

Little bit of hardware, long way to go before the journey ends.

With the course practically identical to what it was the previous time I had run the event (keep in mind that last year calf niggles, and forgetting the race bib prevented me from getting on the start line and I ended up going bowling instead), it would have been easy to try not to follow others but as it turned out for the first 15km that was basically the pattern. As I entered the path under one of the main roads alongside One Mile Creek I spent the time following a couple of lasses who were going at a similar speed to what I was. With Comrades in mind, I was trying to hold back from making the rapid overtaking moves (which also had an element of danger given runners would be coming the other way) but also conscious of working hard on the small uphill rises. Unfortunately I wasn’t exactly holding back speed wise, running 5:40 or faster per kilometre when I was looking for a slower tempo closer to the 5:55 or 6:00 per kilometre marker. I paid for it just as the turn around point at 15 Mile Creek’s path approached, and it was at that point where I contented myself with a relative cruise to the finish. I virtually walked much of the last 3 kilometres, partially due to leg fatigue and partially to stay out of the way of the 5 kilometre runners who were rapidly finishing their race (shades of getting out of the way of half marathoners at Perth’s City to Surf), and the unimportant time blew out to 2:07 when a sub 2:00 looked on the cards. Still I was happy that I got 21 kilometres into the legs, especially with what was to come.

This weekend sees the return trip to Port Macquarie for the Treble Breakwall Buster. For those that can’t remember this signature event in the Port Macquarie Running Festival is where runners have to complete the three main events Port has to offer, a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km (many of course take a sensible approach and only do one of these). With a total distance of 36.1 kilometres covered, this for me is as ideal of a training run in race conditions as I’ll ever get for Canberra (50km) and Comrades (despite the relatively flat nature of the course) with time on the feet and the need to hold back so there isn’t substantial breaks between finishing one leg and starting another. In that regard the aim is to basically run a 2 hour half marathon, followed up by a 60 minute 10km effort. There is also another motivation for me this year that will drive me toward success. Last year I made so many unscheduled pit stops, including a 10 minute stay in a porta-loo, I was the second last person in the Buster to finish, meaning that by the end of the 5km I was having to negotiate my way through kids starting and finishing their 1km dash (which this year is going to be run on the Saturday). Apart from the time on the feet and covering the distance, my aim is NOT to finish second last as a matter of pride, or at the very least not have to make unscheduled pit stops. I suppose that means avoiding Subway on Saturday night!

Following Port Macquarie will be another month of training leading up to Canberra’s 50km event a week before Easter. I am hopeful of knocking over a couple of 30 kilometre plus training runs in the lead up, where hopefully the weather even though it has cooled somewhat from the oppressiveness of February will become less humid. Today’s scheduled training run was basically curtailed several kilometres before where I wanted to stop after the humidity sapped the energy from the legs and saturated the shirt to make it feel as though I was running with a swimming rash vest on rather than a t-shirt. Work shifts for the next few weeks are reasonably favourable so including this weekend, I’m hoping to exceed 200 kilometres for the month and also well over 1200m of elevation gain (whether that’s accurate on Strava is debatable). Combining work, training, logistics (still some flights to book as well as obtaining the clearance) and at the end of the month football umpiring will just be another challenge that’s part of the 2019 Comrades journey.

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