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SYDNEY HALF 2019 – GLORIFIED TRAINING RUN?

September 16, 2019

Right now the whole training process revolves around Melbourne which at the time of writing is a mere 4 weeks away. To break up the monotonous nature of running local streets alone either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, I usually enter a half marathon in September to keep up race mileage. Usually this involves alternating between a small half marathon in Brisbane’s bay side suburb of Wynnum (which for this year was postponed for 12 months, organisational issues) or head to Sydney to run across the Harbour Bridge then go another 19km.

Work schedules this year made Sydney the option, where I had some demons to overcome. When last I ran in Sydney in 2017, a calf injury suffered playing football in July hadn’t recovered fully. Everything was fine until the end of the warm up when the familiar twinge emerged, and I lasted all of 9km, then spent the next 4 hours wrapped in space blankets waiting for the support vehicle to take me from the course. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for given I needed kilometres in the lead in to Melbourne.

This year I faced a similar scenario. Sure the injuries were manageable where I’ve been only sore in the lower quad and upper calf but I still needed to get through this event thanks to disjointed training post Perth. Inability to stay awake or wake up early following work has seen me battle to find what can be seen as necessary training runs for Melbourne, let alone Sydney. Add this to my theory that race kilometres are worth probably 1.3 times a training kilometre (originally I was thinking closer to 1.5 but doing a half marathon isn’t exactly equating to 31.6km) and this week suddenly transformed from “glorified training run” to “glorified VITAL training run”.

Truth be told I’m not a fan of being in Sydney any longer than I needed to be (I’m not going to rant about it on this forum) so it was a relief just to get in and out of the expo quickly, find my motel room to chill in overnight, and have everything ready to rumble before a decent night’s sleep. Well maybe not a decent night as The Ashes kept me awake until after midnight, not ideal if I wanted to get up before 4AM to make the train crossing the harbour. Originally I was going to skip this but a combination of a 4AM work start on the Monday and a desire to get out to the airport quicker (futile as it turned out to be thanks to replacement buses that took ages to organise) saw me revert to inner city digs.

Wearing my 2019 Comrades shirt (only the second time I’ve worn a Comrades shirt for a race, the 2016 model got a spin for the 2018 Rocky River Run) I didn’t get to Milson’s Point (literally just on the other side of the harbour) until about 5:10AM. Having abbreviated my warm up in the wake of what happened in 2017 and having experienced 3 Comrades starts where it’s impossible to warm up without ceding more time prior to race start, the calf at least passed the first test. It was a risk to leave it without strapping relying on Voltaren (a cream as opposed to a heat rub, does the same job) to last the distance. The main reason for no strapping was that I wouldn’t have had an instrument to cut the length needed without having to surrender in at airport security. For Melbourne when I’ll be near certain to check baggage in it won’t be an issue. I was able to acquire rigid strapping tape for the right knee as its easier to tear off parts required.

For the first 15km it was a largely uneventful run, slightly quicker than a normal training run given I was going at a quicker race pace than normal to make up the minutes getting to the 2 hour pacers. In hindsight I probably should have carried the old phone that I used as a camera in South Africa to capture going over the bridge, which is an encouragement to go faster in light of the first kilometre of the course being substantially narrower (why wouldn’t it when it goes from 2 car lanes wide to 7). I caught up with the pace runners heading down towards the “injury point”, passing them in time to see the leaders flash by in the opposite direction. With the space narrow due to construction works, I was slightly miffed that some runners would be so impatient to wander across to the return side of the road, fearing their impulsiveness would cost a lead runner a fast time (not saying they would have gone 58 minutes like that Kenyan did in Copenhagen but still) but staying silent was the best option, I didn’t want to break my concentration. I settled into a decent rhythm if not pace heading through Pyrmont just as I started hearing one the pace runners picking up the pace a little.

Not too bad for what was in reality a training run.

The last 5 kilometres weren’t exactly to plan, but then again when has any race or training run for that matter gone to plan? It started around Darling Harbour when a swig of my Powerade (I carried that bottle for most of the run, stopping only at a single drink station late for half a cup of water) saw me start a coughing fit that lasted a few seconds. That meant that the pace group went by whilst I took a few seconds to regain composure. After the following drink station just prior to the 17km marker, I had to stop a couple of times for a systems check of sorts as both my right hamstring and calf were starting to show signs of manageable pain. With Melbourne in mind, any thoughts of sprinting any part of the remainder of the course were thrown out the window and I basically casually trotted around Circular Quay and onto the Opera House finish. The time that was always irrelevant to me ended up being close to 2:02, which for a training run was decent enough pace. Even more of a bonus was that my motel had an 11AM check out time, so I was able to make it back to watch the finish of the marathon on TV rather than hang around on the course. As I had not utilised gear drop which apparently wasn’t going to be available to collect prior to 12PM for some ridiculous reason, there really wasn’t much point hanging around with a 3PM flight to catch.

One thing that is for sure is that perhaps one day I will take on the full course if I’m feeling overly adventurous and the spacing is just right to take on Perth’s City to Surf, then Sydney, then Melbourne and finally Auckland all in the one year. Maybe that sounds ridiculously ambitious for someone who will target one race should I need to qualify for future races, but that is perhaps a long term goal to strive for. Certainly a return to Sydney to be involved in this event is likely next year, pending work arrangements as I’m not likely to request leave in order to travel to and from Sydney prior to and after the weekend. As for this year, there’s now just 3 more stops to mark off beginning with Melbourne in a month, followed by another run up Mt Wellington in November and the big ticket item in Singapore a fortnight later.

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