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PORT MACQUARIE 2022 – BACK IN THE SWING, EVEN IF PAIN’S INVOLVED

March 7, 2022

Back in business for 2022, with some sort of normality associated as events return or return to regular dates. The schedule is going to be relatively packed, especially with football commitments thrown in. Hopefully a future post will give some sort of clarity in what’s coming up.

One thing that hasn’t quite been resolved is groin issues that surfaced last year, which felt reasonable despite a slow time doing the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart in January (perhaps I’ll give a retrospective report in due course), but since footy training has started the groins haven’t felt as good as they did throughout January. It hasn’t been enough to prevent me from training in terms of getting on the road, but at times it’s meant that I haven’t been able to do target times or go as far as I’d have liked. Yet unlike races late last year thus far I’ve been able to manage myself through, and Port Macquarie is the second example of this.

Originally the plan was going to be overly ambitious in terms of travel and transfers. Following a lunchtime finish at work on the Friday, I would intend to fly to Sydney via Brisbane, then have to make a mercy dash from one terminal to another as Virgin Australia don’t fly to Port Macquarie, just to make a Qantas flight scheduled to depart barely an hour after the flight from Brisbane lands. Being Sydney airport rather than say Brisbane or Melbourne where such transfers are easier, this would necessitate a long transit time of about 5-7 minutes, plus going through security again, and given the smaller plane departing Sydney it would also likely mean checking the bag rather than squeezing it onto carry on. In the end it turned out the accommodation booked in Port Macquarie (Ocean Breeze Motel, KA-CHING) was only booked for 2 nights instead of 3, meaning there was not need to rush and panic in Sydney as an airport motel was booked for a good nights sleep. It also gave me plenty of time with a lunchtime Saturday arrival for the good old video preview

As it turned out I did make a slight error in thinking the start line was at the bottom of the hill near the beach (closed for swimming due to ordinary water conditions, part of which attributed to the floods). The start line was actually at the skate park which launched us into a short run before the left hander onto the Breakwall. There were more roads involved in the new course, with the turning point about 800m further up the road for the old half marathon course incorporating a third bridge crossing per lap for both the half and 10km events. About 600m was added in a deviation off another corner on the course, and the car park section early in the lap was more winding than ever in order to get the extra 3km needed to create the course.

Race start was somewhere between confused, rushed, calm, easy and excitement, if all of those emotions can somehow be combined. It may not have been easy given the status as a Buster runner to find a line through the normal 3rd wave half marathoners to get priority access to starting behind the fast class (winner of the half marathon covered it in just over 70 minutes), but perhaps the fact we didn’t have to barge our way through was helpful. Perhaps a little too helpful as it put me off my schedule for the day. With this being a training race for future marathons/Comrades qualifiers, I figured it would be a good idea to try to run 6:30/km which is the aim for Canberra in particular. Before the start I decided to upgrade to 6:20/km just to ensure I wouldn’t be at risk of missing cut off times (which aren’t overly enforced unless the time is so slow or there’s illness/injury they can see). The first 5km I covered in sub 6:00/km pace, which although it provided the fastest 5km time of the year (around 29 minutes) it also meant that I was screwing my race by going so hard so early. Managed to pull it back possibly too far throughout the half marathon leg, perhaps assisted with the extreme humidity on course (it was 95% at race finish, shirts were saturated by the end of each leg even if some of it was via hydration strategy rather than perspiration).

Finished the half marathon leg in a very slow 2:30, which was 15 minutes outside what I envisaged. Yet the day was about to become trickier if not worse. After a rapid change of shirt it was onto the 10km, where the start was rather steady at best and sluggish if honest, there were signs that cramping was trying to take hold. I hadn’t experienced cramping in races for some time, and certainly not in the achilles area on my right leg which semi co-incidentally is the area where my groins had been hurting the most last year (most pain is now in between the legs this time). It got to the stage where I would be able to shuffle about 10-15 steps before feeling the signs of a spasm, meaning it was back to walking before it felt better. The worst came just after the drink station on the course extension where the cramp stopped me in my tracks for a couple of minutes. It wasn’t until I got back to the Breakwall to complete the 3rd circuit (which the 10km event represented) that the cramp seemed to go away and I was able to trot to the finish of the leg amongst those who were about to finish the whole thing. Time was about 20 minutes slower than I thought I would go in that leg, with the cramps basically accounting for much of the deficit.

I was worried about being allowed to continue given cut off times, but an altered course for the 5km to necessitate road re-openings and the starting arch remaining mobilised, plus another male runner being in a similar boat running in a dress for a charitable cause (think it was something to do with female kids in Africa) meant it was a case of plodding on for the final leg. It was always the intention of walking the majority of the leg, much like a number of the Buster runners did. But it was good to be able to at least jog a few sections with no sign of the cramp. Trotted into the finish in a near customary position in the event beating a handful of others home but clocking in at the finish.

What the result proves is that the long road from injury is continuing, and that there’s such a long way to go with heaps of work to do in order to get that qualifying run under the belt. Backing myself in to do so really isn’t a question, with the plan being perhaps to get a run under the belt either Tuesday or Thursday morning without great pace. Perhaps this race will be a launch pad into the next race where the aims will be conservative yet ambitious with the base I have.

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