Skip to content

CAIRNS MARATHON – HAMSTRUNG BUT PRESSING ON

It can be weird how many classify how tough a marathon or ultra marathon is. Some find them tough because of distance (applicable more in Ultras), some see the toughness factor hidden in elevation charts if not in the distance, a few see the elite nature of a field as the indicator that this will be tough. Then there’s climactic conditions where some find it tough because of heat (or lack of), humidity, wind and rain (intensity and frequency). The inaugural Cairns Marathon last weekend fell into the tough category thanks to tropical warmth and showers not falling consistently.

After settling in following the error of forgetting to lodge an entry before Saturday, I was thrilled to discover that the fridge in my motel room wasn’t operational. That said I conceded that if I was going to run this event it may be useful to try to simulate what I’ll be facing at Comrades as best as possible. Knowing that my motel in Durban doesn’t have a fridge in the room at all perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, particularly when I would be using the drink of choice in the opening couple of hours (orange Lucozade) and wearing almost identically what I intend to run in next month.

 

With the motel about a kilometre from the start precinct I wasn’t that worried about departing from the motel later than I had liked. That said with the wet conditions prevailing at the time perhaps it may have been wiser to go early rather than late. It was an earlier than usual starting time compared to many marathons in Australia, although starting later than 5:45AM probably would being the heat factor into¬† even sharper focus. Owing to the heat I planned to utilise as many drink stations as possible even though at Comrades I’ll revert back to using the 2nd or 3rd station for my first fluid replenishment opportunity. It was also determined that for the first 10km or so I would keep pace with the 4:15 pace runner to test if I was able to maintain some sort of moderately fast tempo befor before reverting to survival mode (walk/run which I’ll be practicing throughout May). There probably was little point or chance of keeping up for the whole distance with that pacer, partially due to conditions (and the dropoff in pace training in warm conditions early in the campaign would be enough proof), partially due to long term thinking.

For the first hour despute the heat everything went pretty well according to plan. It would be the only lap where the field would depart more than a kilometre or so from the Esplanade, running up to Aeroglen, turning into the Botanical Gardens, then shooting up a backroad to the airport starting what would be a trio of loops. The walk/run mode began just after the 70 minute marker, if only to try to cool the body down a little in between showers. Indeed the on again off again nature of the showers was frustrating as a runner, for it was harder to judge how I wanted to approach the run. Running in wet conditions is far different to clear running on a damp surface, particularly in sighting landmarks where you want to start or finish an effort.

Speaking of such efforts, it probably showed that I had learnt from Canberra that I was able to run less like a footballer when those efforts were made. I was able to go that extra 150-200 metres that I was looking for in my capital surges. Yet the conditions weren’t helping the feet. I passed a first time marathoner who had to discard his shoes and run in bare feet when his shoes were too wet to cope with. I too was battling this problem although knowing that these shoes would be a training pair after this race and with a dry pair waiting at the finish line persevering with what I had would be the plan.

This would turn out to be the least of my issues. At around 28km i started to feel tightness in my right hamstring. Perhaps I should have thought long term at this point and called it a day, but the fact that I was relatively close to the finish (2/3 race distance), the lure if finishing an inaugural event and wanting to bank the kilometres prior to Comrades saw me continue. For a while I did find a way of coping with the discomfort by shortening the stride pattern, which I’ll need to utilise for the hillclimbs in the first half of the up run. By the end of the final loop I was actually slowing up waiting for another runner to finish alongside me (even if some of the club runners were urging me not to), leaving a pedestrian 5:15 finish time as a result. That said upon looking at the overall results I’m actually not feeling as bummed about this time, with just 4 runners breaking the 3 hour mark. Certainly there would have been faster times if it was dry and cooler, but with Cairns based in the tropics the conditions probably wouldn’t have been much cooler.

I was thankful that each finisher got a towel, certainly much more useful than the tea towels Gold Coast dished out 2 years ago (I’ll be determining whether I enter in the coming weeks). Yet I didn’t end up going for a recovery dip in the pool falling asleep with the legs stretched out that afternoon. Due to the hamstring issue that hampered me for half the week at work, I couldn’t complete any training runs, which may be a blessing to give the legs a little freshen up before a solid 3 weeks to complete the big bloc.

Despite the injury it’s still a definite start for the Wings for Life event on Sunday in Melbourne. If I am restricted to walking then that’s what I’ll be content with. If I can run sections and get close to 15km (I covered over 16 last year) it will be beyond expectations. The purpose of this training run is not necessarily kilometres or time, but a chance to run on motorways much like the start of Comrades. I won’t get another opportunity to practice running on a slightly different surface to a normal road, even if it’s a 9PM start time. Expect a vlog on my YouTube page tomorrow prior to the run to go through the details of what the Wings for Life world run is, and perhaps it will be reposted here depending on if I use some motel WiFi to upload.

CAIRNS MARATHON 2019: ANOTHER VLOG PRE RACE

Back in harness post Canberra, and in terms of weather it probably couldn’t be more different if I tried to control the weather myself. Going to be a warm one tomorrow, but this work has to be done. Yes I said work even though everyone will want me to enjoy it, because there’s only 6 weeks to go before the big C and realistically 4 weeks of decent training to go. This will undoubtedly ensure I have done a couple of marathon distance runs in the lead in which I’ve lacked in past years.

Without much fanfare, here’s some of my pre event thoughts.

 

 

Post race report to come beforethe next engagement next weekend, yep it never stops!

CANBERRA ULTRA 2019: BRIEF VLOG REPORT

The quality of the recording from the tablet may not be the best due to being on a plane to Melbourne sitting a row behind a crying baby. But I suppose getting off (or on in this case) my butt to do something is worth posting. Cairns next weekend for another 42km, such a sucker for punishment I’m becoming.

 

Finsih time was 6:15, not great but I did expect to be slower than normal with advice not to “race” this and with Cairns in mind where I’m likely to try to be quicker without seeking a seeding upgrade. It’s all about time on the feet and kilometres in the legs, of which I’ve had more of this year than previous Comradrs tilts (still below where I’d ideally want to be).

IN BETWEEN COMMITMENTS – WANGARATTA REVIEW/PORT MACQUARIE PREVIEW

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.

LAZY UPDATING, BUT NOT IN TRAINING (Compared to Other Years)

What a difference a couple of years can make when you know what to expect! This year I may have been a little lax in posting on this blog (it will change in the next few weeks that’s for sure), but the same cannot be said for the training. OK, I’m not covering distances that I know many others around the world that train for Comrades are already covering, but I am comfortable knowing I can afford to search for consistency rather than volume at this stage with the qualifier done and dusted when those runners who are covering long distances are also training for their qualifying race or for their big Two Oceans 56km ultra in April.

This is a good time to reflect upon past experiences and to compare what I’ve done in the last 2 years to this stage of the year to 2019. My first attempt at Comrades was in 2017, and given to that stage I hadn’t successfully completed any event beyond marathon distance (42.195km) it was fair to suggest I struggled to work out what I needed to do in order to prepare properly. This is the Strava record for my runs in the first 2 months of that year, with the green dot being a run on Mt Coot-Tha deviating onto a trail as opposed to the road, and the red dot being a half marathon race in Wangaratta.

After learning more than imagined in South Africa later that year, there was much more determination to succeed in 2018. It was fair to say however the training was far from what I had intended, and a few niggles didn’t help the cause. Getting off my lazy butt though was probably an issue I should have overcome, for doing the work at that time of the year would set the trend for the remainder of the campaign. Of course the niggles in my calf prevented me from running in Wangaratta last year even though I had made the trip, something that I will be rectifying this weekend.

Having had a pair of failures I figured starting well in terms of getting kilometres in my legs in January and February would be key to success not only in my lead in runs throughout the later months, but also it would prove to myself that I am not that lazy. Sure moving into new premises prior to Easter last year helped, especially now that I don’t have to be stepping on egg shells in waking multiple people up should I want to go on early morning training runs. Yes I am still trying to get close to getting the distances that some others recommend doing. Sure I’d like to be able to overcome heat and humidity more effectively knowing that if I can manage fatigue and hydration well in the warmer months I can easily do it when (or if) the weather gets cooler. But the raw figures at least this year show that I am doing a lot more work than previous years and I’m feeling much more positive about future prospects.

 

This weekend sees me head back to Wangaratta, and this time I will be again running the half marathon on Sunday Morning. If I hadn’t completed the qualifying run last year in Auckland, I would have been completing the full marathon in an effort to get the qualifying time nailed so that the events I’m doing in April (the Canberra Ultra and the Cairns Marathon, which I have entered after consultation with Comrades coach Lindsay Parry, WEBSITE FOUND HERE) can be used as low pressure training runs rather than high pressure high stakes elimination races. The aim for this weekend is just to spend time on the feet, to spend time running in a group as opposed to solo which I’ve been doing for all bar a solitary parkrun on Australia Day, and to finish around the 2 hour marker. If I recall the course correctly, there are some grass sections on this course which is a little different to pounding the pavement (I’ll probably need to try to run a little “softer” on these sections to get through slightly easier), as well as some paths where I’ve got to try to time overtaking moves around slower runners and walkers so that those coming in the opposite direction aren’t affected and so I’m not held up and have to constantly alter the stride pattern and rhythm to keep moving forward.

In terms of a schedule, I am at least now able to confirm much of where I’ll be running and training on many weekends up to Comrades day, although this list is subject to change at any time.

24 FEB: Wangaratta Half Marathon
10 MAR: Port Macquarie Treble Breakwall Buster (21.1 + 10 + 5)
14 APR: Canberra Ultra Marathon (50km)
19-22 APR: Easter Weekend in Melbourne, hopeful of 2-3 training runs during this week to recover/remain sharp, hoping for 25+ kilometres on the Sunday with pace no concern
28 APR: Cairns Marathon (Course isn’t the most appealing in some ways after the half way mark, but it’s the inaugural event so a chance to make history can never be sneezed at. Plus there may be a couple of other Comrades runners appearing)
5 MAY: Wings for Life World Run, Melbourne (like last year, this is a chance to run on motorways which given this year is an UP run and the first section of the race is run on motorways is valuable practice)
19 MAY: Hell On Coot-tha training run, Brisbane (As long as work plays ball I’ll definitely head down to train with some of the South East Queensland based runners)
2 JUNE: Flight Night, PER-JNB-CPT, arriving 3 June just after Lunchtime for a couple of days in Cape Town
5 JUNE: Flight Day, CPT-DUR
6 JUNE: Race Pack Collection, Internationals Run
8 JUNE: North Beach Parkrun (remember the barcode, and to take it relatively easy)
9 JUNE: COMRADES DAY!!!!!!!!!!
You will notice that Rocky River Run is missing from the list, that is now going to be run 2 weeks AFTER Comrades. I’ll look to just run 20-25km on that Sunday before tapering off.

 

COMRADES 2019: BACK IN HARNESS

Just when you thought it was safe to turn away and think this bloke’s all washed up and finished, it seems I’m back in action. Yes the time has come to commence preparing for another crack at South Africa’s and in many respects the World’s Ultimate Human Race. It’s time to not exactly dust off the training runners, for they’ve got some use since Hobart last year, but it’s time to embrace the painful joints as the real preparation cranks into gear.

Upgrade of a foam roller I hope will assist me to recover from training more effectively

So what has happened since Hobart and now? To be truthful not an awful lot. I was planning to rest for the 6 weeks before the 1st of January this year (it finally feels pretty useful not to have to keep referring to my last Comrades run as this year as opposed to last year) yet I did do the occasional run to not only keep in some sort of running condition but also in an effort to avoid the aches and pains that usually come in the opening weeks of training as muscle groups start to get used to running again.

I’ve also taken to seeking advice from online running platforms provided by the official Comrades coach Lindsay Parry. Whilst getting access to the programs set out will hopefully make it easier for me to prepare not just for the big day in June but also for other events leading in, the fact that I can talk and seek advice from like minded people was also an attraction. If this can help me get through the hard bits of training (even if it won’t necessarily help me wake up in the mornings), then that small investment will be worth it.

In terms of a schedule and plan, the biggest part of January has been confirmed with another full week in Brisbane to prepare. I’m looking at 4-5 run sessions through the week, with January 27 the day I’m at this stage hoping to complete a loop of Mount Coot-tha. Initially it was going to be January 26 as it was planned in the past 2 years (which if you remember were both derailed through a lack of physical conditioning last year, and straying onto unfamiliar trails in 2017). One of those runs will be likely following a little ladder run that I’ve made up even though I’m certain others will have something similar in their planning. It strays from my usual training format in that it revolves around distance rather than time. The key to this plan is the reduction in rest time to make myself work harder the further I go.

LADDER TRAINING PLAN

  • 2km RUN (choose your own pace) + 500m WALK [Running Total: 2.5km]
  • 2km RUN + 400m WALK [4.9km]
  • 2km RUN + 300m WALK [7.2km]
  • 2km RUN + 200m WALK [9.4km]
  • 2km RUN + 100m WALK [11.5km]
  • 2km RUN [13.5km]
  • (Optional) Then follow the same plan in reverse from the 5TH STEP (2km R/100mW) to give you a 25km workout, 23 of which is spent running.

In terms of events I have entered the half marathon at Wangaratta (and hopefully I’ll not only be fit to run it this year, but also I’m hoping to remember my bib), the same Treble Breakwall Buster at Port Macquarie as I did last year and the 50km in Canberra. I’ll also on advice from others be intending to enter the inaugural Cairns marathon in late April, again for training purposes rather than racing it to improve seedings (although if I do get a decent time that allows me to rise up the pecking order, there’s no way I’m going to knock back that opportunity). Fortunately obtaining the qualifying marker in Auckland last year meant I didn’t have to enter the marathon in Wangaratta, which would have certainly compromised my training both in the short and long term.

So far I’ve only done a handful of training runs, with the session on Tuesday 8 January compromised by wet weather. Certainly it’s not the end of the world having to train in the rain, for being prepared to run in any conditions is just part of the planning for marathons even if Comrades is rarely run in the rain. I guess the same will apply when the fog inevitably rolls in for other morning sessions. In any case, so far I’ve been able to overcome the fear of not waking up early enough before work in order to get my training in, and the more I get into a routine the more I feel I can improve my fitness levels AND have the best chance to be successful in June.

POINT TO PINNACLE 2018 – PREVIEW AND REVIEW BY VIDEO

Something just a little different for the report on this year’s Point to Pinnacle. I wouldn’t consider it all that lazy, after all if I was lazy I’d have nothing planned at all. But I decided to try something a little different, which if conditions were favourable (they weren’t) and if I could remember would have been enhanced by a video whilst on the mountain. Perhaps that’s something to consider for next year.

Anyway, early in the morning I decided to go on one of those long winded rants that went to so many places who knows what I’ve gone ahead and done. The plan was to go through the opening stages of the run in reverse, which as usual became something with a little less direction.

 

After a tough day on the mountain, I thought it would be a good idea to record something on the way down to try to sum up everything. I tried to do the same thing last year but a combination of feeling a little crook and tired meant that what I had recorded wasn’t all that useful. One day I might even have an idea of how to avoid shoddy phone camerawork!

 

 

The schedule for running this year has now been completed, and the plan is to take a little time off running to rest up my legs for the heavy new year’s schedule. That said I’ll probably screw it up, go crazy and start training as though my life depended on it.

Things were going reasonably well at this point! PHOTO CREDIT: RACEATLAS