Monday, 15 December 2008

Great way to finish the running year

I think the last blog post sums up the last week or so, the fact that it was written only 7 or so hours before my next race pretty much shows i wasn't happy with my performance at Kepler and took a while to come up with a positivish spin on it.
Simple reason for that Kepler numberwise would be easily one of my biggest Ultras (Six Foot Track, Great Ocean Road Marathon and Western States being the only ones comparable) and whilst i've performed well at the first two over the years, Western States was the infamous DNF (and with harsh provisions for overseas entries now one i'm unlikely to ever avenge) i was looking for big numbers to bring out the best in me (despite having won many a low key, low number race over the years my fastest times have usually been in big events like the Melbourne, Gold Coast and Canberra Marathons where i can usually lift a notch simply because of the crowds and atmosphere) and was realistically looking at somewhere between 6 and 6.5Hrs with under 7 at worst. It was an unexpected bump in what had been a last 8 months year racewise (as for those first 3 months of the year i have only one word "Sciatic Nerve") and just from the point of view of ego 99th place was more like the sort of number i'd be looking for in a 1,000 person or more marathon (whether i'll make it back there for another shot is questionable).
To be honest Kurrawa to Duranbah 50K, had sneaked up on me somewhat, i'd been focussed on finishing the year with Coast to Kosi and it was only in the last month or so that i'd realised that if i was to do Kepler i'd be struggling to get back in time to do it in any sort of shape (to some degree i think of NZ as more of a domestic trip than international and just didn't realise how few flights came back to my airport).
I'd actually only entered the week before but knew at least i'd have a permanent number awaiting me (you get this for 10 starts, Geoff Williams and Geoff Last had got theirs last year, so it was a case of whether me or Peter McKenzie would be No 3 or 4).
Having picked up my number (3) the day before didn't bother leaving home till 4:15 (i could sleep in till 3:30 !!!) and looking at the number of cars about it was easy to see that the 180 runners (solo 50, solo 25 and relay) was true, amazing those sort of numbers and a good sign of a healthy event.
Much different conditions pre race to last week though, certainly no need for a top (number pinned onto my shorts) and my headband was definitely all that was needed on top, really nice looking day although we hadn't managed to get the slightly cooler conditions of Saturday morning (which were as close to as perfect as you could have got in summer for a 50K race), only thing to weigh me down was a baggie of 8 salt tablets definitely could be needed the last half.
Caught up with a few people and had a chat and was probably a little more relaxed than usual pre race (after all this is my backyard so the course held no fears).
Watched some of the rocket like relay runners disappear into the distance (and hoped that none were solo runners) and took off at steady pace, pretty much a procession runners until Nobbys Beach and our first drink station at 5K's. Up the steps (something i always avoid in training runs here) and then along the Burleigh Esplanade, already astir with early risers. By then i was running with a fellow who knew me (and i knew by sight but names aren't my strong point !!) and we ran consistently and chatted. By 10K's it was getting warmer so i had two cups of Endura, for the next few K's i was essentially in my backyard so ran relaxed and fluid (after all how many times had i run along Jefferson Lane ), was thankful for a cup of water at Currumbin as the sun was getting warmer, looked like as usual it would be a real steamy one.
Once we'd got to Tugun i'd felt nicely warmed up and decided it was time to do some chasing down, the bike lane of Golden Four Drive being ideal (although it meant i got more sun than footpath runners as the taller units offered shadows), down Gibson St and onto Pacific Parade always get's awkward as not only us runners were out but other joggers as well as cyclists so was never quite sure if i was chasing people in the event. Two more cups of Endura and finally spotted a familiar figure, Chris Dixon (doing the relay), spurred me on as i remembered how easily he'd passed me at a similar stage in the Melbourne Marathon. He took the pathway through the markets (possible at this point but not on the return as too busy) and i followed catching and passing as we went up the Rainbow Beach hill, feeling good by now.
Heard footsteps on the steep downhill to Duranbah and couldn't resist pushing that little bit harder but once i'd made the flat was happy to let the girl (in relay) pass and settle again for the run back (wasn't sure if i had 2 or 3 solo runners in front as at times i misjudged when to concentrate on race bibs).
Another couple of cups of Endura and washed down a couple of salt tablets and now for the chase, feeling strong but with the fear that i'd seen a solo runner a good couple of K's ahead.
No footsteps behind me and was determined to let as few people (relay and solo) passed as possible on the return, only downside i had yet to spot another runner (i was kidding myself i couldn't see them as i was on the bike lane and they were on the footpath as i headed towards Tugun but that was closer to being a psychological boost than the truth i think. By Currumbin was beginning to feel the heat a little, and was relieved to find the drink station (cup of water over head was more needed than the drink to be honest) and pushed on strongly, first footsteps were as i headed up from 15th Ave to the GCH, tried to go with a relay runner (and again headed onto the road, hard to explain but i race way better on roads than footpaths), but she was too fresh and i resolved to ease down and have a good rehydration at the next drink stop before flogging myself the last 10K's (no aid station at last years 42.5K beer stop so knew i'd have to time it right). Up the GCH Hill and then the Goodwin Tce loop, now it was a case of running hard and dodging crowded walkways was calculating whether i was better off heading off path and using Burleigh Esplanade but recalled being passed in 2002 there and had less than fond memories.
Walked up North Burleigh hill as it gave me time to get the salt tablets out and i was thinking that the only way i could catch solo runners was once we were off the beachfront and i could spot them so it'd be a death or glory last 3K's.
Thankfully the steps down were uncrowded (unusual for this time of day) and even better the last drink stop had Gatorade in cups, the Endura had done it's work but i needed something more refreshing on the palate (albeit lemon/lime) now for the last shot.
Finally spotted a runner (and doubted i'd be catching relay runners) on Albatross Ave and with a breeze (a headwind but nevertheless air movement so rare in this event over the years) had picked him up before reaching Hedges Ave.
By now i could see the buildings near the finiah line and one other runner, i always think of Hedges Ave at this point as the "Cauldron" as usually it's sun beating down and with a skinny street and houses (worth millions) on either side no air reminiscent of a descent into Hell. Headwind or not the breeze was making it almost pleasant, finally spotted a runner doing it hard (i was doing it hard and my left calf was cramping but definitely was not going to show that as i passed) as far as i could work out i was now second. Hit the park and then the long haul to the other end, over the finish line and i was told i'd done 3:57:07, rather disappointing my third slowest performance in 10 starts (although way faster than last years injured 4:32:43), but rather shocked to find i'd won.

Of course at heart i'm not only an Ultra Runner, but a Data Analyst (and shelf stacker !), but looking back at previous results this was definitely my third slowest run here (even allowing that the course prior to 2006 was only 48.4K's).
1998: Second (to new race organiser Peter Hall): 3:37:42
1999: Winner: 3:29:47
2000: Second: 3:38:12
2001: Winner: 3:31:21
2002: Third: 3:35:00
2003: Fourth: 3:59:34
2004: Third: 3:49:07
2006: Fourth (3rd Male): 3:51:43
2007: Eighth: 4:32:43
2008: Winner: 3:57:07

Still trying to work out a conclusion from these (other than i'm getting slower !!!) but still whilst an unexpected win probably one of my best actual race performances for the year, 3 wins for the year so ultimately 2008 hadn't been the writeoff that it had been looking to be back in March (i have reread some of my rather whinging blog posts as sciatic nerve and back problems drove me to distraction and drink at various points early on), reckon i can give the year a 7 out of 10 and have a little break before the new year comes upon us.
Certainly after a year with 3,185 Race Kilometres including 2 Marathons and
23 Ultras shows i've still got a decent career ahead of me, certainly at the moment pretty much uninjured and feeling good i'm looking positively towards 2009.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Kepler - the race

A late Tuesday afternoon flight to Christchurch meant i could casually wander down to the airport and my next step would be onto overseas soil, not often you can do that !!. With a flight of just over 3 hours it was barely a longer trip than to Melbourne with the wind against us (a regular occurence), half empty plane and i was lucky to have 3 seats all to myself shame it was too early to lie down and have a nap !.
With time differences (+3 hours) arrived in Christchurch just before midnight but having to go through customs (and getting my muddy Free 4.0's washed as i'd be running in them) meant it was tomorrow before we (me and fellow Gold Coast Runners Peter Hall and his wife Leanne) picked up the hire car and headed off to the hotel in downtown Christchurch (easy to get to except the Rememberance Arch and pedestrian mall meant a few extra turns than expected (some of my better navigating).
The plan being to meet up at 8 and then drive down to Te Anau, by the time i'd eaten dinner (a couple of sandwiches i'd made at home and really didn't feel like on the plane) it was well after 1 and more tired than i thought i woke at 7:55 !!, so pretty much out of bed, repack and down to the car (so much for thoughts of a run in the city !).
Having successfully navigated out the city it was then the long drive south, mutton pie and cappucino (note to self never again say yes to chocolate on NZ Cappucino felt like i had to eat a block of chocolate before i made it to the actual coffee !) and then stocked up on groceries at a town along the way. Lovely scenery, alot of it reminding me of the Princes Hwy on the way down to Portland, as expected lot's of sheep and many green fields (have never seen so much irrigation though this seemed strange as it was looking quiet wet !!) strangely also saw some signs warning of wallabies (never saw any though).
By 4 we'd made it to Te Anau i was staying in a cabin a couple of K's out of town with a glorious view out my back window (3rd picture down) of the lake and the surrounding mountains. With a bit of rain in the air and a chill in the breeze
have to admit i was feeling the sort of cold i hadn't experienced since moving north, was only thankful i had a couple of days to acclimatize.
Certainly got colder once night fell (10 PM !) and was actually woken by the cold at around 6AM (this sleeping bag had been used by me in below zero mornings in German sports halls, surely it wasn't that cold !) so seeing rain it was on with the skins and a jumper and back to bed !!.
Had a better look around the town on the Thursday and, if not for the weather, an idyllic place bumping into Peter and Leanne at the info centre and joining them for lunch and organised a bit of a training run on the course the following day.
Later got in an hours running, certainly warm clothing was going to be an essential part of this event.
Friday morning we did the last 10K's of the course from Rainbow Reach, perfect track for running on, wide and soft underfoot, the Free's were definitely going to be my shoe of choice (they'd taken two days to dry after being washed in customs so was very careful to keep them dry the day before the race).
Picked up my number and race pack and returned later in the day for the race briefing, just how a race briefing should be, short, bit of humour and to the point so getting a lift home was ready for bed at 8:30 having set the alarm for 4.
Only wish i had brought my mixing bowl breakfast bowl as it meant i was having 2 to 3 bowls of cereal (NZ Hubbard Muesli, cornflakes concoction - quiet tasty) every time, still the important thing was having it.
My plan had been to run with my bike top and Moeben sleeves, with gloves on and using the bandanna "Beanie style" but once checked in just realised how cold it was so one thermal top as well as the Goretex jacket came out of my camelbak (bladderless this was one race i wouldn't need extra water) and were put on.
Managed to catch up with some other Aussies and the very low key start took me by surprise, was nowhere near the 7 hour pace time was actually positioned somewhere near the back of the field !!!.
First 5K's was pretty much spent passing runners and walkers whilst going at a very gentle pace (was bemused to see a couple of runners heading back towards me, apparently they had forgotten some of their compulsory gear and were heading back to pick it up), but reckoned this was a good way to start as it would, in theory, leave plenty in the tank for the easy last half.
Once out of the tree line, beautiful clear skies awaited us, only problem clear skies mean real cold and the breeze of surrounding snow capped peaks meant that even three topped and gloved i was damned cold. Finally made it to the hut and the gear check was just thankful there were no long queues and standing around, a couple of cups of leppin and i was ready to go.
The next stage of the run was basically a single file of runners at easy pace, giving me some time to enjoy the scenery, simply didn't feel as though the frozen legs really wanted to be pushed at this point. Sadly the cold was getting to me and i had quite a headache and was wondering whether the thermal beanie was a better option but never quite made that change (the Buff Bandanna had done such a good job on cold morning in France it was virtually my security blanket !!).
Finally we headed off the ridgelines and headed back into trees, by then i'd passed a few runners (helped by a one drink no food stop at the last aid station) and it was simple downhill running. I'd be honest and say i wasn't as sure on my feet on these foreign trails as i would be at home so went down rather more gently than usual, although was only passed by one way more daredevil runner.
At this point we were still running virtually in groups, can't really expplain why but simply you'd find a comfortable pace and just stay on it.
Had a good feed at Iris Burn Hut (nearly half way) and my plan was to then really push out as my legs should still have been really fresh. Unfortunately no one had told my legs this, not sure if the cold up top had just made the muscles too cold or what but the legs had simply lost their usual bounce and anything vaguely uphill reduced me to a walk.
Eventually we made it to parts of track under the sun (as opposed to under trees) and i was beginning to wonder whether all the layers of clothing were making me sweat too much and this was effecting me.
So 26K's to go it was off with the thermal top, the goretex jacket and the gloves and pop a couple of salt tablets, a little better but still was struggling (and it was still coolish - wasn't rolling the Moeben sleeves down). Had a vague idea where i was place wise as had heard the woman i was running with was 14th (should make me around 120 to 140th by my calcs) so was pretty much hanging on, looking for a second wind to at least get top 100.
Next aid station was my last roll of the dice, a couple of quarters of orange sometimes inexplicably a great aid. Finally was getting running consistently though not fast and just waiting to get to Rainbow Ridge (and in theory the easy familiar part). Couple of Leppins there and seemed to finally get my act together, not fast but consistently passing runners and no walking. One mistake at the last aid station grabbed a cup and drank it, unfortunately it was jelly beans, still not far to go so not a great issue. Finally the finish line in sight and i could stop.
Thankful i didn't realise the time (7:20:57) as i'd been confident of something between 6 and 7 hours (was only on seeing the full results i realised how i'd just sneaked into the top 100 99th place).
Absolutely stuffed post race, the complimentary orange juice washed down by the complimentary beer at the end were absolute saviours and for the first time since about 5K's i was feeling pretty good, wandered back to the car as i was sure Peter (and Leanne who was doing the Luxmore Grunt) would have well and truly been finished by now. Beautiful sunny day by now, much better than the weather had indicated in the previous few days, we were definitely lucky.
Wandered back and had a feed and caught up with some of the much better performed Aussies.
Despite this run being only somewhere between 61.2K's (official distance) and 58.6K's (Garmin measured distance) it was damned tough, probably more due to the fact i don't handle the cold well.
Next day (after 10 hour sleep - maybe my body was telling me something), wandered into town for the presentations and was lucky enough to win a spot prize (although the question has to be asked when i'll get to use my Milford Sound boat trip !), after that fish and chips and a leisurely lakeside walk.
That evening was reminded just how lucky we had been weatherwise with heavy rain which continued unabated till morning (goretex jacket and waterproof pants not usually what i'd wear to wander the 100 yards to the ablutions block !!).
This weather followed us all the way north back to Christchurch (picturesque Queenstown being essentially shrouded in fog and sleet i believe it has mountains !!).
Arriving back early evening in Christchurch did mean i would get a look around the town this time, and was fortunate to find a Pub with live music that night (acoustic guitar playing vocalist nice relaxing way to spend the night) and not being tired went for a walk of the block (3 or 4 miles) before bed.
One last chance of a run in town so that morning memorised the street map and headed towards the Gondola, by signs this was around 12K's (plus a little as had to avoid freeways) but with murky weather heading to the top wasn't going to be an option (and having worn a watch so i'd be back in time for a shower before checking out wasn't likely timewise), so headed back in time for breakfast and a shower before 10AM checkout.
With a few hours to kill before the flight out, went for a walk around town but again rain dogged us and eventually ended up in the the Canterbury Museum, so yes i did see plenty of Kiwis and Moas and all the unique birdlife although unfortunately only stuffed !).
First time i'd ever paid to leave a country ($25 Departure Tax) and then a quick (tailwind got us back 25 minutes early), flight home, actually it all went so smoothly i forgot to change my money at the airport (rather embarassing in the supermarket the next day).
A 3 hour run on Thursday, showed me that the Kepler legs were only a small blip and 90 minutes this morning makes me confident of a good 50K's tomorrow in the Kurrawa to Duranbah and return, my 10th start there. Not sure of the weather though, going by recent rain we may actually get good coolish conditions rather than the usual humid, mobile sauna conditions.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Training too hard now for a relaxing flight to New Zealand

Not much to talk about racewise since my last post, but seeing i head off to New Zealand for the Kepler Challenge on the 6th of December, doubt i'll be updating the blog till i return.
Very hard week training wise, unfortunately there are times when simply i forget that most of my career has been based on training runs of 2.5 to 3 Hours with no drink stops and just pure hard running and also simply that much of this has been in somewhat cooler climes than the Gold Coast (particularly in the recent very humid conditions we've had when it hasn't been raining !!).
Long runs Thursday and Saturday and both times was feeling too good when i got to my usual turnaround point unfortunately both times i was struggling by the end and even needed a drink of water (and dip under a beach shower) with still a couple of miles to go. I guess pushing it too hard is always better than training too easy but nevertheless i do have the odd feeling of mortality when i push it that hard. A litre of cordial and water mixture goes down so well when i get home it isn't funny, but really it takes a good couple of hours before i'm back in any sort of shape (interesting when i went off to work on the Thursday arvo !!!).
Decided to take it easier on Sunday and ended up doing a relatively easy 15K's with the Gold Coast Road Runners Club (having slept in had to drive there which worked out well as sausages and eggs for breakfast there would have been an interesting run back).
Today was desperate for one last hard run, but wanted to give myself the option of shortening it if i felt knackered, so dug out my old "Mt Woodgee" loop meaning i'd do the hard K or so uphill and then cruise around the Currumbin Beachfront and enjoy the beautiful sunny day before heading up my "hill from hell" again.
Seven laps was quite sufficient, was still feeling strong so decided was best to do an easy lap back to my bit of beach and a swim, looks like i picked it nicely today, 16K's of the loop as well as 4K's there and 5K's home seemed just what i needed today.
Not sure if i'll get a chance for a run tomorrow, but seeing i get to Te Anau on Wednesday i'd like to think i could do some trails around the Kepler course before Saturdays race.
Unfortunately not being able to get back to the Coast before the Tuesday evening means i've had to rule out a Coast to Kosi start (with a 15 to 20 Hour drive to the start at Eden really question whether i'd have run my race beforehand, think i really needed a QLD based crew so i could have had a good rest in the car rather than being stuck behind the steering wheel), i do feel it's really a bit of waste considering my fitness at the moment, whilst i wouldn't have been giving Tim Cochrane's record a shake i'm confident i'd have been well under my 39 Hours of 2005, still even i can't be everywhere.
Looks like the month of Magnesium supplement seems to have done me alot of good as i'm definitely recovering well and (unrelated i'm sure !! have had no back problems), however i have been happy to have the odd beer or wine in recent times after all we've only got one life and being permanently alcohol free has never been an option for me as for me it's always been part of a happy, well rounded life.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Go south young man (that's if you want colder rainy conditions !!)

I'd had an interesting week training wise last week, Sunday's storms were repeated again on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and the first few few days of the week were basically constant rain and also pretty humid. I've got no dramas about doing a race when it's wet and often find a good dowmpour refreshing during a long run but i'm stuffed if i'll actually head out for only a training run when it's already raining.
However with things a little quiet on the computer work front (think a combination of the economy and closeness to Christmas) decided i'd do a bit of shelf filling at the local Coles in readiness for it's grand opening on December 8. Probably the closest thing i ever would get to a gym is putting 3 Litre Juice bottles on shelves as well as other fairly heavy things, although having spent half of one day filling the confectionary aisle just don't offer me sweets anytime soon.
So ended up having a really good aerobic workout Monday to Thursday and not needing a run (reckon i worked out last year that if i do too little work i'm inclined to overtrain and basically wear myself out pre race - not ideal !!).
Come Friday and an afternoon off meant i would at least get one long run in for the week, however with barely 24 Hours till the Moe race later i was to question the logic of this. Ultimately did a solid 30K's but by Tugun (where i popped in and picked up my PO Box mail) was knackered, hopped under a cold beach shower and had some water but by the time i'd made it to Currumbin had had enough. Ultimately had a swim a Palmie before wandering home, but later found it had reached 33 degrees so have a feeling there was a bit of sun stroke involved as i felt crap the rest of the afternoon (and running topless was a tad sunburnt always a sure sign, usually don't find 3 odd hours in the sun an issue).
Was packing later that night and had a call from fellow runner Robert Boyce down in Melbourne, forecast for Moe was for heavy rain and severe storms so revised my packing list to put in more warm running gear (shame that was about all i could in my 7KG carry on luggage, spent the rest of my trip carting around my heavy paperback looking like a missionary or similar - although the book title "Boned" may have given lie to that thought !!).
6AM flight from Coolangatta so unfortunately no time for a casual stroll to the airport (just parked a couple of blocks away, seeing buses are hourly at that time of day couldn't risk public transport).
Flight ended up 20 minutes late as we were going directly into a headwind, although when told it was raining heavily and 8 degrees would have been quite happy to tell the pilot to turn around and head back !!!.
Thankfully i had Brett Saxon picking me up at the airport (and giving a lift to Moe), so didn't have too much time standing there freezing in my shorts (only long pants i'd brought were my track suit pants and my luggage was so tightly packed i really wasn't wanting to try to open the zip outside).
We popped into the local Coles and i bought 6 600ML bottles of Gatorade as well as getting a couple of Cheesymites and buns at the Bakers Delight reckon that was my nutrition covered for 6 Hours.
We picked up another competitor Malcolm Gamble on the way through and by 1 were at the track only to find that no one else would be there till 3. Now it comes to the interesting part, a 4PM start is awkward meal wise, just what should be had before and when. Having had my Vita Brits at 4:30 QLD time i was by then starving so we ended up at Moe Red Rooster (not much open in the town Saturday Arvo), whilst the other two had one chicken roll each i was feeling in need of more so had two as well as some roast potato (we all ordered roast potatoes however only 4 were available !!) and some of Mal's coleslaw. A muggacino with cake across the road (didn't see the place was open but looked very tasty) and we were all primed for the run, even the sky had cleared and there were glimpses of blue sky.
Back to the track and things were happening, including rain, so time to put my entry in and change into race gear.
Certainly not warm so thought the Lululemon Bike Top and ASICS Bike Shorts were the way to go and decided to keep on the warmer Drymax Trail Socks and to go with the Lunarlite Racers and the old faithful Buff Bandanna and running gloves, alongside the track i had basically two bags of clothing changes available with the Goretex jacket the most accessible as it seemed only a matter of time.
24 Starters, quite amazing on a day like this particularly when you consider most would have travelled at least 100K's, a number of GNW finishers and many other familiar finishers never quite sure whether it's a race or some sort of dysfunctional family reunion :-).
I was soon regretting lunch, not sure whether i should have stuck to one roll but whatever it was my gut just wouldn't work and spent the first 28 minutes feeling very ordinary eventually heading off the track to the toilets. A few minutes later i was back and marginally better but by then the skies had decided to open and i kept thinking this is going to be a damned long 6 hours.
Goretex jacket and waterproof (well they were back in 1979 now only marginally but better than none) overgloves and i was back off around the track, no thoughts of a drink yet after all there was all this rain in the air !. Rain and strong gusts of wind meant this track with no shelter wasn't really the place to be but let's face it i'd come all this way to run not to just moan about the weather so hust plodded on, feeling very slow when local speedster John MacKenzie whizzed past frequently.
After an hour thought it was probably time for a swig of Gatorade and thankfully it didn't upset my stomach further, consistent but that's about it.
Can't really say much about the next few hours, rain decreased to drizzle at times or increased to downpour at others, wind grew stronger and sometimes ebbed and we all just kept going in circles. Finally a change of direction (to clockwise) at 3 hours and whilst i'd only done 81 Laps (32.4K's), leader John already had a marathon under his belt and ultimately finished the 50K in 3:39:47 whilst i got to that same mark in 4:35:03 (only 2004 being slower on this course). A couple of walked laps and i realised i had to run faster as i was getting really cold (and couldn't be bothered getting my thermal top out and redressing !).
Finished my second bottle of Gatorade (no real call for major rehydration in these conditions) and had a bun and from then on just put the foot down and ran faster than for the previous 4 odd hours. Was thoroughly enjoying passing people continuously (after all this was a race not a Saturday night stroll) and was aiming to pick up a few places although i doubted i'd make up enough ground for a placing.
Finally at 10PM it was all over and i'd finally made it up to 4th place and 64.408K's (have to admit i'm waiting to see the lap count sheet to clarify this as was sure that when i read it on that night i was further and also found it strange i did exactly 80 laps the second half and 81 the first, frankly there was no comparision between them and other than a 10 minute walk break was knocking off just over 2 minute laps throughout that last 2 hours).
Finally a hot shower and warm clothes really couldn't have asked for more, and to top it off a burgers and snags on the barbie (washed down with a beer supplied by birthday boy Robert).
Some really good performances out there: GNW 100 Miler finisher Lachlan Fraser winning with a distance of 68.548K's a really good debut track ultra in what is virtually his first year of serious Ultra running.
GNW 100K finisher Malcolm Gamble just over half a K behind another very consistent run with trail runner Peter Bignell (first track ultra also ?) a similar distance behind.
In the end i'd just beaten Townsville runner John Nuttall, seemed pretty much the usual he'll lead me for 50 to 60K's and i'll have a fair chance of catching him.
Robert Boyce on the comeback trail ran consistently and whilst looking for 60K's was happy enough with 1 short as was Brett who had kept up a very consistent pace throughout.
Tend to agree with Paul Monks at the presentation that walking is harder than running (two reasons for mine, totally different footfall to running and secondly the fact that as a runner you can slow down to walk but as a walker have no other option rather than stopping), and was impressed to see him get just over 50K as well as Brian Glover (the most consistent marathon walker i've seen) just over a lap short.
Have to give alot of thanks to the organisers as i'm sure sitting there in the cold, wet, miserable conditions we experienced was probably just as hard as going around in them.
A late night, not leaving the track till 11 or so and very thankful for a lift with Robert and his family as well as a cold beer and a bed (even slept in till 10, very unlike me !).
So there it is my last Victorian race for the year.
Took it easy on Monday, but couldn't resist a good hard, hilly run on Tuesday (as above) and looks as though i picked the right day to do it as last night rain came and 170mm's later it's still drizzling (that explains the above pictures taken this morning, not only is my lake nice and full so are the roads through the park - bottom two pictures).
Maybe one or two runs before i head off to NZ next Tuesday for Kepler, but on the hand will the rain ever stop ???

Sunday, 16 November 2008

First run for the week, more blues in my backyard all topped off by a storm

Nothing much to report run wise this week, when i did get a chance to run the weather tended to be very ordinary (ie rain and/or storms) and really was happy to take it easy after last weeks 100 Miler.
Finally decided Sunday was the day for a long run, but slept in marginally so missed out on the Gold Coast Runners Club regular run (i did turn up but no idea what the time was being watchless !), decided then to head towards Surfers, good solid run and was lucky enough to find Ultra runners Geoff Last and Peter Gibson coming back from their long run just past Northcliffe. Reckon i'd done enough mileage so joined them on the run back to Burleigh Heads, probably a little faster as i do tend to push it a bit more running with people !!.
Once Geoff had turned off home at Burleigh Heads decided to take it easy over the Burleigh hill and by 15th Ave (Palm Beach) decided i'd done enough for the day so a paddle was in order, popped in to my cousin's for a cold drink and a cuppa and then headed for a swim on the way home.
One of those fortunate days when we get live entertainment at Laguna Lake (my backyard), so was back in time for some more live music from "Blind Lemon". Really enjoyable gig (nothing like being able to stroll out the side gate to a gig, just got to remember to take a chair and refreshments !!), but cut a little short as a storm rolled in. Sitting here at the moment watching heavy rain as i type on the balcony, looked like good timing.
Probably another easy week as i'm off down south for the Moe 6 Hours track run next Saturday.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The hardest run i've ever done ??

With a little trepidation i headed south for the Great North Walk 100 Miler, the plan had originally been to drive down after work the Tuesday night and have 3 days checking out the trails before the race, but with a public holiday in Melbourne i needed to be in the office on Wednesday so with that decided to do a good long trail run on the Tuesday instead. Headed up to Binna Burra once i found i was needed the next day and did the section "Great Walk" section from there towards Springbrook, not really being sure just how far i could get as i'd not done much of this track past the Ship Stern section. Ultimately made it to Apple Tree Park ( approximately 26.5 K's, some very muddy and some very steep.
Essentially this is an easier Aussie version of something like the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, starting at 1,000 metres going down to the valley floor and then a climb (supposedly up 900 steps i didn't count) to 500 odd metres at Springbrook, definitely a good hard run but possibly a little more than i needed that close to GNW. Decided that was far enough as black clouds and occasional rain had been building up and looked like i'd be getting soaked on the way back. With the Numimbah Valley Cafe shut meant i had no hopes of a hot meal so it was muesli bars and nuts in my camelbak to get me back.
Last half was pretty much stormy and by the time i made it back to the car looked and felt like a drowned rat (and had no idea what had happened in the Melbourne Cup).
Dry clothes and a car heater definitely made things brighter for me and a 53K trail run with Camelbak certainly helped my confidence.
Leaving Wednesday afternoon meant i had time to get the race maps and directions laminated which i hoped would help but having only reached the Kurrajong Rest area by nightfall decided i'd have a nap in the car before heading down (had rained all the way the drive from home to Coffs Harbour can't say the weather was looking to hopeful).
Great sleep (something like 9 hours more than i get at home !!) and it was back down the Pacific Hwy, first stop Teralba to actually find the start and do some of the first set of directions. Basically the rest of the day was spent following where i could access the course (not having the crew instructions often struggling to find roads and certainly using roads not really made for little Subaru Imprezas). Went down and up the trail accessing Checkpoint 1 and had magnificent views over the Hunter Region at Macleans Lookout as well as strangely a flock of 7 goats (interesting reaction to me they simply fled !). Also found my way around the Area off Freemans Drive and up rocks (this was going to be tough) and then to Congewai.
Decided i'd do the Congewai to Barribri Trig trail in reverse and then time the distance back to see just what sort of speed i could go, actually took longer to get up there than i thought and with nightfall coming (and drizzle) was content to run as quick as capable getting back to the car by 7:30. Basically enough time to just get in before check in closed at the hotel we'd booked for Friday night (and i'd changed to a 2 day booking when able to get phone reception).
Being late night shopping at the nearby Tuggerah Westfield meant i then dashed in their and got my supplies (6 Mars Bars, 6 Bottles of Staminade one per drop bag to go with the cans of baked beans i had brought down), as well as price reduced Spag Bol as the Woolies was open till midnight but the food court only till 9.
Even indulged in a beer, had had a good day and felt i needed a reward and was about as fit as i get.
Friday was spent following the trail out of Yarramalong, the 100K mark and probably the one place i may be tempted to stop, so parked the car at the 111.9K mark and did the track in reverse (7.5K's), apparently disturbing every dog in that valley.
Shame i didn't have much money on me as i popped into the General Store and found i could only afford a 300ml tropical juice and a choc chip cookie, still a real feed was something to look forward to when i made it back to the car.
On returning reckoned i'd get out of Yarramalong easily (although noisily thanks to the chorus of dogs) and returned via the General Store for Fish and Chips, that would be enough for today as i'd tried out the Lunarlite Shoes and their minimal style definitely wasn't going to work as i found they wore a cut in my heel (no padding around the heel is fine for road races but evidently not a good idea of steep trails).
Back to the Motel and caught up with my room mate Robert as well as other runners Belinda and Horrie and their son and crew.
Robert had brought lots of delicious lasagne down so got stuck into that whilst watching the Aussies crumbling in India (even that wasn't enough to ruin my appetite).
Spent what felt like forever then packing my drop bags, i'd put two at Western States (and never made it as far as them) but otherwise this was a totally new concept to me, but considering i had 21 laminated A4 pages in total the last thing i really wanted to do was carry everything that i would require.
Every drop bag had at least one 425G can of baked beans or spaghetti, one 90G Mars Bar, one 600Ml bottle of Staminade, one Strawberry Banana Gu, one energy bar and a baggie of 4 Succeed Caps, but 4 of the 6 had a pair of shoes simply because i was worried that my favourite trail running shoes Nike 4.0 Frees would be fairly useless if the course was too muddy in sections and secondly if the course was too rugged they could simply fall to bits as by now these 2.5 Year old shoes had some structural weaknesses particularly holes in the back of each heel. Spread over the 6 drop bags were also 2 cans of creamed rice, 2 thermal tops, 4 pairs of socks, one headband and a pair of running tights.
Set the alarm for 3:30 as we needed to be at Teralba (a 43 minute drive according to Whereis) by 5 and i still needed my mixing bowl worth of Vita Brits.
Not a great nights sleep (but not worried as Thursday night had been another good 9 hours) and once organised we headed off to Teralba.
More like a family reunion than a race with so many familiar faces and so much to catch up on.
Fairly easy decisions clothes wise stuck with the usual Nike Fitdry Shorts, the Lululemon Bike top (god only knows how many miles it has done, used most stages in France 2006 & 2008, Germany 2007 and Badwater as well as most of my longer Aussie Trail Ultras), Drymax Trail Socks and my usual blue headband.
Was using the new camelbak i'd bought for only $20 at Sports Chalet in Redondo and despite having only used it for my three Binna Burra runs in the last couple of weeks thought it would be a better bet as it held that little more than my old Salomon one. Wasn't a race to take risks so as well as carrying all the compulsory gear (including taking my Goretex Rain Jacket rather than some inferior but more lightweight option) also carried the Buff Bandanna, Moebon Sleeves, Running Gloves, Bike Shorts, a tube of Diaper Cream (the best chafing fixer i've found), Legionnaires Cap and an extra couple of energy bars and Gu as well as the ones i had in my bike top pockets and baggie of 8 Succeed Caps.
A quick talk by race director Dave Byrnes and at 5:30 we were off.
Nice morning but heavy cloud made it rather humid, was quite content midfield having a chat with some of the usual suspects and with this crowd navigating was not an issue. 15K's in and we'd made it to Heaton Gap trackhead, a very solid uphill stage and was travelling well but sweating very heavily the humidity was definitely going to be an issue. Caught up with Innes just before Macleans Lookout and we ran quickly towards the first checkpoint.
Incredibly well organised with a table to get our camelbaks filled and easy to find drop bag zone. I drank my Staminade, ate my Mars Bar and had a couple of the salted potatoes being handed out and also replenished my Succeed Cap supply.
Spent a little longer at the aid station than Innes and others but calculated that with only 6 stops i could afford to do this without any rushing.
Next part was again familiar, and i was thankful i'd only driven so far in my car along Georges Rd as the firetrail deteriorated rapidly before hitting Barrabri Trig.
Had Lachlan Fraser (who surely must have been jetlagged after a flight a few days previous from the US) catch up to me here and we ran together all the way down to Congewai pretty much a 10K conversation as we caught up on each others exploits since the Gold Coast 100K.
No need for a camelbak top up at Congewai but instead a sausage sandwich and cake to go with my Staminade and Mars Bar. Had heard tales of Wayne Gregory's injuries earlier and was worried just how he was going far in front of me. Left with Ian Wright, one time winner and a man noted for often passing me in the last 40K's of the Glasshouse 100 Miler over the years. He was trying new tactics by mixing running and walking so i kept up easily still very fresh. Was disappointed to find i had to get my feet wet at the Watagan Creek crossing but was thankful i had a runner experienced here to get us through this tricky bit. Ultimately we hit the 66.9K Unmanned water stop and whilst i didn't need to use it a couple of other runners also caught up by the time we left. At this point there was a little drizzle but really it was ideal running conditions certainly the sun and heat wasn't a problem (as usual i hadn't put sunscreen in the camelbak and had none in my drop bags really find it only of use over 40 degrees and was bemused to see so many people slapping the stuff on at CP 2). Good consistent running from there till the turn off to the Basin Campsite which was CP3, glad i was still with Ian as he knew not to take the wrong turn which many others did. Saw quite a number of people heading back towards us as we go 2.5K's in and then back out and on to another track, reassuring that there were so many out there and also giving me something to chase down later.
Beatiful Spag Bol at Checkpoint 3, again didn't need my can of baked beans but had all the other usual things, injured Tim Turner (one of the few people to have started this race each year and one of the "Ultra family") filled my camelbak while i consumed that (50 Odd K's between 2 Litre Camelbak refills seemed perfectly timed) and i also knocked a leech of my sock, i'd been warned about them !!.
Soon we would need headlights, but first up the steep track that we'd passed on the way in. Me and Ian were then joined by Michael Lovric and we 3 ran along in ragged style as we both took it easy on the uphill sections as we were planning to burn along the flat Ravensdale Road.
A couple of hard bits of navigation but once we hit the road it was time for a good hard run (finally i could use some of that spare energy that i appeared to have). We ran nicely into Yarramalong but Michael having nausea peoblems went into the doctor while i hoed into hot soup and delicious caramel slices as well as a can of creamed rice, time now to take the headband off and put the bandanna on.
Once i left (16 Hours 16 Minutes having now gone, my guesstimate of a 30 Hour time seemingly pretty right) i then realised i hadn't grabbed the thermal top from my drop bag and almost headed back but decided to hop into a phone booth and put on the Moeben Sleeves and running gloves and see if they would work, in short thankfully they did.
Turning up Bumble Hill Road was glad to have a few local cheering me from their back yard, way better than having their dogs yapping at me, way more silent than Friday arvo. I think Fridays run was very worthwhile as the course seemed very straightforward and reached the top easily but was then caught up to by a runner with a pacer. Ran with them for a while but when passed was asked to join them being told we'll only run the flats and the downs, sadly that meant i lost them rapidly as i was finding the flats to be very ordinary underfoot and as for the downs on thin trails i was way too clumsy !!.
For the first time after crossing a creek managed to lose the track but could hear runners very close behind, Innes and Terry so waited less than a minute and saw the marginal wrong turn i had taken. After that it was a case of walking and running uphill, me usually leading on the walking stages simply because i was just way too fresh meaning my legs could walk as fast as at the beginning.
We passed the second lady (with pacer) on the road and then rapt to get a real sealed road, found an extra gear and flew into the Somersby School.
More hot food as well as my usual stuff and i was feeling in great shape, only downside being the fact that my feet were feeling a little blistered the one issue with the Frees being that in boggy ground i was essentially holding them on with my toes and with "pimpled" insoles i was making the toes quite sore.
Left with Innes and Terry but again it was a case of being outrun on the single trails so was soon by myself again, was only thankful that it was now getting lighter and would soon not need the headlight. Once i crossed Mooney Mooney Creek i got some really good running surface and was beginning to think the rest of the run would be relatively easy.
Checkpoint 6 and my usual feed (never ended up having any of my cans of Baked Beans as good hot food was provided everywhere) as well as filling up my camelbak but was surprised to hear i still had around 5 hours to go !!!. I did say i was expecting it to be easier from here, well pretty simple i was wrong, sandstone plateaus were not only hard on the feet and sometimes hard to follow (marked by painted arrows) but i was beginning to get hot with no shade. Finally got to the 100 Mile mark and felt i'd achieved something although still a long way to go. Came across a local (who'd pulled out at checkpoint 2) a little later and walked with him a bit, probably just the witness i needed for a little later managed to disturb a brown snake which bounced of the back of my shoe (spent the next couple of miles worried about that as having holes in the back of both shoes i suspect that it would have bitten me if it had managed to get its head caught there and it must have got damned close).
Eventually began to get views of the sea and really enjoy the course but certainly the end appeared to get no closer (especially as i had no idea what the end looked like !!!), but with a few K's to go was pleasantly surprised to see Innes and Terry walking just in front, finally i'd get to race. With abundant energy (it may have been a long run but i had few opportunities to actually run fast so was very fresh) made sure i made it look easy when passing and basically run as long as i could, was relieved to find a sealed track to Warrah Trig so could actually get a good pace going and from then on ran faster downhill than any other time on this run, refusing to look behind me, finally spotted the beach and initially a bit lost as to how to get on it (with a pier in the way), absolutely bolted on the sand (just like at home between Currumbin and Tallebudgera Creeks) finally close enough to see i would get in under 30 Hours, very happy indeed.
Bit of a haze after that, had run long and hard and had little rest and there was a certain extra joy about conquering this course. I know people reading the title of this will question the fact i claim it's the hardest run i've done but most of my extreme races (ie Badwater, Trans Gaule, Deutschlandlauf, Coast to Kosi, etc) have been on roads and simply i'm a much better road runner than trail runner, no longer quite as nimble as back in my early 30's and certainly i find my large feet and height are a positive disadvantage. Love trail running and with 17 Six Foot Tracks, 13 Maroondah Dam Trails, 10 Bogong to Hothams, 5 Walhalla Woundups and numerous others over the years can't claim i am unable to run trails but i know my ability on them is tested once over 50 miles or so whereas on a road i can run virtually forever.
As i type i'm happy to say the body has recovered well (trails are way easier on it the roads) so now it's a case of what's next ???.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Spot the Ultra Runner ????

Folks if i don't update this blog sometime next week, it'll be simple to work out.
After 3 good longs runs last week i decided i would enter the Great North Walk 100 Miler. With the Gold Coast Runners club more involved with their own triathlon last Sunday only got a short group run with them as far as the North Burleigh Hill but having driven to their Burleigh Heads clubrooms (as opposed to run - even i sleep in ocassionally) meant i could run further north so ended up running all the way to the Southport Seaway.
Knew it was fairly late by the time i headed back as Kurrawa Markets were very busy and the beachside paths were becoming crowded with familes as well as many people in apparently post big night stupors around Surfers etc.
No back problems (can't really see the chiro this week as i'm heading down the race on Tuesday night/Wednesday so i can get an idea of the trails), but interestingly the metatarsal is sore again, i suppose the positive is i'll be running on trails not roads etc so shouldn't be an issue.
I'm sure there are people wondering what the above picture it, well the answer is i'm in it (just nobody would recognize me without running gear and headband or bandanna etc). Actually it's a picture taken on Friday night at the wedding of Ultra runner Nic Moloney and Mallani MacArthur (soon to be an Ultra runner but certainly a runner) and all the people pictured are good friends and also runners, it's amazing we scrub up pretty well although i freely admit me in a suit and tie is about as logical as a bird hopping into a plane to fly (my only concession to my normal non stylish self being the short sleeved shirt - i don't own a long sleeved one and it was actually a rush job to find any collared shirt to iron !!).
So as people frantically search the picture to work out just which one is me, i'd better get packing for this next race.
Dawned on me tomorrow is Melbourne Cup day, one of the few religious holidays i take much notice of, better start reading a form guide although have to admit it's hard to think of a 3200 metre race as a test of staying ability !!!!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Lamington Classic Double

Well here we are after not having a drink (of the alcoholic variety that is - i'm not a camel) for ten days and a magnesium supplement for the same time and i'd be honest and say my body has handled the rough way i treat it runningwise pretty well of late. Two 20 mile runs (including one interupted by hail stones drawing blood - even i stopped for 15 minutes and sheltered, possibly wearing a top would have helped ???) and a 20K run last week as i thought i really should push it a bit.
Having got a late start in the Lamington Classic (a run with a field limit of 50 meaning i ended up on the waitlist) my intention was to do the actual race (Saturday 22K's O'Reillys to Binna Burra and Sunday the reverse on the glorious Lamington Plateau in the Gold Coast Hinterland) but to also run back each day, so just over a marathon on trails both days.
Was probably a bit overrated on the first stage as i ended up starting with the first group (fastest groups go off first a minute apart) and with speed merchants like Peter Hall and Michael Page i was somewhat outclassed and ultimately beaten in by the next group and 2 from the third. Was getting quite cold towards the end and struggled a bit because of that finishing 13th in 2:02:06 and wasn't surprised to see heavy rain as i was sitting in the cafe fuelling up on cappucino and beef lasagne. Waited for the rain to stop (and put on my rain jacket and bandanna) and ran back, very cold half way as i went through heavy fog and was very thankful the sun was shining when 2:49 later i was back at the car.
With a 9AM start on Sunday meant i could have a good sleep in as it's only 50 odd minutes to Binna Burra, slightly different a slower group at 8:30 and a faster group at 9:00. For mine this is the harder direction (although the way i've run this innumerable times over the years) so knew i'd be faster than my plodding solo return but not as fast as Saturday morning with fresh legs. Ideal conditions and ultimately did this in 2:12 for 13th again.
Again it was off into a line for coffee simply to keep me warm, and then a very pleasant lunch and prize giving. Ended up with 3 of us heading back to Binna Burra with overall third place Matt Carrick and Australian 100K representative Susannah Harvey-Jamieson, but with Susannah taking it easy after acting as sweeper ended up with me and Matt doing some decent time and ultimately 2:35, certainly a good weekends training.
With thoughts of Great North Walk i was content to find the back causing minimal pain, but had booked in for the chiropractor on Monday as really needed some feedback. Positive comments about the back so it was off for a solid 25K run this morning and again feeling comfortable (if only damned typing didn't do me more harm than running). If i'm up early enough i'll do another 2 to 3 hour run tomorrow morning and all being well put in a GNW entry, finally the comeback seems to be heading the right way (i am thirsty though :-) ).

Monday, 20 October 2008

Stuff all training this week, so i'd better run a marathon

Not quite sure where the rest of the week went to, obviously i was busy doing non running related things (also known as work !), the back and neck appeared to be all right but i'd felt flat so i decided to just do a long walk of a morning a couple of those days (as well as a wander along the beach of an evening - yeah cursing it'd be dark before i returned each time !). Finally decided on Friday that rather than a long training run, i'd go and do what i do best (in theory at least) and race, with Toowoomba Marathon only a few hours drive away. Had done the calculations and not being able to find my map of Toowoomba (and of course my Mio Car Navigator thing is still in LA) thought staying there Saturday night was the more relaxing option for optimal performance.
Strange thing is i can remember coming here as a kid and it was always colder than Melbourne, but of course nowadays i believe the weather forecast on the internet and weather sounded warmish, so turned up and then realised i didn't have my running gloves and only a choice of light singlets as tops.
Early start with the race beginning at 6, i'd found USQ the previous day and had a vague look at the course, definitely not exciting and probably one lap further than i'd really like (for mine the ideal lap course has only two laps, but 3 is manageable however anymore and i can almost guarantee a bored "nothing" lap somewhere between first and last from me).
Cool and windy sums it up at the start, was cursing not bringing the gloves and was tossing up as to whether where the bandanna the first lap rather than a headband.
With a minute or so to start time, decided i'd wear the traditional headband and also my slightly warmer "Team Ireland" singlet one i'd never raced in before but had often trained in (an Irish athletics team singlet given to me by Irish runner Ray McConnell when we finished the Simpson Desert race in 2002, incongruous on me considering there hasn't been a drop of Irish blood in my family for over 150 years - if not longer).
After last weeks field of 3,500 it was good to be back with 40 odd runners (36? in the full and 6 in the 3/4 marathon). First a lap round the Uni Buildings and then a cross breeze, definitely wasn't going to be a fast one as the next turn was straight into the teeth of the gale. Comfortable pace, but i wasn't really warm enough and the leading few runners were getting away rapidly. First drink station at 2.5K's was welcome but meant another turn into a strong cross breeze and then back into the wind, few more turns and frankly the wind just seemed to be there throughout against us. Happy to make it into the long stretch of South St where at least the houses appeared to provide a bit of a windbreak, finally the wind was behind us as we turned into a hooked bit of course then finding it against us on the way back. At least this gave me a chance to see where the other runners were without looking behind me (a deadly sin of racing !).
First lap in a bit over 48 minutes, a few calculations and i knew this was going to be a slow one (3:13 or so if i could run metromically), caught up with one fellow and we were having bit of a whinge about the weather conditions and course, obviously gave him the upper hand when i said 2nd and 3rd laps would be nothing laps for me (me and my big mouth) as he was consistently in front of me from then on. Running fair, but again feeling the metatarsal on my left foot, just like last week, made it around to go through the half in a bit over 1:39 ominously my slowest half marathon time since late 80's, really couldn't afford to slow down any further although really it's not as though i was flat out it was simply the best i could manage in those conditions on that course can't explain it better than that.
Third lap was much of a muchness, again getting a little bit further in front of the others but making no headway on the leading 4, relieved to get through in 2:30:?? at least i wasn't getting the wobbles. Not a fast lap but one of the stranger ones i've ever run, whilst running along the South St footpath had been stood on by a little kid waving at his parents in the garden (have occasionally had drunken "heroes" jumping in front of runners in early morning races but this kid was totally oblivious to me and just walked backwards onto my foot, probably only lost a second if that but was bemused for longer than that and also worried he'd got the new shoes dirty !!).
Caught up with my running partner from early lap 2 and finally fired up and got rid of him (he'd mentioned he may struggle in the 4th lap i was happy to keep him to his word). When the first lady and a local runner bother loomed on my shoulder in the first 2K's, finally i got a sense of urgency, can't say i ran fast but at the turnaround finally saw the leaders again for the first time since lap 1.
Ultimately over the line in 3:20:55, if my memory serves me correctly this was pretty close to dead on 50 minutes, so my second fastest lap.
So 5th of 33 around 12 minutes behind the winner and first in the 40 to 49 age group (possibly helped by the fact that first 3 placegetters can't get age group prizes).
Not a great time, but somehow i think within about 5 minutes of as fast as i can do on that course and in those conditions (too flat, too many turns, too cool unfortunately sums it up for me). Certainly no problems with the organisation etc, just seemed to be the sort of course made to keep traffic problems to a minimum but also meaning not a great race course.
I had at least lucked out with motel as the owner had said to come back post race for a shower and toast, definitely a good idea, hot shower and half a dozen slices of toast and i was in a much better state and ready to head back for presentations.
As i type i've got the chiropractor on Wednesday, no lower back problems but again the damned neck for mine that's what happens when you keep on going around corners.

Now that's the race report done, now it's time to get philosophical, definitely not in keeping with the usual nature of this blog, feel free to stop reading now !!!.
Three weekends, one Ultra, two marathons, the sort of thing i used to lap up week after week, but simply this body is just not handling that sort of thing well at the moment.
I guess at the moment i have two aims for next year:
A: to get back to Badwater and knock 5 hours off
B: to do the Melbourne to Brisbane race if it ever gets off the ground.
So i'll do what ever i need to get back into better shape so for the time being i'm off alcohol, not sure how long that will last but as a man who's basically spent most of his adult life being a somewhat flawed but indestructible ultra running machine with an ability to do all things to excess i feel i have to try something different. I guess in simple terms i know i don't handle being injured well and my main fallback when injured is booze - the easiest painkiller - so for now i'm just trying to see if i can recover better without as recovery at the moment appears to be more like stumble from one niggle to another.
With new qualifying standards ( for next years Badwater i'd love to be able to put in an application which has me qualifying in section 1: You have officially finished the Badwater Ultramarathon (the actual race held since 1987; “solo” efforts will not be considered, except those made prior to 1990), but also in section 3: You have officially finished TWO running races of at least one 100 continuous miles in length and/or multisport events that includes a running section of at least 100 continuous miles in length and having done 184K's at this years Coburg 24 Hours, really need to do either Great North Walk or Coast to Kosi. Having now been given a start in the Kepler Challenge, i may end up struggling logistically to do Coast to Kosi (simply because i don't really want a flight back to Australia until the Tuesday and i'd then need to head off to C2K one or two days after, interesting dilemma) so i guess the Great North Walk 100 Miler is the other option (particularly as it looks like i can get a few days off beforehand to familiarise myself with the course).
Aim at the moment is to do out on back on Saturday at the Lamington Classic (Gold Coast Hinterland next weekend) and possibly a similarly long bush run the Sunday and then see if i can get an entry in a few days late if i get through it.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Melbourne - Where it all begun

After the last chiropractor appointment on Friday i was reasonably confident i'd get through the marathon in one piece but i was really unsure just what sort of time i could pull out.
With the cheapest fare possible on Tiger Airways (maximum of 7KG carry on luggage only) i had an easy stroll down to the airport Saturday morning and shock of shocks a plane leaving on time, actually got to Tulla 10 minutes early, maybe things were finally going my way. Ended up at the Marathon Expo and spent quite a bit of time chatting with heaps of familiar faces (familiar faces being the operative word i'm not sure just how many people actually had to tell me their name - sure i knew them by sight :-)). Warm, sunny day in Melbourne certainly looking good for the day ahead although a forecast strong northerly could be an issue.
Gnocchi bolognese was my carbo loading for the night (okay there was a beer or two but still not confident about my back i'll take whatever painkillers i consider necessary).
The luxury of an apartment in Exhibition St (thanks Robert !), meant i could wake at 5:30 have a leisurely breakfast and then casually stroll down to the race, although typically a foreign pre race bed meant i woke up every hour or so.
Was at the G by 7 and wandered off to the Spartans tent to drop off my gear and then off to the start. Such an improvement in organisation this year, just like clockwork making it to the start line. Gidday to a number of people and then we were off, only 7 seconds to cross the starting mat as compared to last years 4 minutes !!.
Feeling good and comfortable early but did waste a little time getting to the outside of the field, really hate running in a crush i should have moved there beforehand !!. Wellington Parade and then St Kilda Rd, just at the back of the 3 Hour pace group really somewhere i didn't want to be.
Was rapt to find sportsdrinks in cups (water bags are a good idea but my teeth are badly aligned courtesy of a broken jaw in 1979 explaining why i just can't bite into an apple to eat it but can take the top off a beer), in a good rhythmn by Fitzroy St and the first of the Coolrunning cheersquads to motivate us. Still unable to run faster than the pace group was frustrating me but wasn't ready to push hard yet.
Just before Beaconsfield Parade, the inevitable happened was beginning to feel my back so eased back to see if that would help, spent the next couple of K's talking to a 79 minute Half Marathon runner who was also having a bad day in the marathon, typical me i guess i ran better on his suffering and once past Fitzroy St had got away from him.
Was now at a comfortable pace but simply could not crank it up and i'd let the pace group slip away, was passed by Coolrunner Tuttle when turning into StKilda St so i was hoping it was him having a real good day not me a sh*t one. By the time we'd hit Brighton Baths we were seeing the leaders running back towards me, somewhat demoralising but i did get a kick out of seeing the Daves (Criniti and Eadie) so close to the lead looked like they were in for good runs. Through the half in 1:31 (strangely no time clock but we had splits on the net on Monday), and basically was now running without backpain but simply not fast and with the wind behind us, this could get ugly on the way back !!!.
At least the Hampton turnaround gave me an idea where everyone was but it also meant we ran straight into the teeth of a gale but was now feeling stronger than earlier and at least passing people (as well as cheering on runners going the other way - saving my biggest cheer for Melbourne Marathon Spartan legend Shirley Young being paced by her husband Ron - was sad to here later she pulled out at 33K's but certainly one runner with nothing at all to prove only hope i'm still running when i'm her age).
Passed Tuttle strangely enough pretty much where he passed me originally and from then on continued passing people (sure beats being passed).
Knew i was struggling against that wind (at 6 foot and 67KG i'm not exactly built for running against the wind), again the Coolrunning cheersquad gave me a great boost as we turned into St Kilda Rd, but i was now beginning to feel the metatarsal in my left foot really strange as the last time i'd had any issues was the second half of Badwater (just can't explain that). Can't honestly say it slowed me down but it did give me something else to think about. St Kilda Rd was looking like a battle field as the weather warmed and a number of runners were strewn over the median strip (definitely not good), still i came home strongly, again buoyed by another CR Cheersquad at Fed Square then the Brissy invasion led by Tess in Jolimont enjoying the run on the G where i outsprinted 2 blokes to the line. 3:09:51 not great but not too bad and even better the back was feeling good, actually until i got of the actual stadium surface and then sore again (weird).
Being one of the earlier Spartans i had the tent to myself for a while (and a couple of cans of Coke) and was happy to sit and watch the runners come in on Brunton Ave.
Caught up with a number of people and time flew, by the time i realised there was a commerative towel to pick up it was 2PM and after a saga picking it up (note to organisers the day was perfect except for the towel pickup, only a minor point but the one thing to improve next year).
Had originally been going to join the runners get together at Transport Bar, but tiredness, back soreness and the fact i was staying with Richard and his family meant i headed off to a barbie and cricket with his boys, probably better from the health point of view (too many anti inflammatories and booze over the last couple of weeks probably not a good thing !!).
Loved the shoes, certainly the right foot was as good as running barefoot but with cushioning though a little mystified by the metatarsal problems and was able to run for 90 minutes in hilly Upper Beaconsfield on Monday morning (less said about my ability and soreness relating to backyard cricket the evening before the better though).
So here i am back home, back not too bad (haven't had any anti inflammatories since, okay the odd bit of alcohol but that's a pleasure not a chore !!), presently tossing up as to whether Great North Walk is a realistic thought as next start ?????

Friday, 10 October 2008

I guess i'm as ready as going to be

To say the least it's been an interesting week, Chiro on Monday, Chiro on Wednesday, Chiro on Thursday (and he doesn't work at the local clinic that day so it was off to Robina, a good thing as finally i was able to get what appeared to be the only remaining pair of size 13 Nike Lunarlite Racing Shoes in Australia, just hope they were worth the wait since April). Certainly there had been no running in this last week, but after the shocking Monday, i'd got up early (seeing no daylight saving means the suns up at 4:30 so it's not hard) and done a two hour walk both Tuesday and Wednesday so at least i was stretching the legs.
So this morning with new shoes waiting to be tested and a chiro appointment this arvo it was time for a run, pretty much my standard flat, relatively easy run but at a good tempo as i really needed to see if i was going to wear the new shoes in Sundays Marathon (and with a 7KG luggage limit on Tiger Air there's not a huge deal of margin for multiple clothing changes). Pretty simple, they felt good from the get go, was also wearing the unused Drymax Hot Weather Running lite-mesh socks as i thought they'd be a good option for what looked like a warm Melbourne Marathon. The back held up pretty much to 15th AVE on the return, but unfortunately was beginning to feel the neck, which i hadn't all week, possibly the lower back had given so much pain previously i hadn't been able to feel it ???. Anyway home and sore, good massage beforehand and then the chiro worked some magic on me, went for a walk down to Tugun and back along the beach to settle it and a little early to make rash predictions.
So tomorrow it's off to Melbourne where my running career began, actually 12th of October was my first ever marathon there back in 1986, pretty sure i never thought that 22 years later to the day i'd be lining up for my 23rd Melbourne and 136th Marathon (and i certainly was never thinking about running longer distances).
Not flying back till Monday night (not amused by Tiger changing their schedule starting that day, the old 5:50PM flight now becoming a 7:30PM flight), so i may well get the chance to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages post race, particularly as i've been trying to avoid them this week as my diet has consisted of Nurofen and Voltaren !!.
Really hate to make any predictions for Sunday, if adrenalin works as a painkiller and the back lasts i've got a 2:57 in me, but i doubt it's realistic considering all the recent niggles and i guess anything better than my PW (way back in my first one) will satisfy me but really sub 3:30 should be more like it.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Mt Tamborine man

After one final lot of adjustments on my back on Friday, i was given a couple of core strength exercises specifically for my weak neck and also the advice from my chiropractor that he doubted i'd be up for this weeks race but would be right for the Melbourne Marathon. Easy day Saturday but to be honest i had only one thing on my mind i wasn't going to dnf a race i'd won 8 times, so even if i had to take it real easy and break my record of 12 podium finishes there the only way i wouldn't be finishing would be death !!!.
Alarm went off at 4:15, the joys of being close to a race, time for my 8 vita brits etc and a good read and then hit the highway to Nerang. Typically hadn't read the race details too well and discovered there were a number of runners cars at the velodrome, just down from the usual start at the Guides Hall, so for the 4th time in the history of the race we had a slightly different course (first few years from Macintosh Island definitely my preferred option being all road and 68.8K's but incredibly dangerous with busy roads, then from Owens Park, then the Guides Hall and now here).
11 Starters, not huge but considering that it was looking a hot day and many events around fair enough, but certainly a class field with Sydneysider Jo Blake and local Susannah Harvey-Jamieson both in the world 100K's in Italy next month as well as a number of other good local ultra runners. Even at first glance i think i had 5th place in mind as both long runs this week i'd essentially run 2 hours and then the back had gone and 2 hours wouldn't even get me far along Guanaba Creek Road.
Settled midfield, happily walking some of the steep uphills hoping that would help me, and was bemused to see Keith Mckay (one of the runners) marshalling the field down the "Siberia" section (what had happened is there was a table which would be manned later but there was no indication that runners had to turn there for the 3K run to "Siberia" and then back). Ultimately this meant that Keith lost around 20 minutes and also one faster runner missed the turn completely, i was to see him later heading back.
Was surprised to see that only two relay runners and Jo were in front of me when they headed back towards me and that perked me up a bit but knew i didn't want to do anything stupid. Finally out of the bush and was glad to get rid of my compulsory handheld bottle, and thinking i could now make up some time on the undulating roads before hitting Mystery Rd (i swear it must have a silent "T").
Got to Mt Nathan road and the female relay runner was looking for directions so pointed her the right direction and gave myself something to chase, just beating her in at the tennis court changeover and major aid station. Frustratingly found the old Woolworths band aids just aren't as good as they used to be (i swear they must have changed suppliers for their plain label brand as once upon a time they stuck around like the guest who just won't leave), so not wishing to rip my nipple to bits thought topless was the way to go (nowadays i'd say racing is about the time i wear a top when running the climate here is too good :-)).
From then on powered on nicely and was finally getting a good rhythm, although was surprised to see a relay runner fall (and just as quickly bounce back up) on a flat bit of road only a hundred or so yards ahead. Finally starting to feel good about my running when i hit Mystery Rd, surely one of the steepest roads about, so it was walking time, saw one relay runner flying down before i hit the top but thankfully no others before i hit Henry Roberts Dve. Jo appeared very soon so any thoughts i had i tackling him on the downhill were gone but i knew i could still do something half decent. Glad to hit the top and have a couple of Succeed capsules as well as some coke and endura (one aid station in between also meant a couple of Succeed caps washed down with water), now for my favourite section. Was rapt to find there were no runners within a couple of miles of me as i knew i had my "pet" downhill section ahead of me and also knew i'd need all the lead i could get once i hit the forest trails. Down, down, down, so good but worryingly instead of feeling the neck i was trashing the quads more than usual and this seemed to be making my lower back very unstable. Another couple of succeed caps at the Whitting Road aid station and then the undulations all the way back to the tennis courts, my running went through a roller coaster of emotions in that time, sometimes my usual confident, cocky self running aggresively in the Frees and sometimes a shattered shadow struggling up hills feeling pains in the hips and quads as well as feeling i was a little dehydrated. Finally back to the Tennis courts and had a Gu (i had a stash of stuff there but couldn't be bothered battling a Clif Bar) now to finish it off. Mt Nathan Rd had been busy but obviously Brown Snakes aren't that damn as half way along a one around a metre long crossed, making me run sideways into the middle of the road (fastest i'd moved on an uphill all day), happy to see it get across and for me to get on my side of the road again. Finally back to the pre forest aid station where i picked up the handheld, a couple of lollies and two more S Caps washed down with water.
From then on it was a struggle, i'd be honest and say that i was probably dehydrated, looking at the the temperature it only hit 28.2 degrees at Nerang but clear skies (and no top or cap) probably made it feel hotter and went through the 650ml bottle (and last two S Caps) before hitting the "Siberia" turn checkpoint, cramped up a number of times and was crablike as i went uphill. Was so happy to see Peter McKenzie at his aid station, and coke and bananas and oranges (heaven !), quick chat and i was on my way, obviously i was a fair way behind by now as i made the turnaround and had still seen no one, coming back gave me a good idea where Adrian Pearce and Susannah (my biggest worries) were and it looked as though i might even beat a relay team. More coke and oranges at Pete's stand and i was ready for the last hard stretch, by then my hips and lower back were a feeble joke and cramps were an everpresent worry so it was a case of simply digging deep and knocking the bastard off.
Had a drink at the last aid station but only half filled the bottle knowing it was less than 4K's, definitely not my brightest idea as had finished that within two and after being passed by the relay runner (i was slowing rapidly) saw him coming off one track and heading on another, yelled at him that i thought where he came from was correct but couldn't stop him so went the way i thought was right (new start meant the familiar course was no more), typical me i was wrong, hit the back of some houses and ultimately consulted a map at an entrance, ultimately costing me a couple of K's (same course as Jo and a couple of the relay teams so i guess it's not only me). Jo had finished hours ago (5:15:17) and i'd just squeezed in under 7hours (6:54:09), still at least second. One of the later runners mentioned the course was 64.5K by his Garmin so i'd be guessing we ran closer to 66 on the day.
Usually i'm pretty stuffed after any race as i don't believe in leaving anything for the end but yesterday seemed to be worse than ever, very fragile with pain every time i moved my lower back and cramps always a threat. Basically an hour till i was capable of eating (although a can of soft drink did go down well immediately after), and another hour till i was capable of heading carward after seeing the last runners in. Terrible drive home having to stop a couple of times to stretch the leg when it cramped (as for getting out the car i'm sure there's people in their 100's could have done it faster), by the time i did get home it was a shower downstairs and then an Everest like ascent to my bed where i woke up (still in pain) 5 hours later !!.
Chiro today and have been told not to run until i see him again on Wednesday not as though i am physically capable at present. At least it's "only" a marathon next Sunday, the question being can i hobble to sub 3 ???

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Just thankful i'm not a racehorse.

Think the title sums up todays blog post nicely, as mentioned in my last post (when not raving musically ), my back seems to have been on a downward spiral ever since Death Valley and whilst i can run a nice gentle 10K's or so with no problems give me my usual 3 hours 20+ miles and i'm really struggling towards the end. At the moment i'm seeing the chiro twice a week, can't explain the problem exactly in simple terms i get my "LA Freeway Neck" (that's destined to be my title for it till i can think of something better - basically i run fine and then the neck weakens as though i'm turning it around to look over my should at 5 lanes of traffic and it just sticks i'm sure that was where it happened the first time), and from then on i run with a bad form which of course means the rest of my body overcompensates for this problem.
Worst thing is this doesn't happen for the first 90 minutes or so (that's my guess not wearing a watch) and by then i'm starting to look at heading homewards so it means that return trip (or choice of having a lie down in a gutter as i tend to be away from civilization out in Tally Valley) is not a helluva lot of fun.
Today i thought it was time to head back on the Syndicate Road/Trees Road Course as i thought i'd better get in some good uphill and downhill work in preparation for Sunday's Tamborine Trek. Did a slightly long loop to Tally Creek Rd and was quite happy with my uphills on Syndicate Road thought maybe this time the body was right (i'd been to the chiro yesterday and he'd offered me a pre race freebie on Friday) and was thoroughly enjoying the Trees Road downhill (almost as steep as Mystery Road but shorter) but got to one of the uphills and not only the neck but the sciatic nerve began to give me grief. Once i hit Schusters Park i tought i'd better stay on the flat for the trip home but was again feeling good by 19th Ave so headed up Avocado St not a great idea. Sciatic nerve, back, neck you name it, even my right knee (diagonally opposite where the neck problem kicks in so i guess it makes sense) did not want to be out there, very happy to see the front door.
Certainly not confidence building with Tamborine this Sunday and then Melbourne Marathon the next but frankly these are probably the two runs i will run forever until either me or them no longer exist. As i type thankfully a couple of painkillers are taking effect (i don't normally wash them down with a couple of nips of Bundy but this was one of those times where quick relief is more vital than what is medically sound practice).
Have to wonder just what i will be running for the rest of the year, certainly got plans but days like this i have thoughts of a repeat of last years remaining 3 months when my body just wasn't willing to support my ambitions. Just thankful i'm not a racehorse or i think they'd be making plans for the glue factory rather than a return to racing !!!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

When not running, rocking !

A couple of long runs this week proved to me that my back problems still aren't quite sorted so it was back to the chiro again (i've taken to calling my problem LA-Freeway neck, i'm quite sure that's where the problem began !!).
So instead it was a gig at Seagulls, just over the border, by a group calling themselves the Masters of Rock, a band playing 5 Tribute sets, AC/DC, Guns'N'Roses, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Deep Purple.
A few technical difficulties at first as there was an electricity problem (parking in the car park was like driving into a black hole !), but soon the gig was underway and a great Led Zeppelin set, only 5 or so songs but by the end the audience was up with swaying cigarette lighters for "Stairway to Heaven", just when i was really getting into it (and the main performers were uncannily like Page and Plant) it was over and a short break before "The Doors".
I'd seen the Doors of the 21st Century (which had two original members but of course not Jim Morrison) back in 2005 as well as a number of tribute bands, but this fellow was Jim reincarnated, there was a bit of poetry, ocassional shambolic ramblings (swigs from a bottle of Jim Beam - i'd hope it wasn't the real stuff !) and sublime music. "Road House Blues", "Riders on the Storm", "Light My Fire", LA Woman and others just brilliant as the lead singer just did what great lead singers do best. Had to laugh the way they finished the set as his roadie dragged him off stage as he attempted to expose himself (as per the real Morrison in Miami 1969 in an incident that was a beginning of the end for the band).
Next was their Guns'N'Roses show, it took me back to February 1993 Calder Park, but was way closer to all the action than back then !!. Starting with "Sweet Child Of Mine" followed by "Paradise City" and then "Patience" certainly had the audience up on their feet as well as arms raised and we then had "Axl" madly running through the audience, really good show (though i'd have loved "November Rain") and then a real 15 minute break (after all there are only 7 performers in the group and some had been involved in all three acts).
Next was Deep Purple, i won't claim to know their music as well as the other 4, but ultimately once they got into "Smoke on the Water" we did have a crazy dancefloor.
By elimination the next act had to be AC/DC and in short they didn't disappoint, to me this was meant to be them late 70's with Bon Scott and the Young Brothers at their peak, starting with "jailbreak" followed by "High Voltage" and then more classics with their "Angus" running amok amongst the audience, honestly they mighn't have been the real thing but live music doesn't get much better than this. After his return to the stage it was "Shook me all night long" (a song i've heard Shari do an incredible version of so feel priviliged to have heard two great versions this year, now all i need is an AC/DC tour !), and as an encore (with "Angus" on the speaker stacks) the remaining members out doing "Long way to the top", we had Jim Morrison and Ian Gillam joining in on vocals absolute blast.
Normally i wouldn't do such a long review of a Tribute Band but really this was way beyond my expectations and certainly a band worth going to see.
I could continue this weekend in the same vein on Sunday with the local Tribute Festival (they are actually playing two spots as well as the Rolling Stones Experience doing the Stones again), but i can't always live in the past and 10 Hours of tribute bands (in an alcohol free environment! - i understand the logic but frankly booze and music festivals are synonomous)sounds like a good reason for enjoying the sun and getting a good run in (back permitting).
Anyway Grand Final Time - Carn'a Vic Team !!!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Finally a run and Blues in my backyard - that should happen more often

I'd be honest and say there really hasn't been much running this week, was still sore from Glasshouse, and mentally just seemed to struggle to get back into normal life (well as normal as my life gets :-) ), was finding it hard just to relate to the usual stuff after simply being on the road so long. So had been happy to just take it easy knowing that sooner or later i'd be my usual self. Come Friday, decided i'd head south to Mount Warning, one of my "special" places in Australia, i can't really claim to be that religious but it is one place i just go to recharge (damn i'm sounding like some treehugging hippy must have spent too much time in California !!), dodgy day weatherwise and spent alot of time going up the steel chains (the last bit to the peak) wondering whether i'd end up in a dangerous lightning strike situation (wasn't looking for that sort of recharge !!).
I think my mind was in a better place when i returned and was lucky enough to be back in Murwillambah just in time for the "Speed on Tweed" evening Grand Parade, classic cars from Formula Racing Cars, to MG's, Bathurst Toranas and Ford GT's to
Ferraris and 60's Mustangs.
Come Sunday it was time for my running comeback so ran down the road to the Gold Coast Runners Club for their 6:30 morning run, big day today as they had runners from Twin Towns as guests. Had a good run and did a bit of extra distance with one of the Twin Town Runners looking to step up to a marathon. About 12K's as well as the 7 odd K's to get there and was enjoying the sunny day. Breakfast at the clubrooms so ended up having bacon, eggs and sausages as well. Actually ended up only running to Burleigh Heads as i ended up joining some others for a cuppa there and stiffening up decided i'd earnt a lift home !!.
Interestingly was having a shower at home and heard some good music, seemingly live, i had no idea the monthly concerts at Laguna Lake (my backyard or more technically my side yard) were back on. So wandered out and found "Blind Lemon" playing, had them a number of times at Blues at Broadbeach so dragged out the banana lounge and a couple of beers and enjoyed some good blues, what more could i want !!!.