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.

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