Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mt Wilson to Bilpin - A lesson in Trailrunning

Apologies for the tardiness of this report – I’ll explain later.


On Saturday the 23rd of August I ran my first Willy to Billy. It won’t be my last. The race is the best I have ever run. The volunteers are fantastic. The course is beautiful.


I ran a great race and was overjoyed with my time, but I have one rather dumb flaw in my preparation, which means there is some room for improvement.


The flaw in the preparation started the day before the event. Work was so manic on Friday that I didn’t bother making up Staminade, I only drank water. Then on the morning of the race I neglected to take my normal supplements, so I missed out on a magnesium tablet.


We decided not to go up as a family, so I drove up on my own. A familiar and somewhat eerie drive for me as I went back through the Hawkesbury region – the place that was home for so long. I’d left myself plenty of time, and stood around at the start chatting and eating scones. The ladies of the Mt Wilson Rural Fire Service make awesome scones.


The race started and I tried to stay with Belinda. This is easy enough on the flat or uphill, but on the downhill she took off like a woman possessed. It was then that I started to realise that previously I’d taken the downhills a little too easily, and that they were a serious opportunity to make up time you would lose walking up hills. A couple of times I tried to stay with her, but when a long downhill resulted in a 4:10 K I started to learn another important lesson in trailrunning: Run your own race.


So after 5K I was looking good on 29 minutes, and feeling good. 10K under an hour - still feeling great. Looking at the course profile it suggested 27K of mostly downhill, 7K of killer uphill and 1K of flat finish. I figured if I could go at 6 minute Ks until 27K I'd be in a position to really take it easy up the hill and finish well under 4 hours. By 15K I'd lost a little time and was right on 6 minute pace. I'd lost Belinda on one of the uphills and I was feeling pretty good. The plan was unfolding perfectly at 26K, which is about where Belinda caught me, sprinting down a long hill.


It was soon after this that the uphill started, and with it came the first sign of my folly - my calves just started to show signs of cramping. The next 8K were to be difficult. I jogged until my legs started to cramp, and the walked until they were back under control. On the whole it was OK – I was worried it might get very ugly, but I pushed through without losing too much time. When the uphill finished I asked how far to go at the last drink station. “About 1.6K” was the response. I looked at my watch: 3:39. 3:45 was gone, but a sub 3:50 was still a great time. About 100m later my legs felt a bit dodgy, so I started to walk. A girl close by screamed at me “You’re too close to start walking now!”. I started to make a feeble excuse about cramping, but at the same time I realized that she was right. I shuffled the last little bit to the end without looking at my watch.


Belinda finished about 100m in front of me, and when I saw her at the finish she was telling someone “sub 3:45”, which prompted me to have a look at my time – 3:44:55.


I couldn’t believe it. Obviously 1.6K was a bit of an overstatement. I was stoked.


It was then I realised why it is good to run in a race run by the Rural Fire Service. One of the volunteers came over to me and said “You look terrible!”. She wrapped me in a blanket and just looked after me for the next little while. I didn’t want to sit down for fear that I’d cramp up completely, but I was well looked after with lollies and warmth. People join the RFS because they like to protect people. When you run a race run by the RFS, they look after you. It’s a good thing, and I’ll be back.


Now, since then it’s been a wild old time personally. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to move to a different company within the group I work for. It’s been a great move for me personally – I’m working in a product area I really enjoy and in a small team where I get to be involved in everything. But I have been working very bloody hard.


I’ve kept up to date with training, and I suspect I’ll be able to run about 1:52 at the Blackmores Half on Sunday week. My plan is to stay with the 1:50 pacer for as long as I believe it is safe to do so. If I can go all the way, that would be awesome.


I did see a sports dietitian several weeks ago. The great thing about this was I took a food diary in there, and basically she told me that it was pretty good and that the only thing I needed to do was eat more vegetables and less cheese. It was good to get confirmation that I’ve been managing my diet well.




Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Massive Update

OK, so it's been far too long. It's been a massive couple of months.

So here is the quick summary (which will be very long):

June was a solid training month interrupted by a cold.

The family did our road trip to the Gold Coast. I had an ordinary race.
About 8K in I realized that it wasn't my day and I could either push
myself to my limits for an OK time or I could ease off and just enjoy
the event. I took the soft option and enjoyed another fine Gold Coast
event. I loved the cheer squad and the drinks. The twins had a good race
in the Junior Dash and then we had another great family holiday. Once
again my girls were just awesome for the whole road trip. Even the boy
was pretty good, and at 15 months I was worried about him beforehand.

I suspect that one of the reasons for the poor performance was the fact
that since Canberra I have eaten like a marathon runner and trained like
a half marathon runner. When I hopped on the scales a month ago I was
5Kg heavier than I was just before Canberra.

I've had a few issues with my bowel, and the doctors decided to do a
colonoscopy in July. This was the last straw in the preparation for the
Hunter Valley Marathon, so I pulled out of that. In the wash up from the
colonoscopy I've made a couple of adjustments to my diet. The first was
cutting from four coffees a day to one or two. I stopped my iron
supplements three weeks ago and started feeling sluggish, so I had a
blood test and my iron levels are fine. I suspect the sluggishness is
down to psychosomatic issues from iron supplement withdrawal and other
factors that will become clear later. Through all of this it has become
clear that I quite obviously would benefit from some expert advice on
dietary matters, so I am booked in to see a dietitian at the end of the

So I shifted my sights to the City 2 Surf and redemption for my
lacklustre performance last year. All was looking good until I picked up
a sore throat 9 days out from the event. I lightened the training load,
but this thing just wouldn't go away, and then on the Thursday before
the race I went for a light 11K run and that day I just went downhill. I
could only work half the day, and when I went in to see my running
sympathetic doctor, he just said "four days of bed rest. Forget C2S." So
I did. This morning was my first run since, and I feel pretty good. I'm
pretty sure it was the right decision.

Now for the big news.

A few weeks before the Gold Coast trip we found out that Des is

Yeeee Haaaah!!!! {Ben punches the air}

We are ecstatic. Now we have just entered the second trimester and we
are now able to get a bit excited as the main danger period passes.

John will be just a little short of two years old, and is already
showing signs of a firm belief that he rules the world. Why wouldn't he?
His sisters do whatever he wants. He basically has the four of us at his
beck and call. This must change, and now it will. After he gets over
being put out he will have someone to play with. It works.

I grew up as one of four. I like the number - I think it was a good size
of family to be a part of. Four is, however, enough. I intend to have
some minor surgery after this child is born.

This has been the main reason that I haven't had tome to blog, read
blogs, relax or scratch my bum for the last three months. Des is having
a rough pregnancy. She has been nauseous and tired every night. Last
time I handled the first trimester quite well - Des collapsed on the
lounge and I made the girls dinners and put them to bed. For an instant
family still feeling it's way it was good for all of us.

This time we have John. John cuts no-one any slack. He has been teething
over the last couple of months, which has turned Des and I into zombies
as he has wailed for hours during the night. And then he wants to play
at 5:00AM. If we didn't love him we'd defenestrate him.

So as we move into the second trimester and John starts to sleep better
life resumes something approximating normal. Des is feeling a bit better
as each week passes.

So, where to from here?

I might run the Hidden Half as a training run this weekend. I am entered
for Mt Wilson to Bilpin the following Saturday, which I will attempt in
the knowledge that I need to go slowly.

I'm still tossing up whether or not to run Six Foot. The pointy end of
the training will need to be done over the months that cover the third
trimester. Training for Six Foot may prove to be too much of a
distraction from my primary purpose in these months. The thought of
lowering expectations and going out with the express purpose of
finishing under seven hours is a possibility, but I don't know if I want
to go into my first Six Foot knowing I'm underdone. It's a conundrum,
but I've got time to make a decision.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Change of Plans

I finally had it confirmed yesterday - our team missed out on a spot in
Trailwalker for this year.

This is a massive bummer. We were getting quite excited about this as a
team. The upside is that as a team we have been shooting around emails
left, right and centre pertaining to meeting up at various races over
the next ten months, with the culmination being that all four of us will
make our debuts at the Six Foot Track Marathon next March.

Speaking of which, this does leave a filthy great void between now and
next March in terms of racing. I've compiled a list of candidate races
that I might be targeting. Feel free to comment:

7-Jun Striders North Head 10K
6-Jul Gold Coast Half
20-Jul Hunter Valley Marathon
27-Jul Cities M7 Marathon
10-Aug City 2 Surf
23-Aug Mt Wilson to Bilpin - 35K
6-Sep Striders North Head 10K
21-Sep Blackmores Sydney Half/Full
27-Sep Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon
4-Oct Striders 10K Sydney Olympic Park
12-Oct SMC Half

I will be running the Gold Coast Half. I've booked the holidays and the
whole family is primed for our second family holiday drive up the
Pacific Highway. The good thing is that we've bought a People Mover
("The Bus") since last year. The bad thing is that the lovely three
month old baby we took up last year will be a rampaging fifteen month
old with an intense dislike of long stints in his car seat. It could be

The race is an interesting conundrum. I wilt in the heat, and the Gold
Coast gets hot towards the end. It's also very crowded at the start. On
the other hand, it's pancake flat and I am in shit hot form, even if I
do say so myself. I think Gnome nailed it in the comment to my last post
- good marathon training is good for other distances.

I've decided that if I'm only going to do four sessions a week I'm going
to make them all count. Speedwork is already as hard as it can be, so
the other sessions have all been made faster. My long run has gone from
about 6:20 pace to sub 6:00. The midweek long run has gone from about
5:35 to about 5:25 (5:18 this morning). The other session I will see how
I go with, but if it's prior to a rest day there is no excuse for not
going hard.

My last three training runs have been absolute corkers. On Sunday Marlz
and I drove out to the M7 and went for a 30K run on the M7 path in 2:59
with Nite_Time_Runner. The good thing about it was that we picked up the
pace in the last few Ks - we finished strong. The following day I went
out for what I expected to be a feeble 8K recovery run on tired legs.
After 1K I just hit a rhythm, and I figured since I was resting on
Tuesday I should go with it. I punched out the next 7K in about 5:30
pace. This morning Marlz and I put in a solid 13.5K at 5:18 pace, again,
finishing strongly.

Oh, and I know I said "no more marathons for my family". I think the key
here is the four sessions a week, and maintaining some sort of sensible
balance between training and having something left over at the end of
the day. So far it's working, and hopefully it will work for a marathon.
Hunter Valley will in all likelihood be that marathon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An unexpected PB

I'll be honest, 3K is not a distance I keep close tabs on. It's a
distance I time trial occasionally.

This morning I set out on one of those time trials. To be honest I've
avoided it like the plague. The last 500m of a 3K time trial are awful.

But due to some rearranging of my schedule due to Mother's Day, I'm
doing speedwork twice this week, and Monday just seemed to be a logical
point to do a 3K TT.

I knew I was in good nick - the speedwork before the marathon indicated
that I was running fast, but given that I've been taking it easy in the
recovery and I had a hard long run on Saturday I thought a PB wasn't on.
Trouble was I couldn't remember my 3K PB.

So I picked 13 minutes as a nice round figure to aim at.

In darkness we set out for the 1.5K turnaround. I thought it might be a
good idea to mark it well, as we would easily miss the faded spraypaint
on the path. About ten metres away from the marking I found an enormous
safety cone with a big reflective strip. From that point I knew this was
a good run.

We jogged out to the start, and took off suitably warmed up. Marlz
decided to stick with me for the first half as he was feeling sluggish.
As I said, I had picked 13 minutes as a target. 4:20 per K. As if by
magic, I settled into this pace immediately. We ran through 500m in
2:10. 1K in 4:20. Breathing at this stage was getting very heavy, but
not difficult. We hit the turnaround in 6:31, and a hairpin turn does
slow you down a bit, so I knew 13 minutes would be a challenge; my
breathing was a bit laboured now and I had to go faster to hit the time.
At this point Marlz took off and I decided to slow a bit because I
thought I was a good chance of blowing up at my current pace. I went
through 2K in 8:47 and 2.5 in 11:00 flat. I was struggling, but I knew I
had a quickish 500m left. It was more a case of hanging on than kicking,
and I finished in 13:16.

When I got home I discovered that my previous best had been 13:24. 8
second PB. Gotta be happy with that!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Only their Mother Can Tell Them Apart

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Canberra Marathon - A bloody big PB

The Canberra Marathon. Marlz and I have been best mates for 20 years. I feel priveleged to have trained for and completed a marathon with this bloke. He could've run it a fair bit quicker, but that wasn't why he was there. We ran a marathon together. This is that story.

The trip to Canberra did not get off to a good start. With Marlz, myself, our spouses and John packed in the car and already half an hour down the road I realised that the bottles of Staminade and Coke I had spent the morning mixing and labelling had been left behind. We decided that we might risk missing the drop off if we turned around and picked them up. This put me in a filthy mood for the next hour or so, but I soon snapped out of it. We decided on a new race hydration strategy: I would use the High 5 electrolyte drink on course and Des would meet me at the 30K mark with a Red Bull. This was a bit risky: I've only used High 5 once before - in my first marathon. On that occasion I started vomiting at 15K and it ended very messy.

I had a long-standing deal with Des that the carbo-load would occur at the Pancake Parlour. I love this restaurant! It remains one of lifes mysteries to me that it has completely disappeared from Sydney. We returned to the hotel with bellies full of pancake when John took after his father in a rather spectacular fashion. At this point I should note for the benefit of Non-Coolrunning readers that my handle on Coolrunning is "Chunderbolt". John spewed mercilessly all over his Godfather (Marlz). The unflappable Marlz showered and we all turned in for early nights.

Race morning was great, as far as I was concerned - threatening rain and cold. I liberally lubed every area that had ever chaffed, and Marlz and I walked down to the start line. We chatted with various Coolrunners whilst sheltering from the rain in the hall until walking out and finding the four hour pace group just before the start.

It rained lightly for the first few kilometres. Marlz and I ran with the group for the first few K, but we got carried away talking about something and by the time I had a look around we were about a hundred metres in front of the pace group. We decided to try to just maintain that distance, but by 10K we were a little bit further in frontof the group. We went through 10K in 54 minutes - about three minutes ahead of pace.

At this point I knew that we had made a tactical error. I slowed us down and we went through the next 11.1K right on correct pace, going through the half marathon in 1:57. Shortly before this the four hour pace group passed us. I wasn't too worried about this as I knew we were ahead of the pace. The thing that worried me was that I was feeling OK, not great. My first coach once told me that the aim of the first half of a marathon is to feel great. I was feeling slightly fatigued and slightly sore. It was about this time that the rain cleared and the course filled with sunshine, and this wasn't going to do my chances any good.

Between here and 30K my approach was to hold it together without losing too much energy. For the first time in the race we started to lose seconds every K. we were travelling at about 5:45 per kilometre, where race pace was 5:41. I remember seeing Johnny Dark somewhere about this point and mustering the biggest cheer I could for him, telling him that it was his day. That guy has had a battle with the marathon that rteminded me a lot of my sub 1:50 half quest, but being a battle with the marathon it's on a much larger scale. One of the big high points of my day was later learning that he nailed the race he had been after. Well done JD - you deserve it.

I also saw a broken sfGnome on the side of the road who urged me on - cammiserations Bruce!

At 30K my true love was waiting with my Red Bull, which helped pick me up a little bit, but it didn't have a big effect. I was starting to suffer. 30 to 35 was getting real tough. The pace slowed up severely and at 34K I needed to take a walk break. At this point I tried to urge Marlz on to the sub four marathon he is obviously capable of, but he wasn't having a bar of it. We had gone this far together and we were finishing this bloody thing together. 30 to 35K we averaged 6 minutes per K. I knew the sub four was gone.

35 to 40 was more walk breaks and more hard work, but after 40 I could smell the finish line and there were no more walk breaks. We finished the marathon in 4:07:45 to the cheers of the excellent cheer squad. This was nearly 20 minutes off my old marathon PB, so I had to accept that I might have bitten off more than I could chew with sub-4 and be happy with, let's face it, a massive PB. Marlz ran on and clocked an impressive 4:54:59 for 50K in his third race (he's run 2 half marathons).

Post race I was messy. Des had a coffee waiting for me as well as a protein recovery drink, but most of it came back up. I stumbled around a bit swapping stories before showering and heading home just before the thunderstorm started.

So the four hour marathon was not achieved. Why?

Two reasons jump out at me.

Poor tactics: I would've been better off sticking with Spuds pace group. There is no doubt that I spent too much in the first 10K, and next time I will be far more anal about sticking with the pacer unless I know something is amiss with the pace.

Not enough in the preparation: I reckon I did enough to get an average runner over the line for four hours, but I suspect my body needs a little bit more. I certainly won't be getting married 10 weeks before my next marathon, and just perhaps I missed too many Ks in the early weeks of the preparation. I also think I might try to get into the low 80s for a few weeks the next time.

There will be a next time, but it probably won't be soon. I have two events on the horizon that will preclude me from training for a proper tilt at the marathon for the next year.

In August I, along with Marlz, Coolrunner Nite_Time_Runner and another bloke will be having a shot at a sub 20 hour Trailwalker.

And then next year the same four people will be attempting our first Six Foot Track Marathons.

These are big, hairy goals I will not distract myself from them by the specific training I would need to go sub four. To do that would be to risk all of them. And besides, I've not been as good a dad or husband as I aspire to be when running the big K's, so the next attempt can wait for a while. For the next few months at least I will try to get by on four sessions a week and devote more of my remaining energy to being a better dad and husband. So with that in mind and the fact that the twins are off for ten days in Fiji with their other dad tomorrow, I'm off to play with my kids.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks

So, officially we enter the taper.

On the whole, my training for the last three weeks has been great. I
have just about given myself the best chance to run a four hour marathon
that I can manage. When we last spoke I was in the middle of a 74K week.
Since then I have run 76 and 79.8K weeks.

The 79.8K needs some explaining. I was sitting on about 45.5K going into
Sunday, and I went to the SMC 30K with the intention of running a long
warm up to get the extra Ks. The race went well - 30K in about 3:08; a
good solid training run. At the end the Garmin read 34K and I said to
myself, "mmm, another 500m and it's an 80K week", so I ran back to the
sheds and until the Garmin read 35K. When I got home Sportstracks
reinterpreted the run down to 34.3 and the week at 79.8K, and so again I
said to myself: "that's what you get for being a wanker!" So it's a
79.8K week.

Last week being Easter we took the family to Mackay. I ran on the Friday
morning before we left, and it was one of the best speedwork sessions of
my life. I had 6 * 500m planned. So after my warm up I ran 500m in just
under 2 minutes. Prior to this session I had only run one sub 2:00 500m
in my life and in the following effort I fell in a crumpled vomiting
heap after 250m. This time I followed it with another sub 2:00 effort
and then another. The party was over after that and I finished with
2:07, 2:06 & 2:04, but I felt good for the rest of the day.

In Mackay John and I met Des's grandmother (John's great-grandmother)
for the first time. This was also our first meeting for several other
family members, and I knew it was going to be full on from when we got
there on Friday afternoon when we left to Sunday afternoon when we
headed home. So I packed my gear for a run, knowing that Des's uncle
runs a bit, but he had been struck down by the flu. I almost had a
coronary when I discovered that I would be spending the weekend with a
flu carrier 3 weeks out from the marathon, but I didn't get too sick. I
got a bit of a tickle in my throat and a bit of lethargy, but no cold or
flu. I also didn't get a run in.

On Monday I felt a bit rough, but I thought I was OK to do the long run
that I should have done on Sunday. I was wrong. This was 33K of utter
garbage. At no point did I feel on top of my game, and I had to take
walk breaks on numerous occasions. I covered 33K in 3 hours and 45
minutes and felt like death warmed up for the rest of the day. I just
wasn't up for it.

I must be a bit better now: Marlz and I went out for a 13K run this
morning at close to marathon pace, and whilst I didn't feel great it was
a whole lot better than Monday.

So three weeks to go, and if I can stay out of trouble I should be able
to get close on the day. Bring it on!