Monday, 26 August 2013

3 slow half marathons in 3 weeks

It has been an interesting few weeks as I ramped up the training. I thought to myself, why go on 20k+ long training runs when I could simply enter a half marathon and do the training under event conditions? Not bad logic in my opinion. So what did I do? I entered three half marathons on three consecutive Sundays. Don’t do things by halves in this household.

Why stop at simple flat course half’s too? So week one (three weeks ago), I turned up as part of the “Tan Ultra Trails Plus” event where there were some serious nutters running 100k, 50k, 42k, 30k (and 12k) and punched out 21.1k around the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. The iconic track around the outside known as “The Tan”. The track is 3.87k (or so) and that meant we started in the opposite direction to the rest of the runners, went out (up a slow hill) for a kilometre or thereabouts, did a turn and then ran 5 laps of the Tan. The course includes a steep hill, known to all Melbournites as Anderson Street, which I had to navigate 5 times – once you’re up the hill you have a slow steady decline (with a couple of small bumps) for 3kms, only to front up to the monster again. With me passing the drink station 5 times, I overdid the water intake and felt a tad “sloshy” at the end of the event, going around in 2:33 – which disappointed me as I wanted to be under 2:30 but I told myself it was a training run and set my sights on week 2.

Last Sunday I ran the “Sandy Point Half”, which has been going for a number of years and is used by a number of people as a lead up event for the Melbourne Marathon which is coming up in October. The course used to run through Sandy Point, but this year they started at Mordialloc and we ran out for 10.55k did a u-turn and ran back. Sounds simple, not when there were 60km winds – head winds for the 1st 10.5kms, which sounds okay as you have a tail wind to bring you home. Only issue is you’re spent and you’re only half way. This was also the first time they’d run the full marathon on the same day and I ran with quite a few in the last 5 or so kilometres and they were done, the first half into the wind sapping their energy for the last half of the race. I was very happy with my efforts, given the conditions, running 2:25 so eight minutes faster than the week before.

Next up was the trails of Silvan Dam, part of the Salomon Trail Series (Race 3) which have gotten progressively longer and harder. Race one was at Studley Park, 15kms on quite easy trails narrow and a bit frustrating as the middle course 10k runners came up your rear. Race two at Plenty Gorge with four river crossings and more elevation than race one and a further 2.6kms to go. Yesterday was the half marathon and the elevation was serious. We had one hill that climbed 80 metres over a 400m stretch, that seriously busted the lungs even though I could only walk it. We then had a steady climb of 200m over a 1.5km stretch – now that did make the lungs, glutes, calves, thighs and other body parts seriously burn. But what goes up must come down so there was a chance to up the pace and stagger down a hill or two. Given the muddy slippery conditions you couldn’t do it flat stick but the minutes lost going up some were gained coming down.

Yesterday’s event had amazing scenery with fern lined trails, massive mountain gum trees, piles of leaves, stringy bark all over the trail, fallen logs (remember it was bloody windy the weekend before) which you had to clamber over and the most wonderful sight….the finish line. In my mind the finishing time was irrelevant (3:12.28) as it contained 729m of elevation gain and fallen tree clambering but with a cutoff time of 3:30 I was there with time to spare – I must admit there were a couple of times up a couple of those hills where I thought I wouldn’t make cut-off but hey that’s for another day.

Next week and the Sunday run will be a slow long one – may even give myself a rest and do a light 10k or so. But it’s been a fun filled three weeks as the kms are getting back into my legs, the body is pulling up better each time and the ankle and hip and knee pains from the 100kms are a thing of the past. Marysville full 42km marathon on 17/11 here I come!!!

On the charity front I’ve banked the earnings from my sister blog to Neuroscience Research Australia (AUD $54.33) and will continue to do so until June 2014. Fundraising page can be found at but it will a few more months before I officially launch the latest fundraising venture.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Trails, Trails and more trails a running and photo update

So it looks as though it is time to update my charity running blog. It’s been a month and there has been plenty of water under the bridge (or just plain cold water without a bridge – read on to figure out what that means) and I haven’t given you all an update on how I’m tracking or what I am actually doing.

It may appear as though I’m lazy, well in fact I am when it comes to updating this blog, when in fact I do actually train and run these different events. All of them in the name of charity of some description, the event itself may not be charity based but the long term aim is to run a ridiculous event that will push me to the extreme edge of my limits and that event will be for charity.

Last blog entry was the Salomon Trail Series Race One at Studley Park, since then I’ve participated in two more trail events as well as putting in a number of parkruns and a heap of training. Short term I am running the Marysville Marathon (full 42k) on trails in mid November, shorter term I will be putting in heaps of miles and events to be ready for that specific event and long term I have a big challenge ahead. That one I am not going to reveal until such time as I’ve finished Marysville and know that I can actually physically push myself well beyond a single trail marathon.

Blah, blah, blah. Onto what I’ve been up to. I’m pretty sure the events, commentary and amazing photos that go with the trail season (in Winter) is more to your fancy than me pushing out 17.5k at 7 mins per k around the local streets and parks. So that’s what I’ll cover off.

The You Yangs are a granite outcrop situated between Melbourne and Geelong (about 50kms from the City of Melbourne). They sit as a strange lump on an otherwise flat landscape. Personally I’d never been to this Regional Park even though it holds over 50kms of trails that are regularly used for running and mountain biking. So what sort of surprise awaited me?

Our race (15kms) started at 10am with a 9am registration but my co-runner (and driver) for the day, thought we’d get there quite a bit earlier to see of the crazy people who were tackling the 50k and 30k events (you know who you are!!!). We saw off the 50k guys and then Tony realised he had not brought his asthma inhaler, and you know what that means? It means the one day you’ll need it is the one day you don’t have it and being a bloke who always brings up the tail this is not a wise thing to run without. So my magnificent “driver” took me 15k back to the nearest chemist so I could grab one – what that meant was we missed the 30k start, ended up being parked miles from the event and pushed the limits when it came to our own registration. We made the start though and headed into unknown territory.

This event has some serious hills, sections where you needed to scramble over rocks (on all fours), walk a steep climb and watch out for the markers (there was no way I was getting list this time!!). What a stunning park this was with breathtaking views of the bay, the park, waterholes, gum trees, cliff faces and more. With 335m of elevation gain (and it felt like that was all in a 2k stretch) this was a challenging event. I beat five people home but had an absolute ball, taking photos, struggling to breathe, cheering on mates and enjoying the outdoors of regional Victoria.

The following Sunday I thought it was time to put in another trail event and this time it was Race Two of the Salomon Series, Plenty Gorge. Another Regional Park in Victoria this one being 30k North East of the City. Now forget 335m elevation gain this one had 424m but over the longer course of 17.6k. And I can tell you, these were SERIOUS hills – a number of people have told me that this was the toughest course they’d run – I can’t contribute to that debate as I walked a heap of it, sometimes down on all fours.

We had four river crossings, and it was no creek jump, the first you were thigh deep in icy cold water and then scrambling up the opposite bank that was a mud pile from the earlier (much faster) runners and then heading away on your journey in socking cold clothing. You had enough time to dry out before you hit the river again. Again the views were stunning, a completely different view to the granite, with high tessellated cliffs, scrub, colourful trees and grasslands. For consistency purposes I finished fifth last again but had just as much fun as the previous week, albeit under different conditions.

For the time being I’m going back to what people would consider “normal” running with the Tan Ultra Half Marathon event booked in for 11/8 – where I’ll run 6 laps of “The Tan” in Melbourne (an outer track around the Botanical Gardens) which includes a large hill climb (so six of them), known in Melbourne to all runners simply as “Anderson Street”. I hope to finish 5th last to keep up the consistency, but I’m not there to run a time, it is just part of my Marysville training and what better way to book in a long run than make it an event where you will turn up and do it no matter what the conditions. I’ll take comfort in the fact that there will be other runners there doing 100k, 50k, 30k and more so may even pass one or two of the Ultra journeymen along my own journey.

I’ll do my best to report back after that event with the plans for the next few weekends which may well include a Half Marathon event at Sylvan Dam (yep another trail with stupid hills in it)!!!