Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Turning Point

I've reached an age where rational decision making tends to override spontaneous what-the-heckisms. After reading Duncan Larkin's piece in Running Times about the value of long runs for short racers, I decided to head out on Saturday morning for my one over-distance run prior to the Melbourne Half Marathon.

So it was that I arrived at the Cotter Reserve at the crack of dawn on a decidedly bleak and threatening day. I was going to run 15 miles (23.9 Garmin kilometres), over some big hills, in a spectacular location. On a clear day there are panoramic views that hearten the soul — largely the result commercial forestry and the 2003 bushfires. Fifteen years ago "The Cotter" was the perfect location for a summer run — the three courses (15, 18 and 21 miles) being shaded by towering Radiata Pines.

I set off with the impetuous intent of keeping the other (faster) runners in sight. Not an easy task on a course that climbs steadily for the first 20-odd minutes. Dumb idea! I was at close to racing effort, yet the three leaders steadily increased the gap. Steve must have felt some pity, as he waited patiently at the top of the first hill while I breathlessly caught up. "You go on and catch the others," I said. "I know my way, and need to slow down."

Half an hour later I was climbing the aptly named Jellylegs hill, battling into a headwind under steady rain. It was a miserable day. When I reached the gate at the top of the climb I took a drink. I stood there in the cold rain for what must have been a good five minutes, debating with myself about whether to turn right or left. Right was a short-cut home that would reduce the run to about 17 kilometres. Turn left and I'd be committed to the 24. In the end I thought "what the heck", and turned left. Fifteen minutes later I crested the rise on Bullock Paddock Road wondering what I'd done. The wind was biting and there were snow clouds blowing down from the mountains. I was freezing.

I can only remember a couple of times when I've been worried about my safety whilst out running. Once I was jogging beside a quite road towards Crater Lake in Oregon — just me and my thoughts, having a great time until I heard something moving in the forest. Immediately I recalled the stories about joggers being attacked by cougars or black bears. Needless to say I ran with adrenaline inspired urgency for the last 5k back to our lodgings.

What saved me on Saturday was a fortuitous break in the weather. Weak shadows appeared on the ground just after I reached Padovans Crossing. I'd never been so happy to see shadows! I was still cold and wet, but the rain had stopped and I was slowly jogging. At Vanities Crossing my legs were numb and dead from the cold. I was only 7k from home, so I walked the long hill towards Pierce's Creek then jogged the last 2k down to the cars, thinking all the while that this was one run I'd remember for a long time!

21 Comments:

Blogger plu said...

Cotter Reserve. Would I have ridden a bike to the bottom and then up the other side for Triathlons in the 1980s. If it was - big climb out from memory.

Plu

5:46 pm  
Blogger jojo said...

mmm sounds like a fun run....NOT

6:26 pm  
Blogger Rob said...

Sounds like ideal preparation for a Half in Melbourne if the weather for the GF was anything to go by.

6:34 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Well Ewen, I almost felt a smigen of sympathy for you, But really that weather sounds like a typical summers day here in the U.K.[Really!]
Sounds like you could do with a few more long runs to get your aerobic fitness firing on all cylinders!
Stick at it and you might give them young blighters a run for their money yet!!!

6:53 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

Sounds like running the equaliser twice in the rain. Melbourne will be easy after this.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

Sounds like it was a tough day. Good on ya for sticking at it.

8:01 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

I could image that situation well enough thanks to your writings.

All it takes is a bear, cougar or an hours exposure to bring one to their knees, eh!

Still, a day like that has to make the good ones just that much better!

8:22 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

P'S' GOOD LUCK WITH THE
1/2 MARATHON,
sure you can run a seasons best if you follow Canutes top 5 brain training tips!

8:30 pm  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Great job, Ewen! Sometimes those runs where you're unsure and worried end up being the best since they give you a huge shot of mental strength (though maybe not apparent at the time). I'm proud of you that you made that decision to go left and now, all you have to think about is the Half! ;-) You're going to rock it, my man.

6:05 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

Well done on toughing it out Ewen. That decision you took at the top of Jellylegs Hill will be the making of you.

Although your definition of freezing somehow reminds me of the Irish definition of a heatwave.

7:33 am  
Blogger Love2Run said...

Ahh. brings back fond memories of winter runs dodging snow plows! But nothing worse than a cold rain in my books. Great mental prep for the 1/2 though, good luck.

8:59 am  
Blogger bill carter said...

Hi Ewen

I have to believe that would qualify as an adventure run. I love the part about how you stopped and actually considered shortening the run and just couldn't bring yourself to do it. We are a hard headed lot aren't we? I would've done the same.

BTW, thanks for the kind thoughts on my blog. It still seems somewhat surreal how badly that race went down. My body just didn't perform the way it was supposed to and received a much deserved post race tongue lashing. I can only hope it learned it's lesson and will not do that again. I am already plotting my revenge on 42k and just looking for the opportunity to give the marathon what it deserves.

Take care Ewen and run safe. Or like Pre!

9:03 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

Ewen, you're such a good writer! and runner.

9:11 am  
Blogger strewth said...

Good grief, I knew there was a very good reason I didn't run the Cotter - that sounded like a really tough day. You are very brave, making the decision to turn left! But just think how good you must have felt later!

7:40 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Well done...Pre would have been proud of you abandoning SOFT rational decision making...experienced a little horizontal run on a long run my self a few weeks back, but sounds like a cold wet day terrible weather for an overdistance run. But its done now, and you should be primed for a big HALF in Melbourne...

2:44 am  
OpenID canute1 said...

Turning left was definitely right; I do not think either your legs or your heart needed the few extra Km at this stage, but opting for an under-distance run instead of completing your planned long run 2 weeks before the HM might have undermined your confidence. It was also great to do a fast 3000m on Thursday – that proved you have still got some speed in your legs; a fairly light week that includes a little bit of HM pace running should get you to the start in Melbourne in good shape to take a few minutes off your time n the ACT vets HM at the end of August. Good luck.

10:59 am  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Ewen, well done on toughing it out. My training under Sean is now much more aerobic, hopefully the same thing will yield a desirable result for you. All the best in your HM.

1:16 am  
Blogger Dusty said...

WOW - and jelly legs - that sounds ominous. I'm impressed you made a left, I'm not sure I would have had that disapline.

3:50 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Just a quick note. I didn't get around to writing a "pre race" story. This is probably it. I don't think I'm quite in the shape I was for Melbourne in 2007, but I intend to have a go at running a PB. That would be 1:40:47 or better - I'd be as happy as Scott Brown at the end of a 2:45 marathon if I ran that! If the result is in the 1:43 to 1:44 range I'd be quietly satisfied. If it's beyond 1:45 then it's back to the drawing board.

Thanks all for your comments, encouragement and leg-pulling. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Catch up with all your comings and goings next week. Have fun, and run well!

8:08 pm  
Blogger Dusty said...

Good luck in Melborne!

6:58 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Hi all - I ran about 1:43:00. Sort of OK. I'll write a more detailed report later in the week.

7:28 pm  

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