Sunday, February 27, 2005

Mark & Carol & Steve & Ewen

Yesterday I ran my last long run in preparation for the 2005 Six Foot Track Marathon (a 45 kilometre undulating trail run through beautiful bushland in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia).

We started as a large group leaving from Molonglo Reach at 7:08am. This group is the ‘Cotter Group’ which runs in the Mt Ainslie/Majura nature parks during summer as there is no shade at the Cotter following the bushfires of 2003.

After our lap of Duntroon we turned towards Campbell Park and were just climbing through the gate when a silver car screeches to a halt. It was Carol running late after sleeping in. After a quick shoe-lace and water-bottle adjustment we continued on into the bush.

Steve had planned our route and the first test was the ‘up’ version of the rollercoaster. Only five of us sat the examination while the rest of the group turned left to run around the base of Mt Ainslie. The gang of five ran up for quite a while then down, then up, then down, then up. After 32 minutes Chris turned back as he only had time for an hours’ run. We were down to the gang of four – Mark & Carol & Steve & Ewen.

I had the Forerunner set to record altitude. We started at 580m above sea level at Molonglo and the high bits of the rollercoaster were about 700m so we’d climbed 120m since the start. We turned left and ran down towards Stu’s place in Hackett. Then after a flattish section we aimed skyward up the zigzag trail to the summit of Mt Majura.

At the start of this section the altitude was 636m and at the survey point on Majura 899m so we had climbed 263 metres. On the climb Mark ran all the way out in front followed by Carol and Steve with me observing proceedings from a safe distance. Carol did do some walking but not much. No wonder she is such an outstanding Ultra competitor with some great results at the Gosford 12 Hour. She climbed that mountain like it was a mere speed bump on the trail. I walked on the steeper bits and didn’t lose much distance (maybe 50 metres) to Steve who was running.

We ran down to the pine forest (632m altitude) then some rocky undulations before tackling Mt Ainslie from the reverse direction of the Two Peaks course. On this climb Carol was out in front, me following with Mark and Steve chatting at the back. Steve ran 4:27:19 in last year’s Six Foot but isn’t sure of his current form after a big Ultra racing year which included the 60km Kepler Challenge in New Zealand.

At the summit of Mt Ainslie we had a short stretch break and a drink from the tap. The Forerunner said the altitude of Ainslie was 849 metres. We then ran down the zigzag walking track with Carol practising her downhill technique which she sees as a weakness needing improving. We were overtaken by a flying Tim Sawkins who ran 4:23:34 in last year’s Six Foot.

Then it was just the easy run home. We ran a lap of Campbell Park so the time at the finish would be close to three hours. Back at the cars I ran another 2km on the bike path as I’m a pedantic bastard and wanted to see 30km in the diary. My slowest kilometre during the run was 8:48 and the fastest 4:57. I was out for a tad over 3 hours 8 minutes at an average speed of 6:16/km.

I was very pleased with how I handled this run. Especially running more or less ‘with’ such experienced Ultra runners as Steve and Carol. I tested my new four bottle Fuel Belt which was fantastic. I’ll definitely use it in the Six Foot.

I also carried in my hand a bottle of Thorpedo ‘Advanced Hydration Ultra Low GI Energy Water’. This I drank from the start to the summit of Majura and may be one reason why I felt so good for the rest of the run. I also carried a vegemite sandwich, jellybeans and a GU gel.

I’m very happy with my preparation and just hope that the pay-off is an enjoyable Six Foot on March 12 taking something less than six hours. See you at the Explorers’ Marked Tree!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

One Perfect Day...

I'll be out running… Something is calling me…

As I was running last Wednesday I kept thinking to myself 'this is why I run'. I had started in the late afternoon to run with Graeme's group on their usual 9km loop out to Weston Park. There were only four of us ― Graeme, Chris, Elizabeth and myself as we started out on the lovely secluded bush run up over the ridge of Stirling Hills. We could have been on any bush track in Australia yet we were less than 5 kilometres from the city centre.

We arrived back at Lotus Bay and after a short chat I continued on alone as I’d planned to run 20 kilometres or more that day. I ran over Commonwealth Bridge then turned east on the gravel path by the lake’s edge. One or two people were still picnicking on the grass; some were walking and a few running.

I ran under Kings Avenue Bridge and suddenly found myself far away from the maddening crowds. The calm dry afternoon heat was an hour behind me, now replaced by a zephyr of a coolness which rippled the lake. A pair of black swans on the water seemed so content with life. The sun was setting low behind my right shoulder. The cool easterly breeze invited me to run on while the final warm rays of sunshine on the right side of my face bid me farewell.

I could have run on and on, past Duntroon and even to the Wetlands but eventually turned at the Boathouse and ran back into the twilight. Only a distance runner could enjoy this experience. It was a gorgeous, perfect day.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Risking a Landslide

On Saturday I had a feeling of trepidation on waking as I wanted to run for four hours. This would by two thirds of the time I’d need to complete the 6 foot track run.

The first 4.8 kilometres took the group to where the walking track comes up from the War Memorial. Some decided to do a shorter run while Steve, Mark, Chris, Carol Baird and I headed off up the zigzag track to the summit of Mount Ainslie.

Then it was down the steep rocky track to the power lines where we chatted to Carol Harding who was walking (recovering from a nasty knee infection). Steve then took us over every possible hill for the rest of the run. Including the rocky Trent’s grave hill, the Mountain Champs monster where you risked causing a landslide if you disturbed the wrong rock, down the zigzag, up to the saddle then the undulating track high above Campbell Park.

We had covered 22 kilometres when we arrived back at Molonglo. The others decided to start their picnic as they were running Mount Tennant the next day. I had a major mental struggle deciding to continue with my planned run around the east and central basins of the lake.

After a few minutes shuffling I was OK and for this flat section ran about six minute per km pace until 30 kilometres ticked over on the Forerunner. It was now quite warm, probably 26 degrees and despite having drunk 3 water-bottles I wasn’t feeling that great. When we’d started at 7am it was 17 degrees and overcast. I decided to ‘race-walk’ the last 5km back to the car. This worked well although the pace per kilometre was only about 8:40. The average pace per kilometre was 6:46 for the 35.2 kilometres.

I was very happy to arrive back at the car feeling tired but otherwise OK. Took off the shoes and treated the legs to about 10 minutes of cool lake water. Beautiful!

I was a little confused by this training run. The 6 foot track is 45 kilometres with not so many uphills in the first 15k but a monster long hill in the middle. I felt like I could have walked another 10k over rough ground in 2 hours which would be 45k in less than 6 hours. I shouldn’t think about it too much! We’ll see on the day.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Like a river that don't know where it's flowing...

I took a wrong turn and I just kept going...
Distance running, like my mate Mal once said, 'is not meant to be easy'. To run personal bests and achieve goals requires hard work. You have to ‘just love running’ because you’ll do a lot of it. If you race and want to be ‘successful’ then distance running also requires a certain amount of selfishness.

For the last 12 years or so I’ve been less than self-obsessed with my own running. What happened? In brief, this is the story... I was running on the dirt around the back of Theodore one day and bumped into Mike. He was with a group of young runners who were stretching and getting ready to run a hill session. We chatted and Mike invited me to join them down at the Calwell track on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For the first year or more I would join in with the kids and do the same drills, hill repeats and interval sessions. Gradually I became more interested in how the kids were running and the incredible success at both state and national level they were achieving. During the sessions I enjoyed just talking to Mike as well as listening to his jokes and providing feedback for his occasional sermons. I also loved holding a stop watch, supervising drills or taking some of the group for long runs on freezing, bleak, late-winter afternoons.

In recent years I’ve revived a little selfishness. I’m still at the track on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I still discuss training with Mike, run with the kids and help out but I’ve also been doing my own training, thinking about it more and working out what I need to do to achieve some modest goals. I started doing marathon-training long runs with Garry on Sundays and more recently, since Garry’s break from running, with Steve on Saturdays.

A big difference this year is my lack of racing. Since the year dot I’ve been a racer, for I love racing. I would race to the detriment of training, trying to have an easy or rest day on the Friday before a race on Saturday. I would run two or three events on the track at Interclub. I regularly ran two track sessions a week just because I loved the thrill of running fast.

Recently I’ve been reading Mister G’s blog and was impressed at how he’d identified a weakness in his running (lack of short distance speed) and had worked out a plan to remedy this weakness. My weakness is that I’ve forgotten how to run long distance.

For the first half of 2005 I’ve decided to do some serious distance runs ― especially the Wednesday and Saturday long runs. I want to do these without the distraction of racing. I don’t want to run a ‘dead-legged’ race the day after a long run. I’m hoping a side-effect of my serious long runs will be an easier day out at the Six Foot Track.

Today I ran my longest training run in ages. It was 34.5 kilometres which included running all the way to the summit of Mount Majura. Unlike last Saturday I didn’t get dehydrated. It was quite humid with a temperature of 16 degrees at the start rising to about 22 at the finish. I carried two 500ml water bottles (one containing ‘whatever-ade’), a Gu gel, some jelly beans and a vegemite sandwich.

Unfortunately Steve had been feeling off-colour this week and only wanted to run short so I ran the Mt Majura loop with Chris and Mark. We saw Carinna running with a friend near the grave of Trent North. At the summit of Majura I had my vegemite sandwich with some jelly beans for desert. What a view! We looked way down below at the miniscule hill of North Lyneham Ridge where I attend ‘run school’ on Mondays.

The rest of the run back to Molonglo went well except that Chris and Mark were getting away on the downhills. I was keen to run slowly thus extending the time on my feet. My fastest kilometre was a 5:31 following them down the hill off the Ainslie saddle. The slowest was earlier on ― an 8:19 running up through the bush past the Vineyards towards Majura.

After 25 kilometres I topped up my water bottles at Molonglo, bid farewell to the picnickers and trotted off on my solo lap of East Basin. I went through a ‘bad patch’ at 28 kilometres but then came good. For the last 3k I practised my ‘Cliffy-shuffle’ which the 201 said was 6:05-6:09/km pace.

Back at Molonglo after 3 hours 38 minutes I felt amazingly well and seriously thought about shuffling further, however the cool water of the river was beckoning. I took off my shoes and walked thigh-deep into the water. How good was that!
I thought to myself ― ‘This is one river that knows where it’s flowing’.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A bike passes our car on the way to Phillip Island - 2004

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Yesterday was not easy!

I thought I'd expand a bit on what I said yesterday in my real blog. I ran alone as Steve was busy. I wanted to run for longer than 3 hours but also had to be out at the track at 2pm to help Gerard with the hurdles at the A-series. I got away a bit after 9.30 and it was pleasantly cool.
I ran up the dirt track by the highway towards Gilmore with the intention of running to Isaacs. Without company I started running too quickly - don't you hate that! When the track flattened out I ran a 4:56k which was a bit scarey as we usually start closer to 6:00's. I ran around the back of Macarthur wanting to pick up the Mt Wanniassa saddle track. I had to bush-bash a bit through long grass and over rocks (walking) and saw a fox and three kangaroos.
The run through the pines at the back of Isaacs was delightful. Yobes Ondieki used to run intervals on this lovely bit of flat shaded dirt. I ran a loop down through O'Malley after 90 minutes when the GPS said 16k. By about 19k I'd drunk 2/3 of my 500ml bottle of Gatorade. Running back up across Mt Wanniassa I stopped to admire the view down over Fadden towards the Brindy's, consumed a Gu and finished the water bottle as I only had about 9k to run.
Now, just the downhill run by the highway - 5k to go and I'd have run 31k. By the time I got to the outskirts of Theodore I was suddenly very tired. Walked a bit. The GPS said 29k so I decided to short-cut, stop at 30k and walk home. That last flat 1k took me 6:17. I was knackered. I stopped at the shop and bought a big bottle of Coke. Drank half of it and then took 8 minutes to walk the last 500m home!
I collapsed on the couch and slept for 40 minutes. Dragged myself into the shower and after drinking the rest of the Coke started to feel a little better. I wasn't sure what to make of the run - I felt better at the end of last year's 6 foot track. Finally arrived at the track 40 minutes late just as the Vets 800m was finishing.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I've found a use for this blog

I've figured out how it all works. This leaves a blog sitting here gathering dust. I've decided to use it to expand on the thoughts I have while running. I'll write without the constraint of fitting a training day on two lines.
Most of the time it will be about running which I know is boring to some people. My friend Joy says: "Why to you run? You're always falling asleep. You're not getting any younger." Perhaps my words here will eventually explain why I run. There may be a few non-running thoughts which some people like to read. Why they would, I don't know.
When I'm happy with the page layout I'll announce this blog on CoolRunning. Good afternoon! I've got to go out into the cold and run.