Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lulled by Autumn

I spent the four-day break over Easter at my old home town; Wagga. It's still my mum's home town. It was a gathering of siblings, minus one: my little sister is living and working in Minneapolis. So, we had one less person to assemble the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle — All About Chocolate! My brother and his family helped out. My nephew is 13 and my niece 11; it's amazing how much they've grown in six months.

So, it was a happy family time. I squeezed in two short runs — both down to the lake. In the sixties we could see the lake from our front porch, hence the name of our house — "Lochfyne". Now tall trees obscure the view. On my second run, I tried 'tempo pace' for the last 6k, which sent my heart-rate skyward. I've lost some aerobic fitness since Six Foot. During the last kilometre of the run, I huffed and puffed my way past my old primary school; Kooringal Public. I thought about the afternoon 'quiet time' we used to have — where you crossed your arms on the wooden desk (being careful to keep your sleeve out of the ink well), put your head down, and slept for 15 or 20 minutes.

Since Six Foot, I've been having a 'quiet time' from serious training — just running the miles, on any particular day, as I feel. I'll call this my Lydiard 'train-off' phase — the few weeks of easy running to allow recovery from the track season. The 3000 metre goal will take a concerted effort, and I want to be ready.

So ... I run, sometimes with a friend, or friends, sometimes alone; watching silvery autumn leaves from the birch trees floating through the air like winsome butterflies; and I savour a less intense warmth from the sun, shining brightly out of a clear blue sky.

Where's Strewth?
Phone photo attempt 1 - When running with Strewth I have to be careful not to elbow her in the head.

We found a milk crate for Strewth to stand on
Phone photo attempt 2 - Strewth is not really that short. Sunset is reflected in her glasses.

Autumn sunset over Lake Burley Griffin
Autumn sunset over Lake Burley Griffin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The reason we run Six Foot

It's been one week and two days since Six Foot. Only now am I able to run normally. Without pain. Well, some of my normal running involves pain, but not the delayed muscle-soreness kind of pain that comes from having run too far, and over too many mountains.

Grellan expressed surprise that I'd gone and run an 'ultra', when I'd been spending the summer training studiously for faster 3k times around the 400 metre track. The Six Foot Track Marathon has something which keeps drawing me back, year after year. I just love it.

Blogging friend Hamburglar ran Six Foot this year with a mate Will, who was carrying his trusty Olympus digital camera. Will's video, wonderfully produced, does a brilliant job of conveying the emotion of Six Foot. Have a look. I hope to see you running through the Blue Mountains on a Saturday in March, some year in the near future.

Will's Six Foot Video

Monday, March 10, 2008

An inadvertent Six Foot PB

I feel a little like the freckle-faced child who has raided the neighbours' peach tree and got away with it. On Saturday morning I stepped, ran, walked, shuffled, and plodded, 45 kilometres through the sublime Blue Mountains from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. I was just one of 762 finishers in Australia's greatest trail race – the Six Foot Track Marathon. In deference to my mate Scott, I'll refrain from Tolstoyising the day. Let's just say it was a long one, and a long weekend.

It was the fifth time I'd completed this race. Something keeps drawing me back. I can't help myself. This year I didn't do any specific preparation. I was so keen to run well around the 400 metre track, that I didn't want the long, slow, hilly runs diverting attention from my speedy track goal. I restricted my long runs to around 16k, usually out and back to Rose Cottage Inn.

On Saturday I felt good; relaxed. Before the Cox's River, I ran easily, having a ball on the single-track until I came upon a very long Woolies-style queue of runners, impossible to overtake. Luckily the coasting only lasted for 2km or so. The river was cool and refreshing, as were the stream crossings of Alum creek. On the hike up to the Pluviometer, a multitude of delightful bellbirds were in full tinkly voice. The distant sounds of Kookaburras added to the Aussie bush atmosphere.

It wasn't until after the Pluviometer that I contemplated a PB, and possibly going under six hours. One never knows how one will go until the Black Range. It was good! I was able to run – albeit with a shuffling stride. Walks were confined to the uphill sections. I waited for the cramps, which never came. I repeatedly thanked Blair for the cool day. By the Binda Cabins, I knew a wheel would have to seriously fall off, to keep me from running well under six hours. The landscape finally tilted down and I picked my way, with 'talking quads' gingerly to Caves House. 5 hours 41 minutes and 7 seconds! This was a 37-minute PB and placed me 469th. Very happy with the run, and very happy to be amongst friends.

Splits: Nellies (1.7k) 19:25, Megalong Valley Rd (8.1k) 52:14, Pinnacle Hill (10k) 1:03:07, Cox's River (15.5k) 1:39:40, Mini-Mini summit (20k) 2:25:24, Pluviometer (26k) 3:22:28, Caves Rd (37.9k) 4:49:42.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


On Thursday I slid the DeLorean to a stop in the year 2002. That was the last time I'd run faster than 12 minutes for 3000 metres – 11:57.95 at an Interclub meeting on December the 14th. On Thursday afternoon I ran 11:58.44. Needless to say, I'm happy to be in the elevens once again. I've been asked to "tell all", so here is the whole story...

I worked for 9 hours, but tried to forget about it. Managed a 30-minute nap before driving out to the AIS, for once allowing plenty of time for a good warm-up. I jogged 5k slowly, with some breaks for stretches and rest – felt OK doing this, but not great. My movement did feel good after swapping to the Frees and running some strides. I had my mind in the right place, and was positive about doing well. My mate Blair at the BOM had organised the temperature to be a mild 16°C.

I started on the outside of the curve, with a plan to slot in behind Burkie. He's not a fast starter, but was in good form (40:55 for 10k last week). Nev took my spot, so I followed him and Burkie through the 200m mark in 44 seconds – 11-minute pace, but it didn't feel that quick. Robbie was about 10 metres ahead of our group of three.

The photofinish clock showed 3:55 after one kilometre. I was still feeling comfortable enough. At this point, Burkie slipped ahead by a few metres, but I decided to stay behind Nev. I was having to chop my stride at times to stay at this speed – it's been so long since I've experienced that in a race, that I'd almost forgotten the feeling. I pulled wide in the home straight and thought about passing Nev, but the moderate head-wind was enough to deter my enthusiasm for the move.

We overtook Robbie, and at the start of the next lap, I sensed Nev was slowing, so went past. Burkie was 40 metres ahead, but I couldn't do anything about it. I was pretty much at my limit. 2000 metres in 7:55, so 4 minutes for that kilometre. Speedygeoff was standing at the 200m start, shouting (quietly) encouragement to all the geese. Thanks Geoff! The last kilometre was feeling hard (as it should) – I was hoping I had enough time in hand to sneak under 12 minutes. Geoff called "eleven fifteen, go for it!" My mental arithmetic went into overdrive... sub-45 needed for the last 200 metres. I sprinted as well as I could, very thankful for the sprints I've been doing in training lately. 11:58.44, an M50 PB! 6:25 per mile pace for imperialist friends such as Grellan.

That was the last 3000 metre race of the season. The good result has fired my enthusiasm for the rest of the year. My next opportunity to race on the track will be at the High Noon meets in June. That will be novel – racing a distance event on the track in Canberra's perfect arctic-like winter stillness.