Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Travels and races

Wow, it's been two months since I wrote on the blog...that's not like me!
So last you heard I was over the "foot issue". Well I had gotten back to running and built up to four times a week again when I started to feel a strain in the achilles on my left leg. My physio said *not* to stretch it. That may sound unusual, but when I had stretched it I didn't feel it ease off either. That was about the middle of June. A few days later I packed a bag, said goodbye to the family and got up at 03:30 (!) to start travelling to Australia!
I won't go into most of my travels here. But my first stop was Melbourne, and of course it was the Aussie winter. The temps were good during the day - t-shirt weather - but at night it was single digit temps, so glad I had brought a fleece jacket.
Due to the leg strain, I was just able to run once a week and the rest of my workouts were rowing, cycling or strength/conditioning. So the only run I got to do in Melbourne was a trail run. I got directions to the park from Sandi (a DailyMile friend) and was hoping to see some wild Roos, but I must have picked the only day they weren't there!

All in all, running at an easy pace once a week isn't the best build-up for a half marathon.
After three days I had to move on to Sydney and I got one 6k run in there. I ran through/around Hyde Park and over to Mrs Mac's Chair.
Taking a photo of myself with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the background

 Even though it was technically winter, I was running in a technical t-shirt and shorts and was hot enough to wish I was wearing a singlet instead. My last two days in the city I was working and reluctant to run around the city in the dark - I was based near the city centre. Anyway, technically I was tapering!
So on the Friday morning I packed up again and flew up to the Gold Coast. This was only my second time there. The last time I was there I drove in from Brisbane to do a "Carjacking and CQ defence" course. It was three hours of attacking and defending in an underground car park in 30 degrees. Good times!
Anyway...this time I was relaxing and preparing for the race. I spent Friday walking around and buying fruit etc...and eating. On Saturday I hired a car (Hyundai Getz - with my 6'2" I must have looked like Noddy!) and drove around the area and then down to the Sunshine Coast to meet up with some friends. I had never met Leeanne and her family and friends before in real life, but we all got on really well and had a great talk about running, nutrition and life in general over dinner.
All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep before the race. The start time was 6am and the bus I needed to get started at 4:30. I figured I'd get the first one, which was a really good decision! So that meant I had to be up at 3:45 to get into running gear, get suncream on (even though it was dark outside!) and drive 10k and find the bus stop. I was there about 10 mins early, so had a banana and apple juice.
While I was in the bus queue, I rang home - it was mid-evening in Ireland! Once on the bus I got chatting to a woman beside me and before I knew it we were at the race. I got a small coffee, and wandered around to keep moving. Over my running gear I was wearing a fleece that I got free at a conference last year. It didn't fit me anymore, so it was going to be my "throw away".
I did some warmups and drills in a clear spot on the main road and then made my way into the start pens.
The Gold Coast course is probably the flattest half/full marathon in the country, and it was also the National Championships. Plus it had around 30,000 runners/joggers taking part (although I'm not a big fan of crowds). With just 10 mins to go I took off my fleece and even though it was before 6am and I was in shorts and a singlet I wasn't cold. Partly due to the crowd, but also the sun had started to rise. Pretty soon we were off. Over dinner the previous night I had told anyone and everyone that my plan was to take it easy, stop and take photos and generally enjoy it. I spent the first 2k or so overtaking people that were going slower than I wanted to and then I settled into a nice pace, but not going too hard either. Given my lack of training there was no hope of a PB!
The water stations were plentiful and even though the temps were in the low 20s by the end I didn't drink too much, but didn't feel like I needed to either. I walked through two water stations in the first 10k and only took one cup in the second half, pouring most of it over my head.
At the 10k mark I was at 50mins and felt fine, so I decided to keep the pace I was at. Shortly after I could feel the ball of my left foot getting a bit too warm and was sure a blister was forming.
By 16k I was just over 1:15, which I was nicely surprised at, so I decided to keep pushing. By the 17k though I could feel my left sock getting wet (1,000 mile socks - guaranteed not to give you blisters!), meaning the blister had burst. For the rest of the race I'd glance down to see if my runner (NB Minimus) was getting discoloured, but so sign of blood thankfully.
In these situations my mentality is, "the faster you run, the sooner you can put your feet up", so I kept pushing myself. And no, I wouldn't recommend that mentality!
The last 3k were really tough and found my running form changing every now and again to accommodate the pain in my foot, but I tried to disassociate from it as much as I could, as it was only a few minutes to go.
Going over the line I clocked in at 1:47:35 (or so), only 2 mins slower than my PB! Makes me wonder what time I would have got if a) I hadn't walked through two water stations, b) my foot hadn't blistered and c) I had trained more than once a week!
I got some water, orange slices and banana and hobbled to the medical tent. I was happy to see that despite a large blister there was no bleeding at all, but the skin had torn away from just below the toes in the middle of my foot, back to the ball of the foot. No, I won't post any pictures! It got a dressing and I was told to keep it covered until I got back to the hotel and then let it open to the air.
I hung around and got my medal and t-shirt and then met Leeanne, Megan and friends. Of course we had to pose on the winner's podium!

Before too long it was time to go our separate ways and I headed back to the bus, then the hired car (lucky it was an automatic!) and the hotel. The next day I flew back to Melbourne and the following morning I was on my way to Ireland.
It was a fantastic trip, one that I could only manage every 4-5 years, due to the price, but it was definitely worth it. I've made new friends, met friends in real life I've only known online before and had a great race (even if I didn't stop to take photos).
I'd recommend a running trip like this to anyone.

Eoin

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