Great Expectations

First the elephant in the room – I actually started writing this post in August but lost track of time and as I’m now in America for marathon #2, it was about time to look back at the past 5 months to determine how much has changed and where I’ve improved.

A lot of my goals were adjusted throughout the year to focusing mostly getting my body right and getting through runs without stopping, picking 3 key races on the way to New York Marathon – Run Melbourne 10km in July, Devilbend Half Marathon in August and Melbourne Half Marathon in October. There’s been some improvement along the way and I’d like to credit some of that to joining the Crosbie Crew.

My first informal interaction with the ‘crew would have been through one of the training sessions held for one of the major running events in Melbourne. Unofficially regarded as Melbourne’s premier running club, the Crosbie Crew boasts some seriously credentials amongst both its members but more so its coaches, so there’s definitely a wealth of experience to learn from. Having joined the Crosbie Crew, firstly as a visiting member through the Run Melbourne training sessions and then eventually as a fully-fledged member I eventually saw some steady improvement back in my running – unlike the event sponsored training sessions which have you running in groups to different distances and paces, the Crosbie Crew run more quality based sessions emphasizing increasing your speed, endurance or both to improve your general fitness and running power as opposed to just jogging for extended periods of time.

Additionally I’ve seen a steady improvement in my parkrun times – of the 5 new parkrun venues I’ve run, 2 of those have yielded sub 22 minutes runs, with a few sub 23 minute runs as well. At the moment I’ve settled on making Lillydale Lake my new home parkrun, but still taking up the occasional chance to indulge in some tourism to run on some different courses and challenge myself on different terrain. (Westerfolds parkrun has with it’s sharp rise at the 4km mark has my vote for Victoria’s hardest parkrun, but gets a vote for the odd spot of kangaroo spotting.) But enough about that, I should actually discuss some of the races I’ve completed.

July marked the annual Run Melbourne event. This hear I was stepping down from my usual half marathon distance to do the 10km run, mostly to see if I had gotten any better. Race day came and it was different to previous years in that I still woke up early but took my time getting out the door for the 9am start. It was a nice change from the last two years getting up and getting the start at 7am when it’s still dark (and slightly colder). That said there were still large crowds to navigate upon arrival as many of the half-marathoners had finished and collecting their bags at the same time as the 10km runners were getting ready. The main aim of the race was to finish the whole race without stopping – manage that and it would be furthest I had successfully run all year since my injury. I started a fairways back of the pack, running 5:15-5:20/km, which was a little frustrating for someone who was previously capable of starting much faster but this was ultimately a success factor preventing me from burning out to fast, picking up the pace as each kilometer went. My middle pacing increased to 4:50s to 4:40s & 4:30s, closing out with my final kilometer a blazing 4:06. My finish time was 47 minutes which wasn’t a PB, but a huge victory nonetheless.

The next big city road race on the horizon was the Melbourne Half Marathon in October. There was about 12 weeks or so between then and Run Melbourne, so again my focus was getting more endurance into my running which meant pushing out longer runs. The Crosbie Crew lent run leaders with the official event training series and running with the group for runs that went as long as 34km helps when you’re all working together and chatting through the kilometers, so it seemed like the best course of action.

Devilbend Half was an interesting experience. While 1:49 isn’t my worst result at the distance, I still had a bit of work to do in improving my pacing and endurance.  My first 5.25km were on track for a PB but then halted when I broke down to a walk – in short I had foolishly gone too fast, too soon.  I mentioned this before when I wrote about running Great Train Race in that there were patches of good running before – just about the second half of the run – it’s frustrating that those moments I’m running well don’t last as well as I would hope. Still there were some take away lessons, the hills made it a challenge as did my calf tightness in the first half of the race which strangely subsided after halfway but I still needed some work. This is where the slow long runs with the Crosbie Crew came in.

Australian Running Convention was another highlight – meeting my hero in Tristan Miller who more or less inspired me to not only just run a marathon, but to do so while traveling and seeing the world, meeting new people and just taking the biggest crack at living the life you can dream of. If you’re not familiar with Tristan’s story Run Like Crazy, you definitely should check it out – I’m still in awe of the very thought of traveling for a year to a run a marathon a week in so many iconic cities and landmarks around the world.
The convention itself was really insightful with loads of helpful advice from physios and elite athletes learning a lot from injury prevention, technique and mental strategies.

Another change I made was with my physio – Ross Kinsella a 2:43 marathoner of Freedom Sports Medicine whom I met at the running convention took it up a notch – first of all making sure my hips were structurally sound to begin with getting X rays and MRI scans. This was preceded with some anxious waiting with the fear that if I had done something to myself really badly I would be looking at surgery. Fortunately my hips looked good and my physio confirmed the good news and had me working on some new exercises that looked at strengthening my hips and loosening the tension in my TFL, which was identified as the bugbear muscle that had been plaguing me for so long.

Then came the penultimate test – Melbourne Half Marathon, 12 October 2014. This was a chance of redemption from my half marathon disaster two years ago, where I struggled as a result of over training and straining my ITB.  In similar weather conditions to 2012, perhaps the warmest Melbourne my best run of the year, a four minute improvement over Devilbend but more importantly, as it was at Run Melbourne it was the continuous effort and endurance over any speed that was the takeaway victory of the day. My pace had a bit of falloff at the15/16km mark but some encouragement from some fellow runners and the crowd rallied for support to keep me going for a 1:45 finish in my strongest performance of the year.
An important post race ritual I’ve taken to this year is celebrating my runs, and the Crosbie Crew threw a huge rehydration party celebrating everyone’s performances across the different distances in the running festival.

While I’ve all but ruled out a PB as I have with my other races this year, I’m nonetheless looking forward to taking in the atmosphere of New York Marathon and enjoying my two weeks in America leading up to it.

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