marathon

Rollin’ and Tumblin

First, some post race analysis from Two Bays last month. Coming into it this time around, I knew what to expect and adjusted my pacing to the course accordingly – saving my energy climbing Arthur’s Seat and making gains for the rest of the course was my plan and amazingly I made the whole course without tripping and rolling over. Two Bays is a stunning course that runs from Dromana to Cape Schank across 28km, or Cape Schank to Dromana and back for the 56km ultramarathon, all along the Mornington Peninsula with a challenging trail course with lots of incline and decline.

For the most part it felt like I was running a strong race, not pushing it too much and managing myself on the inclines and declines. I felt that a course PB, or the very least another sub-3 hour finish was on the cards. My steady pace dissipated however once I crossed 22km, where my right calf had enough and refused to function properly, leaving me to hobble and walk the remaining 6km and with finishing in a time of 3:19. This was maybe to be expected having effectively one month of training after another month of recovering from New York City Marathon, little technical trail experience, and/or not enough long training milage in my legs. So time was the element working against me, despite taking a much more (comparatively) conservative approach to post marathon recovery (where in 2013 I was back running a week after Berlin Marathon, in Munich during my visit to Oktoberfest (yes my love of running only slightly eclipsed my love of beer)).

Looking back now it was a pretty good day for running, but at the time after finishing I was pretty despondent, having fallen away so hard at the later stages and especially feeling let down in front of my running club for what I felt was a poor performance. I even wondered if it was even any point in racing anymore (very dramatic, I know), but ultimately decided this one poor performance and I had time to make a lot of improvement.

Doing it tough at this year's Two Bays 28km

Doing it tough at this year’s Two Bays 28km

Touching base properly for the first time in 2015. I’ve laid down my plans for this year, and for the first time this year I’ll be running the Melbourne Marathon this year. Focusing on shorter races in the interim, starting with a Sri Chinmoy 10km race, followed by a return to Run for the Kids and the Great Train Race hoping to have made significant improvements with my form and technique and translating them into good times and better performances across the longer races and training runs.

I’ve got two major half marathons lined up in the first half of the year – the first one being the Geelong Half Marathon. I’ve heard this is a flat course and I entered mostly on impulse, but I’m looking forward to see if I can challenge my 2013 PB of 1:38. There’s a couple of weeks to go and a few other races I have lined up so it will be good experience for this year.

The next half marathon will be another trail race also in the Geelong region, the Surf Coast Trail Half Marathon – Great Ocean Road Half Marathon was an option but taking into consideration training and travel options The main challenge will be first of all terrain – being a trail race interspliced with sections of sand, stretching up to 4km. Secondly, a fairly minor one is distance in that Surf Coast Half is slightly longer at approximately 22.4km, which isn’t too much of an issue, considering that Two Bays is 28km and by then I’ll have already raced a standard-length half marathon.

While I’ve only been running for 3 and a half years, I’ve seen quite a lot of newcomers to both my running club and in general. A week ago I decided to undertake a Community Coaching 1 course, which I found very .  I’m taking in a long term view to build up before doing Level 2 Recreational Running Coaching, given that 30 hours of coaching are required and have a lot of my own running to focus on, but hopefully by the next year or so I can take the next step and be valuable to runners of all levels. This will be through my experiences both on and off the track, building on what knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained throughout my running and racing as well as through academic articles.

With the ultimate goal for the year to run a sub-3:20 at Melbourne Marathon this year, 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year in running – hopefully I can manage my body well and mitigate any injury that might arise.

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An open letter to NYC

DISCLAIMER:  The following may contain anecdotes that provide counterintuitive to health and commonsense, and should not be taken in any way as a definitive guide for marathon preparations.

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There’s the wrong way to prepare for a marathon – and then there’s the Ross Pentland wrong way.

Final preparations started at home, having had my final sessions with my physio and massage therapist the weekend of the Melbourne Half Marathon and the one after, as well as my two last weekend runs: a 5km tempo parkrun (#49 -the coveted 50 parkrun shirt is waiting for me back home) and a 16km slow long run along the Lilydale Rail Trail. No problems which was a great sign, from there I was all set to go.

From there, it was off to the USA, starting off with a week in Los Angeles to acclimatize and embrace some of the local culture. It was a bit of a shock arriving in Los Angeles as I wasn’t expecting it to be so warm and yet it’s the sort of weather you have in summer all year round. Fortunately I wasn’t too jet lagged and the following morning I headed out for 10km run to Hollywood Boulevard and back from the hostel. This was my first experience coming across the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is marked with the four silver statues of golden era actresses so it was quite the experience to run on a famous landmark  and reading famous names on the sidewalk. It was also unfortunately my first real experience with the air of Los Angeles – the pollution in the air made a rancid stink, and so I had to make a detour out of the Boulevard, for the sheer hope of finding cleaner air. My experiences in Los Angeles improved, takin the opportunity to explore Runyon Canyon a couple of times to get a little trail training into me, as well as spending the day walking along Venice Beach and swimming in the ocean, enjoying the view of Santa Monica. These moments of hiking, running and relaxing by day were were counterbalanced by nights of drinking, bar hopping,  karaoke and even a ride on a mechanical bull (that at time of writing I still have bruises from, 3 and a half weeks later – none of which are recommended if you’re serious about actually running a good marathon).

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After my wild week in Hollywood, it was time to fly out to the other side of the country for what was arguably the showpiece of the trip.  New York City, did not disappoint. The first couple of days were largely spent around Central Park, and during my hour long Sunday run a week from the marathon I came across by chance the NYC marathon week launch run. My run itself was just going anywhere the path fancied, going on quite a few twists and turns but I was just happy to run in such beautiful spot in the city.

My other 2 midweek runs were 10 and 8 kilometers on the Tuesday and Thursday,  with another light jog on Thursday with Eric, one of my running coaches at the Crosbie Crew to the finish line in Central Park. Because of the point to point nature of the course as well as a percentage of the course being made up of the bridges that connect the islands of New York City, it was too difficult logistically to do course research so my training runs in New York were made up of doing loops around Central Park. That suited me fine as Central Park was perfect for running with rolling undulations that broke up the monotony, plus the runners who I saw attempting to run on the sidewalks of Manhattan had to contend with the hustle and bustle of the daily crowds.
Other than my runs, a lot of my time was spent just playing tourist and taking in the sights of Manhattan, going on pub crawls with other travelers from the hostel and just taking as much of the atmosphere as possible.

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The expo for the marathon was something in itself too. Like the Berlin Marathon, the expo is held across the 3 days before the marathon and a lot of it besides picking up race numbers was merchandise from different exhibitors with the chance to meet some big names in running.  One of these big names was Kathrine Switzer who was the first woman to register and run the Boston Marathon, and a massive pioneer on getting women recognized equality within distance running. I was actually reading her book on the flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles but was sheepishly unaware she would be attending the expo or that she was to be inducted into the NYRR Hall of Fame that weekend. She was a very warm and caring woman who was kind enough to autograph my book when I eventually did bring it in.
On Halloween, the New York City Marathon held the Parade of Nations celebrating all the different nationalities that had made the pilgrimage to run the race and capped it off with a fireworks display. At this point I felt a bit tired and a little sore from all walking around the city I had done so decided it was time to rest up before the race.

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So having done so many exciting things for the week it was a bit of downer to go to just sitting, lying in bed the day before the marathon and getting our carbs up but with such a tough challenge just hours ahead, there was never going to be anything super special about it and had made a point of seeing as much of Manhattan as much as I could and using the time to enjoy the trip.

So then came raceday, and it did not disappoint – New York City knows how to throw a party. Race day in my experience is never hard to wake up for – generally you’re too excited to feel sleepy and this was no exception with my roommate and I being awake of our own volition at about 4am (we even got an extra hour due to daylight savings time ending overnight). Our hotel was full of other guests who had come down to run the marathon and at 6am we set off on the bus to the starting line.

The race itself didn’t start until 9:40am for the first wave, so in cold weather on Staten Island after going through the security checks, runners congregated around their respective starting corrals in their warm clothing, anxiously waiting to get the race underway.
When the cannon sounded though, it was on. Strong winds were forecast and from the very first bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn you could definitely feel them – I spent a good portion of running on the bridges with one hand clutching my bib for fear of losing it, they were that strong! One of the tips I had read for running in winds was to turn your head to maintain your regular pace of breathing, while another was to stay in packs to mitigate the force of the wind, though this was a bit harder as the race drew on and people spread out on the wide roads.
The course itself is hilly, but the weather apart from the wind was perfect – it had rained for the 5km Dash to the Finish the day before but the road had dried out and there was not a drop from the sky. It was a beautiful day to run through the 5 boroughs, from Staten to Brooklyn, running through Queens and the Bronx before finishing in Central Park in Manhattan. The hills weren’t overly steep and rode the bumps of the course as a means to focus on getting to the next mile marker or landmark. My pacing was actually quite fast compared with the other races I had run this year – crossing halfway in what would have been a half marathon PB for the year in about 1:41. In many ways it was reflective of my two weeks prior – a bit reckless,  but I was running what felt good and was just letting myself be part of the atmosphere.

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Angela whom I met on a pub crawl on the previous Sunday night and again on a Halloween pub crawl on Thursday, (yes 3 days before a marathon – again, don’t try this yourself) was staying at the same hostel as I prior to moving to the hotel was volunteering handing out drinks at mile 22 and seeing her was such a massive lift I ended up giving her a quick cheeky hug before taking her gatorade and jetting back into the race. Her, all the volunteers and crowd cheering us on as well as banter with other runners gave everyone the best run they ever could have dreamed of, and this whole race would not be what it is without the organization and dedication shown by the crowd and volunteers.

The end result for me was ultimately 3:29:24 – the last 4km were a bit of a disaster hitting the wall but the crowd and volunteers were so supportive that it didn’t matter in the end, because it was the race of a lifetime and just being a part of it was huge privelege – the fact that I had made such a great time was such a bonus given how much of the year was spent in uncertainty as to how I’d perform, even going as far as the possibility of not being able to run at all had my hip scans had turned out positive.

The slight downer was the slow, sore walk from the finish back to the hotel room – thankfully I didn’t have any stairs to navigate but it still felt like it forever just to get out of Central Park and get our ponchos to warm back up.
It was the ultimate send off for a week well spent in one of the greatest cities I’ve been to.

The rest of my trip hasn’t featured anymore running until my return home – actually indulging in rest and recovery even though my legs feel better now, I’m actually going to give them the proper rest they need. As much as I love running, recovery is a vital part and was a somewhat ignored step last time around so I won’t be looking to get back seriously until December for Two Bays in January. I will be hopefully running my 50th parkrun and 4th City2Sea the weekend I get back but not running either one too seriously,  given they’ll be my first runs back since New York and the rest of the month will be focused on getting my general fitness back up through mostly cross training.
From here, I look forward to a whole new year of stronger,  faster running.

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.