Melbourne Marathon [15 Oct, 2017] – Crashing the wave

Posted: October 29, 2017 in Everyday stuff
Tags: , , ,

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2 weeks ago, I was in Melbourne for the Melbourne Marathon Festival. This post was initially meant to be titled ‘Riding the wave’, but was changed instead to what it’s now, considering the anticlimactic turn of events that stopped me from running the full race.

As a disclaimer to avoid wasting anyone’s time, let me state that I ended up running an easy half-marathon instead of the full thing, owing to a few factors in the lead-up to what was meant to be my jewel race (dramatic much?).

The post here is less for sharing and more for self-reflection and a bit of a humbling reality-check, which is why I’ll make a modest effort to keep this brief.

1. The Spark
Ecstatic after a 03:41 marathon in June, I was damn keen to keep going strong on the ‘gain train’ and shave off 11-12 min off this time within 3 months to have a sub-03:30 marathon. This would have implied a sub-5 (min/km) pace for the whole marathon which sounds stupidly stupid to me, but if the last 12 months have taught me anything, it’s to keep the sense of disbelief aside and to just pretend that it’s someone else doing the running for you. You just need to train for that person to get stronger.
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Bit of a friendly reminder around the house…

Melbourne Marathon was to be the race of choice, considering the timing of the race, the novelty of the MCG finish, and the fact that I’ve got some really good friends over there. Not to mention it’s a gorgeous city that I absolutely love visiting!

The original plan was to build up to 10 hours of running per week (~107 km/wk) during the last 2 weeks of peak training. This would mean some SOLID MILEAGE that would inevitably set me up for a good day. Alas, that’s not quite how it went down, and I have pretty much myself to blame for that. The first long run after a 2-3 week hiatus was gotten into with an overly enthusiastic effort which gave me the first few warning signs around the foot, that I promptly ignored. Subsequently, I jumped into my first ever major trail race on the weekend after. A 25km run that took me almost as long as my marathon in June.
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Perth Trail Series
The foot was in absolute agony on the day after, and this marked the beginning of a slippery slope. The next week had me with my friend Nina, an absolute gem of a physio, who did a stellar job of being thorough and making it a personal mission to get me back to 100%. Total kudos to her for going well beyond the norm to get the job done right! Dry needling, stress relief, strengthening exercises and regular follow-ups to make sure I was progressing as planned; I’m very grateful for the work she put in but little did either of us know that we had bigger problems heading our way. But more on that in a bit…
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Getting some expert hands to help with recovery (Nina Crowhurst Physio)

With 8 weeks to go and barely back to being good with my feet, I put a revised plan together with my mate, Dan, which unfortunately looked to peak at 7.5 Hours instead of the initial lofty 10 hours goal. I was disappointed but we both knew it would be stupid to get too ambitious and establish a long-term injury. Consistency over intensity, as they say. Or as Dan puts it, “softly softly catchee monkey”.

Now, I was also pursuing my skydiving certification through this time, which required me to be in York (90min from Perth) 1 day every weekend for around 8 weeks. This made efficiency in time management all the more critical.

With 5 weeks to go, a not-so-ideal foot, and constant travel for work, an expanding waistline was the cherry on the train wreck of a prep (so far).

2. The Downfall
The initial screw-up of not having the right transition into higher intensity running had compounding effects that I grossly underestimated then. Even an easy run was enough to give my shin a good beating and make me waddle like I was learning to walk.
With 4 weeks to go and consistent shin issues that I failed to address correctly in a rush to get to Melbourne Marathon fitness, the final disaster struck. While landing on my 4th solo skydive, my shoulder had a partial dislocation (‘subluxation’ as I later learnt) that gave me a bit of a scare since I couldn’t fully brake while landing and ended up making it a rolling crash land. Ironically though, this put a massive… brake (lol) on my running plans which were already in a pretty despairful state.
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Pre-trainwreck smiles

28 years of zero injuries and then 1 year to make up for it all, yay!

Take that for not wanting to be an obese little chubby and trying to actually do something with your life! The heart-attack-prone-female-repelling-kitchen-haunting-piggy teen me would be shaking his head so hard if he saw this.

So with that, my final two weeks of peak training turned into half-dead waddles, while I worked on strengthening my shoulder on the side with Nina’s help. In the end, I had to face reality and admit that there was no way I could run a competitive marathon, or even a slow one for that matter. However, considering the MCG finish, the social catchups and the fact that the tickets were already booked, I was keen on heading over nevertheless.

I focussed the final weeks on just having slow consistent runs and building back the shaken foundation. Running an easy half-marathon seemed to fit in with this new outlook, which is exactly what I did.

 

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The final weeks

 

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I had been warned by a few Melbourne Marathon veterans that this race was notorious for putting the runners through 5 different seasons in a span of a few hours. Thankfully, this was far from the case on the day, with the conditions being near perfection.

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The event itself was a lovely run through the iconic spots of Melbourne, running through the finish line of the Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park, and finishing with a lap of the MCG with crowds in the stadium making you feel like a superstar.

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The plan for me had been to start off a relatively easy pace, and shave off 10 seconds from my pace at each 5km split. I managed to pretty much do that and am content with that feat for now!
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Negative splits galore!

I also had three of my friends, Minh, Steph and Connie, run the event with a PB each, which was certainly the highlight of the day!

3. The Aftermath
So after this bit of mishap, I’d like to think that I’ve learnt a few lessons… maybe…
  • Build a strong base, but in slow increments (especially if you’ve had a hiatus)
  • Don’t keep eating like a pig that’s about to be slaughtered
  • Don’t umm… dislocate your shoulder?

Yeah, I realise that none of those sound like life-changing revelations, but the point here is that I’m now old and wise. So there’s that.

In the foreword in Craig Alexander’s (3 time Ironman world champ) book ‘As the crow flies’, Greg Welch (acknowledged as one of the greatest triathletes ever) talks about how Crowie not being selected for even the backup teams for the Australian Olympics was a likely reason for why he ended up becoming one of the greatest in the sport. Like so many other athletes, the rejection was a fuel to a fire that spread well beyond the initial goals.

So I guess what I’m saying is that since I didn’t get picked for the Aussie Olympics team either, Crowie and I have a lot in common and I’m likely to be a world champ.

Alright, maybe not the world champ but I’m certainly saying that this makes me want to do more than I’ve been able to before.

Have I figured out what I want to have a go at next? Yup.

Do I know how ambitious I want to be for that? Yup.

Am I going to talk about it? Probably so, but certainly not now. I think I’ve done plenty of talking with not much walking to back it up. So I’m keen on shutting up and first putting work on where my mind is.

FIN!

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