Thursday, June 26, 2008

Three in a row!

Well it's three squash final victories in a row and this one was the sweetest of all!

The venue was Northmead. Our opponents were Northmead. Victors were US, Wenty Leagues! What a night it was, a true grand final in every aspect.

We knew this would be a tough match up. Although we had beaten our opponents in the regular season a couple of times, my recent poor form and their recent good form (including knocking off Hawkesbury in the semi) had us all worried. Before the game we had a good team chat about how we were going to slay these guys. My ankle, which I had rolled in the adventure race last weekend, was thankfully much better. We were all fit and healthy and ready to rumble!

I lost the toss and our opponents sent Number 1's on first. That's me and I was playing Peter, whom I was thrashed by in my last comp match 0-3. Due to the ankle being sore all week, I have been thinking about my game plan a bit, knowing that I may not have been able to run as much as I usually do. I think this extra bit of strategic thinking helped tonight. In the first game, I got my eye in nice and early and was hitting the ball quite nicely. My plan was to boast a lot more and these shots seemed to be taking Peter by surprise. Also, as my ankle was fine I was picking up a heap of his killer drops and boasts and putting them back into the back corners so he was working a lot more too. I like it when my opponents go and ask the ref after I have picked up a drop shot of theirs whether I really got it before it bounced twice too. It's a real confidence booster as I know my opponents are flustered and won't be playing too many of those shots again if I keep hitting winners off them! So I won the first game, but it was tight.

I think Peter took the first game a bit lightly after thrashing me the last time we matched up, so he really came out in the second and third games fired up. He began to find his rhythm and was forcing some unforced errors from me. He won the 2nd and 3rd games to 10 and 12 from memory which meant I was down 1-2 in a best of 5 and facing defeat. As the captain, going on first and having a first up win can give the team a huge boost. So I gathered my composure, and set myself the challenge to win the next two games and get the match.

The fourth game was make or break and I came out with purpose and composure. I was a lot more relaxed and as a result was hitting the ball with cleaner. Peter was beginning to show signs of fatigue and he was trying his damnest to get the match over with. At about 11-10 to me I jagged about 3 shots in a row with a couple of nicks and mis-hits and I had the game! The fifth game was a little anti-climatic. Peter was absolutely spent and I had just warmed up and I think he chucked the towel in once I got to 10-3. I ended up winning the game without losing to many more points.

So, up one rubber to nil, we were confident Paul, on number 3 who was on next, could do the business. It was a real close encounter from the outset. I forget the correct order of games won but it went down to the fifth and final game again right up to 14 all. Paul, true to his form all comp, called ‘short’ which means that the player who wins the next point wins the game, and in this case, the match. Unfortunately, he lost the point and suddenly the balance was even again 1 all with exactly the same number of games won.

Next on was Jean-Luc. He has been our most consistent player all competition and I was sure he could inflict some pain on his opponent. His opponent, Brett, is a crafty player. I found it difficult to play him in the round match ups and he has a couple of big weapons, notably his forehand drive. From the outset, Brett was using his experience and calling a lot of ‘lets’ when he probably wasn’t entitled to many of them. The referee, once they give some lenient ‘yes, let’ calls, then have in a way set a precedent for the rest of the match. So Brett continued to call a lot of ‘lets’ when maybe he could have made a greater effort to get to the ball. This is frustrating, but totally within the laws of the game. What it did do, however, was upset Jean-Luc and he lacked composure and focus all game. The result was a quite comprehensive 0-3 loss and suddenly our backs were up against the wall.

What we then needed to win the night, going into the final game, was a 3-0 victory. It would then comeback to a count back of points won. We quickly applied some maths and worked out a victory was good enough as we actually were only down by 2 points. This kind of situation suits Joe down to the tea. He relishes in the pressure and we all had faith that he could do the job.

And indeed he did! What a sight it was too. Since all the other finals had finished already, all the other teams came down to our court and watched the gripping game. Lots of people were cheering for Northmead and this only added pressure to them in my opinion. Joe showed his class and a very cool temperament. He had a job to do and he did it with style.

For the full results of the night, click here

Monday, June 23, 2008

RNP Kathmandu Adventure Race 2008

What a day, what a day!

Dans and I came 3rd overall!

Stuffed up on a couple of sections which probably cost us a second place. Had a blast!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bay to Bay Fun Run

Driving into Woy Woy, I always have a little smile in remembrance of one of my favourite comedians, Spike Milligan. I even calmly asked my passengers "Why do they call Wagga Wagga 'Wagga' but they don't call Woy Woy 'Woy"? To then get a response in song was unusual and very unexpected to say the least!

There was quite a large Woodstock contingent which was pleasing to see. At 8 the race started and off we went, over, you guessed it, the Spike Milligan Bridge! It was quite a frantic pace from the get go and I had to hold myself back a bit and play it sensible. All the kids who had taken off like whippets were all struggling after 1km so there was quite a bit of dodging going on!

Finally settled into a very good rhythm. It was my intention to go hard on this run and keep the pace around 3:40 or lower. I was on target after 5km, but slipped back a bit by 10km (36:40) but my position in the race never changed. Young Charlie Brookes (a star in the making, he is only 15!) was ahead and I just could not bridge the gap at all. The last 2kms were very tough, battling into a fierce headwind (which meant I had a tailwind for a large part of the race?) but finally got there in just just under 45 minutes. Was happy with that.

Bonus was I finished 3rd in my age group and should receive a nice package in the mail shortly. I just couldn't bring myself to hang around in the wind and cold for the presentations! I got to say I think I jagged this really as 14th overall is no great thing and normally out of category placings. Got to thank all those speedy Central Coast juniors for filling a lot of the top 10. Managed to get third in my Age Category and pick up a pretty neat towel!

On the weekend I am going to do the Kathmandu Adventure Race. Should be fun, did the same race last year with Teeds and we had a great time. This year I am doing it with my mate Locky. Unfortunately received an email today from race organisers saying the course would be shortened due to the tracks and the rain. This is a little disappointing as it turns the race into more a sprint than a test of endurance. We would fair better in the original format.

Have also changed my Woodford to Glenbrook from mountain biking to the run. Did this for three reasons. Firstly, Woodstock has organised a running team, Secondly, need the long run training run, and Thirdly, Ferran, my Spanish mate wants to borrow my bike to do the race as well. Should be fun!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Marathon PB! Macleay River Marathon 2008

Macleay River Marathon - South West Rocks. On Saturday I travelled up with Eagle and PlodBod to South West Rocks to run in the Macleay River Marathon. This was the 27th running of the event, but for me it was number 1. It was the same for PlodBod but for Eagle it was a simple case of 'been there, done that'! The man is a living legend - he's up to 90 odd marathons and still pumping out sub 3:05s and on special occasions sub 3's.

After a very enjoyable trip up chatting to both my passengers about all things running and other matters we arrived there in time to meet up with a few other runners and head out for dinner together that Emjay had organised. Some more runners turned up and it was a very pleasant evening. I was trying to put up a calm exterior but on the inside the nerves were starting to hit already, I knew I hadn't prepared that well for the race as my longest run since the Canberra marathon was a 25km run at SMC about 3 weeks ago.

We got down to the start at about 6:30 and collected our race numbers and had a bit of a warm up. I said hello to a few folk that had made the trip north from Sydney as well. At 7 we were off and I set off at a comfortable pace with Silver fox heading out of the Trial Bay Gaol Caravan Park and down into the township. We were joined by a Port Tri Club runner. We had a brief introduction and chat and it was clear he meant business when he told us that his target was around 2:45.

At about 3km I increased the pace a bit as I thought it was a tad tardy. Both silver fox and the 'Port' dropped back a bit. We were still heading out of town at this stage and I was just concentrating getting into a good rhythm and making sure the breathing was fine. The lead bicycle that led us out of town made way for a 4WD and before long we were on the long straight, flat roads that run parallel with the river. It felt great along this section. The wind was gentle and filling the lungs and the scenery was really good.

I went through 10km in 37:30 and thought this was a bit fast so backed right off but maintained the lead from 'Port'. 14km passed in 53:00 and soon after this marker is when the headwind hit and really made life a little difficult. It wasn't a strong headwind but it was enough to make it a tad uncomfortable. I was really looking forward to getting to the 21.1km turnaround point so I would have the wind at my back!

Unfortunately this was not to be and as soon as I turned around I suffered 2 blows; I was passed by 'Port' and the headwind that was now meant to be a tailwind disappeared! Nada, nothing, not a breath. Heading back in along the long roads I never let the leader get more than 20m ahead and I felt I was always in control of the situation maintaining that distance. My tactic was to stick to him and then at some point put in a big effort and see if he had the strength to respond. On the way back, I was able to see all the guys still heading to the turnaround. Silver fox was running 4th and looking good, Eagle had barely warmed up and Seris and Pete were cruising along very nicely together of course!

Heading back into town, the lack of long training runs was beginning to show and I never got around to putting in that last big effort. I could see 'Port' pulling away and all I could do to respond was to raise the effort slightly. I had my first GU hoping that the second wind would kick in but to be honest I was beginning to look back fearing that my pace had dropped enough for third place to make inroads. I was relieved to see no one in sight.

So heading back into Trial Bay Gaol, we had to run along a bike path that weaves in and around some bushland. I could not see the leader anymore but I decided that it was now or never and really dug deep for the last 5 km. It was a hard slog but I eventually got to the entrance of the van park to hear the race announcer call over the PA that the race leader was about 200m away. That really surprised me...that meant I was about 400m behind. I really sprinted the last section and finished in 2:47:36. which was a minute and 3 seconds behind the winner. I was ecstatic, surprised and buggered!

I got a lot of hugs and handshakes and pats on the back. I really appreciated every one's congratulations. The Coolrunning crew, the Woodstock crew and the Bankstown crew were all there. I was really pleased with my race. It was a PB and my first time under 4 minute kms for the marathon distance. Coming second was a huge bonus too.

Shortly after I watched Silver fox come in for a superb third place, arms raised and fists clenched! I was so pleased for him and knew that he would be a pleased man. At the presentations we both got a nice glass trophy that I'm sure has already taken pride of place in his pool room as I know it has in mine!

On the way back, Eagle and I chatted about some our races and how they panned out. Eagle had a real tussle for the age category win but gutsed it out and showed his class to win. He is a legend, but even legends can't convince me to run for 36 hours in the GNW100 miler (but I enjoyed listening to his tales!)

This was one fantastic weekend and I reckon that this event is just tops.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Busy Weekend Take 2!!

Life's starting to feel about like 'Groundhog Day' at the moment. Talk about getting the most out of life.

On Saturday I made my debut appearance for Bankstown Sports at the NSW Cross Country Championships at Miranda. As stated in an earlier post, I am not entirely happy that I was left with little choice but to change clubs for ANSW events. But on the positive side, all the Bankstown folk made me feel very welcome and I even received a nice photo in the email from one of the members!

As far as the race went, 4km (and I think it was much shorter than that) is definitely not my ideal distance! Way too short! I do think, however, that I did my best and held my own in the race. I was in the open males and just running with the elite of NSW was enjoyable in itself, even if they were flying past me at ridiculous pace.

On Sunday, I had planned two runs: the MS Fun Run at North Sydney (8km) and the Great NOSH (15km). It was always my intention to take the MS run hard and then lay off and coast around for the Great NOSH. After all, I did not want to pick up an injury or overdo it with the Macleay River Marathon next weekend.

Anyway, I ended up coming 4th in the MS run and first in my age group. This is my first major prize at a fun run. It was a tough little course too. Of course, I wouldn't be a runner if I wasn't entirely happy! I was holding on to 3rd for a section of the run, but lost 3rd place in the last 2 kilometres. Something to work on for next time I suppose.

What can I say about the Great NOSH? I think this is one of the best running courses I have ever done. I mean it does involve a little more than just running, with elements of rock climbing, bush bashing and mountain running constantly making it interesting and keeping the mind busy. I ran around with a fellow Woodstock lady and we had a great time just soaking in the atmosphere. I can't wait until next year. I will make sure I don't have a run before the race or a major run the following weekend and I will give this a real bash. I think I could do well on this course. I am a bit of a mountain goat on tight, rocky singletrack!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Busy weekend!

A busy weekend of running!

Started off on Saturday morning with the Woodstock Handicap run around the Bay. I love this race, it's always a great way to catch up with my fellow club members and I love the handicap race format-each runner theoretically finishing at the same time (and as close to their estimated time as possible). I put down 26 minutes for the 7km route, which I thought was a good estimation based on my current form. The rules are quite simple. Beat your estimated time by more than 1 minute and you're disqualified. So I knew that I would be safe!

Ended up doing the course in 25:48 which in an Iron Cove PB. Overall I finished 4th in the handicap. To finish up the morning, Woodstock put on a BBQ and breakfast. We are having a bit of a member drive at the anyone reading this and would like to join a fantastic club - look no further than Woodstock!

At 3pm I then headed out to Dundas to compete in the West Metro Cross Country Series. These races are growing on me. They are hard and tough (today's course was the toughest so far) but this can only be beneficial. The competition is very good too, with runners from many local clubs participating. Today I took it out too hard, trying to go with a few others I have finished close too in the past races. Bad mistake...the morning run combined with the tough, hilly, grass course took it out of me and I was shot after the first of 4, 2km laps. I soldiered on and finished in 33:19 for the 8km course. A lesson learnt!

On Sunday morning I rose on time (made sure of it after last month's race) for the last long race of the SMC series. Having to run this race to qualify for the awards, and still tired from yesterday's races, I didn't expect great things. But once again, SMC brings out the best in my running for some reason. It must be the course and the superb organisation as lately I have been running some pleasing times out there.

It turned out to be a very interesting race and in the end, 15 seconds separated 2nd and 5th place. Positions 2 - 4 swapped places many times throughout the race, while I was always just hovering behind the pack waiting to make my move in 5th place. Unfortunately, the move occurred a little late and I couldn't quite reel in any positions. But it was a good time 1:35:50 for 25km and am happy with that going into Macleay River in two weeks.