Monday, August 4, 2014

“Look, kids, there’s Big Ben and Parliament!”

There's nothing like the challenge of a 3.54km loop done 28 times. And I don't mean the running. Trying to come up with a race report for this was just as tough as getting up out of bed this morning!

I've recently been inspired by this satirical masterpiece by Clay Foote. If you haven't read it, I couldn't think of a better way to pass some time. It's brilliant. Nadine needed assistance getting up off the floor in fits of laugher after she read this line:
"I was delighted to be greeted by my family at the checkpoint. Or at least I think it was my family. Having seen them so rarely during my relentless training for this event, I sometimes find them hard to recognise as their appearance changes due to the progress of age and the way that bitterness and frustration alters their facial expressions.")

So in an effort to be less blow by blow (not that there were many), and more about what was going on through my head, I give you 1:06s of classic cinema.

So this is what the Centennial Park Ultra felt like. As one follower on Strava commented quite rightly, 'Looks like you had trouble finding the exit, just kept missing it!'

Quite true! So what exactly motivated me to run 28 times around one of Sydney's busiest parks, following a poorly painted white fence, dodging stray soccer balls, avoiding freshly dropped horse poo and zombie like folk concentrating more on their iPhones than the runners on the path they were walking across?

Well to answer this I best put on my coach's cap.

My last A race of the year is the World 100K Road Champs in late November. This is, for want of a better term, the IAU flagship event. So the focus for me is more on road and less on trails for the rest of the year. What the!! Now why I would do such a silly thing? It's simple. There is no higher honour than representing your country and this is one of only a few ways an ultra runner can. The other reason is that I love running trails, and to be frank, I've had my fair share of trail goodness already this year. So it sounds crazy, but shifting my focus to something different for a little while will make me appreciate the trails even more.

So point one; motivation and a new focus.

But why yesterday's race? Well I really want to lower my road 100k PB (6:55) in November, but also crack the top 10 at the Worlds. To do this I:
a) had to give my body a fresh experience of what it feels like to run hard on flat terrain for 100k
b) be capable of holding sub 4:15 pace and then some for 100k, and 
c) experience the sensory deprivation (mental challenge) of running 100k on a flat, predictable course.

So off I went yesterday, with the race plan to roughly hold 4:15s as long as possible and then deal with the issues that I knew would surface later on in. It was not a smart race plan, but this wasn't so much a race as much as it was a training session. I mean, would I go out and run 100km on the road in training? Probably not. So this was a good opportunity that I couldn't miss.

And things did go to plan...I held the pace for 60 odd kms before the pace began slipping. The hurt inevitably came on and I was asked a lot of questions. I began looking for exits in that white fence but like the Griswalds, I couldn't get out!

So it ticked all the boxes. It ticked even more when the winning prize included wine and chocolate. Thanks Sean and Mel from Mountain Sports for taking this event on. There is definitely a place for this event as it is very entry level and it was great to see new runners and families running out enjoying ultra running!

I'd gone around so many times I'd forgotten how many laps to go!