Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And then, a year or so later...

Mmm... I see that my previous blog post has me preparing for the Sydney Marathon, um, last year. It's just as well I don't write this for money - the family would be living in a cardboard box by now.

Here are a few highlights from the last year and a bit...

Sydney Marathon, September 19, 2010

After my early exit from this race in 2008 I had a few pre-race nerves. However, everything went well and I finished in a tad under 4hr 30m feeling good. I ran wearing my thin Vibram Cherry huaraches which were not only comfy the whole way but a good conversation starter as well.

Coastal Classic trail run, September 25, 2010

This was the inaugural running of the Coastal Classic, with a beautiful course through Sydney's Royal National Park, and I'd been looking forward to it for months.

Now you might think that running a 30km technical trail, complete with brutal hills and sand slogging, six days after a marathon is not such a good idea for a middle aged office worker. Well, you'd be right. I felt tired at the start line, shattered by about 20km, and was shuffling pathetically for the last few kilometres - but I made it to the finish line.

The sense of achievement was short-lived. The next day, my left foot was worryingly swollen and painful. When it failed to respond to the usual treatment (ignoring it for a week or two) I reluctantly went for x-rays and scans and discovered that I'd injured a joint badly enough to be off running for some time.

The latter part of 2010 and the first few months of 2011 consisted of unsuccessful attempts to begin running regularly, interspersed with extended periods of sulking.

Barefoot Ted, March 2011

Long before 'Born to Run' was published, Ted McDonald, aka Barefoot Ted, was inspiring ordinary people like myself to run with less sole and more soul. It was from Ted's website that I first learned about huaraches and how to make and wear them. So it was a great pleasure to finally meet the man himself when he visited Sydney for a few days in March.

This photo was taken just before heading out with Ted and a small group of other runners for a lunchtime trot through The Domain and Botanic Gardens.

On the road again

Fast forward to May: the foot finally seemed all better and I made my comeback at the Sri Chinmoy 16km Iron Cove event, running slowly but very happily.

My plan to run the 2011 Coastal Classic was foiled by a badly timed dose of flu, but I did get to do many of my other favourite races including the Shoalhaven King of the Mountain (32km trail), Willy to Billy bush run (34km trail) and the remaining races in the Sri Chinmoy Sydney series. The Sri races in particular are always a great tonic for the spirit as well as the body, each one filled with friendliness, good humour and encouragement.

Long, slow plans for 2012

The plan for next year is to tackle some longer events, starting with the Narrabeen All Nighter 12 hour race in early January, my first attempt at a trail ultramarathon with The North Face 100km event in May, and the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race in June.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Overcoming pre-marathon fear through displacement behaviour

I've been counting down the days until the Sydney Marathon and feeling relaxed and comfortable about it thanks to a mental technique that I've long used to deal with life's big challenges. A very tiny part of my brain registers the event getting closer but the rest of it simply repeats "no problem - plenty of time". The bigger the challenge, the more I do this. However, despite my best efforts and with one day to go before the marathon, I fell prey to a sudden and unwelcome attack of reality today.

To settle the nerves I busied myself happily breaking the first rule of running...
Never get new footwear just before a race. Never ever. It will end tears.

But I'm choosing to belieive that there's a loop-hole in this running law (another trusty mental technique here) that applies to those of us whose footwear consists of rubber flaps tied on with string, especially if said flaps have got to the point where they've been colonized by what feels like a slippery algal growth that thrives on foot sweat.

Luckily I had some spare pieces of Vibram soling so it was a simple matter of tracing around my old huaraches and cutting out the new ones...

Punching the lace holes...

Making a recess for the bottom lace knot...

Lacing them up (that's the old pair festering on the right)...

And we're ready to race !

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Super athletes of the Sierra Madre

I found this video of the Copper Canyon ultra-marathon via Caballo Blanco's web pages. It has beautiful scenery, images of the local people and (of course) lots of huaraches. It also has one of the most wonderful evocations of running as sharing, friendship and simple joyfulness that I've found anywhere.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time for a run

I've been in the habit of wearing a watch when running. It's the same mechanical watch that I wear most of the time. I like it, not only because it never needs a battery but because it's only accurate to within a few minutes a day. Such good-enough timekeeping makes it seem a lot friendlier than the authoritarian, microsecond precision of a quartz watch. But lately the watch has become a bit too much like its owner, prone to unreliability and frequent stopping, and so it's sitting on the shelf waiting for me to get round to putting it in for a service.

This prompted me to think about buying a running watch. Not a GPS one that nags you about running too slowly, but a cheap one with big, easy to read numbers. Also, since I've had a few falls while running lately, the most recent one being a swan-dive over the dog who, up until that point, had been trotting very politely by my side but had caught sight of a small brown pooch to our right, upon which she swerved in front of me to say hello to it (which she subsequently did, seeming quite unconcerned that her owner was lying on his back, gasping, whimpering and bloodied next to her), I was worried about breaking my much-loved mechanical watch.

I had a look at some Timex running watches but they didn't seem to be for me. What's the point of having a 100 lap recall function when there's no chance of me ever running 100 laps of anything, or 10 laps, or even 2 to be honest, being someone who closely equates the word "lap" with the word "pain".

I considered going to the local shopping centre to find a cheap digital watch since the only thing I really wanted to know was how long I'd been running for. But after doing a few runs without a watch I began to wonder why I even needed that ? I'd slipped into the habit of noting how long each of my day to day runs were, but I didn't actually do anything with that information other than forget it after a day or two.

Then I read a post on Barefoot Ted's mailing list where someone was ruing the fact that they'd recently got injured after letting themselves be seduced into going a bit too fast, and doing a bit too much, by focussing on their running watch more than their body. I could imagine myself doing that, even with a K-mart cheapie rather than a Garmin, being lulled into competing with time. The last skerrick of interest I had in buying a new watch disappeared there and then.