When in Robe do as the Robans Do

Been to Robe once before, can’t really remember it though. I was 18, we were on a river/surf kayaking trip and it was our last stop so my memory bank was already full of things from the preceding few days. A mate of mine, Andrew ‘Thommo’ Thomas, is a raconteur of sorts and general activities man who resides down there over summer. At his behest in late 2022 I entered the Robe Run alongside him for a few reasons, the main ones being getting a good look at Robe with Thommo as my chaperone, and also getting more experience travelling and racing, all within SA.

If you’ve been playing along recently (if you haven’t now is a good time to go do some other scrolling and reading through the site) you’ll know I haven’t been running long since the Heysen days of October 2022. Hence, an unexpected reason to enter and run a marathon at Robe was a good way to get confidence in my legs for 2023 to go the distance. It’s funny though, this’ll be my 15th time running a marathon or further and I still seem to doubt myself in the build up each time. I wonder if Djokovic does that for every Aussie Open he enters?

Coming down to Robe I was feeling fit off the back of my best training block ever when graded in terms of consistency and progression. The tricky thing I had to encounter though when travelling down is that I was leaving the rhythm of a good 6 weeks behind in Quorn and transporting my physical and mental state to the South East. I had to bring the Quorn mindset with me. So even before you could say, gee Robe’s a busy little town, I was learning an important lesson about travelling as a runner to a new location and not forgetting how fit I was.

After I’d said Robe’s a busy little town, Thommo came and picked me up from the Airbnb Mum and Dad had booked. I was staying with him for the next 24 hours at Nora Creina and as training for being an adaptable athlete to new surroundings and also trying to live the Outdoor Athlete lifestyle I envision, over the next 24 hours we went: to the pub, to the town beach, the Nora Creina beach, fishing (caught a baby mullet), had some fresh crayfish and abalone, went crayfishing (caught 3 cray’s), kayaked, snorkelled, kayaked again, saw someone almost lose their boat and trailer to a beach recovery gone wrong, went for a run, had pasta and played six holes of golf. When in Robe do as the Robans do! It was awesome and an experience I would never have gotten without Thommo himself and also without him suggesting to me to come down and enter the Robe Run.

But I was here for the run as much as I was here for a lookie at Robe. Late Friday arvo I started switching over to runner mode, relaxing, stretching and getting organised for a potential 2hr 45 min -3 hr long run. The course looked good, 2 laps of a windy, diverse 21.1km loop, the entry list was thin but a few names were familiar so there was going to be some racing in there for me, and best of all the drink stations were going to be more similar to a proper marathon (special bottle provisions and paper cups) as opposed to a trail running race (no cups, no bottles) meaning I could run sans vest and just focus on the running.

The race started on the Saturday morning under cloudy skies, bit of a breeze around and a bit muggy too. The mugginess was a bit of a concern as we pounded out the first few km’s. I sweat a lot as it is so any factor that makes me sweat more means I run the risk of suffering from being depleted of all fluids late in the race. But what could I do about this? Drink all my bottles and not much else really so oh well, get on with the show.

The game plan I had for this race was to firstly have a solid long run of 2:45-3:00 and finish comfortably strong. To do this I hoped to run with the other front runners for the first lap and then either kick down a bit faster on the second lap or hold my pace. I was pretty confident that no-one else in the race had a marathon PB like mine so I didn’t need to go ‘to the well’ and definitely didn’t want to at such an early point in my season/year. The second part of the game plan or goal was to get a win and get some prize money (to be spent on future running endeavours) and lastly the third goal was to ensure I continually reflected on how I was doing with the whole travelling/racing thing. Out of the dozen or so races I did last year only one of them was away from either my Adelaide or Quorn bases so the more experience I can build on performing in new environments, the better!

After 5-6kms the race had settled and I was out in front with another runner from Adelaide, enjoying following his 4:00/km pace. We kept this up until the 12km mark before I started to pull away from him a bit on some smaller rolling hills. I wasn’t going hard at all or necessarily wanting to pull away so early but I also didn’t want to put the brakes on. So I just kept rolling. Going through drink station 2 at 13.5km I grabbed my first bottle and second gel and enjoyed getting some fluids in. Towards the end of the first lap I had lost sight of the second placed runner around long corners so was on my own for the rest of the race.

But not quite! The timing of the half marathon start meant I only had a few km’s into the second lap by myself before I started running up the back of half marathoners. It was exciting at first and good to break up my focus but by the end of Long Beach, about 27km in, I was starting to get bored of it now. Oh well, not much I could do about it, just keep running. One aspect of catching up with the half marathoners that was exciting was keeping an eye out for Thommo! When I passed him I was on a real roll, going at 3:40/km and he was looking solid as! (He went on to run 1:40ish, well above his expectations despite limited training!)

Going into the final 8km’s I grabbed my third bottle and fourth gel for the race and was now well and truly past the longest run I’d done in training. The struggle was beginning and this was welcomed for it is the struggle that makes a better runner! A bit of hamstring crampyness appeared at about 37km so I just focused on getting to 40/41km without putting too much extra effort in. At this part of the race, if I was still in front I was sure I could put in a hail mary sprint home to stave off any second place runners.

Getting to that 40/41km mark proved a little more difficult than I kind of hoped for though. I almost cramped quite a bit through my calves and hamstrings going up and down the last rollers but managed to run with a gait that saved me. Was I cramping because of the humidity/fluid loss factor or is it because I don’t have the long run strength in my legs? Hard to know, but for next time working on a little bit of column A (more fluid and salts) and column B (more fast long runs) in training is a good idea.

In the end I did manage to run through to the finish without cramping badly and got the win in 2:49. Pleasingly I also ran two pretty well even paced laps of 1:25 and 1:24. A successful trip then in the end having ticked all three elements of my gameplan! The best part was knowing that despite having a busy Thursday/Friday and feeling like I was out of my Quorn rhythm I was still able to perform at the level I dreamt of in the end. All those little games my mind plays with itself (Am I walking around too much? Should I be stretching more? If I was back at Quorn I’d be way more relaxed than I am now so does that mean I’m overstressed?) didn’t matter in the end which is what I was telling myself each time my mind did go down that path. I’d just play the ‘oh well’ or ‘whatever’ card and accept that I’ve done the training and this is where I am now, so I may as well just get on with and just wait for the run. It’s kind of the same mature mindset I had before the Belair race last month. Young Fraser seems to be learning.

I also seem to be further strengthening my Stoic mindset towards race performances. Yes I was focused on winning this race, and I like winning, but I also realise that placing too much emotional importance on winning, or my self-worth, is not a healthy way to live. Above the player’s entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon has an excerpt of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If that goes ‘if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’. I reference this because I feel like, on race day, my mind is now pretty settled. If I win, I win, if I lose, I lose. What’s important is that I’m running well. But still, even that’s not really important. What’s important is that I’m committing to doing my best given the circumstances I have accommodated myself. I’d like in every scenario for that to be a great training block, nice taper, nice pre-race meal and perfect weather conditions, but sometimes all these elements are out of control. It’s about dealing with changes in these circumstances and still performing at my best is what I’m after to ensure I am living as stoically as I dream. Interesting point to think about I guess, and shows I’m always learning about what I consider success and how I treat it!

Zooming out of the abstract for a second, the actual success of the day kept rolling through for the rest of the day when I managed to pull up nicely on arrival back in Adelaide later in the afternoon. Having consumed some water, some electrolytes, some pizza, an egg and bacon muffin and the best chocolate milk ever post race PLUS a swim and a good stretch left me feeling refreshed and ready for some more running the next day. That’s important to me because doing a 2:49 marathon/long run and backing it up the next day should be within my wheelhouse if I want to be a solid sub 2:30 marathoner.

So there you have it, another step in the right direction for 2023’s season and another confidence booster that I’m getting better and stronger as a runner in all areas (physical and mental). A quick shoutout to Mum and Dad for their work as chauffeurs, Airbnb bookers and general encouragement on course, Thommo for being the best Robe tour guide you could ask for (and his parents for their hospitality at Nora Creina) and of course thanks to the sponsors, Snowys and Tarkine, for the gels and shoes!

What’s next I hear you ask though? Well, it’s still summer so the pool/Quorn life regime is still going on and I’ll just keep working on my running and Outdoor Athlete goals for the next month or so. Could be some interstate races on the cards or some faster shorter races but we’ll see!

One response to “When in Robe do as the Robans Do”

  1. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together! And your planning, racecraft and mental approach are improving with every race. Looking forward to more 2023 successes from all the work and planning you put into every race.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: