Woooah-uh-oh. Here we are in the prime season of
life weather, April. Days are crisp and cool in the ‘am’ and can be warm and toasty in the ‘pm’ without any breeze. And what an eventful start it’s been over the past week into the weekend. In quick recap fashion:
Araps: Quite possibly my final week working as a freelance instructor it was a bit of a challenge heading to Araps straight after the Great Volcanic Mountain Challenge. Life was busy enough with all the training I planned and the amount of actual work I had to do, and then I had to go and add replying to emails and interview requests to it. The unseen work of an elite runner I guess and better seen as a service to educating a wider audience about trail running. In terms of the effect heading to Araps had on me this week, this is fraserdarcy.com after all, not whatgoesonanoutdooredtripatmtarapiles.com, (and if you don’t like the self-indulgence well then go and scroll somewhere else), I had three large days of physical activity bookend-ed by two medium days which were the Monday and Friday travel days.
The Tuesday-Thursday period saw me reach approximately 35-40000 steps and about 4000 calories burnt. My running load was fairly similar to the past ten weeks, the added activity just arose from the climbing and walking around camp component of the week. Was this extra load good? Yeah I think so. It did mean I was a bit flat and stiff for my arvo runs and didn’t quite have the same psyche for doing any hard sessions but, having this week as an ‘easier’ week where I just enjoyed the mental break that running gave me from work was good. This mental break would also mean I’d be fresh for my return to normal life in Quorn. Thus, the extra load I got from working meant that my actual training stress for the week was very similar in aerobic terms, but probably not as high in anaerobic loads.
Finally, this week was a great reminder of the challenges of being an outdoor instructor AND an outdoor athlete at the same time. The energy it takes to instruct all day and be in front of other people from sun-up to past sun-down is quite a lot. It takes an effect on my ability to digest food too I think because I’ve always found I get quite farty when on camp. Having a job where I’m only in front of people from 8:30-3:00 (with breaks too) will be such a dream I think. Also, the psychological effect of sharing your passion with people who don’t care for it at times (like some students I had this week) can be like having sand thrown in your face when at the beach. I don’t begrudge people the fact that they may not share the same passions as me but having it be disrespected is a bitter pill to swallow. The Outdoor Athlete dream is definitely focused on the trail running side of things at the moment however I believe, optimistically, that being free of outdoor instructor responsibilities will mean I am more focused and grateful for the time I spend climbing, skiing and kayaking when I allow for those activities during school holidays.
Back to reality: On Friday afternoon back in ADL it was the end of an era and an ability for me to get a clean slate going again. I was dealing with absorbing the last dregs of the Great Volcanic Challenge and was looking forward to flicking my focus over to the next training block. Too much of a good thing always turns to be a bad thing and well-wishers and messages of support were getting to that stage. Part of my improvement over the last 18 months is due to my singular focus on things which comes from not having any outside feedback. So over Friday and Saturday it was pleasing to get through it all and start to prepare for the next race on the calendar, the Clare Vally Half Marathon on the way home to Quorn on the Sunday.
Half-Marathon: First half-marathon for me and a bit unsure of what I wanted from this race. Did I want an easy excuse for a long run surrounded by other people to push me along? Did I want to be a good role model for my sister Georgia doing her first half-marathon? Or did I want to subject myself to another hard effort on the weekend and go for a 4th hard race out of the past 5 weekends…
By Sunday morning I had in my head I was going in to run as hard as I could to get one ‘on the board’ in the half-marathon department. All decent runners like to quote their PB’s and not having a half-marathon one would disqualify me from any exclusive decent runner clubs. The toughest part of running well would be being mentally fresh after a week at Araps and several hard races as I felt physically fine. My role model to adopt the right mindset was a mixture of Yuki Kawauchi (who I’ve mentioned before on here) and Derek Clayton (4th fastest Aussie Marathoner of all time and a beast in the late 60’s). Clayton used to work 9-5 and ran 200 miles a week. AND raced regularly. If he could do that in the late 60’s then course I could do it in the 2020’s with all the added comforts we have these days. With idols in my head I just needed to hit the start line to emulate them. I was hoping for a time between 1:10-1:15, a top 3 finish and to finish strong of course. Being my first one I was also just curious as to how it would all play out.
Off the start line I was straight into my 3:20/km goal pace that put me on track for a 1:10 finish. If I could hold this on the uphill ‘out’ leg I’d be able to do it on the downhill ‘back’ leg. To help with this pace setting a late entrant in the shape of Riley Cocks, arguably SA’s top half and full marathoner of the last ten or so years, joined me for the first 4 km’s. Riley recently ran a 1:02 in Japan so he’s an absolute jet and could beat me 6-0 in tennis terms. To have his company for the first 20 minutes was good and gave me an idea of where the ceiling could be in the future.
After about 4-5km’s Riley slowly pulled away. I was unsure if he was getting faster or I was getting slower but my pace and effort felt fine so I just let him get a lead. His lead stayed pretty steady as did my effort all the way out to the turn-around. I was spot on with my pace and felt fine. I took on a gel because I was carrying one and turned around and got straight back into it.
Going back downhill the running got easier like I expected. However, I didn’t expect to be running 3:00/km for the last 5km’s! I was flying! So much so, that my 5km and 10km splits in the last half of the race would’ve been a 5km PB if it were a month ago and it is actually my 10km PB having never done a proper one (although the downhill does make it not count technically).
Coming into the final km I knew I would make the 1:10 barrier which was nice and gave it a little crack at trying to go as fast as I could over the last bit. Tricky part was I find it hard to run under 3:00/km on a good day so doing this at the end of a half marathon and with a few twists and turns in the end meant I couldn’t really push that hard which left me feeling slightly unsatisfied. There was no big opportunity to run to the death so to say because I kept having to brake and turn…
I finished with a time of 1:09:04 in the end (2nd place) and was happy for sure but also felt a little strange. I felt pretty fresh and wondered if that was actually my best effort and all I had. Did the downhill trick me into thinking I was fresher than I was? Should I have pushed harder on the way out? What if I had tapered properly and was fresh mentally and physically? The satisfaction wasn’t quite there really. This could have also been because I didn’t really know what the point of this race was for me, or that it wasn’t really a big deal to me. I got a good time, got a hard long run and got to see my sister run her first race yes. But, the half-marathon is a weird event because it doesn’t have the prestige of a full marathon so what is actually the point of it? In future half marathons, the point for me will be trying to beat my time and mastering the event which will be nice to focus on, but the first time doing it, it all felt a bit weird and without a focus point. In the end, it a is a nice number to have on my running resume for others to see at this stage but at the same time I’m not sure why it’s actually relevant to anyone or why they actually care about it. But hey, everyone scrolls through social media caring about stuff they probably don’t need to and I’m not going to understand that either so I’ll just John Lennon it (Let It Be).
The other caveat to all of this is maybe I’m finally becoming the bad ass Stoic I’ve always wanted to be. I finished and did not respond in any triumphant and disaster-ish way. I kind of just finished and went on to the next thing, a chat with Riley, a cool-down and a stretch. It was almost business-like from me. Kind of hard to know if it was me being ‘Stoic’ about it or me being ambivalent about it. More data is required from future half-marathons, and other races too, to know where I sit with the half marathon event in particular.
Back into the good stuff: A couple of days post half-marathon and I’ve pulled up fine and am of course excited to be back home, in Quorn, in April in perfect weather (which of course won’t stay perfect for long). Immediately after Clare I was getting a bit grumpy with how busy it was and maybe this was because I hadn’t had my own space for over a week and a half considering the lead-in I had to last weekend. This grumpiness dissipated within a couple of hours of being at home though. AFL on, normal routine being followed and it’s like my batteries were put on charge. I feel fresh and ready to strap myself in for some more training now too. One eye will be on the long-term goal of the World Champs of course in June in Austria and the other eye will be on focusing on making sure each day counts towards that. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to my training as that could cause a sudden injury, but I do want to increase the speed of some my intense workouts so that my leg turnover is more suited to a 13.7km race and not a 42.2km marathon as I had been loosely planning for over the last few months. To add to normal operating procedure I will be doing my first two weeks at PASS teaching to wrap up Term 1 and am very excited for it (it’s only been one full day so far though).
Thanks for sticking around to read through to the end. I am aware that by pointing out responding to well-wishing messages I may be turning off supporters from reaching out in the future but please know that blog readers are not in that boat. You are the ones who take the time to read this shit so your comments and questions about my doings are appreciated and used as motivation.
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