Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lake Mountain Skyrun 2013 - Gum Tree Barks & Broken Branches!

So how was it?

Yea it was tough.
Warm sapping tough.
Warm sapping tough + long climbs!
Warm sapping tough + long climbs + semi-technical trails + trails littered with gum tree barks & broken branches (very easy to sprain your ankle if you're not careful!)

In fact, we heard one of the runners broke his/her ankle.. really horrible news. Tired legs going fast with such trails its almost dangerous (and if you're wearing sunnies - you'll certainly get caught). But then this is trail running.. runners should be cautioned or be mindful themselves. Especially once you get caught the first time, you'd want to be sensible & adjust your pace (I only took heed after multiple trips!) - I suppose for the more serious runners this will be even more difficult given they'll want to go fast..

Scenes at the start

While it wasn't windy or rainy, the warm weather was indeed another challenge we didn't anticipate too well. Running at 10am through mid-day & early afternoon, we ran through the max temp for the day.. and while we were constantly hydrating - we certainly seem to be sweating & losing salt faster than what we were putting in. Can't imagine what running the Outback Marathon would be like! Running with the wife we had tried to move fast but eventually the toughness of the sun + terrain caught up with us & we resorted to just a sustainable pace.

Interesting bits? 

The setting was certainly one we've never experienced before - the entire course was strewn in dried up trees! (Black saturday fires 2009). Picturesque in its own way. Friendly & supportive crew made our run easier too.. of course there's only so much dead branches one could be impressed with I suppose - eventually we were just pre-occupied with just heat & sore-legs :)

The friendly aid station staff offering their services.. (this was the first aid station at 17k mark)

Less impressive bits? Just the one.. :P

Pushing hard to complete - esp the last 10k - it was kinda disheartening the entire place was packed up (except the banner) when we finished... not because we were disappointed in our timing or effort or anything like that - it was more the feeling that we were left with when we crossed the finishing... no time-keeper, no clock, nobody from the organising team - only our friends (thanks Dion & Jon!) who came out to greet us etc. (And I heard Dion say they were gonna take down the banner as well until he told them there were runners still out there.....hmm)

Having said that the time-keeper & RD did come out to greet us shortly after but once again it was kinda sad that the time-keeper had to ask us what our finishing time was (and was about to write down a ridiculous time after mishearing us)... I'm sure the organisers have no intention to make us feel like that - but it did leave us feeling kinda small. Granted we're no elites - but a sense of completion is important to the slow(est) runners too. If the event was time-sensitive or if the event had expectations of standard of run - a cut-off time will help runners have realistic check on their timing.. I think telling a runner they didn't make the cut-off is much better than leaving a runner feeling they've been a drag...!

How's that for perspective from the slower end of the running world for a change? :)


Still absolutely proud of our efforts - pushing once again through sore ITBs, mental ruts, the sun, hydration challenges, tricky technical trails... it was a decent challenge for sure if that's what you're after. I suppose I would recommend doing the 34k (that's the actual distance btw) too because eventhough the last 10k is partially repeated route - running it the 2nd time at different time of day & in more fatigue disposition it does become a different experience. Be careful of the gum tree barks hiding broken branches for sure.. people with weak ankles need to take extra caution in these stretches.

Should be renamed as Gum Tree Barks Run!

wifey vs unrelenting sun.. 

Watch out for hydration if its going to be warm day.. this run is largely self-supported, having 2 aid stations - make sure you plan well, fill up all your bottles & bladders & store necessary amounts of jelly beans, m&ms etc. (& bring your own powergel & electrolytes coz there's none supplied)

That's all I have for you folks on Lake Mountain Skyrun 2013.. hope it gave you some insight to the run!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Medibank Melbourne Marathon 2013 - Remembering The Journey

And what a journey it has been!

Running this year's Melb marathon was going to be my personal commemoration run.. my 1 year 2 months here in Melbourne has been a huge personal milestone & doing the Melbourne marathon was gonna be my way of patting myself on the back :)

So I didn't take long to decide when the left ITB was still not 100% the evening before when we went for a short run.. I was still gonna go for it - I was just gonna have to run (or crawl) through severe pain at worst. I knew it was ill-advised but hell.. I was planning to walk to the finish if I had to. The event was not gonna be just another run for me!

So 2 simple targets:

1) Just aim to finish if injury flares up
2) Sub 4:30 if injury doesn't flare up


Not the most complete, and with the overhanging injury sustained since pre-SCC and made worse during SCC it was difficult. It wasn't depressing or anything, I knew I would still turn up but it'd be nice if I wasn't walking most of the 42.2km. Anyway, I did zero runs in the final taper week, and only the short 3k the evening before (where I felt the ITB still tight) - I rather the left leg get enough recovery. And made sure I didn't forget to pack the Nurofen the night before.. so in the end preparation wasn't about hitting target times anymore, it was preparation to run through pain!!

Race Day

We arrived early being first-timers, didn't know whether we'd get lost or anything. We lingered around the stadium & got round to the starting area after dropping our change bag. We didn't meet anyone we knew so we just lingered around with everyone else waiting to start. It was great weather, wasn't chilly or windy. Not much of an atmosphere without music or anything, just the emcees yakking away loudly. During a short warmup run, the ITB felt tender & without worrying about it too much I just tightened the ITB strap. As we counted down to 7am, I jammed the headphone into the ears, kissed my wife twice... and we were OFF..


First 2-3k I wasn't moving well, the wifey had zoomed off & I was just sticking to a comfortable pace around 5:50. Gradually the old engine was warming up & I was pushing into the 5:30 zone.. held it up as best I could. And well, I didn't do too badly coz I lasted till around 30k!

Well, I wasn't going to be able to sustain it past 30k because the ITB was starting to remind me of its presence, and the rest of the muscle groups were all jumping into the bandwagon of pain. I was keeping pace with 2 senior ladies - who were running with small cadence but at an unrelenting pace. They could sustain their form so well it was clear their legs had plenty more mileage. I had to tap out. Theirs would've been the pace I would stick to & the running style I would've executed with.

Still I was happy I managed to sustain a 5:30 pace for 30k .. to me that's a PB in its own right.. :)


The run had finally started.

I was of course hoping it would only start at 35k, but doing a 5:30 pace for 30k I have arrived early at the gates of pain. Every part of my leg was screaming for me to stop & rest. I wasn't moving right due to the injury, and it agitated the rest of the legs as I tried to adjust. My wife later told me I was running weird when she caught up with me at 32k thereabouts. I was indeed... I had to walk on several accounts during the 30-35k stretch and everytime I stopped it was quite a psychological beating as well..

I had to conjure the ultimate mental fortitude.


The longest 3k took place between 35 to 38k, as expected. The rain had started to pour, whilst invigorating, it didn't help the poor legs one bit. I wasn't cramping which meant I was keeping the salt levels decent, but it was just a mix of sheer lethargy & pain.. the soggy shoes were now squishy & blisters were forming - and being overtaken by more & more people it was just sapping. Mentally, physically.. I was just spent.

No amount of angry motivational music from Eminem of Tupac was helping either.. my mind was already zoning out. The music wasn't registering anymore, they were just noise. Still - I wasn't hating the moment or anything.. I disliked the suffering of course, but thinking back - I loved the setting of it all.. the rain, the mental & physical anguish.. and my chance to once again, step up to the game.

I was down to my last power gel which I have been saving for 38k. When I finally hit 38k, in it went... and out came a mini 2nd wind..

39 & 40k arrived very quickly (thanks to the gel no doubt).. towards 41k was a gradual incline where I surprised myself that I could stay running.. though at this point it was all in the 6:00 region. The sight of MCG brought some tears no doubt (hidden by the raindrops) & I slowly opened up my stride as we approached the stadium..

As my crowning glory I overtook a senior runner whom I was 'racing' with in that final 300m in the stadium, and tried to maintain as much form as I could crossing the finishing line.

The wife & Jon had arrived 2mins earlier & it was so nice to see them there, all of us fresh from the onslaught with emotions still running high. We hobbled together, took photos & just feeling extremely proud of each other.. it was truly a great moment.


Notable memories include hobbling with the rest of Melbourne towards the changing area, while the crowd was expectedly 'city-style-aloof' you could sense eyes were darting around & small grins were forming coz everyone could see everyone else hobbling from one corner to another in the changing area. And you knew a great dialogue would be struck up if anyone initiated a congratulatory conversation :)

What else. Ah yes, the coffee from Coffee Club was good.. long wait though!

It was great to also have met up with Karen & Andrew & Sue O'Brien.. always an inspiration these folks.

Courtesy of Andrew O'Brien

Lessons Learnt

1) Music does help, volume should've been set bit louder towards the end when mind is blanking out.
2) Possibly those slow-release-gum/tabs would've helped in the 30-38k region.
3) Running with a bottle of electrolytes does help.. didn't feel any sign of cramps throughout

Final Thoughts

Extremely proud of myself. ahem. and the wife. Not just of the run of course, but the entire journey we've been through coming to Melbourne.. that's what the run was for anyway. For all that we've put ourselves  & our families through, that's what that little piece of medal represents.

So will I / we do it again? Not anytime soon I think.. ask us again in few years time! Enough bitumen for now, we're going back to the trails :D