Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chat pace, recalculated.

I had a post in draft for a few days, and I finished it off the other night. It was heading close to 11pm, so I decided to post it the next day; my proofreading skills were probably going to be more accurate at 6am than at 11pm, so I scheduled it to post at 7am. I was pretty happy with it, but I always seem to publish a blogpost and then 15 minutes later spot where I've used the same word three times in the one sentence. I guessed the extra hour would allow me to proof read it one last time.

I hit save, and that appeared to work. There was no spinny wheel of death. I scheduled the post to publish at 7am the next morning, and there was a spinny wheel of death. Unthinkingly I refreshed the browser to fix it, and then saved again. I hit preview, and realised that all my careful edits and additions from that evening had disappeared. I was not amused. I went to bed, and figured I'd rewrite it on the weekend.

The post was all about my progression with my running. This week's Marathon Talk podcast mentioned the "sweet spot in running where to PB all you have to do is put your shoes on." I'd written about how I'd gone from taking 45 minutes to run 5km in May 2012 to being injured and not able to run through to my first ever parkrun in October 2012 where I finished in 33:09. When I really picked up the running I went from a parkrun PB of 30:18 to a PB of 26:55 in the space of 2 weeks. My most recent overall parkrun PB was 25:18 claimed at Claisebrook Cove parkrun last Christmas Day.

I distinctly remember running that 26:55 parkrun. I had asked Jeremy to pace me round to a sub-30, and preferably to sub 28:30, which was around the PB of a specific nine year old boy at Claisebrook Cove parkrun. I wore my watch -  I always wear my Garmin watch - but I started it and then didn't look at it again until I'd finished. I just ran.

I trusted Jeremy to pace me at a speed that I could sustain and enable me to reach my goals. I think he must have built in some "slowing down time" in his pacing; assuming that I would slow down in kilometres 3 and 4 so that he had a buffer to get us over the line in time. As it was, I don't think we'd used any of the slowing down time. I remember not really being able to speak, and making neanderthal-like grunts for most of the run, only speaking to ask him to count me in when we hit the cove, "500m to go, 400m to go..." up to the Heartbreak Hill finish line.

When I crossed the line, I hit stop on my Garmin, looked down and saw my time: 26:55. I semi-collapsed, chest still heaving and I'm pretty sure I sobbed. I didn't have enough energy to walk it off around the finish area, I just hit the deck. I was asked by Paul if I was OK, and I think I said something along the lines of "Yes, I just took 2 minutes off my PB", except I don't think I was that succinct, and I'm certain it didn't all come out in one sentence; there would have been pauses for breathing.

When you look at my recent results at parkrun, particularly the 22 that I've done at Pioneer, you would see some serious variation; my times run from 25:26 to 1:02:46. There is one that was 59:59, that was a spectacularly noisy stopwatch failure, but the rest are accurate times. I've run the course hard, run the course easy, walked the course and on a few occasions (including the 1:02:46) I was Run Director and then ran the course chasing the tail walker after Jeremy finished his run and took over RD duties; my official parkrun time will be 54:21, but Garmin will say 30:22.

So while I train for Six Inch I haven't really had the progress markers that I have had in the past. I can't really track specific parkrundays and say "There, that's where the stopwatch noticed I got faster." I've got one personal best (PB) time for Pioneer; 25:26 and just to mess with my chi I have the precise same PB time at Canning River. Considering the courses are completely chalk and cheese - Pioneer is the only hilly Perth metropolitan area parkrun course and Canning River is so flat it is considered to be prime PB territory, you can appreciate my annoyance. It isn't really a surprise, as I remember at Canning River just heading out for a run with no real ambition beyond enjoying my first parkrun at Canning River in ten months. Still, getting 25:26 was a bit galling, even if it did knock almost 40 seconds off my previous PB there.

On Tuesday nights a group of us meet up to do intervals and then afterwards we run a freedom run on the Canning River parkrun course, looping back after each kilometre marker to collect up the other runners so that no one is left behind in the dark, and is nicknamed darkrun. It started at the beginning of winter and has just grown from there. Like parkrun, you don't have to turn up every week, but you know that every week we'll be there, sweating as we run our intervals up and down the path, fast and slow, jog and sprint. 

This past Tuesday during the freedom run I ran for a while with a guy who hadn't been to Canning River before and didn't know the course. We were coming up to the 4.3km point on the parkrun course (it really is the only hill, and a small one at that), and because we'd been doubling back to collect runners I realised he wouldn't have known that he was 700m from home. That 4.3km point is roughly where people start to pick up the pace to give it a good sprint finish, so as we went up the hill I was giving him directions, telling him to stay on the path until he came to a T junction, to go left at the T junction and to stay on the path and not turn from it. I told him that the bitumen path would become wooden boardwalk, and then a long metal bridge, and when he ran off the other side of the metal bridge to keep to the right and the finish line was an enormous shoulder height boulder alongside the path.

Halfway through this monologue my brain registered that here I was, giving it a reasonable amount of welly (really, I was doing about 5 minute kilometre pace at that point) going up the teeny tiny hill, and giving someone coherent instructions. It was mindblowing. I had a new 'chat pace'. And it was fast!

Two days later on Thursday, Kat, Jeremy and I ran the Cool Night Classic, a 5km fundraiser run from the Belltower to the South Perth foreshore. Kat had done the run leg in a team at the Mandurah 70.3 in 36.C heat on the Sunday prior, so when at the half way mark she said she was just going to try and hang on to me, I told her to tuck in away from the headwind and we ran together. My Garmin had died before we started (massive lack of battery charge, despite having fully charged it), so I relied on her to tell me how far we had to go. There was a bloke with an official sign on the side of the path advising us that the finish was around the corner, and as we ran in I was encouraging Kat "You can see the arch! It's just there!" and we belted home in 25:56. I had felt really quite strong, and we were both really proud of our time, considering that we'd started in the fourth wave and had therefore had to navigate and zigzag around people.

As I finished up my post I noted that although I hadn't managed to crack my 25:18 PB from Christmas Day, I wasn't unhappy. I said that it probably helps to have the desire to get a PB; that most of the time I don't set out to try for a PB, I just set out to enjoy my run, and as long as I enjoy it, it is a successful run. When I began running my goal was just to manage 5km. When I reached that goal, it became to run the whole 5km. When I ran the whole thing, it was to do it faster, and after my first parkrun and 33:09, it was to go under 30 minutes. Once I was regularly running parkrun in under 30 minutes, I was starting to run 10k races, then half marathons, and getting a speedy parkrun time wasn't as big a deal for me. Yes, it was welcome - very welcome indeed, but it was enough for me to be able to run relatively swiftly and just enjoy myself.

This morning's parkrun was a slightly different affair. We had a 9.30am wedding at Caversham House we were due at, and Jeremy's plan was to run Aveley parkrun which was about 15 minutes drive from Caversham House. We rocked up ready for the 8am parkrun start time with our wedding clothes in the back of the car along with deodorant, a couple of very large towels, 4 litres of water and a jumbo pack of babywipes. If we ran 30 minutes at parkrun, we wouldn't be too sweaty to then find a secluded road (it's an area with a fair bit of bushland surrounding it), quickly clean up and change, and then head to the wedding. When we got there, Jon and Julie Storey were there with their children Cameron and Jennifer. They'd had the same idea, but had got access to some showers around the corner from Aveley parkrun, so Jeremy and my plans improved significantly. Cam and Jon are both fast enough that they could run and still make the wedding looking suitably tidy, but Julie and Jennifer didn't think that they'd manage it in time, and were going to spectate instead.

We started parkrun, and as per usual, I hit start on my Garmin and just ran. I had Jeremy in my sights almost the whole way. He was 'taking it easy' which meant he ran around 24 minutes. I knew that the more time we had at the other end the neater my hair would look at the wedding, so I just hammered along behind Jon, Jeremy and Jon's son Cameron. At the 4km mark Cam started to slacken the pace a bit, so I yelled out encouragement, and as we rounded the lake I was making inroads on the (nearly) 11 year old. At 100 metres to go I passed Cameron and was bolting for the finish line. As I crossed the line, I hit stop on my watch, grabbed my finish token and looked down at my time. 

24:58*.

OK. Getting a new overall parkrun PB is still a big deal.

*parkrun official time is 24:59. I'm still VERY happy with that.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Emotional resilience

I had another terrible run. Although calling it terrible really does depend on how you look at it. Yes, I went out to run the Six Inch course to the conveyor belt bridge, which is about 28km. Yes, I only managed 18km of that. I hit the wall; the first time ever while running. I've had unrelenting hunger, and I've had tiredness, but this time was different. My body rebelled. I could walk, but when I went to run it just wasn't happening. 

We had stopped at an intersection to regroup, and when we set off across the road to the next trail entrance I was the third runner up the hill, I stumbled a bit, and stepped aside to let the others past. Jeremy had been last because he had been directing Paul to the next meet point - Caroline was running with us, and Paul was meeting us at stops along the course, like Chase Service at a car rally. I asked Jeremy as he went up the hill if Paul would still be at the roadside. Jeremy squinted and said he could see him through the trees. I told Jeremy that I was going to catch a lift to the end with Paul, as my goose was cooked.

I made my way down the hill, and as I was getting close to the road I heard Paul drive off. I'm not ashamed to say at that point I swore. I was low on fuel, my intended saviour had sailed off down the road and everyone that I had been running with had gone off up ahead and I didn't have the energy to even try and chase them down. 

I stopped, bent over and hugged my knees for a second. In that second I decided that when Jeremy got to the next meet point he would see that I wasn't with Paul and would double back to find me, and Paul would wait for me. Also, I had the course mapped out on my Garmin and it was set at a scale of 300m so I was unlikely to take a wrong turn at walking speed. While I was carrying less fuel than would be ideal I also was not going to be running, so I would require less energy from food. I was low on water, but the course is on the Mundabiddi mountain bike trail, which goes all the way from Perth to Albany and I had seen signs pointing to water sources along the way, so chance was that I would see more. Also, the track is relatively well used, so I would probably come across other people. 

I started the trudge up the hill, and I don't know how far I managed, but I heard a call, a cooee. I returned it, and after a pause got another call, a different one. I called back again. Then Jeremy yelled out "Kelly! Walk up the hill!". I yelled back "I am! It sucks!" and a couple of seconds later I saw a most welcome sight. I hadn't realised, but the course cut through and met up with the road again. Jeremy had seen Paul, immediately realised I wouldn't have made the car as I am not Usain Bolt and had waved Paul down. When I got to the top of the hill I remember smiling at them both and saying "Computer said no".

We waved everyone off and I got into the car. The lovely lovely car. I had remembered to stop my Garmin, but I hadn't stopped the course directions, so we followed the course via my Garmin 910XT, Paul's iPhone and iPad which were showing the livetracking from Caroline's Garmin, and the map on the car's satnav system. We tracked the runners to the next meet point, and they were making good time. Then we drove down to where the Mundabiddi runs alongside the ALCOA refinery conveyor belt.  This section is the only straight bit on the Six Inch course. We also found out that despite being a mountain bike track this particular section was very drivable - then we passed the enormous Telstra telecommunications tower and worked out precisely why this part of the track is so wide and has very defined wheel tracks! 

I realised two things on Sunday. One is that while I have been following the 12WBT meal plan, I hadn't really been thinking about my day-to-day nutritional needs as I build up my running. We don't tend to swap out many meals - I tend to do my own thing for breakfast, but that is Weetbix and milk with a cup of tea and my snacks are usually fruit or yoghurt. We put the weekly meal plan on the fridge and often will on a whim just pick what to have that night for dinner, so sometimes we are left with meal like chargrilled beef  with avocado and corn salsa and we'll spectacularly cleverly have that for Saturday night dinner (we rejigged the plan so Sunday is my long run day and Monday is a rest day) when it has a total of 11.2 grams of carbohydrate. Don't get me wrong - it tastes amazing, but if you are heading out on a long run you want to have had a couple of days of chunky carbohydrate load in your body! So now we'll be rejigging the plan and searching the meal database for words like 'potato', 'pasta' or 'bread'.

Jeremy is fine with this sort of thing - he's still trying to lose a bit of weight but has been riding a bike excessively long distances since 2007 - over 2011 and 2012 he cycled a total of 50,000km - before he discovered running. All this means endurance and fatigue training are second nature to him, whereas I haven't been nearly as mean to my body in the past! I still have to develop the endurance to run these sort of distances easily. I have worked out that (normally) a half marathon doesn't take too much effort - more often than not I don't need a nap after a long run (not a race) if that long run is around 20km. 

The second thing that I learnt was that I probably have pretty good emotional resilience. I could see everything going south very fast for me, and I allowed myself a good swear, then I sucked it up and kept going. It bodes well for me - at some point in the race I think I will probably have a "quiet pity party for one, table by the window please", but then I will get on and get it done.

Best thing about all of this? Actually there are two. One is that there is another run coming up in a week or so that is essentially a repeat of what we were trying to do last Sunday, so I get a do-over. Second one is that because it was Jeremy and my anniversary yesterday we made pizza in celebration which gave me an excellent excuse to eat more carbohydrate. Homemade chick magnet pizza anyone?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Food. It's a trial.

I ran with Jeremy last weekend. We had a 25km run scheduled, and because he planned on going out on his bike afterwards, instead of going all the way down to Dwellingup we just ran from our front door Sunday morning at quarter past 7. We were doing a bit of a food trial as well. The previous day we'd stood in the baby products aisle of Woolworths and picked out two packets of baby food custard each, and I'd also packed us each a ziplock bag of Arnott's Shapes to eat as well. The race car lollies were deliberately left behind in this run.

We set out and the first 3km always seems to suck a bit on a long run. We had a couple of stops to adjust hydration pack straps and I had to extract a small rock from my left shoe, but on the whole the first 10km seemed to be pretty OK. We got to the toilet block at the Kent Street Weir and had one of our custard packs each, and that was when I realised it was not OK, and actually something had gone a bit wrong.

I finished my little pack of chocolate custard and it felt like I had tried to fill the Grand Canyon with a bucket. I hadn't had a gel before we started, but that hasn't been an issue on runs before. This time, I've never felt so hungry. When we've run that stretch in the past we usually stop at the Nicholson Road lights and wait for traffic which is when I would crack out the food but last Sunday we went straight through without stopping, so I hadn't actually eaten anything for the first 10km.

We went out from the Kent Street Weir the way we had come in, intending on doing the Canning River parkrun course in reverse to add in the extra 5km that we needed to make the course up to 25km. About 2km into the course I had a gel, and about 500 metres later I realised that it was pointless, I couldn't run on. Jeremy and I walked to Nicholson Road and we split up, he went back the way we had come, along the river, and I slowly walked up Spencer Road eating everything that I had, bar my second pack of custard. Once I could see the road rise up over Roe Highway I managed to break out a bit of trot and headed for home just nudging 20km.

The next day after I looked at my splits for the first 10km I added up all the spots where I had gone wrong. I realised that even though we had been chatting easily to each other, we were actually doing 6m05s pace. Considering my 10k PB is about 57 minutes I was essentially running at my 10k speed and intending on running for 25k. Which is not clever.

What also wasn't clever was that I wasn't really thinking about eating, and I did what I often used to do when cycling together with Jeremy. I am no good riding hands free on the bike, so when it came to opening an energy bar or gel I often waited until we reached an intersection or came to a natural stop because I didn't want to slow Jeremy down by my stopping to wrestle with a bit of plastic. This just means I would eat about 15 minutes or more after I should have. You need to be able to digest the food to use it, so by eating before you 'need' to it allows you to be always be in a bit of calorie surplus than calorie deficit. (This will only work to a certain point - I don't know that your body can digest enough calories on the fly to make up a deficit, which is why in really good runners an efficient running style and solid natural endurance come in so handy).

What wouldn't have helped my apparent calorie deficit was that Jeremy and I bolted down breakfast and then ran almost immediately afterwards - we gave ourselves no digestion time. If I run first thing in the morning, it's usually on an empty stomach but it is also only 5km and then I scoff breakfast and head off to work after a shower. For parkrun and pretty much any other run I have time to digest - in the car, or whilst I faff around and get ready to go. To digest a larger amount of food you need majority blood flow around your stomach. If you run you need majority blood flow around your limbs. There isn't enough blood in the body to do both at the same time.

This weekend's run was going to be up the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail, and I decided to do some better food planning. First off, I set the run/walk alert on my Garmin to act as a nutrition alert - DC Rainmaker gave me this idea. I set it to run for 15 minutes and walk for 1 minute, which gave me one minute to remember to quickly scoff some food.

We both had two ziplock bags of food - one savoury, one sweet. The sweet bag had some racing car lollies, some apricot delight (because I couldn't find those Bellis Apricot bars in the supermarket during the week), and chopped up Edens Sesame bars from the health food section (they have the same ingredients as the Europe Sesame bars from the confectionary aisle, but aren't nearly as sticky.) The savoury bag had some Arnotts Shapes and some pretzel sticks with big chunks of salt on them. In my pack I that second packet of custard from last weekend and I also had two mini bacon and cheese rolls from the Bakers Delight downstairs from work.

I had a gel before we started, I obeyed the alert on my watch - although I think I have to play with how the alerts work on my watch, because I sometimes didn't feel the alert, but as we had set off at 8:15 am I knew that I had to eat on the quarter hour. I think I'm so used to ignoring that kilometre auto lap alert that I just don't feel them anymore. I will keep the auto lap, but switch off the vibration for that if I can.

There was a group of 20 people who started off from Swan View, so we all split up into various groups according to our pace; some went off ahead, some were slower and more steady. I ran a lot with Didi, who we'd given a lift to, and I felt so much better than last week. I went through my ziplock bags of food, but didn't need to touch the bacon and cheese rolls. I felt really good all the way through, with no massive drops in energy. The track is a bit unrelenting, as you are going up a steady gradient the whole way, and the only downhill you can rely on is the one when we turned around and ran back to the start at the 12.5km mark.

When I ate something it was usually a small amount, but little and often seems to work quite well, the variety was welcome. Around the 16 kilometre mark I saw I was getting a bit low in food, and was mentally working out what extra I would need on race day to make it to aid station 1 (23km) and aid station 2 (34km) when I remembered the bacon and cheese rolls in my pack. I think that they could probably be swapped out with vegemite sandwiches. I was a tiny bit overjoyed at the thought that I was feeling so good without even having eaten those, and so now I feel like I have a better handle on food. Yes, a bit of my eating happened when I was stationary at regroup points on the run because they seemed to coincide a lot with 15 minute alerts, but I know in the unlikely event that I manage 15 minutes of solid running on the terrain at 6 Inch, one minute of walking will probably be very welcome.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Smashrun ran out of calories

I am asking for your assistance. I need a list of ridiculous meals. Really ridiculously large meals.

A parkrunner I know, Chris Hoy Poy, did the Waterous Trail on Foot 50 mile race a couple of weekends ago. It's a trail race, took him 12 hours and if you look at his Garmin details for the race on Smashrun you can see he used 6,593 calories throughout the race.

There is a nifty feature on Smashrun where it takes your calorie output and converts it into a more comprehensible form; a massive egg white omelette, a pint of Guinness, a pineapple, a bunch of bananas, 3 pitas and a ton of hummus, a giant steak dinner, etc.

When Chris loaded his race on Smashrun, the system listed it as the largest measurement it had - a giant steak dinner, at 1,850 calories. It shortchanged him 4,743 calories. So I submitted it as a bug to the Smashrun developers, and asked if they needed a list of even larger meals.



Chris Lukic, one of the developers responded almost immediately with "Yes." When Chris put the list together initially, there were no ultrarunners on the site. Now there are, and if one guy can burn through 6,593 calories over 50 miles, how many could you burn over 100 miles, or further?

So, that's where you come in. I'm trying to put together an extensive list of meals that we can use to build from 1,850 calories through to 15,000 calories (Yes, that's right, fifteen thousand.)

I've got an editable spreadsheet on Google docs, so if you fancy imagining some enormous or very calorie laden meals, please go ahead and add some meals in.

Beyond 1,850 calories I think we're going to have to 'multiply' meals to get some of the larger calorie counts. My first thought was Butter Chicken - that is glorious, and calorie laden. I found a recipe online and when I calculated the calories by searching through MyFitnessPal's food database and adding them together, one serve had 826 calories, so 18 serves of that butter chicken would be 14,868 calories.

Does anyone have any recipes for Elvis's favourite foods?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Things I am learning when training for Six Inch. #1

We are training for Six Inch, and have run the course two of the past three weekends. The first weekend the wind around Dwellingup was gusting to 75km/h when I put the kibosh on driving down and running there, so we ran 22km in the rain along the Canning River instead.

1) Hydration Packs

A hydration pack designed for running is so much better than just a standard Camelbak. Accessible pockets are lovely, and there is a lot less bounce and therefore no chafing because of all the extra tie down straps.

2) Food

Lollies are good food for running, but sometimes your body wants real food like a Vegemite sandwich or some crackers like Savoury Shapes. There are moments when it doesn't matter how much fluid or lollies you take in, there is an ache in your stomach that will not disappear. I had an energy bar from Ben's stash, and it helped a lot, but I think I was too far gone when I had it. I noticed the ache in my stomach earlier, and just tried to take in more fluid and lollies but that hollow would not go away. I felt far more trashed at the end of this run than I did at the end of last week's run.

3) Wet Weather, 1

Showers forecast in Dwellingup can be torrential rain or actual showers. Pack a complete fresh set of clothes for afterwards - top and bottom. The week you don't will be the week that it is torrential, and you will have to wrap a towel around your bottom half to sit in the Blue Wren Cafe and eat the best pie in the world.

4) Wet Weather, 2

Pack a towel. A really big one.

5) Wet Weather, 3

If there is even the hint of rain, tuck a rain coat in your hydration pack. Most are light and can provide a bit of protection when it rains or at the end of the run you can put it on to keep some bodyheat in. Last week post run was the only time I used it, but it was very welcome. I know that the protective qualities were completely overwhelmed today, but it did give some assistance and I was glad of it at the end of the run.

6) Recovery

Covering over 20km three weeks running means that a lackadaisical attitude to massage and foam rolling will probably bite you on the bum or another body part at some point.

7) Group Running Technique

Running Collie Style does not involve heading into the bush and drinking a lot of beer whilst getting very cold, but rather refers to the collie dog and its tendency to run off up ahead, then loop back and 'round up' the slower people. Although in a way, today did involve heading into the bush and getting cold. There was just no getting drunk.

8) Recognise your limits. 

We were intending to run from the finish line at Dwellingup to Aid Station 2, going up the completely ridiculous hill, turning around at the Aid Station point and going back to the finish. We had discussed perhaps turning back early, but at 8km in we came up to the junction to the Aid Station. We decided to aim towards the aid station, and it began to gently rain. As we went up the hill the rain was pretty light but steady. We got to the downhill before the completely ridiculous hill and it was raining a bit harder, and tiny streams started developing in the ruts on the downhill.

The faster three had fired off up ahead, so we took it gently up the completely ridiculous hill, and as we did the four of us separated into Caroline and I and Jeremy and Crystal. Jeremy and Crystal were more surefooted than Caroline and I and moved up the hill further. The surface of this section was less gravel and more thick mud. Caroline and I both managed to not fall over when navigating the streams in the ruts on the hill, but suddenly the streams widened and flowed a lot faster. I yelled up the hill to Jeremy and Crystal that I was turning back and Caroline followed me. Jeremy and Crystal turned around as well, and I heard shouts as Ben, Hamish and Scott appeared at the top of the hill.

We all flew down the completely ridiculous hill, leapt the wider water crossing at the bottom of the hill and made our slower progress to higher, firmer ground, all while the rain pelted down around us. In December there won't be thick mud, it will be dry, hard and probably very smooth dust. Today did make me think that on race day I can honestly say that I've seen completely ridiculous hill in worse conditions. We are planning on running the stretch from Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2 so it's quite likely that I'll be able to complete the climb, but I am perfectly happy with what I managed today.

9) Puddles, Princess Mode and Very High Knees

When your shoes and socks are dry, embrace Princess Mode, where you take dainty steps around the edge of puddles and miniature lakes along the trail. At some point you could lose your footing and slide into the puddle, but what is more likely in this weather is that it will suddenly turn and drop a Olympic swimming pool of rain on you in 4.5 seconds, soaking your shoes and rendering all attempts at Princess Mode pointless. That is when running socks and proper running shoes come into their own. They combined to wick a lot of the water out of my shoes and despite plunging ankle deep in puddles on the way back with wild abandon, my feet remained warm. A tip learnt from Ben was when plunging straight through the middle of puddles with wild abandon, it is worth using a stride that wouldn't go astray at a dressage competition, and pick up your knees quite high. If anything in the water is a trip hazard, it decreases the chance that your feet will catch it.

10) Sometimes reconnaissance will not help

There is a stretch of the course where you come across massive electricity pylons - they probably connect Collie with Kwinana. The bush underneath the powerlines is cleared and the area is very exposed, and at this point Jeremy recounted last year's Six Inch. It would have been about 42.C at this point, Vince was dealing with massive dehydration and was suffering constant nausea. Jeremy surreptitiously pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket ready to call me to collect them - Jeremy had had enough, Vince was struggling and Jeremy didn't know whether they would make it. But Jeremy's phone had overheated and shutdown. The stretch of powerlines continues off into the distance and you can see the track below. Jeremy wanted to cry and couldn't remember how far under the powerlines they had to travel. They kept going, turned a corner and found an impromptu Aid Station that had been set up where they were able to try and cool down a bit to make the last 5km into the finish. Both Jeremy and Vince finished, but having run the course before hadn't helped at the 40km point on a 42.C day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scattered

I run on a Wednesday night with Kat. I love these runs. We run Law Walk in Kings Park or the 10k bridges loop, and we've just started rolling in Lake Monger as an alternative. I finish my run, go back to work and get changed into tracksuit pants and a tshirt, and head downstairs to catch the train. I love it when I have 12 or so minutes until the train comes; I can calmly stroll through the Underground station  and lazily waltz through the tunnel to my platform.

Tonight I had 4 minutes. It's the worst amount. If you only have three minutes, then 9 times out of ten it isn't enough to get there before the train leaves. So I don't go fast. When it's four minutes however, I know that if I hoof it to the platform I'll get there in time but I'll feel more sweaty and look more disheveled than I usually do after my Wednesday night run, and I also have my sports bag of running gear under my arm as I bolt across the platform in tracksuit pants, a black tshirt, my grey wool knee length coat but still in my bright pink Mizuno Wave Sayonaras. And tonight I had a loaf of bread picked up from Bakers Delight on the way out, still in my hands. 

I would love to see that CCTV footage.

***

We've decided to go to Malaysia for the Formula 1 again in 2015, and we're going to stay a few days longer so I can get laser eye surgery. I've wanted to get it done since about 2004, but never had the courage or the money to do it. (Thank you poorly managing investment wankers for devouring all the debentures I was building up to pay for this. You did it so well that the administrators only managed to extract 10c in the dollar.) Now I've built up the courage, and discovered that it costs pennies to have it done in KL in comparison to Perth. I'm ridiculously excited, and have found a surgical centre that has performed the procedure in KL for at least 14 years, and has Western trained doctors with good English.

Now I just have to contact them to make sure my intended schedule works with them, and start the ball rolling.

***

I've entered the Six Inch Trail Marathon. The current plan has Jeremy and I running together, but his calf is still troubling him, so if training for Six Inch is going to make it worse, he's going to concentrate on cycling for a while and I'll do Six Inch solo. In an odd way, I'm sort of hoping I can do it solo. I don't want Jeremy's injury to get worse or to not heal, but running Six Inch solo appeals greatly, so if we both run it together this year, and I enjoy the race, then next year I'll send Jeremy off ahead to improve his time from last year and I'll run it by myself.



Friday, September 05, 2014

Hockenheim F1, a DIY trip.

If you want to go to a Formula 1 overseas, you can go to a travel agent and sign up to a tour package or you can do it a bit DIY. The tour package is good, don't get me wrong - someone organises your flights, transfers, accommodation, F1 tickets, transport to and from the track and if you want they will  arrange some side trips as well. But it can be expensive, and if you aren't afraid of a bit of planning and a few crossed fingers, then you can do it yourself with little issue.

We started off working out which F1 races we wanted to see, and then it all hinged on tickets. If you want the cheapest, but still good tickets then you have to know how F1 ticketing is set up. From what we can tell, there are either allocations of tickets, or it all depends on your ticket reseller. We've learnt from a friend that the earliest way to go about it is to buy them from the track website directly. We've bought Malaysian F1 tickets direct from Sepang International Circuit at the 50% off earlybird price a number of months before they were available on Formula1.com.

The same happened with Hockenheim. We bought tickets direct from the Hockenheinring website long before Formula1.com released them. We actually chose Hockenheim because Austria had already sold out via the Red Bull Ring track website. At Hockenheim we went for the Nordtrib├╝ne about halfway down the stands, with a great view of the first straight, first corner and the end of pit lane. If we bought them again I'd probably edge a tiny bit closer to seats with a better view of the television screens but discounting that the seats were fantastic. Earlybird price was €250 each for the three days. At Sepang we get similar seats for around AUD125 for the three days.

If you buy the tickets early, you can therefore often get decently priced appropriately timed flights without too much hassle. Mum booked us on an inexpensive Malaysian Airlines fare, into London Heathrow and out of Frankfurt so we could do some travelling around Europe before the race. We've travelled Air Asia X to Malaysia before, but with a long haul trip to Europe tacked on the end of that we were more than happy to spend money on comfort. Air Asia X is confined enough with a short five hour flight to Malaysia. To then tack a further 12-14 hours (depending on plane) onto the end of it in the same conditions did not appeal.

Once we'd bought our F1 tickets our next target had been accommodation. My hope was that we wouldn't have to commute the hour train ride from Frankfurt to Hockenheim but I knew it could be a possibility - to book accommodation in Hockenheim for F1 weekend generally requires you to book it at least a year in advance. I went onto Booking.com and looked in vain for accommodation in Hockenheim from Friday to Monday, and then for anything in the surrounding areas, and two rooms were left in a hotel in Speyer. I booked one, because Booking.com allows you to book with no cancellation fee it seemed a safe risk. It was called Hotel Technik Museum Speyer. Speyer is an amazing town that dates from medieval times. It has a cathedral that is justifiably a UNESCO world heritage site, and it is about 10km from Hockenheimring. 

A quick sidenote: There is a museum attached to the Hotel (that would explain the Technik Museum part of its name), and it is extraordinary. They have a 747, an Antonov AN-22, a Russian space shuttle, Russian submarine, more motorcycles than you'd expect, shot up Messerschmitts and Junkers, modern and vintage cars, steam trains, it goes on. It was the reason we subsequently extended our stay at the Hotel until the Wednesday we flew out. I wasn't going to stay there and miss out on seeing all that. We also toured the Cathedral and discovered it was built around 1060. Speyer was worth the trip alone; we would go back there in a heartbeat. Probably on a bicycle tour.

Once we had the accommodation booked this was where the crossed fingers came in. We were betting that there would be some form of transport from Speyer to Hockenheim either just for the Formula 1 weekend or a regular bus route. When I booked the hotel we'd looked at Google Maps and noted that from Speyer to Hockenheim you could really just ride a bicycle - it wasn't more than 10km via flat bike paths between the hotel and the Hockenheimring, and in retrospect if we'd turned up with a couple of days to spare before the race I think we would have rented bikes and taken that option. We also knew that the Hotel website had said that they rented bicycles, and we came to the conclusion that if there ended up being no bus, no taxis, no logical train route, and no rental bicycles left at the hotel or at the bike shop in town, then we still both had the ability to run the 10km from Speyer to Hockenheimring. 

As it was, we caught a local bus (717) that would take us from the Domplatz next to the Speyer Cathedral and drop us off at the Hockenheim Rathaus (Town Hall). In the afternoon the closest they'd get - there was too much F1 traffic by the afternoon - was the Hockenheim Bahnhof (train station). It couldn't have been more than between a kilometre to a mile between the Rathaus, the Bahnhof and the Hockenheimring; again, a seriously easy walk. Also because the bus cost €4 one way per person it was a damn sight cheaper than a €35 one way taxi from the Hotel Technik Museum to the Hockenheimring gate.

If you are staying in Frankfurt, then you can catch the shuttle bus from the track to the Hockenheim Bahnhof, or you could just walk the mile there instead. There were regular trains that went from Hockenheim to Frankfurt, and we were advised by someone who went to the German F1 at Nurburgring that the autobahn traffic leaving Nurburgring after the race was a three hour traffic jam, so Hockenheimring was far preferable because the train station was so close by.

I'm assuming that you are just going for the race, but if you want to travel around Europe, the train system is amazing. They're all high speed trains, so the speed bobs around between 250 to 340 km/h. Go to http://www.sbb.ch/ and check out the times that it takes to get from one place to another - two hours to Paris Gare du Nord station from St Pancras station in London via Eurostar, instead of the trip to the airport, the required three hours prior to departure to negotiate immigration and security, an hours flight to Paris and then the transfer from Charles de Gaulle to your hotel. That's a good six hours at least. 

You can book train trips on the Rail Europe website. Don't be afraid to play around with your times. We were going to travel on Eurostar to Paris around 10am to avoid some of what we expected to be peak hour travel from Victoria Station (near where we were staying) to St Pancras International, but if we took the earlier Eurostar train, we could book first class tickets for AUD70 less than we'd have paid for second class tickets on the later train. We figured the cost saving and included breakfast would be worth the potential extra hassle. To get to the F1 from Paris we bought tickets from Rail Europe before leaving Australia. We caught a train from Paris Gare d'Est to Karlsruhe in Germany, changed trains to a local service then again at small suburban station on to Speyer. Total travel time was about four hours.

On the Wednesday after the race we were flying out of Frankfurt airport, so to get from Speyer to Frankfurt we caught a taxi to the Speyer Bahnhof, caught the train to Mannheim, then changed trains to the line that stopped at Frankfurt airport (Flughafen).

We would happily go back there. Hockenheimring was so well organised, clean and friendly. The toilets were plentiful, and never seemed to run out of supplies. The only faults I could think of was the amount of cigarette smoking there (a 20 pack of cigarettes costs €6 in Germany, and can be bought from a vending machine on a street corner, whereas in Australia they cost around $25 and you have to find a shop that sells them), and the inevitable fizzy mineral water at the track. If you want still water bring your own; we bought two 1.5L bottles of still water from a supermarket in Speyer for 11c each, and the gate staff had no issues with us bringing in our own fruit and water. There is a beer garden at the track, and so many different food stalls you can have almost anything; a healthy sandwich to bratwurst in a bun, Nutella crepes and waffles to pretzels (brezels).

TL;DR two thumbs up, would go again.