The road to McLaren Vale!

This blog post was MEANT to be a review of McLaren Vale Half Marathon. And I’ll get to it, I promise, but a lot has happened this week so rather than cram it all into one post, I thought I’d write about my week, and save the race review for a separate post!

Last week I talked about running for fun. Well on Monday, after I’d written that post, I went for a trail run that was just that. It was 22km along the Heysen Trail (a section of the 105k course), in pretty gnarly weather. We got hailed on at least 3 times, maybe 4. It rained pretty much constantly. We got blown sideways by the wind. We had to cross a whole lot of rivers and lakes that weren’t there the last time I ran it. And the mud, so much mud! The run finished with a lake crossing and a waterfall where there used to be a road. It was a walk/run, at a comfortable pace, with a small group of like-minded individuals. It might not sound like much fun to a lot of people, and there were times where I thought I should have stayed in bed (did I mention that I had to get up at 4:45am for said run?) but looking back I have nothing but happy memories of that run!

On Wednesday, one of my normal ‘rest’ days, I went out to run at the first SA Masters track meet of
the summer season. (Summer. Yeah, right!)  The season started early this year because the World Championships are on in Perth at the end of the month, many of the local Masters athletes are
going over, and most of them probably haven’t run on a track since the Nationals in April! I opted not to go to Perth, not least of all because it clashes with the Heysen 105, but also because while I was lucky enough to win a few medals at the Nationals, I could not envisage being competitive at a World Championships!

I ran the 1500m and 3000m, about 30 minutes apart. I was happy with my 1500, just over 6 minutes,
and significantly faster than the last time I ran that distance, at the Nationals. I’ve never broken the 6 minute barrier but I think it’s on the cards at some time this summer! After the 1500, like many others, I experienced a bit of ‘track hack’, an affliction peculiar to track running which is a dry cough that can last up to a few hours. It’s partly the exertion and partly something to do with the track surface, so I’m told. Anyway, my 3000m was nowhere near as good as my 1500 as a result, but still I was happy to get under 13 minutes (my PB being closer to 12 minutes).

On Thursday, after having done my usual morning run (cut slightly short as I was a bit tired from
my track outing), I went out to the inaugural Kathmandu Salomon Trail Running Club, which is a new venture starting and finishing at the Kathmandu store in Rundle Mall, every second Thursday. I didn’t know much about it but it popped up on my Facebook News Feed, and it being a rare free Thursday night for me,
thought I’d give it a go! I knew Laura was going but I didn’t know anyone else. I was surprised when I got there and Barry McBride was there, actually he was leading the group! (Barry is the Race Director for Yurrebilla, and an experienced and accomplished trail runner.)

The group was all female (just a coincidence – guys are more than welcome!), some of whom (like myself and a few others) had done some ultramarathons, and many of whom were cyclists (and all seemed to know each other!). We went for a short, easy run along the River Torrens and Barry gave us a few tips on downhill running in particular, and trying to run with more of a midfoot strike (I have a definite tendency to run more on my heels, as evidenced by the wear on my shoes, and I know that I could improve my technique and my times if I could change to a midfoot strike, but up to now I’ve found my times have improved anyway so I haven’t bothered to try to change).

Which brings me to something else that happened earlier in the week – I attended a lecture at the
Physiotherapy Association from running coach Chris Taylor, who talked a lot about running technique in relation to injuries, and a lot of the stuff he said was echoed by Barry on Thursday night. I had had one one-on-one (try saying that quickly!) with Chris a few years back as I prepared for my first marathon, and he did pick up that I was more of a heel striker, but he said that it was probably not a good idea to mess with my technique too much, only a matter of weeks before the marathon. So while I had all good intentions to tweak my technique (techtweak, if you will) after the marathon was over, of course I didn’t. 

Barry recommended barefoot running as a way to try to move towards a midfoot strike (something else mentioned by Chris) and I decided I was definitely going to give that a go.

I highly recommend the trail running club to anyone interested (I think they’re being run in a few other cities too), whether they be complete noobs or relatively experienced. There’s always something new to learn, and I’m sure the newbies appreciate getting advice from more experienced trail runners too!

On Friday I went to speed training for the first time in 3 weeks – the session was 1600m, 2 x 1000m and 2
x 400m. I tend to do better on the longer intervals but my second 400 was my fastest in a while, probably because I had Tina breathing down my neck yelling at me that she was going to catch me! (I thanked her for not doing that on one of the earlier intervals – I was happy to go all out on the last one, knowing I didn’t have any more to do after that!)

On Saturday, instead of my usual routine of parkrun, I went for a trail run with Kate, to try to get ready for Heysen which was now less than 2 weeks away. We went up Ansteys Hill, following the course of the trail race that we both ran last December. I must admit my legs were pretty heavy and I was amazed that I had run up some of those hills during the race. There was a lot of walking (I described it on Strava as a ‘plod’ – I think that was pretty apt) but it was nice to get out on the trails and it was quite a lovely morning.

Around lunchtime I decided to give this barefoot running thing a crack. After agonising over which shoes to wear given that I would be running on grass – road or trail (I’m not joking!) I put on my thongs (flip-flops or jandals for my international readers – NOT what you’re thinking!) and walked across to my local park. I think
cricket season has started but fortunately there were no games on at that particular oval that day.

I started slowly, not really thinking about technique but mainly just trying to avoid the yellow flowers on the ground which were of interest to the local bees. I started running laps around one oval but then quickly got bored so started doing figure 8s between the 2 adjacent ovals. It was amazing how quickly I got into a
rhythm, each kilometre being faster than the one before. Barry had recommended about half an hour being the optimum length of time of a barefoot run (at least initially) so I went with that. And managed to avoid stepping on anything sharp (or any bees!). So my first barefoot outing was a success!

  So, that was my week leading up to Sunday’s McLaren Vale Half – stay tuned for the race report!

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