Sunday, 26 May 2013

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Does that sound like a strange title for a blog entry? But there is method in my madness. Just over a month ago (soon after I’d finished the Oxfam 100km trailwalk) I posted “What’s the next big challenge???” back in January I posted “my physical and mental energy has been mutually focused on one goal and I followed a very structured program in order to achieve that goal….so what now????” So what has been going on in my head for the last month or so?

I’ve learned that personally I need a goal, something to plan towards, a structured set of objectives to get me to the final result – no wonder I’m a Program Manager!!! For the last few weeks the alarm has been going off early so I could go for a run and the snooze button is getting the workout, not my body. With no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my mojo has taken a hike.

That’s not to say I have completely turned into a couch potato. I have been going to my weekly local parkrun and trotting out 5kms at a fair (but not pushing myself) pace. I’ve managed a few longer runs after work, when time has allowed, and as an earlier post alluded to I’ve entered a few 10km events just to keep the legs ticking over.

Today I took part in the Emer Casey Fun Run, an event that takes the runners through the grounds of Monash University in Clayton. This event was started in 2008 in memory of Emer Casey a young Irish woman who died of ovarian cancer. Her family have set up a foundation to raise funds for research into ovarian cancer, in particular research into developing an early detection test for the disease. The Melbourne event is small enough to still retain the great community feel and has roughly 300 or so runners participating in 5 or 10 kilometres. To date the Melbourne event as raised close to $100,000 for ovarian cancer research.

I took my 10 year old son along with me and he participated in the 5km event (smashing his previous 5km best time by running 28.37 – so he tells me) and I took part in the 10k event aiming to run somewhere between 65 and under 70 mins, finishing in 68.28. Again not a quick time but I was feeling the legs on the soft spongy dirt and grass sections of the course and the knees creaked a few times around the hairpin bends. I was happy with that time as I’m just ticking over the k’s and it fitted into my expected finishing time. Again the event was a blast with bands playing at the start on the course itself and at the finish, eager university students getting up early to volunteer around the course as marshals, a (now famous) strange warm up and a great humorous presentation ceremony featuring Olympic silver medalist Sonia O’Sullivan (5,000m at Sydney Olympics). I urge any Melbourne based runners to give the event a try out in 2014 – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the word “fun” staying in the “fun run” lexicon.

Next week I’m running the Mt Macedon Trails Plus 10km event which has 357m elevation gain and being an out and back course you run the first section downhill, up a hill and back down it to finish the last three or so kilometers climbing back up hill. All on trails, which could well be muddy, slushy and slippery. This will be on day 2 of winter so the temperature could be close to freezing point so very much a different way to spend a Sunday morning – what sort of running event says to pack a jacket? Well a running event in Australia that is.

But the point of this post was to highlight that I have to find a new challenge, a new event a couple of months in the future so I can train, retire the snooze button hitting and start pushing out a few decent mid week and weekend runs. Even though these peripheral events are fun I can’t just keep going from one fun run to the next with no major goal on the horizon. Another curly to add to my problem is the fact that I’ll be traveling in September and October (with no chance of training whilst away) so that makes the Melbourne Marathon an impossibility. Not that I have any real urges to run that event, as you can probably tell I enjoy the smaller more community based ones with a littler crowd and less hustle and bustle on the course. Having said that it is an event on my doorstep so I probably should participate – maybe in 2014. I did do the half marathon there last year and had a great time, it’s the full marathon on bitumen that I’ll not be upset about if I never run it.

So what do I do when I don’t know what to do? As any good project person will tell you – I’m going to build a plan. I’ll weigh up my options, find the one that best suits my schedule, enter and start planning and executing. When I next post here it will be after Mt Macedon (I hope to get some shots) and with a definite future date and event that I’ll be planning for.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why do I run and what do you do after 100kms?

I never thought I’d be the one to write ANYTHING about the “pleasures” of running. And I’m not being flippant here, but only a few short years ago the concept of pleasure and exercise being written in the same sentence was a foreign concept to me.

Of course I’m now a different person, as a lot of my previous blog posts point out I am in no way a fast runner, I’ll never be competitive in a race style format, but where I am competitive is in beating my own demons, pushing myself either faster, harder or further, doing runs up hills, whilst howling winds prevail, whilst it rains. All of these examples are part of my greater mental and physical development.

As I mentioned in my post Cadbury marathon blog entry, the training and the event itself took great psychological as well as physical training. Those mental aspects are something you can take into your broader everyday life, and I can guarantee you the lead up as well as the participation in the 100km trailwalk event took mental stamina the size of which I had not conquered before. I must have had about five or six instances where I thought long and hard about pulling out of the event – at no stage were any of these doubts physically related, they were more about the extraordinary commitment of time and effort, arranging charity events, being the sole conduit back into the organisers, and a number of other issues. What actually transpired after those periods of doubt was a serious self-talk about the fact that I had enormous support, both financially and physically, by other close friends, family and colleagues. We also had raised close to $7,000 for people who are significantly less fortunate than myself, so what was a few internal conflicts compared to the potential gift we would be giving others?

So what has this massive preamble have to do with the simple pleasures of running? I think it's more the aspect of running being a selfish pursuit, it is generally not team based, you run for your own reasons alone. As mentioned above I do it to push myself, to challenge myself, to undertake another journey of self-discovery, to change my perspectives, my priorities, my possibilities. Me, me, me – a tad selfish really.

But interestingly enough I also enjoy the ability to work with others who are starting their own journey or need help somewhere along the way of their long lived experience. I love being able to offer some assistance to anybody out there who is discovering their own pleasures in running, when I first started I received heaps of encouragement (and continue to do so) and I now think that I personally have a duty to offer somebody else the same sort of support somebody once offered me. So a pair of shorts, a pair of socks, a top (not mandatory) and a pair of runners and all of a sudden I’m a different human being – quite a transformation I suppose.

This leads me to my next challenge – I was intending to run the Barossa Marathon on 26 May however the recovery from Trailwalker has not been ideal so that idea was replaced with the plan to run the half marathon at the same event. In the last few weeks I have slowly started the training and again putting more miles into the legs to get me to that event, even though a 5km run 7 days after the 100km exertions was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever conquered. This time around though, the training is purely a physical challenge as I can guarantee you 100% if you can run a full marathon or if you can walk 100kms (on trails) without a break, you have the mental toughness and stamina required to pump out 21 kms, it is now simply a case of my body being able to follow the head. But to be honest the individuality of running, the ability to push yourself and only yourself is probably a bit too lonely a pursuit for me to be heading 729kms by road to punch out a 21km run. The camaraderie will not be there – not saying I won’t know anybody there, I actually will, but that joint journey of discovery, the sense of achieving something together won’t be - so that venue’s off the agenda too. Why waste your time experiencing something if you’re not going to enjoy it, celebrate it? Better planning in 2014 will see me in the Barossa for a few days, sampling the local produce and relaxing beside a pool after knocking over 42kms amongst the autumn leaves on the vines.

Interim plans now consist of the Emer Casey Foundation fun run around Monash University in Clayton, an event that I ran in last year and one that is asymmetrical opposite of “selfish”, an event where funds are raised for Ovarian Cancer Research, where there are people lining the route laughing and cheering you on in a community sense, where bands mingle with the runners playing lively Irish tunes, where you finish to the smells of a communal BBQ, where a sense of doing this for somebody else is the prime driver.  Yep I’m revisiting my roots again, and going back to the simple pleasures of why I run.

The following weekend I’ll take that another step further and take on a small part of the Mt Macedon event (probably 10kms, but maybe 30kms), yep another trail event, again for the simple pleasures. Back in November I ran the half marathon at Marysville (the small mountain community devastated by bushfires back in 2009) and reading my post from that event I wrote that “the fun was out of this world, the community feel, the friendliness, the scenery, the trails, the whole weekend was an amazing experience”. So I’m going to do my best, with a bunch of close running friends, to relive that experience – yes I’m going to simply enjoy the running.