Thursday, October 13, 2011

Continent 4: The Australian Bight: Running Upwind Down Under

Click here to go to the start of this sereis:  7 days to 7

Adelaide Australia, August 2010
When I commenced the 7 continent quest, I set a goal of 2011 for finishing.  Maybe because I knew this would be a year of big events (Justin's graduation, Rebecca's 50th, a contract year at work).  But more, I just tried to guess a timeframe.  In fact, being at 3 continents in June 2009, I thought that 2010 might even see the completion of this nutty goal.  One thing that changed that plan was that the Antarctica trip had to move to 2011 due to logistics and revisions to the rules about tourism there.

But more importantly, I had to deal with my one major injury to date.  One aspect I love about running is that part of the skill is dealing with adverse conditions.  Often these are external:  Too hot; too cold; too windy; too flat; too hilly; too rainy; too sunny.  But how your body feels determines how you will run. Off days happen, and you just cannot push harder than your body will tolerate.  Perhaps shorter races can allow for that, but a long run cannot survive a balky body at top performance.

My main injury hit me in September 2008 but I didn't slow down enough, and it really got bad during the 2008 NYC Marathon.  And while I finished in sub 3:45, I was on pace for a 3:30 before I strained a muscle in my lower right leg.  I then took a month off and came back for Boston and Tromsø in April and June 2009.  But I knew I needed more time to heal, so I only ran shorter races until March 2010's LA Marathon.  Running that in less than 3:40 - my best time since Nagano - gave me the confidence to rev up the 7 continent plan.  I figured on doing 2 more in 2010 and 2 (including Antarctica) in 2011.

So, off I went to find a small Australia or New Zealand marathon (to count for "Oceana").  I picked Adelaide both for its time and that I could combine it with a planned business trip to Australia by extending for a few more days.

Adelaide is a small city in South Australia; it sits right on the Australian Bight.  Surrounded by loads of parks, the town is full of friendly people.  Known for being a gateway to one of the wine growing regions of the continental country, the culture reflects the lifestyle with lots of restaurants and wine merchants.  I like Melbourne better, but Adelaide is certainly nice.

Some parkland around Adelaide's central city.  The Marathon start and finished at the stadium.

It is also famously windy.  And in fact, the wind was super crazy the day of the marathon during the run west to the bight.  I felt that the end of my marathon in Nagano was hampered by wind and me not knowing how to deal with it.  Well this time I was prepared.  I gritted my teeth and tore into it.  In fact, I might have pushed too hard into as I cramped up in my calves about 1 mile from the finish.  I needed about a minute to stretch them out and then finished in my third best time ever - just under 3:31.  (Oddly, my 2nd and 3rd fastest times have both occurred overseas.)

Overall, the Australia trip was great.  I met a fellow Indiana Jones fan who runs the IndyCast.  (Check out the John Williams specials co-hosted by yours truly.)  I met some of my family who live in Melbourne, and I ran a great race in less than perfect conditions.

Friends and fellow runners often ask how I handle certain situations, so this seems like a place to list some of my homegrown solutions.

Wind is one of those friends or foes.  Interestingly, when it is at our back, we barely notice (although it is helping).  The winner of this year's Boston Marathon, Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai, ran the fastest recorded marathon time ever.  (It's not a world record because the course is a point to point with a net elevation drop.)  He said that he didn't feel any benefit from the wind.  Regardless, he was assisted by it as were all the competitors that day.

Run into the wind and you know it for sure.  Even worse is a side wind because you have to sort of run at an angle.  My recommendation is first to relax.  Keep your form and accept your time is going to be slower.  Don't try to make it all up by working hard as you will sap your strength for later.  Even in Australia, I knew I could have run faster in the first half of that race.  As I said, I think I pushed too hard and that was holding back.

If you are running with the wind, you are better off to keep near your target pace and benefit by not running faster than you are trained for.  Just take the free ride at your normal pace.

If the temperature is above your training temps, you need to slow down.  10 degrees higher should knock about 10% off your speed.  If it is super hot, don't run!  Ok, that's easy to type, but really, you need to be very careful unless you are trained for hot running conditions.  Be sure to hydrate well (but don't go crazy as that can lead to issues too).  If you get too hot, take a walk break and don't be afraid to quit and come back fighting another day.

Cold is much less of an issue than heat - at least down to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.  In fact, the bigger issue for a race is wearing too much clothing because you will soon overheat.  So, bring layers and strip down to more normal gear as you heat up.

I don't have much experience below 30.  I've run some training runs in the 20s but that's about it.  Below about 0, even bundled up, you really should switch to a treadmill.  My friends in Minnesota may disagree, but they are used to it.

Also, be on the look out for ice as slipping is more likely than frostbite.

If you start to feel sore and in pain during a run, you need to stop.  If you can massage or stretch it out, you can go back out and try to run again.  But if it persists or gets worse, you need to take a break.  See a doctor or chiropractor before resuming running.  A few days and even a race missed isn't worth losing months due to serious injury.  Use common sense.

Also be sure to ice and use heat to treat sore areas after a run.  Ice bathes aren't fun, but they do reduce swelling.


What do I mean by this?  Well, have you woken up for a run and just don't have the energy to go?  And maybe you are dragging through the day after a good run?  Or perhaps you find a lack of appetite or general interest in doing anything.  Well, those could be symptoms of lots of things, so you should consult a physician.  But one cause can be over doing it on the running.  If you are pushing hard and above your normal regiment, you might not be giving your body enough time to recharge.  You might want to cut it back - maybe reduce your mileage by 30%.  Or take a week off (your body won't forget how to run or lose much fitness).  Try swimming and cycling.  Play with your routine and see if the energy and motivation come back.

Not all set backs are really set backs.  If I hadn't gotten hurt going into the NYC marathon in 2008, I wouldn't have started fund raising which has been a great experience, and we've raised over 50,000 so far.

And when you overcome something like rain or wind, you feel a different type of accomplishment other than just a great time.  I ran the 2011 LA Marathon in a downpour and beat my previous time by 3 minutes.

They key is to enjoy each run (training or race) for what it is:  A change to get outside, a chance to be healthy and a chance to discover something new.

For me, Australia was how to take a tough first half of wind and still turn in a fantastic time - and that's despite some cramping up near the end.

More than halfway to 7.  Next:  Out of Africa