Monday, September 25, 2017

It was the best it times it was the wurst of times

Race day and I woke up early with a slightly sore throat and maybe a bit of a temperature, but I always wake up feeling a bit iffy when I sleep in a hotel. I got into my race gear and disposable keep-warm-clothes and watched a bit of tele. Got some fluids down. Opened the window and checked the temperature. Did all of that again. Got bored and twitchy. I reread some of the event info brochure. I checked the rail map in case the stations had moved since I last checked it. Then at a bit before 7am I headed for the start. The advise was to get there by 7:30, one hour forty five minutes before kick-off.

My hotel is near the Spittlemarkt U bahn station. Line U2. Just four stops to Potzdamer Platz and a short walk to the start. I bought and validated a ticket. Not sure why you need to buy and then validate a ticket, but you do, so I got my ticket from the machine, stamped in the nearby red box and then waited a couple of minutes for my train. It was a far more successful public transport experience than Saturday's. Darren and I failed to find a ticket machine at Ostbahnhof, eventually found a ticket office, found our platform and got on our train. We then realised we'd not validated our tickets. So we got off the train. Its doors closed and we had somehow managed to miss a train we'd actually been on.

Back to race day.

The overnight rain had backed off to a bit of slight drizzle. Low cloud and very grey. I think it was about 13 degrees. I wandered up to the start/finish area; past the holocaust memorial, Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag then into the Tiergarten. Bit of a tourist route. Quite a lot of runners about.

I was traveling light. I'm not a fan of bag drops - or rather the collection afterwards - and my support crew, Darren, was bringing along my post-race clothes. So no bag drop and I meandered to the start bays. I was starting in block C but I took a wrong turn and started wandering in from the back of block H. It was quite a long walk to get to my block, reinforcing just how many runners were taking part - 43,852 according to the website. That is lot of marathoners. Blocks A, B and C were relatively small. I was quite close to the front, a bit nervous because I didn't really think I had a chance of getting close to the 3hours that earns you your place in block C. But hey, I've done the miles in the past and I've got a sub-3 under my belt so I can lay legitimate claim to my place.

The handbikes where first off at 08:45, half an hour before the runners. Mad looking machines, like a recumbent but one you pedal with your hands out in front of your chest. I walked down to just in front of the startline to watch them shoot off and then went back to my block. Then back to my block, so I saw the wheelchaisr start at just before 9 on the big screen. Twenty minutes to go and I threw down a lemon tea (which is usually a Gatorade.) Fifteen to go and the disposable trousers were off. Five minutes to go and the elites were being introduced, I removed my throw-away shirts and was ready to run.

And then we were off. A brief shuffle through the start gate and over the timing mats and straight into the running. I was running between two of the three hour pacers - optimistic, but hey, I didn't know what sort of shape I was in so maybe I'd be able to surprise myself.

For those who prefer numbers and graphs to is my Strava upload.

I felt quite comfortable, probably because of the flatness of the course and the adrenalin that comes with running a major among so many people. I was feeling quite focused, which does not make for a great blog post because it means I was not paying a lot of attention to what was going on around me.

The first kilometer was 4.21 - not bad for a first km, what with the early jostling and getting on pace. I was a little frustrated with my typically English politeness when it came to yielding in elbow clashes and criss crossing. The first water station was a bit of a bundle but not too bad and I was keeping with the three hour bus. There had been a very slight headwind and it was a wet course with a bit of rain. The tower in Alexanderplatz was lost in low cloud. I was thinking the world record might not be broken today (ha, as if we should expect a world record!) At least I was on for a PB on this course...

At 10k I was still with the bus but the pace was very flat - nothing was being put in the bank for the fade towards the end of the race. And so my mental wobbling started. I wasn't going to beat 3hours, but that's OK. By 12km I thought I'd fallen off of the bus, but I spotted a three hour pacer over my right shoulder; weird. Maybe I'd still pull a decent time? I thought I'd keep pushing until half way and see how I felt.

By a third of the way through I was slowing, but not dramatically. But from here it started to go south for me. By 17k my right knee was starting to ache. I remember thinking it'd be OK, only 25km left! I went through the half in a little under 1:32 and at this point was thinking I'd still be OK for 3:15. Then my left knee decided to start aching. And by 27k I was getting a dull ache in my back, just above my left butt cheek. From here on I was digging in. There was an aid station wiht some sort of power drink in a squeezy container and cola gels; I grabbed one of each and gulped them both down.

The race is very well supported; lots of people, lots of noise. A great atmosphere (I wonder what it is like then the weather is better?) I tried to distract myself from my bodily woes by high-fiving kids along the way. It didn't really work. My race bib had my name on it, and there were fairly regular shouts of encouragement from the spectators. I was getting frustrated with myself now; I realised I had nothing left in the tank and wasn't pushing. But I was struggling to just enjoy myself for fear of throwing my back out or having a knee crumble. Bugger.

Darren gave me a shout at, I think, about 36km. I waved and smiled and he videoed and then I got back to struggling on. I think the 3:15 bus went past me at about 35k. I didn't even contemplate trying to keep up.

I was having a mental tussle and trying to stop beating myself up for my under-performance.

  • I flew in on Friday morning; not a lot of time to recover from a big flight.
  • Two weeks ago I had a back-spasm thing and needed some physio work just to get to the plane.
  • My best was a couple of years ago when I was doing a lot more running than I do nowadays
  • I have had to recover from an achilles injury ("if you keep running now you'll probably snap it")
  • I DID earn my place in the C block
  • For fucks sake, I was going to finish the Berlin Marathon!
...yeah, it didn't really work. I was on the verge of tears a couple of times, spirit pretty broken at not being able to live up to my own unrealistic expectations.
Of course I may have just been being soft, because my form was still OK and I did not stop, did not walk a single step. The last couple of km came up pretty slowly, but I did manage a quick grimaced smile as I rounded the corner on Unter Den Linden and saw the Brandenburg Gate looming ahead of me. Through the gate, another couple of hundred metres and...done.
I finished in 3:21:31 which is still a respectable time and I will get around to congratulating myself.
I collected my rather hefty medal and a plastic sheet to keep myself warm. There was a goody bag with some food in it (fruit, dodgy croissant, protein bar and  a bottle of water) and then I got an Erdinger alcohol free beer. I wandered to the family reunion area, past the best organised bag collection tent I have ever seen; the bags were lined up on hooks in tents with wooden floors! Maybe I'll use the bag drop next time.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cankles be gone

Weird. My phone did not know that cankles was a real word.

Ok, I had a reasonable night's sleep and woke a bit before 5am. So pretty standard for me. My left ankle once again shows signs of containing bone. I did a reasonable amount of stretching and wandering on the planes, kept hydrated and fed and didn't have any booze. But I still canckled like a boss.

So let me finish off yesterday.

Waiting for my last short hop flight to Berlin were a few skinny Africans. I think I can say that with impunity, especially after spending most of the trip from Frankfurt to Berlin chatting to Joseph. Whi is very skinny. And is from Kenya. My opening gambit was "you look like a runner" to which he replied "so do you." I should have gone back with "No dude, you really *really* look like a runner. I mean, you like one of those guys you see winning marathons and shit" But I didn't.

Instead we chatted about Kenya (I really should go, take the family, not all runners are fast and I'd be able to beat a load of them), his shoe-and-clothes collections for his homeland (7 tons), training, life in Australia and loads of other stuff. Oh, and I'm fairly sure he said he was hoping to run 2.10 but I was extremely tired and may have misheard him. I'll see how he went when I check on Sunday.

As I was now flying domestic the bag collection was a piece of piss, no immigration and I was right by an exit right next to the ticket machine for tickets that were not for the bus into town. I learnt after buying a ticket from said machine. So I bought a second ticket, this time for the TXL bus to Alexandwrplatz.

From here it was an old skool walk to my hotel. About a mile. Using a map. A paper map. Which worked out ok. Until I met up with Darren I was on sketchy Wi-Fi or off the grid. Deep breaths, it's Ok, you can upload your pictures later...

I dropped my bags at the hotel, used their Wi-Fi to locate the expo location which I circled on my map and I then wandered off again, keeping the blood flowing to and through my elephant ankles.

The walk to the expo is probably about 30minutes but a coffee stop and a camera in hand slowed me down. That and my confidence in my map reading skills compelling me to stop and recheck every 8 steps.

Berlin is extremely cool. I love the mixed architecture, the feeling of history all around, the graffiti, the canals and waterways, the bike friendliness, the funky hidden stuff, the fact you can take your dogs with you to hotels and into shops. It's just great. Don't know what it would be like to live here, but it is made for ambling around.

Getting back on track, I walked to the expo and found a lot of people. But with a stereotypical German efficiency the line of runners and inline skaters there to collect race bibs moved quickly and I was in, had my chip and printed-on-the-spot number in a few minutes and was ready to escape the expo.

I did do a couple of laps of not really looking at thigs I knew I was not going to buy, wandered past the Erdinger beer stand (alkoholfrie) and was amused to find a few smokers dotted about (crazy Europeans.) I pondered buying an event shirt but am a bit superstitious about buying before. The only time I did it in the past was for London. And I went on to get injured and miss the event. I went back the next year. By which time I'd moved to Sydney. I don't want to stack up too many events where the trip to the start line is long haul.

On the way back I took a few pictures, mostly of graffiti but also of Checkpoint Charlie. Well, I am on holiday. I was approached by a deaf guy who showed me a bit of paper on which he was collecting signatures for something that seemed to be to do with making life better for the deaf. I'd been up for 40 hours and wasn't too sharp. As I was digging in my pockets for change he got quite shirty about me not handing him 10euros. As I don't know German sign language for "I'm about to give you all the money I have so how about you just fuck off sunshine" I sort of staggered off with the feeling is just been fleeced. Ah well.

I stopped for some lunch before getting back to the hotel to check in. There is a friendly little laugh sound that Germans may give when you say "danke" after ordering in English. Whereas the English may think they are being polite the Germans are, I think, amused and bemused that we should bother with such a token effort. There should be a single word - German word - for that laugh.

Skipping ahead I redeemed myself at dinner. I'd wandered to locate Darren's hotel and was a bit off the beaten track on my way back. Dinner was a doner and I had a chat in mixed broken German and broken English with the guy from Istanbul who was working there. Nice bloke, chatty, has a 7 year old and makes a mean kebab.

The walk to Darren's hotel is 2.1km but tired and with a camera it seemed longer. There are some funky bars by the river and yet more graffiti for me to take pictures of. Stickering is big in Berlin. The sprayed graf is a bit ordinary. There are other interesting pieces too; posters, tiles, a small pot of flowers on top of street sign. I like it.

Last word on the day can go to Sri Chinmoy in this picture.

Imagine a world ruled by love - Sri Chinmoy

I'm not a number I'm a...hold on, I'm number 19478

OK, I'll fill the details in later because I got about 3hours sleep on the second leg and despite wanting to push through today and catch up with my 8pm-arriving brother - I am beat. So bullets.

  • Bought a book (Homo Deus) and read some, watched Alien Covenant and Lego Batman movie on first leg. Enjoyed all of the above.
  • Had a free seat next to me! Did not make use of it, let the 7yr old girl sleep over it and her seat to tray and help calm her frazzled mum who was..well, frazzled. #maybeImnot suchabadparentafterall
  • Changi is huge. Thought I was walking to Berlin from there. Street food great, butterfly garden likely more interesting in the daytime.
  • Second leg - 3hours sleep, swollen ankles, dry eyes
  • Watched The Founder (was Ray Croc that much of a shit?) and Expendables 3. Listened to the Scouting for Girs album and the awesome bonus track 

  • Made my connection in Frankfurt with 15min to spare.
  • Sat next to Kenyan runner Joseph (more about him when I know his time) who will probabaly beat me quite comprehensively. Chatted the whole way with him, top bloke.
  • Got to the hotel early, dropped off bag, wandered off to pick up race number.
Right, I'm stopping here. More detail to follow, plus my gushing about just how effortlessly cool Berlin is. I think the reason Sal loves Paris so much is that she hasn't spent enough time in Berlin.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Been a while since I've posted - I kid myself that Instagram pictures speak a thousand words so there is no need to blog - but I reckon the opportunity to kill a few minutes while waiting for a plane presents an opportunity to dust off the cobwebs. Blogwebs?

So I am on holiday. Yep, you heard. Holiday. By myself. First trip flying solo since kids arrived. Almost; I did a work trip in 2010 when AJ was one, but other than that - Fiji with the family, nothing on my tod.

This holiday came about almost by accident. In my mind it went something like this: While wondering if I'd ever run another marathon - post blowing up my achilles (hyperbole!) and recovering but then putting in my slowest ever Six Foot Track time - I meandered to the Berlin Marathon website and spotted that it takes place when Australian schools are on holiday. My work is tied to school terms. This means it is a quiet time for me. So I put my name in the ballot. Assuming I'd not get a spot. I was probably a bit drunk.

So I got a spot in this year's Berlin Marathon. And as Berlin is reasonably close to London I decided to chuck a couple of weeks on the trip. So here I am. Checked in, plugged in and waiting for my first flight. Given that I tried to VPN into work before I started blogging, I don't think I am quite in holiday mode yet. But once I'm in the air there is no point in worrying about stuff.

I'll worry anyway; maybe more about that later.

So, a few idle musings.

It was only later that I thought a good thing to do when the kids are off school might be to spend time with the kids and not piss off by myself to run around Berlin then get drunk with my mates. #worldsbestdad.

As my ferry pulled away from the wharf, clear blue sky above and clear water below, 25 degrees - I could not help but think this felt a bit like a holiday. Drifting past the bridge and Opera House (with resident seal in residence) that thought was tough to shake. But I was wearing a hoodie, so I felt like a local (and a lot like a soft southern shite.)

too much plastic!
I had a Stabucks coffee which was as ordinary and inoffensive as I remember from when I last had one. I can't remember when I last had one, but I am sure it was ordinary and inoffensive. I think I was trying to convince myself I was on holiday. I subsequently beat myself up over the ridiculous amount of single use plastic I'd got for free with my single slice of toast. Grrr...

Check in was uneventful. Bit bored now.

The coming challenge is to remain awake for the duration of flight 1 (a bit over 8hours from 3pm, upstairs on an A380) so I can sleep overnight on my 12hours second leg. That one gets in at 7am-ish. If I can do the awake/sleep thing, the theory goes, I don't get jet lagged, disembark running on local time and have a cruisy 48hours to get over the flight before the race on Sunday. It is a beautiful plan.

OK, I'm rambling. Time to get some sounds on and chill.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sirius business

The Sirius Building in Sydney is a brutalist concrete monstrosity of a thing slap bang in the middle of the city's primest of prime real estate. It is 79 units of social housing - now empty - that looks like 79 piss-poor building blocks stacked on top of each other.

I like it.

Sirius Building, Millers Point

But it is for the chop. Cleansed of those who once lived there and not up to modern building codes the argument that it should be demolished was east t make. The land will sold off for a squazillion dollars, money that will of course be used to fund social housing elsewhere, sold to developers who will of course provide some social housing in Millers Point within whatever replaces it.

I can do the maths. The sale will generate enough cash to build a load of social housing somewhere else. I get it. And I'm over here displacing someone else, so have to shoulder my own little bit of blame for the economic cleansing of Sydney's nicer suburbs. (As it happens I try to sleep at night by reminding myself that I grew up in charity housing, then realise this makes me the pin-up boy for the if-you-just-try-hard-you'll-do-well mob that haven't done the maths; makes my head hurt.)

I don't want to live in a city that is utterly segregated along wealth lines. It isn't healthy for society.

This picture makes me a little sad. Those plants belonged to someone. Whatever is on that washing line was someones washing.

We don't need another fucking casino.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

two day catchup

Food remains pretty much the same with fruit, nuts a large cap and green tea at work. A mug of bone broth and yesterday's dinner was lamb saag followed by yoghurt and muesli, tonight was omelette followed by the yoghurt and muesli again.

Yesterday's exercise was the ride to and from work and an 8km run up to North Head and back. Both tougher and quicker than I expected. Lovely day for it though.

I'm putting that down as my one and possibly only official training hit out before the Pub2Pub at the end of the month. The ride home was a bit more of a slog than usual as I had a new toy - a set of Garmin Index scales. Not strictly necessary, but at least I now know I have the body fat percentage of an athlete (go me!) or for my age I am "underfat" (so should probably get back on the sauce?) Anyway, Sal is happy, Garmin Connect has a bit more data from us.

Today's exercise was the bike to and from work (probably don't need to mention that every day) a gentle trot along the beach - 1.4km - to do my usual HIIT session - and then a gently trot back again. The best bit - there was a whale breaching for around 15minutes or my exercise session. The worst bit - my legs really fucking ache. Given them a decent workout this week though.

Toying wiht the idea of a day of rest tomorrow..but a gym weights session then a swim on Saturday would kinda complete the set for the week. See how I feel in the morning.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I'm really not investing enough time or enthusiasm in this blog at the moment

Unusually for me I woke up to the sound of my alarm. I'm normally asleep well before 5am, so 5.15 is a fucking result.

Exercise - the ride to and fro work and a sweaty 45in in the gym at lunchtime. Free weights and cable pulls wiht 10minutes on the rower in between. Not a lot of rest in between sets.

Food - 2 carrots, grapefruit, apple and a banana, walnuts/almonds/salted peanuts and a green tea. Dinner was a little bit of the special fried rice I made the kids (was quite nice, wish I could have more), a chicken sausage and some broccoli then a bowl of yoghurt and muesli.

Before dinner I weighted 68.5kg, a little down. Might have a run tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Short one

Cycled to work and from work to Chatswood - 6km and 20km respectively.
Large cappuccino, apple, 2 carrots, small banana, medium tub of walnuts/salted peanuts and almonds. A green tea,
Two cheese slices, some pork, a bowl of yoghurt and muesli and two sang choy bow.

Right, I'm going to bed.

Oh, how could I have forgotten. I also had a mug of lovely bone broth!

Bone broth. If it tastes as good as it looks I reckon I'll puke.

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