The idea of running in the You Yangs probably stemmed when I came across a well organized ultramarathon at the same venue but never took a proper shape until last week.
September 10, 2014: I ran my first trail race ever and it was hard. Running and hiking approx. 23k among the trails of Anglesea took me a little more than 2 hours (2:04). I was surprised by the kind of challenges that one can face during a trail race. I have never been much of a hill runner and therefore elevations (the highs and the lows of the course) were the first thing to pop in my mind. But probably the most difficult part was the terrain of which I had no idea would play such a critical role. I was happy to get done with the event and took the train back home. And then it happened.
I was looking out of the window, tired and dusted when I came across this.
It was beautiful. Those peaks in the background looked appealing. I was broken but my spirits were high. To make myself comfortable with the rigor of hill running, I need to run with them. And that’s when I thought that I will come here next weekend, no matter what.
I looked more about the YY on internet. I had a look on the routes that people usually follow and the routes that constituted the ultramarathon. With all that information and some of the maps, I came up with my own route that would start from the train station (because I use public transport), wander among YY and came back at the station.
September 16, 2017: As per the plan, I started at around 8 AM. I had a backpack which contained water and some energy bars and gels, in case if I go down on energy. I took in my phone with an offline map of the park installed in it, just in case if I have problems to navigate. And that was it.
Overall, the terrain was challenging. I came across some mountain bikers (as this park is exclusive for them with a lot of biking trails). The most difficult was to get to the top of Flinders peak (the highest point). It included a lot of stairs and a narrow trail. I had to stop a million times to catch my breath and to run back again. However, the view from the top was worth it.
I rested for a couple of minutes on the top, had my lunch (aka a gel and a bar) before finally getting up on my feet and ran down the peak. From that point onward, I kept running because time was crucial. The frequency of trains back to the city was less and I could not risk to get late. Fortunately, I got within 5 minutes of the train arrival time and made it back home on time.
About the event: The event is called Sri Chinmoy Princess Park Winter Running Festival. If you don’t know about it, Sri Chinmoy was a spiritual guru who promoted the idea of transcendence through sports and athletics. The usual pattern of their races can be called running in circles. In this particular event held in Princess Park, Melbourne, participants were meant to run around a 5k loop. The event was held in multiple categories: 5k 10k, Half-marathon, 30k and the marathon. For the marathon and the half-marathon, there were provision of extra 2.2k and 1.1k at the start apart from running 8 laps and 4 laps respectively.
I will break down my experience in four parts i.e. the first 10k, and the next, and the next, and the final 12.2k. So, if you are particularly interested at the end, just scroll down. Otherwise, I won’t make it too lengthy anyway.
My expectations: I wanted to finish the marathon. I wanted to be called a marathoner. And therefore my expectations were a lot of hurdles, specially mental. Probably some black toe-nails and blisters if I am lucky. But most importantly, to finish, just to finish.
The first breezy 10k: As with my other races where I ran too fast at the start, I did not want that to happen here because it was a long run, a really long one. I held myself within 5 minute per k pace. I thought this pace could be sustainable in a long run and I could run faster towards the end. I made myself comfortable with the race. En route, I looked around the course, enjoyed the beautiful morning, said my thank-you to all the volunteers I could. Perhaps I stopped twice for water at the aid-stations (I had read and heard this a million times that proper hydration would prevent cramps).
The journey to 20: I was still swaying at my easy pace after the 10k mark. I gulped down some Gatorade on the next station at 12k mark and thereafter, I had to take a pee break during the next kilometer. My gloves were really holding up well as I realised on stopping that the temperatures were not very high. The journey continued after the restroom until the 20k mark. People were recognising me from the club T-shirt I was wearing. Though nobody knew my name but many boosted me up by their going good TXR, TXR you can do it etc. A good-vibe sensation passed through me as I felt a sense of oneness.
Beyond the half-marathon: It was not my first time running beyond a half-marathon or a 25k marker but this time was very different. The half-marathon marker brought with itself some sense of hurt and self-doubt. This was where the other part of mind which says you should not be running, let’s finish this and train better for the next one came into play. My last two weeks had been significantly dull with lack of training. My body was still in the process of recovery. All these factors just gave my mind more and more excuses to go towards a DNF (did not finish). During the fifth lap, I was very much convinced by it and was thinking to go towards the finish line rather than for the next loop (the two were located side by side). And then came my saviours! People! Yes, people! Runners!
A woman who was running behind me in the earlier stages ran past me when I had resorted to walking and said “We’re almost there”. Of course we were not, I thought. God damn it, there are three more laps. I don’t know what happened within me but the decision whether to go for a finish (or more precisely a DNF) or the next loop went in favour of the next loop. I stopped at the aid-station to load in more Gatorade and water and ran towards her. I told her about me, and she about herself. Her family had come over to support her and then I missed mine. I ran with her for a while and then asked her to continue as I was walking again. I thought that was the last loop I could do.
Running WITH the mind: I was walking for a long way with occasional jogs in between. Honestly, I did not know why I was jogging as my mind had given up. Perhaps I just wanted to rush to the finish line and call it a day. I was already going way beyond my longest run till date (30k) and was venturing into an unknown territory. I was walking again with the firm determination to just complete this lap and train better for the next one (marathon).
And then it happened again! He said “TXR, we are going to make it! Stay strong”. I don’t know who he was, but we high-fived and I was running again. I was not too sure as to why I was running again but I found out I could still run, though not for long at a time. I exchanged smiles with the woman I met earlier and told her that the game is still on. The plan was simple, run if you can, walk for a while. The next (and the final) decision between the finish line and the next loop was not difficult now.
In the final lap, I met this guy who was running in his 221st marathon (MAN THIS IS CRAZY). We talked about himself during the lap. We were both run-walking the final lap with occasionally passing each other. I experienced hamstring cramps while I was running. So when I got them, I walked. And then I ran again. And walked. But I didn’t stop. The finish line was coming closer (yeah not the DNF line anymore). I, once again, crossed the same guy who had previously lifted my spirits up and he said “TXR, we are almost there” and we high-fived and I shouted at the loudest of my voice “Keep going“. For the last kilometer, I stayed with the 221 marathon guy and he finished ahead of me. A last-second cramp got me standing at the finish line but I finished running. It’s hard to explain the moment but I was proud and blown away by the immensity of the mind (also, it’s pessimism). I finished just under 3:56 and here are some photos/details:
What a wonderful journey it has been! What an immense amount of support I have got from you, readers. I just want to take a little moment here and say a BIG THANK YOU!
THE RACE MAY BE OVER, BUT THE TRAINING NEVER STOPS!
With this, I think I should stop talking and let you continue your training and if you are doing your first marathon or a half or a 10k or a 5k or even an ultra, I would finish this post with this one piece of advice you might have heard a thousand times before:
You are way beyond the limitations of your mind. Listen to what it says and do what you should.
I am excited as to what is gonna happen tomorrow. Some plans and numbers are going through my head but the target is pretty simple, to make it to the finish line.
I do not have any pre-race rituals or routines. I’m just keeping it easy for today, no hardcore training (I probably can’t even because of the runny nose). I went for a little walk just to clear my head where I listened to a Human Race podcast. My clothes are all set to be worn tomorrow. The race starts at 7 so I have to leave home by 5 to make it on time for the train station. Getting up early would be really challenging (because sleeping itself could be a little challenging).
Since it’s gonna be cold (around 10-12 degrees), I would be wearing three layers on the top and two on the bottom (excluding the inner wears). Gloves and head-cap would be an add-on to survive the cold.
I am all set to take on what had started as a thought two months ago. It had been a nice experience documenting my journey. I am grateful for all who took the time out to have a look at my posts every once a while and appreciated my effort. Till then, let me go out for a run and I’ll be back with all the details 🙂
Me: Hey! I am going to French Island tomorrow. The plan is to ride around the island for as long as we can. You know how bad cyclist I am!
Friend 1: Aww that’s so cool. But where is this place?
Friend 2: Never heard of it man.
Friend 3: Why are you going to an island to ride? You can just do that here, no?
For the first two questions, the answer is somewhere north to Philip Island (which is famous for it’s Penguins Parade aka tourist attraction). Unlike Philip Island, French Island is actually an island with no road connections. Perhaps that’s the reason why it is not so popular/known to people living in Melbourne. With it’s population of about 100, it offers a lot of land with nothing built on it. It is a classic countryside with not-so-well developed roads, more than half of the island being a national park (where no-one visits), huge and numerous farms and rare sights of humanity every once a while. For the last question, I’d say it’s a cool idea. You get to see an entire island within a day, without any travel van or tour bus! You can stop wherever you want, you don’t need gasoline on the way and in the end, you’d be proud of yourself for doing something that not many would prefer to do.
My vision of this island was not as barren as it really was. There was one, only one, general store cum post office on the island. No other restaurant/convenience store/grocery store/hotel/motel/you name it. If you are going there, you can count on your fingertips the number of houses you’ll see. I don’t think I’d be wrong if I’ll tell you that there are more cows than humans on this island!
Our original plan was to get to the farthest “view” point called as the Albions. It just seemed like a good turn-back point for the whole-island plan. Though I have never rode this far, I thought that if we’ll just go slow, I could make it without passing out on the way back. But as the mighty Forrest Gump once said “SHIT HAPPENS”. It happened with us too.
One of our friends got a flat tire a couple of times during the way. It was not always his fault, thanks to the bumpy ride (I hope it’s okay to be a little sarcastic 😉 ). We mended it less than a couple of times before finally calling it off. Alas! We couldn’t get to the point where we wanted to but it was hell of a ride amidst those muddy roads and the beautiful landscapes offered by this tiny piece of land.
With a bike punctured completely, we resorted to a hike back to the ferry terminal. Due to limited number of ferries, the change of plans was inevitable. We reached half an hour earlier before the last ferry departs. In the meantime, we enjoyed the clear night sky and let me give you the privilege to enjoy the scenery of this place 😉
Aftermath of the muddy island
Mud! More mud!
Mechanic-al Engineers at work
A long long road.
On the way back taking the last ferry, it was a bad idea that we didn’t check the train schedule as the last ferry that arrives stony point at 6.45, the next train is 8.30!! Had we taken the previous ferry (which arrives SP at 6.15), the next train would had been at 7. Much better! Anyway, we hung out with the kiosk guy until 8 (when they were closing). He made us some nice hot chips which was a treat in the shivering cold.
My training for the Wings for life world run has been on for the past five weeks. I am not sure when I registered for the Herald Sun’s Run for the kids 2017 but I am pretty sure why I did it. It supports a great cause! It supports the kids at the Royal Children Hospital, Melbourne. It supports what I love selflessly. During the entire run, I made sure I high-fived every kid who was waiving their hands at the huge number of runners swarming by. And I loved their smile when our hands touched. It pumps me up and made me run faster than I thought I’d sustain.
RFTK runs on two courses: 14.3k and 4.8k (roughly 9 and 3 miles). I registered for the former one and considered it as a long run for my training schedule. During the past weeks, I made myself comfortable with the distance running 11,14,15 and 18k‘s respectively on my weekend long runs. Fortunately to me, I have a running club that lets me run with them when they do speed work. Thanks to them, I got a 5k PB last week, it boosted my confidence to run faster. With this training, I left home early in the morning to reach the venue on time. The weather had been shaky in the early hours but was relatively great later. Being living away from the city, it takes me around an hour to get to the start line. I changed into my running clothes in a public washroom while doing the thing. I was just in time to drop off my baggage and to get to the start line to stretch up before the countdown began.
My strategy was simple. Go easy for the first 10k, step into the next gear thereafter. I can’t have a sense of how many people were running alongside me but there were many. Or may be, many, many. Never in the race for once I ran with no-one along side me (It’s good and bad). The first lap was fairly simple with everyone running literally at the same pace. Then we entered a tunnel where my Garmin FR15 lost contact with it’s satellite for the next lap. On exiting, I got two lap-readings. One of 8:54 and other of 1:54. Definitely, it was crazy for doing these calculations but I was happy that it had snap out of it to get me the correct readings thereafter.
For the next 10k’s, I kept running at an easy pace. I checked with my watch time to time because I wanted to run a sub-50 10k (which I did). I met a fellow club runner (I recognized his singlet) and ran with him for some 4 k’s. We passed over a couple of bridges, ran alongside the huge Ferris wheel of Melbourne city, raced with the Yarra river. I made sure I was not letting myself go, just yet. I kept smiling at the volunteers who were doing an amazing work of scattering the enthusiasm throughout our minds. I thanked them for taking the time out of their lives to make sure the runners stay hydrated.
As the markers after 12k started coming nearer, I cranked my pace a bit. I saw someone wearing a singlet of University of Melbourne (my university) which really made me felt great however I was in no mood to have a conversation at that point. Being not familiar with the course, I was adjusting my pace according to the inclined roads and some steep slopes. Not too far into the uncomfortable zone, I found myself on the last bend (based on what spectators were shouting about, and also on the beep of my Garmin that it was 14k point), just one more track-lap to go, I thought to myself. Some of us sprinted, I joined them. Many of them beat me, I beat some of them. I crossed the finish line in just under 69 minutes which I was extremely happy about. I was expecting a 70+ finish time.
Finishing up, I had some drinks and a free apple that the organizers had provided. It just made my taste buds go crazy. You can not hate a fruit after a wonderful run, take that from me. I have found the best tasting fruits (they were just normal fruits) after these long runs. I packed my bag and walked back to Flinders Street Station. On the way back, I saw two kids racing each other and their dad calling “Look at them! They are also running” pointing to the runners still underway. I told him that the older kid would probably run next year. I told him about the two courses and wished him luck before finally getting towards my train.
I am definitively going to the next edition of the race 🙂
So, this week, not only I trained, I also got my new Surface Pro 4. So, I’d show that off 😀
I’ve pretty much put down everything that I ran this week. The total mileage I penned down was 46k and I am glad about it because my goal was 45k. Next week, I am gonna raise the bar to run a 50. Other than this, I am trying to include more body-weight exercise on my non-running days to make my upper-body and core stronger. Have a story to share? Please feel free to put down the link in comments 🙂