Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Ticking Over In Australia - Part 1

At the end of my previous blog I alluded to the fact I was taking a break from writing blogs. Well I was so sick of the cold I decided to pop over to Australia for three weeks and, as I usually do on holidays, I closed down all communications with my normal life in order to get totally away from things. The problem with that is that you get a build up of activities to carry out when you get back, though in my case this wasn’t so drastic as most of the voicemails and texts I’ve been sent didn’t seem to reach me, for some reason. So if you’ve been trying to contact me, and I haven’t got back to you, please get back in touch.

This was my third trip to Australia, I first went there in 2000 and again in 2005, but despite re-visiting some places I still managed to cover lots of new ground. Previously I’ve returned to some big races, so continued to train hard during my trips, this time however, despite also having a big race on my return, I decided to ease back a little and just tick over. It was my compromise to Carole, who still hasn’t quite reconciled herself with the fact that I’m committed not obsessed. To help myself come to this compromise I really pushed up the training before I went, to the point that I was almost overtraining, which meant I was actually looking forward to a break from training.

For the rest of the blog I’ve diarised my days so you can see what I did each day, including the minimal training I got by on. Hopefully it’ll give you some fun ideas of training to do on a break.

Day 1-2 18-19 Feb – We set off fairly early for the airport, as you’re required to turn up 3 hours before the flight is due to depart. Luckily my dad had offered to drive us so we didn’t have to get up really early. I had contemplated getting up early and doing a last run before we set off, but for once I shrugged off the idea. It’s a long way to Australia, along the way we’d lose a day but we were travelling via Dubai and Singapore so there were breaks to be had. Mind you I didn’t find these breaks relaxing as they occurred in the early hours of the morning on my body clock.

I won’t mention the airline but it is award winning. It was comfortable enough but the quality of the sound on the TV was a little lacking and the food was a little odd at times, e.g. spicy chicken for breakfast. However the thing that I found the hardest was that we always, both on the way there and back, seemed to be sitting in the area that received their food and drinks last. Those people who know me well will know that my patience levels are not the highest, particularly when there is food involved, and can probably visualise the torture my body was going through as I watched a plane load of people get their food before me. I know the trick is to put down a special diet as those people always get fed first, but I haven’t decided what special diet I should go with.

I did try to get some sleep during the flight, but I’m a poor travelling sleeper, so spent some time watching TV, there were some interesting features and I also watched two films. The first one was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was interesting, if a little slow, and I would say probably not the best film to watch on a plane as the pilot kept interrupting with unimportant messages, in more than one language, still I’m glad I saw it. The second one was Senna, which was absolutely fascinating. I’m a big Formula 1 fan and have been for some time but there was a lot of interesting behind the scenes stuff that I’d been unaware of.

Finally we arrived in Brisbane at 00:50 on Monday morning. Thankfully we’ve got some really good friends and Zoe and Ash were there to meet us and take us to a nice warm bed. It had confused me, at the time I got the tickets, as to what day we’d arrive but I managed to clarify that. It appeared that Zoe and Ash had also been confused as they only realised they were picking us up as they were about to get ready for bed. Disaster 1 averted and off to bed we went.

Day 3 20 Feb – I’m an early riser, rarely I’m still in bed after 8:00 am, but today was one of those exceptions, we were both absolutely zonked and the warm Queensland sun, coming in through the window, helped us to doze even more so. But not wanting to waste the day we forced ourselves out of bed, just in time to for Zoe’s return from the shops with food goodies. Breakfast and a shower and Zoe took us out to see Forest Lake. It’s a really nice setting where Zoe and Ash live, within minutes you’re in a park and across a road from that you hit the lake. The Lake is about 2.2km around the perimeter and is pretty flat, so ideal for running reps, I thought to myself. Later that afternoon Carole and I decided we’d recovered enough to try running. Flying does strange things to the body, my ankles were a little swollen, all my joints ached and muscles were sore and stiff from dehydration and having been static for too long on the flight. My intention was to run around the lake 4 times, while Carole ran around in her own time. At first my body was all over the place and I started getting flashbacks to the days I used to work shifts, how I managed to train as intensely as I did during that time is beyond comprehension, but as I settled into my first lap I started to get the feeling of free running back. The second lap seemed even easier but on the third lap the heat and tiredness started to sap my strength. I knew whereabouts Carole was so I decided I’d turn back to meet up with her after I’d finished the lap, by then I was shattered so we headed back to Zoe’s. Before dinner Zoe put on her P90X dvd, so that I could try out the abs workout. It was great fun having somebody put me through a session in the way I would do for my clients. The exercises were pretty good and looked effective, I certainly felt like my abs had had a good going over. It was good to see some of the, clearly well trained, guys on video struggling with some of the exercises, as I did and there were a couple I just wouldn’t attempt this time as my lower back was giving me some trouble, from the journey. Then Ash turned up and it was barbeque time.

Day 4 21 Feb – I woke up feeling much better, my body was becoming more in synch with the clock and the aches were starting to subside. Luckily Carole was in a good mood so I managed to persuade her that I had enough time to do one of my reps sessions. I used my standard format of 1, 2 and 3 minute reps and I felt great on the 1 and 2 minute ones, but the humid conditions were starting to affect me on the 3 minute reps. Still I managed the full set and returned home ready to start the holiday for real. We were due to pick up a hire car so we could start our journey to Sydney the next day, but on the way we paid a visit to the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. I’d been before in 2000, it’s a great opportunity to see koalas and feed kangaroos and wallabies.

post training nap, it's a Koala's life

they look so cute when they're feeding Kangaroos

We then headed up Mount Coot-Cha for a spot of lunch and then to pick up the car. Zoe had warned me that Brisbane was expecting hail that afternoon, but oops we didn’t have hail protection, oh well how likely is it that hail would damage the car! I drive a manual at home, but this was an automatic, unfortunately it took me an age to stop me from using my left leg and with no clutch it was the brake that took the brunt and we nearly ended up through the windscreen on a few occasions, luckily there were no accidents, just a tongue lashing from Carole.

Just before we got back to Zoe’s we stopped at a supermarket for some provisions, we were only in for half an hour but the skies opened, no hail but plenty of heavy rain. And amazingly we missed it all, by the time we came out it had stopped. Onto Zoe’s and I managed to persuade Carole she needed to go out for a run so I took her round the lake with a set of 1 minute reps with 1 minute recovery, much easier for me than in the morning, but then I was running at Carole’s pace. It was a tough session for Carole, just the kind of thing she needed, she needs more of these hard sessions if she’s to fulfil her potential.

Day 5 22 Feb – We left Zoe and Ash behind heading off towards the coast on our trip to Sydney. First stop was Byrons Bay. Byrons Bay is a nice small town with the bulk of the shops being unique, i.e. non chain, a refreshing change. It reminded me a little of Key West, it had a laid back approach. We stopped briefly but wanted to head down to Ballina before hitting Coffs Harbour for the night. For a while we wondered why all the clocks were wrong, until we realised that Queensland and New South Wales are on different time zones, which meant we had to push off a little earlier than anticipated for the long drive down to Coffs Harbour. We reached Coffs Harbour by 5 and managed to get into a motel by the beach. It was a nice beach, firm enough to run well on, so I suggested we had some fun on the beach. I think that Carole’s idea of fun and mine differ slightly but we ended up doing mine. A fun session of running hard for 1 minute, we’d both set off together but obviously I’d get further in a minute than Carole would, at the minute we’d turn to run the opposite way until I caught Carole, then we’d have a minute rest before we did the next one. If I caught Carole within the minute we got an extended rest, outside we got a shorter rest. I was averaging 42-48 seconds on the catch, which probably indicates I wasn’t running hard enough on the 1 minute out runs, oh well it was only a bit of fun. Being closer to the sea it was less humid than Brisbane, much nicer conditions to run in.

Day 6 23 Feb – It was a lovely morning for a run and Carole loves running along beaches so a well spotted motel from me. Carole needed little persuasion to get her kit on before we moved on and I used the time effectively by running along to the harbour, I even managed to find a steep hill to climb, bonus. I also managed to slip in an abs session while Carole had a shower, thought I’d try some of the stuff I picked up at Zoe’s.
Next stop was Port Macquarie, once again we were travelling down Highway 1, which according to the map was along the coast. And once again the road was inundated with roadworks, so it was slow progress, also, despite being close to the coast we were closer to thick vegetation so there was no coast to see along the way.

We arrived in Port Macquarie at about 14:00 and found a motel in a good location pretty quickly. Then off to the beach. After the beach we walked back along a promenade, a perfect location for tomorrow’s run, stopping at a bar on the harbour to have a drink and watch the sun start to set. We returned after dinner to eat ice cream under the stars, how romantic! and a good opportunity to fuel up before tomorrow’s run.

Day 7 24 Feb – I was in need of some proper quality training, but I didn’t feel like I could run flat out and I had limited time, so I decided upon one of my short recovery sessions, 20 x 1 min hard with 15 seconds recovery. It was perfect for my situation. Carole even managed to do some quality of her own, without any prompting, I hope she isn’t getting obsessive. Today was going to be another long day travelling as we headed to Nelson Bay. We arrived in Nelson Bay mid afternoon and realised we’d picked a weekend when there was a big fishing festival happening. Rooms were at a premium, but we managed to get one with a balcony looking over the harbour. Really nice view which required the necessity of a bottle of wine as the sun went down. The view came at a price, mind you so does wine in Australia, we were astounded to find that Australian wine costs more over there than it does in the UK, more surprising was that New Zealand wine was often cheaper than Australian wine, go figure! That evening we had fish and chips on the front, really nice but another curiosity was that they put the two portions together, this meant I couldn’t eat my fish and chips from my lap and had to fight off Carole’s advances for my chips.

Day 8 25 Feb – We were feeling a little tired this morning, Carole decided to stay in bed and look at the view while I went for a run along the road to Shoal Bay. I think Carole chose better as I had one of my least enjoyable runs ever. The sun was in my eyes on the way out, the pavement sloped and there were lots of people hogging the pavement, just to watch a load of fishing boats head out. Run out of the way it was time to load up and head to Sydney, at last a bit of city culture. Sydney is one of my favourite cities so I was glad to get there, and it gave me a great opportunity to catch up with the Steve and Chris, who we were staying with. I worked with Steve during my time in Germany, for a while we were in apartments in the same building and spent many an evening discussing the virtues of Irish coffee, or maybe we were just drinking them, I can’t remember. Anyway this brought us fairly close together and we’ve stayed in touch since then. Steve lives in Pymble, which is a suburb just off highway 1, so we were driving straight towards them. Unfortunately, as we hit the entry to the Sydney suburbs, my navigator decided to send me down the wrong road and we spent a while driving around parts of the suburbs. But we got there and once again enjoyed the delights of an Aussie barbeque, along with several bottles of wine and obligatory Irish coffees.

Day 9 26 Feb – I’ve stayed with Steve and Chris before, so I knew Pymble was hilly, though I’d forgotten the first one starts at the front door, once you get up the drive you hit hill number two and at the top of that hill number 3, irrespective of turning left or right. Luckily Carole hadn’t been to Pymble before and didn’t appreciate the lay of the land. I told her we were going to do a little hill playing, which meant running hard up hills when we fancied. Ok so I like hills, which meant there were quite a few I fancied, but I only took her up 16, not counting the ones we ran at a normal pace. It was good fun and meant we could get in a good hard session in about 30 minutes.

After breakfast we headed out to Bondi beach, with Steve and Chris, via the route of the City to Surf, which looks like the kind of run I would enjoy, it even has a rather long hill just as you approach Bondi beach, maybe next time I’ll be there at the right time. Lunch in Bondi then off to drop off the car and a visit to a wine a food festival, well you can’t train all the time.

lunch overlooking Bondi beach
Day 10 27 Feb – Easy running today, if you can call it that when you have to get up 3 hills at the start of the run. With all the hills and the early starts I was starting to get a few aches in my Achilles, but I knew that would fade once we left Pymble. Today we set off to do the Manley 10k walk, it’s a decent walk which involves a certain amount of elevation, but it’s a beautiful walk through the bush and the bit into Manley is really nice. Steve had told us it would take about 2 hours, but not content with 10k we added another as we took a diversion of 500m to visit a lighthouse. Unfortunately it was a complete waste of time as there was nothing to see, apart from a naked guy coming the other way. We made it into Manley, 1hr 59min 13secs, I don’t like to be late and it was a coincidence my stopwatch happened to be going. Manley is a really nice place to visit and has two beaches. Carole chose to take a dip in the sea while I read my book before we took the ferry back to Circular Quay, great views of the opera house.

one view of the opera house
Next we hit Darling Harbour, via a theatre, where we bought tickets for tomorrow night, to see Love Never Dies. Dinner, a quick walk around Circular Quay in the dark and then back to Pymble.

Day 11 28 Feb – With the Achilles protesting about hills I hit the oval this morning. Nice and flat, must be the only flat part of Pymble. With a busy day ahead I was short on time so decided on the 1 minute session again, though, because I took longer than anticipated to get to the oval, I only did 18 of them. Today was a day in the centre of Sydney, we started on the north side of the harbour bridge, walked over it, went to the planetarium, walked through the Rocks district, onto Circular Quay, around the opera house, into the Botanic gardens and around the Domain, into the Art Gallery then down towards Hyde Park, over to Darling Harbour and then onto meet Steve before some tapas and the theatre. Quite a full day and pretty hot and sunny too, but when we came out of the theatre we saw the early signs of what was to come, it was raining.

Day 12 29 Feb – Not a great day, as I tried to sleep I could hear the rain outside, even the lizards that shared the room with us had gone to ground. It was the day we’d chosen to go to the Blue Mountains, but as I lay there I was wondering if it would be a better idea to do something else. We decided to chance it as it might clear up. It was an early start so I decided now was a good day to take a break from running. The weather didn’t let up all day, in fact it got worse in the Mountains, as you’d expect. A gloomy day spent getting wet and cold, but the evening brightened up as we went to a Thai restaurant with Steve and Chris. This rain appears to have been the start of the what were to become, over the next few days, the worst floods in New South Wales for 48 years, thankfully we were off to Tasmania the next day.

Next week I’ll continue the blog with the 2nd part of our holiday, featuring Tasmania and Melbourne.

We arrived back on the day, and too late for us to join in the celebrations, of the anniversary of the Pennington Flash Parkrun. Well done Bill and all the team, for providing us with plenty of entertainment over the last year. Although I only made it to 11 of the 51 events I did at least get a mention for achieving the most wins by a male runner, 7. Aiming for 8 this year! On the following day it was the Trafford 10k. I was keen to run it as it is a great race and a fast course, however the jetlag coming back was far worse than going to Australia and I would have struggled to beat 38 minutes, so I thought better of it and went for an 8 mile run instead. Katy, one of my clients, did run it, and set a new pb of 44:28 (gun time – 44:15 chip time).

Two days after that I was running with Katy, we were doing her Killer marathon session, and it lived up to it’s name, not only for here. For those that follow my blog you’ll know that I’ve struggled to run more than an hour, because of my knee. Before I went to Australia I managed a 90 minute run with no issues but 4 weeks of no more than 40 minutes running meant I was probably more nervous than Katy. The run took 2 hours and I did pay for it, my knee is inflamed so I’m going to take an enforced break until it recovers, hopefully that’ll be a matter of days rather than weeks. 

Written by Roger Alsop

No comments:

Post a Comment