Clem7 Tunnel Run: once in a lifetime

Every city, once in a while, offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to its citizens. Brisbane offered that today. The Clem7 under river tunnel is just weeks away from opening to traffic so this morning we took the only chance we'll get to run the return journey of just over 10ks. It was a fun run to benefit the Royal Childrens' Hospital Working Wonders charity in Brisbane.

The event wasn't without its disappointments. The website promoted it as "approximately 10km long, and is an Athletics Australia Certified Accurate Course Distance". So, although it was accurately measured and certified, the actual distance wasn't published anywhere (that I could find anyway). Given that the race was 95% underground, it wasn't possible to track it personally via GPS technology.

I can live with that. I stopped and took photos along the way anyway, so actual time and distance weren't all that important.

What was more important, and became increasingly so as the race continued, was water. There were four aid stations set up and promoted for the event but by the time I got to the first one at 2k - there was no water left. The runners preceding me cleaned out the other water stations as well. OK, we were underground. It wasn't sunny, but the humidity down there was oppressive. It wasn't good enough. Before too long I found myself staring at those who'd had the foresight to bring their own hydration with nothing but unbridled envy.

The run had started at the Bowen Hills entrance and headed immediately down hill, for at least a kilometre. After that, there was an uphill before it seemed to level out a bit while we were actually passing under the river and the Gabba area.

Before too long - there was light at the end of the tunnel! We ran a small way in the sunshine before heading back down underground.

I decided I'd taken enough photos so for the return journey I concentrated on picking up the pace and maintaining it. I'm not sure whether I succeeded, but I did let myself really stride out on the downhills. Like other experiences in longer events, by this stage a lot of the people around me were walking so even when the uphill started again, I kept passing others.

Luckily, despite the extra exertion, I got to the finish line still feeling remarkably strong. It was a tough final kilometre - all uphill - and there were casualties. People had suffered without adequate supplies at the aid stations. I spotted a few getting medical attention in the final stretch to the line.

All I really wanted by this stage was water, but I happily accepted a commemorative finisher medal from the volunteers (although KKB walked straight past without realising that's what they were handing out).

Despite the serious shortcoming of the lack of hydration for the masses, I'm glad I experienced the Clem7 from a perspective I'll never be able to again.

Coast to Coast - more than most...

This morning my coach ran with me for the 5ks to the turnaround for my 10k run, during which we chatted mainly about his latest adventure at the Speights Coast to Coast in New Zealand.

Andy has been an unofficial mentor throughout my Ironman journey and I always love hearing about his races. He's always a step or two ahead of me (and in this case I think he's gone somewhere that I'll never go). It ain't called coast to coast for nothing - you literally run, ride, run, ride, kayak, and run from one side of New Zealand to the other. I know, NZ isn't THAT big a place - 243kms across in fact - but still... It's huge.

For Andy, the experience had been a good one overall, but I think he feels he has unfinished business, as inclement weather gave the organisers little choice but to alter the traditional route quite substantially. A lot less paddling, a lot more riding. He said it ended up being kind of an Ironman in reverse - 35k mountain trail run, 140k bike, 20k paddle. There was, though a 3k run and 55k bike tacked on the front.

As I finished my session and drove out of the uni, I saw Bryn, on his beloved bike Jake the Snake. Bryn had also taken on the Coast to Coast, carrying an injury that he thought might count him out. The course changes didn't alter the fact that he would have to battle to finish.

He told me he valued his the finishers medal from this race more than any other, because he'd had no choice but to slog it out. He'd made one of the course cutoffs by only 45 minutes, something that's all too familiar to the Athletic Powerhouse, but not to an actual powerhouse like Bryn.

Before I knew what I was saying, I welcomed him to the club. I hope he didn't take it the wrong way; after all - it wasn't about me. At all. But at that moment, I felt like Bryn had perhaps had a race experience similar to some of the ones I've had - wondering whether I'd make the cutoffs, and in some cases, whether I'd make it even at all!

I've often pondered whether others who compete at a different level to me could ever understand that I'm grateful for this experience. After all, if all I wanted was a bit of exercise, I could take a more routine approach and start a netball team with my friends. But that wouldn't give me the chance to really test myself; to challenge what's 'normal'; and to prove to myself that anything is possible.

On hearing about my friends' experiences at Coast to Coast, I'm convinced that this kind of sentiment is a personal thing. Andy and Bryn did the same race on the same day. But they had vastly different experiences, and will look back on that day with different impressions.

Even so, on some level, endurance athletes of all abilities seem to have some kind of common ground. Although our war stories are our own to reflect on and, if we choose, to share, somehow they all add to our shared experience. Whether you came first or came last; whether you set a personal best or limped home. It all adds to who we are, as individuals and in some way, as a community.

My friends both had to deal with challenging conditions, an unexpected course change, and of course, kilometres of river, trail and road. They are both Coast to Coast finishers, and although to some it's just what we do - to most, it's more than what's possible.

Head AND Heart

The Athletic Powerhouse has just started training with heart rate zones.

My coach has analysed the results from my maximum heart rate test to identify target heart rate zones for different sessions. So far I've had heart rates set for long sessions - so the heart rate required is E1. This heart rate isn't too full on - just enough to start puffing a bit and feel like you're actually exercising. It's going OK.

I know it won't always be like this. Just wait for the post about how my heart nearly beat out of my chest when when I start sprint sessions...

Even though I've never trained by heart rate before, I am welcoming the change. I'm excited to see what difference it might make. But apart from that, I like the idea of having something to occupy my mind out on the road. I've always done this with other funny little things, like calculating what time it will be when I reach my turnaround point, watching the time to make sure I eat and drink at the right times, trying to keep track of how long each K is taking. (All much easier since I got my Garmin!)

So, some more structure and more science... using the head AND the heart.

... and beyond

Sunday's ride was up Mt Nebo. I was a little apprehensive. Believe it or not, I've never ridden all the way up Mt Nebo before. My only other attempt was a couple of years ago. I tagged along with KKB and his posse on one of my first rides back after a break from training.

(I know. What was I thinking?)

Unsurprisingly, it ended in tears, with me heading back down the hill after making it all but a few ks from the top. I was determined that this time would be different. I knew I was fitter. There was really no excuse.

We headed out through The Gap and started up the climb. At McAfee's Lookout a couple of the team turned back, but Megan and I continued on. (Megan had no excuse either. Her boyfriend had put a 27 tooth cluster on especially.)

Neither of us really took in the scenery, but we definitely appreciated being out in the bush instead of on suburban streets. I pointed out the exact spot I'd stopped last time, opposite a driveway on a bit of a gradient. It really was only about 4ks from the Cafe.

We got to the top in good time - we beat the boys who'd gone off-road via South Boundary Road. We didn't wait long, just replenished quickly and turned for home. The descent was nice - though there is a fair share of ups on the way down. We battled through the suburbs back to Park Road.

Although I didn't get up quite the Ks that I thought I might, it felt good to this time go beyond where I'd previously given up.

It's not being unfaithful... is it?

So, I've got this bike, right. He's even got a name. (Lance.) He's a lovely sparkly gold, with matching gold tyres. He fits me perfectly, like we were meant to be together. We've had plenty of wonderful adventures together - three Ironman races, and an odyssey through the French Alps.

But just lately, I've noticed another bike. I first saw him in a bike shop in Adelaide, and although I've tried, I haven't been able to stop thinking about him.

I've browsed online, customising the componentry, accessories, and paint job. (If you like bikes and have some time to kill check out Trek's Project One.)

I don't know whether it's the lure of the shiny purple paint; or perhaps the fantasy of a slimmer (lighter), younger model. Maybe I'm just I'm thinking about the pain and regret that sometimes accompanies looking back and wondering about the one that got away...

I have pondered on my decision. I've talked about it at length. Even people who can't imagine spending this amount of money on a bike have encouraged me to stop thinking about it, and just do it.

So, tomorrow I'm going to see Marty at Planet Cycles to get a fit up, and hopefully, do a deal. I've bought all my bikes off Marty. You can't get more faithful than that, can you.

What a difference ten years makes...

I did a Max HR test today. At 194, it means I'm theoretically 11 years younger than the 220 minus your age equation predicts.

I'm excited about training a little more scientifically than in the past, but of course also a bit apprehensive. What if my body just can't do what's expected of it? Then again... part of me thinks that that's whole idea. Most likely my body CAN do things that I don't realise yet.

Ironically, the things I ask of my body now, as a triathlete, are things I would never have dreamed were possible ten years ago.

Yep, there's a lot to look forward to.