This little piggy went…snap.

There is no impressive way to break your toe. It’s invariably a result of stubbing it on some furniture as you wander shoe-less around your house, or of clumsily dropping something on it. I know this because I’m now 9 weeks into my broken toe journey, and every time someone has asked how I broke my toe, I would just say ‘Heroically’ and then hobble away, hoping their temporary bafflement would allow me to escape. Now I know that saying I broke my toe, but not explaining how I did it, really is the ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ of toe injury related blog writing…so to avoid any distraction, I broke my toe while doing a fitness class bare-foot. We had to do a move where we kicked our leg out parallel to the ground while in a semi-squat position, and my toe caught on the ground and snapped. Proving that while not all heroes wear capes, they should perhaps at least wear shoes.

So seeing as I haven’t written a blog in
*checks notes*
8 MONTHS?!! It’s probably time to make sure I can still do this, so I’m no expert, but here’s what I’ve learnt from 9 weeks with a broken toe.

Our medical system is a bit like my toe

When I was getting the x-ray done for my toe, the radiologist was saying it’s unlikely that I’d broken it, it was probably just badly bruised…then he saw the x-ray and said ‘Ah shit! Nah, that’s broken!’ Now look…was I perhaps hoping for both better news, and perhaps a less candid way of telling me? Yes. But I’m also feeling that our public health system may be in a similar way.

Now don’t get me wrong. Much like me with a broken toe, most of the health system is still fine…but there were a few niggles, and really what better place to vent my petty grievances than on a blog predominately read by my wife, parents and a selection of Yr 12 Coburg students?!

I know how over-run our Emergency Departments are, so I was keen to just go to my local GP. But in reality there were no bookings there for a few days, so I went to nearby clinic where you can just wait to see a doctor. As someone who has spent most of their life getting bulk-billed, it was sobering to see how few GPs can offer it now, and how much it can cost. Especially when you need to see a doctor to confirm you need an X-ray, then go and get the X-Ray, and then go back to the doctor in order for them to tell you that your toe is broken.

It also kinda sucked having the first Doctor tell me that it would take 4-6 weeks to heal, and that I would have to wear a moonboot for this time. No cycling either…but I could swim, so long as I didn’t push off from the end of the pool.
Then when I went back at 5 weeks to get another x-ray, a different doctor told me that it was healing well, but that of course it takes 8-12 weeks for a toe to heal and that I shouldn’t be doing any walking, running or cycling.

Now I totally realise that no Doctor is going to say ‘Yeah, you can probably get back into some light running if doesn’t hurt’ as then it’s their problem if I further injure it. But at the same time, I reckon my Achilles would have atrophied if I’d worn a moonboot for as long as they recommended.
Plus the blank stares that came back each time I said that exercise was really important to my mental health…was frustrating to say the least. I genuinely felt as though they were thinking ‘We’re giving you an excuse not to exercise for 4-12 weeks…what more do you want from us?!’

For the record, I did make sure I wore shoes at all times around the house to ensure I didn’t stub my toe…and I didn’t run until week 6. But Chris did not wear a moon-boot…and he was well and truly back to riding to work within a week.
At week 9 I’ve done a few 10km runs and played 5 minutes of basketball at an end of season presentation night for the basketball team I coach.

Putting your toe in other people’s shoes

Do you know what really sucks?
When you can see that a set of pedestrian lights is about to go green, but you can’t run to get them.
Or when you crouch down to take a photo and suddenly realise that if you stand up in your normal way, you will put a whole lot of pressure on your broken toe and so have to do an elaborate manoeuvre that looks a LOT like an baby giraffe trying to stand up.
Or when, having spent the last 5 years with your weight fluctuating ‘wildly’ between 71kg and 72kg, you suddenly look down to see that you weigh 74kg.
And especially when you have a problem that no one else can see, but is making your life a freaking misery.

Do you know what’s really great?
Knowing that there is finite time that all of these things will be affecting you.

So just a massive note of support to everyone out there who is fighting these things without any end date. Whether you’re fighting poor mental health, or a chronic injury, or just getting old…you’re a champion!

Take the reset

If two and a bit years of COVID have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you have to take the opportunity to reset. Going back to square one is never fun, but it might be an opportunity to do things differently, or bring people along for the ride.
So here’s to more runs and bike rides with friends and family!

The Surf Coast Century…50kms of it anyway

Trying to explain why you’re running a 50km trail race is a bit like to trying to explain a dream you had last night; it all made sense in your own head, but now that you’re saying it out loud it sounds illogical and bizarre…and people are asking you to stop talking. But let me take you through the experience anyway.

So fresh and so clean.

After running the Melbourne Marathon last year, I knew that I trained a lot better if I was working towards something, but I had no desire to do Melbourne again, and I had really enjoyed doing the Rapid Ascent Trail Running Series in training, and so I started to think about doing the 50km version of the Surf Coast Century (the full race is 100kms).
It’s here that the logic starts to get a bit sketchy. I thought that seeing as I finished the marathon well, then adding an extra 8kms shouldn’t be too hard. *wrong* Plus I like running up hills, so the 1,136m of elevation gain could work in my favour *wronger* And I’ll be running in beautiful, natural environments that will distract me and keep my mind off how hard the running is *wrongest*.

With common-sense dispatched, I engaged Amanda as my coach again and got back into training. I ran the Rapid Ascent Trail series again, with some results better than last year, and some not as good. I gave myself one of the worst Father’s Day presents ever, a 38km training run, and I managed to get down to Anglesea for one of the training runs where they let you do a recce of the legs of the run (there are 4 legs for the 100km race, and the 50km race is the 3rd and 4th legs). So I arrived at the race feeling as prepared as I could be.

Lining up before the start…a picture of composure and focus.

One of the weird things about doing the 50km version of this race instead of the 100km version is that while normally anyone running more than 40kms is treated like royalty and feted as a hero…at this event there are people quite literally running twice as far as you. So it can be a bit demoralising to know that you’re about to run the furthest you’ve ever run…but that you’re only really at best half as impressive as the people who are running the 100kms. On the bright side, at least you’re not doing it as a team…they’re only running 25kms, and really, who gets out of bed to run less than 30kms?!!!
The upside to doing the 50km version is that while the 100km runners start at about 7.30am, you don’t start until 11.50am. Which means you don’t have the same nerves about getting to sleep the night before, and you can wake up, have breakfast, have a coffee, go to the toilet, have another breakfast, and have another coffee before you even start the race!

The first leg is 28kms from Anglesea to Moggs Creek. It features the biggest hills of the day, and if it’s wet, some of the trails turn to a red mud that attaches itself to your shoes. But it also has a lot of beautiful tracks through the bush, and having done one training day on this section, I was really happy with how I paced myself through it. At about the 25km mark I got passed by a woman doing the 100km race. I told her that she was ‘smashing the 100’ and she said I was ‘smashing the 50!’ She went on to win the women’s race in just over 10hrs, and I would do half that distance in nearly 6.5 hours.
So one of us was lying.

I don’t care if it is 50kms, when you see the photographer, you jump!

Going into the race my goals were:
1. Finish
2. Finish without walking up any of the hills
3. Finish within 6hrs.

By the 28km checkpoint at Moggs Creek, I was feeling very strong about finishing. I had resorted to walking up the final hill before the checkpoint, but was bang on target to make it under 6hrs. So I celebrated by having a cup of Coke, banana, sandwich and some electrolytes (I know how to party). Then pulled out of the checkpoint and on to Airey’s Inlet where I was going to meet Katie and the kids. It’s only about 10kms, and I had given myself 1hr to get there, but this where the wheels started to fall off the cart. I started playing a game called yo-yo tiggy, which is a game where I pass people going up the hills and they pass me going down them. It’s a fun game, that absolutely no one wins. Then I started to have to walk up more of the hills. Then I started to feel really average. My legs felt hollow, and I just didn’t feel like I had any power. People I had passed previously started to come past me, and I was not in a happy place when I pulled into the aid station at Airey’s Inlet.

The aid station at Airey’s Inlet


So it was awesome to see Katie and the kids, and even better to get them to refill my drink bottles and get me my food. I had 14kms to do in just over 90 minutes to break 6hrs, and I hoped that my improved mindset and fuel in my system would get me there.
But within 1km I knew something was wrong. My heart rate was over 180bpms and not dropping in the easier sections. I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m training and a recent one had featured an interview with a triathlete who had raced all his life, and then in one race just felt terrible. He pushed on through, and then had a heart-attack afterwards. I had visions of one my kids delivering my eulogy saying ‘We really miss Dad, and wish he was still with us. But we totally understand and respect his decision to chase his arbitrary goal of 6hrs…a goal that no one else knew, let alone cared about.’ So I went back to my training I did 6 years ago when I started training for the Ironman, and ran until my heart-rate got beyond where I wanted it, then walked until it go back under control, and ran again, and then walked when it go too high. At one stage a guy in his 60’s jogged past me, and I remembered passing him just out of Mogg’s Creek, and that hurt. But I stuck to it, and eventually the periods of running got longer, and the walking shorter until I found a pace I could sustain without getting my heart-rate too high. My dreams of finishing in 6hrs were gone, but I was back on track and moving.

Admittedly I saw the photographer, and swapped from a walk to a run.

Then we hit Urquhart Bluff, which is about 5kms of running on the beach. For anyone hoping for a little respite from the tired legs and heavy feet of a long run, 5kms of running on soft sand is a real kick in the nads. But my decision to run in a way that would allow me to see my family again paid immediate dividends, when I saw my family again! They had been driving along the Great Ocean Road towards the finish line when they decided to stop at the beach. Then they started recognising other runners that they had seen at the Airey’s Inlet aid station when they were waitng for me and knew I mustn’t be too far away. So they ran with me for about 500ms and kept me company. I always say that the thought that people may come out to say hello at marathon or long-distance event is always a great distraction and motivation…but to have them actually turn up is even better!!!

Please note my running pace is the same as everyone else’s walking pace.
In search of hard sand.

As I neared the end of the beach and could see the stairs leading up and away, I thought back to the race profile and how there was a climb just before the finish. The guy I was running with had done the race before and so I asked if this was the final climb and he said ‘yes’. So I excitedly jogged up them and then ran along a long road that I knew would lead me to the beach at Anglesea and the finish line! I was suddenly full of relief. The hard yards had been done, and while I wasn’t going to get my goal time, at least I would finish strong.
The further along the road I went, the more I started to wonder how the beach we were going to run along, wound around the cliff face I could see rising to my left. Then with a sinking feeling I realised that the set of stairs wasn’t the last climb…getting over that sodding cliff was the last climb! And so it was. I got over the last hill and ran down the other side. I hit the beach and trudged through the sand and then finally onto the boardwalk. I cursed whoever designed the boardwalk for the two sections where I thought I was going to turn a corner to reveal the finish line, only to discover more boardwalk, then I turned off the boardwalk onto a section of trail that was probably on 100m long, but may as well as have been 5kms for how long it looked to someone who may have started their sprint for home a little too early, and then suddenly there was Katie and the kids and then there was the finish chute, and then there was the finish line…and then it was done. My first ever ultra-marathon done and dusted.

Nearly there…
There.
Sweet relief and a distant stare.

A massive thanks to my support crew (Katie, Josh, Holly and Xavier) for all their help on the day and for tolerating my absences during training, to Amanda for getting me to the line injury free and in a great mental space, and to Rapid Ascent and all of the volunteers for making it such an incredible day.

Best support crew in the business…especially Katie taking photos!

I would love to leave you with an inspirational quote about how I’m going to use the 50km run as springboard towards doing the 100km run next year, but as we were driving back through the dark of evening to our accomodation in Lorne, we could see light flickering in the hills behind Airey’s Inlet and I realised that these were the head-torches of people who were still at least 5kms from reaching the aid station and about 20kms away from finishing and I thought ‘Thank God I didn’t do the 100km!’

50 kms run and done!

Running your second marathon

After finishing the Melbourne Marathon last year, a surprising number of people told me that they secretly harboured dreams of running a marathon, and did I have any tips? Now clearly, having only run two marathons, ‘tips’ are about as much as I can offer…but having only done two marathons, I’m probably better placed to remember what it’s like to think about tackling your first marathon than someone who has done a lot of them. And anyway, this blog is free, so at worst, you’ll get what you paid for!
So here are my tips for training for your first marathon:

This is the look of a man who beat his goal time, got a negative split, AND found his family after finishing!

Train for it like it’s your second marathon

Roughly 80% of your first marathon will be spent worrying that you won’t be able to make the distance. Whereas, with your second marathon you can actually spend a little more time taking in the experience of the run (apart from the final 7kms…that’s a real shit-show!) So, as much as possible, know that if you do the training, you can make the distance…and start from there.

Start early

As I furiously touch every piece of wood around me, I can say that I’ve trained for both of my marathons without suffering a serious injury, and I’m pretty sure that’s because I gave myself a lot of time to get my body ready. I did my first marathon as part of my training for an Ironman, and so I had done 10 months of training for it by the time I got there. For my second marathon I trained for just under 4  months, but I had been running at least once a week prior to this.
If you’ve only been running occasionally, or only running shorter distances (5 – 10 kms), then your body is going to have to do a lot of adapting to the increased workload, so make sure you give it plenty of time.

Get a coach

A coach will layout a training program that will get you ready. A coach will adapt training to your circumstances, but will also be that voice in your ear that gets you out of of bed on those cold, early mornings (although I did pay extra to get my coach to break into my house and whisper ‘Get out of bed’ each morning…you may simply use will-power), and a coach is there to answer all those questions that pop up along the way. One of my clearest memories of my first marathon is chatting to my coach on the day before and asking ‘So, do I need to put band-aids on my nipples to stop chaffing?’ and him saying ‘Oh mate, YES!’ (ladies, you’ll be fine…but fellas, it’s not until you see a guy with patches of red soaking through their t-shirt where their nipples are that you realise just how much you can chaff over 42kms!)
I’ve had two coaches (one for the Ironman and one for the marathon last year), and they have both been fantastic in different ways. The most important thing is that they know what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. For the marathon last year I worked with Amanda Meggison (who I HIGHLY recommend) and I explained that I wanted to run a sub 4hr marathon, that I wanted to include other sports in my training (ie swimming, cycling and gym) and that I wanted to involve my family wherever possible. Amanda developed a program that did exactly that!

A good coach should appear at about the 24km mark of the marathon, have a chat while you run…then take a selfie!

By the numbers

This really depends on your personality, but I found that having a record of my runs really helped. I’ve got a Garmin watch, so I could see my pace, heart-rate, time and distance for each run. A LOT of the changes you will see are incremental, and often so small that you don’t actually notice them…but if you have an actual record of each run, then you can see them over time.
Hitting daily and weekly goals is also a remarkably good motivator.

Have testicles

If you’re combining your training with a full-time job, or a family, or indeed – both. Then you’re going to find it really hard to get big sessions done during the 9-5 day. So you will have to look at running early in the morning, or once the kids are in bed. This is actually incredibly therapeutic! You get to see sunrises as you run along empty bike paths, and see how cities change after dark. I’ve had the pleasure of running for hours in National Parks and on country roads where I might only see 1 or 2 other people, and do you know how many times I’ve feared for my safety…not once! In fact it wasn’t until I was chatting to a few female runners about an evening run and they simply said ‘Oh, I don’t feel safe running by myself at night’ that I realised how much I had simply taken this for granted.
Now I’m not saying that women can’t or shouldn’t run by themselves, I’m just saying that as a man, it didn’t even factor into my calculations. In fact, soon after having this realisation, I was running early one morning in Northcote when I saw a young woman on the path in front of me, and I was suddenly left wondering ‘Do I keep my distance, or is that going to be creepy? Do I run closer to her and act as a Guardian Angel (knowing full well that from her perspective, some creepy guy is now running REALLY close to her and looking smug)? Do I run past her and give her as wide a berth as possible, or yell something as I approach so as not to give her a fright?’ It was really fraught…for about 8 seconds, then I realised that she was actually a LOT faster than me and she disappeared into the distance.
But seeing as I don’t really have any advice to pass on here, I would love to hear from female runners about how they deal with this.

Headphones

You’re already 1,000 words into this blog and I’ll bet you’re pretty sick of me already…well just imagine having to listen to this as an internal monologue 24 hours a day! Believe me, it’s not pleasant. So I am a massive advocate for listening to something as you run, whether it’s music, or podcasts or audiobooks…just make sure you can also hear the world around you.

Consistency is key

The biggest difference between preparing for my first marathon and my second, was my willingness to listen to my body, and take a break if I had to. With my first marathon, if I could feel a cold coming on, I would often ignore it and hope that by training I could fight it off. Invariably this meant that I would get a day or two more training in, and then crash hard with whatever illness I had hoped to avoid and miss multiple days of training…then try desperately to make this up as soon as I felt better, and fatigue myself so that I was vulnerable to getting sick, and then repeat the process.
For this marathon prep, if I felt like I had a cold coming on, I was willing to take a day or two off and let my body fight it. While this meant I did miss a day or two of training, I was able to bounce back quickly and not have to panic about making up for multiple days of training. The result was I had much better consistency, and my fitness and pace improved in line with that.

Race when you can

I remember doing a group training session for the Ironman where we did some sprints, and one the guys next to me said ‘I signed up for an Ironman so I didn’t have to do this fast stuff anymore!’ If you’ve signed up for a marathon, you probably feel the same…and if you’ve never been much of a runner, you’re probably not all that keen on racing against anyone. But the other big difference between my first and second marathons was the number of races I did as part of the training. I signed up for the Rapid Ascent Trail Running series and it was amazing, but any of the Sri Chinmoy runs, or a Park Run or just a local fun run, is a really good way to push yourself and see what you’re capable of. I guarantee that you will get something out of every race you do, even if it’s just the experience of having a complete stranger cheer you on!

Best support team in the biz!

So there you go, all the information you could ever want on running your first marathon…you are now morally obliged to go and run one!

 

 

 

Melbourne Marathon 2018

They say that ‘life is a marathon, not a sprint’…and this is because it takes a lot consistent effort to do it well, it costs more than you think it should, and there is always the risk that if things don’t go well, you will shit yourself in public. Nevertheless, I’ve signed up to do this year’s Melbourne Marathon. This will be my third marathon, although the second one doesn’t really count as it was at the end of an Ironman, and was more of a glorified stroll from Frankston to St Kilda as I tried valiantly to keep my food down, and ideally, stop vomiting blood. So I’m not a newbie…but I still don’t consider myself a ‘runner’. In fact if I think about running, there are three memories that jump to mind immediately.
The first is being at school athletics carnival when I was in about Grade 2 and running in a relay, I was running next to a kid who I thought was the slowest in our grade (shout out to Daniel Grover) and he started to pass me, and I remember having the choice of putting in all of my effort and trying to get back past him (and of course running the risk of still not beating him), or just ease off and let him go past, but not have to put my pride on the line by trying and failing. I heroically chose the second option, and I’ve never really forgiven myself.
The second memory is going for morning runs on school camp at Buxton when I must have been 12 or 13 and always being in the last couple of kids who would make it to wherever the faster kids had had to wait while we caught up. I was usually the lone skinny kid amongst the chubby kids…and I always felt the guy that ran the camp (shout out to Johnny ‘Bloody’ Malcolm) had a special look of ‘I’m not angry, just disappointed’ that he saved just for me.
Man I hated running.
But then my third memory was from when I was training for the Ironman and saw that I had a 21km run to do on the weekend, and my first thought was ‘so that’s 2 hours I’ll have to set aside’. Not ‘Oh dear God! How the hell am I going to run 21kms?!!!’ or ‘How can I get out of this?’ There is an incredible feeling that comes with doing sufficient training to see 21kms as an allocation of time, rather than a major challenge. So a big motivator for attempting the marathon this year was trying to get back to being that fit…plus I’m 42 and the marathon is 42kms…so there was that too. I’m now less than a week out, and now seems as good a time as any to go through what I’ve learnt this time around.
So I’m no expert but here are a few things I’ve learnt about training for a marathon.

Be like Kim Novell

Ask yourself ‘Who is actually going to come out on the day of the marathon and watch me run?’ This is the exact number of people who are sufficiently interested in the fact that you’re running a marathon that you should post about it on Facebook or Instagram each time you train…and you’re going to be sitting around the dinner table with them tonight…so keep the #crazyrunner #marathontraining #longrun stuff to an absolute minimum.
Unless of course you’re writing a blog about it…in which case…shine on you crazy diamond!

‘Yeah, a marathon is tough, but have you heard of…’

For some people the thought of running 5kms seems impossible, for some people the thought of doing 10kms or a half marathon seems impossible, and for a lot of people the thought of running a full marathon seems impossible. If you’re running a marathon, then you have probably already proved to yourself that the first three aren’t impossible, and so you should have a sense of achievement…and once you’ve done a marathon, my God…you’ll never have to listen to someone else talk about their achievements again! But sadly, no. There are ultra-marathons, 100km runs, 100 mile runs, 100 mile runs up hills, multi day events, the 79km hop* and people will talk to you about these, and it will feel like they’re trying to diminish your achievement. But don’t let it. Just remember, you set yourself a challenge, you worked hard, and you achieved it. That’s awesome. If other people want to set themselves other challenges, then so be it, but you can only control what you do…and you’ve done something amazing.

*This may not actually be a thing.

Fingers and toes

When you think about training for a marathon you probably think about how sore your legs are going to be…and believe me they do get pretty sore…but the true victims for this campaign have been my fingers and toes.
For any run over 15kms I am now having to tape up most of my toes to stop them inflicting damage on each other. My little toe on my left foot now has a callous so sharp that it actually cuts the toe next to it…and the little toe on my right foot has decided that having a toe-nail is optional and so has done away with it altogether. Meanwhile, my big toes have conspired to poke their toenails through the tops of my shoes and the remaining toes appear to decided to use their toenails to attack the toes next to them.
But at least my toes have the decency to be hidden by socks and shoes at all times. On the other hand (*zing!*) my fingers have decided to react to the regime of early morning winter runs by developing chilblains. Yes, chilblains. You know those things that along with scurvy and ‘the vapours’ you thought were eradicated in 1800s.  Well they weren’t and I’m living proof. When I started to get lumps on my fingers I made the logical assumption, ‘I have hand cancer!’, but it turns out that, much like the 79km hop, that’s not actually a thing. Then I remembered a TV jingle for socks in the 80s that mentioned chilblains, did some online research…voila! Chilblains! I also realise that basing my medical advice on a TV jingle and Google is the sort of approach that has health professionals across the country smacking their heads into desks and saying ‘Why do we bother?…Why do we bother?’ But to them I say ‘We don’t need expertise anymore, we have the internet! Facts are boring and uniformed opinions are FUN! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a rather important ‘Mr. Squiggle was a flat-Earther conspiracy’ rabbit-hole to fall down.’

The bare necessities

One of the great thing about running (as opposed to cycling for example) is that you pretty much just need a pair of runners and you’re good to go (as opposed to just needing a bike, shoes, helmet, cycling kit, socks that are the correct height, a power meter, a second bike [for Cyclocross/commuting/whatever excuse you can come up with], new set of carbon wheels, etc). However, if you are training for a marathon, there are a few other things things that I think you should invest in:

A coach – a coach will design a program that suits your situation (level of fitness, time commitments, goals) and will keep you motivated. There were a few times when people would ask what I had planned for the weekend, and I would say ‘I have to do a 32km run on Sunday’ and they would reply ‘Well, you don’t HAVE to do a 32km run!’ and I would laugh and say ‘Yeah, I guess.’ But deep down I was thinking ‘But what would Amanda say if I didn’t?! She would be both angry AND disappointed!’
I’ve had two coaches (one for the Ironman and one for this marathon) and they have both been excellent. So find someone you click with and get a program done…and if you’re looking for a personal recommendation, Amanda Meggison at Planted Life is fantastic!

A device – A Garmin, a Fitbit, an Apple watch, whatever…just make sure it can give you your heart rate, pace and distance. This will help you track how your fitness is progressing, let you know what your pace is while you’re running…and most importantly provide you with the stats you will need to gloat on social media / justify eating that second serve of French Toast.
For me on this campaign I have been amazed that the running hasn’t gotten any easier…but the times have gotten faster. If I was going on ‘gut-feel’ I think I would have given up a while ago.

Headphones –  You are going to be spending a LOT of time by yourself, and unless you want to hear hours of your internal monologue saying ‘This sucks, this sucks, this sucks’, then headphones + podcasts are the way to go.
However, this will leave you with the quandary of whether to wear them when you do the actual marathon. This is a bit of tricky one for me. On the one hand, changing a key thing that you’ve done in every training session when you do the actual race is stupidity 101, and Lord knows it make life a lot easier if you’ve got a banging 4hr playlist to get you through the tough times. But on the other hand, I think that part of the challenge with any endurance event is that extended conversation you have with yourself through the really tough times…the mental toughness required for a marathon is just as important as the physical conditioning…so if you wear headphones, are you actually diminishing the challenge? I don’t know…but I have decided not to wear headphones when I run the marathon…and I expect to spend close to 4 hours regretting that decision.

Timing’s everything

Much like having a child or doing your tax return, there’s never really a ‘right time’ to do a marathon. You just kinda have to commit to it, and then start training. Having said that, having a two week holiday in Tasmania three weeks out from the marathon is either the smartest thing I could have done…or the dumbest. It’s surprisingly hard to find the time to sneak in a few long runs while on the road. But by the same token, it’s pretty hard to find 8 hours of sleep every night during my normal routine. So I’m feeling rested…I just hope I’m not TOO rested.

Also, having your heaviest training load coincide with work hitting bat-shit crazy levels of busy is really not fun…especially if you’re having to work long days knowing that you still have to get home and get a run in. At the same time, having a physical outlet for all of the frustration is pretty damned therapeutic.

So there you go, a few of the things I’ve learnt this time around. I’m confident that I will be able to get a sub 4-hour time, but from memory, I was equally confident of running sub 4-hour time last time as well, and that didn’t pan out as I had hoped (4hrs 11mins for those keeping score). But rest assured, I will do a brief race report afterwards to work out what actually worked and what didn’t…but in the meantime, I’m going to eat everything in sight and secretly pray for rain on race day.

A very muddy day on the trails at Westerfolds Park

If you would like to donate to the JMB Foundation please head here: https://melbournemarathon2018.everydayhero.com/au/chris-riordan and if the link doesn’t work, just send them some money anyway, they do great work!

Staying fit when you’ve got kids

Apart from the actual exercise itself, two other essential ingredients when it comes to staying fit are consistency and sleep. You need to have a regular routine rather than sporadic bursts, and you need to be getting enough sleep to let your body recover. However there are two things that are going to be mere blips disappearing into the distance of your rear view mirror as you travel on the good car ‘parenthood’; routine and sleep.
So what can you do if you want to stay fit with kids? Well first of all I have to premise this with the fact that a year and a half ago I completed my first half ironman…but after the birth of our 3rd child 6 months ago, my next involvement with triathlon will be next weekend when I am going to handing out drinks at the Melbourne Ironman…so I’m not claiming to be a shining example of being in peak fitness.
Now I‘m no expert but’ here are some tips I’ve developed over the last 6 years of raising our three kids.

1. Consider being a bad parent.
Being a good parent is actually really time consuming. All that loving, and nurturing and ‘being there’ can really bite into your training time. Sure, being a good parent will probably result in them being well adjusted human beings who people actually like spending time with…but if you put the time you’re putting into being a good parent into your running training, you could probably run 4 minute kms for the marathon. So think about which one of those is more important.
But bear in mind that your kids are probably going to be the ones who decide which old people’s home you get put in.
2. Abandon hope all ye who enter
Ok, so a  more positive way of saying this may be ‘readjust your goals’, but positivity disappears at about the same rate as your anaerobic threshold after the birth of a child, so  unless you:
a) have gone with the option above
b) are a genetic freak
c) have been setting your goals remarkably low
You will not be returning to your pre-child levels of fitness for at least the first 6 months of the child’s life. So there’s no point trying to achieve it, and even less point beating yourself up for not achieving it. On a good day I focused on ‘maintaining a base level of fitness’ so that I when the time became available I could increase my training without having to start from scratch. On a bad day I focused on not becoming someone who was morbidly obese and had to be lifted out of their house by a crane.

3. Work the training into your life
As I discussed in my previous post (which ‘The New Yorker’ described as “We don’t review blogs so please stop sending us emails”), it’s hard to find time to do the things you want to do at the best of times…and finding time to do the things you want to do when you have kids is even harder. So where possible work it into your day to day activities.
For example:

  • Ride to work if you can. If you’re feeling courageous try running to work.
  • Pretend that carrying a small child is in fact an exercise for your core
  • Still carrying that child? Pick up that toy you just stood on. Now do it again…look you’re doing squats! You used to pay to do this at the gym.
  • Take your kids to swimming lessons and participate. If the sight of yourself in bathers isn’t enough to terrify you into more exercise or less eating, then you’re doing well.

4. Misery loves company
You know how little you cared when one of your friends without kids complained about how they had to wait for ages to get a seat at some new and expensive restaurant even though they ‘totally knew someone who worked there and had spent like at least $200 on drinks at the bar’? Yeah, well that’s about how much they care about your ‘I got no sleep’ and ‘I’m pretty sure this is an acceptable amount of vomit to have on my top’ discussions.
So if you’re going to spend a couple of hours on a bike talking to someone, make it someone who is the same situation as you. They are a lot more likely to empathise with you, and a lot more likely to be at a similar level of fitness as  you.

5. It does get better
My experience has been that you spend the first month after the baby is born living off residual fitness. For months 2-4 the sleep deprivation accumulates and your level of exercise is pretty much eviscerated. At this point you become pretty much convinced that you will never be fit again. Months 5-6 are frustrating because you suddenly get intermittent exercise availability…but nothing consistent enough to let you feel as though you’re doing anything other than fighting hard to stay in the same place.
But after that you will hopefully start finding that you can get out every second weekend for a ride…or to the gym a couple of times a week. Within a year, suddenly you’ll start feeling some of that fitness come back and you might start identifying some targets for the next year. Within 2 years you will be back to your original level of fitness and you will have completely forgotten all the pain and frustration of that first 6 months…then you will decide to have another child…and 9 months later it will all come flooding back.

But is it all worth it? Well I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Jon Stewart who says that ‘Parenting seems like a lot of work. But for all the hassle and worry once in a while comes a moment of pure innocence that touches your heart and tickles your funny bone…nah f%&$ it, it’s a lot of work.’

If you’ve got any advice or tips, I’d love to hear them.