by Andrei Wightman
This is partly about how COVID-19 has affected my training and the journey I’ve had over the last few months but also a realisation of why I’m doing what I do when I slip on my shoes and head out the door.
I was fortunate enough when I started at BRRC to meet so many amazing people including Betty Menzies and Bruce Smerdon. Knowing that I was training with the UQ Early Bird Intraining Group and lived in the area, they invited me to join their Thursday early morning runs. At first, this was alternated with my Thursday Intraining Group but the coffee at St. Lucia and the good company got me to be a regular on Thursdays in the BRRC Church2Church 7km or 10km loops. Fast forward 4 years and this is still where you can find me most Thursday mornings. I say most, as up until the COVID-19 Pandemic I was travelling regularly for work and was often not in Brisbane. In addition to this is my Rule of Three which considers the outside conditions, in particular, if it’s cold, dark or wet. I’m happy with most of the combinations, but all three and I’m more likely to roll over. The joy of living in Brisbane is the weather is normally pleasant but mostly starting in the dark. Feel free to use the Rule of Three, it is a bit soft but it makes training more enjoyable.
Back to the Church2Church loop and when COVID restrictions kicked in, two interesting factors coincided. Firstly, we had a few new people running in the group with us who lived around the area and runs were normally around 10 people. Two of these people included two Olympians; Krishna Stanton and Sarah Thomas (Hardcastle). If you were at our 2018 AGM, you would be familiar with Krishna’s impressive record but you might not know Sarah’s record (for instance, youngest woman ever to win an Olympic medal). The second factor was that with COVID-19 restrictions, we had to break into groups of two and I was lucky enough (I now know) to be paired with Krishna. Deciding that I had to lift my game significantly, on the first few runs, I decided that I would need to wear my racing shoes (my Nike Zoom Fly 3) just to be able to keep up.
Thursday went from a social run to me working harder, more like the runs I used to enjoy with Intraining and it was paying off. During the COVID restrictions, Betty, a fellow result-a-holic, was maintaining a record of our run times, not just over the two Thursday loops but also our 5km initially, then 10km times. We had to nominate our goal and I mistakenly took this for my major goal, not the next 6 weeks or so, and put 21 minutes for the 5km and 45mins for the 10km. I’m the first to admit that I’m motivated by challenges so I found myself running harder and faster not only on Thursdays but also other runs throughout the week. My 5km time in particular was responding to the increase in training but it was having a wonderful training partner like Krishna to keep me going when I thought I had nothing left.
I initially broke my PB running along Coronation Drive early one Saturday morning but when Krishna took me over to her home parkrun course (Kedron) in late May, I broke the 21min barrier that I’d set as a goal for the year and once again reset my focus goal for sub 20 minutes. I then started working towards my 10km goal with the multitude of virtual races including the Brisbane Marathon Festival 10km and BRRC 10km virtual Championship races in May.
I firstly ran the Mizuno Virtual 10km race for the Brisbane Marathon with Krishna at Kedron and smashed my 10km goal time for the year. This put me in the top 10 overall and I also managed a pleasing result in my age group. Although I know it has got a lot more to do with the limited field than my time but at my age, and my abilities, I’ll take what I can get.
At the BRRC 10km Virtual Championship, I was back on the course at Kedron and was ready to race. With a whole group of BRRC runners joining in I was feeling pretty special with John Huang White running with me and Krishna riding alongside on a bike. Expectations were high but with that sort of support, what could I do but work with my race plan, and race hard. I took another 30 seconds off my 10km PB.
Feeling fantastic after breaking both of my goals for the year with no sign of getting slower, or my progress hitting a plateau, when Gold Coast went virtual, I entered the Surfers Paradise Triple with races planned for the 5km, 10km and Half Marathon. I slotted these races into my racing calendar, (along with a number of other virtual races I’d entered) and was looking down the barrel of 6 races in 7 weekends. I was feeling strong and fast and was excited about the prospect.
Then, BANG, running a pretty ordinary speed session with kilometre repeats, I was on the second repeat when I got (hope) was a cramp in my right calf. Realising that that session was over, I went straight into an I.C.E routine. An appointment was made with the physiotherapist and my fears were realised, a grade 1 tear of the soleus. I was shattered but with a fantastic physiotherapist* and Krishna programming my training I was hoping this was only a temporary setback. During the recovery period I was in the gym and was trying to maintain fitness with cycling on a stationary bike (not fun but does the job).
After just over two weeks, I tried my healing calf on a few runs and being OK, I re-programmed my remaining races for the Gold Coast Surfers Paradise Triple in the last two week of July. This started on the Saturday (three weeks after the injury) with the 5km which coincided with a celebration of one year since Betty’s hip replacement and ran a pleasing time at St Lucia at what was a special celebration. Knowing that the gravel path there has a bit of slip in it and it’s not quite flat I thought that it was not far off being equivalent to my current PB so was pretty happy with that and looking forward to the next two races. After this race, we gathered for the obligatory coffee and we also received a record of our COVID challenge times. On mine was both my 5km and 10km PBs which had been run in May/June.
I then planned the 10km on the following Tuesday instead of the normal speed training and the Half Marathon planned for the following Saturday, the day before the first BRRC race back where I was due to be RD. A tight schedule and I knew not one conducive to me doing my best as I was more interested in the challenge of completing the triple than necessarily getting another PB.
One of the many great things that Krishna has done for me was that she put me onto the Inside Running Podcast and it was a regular for long runs, drives and those long, tedious rides on the stationary bike in the gym. Listening to one of the podcasts after the 5km they started to talk about the tendency for runners to be unable to be satisfied with their progress and to appreciate what they’ve achieved. I ruminated on this and, feeling fatigued from the weekend and gym work, cancelled the 10km racing session that I was going to do on the Tuesday in favour of a fartlek training session.
I knew this meant that I would be unable to complete the Surfers Paradise Triple that I’d set as a goal for July but I’d had a sudden realisation. That’s OK, as much I love the bling, I just love to run. Don’t get me wrong, I love to race, I need to race, my motivation would struggle without a goal and racing is not only the best training, but the best way to really test yourself against a goal. That said, I realised that I’d already achieved my goals in the 5km and 10km for the year and, although I’m sure I could go faster still, I’m actually happy to consolidate by progress and try again later. Just enjoy the running.
There are still plenty of races for the year and I will be pushing myself to set new PBs during the year (I’m planning to try and set a PB on the Half Marathon off the back of the BRRC 20km Championship), but I’m just as happy to enjoy running. I just love to run and I’m so happy with the wonderful, amazing and inspiring people that I have had the privilege to run with and get to become friends with through running. I love fartleks, speed work and hills. Long runs depend on the company but really any run is a good one. If I’ve worked hard, it’s a better one. Take a sample of the population and I that might appear as a bit strange but in the wonderful BRRC community, I’m sure I’m not alone and it’s a great buzz to run into other like-minded people at BRRC and out and about on Brisbane’s fantastic running routes.
*Props to my physiotherapist Will Jordan of Xphysiotherapy at Toowong. Doctorate in Physio and now doing Medicine. His approach to recovery paired with his knowledge and understanding have been fantastic and got me (and others I know) back to running stronger, better and faster. I’d also recommend getting some remedial massage if you’re training hard. The masseurs found tightness in places I didn’t even know existed. If you haven’t had a remedial massage, I think of it as a massage that wasn’t meant to be enjoyed but you all know as runners, there’s magic in misery.