The Tan Ultra 53.5km

The Tan track is a Melbourne icon. People travel there to run or walk it. It’s a wide footpath of fine gravel, a bit under 4km around the botanic gardens and the domain, and to be honest it’s not very interesting. I have never even considered going there for a training run.

Last weekend was the Tan Ultra 100km main event with 53.5km “fun run” option. I did the “fun run”. I did it to see how I’d compare against my previous time 2 years ago (6:06:50) and would have liked to have gone under that, but kind of knew I wouldn’t since I am not doing as much running now. After DNFing all the long road races I’ve entered this year, and after really killing both achilles’ after the You Yangs, I was a little hesitant about this. To top it off the weather was forecast to be rainy with 40km/hr winds. But I decided to tough it out. I was really curious to see what my 50ish km road time would be and this was the only run of this distance left in the year for me to do.

The fun run started at a leisurely 9am so it was nice not to have to get up super early for a run. It was so inspiring getting there and seeing the 100km runners who had been going since 7am and all at such a cracking pace! The guys go at a super fast pace and the girls were so impressive running at around my half marathon pace! I am in awe of everyone there. Maybe one day I can be that fast too!

My plan was to run to around 20kms then take walk breaks up Anderson St for the rest of the run. I was hoping not to walk as much as last time – I do remember last time struggling on the flats a lot. Unfortunately on the 3rd lap up Anderson St my left ITB twinged a bit so I had to hobble that before getting it under control, and from the 4th lap onwards I walked up Anderson. Last time I found the southern end of the loop quite a challenge but I’m pretty sure I only took 1 little walk break along there this time. Comparing the stats from previously, my running pace is much slower this time round. Last time I walked 4.6kms, this time I walked 3.9km. Last time the first 4 laps were all under 6min/k! That’s way fast for me now!

I took it easy this time going at my own plod of a pace. I guess I just like to be in my comfort zone! Each lap got slower and slower, until a running friend joined me in the middle of his Sunday long run. It was funny as I was running he was walking beside me! It is interesting looking at my stats as you can see where I tried to keep up with him on my 10th lap. Thanks Bruce for slowing to a shuffle for me! That was great to get me to that point as I knew I was on the home stretch from then.

I took a hand held water bottle and ran every 2nd lap with it, until the last 2 laps where I couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. From about the 1/2 way point it occurred to me I hadn’t even had breakfast so from then I occasionally stopped to eat some strawberries or orange slices, and take some sips of apple juice or my dad’s homemade boysenberry cordial. That was plenty of food and drink for me, although as usual there was a fabulous spread on offer including chocolate, chips, salted potatoes, fruit cake, sandwiches, bananas and probably more I didn’t notice. Thanks to RD Nick and the great volunteers for putting this all out there and also offering kind words of encouragement. It is always so welcome to be around friendly faces when you are really tired! And as usual all the other runners were super friendly and encouraging. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned enough just how great the ultra running community is.

I had never worn an Ipod before during a run but decided this would be as good time as any. 14 laps could get old without some entertainment. Unfortunately since I had never done this before, I didn’t consider the chafing from the arm band! I didn’t bring any Bodyglide, since I don’t normally suffer chafing or blisters, but it wasn’t too bad in the end. I started off with the radio, then a Dvorak Symphony I hadn’t got around to listening to yet, then shuffled songs for a bit, and finally on the last lap a bit of techno to pump me up. I have selective hearing though, and despite being a musician by trade, I tend not to pay any attention to music if it’s background noise. I wasn’t really listening much until the end when I cranked it up to get me to the finish.

It was a good finish for me. I had picked up the pace in the last kilometre and felt like I was actually running. Dad, J, and 2 relatives visiting from Russia were all there at the finish so I made it across the line at around 6:41:xx with cheers from them and got my finisher’s medal from Nick with a few photos taken.

My achilles were quite sore during the race but because I was walking up Anderson St it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. I wore my Adizero PROs which were very comfortable and my feet didn’t get tired at all. Overall I felt my legs are strong and can handle any distance, but cardio-wise I felt unfit. The plan now is to work on my conditioning until the GOW100. My legs have the strength to run further, but they can’t go at any decent pace if I am getting puffed too soon.


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