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Training Log Archive: blairtrewin

In the 30 days ending Nov 30, 2011:

activity # timemileskm+m
  Run31 34:19:29 243.89(8:27) 392.5(5:15) 131065 /77c84%
  Swimming2 1:09:00 1.24(55:31) 2.0(34:30)
  Pool running1 45:00 0.43(1:43:27) 0.7(1:04:17)
  Total34 36:13:29 245.57(8:51) 395.2(5:30) 131065 /77c84%

» now

Wednesday Nov 30, 2011 #

8 AM

Run intervals 20:00 [4] 3.2 km (6:15 / km)

8x400 at the Bout-du-Monde track. Wondered after the first interval whether the track had been lengthened while I was in Spain, but got going after that and ended up finishing off a bit faster than I had been last week (81). Definitely a bit lactic towards the end which I take as an indicator that I was trying reasonably hard.

Run 24:00 [3] 4.8 km (5:00 / km)

Going to/from the track. Slept very well last night but my sleepiness continued into the early part of the run (and into the first rep, but not beyond).

So ends a solid month of training - the most running I've done in a month since 2009. If I can put together another couple of months like this (which will be more challenging, moving into the heat rather than the cold) it should hopefully set me up pretty well for the start of next season (better, at any rate, than for either of the last two).

Tuesday Nov 29, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 1:17:00 [3] 15.4 km (5:00 / km)

Headed in a different direction this morning onto ground which was more familiar on my previous visits, the southern shore of the lake and the climb up onto the hill at Cologny. From where I am this involves crossing the central city in the early stages, which still had its share of traffic even at 7.

This was a moderate run in its early and late stages, and was at its best around halfway on the major climb - a good sign after handling climbing similarly well on Sunday. Realised after that that the run was longer than I'd planned on and I was going to be struggling to make the tram I wanted to, but still got into work in plenty of time for my few weeks' handiwork to be released (it's at
7 PM

Run 42:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:15 / km)

A modest-amount-of-enthusiasm evening run in between media engagements; I'd rather do runs like this at lunchtime but haven't found any suitable post-run facilities at WMO yet. Felt OK but rather slow; traffic on the roads and darkness on the non-roads might explain a bit of that.

Only did two interviews (so far), but one of them was a big one - Chinese TV news. Tried not to get too nervous about the idea that 100 million people or thereabouts were probably watching me. Having had the experience of standing on a world championships start line helps.

The blister on my little right toe doesn't feel too bad now, but it definitely looks ugly.

Monday Nov 28, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 43:00 [3] 8.4 km (5:07 / km)

Got in close to midnight last night and then took some time to get to sleep, so wasn't terribly well rested for this one, and was, of course, coming off a big day yesterday. Not a lot of energy, as expected; quads lacking strength but not sore, which is better than I was expecting. On the whole, a fairly reasonable recovery run in the circumstances.

The statement I've been working on comes out tomorrow morning (Tuesday evening Australian time). Not as dramatic as last year and a more complicated message so I'll be interested to see what the media response is.

Sunday Nov 27, 2011 #

8 AM

Run 2:32:00 [3] 30.0 km (5:04 / km) +700m 4:32 / km

In performance terms I'm not sure if I can quite call this my best run of 2011 - a challenging last 20 minutes with fading quads after an hour of almost unbroken downhill raises a bit of a question mark - but as an experience it is no contest.

Broadly speaking this was an out-and-back although with some variations, with the first half mostly uphill, as far as the jumping-off point for some of the national park walking tracks (climbing from 950 to 1450 metres), initially up the main valley and then a side valley. Headed out a bit sooner after breakfast than I would have liked, constrained at one end by the start time of breakfast and at the other by check-out time (which I was to make by 30 seconds, not that I suspect they would have cared); also thought I might have paid for leaving my gloves behind in Switzerland but it was pleasantly invigorating (sunny and probably about -2). Started out on a walking track up the main valley, occasionally rough and slow but enjoyable (and for some reason climbing always feels less steep on a small track). This turned into mountain-goat stuff after about 30 minutes, whereupon I switched to the other side of the main valley, initially on the main road (with good bike lane, seen used by roller-skiers later in the day), then on a vehicle track along the river to the village of Arties. This was to be my turnoff into the side valley, after a false start trying to get out of the village. At the second attempt I got onto the climb properly, not too steep except for one sharp pinch, with more and more stellar scenery unfolding. I was handling the climbing with some comfort, and thought the run had the potential to catch completely alight once the downhill started.

The downhill wasn't quite as good as that but still not bad. I wanted to find an extra 15 minutes somewhere and headed up the main valley again, but there was an electric fence across the track a couple of minutes in - this is cowbell country - so I decided to do the extra in town instead. It was smooth until into the final half-hour; by then the quads were starting to struggle, and were grateful for the few climbs, though the last few minutes climbing back through town felt a bit strange. At that stage I had a new 'friend', which I couldn't do much about because I suspected the dog was monolingual and I don't know what Aranese for 'sit' is.

Things I should have thought of earlier: I'd left my post-run banana (something I'm appreciating while I still can) in the car overnight, and it was frozen.

The rest of the day was going to struggle to live up to that, but was still very enjoyable, taking in a couple of high mountain passes - one 2070m one obviously attracts its share of cyclists because there were signs saying how far there was to go to the top and at what percentage. (I was a bit surprised not to see any road graffiti - either the Vuelta doesn't come this way, road graffiti isn't part of the Spanish cycling culture or the road has been recently resurfaced). The amazingly jagged rock of the Montserrat range near Barcelona (famous for its monastery, but would be something special as a purely natural feature) was a highlight too. The only anxious moment was an instant where I wasn't sure whether a recklessly-overtaking motorcyclist (the only manic driving I saw in Spain) coming out of a hairpin bend in the opposite direction was going to be able to hold it together, and for a moment had visions of the 1997 WOC trials weekend revisited.

Flew back to Geneva in the evening. I was on Easyjet, which doesn't have allocated seats; unless you're travelling with others and want to be sure of getting seats together, what is the point of queueing 30 minutes or more before boarding opens to try to be first onto the plane?
3 PM


One of the things I occasionally enjoy doing in a foreign country is watch the TV news and try to work out what the story is about. There was one today which, as far as I can tell, featured the mayor of Benidorm being outraged about the less-than-flattering portrayal of his town in a British TV series. It's good to see that it's not only Australian small-town mayors who carry on about this sort of thing.

Saturday Nov 26, 2011 #

12 PM

Run 1:00:00 [3] 12.1 km (4:58 / km)

This wasn't quite the high mountains run I'd originally envisaged, partly through the timing not working out quite as I'd planned, but still not a bad setting for a run, an out-and-back on a quiet back road from the small town of Benabarre, in the Pyrenees foothills at about 800 metres. As is often the way for runs in mountain country, this was almost all uphill for the first half (although never steep after the first couple of minutes), and almost all down in the second half. The setting was nice but the run was a bit of a struggle, particularly on a steeper climb near the turnaround point, then a somewhat indulgent hotel breakfast caught up with me a bit in a form of a stitch on the downhills. Improved in the last 10 minutes. Brilliantly sunny in a Canberra-in-July way (and with a similar temperature).

It was as well that I hadn't planned to do today's run in the high mountains. Although the carpark (beyond which private vehicles can't go) was at about 1400 metres, at least 800 metres below the snowline, the bottom of the valley is in permanent shade at this time of year and had accumulated enough ice from overnight frosts that it would have been unrunnable without spikes - several times I only just stayed upright on a walk up the valley. Beautiful country though, and quite a diverse mountain range, with rounded Australian-style peaks in places and more classically alpine country in others. This excursion into the national park also provided me with two important bits of information which led to a change of Sunday plans - the walk I'd tentatively considered was higher than I thought it was (2200-2400 metres, and on the snowier north side of the range), and the last few kilometres of the route to get there - the bit that shuttle buses do in summer - was a rough track. Having learned a few things in my early years of driving about the capabilities (or lack thereof) of Fiats on any surface more challenging than the Turin-Rome autostrada, I didn't think the hire company would appreciate that.

My destination at the end of the day was the Val d'Aran, something of a geographic oddity in that it's a valley which drains into France - until a tunnel was built, it was inaccessible from the rest of Spain for several months during winter. As an isolated valley it's also kept its own language (which I believe is related to ancient French, although any linguists reading are welcome to correct this). I didn't expect a lot of English to be spoken in a place where English is the fifth language after Aranese, Catalan, Spanish and French, but managed to get by. It wasn't as much of a backwater as I was expecting an out-of-season-ski-town to be - in fact it was quite lively, although they must do things earlier in the mountains because it was a bit of a novelty to enter a restaurant in Spain which wasn't deserted at 8.30. (That said, I get the impression Tortosa's restaurants aren't heavily patronised at any time of the day or night). If you weren't on the ball on the way here you could get very confused; the valley's main town is Vielha in Aranese, Viella in Catalan and Spanish, but (being a bit more sensitive to linguistic minorities) the Catalans use the Aranese name on their road signs - and at one point the road goes in and out of Catalonia three times in as many kilometres.

While on the subject of language, my red-and-black hat (which I didn't end up using) would have caused even more cross-cultural confusion in the Pyrenees than I suggested a few days ago, because in these parts the fire brigade are responsible for mountain rescue.

Friday Nov 25, 2011 #

(rest day)

Nowhere to swim in Tortosa as far as I can tell (other than the river) so this was a rest day; if I'd got to Barcelona earlier I might have considered giving the 1992 Olympic pool a try but I didn't get in until after 9.

Following close of proceedings at the meeting we spent some time down at the Ebro delta; quite often my travels take me to places I'm unlikely to go to again and that is doubly true this time, because most of the ground we were standing on will likely no longer exist in 20 or 30 years' time, thanks partly to sea level rise but mostly to the fact that upstream dams have stopped most of the sediment that replenishes the delta; a 1920s lighthouse is already a couple of kilometres offshore. (Since the delta owes its existence in the first place to upstream deforestation - it was barely there 400 years ago - this isn't quite as unequivocally bad an environmental outcome as it may appear at the first glance, but the area's 50,000 inhabitants probably have other views).

Off to the Pyrenees this weekend before flying back to Geneva Sunday night. Forecast looks good.

Thursday Nov 24, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 2:01:00 [3] 24.0 km (5:03 / km)

Nothing like a bit of information to set up a decent run. You wouldn't expect such information to come in a bar but it did, in the form of a topographic map on the wall of the sports bar where I went to watch Barcelona's Champions League game last night - this revealed that there was a route heading up to the Els Ports national park which looked promising, with only 3km of more substantial road to traverse to get to it.

I thought this was worth a punt and headed out in that direction, and was pleasantly surprised that the main road, while it had some traffic (even at 6.30), also had a decent verge which makes all the difference. Near-continuous gentle to moderate climbing once outside the Tortosa city limits (about 300m in 8k all up), up a steady slope, mostly through farms (and occasionally unnervingly-loud-in-the-dark dogs) but also a bizarre interlude in the form of a monument to the Spanish property bust, a subdivision in the middle of nowhere with new roads and street lights but almost no buildings. As I got closer to the mountains they gradually revealed themselves with the rising sun, as a rocky, scrubby range vaguely reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges. (This also prompted me, possibly slightly unfairly, to think of Tortosa as Port Augusta with more interesting buildings).

Turned around at the national park entrance, the point at which the road turns from steady slope to hors categorie steep (from there it climbs 1100m in 8km). 40 minutes of continuous downhill from there was easy on the engine, not so easy on the muscles - I might pay for this tomorrow - past a mixture of the local equivalent of Bill Jones' Broadcast Australia ute on its way to the masts on top of the mountain and farm cars which were the local equivalent of the Central Australian Kingswoods that the roadworthy inspectors turn a blind eye to as long as they're only driven to Alice and back. Had to work pretty hard on the flat once back in town, with a short detour past the meteorological observatory in the name of getting the time up past 2 hours.

There was also some astronomical excitement in the form of the brightest meteor I can remember seeing, although it fell short of my personal-best for during-run astronomical excitement, the spectacular aurora display one evening in Winchester in March 1989, which turned out to be the furthest south it had been seen since the 1930s. (The solar flare which caused the 1989 event is probably best remembered for knocking out a large part of eastern North America's power grid).

Definitely nice to get out of town properly on a morning which lifted my mood considerably.

Wednesday Nov 23, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 1:00:00 [3] 12.0 km (5:00 / km)

Headed north out of town under clear skies (which meant 15 minutes more of light than I was expecting), thinking that the town out that way wasn't that big (and the road didn't go anywhere else much) and that if there was traffic it would be in one direction. I was wrong, which made this a less than pleasant session - was never able to relax at all. Loosened up sort of OK but never felt comfortable.

We had a reception at the council chambers last night which meant we got to find out what makes this place's economy run (not as much as used to be the case - a factory closed last year with the loss of 500 jobs). The old town is interesting enough but I think Daryl Kerrigan has the only possible response to their hopes of a tourism-led recovery.
7 PM

Run 41:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:08 / km)

A longer day at the meeting than expected so didn't get to catch the last of the evening light. I'm struggling to muster much enthusiasm for running in Tortosa at the moment; there would undoubtedly be some great places to go in the hills either east or west of town in other circumstances but heading out in the dark on single-lane mountain roads with non-trivial amounts of traffic is only for those with a death wish. This one ended up exploring just about every pocket of the town itself, including going across the river for the first time, into what is mainly a residential area - some of it normal and a pocket of dark alleys which felt distinctly uncomfortable (and it takes a bit for a place to make me feel that way). A fairly mundane session, and my Achilles is slowly going backwards in the way that it always does when I'm away from home for a long time.

Tuesday Nov 22, 2011 #

7 AM

Run intervals 20:00 [4] 2.7 km (7:24 / km)

10x1 min (more like 63-64 seconds) in the unpromising surrounds of the university car park, that being the only place above water I could find decent light before sunrise and enough room to run hard for a minute without crossing any round. (Going to the university did provide the opportunity to confirm that by now it did have electricity).

The forecast last night promised atmospheric Armageddon; it seemed overdone (not the first time that an underdone forecast for an extreme event has been followed by an overdone forecast for the next vaguely similar event), and although it was my first wet run of the trip, the rain was only light and didn't cause too much trouble.

The session itself was a bit of a token-gesture speed session, certainly not at the level I was at last week. Blister starting to settle a bit but still annoying.

Run 21:00 [3] 4.0 km (5:15 / km)

Warm-up and down from this session, partly contemplating the possibilities of something I'd read before going out, about how in the event of a unilateral Catalan declaration of independence the new state would have no legal obligation to take on any of Spain's debt. That's probably why it won't happen - even if the Spanish government decided to let it go peacefully it's doubtful that the military (the civilian control of which is more tenuous than in most Western democracies - it's only a few years ago that rumours of a rebellion were taken seriously enough for a general to be placed under arrest) would be controllable in such a situation. (The nationalists who did well on Sunday want greater autonomy within Spain, with only a fringe party campaigning for outright independence).

Monday Nov 21, 2011 #


My red and black hat has been known to raise eyebrows in parts of the world not acquainted with the ways of Australian rules football, but should I need to deploy it in the Pyrenees this weekend it may raise eyebrows for other reasons - 'Bombers' is Catalan for 'fire brigade'.
7 AM

Run 41:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:08 / km)

Pretty stiff and sore early on, which was expected (also as expected, the blister was uncomfortable for the first two minutes of the run and all day walking), but got going OK after the first few minutes - certainly not the worst recovery run I've had. Still barely light here when I headed out at 7.20, which is going to be a bit of an issue later in the week (will need to pull out my near-useless-for-illuminating-anything-but-at-least-others-can-see-me headlamp for Thursday, at least). Mostly around the town area although found a small road south of town (after a couple of false starts) which is signposted as a bike route, always a good sign.

The rest of the day was challenging, partly because of the realities of life in a disaster area sinking in - in particular there was no power all day at the university that is hosting the meeting, which makes it rather hard to run a scientific meeting (nowhere to show the Powerpoint slides for a start, except by huddling around someone's laptop and hoping its battery held out long enough). Most impressive sight seen so far in person is the underground car park filled halfway to roof level by mud. The number of locals seen buying 5- and 10-litre water bottles at the supermarket also suggests that I'm not alone in lacking confidence in the quality of the local supply.

And I found myself strangely transfixed last night by election night TV in a language I didn't understand, partly through seeing which rituals are the same as at home and which ones aren't (the cross to the near-deserted function venue of the losing side seems to be common ground between Spain and Australia). As expected, the Socialists lost badly, the (conservative) Popular Party have a solid working majority, and various smaller parties did well (including the Catalan nationalists, who were, I suspect, a popular destination for plague-on-both-your-houses protest votes). I was wondering if Spanish election nights featured lots of horn-blowing by supporters of the winning side or freelance rioting by supporters of the losing one, but if either thing happened it was somewhere other than Tortosa.

Sunday Nov 20, 2011 #

8 AM

Run 2:31:00 [3] 30.0 km (5:02 / km)

First proper Sunday long run of this cycle in something of a grand tour of Barcelona, having decided that the hills north of town probably weren't as good as they looked for training - no obvious signs of foot tracks on the map and running on narrow mountain roads close to a big city is asking for trouble (something I found out in Lisbon a few years ago). Normally doing this in near-winter would make it easier but in fact the conditions (a humid 15 degrees) weren't so different from typical early-morning conditions in Melbourne at this time of year.

Started out with a fairly similar loop to yesterday's run, seeing a crowd early on who turned out to be waiting for the gates to open at the local polling booth - comprised mostly of those of an age old enough to remember when Spain was a military dictatorship and therefore that the opportunity to vote shouldn't be taken for granted. It is election day in Spain, with the (conservative) Popular Party expected to win easily. Their banners, along with those of the Catalan nationalists and the Greens, have been much in evidence; the Socialists have been hardly visible, which makes me wonder if they've given up on Barcelona themselves and are running dead in the hope of playing the Catalan nationalists into a balance-of-power position. (There must be a few local socialists because Barcelona must be one of the few places in the world where there is still a street named after Karl Marx). And there were no sausage sizzles, or any other food, in sight, but that may just be because no self-respecting person in this part of the world eats lunch before 2, or dinner before 9.30 (it felt a bit strange eating after, rather than before, last night's football game, which ran from 8 to 9.50).

Hit Montjuic around the half-hour and this time did it properly, up past the Olympic Stadium, which looks very unimposing until you look in and realise it's a sunken bowl. By this time it was clear this wasn't going to be a smooth run with various sore bits making their presence felt intermittently (the back being a bit annoying on the steeper climbs), but it wasn't getting any worse, and I was happy enough settling into the grind, firstly across the waterfront and then up into the northeastern suburbs before heading back.

Going past the Sagrada Familia cathedral (commenced in the late 19th century and currently expected to be finished sometime between 2020 and 2040) at around the two-hour mark, a blister on my toe suddenly exploded - perhaps not believing in God has caught up with me. For a few minutes it was painful enough that I thought I might have had to cut the run short (not that a beeline home would have saved more than 10 minutes at that stage anyway), but it settled down and I got through the final half-hour more or less OK. A hard-working session which I'll want to become a bit less challenging by the time we get to February, but the first one of the season is always a challenge.

Also a challenge was getting to Tortosa - the train stopped a couple of stations short, after a trip down a coastline which was showing rather too much evidence of what happens when property developers are allowed to do what they like (much of it using money which turned out not to exist), and we all got transferred to buses, which then went a very roundabout route. The reason why became obvious when the amount of water in the vicinity of Tortosa was visible - severe flash flooding from 106mm of rain last night (Barcelona only got 0.6). This is not the first time meetings of WMO expert groups on extremes have coincided with extreme events (previously we've had a Dutch heatwave and a western Canadian snowstorm). The water is gone from town but the mud certainly isn't. Outside of the flood clean-up zones the place was absolutely stone dead on a Sunday afternoon - it was quite hard to find somewhere to get some lunch - but at least that means I'll get my last talk written without any distractions (other than AP). Might suffer a bit from lack of fluid replacement because I'm not prepared to risk drinking the tap water in a flood zone and there doesn't seem to be anywhere open to buy the bottled variety.

Saturday Nov 19, 2011 #

8 AM

Run 1:00:00 [3] 12.0 km (5:00 / km)

In Barcelona from the hotel (directly above the station, and one of the better ones I've stayed in). Went out before breakfast for the first time in a while and took some time to get going, then settled into something reasonable if not brilliant. Started out by going north and west as far as the Camp Nou (where I'll be headed again tonight, having discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that it was still possible to get a ticket for Barcelona-Zaragoza), then south onto the lower slopes of Montjuic where the 1992 Olympic stadium is - those who remember the 1992 marathon will know that this involves a bit of climbing, although I didn't go all the way to the top. Ended up coming back past the bullring, which will need to find some other use now because the Catalan government has banned bullfighting as of 1 January and the last fight took place a few weeks ago.
5 PM


Well, they've already found something else to do with the bullring - it's a shopping mall. Presumably the bullfights of recent years were held somewhere else.

Friday Nov 18, 2011 #

1 PM

Swimming 35:00 [2] 1.0 km (35:00 / km)

Lunchtime swim, feeling reasonably OK. I rarely get through this session in Geneva without at least one additional bruise; today's was a pretty solid kick in the ribs by an overtaking breaststroker.

Had some back tightness during the day, though not in the swim; I think it's to do with having a chair at work which isn't that comfortable, so hopefully next week will sort it out.

Demos of the day: the Iranians (as usual) and the Eritreans. The square outside the UN building is so well-suited to demonstrations that one almost wonders whether it was designed for the purpose.

Off to Barcelona tonight, ahead of a couple of meetings in Tortosa (about 150km southwest) next week.

Thursday Nov 17, 2011 #

6 AM

Run 2:01:00 [3] 24.0 km (5:03 / km)

Stepped out the door to the first clear morning since I've been here. I wondered when I saw the stars whether I might have regretted not going back inside for some gloves, but -2 was warm enough to be able to cope without.

This time my long run was contained entirely within the borders of Switzerland, heading west and north-west with a section on riverside tracks around a loop of the Rhone. I hit this section after a increasingly good first 40 minutes, with just enough light to venture off road (even 5 minutes earlier would have been a problem). Slower through this section, which contained some rough tracks in marginal light (and some places where the fallen leaves made it hard to tell what was track and what wasn't), but still feeling good. It became more challenging after 70 minutes - starting to feel some back tightness again, especially on the uphills which there were a few of at that stage. Started to get a second wind in the last 15 minutes and finished off well. A pretty nice session. Sunday will be more of a test; will be aiming for 2.30 (and I get the impression that any worthwhile long run in Barcelona is going to involve some fairly serious hill-climbing).

A Swiss resident was in the news today with some rather dinosauresque comments on football and racism (I saw the interview, live, on CNN last night and thought 'did he really just say what I thought he said'). Football authorities have some form in failing to notice racism or similar - after all, they once sent a delegation which failed to find any evidence of sectarian songs being sung at a Rangers-Celtic match. It will, though be somewhat ironic if Blatter goes for this rather than for (at best) turning a blind eye to rampant corruption.

Wednesday Nov 16, 2011 #

7 AM

Run intervals 20:00 [4] 3.2 km (6:15 / km)

8x400 on 2.5 minute cycle. Didn't feel especially awake when I arrived and perhaps not in the first rep or two either, but being joined by one of the locals for a rep got me going, and then settled into something reasonable: 82-84 is not quite what I was doing at home (and I won't be happy with this session until some times start to begin with a 7), but it's a lot closer to it than last week was. Maybe Swiss tracks aren't longer than 400 metres after all.

I never particularly enjoy this type of session while it's on, but usually feel good afterwards, as I did today.

Had some geographical investigation fun today in the course of checking out the temperatures for 'Central America' (2011 is on track to be the fourth-warmest year on record in that region, but the first three are all in 1871 or earlier and based on sparse and possibly dodgy data). The boundary of the 'Central America' box is 30N, which takes in a bit of the southern US, and I was checking out which American locations might have contributed pre-1871 data to this. It turns out that the 30N parallel runs through the New Orleans metropolitan area, although the parts of town where a 19th century meteorological station might have been are south of it.

And I've discovered that there is such a thing as Occupy Benalla (or at least a Facebook page for it). Possibly our Benalla correspondent might enlighten us as to whether there's any evidence of an occupation (and if so, where it is and whether the local authorities are taking as vigorous an approach to it as in Melbourne). Wouldn't actually be surprised if a certain former WOC team member who has connections with Benalla has something to do with it.

Run 24:00 [3] 4.5 km (5:20 / km)

Going to/from the track. Lots of creakiness on the outward journey.

Tuesday Nov 15, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 1:10:00 [3] 14.0 km (5:00 / km)

Headed west, encountering some nice bits but also a few more main road crossings than I'd hoped. Lots of stiff/sore/tight bits this morning and they didn't really loosen up - not one of my better sessions.

The falling of the autumn leaves is well under way and some impressive mulch mountains are developing. Most impressive of all is the one in the grounds of the UN building, which is higher than the highest point of Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Maldives and probably some other UN member states I haven't thought of.
6 PM

Run 40:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:00 / km)

Went out on this one a bit annoyed with Microsoft over a slow-installing automatic software update which was stopping my computer shutting down (ended up aborting it with no apparent harm), but settled into quite a pleasant evening run, with none of the sore bits from this morning. Felt like it was just about to turn really good when it was time to finish.

Monday Nov 14, 2011 #


Some mental calculations suggest that the weekend's Venice event probably contributed somewhere between 1 and 2 million euros to the Italian economy. This means that all it would take is to organise one of these every weekend for the next 20,000 years and Italy's debts would be cleared.

One of the local paper headlines yesterday didn't require much translation (as long as you knew that Berlusconi's nickname was 'Il Cavaliere') - 'L'uscita del Cavaliere - festa i piazza'. Must say I didn't see much evidence of any festas in Venice's piazzas (although that might have been different had we been a bit later for dinner - we walked past the Occupy Venice camp just before his resignation was announced), but then most of the people in Venetian streets are not actually Italians.

Also saw the splits from Sunday. Going left on our long leg (5-6) cost me a minute or so - obviously the crowds on the Rialto bridge and surrounding streets (the right option) weren't as much of a barrier as I thought they might have been. The splits also suggest that either my start wasn't as fast as I thought it was or others were slowing down more at the end - my late splits were a little better than the early ones.
8 AM

Run 40:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:00 / km)

Some new company for today's run in the form of Rebecca Minty, who's moving here early next year to work for an NGO which campaigns against torture (she's a human rights lawyer) and is over here at the moment, partly for a meeting and partly to set things up for next year (including trying to navigate the challenging local real estate market). Her mission is to try to convince countries in the Asia-Pacific to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; I had assumed said protocol was signed only by countries that would never dream of practising torture in the hope of embarrassing those which do, but in fact not even Australia has ratified it yet - ostensibly because of a federal-state dispute over who is responsible for independent inspections of detention facilities, but one wonders if a desire to keep open the option of outsourcing the torture of the Mahdoub Habibs of this world to countries like Pakistan and Egypt has something to do with it. (You won't be surprised to hear that the Americans didn't even bother turning up to the meeting).

The run itself was a fairly straightforward out and back along the lake shore from her hotel (which is fairly close to where I stayed last time) as far as the swimming area on the south side of the lake. Definitely knew that I'd been in a race yesterday (and that perhaps I hadn't had as much sleep as I would have liked, thanks to a combination of a 11.45 p.m. arrival last night and a 4.30 a.m. telemarketing call on my mobile), but not too bad on the whole.

Sunday Nov 13, 2011 #

11 AM

Run race ((orienteering)) 57:43 [4] *** 7.9 km (7:18 / km) +150m 6:40 / km

Venice was always likely to be a race to remember, and so it proved. I went in not totally confident about the way I was running, but thinking that, apart from being a unique orienteering experience, this was likely to suit me competitively - my record in Mediterranean town sprints (notably at WMOC 2008) suggests that the intensity of decision-making it requires is a strength, so having to do it over a longer distance had a fair chance of being a greater one.

Most of the warm-up was reasonably routine, but in the pre-start box I suddenly felt a bundle of energy - to the point that I almost failed to notice the check box and couldn't stand still on the -1 minute line for more than a couple of seconds - and this converted to an opening 15 minutes in which I was as pumped as I've been for a race, probably, since the aforementioned WMOC 2008 final, feeling like surging every time the alleyways opened up enough to allow it (this wasn't always the way in the early controls, which had the bulk of the heavy pedestrian-congestion areas).

Perhaps it was inevitable that I couldn't quite sustain that intensity, either physically or mentally. The zip was no longer there after 8 although I was still running solidly, and at 10 I made my first mistake, not noticing an uncrossable fence (it was in grey which made it a bit harder to notice) and losing 15 seconds or so. What could have been a more significant mistake happened at 12 when I missed a turnoff, potentially a mortal sin here, but it was fortunate that I had the option of going the other two sides of the diamond and probably lost little if any time. Tired a bit at the end - the 58 bridge crossings would have contributed to this - and certainly couldn't match it with the Austrian M14 who punched the last control with me, but a good solid run.

Ended up 10th in a decent M40 field (Janne Salmi won in just under 51). An early start would have been a bit of an advantage as the streets would have been clearer, but I don't think it would have been worth more than a couple of minutes (a really late start, as people went to lunch, wouldn't have been a bad slot either). Our km rates were actually competitive with the elites (Janne with the winner Jonas Gvildys, mine with first-proper-long-run-for-six-weeks Jules) so I'm assuming they had to take some wider route choices than anything we did. Gareth also ran well enough (two minutes down on Jules) to suggest he'll be a useful addition next year to whichever National League team he runs for.

And at the end of the day I finally got a taste of the dreaded Venetian acqua alta - in the changerooms of the sports centre showers.

Now on a pretty crowded train back to Geneva; I hadn't expected it to be crowded at this time of year, but then I guess the current state of the Swiss franc makes the idea of a weekend shopping expedition to Milan pretty attractive.

Saturday Nov 12, 2011 #

3 PM

Run race ((orienteering)) 25:14 [4] *** 4.2 km (6:00 / km) +20m 5:52 / km

Park race as a warm-up for the main event in Venice tomorrow, at the eastern end of the island which is planned for use at WOC 2014. It's not the best 'terrain' in Venice but probably the only part of town where you could run a reasonably fair race at WOC level (in this race taking likely pedestrian density into account in route choice is part of the fun).

It was tricky early and late. I took a while to get going physically and always felt like I was battling a bit, but didn't miss anything of significance and managed to pick my pace up a bit once the French runner who started a minute after me got within striking distance. I managed to hold him off through a few controls (mostly easier ones in the parkland at the end of the island), then he edged away over the next few - only to stuff up as soon as we got back into the more complex streets. Reasonably happy with this as a lead-in and it gives me optimism about the chances of achieving a result tomorrow. 3 1/2 minutes down in a nominally open class, although the top end was shorn off this field because no-one with WOC 2014 intentions could run. Achilles a bit sore in the second half.

There was quite a bit of wandering of the Venetian streets before and after the race, seeing the sights and getting a feel for which parts of town got crowded and which parts didn't. All of us (Jules and Fel, BJ and partner, Gareth and Kelly, and several Brits) had issues locating a restaurant someone had picked out in the evening (then when we finally got there it was full, but we found a substitute nearby).

It was a very nice day - a dry Canberra winter's day without the Canberra morning frost - and the dreaded high tides only made a token appearance.

And the optimist of the day: one of Venice's countless purveyors of fake designer handbags, who thought the crowd at the pre-start might be interested in his wares.

Friday Nov 11, 2011 #

1 PM

Swimming 34:00 [2] 1.0 km (34:00 / km)

A reintroduction to swimming Geneva-style (at lunchtime because Geneva pools don't do early mornings) - as with last time, quite crowded but managed to avoid crashing into anyone until the last lap. Felt like I was going through treacle at the start but smoother at the end.

Going there from WMO takes me past the entrance of the main UN complex, which was playing host to a demo, something which I suspect happens quite often. This one, as far as I can tell, was calling for the US military to stay in Iraq to protect Iranian opposition figures who are allegedly in danger of being sent back to Iran once the Americans leave. (At least there's someone out there who thinks the Americans should stay in Iraq). Their sign said they've been there for 203 days so the Occupy people (whose Geneva incarnation is in a park on the other side of town) have some catching up to do. There was a second (and noisier) demo outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office down the road but I didn't get close enough to find out what that one was about.

Not sure if home-grown demos are quite the local style. There is a story, which may be apocryphal but may well not be, that when French students were rioting in 1968 the Geneva students decided to have a riot of their own, but called it off when the police wouldn't give them permission.

Off to Milan tonight, and then Venice tomorrow morning.

Thursday Nov 10, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 2:00:00 [3] 24.0 km (5:00 / km)

Didn't sleep that well last night and then got the word when I got up (or more precisely when I logged on shortly after getting up) that a colleague, not much older than me, who's been battling cancer for a long time was going to be lucky to make it to the weekend (as it turned out he was already gone but none of us knew that yet), which occupied my mind for a lot of this session.

The first 40 minutes of this were in the dark and finding a good way to get out of the city area without daylight was a bit of a challenge. Most of it was OK but I've filed away a couple of bits of road for the future-reference blacklist (not-very-wide roads with no verge and lots of traffic); felt solid through a steady climb. Ventured briefly into France (the novelty of being able to do this still hasn't totally worn off), then settled into a nice section across the top, mostly on farm tracks although the noise of the parallel freeway 500 metres away was always present. Most of the later part was taken up with a long stretch along a creek/river, a largely traffic-free section with no significant road crossings which brings you deep into the inner suburbs - definitely one to note for future reference. Finished up with a short loop up the Arve to take it up to the two-hour mark; by this stage I was fading a bit (probably through a rough night catching up with me), but mostly a decent run.

Google Knows Everything department: today I fed the Dutch seasonal climate summary for summer (of interest because they followed their driest spring on record with their wettest summer) into Google Translate, and it translated 'de Bilt' as 'Asheville'. De Bilt is the place where our Dutch counterparts are based; Asheville is where you'll find the American ones.

Wednesday Nov 9, 2011 #

7 AM

Run intervals 20:00 [4] 3.2 km (6:15 / km)

8x400 on a 2.5 minute cycle - Bout-du-Monde has a decent track and it seems to be open to the world at large (at least I didn't see any signs saying otherwise). I was, however, left wondering whether 400-metre tracks in Switzerland are longer than those in Melbourne, because in ideal conditions (no wind, not too cold) I was barely getting under 90, and the usual acceleration of a second per rep wasn't there. Didn't feel horrible but didn't feel fast (and the stopwatch backed that up in spades).

Run 24:00 [3] 4.6 km (5:13 / km)

Going to/from the track at Bout-du-Monde. Achilles a bit sore this morning but warmed up eventually.

Almost slept until my alarm this morning. I won't mind an early wake-up tomorrow with a long run in store.

Tuesday Nov 8, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 1:06:00 [3] 13.1 km (5:02 / km)

A nice run although slower than it felt. Climbed east out of the town centre, although not in quite the direction that I was planning on (my map memory being slightly awry), looping through the suburb of Chene-Bougeries and going as far as a path along a small creek. Slightly longer than planned but that's no bad thing. Starting to feel stronger on the climbs (which in these parts are usually steady and not especially steep); perhaps I was just on a high after hearing that the carbon price had gone through the Senate. I've waited a long time for this day and was a bit disappointed not to be in Australia to see it happen.

This will be my third Geneva visit out of three which has coincided with a referendum, and as usual the posters are all over town - on the ballot paper this time round are such things as a minimum wage (with predictable supporters and opponents) and a tax on dog ownership. As previously noted, I'll also be on Spain on their election night which could be interesting (it's unlikely my ideological comrades will have anything to celebrate, except possibly for making cleaning up the mess someone else's problem).
7 PM

Run 41:00 [3] 8.0 km (5:08 / km)

Stayed at work a bit later than planned so the run was a bit later than planned, which was not sufficient to evade the traffic. (I think, on balance, this spot is a better running base than the places I stayed last time were, but one thing it lacks that the others have is the option of a traffic-free lakeside run if one's out at peak hour). Once again started out with significant political news in my mind, namely the imminent resignation of Silvio Berlusconi (good riddance).

The run itself was pretty similar to the morning; feeling increasingly strong on the main climb. As usual for a nighttime run, a bit slower than it felt. Starting to catch alight at times in the second half, although traffic provided an awakening on occasions.

Monday Nov 7, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 51:00 [3] 10.0 km (5:06 / km)

A bit longer than planned this morning, exploring a couple of new bits of ground, a small rough track on the left bank of the river and then a footbridge I hadn't been on before out beyond Bout-du-Monde. Felt reasonably good for a recovery run; hills still a bit of a drag but settled well once over the top of them. Corkie a bit of a nuisance but no more, except perhaps on the steepest downhills - shouldn't get in my way too much from here.

The river route will be a good start/finish to runs, perhaps more a finish than a start because I won't start too many more runs here in daylight.

And there's quite a bit to be said for a neighbourhood where there are at least three boulangeries within a 200-metre radius...

Sunday Nov 6, 2011 #

11 AM

Run 1:33:00 [4] ***** 9.0 km (10:20 / km) +320m 8:46 / km

Today's plan was to run the WOC 2011 middle distance final course, and hopefully do it in a faster time than Peeter Pihl (and perhaps a few others). One thing I certainly didn't expect was to find that there was an event on (probably using the relay map from where the start area was and where I saw other orienteers in the forest). I was tempted to see if I could run in it - it seemed a fairly small local affair from the turnout - but was keen on the WOC course, plus I hadn't brough competition gear like SI stick and control description holder (and that pesky French medical certificate rule might have got in the way too).

After a jog to the start to warm up it was into the course, and for the first six controls it was going pretty well - just one small time loss at 3 where I couldn't find the peg (most, but not all, of the control sites still had red pegs in the ground). I already knew that 7 was an 'oh my god how do they do this leg', was in control for 90% of it and then messed it up in the circle to the tune of a couple of minutes. That was annoying, but then things came horribly unstuck - I couldn't get to grips with how the big rock and steeper ground was mapped at all, and also probably underestimated the difficulty of 8 which looked like it was at the end of a long flat ridge. I couldn't make anything fit and ended up bailing out to the track to the northwest, probably blowing something like 10-12 minutes. That shot my confidence in that stuff and I lost time on each of the next four controls, too, before settling down a bit on the last part before the spectator leg.

Cue my most bizarre error of the day (and probably the decade) - crossing the open area between 16 and 17 (the leg which was the marked run-through at WOC), I got confused over which tracks were mapped and which ones weren't and somehow managed to convince myself that I was exiting the yellow in a completely different location than I actually was - something which would embarrass any self-respecting M12. I ended up going slightly off the map here and lost probably another 3-4 minutes. Fairly tired by then and plodded through the last few. My time for the actual course was 81, well outside the time limit; most people at WOC hit this after a fair bit of training in relevant terrain, not first time up on the first full day after a flight. I'm still not happy to have been defeated so comprehensively by the terrain, but definitely glad to have done it. Picked up a bit of a corkie in a fall - hope it doesn't cause me too much trouble.

Spent the rest of the day doing a bit of a circuit through parts of the Alps back to Geneva, including some decent Mont Blanc views - although my idea of having a relaxed lunch in a rural French restaurant went slightly awry because hardly anything is open on the Le Revard plateau in November (ended up finding something OK next to the highway). The weather was astonishing for its mildness (probably mid-teens at Le Revard at 1300m, although there was some lingering mist which cooled things down in some of the valleys) and its lack of moisture, considering the carnage which was happening on the south side of the Alps. The rainshadow was certainly in full effect today.

Saturday Nov 5, 2011 #


In Abu Dhabi between flights at the moment. So far so good and had a spare seat on the plane next to me which helps. I did wonder if I was the first person ever to fly Virgin to Sydney/Etihad to Europe because the person on the check-in counter was trying to tell me that I'd have to go through immigration and recheck my bags in Abu Dhabi (only the Americans make you do that) - I was sufficiently insistent that she called a supervisor who actually knew what they were doing. Also clueless was the person at the Melbourne Airport car parking office (where I'd gone to claim a refund for my extra day's parking from last weekend) who initially claimed their office didn't handle that despite there being a sign on their window which said they did. (This did at least give me the chance to find out that last week's alleged car park vandals - they were mostly vandals, nothing much was stolen - have been caught and charged).

Reports of 500mm+ rainfalls in northwestern Italy. I'm glad I'll be on the other side of the Alps (the Sunday forecast is looking OK for Geneva now, although I suspect it won't be quite as good on the WOC terrain at 1300m).
4 PM

Run 59:00 [3] 11.9 km (4:57 / km)

Arrived in Geneva early morning after an on-time flight, which had the drawback of having to kill eight hours until I was able to check in (at least this gave me plenty of time to sort out things like my train tickets to Venice next week and a local mobile internet connection).

I'm staying somewhere different this time, an apartment a bit south of the city centre - in a residential area and essentially a perfectly normal apartment, nothing flash but it looks like it will do the job pretty well. Finally got out running around 3.30, essentially up and down the river Arve with a bit of climbing out past Bout-du-Monde. I didn't expect this to be a great run and it wasn't, but at least I managed to stay awake, and saw the city doing what a city does on a Saturday afternoon (lots of park football games, and I even saw a cricket pitch, although it wasn't in use).

The Mont Blanc rainshadow was in full effect today - floods continue just on the other side of the ranges in northwestern Italy, but on this side of the mountain it's mild, sometimes sunny and a little humid (got a bit of a sweat up which I wasn't expecting). Coming a couple of weeks earlier than last year definitely makes a difference to the vegetation; still plenty of leaves on the trees at the moment.

Next challenge will be to try to stay awake until a reasonable hour (aiming for 10 but won't be totally upset with 9).

Friday Nov 4, 2011 #

7 AM

Pool running 45:00 [2] 0.7 km (1:04:17 / km)

A session at Ivanhoe in between packing and heading for the station (and thence to the airport en route to Geneva). Felt reasonably comfortable - seem to have recovered OK from yesterday. My main worry was whether the people who were setting up in my street were going to have dug up the road in front of my house before I returned (they hadn't).

Thursday Nov 3, 2011 #

7 AM

Run 2:01:00 [3] 24.0 km (5:03 / km)

First proper Thursday long run of this cycle, although perhaps it wasn't really a proper Thursday long run because I was heading in late (having to pick something up at 9 from the auditors) so there wasn't a 5.15 wake-up. A bit disjointed through newsletter delivery in the first half through Eaglemont and Ivanhoe. Some good patches from time to time, but every hill was a struggle today. Did manage to fight it out but I'll want to be doing better than this on long runs in general during the summer. Hint of cramp at the end but it didn't come to anything.

I'm heading to Geneva tomorrow, and as usual don't have as much done as I would like at this stage.

Wednesday Nov 2, 2011 #

8 AM

Run 59:00 [3] 11.5 km (5:08 / km)

Starting from near Scotch on another step of the ramping up of training - two sessions in a day. This one is my once-or-twice a year opportunity to get a look at some extremely posh real estate in Toorak, out as far as Malvern Central shopping centre (which isn't in Malvern). Mansions row in Toorak wasn't exactly the place I expected to see flyers campaigning against the extraction of coal seam gas; the issue has made for some interesting bedfellows at both ends of the political spectrum, but I'm guessing the flyers were in that particular spot because the CEO of a relevant company lives there.

The run was fairly mediocre, although improved in the second half.
7 PM

Run race ((street-O)) 34:32 [4] * 7.8 km (4:26 / km) +120m 4:07 / km

Street-O at Smiths Dell. A short course without a lot of route choice once you made the initial decision, which meant pretty well everyone went the same way. Thought I might have been a bit unsettled after something went pear-shaped during the day, but fine once running (in fact running was no bad thing in these circumstances).

Got dropped a little at the start but then built into it, solid in the uphill first third and then flowing OK over the remainder of the course without feeling especially fast. Once again Tony Bird edged away from me on the level and downhill legs, and this time there was no steep climbing or terrain in the second half to peg that back, although I did pick off a couple of others over the closing control.

Once again 4 minutes down on Bruce, but did manage to get under the 4.30 mark for the first time in a couple of years. Hopefully this is only a staging post and the pace will come down a fair bit further by the time we get to March.

My next street-O will be in Venice.

Tuesday Nov 1, 2011 #

5 PM

Run intervals ((fartlek)) 40:00 [4] 9.0 km (4:27 / km)

First attempt at a non-racing speed session since the Australian Championships, at a somewhat unusual time of day because I had a few hours' work to do (mostly things I'd intended to do tomorrow but couldn't do from Canberra) and wanted to get home before the Melbourne Cup if I could.

The unusual time of day demonstrated that I warm up faster at 5pm than at 7am, but after that it felt like a rather weak and uncomfortable run, although the times were no worse than usual this year. (The discomfort may have been associated with the surplus weight jettisoned shortly after returning). Definitely didn't feel like I had too much zip on the hills.

There will be some Qantas passengers who have a(nother) nasty surprise waiting for them when they get home - probably a dozen cars in our corner of the long-term car park, including both those next to mine, had been broken into. Obviously the person or persons responsible decided there was nothing worth stealing in mine.

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