Innovative Aussie ambassador sets new official personal best in 'Covid Classic 50km' time trial

Innovative Aussie ambassador sets new official personal best in 'Covid Classic 50km' time trial

WITH no formal races in the pipeline anytime soon, Sydney-based Andy Heyden took matters into his own hands again to take advantage of his strong form and break another PB last weekend. Here, he shares his latest exploits:

Having trained hard for the London Marathon, I was in great form back in March when we entered the 'new normal' world of social distancing. I was determined to use my running to keep up my focus and mental health. I wasn’t going to let the training peak go to waste so I ran a solo marathon around my local suburb and still broke my PB by 90 secs, lowering my best to 2 hrs 35 mins. 

As is customary using CurraNZ, in the days after the marathon my legs felt great and I had to hold back to rest and not get back running too far, too soon.

I started planning my next goal. Based on my performance, the Australian 50km record (male over 45) was within reach. But with no races any time soon, how could I make it happen?

A few phone calls later and I knew what was needed. An official course measurer, a fair amount of paperwork to get my local street loop certified and a few time keepers and witnesses to be available on the day. Game on.

I set the record attempt date eight weeks later, having read a few articles on how soon you can back up after a marathon. It was ambitious but I wanted something to keep me focused while we awaited ‘normality’ to resume.

My coach Gary Mullins set out a plan of what to do. I’d need a few easy weeks to recover then build the kilometres back up for four weeks before a two-week taper. 

The signs were good, soon I felt fresher again and ready to have a go.

The challenge was fairly clear, using the 1.25km looped local street course, as for my marathon. I’d run a similar pace and coach Gary would accompany me on a bike. We had an official lap counter and witnesses. The record would be official if I could make the target time. 

Pre-race day and I was all set. The only problem was that I just wasn’t feeling perfect, I’d had a stressful week of work and felt a bit drained. I hoped it was just nerves. 

I was up at 6am and checked the street course. I needed to clear a fresh dump of autumn leaves from a huge Liquid Amber tree on one of the corners and then I set up my drinks table on a friend’s front lawn.  

Off we go, and I built into race pace on the first few laps and started clicking into gear at 3:42 per km pace. It felt okay but not as easy as it did on marathon day. A few friends dropped by and joined me for the first hour.

I took a gel every 25 mins and the time passed reasonably fast but it just wasn’t as smooth and my head felt a bit foggy. I pushed through and maintained race pace up to the halfway point at 25km.

My legs were okay but just not as fresh as I would have liked – I hoped for a second wind and pushed on. My pace was slipping and I was losing momentum. I tried to win the mental battle and tick off the laps still hoping I could summon some extra strength. 30km down, but my pace was slipping to 3:44 and then to 3:50.

My family and a few friends had gathered to cheer me on but it was starting to hurt. My hamstring was tightening and the record was slipping out of reach.

It was time to re-assess, my mind was saying ‘pull out and stop’ but there was still a PB to be claimed and I don’t like giving up.

I pushed on and focused on getting through 40km, then 42km. I had another gel at 45km and finally could start counting down the laps. My pace had continued slipping, now it was hard to hold 4-min kilometres. 

It was getting ugly and I wanted stop and at this point it came down to mental toughness. I pushed through and finally had just one lap to go. I gritted it out and crossed the toilet paper finish line held up by my daughters.

It wasn’t the result I wanted, I didn’t manage the Australian record but it was a new PB to add to my marathon PB.  

In hindsight it was clearly greedy trying to back up eight weeks after the marathon and expect to nail another effort without peaking perfectly.

However, you don’t know till you try. I’m glad I had a go, I enjoyed the experience and inspired a few of the locals who watched on. 

Huge thanks again to the guys that helped me make it happen. 

Once again I have very little muscle soreness after the effort thanks to the CurraNZ and whilst I’ll take a few weeks off running I suspect I’ll be planning another idea soon...