I’m writing this sitting on the plane heading back home to wintry Adelaide from the sunny Gold Coast. 6 weeks ago I had just completed the Barossa Marathon, my second marathon EVER, in PB time and I was in Struggletown. I wondered why, and how, I was going to run another marathon in 6 weeks time.
I went out for 2 slow runs during that week and by Saturday I was back to normal… managing a reasonably fast parkrun that day. In the following weeks, I started running better than ever. It seemed to be less of an effort, and I often surprised myself with the pace I was running… it was a lot faster than it felt.
Things were looking promising, even my long runs were done at a good pace. I even managed to get in a few Sunday trail runs which were a nice change of pace (I did have to hold myself back a bit on the trail runs… the last thing I wanted was to fall over and injure myself so close to a big race).
In marathon week I did a couple of easy paced morning runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, before departing on Thursday morning. After being picked up at the airport by former Adelaidean, now Gold Coast local, Vanessa, I got my first sight of the beach over coffee and cake at one of the many surf clubs along the Coast. After lunch it was time to get down to business… to registration and the Expo.
The apartment where I was staying was conveniently located within walking distance of the Convention Centre. Registration done, it was time to check out the Expo. The way it is laid out, all participants have to walk past every stand (and there were a LOT of stalls) to get out. Great exposure for the companies with stands there! My credit card managed to get off relatively lightly with an $80 purchase from Skins just as the expo was about to close for the day. Back again the following day, I spent $60 at Rockwear. I think anyone that was there would agree that I was very restrained… it was all quite overwhelming and very tempting!
Later on Friday afternoon it was off to Main Beach for an informal parkrun. That was an enjoyable, casual paced 5k trot along a lovely, varied course. Australian running royalty, Robert de Castella, was there, along with the current crop of runners from the Indigenous Marathon Project, who would be running the half marathon as part of their training for the New York Marathon. The parkrun was followed by a few drinks at the local surf club (why can’t every parkrun end like that? Never mind the fact that they are normally held on Saturday mornings!)
Saturday was a running-free day… no running, no expo. I had my traditional pre-marathon dinner of pizza and cider, and then it was back to the apartment to get the gear ready for the following day. I opted for the same outfit that had served me well at Barossa, minus the arm warmers (hardly needed here!) and with blue calf sleeves instead of pink. Oh, and a new hat compliments of the Garmin stand at the expo – I only wore it in the race because it was identical to the one I had worn at Barossa, only with a Garmin logo printed on it. NEVER try something for the first time in a race, not even something as small and seemingly insignificant as a hat. I had new shoes too… identical to my previous ones, and nicely broken in with 42km of mainly parkruns (including 2 PBs – they were fast shoes!)
Race day came. I got up at 5am and had my usual breakfast… Weetbix, muesli and chia with rice milk. Dressed and armed with my (not-so) secret weapons – a handheld bottle of Gatorade, Lifesavers, energy drink, energy pills and Voltaren, I put on my 5 pace bands (my 3 from Barossa plus 2 I had picked up at the Expo) – ranging from 3:30 (dreaming) to 3:45 (realistic) and it was off on the tram to the start line!
I started in Group B, behind the 3:45 pacer. Previously I had always gone for a negative split so I always knew I’d pass the pacer eventually. I had seen Clive, with whom I had done a lot of my Sunday runs, on the walk to the start, but I didn’t see any of the other Adelaide people I knew were there. I’d seen the finish chute and the ‘250m to go’ sign… how good a feeling would it be when I saw that sign again later in the morning? I was hoping for 3:30 but that was a big jump from my previous 3:39 so I never really expected it. It’s always worth setting an ambitious goal as long as you don’t beat yourself up too much if you don’t achieve it! A PB would be nice though…
My mojo had disappeared and I felt quite flat in the leadup and at the start line. But I’d come this far so there was no way I wasn’t going to give it 110%! There were so many people (5276 finishers, and presumably more than that at the start) that the first km was a bit slow for my liking!
I had chosen, right from the start, to ignore ALL FIVE of the pace bands I had put on. So they really served no purpose other than to give me some interesting looking tan lines! My first 5km was completed in 5:06 min/km average pace. WAY faster than planned! (My next 2 5km splits were both identical at 5:08. Very consistent. I wasn’t used to this!)
I’m not sure exactly what point in the race, I spotted ahead of me a blue Running Domain singlet. At last! A familiar face! (Running Domain is the group with which I have done my Sunday long runs this year) I quickly caught up to Amanda and we ran together for close to 20km. We hadn’t actually run together before and only really chatted via Facebook so it was nice to run with someone new! Amanda was going for 3:45 which would be a PB. Pace-wise we were well ahead of where we needed to be.
We ran with a couple of guys for a while, Luke and Adam, who were hoping for sub 4 hours so they were quite confident when they heard what times we were aiming for! I left Amanda just after the halfway point (I like to call it the ‘Bon Jovi moment’ – we’re halfway there!) and really just tried to hold on from that point! My left hip had started to niggle around the 18km mark so I’d had 2 Voltaren and after about half an hour it didn’t bother me again.
Hydration was a new experience… my 2 previous marathons were run with bottled water, whereas as a non-elite runner in such a big event, today I had to make do with the cups of water supplied at the drink stations. I didn’t want to change my sports drink so I brought my own Gatorade, and being a warmer climate than I was used to, I thought I’d get too hot if I wore my hydration vest. It took me a while to get used to drinking out of cups. I’d already perfected the technique of grabbing them on the run, but I usually ended up wearing more of the water than I drank. Paper cups are definitely easier than plastic and after about the 3rd drink station I’d got my technique sorted… bending the cup to make a sort of funnel. I didn’t stop at all the stations… I didn’t want to OVER hydrate and I also didn’t want to have to make a portaloo stop! There was plenty of time for hydrating AFTER the race!
I rationed my Gatorade, ensuring I would have some left at the end. If I needed a boost I’d have a Lifesaver… sugar I know, not ideal but it works for me!
I was trying to hold a consistent pace, something I’d never done before over this distance. Early on I was averaging 5:06 minute kms, and over time it slowly increased to 5:07, then 5:08. I really wanted to keep it under 5:10 as that would mean a new PB.
I had been warned by Amanda (who had run this event last year) that the 30km mark was nasty… a bit of a hill, and going past the finish line with still over 12km to go. She was right! And then I knew that I had to run about 6km more before the turnaround after which I would technically be on the home stretch. That was the longest 6km I think I’ve ever run! I thought a 2 lap course like Barossa would mess with my head but I think this was worse!
At one point (I think with around 5km to go) I thought “If I hear one more person say ‘You’re nearly there!’, I am going to punch them!” Luckily for that person, I was too far away and too buggered by then! With 12km to go, I tried to tell myself, ‘That’s just City to Bay… that’s nothing!’ It didn’t work. 12km after having run 30km is still a bloody long way!
Even with 5km to go, ‘Just a parkrun to go’ wasn’t cutting it! (At about the 2km mark, someone had held a sign that said ‘Only 8 parkruns to go!’ Cheeky bugger!) Happily, as I was waiting to see the 36km marker, I was surprised to see the 37km marker instead… I’d somehow missed the 36km! (Probably because I was running a lot with my head down at this point. This was a bit dangerous as a lot of people were walking along the left hand side of the road by now, and I could easily have taken one of them out!) 36km is a psychological barrier as that is the longest distance we do in our long runs. I was so glad to be 1km ahead of where I thought I was… normally it’s the other way round!
My pace was hanging around 5:07/5:08. It was a struggle but I’d come this far… I wasn’t going to stop now! Surprisingly the heat, which I had been warned about, wasn’t a big issue for me… I actually didn’t really notice it!
I got to the 40km mark and for the first time I saw the elapsed time (on my Garmin I had only allowed myself to look at my average pace, not the overall time). It was around 3 hours 30 minutes. With very tired legs, I couldn’t see myself completing the remaining 2.2km in well under 10 minutes… the PB wasn’t going to happen today! I was tempted to walk (I hadn’t walked at all up to this point) and did drop my head a bit, but within a minute or so it dawned on me… that was gun time! I’d crossed the start line over 2 minutes after gun time… the PB was still on!
I pushed on… I really was ‘nearly there’ by now!
The last km was a blur. I really felt like I was dreaming, it didn’t feel real! I was still sitting on 5:09 pace so I was confident of my PB. Then there was that magical ‘250m to go’ sign! I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin… mission accomplished! My watch showed 3:38:44 (my official net time would be 1 second faster) – a new PB by over 30 seconds!
I lay down by a tree for a while… big mistake! Both calves felt like rocks when I got up, so I went to the physio tent where I iced them for a while, then a quick walk in the water and some lunch.
Later in the day I went for a dip in the ocean near the apartment – not as cold as I expected! That was followed by a drink and curry with some fellow Adelaideans.
This morning my legs were a bit stiff when I got up but they quickly loosened up. I went for a fairly brisk 5km walk along the Esplanade with no issues… stark contrast to my last marathon! (Must have been the curry – that will have to be my post-race dinner of choice from now on!)
Overall I was quite satisfied with my run yesterday despite ignoring my plan… there’s still plenty of room for improvement!
What’s next on the agenda? This coming Saturday I plan to do a 6 hour event, running around a 2.2km loop. Sounds crazy? No. There is also a 12hr and a 24hr event. I am one of the sensible ones!
No more marathons for me this year. Well, maybe the Great Barrier Reef in November. Apart from that… no more marathons!