Race Report – Barossa Marathon Festival 2017

This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!

2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!

I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)

Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!

Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig! 

Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!

I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.

The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!

I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)

Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.

We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)

Voula and Beck wishing Gary all the best!
And they’re off, in the 2017 Barossa Marathon!

The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!

I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!

(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)

I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)

For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.

I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run. 

Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!

Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!

With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.

Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!

Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!

I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!

Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!

There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.

I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!

Just before the finish line – pic courtesy of Dave Munro.

And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!

Luckily I had time to pose for a pic with Kathryn before the downpour!

There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.

Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!

Proud father/daughter moment! Thanks Voula Nisyrios for the pic!

As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!

#willrunforwine – a very enjoyable tasting at Hentley Farm!

So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!

Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!

A nice red and some sweet bling – what more could you want?
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Race report – Boston Marathon 2017

I’m going to assume you’ve read my previous posts or have an idea about what the Boston Marathon is and what it means to run it – otherwise I could very well fill the equivalent of one whole blog post just with the background!

So, following on from my last post. I had my traditional pre-marathon dinner of pizza (I Googled and found a pizza joint with a vegan menu, you guessed it, within walking distance from where I was staying!) from the All Star Pizza Bar – delicious pizza! I could only eat half! Well I probably COULD have eaten more than that… 

Just a few doors down was a liquor store and after umming and ahhing over the choices I eventually settled on a local craft cider.

The tradition continues! Marathon #6, every one preceded by pizza and cider the night before!

Then it was time to work out what time I needed to set my alarm (a very civilised 6:30 – I also set one for 6:35 and 6:40!) and get my gear ready. Because the bib is quite ‘long’ I decided to pin it to my top instead of wearing it attached to my belt as I normally do. 

With security being (understandably) very tight, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t take to the start line and have in your finish line bag. I had planned to bring an Australian flag to the finish but that was on the banned list (not that they have anything particularly against Australians, just large flags in general are banned!) So we were all given a small start line bag (mainly just for nutrition and drinks) and a larger finish line bag (I put my long sleeved finisher shirt, a T-shirt in case it was warm, long pants and thongs in there). All of that was packed and ready to go, my gear was all laid out and my breakfast, except the stuff that needs refrigerating, was also in the bag. Because my start time was 10:50, and I would be getting on the bus to the start at Hopkinton between 8 and 8:40, and I would be on a train from Cambridge at around 7:30, it would be too early for me to eat breakfast before leaving the house. I had brought a disposable container with a lid and a disposable plastic spoon (which may or may not have been courtesy of Cathay Pacific) so I could eat breakfast just before getting on the shuttle bus!

I had decided to change one thing on race day – instead of the (slightly stretched and therefore more for aesthetic than practical value) aqua calf sleeves I’d planned to wear, I opted for the BRAND NEW, NEVER BEFORE TRIED 2XU ones I’d bought from the expo. “What happened to not trying anything new on race day?” I hear you ask. But when you consider that I’m in Boston, and my top has a yellow trim on it, how could I not wear these babies?

Now I just needed to make sure I put them on the correct legs…

I did tape my feet – despite my new favourite Steigen socks being pretty much guaranteed blister-proof, I wasn’t taking any chances – a blister can totally ruin your day!

I set 3 alarms – not leaving anything to chance!

I actually woke up before the first one – another guest at the house where I’m staying, Alissa, was also running the marathon but she was in an earlier wave, so she needed to be up and gone earlier. So I took my time getting ready. I decided to leave the beanie at home – it was going to be a warm day and I kind of liked the beanie so I didn’t want to have to ditch it! I did wear the track pants, even though they weren’t really needed, because I needed to make room in my suitcase for all my new purchases!

I headed to the train and while on the train I decided to put my gloves in my finish line bag – no way would they be needed! In fact the arm warmers were probably superfluous too but they look cool so they stayed!

At Boston Common I dropped off my finish bag and headed to the bus loading area. With strict rules on what could and could not be taken on the bus, I ate my breakfast before getting in the bus queue.

DOZENS of buses, just like this!

The girl next to me on the bus was a veteran of 7 Bostons, being a local. She has never done any other marathon! She told me it is not a fast course (which I knew, but then, she doesn’t have anything to compare it to!) and at that point I decided not to get too hung up on the sub-4. Que sera, sera! As long as I had that sweet medal hanging around my neck at the end, time was irrelevant!

We arrived at the Athletes Village at Hopkinton. They had everything! Fruit, bagels, gels, mini Clif bars (I did have one of those) and even coffee! I can’t do coffee before a race!

Papped on the way in (hence the reason why I’m not smiling!)

I requested the photographer get my ‘best side’ because I had to get a shot of those AWESOME calf sleeves!

Everything was supremely well organised, the whole day! The portaloos at the village were plentiful but (well the one I used) pretty nasty! I wonder if as many spectators would high five runners if they knew what the portaloos were like! The MC kept making announcements about which wave and corral needed to go where and when. There was really no excuse for not knowing where to go! (He kept calling our wave the ‘Smurf’ wave on account of our bibs being blue!)

Pretty soon our wave (Wave 3) was called and it was time to make our way into our corrals and to the start. It all happened pretty quickly. All along the way there were opportunities to discard clothing which would all then go to charity (much of it was probably purchased from charity stores in the first place – I know mine was!)

Being a warm day (they described it as ‘hot’ and it did feel that way at times while running but it was actually mid 70s which is around 24 degrees Celsius) I put sunscreen on while walking to the start.

And pretty soon we were away!

The start!

It’s going to be pretty hard for me to describe this race in any great detail – although I did try to take in as much of it as I could, given that I was on unfamiliar turf, I probably can’t do it justice.

I’m going to try to keep it in some kind of chronological order but I’ll also be jumping all over the place – bear with me!

I did buy this book, at the Harvard Book Store, on Tuesday, which I hoped may help!

As I had been told by all of the many friends I have who have previously run Boston, “It’s downhill at the beginning, don’t get carried away, save your legs!” Easier said than done!

The crowd, right from the start, was phenomenal and got right behind me. My name was emblazoned across the front of my top in big bright yellow letters so it could be seen from a distance. That was an idea I got from friend Tory who ran Boston 2 years ago. It meant the crowd could cheer for you by name. Unlike all the other marathons I’ve done, the Boston bibs don’t have names on them.

I went in with no plan and no pacing strategy. I’d set my ‘slow alert’ on my watch to 7 minutes per km. That was more to alert me if my GPS dropped out (which has happened several times recently) rather than to tell me if I was running too slow. I didn’t expect that I would actually be running that slow, but as it turned out, at times I was! I was still HOPING for sub 4. I was fully expecting a ‘Personal Worst’ and absolutely fine with that!

The sports drink on the course was lemon-lime Gatorade which for once was what I was used to! From previous experience at City-Bay in Adelaide (up to 40 000 people) and City2Surf in Sydney (around 70 000) I expected that the drink stations might be hard to get to. So despite being familiar and comfortable with the sports drink, I still carried a handheld bottle of Gatorade so I could drink whenever I needed to. The drink stations were very frequent (almost too frequent!), being every mile from mile 2 onwards. I had been told that there was first one on the right, and soon after, one on the left. So if you happened to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it didn’t matter, you didn’t need to fight your way through the crowd to get a drink!

Paper cups were good too. Much easier to drink out of than plastic. You could fold it into a spout and drink without wearing half of it! (Although, it was warm, and many people were pouring water on themselves intentionally. As long as that didn’t happen with the Gatorade!)

Speaking of pouring water, there were a few spots along the course where fire hydrants were made into makeshift sprinklers – I can tell you they were VERY much appreciated! I did make the mistake the first time of getting too close to the water source and consequently getting DRENCHED – I soon learned to stay a bit away from the hydrant and just get a LIGHT shower!

I was amazed throughout the race, at how many people were there (there always seemed to be a sea of people ahead) and yet I never felt like it was congested. Whereas, when I did City2Surf, I actually couldn’t get close to a drink station!

Around the 2 mile mark, in Ashland, near the first drink station, the ‘Rocky’ thrme tune was blasting – great motivation! (I read in the book that this is a tradition – Rocky theme on a continuous loop – so nice and motivating for the runners who are just passing through, but must be VERY tedious for the spectators!

I wasn’t aware of it at the time but within Ashland, at around 4 miles, is where Kathrine Switzer famously was almost dragged off the course in 1967, for being a woman back in the Dark Ages when it was a ‘men-only’ event.

Back to the crowd support. I was expecting great things and boy did they deliver! There were quiet patches, sure (and at times I actually needed a bit of ‘quiet time’ to focus and drop the pace and effort down a notch) but for most of the 42.2km (or as they say here, 26.2 miles – doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it?) there was amazing support. As I said earlier, having my name on my top made ALL the difference. I didn’t know a single person out there but it seemed like everyone knew me! And a LOT of fellow runners commented on it, too! There was one point where someone called out “GO JANE!” and a few moments later, “GO RUNNER NEXT TO JANE!” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

It seemed appropriate that in the home of the TV show ‘Cheers’ that it really did feel like everybody knew my name!

There were MANY high fives. Hundreds, I’m sure! Many were from kids but there were a few from very enthusiastic gentlemen, many with a beer in the other hand, and a few stung a bit! (I made a mental note, after one particularly ‘stingy’ one, to only high five kids from then on! That lasted about 2 minutes!)

The spectators were also handing out stuff left right and centre. Oranges were popular, along with water (in between the official drink stations), ice, ice blocks, licorice, and even beer! The only thing I took was 2 bottles of water throughout the course of the race. Having a water bottle as well as my handheld Gatorade made high fiving a bit more challenging but I was determined to make it work – the Gatorade bottle could slide up over my wrist, freeing up my hand. It did mean, though, that I could just take the centre line through the drink stations and avoid getting caught up in the congestion (which, truth be tokd, wasn’t actually that bad).

After Ashland we arrived in Framingham. A few things I can remember here (with the help of my trusty book) was the massive party atmosphere and the sports scoreboard! The party atmosphere, as it had done for a lot of the early part of the race, had got me really pumped up (especially with the crowd yelling out my name) and caused me to run a fair bit faster than I probably should have at that point. So while I found the crowd support incredibly motivating, and there was much air punching and fist pumping as well as high fiving, it may have caused me to spend a bit too much energy early! The sports scoreboards is another tradition – the Red Sox always play at Fenway Park on Marathon Monday so there was someone along the side of the road posting score updates from the game (which the Sox did end up winning) on a blackboard.

Somewhere in Framingham we passed the 10k mark. I wasn’t looking at my watch – and when I did look at it, it was just to look at the distance – not time or pace. However Strava reliably informs me that at the 10k mark I was sitting on 5:12 pace with a time of 52:24. Somewhat way too fast for what was expected to be around a 4 hour marathon!

Around the 12km mark we entered Natick which according to my trusty book, is a local Native American name meaning ‘place of hills’. Not sure if that’s ACTUALLY true but never let the truth get in the way of a good story! Here the Fire Department was kind enough to give us a cooling spray station which was much appreciated!

Then came Wellesley and the famous/infamous ‘Scream Tunnel’ which is around the 20k mark. This is where hundreds of girls from Wellesley College line the course and create a level of noise that can be heard from (seemingly) miles away. This is where, if you’re that way inclined, if you can’t get a kiss, there’s something seriously wrong! This tradition dates back to the earliest days of the Boston Marathon, remembering that back then, women weren’t allowed to compete. These days, a few guys join in the fun – I guess they would like their chances, given that the field now would be close to 50% women!

I did see a few guys with signs asking for kisses but decided not to take them up on the offer – I settled for a whole bunch of high fives!

There were LOTS of great signs along the way. One of the most memorable was a girl holding up a signs saying ‘Nipple Vaseline Station’ (or words to that effect!) I ran past her saying “I’m good!” and laughing! And someone had my personal favourite sign (the one I held up at the 2014 Adelaide Marathon) – “Run like someone just called you a jogger!”

Then there was this guy. I saw him but it didn’t register at the time what it was.

This of course was the score in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl, which the Patriots ended up winning! Great motivator for Patriot fans, I’m sure fans of the Falcons wouldn’t have appreciated it quite so much!

I saw a few participants in wheelchairs – not the elites though, they start before the runners as they go CRAZY fast. I remember seeing Aussie legend Kurt Fearnley during the Gold Coast Marathon last year, coming back the other way – unbelievably fast! But as Boston is one way rather than out-and-back, we weren’t going to see any of those speedsters! (Fearnley ended up finishing 4th at Boston this year)

There was one guy in a wheelchair who was going backwards (with a few supporters helping)! I did ask if he was going backwards the whole way but I couldn’t understand what they said.

Turned out he was – and has done so many times before! 

I saw a few walking with crutches, several amputees with prostheses (proper running prostheses, like that guy whose name I don’t want to mention here) and a few moon boots. I also saw one girl just in her socks and carrying her shoes – presumably blisters? (Bet she was wishing she’d taped!)

I wondered about the crutches and moon boot but then I thought, if I’d qualified and then the unthinkable had happened there’s no way I would have missed this. So if it meant walking it, with crutches, in a moon boot – so be it!

There were also a lot of visually impaired runners with sighted guides. I noticed 2 spots along the course where there were changeovers of guides. And at one point there was a guy calling out that there was a visually impaired runner and guide coming down the middle of the road so we could keep out of their way. 

Still within the town of Wellesley we reached the halfway mark (well, in distance anyway!) According to Strava I reached halfway in 1:52:48 which is 5:21 minutes per km. I didn’t know that at the time (again, not looking at my watch!) but based on the time clocks that were at every mile marker, and knowing that we had started 50 minutes after the official start of the race, I thought I was on just under 2 hours. And with some hills coming up in the second half, I was pretty sure a negative split was not on the cards – so I held out little to no hope of a sub-4!

I heard music… and it was Bon Jovi, but not the song I expected to hear when I was ‘halfway there’ – instead it was ‘It’s My Life’ (still good!) I had to settle for singing the chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in my head!

Not long after this came the 4 Newton Hills between 26 and around 34km, the last one being the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Now, I am in no way a mountain goat, but the hills didn’t scare me. I figured, if I had to walk up some of them, so be it. As it turned out, I managed to run the whole way although I did slow down to a plod at several stages (that was when my watch started notifying me that I was going slower than 7 minutes per km). I didn’t find any of the hills too terrible – if anything I found the heat more of a problem than the hills. I didn’t notice anything particularly menacing about Heartbreak Hill, nor did I get complacent after having ‘summited’, knowing that there was still a long, long way to go! My Strava time for the Newton Hills segment was 48:44 (6:13 minutes per km) with an overall elevation of 62m which doesn’t sound so bad, does it? The Heartbreak Hill segment itself (800 metres) I completed in 5:53 (6:47 minutes per km) and the elevation was 29m. 29m over 800m is quite a lot. Not that you should compare apples and oranges but if you put that elevation over 100km you’re looking at 3600m elevation. So yeah, it is steep but it is short.

Around here we passed Boston College. This was when spectators had paper cups of drinks which I quickly realised were beer! (I didn’t take any drinks from cups during the race – only bottles of water!)

This was also where I was looking out for Adelaide friend Maree’s daughter Emily, who was to be holding a yellow inflatable kangaroo. Unfortunately I had never met Emily so I didn’t know what she looked like! In preparation I took out the small Australian flag that I had in my pocket, and I did see a kangaroo, only it was a guy holding it! I held up my flag and cheered, and later found out that Emily WAS there and called out to me, only with all the other people cheering for me, I didn’t hear her! Turned out she’d given the kangaroo to the guy to hold as he was taller and would be more easily seen by the runners!

I can’t remember exactly where it was, but I saw a marquee to the left that had ‘Run Jane Run’ on the side of it! I pointed out my name to the supporters hanging out there (presumably supporting someone else called Jane, not me, but I like to think they’d heard I was coming) and got an extra enthusiastic high five from each of them! (I did hear quite a lot of people throughout the race calling out “Run Jane Run” and “See Jane Run” which was pretty cool!)

At around 22 miles we reached Brookline, and Beacon St which seemed to go forever – not so many welcome distractions here! The ‘T’ train was still running, parallel to the course, and some of the passengers waved to us!

Coolidge Corner was a welcome relief from the relative monotony, with a large cheering crowd – including one girl who went out of her way to track me down and send me this photo!

Coolidge Corner in Brookline – around the 24 mile mark. Photo thanks to Katie Collins who tracked me down via my bib number to send me the photo – thanks Katie!

Next came the iconic CITGO sign with just one mile to go. It’s pretty big though so you can see it WELL before you hit the last mile! But, once you see it, you know you’re nearly there! And I could hear the cheering of the crowd at the Sox game at Fenway Park!

Hard to miss, even during the day!

With about 1 mile to go, I snuck a look at my watch. I roughly calculated that if I did just under a 9 minute mile I might get the sub-4. (If I’d known for sure at this point that the sub-4 was definitely off the table, I planned to back right off and just enjoy the ride. But it was still a vague possibility so, while I still continued to enjoy it (and high five), I gave it my best shot.)

1 mile has never seemed quite so far! But the crowd was once again incredible. One girl was handing out stars that had ‘BOSTON STRONG’ written on them so I grabbed one of those.

You can sort of see it in my hand (the red thing) along with my Aussie flag.

One guy called me ‘a savage’ – I’m not quite sure exactly what to make of that but I have to assume it was a compliment – spectators heckling runners during a marathon is not really a thing, certainly not in Boston!

Those last 2 turns. ‘Right on Hereford, left on Boylston’.

On Hereford – not long before the last turn!
I didn’t stop here during the race, of course, but couldn’t resist a photo op the next day – possibly one of THE most iconic intersections!

And there it was – the finish line! 

Tiny Australian flag aloft, I sprinted (well it felt like a sprint, I’m sure it didn’t look like it!) to the finish line and I was done!

I JUST FINISHED THE BOSTON FREAKING MARATHON!

I DID IT!!!

Watch stopped. Time (officially) was 4:00:19 – oh so close! But, I had done it! (I later found out that my finish time of around 2:50pm was exactly the time the first bomb had gone off 4 years ago – eerie!)

As we started the long walk out of the finish area I got chatting to a girl called Millie who wanted to get a selfie with me! 

Millie said she was right behind me a lot of the way and could hear the crowd cheering for me!

Then came the best bit – that glorious bling!

So much happy!
I could LEGITIMATELY wear this shirt now!

As had been the case for the rest of the day (and the weekend as a whole), the finish area was really well organised. Everyone was given a shiny blanket (like a space blanket – to keep warm) and even a sticker to hold it closed so we didn’t have to hold it on! And we were also given Clif bars, fruit, water and a goodie bag with more food!
After leaving the finish area I went to try to find my Adelaide running buddy Maree, but I somehow missed her (easy enough to do with 30 000 runners out there!) While waiting I met a girl who had a brother who had lived in Australia for a while – I asked her where and she said ‘Adelaide’ – I said ‘No way, that’s where I’m from!’ Normally when I tell Americans that I’m from Australia, they’ve never even heard of Adelaide! I got to meet him briefly – my one Adelaide connection for the day!

I then made my way back to Cambridge (my only issue for the day was getting out – the marathon was still going, so I couldn’t cross Boylston St – so after going round in circles for a while I eventually got out!)

One of the coolest things was the number of people I met during the walk to the bus, who congratulated me – complete strangers! (Of course, for those who were also marathon finishers, the sentiments were reciprocated!) It was pretty obvious in my case as I was still proudly wearing my medal, my race kit and my ‘shiny blanket’! 

You can sort of see the shiny blanket here – kind of looks like a cape!

(Side note – one of the many things I love about Boston is how the people here can actually understand me when I speak, unlike many other places in the USA! It’s because they don’t pronounce the letter ‘R’ unless its followed by a vowel. Just like us! So they pronounce ‘Harvard’ like ‘Hahvuhd’ whereas other Americans would say ‘Harrvarrd’.)
First order of business when I got back home was the rest of last night’s pizza!

Then a shower, compression tights on, and off to Fenway Park for the after party! 

I didn’t stay long as I didn’t know anyone there but I did get to walk on the field (not on the grass but on the dirt around the edge) and sit in the dugouts which was really cool!

After that I walked (further than I thought I’d be walking) to Ben and Jerry’s for a non-dairy dessert (PB and Cookies, my favourite!) On the way there was a motorcycle cop leading a bunch of runners who got cheers from passers-by.  I asked a girl waiting at the lights what it was all about, she told me it was the marathon race director running the course (this was around 9pm) as he does every year! So that was a really cool thing to have seen!

Well worth the walk!
One of many examples of Boston getting behind the marathon and all its participants!

After Ben and Jerry’s I headed back home to Cambridge and to bed after a long, amazing, huge and very satisfying day!

It was everything I thought it would be and more! Thanks to the city of Boston, the BAA and the 9500 wicked awesome volunteers as well as the 30 000 runners – what a freaking amazing event!

That’s what I’m talking about!

Just a footnote – the following day I happened to be at adidas Runbase on Boylston Street to exchange a hoodie. Talk about being in the right place at the right time – as I walked out of the store, Kathrine Switzer just happened to be involved in a ceremony to retire her famous #261 bib, the one she controversially wore 50 years ago and again this year. It was so fitting to be able to see someone who was essentially a pioneer for women’s marathoners, still doing marathons and being an ambassador for female athletes 50 years later! I’m currently reading her book so this was such a cool way to end my marathon experience!

Inspirational!

The journey begins!

As I post this, it is marathon eve! All the training leading up to last year’s qualifier and the training that started just after Christmas, has led me to this point! All that is left to do is run the thing – which of course will be a subject for another post!

But before that, wouldn’t you like to hear about my first week in the States? Of course you would!

It started with an epic 34 hour journey – a 3am alarm, a 4am taxi and a flight that ended up leaving around 7am from Adelaide. I was lucky enough to get one of the ‘extra legroom’ seats at no extra cost!

And was pretty happy about it, too!

That was the short flight, only around 9 hours. Then came the big one, 16 hours from Hong Kong to JFK (with only a few hours stopover in Hong Kong). No extra legroom this time but I was on the aisle in the middle set of 3 seats, with no-one in the middle seat. So while I couldn’t stretch out, I could both get up and move around as I pleased, AND sleep without a neighbour needing to disturb me. And I did manage to catch a few Z’s on that flight too!
Because I was using a shared shuttle, and I was the last to get dropped off, it was nearly midnight by the time I got to my hostel – the Blue Moon Hotel on the Lower East Side. 

Longest. Monday. EVER!

All my roommates were asleep so I had to somehow find my bed in the dark (top bunk – not my preferred choice but any bed was good at this point!)
The next morning I took the subway to Central Park for a much needed leg loosener! Unsurprisingly I wasn’t the only one that had that idea! It is an extremely popular spot for runners, and with good reason. I just had to negotiate my way around all of the tourists! (Maybe early morning would have been better, but there was no way I was setting an alarm that day!)

The Reservoir track – a popular spot for runners (although I swear I saw a sign that called it a ‘jogging’ track!)
View of the Reservoir
Nice spot for a paddle!
Terrible spot, this!
One of the friendly locals!

After that I found an awesome cafe across the road from the hostel and had some amazing avocado toast and good coffee (and learning that ‘Americano’ is what they call a long black here!!)

And check out that table number!

I then spent most of the rest of the day checking out the neighbourhood which was really cool. Busy, yes – it is New York after all – but not crawling with tourists like Times Square! Lots of cool street art too!

Just around the corner from my hostel!
Above a pizza shop… of course!
‘The Cage’ – a famous street basketball court which always draws a crowd!
Stumbled upon a film set but couldn’t find out what it was!

I even found a restaurant with my name on it but I didn’t go in as it didn’t look very vegan-friendly!

Hey! It’s named like my name!

That night I went to a comedy club – UCBT – which was within walking distance. The show was only $8 and it was a bit of fun – it is a monthly event called ‘Channel 101’ and people can submit clips of up to 5 minutes of their own comedy show, the judging panel narrows the field down to 10, and those are voted on by the audience at a live screening. The top 5 then get to be part of next month’s screening, with a new episode. It was pretty cool – in the end 4 of the 5 shows that I voted for, were in the top 5!

Decisions, decisions!
In the restroom at the conedy club. I HOPE this is a joke!

On Wednesday I found the vegan bakery! Erin McKenna’s Bakery, once again, JUST around the corner! Did I mention how much I like this area? I had a donut which was delicious (if a little sticky) and then made my way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to take a bus to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. It was quite a long trip – I didn’t arrive until 4pm and I hadn’t thought to pack a lunch! I had an apple and a granola bar in my bag and at the last minute I bought a bag of chips from a vending machine at the station. But that wasn’t exactly enough!

The reason for my trip to Mohegan Sun was not to visit one of the largest casinos in the world (impressive though it is – I do have a few nights in Vegas coming up so I should get my fair share of casinos!) but instead to see the legendary Def Leppard live. 25 years ago I wanted to see them when they came to Adelaide but my mum wouldn’t let me (and I do still remind her of this on occasions!). On one of their more recent Australian tours I happened to be inconveniently overseas. I had tickets to see them during their Vegas stint in 2013 but ended up cancelling that trip altogether. Then I heard they were doing a North American tour and thought – can I make this work? Mohegan Sun was the only date that fit with my travel plans (everything was already booked) even if it meant missing the best part of 2 days in New York. And I did have to wake up at 1:30am to book tickets as soon as they went on sale – no way was I missing this!

I even bought merch! I never buy merch!

So anyway, on arrival at the casino I found the shuttle to my hotel, checked in, literally dumped my bag, got changed, and went back downstairs to get the shuttle back to the casino – I needed to find food, stat! I had been Googling using the free wifi on the bus, for vegan options at Mohegan Sun, but hadn’t found anything. I’m sure I could have got something at one of the restaurants but I just wanted something quick. So sweet potato fries it was! Followed by my first experience of Ben and Jerry’s vegan icecream – PB and cookies! So good! Australia NEEDS this!

I had a bit of a wander around the shops and hung out for a while at the record store which was playing a live DVD from the most recent Leppard tour – SO GOOD!

I entered the arena after the first band, Tesla, had already started. I’d heard of them but I don’t think they were very big in Australia. I am a big fan of the guy they’re named after, and electric cars are pretty cool too! I only knew one of their songs (and that was a cover!) but they sounded pretty tight.

My seat was good too – despite being in the second to back row, I had an excellent view. I genuinely believe there is not a bad seat in that arena! (Later on I was seriously wishing I was up the front – but I’m pretty sure VIP tickets were not in the budget!)

Next up was Poison – I wasn’t expecting to know many of their songs but they only played for about an hour and I actually knew all of the songs because it was exclusively old stuff! They really got the crowd going and sounded great!

Then it was time for the main event. I don’t want to go on too much about this but it really was one of the best concerts (if not THE best) I’ve ever been to. I always wonder how hard it must be for a band that’s been around for a long time, to come up with a set list – so many good songs, how do you choose? There will always be a few mandatory songs but there will always be good songs that get missed. And when the band is still recording excellent music even now, how much new stuff do you play and how much of the old favourites? Well I reckon they got it pretty spot on – not surprisingly the set was heavy on old stuff but still with a few tracks from the latest album which, while probably not as well received as the classics, sat very comfortably among them.

Apart from the fact that they make damn good music, one of the things I love about this band is how they’ve kept going after some pretty serious shit! And they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year – coincidentally, so am I!

Not to mention, musically I love their sound – those delicious harmonies, and the way that every member of the band is equal up there and gets their share of the spotlight, unlike some bands where it’s all about the lead singer and guitarist!

Cool backdrop where you got to see all 5 of the band members simultaneously!

The best!!!!!

I hope they manage to find their way back to Australia sometime and when they do I will certainly be giving VIP seats SERIOUS consideration!

It took a while for us all to get out of the arena (it was a capacity crowd of 10 000) and even longer for me to find my way out of the casino to the shuttle bus pickup point!

Then it was back to the hotel and a night in my own room – luxury!

Breakfast in the morning was a buffet and finding vegan options was a bit of a challenge so peanut butter on toast and cereal with almond milk it was! At least that would tide me over until I got back to NYC!

Then came me almost missing my bus back to New York. It wasn’t my fault, the concierge had told me the night before that I could just call a cab in the morning and it would come pretty quickly. But when I rang I was told that there was only one cab company in town and 2 of the 3 drivers had called in sick, so I couldn’t get picked up until 1:30. Which wasn’t particularly useful given that my bus was leaving the casino at 10! Luckily it wasn’t that far, as my only option was to walk! I made it with 3 minutes to spare but as it turned out the bus was about 15 minutes late, so I made it with plenty of time in the end.

I got lunch (a ‘tuna’ salad) from the vegan grocer Orchard Grocer down the road from the hotel on Orchard St and then went next door to vegan shoe store Mooshoes – I did buy a couple of things but the main attraction for me was the cat Marlowe who hangs out on the fron counter (in a shoe box, of course!)

He didn’t look super happy to have his photo taken – I guess that comes with being a celebrity!

He’s famous too – he features in the book ‘Shop Cats of New York‘!

Next up was a very pleasant walk across the Williamsburg Bridge (the views were magnificent but the bars made it impossible to take any decent photos!) to Williamsburg in Brooklyn where I found more street art and a motorcycle/coffee shop with my name on it!

Amazing stuff!
I saw this one from the bridge and somehow managed to find it!
This was a bar – the eyes follow you!
I bought one of their mugs – it cost $25 but worth it!

Then I grabbed some DELICIOUS vegan sushi from Hana on Rivington St and headed off to see an off-Broadway show – Avenue Q. Highly recommended! (Tip – todaytix.com is a good website to find cheap tix on the day or a few days beforehand!)

You have been warned! Think, ‘Team America’!

Friday morning I went for my last run before the marathon, across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. It was not a particularly cohesive run what with all the photo stops!

Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

After that I took the train to Brooklyn. I notice that the train stations in NYC are almost like art galleries – lots of awesome mosaic work! And on the Brooklyn side some cool glass panels!

Subway art!
Subway art!
Subway art!
These were all over the overground stations in Brooklyn!

The main reason for going to Brooklyn was to check out brand new avocado bar Avocaderia, which 2 of my Adelaide friends had alerted me to the previous night.

This was the ‘Quinoa and Friends’ salad. So good! Well worth the trip!

I then went for a walk to Sunset Park – very much a local park. Not one for the tourists but pretty amazing views across to Manhattan!

Ahhh – the serenity!

I had one more vegan spot to check out – Dun-Well Doughnuts in the East Village.

The peanut butter donut gets the thumbs up from me!

And some more cool mosaics!

These were on every street corner – very cool!

My last tourist stop for the day was Wall Street where I wanted to see the temporary ‘Fearless Girl‘ sculpture, staring down the famous bull.

It seems EVERYONE else in NYC had the same idea! I couldn’t get near her! You can just make out the bull among the crowd!

Then it was off to Broadway for another show – Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ starring Kevin Kline and also featuring Cobie Smulders (best known for playing Robin on ‘How I Met Your Mother’) – an EXCELLENT show.

I couldn’t escape Times Square altogether – it was literally on the way to my theatre!
So pleased I got to see this!
I decided against a last minute ticket to The Book Of Mormon as I would like to eat for the next week. I could fly to Melbourne and back to see it for less than that!

So that was it for New York – Saturday morning I caught the Greyhound to Boston. First stop was my AirBNB in Cambridge (a lovely spot!) to drop off my bags before heading out for coffee and lunch at the highly recommended Veggie Galaxy!

Cool tip jar!

Next up was a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play – it was a great game which the Sox won 2-1. It happened to be Jackie Robinson day – the 70th anniversary of the first African-American player in the Major League, so all players on both teams were wearing Robinson’s number, 42. Which was a tad confising for this foreigner at first until I worked it out! It was also the 4th anniversary of the Boston bombings – marked with a moment of reflection at the time the first bomb had gone off, 4 years earlier. So a very significant day all around!

Phew! I’m in the right place!

The atmosphere was fantastic – the whole crowd sang along to ‘Sweet Caroline’ with the mascot egging us all on!

Where’s Wally? There he is 🙂
You mean, like, balls? What other objects could they be talking about?

Sunday was nothing but Expo Day. I got up late and went across the road to the local brewery/coffee shop (for a coffee, in case you were wondering!) before jumping on the bus to the expo.

Let’s save the beer for AFTER the race!

But first, the finish line…

This is what it’s all about!
All marathoners obviously resting their legs!

Got to the expo and collected my race number and my finisher shirt (which I tried on for size and promptly put it back in the bag – I was surprised by how many people were wandering around the expo in their shirts! Don’t they know it’s bad luck?)

It’s real!!!

The next few hours (I think it was 3 – totally lost track of time!) I wandered through the expo and I don’t want to think about how much money I spent but it was all stuff I needed (isn’t it always?) WOW that place is overwhelming! My main dilemma was whether to get the small or medium Celebration jacket. After much deliberation and consultation I went with the latter!

I wrote my name on the wall – lucky I’m tall because the only real spaces were at the top. Extended periods of times standing on your toes are good for you the day before a marathon, right?

That’s me in the orange 🙂

I didn’t expect to see a swimming pool – that you could actually try out!

WTF???

I also watched about the last 6 miles of a video of the course which was on a loop! The last 6 miles was enough for me! 

Chills!

Aaand I finally made it out of the expo with only 2 T-shirts, the aforementioned jacket, a hoodie, 2 pairs of calf sleeves, a running light, a bunch of Clif bars, a bumper sticker and a new pair of runners (not the Boston special ones, just my regular ones which were RIDICULOUSLY cheap compared to back home!)

I thought I was quite restrained…

So now it’s time to head back to Cambridge, make sure I’m all sorted for the morning, and go get me a pizza and cider as per tradition! 

Will I be glad to see this tomorrow!

Race report – Adelaide Marathon Festival 2016

 

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The 2016 Adelaide Marathon Festival consisted of 4 events, the marathon, half marathon, 10k and 2k family fun run. For the first time since the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval, all the events finished on the hallowed turf. As a cricket tragic from way back and with Adelaide Oval being my spiritual home, there was no way I was missing out on this opportunity.

I had run Adelaide last year for the first time, as a pacer in the half marathon – that was also my first experience of pacing. You can read about it here.

This year I had also volunteered to pace the half, on the condition that if I needed to run Adelaide for a Boston qualifier, I would run the full instead. I decided early on (even before Gold Coast) that I would commit to running Adelaide Marathon as well, so I gave the organisers plenty of notice to find another 2 hour pacer.

I was running Adelaide with Beck, aiming for somewhere between 3:40 and 3:45, to try to get her across the line to Boston too.

My taper week was uneventful.

Tuesday was my usual 12k run, albeit slightly slower than usual. To make up for it we threw in a few short sharp efforts.

Thursday was a short 6k easy run. I noticed some discomfort on the outside of my left foot. I then realised that the shoes I was wearing had done over 900km! Luckily these weren’t the shoes in which I was planning to run the marathon!

I took Friday off and did an easy parkrun with Mum on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon I had volunteered to do a leaflet drop for SARRC (SA Road Runners Club – the organisers of the marathon) – basically putting flyers on cars along the tighter parts of the course, to politely ask people to park elsewhere on marathon morning. My designated area was the Mills Tce zigzag section and along Strangways Tce beside the golf course. The Mills Tce section I had earmarked as probably the most difficult section, after last weekend’s reccy run with Beck. It was great to get another chance to see it before race day, although hopefully I would be covering that section a bit quicker during the marathon!

I had a quiet night Saturday night, watching Olympics highlights, and my marathon eve dinner (as per tradition) was pizza – homemade dukkah-roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, spinach and pine nuts – with a cider. I’m glad I had the foresight to make 2 pizzas!

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The alarm went off at 4:45am on Sunday and I dragged myself out of bed to get ready. With ideal running weather forecast (mid teens as a top, not too cold overnight, and no rain) my kit was pretty standard – pink SARRC top, rainbow arm warmers, black and white skirt with compression shorts, pink calf sleeves, and my slightly newer shoes. I’d bought a pair of cheap gloves at the market the day before so I put them on along with track pants and a jacket, and my standard white hat. Ready well ahead of the time I needed to leave to pick Beck up, I sat down to watch a bit of Olympics coverage. Then, it was time to go. I thought, am I missing something? OMG, my Spibelt with race bib attached! I’d hung it up on my wardrobe door so my cats wouldn’t use it to sharpen their claws, and damn near forgot it! After grabbing that and putting it on, I headed out to pick Beck up and head to the Adelaide Oval.

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We got there in plenty of time, surprisingly there’s not much traffic on the road before 6am on a Sunday morning! That gave us plenty of time for a warmup, toilet stop, bag drop, energy drink, sunscreening and a fair bit of socialising! Unlike at Gold Coast where we had to be in our starting area a good 20 minutes before the start, we could wander onto the road with just a minute before the starter’s gun. Also unlike Gold Coast, and one of the best things about having the race based at a major sporting stadium, there were plenty of CLEAN toilets, running water, soap and even hand dryers! None of those stinky portaloos here!

We met our 3:45 pacer (‘bus driver’) Simon – I hadn’t realised that Beck and Simon hadn’t met before! He was easily visible, like all the other pacers, in his fluoro yellow SARRC top and helium balloons. Also carrying out pacing duties were fellow Yumigo athletes Paul (pacing 4 hours) and David (pacing 3 hours). Sadly we were not going to be able to get anywhere near David’s bus, and we were definitely planning to stay well ahead of Paul!

In the start area we saw Mick who was wearing the No. 1 bib – quite an honour! I expected him to be on the 3:00 bus but he said he didn’t think he would be – his goal race is Melbourne in October. Still, I expected him to be well ahead of me, unlike at Gold Coast 6 weeks ago!

Also there was Nat, running buddy and cycling teacher, who was doing her 3rd straight Adelaide Marathon and was aiming for around 4:30, so we were unlikely to be running with her during the race, although we would see her a number of times in the out and back sections.

It was cool but pleasant, and after warming up I had decided I didn’t need the gloves, so had left them in my bag. I did realise at this point that I didn’t have my sunnies! I thought I must have left them in my bag but I later found out they were sitting on the passenger seat of my car! It was too late by now to get them, so I had to just hope it wouldn’t be sunny!

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Aaaaand just like that, at 7am, we were away!

We started relatively conservatively – the plan being to stick with Simon for as long as we needed to, with the aim to move ahead of him if and when we felt the time was right. To try to go ahead of him too early was just asking for trouble. ‘Time in the bank’ is an easy mistake to make in a marathon – go too fast too early and you will lose that ‘banked’ time and more when you fatigue badly at the end.

I hadn’t used ‘Pace Alerts’ on my watch for a while but decided that might be an easy way to ensure we stayed on pace. 5:20 minutes per km would have us sitting right on 3:45. 5:12 would put us just under 3:40. I set my pace alert for 5:05-5:20.

The course is interesting – quite undulating and 2 laps can be a bit mentally tough. It’s also hard to maintain even splits when you’re going up and down. I found this particularly challenging last year as a pacer – it’s best for a pacer to maintain even splits throughout.

The first kilometre was slightly uphill, heading up Montefiore Road and around Light Square, the only time the course ventures into the Adelaide CBD (the rest of it is adjacent North Adelaide). We got through in 5:21 so we were just behind our goal pace but given the slight uphill that was fine. We were running close to Simon at this stage, so close at times we were getting balloons in our faces! Note to self: running DIRECTLY behind the pacer is probably not the best idea!

One of the great things about a course with lots of out and back sections is the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners. Early on we saw all the leaders in the marathon as they came back past us, but later in the race the front runners were so far ahead we didn’t cross paths with them again.

We went through 5km comfortably in 26:19 with an average pace of 5:16. This was around the start of the challenging Mills Tce zigzag, just after we passed the first drink station where Alison and Kay were working hard to keep the drinks coming!

Beck and I had both put ‘special drinks’ at all the drink stations – the drinks themselves weren’t all that special but having bottled drinks is more convenient than trying to drink out of plastic cups while running. With bottled drinks, you can grab the drinks even if you’re not quite ready for them, and you’ll have them when you need them, rather than having to wait another 5km for the next drink stop. I remember at my first marathon in Liverpool the water was all bottled, and it was so handy, I’d grab one at one drink station, and hang onto it until I got close to the next one, and so from the first drink station onwards I was not without a bottle in my hand. I used the same tactic at last year’s Barossa marathon (some bottles with Gatorade and some with water). At my last 2 marathons, at Gold Coast, personal refreshments was a privilege restricted to the elite runners. Here, at Adelaide, my drinks were all Gatorade, given that I had hardly drunk any water during this year’s Gold Coast, which was a much warmer day than Adelaide in August! I’d attached straws to the top to make them more visible, but as it turned out they weren’t that easy to spot, and actually quite annoying to carry! So I won’t be doing that again! Beck’s drinks were all water as she was using gels for nutrition. After the first drink station, once I saw what Beck’s drinks looked like, I offered to get her drinks for her as we passed each station – either I’d run ahead and grab them, or I’d drop back and get them, and catch up with her. This was so she could maintain a steady pace and not have to stop/start.

We passed 10km in around 52:45 – our average pace was still 5:16. We’d gone around the Mills Tce zigzag, up around Wellington Square where we’d seen familiar faces Trish and Britt marshalling, and back around the zigzag again. As predicted, this was quite challenging but the way back was slightly easier. On the way back I spotted Lisa, a former colleague and triathlete, marshalling on one of the corners. We were still comfortably on the 3:45 ‘bus’ by this stage. Also with us was Gary, who I had met at Henley to Henley, looking at doing a sub 4 hour time for his first marathon, and looking well on track to achieve this. Around 10km we got our first drinks. It took me a while to find mine and I ended up running around behind the drinks table, and dropping it on the ground before grabbing it and catching up with Beck and the bus. I realised it wasn’t quite as strong as I like it (I use the powder and mix it myself) but it would have to do!

Ahead of us were a lot of familiar faces in the marathon. Not far behind David (3:00 bus driver) were Gordon and Alex running together, Mick and Leon (the latter easy to spot in his bright red wig!) and then a bit further back around the 3:30 bus were Riesje and Zorica, both looking very strong every time we saw them. Also around there was Charlie, who I had met at Henley to Henley doing the run/walk strategy. I saw him a number of times during the marathon and thought he must have been taking it easy at H2H because on that day he and I finished together, whereas in the marathon he was WELL ahead of me!

Somewhere between 11 and 12km, heading back along War Memorial Drive towards Montefiore Road, we reached the 1 hour point and we saw the nearly 1000 half marathoners head towards Light Square on the start of their journey.

We ran into the Par 3 Golf Course carpark towards the Torrens Weir – very familiar territory, as this is where Torrens parkrun happens every Saturday. Here we saw a very familiar face, Karen, dressed up in a Where’s Wally outfit to cheer us all on with her funny signs.

 

We were still sitting on 5:16 pace at 15km (1:19:05) – we were in very familiar territory, around the Uni Loop. If we were able to maintain this pace we would be looking at a time of around 3:42:15. Just before this we’d passed the Adelaide Harriers drink station where there were a lot of familiar faces. Julie even had one of my drinks in her hand ready to give me when she saw me coming – talk about great service! I still had plenty in my bottle at that stage and I knew we’d be coming back this way soon so I said no thanks and kept going.

Although the pace seemed to be about right, we had to take into consideration that the distance showing on our watches was significantly more than the kilometre markers showed. The kilometre markers we assumed were accurate – GPS watches are notoriously not so much. Early on, our watches were vibrating to indicate another kilometre had passed, and it was about 200m before the marker. As the race went on, the discrepancy got bigger, up to 400m and then 600m. So the splits I have are based on a slightly inaccurate watch – without having officially timed splits that was all we had to go by. (There was a timing point at the top of Wellington Square but I think that was more to stop people from cheating by cutting corners, rather than giving split times)

As we approached the end of the first lap, we actually increased our pace slightly, going through 20km in 1:45:00 with an average pace of 5:15. This was one part of the course we hadn’t seen – when we did our reccy run last week, we’d run too far along the river, to the point where the only way to get up onto Montefiore Road was to go up stairs. We knew that wasn’t right – there would be no stairs in the marathon. I think I would have preferred the stairs – the hill was short but nasty. We ran up Montefiore Rd, back onto War Memorial Drive and back past the Adelaide Oval to commence our second lap. It was here that we saw (well, probably ‘heard’ is more accurate) Michelle for the first time, unmissable in a brightly coloured wig, marshalling at the entrance to the Adelaide Oval carpark. Boy, would we be happy to see her next time around!

As we went back towards Light Square I commented that I didn’t feel much different now than I did at the start of the race. A good sign, surely.

We were still sitting on 5:15 pace when we passed 25km in 2:11:27. This was on the way up War Memorial Drive past the golf course towards the Mills Tce zigzag. This was the first time we saw some of the half marathoners, among them Megan, Chantel, Caitlin, Neil and Michael.

Somewhere along this zigzag we fell off the 3:45 bus. We were gradually starting to drop behind but still within striking distance. At one point Simon looked around and wondered what was going on because he couldn’t hear me anymore. I offered/threatened to sing but it didn’t eventuate. We were convinced that Simon was ‘speeding’, because by 30km (2:38:11) our average pace had only dropped slightly to 5:16 as we ran back down Strangways Tce into the last zigzag. We decided not to try to run after the bus as that would waste valuable energy. Instead we decided just to stick to our own plan – we were still on target for a sub 3:45 finish.

(GPS inaccuracy is one of the difficulties of pacing. Normally the GPS says you’ve gone further than you actually have, so you need to run slightly faster than your watch would suggest, but you can’t go too fast otherwise the passengers will fall off the bus!)

At around 32km, with just over 10km to go, I remember saying to Gary, “This is where it gets ugly”. Gary had never run more than 33km in training so soon he would have surpassed his longest distance run.

As we ran back towards the weir, Karen had been joined by Shannon, Brian and Kym. Karen chased Beck and me for a short while – it was a welcome distraction and great support!

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I think we ‘dropped’ Gary not long after this – I hope it wasn’t something I said!

But I was right. It did get a bit ugly after that. We reached 35km in 3:05:08 and our average pace had dropped slightly to 5:17. Just before this, with around 8km to go, factoring in the GPS inaccuracy (the GPS was about 600m out by now) we reached the low point – running past Adelaide Oval along the river, Beck called it. 3:45 is not going to happen, we just have to get it done now. Things went a bit quiet for a little while as we dug deep and focused on ticking off the kilometres.

As we passed the Harriers drink station again I grabbed a second Gatorade even though I still had almost a full one. One in each hand would make me balanced! Beck was starting to cramp at this stage and she didn’t have any drinks left at this drink station, so I offered her some of my Gatorade. I knew that one bottle was more than enough – I’d purposely overcatered and we really didn’t have far to go now. We saw Andrew, a very fast runner who was initially on the 3:00 bus but he was in real trouble with cramps and was now walking and it looked like it would be a long hard slog for him to get to the finish. And he wasn’t the only one. Although our pace had slowed significantly, we never stopped running, and passed a lot of people who had slowed to a walk.

We passed the very welcome 40km marker in around 3:33:02 with average pace 5:19. If the GPS was accurate we would have been looking at a time of JUST under 3:45. At this stage we were running along river, near Elder Park, and it was here that the 10km race leaders started to pass us. Most of them were in red and white Adelaide Harriers singlets. (I’m not even joking, 5 of the first 6 runners we saw were Harriers)

All that was left was the little ‘bitey’ hill up to Montefiore Rd and then we would be on the home stretch!

Our last few kilometres were 5:50 and 5:43 (our slowest, not surprisingly!) and we made our way back past the front of the Oval, up King William Street, up another (not quite so bitey) hill on Pennington Tce and into the carpark, cheered on by Michelle! This was it!

At the northern entrance to the oval I saw my parents waiting to cheer me on. Alongside them was Sputnik, a regular at running events, often taking photos WHILE running but this time just on photography duty. He seemed to be EVERYWHERE, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he covered more ground than we did! After quickly saying hi to Mum and Dad, we ran into the oval and onto the hallowed turf!

We saw a time clock that showed around 2:48. I said, “Yep, I’ll take that!” Never mind that it was clearly labelled ‘half marathon’ (they had started an hour after us)!

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We ran around the oval and Beck grabbed my hand as we made the final dash to the finish line and crossed together in an official time of 3:49:22 – not quite what we had hoped for, but sub 3:50 is still very respectable! (My Strava time was 3:49:05 for 42.8km!) Laura and Naomi were on the finish line and gave us our medals before we had to start making our way up the stairs off the oval. (Yes, stairs. Whose idea was that?)

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(I later checked the results and Simon finished in 3:44:19 so he was spot on pace – not bad for a first time pacer who only got called up at the last minute!)

It was time to celebrate – we got a photo with ambassador Steve Moneghetti, saw Mum and Dad again and caught up with a whole lot of other running friends. In particular there were a few who had run their first ever marathons (among them Rachel, Toni and Wendy). We were a bit worried because we hadn’t seen Gary and we thought he wouldn’t have been far behind us. As it turned out he was only about 4 minutes behind us but we must have been otherwise occupied at the time so we missed seeing him finish!

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There were some other great results too. Bronwyn, who does really well in trail and ultra races, finished second in the marathon. Jenny was 6th female and Riesje broke 3:30 for the first time, Zorica not far behind her.

I ended up staying at the Oval until about 1:30, having a coffee first with Beck, Zorica and Leanne, then after helping out with some publicity photos for SARRC I ran into Anna and went back to the cafe to have another coffee with her and the Southern Running Group. I got a photo down by the Oval with my 5 marathon medals and then made my way back to the car and home where I annihilated the second pizza I was so glad I had made the night before!

Later in the day a group of us gathered at the pub, firstly for dinner to farewell regular running buddy Alison who is moving back to Canberra soon, and then later in the night to watch SA’s own Jess Trengove run in the Olympic marathon in Rio. It was amazing how quickly the marathon seemed to go, compared with how looooong it seems when you’re running it (and also, not an elite runner by any stretch!) It was a very long day but a perfect way to end it.

Well done as always to SARRC for putting on a BRILLIANT event. Thanks to the many wonderful volunteers for making it happen, and to the amazing supporters along the way! Congratulations to all the participants, especially those who were doing their first marathon! We didn’t quite get the result we were after but it was just a fantastic day nonetheless!

 

 

 

Race report – Henley to Henley

Henley to Henley is an interesting beast. Normally it is called ‘Hills to Henley’, a 30km point to point run which follows the course of the River Torrens from Athelstone down to the outlet at West Beach. It is a net downhill but undulating course, in a similar vein to the Greenbelt half marathon. This year, because of the O-Bahn works, it was not possible to do a continuous run along the river so the organisers opted to make it an out and back starting and finishing at the seafront.

Each year there are also shorter runs on offer. The distances vary from year to year, but this year there was a 15km and a 5km option, both starting a little later than the 30km but also out-and-backs following the same course (naturally with earlier turnarounds)

I had never done the 30k before. In 2013 I did the 15k which at that point was the furthest I’d ever run, and was stoked to finish in just under 1 hour 15. I remember it was a bit chilly at the start but the sun came out as the countdown to the start began!

In 2014 and 2015 I volunteered at this event – in 2014 as 5km turnaround marshal and in 2015 I was on a drink station.

This year I had opted to run the 30k as an ideal lead-up to the Adelaide Marathon in 3 weeks. The timing of the event is designed for that very purpose and I guessed most of the 30k entrants were intending to run Adelaide.

I’d never run a 30k race before. It is an awkward distance, somewhere between a half and a full marathon. Should I run at half marathon pace or full marathon pace? Or somewhere in between? 

I crunched the numbers. 5 minutes per km would be 2 hours 30. I can do a half at under 5 minute pace but not a full. Not yet. So I thought 2:30 was a bit ambitious. 3 hours would be 6 minutes per km – I knew I could go much faster than that. 2:45 would be 5:30 per km – again well within my capabilities. So I decided to aim for between 2:30 and 2:40. 

As I am thinking of wearing a small race vest for Adelaide, I decided to wear it for this event, to get used to the feeling. I had only 2 small bottles of Gatorade and some spare powder in case I needed to mix up some more. I also put a light rain jacket in there, and my energy supplement for later! I didn’t bother putting the bladder in there as I didn’t think I’d need to drink any water. I hadn’t touched any water until the 28k mark at Gold Coast and it had been quite warm there.

I’d followed my normal programme during the week but my legs felt really heavy, more so than usual – I guess that’s what a marathon, 6 hour ultra and 36k training run in consecutive weeks will do to you! I hadn’t run on Saturday and I’d had my favourite pre-race meal of pizza (a happy coincidence – I’d been to a friends house for dinner and that just happened to be what we were having!) along with a few glasses of my favourite sparkling red!

It was a cold morning. I went with my usual formula – running singlet, arm warmers, compression shorts and calf sleeves, and running skirt. The top I wore was the one I first wore at Yurrebilla and then Heysen, which is stained on the back due to the dye from my backpack running, and which therefore I only now wear under a backpack! I also had trackpants and a jacket over the top for the expected cold start! Oh, and gloves – they would be needed – and a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes.

I can only remember once before racing in the rain and that was at last year’s 6 hour. It was highly unlikely that we’d get out of this race without a little rain!

I got to the start in plenty of time to collect and attach my bib and have a quick bathroom stop. I then reluctantly took off my trackpants and got my sunnies out – not that I was expecting to need them but I thought it would be worth sticking them in my backpack just in case. As I took off my trackpants the sunnies blew off the top of my car and one of the lenses fell out – I got on my knees and looked under the car but couldn’t for the life of me see it! Oh well – it wasn’t going to be sunny anyway!

It was then time for a short warmup. It was really cold but not raining at this point. I ran down to the surf club and back to the car. As I headed back towards the car, the runners were starting to head to the start line. I’d forgotten that the start line was not the same as the finish line! So I had to leg it back to the car, dump my jacket, then go back to the start, arriving about 2 minutes before the start. It was actually perfect timing as I was warm as I could have been by the time we started.

I wore my gloves for the first 2km then took them off and carried them, waiting for an opportunity to dump them at a drink station (I couldn’t be bothered taking off my backpack to put them in!) As someone who always has cold hands, this is the best thing I could have done, as I didn’t have any issues for the rest of the race, whereas others complained of cold hands throughout. 

At the start I was going back and forth with a young guy, let’s call him Charlie (because, as I later found out, that is his name!) who was alternating between running and walking. Within the first 4km I think he passed me 4 times and I passed him 3 times while he was walking! At one point I heard him telling someone else that he was using a walk/run strategy. When he passed me the 4th time I wondered if I’d catch him again!

Not long after this I was following a guy who I eventually caught up with and ran with for a good few kilometres. He recognised me and introduced himself as Gary, who I hadn’t met before but knew through Strava. Turned out he was a very new runner – only running for 9 months and doing his first marathon next month at Adelaide! We had a good chat and I eventually left him at around 11km. By this time it had started raining and I think it pretty much continued for the rest of the race!

By now I was in very familiar territory – along part of the Torrens parkrun course and past the Convention Centre and Elder Park (a regular feature of some of my morning runs but also part of the Masters Games half marathon last year). It was around this point that I saw Nat, a regular running buddy who was also the one who taught me to ride a bike with cleats, and who was out for her long Sunday run! 

The turnaround point was just past the 15km mark. Not long before this I started to see the front runners coming through. There were a few familiar faces among them – Alex, Gordon and Gary (different Gary!)

I had my energy supplement just before 15km and started the long run back, following the same route as the way out. On the way out I enjoyed the downhills without allowing myself to think about the inevitable uphills they would become on the way back. And although the uphills (such as they were) were a bit brutal, I could take comfort in the knowledge that they would be nice downhills on the way back! (I don’t have my hill legs back since UTA100 – got a bit of work to do there!)

There was a girl in front of me who had been not far in front of me for some time. As I wasn’t stopping at the drink stations and she was, I would make up a bit of ground and then she’d pull away again. I think, from looking at the photos and the results, that her name was Sam. I eventually passed her at around 18km. By now we were back on the parkrun course and after what seemed like no time at all I saw the 19km sign. Up until then my Garmin had been a few hundred metres behind the actual distance, but at the 19k sign I was somehow ahead! I guessed that maybe the strong wind had moved the sign – no way had I done 1km since the 18km mark! 20km came and my Garmin was back to being behind.

I wasn’t looking at my watch except to see my average pace. At the turnaround I was sitting on about 5:09 pace. I wanted to do a negative split. I was pleased to see my pace increasing ever so slightly.

Between 22 and 23km we passed the 15km turnaround and started to see a lot more runners. I had overtaken a few of the 30km runners between the 30km turnaround and the 15km turnaround, and it’s amazing how much of a boost that gives you! I managed to overtake a few of the 15k runners too. Also, up until I started to see the 15k runners I hadn’t seen anyone in a while, to the point that I wondered at times if I was on the right path!

Not long after this I caught up with Charlie. He had been doing a 9 min/1 min run/walk since the start and it was working well for him. Like I had with Gary, Charlie and I had a great chat and that really helped to distract the mind and legs from the running, and the rain and icy wind! Charlie is also doing the Adelaide Marathon and is a relatively new runner like me, having been running for only about 3 years. He was telling me all about the Melbourne Marathon – he recommended doing the half rather than the full, and still finish on the MCG! That sounded pretty good to me!

A bit further down the track we reached the 5km turnaround and we knew the end was in sight – less than 2.5km to go! I told him to feel free to take off if he wanted to – he said no, he didn’t want to, it was a bit early for that! He had stopped walking by the time I caught up with him, opting to run the rest of the way.

We went under the bridge and back onto the coastal path – part of the West Beach parkrun course and SO close to the finish! I saw photographer Tracie who I had seen a few times along the way and tried to do some funny poses – I did SO want to try a jump shot but was worried about falling over on the slippery path!

With just a few hundred metres to go it was time to pick up the pace (and I advised Charlie of this too!) 

With the finish line in sight, we increased the pace and as it turned out, crossed the finish line together in an official time of 2:34:50. I think that’s just about as good as I could have hoped for! My average pace overall was 5:06 so I had achieved my negative split!

Not long after we finished, Gary came over – he had finished only a few minutes behind me and was very happy with his run! (This was new Gary. The other Gary, who I caught up with later, had done a phenomenal 2:15!)

The presentations and lucky prize draw were cancelled due to the bad weather, so after grabbing an apple at the finish line I changed out of my wet singlet and cranked up the car heater for the drive home!

Despite the pretty gnarly weather it was yet another fantastic SARRC event. I am hugely thankful for all the volunteers who were out there in the same conditions as us runners, but not able to keep warm by running! Thanks so much guys and girls! You’re all awesome!

It was very satisfying to complete my first 30km race and finish strong – although my legs are well overdue for a break I am confident they will get me through the Adelaide Marathon and then I will treat them to some nice trails! I promise, legs! 3 more weeks…

Race report – 2016 Gold Coast Marathon


So – the race I’ve been working towards all year (except for a few little ‘side projects’ like UTA100 and the Australian Masters Athletics Championships) has finally happened!
Let’s backtrack a little, shall we, with a bit of a run-down (pun intended) of the lead-up to the race.
My training in the last week was very low-key. Before flying out on Thursday I had a good solid tempo run on Tuesday morning. Normally Thursday is tempo day but beside the fact I was flying out that morning, it was WAY too close to race day to be pushing too hard. Thursday’s seem to work well for me to do tempo runs – far enough away from the previous long run for the fatigue and soreness to be gone, and far enough from the following long run to give me a few good days’ recovery. 
On Tuesday I needed a km or so to warm up – I was still feeling the effects of Sunday’s runs/race and the hamstring was a bit niggly. No cause for alarm! I didn’t set a goal pace but in the end I ran slightly faster than I planned to run on Sunday.
My usual routine involves Body Pump classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Monday’s class fell by the wayside because I had been out late the night before, seeing one of Australia’s best live bands The Living End and trying to avoid getting my feet stomped on in the ‘moshpit’ (broken toes would probably not make for a good marathon experience!) and then I thought to myself, what do I possibly have to gain by doing a Pump class 4 days out from a marathon? Surely a sleep-in would be a better option? For once, sleep won out!
Packing was a quick and easy affair. I’d done enough interstate races by now (this was my 6th race outside of South Australia, including one overseas marathon) to have the ‘packing list’ down to a fine art. 
My race kit was nothing new – my pink SARRC top (representing the club with which I’d done most of my training runs) and black or black and white lulu skirt (I hadn’t decided which yet so I took both). I’d gone with my relatively new 2XU compression socks (remembering I’d need to do some pre-taping to prevent toe blisters) and also my rainbow arm warmers, in case of a cool morning (I hadn’t needed them last year but it was looking like being a bit cooler this time around). I’d also opted to go for my handheld bottle again, with Gatorade, so I wouldn’t need to stop. As a backup I would also take a ziplock bag with more powder in it, in case I ran out mid-race and needed to mix up some more. As needed I would also drink water from the drink stations – in previous years the cups had been paper, with which it is a lot easier to execute the ‘drink on the run’ technique than it is with plastic cups.
I was staying with a group of runners from the Adelaide Harriers, another Adelaide running club, noted for its fast runners! I had met quite a few of them through parkrun – those red singlets almost always feature in the top 3! I had toyed with the idea of joining their team for the marathon but their colours are red and white, and, well, frankly, that would have forced me to re-think my entire outfit! Plus red is not my colour! So I was welcome to stay with them but on race day I would be rocking the SARRC pink!
I had originally booked a 2 bedroom apartment in Surfers Paradise but left it too late to find people to share with. After putting the call out on Facebook, Julie, one of the main organisers of the Harriers team, had put me in contact with Sinead, who was looking for someone to share a Broadbeach apartment with her and her mum Gerry. It would save me considerable money which I could then spend at the expo which was easy walking distance from the apartment. Win-win!

I re-read my race report from the 2014 Gold Coast Marathon, just to refresh my memory of the race itself and see if there were any mistakes I made (relating to the race) that I needed to avoid this time around! If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here: 

https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/race-report-gold-coast-marathon/

I arrived in Coolangatta on Thursday morning, met by my friend Vanessa and had a nice relaxing day catching up with her and her family, and spent the night at her place. It was nice to have a day free of running and run chat!
Friday morning Vanessa dropped me off at the Meriton at Broadbeach where I met my flatmates for the next 3 days, Sinead and Gerry. They were about to head off for a bike ride and I went for a short 8km trot along the coast to Surfers Paradise and back, just to make sure everything still worked (fortunately, it did!) followed by a little walk on the beach and paddle in the sea (when in Rome, and all that!)
After my run I did a quick shop before grabbing some lunch and heading to the expo/bib collection. I’d allowed myself plenty of time to get through the expo but it didn’t seem as big as last year, and there really wasn’t a whole lot that I needed, so I got out of there relatively unscathed having purchased 2 tops and some gel flasks and spent the grand total of $25! I then went for a wander back down to Surfers to check out Cavill Mall (I still think Rundle Mall in my hometown of Adelaide is the best pedestrianised shopping street that I’ve been to) and bought a couple more things from an outlet shop. All in all, I was pretty happy with the restraint I showed!
Friday night was a ‘carb-loading’ dinner at an Italian place in Surfers (I’d contacted them prior to ensure they could provide a vegan option for me) with the rest of the Harriers crew – a good chance to meet those I hadn’t met before and catch up with some familiar faces! 
After dinner I made my way to the Arts Centre to see fellow marathoner Mickey D headline the comedy show there. I caught up with him briefly after the gig, he was going to run the first half in 2 hours and aim for a huge negative split which would put him around the 3:45 mark. He said if he did pass me, he would be absolutely flooring it!

Saturday morning I had planned to get up at 5:15 for a 5:45 rendezvous in the lobby to go and watch the start of the 10k race. Due to bad planning I had neglected to put my alarm clock onto Queensland time. I quickly realised when I got up that it was actually 5:45 and I had missed the boat. I threw some clothes on and legged it downstairs, almost getting on the tram the others were on, and thanking my lucky stars that this happened on Saturday and NOT Sunday! I didn’t actually catch up with the group until after all the Harriers athletes had finished but I did get to see Sarah right near the finish line – a regular first female at parkrun! She had done a PB along with Adrian who I had seen fly past, finishing 14th in just over 30 minutes!
After a coffee I headed back to the apartment for breakfast and a shower before meeting Annie (who was up from Adelaide to see her daughter run her first marathon) for a little retail therapy at Harbour Town. I didn’t spend much money (I was mistakenly informed that there was a lululemon outlet there, which undoubtedly contributed to the lower-than-expected spending!) but notably the table number we were given when we ordered our lunch was 42 – I was sure that HAD to be an omen!
On return to the apartment I got all my gear ready and organised to meet up with school friend Christy, now living in Brisbane and doing her first marathon, for a pizza dinner! Sinead and Gerry had gone out for their pre-race meal and I put my feet up and watched the election coverage – fun times!
We went to a local place, Sage, for dinner. Christy and I both had the mushroom pizza, hers with cheese and mine without. I told her it was my tradition and maybe it would become hers too! I also had a cider which is part of the tradition.

After returning to the apartment I watched a bit more riveting election coverage and with no result likely I hit the hay.
I got up about 4:45 – I have this raceday prep down to a fine art. I had brought my cereal with me but unfortunately there wasn’t a big enough bowl in the apartment so I had to use a baking dish! I got dressed, checked I had everything I needed (energy drink, Gatorade, drop bag, nearly forgot the sunnies!) and headed out at 5:40 to get the tram to Southport. It was a bit cool so I had decided to go with my arm warmers as well as a hoodie I would leave at the start line. One extra addition was a temporary tattoo given to me by Gary, who had run Boston this year. It would be some inspiration for me, to remember what this was all about. I put it on my right wrist – I wouldn’t see it under the arm warmers but I would know it was there.
Christy got on the tram at Surfers and when we arrived I walked with her to her running club’s tent which was on the main road just before runners turned the corner into the finishing line. After a quick selfie we wished each other all the best and I headed back to finish getting ready. 
First I left my bag at the baggage drop, then went for a quick warmup of about 1km. It was hard to find a place to warm up – I did see a lot of people running laps around the pool at the aquatic centre – so I just did laps around the carpark which was conveniently located next to a set of portaloos! While waiting in line I saw one of the pacers (fortunately not mine) pop his balloon while closing the door! Around half an hour before the start I downed my energy drink and then availed myself of the free sunscreen and it was time to go to the start line!
I found the 3 hours 40 zone and positioned myself there. I was wearing a personalised pace band with the goal time of 3:39:59. It had splits of 1km, 5km and then every 5km to 40km. Previously I had used pace bands I had made myself which had every single kilometre split, but that was when I used to try to gradually increase the pace. This time, the plan was to run even splits – I would stay with the pacer until 30k and if I felt good at that point I would go on ahead.
I saw a familiar face – Chris, who was running his 7th marathon in 7 days as part of the Bravehearts 777 -remarkable! 2 in 6 weeks is hard enough! He was going to try to stick with the 4:45 pacers so he started well behind me.
Robert de Castella gave a stirring motivational speech (goosebumps!) followed by the national anthem and we were away! It took a little while to cross the line and I started my watch as I crossed the timing mat. It was on!
There were 2 3:40 pacers, both sporting white balloons. One of them would run 3:40 gun time and the other would be going for 3:40 net time (ie a bit slower, as it takes most runners a minute at least to get across the line). I only needed 3:40 net time so I decided to stick with the net pacer initially.
Within the first few kilometres Mick came up behind me – we wished each other well and he dropped back (I think maybe I was pacing him, even though I didn’t know it at the time! Certainly I would be easy to pick out, with my fluoro pink top, rainbow striped sleeves and lavender compression socks!
5:12 was the magic number – 5:12 per kilometre would get me my sub 3:40 time and a Boston qualifier. My first few kilometres were a bit faster than that, but at the 5k split I was spot on 5:12 pace (not really surprising considering I was running with the pacer!) and at 10k I was still on track.
At 6k I saw Justin and Sarah who had done the 10k the day before – Justin had told me they’d be at that marker so it was pretty easy to spot them. I gave Sarah a high five (Justin was on the other side of the road) and carried on! Speaking of high fives, regular readers may recall I have a thing whereby I have to high five at least one kid to earn my race bling. I had already high fived a bunch of them even before I got to Sarah! 
It was not long after the 10k mark that we started to see the elite runners coming back the other way, along with a few of the wheelchair athletes, all preceded and followed by motorbikes. The elite runners were amazing – we cheered them on as we crossed paths, not that they needed it! I later worked out they were at around the 21k mark as we approached 11! Behind the elites I started to see a few distinctive red and white Harriers singlets – I didn’t know all of them but Bryn, Michael and Piete all looked to be running well.
It was at this point too that I started to pick up the pace and left the net pacer behind – maybe I got a bit excited and inspired by the elite runners! I did my third 5k in 5:02.
Around 15k was the first turnaround point – we would then run north back PAST the start and a bit further before turning around again for the last 6k or so.
This was where I started to see the people behind me. I looked out for Chris with the 4:45 bus but didn’t see him. Christy was expecting to be around 4:30 but I missed out on seeing that group. Mick was not far behind me. I was sure he would pass me eventually!
The next 5k was fastish too, 5:04. Not long after this was the halfway point (again I missed my opportunity to crack out the Bon Jovi!) and my time was 1:48:10, well ahead of the 1:49:33 I needed for my sub 3:40.
The gun pacer was in front of me the whole time and I thought I’d just stay with him until 30k. However that plan fell by the wayside when I looked around just after 22k and he was behind me! “Oh well” I thought, “let’s wing it!” I knew it was highly unlikely I would get close to the 3:30 pacer, and worst case scenario, if I slowed down, he would pass me and I could follow him once more.
My 5k split from 20-25 was 5:03 so I had remained fairly consistent since leaving the net pacer. I ran past Justin and Sarah again around 24k. At 24k I had my energy supplement – it takes about 30 minutes to kick in and I wanted it kicking in at around 30k. At the pace I was running it would be just after 30k which was ideal as this was where we would be approaching the finish line first time around.
Even though it couldn’t have kicked in yet, my 25-30k split was my fastest, 4:59! Around the 30k mark I heard my name and it was Julie and a few of the other Harriers – a lot of them had done the half marathon. It was great to see them! Not long after that I saw Annie who gave me a high five. 
I think it was the 28k mark or thereabouts that I started drinking water. Up until then I had bypassed all the drink stations and had the occasional sip of Gatorade. It didn’t seem that hot but I think I was a bit dehydrated as I hadn’t drunk very much water on Saturday. So from 28k on I grabbed a cup at each of the water stops. Once again they had paper cups which made it easy to drink and run!
Then we hit the hardest part of the course – the 6k stretch to the last turnaround, where the crowds were a little sparser. I slowed down a little here – my 30-35k split was 5:07. Still WELL under where I needed to be. I knew (barring disaster) that sub 3:40 was in the bag, and a PB was also likely. It was around 35k that my hamstring started to give me some trouble – I had brought along some Voltaren just in case (hoping I wouldn’t need it because I know it’s bad!) but by 35k it was too late because I would be just about finished by the time it kicked in.
I think it was around 37k that we hit the final turnaround. It was just before this that Mick passed me for the last time – I tried to keep him in sight but he was a man on a mission! 
I think it got a little easier after this, although I did slow down significantly. But then again, so did everyone! There were a lot of people walking, limping even. Once again I managed to get through without walking or stopping but I was tempted to walk at times – I could have afforded to, given I was well ahead of schedule, but it would be too hard to get my rhythm back. My average pace for 35-40k was 5:11.
At 38k I decided to start singing. I broke into ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ much to the bewilderment of those around me! Weirdly I think it gave me a boost – I managed to pass quite a few people while singing! I think they were probably just giving me a wide berth!
At 39k I tried ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ but I didn’t get far before we got to a spot where there was a radio blasting so I was quickly drowned out. Coincidence? I think maybe not! ‘Thunderstruck’ came on the radio and I tried to sing but couldn’t make it work.
Finally, at 40k I cracked out the old classic, ‘The Climb’ – that was a bit of a challenge too and when I got to the line ‘ain’t about how fast I get there’ I quickly realised this was NOT the song for this occasion – it was TOTALLY about how fast I got there!
I saw Annie again around this point and she called out something about Boston. Yep, Boston. THAT was what this was all about!
Kilometres 41 and 42 were 5:28 and 5:25 respectively – a significant drop in pace but again not many people don’t drop by this point. I had my head down a lot of the time from 37k onwards, but I had to look up frequently as someone could have stopped to a walk right in front of me! I did actually miss a few of the kilometre markers due to having my head down! 
Then came the beautiful moment as I turned off the road towards the finish. I was so pumped by then, I was high fiving EVERYONE, cheering, screaming, whatever! There was the magic ‘250m to go’ sign! I think I sprinted the last 250! SUCH a great feeling crossing that line! My watch showed 3:36:03 – a massive PB and 9 minutes under my Boston qualifying time. (I later found out my official time was 3:35:59 – even better!)
I got through the finish chute, grabbed a bottle of water, walked through the misting tent and sat down to text my mum and tell the rest of the world via social media. A guy called Simon, who had spent some time in Adelaide, offered to take a pic for me as I was struggling to take a selfie and get my SARRC top in shot! He asked me if I’d like another one as I got photobombed by a fellow Adelaide runner called Narelle, but I loved that photo! I took a few pics for him and his partner Kate who recognised me from parkrun, and also for Narelle and her partner James. 
I was getting messages from Sylvia, my Gold Coast based friend who I’d met in Adelaide earlier in the year and see briefly at UTA, asking where I was. I assumed she’d run the marathon but it turned out she’d just come down to see me! She’d called out to me on the course towards the end but of course I was in the zone and didn’t hear her!
After catching up with Sylvia and trying to talk her into coming to Adelaide to run Yurrebilla this year, I went to get my drop bag and head for the water. It wasn’t a beach as such although there was sand, and it seemed to be the place of choice to cool off post-run. It was my third year doing Gold Coast (I did the half in 2014 and the full last year) and this had become a tradition. This time I had come prepared with my new super cushiony sandals to put on after I got out – those compression socks were NOT going back on!

I had the food I had brought with me, along with the mandatory post-race Coke and then waited for Christy (getting sidetracked by getting a selfie with Steve Moneghetti!) – I was following her online but somehow managed to miss seeing her finish on the big screen. As soon as I realised she was finished I legged it to the archway where all the runners come through after they’ve finished. I soon spotted her with her young son who had run the last little bit with her! I congratulated her, got another selfie and then made my way back to the apartment.
Sinead and Gerry were on their way out to hit the shops – Sinead had gone under her goal time of 1:21 with the help of Adrian who, after his speedy 10k the previous day, backed it up to pace her in the half!
I had a quick spa, letting the jets massage my quads, hamstrings and feet, then an AMAZING shower before heading to the Kurrawa surf club to meet the rest of the Harriers who were there watching the footy and having a few celebratory/commiseratory beverages! Bryn had done his calf with about 6k to go and limped home but still in what I would call a pretty amazing time! Michael had also had a bad day but again still did a good time. A lot of the runners had done the half and there were some impressive times there too! 
After a few bevvies I walked to the nearby Indian restaurant where Vanessa and family were meeting me. I had a veg vindaloo – I asked for medium but it was still pretty hot! 
I then made the trek (maybe 2 blocks, if that!) back to the apartment to start packing and chill for a bit! It was too early to go to bed but I did put my compression tights on before watching a bit of Sunday night TV.
Monday morning I woke up stupid early – after brekky all that was left to do was a nice leisurely walk and finish packing (ugh!) before heading to the airport (double ugh!)
All in all it has been a pretty brilliant weekend – amazing weather, awesome people and a perfect race! I don’t think I will be back next year (although, I might come and do the half!) but it is definitely a great event which I would recommend to anyone – there really is something for everyone here! 
Big thanks to the Adelaide Harriers for letting a SARRC person crash their party!
Now it’s back to reality… 

Confidence builder!


So, it’s now less than a week to go until the race of my life (so far!) – the Gold Coast Marathon!
1 week before a marathon I have previously done around 20km. 1 week before my first marathon in 2014, I did a VERY SLOW 20k around London – getting lost at one point and running around in circles, and of course stopping FREQUENTLY for photos. 1 week before Barossa 2015 I ran a lovely albeit hilly 20k in Katoomba, following part of what was then The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100) course. 1 week before my last marathon (Gold Coast 2015, almost a year ago now) I ran 21.1km with my running group, pleasingly under 2 hours (last year I used a sub-2 hour half marathon as a gauge for a good run).
This year is a little different. Unlike the last 2 years, the SARRC Parklands Loop run is on the last weekend in June rather than the first weekend in July. In the last 2 years I have missed this event due to being on the Gold Coast (yeah, cue the tiny violin, sucks to be me, etc) but this year the timing was perfect – I could run it as my last long run before the marathon!
This event has 3 distances, 5km, 10km and 25km. It is run on a 5km loop, meaning that the 5km is 1 loop, 10km is 2 loops and 25km is (yep, you guessed it) 5 loops. I had originally planned to do the 25km given that it was closest to the 20k I was planning to run, however was talked out of it. I don’t tend to be able to ‘take it easy’ in a race, even if for me it is a training run. If I am wearing a bib, there is no ‘taking it easy’! Therefore I decided to enter the 10k instead, and run an easy 10 afterwards to make it up to 20km.
I’m not really comfortable with the 10k distance. 5k I can do in my sleep and have done it (not in my sleep) well over 100 times. Probably closer to 150. Half marathons I am reasonably comfortable with. 10k races, I think I’d only done 5 before this weekend. 4 Dolphin Runs (every February – along the coast, which can be challenging if you encounter a headwind!) and one 10000m race during the Australian Masters Athletics Championships this year (25 laps of the track). My 10k PB was 44:47, but I wasn’t too concerned about PBs this weekend – it was more about a good solid hit-out before the big day next weekend.
The day before, I changed my plans. I decided that the best thing to do was to run to the race, do the race and run home. There would be a big gap between each of the 3 runs, so it wouldn’t be a solid 20k, but I had done enough long continuous runs to know that I was well and truly capable of running 42.2k nonstop. 
The race was held at Victoria Park, a former racecourse and now home to the annual Clipsal 500 V8 car race. (I had done one race here previously, the Hot Lap Fun Run, back in March, at which I was fortunate enough to get onto the podium – and it was an actual podium too, the same one that the drivers use!) It was about 4.5km from home so that made for a nice warmup.
I got there about half an hour before the start and the 25k race was already in progress. The 10k race started at a very civilised 9:15am. I was VERY glad I had been talked out of the 25! 
I saw a few familiar faces – Simon, whose next 2 big races are the 12k City-Bay and the 100 miler next year in the Flinders Ranges (quite a versatile athlete you could say!), Liam, who had just finished night shift and come straight from work, Tina, who was doing the 5k after a big night the previous night, and Jenny, who always seems to be just that little bit ahead of me in every race. Jenny said she wasn’t sure how she would go but I didn’t really hold any hopes of beating her! I also met Nadene, who also has beaten me in every event so far this year (I think) and said she enjoyed reading my blog. She was running at Gold Coast too but ‘only’ the half. She was probably taking it easy in this race but would undoubtedly still outclass me!
There was light drizzle as we approached Go Time but it wasn’t too cold which was nice. Besides, the warmup run had served me well so I was pretty warm anyway, and I hadn’t had ANY hamstring niggles along the way!
Soon enough we were assembled on the start line. It was a small field which was nice – a bit of a contrast from parkrun and other events I have run this year! I started probably midway through the pack – I didn’t want to be dragged out too fast. But I was anyway!
My first km was 4:05 – WAY too fast and not sustainable (although it was MARGINALLY downhill.) By that stage I had already overtaken a few people and I wasn’t sure what position I was in, I knew Jenny and Nadene were both ahead of me but I wasn’t sure who else. 
My next km was a much more reasonable 4:24. I settled into a rhythm and tried not to force the pace too much. I overtook the occasional 25k runner after that but don’t recall being passed by too many 10k runners (it was easy to distinguish the different distances by the colour of their bibs). I made sure I gave the 25k runners encouragement as I passed them – I couldn’t say “You’re nearly there!” because that would have been a BIG LIE, but it would have been a hard slog for some of them in particular!
The course was mostly on bitumen path and some dirt track. There had been a fair bit of rain earlier in the week but not much over the previous few days so there were just a few puddles to get around, but other than that the surface was pretty easy to run on.
It was an interesting course, quite loopy but essentially flat (my Strava recorded 40m elevation over 10km which is next to nothing). 
After a slower 3rd km (marginally uphill) I was back to 4:24 for the 4th and slightly faster in the 5th, completing my first loop in 22:05 – a time I probably would have been happy with in the 5k! (And which would have got me second place as it turned out!)
I knew exactly what was ahead of me – there would be no surprises in the second half – just the same loop again! (Again I was EXTREMELY glad I hadn’t done the 5 laps – that would have done my head in!) 
I overtook a few more 25km runners/walkers and also the occasional 5k competitor. Every female that was ahead of me was a potential threat to me in the 10k until proven otherwise (unfortunately I had to overtake them before I could see their bib colour!) – it appears that none of them were actually in the 10k. I could generally tell by their pace – if they were running slower than me, they were probably not a 10k runner because if they were slower, how could they be ahead of me?
Anyway, I still didn’t know what position I was in so I just went for it in the last few kilometres. I wasn’t looking at my watch by this stage – I felt my pace was right and I didn’t need to look at it to see how much further I had to go – there were markers every kilometre and it didn’t take a maths genius to know that when I saw 4km on the second lap, that meant I had 1km to go.
That was one loooong kilometre! 
Towards the end, when I was approaching the finish line, there was a girl just ahead of me. Was she in the 10k? And if so, was she on her last lap? The answer to both questions was “I don’t know, but I am going to have to pass her anyway”. So just before we crossed the line, I snuck past her, crossed the line and stopped my watch. I didn’t notice if she stopped or went for another lap, or even what colour bib she was wearing, but it appears that she was NOT finishing the 10k. As it turned out my nearest competitor was over 2 minutes behind me – I could have taken it easier!
But where’s the fun in that? As it turned out, I ran an official time of 43:59, a 48 second PB! (I had run one faster 10k – as part of the 12k City-Bay last year. That SO doesn’t count, but try telling Strava that!) Oh, and a sneaky negative split too, my second lap was 21:54. And, more remarkably, I was 4th female out of 44 (12th overall out of 85), narrowly missing a podium finish! Jenny was second in 43:27 and Nadene third in 43:43. The winner, Belinda, who I didn’t know, smashed out an incredible 40:46! 
In the men’s 10k, Liam finished first with what I believe was a PB and Simon second also with a PB. It was a great day for PBs! Despite the early rain it had turned out to be a nice cool morning with even a bit of sunshine!
After the race I stayed for coffee, chat and the lucky prize draw/presentations, then ran home again to complete the cumulative 20k.
It was a great confidence-builder for Gold Coast and I feel like I am SO ready to take it on!
Next week’s blog will be my Gold Coast race report – expect it to be a little late (I’ll probably write it on the plane home) and somewhat lengthy!