Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Melbourne Marathon - 2:54:56!

20k, Melbourne Marathon.

Well, I've had a roller coaster few weeks, but I've ended up in a really good place.

Long version or short? Probably long, because I've avoided the blog for a while, so I'll need to fill things in.

Lets go back to the last blog entry - I think it was just after running 2:56:02 in Cities M7 and it said something like, "I want to go faster."

This was in anticipation of my 'A' race of the year - the Sydney Marathon. I had based my whole year around doing well in this race (even giving up a free trip to race in Noumea), and three weeks before it I was feeling on fire. Then, two weeks before it, I got the flu.

I missed the NSW half mara championships, which I wanted to do as a good hit out before Sydney, because I was flat on my back in bed feeling like death warmed up. It hung around for a while, then when the main symptoms had abated, the cough and congestion on my chest remained. The week before Sydney I knew things weren't perfect - I felt lethargic and my breathing (especially when swimming) was all over the place. Still, I went to Sydney thinking it might be OK, and maybe I was just being a little sensitive because I was nervous.


On the start line I had the driest mouth ever. I was so thirsty, but there was nowhere to get a drink before the gun went off. I started OK - the front women formed a pack and were running at what would have been a comfortable pace for me, but I was feeling like shite and knew things were going to go pear shaped. By 10k I was about 40 seconds behind the pack and it kept going downhill from there. My breathing started to sound like Darth Vader and my chest felt like it was being squeezed in a vice. I walked - a number of times. I got to the top of Macquarie Street - about 31k - and it was all over red rover. I stopped, asked myself if I was actually about to get my first DNF, then walked off the course.

There were tears during that long walk down to the Opera House to find my husband.

Two days later, I decided I wasn't going to let it beat me. I contacted Athletics NSW and asked if I could be on the NSW team for the Melbourne Marathon. I've made the team the past two years, but didn't apply this year because Sydney was the goal. The race had sold out, so all I needed was an entry. They said yes, and I had three weeks to get my chest, as well as my mind, in the right condition to run well.

I kept it very low key - didn't talk about it much, tried not to think about it - I wanted to avoid all the nerves. My headspace wasn't right - I think I had told myself that Sydney was the last big race of the year, so it was hard to have to readjust everything when it went to pieces. Even as I arrived in Melbourne (on my own - no husband in tow) I really didn't want to be there.

Had the elite athlete briefing at the MCG on Saturday, and started to feel a little more motivated, and a little more nervous. By Saturday night, I just wanted to get it over and done with.

MCG - pre-race.
Warming up under the MCG.

Woke up at 4am. Breakfast (baby food and rice - works a treat and doesn't make me puke when racing). Electrolyte drink.
Checked a friend's progress in Kona - thanked the gods that I was only doing a marathon when he was doing Ironman!!

Checked in at the elite athlete room at the MCG at about 5.30am. Stuck mostly to myself - a couple of quick chats with friends, but I was mostly trying to get my mind in the right place.
Warm up under the MCG (very cool).
Walk to start.
A bit more chatter with the ladies - this was good as it kept things relaxed.


Felt smooth from the start, which was a relief. I got into my rhythm early and it felt good. Temperature was great, it wasn't too crowded (until the dreaded merge) and I was consistently hitting 4 min/k pretty easily.

At 6k I heard someone come up behind me, "I'd recognise you anywhere!" - It was my Canberra Marathon buddy Keith. For the past three years we've ended up running together for a substantial part of the Canberra Marathon - although he'd caught up tp me early in this race, so I assumed he must be in good form. We kept each other company for a while, going through 10k in just under 40 minutes - a split I was very happy with.

Then, the dreaded 'uh-oh' moment. I needed to go to the toilet.

My pace slowed a little bit, and Keith pulled slightly ahead (great run Keith - I know you'll read this eventually. Congratulations!). I sat with the 2:50 pace group and our pace felt good, but I knew I was going to have to have a pit stop. So, just like in M7 Cities, I pulled off the course at 18k (yes, exactly the same marker as in Cities) and did what had to be done.

The bugger was that I lost the 2:50 pace group, which would have been really handy when we hit the head wind because I would have been able to tuck in behind the bigger guys and conserve a bit of energy.

Once I got into the headwind (25/6k maybe? Not sure), I hit a bit of a low patch. At this point I thought of my friend in Kona, and the conditions he would have been facing there. I had it easy in comparison!

The wind did feel pretty tough, and I began to worry it was really going to slow me down. I was feeling OK, but I wasn't sure how much time I was losing.

The merge with the half marathon runners was a pain, and is the only negative (and a big one at that) in what is otherwise a brilliant race. Many of them were wearing iPods, so they didn't hear you coming up behind them, and some stopped right in front of me. I copped a cup full of sports drink at a drink station when an iPod wearer stopped running and grabbed a cup as I was running through trying to get one. The worst one was the woman who stopped to pose for a photographer, causing me to nearly crash. At least I had it better than Kirsten, who won the Australian Championships. As she was coming through she was yelling out asking people to move aside (as you would if you're on your way to winning a national title) and one person turned around and told her to f*** off. Disgraceful.

But I digress. As I got closer to the end (and we lost the half runners for a while) I started to feel quite strong, and began passing a few runners. The next time I hit the half marathoners it was mayhem. This lot were running at a much slower pace so it was very difficult to move around them, and I've no doubt this cost lots of marathoners some valuable time. It wasn't their fault (although the iPods didn't help) - this aspect of the race just needs to be addressed.

Almost before I knew it, the finishing chute was upon me - in the last few seconds of the 2:54s. Cadence increased - I wanted 2:54, not 2:55!!

Finishing time: 2:54:56
Tenth place
Eighth (or maybe seventh?) in Australian Championships
Gold medal for NSW team with Kirsten Molloy and Magda Karimali-Poulos.

I've seen the finishing photos, and the relief at achieving what I'd originally planned for in Sydney is written all over my face.

Yep, pretty pleased right now. THAT was the race I wanted for my last marathon of 2011! 

Relief and elation!

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