Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sydney Marathon 42.2km

Sydney Marathon 42.195km
Avg Pace: 5:00min/km

Very tough day out, easily (and obviously) the hardest run I've ever done.

Day began early at around 4:30am after a reasonable nights sleep surprisingly. Had a small bowl of oats and a sustagen around that time too. Checked the BOM website and saw that it was already 20 degrees at 5am and that it was forecast to hit 28. F*ck me, I thought, and already took a little mental hit.

Cleared the system, went through the checklist and made sure I was lubed and taped where I needed to be. I put a little bit of maltodextrin in a water, but not enough to taste, and in retrospect I should have put more. Was out the door at ten to six feeling pretty anxious. Met a runner who was up from Melbourne at the station and we had a chat which eased my nerves a bit, the week before he'd pulled out of a cycling event due to hypothermia - he would have had a rough day.

Got to Milsons Point about 6:40, for a 7:30 start. Tried to stretch a bit and use the loo a few times. Met Max from Barefoot Inc who I'd done a run workshop with earlier in the year. He, of course, had no idea who I was but we had a quick chat anyway. He runs marathons in Vibrams - today he was aiming for sub 3hrs. Saw Adrian who I'd met a few weeks back and met up with him in the starting area.


Right on 7:30 and we were away heading up towards the harbour bridge. Last year in the half marathon I remember having to bolt through here to try and get some room and my heart rate rocketed, this year I was obviously in the right spot because everyone headed out at the same rate and by the time I was on the bridge I felt like I was just jogging it. It was very quiet, no crowd noise or talking at that stage - a bit foreboding perhaps.

Once up on the bridge I could feel the tightness in my shins that I'd developed in the days prior and I just hoped that I'd loosen up as we went. First drink station was at 5k and I was busy talking and not really noticing the time, I'd been checking the garmin and pace seemed ok - except that through the tunnel it told me I'd done a 3:15. I already new before hand it wasn't going to be entirely accurate but was mostly using it for the time. I'd written in pen on my arms the times I'd wanted at 10, 21, 30 and 40k (00:49, 1:44, 2:28 and 3:18). At the first drink stop I continued running and tried to drink at the same time only getting about two sips in and another cup I chucked on my head straight away, as per some of the advice I'd read. At around 6k I noticed that I didn't have any tightness in the shins and that I was feeling good.

By 10k I was happy, talking and almost forgot to get my first plain gel down. We'd been down past Mrs Macquaries chair and actually caught up with the 3:30 pacer group which was quite a lot of people. Once we popped up next to St Mary's cathedral they were off ahead again. Headed down past the church to turn around and come back up past the church before running through the middle of Hyde Park where they'd set up a little bridge where we all had to slow down to get on to. There were some annoyed people but I wasn't too worried.

Next we were running down Oxford St at around 8am - very, very quiet. I was hoping there'd be a few amped clubbers heading out into the street, but no one was around except a few tourists and security guys. I was feeling good started getting a roll down Flinders St into the SCG - the course is a bit weird here, doubling back on itself in front of the SCG and then getting into Centennial Park and doing all kinds of loops. you do get to see some of the leaders through here though which was awesome.

I started to pick up pace here thinking that maybe I'd been a bit conservative, I also lost my running mate (I later found out he cramped up and didn't get through). I was trying to keep the 3:30 flag in site, but they seemed to get away pretty fast. I also saw Max from Barefoot Inc. in here and he looked like he was having a real hard time. Had my first Roctane GU at 20k, I felt pretty good and passed through the 21k point just over the time I'd set for myself. I think I was hitting a few 4:50's and started to get cocky thinking I might be able to hold that pace and get well under 3:30.


Around 25k, just towards the end of the Centennial Park section, I started seeing people dropping their pace or walking and was able to start passing. I'd been grabbing drinks at every aid station along the way, but just coming out of here I made the note that I really had to walk through and drink the entire cup as I was starting to feel dry mouthed. I think I grabbed an extra gel here just in case.

At Anzac Pde you head down a bit of a slope but then you have to double back and go twice as long up an incline, which looks flat, but when you've been running for 2 hours starts to grind at you. It's probably about 2k-ish of uphill. Here I noticed I'd dropped the pace a bit and so once back up onto Oxford St tried to roll the legs down the hill towards Hyde Park. I'm trying to remember when I first felt my quads start to tighten and it was probably at the bottom of this hill, maybe I went too fast downhill to try and make my time for the 30k point - but I was about a minute off anyway. I hit another Roctane GU and quickly walked and drank and poured water all over myself.

I remember getting in to Hyde Park and there was a couple of viking hatted girls ringing cowbells and I wanted to yell out that this was just like being in the tour de france, but I couldn't talk I was really, really dry and needed fluids. I knew at that stage I was starting to feel pretty shitty, I was hoping this point would have come a bit later - like 35k or even 32k, and I started to have the conversation with myself about how to dig in.

Back through the city down towards Circular Quay I got to fly down another hill posting a 4:30k on the garmin. There's a bit of a crowd so you pick it up, but at the same time you're so close to the finishing line it's slightly demoralising knowing that you still have at the very least another 10k to go. We ran down through the Rocks and one of the volunteers was calling out "You're right on 3:35 pace keep going!" which was supposed to be encouraging, but by this stage I was feeling pretty bloody ordinary and that pretty well destroyed my hope of hitting the goal time. We went under the harbour bridge and then up Hickson Rd up towards Pyrmont and Ultimo, I tried to take in some of the views but was really starting to feel bad. I could see where the aid station was but it just didn't seem to be getting any closer. Eventually got there and drank one cup, poured one cup. In my mind I hadn't wanted to drink powerade at the aid stations because of the sweetness and the fact my mouth was drying up so quickly.

After that station we head up onto the Western Distributor which I'd been on before last year and hadn't really regarded as an issue. This time heading up it was psychological torture. It's concrete, it's freakin' hot, my legs are starting to feel on the verge of cramping and some poor bastard was in the worst possible way. He was unconscious and was drooling, he had St Johns guys pouring water on him and you knew they were thinking "hurry the f*ck up paramedics". I was already in a bad way (not as bad as some obviously) but this just put me on edge thinking about dehydration. There's another loop around through Ultimo and then back up Harris St where another hill had people stopping to walk. I just had the mantra 'don't stop, get to the aid station, walk, drink' and somehow I managed to do that. Probably another GU here too.


And then we head back along the Western Distributor and back onto Hickson Road. I think the top of Hickson Rd is the 39km point and I was in a WORLD OF PAIN. I was feeling nauseas and starting to worried I would puke, knowing that could be a sign of dehydration. I had also been feeling the urge to pee for the last 2 hrs or so. I think I finally had Powerade here too, but only a sip (a bit late). I now took the excuse (and yes it was an excuse) to stop and urinate. I figured the extra little bit of rest and the empty bladder would help me get through this final stage. I was also concerned that my legs were going to cramp once I started running again. I was seeing people getting stung by cramps all over the place, people running along and then bounding off to the side hoping they weren't about to collapse and die.

I was able to dig a bit here and pick up the pace slightly until I started getting worried that the 39k aid station was the last one and I'd see. Must mention the girl who had set up with a cowbell to cheers runners through this section, not sure if it picked me up, but appreciated. It's all a bit of a blur from here, just one step in front of another thinking about where the next water was. Checked the 40k time and I was roughly 2 mins over what I had written on my arm. Now all I had to do was sprint the final 2k home.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Just keep struggling onward, get to the final aid station walk it through and suck down the water and get another cup on my head. Around here you start getting the photographers - so I attempted to put on a smile and not look like I had crumbled inside. And then the crowds start to cheer the finishers in - which is pretty cool, but I was so focussed on not stopping at this point even though everything inside me said I should. I tried to push but really I was just holding on. I heard my name called and boom! 42.2km done.

In the finishing video I reach over to the hand rail to grab on but can't even make that and the head goes back. They put the medal straight on and hand you a bag and start asking what size t-shirt I wanted. I was just repeating - I need water and hoping I wouldn't pass out. I had the wobbly legs too. Found some water and powerade and sat and drank and hoped like hell I would be able to get up and not cramp.


For a while I was a bit bummed about the result. It was pretty close to what I wanted, and after hearing all the horror stories about DNF's, cramps, ambulances and people being 30 or more minutes away from their target time I feel like I did ok.

I made a few mistakes - the first of which was not drinking enough, early enough. I should have slowed and drunk a full cup at the earlier aid stations. I did have water at every stop, just not enough. I should have had a few more gels earlier too. I'm glad I took the Roctane, really pricey but I think, maybe, the extra sodium and potassium got me through. I saw some people with 6 - 8 gels on them. I should have had some Powerade too.

Looking back at my training over the year I think I did ok, but just ok. Really low to mid volume. Have to get more consistent and be able to handle the big weeks. I want to get up to 100k weeks consistently and see where I could get to. I also know I have to have a strength and flexibility component built in.

So despite feeling like I never wanted to run again on Sunday night, I'm now thinking about what I can do to get better.

My congratulations goes out to anyone that's ever done one of these things and a big thanks to the people who got me there and through. In particular my wife who thinks I'm an idiot on so many levels but continues to love me anyway.