It’s four and a half weeks til my next big race. The worlds toughest half marathon. And I can believe it. 21kms of incline. To a total height of over 1270 meters above sea level. That’s pretty high. And a lot of hard work. Lots of hill to climb. Like a mountains worth, literally.
My training has been slightly hit and miss as it should have been all about strength and hills. I haven’t done as much strength training as I’d hoped I would, yet my hills are moving along quite nicely. Both of these workouts are definitely not my strength so it’s been a double whammy on the challenge. The challenge of getting to the top. The challenge of training hills (my knees hate me most of the time with any kind of incline) and strength (while I know I should do it I make excuses to not go there).
I’m almost enjoying the hills. I can feel it’s making my usual runs stronger and faster. The hills while challenging, are good for me, for my mental strength as well as my physical. Thinking that no matter what happens on race day, this training can only be good for me.
On my run this evening I ‘officially’ passed 700kms for the year. I think I have done nearly 800 as I started the challenge a good few weeks after the start date. So my run was hard initially, what felt like an actual vertical climb before levelling out and heading back down hill, I got to thinking about the race. And how I was going to tackle it time wise. Normally wouldn’t be too worried about a time but this one has a strict cut off period to allow for as little traffic disruption as possible (and is capped at 3000 people combined for the walk and run). And in my very basic math head I began working out how fast I would need to go to finish within the time. And it’s not too bad.
What I figured out. Time frame minus say 20 minutes. Times by 60. Divide by 4. This would give me an idea of how long to allow for each five km plus plenty of time to finish that last kilometre, and rest up/stretch before catching the bus back to the start line. Number crunching done, it works out like this.
3.40 total time. Minus twenty minutes. Times 60. Time is now 200 minutes. Divide by 4 = 50 minutes per 5km + time up my sleeve for the last and final dash to the finish line.
Now as I usually do my 5k in roughly 30 mins I’m working on an extra twenty making this more than doable. And in my head that works. It doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off and run slower. It’s only going to make me want to work harder so I’m stronger and more capable of doing it. And doing it stronger.
This is one race where the adage of “Finish lines not finish times” is all I’m thinking about. I just want to make it to the top. Because with such an iconic race (founded in 1995) participating – and reaching the Pinnacle! – is so much a part of the end result.
A preview of some of the hills I’ve been working on lately.
I’ve written before about what goes into training for a marathon or any race. A lot of hard work, determination and commitment. Early morning starts, long runs, new diet and learning how to fuel during your runs. Gaining new kind of mental strength. Sticking to your guns. And lots of running. Like, lots and lots of running.
It was back in January sometime I think when I first decided to do this marathon. Back then it seemed like a pipe dream, it was so far away. Then came June and July with one last race before I knuckled down and got serious about my marathon training. I followed a plan which was great. It made me accountable and made sure I was getting the right amount of miles in (even though we are metric, it doesn’t sound quite right saying getting the kilometres in, so miles it is). Doing the job I needed to do. I used to run all the time, when I could, with no real idea of training plans, but this time I resisted the urge and gave the control over to someone else, well, my phone, but you get the drift. And I feel it worked. One thing I could have done differently was do more strength training, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, so we learn and move forward.
The week of the race was nerve-wracking for me, people at work were sick and I was worried I’d come down with something. I was also really tired and had no real energy to speak of. I wanted to run, but didn’t want to wear my self out. I was making out lists in my head of what I needed to take with me, cover all bases and circumstances. We were driving nearly 3 hours away so there was no time to say ‘can you pop home and grab something’ midway through the race.
The night before I was fairly relaxed, almost too much so, or so I felt at the time. Chilled out with a movie and pizza as per usual. The plan is not to eat differently so I didn’t, only to say that I didn’t eat as much.
My only worry about the race itself, was if I needed to poop somewhere along the route. I usually have had to on my long runs so was nervous about that rearing its ugly head. Pee, well, I’d deal with wet pants if I had to. I had packed my bag and had food items in the fridge ready to go. My bag had a full change of clothes, cream for my feet, ugg boots, lollies and Father’s Day presents for my husband (great day to have a race and make it all about me).
Race day arrives…
Considering what usually happens before a race I got a decent 5 hours sleep before a 3am alarm got us all up and about. I had taken advantage of several extra good sleeps during the week to make sure I was properly rested as well as getting in the extra hydration.
The drive to Ross was uneventful with only one pit stop along the way after a 4.30 coffee. I also had a banana. This is not my usual pre race thing, but the time and distance meant it would be OK for digestion and the toilet. We arrived with plenty of time to collect my bib and wander around before the other runners started to appear. I have this thing about being early and making sure I have everything organised. Especially if I have not done it before. For me it’s the one thing I can control (to a certain extent) in a predominately uncontrollable environment.
As it got closer to race start time I got my gear ready – the warm up jacket came off and hydration vest, sunnies and cap on. Made sure my ear buds were turned on, tracking apps and music at the ready. I wasn’t feeling particularly nervous at this point, more excited than anything. This was like a dream me true and I was ready for it. The pre run photo shows this I think. The group was small with less than 100 runners all up for the marathon. And 18 of those were us women.
As the bell went for start I pressed all the right buttons on the phone, started a slow jog towards the incline heading out-of-town and waving at my husband with the camera. It was then getting into my head space and making sure I didn’t head out too fast. One thing I have learnt is that I tend to start quick and then peter out. I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen as with 40+ kms to go it wouldn’t be good.
The route takes you several kms out-of-town down a long semi winding road before back tracking, a sharp right then left turn at the 8km mark and you hit the only hill to start the loop around the back-end of town. The last part takes you down Main Street and rounding the corner to the start/finish line and heading out again. The first time you do the hill, it’s not too bad, but by the third and fourth it has become a mountain and a nemesis. While I certainly felt that way, it wasn’t so much a nemesis for me as an opportunity to take a walk break and catch my breath. Basically a 10.5km loop you repeat four times. Boring as batshit and mentally hard.
I made good time for my first and second laps, with the clock telling me I was right on time. My hydration was spot on, Tailwind is my new best friend and I don’t know how I would have survived if I didn’t invest in a camelbak for long runs. While I had lollies in my vest they had loads of them at each drink station and I took advantage. Just a couple to keep my spirits up, and a drink of water at two of the stations for a different kind of fluid. This worked amazingly well. While the tailwind kept me going, the plain water was perfect for a splash on the face and refreshing the body, and hydration purposes.
By the I was at about 14kms the 10k and half runners had started and I passed the biggest group along one of the windiest stretches of road. As the 42ers were spread out by this time it was good to see more people on the road and I was able to wave at others I knew or knew of from runners groups on Facebook.
I finished my second lap feeling ok, but it was starting to get to me. Another 5k was starting to hit the wall. My feet were killing me and I was exhausted. I pushed though. I wasn’t doing all this way to not finish, to fall in a heap.
Each lap I had done my kids and husband were there to high-five me and that gave me the much-needed boost I needed each time. The third lap was so much harder. The wind had picked up and constantly pushing against it was not just physically hard but mentally draining also. I had done half and had to push through another two times. As another runner said to me after the race, the monotony of the repetition is hard, and harder mentally on newbies. It is also incredibly boring. I just made through third lap and by then our eldest some had turned up and high-fived me, giving me the ‘one lap left mum’. While I know it was in support and much appreciated, I was feeling like he had just said I had to do a whole lot more than just one. I grinned and said thanks and kept going. Feeling slower than a wet week, or a turtle stuck in peanut butter.
This is where the going got real tough. Where I had to dig deep to find that strength to keep moving. The strength to not curl up in a ball on the ground and cry. The strength to not call someone and say ‘come and get me’ There were tears, and moments of feeling sorry for myself, looking behind me and seeing no one. No one in front of me. Coming to the realisation I was last. Seeing the safety vehicles taking away the signage. The drink station ladies leaving in their cars. The sheer loneliness of running shuffling along this long winding road on your own. I found that inner strength. That mental toughness that helped me though my other long runs. I picked myself up and kept going. Even I was last, who cares. My first and main goal was to finish this thing. Cross the line at the end of a marathon. No matter what.
That stretch of road looked a hundred miles longer than it had been before and the return felt a hundred miles longer.
I rounded the turn point and walked to the drinks table and took one with me. Fished about for a lolly out of my pocket and kept the run shuffle going. And then I saw them. Three more women. All walking. And here I was thinking they were on their last lap the last time I had seen them. For a brief moment I felt some joy, I was not going to be last. It felt a little mean, but in all honestly, I think anyone would feel some joy at realising that.
Seeing those women put a little more bounce in my step and got my stubborn side revved up. I may not be last but I certainly wasn’t going to walk it either. The final time I hit the hill I pushed a fast walk, as fast as I could anyway and rang the bell at the top like no tomorrow. If anyone was listening then they were going to know someone was there. One last drink station and then the last 1500 meters.
Looking ahead I saw someone walking around a corner and as I got closer saw it was my husband. I had never been so happy to see him as I was right then, the tears started and I had to pull back, telling him he shouldn’t have. I’m glad he did as I may not have actually sped up, but I felt lighter and more eager than ever to finish it. He kept me going. He then gave me the news that I wasn’t going to make the cut off time when they opened the roads again. Which also meant I wasn’t going to make my second goal. A sub 5 hours. I had 4 minutes to do a mile and even in my revved up state it wasn’t going to happen. Pessimistic? no, just realistic.
Rounding the last corner and heading down Main Street our youngest was there and started the jog with us. I felt so proud to have them there with me. Along the route several other runners who had finished the full waved and gave thumbs up, calling out ‘well done’ and ‘good job’, an acknowledgment of what we had all done and that I was still doing mine. As we reached the street end the finish chute was in sight my two elder boys were there and I said ‘come one..’ As they followed me in as I found a teeny bit of speed and pushed for the finish line. I was so proud and tired and utterly exhausted but still heard the lady say ‘look a that smile’ as I came towards them.
Time and position out of the 18 women. Total position was 51/55 marathon participants.
Time to eat all the food.
The best homemade burger I’ve had yet.
Still feeling good at the 10k mark 👍
Flat me ready to go
Lunch box ready to pack, and water bottle for my camelbak.
Love my asics. Shoes, vest, bag, shirts even. Packed and ready to go.
Time for recover
Crossing the line I stand long enough to hand in my timing chip and receive my medal. Oh medal, how I love thee… And then collapse on the grass . This didn’t last long, and hubby gave me hand to get up, believe me I was not able to do it on my own. Gingerly I walked back to the car with my boys, amid them making jokes about tripping me over and the fact I wouldn’t be able to get back up. I laughed at them and was mock angry saying I’d soon chase them down. Nothing was a nicer sight than my post run jacket and chocolate shake. A vague attempt at calf stretches and then chilling out before we started the trip back home. Finishing at 1pm it was nearly 2 by the time we left. I nibbled on my banana and peanut butter sandwiches, drinking a diluted bottle of tailwind water.
An hour from home we stopped for snacks, and I was surprised that #eatallthefood hadn’t kicked in yet. My feet by this time were slowly killing me in my sneakers so I asked for my ugg boots. Ah the bliss of soft woolly feet. I wasn’t at all surprised by the looks I got but I was so far from caring it didn’t bother me – Ugg boots, stripy calf sleeves, shorts and hooded jacket. I tell you, I owned it.
Getting home and out of sweaty gear never felt as good as it did that day. A long hot shower fixed me and we walked (I hobbled) down the road to find pizza for dinner. That was not to be, so toasted sandwiches, ice cream and a movie instead before early to bed for all. While I slept well that night, it was each time I woke to roll over I had to grip the bed to help me, and the covers felt like ton weights on my body. I slept in, feeling like a brick trying to move when I got up the next day. Then it hit me. While I ached and my legs were sore, I simply could not walk. My heels had decided to kick in and were in excruciating pain. Even my toes complained. I somehow managed a coffee and some water, before the head spins, fainting feeling and vomit in the throat pushed me back to bed for another hour.
Struggling into the shower and dressing before my husband came home, I finally got the munchies. Toast, chips, biscuits. If it wasn’t nailed down I ate it. We took a walk and had coffee. And chips, and cake. At home for dinner, it was enormous hamburgers and cake and ice cream. Another coffee, and more water. Finally I was sated. My body refueled. Note to self here: it’s time to pull back on the food, to get ready for more training and less of eating everything in sight.
A week of stretching and my body feels awesome and strong again. Thank god for having a physical job, it kept my body moving and not seizing up sitting at a desk.
A short (3km?) slow, naked (no music, tracking etc) run yesterday to get me back into it and my heels, toes and backs of my knees really felt it. Overall, feeling great!
And I’m ready to go again. Some people say once they’ve done one that’s it, don’t need to go again, well I think I’ve got the bug and it’s on again. Three days post run and I said I’ll go back to where it all started this year. Cadbury marathon. To do the full. A funny thing with that is before I have even registered for the January run I have tickets booked (thanks cheerleader husband) for GCAM* (my third marathon) in July.
Hands down, my amazing beautiful family aside, it is the best thing I have achieved so far.
Happy running, Jennifer x
*GCAM – Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Queensland.
The title for this post came from an acquaintance on a Facebook running page as the comment to my ‘I’ve done it, I’ve run a marathon’ post I put up. It brought tears to my eyes, and is the perfect title for this.