Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflections on Race Day

 These are some thoughts on my race day and how it unfolded.

Race Morning
  • Woke up at 4.45am.
  • Shower to help warm up the muscles .
  • Breakfast of oats and peaches.
  • Take my drugs (antibiotic, vitamins and ventolin - so I can breathe!)
  • Taxi picked me up at 5.30am.
  • Everyone else still asleep!
  • Weather is perfect, 9 deg's or so and no wind.

At the MCG
  • Got out of taxi just before 6am at Hisesnse Arena where a dance party was still in full swing.
  • I looked at the people coming out of the party and thought "you guys are nuts."
  • They looked back at me probably thinking the same thing!
  • Walked over the footbridge to Gate 2 at the MCG and entered the stadium
  • A quick visit to the loo then up onto the concourse to look around
  • First time I have been to the MCG since all the stands were redeveloped ... it is amazing
  • Sat down and took in the atmosphere while listening to some music
  • Feeling pumped, but relaxed, this will be a big day
  • Walk down to deposit clothing bag then over footbridge to start - lots of up and down stairs here; must be careful not to trip (that would be embarrassing)
  • Woman in front of me (talking to her friends) says she hopes her bra doesn't fall off during the race. I said I hope so too cause I'd hate to trip on it!
Race Start
  • I desperately need to go for (another) pee. I remember all the talk about police not tolerating peeing behind trees. Too bad. (Sorry tree.)
  • Rob De Castella (Marathon World Champion, world record holder, Boston winner, multiple Comm. Games champ, etc.) gave the pre-race rev-up speech. Just fantastic! This guy has no time for wimps.
  • Get a spot in the front corral very easily.
  • They introduce (the late) Kerryn McCann's son who will start the race. His mum won the 2006 Commonwealth Games marathon here at the MCG in an epic race. Feel sorry for this kid.
  • The gun goes off at 7am and we are off. Only takes me 10 seconds or so to cross the line and I am running basically straight away. No problems there.
  • Glad to be on my way.

First 10km

  • The biggest "hill" on the course is over within the first 400m as you rise up on a bridge over the train lines.
  • Through the first kilometre in just over five minutes, feeling good. The 3.10 pace leader is behind me already. Hmmm.
  • Running along St. Kilda Road, fellow blogger Jason runs up beside me and says g'day (first time we have met!)
  • Worry a bit at the second km sign as I have either slowed dramatically or it is way later than it should be.
  • Cruise up St. Kilda Road enjoying the scenery, take a drink at the first aid station.
  • Through 5km in 22.59min (target was 23.10) so happy with this start.
  • Round the corner into Fitzroy Street; young female copper gives a "Go Cool Runner" to the guy beside me.
  • Onto the Grand Prix track around Albert Park Lake. Notice lots of swans beside the road; they seem oblivious to the thousands of runners passing them by.
  • Ask a guy beside me what time he is planning to run. He says 3:15. I think that is quicker than I plan to do. Not sure if I should slow down. Pace feels easy, conversational.
  • Take a drink and gel at the 9km aid station and wind our way back up from the bottom end of the lake.
  • Pass through 10km in 45.26min (last 5km in 22.27). Plan was 46.20. I know I am going fast, but is it "too fast?" (How fast is too fast anyway????) Still feels easy.

10km to half way

  • Glance over and can see the u-turn at the very bottom of Pit Straight - further down than I thought it was going to be. I know the Elwood end of the course must now be different (shorter) to what I though too.
  • Over a timing mat, around the corner then down into Pit Lane. No need to put on my 'speed limiter' but have to shuffle over to get another drink. Try a water sachet and cop a face full as I open it.
  • Have been running with my CR mates for 6km now. They say hello to every other CR out there. I wonder if they can keep it up.
  • We exit back onto Fitzroy Street then run down to the beach and turn right towards Port Melbourne.
  • I feel comfortable along here. It is my 'stomping ground' and I know every landmark up and down this stretch.
  • See the two Ethiopian leaders going back the other way. Gosh, they look quick!
  • Through 15km in 1:06.55hrs (last 5km in 21.29). Plan was 1:09.30. Is this marker in the right spot ... seems awfully fast. Doesn't feel that fast.
  • After my really successful run on the second half of this course a few weeks back I am just looking forward to getting to half way.
  • Beautiful conditions along the beach; make the turn at Port Melbourne (think of mum and dad - who live nearby).
  • Another drink, gel, water sachet at the aid station; not losing time now. 
  • Through 20km in 1:29.51hrs (last 5km in 22.56). Plan was 1:32.40. This is definitely going too quick. Anyway, almost halfway now. Have a neat group forming around us as we move through to St. Kilda.
  • Over the halfway timing mat in 1:34.45hrs. Ok, this has definitely been too quick. Plan was 1:37.46 or up to a minute ahead of this. But three minutes quicker! Curse myself for doing this. Suspect I am going to pay for it later (soon).

Halfway to 30km

  • Looking forward to this next stretch down to Elwood and back. I know this bit really well too and expect to see family and friends at the turn.
  • There is a big crowd on the "hot corner" at Fitzroy Street as they cheers runners going in three directions. Gives you a lift!
  • Just after halfway the "3:10 bus" comes up behind me ... and passes me by. I have also lost my earlier CR companions too.
  • Nearing Elwood I have my first signs of discomfort. Not major problems; just not as relaxed as before.
  • Do a right-left-right-left combo at Elwood Beach to get through the carpark; then another left after 100m to head back to the road. This is the only "technical" (as they'd say in cycling) section of the course.
  • Through 25km in 1:52.19hrs (last 5km in 22.28). Plan was 1:55.50. Have held on nicely through here. Am getting further ahead of schedule, now up to 3.31.
  • Turn right to head down to turnaround at Kingsley Street (where my mate lives). He is there with his son Colin and - most importantly - my crew are there with him (Fiona and our girls Brooke and Keira)!!!
  • Stop to say hi to all and give the girls a quick kiss. That's not outside assistance is it???
  • Run away from them back towards St. Kilda, trying to look strong and relaxed, even though I don't feel that way. Am later told I looked ok (not great) but a lot better than some!
  • Still feeling ok, but I know it is getting harder. The return stretch to Fitzroy Street seems longer than I would have thought.
  • Love the crowds up here and make the turn onto Fitzroy Street. Do not notice what many people call "the hill" along here.
  • Cross 30km in 2:15.58hrs (last 5km in 23.39). Plan was 2:19.00. Even I can do the simple maths - still 3.02 ahead of schedule; but now losing time instead of gaining it. The tide has turned. Time to dig in.

30km to The Finish

  • 250m further up the road and OMG ... there is a wall of half marathon runners streaming out in front of me.
  • I go from having plenty of space and a few marathon runners to pace off to havingwhat feels like the entire universe of slow runners blocking my path.
  • We turn onto St. Kilda Road in the service lane where we will be crammed together for the next four km. 
  • I dodge and weave through the crowds whilst trying to maintain my diminishing pace. 
  • I miss an aid station because I cannot get near it for the crowds.
  • I miss three of the next five km markers as you cannot see anything for all the runners.
  • I hope the half runners will keep going straight at the Arts Centre so I can get some peace! Aargh! No such luck, they make the turn with me.
  • Through 35km in est. 2:40:48hrs (last 5km in 24.50). Plan was 2:42.10. I still maintain a small buffer of time to my goal.
  • Finally, just before 36km, they turn off and I am alone with a rather diminished field. I have my first bad moments around here and need to stop to yell at myself! Come on, I am so close now, just keep going.
  • The 37th km takes 5.37 which will be my slowest of the day. Stop some more. Beat my thighs and yell at them some more. I am still 5sec in front of my target time; but I know this will be the last time I am ahead.
  • Round the bend onto Domain Road and a gentle downhill. Pass by a spectator who yells out "you're a gladiator." I don't really feel like one but this lifts my spirits and gives me an emotive soundtrack for my brain. Just the tonic!
  • Turn back onto St. Kilda Road. There are now people walking, running and everything in between. I go past the "Cobbers" memorial to the battle of Fromelle. Remind myself of what they went through and how weak I am in comparison. Resolve not to stop any more.
  • This resolve is good - while it lasts - but I have a couple more bouts of stopping for a few seconds over the next km or so. Not sure why???
  • Have merged back with the half runners but try to ignore there presence. 
  • Through 40km in est. 3:07.28hrs (last 5km in 26.40). Plan was 3:05.20. If I can hold it together I'll run 3:18 or so.
  • Go through Federation Square and right onto Flinders Street. Must run it home from here. Soon the MCG looms large in my vision as we veer right and down a gentle hill to Jolimont.
  • Less than one km to go now and my time is good. I start to get a bit emotional but keep it in check. Run around the outside of packs of half mara runners; feeling strong.
  • Left into the MCG tunnel and out onto the arena. What a buzz, running on the MCG. Start out running on the matting, but quickly decide to run on the turf.
  • An official shunts me across other runners into the marathon finishers chute. I choke up with emotion as I cross the line in 3:18.38hrs. Woo! Hoo!
  • Am filled with a feeling of sheer relief. Eight months of preparation, lots of problems along the way, but I DID IT.
  • I lay on my back and notice the heat in the sun for the first time. Just stare up at the grandstands in awe of them and of what I have just done.

Post Race
  • Down the ramp into the bowels of the stadium to collect my gear and finisher medal. Why didn't we get the medal as we crossed the line like every other event I've done?
  • Have a piece of banana and a drink. It is very crowded down here.
  • Wander over to the physio section where my mate Rob O'Donnell is running the show (Southern Suburbs Physiotherapy Centre). Because I am a client of theirs I get straight in. Woo! Hoo! No queue.
  • A quick rub down then back up into the sunshine to find my mate Roger.
  • Leaving the 'G I collect a Timex Ironman watch for my wife (with iPod control for only $50) and also my race kit which has the most pathetic souvenir towel in the history of crappy souvenirs. Who cares ... my finish time is my souvenir!
Days Later
  • Learning to walk again :-)
  • My cold, for which I have been on antibiotics, gets dramatically worse. No real surprise there.
  • I take an interest in the Boston Marathon for the first time. After all, I do have a qualifying time!

1 comment:

  1. AMAZING. I honestly don't know how you dealt with all the half-marathoners getting in your way just when things started to really get tough. Who thought THAT was a good idea?! It sounds like pure torture! But still, you fought through it and did an incredible job getting yourself to the finish line. What an awesome journey. I am so proud of you!! Hehe, I'm also excited to see that you are considering Boston! If I ever qualify, I will be there in a heartbeat! Congrats again, man. You ran an incredible race! Hope you feel better soon! :)


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