Sunday, April 20, 2008

Canberra Marathon - A bloody big PB

The Canberra Marathon. Marlz and I have been best mates for 20 years. I feel priveleged to have trained for and completed a marathon with this bloke. He could've run it a fair bit quicker, but that wasn't why he was there. We ran a marathon together. This is that story.

The trip to Canberra did not get off to a good start. With Marlz, myself, our spouses and John packed in the car and already half an hour down the road I realised that the bottles of Staminade and Coke I had spent the morning mixing and labelling had been left behind. We decided that we might risk missing the drop off if we turned around and picked them up. This put me in a filthy mood for the next hour or so, but I soon snapped out of it. We decided on a new race hydration strategy: I would use the High 5 electrolyte drink on course and Des would meet me at the 30K mark with a Red Bull. This was a bit risky: I've only used High 5 once before - in my first marathon. On that occasion I started vomiting at 15K and it ended very messy.

I had a long-standing deal with Des that the carbo-load would occur at the Pancake Parlour. I love this restaurant! It remains one of lifes mysteries to me that it has completely disappeared from Sydney. We returned to the hotel with bellies full of pancake when John took after his father in a rather spectacular fashion. At this point I should note for the benefit of Non-Coolrunning readers that my handle on Coolrunning is "Chunderbolt". John spewed mercilessly all over his Godfather (Marlz). The unflappable Marlz showered and we all turned in for early nights.

Race morning was great, as far as I was concerned - threatening rain and cold. I liberally lubed every area that had ever chaffed, and Marlz and I walked down to the start line. We chatted with various Coolrunners whilst sheltering from the rain in the hall until walking out and finding the four hour pace group just before the start.

It rained lightly for the first few kilometres. Marlz and I ran with the group for the first few K, but we got carried away talking about something and by the time I had a look around we were about a hundred metres in front of the pace group. We decided to try to just maintain that distance, but by 10K we were a little bit further in frontof the group. We went through 10K in 54 minutes - about three minutes ahead of pace.

At this point I knew that we had made a tactical error. I slowed us down and we went through the next 11.1K right on correct pace, going through the half marathon in 1:57. Shortly before this the four hour pace group passed us. I wasn't too worried about this as I knew we were ahead of the pace. The thing that worried me was that I was feeling OK, not great. My first coach once told me that the aim of the first half of a marathon is to feel great. I was feeling slightly fatigued and slightly sore. It was about this time that the rain cleared and the course filled with sunshine, and this wasn't going to do my chances any good.

Between here and 30K my approach was to hold it together without losing too much energy. For the first time in the race we started to lose seconds every K. we were travelling at about 5:45 per kilometre, where race pace was 5:41. I remember seeing Johnny Dark somewhere about this point and mustering the biggest cheer I could for him, telling him that it was his day. That guy has had a battle with the marathon that rteminded me a lot of my sub 1:50 half quest, but being a battle with the marathon it's on a much larger scale. One of the big high points of my day was later learning that he nailed the race he had been after. Well done JD - you deserve it.

I also saw a broken sfGnome on the side of the road who urged me on - cammiserations Bruce!

At 30K my true love was waiting with my Red Bull, which helped pick me up a little bit, but it didn't have a big effect. I was starting to suffer. 30 to 35 was getting real tough. The pace slowed up severely and at 34K I needed to take a walk break. At this point I tried to urge Marlz on to the sub four marathon he is obviously capable of, but he wasn't having a bar of it. We had gone this far together and we were finishing this bloody thing together. 30 to 35K we averaged 6 minutes per K. I knew the sub four was gone.

35 to 40 was more walk breaks and more hard work, but after 40 I could smell the finish line and there were no more walk breaks. We finished the marathon in 4:07:45 to the cheers of the excellent cheer squad. This was nearly 20 minutes off my old marathon PB, so I had to accept that I might have bitten off more than I could chew with sub-4 and be happy with, let's face it, a massive PB. Marlz ran on and clocked an impressive 4:54:59 for 50K in his third race (he's run 2 half marathons).

Post race I was messy. Des had a coffee waiting for me as well as a protein recovery drink, but most of it came back up. I stumbled around a bit swapping stories before showering and heading home just before the thunderstorm started.

So the four hour marathon was not achieved. Why?

Two reasons jump out at me.

Poor tactics: I would've been better off sticking with Spuds pace group. There is no doubt that I spent too much in the first 10K, and next time I will be far more anal about sticking with the pacer unless I know something is amiss with the pace.

Not enough in the preparation: I reckon I did enough to get an average runner over the line for four hours, but I suspect my body needs a little bit more. I certainly won't be getting married 10 weeks before my next marathon, and just perhaps I missed too many Ks in the early weeks of the preparation. I also think I might try to get into the low 80s for a few weeks the next time.

There will be a next time, but it probably won't be soon. I have two events on the horizon that will preclude me from training for a proper tilt at the marathon for the next year.

In August I, along with Marlz, Coolrunner Nite_Time_Runner and another bloke will be having a shot at a sub 20 hour Trailwalker.

And then next year the same four people will be attempting our first Six Foot Track Marathons.

These are big, hairy goals I will not distract myself from them by the specific training I would need to go sub four. To do that would be to risk all of them. And besides, I've not been as good a dad or husband as I aspire to be when running the big K's, so the next attempt can wait for a while. For the next few months at least I will try to get by on four sessions a week and devote more of my remaining energy to being a better dad and husband. So with that in mind and the fact that the twins are off for ten days in Fiji with their other dad tomorrow, I'm off to play with my kids.


Blogger Tesso said...

Huge congrats Benny!

You talk about different memories of the race, one that stands out for me is seeing you and Marlz running together and enjoying eachothers company and calling out support to others. To me it was a great image of two good mates. I didn't realise you had been best friends for 20 years, but I am not suprised.

BTW, great goals!

5:54 pm  
Blogger Jen_runs said...

Sensational Benny. I'm so happy for you; I can't wait to see you finish Six Foot next year :-D

7:22 pm  
Blogger TA and the Gnome said...

Hmmm... If I were you, I'd be leaving the kids at home and going to Fiji with Dad2 :-)

20 minutes off the old pb is enormous; getting another 7 will be a piece of cake. Enjoy the lighter weeks before TW training starts.


8:36 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Great story Ben. 20 minutes is a "bloody big PB" - congratulations!

You both looked good when I saw you out there - always smiling. Great of Marlz to hang back for you at the end.

See you at 6'! Yes... don't get married (again) 10 weeks before your next marathon ;)

8:46 pm  
Blogger Horrie said...

Congratulations Benny on a fantastic run. A 20 minute PB is huuuge. The sub 4 goal wasn't too big and hairy. It just didn't happen last week but it will happen. Welcome to the dark side. You won't regret it.

9:35 pm  
Anonymous Gronk said...

Great stuff Benny !

10:55 am  
OpenID owlblog said...

great effort Benny! Looking forward to you cheering me at Six Foot (having finished the race before me!)

10:04 pm  

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