Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Sydney Marathon

I made it though the marathon, woohoo! Now I can say 'I run marathons', plural, as I've done more than one... two to be exact!

We flew up to Sydney early on Saturday morning, feeling pretty exhausted as Friday was the last day of term for us. We stayed this airbnb place, which I would definitely recommend as an alternative to a hotel in central Sydney. Our host was a guy named David, who also happened to be running the half-marathon on Sunday, so it was nice to stay with a fellow runner. It also meant we didn't have to worry about making noise when we got up at 5am to have breakfast as he was up making his breakfast quinoa as well. His apartment was super close to Milson's Point train station, which was also where the start of the race was. It made for a much more relaxing morning prior to the race as we just had to walk around the corner to get there. I can remember a super stressful half marathon start we had for Run to the Beat in London. The tubes were delayed that morning, and the roads closed around the start of the race. We had to jump in a cab at the last minute that could only drop us off about 2 miles from the start, meaning before starting the race we'd walked 2 miles. After stressing that we would miss the race, the organizers decided to delay the start time because of the transport issues. We ended up standing around in the freezing cold for almost an hour waiting for the race to start.  That was not fun! This was much, much better.
Relaxing at the Opera Bar Kitchen with some seagulls
Once arriving in Sydney we met up with Dave, Charlotte and Adam. Dave and Charlotte were also doing the marathon, and Adam, along with Andy, made up our support crew. We stopped by the marathon expo to pick up our racing bibs and some Gu gels. My new favourite flavour of Gu is 'salted caramel'. Sounds like it would be gross but it actually tastes pretty good, for an energy gel. We got some lunch at the Opera Bar Kitchen, and then hopped on a ferry to Manly beach for the afternoon. At Manly we met up with Lauren and Steve, other friends from Melbourne who were doing the half marathon on Sunday. For dinner we ate at Fratelli Fresh, an Italian where we all loaded up on carbs in preparation for the race the next morning.

Race bibs collected!
The start point was under the Harbour Bridge and seemed pretty well organized. I didn't have to queue to long to use the toilet just before the start, which is a key priority for me before long runs! It was overcast and drizzling in the morning which made the start a bit cold, but frankly I'd prefer a cold start to a hot one.

Milson's Point where the race started
I really had no expectations for myself in terms of getting a good time, due to the knee problems I've been having. I hadn't done any running in the 2 weeks leading up the race, and my last long run was 30k, about 5 weeks ago. Over the last week or so I've been googling 'Runner's Knee' like crazy hoping I would find some magical overnight cure which would help me run the race pain free (I didn't). I did stumble across this youtube video of a way to use physio tape for runner's knee, so the night before the race Andy taped both knees for me. That, combined with my horse gel (Rapigel) and the anti-inflammatory Voltaren, were my weapons to combat my knee pain. And I must say, they did work pretty well! I had almost no knee pain the whole race and even now, two days later, my knee doesn't really hurt at all, and I haven't taken any more anti-inflammatory medical or applied any Rapigel. So really, I think the physio tape must have done a really good job of holding my knee in place.

Anyway, I started the race near the 4:30 pacer and thought if I stayed around him I'd be happy with my time. The course starts with a run over the Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. The rest of the run is on the south side of harbour, where the Opera House is. We went through the Botanical Gardens, Centennial Park and then back towards the Opera House. There was a lot of looping around, so in many parts you were passing runners either ahead or behind you. This was kind of nice as it meant I could look out for Charlotte and Dave, and I did end up seeing them once each. It always gives you a bit of a boost when you see people you know during a race.
Running over the Harbour Bridge

I thought the course was pretty good, except for the 34-40km part, which was basically up part of a moterway towards Darling Harbour, and then back. This part of the run was pretty boring, with no shade, and by this point the rain and clouds had cleared up and the sun was out. Nice for the spectators, not so nice for the runners! My friend Dave, who did a 3:30 marathon, also thought parts of the race were too narrow. I didn't find this too bad but it was much more crowded where he was running, along with everyone doing a faster pace, so I can see how it would have been annoying.

I was really impressed with how many aid stations there were along the way, they seemed to be every 2-3kms and were well sign posted. HOWEVER there were meant to be 'Gu' gels at a couple of stations from 20km onwards, but by the time I got there they had run out! That really annoyed me! I had brought two of my own gels with me but had planned on getting at least one more from one of the stations. I know I am slower than the 'elite' runners, but us slow runners need energy too! I really think that if they advertise that they are going to have energy gels at a race they should make sure they have enough to last for all the competitors.

The last 5-6 kms were the hardest for me. My quads were aching (probably to let me know that they were not quite prepared to carry me as far as I was pushing them!) and then at 37km a blister on the bottom of my fourth toe popped! That was pretty gross, and ridiculously painful. I hobbled along wondering if I should stop completely and put a band-aid on it. Then I basically just told myself to suck it up and keep running, it was only a blister! It hurt for a few hundred meters and then felt ok again, the fact that it popped was probably for the best in the end. At least it took my mind off my sore quads for a few minutes.

The last few months I've been doing a lot of yoga, which I think helped in a way as I was able to stay 'in the present' during the race, instead of thinking ahead at how much I still had to go before finishing. Instead of thinking things like 'there is no way I can run 15 more km the way I am feeling right now' I thought things like 'I can keep running right now. I am in a bit of pain, but not enough to need to stop right now'. I think that really helped me focus on what was happening in the moment and not worry about what was going to happen later on. I think doing a marathon is both a physical and mental activity, and the moment you let doubts start creeping in, it becomes so much harder to continue on. (That said, it is still VERY physical and you need to listen to your body - nothing is worth causing yourself permanent damage to joints, muscles, or even your organs.)

I ended up finishing with a time of 4:19:14 which I was very happy with. It's a PB for me by 8 minutes, and I paced myself well, averaging about 9:40 per mile until about 22 miles in, where I then dropped back to about 10 minute miles...around the blister popping time! I know I keep switching back between kms and miles; I got used to measuring my pace in min/mile when living in the UK and that is what my Nike watch is set on! When I'm doing a race measured in km now I sometimes distract myself by calculating back and forth between my pace and distance in kms and miles... yes that's right, I do maths while running!

Dave, Charlotte and I celebrated our marathon success with a few beers at the Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks before Andy and I flew back to Melbourne last night. Andy has made an awesome iMovie video of race day, where at the end you can see me hobbling up some stairs at a train station in Sydney. That's pretty much how I felt all day yesterday! My legs were VERY sore and I spent a lot of yesterday 'resting' (ie surfing the internet). I am very happy we are on school holidays right now, as I was very tired yesterday morning and getting up for work would have been painful. Last night I went for a light swim in Prahran pool followed by a hot tub and sauna, and my legs are feeling a bit better today. Still no knee pain which is a good sign I think.



All in all I enjoyed the marathon and am glad I did it, although the lack of training at the end was frustrating and meant I couldn't aim for my original goal of 4 hours. I guess that just means I will have to do another... there is always Melbourne Marathon in 3 weeks time...


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