Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Irongirl's Ultimate Marathon Race Plan

In just over a fortnight St Pete and I will be toeing the start line of the Blackmore's Sydney Marathon.

Three months ago it seemed like a great idea.  Today it seems like one of the stupidest things I've ever cooked up for myself.

Like a good Irongirl, though, I have a plan.

A race plan.

And it goes something like this:

Start -2hrs
Get up, eat some mashed banana on toast and a cup of tea.
Try not to throw up said toast, banana and tea.
Check emails, facebook, twitter, and generally cruise the internet, trying to avoid thinking about the next 8 hours and instead thinking calm blue oceans and sunny skies.
Pin St Pete's race number on his top - adjust it 50 times until it is "just right".
Try not to stab him with a safety pin.

Start -1hr
Go to the bathroom.
Walk around the lounge.
Go to the bathroom again.
Put running shoes on, quadruple-check everything in the gear bags.
Make sure every possible contingency is covered - rain, blizzard, gale-force winds, heatwave.
Toss 90% of what was in the gear bags back on the bed after realising it's a calm sunny day outside and the start line is 50m from our front door.
Check for the 15th time that St Pete has the front door keys.
Leave the house and head to the start line.
Head back to the house and pick up the forgotten sunglasses.
Check for the 16th time that St Pete has the front door keys.
Leave the house and head to the start line.

Start -30min
Join the portapotty queues.

Start -5min
Make it out of the portapotty just in time to get to the start line and give St Pete a big hug and kiss good luck.

Start Gun
Watch St Pete disappear into the crowd.

Try to ignore the 3/4 of the field going past me while I settle into a warm up pace.  Resist the temptation to yell at everyone "this is a marathon, guys, you're going out too fast!" because they are already settling into their own slow pace.
Start climbing towards the harbour bridge.

Embrace the suck.
DO NOT think about the 35km still left to go.
Instead, know that my heart rate will be stupidly high and I will feel like a big bag of cement.
Might have something to do with "summiting" the harbour bridge...make mental note to find more running events that start with a downhill rather than uphill.

Finally get into a rhythm.
Heart will have stopped trying to escape from my chest and will have settled into a more civilised 140-150bpm.
Legs now feeling like they can plod along at a reasonably sedate pace for the duration.
Get some nutrition in - embrace the aid stations and maintain a civilised walk through each one.
Make mental note to suggest to the race organisers that they install an escalator on the "short sharp steep section" past the Art Gallery carpark.
Try not to swear walk up said short sharp steep section.
Channel the Little Engine That Could and make it up the short sharp steep section.
Enjoy the scenery out by the botanic gardens and then into Hyde Park before the long climb out of the CBD towards Centennial Park.

Focus on steady pace, walking the aid stations and taking in nutrition at each one.
Enjoy the feeling of being a "runner" - it won't last much longer.
Watch out for the horses in Centennial Park.
Watch the horses in Centennial Park.  They will provide a welcome distraction.

Silently celebrate the halfway mark.
Know that while it's not all downhill from here, it is homeward and that must be worth at least a 5% decline for the brain.
Check the time and immediately double it with the delusional idea that you will do, at worst, an even split or, even better, a negative split.
Double the time and add an hour to calculate the more likely scenario.
Forget the time.

Embrace the suck.
Focus only on getting to the next aid station.
Walk the aid station and take in some nutrition.
Become aware of every joint, ligament, tendon, muscle and bone from the waist down.
Block out the awareness knowing that thinking about it will only end badly.

Embrace the suck.
Say hello to the enormous red brick wall looming ahead.
Run into it.
Keep running.

It's all downhill from here!  Well actually it's flat, but that's as good as downhill when you can almost smell the finish line.
Enjoy the crowds who are still hanging out along the sidelines, including all the marathoners who finished ages ago and are now wandering around in a leisurely fashion with their medals around their necks.
Resist the urge to snatch a medal off those smug good-for-nothing natural-born athletes just to save having to run the final 4km.

40km - FINISH
Savour the feeling of all pain and discomfort leaving the body as you see the finish chute.
Run across the line with a huge smile and trying not to look like a Womble - that finish line photo needs to be a good one.
Remember to press the stop button on the Garmin - who needs official results when you've got www.garminconnect.com
Hold back the expletives when you realise you forgot to start the Garmin.
Luckily there's official results.
Find St Pete and compare notes, while sitting in the Botanic Gardens nursing aching feet and toes, enjoying the spring sunshine and knowing that it's been a great day out.

Finish +2hours
Maccas - Grand Angus Burger, Large Fries, Hot Apple Pie.
Lovin' it!

DISCLAIMER:  All events described in this blog post may or may not bear any relation to actual or real events.  As always, life is not to be taken so seriously and so copious pinches of salt should be taken in conjunction with a healthy dose of humour. This blog has been written for your entertainment. Enjoy :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

These Legs Were Made For Running...

Haha, OK, no they're not.

These legs are the most unsuited appendages for running you could ever hope for.

Look at any half decent runner and you will see long, lean limbs.  My legs?  Built like a front row prop.  Short but strong, these legs are great for power (I was nicknamed "thunder thighs" at school for good reason), but absolutely hopeless for running.  Put me at a run start line and I will plod rather than glide, pound rather than skip.

And when people talk to me about ironman they have this expectation that I must love running and I must be really good at it.  It can actually be quite entertaining to see the look of surprise and disbelief when I correct them of this fallacy and let them know in no uncertain terms that I don't enjoy running and, in fact, have a love-hate relationship with this, the third discipline of ironman.  And it took my fellow NRG club runners a couple of weeks to realise that this irongirl really did belong with the back of the pack group!

But running is good for me and there is plenty of scope for improving this leg of ironman.  Coach Dave was therefore happy to accommodate my suggestion that I get some more running into the legs over winter.  I had a few events in mind and so we set up a schedule of different challenges that would keep things interesting.

First up was the Sutherland 2 Surf.  This was an 11km fun run from (you guessed it) Sutherland out to Cronulla.  It was described as a flat run but, hello, this is Sydney, so who were they kidding?!  Overall the gradient was downhill, however there were plenty of climbs to keep everyone honest.  Another "special" feature was the location of the finish line, completely out of sight just 100m around a downhill hairpin and following a final killer climb along the beachfront just to finish everyone off mentally and physically.

I had a good run, though.  It rained basically the whole way and so the conditions were pretty miserable.  However I took advantage of the downhill start and began strongly.  So strongly (for me), in fact that I was a bit concerned that my pace was too high and was likely to lead to a blow up.  I kept going though, and finally pushed myself over the finish line in 1:04:58.  A great pace for me (5:51/km) and a real boost in confidence.

Next up in my winter running adventures was a real doozey.  An away run with NRG, our running club, running the Coastal Track from Otford to Bundeena in the Sydney National Park.

The trail is the route for a newish event, the Coastal Classic, which is being run in September.  And so it was to be used as a training run for those who had entered the event.  For the rest of us, it was a opportunity for a day out running over new terrain and exploring a different part of the region.

The Back of the Packers on the Coastal Track
It was a stunning day and we had no pressure to finish in a hurry.  The track was 27km of off road terrain - mud, rock, sand and forest trails.  About the only thing missing were leeches, and that was probably only because there hadn't been any rain in the previous few days.

A highlight was seeing a couple of whales just off the coast and we interspersed the whale watching with running along the flats and downhills and walking the climbs - of which there were plenty!  We reached Bundeena in 5 hours 11 minutes, though, not bad for a tough 27km and there were plenty of sore feet and tired bodies on the ferry back to Cronulla and train back to Milsons Point at the end of the day.

The latest in this trio of winter running was the City 2 Surf.  This iconic event is a Sydney classic, attracting its cap of 85,000 entries each year.  The run is 14km and starts in Hyde Park, heads east through Kings Cross, past Rose Bay and out to Vaucluse before turning hard right and running south to Bondi.  A particular highlight is the legendary "Heartbreak Hill", which we had heard plenty about since our arrival in Sydney last year.  Guaranteed to make grown men weep, this course was going to be no walk in the park.
St Pete and I ready to take on the City 2 Surf

The weather forecast wasn't flash.  Strong winds were predicted and low temperatures to go with them so we wrapped up warmly and got ready for a steady trot out to Bondi.  One thing I hadn't experienced before was running with 85,000 people.  Enough to put some people off, but no doubt this was going to be an adventure.

One mitigating factor is that by some miracle I had managed to qualify for the green seeded group.  My stunning performance of a sub 2hr 15min half marathon run earlier this year had allowed this privilege, and allowed us to start just 8 minutes behind the serious guys in the red group.

I was well psyched up to deal with Heartbreak Hill.  Didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had been coping with hills OK so refused to be scared of it.  In the end it was the very first climb that nearly finished me off!  500m from the start and not even properly warmed up and we start our first climb into the tunnel.

Far out!

Got there though, and we toured our way through Kings Cross and around Rose Bay.  The crowds weren't too bad - the seeding had obviously done its job and the only real problems we had were navigating our way around walkers who were most likely part of the privileged "gold" group, the fundraisers who had been able to start ahead of us because of their fundraiser status.

At around the 6km mark Heartbreak Hill started.  I was well warmed up by then and chugging along quite nicely.  So nicely in fact that I had the energy to belt out a couple of lines of Tina Turner's "Your Simply the Best" which was being played at full noise at the start of the hill.

And then we were climbing.

And climbing.

And still climbing.

Around 1.7km later we finally got to the top.  And boy was I glad to see it.  I had walked for a couple of small stretches up the hill but only for about 50m in total and so I was inwardly really happy with my effort.  I was pretty stuffed though so might have been outwardly a little grumpy... (sorry you know who!)

After conquering the hill we did a hard turn right at Vaucluse and started heading south to Bondi.

And hit a headwind.  The stormy weather had arrived and was blowing hard - although not as hard as we've encountered in Wellington!  So not too bad, and it wasn't raining so that was a bonus.  By that stage it was also pretty much downhill to Bondi where we had a 1km run along the promenade (which felt like 2km) and then a hairpin turn into the final finishing straight - which also looked like it was about 2km away but was probably only about 300m!

Crossing the finish line was a joyous occasion - a smidge under 1hr 30min and a good enough time to keep us in the green seeded group next year.

Oh, and even better?  St Pete and I crossed the finish line together and recorded exactly the same finish time.  But I beat him by 12 places...go figure.  But yahoo - I'll take that victory!

So it's been a good way to spend the winter and my running has been chugging along quite nicely.

But it's not over yet.

I have one event left for this winter, and it's a biggie.  Next month St Pete and I take on the Sydney Marathon.  With a 5:30 cut-off, my number one goal is to finish inside that time and with a PB of 5:22 for that distance I'm going to have to be on top of my game to achieve that.  I'm well on track to get there but, even so, a marathon is a marathon and, like ironman, anything can happen on the day to derail all our best laid plans.

No pressure!