Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sydney Marathon - Irongirl Kicks it out of the Park

Well this could be a pretty short blog entry.  Here's the report card from Sunday's Sydney Marathon and a recap of the goals I had set:

So, this non-runner kicked it out of the park with a 25 minute PB on last year's time.

Happy?  You bet!
Sore?   You bet!
Tired?  You bet!
Couldn't care less?  YOU BET!!!

The day was a stunner - clear, no wind and warmed up really nicely during the morning.  As we did last year, we had breakfast and then had time to watch all the half marathon runners go past before wandering down to the start line.  The plan for the day was to find the 4:30 pace setters and try to stick to them for the duration.  So we found the two guys standing with 4:30 flags attached and took the opportunity to make ourselves known and let them know that we hoped to stick close.

They were great to talk to and they explained that one of them would be going for the gun time (gun guy - Matt) and the other the nett time (nett guy) and so we wanted to try and stay between them.  Great plan.  They had sorted out splits down their arms, iPhone GPS data and GPS watches - they were taking no chances here!  And, finally, they were intending to to run even splits throughout the race, although Matt would start out a bit faster to make up the initial 3 minutes he expected we'd lose getting across the start line.

So we positioned ourselves at the start behind nett guy and Matt and eagerly awaited the start.

It was to be a race of three parts.  The first 15km warmup, the second 15km needing a bit of work, and the final 12km where the true character test was held!

The first 15km felt really comfortable, I didn't go out too hard and stayed within myself.  The focus was staying relaxed and, as we headed over the bridge, St Pete edged ahead towards Matt and I trailed behind, happy with the pace and remaining slightly ahead of nett guy.  At around the 5km mark I had caught up to Matt and Pete and stayed with them as we headed down and back out of the Botanic Gardens.  As we headed into the gardens Matt called out to the group that they had made up their time and so was dropping the pace back a little.  Matt and Pete were running side by side and I was still feeling really comfortable and so I edged slightly ahead of them and would remain there, no more than 50m ahead as we headed out of the Gardens, through Hyde Park, up Oxford St and into Centennial Park.

Through Centennial Park and the second 15km was getting a bit tougher. I started having to concentrate more on form and ticking over the kilometres.  I maintained that small gap ahead of the 4:30 pace group and St Pete was doing a brilliant job sticking with Matt - fantastic pacing on his part.  However I was definitely starting to feel it in the legs.  A welcome distraction for part of this section was having a couple of colleagues from work catch up and go past, and having a chat to them enroute.  Russell and Monica were doing their first marathon and would end up finishing in 4:09 - a great effort on their part.

And then we came to the final 12km - and that was pure pain.

At about the 29km mark Matt's pace group came beside me and so I tucked behind them for a little bit thinking that they might have to drag me through the final section.  As we headed towards the top of Oxford St to head back down into the CBD Pete started to run ahead of the group and I followed to try and get a little ahead of them again.  Pete was looking really fresh, though, and I knew there was no way I could stay with him.  He picked up his pace slightly, and disappeared down Oxford St.  Meanwhile I started cursing, for the first time in my life, having to run downhill!  The quads were starting to complain big time.

This section, though, was all about gutsing it out and that's what I did.  With the gun group right behind me I just kept repeating various mantras to myself: relentless forward motion; just keep going.  I'd occasionally check my kilometre splits and saw that they had dropped below my desired 6:23 but I knew we had run the first half ahead of schedule so I had time up my sleeve.  Plus the 4:30 pace group was still tracking just behind so I didn't panic.

At the far end of the course we were at Pyrmont and were heading up the road towards the final climb where we would do the final U-turn and start heading for the finish line.  Behind me I heard Matt say to the group "just one final hill guys, and then we're home".  "Home" was relative - we still had 5km to go, but once we got over that hill and over the other side it was a 3km flat stretch to the finish.  I got up the hill - at that point I was climbing much better than descending - around Darling Harbour and back down the final drop and the second to last aid station.  Paused there for a drink and the pace group came past, grabbed drinks and they kept going.  I tried to follow ... but couldn't.  I needed to take about 10 seconds to get the legs working again and could only watch them disappear into the distance while I got going.  That was OK, though, they were on gun time and I was only concerned with the net time.

So I dug in and got going.  Only 3km to go.  By this stage lots of people around me were suffering big time and, as I did last year, drew strength from those people and used their walking  (and occasional swearing!) as a reason to keep running.

The last aid station is always a welcome sight - only 1200m to go and the nett guy caught up to me here.  I looked at my watch and it was reading 4:22.  Fantastic - 8 minutes to do 1200m.  I would do this!  Ears pinned back I headed for home, eyes only for that finish line in front of the Opera House.

I had no sprint me in for that final stretch but that was OK - my final km split was 6:23 and that was all I could do, but it was plenty.  I crossed the finish line in 4:28 and was so happy to see St Pete standing there waiting for me.  He had paced his race so well and had crossed 4 minutes ahead in 4:24.

A great day for us both and, when asked later on by Coach Dave what I'd do differently next time, I really couldn't give him an answer.

Full marks!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Trying Not to Chew My Arm Off

So this blog entry is all about one thing.

Filling in some time before tomorrow morning's race.

Tomorrow is the Blackmore's Sydney marathon and so today is all about putting my feet up, resting and doing as little as possible.

And I HATE it!

You see, one of the defining characteristics of ironman athletes is that we all seem to be addicted to staying busy.  You really do need to be able to thrive on being busy in order to juggle training, family and work life in a way that gets you to the start and finish line of your A race.  At some point during the season we all moan and complain about it all being too much, and feeling bad about the lack of social life we lead.  However get to a day like today, when I have free rein to sit around doing nothing, ALL DAY, and I'm like a fenced in cougar, pacing around my pen, getting grumpy.

OK, maybe not grumpy.  But you get the idea.

And I don't have St Pete to take my mind off the ticking minutes.  He's gone into work for the day, leaving me to my own devices and it really has been like having ADHD.

It's not like I've got nothing to entertain me.

There are a pile of triathlon magazines on the table waiting for my undivided attention.  The Saturday paper is on the same table, open.  There are recorded programs on the TV to watch.  I can easily fill in the time.  I've tidied up.  I've caught up with printing out finisher's certificates and photos from previous events.  I've had a cup of coffee (and a piece of baklava or three...). I've cruised YouTube and Facebook.  I've bought some songs on iTunes to add to the iPod playlist.  I've stood out on the balcony having a quick chat to Mel S and stood on the footpath briefly catching up with Chrissie.

And now I eagerly watch the clock waiting for midday to come simply so I've got a reason to make lunch!

All this nervous energy is hopefully a good thing.  I've had a tough few weeks training and am confident that Coach Dave has timed my build up perfectly in that, as taper approached, I definitely noticed the fatigue levels starting to creep into my stats.

Heart rate decay during a run - a sure sign of fatigue
My heart rate stats usually show a pretty consistent rate during a run.   However, a check of my profile after a session that felt less than optimal confirmed that I wasn't missing something.  Fatigue had set in and it was time to taper!

So we're there now and all I need to do is hurry up and wait.

And my plan for tomorrow?  There are several - and in a show of how far I've come and how much better I am when it comes to backing myself, here's the rundown before the race!

Number 1 Goal: Finish  
This will always be my number 1 goal!  No matter what happens a finish is a finish and the day will have been a success.

Number 2 Goal: Do better than last year's time of 4:53:06
Should be doable - I'm lighter, faster and stronger and all my run times this year have been ahead of last year's stats.

Number 3 Goal: Achieve Coach Dave's benchmark for me of 4:45:00
OK, just quietly, I think he's being really kind to me :)  Hehe, I think I can do better than that, and so.....

Number 4 Audacious, Kick it out of the Park, Goal: Sub 4:30:00
Yep, that's what I'm going to really go for, just quietly.  But don't worry, I've done my research, analysed my training stats and I don't think it's too unrealistic.  It requires an average pace of 6min 23sec/km and that's what I'll keep an eye on tomorrow. Of course all the stars probably need to align and, much like ironman, it's still a long day out there with plenty that can go wrong.  But I'm backing myself here!

The plan, then, is to find the 4:30 pace setter and try sticking with them for the duration - sticking with a pace group will be a new experience in itself, but hopefully it might make the kilometres tick over a bit easier as it'll give me something else to think about.  A bit like being on a club run.

So, there you have it.  One sleep to go and this irongirl is ready to go and do her best.

Watch this space to hear how it all went!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Training for a Cause - Sydney to Gong Ride for MS Australia

Doing an event for a cause has become the thing to do these days.  No matter what event you do - fun runs, bike events, walks, ocean swims, ironman - there's an opportunity presented to you to raise funds for a charity at the same time.

There are many reasons to do it.  Some will be doing it for very personal reasons, i.e. in memory of a family member or friend who has suffered or passed away.  Others will be using it as motivation for themselves to achieve a particular goal.  For the charities it's a great way of raising much needed funds in these times of constrained budgets and reduced public funding.

At a personal level I've only infrequently got involved with fundraising alongside my own participation in an event.  The last time I did so was in 2007 when I pulled together a team from work to take part in the Oxfam Trailwalker in New Zealand.  We fundraised together and (mostly) trained together, before completing the event together.  It was a great experience but, ultimately, it wasn't the fundraising that was the most rewarding part of it.  Don't get me wrong - Oxfam is an amazing charity and fully deserving of everyone's support.  It's just that the fundraising wasn't a motivating factor for me.  The training and then achieving the goal of completing the event was what got me excited and enthusiastic.  And that's what I look back on fondly.

It's a great example of how people are motivated by different things.

With ironman there are similar opportunities to raise funds for partner charities.  Ironman New Zealand are currently considering a new partner charity, however previously it was Cystic Fibrosis.  And as entrants we were regularly encouraged by IMNZ to set up a fundraising page and jump on the money raising bandwagon. It's not something that's ever got me enthusiastic, however, and again it's got nothing to do with the charity.  It's more about the fact that Ironman is my own personal challenge and that is what motivates me to do it - not some external factor.

However the barren wasteland that is my charitable activity is about to change for a little while!

Yesterday I entered one of Sydney's iconic rides, the MS Gong Ride.  It's a 90km bike ride from Sydney to Wollongong and is a major fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis Australia.  As an entrant everyone undertakes to raise at least $250 each and, with a cap of 10,000 entrants, it's obviously a pretty popular cause.

It's a ride I've followed since we moved to Sydney and always looked like a great event to do - afterall, what irongirl wouldn't jump at the chance for a 90km training day down to Wollongong on the bike and back home on the train?!   This year I've taken the plunge and entered and I figured that $250 can't be too scary to raise from people?

Can it?  Well I'm about to find out!

As a way of making it a bit more interesting (I hope), I've upped the stakes and hopefully provided a bit more of an incentive for people to join in the fun with their wallets.  It seemed that you'd probably all think that a 90km ride for me would be a bit of a doddle so I started thinking about being iron-tough and riding home instead of taking the train.  I could round it out to 200km and therefore make it longer than I'd do in an ironman.

But to do that I'll need more than $250.

And then the brain went into about setting a second level, at which point I'll dress in a silly costume?  Think Xena, Warrior Princess, Wonder Woman etc.  (St Pete is keen on The Incredible Hulk....yikes!).  And that's not all - Sarah, my friend from bootcamp, has decided to do the ride with me and when she heard my madcap idea of riding back she decided that she'd join me ... as long as I raised double what I set for my own ride back.

So here it is - MS Australia - a fantastic cause for an horrific disease that we can all only hope we don't get.  And my training day on 3 November will be determined by you, my friends, family, supporters and readers.  This is what I'll do in return for your donations:

$250   Do the ride (and enjoy the train ride home)
$500   Double de Gong (ride down and ride back and make it a 200km journey)
$1000 Double de Gong Madcap ( ride down and back, 200km, in a crazy costume)

So, what are you waiting for?  Get to it!  Check out the Sponsor Me button on the right hand side of the blog, or go to

Love your work guys :)

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