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:
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.