Will Thames

swim, bike, run, tech

Reflections on Sunday's Brisbane Marathon

Note: most of this was written Sunday afternoon - so although it’s posted a few days late, it’s a fairly timely (and therefore more accurate) recollection.

Last year’s Brisbane Marathon was the highlight of my running season - an 18 minute PB just five weeks after a 7 minute PB at Gold Coast, bringing my PB down from 2011’s 3:54 to 3:30 after a solid few months training with a coach. I’ve said since that it was the perfect race, the conditions were ideal for me, my training had gone very well without injury.

The lead up to this year’s Brisbane Marathon has been a little different - since Blue Mountains I just haven’t managed to achieve a level of consistent running with which I can be happy - as alluded to in my two previous posts. I haven’t really managed a run longer than about 25km since the Blue Mountains, with most long runs being around the half marathon mark.

I’ve been succumbing to almost every runners niggle going - thankfully not in a severe way but enough to make me feel the need to slow down. I’ve had shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, hamstring and ITLB at one point or another. Some of it might be new shoes, some of it might be old shoes breaking down, and as I get used to new shoes or replace old shoes hopefully I’ll get settled again.

So I had few expectations of today - I gave myself four days off to allow the hamstring to recover sufficiently, and figured I’d see what happens. My ideal target was a PB, but I realised that if I was actually capable of that, then there was something wrong about my training plan. I’d have been happy with sub-3:45, and content with sub 4:00.

As I started I felt good, and quickly settled into 5:00/km pace. As with last year, my head said this seemed fast, but my body seemed fine with it - no problems breathing at all, my legs felt light and painfree, and I was having the best run I’d had in months.

This lasted nearly the whole first lap, although I think I started slowing from onwards of 18km. The day started heating up, and I started to feel more and more sluggish. By about 25km I was feeling that the rails had come off my race and that it would be a sufferfest to the end. At this point my friend Dave (who started in the zone behind mine) caught up with me, and kindly gave me a gel, before heading on his own race, looking strong.

Between 29 and 30km, just after Victoria Bridge - by Peta

While the gel perked me up a bit, I think it caused some stomach issues, but a quick pitstop and I could carry on - might have lost a minute or two but sometimes when the race is going badly, and temperatures are heating up, an enforced break can help.

However, this didn’t mean it wasn’t a sufferfest until the end. The highlights from this point on were seeing Peta who’d come to spectate for the second lap, just after Victoria Bridge (29km) and just before Go Between Bridge (35km), and also the wonderfully crazy kids manning the water stalls, so supportive and enthusiastic as ever! I got overtaken by the 3:45 pacer at the 32km mark and tried my best not to let them get too far past without a struggle, but I was pretty much cooked.

At a few water stops I tried the water over the head cooling method, which provided some temporary relief, but I was in full-on ultra-event survival mode by now - walking the hills, taking some walk breaks, anything I could to just continue to the end.

The last few kms felt so far and so hard, I couldn’t even maintain 6:00/km by this point as I was having to stop at water fountains or take quick breaks. I even used the water stop at 41km, in spite of it ‘only’ being another 1.2km. Finally, I crossed the line in 3:52:07, and I was ok with that. My worst road marathon on Australian soil, but still slightly better than London 2011.

The race execution felt a bit similar to London, in that I had an awesome first half, although slowing towards the half way point, to get a positive split of around 1:45 first half and around 2:00 second half. At least this time, I can walk afterwards!

As with all my marathons, I suspect temperature played a massive part (start temp was 6C, end temp was 20C), but I may have stuffed up the nutrition too - I was hungry not long into the race. That and the lack of long distance training all combined to play their part. For all my niggles, I don’t think they really had a major effect on the race.

I might have a few days off running now, I’m shattered! [It’s now Wednesday, and today I had my first run since Sunday (just 5km)]

Just after the Sombrero kids, at 35km