My expectations for this race were reasonable but not amazing. I had high hopes of getting a personal best, but also knew that it wasn’t a given. The conditions in 2012 were great, and my training was very marathon focused. This year my training has been for 100km trail races, and it’s only 2 weeks since I spent over 20 hours on a properly tough course. But I did well at City 2 South not that long after the North Face 100, and marathon predictions from that result suggest I’m capable of around 3:20. Being capable and achieving it are two different things! And then there’s my knee — it can cope with running, but would it hold out for the full 42.2km?
My alarm went off at 03:45 this morning. Because I wanted to have coffee and breakfast and not leave it too late to get to my pre-booked parking ($5 is a bargain, but the roads close at 05:15), plus leave time for congestion, the goal was to leave home at 04:15. Peta wanted a lift to Shorncliffe Pier for some dawn photography, so by the time I left Sandgate it was 04:25. But with almost zero traffic until 100m from my car park, there wasn’t much to worry about, and I was heading for the bag drop by 05:00. While driving in I had some energy drink, as last year I really suffered from low energy at around the 25km mark.
By Brisbane standards, this morning was pretty cool (8°C) — I definitely appreciated wearing long sleeves and long legs over my race gear. By 05:30 I was feeling warm enough to get out of the outer layers, put on my race number (which because it was transferred late, said “David”), apply sufficient anti-chafing strategies and sunscreen and drop off my bag.
On the way to the start I bumped into Dean and Vanessa who run Sandgate Parkrun. I’d picked up their race kits the previous day as they were busy filming Sesame Street (how cool is that?) so stopped to say hello and see how they were feeling. By the time we were heading to the start it was 05:50.
My starting zone was full. Properly full. In the end I managed to squeeze into the very rear of the zone, but in hindsight, I should have just gone forward a zone and tried to go backwards to the start of my zone. I really wanted to avoid the bottleneck at Story Bridge, which meant getting a good start for the first 3km, but it wasn’t to be. In the end I just went with the flow (I think a similar thing happened in 2012, and I got a PB then), and settled into a pace that was a little slower than I’d have liked but at that stage of the race there’s no point going off too fast.
I had a great run. Once I got past the bottlenecks I was running 4:45/km pace for a lot of the first half. My goal was to limit my exertion so that I would feel strong at the 32km point when I think the marathon really starts. Conditions were almost ideal: cool, slightly overcast, slight breeze (ok, quite windy at times, but never too bad).
I tried to avoid the mistakes of the previous year when I sprinted down the Go Between Bridge and then started to blow up shortly after. Or when I ran out of energy at the 25km point because I’d had nothing since breakfast. And then borrowed a gel and then had stomach issues.
This year my exertion rate was fairly constant (i.e. if I was going uphill then I was going more slowly) and I had Clif Shot Bloks every 5km (although I forgot the last one, but that probably didn’t make much difference)
While running around, many of the crowd were cheering “Go David”. I’m a big believer in the power of crowd support (only when things are going well — when things are going terribly, people telling you “You can do it”, “It’s not that far” aren’t providing as much benefit as they might hope) and so I always like to acknowledge the support. So I just waved and thanked people who called me David (or Dave). Whenever I heard “Go Will” was always a pleasant surprise, but there were a few people running or supporting who actually knew me! As an aside, while I believe that people are only allowed to say “Not far to go” in the last km or two, the person who told me at 300m to go that it was only 2km to go was no more helpful. I knew how much I had left as this was my third time but had I been a new runner to the course I’d have got quite disheartened!
By about the 30km point, when I had 12km left to go, I thought that anything quicker than 5:00/km would take that amount off a 3:25 finish, so I was hoping for around 3:23 at this point, if I could maintain 4:50/km for the remainder of the race. I must have got my calculations wrong because I didn’t go much slower than 4:55/km — perhaps I’d forgotten the final 200m. Sums are hard when you’re running!
The last 6km were particularly tough, after I’d crossed the river at the Go Between Bridge again, and headed on the out and back to Toowong. The temperature was rising and there is no shade. My knee wasn’t too bad but I wonder if my gait was slightly out of alignment as I could feel tightness in my hips. In the end I just carried on, trying to maintain as much pace as possible. I dropped below 5:00/km once in the race, but once I got to the 41km mark I knew I had about six minutes left and upped the tempo, which felt great. Why didn’t I do that earlier!
I finished in 3:25:11, a PB by just under 5 minutes (my previous PB was 3:30:07). I’m definitely happy with that. I do believe I’m capable of going faster if the marathon was my key race, rather than doing it on the back of 100km training. Also, there are conditions that would suit me better, such as if it had stayed cooler during the day, but those conditions don’t really happen very often in Queensland!
I didn’t quite make the top 10% but I was 62 out of 515. Full splits and results for me.
Oh, and you know you’re an ultrarunner when someone asks you “so tomorrow’s race is 100km?” and you reply “oh no, it’s only 42km”.