Will Thames

swim, bike, run, tech

Mt Mee trail marathon

Deciding on a Tuesday to do a marathon that Sunday isn't my normal approach to race planning. On Monday Peta expressed concerns that my North Face 50 training didn't seem to have a plan, and that I haven't done enough running with my backpack. And it's true, my planning has been fairly adhoc, mostly to run four times a week, with some fast, some hills, one long run, but it's not written down. And I haven't run that much with my pack loaded, certainly not with many hills. I don't think Peta expected that I'd sign up to do a marathon to address some of the gaps in my training.

But that's what I did. My plan was to treat it as a long training run, try not to get bogged down with expected times, try not to do too much damage. In the end that bit was easier than expected.

Getting to the start was relatively uneventful - an 03:40 alarm, left the house by 04:10 and was at Dayboro Show Grounds for 04:45, to catch the bus leaving for the gantry at Mt Mee at 05:00. We got there around 05:30, leaving me with plenty of time to register and be ready for the 06:00 start. Which indeed I was, but the start was more like 06:20 - in the mean time I had a good chat with Dave, a fellow North Face 50er who hadn't talked me out of it when I asked what he thought of it as a pre North Face training run (he'd done it last year before the North Face 100).

Once underway, I quickly found my rhythm, which seemed to be behind other people. After a few km I settled into it and the running was fairly easy for the first 13km. There was an unexpected creek crossing (it was in the race briefing but it was too late to do anything about it by then - all my fault for not researching the course thoroughly, and leading to my main lesson of today - unless you know that there are no creek crossings, pack spare socks!) but nothing else to worry about.

The reason the first 13km felt so good was that they were almost entirely downhill. The 18km point was at the same place as the start, and so what went down had to come back up. This was a bit of a struggle, and I started losing time and places here. It seemed to take forever to get to the 18km point.

I had a quick blister patch just after 18km, and then it was smooth running downhill for a few kms, before coming back up again to about 24km, and then a rapid descent to the 26km mark. From there it was no longer a trail run but a road run - another 16km to go.

It was getting a lot hotter by this point - it was very pleasant at the start, but the temperature reached 30C at Dayboro (according to our probably less than accurate car thermometor - it was definitely warm though!). I wasn't really struggling anywhere in my body, but I just couldn't motivate myself to go any faster or work any harder.

There were still plenty of hills to walk, and I passed just two people between 26 and 33km! At 33km was the out and back of 2km each way, which seemed to involve far more hills than I'd have liked. At the end of the out and back, it was just 5km to go (or so I thought) and I managed to keep a level of forward progress.

At 40km I had a go at more blister patching, but it wasn't massively successful - but enough to get me to the end. I also paused to indulge in some gratuitous photography when I spotted some actual view (a lot of the run was through forest, which while pretty, wasn't necessarily very photogenic

I was very pleased to get to 41km and realise it must be downhill from there, and had a quite quick descent to the 42km marker just before the turnoff to the Show Grounds - just 200m to go, right? Well, at 200m I couldn't even see the finish, and then there was another bloody hill which I had to stroll up, before the finish at 42.7km by my watch. Normally I'd blame my Garmin, and trust the markers, but it was 700m from the marker to the finish!

I was hoping at various points to make this only my third slowest marathon, but in the end, my final time was 04:40, making it the slowest marathon I've ever done - two of which were after a 3.8km swim and 180km bike ride. Having said that, of course it's also the hilliest marathon I've ever done, with a total ascent of I DON'T KNOW, MY GARMIN DIDN'T TRANSFER IT :(*

The number of people I overtook, and who overtook me, after the 18km point was such that I figure I got my pacing right, for me, on a warm autumn morning. The good thing about my less than stellar pace is that I will have done myself very little damage. Indeed, other than my blisters, my legs feel great.

My finishers top was much appreciated. I'd be interested to see what the race was like in the other direction, it would definitely be very tough for the last 5km.

Other than spare socks, my main other lesson is to ensure I have adequate nutrition - I had coke and jelly beans at the aid stations but I could probably have used a bigger breakfast and some extra energy bars/shots/gels. Taking the right compeed is also important, and perhaps having something to dry feet before applying new socks or even blister plasters.

Part of today's training was to run a decent distance with significant ascent with a pack not too dissimilar to the pack I'll use at North Face - to that effect it was the same rucksack with most of the contents I'll be taking, but I took a freezer pack rather than my fleece, which was very welcome on a hot day - even after the run, the contents of my water bladder were still very cool.

I know I can do North Face 50 (that doesn't mean that something can't go wrong, just that my body is more than capable of the distance), the question remains how quickly - I don't think my estimate of 7:30 has changed as a result of today! If it's cool I'll have a much better day than if it's hot. But that's not a massive surprise.

  • I would have loved to have provided graphs, but the datafile must have got corrupted during transfer. Apparently you should reset before transferring, but I'll also be upgrading firmware.