This years event was my fourth time participating in the marathon. The first year I DNF’d at 18km’s after falling hard on my hip. The 2nd time was the really hot year with a few bonus km’s, i survived to a 3rd place. Last year was in cooler conditions and I entered the race as part of my build up to C2K, so no taper and tired legs. I was fortunate enough to win that in 3hrs 15.
This year my target was to run better than last year and aim to go under 3 hours. Not so easy on trails with 800M+ of climbing. However, my marathon training had been going well albeit with limited running on trails and hills, and I was tapered more due to my lazy nature than purposefully tapering for this event.
The nutrition plan was 3 gels and my bottle of water. Take a gel every 10km’s, simples.
It was a nice cool morning in Glenbrook, perfect for running. At the start I noticed a couple of gun runners in the marathon in the form of Andy Lee and Matty Abel. I imagined they would be the guys to beat.
Knowing my strengths don’t lie on the technical single track but rather on the smoother fire trail my rough tactic was to be within 2 minutes of Andy Lee after exiting the single track section after Red Hands Cave. I thought if he was any further in front he’d be way too hard to catch.
The start was pretty comfortable as we made our way around the campsite and heading into the climb out of the site I was tucked into 3rd place behind Andy and a 25km runner. Andy and I went back and forth a little towards the Mt Portal turnaround and then he shot off going heading down into the single track. He was slowly stretching the elastic on me and I kept telling myself that it was ok to let him go. I was pushing it through here though but it was good fun and every now and then I caught a glimpse of Andy in the distance. This had me feeling good as I calculated that he was probably never more than 30 seconds in front.
After exiting the single track after 14km or so there is a nice long stretch of fire trail. I had anticipated that this would be where I start making up ground on Andy but the opposite happened. He was getting further and further away from me. I was also hurting. My legs just wouldn’t respond and I was going much slower than my perceived effort levels. This was really frustrating. Andy was out of sight and there wasn’t much I could do.
I gained confidence from going through 21.1km’s in 1hr 30 exactly knowing that the hardest and slowest part of the course was out of the way. This gave me a boost knowing that I could potentially break 3 hours if I continued on at my current pace (if the course was a true 42.2km marathon….).
At the Nepean turnaround at 23km’s I calculated that Andy was 400 meters in front. So all was not lost. I also made sure to measure how far back 3rd place was. It turned out to be James Sweeney about 1.7km’s back and moving well.
The day was warming up and I took advantage of all the dew on the branches as I ran down to the Pisgah turnaround. I’ve now got a lovely bruise on my eyelid from a stray twig! This out and back was another opportunity to see how far in front Andy was and fortunately it was still about 400 meters. However James was now 2km’s back so 2nd place was looking secure.
After exiting the Pisgah trail I now had 32km’s in the legs and I was really starting to seize up and i was not running well at all. I blew out both calves during the week on a run home as I was messing about landing on my forefoot in my minimus trainers. bad idea. they are still screaming now as I type this.
Pain was shooting up my legs and into my hips and glutes. From 32 – 37km the trail is a gradual uphill and I really struggled. I even walked for 20 seconds at one stage and had resigned myself that there was no chance of catching Andy. I hadn’t caught any glimpses of him whatsoever since the Pisgah turnaround which was disheartening.
As luck would have it, some of the other runners who were heading the other way to complete the Pisgah trail told me that Andy wasn’t too far ahead and I could catch him. It’s always hard to know what to believe but I told myself that I came to race and I came to hurt so just man up and have a go.
At the 37km mark Marcus Warner (Ultra168) also said that Andy wasnt too far ahead so it was game on. However by now I was really starting to cramp. I was getting flashbacks from TNF100 last year when I couldn’t stop cramping. Such a frustrating feeling as the brain wants to run but the cramping makes it impossible.
I managed to settle into a rhythm where I was just on the edge of cramping and there in the distance Andy’s green shirt came in to sight. I tried to lift my pace but the cramps said no. So I just calmed down and chipped away and Andy was getting closer and closer. We passed each other at around the 41km mark and Andy was as gracious as ever and gave me a pat on the back. I tried to encourage him that we could both break 3 hours but he was also seizing up and cramping – i was just fortunate enough that my pace was ever so slightly quicker.
I passed the marathon mark in 2hrs 56 and I thought that it would be a tough call to get in under 3 hours now if the course was as long as last year (43.6km’s) which I had anticipated it would be.
I tried as best as I could but I just couldn’t open up. In the end I crossed the line in 3hrs 1 minute to shave 14 minutes off my previous team. Gotta be happy with that. Andy wasn’t too far behind and came home in 3.03 also well under my old course record.
It’s fair to say if Andy wasn’t running hard from the front I wouldn’t have had the motivation to try and catch him and I wouldn’t have run the time that I did. So it was great having him there.
RunningWild put on a great event and I’d love to come back again to try and get under 3 hours. This could be my nemesis just like Fitzroy Falls Marathon!
Having been road running for the majority of this year I’d forgotten how much energy techy trails take out of you in comparison to road running. It’s completely different and next time I enter a trail event I’ll definitely earn my stripes first by training on the trails.