Canberra was to be my third marathon and my first ultra. And what a day it was.
I drove down from Sydney with my other half the day before the race and we booked into the Brassey Hotel (very nice suite). We wandered to the expo, which was quite low-key, and I got my race number and the red ribbon for the ultra. I'd be wearing that proudly! We then walked across the park to find some grub in Kingston. I hungrily eyed the pie shop but after all that training decided to go for something a bit more suitable. (Note to self- have a dirty pie with ketchup after the race). We turned a corner and found the most gorgeous Belgian Bar (complete with Leffe, Hoegaarden and Stella). Was I jealous ordering a lemonade when my other half sat there happily sipping a Belgian Bock Bier from a fluted glass!!?
Being a pom and a Sydneysider, I was pleasantly surprised to see the beautiful autumnal leaves of oak trees surrounding the lake. Canberra had always been described to me in rather disparaging terms, but I felt it had a certain calmness and dignity to it, rather like cities in Germany or Holland.
We decided on an early Vietnamese dinner. The chilli tofu and rice did me very nicely, thank you very much. We then went back to the hotel to relax and watch TV, which is something of a novelty as we don't have one at home. I nodded off just after I was sure that Manly had beat the Rabbitohs (Go the Sea Eagles!).
I slept pretty well, albeit broken by several checks of the clock. It was finally 5.40am, and time to get prepared! Brekkie was oats, honey and milk that I had brought with me. I sipped some Gatorade and water too, had a stretch and got my kit on. I left the hotel with 30 mins to go, as it was only a 4 minute jog to the start line. I felt pretty good and ready to run. Then the time came to line up and off we all toddled in the milky autumn sunshine.
Now I don't want to enter into the pacing argument, but it was rather annoying for me to get stuck in a 'bus' when I had no intention of running with a big group of people following a balloon. The first 10km consisted of me trying to escape said bus, but given that I was running at 4:30 pace in the early stages of the race, that was bound to happen. Despite this, the first loop around the parliament house was very pleasant and enjoyable. I barely knew I was running and had some nice little chats with people including slowmo, who seemed to be going well. The first full lap around the lake was great - no pain and no mental worries about 'could I do it?'. I had no doubt that I would do it, after all my training. My only doubt at this stage was "why am I near the back of the pack?". This question often visits me in races in Australia, where big city marathon fields are much smaller than in the UK and the average pace as a consequence is much faster. I am sometimes torn between the feeling of pride at having achieved my goals and the knowledge that others have run faster than me. I know that this is something that is resolved in planning and training, not in the race itself.
Anyway, the race was going very well for me and I chatted to some very nice people along the way. The leaders passed me just before the turnaround on the first big loop and looked very strong. The race progressed well and after 25km the aches and pains started, but nothing chronic. I noticed throughout the run that I was getting faster and faster and by the 30km mark I had more than six minutes in the bag. Instead of slowing down, I threw away my home-made pacing wristband, just kept comfortable and steady and that worked for me.
The CR cheersquad greeted me at the Barton end of the loops and were a very welcome sight! Thanks especially to Sook54 and Emjay for words of encouragement. My girlfriend was also there to give me Kendal Mint Cake (the stuff that got Edmund Hillary up Everest), which was a life saver.
The second big lap was also fun. I was leaving people in my wake at this stage. There seemed to be a lot of people who had gone off too fast and were struggling or walking and this is where all my long run training really kicked in. I got faster and was pleased to cross the 42.195 finish line in 4:26:48, just 2 mins slower than my PB. The race announcer called out my name and said I was finishing, but I indicated to the marshals and kept plodding through the line, out through the 50km chute and back onto the course.
Suddenly all the supporters got much more deferential, as if some magical point had been broken and suddenly I was a whole different runner. Before it was "go on, you can do it!" or "only 2km to go!". Suddenly it was "wow- you're crazy" and "go ultra-runner!". It's amazing what an extra 500m can do for your street-cred.
The last portion was a joy. Yes, I was tired, but I felt like I was on the home strait and I felt pretty much the same as I did at 35km. I kept running, out to the lake and along the beautiful shores through the parkland to the second bridge. All the runners gave an encouraging word or a nod to each other, as if we were all members of a secret society. I was *very* pleased to see the last turnaround and to scoop up three jelly beans for the way back. Go Glucose. The crazy coolrunners with the banners ("You're nearly Dunny!") were just packing up as I ran past for the final time. People were out riding bikes and strolling along the bike path, seemingly unaware that we had all been running for over 5 hours. And why should they care! ?
It was a pleasure and a joy to run the final km along the road through the park and to see the finish line up ahead, powering on through the last marathon finishers and to feel strong. This is how I wanted it to feel. This is why I trained and sacrificed for months and months. This is why I run.
I finished with a last sprint, kicking my knees up and powering my arms through the line. My time was 5:11:38, 18 mins ahead of my goal and very happy.
What's next? The six-foot track and a 4 hour marathon.
(edited for typos!)
Edited by lisa1979, 20 April 2009 - 09:13 PM.