I’m halfway there! Marathon 6: race report

As mentioned in the post with the race preview, marathon number 6 was completed during the Sri Chinmoy Triple Triathlon here in Canberra. This meant a very early start for me as the first swim would begin at 6am. Since I’d be away for most of the day, I woke up at 4:30 to get everything ready: wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, running shoes, Can Too shirt, socks, running shorts, extra clothes for after the race, towel, race bib, vaseline, energy bars, gels… did I miss anything?

The (first) swim

It was still dark when I got to Lake Ginninderra. I saw Martin, a friend from Bilbys, getting ready to get in the water at 5:30 together with the other competitors in the solo category. I wished him good luck with what was going to be a long day (he ended up finishing in 13:27:32), and continued my preparation for the race.

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The brave solo competitors getting ready for the start.

I did this leg in 2011 and finished in 27:36 but I’ve improved a lot since then and my prediction for the 1500m swim was 25 min. As always, the first 100m were hard with many swimmers battling for space. I found myself between two competitors but still with enough space to swim without being hit by others. The group was pretty packed until the first buoy (at least that was my perception) but after that I found myself with plenty of space.  A quick check to see if I hadn’t gone off course and I noticed that I was alone between the front pack and another pack coming behind. I was swimming well and feeling good, despite the first signs of chaffing from the wetsuit rubbing on my neck. I’ve used that wetsuit many times and never had problems before. Well, there is always a first…

I began to breath more on the left side to avoid the rubbing and just kept going. Before the second buoy I started to get close to a guy that was getting dropped by the front pack and my competitive side gave me extra energy to chase him. We swam close together for a while but with the finish line in sight I forgot about him and focused on the beach.

I got out of the water and immediately started screaming Ben’s name. I tagged him, he went off and I finally looked at my time: 23:50, more than a minute faster than my prediction. I couldn’t be happier.

While Ben rides…

I knew that Ben would take a while to finish the first bike leg so I took my time and talked to friends while watching competitors from other waves arriving. I was enjoying the race atmosphere but it was time to drive to the next transition and get into my marathon gear, but not before making a pit stop to grab a coffee and a banana bread.

I got to the transition with time to spare and got ready to run. I met Michelle, Ben’s wife, and she asked me if I was going to take it easy on the race because of the marathon, or if I would run hard the 20km of the race and then survive the rest of the marathon. To be honest I hadn’t planned a race strategy until that point and I thought: “I’m not sure it is a good idea, but since I’m here with a number on my chest, I should go hard.” So I replied to Michelle: “I thin I’ll go hard…”

Let the marathon begin!

Ben arrived, tagged me and I started my sixth marathon. I was excited to reach the halfway mark of my fundraising challenge. It was my third marathon in Canberra and for the third time I was going to climb both Mount Majura and Mont Ainslie. The last time I met these two climbs was in my fourth marathon and it was really tough. I found it easier this time: the knee was pain free, I was in a good mood after my first swim, and I knew the course this time ;-). I just went steady uphill and then used the gentle descent from Mount Majura to make the most out of my fearless downhill style :-). The highlight of this part was running following the mountain bike course at Majura Pines. It was really cool!

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Left: Average pace and elevation per kilometer. Right: full race map. Bottom: Elevation profile and pace. First 8km highlighted in orange.

After the mountain bike course, another climb. This time was Hackett Hill. Once again a steady climb followed by faster downhill runs over a rocky surface. Tripping over is not a thought that should ever cross your mind when you want to run fast downhill. Luckily, it only crossed mine now, weeks after the run.

A sharp left turn took me to the Mount Ainslie climb. I focused on not stopping and went up, again slow but steady. I reached the summit and then dashed downhill along the walking trail, eventually dodging people and dogs walking up the hill.

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Same as in the second figure but now for Hackett-Ainslie.

The hills were over and now it was a flat run towards the finish line were I would tag Perry for his lake swim. I finished in 1:35:26, more than four minutes faster then my best time in this leg in 2011.

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Tagging Perry at the second transition. The mission now was to run the extra 22 km to complete a marathon. Photo courtesy of Emily Stacey, our friend and support crew throughout the race.

From then on I decreased the pace and went by myself to complete the marathon. I started running against the flow of competitors and got a strange look from those that had seen me at the first transition or along the course. One of the solo competitors even asked me if that was a cool down. We were both running, so there was not enough time to explain…

I ran towards the third transition at Acton terminal where I should meet Ben to get my car keys back. He greeted me with: “I found my grey bag!”. “Which grey bag?”, I replied. “My grey bag… the one you left at the beach.” In the excitement of finishing the first swim, I forgot to put Ben’s backpack in my car at the first transition! I was so embarrassed. I got my key, picked my camel back and food in the car and headed south towards Weston Park, not before apologising to Ben once more…

As I reached the Commonwealth Bridge I saw Joe (the same friend from the marathon in Rio) and Chris waiting for me. After a couple of marathons with my phone failing, this time all worked fine and they found me with no problem tracking me through the Road ID app. I had sent an invite for people to join me at the second part of the run and they were the only two to show up. I was really happy to see them as I was not looking forward to another long and lonely run. The run was much more enjoyable with someone to talk to. The only problem was that Perry and Ben were racing faster than I expected and I wouldn’t have much time to spare before meeting with Ben at the third transition. Just before the loop around Weston Park we split. Chris and I went to complete the loop while Joe was left behind. We met again and headed back to the Lake. Worried with the time, I decided to increase my pace. I thanked them for the company, apologised for splitting again, and ran the last 6 km alone.

The end of the sixth marathon was a bit anticlimactic: I finished alone at the car park, stretched for a couple of minutes, jumped into the car, and drove to the third transition. Mission accomplished! Only six more to go!

The last swim

A few minutes after my arrival at T3, Ben finished his second bike leg. A few fruits, lollies and cups of water later and we drove to the Lake Tuggeranong for my last swim. It would be a pool swim as the Lake was closed for swimming due to the water (bad) quality. My legs were quite heavy and I thought that they would sink to the bottom of the pool. When Perry arrived and I began the swim, I actually felt good. The legs were kicking OK and it felt like a recovery session. I didn’t swim very hard as my arms (surprise!) were not really responding well, but I finished in better shape than I expected. I tagged Ben for the last time and took a relaxing shower before driving to meet him again at T6.

The finish

With my two swims and a marathon out of the way, it was my time to just cheer Ben and Perry in the last two legs of the race. Perry, Emily and I were waiting for Ben to arrive at T7 but he was taking longer than expected. Another rider came and, since I had seen him chatting with Ben earlier, I decided to ask him if he had seen our team mate: “He was way ahead of me. Hasn’t he arrived?” – he said – “He must have taken a wrong turn”, he completed. Indeed Ben got lost twice in the last bike leg but still came sixth in our category.

Perry left for the last 13 km and we drove to the finish line. About an hour later we could see two runners approaching on the opposite road: Perry was about 100 m behind a runner that was clearly slower at that point. Sprint finish in such a long race? Improbable but that’s what happened. We lost sight of both as they turned left heading to the car park leading to the finish line. As they approached the last 50 m it was clear that Perry wouldn’t make it. He had given it all and finished in 1:01:51, the second fastest time in our category!

We proudly took the third place in the teams of 3 category with a time of 10:00:52, just 52 seconds over 10 hours! And here is the official team photo and all our splits:

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The Threeple Team. Photo courtesy of Emily Stacey (again).

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Our results.

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