Due to the windy and rain that we had in Canberra in the past couple of days, I decided to change the course and ditch the Murrumbidgee Discovery track. I’ll be running in the northern part of Canberra starting from home. You can follow live here:
It has been very hard to get back on track after my big race in December. I’ve been feeling a bit lethargic after the long triathlon and the well deserve rest planned for the Christmas break has been somewhat extended to my January holidays. Not that I haven’t been exercising at all, but I can’t call “training” what I’ve been doing. There is not much structure nor consistency. It is easier to have a routine when you’re working: early morning training, after work swim, lunch time run… all that is gone. I’ve been waking up later and the heat doesn’t help with lunch or afternoon runs. Tell me about getting off the hammock, where I’ve been lying down and reading, to drive to the pool for a swim session. It is hard!
Despite the laziness, I’ve managed to go for a few runs to be prepared for my January marathon. My body can tell that I’ve been on holidays and I’m predicting a slow 42.2 km this time. Anyway, regardless of my speed I needed to come up with a date and a course for the fundraising marathon number 8. It is going to be this weekend and in Canberra again. I wanted something different from the hills that I have explored in marathons 2, 4 and 6 so I decided to go south and run along the Murrumbidgee river, following the Murrumbidgee Discovery Track.
The plan is to start at Casuarina Sands, run south to Pine Island North and then come back, running just over 43km. Pine Island will also make a good “aid station” at the halfway mark as there is toilets and drinking water available there. You can access the official brochure of the Murrumbidgee corridor here, where there is a map of the region. I also created a running map following the Discovery track:
Yesterday I drove to Casuarina Sands for a 10 km run to check the course. I only explored the first 5 km of the track but was happy with what I saw. It is mostly a dirt track with quite a few steep but very short climbs and a few slippery descents that will require some focus but will also make the run more interesting. As a bonus, there are many spots with great views of the river and also places with direct access to the Murrumbidgee where I could refresh myself in case the day is too hot.
View of the river
Sign at the start of the track. I don’t like when it says: “Extensive steep sections”.
Two weeks have passed, the post-race high has been replaced by the Christmas sugary high, and I have finally found the time to write the race report for marathon 7. As explained in a previous post, this marathon would be completed by adding up a few extra kilometers to the run leg of the Triple Edge Endurance Triathlon with a total of 4 km swim, 120km on the bike and 30 (+12)km running.
Race preparation – the gear:
After my all-pink marathon, I thought I would give a go with the Can Too colour and run an all-orange triathlon/marathon. The Can Too people loved the idea and sent me their awesome bright orange Tri top. For the shorts I had to compromise and ended up buying a black one with details in orange. Socks were easy and the only remaining item was an orange pair of running shoes. I contact Emily, a friend from the Bilbys Triathlon Club that works at The Runners Shop, and she gave me a few options. In normal circumstances, colour would be the least important attribute in a pair of running shoes but this time was different. Luckily, Emily brought me a pair that was not only bright orange, but also comfortable. I was dressed to race!
After a couple of months questioning my decision to add 12 km to such a long event, came race day and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I got there early, checked-in my bike at the transition, and set two separate groups of food on my towel: one for the first transition (T1) and the bike, and another for T2 and the run. I put on my wetsuit and as I was walking to the start line, Craig Johns, executive director of Triathlon ACT and race commentator on the day, grabbed me to say a few words. An article about my marathons had appeared a couple of days before the race in the Canberra Times and Craig was kind enough to give me yet another chance to promote the fundraising.
Talking to Craig Johns from Triathlon ACT before the race
Despite the usual mess of an open water start, I quickly found a comfortable place to swim without having to fight against other arms and legs. The conditions were perfect with a calm lake and a sunny day. It was easy to navigate towards Captain James Cook memorial in the first kilometer but heading east on the way back was much harder with the sun blinding the swimmers. I followed the instructions to use the Australian-American Memorial or the “eagle on the stick” as a guide and it was spot on: second buoy found and on with the second lap.
I don’t know exactly how, but I completely forgot about the rest of the race and I found myself enjoying those 4 km of lake swim as if they were the only physical activity that I would be doing that day. I swam solid 4 km, not too hard but not holding back either, and left the water in 1:05:46 (my Garmin watch time).
I ran to the transition taking off the upper part of my wetsuit. After removing the rest of my swim gear, I uncovered the first pile of food grabbing two slices of bread folded in half and wrapped in aluminum foil and putting them in the back pocket of my Tri top. I took my time and drank a box of Up&Go (chocolate milk) before putting on my helmet and sunglasses. In my training I would ride from work to the pool and then back home. Tired after the swim session, I would drink chocolate milk before my ride home. It worked quite well in training, so I decided to include that in my race nutrition strategy.
I started the ride and, once again, managed to forget about the rest of the race. Ignoring the marathon that was about to happen, I focused only on the task of riding 120km. The ride was mostly flat along Parkes Way but had a tricky climb going from Glenoch Interchange to Gungahlin Drive. I used the descent from Belconnen Way to the turning point as my nutrition segment: a slice of bread with vegemite in lap 1, bread with Paçoquinha spread (a kind of Brazilian peanut butter) in lap 2, and energy bar in laps 3 and 4. In some laps this was complemented by energy gels as well. I don’t really know how many I consumed during the ride, not more than one per lap for sure.
My official splits for each lap were 54:07, 55:25, 55:25, and 58:15. l slowed down considerably in the last lap as I felt the wind picking up and started feeling my left upper glutes as well. My final official time was 3:43:12.
which is actually a snapshot of a movie that my friend Fiona took and posted on Facebook. Thanks Fi!
Another transition and another box of chocolate milk. After five hours, this one wasn’t as cold as the first one but was still nice to drink. I emptied my back pockets and filled them back again, now only with gels and one energy bar. I put my socks and my shoes on and off I went, for the first time with the full orange outfit.
I started strong, running the first couple of kilometers in just over 9 minutes. Four minutes and thirty seconds per kilometer is way faster than my marathon pace, let alone after one hour swimming and almost four hours riding. However, I decided not to control my pace and let the body dictate what a “comfortably hard” run would mean at that stage. I was backing this decision on how I felt the previous weekend in my last long training session before the race. This 11km run at 4:30 min/km pace after a solid 85km ride boosted my confidence and completely changed my mindset for the race. This is the magic of training: not only it strengthens your body but, perhaps even more important, it prepares your mind for race day.
Of course I wasn’t expecting to keep that pace for much longer, certainly not on the climb to Parliament House. Not even the massive cheering from my friends at the Bilbys’ aid station halfway through the climb could make me run fast uphill. In the end I manage to keep a decent pace in the first ten kilometers with a time of 49:36.
A big thank you to all the Bilbys for cheering me up and for these photos!
A much happier face going downhill. Thanks Trent Dawson for the photo.
I was slowed down quite a bit in the next 10km doing it in 54:22, but I was still running at a pace that would allow me to complete the marathon in under four hours. Talking about marathon, the third lap came and I started to think about the extra kilometers that I needed to do. I noticed that the course lap was slightly shorter than 10km and began to do calculations in my head to decide the best way to add the extra bit. The original plan was to do one lap and a half and complete 45 km. However, that would lead to two consecutive climbs to the Parliament House and, given that I was getting pretty tired, I decided that that was not the best of the plans. Instead, I decided to go for an extra couple of laps around the Parliament gardens: it was flat up there, plenty of shade, pleasant surroundings and I thought I could convince someone to join me at least on that short loop. Next time I passed by the Bilbys tent I asked: “Anyone keen for a run around the Parliament to keep me company in my extra lap?” Tim Kinder accepted the invitation and I headed to the finish line with a plan for the extra 12km.
As I approached the finish line I looked for Marcele and Clara and there they were. I was so happy to see my wife and daughter waiting for me under the Triathlon ACT’s blue inflatable arch. I crossed the finish line, kissed them (see Clara’s video below), received my medal, ate some fruit that Fiona brought me, and posed for pictures. I finished the race in 11th place with a total time of 7:23:53 but I still had some kilometers to cover so I gave my medal to Marcele and kept running.
Waving to Clara at the finish line
Fruits! So sick of gels at that point.
Throwing garbage in the wrong bin. The race chip was supposed to go there!
As I was about to start, Brad and Liz (the race organisers that gave me all the support to include my marathon in their Triple Edge event) told me that their daughter wanted to run with me. What a start! She was so quick that I couldn’t keep up with her. I’m serious, she was too fast for my tired legs. The funny thing is that she kept going despite Liz’s calls for her to stop. Eventually she stopped. Lucky me!
The little Arabella outran me easily!
After this sprint start I slowed down the pace quite a lot, running at over 6 min/km. With the race over, my only worry was not to drag for too long as people volunteering at the aid stations probably wanted to go home. At the Bilbys aid station, Tim joined me. We climbed towards the Parliament House and ran around the gardens twice before going down again past the aid station. Tim decided to keep running to the finish line. It was so refreshing to have someone to talk to and share the final moments of that race, even more so with such a lovely person as Tim. As we hit the lake and approached the finish line, Tim stopped and told me he would let me enjoy the last two kilometers by myself. Two tough and slow kilometers. And after 8:54:13 I crossed the finish line for the second time, completing my seventh marathon in 3:59:16.
Crossing the finish line for the second time: 8:54:13 for the whole thing and 3:59:16 for the marathon. Photos courtesy of the Triple Edge team and Fiona.
How did I feel after? Extremely happy and extremely hungry! It was an amazing feeling to finish such a tough race and to finish it well. Everything worked as planned, no foggy googles, no chaffing, no flat tyres, no blisters, no cramps, nothing. Just the awesome feeling of having achieved something that, until the week before the race, I feared I wasn’t prepared enough to do.
Looking pretty relaxed after the race. Does it look like I raced for almost 9 hours? Thanks Fi for the photo.
It took me quite some to get over the post-race high and to take the smile off my face. The only disappointment was the fundraising as I couldn’t reach my goal of $3500 by the end of marathon 7. I thought that the media coverage and the toughness of this race would encourage more people to donate. The lesson is that donations from people that don’t know you is rare (in my case $0 so far) so the fundraising still relies on generous friends and family. Talking about them, I should thank them all for helping me raise $3240 for cancer research!!