The Short Version
My last blog about running was in July and I was about to toe the line at the Gold Coast Marathon. My first ever marathon. I finished in 5:11:48. Not the sub-4:30 I was hoping for but after suffering severe cramps I was just happy to finish.
My final goal was to run a sub-80 minute City2Surf. And I smashed it. Finishing in a time of 1:17:50.
The Long Version
In January I tweeted out this:
In My Marathon Journey I wrote about my journey up to the start of the Gold Coast Marathon. So I won’t go over too much of that. If you don’t know where I’ve come from it was quite a trip. I was basically weighing 140kg, felt like crap and had to make a change. Through a more balanced diet and regular exercise I dropped a few kilos and increased my fitness. I finished the Hawks Nest Triathlon with cramps, but I did finish. And I ran a strong first Half Marathon.
Gold Coast Marathon
I was aiming for a 4:25 marathon. I had a really good plan. The course is basically flat which made planning my pacing strategy easy. All I had to do was run 42 x 6:13 kms and I’d have my time. That all sounds too simple right? But it kinda checks out. Just get on the road, get into a groove, switch your brain off and cruise. And through 22km I did exactly that.
We tacked on a family holiday to my marathon race and that included Ben and Thomas running the kids 2km fun run on the Saturday. Gold Coast Marathon is a full weekend affair. A lot of marathon festivals will run all their races on the Sunday. But Gold Coast use both days. On the Saturday they run the Half Marathon as well as the 2km and 4km Junior Dash and the 5km Fun Run. On Sunday is the Marathon and 10km running and wheelchair events. Our hotel was on the course at the 9km and 22km marks. Which I meant I was able to say hi to the family as I ran past. Getting in a couple of high fives along the way.
I was doing it really well through that second high five. The first four 5km splits were 31:26, 31:40, 31:25, 31:35. And through 21.1km I had run a half marathon time of 2:13:13 about 4 minutes faster than my SMH Half Marathon time. And right on 6:19 kms. Do it again and I’d have a 4:26 marathon. Simple.
Then it all fell apart. Pretty much straight after 22km I started feeling cramps in my thighs. I thought I might have been overcooking the run so I slowed down a little trying to get the muscles to loosen up a bit. Fixx Nutrition were the event sponsors and they have a product called CrampFix. I bought a sachet at the event expo as I had I experienced cramps before. Now was the time to test it out. It’s a horrid tasting thing. Basically a super salty, sour sachet of liquid. Kinda like pickle juice on steroids. They say the idea is to frazzle the pain receptors and reset them which will make your muscles fire correctly. They also have a really high salt content. It helped for a few km before the cramps came back. The only remedy was to slow right down. I started to walk/jog. Walking for 500m or so until the legs had recovered and then jogging at a relaxed pace until the pain got unbearable and I had to walk again. I pretty much did this dance for the next 15km of the race. Shout out to the bloke who thought an icy cold can of coke was exactly what I needed. I thanked him graciously as anything to help the legs was welcome. Around the next corner I was hunched over hurling the brown mess all over the nature strip.
The local running club had set up a hydration tent with about 7 and 3km to go on a section of out and back road. Shout out to the runner in front of me who took two cups of energy drink right before I had a chance to quech my thirst. I kept plodding along through those last 5km. By this stage I was in a group of people all in the same world of hurt I was. Everyone walk/jogging at their own pace. There was this one older lady who kept overtaking me on my walk section only for me to jog past her while she was walking. She’d gone a fair way past me with about 1km to go. Then we got back towards the race precinct and I started running. The crowd was overwhelming with support. Any marathon runner in that 5 hour group is in a world of hurt. But that crowd was so uplifting. I didn’t stop running that last km. I couldn’t. The wave of emotion of knowing I was about to finish one of the hardest things I’d ever done. Knowing the hard work had paid off and I was in the last lap. Whatever pain I endured now I could deal with after the finish line. Coming into the finishing chute I was waving my arms around like I was about to win the thing. In a sense I was winning my own battle. and as I crossed the line I clapped my hands knowing I’d done it. It was one of the proudest moments I’d ever felt.
Afterwards I caught up with Matt, another 2 Zoner, for a celebratory beer. I was at the finish line on Saturday to cheer him home in the Half Marathon and he’d delayed his departure for home to return the favour. The 2 Zoners are a great bunch of blokes who just like to run and support each other. Thanks Matty for sticking around. And the rest of you blokes for the support, footy chat and laughs.
I took a week off after the marathon before getting back into training for the City2Surf. I’d completed a few C2S in the past. I’m not sure exactly how many but it’s about 4. I’d never really trained for it. When I was in my 20s I did one but struggled to run it out suffering severe chafing. I pretty much walked the last 6km. Most recently I did a virtual City2Surf around my local area in 2021. I ran a 1:30:27 almost breaking my goal of 90 minutes. This year my goal was to break the 80 minute barrier. I kept the Zone 2 jogging up and threw in some quality speed sessions. Sprints up my local gentle hill were tough but very beneficial. I also love 1km repeats. Feels great to pump out 4 or 5 1km laps in quick time. All the hard work felt like it had paid off when I ran a 1:21 around the same virtual course a week out from the City2Surf. And I was tired from work that day. I felt confident that running fresh on a Sunday morning would be enough to get me over the line under 80 minutes.
I caught the train in and arrived very early so I could make bag drop before the trucks took off from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach. I was one of the first people hanging around in the park and it was nice just to sit there and relax watching the runners arrive in the park. There were serious runners and other running groups going through warm ups. Others were just catching up with mates. I even saw a couple of mates Ben and Josh and wished them well. Josh is elite for our age and he was hoping for some ridiculous time. I checked later and he smashed it. Ben was starting in the group behind me but is a faster runner than me so I told him to say g’day on his way past as he overtakes me.
The run went as well as I could have hoped. I’d forgotten just how hilly the first few kilometres are. The climb to Kings Cross and the old Coke sign is relatively gentle. But then through Edgecliff and Double Bay there’s some challenging little climbs before the big climb of the day Heartbreak Hill which takes you on a slightly winding climb from Rose Bay to Vaucluse. I monitored my effort up the climbs. Maintaining a steady pace without burning out too hard. And on the downhills I let gravity take over. I didn’t slow byself down much on each step, rather letting my legs go underneath me and picking up speed with each step. I overtook a lot of people on those descents. By the time I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill I had completed 7.8km of the course in a time of 43:55 for a pace of 5:38. Average goal pace for 80 minutes over 14km is 5:43/km. I was already in front of my goal pace and there was pretty much no more climbing and a hell of a lot of descending. At the top of Heartbreak I knew I was going under 80 minutes. All I had to do was not blow up over the next few kms before the long descent from North Bondi down to the beach. I cruised for a couple of kilometres to charge the batteries and when the long descent started I let my legs go and gravity did the rest. At the bottom of the hill there was still about 1500m to go. I just buried myself up Campbell Parade to the turnaround point. With 300m to go I was ready to blow up. A few people passed me in the last little bit. But I had done it. Official time 1:17:50. More than 2 minutes under my goal. I went so quick Ben finished shortly after me. He was way faster but the way they stagger starts he didn’t overtake me.
I think the 2022 City2Surf was the most satisfying race I’d ever competed in. I put in the work. Set a race strategy and executed it perfectly. It’s a great confidence booster for upcoming races.
After I recovered from Gold Coast Marathon I had a few demons to slay over the marathon distance. Cramping ruined what could have been a quick first up marathon. I’d put in the training but my body let me down. Or more accurately, my preparation and treatment of my body let me down. I had listened to a podcast about hydration strategy with Andy Blow. But I hadn’t taken on board all of the relevant information. As a known cramper I should have listened more intently. I believe what brought me unstuck was a condition known as Hyponatremia. In simple terms I took on too much water and not enough Sodium. I did the FREE Precision Hydration Online Sweat Test. After the online sweat test and a few emails back and forth from the team at Precision Hydration I had a better hydration strategy. I’m a high volume and high sodium concentration sweater. Meaning I have to pay attention to how much sodium I intake before and during long periods of exercise. What I did on the Gold Coast was exactly the opposite of goods preparation. I drank too much water thinking I had to hydrate before the marathon. But what I was actually doing was diluting the salt concentration in my blood. Setting me up for failure before the gun had even gone off.
So the plan moving forward is to eat carbs the day before, just a bowl of pasta or a pizza. Not going overboard. And to have a high sodium drink. Then the morning of the race I will have toast or porridge as usual with another high sodium drink in the half hour before the race. During the race I will drink the sports drink on offer and take sodum tabs at regular intervals. The water on course will go on the head to help cool me down. I’ll also take sachets of Precision Hydration 1500 in case of cramps as a quick fix. Each sachet has 750g of sodium to be used in 500ml of water. I’ll just add it to a cup of water on the course. This strategy should see me competing at my ability without my body failing me.
Once I had the answer to my cramping situation I wanted to get back on the horse and go again. I signed up for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Sydney Marathon. Sydney Marathon is a candidate to join the Abbott World Marathon Majors. That would be a great thing for running in this country attracting runners from all over the world to run around our city.
Training was going great. I stretched my long runs out to 28km practicing my new hydration strategy. I was ready. Then we played a basketball Semi Final and I rolled my ankle. We won the Semi which meant I would have had to run the marathon on the same day as our Grand Final. But with a rolled ankle there was no way I could get 42.2km. I could manage to get around the basketball court. But running was another proposition entirely. The good folk at Sydney Running Festival allowed me to roll over my entry to 2023. So that will be one of my target races next year. I’ll say more about my goal races in the future.
I took 3 weeks off from running which completely sapped me of my fitness. I think I also had a bit of a chest infection. Every test was Covid negative. But something was not right. I tried a 10km run to test my fitness and failed miserably. Then my next few easy jogs were difficult also. On Tuesday 18 October 2022 I did two easy laps of Jamison Park Penrith. 4.82km in 34:19 moving time. Not quick, and I was still struggling. But that was Day 1 of my comeback. I have jogged or run every day since then. Just forcing improvement out of me. Last night I jogged my virtual City2Surf course in Zone 2. I cruised around and I’m pretty sure it was my fastest Z2 time for the course. I say pretty sure because my Strava subscription lapsed a little while ago and I haven’t had the chance to renew yet. But I am most definitely back. Today’s easy jog will be day 18 of a running streak. All I aim to do is either 30 minutes or 5km every day. A quick 5km will slip under 30 minutes. But as long as I reach one of those benchmarks the streak is still on. Who knows how long I can keep it going for? But if I make it to the new year I’ll be on 75 days.
I’ll be back in a while with an update and my plans for 2023.