Sunday, June 28, 2015

Black Math

It's funny the things you think of as you are running a marathon, the title of your next blog post for instance. I thought of this one when the White Stripes song Black Math came on, and it got me thinking about all the calculations we do when we are looking for a time, the pace we want to hold at the start, the pace we wish for during the last 10k and then the miraculous chute pace, where does that come from?

I knew the Perth Marathon would be special, obviously returning to the place I did my first marathon(albeit a different course) would mean something, but also the huge number of people I knew who were running the event, along with the number of spectators and the added benefit of running so close to home. I didn't realise exactly how special it would be.

Once again I elected to run in the batshirt with the bat hat, I honestly believe I will never run a marathon in anything but, you'll see why.

We stood around at the start, a quick chat to Alicia Harris and Dan Baldwin while we waited for the start. Tracy wished me luck one last time, she was running the relay so would be taking off a little later. We're off, like Bunbury I wanted to be careful about taking off too quickly. I was on the right side of the path but I managed to move myself across to the left side before I hit the Rogue/parkrun village. The support from these two groups was awesome and I didn't want to miss one bit of it, I didn't start any music until I couldn't hear them anymore.

My early pace was good, like Goldilocks it felt not too fast and not too slow. I was still amongst plenty of people, and was getting plenty of smiles, waves and go Batman's. I knew that Michelle, Didi, Natalie & Ben would be hanging around Mends St ringing cowbells and cheering people on so I looked forward to seeing them all, they have all encouraged me so much. When I got there it was great, the signs were hilarious, the cowbells loud and the cheers hit the spot, the best bit was I knew I'd pass that spot a few more times before I was done. Jason Nelson from the rogues was there too, and later I heard him name the crew there the Mends St Massive. Totally.

I kept going and immediately got another boost as I ran through the relay changeover point, once again so many people shouting and cheering for Batman. BEST. SHIRT. EVER.

Onwards I went towards the narrows, I looked up at the bridge and the I saw it: The Bat signal. At this point I became a little maramotional, I wasn't sure who did it, I had some ideas, but I was totally overwhelmed by it. As I ran under the bridge, a marshall said to me:"I think that's for you". Needless to say my pace stayed strong for a fair while after that and every time I passed under the bridge I got a boost.

The turnaround for the first lap seemed to come pretty quickly, looking at my pace I was on target for a half marathon PB, while I was pretty happy I knew if I hit half way on a PB pace I'd spend the next 21 km's telling myself what I dickhead I was for going out too fast. I resolved to slow up a bit. It didn't happen straight away.

Once again I came back under the narrows, checked the sign and ran towards the relay changeover, once again it was full of people I knew, this time including Tracy waiting for her next relay leg. We had a quick chat, I told her about the sign and then I saw Paul Van der May and asked him to take a photo of the sign. After all the best sign deserves the best photographer.

Soon I was approaching the Mends St massive, their cowbells and shouts lifted me up again. I asked them if they were responsible for the sign, the smiles on their faces gave it away straight up. I love these guys, I hope they know that.

Straight after that Sasha Dowson is running with me, fortunately she let me set the pace. She had spent the day running along with and supporting her PT clients and ran with me for a fair while before running back with somebody else. I saw her Strava later and she put in some serious k's.

The great part about an out and back marathon is the fact that your never really alone and you never go too far without spotting someone you know, no sooner had Sasha left than I spotted Michelle Brown taking my photo. "Did you see it?" she shouted, it took me a while to register, what with my marathon brain and all, then the penny dropped. "Yes, Yes it's amazing, thanks". At least that's what I think I said. Really it could have been anything. Once again Thanks Michelle.

Once more past the parkrun tent and the Rogues tent and through the turnaround in 2.38, very happy with that. A shout out from the course commentator for Batman. BEST. SHIRT. EVER. I set out again, past the tents again, wanting to stay a little longer and soak up more of the support but knowing that I have to get going. It also helps to know I only need to run a half marathon now, and I must be able to do that, because I just did one.

The crowds a little thinner now, the winner has already finished but there is still a constant stream of people coming back towards me, the encouragement comes form everywhere. My pace is slower but I still feel pretty good, I'm taking more walk breaks but there is no doubt in my mind that I'll make it and at this stage I still think I can do 5.30.

I push on knowing that before too long I'll be back amongst the Mends St Massive and the relay changeover crew, at some point Richard Back has started running alongside me, smiling and encouraging me towards the massive, past the cowbells and through to the relay changeover, I spoke with a few people at the changeover and kept going. Once more under the sign I go,  and I've started counting down the km's, ticking off the landmarks that I will only pass once more.

The course is getting lonelier, but I'm completely prepared for that, I run on my own a lot at these events. I'm still doing the black math, trying to work out my times, how fast my kilometres need to be  to keep me under 6 hours, I was pretty sure 5.30 was well gone but I still felt a PB was realistic.  As I came past the brewery I spotted a family taking photos of the water, some dolphins were swimming past, it seems everyone comes out to see the Batman Run.

At the turnaround I tell myself its only 10 km to go, knowing full well its going to be well tougher than the first 10, but these are the stories we tell ourselves to finish marathons. It's getting quite lonely now but I push on back past the brewery and towards the narrows. As I go under the narrows a guy on a bike comes alongside to chat, to be fair I'm not up for much conversation and he soon moves on. I think about Colin, Jeremy & Kelly coming down and riding in with me in 2011 and wished they where with me right then as I suddenly felt a bit lonely.

As I crossed the narrows for the last time, Julie Storey passed me, this in itself is not surprising as Julie is a great runner, what surprised me was that I'd stayed ahead of her for so long. I kept her in sight and we went through the drink station under the narrows not far apart, as we kept going she got further away and there was no keeping up.

The relay changeover was gone, the Mends St massive had relocated to the finish but I only had about a parkrun to go, Suzanne was there on her bike though, and it was once again nice to see a familiar face.

The last five kilometres wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, I can only put it down to the familiarity of the course, I knew I had run along the river here dozens of times and I just had to keep going. I got another boost when I saw fellow fitfan David Rose, he had been running all day in support of others and he spent a few minutes running and chatting with me, once again it was so great to speak to someone and get some encouragement.

I finally came to the Causeway and knew it was nearly done, the marshall from the causeway rode in with me for a bit, until we caught up to fellow rogues Katie & John. Katie was having a tough time, and I could relate to her plight, recalling my cramps from Bunbury. I pushed on , knowing I could still get under 6 hours if I just kept moving.

I knew I just had to get to the tents, that once I was there I would be fine. They must have seen me coming, I turned off my music, and could hear everyone shouting and cheering, as I moved through it seemed like about a thousand people, high fives everywhere, it was amazing. My legs forgot they were tired, I felt fresh and new again, ready to push through the last little bit. I've no idea how long it was, or how long it took me, I felt like I was flying. I saw Roberto Busi taking my photo, thats right, he took MY photo. Down the chute I went, the announcer calling my name as I spotted Tracy and Abbey and then it was done.  A new PB to boot, net time of 5.57.27. It's hard to describe the feeling of finishing a marathon, euphoria, tiredness and a combination of never again with how soon can I go again. I can't recommend it highly enough.

They say every runner should run a marathon at least once in their life, I fully agree, it is one of the great feelings, an amazing sense of achievement,  the camaraderie is amazing. Just try stopping at one.

Monday, April 13, 2015

When I Hear my Name- Bunbury 3 Waters Race Report

A year ago today, my family and I went to Bunbury to see my good mate Jeremy Savage run a marathon, while we were there I ran the 10km event, Tracy & Abbey ran the 5km. We had such a good weekend, with a great bunch of people that we decided to come back the next year. Yesterday the time came to go back, and this time I was headed for the marathon. Anyone who has done a marathon will tell you that the week before the event is terrible, your plan says don't run much, every minor niggle is life threatening and you feel like you should be wearing a bubble wrap tracksuit. The night before is just as bad, get some rest people say, when you are as excited as a kid on Christmas eve how do you do that?
 The morning finally arrives, I set about getting ready and it seemed that I'd allowed myself plenty of time as I had a few minutes to sit and listen to some music until it was time to head down to the start. Walking down to the start from the hotel was a short walk but freezing, I chatted with Danielle & Peter, stalwarts of Pioneer parkrun and some other people also doing the marathon. When I arrived at the running club there were so many familiar faces, a nervous energy rippling around the place and a great vibe. The race briefing came and went and we wandered over to the start, a quick photo of parkrunners, a few nervous jokes, well wishes and we are off. The marathon start line is around the other side of the park from the finish line and the runners run round in a loop before going through the finish line area and setting off into the course proper. I realised at that point how good a decision my shirt had been, already people were shouting out cheers for "Batman".
 I had decided to try and stick on a pace of around 7min/km for as long as I could, knowing that I would slow down a bit later but might have some time in the bank. Faster runners moved off ahead of me but I kept telling myself to run my own race, stick with comfortable pacing and don't get involved in any secret racing. I pretty much managed to hold that pace for most of the first 10k's partly because I kept seeing people I knew approaching me, its bloody hard to slow down when a tsunami of high 5's is coming towards you.
 I slowed a bit as I went past the runners club, partly because of the uphill towards the lighthouse, partly because I'd picked up my tailwind bottle and partly because I didn't know this part of the course. There is certainly something to be said for having run a course before. Although I was now going a bit slower and starting to take some walk breaks I still felt that I was very much on track. Plenty of people where still coming the other way, so encouragement was plentiful. I was amazed when Roberto Busi came past, giving me a high 5(delivered down low for aerodynamic purposes I assume), the speed he was travelling nearly spun me around, and I spent the next 15 minutes marvelling at the mans speed, I don't recall him passing me on the way out(though he must have) but I'll always remember him coming back towards me.
I'd been keeping Ann & Theresa in sight but was determined not to waste energy trying to catch them if I couldn't keep pace with them, we came together in the suburbs of Bunbury, I think they had stopped for some reason, immediately I knew that I couldn't keep their pace, so I let them go. I kept them within sight most of the way back to the runners club, but never really got close again.
As I approached the halfway point I heard cowbells, even over my headphones, Natalie & Didi showing the support in true parkrun style. I came back through the halfway point with the clock showing 2 hours and 40 minutes, a half time I'd be happy with on any day. I saw Abbey, stopped for a hug and ran on. As I went back out I passed the parkrun tent, and Shuggy & Kelly gave more support and encouragement.
The second half got a bit more rugged, less people on the course and my pace was slowing,I battled around the Big Swamp and started telling myself stories that the hard part was done though at no point did I feel defeated. Once more into the headwind, convinced that it would blow be back to the runners club when I turned around, as everybody knows it does nothing of the sort. Passing the Runners Club for the last time was tough, about three quarters done and knowing that all my friends and family were over the road, I really just wanted to go in and finish. The last 10km was a grind, one foot in front of the other, my left hamstring started cramping about 36km,stopped to stretch it out and kept on. By this stage my 5.30 finish was gone but I was still pretty confident of being under 6 hours. I kept pushing to run, the walk breaks became more frequent but I didn't get despondent. I knew I had less than an hours work to do as long as I kept going. The last hour is honestly a blur, one foot in front of the other, Emma Luscombe passed me, encouraging me on as she went, I saw Gary just near the Dome, more encouragement, then just around the corner one of my clients is having fish & chips at Aristos, I'd love to have stopped for some snapper and a beer but unfinished business you know.

My cramps return just after that, near the playground, it's frustrating because I know I'm close. I limp on for a bit trying to stretch out and walk, there's no panic but my pace has just about come to a standstill. By this stage I'm not running at all, just walking with periodic stops to stretch. The cramps subside enough for me to try a bit more running, I manage to get on the path that leads up to the lighthouse, I know it's mostly downhill from there. My cramps strike again and I'm pushing up against a wall trying to stretch my hamstrings they loosen a little and it's around the lighthouse and down the hill. I know I'm close now and I take out my headphones, I want to hear people, the volunteers at the road barrier encourage me to run into the chute. I hear someone yell out "Here come's Batman" and I feel the energy of the finish chute, my cramps are gone and I'm getting high 5's all the way along, I suddenly feel like I could do it all again as I cross the mat in 6hours and 1 minute. Tracy & Abbey are there along with my parents. Then it's like a blur, catching up with everyone, photos & congratulations, hugs, handshakes and backslapping. It's hard to beat the feeling of finishing a marathon, it's also very hard to describe the level of satisfaction that you feel, but it's a feeling I want to have again and again. Next up Perth Marathon. I cannot wait.