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Monday, April 28, 2008

Brisbane Marathon 2008

Did Brisbane marathon on Sunday in 3:54. A little dissapointing but understandable with surrent mileage. Report here.
Six Foot Track Trail Marathon
Blue Mountains (NSW)
45 kms Trail Ultramarathon
Saturday 8th March 2008

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I have been looking forward to this race for many years. It looked like being the biggest athletic event in my life so far in terms of difficulty, prestige and coolness. It was tough to qualify, enter and train for. The logistics of getting to, and staying in Sydney and the Blue Mountains also complicated matters. In the end I stayed with Michelle and her sister and partner in Katoomba. They were so wonderfully obliging to ferry us around to and from the start and finish lines - that made everything SO much easier for this event, and great company to boot.

From the website:
The Six Foot Track is a 45km footpath stretching across the Blue Mountains from The Explorer's Marked Tree, near Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. The marathon started in 1984 and follows the length of the entire footpath. It is Australia's 5th largest marathon and by far the largest 100% off-road running event. The race is a fundraiser for the Rural Fire Service & Six Foot Track Heritage Trust. It currently attracts approx 800 entrants each year.

For the first time in a marathon-or-greater race, I took no special drinks or food, and relied on the event nutrition at checkpoints. I was nervous about that, but all worked out well. The aid stations were well appointed and numerous. We had water, electrolyte, coke, carb bars, lolly snakes and other stuff too. Not quite as buffet-ish as the Glasshouse races, but fit for purpose.

You needed a sub 4hr marathon time or >1 ultramarthon finishes to enter the race, so there wasnt too many gumbys racing. I started in the second wave due to having a successful 2007 and Michelle started in the 4th wave, as she didnt want to get too rushed early. Michelle's strategy of taking it easy early often sees her running the last 10km of big races as fast as the first. Something I can never do.

I had a leadership conference at the Gold Coast three days before the event. It was a great conference, but not a good leadup to the race, with late nights, early mornings, beer and wine.

The race

The start was pretty exciting, with a bus ride to the Explorer's tree from our drop off point, and then waiting for the waves to start. I was in wave 2, Michelle was in wave 4. It was a bit sad that I couldnt run with Michelle for most of the way, but my twitchiness would have pushed Michelle to run faster down the early hills than her (wise) cautiousness would have liked. I set off and ran down the 900 steps called Nellies Glen, it was pretty hard on the legs straight away, as every step was slippery and had different widths and depths, and twisted and turned. We ran down hill pretty much constantly for 15km, to the middle of the megalong valley. At the bottom, we crossed the Cox's river, which was about waist high for me, and pretty cold. I used the rope to keep me moving. The small lady in front of me slipped off a rock and went in neck deep. I thought I was going to have to rescue her. I had lots of tiny pebbles in my shoeswhich was really uncomfortable, but noone else was stopping, so peer pressure made me keep going. Then I thought - frick this!, I am not running 40km with rocks in my shoes and I sat down and took them off. It was hard to see everyone running past, but I knew it was worth it. When I got going again, the rocks were still there!, so I was annoyed, but I had to sit down again, and take off my shoes and socks, and rinse them in a little stream.

All was good again, so I started the big climb. The map in this link shows two climbs, but I was so wrecked that I hardly remember the downhill in between them. Either way, there was about 3.5 hrs of climbing I reckon, and some of it was very steep. I walked many bits and pieces, and wondered if -anyone- could run the whole course. I talked to lots of people along the way, and saw some Brisbane running familiar faces. There was a section during the climb where a few guys were stretching out against trees trying to prevent cramps, and a guy I was running with at the time told me that this section of the pluviometer was infamous for knocking people out with cramps. Muscle cramps were not something I have ever had to deal with, even in my longest Ultras. I gave them plenty of consideration from that point on, because my legs were copping a hiding, even when walking the hills.

I remember one particular hill, which was so steep, that from the bottom, you could see 30 or 40 guys on the hill, walking up it, and many of them were stopped, either battling cramps, or just recovering from the section previous. I stopped and stood to recover about 3 times up it. I was staggered. After that particular climb, my legs stayed at the point of near cramping for the rest of the race, and they were my limiting factor. My heart and lungs were fine, and energy levels were fine, but the legs, which I had previously found to be pretty staunch supporters of my running, were unhappy. I became very much aware of why the course is so hard, not due to the distance or the terrain or even the hills, but the toll that they combination take on your legs. I realised that if I wasnt careful, I would be on the ground and if the cramping episode was serious enough, even stop me from finishing the race.

I took the hills pretty carefully after about 30km, because I knew that the last 7 km was also pretty punishing on the legs. I started going fast down the hills, because after about 25kms, I knew that I was going to beat my predicted time by miles, and maybe stay under 5 hrs. The hills all the way to the finish ruined the sub-5hrs idea, but I was still going to go well under 6 hrs, and probably under 5:30. I started passing people slowly but surely and ran down the switchback concrete path down to the Jenolan Caves. I could hear the finish line speaker and I was pretty happy with finishing and having a decent PB for six foot track. I came down the last stairs and turned for the chute, I didnt see Michelle's sister, as we had told them we wouldnt finish for ages yet. I gave some fist pumps, and finished with 5:23:31.

The finish area is really nice. I wished that I could have stayed to check out some more of the caves. The one that I saw that was a bridge over the road was amazing. It took a lot for me to walk down there though. I was pretty sore. I saw Gomez and had a chat, he nailed 4:14 and came about 40th - champ. Michelle finished a little later, since her wave was after mine with 5:43. She looked as fresh as a daisy, and shouted out "That was EASY" when she found us. We had both been sucked in by the hubbub about this race, and it turned out to be 30-45 mins easier for us than we expected.

It was a great race, very hard, very challenging. Very different to the longer runs I have done. The Glasshouse racing really prepared me mentally for the tougher course and terrain. I am rarely properly prepared physically, but in my experience, it doesnt count that much. I reckon any human active with a degree of mental toughness can finish these races. The training that most do simply gains the confidence (which can be used in place of mental toughness).

Keen to race again in 2009, but I did miss the kids, and the flights were a bit of a nightmare. If you dont have fully flexible seats, then they screw you and so I sat in the airport for many hours. I am really looking towards a special destination race in the next couple of years. It might be GNW100m or GH100m or Western States or Badwater or something silly like that.

2008 has started well with two trail ultras finished. That pleases me. I have now got 10 marathons and 5 ultras racked up. The rest of 2008 is supposed to be:

Apr - Brisbane marathon
May - Glasshouse 80km
July - Gold Coast marathon
July - Glasshouse 50km
Sep - Glasshouse 100km

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

Hendry web

Hey - there is still more to see, posts previous to the one above exist in the archives, available on the right hand column.