The Barossa marathon was the first marathon that I’d run ‘on its own’ – that is, not as part of an ironman. Even so, my last ironman was in 2003, so it had been a long while since I’d run marathon distance.
I chose the Barossa because I wanted to do an earlier race in the year and because the Barossa is where I grew up. And, as an added bonus some online running friends were also travelling from Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide to do the half marathon or 10k. It was tempting to skip the run and just have a weekend of good food and wine away with some good friends! We purchased matching run singlets from Jaggad and all purchased matching 2xU visors. Some of us completed the look with orange socks.
Race morning (don’t mind the floral bead spread- compliments of staying at my parents house).
I followed the 16 week, ‘Run less, run faster’ program. The program appealed to my minimalist training approach with only 3 runs per week. One interval, one tempo and one long run at a specified pace and at least 2 harder cross training sessions as well, which suited me, as I wanted to continue with bike training. The program has you training at specified paces based on a shorter time trial, and based on the time trail, you have a corresponding estimated time for the marathon.
My initial marathon estimate was 3:37 but I adjusted this down to 3:30 after my time at the 10km mark from Run for the Kids. I was able to hit all the paces for my long run fairly comfortably. Pacing started off with 32k at marathon pace plus 37 sec and finished with doing a 32k at marathon pace plus 9 seconds. I did however struggle with the prescribed pacing for the interval and tempo sessions and while I managed to just hit the pacing on some tempo sessions, I wasn’t able to hit the pacing for the majority of the interval sessions.
Based on my long run pacing, I felt like a 3:30 could be a stretch, but achievable. I always recovered well from these sessions and didn’t struggle with the distance. My longest run was 32k, which I did 5 times during the build-up. I figured that even if I slowed in the last 10km I should be able to comfortably come in at 3:50. Even though it was 12 years ago, the best time I’d run in an ironman marathon was 3:42. So I set myself goal times of
Happy to finish time: 3:50
Should be able to do: 3:30-3:42
If I had a blinder I would love to do: Sub 3:30.
When signing up for the Barossa marathon I always knew the timing wasn’t ideal. I am an event manager and had a week of events to deliver for a client scheduled to commence the Monday after the marathon. Race week was unbelievably crazy getting things finalised for my event. I worked late every night that week and was up early working for a couple of hours before I flew to Adelaide on Saturday morning. Not surprisingly, by Wednesday night I went to bed with the beginnings of a cold. My son was up all night with a sore throat and coughing and I just knew I was going to get sick. By Thursday morning I had woken with a full blown cold. Took a mad dash to the chemist for cold and flu tablets. Also dosed up on echinacea, vitamin c and wild oil of oregano.
Whilst I didn’t feel great by Sunday at least I hadn’t gotten worse. I went into the race not really knowing what to expect but hoping I could still achieve the faster of my goals.
Race conditions were perfect. Calm, overcast and a temp forecast of low 20s. I really enjoyed the period before the start. With the marathon starting before the other events it was mostly marathoners there at that time. Competitors went about their own pre race preparation and there was lots of space under the buildings of the school to sit quietly before the start. Even the toilets were queue free.
There was no crowding but I positioned myself near the front of the starting pack. It was a nice atmosphere pre start and I just enjoyed the moment thinking about what I was about to embark on – still not quite sure what the morning would dish out at me.
And we were off. I had borrowed my husband’s Garmin 910xt and it wasn’t picking up my heart rate – instead giving me messages that it was picking up multiple signals. I got a bit distracted by trying to fix that but then gave up and just focused on pace.
I was still secretly hoping I could achieve a 3:30, which meant running each half in 1:45. Assuming no slowing down. So what did I do – I pushed it. Too hard. I think I ran the first few kms in under 4:30 minute pace. At some stage my heart rate seemed to register, but I ignored it. I remember seeing numbers in the 170s. My marathon heart rate should be 162 max. Looking at my Garmin data, it peaked at 185!
The other issue I had was my shoes. I’d purchased new shoes the week prior to the race. Same brand (Brooks) but a lighter weight shoe. I knew it was possibly a stupid move but I figured I’d get a few runs in race week and would be ok on the day. After getting sick I only ran in them once. 2km into the race I could feel that my shoes were laced too tightly and I had pressure on my feet. At that point I was hell bent on getting under 1:45 for the first 21km, so didn’t want to stop. Sometime later I seemed to be able to ignore the growing pain.
I came in at 1:41 for the half marathon. Given my half marathon PB is 1:39, and the last half marathon I ran I did 1:44, that may suggest I went a bit too hard! I was way ahead of my 5:00 pacing – averaging 4:47 for the first 21km.
I was able to keep that pace up for about 5 more kilometres but then started to feel it. I can’t remember exactly when, but I think from about 26km it started to feel hard. Much harder than what 26km used to feel like in training. Position wise I was doing well and think I was well within the top 10 females at that point. I passed one female and thought I’d be able to catch another ahead. At that point I began to think that a top 5 female finish might be possible.
I saw my brother and niece somewhere about that time and still felt strong. A bit further down the road, my parents had stationed themselves in a part of the course where they’d see me 3 times. The first time I saw them I was starting to feel it, but was doing ok. The second time I saw them I was starting to struggle.
It was shortly after that point that the 3:30 pacer group caught me. Just before the 30km mark. I remember seeing two women in that group, ones that I’d been conscious of being quite consistently ahead of until that point. The pacer invited me to join the group although I said “I’ll try” I knew I’d struggle. They soon disappeared ahead of me.
Shortly after my parents saw me the third time. I was really starting to struggle. This may have been about 32km. I saw my brother for the second time at about the 32-34km mark. By now I was struglling. I think I managed a half-hearted wave but I imagine my body and face said it all as I shuffled past.
Somewhere at around the 36-38km I completely blew up. I had a brief conversation with myself about not walking but my mind won out. I told myself I’d walk through the aid station but once I stopped couldn’t run again. I actually stopped and drank and felt myself stumble a bit at the side of the road. I felt a tingle in my hands and arms and started to think I wasn’t in a good way. I started to cry.
Not sure how long it was, but I walked for awhile. Maybe a kilometre or two. I got passed by a number of females including one I’d passed earlier in the race. I remember going around a corner where someone was handing out jelly snakes. Someone asked me if I was ok. I nodded and just kept moving.
A little further down the road, I realised that it was my feet that were really causing the problems. I stopped and loosened my shoelaces. The relief was almost immediate – and allowed me to start running again. Although my pace had slowed considerably (over 6 minute pace and closer to 7 minute pace at times), I kept running and managed to run to the end. Somewhere around this time I realised that I had chaffed (I think from my heart rate monitor strap although it wasn’t sore) and my white top had blood stains on it.
I rounded the final corner to be met with cheers from my running group. I swore a bit in return. There is something about the finish line in sight that gives you an extra burst, and I picked it up for the last hundred metres or so. I crossed the line in 3:47. Not the 3:30 which I’d hoped I could do, but within my ‘happy to finish goal time’ of 3:50. I was emotional and sore, but happy with my time.
Friends and family gathered around me, giving me hugs, getting me drinks, and peeling me an orange (really dumb idea providing whole oranges at the end of a marathon!). I was pretty emotional and shed some more tears.
I was very sore in my legs – but mostly my feet. I struggled to walk on my feet for awhile, but they improved as the afternoon went on. After a long shower, I said good bye to my parents, and then met up for a long afternoon lunch with my running friends before flying back to Melbourne that evening.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my race. I’m happy with my time, but a little disappointed in my performance. When setting my race goals, at no point in time did it occur to me that I should put ‘not walk’ as a goal. I wasn’t at all mentally prepared for the fact that I may want to walk, and when I did, I gave up.
Going out too hard was definitely an issue. I ran the first 21km 13 seconds per kilometre faster than what I should have. I really think if I’d started at a pace closer to 5:00, I would have been able to maintain that for longer, and come closer to my 3:30 goal time.
I think the biggest issue however was my shoes. I’ve had a lot of experience with the ‘never do anything new on race day’ saying, yet I chose to ignore that. I had laced my shoes up way too tight and it was my feet that gave way. Perhaps being light weight shoes may have also meant that my feet felt the pavement more as well. I wished I’d just run in my training shoes, even though they are quite a heavy shoe.
Being sick may have contributed to falling apart a little (probably the emotions if nothing else), but all in all, I think I did ok given I’d been sick.
It’s been just over one week since the race, and overall I’m pretty pleased. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about next races – I’d love to do another marathon this year, but I’ve decided I need to get back into triathlon base building in preparation for Shepparton Half Ironman in November, so at the moment, I don’t think I’ll target any further running races in the short-term. But another marathon is definitely something I’d like to do again. The Barossa marathon is a well run race, and great course. I’d love to go back and have a crack again.