Melbourne Marathon 2014 – Analysis

On Sunday 12 October, 2014 I ran my second marathon, and second for the year. After coming down with a bad cold just over a week prior, and only just starting to come slightly better on the Friday prior, it wasn’t going to be a good one. But still, I hoped that I could make a miraculous recovery and when googling ‘getting sick during marathon week’, there were many reports of PBs after a week of a doing nothing at all taper.   It wasn’t to be, and it was a slow and hard race for me.

I did quite a bit of analysis in the aftermath and this is a summary. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unhappy with my time so it’s not a whinge – rather just an analysis and a rethink about possibly doing thing a bit differently in the future. At the end of the day I ran a marathon and even if not my fastest, it’s still a great feeling to complete a marathon.

Race time: 4:08 – Av Pace 5:54 (compared to 3:47 at Barossa in May)



I once again followed the Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) program, and had a great preparation leading up to the race. Three runs per week – one interval, one tempo, and one long run.   Although a few sessions were adjusted due to running races, or triathlons, for the most part I was able to complete all of my sessions. Like my prep for the Barossa marathon, I found it hard to hit the correct pacing on many of my interval sessions, but was closer on tempo sessions this time round. By the end of the program however I was able to get close to, or right on target pacing. I was thrilled with an interval session a few weeks out, where I was able to consistently hold a sub 4:00 pace for 5 x 1km reps.

My weekly long runs included 4 x 32km with increasing pace as the race got closer. I did miss what would have been the 5th 32km long run 3 weeks out because I raced Hazelwood triathlon that weekend. I elected to run a 25km the following weekend (2 weeks out from marathon), instead of the scheduled 21km because I felt like I needed to get another long run in – even if it wasn’t a long long run.

I was able to maintain most of the targeted pacing for my long runs, with my long run distances and average paces as follows:

W1 – 21km – 6:12 (hadn’t started RLRF yet and was running to low HR on this run)

W2 – 24km – 5:33

W3 – 27km – 5:36

W4 – 32km – 5:42

W5 – 21km – 4:45 (Run Melbourne – race)

W6 – 32km – 5:25

W7 – 21km – 5:12

W8 – 29km – 5:14

W9 – 32km – 5:12

W10 – 21km – 5:11

W11 – 32km – 5:11

W12 – 24km – 5:07

W13 – Hazelwood Triathlon – 9km Saturday; 17km Sunday

W14 – 26km – 5:06

W15 – Sick – missed scheduled 16km run

W16 – race week

Getting sick

I got sick the Friday the week prior to the marathon, and with the exception of a short 20min run the day prior, I didn’t do any training for the final 8 days. I rested, I went to bed early, I didn’t get up at 5am to train, and I tried all sorts of remedies including cold and flu tablets, Vitamin C, Zinc tablets, liquid Echinacea, and raw garlic. The Thursday before I still spent as much of the day as I could on the couch. A couple people suggested mid week that I probably shouldn’t race, but I thought about all those early mornings and long runs and them being wasted. Friday I started to feel slightly better, and decided that I was going be able to get through the race. Felt slightly better on Saturday, although still stuffed up and coughing. I didn’t really get excited about racing until Saturday and even then it was still with a bit of trepidation about how my body would respond on the day.

Learnings: I knew that I had to be pretty sick to not race. It’s hard to make the decision to pull out when there’s not another marathon around the corner, and training had gone so well. I am not sure what I would do if faced with the same decision again. I pulled out of the Half marathon a year ago as I was sick, and although disappointed, I was ok with that. I’m not sure if I would have been ok pulling out of the marathon.

I also do seem to get sick quite regularly, and consistently before races.  I definitely have the tendency to burn the candle at both ends, and I need to look at ways to minimise the chances of getting sick.  Another post topic for the future perhaps.

Nutrition – Race Week

I tried a slightly different nutrition plan during race week – the same that I’d used leading into Hazelwood.   It was based on some readings I’d done on carbohydrate loading on the core diet for triathletes. On Monday and Tuesday I ‘fat loaded’, taking in about 135g of fat per day. Ate ‘normally’ Wednesday and Thursday, and started carbo loading from dinner time on Friday, with about 350g carbs. On Sunday I ate about 600g carbs, taking in the majority of these in the morning with a big pancake and maple syrup breakfast.

I also took beetroot shots – Beet It sport – one per day.

Learnings: Hard to know whether this had an impact or not.   I used the same protocol for Hazelwood with seemingly good results. Previously I’ve always carbo loaded, but worked on the standard 3 day load.

Nutrition – Race Morning

As per Hazelwood, I ate breakfast about 3 hours prior to race start, again, taking advice from articles on the core diet for triathletes. I had 4 tubs on apple puree. At Hazelwood I also had a banana and about 350ml of sports drink, but without the bike in the marathon mix, I felt that might be too heavy so kept it to the puree fruit. I was also worried about having to go to the toilet, so didn’t drink anything except for 2 cups of decaf coffee. I consumed about 60 grams of carbohydrate.

I took a Beet It Sport an hour before race start and 2 Panadol. Not feeling 100% I had also had some Panadol immediately when I woke up.

I took 2.5 caffeine tablets 30 mins before the start (250mg) and had an Espresso GU just before race start.

Learnings. I’ve had a bad experience drinking beetroot juice before a race, but I’m still keen to give it a go, and find the Beet It shots don’t cause the same ‘fluid in fluid out, going to the toilet’ issues like straight juice does. Hard to know if it makes a difference or not.

Race breakfast was fine – I’ve generally had tinned fruit, so I know that my stomach can handle this ok.   Hard to know whether what I ate / how much / little I ate impacted my race at all.

I’m undecided about taking caffeine tablets. I’ve taken them for the last few races I’ve done, but I don’t really notice a difference. Even when I’ve abstained from caffeine for 2 weeks prior to race day I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference.


Based on my race results, RLRF had me training for a 3:30 marathon.   All my long runs were based on this pace (marathon pace plus a few seconds – getting shorter as marathon got closer). I hit the distances and paces in training comfortably, my heart rate on these runs was well within my marathon pace heart rate zone, and I recovered well and quickly from all of the long runs.

Based on this, I had hoped to achieve a 3:30 – 3:40 marathon. I had run 3:47 in Barossa after going out too hard in the first half, and then blowing up, so I felt if I could run the first half a bit easier, I should be able to maintain a more consistent pace in the second half.

In the final days leading up to the marathon, I adjusted my goal down to a 3:50 if I didn’t feel so great, but I still hoped that all my prior training would carry me through to a 3:40 or so. When compiling my race plan, I put together 3 scenarios – a 3:30 race, 3:42ish race, and a 3:50 race. I decided to go out there and see how I felt and balance pacing against my heart rate.

My plan had been to start off easier, building to race pace by about 3-4km. At the Barossa marathon I went out at a 4:40 pace, so I was targeting 4:55 – 5:00 for the first half. I missed the 3:30 pace group, but when the 3:40 pacers came past, I decided to stick with them. They were running 4:55ish – more like a 3:30 pace than 3:40 pace, but I figured they were perhaps allowing for a slower second half.

I went through 10km at just over 50 mins, and the half marathon at 1:47. Average pacing up to the half marathon point was 5:02 so pretty much on target. But already I was starting to feel it. In fact, I’d started to feel it at about 10km. Even though I hadn’t gone out too fast, I wasn’t feeling good.

From the half marathon I started to slow down. Strava data shows it was almost immediately after the 21km mark. My pacing moved out to 5:05, 5:10, 5:15 and by 25km I was starting to hit some 5:20 paces.   By 25km I was starting to find it hard, so told myself to get to the 27km special drinks station where I could collect the first of my cokes. I got to 27km, and past it, and somehow missed the drinks collection. I reached Fitzroy Street and gave up mentally and started walking. Got to St Kilda Road, and ran for about 2km, with my pacing slipping out to about 5:40. It soon slipped out to over 6:00 pace, I found it hard, and I started walking again.   I walked for about 2km. By this stage my quads had seized up and after walking I found it hard to run again. Tried to run a few times, but couldn’t. A good friend ( caught up with me, stopped and started walking with me. I told her to keep going, and she tried to get me to come with her. Tried running but my quads wouldn’t let me, so I told her to keep going.   I was really happy for her though as she’d had a poor leadup due to injury, but was still on track for a great race.  I did manage to start running again, and maintained about a 6:00 pace for a few more kms. Walked again for about another 2 and a bit kms, around the Tan, and then a friend who was also struggling caught up with me and encouraged us both to run down Domain Road. I tried, and couldn’t, but managed to get going in the end. I really was shuffling at this stage, but decided to keep running until the end. So managed to run from about 38km to the end without any walking. My pacing was over 6:00 pace, closer to 6:15 / 6:30 by this stage.

Learnings: Theoretically the pacing I’d started out at should have been well within my reach. I think being sick made is so much harder. My biggest sign of not being my best was what happened to my heart rate.

Importantly, although I’ve targeted 3:30 – 3:40 in my past 2 marathons, I’ve been way slower than this – even if RLRF tells me that this is what I can do. If I run another marathon, I’m going to go with a 3:45 – 3:50 target and pace myself accordingly.   Despite thinking it was within my ability, I think I need to be able to nail a 3:45 marathon before attempting to get closer to 3:30.

Heart Rate

My average heart rate, including the walking was 163. I should have been in the 140-160 zone with 160 being my absolute max.

I am generally a heart rate zone racer.   I find I need to use my heart rate to push myself and generally don’t need to use it to slow myself down. Even though the RLRF program was based on training paces, I still kept my heart rate in check during these sessions and felt that I would be able to maintain my marathon pace heart rate zone. All my training sessions indicated that this could be achieved.

I had planned to stick with a heart rate of about 150-155 for the first half, even slowing down my pace if I had to, and then, depending on how I was feeling, would try to push it out to the upper end of my zone for the second half.

In the first kilometre alone my heart rate started out over 160 and quickly climbed to 170 in the first kilometre. There is a bit of a bit a peak for the first km on the heart rate graph so the readings may not be accurate, but by the 4km mark, I was consistently recording a heart rate in the mid to upper 160s. I wiggled my heart rate band up a bit thinking maybe I was getting a false reading, but it didn’t change. Realised that it wasn’t an error and I made the poor decision to switch to pacing target and ignore my heart rate when I realised that I would be running very slowly to stick within my heart rate zones. By the 7km mark, I had reached 170 plus which is pretty much were I stayed until the 21km, by which stage I was mid 170s. Just before the 21km I walked through the aid station and kept walking with the aim of getting my heart rate down. It dropped, but quickly climbed again when I started running – even when I slowed the pace down. It was at that stage that I figured that it was going to be high regardless of my pace, so I may as well just try to stick to my original pace goal. I continued in the 170s until I started walking up Fitzroy Street.   My bursts of walking brought my heart rate down, but even then it was still staying at 140 / dropping to 130s at times.


Learnings: I think the biggest indicator of me not being well was a high heart rate. I have reflected on going on heart rate vs target pacing, and have decided I am going to revert back to racing according to heart rate, and just see what pacing comes out of it on the day.


Years of practice gives me confidence in my nutrition. I changed it slightly this marathon and added in Carbo Shot Blocks to my existing GU gels. I trained with my planned nutrition on all of my long runs with the following plan:.

Approx. 45g carbs per hour, made up of :

0:20 – 1 shot block

0:40 – 1 shot bock 4

1:00 – 1 GU.

I also took a salt tablet every 30 minutes.

I stick with water only on course which I took at every aid station. I also dropped off 2 bottles of 300ml coke for collection at the 27km and 36 km marks. I missed seeing the 27km collection mark, and when I reached the 36km mark (walking), I drank the entire bottle quickly.

I had no stomach issues, and feel that I have my nutrition right.

The Pain Barrier

I didn’t have it in me to push through the pain. My quads were hurting and when faced with a momentary decision of ‘you could walk you know’ I just gave up and walked.   I’ve always been quite tough mentally and think I need to work on this more again. I am hoping that being unwell played a part in how I felt, but I also worry that when faced with the same pain in the future, I’ll give up easily again.

The Heat

Apparently it was quite warm out there, but I didn’t feel that the heat affected me.


I decided to race in a wonder woman outfit, and found a running specific costume from iglowrunning I’d tested it in training and it was perfect. I loved the outfit and got lots of comments throughout the race. I carried some food in a pocket on the inner shorts in the skirt, and pinned my gels to my skirt. Gels didn’t rub me, but I did find the weight pulled my skirt down a bit so I had to hitch it up from time to time.   Probably gave the runners behind me a view of my undies from time to time!


No chaffing

I had no chaffing and I am going to sing the glowing praises of 2Toms SportsShield. I’ve never been able to wear running shorts over long distance because of inner thigh chaffing, and find that BodyGlide doesn’t help me over long distances.   I’d also been getting rubbing under my heart rate monitor in training, even when applying liberal amounts of BodyGlide. Came across the Sports Shield and it was fantastic. I had no chaffing whatsoever. Nothing, not even marks. It’s not cheap, but worth it. I also tried the Blister Shield in my socks to prevent blisters. I didn’t have any blisters but could start to feel my feet burning a bit by the end.


Even though I didn’t have the best day, I was grateful to be able to share in the performances of other friends racing.  Of a close group of running friends, four of us ran the marathon, one the half marathon, and one came and cheered.   Was lovely to share a lunch together post race.

Another friend was out cheering in numerous places and took some great photos.    Thanks for the encouragement out there PB Down Under and love the photo you snapped – as you can see I’ve been using it everywhere!

A friend of a friend ran past me and introduced herself to me. It was a nice boost to meet someone out on the course.

Another friend also had a hard day and when she caught up to me we both said the F word a few times and shared stories about how neither of us had it in us that day. She also gave me a spur on to start running down Domain Road, and it seemed enough to get me moving again until I reached the end. Thanks!

Recovery between races

I do need to remember that I raced a weekend of triathlons 3 weeks’ prior. An Olympic distance on Saturday followed by a long Course Sunday. I recovered well from that, and was able to get some hard training in just before I got sick. Perhaps it took it out of me a bit more than I’d anticipated, and possibly may have contributed to me getting sick.

How I pulled up

I was very sore when I finished the race, and on Monday. Very sore quads and it was a struggle to complete many basic daily tasks. Still sore on Tuesday, but started to loosen up a bit by Tuesday afternoon. A swim helped. Three days after the marathon though, I’m still feeling the effects of my cold, and I’m not fully recovered.

Training Approach

I’m rethinking my approach to using RLRF. The program is very manageable and suits my limited training time. It also works in well with being able to maintain bike and swim training. If there are any elements of the program that I am questioning, it’s the paces for the long run. Even though the paces increased, it was only the last few taper runs where pacing was at marathon pace. When I think back to my ironman programs, I used to run the majority of each long run at intended marathon pace (heart rate) in the last 6 weeks. I think I am going to go back to this strategy. I also wonder whether I need to include one or 2 runs of more than 32km.


I’m racing Shepparton Half Ironman in 5 weeks time, so hoping I’m going to be able to recover ok to get in a few solid weeks of training.  After that it’s Challenge Melbourne and after that I’m not sure.  I’m sure I’ll run another marathon, but for the moment, I’m keen to have a decent break before doing another.


Agegroup Category Pace / Speed
Total Time: 4:08:55 139/387 713/1976 0:05:54
10km 0:50:30 0:05:03
21.1km 1:47:38 0:05:06
Finish 2:21:17 0:06:42


2 thoughts on “Melbourne Marathon 2014 – Analysis

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