Monday, 3 July 2017

A Reflection on the Gold Coast Marathon and Failure

The Gold Coast Marathon: my first A race for the year and my first DNF. This is what happened.

I turned up to the start area an hour before the gun went off, did my usual warm up run, then half an hour before the gun was set to go, ate a banana, then 15 mins prior, ate a gel. All normal, and everything was feeling good. I then made my way to the start line, wearing clothes I had worn during training feeling confident with my ability to succeed in my goal. I put myself near the 3-hour pacing bus, which was at the front of the runners, only second to the elites. That meant it only took about 5 seconds to cross the start line after the gun went off, where I pressed start on my watch and I had begun my journey.
On this run I carried 1L of Trail Brew, 5 Vfuel gels and a double shot expresso Clif Shot, with the goal of drinking a mouthful of water at each aid station (which were situated about every 2ish km’s), maybe more if it got warm. Luckily for me, race morning was the coldest yet for the Gold Coast winter, and I didn’t have to worry about the heat.
The first 1.5km’s were quick, after being pushed a little bit by the runners behind me when everyone was still congested. I ran over a bridge and turned a corner that made us run along-side the beach when I finally realised that I was running too quick, luckily only about 2km’s had passed by and it was a lot less congested, so I slammed on the brakes and waited for the 3 hour bus to catch up, and was then able to get into a rhythm. Every half hour eat gel, swish it down with Trail Brew, drink some water at each aid station, see bitumen, see buildings, hear spectators, repeat. I’ll admit by kilometre 15 I was bored, this is the point I probably would’ve put headphones in, but unfortunately I left those back in Brisbane. By kilometre 16, just 4 and a bit minutes later, my glutes and hip tendons were starting to hurt from the constant pounding of the bitumen. Each new step from this point onwards was also new territory, I had never ran this far this fast before. But by kilometre 18 my race started going downhill. 
Gold Coast Marathon pace
 The ache of my glutes had been pushed to the back of mind, replaced by the much more painful ache of my feet. My peroneal tendonitis had returned. This injury usually only flares up on uneven trails, and is helped by doing some strength exercises and taping up my feet. Before this race I had done a 2 hour 40 mins training run in the shoes I was to race in, with no issues with my feet. This meant I went into this race without taping up my feet. Perhaps not a smart decision. Up until my 18th km I was maintaining about a 4.15 min/km average, by kilometre 20 I had slipped to 4.30min/km. From then on I slowed to a crawl, before finally at kilometre 24 I accepted defeat, took off my shoes and made the decision that I wouldn’t make it to the finish. I then walked in my socks for the next 5km’s seeing pacing bus after pacing bus pass me, when my feet felt a tiny bit better. I tried putting on my shoes and taking a few steps, before the pain returned to its previous levels. I then took my shoes off again before walking another kilometre back to the start-finish area. Race over.

Easing the pain in my feet by putting them in icy cold water after the race
I’ve been running competitively since I was about 14 when I joined my local athletics club and since then I don’t think I can say I’ve ever experienced failure. Disappointment? Sure, there’s been plenty of times when I didn’t quite get a time or position I wanted, but failure? I don’t think so.
Hindsight is one of those great things that I wish I could have before a race. I mean looking back on this race, should I have taped up my feet even though I was confident they wouldn’t be a problem? Yes. Should I have perhaps been doing the strengthening exercises that my physio has given me more often then I did? Yes.
I was lucky to have a supportive friend at the finish line who reminded me that (hopefully) I’ll be running competitively for the next 10-15 years of my life, and that I’ve only been doing these sort of distances for the past year and a half. This has definitely put things into perspective for me. While this is my first DNF, I’m sure that going forward, it won’t be my last.
After the GC race I’m pressing the reset button and trying something new. I’m taking a bit of a break this week, but will be finding out a few crucial bits of info. What my heart rate max is and what my one rep maxes are for a number of different strength exercises. I’m doing an exercise and sport science degree, and what I’ve learned over the past semester is that a training plan has to be tailored to an individual. I.e. From here on out I won’t be using a training plan found off the internet (what I did for this marathon). I’ve also found out that all aerobic training intensity should be based off heart rate, not off pace. So for this first time ever, my training plan won’t feature pace but percentage of max heart rate. And lastly I’ve also found that strength training can boost performance, and with my next race being a 50km ultra featuring 1500m of elevation, I figured getting a bit stronger couldn’t hurt. So over the next twoish months, I’m hitting the gym, a lot, and trying to maintain my current running fitness. It may work, it may not, but I’m excited to give it a try!
And finally to all of you who are reading this, liked my running posts and commented your support. I thank-you. It really does mean a lot to me having a great number of people backing me, through the thick and thin.
The TRN.

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