Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Suffering. The Struggle. The Impossible. Gold Coast Marathon Review 2014.

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of the cause we believe to be just. - Abraham Lincoln

If ever there was a blog post about someone else's race this is it. The story of Donald running his first marathon dates back to 2011, where he started to lose a bit of weight and do some treadmill running. He never believed in a million years he would ever run a "race", so when I ran his first event with him last year (the Perth City to Surf) he was hooked. I could tell he was always after the big fish, a half marathon was never going to be good enough. He had watched the Spirit of the Marathon, read the Penguin's books and watch 50 Marathons in 50 Days enough times to memorise Karno's quotes.

The marathon seemed like a good idea last year when he ran the Freo Half Marathon and was in shape, since then everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Lack of training volume due to an ankle and foot injury, multiple trips to the podiatrist to sort it out, 3 or 4 pairs of shoes led us to the point where both of us knew it would take a miracle to finish. If you remember a blog late last year, I said I was going to run with him. I had mentally withdrawn from that situation, I was too worried we wouldnt finish and I'm not going to go all the way to Gold Coast pay for a rego and not finish. Thats a selfish view of his situation but also the reality.

Below are a few of the texts from last month after he snapped something in his ankle on the cross trainer - thus the depressing reality of not finishing the marathon became very real.

 For me personally I really just wanted him to down grade to the half marathon. I knew he could finish that. BUT Donald said he would rather DNF the marathon than not start it, his mum was coming over from England to see him finish so there was no way he wasnt going to try.

I had prepared myself for the reality that his weight and lack of training, plus the fact he had a cortisone injection in his foot on the Wednesday would make the journey of running 42km impossible. I really thought that he would get to a point where the negative self talk would cripple his race. I spoke to Brenden about it, and he understood that someone was going to have to run the last 10k with him to get him to the finish.

Donald is one of the most mentally toughest runners I know. I know so many runners who are scared to run the marathon, they have respectable half marathon times but are just unwilling to commit to the suffering that is the event. Donald is the opposite. Like a drug he just loved killing himself on the long training runs. Just the romance of the suffering - he is an ultramarathoner trapped in a 115kg public servant body.

Pre Race

Brenden and I flew into Brisbane on Saturday morning and I thought we were heading to the train for the ride to the Gold Coast, Brenden had other plans as he had hired a Audi (which was switched for a Merc) for us to go cruising down the Gold Coast. I was impressed with the first part of the trip, all signs pointed to an excellent weekend.

Big M and the Merc

We were meeting Donald at the expo so we set the GPS for the motel and enjoyed the cruise down to the Coast. I had never heard of this great motel Big M had booked, and for good reason.

Not our motel


vacant lot next door

   There were two ladies sitting on the stairs to our room who appeared to be working by the hour, this motel was the worst I have stayed in for a very long time. After the initial disappointment that we were staying in a crap hole, it was quite the adventure! On a side note the worst sleep I have ever had prior to a Marathon was in Melbourne 2010, where Luke booked accom and never informed me that there was no bed for Hayden and I. When we arrived at 10pm the night of the marathon we had to sleep on the floor. Certainly not ideal.

After a quick nap we then went down to the expo to meet Donald and his mum. Things were about to get real. We collected our Marathon bibs, and I collected Luke's as he was a late entry (more on this later). We had a great look through the expo. Bel was onto me about spending money, so I refrained from buying anything new (although I wanted another GC jacket).

At the expo I had the pleasure of meeting Trent Morrow - Marathon Man he was so inspiring and really just pumped us up even more. As he spoke to Donald I could see the impact his words and advice (someone who has run 160 marathons in a calender year and holds the world record) was having on him. Donald just soaked all of his words up and was ready to run as soon as he finished!

Pex and Marathon Man

After the expo we headed our separate ways and had some lunch, Brenden and I had a feed of noodles which was pretty good. After another rest on our comfy beds, I headed off to meet Donald and his mum to go to the AFL.

Now I know that you shouldnt be out the night before a race, BUT the Pies and Suns were playing and I had never seen a live AFL match. It was an unreal experience - so much better live than on TV. Unfortunately the Pies lost in a close one (Donald is a Pies tragic) we were home in bed by 8.30pm - in time to watch a bit of Le Tour.

Suns home stadium
All of my gear was set up ready for the race. It actually didnt feel like we were running a marathon, I was super relaxed. Feeling really fresh and ready to suffer. Little did I know what was coming.

After breakfast we went and picked Donald up, and headed to Australia Fair for Brenden to grab a muffin and coffee from McDonalds. This is where I made a couple of really rookie nutrition errors. Whilst I was trying to keep Donald calm and I planning on how I was going to get Luke's bib to him I had forgotten to look after myself. By that I simply didnt take stock of my own needs.

I took a whole gel 30mins from the start as I usually do, but didnt have any water with me - and I planned to grab some in the toilet - but it had a huge line. By the time we got across to the road to the start line and waited another 10 minutes for Luke to arrive to get his bib, I was really needing a drink. The lovely physios from Griffith Uni gave me a free bottle of water and I filled my handheld and had a couple of small sips.

As I sipped Deek gave his speech over the microphone, I made it back to Donald and Brenden for the national anthem and BOOM we were away. After the first KM I felt pretty good, but by the second km I had a bad stomach pain/like a stitch but in my stomach - by not diluting that Gel it just sat in there. My pace was Ok for the first KM - about 5.03 pace but it felt harder than it should, the next 5k was around the 5.10 pace and I lost Brenden soon after. By 15km I was suffering and by 17km I had started to vomit. Essentially it was the same issue with my stomach that I have in Ultra's BUT I had caused it early in the race! Well this is a first.

Between 20-30km was some of the worst suffering, I just felt sick the whole time - running to the point of being sick, then dry reaching. I was in a world of hurt, Ultra marathon style. My race was over. I had nothing positive to pull out of it, or so I thought. As I pass over the little hill and through the 32km point, I decided to buy a can of Coke. I walked into the shop, bought the coke. Sat down and sipped it. It tasted like pure gold in my mouth. I then started to jog, and I could jog without being sick, I was moving again and was able to get back to moving and jogging along. Because I had walk ran the previous 10k I wasnt sore - so the last 10k was probably my best. I was just able to get back to grinding the kms out. Not fast but certainly faster than the previous 10k.

As I went through the finish zone all I could think of was an ultra, was today the blueprint for how I can climb my way out of a stomach distress? Did sitting down and slowly sipping the Coke enable me to keep going? I believe it did. I really think that I have found a magic bullet. To relax, take a few minutes and get nutrition on, I was able to run again. A small flame of hope lit up, maybe I could return and have a crack at another Ultra.

When I finished - I was pretty spent. I was glad to be done and in no real shape to do another 10k, besides - there is no way Donald would be in front of the 9.15pace cut offs. I had seen him at around 18 and he was struggling then....

Big M had the awesome news of running 3.36, holly shit thats so close to 3.30 it isnt funny. I was so pumped for him I immediatly forgot about my own terrible day and started to bask in his! I played a small part in getting him into shape, so that was a really good feeling.

Brenden and I went around to find the "lost and found" area and sure and shit, he had just passed the 30km point and was still well in front of the cut off!!! WTF!

Brenden said "I want to do this" he was ready to run again, so we went and waited for him across the road and as he approach both the boys set off on the final 10km,

What happened on the road over the next 2hrs I have no exact details, Donald proceeded to climb into the biggest hurt box of his life. Willing his body further than it had ever gone before. The tears of not knowing if he would be able to finish overcame him a number of times. Was it going to be possible? He had slowly fallen below the cut off time, he was in last place and as 2pm approached I waited at the finish. 6.40 race time passed on the clock - still no sign of Donald or Brenden.

I asked one of the race officials if they would allow him to finish and they said yes, I just hoped that he kept pushing to finish.

At 7.05 official race time both of them came into view. Donald made his way under the finish and we embraced. Tears of joy flowed from his face. He was a Marathoner. A finisher. No one can ever take that away from him. He had proved everyone wrong, including me. He wanted that finish so badly that he was prepared to suffer through 7hrs of hell for it. He climbed into the trench and fought his was to victory. The lesson for both of us is that it is never over. No matter how you think your day might be over, just to dig in. I thought I could suffer, but watching Donald gives me a new appreciation for suffering.

Big M & Pex

Before and After

In the wash up - I have to concentrate on looking after myself. I really messed my day up by not doing that. Melbourne will be about me.

I am so proud of Donald for suffering through, as he sits back and watches Spirit of the Marathon he is now part of the club. A Marathoner. A Finisher. He earned his not in 4hrs or 5hrs BUT in 7hrs of suffering. A Legend is Made.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Marathon Week #GCAM14

I know the destination. I know where the road will take me. I am certain of the suffering - but this time it is different.... I am welcoming the pain. I know there will be a point where my lack of base fitness will reduce my pace, and the sun will beat down upon me, my thoughts will drift BUT this time I am mentally stronger and ready for those moments. This is my choice to be here and my time on Sunday will be the start point for my journey to PB in Melbourne.

In talking with Ben and Brenden this week I have recommitted to rolling the dice and will have a crack at running the first half of the marathon in 1.45. As I have discussed previously there are obvious risks and it is against conventional marathon "pace" plans - but I need to take something out of this race. I can play it safe on a training run, and by that I mean run comfortably hard - but keeping an eye on my pace and vary it to how I am feeling. Sunday isn't a day to play it safe, it's time to see where I am at. I don't have the luxury of a half marathon to run prior to the race to gauge where I am at.

On Sunday Brenden and I will line up with the 3.30 balloons and I plan to stay with them for as long as possible. This might be 15km, 18km or hopefully 21km. I know I can't sustain that for 42km but I need a "jump off" point for my training post Gold Coast.

I feel like I have had a little improvement since the run with Rodney, including a couple of longer runs at close to 5.00 min/km pace. This included a 15k last week and a 10k on Saturday, I then doubled up with a Saturday afternoon run at of 8k at 5.20 pace. I haven't done a "double" run in 20 months, so it felt bad ass to lace up again in the afternoon for a session.

Other than that I really don't have much to report - this taper week has been awesome, I'm feeling fresh and ready for Sunday!

Donald on other hand isn't travelling too well, his foot issues are meaning we are in a hopeless situation where we just relying on pain killers to get through the marathon. Having been there for 2 marathons myself I know the pain of struggle, walking and suffering through the 42k to get that finishers medal. I'm pretty sure I ran Gold Coast in 2010 with a bone broken in my foot, which lead to issues including cramp and a 5.18 marathon finish. It's not fun BUT I can say I learnt a lot about myself on that day. I hope the marathon gods are kind to Donald, I would swap my marathon finish for his if I could. But it doesn't work like that.

I just hope he can get back to the start finish so I can help him get to the end.

Good luck to all of the other runners heading to Gold Coast - hit me up on twitter @RunPexRun if you are keen for karaoke on Sunday night!!

Race hard