Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Alice Springs Marathon - The First Desert Marathon!
Sit back and relax this blog post is going to be a long one! The official start time for the Alice Springs Marathon is 6am - which meant a 4 am wake-up call for the team, Elisabeth, Erin, Baz, Davo and me. That is, excluding the false start at 3.30am due to someone forgetting about the 30 min time difference between Alice Springs and Melbourne when they set their alarm!!!! At 4am the stars were still shining bright and the moon was beaming down on us.
I nervously ate my breakfast - a banana, a museli bar and a piece of toast with honey. Runners are a strange bunch when it comes to pre-race nutrition each of us had our own tried and tested regime for pre-race food. It is a delicate balance between eating enough to keep the energy levels up and not eating too much so we are weighed down processing the food. Generally we avoid dairy and high energy food like jam and honey are favorites. I also had my hydration sorted out with bottles of Endura at every 6km!
I also made sure I coated my skin in sunscreen - I burn very easily and 3 hours in the Alice Springs sun would fry me (the first hour is run in darkness). We then all piled into the taxis for a short drive to the start of the marathon at the Araluen Arts Centre. We made it with plenty of time to spare but the tension was building. We caught up with some other Coolrunners at the start line and had our obligatory team photo, while we were still fresh and unscathed - although some of us looked a little apprehensive - you can decide who!
The call was made and we all gathered at the start line behind our police escort. A total of 35 marathon runners gathered together from all states of Australia and even a couple of runners from overseas. I think we were all a little apprehensive particularly with the warm start, it was already 20C and it was only 6am! The gun went off we launched ourselves into the darkness - perhaps it was a good thing that we couldn't actually see exactly what we were letting ourselves in for.
My race plan was to run a sustained 5min30sec per kilometer - for as long as I could hold it. Thanks to my trusty Garmin GPS watch, kindly lent to me by my running buddy Phil I didn't have to do any difficult mental arithmetic to work out my pace - the Garmin would do it all for me and measure my heart rate as well! My other race plan was to get my drink bottle every 6km from the fantastic volunteers along the course. Erin and I started running together and as we headed out of town it grew darker as we left the town lights behind. We kept on running as the stars began to fade and the sky grew lighter. At about 10km into the run Erin decided that she needed to pick up the pace and went on her way.
Just before the 15km mark we turned off Larapinta Drive and headed onto Bulleen Road. This was quite a scenic section of the race with trees intermittently spread along the course, providing some much needed shade. Not long after the turn off I saw the first half marathon runners heading home. I was both pleased to see the other runners and give a cheery shout of encouragement (and receive one in return) but also quite envious of these runners knowing how far I had come and how far I still had to go! At this point I also saw Elisabeth heading home and she took an action shot of me running!
It was with much relief that I finally saw the 21.1km turn around at 1h55min - not too bad considering my first ever half marathon I ran in 1h58min and then I got to stop. This time I still had 21.1km to go! I was still feeling okay at this point and very happy to have made it that far. I was marking off the kilometers and keeping an eye on my pace. Still travelling at the speed I wanted but the heat was beginning to become an issue for me. It was at this point that I was starting to look forward to seeing the water stations every 3km, I would grab my water bottle and drench myself with water to keep cool.
I finally hit Larapinta Drive at about 27km and was really looking forward to reaching 30km. I reached that mark and then hit 32km in 2hr54min. This meant I had 66min to run 10km and finish the marathon in under 4 hours - that speed was well within my capability - under normal conditions. But this was far from normal conditions, having already run 32km at race pace and with the temperature rapidly rising - probably already in the mid to upper 20s at this point!
I continued steadily running until 33km when I finally conceded that I had two choices. Continue running as best I could, and more than likely suffer a dizzy spell and potentially collapse (and be unable to finish the race) OR take deliberate walk breaks and hopefully be able to finish the marathon in one piece. In previous races I had ignored the warning signs and suffered for it, so I took the smarter but slower option and chose to slow it down. I walked the inclines and tried my best to run the flat and downhill sections. I got quite excited when I saw the 'Welcome to Alice Springs' sign and then the 90km sign, followed by the 60km - I had reached the city limits. I distinctly remember reaching the 39km mark at 3hr 48min, only 3km to go - but the longest 3km of my life! I think it was at the 39km water station there was a lovely man who had a plastic watering can that he offered to soak the runners with. I readily agreed and he jumped up on a little stool and proceeded to pour cooling water over me - it was great.
I finally made it to 41km, with only 1km to go I decided that I would run the whole kilometer - well let's just say I attempted to run the last kilometer but didn't quite manage it. However, when I turned the final corner and saw the Coolrunning crew cheering me on I was motivated to sprint those final few meters (okay it probably didn't look like a sprint - but I gave it all I had). I crossed the finish line of the Alice Springs Marathon in a time of 4 hours and 9 minutes. Not a bad effort when you consider that it was the hottest ever Alice Springs Marathon and the fact that I was completely shattered - there was absolutely nothing left! And now I have a really cool trophy to prove it!
PS It's a good thing I taught my Mum how to google stalk since she found my finish line picture on the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club website!!
PPS Thanks Greg. for letting me 'borrow' the cool profile of the Alice Springs Marathon Course!