I’ve always thought that with every race there is a new lesson to be learnt and challenges to overcome. Last Sunday definitely proved me right as I’ve learnt a great deal from the whole experience.
With only 5 weeks remaining until my first 100km ultra marathon I was keen to see how my body would cope running 50km on the road, so that had been the reason I signed up for this race. Well it was that, and also the heckling from my running mates who are always pushing me to have a go, of which I am very thankful.
So last Friday at lunchtime my friend Georgie drove us down to Canberra for the running festival. She was racing in the 10km on Saturday, along with Todd from SHRunners. There was quite a large group heading down for the events so we all planned to cheer them on during their race on saturday and then they would repay the favor on Sunday. However I felt like I was cheating them all as I knew I would be out there for the longest amount of time, as i was the only one from our group doing the ultra.
On Saturday we got up bright and early to head to the start and see them off. We raced around cheering them on at a few different points along the course and then saw them at the finish line for some final encouragement. Georgie got a new PB which was fantastic, and Todd was happy to finish as he’d been battling a cold all week prior to the race, as well as still being in recovery mode from a stack a few weeks back.
I was also lucky enough to spot an old family friend Jess as she ran over the finish line, as well at Matilda who had used my 10km entry bib to take part in the event. Originally I had signed up for the 10km course, however I had changed my mind closer to the event and had given her the entry as she was a local in Canberra and was keen to run when I contacted her.
The morning was lovely and when I got back to the hotel I decided to have a nap before the afternoon’s adventures, which consisted of going to watch the 3pm game of Raiders v Knights at GIO Stadium with Georgie & Todd, followed by 6pm dinner with our group to carb load.
I had a lovely penne bolognaise for dinner at the restaurant and got back to my hotel so I could be in bed by 9pm. I hadn’t slept well the night before so I was feeling very tired and wanted to get as much rest as possible.
My alarm went off at 4am on Sunday and I got up to have some toast and a banana for breakfast, as I wanted to make sure that I ate more than 2 hours before the race start time. So I went back to bed for 30 minutes after breakfast and then got up and prepared for the race. We were leaving the hotel at 5.20am to walk to the start line located just across the bridge about a 20 minute walk away.
There were quite a few people doing the half marathon and a few also doing the marathon, including two of our runners who were competing in their first ever marathon, Janet and Brendan. I was so glad that the marathoners and ultra runners were doing the same course too as it meant we got to run with them for the first 42.195km before heading to our extended lap around the lake.
Here’s a few of queuing outside the loos before the race, that’s me on the far right.
I ran into some of my Sydney Striders buddies and had a quick selfie with Emma who I have been lucky enough to share some trails with over the past 6 months. She was locked in for the marathon and I wished her well.
We did a few warm up stretches and made our way to the start line, the nerves were building and I couldn’t believe that I was going to do this. What was I thinking!! ha ha
I also ran into Tilly and Brendan at the start line and we had a quick photo before the gun went off. Tilly was unfortunately struggling with a cold (which later turned into Laryngitis, I still can’t believe she finished the race!) and Brendan was popping his marathon cherry!!
The gun went off and our first section ran around the Parliament house, here’s a shot I took as we ran up the first hill. If you look closely to the left of the screen you can spot a guy wearing his full army uniform, we saw him a few times and he didn’t even break a sweat. What a machine!
I also managed to get a selfie of myself and Rob from the Nike Sydney Store (below) as we ran up this first hill, it’s a bit blurred but not bad to say were were actually running when I took it.
It was at this point I handed my phone to our guys in the crowd, hopefully they would get some shots of me with in down the track. We wouldn’t see them again until about the 15km mark.
Rob and I ran a lot of the first 20km together, he’s quicker than me but was also using this run as a training event for TNF100. We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by Kathy (Kathleen I think) from the Sydney Striders. I had met her only the weekend before at the 10km race in Lane Cove where Simon had paced us all the way to the finish. Kathy was lovely and had a great sense of humour so it was really great to have her with us at this point too.
As we approached the 15km mark we were looking out for our crew and there they were. Todd, Georgie and Megan all cheering us along. It was so good to see them and take my mind of running for a moment.
It was this point that I finally felt warm and could feel myself getting into a rhythm. This course was going to be pretty flat so I wanted to make sure I concentrated on not thinking about my legs or my feet. Unfortunately my plan failed.
By the time I got to 21km Rob had taken off and was building his gap with every out-and-back section that we saw him. Go Rob! So it was Kathy and I who stuck together for a little bit longer, we chatted and laughed and made friends with some of the other runners around us. I always like trying to make them smile as runners can sometimes look so serious during a race.
Then I walked. I wasn’t even half way and I was walking. I was so angry at myself for walking but my head was struggling. I had to let Kathy go unfortunately and I tried to turn my thoughts more positive.
I ran. I walked. I ran. I walked. I walked. I ran. I walked.
BY the time I got to the 25km point the soles of my feet were aching and I felt like my feet were the size of balloons. Every step felt painful to the pads of my feet and I was struggling not to think about it. I probably should have done some longer distance road runs in the lead up got this race, as my feet clearly weren’t used to hitting the pavement after all the trails I’ve done lately. Mental note to self.
I kept running and walking, and where possible I ran on the grassed sections to alleviate some of the pain. It didn’t seem to be getting any worse but it felt like the soles of my feet were bruised all over. All I could think about was taking off my shoes.
Then I tripped on a long blade of grass and I felt pain in my groin in the same spot that had been giving me issues about a month back. This was not turning out to be a good day.
I shortened my gait to try and minimise the groin pain that had started and i’m pretty sure if there were any photos of me during the middle sections of the race there would not be a smile. But the sun was shining and I was determined to finish.
I ran. I walked. I walked. I walked. I ran. I walked.
There were many sections on the course where there was an out-and-back and you got a chance to see the other runners. This was the only thing that kept me going, knowing that my mates were out there enduring this too. There support and encouragement kept me in better spirits than I cold muster.
For the next 3 hours I Ran and walked and tried to stay positive. It was the toughest race of my life mentally, and I think I have even blacked out some of it as I don’t know what else to write here about that part of the race. It was flat, a few hills and undulating sections and the sun was shining.
Thankfully when I got to about the 37km mark a lovely man who was cheering on runners ran with me for about 1 km and we had a chat as he got me back running again. I don’t know who he was but I was very thankful. And as we went up over the hill I realised there was a large crowd of people ahead and it really lifted my spirits to see so many people out here supporting there loved ones.
This was a great mood lifter as it was an out and back and i knew that I would get to run through here again at about the 40km mark. So I kept running, and slowly overtook a few more people. I found a bit of a rhythm again and when I got back to the same part with the crowd I spotted Anne from work. I was so excited to see a friendly face and I gave her a hug as I ran around the corner. For the marathoners they only had about 2kms to go, so I cheered them on and wishes them well and did everything I could to not think about the pain in my feet and groin.
I made my way up around a roundabout and turned left, then heard a man with a speaker announcing Marathoners to the right, Ultra runners to the left up onto the bike path. I was running up on the grass at this point and the guy on the microphone encouragement me to get back down onto the pavement and onto the course. He didn’t know the pain in my feet but I did as he said and kept running.
I got to the section where the marathoners were heading for the finish and I saw Russell from the Striders, I yelled out and encouraged him to crank it to the finish line as I followed the path towards our final lap around the lake.
My brain was over it, I just wanted to be finished. But I ran and walked when I needed to and about halfway along this section I realised it was an out-and-back so I got to see many other ultra runners who looked like they were in as much pain as me. We all cheered each other on and this really helped my mood to lift a little. I had less than 10kms to go.
Then I saw Matilda, I was so happy to see her. She had even brought down her beautiful dog to cheer me on. I gave her a hug and kept running towards the turn around point. As I rounded the bend I made sure I’d let the other runners know they were close to the turn around too, I knew the boost would help lift their spirits too.
I followed the path and took a left back up onto a bridge and when I got to the other side I saw Matilda again. She had come along to run/walk this section with me and I cannot express how much I needed her company and smiley face right at that point.
She ran ahead and got a few photos for me and we chatted about her 50km run that had been in the very same section of the course.
So glad she got one of me smiling too. ha ha
I really enjoyed running with Matilda and talking to her so a big thanks to her for taking my mind away from the pain and putting the smile back on my face. I owe you honey!
I crossed the last bridge at the finish area was in my sights. All I could think about was the faster you get there the sooner you can take your shoes off. My get felt huge and I just wanted to sit/lay down. So I picked up the pace and then all of a sudden Parker was next to me running and cheering me on, he was a friend Karie’s from run club husband and a good runner too. He told me I had shot last him while he had been keeping an eye out so had to sprint to catch up. How lovely of him to be there.
Then I got closer to the line and Rob came to run with me too. I felt bad as he was trying to talk to me but I didn’t really have any words left and I was out of breath trying to speed up for the finish. Poor Rob, I hope he didn’t think I was ignoring him. I was just stuffed.
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Then i rounded the last U-turn and could hear all my crew cheering and waving and I couldn’t believe that I had made it. I sprinted the finish and overtook a couple of people in front of me. I’m not sure where the last spurt came from but I was so glad to have stuck it out and made it to the finish line.
Me with my first ‘Ultras Marathon’ medal 🙂
How cool was the medal!?!?
I grabbed some water and some bananas and got hugs from all of my team mates who cheered me up with their smiley faces. I owe so much to these guys for always supporting and encouraging me in the lead up to this race and many others. I love running with you guys and I know I can always count on you.
We went back to the hotel and showered and then headed for a recovery meal at the same place we’d had brekkie the day before. It was delish!!
Janet and Brendan had both smashed their first marathons (front left) and I loved hearing their stories about the race. We congratulated each other and said our goodbyes. I look forward to seeing them all again at run club in just over a week.
Georgie and I headed back to her car and much to her surprise that I didn’t fall asleep in the car on the way home, we chatted all the way and scoffed down some pizza for dinner when we got to my place. Best pizza ever!!
Looking back I’m not sure why I was so hard on myself about how slow my run had been. I hadn’t been my fastest, but I’ve learnt that I can go on even when my body and head are telling me to stop. And I’m so glad that I pushed through because my legs and feet are feeling a million times better today (Wednesday) and my groin pain has gone al together. Though I know that I have lots more stretching and cross-training to do over the next few weeks so that my legs can recover fully.
Only 2 weeks until the Mt Solitary Ultra in the Blue Mountains, bring it on!!
Happy Running 😀
Thank you so much 🙂
Loved reliving the weekend all over again in your eyes Hails! Great race report, you’re a champion!
Thanks gorgeous, such a fun weekend (even though parts of it were painful). Happy Running 😀