Date: 20 September 2019
Previous: 2017 (inaugural)
On Friday morning, shortly after breakfast, the power suddenly went out. That was when it dawned on us that council scheduled a power outage from 8:30 until 3pm. The house needed a vacuum, the washing machine was halfway through its cycle, the dishes needed cleaning, we hadn’t showered yet and I was still going to cook us something for the road and dinner. We couldn’t wait until after 3pm, so out came the broom while I was cussing away at the wall-to-wall carpet. Oh, how I hate thee! It’s just a breeding ground for allergies and impossible to truly clean. No matter how much water and soap you throw at it, unless you have suction that can peel the carpet off of the floor, you won’t be getting all the crap out. Ever. Well, that’s my take on it anyway.
Luckily we have a gas stove, so for the remainder of the morning we were boiling kettle after kettle, to wash up and clean, cook quinoa and beef (for a salad with pickles and roasted capsicum), and make coffee for the road. By 12pm we were on our way to the sunny Bay of Plenty.
It’s about a five hour trip, but add a couple of stops and it easily stretches to six or seven hours. We arrived at the race HQ (near the finish) to collect our free caps at about 6:30 as the sun was setting. Good mate Rob offered us lodging, and we finally made it to his at about 7:30pm. We poured a glass of wine, had some carbo-loading salad, while catching up, and also nibbling on nuts and chips. It was close to 11pm when I finally made my way through the shower and into bed.
At 6am we were up, getting ready for the day ahead. Even though we all paid for the buses, we decided between us and Rob to have a car each at the start and finish. I still clearly remember the first time we did this event at the inaugural in 2017, the bus dropped us off hours before the start of the race, and sitting around waiting I was freezing my butt off.
Since UTA in the middle of May we’ve covered a measly 27.6km/week on average over the last 18 weeks, according to Strava. One shouldn’t look at these things – it just confirms what you already suspect, but hope is not the case. That amount of training should get you comfortably through a 10km. We were well and truly undertrained and only a small miracle, and a whole heap of the mental game (denial, stubbornness, she’ll be right) could get us through the 42.2km.
On the positive side, the weather could not have been more perfect. It was warm enough that Gerry (as most other people) was comfortable enough with just a T at the start. I, on the other hand, was still wearing a long sleeve, which ended up begin a bit too warm after a few kilometres. Hanging around the starting shoot, and catching up with friends was fun. The portaloo queue was miles long, but luckily Rob stopped at a nearby mall for a pre-run wee on the way over.
As we’ve neglected our running, so I’ve also neglected my mobility and strength training somewhat, getting onto the foam-roller far less than I had hoped in recent months. My hip is not 100% and I have a couple of other niggles to round it off. But the show must go on.
Shortly before race briefing, we made our way to the back of the field (so couldn’t hear a single word of it). If I have a choice I’d rather pass others, than be passed. Not that any of this matters as we will be at the back of the field anyway.
I’ve mentioned this before, but in 2008 when we were on the fourth day of a five day stage race, someone mentioned in passing “run bits, walk bits, you’ll get there”. At that stage we were tired, riddled with blisters, and every muscle in my body was aching. I was hell-bound on not taking pain killers (I prefer to do it on my own steam and not be numbed by pills or anti-inflammatories, which is the worst thing you can do anyway). It was late in the afternoon already when we passed this wise supporter or volunteer (I’m not sure which, but we saw him occasionally out on the course throughout the week). His words has stayed with me since and whenever I go through a difficult patch, I always think of it. Call it a mantra if you like.
A run-walk strategy is nothing new. When we first started running in 2001, it was just part of the running wisdom that you walk through the water points. The tables were quite spread out with the fields usually being very big (in the thousands), and water points every 3kms. It is part of the ASA rules to have a water point every 3 to 4kms (all organisers went for 3kms) and to this day, I still think it’s a good strategy. With the water tables so spread out, one could easily walk for a hundred metres or more, and sometime you had to as things were just too congested.
Given our unfortunate lack of fitness, I devised a plan to jog 1.6km, and walk 400 metres for every two kilometres. That meant that we would walk about 8km in total. If that takes 1.5 hours, and I can manage to do the run bits at a 6:45 pace, I could potentially finish in about 5:10. It sounded a bit ambitious, which it also turned out the be. We started off by jogging the first 2km before our first 400 metres walk break. This worked well, and we even managed to catch up and pass the 5 hour pacer. All was going well and 5 hours seemed reachable. But, I know very well that the last 10kms of a marathon are just about as tough as the first 32, and things can change drastically nearer the end.
When we reached the mount, I went to the loo to take off my long sleeves and the 5 hour pacer came past, never to be seen again. Around the mount the breeze was almost a bit too cool, but I managed okay. This was also the place where our run-walk strategy went a bit pear-shaped. When we were due to run, we were on an uphill, and when we had a walk break, it was downhill. It’s always more difficult to stick to a rigid run-walk strategy when the course is hilly. We passed a guy lying on the ground three-quarters around the mount. A good few people and medics were tending to him, and chatting to friends afterwards who were way ahead of us he must have been lying there for quite some time.
After looping the mount, we sort of got back into the initial run-walk plan, through the industrial area, but a few other things derailed it once more. The second half also has a few hills and out-and-back sections where it was also easier to walk the uphills and run down. The course changed since our last running (going the other way, thus finishing in the city instead of starting there) and I believe it also changed from last year. So, a new course every year since the inaugural three years ago. It has also changed hands to new organisers (Running Events).
To be honest, I’m not super excited about all the out-and-back and dog-leg sections to make up the distance. One of the out-and-back sections was on a particularly narrow path, and was open to the public. Apart from having to be on the lookout for runners/walkers coming from the front, one also had to be cautious of bikes, kids, prams and people walking their dogs (this also goes for the trip around the mount and all other walkways).
Aside from these small issues everything was well organised and ran very smoothly. There were lots of marshals out on the course and everybody was very enthusiastic and supportive cheering everyone on. The water points on the first half had water and R-Line electrolyte and energy drink, and on the second half there were also bananas, cookies and Coke which was fantastic. I was very nauseas from quite early on and the Coke did wonders to settle my tummy while also providing the necessary energy. I’m beginning to think that nausea has a lot to do with exerting yourself beyond your abilities (effort and speed) in terms of what you can “stomach”, and less with the food you eat before and during the event. This includes things like heat when you’re not used to it.
We finally reached the start of the 10km event where we followed a lovely stretch around the marina on a walkway and boardwalks in the marsh. A final stretch next to SH2 brought us back to the city centre, crossing the road, under a bridge, and passing the final water station. With about 1km to go, we had another hill to walk up, just to come screaming down it the other end and into the finishing shoot.
Very happy to have made it, we collected our gigantic medals and equally oversized finishers T-shirts. Unfortunately, the organisers decided to make the prize-giving only 3:20 hours after the start (only 20 of the 320 marathon participants were in time), so the bulk of the field obviously missed it. Even some of the half marathon participants (who started with us) missed the prize-giving (about 35 in total).
Rob and Mary were waiting for us at the finish, and we all went for drinks at the closest pub. Unfortunately I had a terrible headache by then (stress? heat? exhaustion? dehydration? a combination? who knows) so wasn’t the best of company. Luckily after a good long shower, a Nuun electrolyte and a lie down for a few minutes, I felt good as gold.
We had a lovely dinner with Rob and Mary, before heading over to Mary’s to watch the rugby and only got back to Rob’s at about 1am. After a good, deep sleep, I was surprised to wake up without any pain. We were obviously going slow enough, and combined with the little bits of tissue work I still do whenever possible, it seemed to have done the trick. We went for a walk on the beach, before making out way back home.