"It's a treat being a runner, out in the world by yourself with not a soul to make you bad-tempered or tell you what to do." - Allan Sillitoe

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rottnest Marathon Race report

Pretty disasterous apart from the fact that I managed to finish and hold on for 5th place. Under estimated how tough the course and the conditions were and set my time goals too high and then went out a bit too fast. My knee held until 30km and then went from OK to stuffed within a minute. Limped through the next 5km before settling into a chopped stride for the last 7km to the finish. Got passed with 2km to go to slip from 4th to 5th.

Splits as follows:

4km - 15.45

10km - 40.50

20km 1.23.21 (previous 10km in 42.30)

Half 1.28.11

25km - 1.45.05 (previous 5km in 21.03)

30km - 2.08.22 (previous 5km in 23.16)

35km - 2.34.10 (previous 5km in 25.48)

40km - 2.59.38 (previous 5km in 25.27)

42.2 - 3.09.55 (2.2km in 10.17)

Pace already dropping to 4.30/km pace before knee went but knee pushed me out over 5.00/km.

Pleased I didn't drop out but annoyed at a poor performance and my least enjoyable marathon by far.

Despite all the problems I had with my knee, I was running pain free by the time of the race and decided to trust my training to get me through at 4.00/km pace.  I had got myself into a groove where I felt that at my race pace I was running comfortably below my threshold at that pace and that even if I couldn't hold that pace, I could hold that below threshold effort.

Lead up to the race was perfect.  We travelled over on the Friday afternoon and stayed at the Rottnest Lodge in one of the quod rooms (the old prison part).  Bit of a squeeze with all four of us in one room but very nice and cool with the really thick walls of the old prison.  Our room was 4 cells which had been converted into a big bedroom and ensuite.

My brother and his family came over as well staying at the Winnit Club camp with the huge benefit being that we could prepare our own evening meals.  I cooked pasta both Friday and Saturday night, a spaghetti bolognaise on Friday and a Tuna Penne on Saturday.  Along with my traditional footlong Subway roll for lunch on the Saturday and the same pre race nutrition from Boston, I felt like I was perfectly carbo loaded and hydrated.

Despite the good forecast, the very hot 37 degrees on Saturday produced humid conditions on Sunday and stronger winds than were forecast.  In hindsight there were a lot of signals that I should have reset my goals but I managed to ignore all of them.  I wish that I had sought out the advice of more experienced marathoners (or a coach) the day before and discussed my race plans rather than ploughing on regardless.

6am start and I was very surprised (and more than a little embarrassed) to find myself well in front for the first 200m without feeling like I was doing anything more than running.  Thankfully this was only brief as Stephen Courtney (State Marathon champ), Steve McKean and Mark Page (6 time Rottnest winner and twice second at Comrades) soon came to the front.  We went through the first km in 3.55 which was quicker than I wanted but I was prepared to go a few seconds faster (or slower) so that I could run in a group.  A good theory but I picked the wrong group to do it with.

We went through 4km in 15.45 and while I still felt comfortable, they had just been warming up and Mark Page led through 5km as a small gap opened between myself and the other two.  By the time were heading out on the Causeway for the first time, I was running on my own and I saw Mark Page slow to allow the other two to catch him up and then they pushed on as a group into the headwind.  There was a big gap between myself in 4th and the runners behind and I wasn't in a position to run with anyone else.

So it was a lonely slog through the first full lap as I went through 10km in 40.50.  By this stage I wasn't running by my watch at all, I was runing purely on that below threshold race pace effort that I believed I could maintain (or would try my hardest to maintain for the full distance).  My pace dropped a bit further over the next 10km as I went through a bit of a bad patch from 13-18km and I went through 20km in 1.23.21 and then the halfway mark in 1.28.11.  If I had run an even pace to get to half way in 1.28 I would have been very happy but I hadn't, but my pace was still under 4.15/km pace (ie sub 3hours) from 20-25km.

Jon Pendse (who ran a very smart and perfectly paced race - by my calculations 1.28/1.32 splits) passed me just after the half way point and put a few hundred metres on me over the next 8km.  By the time we were getting close to the 30km mark, my too quick start was starting to take effect but once Jon was gone and I stopped stressing about thinking that I should be pushing on to try to close the gap, I went through a couple of kms where I felt that I had settled into a rhythm and pace that I could maintain hopefully through to the finish.

As the course approaches Geordie Bay there is a long but gentle downhill before a long but gentle climb up to the cottages at Geordie Bay (where we had stayed in January).  Over the course of a minute on the downhill, my knee went from feeling fine, to the complete deep stabbing pain that I had experienced a couple of weeks ago.  It just came out of nowhere and although I continued running, I was now limping and my pace slowed accordingly.

The big downhill from Geordie Bay was very painful and I was contemplating pulling out when I got back to the settlement as I wasn't sure I could limp my way through another full lap for the last 10km.  Mark Page had pulled out at the start of the third lap so although Jon had long since passed me, I was in fourth place and couldn't see the fifth place runner when I glanced back.  I'm not a quitter and my doctor had told me that I couldn't do any permanent damage and that I could continue to run if I could put up with the pain so I decided that while I could keep running, I would keep going.

There was a small lap that we did every time we came back to the settlement before heading out again and as I went out on the last lap, I saw Kevin Matthews in fifth place starting that small lap.  I estimated that was about 700-800m in front of him with about 10km to go.  By chopping my stride considerably, I was able to run without limping but because I couldn't open up my stride I couldn't go any quicker.  Aerobically I felt great although my body was pretty much at its limit.

It was basically just a hard grind on the last lap, waiting to be passed.  Kevin passed me just before we headed down the hill from Geordie Bay with about 2km to go.  I tried to pick up my pace to peg him back once we got onto the flat stretch around the lake before getting back to the settlement but I couldn't make any ground and in the end I decided to conserve something in case the 6th placed runner appeared.

I finished in 3.09.55 so not my slowest marathon but definitely my least enjoyable and hardest.  I really was kidding myself thinking that I could run with the lead pack and all I did was put myself into a position where I was running on my own once they picked up the pace.  Maybe if I hadn't had such a disrupted taper, I would have been able to hold it together for longer but I suspect that I was always struggling once my ITB injury occurred a few weeks back and when it came on during the race, it wouldn't have mattered how fast I was going, it was going to wreck my race.

So on the one hand, I'm disappointed but on the other I'm pleased I didn't drop out and pretty pleased to have finished 5th which is my highest placing in a WAMC event.  It was fantastic having my family there, including my brother and his family supporting and cheering me on and that was a major factor in me not dropping out (especially in front of my own kids).  I've never been so pleased to stop running though which will make for a very average finish line photo.  My knee was very sore at the finish even after I got ice onto it pretty much straight away.  Tender to touch and now pretty swollen despite a decent amount of ibruprofen since the race finished.

Rottnest is a hard, hard course.  I think it is tougher than Boston and I'm not sure I would do it again.  I'm never going to be the sort of person who does more than 1 or 2 marathons a year, so I can't imagine that the masochistic element of testing myself on a course like that is going to be an attraction in the future.  I've done 3 marathons now, the last two being pretty hard ones so I'm pretty keen to do a flat fast one or two next.  At Rottnest, it's always going to be windy and you're probably going to be running on your own.  For me, that's not much fun.

For now though, it's going to be a longish period (I suspect) getting rid of this ITB injury so I envisage I'll be sticking to shorter distances for a while.  We have airline tickets to the Gold Coast coinciding with next year's marathon (July) but luckily there is a half and a 10km as well if my knee takes longer than it should to get better.

Sorry this isn't a more positive report but it wouldn't be an honest one if it was.  Thanks to all my family for their support and getting me through this one and also to my friends through running in person and through this and other blogs.  I think putting yourself out there on a blog makes you accountable in one respect but it also gives you the chance to benefit from the encouragement and advice of others and I certainly have.



trailblazer777 said...

Well done! It certainly can be a tough course. The Rottnest marathon experience...A lot to work with there. Congratulations on making the top 5!
All the best for the future.

Clown said...

Well done on gutsing it out and finishing, you can now say you've finished 5th in a Marathon.

Hope the knee sorts it outself out quickly, enjoy the rest and hopefully will see you on the track soon.

Epi said...

Tough race BM - congrats on toughing it out.

For mine, you did the right thing. If it were another time of year and there was another target Marathon a month or two away you may have considered not running, but theres nothing for six months realistically, so you had to go for it.

Similarly with pacing, you wouldn't have been happy going out more conservatively (apart from the first km) and the ITB would have got you anyway.

The big PB will come next year.

Simon Elliott said...

I'm with Clown - well done for gutsing it out and finishing.

I never could quite work out why you wanted to run Rottnest in the first place..! Sounds like the place for breezy recovery runs (the intervals I've done there have always felt like wind sprints).

I agree with your comments at the end too; it's time to target a race known for being quick and Gold Coast is definitely that race.

nick ward said...

So Proud of you for Gutsing it out mate!
Ray Boyd said to me at the start of the race that it was going to be really tough (which I new after running the 10km there x 4)
I love the way you didn't let the idea of the tough course vary your goals.
You are a tough little bastard aren't you!
Rest now mate and let your knee get better - so you can run 2.50 in the Gold Coast.
ps Trust me from experience, let it heal, there is still plenty of time for hard training......Once it has healed.
Well Done Bro!

sRod said...

Many congrats on what appears to be a very tough race.