Training has been going well throughout January (must have been the hype of all my new year’s running resolutions). I managed to clock 195km for the month! That alone put me in the right frame of mind for the the PnP Marathon; believing that anything is possible – that I have the power to push as hard as I wanted to.
My Comrades training was based around the fact that I wanted the use the Vaal Marathon as my qualifier on the 3rd of March, but because I would now run the Rome Marathon on the 17th of March my coach suggested PnP Marathon as a long run instead and used the Rome Marathon as my qualifier. Talk about pressure! 🙂
I tried to avoid running the PnP Marathon as I’ve heard so many stories and the reviews that I read all indicated that it is a tough marathon. Nedbank”s Runner’s Guide sums it up as follows “This is a good build-up to Comrades, with just enough hills and undulations to make you realise that a lot more training is needed in the next two months!” Enough detail to scare any Comrades novice. On top of that, it is a double lapper. I don’t like running those from a mental perspective. I find it really hard – you need a lot of will power not to bail at the half-way mark!
I psyched myself up for this PnP Marathon. Finishing it was not an issue…just how well? I wanted to have a sub-5hr marathon in my bag before I left for Rome. I have trained hard enough to believe that I could do it. My couch told me to take it easy during the first half, float along; to focus during the second half and to make sure I stay hydrated. Really, Comrades is not going anywhere. I am on a journey and have come a long way already. No pressure 🙂
But with marathons you never know, so many things can happen on the day, and did they! The course for one turned out to be 700m longer! What a “vloek”! My unofficial time was 4:58:57 (calculated by Adam; no arguing that!)
PnP Marathon Race Re-Cap: Official time: 5:03:40
Adam came with me to the race. That meant I could be calm in the car and focus, not stressing about parking and traffic. As it turned out, traffic was SLOW to the venue. It was 15mins before the start and suddenly people started to jump out of their cars to make their way to the start. I needed the bathroom urgently. There was no way I could wait till we find parking and then go look for a toilet and then go to the start; so I also jumped out of the car…all the rush for nothing because then they announced the race will start 10mins later. Good for me, I relaxed and focused on starting SLOW.
The first 8km was hard, my legs were just heavy, my calves felt sore (I even thought about just doing the 21.1km!!!) but I seemed to have found my rhythm at about 12km. For the first 20km I did not focus on the time too much, just made sure I came in at 7min/km or below.
The strategy was to take it easy during the first half. Wanted to do even splits of 7mins/km for the first 30km and then do the last 12km in 1hr30. I felt I was heading in the right direction, but in hindsight an even split approach was probably wrong for that profile. I probably should have run faster between 20km and 30km! Maybe a 6:30 pace. Even though I hit my time target for 30km it became increasingly more difficult to maintain an average pace 7min/km between 25-30km.
The double lapper was something else to deal with; not as bad as I anticpated; but demotivating at the least. I remember seeing the 33km mark when I past a spot the during the first lap, and after 30km was looking forward to get there because it was shady and fairly flat…but it just seems like that 3km was taking FOREVER!
I told Adam to wait for me at the 32km mark, have never been so glad to see him. I was too tired to talk so him. He know me so well, knew exactly what I needed. I slowed down a bit to down my concoction; needed that break! I could see Adam was so impressed that I was hitting my targets and that I was still running so strong. On this course there was two cut-off points, something I did not know about (probably a good I did not, less to stress about before the race). The cut-offs were at the 34 and 37km. I told him to wait for me at the 37km. I was not worried about the cut-off because I was running well within my time. But it would be psycologically good for me knowing he was waiting for me there. I started to relax a bit. Getting to 34 was hard, I don’t know why. All I could think of was that I was now running for 4hrs …34km later. 1hr left and 8km to go! I was feeling tired, but still had energy to push hard for that last hour. I just needed to focus to hit my 7min/km and I would be home free…celebrating!
I reached 37km strong. 5km to go…35mins, exactly 7min/km! The last 5km was just TOUGH! Required me to COUNT ALOUD. Strange how, when you are under pressure you can only focus on the simple things. I could only count to 20. I wanted to do striders but did not have the mental strength to count beyond the twenties. A little bit of an uphill as you approach the field. Damn, an unbelievable fight between me and that urge to start to walk! I knew if I walk I was not going to make it. Believe it or not I finished the last km…running exactly 7min/km. I feel like I have become the queen of pacing :-). So exact….so freaking close!!
I am just blessed with the most amazing husband. He supported me through-out the whole race. I could not have run this race as well as I did without his support…even running sections with me during those last 5km! It was awesome, the perfect race :-). I miss running with Adam, I can’t wait till he is fully recovered and we can do our long runs together. It is just so much more fun and the victory so much sweeter if you can share it with someone that understands!
Important learnings from this race
Fueling – I tested the Perpetuem the weekend before the race during my 90min Sunday run. I only had one of the chews so I was not sure how my stomach will react if I had more so I decided to go half Perpetuem and half GU. Seems to have done the trick from a fueling perspective, I am just wasting my time with GU because it is so difficult for me to get them down. That was definitely the last time I am using it in a race. The Perpetuem comes with its own challenges :-). It is big and it makes you very thirsty, you need to start chewing it before you get to the water table. But it is easy to carry and I don’t stress about taking it. My next race I want to see how it goes if I only use that.
Hydration – Between taking the GU and looking for water to down the Perpetuem at 18km, I forgot about the Hydrassist in my pocket. Did not want to fiddle with mixing that as well :-). I asked Adam to meet me at 32km and bring it made up for me, seemed to have done the job cause I remained cramp free…
Cramping – I did not have any cramps, my left calve muscles got a bit fatigued after 37km and I probably could have pushed harder, but was so scared of getting a cramp because I could feel a spasm everytime I started to push harder, especially at 40km. Really did not want to risk ANYTHING so late in the race
Garmin – Garmin 700m out! Notice it was also the case with DisChem, 400m out. It is either because I stand too far back at the start or I am really not running in a straight line (700m is a lot!); drove me nuts after a while because I had to do some time adjustments in my head, if you ask me this was one of the big culprits of the day…thought about resetting it so many time. In hindsight, should have taken my coach’s advice and just left the watch at home :-)!
Well in REAL hindsight (as I have discovered the next morning via twitter…there was nothing wrong with my Garmin!) Turned out the course was 700m longer!!!! My unofficial time for this marathon would have been 4:58:57! Damn that would have been just sweet! I suppose it was not meant to be.
10km – 1:09; 20km – 1:09; 30km – 1:12; 40km – 1:14; .2km – 14:40 ….But then I still had that vloek of a 700m to go!???? I guess that’s why they said 42km CHALLENGE on the BIB and not marathon, it was longer :-)! Finishing in 5:03:40!
- great experience (I no longer have to just seek the easier flat course marathons) and a
- good lesson (it isn’t over until you’ve crossed that finish line!).
I am so hyped now, almost “over-confident”; scary how much power one good run can have on your confidence.
Nothing (other than an injury or cold) can stop me now from doing extremely well in Rome! SUPER MOTIVATED!
Quote of the day: “Don’t train until you get it right, train until you can’t get it wrong!”