The Glenbrook Trail Marathon has been on my “to do” for a few years. However, it was always on a date that didn't work. One year the choice was a) wedding anniversary or b) run a marathon (or to rephrase it “stay happily married or run a marathon”).
2014 saw it fall on Sunday August 24 – a day and week end totally free of any commitments. A miracle. The appropriate marital leave forms were submitted early and were approved by the lovely Cait. Of course the moment I actually paid and entered, a 50th birthday jumped out of nowhere for the Saturday. My leave pass needed to be reassessed, but it was still all good. I just needed to leave the party at 9.30pm before I turned into a pumpkin. The Saturday night was cold and miserable, so leaving early wasn't too bad an option. So on the dot of 9.30 pm (sort of) and after only two beers (sort of) it was home to bed.
Waking at 4.15am I was all bouncy. I read about others being nervous before an event, but I slept so well. The weeks leading up to the race had been constant rain, and it was dark and cloudy as I head off, but just as I turned off the M7 and head west to the Blue Mountains, the clouds parted and the most beautiful sunrise began - and only got better as the day went on. It became a lovely warm and toasty day indeed.
In previous years before Glenbrook, I had run 6 Ft Track and Glow Worm Tunnel trail marathons. Both took over 5 ¾ hours . Today I was hoping to break 5 hours, but I wasn't too cocky. Trails, hills, and single track have a habit of smashing you. My training had gone well though, and I had had a screaming run on the last Wednesday night run. I wondered was I able to run that well for 42 km ?
To add a bit more spice, I had been joking about not getting “chicked” by Hannah, Karin and Alison. Hannah has a killer 21km time, and Alison keeps up with her pretty well (as my super secret STRAVA spying indicated). Karin is crazy and keeps on improving. I had my work cut out – but it added a nice spice to proceedings.
Pre-race was all chatty and buzzy. Definitely the most relaxed and social start I have ever had to an event. 7.30am we lined up, someone said something about the course (hope it wasn't important because I couldn't hear a word), then we were off. We kind of went wandering all around – tracks, trails, creeks, up, down, then suddenly we were on open fire trail. I had decided not to hang around the back today and to push things harder than ever. Sub 5 hour or bust. The big plus to this was not getting stuck behind slower runners (lots walking already). - the minus being I did feel like maybe a had gone a bit too hard. Only one way to find out. Shut up and keep running.
Next was the big climb up to Mt Portal Lookout. It was nice passing so many people dying on the hill, but it did make me wonder again was I going too hard ?
One of the mysteries of a run with 25/ 34/ 42km options is that you never know who is doing what - who is out to race, who is out to wander about, who is aiming for a fast time, who is dawdling. It is difficult to assess your own effort by others. I reached the turn around at Mt Portal happy with the shape I was in, and began heading back. In my head, Hannah was probably hanging back with Alison who was running her first marathon, so I didn't need to keep pushing so hard to avoid being “chicked”. Those two are such good friends, they are probably chatting away, Hannah kindly offering words of encouragement. Wrong. “Hi Rob”. Hannah had her race face (smiling assassin) on as she steamed towards the turnaround only moments behind me. Suddenly Alison was there as well, and soon after Karin. Game on. Can't relax now.
About this time my two large coffees and sipping water on the drive up became an issue. A nice quick downhill run did absolutely nothing to help my bladder and I had to head off trail for a quick break – at which point Hannah tore past me.
Getting back on the trail, I settled in to keeping up with Hannah. I did, but it hurt. We hit a long downhill section of single trail. I upped the pace, but still couldn't catch her as she ran like a mountain goat. Then we hit the tricky track to Red Hands Cave. This is extremely technical and I finally caught and passed her (all my night runs paid off). However, I knew the course had lots of road running, and she is so much faster than me and plenty of time to leave me for dead. I didn't really have a problem with being beaten, and it was a great bit of fun to keep me pushing.
We hit the open trail and settled into about 25km of hard slog. Some didn't like this part but I was happy just to be out on some nice trails through the Aussie bush as the sun shone warmly down. It was lovely day for a bushwalk (but silly me, I was running).
I have read that you can't really teach running. True in part, but also rubbish. This course had lots of long steady inclines, and a lot of runners had such long clumpy strides. Thump ! Thump ! Thump ! Every time they hit an incline they slowed down. Like a good little trail runner I shortened my stride and kept my cadence steady (or even increased it). Pit pat pit pat. One fellow was doing his best to hold me off. We hit a downhill and he would go thumping past me trying to maintain his long stride. The trail would rise and I would go sneaking ahead. Pit pat pit pat. We kept this unspoken battle going for several km until he went “uuhh” and started walking. I kept on pit pat pit pat.
One of the enjoyable aspects of this course was the occasional crossing paths with the elite runners. The guys and gals with those quick legs and lovely clean strides, those things that some lucky folks are just born with *sigh* and us mere mortals can only dream about. No tired shuffling, even though their faces showed they were running out of their skins.
Heading back from Nepean Lookout I was wondering how much lead I had on Hannah. “Hi Rob”. A very short lead. “Hi Rob”. Alison as well ? Her first marathon ? Really ? Glad I didn't have money on the race. I also passed Karin who wasn't too close behind but still had the energy to give me a fake Hi 5 and ran off laughing. If she wasn't so busy having fun she could be so much faster.
Finally reached the last aid station. 5km to go. YAY ! Big shout out to the aid station helpers. “5km to go” I yelled. “no, its 7km” was the answer. WHAT ! It seems that Glenbrook is actually 44km, not 42. I hoped it was a joke because I was just hanging in there – but they weren't kidding. I had been chasing a girl with red hair to drag me along, but she dropped me like a turd at the aid station. Then I had a brain fart and just wanted to slow down just so badly.
At this point I was just constantly assessing myself. My breathing, my sense of effort, my legs, my cadence. Keep tall and don't slouch. Don't get sloppy. Trying to maintain a steady pace. Amazing how much it can take your mind off the pain (for a while) and helps to distance the hurt. Like meditating and being the self who watches. In my head I looked like Usain Bolt. Video replays might suggest I looked like Cliffy Young having a bad day – but its what's in your head that counts !! All this works for a while and then BANG ! The pain returns. So you start all over again.
Throughout the run I had been running a cracking (for me anyway) pace. My brain started doing sums that kept saying that if (big if) I could keep my same pace for the last 15km I would do the 44km in under 4 ½ hours. One voice was saying “don't worry, it's still under 5 hours, doesn't matter if you get chicked, slow down, this hurts”. The other voice was kicking my butt and saying “if you slow down now you will be so bummed about five minutes after you finish” - and I knew that voice was right (the voice sounded suspiciously like Gavin Markey and Michael Sims combined). When I finally hit that last km I got the biggest rush and flew to the finish (well maybe I flew like a penguin). 4:22 ! Didn't get chicked ! - but damn it was close. Those girls are tough to beat. I suspect they would have crushed me in the 25km event. I definitely know I wouldn't have run so hard without the “chick challenge”. Thanks girls.
|Not too hard to guess which one is me|