Monday, May 17, 2010

Ground Zero - Marathon complete!

Well first things first. I completed my first marathon yesterday, and I have a new found respect for everyone who has completed one in the past, fast or slow. I am quite satisfied with finishing, but it was not done without experiencing the "wall" that you hear so much about.

This was not entirely unexpected. My training has dropped off in the last month due to that little thing called life getting in the way, so I went into the run expecting to be a little underdone. My longest training run was 27km, so there was always going to be a large unknown going into a run that's 18km longer than my previous best (the great ocean road marathon is actually 45km).

The first 30km went quite smoothly. I had the usual ebbs and flows, but my fastest kilometres were actually around the 28km mark. I was feeling pretty good, quite strong, and wouldn't have blown out a candle. And then I saw it. At first it was indistinguishable, almost a mirage. But as it came closer and closer, I recognised it for  what it was - the wall. For me it arrived at the 33-35km mark. As Jack and I grumbled and moaned our way through the last few kilometres, it felt like an eternity. It took us an eternity.

But we got there! And just when we thought we were all done, we had to trek the last 3 km to the official finish line. That my friends was pain. Sweet, delicious, I've just completed a marathon pain.

For the record, Jack and I crossed the line together in 3 hours, 48 minutes and some random number of seconds. I really wasn't paying that much attention to notice. A guy I was chatting to during the run said it's the toughest course he's run on, and he had run quite a few in Oz, so I'm not sure what that time would equate to on a flat course, but regardless I'm bloody stoked to have finished at all, never mind in under 4 hours. Kind of makes a mockery of my apparent VO2max prediction time of 2:41!

Lessons learned:

  1. The vibrams were quite impressive. My feet were a little tender, but I don't reckon that is any different to anyone else who ran in shoes. Afterall, I did run 18km more than I had previously. And the bonus - no blisters! No calf pain, no hot spots, overall my legs feel fine, with one major exception. Which brings me to lesson number 2...
  2. Aerobically I felt great. I think that part of the equation is working out nicely. The limiting factor for me was my thighs, which died a slow painful death, and were the reason for hitting the wall. More core and leg work in the gym I think. I felt as though I could have run a much faster time if my legs had come to the party. Perhaps a result of a lack of conditioning? I saw one guy take a novel approach to the thigh problem - he ran backwards on the downhills! This was only 25km in when I passed him, so I hope he made it to the finish line ok.
  3. Bandaids on the nipples - A+, top marks, straight to the top of the class. I discovered a few more places for chafing however - under the arms. That's a new one
  4. The home made gel was a winner. Never felt lacking for energy. Brendan Brazier's Thrive Diet book, thank you, thank you thank you.
  5. The great ocean road is freakin spectacular. The views were fantastic, and were the highlight of the run up until the 30km mark. After that, I could have been running through a war zone and I wouldn't have noticed.
  6. It would have been lunacy to attempt a marathon in barefoot only 4 months after starting barefoot running, so I'm glad I chickened out on that plan. It will happen, but I need more time.
  7. The camaraderie between runners on a marathon is amazing. I have had brief chats with people before on short runs, but this was something else. I chatted to one guy for half an hour, and it got me through a stage where I was struggling and finding it a bit tedious. And whenever someone was in pain (sometimes me, sometimes others), passing runners would pass on words of encouragement. The spectators were fantastic in their support too. It definitely makes a difference!
So now onto other runs. The Run Melbourne half in July, and the full marathon in November are the next targets, and I aim to hit both barefoot. For now though, some rest for these weary thighs!


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