Sunday, May 10, 2015

My first marathon

I ran my first marathon in the weekend! Sometimes I need to pinch myself because it feels like a dream, but then it has been a dream for some time - and I've finally accomplished it!

Here are the important details:

51st Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon
Mat time - 4:54:58
30/60 in 40-49 age group
244/461 females
761/1172 overall

Here's the gossip:

The night before
We travelled down to Rotorua after work on Friday evening, arriving a bit later than expected after getting stuck in a traffic jam out of Auckland, but just in time to pick up my number from registration. I had hoped to arrive early enough for a quick course recce but it was dark and we were all tired. We stayed at the Millenium Hotel near the start, and I'd do so again as it was so convenient and had the most comfortable bed ever.  I literally fell asleep as my head hit the pillow and had my best night's sleep in a long time, the night before the race when you usually don't!

Pre race
I got up at 6am and went straight down to the hotel breakfast, where I had two slices of white toast with honey, and 1/2 a weetbix with 2 canned apricots and milk.  Yes, I tried something new on race day!  I was a little bit nervous about this, but it was what appealed to my stomach at the time, and I am lucky enough that my digestion has never given me problems when running... yet.  I also had my usual coffee with rice milk that I bought from home. I then had a relaxing hot bath.  I like this to warm up my muscles and joints, and also to have some alone time to relax and focus on the race and my race plan. Once in my race gear it was all of a sudden time to head downstairs and to the start!

Nike cap
Under Armour 'Armour' Bra
YMCA singlet
Kori Kita ArohaNui running skirt
The North Face arm sleeves
Nike SportWatch
Adidas sweatband/nosewipe lol!
Nike hand-held drink bottle
Spibelt stuffed with phone/nutrition
Thorlo Experia socks
Mizuno Wave Rider 18's
One of the benefits of being a member of the YMCA marathon club is having access to their member's lounge before and after the race.  I met up with some training buddies and the 5hr pacers and headed down to the start line 10 mins before the start. It wasn't as cold as I expected and I debated whether to wear my arm sleeves or not, and whipped them off about a minute before - something I never regretted.

And then we were off! My aim was to follow the 5hr pacers until 32km, then up my tempo if I was feeling good. They started a bit fast, as I looked down at my watch to see 6:15 pace!  I didn't want to start too fast, so I eased off to what I felt was right for me and let them run ahead. They soon settled down to a similar pace as they were consistently around 200m ahead of me for those first few k's.

The course runs clockwise around Lake Rotorua, and the first few kilometres exit Rotorua city towards the Auckland turnoff, then into Ngongotaha village.  I saw Paul Charteris the race director of the Tarawera Ultra cheering runners on here, among many others. The crowd support around the course was great and locals really come out in droves! Soon after this you head into countryside as you approach the northern end of the lake.

The first hill I noticed was around 10km, and wasn't really much.  Someone was playing bagpipes at the top which was awesome, but it made this Southern girl a wee bit teary eyed.  I remember a nice little downhill, and the white balloons getting closer as we arrived at the flatter north end of the lake.  This portion is beautiful and scenic - views across the lake and back to Rotorua.  You can see how far you've come - and how far you have to go!  The distance never looked too far to me though, and I was feeling comfortable.

I caught up with the 5hr pacers around 16km at a drink station.  At drink stations I usually grabbed a water, walked 30 secs or so until I had quenched my thirst, then ran on.  At this one I operated super fast so I could stay with the group.  And I stayed with them until about 6km before the finish.

I have to give a shout-out to the pacers Simon and Patricia - they were awesome.  So encouraging and supportive. They checked on everyone, told stories, and clocked off every kilometre with a cheer.  I was glad to be with the group for the hills at Hamurana (20km) and Mourea (26km) as they kept a consistent pace.  The hills weren't too bad in my opinion, but I had run plenty of hills in training.

Around 25km I refilled my hand-held water bottle and my stomach was starting to rumble so I ate a couple of fruit finger biscuits.  I had taken gels at every 2nd drink station, but when I get hungry I need solids!

I don't remember much of the next few kilometres.  My L middle toe started to twinge inside my shoe like it was cramped, which irritated me a bit.  After all my ITB/knee issues and niggly hamstring it turns out to be a stupid toe on the day!  By now a few people were starting to walk and Simon mentioned that this is where you start passing the people feeling worse than you!

Well I was feeling good except for my toe which started giving me sharp pangs.  I stopped and loosened my shoelaces hoping it would help, (not much), and started to alter the placement of my foot to avoid the stabbing pain.  Every now and then I would limp and lag behind the group, but catch up again.  Eventually I took some Panadol.  (I had tucked a couple in my Spibelt 'just in case', mainly for my knees which tend to get sore around 25km and since they had never travelled 42km before I thought it may be prudent to have some - never in my life I thought it would be for a toe!)

Anyway it seemed to work a bit. There was a slight uphill where I felt tired and started to walk, mainly because a lot of other people were, but Simon encouragingly mentioned there was a downhill round the corner, so I started to run again.  We hardly stopped at the water stop with 6km to go, where I began to get motivated for the finish.  I think my pace picked up and Simon said go ahead at this pace if you feel good, so I did.

This stage of the race was flat and along what seemed like really long straight stretches of road, so I targeted the runners in front of me and gradually ran past each one. I giggled to myself when one guy said "Where did that YMCA runner come from" as I overtook his group!  I didn't know how long I could continue at this pace but I fought the urge to stop.  I did briefly stop a couple of times, but as soon as I started walking my toe had a shooting pain  - so I had to run!

During this time running alone I dug in and thought of those mantras that you are supposed to have ready:

You can do this!
Of course it's supposed to hurt - you're running a marathon!
Only 4km to go...
Guy in front, rein him in
Airway, Breathing, Circulation
Form, relax shoulders, run economically

2km to go...
Hey I recognise this road, not far now...
Look at that traffic jam on the other side.  Geez, they're all watching me, I can't stop now or they'll think I'm a loser!

1km to go...
You can do this, keep it up...

OMG it's Steven!
"Go Sheryll, you have 10 mins to run under 5 hours!"
"OK, I'm doing 6min/k's"

And there's Luke!  He runs alongside and tries to take a photo:

Honey I don't feel like smiling for a photo right now...

You can do this...
This is a marathon, it's supposed to be hard...

The turn to the finish is up ahead.  I run through Princes Gate and the finishing straight looks very long.

Just a couple more runners I can pass if I try...
Phew, the finishing mat, make sure you stand on it good and proper!

Done. My first marathon!

I think I ran it well.  I ran even paced, and felt strong at the end which was my main goal.  My toe bothered me for a few kilometres and probably held me back when I would have liked to run stronger. Nevertheless I achieved my time goal of sub 5 hours, and my wish goal of 4:45 would have been nice, but hey - I'm already thinking of my next one!

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