The HBF 3 Waters Running Festival, Bunbury WA, 10 April 2016.
Offering race options from 5 – 50km.
Each of us as a runner have certain key events we like, that we train for and or plan for.
This event was planned for as part of a training run for my primary event of the year, Comrades in May. I entered the 50km option.
What does that mean? Well it means it is simply fitted into the training program neatly by selecting events that match training requirements. Do I train specifically for this race, for this distance? No. I am training for Comrades, of which this event is part of my training.
Needless to say, it is still a race, however it must be run with control and discipline. We are encouraged not to race this close to Comrades at all out race pace, but to keep it comfortable and controlled, as we do not have the luxury of a full recovery post race pace. I like to say I will run this event, but I will not race it. Discipline.
Thursday evening I sit down and plot the race in my mind. This is almost as big as the race itself.
I visualize the 42km event that I ran last year, flat, with a slight uphill along the coast that had such a strong headwind you felt you were running backwards. The out and back along the wharf, flat but windy. The route through the suburbs that after the earlier scenery is quite frankly boring. You know that sense of when you do not know where you are travelling to the route seems endless? The lighthouse speedbump – the last chance to catch a breather as you start to cruise into the finish line.
Step Two is to break the 50km event into smaller chunks, fool the mind. I break it into 3 sections. The first 8km lollipop route through the park around the lake – it normally takes about 8km’s for my running legs to kick in, so I visualize this as my warm up run, knowing there is no way I will warm up prior to the race. That then brings us back to the start line where we commence on a 21km route, which we repeat twice. So easy, I run 8km, then 21 and then another 21km.
Step Three – how many recovery walks can I plan, of which is when I “fuel up” as I cannot run and drink/eat at the same time. I figure 20km, 30km and 40km. Allow for 2 mins recovery at each marker.
Step four – pace. What do I want to run this in? What can I realistically run this in? Enter some figures in a pace calculator to get realistic times. Enter in goal time. Does it match? Can I do it? Mentally visualize this.
Take goal time, deduct 6 mins recovery time, then calculate average pace to achieve desired run time. Is this pace feasible? Remember a run at this pace, close your eyes and run that again in your mind. How fit do I feel? Can I commit?
Step five. Commit. Commit to trusting my training. Commit to goal time. Commit to my goal pace. Write it down. Break the race down in writing as above, and put my planned pace in – remembering that I will not always run a consistant time, so where will I slow down? Where can I gain speed? What will egg me on? What will bore me and slow me down? Be honest and adjust pace accordingly. Calculate the outcomes. Check it against Step four. Commit. I then record my commitment. That is to review for the next two days, and to check against post race. The Post Race Review is important.
5:30 am Sunday morning the alarm goes off for the second time. Prep up. I place a plaster on my hand that has my goal pace and goal time written on it. Register. Line up for 6;30am start. Its cold, but not as cold as last year. I look around and see familiar faces. New faces. Determined. (you have to be to line up for 50km in that weather!).
We set off, and I try hard to keep my pace back, but that first km always has a surge, about 800m in I am thinking, pull it in! However I feel I am running on pace, but it freaks me out that I am right near the front with the ace runners. I slow down more, looking back for the rest of the runners, but I cannot even see the pack. I am not keen to slow down too much, so remind myself about my commitment. This is to be run to my goals. My pace. I stop stressing. I know there are some faster runners behind me and that they will catch me soon enough.
I try to check my Garmin to ensure I am on the correct pace. Horrors, the pace average screen is gone! My lap pace is on screen one with time and distance, but I cannot see that unless I stop as my eyesight is not that good. So now I actually have no idea if I am running the correct pace. For the next 50km I have to wait until the automatic lap count comes up every km and gives me a lap average. Humph. So much for technology. I visualize my race plan. I then try to match my effort with similar training runs. I feel I have it right. About 1.5kms in a couple of the other runners catch near me, and I hear their footsteps shadowing me. 3km mark and First Lady passes me. Just then we go past the marshals on bikes, and they call out to both of us girls that we are flying (the leading men have disappeared around the corner) and should slow down, this is a 50km not a 5km…First Lady and I ignore them. Instead we join in conversation introducing ourselves, catching a short run history, wish each other luck, and then First Lady was gone, not to be seen until prize giving!
My next chance I got to check my pace average was at the end of the 8km loop, all seemed on track, but even running down the track shoot, again warnings were flying from well wishers to slow down, this is a 50km. Momentarily I panicked and doubted my pace and my ability. However the marathoners had started shortly before we reached the end of the lollipop section, and as I started to overtake the marathoners, my commitment returned. I knew I was comfortable. I knew I could do this. A couple of the marathoners then held pace with me for a few km’s, we chatted a bit, but once the warning started returning about slowing down I decided to move ahead as I did not want my commitment questioned.
When I knew I was approaching the 20km mark I slowed enough to read my watch, and was amazed – I knew should equal my half marathon PB, and I had no goals to break this, but realized I was going to smash it, so pushed to 21km, taking 7 minutes off my half PB, then used only 1 minute recovery to do a jig with a vollie, have a quick walk while fueling, and set off again.
Caught up with a team mate about 25km, he was doing the marathon but paced up along side me. My team mate asked me why I was running so fast, I told him I was not, I was running comfort, but I actually had no idea what my average run pace was. So my team mate ran with me for a few km’s to clock my average pace, which turned out to be bang on. From this point on I knew I could stop worrying about the watch time and rely on my effort feel.
Shortly after this another lady passed me, moving me into third position. I briefly thought of running her down, felt I certainly could, and then changed my mind. This is about discipline. Running to my goal pace and goal time. Not racing an ultra. Not racing a position. I did not know lady No.2. I did not know her capabilities, so by taking her on I could be pushing into unknown territory. I let her go, and was proud.
My 30km fuel recovery came, however I did not feel like I needed any recovery, so slowed just enough to fuel up again, and continue. 40km arrived, and I did a double take. Again I knew my goal pace would have me breaking my marathon PB, hopefully by about 5 minutes. However my pace had been consistent, and I had not needed as much recovery breaks, so I was way ahead of target. My watch indicated that I was heading for a sub 3:30 marathon time, pulling over 12 minutes off my PB. I pushed a little harder till 42.2km, and got a ping telling me I had just done a marathon in 3.27 – 15 minutes PB! Meaning I was well ahead. Once past this I took a recovery by dancing a jig with the same shocked vollie, and then actually taking my 2 minute walk break while I analyzed where I was. Knowing I was well ahead, I opted to take it easier for the last 8km, after all I did not want to fatigue myself by gunning it to fast, no matter how well I felt.
I cruised it till the last 500m or so, then kicked in with a sprint to the finish – where I came across the line in 4h 12, feeling strong and super duper happy. Thrilled with the run overall, the time and most importantly that I had kept my focus and kept my discipline.
You will note in the photos that I ran both in sandals and barefoot. My comfort option was to run the whole 50km barefoot. Real Barefoot. However the stark reality of running barefoot in the rain on tarmac is not pretty. Ones skin remains soft and although I have a thickened layer from daily barefoot running, my feet get waterlogged. Then the nasties happen where the sole of your foot is flooded and slips like a wet sock. Yuck. The skin is pink and wrinkly and gets shredded. Double yuck. In the interest of self preservation I opted to start the run in sandals, and when the roads had dried out enough, change back to real barefoot. Just after the half way mark, the roads seemed dry enough (not completely, but enough), so I removed my sandals handed them to a vollie and took off. It did give a downpour again during this part of my run, but later on, and a little bit of wet road is fine for running, but 50km of wet road is not!