Overall position 372
As mentioned in last week's blog, I felt that my training this time around was inferior compared to GC '09 and Seoul '10 which yielded 3.04 and 3.03 respectively. In light of this, I thought 3.05-3.10 would be a reasonable target for Melbourne. At the end, I just managed to sneak in under 3.10. But the process of getting that timing was a total fiasco - a positive split of almost 10mins hahaha...
Before the race, my thoughts were either to follow the 3.00 bus and then see what happens, or pace myself to a 'safe' target such as 3.05-3.06 with an even pace strategy. When the gun went off, I still couldn't make up my mind. The start was pretty congested and my first k split was around 4.40 min/km (since my finishing position was 372, presumably there were 500-600 odd runners jostling for position in the first k). To my surprise, I saw the 3-hour bus also splitted 4.40 in the first k due to the congestion. I then decided to lurk behind them, allowing a gap of around 100meters. The first 10k was relatively easy since the course is flatish-to-downhill. Also St Kilda Road and Albert Park F1 circuit was pretty protected from the wind. We consistently churned 4.05-4.15 pace due to the easiness of the course and also to make up the lost time in the first k.
First 10k split 42:15 (official)
Side note: I had k-by-k Garmin splits, but they were not meaningful. They were off by about 100m by the first 10k, then continued to grow linearly. At the finish line, my watch showed 42.6 k, about 400m difference which is still within 1% of accuracy. Interestingly, when I read up the cool running forum after the race, all 305/310 watches (also Timex) showed 42.6k, but one guy who had 610 recorded an exact 42.2k !!! Maybe time for an upgrade LOL
Was still feeling great when we left Albert Park, but then my leg developed a blister and I stopped for a few seconds in order to correct the positioning of the socks. As we entered St Kilda beach, the gap between me and the 3.00 bus had widened to around 200m. The wind started to blow strongly and I was running in a no mans land in between the 3.10 and 3.00 buses without any protection at all. I still tried to churn 4.15 per k pace, but I think running alone against the wind took a lot out of me.
Second 10k 42.52, reached halfway exactly 90 mins.
After the halfway mark, I continued to struggle running in a no mans land against the wind. My legs began to tighten and they got heavier by each step. Negative thoughts started to emerge and my pace began to drift. With a 90min first half and with the expected headwind, HM-ers and FM-ers merging in the last 10k and a series of hills in the last 7k, I realized that getting low 3.00s might be a stretch. For some reasons, my brain told me to play safe and ran at 4.30 pace because it could still get me around 3.05. The 3.00 bus began to disappear from my sight (interestingly, the bus had 30 runners at the start and at the finish, only 3 remained and went under 3)
Third 10k 45.06
So, a slow down from 4.15 pace to 4.30 pace, but wait, it actually got even worse !!! LOL 'The Wall' continued its strong hold on my mind/body and I slowed down massively from then on. From 32k mark until the finish we then had a merging between FMers and HMers which started an hour later. Actually I had no complaints because at that point I couldn't run fast and pass people anyway hahaha. But running with thousands of 2-hour HMers kinda put me in the same running motion as them and my pace slowed to around 4.40-5.00. The hills, although they were not steep, kinda added an extra 'thickness' to the Wall.
Fourth 10k 48.21
Just couldn't wait to get over and done with the race, but to put more salt into the wound, the last 400k was uphill too hahaha.
Last 2.2k 10.26
In retropective, I am quite pleased with the outcome because I think I have finally defeated my injury issues that plaqued me in the last couple of years. I think I could have reached a better result, say if I targeted 1.32-1.33 first half in lieu of 1.30. But going at 3.00 pace (even when I am not up to it) and then hitting the wall really gave a different experience. While it wasn't enjoyable, but shuffling the last 12k of the race at 5.00 pace after averaging 4.20 pace for the first 30k was really an eye opener for me. Putting one step in front of another when nothing left at stake was I must say, an 'epic' experience LOL.
I am not sure whether 'the wall' that hit me was due to glycogen depletion since I took a few gels and sipped sports drinks throughout the race. Also, I felt that I carbo-loaded reasonably well this time. I think it was mainly attributed to a couple of things:
Firstly, sub 3.00 pace was too hot to handle for me, so blowing up was, sadly, an expected outcome. Secondly, I think I trained too hard during taper - was doing 18k @ 4.14 pace about 2 weeks out, 23k with 11k at 4.10 pace seven days out, and then even 3 days before the race, I ran 13k at 4.30 min/km (couldn't help it running at 15c compared to my usual 30c) - this was essentially 1/3 of marathon distance at today's pace !! In retropesctive, the gamble to cram in workouts even during taper just didn't pay off. During race day, my legs were 'toast' and felt like lead after 25k.
Ewen actually spotted me at the finish line and he said that I looked comfortable and did not have that 'trashed look' a other runners. I felt fine after the race too. This sort of reaffirms that the wall wasn't a function of glycogen depletion, but more of muscular fatique, coupled with high energy cost of running (against headwind + went out maybe 5mins quicker than I was capable of TODAY)
All in all, I feel that the positives still outweigh the negatives. Finishing the race after almost 2 year battle with post-tib tendon injuries gives me some confidence that I can run better next time. As mentioned, my training wasn't as good and consistent as my previous marathons, so taking some risk by going out harder than what my form indicated, hitting the wall, but still finishing comfortably under BQ standard ain't that bad of a result, I reckon.
Thanks everyone for the support !