Well, that was a surprise: 100 km in 9 hours, 37 minutes and 15.10 seconds.
And not just a road 100 km—this was the Gold Coast 100, on an out-and-back course we repeat four times, which features not only road but also footpath, and a dirt track, a park with some sandy bits, lots of pedestrians, narrow bridges, road crossings without marshals, hills, etc., and this year a nasty headwind every time we turned south.
I fell into step with a runner called Chris and we chatted our way through most of the first 22 km. I kept my iPod running, not because I needed it but because the on/off switch is broken and if I leave it idle too long, it shuts down and I have no way of switching it back on. There were a few spots we weren't entirely sure of whether we were in the right place, but I don't think it'd make a difference to the distance.
At about 15 km, John Pearson came out of the loo at Bilinga Surf Club in front of me. I thought, poor bastard, he must've been in there a while if I've caught up to him. After sussing out his goals, I was only mildly concerned, because he said he'd have a lot of work to do in the back half, but wanted to head out easily.
But then as we approached the 22.5 km checkpoint, Chris pointed out we were almost on five-minute pace. OOPS. I backed off in a hurry, hoping I hadn't done too much damage.
I felt comfortable, and I'd been chatting, already consumed four gels, and even tried a bite of banana. The various niggles were still present but not constant, just reminding me occasionally that they hadn't forgotten me. I knew I'd make at least one more lap.
The downside of running too fast (aside from fear of blowing up later) was that I beat Mark back to the checkpoint. Luckily, Geoff Tomlins was on hand to help me get organised, put my gel flask away and my vest, get some fresh gels out, etc. I hope I can repay his kindness at the 24 hr this weekend.
The next 25 km was quite painful, but I pushed on. It was cool weather but quite dry, and I was trying to get in as much fluid as possible. I also needed some salt as I wasn't absorbing enough fluid. In this lap, I had a few tummy cramps, though I think they were muscular rather than related to gastric upset. I'm guessing this is where my psoas muscles were sorting themselves out.
I finally found the boy at 37.5 km, where he rode up on his bike complaining that I ran too fast. Hey, not my fault! I pushed on, and by the time I got to 50 km he'd picked up Radar along the way, so I got a full cheer squad. Sadly, they then went to the pub to celebrate Radar's birthday, and I didn't have anyone to prep my sports drink for me. I didn't know this, so I got very worried that he'd been knocked off his bike by a bogan or something. I even took my phone out and switched it off airplane mode to see if anyone had called me. I also waited longer than I probably should have to mix up a sports drink, hoping rather lazily that someone would show up to do it for me—lesson for next time.
I really didn't enjoy all the traffic on the course, with some of the drivers being quite aggressive, and the views were excellent as we went along the beachfront, but not so great in Jefferson Lane. The pedestrian traffic was also annoying—most were happy to make way for us, but it took a while to get their attention! It was a real comfort when Mark came back to cheer me along, or as he rode past and I knew I'd see him at the checkpoint…but despite his calming effect, I still had a strong urge to elbow strangers out of the way! I consoled myself with the reassuring thought that I could drop out whenever I wanted, if it got too painful or if I dropped below the goal pace.
The problem was, it didn't, and I didn't. Okay, that's not really a problem, it's a blessing. My body was actually feeling better and better with every step I took (aside from the one where I nearly tripped over the kerb). And I was still well under my ten hour target pace (which I'd mocked up the day before the race, factoring in time at checkpoints and a slow down rate). So I kept going.
As I came into the 62.5 km turn I realised I'd just hit a significant 6 hour personal record. My previous best had been the 61.7 km I clocked during a research trial at the University of the Sunshine Coast, but as that had involved rest every hour in air conditioning, I wasn't sure how that would compare to a continuous 6 hour run. But I turned in under 5 hours 50 minutes, so I figure I must have gotten up over 64 km this time. I couldn't believe it when I went through 75 km in 'about 7 hours 10 minutes' (actually five minutes faster).
And then I had to run another 25 km. Whose idea was that, anyway?
By now, some of the runners were really struggling. To a few of the walkers, I said, 'Don't lie to yourself. Does it really hurt any more when you run?' When I saw them later on, they were running again. Even though we're competing against each other, it's a very supportive sport. We know our biggest opponents are our minds and bodies, not the other runners. And sometimes, spurring on another runner can give you the motivation you need to move quicker towards the finish line. It's a strange hobby, this one.
Marita Eisler's focus was very impressive as was her resulting 8 hour and 8 minutes run—she still gave me a wave every time she came past, though. And Nikki Wynd looked like there was nowhere in the world she'd rather be, as if every step was an absolute joy. Shannon-Leigh Walker also ran strongly for the whole run, but in the end was lucky not to be overtaken by Kerry Hodge—there was only a minute in it, and I reckon Kerry could've run for another hour, easily. (See the results!)
When Kerry had passed me approaching the final turnaround at 87.5 km, and Mark told me I could catch her but, quite frankly, I knew I couldn't. I had enough left to run strongly to the end, but that was about it.
As I went through the turnaround I told him that I was stuffed but I was 'damn well going to make that ten hours'. I'm always doing the math in my head, trying to figure out if I'll make it. I was pretty sure I was going to make it, but there's always a chance the math is wrong. Mark told me I was going to make it. And I think he even gave me a kiss even though I had severe gel-and-Coke breath. Ew.
That final turn was also the highlight of my race because I realised I'd eaten 17 gels and could probably get by on just Coke to the end…though at 90 km I reconsidered, and decided I best take one more just in case—my last Salted Caramel GU.
I ran the best I could all the way to the finish, coming in 10 minutes faster than my 'if everything goes perfectly well' plan, and some two hours better than I've ever done before. More importantly, I felt better than I had before the race, with my niggles all ironed out by the distance.
It's taken my tummy a while to recover—it took me five small meals to add up to a whole dinner—but I'm back to eating normally now, and I even managed a 5 km walk the day after the event.
What would I do differently? I'd go out a wee bit slower, but not as slowly as I'd originally planned. I'd put my phone upright in my pocket instead of on its side, so it didn't bruise me. I'd keep my face covered to reduce dehydration, and I'd drink my GU Electrolyte Brew sooner, for the same reason. And aside from that, pretty much nothing.
Except maybe pick a nicer course.
Caboolture counts as 'nicer', right? ;)