Wow what a year! It started from scratch as I recovered from toe surgery on both my feet. It slowly progressed through the first few months as fitness started returning and I began to feel stronger and faster. I competed in many races of varying terrains and distances with some solid performances (for my ripe old age) coming through such as:
50km trail: 3:28
It finally culminated last month with my trip to Doha (Qatar) to represent Australia in the World 100km road championships.
Doha was my first outing as an Aussie representative so it did feel special to receive the uniform, book the ticket and head over to pit myself against people I had no idea about from around the globe. Doha is pouring money into hosting every sporting event they can secure. The 2019 IAAF athletics world championships is being held there in September. Our race in late November was run at night and still reasonably warm so I can only contemplate what weather extremes whoever we send there for the marathon in 2019 will face.
Race day – Fri 21st Nov. 6pm local time. Temp 25deg and 60-70% humidity, no sunshine and 20 unsighted 5km laps to get through. I’d heard that there were some cobbles and perhaps some slippery pavers but as I stood on the start line, I cleared away all preconceptions, zeroed my watch and set off.
I was there with Rick Cooke, Andrew Heyden and Brendan Davies. Both Andy and Brendan are seasoned in this event and as such knew exactly what pace they would be comfortable starting at. I figured I would position myself a little off the pace Brendan established and as such settled in for a rough average of 4:10 per km. The course did infact prove to be pretty ordinary. 1.2km worth of cobble stones (not huge deviations between cobbles but enough to notice), 2km worth of pavers (some becoming slippery around drink stops), and the rest normal bitumen. Added to this were 3x180deg u-turns but to be fair, these were widened after the recent 50km staged there and as such were not that much of an impediment.
My first 10km was a little quicker than I was planning, 41:30 but feeling comfortable. In fact I felt great moving through all the laps towards halfway. My marathon split was 2:56, again a bit quicker than the 3hrs I had planned and by 50km I was 3:30 and change and setting up a possible 7hr result. Andy was holding a stable tempo approx 4-5mins back but looking to come chasing in the back half.
Then things turned pear shaped. I hadn’t factored in eating anything solid or substantial before 50km as I thought I wouldn’t start fading until at least 60-70km but sure enough my earlier effort caught up with me and the gels weren’t cutting it to help me out of the hole I was in almost immediately after 50km. I think Andy had finished emptying his guts by then so he was also feeling depleted and off his normal solid form. Rick had pulled out with a sore hip by then but Brendan was firing along and moving through the ranks as others faded.
Between 50-70km I questioned how I would be able to finish, what sort of slow time I’d be posting, how those at home would be seeing this massive and sudden drop off in pace and so on. Not the positive thoughts I needed. I was walking much much more than I ever would allow myself but I had no choice, it was a brutal 20km. The vegemite sandwich I forced down at 50km and some positive words from my team mate Kerrie, helped get me back into the game and by 70km I picked the pace up and forged ahead.
By then having done the numbers, I was still going to have to run consistently to finish in under 8hrs and at least record another qualifier (should I wish to line up for another one of these things). My sub 7:30 ambitions were gone, my PB of 7:51 looked unobtainable but I was in good spirits and moving better by the lap.
A giant screen at the finish displayed my name, lap and time after each circuit and to see it showing 16,17,18 etc was quite uplifting even if the first dude had already finished, grabbed a feed and left the country in search of a beer. And with the illumination of that wonderful last number 19 came the final lap. I was hurting all over but feeling positive and running well. I had just run a few 23min laps and was suddenly in the mix for a PB so with each stretch, turn, cobble section and so on, I farewelled the course and ran a strong 22min last 5km to complete the event in 7:46 taking 5mins off my PB.
After noticing that Andy was catching me with 5-6 laps to go, I managed to hold him out after he again started feeling ordinary with a few to go. I was keen to stay on my feet at the finish line and wait for him to cross, which he did several minutes later also going under 8hrs to back up his impressive 7:29 a few months ago in the British championships. Brendan ran another very strong race equalling his 6:56 set last time in Italy. This earned him 12th place. Mine was 41st and our men’s team came 9th (3 to count). As we watched the presentation the following day, we saw that we would all need to dip under 7hrs to take out bronze for the teams. So a competitive situation for sure.
My traditional post 100km beer had to wait a few hours as we all went in search of a Doha hotel restaurant that would serve us whilst accepting that a bowl of fries constituted our desire to dine. Great country to go to for a detox in case you need to (quite a few names are popping into my head here).
The 2015 world 100km was announced at the presentation and will be held in the Netherlands in September. I have already qualified but it does not mean I’ll be automatically selected. It depends on how many others run quicker between now and June/July.
My plans are to race both the Tarrawera (Feb) and North Face 100km (May) trail events with the possibility of the Buffalo Stampede squeezed between them hopefully. Then to the Gold Coast for the marathon and back home for my 30th City to Surf before the next world 100km. And with some 5km and 10km races thrown in, 2015 is shaping up to be another big one.
Greta and I are also launching a new online running program website in the new year aimed at beginners through to advanced over every distance up to and including the 100km for those of you keen to try it out. Stay tuned for more info on www.runwithusonline.com.au
Until then, have a very relaxing and safe Christmas and New Year. I hope to see you out there soon!