Well it turns out that I was 32k long run into marathon training on the Mother's Day Classic weekend and there was no way that Coach Chris was going to let me off that one. He'll give me a long run pass mark for a half marathon but there's no let-off when it's only 8k.
All week beforehand I was having doubts about the wisdom of what had seemed like a good idea months earlier. I've never run a 32k then backed it up with a race the very next day. It was going to be taxing enough to just get the long run done so maybe I should just ditch the race and sacrifice my entry fee. Or maybe I could just do the race as a slow recovery run. But what's the point in getting up early on Mother's Day just to do a slow recovery run?
Yep, I was in a quandary.
And I didn't really want to spend too much time thinking about it. Because when I think too much I can get a bit anxious. So my last thoughts on the matter were that I'd take it as easy as possible on the 32k, try to recover well then just see how my legs were when I started to run on Sunday morning.
A fairly sensible plan. But the whole 'take it easy as possible' part ... well let's just say that I'm never very good at that. I finished the 32k in just under 3 hours with tired legs.
Luckily, I'm much better at taking the recovery part seriously. Compression tights. Lots of fluids. Food. A two hour dribble-on-the-pillow afternoon sleep. Lots of stretching and some painful rolling. I did whatever I could to get my body ready for the next day within the short time frame.
There were still lots of questions that I had no answers to. But the only way I was going to get answers was by running the next day so I tried not to let those little niggles of doubt settle in and take root. More than anything I want this year to be the year of no (or little) race nerves.
5:30am on Sunday saw me sitting in the kitchen eating a banana. Legs were a bit tight but not too bad. And the nerves? Well there really weren't any. No point in being nervous if you have no expectations.
6:30am saw me sitting in my car in South Brisbane in my dressing gown. Don't judge! It was cold and the only reason I was there that early for a 7:45 start was to get a good, free park.
7:00am saw me with the little group of GaleForcers who'd decided to do the event, pondering the closest toilets.
7:25am saw me on the start line. Way earlier than I'd normally be but this is one of those events that lots of people do. And by lots of people I mean lots of people who have no idea about race etiquette because they're not really runners. They just want to get as close to the start line as possible. Doesn't matter if you have a baby strapped to your chest (yes, I saw just that woman very close to the front) or have a double pram (pretty sure that was her husband). My aim was to get out from behind these sorts of people so I didn't have to spend the first couple of k dodging and weaving.
But getting there that early meant standing in a shadowed wind tunnel on the coldest morning of the year so far. In singlet and shorts and goose-bumps. I was actually looking forward to the warm-up which I usually scoff at, but the woman who led the warm-up had absolutely no idea what she was doing. She asked the crowd to push forward as close to the line as possible so we were all bunched up and then proceeded to do a routine which involved lots of big arm swings. Not the greatest idea when there are so many faces within slapping range. At least bunching up meant that we were sharing a bit of body heat and blocking out some of the wind so she did actually warm me up - even if it wasn't in the way that she intended.
7:45am saw me running. I'd managed to get so close to the front that it only took 3 seconds to cross the line. But with close start-line proximity comes great responsibility to run fast and not hold up anyone. I took off like a scared rabbit and forgot all about the 32k already in my legs.
Part of the first kilometre goes under a car tunnel and for a little while we lost satellite reception. I knew that was going to mess up the auto-timing for my watch so I decided to check my time when I went past the first k marker. 4:16. Hmm - don't think I was actually running that fast so maybe the marker was in the wrong place. My watch beeped 4:33 which felt much more reasonable even if we'd lost reception for a little.
I was happy with the pace but not really sure how my body would go sustaining it. The only way I could find out, though was to keep pushing along. Second kilometre beeped a bit short of the marker which made me fairly certain that the first marker had been short. 4:36. So far so good.
It's a route that I'm pretty familiar with heading up to West End. I knew exactly where all the little rises were and I tried to block out all thoughts of them because I knew they were going to hurt. But I've done that run as a tempo run with some friends a couple of times and we've run sub-5 pace so that's what I kept reminding myself (while trying not to remind myself that I hadn't run 32k the day before). 4:35, 4:31. Turn around and we're heading for home. 4:33.
And then I started to get a bit tired. 4:41. The pace was slipping just a little so I tried to focus on picking off people in front of me. And I did. Just a couple who were hurting worse than I was.
There was one in particular that I really wanted to get. A young (late 20s?) guy in a red singlet. His pace kept drifting. He'd slow down then speed up if anyone got close. Then if it started to get too hard he'd let them pass and slow down again. We'd just passed the 7k marker (4:44) and I made my move. I ran up next to him and edged slightly in front. I think he took one look at the old lady passing him and decided that he had one good kilometre left in him and he could cope with the physical pain of pushing harder more than the emotional, ego-driven pain of being beaten by a woman in her second half-century. He took off and finished a couple of hundred metres in front of me. And if that was a PB for him I'm totally taking credit.
That last kilometre race-within-a-race and seeing the finish arch pulled my pace back down to 4:34. And the extra 120m on my Garmin had me running at 4:08 pace which was probably why I had to keep walking for quite a while to suppress the urge to hurl up my 5:30am banana.
Final time - 37:03. Just 20 seconds off my best time for this event back in 2009 and I know that I didn't run that the day after a 32k.
The run set up Mother's Day beautifully. Breakfast with most of my boys (Sam's still in Melbourne but we've taken a rain check on Mother's Day till he's up in a couple of weeks) just rounded off the morning perfectly.
My next race is in a couple of weeks. The half at Noosa and then it's just over a month till the marathon. But for this week it's back to business. Regular training and as much recovery as I can manage.