23 Aug 2013


Alice Springs Marathon, outback time!

Alice Springs Marathon (running festival actually), one of only two marathons in the Northern Territory, was chosen partly because of its date but also because it's cheaper to get to. This is my ninth race for the year, and fifth in my Aussie sweep!

This week has been less insane than others and I'm feeling better prepared for this race. I've had a little bit of training and even popped a long run in on the weekend. My flight to Alice was at 8.45 am on Saturday. This was the first time I've ever been running late for a flight! For starters I slept (very well) in my car at a rest area near both the Melbourne Airport and an Anytime Fitness club. I was up at 5.45, but it took me longer than expected to get moving because my car windows were all frosted up!
The plan was to get to the gym, have a short run then shower and head to the airport parking. So I went for a run, probably ran longer than I should've, but I felt like I needed it.
After my shower and forgetting a few things I'd almost left at the gym, I was on the road. By the time I got to the airport I didn't have enough time for parking at long term and checking in. So I parked at short term, ran to the terminal, checked in, then ran back to my car and drove out to find long term. After 20mins getting lost around the terminal area trying to find the long term parking entrance, I snapped up a park in the "D" area. Buses come through every 10 mins or so to take you straight to the airport, of course the next two buses were full so I was waiting. By the time I caught a bus and got to the terminal, they were calling my name for boarding my flight! So another run all though the airport to my gate just in time to get onto the dang plane!
I managed to get what was probably another 3km of running in for the day, yay me!
I'm starving now as I type this on the flight to Alice Springs, bring me my food I haven't eaten all morning!!!
The lesson I've learnt from this, always use the web check in and book-ahead for parking!!
checking out the 'Anzac Hill' lookout
(a popular hill training spot in Alice Springs)
The weather for Alice in winter is typically super cold at night with near 30s during the day. Humidity is really low and that's probably my biggest concern coming into this event. Keeping hydrated!

The race course for the Alice Springs marathon is very simple. We start at Araluen Arts Centre (which is a few k's out of town) and run out the highway about 15km before turning left onto a secondary road that runs passed a caravan park before turning around at the half way mark (also the half marathon start line) and heading back into town on the opposite side of the road. It is pretty flat for the most part, a little rise and fall on your way out of town but gentle enough to go almost unnoticed.

My race

Race day started well, we drove right up to the start line -literally a 10 metre walk to the start and finish. We, being myself and fellow Aussie sweepers, Simon and Dilwyn. Being the cheapskates we are, we had shared Accommodation and split the costs of that as well as a cheap hire car, genius!
Anyways it was dark and cold that early in the morning, but we were supposedly required at the start for a race briefing at 5-30am . I managed to spot the legendary coach and Ultra runner David Eadie (finished 2nd overall) along with the lovely and equally awesome Ultra runner Nikki Wynd (finished 2nd female) at the start, so I had a brief chat with them whilst they were preparing for the 60km Ultra that they were about to start.
The race briefing didn't actually happen until about 5-50 but it progressed from the finish area over to the highway where we started the race.
Roads weren't closed for this at all, there wasn't really a need to, but the police were patrolling up and down the field so that kept any traffic that did come through, slow and considerate, not once did we get worried about sharing the road with cars.
Like I said earlier my only real concern for this race was dehydration due to the low humidity, something I'm not used to running in. So my race plan was to sit on 6min/k and drink to thirst with the usual 9km gel intervals.
Fellow sweeper Simon was feeling like crap, he had said so the night before at dinner, that this was going to be tough for him since he's been unwell and undertrained. So, Mr 3:30 marathoner decided to "take it easy" and run with me for a change. Well, I'm glad he did, thankfully this gave me someone to talk to!! We paired up and paced together for the first few kilometers, just cruising.
It wasn't long before we were joined by a few other guys and for seriously the next 10km or so we just chatted away merrily and enjoyed the gorgeous sunrise that was appearing behind us as we ran away from Alice Springs
our awesome "bus"

One of our buddies stuck with us to almost halfway, Jonathan. He had travelled down from Darwin, to him this weather was cold compared to what he had been training in. This was his first marathon in 5 years. He had originally committed to the Ultra but was concerned about some of his training not being sufficient for the 60, so he contacted the RD to change it down to Marathon distance. I was surprised, delighted, to hear that not only was this no problem for them to do, they even refunded him the difference between the two entry fees!

The drink stations on course for this were every 3km, which considering the size of the field and the relatively remoteness of these drink stops, it was both impressive and very welcome! The volunteers were bright and cheerful, some were even dressed up and singing and dancing.

At about the 15km mark, as I tweeted during the race, I could feel a blister on my right heel, so as I walked through the drink station I glanced down at my heel only to see a massive hole in my sock and blood everywhere!!! Oh no, looks like I'd torn a hole in the sock when I put it on! This was painful and the thought of running another 27km with that was terrifying.. Luckily, I always carry Compeed blister guards in my race belt. Oh my gosh I swear by these things, they are the most amazing utility I can ever suggest for a light but effective item you can carry on race day!

I stopped and took off both my shoe and sock, dried off the heel as best I could, then put the Compeed on. They are magic! By the end of the race this had migrated to my ankle but it did the job and saved me from what could have been a show-stopper!
As I'd let Simon run on with a few others, I took off from that drink stop with gusto, feeling much better about my heel, and intent on making up the 2km lead he had on me. That was my fastest kilometer, 4:50 :-) it took about 5km for me to catch him up, just after the official photographer snapped some pics of us.
exciting times, catching up to all the half-marathoners!

Approaching halfway, we run passed a caravan park where a few residents were out to see these mad runners come by and cheer us on! We passed the halfway mark at about 2h07m, bang-on the 4h15m pace, aka 6/km!
Picturesque - approaching the half-way point
It was quite a nice area, very typical of the Australian bush that international travelers would expect when coming here. Scattered trees, beautiful blue skies, rising and falling horizons of red rock and brown tussocks. The air was dry but so noticeably clean.
Speaking of dry, yes, the low humidity was affecting my hydration. I noticed I had very chapped lips only a few kilometer into the race, my desire to drink was much higher than usual. But at least the very regular drink stops meant I could keep my bottles well stocked!

Anyways, earlier on we had been discussing marathons in general and I told the guys that the part I dislike most in a marathon is the 23-32km stretch, it's when you start feeling the drain of the marathon and feel like there is still so far to go, tipping past 32km you get into single digits and no matter how bad you're feeling, you can feel the finish!
Smile Simon, this is fun!
Luckily I ran that terrible stretch with Simon all the way, dragging each other onward. As we came through the drink station at either 33 or 36km, Simon said he was feeling crap and that I should go on if I'm feeling good. I didn't deliberately drop him then, but as I took off after that drink stop, returning back at the pace we had before, he never reappeared beside me!
So I ran the remainder of the race by my lonesome, mind you everyone was so friendly, you felt great the whole time, passing runners, walkers, ultra runners heading in the opposite direction.. Everyone was cheerful and friendly, just the way I like!

these light posts...

Running into town with about 5km to go, the temperature started to climb, it was still low twenties, but the blazing direct sun was starting to heat up. So just as you come into town, the highway was lined with street lights, maybe 50m between each one. This was the tough point and knowing I had Perth to run the next weekend I decided to take a run/walk break. I made a deal with myself, run three light posts, then walk for one, repeat. I did this until the light posts ran out, with about 2km to go, I popped another message out on twitter; I feel s**t! But I was almost finished!

So I ran the remaining part of the race, constantly looking for the right turn where we leave the highway heading for the finish area!
Coming into the finish, I almost took a wrong turn, since I could easily have overlooked the low-key finish. Dilwyn was waiting at the end with a huge beaming grin, he'd just smashed his half-marathon PB, well done mate!
Interesting thing to note about the finish of this race. You don't get your medal when you cross the line! Instead, they have a presentation dinner that night for which your race entry gets you a free meal. Sadly we were leaving before this dinner so we met the RD the day before and organised to have our medals at the finish area! So if you do plan on doing this race, I would highly recommend staying at least Saturday AND Sunday nights.

We waited for Simon to finish, he looked like hell but it was done! We saw the first Ultra runner come through, this guy had just ran 60km in the time I took to do 42!!!

No time to spare, we ate all the goodies they had at the finish (fruit, lollies, cake), grabbed a quick complimentary massage, then jumped in the car to literally race to the airport, Dilwyn had a flight in an hour, and the airport was a half hour away!

So three sweaty runners turned up at the airport, still wearing our running clothes, Dilwyn jumped on his flight whilst Simon and I quietly died in the lobby. I actually managed a quick shower at the Alice airport - FYI - there is a shower in the public toilets at the departure lounge, I only discovered this ten minutes before my flight boarded :)
nice looking plane I got to fly on...
I'm about to be told off for having my phone on whilst on the tarmac... rebel!

It was a long trip home as I flew back via Sydney, I pretty much spent Monday sleeping. I'm feeling fantastic, ready to smash Perth City to Surf marathon next weekend!

Race Details
Website: www.asrwc.com.au/running-festival.html
Location: Alice Springs, NT
Date: 18th August 2013
Distances: 60km, 42.2km, 21.1km, 4km

General Race Stats
Total Runners in field: 34
Winning time: 2h 50m 08s

My Race Stats
Overall place: 21st
Gun time: 4h 19m 40s
Net time: n/a
GPS details: 42.53km in 4h 19m 53s (link: Endomondo Stats)