2016 Medibank Melbourne Marathon Race Report – Phil Tweed
Race Date: October 16th Results: 2016
After surprising myself with a 2:58 at the Canberra Marathon in April, I decided to put in a major effort to train for Melbourne. I felt a great boost of confidence when with seven weeks still to train I managed a PB at the Lake Mac HM – 1:21. The signs were positive that I might even PB at Melbourne – the aim was 2:51 or better. So I pulled out all stops straight after Lake Mac and put in some serious kilometers. The next week I clocked up 110km with double runs on the Tuesday and Thursday (12km easy in the morning, 10km speed session in the afternoon), medium long run on Wednesday (16km), slow 10km on Friday, 5km parkrun hard on Saturday with an extra 5km, and long run on Sunday (30km). I know this was a pretty big week to put in straight after a HM, but I felt OK. The following week I followed the same basic schedule and upped it to 120km, then I did three weeks of 130km, with the long runs peaking at 38km. I’d already decided to change up my usual three week taper, and reduce it to only two weeks. Previously, I’ve felt really strange tapering three weeks prior to a marathon, and this time it felt really good to keep the volume up for one extra week.
Taper was all going according to plan until the Thursday 10 days prior, when I felt a little tightness during the speed session in my left hamstring. I took the day off on Friday, then showed up to parkrun at Mt Penang on Saturday. I felt the tightness again during the run, and immediately afterwards some sharp pain. Feeling quite worried about getting an injury only one week before the race, I found a sports physio who was open on Saturday afternoon. He confirmed that I had suffered a grade one tear, and went to work on me for about an hour. I skipped my planned long run on the Sunday, rested Monday, and tried the legs out on the Tuesday with an easy 6km, careful not to extend the hamstring. The tightness was there, but bearable. I saw the physio again on the Tuesday and Thursday, and he felt I would be fine to race on Sunday. That week I only managed a slow 6km on the Tuesday, a slow 10km on the Wednesday, then a slowish parkrun on the Saturday, the day prior to the race. The hammy felt fine, so I was confident for race day.
Being a celebrant, I had a wedding that afternoon that I was officiating at Nulkaba, so that was followed by a drive back home to Gosford to get changed and pick up my race gear, all packed in a carry on bag. I drove to Sydney and parked in long term parking, caught the shuttle to the domestic terminal, and was on my plane to Melbourne, delayed slightly to 8:30pm. I arrived in Melbourne at 10pm and was picked up by my friend Terry who drove me 30 minutes to his place. Surprisingly, asleep by 11:15, I woke the next morning feeling quite refreshed and ready to go. Terry dropped me close to the MCG and I walked through to bagdrop, then made my way to the start line to see if I could find anyone I knew.
The temperature was already warmer than I had hoped for, but the bigger issue was the wind. Forecasts had the Northerly blowing at 30km/h, with gusts of up to 50km/h. That was going to be a problem … I had now pretty much given up on the idea of a 2:50 time, and now just focussed on sub 3:00. I figured I would go out at 4:00 per km and see how long I could hold it.
My nutrition plan for marathons now consists of me carrying (whilst running) a small bottle with a wide top that I fill with Tailwind (powder and water). One hour before racing I drink an Up and Go Energizer, then I sip on the Tailwind. Under my hat I place three small plastic bags of Tailwind. During the race, when my bottle is running low, as I’m heading into a drinks station I remove the top off the bottle, empty the contents, reach up behind my hat to grab a sachet, rip the top off with my teeth and empty the contents into the bottle. At the drinks station I empty three or four cups of water into the bottle (very quickly), then continue. I was more prepared for this scenario than at Canberra, and had rehearsed it in my mind many times, so was able to do this without losing any time to the groups I was running with. Just for the record, I also take two voltaren tablets for pain management, and an immodium tablet to try and prevent unexpected toilet stops. I’m used to losing toenails in marathons now – you just accept it. The only question is how many!
Arriving at the start line I caught up with Chris Hayes and Jess Stabler, Chris Truscott and briefly saw Matt Hutton and Alex Rogers. Reggie was there and was visibly distressed. I couldn’t do anything for her other than offer some encouragement. I did a slow warmup jog on the grass for 1km. I couldn’t see Simon Redhead anywhere, no tall bald near naked blokes in sight. I identified the 2:50 pace group guy, and figured I would run comfortably to feel, find a group to hide from the wind in, and keep tabs on where the 2:50 group was during the race. The intent to run with Reggie and Simon was not going to happen, so I just ran my own race.
There were enough people around in the early stages to get shelter from the wind much of the time, so holding 3:55-4:00 per km felt comfortable. At different turn points I saw Matt well ahead of me, and Simon and Reggie not far behind. I managed to hold around 4:00 pace for the first 25 km, stayed in front of the 2:50 group up until 21km where they finally caught me. Simon Redhead was there and we chatted for a bit, but both of us were focussed on the business at hand. Simon felt it was important to stay with the group to get shelter at the 27km mark when the course turned northwards at St Kilda, but I had just begun to fade at that point. At the turn I was about 20 metres behind the group, and immediately regretted not staying with them (yes, you were right Simon). The head wind at that point was brutal, and I was completely exposed. I managed to find a couple of other runners, but there was really no shelter from the relentless wind. I briefly considered the option of putting in a burn to catch the group to get shelter, but quickly dismissed that idea, knowing that an effort like that would put me in worse shape for the finish, with still 15km left to go. No choice but to guts it and face it head on. The runners I was with hid behind me and despite me asking, did not take their share of wind breaking.
The worst of the exposure to the wind was over once we turned back towards the city and got a little shelter from buildings – but the course was still generally northwards, and wind was always a factor.
The temperature was getting warmer, and the wind was drying sweat fast, so I became more and more conscious of hydration, slowing just enough at each drink station to grab extra water to drink, and douse myself front and back in an effort to keep cool. I noticed Matt on a couple of occasions at turn points looked like he was slowing considerably and really suffering, and I gradually lost sight of the 2:50 group. All my focus now was to finish well, hold pace as best as I could in the wind and get under 3:00.finish.
To my surprise I manged to hold on OK, and enjoyed the lap around the MCG, finishing in 2:55:21 (official) – my second fastest marathon. The good old ‘wobbly leg’ took over as soon as I crossed the finish line and I tottered out of control to my right. I was taken into the medics tent, but only needed a seat for a while. I left the tent and laid on the grass, managing a couple of painful cramps in my legs. I enjoyed the atmosphere for awhile, and caught up with friends. I found out that I had finished less than two minutes behind Simon, and only one minute behind Matt – who had taken the gamble and gone out hard, but wasn’t able to bring it home. Reggie crossed the finish line just over 3:00 and collapsed – it didn’t look good and she needed some urgent medical assistance. Gutsy lady. It had been a tough day – with runners I admire such as Chris Truscott and Alex Rogers only managing to come in a few minutes before me, it was obvious everyone had found the going tough.
Overall I’m very happy! Despite trying conditions I managed my second best time. I’m sure if the conditions had been more favourable my PB would have been under threat. Congrats to fellow Flyers and Novocastrians who ran. Thanks to Danny – my physio who fixed up my hamstring good and proper – no problems at all!
Melbourne Marathon is a great race, well organised and a great experience all round – highly recommended. Next time I might try and stay there a bit longer!