Winery Marathon - Luke Roberts
Race Date: July 24th Results: 2016
When I told my fellow Newcastle Flyers that I intended to race the Winery Running Festival marathon as my debut over the distance, the most common response was why?
With the demise of the Newrun marathon there is a dearth of local marathons. The list of road marathons in our region is limited to; Mudgee, South West Rocks, Winery, Blackmores and Western Sydney. This leaves the Winery Running Festival as the default local marathon for the Hunter Valley and Newcastle giving the winner of the Winery Running Festival bragging rights as marathon champion of the region!
Being a smaller event there was the chance that I could grab an age group place or maybe a spot on the podium depending on who showed up on the day.
The other reason to have a crack at the Winery Running Festival was the prizes. Unlike bigger events with cash prizes, the Winery Running Festival gives out wine donated from local wineries. ‘That’s not a reason to race’ I hear you scoff, but listen to any hunter valley wine maker and they will tell you 2014 was the best year for Hunter reds in a generation. I like my wine and the thought of drinking a great 2014 hunter red (which I had won at the winery marathon) in 10 years reminiscing of former glory appealed to me!
At the start of the year I decided to try for more consistent training. Over the past two years I have been running but my training had been intermittent, spurts of good training blocks and long periods of laziness. The outcomes of the intermittent training were fairly average results. Prior to the start of this year my best results came after completing a training program prepared by Vlad targeting the 2014 Winery Running Festival Half Marathon.
It was obvious that to train and run at my best I needed a target race and a program to follow. My program this year was pretty basic, five runs per week, long run on Sunday approximately 50-70km per week. For the most part all the sessions got done. However July saw malaise from illness and crazy hours at work saw my weekly training drop to 30-50km per week. I was maybe a little underdone in the lead up to the race.
The race reports from the Gold Coast Marathon were pretty scary reading for someone about to make their marathon debut. A number of really strong runners had to grind out their results over the last 5 km. It was clear that when running a marathon plans are required for pacing and nutrition.
My nutrition plan was to race with my collapsible drink bottles, filled with electrolyte and gels at the start and half way. My pace plan was conservative from the start to the top of Audrey Wikson hill, then use the down hills and try for a 4:20 ish pace then see where I was at half way.
On the day of the actual race conditions were good for racing, cool and little wind. After a short 2km warm up it was over to the start for the briefing and the starter’s gun.
I followed the plan and took the first section easy. I feel that the section from the start to the top of Audrey Wilkson Hill is the toughest part of the course, lots of turns, undulations and uneven surfaces, very difficult to get a rhythm. It’s the most picturesque part of the course, lots of vineyards and the escarpment to the west, so it’s not all bad. I think I left the Tyrrells vineyard in 7th and reached Audrey Wilkson’s in 5th.
The next section was my favourite of the course De Beyers Rd, mostly downhill to the airport turnaround and all on good surfaces. I was in 3rd place on the road at the turnaround maybe 2 minutes behind first and 1 minute behind second.
Back up to McDonald’s road felt good with lots of support out on course from the other runners. On Mc Donald’s Rd I caught second place. Approaching him I was thinking this should be good, we can pace one another for a while. When I reached him he looked to be struggling a bit at a slow pace so I pushed on.
I reached the start finish in 93 minutes pretty close on the 4:20 target pace.
The difficult section again, this time around it was more difficult thanks to fatigue. When Audrey Wilkson hill was in view I could see the leader reaching the top maybe 6 minutes in front. The hill was definitely tougher… I was reduced to a walk for a small section of it.
The De Beyers Rd section felt good again, I think I was possibly close to my target pace. At 27 km I started to feel hunger coming on which wasn’t a good sign. I grabbed a banana at a drinks station, downed it & hoped for the best.
Towards the turn point I saw the leader, maybe 10 minutes in front & looking strong. I told him ‘I think you’ve got this one! Push on for the sub 3!’
Coming back up the hills around the 35km mark was the point where I didn’t feel like there was anything left in the tank. No power on the hills, no speed on the flat… I changed to survival mode and pushed for the finish.
Back along Mc Donalds Rd was tough, lots of 10km competitors flashing past. I was worried they were marathon competitors about to overtake me. All I could do was take solace in ticking off the kilometres to the finish.
I was very happy when the finish did come.
Finish time 3:16:10 2nd overall, 19 minutes behind the winner.
I’m definitely happy with the result, first marathon & first podium! I’m also happy with the race plan execution, I did positive split by about 10 minutes but I can put that down to a few things. The toughness of the course, running on my own for all of it, not doing enough long, long runs (35 km +) and maybe needing more nutrition out on course. All lessons to consider in the build-up for the next marathon.
Sadly second place doesn’t give me bragging rights as the Hunter Valley & Newcastle Marathon champion…. There’s always next year!
My “prize” was a 2013 Pepper Tree Wines Wrattonbully Merlot… Sigh, merlot (my least favourite variety of red), Wrattonbully… not even a Hunter Valley wine (Wrattonbully is in South Australia for pete’s sake) the year doesn’t matter too much, I’ll confer with the James Halliday Wine Companion book to see what he thinks of the vintage. Beggars can’t be choosers though! It will no doubt be the best wine I’ve ever tasted when I think back to what I did to win it.
Thanks to all the flyers. I wouldn’t be running nearly as well as I am without your support, guidance and banter!