Perth Marathon 2016

There’s so much I want to say about Perth Marathon but travel and jetlag have delayed my race report a tad. The short version is that the race went so much better than I had hoped and turned out to be more enjoyable than most of the twelve half marathons I’ve run since October 2012. Crossing the line in 3:55:07  rendered me a sobbing mess in the arms of my husband and daughters who had managed the logistics of cheering me on, at various stages along the course, around a soccer match.

I learned a lot from this marathon, the biggest lesson being about pacing. And determination. At a certain point, around 34km, determination overcame fatigue, a headwind, and a sore ITB. I will write more in detail at some point in the future. In the meantime, here are some photos🏃🏻🏅😀

 

SCKLM Preparation & WAMC Lake Gwelup Race

Lake Gwelup
Lake Gwelup

So now that all the hooha has died down over the change of date and re-change of date for the SCKL Marathon, the countdown to the race has begun. Only four weeks to go! Coincidentally I am going to be in KL with a friend that weekend as it’s school holidays and our respective spouses are taking our six children camping and we would rather pull our teeth out than sleep in a tent that doesn’t have ensuite facilities. In fact what we’d really rather do is stay at a five star hotel with ensuite facilities, and toilets where there are no snakes or deadly spiders lurking, and staff that open doors, and pour coffee, and carry your bags. We’d also rather have much-needed pedicures, and eyebrow threading, do no cooking or cleaning  – well you get the picture. We’re going to KL for a taste of the good life and now it turns out, I’m going to race.

Don't let the blue sky fool you - it was cold at race registration!
Don’t let the blue sky fool you – it was cold at race registration!

Last week, I was offered a media bib at SCKLM and it took me exactly zero seconds to say ‘yes please’ and only another few seconds to allow sense to prevail and choose the 10km race. Given the temperature and humidity, trying to race any further could be a disaster. Even when I lived and trained in Malaysia, the heat and humidity ruined many a race attempt so 10km on Oct 4th will be more than plenty thank you very much. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be returning to my old stomping ground, the place where I first fell in love with running, and to hopefully get to see many familiar, friendly faces in the KL running community.

So, this morning, in preparation for this tropical race which is no big deal, no big deal at all, I ran a local 10km race here in Perth. When I say in preparation I mean mental prep rather than physical. Bar running while wrapped in cling film and a heated body suit, there is little I can do to prepare for the conditions in KL. But I need to train my brain to push though the 5-6km mark slump and stay strong to the finish line, so this morning’s race was a stab at cognitive therapy if you like.

It was the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Lake Gwelup 10km. It was 7ºC when I left the house and only a few degrees warmer at the start line. So, it was totally unlike any start line in Malaysia ever! It also turned out to be a multi-terrain course which was more challenging than I had expected but at least it wasn’t as hilly as last weekend’s City to Surf 12km for which my legs are still not thanking me.

FullSizeRenderI think I was the 9th female across the line which was very pleasing as the standard is really high here and I’m pretty old. Yes, I am. The winner of the 5km race this morning is 12 years old.12! Not even a teenager! She ran the course in sub-20. To be fair, she has probably been running longer than I have but I don’t think that’s the reason she’s so much faster! Bar placing little rockets in my shoes, I will never attain the racing speed of a fast teenager. Oh, that’s a bit depressing. Still, I should be grateful to be able to run at all I suppose, and I am! And I’m even more grateful to be able to return to KL, have an affordable pedicure, and run there. (Though perhaps I should run, then have the pedi?).

Now, I wonder where I can bulk buy cling film and find a heated body suit…

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

The HBF Run for a Reason mascot wearing the event t-shirt.
The HBF Run for a Reason mascot wearing the event t-shirt.

I’m pretty sure that the first time I ran in Perth, some time last winter (summer if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), I ran past at least one person wearing an HBF Run for a Reason t-shirt. It seems that over the past nine months, those blue t-shirts have been EVERYWHERE (on runners). I haven’t yet spotted them in a shopping mall. Well, since Sunday, there are a further 31,700 HBF Run for a Reason t-shirts in circulation. Even I now have one.

IMG_0004The HBF Run for a Reason is one of Perth’s largest fundraising community runs which attracts runners, walkers, strollers and the odd elite. This year there were three distances on offer: 4km, 12km, and the new 21.1km. I opted for the 12km as I’d already registered for a half marathon in May and I’m trying to be sensible in my old age. This also meant an extra 90 minutes in bed which is not to be sniffed at at any age.

IMG_0817I have nothing but good to say about this year’s Run for a Reason. Over $1,257,466 was raised through runner fundraising and donations at registration for charities such as the Cancer Council, Diabetes WA, Lifeline WA, and the Heart Foundation WA. Many runners had specific reasons for running such as raising money in memory of a loved one or for a charity for which they had a close affinity. My reasons were fun, celebrating the Yes victory in the Irish marriage Equality Referendum, and gratitude for being healthy enough, and having the freedom, to run in this great city. Crossing the line in under 60 mins was a vague hope but not a deal breaker.

As with many major events in Perth, extra public transport services were provided, free of charge to participants. There were plenty of clean empty, portaloos in the CBD near the race start site which in my book is a kind of victory in itself. The start line was very well managed, with lots of clear signage for different start waves depending on participants anticipated race time. The atmosphere before, during and after the run was fabulous – Perth was teaming with happy people on Sunday morning. The 12km race started bang on time. The route was populated by enthusiastic volunteers and music and well-wishers. My shins were killing me for the first 8km but I soldiered on and crossed the line in 58:11 mins, dry-heaving over the line. Next time, I’ll take a gel 40 mins into the race to stave off this inglorious race finish action. IMG_0002

Finishers received isotonic drinks, water and bananas as they completed their run/walk in Gloucester Park. A timing mat on the way to the exit allowed runners to check their chip race time, something I’ve never seen at any other race but which really is a great idea. Bags dropped off the previous day at Perth Arena were ready for collection after the run, an essential for those like me who are totally intolerant of the cold. Shuttle buses worked efficiently in ferrying finishers back to the CBD to catch free public transport home again. Or in my case to a soccer game.

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The Finish area at Gloucester Park. A sea of blue t-shirts.

The only quibble I’d have is that it would be nice to give all finishers, not just the 21.1km runners, a medal. I’d much rather a medal than a t-shirt I’ll never wear as I only run in singlets. Still, from the main sponsor, HBF’s, point of view, I can see that the t-shirt is a better marketing tool. Did I mention that they are EVERYWHERE?

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Race timings as published in the West Australian newspaper on Monday.
Race timings as published in the West Australian newspaper on Monday.

Busselton 70.3 Relay 2015

Finally I ran a half marathon in which I felt undefeated by the distance. That’s HM:9-Me:1 Yay! It was the run leg of the Busselton Half Ironman Relay and it finally put to bed the threat of my headstone reading: Here lies the Expat Runner who never ran a half marathon without a tonne of excuses for why she should have done better. 

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Last saturday, not only did I put one foot in front of the other without stopping for 21.1km, but I didn’t complain about doing so either. For once, I was not swearing ‘never again’ under my breath – or worse, aloud. I didn’t stop to go to the toilet either which alone merits a medal. I shouted out ‘so far so good’ to my team mate around the 15km mark which I can absolutely, categorically say never occurred to me to even think, not to mention say, during any other race ever before. Her reply, by the way was ‘remember the roos’ referring to the fact that we needed to get on the road for the three-hour journey back to Perth before twilight to avoid colliding with kangaroos, several of which we’d seen in the form of roadkill on the journey to Busselton. I laughed and ran on with renewed, roo-avoiding, determination. Love my team!

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Finish line HAPPY!

The course was very flat which helped. The weather conditions were also perfect – sunny, with a breeze, and low humidity. Our team name, ‘I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in KL Anymore’ couldn’t have been more apt. Unlike the other two Half Ironman team events I have done, the Busselton race holds the teams back from starting until most of the triathletes have finished the course. I anticipated this as a negative as I’d previously loved running amongst tough  – and slightly insane- triathletes. On saturday, most of these guys and gals were knocking back a beer or two by time I started running, turning the team event into a team race. Which worked out pretty well in the end as it obliterated the guilt over being a lightweight and not attempting the full triathlon. The fact that the course was three loops turned out to be mental bonus rather than a challenge too as once one 7km loop was complete, you knew exactly what lay ahead.

And so finally, I ran a half marathon that felt like a celebration of my training, that relied on my legs, lungs and mind without being undermined by a miserable digestive system.  I crossed the finish line happy, even before looking at my watch. The fact that I knocked over 2 minutes of my previous HM time was a bonus though it really felt like it was my due. I was capable of running that time – 1:47:45 – a year ago at Borneo International Half Marathon in much higher temperatures and humidity but my stomach let me down, I suspect because of dehydration, leaving me limping over the line at the end.

At Busselton, I was very, very diligent with my hydration. Perhaps starting at 13:45 helped too as I had hours of fuel – and nervous waiting – in me as I started which is never the case for a morning race. And of course it wasn’t really hot or humid.

I actually could have run faster but didn’t want to risk it lest it backfire in my intestines. I finished strong, passing a guy only a few hundred metres from the finish chute. I managed the same at the ASICS Bridges 10km a few weeks ago, passing people on the home Busso_finish2straight whose butts I’d been eyeing up for several kilometers. Mind you, at Busso, a girl half my age if even, ran past me 200m from the finish line, robbing my all-female team of a top-10 finish by 9s so I can’t be smug. Still, to get 11th out of almost 70 teams for three women in their mid-forties, with seven children between them, in an environment as competitive as Western Australia, racing against ‘kids’ in their twenties and thirties, was astounding. I’m certain we got first place for the team, irrespective of gender, with the longest team name. I was lucky to have a really supportive, sporty and good-humoured team.

So, the easy course and weather and the mid-day start aside, why I am feeling stronger than before towards the end of a race, when I have a history of flagging, and flagging badly at that?  I certainly didn’t train any harder for this event than for previous races though I was free of the ITB injury that affected my previous two half marathons. Essentially, I think I trained smarter.

Running 80% of my runs slowly, and 20% fast seems to be paying off. Besides giving me the ability to run faster on race day, the 80:20 system has improved my fatigue resistance and kept me injury-free. I’m also doing one or two gym sessions a week to build up my core, upper body, and glute strength.

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Will I be trying to run faster next time? Of course I will try but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t achieve another PB. If I run a good race that reflects my training efforts, that doesn’t upset my stomach, that allows my legs to do their best, I’ll be happy. If I run another 21.1km without saying ‘never again’ at the 14km mark, I’ll consider that an achievement. If I cross the finish line smiling, instead of grimacing and complaining, I’ll be feeling like it’s a personal best, irrespective of the numbers on my watch. Roll on Perth Half Marathon in August.

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View from the Finish Chute

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WAMC Club Rooms, Burswood, WA.

Yesterday evening I went to my first race event of 2015, not as a runner, but as a volunteer. Taking out family membership of the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) in Spring 2014, several months before we left Kuala Lumpur, smacked of good intentions but in reality setting up a new life got in the way of actually participating in any (bar one, on my own) event. I rejoined without the family for 2015 and one of the conditions of membership was volunteering for at least two club race events this year. The Burswood 5km Twilight Run seemed like a good option as it was an evening race and only 25 minutes from home at the WAMC’s club rooms.

It was nice to ‘rock up’ – that’s Australian for turn up by the way – without the usual pre-race nerves. Just the other kind of ‘I hope I don’t mess up’ nerves. Collecting money from non-registered non-member entrants was easy – there were only 16. My other job was to call out the number of each runner as they crossed the finish line and indicate if they were female. My fellow volunteer – now my Facebook friend who I plan to meet at a race next weekend – did a great job of noting down the numbers on the results list.

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And they’re off! The start of the Burswood Twilight 5km Race.

I think race finish lines must be some of the happiest places on earth, even if happiness comes in the form of tears of relief and vomiting. For the record there was no actual puking last night, but one lady was on the verge of retching. The majority of runners – there were 173 – wore WAMC club bibs which are made of fabric and pinned on the front of the torso. They are the kind of bibs that, if only pinned on with two pins, blow in the wind or fold over. I had to ask a few men to unfurl their low hanging bibs as I didn’t want to touch their bits. Thankfully I didn’t declare any men as females nor vica versa even though there were a couple of people, including kids, whose gender wasn’t clear until I got a close-up in the chute. It’s a short hair thing. Age-wise, runners ranged from around 6 or 7 to upper-80s. Most of the kids ran faster than I would have. Sigh.

Pencil at the ready....
Pencil at the ready….
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The finisher chute wasn’t empty for long.

All in all it was a lot of fun to greet finishers, and congratulate them on a job well done. It was also a real eye-opener into how fast runners are here.

Last night’s winner was Gerard Hill with a time of 16:21 in hot windy conditions. That’s 3:16 minutes per kilometre. The fastest lady, 22-year-old Hannah Castle, took a mere 18:41 minutes to complete the 5km (3:44 minute kilometres). I don’t think I could move that fast on a bike! Speaking of wheels, the fourth man across the line ran 17:06 – pushing a large toddler in a stroller. These elite runners made running look effortless. The winner popped over the line looking as if he’d been for an easy jog. Really, every person who ran last night was a winner, though only the top 3 finishers of each gender got medals. Even the lady who, on finishing, declared her run a personal worst was a winner in my eyes. At least she went out there and made an effort, which is more than most people (including me) did on a sunny Sunday evening.

So, it has only taken six months, but finally I think I’m doing as planned – using running to meet people. And last night, I didn’t even have to get all worked up with worry over running. I might be on to something…

Race results:

WAMC Burswood Twilight 5km

Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.
Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.

Race report: Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2014

AngkorWat3At the start line of this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon, rather than worrying about the 21.1km ahead, my mind was preoccupied with the issue of gender inequality. Lofty thoughts however they were not. I was eyeing the back of a runner, a male runner, who was peeing against a tree. Not fair! I needed the loo too, despite having just been to the portaloo, but with only minutes to go to the starting gun, I wasn’t going to risk missing the start of the race. Been there, done that! While I was feeling hard done by, other runners were climbing a mound of rocks to view Angkor Wat temple in all its sunrising glory. There can’t be many start lines to match this one but as ever my mind was (wishing I was) in the toilet.

The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.
The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.

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Blinking bladder aside, the race went very well. I got stuck behind a thousand runners at the start, but managed to weave through so that by the second kilometre I was doing a comfortable pace. I wasn’t going to risk ruining the race by racing; this was my chance to exorcise the misery of the previous year and savour the delight of running in such a special, and thankfully flat, place. Unfortunately after much mithering, I had opted not to take along my phone to take photos as I was already carrying a fuel belt. I sort of hoped I’d meet lots of people who’d take pictures and share them but that didn’t happen so here I am writing about running in a beautiful, special place with little photographic evidence. The photos I do have are from a family trip back in December 2012.

As usual, crowds of locals cheered on runners. I high fived as many kids as I could. My eight-year-old’s index finger spends a lot of time tucked into his right nostril but I put thoughts of hygiene aside; these kids probably had better manner’s than mine anyhow. Water stations provided small water bottles which is a waste really as most runners ditched the bottles after only a few sips. The volunteers were excellent at opening the caps and handing the bottles over and there was no issue of crowding at water stops as the route is wide and the runners were well spread out after a few kilometres. Kids collected the bottles for recycling all along the route so at least someone was benefiting from the excess of plastic.

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Typical road along the route. My socks turned orange from the dust.

I didn’t stop. I counted my steps to distract me from negative thoughts and worries. I barely looked at my watch. And until about 17km, all was going really well. I dared to think that I was actually enjoying myself. Then I started to feel a bit whoozy, a bit like motion sickness, a too familiar feeling from previous half marathon races. At least this time, the race was almost done when discomfort hit. I kept going, a little slower, but determined that I wasn’t going ruin yet another race. I can see from the official race photos that I must have been hurting by the end as my head is hanging and I’m staring at the ground, willing one foot in front of the other. At this stage, the 21.1km runners had merged with the 10km runners/walkers so more and more supporters – friends, family and fellow runners – stood along the verge, cheering people on. I seriously could have given one particular cheering American lady a big hug for telling me I was ‘awesome’  – I felt like sh*t – but that would have meant stopping and that wasn’t an option if I wanted to finish. Around the same time, I spotted monkeys hanging out of a tree. After all my years in Asia, monkeys are still a novelty and they served as a timely reminder that for an Irish ‘girl’ who discovered running mid-life, running around 12th century temples in Cambodia is a freakin’ amazing experience even with a nauseous stomach and heavy legs. Such thoughts got me to the end.

The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.
The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.

And I finished, happy for once. It was the fastest half marathon I had run but more than anything I was relieved that I hadn’t had a miserable race experience, only one that got mildly miserable near the end. When the official race results came out, my chip time was 1:50:59, a few seconds under what I had on my Garmin. I cared but I didn’t. I’d done such a good job of telling myself that my time didn’t matter that I had come to really believe it. I never run my fastest on race days but at least on this race day I had managed to run faster than on others without totally losing the gut plot (as I did last year at Angkor Wat and back in May at Borneo International Marathon.) I think the problem is low fuel and hydration which next time I will try remedy with a second gel at 14km.

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I’m still injured of course. My ITB hurt from 9km but I could run. It hurt a hellava lot more once I crossed the finish line. I was limping for the rest of the day. But it was worth it because for the first time in 7 half marathons, I didn’t wish I was somewhere – anywhere! – else. You could say that I took the endure out of endurance. The phrase ‘never again’ did not even enter my mind; that certainly was a first!

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Finisher medals from 2013 and 2014.

As for the bladder? Well I showed it who was boss. After bargaining with it that I would stop behind a tree – as I saw numerous men do along the route – it gave up nagging at about 10km. In fact it went into a coma and didn’t bother me for another six hours. If I ever run in Cambodia again – it really is a long trip from Perth but this year it was certainly worth it – I’ll make the effort to climb up and gaze at Angkor Wat as the sun rises. I might even take my phone along to take photos. For the record, I don’t really have any desire to be a man, though on my arrival in Cambodia, my wish was momentarily granted.

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For a  Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).
For a Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).