Saturday, 24 May 2014

2014 Great Ocean Road Marathon

You know you want to...

One of the most scenic drives in the world is Victoria’s’ Great Ocean Road. Stretching over 240 kilometres from Torquay to Allansford, it takes in some stunning coastline. There are serene beaches, breathtaking cliff top views and dozens of little coastal towns and holiday destinations.

Once a year this majestic road is closed off to traffic and opened up for our enjoyment through the Great Ocean Road Marathon. Other events on offer are the Half Marathon, a 14k and 6k event and the kid’s dash. This year I was running the 23km Half Marathon from Kennett River to the event finish line in Apollo Bay. Yes, 23km.

We had booked to stay in Lorne for the Saturday night and our cabin at the caravan park was spot on. We were even granted the luxury of a late check out on the Sunday – perfect as we could come back and shower before the long drive home. Saturday afternoon was to be a rare one of peace and quiet. 

A river front cabin, with local kookaburra!
We checked in had a rare kid free afternoon - they were with the grandparents. We enjoyed coffee and cake overlooking the surfbeach, a walk up the Erskine Falls trail and carbo loading at the local Italian. 

My tummy had been rumbling all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday I woke at 4:00 am for a trip to the toilet. I tossed and turned until 5:15 when the alarm went off. I’ve been told I share too much, so let’s just say I think I was heading into the run on an empty tank. Breaky, a quick shower and stretch and by 6:15 we were in the car with Bec and Dan to the starting line in Kennett River. It was surreal driving down the Great Ocean Road at 6:30 in the morning, the procession of head and tail lights of the cars in front was mesmerising. To Bec and Dan, we loved dinner and a massive thanks for the lift down.

About 7:00am we reached the start and already the toilet queue was huge. The three ‘porta potty’ trucks just didn’t seem to be enough. By 7:30 I’d found Cam and Josie from team ThisFish and had great little chat about our race strategies before we were off for a quick warm up. 7:50 and Em and I headed to the line. My race plan was to run the first 2-3ks with Em and Bec and then move through the field, picking up places and pace as I went along. Well, 8:00 gun time came and went, and we were all scratching our heads as to why the delayed start. It seems the porta potty trucks just weren’t enough for the crowd... (an update, I've also heard that the marathon timing points were delayed in Lorne).

My earlier tummy issues seemed to settle and a calmness came over me. We’d been chatting to Bryan at the start and then it was time to run.

The first 1-3kms was amazing. Here I am, running on one of the greatest roads in the world with my wife by my side. Well, and a few thousand others! Em, Bec and I were amazed at how quickly the field had spread, as we could see the leading runners a few bends ahead of us. Our placement in the field was quite congested, you could see how it was thinning out near the lead.The pounding of feet soon became a rhythmic beat as we started up the first hill. We were running an ‘easy’ 5:00 min/k pace and I think I was talking too much. To my left were crystal clear seas with gently rolling waves. To the right, rising and falling hills and cliff tops. The first hill came and went, and the scenery was always changing. As we continued on our ways I saw Josie fly by. She was looking very strong.

At about 2 and a half kms in I said goodbye to Em and picked up the pace. The rad continued to rise and fall and came inland for a while. The bush seemed to close in over the road and at this point I picked up Cam and we ran together for a while. 5ks in and I was feeling really strong. I rarely take in the scenery, but today I made sure I looked to the left and the right. I don’t think I could have had a more perfect day. The seas were perfect, the gentle tail wind flowing out over the cliffs and rocks created the perfect waves, waves that seemed to roll forever. The road rose and fell and I was enjoying playing cat and mouse with quite a few runners. I’d pick them up on the hill and the down and they’d ping me back on the flats.

The sweeping corners always kept that next part of the road hidden, like a great trail run you never knew what was coming up next. I was hitting low fours on the descents, 4:30ish on the flatter parts and about 4:45 on the ‘climbs’. I have to say at this stage the run was one of my most enjoyable ever, as every corner game you a new section of coast and surf on the left and imposing cliffs, rolling hills or Aussie bush on the right.

At about the 15k mark my stomach started to play up again. I was feeling bloated and it was just churning away. I felt like I wanted to pull off to the side and empty my stomach. It came and went like the waves beside me but I couldn’t settle into a happy place. As we neared Skenes Creek I should have been elated, but honestly, I just wanted the end. My pace was dropping and I was pulling off to the side, breaking up the jogging with some quick walking.

With roughly 4ks to go, Em and Bec caught me up. I ran with them for a few hundred metres before wishing them all the best. At this point the camaraderie of the event really shone through. I lost count of the number of people that pulled me along. I’d run with them for a while, the watch them escape into the distance. I hit the half marathon timing point and knew that I was almost home. Soon it was Cam’s turn to catch up with me, and we were going to finish the run together. The last 2kms seemed to take forever. My energy had been zapped and I did what I could to get to the line. 

Running down the main street of Apollo Bay made the trip all worth it. The crowd was buzzing, and seeing Cam run the last few hundred with is little girl reminded me of why I started running and was the inspiration I needed to finish as strong as I could.
I soon found Em, who after sharing her concern for me was elated to have run 1:53. 

Regular readers will remember my running in-laws. Bec was the first female over the line and the always improving Steve smashed a sub 1:35. Happy days for the family.

So, while I was over the line in 2:00:30 and a long way from where I wanted to be, I am proud to be writing this.

I ran the race I wanted. After hearing of David’s slow and steady start strategy at 2 Bays, I took the start of the run easy. It was difficult watching so many people head out and ‘leave us behind’ but I did it. And, I was not going to miss out on the running with my Em on one of the world’s best courses. I had wanted to be that runner that just picks and weaves through the field and I did, for a good ¾s of the race. I ran the way I wanted and it felt good.

So, as I type I am questioning if I’ll do it again next year. For now, I’m hanging up the distance shoes and shifting my focus to the short and sharp 6-10k trail events. I’m looking forward to training shorter yet harder. I’ve got a whole trail runners paradise to explore around Silvan and I’m going to make it my home. 

I'll leave you with one more magical photo as I sign off for now. 

Happy running!

It caught our eye on the way home!

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