Monday, 18 May 2015

My 2015 Great Ocean Road Half Marathon - the perfect event

Last year I swore I'd never do the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon again. Actually, I swore quite a lot during the run. To make a long story short, you can read the recap here

Now that you're up to date, 2015 brought absolutely perfect weather conditions to one of the best road races in Australia, and I felt that I was in the perfect condition.

Em and I had booked in last September, and were looking forward to racing this one together. Out previous two attempts at running a race together had met with troubles (for me mainly...) and this was to be the one we both did well. Unfortunately Em met with a knee injury in the last few weeks so I was running solo. 

At 6:25 we were in the car, and as a passenger I got to watch the sunrise over Bass Straight: 

After drop off I decided to check out the toilet queues, not much better than last year. I did a few laps of the caravan park, and by 7:30 had done my bag drop. I did a few more laps to warm up/keep warm and by 7:45, and with 15 minutes to spare the queues were only 10 or so deep. Done, it was another couple of laps to keep warm. 

I hit the start line with 3 minutes to spare, so I shuffled three or four deep and to the left hand side. I hadn't caught any of the GenRun group so it was me, myself and I. Bang on 8:00 am we were off. 

First km: The first km was always going to be at an easy pace, up one of the steepest sections of the race is not an ideal fast start and this is a 23km event. I was pacing at an easy 150 bpm pace and felt great. After this, I had no plan. I was going to run fast if I wanted, I could back off if I needed. In my mind the only limiting factor was an upper HR limit of 175+ and last years ill memories. The shuffle of the start had soon sorted everyone out and I was loving watching the waves roll in along the coast. 

2- 5km: It wasn't too long before Hannah caught me up and I trotted along with her for a km or so before I had to let her move on, her pace was a little hot for what I wanted to do this early.  

With the ups and down of the coast line and as we moved slightly inland, kms 2-5 varied from 4:35 - 4:56 pace as we rode the last of the steeper climbs for a while and beat the Kennett River to Cape Patton climb. 

6-10km: It was about this stage that Ben pulled up alongside me. He'd been pacing me a for while and really liked my consistent pace. We talked goal times and he was aiming for something similar to me - I wanted 1:35 - 1:50. I know this is a huge window but after last years daemons I was just wanting a good strong run. 

We instantly clicked and the kms soon flew by. His pace was just a little quicker than what I was feeling like, but this being the run to just run, I picked it up and enjoyed the run. We'd done the worst of the climbs and descents by the end of the 6th km, and our pace through kms 7-10 was like clockwork - a broken conversational pace of 4:15 - 4:31 depending on the gradient. We ran through Grey River to Carisbrooke Falls and past Sugarloaf Creek. It was along this section I kept reminding myself to look left, the weather and conditions were perfect and I didn't want to miss anything. 

10 - 14km: From Sugarloaf Creek to Hickeys Cutting we averaged 4:21 - 4:35 as the road rose and fell, and we had also caught up with Hannah. I dropped back a little to chat, but as I was feeling great I pulled ahead to continue running with Ben. His subtle encouragement was exactly what I needed and it pushed me towards that goal time.

15km: We ran through Petticoat Creek and Ben was stoked with our pacing - 4:32-4:33 average the undulations were less extreme as we were closer to sea level here. It was here I started to have questions. Ben began to move forward and I started to have questions about whether could I keep going? It was about here last year that I fell apart. I was remembering where I went wrong and the niggles started to appear. The calves were twitching, the hips singing and my left foot was blistering and starting to hurt. 

16-18km: My pace here dropped to 4:45kms and I was starting to ebb as my fellow runners started to slowly swallow me up and spit me out. This was the tipping point. I could ease off and make it home, or hold my nerve. Each hundred metres became a form check. How were my strides, check the breathing rate - 3-2 still, land midfoot to ease the blistering pain and monitor the pulse. 168-170 was good, beyond 172 and I was worried about peaking. 

18-21km: I won the mind games. This last 5km became my Lillydale Lake Parkrun. Stick with me here. I knew I could do two laps of the lake. I knew I could do 5km at 170 BPM and run strong, keeping my form and regular breathing. I dug deep. My pace picked up to between 4:33 to 4:41 on the 18th, 19th and 20th kms. As we ran past Skenes Creek and the Chocolate Gannets, the crowd came alive. The locals were out on the beach chairs, kids were high fiving along the road and I got my third wind. 

I hit the half marathon timer just under 1:36 and made my move for home. 

The last 2.2km: I can't describe the emotions I had along this last section of the run. You could see the township of Apollo Bay and I could smell the finish. Last year it was one foot in front of the other, this year it was passing one runner after the next. My last two kms were 4:37 and 4:33 and I felt strong. I ran with the crowd and every child out there waiting for mum and dad became mine. I loved the smiles on the faces after the high fives and surged home. I saw the buses and could smell the finish. 

800m to go: The final 800m was 4:17 pace and I smashed it. The HR was 180 and rising and I was breathing hard. Running down that main street and the euphoria of finishing strong was almost overwhelming. I saw Em and the GenRun crew and somehow found that little bit more. 

The home stretch - 200m to go
With a flying finish and the flying heel tap over the line I finished in 1:43:39 almost perfecting the 1:35-1:50 time frame. Was I excited, yes, spent, yes, had enough breath to give a post race interview over the mike, big yes! Finishing 167th out of 2400 people and 51st in my category was also a huge buzz (these stats came later).

I found Ben and we were both stoked with our time. Without his company I'd have run a much easier race - he pushed just out of the comfort zone and made me hit my time. Em gave me the most wonderful smile and got the biggest hug ever. The support of Bec and Steve drove home just what I'd achieved and Hannah also had an amazing run. 

After a post race pic and massage I had a quick dip in the Bay before the long drive home. 

Very happy! Thanks to Skins Australia for the great new A400s
I can now say that I don't want to do the Great Ocean Half Marathon ever again in the near future. Maybe one day if the little fishlings become runners and goad the broken old man into running it. For now, I've run it twice in absolutely perfect weather conditions and I've run my perfect run. I battled my mind and this time I won, and I can't beat that.

That's it for now, the Salomon Series is but a month away...

This Fish


  1. great race lachie - congrats sir!

    i still can't get over the fact that there's a 23km 'half-marathon' ...!

    1. Thanks Patrick, yup, it's 23km. That's what you get on a coastal road going from location to location. It was a perfect run. Not quite as quick as I'd dared to dream, but only 3 seconds a km off. Not bad for not looking at my speed once ;)