After my failed attempt in Lyon in 2017 I didn’t want to stay on a failure, so I decided to register for the Sydney Marathon!
Before the marathon
Inscription and trip
I entered on February 19th, the day after my first semi marathon of the year at Wellington! The official website is quite complete.There are three SAS, less than 3:45; less than 4h30 and more than 4h30. Knowing we have max 6 hours to finish the race (and that there are cut-off points in several places of the race, I will come back to this point). Having an address in New Zealand, I took advantage of their cheaper rate 😉. I booked a plane with checked baggage (which I rarely do) to be able to bring anything that could potentially serve me and not be restricted. Only for a weekend, arriving on Friday to have time to acclimatize in case and return on Monday. I also booked in an hostel in a dormitory of 4 (not the ideal but more in my budget). I could also walk a little in Sydney!
As usual I planned my training with Frequence Running. I started my dedicated training plan to this race mid-June (so 3 months before) knowing that I had chained a few races before. To be honest, I think I followed a little less than half of the plan 🙄. Not because of them but me! I think I didn’t think I was able to do it and I did not believe enough in my training (+ a little winter blues).
Already having some results entered in the application it proposed me a goal of 5h31’30. And with my training at the end it planned the race in 5h38’42 so 8’02 / km. But in reality my goal was just to cross the finish line so I didn’t really consider those times.
I did not run two days before the race simply because it was very hot in Sydney and I knew it wasn’t going to be representative of the conditions of the race. I was afraid it would be hard and was a blow for my mind!
In New Zealand I only took one pair of my Saucony Hurricane Iso 2 sneakers. They were the ones who accompanied me during my training and during my intermediate races (10km at Rotorua in early August and 10km at Nouméa in end of August).
I did not bring a camelbak so I bought one here. It’s better than the one I had in France by cons I haven’t yet managed to eliminate the taste of plastic 😑. This is the Octane Dart Hydration model. It has several pockets, some accessible in belt. You can even put away a thin jacket. In short it’s perfect for my needs!
I also have Skins’ compression stockings to protect my shins, although I don’t have any particular pain at this place usually!
Not having the opportunity to cryotherapy in New Zealand I could only do one session the day before the race (2′). It’s rather advisable to do several on one / two week (s) before. I can’t say if it had an effect because I have no point of comparison😉. Anyway, I didn’t feel any difference before / after. In general they say that we sleep well the next night but as before every “important” day I have a lot of trouble sleeping I haven’t seen this beneficial effect. And yes I went running a marathon having slept at most 4 hours (and not at once) during the night…
I read only 15 days before it was advisable to spread your feet morning and evening with anti-chafing cream. Not having all the brands available I chose a product from New Zealand Gurney Goo. And indeed it has made its effect! One blister (probably not enough cream on this spot) and none related to my orthosis when I usually have after 1h of race.
I’m really not an expert on this, so unfortunately I can not give you really specific advice. The day before I went to eat starchy foods. And the morning of the race as I was in hostel I did not have much choice of breakfast. I only eat a chocolate and protein drink and a CLIF energy bar. It was clearly not enough!
The content of my camelbak
For this marathon, my camelbak contained: 1.5L of water; 4 GU gels; 2 energy bars; kleenex; tiger balm. I have used everything !! I missed a lip balm because after a while my lips were dry (probably dehydration) and it was not great.
Arrival at the place
All participants had free transportation all day in the city! So I took a direct train to get to the departure point on the other side of Harbour Bridge. It was very cold (with wind) this morning, my tine jacket was a bit light 😑. But I preferred it to the 30° of the day before! I did not forget the important pee break and I joined my departure SAS after a few minutes of jogging.
Another point that I really appreciated, they provide pacer until 6h! I am not especially a pacer follower but psychologically I find it hard in other races not to be entitled to pacers because we are “too slow”.
The start of this race is really mythical! That’s when we run on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, overlooking the Opera House! Everyone stops quietly to make some souvenir photos 😊. I immediately removed my jacket (and put in my camelbak).
I have already talked about that but in Oceania, there is nothing to eat at the AID stations! Just water, isotonic water (but depending of the marks I can’t drink them). After the first half there were GU gels but when you arrive last like me, there is no more! They also provide toilets (with paper) to all the stations (I think France is overwhelmed for that!). There were stations every 2-3 km which is really good! A medical team was also present at most stops.
I took a glass of water at ALL AID stations, even though I had water with me. I then alternated gel, energy bar and just water. My digestive system is quite sensitive I took only half a energy bar at a time so that it does not disturb too much.
The course map
Passing by the botanical garden, the route brings us to the Moore Park. On the way I saw the first and especially I could see that I was not so far away from the pacer 5h30. And that there were still a lot of people behind me! Leaving the park I saw the last (which I think was forced to stop later), I was about 3km ahead of her.
Returning near Harbour bridge I saw the marathoners sub 4h who were at 40km while I was at 27 … But especially around a little after the 30 km I saw this majestic bridge, very far!! It’s a little demoralizing to think that there is still a lot of distance before returning near the finish line..
At km 35, I am almost stopped by a “cut-off” of the race to reopen traffic to cars. And yet, 6h pacers were behind me (time limit officially to finish the race). I decided not to listen to it and continue! As not all the cut-offs were on the event website, I did not know if there was going to be a new one. And I knew that I had a few hundred meters running down the road again around km 40. So I “accelerated” (and significantly reduced walking) to be sure to be allowed to finish. This part of the course is easy because flat but the landscape does not vary much so the feeling is quite long!
And finally I saw the opera in front of me and I finished my first marathon in 5h57’29. In the end, all the participants behind me were allowed to finish the race, without dealing with the cut-off. The last ones finally put around 6:20 to arrive.
My race management
I really wanted to avoid stressing myself for this race! It may sound “silly” but I just put one foot in front of the other (ok for 6h). I had my watch with me so I knew how long I had put, how many km I had ran and how much I had left. Well yes and no because I finally ran 43.1km. By cons I had absolutely no idea of the time that I had to go or if I was very early or not on the much talked about 6h. And I had absolutely no idea of the time under which I had to pass km 21, 30, 35!
I put my phone in airplane mode as well (I just had music). I did not want to be bothered by the notifications or be tempted to go watch the internet or anything else. The only thing I did was send a message to my cousin (who was with me in Lyon) at km 30 to tell him that I had already done better than last time and that I continue! Well it may be a little around this famous km 30 that I slightly switched off until km 35 because I just said myself “there it is on I have the ability to go to the end!”.
Because of my desire not to stress me I had a pretty good race! After the first half I had a moment where I walked a little more. I concentrated on my music, “played” the drums by tapping my thighs in rhythm. Well the problem is that I forgot a little breathing enough😅. And when I ran an entire km I saw with my watch that my legs were still there (eg I did a 6’49/km at km 24 and a 6’59/km at km 37!). So it’s very encouraging for the next one 😉.
On the second part of the course we were only a few to be “behind” so we double and are doubled by the same people all the time. But it’s nice to see someone who outdistance you a few minutes earlier! What is a little hard to handle when you are slow is to see that the volunteers “clean” because the race ends. And that there’s almost nothing to the AID stations. By cons they continued to encourage participants and that was great! Another black spot, see the sub 6h pacers who were not so far behind me…
I didn’t have a “wall” during the marathon, I guess because I don’t run fast enough and thoroughly! The fact that I managed to resume and run well over the last 7 km is very encouraging for the future because physically I was still there! Certainly I was tired so my cardio didn’t like it, but I think I could handle the next one much better!
My result in detail
Return to calm
After the race I settled down on a terrace under the sun eating a pizza (not a lot of cheap choice near the opera …) and especially drink a cold drink! Returning to the hostel I already had legs quite painful. I took a good shower and put on my compression stockings (which I removed just before going to sleep).
I didn’t have a very good night between the pain, the heat released by my legs (activated to repair all my muscle fibers).
The next morning I had planned another cryotherapy session before taking my flight home. My legs were heavy, painful and tense. I did a session of 2’30 this time. There too I didn’t feel a big change between before / after but it probably contributed to my recovery anyway. The same evening I had my drumming class, even if my legs tired themselves a little faster, no particular pain for this activity 😏.
And back to work … I usually go to work on foot but I preferred to drive! No big pain while walking but a feeling of wooden leg (and I was quite slow). On the other hand slight body aches to climb the stairs. And stiffer aches to go down the stairs and sit / get up. I took the lift exceptionally! In the evening I had an appointment for a session of “float therapy”, an hour in a saltwater bath.
Almost no more aches, light down the stairs and sitting down only! I had an appointment with an osteopath because I know that I have pelvic (and back) problems. So I knew I was going to need everything back in place after this big effort! By cons I have not yet fully recovered from the fatigue of the race and the lack of sleep before / after associated.
Perfect, everything is back in order! No more pain 😊. Know that in this case you can do a “cardio” activity but short and smooth (cycling on flat, swimming for example).
I will be on the road and travel for the next few months. For the moment no race planned (but I can change my mind at the last minute, depending on the occasion). And especially I expect a break running because lately I do not always run for fun and I would like to find a little more fun to run. But I keep my sneakers in my backpack we never know it can come back soon enough 😏.