If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Great Ocean Road Half Marathon

...aka The Most Beautiful Run of My Life... aka The Longest Run of My Life (So Far)...  aka The Most Painful Run of My Life (ugh... So Far)...  Anyway.

I did it!  My hilly half marathon is done!  I have such a sense of achievement.

Running weekends are, I think, my favourite type of weekend.  And this one was stunning.  In more ways than one!  Oh, and this whole trip I took SO many photos.  I'll only put up my top picks, promise.  Like this first one - I was so excited for the leaves in Jeannie's street.
On Friday I flew to Melbourne, and had dinner with Jeannie at Fire Chief, followed by dessert at Kakao Green (my first time for both).  Saturday morning, I took a small backpack of necessities and headed off to Southern Cross for the train to Geelong, then the (rather delayed express) bus to Lorne.  I played 'Spot the Runner' which kept me entertained while my toes froze.  I did the Great Ocean Road - in a car - a few years ago, and I kept having flashbacks.  The weather, until Saturday afternoon, was about the same in mid-May as it was that January (grey, cold, raining).  I still had a lovely walk along the beach before checking into the hotel, then picking up some of the things I wasn't going to transport all that way.  And a toothbrush.  A short nap, then I went for a walk up to the pier and a bit further before returning as the lights started to twinkle.  Later, DVD Sam arrived - he was there to do the full marathon.  His first.  (CRAZY!!)

Race Day.  Some reflections:
Sights: Amazingly beautiful.  That was a given, really.  And a good thing too, as I look at scenery to keep myself going.  Bonus - I saw more rainbows this weekend than the whole past year (not that I was counting, but there were so many of them!).  And the light.  Also, having such a curvy course was an unexpected plus.  Instead of looking ahead and seeing a hundreds and hundreds of runners as a block in front, you could just catch glimpses here and there, and see how steep an approaching part would be. 
Sounds: Surf. Birds.  Those are my overwhelming impressions - and they're so different from other running experiences.  It was more like having a holiday, a whole lot of time out.  The other stand-out sounds were only 2: one sniffer - I mean, every breath was a sniff.  Thankfully we weren't close by for long.  The other was a really heavy breather, about 2/3 through.  That was actually enough, after about 50m, for me to pick up the pace (so thank you, heavy breather!).  Oh, and one more - on the shuttle to the start line, I was in front of 2 blokes from the same town.  One of them had done both the full and half, and commented that the first hill after Kennett River was just horrible, so steep... I beg to differ.  (Although, if that was half-way through a marathon it would be a killer).
Sensations: For the first 14km or so, I was in that "I love my life!  I love running!" zone.  And then I began to notice my left leg having problems.  This made me walk for a total of about 300m which was a bit disappointing, in some ways.  However, I had to remind myself that I went into this run expecting to walk a bit.  Last year, I felt I was in pretty good shape and well-prepared for my runs.  Having a concert 2 weeks before this one meant that I had far less time to prepare, and had 2 weeks of intense training.  But hills...  I was thinking I might have to walk up the hills and run down, carefully.  These hills were not very much like the ones at home, though, which are short and sharp and steep.  These hills were much more gradual and curvy.  So I didn't have to do any walking up them.  We had to run on the left side, though, and I think that's what did me in - as well as the extended gradual climb of the second hill.  I needed to run downhill sooner!  Oh well.  More gradual hills for me in future.  At this stage I'm still walking funny...
Staff: In contrast to the Melbourne Half, everything was so well done here.  They provided us with plastic bags for clothes (my backpack just fit in), and a friendly woman gave me 2, just in case.  As our shuttles got there about an hour before the start, they had an aerobics instructor to warm us up. Hydration was ready and well-marked, and they also had jellybeans, fruit and toilets.  Crossing the finish line, a medal was immediately around my neck, fluid was ready, and a few people directed me to where my bag would be. 
More Sensations: Because this was a long run, they had a marker for the full marathon and the half marathon, and then the real finish line.  I got to the first of these, and thought it was the half, and had that spurt of 'only 2 more ks'.  And then I got to the half marathon marker.  Oh, now it's only 2 more... And that was really painful.  Looking at the results I actually picked up a lot here, and if I'm reading this right (and I'd like to think that I am) I overtook nearly 200 people.  Once I saw the finish line I was determined, and ran as fast as my left leg allowed.
More Sounds: I overheard some ... interesting... things.  3 women in front of me in the toilet queue were chatting.  One of them runs for the calorie burn (so she can eat chocolate), but her dad is a serious runner.  Her mum disliked him training and would sabotage his efforts, feeding him a huge dinner before he had to sneak out at 11pm to do a long run.  This woman herself had done 2 Tough Mudders, and when she was about to do the second her mum had said "oh you're not doing another one of those motherf***ers are you?" During the race, there were many people from the same team (I won't name them...) and as I overtook one group of them, I heard "So what's your dirty sex story?" - I didn't speed up.  I didn't stick to them the whole way, but was near enough to hear a whole lot of stories and relationship talk.  Very.  Interesting.
For most of the last 7km all I wanted to do was be on the beach.  Once I'd stretched and had a coconut water, I headed to the sand.  There were many people with the same idea.  I even went in the water!  Only up to my ankles, but still.  So nice. 

It was great having Sam there afterwards - although I could have done this on my own, having someone with whom to debrief later was great.  And even though I'm limping a little, it's nothing compared to his post-marathon hobble. 
The trip back to Melbourne felt really long, when all I wanted to do was curl up on a bed.  But Jeannie met me at the station and fed me Panamax and a massive bowl of soup - best friend ever.

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