Chevron City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 1)

Guys, I’m still struggling to put this whole marathon experience into words.  You all know that my posts tend to be long-winded thorough.  And that goes double for race reports.  I hate to leave anything out – especially after you all told me a few months back that you really like to hear ALL the details of the race.

Just the idea of summarizing 26.2 miles (42.2 km) – almost 4 hours – of running into a single post feels daunting.  GCA was super-prompt with her race report.  After dinner on Sunday (race day), she napped for 3 hours, then woke up and blogged all about it – read her Perth Training Study Evaluation.  I’m trying to be less than 7 days behind her.  (Whoops, FAIL.) So here goes:

As I discussed in My Big Fat Goal Time post, I was aiming for a sub-4 hour race (just under 9 min/mile).  Armed with this basic goal, and the elevation profile of the race, I set about drafting a strategy on the back of the paper with my flight information.  Because, you know, why have more important pieces of paper than absolutely necessary?

Elevation profile of Chevron City to Surf Marathon (Perth).

Elevation profile of Chevron City to Surf Marathon (Perth). Source.

I know the profile is small.  Basically, the first major climb (~60 meters total) is at the half-way mark, and the second (~50 meters) is at about 18 miles (30 km).  I still struggle to estimate what “60 meters of elevation change over 2 kilometers” looks like, but I did some rough calculations and decided that it wouldn’t be too bad.  This was my race plan:

0-3 km: Downhill.  ~8:30-8:45 min/mi [I know, this is counter to my “start slow” strategy – but only to capitalize on the early descent.]
3-21 km: Mostly flat.  ~8:45-9:00 min/mi
21-23 km: Climb. Don’t look at watch, keep effort steady.
23-25 km: Descend. Fly by feel. [I’m good at descents.]
25-29 km: Steady. 8:45 – 9:00 min/mi
29-31 km: Climb. Don’t look at watch, keep effort steady.
31-39 km: Cruise. 8:45-9:00 min/mi if you can.  Remember the slight downhill.
39-41 km: SUCK IT UP.  <— Yep, that’s what the Race Plan Paper said.
41-42 km: Don’t die. Focus on the finish line. Stay steady. No sprinting. Sprinting = cramping.

Basically, I wanted to bank 3-4 minutes on the first (flat) half, if possible, so that when the hills hit in the second half (and I got tired), I could settle into a 9 min/mi pace without obsessing over a few seconds.  This would also let me build in a bathroom break, if I needed one.

[The course was marked in kilometers, so I memorized the profile by kilometer.  And although I’m now fluent in both miles and kilometers, I still prefer to monitor my pace in min/mile.  Thus, this post will use kilometers for distance and min/mile for speed.  Deal with it.]

On race morning, we woke up at 4 AM, had some Buckwheat O’s (local cereal; tested during shake-out run), and got suited up:

Last race-related photo from my camera. I opted to leave my phone in the room; hence, no photos.

Last race-related photo from my camera. I opted to leave my phone in the room; hence, no photos.

 The weather was a bit of a concern: The predicted temperature for the day was 13-18 °C (55-65 °F), with a 40-50% chance of rain.  We weren’t sure if we were going to have a dry, warm(ish) marathon, or a rainy, windy, cold marathon.   We both wore tanks and capris, and donned a waterproof shell jacket for the 1 kilometer walk past the Starting Line and to the Convention Center, where we were being corralled for the start.

We quickly found the small van that would be transporting the Marathoner’s drop bags – as opposed to the enormous truck designated for half-marathon drop bags.  We gave thanks again for a small field in the marathon (about 1,500 registered).  Since the walk warmed us both, we decided to gamble on the day going “warmer” rather than “wet and cold”.  We packed our jackets/arm warmers/extra layers into our drop bags and handed them to the volunteers.  We hit the port-a-potties (NO LINE!), which were of a Singaporean style: chemical flush, running water in the sink, etc.  Fancy, by American standards!

About 20-30 minutes before the start, we made our way into one of the large halls of the Convention Center, designated “Marathon”.  There was a short safety video and taped warm-up, but we found a wall, plopped down, and tried to relax.  There may have been some people-watching involved.  At about 6 AM, we were collected and led, en massto the starting line.

There was a light mist as we walked the 1 kilometer to the start (we called this our “warm up”), but we remained hopeful for good race conditions.  All the marathoners were led directly into the Starting Chute, and after 60 seconds of announcements (the last of the marathoners were still filtering in), the starting horn honked.  And that was it: We were off! Time: 6:11 AM.

[Note: If you’re looking for a marathon with lots of pomp and circumstance, this isn’t it.  If you’re looking for a marathon that is organized, calm, and well-executed, you found it.]

0-5 km (0-3.1 miles)
There was less than half a mile of intense jockeying for position, after which the 2-3 lanes of road that were open to us were more than sufficient to accommodate all the runners.  Of course, people were still trying to find their pace and proper position.  I countered the typical “starting speed” with reminders to myself to hold back a bit.

I’m not big on mantras, but through these first three miles, I kept telling myself, “Run your own race.  Run your own race!”  Even in a small race, it takes everyone awhile to get sorted out, so it’s quite common for a lot of passing to occur (I was both a passer and a passee).  This is too early a stage to try to find a pace buddy, so I focused on the marathon-paced running I did in London, and tried to lock into that pace again.

Mile 1: 8:31 min/mi
Mile 2: 8:34
Mile 3: 8:44

5-10 km (3.1-6.2 miles)
This section was the “out” stretch along the Swan River.  The sun was rising (behind the clouds), and there was a light mist, but temperatures were perfect.  I was sweating slightly, and there were no goosebumps to be found.  Perfection.  People were starting to sort out their paces, but there was still a lot of passing/being passed, so I opted not to latch on to anyone quite yet.   I did pass a gentleman running in coveralls, a hardhat, and boots (I’m sure there was a tribute or story to this, but didn’t pause to ask him), and another wearing a fuzzy pink onesie and matching pink hair.  I didn’t ask for that story, either.

I was busy soaking in the experience and the gorgeous running weather, until about the sixth kilometer, when I realized that the road ahead was quite curvy.  I heard Boots (a running mentor of mine from Rochester) in my head, “Courses are measured on tangents. So for goodness’ sake, run the tangents!!”  He probably would have added a few other choice words for emphasis, but I’m keeping the blog G-rated.  Over ten-thousand miles away, he still made his point: Pay attention and run smart.  I spent the next few kilometers dutifully easing my way back and forth across the road, on long diagonals between curves, while my fellow runners hugged the left side of the course.

Around the 9 kilometer mark, the elites (a group of 4 Kenyans) were just re-entering the “return” section along Swan River. Somehow, one of them didn’t notice that there was an entire section of road blocked off for “return” runners.  Instead, he vaulted a cone (?) and nearly crashed into me.  Well, it’s not every day that I nearly get plowed down by an elite Kenyan runner!  Too bad I didn’t notice his bib number…one of the four won the race.

I recovered with a short stop at the 9 km water stop – a helpful volunteer used his pitcher to refill my handheld bottle, and I was off again in less than 30 seconds.  Thank you, sir!

As I came to the 10 km mark, I looked down at my Garmin to see that my tangent-running work was rewarded: 6.26 miles.  Awesome!

Mile 4: 8:43 min/mi
MIle 5: 8:39
Mile 6: 8:40

10-15 km (6.2 – 9.3 mi)
The first 1.5 kilometers of this section dropped a bit, bringing us to the first hairpin turn (of many) on the course.  We rounded the corner and began the (mild) climb back up.  A few minutes later, I passed GCA – she spotted me first, but we both managed a little shout-out.  Based on the distance between us, I knew she was off to a strong start.

Soon, the course turned off for a cruise through the University of Western Australia campus (one of them, at least).  I spied beakers in the window of one of the buildings, and had a brief nostalgic sigh for my undergrad days in the research lab.  The rain picked up at this point, and I was working to avoid all the painted sections on the road (there were lots, on campus) – I’ve seen more than one person wipe out on rain-wet road paint.  I ate half a pack of Honey Stingers at the 8 mile mark.

By this time, I’d settled in with a few “running mates” – I didn’t converse with anyone, but we’d been running near each other for a few miles.  Two older men were running next to me, and from their conversation, I gathered that they were veterans of the course.  They were laughing about the easy first half, and the particularly challenging second half – just in case I’d forgotten about the climbs in the second half!

The pace on my Garmin was a smidge faster than my goal, but I was mentally tired of holding back, and started to think that I should let my legs find a comfortable pace for themselves.  So I relaxed my “holding back” a bit, and tried to check my Garmin less.

Mile 7: 8:34 min/mi
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9: 8:32

15-21 km (9.3-13.1 mi)
I knew I had built myself a comfortable 4-5 minute cushion already.  My only fear was that my quads were starting to talk to me.  Nothing major, but the muscles were saying hello and experiencing the first few twinges of fatigue.  Experience has taught me that this feeling often subsides after a few miles, though.  I decided to continue to let my legs determine the pace, hoping they knew how to run smart.  Although a little earlier than planned, if I settled in to a 9 minute mile here, I was pretty confident I could still finish under 4 hours, even with a bathroom break.

Did I mentioned that I had a pee?  In the month before the marathon, my body had developed the incredibly annoying habit of deciding that I had to pee the minute I started running.  [No, I am not pregnant.]  The first few times, I humored it, running back upstairs or stopping at the next bathroom.  I soon realized, though, that if I just kept running, the urge never really worsened.  So on marathon day, I wasn’t surprised to feel my bladder (or rather, my bladder nerves) talking the minute I started running.  I decided I’d keep running, and if/when the urge got worse, I’d stop for a break.  But even into the 15K mark: no worse.  Ah, well, if that was the most annoying feeling I was having at 15 kilometers, I was doing pretty well.

I was also playing a tricky hydration game.  My hydration needs in Perth were far different from my needs in Singapore – but with only a few days in Perth before the marathon, I was using my experience from pre-Singapore days/guessing/trying to listen to my body to decide what I needed.  I was sipping from my bottle every 8-10 minutes, and finished a liter of water in the first 18 kilometers.  [Another refill stop at 18K; I filled my bottle with a few cups from the table. Pitcher guy from 9K, I wish you were there!!!]  But my stomach wasn’t sloshy, my fingers weren’t swollen and I was still feeling good, so I reasoned that I was doing a decent job with hydration.  [Edited to add: Finger swelling during exercise is common, especially in warmer weather – it does not automatically signal that there is a problem – but I know that when my water/salt balance is off, my fingers will sometimes swell.]

Knowing that the first big climb started just before the half-marathon mark, I finished up my Honey Stingers around the 19th kilometer and took in some water.  GCA and I had walked this several times, so I was ready.  Effort steady, feet moving quickly, relax, breathe, effort steady….  Bam – at the top.

Just after this climb, the marathon route re-crossed our starting line – which was the same as the starting line for the half marathon (the half-marathon route was the same as the second half of the full marathon route).  The half-marathon had considerably more entrants (10,000?), and it was about an hour before their start, so there were lots of people milling about.  So as we passed through, there was music, some cheering, and a big ‘ole race clock.  I came through at 1:54:XX.  

Turned out that my legs were teasing about being tired, as I had clipped off three more sub-8:40 splits in the three miles leading up to the halfway mark.  I crossed my fingers that this speed wouldn’t come back and bite me in the tush in another 10-15 km.

Mile 10: 8:33 min/mi
Mile 11: 8:30
Mile 12: 8:38

The cheers provided a happy little boost, but I quickly buckled down as I saw the start of the 60 meter climb looming ahead of me and realized that I’d underestimated what 60 meters of elevation looked like.  It was time for the real work to start.  But the truth is…I love hills, and am probably part mountain-goat.  I was ready.

Want to read the rest?  Tune in tomorrow! 🙂
[Sneaky, I know.  But 2,000+ words is already a LOT!]

Edit: City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 2)

It would be fun to make you guess the ending, but I already spoiled it with my immediately-post-race-post.  Anyone else dislike Choose Your Own Adventure books?
[They annoyed me to no end when I was a kid.  I’m a stickler for completeness, and could never figure out how to make sure I read every single page.]

Does writing a race report ever feel like a daunting task for you?
[Apparently, YES.  Although once I get started, I really get into the groove, and usually enjoy reliving the race.]

Do you run the tangents, or just go with the flow?

31 thoughts on “Chevron City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 1)

  1. Jen Tyniec

    Way to leave me hanging!!! Haha loving the report though. Couple questions: 1. I don’t understand the running tangents bit. Can you please clarify a bit for us noobs? 2. What about hydration? I’ve noticed my fingers will swell sometimes when I run. What’s that about?

    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s post!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      1. I’m actually planning a detailed post on this, because it’s important but often overlooked. Basically, you want to run the shortest distance – meaning the inside of the curve. But on a twisty road, how do you get from the inside of a left turn to the inside of a right turn, in the shortest distance possible? Answer: You gradually cross the road over the entire distance between the two curves – ie, the shortest distance between two points – ie, the tangent. Like I said – I’m going to do a post with photos, so if this doesn’t make sense, wait for that one!

      2. The cause of finger swelling for most people is actually not well understood. Common Theory #1: When you exercise, blood flow to heart, lungs, and working muscles increases. Blood vessels going other places contract. Blood gets “trapped” in your hands. [I do think this sometimes happens in walkers, whose hands are often dropped down at their sides, so getting rid of that extra blood ALSO means pumping against gravity.] Common Theory #2: When you exercise, you get warm. One way your body tries to cool is to push blood toward the surface (skin) – thus, blood gets pushed to the hands, and they swell. [I think this is also possible, especially when exercising in warm conditions.]

      Generally, a bit of hand swelling isn’t a cause for concern. Especially if you’re walking, try raising your arms over your head periodically, or shaking your hands, or just wiggling your fingers – all of these can help move some of the “extra” blood out of your hands.

      But personally – and I’ll go back to clarify this in the text – I find that my hands also swell when my water vs. salt intake is off (too much salt, not enough water). [You may notice a similar effect if your hands are swollen the morning after a very salty meal.]

      Both excellent questions, Ms.T. A+ for you, for today!

      Reply
      1. Jen Tyniec

        Awesome, Holly! Thanks for letting me know 🙂 Looking forward to more posts!

        Woohoo for the A+! I’m such an overachiever 🙂

        Reply
  2. Jean

    Off to a great start! Yes, your reports are “thorough,” but you really are just giving a brief overview of everything. It’s not as though you’re devoting paragraphs to a single instant (maybe in the second half?). A marathon is long-there’s a lot to cover! I, for one, enjoy your lengthy reports.

    I’m confused about your stated sub-4:00 pace; sub-4:00 is 9:09/mile! Maybe THAT’S why you were so under your goal-a pace miscalculation! Although odds are the miscalculation’s on my end and not yours. Please explain.

    Coveralls, hard hat, and boots: Chilean miner? Very odd, indeed.

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Thanks. Hope they are helping you feel at home in your new digs. 🙂

      You got me. In a perfect world, you are correct. But I assume that I will run 26.5 miles to complete a marathon. Given the weaving at the start, imperfect running of tangents (which don’t make much difference over 5K, but can over 42K), etc. etc – I prefer to be on the safe side of pace calculation. For example, this course clocked in at 26.38 on my Garmin. If the Garmin is accurate, then running a 9:09 exactly, I would have missed a sub-4 by 1 minute and 20 seconds. [Yes, Garmins aren’t always 100% accurate – but if you are running a marathon race, I can assure you that, if the race is certified, you’ll be running more than 26.2 miles.]

      So I used 26.5 miles, to be safe. That’s a pace of 9:03 min/mi. I rounded down to 9, just to be tidy. Sorry for the confusion; I should have explained.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        Ha! Leave it to JJo to point out this “miscalculation.” I agree with you, Holly and I think that most people take 10-15 seconds off of the actual goal pace to account for a number of other things. In my training for 4 hours, I am using around 8:50-8:55 as a goal pace. I don’t think I am going to do it this fall (I am just hoping for 4:10) because the heat, altitude, and allergies have killed my long run paces. Who knows, who knows. Great work on a well-executed race!

        Reply
        1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

          It also takes a LOT of experience, and “normal” conditions (ie, temp/humidity/altitude) to run a really narrow pace. And as much as I love tracking my pace on the Garmin during workouts, I was happiest in the marathon when I just went by feel – although the Garmin helped me run the first 10 miles “smart”.

          Reply
          1. Jean

            Mind. Blown. It sounds so obvious when you put it that way! It’s times like these that my rigidity/inability to think outside the box are most painfully obvious.

  3. Allee @ Griselda Mood

    This is actually very captivating. I like your thorough reports! That’s a crazy bleeping long time to run and it can’t be covered in 200 words or less.

    I still can’t believe your time– it’s so crazy great to me! The last half of the course looks insane. I probably would have broken down haha. Question: I know in Singapore, you had to often come back home and change out of your clothes for new ones because of the heat during your long runs. Was it mentally hard or anything to not have that break in 26 miles of running?

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Seeing the course map – and knowing what to expect – helps prevent the breakdown. Because if I had only used the first half to judge the second half, I would have been very, very angry at the profile from 21K onward.

      True. On every run >14 miles, I stopped at some point to refill water, change shirt, etc. etc. My stops were usually about 5 minutes (I try to make them short), and I always felt better after a short pause. I did have a few worries about what would happen if I removed this stop (and the subsequent energy burst it gave me) – but ultimately, there was no problem at all on race day. I had 4-5 pauses, to refill my water bottle (<30 seconds each), and of course my legs got tired - but I never felt like I had to have a longer stop. In fact, I never even thought about it! This is a pretty common experience among my marathon training/racing friends - as long as the training stops are short, you don't actually miss them on race day.

      Reply
      1. Grace

        I actually have a HARDER time if I stop during training runs (“just keep running, just keep running”) because I have trouble getting started again. In fact, that’s why I did my training runs on a very boring 10km loop with one road to cross.

        Reply
  4. Jules

    I’ve been waiting for this one and now you tell me it’s in more than 1 part! Good start though – you’re so methodical and organised. I have much to learn from you o wise one! It’s no wonder you hit your time target, HARD!

    p.s. I also have the same issue with feeling like I have to pee at the start of a race! I ran my first marathon wanting to pee the entire way because the organisers had for whatever reason, negated to place enough loos by the start. Worked out fine though!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      I’ve heard of others complain about this phenomenon – but this was the first time I’d experienced it personally, whlie running. It used to happen all the time when I swam competitively, though – 60 seconds before my race, “OOOO! Gotta pee!” But the effect was the opposite – as soon as I hit the water, I forgot about my need. The run-pee would just resurface every few miles and niggle. I’m sure it’s a bouncing/nerve/pressure thing – but again, on the spectrum of annoying running things, not too bad!

      Reply
  5. Kristen L

    Seems like you had a good race plan, and were able to power through that first big hill without a hitch. Great work! I look forward to the second part of your recap.

    Recaps for big races are daunting sometimes for me too, but like you said — once you get going it usually just flows.

    I usually try to run the tangents in race…but apparently I’m not very good at it. One half marathon I was about a quarter mile of extra distance according to my garmin. Oops! Something to work on, I guess. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      I think you have to expect some extra distance (there’s actually a requirement that a little bit be built in, if it’s a certified course in the US), with other runners, maneuvering, etc. That’s why (as I said to Jeano), I estimated for a 26.5 mile race. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Meagan

    Sounds like my kind of small, low key (but well-organized) race! You did an amazing job executing your plan and listening to your body during the first half of the race. I enjoyed the first half of your race report, too! I always struggle with how much detail to share on what I saw, what I was thinking, etc.

    I hated to Choose Your Adventure books as a kid, too! I would reread them over and over, trying to cover all the bases, but I never felt like I figured out all of the options.

    Before a race that’s important to me, I try to memorize the race course (easy for a half, will be harder for a full) so I know where all of the turns are. Then I do like you and gradually make my way diagonally across the road as the course curves.

    Can’t wait for Part 2!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      I study enough to get a good sense of the course, but don’t agonize over every turn – I like to know what’s coming, and on this course I was glad to know the elevation profile – and that there were about 5 hairpin turn-arounds (which annoyed me anyway, even thought I knew they were coming).

      We can have a CYOA book-burning party!

      Reply
  7. greengirlrunning

    This great! I love love reading happy, good fuzzy feeling race recaps. And nice cliff hanger 😉 I haven’t run a HUGE race, but small, calm and organized is my kinda race. Can’t wait for part deux!

    Reply
  8. Jess

    Your amazing! Seriously don’t know how you all run and run so fast. (Not Kenyan fast, but you know I’m impressed.) I watched a marathon once and it was just incredible to see the Kenyans it looked SO easy to them and so natural. Amazing!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Trust me, I’m no Kenyan.

      How? Lots of miles, a belief in ourselves, and sometimes, a coach to help along the way. IF you were to choose to try it (not saying you should; that’s a personal decision) – I’m pretty sure you could, too. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Sheila

    I love running tangents and I always struggle with what parts to leave in and out on post-race recaps. So I usually try to give a “race review” with a few highlights and low lights. I know i leave out lots of fun stuff, but I figure I can always add the tidbits to other posts later – but it’s SO HARD!

    Reply
  10. Debbie @ Deb Runs

    So glad I finally had a chance to read this! I love the detailed reports and always feel I’m right there with the runner writing it. I enjoy writing race recaps, but I’m always afraid that I got into too much detail. I like the two part series idea!

    Heading over to read part two now! 🙂

    Reply
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