Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cairns Ironman 70.3 Run Leg - my first sub 2 hour half marathon

This year I competed in the Cairns Ironman 70.3 (Half Ironman) as part of a team with my friend. I ran the run leg which is 21.1 km (a half marathon). As the runner of the team I got to wear the nice tattoo with our team number on!

I've run this distance a few times before, with my best time being 2 hours and 9 minutes in last year's Great Barrier Reef Half Marathon in Port Douglas.

This year I've been concentrating more on trail runs as most of the races we do are trails and I felt I needed more uphills in my training. As a consequence I've done fewer longer runs just on the roads than I did in my training for last year's half marathon.  

Road Running Vs Trail Running

I find running on the flat for longer distances harder than running up and down hills as I feel it's more of a mental challenge. With trail runs there is always variety in the terrain, incline and muscles you're using. It can be a relief to finish a flat section of a run and go into an uphill just for the change.
However, when road running there's no such change and variety, it's just flat, and flat, and more flat.

The half marathon in the ironman 70.3 was dead flat.  It was also a looped course with a couple of dog leg doublebacks in there too.  This made it feel like I was going round in circles a bit. At least the course was on familiar ground where I've walked and run lots over the past few years. Familiar courses are always easier to run I find.

The course was along the esplanade here in Cairns and the whole course was lined with people.  This again was another change from the trail races I'm used to where often I'm running totally alone on a bush trail up in the hills!

I enjoyed having the support of crowds along the way, people constantly cheering and holding up signs. I touched every sign that said, "tap here for power" ! I figured anything was worth a try!

Drinks stations

There were plenty of drinks stations along the road, offering water, ice, flat coke, Endura, watermelon, bananas, energy gels and protein bars! What a smorgasbord of delights! I mostly stuck to water with the occasional cup of coke. Again different to the trail runs where you have to take your own hydration and I now run with a CamelBak 

Team race vs Individual

Another change was running as part of a team. When running as an individual, you start the race at the beginning and run for yourself. This time I just started when my friend finished her bike leg, so not with a crowd of other starters.  
Being part of a team also helped mentally when things got tough and my body wanted to give up. More than just my own time was at stake, I had to do the team proud.

Having just done one leg of the race also meant a strange feeling at the end in the recovery area. I'd given the run my all and was totally exhausted, yet I was surrounded by people who had swum, cycled AND run. I somehow felt a bit of a fraud having done only a third of what they had and felt that I shouldn't have been quite as spent as they were!

1 hour 59 minutes, 20 seconds

For my time in this race I was hoping to go under the 2 hour mark. From my training runs I knew I was capable of it but just had never actually done it.  
The day was cool and a little wet, and with a totally flat, familiar course I felt I had a really good chance to go under the 2 hour mark.

I started out really strong, and went through the first 10 km in just over 50 minutes. At that stage I was feeling great and that I was running at a pace I could keep going at for a long time!

However, by the 14 km mark I checked my time and realised I'd slowed quite considerably, but still was on track to go under 2 hours.  
By 17 km I was exhausted. My legs wanted to stop, everything hurt and it was only my mind that kept me going. I found myself chanting in my head, "don't stop, don't stop, don't stop."

When I reached the end of the race and the finishers chute was in sight, I figured it was about a 2 minute run to the finish. Checking my watch I saw 1 hour 58 minutes and dug as deep as I could to sprint (or so it felt) that last couple of hundred metres!

Crossing the line and checking my watch to find I'd done it was the best feeling - you can see how happy I was!

The medal is one I'm really proud of.

And one thing I was really looking forward to at the end was the cool towel they give to all race finishers!

I loved being a part of the Ironman this year, The atmosphere is amazing, the race takes over Cairns for the whole weekend, and after several years of being a volunteer at the finish line, it was a good feeling to cross the line as a competitor.

I'm so happy to have broken the 2 hour mark for my half marathon time. My goal is now to get that down to 1 hour 50 minutes - which would be to run the whole race at the pace I ran for the first 10 km of this one!

I'm already back on the trails though, with a race next weekend as part of the NQ Games.