This was another last-minute entry… I entered a week before race day.
Last Saturday, Kelly, Jared and I made the drive to Carcoar. Now, before you ask where Carcoar is…
It’s a long way away. We left after parkrun on Saturday, and made a few stops along the way in the Blue Mountains and in Blayney for lunch, fuel, and breakfast supplies. We arrived in Carcoar in time to pick up our race numbers from the local courthouse before it closed, and check into our accommodation.
Because we were late entrants, the pub was full, so Kel and I were sharing a room at the convent.
The rooms were modest, but probably the cleanest accommodation I have ever stayed in.
There were not too many options for dinner in Carcoar, so we had booked in to the carbo-loading dinner at the pub. After that, we explored the town a little.
On race day morning, our alarm went off at 5:30am. I was ready to go by 6am. The marathon did not start until 8am. I guess Kel is a little too used to doing triathlons, where you need to get up really early because there is so much gear to sort out before your race.
We headed down to the start line at about 7am. Kel was doing the half, so she had to get a ride out to the town of Neville, where the half marathon started.
Because I still had time on my hands, I went with Jared on a warm up run. Normally I never warm up. (I’m not advising people to not warm up… I just never really do it – not for a marathon – the first 10km is my warm-up!)
Just before 8am we were marshalled to the start line, and the race started right on time. We made our way to the end of the Carcoar main street, and then turned right, then left across the bridge, and up the first hill.
I wouldn’t call this a trail race, but it’s not a road marathon either. It is more of an off-road, hilly race. I had packed trail shoes and regular running shoes, and in the end I was glad with my choice of regular shoes.
At the 10km mark, there were 7 or 8 runners waiting at the drink station on the side of the road. It was at this point that I remembered the marathon could also be done as a relay, with 4 runners running between 8-12km each. This was the first changeover point. A runner just ahead of me stopped, and handed over to a new one, who began her leg.
For the first 10-15km, I see-sawed back and forth with another female runner. I’d pass her on the uphill, then she would pass me on the downhill or flat. The first couple of times it happened it was funny, but after awhile it became frustrating. I was trying to run consistently and I felt the constant back and forth was breaking my rhythm. I found myself wishing for some uphills, so I could get a break. I didn’t have long to wait.
Soon I found myself running alongside another runner from Newcastle… or so I assumed, due to his pure performance hat. Funnily, he was dressed almost the same as me, black shorts and top, and pink compressport socks. We ran together for the next few kilometres into the town of Neville. This is where the half marathon started. We did a lap of the town , and headed out again. The next few kilometres were pretty flat or downhill, as Neville is higher than Carcoar. But I knew the big hill was coming.
By now, it was starting to get hot. I was winding my way up the biggest hill of the race, the Mt. Macquarie saddle, and it just kept going. Everytime I thought I was done, I would turn another corner and it would go up again. I was wishing for another water station. I was going slow… aware that my running pace was probably not much faster than I would go if I stopped running and started walking. But mentally, I wanted to keep running, because to start walking would feel like giving up, or admitting defeat. This is where this race differed from trail runs… on the trails I walk a lot.
But here, I kept running.
At the top of the hill, there was a man, by himself, with a drink station. He asked me what I wanted. (Water or Gatorade.) “Both!” I said, and paused for a moment to swallow 2 whole cupfuls of drink. He laughed, and told me, “Only 6km to go, and it’s all downhill from here”.
Well, I must have taken a wrong turn, because it WAS NOT all downhill from there.
But it was largely downhill, and the last 5km were probably my fastest 5km of the race.
As I came down the last hill into town, I heard footsteps thundering down behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see a girl in a yellow singlet storming down the hill. She called out to me to not worry about her… the was a team competitor. She passed me near the bridge, and at the final corner the rest of her team was waiting for her. They all ran to the line and crossed together, and were the first team of the day. I finished right behind them, in 3 hours 37 minutes, 4th girl across the line.
The finish line was located right in front of the pub, so we sat around for awhile, watching other runners finish the race. I also had a post race massage. As I came out, there was a young girl crossing the finish line with a red ‘marathon’ bib on. I thought she must have been one of the team marathon competitors, but it turned out this 12 year old girl had just completed the whole distance, with her Dad. Absolutely amazing! She did not even look like she had been running at all. Not even a drop of sweat! When I was that age, I could barely run a 3km school cross country!
We stayed in town until after the presentation, and then jumped in the car and headed back to Newcastle. Kelly must have been driving fast up the freeway, because we passed the car that holds the Australian land speed record (802.6km/hr)… I guess she was just trying to make up for all the ‘short-cuts’ we took on our way home!