Everyone has used that term about the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon.
So this experiment in weight loss showed me that whilst eating smaller portions and a much more balanced diet did help with weight loss, the days that I didn’t exercise, I did not lose weight. The days that I did exercise, I would lose 0.3 – 0.7 kg. In fact, when I did not exercise for consecutive days, I have found that the weight came back. This shows that for this survey of 1 person, that it is a balanced diet with a healthy balance of exercise really helps with the weight loss.
Through this time, I set myself no running or riding speed or time goals. There were no races until the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon (15th May 2011).
Over the last 4 weeks, I have been transitioning from 100% Jenny Craig diet to portions of my own menu to now being completely on my own menu. I have stabilised my weight at a loss of 14 – 15kg (it fluctuates through the week with my running cycle). My original goal was to lose 13kg, so I am really happy to have gotten this far. Long term, I still probably have another 5kg to get to what BMI says is a healthy range, but it is now race season and I need to put running first and diet second.
Since changing that priority to race preparation 4 weeks ago, I have noticed that the weight loss has meant I can do a much faster pace for the same level of exertion. I am not sure why, but another thing I have noticed is that my heart rate during runs has been able to go much higher without me feeling it. Specifically, I thought my max heart rate was pretty close to the traditional 220 – (your age) formula, which meant it should be around 180 – 185 bpm, which used to be normal for me during maximum exertion. Now my maximum heart rate (in the first couple of km) it can get as high as 240 (which I think is a technical issue and not the truth), but after that it settles, it can still get as high as 205. Maybe the (your age) should be your fitness age, not your chronological age? That might be why I have been feeling younger lately.
For those panicking for me right now, I am not concerned. I do not feel any side effects or exhaustion or any of the other symptoms of a highly elevated HR. But it is an interesting science on the survey of 1 person… Me!
Now… Race day arrived. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to travel to the race with one of the best motivators and most inspiring individuals on Daily mile (www.dailymile.com) Barbara H. What a great start to an early day. For the 50 minute drive in, we had a lovely conversation on topics that we are both passionate about (fitness, running, triathlon, goals, motivators, etc.). We left home at 4:40am with 1 degree C showing on the car thermometer. Chilly! By the time we got into the city and parked, it was 5:30am and about 4 degrees C.
We all wandered towards the start line, with Zoe and me talking along the way. With our knowledge of our abilities from Daily Mile, we knew that we would be targeting about the same pace for a goal of breaking 100 minutes for the 21.1km distance. “4:44 pace. Right?” I said to Zoe. With more technical conversation following, we both agreed that we should probably expect to do a little faster than that in the first half as the first half of the race was generally downhill and the last 5km was undulating with mostly uphill. Not the circumstance where you would be left trying to catch up some pace if you are little behind.
Settling into the agreed location (outside the Rebel merchandise tent) we met up with other Daily Milers; Kent V., Adrian W. – Mountain Man, Naomi W., Adina L., Mark D, Zoe Y. with husband Ally and their wonderful pooch (sorry Zoe, but I’ve forgotten the dog’s name, but what a beautiful golden Labrador). We chatted and got either reacquainted or acquainted with our online 24x7 support crew and then got ready for the race. Barbara was wonderful in her presentation of certificates to everyone for completing the race. She was so excited for us that she made sure all of us were to return afterwards to collect these wonderful memories.
Unfortunately we got carried away with the DM meet-up and didn’t get down to the start line early enough. Other than the elite or “seeded” runners (those with a sub 85 minute qualifier) everyone was self-seeded. So, we ended up much further back than we had wanted to. Australian running champion Andrew Lloyd started the race along with Breast Cancer Patron Raelene Boyle. Last year I waved to Raelene at the start and she waved back to me. This year I think they had fallen asleep waiting for my part of the pack to cross the line. It took us about 4 minutes to cross the start line.
I didn’t worry too much at the time, but it was a little frustrating to try to get through the pack of slower self seeded runners. Of 11,000 participants, I think Zoe and I had let about 7,000 of them start before us. Aren’t we polite?
After the sixth kilometre I wasn’t feeling so polite. By that time I had been cut off about 20 times (note to other runners: why are you running with headphones in a big city race? Enjoy the atmosphere and take notice of your environment). On top of that I had been forced to stop at least 3 times for congestion. That being said, I think I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to get a good pace through all of that and reach the 10km point with a fantastic 10km personal best of 42:33. Amazing! I had never before gone below 45 minutes and here I was at 10km, feeling good and with another 11.1km’s to go.
I was feeling bad for Adrian. He had the form to break 90 minutes and he (like us) had been held back by the pack and I was guessing that he was going to struggle to make his goal. Whilst he hadn’t talked about breaking 90, I knew him well enough to guess that was his goal. Later on he admitted to me that he had been secretly targeting sub 90.
Coming out of Pyrmont I started to enjoy the race for the clearness of the day, the view of Darling Harbour and the dedication of the crowd coming out in the cold to watch their friends and family race their half marathon. Coming back into the city there was an ambulance blocking the outward direction providing assistance to someone. Whilst my initial thought was to find out what happened (rubber neck), I quickly moved to the thought that if that were me, I would not want anyone looking at my failure. Whilst I might not agree that that runner had failed, putting yourself in the injured runner’s shoes at that moment you would feel failure and despair. So I respected their injury and focussed on completing my run whilst I was feeling good.
After that I pushed a little harder recognising that along Hickson Road was the last time where we had a long flat part of the course. This meant it was the last time I could knock out a fast pace for a couple of kilometres. I got to pull out a 4:13 pace for the 13th and 14th kilometres. During this time I caught up to one of the older runners (Snapper) from the Hills District Joggers. I was blown away. Even during our normal runs, I have not even maintained pace with Snapper before today. Here I was catching him. I chatted for a very small amount of time and then continued to keep my effort high and left him to his pace, which he told me he was struggling to keep. I suppose we all have a different race to run.
Making our way up the hill from Hickson Road up towards Argyle street, this was the start of the up and down of the last quarter of the race that. I had feared that this section would be impossible to catch up if I wasn’t doing my target pace by now. Surprisingly I felt quite fresh heading up the hill and all the way to the corkscrew of the Cahill Expressway.
Making the tight bend of the entrance to the Cahill I was conscious of cutting the corner and so went really wide. If there was a video of the turn it would have been funny as I went so wide that I almost hit the wall like a car who took the hairpin corner too fast. Luckily I could turn the wheel hard enough and didn’t crash. Ha ha ha.
It was a long hard uphill from the Cahill back up to Hyde Park, but at the top of the rise (about 200m shy of Hyde Park) I thought of the cameras that were around the corner. Barbara and Ally were waiting and the last thing I wanted was to have a photo of me doing it hard when that didn’t represent how I had felt to that point. Vanity can be a great motivator. As I hit the corner of Hyde Park, I couldn’t spot them, but I had mentally recovered enough to kick off the top of that hill to boost into Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Entering Mrs Macquarie’s chair I suddenly heard a scream of “GO ANDREW!” I turned my head and gave a big wave out the Barbara on the opposite side of the road from where I expected. That gave me that extra kick again. Down the hill I powered thinking “time to bring that average pace down again. At this stage it was 4:22 average pace and I thought about getting it to 4:20, but with only 3km to go, that was going to take lightning speed.
I gave it almost everything going between there and seeing Barbara and Ally again just after the 20km point. Which didn’t improve the Average pace, but it did maintain it. As I approached them I thought of my wrist band WWBD (What Would Barbara Do?) We had discussed this in the car and my answer was not “Never give up” my answer was SMILE! So I did.For the remaining 1.1 km I went full throttle. If I hadn’t spent it by then, then it would get spent now. Like a gambler at the blackjack table, I was going all in. Taking the corner at St. Mary’s Cathedral like a maniac driver, the tread on my shoes was just maintaining grip in the bend. I accelerated it to the College street hairpin for the stretch back to the entrance to Hyde Park. Entering Hyde Park for the final 300m, I did something that I do in most races, but hadn’t done today. I had picked out someone running with me who I wanted to either maintain pace with or beat. It is all for fun, but that little paceman (or women in this case) is that little motivation I need to do better.
This lady was wearing hot pink, fully of tattoos, piercings and multicoloured hair, but she was flying. I refused to give in. I put my head down and stretched my long legs out. In the final sprint to the line, my long legs and resulting long stride helps me beat most runners of my pacing. This was the ultra competitive Andrew showing himself.
I pushed hard to get past her in with 200m remaining. She caught me again with 150m to go. I didn’t like that so I pushed out to every single drop of energy left in my system and pushed it towards the line. With 20m to go I raised my hands in victory seeing that not only had I smashed through my goal of breaking 100 minutes, I had also beaten 100 minutes in gun time and in fact gone sub 95 minutes.
My total time (from when I cross the start to when I cross the finish) was 1:34:16. I was on top of the world. I felt strong, no pains and nowhere far less sweat dripping off me than I would have before the weight loss.
I am so grateful for four things:
1. Myself for focusing on losing weight and doing it. (It takes a lot of internal battles to keep it up when there are always nice temptations around)
2. Neil Anderson for pushing me just a little bit more with my pace during our training runs together over the last few months. He was always there to go out for a run whenever we could at work, even with short notice.
3. SKINS© http://www.skins.net/ who provided me a sample pair of A400 compression running shorts. These shorts are the best and I cannot recommend them highly enough to anyone. The comfort is second to none. I do not believe that the cut or compression of shorts will improve your running, but I certainly believe that it can inhibit your running when it isn’t right. I didn’t realise how much some of my previous running shorts were holding me back. I AM A FAN!
4. Finally… the support of my family and friends. My wife Lisa is a champion. She puts up with my running despite it annoying her sometimes. Getting up early can disturb her sleep even with me preparing in the dark with the most minimal noise possible. She has also put up with my bike riding to Saturday running and home which impacts on her ability to get the kids ready for Saturday morning sport. I am also most graciously appreciative for my friends on Daily Mile. I don’t want to mention specific names because there are so many of you who have helped me feel good about my performance and motivate me to not only be better in performance, but to be a better person.
In the wash up of this, I reflect and evaluate. Reflection is the journey mentioned above, but the evaluation has resulted in adjusting future goals. I now feel comfortable that a 3:45 marathon is easily achievable. So much so, that I have now set my sights on a 3:30 marathon. Having not yet broken 4 hours, this will be the next big accomplishment.
Come July 31 at about 11:00am in Sydney, I will be sitting down recovering from my achievement on the M7 Cities Marathon in Sydney and having my family and friends to share it with.
Wish me luck.