Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Centennial Park 50K

In three weeks time I am racing in what will probably be my last big 'A' race of the year, the Great Ocean Walk 100k. Although this time of year was meant to be a period of trying to get my marathon time under 2:30 (with the planned culminating effort being the flat and fast Melbourne Marathon), the hamstring injury I sustained a month ago really interrupted the speed work that is necessary to give the 42.2 PB a good crack. So all roads now are leading to GOW100.

I was keen to have a hard hit out at the Centennial Park Ultra, an event that I had only heard great things about from friends that participated last year. It might not be everyone's cup of tea; multiple laps on a dirt track around a big city park, but it is different and it is; despite it technically being a trail event and not a road event, a chance to post a pretty good 50K or 100K time.

It was obvious from the moment I viewed the website that this event was expertly managed by race director April Palmerlee. The effort she went to obtain sponsors and goodies and the great communication left me with no doubt this was a going to be a smoothly run event.

I was also keen to go and support a couple of others who were keen to knock off an Australian qualifier for the World 100k next year. I was excited to see Chris Truscott, Tim Cochrane and Beth Cardelli lining up, among others. I am pretty excited to see some classy runners putting their hand up for the Aussie teams. 

I met up with Alex Mathews in the morning and watched some of the 100k runners for a while as they had started an hour earlier. The weather at this stage was quite cool but the forecast looked ominous and was sure to test the reserves of all runners later in the day. Alex was no doubt going to be tough to beat in the 50k; his marathon PB is superior and he is much more conditioned to the marathon distance; while I was hoping the extra 8km at the end might test his endurance.

The start was a little quick and I soon realised that running 3:40ks was not going to be sustainable so backed it off while Alex powered on. He never really got out of sight though and thought that if he could stay in view I would be happy for the time being. I really was settling into the race as the half marathon distance clocked over in 80 minutes and was feeling like this pace could be held for the remainder of the race. All the other runners on the course were very encouraging and it was great to see so many out there having a crack at either the 50 or the 100k race. Chris Truscott and Beth looked very comfortable and were looking good for qualifiers (sub 8 and sub 9 respectively).

At around 30k I could see Alex really coming back to me and slightly increased the effort level. He didn't really look like he was suffering but he had definitely slowed down. So I vowed to pull him in; in the mean time I was trying to strategise in my head what would be the best tactic...hold off and just sit behind him and wait a little while longer or go for the pass now. It was race on!

In one lap I had bridged the gap and took the lead going up the slight hill on the cafe side of the course. My plan was to put in an effort to try and put a gap between us and break his spirit; it was a gamble. At 32k it is a still a long way from home and anything could still happen. Once I passed Alex I tried to put the pedal down but catching him only seemed to stir him out of his slumber and he was able to find another gear - he was able to go with me. So we ran a couple of km together at a quicker pace before I was blowing hard and starting to back off. He once again started to inch ahead. 

In my head I was thinking that all was not lost, there is still 15k to go and this could come down to who has the heart and legs left in the last 5k; I was hoping it may be me! With 10k to go he was about 200m ahead and still very much within striking zone. We both went through the marathon in 2:40 and some...pretty happy with that on what is not the quickest of courses.

With about 2 laps to go though things went a bit pear shaped just as I should have been putting in one last big effort. The legs were starting to cramp up and the splits were starting to blow out. I was going to have to settle with second. The last lap was horrid, very slow and the finish could not have come quick enough! The better man won no doubt about it.

But I take many positives out of this race, it is a 50K PB by 4 minutes and a World 50K Trophy qualifier, but most of all it's a great long hit for the flattish GOW course. The other positive was that it was a quinella for barefootinc athletes. Alex wore the f-lite 195s (check out this great review from the Ultra 168 boys here) and I wore the Inov-8 Road-X 233 which I was extremely happy with. I highly recommend this event. I will be back next year hopefully!

Top 3 in the 50K