Melbourne Marathon Festival – 13th October 2013

The Judge and Balboa swapped trail for tarmac and took part in the Melbourne Marathon Festival…here are their thoughts:

Medibank Melbourne Marathon – The Judge

I managed to get to the G at 5am two hours early after completely overestimating how long it would take to drive and find a park. It was good though – plenty of time to get organised. My pre-race routine has become a bit of a ritual these days and it goes something like this: Head to the loo, pin on race number, mandatory pic of start-line, count gels, vas up, strap toes, smash half bottle of Gatorade, loo (again), two immodium pills, warm-up jog with a few strides, loo (yet again!), switch Garmin on, head to start-line (one final precautionary loo stop if time permits!), get nervous, convince myself I’ve forgotten something vital, stretch, race! 2 hours is barely enough to fit all that in!


The weather was looking perfect. Cool and calm and and no signs yet of the forecast wind and hail. I headed to the start at 6:45 and found the 3:20 pacers. They both looked like sleek running machines which was slightly disconcerting. Here I was feeling like a pretender with my penchant for Coopers Pale and South Melbourne dim sims (steamed not fried of course). The bloke on the microphone was doing a pretty good job of pumping everyone up although he kept repeating at naseum that we were blessed to be Australian. It seemed a slightly odd mantra. Maybe it was just me. Before I knew it the gun went off and we were away!

I set off and found myself 50-100m ahead of the pacers and tried to settle into a rhythm. The first few minutes were fairly hectic but not as bad as some of the other big city runs. My first km was a little slow as expected but the next few were around 4:36-4:39m. It was a tad too fast but found it hard to slow down. The heart rate was sitting around 155-160bpm – higher than I was happy with. The 3:20 bus came past at around the 10km mark so I bought a ticket and jumped on. It was becoming obvious that 3:20 was going to be a beyond me which was getting me frustrated and a bit flat. The heart was starting to pop 160 – way to early for it to be that high. Such a contrast from the previous weekend’s final hit out when I had run much quicker for 15-16km, felt comfortable and kept the heart rate down the whole way. It was not looking like my day.

Halfway and hurting...not a good sign
Halfway and hurting…not a good sign

The sensible decision at that point would have been to rethink my goal and slow down but  I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. I decided to stick with the pacers until halfway and then see how I felt. By 20km I was really hurting and had dropped back to the second 3:20 pacer. I stuck with him for another km then the elastic snapped and I bode farewell. The 3:20 bus was quickly into the sunset and I was reduced to 5:30 minute k’s. The next 15km was HARD. My legs just had nothing. I wasn’t sure if it was some residual effects of the Surf Coast Century three weeks earlier or the first half had just been way too fast for my abilty. Whatever it was I felt terrible. While I’ve cramped badly in marathons before and had huge battles to coordinate my legs to propel me in a forward direction this was quite a different sensation. Just a complete lack of power.

The 3:30 pacers came up behind me at the worst possible moment – halfway up the hill on Fitzroy St (it felt like a mountain). I had no hope of jumping on and watched them trot on past.  St Kilda Rd seemed to take forever althought I had a mental lift when I saw my bro Pete heading home after running the 10k. At the 35km mark I was reduced to a couple of walking breaks on the arts centre loop. The final hill up past the gardens was a slow struggle however  an uber-enthusiastic fellow was giving advice and encouragement to everyone near the crux of the hill. It’s amazing the support and encouragement you seen in these runs from complete strangers. It actually made me a bit emotional and really helped get to the top. On the way back down to St Kilda Rd I started to feel semi-decent again and over the last 3km managed a couple of sub 5’s which had been unimaginable 10km earlier.

The rain came tumbling down as I entered the G and ran the final lap of the hallowed turf. It was a huge relief to cross the line. 3h38m – well off my 3:20 goal and 3:28 PB.

I sat down in the bowels of the MCG for quite a long time in my post-marathon haze. It’s always an emotional time and this was no different. It was quite moving watching some of the other runner’s post-race reactions. I’d had a bad day but clearly some others had been through much worse. The highlight though was probably a poor young chap who skulled a blue gatorade and then to his complete surprise proceeded to projectile vomit it across the recovery area. After an hour or so I hobbled up to Fed Square for some rehydration beers and post-race analysis with my bro and Balboa.

Overall a tough day out but I I’ll be back.

Time: 3h38m58s

Cheesy finish
Cheesy finish
Murky weather over the G

The Coffee Club 10km Run – Balboa
It will sound a bit lame, but this is the story of my 10km PB (the 15km PB was on the Run for the Kids last year and I haven’t run much more than those distances).

I know the distance doesn’t glorify this team, but it is an enormous event in my chronology.

So the week starts as usual when the Judge asks me if I want to participate in the Melbourne Marathon as he has a 10km spare ticket. The next obvious step for me would be running a half-marathon (even if I’ve never trained for it) but a 10km was a very good opportunity to get a PB since I didn’t have one at this distance.

I gladly accepted the entry and our week got a little bit more exciting, thinking about the weekend and the opportunity to break personal records. Judge and I did a bit of training (mixed run/cycling) before the race and then the weekend came, and with it the first real sunny day (Saturday) and I felt compelled to use my balcony and throw a BBQ for friends. Of course it had to be an alcoholic free event for Judge and me, Judge was disciplined with a couple of non-alcoholic beers, but I didn’t follow that line and ended up having a mix of beer, gin and tonic, red wine, green wine (Vinho Verde/Rias Baixa) and fortified wine (of course all in small dosages).

So the preparation for the race was a mix of dehydration and guacamole.

The R-day comes and I overslept, Mrs. Balboa drove me to the event site and I was stressed that I wouldn’t have time to warm-up properly, hydrate myself , find a good starting position or even make the begining of the race. I was late and got to the Olympic Boulevard seconds from the start. The warm-up was the sprint to the start line and I literally managed to get across the barriers of the “runners running over 55 min” section 10 seconds before the start and managed to jump into the second section just as the race started. Traffic – check, warm-up – check, hydration would have to wait for the aid stations.

The race starts and the adrenaline made me run a bit faster than I should. Quickly I jump to around 3:50 pace and try to stay around this pace for a while. My legs are responding well and I try to stick to my goal (according to Judge a good test for any runner is to make a 10km under 40 min).

While thirsty I’m looking forward to my first aid station and I quickly jump towards one of the first water “distributors”, the seconds that follow are a mix of trying not to stop and not spilling water all over me and drink at the same time (Lightning now taught me how to drink!).

The run goes alright for a while until I hit the 4km and suddenly I realise that I have to keep that pace for an extra 6km. My world is about to collapse until I run past a work colleague – of course I couldn’t appear to be feeling (too) bad (not at the start at least) so I increased the rythm and slowly counted down the km. Passing people was actually motivating me and the climax came when I passed a lean naturally-gifted looking runner.

My watch was set for average pace/total km/instantaneous pace and when I crossed the Yarra River towards the MCG my average pace was very close to 3:59 – hitting 4:00 would be a failed mission so I pushed until the moment I saw an unexpected climb (William Barak Bridge) and thought I would lose it since it was massively steep (well, it seemed steep at that time); according to my watch I was still fine and the worst part was actually entering the MCG, it was a never-ending carpet…and I was happy until I saw 40:47 on my watch…damn it.

Balboa finishing at MCG

I told Mrs Balboa about my frustration and was ready to put on my FB status “Mission Failed” but after analyzing my Movescount I realised I’ve run 10.2 km and not 10km. Therefore I was still in the group of the elected ones. Judge made me come to reality again when he showed me my GPS imprecise readings.

At the end Mr Rowan (myself that day) did 40:34 (real time) and further opportunities will come to break that PB.

A beer followed in good company (Judge, Judge brother and Mrs. Balboa) and after that the holy grail meal for the RBR after each race, dumplings.

The king Judge was disappointed with his result, but I only have one word for him: Respect!

Anyway, this is the reason why people don’t let me write here more often, its boring!

Final Thoughts:

Judge – They say you learn more from the bad ones than the good ones. If that’s true I should have learnt a shedload! I still loved it though. While my running has clearly gravitated towards the trails in recent years I still love the vibe and intensity of the big city runs. Seeing so many people push themselves to places they havn’t been before is such an awesome thing to be a part of. I’ll be back, theres still a few demons to be conquered.


Post-race refuelling
Post-race refueling

Lessons for the day:

– Judge had forgotten just unforgiving road marathons can be. And relentless. And hard.

– While smashing a blue gatorade after a marathon may seem like a good idea it can have unintended and somewhat explosive consequences.

– Balboa doesnt know how to drink in races

– Passing people you know or gifted-looking runners always gives you extra motivation

– Being on time might save Balboa some trouble in the future

– Changing our Coopers Pale Ale diet to an assorted mix of alcoholic drinks might lead us to a pb

Red Beard Rating:


4/5 Red Beards – not a trail or ultra but still an awesome event. Bonus beards for finishing on the hallowed turf.

Garmin Connect/Movescount: (The Judge) (Balboa)

Todays words brought to you by: The Judge and Balboa