Just after we finished this race we said to each other “this is going to make a cracking review!”
There aren’t many races where we arrive separately, we’ve usually travelled to stay the night prior together, but given that Ross is smack bang in the middle of Tassie it’s a ‘meet at the start line’ kind of affair.
Ross Marathons has fast become one of our favourite 21.1km races. But it never fails to bring some kind of extreme weather, and this year wasn’t any different.
We met up at 8:45am and headed straight to the hall for bib collection. It’s strictly a ‘collect on the day’ thing, which is a bit unusual as it means no pinning and laying out kit the night before – but no biggie. We made our way up to the Sole Mates tent to pin numbers on and start getting organised. Sole Mates are Gabby’s regular running mates and we’re both wearing their tanks for this years’ race. As we approach the tent, it’s obvious there’s quite a crew representing.
We grab our pre-race fuel of choice – Gabby with a weak dose of Bulk Nutrients NoFX pre workout and Bec has a packet of Clif Shot Bloks with caffeine – and head up the course for a short warm up.
Current Course PBs:
The plan today?
We wanted to average 4’30” per k giving us a sub 1:35 time; we planned on taking it slow to start and really sticking to the pace, allowing a little slower for “that” hill (on both laps) and making up some time down the other side.
Fuel on board? 1 gel each, with caffeine.
It’s 9:25am and we both dash for one last toilet stop and make our way (quickly) to the start line. Nudging our way to the front few rows we get the chance to wish those around us good luck and give each other a big hug and kiss.
This is it, we’re off.
The morning is clear and there’s a slight north westerly wind, but nothing to write home about…yet.
We get in the swing of things early and slot into that comfortable 4’30” pace. With a good crew around us there’s plenty of banter to calm the nerves and we check in with each other every few minutes about pace and general feel.
The first 4km fly by and that’s probably due to the tailwind all the way up the first straight. This is bittersweet because we know it’s only going to get us on the way back. There are lots of cheers for the guys already out on the course who are doing the full marathon as well as various people we both know. We applaud as we pass – but both realise the effect gets a bit lost when you’re clapping while wearing gloves. As we reach the first turn (6km mark) we’re still together and feeling good.
And then it hits. That tailwind that seemed nice but not crazy becomes a frightful headwind and there’s a solid, exposed 5km of it. We get separated at this stage as the wind tears the race group apart.
Bec: I notice Gabby put her head down, a stance that shows she means business. She starts to pull away from me, but I just can’t stay with her. I am passed by a relatively large guy which seems timely as I can just ‘tuck in’ behind him. After 500m or so, I’m trying not to step on his ankles as he steadily slows.
When I glance at my watch and see how much he’s slowed up, I have to bite the bullet and pull out from behind him face first into the wind. It’s horrible, but necessary if I want to keep my pace.
We continue through the first lap and over the single hill still holding the 4’30” pace all the way into the second lap. Per our race plan we opted to wait for the start of the second lap (10.5km in) to refuel – we push back our gel (caffeine again) and Bec grabs a bottle of pre-prepared weak electrolytes. There are high fives and cheers from our beloved partners and children and then it’s on to conquer the second half of this race.
Gabby: We’re not together anymore and it’s hard to tell just how far apart we are (without tripping over to look). I’m still feeling the mental fatigue from the fight with the headwind on the last lap but can’t help but notice the tailwind I’m now experiencing is much stronger than on the previous lap; uh oh we know what that means. I start to problem solve, we want to average 4’30” per k – right? I know that headwind is going to cause me more grief the second time around taking into consideration fatigue etc., so I decide I need to ramp it up while I have the wind behind me and be prepared for a slower pace after the turn.
I make the deal with myself – 4’20” pace it is until I hit the turn, which I actually find a challenge even though I can tell I’ve got quite a tailwind (my ponytail is really annoying me as it flaps around my face).
Meanwhile I’ve taken on a gooey chocolate flavoured gel without quite enough water and I feel like I’ve got brown paste all over my face.
With no rubbish bins around (we’re in a picturesque country town) there’s no other option than to shove the empty wrapper down my shorts – hahaha not comfy. I try to forget about this and can see the turn up in the distance. That means 6km to go…. How bad can it be?
As I pass people, what were cheers on the first lap, have turned into encouraging comments (I must look a little worse for wear) and as I turn into that headwind nothing could have prepared me for what can only be described as “brutal”. With 6 long kilometres to the finish line there are moments where I think I may actually be running backwards. It’s a gusty, wild 35km/hr north westerly wind and with the exposure of the Midlands there’s no where to hide.
As the gel starts to kick in, it’s now or never to bury myself and get this race behind me. I figure I’m probably coming 2nd or 3rd female at this stage and, never having made a podium appearance in my 6 years of running, there’s no way I want whoever is behind me getting any ideas. The plan sounds great in theory but there’s literally no escaping what quickly becomes a debilitating headwind and the pace over the next 3 km slows to over 5’00”. I start to feel things slipping and never thought I’d say this but the sight of “that” hill is like Christmas. As I drag my ass to the top I know we’ve only got 2km to go and very soon the wind will be behind me again.
As I creep along the 19th km declining the last drink station with just a shake of the head…. a quick look at the watch reveals an average pace of 4’34”. Plan slipping away.
Finally the last turn is here and there’s one kilometre until I can stop. I‘m breathless but know how it feels to wish I’d given it more at the end, so I remain determined and make a decision to finish with no regrets. Burying my head I pick up the pace to 4’20” per k and then the township is near, the spectators are cheering and I hear my name being called as I near the finish. It’s a push to the end with a sprint of sorts, and then I’m there, falling in a heap across the finish line. Grabbing my medal as I hand in my timing tag I drape myself over the nearest two hundred year old heritage stone wall and (literally) gasp for air.
Bec finishes around 3 minutes behind Gabby, feeling equally shattered. Faces burning, ears ringing, hip flexors screaming from pushing with everything we had into the headwind. We hug, happy to be finished, and to come away with a podium finish for Gabby.
It was such a tough race, in insane conditions. There may have been times on the course where we could have been heard cursing aloud at the wind (yes Bec did that), but when you consider the strong sense of community that is felt when a large group of like-minded individuals undertake the same activity, overall, it was a fantastic event.
We both managed a course PB, for Gabby an all-time half marathon PB and we definitely walked away happy.
The only question remains…what will our next goal be?