Race report – coastalfunruns UNI Coastal marathon

I have run one coastalfunruns event before – back in February 2017. The beauty of these events is that they are low cost, frequent, low pressure and super friendly! It worked out well for me that time as I felt like I needed a half marathon in the lead-up to Boston, and none of my usual ‘go-to’ events worked out timing-wise. I must have been going reasonably well back then because I ran with Coralie for quite a bit of it and also with Carrie. Couldn’t quite imagine being able to do that now!

Most of the events are held at Semaphore along a nice flat coastal path, and occasionally in Port Adelaide or further afield, but I got a bit (disturbingly) excited when the UNI Coastal event was announced. (The ‘Coastal’ part is purely because the organiser is coastalfunruns – it is in NO WAY coastal!)

I may have mentioned this before. The Adelaide 24 hour event is my main focus for this year. I have been doing a lot of training at the home of this event, the infamous ‘Uni Loop’.

As I may have mentioned in last week’s Adelaide Marathon report, I had intended to run the Adelaide Marathon, using my 25 min run/5 min walk strategy, possibly as a 4:30 pacer. Then this event, a week later, was announced, and everything changed. A marathon around the Uni Loop? How could I not? (And what is wrong with me?)

I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to approach this one – did I treat it just like a normal training run (which, let’s face it, I would have been doing anyway had I not entered this event) or did I treat it like a ‘normal’ marathon?

In the end I decided to do a bit of a combination – I’d eat like I do in an ultra, but I’d keep the walk breaks to a minimum.

I’d done a ‘practice’ marathon at the same location 2 weeks earlier and done it in just under 4:30, and that was with the usual 25/5 strategy, so I was hoping to go faster than that. Sub 4 would be nice but I wasn’t sure how realistic that was, given I hadn’t really been doing any fast stuff.

Given that it was not your typical marathon and it wasn’t my goal race, I didn’t bother with the whole tapering thing, just doing my normal thing during the week. Tuesday morning, instead of my normal road run, I went out to do a ‘slow’ lap of Chambers Gully with Jenny and Dave who had both done the Adelaide Marathon 2 days earlier. They go out regularly on a Tuesday and I have occasionally joined them (especially when I have a big trail race coming up and need to get more hills in) but in

general they are way too fast for me. I figured if there was ever a good time to go out and run with them, it was 2 days after they’d done a marathon! (They’d also both done Hubert 100km in early May, and Dave had only just got back from doing the Boston Marathon prior to that).

Then on Saturday afternoon I got a message from Jenny saying that Dave had convinced her to run the UNI Coastal marathon with him, but not to worry as it would be at an ‘easy’ pace.

Ha!

(Incidentally, I found out on Sunday that Dave had a slightly different interpretation of who convinced whom!)

Saturday night was a traditional pre-marathon dinner – pizza (from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – THE BEST!) and cider.

I wasn’t quite sure what the setup was going to be with the aid station. I have a preference for lemon-lime Gatorade so I had prepared 8 x 250ml bottles. I thought this was way more than I’d need but in my last couple of 4 hour runs I’d used 3 x 500ml bottles. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the small pop top bottles at Woolies so they were screw top bottles, but they would do! (As it turned out, they had lemon-lime Gatorade at the aid station so I needn’t have bothered!) I’d made myself one peanut butter sandwich (cut into quarters) and I had 2 Clif bars and a bag of salted caramel Snackaballs which I have recently found to be a great ‘on the run’ snack – compact, easy to eat while running AND delicious!

On arrival at the Uni Loop on Sunday morning I met Ryan and Randell and I remarked, “oh wow, there’s going to be some fast people out there today!” Ryan asked “who?” and I said, “obviously, you guys!” I knew Ryan was doing the marathon – like me, as a training run for the Adelaide 24 hour. Randell is doing the 12 hour event but as it turned out he was just out doing a training run.

I got my rain jacket (which I really didn’t want to run in – it gets too hot!) and my small race vest, as well as my esky with all my drinks and food, and made my way out to the start/finish area. There I ran into Dave and Jenny, Dave had brought a table and kindly let me share it! Ryan also put his gear on the table and I just had to take a photo…

(I don’t like bananas but there were a few times during the run when I was SOOO tempted to steal one… history shows they were FAST bananas too!)

There is a toilet in the clubrooms a little way along the loop, which would be open for most if not all of the race, however before we started, we were directed to the 24 hour toilet block. It’s a bit sketchy so Marlize, Dave, Jenny and I all walked over there together. (It was good to know where it is as I have an overnight training run planned and the one thing I thought might be an issue was a lack of available toilets. I will be advocating going there in ‘teams’ though!) It was a bit gross and completely dark, but thankfully Dave had his phone on him and very kindly shone his phone torch through the window which worked wonders (actually, on second thoughts, I may have preferred NOT to be able to see!).

Note to self – head torch required at night!

I was umming and ahhing about wearing the race vest – I could put 2 bottles in it, and probably the whole sandwich, and then I wouldn’t need to carry anything in my hands. I’d never done a marathon in a race vest before, and I’d never done a run at the Uni Loop with one, and ultimately I decided against using it.

Along with the marathon there was also a half marathon and a 10k (just the 4 laps – that sounded pretty appealing!)

I was happy to see that Marlize, who had beaten me in my first 6 hour race here 4 years ago, was ‘only’ doing the half marathon! Also doing the half were Dani (doing the 6 hour), Neil (also doing the 6 hour and who also ran in a ‘hot lap’ race just prior to the main event – not a bad warmup!), Erika (who, I seem to recall while I was running with her, is THINKING about doing the 6 hour), Gail and Trish (who is doing the 24 hour), Julia (who is doing the 6 hour and who I didn’t see at the start – turns out she couldn’t find the start location and started 10 minutes late!) and Kay (doing the 12 hour).

Not entirely surprisingly given the nature of the race, there was a small field of just 8 starting the marathon. David, who does a marathon practically every week and is also doing the 24 hour for the umpteenth time, the aforementioned Ryan, Jenny and Dave, myself, the organiser Chris (also doing the 24 hour), and two guys I didn’t know, Chris (who ended up not finishing) and Stephen.

The 10k had a few familiar faces in it too – Dani’s daughter Sammi (also doing the 6 hour with her mum!), Cheryl and Amelie. I didn’t see too much of them as they ‘only’ did 4 and a bit laps!

The starters (minus Julia!)

I decided to try and stick with Jenny and Dave, and if that didn’t work out, I’d grab my iPod from out of my esky (a good thing I’d put it in there too, as it rained for about the first half of the race!) That lasted maybe about half a
lap! I didn’t see them after that but towards the end I fully expected to be lapped! I was lapped (3 times) by Ryan, and once or twice by David, a couple of times by Neil in the half and I think once by Marlize in the half.

Given that I had decided to treat it as more of a ‘race’ than a ‘training run’, I changed my nutrition strategy. Instead of eating every 30 minutes while taking a 5 minute ‘walk break’, I decided to eat every 3 laps, and just walk for long enough to get my sandwich/Clif bar in. However, on my first ‘food break’ I started eating my sandwich while still running, and realised, it is actually possible to eat and run at the same time! So I ended up not walking at all during the race, and still managed to eat 3 of my 4 pieces of sandwich and 1 Clif bar! I realise that most people would use gels for this reason – to be able to get nutrition in while still running – but I have avoided gels all my running life and don’t intend to change that anytime soon!

At the same time that I got my first bit of food, I grabbed one of my Gatorade bottles. As it was a cool morning, I ended up actually only drinking two of them, but straight after the race I had one, and I had a couple more over the course of the afternoon. Ordinarily I’d probably drink a bit more than that (and probably should have drunk more on this occasion!)

I always listen to music in my Uni Loop training runs, but use it sparingly in races. If I’m running with someone else I prefer to chat, and the great thing about these loopy events is you do get to see people along the way (whether you’re lapping them or vice versa!) On this occasion, being a smaller race and with less and less people there as time went on, the music was called into play quite early (pun intended!) – although if I was running with people I’d always turn the music off and chat for a bit. The person I would have chatted with most was race organiser Chris – I think I ran with him about 3 times during the race – he was doing his 200-and-somethingth marathon, he had run Adelaide last weekend and he was just out for an enjoyable morning, socialising and chatting with all the runners. I think at some point I may have said to him “If you put another event on here, I’m in!”

I had a bit of unexpected company along the way, from people not in the race. I got to see a lot of the SARRC Sunday runners – there are 2 main groups, one starting at 7 and one at 7:30, starting from the clubrooms which are on the loop. The 7:00 group had gone by the time we started but I did see a lot of them on their way back, and I got to see the 7:30 runners before and at the start of their run. (Actually I shouldn’t call it unexpected company – as a runner you CANNOT go out on the Uni
Loop on a Sunday morning and not run into someone you know! It is an impossible task!) One of the 7:00 group, Maree (aka Supergirl) was running towards me, then past, then did a U turn and ran with me for a bit – she had run from home and was on her way back. We had a bit of a chat about our training plans for the Chicago Marathon which we’re both running.

Also out for a short ‘jog’ was one of the Garys who did the marathon last week and is also doing the 12 hour. He had come out just for coffee with the 7:30 runners but I think they’d done a short run post-marathon and had all finished coffee by the time he got there – so he came and ran half a lap with me instead!

I had recently acquired a new computer and put my iTunes library onto it. I had copied the library from an external hard drive but the playlists had to be manually recreated. As I had recreated them from scratch, I had got rid of a lot
of songs I never want to listen to, and had added in new ones I hadn’t listened to in years – it was fun to go through my entire music library of 9000+ songs! I had 2 playlists – one ‘general’ one of about 900 songs, and one specifically for swimming, which
was all upbeat songs and which was much smaller as it had to fit on my waterproof iPod shuffle. I’d opted for the iPod Classic and the longer playlist on this occasion.

I ‘discovered’ a few songs in this race that were great for running! Quite an eclectic mix too, as always – for example ‘Feel the Love’ by Rudimental and ‘F***ing Hostile’ by Pantera (I had to resist the urge to break into song during the
latter one!)

One familiar face who I had met at this very location during a training run last year (from memory we were running in opposite directions and she was wearing an Adelaide 24 top, so it was pretty obvious what she was training for!) was Kay. She was doing the half marathon but when I caught up with her she was thinking about pulling out as she had some leg issues (I can’t remember specifically) and her physio had instructed her that if she started limping, she had to stop. She didn’t have too far left to go and was pretty keen to finish! She was training for the 12 hour again after having done it for the first time last year. From then on when I saw her (I think only 2 more times), I’d say “No limping!” and then the next time I saw her she was heading to the finish!

One really cool thing about this race, and something that I’ve never experienced before as I’ve only done time-based rather than distance-based events here, was the fact that, given the length of the loop and the 3 distances, runners had to complete their last full lap, then head back out along the loop for various distances before turning around and heading back to the finish. Therefore, whenever I saw a runner with a bib on running towards me, I knew they were heading to the finish line so I could give them a bit of a cheer!

I had my watch covered up during the entire race and that was actually really liberating. I mentally counted my laps, which is not that hard on a 2.2km loop. At one point towards the end I snuck a look at my watch when it beeped to indicate I’d finished another kilometre, just to make sure that my count was correct (which it was) and then quickly covered it up again. (One of the tricks I find with counting laps is, always count up, never down, at least until you’re on your last couple of laps!) I ALMOST checked my half marathon time but decided against it. I had no idea what the time was or what pace I was running. Unlike when I ran ‘blind’ at the Great Southern half, I DID know how far I’d gone!

I had a rough idea of the placings in the marathon, based on how frequently people lapped me. Ryan was leading by a good couple of laps and not surprisingly was first to finish in 3:19:20. David, who we worked out was a lap ahead of me
(even though I was sure he lapped me twice!) finished second in 3:38 which is a phenomenal time especially when you consider how many marathons he runs! I actually passed both of them at different times when they were walking. Now that’s not fair – they both walked a bit during the race and still finished miles ahead of me! My marathon PB is a touch under 3:36 and I can assure you there was NO walking during that one!

Speaking of ‘not fair’, let’s come back to Jenny and Dave. Refresher – Dave had run Boston in April, both had run Hubert 100km in early May (Jenny’s first 100km ultra) and both had run the Adelaide Marathon just a week ago.

I’m grateful that I didn’t get lapped by them. It’s probably the closest I will ever get to either of them in a marathon! And I really like both of them, they are both great runners, and very modest about their achievements, but I just don’t think it’s fair that they can do all that in such a short period of time and STILL beat me by a good 10 minutes! (Chris jokingly said he was going to disqualify them if they lapped him!)

Dave and Jenny at the finish line!

For a while there I totally forgot they were there! Being about 10 minutes ahead of me, they didn’t quite catch me to lap me, but when I occasionally looked across the sports fields to the other side of the loop, I never saw them (and Dave would have been hard to miss in his hi-viz yellow!). Unlike the timed Uni Loop events that I’m used to, there were no turnarounds where you got to see all the people who were less than a lap ahead of or behind you!

I managed to start my final full lap before they finished theirs – I was pretty confident they wouldn’t lap me! Small win!

I never did start counting down laps, always up. The end of lap 18 (so just over one lap to go) would have been a food break but being so close to the end I thought it wasn’t worth bothering – it wasn’t as if I was going to get any benefits from eating something now!

As I passed the start-finish line at the end of 19 laps (41.8km, to be precise) I saw Jenny and Dave for the first time since very early on in the race. I left my drink bottle and iPod on the table and said “I’ll be back” – I heard someone say “Sprint finish!” and I did start sort of sprinting – I forgot how far 200m is – that marker seemed to take FOREVER to reach! But that wasn’t the hardest bit – the hardest bit was doing a 180 degree turn, at pace, after running 42km in one direction, and running that last 200m back to the finish line!

As I crossed the line I heard Steve, one of the two main volunteers along with Antonietta who were there for us in the cold and rain all morning, call out my time, and it started with a 3! So after being just a little bit grumpy about Dave and Jenny beating me quite comfortably while taking it relatively easy, I was actually really stoked to get a sub 4 – I genuinely had no idea if I was or wasn’t going to get it, until I heard him call it out!

It wouldn’t be a race report without thanking the volunteers and on this occasion I can thank each and every one of them by name. Both of them, in fact! Both of them being regular parkrunners, I suspect both of them would have loved to be involved in another event happening that day, the ‘Longest parkrun’, 7 ‘unofficial’ parkruns in one day. I was a bit disappointed to find out it clashed with this event, because I was also really keen to give it a go.

Thanks Steve and Antonietta for everything!

Looking at the timetable for the day, and given that I was expecting to finish the marathon by 11:45 (4.5 hours) and the 5th of the 7 runs started at 1:30, it was entirely logistically possible for me to join in the last 3 parkruns (Lochiel, Pakapakanthi and Torrens). Logistically yes but physically? Who knew? I thought I’d give it a go. A 24 hour race is a test of endurance and running on tired legs. What better way to train for that than by running 3 x 5km runs, with about an hour’s break in between each one, and two hours’ break in between the marathon and the first 5k?

Thankfully for all concerned, there was time for me to go home and have a shower before the first of the 3 parkruns, and I made a stop at the Bakery on O’Connell for a pastie and a Coke first! I had just got a new pair of 2XU compression pants in the recent sale, and I usually wear compression pants for recovery after a big run, so I figured it would be a good thing to wear for the parkruns! (They were great, once I got them on. Getting them on was quite the manoeuvre! As was getting them off later!)

And I did manage to get through the 3 parkruns, and I am almost certain it was a good thing to do, both from a training point of view and also recovery (I find it helps to keep moving as much as possible, within reason!)

The crew before parkrun #7 at Torrens!

The ‘Longest parkrun’ finished with a dinner at the nearby Wellington Hotel. As I already had curry in the fridge at home (as well as half a pizza from Saturday night!) I just went and joined them for a wine before going home to eat ALL OF THE THINGS!

With one of the Longest parkrun organisers (and fellow wine lover) Janet at the end of a big day!

I gotta say, and I’m sure I’ve said it before, that a loop marathon or ultra is not for everyone, but it is most definitely for me!

Thanks Chris, Steve and Antonietta and all those involved, and well done to all the hardcore runners – I am sure I will see a lot of you on July 13!

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