Beach to Brother Marathon 2018 – Race Report

My decision to enter the Beach to Brother marathon came soon after competing in the 2017 race. I was disappointed with my effort in last year’s race and how I raced contributed to some real suffering over the last 10km.

My training for this year’s event was mostly trouble free, in this preparation I slightly increased my mileage from recent marathons and was able to put together a good block of training. I was confident going to the race that I’d be able to put together a good race due to this training. Much of my training had been on the course as the race is held in my home town of Port Macquarie, Australia. I decided to run this race in Gladsoles trail sandals, which I had used in last year’s race and was very happy with running in them on this course.

Beach to Brother marathon is such a unique race and has many variables that mother nature can decide to contribute to its difficulty. Last year it was extreme heat that made the race very difficult, this year the weather report looked favourable for good conditions reporting mild temperatures.

Race morning started with those mild temperatures and fine conditions that were welcomed by all at the start line. My goal this year was to break four hours and my tactic to achieve this was to run patiently throughout and run my own race regardless of where my position in the race was.

I started with this in the forefront of my mind and ran the first kilometre in a small lead group of 5-6 runners. After the short climb up to the top of Flynns Beach I took the lead of the group and rolled through the flat and downhill section onto Flynns Beach. I was a little surprised when only one runner came with me to this point and we had about 100m lead by the time on the sand. The other runner was another local runner and friend of mine Clifford Hoeft. Cliff and I ran the next section to Lighthouse Beach mostly together, on most of the uphill trail sections I pulled away as I envisage Cliff took these relatively conservatively and I did the same on the downhill sections and was easily caught. We reached the Tacking Point Lighthouse together with a good lead over the rest of the field.

The section along Lighthouse beach to Lake Cathie is a long 10km stretch of beach with a detour mid-way down the beach into a nearby trail before going back onto the sand for the remaining 5-6km. I gained a short lead at the lighthouse Beach aid station as I didn’t need to fill my flask. This section was nice running with relatively hard sand despite an incoming tide and a light southerly headwind to run into. Exiting the beach to the trail onto a nice gravel road and both myself and Cliff picked up the pace along here and rolled through this section to the aid station before going back onto the beach, I filled my water flask and was back on the sand just behind.

By the time we had come back to the sand the wind strength had increased and running into this section was more challenging. I decided to focus on my own running, and be patient running into the wind. The incoming tide was starting to make the sand softer and by the coffee rock section before Lake Cathie there were a few sections where I got wet with waves crashing against the rocks or needed to go rock hopping over the coffee rock section. In this section of the race I had put some space between myself and Cliff and I exited the beach at Lake Cathie with a few hundred metre lead.

A short trail section around Lake Cathie and I felt great going back onto the beach for the section to Bonny Hills. By this stage the wind was quite strong and the tide had made an initial coffee rock section of about 500m unpassable without rock hopping over. I had expected this section and was prepared for the coffee rock, running in sandals makes this section slightly more challenging as it is easy to catch a toe or roll an ankle. It was on this section I slightly rolled my right ankle and fell onto my knee, while only a small fall I got up with some pain in my right knee. The rest of this section is beach and into the now strong head wind was tough running, I exited the beach at Bonny Hills still in the lead and feeling good.

From Bonny Hills there is a section of both up and downhill grass and trail over Grants Headland. My knee by this stage was quite sore and all the downhill sections aggravated it more, I was still running quite well albeit in some pain. On the very tight single trail over Grant’s Head I was caught behind some half marathon runners and unable to pass, at this stage Cliff caught me. The trail between Grant Head and North Haven Surf Club was relatively uneventful as we ran together and both ran relatively conservatively. Reaching North Haven with 10km to go I stopped for water briefly before heading off for the last 7.5km before the 2.5km summit to North Brother Mountain. It was at this stage when Cliff accelerated ahead of me on the breakwall and I didn’t have the legs to go with him. I made the decision to run my own race knowing that the finish to this race is as tough as they get.

At this stage of the race the marathon distance was certainly starting to hurt and by the aid station with 5km to go I was feeling okay but my pace had slowed. From here it is mostly uphill until the base of the mountain and I had lost confidence that I was going to compete for the win. Cliff had run off looking very strong and I concentrating on surviving to the mountain and then doing what I can to get up. My goal of a sub 4 hour finish was still looking good.

The last 2.5km of this race has over 500m of elevation up a single trail, mostly stairs leading up the North Brother Mountain. Very soon into this climb I was aware that I didn’t have much if anything left and it was real test of my mental will just to get up the climb. With about 1.5km to go I was passed by another marathon runner. He was climbing the mountain very strongly and there was nothing I could do when he went past other than congratulate him.

Close to the top after taking a left hand turn the trail flattens out and there are a few runable sections mixed with further climbing. I tried to run these sections and hold onto my sub 4 hour goal but when I did both my calves started to cramp. I decided to power hike these sections and do the best I could. By this stage you can see the top of the trees and start to hear the crowd as the top is not far away. I was able to break into a run as I got near the finish and crossed the line in third place in 4:01:19. Just shy of my 4 hour goal but satisfied with a third place.

Big congratulations to Clifford Hoeft for winning this race, he raced a great race and was the strongest runner on the course today. Very happy to see him to be the first winner of this marathon local to our area.

With 24 hours of reflection I am happy with my race. I left everything I had on that course and can honestly say there is nothing more I could have done on the day. If I had my time again I would have raced the same way and gave myself a chance to achieve my goals.

 

The difficulty of this race was again magnified by the conditions, the wind and tide made the beach sections really tough and this contributed to the remainder of the race as it sapped energy from you that was really required for the brutal hill at the end. One of the beauties of this race is the mystery that the weather can create and how the coastal conditions change so much with the conditions. We may be waiting years before this race has conditions that will make it easier, it will be a different challenge every year..

This race is a must do NSW coastal trail race. It is super well organised and such a beautiful coastal course. The views over the coast from some of the spots on course are some of the best in the country, not to forget the amazing scenery on top of North Brother Mountain. It’s a race that gives me everything I love about competing in marathons, a tough challenging course, beautiful scenery and fantastic on course atmosphere.

Personally, I really want a sub four hour finish on this course, I certainly believe I am a good enough runner to achieve this and will undoubtedly be back from another crack at it next year.

 

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Why I’ll run this marathon in shoes

The footwear choice for my upcoming marathon has been a decision I have thought about throughout this marathon preparation. Should I run this marathon in shoes or sandals?

Gladsoles sandals have been my number one footwear choice for the past 18 months, I do probably 60% of my running in them. I have completed a marathon in them before albeit the Beach to Brother trail marathon. They are a great sandal to run in. I completed my recent half marathon in these sandals in a new personal best time. I haven’t run a road marathon in these sandals yet though. My most recent road marathon was Seoul marathon last year which I ran in shoes, in particular the Salming Race 3.

While I do a lot of running in sandals, when I run long in them they are harder on my lower legs and feet. Naturally with less or zero cushioning they slightly tougher on the body. While this feeling is minimised by running a lot in sandals there is still a factor in the legs getting conditioned to running for long periods without cushioning.

Running in sandals has helped me be a better runner, my legs and feet are stronger and my technique is better. I have changed my foot strike from a heel striking runner to a forefoot runner. However when I run longer distances my form deteriorates as I fatigue. During my recent half marathon my form gradually deteriorated over the last 5km as I became fatigued.

For this reason I have chosen to run my marathon in three weeks time in shoes. Whilst I can run just as fast in sandals as shoes, when I fatigue in the final third of the marathon I don’t believe I can manage a running form that will allow me to run my best race in sandals yet. This is a weakness in the runner not the sandal, in time I will develop the strength needed to complete a marathon in sandals

The Salming Race 5 is the latest edition of racing flats from Salming and these will be my marathon race day shoes. They are fast, flexible and responsive. They are slightly narrower then the previous edition I wore in Seoul, which I would rather was not be the case but this is a small negative. The racing flat with only a small amount of cushioning will compensate for my drop off running form when I fatigue and allow me to run longer at my goal pace then the sandals on a road surface.

This is somewhat disappointing as it indicates that my barefoot running technique has still not developed to a point where I can run a road marathon and remain running with sound technique. I would prefer to run this marathon in sandals, however I am mindful that I want to run my best race and my weakness when fatigued will be better suited in shoes. I will continue to work hard on improving my foot and lower leg strength that will help me achieve this possibly for my next marathon, but this time it’ll be shoes in the marathon.

 

Marathon training week 9

After 12 days of no running due to the flu training resumed last week and all my goal runs were completed. The main two being my 5km parkrun on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.

Parkrun on Saturday was run in 19:23 about 2 min outside my best, however I was more than happy to get through the run. Sunday I managed 1:30 along th breach at 4:45 min/km which was nice for the confidence.

This week normally programming resumes with a simple routine.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hill repeats

Wednesday – Strength

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Long run (2 hour 30 min)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Intervals (8 x 4 min 90 sec recovery)

Hoping to fast track training to be back on track towards the marathon. Will need to ramp up my long runs quickly over the next 3-4 weeks.

If I get through this week I’ll be confident I can get back to peak fitness by the marathon start day. Looking forward to testing myself anyway.

If you prefer to run alone are you a weirdo?

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In the era of social media and interacting everything online is it weird if you prefer to run alone. Like everything else in the past 5-10 years there seems to have been an explosion in running being a social activity. Most people log their runs with a GPS watch and load the data onto a sharing site such as Strava, they talk about running on social media and organise social runs together that help keep people accountable to get out of the house and go running.

So, if you still prefer to run alone are you a weirdo? I began running because I had moved away from my hometown to the city and didn’t know many people, essentially I started running because I didn’t have any friends that could introduce me to a team sport. This was well before social media and GPS watches and all my running was done alone.

One of the reasons I fell in love with running was the solitude that comes from running alone. It’s a wonderful feeling being out running just you alone with your thoughts. Talking to a non runner recently about my weekend and long run on this weekend and told her that I had covered three hours of running and this was a great start to my Sunday. Her response took me by surprise when she said “to run for that long alone you must really enjoy your own company.” I hadn’t thought of it this way before as I’ve always run alone and never lacked company or needed other to motivate my running.

“Doesn’t it get boring?” This is a question non runners have been asking runners since the dawn of time. Quite simply, No. I am very rarely bored when I go running alone or with others. I go running because I enjoy running, if I got bored from running I’d take up another sport that I didn’t get bored doing.

My top 3 reasons to run alone.

  1. Solitude. Running alone is a great experience. Alone with your thoughts, just one foot in front of the other.
  2. You set the session. When you run alone you can run at your desired pace. If you feel like running fast you can, if you feel like running slow you can. It’s up to you.
  3. Time saving. When you run alone you don’t need to meet up with people, you can run from home and save time by just getting out there and run.

When training for a race I find that running alone helps me stay focussed on the training I have planned. I set my program and stay accountable to each run of the session. My success or failure at the race is absolutely up to me.

There is no doubt that the social aspect of running and running with others appeals to many people. Those that would prefer to run alone are probably in the minority today.

If you prefer to run alone……run alone.

If you prefer to run with others……run with others.

Whatever way you prefer to run go and do it, it’s about the running first and foremost.

 

 

 

 

Marathon training week 6

Week 5 training went right to plan with my three key sessions all being completed with a minimum of fuss. Winter temperatures have made early morning running a little more difficult but enjoyable once you start and recovery is easier in colder conditions.

This week sees me needing to travel to Sydney for work Monday morning so will have a rest day Monday and a run in new surrounds on Tuesday. Looking forward to run in a new location. However will not run my normal hill session on Tuesday due to not knowing if there is a suitable hill near my hotel yet.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Sydney Intervals 12 x 2 min 30 seconds recovery

Wednesday- Strength

Thursday – Hill repeats

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Long run 2 hours 40 min or Parkrun

Sunday – Long run or rest day 

Will decide during the week whether I want to do parkrun on Saturday or a long run. Leaning towards the long run as I want to ensure I get this in as it’s key to building endurance towards the marathon. 

Hope you training goes well this week. Keep running.

When the man flu takes control

With my next race preparation starting on Monday I had plans to get a head start this weekend and take advantage with a couple of back to back aerobic paced longish runs over the weekend. Plans were thrown into chaos yesterday afternoon when I started getting symptoms of a head cold. Nose started to block, throat getting sore and a head ache. By the end of the evening a head cold was upon me and I had grave doubts for my 90 min run incorporating parkrun which I was planning for Saturday morning.

When I woke this morning the world was a different place. A headache that measured 9/10 on the headache ricktor scale,sore throats and blocked nose and head. I felt like a truck had run over me. Walking to the kitchen to make a coffee felt like the final 10km of a marathon. Running was not happening today.

Water, coffee and repeat was my morning. Got out of the house for a short period to go to the supermarket and then a two hour plus sleep after lunch and I almost feel human again. Did manage to eat half a family size custard tart too which is a good sign things are getting better.

Running may happen tomorrow at this rate but it’s too early to tell yet. With rain predicted it’s probably wise to not run in the rain and get over the head cold but my motivation is to run. Will need to assess my condition and the weather in the morning.

 When the man flu takes control of your body there is not a lot that can be done. Ride out the storm as best you can and live to fight another day.

When new running sandals are ordered!

This week I ordered myself a new pair of Gladsoles trail sandals. My current pair have now run 1100km and are showing major signs of wear on the sole. They are also starting to become quite thin and lost some of their structure meaning they aren’t as stable when running as previously. I am still currently running in them but they are ready for a change.

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Bear in mind they have run 1100km over every type of terrain possible with at least half these kilometres on roads. They have served me well and motivated my transition to minimal running because of the ride they offer. I’ve never had a pair of running shoes last 1100km, usually the midsole breaks down after 400-500km and sole material deteriorates in a similar time. My Gladsoles sandals costs half the price of some of the running shoes I have bought in my past and lasted twice as long. When I purchased these sandals I was planning on them complimenting my normal minimal running shoes and running in them occasionally and this is what I did for the first 12 months. As my transition to zero drop running progressed I ran more in sandals and now do most of my running in sandals.

The new Gladsoles trails that I have ordered use a new material to the original trail model I purchased about two years. I emailed Rich at Gladsoles about the difference and found out the new material is Vibram Gumlite which is a little more dense then the previous sole. It will take longer to mould to your feet, but provides a little more protection against sharp rocks. They are an 8 mm sole, the same as the previous trail model. I am looking forward to running in the denser sole as slightly more protection will be welcomed when on trails. When running in just an 8mm sole you get phenomenal ground feel but you do feel the rocks and sharp objects you run on.

With this information I ordered a new pair but was faced with the dilemma of which lace and lace lock colour to choose. This is a seriously tough decision as there are plenty to choose from. Previously I have used neon orange, neon green and yellow on my sandals and changed the lace colour a few times. For these sandals I have chosen olive green laces and a black lace lock.

I often get asked when running in sandals questions like, “How do you run in them?”  The truth is I don’t know how I ran in shoes that were heavy and inflexible for so many years. I am just as fast if not faster in sandals than shoes and I feel happier and more motivated to run when in sandals.

I’m looking forward to another 1000+km of running in these new sandals. In a weeks time I will start my focus on my next goal race being the Beach to Brother Trail marathon. I will be running this race in Gladsoles Sandals with olive green laces. This race offers a range of terrain, beach including both hard and soft sand, trail, roads and pathways before a 2.5km vertical climb to finish the event. It will be a tough event and one that I look forward to competing in.

 

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5km race win in sandals in 17:37

Organisation and balance

Last week my total running was 8.3km over one run, I chased my tail all week because I had a university assessment due this morning that I didn’t start early enough and underestimated the time it would take to complete.

Life lesson: Be more organised so you can have balance and run more.

Good news is my assessment was completed late last night and I’m happy with it’s quality. this allowed me to run this morning.

Over the next few weeks I have a busy schedule with uni work, my business isn’t going to run itself and my family still need me. Sometimes running can’t be your focus as there is only so many hours in the day. With a busy 2-3 weeks coming up I’ll be aiming to get out and run three times per week and be on top of everything else in my life.

Balancing commitments in life can be hard, and learning to prioritise the most important things so you can achieve success. the next few weeks running will be a priority to take my mind off the more important and time bound things in my life. Running will always be important but without a goal race to train for currently my running is for fitness and enjoyment.

Hills and beach for this mornings run.

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Back running long

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Everyone that runs long distances knows the long run is the staple for building endurance and preparing for marathons and ultras. Without the long run the body won’t adapt to the long distances when we race. Without an immediate race goal it can be easy to forget the long run and focus on shorter runs, yesterday I chose to put in a long run just for the fun of it. My family already had plans so I was home alone and decided to go for a run.

I threw a few gels in my running belt and a bottle of water and off we went. Decided to run to the small town Lake Cathie near where I live, plan was to run there on the road and back along the beach. Was feeling good when I got there after about 50 min so I decided to keep going a bit longer and went to the next town Bonny Hills. Was just over 20km before I hit Rainbow Beach at Bonny Hills and turned for home which would be about 17km all along the beach with a slight detour to get around a water crossing that was too deep to pass. The first 20km was great down the road and a few walking trails, averaged about 4:30min/km and was running nicely. The return leg on the beach was beautiful, it was a magic day to be at the beach but running it for 17km was tough. there was a moderate head wind and some soft sand made it tough. I was happy to reach the end and make the short run to home from there.

Overall 39.6km at 4:42min/km was a long run I am happy with. This is now my longest run in sandals and my legs and feet felt fine for most of the run. Last 5km was hard going after such a long time on the beach but thats to be expected when you run long.

Keeping running my long runs is going to keep my endurance for when I do decide on a new race goal. A few of the races I had hoped to do don’t mix with my work schedule so I haven’t found one I really want to do in the near future yet. Enjoying running for fun and continuing to challenge myself to get out and run without the motivation of  goal race to push me. I managed six runs and just under 80km last week so this is working currently.

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I’m back running!!

After the small scare I had with my heart last week I aired on the side of caution and took a week off running. The other reason for this was that I’ve had a big year and my body needed a break. My training starts January 1st for my first two goal races of 2014 so a break was timely.

A week off running is tough for a runner. It’s the longest break I had in 2013 and not being injured as such it was hard to wake up and not get ready to run. I’m glad I did take a week off though for two reasons.

I’m now confident that my heart problem is behind me, I am seeing a cardiologist in late January just to be on the safe side but I think it’ll be fine. And my body feels recharged and ready to build some significant training miles in the first part of the new year.

Second reason, a week off running returns the motivation to run. Running is hard, it takes discipline to get up and consistently log the training we do. A small break for me has recharged the mind aswell as the body.

My run this morning was nothing too difficult. 6.5km in a touch over 30 minutes of running. Beautiful morning in the Australian summer for a run I felt the joy of running come straight back to me, I missed that feeling last week.

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