Marathon Palma de Mallorca 2013 : Race Recap
“Only 600 metres!“, “Only 500 metres!“, “Only 400 metres. Come on! You can do this!!!“. You get the idea. There was A LOT of positive self-motivation required in the last stages of the Marathon Palma de Mallorca on Sunday. A lot. More than I’ve ever needed to finish any race.
Jumping back to the beginning – my pre-race was not optimum. Both myself and my running buddy Mark had colds. Sunday morning’s pre-race routine had to be amended to include a very hot shower with lots of coughing to loosen the phlegm off my chest and (gross-out alert) blow out some serious amounts of sticky yellow/green snot, along with adding a double dose of both Ibuprofen and Sudafed to my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal bars, Gatorade and two energy gels.
Our accommodation was 3km from the race start, giving us a perfect opportunity to warm up with some walking and jogging (plus more coughing and snot). Mark and I noticed it felt really warm – a temperature display en route was showing 22 C (72 F), and that it was pretty humid as well.
At the race centre we were able to swiftly complete bag check, have our last toilet break, complete our warmup and make our way to the corral, arriving with about 8 minutes to spare. I turned on my Garmin and this also showed me my heart rate was high. Just standing around it was already higher than my recovery run HR. Hoping it was just nerves and caffeine on top of the cold I yelled out the ten-second countdown with everyone and cheered as the gun sounded and the music started.
The race was crowded but the first wave thinned quickly enough that we were able to hit our pace with very little zig-zagging. The race took us south-west out of the city centre and along the marina. Very nice but the port turned to ‘industrial’ about the 4km mark and the view wasn’t great until about 7km when we returned to the yacht moorings on the way into the old city. Seeing our girlfriends twice along the route was however a big bonus and we pushed to the 10km point in high spirits, and with a target to run 5’32″/km the first 10km were covered at perfect pace coming in at 5’31” average.
10km – 21.095km
Feeling good after the first 10km we pushed into the hilly portion of the race with a plan to maintain that same pace. This part of the race was the most scenic as we climbed from the port into the old town, past designer shops, great restaurants and fantastic buildings. There was the odd 180 degree turn which felt like the course organisers were having to make up the distance, but overall it was very enjoyable. Especially at around the 18km mark when you pop out from a very tight cobbled street onto the piazza in front of the cathedral. The girls had also made their way here so that was a highlight point of the race.
Pacing wise, we both have Garmins but the buildings and narrow streets of the old town were affecting our satellite link and the watches went crazy. One time my watch was reporting that we were busting along at 4’45” pace, while Mark’s was saying 6’05”. There was a bit of confusion so we figured we’d just average our watches and see what happened. Overall we came out of the old town section in 5’25” average, a little fast, but feeling strong.
21.095km – 30km
Into the third section of the race and at about 23km Mark started to tighten up and our pace dropped. We stuck together however I acted as the pacer and pushed out a bit (keeping about 30m in front) so Mark had a ‘chasing’ target to keep up with. We had a quick catch up at the aid stations and push out again. This was also the most boring part of the marathon. Running out of the city, with the sun in your face and into a 19kph headwind at times, we spent most of the time on a major road which was open to (slow moving) traffic in the other lane. In terms of scenery there wasn’t really any of note, though the people in cars were blasting out music, honking horns and being really supportive which helped.
When we passed the 30km timing check there was only a 15 second split between us and although our pace for the last section had dropped to 5’54″/km, as we made the turn-around back towards Palma we were still on pace for a 3:53 finish.
30km – 42.2km
We were both flagging as we pressed on into the last section of the race, and while a sub-4:00 marathon still looked possible, it was certainly looking very hard. At our little powwow at the 31km point Mark told me to go ahead as he was bonking badly and needed to walk.
Feeling OK at this point I pushed on and increased my pace to 5’45″/km to see if I could go for a 3:51 and sneak a few seconds off my PB. And that was the singular worst decision I made all day…
Up to this point my heart rate had been high, sitting close to my threshold. While I had been strong up to 30k and pushed through the 20mile barrier without issues, as I turned into the dunes at 34km, with the hot sun on my back and strangely no wind to cool me, the going got tough. Quickly. Out the window went the PB, with a reset to a 4:00 target.
I kept pushing on but at 36km I learned a valuable lesson – what I thought was ‘the wall’ in my previous marathons was merely a bonk and a corresponding drop in pace. At 36km I suffered a spectacular blowout complete with dizziness, goosebumps, inability to focus, numb hands, tingling arms and a slow down to a staggering walk. At this point I got seriously worried about a DNF but I ‘got my shit together’ and decided to just walk to the next aid station and regroup there. Once there I drank sports drink, took another energy gel, as well as some sport beans and half a banana from the refreshment table. After downing this lot I grabbed two water bottles and started walking, slowly but steadily trying to get the water into me. I had a look at my situation and figured out that if I walked all the way to the end I would still be able to beat 4:30, and revised my goal again.
On a downhill section around 37km I was able to start running again, but walked up the next hill. Run, walk, try and sort myself out mentally (easier this time thanks to tips I learnt from Grateful Running), run, walk. Doing this I figured I actually had a shot at 4:15 if I kept it up, so revised my goal again.
And that was basically how it went until Mark managed to catch up with me at the 38km point and we (he) decided we would finish together. From then it was a ‘run to the next km marker‘ plan, from where we walked for about 200 or 300m before running on to the next km marker.
As we entered the final stages of the race the crowds picked up again which provided a boost and as we ran past the 41km marker we saw the girls cheering us again. Much as I would have liked a hug and a kiss, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I wouldn’t start again and I wasn’t past the finish line yet. It was nice to hear the yell from my girlfriend “Don’t stop! Keep going, you’re almost there!” and this kept me going, with me counting down each 100 metres as we went, crossing the line in 4:09:30.
After the race I needed a couple of minutes to take stock and re-group, but I quickly recovered and found my energy returning. By the time the girlfriends met up with us Mark and I were (half-heartedly) doing our post-race stretch session so we called it a day and walked through to the race entertainment area, got some free Gatorade, Coke, beer (alcohol free – yuk!) and more fruit. Bags retrieved, showers had, it was time to head into the city and begin the recovery, but more on that in another post…
Later that day I had a look at the weather report. Turned out that at race start the humidity was 94%, staying really high for the first half of the race, until the temperature began rising to the max of 26 C (79 F) and 74% humidity at the end of the race. No wonder we couldn’t get cool out on the course and certainly part of the reason I so spectacularly ‘lost it’ near the end!
Overall not my fastest race, however given the fact I had a cold and was popping Sudafed throughout the race (shhh – don’t tell my doctor), I’m really happy that I managed to pull it together to complete after hitting ‘the wall’ big time. In fact, having had a few days recuperation I would say it was my best marathon of three, despite being 18 minutes off my PB – in this race I was able to pace well, follow a plan, and do all this while ill. And the most important part, when the wheels fell off I was able to regroup physically and mentally, revise my goal and keep going.
The race itself is also a good one, held in a beautiful city. I will put up a race review soon for anyone thinking of taking a race-cation to Spain next year.
In the meantime,
Happy running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!