Alice Springs Marathon 2016

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So there I was in the Marino Center at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, running at 7:15/mile which is 3:10 marathon pace. After a half mile in, I was already huffing and puffing. I stopped wondering how it was possible to run a 3:10 marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon. That experience came shortly after “Marathon Monday” which is a public holiday in New England where I witnessed some of the 25,000 runners before entering Kenmore square and passing Fenway Park; it was April sometime between 2003 and 2007.

Fast forward to April 20th, 2009 and I’d be running that very same race, the Boston Marathon; the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world as a charity racer. But, that was 7 years ago and 19 out-right marathons, 3 ultramarathons, and 8 ironmans before today.

In 2010 before moving to Alice Springs, Australia I was already emailing the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club President, Glenn Edwards about their marathon and their club. 7 months after arriving in January of 2011, I would run my first Alice Springs Marathon. The out and back course along Larapinta, through Honeymoon Gap, and along Illparpa included some “hill” climbing and headwind that had me finish in second place in a time of 3:18 behind Ben Streeter’s 2:55. I was content but not prepared.

In 2012 I was in Canada competing in Ironman Mont-Tremblant and in 2013 I “only” did the half as I was training with Fiona for Ironman Western Australia. So 2014 was my next attempt with an awful personal time of 3:28 having been very much out of shape after our 6 week world-wide honeymoon; I only had 2 weeks to get back in to shape and it wasn’t enough time.

In 2015 I had a break-through performance without any taper. In fact my 3:02 marathon, a personal best, came at the end of a 30 hour training week. Looking back, I would call it one of my finest accomplishments as an athlete, rivaling my 9:22 Ironman Western Australia performance.

So what would 2016 bring me?

On June 12, 2016, I qualified for the Ironman World Championship at Ironman Cairns. That was 10 weeks ago and before the biggest and best quality training I’ve ever done. While I was able to manage 6 runs of 2hrs or more including 2, three hour runs, I had an injury after my first run back since it was a race and was too much, too soon. I was able to recover but I was unable to put in the quality training that I wanted in pursuit of that coveted sub-3 finish. It was my goal, hands down. And, knowing what I knocked out last year, thought it to be possible. But, I told everyone going into the event, I didn’t know what I was capable of, which was true.

Race Week

In Build 2, Week 2 before rest and test week, I organized the season to include 3 – 3 week builds to accommodate the marathon. I put my 140minute tempo ride on Tuesday which had me cover 90km in 2:19:26. I backed this up the next day with a Sweet Spot/Threshold session of 6x10min with 5min recovery on the bike with great execution of 319, 322, 321, 323, 322, 315NP in my range of 313-324 watts at 90%-93%. We then had quality swim sessions from our coach and fellow Kona-Bound athlete on Thursday and Saturday including 4.4km swims in 83-87 minutes. We included some recovery rides and runs as well.

Thursday we started carbo loading at Casa Nostra and dinner with Dad before he headed back to Stawell, Victoria. The next two days included a full-blown carbo loading targeting 12g/kg or close to 1kg of carbs. I did this by consuming soft drinks, Lollies, cookies, cakes, cereal, and some veggies. Night before the race I made Fiona Jasmine Rice with Vegetables and Tofu.  We were in bed by 9:30PM for the 4:30AM wake up. Race morning I was up 2kg over the 2 days as my body held on to water with the carbs. (Don’t let that low-carb bull-shit cloud your mind). Obviously, if you stop eating pasta, you lose water which = lower weight.

Race Day

Up at 4:30AM. Regular red bull, 2 pieces of white toast with vegan butter and jam. At 5:45am, we drove the 10mintues to the race start, dropped our water bottles off in the boxes, and hit the loo. We sat in the car with our mate Jarrod who will be competing in his first Ironman (Busso) later this year. I ate a package of Clif Shot Bloks. With 10minutes to go, we walked to the start and heard some words from Jason the RD and Steve Monaghetti, one of the most successful Australian runners, ever. I saw and said a gday to Chris Hunter and said “Oh shit”; which is understandable, he went 2:49 last year. Other than that, I didn’t know my competition but since there were only 56 people and I typically can come in the top 10%, figured there would be a couple other guys that would sneak in there.

The weather was not nearly as cold as last year and it had rained the prior night which was a shock when I looked outside since it rains maybe 10-20 days per year in Alice Springs. I had basically brand new Brooks Pureflow 4, shorts, a Busso Tri Singlet, USA visor, and my racing Oakley lens. I had 2 SIS gels, 6 salt tablets in my M&M container, and out on course I had 2 cans of coke in clear bottles at the 12km, 34km, and at the 21km I had a 200mg caffeine drink of ARO.

The Start

Kisses to Fiona, good luck to everyone around. And we were off.

I was leading! For a minute. J Chris Hunter came alongside me and wished me a great race, then he was gone and the bike light that led him out were gone within 15minutes. The 2nd place person past me at the 4km and the 3rd place person past me at the 12km mark. I had heard Fiona behind me with her soft running feet but didn’t look back. My pace was going great and I was very consistent for the first 8 miles. Around the 10km mark my salt tablet container fell out so I had to stop for it. I saw Fiona and the next place 3rd guy 20 meters back. “Shit” I thought. I kept at it but then the 3rd place guy over took me 2km later. At the 20km mark my stomach which had again felt like shit said “You need to GO”. I looked back and only saw Fiona. “Good” I thought. I ran off to the side behind the biggest bush I could find and quickly dropped the shorts. “I had to Fi!”. She overtook me and then I worked for the next 5 minutes to get back up to her working at a HR where I should have been racing the whole time. I finally caught her and said “Well I guess I’m out of the money but you’re in it,…. As long as you keep it up!”

I was thinking that we would run together for the remainder of the run and was picturing crossing the line with her. If that happened I was then going to push her forward so that she won. J. But, Fi is a competitor and I’m glad. She had a faster pace and picked it up over the next km. I saw Chris and 2nd and 3rd position who both had small legs that looked like just distance runner legs. Chris was about 24minutes ahead of me at the 23km, yikes.

I thought the headwind we had for most of this time would then turn at the 23km turnaround after covering the first half marathon in 1:35. Instead, like Alice Springs, it turned into a full headwind. “What the hell?!”. The sky was dark and I quickly heard thunder. Soon enough the light rain came and my pace was slowing. I was getting quite negative and looking at this to a training run. After all, my HR was at 132 which was 7BPM lower than last year; clearly the fatigue was high. But near the 30km mark, Fiona overtook the 3rd place male and I thought “Break him Fiona!!!”. This would give me a mental edge on him. I started reeling him in as I depended upon my base fitness and consistent pacing. This became my race plan early on when past. I thought, these guys will blow up and I will catch them by staying consistent. Additionally, I didn’t stop once except for the pitstop. With a few meters to the 3rd place guy, his stride was probably half a meter. I pushed it harder here and made the pass with some words of encouragement.  I kept looking back as I wasn’t making the separation I wanted. Eventually, the distance grew and I was gone. I was very happy about this and worked the hardest over those last 10km even with legs really fatiguing and getting tired. I kept pushing and that would have probably been the best running I had done. The headwind really picked up but I just tried my best to keep going. I was thinking “Anything is Possible”.

Soon I saw the finish with 3:19:15 and worked the best I could to break 3:20. I finished unofficially in 3:19:57 while listening to Fiona getting interviewed by Chris Turner. I finished 4th overall, 3rd male behind Fiona. For my efforts, I received 3 medals including the NT Marathon Championship 2nd place finish and $200!

Post Run

We went home had a Clif bar, some bread, and then headed to Anytime Fitness. We did 45min on the bike at a cadence of 100rpm which made me feel 10x better. We went and ate some unhealthy fish and chips, spent time with our friends, received our awards, and then headed home. We then headed for a 2hr30min ride on the N. Stuart Highway doing 4x hill repeats with some Zone 3 work before my Di2 died on me. But, I did hit 69kph in the wind that hammered us on the marathon and enjoyed my new 55/42 chain ring setup.

We caught up with Mark Russell who will be joining us in his first ever Ironman, New Zealand in March 2017 and Jarrod Cahir who will be competing in his first ever Ironman, Busselton this year. I’m helping coach both of them and got them on the plan that has taken me from a mid-packer to the Ironman World Championship; Joe Friel, Your Best Triathlon.


Shit. What do I say? My time was friggen awful. I was a whole 17min35sec SLOWER than last year.  My HR was IRONMAN race pace. While I felt great for the first hour putting out some consistent pacing, I just couldn’t push myself. This was exactly what I found 3 weeks ago at the ABC Half Marathon. I do understand why and it’s up to me as a self-coached athlete to understand this. 1) I had an early injury 8 weeks ago which led to 2) inconsistent running and exacerbated by 3) massive cycling quality sessions contributing to major fatigue.

Comparing last year’s 3:02 to this year’s 3:19 really highlights the level of training I’m training at. With 20-26 hour training weeks, it’s a lot. One interesting comparison is last year. Last year I went 9:36 at Ironman Australia and had run 3:36 after the 3.8km swim and 180km ride with some walking. Two weeks later I ran and won the Inaugural Coober Pedy Breakaways Marathon in a time of 3:19:49 on HR of 151 with a ton of walking. Today my HR was 132 on the same HR without any walking. This illustrates how fatigued you can be after an Ironman but also an improvement in fitness. Imagine what I could run now at 151 HR while fresh? (My Garmin 920XT says “2:38:42 marathon based off of my 62 VO2Max”, which I hate to admit is a load of bullshit.

Final Words

I would like to thank the Running Festival Committee who put in a ton of work into making this event happen. I hope with the 380 entries, your biggest ever event, you can sit back and bask in the success of the race. I thank the volunteers for their time and effort in putting this race on. We are fortunate to have this race here and unlike whoever complained about the $100 race fee, it’s a friggen steal! Good luck finding this quality of a race anywhere in the world for this price.

Highlights: 10min from home, sit in the car till 10min to race start, seeing/meeting/presented by Steve Monaghetti, personal drink bottles at any aid station we want (HUGE), included lunch awards/presentation, great medals, and the best shirts yet!

Constructive Criticism: Another portaloo at the 23km mark. (It probably won’t be used but definitely need to have another one out there. Note, I wouldn’t have made it there anyway!!! Hahaha. Next, the Steve Monaghetti run should be Friday or Saturday, not Monday morning, but is a sure treat for those that go! Last, the aid stations Have to have Coke/Gatorade. While it’s absolutely incredible that we can have our own bottles dropped off wherever we want, any major marathon has more than water. Gels would be a major boost.

Suggestion: While finishing our bike ride I saw a prominent runner in town, running. I don’t know if he was in the running festival. But, many times I see runners after running/triathlon events wondering, why weren’t they racing? Entice people! For every 5km you race, you get 1 entry into a $500 travel voucher so that you could get the feel for another running race in Australia.

Again, thank you to everyone. This was Fiona and my last Alice Springs Marathon since we return to the USA next year in July. I appreciate the hard work you have all put into this event and wish all the best with the future of running in Alice Springs.

Now to the next 7 weeks running the biggest race of my life alongside Fiona and Karen!!!

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