Phuket Marathon 2014
Background: After my first two Marathon attempts in Tokyo, I switched my sights to Phuket and was determined to get it right this time. I'd actually signed up for this race in 2012, but came down with dengue fever about one month before the race, so wisely gave it a miss. Anyhow, I was now based in Hong Kong and found a 12-week training plan that would fit into my new work schedule. I stuck to it religiously with three runs a week - one long, one tempo and one interval. The tempo and interval runs were mostly run indoors on the treadmill, but that allowed me to be strict with the paces, while Sunday mornings were reserved for the long runs and I got up to 32/34km. So I was feeling good and ready to crack four hours!
Travel/Phuket: I knew Phuket pretty well having lived there previously and I stayed just outside Laguna - close to 'Bake' where I knew I could get decent healthy food. I rented a car for a few days and took it fairly easy in the days before the race. I felt good as race day approached and resisted the temptation to experience the Phuket night life - maybe after the race! I had been training in the fairly cool Hong Kong spring months, but Phuket was hot and humid so I needed to be ready for this.
The Race: It was an early start - around 5:30am, and I was well fed and hydrated as the start time approached. It was cooler at the time, but I could feel the humidity. I was using a fuel belt with two full 'belt-bottles' of High 5 - something I had done in training, and carrying another bottle of High 5 to sip from. I had trained well with this strategy so wanted to stick with it.
The First Half: The gun went off and after just 1km I had my first problem - the fuel belt slipped off as it was too heavy, so I ditched the bottle and carried one of the belt-bottles. I was okay for now, but worried that there wouldn't be decent on-course nutrition to make up for it. In 2014, I was still a few months away from getting my first garmin, but had trained well and was aiming for a first half in around 1'55". I fell in with a nice group of runners, perhaps a little too fast, but I felt good as we ticked off the Km markers. I skipped the aid stations as I religiously swigged from my bottles, but the pace was picking up and I was starting to feel it. But the group was strong and I hung with them as we passed the half way point around 1'50". I always liked to build in a little breathing space for the inevitable slow down over the last 10km, but maybe this was too much.
The Second Half: It was too much and the group dropped me just after 21km. I slowed my pace and tried to stay strong but the wheels utterly and completely fell off at 24km. I was in the middle of Phuket, far from home, so it was going to be a long 18km shuffle home. But shuffle I did, and tried to make the most of the scenery - at least it was fairly pleasant through small villages and rubber plantations. I tried to pick up the pace from time-to-time, but with the lack of decent nutrition I was often on the verge of cramping and I resigned myself to a long walk home.
Post-race thoughts: I did make it home in a disappointing 4'37" but was happy to avoid the DNF (Did Not Finish) and get the medal. The finish line was fun as it always is in Phuket with the community out in force. It is a well-organised race, but once on the road you are pretty much on your own and for a marathon, that's a long, lonely time. It's also a hot and humid race - probably the hottest marathon I've attempted and have made a point of avoiding these since then. This was my first blow-out but I got through it, hopefully learned from it, and don't have to go back, although I probably will!