Carins is a tropical city located in Queensland, Australia. Obviously I do not have to worry about sub zero temperatures or cracks on the ice runway. However I have to deal with a completely different set of issues in tropical weather and the FNQ section from the organizer's website offers a "sneak preview" here.
Prior to the Carins Marathon, I backpacked Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea from Jun 27 to Jul 5, followed by 3 days in PNG's northern beach villages. Then I flew back to Carins on Jul 9th, and the race took place the next morning. Kokoda Track was a very challenging environment which put the body and mind through some unique stresses. The terrain is very steep, slippery, wet and humid. In addition to the aerobic fitness required, there are constant stresses and strains on the muscles and joints of the feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips and back - you name it. The first three days on the track were hellish for my quadriceps - and unlike most other people in the trekking group, I was constantly hoping for more uphills than downhills. After all, cardio strength is my forte and quadriceps were my "weakest links." Luckily my muscle burns eased after day 4 and the two hard days - day 6 & 7 with the longest trekking distances and ascending - were a breeze for me. The three days in the village really helped me to recover from the trekking and by the time I stood at the start line of Cairns Marathon, I felt ready.
Two miles into the race, I realized that I was wrong. Very wrong.
This is a trail marathon and I have only trained for road running!
There were creek crossings - seven times! So for about 10 miles, my shoes and socks were completely soaked. I managed to complete Kokoda Track without a blister, and two hours into the race I had three hotspots. And there were many up and downs along the route. The map and directions were kind of vague - something like "look for a fig tree." Only if I knew what a fig tree looked like. Luckily I only had one wrong turn and added 2 miles on top of the 26.2 - maybe that could count for my first ultra :) One thing I was so grateful for the Kokoda Track was that it acclimatized me well for the hot and humid weather in Cairns.
After all the surprises, I completed my first marathon in Australia, my first trail marathon, my first marathon on land, and arguably my first ultra :) Now it is time to fly home.