Time: 36:39. 5th overall from 634 finishers. 1st in Age Group.
The quest for a podium place continues! Although I finished 1st in my Age Group and 5th overall, this was a Fun Run so there were no Age Group presentations. You had to be one of the top 3 men or women overall to get a public handshake, and a there were a few dollars up for grabs too. Dang! I may have been 5th, but I was a looong way back from 3rd (2 1/2 minutes).
The build-up to this race had been less than ideal. After returning from a week away on holiday, I’d come down with a nasty stomach bug that confined me to my bed for 5 days and saw me lose 2kg – down to an all-time low of 67 kg. I was definitely over the stomach bug by race morning, but I still felt weak from the illness and wasn’t even sure I’d be able to run. Not knowing what to expect, I decided to aim for my 38:15 PB (targeting 3:45 – 3:50 min/km) and see what happened.
The atmosphere at the start line was low-key and relaxed. I couldn’t have a proper warm-up because I was looking after my son Tyrone who was racing in the 2.5km race that started 10 mins after mine. So I did a few hundred metres jogs up and down the road. I was able to relax when a friend (who wasn’t running and also had a son in the race) offered to get him to the start line. Figuring Tyrone would do about 15 mins for 2.5km, and me about 40 mins for 10km, I arranged to meet him in the kids pick-up area about 15 mins after he finished. That wasn’t how it turned out at all!
Tyrone at the start line
It’s a real advantage to do some research into a race before you arrive. I’d seen that last year only a dozen or so runners had cracked 40 mins, so when they called us up, I confidently went to the front of the line. Normally I’d be lurking quite a few rows back! Looking around, I saw a guy called Markus who had a similar 5km PB to me (about 18 mins), and had run about 38 mins here last year. I figured I’d try to stick with Markus and if I could I ought to get close to my PB. I’d also noticed that last year he’d run the first km in 3:30ish – a little quicker than I would like to – so I would be happy to give him a small gap off the line.
And we’re off! (tucked into the second row, white hat)
With a very casual “2-1-Go” we were off, and Michael Shelley (an Olympian and the eventual race winner) disappeared down the road. Immediately it funnelled from 2 lanes to 1, so I went pretty hard to ensure I didn’t get boxed in. After about 400m I eased off to a sustainable pace, and the runners behind closed back up. At this point Markus, and a few others, came past me. The pace felt OK so I just sat on the back of this little group. I was happy to us through the first km in 3:40.
Just before 2km we hit the hill. It’s a short, sharp little hill – about 100m at 10% – and this early in the race it didn’t cause any problems. Coming back down it later on would be a different story! Down the other side of the hill were about 1500m of little rollers. The guys around me seemed to be going a little quicker (and harder?) on the uphills but I was making a conscious effort to increase my cadence on the downhills and kept opening a gap on them.
10km course profile and pace
Just before we hit the flat section at 3.5km, a couple of guys who sounded like they were breathing quite hard, caught up to me and Markus, making it a foursome again. We continued on at a steady pace, clocking kilometres 3, 4 and 5 all in 3:42. I was feeling really fresh and, whilst going hard, was not struggling.
Being an out and back course, we were able to see the leaders coming back the other way. Michael Shelley (who ran 29:24) was miles out in front. Our group was collectively in 7th place, and I could see the 6th place guy was fading, while the lead female (Tamlyn) was sitting in 5th perhaps 100m ahead of us.
Cruising to the 5km turnaround with my two red friends
At the 5km turn I decided it was time to increase the effort and see if we could catch the two ahead. Within a few hundred metres my group of four was gone and I was on my own. Oh well, I’d made my move. Game On!
Km 6 was done in 3:38, then it was 3:42 and 3:44 for kms 7 and 8 as we worked back uphill through the rollers. I was slowly reeling in 6th, and caught him just at the top of the hill, 2km from home. I blasted out of control down the other side, and then set about closing in on Tamlyn who was now only 50m up the road, but she wasn’t yielding!
The last two km were crowded as we wound through roundabouts, with the half marathon runners coming towards us, and the dregs of the 2.5km runners/walkers going in the same direction as us. Tamlyn opted to run the right-hand side of the course which was shorter, but meant she had to dodge the oncoming runners, sometimes up onto the footpath. I stayed left, on the marked course, and was making up time on the straights but then losing bits on the right-hand bends. Eventually I realised it was a head-to-head race and my principles faltered as I jumped inside a cone and followed her through one of the shortened corners.
With 500m to go she seemed to tire and I was suddenly up onto her. I put my foot down to make the pass and blasted into the stadium. There were 2.5km walkers everywhere and suddenly we had to slow down to weave our way through them. With the stadium noise, and the walkers all about, I couldn’t tell if she’d closed back up, so I did the full Sally Pearson “up on the toes” sprint down the finish carpet and across the line. 36:39 and 5th place! I’d done the last two km in 3:37 and 3:18 (about 70m short).
Make the pain stop… ahhh, the finish line!
I turned to look back and Tamlyn was just cruising in, 7 seconds back down the finish straight. I wandered back to congratulate her, but as she came across the line she was arms in the air and engulfed by media. Of course! She was the women’s race winner and now $1000 richer! I got to chat with her later, once things had settled down a bit.
And then Tyrone was at my side. He looked pretty smashed himself. I asked if he’d been waiting long, and he said he’d just got in!? That couldn’t be right. He told me he’d enjoyed the run more than any other, and had passed a lot of people going up the hill. The hill? There’s no hill on the 2.5km course! He thought he’d come in the top 10. Later I checked the results and couldn’t bear to tell him that he’d run a 25:07 and come in 141st place.
In hindsight, my brain wasn’t working too well that day. It turned out that the first few minutes of 2.5km runners missed the turnaround at 1.25km and went on to run 5km. Once the organisers rushed race marshalls in place, they turned the rest of the field at the correct place. Meanwhile, Tyrone and co tackled the big hill on the 5km course, and he romped home to beat his 5km PB by 5 minutes! They eventually created a new category for these “5km Super Kids”. The end result? He got 4th boy and 8th overall. Awesome!!
This was a dream race for me – beyond my wildest expectations. It was a negative split, with the first 5km done in 18:30 and the last in 18:09 (which is only 19 seconds off my 5km PB). My conclusion? A week of gastro pre-race is the perfect taper!