I have no idea why this race is still one of my favourites; it's competitive, relatively crowded, but worst of all it's an absolute bastard of a course. These days it's probably actually easier than it was in 2001 when I ran it as my first ever HM, but it's still as hilly as heck and the final mile (all uphill) is pure torture. Elevation profile, for the sadists:
|Sure, there are downhills, but what about the final mile? Hmm?|
Another Sunday, another race. We're staying just half a mile from the start and Dad has stayed over to take care of the kids while I run (the race starts at the not-very-kid-friendly hour of 6:45am) so I decide to just set off on my warmup directly from the apartment and not have to bother dropping off a gear bag. The weather has been unseasonably warm in Sydney lately, so I'm confident I'm not going to freeze while I wait around at the start. Also I'm in the preferred start group, which is reasonably large, but it means I get to simply jog up about 10 minutes before the gun goes off and once that happens it's only around 10 seconds before I cross the mats. Off we go!
Miles 1-3: 6:12, 6:08, 6:15
Ooh, crowded. The pace feels stupidly slow as we head towards the wild downhill charge that will take us to Circular Quay and then the historic area of The Rocks. I'm zigging and zagging in an effort to get past people who are dawdling all over the frigging road (how did they get into the preferred start??) around me. I glance at my watch and am surprised to see 6:08 pace on there - it feels a LOT slower. But then again, I think I ran this first mile in 5:49 one year, so I really *am* going kind of slow at this point. Kind of.
|Tortuous, or should that be torturous? Whatever. Course map.|
Miles 4-6: 6:16, 6:12, 6:11 5K split 19:28
The rolling part of the course starts as we head out on the Western Distributor (read: big road) towards Darling Harbour and Pyrmont. Up, down, up down - so far it's not killing me too badly, but I'm very aware of the big hills that await right before the finish, so I'm not pushing it too hard just yet. Already the male leaders are coming back - Michael Shelley and Liam Adams are close together and pushing hard - I keep an eye out for the female lead and am not surprised to see Nikki Chapple streets ahead of any other woman.
|Somewhere in the early miles, looking rather too focused.|
Around mile 7 I am pleasantly surprised to see my friend Polly - who, as it turns out, is running part of the race in a relay team with another friend - pop out from the crowd and call my name. My own personal cheerleader! I still have enough breath and brainpower to wave back and yell "HI POLLY!!" - so that's good. Not long afterwards we start weaving our way through some of the freeway spaghetti on our way back to the city, and my Garmin starts freaking out - still, my pace is okay. Particularly since miles 8 and 9 contain some nasty steep inclines as the course winds its way up onto the Harbour Bridge approaches again, before diving off down to the Cahill Expressway, ugh. Are we there yet?
Mile 10-12: 6:02, 6:11, 6:09
Okay, that first mile split has to be a glitch - there's no way I just sped up that much. Or did I? The downhill across the Cahill Expressway is a major relief and I relax into it, letting my legs spin as my breathing settles back down. I'm going to need the recovery now because the final 2 hills are coming up, and I'm not looking forward to this part at all.
|Catch me if you can, boys.|
|Alone now, and unimpressed.|
Mile 13.1: 6:24 all the way
I continue to catch female runners in this final mile back up past the Art Gallery and through the parklands of the Domain - but it's torture and all I can think is, when will this be OVER? Rounding the corner at the top of the hill I see a familiar blue shirt go past on the other side of the road - oh my God, she has a named bib that reads "FLANERY" - it's Fleur, who beat me here last year by about a minute and in Melbourne by about 10 seconds, and something similar is about to happen again, dammit!! I put my head down and try to sprint but my legs are not having it, and I cross the line at the same 6:24 pace as the rest of the final mile.
Finish time: 1:22:25
Placement: 9th OA female, 3rd AG (F40-44)
9 seconds slower than last year, and somehow that's disappointing until I realise I placed better (9th vs 11th, 3rd vs 4th in AG) and suddenly I feel fine about it all. One more race on the calendar - oh dear, I'm beginning to feel like I need a break. Was this really such a good idea after all?