Monday, May 25, 2015

Mother's Day Classic 10K, Canberra 2015

In the true spirit of May madness, I've decided to follow up the Boston/Big Sur double with another race just 2 weeks later. What could possibly go wrong? And it presents the perfect opportunity to show Joel our national capital - so it's off to Canberra we go, for a relaxing weekend away and my fourth time at this event. A quick review of previous results just makes me nervous - I've managed to win trophies at every attempt but I'm quite sure my legs are not going to be able to pull anything similar off tomorrow - my usual trick of putting my head in the sand and pretending I'm just off for a nice morning jog with a thousand or so of my running buddies will come in very nicely, thanks.

Previous Mother's Day races in Canberra:

2012: I ran the 5K - 19:17 for 3rd OA female.

10K 2013: I ran the 10K - 39:19 for 3rd OA female.

10K 2014: I ran the 10K - 38:36 for 2nd OA female.

There's no getting around it - this course is a tough one. In the presence of a headwind it's MUCH tougher, and in any case there are two bridges that each need to be crossed twice. My times here have always been slower than in other 10K races and it seems that 2015 may be the slowest yet.

Up, over, down, around, up over, down, around. Repeat.

And did someone mention a headwind? Because the Weather Curse is apparently still in effect: a glance at the forecast has both Joel and myself rolling our eyes and preparing for the worst. The wind is going to be blowing at gale force straight out of the north-west, which will mean a handy tailwind for one side of the lake and a gargantuan headwind for the other. Similar, in fact, to 2012 - only worse. Sigh.

Race Day
We wake easily and have established (by means of an easy afternoon jog the day before) that it's only a mile to the start line from our hotel. Neither of us has any throw-away clothes and we're a bit in denial about how cold it might be, so we put on our race gear with only very light extra layers and head off for an easy warm-up jog. Sure enough the wind is howling across the lake - we run a mile with it behind us and everything seems fine, then we turn back to find ourselves being blown practically to a standstill. Yuk! Our 4th race in a row with a stinking headwind - the only advantage is that perhaps we're a bit immune to the mental side-effects of headwinds, having run over 78 miles in them now, ho hum.

I'm so bored of running in headwinds that I'm actually asleep

We bump into Ewen near the start area; he's running the 5K and we commiserate briefly about the wind, not to mention the temperature which is a chilly 8C/46F. Then we jog up to drop off our thin overshirts at the baggage area, and wander down to the starting line. Might as well get this over with! 

There are a few familiar faces amongst the 4 or 5 women lined up around me, two of whom I know are faster than me, so this is going to be interesting for sure. Rob de Castella shows up and gives a nice speech about the Indigenous Marathon Project, for which he is now almost as well-known as for his 2:07 marathon PR, then hefts the starting gun and prepares to fire.

First lap: miles 1-3: 6:24, 6:32, 6:29  (pace in min/mile)
Whoosh! Off we all go with a gale-force tailwind at our backs. At least 6 women shoot out ahead of me, possibly more - as predicted, today is not likely to bring a podium finish. Oh well, I'm just going to do the best I can in the situation, I guess. Joel is behind me for now; we speed towards the Kings Avenue bridge and by the time I'm on the bridge I've already caught two female runners. 5th place sounds good enough to me at this point.

But oh my god, the wind is insane - I'm being blown sideways towards the guard rail and a few times I'm having trouble staying on my feet. Then as I finally hit the first mile point, another Garmin beeps just behind me. What? Someone else here works in miles?? Ohhh - come to think of it there's a familiar shadow beside me - and then sure enough, my husband appears to my left, grinning and surging ahead.

I guess he's going to make me work today after all; I sigh and step things up a touch to stay close. As the course turns into the wind we both pass a man pushing - of all things - a very large stroller. He remarks as I pass "It's like hitting a brick wall, isn't it??" and yes, the headwind is truly impressive today. At least the equal of New York and probably a fair bit stronger actually. I'm surprised that my pace doesn't take a massive hit;  then again, I'm probably putting in enough effort for 6:10 min/mile but am barely making marathon pace.

The second mile is interesting; I'm distracted somewhat from the wind by the sight of Joel, slowly but surely catching the two women that are now in sight ahead. As he goes to pass the first he glances back and gives me a look that says "If I can catch them, YOU can too!"; come to think of it, he's probably right. Heading up onto the Commonwealth Avenue bridge they are both noticeably closer. And I'm fairly certain they are currently in 4th and 3rd places - if I catch them both, I'll be on the podium after all!

As usual he's looking chipper, I'm looking half-dead.

The wind is still relatively awful on the 2nd bridge, but finally I'm down the other side and can take advantage of the tailwind for as long as it lasts. I make use of the situation to chase down 4th place woman and we go through for the second lap neck-in-neck.

Second lap: miles 4-6.2: 6:16, 6:32, 6:34 then 5:47 pace to finish
Almost as soon as we head back down to the lakeside path, the girl in front slows for a drink and I shoot straight past her. Her breathing indicates that she won't be passing me back - I quickly refocus on my next quarry, who is wearing a pink singlet and black shorts (in fact she's next to me in the photo of Joel and myself above).

She's slowing down or perhaps I'm speeding up, but whatever it is, I catch her on the uphill that leads back onto the Kings Avenue bridge again. Joel is maybe 30 seconds ahead now; all I really need to do is hold of Pink Girl and I'll finish in 3rd, which would be way more than I was expecting today!

The only problem really is this ridiculous wind, which somehow seems to have increased in intensity since the last lap. Running along Queen Elizabeth Terrace is an utter joke - it's so exposed that at one point I feel like I'm not actually moving anymore. The wind has me running on the spot! It's all I can do to hold onto a pace that is WAY slower than even marathon pace, and hope like mad that Pink Girl is suffering the same fate.

Up and over the final bridge, it's tailwind time again and I'm too much of a coward to look behind me. Mile 6 beeps and I throw myself into the final stretch with total abandon - there are slower runners and walkers all over the path around me but I'm coming through like a bat out of a windy version of hell, and there's nothing that can stop me. A bloke is running up the finish chute as I approach and from the side I hear "Don't let her catch you!" - oh god, are they talking to HIM or to ME??

I redouble my efforts and sprint for the line like a madwoman. There are 2 volunteers there, struggling to hold up a tape but the wind has other ideas and it smacks me in the head as I dash across to finish- as 3rd place woman, quite clearly the fastest old chick in the place too - and I've managed to hold off Pink Girl by just 15 seconds. Phew!!

Finish time: 40:15 (6:28 min/mile)

Placement: 12th OA, 3rd female and 1st in AG (F40-49)

Joel stands by the line grinning - he has beaten me by almost a minute and has also won his AG! We shiver in the cold until the presentation finally starts, collect my trophy and then run straight back to our hotel to get warm. Another successful Mother's Day Classic, another race that despite the headwind was quite a lot of fun, and Joel's first race on Australian soil. What an excellent way to spend a weekend!

Photo credits (all but the last one) to Ewen Thompson, with thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Good race and report Rachel. Well done on holding off Pink Girl! That was about the windiest race I've run - very happy to do 1 lap. It's usually quite calm in Canberra ;) In fact, for the half last Sunday it was dead calm (and a little cooler, at -6C starting temp). My mate ran a faster 10k split than he ran for the Mother's Day 10k!