Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wagga Lake Run and Ride 10K, September 2015

The former Lake to Lagoon 9.6km run has now officially become the Wagga Lake Run and Ride 10K. Which is great, really - the old point-to-point course was a real pain in some ways, although finishing right in the middle of town by the lagoon was always a lot of fun.

And it helps that the area where the race both starts and finishes is within easy jogging distance of my house! So this year it was a no-brainer to sign not only myself for the run and Jack for the ride, but I also included Joel for the 10K. So what if he was only due to arrive back from the USA a smidgen over 48 hours prior to the race starting time? Jet lag shmet lag, in my opinion at least.

I've run the new 10K course twice for one second place (2013 - 38:48) and one win (2014 - 39:06), and all that can be said is that it's not an especially easy course. The first mile is flat, the second uphill, the third down...but after that it undulates quite significantly as it winds its way along the shores of Lake Albert. I run in this area every single day and know it like the back of my hand - it's far from the ideal "fast and flat" 10K course that we all long for - but hopefully this counts for something on race day.

A surprisingly tame-looking elevation profile

The Training

Nothing much to say here, just the usual mileage-fest with a small dash of half-hearted speedwork thrown in.....oh, and that race last weekend. Almost forgot about that. I've been thinking for some time that my time has come to slow down, but last weekend demonstrated that I may have been premature in this belief. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting fitness test, if nothing else.

Race Day

One of my favourite things about this event is the start time of 10:30am. Not only does this virtually guarantee a stinking-hot weather situation (good for weeding out the unfit and the unacclimatised), it also means I can sleep in, or at least spend the early morning hours lying lazily in bed devising excuses for why I'm not going to run the sort of 10K time that a person capable of a 2:47:57 marathon really should be able to run. What's not to love about that?

Jet lag is still making its presence felt in the household so I'm awake well before 6am, enough time to devise many useful excuses before rising to prepare and eat my usual toast-and-coffee breakfast, the one that so far has proven safe and effective for races of all distances.

With an hour to go we all head to the start, jogging comfortably along until the neighbourhood dogs inspire us to break into a few strides, with assistance from the local magpie in the form of dive-bombing swoops. It's all good fun, though, and a beautiful day - although this undoubtedly means things will be uncomfortably hot later on.

After Jack sets off on his bike we are milling about near the start line when I see young Hannah - the girl who came 2nd behind me last year - and a few other familiar faces, including Rob who is this year dressed as Flash Gordon. Gotta love small local races!

Muscling our way to the front line, fake muscles optional

I'm not really nervous this year because I know that it's all about who shows up on the day: I'm no spring chicken these days and it will only take one speedy twenty-something runner chick to leave me in the dust. Whatever happens I'm enjoying myself today because it's Joel's first race in Wagga, so we line up together right at the front, ignore the usual dorky warm-up routine, and get ready to have some fun.


Miles 1&2: 5:56, 6:20 (pace in min/mile)

ZOOM! Off we all go at breakneck speed - it's impossible not to join the mayhem and run way, way too fast over the first, flat mile. Hannah is ahead of me until about the 1km mark, and just as I ease past her, a girl in a blue singlet eases past ME on my left. Wait, what? She looks to be running strongly but who knows what will happen during the second, uphill mile - so I hold my ground and stay with her as we head towards the hill.

As usual, the incline starts and people are rapidly fading all around me. My marathon endurance is my strong suit here: I know I can keep going and hopefully even ramp things up again once the hill is over. But the girl in blue - whose name will turn out to be Emma - is showing no signs of slowing down at all. Hmm, this is quite interesting. Should I give up now, or keep trying?

Miles 3&4: 6:16, 6:01

If you answered "give up now", thanks for playing but clearly you've not been paying attention to this blog at all. I have no idea what this girl is capable of, but I'm not letting her get away with anything less than her best. Up to the turn and back down Lake Albert Road towards the lake again, I keep up the effort levels to stay maybe 5-10 seconds behind.

Plenty of people are calling my name and shouting words of encouragement from the other side of the road but I am way too focused to acknowledge many of them - my boss Charles will later tell me I looked very determined, as well as bright red in the face and very hot, when he saw me thundering along down the road. As I speed through the roundabout and back towards the lake I'm already thinking "god I hate short races", but at least there's not too far to go.

Miles 5&6: 6:15, 6:15

Just keep going, just keep going. There are quite a few innocent pedestrians out for a morning stroll around the lake, and dodging them keeps it interesting. Emma is not that far ahead now and she almost collides with a couple of women who are clearly quite oblivious to the torrent of runners that is about to envelop them. Well, now they know. I side-step them neatly and note with glee that Emma finally appears to be tiring - my chance may yet come!

But there's a huffing and a puffing behind me that I can no longer ignore: I'm wondering if it might be Joel but no, it's Marcus, my occasional physiotherapist who has rescued me from injury on a good few occasions now. As he moves to pass me I suddenly realise we are hot on Emma's heels, and the short, nasty uphill by the Boat Club is just around the corner. Ooh! Opportunity knocks - we catch her in the carpark after the sharp incline - and I open the door wide by powering past her without a second thought.

Good grief, I'm in the lead! There is less than a mile to go and I hate short races, I really do now, but it's not time to dwell on that. I have to try to build and hold some sort of lead....and in trying I also pass Marcus back. Perhaps 400m go by before I realise there's someone over my right shoulder - is it him? - oh god no, it's her. Youth trumps ambition as Emma surges past me again and I have nothing with which to respond. Oh well, I did give it my best, and so I focus on not falling too far behind as we approach the finish line and the 6th mile beeps on my Garmin.

Final 0.2: 5:55 pace

I glimpse Mum and Jack on the sidelines and hear him yelling "GO MUM!!" as I charge into the finish chute and finally, thankfully get to stop running at last.

<pained grimace>

Finish time: 38:20 (6:10 pace, 3:50 min/km)

Placement: 8th OA, 2nd female, 1st in AG (F40-49)

Well, that was fun! I didn't win, but I did manage to run a course PR by 28 whole seconds; it's amazing what a difference it makes when you have someone to chase. Joel arrives around 60 seconds behind me - jet lag has done a number on him for sure - and together we rehydrate and mingle until it's time for awards. I'd love to be holding that bloody big trophy again but I'm still very satisfied and happy with the effort I put in today. And I'm still Wagga's fastest old chick!

Looking rather too pleased with myself, really

Racing every weekend is sort of fun, and it so happens that Joel has convinced me to change from the half marathon in Sydney next week to the full marathon. I've never run a marathon as a training run, but there's a first time for everything, or so they say. Let's see what happens, I guess!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Canberra Times Fun Run 14K, September 2015

I'm not entirely sure how this race got onto my radar, perhaps it was via the other Fairfax events in which I have participated, but somehow it came to pass in July that I signed myself up and not only that, I also secured myself a seeded/elite bib for the 14K race.

14km (8.7 miles) is a somewhat strange distance for a race, but it makes more sense when you consider that the famous City to Surf race in Sydney is 14km and it has become an iconic fun run that is in fact the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. There are now various races in cities around Australia that imitate the City2Surf, and with the same sponsors coming on board in 2015 for the Canberra Times Fun Run (Fairfax and Westpac), it seems this is now our national capital's version.

Whatever the history or reasons behind the distance, we all know that when it comes to my racing style, longer is always better. My focus just now is on Melbourne marathon so again, I'm not sure how I ended up entering this race, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm sure I've said that before, though.

The Training

Despite having run the infamous Wagga Trail Marathon only 2 weeks earlier, I had managed to ramp things up again over 80 miles (125km) the week prior to the Canberra race and between us Benita and I decided on a fairly minimal taper that ended up being only one day. Often circumstances dictate that I switch days around in the training schedule she sets for me, and since Fridays are often a day when I have more time, I ended up running 12 miles (18km) in the morning and another 5 (8km) in the evening for an impressive 17 miles less than 48 hours out from the race. Whoops, don't tell B about that.

Race Day

The course starts quite close to Canberra Hospital, where I spent 6 months living and working in 2005. It's sort of nostalgic being back here, although I was still dealing with my broken leg and so not running much when I was last spending time in the area. On reflection perhaps I hate this place, but at least I know my way around.

I park behind the hospital at around 6:15am and set out for what is going to be my longest-ever pre-race warm up: 8 miles. Yes, you read that right. Coach B has suggested a long cool-down to get in the miles that I'd normally do on for a weekend long run, but I know I won't want to run that much after the race so I have made a calculated decision to get most of it in beforehand. Arriving to a start line with 8 miles already in my legs is probably not an ideal race strategy but then again, I have no idea what the field is going to be like today and am not really expecting to place very high.

I manage not to get lost (this is a big deal in Canberra) and 8 miles clicks over just as I get back to the car. I drop off my warm clothes for after the race and make my way to the start line where I find my fast friend Kelly; it seems there are only 7 or 8 of us with seeded bibs on, so we all line up right at the front and stand around joking and sandbagging until it's time to get serious.

Rachel: "I'm just fun-running this. You?"
Kelly: "Oh, it's part of my long run today. No big deal."
Gun: *BLAM*
<both take off sprinting like there's no tomorrow>

Miles 1-3: 6:17, 6:28, 6:31 (pace in min/mile)

The gun sounds and all the people around me tear off at high speed; despite my intentions it's impossible not to go with them. Kelly and Claire (in red shorts above, last year's winner) shoot out way ahead of me and by the 1km mark there are 2 other women also in front. 5th place? I could live with that - given how far I've already run today, it would probably be a great result - and since I've already had ideas about running this race at marathon pace, I settle back after the rather-too-fast first mile and clock off the next two right on target pace.

But during mile 3 something unexpected starts happening before my eyes: the two women ahead of me - one tall in a pink singlet, the other stocky and wearing a seeded bib - are visibly slowing down. I hold my pace and watch as they gradually fall back, wondering what to do. Then the stocky one drops right off the back of the other girl and before I know it, she's within overtaking range. Ooh, should I??

Miles 4-6: 6:08, 6:10, 6:32

What a silly question, of course I should. I surge up alongside her and then sail right on by, inwardly cackling gleefully at having moved into 4th place. Miles 4 and 5 take us up Adelaide Avenue towards Parliament House - it's a great view as we approach and even better, a slight downhill that turns into a full-on one - it's not difficult to keep the faster pace going and wheeeee, now I've passed Pink Singlet as well! 3rd place? Yes please!

Mile 6, however, is not much fun at all. We make a couple of sharp turns and then it's uphill as the course takes us closer than I've ever been to Parliament House before. Everyone around me is clearly suffering and my own pace takes a nasty hit. Mile 6 beeps as I'm most of the way through the lap around the base of the building, and it's not good news: my slowest of the entire race. Oh well, there's the flag marking the 10K point so I look at my watch: 38:40, which is actually not bad!  And the best bit? There's only 4km to go.

Miles 7 & 8: 6:17, 6:10

Back down from Parliament House I go zooming like a maniac and pretty soon we are heading towards Kings Avenue bridge. To my surprise I can see what appears to be the finish line just beside the lake - but isn't that too close? It's really quite strange, there's this enormous inflatable archway and a multitude of flags beside it, but it's clearly too soon to be the finish line and in any case there appears to be nobody around.

I resign myself to the fact that I'm not done yet, and am at least pleased to see that I've managed to speed back up again after that unpleasant mile around Parliament. Also it seems 3rd place really is going to be mine - this thought provides the motivation I need to get me over the bridge, through the deceptive archway and heading finally for the real finish. Hooray!

Final stretch 0.7 miles: 6:13 pace

Ordinarily I quite like running around Lake Burley-Griffin - other than when the wind is blowing at 50mph directly in my face, of course - but right now I'd rather be elsewhere. More specifically, at the finish, which I can now see up ahead in the same area where the Mother's Day races start and end. I'd really quite like to just jog it in from here but then again I don't know how far behind me Pink Singlet and Stocky Girl are - they could be right on my tail but I'm not inclined to look around to check - so there's no option other than to grit my teeth and power onwards. And so it goes until I'm sprinting down the finish chute - there's a huge grin on my face, not just because I get to stop running now, but also because I've just earned a very unexpected appearance on the podium. What a thrill!

A mixture of disbelief and delight results in this exact facial expression

Finish time: 54:47 (6:19 pace, 3:54 min/km)

Placement: 3rd female OA, 1st in AG F40-49.

I look around for Kelly and am thrilled to find out that she has WON the whole race, and in fact was 4 whole minutes ahead of me. The days of my beating her (which I'm sure I did at the Mother's Day 10K a couple of years ago) are clearly well behind us! We set off for a cool-down jog together and I add on a little more afterwards to bring me up to a total of 20 miles for the day - even though it was fairly piecemeal, this will therefore count as the weekend's long run, which will satisfy my own OCD tendencies on this score.

It's a fairly long wait until the presentation gets underway - I am very glad of my warm jacket and also the large coffee that Kelly's husband kindly buys me while we stand around in the cold. Finally we are up there and I come away marginally richer and with a nice acrylic trophy to add to the cabinet. Cool!

Sorry, sponsors, my jacket is staying ON.

Afterwards my friend Sonia picks me up and we head out to a much-needed brunch; I'm still quite amazed that I achieved the result I did and hopefully it bodes well for Melbourne - coming up quite soon - that I could run as fast as I did with 8 miles already on the legs.

And here's a gratuitous picture of the pancakes and peanut butter smoothie that made the whole adventure worthwhile - because refuelling is sometimes the best part of a race.

Annie, me, and THAT breakfast. Yum.