Not that I have run every 10K race in Australia, but I'm fairly certain this course - eclipsed perhaps only by the Run with the Wind 10K that I had the pleasure of experiencing last year - is one of the toughest 10K races on offer in the country. Masquerading as a fundraiser for my alma mater, Mosman Primary School, it is a type of torture that makes a mockery of the typical "fast and flat" 10K that one sees advertised so often.
I've run the Mini Mos twice before, in the two years that have been the best so far of my running career, and recorded times that reflect the difficulty of this particular race and the inexplicably strong field it usually attracts:
2013 - 40:13, 10th female, 3rd AG (F40-49)
2014 - 41:03, 6th female, 3rd AG again (sigh)
The course is - putting it mildly - relentlessly hilly, and the worst part of this is the fact that the second half is most definitely worse than the first. And to top it all off, most of the final 2km is straight uphill. It's really rather horrible, but I have my reasons for enjoying this race, even though it truly sucks in many ways.
|That's a LOT of up and down for just 6 miles|
Mainly it's because I grew up in Mosman, although I rarely visit there these days. Part of the course in fact covers the street where we lived, so my brother and I do like running this race together, which we previously did in 2014 and thoroughly enjoyed. That year both kids ran the 2K and this time I had Jack entered for the 5K (which thankfully is far less hilly than the 10K) but he was quite sick in the preceding few days and that, plus the unpleasant weather forecast (which called for rain virtually non-stop from 8am onwards) meant that I decided not to let him run. He had absolutely no objections to this change of plan, somewhat to my disappointment.
It goes without saying that I've never actually trained specifically for a 10K race, and with my trademark marathon shuffle and total lack of top-end speed, it's pretty obvious why not. The marathon is by far my best distance and I'm more or less in a constant state of marathon training these days, so a 10K race is really more of a tempo run in my eyes. And I tend to approach them as such, meaning I don't necessarily taper or do anything specific beforehand.
Being at the peak of my rather-short preparation cycle for Gold Coast marathon, the 3 weeks prior to this race were fairly mileage heavy, as follows:
3 weeks out: 88 mi - including some half mile intervals and a very long LR of 23 miles (oops)
2 weeks out: 90 mi - nothing special, just trying to keep going through a nasty bout of bronchitis
1 week out: 103 mi - 20 mile long run including 10 miles @ MP (average 6:33 min/mile, 4:04 min/km)
The week of the Mini Mos I wasn't intending on tapering too much but a sick child and sleepless Thursday night meant that I simply couldn't be bothered running the 16 miles I had originally planned for Friday morning. I did appease the mileage-obsessed lunatic part of my brain that was pawing forlornly at its abacus and cursing me for skipping my weekly long run by jogging 13 miles on Saturday morning in Sydney, figuring that this wouldn't tired me out too much for Sunday, but otherwise I suppose a taper of sorts happened despite my best intentions.
Robbie and I arrive with plenty of time to spare and I'm about to set off for a decent warm-up when I go to pull my bib from my handbag and realise that in a fit of stupidity I took all the papers out (in a fruitless attempt to make it lighter - leaving in however my computer charger, a bottle of water, throat pastilles, a hairbrush, miniature bottles of soy sauce, etc) and put them in my suitcase which is back at the hotel. I'll have to go get a new one, which isn't too difficult but there goes my warm-up. Oh well. At least we have insider knowledge of the school - from our years of attending, although this was 40 years ago now - that means we can find our way onto the grounds and to the hall very quickly, meaning we are able to get the bibs and drop our warm clothes back at the car without running out of time.
We arrive to the starting area to find the organisers having a bit of trouble inflating the arch that last year marked the start; it lies limp on the ground and it's all a bit disorganised, really. There's a woman talking earnestly but inaudibly into a microphone - it's possible she is telling us what to do but everyone is (understandably) ignoring her and just milling around aimlessly. Some blokes drag the sad sagging arch into the gutter and we will have to make do with an imaginary line instead.
We line up near the front (Robert doesn't try to make me move back this time), I spot Julia up ahead and go to chat briefly with her, she points out a few other fast chicks and I retreat to contemplate whether I have a chance of placing today or not. Absent Husband (aka Joel, who is in Michigan preparing to come back with his kids in tow for the full Brady Bunch scenario in July) has made various wild predictions of a top 5 finish (hmm) or even an overall win (dude, seriously?) but I've been very non-committal all along.
In fact I haven't thought at all closely about what is about to unfold today; in keeping with my recent post about mental trickery and running, I'm pretty much just winging it, pressure-free. I know the course is very tough, I know it's a competitive race, and yet I do know I've been in great form this year - which perhaps explains my calm confidence. I'm just going to do my best today and see what happens, which is without a doubt the best strategy for my particular personality and running abilities.
Miles 1-3: 6:20, 6:23, 6:05 (pace in min/mile)
The lack of arch makes the starting line hard to figure out; there's a countdown and a gun goes BLAM and I reflexively start my watch, but don't actually cross the timing mats til a good few seconds later. Whatever - I have no time to ponder this because I'm boxed in by slower runners and am feeling highly frustrated at having to zig and zag as well as run uphill on legs that haven't quite figured out what's going on yet. I pour on the effort and take off up the hill like my shoes are on fire; Rob I assume is behind me somewhere but I'm too busy sprinting to look.
As usual a massive number of women have zoomed off in front of me and I quickly realise that the next 40 minutes (or possibly slightly less) is going to be a protracted game of Assassin Mode. Oh well, bring it on! I love having a target to chase and there are plenty of them ahead, that's for sure.
|my only race photo, sadly|
Before the first mile is up I'm amused to hear a voice behind me saying "Meep Meep" and I look around to see my friend Tony easing past. This is the bloke who responded to my "40-41 minutes" predicted finish time with "Oh I won't be running as fast as that"! I'd love to be able to think of something witty to say here but all I can come up with is "Not running fast, eh?!?" and he's already pulling way ahead. Wait, was that rude? My brain doesn't have enough spare oxygen to process any of this really - I'm sure he'll understand.
The second mile starts and the ups and downs start too; I'd forgotten just how sharp some of these little downhills are, actually. They're so steep that I'm actively braking with my quads and I find myself slowing down, which is super annoying. The first out-and-back section provides the perfect opportunity to count the women ahead of me and there are no less than 8 of them - Julia is well ahead in 3rd place, which is great - and also great: at least 3 or maybe 4 of the others are within striking distance. Assassin Mode, activate! And here we go.
Mile 3 turns out to be my fastest, spurred on by the thrill of catching a few female (and plenty of male) runners, and without too much trouble I have soon overtaken no less than 4 chicks. And there's another ahead who is clearly tiring; I actually thought there was another girl to catch but by the end of mile 3 as I am working my way along the second out-and-back of the course, it seems I'm in 4th place. FOURTH? Fourth! That's way ahead of where I expected to be, and it hasn't escaped my attention that so far I'm on pace to break 40 minutes, which I've never done in this race. Can I keep it going?
Miles 4-6: 6:23, 6:20, 6:50
I'm concentrating way too hard to look on the other side of the road for Robert, but as mile 4 progresses it does strike me that I can suddenly see Tony up ahead. I draw gradually closer and by the start of mile 5, to my extreme surprise, I can also see Julia. There's no way at all that I can catch her though - unless she suffers some sort of major engine failure - so I do my best to focus on staying on pace. One thing that strikes me here is that there seems to be a LOT of traffic on the roads, despite the supposed "closures"; every minute there seems to be a luxury car cruising past a barrier or traffic warden. I guess that's what happens in a suburb full of multi-million dollar houses: the residents think they own the place. Because, of course, they do.
|your average Federation cottage in Mosman - this one is actually on the race route|
The most horrible part of this race is the steep hills that make up miles 5 and 6; a huge downhill to Cowles Rd is followed by a nasty, sharp uphill that goes on and on until there's another, final downhill before the slog to the finish. I plod my way up an inexcusably steep street that is 2 blocks down from Glover St where we grew up - on the way over we discussed this exact street but neither of us can remember what it is called - really I should look at the sign I suppose but all I can think is, bloody hell, I hate this race. (Holt Avenue. It's called Holt Avenue)
Tony has caught a couple of blokes who have been in front of him since I first spied him again, and I'm gaining on the lot of them until we hit the downhills and I'm forced to brake hard and slow down. Gah, this is torture, but the knowledge of what is still to come is worse. A short, flat section gives way to the final uphill that will last until the very end of mile 6 - I've slowed down way more than I'd like but at this point I really don't care. One foot in front of the other, up past the school and the now-inflated start arch....just keep going. Ugh.
Final 0.2: 5:51 pace
Mile 6 beeps to announce its demise and the split time is pretty horrific: 6:50, meaning I've lost almost 30 seconds. If I really want that sub-40 I'm going to need to start caring a LOT, and in fact suddenly I do, so I put my head down and SPRINT! Tony is ahead but I'm gaining on him; I see Julia heading to the finish as I'm still approaching the final short out-and-back; as I turn it's clear that 4th place indeed will be mine. But what of my finish time??
The clock is still too far away to make out clearly - but it looks like 39:xx and it's getting easier to see by the second - boy oh boy, this is going to be close. Summoning up every fast-twitch fibre in my body (there aren't that many) I hurl myself helter-skelter at the finish line and with just meters to go it reads 39:56...57...58...59... oh my god, I'm done.
Garmin time: 39:59.5 (6:21 min/mile, 3:59 min/km)
Official time: 39:54 (thank you, distant starting mats)
Placement: 4th female, 1st in AG (F40-49)
Wow, that was intense! I'm thrilled though - another course PR and I've squeaked out a sub-40 for the first time in this notoriously tough race. Tony has beaten me by 4 seconds (damn it); I sit chatting to him and the other fast chicks (Julia and Reegan) until Rob appears having run 44:10. That's great for someone who runs about 7km perhaps twice a week, but he seems a bit disappointed. As for me, once again it seems I'm just out of the money, as prizes are only on offer for places 1-3, but given my expectations of the day that's no biggie.
Another course PR, making it my 3rd for the year - could it be that I'm improving at the shorter distances now? Wonders will never cease! What this might mean for my next marathon adventure remains to be seen, but it's not that far away now - so stay tuned.