It was a very sad day for our family when my daughter's best friend (since preschool!) moved 6 hours' drive away to the Central Coast at the end of last year. Amelia had been pining for her friend Amara and pestering me to take her to visit ever since, until I finally caved in at the start of June. There was only one weekend that it would work for us to travel up there so I started looking for things to keep the rest of us amused while she was hanging out with her BFF.
To my amazement I found the Bay to Bay Running Festival, with a half marathon for me and a kids' 3K run for Jack on that very Sunday morning! So I signed us up, found accommodation right near the finish area (inside the Central Coast stadium, a fact that had sports-mad Jack very enthused) and told Amelia the happy news.
It wasn't until after I had that all arranged that I bothered to check the website about prize money and past results - only to find that the female winner in 2016 had run 1:23:xx and that she had won no less than $1000 for her trouble. Wow! So a win would actually set me up to make a profit on the weekend, even after petrol, food, accommodation and entertainment costs? Mind = blown.
Since Boston I haven't really been running as much as I used to, but I've found myself surprisingly Zen about this fact. After my 1:23:07 in Sydney in May I knew I was fit enough to run something similar - or hopefully faster - on a flatter course. But of course it only takes one fast young chick to turn up on race day and my hopes of winning could all be dashed.
So I settled for the goal of placing in the top 3, and since there wasn't actually any time left to train, really, did no specific preparation at all other than the week preceding race week itself (see below)
Still, I did sort of manage to taper a bit in the days before the actual race, so I suppose that counts for something.
The trip up to Gosford is a smooth one; we arrive in good time and everyone settles in for a nice sleep. All except me, that is: I have to share a bed with Amelia and she manages to whack me over the head or knee me in the back every hour or so and it all makes for a far-from-optimal sleep. She makes up for it, however, by turning to me when she wakes on Saturday with a blissful smile and saying "I love you so much, Mumma, you are the best Mummy in the world, thank you for bringing me to see Amara!"
|Best Friends Forever|
Once she is happily deposited with BFF and BFF's family, I have the rare pleasure of enjoying the company of just one child for the whole day. Bliss! And I have the bed to myself tonight, so in theory I should sleep wonderfully well - especially seeing how exhausted I am.
But it's not to be: after a unexpected, midnight "I'm homesick, come and get me" phone call (I don't go, is she serious??) I toss and turn and wake every hour on the hour until 5:45am, when somehow all of us in the room are suddenly awake at once.
I need to take the 6:11am train to Woy Woy, where the course will take us on a short out-and-back before heading all the way back to Gosford and the finish line inside the stadium, so I'm dressed and out the door running to the station just before 6am. Jack will head off to his own start line (in the stadium, he is very excited) a bit later in the company of his grandmother, and we agree that they will then wait the 40 or so minutes until I finish.
It's an easy ride with many other runners, and I have time to jog an easy mile before it's time to line up underneath the inflatable arch that marks the start line. The weather is promising: cold with very little wind and light cloud cover. To Gosford from here is only about 12km so we're heading south first for an out-and-back stretch to cover the additional distance required, and will be passing back through the start area on our way up to Gosford. There are plenty of 12km runners around also - they'll just be running straight to the stadium.
I'm not sure how I feel, not particularly zippy is probably the honest truth, so as we're waiting for the starter's gun I'm sizing up the the women close to me quite carefully. A couple look like contenders but there's noone I recognise, so I'll have to wait and see what happens when the starting gun goes off. Any second now!
|Start line going up, lights along the coast line|
Miles 1-3: 6:09, 6:27, 6:23 (pace in min/mile)
Whoosh! Off we all sprint like mad things. The course is initially nice and wide, so there's plenty of room for many runners to zip out in front of me in no time at all. Mostly they are blokes, of course, but among them are several women; well, this is an interesting start to the morning. I'm always bemused at how people seem to want to run the first 5km of a half marathon at their top 5km race pace; don't they realise it's a fair bit further than that to the finish?
We zig and zag a bit and then head straight along a narrow path right next to the water. The closest of the females ahead of me is spent fairly quickly and I can pull past her without any problem. Mile 3 takes us all out over some grass and a quick U-turn sees the course head back towards the start; it also gives me an opportunity to estimate that the leading female is about a minute ahead of me and between us there are still 2 others, both of whom are much closer.
I know better than to kill myself trying to catch any of them at this point, though. All I need to do is keep things steady, not give up, and wait to see if they fall back.
Miles 4-6: 6:11, 6:21, 6:21
As I was suspecting, after the turn the 2 females closer to me both start to slow down. Given a target to chase I pull off another significantly faster mile and by the time we are pass back through the start area (filled now with runners waiting to start the 12K) there's only one woman ahead of me. The sky is starting to fill with light and it's really a beautiful area - as well as perfect weather for running. Ahh. Time to chase!
The next 2 miles pass in a steady fashion; the girl ahead of me has long blonde hair, looks to be about 20 years younger than me (isn't everyone these days) and she's running quite strongly. I'm fairly sure I've gained a little on her by the time the 10km mark is approaching, but not a whole lot, and if things continue in this vein then I'll be placing 2nd today for sure.
But hang on, what's this? The path along the bay ducks and winds back and forth a bit in places, but suddenly I see her darting off to the left. I'm expecting just another turn in the course, but no, it goes straight ahead - there are several male runners between her and me, and none of them have veered left either. A thought strikes me, I look left again and yes, she's ducked into a toilet block. And I've just taken the lead!!
Miles 7-9: 6:25, 6:21, 6:17
This unexpected event gives me something of a rocket boost that lasts for the next few miles. The course is decidedly less flat through this section but I manage to maintain and even quicken my pace; I have no idea if she's about to come tearing up behind me or not, so I need to put as much daylight between us now as I possibly can. My pace wasn't any slower than hers before the bathroom pitstop, so if I can speed up just a fraction, there's a chance I may yet be victorious today! But there's no need to count my chickens quite at this point, of course. Just keep running....
In the process of speeding up a touch I now catch two other male runners who have been ahead of me until now. My usual strategy of even pacing is paying off in spades - I seem to be the only one who isn't starting to fade, actually.
Miles 10-12: 6:19, 6:13, 6:24
Finally we seem to be approaching civilisation again, or at least the outskirts of Gosford, which I suppose is the same thing. More male runners are struggling ahead of me, I can count at least 3, and what's more exciting is that I still haven't been passed by my rival, she of the toilet break. The sun is out in force now and I'm actually a bit warm, but there's not that far to go so I just have to suck it up and keep running.
Mile 11 and wait, I know this part from my run yesterday morning! We're much closer to the finish area than we should be at this point - but it looks like we're taking the scenic route, as I find myself zooming off through a carpark and around 3 sides of a playing field. To my great surprise I am catching the blokes ahead of me quite quickly now; in rapid succession I pass one and then another. I've no real idea of how many runners are ahead of me still, but all that matters is that none of them are females, and a nice payday awaits me in around 3km if I can just hold onto a decent pace.
The course goes up and over the bridge by our hotel; the stadium is in sight but ugh, there's a final out-and-back by the water still to be conquered. And at this point there are a fair few people out for a nice morning stroll by the water, so that means it's more of an obstacle course than I'd prefer at this stage. Better speed up and just get it over with!
Mile 13 and finish: 6:09, 5:29
Even though I thought I was running as fast as possible for most of this race, somehow I have more in the tank and can dredge up my fastest mile as the final one; now that the stadium is in sight I have far more inspiration to put in the effort. In retrospect, running pretty much alone for the majority of the race meant I didn't give it everything I had, but that's not an unusual outcome and I was never running for a particular time - just the win, insert cheeky grin here.
I pop up in the stadium and the final stretch is on lovely cushy grass. I can see Jack over the other side, right by the fence, and he sees me too and starts yelling "Mum!!" Without thinking about it I put my head down and SPRINT for the finish line.
Finish time: 1:22:24 (6:19 min/mile, 3:54 min/km)
Placement: 1st female, 13th overall finisher
The finish time surprises me - I really thought I was running quite a bit slower than that - but whatever, I'm happy! The second woman, she of the toilet break, is 3 minutes behind; without the pitstop she might well have held the lead, but I guess we'll never know.
Jack has completed his run and is proudly wearing his medal; we grab reward icecreams and pose happily for a picture together.
photo credit: Keith Hong
There's a nice payday and a surprise hamper of MasterFoods goods for me at the presentation (during which the heavens open and the temperature plummets, meaning it finishes in quite a hurry), then it's off to enjoy the rest of the weekend before the long drive back to Wagga. A long trip, but most definitely worth the trouble!