This is my sort of race – hilly, longer-than-10k, spectator friendly and well attended. I learnt from Tom Highnam how to run this in 2015. Treat the first half like a 10k, reset the mind (for another 11k) and be prepared to suffer in the back 6k of hills.
As I leave the house for the 2017 SMH half (alone), I promise Lorie that if she comes to watch and I go sub 73 min, breakfast is on me. She never makes it out of bed.
I’ll skip the 30 min lead-up and detail the race itself.
The intention is to get a front row seat for photo opportunities. This is not to be due to my SMC rival Tim Molesworth and his bald cousin having such large shoulders that cover my entire body. I’m on the LHS talking to Barts. He has just told me follow him to a ‘sub 33:30 10k‘. That does not seem realistic.
To my left are the real contenders – a few NSW elites (Cox, Do Canto, Criniti etc) plus Liam Adams and Kevin Batt’s son. The MC does the count down to let 12,000 runners off the leash.
The first 200m is always a sprint to get clear space. My plan unfolds as follows: chase any or all of Barts, Criniti or Scotty. This may be my undoing because that strategy brings us through 3k with splits of 3:12, 3:18 then 3:09. The intensity settles a little as we drag our bodies down Hickson Road into the cross-wind.
By Slip Inn, we’ve formed a group of 6. It’s a good train moving at 3:20s allowing me to catch my breath before the dreaded Pyrmont section. Next comes the Fairfax HQ where the relay runners wait. A shout out from Pete W gives me temporary pain relief. Joy is short lived as the group takes a wrong turn at the back, costing us 5s. Stupid marshal (or lack thereof). A quick correction and we’re back onto Pirrama Road towards the west side of Pyrmont.
The worst bit is the 180 turn and the incline that follows. By now my legs feel like lead, the HR is soaring but I gather everyone else is in the same boat. I’ve also assessed the competition. There’s two guys who are in complete control: #1 is a short bearded guy (Mr Beard) and #2 is a tall orange singlet guy (Orange). Barts, Scotty, Criniti (?) and I are hitching a ride in a fairly unconvincing way.
Support-wise, you are heading back down Pirrama road, regathering speed and getting call outs from HuRTS, Striders (etc). Best bit of the race. I count at least 6 friendly comments.
My mood is spoilt near the Channel 7 building. I’m forced to stumble onto the curb to avoid heel clipping Orange in front. Barts will not have any of it (i.e. cutting corners). He shouts “Hoey, get back on the road… I’ve just told Scotty off“. I’m amazed he can talk at this 3:18s pace.
10k in 33:16. A look at the watch and a view I am 30s too fast. Quit now and catch the light rail home?
Just past this point, Mr Beard says to Orange: “33:15 … too slow, let’s get going”. And they do just that…
Barts, Scotty and Criniti are dropped instantly. I round the bend, seeing Enda and Birchy on the side and decide to follow. Six becomes three as we depart Pyrmont. I know I need to stay with them as long as possible.
Back on Hickson, the ground flattens allowing us to accelerate. 14k is a 3:09 split. We round the Squashed Car and kick up the incline. Here is where I take over the lead because I love hills. 15k and 16k may look slow (3:32, 3:32) but I’ve put a good gap on Barts and made these two guys hurt a lot.
16-18k is defined by the Macquarie Street climb. Once again, I thrive on the hills, rounding the bend to the Pillars with a healthy 50cm lead on Mr Beard. This photo is taken by Lizzy and her dog Bruce. Bruce is not good at focusing.
We’re onto my home turf heading downhill to MMC. My lead is lost very quickly despite an impressive 3:11 for 19k.
Mentally, I’ve almost accepted I cannot beat these guys. We round the MMC bend and prepare for a final drag race uphill. Mr Beard puts in a few surges, the killer one being on the climb to the Gallery. A gap opens up and I can’t close it. I think I’ve lost all sense of vision and limb control. Below I’m thinking, where is the orange guy? Is he behind me or is he one of those cones?
Luckily, I’m set on finishing strong. A shout out from Mark, Gus and perhaps even Jeet sees me maintain pace towards the finish. A left turn, a look at the clock and a realisation I could go sub-71. Actually no I can’t. No matter, it’s a 20s PB!
71:04, 9th place, 3:20 min/km ave pace. Official result here. Interestingly I ran an extra 200m.
My first reaction is one of relief. I left nothing in the tank and was ready to quit at 10k. Yet I found some hidden quad strength which is what you need in the back half. Now I have the mojo back.
Technical stuff – HR looks to have peaked around 150bpm. I recall in the Melbourne marathon it sat at 140bpm.
I loiter at the finish clapping the other people through. Barts arrives home in low 72s, followed by Criniti (low 73s) and Scotty (73). These are the guys that dragged me to a solid 10k split. Toby also shows he’s in decent shape with a 75. None of us were ‘chicked‘ today thank god.
Other great runs include Jeet, Lambert, Mark, Andy Heyden, Sweaty Craig not to mention selfless pacing jobs from Tom, Erika and LJ. Good job to Champ for firstly driving me to the start and running 84 min off very little training.
Here’s the official video.
What better way to celebrate the morning with a 5k shuffle to Redfern to meet Lorie & Trinity for breakfast. So the day of mileage is 3k warm up, 21k race, 5k cool down. I couldn’t even stomach the sausage omelette below.