Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Desperate measures at the City to Surf

I raced my 29th Sydney City to Surf on 11 August. My goal was to break 70 minutes — the time required to start in the 'Red' first group of about 9,000 runners. My training indicated I could do this, especially after my good race at Dunrossil Drive. I decided beforehand to run using effort as a guide (usually the best method on such an undulating course) and hope that would produce sufficient speed. From previous experience (especially last year's race), I knew the split times I'd need at 5, 7 and 10k in order to break 70. I could be 50:30 at 10k.

Race morning was sunny and calm — perfect I thought, until I started to warm up. I was sweating! Training in a Canberra winter doesn't prepare one well for a warm Sydney day. I started in my usual spot on the left side of William Street, about half way back in the 'Red' group. I only took about 40 seconds to reach the start mats, then it was the usual scary rush, trying to avoid zig-zagging runners up to the Kings Cross tunnel. The crowd never thins out in the City to Surf (unless you're running 3:45 ks or better). By the other side of Edgecliffe (3k) I was no longer worried about getting carved up by anxious speedsters. Running along the flat section approaching 5k I was feeling okay (if warm) and moving well. Glanced at my watch and saw 24:22. A little slow! Didn't panic though as I was maintaining position and continued to do so on the run up Heartbreak Hill. The clock at 7k was showing high 35s (which I thought to be on schedule as the second half of C2S is at least a minute quicker than the first).

Along Old South Head Rd and into Military Road I was feeling the strain, but still moving with the crowd — keeping an eye on unusual runners: Spiderman, a young girl in Little A's uniform, grey-haired blokes and ladies in tights (way over-dressed). 10k was passed in 50:28 — hmm, should be able to run 19 for the last 4k, with the 13th being downhill. I was starting to tire, so used the downs to recover, saving something for the last kilometre. Got a bit of a shock at 13, with the watch showing 64:46. Geez, 5 minutes to get to the finish and it's a long drag along Campbell Parade! I increased the effort, tried to follow people who were moving fast and avoid those who were slowing. Not easy! Finally around the U-turn, space opened a bit left side near the crowd and I sprinted for all I was worth. Under the clock, stopped the Garmin and saw 69:45. Yes! That was close — I hate having to sprint like that! Official time was 69:39 for 7,908th place.

This year's City to Surf was one of my most satisfying. Back in May when I had the DVT problem I wondered if I'd make the start this year, let alone break 70 and maintain that Red-group status. Interestingly, my average heart-rate for this year was the same as last (144). I ran 67:54 last year on a much cooler day and wearing the lighter Kinvaras. This year I was training with a slight achilles niggle so wore the Brooks Racer STs as they have a more substantial heel. I've pulled up well from the race and actually ran (not raced) a trail half marathon in Wagga Wagga on Sunday — 2:00:16 on one of the best trail courses I've ever run. I'll tell you about it next post...

In the Domain with 'Legend' Keith Mayhew, who has run all 43 City to Surfs (first 20 in under 50 minutes)


Blogger Running Raggedy said...

You write a great blog and race report. Well done on your City to Surf mission accomplished. 85,000 runners though! Lots of fun I bet. Looking forward to your Wagga Wagga (don't delete repeated word) race/run report.

8:14 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Well done, even if it was close! can't wait to hear about the trail race, though.

8:47 pm  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

Comeback of the year! The race sounds like fun, I'd like to do it sometime.

10:04 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Great race Ewen, well done on achieving your target, even if it was by the skin of your teeth and you had to work a little towards the end ;)

I had to laugh at "I hate having to sprint like that" - afterall racing is all about getting out of your comfort zone.

11:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate having it come down to the wire like that too, at least in the moment -- but in retrospect, it seems like you stayed calm, had appropriate faith in your fitness, didn't freak out over a "slower" pace in the beginning, and scooped up a well-raced effort in the end. Congrats on the sub-70!

12:37 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Mark. Yes, running in the 'fat' part of such a big field is fun (and stressful if you're trying to run fast). Wagga Wagga is aboriginal for 'place of many crows' - I often wonder if Wagga means one crow.

Thomas, I wanted to write about the trail race more than the City to Surf. Here next week I hope...

Bob, you should combine it with a holiday. Perfect time zone for Japan and you'd be acclimated if it's a warm day. Try and break your age - only three 60-69s broke 60 minutes this year.

Grellan, it was funny once I'd finished! Luckily I'm used to a sprint finish from doing so many track races, but I hate doing it in road races. I'd rather have any 'race' in the bag by going hard from half way and cruising away from my opposition, finish looking good, not ugly.

SK, thanks. It's still nerve-wracking running a race at even effort (even splits for a flat race). There's no 'time in the bank' should anything go wrong. It's the best method for longer races though.

3:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - 29 City2Surfs is amazing! What distance did you get with your Garmin? (mine was 14.19km) I took your advice on running through the left side of the William Street tunnel, but I'm sure you have a few other 'lessons learned for the shortest race line' from experience :-) It must have a been a huge sense of relief standing at the start line after your DVT experience & what a comeback to run so well to retain a RED bib again for next year!! I think having a RED bib is the ultimate running achievement :-)
Lovely photo of you and Keith.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Jaymee said...

Congratulations, Ewen on achieving your goal! Great race report.

8:30 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Fiona - you're right, it was a big relief. Could have easily gone the other way. My Garmin showed 14.07 (68m). It's hard to follow the 'perfect line' (which is not tangents in all places) due to the crowd. I was able to take a 'half perfect' line in most places.

Thanks Jaymee.

3:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was really great running after your troubles with the DVT. Your canny timing confirms that you are an old hand at this race. You were almost too cool, but had enough in reserve to remain master of the situation. I too will be looking forward to your account of the trail HM.

7:56 am  
Blogger Superflake said...

Good run Ewen. Glad you stayed in red foir next year. I'm up to 11. I keep trying to use my 3:51 50k times but they don't like that for preferred at Fairfax. See you next year mate. BTW I'm doing the 50k at Canberra next year again.

9:05 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, thanks for your astute observations as usual. If I had the DVT a month later I wouldn't have made it, so lucky in that regard.

That's good Paul - will look forward to seeing you run at least 3:49 for the 50k next year. You'll just have to run a 51:59 next year to get the preferred start for 2015 ;-)

10:52 am  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Well done Ewen. It always feels great to hit and sneak in below the race target time

11:33 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Good effort Ewen. That must be one BIG race if you only finished 7,000!

8:18 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Sling. Does feel great. I'm sure you'll have the same feeling when you finally snag another marathon PB.

Rick, yes! There were about 70,000 finishers this year. It's a very competitive race too. A bloke such as yourself, 36 for 10k, would finish around 400th.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Lize Brittin said...

I'm so glad you got to do your race. Congratulations!

1:22 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

You write a great race report, Ewen :)
Way to beat your goal.. and despite all the scariness of the DVT earlier this summer. On a cool day, maybe a minute faster? That is a HUGE race, BTW. .. 70,000?!?!?

4:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:37 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Mission accomplished!
You are racing a lot and this is the best way to stay in shape and to maintain a fast pace.
Sorry for the Wallabies but the other were .... the All Blacks!

12:16 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano. The Wallabies would perform much better if they hired you as coach!

6:32 pm  
Blogger Run, Karla, Run! said...

Congrats on making your goal! I was sweating along with you there for a while. It can be so tough at crowded races, and the heat only makes things worse. I'm not a sprint-to-the-finish kind of runner either, but if it was that close I'd do the same! Well done.

8:00 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Karla. I normally never look at my watch in a race but I did in that one and it paid off. Gave me a good scare!

7:56 pm  

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