Friday, August 15, 2014

City to Surf Number 30

Last Sunday I found myself in a familiar and comfortable place. Yes, it was early in the race! I was running along the flat section at Rose Bay, approaching the 5k mark. This was my 30th Sydney City to Surf. Yes, I was just a boy when I ran my first. I glanced at my watch as I passed the marker (something I usually don't do when racing). 24:40 was 18 seconds more than last year's split. Sub-70 and a 'Red Group' qualifying time wasn't going to be easy. Last year I ran with desperation over the final kilometres to run 69:39 and already I was behind schedule.

Approaching the top of 'heartbreak hill' I had a déjà vu moment when I spotted Jenny Gilbert in the crowed, running strongly about 30 metres ahead. Jenny used to run with the Lane Cove Riverrunners when I lived in Sydney in the early '80s. We ran 10k in the park on Tuesdays, usually in less than 40 minutes. Jenny finished second in the '85 City to Surf in 50:17 (American Nancy Ditz won in 48:30). I bumped into Jenny earlier in the morning at the 'secret toilets' and she was typically reserved about discussing her plans for the race. "Same here" she said when I revealed my plan of trying to run 70 minutes. Here we were, amidst 80,000 others, running (almost) together again, just like the old days in the park.

I tried to increase my pace as we crested the hill. My mind was willing but my legs weren't! I soon lost sight of Jenny's pink singlet in the crowd. When we turned into Old South Head Road after 8k I found myself in survival mode. I was keeping up with some distincively attired people in the river of humanity, but most runners were moving ahead. The 10k clock said 51:41 (1:12 more than last year) so I knew sub-70 wasn't going to happen. I still raced as hard as possible and managed a modest sprint down Queen Elizabeth Drive to the finish. I'd run 71:52 — 5:08 per km pace (average heart-rate of 141 compared to the more desperate 144 of last year). Jenny had run 70:11 (!) with an official 'Heartbreak to Bondi' split 31:31, while mine showed a distinct lack of endurance at 32:43.

My lesson from this result is that a diet of mostly 6 to 8k flat runs and modest mileage (51k per week) is short of what's needed for a 'good' City to Surf. Not surprising, as the race record is held by a marathoner (Steve Moneghetti's 40:03 from 1991). Next year I'll aim to prepare more thoroughly. Until then, 5k racing here we come!

Staying with my mate Jim meant we were up excessively early ('to get a good spot at the start') for the 2014 City to Surf. Sparse crowd near St Mary's Cathedral.


Blogger Thomas said...

Wow, 30th time in a race is something only very few people can claim! Congratulations on that score alone are in order.

12:18 am  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

Congrats on your 30th. Wow, 80,000. Is this the biggest race in the world?

12:48 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Thomas - keep running and you'll make your 30th Connemara ;)

Thanks Bob. As far as I know it's the biggest chip-timed race in the world. Pretty amazing!

7:56 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Congrats on your 30th. 80.000 runners: very crowded!
St.Mary's cathedral, the name and the architecture remind a particular moment of the european history during the middle age and a particular amazing Order.

6:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Racing with old mates like Jenny since the eighties is very special. Happy 30th!

11:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 30th. With 80,000 starters I can imagine that knowing the whereabouts of the secret toilets is a key element of race strategy, though I expect that a red zone start is even more crucial.

6:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done Ewen! Race number 30 done and dusted must give you 'legend' status at least?! [Miranda]

9:24 am  
Blogger Janene said...

Good work ET! Yes short flat races don't offer much assistance for a good C2S. That said, enjoy the upcoming 5K racing. Spring is just around the corner :-)

7:41 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano - yes, where I run the crowd NEVER thins out! St Mary's is a beautiful building, especially at that hour of the day.

Thank you Anna. Great to hear from you!

Yes Canute, knowing the whereabouts of the secret toilets is vital! Interestingly, even though the red zone is limited to around 10,000 (who supposedly run 5-minute ks) the first few ks is 'difficult' - I think the second wave (green) may be easier if you can start near the front.

Thanks Miranda. Sadly, official 'Legend' status is given to those who've run EVERY (43) City to Surf!

Thanks J. I'm very much looking forward to striving to match your rapid Parkrun improvement :)

7:54 pm  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Well in my book 30 is of legendary status. Congratulations Ewen on a record you can be well proud of. You and Jenny must have turned heads back in the day running sub 40s.

8:57 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Mark. It was a fairly serious group of runners. Sub-40 was an average time. Hippie Steve used to run 37 regularly. We'd start as a group until someone went off the front before Porter's Creek - then the chase would begin. If Al (who we thought was old at 50!) ran 43-4 he'd be amongst the tail-enders.

8:59 pm  
Blogger NY Wolve said...

Thats a great time, and sounds like a nice run. And 80,000? Hard to get a step in!

4:43 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Sorry for the Wallabies. However I have cheered but ....the All Blacks are always the All Blacks.

12:33 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks NY Wolve. Yes, amazing numbers - too many really. It's the only race that NEVER thins out!

Stefano, we were terrible last night. The Wallabies need to employ you as defence coach.

4:13 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Ewen, it's great to hear a story from a runner who has done more C2S races than me (I've only done 27). It is a tough and unrelenting course. I think you are right re the training needed. This year, off the back of my Gold Coast Mara, was my fastest C2S in 22 years. The endurance definitely made an enormous difference. I hope you achieve your goal of sub-70 next year. Cheers, PB

10:59 pm  

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