City2Surf dawned bright and clear. An unseasonably warm winters day (25 plus degrees Celsius). I woke early, sculled my iced coffee and a banana and proceeded to drink as much water as my bladder would hold. We got dressed, pinned on our race-bibs and (after several nervous toilet stops) headed out from our hotel after watching the first wave of runners and pushers (elite wheelchair) leave on the TV coverage. The first person finished long before we started.
City2Surf is staged in sections because there are way too many people to all go at once (>85,000 registered participants). Even so it was estimated that there were upwards of 20,000 people in our group alone. The elite runners are off at 8.00am followed by another stage of seeded runners (runners who have a qualifying time) and three unseeded sections named ‘blue’ group, ‘yellow’ group and, back-of-the-pack, ‘orange’ group. Orange group is the only group you are allowed prams and is also where people who want to walk or dress up in costume tend to go (not all though apparently, as we found out).
Hubby and I were in yellow and lined up after checking in on my brother-in law and my niece who were running (or being pushed) from the front of back of the pack. What felt like only a short time later (we gave up trying to find my sister who was also in our start group – the wave of humanity prevented that!) we were off!!
Kind-of, it took us 10 minutes after the starters gun to get to the start where our timing chips would activate. But after that we were off! Except for dodging the many, many people who were walking (really? already??) or just jogging super slow. The first kilometer was slooow, considering it was downhill and we were fresh, winding our way through people who had decided to start towards the front and walk anyway (REALLY? slightly frustrating but never mind, they are entitled to walk…). We picked up in the second and third kilometer and I was feeling good for the first 5-6 km. It was pretty tough still, but I wasn’t yet fighting my brain with the urge to stop. I even enjoyed looking at the crazy costumes and did the YMCA symbols along with everyone else as we ran past a road-side party and high-fived some smurfs and a Mickey Mouse. Hubby informed me we were over a minute ahead of what we needed to make sub 90. Great, I says, so lets just slow down to minimum pace for a bit so I could gather myself for heartbreak hill.
Heartbreak hill didn’t break me. I wanted to stop and BADLY after about a minute on the steep gradient. But I reassured myself saying ‘never mind, you will make this time back on the downhill’. My pace had slowed to almost a walk. In fact in retrospect perhaps I should have walked for a bit, it might have given me a bit more energy for what was to come. 8th kilometer in the hill was still going. Not broken yet, my sub 90 minutes is still possible. 9th kilometer a small break and then another hill. And another. And another. As my goal slowly slipped away I realised I hadn’t prepared nearly enough. I wrote a post last week about how I couldn’t make it up Bar Beach hill without stopping. A single hill. Perhaps that should have been a sign that I wasn’t as well prepared as I have should have been.
I think at one point I actually swore out loud in frustration “are you f$%#@ing kidding me, is that another f$#@%king hill?!?”. Once I had done it I immediately remembered yelling out EXACTLY the same thing last year. I really should have known what to expect… but seriously, it is just one hill after another. The whole course is either up or down hill and the down hill sections feel pretty damn short. I felt like I was battling a mountain. The urge to stop was almost unbearable. My brain was screaming at me ‘stop running you fool!!’. And I still had another 4 km to go. Every climb I would tell myself that this was it, the last hill then its down hill to Bondi. Oh, except for the next effing hill, and the next.
Sub-90 was out the window. Next goal, beat last years time. Beyond that…just run the whole damn thing. At the 11 km mark, it didn’t seem possible. There was a particularly steep rise at this mark that almost stopped me…but I kept going. 12 km, finally, I can see Bondi and its down hill from here!! I put everything I could into that downhill section and it is my fastest time of the race. Finally, the last kilometer, soon you will be able to stop and the pain will be over. No more City2Surf and you never ever have to do it again if you don’t want. All downhill from here, all downhill from…IS THAT ANOTHER F%$#@ING HILL?!
Yep, the last km is slightly uphill and at that point – when my feet were on fire, my head was pounding, breath gasping, legs tingling, the sun beating down with full intensity – I just couldn’t do another hill. I would have cried if I had any liquid left. I wanted to stop MORE THAN EVER. But it was the last km. No way was I stopping.
It felt like the longest kilometer I have ever run, and I ran the last 200 m at one of my fastest paces of the race. I can still vividly remember feeling like my feet were burning . I could see the finish line. Keep moving feet, shut the hell up brain we are NOT stopping in sight of the finish line! At the end the guy on the mic was saying ‘hands in the air guys! you’ve done it!’. So I did. Then I stopped running and waited for the relief to flood through me.
I felt faint, light headed and nauseous. Where was the relief?? The ability to breathe? I was bent over, sucking in air and I felt worse than when I was running. Sitting down for awhile helped. Its weird though because my face wasn’t even red like it normally gets, it was white (hubby said).
My hands and feet were tingling. As soon as I tried to get up I could barely walk and hubby flagged down some first aid. I sat in the tent and had my pulse taken and vitals checked. After some gatorade and very nice, obviously young graduates fussed over me I started to feel a bit more human. Nothing wrong with me of course, I just needed some time to recover my senses. But I felt like I was hung over the whole day.
I also felt like I had failed.
I pushed my body as hard as it could possibly be pushed (its inability to move afterwards is proof of that) and my mind had triumphed over my (obviously reasonable) instincts to stop to the point where I nearly made myself very sick. And it wasn’t enough. I didn’t make sub-90 minutes. Hell, I didn’t even make my time from last year (this year was 96 min 30 s, last year was 95 min 45 s).
But I did run it. All of it. I did push myself. I pushed more than I would have thought I could. I pushed through all my mental barriers, I pushed my body harder than it had ever been pushed before from sheer mental determination.
So, what can I learn from this? Give up? Accept failure and give up running (which I definitely contemplated around the 12 km mark)?
Don’t give up, you never know who you might be inspiring
Precisely. Here are my take-away messages:
1. I didn’t train enough. No way did I do enough hill training. Instead of running Bar Beach hill once or twice total, I should have run it everyday. I should have run up and down Bar Beach hill 5-6 times in a training session. Hills are clearly my weak point, I ran 15km no worries in preparation on a flat course with pretty much no pain and felt great the next day so it is not a distance thing, it is a hill specific hatred (the pain is still fresh…). I also peaked too early in my training and used the snow as an excuse to slack off. Just because I set myself a goal didn’t mean I was going to reach it without preparation. It’s the 6 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
2. I am not naturally athletic (I’ve spoken abut this before) and I have only been running for 18 months. My base fitness is hard-won, changeable and depends heavily on the extent of training I have done. Mentally I am pretty strong (I feel as though I have proven that to myself), physically…I need time and work.
3. If a goal is easy, it isn’t worth fighting for. For someone who has not played sport or exercised with any intensity my whole life until 18 months ago, I set myself a pretty darn lofty goal. I didn’t make it this year. Maybe I won’t next year. Maybe never, but should I stop fighting for it? No way.
I was hard and I hated maybe 50% of it. But I will do it again, if just to prove to myself that I can.
It didn’t break me, and one day I will be stronger.p.s. this post is dedicated to my husband for putting up with my ‘running rage’ which occurs when he runs with me and suggests I run a bit faster. Thanks for running with me and supporting me in my madness xo