It’s only taken me 4 months to finally blog about this race, but my lack of speed in getting this written down is quite the opposite of how my race went on the day.
I had the Friday off work and got the train into the city to meet Maria as we were traveling and staying together at Caves House in the Blue Mountains, the finish location of the race. On the way up to the mountains we called into The Carrington Hotel to collect our race packs and chatted to many friends doing the same, the nerves and excitement were building. We ordered takeaway across the road at the pasta joint which took more than an hour to get (second busiest day of the year for them), and then we drove to our hotel arriving in the dark. After originally being given the wrong room (with no bathroom), we finally got checked into a new room (still not the spa room we had booked) with a bathroom. We ran into Leah and her husband Russell who were checking into their room, they were both running the next day too.
After getting our race outfits organised and everything out ready for the morning, we headed to get some rest. I had been fighting a head cold for the past week and hoped that I would not snore and keep Maria awake (sorry Maria).
It was race day!
We got up, had breakfast (banana, coffee & muffin for me) then got ready and headed down to the buses that would take us to the start line. After a long bus ride on some very narrow, rocky, cliff-side roads we eventually got to the start area and the air was electric! We made our usual last minute toilet stop and then found some other Striders to chat with as we waited for the start of the race.
Our friend Nigel (below) was planning to run the whole race with his light saber, awesome!!
I ran into 2 of my good friends, Kaori and Ganesh (above), who I used to run with in the city after work. It was so great to see them both and we chatted nervously about this race and others planned for the year, they were both also entered in UTA100 and that made me very happy to know some other familiar faces would be there in May.
Maria had originally been placed in the start wave/group before mine, however I had sent an email to the race organisers requesting to be moved up a group, as my friend and I wanted to run together. We were roughly the same pace but had not done much training together lately (if at all) so we were just going to ‘see how it went’.
A few people had been asking me what my goal was for the race, however I really didn’t want to put an expected time in my head, rather I just wanted to run to how I was feeling on the day. The reason I started trail running was because I loved being out in the bush, amongst nature, to help me de-stress and get away from the everyday pressures of the world. So at this time it just didn’t seem right to start putting pressure on myself. My answer to those who prodded and asked was ‘anything quicker than 2014 would be great” (my official 2014 finish time was 6:08:26), but my actual plan was to go out and enjoy the course, enjoy the company of other runners, and to finish in one piece.
Eventually it was our turn to start and the gun went off as we slowly made our way towards the ankle-breaking Nellie’s Glen. There was usually a short, slow run towards the top of the stairs and then it would be a slow trip down the stairs before we would start running again. Maria and i chatted and caught up on what had been happening in our lives and with her new-ish job and it was great to be running with her again.
Our friend Bruce caught up to us and we had a quick chat before sending him forward on his way. He had caught up to us from the start of the wave behind us and was looking fast and strong.
It was around this point that Maria got ahead of me. She is a faster runner than me and although I was sad to not be running with her anymore, I was glad she was going to have a crack and run hard.
After the fog cleared the day was gorgeous, much warmer than anticipated which I thought would probably affect a lot of people, and it was early on that I made a mental note to drink plenty and encourage others to do the same. I love the heat!
As I was nearing the Mini Mini Saddle I ran into Michael, his wife Stefica is also a good friend of mine and he told me of their plans to pack up their house and go travel and hike around the world. I was thrilled, excited and even a little jealous of their upcoming adventure!
Somehow I managed to catch up to Maria as I started the climb up to the Pluviometer, and I realised that I was finding it quite easy-going compared to previous attempts. I passed Maria and we wished each other well.
I kept pushing up the hill as I was chatting to some new friends Ian and Cora, actually I think I had met Ian before (?). They were both lovely and it helped pass the time going up that big mother of a hill, although before we could reach the top I had to let them go as they seemed to be a little stronger than me and I didn’t want to be holding anybody back.
When I got to the top of the Pluvi I saw my buddy Changa, he was volunteering and shouting out race numbers so I ran over and gave him a hug then continued on my way.
After this point the trails gets quite runnable and this year I planned to run all of it. I don’t usually use headphones and music but this year I was going to give it a try and see if it made a difference. Lately I had been using an App called ‘Pace DJ’ which picks songs from your phone that have the right beat for your designated cadence. It seemed to work and I even managed to catch up to my friend Leah who seemed to be struggling, sh had been sick leading into there race too. I wanted to stop and chat but I had a really good rhythm going and I didn’t want to break it now, so I waved, wished her well, stuck my head down and got back to work.
Not long after one of my Trailblazer buddies Allan passed me, he was looking very strong and gave me some thoughtful and encouraging words. Such a great guy! His lead on me didn’t last long though and I eventually caught him and didn’t see him again (sorry Allan!).
I was feeling hot, but I was also feeling fantastic. I was having a great run. At this rate I would definitely finish under my time from 2014 so I was very happy about that.
The time seemed to fly past quickly and before I knew it there was less than 10kms to go.
At one point there was a large crowd of NRG’ers cheering runners on , and I could hear them well before I could see them. It gave me a boost and as I ran past I realised some familiar faces that I had met at C2K.
My favourite section was coming, the final downhill.
I felt amazing, so alive and I decided to push myself to the limit and give this last section everything that I had left. I hardly even noticed some good friends Tanya, Sarah and Anthony as I passed them on a downhill section. They had moved aside for me and i didn’t even realise who they were until they shouted out to cheer me on.
I was in the zone and I would finish with nothing left in the tank.
As I crossed the finish line I attempted a ‘Nigel-like’ jumping air shot, but my calf cramped and I stumbled almost knocking over the gentleman in front of me. Too funny!
When I looked up I saw many familiar faces and received a warm hug from Dale, a champion Strider who gives so much to so many. She gave me my finishers medal and goodie bag and I searched for a seat to rest my legs.
My time was 5:22:56, a Personal Best by 45mins+!!
Our friend Brad was not coping well after his run and we spent some time looking after him whilst he recovered in the medic tent, but he was in good hands and there was nothing more we could do so we headed back out to cheer on more runners.
We watched many others across the finish line and eventually made our way up to the room to get changed into some clean, dry clothes. Then made our way back to the finish line to celebrate with a few drinks & cheer the last of the runners over the line.
It had been a tough day for many runners given the heat and not very many PB’s on the cards, so I felt very proud of my result. My new coach and his training methods were clearly paying off, thanks Andy, you make me want to be a better runner! I must also give thanks to Faye my massage therapist who looks after me and always gets me back on track, despite the ridiculously tight muscles I bring to her table every week.
A huge thanks to all the Sydney Striders who organised and ran such a fantastic event. Thanks must also go to all for the volunteers including the wonderful SES crews who manned the water stations along the way. You all help to make it such a magical experience and we cannot thank you enough!
After the crowds had died down and the last of the tents packed away, our crew prepared for it’s bbq feast, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, it was a fun afternoon and evening.
Happy running 😀