Run For The Kids 14.38km: Race Report
Prepare to Feel Fast As usual I like to give myself a good amount of time prerace. It really helps my head get in the right frame of mind, when I don't need to rush. I took my usual park for city races. It is a reasonable distance away, but gives a good relaxing walk to the venue. The start of my warm up, before I switch to running. For this race I wanted to take my time and have an extended warm up, mainly because with such a big field there is usual a long wait standing at the start line. Mixed in with the masses at the start line I thought how I really enjoy the course, getting taken through Melbourne's landmarks of the Domain Tunnel, Westgate Freeway, Bolte Bridge, Etihad Stadium, Docklands, Queens St Bridge and around Flinders Street, is a highlight. Plus getting to run where any other time there is no chance you can be on your feet. The combination of flat and some reasonable rises, complemented with a bit of a view, makes for some good running. There are a few spots where you can blow the race, or take advantage of the layout. While not quite at the front, I managed to get a reasonable position in the blue zone.
Like the other years, the start was an almost stupid mix of too many runners of different abilities trying to fill the same space. Wanting to go out hard this year, I made a concerted effort to pick my lines through the crowd. Based on past experience I knew it was better not to get right onto someone's heels, before moving around. Allowing that extra one or two steps just didn't work this year. My initial pace was quite hampered as people sprinted out over the first 50m, then dropped to excessively slow speeds for their chosen starting position. I was reminded a little bit of a triathlon swim start. However, it only felt like seconds before I was at the sharp turn to lead down into the Domain Tunnel.
It feels almost surreal. In the tunnel the air is heavy and the sound of thousands of feet bounce off the concrete walls, adding to the discordant symphony of the exhaust fans. This section begins with a fair descent. I make use of my downhill abilities, and find I really have to call on my limited agility to almost jump around the runners who have decided their speed over the first kilometer just can't be sustained for the remaining 13 odd. Eventually the tarmac decides to gain elevation. The first opportunity to apply the go fast when the course is slow philosophy. This is where I need to get things spot on. Unfortunately I won't know until later exactly where that sweet spot is. Going with a steady gradual increase in output for the length of the climb, I hope to find the level that feels just unsustainable for the rest of the race which is a bit above what my recent experience, and currently what my body is telling is can be done.
Out of the tunnel, past the 3km marker. I feel like I am pushing things too hard, but I am still feeling good. The next 2km is kind of a false flat along the West Gate Freeway. As the bubble sits closer between the black lines, I attempt to turn the previous increased effort into a rhythm of quick legs. I aim for what feels like a fast cadence. I stay away from counting this, or even checking my heart rate at this point. I know it will only suggest I should slow down a little. Through this section I find I am fighting a battle with my body. It wants to slow back to paces it is familiar with, and my legs seem to be attempting this in two ways. One is to simply revert back to a slower stride rate with a bigger step length. That's something I want to hold off until the latter sections. The other is to shorten my stride to almost a pitter-patter. On the positive side, centrally, my heart, lungs and substantial portion of my brain have realised they have a lot expected from them today, and seem to be quite accommodating at this point.
From just past 6km, the main climb begins. At something around 1.5km worth of moderately steep ascent, this is the section that change your race. Previously I have enjoyed the view across the city from the top, but this year I put all my effort into the running. For this climb I wanted to maintain the same intensity I reached at the end of ascent out of the Domain Tunnel. I focused on trying to maintain a full stride, doing everything I could to avoid cutting short my leg extension. Gasping for air, with glutes and quads burning I felt like I was making my last surge across the finish line. Gaining plenty of places kept me pushing, but I was wondering if there was going to be a cost.
Over the crest and I still managed to take a quick mental snapshot of the view. I definitely live in one the best cities. Now for the descent. After such an elevated effort, the I did require a good degree of recovery while heading downwards. Luckily, it is a steep section allowing a controlled fall style of running. This gained me a few more places, while my heart rate settled and the burn in my legs lessened somewhat.
The random entertainment started. A random musician, some cheerleaders and some cranking speakers. From the speakers, sign posted with Power Song blasted Eye Of The Tiger. Cheesy, but somehow seemed to work for me. From here I was looking for the 10km marker. Eventually it came, but it felt further along than it should be. Apparently this year it is promoted as accurate and our split here is officially recorded. More likely it was my suffering that beginning to alter reality. I take my own unofficial split and for the first time today take notice of what speed I've been travelling at. 38:23. A fair bit faster than my last few stand-alone 10km races.
It's All Downhill Now
Except for all the bits which aren't. The last portion (4.38km) of the race is pretty much the easy part of the course. No big uphills, and the majority is either flat or negatively sloped. Plenty of easy bends, so you can concentrate on one small section at a time. Plenty of variety in scenery. A good amount of crowd support, that builds all the way to finish. This is the section to blow caution, and hammer to the finish.
Hammer was exactly what I could do. My body was a receiving a nasty education in acid-base balance and it was throwing a tantrum as a result. Random muscles continuously threatened to switch off. When that didn't do much, that just added more pain into the mix. So far I had been really enjoying the high intensity, now I was struggling to find much fun. One of my goals this year was to (re-)learn how to suffer in racing. This last section should help with that.
It was difficult to keep my form together. My style definitely slipped. At least it wasn't a complete bundle that I dropped. I now felt slow. A few people ran past me. Quite different from all the passing I had been doing for the majority of kilometers. I just couldn't use them to pull me faster. Having gone well above my lactate steady state, I was discovering I didn't have much of a lactate tolerance ability. Yet despite all this, the finish line appeared sooner than I felt it was going to. My sprint was probably slower the average pace across the course, but it carried me over.
The finish line clock had 56:00 on it, but since my official time will be the nett time, I completed the distance in 55:24. It took a couple of seconds for the numbers to register. I was kind of happy. It was a good time, 2.5 minutes quicker than last year, but for some reason I now decided sub-55 was the way to go. There was no good reason that thought. Anyway, pondering seconds versus kilometers had me standing still. This was a bit of a mistake. With a heart that had been beating at closer to its maximum rate than usual, and the now absence of an efficient muscle venous pump, my brain decided it was getting enough of the good red stuff. There were probably a few seconds of my life that won't quite make it into my memory banks. The end result was I was wondering why a volunteer was holding me bent forward, with head nearly at my knees. Apparently I had the staggers, and did what was described as a "faint, but you managed to stay on your feet." Giving the body a minute to catch up with the fact running was no longer required, it was soon happy and let me function properly again.
No Ice, Just A Hospital Visit
Post race plans were to catch up with others who were racing, followed by some ice & hot water recovery later. Instead I received a phone call from the health & injury alert section from work, who informed I'd been exposed to a patient that had some mankiness that would be better not to catch. So these plans changed to going to hospital to have a nurse stick something sharp into my shoulder. This probably still felt better than an ice bath anyway.