When I found out this years B&E Run The Bridge fell on my birthday I was pretty stoked.
It’s both our favourite 10km race and after the year we’ve just had this one was bound to be a cracker.
We woke just after 6 on Sunday Feb 19 and being a shorter distance there was no need for brekky. We got dressed; black Lululemon ‘Run Times’ shorts, black team singlet and our trusty Runphoria trucker caps.
We were racing with one goal in mind, course personal best. Eek, the pressure…
Our 2016 result was 43:45 with an average of 4:21/km, so today we both planned to keep an eye on average pace and keep it under 4:19/km, just to be safe.
We drove to the start line at Blundstone Arena, and the place was already abuzz with energy. We headed toward Howrah for 4-5 strides to warm up before heading back up to the start line for a photo with the Sole Mates running group.
There were plenty of pacers for the event and after one last toilet stop we did a quick scout for the 40 min balloon. Ambitious we know but if we could keep him in sight for as long as possible then a PB should be a cinch.
We pushed our way through the crowd to watch the Elite women start at 7:25 and then everyone else at 7:30. There were about 15 of them and we just love these moments to watch in awe at these incredible athletes. Maybe one day, just one day we could be fast enough to start with them. We cheered as they sped off and then quickly gathered at the start line, pushing to the front where we could. If there’s one thing we know about this particular start line, it tends to create a bottle neck so breaking free early is crucial.
After hugs, kisses, wishes of luck and giggles we were off and on this beautiful, clear summer morning the conditions were bang on.
We surged forward with little fast steps, trying hard to avoid any trips and falls as the tight crowd petered out. In no time we’d settled into a 3:50/km pace with the 40min pacer by our side.
The day before we’d chatted about the types of splits we’d like to aim for and the first two needed to be about 4:05/km average.
1km clicked over very quickly, then another and into the 3rd I was comfortable in a hard but manageable average pace of 4:01/km. Bec still just behind me I started to prepare for the Rosny hill climb. Now anyone that’s done this race knows about the undulation and there are really just 3 main hills which I always see as 4 main opportunities to run fast down the other side. Rosny hill is the steepest of the climbs and stretching a decent 400mtrs at a gradient of 11% it was head down and pushing through to the top. I let out a little sigh when we started to level out again and commented to a couple of guys running next to me “Thank god that’s over!”
With the next little bit of down hill I remembered what Bec and I spoke about the day before.
Use the down hills to drop the arms, relax the shoulders and slow the breath but don’t recover too much. We can do that when were finished!
With this is mind I held every second breath a little longer than the next and exhaled slowly. By the time we hit the bridge my heart rate was back down out of the rafters and ready for another beating. As we took to the bridge climb there were cheers from spectators and those waiting to start the 5km event. I found this climb the hardest of the 3 even though it’s not the biggest, I was just a little fatigued at this stage and going over in my head what else was left to conquer in this brilliant race. After a quick pace check, 4:15/km average I reset my focus and got my head back in the game, Only 5km to go!
It was on this next climb that I noticed the same couple of men overtaking me each time we hit a hill and I was obviously catching them on the downs. Not unusual for my style seeing as I always tend to do this, but before long I had a couple of them in mind for a possible close finish and as I always like to do I thought about keeping on their tail so I had a carrot to chase crossing the finish line.
At the last drink station I said thank you to those who gave up their morning to volunteer though I didn’t want to use time stopping for drinks on this kind of distance. They offered me cheers and encouragement which I took gladly and used to push me up the last little climb and into the decent of the 7th km.
I now knew this was all a numbers game and the key to unlocking that magical PB was keeping my head in check.
I was bloody tired and starting to look for any excuse to stop but just as quickly as those thoughts came into my head I shoved them out again. ‘No time for that shit’ I thought to myself. Then under my breath, ‘Don’t think, just run. Don’t think, just run!’
With less than 3km to go and and sitting on an average pace of 4:12/km I decided to switch the view on my Suunto to ‘Pace’ instead of ‘Average Pace’. With my performance so far I would definitely PB if I continued at this pace so I decided to keep an eye on actual pace and not let it go above 4:10/km. I pushed hard down the next hill into town at 4:03/km and even though I wasn’t looking forward to the next 2km of painfully flat road I started to think about the finish line and how friggin excited Bec and I were going to be if we both PB’d. I couldn’t see her behind me but hoped she was close.
As kilometre 9 clocked over on my watch I neared the finish line and knew we needed to do a dog leg up past the crowds before turning to come back through the finishers arch. I started to hear shrieks from friends and then family! There they were, the kids holding our their hands for high fives and yelling ‘Happy Birthday Mummy!’ It just never gets old having them at the finish of a race, smiling and looking so proud. This surge of emotion gives me a massive boost and I push up around the turn and stride hard to the finish line. I fist pump the sky with both hands as I look at the clock and realise I’ve knocked a whole 2 mins off my Course PB, finishing in 41:47.
I stop, hug and kiss my beautiful family while I try to breath and then turn to wait eagerly for Bec…..
This race starts the way most of our races do – I hang back a little at the start while Gabby is out of the blocks and 100 metres down the road, ponytail swishing in the morning sun, before my legs have even wound up. Starting towards the front, we get a pretty clear run down the hill from the start line and there’s not a lot of ducking and weaving necessary. Lucky too, because Gabby keeps whipping her head around to look for where I am! A lot of things are said at the start line before a race, and one of those things Gabby said was “don’t let me keep looking around behind me – I do that so much”. Within the first km I reckon I’ve seen it happen 10 times!
And on one of those head flicks, she sees I’ve caught up and am sitting on her shoulder. The first couple of kms have flown by. I don’t look at my splits at each km, but can feel the pressure of running faster than I have in a while (first 2kms @ 4:02 average, noted later on Strava). I really want to stick with her today, but as we take a small downhill before Rosny Hill, I lose her again.
I wanted to keep pressure on the downhills, but am feeling those hard first couple of kms so take this one for a little breather.
Then it’s on to Rosny. I realise very quickly that I’m not going to be able to ‘power up’ this one – much less run it to the top. There’s a feeling of nausea and I drag myself to the side of the road and take my first of what will be 3 walk breaks during this race.
Within seconds, I feel a hand on my back and words of encouragement come from one of the Sole Mates, “keep going Bec” and it’s enough to get me moving again. At the top of the hill, I open up and enjoy the gradual descent towards the bridge. It really is a magestic view at this point. The arch of the bridge is apparent as you approach it slightly from the right, and it appears to lead to the lap of Mount Wellington/Kunyani, bathed in early morning light and looking rich deep blue in colour. Why am I noticing this? Because I’m slightly distracted on this run. I’m not keeping an eye on my pace, or other competitors. My main aim is to get to the end. Gabby is approaching maybe 400m in front of me at this point, so I settle into my own rhythm and run the bridge.
Waves from spectators and competitors waiting to start the 5k (and some familiar faces), along with a DJ pumping out some tunes (why am I worried about the vibrations fatiguing the concrete structure? What’s wrong with me?) and I reach the top – I’m breathless but very happily greet the other side and the descent it offers to once again catch that breath.
Walk break number 2 happens at the 7th km.
Just past the drink station at the top of yet another small hill, I’m again met with the nausea and move to the side of the road. At this point I do check my watch. I’m averaging 4:21 – on par with last year’s time…the one I want to beat. I finally get my head together and after a walk of 20 metres, I take off again. Once again descending towards the final, flat 2.5kms of the race, my mind wanders to last year’s run – at the time, my fastest 10km. I was hot on Gabby’s heels and we were pushing our pace with every step. I decide to do the same. Checking the brand new (pretty) Suunto Ambit3 Sport more regularly, I notice my pace is hovering between 3:55 and 4:15 per k. Good – I can shave a second or two off that average pace if I keep that up.
The last couple of kms weave around Hobart’s picturesque waterfront areas of Macquarie wharf, Sullivans Cove and around towards Salamanca. Beautiful historic buildings are a blur as I go past. I actually pass a couple of people from earlier in the race and feel strong.
As I move into the last km, I get excited and pull myself upright to stride past the gathered crowd to go past and and then loop back around to the finish line. Once I’m past the crowd, I realise this km feels endless. I’m tired, very tired. I decide, somewhat puzzlingly, to take walk break number 3. Inside the last km. I’m looking for Gabby coming back towards me to the finish, but the morning sun is directly in my face. Thankfully the faithful trucker cap means I can make her out at the last minute. I can tell she’s done a cracking time. I yell out loudly and she yells back at me to get going. Nothing like that encouragement to get me moving. So I do. The last 800m aren’t pretty, but I get them done and manage to shave almost 20 seconds off my previous course time. A PB is a PB, right?
I’m met at the finish line with the widest grin and open arms and although I’m bent in half catching my breath, the excited hug from Gabby is the best feeling. We’ve done it.
What follows after is a blur of hugs with family, chats with friends and fellow competitors, getting the low down on how it went.
We look for a changing area, but can only find a tiny toilet block and settle for sharing a cubicle to get changed. Space was so tight, it was like a Tetris puzzle trying to get our clothing on; but we managed to get our own arms in our own jumpers, and headed outside for birthday Janz bubbles on the lawn.
The event has taken our hearts for another year.
Our favourite 10km road race, executed masterfully by everyone involved from race directors to volunteers.
Bring on 2018!