Zero. At 7 o’clock am when we left for Race One of the Salomon Trail Series at Studley Park in Kew, the temperature gauge said zero. On the way in we got excited when we saw it reach two degrees! That was about as warm as it got.
Fast forward to 8:55 and I almost miscalculated the starting time. The long course runners had left and the short course competitors were cramming into the starting line. Everyone was finishing the warm up and I was still putting my shoes back on after stripping off the beanie, vest, jumper and trackie pants.
The crowd was huge and the vibe was great, and after a quick pose with my in-laws, and damn good runners Bec and Steve the 3-2-1 countdown was over and we were off.
|Almost the podium order?|
The first 400m – 800m was along the road, and gradually rose along what was probably the longest and most deceiving incline of the race. The pace was hot, a little quicker than last year’s start and I had to push harder than I wanted just to keep the top 10 – 15 in sight. About 800m in the field settled and we deviated slightly on to the gravel walking path and raced our way to the first turn-off point. I was sitting happily in about 12th or 13th and breathing hard to keep my pace. A glance at the Suunto told me I was pushing 170 BPM and roughly 3:40 pace. This was a little harder than I wanted, and I eased slightly as we raced along the fence line before following the trail down a little hill and alongside the river.
Remembering where we were as we entered the 2nd km, I stole a quick glance at the Yarra River – it was a still as I’d ever seen it and continued along the trail. As the trail twisted through the towering river gums I finally settled into my rhythm and took control of my breathing and running. This section was picture perfect.
In the distance I could see Mr in Blue and Mr in White perhaps 200- 300m ahead. At roughly 2.5km in I decided now was the time to dig a little deeper and make a little surge. I was averaging 3:55 pace now and I slowly began to close the gap.
As we left the river for a moment and ran back up the path towards the road I managed to reel in Mr in Blue. 3kms in and the slight rise in elevation seemed to catch people out, and this is where my strength has been in the past. Just before we hit the ‘u’ turn to head along some free-flowing single track back along the river I passed Mr in White.
I enjoyed this section of the trail but a glance at the clock showed I had slowed to just on 4:00 pace, slower than anticipated but considering it was possibly just three degrees I was very happy with my positioning. My HR was hitting 172 -175 BPM, the upper limit of where I wanted to be. We ran along more flowing single/double trail by the river, among the trees and by the rowers and kyakers. This race had it all now. Ahead was another Mr in Dark Blue and just ahead of him was another Mr in White. Could I reel them in?
The trail narrowed and as we commenced the 4th km I was averaging 4:00 pace. We ran past the Studley Park boathouse (opposite side of the river) and by the bluestone wall before turning right over the swing bridge. We had all felt like drunks crossing this on the way to the registration tent, but with fewer people on it now it was straight over. At the far end of the bridge was Mrs Fish and the kids, and their smiles and cheers were what I needed. I was closing the gap on Mr in Dark Blue and we turned for the last 1200m. This was the true trail section of the race – through the trees and scrub on a narrow walking track. My playground! Within a few hundred metres I had caught and passed Mr Dark Blue and it was time to dig deep.
We raced through the trees, and I could see some of the lead runners picking their way along the river, back to the finish. As we hit the turning point I made a split second decision to slow and take the stairs, rather than hitting the slope and riding the angle and taking out the corner.
On the final stretch it was all bets off and time to let the running beast come out to play, the running machine had controlled the HR, focussed on form and guided me through the first 4kms. Now it was upto the beast to run free and get me through to the finish.
The track rose and fell, there was twists and turns and a couple of little jumps to navigate as I slowly reeled in Mr in White. About 400m from the finish was a lovely little sign – photographer ahead. This time there was no sky larking around and mid-air heel kicks – I had to finish!
200m to go I could hear the crowd and had Mr in White in my sights. Digging deep the HR flew into the 180s and my pace dropped to sub 3:20 as I gave it all.
With 100m to go I hit the Suunto Sprint timing mat and reached for home. Mr in White was just ahead and with each step I was drawing him in.
50m, left he was 10 paces ahead, 20m to go it was 5m. Mr in White crossed the line just in front, did he know I was there? The clock would show 1 second between him in 8th and 3rd divisionally and me 9th, and 4th in the Mens 20-39 division.
Could it have finished any other way? Just maybe had I taken a risk at the 600m to go turning point and shaved off those stairs.
Was I happy? Yes I was. I took 12 seconds off last years time and finished in the top 10. I had ran the race I wanted - I knew my limits and worked with them on the day. Being full of cold the week before certainly doesn't help. Oh, and I'm incredibly proud of Bec and Steve, who smashed the woman's field and finished 2nd in their divisions respectively.
In a month we get to do it all again at Lower Plenty. You better get your single trail and hill training in, this next ones a lot harder…. All the more fun!