Well, we made it! I didn’t quite meet my goal of 100 minutes – we finished in about 105 – but that’s still an improvement of about 15 minutes on last year’s time. And what’s more, I felt really great during this year’s run. As I said to my Mom in an email afterwards: “The legs are sore from the hills, but other than that, I’m all good. I guess that’s what my training has gotten me so far. Yes, I’m a little bit faster, but more importantly I didn’t hurt myself and I’ll be able to run again in a day or two.” (That hit home even more this morning when I learned that a 26-year-old guy collapsed at the finish line and died about ten minutes before we came through.)
Anyway, back to the beginning. We got to the city early to meet up with the Snook’s co-workers and drop off our stuff. (They were having a BBQ at Bondi afterwards so we were able to send over a change of clothes.) We joined the crowd in the HSBC Start group (blue bibs) and waited for the gun. The weather was PERFECT, cool and slightly overcast with a breeze. I hoped that the sun would stay away for a while longer. The preferred runners took off at 9am, and about ten minutes later our group took off. It took us another ten minutes to make it to the starting line. Fortunately this year we’d all been given timing chips, so you didn’t have to worry about losing time by starting in the back. The run down Williams Street was great as usual. It’s an amazing feeling to be carried along in a great wave of thousands of runners. Of course, there was also the usual irritation of having to zig-zag around groups of walkers, baby strollers, and idiots in costumes, all of whom should’ve been in the “Back of the Pack” starting group. In fact, as we passed one guy in a full chicken suit, I growled loudly: “CHICKENS SHOULD BE BACK OF THE PACK.” So, yeah, Grumpy Old Lady Kristy was in attendance.We ran the first few kilometers before taking a quick one-minute walk break to catch our breath. After that, we timed our walk breaks with the water stations. The 80’s hair band was rocking out on the roof of the pub before Heartbreak Hill, same as the last two years. Then we climbed. We ran the first half of the Hill (about 1km) before joining the rest of the crowd in a walk. It was just hard. I was nursing stitches in both sides. Snookums was hurting in his calves and feet. At the one hour mark, I had an energy gel and it really picked me up. The last few kilometers downhill into Bondi were great. We knew we probably weren’t going to make our goal, but we tried to maintain our pace and finish strong. (Interestingly, according to my Nike+ we did finish the 14km in 100 minutes… but the actual finish line was at 14.5km. So either Nike+ was incorrect, the course distance was incorrect, or we ran an extra half-kilometer dodging around people.) As we came up to the finish, I noticed how much better I felt than in previous years. I didn’t feel like bursting into tears, and though I was tired, I didn’t feel like I was about to physically fall apart. We collected our medals and walked down to the beach. We took off our shoes and socks and waded into the surf. The sun had come out and the sky was just the most amazing shade of blue. The water was cold and each wave came up to our calves, soothing our aching muscles. As we walked down Bondi Beach towards our friends at the barbecue, the Snook gestured to the horizon and said, “When they ask you to move to L.A., this is why you tell them you won’t go.” I really couldn’t agree more.
We stayed with the Snook’s co-workers for a while, snacking on fruit and cheese. I joined a neverending queue for the ladies’ bathroom so I could change out of my stinky clothes. By the time I emerged, the sky had darkened. “What’s happening?” I asked. “It’s the cold change coming through,” Snookums said. We said our goodbyes and headed off just as the rain began to fall. There were still thousands of people making their way down the hill to the finish line. We were trying to get to Bondi Junction (where my company was having an after-race function) but the queues for the buses were just ridiculous. We ended up walking the whole way. It was hard on the legs but it was probably good for us to keep moving. We got rained on but eventually it stopped and the sun returned. We made it to the bar and joined my friends for food and beer. A few hours later, we caught a bus back to the city and made our way home. I had a hot shower and collapsed into bed at about 6:30pm. It was a good day.
A few thank yous and shout-outs: First of all to Allan from Running With the Pack, who gave me the great advice to stay on “LA time” as long as I could. I think that definitely helped minimise the effects of jet lag on my performance. Also thank you to my Mom and step-dad Joe, who ran with me in Indiana last weekend. And lastly, big thanks to the Snook for being there every step of the way. He hadn’t done much training so he’s definitely hurting today. Without his encouragement though, I would’ve been tempted to rely on excuses and not push as hard. I love that we’ve done this race together three times now, and I hope we can do it many more times in the future. (Next year in under 100 minutes!)