Finally! I hadn’t run a half marathon all year and I was starting to feel really weird about it. I like to run two a year, but this was my first one of 2017, which feels weird given that it’s in September. I usually like to space my half marathons out a bit more so I spend more time training overall.
But anyway, I was equal parts excited and nervous about this race. Excited because I was going to be running in beautiful Sydney, Australia. We were going to run across the Harbour Bridge and see absolutely beautiful vistas of the city. But I was also nervous because this was my earliest race starting time to date. The race STARTED at 6 am – which meant I had to get up at 4 am (the grossest hour of the day) to eat breakfast so that I could properly digest everything before the race. And the other reason I was nervous was that once we got to Sydney, we discovered just how very much NOT FLAT the downtown area is. There are some seriously vicious uphills in Sydney and I was more than a bit horrified.
If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (snap is “muyourmind”), you’ll notice I tend to talk a lot more about fitness on there. But for those of you who don’t follow me: I was plagued with about a month of sickness after we moved into our new condo in August. Between unpacking, painting, and whatnot, my husband and I constantly had some kind of cold we kept passing back and forth to each other. It was so bad that I couldn’t work out for 4-5 weeks, which meant I was incredibly nervous about my physical capacity to finish this race. Once I finally got over the various sicknesses, I had only two weeks left to exercise before we left for the first leg of our trip which was in Bali. I knew I’d have zero chances of running the week we were in Bali (which is where we went before Australia) because even the nighttime temperature hovers around 27 degrees and my body and lungs just can’t handle that for running.
Thankfully, before I got sick I had been following my half marathon training plan to a T which saved me a lot of pain later on. Had I slacked on it, I would’ve been completely set up for failure. So I was able to utilize the two weeks before vacation really, really well. It meant doubling up on long runs during the week, but by the end of the two weeks I felt moderately comfortable that this was a race I may not do amazing in, but that I would at least be able to complete with my dignity intact. With this in mind, I was hoping to complete the race in about two hours and ten minutes.
Fast forward to race day. I got up at 4 am and ate my breakfast, and, miraculously, I didn’t feel vomitous. There’s something about getting up that early that usually makes me feel like I want to heave, but I didn’t have any of that this time. I ate my breakfast (granola and yogurt (or oatmeal) before a race – always), then went back to bed and sort of just rested for the next hour or so before I had to get up and out the door. The lovely city of Sydney has an absolutely subway system that was up and running by time I caught a train at 5:15 am from King’s Cross over to the race start zone at Milson’s Point. I went by myself since it really wasn’t necessary to get David out of bed just escort me to the start line. The only thing that was a bit poopy about that was that I had to wear nothing but what I was racing in to the starting zone. And given that this was a 6 am start time and Sydney was finishing up their winter season, it was very brisk 6 degrees when I left our AirBNB in Darlinghurst!
I got to the start zone about five minutes before the race started, which was PERFECT. We started off the race without kerfuffle (honestly, it was a pretty subdued start – I think because it was so freaking early.). The first part of the course forces us to run up an incline, loop around and then we get on the Harbour Bridge. I’m not generally one to take pictures during a race because it’s detrimental to keeping your race pace, but since I figured I wasn’t going to be busting out any kind of personal best this race, I wanted to document some of the neat things I saw on this race. And that shot of us running over the bridge was one of those moments. It was like “ohhh wowwwwww!” (Pictured above.)
Another one of those moments was this sadly blurry shot. We were running down an offramp (maybe an onramp?) that I think accessed Harbour Bridge. It was so freaking cool for all of us to be tunneling down this ramp together. I loved seing the rock walls on either side of us.
And of course how could I not take this photo? The sun had fully risen at this point and there’s the Sydney Opera House in the background. The green balloon ahead of me is the 2:10 pace bunny. Which is funny, because I had thought that I was ahead of her by this point!
The race course itself was one of the most interesting ones I’ve done to date. The course meandered through a lot of downtown Sydney and while there were a lot of switchbacks, it never felt awkward. That being said… there were a lot of inclines. The course avoided a lot of the bad ones I’d become aware of in the core, but they were still there and they were an energy sucker. That being said, I was putting out an insane pace for this race to start off with. For the first 10 kilometers or so I was pushing a pace of 5:50 per kilometer and I honestly thought “holy crap, I will actually nail a pb!”. I felt amazing – my body was happy to be running, I didn’t feel sick from being up so early and the temperature was cool which meant I could breathe easily.
Sidenote: this race had the best manned water stations I’ve ever seen. Each station had loads of volunteers (amazing, given the hour of day) and plenty to drink. I was able to guzzle water and non-branded “electrolyte drink” at every station. Some of them had jelly bean gels, and, even better for me, a few of them had GU gel packs. I had forgotten to pick up any gels for this race, so when I saw the gel packs around kilometer 12 I was elated. Even more amazing? They were actually chilled! If you’ve gone and downed a gel pack mid-race you know that they generally tend to be warm and gross by the time you eat them. (Usually because you’re carrying them on your body and they’ve warmed up, or they’ve been sitting in the sun for a while.) Not these gels! They were blissfully cooled which made choking them down so much easier (because, let’s get real – those gels aren’t exactly the most fun things to shove down your throat while you’re running).
Despite my excitement over myself race, around the 16th kilometer my left knee started to suffer. And it was weird because it came out of absolutely nowhere. In my training runs I hadn’t had any joint issues (but I also hadn’t been running this fast either nor doing these uphills) so I was really taken aback when it got so bad that just bending at the knee was problematic. I forced myself to start doing kickbacks with my legs in order to loosen up the knee joint, and it worked long enough for me to cross the finish line at a gallop (but dang if it wasn’t painful), but at this point my pace had slowed down so much that it made my previous quick pace irrelevant.
In the end, I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 2:09:21. Which is under the 2:10 I wanted! A personal best for me would’ve been under 2:07 or so, but given all of the circumstances that lead up to this race and how I felt towards the end of the race, I am EXTREMELY happy with this result!
- Finish Time: 2:09:21
- Pace: 6:07 per kilometer
- Overall placement: 4845/7219
- Age group placement (Female 30-34 years): 33/539
- Gender placement (F): 1888/3434