It’s October, meaning it’s that time of year again in New Zealand – time to make the annual trip across the Harbour Bridge and travel from Takapuna to Auckland City!
The day started out with a 5.45am alarm, then the now-routine coffee before leaving for the race. I’d packed the night before, and with this being a running race, it seems like I have to pack a lot less gear than I normally have to when I’m racing tri’s! I ended up at the race venue super-early, but it meant that I had time to sort out where I needed to be, which bus to take to the start line, and what the course looked like.
The bus trip over the bridge & to the start line meant I could take in the sights; the view along the bridge was pretty damn good! I also got to see Cam Greaves leading the elite men out in the half marathon race. Going up one side of the birdge was great, I was thinking that I was getting to go down this in the race,
this’ll be easy as, no worries, but I’d forgotten about the ‘going up’ part – which didn’t seem so bad at the time. I’d rue that thought later in the race!
It was nice to be able to chat with some of the other competitors before the race, and there was a relaxed atmosphere about the whole pre-event. I got to go through my standard warm up, some strides, a bit of stretching, then it was time to go. I was pretty relaxed, on time, and ready to go – or so I thought. All racers started to make their way over to the start line with 10 minutes to go. “Great”, I thought, “plenty of time for me to get to a good start point before the race starts.” Guess who was wrong!
I heard the announcer say “We’ll be starting the first wave a bit early, 5 minutes to go” , which led to me rushing through the crowds and saying a lot of “excuse me, pardon me, thank you” as I made my way to the front with less than a minute to spare until the gun went off. But I made it so all in all I can’t complain.
The gun went off and the front row, including myself, leaped into action. The front runner went off in a blindingly fast pace, and left everyone in his wake. I looked at my watch at the 500m mark, and saw the bunch I was sitting in was still coming in hot at under 3min per km pace, with out leader settling in to the gap he’d created. A short downhill came up, and I thought it was a good idea to keep the pace going while it was easy. I bridged up to the leader, passed him, and moved into first.
Keeping in mind this was about the first time I’d ever been first in a run race in my life, I was feeling pretty happy about this but also a tad apprehensive about it. The first 1km ticked over at about 3.22, nothing to fast but nothing to crow about. The next ended up about 3.30ish, holding my gap on the field and taking me into the first aid station first. I held the lead until about 4km, when the start of the rise going up the bridge began. The group behind surged, caught me, and moved up around me, with one man going clear and the rest attempting to follow. I tucked myself into that group and hung on, wishing the bridge was shorter…
Another runner went off the front of the group as well, with his goal being pretty obvious – he wanted to bridge up to the other runner further up the bridge. Slowly but surely he was making headway, and at the top he’d put a gap into the rest of us in the chase group and had nearly caught first place. The downhill came next, and I thought it was worth spending a match to catch up while the going was easy. Catching second resulted in getting a gap on the rest of the runners as well, and it’s always good to have a buffer. A significantly shorter uphill came next, and I pushed to stick with my lead-out man. We hadn’t quite caught first, but we’d more than halved the gap.
With the rest of the race having a net downhill elevation and a lot of it being flat, it was going to be hard to catch our front runner. Luckily a the last big downhill appeared, and both myself and my running mate pushed on to catch first. At this point, we had just passed the 8km mark and were getting ready for the second to last aid station. Unfortunately, just after that aid station there was a lapse in concentration on my part, and then there was a gap. It was a small gap, but it was enough to have the metaphorical rubber band snap and suddenly I couldn’t catch up.
With 2km to go, I was in 3rd place and on my own but determined to not let the lads behind catch. It’s not a lot of fun to race that way, it’s mentally taxing, however it’s great practise to get to do it ahead of my 70.3 in December. I finished as strongly as I could and ended up finishing off in 3rd place. I have to admit, I was pretty happy with the result! Looking back at some of the race footage, I finished with some of the best form I’ve held when fatigued as well. It’s good to see the training is paying off, which includes a 10km PB of 36.40 from today.
I’ve also got to thank the volunteers, race organisers, and other competitors – it was a fantastic atmosphere out there today! I’m looking forward to the last big block of training before pushing on to begin the tri season this year!