Let me tell you a little about my preparation first. For the past few months I've been running a 4K or 2.5 mile loop once or twice a day. Sometimes I only walk it depending on how I'm feeling. The loop starts out fairly level and continues that way for a couple miles. Then I turn onto Box Road which is a long uphill climb. Box Road slowly elevates and the last five minutes are pretty hellish. That's when my legs are on fire and I know I'm oh so close to being done because once I get to the top of the hill, it's only a five minute jog back to my house. Over the course of the last six to eight weeks, I added another neighborhood loop to my run and even started running part of a second loop as race day approached.
I never did run 11K before the day of the race. I think the longest I ever ran was 8K, so again, I really had no idea if I'd run out of steam or what. The week before the race I was researching how to run a road race. I learned about race etiquette, when to drink water, how much to drink, what to wear, what to eat the night before, etc.
So last night I loaded up on carbohydrates, the way I was told to. As part of my diet, I rarely eat any carbs at night, so this was a lot of fun. I had a big bowl of rice and a chunky beef stew from a can. I drank a lot of water and had some fruits and veggies also. For breakfast, I had my normal two bowls of cereal, two apples, and two kiwi fruit. But I didn't have coffee today. I talked to one of my running friends who said it didn't matter if I had coffee or not, but I was worried about having to use the restroom during the race.
On Saturday, the weather was gorgeous. I would say it was low 60's and sunny. Sunday, unfortunately was pretty cloudy and cold! Well, it was probably 55 degrees, but kind of windy. I had read that I should dress as if it was 15 degrees warmer. So my get up consisted of running shoes and shorts, my Under Armour shirt and a t-shirt. I felt under dressed as I walked to the race.
Yeah, I had to walk to the race. It was perfect as it served as a great warm up, but I was worried that walking 2.3 miles to the race, then running another 6.8 would be too much. Oh well. I had to get there somehow and my roommates were still in bed so I wasn't getting a lift. The walk there, as I mentioned, was cold and windy. I tried to jog a little, then walk a little to speed it up, but didn't want to burn all those carbs I'd saved. Everything went smooth as I arrived to the starting line a good half hour before the starting gun.
Waiting around for the race to start, I was asking random people about their experience in years past. They said it was fun. One fit woman I talked to said she finished last year in 53 minutes and that the men's winner usually wins around 38 minutes, women's 43. This was exciting news because if a tiny woman can do it in 53 minutes, then maybe I will finish in under an hour.
At the starting line it was packed! The participants who registered as walkers started the race at 8:30am, but my group, the runners started at 9am. The two groups combined, totaled over 7,000, so you can imagine the scene. It was wall to wall people. With the windy weather, the crowds were good for body heat.
The event organizers didn't waste any time when 9am rolled around. Eye of the Tiger was playing on the loud speaker and I heard the starting gun go off. Because I had read not to start near the front so that "serious" runners could be out front, it took me probably 40 seconds to a minute to get to the actual starting line. But it didn't matter because each runner had a timing chip tied to their shoe lace, so my time wasn't recorded until I crossed over the blue mats.
The first couple of K's were spent carefully dodging hundreds of runners. I'd never been in a race before and wondered how it would be passing people. It takes some concentration, but if you're patient, holes do open up. I was all smiles in the first 10-15 minutes. There was so much to see and to listen to. The sounds of hundreds of feet hitting the pavement, the various jogging outfits people chose to wear, spectators on the side of the road were all things to take in.
I was happy to find that the race organizers put up signs at each K marker. I didn't see the first one until 4K. In my head I was thinking "Hey that's one of my old loops! Already a third of the way done." It surprised me, however, how long it took to get to the 7K marker. At 7K I thought "Hmmm, this is where I'd usually stop, wonder if I'll run out of gas."
There weren't many hills on the course, probably two or three. I was really looking forward to the hills because I wanted to see how they compared to Box Road. To put it simply, I whipped those hills butts. They were simple compared to the incline of Box Road. Most people slowed down on the hills, but that's where I stepped it up a gear. It felt great to pass people. I'm sure I was passed many a time during the course of my run, but it seemed that I passed a lot more people than those that passed me.
The final town, or suburb as they say here, I ran through in Sutherland to Surf was Cronulla, the beach town where I used to work. It was great to finally see the Cronulla sign because I knew that I was close to the finish line. It didn't matter that it was an overcast day, seeing the ocean, running down the middle of the street was a great view to take in. A lot more spectators had gathered on the streets of Cronulla than in Sutherland, Gymea, Miranda, Caringbah and Woolooware.
As I turned the corner for what I thought was the home stretch, I saw the 10K marker. Next I thought "1K is nothing. That's just .62 miles. I then picked it up another gear. One funny thing happened right after I passed the sign. I nearly ran into the tail of a pickup truck trying to run in between a walker. She looked a little ticked and said, "Runners to the right." and I gave her a genuine smile and replied, "Sorry I'm an American, I always have things backwards." And that seemed to ease the tension. She laughed and I ran on.
The last 1K was fun! I ran as fast as I could, passing many runners along the way. The final 300 or 400 meters involved one last good hill and then a steeper down slope to the finish line. That down hill helped me pass a few more.
As I crossed the finish line, I heard the "beep beeps" from the computer reading the chips on all the runners' laces. I didn't know what my time was, but I heard the race announcer say "The race is now at 53 minutes!" I was thrilled because that meant my time was probably around 52 minutes. I won't know the results until Monday evening when they are posted online officially.
After the race, I was looking for one or two people that I knew might be there. But again, with 7,000 participants and probably another 2,000 or more volunteers and spectators, there was no way I was finding them. I grabbed some free water and a free sweat band from the major sponsor Fitness First and headed to the buses to take me back to the start.
The buses that took the runners back to the start (where most of them had warm cars waiting!) cost $3. Luckily right before I left the house this morning, I decided to put a $5 bill in my shoe. Great idea because now I could afford to get back to Sutherland. The bummer part of this was that the beginning of the race, if you remember, was 2.3 miles from my house in Gymea. So now, all sweaty, soaked, I had to run another 2.3 miles home. And it felt even colder now. All I had in my hand was my $2 coin.
Also, I knew I was out of milk at home and just wanted to have a huge bowl of cereal when I returned. So I ran into a convenient store and asked the clerk how much for this small carton of milk. $2.10 he said. I told him I only had $2. He let the ten cents slide. Yessa!
I sprinted home with the milk and feasted on a bowl of cereal, a chunky chicken soup, some fruit and a protein shake. Unfortunately my roommate wasn't home to take a picture, so I had to wait in my sweaty clothes for about a half hour so I could document and prove to all of you that I was actually in a road race today.
After taking the picture I had myself the best tasting cup of coffee I've had in awhile and then jumped into the scalding hot shower. By this time it was only 11:30am and I had nothing else to do all day. (I hope you all appreciate me wearing the white shoes and black socks. Bold move, I know, but I think it looks good.)
I'm not sure that a simple 11K run warrants a 22 paragraph blog, but it is one of the bigger challenges I've taken on in awhile and I'm kind of proud of myself for doing it. I've been talking to my brother about the 7.7 kilometer Cranberry run in Keene, NH on Thanksgiving weekend coming up in a few months. I can't wait to give it a go. Who else is with me?