After running Striders North Head the week before followed by a lazy 16km on Sunday, I really wanted to freshen right up for this.
Mon 7th Mar: My first day off for the year. Tom paid up last week so I was all clear to finally rest. The things you do (well me anyway) for a pineapple. ($50 for those not well versed in Aussie slang).
Tue 8th Mar: Hurts session but at 3/4 pace with my brother Pete. 6 x 3min efforts. Total just 8km
Wed 9th Mar: Easy 10km at 4:30 pace
Thur 10th Mar: 8km with Jeff and the Cavoodle.
Fri 11th Mar: 20mins slow around Echo Point Katoomba.
Sat 12th Mar: 6ft track day.
Greta and I left Jaden in the capable hands of our mate Errol who drove him and his own kids down to meet us at the finish. The start line was packed as usual but we perched on a spot to relax and take it all in. A quick interview with Al who had previously interviewed me for Nth Face and then it was time. We were off.
I hadn't managed to say hello to Quentin as yet and I watched him disappear infront down the stairs at Nellie's Glen. I took my time, chatted with those around me and just tried to relax but not trip over.
By Megalong valley, I had caught Quentin, Andy Lee and Mitch Dean. Rhett Gibson overtook us en route from there to Cox's river and he took Mitch with him.
The crossing was waist deep so pretty low this year but the hill thereafter had not eroded since last time and was just as steep and horrible as I remember. It's my own fault. Not enough hills, not enough stairs, nothing much in the bush and a focus on the road. So I had to suck it up and take it one step at a time. And surprisingly it worked for a while. I snuck ahead of Quentin and Andy, then caught Rhett and started closing in on Mitch. My KOM time was nowhere near the speed of eventual winner Tom DaCanto (52mins) but with 62mins it was respectable enough.
My worry was what was to come after Pluvi. Sean Creighton (former 10k Aust record holder) pipped me over the checkpoint at the top but my legs were in reasonably ok shape as I took off from him on Black Range. First scalp was Mitch who was walking and nursing his hammy, then poor old Jonno who was having a bad Black Range day. I felt really positive but alas every time a steeper hill came along, I crumbled. Nothing in the legs for them and as such I was overtaken by Rhett and the HuRTs own Mike Lichtwark who I have never officially met.
My aspirations of a sub 3:30 were now gone and now I was hanging onto the thought of the fallback - sub 3:40. Across Jenolan Caves Road and back into the bush, I felt pretty spent. Leg spasms occasionally, some nice runnable sections but then a couple of nasty ups that just stopped me in my tracks. But there was no one behind me that I could see so all good, 2-3km to go and hopefully a top 10.
Then the very last 2km arrived and it was painful. Rocky steep down hill on a very dodgy trail and sure enough out of nowhere, Marty Keys storm past. There was nothing I could do, he gapped me by almost a minute over the last km. If you don't have it, you just don't have it. Bit of karma actually as this is exactly how I grabbed 2nd place over Don Wallace back in 2005.
So I ran down the finish shute thinking it would be nice to grab Jaden off Errol and cross with him. Big mistake. I haven't yet seen the pics but they will be funny. Jaden kicking and crying basically summing up my own pain as I crossed in 3:44 but happily 10th so that goal was realised.
Some great performances this year. Tom silenced everyone and took it out in 3:20 with Brendan Davies and Vajin Armstrong 7-8mins behind him. The race favourite Stu Gibson suffered and finished not that far ahead of me. Quentin was not far behind in 3:49 so he also hung on after racing just the night before in a 2km beach sprint. Ouch!
Meanwhile the women's race was playing out 30-40mins back. I was flat on my back in the medical tent receiving attention when I received word that Greta was in 3rd place not far behind Erika. We had a 40min handicap bet on and as the time reached 4:20, I managed to get up and walk over to the finish. The first girl was already in (Ella Jamison) and I was waiting for Erika and Greta to round out a fantastic double on the podium but alas as per what had happened to me, Greta was rolled inside 1km to go by a girl with quads of steel and she could not match the speed. Greta ran her heart out as usual and made everyone proud. Nothing she could have done differently.
We did take out the husband and wife team award - named "Partners award" which sparked some interesting debate later in the evening over beers.
All in all, a fun and tiring weekend. The beer we were drinking was Badlands Pale Ale and it went own a treat. 9.5/10.
Sun 13th Mar: Absolutely no running at all. Can't walk.
Mon 14th Mar: Refer to Sun 13th Mar.