Scheduled in as a good hit out before tacking the Gold Coast half every year the South West Rock Running Festival attracts a crowd from up and down the coast with many people making their way from Coffs Harbour but also from Port Macquarie and this year Newcastle.
My Facebook feed reminded me a few days before the race that I had completed by first half marathon here in 2013, five years ago, in just under 2 hours – how time fly’s!
The race is held every June long weekend and this year we were experiencing lots of rain, which leading into the event looked to have no intentions of letting up. My training had been ticking along ok and though I felt much fresher than I had in previous years heading to this race I didn’t quite feel as fit and strong as I have before.
Its interesting to note the difference for me competing in this race as opposed to the Gold Coast. I actually feel a lot less pressure racing here for one key factor – I’m racing other people not the clock! Though I aim to push myself I find it much easier being able to judge what I have to do to try and place in the race as opposed to the Gold Coast where my focus will be on trying to finish in 84 minutes – pressure on!
Heading down the morning of the race the rain was torrential, Mark nearly had to pull over while we were driving it was so bad. We both keep exchanging looks, maybe hoping someone would say – this is nuts, lets go home – but neither of us did.
Arriving at the race half an hour before start time I was freaking out I didn’t have enough time to get ready when I heard the announcer say that the course had been changed as the traffic control equipment had been stolen – seriously who does that!
This would mean that the distance would be shortened and the race would become two out and back loops for the half marathon – oh no, up heartbreak hill twice!
Thankfully as we were running so late I didn’t really have time to think about it as I scrambled to get ready, tried to squeeze in a quick warm up and realised I wouldn’t have time to go to the loo again before the race.
The start shoot was a mud pit! I pushed my way up the front with Ed, Lockie, MG and a bunch of mighty fit looking runners from Newcastle.
As the gun sounded the Newcastle group and MG took off at a cracking pace, I stayed with the second group until we got to the top of the hill and then pushed it on the way down. I could hear the girl next to me breathing hard and I knew I could stay in front of her.
There was one other female runner who had taken off with the Newcastle group and who I decided to try and stay an equal distance behind for as long as I could. On the first lap of the race it was absolutely pissing down, water was gushing across the path, my shoes were soaking!
The course change also meant that all the runners would be running on the foot path at the same time, the full marathon, half, 10km and 5km! Heading back on the first lap the congestion wasn’t to bad until we hit the 10km runners and then there was a fair amount of jostling around letting other runners past – or trying to pass other runners. At this point MG yelled out that I was 20 seconds behind the lead girl.
Heading up heartbreak hill I was still feeling good, one lap done, one to go. We reached the finish line then turned around to head up the hill and back out again. I knew I wasn’t to far behind first and I was far enough in front of third that I could be happy with at least second place.
Then complications struck! Heading down the hill my abbs started to cramp up. I have this problem sometimes when I run and if it gets a hold on me I cant run at all. I had to make a decision, push though, try and chase first and possibly cramp up or back it off a bit, self preservation and try to keep up enough pace to hold off third.
I decided to have some of my gel and see how I felt, it helped but after mulling over the possibilities I decided to back off the pace a bit, better to finish than to have to walk! I felt I could more confidently hold of third than chase down first – she was flying!
I grabbed a drink at the aid station and made a mental note to drink more and take the hydrolyte when racing on the Gold Coast in a few weeks time!
The rain eased off and the rest off the race was quite pleasant, it was great to see Tim, Mel, Jo, and the rest of the Coffs Crew on the course – Mel with a magnificent smile the whole way!
Ed and Lachie had taken off and both had fantastic races.
As I headed up heartbreak hill for the last time someone yelled out to me – don’t let her catch you – shit I thought, third place must have put her foot down and she is right behind me. I motored up the hill and pushed hard to the finish line determined to claim second place.
Crossing the line and hobbling out of the finish shoot aided by Lachie I realised that in fact she was not chasing me down!
We all had a great time despite the short course (1.3km) and the terrible conditions – just look at those smiles! My final time was 84:05 with an average pace of 4.14/km, will have to push mighty hard on the Goldy to get 84 minutes!