Race report – City2Surf 2017

For some reason I decided 2017 was the year to give the iconic City2Surf another crack, along with 80000 of my closest friends, after having had a fantastic run 2 years ago, ‘rewarded’ with probably the most disappointing medal I’ve ever received!
It was my first ‘proper’ road race since Boston (I’m not including the Barossa half as I was a pacer there), and there were many parallels.
Firstly, it involved travel. I flew to Sydney on the Thursday, having got myself a bargain fare, for the race on Sunday. Secondly, it involved a huge crowd (30000-odd at Boston, and 80000 in Sydney). Weirdly though, I don’t really like big crowds!
Like at Boston, I didn’t have any huge expectations. I had run the 14km in under 64 minutes last time, and knew I wasn’t going to get close to that. Still, I was hoping to get under 70 minutes (and thereby justify my red bib and my starting position just behind the elites) but wasn’t super fussed if I did or I didn’t. Also like Boston, with the huge crowd and the way the city really gets behind the event, I thought, why not give my ‘JANE’ top another run? Because it was easy, I decided to go with my whole Boston outfit! (A happy coincidence was the rainbow arm warmers, very timely given that the marriage equality question is so prominent at the moment! I had a few people ask me about them, and I had to be honest and say it was just a coincidence but it was a pretty cool one!)
I had only managed one ‘proper’ run since the 12 hour event 5 weeks ago. That was last weekend’s Victor Harbor parkrun, and on a flat and largely devoid-of-wind track, I managed to get a sub-24 minute 5k. It didn’t exactly make me think sub-70 for 14k C2S was a certainty, but at least it was a chance! (The lure of vegan cupcakes may have made me run faster on that particular occasion!)
I flew to Sydney on Thursday – I thought I might have given myself a bit TOO much time in Sydney but I managed to fill my time without too much trouble! I got to the airport WAY too early (after the foiled terrorist plot a few weeks ago resulted in heightened security measures).
After dropping my stuff off at my cousin’s place, where I would be staying for most of the weekend, I made the long trek to DFO for a bit of retail therapy. For some unknown reason shopping does not really interest me when I’m at home, but when travelling it’s often the first thing I want to do!
On the way back I made a stop at the Cruelty-Free Store at Glebe and found vegan foodie heaven!
On Friday there was more shopping, eating and coffee drinking, this time in Newtown, my old stomping ground from when I lived in Sydney 10 years ago, and neighbouring Erskineville. Erskineville is just as I remember it but Newtown has changed a lot! The op shops are still there though, I spent most of the day browsing through those, as well as second hand record/CD/book shops.
Lunch was a ‘fish’ burger from Bliss & Chips, an all-vegan ‘fish’ and chip shop. I don’t know what they make their ‘fish’ from but it was sooo good!
And for dessert I stumbled upon an all-vegan gelato shop, Gelato Blue. I was spoiled for choice! Rather than my usual 2-3 flavour options, I had the pick of the whole store! I opted for coconut and pistachio – an excellent choice!
On Saturday I did a little parkrun tourism with Sydney running friends Rob and Richard. We went to Willoughby parkrun, a very interesting course including a lap around the oval to start with! We took it really easy, given we were all running C2S the next day, but Richard couldn’t resist a little push at the finish, beating Rob and me by 1 second!
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With fellow Boston finisher Richard! Love the blue and yellow!
After parkrun and post-parkrun coffee in Crows Nest, I went to check out Paddington Market. It wasn’t really my scene, so I decided to make the journey to the Glebe Market instead – lots more stalls, second hand clothing and vegan food options (both within the market itself and on Glebe Point Road).
Lunch was a delicious ‘pulled pork’ burger from yet another all-vegan joint, Soul Burger. It’s perhaps a good thing none of these shops are in Adelaide!
I decided to stay at a hostel on Saturday night, the same one where Maree and I had stayed 2 years ago. An easy 5 minute walk to the start location. No messing around with buses and trains. Sounds perfect, right? I even booked a private room (shared bathroom though, but the room did have a TV – pretty swanky for a backpackers!)

I had a bunk bed, and even though I normally would prefer a bottom bunk, I went for the top, purely so I could see the TV! And I laid all my gear out on the bottom bunk – my own little private dressing room!

After I got settled in there, Sam came to meet me for dinner. We wandered down to Barangaroo, where I’d never been, and had a really nice Indian meal at Spiced by Billu’s (on the water) and shared a bottle of pinot noir. I wouldn’t normally opt for curry and half a bottle of wine on the eve of a race, but as I’d set reasonably low expectations, I figured it didn’t really matter! Dinner was followed by sorbet at the nearby gelato place (decision-making was not so difficult here!)

You know hostels are pretty basic. I was given a pillow case, a sheet and a blanket when I checked in. The sheet was so small it didn’t even cover the mattress. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to sleep on top of the sheet or under it. In the end I opted for the former. I know what hostels are like. I didn’t want any part of me touching that mattress which had undoubtedly seen some stuff over the years!

The pillow could be best described as feeling like a couple of bricks inside a pillow case. Not super comfy!

So I wrapped myself in the blanket like a burrito, but even so, I still got cold in the night. I couldn’t be arsed getting out of bed to get my hoodie off the bottom bunk, so I executed a daring manoeuvre – I leaned over the edge kind of like the way bats sleep hanging upside down, and somehow managed to grab the hoodie without falling head-first on the floor. Winning!

It wasn’t all bad though – I didn’t have any roommates so I was spared the usual hostel joys like snorers and amorous couples. I have had the ‘pleasure’ of both of these in the past and it was well worth the extra money to get a private room on this occasion!

I set my alarm for 5:45am but I was well and truly awake by 5:30 so I figured I might as well get going! I started the day the same way I started the day of the 12 hour event 5 weeks ago – with a little motivational music (‘Let’s Go’ by Def Leppard) only this time I went with headphones rather than the portable speaker. I presumed most of the clientele of the hostel would have only just made it to bed and probably would not have appreciated the unwelcome awakening! I needn’t have worried though – it seemed that everyone on my floor was also running C2S!
It was a warmish day so I decided sunscreen was needed – I had had to go and buy some, as I hadn’t factored it in to my packing plans (what with Adelaide’s Arctic conditions before I left!) I had a disposable hoodie which I did end up wearing but probably could have done without, and a disposable poncho that I had found during a decluttering spree a few weeks earlier, which most definitely would NOT be required.
Rob arrived at the hostel just before 6:30 so we could make the long 5 minute trek to the bag drop and then the start line. Our start time was 7:50am but the bag drop closed at 7am so we needed to be there before then. On the way we passed a Marriage Equality booth and were asked if we’d like to come and chat with Ian Thorpe – we said “no thanks, we have a race to get to!” In hindsight I probably should have stopped – I’m sure they would all have appreciated my rainbow arm warmers!
In the queue for the bag drop I saw 2 familiar faces from Adelaide, Rob and Des, within a minute! How Adelaide is that, you go to the biggest fun run in Australia (and I think maybe even the world) and don’t even get to the bag drop before you see 2 people you know!
We then made our way to the Red Bib start area via the portaloos, where I wondered if I’d made the right choice trying to run ‘properly’ rather than dressing up and just having a bit of fun! There was a woman dressed in a superhero costume right up front, who got interviewed! There was also a guy in a white suit, Afro wig and sunglasses – I called him Disco Stu, I presume that was the look he was going for! Most of the Red Bib runners that I saw were ‘serious’ runners though. I got to meet a whole lot of the guys and girls from Rob’s running club in Sydney, the Turramurra Trotters.
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Psyched at the start line!
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Just a small section of the Red Bib crew!

After the traditional national anthem we were away! Unlike last time, I managed to keep my feet at the starting mat – so far so good!

C2S is known for the notorious Heartbreak Hill, all 1.6km of it, but the rest of it is not exactly flat, nor is it all downhill. In fact the start seemed to be a little uphill! I had decided not to look at my watch where possible, and I had set a slow alert of 6 minutes per km, only so I would be alerted if my GPS stopped for some reason. (I was pretty sure I would also be going slower than 6 minutes per km up HBH but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was that the run was recorded in its entirety so I could put it on Strava – because we all know, if it’s not on Strava…)
Other than a guy pushing past me on my left (when I was running as close to the left of the road as I thought was possible), the crowd was not a negative factor for me at all – a few people accidentally bumped me but apologised which was nice!
The 14km route was lined with crowds of people and live entertainment. I didn’t find out until a few days later that among the army and police bands entertaining the runners and spectators, was legendary Aussie rock band You Am I!
So I wasn’t looking at my watch during the run, but on looking at the Strava data later, I was sitting on 29:17 at the 6km mark, just before the start of HBH. I’m not sure what I would have made of that had I known it at the time – I knew HBH would slow me right down, but who knew if the downhill bits that followed, would make up for any time lost on HBH?
The Strava segment for HBH is 1.3km with 85m elevation. In the official results it’s 1.6km. I did that 1.6km in 9:13. Out of the 3 segments (start to HBH, HBH itself and HBH to finish), I was ranked lowest in the HBH section. Not really surprising since I’ve sworn off hills for most of the year!
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Just a little speed bump!

According to Strava, the rest of the run from HBH to the finish was downhill or flat. There were definitely some little uphills in there though – I kept wondering when this big downhill was going to come!

The 12th and 13th kilometres were definitely downhill and were a lot of fun to fly down! I still had no idea what time I was sitting on, but I thought I might as well give it a crack! (There was a time clock at the 10km mark but I managed to avoid looking at it!) If Strava is accurate my time there would have been 50:38. That was just off 5 minute/km pace but if I’d known there was some nice downhills coming, I probably would have thought I was a chance of getting that sub-70!)
I did make up a bit of ground in the overall rankings in that last section. I’d dropped significantly in the rankings on HBH but I finished in a higher position than I had been in BEFORE HBH. My strength traditionally has been in my finishing – I tend to start conservatively and reel people in towards the end. It’s a great feeling!
When we had about 1.3km to go I accidentally saw a clock and somehow managed to do some quick mental maths to work out that sub-70 was definitely on the cards!
The last kilometre or so was a bit different to the last time I ran C2S. We ran seemingly MILES up Campbell Parade, past the beach, before making a tight U-turn and heading back to the finish. I had really picked up the pace by now – when we first approached the beach and I could see (on one of the rare looks at my watch) that we still had nearly 1k to go, I had managed to resist putting on a final burst, but with only a few hundred metres to go, I decided to leave nothing out there!
As I approached the finish line I saw the clock and it was just on 69 minutes, and I KNEW I had it! I was so pumped, there was much screaming and cheering and fist pumping! It was probably the most excited I’d been to see a finish line time clock, since I realised I had broken the 60 minute mark in my first City-Bay Fun Run back in 2013 (and on that occasion, I did not even have a watch, so I was pacing entirely by feel!)
I was pleased when I was handed my medal and it was VASTLY superior to the Westpac ad that I was given 2 years ago!
The gear collection was a bit of a shambles – it was kind of like bingo where you held up your bib and waited for your number to be called! Still, the weather was lovely so it wasn’t all bad, to be able to stand out and enjoy the sunshine!
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Can’t wipe the smile off my face!
From there, Rob and I went to meet the rest of his running buddies, I took a few pics with a few of the costumed runners (including the previously mentioned Disco Stu!) before we all went for a well earned beverage at Icebergs!
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Disco Stu!
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Last time I got a pic with Superman, this time it was Batman!
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Of course the guy in the onesie beat me!
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Perfect way to rehydrate after an awesome run!
Rob and I timed our exit perfectly, managing to get onto the bus that was already waiting near Icebergs, and then taking a train from Bondi Junction back to the city.
It was another brilliant day – I think my lack of expectation made for a much more enjoyable experience than it otherwise might have been! The weather was perfect, the crowd was awesome, and I managed to achieve my goal which I was not at all expecting!
The main reason why I came back to run it again was to get a decent medal. I did not think I would do another one after this, hence the reason why I wasn’t too fussed whether or not I managed to retain my sub-70 Red Bib status. Now, I am sure I will be back again before too long! If for no other reason, than to spend another weekend in the beautiful Harbour City!
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This view NEVER gets old!
Thanks SO much to my awesome cousin Hope for the amazing Sydney hospitality, and to Rob (and Richard and the rest of the Trotters) and Sam for the catch ups over the weekend!
We MUST do this again soon!