City-Bay, for the uninitiated, is, quite simply, an Adelaide institution. It’s been going for over 40 years and has at times boasted a field of over 40,000 runners and walkers. It is an event that pretty much stops a city, and is the goal race for so many new runners/walkers (including yours truly in 2013) – a nice flat/downhill 12k from the centre of Adelaide CBD to the iconic seaside suburb of Glenelg.
This was my 4th consecutive City-Bay. My first one was in 2013 and despite the timing issues, got me the desired sub-60 time of 57:32. Thanks to the sadly missed Brian Wyld I got the coveted sub-60 bib and that was a big contributing factor to my getting under the hour (and, importantly, making it to my 10am soccer game in time). In 2014 I also had a game to get to, and gave myself a bit more time to get there by beating my 2013 time (from memory I think it was 55:57) but unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of starting the game on the bench as we only had the bare 11 players. I don’t think it was my best ever game!
2015 was another story altogether. Having decided to hang up the soccer boots earlier in the year, I had no game to get to. Somehow (and I still don’t know quite how) I managed a 51:21. You can read all about it here.
Then came 2016. I have had a pretty big year. So far, I’ve had 2 marathons and 3 ultras in 2016. There was NO WAY I was going to beat, or even get close to, last year’s time. For the first time, I had to face the very likely prospect of not running a PB. I was not sure quite how to deal with that.
My preparation was as good as could be expected. I had a solid hit-out on Thursday (despite a stop at the river to check out the aftermath of Wednesday’s big storm) and a decent speed session on Friday. Saturday was an easy 5k parkrun with my mum to celebrate Torrens parkrun’s 200th run.
Gear-wise I’d gone with something a bit different – all built around the pink sub-60 minute race bib (they said it was magenta but it was clearly pink). I went with a nice floral lululemon skirt, with a new blue Skins singlet which I’d bought way back in July at the Gold Coast Marathon expo and had only had the chance to wear once so far, and had had a fantastic run that day. I’d also gone with the 2XU compression socks with which I’d done a near-PB at the Barossa half and a Boston qualifier at Gold Coast (despite nearly losing a toenail as a result) and my almost brand new Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes (my 6th pair of Ravenna 6s!). To top it all off I wore my stock standard white hat and another new addition, a pair of pink leg warmers (worn as arm warmers) which I’d bought from the Central Market the day before for the princely sum of $1. Money well spent if you ask me but one of my running buddies at the start line somewhat unkindly told me that I’d been ripped off (I’m talking to you, Mark Newman!)
It was a chilly morning so I’d donned a tracksuit top and gloves as I made the journey to the finish at Glenelg. That was a bit of a weird experience as I drove along the race route of Anzac Highway, seeing the kilometre markers which I would see again a few hours later! From Glenelg, I trammed it back to the city, arriving an hour before the 8am start. The tram ride was interesting – I didn’t know anyone on the tram but most of the people around me were clearly newbies who would be happy just to finish. It kind of put things into perspective, and took me back to 2013 when I would have been stoked with anything under an hour. Oh to be able to just go out there and enjoy it without the (self-imposed) pressure to perform!
On arrival in the city, I first stopped at the portaloo before doing a warmup, then removing my jacket and dropping my bag at the baggage drop, and quickly downing my energy drink before making my way to the sub-60 starting ‘cage’ where I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a familiar face!
I had a few goals. My ‘A’ goal was to run around 54 minutes which would equate to 4:30 per kilometre. My ‘B’ goal was under 55 minutes. My ‘C’ goal was to retain my spot in the cage by running under the hour. I didn’t set any goals beyond that. For me, anything over an hour would be a disaster!
My regular running buddy, Peter, who I hadn’t seen before the start, was also aiming for around 54 minutes, so I was hoping to run at least part of the way with him. It is always good to have someone to run at least a few kms with!
Another sometime running buddy, Matt, had reminded me of how I’d breezed past him towards the end of last year’s race. I laughed and said that would be unlikely to happen again!
While waiting in the cage, light rain started to fall. I hadn’t experienced a rainy City-Bay before. Another reason why I wasn’t going to get a PB (or close to it). Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun showed its face just before the start!
And before we knew it … it was go time!
I won’t talk too much about the race itself because it was a hard slog from start to finish. My first kilometre was 4:30, spot on pace. I saw Peter ahead of me but he was quickly away and I didn’t see him again until afterwards.
There were a few other familiar faces along the way – Matt, who I think I finished just ahead of, and another Matt who hadn’t run since San Francisco Marathon about 6 weeks earlier. Also there were regular parkrunners Jacques (who I probably hadn’t seen since City-Bay last year) and Chris and Michelle, both of whom I knew I was unlikely to see again after they passed me early on. Beck was also out there but after a bad run last year she was with the main pack, outside the ‘cage’, so I wasn’t expecting to see her.
My first few kilometres were on or ahead of pace but it wasn’t long before the pace started to drop. Despite not needing to stop for a drink (I was carrying a bottle of Gatorade) and passing a lot of people along the way, my pace continued to slow.
I ditched my gloves at the first drink station. I’d worn them because it had been a bit chilly earlier, but really could have done without them. I tried to throw them in the bin but it was quickly apparent why I’d never made it as a netballer or basketballer.
I managed to get in the obligatory high five to a couple of kids at the halfway mark. There is a 6km race starting here, which would have started not long after we passed.
Then we hit 7km and I tried to tell myself it was ‘just a parkrun to go’ but for some reason that didn’t help.
At around 8km I decided that the kilometre split times were doing my head in (because they weren’t as good as I had wanted) so I pulled my arm warmer (by now completely redundant, as the sun was well and truly out and it was lovely running weather) up over my watch so I couldn’t see it. It was time to get the head down and just get this thing done.
I did have to look up from time to time. People have a nasty habit of stopping and walking without warning, and I could easily have run up the back of someone. Still, that last 4km really seemed to drag!
2km to go. Less than 10 minutes. Head down, one foot in front of the other.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got off Anzac Highway and onto the road that led us onto Jetty Road for the last few hundred metres. It felt like a lot more than that! A few people passed me on Jetty Road but mostly I held my spot and occasionally passed people. I stuck to the middle of the road, along the tramline, as I didn’t want to hold anyone up – I would have hated that last year!
FINALLY we turned the corner and the finish line was in sight. Unlike the previous 3 years there was no elation, no posing as I crossed the line, just pure relief that it was over! And huge disappointment when I finally looked at my watch and it was just over the 55 minutes! I’d given it everything I had but it just wasn’t enough.
I grabbed my race bag with the medal and made my way to the post-race recovery area. I hung around at the SA Road Runners Club marquee where I caught up with many of my fellow runners. Peter had done WELL under 54 minutes so there was no way I was ever going to be running with him! Beck had had an uneventful run and got her sub-60 bib back for next year. Gary had finished not far behind me and was very happy with his time. This for me was the best part of the day – getting to see all the other happy runners and forget how craptacular I felt my run was!
My response, when people asked me how I went, started as ‘Terrible’ then ‘Not as good as I’d hoped’ and finally settled at ‘Meh’. After 3 excellent City-Bays, I finally knew what it felt like to have a sub-par race. Much like this guy…
As I had lunch plans, I couldn’t stay long but I did manage to see 2012 Olympic gold medallist (and unsurprisingly the winner of the men’s 12k walk) Jared Tallent being interviewed onstage as well as Jess Trengove, also fresh back from Rio. I even managed to get a photo with Jared, as well as meeting Instagram friend Kristie who finished 3rd in the women’s walk – talk about mixing with the elites!
So, while it was not a great race personally for me this year, City-Bay is still a wonderful Adelaide event and just a brilliant day. Thanks so much to Race Director Joe Stevens and his team, including the fantastic volunteers, for making this event a ‘must-do’ for so many people every year, all the way from the elites to the back-of-the-pack gorilla-suited walkers!