City2Surf – the day that I had spent months working towards did not begin well. I accidently looked myself in the garage.
The plan was as simple as it was brilliant – leave my keys at home and sneak out through the garage while the rest of the family slept. Unfortunately my execution was poor. I forgot that the buzzer to the garage door was locked inside the car. I realised my mistake at the exact moment that I heard the “click” of the deadbolt from the house to the garage.
I pondered my predicament for a couple of minutes before reluctantly resorting to the only real option – call Emma and ask her to let me out.
I had a mild heart attack when my phone wasn’t in its usual pocket, but thankfully I did have it. I called Emma’s number and held my breath as I hoped her phone wasn’t on silent.
Thankfully she answered and, although not yet able to fully appreciate the comedic value of the situation, she came to my rescue.
Preparation is Key
Thankfully, I had been a little wiser in other aspects of my morning plan. The 8.30 am start to the race meant an early morning (for a Sunday). I didn’t want to be rushing around in the morning because I was sure to forget something, so I had made sure that my Beoplay E8s, Amazfit Stratos running watch and phone were all charged. I even downloaded my Spotify Premium running playlist, in case mobile data was problematic with 80,000 people all trying to stream their own music. I placed my electronics in a neat pile with my bib and every item of clothing that I planned on wearing, as well as my license and about $30.
It was perfect – I didn’t forget as single thing (other than how to escape the garage gracefully)!
The walk to the station was fresh, about 5 degrees. I was rugged up in an old tracksuit, but when I arrived at the station I was surprised to see a whole bunch of people who were race-ready! Guess I’m going to have to harden up a bit if I’m going to get serious about this event.
Some were even jogging on the spot or doing stretches. It’s fair to say I felt a little out of my league! I made a mental note to do my best impression of a bloke trying to hold up a wall at some point in the day, it looked like a good stretch.
The train filled steadily as it headed towards the city. Already I could feel the atmosphere of the event.
City2Surf – the starting line
I was in the Blue Group, which is the largest group of runners. There is no qualification requirement to be in this group.
Several other groups started before us, and there was a great sense of excitement as they took off. The serious runners were incredible – I’m fairly sure the fastest of them was just about finished before I even started!
At this point the Beoplay E8 wireless earbuds showed off their greatest trick – transparency mode. I wanted to have my music going before the race started so that I didn’t have to fiddle around when we took off. But I also wanted to enjoy the electric atmosphere in the blue marshalling area behind the start line. All it took was a quick press of the left earpiece and the noises of the outside word came flooding in. My own music (the Spotify Classic Rock Workout) now just a faint soundtrack in the background. Brilliant!
The sheer number of people in the Blue Group meant that my race started with a shuffle towards the start line. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack, so it was a crawl to begin with. However, once we were on the track proper things began to open up and we could actually begin running! I took a couple of seconds to take this happy snap (see below) with my phone – the opportunity was too good to miss. Zoom in and look at how many people there are – amazing!
A quick flick of my left earpiece brought Spotify flooding back into my ears. The glorious high quality of the downloaded tracks immediately put me in the zone. Despite being somewhere in the middle of 80,000 people, I was alone and running my own race.
Slow and Steady
I quickly found a pace that suited me. It felt slow and steady. Some people shot away into the distance (as best they could when threading through a crowd of 80,000 people!). Others plodded along at their own comfortable speed. I felt great, the atmosphere was still incredible and it was enhanced by the diverse range of spectators and performers who lined the route. Several times I flicked the left E8 earbud to let the outside sounds back in. It was a carnival atmosphere and I soaked it up. I wasn’t, however, willing to take the phone out and take more photos. I was in serious running mode now.
A few young blokes passed me wearing nothing but their undies. Ah, to be young again!
Pit Stops Like A Pro
I ran straight past the first water station. It was about 4 kilometers in and I knew I could get much further without a drink. The station was packed with runners seeking refreshment, so I felt good about giving it a miss.
At the next drink station I headed to the rear tables (as had been recommended in the tip guides that I had read). I grabbed a cup while maintaining my pace, breathlessly shouting “thanks” to the volunteer who handed it to me. I continued to run as I expertly brought the cup to my lips – then nearly drowned as I inhaled half of its contents. It turns out drinking while running is a skill I don’t possess.
With two lungs freshly filled with water, I continued on my way. I spluttered a bit, but soon recovered from my failed attempt at hydration.
At the third water station, I took my second drink. This time I slowed to a walk. I was thrilled to actually take in some refreshing water – it felt great! From then on I walked whenever I had a drink.
There’s no sugar coating it – it’s a bastard of a hill. It’s not so steep, but it just keeps going… and going… and going. Even worse is its position in the race. Heartbreak Hill is essentially half way through, which means that once you have it conquered, you still have a lot of running left to do.
The other downside to Heartbreak Hill is that it gives you a false sense of achievement. I HATE running uphill, so I was really satisfied when I completed Heartbreak. HOWEVER, there were at least two more significant hills, each with parts that felt steeper than anything on Heartbreak Hill. Maybe that was just my exhausted imagination, but that’s how it felt.
Even after all my unkind words about Heartbreak Hill, I still love its place in the City2Surf. The race just wouldn’t be the same without that legendary challenge, and there is a certain amount of kudos that goes with being able to say that I ran up the entire hill. Even though I did it slowly, I passed plenty of beaten-looking people on the way.
True Heartbreak is a Bung Knee
I really was thrilled with myself after I conquered Heartbreak Hill, but the feeling was short lived. At about the 10km mark, my dodgy knee made its-self known. A dull pain quickly developed into a sharp pain and it shot all the way up to my hip. I soldiered on, my pace gradually slowing to almost walking.
Finally I gave in. The pain was too much and my pace wasn’t much faster than a walk anyway. I had to stop running. I was gutted. My only goal was to run from start to finish and I had failed to achieve that goal. Worst of all, my race-management had been pretty good and I had plenty of energy left in the tank. Every part of me wanted to keep running, expect my bung knee. My bung knee desperately wanted me to stop using it.
Walking relieved some of the pain, although it was still a slog to get to the bottom. It was frustrating, but I soon accepted my fate and turned my attention to once again soaking in the atmosphere. I was wearing my Beoplay E8s and listening to Spotify, but every now and then I would tap the left earbud to turn on transparency mode and soak in the sounds around me. It really is a brilliant event, and the crowd along the way make it highly entertaining.
The Final Descent
This was the part that I had been looking forward to the most. It should have been a glorious final push to the finish line, in which I gave it everything I had. It was supposed to be the part in which I pushed hard and used all of my reserves to sail past the masses of people who had run out of steam.
Instead, I hobbled down the hill at a snail’s pace, while seemingly the entire race overtook me. I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating. I felt great in every way, except me knee. I tried in vain a couple of times to start a slow jog, but each time the knee protested. I listened and returned to a walk – running the rest of the race just wasn’t worth long-term damage.
It’s a surprisingly long downhill stretch (I’m sure it feels shorter when actually running). Once again, the atmosphere is pretty special as the throng of runners all lift as the finish line appears. There are lots of spectators and plenty of entertainment too.
I stopped sulking over my bung knee and turned my attention to the scene around me. It was something special and, despite my pain, I felt a huge sense of privilege to be where I was. I watched in awe as young kids (some seemingly as young as 8) breezed past me on their way to the end. I felt as if I was in the presence of greatness when I spotted a couple of the City2Surf legends on the track.
Finally I reached the finish line. My time was nearly an hour slower than the winner, but that didn’t matter. I had completed my fist ever City2Surf and I was satisfied with that, despite my race not going according to plan. I Stopped my Amazfit Stratos and was surprised (and impressed) to see that the GPS recording appeared to be fairly accurate. I had read that GPS trackers really struggle during the City2Surf, due to the large numbers of people simultaneously using the GPS signal.
I scrolled through the race data, and one graph told me everything I needed to know about my race.
Massive respect to the organisers of this event. It must be a logistical nightmare to pull off. Just think about the planning that must go into an event in which 80,000 people run through a major city.
I couldn’t have been more impressed with the way everything worked so smoothly. Sure, I had to wait a couple of minutes for the toilet at the start, and to collect my finisher’s medal at the end, but that was about it! Getting on a bus from Bondi to Bondi Junction was a breeze.
I also need to mention the army of volunteers who turned up to carry out vital tasks such as handing out water. Those people are legends and without them an event like the City2Surf wouldn’t be possible. I made sure I said “thank you” whenever I interacted with one of them, but I’ll take the opportunity now to say a massive “THANK YOU!” to every single volunteer.
I’ll Be Back…
My race didn’t go according to plan and it was beyond frustrating to limp home at the end. But has that put me off the City2Surf? Absolutely not!
My experience this year lit a fire in my belly. The event was incredible, enjoyable even beyond my high expectations. Walking down the hill into Bondi made me hungry to return next year and conquer the 14 km run. I will be back – fitter, faster and with a stronger knee.
Training for the 2019 City2Surf starts tomorrow. 5am.
Who’s with me?
A Little Help From My Mates (Product Disclosure)
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 headphones were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge, to use during training for the City2Ssurf. If I’m going to run in one of the best races on Earth, I may as well use the best equipment!
Spotify has provided Blog of Dad with a Premium Spotify subscription to help motivate me. Nothing gets you moving better than a kick-arse soundtrack! Spotify Premium is the perfect partner to the Beoplay E8 earbuds.
The Amazfit Stratos is my new running watch of choice. It’s detailed data and onboard GPS & music make it a brilliant choice for casual and serious runners alike. Best of all, it looks great! The Stratos was provided to Blog of Dad, free of charge.
I use Tanita’s brilliant RD-953 Body Composition Monitor to monitor my inner fitness. It tells me all I want to know about the parts I can’t see. Tanita Provided Blog of Dad with the RD-953 Body Composition Monitor for the Mother’s Day Gift Guide.
I have been given complimentary entry into the 2018 City2Surf, to help inspire me on my fitness journey.
To find out more, read my disclosure statement.