Well, I talked the talk in my last post on the 'Great train race', so how did I go? (All my km time references come from the Garmin Forerunner 10 I wore and that I looked at post race).
Sunday morning came and I was up and on. Coffee, breakfast, shower and in the car for the 25 minute trip to Belgrave and the starting line.
I arrived in plenty of time, about an hour before race time. As soon as I arrived I got positive vibes. The town was buzzing. There were runners and their supporters everywhere. I had arranged to meet with some fellow Dandy Runners in front of the CFA, and before even reaching there I met Richard who was running for a friend. We had a good natter before I went up to the CFA.
There ended up being 5 of us from the group and it was great to be able to chat and chill with some friends. We talked times and training and just generally laid back. It was really relaxing.
About half an hour before race time the marshells started talking so left our gear at the transport truck and moved to our various seeded starts. Dave and I had both seeded in the second wave so we moved up to the start together.
About 9:25 they took us to the start line and introduced the driver. He was welcomed with the customary boos and with a bit of verbal banter confirmed he was happy to let about 10 or 15 runners beat his train. It is such a relaxed way to start the race.
9:30 and the race began. I joined the shuffle which quickly turned into a fast jog as we took off down the road. The field began to merge and I found my pace. The course started flat and rolled round the first sweeping bend into a subtle down hill section. About 1.5km in we went under the first bridge and main vantage point. The crowd here were very vocal and gave us an immediate boost. I had planned to run this in sub 4 min ks, but I happily ran at 3:59 into 4:35 for the 2nd km. The road rose and fell, more rising than falling and I got into the rhythm, passing a few and being passed by others. We followed the road for a another couple of km before hitting the first train crossing. Woo hoo went the train whistle, somewhere behind us. I could see the train and the flume of ash he was pumping out. Last time I ran this I never saw the train. This time it was game on!
Woo hoo!, I was in front of him at this stage. This time I got the atmosphere. The train whistle blew again and a surge of adrenaline hit in. We all seemed to take off and before long we hit the 5km drink station and the first slog began.
We took off up Alsops Road, and I was thankful for the gravel under my feet. The trailrocs were great, but gravel was their real home. This the first of the tough hill climbs. Race plan here was to plough on and manage my speed through my breathing. I stayed 3- 2 as long as I can and managed a pace of 5:09 before I had to go 2-1. It was a real calming effect. I felt strong and was picking off plenty of people as I maintained a steady pace up the hill. Out of nowhere was another whistle as he approached the station at Menzies Creek. I was still feeling great and as the hill flattened out and we turned up towards the crossing I was able to spot my family at their vantage point. Hopefully two little kids think their dad is faster than a puffing steam train! The climb was finished at just over 5:12 for the second km. I was waving them down and felt a wave of relief as I saw old man Billy resting at the station. Spurred on by this we turned onto the main road for a flatter km before the next long hill climb.
I put in as much as I could while remaining comfortable and really enjoyed the 500m downhill stretch before the climb proper started. This was about 2km on the main road as it wound its way up the hill towards Emerald Station. This was the point of no return. Beat him to here and your in with a chance. I'd passed 9km and as I reached the crossing news was that Billy had steamed past a few minutes ago. Through this section I averaged 4:40, not quite the 4:20 - 4:30 I had told my self I could do, but still a very good pace. I'm becoming a runner.
Damn, Billy had passed, but still there is hope of catching him yet. At 10km I knew it was flat or down hill. It seems that everyone around me had also read my last post. I was hoping to blow them away with a burst of speed through here but they all took off as well!
Last time I ran this I was feeling the pinch here, today I was able to actually run faster and try and gain some time. At 4:19 pace 11km came and went as we turned onto the path that leads towards the lake and our finish line. I upped the effort again and slipped into the 2-1 breathing as I headed for home. 2.3km to go and I knew I could push it hard. I heard a final whistle and saw the plume of smoke. Was I in with a chance still? I calculated that I had about 7-8 minutes to run.
4:01 minutes later I hit 12km. Runners around me were either running hard and we were step for step or people were left behind. It was such a great feeling having the endurance to push it out and finish strong. 750m came and went. The 500m sign was there. My lungs were burning and I could feel my form faltering a little but I was close to home. 250m to go and you could hear the crowd cheering as each runner finished. The last section of the path involved a hairpin turn and it was 150m up the hill to the finish line. I ducked and weaved past a few more runners as I gave it all to the line.
My heart sank as I saw Billy puffing away, but the clock just ticked over 58:00. I was stoked, that last km was run in 3:49. I found out the old man (All 97 years old!) had run it in 55:55, just over 2 minutes on me.
So I had wanted to run sub 55, but to run the 13.3 km in 57:57 was amazing. I felt strong the whole race through. All my little tweaks and play in training came to the party and I actually felt like a real runner. Averaging 4:30ish km times is no mean feat on this course.
Did I mention that my first run was 1:06:18? I set a new PB by over 8 minutes. Imagine if I can come back and do it in 8 minutes better next time? I know it is possible...
So did I meet my goals? I did and I'm proud!
My time was not quite as fast as I thought, but I really, really enjoyed the run. I'll take that any day, any race.
I finished in 57:57 (what a cool time!), and came 448 out of 3,058 runners - top 14%. I wanted top 20% and I got it, I give full respect to anyone who ran, male or female makes no odds. You race and you race me :)
In my division I was 275 of 1,082 runners, top 26%.
This race is also a fund raiser for the Puffing Billy railway, so by running today I'm helping keep something special alive. Old man, I'll be back. You won't get me at 3-zip. No you wont.