Friday, 22 November 2013

City To Sea 2013 Race Review

Ready to run
Waiting for the start of the City2Sea.

Running has become such a big part of my life that its difficult to remember a time when I was not running and training for an event. Yet my first running event was only a year ago at the 2012 City2Sea. I've done more than 1000km of running since then and taken part in quite a few events but I'll fondly remember that gorgeous spring day last year when I donned a race bib for the very first time and surprised myself by completing the 14km course without stopping in a time of 1:09:27. So I had been looking forward to the 2013 installment to see how much I had improved.

A record field of close to 14,000 people ran this years event which is incredible considering that on the same day there were more than 12,000 participants at Run Geelong and the Shepparton Half Ironman was also being held. Just like last years event, my brother in law (catch his hilarious blog entry) was also running the 14km and my wife drove us to the event and took most of the photos of the day.

The Course

The City2Sea course is my favourite out of the major Melbourne runs. It's a fast, flat course on wide open roads so it gives you every chance to record a super quick time. It's long enough that it's a challenge but short enough that its not particularly taxing.

City2Sea 2013 14k course
The 14k course.

The course actually takes in part of the Melbourne Marathon course. It starts in front of the National Gallery of Victoria, on the corner of Southbank Boulevard and St Kilda Road. The first section runs all the way up St Kilda Road to St Kilda Junction before turning onto Fitzroy Street. The second section is a lap of Albert Park and the final section takes runners back onto Fitzroy Street before heading up and down Beaconsfield Parade and finishing up right by the beach in Catani Gardens.


We made it to the start line about 40 minutes before the 8am start. The weather had been terrible in the week leading up to Sunday but somehow Melbourne turned on a pearler for race day. The Sun was out, the sky was clear blue, it wasn't hot and the air was still quite fresh in the morning. It really made for great running conditions. We found a warm spot in the Sun and soaked in the atmosphere as participants started queuing up at the start line.

Keeping warm before the start
Keeping warm in the Sun before the start.

As usual there was the runners in weird and whacky costumes including this guy who decided to run in a mankini.....

Running in a mankini
Running in a mankini.

......and the deserved winner of the best dressed award, Legoman. I think he knew how he would be feeling by the end of it and chose the appropriate facial expression.

Legoman at City2Sea

We even saw Sunrise weekend weather guy James Tobin who was interviewing a group of runners promoting Movember, which is the chief charity partner for City2Sea.

Sunrise weekend weather presenter James Tobin
Sunrise weekend weather presenter James Tobin.

We met up with my friend Stephen who was looking to run about 4 minute kilometres. Needless to say I lost him right from the start!

With 15 minutes to go, the queue for the start of the first wave, which we were part of, had built up significantly and we decided to join in. My wife wasn't running and would meet us at the finish in St Kilda so she wished us luck and went off with the SLR camera to take some photos of the start. She got some good ones.

Seeded runners waiting to start the City2Sea
Seeded runners waiting to start.

We found a gap in the barriers towards the front of the first wave and snuck in. One of the keys to getting a good time at these major running events is starting as close to the front as possible and avoiding the slower runners at the back.

Red wave runners queuing for the City2Sea
Red wave runners waiting to start, including Lego Man with his big yellow head in the middle.

Unfortunately the race announcer was not as energetic as the guys who were shouting through the PA before the Melbourne Marathon but the crowd around us was pretty pumped up anyway. I spent the time taking photos of the crowd and got a fellow runner to take this photo. That's me in the middle with my mate Stephen on my left and my brother in law Mickee on the right.

My running mates for City2Sea
My running mates for City2Sea.
City2Sea 2013 red wave runners waiting to start
The first wave of runners eager to start.

Eventually the seeded and preferred start runners took off and a short time later it was our turn.

The second wave of runners waiting to start the City2Sea
The second wave of runners waiting to start.
The second wave of runners off and running at the City2Sea
The second wave of runners off and running.


Straight away we separated and started running our own race. Being up the front meant there was loads of fast runners quickly zipping past us and I had to rein myself in to avoid getting sucked in and competing against the other runners. My race was a race against the clock only. I was determined to break 1:05:00 and that meant not going out too hard. I settled into a pace around 4:30 per kilometre which put me well on track to achieve my goal.

The course felt a lot less congested than what I remember from last year's event but last year I started in the middle of one of the slower waves. I wasn't being held up by too many runners in front of me and I didn't have to weave in and out of runners like I have had to do for some events.

At St Kilda Junction I needed to take what professional cyclists refer to as a nature break. I drank too much water in the morning to hydrate, probably something which was unnecessary for a 14k run. That added a good 30 seconds to my time.

The slowest part of the course for me was the lap around Albert Park. The shade provided by the magnificent elm and plane trees on St Kilda Road was not available around the lake and the Sun was determined to make its presence felt. I had to slow down because my heart rate was increasing as my body struggled to keep cool.

At least there were plenty of distractions around the Albert Park section of the course. There was a DJ playing some banging house tunes and as I ran past I gave him an appreciative fist pump. On pit lane was the very popular water mist tent where you could run through for a cool down. And at one of the drinks stations was the Movember crew yelling out support to all the runners and especially to those with a mo.

Probably the most difficult part of the course was a slight uphill section as you come out of Albert Park and back onto Fitzroy Street. There was a good crowd positioned here hoping to catch a glimpse of their friends and loved ones and cheering on the other runners. It was great to see so many young kids getting into it as well and I obliged as they held their hands held out eager to give the passing runners a high five.

I made it out of Albert Park and back onto Fitzroy Street feeling really good and ready to step up the pace for the final 4km. With Fitzroy Street mostly downhill I took full advantage and hammered down towards Beaconsfield Parade.

City2Sea Fitzroy Street
Runners coming down Fitzroy Street towards Beaconsfield Parade.

My wife was meant to be somewhere on the course at Beaconsfield Parade so I kept an eye out for her. I was running with my phone in my hand so I could easily hear the Runtastic voice updates to keep track of pace and distance. Then suddenly it started ringing. It was my wife! I answered it and somehow managed to talk. "Where are you?", she asked. The runners around all looked at me and had a chuckle as I answered. I told her where I was on Beaconsfield Parade. Turned out I had already passed her so she had missed me.

I had started the race off relatively conservatively because I didn't want to burn out early. That meant I had plenty of gas left on Beaconsfield Parade and I started passing more runners than were passing me. In fact, if you look at my official race splits, I managed to pass 150 runners in the final 4.2km.

I had bad memories of Beaconsfield Parade from the Melbourne Marathon where I really ended up suffering due to a thigh strain. Thankfully, this time around we didn't have to run all the way to Port Melbourne and it didn't seem too long before I had reached the turning point with just under 2km to go.

I upped my pace again but 500m later I pulled back thinking I couldn't sustain it to the finish line. Mistake. I should have sprinted the last 1.5km and left nothing at the finish. Unfortunately I often don't run as aggressively as I'm capable of.

After that brief respite I sprinted the final kilometre. I felt amazing, like I was barely touching the ground. I left other runners in my wake as I turned into the final straight. The crowd here was thick and loud as they cheered runners home. It was worth at least 20 seconds of extra pace. I punched through the finish line feeling like I could have kept going. Lessons learned for next race!

I quickly stopped my Runtastic session with the time at 1:05:02 but I knew I had gone quicker than that because of the time it takes to unlock the phone and stop the session. I was happy that I had achieved my goal but there was some disappointment because I knew I could have gone quicker and a sub 1:04:00 time was probably achievable.

City2Sea results
My Runtastic splits.

My official time ended up being 1:04:53. Fast enough to put me in the top 10% of runners overall!

City2Sea results
My official City2Sea result and timing splits.

I looked around me and there were many tired bodies at the finish.

City2Sea results
Tired runners after crossing the finish line.

But it was a great place to finish a race with the view out to the beach. Next year I will definitely have to try getting at least my legs in the water after the run!

City2Sea finish
Finishing right by the beach.

I grabbed a quick selfie at the finish (as you do). Probably not the best photo of me!

City2Sea finish
Selfie at the finish.
City2Sea finish
A happy finisher!

Post Race

I managed to spot my wife as she was taking photos at the finish line. I refuelled with some Gatorade and then bumped into my friend Stephen. He had clocked in at an incredible 56:52 which put him 152nd out of the entire field. Amazing!

My brother in law was very happy with his run as well. He managed to crack his goal time of 80 minutes with 1:19:55.

And that's what these fun runs are about...enjoying the run and bettering yourself! Setting a goal and achieving it, whether that's to finish the race without stopping or to finish in a certain time.

Looking around at the other finishers at the end and you realise how happy running makes people. In Melbourne we are lucky to have so many big running events like the City2Sea. They bring the whole running community out, encourage new runners to give it a try and bring a smile to everyone involved. There were definitely over 13,000 happy runners in Catani Gardens last Sunday!

Unfortunately, that happiness was short lived for us! Due to our decision to drive, getting home was not fun. With all the road closures thanks to City2Sea, it took us 40 minutes to drive the short distance to St Kilda junction from where my wife parked just behind Fitzroy Street. Then Punt Rd was jam packed with people trying to get to an Aus Kick clinic at the MCG. It ended up taking us 1.5 hours to get home, only 12km north of the city. Next time we are definitely taking public transport. And public transport was free for City2Sea participants so it really is a no brainer!

All up it was another really enjoyable event. I especially enjoyed the last 4km where I really opened up the gas and surprised myself with the pace I had available. I'm a little bit disappointed that I didn't push myself harder because the conditions were absolutely perfect. When you take away the nature stop then I would think that I'm capable of running sub 1:04:00. With a year of training between now and next years event, I think a sub 1:01:00 performance would be a realistic goal as long as the conditions are right. Can't wait!!

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