Meeting Kez and her partner in the hotel lobby last Sunday morning at 8.40 in the morning wasn't a struggle. After a lovely dinner the night before, a decent long bath and a really good sleep, I woke to an email stating that I'd won $1100 on lotto.
It seemed like a good omen.
"You aren't grumpy, Pand!" commented Kez, looking badly in need of a coffee, "You're always grumpy before a run." Kez knows me well. I'm normally as ratty as hell before I go running in events. Kez and Trin are used to my pre-race grumblings. They're fairly legendary. Not surprisingly, the lotto win was keeping me buoyant - well that and the cool, overcast morning.
After last year's City to Surf adventure, an event that left me tired, grumpy and chafed to the point of bleeding, a lot of me was not looking forward to the run. Also, having been ill for most of the month before - nothing too bad, but enough to stop me training, I wasn't going to kill myself to get great time. I was here to participate and try and enjoy travelling through the streets of Sydney. If that meant walking the 14 kilometres, then so be it. I had no expectations or agendas, other than to get to Bondi in one piece.
This year the weather was on my side - a favourable overcast, mid-teens day with a breeze. I'm happy to run in light drizzle - but anything over 22 degrees in the sun and I stick to under an hour of running. Not worth the dehydration.
Commenting about the cold and the weather, we stumbled through the city streets to find Trin at her hostel and start the race.
Another good sign for the day - rather than packing 85,000 people into a few streets keeping them there like cattle for an hour or so, this year to start was in half hour waves. The crowds moved slowly and fluidly, it was far more comfortable and my agoraphobia didn't surface - last year I nearly had a panic attack waiting to start. So far I was on track for a better run.
Trin and I devised a plan to meet Kez at the finish near the Lost Children's Tent. Kez, a personal trainer, runs a lot faster than Trin and me. Not being in a rush, I was happy to stick with Trin - it's good to have somebody to chat to on the road. Trin normally runs a bit slower than I do, but I saw this as a good thing.
So we were off. The first port of call, warm up properly and make sure my heart rate didn't go much over 150 beats a minute - a comfortable running pace where I don't get too breathless but I know I'm working. The first part of the race meant warming up slowly. I hadn't run properly or regularly for six weeks, this would be critical - so the plan was run a few minutes, walk a few minutes for the first couple of kilometres. I don't normally find my true stride until the five kilometre mark.
It must be interesting to watch Trin and I run together. We have different styles and ways. Trin loves her accoutrements. She runs with an iPod, a halo headset, a bladder of water in a back pack, technical t-shirts, compression tights.... the list goes on.
Me, I'm a bit more of a natural girl. You know there's going to be water every couple of kilometres. Other than the industrial scaffolding known as my bra and the tight crop top over it, I don't have any special equipment other than a heart rate monitor, ASICS Kayanos and an old t-shirt that reads "The beatings will continue until morale improves." In my Small Personal Items belt you'll find my phone, a credit card, $50, my driver's licence and some gels. That's it. No music - I like hearing what's going on about me. No water - that is provided. No other special equipment. I've even stopped wearing my knee brace - that appears to have fixed itself now.
So we plodded on. We found the firemen where we left them last year, hoping again that there would be more along the way. The crowds were brilliant, the people along the side of the road entertaining. The glorious gay Smurfs of Rose Bay were brilliant. At one stage just before Heartbreak Hill, The Village People's "YMCA" was blaring out of some speakers. Watching thousands or runners plod along, doing the arm movements was a brilliant experience.
Heartbreak Hill was walked up. No use busting a gut when you're still half full of snot. This was also a good move as being fully warmed up by then, the walk up was quite pleasant. But this time I was a bit ahead of Trin who I'd lost in the crowd around the four kilometre mark.
It was at the top if the hill, the half way point that things really kicked in. Looking at my watch I'd made it there in just over an hour. No problems there. But with a gel in my tummy and the breeze in my face, something kicked in. The running fairy returned. So for the last seven kilometres, I got to do what I like doing best.
Okay, I walked in patches, but it the last seven kilometres were run for the most part - and it was brilliant.
Something kicked in as I trundled my way through North Bondi. This is what I love to do. This is something I need to do. The endorphin rush is second to none. Running is not just something I enjoy. It's something I need to do. It isn't just about the competing. It's about the participating and the feeling of achievement.
I made the 14 kilometres in a surprising and very acceptable hour and 57 minutes. I was thrilled as on my reckoning I'd be coming in about 20 minutes later.
Even better - this year, very limited chafing and only a bit of soreness the following day, mainly in my shoulders and stomach.
In all, a great result.
After, the four of us made our way back to the city, I had another long, hot bath in my hotel room before making it back to the airport for a thankfully nondescript flight home.
In all, a great experience which has gone a long way to get me back into my running properly once again. Half of me is thinking that dropping down to the ten kilometre race for the Melbourne Marathon may not have been necessary, but I'm glad I have. It gives me a chance to train properly for a race and do a good job of it without injuring myself.
It's also restored a bit if faith in myself that was starting to wane.
In all, just it was the end of a softly cathartic weekend.