I can't even remember signing up for this race, or how it came to my attention, but Mt Beauty is a lovely spot in the Victorian Alpine region just to the south of Wagga, and I guess I felt a change of scenery would be nice.
It's also possible that I looked up the winning times from last year and figured I could easily run better than 1:29. But I signed up for Mt Beauty well before I added races to the 3 weekends immediately preceding it - so by the time this half marathon rolled around, I was already pretty much raced-out. But not quite entirely.
Mum, the kids and I arrive after dark on the evening before the race, so we have not seen the scenery until we wake on Saturday. It's a crisp, cool morning and the mountains all around us are shrouded in mist - but once it lifts, wow! This place certainly lives up to its name.
It's a very short drive to the start area where lots of excited runners are milling around, and we pick up our bibs without much trouble at all. I head out for my now-traditional 2 mile warm-up and nope, my legs are not too interested in moving particularly fast. Benita and I have discussed strategy and figured that a solid time around 1:25 will do nicely, and if last year's results are anything to go by, should also be enough to make me the winning female. But it's also all about who shows up on the day - so my chickens are by no means counted at this early stage.
Lining up right at the front, I spot the blonde girl who charged out ahead of me at Yarrawonga and then faded; she has a 10K bib on, though, so I don't have to worry about her. But then I see a small, wiry-looking woman with a huge head of dreadlocks and a snappy all-black outfit that bares enough skin to show off some rather interesting ink. She looks like a contender.....but what is that on her feet??
Can it be? Oh my god. Yes, it is. It's a pair of these:
|What is this, 1976?|
She probably wasn't even born yet back then.
Okay then, maybe I don't need to worry about her after all. The starter calls out "One minute!" and stupidly I realise I haven't turned on my Garmin. Didn't I do this last week as well?? To my relief it finds the satellite signal exactly as the 10 second countdown starts, then the gun sounds and away we go!
Miles 1-3: 6:04, 6:26, 6:17
The start heads out across the damp grassy oval and onto a gravel path beside a small lake. In the first mile I'm initially in the lead, but then the girl with dreds saunters past me and opens up a tidy gap - hang on, what?? The dreadlocks and black attire bring to mind the word "Rastafarian", which a slight oxygen debt in my own brain transforms into "Rasta Fairy-Ann" - ok, it's cheesy, but it really fits her. She's flitting ahead of me at a disturbing rate, but my own pace is already too fast, so I resist the temptation to give chase. Jeez, she's quick though.
During mile 2 I'm slightly distracted by a bloke who comes up alongside me and starts chatting. When he tells me he ran this race last year, my instant response is to ask "So does it get hilly?" He replies emphatically that it does, and I look at my Garmin: it's reading 6:08 pace. Wow, too fast, even though we are yet to encounter a hill. I slow down deliberately and we chat on for a bit, then he drops back and I move ahead. During mile 3 it starts - a small roller and then a much bigger one - I'm still holding onto a good pace, but I have no idea what lies ahead.
5K split: 19:05 (approx)
|See how it goes UP the whole bloody page? That right there should have been a red flag.|
Miles 4-6: 6:36, 7:10, 6:49
Oh. My. God. The small sharp hill to the 5K mark leads the way to a much larger, much longer one that just keeps going and going and GOING. I'm gaining on Rasta Fairy, although not quickly, but any thoughts about her are rapidly replaced by ones that contain only 4 words: WHEN WILL THIS END? My pace slides promptly south, and I choose to focus not on the numbers but solely on the gap between Rasta and myself, because it's the only thing that is improving right now. There's a photographer on the side of the road so I exert myself to smile and flash a peace sign - god knows my race photos lately have been almost uniformly hideous, so it's the least I can do to try and change that. Although it's probably more a rictus of horror than a smile that I have on my face right now. Up, up and up I go.
(still waiting for photos from the race to put here, hopefully soon!)
Miles 7-9: 6:28, 6:07, 5:55
10K split: 39:50
Finally the turnaround is in sight - it amuses me briefly to see that the road beyond it is even steeper - and, what's more, I'm only about 10 seconds behind Rasta Fairy now. She looks surprised when she turns and sees how close I am; she immediately speeds off down the hill at a pace that doesn't surprise me. I have a decision to make: do I chase her, or let her go?
|LOOK AT THAT!!|
It's an interesting dilemma; I didn't quite catch her going up (which is my strong suit, since my gait means I tend to slow down less than others going up hills) and she's definitely faster than me on the downhills and flat, so it may not be possible at all. My only hope is that she doesn't have my endurance - but it's a big hope and one that's worth pursuing. So I relax, let my Roadrunner legs spin free, and off I go in hot pursuit. I check my Garmin when mile 9 beeps and am amused to see 5:55 - that's not a number I see very often, even in shorter races! But it's about what I want, and again I'm catching Rasta Fairy - or at least I'm no further behind, she has about 100m on me - so all systems are go at this point.
Miles 10-12: 6:03, 6:05, 6:10
I'm thinking I want to check my time at the 10 mile mark, but suddenly something happens ahead of me that takes me completely by surprise: Rasta Fairy is running out of pixie dust. Abruptly she is within striking distance, and then before I know it I am pulling up right alongside her. Yet again the debate starts inside my head, should I pass her now or hang back and wait? I don't even know why I bother asking myself this anymore, since I already know the answer - I'm not going to hang back.
Rasta Fairy holds on next to me for a good half mile, and I'm starting to wonder if she's going to find another gear and once again leave me in the dust, but finally during mile 11 she disappears from my side. Phew! Strangely enough, no part of my brain can form the thought "I'm going to win!" yet - all I can think is "Keep pushing, don't give up" - I have no idea if I'm going to be able to build or hold any kind of lead whatsoever. It's comforting to know that she slowed down even when we were still going downhill, but I take nothing for granted, I just run. I'm not looking at my Garmin, I'm just running as hard as I can and figuring that if it's meant to be, it will be.
Mile 13.1: 6:10, 5:51 pace to the finish
Dashing across the grass towards the finish line, I'm still way too scared to look over my shoulder. I have visions of a dreadlocked runner in tennis shoes, powering past me at the last second to break the tape, and it's enough to make me finally panic just a tiny bit - with the finish line only 50m away I finally look. To my great surprise she is nowhere to be seen! And then I heard screams of "Mummy! Mummy!!" from the side as I throw myself over the finish mats and hit my Garmin all at once. I'm more out of breath than I've been at the end of any of my recent races, but it was totally worth it: I won!!
Finish time: 1:23:18 (6:20 pace)
Placement: 1st female, 8th OA. 1st in AG 40+
In retrospect I think this was possibly one of my best races ever - I raced smartly, conquered an enormous hill in the process, and ran essentially 10K pace on either end of the massive ascent. I outlasted a much younger (and probably inherently faster) rival, and finished with my second win for the month, 3rd podium finish -- but the only one with an actual podium! Yay!
|Blurry photo (thanks, 7 yr old son) and I'm not even looking....but you get the idea!|
That's Rasta Fairy on the left of the photo.
And now? Some well-deserved rest!