I thought I would put together a race report from the Western Sydney Half-Marathon I ran on Saturday in Penrith. While it wasn't my best performance ( a theme lately), I enjoyed the race a lot. For a run which literally just goes around the Regatta Centre it is quickly becoming one of my favourite local events. Leading into this race I expected to make a serious improvement on last years result of 1:25 but after Bintan and Sunny Coast I started to re-evaluate my goals. I instead wanted to go out there and give the best performance possible. The key for me was to run well on the same course where I broke down last year at the Western Sydney 70.3. It was also an event where I knew a number of other people competing, including my wife and one of my best mates.
We headed out to the race on Saturday feeling nice and calm. After registering I did a quick warm up and stretch and I was excited to see that the field looked bigger than last year. I positioned myself at the front of the start group knowing I have a stupid tendency to go out too hard. Anyway I was feeling quite calm while waiting for the start of the race. When we started I went and was shocked and horrified to find myself the leader. I am not a lead runner, I am a bloody triathlete for crying out loud. Instead of being good at one sport I pride myself at being mediocre at 3! I was leading for a good 800m and was starting to panic a little. I knew this meant I was going to hard. I made a conscious effort to back off a little and no sooner did I do this and a number of other runners started to pass me. I was relieved. I felt really good all day but the first 3kms I felt invincible. I was running well and I felt like I could maintain the pace. As I made my way along the lake at the Regatta Centre I identified the spot where I ran past my family in tears last November and vowed to run strongly there on each lap. I was surprised to find that my mind started going negative about 4km into the run. Nothing too serious but I noticed that my pace had crept to over 4min/km which is slower than I normally run a half marathon. I started thinking that this wasn't going to be my day and why bother. I actually thought to myself "You couldn't give me one lap before going negative". I am pretty happy to say that I managed that period quite well. Refusing a repeat of last years 70.3 got my head into a more positive spot.
I realised early on that my legs were not capable of running a fast 21.2km and to be honest I was ok with it. I just wanted to run well. My training has been a bit all over the place the last month and I had only really done one old week in the last 5. So I just wanted to focus on my technique and spotting my friends. On my second lap I had a friend cheer me on. Kay also posted a glorious running photo of me on Instagram. I firmly believe that if you look good running you aren't doing it properly. Needless to say I must have been running very hard! Then as I came to the end of my second lap I heard my Aunty call out my name. Forget the science or any data, I am convinced that a friendly voice cheering for you is one of the best energy boosts you can get. It gave me a lift. I started my 3rd and final lap in high spirits. The race felt easy. I also spotted my Dad on the course cheering me on too. How good is this! 2 members of my family cheering me on. On the last lap my pace was starting to drop so I decided when I got the bridge on the far side of the river, maybe 1400m from the finish line I was going to put the hammer down and try and smash the last km. I also started to pass a number of other runners who had passed me early in the day. It was starting to get hot out there and there was a fair bit of wind around. I just wanted to finish.
As I made my way to the finish I ran past my mate Andy, who cheered me on and high-five me. This literally gave me goosebumps and I surged to the finish line in 3:30 pace. I crossed the line with my Garmin saying 1:26:49 but the official time saying 1:27:13. I noticed that everyone had about 20.95km on their Garmin so not sure if they adjusted times for the shorter distance or what. At the end of the day it wasn't critical. I was the 7th athlete over the line which was 2 places better than last year and was 2nd in my Age Group. At the finish my Aunty and Dad were there and were both impressed. Another mate crossed shortly after with a time of 1:29. Finally managing to crack the sub 1:30 he wanted. My Dad even told him he was proud of me. I could hardly believe it.
After finishing my race it was time to cheer on my friends and family. My wife Dez crossed in 1:55 which was 10 minutes faster than last year! My mate Andy who wanted to beat 2:30 came across in 2:20 and man he looked good. Andy is a really inspiring guy. He used to play soccer at a very high level but after leaving that behind put on a bit of weight. It would have been easy for Andy to use an excuse to either not race or not finish on Saturday but he raced and raced well. He is aiming for his first triathlon at the Nepean Tri and I am certain he will surprise himself there. I was impressed with how well I pulled up after the race. I am normally ready to vomit after finishing but I was fine. The next day I even went for a run.
I think I am learning more and more about myself as an athlete. It is ridiculous to expect to be at 100% all the time. Not only that but it is also how you get injured. I want to compete for as long as I can and I want to keep improving. In order to do that I need to allow time where I recover and do not train as hard. The more I understand this the better I am feeling about the sport. I hope everyone in Australia made the most of their long weekends and everyone else still had a good normal weekend too. Kona Iron Man World Championships is on this weekend and I am excited to see both the men's and women's races. It is a truly stacked field this year. I also enjoyed the half-marathon on the weekend that I signed up for another in 2 weeks. So did Andy and Dez.
So there we have it. I managed to return to the Regatta Centre and remain in control on the run. While I didn't run as fast as I expected I was incredibly satisfied with the result. I would highly recommend this race to anyone in the Sydney area. Because there are next to no road closures the race is super cheap and very well organised.
So enjoy the warmer weather, keep pushing and remember to TRI!