After a glorious PB achievement at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival last September, I was very much positive to record another personal best for 10 km, this time at The Performance Series Race 4. I was averaging to about 55 mins for this distance and my long term goal for this year is to run a sub 50 mins.
The race eve. I don’t usually check or study the routes for every race. I am the “come-what-may” and the “just-go-and-see-how” kind. The race is on a Sunday and me and my family usually go to church on Saturday evening reaching home to almost midnight, giving me only about 4 hours of rest before waking up. I was browsing instagram and some runners posted about the route. 100% flat, killer slope, gravel wear old running shoes were some of the descriptions so while on the way home that night, I was contemplating on the apparels I’d be wearing specially the shoes. For me, my old pair of running shoes means blisters and blisters means ‘run die’. Another thing mentioned was that the whole 10 km is 2 loops of the reservoir. Loops! I really don’t like loops. We reached home that night, I was too tired to pack and too tired to think more about the race. I guess I am not mentally prepared for a sub 50.
The Race Day. My alarm was set at 4:30 AM and snoozed to about 15 mins more that day. I still have enough time to pack and get a quick bite and coffee. To my surprise, my wife has given me a slice of banana cake! At the back of my mind relived the stomach pain I experienced while running the half marathon in Sydney and all I had before that race was a delicious banana cake from a cafe near the start in Milsons Point. I disregarded this thought and just ate the bread without any worries and I blindly grabbed any singlet from the closet, put my GPS watch and slippers on and placed my fave shoe on the bag.
I’ve never set my foot around Bedok Reservoir and I couldn’t remember why I did not purchase a shuttle bus ticket too! It was a cold morning as I dashed outside to the get a cab. It was a good twenty bucks and I reached the place at aproximately 6:00 AM only to realize that I still need to walk more than 1 km to the baggage deposit. I must have alighted at the wrong car park. I walked pass the start line and saw lots of excited runners already building up waiting for the wave 1 to be flagged. I’m running wave 1 too and I still haven’t laced myself up! I quickly wore my shoes on the road side the moment I reached opposite the baggage tent, drop my bag went back to the start pen. Did a little body loosening and saw my running buddy Ashraf who injured himself days before this event and together we managed to push ourselves a little bit more to the front of the thick crowd of runners.
Flag off. It was still quite dark and the faintly lit start arc is the brightest area. Few minutes before flag off we can hear a couple of soft thunders signalling a forthcoming downpour. It didn’t worry me much as I am very positive that it will not rain and it is my first time bringing my water proof phone too tucked on my waist belt. Then I start to hear runners murmuring about the upcoming rain. My buddy stays near the place and the last thing I heard from him was “If it rains I will just go back. All the best!” Haha
The count down began and at exactly 6:30 AM off went the first wave of equally excited runners as I am as I slowly advanced and seeing some familiar faces in the running scene and still keeping in mind my goal finishing time. The atmosphere was so refreshing, cool and you can feel a gentle wind. The first stretch of the route was paved until the first U-turn of the first loop and new to me is the gravel which I expected to be something rough, rather rocky and less-than-a-trail kind of route but I was wrong. As a matter of fact, I did not feel any discomfort running. A sudden strong wind welcomed us on the as we U-turned and more winds came from all directions thereafter. I remember there was a part before the 2nd km mark whereby a small tree with long thin branches swung with the wind partially blocking half of the inner lane. I took advantage of the cooling wind as I maintained my pace at 5 mins. Somewhere after the 4 km mark, I saw a glaring lightning clearly dividing the dark sky and struck right down at the middle of the reservoir. This has given me the creeps and from there I prayed that I will finish the race without any injury or without any one being struck by lightning. Some of the volunteers were screaming at us to seek shelter. True enough, after the strong winds and the heavy rains that eventually halted I noticed some runners are starting to slow down and before I knew it I am now at the dreaded uphill slope! It was a long and steep uphill slope. I have come a long way and was able to maintain a 5 min pace. I slowed down inevitably and I felt this part has pulled the last of my stamina but somewhere there I saw the 9 km mark which means I am just a kilometer away to the finish which is usually about 5 mins for me. I checked my watch and I am running a total 45 mins then so that means I am still on the right track. This has given me back my strength and motivated me not to stop. Soon as I have reached the top of that hill I began to glide down naturally and used this to my advantage and made another personal record of 50 mins 26 secs according to my watch. Not the timing i aimed for but now I am very very close to it.
Aftermath. I quickly took my bag and tried to locate my buddy Ashraf whom I couldn’t find. I was checking the place and learned that my wave was actually cancelled. Unknown to me, some runners were forced to stop at the 6th or 7th km mark but were still entitled to the finisher medal and shirt. Waves 2 and 3 were flagged off together and was converted to a non-competitive run/walk.
I must say that this is a one memorable run and one of the best race of the performance series so far. It was well organized, unavoidable circumstances were handled very well and the safety of the runners was regarded as their best interest. Looking forward to The Performance Series Race 5 and hoping for the best.