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Bridge Run

20 September 2009

20 September 2009

Bridge Run

The Cyborg arrived at the park at Milson’s Point a good hour early; he’d done three laps of the park to warm up, before moving onto some gentle stretches while waiting for the last of the walkers to clear the start area. At approximately 8:10, when they were all gone, he moved across to the starting line to ensure a good position at the front of the pack; finding himself about three rows back, where he continued stretching and bouncing to warm up his muscles in preparation for the “sprint” event to follow.

At least we got to see some sights!
The Bridge from the start line... Its not that big!

At 8:30 the starting gun sounded, and the pack were off! The Cyborg heard the familiar beep of the timing chip being recognised at the start line as he began a steady jog up the hill. Some of the pack were moving at a faster pace up the hill, overtaking him, but that was of little concern. He knew that the bridge was coming, and that was the ideal time to push through the pack and leave him clear to finish the race from the front.

He turned the corner, and began to pick up his pace. By halfway across the bridge, his handy fitness watch, which included a heart-rate monitor and GPS, told him he was now travelling at approximately 23 km/hr, with his heart just starting to work at 170BPM. The wider section of the bridge gave him ample room to duck and weave through the other runners, as he pushed forward, moving faster and faster, until coming to the turn down to the Cahill Expressway where, with a lead on the pack, he permitted gravity to do the work, and merely lengthened his stride as he cruised the downhill portion of the course, letting his heart rate drop to a more standard 140BMP.

He had a quick look back as he turned up Macquarie Street, to see that he had a decent distance between himself and the next runner; so settled into his more steady stride, relaxing his body and cruising at around 22 km/hr. It was a fine, slightly warm day, whose effects were barely telling on the Cyborg as he took the chance to take in the fantastic views from the Royal Botanical Park, before taking a sharp turn and heading out once more.

From the park, it was back on to Macquarie Street to retrace his steps, with a line of runners coming from the other direction; the main pack had not yet made it onto Macquarie; he had the road ahead clear in front of him, and increased his pace yet again, running smoothly and steadily, until starting the downhill section to the finishing arch, when he increased it again. Crossing through the arch, the Cyborg broke into a sprint towards the finish line. The clock was turning over to the 25 minute mark; he was going to achieve his target of 25 minutes.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep. The Cyborg’s thoughts were interrupted, there was only supposed to be one beep as he crossed the line. Just one beep as his timing chip was recorded on the sensor for an incredible time of 25 minutes to complete the 9km Bridge Run. Just one beep to let him know that he’d finished a perfect run.

Beep.

The Cyborg forced his tired eyes open, the hot sun already blasting into the room through the window, letting him know he was in for a scorcher of a day, which would make the heat of the Canberra Times run seem like, well, a mild Canberra Spring day. He should’ve known it was a dream. He’d been long looking at those cool GPS training partner watches, with built in HRM to improve his results through more measured training; checking out pictures of various products on the internet, late at night while nobody was looking...

The real day was starting, and the race was yet to be run.

With the generous help of the Immoral Support Crew and her friends, the Cyborg wound up at Milson’s point at a quarter to eight, with plenty of time to locate the other TriHards and prepare for the race. After taking a few happy snaps, he sent messages out to Doc Runaway and McFly to let them know where he was, in the faint hope they would find him amongst the maddening crowd.

McFly arrived soon after, backing up from the Abel Tasman run in New Zealand, yet still excited about the Bridge Run. His plan was simple: to get a good time on a short run; he wanted to see how quickly he could cover the relatively short distance (as, of course, compared to, say the 100km of the Wild Endurance, or the 36km of the Abel Tasman!)

The Cyborg’s plans were even simpler: keep up with the freakish pace of McFly for as long as he could. This, of course, raised the definite possibility of burning the Cyborg out halfway through the race, requiring him to finish at walking pace, but it would definitely be worth a try to see how long he could keep up!

Doc Runaway’s plans were even simpler again: ditch the boys and go sightseeing with some Canadians! She told some friends that she would take them sightseeing in Sydney. Little did they know they’d be seeing one of Sydney’s renowned sites up so close (with so many sweaty people around!)

Crowd at the start
Just a few people in this race!

With about 15 minutes to go, McFly and the Cyborg headed over to the already crowded starting line, finding themselves about halfway down the pack. As the time ticked by, the eager TriHards were bouncing up and down, warming up and preparing for the run, which started with a climb out of Milson’s Point and onto the bridge.

The gun went off, and they didn’t move.

They prepared their MP3 players to go, rechecked their timing chips, laces and shoes. And waited.

After about five minutes, their section of the pack began to move, slowly, inexorably towards the start line. By the time they reached the beeping blue mat of the start line, the Cyborg and McFly had managed to get up to a slow jog, dodging around long driftnets of walkers. The pair ducked and weaved, with the Cyborg keeping up with McFly, until they rounded the corner on the approach to the bridge, where McFly saw open spaces and was off while he had the chance, leaving the Cyborg fighting his way through another driftnet.

The crowd approaching the bridge
It was nice to get up close and personal with the bridge.

After escaping one net, the Cyborg found some open spaces on the bridge, and began to pick up his own pace. He cruised quite comfortably across the bridge, taking in the scenery. The Sydney Harbour Bridge goes by so fast when you’re driving; but when running it seemed interminable! It truly was a wonderful sight to behold, and certainly made the Cyborg feel all the smaller beneath the huge structure.

Soon enough the bridge was over, and the pack turned onto the Cahill Expressway, which thinned the course, causing the walkers to form more drift nets. Drift nets occur when numerous walkers walk abreast, forming a large, slow moving wall. Every now and then they may overtake other walkers, or give way on one side for a runner, causing the whole line to move across. It provided an extra challenge in the run for the Cyborg. These weren’t just crowds that could be zig-zagged through, they were drift nets to be negotiated with caution, otherwise they’d catch out the unwary runner!

The Cyborg noticed gaps on the right-hand side of the road, and made his way over, into a stream of other runners making use of the slight overtaking lane, and tried to pick up a bit of pace on the downhill stretch.

Then the course turned up Macquarie Street, and the Cyborg remained on the right; some driftnets even crossed all the way to the right, forcing the runners to step outside the witches hats. About halfway up Macquarie Street, however, this practice had to end, as there were runners coming the other way. These were the front-runners of the bridge run, which gave the Cyborg, tiring in the Sydney heat, cause for hope. Surely he couldn’t be that far off the pace: if there were already runners on their way back, he must be close to the halfway point!

Speed limiting in the gardens
The Cyborg, of course, obeyed the road rules and slowed to beneath 30km/h!

Then the scenery changed from roads and buildings to marvellous greenery; they were into the Royal Botanic Gardens. Fortunately for the runners, a little into this section there was a sign proclaiming that they should all slow down, and there was a 30km/hr speed limit in force in the gardens. The Cyborg considered himself safe to continue at his current pace, while taking in the scenery; from here there were views to the Opera House and the bridge; and running in the leafy shade was far more pleasant than on the sunny road.

Rounding the corner in the park, and heading back up and out the runners were greeted with some cheering spectators, who cheerily informed them they were half way through, as they began to climb out of the gardens. There was a slight rise coming out, and just as the Cyborg began to put on some pace to race up the hill, he got caught in another drift net. At this stage of the race, it was very tempting to succumb to the power of the net, however the Cyborg is made of sterner stuff than that, and managed to escape, ducking around to the right and continuing on at his just-faster-than-walking pace.

The course then wound its way back onto Macquarie Street and the final stretch. The Cyborg began to open up a bit more, and put on some pace to head towards the finish line. As he came to the final downhill stretch, the whole pack had to stop for an ambulance, which no doubt added about 10 minutes to the Cyborg’s time! To make up for this delay, and with the blue finish arch in view, the Cyborg put on a lot more pace, forcing himself up to almost a sprint to the arch, and crossing through, tired, but feeling fantastic after a great effort, though noting the lack of the timing pads.

Then he noticed the course wound up a hill to his right... So, he pushed on to the finish, to find McFly, rested and waiting for him after completing the event a good 12 minutes (that would be the ambulance delay) prior to him!

Opera house at the finish line
There was no fat lady singing at the end!

Race Stats

Date: 20 September 2009
Location: Milson’s Point to the Opera House.
TriHard Time
McFly 40:56
Cyborg 52:02
Doc Runaway 1:00:39
Event website: Blackmores Sydney Running Festival