The Hobart 20km NZ vs AU Road walk.
Due to an abnormality in the weather, there was a hot wind blowing down from the Desert and across on to Hobart. This produced Hobarts hottest day in 17 years! It touched 38 degs just before the start of our race.
We had all made sure we had hydrated well and had spent the afternoon in our motel room away from the heat. I had also decided to start eating some of my electrolyte jells and sugar blocks as I knew that the conditions were going to make this a very hard race to complete.
We made our way over to the check in and then milled like sheep under the trees in the middle of the road. You could spot the elite walkers a mile away.....they were the ones wearing Ice Vests and sitting in ice water pools. Plus they kind of had an air of grander about them too or maybe that was just me being a little awe struck.
The Course was a 2km loop with the start finish being about half way. Heading off from the start the first aid station was the food and special drinks table – approx 400m away from the start. You then went up a small rise and around into a dead end for the turn. Heading back the water station would be set up opposite the aid station. You then carried on down to pass next to the start and then on and around in front of the cafes and restaurants to the next turn point after the turn point you came back past the restaurants again and here they had a sponge station. If you timed it right you could get two sponges and then you round the corner and back to the start finish.
We all line up for the start. We seeded ourselves on the start line and the gun goes and we are off. My instructions from my coach was to be very conservative for the first 10km and then pick it up from there. With the temperature at the start of the race 37.6 degs it was a matter of race smart. I felt great at the start off and felt that I had picked a nice pace. It felt easy and within 400m there was only 3 of us at the back ... the main pack had pulled away and left us. As I completed the first lap (2km) and I saw that I had done 11mins, I knew then that it was way too fast and that I may end up paying for that. Normally I would think that time was too slow but in this heat...it was too fast. All ready two had dropped back behind me. As we came up to the aid station I could see there were problems ... no one seemed ready for us. All I wanted was just water but there was no water there and my pre mix bottles had been mixed up. I came around to pass where we were told the water station would be to find it had not been set up yet. This would mean an further 2km in this heat before any of us could get water again. We rounded the second lap and my time had dropped dramatically, I was down to 12mins now. I got my special drink passed to me at the station and then came back around and picked up my first water. The heat was intense and I could feel my shoulders burning and my legs were getting heavier and heavier. I came back around for the 6km and took on both special drink and water again. It was here that I say my NZ team mate laying on the side of the track and then not much further on a number more of Australian and international walkers. As I passed next to the start finish I saw our NZ Male Mike Parker off the course. I was to later find out that the 6km marker was the point were most of those that didn’t finish ended their walks, all succumbing to lack of water and the heat. At the 8km mark the Australian girl Alegra passed me, and I was in no shape to chase so I had to sit back and just watch her go. It was a heart breaking moment as I knew in normal race conditions I would not have let that happen. I continued on but I was starting to really struggle, as I came back up to cross for my 10th km, I was starting to wilt badly. I was down to nearly 7min kms and was weaving across the course, at one stage tripping on the centre cones. My coach was watching me very closely and had decided he was going to pull me off the course once I passed back near him. The saving grace for me was at the 10km point a breeze picked up from off the sea and suddenly cooled things down....temp dropped about 5 degs and I am guessing the special drinks I had made up were starting to take effect because my 11th km I picked up my pace and was looking better. Each lap I was picking up my pace and as the race progressed and the temperatures dropped, I got stronger and felt better. I started gaining 40 secs per lap on my one remaining NZ team mate. But best of all, I was gaining ground fast on the Australian. By 16km I had caught and passed Alegra and was gaining ground on Rosie (NZ team mate) not that I was racing her but I was using it as a challenge to keep me going. After using all my mental will and determination to push though the 8 – 10km marks I had to have something to keep me focused. Hearing that bell to signal just one more lap ...never sounded so good!!! I picked up the pace as best as I could and pushed hard to finish. I desperately wanted to be under 2 hours but sadly that was not to be today. I was close though. For as much as I am disappointed in my time, I take comfort in the fact that EVERYONE was 5min – 10mins off their times.
After the race we lined up and were presented silver medals for the NZ vs Au race. This was awesome as it was unexpected. I then spent a good portion of the evening consoling our team member who had pulled out after succumbing to the heat and lack of water. It was heart wrenching for her and to have not had the support of her coach made it even worse. I must admit to being bitterly disappointed in her coach for not being supportive of his walker in her time of distress. I can only hope that she has taken the experience of this race and moved on. You only have to look at the results and see that over HALF the field did not finish! This is including some top international experienced walkers. With some being taken away by ambulance.
So my time was 2:00:56 I now have 3 weeks til nationals were I feel I must pull out a good time to redeem myself. Looking at my data it is interesting to see the negative splits - those kick downs really work!
This race was sadly marred by the shocking organisation of the water table. I realise that there is a rule about no water on the first lap but surely on the hottest day in 17 years they could have excused that and plus it doesn’t take a math whizz to work out that it will be 4 km until anyone could take on any water. There should have been TWO water stations and the sponges.