Sydney 2 Gong

Lost in my drafts, I should’ve posted it long time ago

Some things can be explained by sheer ignorance. Others, nothing could explain. Except, maybe, knowing it is stupid.

I had never run a marathon. Then someone said “City 2 Surf”. I didn’t know what it was, but I said “yes”. Then they said it was a 14km run. And I still said “yes”. Ah, nothing like feeling your legs sore for a month and getting a brand new black nail on your toe.

Anyway, I knew what “Sydney 2 Gong” was. A 90km bike run, from Sydney to Wollogong. And, still, I think I was one of the first here to say “I’ll do it.” Well, there was two races: one starting at Heathcote in a 56km run and another one starting at Sydney, which was the 90km run. I decided to go for 90km — “What the hell, if I’m going to die cycling, it is better to die in the long run!”

So, last Sunday, Nov 4, I was in the starting line, with just one co-worker in his mountain bike. As you know, I have a speed bike, so I had to hold myself to not go too far. Also, I was in full cycling gear (jersey, shorts and shoes.)

Things didn’t start smoothly, starting by finding the place. Sydney is HUGE and, even after 10 months here, I didn’t have the time to see everything. I asked Google Maps for help and it gave me a fair route to get to the Sydney Park, in the St Peters suburb. Unfortunately, it seems that (a) Google doesn’t know Sydney, (b) Sydney changes too fast to Google keep up-to-date, (c) The route description in Google Maps are shit, (d) I don’t know how to read directions or (e) All of the above. Google routes said it would take 20 minutes, so I double it (because I was not using a car.) Also, because I had nothing else to do, I went there almost one hour before the start. And, as it always happens, I got lost. Fortunately, I still have some good instincts, so I arrived there 5 minutes to start.

As anyone who did any other racing/running could expect, the start is a mess: there are a lot of people, some not running, so you need to keep a slow pace. Also, because the race starts inside the city, there was just one lane in the streets for racers. And you had to stop on red lights, which was fucking annoying since I was using my cycling shoes. Things improved a lot once we got to Princess Highway, where the lane was a little bit larger and people were not so packed up.

The first thing I learned is that downhills are fun. So fun that I would leave my partner behind just to enjoy the easy speed. The second thing I learned is that some people really don’t like to race. The third thing learned was I like to race. And I realized all that in the same time: it was a downhill, I decided to speed up and pass someone, and then another one, and then another, and another and, when I realized, I decided to pass everyone. I was seeing that those people around me were not on my league. So I sped up. At some point, I learned the fourth thing: when you don’t have more energy on your legs to pull down, you still have energy to push up. That’s one thing my personal trainer tried to teach me: when you are cycling with cycling shoes, you need to use energy when you are pulling the pedals down AND when pushing them up. I hadn’t the time to learn that, so I did a “normal” pedaling and never did a push up. Then, when I decided to really run, it came back to me. Because my bike is a racing bike, I could pass anyone when going downhill and, because I still had energy to push up, I could pass everyone on uphills.

After my little “race against everyone”, I decided to stop at Waterfalls to wait for my partner and refill my water bottle. There, we had to wait for a bike to lead the wait, as it was a very steep downhill till the middle of the National Park (also because the park wasn’t closed for the race, so there could be some cars around — which never appeared.) There were around 20 people in front of us but, as soon as I reached the downhill, I decided to let the bike get whatever speed it could and, after a while, I reached the first guys in the group. Unfortunately, there was a cop right in the front of the group, to make sure no one would hit a car or something. So there I stayed, with three other guys really pushing the group. And then, the downhill ended. That’s the unfunny bit of the race: when you reach the end of a downhill, there is a uphill right next to it. And, after almost three hours racing, I didn’t have much energy to keep pushing. So yeah, it was really hard to reach the lunch point, but I did it. Well, I almost went through it, as I thought it was just another “refill your bottle” points, which I didn’t want to to right now. But stopping for lunch is something completely different.

And there I had my lunch and sit down to rest. That’s something you shouldn’t do, really. I mean, after three hours of racing, stopping for rest is a real killer. Try getting up after that.

Well, after a little bit over one hour eating and resting, it was time to keep going. Remember that thing I said about “after a downhill”? Well, it seems that the place where I had lunch was the lowest point in the National Park, so it was a real battle uphill from there. The view was nice, though: you could see the whole beach of Wollogong from the hill. Too bad the view of the huge uphill you have to face nearly destroyed a good moment just seeing the view.

And, two huge uphills after, I finally reached Wollogong, which was a lot of small downhills and small uphills, over and over again. The only thing I can say about that part of the race is that the organization is crazy. There were too many turns, narrow sidewalks and even a weird “turn here” near a small creek after a downhill in a left turn. I mean, I could only spot that I had to do a hard curve to left when I was almost hitting a guardrail near the creek.

Other funny facts: after 70km, I look at my arms and realized that I completely forgot to use sunscreen. The results were quite visible.

After 80km, my left knee start hurting, like someone had stick a needle right under the kneecap. And it got more painful each moment. I really thought “Ok, that’s it. I’m in pain, it is time to stop” but, at the same time, something was saying to me “Just 10 more kilometers. Just 10 more kilometers…” And so I did 10km with a real pain on my knee. I remember that, on one of the uphills, I had to push (remember what I said before about racing with cycling shoes?) with my left leg and it was so painful I nearly blackout (well, I did blackout for about a second, but recovered really quick.) And, 10km after the pain started, I crossed the finish line. And all I managed to do was to sit on the grass of the Wollogong park and wait for my teammate.

After another rest, we took the bus back to Sydney and waited for our bikes. And, after all that, it was finally over. I got home, had a shower and went right to bed, really worried about my knee. It took about three days till I could finally walk normally again.