Make Sense of Your City to Surf Results

City to Surf Results

Each year I receive lots of text messages and emails after our runners have finished the City to Surf. And each year, these messages convey a mixture of elation and disappointment. This year of course was no different.

As coaches, we probably view your results differently to the way you view them. I thought I’d share a few of the things you should be looking at when you’re analysing this year’s results.

Your Start Group

The City to Surf is like no other race. It’s tough, it’s hilly and there are lots and lots of people. If you’re a front runner, the crowd factor isn’t going to impact you too much. If you’re running with the back of the pack, you’re unlikely to be able to get much of a rhythm going. You also have  the disadvantage of coming through the water stations after 50,000 people have slurped, spilt and thrown their paper cups on the ground.  You need to slow down a bit through the water stations, just for safety’s sake.

The Weather

Even though the City to Surf is a winter run, it can get pretty hot. Yesterday it was 14 degrees at 8:30am, and 16 degrees at 9:30. Last year the temperature was 9 degrees at 9am, and the top of 16 degrees wasn’t reached until 3pm that day. If you’re comparing this year’s run to last year’s,  you need to take that temperature difference into account. Research done on some of the big city marathons has shown that performance decreases with a rise in temperture.

For the top three placegettes, the decrease in performance was a bit less than 1%, for every 5 degree rise in temperature above 10 degrees C. For slower runners, this drop in performance increased exponentially. Unforutnately, the reasearch only looked at the first 300 runners. The 50th placed runners’ performance dropped by 1.5%, the 100th placegetters by 1.8%, and the 300th place getters by 3.2%. 300th place would be a time of around three hours for the marathons in the sample. 

If you’re comparing your time from this year’s City to Surf to last year, unless you’re a three hour marathoner, you should expect that your performance would have dropped by more than 3.2% due to the difference in temperature. To put that into perspective, a 3.2% drop in performance on a 70 minute run last year, is equal to about a 72:15 this year.

They Have Age Categories for a Reason

If you were at maximum fitness level in your prime, as you get older, your performance will naturally decline. If you weren’t at peak fitness in your younger years, you’re more likely to be able to maintain your performance simply be increasing your level of fitness. 

Age graded performance tables are a great way to evaluate your performance against previous performances, and also across different events. Your age graded percentage show you how you compare to the world’s best of your age and gender. Our coach Richard Sarkies, who has a City to Surf best time of 48:12, set 12 years ago, ran 52:12 yesterday. Comparing these two runs on the age graded tables actually shows he went slightly better this year. 

You can use this calculator to compare your own age-graded times. 

Make sure you press “Age Grade” next to where you enter your time to get your result at the bottom.

Analysing This Year’s City to Surf Result

Once you’ve established that your time is actually pretty good compared to last year’s cooler weather time or your time of 20 years ago, you can start to learn from your results.

Firstly, you should check if your goal was realistic. When I asked Richard if he was happy with his result, he replied he “couldn’t have gone any faster”. I thought he’d been aiming for around 50 minutes, and when I asked him about that he said something like  “that would’ve been nice, but what you hope to get and what you’re able to achieve are two completely different things”. After having quite a long time off rehabbing an Achilles injury, he knew he probably didn’t have the endurance to get him through to the end.

My Race Goals

Not being a massive fan of crowds, or spending hours getting home when I’m sweaty and cold, I’d never done the City to Surf before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. For various reasons, my training over the last 2 years has been intermittent at best, and I knew I didnt’ have the sort of base that’s required to do the race any justice. On top of that, I developed a nasty sinus infection about three weeks out and was laid out, unable to train. So I had a few things to take into account when setting my goals for the race.

My goals were:

  • To run on feel rather than use any kind of GPS device. (I did use my stop watch to roughly keep track of how I was going at each km marker).
  • Run conservatively for the first half of the race, and run the second half of the race after heart break hill faster than the first half
  • Be prepared to walk some of the race if I felt I needed to
  • As far as time went, I really thought I’d be lucky to run under 90 minutes (my pre-sinusitis goal had been under 80-mostly likely too ambitous)

Goal number one was pretty easy, as I don’t have a GPS device at the moment

Goal number three – I was definitely prepared to walk –in fact I did walk through a couple of the drinks stations to make sure I rehyderated (confession – I had a couple of champagnes the night before-why not since I was treating it as a training run, right?)

Goal number three-the numbers aren’t pretty, but my results do show I ran a fairly even race.

My City to Surf Splits - not pretty

Looking at the split rank (S/Rank) and the race rank (R/Rank) you can see that I moved through the field as the race progressed. Not so rapidly in the second half of the race. 

You can also see I ran 36 seconds faster over the back half of the course. I’m not entirely convinced the course measurements are accurate, but they wouldn’t be too far out.

Look at How You Handled Heart Break Hill

Everyone slows down up heart break hill. It’s a reasonably steep, long,  relentless 1.4km in the middle of the race, so you should expect to slow down a bit. But how do you assess whether you slowed more than you should?

Looking at my figures, you can see that I pick up nearly 2000 places going up the hill. This means that I ran faster up heart break hill than 7% of the people who were running faster than I was before heart break hill. 

These figures alone don’t tell you much, other than I was slower up the hill than 21,082 people. But, using those figures, along with how I felt throughout the race is useful. I felt ok going up the hill. I felt that before heartbreak hill I was running at a pace I’d be able to maintain for 90 minutes. The fact that I slowed down up the hill definitely helped me maintain my pace in the back end of the race. I was exhausted for the last 2 km of the race due to lack of fitness, but it wasn’t running up the hills too hard that did it to me.  I was conscious of my form going up the hill, shorter strides, quicker turnover to put less strain on my legs. I used the tangents to make sure I ran the shortest distance possible. All in all, I was happy with how I handled this part of the course. 

Another way you can guage how you went with heart break hill is by comparing yourself to some of the front runners.  The first few place getters slow down by about 8%, Richard (208th place) slowed down by 21%, and I slowed down 15%. I still think I have a lot of room for improvement on my up hill running, but comparing these figures, I think it shows I’m heading in the right direction.

What To Do With the Data

Use your City to Surf race stats to help you learn for next time. Good race or bad race, you can take note of the stats and how you were feeling on the day, and learn a lot. If you started out at 4:30 pace, and finished up at 5:30 pace, think about how you felt for your first few kms. Remember that feeling, and know that next time, that feeling is tricking you into running faster. You have to feel as if your effort is easier than that next time you race.

If you slowed down dramatically up heart break hill, was it because you’d gone too fast early in the race?  Was it because you deliberately slowed down to conserve energy?  Or was it because you’re not great at running up hills and you need to build some strength in your legs and work on your hill technique?

If your’e planning on improving next time you race, make some notes now on how you ran, how you felt, what you did leading into the race.  What did you do well, what would you do differently next time?  When you start to plan your training for your next race, you’ll know what you need to work on.

A Good Day Out

At the end of the day, whatever your result, it was a beautiful day out with nearly 70,000 other Sydney-sider, celebrating living in this awesome city of ours.

And it was a VERY good day out for Hooked on Runing teams. You can see our team results here. link to our results page

City to Surf 2016: Our results

Hooked on Running singlet

This year we had our biggest teams ever. Our 50+ women led the charge with 13 team members, and we had two men’s teams this year, open and 50+.

We had some great results, but I’m far more excited about the number of our runners who enjoyed racing under the Hooked on Running flag.

Hooked on Running City to Surf Results

Open Women: 4th

Open Men: 10th

Women 40-49: 2nd

Women 50+: 2nd

Men 50+: 3rd

The Teams

These are our official teams lists, but we had quite a few other runners running for charity or with a work team. Fantastic turnout people. Richard and I are over the moon. Details of celebration dinner to come!

Hooked on Running women 50+

Hooked on Running women 40-49

Hooked on Running Open Women

Hooked on Running Open Men

City to Surf Hooked on Running 50+

Do Ice Baths Really Work for Recovery?

Ice baths can help recovery under certain conditions

When my kids were playing in a soccer tournament earlier this winter, they were due to play at least one game a day on 4 consecutive days, and sometimes two. Luckily for them there was a very-cold-unheated-outdoor-in-the-middle-of-a-Canberra-winter pool available for them to use!!

I wasn’t convinced of the value of this cold water immersion, compared to the stress placed on the immune system by running outside half naked in 5 degree temperature to get to the pool, then running back again dripping wet and still half naked. (Apparently it’s illegal to wear trackies and a warm top when you’re meeting your team mates pool side).

I did a little digging around on cold water immersion (CWI), more commonly known as “Ice Baths”, and found some interesting research. Here’s a quick summary.

What is an Ice Bath?

Ice baths come under the umbrella of cold water immersion. They are not actually baths chock full of only ice. That would definitely burn. They are a mix of water and ice, in any kind of vessel big enough to hold a human body, or part thereof. Generally the temperature is around 10 degrees C, although some research suggests that this is not cold enough, and favours a 6 degree submersion.

Why Would You Even Want to Jump Into an Ice Bath?

High intensity sport, or large volumes of low intensity sport, can cause fatigue which can reduce your performance. It can also reduce your ability to train well the next day. The more quickly you can recover from a bout of exercise, the better your next day performance will be, whether that’s in competition or in training.

It’s believed that immersing yourself in cold water post exercise bouts aids in recovery. That’s why you or I might think CWI is a good idea. Our kids…well, they tend to think it’s a good idea when their mates tell them it is.

Using Cold Water Immersion to Reduce Muscle Soreness.

Playing sport hard, long runs, high intensity interval training sessions, or sometimes even a reasonably moderate session of an exercise that is new to you, can leave you with what’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) aka “sore muscles”

Potentially, CWI can reduce this muscle soreness. The benefits include reduced pain at rest, reduced pain when stretching, and an increase in the active range of motion.

There are several mechanisms which might be at play here:

  1. Reduced nerve activity due to the cold temperature, which results in increased pain tolerance (1)
  2. A reduction in swelling due to the blood vessel constriction due to the low temperature (2)
  3. Reduced swelling due to the hydrostatic pressure of water (3)

One study has shown that it’s most likely not the actual immersion in water itself that has the benefit, rather the temperature of the water in which you immerse yourself. Immersion in 6 degree C water was more effective than 10 degrees, and more effective than contrast immersion alternating between 10 degree and 38 degrees C.(4).

Wouldn’t you just know the coldest option would be the most effective?

Does Cold Water Immersion Always Work?

Not necessarily. It appears the benefit of using cold water immersion in reducing muscle soreness only exists in trained athletes, so unless you’re well trained, you can keep the ice firmly in the freezer where it belongs.

CWI is also ineffective in recovering from a new training regime. So if you’re a well-trained runner who does 10k on the rowing machine in the gym, chances are an ice bath won’t help to stop the inevitable muscle soreness you’ll experience.

Will it Improve Your Performance?

There is not a huge amount of research on cold water immersion, despite its popularity as a recovery strategy. Whilst it might reduce muscle soreness, this may not necessarily translate to improved performance.

I took a quick look at eleven different studies which looked at the effect of CWI as a strategy to improve performance. Six of the eleven studies showed the CWI improved performance, but 5 showed either no improvement or reduced performance.

This was of course a small sample of studies, but there aren’t too many studies going around. And that’s the thing. There really isn’t enough research on the strategy to come down on one side or the other.

Patterns in the Research on Effectiveness of Ice Baths

  • Studies which have looked at how well cold water immersion can prepare you for a second bout of exercise on the same day found either no effect or a negative effect on performance. This is probably due to a reduction in nerve velocity and the restriction of blood flow to the muscles.
  • Studies testing the effect on performance 1 to 2 days after the cold water immersion had a tendency to find a more positive result.

Long Term Effects of Ice Baths

Research on the long term use of ice baths suggest that long term, chilling yourself in this manner too frequently could have a negative impact on the way you adapt to exercise.

CWI increases the release of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine for up to 60 minutes after you jump out of the bath. These hormones act to break down the muscles, so this would reduce the body’s ability to adapt to training. And adapting to training is really the whole point of doing it. You stress your body repeatedly, it says “bloody hell, if she’s going to keep doing this to me I’d better get stronger”, and diligently goes about doing just that, getting stronger. But, if your cold water immersion bout is releasing hormones which break down muscle tissue, long term, you’re not going to be seeing the adaptation that you’re training for.

The release of stress hormones could also impair your ability to get a good night’s sleep, and sleep is THE most critical factor in recovering well.

The reduction in swelling which is brought about by ice baths could also have a long term detrimental effect on your fitness. Post-exercise swelling is part of the process that leads to muscle repair and strengthening.

It’s All in the Timing

Whilst there’s still a lot more research needed on cold water immersion and ice baths, a few things are apparent.

  1. CWI can reduce muscle soreness in trained athletes
  2. CWI might improve performance in subsequent exercise bouts which are 1 to 2 days post immersion
  3. CWI is likely to have no impact or could reduce performance on same day subsequent bouts of exercise
  4. Long term use of ice baths and cold water immersion as a recovery strategy is likely to have a detrimental effect on the body’s ability to adapt to training
  5. If you use cold water immersion as a recovery strategy, you should limit its use to times when you really need to recovery quickly for your next tough training session, or for an important event, but you should not use it as a matter of course.
1.  Algafly, A.A., & George, K.P. (2007). The effect of cryotherapy on nerve conduction velocity, pain threshold and pain tolerance. British Journal of Sport Medicine, 41, 365-369.
2. Cochrane, D.J. (2004). Alternating hot and cold water immersion for athlete recovery: A review. Physical Therapy in Sport, 5, 26-32.
3. Wilcock, I.M., Cronin, J.B., & Hing, W.A. (2006). Physiological response to water immersion: A method for recovery? Sports Medicine, 36, 747-765
4. Cold water immersion in the management of delayed-onset muscle soreness: Is dose important? A randomised controlled trial.  Philip D. Glasgow, Roisin Ferris, Chris M. Bleakley

Australian Women at the Olympics

Australian Women at the Olympics

For the first time ever, Australia’s summer Olympic team has more female athletes than male. The late call up of the women’s eight came after rowing’s international ruling body banned 22 of 28 Russian rowers from competition. The addition of the rowers (8 oarswomen plus the cox who steers the boat) means that the Australian team is made up of 212 women, and 207 men.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the lesser known Australian women at the Olympics over the years.

Wilhemina (Mina) Wylie

mina wylie

Silver medalist in the 100m freestyle in Stockholm, Wylie was lesser known than her friend and rival
Fanny Durack. Durack is widely known as the first Australian woman to compete in the Olympics, where she took a Gold medal in the same race in which Wylie took second.

Wylie however, was a champion in her own right. Between 1906 and 1934 she won 115 State and national titles and held world records in freestyle, breast-stroke and backstroke. From 1928 to 1970 Mina Wylie taught swimming at Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Pymble, so it’s quite possible some of our current crop of over 40’s and 50’s runners came under her tutelage.

Brenda Jones-Carr

brenda jones carr

800m Silver medalist Rome, 1960.

A 400m and 800m specialist, Brenda Jones-Carr missed an opportunity of a home Olympics, as the women’s 800 was taken off the Olympic program after the 1928 Olympics, and not reinstated until 1960. Go figure.

Lynette McKenzie (nee McClements)Lynnette McClements

Gold, 100m Butterfly, Mexico

Silver, 4 x 100m Medly, Mexico.

McKenzie was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic Butterfly event. 

Now age 65, she still swims three times a week. When recently interviewed by The West Australian, she said
“… it does break my heart sometimes when some of [today’s swimmers] act up because they have been handed a gift and they are just so privileged. Some of them do get carried away with their own importance and they just have to…  be a little bit more humble about getting on with the job.” ““All the bravado comes a long way second to what you really have to do to achieve.”

Gail Neall (married Name Gail Yeo)

Gold Medalist, Munich, 400m Medley.

Neall was a little overshadowed by fellow Aussie Shane Gould at the Munich Olympics. Both Neall and Gould went to Turramurra High School, where they both have school houses named after them.

Her performance at Munich won her the Helms Award as Australasia’s outstanding athlete for 1972.

Gail Neall

Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0727clergate6

Gail Yeo is pictured here at the school her son teaches at. How lucky were those kids to have a visit from an Olympian! And if you think you do a lot for your kids, have a read of Mrs Yeo’s reminiscenses of her training regime. Behind every great Olympian is a great parent!

Suzy Balogh

Gold Medalist, Athens 2004. Shooting-Women’s Double Trap

suzy balagh

Suzy was Australia’s first female shooting gold medalist. She lived in Orange where there is no international shooting range, and drove four hours to Sydney most weekends to train. After her win she sent heartfelt thanks to “all the people who have let me stay in their spare rooms.” 

Olympia AlderseyOlympia Aldersey

As a member of the women’s rowing eight, Olympia is one of our newest Olympians, though with a name like that, it was only a matter of time. She was born during the opening ceremony of the Barcelona games.

Kirsten Todd 

Sydney, 2000Kirsten Todd

Like many Sydney-siders, I was an enthusiastic spectator at many Olympic events in 2000. I’m pictured here  at the athletics, looking forward to an action packed night which included the men’s 10,000m featuring Haile Gebrselassie, the women’s pole vault featuring Australian pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva, the men’s long jump with jumping Jai Taurima, and the women’s 400m final, with that other lesser known Australian Olympian, Cathy Freeman.

A good night was had by all!! (including the drunken idiots in front of us who were barracking for “Gabrielle” in the men’s 10,000-that would be “Gabrielle Selassie” one can only presume).