Monday, July 11, 2016

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016 - Race Report

Set to race with a stretch goal, finished with a strong race!

Since my first Gold Coast marathon in 2014 (my first marathon race ever), I've never missed an edition of the race and this year marked my 3rd consecutive year running the race, personal best the previous 2 races and looking to continue the run. I have always loved running in Gold Coast so much so Nick, I and may be Jamie too felt at home whenever we set our foot for the race.  3:59 was the goal time this time round, but seeing how I strayed in the month of May a conscious decision sacrificing key training for a bigger race later of the year, a long niggling PF issue flaring up (drama here), and without a 30km training run, it is really a stretch goal for anyone who understand how much training one needs to put in for a marathon.

Flew in unusually late this year compare to the previous 2 years. Nick, Yan Leng and I flew in on Saturday morning, from the airport Yan Leng and I traveled directly to the race expo while Nick picked up his rented car ferrying our luggage (thanks man) for his apartment check in. Similar to the year before, the expo was packed with runners and visitors alike, most of the booth setup were selling running related gears with informational booth about races elsewhere. I've got a very good deal for 2 Nathan bottles out of the expo and leaving the venue a happy man.

With the shake down run set to start at 4:30pm, we headed back to Surfer's Paradise for our respective check in, grabbed the much liked bacon pizza at Domino's for lunch. After freshen up back at the accommodation, met up Yan Leng at the agreed meet up point and we walked to the shake down run venue. With the tiring flight and no rest time in between, I didn't run much rather it was really to catch up with the rest of the group for a fun run/walk, fooling around and taking lots of picture. We then head for an early dinner around Surfer's Paradise, grab some essentials from Woolworth and is time to head back to the hotel and get the race gear prep.

Raceday. Jamie, Yan Leng, Selin and I met up at the tram station and head to race precinct together. Upon arriving, we decided to grab a hot coffee nearby to warm ourselves up in the cold and chilly morning, there the rest of the group join us and head to the agreed meet up point for some pre-race group photos, toilet break and warm up. With a blink of an eye, it is already 7am and is time to walked to the race corral getting ready for the race proper. Yan Leng and I had agreed to push each other to a sub4 race seeing that we are on a similar pace, I even worked out on different scenarios on what pace to keep and at which stage of the race to slow or catch. Hence we toed along with the 4hr pacer together with Nick and check ourselves in for the final time before race start.

Race started on time, slowly and steadily we started out with decent pace to warm things up. With the cool weather it was rather easy to go faster than you need to, so I kept checking on my trusty Suunto and warned Yan Leng that we were going too fast and needed to save for the later stage of the race. We were chatting along and the heart rate was kept at a easy stage. At 5km point, we keep a look out for "Coach" Nessa as Nick told us earlier that she will be there taking free photos for us lol. Things are pretty much warmed up by then and we chugged along just as I have planned for keeping a nice and comfortable pace. However, at times I need to put a rope on the wild stallion in Yan Leng to slow her down ever slightly and kept telling her to keep a distance from the gun time 4hr pacer otherwise we will destroy our race later.

Along the run,  I kept feeding her with information on how we were doing so far and where we are right now as a form of keeping the conversation going, taking away the running from the mind. We also have a lady runner in very tight outfit cutting in front of us, her butt so tight I joked with Yan Leng that I wanted to give her a smack haha. Giving high fives to the kids, cheerleaders team and the locals who came out to support was my only way to show my gratitude for their support and needless to say it is also my favorite thing to do in the race. Nevertheless, our focus was to keep the pace right and give a shout out to the elites who were running so fast the opposite direction. At the 15km u-turn, we were running under 5:30 avg pace and things were slightly better than plan, I was cautious with the avg pace that we were doing up to that point, but knowing that my pace will drop at the later stage of the race, so I decided to give it a go keeping the pace

Running form and breathing was at a very rhythmic way for the lack of better word, I then spotted Nick on the opposite side and he was fully focus on his race coming back from a back to back injury. He was running a very good race given the lack of training time and I give a shout out to him " Go Meb Go!!!" a ritual that I have kept for every year upon seeing him in the race. Heading back towards 21km mark was crucial now as it marks the half way point and a logical check on the race overall that I'm doing so far. Stride by stride, Yan Leng and I were on a matching pace, we picked our stops strategically to refuel our small bottle and drink from it passing every water station to keep hydrated at the same time shaving seconds from every stop which could prove crucial later. Out plan worked out really well so far and were still fresh heading towards the half way mark.

Crossing the 21km mark was to me an important milestone, and recording a personal best of 1:56 was a bonus which also means we have built up a healthy 4 mins buffer without pushing. Things are really looking great for the both of us and sub 4 goal was within sight and a step closer. There on I could see Q1 (the tallest building in Gold Coast), and I told myself to just keep doing what I've done right so far and we'll reached to 25km mark in no time.

1175 and 5858 put me to shame
However, things started to took a bad turn down south at around 23km mark, I told Yan Leng my stomach started playing tricks on me and I may need to take a toilet break. I wasn't sure I really needed to go and only knew of the toilet at the 25km mark where we will run pass  at the Surfer's Paradise. To manage the situation, I started to slow my pace a little without telling her so to not hold her back as she was running really well at that stage of the race, at the same time I made sure she was also in sight for me to keep chasing. 3km passed, I have decided to take the break and hit straight to the toilet. No luck all occupied, waited out a little bit and moved on looking out for another hopefully a vacant one as I would lose too much time waiting/queuing. I kept looking at my watch working out on how much time I can afford and turns out I really need to finish it up real quick.

Is hammer time, I've lost all the 4 mins buffer, put in the pace say hi again to "Coach" Nessa heading towards 27- 28km. On that faithful day,  I must have done something really wrong, either that or Lady Luck must have really hated me on that day..... SSSStrikkke 2. Dammit, I had to go again aggrrhhhhh.. this time not knowing where the portables are I just have to keep going until the row of portable potty was in sight at 29km mark...rushed in, hit it and out losing more time. It was heartbreaking for me, I was down but not out. Keeping the spirit high I needed to work out the maths to see if I still have a chance. Crossing the 30km mark saw me 4 + mins over the target time, which mean I have lost a total 9 mins from the 2 excursions. To make up that deficit within 12km with a set of used legs, it would take me something very special with a sting of fast pace to catch up. I tried on the 31km it didn't happen, 32km it did not happen again. Crossing the 35km mark losing more time, at that moment, I knew it was a losing battle for me, heartbreaking moment.

Hammer time going into 27k

Nevertheless, I wasn't going to let that spoil a strong finish and so I marched on. The 4hr pacer finally crossed path with me from the opposite direction, I was keeping a look out for Yan Leng giving her the much support needed, but I didn't spot her for some distance. Then,  I spotted her about 700-800m after the 4hr pacer and I knew it will be very close for her, gave her a shout out encouraging her to push on. I was all pumped up at that point and my legs came back alive setting some fast kilometers after kilometers catching up with Digger (4:15 pacer), exchanging a few words with him before setting myself for another series of fast KMs.

At the bridge heading to 38km, spotted Nick and with both our goal time is already thrown out of the window due to our own set of setbacks. We spend a minute or so exchanging our woes with him having to deal with cramps and I dealing with the toilet break. Saying that, we never forget to give a word of encouragement to each other before setting off to deal with the remaining distance. Again, I felt right at home and was able to churned out under 6 mins pace going into the final stretch of the run. McDonalds' was a very welcoming landmark which signified the finishing line is just a little over a km away.

Heading towards 38k still in good running form

I ran close to the barricade for the whole kilometer wanted to feel and hear all the cheers and shout out from the supporters, I even tapped on a board that says "Tap here to power up" held out by the locals. The experience running down that main straight was exhilarating to say the least, I have gave my best on that day and for the first time I wasn't sprinting to the finishing line not because I wasn't able to, but I wanted to enjoy the moment and say a few thanks to the seas of supporters. Crossing the finishing line short from the goal time, a little disappointed but held my head high knowing I had finished a strong race.

Similar to the past 2 edition of the GCAM that I have ran in, the race has always been able to deliver the trill that I was looking for. Year on year, with the race route so familiar to me I would still have the jitter and nervousness toeing at the start line. The race was truly living up to its expectation of an IAAF Gold Label Road Race. A well organized race, the sea of supporters from young to the old and the musician playing those badass tune was what makes the event amazing.  Although it was me that robbed myself the opportunity of achieving my goal time, but it was really beyond me. As much as I would like to put up a special come back and make it more dramatic, it was not meant to be. I would not go into the "what could have been if..." mode, I have gave it all my best and it was still a strong race. Would I have come back for GCAM17? I would love to, but first I would need to negotiate and get my visa approves by the home minister first.

Saying that, I owe my gratitude to my wife for her unconditional support towards my hours away from home putting in mileages day in day out. Also my gratitude to the Malaysia training team led by Jamie and Nick who brough me up to this point and not forgetting some hard session with the #MMT group. Congratulations to the army of 250 over Malaysian that made it to the race this year..hope everyone enjoyed the race as well as the hospitality as much as I do. I have come to know many new friends and for those that I may not have remember your name, please accept my apology.

We had many good races together

With Yuki who finished 2nd

Not forgetting #FTT

Here's to GCAM17

Photos courtesy by Jamie, Nick and Nessa

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