Nagano Marathon Race Report

A short a trip to Japan but what a trip it was as I caught the Sakura season and there was a marathon too! Read about the race here.

Gear Reviews

All the reviews here...

Trans Nuang 2013

5 runners. 42km. 16 hours. Elevation gain 2,878 meters / 9,442 feet. All here.

After a long long wait, I finally nailed it. Full story here...

 

Kinvara 5 Runshield Review

There is arguably no other shoe that’s more identifiable (read: popular) to Saucony than the Kinvara. While Saucony, a company founded in 1898 and headquartered in Lexington, may have the Mirage, Virrata, A6 and Ride in its stable, it was the Kinvara that got runners excited when it debuted in 2010 to a handful of accolades. Kinvara is Saucony and Saucony is Kinvara in my books. Saucony is also one of the very few companies to only focus on the running segment. Hence you won’t find cross-training models made by these guys.

My past experience with the Kinvara was the v2 ViZiPRO (retired and donated), followed by Kinvara 3 (K3, also retired). I wasn’t that fond of the K3, mainly due to the very tapered forefoot. I skipped Kinvara 4 entirely but reviews generally covered its issues rather than how well they performed.

I was recently reacquainted with the series, the Kinvara 5 (K5), specifically the weather resistant version called the RunShield. Unlike the dreary colors of other weather resistant versions of other brands, the K5 RunShield comes in a catchy blue-gray colorway with silver reflective trims along with orange ViZiPRO logo. Do note that I don’t have the regular version of the K5 for comparisons but the 4mm drop platform, midsole material and outsole configuration are the same as the stock version. Only the upper sees the adoption of a FlexShell upper, a polyester fabric with weather resistant membrane.

Close-up of the weather resistant upper.

Lightweight FlexFilm welded overlays continue to be employed since the K3. This time, Saucony incorporates the ProLock lacing system to better lock in the midfoot. ProLock is similar (but not identical) to Brooks’ Nav Band, which I’m no fan of. The photo below shows how the ProLock integrates with the tongue and entire midfoot upper resulting in a snug fit around the middle. The internal sleeve reminds me of Salomon’s Endofit. I noticed that keeping the midfoot lacing a little loose works best for me. Inside, the K5 sports a RunDry lining for moisture management.

The 2 little padding on either side of the achilles in the K3 have been replaced with a thicker and plusher material, which I prefer.

The K3. The paddings are clearly seen on either side of the achilles.

The K5 with beefed up overall padding.

The K5′s midsole is made up of single density foam marketed as EVA+. There’s an embedded PowerGrid with the foam and the K5 sees an increased use of carbon rubber plugs. Even the outer lateral side is now more filled in resulting in more ground contact. It’s clear the designers wanted to make the shoe more durable while not going overboard with added bulk/weight. Still, the K5 has gained some weight over the K3 (see below), but do note that my K5 is half a size up than the older shoe. I’m unable to confirm but the use of weather resistant upper could’ve possibly contributed to the increase. It’ll be interesting to check out the stock version of the K5 measure up.

After 100K, the wear and tear has been pretty good with just minimal scruff marks.

The K5 (above) compared to the K3.

7.65oz for the US9.5 K3, 8.25oz for the US10 K5

Semi-rigid heel counter

The K3 has a more minimalist heel counter but not by much.

It may not be obvious but the K5 is quite flexible.

My wear experience has been great, right from the get-go. My feet instantly feel secure when I slide them into the shoes even without tightening the laces. The ProLock definitely lends a snug fit around the midfoot area. The added bit of padding on the tongue and around the collar gave it a noticeably comfortable feel unlike the thinner and stiffer setup of the K3. Given the Runshield is a weather resistant version, I had concerns that I would wind up with soggy shoes from all that sweating after every run. Thankfully, I’m glad to report that such fears proved unfounded despite the current heatwave. Sweaty feet were largely a non-issue. Runners who leave pools of sweat on the ground *urgh* are best advised to stick to regular versions though :) .

It’s been ages since KL saw a downpour and I’ve not stop casting my eyes at the skies for any hints of rain clouds. When that happens, the Runshield will finally get to play in the rain. Oooh, I miss those days!

I’ve since put in 97km in the K5 RunShield and I like it a lot. Even more so when it’s my marathon PR shoe :) . Unlike the firm K3, the K5 provides a smoother, more forgiving ride, very welcome in the late stages of a marathon. So far, the durability has been outstanding, with negligible wear and tear. The K5 is a tad soft for trackwork – for that I rely on the GOSpeed 2 or Hitogami – but works very well on the road and gravel. With the 5, the Kinvara is definitely back and is a solid choice for anyone seeking a high mileage lightweight trainer/racer.

Disclosure: The Saucony Kinvara 5 RunShield is a sample pair provided courtesy of RSH (M) Sdn Bhd. It is expected to be available, along with the regular versions of the Kinvara 5 and Ride 7, from Running Lab, Stadium and RSH outlets in September 2014.

Press Release: Da Nang International Marathon 2014

 

31th AUGUST, 2014 – DA NANG CITY, VIETNAM

Da Nang International Marathon 2014 powered by La Vie has officially become the 97th member of AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races). The race is operated for the second time on 31st August 2014 at Da Nang city, expecting more than 4.200 international and local runners to join in.

Da Nang International Marathon (DNIM) is the first professional marathon conducted in Vietnam, with the course certified by IAAF – AIMS (International Association of Athletics Federations – Association of International Marathon and Distances Races) to international standards with official timing record. The race includes 3 distances: Marathon 42.195 km; Half Marathon 21.097 km and 5 km Fun Run.

Runners’ records will be measured by touch system, a chip is installed behind runner’s number. This record is recognized by international competitions and runners can use this record to participate in well-know and other competitions all over the world.

In 2013, the race received a strong response of 4.000 athletes from 63 provinces and cities in Vietnam and nearly 30 countries around the world. Harvesting from the success of the first Marathon season, this year, Da Nang International Marathon will be organized with larger range, more professional quality and level, promising to bring a strong, wide and deep integration for Vietnam’s sports. It would also be the first step for Vietnamese athletes to participate in international tournaments worldwide.

For the 2nd season, Da Nang International Marathon has officially become the 97th member of AIMS (Association of International Marathon and Distance Races). It will be listed in international marathon list of AIMS and be informed to every association’s members.

Not being just a race, DNIM is a great opportunity for all runners to experience the most beautiful and exotic beach city of Vietnam by running on a magnificent marathon course in South East Asia. Besides the race day, there are many activities such as tour package, sports expo and gala dinner for runners to enjoy and explore the city and other tourist destinations located nearby.

Organized by Da Nang People’s Committee co-operated with World Marathon Tours and Pulse Active, through the competition, the Board of Organizers will raise fund from runners and their families and other participants to support for the Da Nang Cancer Hospital Fund.

REGISTRATION FEE:

Full Marathon: 110 USD
Half – Marathon: 90 USD
5K Fun Run: 30 USD

Register at http://rundanang.com/

Or directly at:

  • HCM City: Pulse Active, 8th floor, 47 – 51 Phung Khac Khoan, D.1
  • Danang City: Indosun 201/4 Phan Châu Trinh.

=========END=========

Editor’s note:

Frankly, I was briefly tempted by DNIM. It has a very scenic course through the quaint township and looking at the course map, the runners will be running by the coast line. It’s a 2-loop course with a 7-hour cutoff for the marathon. Air Asia tickets are still available (direct flight to Da Nang, negating the need to travel from Hanoi/HCM City) for under RM600 return. Then some commonsense returned. With DNIM happening just a week after Starlight 84, who was I kidding? Another one to file away for 2015 then.

 

Press Release: World’s Best Face Off At The Westin Chongqing Vertical Run


Chongqing, China, 24 July 2014 – The world’s best vertical runners will be hitting the stairs of The Westin Chongqing Liberation Square on Saturday, 13 September 2014, where hundreds of participants have registered to conquer Chongqing’s tallest skyscraper.

Organised by Sporting Republic, The Westin Chongqing Vertical Run has been selected as Exhibition Race for the 2014 Vertical World Circuit (VWC), the world’s premier skyscraper racing circuit, uniting some of the world’s most iconic skyscraper races, including the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York City. Contenders will line up at the starting line of The Westin Chongqing Liberation Square and dash up the 245 meters to the helipad finish line making it one of the highest races in Chongqing.

Heading the elite race is “the king of stair climbing” Thomas Dold of Germany. Dold is a seven-time winner of the prestigious Empire State Building Run-Up in New York City.

“The participation of such a high profile runner ensures that we are on track with our plans in growing the race into a premier running event not just in China but also internationally,” said David Shin of event organisers Sporting Republic.

“It is the 1st time Chongqing has become part of the Vertical World Circuit. We are looking forward to celebrating that, and I am sure the elite field will put on a great show for everyone in Chongqing and show what top-end vertical running is all about.”

Runners will be flagged off in waves of between 10 to 15 people, commencing in the afternoon. Men and women of all fitness levels are encouraged to enter in what is to be expected as a fun and energetic event.

Registration closes on 22 August 2014 with a participation fee of RMB 100 per person.

Official Website: www.cqwestinrun.com
Vertical World Circuit: www.verticalrunning.org
Thomas Dold: www.thomasdold.com

About Westin Hotels & Resorts
Westin Hotels & Resorts offers innovative programs that transform every aspect of a stay into a revitalizing experience. All Westin signature services – like the Heavenly Bed®, delicious SuperFoodsRx® and WestinWORKOUT® studio – have been designed with the guests’ well-being in mind. Westin hotels, with more than 190 hotels and resorts in nearly 40 countries and territories, is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with nearly 1,200 properties in 100 countries and 181,400 employees at its owned and managed properties.  Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands:  St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, Aloft®, and Element®.  The Company boasts one of the industry’s leading loyalty programs, Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®), allowing members to earn and redeem points for room stays, room upgrades and flights, with no blackout dates.  Starwood also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., a premier provider of world-class vacation experiences through villa-style resorts and privileged access to Starwood brands.  For more information, please visit www.starwoodhotels.com.

About The Westin Chongqing Liberation Square
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. flagship hotel in the south-west of China and also the highest landmark in the beautiful hilly city Chongqing, The Westin Chongqing Liberation ideally positioned in the central business district of Jiefangbei, the hotel is nestled in the bustling downtown district yet offering ease access to the city’s attractions. 336 thoughtfully designed, luxurious guest rooms and suites located from 34 to 54 floors make you overlook the Yangtze River and urban view of the city, feature restaurants, business as well as leisure facilities which will let you create your personal renewing experience.

Media Contact
Erica Gao, +852 2116 1636
E-mail: erica@sportingrepublic.com
Sporting Republic: http://www.sportingrepublic.com

Press Release: Energizer Malaysia announces EPIC Homes as partner for “Light Up the Dark” initiative

Kuala Lumpur, 22 July 2014 – Energizer Malaysia is pleased to announce EPIC Homes as its CSR partner of “Light Up the Dark” initiative for this year’s edition of the Energizer Night Race. EPIC Homes is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide sustainable homes for the underprivileged communities. Under the partnership, Energizer Malaysia hopes to raise RM180,000 in funding and lighting support to build up homes for Orang Asli in rural Peninsular Malaysia.

“The Positivenergy created by runners and supporters of Energizer Malaysia enables us to create change that matters. The Energizer Night Race is not only a race to promote healthy lifestyle but to gather and empower runners in making a positive impact to the society that we live in – together we race for a brighter world, “said Mike Foong, Managing Director of Energizer Malaysia and Singapore.

John-Son Oei, CEO of EPIC Homes, “EPIC Homes is honored to be part of the Malaysia’s largest night race and work with a passionate brand like Energizer – its Positivenergy philosophy is truly inspiring and infectious. With Energizer’s generous contributions and quality lighting products, together we literally are brightening lives to ‘Light Up the Dark’, a meaningful initiative that is closely related to what we have been doing for the underprivileged Orang Asli communities”.
Energizer Night Race 2014 which will flag off on August 9 at Dataran Merdeka is now the largest night race in Malaysia following the close of its registrations with 15,000 runners just three weeks after its launch.

To date, Energizer has collected RM100,000 from the participants’ registration fees and contributions made by its wholesalers and partners. The funds would be further raised from Energizer sale proceeds at all AEON & AEON BIG retail stores, GIANT stores, TESCO Stores and MYDIN stores from 1st August until 30th September 2014. For every pack of the Energizer Batteries, Lightings & Specialty products sold, RM 0.20 from the sales will go towards the initiative. On top of sale proceeds, Energizer Malaysia will be supplying household lighting products to the Orang Asli for their everyday use.

Participants and supporters can support the initiative by contributing in cash or in kind – purchase and donate any Energizer battery pack and lighting product – at the Energizer Night Race 2014 race site. The EPIC team will be there to meet and greet visitors and cheer on the runners as they complete Malaysia’s largest night race. To date, the social enterprise has built 24 homes in Malaysia and targets to ensure that every Orang Asli has a safe home in 5 years.

The Energizer team will not only provide funding and products but will sweat it out and join in the construction.

“We are looking forward to building homes with the EPIC team after our night race and realizing the cause with a lucky supporter or contributor. Do stay tuned to our website and Facebook for upcoming news and information,” Foong added.

For latest updates, public can visit Energizer Malaysia official website at energizer.com.my/nightrace/ or Facebook page www.facebook.com/EnergizerMY .

Prepping For The Next Challenge

It’s been 2 weeks after the highs of GCAM14 [race report] and things have pretty much returned back to routine. Admittedly there’s been some post-marathon blues which isn’t surprising at all. Running-wise, the challenge so far has been to get back to maintaining fitness and getting into some semblance of readiness for the August 23rd Starlight84.

The problem is, my body has yet to recover fully from GCAM. I’ve so far done a smattering of short midweek runs and 3 10-milers. Other than the first two of the 10-milers, those workouts haven’t been easy. The legs are fine and raring to go but the “engine” seemed to be stuck in 2nd, like a misfiring gearbox.

Well I certainly won’t fight the need for more rest and take things easy, effort-wise. Instead, I’m going to be focusing on a plan that complements the base work already put away for much of the year. For the next 4 weeks, the activities will comprise of weekday maintenance miles, plenty of core exercises and strength workouts focusing on the legs. With no races of late, the GC Gang has been training hard with almost weekly 30Ks over the Genting Sempah route. It’s a given that I’ll be smoked by these folks.

2 Back-to-Backs (B2Bs) have been plotted, starting with the first set this coming weekend. The Starlight cutoff is 16 hours, which on paper will give me enough time to go around the Penang island. Nevertheless I can’t help feeling anxious as this would be the longest ever distance I’d be covering, with the final 29K going up and down the Balik Pulau-Teluk Bahang stretch. It’s a back-heavy course and the dragonback kind of terrain will almost certainly thrash the quads/hams/calves and ultimately, sanity. Many ultrarunning websites advocate embracing the pain that’s sure to come instead of fighting it. For the life of me, I don’t know what the heck that means but I guess I’d be undergoing on-the-job training pretty soon :D .

One part of me is looking forward to linking up with the gang yet I’m wetting my compression shorts just thinking about the race. Only time, specifically 16 hours after 9pm August 23rd, will tell how I’ll emerge.

Press Release: The Marathon Shop Presents The Volkswagen Marathon Series 2014

The Volkswagen Marathon Series 2014
Two marathons scheduled to bring the best on-road experience Malaysia has to offer
Kuala Lumpur, 3rd July 2014 – In an effort to bring an extraordinary experience to the running community, The Marathon Shop today announced its collaboration with Volkswagen for The Volkswagen Marathon Series 2014 – which is set to be Malaysia’s first and only boutique on-road Full Marathon without any trails involved.
With two marathons scheduled for this year’s series, the event is set to bring the participants around Malaysia’s most spectacular sights. The first marathon titled ‘The Island Ocean Marathon’ is scheduled for 10th August at the Resort World Langkawi, Tanjung Malai followed by ‘The River Jungle Marathon’ on 7th September 2014.

The uniquely designed medals of the 2 marathons

When joined, the 2 becomes a one-of-kind medal

“We have two very unique marathons coming up over the next few months, one being on one of Malaysia’s most exotic island and the other amidst the lush greenery of Ulu Langat in Kajang which is nearer to the city giving participants the convenience of being not too far off from town to participate in this event,” said Marble Tan, Event Manager of The Marathon Shop.
The Volkswagen Marathon Series 2014 will allow the participants to see the beauty of Malaysia on foot without the need to leave the road. Participants of all walks are welcome, from serious runners to amateur runners from both local and international grounds.

Sponsors and organizing team at the launch of the VW Marathon Series.

“The series combines Malaysia’s sporting events and tourist destinations together, and everyone can join because this is open to all participants from Boston pace runners to beginners! This event has no cut off time and there is not competitive element built in, so all the participants can enjoy the running experience Malaysia has to offer,” continued Marble.
As advocates of running as a lifestyle, The Marathon Shop is anticipated to have over 1,500 participants for each marathon. Runners are welcome to register and find out more information on both marathons at www.themarathonseries.com
***************
About The Marathon Shop
The Marathon Shop is a collection of individuals bound by a common thread: the love of all things that promote a positive, healthy lifestyle. Running is definitely in our nature where we stand by the motto “Just Keep Running.” We believe that the act of movement – walking, jogging, running; any activity in which the human body is the vehicle – is a FUNDAMENTAL element of personal well-being. We believe you should be able to do these things in comfort and injury-free. This is why, throughout years of improvement, we have been committed to making sure the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is as easy as it sounds by creating our own Running Specialist Shop for the runners and the community. We are here to create a “Runnovation” in Malaysia.
***************
Issued by Streething Sdn Bhd on behalf of The Marathon Shop.
For more information kindly contact:
Marble Tan
The Marathon Shop Sdn Bhd
T: 03 7887 8998
M: 012 737 2011
E: marble.tan@themarathonshop.com.my
Charlene Ng
Streething Sdn Bhd
M: 019 2436 126
E: charlene@streething.com

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 Race Report

“Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.”
Seth Godin

The Preps
I mentioned in my post [link] prior to departing for the Gold Coast that fueling and hydration are the 2 most important factors in how my race will unravel. Less obvious was my strategy for a conservative start to avoid the wall. There’s a reason why going out slow and adopting the right fueling and hydration strategy have been harped to death by coaches, yet they’re the most common mistakes a runner commits. I’ve been guilty far too many times and thus scuppering a personal goal which I’ve always known to be within reach.

My marathon PR was a 4:03 in NYC 2008. Since then I’ve been dithering between 4:20s and 4:50s, the slower ones being more of just going through the motions and the quicker ones being failed attempts, where my training were impaired. There wasn’t really much to whine and complain given the circumstances. The enjoyable ones were last year’s PNM (4:23, then my best in 5 years) when I ran the first 21K in 2:10 and the second in 2:12. Considering 4:23 was done after a 10K training run the same morning, and a 61K event 6 days prior, it was a pretty good result for me. After PNM, I continued running some long races  and training runs before kicking off my 2014 marathon with Nagano [link] where I basically raced with just one or two long training runs logged. The 4:18 of course, was no PR but I learned a lot from the race, which was my fastest since 2008. I learned that I could maintain concentration and that I had some strength and pace, and if not for the lack of preparation, I would’ve hit close to 4:08. The takeaway from Nagano was tremendous because I knew that I was on the way back.

It was fortuitous that the Starlight Ultra was postponed from May to August, which meant that I had 2.5 months to patch up any weaknesses. It wasn’t much time but since my Q1 2014 was littered with 50Ks and regular running, my legs had plenty of miles in them. I started leaning towards building intensity and strength, throwing in 2 days of doubles a week. 5:40 soon felt comfortable but that didn’t mean there weren’t roadblocks. The most accessible running spot for me, the KLCC Park saw a partial closure due to construction works and towards the end of the training phase, water rationing, heatwave and the haze returned. With the exception of weekend long runs, I was forced to do my weekday workouts on the treadmill. The positive bit was that I have access to weights and environment to cross-train and work the core. There were far greater variety in my regimen than I’ve ever undertaken. Together with fellow GCAMers Nick and CY, we started adding variety to our training routes from purely Ammah to USJ and even Putrajaya. Before the USJ track reopened, we even resorted to doing intervals on a stretch of road in Subang! We had to be resourceful :) .

Even so, my weekly mileage never hit the highs of pre-NYCM where weekend B2Bs were plentiful albeit at a pedestrian pace. In place of 100-110K weeks, I had to count on intensity and consistency. Even if I only had time for a 3K (whenever pressing work or family matters arose), I headed out. And hit the 3K hard. It went well enough that I thought I’d peaked too early with 5 weeks out. With 4 weeks to go, I started tiring, enough for me to urgently pull back on the number of sessions and intensity. I even gave a couple of long runs a miss and shorten another 2 32Ks to more manageable 25Ks, just so that I didn’t slide into Burn Out Abyss. Instead of a 2-week taper, I was forced into a 3-week one.

Finally, with 4 days to departure, I was hit by dizzy spells. A visit to the doc revealed an unusually low BP of 92/60. I’ve never had issues with BP but that probably had been on the boiler and explained my fatigue at the onset of the taper period. The inconsistency of my iron intake (not that I’ve ever been anemic) hadn’t been that great. Training has a way of robbing iron from the body, so runners in the midst of marathon training should supplement with iron, if FE intake from natural sources are insufficient.

Race Eve

The Comrades Marathon booth at the race expo.

This time around, I had slightly better snooze time on the red eye to Coolangatta – a grand total of 4 hours, up from 2 :) ! The fellow travelers also agreed that we should spend as little time as possible at the Expo in order to get back to the spacious apartment – Wyndham – to settle in before heading out to a much needed late lunch. That was an excellent plan as 1.5 hours should be more than enough to collect and shop at the Expo. We settled for teppanyaki at one of the eateries at Cavill. Nick agreed that we needed a shakeout run in the evening, which we clocked in at 6.03K (6:01 pace) towards Broadbeach and back. Besides stretching out the legs after the long flight and a day of moving around, the shakeout run was useful as it allowed me a final opportunity to gauge my likely form and if needed, reassess my race expectations and strategies. I didn’t feel as sharp as I’d like to as my legs felt sore, tight and heavy.

Dinner back at the apartment was 3 servings of rice with eggs and chicken, a mini pack of chips with sea salt, a banana and a pot of tea. By 10:15pm, it was lights out.

Race Gear
90% of my training had been done in the GRR3 and GR3; the GRU and Energy Boost for long slow runs; GB2 for gym and treadmill running; Hitogami for trackwork. Nevertheless, when I was passed the Kinvara 5, I felt good enough that it would be the race shoe. My backup shoe was the GRU. GCAM temps can be quite cold at the start for us from the tropics but it warms up very quickly once the race starts, so I opted for the Columbia OmniFreeze sleeveless top, Skins A400 shorts, Compressport calf sleeves, Asics socks, TNF cap and the trusty Oakley shade. I train with an iPod shuffle on the treadmill, so that came along for the very first time too, preloaded with a loaded playlist of choice. 7 gels (5 GUs @ 100 cals each, 2 Hammers @ 90 cals each) in the Salomon belt and a tiny laminated sliver of a note with my pace targets and gel intake stuck into my watch strap. 3/4 bottle of Gatorade with which to sip from until the 10K mark.

Pre Race Meal And Ritual
Breakfast was a banana, 3 bricks of Weet-Bix with soy milk (to reduce the risk of gut issues). These were consumed at 2:30am and wasn’t much but the purpose was to fill the any gap from the previous night’s dinner (7 hours ago). The coach pickup was again very early at 4:30am in order to get the half marathoners to the start. As expected, it was very cold and only the comfort of a hot cup of long black helped me contain the chill. While waiting and soaking in the atmosphere, I chowed down 3 bars and another banana. All the bars were consumed within 105 minutes of race start. It may appear excessive but the plan was modelled after my NYCM approach, and thus it worked for me.

With Mei and Sharon. Both completed their first marathons in GCAM14.

Ready to make a move to the start line.

Between then and finally heading to the start area, I visited the loo twice, did some warm up jogs and performed some dynamic stretching. The warm up jogs and stretching prepares the body and mind for what’s to come.

The Race
I entered the B corral (as marked on the bib) at 6:50am and positioned myself right at the back of it, just in front of the 4-hour C corral. I spotted the bobbing red balloons tied to the 3:45 pacers way ahead. Goes to show how packed B corral was. So many fast runners! Having shed my MPIB Volunteer top, I sought out a sliver of sun ray to keep me warm. As I stood waiting for the start, I reassessed my readiness to run in this fast group and decided rather quickly that I should play it safe and not fall into the trap of starting too fast. I ducked under the tape and moved to the C corral just behind the 4:00 pacers with white balloons. This corral was also a stacked field but I immediately felt at ease having made my decision. Being forced/drawn into the caffeine/endorphin induced pace of the B corral would’ve been suicidal.

Up ahead the Emcees were working the crowd when suddenly the race started. Not that I was anxious but we finally got things going! Although we got off to a running start, it was about 3 minutes before I crossed the Start line. Almost immediately the 4:00 pacers started to move up the crowd but I kept to my pace. Too much preps and planning had gone in for me and I wasn’t about to flush everything down the toilet by being pulled along faster than what I’ve set out and it looked as if these 4:00 chaps were going for it right from the get go.

The sunshine was brilliant and before long, the body was warmed up. There was little to no wind even as we ran along the coastal road heading towards the iconic Surfers Paradise signboard. The legs, distressingly, still felt as heavy as the night before but I tried not to dwell on the sensation but get into the music and took comfort that my breathing was easy and effortless.

Planned Race Strategy
Things were kept very simple

  1. Run a very conservative 5K at 5:50 pace before shifting up by 10 secs until the halfway mark
  2. From the halfway mark, move the pace to 5:35 until the 32K mark
  3. Get to Burleigh Heads turnaround (15K) fresh and not let the massive crowd sway me into a mad dash.
  4. Get to the Halfway Point fresh.
  5. Cross the Southport Bridge (30K) problem free and ready to battle it out.
  6. Hold the effort till Runaway Bay turnaround (37K) without speeding up.
  7. Hold the remaining miles at 5:38 (allowing for slowing down)
  8. If I’m still in with a chance at 38K, to make a go for it.
  9. Take in gels every 5-6K, and drink consistently.

I had the pace objectives printed out and tucked into my watch band as you can see from one of the photos below. The initial 5K had several objectives – ease into the race, loosen the legs, maintain minimal stress to the body to allow maximum absorption of fuel and fluids. A stressed body will shift its attention to other critical functions reducing the rate of carb absorption. Therefore, even if you continue to take in your gels, they may not work as effectively as you’d expect them to simply because your body has shifted its priority into maintaining a “survival mode”. Hence it’s very important to stay on a conservative pace, allowing your carb intake to work for you.

How It Panned Out
The challenge I faced in this first quarter of the race was my legs. It took me exactly 10K to untangle them and got them spinning smoothly. I was always checking my form and splits yet even with the monitoring, my pace was a little quicker than expected. You can see how easy it is to get carried away in a marathon. On our first pass, the crowd along The Esplanade was still thin, which was fine as the later stages were where we needed their support the most.

Data from the watch.

We hit 10K somewhere south of Pratten Park. The chill was no longer a factor by that time and the sunshine was not too warm and intense.  I was just bobbing along to the tunes when the tight legs suddenly loosened up. Perhaps it was the sight of the elites on the opposite side that fired me up. I spotted the American, Jeff Eggleston and Arata Fujiwara amongst the lead pack but Kawauchi who received the loudest cheers from the runners, was trailing by some distance. I squeezed the 2nd pack of gel in and got on with business. My splits weren’t quite 5:40 at the start of the 2nd quarter but I started seeing some consistency after 16K. The southern part of the race course down to Burleigh Heads has always been an awesome place to run and this year was no different. The folks were out in full force and cheering and hooting like crazy. Again, it would be easy to put in a surge here but from the 5:48 you see below, it was obvious that I intentionally slowed down to avoid that. It’s still too early to pick it up with the tough sections yet to come.

The 2nd quarter

Just after the halfway mark I made a decision to dash into a potty. The first 2 had locked doors, but when I yanked the 3rd door open, some was inside! Luckily it wasn’t a girl so, “All good, mate!”. I ended up in the 5th cubicle. Having drank copiously at all every station, it was just a relief to get the pee out. I felt instantly lighter and leaner. No more having the discomfort to hold it, I immediately got on with business. I probably lost about 25 seconds (6:09 split) there but I was back on pace the very next kilometer. My first half split was 2:00.36. A little slower than expected but more importantly, I was still very fresh as compared to previous years. IMHO how you feel in the later part of the 3rd quarter (i.e. 25-30K) of a marathon determines how well you’ll tackle the dreaded 4th quarter. I felt good yet apprehensive enough to harbor thoughts of hitting the wall anytime soon. According to my plan, I was supposed to start hitting consistent 5:35 splits up to the 32K mark. The watch readings showed that I wasn’t too far off after averaging the splits between 21-30K. Again, I didn’t miss a single gel intake. I was also burping which was always a good sign during a race, signs that my gut was still processing the carbs.

Around the 27K mark, heading towards Southport.

3rd quarter

30K mark, crossing the Southport Bridge.

With the fuel line working fine, having energy on tap with the legs seemingly having a life of their own, I started passing other runners. Many runners. Yet I was very wary of what was to come, the 30K mark where thousands are waiting to scream and cheer. Unfortunately the Southport Bridge will always be the traditional spot for demise for many a runner. Tired legs and weary minds will have to make a push up the incline which isn’t steep actually but even a mole hill is a pain at that stage. I dug in and didn’t drop pace and cleared that in a jiffy. It’s important to just shut oneself from taking in the sights of suffering and walking runners just because the mind needs all the positive affirmation it can get.

Up to this juncture I’d gotten to the point where there were only 12K to go. I had to make a decision to go or hold when I remembered what the 4:00 pacer dude from GCAM2011 [race report] had stressed – “Stay with me. Hold your pace. Resist the urge to take off until you get to the turnaround at Runaway Bay”. So I bid my time and though I dropped some seconds after McDonald’s, I was still pretty good. 12K meant a 6K in and another 6K out. I felt that I could take the last 6K since I was still passing plenty of runners.

To the finish!

No Wall, No Problem
The Runaway Bay turnaround marks the 37K but after mentally calculating the pace I should be hitting to clinch the goal time, I knew I had to start picking things up. All the positive signs were there and I thought to myself that it was time to make a go for it and not chicken out. So I made my move at 36K and started to race. All that steady running and holding back the first half of the marathon was just to get to this stage feeling good and I felt really good.

Just after the 37K mark.

If you’ve been running for some years, you’ll know the feeling of actually competing, not necessarily against another runner but with yourself. The feeling is that of exhilaration. Both quads were tightening up but there wasn’t going to be any cramping. Instead, there was just single mindedness in getting to the finish line.

I was astonished reading my splits which were getting faster and faster. I wasn’t exaggerating when I told Nick later that day it was easier to run fast than to slow down towards the finish. The last 3Ks just flew by and utterly felt surreal (to quote Nick). The crowd was 4 deep and as I hung left, a large sign that screamed “250m to go” was right in front of me. It was only then that I soaked it all in.

250m to go!

150m to go!

A few more steps!

Mission accomplished!

I kicked past a few more runners and crossed the line in 3:58.55, a minute slower than planned. The 2nd half was ran in 1:58.19 making it a negative split race for me. After crossing the halfway point, I overtook 967 other runners. I was ready to hug someone, but everyone seemed too wheezed while trudging off towards the refreshment tables. There was no tears of joy but in its place, an intense sense of accomplishment. I learned that many other friends ran their personal bests that morning too. After collecting my belongings I texted the wife that I’ve finally done it on my 27th marathon, 11 years after my first which was run to commemorate the birth of C1 and 6 years after my previous best in NYC. It’s been amazing, training in a group with each of us driving each other on. So, thank you to Nick, CY and Kiew for coming along for the many early morning runs. And to Frank, Julia, Piew, YL, Leong, Foo, Zane and Skyrunner Yvonne for the moral support.

With Nick and CY with PRs, under our belts.

It’s been such a long wait for me. And for it to come together this year in Gold Coast on a year they’re awarded the Gold Label rating just made it extra special. There’s much to work on to get the timing down and the 3:58 will be bettered. I hope more will give GCAM a go next year. Mark your calendars, folks – 5th July 2015!

In closing, I’d like to congratulate the race organizers who did a wonderful job in growing the event, and thank the thousands of volunteers without whom we runners won’t be running our best. Not forgetting, my heartfelt gratitude to the hardworking folks at the Tourism and Events Queensland, who took great care of me.

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