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Kasumigaura Marathon 2016

When \\\\\\\"blustery\\\\\\\" wasn\\\\\\\'t even the right word. Read the race report here!

31st Marathon and my 6th Consecutive GCAM. Race report here.

 

Category Archives: Running

Entries For The Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2017 Are Open!

It’s that time of the year again, and entries for the 2017 Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM17) are open now! The official website has all the details. Happening the first weekend of July, it’s basically a week full of running on the Gold Coast (GC) with not only the Half and Full Marathons on Sunday, there’s the shorter distances on Saturday. The information on various categories can be found here.

While early bird fees run until April 2017, you should really start looking for best deals in flight tickets, and accommodation options. If you’ve a group of 20 and above, it makes sense to go by way of group registration to enjoy discounts on registration fees. Details on group registration here.

So what are your traveling options to the Gold Coast?

  1. Self plan
  2. Travel package by Holiday Travel & Tours

More on the 2 options below. But first, some tips if you’re traveling to the GC for the first time.

Airline
The most direct way to GC from Malaysia is via Air Asia X. Flight from KLIA2 takes approximately 7 hours 40 mins. You’ll arrive at the Gold Coast Airport (the title sponsor!) in Coolangatta, located just 40 minutes away from Surfers Paradise.

A mix of independent and tour package travelers at KLIA2 prior to boarding.

Packing
If you’re going to be staying in an apartment, you’ll be happy to know that apartments on the GC are, more often than not, fully furnished – kitchen, utensils, washer, dryer, etc. So, you really don’t have to pack too much. What you need to pack on top of your running gear and 2 sets of apparels are sun block, hat, sunglasses, and camera! Oh, do bring along some old race tees for layering before the race start. These you can remove minutes before the gun goes off – they’re collected and washed before being donated to charities.

Part of the GCAM16 group which traveled on the Holiday Travel & Tours package. This was taken upon arrival at the Race Pack collection and Expo.

Time difference
GC is 2 hours ahead on Malaysia on the clock during the winter.

Sunrise/Sunset
6:30am/5pm during the winter. Start your morning runs at 6am to catch the sunrise!

Temps
I’ve not experienced anything colder than 8 Celcius in my 6 years there. It gets cooler up in the mountains (yes, GC isn’t just only about the beaches and theme parks). Highest temps during the day are around 18-22 Celcius. Weather’s usually dry in the winter but 2016 has been wet a day after the marathon. It gets warm under the sun and UV levels are high so be sure to wear a hat, sunglasses and have sunscreen applied.

Food
A wide variety, including Halal food. Surf and turf, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Korean and Thai and even Malaysian are easily found in town. I love the take-away options available at the local supermarkets like Coles and Woolsworth though. You’ll see what I mean when you’re there. Take-aways allow you to save a little and besides, you can have a potluck back at the apartment. My family and I enjoyed the fresh seafood at Peter’s Fish Market so much we went there a couple of times when we visited this year. I’m looking forward to checking out the much-touted Chevron Island Seafood after the race!

Shopping
I’m not that much of a shopper but other than the usually touristy trinkets, the newly expanded Harbour Town Premium Outlet offers an extensive variety of brands. It’s located quite near to Surfers Paradise and if you’ve rented a car, it’s even closer to get to.

The friendly folks at Harbour Town gave us a nice welcome back in 2015. Be sure to drop by the Visitor Centre to pick up discount vouchers, complimentary coffee/tea and wifi when you’re there.

Getting Around
Plenty of options. There’s the G:Link tram which runs through up and down the coast, covering the major spots. Surfside buses ply the rest of the areas. If you’re in a group, it make sense to rent a car. Not only is it an affordable option, with a car you’ll be able to explore the beautiful highlands, beaches north and south of Surfers with greater flexibility. Rentals are available right from the airport. Con-x-ion airport shuttle are available for pre-booking, if you’re an independent traveler.

Surfside bus to Harbour Town.

Traveling Options

The travel group was ferried to brunch upon arrival before heading to the expo.

The self-plan option is pretty self explanatory. Basically a DIY and offers the most flexible schedule, it allows you to stay where you like, plan your own itinerary and extend your stay – all according to your budget. GC is easy enough to do all the above and information is plenty on the Internet.

First-timers on a limited time, may want someone to make the call for them. If that’s you, Holiday Travel & Tours is again offering that option for you. On top of the standard packages, do check with them on discounted fares for park entrances,  rides and more. Here’s the link to download the brochure. According to the brochure, the Thursday night flight to the GC has been designated the Gold Coast Airport Marathon flight, with fun and games planned on-board!

And Finally….
Now, if your mind’s made up to run GCAM17, you really need to add yourself to the GCAM17 Team -Malaysia-In-Training Facebook Page here. We’ve kicked off some weekend short runs, all very low key since it’s the holiday period. Things will move up a notch or two when the new year kicks off. The team look to welcoming new and old friends to the group because it’s always more fun and motivating to train in a group, especially for the weekend long runs and track repeats. We’ve over the years added so much information to that page that will hopefully help you plan your stay and race while you’re there. Be sure to also click on the “Files” tab on the same page – that’s where we’ve put up all the pertinent links to tourist hotspots, hotels and fully-furnished and equipped apartments which we’ve stayed before. Malaysia had one of the highest overseas participation during GCAM16 – over 260! If you’ve questions, anything at all, be sure to ask on the page. We’ll be very happy to answer them, like how you can actually run the 10K (or for your kids, the Kids Dash or 5.7K) on Saturday as a fun run before the main event (Half or Full Marathon) the next day!

A Shake Down Run is planned on Saturday July 1st evening. This is sort of like a meet-up photo session, followed by a short 3-5K run to get the mind and body into performing their best. Of course, if you’ve any last minute questions, some of us veterans will be on hand to answer them. We will post details of the Shake Down Run in the same FB page nearer the event.

Before our 3K Shake Down run on Saturday evening.

GCAM on Social Media
Plenty of info, trivia, photos/videos and running tips shared on the event sites below.

That’s a bit much info for now but rather than rambling on, it’s time for you to commit to GCAM17, and make all the necessary arrangements for the July runcation. If you’re like me, marathon training for the first half of the year is easier than the second. Work has a tendency to develop into a deluge from August right up to December. There’s, of course, the unpredictable Quarter 3 and 4 weather too which may throw a spanner into the training.

Many PRs, sub-4s and a BQ performance in GCAM16.

With that, the team and I hope to see you for training soon and over at the Gold Coast!

Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100 Miles (78K) Race Report

When entries for this year’s final edition of the Putrajaya 100 (rebranded Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100) opened some months ago, I didn’t bite. It has been a bruising year at work and I’ve struggled with moving the mileage beyond what’s needed for general fitness. In case you’re unfamiliar with the venue, Putrajaya didn’t get to be infamous for nothing. Even when Nick signed up for the 78K category, he earned more ribbing from the gang than admiration. There was even a hint of sympathy for him too.

So it was unbelievably perplexing, that in the course of  the next couple of months, more of us found ourselves to be part of Nick’s troupe. For the life of me, even now, I can’t believe I was suckered in. And like lemmings, Lum, Cherly and Jeanie came along too! The monies paid, there was really little chance of not turning up, even if all the running I did leading up to that night was just the maintenance sort, fluctuating between 30-50K weeks.

However, at least on the runners’ side, was the favourable weather forecast for the night. Evenings have been stormy (conditions which I love) and certainly beat being put on a slow roast. The list of mandatory items were long and carrying the load presented an equally challenging task for the long haul. But you can’t negotiate on safety.

The plan was to pack as light as I could. Where possible, I brought along alternative gear in my carry box. The red Saucony Palladium packable jacket was eventually replaced by a RM5 Daiso poncho when rain didn’t appear to be on the cards. I also reduced the number of nut bars I carried and ditched the single pack of gel, relying on 2 remaining bars and a bag of mixed roasted nuts for fuel. From my experience in TNF Hong Kong, my primarily nuts fuel plan worked pretty well, staving off hunger while providing denser calories. A single 500ml soft flask was included being a much lighter option, instead of the UD bottle. I decided to bring along a clear lens shade as eye protection from rain, insects and what-have-you.

Book was placed there as a reference for the pack size.

My final load was comfortably packed into the UD SJ pack. The new Salomon 1L race vest would’ve been ideal but there wasn’t much room in that one, unfortunately. Apparels were also of the bright and light variety, Saucony’s Speed of Lite vest and shorts, a buff and a safety vest over all that. Footwear duties went to the Kinvara 7 instead of the earlier intended Guide 9. Again, it was part of the “go light” strategy. Socks were the Pacific & Co ones which feature reflective nubs. No compression wear. Drop bag facilities were extended to only the 100K and 100 milers, so the Petzl Nao will have to be carried throughout my 78K distance.

Frank was kind enough to drive Jeanie and I to Putrajaya and since we were early, we made a short detour to Equine Park for a light snack. I had a large bowl of ABC to stay hydrated and cool myself down but skipped actual food since I wasn’t hungry. It’s never easy running in a heavily stuffed mode. When we got to the race site, and having gone through kit inspection and race number collection, it was just chilling around sipping on the Americano which I’d brought along. It was getting clearer that there would be no rain that night. Thankfully, the air was cooling with a slight breeze going.

Prior to flag off, Arman gave a quick briefing covering the important safety reminders and route updates. Finally, along with 40 or so other runners, I was finally let off. I emptied my mind of any doubts or emotions and just went with the flow. The number of 78K runners was smaller than the nearly 100 52K and close to 140 runners for the 100K categories.

Photo credit: Rany Tan

With Jeanie running strongly, I decided to hang back. Nick, Lum, Cherly, Frank and Leong (who turned up to lend support) were all close by and we took things really easy, walking frequently and not the least bothered that people were passing us. The night was still young and self-preservation was of utmost importance.

Photo credit: Run & Explore

When we got near to the hotel where Nick’s wife was waiting, we put on a grand show of 5:45 surge. Naturally as soon as we passed the section, we resumed our walk break! Nothing like these nonsensical moments to take the mind off pressing matters :) .

Photo credit: Nick’s wife. I was just a blur. 5:45 pace ma….

We got to CP1 pretty smoothly and after a quick refill of the bottle and a bite of 2 slices of bread,  we resumed our journey. Several mouthfuls of ice-cold Coke helped to freshen things up too. Not long after that, we had more company in the form of CY, Richi, Zijill and Julia who biked along. As much as I’d like that ice-cold beer (CY and Richi kept reminding Nick and I), I kept my focus on the task at hand. Thankfully, the McDonald’s along the way was so crowded I wasn’t tempted to head in for a snack!

Photo credit: CY

It goes without saying that with many of the gang present, there would be more than one photo taken!  I felt a little bad as we were proceeding rather slowly, and these guys were on bikes. After CP2, we lost them, thinking that they could’ve backtracked to support Frank, Jeanie and Cherly. It must’ve been difficult for them but they somehow appeared again when we arrived at CP3! We’ve covered 26K, which wasn’t even halfway but I was comforted that we’ve about to start the difficult 13K to CP4, the halfway point, and the same distance back to CP5 (CP3) for a total of 26K.

Photo credit: CY

With the clock past midnight, Nick and I gingerly (and should I say, briskly) got through the Muslim cemetery stretch before the route joined up with the highway to CP4. Along with Nick, we covered another 6K before I spotted someone hustling at great speed towards us. Somehow I knew from the running form, that the person was Frank and I was proven right. He had put in some serious afterburners to have caught up with us. Jeanie and Cherly were still in the game much further back.

As we continued our run-walk strategy towards CP4, egging Nick along, we cheered the returning runners from the 100K category. Then there was Jeff, on his way back and in the lead in the 100 miles category. After sharing some pain management tips with me, we wished him the best as we moved along. Several stretches of this sector were in total darkness, so it was great to have Frank’s powerful headlamp to complement our Petzls.

Status update at approx 35K mark for us, from eventual 100-mile champ Jeff.

CP4 was located at the top of a steep climb but boy, was it a relief for me to get there. Nick was in some pain with his inflammed knee. We urged him to consider resting longer and should conditions turned for the worse, he could at least hitch a ride on any marshall vehicle heading back to the staging area or earlier CP. With some hope that somehow he’d make it, Frank and I departed for the final half of the race. Perhaps triggered by copious quantity of Coke, there was a greater sense of urgency and I felt that the timing was right to focus and close down the distance to the next 2 CPs (52K and 58K respectively) the best we can. My legs were still fine and there was some confidence in my strides and I thought, “Just go with the flow”. With Frank, we made some good progress, passing runners along the way.

Then in the distance, we spotted 2 lights – it was Jeanie and Cherly! So good to see that they were still in it! And with that we went our ways. Our spirits lifted, no doubt. Next party we ran into was Piew, Yan Leng, Kien Siong and Li Leen – our next bunch of supporters. We hit the 2 CPs in very good timing, with pace ranging from 6:10 to 6:30, passing more runners than ever before. Fatigue started creeping in only after the 58K mark, with the discomfort stemming more from the pain in the metatarsals than anything else. I had encountered no cramps, no gas in the stomach, no water retention issues on the extremities, just some mild discomfort in the tummy – nothing a hot drink can’t settle. I’d been fueling well on nuts, bars and some bread slices but a hot drink would’ve been great. But Frank has been kind enough to pace along and we were still power walking!

By the time we embarked on our final 8K, Piew and Yan Leng had had to leave us. The progress was slow but it was already too near to completely stop.

7K to go! Photo credit: Khairul Nizam

With 4K to go, Frank and I were operating on getting to the next lamp-post or bin and so on, but with the spirits lifting as we drew ever nearer to the finish, we ran more than we walked. We passed 2 more of our category before crossing the finish line in 12:55, and not a moment sooner as the day was warming up quickly.

Relieved to have finished. Photo credit: Jeff

All in all, it was a great outing for me. My expectations had been really low, with hardly any significant mileage, but with friends’ support and right fueling, I somehow finished in a relatively comfortable state, with no injuries. Thanks to the GCAM gang, whose names I mentioned earlier, for turning up and Frank for not abandoning me over the 2nd half of the race. We covered the 2nd half faster than the 1st which was a wisely executed strategy, getting us the 5th and 6th position respectively. It was only at the finish that I learnt that Nick has decided to stop at the 52K mark on account of his condition. We were just glad he made the hard call as there are upcoming races to be run – and yes, we need him for more vain shots! I should thank all the volunteers, crew and the PACAT organizing team for the hard work out there. It’s never easy putting everything together and staying out there for the runners for such a long period of time! This year’s edition was the last time we run the roads of Putrajaya and we look forward to finding out where next year’s edition will be held.

Saucony was also a sponsor for the Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100 this year and all 100 mile finishers, over 20 of them, won themselves new pairs of shoes!

Photo courtesy of Frank.

With the longest run done, it’s time to enjoy a little downtime before revving up the legs for an early 2017 marathon over the next few weeks.

Note: I wonder if there’s any leftover Sapporo’s from that night? ;)

Scouring the Backroads: Puchong To Cyberjaya

Just 3K short of target. Will attempt this route again in a few weeks’ time.

With most of the running community pounding the roads of KL, some friends and I decided to explore some roads less taken, specifically from Bukit Puchong to Lim Kok Wing University (LKWU) in Cyberjaya via Kampung Meranti. I’d solo’d the backroads before some years ago but given there are more vehicles on the road these days, it would be safer attempting it again in a small group setting. Thankfully, some friends were up to it and we started off at 5:30am from a 24-hour eatery near Tesco Extra Bukit Puchong. We made sure we were visible enough with reflective bibs, headlamps and light colored apparels.

The morning was cool but as we weaved along the meandering roads, several buses disrupted the almost meditative state of our running. Yep, we had to be alert at all times. Some packs of dogs gave us their unwanted attention as well, so we steered clear of them.

It was unfortunate that we were forced to turn back when the road leading to LKWU was blocked by concrete slabs. There seemed to be road works even further ahead thus we made the decision to head back. Afterall, there were 4 other runners still behind us.

Ran till our way was blocked by concrete slabs, just 1.5K to Lim Kok Wing Uni. Photo credit: Frank

The return was uneventful save for the same buses we encountered earlier, this time loaded with workers headed to factories somewhere.

Piew setting the pace.

1K to the finish. Photo credit: Frank

Everyone wants a piece of Richi.

While there was little running over the weekdays, I spent plenty of time on my feet from Thursday to Saturday promoting GCAM17 to the SCKLM expo visitors. 25 hours over 3 days was fun but undoubtedly tiring. I was a little dehydrated as well, not drinking as much as I wanted to. Magnesium oil helped in a large degree towards my recovery, so I thought I did pretty OK, all things considered. On to a new week of a busy busy August!

Media Release: Vietnam’s Ultimate Ultra Marathon Is Back!

Vietnam’s Ultimate Ultra Marathon Is Back!
Now With Added 100KM Distance
The Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2016 is set to be bigger and better than ever, with 1,500 runners arriving in Sapa on September 24

This year 1,500 adventurous runners – many of them Vietnamese – are set to descend on the beautifully located mountain town of Sapa on September 24 and 25. They will race on some of the toughest and most beautiful trails of any trail race in the world.

Some will tackle a half marathon (21km), others will aim to complete the full marathon distance (42km) while some hardcore individuals will be aiming to complete the ultra distances of 70km or 100km.

The race opens up parts of Sapa that normally remain out of reach making it a magnet for adventurers who want to see truly remote Vietnam. The buffalo-beaten race trails venture far from the normal tourist path through the land of ethnic minority villages and the magnificent rice-terraced valleys that Sapa is famous for.

Race director, Asger Koppen said: “This race was created due to my love of these mountains. I have always wanted to share the beauty of this area with those who love the great outdoors and now adventurous racers can see more of it than ever on our new 100km route.”

Double VMM 70km champion, Simon Grimstrup of Denmark will be returning this year to help with race organisation. He said: “I’ve raced all over the world and the VMM course is both one of the most stunning and most challenging out there. It is a very special race because of its ambiance and the great camaraderie between the participants.”

The race is supported by Topas Travel and Topas Ecolodge, the unique resort where the finish line is located. Set on a hill top deep in the mountains, Topas Ecolodge transforms into a unique running party venue at the end of the race. Crowds of runners cheer finishers across the line throughout the day and a DJ, BBQ and bonfire ensure the party keeps going until way after dark.

Charity
Over the last few years the Vietnam Mountain Marathon has donated thousands of dollars to good causes. This year we will continue to give back, with $20 from every single race entry donated to the local community.

Drone Video And Photography
For a video featuring the race route, please see: https://www.facebook.com/ VietnamMountainMarathon/videos/418913654974094/. High res photography is attached. Please credit all images to Vietnam Mountain Marathon. More photographs are available on request.

For more information on the race visit www.vietnammountainmarathon.com. For media enquiries contact David Lloyd, Director of Sport at Topas Travel: david@topastravel.vn or (+84) 4 3715 1005

 

 

Men’s Health/Women’s Health Night Run Race Report

As our smashing holiday in the Gold Coast drew to an end, a number of us proclaimed (more like groaned) tiredly that we’ll just be doing 5K Fun Runs from then on. If you know these friends of mine, none of them are to be trusted when it comes to all things running. For example, if they deny having done high mileage weeks, unpreparedness for sub-4 marathons or like in this example, resorting to 5K Fun Runs, it’ll do you well to just flick your hair and ignore them.

On the other hand, I’m someone you could trust. Because I did run a 5K Fun Run in the form of Men’s Health/Women’s Health Night Run (MHWHNR or “Meh-weh-nn-err”) last Saturday! It was complimentary entry from my workplace and Putrajaya isn’t too far a drive (and a toll-free one at that!), I thought, it’ll be a nice couple of hours’ worth of running – my fellow conspirator nonamesmentioned and I had planned an 8K pre-race runabout.

That was before a thunderstorm laid waste to all plans. If it was just a drizzle, we’d have stuck to our plans but just like the 2015 Shape Run (when the start was much delayed), weather played a major role once again. The car parks were fast filling up and I was forced to resort to parking in a complex. With more than 2 hours to kill with nothing to do, we hunted for dinner and chanced upon a small hidden-away eatery which served only mee rebus and nasi lemak. Both were pretty good but both weren’t exactly things you’d eat before a race. Please do not follow our examples! Naturally that pretty much ruined the “lean-and-mean” approach going into the race – hey, it may be a Fun Run, but I still wanted to run a decent race. So we waited and waited until the gut felt settled enough before embarking on a token warm-up routine.

By the time we entered the pen, the crowd had gotten in and it was pretty jammed up. Still we apologized our way to the front, stopping probably 10 rows deep from the front line. nonamesmentioned said we could find ourselves being at the end of snarky comments from kids and their parents like, “Hey, shouldn’t you two be over the other side running the 12K?”. Truth be told, I wanted the Half Marathon but the comps were all taken. So there we were looking around us for some “serious looking runners” amidst folks carrying umbrellas and parents with kids on their shoulders. Thankfully we found a few and I promptly hid behind his broad frame, as if to deflect any stares away. I had to caution a kid of no more than 6 years old behind me to watch out during the start stampede. I spotted a number of children positioned too forward for their own safety.

No time to worry as the race was started 5 minutes ahead of time! Some human obstruction the first 100 meters or so but the legs started churning as we began finding some space after that. The lead bike was about 150m ahead and when the runners thinned out as the race progressed, things got pretty exciting. Breathing was comfortable and I was basically running to feel, just feeling my way in a distance I so very rarely do. My decision to go with the Fastwitch 7 was an appropriate one since its PWRTRAC outsole provided great assurance on the wet roads. My apprehension relating to my PF issue melted away as there was no discomfort felt at all and I was able to focus on my running. My legs’ range of motion was unlike what I’ve felt before, along with stronger push off. Stats would prove that my footpod recorded a higher average stride length than ever. I’m truly sold on the Bowen Therapy!

At about the halfway mark, CY who felt a stitch coming, asked that I went ahead and from that point, I was basically on my own. The biker was no longer in sight but I spotted a guy ahead and told myself that there wasn’t a need to go faster – just hold the effort and see if he dropped back. My recollections are rather hazy now on what happened the final 2K. I can’t remember if I passed the dude or he went the wrong way. Because the lead bike was already out of sight, I made sure I asked the crew at every intersection to be sure I was on the correct route. Which made the final 250 meters even more surreal. 2 FTAAA bikers approached and one stayed on my 11 to lead me to the finish. He barked into his walkie that he was escorting the 2nd runner in with 200 meters to go. I was a little astonished (understatement of the year!) at that and couldn’t help but really enjoy the moment. Never mind that this Fun Run category was devoid of elites because they were busy hammering each other in the 12K and Half for the top prizes, I never will experience this again in my lifetime! There was but 1 photographer who took a shot of me as I approached the finish. The rest were positioned along the 12K and Half Marathon finishing chute. A check with several volunteers there confirmed that I was the second one in. Since this wasn’t a timed-category, there were no prize money nor trophy, no mention on the official website and most likely no photos, so you the reader will just have to take my word for it, HAHAHAHA!

Meh-weh-nn-err was only my 3rd race for the year and the 22:19 would probably the recovery effort of the elites. It wasn’t even my best time over the distance but the experience provided me with many positives, that my body is healing well and getting stronger and if I could eke out an effort like last Saturday with absolutely no speed work and in control right to the end, who knows what’s in store?

Till then, onward to the next Fun Run!

Sleepless in Putrajaya – Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100 Miles

Returning for the 3rd year, the Putrajaya 100 (P100) has seen an increase in popularity amongst local ultra devotees. Covering the roads of the country’s administrative capital, the distances offered range from 52K right up to the 100 miles. The easy-going, non-competitive format is what draws the runners to the event, not forgetting Toyo Tires which signed up to be this year’s title sponsor!

While the format may be friendly, the route certainly isn’t. Putrajaya is notorious for its scorching heat, high humidity and in my opinion, harder surfaces. With the event run entirely on roads, participants will be well advised to not forget about incorporating strength training on top of putting in the miles.

Early bird fees run till July 31st 2016, and past year participants also enjoy a discounted rate. So if that nagging voice inside your head can’t stop calling out for a longer distance than a marathon, why not commit to this one and train up for it? Still unsure? Head on then, to the event website http://p100.teampacat.com/. There are plenty of information such as a list of mandatory gear, pre-qualification requirements and also GPX files for each of the distances which you’re able to download to your watches. The newfangled ones can even point you the right direction, I was told.

Be sure to also like the Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/putrajaya100miles/. You may want to read up my 2014 report here where I signed up for the 52K but ended up running 56K! The 52K runners battled the heat that year but this year, they will be fighting sleepiness, as will the ones from the longer distances.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon Race Report

This year’s trip to the Gold Coast was a mixed outing for me. On one hand, I was thrilled to finally have the family along this time, and we also saw a record number of Malaysians in the race. There were also a number of firsts for me: visited a couple of theme parks, a wildlife sanctuary, drove the streets of the Gold Coast and up to Mt. Tamborine and an unforgettable cruise along the calm waters off Runaway Bay.

On the other hand, with the nagging PF impeding a more aggressive approach to training (although I did run the risk of greater issues by hitting 130K over 8 days prior to taper week), I wasn’t able to run the race I wanted to. I started the marathon with a heavily taped foot and an anti-inflammatory tablet post Saturday’s shakedown run when there was still pronounced pain. I really don’t want this to sound like an excuse for a below par performance, so this will be the only part I make reference to the PF being an impediment. The race was run and I didn’t hit the goal time and that was that. After analyzing the past 2 years’ splits and training, some things will have to change before my next marathon.

The HTT group which traveled from MY on Thursday. Photo taken at the Currumbin Life Saving Club adjacent to the scenic Elephant Rock Lookout.

Touching down at Coolangatta late Friday morning after a 5-hour sleep, I could afford a more leisurely bedding-in period, adjusting to the weather and the addictively languid, yet for some reason exciting, vibes the Gold Coast offers. This was my 6th consecutive running of GCAM and I’m ever closer to the 10-year club! There were over 250 Malaysians for GCAM16, so while there were many of us on the same flight, there were just as many independent travelers outside the tour group who were already in Australia. Lunch was at the Currumbin Life Saving Club right next to the Elephant Rock Lookout where the views were just stunning all-round. Next port-of-call was of course the Expo for the race number collection. Everyone was very disciplined and made it out of there on time for the shuttle ride to the Mantra Legends Hotel for check-in. Very smoothly managed by Holiday Tours & Travel (HTT) so far. As much as I wanted to sort out my stuff in the room, a run to stretch out the legs appeared more appropriate at that time and after rounding up a few from the training group, we headed towards Broadbeach before returning by way of the Gold Coast Highway to the hotel. Not before running into superstar Yuki Kawauchi (who would place a second behind the winner Kenneth Mugara on Sunday) jogging in a polo top! He acknowledged my  “Gambare Kawauchi-san!” shout with a big smile and a resounding “Hai!” and a big wave. Such a character! After an early dinner of bacon pizza with Jeanie and family and the training group guys, and getting some drinks from the supermarket, I was back at the hotel to call it a day.

At the expo. A number had gone into the expo hall for the bib collection and shopping!

7K run to loosen up the legs. Included some photo sessions along the way!

Saturday meant the arrival of the photogenic duo of Nick and CY. While CY needs no effort in looking good for the camera, Nick has vowed to hug everything in sight with a vengeance. As arranged, the plan was to meet at the Surfers Paradise arch for the Shakedown Run. Before that, I needed a quick apparel change back at the hotel following a fantastic lunch at The Fishhouse Restaurant. By the time I hustled there, a large group had already congregated and everyone looked set to really enjoy themselves the next day. Plenty of photo ops ensued but we were only able to cover just half the planned distance due to some road works on the way to Main Beach. No one complained though as they probably had an eye on next morning’s race. Dinner consisted of cappuccino and a super-large plate of pasta – in that order. With the race gear packed, there was one final thing to do which was to tape the right foot up before hitting the sack at 10:30pm.

Shakedown Run

I leapt up at the first sound of the 4:15am alarm and after the bathroom rituals, wolfed down 2 energy bars and half a bottle of sports drinks. By 5:20am we were at the hotel lobby ready to move out.

5:20am at the lobby of the Mantra Legends.

Race morning was expectedly cold. As I stood at the tram stop at 5:30am with the guys, I was glad to have layered up very well – a Saucony tri-top, 2 disposable race tees, a Saucony hoodie and EXO windproof jacket. I also had my Saucony beanie and gloves on, so I was warm and toasty. We got on the first tram to arrive and 20 minutes later we were at Southport joining the hordes of runners walking to the race precinct. The Halfies were just flagged off so we had to wait a little before crossing over to the main field. Security presence was strong and there was better human traffic control this time around.

At the Surfers Paradise tram stop @ 5:30am.

It wasn’t quite as windy this year and we could afford to shed our layers earlier before going through the warm up routines. Along the walk to the start corrals, I joined a number of locals in watering a tree. Considering the level I was at, I’d downgraded my original goal to finishing in any timing under 4 hours, which was still dicey given the circumstances. I positioned myself in front of the 4-hour pacers, a position I would maintain until the 38K mark (more later). GCAM is known for being a sunny race, at least all the previous 5 editions I’ve ran have been so. This year would be the same. Temps hovered around 15-17 Celcius early part of the race and peaked at 20 Celcius when I finished. Real-feel was hotter since it was cloudless.

It was approximately 10 Celcius at 6am with temps rising.

As it turned out, I ran very well hitting all the splits necessary for my original goal time (OGT) right up 26K before I started dropping 20 seconds per K. It may not sound like much but with over 16K left to run, that trend would mathematically add up to more than 5 minutes lost. In reality however, one would usually lose between 30 seconds to a full minute per km. Or more.

By 30K I was a full minute behind the OGT. By 35K the deficit had risen to 3 minutes. I was well and truly beaten way before I even hit the turnaround at Runaway Bay. The cramps on both quads and calves were so severe that I thought I’d fall. Since the little steps of the portable toilets could potentially trip me over, I decided to just pee in my shorts. Water was plentiful to wash it off anyway and I needn’t waste anymore time struggling in the toilet than I’d already lost.

I’d stopped looking at the watch for some time but the thought of my kids kept me going. I didn’t want to give up like this. Just when I started to rally myself, the gun-time 4-hour pacer and his charges passed me! Sigh…

Washed and dried!

If you’d seen me then (thank goodness for the absence of photographers along that final part of the route!), you’d agree that my running form was far less graceful than a person in crutches attempting a Swan Lake routine. In the haze of pain and self-deprecating thoughts I was lavishing on myself, a Race Motivator suddenly popped up, urging on another fellow sufferer next to me. Her words of encouragement resonated with me and kept me going.

Along with the many supporters along the course, the kids I high-fived earlier, and the record number of times my name was cheered, I credit this Motivator for getting me across the finish line in 3:57.58 (net time). An implausible yet very fortunate timing given how bad a shape my quads were in. I also think my decision to pee on the go worked in my favor as well. I would have wasted 2 more precious minutes had I ventured to the potty.

Nearly everyone in the photo PR’d, some rather spectacularly!

Once back at the agreed meeting point between the stage and the baggage tents, there was so much happy news of awesome results all round that my disappointment was completed forgotten. Nearly everyone ran their best timings in GCAM16. Jessie got her Boston Qualifier, which really wasn’t a surprise given her standout (albeit compressed) training. Plenty of sub-4 performances by many too. It was a truly wonderful moment to be there listening to their race accounts and I couldn’t be happier for them!

All these ladies PR’d: 1 missed going under 4 hours by a shade, 1 BQ’d, 1 finished under 5 hours!

With my 31st marathon done, I can strongly attest that it doesn’t get easier. You battle Father Time and his baggage – slower recovery, higher chances of injury among them – in pursuit of improving yourself. It’s time to reconsider another approach to training rather than to doggedly pursue the old ways. The marathon remains my focus because I know that I can do better.

All the 2016 medals.

 

A post breakfast group photo back home to wrap up the year’s GCAM edition.

Despite the rather poor personal showing, this year’s GCAM has been a runaway success.

    • Record overseas participation, including from Malaysia.
    • Better race day weather than last year.
    • Crowd support continues to grow.
    • Thrilling finish in the men’s marathon. Looks like Yuki Kawauchi (whose mom raced a 3:48 marathon in the same race!) will be returning yet again next year – he’s obviously hooked to the Gold Coast :D !
    • Greater number of runners in the training group (please join us for training!)- made plenty of new friends with whom I’m sure will continue to train with us. Team Malaysia truly personified the “Come For The Run, Stay For The Fun” tagline! Just check out the photos below!

  • Post-race holiday with family and friends were super enjoyable. We drove, cruised, ate plenty of seafood, trekked (a little!), got close to the local wildlife, and took in the cool and clean air of the mountains and sea.

I would also like to thank Khim, Tourism and Events Queensland and the organizing team behind GCAM for their hospitality and support to Team Malaysia. Not forgetting RSH-Saucony Malaysia and AfterShokz Malaysia for the gear. And of course, much appreciation to my family for their undying support during my marathon training – they may not understand the reasons behind the early morning runs and grouchiness of missed workouts but they’ve always pulled more than their share of chores around the house. It is only fair that I should always do my best and honor their sacrifice in every race that I do. I know the turns along the GCAM course like the back of my hand and I’ll be back to do it justice next year!

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