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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: Travels

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!

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!

On-Location On The Gold Coast: The GCAM16 Shake Down Run

I spent much of today just chilling out and kneading the troublesome calves. Not forgetting getting some supplies from the nearby Coles and Woolies, and get some race-packing done. Lunch was at The Fishhouse located at Burleigh Heads. An excellent recommendation by Selin.

With the rest of the group arriving at the Gold Coast, what better way than to try rope in as many as possible for a group photo near the iconic Surfers Paradise followed by a short Shake Down Run along the scenic beachfront on race eve? As planned, we’re all gathered at the spot at 4:30pm and got all the fun shots done before heading off for a relaxing 1.3K towards the Main Beach direction before picking up the pace for the remaining 1.3 back to the start. We would’ve gone further a little had the path not been closed. With almost 30 of us, you can bet we made quite a scene with our presence (and noise!) but it’s all fun as you can probably tell from these photos!

We went off our separate ways to clean up, have an early dinner before getting the race gear ready (taping up the legs, in my case) for some #GoodTimes the next day. That’ll be my updates for now. The next one shall be my race report, maybe when I get back from the holidays. I’ll still post photos up to the GCAM16 – Team Malaysia Facebook page whenever I can.

Here are some of the fun photos taken that evening. If you missed running GCAM this year, you can still follow the race via Webcast. Head on here for the webcast link. And of course, there’s always next year’s race which incidentally will be the 39th edition of Australia’s first IAAF Gold Label race!

Wish us luck for the race tomorrow!

On-Location On The Gold Coast: Day 1 – Pre-Departure, Arrival, Lunch And Expo

G’day from the sunny Gold Coast, Australia! Weather’s great here, air is fresh and crisp, and you can get around in t-shirts and shorts during the day before making a grab for the warmer clothing when the sun sets. With over 250 Malaysians running GCAM this year, coordinating group photo sessions were expectedly tricky.

Just some of those flew Thursday night.

A handful of travelers were, in fact, already at various locations in Australia (Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne) on Thursday while the majority will be arriving Friday and even Saturday.

The runners were all excited to soak in whatever the Gold Coast has to offer, from the stunning scenery, attractions to the pre-race excitement at the Expo. Here are some of the photos taken at KLIA2 (before departure), at the Coolangatta Airport (we couldn’t find Borobi, yet!), at the Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Club for a scrumptious lunch before heading to the Expo for the race kit collection (and some shopping). Can’t wait for the family to arrive on Sunday!

If you missed running GCAM this year, you can still follow the race via Webcast. Head on here for the webcast link. And of course, there’s always next year’s race which incidentally will be the 39th edition of GCAM!

I’ll also be uploading photos to the GCAM16 – Team Malaysia Facebook page. So do add yourself there too if you’d like to follow or train with us.

Kasumigaura Marathon Race Report

Up till last November, plans for returning to Japan was not in the works. I truly missed the country and some friends thought I was going bonkers from all that pining! Having run Nagano (race report here) during the same period in 2014, as a tune-up to my first PR in Gold Coast, I thought I’d replicate the same approach and training formula again this year, and mix in a few days of sightseeing in Tokyo. While I’ve covered a number of wards in Tokyo over the course of the 2012 marathon, there are still plenty of exploration to be done in a far less strenuous mode. Poking around the Internet late November ’15, I found a spring marathon which was still open for entries, a rare phenomena in marathon-mad Japan! After getting the much appreciated blessings from the wife, I quickly threw together a rough itinerary and finalized the flight and hotel arrangements by January. It would be a short visit since the family won’t be able to come along due to the kids’ schooling.

Tsuchiura is a small town of 141,098 located in the Ibaraki Prefecture next to Lake Kasumigaura, the 2nd largest lake in Japan. Hitachi has its roots in Ibaraki and the area is also well known for its lotus roots and curry! Located a 45-minute train ride away, to the North East direction of downtown Tokyo, the town hosts the popular Kasumigaura Marathon (KM) which also incorporates the International Blind Marathon every April. While KM is lesser known to runners from Malaysia, it’s really quite a well-spoken off race in Japan which sees approximately 20,000 runners.

Location of Tsuchiura in relation to Tokyo

Marathon superhero Yuki Kawauchi won the 2012 edition in his personal worst timing when the event was the 3rd largest marathon in Japan then. Incidentally, KM would be the 6th marathon courses after NYC, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagano, and GCAM, that both of us have run (not always the same edition, and definitely not in the same class!). The event has many charities tagged to it and is very much a community event for the townfolk. The 2016 edition would also be the trials for the visually-impaired athletes for the Paralympic Games. Kasumigaura Marathon is run basically on an out-and-back course, with just a small switchback unlike most Japanese races.

Also unlike other major marathons in Japan, there are other shorter distances such as the 10-Miler and 5K. The start is from the narrow strip of road sandwiched between the JR Tsuchiura Station and the Athletics Stadium in Kawaguchi Athletic Park where the race finishes. The course is front-loaded, with several climbs (the longest approximately at the 16K mark) before settling down to a flat final 21K close to the lake. The organizers even provide several vessels to ferry the supporters out for cheering duties. If one is sufficiently prepared, a smart pacing strategy early on should ensure freshness in the legs ready to exploit the “easier” second half for a negative split race. As mentioned earlier, I went into KM with the same mindset as for Nagano which meant adopting it as a training run. I started Kasumigaura with slightly more consistent training than Nagano, but the mileage logged was nowhere close to something that would bring about a breakthrough performance. Plus, nearly all of the running since December had been at a pace a full minute slower per km than my goal marathon pace! In short, I had no speed and endurance toeing the line. I don’t race often, and the mind and body had been at rest marathon distance-wise since GCAM15, and they needed some jolting if I wanted to fare well this July.

Other than a handful of friends, I kept things hush-hush. The main event was, after all, GCAM. I left my favorite Kinvara 7 at home and instead brought along just the Breakthru. Due to my on-going battle with PF, I swapped out the Breakthru’s sockliner with the softer Ride’s. This time around, I based myself in Ueno, an older part of Tokyo, away from the madness of Shinjuku and Shibuya. I’d have preferred somewhere near Ikebukuro but Ueno is excellent for this trip’s objectives due to its direct connection to/from Narita and to Tsuchiura. As with most parts of Japan, it’s easy to love Ueno. There are the museums, the famous park, zoo (next time with the kids!), Ameyoko-cho and runnable distance to Senso-ji in Asakusa, and Skytree.

After a very pleasant flight on-board ANA (A first for me! Cost RM1,200 all-in), I touched down in Narita (also a first!) on Friday and hopped onto the Keisei Skyliner (did I mention it was my first time? ¥4,300 return) directly to Ueno.

Thanks to Google Streetview and some prior homework, I managed to stumble my way to the New Izu Hotel (RM1,165 for 5 nights) not too far away. Don’t be fooled by the name though, because the establishment isn’t new :D . Bathroom and toilet were on shared basis, in line with keeping my budget low. The convenience and privacy of a room made things easier what with the race gear to lay out. I was famished  by then but nothing a hot bowl of yuzu udon couldn’t satiate.

Saturday started with a shakedown run towards the Sumida River, right up to the Azumabashi and Komagatabashi bridges with their distinct red and blue paint jobs respectively. Since I was already close to the Kaminari-mon I decided to extend the exploratory run a little before heading the same way back.

With Tsuchiura just a little journey out of Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea to have a recce of the area. A one way ticket isn’t that cheap at ¥1140 (cost of a good meal), but I still wanted to be sure of the place.

I’m one who want as little surprises as possible leading up to a race, so I decided to proceed. The journey was smooth and after an hour, I found myself in the small town who will be hosting about 16,000 runners the next day. The race precinct was easy to locate, just 7 minutes’ walk from the train station. The site was being prepped. There, I met a couple of runners from Wisconsin, Marie and Jaime. We chatted a bit and Marie warned me of strong winds the next day, something which I regrettably didn’t pay enough attention to.

Comfortable with the site orientation, I decided to check out the Kasumigaura Comprehensive Park (I don’t know who comes up with such names! ) a 15-minute bus ride away. The park was truly beautiful with the signature tulips and windmill, a large park where families were seen enjoying the outdoors, and patient anglers by the waterfront trying to land a catch or two. There was even a helicopter ride for those who were willing to pay for it. The skies were overcast throughout but a few seconds of sunshine peeked through and I was lucky enough to be well-positioned to take the following shot.

A few hours later, I was back at the hotel after a simple pasta dinner and proceeded to lay out all the gear. I had no trouble sleeping early that night since I had been pretty deprived of it the last 2 nights. At 5:30am the next morning, I made the short walk to Ueno Station. It was surprisingly bright by then.

I was very early just the way I like it, and there were plenty of seats available on the train which departed right on time at 6:04am. Along the way, I made some new friends from Thailand.

With fellow runners from Thailand en route to Tsuchiura on race morning. That’s the Saucony Nomad jacket I had on – lightweight yet offers much protection.

From the station platform to the race precinct.

To the race pick-up tent (for foreigners).

When Marie told me about the strong winds, I had no sense about how strong a 46km/h wind would feel like. The strongest I’ve felt was on the slopes of Hong Kong’s many hills during my DNF in TNF HKG. After collecting my race pack (KM is one of the Japanese races when foreigners get to pick up their race numbers only on race morning), I had trouble finding a sheltered spot to get ready and change into my race gear before depositing the bag. It was increasingly blustery but thankfully not too cold. I cast an eye to the skies to see the gathering of dark clouds. Weather forecast had predicted rain in the afternoon but I wasn’t too concerned since the rains I encountered over the years in Japan were nothing like the thunderstorms back home. My gear for the day was a disposable tee over the Saucony Endorphin singlet which in turn was over a short sleeve compression top. And I had a thrash bag over everything else. I had the Saucony DryLete thermal arm sleeves on but no gloves. The plan was to stash the sleeves into the race belt once I warmed up along the course.

You can choose to stash your baggage in lockers or at volunteer-manned booths. Either option will cost you ¥100. I went with the booth as I didn’t like the idea of wearing the keychain on my wrist.

With 90 minutes to go, I scurried to the pier-side to warm up with some strides and stretching before joining a queue for the Family Mart toilets. The KM organizers got it right this time by providing plenty of porta-potties but Family Mart was the nearest to where I waited. Plus, it was warm inside!

Before the flag off, I needed a second visit to the loo having guzzled down a bottle of sports drink prior. I was definitely well hydrated. The sugar rush must’ve got to my brain because I started off with the masses only to realize that it was the 10-mile race! Luckily I “woke up” in time and sheepishly made my way back to the marathoners who were still waiting! Had I crossed the starting line, I was sure to have been DQ’d. Sharp 10am, the fireworks were lit and we were finally released.

The start was crowded but with fresh legs, everyone was going the same pace. The congestion lasted only a Km and the roads gradually opened up. The next 5K taking us gradually away from the town center. For a comparatively small population to, say Tokyo or Osaka, the level of support from the folks were fantastic. Everyone was so eager for a high-five, from kids to the old folks!

Hitachi employees have always come out in full support of the runners. Photo of the 2015 edition from the event website.

Things were always great the early stages of a marathon and there’s really nothing to report other than I’m still able to keep to a consistent pacing, the enjoyable running and good crowd support. Even the PF was behaving. At the same time I was under no allusions that I will not suffer eventually. Nevertheless, I averaged 5:23 in the early stages and the trouble with the early inclines didn’t materialize. I stuck to my trusted fueling plan of a gel every 25 minutes and a cup of water/sports drink at alternating stations. At the 22K mark, a pee break was so well executed (I spotted a row of toilets and as I approached, the first door open and I ran straight in!) that I lost only 20 seconds that K.

Meanwhile the skies remained dark and gloomy and as we cleared the suburbs and reached the wide expanse of lotus root plantations and the lake beyond, the first drops of rain came down. It was so light that I thought it would help in keeping us cool. That thought may have somehow angered the Gods, because not long after that, the winds started building up several notches. It was as if someone was toying with the intensity knob, ratcheting it up little by little just to spite us. The runners gamely fought on, thinking things won’t get any worse. But it did.

At 33K, it stopped being a race and more of getting myself to the finish line. The menacing weather decided it was tired of playing with us and finally unleashed its pent-up fury. The wind coming in from the lake whipping up wavelets on the plantations, driving the rain sideways. We were buffeted from the left where there was nothing to block us save for a shed or two located far apart. It was all either headwind or from the side. The 60kg me had to run at an angle and with my head down. A dude running next to me then had his palm covering his ear to prevent rainwater from entering while I was more concerned about the race bib being ripped off my vest.

White-out

Exposed!

Puddles formed along the coastal country road which we were running/walking and my shoes had been soaked for some time so I no longer cared. I was more concerned about the feeling of nausea that had cropped up. Never before had I encountered this over the course of a race but it was bad enough that I felt like blacking out. Breathing deeply, I fought hard to maintain my focus and not to lose consciousness. An ambulance parked by the side tempted me for a moment but I didn’t come this far to DNF. And with the unwavering support of the locals, young and old, despite the weather conditions, no one would throw in the towel. So we slogged on and having walked like 10 minutes or so, the nausea wore off and I resumed my shuffling to maintain my core temperature. Because my gaze were fixed downwards, I saw plenty of road kills on the road – frogs! The paddy field-like plantations must be home to many of these amphibians.

The battle with the elements continued for the next 7K and for some reason, the ambulance sirens were only heard as I neared the town center. By then, I had wolfed down 2 delicious anpans (red bean buns), and 2 cups of hot tea from an ad-hoc kiosk manned by concerned supporters in view of the weather. They even kept a fire going to warm us up! Just wonderful. I would’ve stayed longer had there been no race to complete! A 5:40 pace for the next 7K would’ve snuck me under 4 hours but it was useless trying to fight the wind. At that point, I just laughed at the whole thing rather than being depressed. In fact, I attracted some stares when I “woo hoo’d” as the wind continued to rachet up that close to the finish. I was a little concern that power lines could be brought down and remembered praying that the potty that I was in won’t be blown over, as I hurried on with my business!

I eventually finished my 30th marathon in pretty dramatic weather conditions. Unlike most marathons, there are no finisher medals, towels for Kasumigaura. An event tee, a banana, a bottle of water and a pack of lotus root noodles were what awaited finishers. And also an on-the-spot certificate. While I went into Kasumigaura as a training run, I’d lie that I wasn’t a little disappointed at not being to keep the sub-4 streak going. Yet, at 4:15:05 it was 3 minutes quicker than Nagano prior to a 20-minute difference logged in GCAM the same year. Whether I’m able to run 3:45 in GCAM16 will depend largely on these final 2 months. The marathon is a fantastic event where one needs to have a blend of speed and stamina to nail it. I already have the sense of pacing and locked down fueling strategy. What remains is the cultivation of the right blend of training needed to get the job done, and so we shall see.

Website: https://www.kasumigaura-marathon.jp/
Entries: Opens sometime in November, capping off at 15,000 runners.
Race Fees: ¥6,000 (approx RM220)
Cutoff: 6 hours.
Entitlements: Short sleeved event tee, a pack of lotus root noodles, instant race certificate, post-race banana and drinks
Description: The inclines weren’t too much of a concern and with a flat 2nd half, this can be a PR course. Small town vibes with plenty of countryside farming scenery. No complains on the organization and the team improved on the many feedback on the lack of toilets. Love the town folks’ support.
Weather: Hard to predict Spring weather. Monitor the weather constantly.
Quirks: Overseas participants can only collect their race kits on race morning between 7:30am to 9am! ¥100 baggage deposit.
Challenges: Frustrating search for accommodation in Tsuchiura, with only 2 hotels in Booking.com within reasonable distance to the start/finish. In my walkabouts, I did see a few smaller ones which weren’t found on the booking website. Consolation is that the race starts at 10am, and it’s about an hour from Ueno. Post-race commute back to Tokyo will be arduous.
Good: Small town vibes, post-race runners’ village with plenty of food stalls.
Bad: I don’t think there’s any, just some quirks (see above).

Entries For The Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016 Are Open!

Photo from the GCAM website www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

In case you’re unaware, entries for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016 (GCAM16) are open now! The official website has all the details but you can also hit the link below for details on the categories available, entry fees, and race pack collection locations.

VIEW ENTRY INFORMATION

For Malaysians, 2016 presents a unique opportunity to visit and run Gold Coast by virtue of the school and Raya holidays. As a result of the good fortune, my family will be joining me for a long-overdue holiday there. Our tickets and apartment are booked and we’re already looking forward to July next year!

Photo from the GCAM website www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

See the photo above? Spot the runners? That’s just after the start at Southport. From there, runners will be heading south, firstly across the bridge before hooking left towards Main Beach (where the yachts are moored) and then keeping right towards Surfers Paradise, always with the beach just on your left right up to Burleigh Heads before doubling back to Runaway Bay to the north. A short but challenging 6K from there will then take you to the unforgettable finish by the water!

What to expect in the Gold Coast in July? It’s winter but pretty mild and dry in comparison with, say Japan’s winter. Thus it’s easy to pack and with temps between 10 to 20 Celcius, there’s really no need to bundle those thick jackets into the luggage. A fleece jacket would typically suffice as a warm top. You can even get by with a t-shirt when walking around during the daytime. It’s also sunny with clear blue skies, so don’t forget your sunscreen, sunglasses and caps. For the race, it’s practical to go with a cap, sunglasses, short tee or vest, and shorts. You can keep warm before the start with layers of old event t-shirts which you can discard for charity.

Now, if your mind’s made up to run GCAM16, you really need to add yourself to the GCAM16 Team -Malaysia-In-Training here. Training will start after the year-end holidays and the team look to welcoming new and old friends to the group because it’s more fun training 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, love the washer-dryer facility!). 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!

Then, if you’ve not done so already, you’ll need quickly contact Holiday Travel & Tours to find out about the travel package they’ve put up for Malaysian travelers. If you’re traveling with a group of friends or with families, it may make better sense to start looking for your flight tickets (only Air Asia X flies to Queensland) and accommodation (the tips and links found on our FB page will be helpful on where to look).

Many of us will be running GCAM16!

A Shake Down Run (a short 3-5K) is planned on the eve of the race too. Details in the same FB page. While there’ll be a little running to get the mind and body into the racing mood, there’ll be plenty of photo ops too.

That’s a bit much info for now but rather than rambling on, it’s time for you to commit to GCAM16, and make all the necessary arrangements for the July race-holiday. If you’re like me, marathon training for the first half of the year is easier than the second. Work have 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.

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

Gold Coast Day 1: Run, Harbour Town, Expo

After arriving late Wednesday night, the bunch of us just couldn’t wait to get going. Thursday started off early for me, with a short 5K run along the Surfers stretch, just behind the hotel. The crisp air was most welcome and it gave the legs some much needed workout after the flight and sleep.

With the run tucked away, the group decided to spend the next few hours trawling Harbour Town for some deals. I was on the look out for a belt, a replacement for the much traveled and worn-out Deuter backpack and some stuff for the family back home. Since the outlet center has a limited time promotion in conjunction with GCAM15, you’d want to include Harbour Town as part of your itinerary. If you’re from overseas, be sure to drop by the Tourism Lounge to pick up your Free Tourism Club Card before getting on with your shopping. To find out more about the outlet and how to get there, check out my previous post [link].

With the friendly folks at the Visitors Lounge.

We took things really leisurely and made sure we had coffee breaks :D along the way. Didn’t want to overwork those legs!

From Harbour Town, we headed to the Expo which was at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre. This has been the location for the race pack collection and expo for a number of years. This time around, getting there was made even easier with the G:Linq – the Broadbeach North Station just directly in front of the landmark. Since it was the first day of the expo, the crowd wasn’t big at all and we coasted through the race number collection and the exhibition booths very efficiently. Not a moment too soon as my stomach was already growling.

The next day would start with another short run! Photo slideshow from the day’s outings can be viewed by clicking on the photo below.

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