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Gold Coast Airport Marathon Race Report

Following the marathon PR in the Gold Coast last year [race report], plans were made to return to Australia’s Sunshine State for a repeat. Except for a couple of events to keep the running going there wasn’t any “serious” training program in the second half of 2014. Things got going only after the first week of the 2015 Chinese New Year celebrations. An 18-week program was already drawn up based loosely on the Hanson’s plan. 18 weeks seemed a little lengthy but I wanted the initial couple of weeks to be a sort of a bedding-in period.

A more aggressive goal was plotted for GCAM15. To put into perspective, I needed to average 20 seconds per kilometer faster than GCAM14 for a 13-minute goal PR. It appeared a little far-fetched at the onset of training but on the other hand, I hadn’t been sedentary either since GCAM14. I had some fitness going into it. Chalk one up for staying active the year-round!

Other than a week off due to a mild flu in the first month of the program, I was healthy throughout which was unlike the past years. It was not easy sustaining 5:39 pace after Chinese New Year much less a 5:19, but the weekend long runs eventually brought the stamina back. Gradually, 5:30 wasn’t too much of an issue and with more miles packed into the legs, the level of optimism started to rise.

Post Simulator

One of the contributing factors that brought about the improvements could be attributed to the group training. We’ve had the GCAM training group for 4 years but it was in this year’s group that saw a larger number of runners who joined us for the weekend workouts. Training in a group setting certainly made those 5-5:30am mornings much easier. I’m sure, from the photos above, you’d agree that we had fun too. Due to the new goals, there was a need for more variety in the workouts, from boring long runs to more exciting (and lung-busting) stuff like hill repeats, track intervals and progressive long runs. Finally, unlike last year, I raced very little this time around, with my first race of the year ran only in April in the form of the Shape Run. With 3 weeks to the race, the group ran the 26K Marathon Simulator in Putrajaya, a workout which everyone nailed. That did much good to raise the level of confidence and set things up for a good showing. The Simulator was a fantastic culmination to the months of training, double workouts and early morning runs.

Can’t wait to stuff down dinner at Vapiano.

Before the Half Marathoners headed off for their start.

Fast forward to race-eve, and with all commitments wrapped up and the shakedown run taken care of in the form of the Southern Cross University 10K, a few of us gathered for a pasta dinner at Vapiano which doubled as a meet-up with Yvonne and Bin who traveled up from Melbourne to run the Asics Half Marathon. It would be an early night for all of us. My race packing had been done on Friday so it was all very quick for me – 8 gels, the Jabra Rox, iPod Nano, Kinvara 5, compression socks and shorts, shades and cap. Disposables were 3 race t-shirts and cutoff tube socks as arm warmers for the cold start. Breakfast was a Hammer bar, cup noodles (for the salt), and a banana. I’d drank a small cup of black coffee at the hotel so I skipped the cafe at the race precinct. I stayed hydrated while waiting to check-in my baggage (600ml bottle of Powerade) before I made a visit to the loo and getting my warm up done. Finally the group took a slow walk to corral. I would be running solo as Nick’s condition was preventing him from pacing together, which was truly unfortunate for the both of us. He had trained very hard (much harder than me). We were at our fittest and would’ve benefited from running together and pulling each other along. As it was, I positioned myself in front of the 4-hour pacers (Corral C). With my pace table tucked under my watch there was no need to rely on the pacers. I was confident in keeping to my MP anyway.

The strategy was to generally run by feel. Through the miles logged, I could peg the 5:19 pace pretty easily without the need of constant monitoring of the watch. The distance was broken down to several key checkpoints – the 15.5K Burleigh Heads u-turn, the halfway mark, the 30K mark and the finish. Hydrate from my handheld bottle (High-5 Carb/Protein mix) up to the 10K station and subsequently at all aid stations with water and Endura. Gels every 5K. This was as I’d executed during GCAM14, so other than the new goal time, whatever I’ve adopted this year wasn’t a new approach. I even wore the same top, shorts and shoes.

The sun had warmed up sufficiently that I could discard my layers. All signs were pointing to a hot day. Closed my eyes to refocus and we were off. The atmosphere and energy were excellent, even greater than previous years’. I crossed the start line in 2 minutes and after a 5:34 first K, I was able to keep to a good clip. Unlike races back home, nearly everyone around you were moving at the same speed – slower runners behind, faster ones in front. So while there were many runners around you, everyone was moving in unison with little obstruction. The first 5K was to average 5:31 and no problems there.

The next 10K segment to the 15.5K Burleigh Heads u-turn was to be run at 5:19, and it went like clockwork. Heart rate was very comfortable hovering mid 150s. Legs were fine and I kept sipping at my bottle of High-5. Again, the highlight was the level of support. We’ve cheer-leading teams which made plenty of noise and there were just many more folks out watching and cheering us this year.

As the race progressed, it was becoming apparent that the day would be a hot one. The forecast put it at 23 Celcius after a 12 Celcius start. It was largely cloudless, so I felt the sun rays penetrating on my skin. The halfway mark, as always, was around the narrow Millionaires’ Row and until last year, I’ve always had an aversion to this section. The reason isn’t so much attributed to the location but rather this location was where I knew, in 2011 and 2012, that I’d started too fast! I’ve since learned my lesson by not running like a headless chicken that early on in the race. Plus, through miles and miles of running, I eventually developed a sense of pace from my breathing and how my body feels. The watch was merely there to validate what I already know. Pacing awareness can be developed by anyone.

Photographers! Must. Look. Cool.

 

There comes a time in every race when the runner has to make the call. Make a go for it or what army recruiters would say, “Be all you can be” or stick to a conservative plan. I held back until 37K last year. A year on and stronger, I had to decide earlier this time around. I had the honor of speaking to several elites at the Garmin Legends Lunch the day before the race during which I was seated next to Adam Gordon, elite triathlete and Garmin ambassador. I asked him, at which point of the race I should make the call to make a go for it, if I still felt good? He replied, “When you wake up and have your breakfast.

My decision? I stuck with the plan after taking into consideration the weather conditions. With the halfway mark reached in 1:53 against the planned 1:54.55 (1.5 minutes ahead of schedule), I should just keep the proceedings up to the 35K point before hitting it hard for a strong finish. At least, that was the plan.

Despite drinking consistently I’d yet to pee (unlike last year) by the time I returned to the Surfers Paradise stretch. As progress was still on-track, I just kept going. Supporters and their kids and pets were truly out in full force rallying the runners on. There was still plenty of work to be done but it wouldn’t be long before I got to the dreaded 30K point.

“Yoo hoo! Jamie! Jamie!” SD yelled. Photo courtesy of SD (naturally)

The race precinct was madness – left and right, the crowd were just spectacular. There was no cloud cover and even though the temps were only hovering in the 22-23 Celcius region (no issues for us from the tropics actually), we bore the full brunt of the sun due to the absence of cloud cover. Being baked in the sun wasn’t fun and despite staying hydrated (1.5 cups every station) it wasn’t providing enough relief to keep the effort going. I truly started to struggle from the 32K mark, when I took my first walk break as I drank up. The quads and hams were misfiring, and there were indications that they were cramping up. Running the Marine Parade stretch towards Runaway Bay was so exciting last year because I was holding back before finally pushing it all the way to the finish. Things were different this time around. I was beginning to get a little antsy as the goal pace was starting to slip. By the 35K mark, I was off target by 4 minutes.

Alternating splashing water on my head and face, I was shuffling and walking with not-so-wholesome thoughts coursing through my mind. Staring at a potentially calamitous timing, the available options weren’t that appealing. Even the lyrics in my playlist seemed to suddenly turn depressing!

Choices:

  1. Throw in the towel (more time spent in the hot sun, cramps, pain, unwholesome thoughts, etc…), or
  2. Fight (less time spent in the hot sun, cramps, pain, unwholesome thoughts).

Photographers! Don’t. Walk. Now.

Dammit, I didn’t train 4.5 months for nothing! What would my kids think of me, I thought. Thus, it came down to a lot of shuffling and walking when the tugging on the quads became worse. This went on until the final water station located before the McDonald’s outlet. With the final stretch coming up, I gritted my teeth towards the finish. Supporters were yelling my name and with that kind of enthusiasm, there was no way a runner could walk.

Photographers! Must! Not! Walk!

 

Photo credit: Bin

I’d stopped looking at my watch after 37K and was a bit surprised to find that my 29th marathon ended at 3:55:33, a measly 3-minute improvement, a massive 10-minute gap from what was targeted. I was disappointed that the body couldn’t respond appropriately to the conditions. I’m unable to put a finger to what could’ve been the cause. Perhaps there wasn’t a single factor but a combination of the 10K the day before on top of the heat on race morning. Whatever it was, the end was anti-climatic. It was a humbling experience and I’ll learn. The positives were all there – the training were good, the pacing was great, the gear performed as expected. I will not repeat the same mistakes again the next time. For 2015, I’ve PR’d in the 10K and the Marathon and the next goal will be to drop the Half Marathon timing in December.

On a much happier note, the training gang returned awesome PRs. How awesome? Think gargantuan 50-minute improvements! Even Foo, who at one stage was relegated to the role of team chef due to his injuries, ran superbly. The months of training has been made easier with their company. I’m also glad for the company of Comrades Marathon alumni, Frank and Zijill, who added some elements of hardcore-ness to many of our workouts. I’ll bet there will be a few sub-4 and sub-5s for many of them the next time around! Nick, you better get your leg treated as there’s unfinished business to attend to, on top of new green shoes to be running in!

So happy to see Nick back, we nearly threw a party. Wait, this was the party!

Team Malaysia did great! Proud of everyone! There were close to 170 Malaysians who ran GCAM15.

Congratulations go out to the race organizers who yet again did a wonderful job in running the show, and to those thousands of volunteers and supporters out on the streets, thank you! Not forgetting, my heartfelt gratitude to the hardworking folks at the Tourism and Events Queensland, who took great care of me and letting me be part of the event. This has truly been a GCAM15 to remember.

Southern Cross University 10K Race Report

It’s another year and I found myself back on the Gold Coast. This time with many more mates from the training group along for the running festival that we’ve come to love.

Since a run was planned on the eve of the marathon, a few of us thought might as well run the official 10K as the shakeout – getting more bang for the buck out of the trip. The plan was to take it really leisurely with plenty of photo ops along the way.

The weather on Saturday was mild, just fine for a short run but it started off with some drama. Due to an incident, the northbound tram line was closed, forcing runners to mass along the Gold Coast Highway for the bus shuttle services. After several packed buses passed without so much as reducing the size of the queue, I scrambled to cab-pool with another group of runners (Hi, Todd!) and was able to make it to Southport in time. Nevertheless, the organizers wisely delayed the start a little to accommodate the late arrivals. As I was hurrying towards the agreed meeting point by the big LCD screen, I bumped into Ryan Hall just off the main road. With no one mobbing him, I did the sanest thing a gawking runner would do.

Soon enough with everyone in our group accounted for, we (Foo, Leong, CY, Nick, Man Hon, and I) proceeded to the rear of the thousands of participants. I’d shed my layers even before I entered the corral, so mild was the temperature that morning. The mood was fun and there was absolutely no pressure where we stood.

Personal engagements with the event organizers meant I’ve to proceed at a quicker pace than the gang so that I’ve enough time to freshen up at the hotel, chow down some breakfast before meeting the inbound travel group from Malaysia. As a result I was promptly separated from Nick and the gang just after the start with me running some ways with Man Hon.

Don’t be fooled by the guys. They were just getting started. They were nuts that morning!

Soon enough I was alone passing more along the way, snapping photos as I went along. One of the GCAM Ambassadors, Benita Willis, was herself providing support to the back of the packers. Great to see the greats giving back to the runners.

The 10K route is also run on a racetrack pattern. Runners cross the Southport Bridge at the start heading southwards before u-turning on the other side, making their way northwards towards Runaway Bay before doubling back to the finish at the race precinct.

This stretch is one of the most beautiful along the route.

Northern section U-turn. It’s apparent that the day would be hot.

There were plenty of supporters along the way and there was never a dull stretch which was devoid of cheers. After covering the early Ks between 6:26 to 5:22, I picked up the pace the last 4K (5:15, 5:13, 5:07 and 5:01) just to get the legs working a bit before crossing the line in 55:57.

The run-in through the finishing chute was a teaser for what’s to come the next day. The crowd was really thick and enthusiastic and those in the stands screamed even louder as I waved at them! With the finisher tee and medal collected , I hurried back to the hotel to get ready for the rest of the day – the route tour and Garmin Legends Lunch beckoned.

The other guys? I believe “fun” would be an understatement in describing their experience! With the 10K in the bag, my GCAM medal collection is now complete! If you’re planning to run GCAM16, be sure to include the Southern Cross University 10K or the Suncorp Bank 5.7K Challenge into the itinerary as part of the marathon eve shakeout run!

Click on the photo below to launch the photo slideshow.
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

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.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Happening At Harbour Town, Gold Coast!

Photo courtesy of Harbour Town, Gold Coast

Ready, Set, Go! Race in for Sportswear Savings at Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre, Gold Coast, Australia

With the famous Gold Coast Airport Marathon fast approaching, Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre is the place to get race-ready with over 20 sportswear brands at well below retail prices.

Australia’s largest outlet shopping centre, Harbour Town on the Gold Coast is home to more than 220 stores, offering a minimum of 30% off the original retail price on outlet stock, as well as specialty retailers, entertainment and dining.

Photo courtesy of Harbour Town, Gold Coast

Photo courtesy of Harbour Town, Gold Coast

There’s no shortage of fashion for fitness fanatics with big name brands including Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Puma and Asics to suit all running styles. You’ll also find popular Australian brands Lorna Jane and Rockwear with women’s activewear that can be worn even after you’ve crossed the finish line. Put your best foot forward and embrace the sports luxe trend for less with discounted Stella McCartney for Adidas available in store now!

Other leisure brands include Converse, Fila, Lonsdale and Skechers, and if swimming is part of your training regime you’ll love the savings at Speedo, C60 Surf (Billabong), Karma Surf (Quicksilver), City Beach Australia, Rusty and Rip Curl. Whether you’re male or female, young or old, advanced or beginner you can update your sportswear wardrobe for a fraction of the cost at Harbour Town.

Photo courtesy of Harbour Town, Gold Coast

When race is over, you can refuel at the new Yum Cha Cuisine restaurant serving up traditional Chinese dishes including steamed pork and shrimp dumplings, chicken feet with black bean sauce, and deep fried crispy beancurd. There are over 25 alfresco restaurants and cafés in total with other new arrivals from Mexican taqueria Guzman Y Gomez and healthy burger joint Grill’d.

After all of the retail and restaurant therapy, you can put your feet up and enjoy a new release movie at Readings Cinemas with special Gold Class screenings from just $20 per person.

Harbour Town is also home to the Gold Coast’s only shopping centre Tourism Lounge offering a host of complimentary services and facilities for visitors including a relaxation area, tea and coffee, free WiFi, secure luggage and parcel minding, and more.

Tourism Lounge. Photo courtesy of Harbour Town, Gold Coast

 

Most importantly, if you make the Tourism Lounge your first stop before you shop, you will receive a FREE Tourism Club Card for additional discounts in many stores.

At any time during your Gold Coast Airport Marathon visit you can stock up on life’s conveniences with a wide range of specialty stores for all your fresh food, banking, currency exchange, health, hair and beauty needs.

Harbour Town is located between beautiful beaches and popular theme parks, just 15 minutes north of all of the action of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon race precinct at the Broadwater Parklands in Southport. There’s over 2,800 complimentary car spaces and the Centre is easily accessible via public transport.

So set a personal best and race into Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre where you’ll find big brands and even bigger savings every day of the week!

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More information about Harbour Town, Gold Coast (photos below from my 2011 visit)

Getting there is easiest by catching the G:Link from any one of the 16 tram stations to either the Southport or Gold Coast University Hospital station. You can then transfer to bus 704 (Southport) and 709 (Gold Coast University Hospital) to continue along to Harbour Town.

Bus Information:

  • 704- Sea World/Main Beach to Helensvale via Harbour Town
  • 709 – Uni/Hospital to Helensvale via Harbour Town
  • 712- Coombabah to Southport via Harbour Town
  • 713- Paradise Point to Southport via Harbour Town
  • 719- Paradise Point to Southport via Uni/Hospital

The Tourism Lounge offers visitors:

  • Complimentary refreshments
  • Free Tourism Club Card
  • Comfortable and modern environment
  • Complimentary taxi phone service
  • Luggage and parcel minding
  • Friendly and helpful staff
  • Free stroller loan
  • Free wheelchair loan
  • Prayer room
  • Free Wi-Fi access

Opening Hours:

  • Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat – 9am-5:30pm
  • Thu – 9-7pm
  • Sun 10-5pm

Packing For Your Overseas Races

Packing for your first overseas race? Here are some tips for you, as the day draws nearer.

1. Stow your race gear in your cabin luggage.
If your checked-in luggage goes missing, at least you’ll still have your race gear that you’ve trained in. The rest can be replaced in the worst case scenario but don’t let months of training go down the drain because of wardrobe issues.

The stuff I’d have in my backpack would be my racing shoes and socks on top of the racing apparels. My travel itinerary and hotel booking receipts would be in a thin clear folder. I’ve always found compression socks to be a big help when flying, so that’s a given. Other mandatory items are my tablet and iPod as with sound-isolating earbuds. My supplements and gels will go into my check-in.

Compression socks are my friend.

2. Stay informed
It’s always wise to check and read up if your destination country has any special restrictions or regulations. Australian regulations are strict. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s (ACBPS) Guide for Travelers can be found here.  The list of prohibited and restricted imports can be found here, while the detailed downloadable copy here.

I pack my sports gels and energy bars in clear ziploc bags and declare them on entry. The custom officers will verify your declaration, of course, and I’ve never had issues.

3. It gets easier
As you get more seasoned, you’ll be able to fine-tune your packing needs without having to load up a container. Since I’m from the tropics, I find packing for a warm climate easier. That said, my race travel budget is nearly always allocated for a
cooler/colder destination. Afterall I already get to do plenty of running in this country’s muggy weather :D .

Finally, don’t forget to bring your passport and other travel documents!

Taper Begins!

In terms of consistency and volume, training for GCAM15 has been one heck of a ride. An 18-week program is a lengthy one. Compared to last year, racing has been kept to an absolute minimum. No ultras (last year I completed Titi and Nuang) nor marathons (did Nagano then) and the handful of races were short and quick ones (Shape, CXP, TM Fan Run) where they would function as speedwork or a “sandwich day” (pre-race/race/recovery).

I felt that by keeping these “fun” long runs aside, I would be able to focus on GCAM training without the protracted recovery days and risks of injuries brought about by the ultras. Over the weeks and months, the body has responded pretty well to the change of base pace. Other than the usual niggles, there’s been no injuries. A mild flu floored me in the early weeks but I’ve been healthy for much of the training period.

With that many hours invested in running and its related activities, maintaining the motivation has been a challenge. Pushing a weekly goal mileage is one motivation (that’s where logging your workouts come in), and relying occasionally on music to keep me moving is the other. Music is only a factor when I’m on the treadmill (I relinquished the gym membership at the onset of GST implementation), or when doing my loops around the housing area or park. For safety reasons, I never plug in while running on the roads. On double workout days, music would feature prominently in my sessions. Music, made the miles go by easier :D . The GC team has been fantastic in training together and so were Comrades veterans Frank and Zijill who provided the extra incentives to pick the hilly routes. If you followed me or the training team on Facebook, you’d have seen how much fun we’ve had.

If there’s a common trait that was observed throughout the months, it would be consistency. Rarely did we skip our organized weekend runs. As a result, the momentum carried over the weekdays as well. That said, I do take unscheduled off-days if I was just too tired. Several good habits were picked up along the way – from spending much less time on social media (all that running meant I’ve only time left for the truly crucial matters), even not turning on my home laptop for a couple of days, and earlier nights. Waking up for the morning runs became progressively easier.

Shoes worn – Kinvara 5 (regular and Runshield versions), Zante, Breakthru, GRU, GB2, GR4, GS3, Boston Boost, adiZero Ace 6, Ultra Boost, Flyknit Lunar 2, Hitogami, and X-Scream 3D. Gear tested included the Mio Fuse, Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless, Sony Smart B-Trainer.

Now that taper has started, the mileage will of course be reduced but I think I’ll be enjoying those shorter and quicker workouts while sleeping in a little more over the weekends.

Since there’s no such thing as certainty when it comes down to the outcome of a marathon or indeed Life, I’m as ready as I could’ve been. The most important thing is to relax, have fun and finish happy come July 5th. I’m already looking forward to breathing in the crisp and clean air in the Gold Coast again!

It’ll Be Worth It

It’s under 50 days to GCAM15. Just about the time when doubts start to creep in. Even after 28 marathons, each time another race draws nearer, I can’t help but have this nagging feeling if I’m ever going to be ready.

Have I adopted a way too aggressive goal? Will the missed days come back to haunt me? Since these unproductive thoughts can’t be avoided at least for me, it’s a matter of managing them or somehow turning them into positive affirmations, if that’s possible! One thing I know for sure is that I’m looking forward to the day when I can sleep in over the weekends .

There are no certainties in a marathon no matter how well one’s training went. And I’ve had some frustrating weeks to be sure. There’s no point in dwelling on those but keep forging forward for the remaining crucial weeks. That said, I’ve been running better than ever – greater consistency the last 2 weeks are reasons for a little optimism. I’m monitoring the body and recovery closely while going through the race strategies based on 3 goal times. It’s all these and playing the correct mind games in the pursuit of running better that makes the marathon such an intriguing prospect.

 

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