Thursday, July 21, 2016

Come For The Run, Stay For The Fun: Days 4 & 5

We woke up to the sounds of rain on the fourth day of our stay in the Gold Coast; our first rainy experience here. This didn't bode well for our planned trip for the day. The wife and me planned to head up to Mount Tamborine for some fun up in the mountains. The rain was a little bothersome. 

Waking up to a rainy morning ..

Choon Yuen, Yang Leng & hubby and Jeannie, hubby & son were also joining us up on Mount Tamborine. My wife was a little skeptical about having to drive up a mountain road in the rain but I decided we'd still go on with the trip. I had complete faith in my driving abilities up a mountain in the rain. I've always wanted to visit Mount Tamborine since the first time we went up there in 2014. We went with a tour back then and really only had a half hour to explore the place which was nowhere near enough time for us. We swore we would go back there again and the rain wasn't going to ruin my plans!

The convoy heading up to Mount Tamborine

Some texts were exchanged and we discovered Richi and Jamie along with their families had to cancel their planned Currumbin visit due to the rain. We then decided to invite them along but there was a slight problem with space in the car. So, Choon Yuen, Jamie and myself drove around looking for car rentals for Jamie and after almost giving up hope, we finally got one that had available cars for hire which was a good thing cos it wouldn't have been all that much fun without the whole gang joining us for the drive up to Mount Tamborine. 

These damn Malaysians just don't know how to behave! Tsk! Tsk!

We were finally off as a convoy of three cars heading out to Mount Tamborine with Jeanie's hubby, Andrew leading the way. After close to 30 minutes or so we were heading up the narrow mountain road which was shrouded in mist towards Gallery Walk on Mount Tamborine. It was a nice slow drive since it was still raining intermittently. I loved the view (what we could see through the mist anyway) and countless times fantasized of retiring here one day!

Finally up on Gallery Walk

We stopped along the way for pictures just before we reached Gallery Walk. The weather was really cold and wet and good thing I was dressed appropriately this time unlike the first time we came here in 2014 where Choon Yuen and me were in shorts and freezing our butts off! Well, this time around it was Yan Leng & Jeanie's hubbies who were doing the shivering in their shorts ... LOL!

Grabbing some much needed hot food and drinks

After the photo-taking and monkeying around, we finally made it up to Gallery Walk. I was super excited cos I've been waiting for two years to get back up here again. We parked the cars, made a toilet stop and started our walkabout along Gallery Walk but not before grabbing some food and hot drinks. We were all pretty hungry from the drive up. Besides, the cold, rainy weather does contribute to making you hungry a lot more.

Wherever these two go, they're bound to be up to no good!

We found a cozy little restaurant just around the corner and proceeded to order some food and hot drinks. The food and drinks were served pretty quick and we all dug in. The rains started again so we sat in the warmth of the place a little longer to wait for it to die down. It was still drizzly but we decided we'd head out anyway to explore the place. 

My yummy omelette 

Now, Gallery Walk boasts of around 60 over vibrantly coloured shops, art galleries, wineries, restaurants and cafes. There really is quite a lot you can see and do on Gallery Walk with each shop offering a variety of items to purchase such as glass works, pottery, sculptures, painting, sweets, food and loads more. We started exploring each and every shop along, taking our time to take in the beauty and ambiance of the place. 

Some of the cute colorful shops

Andrew purchased a bottle of wine and we shared in the drinking. It helps to keep the body warm after all! My wife wanted to visit one of the shops we went to in 2014, where we bought some nuts and fudge back then to get some more cos she loved them the first time round. After browsing and sampling some of the fudge samples, she bought some which I really can't remember the flavours. 

She was the only one willing to let me take a pic with her ... sigh...

The rainy weather wasn't letting up and was a bit of a bother really. My wife had planned a few more places to visit in the surrounding areas but with the weather not really cooperating, we had to trim the list down as time was also not really on our side. We wanted to head down before it got too dark to drive so we opted for one more place to go to which was Witches Falls. It was just a short drive away and had a trail that led to a lookout point.

The two hardcore short pants fellows!

When we got there, the place was again shrouded with mist and we were skeptical we would be able to see anything when we reached the lookout point. Nevertheless, we hiked the short 1.5km trail in the direction of the lookout point. The air was cool and the weather was simply beautiful but halfway through the rain got a little heavier and we opted to head back to the car cos there really wouldn't have been any point to hike all the way to the lookout point, not in this kind of weather. I was a tad bit disappointed but gamely made my way back to the car with the rest.

The mist shrouding Witches Fall ..

Some of us, the gluttony ones like me were hungry again and it was decided that we'd head back down the mountain and stop by Peter's Fish Market for some fresh seafood. The drive back was uneventful and I was feeling a fair bit tired. We got to Peter's Fish Market and the sun was finally beginning to show itself. We ordered our food and dug in hungrily before deciding that we'd all head back to the apartment to get some rest.

Something about Witches Falls makes one do crazy dance moves!

We planned to meet up for dinner again at Yan Leng's apartment since they had loads of food leftover from the day before (#iamacheapskate). My wife was too tired and opted not to join Choon Yuen and me for dinner but asked to get some pie from Pie Story on our way back after dinner. Dinner was the usual cheerful banter and soon enough we all called it a night since it had been a long day. Choon Yuen, who would be bunking in with the wife and me for the night and together with Jamie headed out to get the pies on our way back. It was lights out pretty early for me cos I was beat and we had another long day planned the next day.

Even Jeanie wasn't spared doing the weird dance!

Day Five

Today's menu called for a visit to the Coombabah Lake Nature Reserve. The nature reserve is part of an estuarine corridor extending from Lake Coombabah to the Broadwater and Southern Moreton Bay. Choon Yuen who would sadly be flying off later at night joined both my wife and me for this excursion. It was an easy drive getting there since it really was just less than 10km drive away from the bustle of Surfer's Paradise but the moment you get there you'd be forgiven for thinking you were a world away. It's purely magical cos here you were in a natural metropolis oblivious to the surrounding city.

Joey the kangaroo

The Coombabah Lake Nature Reserve is a 12 thousand hectare haven for dozens of threatened species and is an authentic bushland in the centre of the city complete with free roaming kangaroos and koalas while hosting a mosaic of almost a dozen ecosystems and hundreds of various species within the enclosure. I kid you not, if you're an outdoor lover, the place is really magical and quite breathtaking.

Suspiciously watching us!

The moment we parked the car, we were immediately welcomed by a kangaroo! I was super excited, what with never having seen a real life wild kangaroo in my entire existence. We got some tips about how to approach a kangaroo by a warm and friendly Aussie guy with his kids who were leaving the reserve. Choon Yuen christened the kangaroo, Joey. He did look like a Joey anyway. We approached Joey very slowly and got as close to him as we dared before grabbing a few pictures.

Choon Yuen with his kangaroo!

We headed down the vast field and that was when we saw tons of kangaroos lazing about in the sun. They immediately and instinctively raised their heads and warily kept an eye on us. We didn't dare approach them any nearer for fear of being ambushed by a horde (is that was you call them?) of kangaroos. We'd never live it down with the gang if that happened!

Wife and Choon Yuen worshiping the sun!

After getting our fill of wild kangaroos, the wife, Choon Yuen and me headed off across the vast field into a trail path near the car park in search of koalas. The trail was lovely and looked ripe for a nice run. Unfortunately neither of us were trail equipped so it was just a slow hike for us. The three of us walked silently enjoying the serenity of the reserve.

Part of the trails into the reserve

Of course, when opportunities to fool around arose, we didn't skimp on the fun. We took loads of pictures and continued along the path. The foliage transformed and changed as we wandered deeper into the woods. We met a few hikers and asked if they spotted any koalas yet but all said none was forthcoming.

Wild animals frolicking in the reserve!

Soon we reached the eucalyptus forest and our koala spotting mode was in full swing. We were craning our necks up the eucalyptus trees trying our best to spot an elusive koala or two. Sadly we couldn't spot a single one but nevertheless we kept looking. The scenery though was spectacular with the scent of eucalyptus wafting in the air and the serenity of the place was deafening. Just as we were giving up hope of ever seeing a koala, Choon Yuen and his eagle eye spotted a koala hugging a branch on one of the tree. I was thrilled to say the least. Although all we could really see was its cute butt, it was a koala nonetheless. My life was now complete!

It's hard to describe the serenity of the place

After getting our fill of staring at a koala's butt we continued the journey through the ever changing foliage. We eventually headed back towards the car cos we were tired and also cos we wanted to get to the other end of the reserve where the mangrove boardwalks were located. That would require a short drive and we drove off in search of it.

These two birds followed my wife for quite a distance

It didn't take us long and soon we were at the other end of the reserve and made our way to the wooden boardwalk built over the mangroves on Lake Coombabah. The place was deserted save for the three of us and I was more concerned about a crocodile or anaconda having us for lunch!

The various plants spotted in the reserve

This boardwalk presented lots of vain shot opportunities and we didn't waste a single moment of it. We spent about 40 minutes or so for this entire boardwalk stretch and made our way to Harbour Town nearby to get our rumbling tummies filled. We really hadn't had anything except for a McDonald's breakfast earlier in the morning. It would be good to take note that the reserve doesn't have any toilets or food places so it's best to bring your own.

Looking for Koalas

Harbour Town was packed with cars but we managed to eventually find a parking and head to Grill'z for lunch. We were here the previous year and loved the food so it was only natural to head here for lunch. Coincidentally Jamie and family had the same idea since they also came over for lunch at the same place. After lunch it was a quick walk around before heading to Woolworths to get some stuff for dinner before heading back to Surfer's Paradise. Choon Yuen had a flight to catch back for home.

The mangrove boardwalk.

The past two days has been exhaustive but extremely fun. The places on our list were slowly being ticked off and we were both really happy. The trip this time was being maximized to the fullest and we still had lots to see and two more days to do it in. I couldn't be any happier!

Looking out to Lake Coombabah from the boardwalk

Final 2 days coming up.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Come For The Run, Stay For The Fun: Days 1-3

The Gold Coast is a place my wife and me simply love since our first visit in 2014. There is something about the place that I simply cannot explain that draws us back year after year. Which is why the moment I got confirmation of the marathon dates, plans for another trip this year were put into motion.

Dinner before the long flight
Our flight tickets and accommodation were booked way in advance, which got us a good deal. We decided to stay at the Sun Tower Holiday apartments again since we had a pleasant stay there last year. We made some changes to our arrival and departure times this year as opposed to last year. This year, we flew in a day before the race (which in hindsight may have been a bad call) and kept the holiday aspect of things for after the race. I wanted to get the race out of the way so that I could really enjoy the holiday after that.

I left the entire holiday planning to my wife. She's a whiz at researching and planning for holidays. She managed to dig up some interesting places for us to visit and planned it out nicely over the 5 full days we had for sightseeing. Me on the other hand was more interested in planning the kind of vain shots I would be taking at all these locations ... hahaha!

Can't wait to get started

Day One 

Our flight to the Gold Coast was pushed back by two hours from 9.00pm 11.55pm, which was damn annoying but no big deal seeing as how we'd arrive a little later than expected unlike last year where I lost an entire day due to the flight rescheduling. I'm watching you, Air Asia! We met up with Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby, Monica for a quick dinner, some team photo taking and then made our way for departure.

The flight was a difficult flight for me as I found it really hard to fall asleep in the small confines of my seats. It was toss here and there, doze on and off, all the while trying to find some form of a comfortable position. I swear, one of these days I'll fly premium! 

We arrived in Gold Coast around 10.30am, local time. Made our way quite fast through immigration and I went off to get my rental car. This year, both my wife and me weighed the option of renting a car for the duration of our stay against having to take an airport transfer to the apartment and also having to take a tour to the places we wanted to go. In the end we found it more economical and gave us a better handle of our time than having to be rushed around by a tour company. 

My cute little Getz for the duration of my stay

I was a little skeptical of the car rental cos I've read both good and bad reviews about this particular car rental company, Cut Price Car Rentals. Furthermore, their 'office' was located in a van in the secondary car park. I kept my fingers' crossed that my booking would have no issues and as fate would have it, everything was in order and I was in and out with my car in a matter of 10 minutes. The guy manning the office was warm and friendly and I got a nice, cute little yellow Hyundai Getz for my stay.

Just before leaving, I gave Choon Yuen a call to tell him that he could put both his and Yan Leng's luggage in my car since they were heading to the race expo and I wasn't. At least they wouldn't have to lug their bags all over the expo. I've been to the expo before and didn't intend to go this year to stop me from buying more stuff that I really didn't need over there. Jamie so kindly helped me with my race kit pick up.

An unplanned stop

My first experience driving in a foreign country was a little unnerving. I read up all the rules and regulations about driving in Australia and armed with some tips from Yvonne, I was as ready as I could be for my first drive in a foreign land. Remember, I'm from Malaysia and over here half the people don't follow any road rules whatsoever. My first agenda of the day was to look for a Petrol station, which is called a 'Service Station or Servo' in Australia. 

Even then, I was clueless as to how to fill up petrol at these servos. Were they serviced? Or were they self serviced? In the end, my wife and me ended up looking for the emptiest station and sheepishly tried figuring out how to fill up our tank. It turned out to be easy peasy. You just need to fill up, then walk in and pay in cash or card. Simple as that. You can't really blame me, I'm a clueless foreigner over there :P

I have no idea what I'm pointing at

Our first place of interest wasn't in our initial list but decided to do a detour since we had a lot of time to spare. It was this place called the Beree Badalla Boardwalk, a wetland reserve for mangrove trees, just a 10 minute drive from Coolangatta airport. The boardwalk is just beyond the Tarrabora Reserve right under the Currumbin bridge. It's about 2.4km out and back along the Currumbin Creek Estuary. You're given a stunning view through the mangroves and out over Currumbin Creek. Apparently when it's high tide, some sections of the boardwalk gives you the sensation of walking over water. Unfortunately it wasn't high tide when we were there but it did produce lots of vain shot opportunities for me!

The beautiful view, too bad it was low tide
The sun was a little biting this time around, it wasn't as cold as we expected it to be. Either that or we're getting used to the conditions here and becoming Aussies ... LOL! We spent quite a bit of time here since check-in was still a ways off. Once we were satisfied with our walk, we headed straight for Surfer's Paradise towards the apartment. By this time, I was settling down to driving in Gold Coast and things got a little less stressful, driving wise. It was a nice slow easy drive as we took in the view. Hunger was also slowly creeping up on us by this time. 

We reached Sun Tower Apartments an hour before check-in time. We parked our car at the outdoor carpark after speaking with the friendly manager who gave us permission to park there until it was check-in time where we could move the car inside the apartment. We headed to Woolworths, our favourite shopping place, to get some stuff for dinner and also find some food to eat. All I had in my mind was anything to do with bacon, I would be fine with it!

The spacious living area of our apartment 

Soon after, we headed back to check-in and settle ourselves into the apartment. We booked a beach front unit this time around and were treated to a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The apartment was as we expected it to be. Though it had slightly aged furniture, everything was clean and it was fully equipped with a kitchen, utensils and laundry and drying facilities. No complaints from us. Loved the place, especially the location which was just a short 5 minute walk to all the food places in Surfer's Paradise.

Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby dropped by to get their luggage and I drove them back to their respective accommodations before heading back for a short rest before the shakedown. I was seriously feeling lethargic due to the long flight and though excited about the shakedown, I wasn't really up to any running. Come 4.30pm, I joined the rest of the Malaysian contingent who were there for the run and after some photo taking sessions, we made our way for a short and easy run. Choon Yuen, Yan Leng, Jeanie, Yeehoo and me decided we'd just walk/run the shakedown cos most of us were still fatigued by the flight.

The very weird looking carvings on our bed ...

After the shakedown run, we all headed our own way and I was back at the apartment to start getting my gear laid out for the race the next day. I was being difficult with the wife about the race and even contemplated not turning up for it. I kept spewing out excuses after excuses to justify not turning up. But she knows me and my nonsense well enough and took the time to ease my mind about the race and soon enough the fire in me started up again. Yes, I was being and acting like a child! With that out of the way, it was a quick dinner of prepacked pasta with bacon (what else) and soon after it was lights off.

Sun Tower Apartments in the background

Day Two

With the wife not running the half this year, I didn't have to wake up as early as the previous years. I don't normally take breakfast before a run for fear of upsetting my stomach halfway through the race but this time I did. A first for me. My wife made me a nice ham sandwich and a mug of coffee cos it was a chilly and cold morning. Took my time eating it, and by 5.40 am I was out the door walking to the tram station nearby with a host of other runners. The tram arrived within minutes and after a short 10 minute ride, I was making my way towards the race venue. Caught up with the gang who were buying some hot coffee and we all headed to the pre-arrange meet up point. You can read how my race went over here.

Just before heading out in the cold to the tram station ...
Right after the race where everyone came in with incredible timing, I headed back home to meet the wife for lunch. I was famished and I'm guessing, so was she. But I was too tired to go out for lunch and wife was also too lazy to walk out. So we ate some of the stuff we bought yesterday and decided to wait for the potluck dinner later.

Jamie buzzed me and said we'd be meeting up with Mui Khim for coffee before our potluck dinner a little later at Yan Leng's apartment. I was happy cos I finally get the opportunity to meet Mui Khim in person seeing as how all the interactions we've had were mainly through Facebook. My wife said she'd meet up with me after the coffee meet at Woolworths so we could get some things later for the potluck. The gang were already at the Coffee Place in Surfer's Paradise by the time I got there and a little while later Mui Khim arrived. After a fun-filled coffee session talking about the race and what our plans for the rest of the week were, we parted ways and I went to meet my wife to get our share of the potluck which was ice-cream and headed off to Yan Leng's apartment for dinner.

Before race start

Dinner was a pot-luck affair between the gang. The food was great with Richi, Selin and Jeanie whipping up instant dishes of their own for us. Amidst mouthfuls of food and drinks, we traded war stories, starting plans for #GCAM17 and soon made our way back to our apartments not before planning for a short morning recovery run the next day. I was already feeling the fatigue of the long day.

Day Three

My chance at feeling like a millionaire for a little while

The day started with a short recovery run, well it was more of a recovery walk since everyone was basically walking in pain. A quick stop for coffee and we headed back. The wife and me decided to stay in as we had a complimentary cruise with the gang courtesy of Tourism Queensland in the early evening.

I could get used to this ...
Since Jamie was staying in the same apartment building as the wife and me, the three of us drove to Runaway Bay, the start location of the cruise. We met up with Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby and Jeanie, hubby and son. It was my first time going for a boat cruise and I was a little apprehensive of the cruise. I'm afraid of water (since I can't swim) and being on a little boat in the middle of open waters was not my ideal setting for fun. But surprisingly the cruise ended up being an awesome experience.

Preparing the cheese and biscuits for the cruise

Darryl, the Captain of the boat was a very friendly chap and kept us all entertained throughout the cruise. I eventually got over my fear of being in open waters and started to really enjoy the ride. Darryl provided us with a variety of cheese selections and biscuits as snacks for the cruise and we brought along drinks and fruits for the cruise.

The cruise was expected to be approximately 2 hours out and back. It was a surreal experience and gave me a short taste of living life like a millionaire. The view was spectacular with the setting sun as we sailed along the many magnificent millionaire mansions lining the banks of the waters. As always, with the gang around clowning around was always on the menu. Let's not even start on the amount of vain shots we took during the entire cruise.

My 5 minute stint at being a Captain!

The cruise ended all too soon. I could stay out in the waters forever! We made our way out of the marina and went our own ways since we all had our own plans. I was craving for some home soupy kinda food and told the wife that we'd be having Vietnamese food for dinner. There was a nice little Vietnamese restaurant just a 5 minute walk away from the apartment which we ate in last year and after parking the car for the night, we headed there. Jamie said he might pop by too and went off to his family while the wife and me headed there.

The hot food was really a welcome after having the richer western food for the past few days. Jamie turned up and joined us before we all decided to call it a night. It's been a long day and there was an even longer day planned the next day. The past three days has been exceptional and made me long to just retire here in the Gold Coast!

The cruise was like a a scene right out of a holiday TV advertisement!

Days 4, 5 and 6 coming up as soon as I can find the time to write them ...

Some pictures courtesy of Jamie and Choon Yeun

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gold Cost Airport Marathon 2016: Race Review

This was my third straight year running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM). There is something about this race that draws me back year after year, so much so that I consider this my home away from home. Well, at least for a week anyway.

This post is entirely about race day as I intend to keep my race and holiday posts separate or it'll take close to a decade to write. I had such fun for the after race holidays that it deserves two or three posts of its own!

I arrived in the Gold Coast on a cold Saturday morning, got my car rental sorted out and off to Surfer's Paradise I went. Drove straight to Woolworths to get stuff for dinner and checked into the apartment for a short rest before heading out to meet the team for a short shake down run.

I was looking forward to the shakedown run, what with a very long and tiring 8 hour flight out. I guess the flight took more out of me than I anticipated and was feeling the jet lag of travelling for so long. I joined the team but it was more of a fun get together photo walk/run than actually getting any running done.

My race gear all laid out. 

A short 3k for me and it was back to the apartment for some food and getting the gear for race day ready. Even when I first started training for this 2 months back, I knew I wasn't going to expect any miracles from this race. What with two back to back injuries that saw an accumulative four months of rehabilitation with no running.

Just when I recovered from my stress fracture before GCAM15 last year, I picked up another injury in the form of a meniscus tear just a week before Kyoto which saw me take another complete two months break from running. I was cursing my luck back then. Two consecutive marathons were screwed by injuries.

With Yan Leng, Jeanie and Selin before race start

I was a little worried for GCAM16 cos by the time I was healed enough to start running, I only had exactly two months to train for the race. Now, anyone worth their salt in running marathons would know that is virtually an impossible time frame to get into shape for a 42k distanced race. Of course there are exceptions to this as some are just born to run with very little training.

I have no idea what kind of pre-race dance ritual Choon Yuen was doing ...

The team were already in full marathon training when I came back and even then the first month was left with short, slow runs to get back into running effectively leaving me one full month of actual marathon training. I was cracking my head at how to get through this. I could push myself like I did before Kyoto but with a huge chance of picking up another injury. I'm crazy enough to run back to back long runs on weekdays, twice a day, something which I've done prior to Kyoto. Not very intelligent though.

All systems go ...

But then my wife stepped into the picture and asked me what I really wanted to do? Did I want to get to the Gold Coast injured and not be able to run at all or would I want to get there albeit under-trained but not injured and actually be able to run this time. The choice was obvious. I'd rather toe the start line under-trained but injury free than not run the race at all. It was thoroughly disappointing and gut wrenching the last two times when I got injured. So I left my training in the capable hands of my lovely wife.

Two extremely fast ladies (Yan Leng & Jessie) on either side of me,
hoping some of their speed will rub off on me!

Now, while she's not the competitive kind of runner or neither is she a fast one but she knows me inside out and what kind of punishment and stress I can handle, especially my ego. She drew up a plan for me, something that she said would hopefully take me to the Gold Coast injury free. I wasn't too happy with the plan, I'm a very competitive person and the plan was 'too mellow' for my liking but nevertheless, I'd give it a go. I just couldn't take the heartache of another injury.

And so, at the end of the two months, I was as ready as any under-trained runner could be but most importantly, I was injury free this time. Granted, the meniscus wasn't 100% healed and neither will it ever be but I could run without pain. That was important. Yeah, I may not be able to do a personal best but I could run! Woohoo!

With Digger prior to race start. I must have been such a bore, he was falling asleep!

So, there I was on a very cold Sunday morning, walking to the tram station with many other runners who were also making their way to the race location. I was bundled up in my Saucony Nomad jacket over my race gear which comprised of my Saucony Endorphin singlet top and Inferno shorts along with my trusty Saucony Kinvara 7 Boston edition. Even though it was very cold and chilly, I knew from past experience that I could comfortably run in a vest and shorts cos the weather would heat up pretty fast once the race progressed.

It's never easy seeing runners on the opposite side
heading back while you still has a ways to go!

Reached the race location around 6.15am, which was as usual teeming with excitement and met up with the gang for chitchat, photo taking and warming up before race start at the prearranged location between the huge screen and the baggage tents. I've been to the Gold Coast races the past two years but I can never get used to the excitement of race day over here. It's exhilarating and festive like.

I was beginning to get butterflies prior to race start. My wife wasn't here at the race location cos she wanted to wait outside the apartment, which was right smack on the race route and grab some pictures of the gang as we ran past. She was my inspiration to get through this race in one piece.

Keeping stride with Andy Steele ...

At 7.10am, Jamie and me headed to our corrals and I bumped into Choon Yuen and Yang Leng lining up at the tail end of the 4:00 pacers, I told them I was moving further back to the 4:15 pacers but they convinced me to stick with them. I was skeptical at first but eventually agreed. I knew I wasn't going to follow their pace. They were primed and well trained for the race and tagging along with them was suicidal for now. I didn't have a real goal but I did have a goal all the same, which was to finish this unscathed. The gun went off and it was show time.

It took me about three minutes to get past the start line and soon I was off to an easy stride. I knew from previous experiences starting fast along with the crowd was foolish, at least for me. I stayed about 100-200 meters behind Choon Yuen and Yan Leng who were slowly building up the pace, just as I expected them to. I kept to my pace which was in the 5:40's. I was a little skeptical about my pace cos it was a tad too fast for my usual starts but I was feeling very comfortable with it.

Happy to see my 'coach' at the 5km mark!

The first 5k was pretty straight forward. I was cold  from the chilly air and slight breeze but the pace was consistent in the 5:40's. I was surprised with it but knew this was still early in the race. The legs were fine, the meniscus wasn't acting up and my breathing was easy and calm. Just before the 5k mark, I started looking out for my wife and ran along the extreme left of the road. I spotted her from afar and a smile crept up my face. Race or no race, I ran up to her for a hug and continued on my way.

Now it was time to focus on my race and see how far I could go. Don't get me wrong, mind you. I'm not making up excuses but I knew I'd hit the wall. That was a given with the training I had. It was just how far I could push this before that happened. I was still keeping to a 5:40 average pace and things were still feeling good. Just after the 5km mark, the 4:15 pacer overtook me which was strange. That shouldn't be happening with the pace I was doing. But the GCAM pacers were known to be a little faster at times.

Just how far more is that bloody U-Turn?!

I let the thought go and let him go instead of trying to chase him down which was a blessing cos I did eventually catch him. It turned out that he had to speed up to make up for lost time crossing the start as he was the gun time pacer and was running a little behind. My race so far was going surprisingly well. I was doing a steady 5:40's pace and my heart rate was in the 145's. For a moment I was worried that my Garmin was screwy.

I kept going, drinking at every water station cos the cold could lull you into a false sense of not needing hydration. I took my gels right on my allocated time without fail. As usual, the crowd along the way were simply awesome. Although this time round, I found the crowd along Garfield Road, Old Burleigh Road and Northcliffe Terrace Road a little less than last year but awesome nonetheless. The volunteers were simply first class and even while dishing out water, they kept encouraging everyone to keep going! I was still going strong right up to the first U-Turn. 

Is that the finish?

I caught up with the 4:15 pacer about 3k before the U-Turn and discovered he was Andy Steele. I stuck with him and we ended up chatting the rest of the way. He told me he was a little ahead of the 4:15 pace and I was fine with that. I was still feeling good even up to the 15k U-Turn. The pace and breathing were still extremely steady but most importantly the legs were still feeling fresh. A sliver of hope crept in but I was not holding my breath just yet.

My conversation with Andy got more interesting as we traded 'war' stories (of cos mine was nothing compared to his). And yes Frank, we even talked about Comrades and I mentioned I train with the Malaysian Comrades Ambassador during weekends :D. And so it was stride for stride running with Andy Steele. Just before the 26k mark, I saw my wife again and excitedly told Andy who she was.

And that folks, is a wrap!

He smiled and said, 'ah, now I see why you've been running so well, your inspiration was waiting'. And I guess he was spot on with that. Just after this I mentioned to Andy that I was worried about the 30k mark and the advice he gave will always be imprinted in my mind. 'Nick, don't think about the 30k mark, just think about the kilometer ahead of you and work it down one kilometer at a time'. Best advice I've ever had!

I kept with him till somewhere around the 29k mark. My lack of proper training was beginning to materialize. I dropped my pace down as my legs refused to go faster but I stubbornly kept moving. This was where I parted ways with Andy Steele. I stopped a little longer at the 31k water station and had to force myself to continue running.

With Steve Moneghetti after the race!  

I managed to get back into a slow trot and for the first time in many years, I felt the onset of cramping! It was forming in every bloody part of my legs and I was seizing up! The 32k mark saw me slow to a walk to try to nurse the cramps. The knee was also beginning to act up and at this point I said, screw it, I'm not going to damage the knee and finish the race injured. I decided I'd save the knee and try to just get through the last 10k even if I had to walk.

The personal primary goal was screwed anyway. The last 10k felt like I was running a 100k race. It took forever. The sun was beating down by this time and seeing everyone heading back on the opposite side of the road wasn't helping my mood one bit. Yan Leng called out to me from the opposite side of the road around the 34k mark and I was very happy for her. She was running strongly and was hoping she'd make her sub-4 today.

Managed to get a shot with Benita Willis, super thrilled!

Around the 35k mark, Selin overtook me and I took this opportunity to use her to pull me along so I tailed 20 meters behind her quietly for one entire kilometer without her realizing I was there. That was how focused she was. She ran a mighty good race by the way! I eventually dropped back and was forced to walk again. The pain was unbearable. I spotted Choon Yuen and we stopped to chat for about a minute to rue our luck. He had issues of his own but was still doing a splendid job. Told him to keep moving and made my way again.

The last 4k was nothing but pain but I resolved to get through it. Eventually after much walking and very little running, I saw the McDonald's sign that indicated I had 1k or so to go. The crowd spurred me on and some running got underway. This is one section you try your best to keep running even if you are in so much pain cos the crowd will chant your name so much that you'd feel bad to let them down! As I turned into the last 250m to the finish, I took a deep breath and made a dash for the finish. Pain or no pain, I just wanted to finish strong. And with a time of 4:42 (gun time) / 4:39 (net time), far from my best but I was done. I had made it back in one piece injury free! That was important for me.

With the second placed finisher Yuki Kawauchi himself!

I knew from the start this wasn't going to produce any world shattering records and I wasn't disappointed with the results. With just one actual month of training, this was a great result for me. I've learned a lot from this. You cannot run a marathon (or at least one that matters) if you don't put in the training for it. PERIOD! Up to the 31k mark, I was on pace for a sub 4 but that will have to wait and my previous best sub 4 in Chiangmai will just need to wait a little longer for another race to be bettered.

After the race, I learned the team did extremely well with lots posting incredible times, a testament to how dedicated they were in training. A huge congrats to them and the entiree Team Malaysia. Most importantly, I have my wife to thank for getting me to the Gold Coast in one piece and her work as an unofficial coach and motivator to me proved successful. I shall be using her services again for my next marathon training. Not sure how much that's going to cost me though ... hahaha!

The two fellows who've been with me in all my overseas marathons. 
And will definitely be there with me for more!

For now, I'm going to take a step back, rest a little, do some rehab for the knee and then get back full swing into training for my next race, whatever that might me. I've learned to put my competitive ego aside and running has become really enjoyable once again.

As for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, I'd have to say it's easily one of the best marathon's I've run in. The race organization is second to none, the spectators are the bomb, the race atmosphere is fantastic and if I can somehow afford it next year, I'd definitely love to run this again. And to those thinking about doing this, don't think anymore, just sign up for GCAM17, you won't regret it!

Team Malaysia post race.
Pic credit goes to Jamie Pang