Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015: Race Review

The Gold Coast Airport Marathon this year saw me signing up for 2 events, the Southern Cross University 10k run and the main race, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon itself. The entire premise was to have a leisurely run with the 10K and get down to business with the 42K. At least that was the initial plan. It turned out to be a bitter sweet affair. I'm going to write both the race reports here instead of breaking up into two posts so it might be a little lengthy.


Southern Cross University 10K 

The Southern Cross 10k was planned as a shake down run for the team. This year we had a bigger group from the core GC team coming along and we wanted to have as much fun as we could which translates to a photo taking galore. So the five of us, Jamie, Choon Yuen, Foo, Leong and me decided to make the most of our stay there.


After an initial issue with the northbound tram line being shutdown due to an incident on the track, we were told to take the free shuttle buses being arranged. The queue was too long and the buses that actually arrived were full. Man Hon, who was with Leong, the wife and me decide to call for a cab as time was running out and thankfully the cab came along in no time and we were finally at the race start location. Credit for this goes entirely to Man Hon cos he knew the cab phone numbers. If it was up to me, we'd probably have missed the start.


The race site was a hive of activity. The atmosphere was electric. Once all of us gathered round, group shots were taken and after some joking around, we all headed to the race pens. We decided to gather at the very back since none of us were podium material anyway ... LOL!


The weather was not as cold as I had assumed. My race gear was kept simple, a jacket, my Team Malaysia Fan Run tee, a Salomon shorts and my trusty Skechers GOrun 4. But the sun was already beginning to peek out and I soon ditched the jacket just before race start. The entire idea of the 10K run was to have fun. There really wasn't going to be much real running done. I'm not one to muck around during races or run with a camera on my hands but I made an exception this time.


The gun for the start went off and Jamie who had some official duties to attend after the race went off ahead as time was of essence for him. That left Choon Yuen, Foo, Leong and me at the tail-end of the crowd which was exactly what we wanted.


The fun for us started from the word go. To be entirely honest, this was one of my worst 10k timing ever but has to be one of the best 10k runs I've ever been in. There was laughter and playfulness throughout the entire way to the finish. The crowd was super supportive along the way. The other runners were such sports and posed with us for selfies and group shots along the way.


I've never taken this much selfies during a run and surprised myself that I did. We practically stopped every 300 to 500 metres just to take shots, either of our antics or selfies with anyone who was willing. And the supporters and volunteers along the way weren't spared either, for that matter even the dogs weren't spared. I missed my dog, Pebbles so much that I simply could not resist a picture or two with the dogs.


Aside from the fun, the run also served to loosen the legs before the 42k the next day and to get a feel of the road and weather since this was actually the critical stage of the marathon route. The legs were holding out fine, granted we were at a 7:30 pace but it bode well for me. The plan was to actually run at a 9:00 pace but that would have practically been a walk pace. We had to reel in Foo at times who was constantly on a faster pace in anticipation of a smashing marathon showing the next day :D


Soon enough we neared the finish, which is one of the best sections of the race with the huge cheering crowd that for just a few minutes makes you feel like an elite runner racing to the finish. We wanted to end with some hooha and started coming up with ideas how to cross the finish together and get all four of our ugly mugs in one official photo. We're cheapskates and that way we could all just share one official race picture ... hahaha!


In the end we agreed upon a jostling to the finish photo where we tried holding each other back as we neared the finish chute. That was the highlight of the run. We had so much laughing and trying to hold each other back that I think it was the slowest charge to the finish for the event! In the end, Foo took the chequered flag before us.


I've never really had this much fun in a race before and sometimes I believe we do need to let our hair down (for those who have hair that is, unlike me) and simply enjoy the run. It's not always about chasing a personal record. It's not always about wanting to prove something. It's not always about trying to outdo someone. Sometimes it's just all about having the time of your life doing something you love. Would I do this again? You bet your bottom dollar I would!


Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015

After the fun run of the previous day, it was time to get to work. The bitter sweet feeling I mentioned about earlier was mainly for the marathon. About a little more than a month before GCAM15, I developed a suspected stress fracture on my left tibia. I'm not going into details but suffice to say it put a huge damper on my final month of preparations for the marathon.


I was practically devastated that all those hard training I've been doing especially for this race would be wasted. All those mornings I forced myself out of bed just to put in the hard work for this would all come to naught. Up to the time I got bogged down with the injury, I was at the fittest and most prepared I've ever been. I really don't know how or what I did to get the injury but it was a huge blow.

I prayed and prayed that maybe it'll heal by the time I got to the Gold Coast, since it was already the taper period but the pain was constantly there. I could run but I wasn't sure for how long. I contemplated not toeing the start line, really I did. The wife and the rest of the team were very supportive. They knew how much this mattered to me and encouraged me not to give up hope.


Though I've oftentimes told people not to run through an injury, I found myself waking up at 4.00am to get ready and make my way to the race start location. The wife was running the half marathon at 6.00am so I had to get to the start much earlier even though my race start was much later. After the previous day's tram incident, the wife, Julia, Leong, Man Hon and me decided to head out earlier just to be on the safe side.

We got to the race start without incident. The morning was cold but I knew from weather predictions that it was going to heat up later in the race and kept my race attire gear to the minimum. It was a Columbia top, a Nike shorts and a Saucony Kinvara 6, a last minute change of race shoe from my trusted Skechers GOrun 4. This is the first time I've run a marathon in an untested shoe (It had only 15k mileage to its name) but the Kinvara 6 offered a little more cushioning for my injured leg. It was a risk I was willing to take.


After wishing the wife well for her half marathon which was flagged off earlier, I headed back to meet the team who finally arrived. Started on a warm up and stretch session before finally heading to the start corrals. I started at the C corral with the 4:15 pacers and would see how the legs hold out before I decided on race strategy. At least that way if I felt good, I could push forward, if not I could easily drop back.

Choon Yuen joined me at the front of the the C corral with the 4:15 pacers. We were both disappointed that Digger wasn't one of the 4:15 pacers. I ran with him last year and that man was very instrumental in getting me to a personal best. At 7:20am sharp, it was gun off, time to get to work. I said a silent prayer for my legs to hold on and trudged along with the rest as we crossed the start.


Both Choon Yuen and me got into an easy pace start, not too fast and not getting caught up with the moment. We stuck to the 4:15 pacers like glue. Though there was an annoying dull pain, it didn't hinder my speed much. The first 3k was ran at an average 5:40 - 5:50 pace. I decided to test the legs a little and upped the pace to 5:15 and the legs gamely responded. I even managed to chase down the 4:00 pacers. A little note here, the pacers were not keeping to their actual pace and were in fact going too fast and for me to catch up with the 4:00 pacers meant that I was running hard, much faster than a 4:00 hour pace. I was quietly happy that I could manage that.

But I wasn't about to fool myself. I knew my legs could take a 10k at marathon pace with no issues, maybe even up to 15k or so but I knew that the longer distance of the marathon was going to affect it at some point and as the hours piled on, I would be feeling the brunt of the injury. True enough, by the time I hit the 13k mark, the pain started materializing a lot more. It wasn't something that I could push to the back of my mind. It was constant and it was demanding attention. It was just a matter of time when I would be forced to a walk. I grit my teeth and looked at my forearm which the wife had scribbled the word 'Fighting'; something personal that the wife and me share, and it kept me going.


Sure enough, just after the 15k mark, I had to resort to walking. The sharp pain along my tibia took its hold on me. My spirits deflated and even with the amazing cheering crowd urging me on, I still couldn't find it in me to hold my head up. I ran/walked my way back just after the first u-turn point and made my way back slowly. Thoughts of just quitting played heavily on my mind. No shame in giving up, I kept telling myself. Nobody will hold this against you, I whispered.

I hit the 21km mark in 2:11, not too bad but I was in so much pain that the thought of having another 21km to go was frightening. What kept me going at this point was the tremendous support from the crowd. This is why I love the Gold Coast Marathon. The locals with their kids urging you on and calling out your name 'Go, Nick Arthur, Go', to keep you moving. I slowly trudged along, once again a run/walk routine.


Soon enough, Foo passed me looking really strong. I was happy for him. He almost didn't make the run due to a long standing injury prior to the race and here he was flying past me. I urged him on silently. A few kilometers later, Leong passed me. Here was another one of the team members in flying form. I couldn't be any happier for them. Now the sun was out in all its glory. While it was cold in the shades, it was burning in the sun. Even my Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero top was having a hard time to keep the warmth off my body. It was a wise decision to go minimalist.

By the time I hit the 28km marker I had made up my mind to pull off my bib at the 30km mark and just DNF back to the finish. The pain was too much to bear. I could be making the injury worse by stubbornly pushing on with the race. I had already walked an entire 4km stretch and whatever time I had was hopelessly screwed anyway. At the 30km mark I was already fiddling with my safety pins to pull off my bib when I heard Natasha call out to me. We chatted for a bit at the water station before she moved on.


It was then that I looked at my arm and the 'Fighting' words scribbled there and decided to keep on going. After all, it was only 12km to go. What have I got to lose. I've come so far as it is on a busted leg. I ran after Natasha and told her I'll run with her all the way back. The company would maybe keep my mind off the pain. So off we went, slowly but steadily. The pace was nice and easy and I was surprised that I could actually still run. I was slowly overtaking all those who ran passed me earlier and I was smiling inside. We kept each other moving and it was a nonstop run all the way back to the finish.

With knowledge of the route from last year, I kept her up to date on what to expect ahead and how far we had to go. I hope it helped her in a little way. After what seemed like centuries, we finally reached the last kilometer of the race, the best section of the race. I told Natasha to be prepared for the support and cheers of the spectators calling out her name as she ran past. I guess it motivated her so much that she upped her pace. I had a hard time keeping up!


We finally turned into the final 250m towards the finish chute and I couldn't be any happier. The suffering and pain can now finally end. I crossed the finish in a net time of 5:16 which was way off my 3:52 personal best. While I may have not achieved what I set out to do, I was happy all the same. After congratulating Natasha on a job well done, I limped off to find the wife and the team who were waiting at our prearranged spot. I was glad to hear they all came back with huge PR's, a testament to how much they've put in during training. Jeanie came back with the biggest PR margin! Congrats also goes out to the wife who had as difficult a race as I did but still fought her way home to the finish. You're awesome, babe!


While I'm disappointed that the injury derailed my marathon aspirations, I'm nevertheless still happy to pull through. Now the long road to recovery can begin before I tackle the next marathon on my list which will only be in 2016. Did I have fun? Absolutely, there are no doubts about that. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and yes, I'll be back next year to take you on again, Gold Coast, of that you have my word!

As Mui Khim once told me, Enjoy the run. Stay for the fun. Next up: Gold Coast Holiday Report!

Note: Some picture credits above goes out to JamieChoon Yuen and Andrew.


5 comments:

  1. Tough call Nick. But am just glad that you survived it. Now nurse yourself back to tip top condition and come back stronger!

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    1. It was, Francis, it really was. Thanks for your recommendations and sorry I didn't follow them and decided to run. It was something I just had to do. Just hoping for a speedy recovery now.

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  2. It was tough but you did well and was brave to complete the race. Good job for pacing Natasha all the way to the end...you have no idea how brilliant your company and encouragement was for her since she had to deal with a bad tummy.

    The 10K...damn it was so much fun! You guys had awesome pics. Yippee to the new found camwhoring skills. Let's put that to good use for #GCAM2016.

    Meanwhile, please get the foot sorted out. I had 3 fractures on the same leftie and its a nightmare when I did not seek medical attention promptly.

    And hahaha...I still say Pebbles is the best medal model. Please give her more treats! Its hard work to be cute.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Evelyn, I'm glad to have finished and in the process help someone finish too. I really enjoyed the 10k run tremendously :D

      Yes, will definitely seek some medical attention for the leg soon. I really need to recover and be running again soon.

      Pebbles has loads of snack as it is for my being my model ... LOL!

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