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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Gold Coast Marathon 2019: Race (Not Really) Recap

"WE ARE NOT GIVEN A GOOD LIFE OR A BAD LIFE.
WE ARE GIVEN LIFE.
AND IT'S UP TO YOU TO MAKE IT GOOD OR BAD."
I've been dwelling for quite awhile on whether to even write this post down. I can't quite find the words or the mood to pen what I've been keeping inside. But then if I do not let it all out, I'm never going move on from this bitter and dreadful period of my life.

Surfer's Paradise

The Gold Coast Marathon has always been a favourite of mine and it's always been a race I've put my heart and soul to train for. After last years bitter experience, I was looking to bury that ghost this time around. It took a lot out of me last year and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive when I started embarking on a new training plan this time around.

Loads of questions and uncertainties plagued me right from the start but I pushed them all aside and put my heart and soul into trying making the training work. With the LHR/HMM plan all plotted out and with some company in the training plan from the training group, the long 18 week slog started. 

Maybe I was too ambitious or absolutely impatient to erase the ghost of GCM18 that I may have put too much pressure on myself. I really don't know. Mind you, these are not excuses I'm putting down but I'm just being absolutely honest about how things played out. 


First off, I may have picked a plan that I couldn't really hack at all. Right from week one, I was already struggling with it. Granted, I was able to keep waking up every morning and taking on what the plan had to dish out but that's it, it was robotic and I had to push real hard to keep going. It shouldn't have been that much of a struggle but it was and I was too darn stubborn to see it. 

By week 9 or 10, I knew I was going through the classic case of a burnout. And for this to be happening so close to the start of the training was not a good sign. After some soul searching, I knew I had to do something. I wasn't enjoying the training. I decided to make some changes. I modified the plan and also the goal which was now just to complete the marathon in decent timing. 

And it worked in a way. The morning runs had become easier and more enjoyable. I wasn't as stressed as I was for not hitting a certain training criteria anymore. Even the nagging on/off signs of my previous knee issues wasn't bothering me too much anymore. The cloud lifted and maybe, just maybe I could pull this off. 

At the Race Expo with Jamie and Philip

But in life, nothing is ever certain. About 10 days out from race day, I woke up from a nap with a persistent pain in the knee. I didn't put much thought into it and put it down to old age and besides the aches, pops and crackles aren't anything new. It was close to tapering anyway. A couple of rest days before the race and the pain was no longer that apparent.

Moving forward, it was time for our traditional Gold Coast Airport 5.7km Fun Run, something we've been doing for a few years now as our shake down run to have a little fun before the main event the next day. The weather this time around in the Gold Coast was pretty much not what it normally was. The howling winds and rain that greeted us when we landed was still apparent on Saturday morning.

With Philip just before the start of the 5.7km Fun Run

Not really dissuaded, both Jamie and me headed out to the race precinct. As fate (or arse luck) would have it, on a slow and I mean very slow easy warm up jog, my knee elicited a loud pop and shooting pain went up my entire leg! Oh crap, not the meniscus, please I prayed. I had to stop and told Jamie to go ahead as I nursed the pain. I limped to the start line with thoughts of opting out of the fun run.

The pain was still apparent with each step but I decided to start anyway (yes, I'm not really the brightest spark at times). I was already here and I could just walk the entire route and evaluate my condition later. Let me tell you, while I could still run/walk the fun run, it was really anything but fun though cos I was in utter pain till the end. 

With the Gold Coast Run Nuts ...

Not again, I thought. This cannot be happening to me again. A flashback of later year's DNS kept popping up. I cannot NOT start the marathon, not again. I was determined to toe the start line the next day. When I messaged the wife about my situation, she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The mind was a mess at that point. I couldn't think straight. This was like a sick joke from somebody up there. What did I do so wrong to deserve a fate like this just hours from race start? Yes, I was bitter, absolutely bitter by this horrible turn of events. 

Not sure if it was an intelligent decision but I decided I'd start the race no matter what. Pumped with  some pain killers and the knee strapped with a knee guard, I was as ready as I could possibly be to slog it out for as far I could take the legs. Come race morning, I was up bright and early to evaluate the pain. The pain was subdued in big part thanks to the pain killers and some tiny bit of hope flared up. Maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off. And even if I couldn't, I would have at least tried my best.

The picture doesn't really describe the pain I was in

But fate wasn't about to let me have things easy, not by a long shot. Making my way to the start pen, the dreadful showers that greeted the half marathon runners earlier was no where in sight. In fact, the sky looked pretty clear with some sun actually peeking out in the distance. I shed all my gear and dressed as minimally as I always do for races. But just as the wheelchair category was flagged off, the skies opened up without warning.

I've experienced rain in the Gold Coast before but not in the thinnest technical vest and shorts that barely gave any protection from the elements. A collective groan was heard from everyone around me. In mere seconds I was shivering uncontrollably and was hoping the race got underway soon so I could get some heat into me. It was in true fact just a 5 minute wait to race start but it was the longest 5 minutes ever.

The gun or horn (I can't really remember anymore) went off and we were on our way. Just as I was shuffling my way forward, I saw Sophie, all nice, warm and dry. She had the foresight to keep her raincoat on and looked very comfortable. We wished each other luck and she bolted off with the rest. The start was really, really slow for me. The body was literally cooled down from the rain and I was trying to nurse the leg along.

Just around the 31km mark before the decision to DNF

There was a dull throb (the pain killers were doing their work) that accompanied each step, I was hoping it would stay that way but knew it wasn't going to last. I was still shivering and it was taking too long to warm up at the speed I was going. As we made the turn from the bridge which was about 1.75km, I stepped off the road, unpinned my bib and decided to quit right there and then.

I was feeling absolutely miserable. People were overtaking me left, right and centre. My leg was already in pain. I was shivering. My mind and soul wasn't in it. And I knew it would take years for me to hobble along, maybe even suffering the prospect of not meeting the very generous cut off time. But as the back end of the marathon runners came along, I decided that I'm not a quitter, stupid maybe, but definitely not a quitter. I re-pinned my bib and stepped back on the course with a determined effort to at least see how far I could go. Heck, the spectators were out there even in the miserable weather and I was determined to high five as many of them as I could.

Pain or no pain, the Good Times must go on!

So I moved on with a run/walk strategy. Run until I feel the pain become unbearable then walk to let it subside. The going was slow, real slow but at least I was moving along inch by inch that soon turned in kilometer after kilometer. The spectators along the route kept me moving. Even while I was walking they were so supportive and at that point I was glad that I gave it a go.

The weather wasn't letting up. It was an on/off drizzle along the way for me. It wasn't so bad when I was running but when I walked it was cold, real cold. I forced myself to run as much as I could without stopping but the leg never cooperated much. So there I was, oftentimes shivering with the wind, cold and rain. It was a battle with my pain threshold (which isn't very high, mind you) and my resolve and determination to keep going.

Somewhere around the 16km mark, Sophie called out to me from opposite direction. She was just ahead of the 4 hour pacers and I was happy to see her doing so well given her circumstances. That was the only familiar face I saw throughout the route. By this time, the pain was increasing by the mile and I had to grit my teeth and hold back tears of pain (and despair) and just keep moving. The running become shorter with a lot more walking.


But with the pain, I was still spurred on to keep trying. On and off conversations with some of the runners with me somewhat took my mind off the pain. They were very encouraging and were in fact keeping each other motivated. That's what I like about the Gold Coast Marathon, everyone right down from the volunteers, supporters along the way, random people and even fellow runners were all very supportive.

But even with the enormous and awesome support of everyone, the pain was increasing with each step and somewhere around the 28km mark, I had to make a decision. Would I want to keep going? My heart said, yes keep going. Crawl if you have to but try to cross that finish line. My head said, be practical and realistic. You want to be running till you're old and grey and pushing it may be the end of your running. I kept going not really knowing what to do. I was in pain, that was a fact but I also didn't want to quit.

Eventually as I approached the 31km mark, I listened to my head. I really don't know the actual cause of the injury and I could have already pushed it way past the point of no return for the leg so with a very heavy heart, head bowed and ashamed, I stepped off the course, taking the heart-breaking decision to DNF the race. The mind was a blank as I walked to where I thought the gang would be waiting. I really can't believe the luck I've been dealt with. Someone, somewhere must despise me so bad for something like this to happen 2 years in a row!

With our local Elite

The entire ride back to the hotel in the tram was just a blank stare at the empty (of cos, the tram was far from empty) space and rue my bad luck. What did I do wrong? I trained just as hard as anyone. I backed off when I thought I was over training. I ate the proper nutrition. I took care of my health. I sacrificed a lot. What else do I need to do? I just didn't know what to think anymore.

I tried to put the entire episode away as much as I can and enjoy the rest of what the Gold Coast has to offer. It wasn't easy but there really was no use dwelling on my failure. I'd have enough time for self pity when I get home. The gang, and a big congrats to all of them for their excellent race, were in high spirits and I wasn't about to rain on their parade.

Road trip, kinda ... :D

It was time to really look into getting the leg looked at and fixed once and for all when I get back if I was to keep chasing that unicorn dream. The dream has not gone away, mind you, it may be put in the back burner for a bit but it's still a dream I aim to achieve one day. I know deep down inside that I need to put this entire episode in a box, tape it up and bury it deep down or I'll never move on but sometimes it's not as easy as it looks. But move on I have to cos I know I'll be back for the seventh time next year to exorcise these demons once and for all, of that you can be sure!

Before I end, I'd like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland for the trust, support and opportunity they've given me these many years to keep chasing my dreams. For that I can never repay them enough. I'd also like to thank my wife who has patiently sat behind the scenes supporting me even though I know I can be difficult to deal with when I'm in training and to the ever supportive GCM Team Malaysia training mates. Training would be so much less fun without you guys along!

The Spit

Aside from the race failure, my time in the Gold Coast has been a blast like it always has been. I can never really get enough of the Gold Coast and to be honest, I could see myself settling down here one fine day. One can dream, right :D

The only consolation I have

8 comments:

  1. I feel your anguish friend. Rest well and come back stronger.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Francis, for all the support and guidance.

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  2. Oh you only see Sophie lah huh? You didn't spot the packet of gel I left for you lah huh? ��

    No worries, going for the treatment is the best positive antidote you could've done. There's always the next time once you're fixed up!

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    Replies
    1. Oh that gel near the Surfer's arch was from you, ah? Thanks man 🤣.

      Yeah, I'm glad I finally opted to fix this once and for all, hopefully. 🙏🏽

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  3. Where's my endura gel?

    Keep believing and have faith.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry man, I didn't even make the gel station. I had a plastic bag on the ready for you 🤣

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  4. Commiserations, Nick, it really sucks to be hit with something like that after all the hard training you've done. Rest and recover well, and come back stronger

    ReplyDelete