This year’s trip to the Gold Coast was a mixed outing for me. On one hand, I was thrilled to finally have the family along this time, and we also saw a record number of Malaysians in the race. There were also a number of firsts for me: visited a couple of theme parks, a wildlife sanctuary, drove the streets of the Gold Coast and up to Mt. Tamborine and an unforgettable cruise along the calm waters off Runaway Bay.
On the other hand, with the nagging PF impeding a more aggressive approach to training (although I did run the risk of greater issues by hitting 130K over 8 days prior to taper week), I wasn’t able to run the race I wanted to. I started the marathon with a heavily taped foot and an anti-inflammatory tablet post Saturday’s shakedown run when there was still pronounced pain. I really don’t want this to sound like an excuse for a below par performance, so this will be the only part I make reference to the PF being an impediment. The race was run and I didn’t hit the goal time and that was that. After analyzing the past 2 years’ splits and training, some things will have to change before my next marathon.
Touching down at Coolangatta late Friday morning after a 5-hour sleep, I could afford a more leisurely bedding-in period, adjusting to the weather and the addictively languid, yet for some reason exciting, vibes the Gold Coast offers. This was my 6th consecutive running of GCAM and I’m ever closer to the 10-year club! There were over 250 Malaysians for GCAM16, so while there were many of us on the same flight, there were just as many independent travelers outside the tour group who were already in Australia. Lunch was at the Currumbin Life Saving Club right next to the Elephant Rock Lookout where the views were just stunning all-round. Next port-of-call was of course the Expo for the race number collection. Everyone was very disciplined and made it out of there on time for the shuttle ride to the Mantra Legends Hotel for check-in. Very smoothly managed by Holiday Tours & Travel (HTT) so far. As much as I wanted to sort out my stuff in the room, a run to stretch out the legs appeared more appropriate at that time and after rounding up a few from the training group, we headed towards Broadbeach before returning by way of the Gold Coast Highway to the hotel. Not before running into superstar Yuki Kawauchi (who would place a second behind the winner Kenneth Mugara on Sunday) jogging in a polo top! He acknowledged my “Gambare Kawauchi-san!” shout with a big smile and a resounding “Hai!” and a big wave. Such a character! After an early dinner of bacon pizza with Jeanie and family and the training group guys, and getting some drinks from the supermarket, I was back at the hotel to call it a day.
Saturday meant the arrival of the photogenic duo of Nick and CY. While CY needs no effort in looking good for the camera, Nick has vowed to hug everything in sight with a vengeance. As arranged, the plan was to meet at the Surfers Paradise arch for the Shakedown Run. Before that, I needed a quick apparel change back at the hotel following a fantastic lunch at The Fishhouse Restaurant. By the time I hustled there, a large group had already congregated and everyone looked set to really enjoy themselves the next day. Plenty of photo ops ensued but we were only able to cover just half the planned distance due to some road works on the way to Main Beach. No one complained though as they probably had an eye on next morning’s race. Dinner consisted of cappuccino and a super-large plate of pasta – in that order. With the race gear packed, there was one final thing to do which was to tape the right foot up before hitting the sack at 10:30pm.
I leapt up at the first sound of the 4:15am alarm and after the bathroom rituals, wolfed down 2 energy bars and half a bottle of sports drinks. By 5:20am we were at the hotel lobby ready to move out.
Race morning was expectedly cold. As I stood at the tram stop at 5:30am with the guys, I was glad to have layered up very well – a Saucony tri-top, 2 disposable race tees, a Saucony hoodie and EXO windproof jacket. I also had my Saucony beanie and gloves on, so I was warm and toasty. We got on the first tram to arrive and 20 minutes later we were at Southport joining the hordes of runners walking to the race precinct. The Halfies were just flagged off so we had to wait a little before crossing over to the main field. Security presence was strong and there was better human traffic control this time around.
It wasn’t quite as windy this year and we could afford to shed our layers earlier before going through the warm up routines. Along the walk to the start corrals, I joined a number of locals in watering a tree. Considering the level I was at, I’d downgraded my original goal to finishing in any timing under 4 hours, which was still dicey given the circumstances. I positioned myself in front of the 4-hour pacers, a position I would maintain until the 38K mark (more later). GCAM is known for being a sunny race, at least all the previous 5 editions I’ve ran have been so. This year would be the same. Temps hovered around 15-17 Celcius early part of the race and peaked at 20 Celcius when I finished. Real-feel was hotter since it was cloudless.
As it turned out, I ran very well hitting all the splits necessary for my original goal time (OGT) right up 26K before I started dropping 20 seconds per K. It may not sound like much but with over 16K left to run, that trend would mathematically add up to more than 5 minutes lost. In reality however, one would usually lose between 30 seconds to a full minute per km. Or more.
By 30K I was a full minute behind the OGT. By 35K the deficit had risen to 3 minutes. I was well and truly beaten way before I even hit the turnaround at Runaway Bay. The cramps on both quads and calves were so severe that I thought I’d fall. Since the little steps of the portable toilets could potentially trip me over, I decided to just pee in my shorts. Water was plentiful to wash it off anyway and I needn’t waste anymore time struggling in the toilet than I’d already lost.
I’d stopped looking at the watch for some time but the thought of my kids kept me going. I didn’t want to give up like this. Just when I started to rally myself, the gun-time 4-hour pacer and his charges passed me! Sigh…
If you’d seen me then (thank goodness for the absence of photographers along that final part of the route!), you’d agree that my running form was far less graceful than a person in crutches attempting a Swan Lake routine. In the haze of pain and self-deprecating thoughts I was lavishing on myself, a Race Motivator suddenly popped up, urging on another fellow sufferer next to me. Her words of encouragement resonated with me and kept me going.
Along with the many supporters along the course, the kids I high-fived earlier, and the record number of times my name was cheered, I credit this Motivator for getting me across the finish line in 3:57.58 (net time). An implausible yet very fortunate timing given how bad a shape my quads were in. I also think my decision to pee on the go worked in my favor as well. I would have wasted 2 more precious minutes had I ventured to the potty.
Once back at the agreed meeting point between the stage and the baggage tents, there was so much happy news of awesome results all round that my disappointment was completed forgotten. Nearly everyone ran their best timings in GCAM16. Jessie got her Boston Qualifier, which really wasn’t a surprise given her standout (albeit compressed) training. Plenty of sub-4 performances by many too. It was a truly wonderful moment to be there listening to their race accounts and I couldn’t be happier for them!
With my 31st marathon done, I can strongly attest that it doesn’t get easier. You battle Father Time and his baggage – slower recovery, higher chances of injury among them – in pursuit of improving yourself. It’s time to reconsider another approach to training rather than to doggedly pursue the old ways. The marathon remains my focus because I know that I can do better.
Despite the rather poor personal showing, this year’s GCAM has been a runaway success.
- Record overseas participation, including from Malaysia.
- Better race day weather than last year.
- Crowd support continues to grow.
- Thrilling finish in the men’s marathon. Looks like Yuki Kawauchi (whose mom raced a 3:48 marathon in the same race!) will be returning yet again next year – he’s obviously hooked to the Gold Coast 😀 !
- Greater number of runners in the training group (please join us for training!)- made plenty of new friends with whom I’m sure will continue to train with us. Team Malaysia truly personified the “Come For The Run, Stay For The Fun” tagline! Just check out the photos below!
- Post-race holiday with family and friends were super enjoyable. We drove, cruised, ate plenty of seafood, trekked (a little!), got close to the local wildlife, and took in the cool and clean air of the mountains and sea.
I would also like to thank Khim, Tourism and Events Queensland and the organizing team behind GCAM for their hospitality and support to Team Malaysia. Not forgetting RSH-Saucony Malaysia and AfterShokz Malaysia for the gear. And of course, much appreciation to my family for their undying support during my marathon training – they may not understand the reasons behind the early morning runs and grouchiness of missed workouts but they’ve always pulled more than their share of chores around the house. It is only fair that I should always do my best and honor their sacrifice in every race that I do. I know the turns along the GCAM course like the back of my hand and I’ll be back to do it justice next year!