Warning: This is not the race report but a recap of this year’s visit to the amazing Gold Coast. The race is covered here 🙂
A week on and I’m still trying to get the race recap done. The mind has been in a fog ever since getting back to the daily grind. I need to get going on another running goal soon, or I’ll go mad just dealing with work issues and the 3-hour daily drive.
Considering greater volume and higher intensity, and more days spent training for this year’s Gold Coast Marathon (GCM18), I’d say training went very well, even if I spent the final 2 weeks of training in fear of falling sick. During that crucial period, I was in constant company of the unwell – from sick colleagues to living with 3 stricken family members. The Marathon Gods certainly spared me and blessed me yet again this year with a smooth 18 weeks of training.
The flight into the Gold Coast was smooth and I even got 5 hours of sleep. Arriving earlier this year, on Thursday, allowed us to take things on a more leisure pace. We also got some essential to-do’s taken care of – visit to Harbour Town and the collection of the race bibs – early before the record crowd descended on the popular holiday and marathon destination. There would be close to 400 Malaysians running GCM18 (which was an 82% increase over 2017) and very good numbers from East Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. GCM18 remains popular with Singaporeans, Malaysians and an increasing number of Indonesians.
Once Nick and I were checked into the Woodroffe Hotel in Southport, we waited for the gang who rented a nice house adjacent to David Fleay Wildlife Park to pick us up. The itinerary? Harbour Town Premium Outlets of course! Good thing, the place was just 10 minutes’ drive away. We were all super famished and the thought of sinking our teeth into the juicy burgers dished out by the folks at Grill’d was just too much. And that was what we did, along with some grocery shopping.
Next destination would be the Expo to pick up our race bibs. On the way, we just had to stop by this spot along Marine Parade to grab a few photos of the achingly beautiful sunset.
As GCM18 was the 40th running, a large part of the expo hall was dedicated to the history of the marathon. There were several great buys at the expo but the ones that caught my eyes were the Clif (12 bars for 12 bucks!) and Garmin booths (plenty of happy faces were seen leaving that particular one!).
Naturally, we had plenty of time to catch up with our friends, local and from back home. There’s something about GCM that makes it so welcoming. Yep, it was like coming home 🙂 ! It’s little wonder then that many of us make more than a single visit here.
With the burgers still sitting in our guts, we decided to skip dinner and CY was kind enough to drop us back to the hotel. Before heading up to the rooms, I managed to get some grocery shopping done at the nearby Australia Fair. Southport may be a quiet place to be putting up, but the place has its charms. I discovered several fantastic eateries, truly underrated coffee joints here and shopping for the essentials (both Coles and Woolies are located in Australia Fair) are never far away.
Day 2 would similarly be quite easy with a photo meet up with the South East Asian contingent at the Expo and Convention Centre. Before that, we had to fill up our tummies with a $10 breakfast set at 6729 Bakery just across the Convention Centre. Highly recommended and super-value sets, it’s a place worth supporting. Check out the story behind 6729 here.
Day 3 would be activity-filled! With such close proximity to the race precinct, arrangements for Saturday’s Fun Run were simple. The gang would drive to and park in the vicinity of our hotel, and we will all walk to the start together. It was a nice cool and sunny morning. After the usual banter and countless photo ops (there were no shortage of Marvel Super Heroes!), we kicked off the run positioned in Pen B.
This year’s plan to run a Personal Worst for the 5.7K didn’t materialize as Nick and I had to be ready for our 9:50am pickup for the much anticipated Scenic Helicopter Ride. So after a slow start, I gradually increased the pace from the 2nd km onwards pushing it to MP and below 5-minutes to the finish. My splits were 6:29 > 5:19 > 5:09 > 5:06 > 4:55 > 4:45 for a 30:11 finish (averaging 5:17/km). Body felt good and my mind fresh which were more than I could’ve asked for. Quickly caught up with Mal, who was one of the camera crew this year before heading back to refresh for the plans of the day,
Next up was the much anticipated helicopter ride from Sea World, which lived up to every bit as memorable although I didn’t get my Hollywood Chopper experience (think Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now) hahaha! I’m such a movie buff! It was my first ride and the scenery was simply breathtaking, from the views of the coastline, the waterways and suburbs and the hinterland in the distant. We could’ve been flying at around 3,000 feet but I couldn’t be sure as I was consumed by excitement! At that altitude, all the famous spots and landmarks were easily identifiable. The 15-minute ride may have sounded short but it was just nice, by my take.
Post-ride group photos with the Indonesian and Singaporean teams.
Still buzzing from the chopper ride high, the visit to Paradox Coffee was next for a cupping session. Located right in Surfers, it was just a short drive from Main Beach. The set up of the place was really impressive, down to the $800,000 Brambati roaster which could produce 15kg of beans at a time. Paradox roasts and supplies cafes throughout Australia so it goes without saying that they known their stuff.
Their beans are single origins purchased from sustainable sources. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to venture to the other topics such as espresso brewing and the such. Still, it was great to learn more about my pick-me-up beverage of choice. My routine towards to the final 3 weeks of training includes downing an espresso before my midweek SOS workouts! Paradox regularly holds such sessions for the general public, so do check out their website and make the necessary appointments, or just pop over to savour some delicious brew.
After Paradox, Nick and I parted ways with the media group. They were headed to Harbour Town for some shopping and we to meet up with Francis, who had flew in from Melbourne. Coincidentally, Francis had bumped into Hong Kong-based duo Yann Kai and Sheel earlier and thanks to modern tech, I managed to direct them to Lot 1 for lunch. It was fantastic to catch up with YK and Sheel again after my misadventures on the trails of Hong Kong some years ago. There were certainly plenty of hardcoreness at the table with this trio of sub-3 marathoners, but you wouldn’t have known it. They’re just down to earth and often funny folks who worked hard to get to where they are. For me, it was just wonderful surrounding myself with such positive and like-minded people before a key race! That must’ve worked up my appetite because I downed a scrumptious Acai Bowl and a Turkey Sandwich in that one sitting! It wasn’t easy, but I nailed that heavy lunch!
Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by the arch to take some photos with some of the Team Malaysia runners. Penang was well represented, thanks to the work of our embedded Penangite-in-Coomera, Khoo. We even inducted Sheel as a temp Malaysian!
After the day’s activities and interactions, it was back to quieter stuff and getting ready for the next day. Physically, I was at the best condition I could possibly be. The important thing was to rest up, stretch, stay hydrated and think positive. I may have a pace band printed but I didn’t even bother fussing over it. The race gear’s all laid out and there was very little anxiety. Just a general sense of calmness. The physical and mental work had all been done in the earlier 18 weeks and the race day was just sticking to the plan and see how it will all unfold.
Dinner was an early affair with Nick and Francis at a nearby ramen shop. Food was excellent and to ensure that I was topped up, I supplemented the bowl of tonkatsu with gyoza just to be sure I didn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
To read how the race unfolded for me the next day, head on to my race report. This one will continue with some photo recap of the spots I managed to see this time around.
The 2 days after Sunday’s race were spent covering the activities and seeing the sights I’ve missed over the years. The planned recovery run on Monday didn’t happen as most preferred to sleep in. The runners had earned their rest and a 5:30am pickup to head to The Federation Walk for a run in the dark and cold, wasn’t that wild an idea. So while Nick and his wife headed off to check out some sights, I decided to link up with the gang. A quick lunch of Shroom Burger at Betty’s was stupendous, deserving of the hype!
We then headed to Burleigh Heads, hiked the trails of the National Park to the Tallebudgera Creek before returning to the group’s home for a feast. Richi, who went overboard with his grocery shopping, made sure the output from the oven were finger licking good while Jeanie’s pumpkin soup was comforting on a cold night.