Media Release: GC2018 Queen’s Baton Relay

Baton visit will put Malaysia in world spotlight

  • Longest relay in Commonwealth Games history ends at Australia’s Gold Coast
  • Welcome mat out for thousands of tourists to visit host city for 2018 Games
  • Malaysian residents in Australia expected to turn out in force to cheer for Team Malaysia athletes
  • Borobi, the blue surfing koala and official mascot for the 2018 Games, will fly in specially from the Gold Coast to join the Baton Relay in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia will welcome the 2018 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay this October as part of the longest and most accessible relay in Commonwealth history on the way to the host city, Australia’s Gold Coast.

The XXI Commonwealth Games, to be held in Australia’s premier beachside city of the Gold Coast from 4-15 April 2018, are set to be one of the most memorable and picturesque Games ever staged. The Games will involve more than 6600 athletes and officials with thousands of international visitors
expected to flock to the popular holiday city known for its golden beaches, world-class attractions and easy-going lifestyle.

The Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) began at Buckingham Palace on Commonwealth Day, Monday, March 13, 2017, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will place her message to the Commonwealth inside the GC2018 Baton.

The Baton will travel 230,000km over 388 days through 70 Commonwealth nations on its journey to, and across, Australia and eventually to the Gold Coast for the Games’ Opening Ceremony where the Queen’s message will be read.

The Baton will arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, October 16, 2017 before departing on Saturday, October 21 for Brunei. The Malaysian stop will see Borobi, the blue surfing koala and official mascot for the 2018 Games, flying in specially from the Gold Coast to join the Queen’s Baton Relay in Malaysia.

The distinctive loop design of the Baton was unveiled at a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Sunday, 20 November 2016 in conjunction with celebrations of the 500 Days to Go milestone until the Games.

Made of macadamia wood and reclaimed plastic collected from Gold Coast waterways and beaches, the Baton’s design was inspired by the region’s vibrant spirit, indigenous heritage and with sustainability in mind.

The Baton, similar to an enlarged eye of a needle, has constantly changing neon lighting pulsing around the inside of the loop design and a see-through compartment on the side which will contain the Queen’s message, written on paper made from the Australian desert plant, spinifex grass.

The names of all 70 Commonwealth countries are engraved, in the order of hosting the QBR, on a metal spine through the middle of the Baton.

It also contains a GPS device which will allow 24/7 internet tracking of the Baton on its worldwide journey.

Designers said they were inspired by the “boundless energy” of the Gold Coast and believe the “bold and beautiful” Baton reflects the “people, place and spirit of the Gold Coast”. “Our immersion into the Gold Coast revealed a city rich in contrasts and full of optimism – if you can do it anywhere, you can do it here,” said Designworks principal Alexander Wall.

The Baton is certain to get a warm welcome in Malaysia, a nation with strong ties to the Commonwealth Games. It has contested 12 of the previous Games (including the preceding British Empire Games) and hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian athletes have won 181 Commonwealth Games medals including 52 gold. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Malaysia finished 12th overall with 19 medals, including six gold.

Malaysian athletes will again be highly competitive at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and are expected to feature prominently in sports including Badminton, Track Cycling, Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Diving, Shooting and Lawn Bowls.

When visiting the Gold Coast to support Team Malaysia at the Games next April, Malaysians are encouraged to take some time to meet the friendly locals and discover everything the Gold Coast has to offer, including:

  • the cosmopolitan beach lifestyle
  • vibrant, trendy café and dining scene
  • colourful weekend markets
  • the chance to cuddle a koala
  • traverse the top of Q1, Australia’s tallest residential building on the SkyPoint Climb
  • Hot Air Ballooning
  • thrilling theme parks
  • Skydive, landing on one of the Gold Coast’s iconic beaches
  • Learn to Surf
  • and so much more!

The QBR has been the traditional curtain raiser to every Commonwealth Games since the Cardiff 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
Commonwealth Games Federation President, Louise Martin CBE, said a message from the Monarch had been read at every Games since 1930.

“The Queen’s Baton Relay extends an invitation to the athletes and communities of the Commonwealth to celebrate together,” she said.

“It reinforces our shared love of sport and recognises the power of sport to transcend barriers and bring us together. “Above all, however, it is a message from Her Majesty of hope, ambition and peace for the citizens and athletes of the Commonwealth.

“It is a truly exciting moment to share the international route of the 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay, so that communities and citizens across the Commonwealth can join the build up to the XXI Commonwealth Games.”

Peter Beattie AC, the Chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC), said “The Baton will return to the Gold Coast in April 2018, having been touched, admired, photographed, filmed and loved by so many people from all over the Commonwealth,” he said.

For more information on Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth GamesTM visit www.gc2018.com and for destination information visit www.queensland.com.

On-Location On The Gold Coast: Day 1 – Pre-Departure, Arrival, Lunch And Expo

G’day from the sunny Gold Coast, Australia! Weather’s great here, air is fresh and crisp, and you can get around in t-shirts and shorts during the day before making a grab for the warmer clothing when the sun sets. With over 250 Malaysians running GCAM this year, coordinating group photo sessions were expectedly tricky.

Just some of those flew Thursday night.

A handful of travelers were, in fact, already at various locations in Australia (Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne) on Thursday while the majority will be arriving Friday and even Saturday.

The runners were all excited to soak in whatever the Gold Coast has to offer, from the stunning scenery, attractions to the pre-race excitement at the Expo. Here are some of the photos taken at KLIA2 (before departure), at the Coolangatta Airport (we couldn’t find Borobi, yet!), at the Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Club for a scrumptious lunch before heading to the Expo for the race kit collection (and some shopping). Can’t wait for the family to arrive on Sunday!

If you missed running GCAM this year, you can still follow the race via Webcast. Head on here for the webcast link. And of course, there’s always next year’s race which incidentally will be the 39th edition of GCAM!

I’ll also be uploading photos to the GCAM16 – Team Malaysia Facebook page. So do add yourself there too if you’d like to follow or train with us.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2012

Now that the dust is a little settled and I’m coming to terms of resuming the humdrum haze filled days, there’s a wee bit of time to do this race report, and then some. Once I got over the initial disappointment, my 20th turned out rather well, if a little different. It has a lot to do with what the Gold Coast has lined up for visitors, the presence of many familiar faces and meeting of new friends.

Arrival and Day 1
I’ve mentioned more than a few times of my loss of training the 3 weeks prior to taper due to illness so there’s no point in flogging a dead horse. That pretty much left me with insufficient quality long runs when it mattered most. As a result I went into the race with only 1 28K, 5 24Ks, 5-6 21Ks. The flight into Gold Coast was not a good one, sleep-wise. Many passengers were either coughing or sneezing, a testament of the poor air quality in KL. Just before landing, I had my first episode of migraine. Up till that moment, I’ve been migraine-free all my life. There’s always a first time but I’m hoping that was the last too!

Pick your pace band.

As was last year, I was again held up at the immigration when my visa needed some alterations to the First/Family Name data. No big issues, but as long as I visit Australia, this is something I’ve to face unless they update their visa application form. Thanks to Francis who was on the same flight, I’ve enough pain relievers on standby should the attack return. Once all the AirAsia Go (AAG) travelers were through customs, we promptly loaded up and were shuttled to the expo. True to the forecast, the rainy weather had been replaced with sunny days. At the Convention Centre, we still needed to wait a little before the doors opened. There were plenty of time to the 12:30pm shuttle pickup, so the lot of us made full use of the window to sample Endura gels and drinks, getting our feet taped up at the Rock Tape booth (KT had their own too) and I also couldn’t resist a session with the EMS device. Before we left the expo, I had a nice chat with Andrew and Sue O’Brien, of the well known Couple On The Run.

View from my balcony

AAG’s choice of tie-up with Wyndham Hotel was excellent. Located just diagonally across the Q1, the rooms offer very nice amenities, from a fully equipped kitchen to the laundry room (you needn’t even buy your detergents!). Critically, its central location provided excellent start points to the Cavill Mall (8-10 minutes’ walk), to the Islander Apartments (where the Chap Ayam Runners stayed, 6 minutes’ walk) and a block to the beach. All my breakfasts and 2 dinners were eat-ins.

Checking out the Festival stalls

The first evening were spent loitering around the Surfers Paradise beach front, soaking in the Festival activities. There were performances, light shows and stalls. I’d done a bit of grocery shopping earlier and so I was back at the hotel by 9pm after linking up with Lynn and Pat to pass them a couple of event slingbags. Took the cough mixture and nasal spray I bought from Tower Chemist 2 blocks away from the hotel before drifting off to sleep.

Day 2
The plan was for a morning run and to visit the race precinct to witness the 10K race and possibly spot Yuki Kawauchi early next morning but sleep deficiency got the better of me and I slept right through the alarm. The nasal spray worked wonders for the congested sinus but the cough was still bothersome. I’d to jump to the next agenda in the itinerary where I had Vivianne for company (Roy couldn’t be located, presumably out on a training run in preparation for his 100-miler) for the bus ride to Harbour Town. The ride took a long time as a result of road closures due to the 10K race. Bumped into Leslie at the crowded shopping centre where we found Dean Karnazes’ book going for only AUD5 at the TNF outlet. Ralph Lauren was having a 70% storewide sale and most of the other brands had plenty of good buys as well. The damage to my wallet were for a couple of Nautica shirts, 1 really nice yellow Livestrong tee for the wife (AUD30) which she said she’ll need some slimming to squeeze into, 2 white Nike Pro Combat tops, of which 1 is a regular version and the other a Livestrong edition and a pair of red surf shorts. Lunch was chicken and lamb kebab before hopping a ride back to Surfers to catch the fireworks display. The Chap Ayam Runners were there too. Back at the hotel I dug into pasta and soup I’d bought earlier from Woolsworth. A banana completed the meal before I laid out the race gear, with The Simpsons playing on TV.

Race Day
2 alarms woke me up and there was no rush in getting ready. The air was expectedly chilly (but not as cold as last year) before the start. There were many signs that pointed to a hot run. Hence my gear was just the WhyMarathon vest over the Nike We Run KL tee. Bottoms were the Swift tights while a cap and a pair of sunglasses were used for sun protection duty.

With Tay Poh Chye and Chan. The half marathoners have been let off behind us, running right to left.

Sunrise over Broadwater Parklands, Southport.

Together with Chan and his wife, we strolled the race precinct and took some photos and hung around keeping warm. I even had time to join the long queue for the toilet before dropping off our bags.

There were reportedly around 5,700 marathoners yet the area wasn’t congested due to the size of race precinct. The half marathoners had been let off and the marathon start into the opposite direction helped prevent any gridlock. Based on my goal time I was assigned to the B corrall. As I wandered into the section, I saw to my horror that this section were where the 3:30 (5-minute average pace) pace group was! 3:30 was way too fast. I stood there for a moment to consider my options and strategy – do I try this thing out just for the heck of it, knowing that I’d probably crash and burn at the 13K mark or be wise and move deeper into the back. I opted for the conservative option. Located the 4-hour pacers and stood next to the 2nd pacer in that group. Together, we were just in front of the 4:15 pacer, Asian Dude (AD), who led the 4-hour group last year [read my 2011 report]. I’ve high regards for AD and I believe I heard him introduce himself as Steve. Unlike the 4-hour pacers, who were pretty aloof, Steve was rallying his brood and told them that his race plan was even splits while dispensing tips and encouragement. Very interactive and truly my vision of an ideal pacer.

After the singing of the Australian National Anthem, we were off. The start was very relaxed 5:48 pace, and more importantly my breathing was clear and I wasn’t coughing. The sun was up and it was already warming up. Even at this stage it was becoming clear that the 4:00 pacers were really hammering it. By the 2nd K, I’d hit my goal pace of 5:42 yet my pacer was already yards ahead. That’s when I spotted Mohan. The 3 following photos were taken by him.

The gap became wider by the 3rd K and that got me really confused. The Polar was showing that I was hitting the correct pace and I was running really really comfortably, like an easy run despite hitting my goal pace. Yet the dude was pulling away! I even took out the GPS pod from the SPIBelt to validate if it was functioning. There it was, the green LCD still blinking away showing sat lock. Nevermind, I thought to myself, perhaps it turned screwy like the faulty heart rate strap. I gave the pacers my benefit of the doubt and played along to their script, whatever that might be.

By the 7th K the pacers were still way ahead despite upping the pace to 5:30 the last 2Ks and I’d already just ran a 5:23 split. At that point I thought, dammit, to heck with the pacers! I’ll rely on my own breathing and timing. Luckily I was still breathing very very easily. Not a hint of panting. I was enjoying the race so far and spotted Francis in the 3-hour pace group. Nothing to report then as I lapped up and enjoyed the miles past the Burleigh Heads u-turn (15K). Like the crowds, the sun was already making its presence felt and the rim of my cap was constantly slanted to one side to prevent the glare. I checked myself every 5K and I’ve been ticking off the pace goals up to this point. 5K later at the 20K mark, my timing was to the minute, 1:53+. Another kilometre later, it was still to the minute, 1:59+. I’d been restraining and my leg turnovers weren’t even quick. And so it came to a decisive moment for me – to maintain this progress or to slow down and preserve, conserve and shuffle past the 30K. The decision was to just adopt the “come what may and deal with it when it comes”. I was enjoying the race too much and hitting the wall was already a given no matter how much I slow down, since the longest I ran in training wasn’t that long anyway. Might as well see how far I could go in the given fitness condition. I was also especially curious to see if the cramps that hit me running at this pace last year would surface again this year. It was still game on and I kept thinking that it’s only a half marathon left. I thought back to the PJ and Bareno halves and pretended that I was just running the same race.

I covered 6 more Ks when my legs stopped churning. Momentum was lost and I ground to a halt. I wasn’t even panting nor in any pain. And I realized that that was it. That was the end of my race. I wasn’t entirely surprised but it was still a blow and major disappointment. You see, despite steeling one’s mind and preparing to face the blowup, I don’t think one can ever get used to the feeling when the cogs finally stop moving. It was still a gut punch.

Yet, I was strangely relieved because there was no cramp despite the pace. The philosophy behind the FIRST method worked. I’d simply ran out of steam. My body’s energy systems were simply not efficient in managing its fuel consumption. I got to nearly the same longest distance I’d covered in training at that given pace. It was harder for me to hit 5:50 than 5:42 or 5:40 on a training run these days, such was the pace memory in my legs. So, slowing down more than a few seconds wasn’t an option. For me at least, it has come down to 5:40 or nothing.

The 4:00 pacers were long gone and I suspected they were putting in 5:15 splits (3:42 finish) from the 2nd K onwards which if true, was just too fast. I’m sure the 2 of them would’ve no issues finishing according to their timing but it would potentially ruin the runners tagging along. Roy would later inform me that his 3:45 pacers told their group that they too will be running positive splits. In contrast, Steve, the 4:15 pacer, made it clear of his strategy and that his charges would have enough time to drink at all the hydration stations. True to form, he repeated his orders for them to hold back and surge only from 37K onwards if they have enough left.

My race then involved plenty of fast walking. Runners have begun looking for shady parts of the route often taking to the far side of the road. The windless conditions meant there won’t be respite from the searing dry heat. It was at this stage when I started feeling ashamed of representing the WhyMarathon Ambassadors. The vest weighed heavily on my back. I tried looking for reasons that I should still be running marathons. Why has it been so hard to improve? Then I started slinging blames on the haze in KL and my subsequent illness. Legitimate reasons or otherwise, it all began to look like I was looking for excuses. That realization made me snap out of the self pity and to find the little blessings I can scrounge up. I was quite firm, however, that I would step away from the marathon after Osaka to rediscover the joys of training.

Anyways, it was mostly 3K of walking right up to the starting point when Steve and his group pulled up. He was still rallying his team not to dare slow down. Caught up in the energy I shuffled alongside. He grabbed some gummies handed out by spectators and even passed me one. Now that’s one heckuva pacer! But 300m later I had to drop off and watch them go ahead. 2 more K of walking followed and I spotted Tay Poh Chye on the opposite side. A little further back was Karen. They would finish in 4:03 and 4:04 respectively. The Labrador section is always tough with little support but this year was a little better. Still crampless but worn down by the sun, there was nothing more to do but to try to enjoy the cheers of the spectators and volunteers. Approaching the Runaway Bay u-turn (35.6K), I hopped off the route to the loo. Then I jogged a bit more often. I even spotted Adam the One-Arm Runner on the opposite side of the road. It was around here that Lynn and Pat caught up with me. Lynn was pacing Pat for her debut marathon and their clean shaven heads (for charity fund-raising) were already stubbly. It was such a pleasant surprise to see these two, just when I was questioning my reason of running. So we ran together, pulling each other along and I helping to snap a few of their shots.

Secret spy shot by Lynn. I was still unaware that they were tailing me.

It went this way right till the finish when we crossed the line hand in hand. Despite all the misgivings I had of myself, despite all the frustrations of wanting more, despite walking for so long, it was one of the most memorable and happy marathon finishes I’ve had in a long long while. Grinning ear to ear and urging the crowd to cheer for Pat, it’s wonderful to see how much fun one, when unshackled by the burden of timing, can have. If I can find a way to detach myself and like what Donald Sutherland’s Bowerman character said in “Without Limits“, “find the meaning in the running that you do”, perhaps I will discover the joys of training.

Finally some boring stuff i.e. numbers. 4 points stood out.

  1. My 2011 and 2012 timings at the 25K mark were the same to the minute. The splits from the 30K onwards expectedly saw a decline when compared to last year.
  2. The total distance recorded by the Polar is 43.07K. The only explanation I have for this overdistance, as in the case of the 2011 race, is the deviation on the route I took in seeking out the shady sections of the course as well as a short detour for a pee stop. Still, 1K seemed like plenty of yards.
  3. The Weather Channel reported the actual race day temps to be a high of 22 Celcius and low of 12 Celcius.
  4. A mind boggling gap between the number of entrants and finishers (see table at the bottom). The non-finishers for the marathon and half marathon were over 600 and 979 respectively! What gives?

I did mention in my Facebook update that I will take a step back from the marathon after November’s Osaka. I think it’s a good break from the distance. This will allow me to run shorter races. The marathon can be such a heart breaker and just like fishing, perhaps letting go a little will eventually reel in the objectives.

Gold Coast Asics Half Marathon 2013

After 2 years of participating in the main event, I decided to take a cue from TLC’s song and put aside the pursuit of goal times in the marathon for the year.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls.
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you’re moving too fast.

While dreams are there for everyone to strive towards, nothing is ever owed to us. There’s a price to pay in training and a goal put on-hold doesn’t mean giving up or the absence of pursuing another different one. It’s all about rolling with the punches. Re-adjust and move on. Who knows, spending some time not fretting about an obsession may hopefully yield the results I’m looking for sometime down the road.

It would be a quick trip down under for me, saving my vacation days for the family in December. Once we arrived at the Gold Coast Airport, we were whisked to the hotel to drop our bags and then to the expo to pick up our race packs. The expo has grown over the last few years and this year, the exhibitors were really giving some sweet deals to shoppers. That done, it was all free for the rest of the day and we wandered around Surfers looking for a late lunch.

At the expo.
Met Bret Butler (President of Knox Runners Club of Melbourne) and his wife at the expo.
Compression wear companies were throwing prices at the expo. I didn’t buy any because I had strong will-power 😛
Cold? Who said it was cold?!
This blog is not (yet) sponsored by Olympus.

The next morning, pick up was early at 4:30am so that we won’t be caught by the road closures and bigger crowds. I found myself among the 8,000 strong half marathoners facing the direction of Runaway Bay, instead of Burleigh Heads. I expected conditions to warm up significantly as the race progresses therefore I was just in a single layer of running tee, a pair of arm warmers just to keep things from being too cold and shorts. No calf sleeves and I decided to go with the GOSpeed just to see how it feels like. Pre-race fuel was a Clif Bar washed down with orange/mango juice. Tucked into my shorts was a single gel and in my hand, the TG-2 to capture some photos. I approached the race in a very low key manner and all that sort of thing, as you can see.

Portion of the MY contingent ready to rock.
The crowd behind me at the start. The large presence from Japan meant the GCAM starts will always have a Japanese feel to it.

I couldn’t spot the 2-hour pacers anywhere, undoubtedly swallowed up in the sea of runners. It would take me 4 minutes to cross the start line but after that point the pace quickly picked up. Everyone was just running briskly so even with the large group of runners, there wasn’t a feeling of being impeded. I just went along at an aerobic pace. 10 minutes into the race and the sun started to peek over the horizon. There was just a little breeze to keep things cool.

Soon enough I found myself latching on to a couple of runners – one in form-fitting fuchsia singlet and another in a pair of grey 3/4 pants. Both were passing runners regularly and were at about the pace I was moving. The plan if there was any to start with, was to hydrate according to thirst yet be mindful of the dehydration in the dry wintery conditions. The first station was a little too early, so I skipped that one. Reached the second one soon enough and took in some water. Spotted the 2-hour pacers with their dark green (or was it black) balloons before the first u-turn at Lae Drive (Runaway Bay) and picked up the pace just a tad slightly. I didn’t want to chase them and I wasn’t even very conscious about my actual pace. All these while I was trading leads with the 2 women I had my sights on.

Tailing Ms Fuchsia. I know the color doesn’t look like it in this shot.
These folks, already on the return, were hammering it under sub-1:30 pace. Body size and age don’t matter, really. Shoes too, as that dude in Hoka showed.

Meanwhile I was enjoying taking photos and was even playing around with different modes of shooting! It was really easy covering the miles briskly and being distracted by the camera. Once the 2nd u-turn was tackled at Paradise Point I briefly thought of just slowing down, walk or just taking my time at the aid stations just because I was being so casual about the whole affair. However, I caught myself from doing that almost instantly – somehow the competitive nature in me hadn’t been purged entirely. I took a peek at the watch at 11K mark and thought that if I kept this shindig going, I could actually end up with a pretty decent timing.

Hairpin turn and all the way back to the finish!

Here’s to my Pacee! Overtaking the 2-hour pacers. Vamonos!

I rolled the arm sleeves down my sweaty arms and dug into the race. Passed the 2-hour pacers with 3.5K to go when they stopped at aid station. I reckoned they ran too fast and had to pause for a little in order not to finish too much under the goal time.

I clicked off frame after frame of shot as I counted down the remaining miles and made it a point to no longer look at the watch. Rounding off a couple of turns and the finishing chute came into view. The sight never gets old, really. From the photos, I definitely looked like a goldfish out of water but I was very glad for the effort I put in. It wouldn’t be my PR but one of my quickest efforts in a long while.

A few more steps!
That’ll do it!
Someone told me this dude’s cute.
Not bad at all 😀
Relax-lah!
The obligatory “toast”.

Weather had been near perfect – the 6am start certainly helped as it began to warm up significantly soon after. Grabbed a bottled water, some orange slices and a banana and headed towards the Suncorp Bank tent to collect a neat lawn sheet before collecting my baggage before doing what the Aussies were doing – soaking in the sun on the expansive lawn and watching Yuki Kawauchi’s assault on the lead pack unfolded.

Now that I’ve added the Half Marathon medal and t-shirt into my collection there’s a temptation to include the 10K ones into it. Really enticing. The following day was action packed – from an early recovery run in the direction of Southport followed by a boat ride out to the sea to marvel at our wondrous mammals of the ocean before heading up into the sky to the Q1 Observation Deck. Dinner was at a swanky restaurant at QT.

Distance covered in the 3.5-hour whale watching boat ride was over 60K!
View to the South from the 77th Floor of Q1.

These fellas have no fear. They did the Skypoint Climb http://www.skypoint.com.au/SkyPoint-Climb/SkyPoint-Climb.aspx
I took the liberty of ordering Tey a lager. I settled for a Pinot. Can’t remember which red Christina had.

I’d like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland for hosting my visit and stay, and to my fellow travelers who provided some great company. Change your Aussie Dollar now and see you next year?

And er.. there’s a Gold Coast 100K and a few quite noteworthy trail ultras in the Nerang Hills too for those who just need to run a few more yards than a marathon!

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014

“Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.”
Seth Godin

The Preps
I mentioned in my post [link] prior to departing for the Gold Coast that fueling and hydration are the 2 most important factors in how my race will unravel. Less obvious was my strategy for a conservative start to avoid the wall. There’s a reason why going out slow and adopting the right fueling and hydration strategy have been harped to death by coaches, yet they’re the most common mistakes a runner commits. I’ve been guilty far too many times and thus scuppering a personal goal which I’ve always known to be within reach.

My marathon PR was a 4:03 in NYC 2008. Since then I’ve been dithering between 4:20s and 4:50s, the slower ones being more of just going through the motions and the quicker ones being failed attempts, where my training were impaired. There wasn’t really much to whine and complain given the circumstances. The enjoyable ones were last year’s PNM (4:23, then my best in 5 years) when I ran the first 21K in 2:10 and the second in 2:12. Considering 4:23 was done after a 10K training run the same morning, and a 61K event 6 days prior, it was a pretty good result for me. After PNM, I continued running some long races  and training runs before kicking off my 2014 marathon with Nagano [link] where I basically raced with just one or two long training runs logged. The 4:18 of course, was no PR but I learned a lot from the race, which was my fastest since 2008. I learned that I could maintain concentration and that I had some strength and pace, and if not for the lack of preparation, I would’ve hit close to 4:08. The takeaway from Nagano was tremendous because I knew that I was on the way back.

It was fortuitous that the Starlight Ultra was postponed from May to August, which meant that I had 2.5 months to patch up any weaknesses. It wasn’t much time but since my Q1 2014 was littered with 50Ks and regular running, my legs had plenty of miles in them. I started leaning towards building intensity and strength, throwing in 2 days of doubles a week. 5:40 soon felt comfortable but that didn’t mean there weren’t roadblocks. The most accessible running spot for me, the KLCC Park saw a partial closure due to construction works and towards the end of the training phase, water rationing, heatwave and the haze returned. With the exception of weekend long runs, I was forced to do my weekday workouts on the treadmill. The positive bit was that I have access to weights and environment to cross-train and work the core. There were far greater variety in my regimen than I’ve ever undertaken. Together with fellow GCAMers Nick and CY, we started adding variety to our training routes from purely Ammah to USJ and even Putrajaya. Before the USJ track reopened, we even resorted to doing intervals on a stretch of road in Subang! We had to be resourceful 🙂 .

Even so, my weekly mileage never hit the highs of pre-NYCM where weekend B2Bs were plentiful albeit at a pedestrian pace. In place of 100-110K weeks, I had to count on intensity and consistency. Even if I only had time for a 3K (whenever pressing work or family matters arose), I headed out. And hit the 3K hard. It went well enough that I thought I’d peaked too early with 5 weeks out. With 4 weeks to go, I started tiring, enough for me to urgently pull back on the number of sessions and intensity. I even gave a couple of long runs a miss and shorten another 2 32Ks to more manageable 25Ks, just so that I didn’t slide into Burn Out Abyss. Instead of a 2-week taper, I was forced into a 3-week one.

Finally, with 4 days to departure, I was hit by dizzy spells. A visit to the doc revealed an unusually low BP of 92/60. I’ve never had issues with BP but that probably had been on the boiler and explained my fatigue at the onset of the taper period. The inconsistency of my iron intake (not that I’ve ever been anemic) hadn’t been that great. Training has a way of robbing iron from the body, so runners in the midst of marathon training should supplement with iron, if FE intake from natural sources are insufficient.

Race Eve

The Comrades Marathon booth at the race expo.

This time around, I had slightly better snooze time on the red eye to Coolangatta – a grand total of 4 hours, up from 2 🙂 ! The fellow travelers also agreed that we should spend as little time as possible at the Expo in order to get back to the spacious apartment – Wyndham – to settle in before heading out to a much needed late lunch. That was an excellent plan as 1.5 hours should be more than enough to collect and shop at the Expo. We settled for teppanyaki at one of the eateries at Cavill. Nick agreed that we needed a shakeout run in the evening, which we clocked in at 6.03K (6:01 pace) towards Broadbeach and back. Besides stretching out the legs after the long flight and a day of moving around, the shakeout run was useful as it allowed me a final opportunity to gauge my likely form and if needed, reassess my race expectations and strategies. I didn’t feel as sharp as I’d like to as my legs felt sore, tight and heavy.

Dinner back at the apartment was 3 servings of rice with eggs and chicken, a mini pack of chips with sea salt, a banana and a pot of tea. By 10:15pm, it was lights out.

Race Gear
90% of my training had been done in the GRR3 and GR3; the GRU and Energy Boost for long slow runs; GB2 for gym and treadmill running; Hitogami for trackwork. Nevertheless, when I was passed the Kinvara 5, I felt good enough that it would be the race shoe. My backup shoe was the GRU. GCAM temps can be quite cold at the start for us from the tropics but it warms up very quickly once the race starts, so I opted for the Columbia OmniFreeze sleeveless top, Skins A400 shorts, Compressport calf sleeves, Asics socks, TNF cap and the trusty Oakley shade. I train with an iPod shuffle on the treadmill, so that came along for the very first time too, preloaded with a loaded playlist of choice. 7 gels (5 GUs @ 100 cals each, 2 Hammers @ 90 cals each) in the Salomon belt and a tiny laminated sliver of a note with my pace targets and gel intake stuck into my watch strap. 3/4 bottle of Gatorade with which to sip from until the 10K mark.

Pre Race Meal And Ritual
Breakfast was a banana, 3 bricks of Weet-Bix with soy milk (to reduce the risk of gut issues). These were consumed at 2:30am and wasn’t much but the purpose was to fill the any gap from the previous night’s dinner (7 hours ago). The coach pickup was again very early at 4:30am in order to get the half marathoners to the start. As expected, it was very cold and only the comfort of a hot cup of long black helped me contain the chill. While waiting and soaking in the atmosphere, I chowed down 3 bars and another banana. All the bars were consumed within 105 minutes of race start. It may appear excessive but the plan was modelled after my NYCM approach, and thus it worked for me.

With Mei and Sharon. Both completed their first marathons in GCAM14.
Ready to make a move to the start line.

Between then and finally heading to the start area, I visited the loo twice, did some warm up jogs and performed some dynamic stretching. The warm up jogs and stretching prepares the body and mind for what’s to come.

The Race
I entered the B corral (as marked on the bib) at 6:50am and positioned myself right at the back of it, just in front of the 4-hour C corral. I spotted the bobbing red balloons tied to the 3:45 pacers way ahead. Goes to show how packed B corral was. So many fast runners! Having shed my MPIB Volunteer top, I sought out a sliver of sun ray to keep me warm. As I stood waiting for the start, I reassessed my readiness to run in this fast group and decided rather quickly that I should play it safe and not fall into the trap of starting too fast. I ducked under the tape and moved to the C corral just behind the 4:00 pacers with white balloons. This corral was also a stacked field but I immediately felt at ease having made my decision. Being forced/drawn into the caffeine/endorphin induced pace of the B corral would’ve been suicidal.

Up ahead the Emcees were working the crowd when suddenly the race started. Not that I was anxious but we finally got things going! Although we got off to a running start, it was about 3 minutes before I crossed the Start line. Almost immediately the 4:00 pacers started to move up the crowd but I kept to my pace. Too much preps and planning had gone in for me and I wasn’t about to flush everything down the toilet by being pulled along faster than what I’ve set out and it looked as if these 4:00 chaps were going for it right from the get go.

The sunshine was brilliant and before long, the body was warmed up. There was little to no wind even as we ran along the coastal road heading towards the iconic Surfers Paradise signboard. The legs, distressingly, still felt as heavy as the night before but I tried not to dwell on the sensation but get into the music and took comfort that my breathing was easy and effortless.

Planned Race Strategy
Things were kept very simple

  1. Run a very conservative 5K at 5:50 pace before shifting up by 10 secs until the halfway mark
  2. From the halfway mark, move the pace to 5:35 until the 32K mark
  3. Get to Burleigh Heads turnaround (15K) fresh and not let the massive crowd sway me into a mad dash.
  4. Get to the Halfway Point fresh.
  5. Cross the Southport Bridge (30K) problem free and ready to battle it out.
  6. Hold the effort till Runaway Bay turnaround (37K) without speeding up.
  7. Hold the remaining miles at 5:38 (allowing for slowing down)
  8. If I’m still in with a chance at 38K, to make a go for it.
  9. Take in gels every 5-6K, and drink consistently.

I had the pace objectives printed out and tucked into my watch band as you can see from one of the photos below. The initial 5K had several objectives – ease into the race, loosen the legs, maintain minimal stress to the body to allow maximum absorption of fuel and fluids. A stressed body will shift its attention to other critical functions reducing the rate of carb absorption. Therefore, even if you continue to take in your gels, they may not work as effectively as you’d expect them to simply because your body has shifted its priority into maintaining a “survival mode”. Hence it’s very important to stay on a conservative pace, allowing your carb intake to work for you.

How It Panned Out
The challenge I faced in this first quarter of the race was my legs. It took me exactly 10K to untangle them and got them spinning smoothly. I was always checking my form and splits yet even with the monitoring, my pace was a little quicker than expected. You can see how easy it is to get carried away in a marathon. On our first pass, the crowd along The Esplanade was still thin, which was fine as the later stages were where we needed their support the most.

Data from the watch.

We hit 10K somewhere south of Pratten Park. The chill was no longer a factor by that time and the sunshine was not too warm and intense.  I was just bobbing along to the tunes when the tight legs suddenly loosened up. Perhaps it was the sight of the elites on the opposite side that fired me up. I spotted the American, Jeff Eggleston and Arata Fujiwara amongst the lead pack but Kawauchi who received the loudest cheers from the runners, was trailing by some distance. I squeezed the 2nd pack of gel in and got on with business. My splits weren’t quite 5:40 at the start of the 2nd quarter but I started seeing some consistency after 16K. The southern part of the race course down to Burleigh Heads has always been an awesome place to run and this year was no different. The folks were out in full force and cheering and hooting like crazy. Again, it would be easy to put in a surge here but from the 5:48 you see below, it was obvious that I intentionally slowed down to avoid that. It’s still too early to pick it up with the tough sections yet to come.

The 2nd quarter

Just after the halfway mark I made a decision to dash into a potty. The first 2 had locked doors, but when I yanked the 3rd door open, some was inside! Luckily it wasn’t a girl so, “All good, mate!”. I ended up in the 5th cubicle. Having drank copiously at all every station, it was just a relief to get the pee out. I felt instantly lighter and leaner. No more having the discomfort to hold it, I immediately got on with business. I probably lost about 25 seconds (6:09 split) there but I was back on pace the very next kilometer. My first half split was 2:00.36. A little slower than expected but more importantly, I was still very fresh as compared to previous years. IMHO how you feel in the later part of the 3rd quarter (i.e. 25-30K) of a marathon determines how well you’ll tackle the dreaded 4th quarter. I felt good yet apprehensive enough to harbor thoughts of hitting the wall anytime soon. According to my plan, I was supposed to start hitting consistent 5:35 splits up to the 32K mark. The watch readings showed that I wasn’t too far off after averaging the splits between 21-30K. Again, I didn’t miss a single gel intake. I was also burping which was always a good sign during a race, signs that my gut was still processing the carbs.

Around the 27K mark, heading towards Southport.
3rd quarter
30K mark, crossing the Southport Bridge.

With the fuel line working fine, having energy on tap with the legs seemingly having a life of their own, I started passing other runners. Many runners. Yet I was very wary of what was to come, the 30K mark where thousands are waiting to scream and cheer. Unfortunately the Southport Bridge will always be the traditional spot for demise for many a runner. Tired legs and weary minds will have to make a push up the incline which isn’t steep actually but even a mole hill is a pain at that stage. I dug in and didn’t drop pace and cleared that in a jiffy. It’s important to just shut oneself from taking in the sights of suffering and walking runners just because the mind needs all the positive affirmation it can get.

Up to this juncture I’d gotten to the point where there were only 12K to go. I had to make a decision to go or hold when I remembered what the 4:00 pacer dude from GCAM2011 [race report] had stressed – “Stay with me. Hold your pace. Resist the urge to take off until you get to the turnaround at Runaway Bay”. So I bid my time and though I dropped some seconds after McDonald’s, I was still pretty good. 12K meant a 6K in and another 6K out. I felt that I could take the last 6K since I was still passing plenty of runners.

To the finish!

No Wall, No Problem
The Runaway Bay turnaround marks the 37K but after mentally calculating the pace I should be hitting to clinch the goal time, I knew I had to start picking things up. All the positive signs were there and I thought to myself that it was time to make a go for it and not chicken out. So I made my move at 36K and started to race. All that steady running and holding back the first half of the marathon was just to get to this stage feeling good and I felt really good.

Just after the 37K mark.

If you’ve been running for some years, you’ll know the feeling of actually competing, not necessarily against another runner but with yourself. The feeling is that of exhilaration. Both quads were tightening up but there wasn’t going to be any cramping. Instead, there was just single mindedness in getting to the finish line.

I was astonished reading my splits which were getting faster and faster. I wasn’t exaggerating when I told Nick later that day it was easier to run fast than to slow down towards the finish. The last 3Ks just flew by and utterly felt surreal (to quote Nick). The crowd was 4 deep and as I hung left, a large sign that screamed “250m to go” was right in front of me. It was only then that I soaked it all in.

250m to go!
150m to go!
A few more steps!
Mission accomplished!

I kicked past a few more runners and crossed the line in 3:58.55, a minute slower than planned. The 2nd half was ran in 1:58.19 making it a negative split race for me. After crossing the halfway point, I overtook 967 other runners. I was ready to hug someone, but everyone seemed too wheezed while trudging off towards the refreshment tables. There was no tears of joy but in its place, an intense sense of accomplishment. I learned that many other friends ran their personal bests that morning too. After collecting my belongings I texted the wife that I’ve finally done it on my 27th marathon, 11 years after my first which was run to commemorate the birth of C1 and 6 years after my previous best in NYC. It’s been amazing, training in a group with each of us driving each other on. So, thank you to Nick, CY and Kiew for coming along for the many early morning runs. And to Frank, Julia, Piew, YL, Leong, Foo, Zane and Skyrunner Yvonne for the moral support.

With Nick and CY with PRs, under our belts.

It’s been such a long wait for me. And for it to come together this year in Gold Coast on a year they’re awarded the Gold Label rating just made it extra special. There’s much to work on to get the timing down and the 3:58 will be bettered. I hope more will give GCAM a go next year. Mark your calendars, folks – 5th July 2015!

In closing, I’d like to congratulate the race organizers who did a wonderful job in growing the event, and thank the thousands of volunteers without whom we runners won’t be running our best. Not forgetting, my heartfelt gratitude to the hardworking folks at the Tourism and Events Queensland, who took great care of me.

On-Location On The Gold Coast: The GCAM16 Shake Down Run

I spent much of today just chilling out and kneading the troublesome calves. Not forgetting getting some supplies from the nearby Coles and Woolies, and get some race-packing done. Lunch was at The Fishhouse located at Burleigh Heads. An excellent recommendation by Selin.

With the rest of the group arriving at the Gold Coast, what better way than to try rope in as many as possible for a group photo near the iconic Surfers Paradise followed by a short Shake Down Run along the scenic beachfront on race eve? As planned, we’re all gathered at the spot at 4:30pm and got all the fun shots done before heading off for a relaxing 1.3K towards the Main Beach direction before picking up the pace for the remaining 1.3 back to the start. We would’ve gone further a little had the path not been closed. With almost 30 of us, you can bet we made quite a scene with our presence (and noise!) but it’s all fun as you can probably tell from these photos!

We went off our separate ways to clean up, have an early dinner before getting the race gear ready (taping up the legs, in my case) for some #GoodTimes the next day. That’ll be my updates for now. The next one shall be my race report, maybe when I get back from the holidays. I’ll still post photos up to the GCAM16 – Team Malaysia Facebook page whenever I can.

Here are some of the fun photos taken that evening. If you missed running GCAM this year, you can still follow the race via Webcast. Head on here for the webcast link. And of course, there’s always next year’s race which incidentally will be the 39th edition of Australia’s first IAAF Gold Label race!

Wish us luck for the race tomorrow!

Southern Cross University 10K 2015

It’s another year and I found myself back on the Gold Coast. This time with many more mates from the training group along for the running festival that we’ve come to love.

Since a run was planned on the eve of the marathon, a few of us thought might as well run the official 10K as the shakeout – getting more bang for the buck out of the trip. The plan was to take it really leisurely with plenty of photo ops along the way.

The weather on Saturday was mild, just fine for a short run but it started off with some drama. Due to an incident, the northbound tram line was closed, forcing runners to mass along the Gold Coast Highway for the bus shuttle services. After several packed buses passed without so much as reducing the size of the queue, I scrambled to cab-pool with another group of runners (Hi, Todd!) and was able to make it to Southport in time. Nevertheless, the organizers wisely delayed the start a little to accommodate the late arrivals. As I was hurrying towards the agreed meeting point by the big LCD screen, I bumped into Ryan Hall just off the main road. With no one mobbing him, I did the sanest thing a gawking runner would do.

Soon enough with everyone in our group accounted for, we (Foo, Leong, CY, Nick, Man Hon, and I) proceeded to the rear of the thousands of participants. I’d shed my layers even before I entered the corral, so mild was the temperature that morning. The mood was fun and there was absolutely no pressure where we stood.

Personal engagements with the event organizers meant I’ve to proceed at a quicker pace than the gang so that I’ve enough time to freshen up at the hotel, chow down some breakfast before meeting the inbound travel group from Malaysia. As a result I was promptly separated from Nick and the gang just after the start with me running some ways with Man Hon.

Don’t be fooled by the guys. They were just getting started. They were nuts that morning!

Soon enough I was alone passing more along the way, snapping photos as I went along. One of the GCAM Ambassadors, Benita Willis, was herself providing support to the back of the packers. Great to see the greats giving back to the runners.

The 10K route is also run on a racetrack pattern. Runners cross the Southport Bridge at the start heading southwards before u-turning on the other side, making their way northwards towards Runaway Bay before doubling back to the finish at the race precinct.

This stretch is one of the most beautiful along the route.
Northern section U-turn. It’s apparent that the day would be hot.

There were plenty of supporters along the way and there was never a dull stretch which was devoid of cheers. After covering the early Ks between 6:26 to 5:22, I picked up the pace the last 4K (5:15, 5:13, 5:07 and 5:01) just to get the legs working a bit before crossing the line in 55:57.

The run-in through the finishing chute was a teaser for what’s to come the next day. The crowd was really thick and enthusiastic and those in the stands screamed even louder as I waved at them! With the finisher tee and medal collected , I hurried back to the hotel to get ready for the rest of the day – the route tour and Garmin Legends Lunch beckoned.

The other guys? I believe “fun” would be an understatement in describing their experience! With the 10K in the bag, my GCAM medal collection is now complete! If you’re planning to run GCAM16, be sure to include the Southern Cross University 10K or the Suncorp Bank 5.7K Challenge into the itinerary as part of the marathon eve shakeout run!

Click on the photo below to launch the photo slideshow.
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Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016

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.

The HTT group which traveled from MY on Thursday. Photo taken at the Currumbin Life Saving Club adjacent to the scenic Elephant Rock Lookout.

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.

At the expo. A number had gone into the expo hall for the bib collection and shopping!
7K run to loosen up the legs. Included some photo sessions along the way!

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.

Shakedown Run

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.

5:20am at the lobby of the Mantra Legends.

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.

At the Surfers Paradise tram stop @ 5:30am.

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.

It was approximately 10 Celcius at 6am with temps rising.

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…

Washed and dried!

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.

Nearly everyone in the photo PR’d, some rather spectacularly!

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!

All these ladies PR’d: 1 missed going under 4 hours by a shade, 1 BQ’d, 1 finished under 5 hours!

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.

All the 2016 medals.

 

A post breakfast group photo back home to wrap up the year’s GCAM edition.

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!

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  • 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!

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2011

I’d no problems sleeping the night before. Zero race anxiety, no nervousness and just a little excited at the prospect of running, which was a fantastic mix of feeling. All my good races were very much approached with unbelievably calm demeanour on race morning – no rushing to the potties sort of thing. You won’t want to be overly hyped up and just want everything to just fall into place. The appointed tour coach pickup from Crowne was a wee bit early at 4:30am to cater to those running the half so the decision to avoid the cold while getting an extra hour of sleep was a simple one to make. After all, the official shuttle pickup was just opposite the hotel directly in front of the Shell petrol station. The morning conditions were good, not too cold. I was garbed in a Runaholic vest over the BV top, cutoff tube socks as modified arm warmers, shorts, BV calf sleeves, Kinsei socks and the Lunaracer 2. I had the Daiso “Sauna pants” over my shorts and they were great. In fact my legs were a little sweaty, but not toasty, when I removed them just before the race start. I was holding the little Daiso heat packs which weren’t even hot, a rip off I might add. So, if you’re heading somewhere cold to run, the “Sauna pants” is a good buy but the heat packs, a dud.

The shuttle was standing room only and since the bus was already packed, it needn’t stop along the way and we got to Southport Parklands soon enough. Runners were already moving around the Southport commercial area. The race site was definitely large enough to support the over 4,000 marathoners and 7,000 half marathoners. The half marathoners were just about to be flagged off in the other direction, so we marathoners won’t have to worry about any congestion. Good route planning! I kept hydrating from my bottle filled with Camelbak Elixir (not a secret concoction as claimed by Geraldine!) as I chewed on my 2nd Clif Bar. Quick self-check: still calm, no niggles, no gut stirrings. We cam-whored a bit before I checked in my bag (no queue!). I observed the runners as they prepared in their own little way. The Japanese groups had their last minute pre-race talk by their coach and many more runners seated on the ground stretching or lost in their own thoughts. The skies got increasingly brighter very quickly and the air warmed up to a comfortable level. With 25 minutes to go, we made our way to our favoured corrall which was gradually filling up with runners.

Where we were standing, there was very little breeze, very ideal conditions for racing. The announcement came that the appointed pacers from the Pat Carroll training group would be making their way to the pen. Positioned right at the edge of the 3:45 to sub 4 demarcations, we had a first hand experience at how a first class pacer conducted his duties. Do allow me to share this aspect with you and hopefully we will see this standard of pacers in the local races soon. Please don’t misconstrue this to be a critique of our local pacers. I’m not, because I think it takes courage to come forward as pacers. But we can always improve our standards as we see an increase in running popularity in this country.

The 3:45 pacer was some distance in front, and since that timing was way too ambitious for me at least, our attentions were drawn to the sub-4 Asian Dude (AD) – I forget his name. Further back were the 4:00 pacers followed by the 4:15 and the 4:30 groups. I observed that the runners here pretty much lined up according to their abilities as the groups would run much of the way together. The team huddle conducted by the sub-4 pacer was awesome.

AD has a clear voice, immediately comes across as a leader, possessing confidence in his voice and body language. His messages were clear and friendly, though he kept frivolous jokes out of the way. Indeed running a sub-4 is no joke. He introduced his co-pacer, outlaid his strategy, how he’ll be starting, at what pace, the course elevation, where to focus, mental challenges everyone will feel and he stressed to his charges to never ever let go of their sub-4 dreams when the going got tough. If you had doubts up to that point, AD literally smashed them. AD was so good I wanted to hold his hand. He told his charges that they’re all a team and we have only one goal, to finish in the goal time. Only when he introduced the famous Trent the Marathon Man did he cracked a few jokes. I felt calm and ready for the task at hand. As for Geraldine? I could never tell what goes on in her mind 🙂 !

I can’t be sure if all pacers conducted the same briefing but AD was the best I’ve experienced first hand. My game plan was simply to stay just ahead of him and right behind the last runner in the 3:45 group. This was so that I could benefit from his promptings while staying true to pace. The countdown began with 10 minutes, 5 minutes and seconds to go and we were off! After 2 minutes of start-stop jogs, I crossed the mat and immediately settled into my goal pace. The route hooked left after the first bridge and we immediately found ourselves running alongside the beach. Folks were cheering us as we passed by the holiday apartments. I lost sight of Geraldine here and from post-race chit chats, I found out that she had already zoomed ahead. Breathing was easy and I was very much in control of the pace. By the 5th K, I warmed up sufficiently to chuck my modified arm warmers. I was already wiping sweat off my brow.

My hydration plan was very simple, drink from every station, 2 cups each time. I learned the hard way from my NYC experience to not skip stations. It’s easy to be fooled by cool weather running – you can dehydrate just as easily. Water was plentiful as was Endura sports drinks. Both were served in large paper cups, which meant that as long as I consumed a full cup, one per station should be sufficient. Fueling was the tried and tested approach of GU Chomps between 4 gels. The first part of the race was fantastic. Running was easy. There were enough supporters along the way to cheer us and the kids were so cute as they offered their high fives and cheers. A lady in a fat suit (apparently she’s a permanent fixture of the race) too made her presence felt. Crossing the markers consistently at the targeted pace build up my confidence. I reminded myself that I needn’t run any faster, just roll along at this established pace. It was between the 10 and 13th K when the leaders came back the opposite direction. Led by Jason Hartmann, they were hammering the pace. I believe they hit the halfway mark in 1:04. Not far behind was Singapore’s top runner Mok Ying Ren who would finish in 2:27. A few minutes later the packed 3:00 group led by Steve Monaghetti streamed by. These guys were a joy to watch. It was business as usual for me as I continued on my already locked down pace. We passed a nice stretch along the beach front where a long line of stalls were selling all sorts of things.

Other than my surprise at how much I was sweating, all systems were fine. The Burleigh Heads u-turn finally came at the 15.5K mark where the first large electronic screen was erected. I kept an eye out for any messages for me but there was none, probably because so many were passing the spot at the same time. The crowds were fantastic here, everyone seemed to want in on the action. Shouts of “Gambatei!” aplenty. My splits were where I wanted them to be. Dang, I was pacing even more consistently in the race than in training.

5K – 5:35
10K – 5:27 (57:15)
15K – 5:29 (1:24)
20K – 5:35 (1:52)

Photo credit: Mohan
Photo credit: Mohan

The weather got sunnier and warmer after the 21K mark and I was still on goal time. I had chanced upon Mohan a few clicks back, blowing on his trademark whistle (the photo above was shot by him). What came next probably was the turning point of the race for me. I was getting warmer and warmer by the minute and right about the 23K mark I made a decision to remove the BV top. I figured that I was well within sub-4 and could allow the quick detour to the loo. I reckoned that at worst the loss of 5 minutes was worth the cooling comfort of getting the top off. A quick pee, doused the head in water, made the gear adjustment as I was back on the course. It was better just being in the vest but conditions were still warmer than usual. I continued to sweat quite a bit but kept up with the drinking and gels to try to maintain the hydration equilibrium. Even though I’d lost pace, I was still very much on goal time and still in the game. I spotted the revolving restaurant of the Crowne Plaza and gave the heavy-with-sweat BV a huge throw, hoping that it landed in the bushes for me to pick up later but it smacked instead on the pavement. It was a heart-sick decision to drop the expensive top but race goals and indeed survival was at stake.

Things started to unravel not long after that decision when my left vastus medialis (inner quad) seized up suddenly forcing me off my stride, and I remembered screaming in my mind “not now!” It got worse as the lateral side also got into the cramping action. The worst came when the left hamstring pulled up nearly tripping me over mid stance. When the hams seize up, there’s no way to keep running. You simply grind to a halt. Confused and angry, I kept the reinforcing messages going, to fight on and not give up. You see, AD’s message really resonated in me! The reality was this problem had happened way too early. I’d never cramped in any races before, even in hot and humid conditions, which made this case so befuddling. But I kept running slowly and walked only when one part or the other seized up. Lungs were willing but not the legs. Problem was the weather continued to warm up and I was going to be out there longer than intended and thus losing more in sweat.

Just before the linkup with the Gold Coast Highway close to the race precinct, AD’s posse passed me, with him still rallying his charges, telling them to stay at it and warning the impending approach of the wall. He also told a lady to hold back until the 39K mark. My pace was plummeting like the value of the Ringgit against the Aussie Dollar but if I somehow recovered from this situation very quickly, I could still race a hard final 10K (which I believe I was able to) to even out the time deficit but there was no reversal of fortune. The fantastic crowd despite their cheers couldn’t alleviate my shot quads. I continued drinking and fueling nevertheless, hoping against hope. The Labrador section of the route was tough as there were very few supporters here but the crowd support livened up at the u-turn of the Runaway Bay. On better moments I could shuffle at 6:15 pace but just couldn’t hold it for long before the twinges came back. This fight would go on until I cross the finish line.

I tried to force a pee on the run but only managed a small trickle despite consuming regularly (but not overly). Something was wrong, hydration wise. The course saw a few bridge crossings of no significance (the longer rises of the Jelutong Highway were worse) but I was already a goner. The consolation was that there was only 5K to go. Opposite, I spotted CC Tang and KK and just about then Sofian breezed past me with a Malaysian flag tucked in his belt. He was going steady and digging in and even if I’d stuck to him, my goal time was shot. Then I saw the 4:30 pacer on the other side of the road. I made a steely vow never to let him pass me and kept going – by power walking like a crab.

The final 2K were the best in terms of crowd presence. The crowd was thick and vocal and limping as I was I couldn’t stop to walk. So I continued in a strange manner, a drag, slide, hop movement that for the life of me I can’t recreate today. Elaine shouted at me from the opposite – she had less than 12K to go at that stage and still looked very fresh. She would PR by more than 35 minutes later. I took the 2 curves into the stupendous finishing chute. Not as wide as the Central Park finishing, the GC finishing was almost like the finishing of an Ironman race (in terms of visual setup that is, as I’m not an Ironman mind you) allowing for a wonderful experience. As mind-boggling and painful as this race had been, I was very happy with finishing this one. I gingerly jogged in all the while praying hard that my hamstring held on for a few more minutes less I ended up on the Monday edition of the Gold Coast Bulletin for all the wrong reasons.

The clock stopped for me in 4:23.16 and if that’s any consolation I didn’t let the 4:30 pacer overtake me LOL! Picked up the large beautiful medal and limped to guzzle down a cup of Endura and pick up a cup of orange slices. Sat down to remove the timing chip and then on to collect my finisher t-shirt before claiming my bag. As predicted Geraldine was already at the appointed waiting area, sitting pretty basking in her post sub-4 glow! She’s been awesome and getting stronger with the years of running. As much as I wanted to, I was in too bad a shape to head on to the TQ tent, so it was back to the hotel to clean up. Besides, I stank.

Thankfully the shuttle bus was easily found and left soon enough. A late lunch followed, again at the Sushi Train for convenience sake and the sake of my legs. No sake celebration though! The udon broth brought some life back and we went hunting for that BV top. Remember that I chucked it only to see it landed on the pavement? The photos above tell the story! The evening was nice so we decided to continue walking the 3K into Surfer’s Paradise to get some coffee, loosen the legs and hopefully link up with Mohan and Hazel (M&H). The small cup of Mocha from Muffin Break was good and after packing a Subway Tuna Wrap each, we strolled back the way we came from. How about that for a nice recovery walk? Sure enough, M&H dropped by and with a few hardcore but jolly Singapore runners (who call themselves Run2Eat) we found ourselves back at Sushi Train. But I had only a mango gelato, thanks to Sim. Enough of eating already, plus I still have the wrap back at the hotel waiting for me.

Happy company, happy times
Happy company, happy times

As you can see, the standards are quite high
As you can see, the standards are quite high

It was just too bad my 16th wasn’t a breakthrough race but I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. I crossed the line impressed with the organization, the venue, and the Aussie people. I hope that the Gold Coast wins the bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. By that time the mass rail transit would’ve been up and running for 4 years and everything will be ready for the Games. I knocked off that night with mixed feelings and not too disappointed and very full. I think it was close, real close and even a bit encouraged this time. I’ve come away not injured, ready to roll right into another good training phase. It’ll be another time for Hazel to get her coffee, she can wait!

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