Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gold Coast Airport Marathon Race Review

The short of it: 4:26:45. PB by 12 seconds.

The long of it:

The GC marathon and the weeks that lead up to it has been a learning experience for me, in more ways than one. I screwed up big time even before i got to the start line, and i am hoping that I dont let this repeat ever again. 90% of the result was determined in the preceding 3 months, and 10% in the preceding 24 hours. I can only imagine what i would have run, had i trained well. Yet, all is not lost, there is still a silver lining on the grey cloud.

To avoid turning this educative post (as in future reference for myself) into a rambling rant, let me summarize the major areas where i lost out on putting up a real fight for the sub 4.

1. Utter lack of overall mileage: Only 103 kms in April and 129 kms in June. I upped May to 221kms but that was probably not too smart a thing. I just didnt run enough. In fact, in the 5 weeks preceding the marathon, my mileage was 20km, 25km, 55kms, 10kms and 20kms.

Action for the future: Get into the consistency of 50km weeks because i know my body can take it.

2. Lack of a proper long distance run in the 5-6 weeks preceding the marathon: After the Sundown half which was on 28th May, i didnt do a single run upwards of 24kms. I tried thrice to run a LSD of 30+kms, and i came up short, running only 5km, 2km and 12kms in the 3 attempts. My so-called LSD was only 24kms and that was the only run longer than 13kms since the SD HM.

Action for the future: Run atleast a 32km LSD or a 3 hr run at the bare minimum 3 weeks from the marathon.

And in this shape, i found myself at GC wondering what was to become of the marathon on July 3rd. For the last few weeks, i had tried to think through how best to salvage the race given the status of training and i was none too close to finding an answer after arriving at Surfers Paradise. Should i try running 65min 10k's for the first 30km and then take a call on how to carry on or should i try running at my pipedream 4hr pace of 5.41 and see how long i can hold on ?? And then if that were not enough, the day before the marathon, roughly about 1pm, my tummy threw in the towel and i had an upset stomach. Dont really know whether it was the Chow Mein i had had at the KL airport or the mushrooms i had for breakfast, but in either case my tummy was holding nothing in and the case of the runs really did have me running for medicine in the night before the marathon. I found a probiotic and took it twice the same night, hoping that come next morning, i would have miraculously recovered.

To top it all off, on the morning of the marathon, at about 5am, i had a Vanilla protein bar for the first time in my life and that didnt sit too well either and by the time i reached the venue (i came much earlier than i needed to, as the wife was running the HM which started 1hr before the FM), i was feeling mildly pukish. I dont know how and i dont know why, but as it did turn out, i didnt puke and after the first 7-8kms in the marathon, i ran without any gastric discomfort whatsoever.

After having bade farewell with best wishes to Sumi, i made my way to the race pen and just for kicks lined up with 4hr pace group. The two 4hr pacers, Keith Hong and Megan Inge were awesome and such fantastic runners that surely, they helped several people achieve their marathon dreams that day. I was perturbed when Keith announced that as pacers, they would go for 4hr gun time and not the chip time so actually they would be running at a 3:58 pace !! The weather was just super and that made me forget a bit about my inner turmoil and just look forward to enjoying the race and the scenery. The gun went off and the 4hr bus crossed the start line with a 2 min deficit. And the most demoralizing thing happened to me soon after, when within 300m from the start line, i had already lost the 4hr pace group. So i ditched plans of running to a specific pace and just started to run comfortably without hitting any pace targets. And doing that, i found myself back with the 4hr black ballons at the 3rd km only to lose them from sight at the water station at the 5km mark where i walked through and took my time taking small sips. I would start again and pick up the pace and would reel in the pacers over the next 2-3 kms and this pattern was to repeat itself over the next 20kms. It was just unbelievable but i was holding a 5:35ish pace in what i call a "comfortably hard" run. A few days before i left Singapore, i tried to go on a 16km run with Patrick (Sorepalm) and couldnt even hold a decent 6 min pace.(That day i only ran 12.5kms and that too with about 10 stops and frequent walking in between). So i was quite pleasantly surprised that i was running significantly faster and longer. It was just awesome running through the GC neighborhoods, where the residents came out to cheer us on from their gates, verandahs, porches and what not. Some were late night party-goers trying to fuel us with their beer-induced love for marathoning, and others were in their bathrobes having just got out of bed wondering why would people want to run 42kms on a Sunday morning. It was quite some fun passing these myriad households and i am sure it was as entertaining for them as it was for us.

I stuck with the 4 hr pace group until the 25th km (going through in 2:20) when i suddenly felt acute pain on the front of my right foot, on the arch between the shins and the feet themselves. I dont know if it was the timing chip biting into the skin or if i had tied my shoelaces too tight, but eitherways every step i took would send a stinger. (I would later find out that there would be some swelling and abrasion in that area as well but i still dont know why). Around the 27th km, my right glute started to participate in the misery and the pain then was just making it impossible to try anything that resembled running and i resigned to the fate of having to walk most of the way back and worst case, possibly come in at 5 hours or so. Still, thanks to my fast first 25kms, i hobbled through 30kms in 2:56 and from thereon i really couldnt much. My mental fatigue was catalyzed by my physical discomfort and i was just pushing on, hobbling mostly, and shuffling a bit whenever the pain would subside. At about the 34-35km mark, the 4:15 pacers went by. And about 38-39kms, the 4:30 pacers went by and that was when i felt really annoyed with myself for not having more fight in me. So i picked up the pace, thinking i would catch up with the 4:30 group and try to hang in as much as possible. I managed to just about do it, while frequently breaking into walks. At just over 40, i became greedy and thought may be if i can push myself a bit more, i could perhaps still try and get a PB. That small thought was amplified with the hordes of people cheering in the last 1.5kms and somehow the pain was forgotten, the finish line visualized and the legs churned into action. Its crazy but the last 1km of the marathon, i ran at a 4:45 min/km pace and just managed to dip under my Tokyo timing from earlier this year.

I dont want to take refuge in the fact that I PB'ed (although only by 12 seconds) despite sub standard training. Neither do i want to take comfort from finishing strong, even if only the last 2kms. The fact of the matter is this was a golden opportunity lost, to take advantage of excellent race conditions and post some very serious times that would have no doubt, served as a great motivator for future races. Nevertheless, there were still somethings that i didnt have control over so in the end, a sub 4:30 timing is just about what i can tolerate as a "race performance".

I would strongly recommend GCAM to anyone who wants to have a fun experience, and set a PB in doing so! Hopefully, i will get to write a more positive race report for 2012.

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