Monday, July 7, 2014

Gold Coast Marathon

Gold Coast Marathon 2014 Race Report

Hi. I am guessing if you are at this page it is because you wish to read the long, detailed version of my Gold Coast Marathon race. If so, read on down below! If, on the other hand, you thought you were coming for the brief version then here it is:

Travelled to the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Up early on Sunday and began the race at 7.20am.
Started out faster than planned, but held on well despite the usual setbacks.
Finished in an all-time 'PB' for me of 3:15.47 hrs.
Am completely wasted now, but really happy :-)

The Day Before ...

On Saturday morning I travelled up to the Gold Coast from Melbourne, arriving at 1pm and heading straight to the expo to register and collect my race number. There were only a few people in the queue for so that was really easy and I had a look around the stalls.

This was the usual affair - lots of things to look at but little that tempted me to buy anything (which is good). Of most interest to me was the Pat Carroll stand where I met Nick who, coincidentally, would be pacing the 3.15 group I was most interested in. When I asked him about his approach, he said he would go a bit faster at first to catch up to gun time then maybe run a minute quicker first half (~1:36.30) to allow for some slow down. That sounded good to me so I said I would see him soon after the start!

I walked to motel, about 3km away, via Woolworths where I stocked up on bananas, rolls, Gatorade and treats I ended up carrying the whole way home. For the latter part of the afternoon I just put my legs up and relaxed.

For dinner I went across the road to Milano's Pizza & Pasta where I ordered a gnocchi with Napoli sauce. The sauce was nice and the gnocchi a bit rubbery, but the big bonus was in a bag I thought must contain some garlic bread. But no, inside were four hot cinnamon donuts. So much for eating well!!!

I set my alarms on the iPhone for 4.00am and the iPad for 4.15am and went to bed around 9pm.

Race Day

After a good sleep my alarm went off and I checked the time ... 5am! Aaargh!!!! How did that happen. I'm still not really sure but I had managed to screw up two alarms. Thankfully I had left plenty of time to get ready so this was an inconvenience more than a disaster.

I had a nourishing (?) and tasty (?) breakfast of cold gnocchi, a Gatorade, bread roll and a banana before a quick shower and out the door. Angelo at reception got me a cab which arrived pretty quickly and I was soon at the Exhibition Centre ready to catch a shuttle bus to the race venue. I got a seat and settled in; taking in the delicate aroma of Tiger Balm and Dencorub.

We arrived at Southport by about 6.15am and it was a short 5 min walk to the race precinct. The Half Marathoners were all on the road except for a few stragglers. The venue is a big place, really well set out with great facilities. I make toilet stop number two for the morning, take a few photos and then am off to put my bag into the compound.

On the way to start line I make a last detour via the loos for what I hope will be the last time for the morning! After this I head over to my start corral which was "A" and the first one after the seeded/elite runners. Sweet! I went straight in and found a spot beside the 3.15 pace sign. It was not crowded and a really relaxed atmosphere.

The temperature was very pleasant now, perfect for running, though the sun was starting to come up and I figured it could get warm later. The half marathon starts first at 6am so they definitely get the better of the conditions.

Just prior to race start, marathon legend Rob De Castella gives one of his patented (scripted) rousing pre-race speeches. I'm not sure that reminding us that Pheidippides gave his life for the marathon had the desired effect but he certainly implores us to work hard when the going gets tough later in the race!

Right on 7.20am the gun goes and we shuffle off. The start area and much of the course is quite narrow but it takes only 20 sec or so to cross the start line and I get my Garmin going. I am just in front of the 3.15 pacer and use the first part to get into my stride.

Through the first few km people are sorting themselves out and there are lots of folks going forwards and backwards establishing the pace they hope will take them to a good time. Somewhere on the bridge I am caught by Nick and his large pace group. I settle in near the front, trying not to get whacked in the head by his balloon.

We set a very even pace, even if it is a little faster than I had planned to run. The Garmin, as expected, measures a little long and it is noticeably getting ahead of itself with each kilometre. So I use the course markings to help assess pace. So where Garmin says we have done 22.45 for the first 5k, the course markers say we've done 22.56. Both of which are ahead of target pace which was 23.40 for each 5k.

When I had talked race tactics with Rob O'Donnell we had agreed that I should stick with this bunch and if the pace was too hot to drop back. It is now that I realise we didn't really agree what 'too hot' was and I cannot help but wonder if this is what he meant! In any case, it feels comfortable - and not suicidal - and so I stick with the group.

By now I am well warmed up and do a quick head to toe body check: my left shoulder is a little tight (I stretch it out) and my left achilles doesn't feel very good. Not super-bad or anything but I worry that in another 25k it may be problematic. On the positive side, both my popliteus' are in good shape. I figure this is probably a balanced scorecard and I should be happy at this stage.

One thing that has been fantastic the whole way so far is the crowd. They are everywhere and are cheering like crazy - including a fellow at about 7k in who is convinced we are 'nearly there' now. The other thing I was expecting, and am finding troublesome to manage, is the camber of the roads. I am trying to stay towards the middle of the road to avoid this but the narrowness and size of our group is making this difficult.

The kilometres continue to tick off as we head south towards Burleigh Heads. Just out of Surfers our pacer darts off for a toilet stop. It feels odd running without him and we joke about making a break on him! Soon enough he is back in our midst and we we continue on. We go through 10k just near Broadbeach in 45.58 (official time, not Garmin) which means the last 5k was 23.01 - only 5 sec slower than the first 5k.

By now, despite several evacuations prior to the start, I need to go to the toilet again. Aargh! I just keep running and hope that the sensation will pass. We are right down at the southern end of the course now and the crowds continue to build. Conditions remain good for running; the sun is out but there is good shade along here. We get down to Miami and turn right past Robbie McEwen's Piccolo Cafe (no Robbie in sight!).

We get to 15k just before the turn at Burleigh Heads. I am feeling ok, but not as good as I had hoped. The last 5k was 22.54 so we are running a very even pace of 4.35m/k so far. I know that to drop off the pack will probably be harder than staying with them at this pace as so continue on. We make the first u-turn on the course and begin the long road north to the finish line and beyond.

The next 5k is more of the same except instead of watching the faster runners going back the other way, we are now the 'quickies' and we get to see the enormous mass of humanity heading down to the turn. I am not sure how they all fit on the road in places as it is only 3-wide and there are thousands of people here. Lots of folks in dress-ups, most looking good, some looking really ordinary which is not so good for them.

It is worth mentioning the aid stations they have here. It is really good with stops every 2.5k or so alternating between water and sports drink (Endura). The hardest part is working your way over to make sure you get a drink. As expected, you get the odd one down the back of your shoe from the guy behind but generally it works well. I had my first gel at ~12k and have been taking sports drink wherever possible.

Soon enough we are at the 20k timing point and go through slightly quicker in 22.47 for the last 5k. More significantly, we soon cross the half way mark in 96.43min meaning we are still right on 4.35m/k pace. (Compared to Nick's target time of 96.30 which he told me about at the expo on Saturday we are right where he wants us to be.)

Time to take stock ... with a target time of 3:17, running even splits would be 98.30min per half so this pace is quick but not stupid-fast. (As a comparison, 'stupid-fast' is running 4.29m/k which I did back in 2009 when I suffered a spectacular second half slow down en route to a 3:18.38.) I feel ok, not really tired; legs are still strong. My stomach is starting to grow tired of the sports drink so I monitor this, especially as I have just taken my second gel. Oh, and I still need to go to the loo. All in all, this is an acceptable position. Not as 'great' as you could hope for but 'pretty good' which is what you normally get!

By the time we get to 25k we are almost back in Surfers. Our pace continues at the same metronomic level with another 22.56 for the last 5k. By now I am looking for a loo and know there are some along here which I have used before. At just after 26k near Elkhorn St I dash across the road and in for a pit stop. 46 seconds later I emerge somewhat lighter and feeling refreshed. Of course, by now my pace group is nearly 200m up the road and I have an important decision to make: do I chase to get back on or do I just run my own race from here on. When I look at the road ahead I can see my 'mob' still 20 or so strong and there are only a few people in between.

I decide the only course of action is to get back with them. My bike riding background has shown me that life in the bunch is infinitely easier than life on your own and I expect it will be worth the effort to bridge across. Of course, I knew this wouldn't be easy. They were, after all, running 4.35 km's so it was going to take some real work. (To be honest, at that point in the race I was not sure if I could do it, but I ramped it up and had a go.)

Suffice to say I ran the next 2k @4.15 m/k and was very happy when I tagged back into the front of the bunch. Thankfully the pace here had not shifted at all and I was back down to 4.35m/k to recover my breath. Though I wouldn't have planned to take a toilet stop it was pleasing to know that at 26k into the race I could actually lift the pace significantly for a sustained effort. This has never been the case in previous marathons where normally by this point I am running steady and trying not to slow down. So a positive in there for me!

We soon round the bend at Southport and are back onto the bridge over the Nerang River. It is here that we cross the 30k marker and, oddly enough, we've done another 22.56 for the last 5k (although I had a fair variety of pace in there).  Our pace is amazingly even and that is the third 5k split we have done at exactly 22.56. The other three have been 22.47, 22.54 and 23.01 so pacemaker Nick is doing a fantastic job and we are still bang on 4.35m/k for the race so far.

A couple of km later and we pass the start line, reaching the only real incline on the course. This hill goes for all of 50-100m and is not very steep, but it is a rise and is enough to slow us down a little. Our pace through this km is about 4.49 which is the slowest of the day so far and the next few km are in 4.42 to 4.40 so we are definitely slowing just a little. We go through 35k with a split of 23.51 so have conceded nearly a minute of our previous 5k pace for this leg.

At this point I am doing another body-check and still feel ok. I remember agreeing with Rob a strategy of trying to push the pace at 32k if I was feeling good. I had consciously held back at 32k as our overall pace was quite a bit quicker than I had imagined I would be running which is to say I thought I'd be running 4.40's and try to lift to 4.35 or so. After the last few 'slower' km I decide it is time to see if I can pick it up.

I go off the front of my bunch and it feels like I am flying along. I am conscious of passing people and am also aware that the sun is now starting to feel quite warm. Within a km I have been caught back up - so much for my audacious plan - and I slot back into the now diminishing group. The second and final u-turn is just ahead at 36.7km and I have now fallen 5m behind the pace leader. When I make the turn it becomes clear that our once large group has exploded somewhere in the last 5k. There is no noticeable pack any more, just a pace leader and his balloons and a few of us trying gamely to stay near him.

After a solid 4.38 for the 37th km my pace starts to waver and I drop in a 4.48 followed by a 4.40 then a 4.46 through to the 40km mark. I am desperately trying to rise for the run home but am really struggling to maintain any form or even pace. I am noticing the heat now and am generally feeling pretty ordinary. The 5k split here is 23.45 which is quicker than 30-35 but slow once again. Race time is 3:05 hrs and I figure if I can hold it together for the last couple of km I will get my 3:17 target time.

The 41st km is my worst. I stop at the aid station to get some water, having long ago ditched the sports drink that I was chucking up in any case. It is 5.10 for this km, fully 20 sec slower than for any previous km of the race. The wheels have suddenly loosened and if I do not get it back together they will fall of completely.

Thankfully the end is very near and we turn back onto the Gold Coast Highway where the crowds are amazing. I nearly run into a couple of folks crossing the road as I get tunnel vision along here and am only peripherally aware of people nearby as I focus on the finish. I am now lifting and my pace gets back to the low 4.30's for the final 500m to the finish line.

Around a couple of bends and I can see the finish line just ahead. I glance at the clock which indicates a 'gun time' of just over 3:16 but my watch tells me a 'net time' of 3:15.47. I raise my arms in triumph and yell a shriek of delight as I finish the race having surpassed my wildest dreams! And, just like I did at Melbourne Marathon back in 2009, I soon collapse to the ground in a crying mess of emotion. After focussing on this one goal for 14-weeks, training like a madman and never missing a session, it is all a bit too much. I am exhausted. I am ecstatic!

When I review the splits (below) there are two things I am really happy with. The first is that even though I was slowing down in the last 10k I was still passing people. My 'race rank' climbed at each point, from 666th at 5k to 544th at 30k and 425th at the finish. It is such a buzz not be be going backwards and seeing everyone pass you. The other stat I like is that the drop off between the first half and second half (96.43 to 99.04) is only 2.5% which is pretty good and testament to how strong I was at the end of my long runs. It is also pleasing given that the early pace was much faster than planned, so to hold onto this is great.

When I finally sit down on a chair I can begin to assess the 'damage' from the race. The first thing I notice is that my face is completely caked in salt. I cannot believe how bad it is. Clearly the heat took a real toll. And then I notice that my toes are not feeling so good. On the right foot one has got an ugly blister right on the tip (mega-ouch) and on the left I can see blood right through to the top of my shoe. To be honest, I was not really aware of either of these things during the race - obviously had some bigger problems to deal with! Suffice to say I ain't walking anywhere fast for a few days.

So there it is, another marathon program done and dusted. Despite having done many marathons I consider this only the second one that I have really trained specifically for. And to run an all-time PB is just incredible. When I did 3:18.38 in 2009 I thought that would be my lifetime high-water mark. To do 3:15.47 at my age (46) is just fantastic and is another Boston Qualifier time, substantially ahead of the 3:25 required standard.

But I cannot rest on my laurels. City to Surf is in 7-weeks and I have a goal to run under the hour there - something I have not done in over 20 years. But first, recover!

Strava File:
Official Stats


split pointsplit times/rankrace timer/rankactivitydistancepacespeed
Five Kilometre Splits
Half Way Splits
Half Way01:36:4359901:36:43625RUN21.1004:3513.09

Friday, July 4, 2014


Gold Coast Marathon - Race Week

This week is the calm before the storm that is race day. All that can be done has been done. There is no getting fitter or faster. There are no 'last minute sessions' to tune up. It is all about making absolutely sure that you stand on the start line ready to wring every last piece of value you can from what you have done over the last few months. It is time to focus.

Tuesday 1 Jul

Today was the last of the 'harder' runs though, to be honest, it was not very hard at all. More like a steady-easy run with six 90-sec (400m) 'lifts of pace' spread throughout. It felt, as you would hope, pretty comfortable. The weather, thankfully, whilst overcast was quite pleasant for running. Not cold or overly windy; and it was good to get out. On the niggle side, everything seemed to be good to go today and once I had warmed up for a kilometre there were no problems. I have been wearing my racing shoes this last few runs and they are all good; along with some heel-wedges to offset any achilles problems I might have.

As has generally been the case this prep, the six intervals today were not run on a track and so were a little more organic in actual distance, ranging from 410-430m, depending on when I noticed my watch. Consequently, splits ranged from around 1.27-34. On average, probably all less than 1.30 so right on pace, no issues there.

I took my phone with me today (I don't normally do so) and took a few photos as I ran along the river. This was a bit of fun, especially when I got to my third fast rep and was promptly stopped by a barrier across the path so the Parks Victoria barge could 'escape' from its mooring. This was no big deal for me today as I just turned around and started to rep again heading in the other direction ... but on many of my other training runs this might just have done my head in!

This afternoon also saw a last-minute visit to my physio Rob O'Donnell. A cancellation meant that I could be squeezed in this afternoon and - bizarrely - when they rang to let me know I was just starting my run and had my phone on me! Rob has been a great help - not just with physio treatment but with running advice and help with race day strategies and general mental prep. Thanks Rob!

Only Nike Run Club tomorrow and an easy 5k at marathon pace on Friday to go now!

Wednesday 2 Jul

After my visit to the physio yesterday I must say "things" are a bit tender. The rigorous massage to my calves really woke them up and today they are letting me know what they thought of it. All will be good in a couple of days, but today!!!!!! And, being race week, it is time for every other part of my body to get in on the 'niggle act.' Today it is my groin. Just a twinge here or there - and it did not bother me running - but a reminder in any case.

As for my run, tonight was the last session of this 12-week season of Nike Run Club and I was leading a 5k group at 5.30m/k pace. In practice, we ran a bit slower than this as the faster folks went off the front early on and the slower folks wanted to run closer to 5.45. Which was all ok by me and I ended up running with Danielle and Marvin from Telstra for the last few km's. All easy, all good.

As a side note. Today I stepped on the scale and it was 77.7kg which is just fantastic. This is about as low as I have weighed in a very long time and is 4kg lighter than when I raced my PB at Melbourne Marathon back in 2009. I am excited about this as less weight = faster time! It's the small things which add up!

Friday 4 Jul

It is done! Every session is complete. When I started on this journey I created a training plan. It had 58 sessions (including the race) and over 750km in 98 days (14 weeks). I have not missed a session. I have not been sick. I've had only minor injuries - though in 'hypochondriac week' (aka race week) these seem to have multiplied a little! Everything that I set out to do in preparation has been done. I have felt strong in my long runs and I have gotten progressively faster for all my efforts. I have even been so brave as to increase my target pace by 10 sec/km.

Today was a very easy 5k run at marathon pace which I did without issue at lunch time along the Yarra River. I felt good, no niggles, and my heart rate was low even in the strong wind. Pace was right on target. Just what I wanted it to be.

Tomorrow I fly to the Gold Coast and on Sunday at 7.20am the race starts. I plan to run 3h 17m (4.40 min/km) or better. All that remains to be seen is how I execute my plan. I just want it to start now!

Training Program:

Full session details for my whole training plan are here.

Strava links for the week:
Tuesday - Last Sprints 7.4k @4.31; 6x 400m with 400m recovery
Wednesday - Nike Run Club 5.7k @5.47; easy lap of Tan
Friday - Marathon 5 5.1k @4.37; easy 5k at marathon pace

Weekly Summary:
Week 14 (this week): 3 runs, 18.2 km, 1 hrs 29 mins
Week 13: 4 runs, 43.7km, 3 hrs 37 mins
Week 12: 4 runs, 46.0 km, 3 hrs 45 mins
Week 11: 4 runs, 61.2 km, 4 hrs 59 mins
Week 10: 4 runs, 55.8 km, 4 hrs 28 mins
Week 9: 4 runs, 66.4 km, 5 hrs 39 mins
Week 8: 4 runs, 57.7 km, 4 hrs 37 mins
Week 7: 4 runs, 60 km, 5 hrs 10 mins
Week 6: 4 runs, 54 km, 4 hrs 36 mins
Week 5: 4 runs, 46.3 km, 3 hrs 57 mins
Week 4: 5 runs, 71.7 km, 6 hrs 24 mins   (biggest week ever!)
Week 3: 4 runs, 57.7 km, 5 hrs 9 mins
Week 2: 5 runs, 48.6 km, 3 hrs 51 mins
Week 1: 4 runs, 41 km, 3 hrs 28 mins
Total: 57 runs, 728.3 km, 61 hrs 09 mins

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