Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Gold Coast Half Marathon 2015

For the past few years, I've always used a half marathon as a lead up race early in the season. It's the perfect distance to dust off the cobwebs and I don't need to worry about racking up too many training miles in order to prepare for it. Because of this reason, I haven't been breaking PBs over the half distance for quite a while. My previous best time was 1:27:32 in 2011, race report here.

But I was keen to break that cycle and after some solid speedwork at the track sessions the past few months, I knew I have a good shot at it. Just the Tuesday before the race, we did a 5km time trial and I was only 10 seconds slower than my 5km PB despite holding back a bit.

Couldn't bring myself to give it a 100% with the upcoming weekend's half marathon in mind
Race eve was quite a relaxing but fun day. We took a drive to Surfer's Paradise, about 50 minutes away. My friend, David is visiting from Malaysia and doing the half distance as well. So we decided to stay the night. We each booked a one bedroom apartment at Islander Resort Hotel, the building is a bit old but the rooms are clean and spacious. An evening stroll along the majestic beachfront followed by some street food at Miami Marketta was just what the body needed to unwind and prepare for the race the next day.

The Expo At the Gold Coast Convention Centre. There were many more stalls than at the usual Ironman expos. 
Next morning, an early start to catch the 5am tram to the race precinct in Southport. The trams were packed and we were lucky that we were able to squeeze ourselves in without having to wait for the next one. Upon reaching the venue, I did a last minute visit to the portaloo. The half marathon was to start at 6am, about 80 minutes before the main event, which is the marathon. So it was still pretty quiet (and the portaloos were still reasonably clean!). Did some warm up jogs for about 10 minutes, then we deposited our clothing bags and lined up for our respective start zones. David gave me a wager that if I did not break my PB that day, I needed to drink 3 pints of beer that night!

Here's where a little bit of drama ensued. I was in the A start zone (less than 1 hour 45 minutes) and with the massive crowd, I could not locate the entry point of the gates to get there. There were a handful of runners in the same boat and we decided to climb over the gates. Then as I was inching my way towards the front of the A start zone, I could hear the announcer counting down to the gun off - great! Quickly turned on my Garmin but it was taking forever to locate a signal. Never mind, I'll just run with the timer mode then.

The race gun went off and there was still a sea full of people ahead of me. I was trapped in and had no choice but to follow the pace until I had more space to do some overtaking. I lapped my watch to the first km marker and to my disappointment, it showed 4:37! I had a lot and I mean A LOT of work to do if I wanted to break my PB. The second km wasn't so bad and I clocked 4:09. And I managed to go a bit quicker for the next 2kms, both at 4:04.

Still keeping it in control
The course was fairly straightforward. Just out and back with short detour at the 6-7km mark and the turnaround point just after the 11km mark. It's virtually flat with some very subtle inclines when going up the bridges. The weather was great - it was a bit chilly early in the morning in single digit temperatures but when the sun came up, it was nice and crisp. Very low humidity and minimal winds.

I managed to overtake the 1:30 pacer just after the 5km mark, so I knew I was in a good place. It was still fairly crowded at this point and I had to weave in and out to keep pushing the pace. It was only after the 11km turnaround point where I had plenty of space to myself. There were a few guys and a couple of ladies around me, we played cat and mouse for a fair bit and there didn't seem to a clear breakaway. My pace started dropping to the 4:10s and I was unsure how long more I could hold on. I was still on track on breaking my PB but it was going to very... very close.

Now I'm out of control!
The home stretch couldn't have come any sooner. As we approached the start of the finishing gantry with about 200m to go. I started kicking but I am clearly no sprinter as those around me surged past me, leaving me in their wake. As the finishing clock was in my sight, showing the gun time rather than the net time, I had no idea what I'll end up clocking but I gave it my all, crossing the line with 1:27:25 on my watch - I knew it was a PB, just not sure by how much!

Pity I couldn't get a GPS measurement. Would like to know how far or close it was.
I limped around the recovery area, drinking a few cups of Endura as I ran the whole race without any drinks. Collected my medal, finisher T shirt and my clothes bag. Once I settled down to wait for the massage, I was able to check my previous best time on my Athlinks account and delighted to see that I broke it by 7 seconds. Was even happier when the official results showed my net time another 3 seconds quicker!

Happy to keep my pace fairly consistent!
Coincidentally, I found David as we were making our way back to the trams. With 9,000 participants and their supporters for the half marathon, we initially planned to meet back at the hotel. After a brief wash up and hotel check out, we had breakfast by the Surf Club to cheer the tail end of the marathon runners going past - and, we get to catch a Spiderman marathoner in action!

A very well organized event with minimal hassle getting to and from the race precinct. Barring any upsets, I look forward to doing this again next year!

Being a side event, it's not surprising that our medal is a little bit smaller.

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