GCAM (Gold Coast Marathon) 2017
This year's Gold Coast was a definite NHNT.
Neither here nor there.
It just felt weird going into it. I still have trouble describing it even as I write.
It was supposed to be the "perfect plan". The ultimate train up to GCAM 2017. Building on the momentum of February's triumphal success, I was hoping for an epic build up, peaking right at this point and literally going out with a BANG! But as with life's surprises, it was not to be.
C'est La Vie.
No choice but to reset goals. Originally, it was supposed to be a lofty sub 3 attempt. (one which could further cement my 2:59:45 record.) Or at least, one which I'd hoped to rewrite my previous PBs of 3:05 (2012) and 3:03 (2015).
But life issue always trumps it. And like it or not, reality bites harder than anything else. Whatever your ideals. After all, life really does not revolve around running. Sort out your life and running will take care of itself.
Preoccupied by our relocation to Melbourne and along with it, the "all hell break loose" kind of chaos, it really leaves little to the imagination that training had to take a backseat. And by this, all the way to the boot kind of backseat.
Did a few mandatory LSDs after SCKLM (21 May). The very baseline of training. The rest were just some tempos that resembled more of a casual-jogger-looping-around-the-park kind of workout: 2 km of warm up, 3-6km of tempo, followed by 2 km cool down. That is it! So, I am not exaggerating when I say I have done very little.
Flew in on the eve of the marathon. It's to be my third GC. All felt just as I left years ago. Nothing has changed. Yet noticeably, my excitement about GCAM was clouded and dampened by other preoccupation.
Too much else was on the mind.
So much so that came Sunday morning, I was in such casual indifference that it bothered me! After all, I was about to race a full marathon distance for crying out loud!
Took my leisurely brekky, left my apartment at 6:20 am and hopped on the courtesy bus to Southport, the starting point. Bumped into a few elite Penangnite runners the likes of Calvin Boon, Boon Senior, Kuang, Choo Hooi, Ruben and Christopher. As most were sponsored by Forward running club, they were understandably 'pumped' for the race. But vying for PB is not just a perfunctory mission goal. I could sense their excitement (albeit my apathy) because it's a known fact that GCAM is the superb playing field for speedsters.
But as for me, we have established my predicament. I just did my own thing and wandered off to the port-a-loo. Queued up and made it just in time before snugging myself into A Pen minutes before the 7:20 am start time.
No race plans.
In fact, I was a bit worried that I had just "blankness". Not even sure how I was suppose to run this one. Come to think of it now, inconceivable as it may seem, it turned out to be a blessing.
Mingled a little more with the Penang boys as I joined the crowd at the start line. We were just seconds away from the starting arch. Close enough to touch the elite runners. (Which meant the 3 hour pacers with the light blue balloons were some distance behind us.) This gave a whole new perspective to the phrase "up close and personal". And this is one of few things that you will be able to do if you run GC. No where else. They are less rigid about these things here in the land Down Under.
7:20 am: Start off. Positioned among the elites, you could just feel the palpable tension as the runners were unleashed. It was a mad dash forward. Coupled with the adrenaline rush, even for someone as apathetic as me, I couldn't help but gravitate towards the pull. Had it not been an Aussie who somehow pulled alongside me and spoke to me that we were going at 3:45 pace just at the close of the first km, I would have committed the deadliest sin of marathon: going out too fast. It instantly snapped me out of the hypnotic lure of the speedsters.
Whoa!...slow down man...
As I paced myself, I could see the Penang runners slipping from my sight. Choo Hooi, Ruben, and Calvin were way ahead. Kuang was already long gone. And soon Boon Senior were also out of sight. I was content to slip into my own comfortable and sustainable pace of 4:15 and sat in wait for the 3 hour pack to catch up.
Slowly but surely they did. But it wasn't before Kent pulled alongside and overtook me. He seemed fit and ready. So I urged him to go ahead lest I slow him down. Though secretly I would have enjoyed the company.
The 3 hour pacers eventually caught up. But it was only beyond the turn around after about 18 km. By then I had caught up and overtook Boon Senior and eventually at 25 km, Choo Hooi.
The strange feeling at 21 km was that I was feeling ok. 1:29 was better than what I had anticipated. I was counting on bonking at this stage because of my physical state.
The sun was getting hot and the sear was tangibly sapping the strength and life out of most. By 30 km, although I was making good time, 2:07, I knew this kind of pace would be hard to sustain. But I have come so far, it would be a shame to just waste all the effort.
That said, the remaining 12 km is no mere 12 km. It was a 12 km distance race with leaded legs and zero reserves. At this point, you just hold on to whatever there is left and pray that it is enough. By 35 km, I knew it wasn't enough. 2:31 on the stopwatch showed it all. This is the true litmus of any marathon. You either have it or not. The last 7 km was a reward for those who do. And a punishment for those who don't.
Somehow, it was an in between for me. I had not intended to go this far anyway. So, in many ways, I was already running on bonus time. Yet, the grueling last few km was just tormenting enough to make you wish you had trained a little harder. But I knew that already. No use crying over spilled milk.
All I had to do was to push a little more. And that was it.
To my surprise, saw Kent at 39 km as I plodded on. It came as a boost to the confidence. I knew I got my wish after all. What a way to finish! I just envisioned both of us crossing that finish together. So, I came alongside and we both paced each other, gaining momentum as we cleared 40 km.
After 41 km, I somehow felt a surge to go forward. And sensing also that Kent was ready to push, we both made a mad dash for the finish. Caught up with Ruben with just 250m to go, we both finished within 10 meters of each other.
What a finish! Compared to my previous GC runs, which were mostly solitary experiences, never had I experienced this kind of run before. Friends running alongside each other. It certainly makes GC more interesting and memorable.
So, my 3:08 isn't much but it is more than I could ever hope for.
I am contented.
Post race analysis:
Not much to say, except that sometimes, no plan is a good plan. Putting too much expectation on yourself is just counter-intuitive and counter-productive.
There is already enough stress in life. Running should never add to it. So, herewith ending with a cliche: Run free, always!