Monday, July 6, 2009

Half Marathon - Gold Coast

Finally the big day arrived. We prepared the night before by working out strategies. We used some notes that a friend of ours took during a 'Race prep seminar' with useful tips. We took our best 10km runs, and calculated three possible outcomes as goals - Ultimate, Challenging and Satisfactory using a simple formula.My ultimate goal was a fraction under 100minutes, and the next two 102, and 107 minutes.

We also prepared the day before by making sure to eat high carb low fibre foods. We stayed at a hotel at the Gold Coast, and deliberately woke early each morning in the week leading up to the race. We went to sleep nice and early the night before, at about 7:30PM. The only wrinkle in our prep was that at about 9:15PM whilste we were asleep, we were woken by the people in the room next door - Opening the adjoining door between ours and theirs!! The dingbats appear to have been exploring. The door was supposed to be locked. A very stupid error on the part of the people running the hotel, and exposing us to a security problem as well as disrupting our sleep. Anyway, I quickly recovered from that setback and went back to sleep after wedging the door shut with a chair.

So back to the race itself, we woke at about 4AM, and I went for a leisurely walk in the cold dark morning. I reached the beach and encountered several partying people doing an all nighter. The walk was really good as it got the blood pumping without wasting energy.

We caught a bus to the race precinct , and began the mad scramble to get to the start line. The whole process was a bit of a mystery as we had never done it before, so here is a dot point summary:

  • Wake early, get your morning activities done early :) - 4AM
  • Eat small amounts of high carb foods, and get plenty of water, have a couple of coffees
  • Get to the race venue early - we got the bus at about 4:45AM
  • At the race precinct, go directly to toilets and line up because the number that they have is entirely inadequate
  • Begin warm ups as soon as possible, while lining up for toilets and left luggage
  • Get to 'Left Luggage' and drop off your bag, and warm clothes
  • Rush to the start line. The GC Marathon has signs at the start line where you should start based on the your anticipated finish time. I do wish people would be honest with themselves and actually do that!! But anyway, line up early.
  • After the race is run, you cross finish line, and end up in the 'Refreshments Recovery' area
  • Grab a massage as they on offer for free
  • After recovery, move through to the medal/Tee Shirt line, and exit
Here is where the problems begin - I wanted to get back to the finish line to find Christine, but could not, so I waited at the exit..Christine meanwhile finished and took up the offer of refreshments and massage :) So I waited at the exit for quite sometime, when I could have lingered longer in the recovery area. Additional problems at the race precinct include the fact that the one and only exit point is a temporary road bridge across the Gold Coast Highway.

So in the race itself, we got to the start line too late to gain access in the conventional way, so I had to jump the barriers. I lined up at the right spot. There are pace runners with coloured balloons to help competitors to spot them. So I located my pace runner.

The start gun went off at 6:25AM (five minutes late) and the crowd took off at a very slow pace. From here on I spent 80% of the time passing people - Only at about the 18km mark did the crowd beging to look like running _with_ me. So the signs at the start indicating the start positions based on your anticipated performance appear to be completely ignored by the majority of runners. Oh well, too bad.

So I ended up crossing the start line about two minutes after the start gun. Apparently that is not a bad outcome compared to other big marathons. I managed to have a conversation with a fellow runner while we were waiting for the crowd to get moving and he told me about a marathon in New Zealand.. !!!

The run itself was really good. I felt fresh and fast the whole way up until about the last 3km. The crowd, and the need to keep passing all the slow runners kept me well occupied. Looking at the data collected in my watch it looks like I managed to complete the second half a little faster than the first, which is an ideal thing to do. I managed to do the 15km split in a personal best time of around 1 hour 10 flat, more than a minute quicker than my last one.

My watch shows a time of 1 hour 39 minutes, 9 seconds, but the race timing system has me completing the race in 1 hour 38 minutes 58 seconds. So I managed to reach my ultimate goal by a small margin. I am very pleased with the time, I did not push myself much at all in the race, and only had to push hard at the last three kilometres, so I think I used the right strategy.

The improvement compared to my last 15km race is tangible - I recall tightening at around the 12km mark in that race, and lost quite a few minutes in the last three km's. In this Half Marathon race I managed to hold the pace quite well, and did not hit the 'wall' until the 18km mark. But even then I managed to hold the pace ok.

Pace wise, the slowest 1km was 5min 20 sec at the start, and I simply could not go any faster than that due to the crowd. The next slowest was 4:45 at the 20km mark, and the fastest was 4:29 in the 11th km. I managed to go faster than 4:45 for 19 of the 21 kilometres, which is pretty good.

A friend of ours did the marathon event on the same day, and after watching the competitors, I feel there is no good reason why I should not go fot that next year. The thing I really don't like the thought of running for nearly four hours, so I want to do all I can to get the time down to something I can tolerate :)

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