Monday, July 2, 2012

Gold Coast Half Marathon - Race recap

Firstly - I know it's been AGES since I last posted. There are a million excuses but I'll save them for another day.

Secondly - this is a long post - making up for lost time perhaps?

Onto the race (and the lead up)...

My last long run before this race was not my finest. I was aiming for 12km and managed only 10km. Of those 10km, I walked about a quarter and the rest of them were slow. As much as this left me worried, I remembered that my long run the week before (18km) had gone really well, this run was in warmer temps and I had been unwell the night before. Remembering these things didn't quite dispel all my concerns but there wasn't much I could do to change it. I've become so pragmatic in my old age.

I snuck in a 5km on Thursday morning, once I was at the Coast to help acclimatise myself. While all around me everyone was complaining of the cold weather, the difference between Victoria and Queensland was very obvious to me. Much, much warmer. And on that particular run, it was very wet.

I had a couple of pretty easy days off after that and then it was GCHM eve.

It's easy to relax when the weather is like this

To avoid any stomach disagreements, I just cooked pasta in my unit. Then I headed out to watch the fireworks display that was part of the festival going on over the weekend. I love fireworks but didn't have the patience to watch all of the three shows that were being put on. I stuck out the first and then headed back for an early night. There may have been a small detour for an ice cream on the way.

Like the granny I am, I was in bed by 9.00pm with all my stuff laid out ready for the next morning. Unsurprisingly, I did not sleep well and when the alarm went off at 3.20am I was not excited to be getting up.

Because I was paranoid about getting to the start line late, I was at the bus stop to catch the shuttle bus by 4.15. The process went pretty smoothly (although sharing the bus stop with all the people heading home after a big night was interesting) and I was at the GC Marathon “village” by 4.45. Unfortunately, that then left me with a fair amount of time to kill and not a lot of entertainment to kill it with. I paced and wandered and paced and worked myself into a panic with knee pain and socks that kept slipping into my shoe (stupid socks, I had worn them plenty of times before without this problem). Eventually, after three shoe re-ties it was time to check my stuff (oh my, so cold without my hoodie) and head for the start line. I figured there was nothing to be done about the socks or the knee and that I'd deal with any implications as they arose.

Start of the race
(Photo care of GCMarathon Facebook page)

With my estimated finish time of 2:30:00, I was in wave D at the start (a long way back from the actual start line) and had figured on not starting the race until 6.15 to 6.30. I'm pretty happy that I actually made it by 6.11, although it was a trek to get there.

Once I started running, all of my worries disappeared. My knee didn't hurt and my socks stayed put. I went out at a pace that was very comfortable and didn't worry about anyone passing me or who I was passing. I think the wave I was in, which was an estimated finish of between 2:15:00 and 3:00:00, worked out really well, despite the long way between where we lined up and where the race actually started. The usual push, shove and dodge that plagues the beginning of a race weren't a problem this time.

At around 7km in (one third down!) I spotted the race leaders on their way back to the finish. I clapped for the first few – they were flying – but then resumed my head down, run my own race, approach. These first 7km were nice and comfortable, not a walk in the park but not killing myself either.

My overall plan for the race was to not look at my watch and to just go with what felt comfortable for the first half and then look at pushing myself more for the last 10km. I stuck with that plan...mostly. I was pretty sure my pace was pretty good and a quick look at my watch in kilometre 9 showed that I was on track for a 10km PB. I just couldn't let that go, so pushed myself to hit it. I was disappointed that there wasn't a 10km timing mat but my watch time showed a 1:07:xx time which is by best to date! Hooray me!!

I felt that push in the next kilometre but knew I was due for a gel soon, so just let myself fall back into a comfortable pace. I took my gel at around the 11km mark and started counting down the finish. I was still passing people at this time so figured I couldn't have slowed down too much. The next few kilometres were uneventful. It was warming up by this stage and I could feel the sun beating down on me more and more. This was the part I was afraid of – I do not like the heat at all. The combination of heat and pausing for gel and water gave my body a chance to start staging a protest. My stomach was not a happy camper and I kept thinking I should stop at one of the loos on the way. But I really didn't want to stop running, so figured that until it got so bad I had to start walking (and I had a few long runs like that), then I wasn't going to have a “preventative” break.

At 14km I was well and truly into my end of race countdown, estimating the amount of running time I had left, based on 7:00min/km and reminding myself that a 7km run is nothing in the scheme of things (I always find it better to not think of what I've already covered).

And then at 17km I started flagging. My left leg had started to hurt, I was getting tired and just a bit too hot. I had to stop and try to stretch out my left hip during kilometre 18 and thankfully, this helped me out. After this pause I also took the time to look at my watch.

Oh! My! Goodness!

I had set my watch to track my progress against my goal pace to achieve my 2:30:00 goal finish time. According to good ol' Garmy, I was nearly 7 minutes up on this.

Insert minor panic attack here.

So, with 3km to go, I channelled all of my “fast finish” training runs. Unfortunately, my legs were fried and after about 500m post-stretch my left leg pain returned with a vengeance. My brain was saying go, my legs were saying no. There was nothing for it but to try and push through. I am not embarrassed to say there was some self encouragement going on in these kilometres. And this was out loud talking to myself going on here. Looking at my splits for these kilometres, you wouldn't know I was pushing myself.

I am happy to say I had nothing left in the tank at the end of the race. I attempted a sprint (fail!) but I managed a finish time of 2:23:12.

Seven minutes faster than my goal time.

11 minutes faster than my last half.

There were a few tears after the finish line – I was soooo proud of myself. For the pace I managed throughout the race (average pace of 6:47/km left me astounded); for the training I put in this time (oh, imagine what I could do if I actually really followed my training plan?!); for not letting the voice in my head during those painful last kilometres stop me.

So, would I rate the Gold Coast Half Marathon – definitely.

Will I be back – yes – it may not be until 2015 but I'll get there.

Next stop – Chicago Half Marathon (assuming I make it through what sounds like a very hot summer of training).

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