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Gold Coast Marathon - 2011 - Report

It is always a delight to come to the Gold Coast during the winter time, especially if you live in cold Melbourne. The weather is great around this time of the year with temperatures hovering around the 21 degrees. This year was no different, in fact during the days leading into the race the skies were blue, were as during race day, the weather gods decided to tread us on plenty of cloud cover. Cloud cover makes all the difference here, as when the sun is out it has a decimate impact on your performance.

We normally arrive a couple of days in advance, technically to get used to the weather, but in reality it is a great little holiday, and a few days away from work. There is also an excellent Expo in the Convention Centre, which is the place to go to pick up your BIB and have a browse around in the many stalls, looking for the latest apparel and gadgets. In fact I have never been able to walk across the Expo and not pick something up.

As we stayed in Surfers Paradise we decided to drive to the start this year. The organization puts up an excellent bus service which starts as early as 4:00 in the morning, allowing plenty of time getting to the start. However, unless you take the bus at the beginning of the line (first stop), you might get a bit stressed watching the number of runners waiting for the same bus you wish to take, and most busses arriving being rather full. But it works, and it is included in the ticket, so take advantage.

Arriving at the parking place just opposite from the Australian Fare shopping mall, were there is plenty of parking available, it is only a short walk to the start line. This years the Half Marathon started at 6:00 AM (in the dark) where as the Marathon was scheduled at 7:10. Rather late I think, as I believe most runners would still be on the road late in the afternoon, were the sun normally has a thing or two to say.

My other half decided to run the Half Marathon this year (second ever) and hoping to run away with a sub 2:00 hour time. It was amazing to see haw many people decided to run the Half Marathon this year. I think it must be the most popular distance at the Gold Coast.

Once she was on her way, I had a good hour to prepare myself for my start, which I did by drinking, eating a banana at about half an hour before the start, followed by a gel only a few minutes before the start. I brought a throw away jacket with me, but honestly this year we could have done without, as it was rather mild.

With ten minutes to go for the start, I lined up just in front of the 4:00 pacer. Last year I run the Gold Coast Marathon as well, and decided to run with the 4:00 pacer. I must say, that is not something for me. If you run with a pacer you need to adjust your pace to the group, and that is not necessarily the pace most suitable for you at that time. Then, I thought the start was too slow, and this year I opted for starting just in front of the famous black balloons.

After “Australia Fair” we were on our way. The start of the marathon is in the opposite direction as the Half Marathon and starts in the direction of Burleigh Heads, a good 15 km away, and act as the turning point for the return on the same route. The road mostly follows the coast with plenty of interesting surf views on the way, and sometimes you are hidden in between the high rises, so famous for this place.

I set out with a plan of running sub 4:00 hours, but more importantly, I liked to run a pace that would feel good at the time, rather than setting out a specific pace all together. I also decided to try to head out slower, and produce a negative split. The negative split is for me a recipe of running well, and best chance of getting over the finish in the time I set out to achieve, as well as being rather “fresh” once over the finish.

Tja, those ideas are what they are, ideas. My so called comfortable pace turned out to be just above the 5:00 minutes per kilometers. A pace, for me, probably a bit too optimistic for the Marathon distance. But there I was arriving in Burleigh Heads turn around point together with the 3:30 balloons!! What was going on?

The fact is that I did not check my watch nor heart rate during that first period, but I do remember, while closing in on the half way mark, that my quads were starting to protest against the onslaught happening. And also the feeling of tiredness started to develop. This last one of course is rather normal, although I would prefer this level of pain to occur at the 30 km point.

Two matters were churning over in my head while moving along to the point were we started at the 31 km mark. First, I was running with music, and decided that I should be able to run the whole stretch on an 185 BPM tune. This is something I do every day during training. But I found the the RPM were just a tack too fast, and it was getting more and more difficult to run on the beat. I often run with music, and this is never a problem. However, today, and probably because of the slightly higher pace I was running, It didn’t come together.

Second, I am a five finger runner, but to date have never attempted to run a marathon in the vibrams. Running 42 on the bidgument with five fingers is not an easy task, and I was glad that I didn’t decide that today would be the day to test out the vibram goings. (although I have seen a couple of five finger runners, as well as the pacer for the 3:45 group run pure bare foot!! Truly amazing!)

So that makes that I am not used to running on shoes. I never do, never on the track, never for anything shorter than the Marathon. And that unknown feeling of shoes on the feet, changed the way I normally run. The shoes make my stride longer, and RPM slower. Both elements that I try to avoid when running five fingers. And so, that was the cause for the painful quads just halfway in the race.

Plotting along past the start and finish point, for another out and about of 5 kilometers, the pace started to degrade. In fact, I started walking after the water station, to have a full drink. And further the pace slowed down, but one to a point that I am used to in my ultra’s. A nice shuffle that I can keep going for quite a bit.

All around me people started to crumble. It is interesting to see that so many runners start very optimistic (read too fast) and at the 30 or so kilometer mark, start to fall apart. Today I saw quite some people under attention from the ambulance, which is a bit of a worry. Why push so hard that you fall over? Anyway, better not say anything in case next time … You get the idea.

Nearing the finish line it was good to see that so many people have taken the time to come out and cheer on the runners. It is amazing what a buzz that is if you feel like quoting, but keep going as how silly it would look with all these people around you! At many stages on the route, I have seen many well wieners this year, which is a good development. Also plenty of bands and music at various stages on the course, which is always a but of push on! Well going guys!

And then finally the last stretch towards the aquatic centre. The finish line is place on a road around the centre, and it is always frustrating to see that the road makes one turn after the other, with the finish line only in sight after you have been curving around for a few hundred meters. But the thousands of people cheering on, and the tribunes at the finish line make it all worth while.

So my time this year? Well, I made it over the finish line in 4:07. Well and truly spend, and quads that didn’t have the power to hop on and off the curbs. Was it worth it? You bet. Learned many things for next time. Yes, there is always a next time, as the pain is forgotten soon after finishing.

What went wrong: - Music, bring along a lower BPM, more like 180. - Shoes. Run a local marathon, and try out the experience on five fingers. - Start place. Unless you what to crack the 3:30, start behind the 4:00 balloons, and only pass later in the race. - Possibly the Injinji socks. I was wearing the thicker version, which might have caused the blisters.

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