Gold Coast Airport Marathon - Simon Redhead
Race Date: July 4th Results: 2015
The 2015 Gold Coast Marathon represented my 3rd marathon, the others being Melbourne in 2013 and Newcastle in 2014. Having run sub-3 at both previous marathons, with less than ideal training for Newcastle with plantar fasciitis cruelling my training, the goal was clear for this one with sub-2.50 the target. A flat, fast course beckoned and the decision was made about six months ago to target this event.
The first couple of months was, ironically, spent not running. Plantar fasciitis was continuing to cause problems so I made the decision to continue with rowing for general cardio-vascular fitness and strength work in the gym. I gave myself 16 weeks to come back from being a fit, essentially non-runner to a marathoner.
My training plan was my own, drawing on my previous experience and based around hill repeats (Blackbutt) and stair repeats (Cardiff steps) in place of interval sessions due to intervals previously aggravating my Plantar. It also incorporated the usual tempo running and long runs with increasing periods at marathon pace. Additional core strength training courtesy of RunStrong and general gym work continued. The plan had to be amended on a weekly basis with work intervening, including the need to incorporate a number of long runs on treadmills – great for building up mental toughness but the most boring thing imaginable. The plan progressed well apart from a minor hamstring strain brought on by racing about 10 weeks out. A solid hitout in the Newcastle half marathon and a 5k PB about 3 weeks out gave me confidence that my plan was pretty solid.
My race plan was pretty straightforward. 4.00/k = 2.49 so aim to hit and hold that pace for as long as possible. Nutrition plan was also straightforward – carry three gels. Consume at 8, 16 and 24k, grab 2 more at the 30k refreshment station and consume those at 32 and 36k. Grab water and electrolyte whenever possible.
Race day dawned with ideal conditions, cool temperatures, although things were forecast to warm up later, light winds and dry. A busy week up on the Gold Coast with the kids including theme parks and climbing perhaps 1500 steps up waterslides on Friday wasn’t ideal preparation but I felt well rested and fresh on the start line with 6-7 hours sleep under my belt.
It was great to catch up with an old work colleague unexpectedly on the start line and then meet up with Phil Tweed, also pushing for 2.50. I saw the back of David Horder’s head early and also Clarkey, Josh Griffiths and Mutton. I tried to get somewhere near the front of the A-group but found myself boxed in well behind the 3-hour pacer, a pretty relaxed looking Steve Moneghetti.
The start was the typical push and shove as everyone aimed to find their pace and seperate out from the crowd. Surprisingly, I found myself trying to push past a couple of old Japanese women in full length plastic raincoats, seemingly set on a 6 hour marathon. They had somehow managed to get into the preferred start area and were in serious danger of becoming roadkill.
It took a little manoeuvring to get clear but by the southern end of the bridge the road had opened up and I was able to pick up the 20 seconds or so I had lost in the first kilometre and crossed the 5k mat for a split of 19.44.
The next 10k to the southern turnaround point was pretty unremarkable really! It’s a nice flat course with lots of support from the Newcastle running community with the shirtless appearance getting plenty of comments and the occasional wolf whistle. I was running comfortably with Phil and feeling strong. We had seen the elite men come past which was pretty impressive and watched Mutton, Josh, Clarkey and Andrew Smee return looking great. We crossed the 15k point in 59.40, right on pace and feeling comfortable.
The northerly return from the southern turnaround gives you a great sense of the size of the field as you pass virtually every runner coming south giving a great opportunity for lots of encouragement, waves and hi-5s. The course is well served by water/ refreshment stations, being placed every 2.5k. A good rule of thumb is the 5,10, 15, 20 etc. have electrolyte with the 2.5, 7.5, 12.5 etc. having water only but they also have bottled water which is great.
Phil and I were still running together crossing the halfway point at 1.23.48, still feeling comfortable. Disappointingly, the family having a BBQ abeam the halfway point didn’t come through with the promised egg and bacon roll.
The grind north continued with the next mental checkpoint being at Surfers near the Q1 building and Cavill Avenue. It was great to see Paul Murray and Matty and Mel Roberts here, although the promised bag of concrete didn’t eventuate either.
Unfortunately, between about the 24 and 28k mark, Phil had dropped off the pace and I’d managed to pass David Horder and Kirsten Molloy who was looking really strong but not able to quite hold on. I tried to encourage them as much as I could but was still focussed on holding my own pace. I picked up with a runner called Rob who was holding about 3.55/k pace so we managed to knock out a few of these in succession. I’d taken my 3rd gel at the 24k point as planned. A minor moment of panic ensued approaching the 30k aid station as I couldn’t find the gels. They were on the table but not easy to find but I managed to grab a couple and came through 30k back across the bridge heading north in 1.58.54. My pace was great, I was feeling strong and 2.48 was well and truly on the cards! This marathon stuff is easy!
I passed the finish chute just as the elite men were entering the last few hundred metres coming the other way, so I could watch the action live on course. Pretty amazing stuff.
The first hint of trouble came at the 32k mark when I tried to move across to my left to reach the aid station to get a drink to wash down the gel and felt a twinge in my left hamstring. It settled quickly as I straightened but was a concerning portent of things to come. At 34k my left hamstring cramped properly, forcing me to stop to stretch and walk to recover. With 8k left to go and not being sure how things would hold together this was a pretty shattering moment and I let rip with a few choice swearwords. My apologies to the mums and kids around. How could this be happening? I felt fantastic, my energy levels were good, my legs still wanted to run but my hamstrings were just saying, “Nah, game over buddy.”
This resulted in my slowest kilometre with a 4.45 split.
As the cramp faded I tried to resume running but found that every time I strode out the cramp would return. I found that by shortening my stride and trying to increase my cadence I could still run, but could only hold about 4.15/k. This became my new target pace. I could feel that even at this pace I was right on the edge and had to stop 3 more times to stretch out but the plan was working, although it was costing me valuable time, as I crossed 35k in 2.20 with a 21.15 5k split.
The northern turnaround couldn’t come soon enough but seemed to never come. Conditions were getting warm with an air temperature of about 22 degrees but with no shade and a black road it felt much warmer. The course was becoming the usual post-30k battlefield with lots of very quick runners suddenly becoming walkers so I took some encouragement from the fact that I could still run. It was great to see the Flyers crowd coming the other way with the Mutton show in full swing followed closely by the Smee, Griffo and Clarke train.
I finally hit the northern turnaround, an important mental checkpoint with 6k to go and heading for home. I continued to focus on short strides and high cadence to try and keep the cramps at bay but another stop was required at about 38k. I passed Mona coming the other way as the 3-hour pacer and managed a screamed, “Mona!” He gave me a “G’day” which was encouraging! It was interesting to see the way his 3-hour pack had thinned from about 70 at the 15k mark to 2 at 35k.
As the course deviated left at this point back to the Broadwater it gave me a good view of the start/ finish which seemed an eternity away although I knew it was only 4k. Less than a parkrun!
The last 4k rolled past at about 4.15-4.20 pace, as I crossed the line in a net time of 2.51.02, for a second half split of 1.27.13, about 3 minutes slower than the first half. This was due to the 4 stops costing about a minute and reduced pace costing the other two. I felt great crossing the line, apart from the cramps.
So, overall? A 3-minute PB so I’ve got to be happy with that but, after a week or so, I’m a little frustrated, missing my target by a single minute. My energy levels and fitness felt great the whole run and, if not for the cramping, I’m pretty sure I could have held my target pace. I’ve learnt some stuff from my previous marathons which worked but I need to have a look at my form, getting more upright, and my core and hamstring strength to relieve the load on these muscles. Adam Clarke, you’re up buddy! The event was great. A great course, really well organised, lots of aid stations and brilliant crowd support.
Thanks to everyone from the Flyers, especially if you’re still reading at this point! It was great to see so many of you out on course, either running or supporting, and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to run and train with many of you over the last few years. There were some outstanding individual results and this group will continue to go from strength to strength.
Personally, I’m continuing to love the challenge of the marathon, in spite of its frustrations, but, without those, it wouldn’t be the distance we know and love so well. Thanks guys.