Monday, July 11, 2011

GO FOR GOLD 2011: Mission Accomplished

The 12-week Kookaburra training have prepared the 100 runners well for the cooler Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) 2011. This year there was a record 200+ runners from Singapore, making up the 3rd largest international contingent after Japan and New Zealand. We had received good coverage from the official GCAM website of the kookaburra training as well as Team FatBird and Singapore runners going down under.

The special travel package along with training, all supported by Tourism Queensland, proved to be very popular with the Singapore runners who enjoyed group registrations for air, hotel, race coordination and support at the event. The pre-departure briefing presented some useful tips and information on meet-up points as well as preparations for racing in cold weather like GCAM. Because of the size of the group, we went in 2 packets (A and B), and for the first time, tour leaders from Scenic Travel accompanied us all the way to Gold Coast, taking care of the runners’ needs and coordinating race pack collection, transfers, etc. Khim, from Tourism Queensland was there half a day earlier to tie up with the GCAM organizers to welcome the Singapore contingent and make arrangements for photo and media opportunities.

Friday, July 1 (D-2)

Packet A..................................Packet B

With 4-time Gold Coast Marathon Champion, Pat Caroll

Upon arrival at Brisbane Airport, we were whisked to the race expo site to collect our race packs and tour the expo. The race packs had already been collected by the time we arrived…all we had to do was to check the timing chips and we were away for some nice shopping. The GCAM merchandise were very nice, and although pricey, were sold out by the second day of the expo. The seeded Kenyans were also at the expo to receive their race bibs in a ceremony where past winners and lengendary marathoners shared their aspirations for the race. The Singapore group found time to take photos with Shelley (the eventual 10km winner in 28min) and Pat Caroll (4-time GCAM winner and also organizer of the Pat Caroll Marathon Pacers and Online Marathon Training Programs). There were other Singaporean runners who joined us for the photo shoot, some having come from Perth, Sydney, Melbourne.

Saturday, July 2 (D-1)

After a restful night at the wonderful Grand Chancellor Hotel, we joined 500 others at the AsiaX carbo-loading lunch @ Race Expo. The Singapore group was once again seated together, and we were mentioned by the organizer for being one of the largest international group at the race and carbo-lunch, along with our neighbours Malaysia. It was a nice pasta spread with cool dessert, lots of refills, in the company of Marathon Legends sharing their experiences and giving tips to us mere mortal marathoners and Marathon PB-wannabes. We had the opportunity to visit Pat Caroll Pacers’ booth and had a great meet-up with Keith Hong, a Singaporean based in Sydney, one of the experienced A Pacers of Pat Caroll in the 4hr pace group. These guys have pace bands, booklets where runners can indicate their names in the respective pace group they wish to follow, chats with the Pacers on their race plan, and even opportunities to win some cool souvenirs…nice, we hope to incorporate some of those Pacer set-ups to the Singapore Marathon scene for our pacer roles in the local marathons.

With Keith Hong, Pat Caroll A Pace Runner (4:00h)

After lunch and more group photos, we were sent to different places of interest, but we were advised not to spend too much time on our feet shopping or getting ourselves too tired for the main race the next day. This being the Winter season in Gold Coast, the last light is at about 5.30pm, allowing us to settle ourselves down earlier to have a good rest.

Sunday, July 3 (D-Day)

I myself did not sleep a wink, most likely due to the excitement of racing for the first time in this country, as well as anxious for the whole group of FatBirds and Singapore runners doing this race. Transfer to the race site was arranged for 5am (Full Marathon) while the Half Marathoners (smaller group of 30) went to the race site in the free shuttle coaches provided. For the first time this year, Tourism Queensland provided a tent for us to meet pre and post race.

When we arrived to the start line at 5.45am, there was already a crowd photo-taking and busy with feeling the weather for decisions on what to put on or what to leave on. We took the opportunity to grab some quick shots, looked around for the pace group pens, corporate and media tents for our supporters, before proceeding to meet-up at the Tourism Queensland tent – our meeting point. Lots of excitement and buzz as we discussed about the weather, some putting on their ponchos, while others had blankets….blankets? hmmm haha. By 6.30am, we were ready to walk to start point for THE RACE….what we have trained and prepared ourselves for…The GOLD RACE…..The GOLD COAST AIRPORT MARATHON 2011.

The temperature went from 12C to about 15C before the start. A number of us decided to peel off one layer, and even did away with the poncho. We were well prepared for the cold winter weather, but were pleasantly surprised by the warmer race conditions. As we lined up near to our respective pace groups, we were looking at a great race for everyone in our group. The elite Singapore runners were in front, all going for national times and Personal Bests. The next tier were the Boston-Qualifying prospects, who had trained well and were looking to crack that important BQ milestone. The third tier were those going for their sub 5hr and sub 4hr timings, many of whom were rather new marathoners who have been meticulous @ training. And then it was the rest of us who were going for our maiden marathons and Personal Bests in our respective categories, and those mega-marathoners who were going for even higher accolades of the marathon maniac kind. All of us at the start line, all with a common objective of finishing the race in great form and enjoying the whole experience, all who trained as a group and will now race as a team….Team Singapore, Team FatBird.

And then the gun went. The start was not too fast, as it took me a while to cross and break into open space, following the 3:30h pace group. The 3:45h, 4:00h and 4:30h Pace groups were very popular with our runners as well. The crisp air enveloped our faces as we started to get warm…and the engines revved to the next gear. The first 10km was taken at about 5min/km pace for myself, something which would not have been easy in Singapore. Met and exchanged a few hellos with fellow Singaporeans Yvonne, Ernest as they overtook me to get nearer to the green balloons (3:30h Pacers). At about 13km mark, I could see Singapore Marathon ace, Mok, charging away not too far behind the Kenyans, Japanese and Australians. He was running strong, and I gave him a hearty shout as he zoomed by. I was happy to reach the first U-turn at about 15km, which meant we would run towards SouthPort (race start area) where we will meet our supporters as well as running in the opposite direction to more FatBirds and friends coming this way.

The runners were all bunched up and running at very good, steady paces. There were not much blocking, and with the good running etiquette, it was a real pleasure running alongside runners of similar pace and target times. Each time I see a familiar face on the other side, we would give each other a high-5….we would shout words of encouragement. It was quite easy to spot the FatBird runners as a number don the bright yellow Ops Kookaburra race tee. I could see Han Chee, Roy, Winston, all running very strongly, not that far from my position…..they were looking strong and happy.

When we ran along the coastal areas, the headwinds were rather strong….I was glad to have my shades to protect from the glare of the sun, and the cuts from the winds which can irritate the eyes. I enjoyed those portions when we ran along sidewalk cafes and private housing estates, where diners and homeowners and families would come out to watch the race and give words of encouragement. Although the shouts weren’t exactly booming, the atmosphere was one of neighbourliness and friendliness….the encouragement and support that close friends and family would give to us when we were racing….we could feel a sense of warmth emitting from the whole route….quite special. Soon, I reached the halfway mark (21km) in 1:40h…still an even 5min/km pace. I was feeling good and decided to just go along with that pace and not to push too hard. The cold winds blowing onto the legs did make them numb occasionally, and I was quite careful not to let any signs of cramps erupt.

By the 25km mark, the weather had turned warmer, with the sun out in full force. The heat did not affect me much, although the glare from the sun did irritate my vision quite a fair bit. My feet were still feeling a little numb from all that wind blowing from the sea. Soon we reached the 30km mark, and the crowd lined along the streets became larger. This being the important part of a marathon race, I was feeling quite happy that I was still able to sustain. As I grabbed the Endura gels given out (they tasted quite good), I could see some of our supporters in the distance. Beverly managed to grab a photo of me as I ran past her location for the final 10km of the race.

It was then that a nasty cramp erupted in my upper calf and hamstring regions. I immediately pulled back the pace to avoid any major problems. With the pace down to 5:20min/km, I was able to continue for a bit more. The GCAM course has its fair shape of rolling terrain, and there were still a number of slopes to contend with in the final 8km. I slowed by pace further to 5:30min/km as I continued to be hit by cramps at the final 7km, 5km and 3km marks. It had to do with my lack of conditioning for this race, having only covered 33km max during training, although I did a 42km at Sundown Marathon @ 4:00h pace. I was riding it easy, and saw Han Chee and Roy on the other side, going very strong for their respective sub-4hr PBs.

As I reached the final 4km mat, there was a big screen that displayed ‘Jia You...Keep It Up, Don't Give Up!’. Whoever put that message into the ASICS RunWithMe system….thanks so much for that perked me up somewhat to bring the pace up, albeit with caution. With 2km to go, I was happy to see Botak Sim on the other side shouting encouraging words and taking photos (although very unglam at that ‘want-to-die’ point). More cramps threatened to erupt as I ran into the final 1km straight. A number of the runners around me seemed to be pushing hard and some were really suffering. Their determination and never-give-up attitude was really impressive….some vomited, others fainted when they crossed the finish line. The final 270m run in to cheers and applause of the capacity crowd was electrifying. In my usual tradition, I aligned my running gear, looked at the clock…it showed 3:39h+….made sure there was no crowd around me, and I crossed the finish line with arms up and a smile.

Beverly and Khim were there to welcome us home and took some nice finishing shots (alas, the camera wasn’t behaving on that day….will have to depend on the ones). I was happy that the Singapore runners did so well…Mok at 2:27h, was just 1min away from his PB; Ashley Liew scored a 2:41h PB; Ramesh 2:55h, WenLong 2:59h. Ben Tan and aerosolcan did very fast 3:13h, a few other Singaporeans did 2:18-2:20h. Yian Soon did a superb 3:28h to qualify for Boston. Ernest did 3:35h PB. Yvonne ran a remarkable 3:38h at only her 3rd marathon, first overseas. And then there were the many sub-4hr FatBirds like Han Chee (3:49h), Li Lian (3:51h), Roy (3:54h) and a few from 3:55h-3;59h. There were SAFRA Runners like Colleen who did a very respectable 3:51h and Daveid from SgRunners who did a similarly good time.

There were many PBs around the 4:00h mark – Winston (4:04h), Susie (4:05h) and a couple more. A good majority achieved below 5:15h, many of them just their first marathon….well done to these maiden marathoners who did such good timings. With a cut-off time of 6:30h, we know that most if not all the Singapore runners and those with our group came back by 6:15h. some of the outstanding performances were reported by Kookaburras who shaved 45min to 70min offf their marathon PB....kudos to the likes of Tun Ngoh and Bernard, who did so well in their maiden Gold Coast Marathons,

The Half Marathon group of about 30 runners did very well too. With 9,000 participants, it had the largest signup for all race categories. Many FatBirds and Kookaburras did PBs and good timings as well. Because the HM started earlier at 6:00am and ended by 9:00am, many of the finishers were able to get back to the hotel for a sumptious breaky.

There were smiling faces and happy FatBirds all around as many achieved their PBs and qualifiers. The weather was kind and all the training and race preparations were put to optimum use to achieve those excellent results. Details of results and the race were published in the Gold Coast Bulletin newspapers, recording of every participant's timing splits.

Personalized Results Magazine can be read HERE!

Official Video of my GCAM 2011 Race

It was really satisfying and encouraging experience for all who went for the race. Thanks to all the great support we received not only from home, but from the organizers of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and Tourism Queensland. Team FatBird shared the resounding success and experiences in the GCAM webcast, and hopefully more runners from Singapore and all around the world can see how this event have benefitted not only elite runners, but also the ordinary runner wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle through distance running, and being able to deliver his/her best at such international marathon events like the GCAM 2011.

Run Kookaburra Run Kookaburra Win Our Race Have We!

Gold Coast Marathon 2011 webcast on Team FatBird & Singapore runners
- select Ondemand replay of hour 8, 12:30min onwards.

The Sunrise @ Gold Coast Airport Marathon
- video courtesy Tan Tick Hock -

Photo Contributions from Roy Foo, Ronnie Goh, Angela Lee, Mohan, Khim, Beverly
Video Contribution from Tick Hock

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