Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015 – Race report and background

(Warning – Long Post) This race report incorporates a short diary of some significant adaptations to my diet and training, a race report and a recovery report. If you only want to read about the race, skip the first section (The Lead Up)! 

The Lead Up

For the Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015 I made a number of significant training changes in nutrition planning and coaching. I chose to do these closely supervised for two reasons (and opportunities). The first was an opportunity for me to get some expert advice for a real race event – to do real life training under supervised conditions. The second was that I wanted to learn what I might do in the future, self-coached. This was a superb learning opportunity – so I negotiated family and budgetary agreement for the appropriate programs.

Coaching: Towards the end of 2014 I looked for a coach who could train me to for two races in 2015 – Two Bays Trail run (28km) and a Marathon (we chose the Gold Coast Airport Marathon).  I looked for a coach because I had a gut feeling that a. I could do better than I had been been able to do under self-coaching; b. that my injuries were not necessarily a ‘normal’ part of training, and c. that I was at a stage in my running where, after almost 3 years, I needed a fresh focus.  I talked to two coaches – both of whom are very well accredited. In the end I chose Ross Kinsella from Freedom Sports Medicine whom I knew from Knox Road Runners. Ross is a physiotherapist, accredited level 2 Running Coach, accomplished Ironman (including Kona) and Marathoner (2:43). The choice to go with Ross was made on the basis that his training programs were different from what I was doing, and also that he offered a clinical physiological approach alongside that of a coach and athlete.

Ross worked on a 4 week cycle, adjusting the plan to suit my life- and work-circumstances, and my ongoing training accomplishments. This resulted in a dynamic, flexible training program. Recovery was obviously a priority in the program, and Marathon training was done on 4 days a week, rather than 5; Recovery/easy, longer tempo or threshold, shorter track / speed sessions, and a long run (up to 36km) with the final kms at Marathon pace. The terrain matched the goal race, and I found myself locking in my Marathon pace easily by feel by the end of the 3 months. Speed sessions pushed me harder than I would have on my own, and recovery sessions were slower than I had been doing. In the course of 3 months I broke my 1km PB 5 times (to 3:56), my 5km PB was smashed by 1:30 (to 20:58), and my niggling foot injury settled remarkably quietly. Part of Marathon training is mental – so it was good to have practice pushing through some really tough mental barriers and “quit moments”.

Nutrition: During my lead up to Melbourne Marathon 2014 I wondered why I could run 80km a week for upwards of 4 weeks and not lose my podgy tummy. I was eating what I understood to be healthy, low fat food, based around a high carbohydrate load.  Two conversations (one on Facebook and one with my coach), pushed me to wonder about nutrition and my food habits. I started reading books (Sweet Poison, It Starts with Food) and researching on the internet (Whole 30, The Real Meal Revolution). A couple of weeks after this started, we popped up to Belgrave to watch That Sugar Film”.

All this led me towards a lower carbohydrate, higher fat food lifestyle – a complete change of meals, snacks and training nutrition!  Nutrient-rich whole foods replaced processed foods, (lots) more veges filled our plate; carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts, lunches and snacks were exchanged for more good fats, protein and lots of vegetables; Gluten disappeared from my diet altogether as did added sugar – and the compost bin gets a really good feed every day!  Within weeks I started to lose weight quickly and had more energy in my running and in my working day!

One Saturday we did a  sweep of the pantry and it was astounding how much added sugar was in our food – from meal sauces to crushed garlic to cereals. I was also surprised at how much my diet was centred around gluten-based carbs – especially breakfast and lunch. Over 8 weeks I lost 10kg, and have stabilised at 72kg (and lost most of the podge!)

However I was unsure whether I was actually balancing my nutrition – and was concerned also for the family who were being coaxed into new ways of fooding and cooking!

So we engaged Steph Lowe, The Natural Nutritionist, who confirmed that we had done the right thing and were on the right track. However we needed encouragement to focus on specific areas for each family member. Steph worked with 3 of us via Skype to understand our specific needs and goals. She worked (and is still working) specifically with me on my nutrition as an endurance athlete, giving me very specific goals for macro nutrients (fats, carbs and protein) in my daily meal cycle, supplements to fill specific nutritional gaps, and assistance to meet specific nutritional requirements for longer fasted training sessions, long runs and races.  (For more info on being a FatAdapted athlete, this podcast is great – http://thewellnesscouch.com/rfr/rfr-30-how-to-become-a-fat-adapted-athlete-with-steph-lowe)

Alongside the running and nutrition coaching, I did some intentional work on my core and hip stability, general flexibility, and incorporated a weekly swimming session on one of my ‘off’ days.

And so, with weeks of training, coaching and good nutrition the Hanscamp4 jumped on a plane to the Gold coast for a marathon and a weeks holiday.

A room with a view!

Gold Coast

Pre-Race: The Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) is an IAAF Gold level accredited event – and the pre-race events offer the first taste of how hard they have worked to achieve this! The Pre-race expo (the biggest I’ve seen) filled one of the halls in the Gold Coast convention centre. All athletes were required to pick up bibs before the event (nothing posted). Photo ID was required, and the chips on all race bibs were checked for operation and ‘registered’ into the system electronically on pickup. The Expo was large and included clothing, technology, nutrition, memorabilia and paraphernalia, as well as other race events in Queensland, interstate and internationally (including 3 organisations who do ‘guaranteed entry’ to international events). We even met a few fellow Kiwis promoting events in Aotearoa (!). Jacinta and I took a couple of hours to check out the stalls and chat to people – and I picked up a GCAM trophy shirt, as well as a significantly discounted UD Hydration vest! 

 

Deeks
Anderson Moquiuti tells it like it is!

On Saturday I attended the Legends Lunch, eating and chatting with pumped up athletes with a range of experience, and listening to Steve Monaghetti, Rob de Castella (Deeks), Pat Carroll, Ryan and Sara Hall and others. One of the standout speakers was Anderson Moquiuti.  I had met Anderson on Facebook, but had a chance to shake hands, man-hug and chat with this inspirational man after his presentation. 11 years ago Ando had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and was told he would probably not walk again. Ten years later he is running ultra marathons, and is finishing Marathons in under 3 hours.  The Legends Lunch was a great event – though I was saddened that we didn’t have any acknowledgement of Ron Clarke, given his long association with the GC and running.

Nicky and I smiling for the start!
A view from the 3:30 pace group

Race day: On Sunday morning I was up at 5am (normal for my weekend run), downed a fat-black, and set up my hydration and nutrition. Sunblock was applied and (hideous) photos were taken before I stepped out of the apartment at 5:35 to head to the tram stop. No sweater was necessary – it was a comfortable temp, even in my race singlet. The tram quickly filled, so I hopped off early to walk and warm up. 1km walk, 1km jog, 1.5km @ race pace, 1km jog. Then toilet stop and a wander through the race precinct to get my bearings. I checked out the finish line (good for visualisation) and headed to the start area. Nicky Hamilton Morris (Knox Road Runners) spotted me and we wandered into our corale together – we were pumped. The usual photos and light chatter including race plan, soaking in the starting atmosphere, listening to instructions / banter from the 3:30 pacer preceded the motivational speech from Deeks, a tribute to Ron Clarke, the national anthem (not from Deeks!) – and we were off!

The race starts heading south from Southport over the Nerang River, before a hard left takes us on to Main Beach Parade which meanders its way to the turn at Burleigh Heads. There was great crowd support down to just after 5km (Cavill Ave). The drink stations were plentiful, and offered paper cups (easy to fold). Water at every stop, electrolytes at every second – with electrolytes first and water at the last tables! (Melbourne Marathon take note about the consistency!).

5km and looking happy!

I had my own electrolytes, but for the first half drank a few sips of water at every station. In the second half I grabbed two cups and drank from one and poured the rest into my hat, down my back or over my arms. For my nutrition, I had Amazeballs – 1/2 on the half hour and a full one on the hour, to 30km. For electrolytes I had Blueberry Freedom Fuel, with a portion to be consumed every hour (my fuel belt bottles fit 2 portions in each). [Note: I managed the Amazeballs off my Garmin alarm, but the Freedom Fuel was a bit less regimented, and I missed out on some early in the race.]

The road is used for both directions of the race, and got a bit tight in places around the 7-12km section. I had driven this part of the course, so I knew about the camber on the road (significant in places) and the dog-legs and speed-bumps. The race goes pretty well if runners stick to the middle of the road, but this is not always possible. The combination of heat and road-camber generated a blister on one toe on my left foot.

Because the race turns back at 15.5km (Burleigh Heads), we were able to get a good look at the front runners for both women and men. Most of them were focussed on the race, but still many of the runners around me cheered them on. It was great that some of the second wave responded really well to this support.  The turn at Burleigh Heads passed without incident, and now we were able to see the runners behind us – and cheer them on.

One of the features of this race is that they measure 5km splits – and show a timing clock at each 5km timing mat. This is really good for knowing one is on pace. I managed some good 4:55-ish splits for the first half of the race, giving me a PB half marathon (1:44:49 – about 2 minutes faster than I had planned) (Yes – The HM point also had a timing mat and clock!). The blister on the middle toe on my left foot had reduced to a dull annoyance, but I wasn’t sure if this blister would be an issue into the second half of the race.

It was shortly after this that we started to feel the heat, and by 27km I was slowing to 5:00 km splits. At Cavill ave I was able to hand off two of my 4 bottles to the girls, which made running easier. I shook off the pain-beastie and strode on towards 30km (also the start/finish line). I hit the timer at a good pace, but knew I couldn’t maintain it for the next 10. After the 30km mark came a hill. I walked a little up it, but quickly decided I came for more than a walk, so put on some race pace up the rest of the hill – and felt surprisingly strong. Going past the finish zone was not too much of an issue for me, as we couldn’t see it.  But it was a hard slog from there on in.

I knew two things from my training – first that if I take the pace down a bit I can restore some energy; second that when my body is arguing with my mind, I can push myself harder than my body wants. So I pushed myself to run solidly between drink stops, and then walked with the cups for a good swallow of water and a dousing! (in the end my shorts got soaked and saggy – not a pretty feeling!)

38km – striding out

We had not driven the top 10km before the race, so I had no idea what to expect (mistake). The road seemed to go on forever, and the turn at Biggera Waters (37km) could not come soon enough. It was delightful to see some “Marathon Motivators” at 36km – volunteers in maroon-colour vests who ran with struggling runners to keep them going to the top turn and back. It was a real mental battle to keep going as the combination of tiredness and heat gave all of us a challenge.  But my hip was not giving me problems as it had at the Melbourne Marathon the previous year, so I kept pushing – trying to maintain at least a 5:20 pace. After the turn we all knew we had only 5km to go – just a park run!  I forced myself to a good pace for the return 5km. With only two more points where I slowed, I finished down onto the main stretch with a solid finish pace.  I even managed 4:58kms between 38 and 40km.  In the final section from 41km the left hand side of the road was packed with supporters and cheering locals, and this lifted all of us – and I finished the last 500m in a sub 4:30 pace: With an official time of 3:35:22 – 20 minutes off my previous best!

The Finishing Chute – and a smile

Coming through the finishing chute was great – it is really set up as a stadium, with a wide blue ‘carpet’ and stadium seating on each side for spectators / supporters.  Once over the finishing line, the recovery area is wide and long, with plenty of space for runners to stop and stretch, eat/drink and wait for friends to cross the line.  As I crossed, I noticed that both Ando and Deeks were there greeting their friends and exhausted runners.

Runners are awarded with a finishing T-shirt and medal as they leave the runners finishing area – so we don’t have to contend with medals getting sweaty, and juggling shirts while trying to eat and drink. After receiving the medal and shirt, finishers emerge into the arms of family and supporters gathered in a wide entertainment precinct. It was great to have the girls waiting for me with more food and a clean shirt! The advantage of the location is that it’s right beside the bay – and has beach showers for cooling off! The beach / grass area and wading pools make for a great family atmosphere!

Cooling off!

Recovery

Walking wasn’t easy for anyone after the race  – with many of us limping or waddling towards trams, busses and cars.

It was great to find a cafe offering organic and whole food meals on the way out of the precinct. Trams were full, and there was an attempt to manage the queues, which some impatient louts tried to skip – but it was good to have the trams available.

After the race, ensuring sufficient electrolytes, and macros, I went into eating mode. If it looked like food, I ate it – and sometimes multiple portions. For a few days I happily ignored some of the no-no’s like ice-cream, chippies – even a bit of gluten and sugar found a temporary place on my plate!

Physically, I felt ok on Monday – it was a bit hard getting up and down from sitting; but no sore tendons in my feet (except the blister), and little general soreness in my muscles. By Wednesday I was feeing really great, but I held back and followed Rosco’s advice – not running until Saturday, but with some good long walks along the beach and beachfront.

Notes and Learnings

a. Nutrition – Becoming more fat adapted using Low Carb, High Fat and Real Foods has a huge benefit; the use of the Freedom Fuel and Amazeballs on race day is great (though a bit more focus is needed around taking the freedom fuel). Having no gut or toiletting issues on race day is fantastic!

b. Training – having an outside perspective on my training plan has given me more focus and discipline around recovery, speed and specific pace work and has given me further tools to assess and adapt my training.

c. Using race photos is a great way to assess performance. While some are unflattering (you will never see these!), many of the race photos show me running strong and confident, and even smiling!

d. The GCAM is a great race, and I will be back!!

A happy finisher!
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