Gold Coast Half Marathon 2015 Race Recap
I wasn’t nervous or anxious in the lead-up to this race at all and I put it down to being downright relieved that I was just running the half marathon and not the marathon this time around. Wait?! When did a half marathon become ‘just a half marathon’? It’s still 21.1kms long and has required 4 months of hard work and training. HB on the otherhand, was a bundle of nerves and I did my best to offer reassurance and occasionally stroke his ego along with lots of eyebrow raising.
We caught the red eye on Thursday night and spent most of Friday feeling a bit rubbish. When we finally checked into our apartment the 180 degree ocean views were refreshing to the soul and much welcomed by our tired red eyes. I then started to get a bit concerned that the sound of waves crashing onto the beach was going to keep me awake all night. How inconvenient.
We did so much exploring and fell in love with the city. Yup, we had done the theme parks before but I hadn’t spent a lot of time mooching around on the GC. There were runners everywhere going for jogs and sprints every single day. These were serious runners, they looked like greyhounds with their hollowed out cheeks and rippling calf muscles.
I lied, there was one particular thing I was worried about for my half marathon and that was that I had placed myself in Wave B which meant I hoped to finish the event in 2 hours.
Not a chance in hell!
I had run 2 x 2km intervals at HM pace (5.40 min/km) a couple of days before we left and my immediate thought after gasping for air was there was no way I can keep that pace up for an entire 21.1kms. I sent my running coach an email to let her know my thoughts and reasonings behind my self-doubt.
I ran my first (unofficial) HM in Darwin last February with a time of 2:27:49 and last year I ran the Darwin Half Marathon in 2:13:33. My training had me run a couple of half marathon runs before the event and I managed to get a PB of 2:08:16 and this was with stopping for water breaks (Garmin paused).
It was tough, so freaking tough that I did not think I could better that time.
I did set some goals for the GC though:
- Goal A: Run Happy for the entire 21.1kms.
- Goal B: Finish in 2:03 ( I wanted to get as close as I could to the 2 hour mark but I thought knocking 5 mins off my PB was a big ask).
- Goal C: Finish in 2:05.
- Goal D: Finish in 2:08 (Match my Darwin time).
We laid in bed the night before unable to sleep a wink so I asked HB to get out his phone which has a race pace calculator app (this is what serious runners have) and work out a few numbers for me. I knew I had to run 5.39 min/kms to finish in 1:59:00 to achieve the much sought after sub 2 hour half marathon.
We calculated that I need to run a sub 55 min 10km and then at 15kms I needed to be 1:28 and 18kms 1:42 to achieve it.
HB told me to write those cut off times on my arm and I told him bluntly that it just wasn’t possible, but maybe next year I could get there. He of course had a professional pace band to wrap around his wrist for his marathon. No sharpies required. He had a goal of 3:16 and I told him he would get a sub 3:10 marathon so the pace band was useless.
I was right.
I set the alarm for 4am on race day but I was up at 3.30am and in the shower. Soon I was slurping down hot coffee and had my usual handful of cashews for breakfast and we were off walking the 3kms to the start line. I was more than happy when I saw that the temperature was double digits at 5am (12C) as I’m not sure I would have coped with another 8C morning. I had bought a men’s cheap throwaway jumper from Kmart for a whopping $8 the day before and it kept me toasty warm.
There was not a lot of spare time once we were at the start line. A quick trip to the loo, a kiss goodbye and soon I was being pushed along with the other 10,000 half marathoners to my wave. I lined up in Wave C hoping that I could just hang out there, but a super kind volunteer saw my bib and waved me in under the rope into Wave B.
I felt like an absolute fraud in Wave B and I kept turning around to look down at the hill at Wave C and that’s when anxiety kicked in. I was surrounded by men from a local running club who had their alpha male personalities on and were sprouting their PBs to each other. I looked down at the road wishing for a giant sink hole to appear.
My next thought was ‘oh shit where the hell is the 2 hour pacer’? My only strategy was to line up behind the 2-hour pacer and stick with them for as long as I could. I could see the 1:50 pacer balloon about 10 metres in front of me and when I finally spotted the 2 hour balloon it was a good 10 metres behind me and there was no way I could walk back through the crowd. I stayed put.
The gun went off and we didn’t move for a good few minutes and then it was a walk, then a slight shuffle and then a slow jog over the start line.
And a slow jog it was. You could not move left, right or forwards it was just so congested. The alphas were jostling their way through the crowds but they weren’t getting far and I feared I was going to get a cracked rib or two. The first kilometre slipped by and I looked at my Garmin 6:01 min/km. Shit! There goes my first time goal but I was running happy! It was an awesome atmosphere. The sun was yet to rise, it was cool and I relished the rare opportunity to run in the cold.
My fears of being in the wrong wave were soon forgotten. People in Wave B started walking straight away and the Japanese who are usually speed demons were losing their puff by 3kms and would promptly stop right in front of you or they would see a water aid stop and make a beeline to the left without a regard for anyone else around them. I got a bit smart and made my way to the right of the crowd away from the water aid stations.
I picked up my pace and was running sub 6 min/kms so I switched on my music, relaxed and settled into the run.
At the 8km point, the 2 hour pacer overtook me and I died a little inside. I was running just below 5.40min/kms, but I didn’t want to lose that pacer. The pacer was just dressed up as a 1970s diva complete with psychedelic flares and a wig which I thought was very cool at first. I spent the next 2 kilometres almost sprinting to keep up with her as were many others. We weaved in and out of the crowds, up the curbs, on the sidewalks and back down again. I realised my pace was down to 5.15min/kms and I had no idea why she was running so fast. A 2 hour half marathon requires a 5.40min/km pace. In the end, I had to slow down and as I watched her whizz by with her balloon I thought she looked more like the evil clown from IT rather than the groovy 1970’s hippy chic.
I ran over the 10km split point and my Garmin had me at 54:50.
I could see runners on the opposite side of the street and saw another 2 hour pacer runner which was a good a few minutes behind me. Relief set in, I had no idea there were two pacers.
I slowed right down and stopped at my only water stop at 12kms. I don’t need to eat or fuel on half marathon runs. I found that by eating a low carb high fat diet majority of the time that you just don’t need to. I carry a few jelly beans to suck on as a distraction though. And after training in Darwin’s heat and humidity I really wasn’t that thirsty running in this delightful cool climate.
We began to make our way back to the city and the sun was up now and it was glorious running weather. I was keen to get to the 15km point to see if I was on track to get as close to the 2 hour finish time as I could.
15kms, I looked down at my Garmin and saw 1:21:55. I needed 1:25 so I was over the moon.
I was on a bit of a runner’s high now but remained cautious as there was still 6kms to go and so much can happen during that time. I kept my pace as steady as possible and tried not to slow down. It was hard to keep your place in this crowd! You would pass 20 runners and another 30 would pass you. I’m used to picking a couple of people out in a smaller race and sticking with them the entire way. This event was much bigger than the Sydney Marathon.
I was relieved to get to 18kms and when I saw my time was 1:38:26 well under my 1:42 goal I knew I had this in the bag if I finished strong.
You could not wipe the smile off my face.
At 19kms the crowd ramped up, there were Jamaican drummers kicking up a storm and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was shouting and cheering from the sidelines and as much as my tired legs wanted to slow down, I just couldn’t. I also calculated that I just had to run for 10 more minutes and it would all be over.
You can do anything for 10 minutes.
I passed the 20km split point and I started to tear up a little.
There was no time for tears though because I was smack bang running in the finisher’s chute with 250 metres to go.
I did my best sprint to the finishing line with about 20 others and smiled with absolute glee when I looked up and saw the finishing clock. There was a ‘1’ in front of my time. I had achieved a goal which I never thought was possible 1:55:28.
My first sub two hour half marathon was in the bag.
Up until this point, I have been a back of the pack runner which was fine by me because there is always so much good company back there. This time had me finishing in the top 25% of female runners and I knocked 13 minutes off my Darwin PB of 2:08.
You know exactly what I’m going to say next …
If I can do this, anyone can!
I heard the first two hour pacer who finished a few minutes ahead of me inform someone that she had to go by the official gun time which made sense to why she was running so much faster. I can’t even imagine how stressful it would be to be a pacer in an event this size.
I had just enough time to chat to a few people, grab a coffee and watch HB bring it home strong in his marathon. Cue, more tears.
Next Race: Katherine Half Marathon