Ian Deeth v. the Gold Coast Marathon!!!

Ian Deeth v. the Gold Coast Marathon!!!

One of our Elite Ambassadors, Ian Deeth, ran his debut marathon on the Gold Coast, Queensland on 2 July. Ian has now competed over every recognised track and road race distance from the 60m indoors to 42.195km on the road. In his final post, Ian gives us a blow-by-blow account of race day and outlines his thoughts on a future marathon (oh, yeah!), as well as his imminent return to OCR.

At 6:15 a.m. on Sunday, 2 July, I was one of 25,000 athletes who lined up for the start of the Gold Coast Marathon. My journey to the start was an enjoyable but challenging process, as I am naturally suited to much shorter distances, but before the race started, I was immensely proud of the time, effort and energy I had put into training to tackle my debut marathon. 

In the build-up to the race, I consistently hit more weekly kilometres and progressed my weekend long run to distances I had never thought I would cover. After a 10-day reduced training load in the run-up to the race, I felt positive, healthy, fresh and ready to attack the challenge ahead. I also had a clear game plan: get to the halfway point of the race efficiently and in control of my pace, then re-assess every 5 kilometres, adjusting my speed gradually, if needed, knowing that as the race got past the 30km stage, I would likely need to increase my effort, although my pace might not necessarily improve.

Based on my training, I felt like I could hit halfway in 1 hour 25 minutes, and as the race began, I felt relaxed and in control, almost effortless through 5km (20:11), 10km (40:53), 20km (1:22.51) and halfway (1:27:35). With every passing 5km, my pace slowed gradually, but that was a conscious choice, as I didn’t want to push the accelerator too early. Even though I was down on my target time, I felt great – but also knew that I would soon be heading into unknown territory. 

The longest run I had done in training was 32km, but these efforts had always been run off a heavy training load and in the heat and humidity of Singapore. I hoped that on fresh legs and in the perfect conditions provided by the Gold Coast climate, with added race-day adrenaline, I would have the mental grit and energy to push through to the finish. As I passed 25km (1:44:39) and 30km (2:06:44), my pace continued to slow further, but I still felt strong in my running and was hoping that with a more concerted effort, I could get my pace back on track for the final quarter of the race. 

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. At around 31km, both of my quads started to lock up; the best way I can describe it is that I felt like someone had injected lead into both of them, and with every stride, I felt like I was carrying a load of extra weight. As a Spartan athlete, I’m used to running with added weight under fatigue. However, not for 11km, and not with the weight in my quads!  

As the kilometers passed, I continued to push to the best of my ability. I had good energy, and my breathing and temperature were fine, but I was struggling to lift my legs into their natural stride. Looking back at race videos, I’m now aware that my hips had dropped, and I was more hunched over than normal. Unknown to me at the time, I was not running efficiently, but nevertheless, I continued to push through 35km (2:30:34) and 40km (2:56:56), eventually crossing the finish line in 3:07:19. Mission complete, but well short of the time I was aiming for.

Unsurprisingly, for me at least, despite feeling fatigued, I managed to pick up the pace for the final kilometre. In endurance events, one of the biggest conversations I have with myself is: at what stage of the race do I completely empty the tank? Regardless of how I feel, I always seem to have a sprint-speed reserve I can tap into at the end of a race, allowing me to completely change gears. This is a blessing and a curse. In my OCR races, it feels like a huge advantage, as the race pace changes frequently depending on terrain and obstacle density, and I can press on and off the accelerator accordingly. 

In road races, I feel it is a curse, as ideally, the effort should be evenly distributed. Was the fatigue more of a mental barrier that I could have pushed through? I don’t think so. When I crossed the finish line, despite falling well short of the time I wanted to achieve, I had given a strong effort and was completely exhausted. And satisfied. Running 42.195km is not an easy feat. Would a more conservative race pace for a distance I’d never tackled before have resulted in a better time? Possibly. But I have zero regrets. I went with the plan I thought would work.

After every race, I usually spend time analysing what went well, and areas in which I can improve, but after the Gold Coast Marathon I just focused on the positives, and enjoyment of the whole experience. But certainly, in the coming weeks, I will talk more with my training group and coaches. 

I aim to do another marathon in the not-too-distant future, and I now feel that a focus on longer runs of up to 35km, and more marathon race work under fatigue, will help me unlock my potential. Additionally, as my quadriceps were the muscle group that caused me to slow down, I will dive a little deeper into researching the reasons for this, with some possible adaptations in my strength and conditioning. 

However, I’m also happy with many aspects of my training, and there are plenty of things I did right, which I will carry forward with me. I feel I progressed my training well, my hydration and fueling were spot on, I got to the start line healthy, and I felt good for the first three-quarters of the race. I’m not sure I could have pushed my training any harder leading into this race, but again, I will take a look through my training diary and see where possible improvements could have been made.

With regard to the event itself, the Gold Coast Marathon is a race I highly recommend. The weather was incredible for running, cool but not too hot. The course was flat, fast and scenic, taking in the city’s breathtaking beaches and coastline. The vibes on the course were friendly and supportive, and with regard to other athletes, there was easily enough space to run your own pace and potentially work with a group running at a similar pace. It’s certainly a race I would consider doing again.

For the rest of the year, my focus will now turn to OCR, with my first race the Spartan Elite Sprint at Sentosa on 19 August, and further Spartan races planned in Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand. I’m coming into OCR race season off my largest mileage, and that’s yet another positive to take from my marathon racing journey. 

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

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