The untimely descent into the level of the unfit (umm, was there ever a timely descent?!) last month literally put paid to my plans of running a fast race. The PJ Half Marathon was supposed to have been sort of a time trial for the November Penang Bridge Marathon but with under 20K of weekly mileage to show, to harbour any hopes of a fantastic performance would be foolhardy and setting oneself up for disappointment.
If there was one, OK two, things that I got right was enough sleep and decent fueling. Dinner on Saturday was pasta, a serving that was just nice. Race morning, I kept pre-race food light with pre-soaked chia seed gel and another sachet of gel 15 minutes before the start. There were plenty of parking spots even at 5:20am, and I took my time to change into my running shoes. I decided on the Pure Connect just to see how they fare in a race of this distance. My gear was kept very lightweight and simple, no compression apparel would help the untrained 🙂 , so why make things so complicated right? 3 gels in my SPIBelt, I joined the gathering crowd outside the stadium, and stayed off my feet. Chatted up so many friends while waiting for the erection of the starting banner. The SAAA and MPPJ officials never fail to amuse me on how last minute they do things.
Once in the waiting pen, I decided that I’ll maintain a 6-minute pace throughout, nothing too adventurous. The weather was warm as it didn’t rain the day before but I was optimistic that it would be cloudy at the very least. Quite suddenly and without any fanfare we were let off. The narrow street forced me to go easy and I stayed very relaxed. By the time I joined the Federal Highway, my Garmin beeped and I saw that my split was 6:01. According to plan! I was surprised that I had already got into a rhythm this early and my cadence was quite consistent. That turned out to be the only time I ran slower than a 6-minute pace. Frank pulled up and ran close by by zoomed off going up the Matsushita bridge. Soon after I lost Calvin there. I skipped the first water station but took a small cup at the second one.
I was trading leads with Alex the Extra Miler all the way until the turnoff back to Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang (a 5:09 8K which shocked me and I slowed down to a 5:19 9K to avoid burning out) where we ran together for about 3K. The stench from a decomposing roadkill merely made me pick up the pace. Frank had dropped back due to blister issues and approaching another climb, Alex went ahead. I then ran the rest of the race alone. Running alone gave me the opportunity to exercise my mental resolve and there was plenty of challenges in that regard – from the traffic (a car would swerve very close to me later, I suspected on purpose), the brutal heat and direct sun into the eyes the last 7K. I admonished myself that racing is about being one with discomfort. I told myself that if I wasn’t prepared to stick around and fight it out, I might as well just go on a training run. It was then that I realized that despite the conditions and lack of mileage, I wasn’t really “on the brink”. Sure I was running hard but my breathing and heart rate was still manageable and under control. And once I accepted the realities of racing, I no longer think about the firm/hard ride of the Pure Connects, the heat, the sun and just got down to racing. I was confident that my “a gel every 8K” and “drink according to thirst” (and despite the heat, I wasn’t that thirsty) plans would take me to the finish in relatively good shape.
Before making the u-turn at Terminal 2, I’d afforded a glance or two to the opposite side of the road to see who was just ahead. Within the 1st K after making the u-turn, I was surprised to run into YS so early. A quick “Hi” and I continued my way. I then spotted Yim in his trademark sarong up ahead but he was surging every now and then. Yim is a super strong runner and I thought as long as he was within touching distance, I’d do just fine. But my legs had a different idea. They started moving quicker – a ridiculous 5:11 16K (which I hit again at the 18K mark) – and I drew up to him but he urged me to go ahead as he was still recovering from his Mount Kinabalu Climbathon exploits. So much for leeching off his popularity with the cops, officials and marshalls LOL! Then I spotted Nick and I urged him to pace with me to the finish. Alas it was only for a short distance – next time Nick! Surprisingly I went up the flyover pretty strongly (thank you Bird Park and Ammah Hill!) and the anticipated crash and burn didn’t happen. Another click and I spotted the bald pate of Alex the Extra Miler. He was about 200m ahead and not slowing down! A few turns leading back to the stadium meant that I soon lost sight of him. Didn’t matter as I was already very happy to be finishing. I quite like finishing in a stadium and the 300m on the track was enjoyable. I only peeped at my watch after crossing the line and picking up my medal, which was another surprise since there were only 100 on offer for the veteran category. My timing of 1:51.21 wasn’t a PR but I was happy as a lark given my long road to recovery from my cough.
Spent some time cheering the runners back and catching up with Shine, Jeff, Frank, Nick (who was waiting for his wife who scored a PR), Neoh and Chan. The lucky draw session had yet to start and I just couldn’t wait any longer to see if I was lucky enough to win the TV, camera or iPad!
I don’t think there was a single that I got correct this morning. I believe it was the right fueling and hydration (ie drinking to thirst) which meant there was enough carbs in the system. Drinking according to thirst kept me light as did not wearing any compression gear. My starting pace was also comfortable which meant I had enough reserves for negative splitting (those who started too fast paid for that approach – always know your limitations!) and the epiphany made me accept the discomfort and not chickening out.
Now if only I can put everything together as well as this for my marathon :p !