If you can run strong and well in Putrajaya, you can race strong anywhere. The soulless spot in the country has everything – lack of shade, super humid environment, hard pavements, long undulating roads, steep ramps that take away your pace. It’s as much mental and physical doing a race here. Yet I found myself toeing the start line on a hazy night yesterday. The predicted thunderstorm didn’t happen and the thick haze that enveloped the central region had only lifted a little. But the running group had committed to support a friend and a word’s a word. As the marathoners were flagged off, I told Nick that the decision to run the half was probably one of the wisest decisions we’ve made the whole year!
The week leading to the race were horrendous. Everything was just wrong – 3pm and 4pm lunches, 5-hour sleep, uncertainty at work. Looking back at my Garmin log, the last I covered 20K was way back in July 28th! It was therefore a futile attempt to try hitting a PR race, not when the elevation of the revamped route looked like this.
Treating the event as a way to get back into the groove meant taking things easy. I didn’t even have an early dinner, opting for just a Clif Bar an hour before the start. I also did away with compression gear and carried only 1 gel. The race was flagged off exactly on time to fireworks. Nick and I had covered most of the route before and we knew what was in store, thus the plan was to conserve. Somehow with a few recent short races under the belt, the 5:09 opening click felt so easy. I pulled back immediately and from there the pace lingered between 5:15 to 5:20-ish. Due to the elevation changes, it was hard maintaining even pace. It was more running at even effort than pace.
Traffic coordination was good and we had the wide roads to ourselves for much of the race. Nevertheless the long climbs will eventually get to the minds and muscle fibres those running in Putrajaya. By 10K (53:03), I was already dousing water on my head as if trying to wash off the humidity and stale air. I cracked open the only gel at the 11K water station located just after the cemetery and continued doggedly along the increasingly mind numbing route. 1:20 at 15K was OK but the next 7K would be a slog.
The short and steep climb up towards the PICC was to be my first of 2 walk breaks. Followed by a pee break behind the bushes 😀 . The downhill from the top of PICC allowed me to get back to decent pace which I held for the next 3Ks. More dousing and more drinking at the 18K (worst split) ensured that I would be running in squeaky shoes for the remaining part of the race. Recent days at work had pummelled me, the course was punishing but I had to push for my friend. The difficulty was nothing compared to what he was going through. I had to finish strong but I needed a goal. A peep at the watch showed that I could still nick under 2 hours and started pressing. With a K to go, I needed to run a sub-5 minute final K to get that but all hope wasn’t lost as I could still rely on my 10K race pace. I rounded the final corner and started pushing even harder. The legs were stiff, like I’d just ran 40K. But no one was passing me. I started reeling in those around me and even those ahead of me.
Unfortunately the race didn’t end at 22K. It was 22.3K. My final 4:51/K wasn’t enough and I had to settle for a 2:01 instead. It was a little disappointing at that time. Since that moment, I’ve had a little time to think about my performance. I weighed the splits against my training log and I think now that I might’ve been a little too harsh on myself. Each performance have to be reviewed in the context of training and other factors. Other than the 2 walk breaks which obviously messed up the overall timing, the splits weren’t that bad. In terms of effort alone, last night’s results rank as one of the better ones I’ve put in. The race was 1.3K longer on a course that only those with consistent training will do well. Putting everything into perspective, I should be satisfied with the outcome. If we’d given it all, there’s nothing to be sad about. Life is and should be about giving it a go and never giving up. It’s appropriate that finishing last night’s race gave me a good reminder of the perspective we need to maintain.
So fight on, bro. Fight on!