Gold Coast Virtual Marathon: The Big Four

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2020 would be remembered for many things. A year of upheaval and disruption, of strive and chaos. With races and events dropping like flies due to lockdowns, organisers have turned to virtual runs to keep the spirit of their events alive. The GCM organisers too decided to keep the spirit of running going with a series of virtual runs.

Along with a few from the Team MY crew, I registered for the Big Four bundle, comprised of the 5K Fun Run, the 10K, Half and Full Marathon. I figured since it’s free to register, I might as well go all the way. The excitement of registering lasted just 2 full seconds followed by a sense of dread! The last marathon I ran untrained was the 2018 Macao Marathon, which I finished in no small measure of pain in 3:48 [race report] and I obviously hadn’t learned from that episode.

The shorter distances went pretty well. While I ran the 5, 10 and 21K slower than my best times, as expected, I didn’t fare too badly. Weekly mileage were so low (see below) and there was really no program at all. Majority of my “training” runs were at aerobic effort and the longest long run was a single 24K.

May
W2: 42K run
W3: 47K run
W4: 50K run
W5: 60K run

Jun
W1: 45K run
W2: 26K run, 44K bike
W3: 64K run, 44K bike

Jul
W1: 36K run, 10K bike
W2: 54K run, 10K bike
W3: 36K run, 42K bike

Nevertheless I wasn’t going to chicken out. The crew agreed that as long as we kept the pace easy we should be able to complete the full distance within 5 hours. Given the tropical weather here, we’ve to kick things off at 3:30am and to ensure we had a week’s buffer before July 31st in case things go south, the 3rd Saturday was chosen to be the go-date.

GCM20_FM Start

One of the reasons why we don’t fancy racing the marathon locally is due to the ridiculously early start. The body is simply just not ready. I managed all but 5 hours’ sleep and luckily all the fussing on the packing meant that I didn’t leave anything behind – I made sure I had plenty of fluids, gels, post-run recovery drink, beer (it’s meant to be fun remember?) – all stashed in the fridge and those stuff that didn’t need chilling already in 2 cooler boxes.

Nick, who had started at an even earlier time – 1:30am – joined in for a group photo. Right from the start, Philip had gone ahead with Cheong in tow. Uncle Siah, Hee Boo and I would form the “take-it-easy” posse. Things were pretty relaxed and unhurried.

5:59 > 5:41 > 5:40 > 5:32 > 5:37 > 5:31 > 5:23 > 5:32 > 5:28 > 5:24 (10K – 55:53)

5:36 > 5:28 > 5:16 > 5:33 > 5:25 > 5:14 > 5:36 > 5:25 > 5:18 > 5:25 > 5:15 (Halfway – 1:55)

Feeling and hydration were executed well since our cars were parked smack in the middle of the 6K loop. I was able to drink every 3K and take in a gel roughly every 5-6K. Endura and High-5 gels were more diluted and I was able to slurp them down a bit earlier while the thick GUs were only consumed when I hit the coolers.

Philip had by this time, pulled far ahead and put it a lot more grounds between him and Cheong, while the 3 of us were still chugging along. I was strangely in the zone and therefore didn’t need the iPod still stashed away in the cooler. I had packed it along for those moments when I needed a pick-me-up.

5:20 > 5:24 > 5:22 > 5:17 > 5:22 > 5:18 > 5:20 > 5:31 > 5:22 (30K – 2:43)

By this time, CY had joined in (he was down for the Half Marathon) and the added company was most welcome. I believed having fresh legs in the group kept us from slacking off. And chatting was a great way to take the mind off any discomfort that might be creeping in. However we made a conscious effort not to get carried away with the pace and whenever that veered towards the low 5s, we pulled back. There were still a few loops to go and fatigue would certainly set in. Strangely it didn’t, at least for me. When we got to the 30K mark, we knew that a sub-4 was in the bag and all we needed to do was to avoid from blowing up.

5:25 > 5:20 > 5:07 > 5:14 > 5:20 > 5:11 > 5:18 > 5:10 > 5:10 > 5:07 > 5:05 > 4:38

With under 2 laps (around 10K left to run) to go, Uncle Siah had slowed down. Yet I was still good and very much in control. Personally I hadn’t really focused much on pace. Rather, it was more about minding the perceived effort. There had been several occasions when I was tempted to make a go for it – I was feeling that good – but thankfully had the presence of mind to hold back.

At the 32K mark, I decided to see how the body and legs were going to respond and gently upped the tempo. There were certainly some discomfort by then but it was still alright and with 5K to go, I saw that I could still sneak in under 3:50. Not the time to let up! The only time I was really pushing it was the final km but it was a great feeling.

42.2km in 3:47.08 (5:23 average pace) was totally unexpected. No training, minimal mileage. What gives??! Back at the car park, everyone was on a high and I think we marathoners were just glad to have gotten it done!

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GCM20 Big Four Finisher Cert

Kudos to the Gold Coast Marathon organisers for putting together this series of virtual runs. They didn’t have much time to do this, from the day the difficult decision was made to cancel GCM20 to crafting out the format and pulling in the participation. Keeping it free for all to participate, and retaining the charity elements prove that Virtual Runs need not be cash grabs like how some are doing it here. The running community were kept engaged throughout July as well. That said a lot about the team!

There would be no more marathons this year for me, virtual or otherwise. Even Q1 2021 is too soon, in my opinion, for the world to get back to the pre-Covid days. It’s challenging times but too much have been written about the situation we’re in. Now, we’ve to play our part in tackling this pandemic and getting back on our feet!

Media Release – Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon to go virtual for 2020 on Global Running Day

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As if 2020 didn’t sound futuristic enough, today on Global Running Day and for the first time in event history participants are able to register to run the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon virtually.

The world-class event, originally scheduled for 4-5 July, was recently cancelled due to COVID-19 and the subsequent Queensland Public Health Order preventing mass participation events.

Events Management Queensland CEO Cam Hart said that although cancelling the event was an unavoidable and unfortunate decision due to the pandemic, the virtual run gives participants the opportunity to still connect with the event and achieve a personal goal ‘alongside’ thousands of other members of the event’s advocates.

“We are excited, even during these times, to still give people the opportunity to run the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Virtual Marathon from wherever they are in the world,” Mr Hart said.

“This year has been a challenging one for most people and with so much preparation going into the event, we want to give participants the chance to put their training towards completing our virtual event and still receive a sense of the good times on offer every July.

“Our running community is a special one and we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, support and well-wishes from our supporters, so naturally we wanted to give back to the participants who are the heart and soul of the event each year.”

“The virtual run will attract international interest in the Gold Coast as a world class events and holiday destination and will play a valuable role in promoting the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon on 3-4 July 2021.”

The virtual event will be free for runners, wheelies and walkers of all ages and abilities to join and there are six distances on offer  including the  Village Roadshow Theme Parks  Gold Coast  Virtual  Marathon, ASICS  Virtual Half Marathon, Southern Cross University  Virtual  10km Run, Gold Coast Airport  Virtual  5km  Fun Run and the 4km and 2km Junior Dash.

Participants will be required to complete their run between Wednesday 1 and Friday 31 July 2020 using the event’s official app, ASICS Runkeeper, or a similar GPS application and upload their result online. There is also the opportunity to participate in multiple events over the month of July or use shorter race distances as training runs for the full marathon.

Those taking part can even don a  personalised  virtual race bib, available for download during registration, while daydreaming about the Gold Coast’s famous flat, fast and scenic course located alongside the city’s renowned surf beaches and stunning broadwater.

2004 World Cross Country Champion and Gold Coast-based Lace Up Running coach Benita Willis said offering the events virtually is a great initiative to keep up training momentum and achieve previously set goals.

“During this time, it is really hard to stay motivated with just training alone so for myself, the athletes I coach and the running community, it’s fantastic to have a race goal to aim for,” Ms Willis said.

“The format of the virtual run also provides the opportunity for multiple attempts at your favourite distance or to try a different distance each week during the month of July.”

Friends,  family and foes will be vying for bragging rights with results available for all to see on the event website during the month of July and  personalised  finisher certificates shareable on social media with the event hashtag #GCM20.

Those with grander aspirations can chance their arm at one of the championships on offer – the Oceania Virtual Marathon and Half Marathon Championships, the Queensland Virtual Half Marathon Championships and the  Uni Sport  Virtual Distance Running Championships.

Participants can  also  donate to official charities Cancer Council Queensland and LIVIN via the registration platform.

For more information and to register, visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au/virtual

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Download ASICS Runkeeper here (iOS | Android)

Adidas King of The Road 2004

What’s In A Name?
Lonerunner, Livetorun, Ketam Batu, Becholi, Haris – all these callsigns mean little if there are no faces attached to them. So it was a perfect opportunity to put names to faces during the King of The Road (KOTR) race.

I think it was a welcome relief for some folks, returning to races organised by the FTAAA after the Ipoh, Johor and Ampang Jaya debacles. This is not to say that FTAAA sanctioned races are top class but they’re generally still better than the abovementioned. If they can only do away with the ribbon fetish (more later).

In any case, this was to be my first race after the Ipoh Marathon and the Nike 15K and the planned congregation of friends notwithstanding, I was eager to run. After picking up Andrew (Ketam Batu) and Bernice (Becholi), we reached the start point quite early. Bernice surveyed her competition in the Women’s Open category but I told her that there isn’t many, which was true. A sweep of those there showed that most female runners turned up wearing the official blue T-Shirt – so these were not to be considered serious competition for her.

The Cage & Ribbon Fetish Redux
There was a desk labelled “Registration”, so naturally a long queue developed there as well. Those in the line then were informed that registration was done upon entering “The Cage” – a barricaded cordon. Some heated exchanges ensued between some runners and the officials. At the point of entry to “The Cage”, we were given the red ribbons which I wrapped around my wrist for fear of colour-runs.

The Usual Suspects & More

While waiting inside “The Cage”, I met and chatted with Ngae (as usual running in his NB sandals), Wan, Kenneth, Bernice, Joo Yee, Rohaizad, Newton and Cheong. I thought of pacing with Rohaizad (a sure way to PR) but after flag off, I stayed with him for less than 1K as I ran into Alden whom I chatted with for awhile before he dashed off. Then I spotted Bernice and then Abot. Then Tey who ran with a backpack (he’s training for the Kinabalu Climbathon). Left and right, I was meeting friends and people were calling out my name. Wow, this is turning out to be a fiesta.

That Which Doesn’t “Hill” You Will Make You Stronger
I’ve been running comfortably and happily up Kenny Hills and hit the Duta Roundabout in 24mins plus (roughly 5-min pace). I skipped the water station there, so gained some advantage. The Killer Flyover got me a bit and even though my strides lost their cadence, my leg turnover were still quick and there was an outside chance that I may PR or dip below 60 mins this time around.

If I could point to a spot where I weakened significantly, it would be the Parliament Flyover. Luckily it was just a short (albeit steep) climb. Then I picked it up again in the final downhill stretch, passing the cheering Pacesetters (Lawrence, John et al.). Rounding the field, I saw Penguin-6 in his red jacket and Andrew who snapped a shot of me.

I crossed the line in 60:31. Again missed dipping below 1 hour! Would slowing down slightly the first 5K allow me to reserve some fuel for the final push?

The Online Suspects
I looked at the queue snaking from the refreshment tables and I decided to give lining up a pass and opt to get water from my car instead. I bumped and chatted with Lonerunner before proceeding to the clock tower where everyone was to meet. Kenneth was the next to reach me, then Bernice and Andrew, Azwar, Livetorun (Justin) and the rest, including Newton, Cheong, Haris and Julian. We sat right in the middle of the road for the photo shoots, by which time Yen Nee, Julian’s friend and Mei Jyn had joined the group.

It’s been a nice opportunity to have met up with friends I, up till then, only communicated with online. Here’s looking forward to many more such meetings.

The journey continues…
Jamie Pang, Sep 5th, 2004

KL Marathon (10K) 2004

What the heck was the adidas Sympathy??!

KL Marathon (10K) 2004

10K only-lah
My running buddies had this race in their sights since last year and with me running the year end Singapore race, this one comes too soon. I did think (just a little!) about doing the 42K but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. Of course Terence aka Penguin-6 did his best to tempt me – “Hey, come on lah! No problem one ma… Run with us lah!”. But the decision remained 10K for me with the Penguin brood going for their first 42K. Azwar and Suffian will also debut at this distance. No doubt I was equally excited for these folks and had followed their training progress, written with their usual sense of humour, via their blogs.

How do I write about a 10K race? It’s too short to really put down noteworthy stuff and only Ronnie can write good 10K reports.

There was some inconvenience on race morning as I didn’t expect the KL-Seremban Highway to be closed to traffic. My forced detour to Cheras resulted in me arriving only at 6:30am. The organisers really ought to publish detailed road closure information (including time of closure) instead of the small notice in a daily that named a few roads to be “closed progressively”. Naturally all the good parking spots have been taken up and I had to park at Bukit Aman about 1.5K away from the Dataran Merdeka flag off area. I had had a light breakfast at 6am (buns, coffee and a little Accelerade) and I felt confident of achieving my targeted 55 mins. I’ve never ran 55 mins on this route. I jogged from the car park to the start and tried to locate the registration desks.

A Surprise Friend and A Taste of Rawhide
3 minutes later and I still couldn’t locate the desks so I walked to a stranger intending to ask for directions. To my surprise, he greeted me by name! This stranger turned out to be a Singaporean who had visited my site. He commented that I looked better in person than in the website and I thought he must have meant I looked like shit in my Singapore Marathon photos. He added that there were about 50 Singaporeans at this race with another 50 odd from Thailand. He then directed me to the registration area.

So I approached a gap in an enclosure that looked like a cattle pen, handed over my registration card and was given a blue ribbon. Malaysian organisers have a fetish for issuing blue ribbons, fizzy isotonic drinks and cloth bibs. This race was no exception. Once  registered, we were herded like cows into a pen. Except that the pen was barely big enough to contain us. I located William and CS a short while later, which was a surprise considering the number of “cows” in the pen but Newton was still nowhere to be spotted. Then Ronnie and his girlfriend (hand in hand – so romantic) walked past me to get to the front. As I was making my way closer towards the starting line, I ran into Cheong and his group. I told him to try to finish within the qualifying time.

Stampede!
Before I knew it, the gun went off and the crowd of “bovines” let out a collective “Moo!” – well something like that and stampeded away. From my position I caught a glimpse of the front-runners in action – it was sheer madness. I mean those elites were like doing a 100-metre sprint. Nevertheless it made sense as any slower, they would be eaten up by the main pack of runners – a sure way to get bogged down. As for me, I tried to stay just behind the group of Bidor Kaki Runners. That lasted less than 150 metres because the road took a turn and a split and I lost them in the crowd. So I kept to my pace. I found that I had to evade many stragglers and that was as tiring, jinking here and there. Coach Bob Glover was right in his book on 10K racing strategy. And that’s to blaze the first 2K to avoid these stragglers, then to settle in a target pace and to hold on to the finish.

The Marathoners
I reached the 5K mark in 25:13 and at 6K, the 10K racers joined up with the marathon front pack (but not race leaders). I applauded them and a few other runners followed my cue. 10 minutes later I reached the Indian Embassy and although I wanted to surge here, I only managed to keep coasting on. The Government Offices hill had knocked the wind out of me. 12 minutes later, it was the Parliament flyover and then all out mad dash to the finish. I love this part as it’s all downhill to the finish line. If only I had started at a 5:15 pace earlier and sustained it until this point, my timing would’ve been much better. Target is now to train at 5:15 pace over the hills.

Finish Line
At the finish line, Gavin bumped into me and we chatted – he’s always a nice person to talk to – while lining up for the drinks. He did very well to come in 32nd (41:56). He advised me to build more hill work into my regime if I wanted to lower my time. If that’s what’s required, then there’s no 2 ways about it. From now on, it’s hills and more tempo runs! Hopefully I’ll be able to attack the hills more confidently in the March Power Run. I bade adieu to Gavin and made my way back to the car to get my camera and then to link up with my colleagues and Ronnie.

Timing: 58:32
Gear: Asics vest & shorts, Dri-FIT socks and adidas Sympathy. BodyGlide for the sole.


Jamie Pang, Feb 29th, 2004

KL Standard Chartered Marathon (10K) 2019

 

The KL Standard Chartered Marathon (10K) this morning served as a kick-off for my base training leading to my key race next March. The HMM 6-week base program demands for 66K weeks and while I was on track for the just concluded Week 1, 3 days manning the Gold Coast Marathon booth at the KLSCM Expo sapped my energies too much to maintain my plan.

I went into W1 of base running much less than I’d like to, due to the hazardous air quality. I’ve no gym membership to move my running indoors. When the toxic smoke from the fires in Indonesia continue to blanket the country, I had no choice but to finally enroll myself into a gym last week. I can imagine the anxiety of those who have registered to race the longer distances – will the race go on? Fortunately, the wind direction changed and the country saw daily rainfall, enough to clear up the air significantly.

I clocked 47:49 last year (then, the race was in April hence I was already in GCM18 training), and with no key races anymore this year, I went into this morning’s race with very modest expectations – a 47-minute finish. The stretched goal was to dip under 45 minutes, but that really was what it was – “stretched”.

I love the KLSCM 10K course. Mostly flat with a climb at the 7K mark. The 2019 course is a carbon copy of the 2018’s so I know what’s in store. The train service nearly derailed my plans for an extensive warm up, stopping at every station when it was only supposed to do so at designated stations. I had hardly broken sweat when it was time to enter the race pen. I reminded myself to avoid repeating the EE Run mistake when I went out too fast. A younger me would’ve tried to hang on to Daniel Tan longer but 49-year old me was much wiser. After 300m or so, I held my comfortable pace while Daniel gradually drew away.

Other than a couple of KMs where I had the company of a young chap in Peg Turbo (he dropped off pace around the 6K mark), I was mostly running alone. But I did find myself passing more runners this year, thanks to a more conservative early pace. I was still weak, endurance wise, heading up Jalan Parlimen though. My choice of the Vaporfly was a good one since my legs felt great throughout. As I entered the finishing chute, Pat Carroll who returned to emcee the event, called out my full name not once but thrice! He must’ve thought I didn’t hear him so I waved my hand in acknowledgment! Thanks, Pat! My watch showed 46:28 for 10.3KM (4:31 pace), which I believe to be my PR and good for 21st position in my veteran category. It’s certainly an encouraging result for sure, something to take forward into my marathon training. It’s always about the big picture. These races merely act as stepping stones and building blocks towards the ultimate goal. Keep building, keep improving and being patient is the game plan for me.

Caught up with the GCM crew, who nailed their PRs on KL’s tough courses as well. These guys are just getting faster and it’s great to have everyone in support and in pursuit personal goals – works wonders for motivation!

Seoul Bros

I’d like to thank the generous contributors to my fund raising for Hospis Malaysia under the Run for a Reason initiative. They provide evidence based, palliative care to patients and families living in the Klang Valley and support the nation through palliative care education, training and advocacy initiatives. The total sum collected pales to the work they do. To learn more and to support these wonderful folks, click on the link above.

My thanks also to the KLSCM organizers for always taking the runners’ needs and welfare into consideration and supporting us bloggers and media reps in your annual biggie and congratulations yet again on a job well executed! KLSCM retains its position as the best large-scale running event in the country.

1st of 2 breakfasts!

To my fellow GCM crew, onwards and upwards!

Standard Chartered KL Marathon (10K)

I ran the SCKLM Half Marathon in 2017 as training for my Gold Coast Marathon (GCM). I did just enough, without over-extending myself to finish the back-loaded race, where challenging climbs litter the later stages of the race. This year’s GCM training plan demands discipline not only in sticking to the prescribed training distance but also the paces and on the day of the SCKLM, the plan called for only a 13K. That pretty much determined the distance for my SCKLM participation.

But I procrastinated 15 minutes too long and all the slots were sold out. Such was the popularity of the event. SCKLM is one of the few in-country events where its popularity commensurate with the quality of organization. Fortunately, the organizers continued to have the bloggers in mind, and I managed to secure an entry!

This year’s SCKLM would be its 10th running and the entries were huge – 38,000 across all categories! With the presence of the GCM booth at the race expo, I joined Nick and the teams from TEQ and HTT in providing support over the 3 days. That meant plenty of time-on-feet, on top of Week 6 of marathon training. It was hard but rewarding to be able to help spread the word on GCM. I got off a little early on race eve and got a bit of much needed rest. I had been so busy that I was still deciding on what time I should wake up and get to the train station, but it all got sorted out easily enough.

Because it was just a 10K, I needn’t fret about what to eat or what to wear. In fact, adopting a “training run” mindset meant a simple singlet, shorts and the versatile Elite 9 (in case I decided to kick things up a little), grabbing a chilled bottle of water sans breakfast (nope, not even an energy bar) and driving to the IOI LRT station. I didn’t have to wait long for the complimentary ride and 20 minutes later, I was at Dataran Merdeka witnessing the continuous stream of Half Marathoners heading off. Promptly got down to my 3K warm up and headed into the starting pen and secured a spot 10 feet from the start gantry. Admittedly, I had my doubts about executing a sprint start, as all 10Ks demand, but decided to keep my spot. I’d decided to keep an honest effort in honour of the Dignity for Children Foundation for which I raised funds for. The plan was to run a faster 2nd half with pace ranging between 4:35 to 5:00. That was to give myself a wider window to operate.

Sharp 6:45am and the gun sounded. The course hooked an immediate right to Jalan Dang Wangi and immediately opened up, so the log-jam which I anticipated didn’t happen. Runners had ample road to run. It was years since I ran a 10K race, so I had no expectations and while I had some pace parameters, I ran according to feel. From Dang Wangi, it was a sharp left into Jalan Ampang before a right to

Jalan Sultan Ismail. By the time I got to the MAS Building, the top 3 race leaders were already on the other side. It would be suicidal to pick up the pace any further for me and I was actually enjoying the pace so much it felt rather effortless. The crew, traffic marshals and police were doing a great job and we had the roads pretty much to ourselves. I made sure I clapped back and thanked the crew whenever I could. Once I cleared Jalan P Ramlee and turned back into Jalan Ampang, I was already running alone. The pack of 4 in front was still about 150m in front of me so I bid my time.

Crossing the wide Renaissance Hotel junction, I reeled in 3 and when I got to the Quill Mall, which was the 5K mark, I was in a loose group of 4. This would be the posse which I was glad to be drafting off. I was enjoying myself so much that not once did I peeked at the watch. Then it had to happen – the laces on my right shoe became undone along Jalan Kuching, not far from the Jalan Parlimen roundabout. That brought about some curses and I made sure I triple-knotted the laces before chasing down the pack that had drew away and had built a 100m lead on me. As we all know too well, the climb up Jalan Parlimen can be tough and my stride length and pace dropped a little. Luckily my cadence was still high and with a quick water grab, I overtook 1 tall Caucasian. Just needed to hold on to another K before a long downhill before the final approach to the finish. The Caucasian caught up and passed me but with downhill being my strength, I drew alongside and we ran together down to the National Mosque. I told him to kick for the finish and he asked me to follow. I replied that being on marathon training mode, I was as chuffed with the fact that I was running this pace for this long and urged him to go ahead.

Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Tey😁

I couldn’t catch the other 3 runners ahead but no one passed me either when I crossed the finish line. And forgot to stop the watch until 5 minutes later! Satisfied would be an understatement. While I was 6 weeks into marathon training, all but 2 workouts had been easy running. The 2 faster workouts were speed intervals (12x400m, 400 recovery, 2K warm up and 2K cool down) and a 10K tempo (at goal marathon pace, 2K warm up and 2K cool down). Back at the recovery area, I caught up with the other guys from our GCM training group who also ran some impressive timings. Then it was a quick departure back for home where family duties await.

photo courtesy Calvin

It would not be proper to not thank the generous contributors to my fund raising for Dignity for Children Foundation under the Run for a Reason initiative. The total sum collected may not be much, but it was a recognition of the Foundation’s efforts in providing hope to the underprivileged kids among many projects they undertake. To learn more and to support these wonderful folks, click on the link above.

My thanks also to the SCKLM organizers for remembering us bloggers and media reps in your annual biggie and congratulations on a job well executed! The 10th was the best yet!

To my fellow GCM training group folks, let’s keep this momentum up all the way to July 1st!

CXP Run 2015

Small neighborhood runs are interesting. The distance is usually short, minimal frills and very nonchalant about proceedings. Always refreshing to include these into the training regime, more so if it’s not far from home.

The CXP Run put together by the Taylor’s College in SS15 was one such event. Nick had alerted me on this and with a RM35 entry fee, it was a go for me since it nicely replaces the usual track work. By 6am we were already warming up around SS15. The start venue was quiet as if nothing was going on on a lazy Sunday morning. Only when we were back to the campus at 6:30am did I see people slowly ambling in. It was clear then that the race won’t start on time. These college kids really need some discipline in keeping to the clock!

It was about then when I noticed that my pinned race bib had disintegrated at the corners. The material used wasn’t water-resistant and as a living person, I do sweat. The paper had simply melted away and I thought I’d better inform the folks at the Secretariat. The conversation went something like this:

JP: Ummm… I’d just like to point out to you that your paper bib melts. Just so that you’re aware if runners come back without them.
Girl-Student (whom I later found out was the Race Director): Oh! Do you want a new one?
JP: But that’s not the point, the new one’s gonna end up the same way. It melted just with me doing my warm-up. (At that point I also realized that there are no names tagged to the bib numbers, so winners can basically be anyone).Lady bystander: But, you’re an elite. We, the slower ones, won’t sweat as much. (Misguided and unsolicited statement at every level).
JP: Right. I just want you to know. (Before walking off, sweating even more profusely).

 

Before the start and bib-meltdown already in progress. Photo credit: Mrs Captain.

6:45am and there were still no indications of the race starting. We hung around the gates trying to predict which one will be the designated start when the Race Director and her crew turned up. Things got quite funny when she climbed on top of a stool and proclaimed that “she was quite unstable”. Quite concerned, I asked if she meant mentally or physically being in a precarious position. Next, she asked us to stay behind the line. All of us runners looked quizzically at one another wondering, “Which line?” because there was none. There was no banner nor any arch put up, so we, like what Barney the Purple Dinosaur always said, “used our imagination”. She must have realized that we should be starting from the main road and thus we were ushered to the new spot right beside Asia Cafe. The stress must’ve got to her because she started answering her phone calls while still holding on to the hailer. She was such a hoot and you’ve got to credit her for doing this on top of her coursework. Setting up an event isn’t easy on any account. Once again, we toed the imaginary line before we were let off. There were no age categories and runners were simply grouped into the 10 or 5K distances.

3 young ones immediately broke into a full on sprint which shocked the lead cyclist who started pedaling like crazy to stay in front. Fortunately for the cyclist, one of the younglings fizzled out at the end of the road but 3 other took his pace in the lead. I broke free of the masses before even before McD’s but Nick was already ahead. Subang is full of long and short inclines and racing here as never been easy. I saw that I was in the 7th position with the leading guy about 300 meters ahead. One vet was in pursuit alongside his younger friend. Nick was making good progress and basically everyone held on to the same position most of the way. If you’re familiar with Subang, the roads around the township see heavy traffic nearly every day of the week. There were no road closures, not even a lane. We were therefore running in our own little imaginary (again, thanks Barney!) paths, trying to keep safe and literally survive the race.

The damn stomach issues cropped up again – it’s definitely a pace thing, now that I’ve observed it – and first it knocked the wind off me and later dropped me like a sad story 3 times. Any intentions of catching up with the 2 runners ahead fizzled. This was turning into a fight of not dropping anymore position rather than timing (which was already a goner in my case). Like a case of separated twins, Nick was also off-pace from his ITB issues. My bib had already come off the pins and I was left clutching at it like a baton for much of the way. I was passed by another and with 1K to go, Nick caught me and we finished together in 50 minutes and change – reckon we were in 8th and 9th, judging from the race progress.

Other than some vouchers and a yogurt bar, there was nothing else in the finish pack, so we left for a light breakfast around the corner. I’m glad there’s no more 10K races leading up to GCAM and can move on to longer distances done at a more race specific pace. Thanks to Nick for ferrying me to and from the race site.

Larian Hijau SJ 10K 2014

A 10K with “neighborhood” vibes, RM35 entry fee, short drive from home, new route away from the same-old same-old, what’s not to like? There was a little apprehension about the climbs though as I remembered Putra Heights are littered with ups and downs. A few days before the race, a certain someone who, at the point of writing this report is happily Skyrunning in the Highlands, confidently told me that the route is flat and the podium is a possibility. Because he’s driven it before. Right. Luckily I had the foresight to check the route out by plotting it in MapMyRun. Let’s just say that it’s NOT flat!

The new flat.

Anyways, this being a “cheap” run with like I said, “neighborhood” vibes, the plan was to run it as a tempo workout. Watch the pace and keep an eye on the climbs. The pre-race briefing was akin to an ultra race briefing. The race director stood atop a platform and basically gave a verbal run-down of the entire route (there were several distances) and at one point I’d expected someone to fish out and started marking their map from a ziploc bag!

I was a few feet from the gantry which was constructed wrongly because the Start and Finish were facing the wrong directions. That contributed to some confusion as well. Anyways, I broke free after the first bend coming out of the One City Mall compound. The roads were wide enough that I could run without being obstructed. Not even a K into the race, we had to start huffing up. Right then until the finish I was mentally grumbling at that certain someone happily enjoying his scones and tea LOL!

If I was trying to enjoy the run, another chap from the same category whom I’d passed at the early stage of the race started pushing his pace and caught up with me. That would be fine as it’ll keep the pace interesting which is what racing is all about. But he started getting too close as if he wanted to snuggle up. Even when the road is so bloody wide. My left elbow kept brushing into him and I’m not one to have a wild arm swing. A few minutes later I couldn’t take it anymore and said to him if I happened to elbow him, that would be unintentional. He sheepishly replied, “Oh that’s OK”. I was working the hills too hard to have realized that he just gave me permission to elbow him! No chance to test the theory out as he immediately dropped pace.

When it got to 7K, it was clear that the distance would be longer than 10K. I’d worked myself up the Category C (Junior Veteran) pack and picked the fellow Cs one by one. By now there were more runners along the roads, including the always inspirational ones on wheelchairs (not those racing 3-wheelers, mind you). Huge props to them for socking it back to whatever challenges they face. I then refocused to tracking a fellow C who had traded leads with me. Wanted to make sure that the next time I passed him it was for good. With 1K to go, I slowly drew nearer and nearer and saw that he wasn’t speeding up. 700m to go, I drew alongside and I held on by his side just to feel if he would respond. None. So I pulled away and finished some distance ahead of him. Distance was 11.69K and my timing was a very average 57:21 (4:54 pace).

I was handed a #9 card which meant I’d secured the Top 20 medal. There were some initial confusion whether there were special prizes or a spot on the podium for Top 10s but there was none. Regardless, I was quite pleased with the pace and effort. It wasn’t a podium ending but I thought some of the short racing nous are beginning to return.

I was a little peeved that the organizers could’ve extended the distance a bit more to a 12K instead of 10. That way, I’d also record a better timing than my disastrous outing at BHP. Even funnier was when a battle-hardened racer like Vincent said that I must’ve improved due to all the speedwork I’ve put in. After several attempts of denying that I’d done nothing of that sort, and him not believing anything I said, I was chuckling so hard inside. Then another seasoned vet asked my age and gave me a several thumbs up and said that I looked like an ostrich (yes, he used the comparison!) – good form and all! If I’d been anything they’d said, my pace would’ve been around 4:30 and I’d be on that podium!

#FTT!

Hard earned. Only 20 on offer.

After the race, I hung around for a bit distributing flyers for January’s MPIB Run (If you’ve not done so, please sign up soon!). Bumped into many familiar faces including Zijil and Meng Yong. Also spotted many others who live around the Subang and Puchong townships. The run is dedicated to a friend facing a far different battle. I’m sure he knows now that the team is with him all the way.

Like an ostrich!

Oh yes, I was still laughing at those comments as I drove away from One City!

Southern Cross University 10K 2015

It’s another year and I found myself back on the Gold Coast. This time with many more mates from the training group along for the running festival that we’ve come to love.

Since a run was planned on the eve of the marathon, a few of us thought might as well run the official 10K as the shakeout – getting more bang for the buck out of the trip. The plan was to take it really leisurely with plenty of photo ops along the way.

The weather on Saturday was mild, just fine for a short run but it started off with some drama. Due to an incident, the northbound tram line was closed, forcing runners to mass along the Gold Coast Highway for the bus shuttle services. After several packed buses passed without so much as reducing the size of the queue, I scrambled to cab-pool with another group of runners (Hi, Todd!) and was able to make it to Southport in time. Nevertheless, the organizers wisely delayed the start a little to accommodate the late arrivals. As I was hurrying towards the agreed meeting point by the big LCD screen, I bumped into Ryan Hall just off the main road. With no one mobbing him, I did the sanest thing a gawking runner would do.

Soon enough with everyone in our group accounted for, we (Foo, Leong, CY, Nick, Man Hon, and I) proceeded to the rear of the thousands of participants. I’d shed my layers even before I entered the corral, so mild was the temperature that morning. The mood was fun and there was absolutely no pressure where we stood.

Personal engagements with the event organizers meant I’ve to proceed at a quicker pace than the gang so that I’ve enough time to freshen up at the hotel, chow down some breakfast before meeting the inbound travel group from Malaysia. As a result I was promptly separated from Nick and the gang just after the start with me running some ways with Man Hon.

Don’t be fooled by the guys. They were just getting started. They were nuts that morning!

Soon enough I was alone passing more along the way, snapping photos as I went along. One of the GCAM Ambassadors, Benita Willis, was herself providing support to the back of the packers. Great to see the greats giving back to the runners.

The 10K route is also run on a racetrack pattern. Runners cross the Southport Bridge at the start heading southwards before u-turning on the other side, making their way northwards towards Runaway Bay before doubling back to the finish at the race precinct.

This stretch is one of the most beautiful along the route.

Northern section U-turn. It’s apparent that the day would be hot.

There were plenty of supporters along the way and there was never a dull stretch which was devoid of cheers. After covering the early Ks between 6:26 to 5:22, I picked up the pace the last 4K (5:15, 5:13, 5:07 and 5:01) just to get the legs working a bit before crossing the line in 55:57.

The run-in through the finishing chute was a teaser for what’s to come the next day. The crowd was really thick and enthusiastic and those in the stands screamed even louder as I waved at them! With the finisher tee and medal collected , I hurried back to the hotel to get ready for the rest of the day – the route tour and Garmin Legends Lunch beckoned.

The other guys? I believe “fun” would be an understatement in describing their experience! With the 10K in the bag, my GCAM medal collection is now complete! If you’re planning to run GCAM16, be sure to include the Southern Cross University 10K or the Suncorp Bank 5.7K Challenge into the itinerary as part of the marathon eve shakeout run!

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Shape Night Run 2015

“Call up all our friends, go hard this weekend.
For no damn reason, I don’t think we’ll ever change.
Meet you at the spot, half past ten o’clock.
We don’t ever stop, and we’re never gonna change.”
Here’s To Never Growing Up, Avril Lavigne

It’s 4 months into the year yet last night’s Shape Night Run was just my first race of 2015. Much of the running I’ve put in thus far have been geared towards running well in the Gold Coast and to lay a foundation towards an ambitious 2-year goal so last night’s 11.2K was pretty much a penned-in speed work.

The week had been nasty as far as stress was concerned. There was little running and when I managed to lace up, it was more an up-tempo workout than anything to do with mileage. Therefore Saturday morning’s short jaunt around the neighborhood was a much needed time-out. I was also testing out a new gear which I’ll be writing more about in the coming days.

The day had been a scorcher as with all others recently and I made sure I drank consistently throughout the morning and afternoon. As agreed, I met CY for a light and early dinner and arrived without any drama to Precinct 3. There were already a number of early birds at the booths. First thing to do was to catch up with the friendly Skechers Malaysia folks at their booth. Skechers was, once again, a main sponsor for the event – one of the best organized in KL. At 6:45pm, it was time for a bit of warm up jog. The skies had progressively turned darker by the minute and even before we got back to our cars, it had started drizzling. The lightning show was also turning quite spectacular. In the distant, PICC was already obscured by the heavy rain.

With CY, Nick and 2 unsuspecting mannequins.

With rain already a foregone conclusion, I headed back to the car for my cap. Weather conditions would deteriorate so much that delay was inevitable. All the warm up came to nothing and the next hour was spent chatting with friends. The announcements over the PA weren’t heard where we were seated so when we saw people walking to the starting pen, we followed suit. The organizers had made the “go” decision when the weather showed signs of improvements. Streaks of lightning still flashed across the skies but it was getting better. Most runners were just anxious to get it started. Personally I felt it would’ve been a waste of the cool conditions if the race was called off.

At 8:45pm, the race was finally underway. No starter’s gun or horn to mark the start. The first couple of Ks were light and easy and Nick blazed ahead and remained about 30 meters ahead of me. The quicker pace meant there was room to run without having to weave around others. The Seri Gemilang Bridge was cleared in due course but Nick pulled up just after that. I continued at the same pace and the evening was just too nice and cooling, negating the need to grab a cup at the first drink station. I only took note of the watch on and off but largely ran by feel.

The pace took a hit when a side stitch struck. It’s been a nuisance of late especially when negotiating faster paces and it’s an issue I must remedy ASAP. I tried regulating my breathing with the cadence and it helped a little, enough to ensure that my pace didn’t slip further. The first challenge was pushing up the ramp along Lebuh Wadi before heading back to the finish. The final climb towards Precinct 3 was even tougher but by then it was too close to the finish to slack off.

With 500 meters to go, I dropped 2 more runners and tried to chase down an F1 girl in the final straight. She must’ve sensed it and promptly found another gear and scooted off like there was a Prada sale. I crossed the line tired but not spent. A 53:26 for the 11.2K course was a good outing for me, more so a 47:46 PR for the 10K. Nick and CY also scored their PRs, which meant the GCAM15 teamsters had a great night out. The 4:46 average pace was what I reckoned was possible with the greater focus on the strength this time around. With the crucial period of marathon training approaching, the key would be to develop the endurance part.

Happy with the outing. Photo courtesy of Michele Tan who got on the podium with another great performance.

I’d like to thank the Skechers Malaysia team for inviting me to this happening race. The hardworking team along with the enthusiastic crew at all the support areas and water stations were excellent and I’m sure every runner felt special out there last night.