Honda Half Marathon 2017

The 2017 Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) was fortuitously slated right in the middle of my 12-week GCAM training, so registering for the Half Marathon (HM) distance wasn’t that hard a decision to make. Up until May 21st, I’ve done several long runs over 21K and a single 30K in training. With that in mind, the initial goal was to run the HM at goal MP which is 5:20.

But as indications of my training proceeding quite nicely, I began entertaining thoughts of using this as a PoC (Proof of Concept) for GCAM. What if I push the pace quicker than my MP, hovering between LT and tempo, right from the start, and see how far I could sustain it? If and when the wheels come off, I could always fall back to the MP and cruise home.

Photo credit: Rany (I think!)
The morning started at 3am and despite just a 5-hour sleep and a couple of flu tabs in me from the night before, I was out of the house by 3:30am, not hung over. The plan was to hop on to the complimentary train ride from the BK5 station but alas when I got there, the staff told us that it wasn’t supposed to open, contrary to what the race guide said. The nearest operational station would either be IOI Mall or Awan Mendung. I chose the latter. Thankfully, the boo-boo didn’t mess up my plans that badly and I arrived in time to get in my 10-minute warm up before joining the thousands in the starting pen. In total, there would be 36,000 runners across all categories that morning. An amazing number really, cementing SCKLM as THE premier marathon in the country. Numbers mean little, if the organization is sub-par. But I’m glad to report that Dirigo Events and its partners delivered. In fact, I believe it’s the best KL Marathon I’ve experienced.

I found myself standing next to Cheong and just a few rows ahead of us, Calvin. The 2:00 pacer stood just off my shoulder to my rear. The morning wasn’t that warm but humid so with me still sweating away from the warm up, I needed to constantly sip from my bottle of Hammer Fizz. The vibes around the race precinct were great. The emcees were doing a great job with the crowd, the drones buzzed overhead, crew directing runners to their designated pens using large boards. I didn’t have any checked baggage so was there very lean and light.

The start was fast and a little surreal because I can’t remember any recent halves that I’ve done in KL. So the route, while familiar to me as a driver, was almost new and fresh to me as a runner. The first couple of Ks were comfortable even if too fast at close to 5:00 pace. Yet, Cheong and I were exchanging bewildered looks when the 2-hour pacer settled a few meters ahead of us! That was just too fast. I reckon the pacees must’ve breathed a sigh of relief when the pacer eventually dropped back, hopefully before flatlining his charges. Lovely traffic management and scores of crew made sure we ran the right way with no incidents. Before I knew it, we were already right in KL’s Golden Triangle along Jalan Bukit Bintang, heading to the Tun Razak intersection. From there we took a left towards Tun Razak-Jalan Ampang intersection. Normally, this junction is a traffic nightmare so it was awesome running through the wide roads with no worries. My plan was to simulate a marathon strategy and thus my gel intake intervals were executed likewise. 1 pack every 25 minutes or 5K whichever came first. I peeked at the watch at 10K mark and it showed 51:15.

A few Ks later we took the left ramp to Jalan Jelatek in order to link up with the AKLEH elevated highway. Here my pace dropped a little negotiating the ramps while Cheong continued his merry way. He would remain ahead of me from this stage on, even though I kept him in sight right up to the final 3K. AKLEH proved to be quite enjoyable and I was happy to note that I was on my side of the highway running back into the city and not the other side where the 5-6 hour marathoners could be seen snaking their way out of the city. My pace were considerably good against my marathon plans but wouldn’t have been sustainable in a marathon scenario. To hammer home the point, the aggressive early pace took its toll and boy, did the last 5K hurt. I even had time to stop for a photo with Wan at the 17K Lucozade Hydration Station.

I couldn’t be happier when the sight of the Moorish minarets of the KTM station and a bit later, the clock tower of the Sultan Salahuddin Building came into view. I crossed the line in 1:54:49 (average pace 5:22) which meant I was 2-3 seconds slower per K than what I would’ve liked. But then I raced this from the beginning which wouldn’t be how I’d run the marathon. Overall, it was a good training session and one that offered plenty of takeaways such as where I should be beefing up for the marathon!

As for SCKLM, it’s really the one to run in the country. Personally, I’d run the Half as the route is more enjoyable, and I’m able to finish in a shorter span of time. From my perspective, there’s absolutely no complain with regards to the traffic management, water stations, crew and race precinct. Kudos to the race organizer, and the huge team working behind the scene to make the event such a great success. I’ll definitely return next year for a better outing, hopefully with a bigger GCAM crew.

BSN Putrajaya Night Half Marathon 2012

There were so much indication that it would be raining cats and dogs (and the odd toads too) as I drove towards the race venue. Flashes of lightning streaked menacingly in the distance and the skies were as dark as the depths of Arkham. I had Yvonne on tow but despite being earlier than usual, we found ourselves having to take the scenic route to Precinct 3 due to the road closures. Let it be known early in the post that there were 2 things I dislike – running in Putrajaya and running at night. Because the place is mostly landscaped, Putrajaya has some of the most rolling terrain out there. But after getting some superhero vibes from Spongebob, I thought these won’t be factor. The goal was multifold – first, practice holding back. This was to help secure my “pacee” to a good start and also to practice pace discipline for the marathon. Second objective was run by gut feel and not depend so much on the watch. Finally while not a personal best time, a 1:52 would be a bonus.

Are you ready kids?!

I opted to keep the poncho in the car as the skies didn’t look like it was going to open up – the breeze just wasn’t strong enough to signal impending rain. Perhaps it would be later. In any case I had my cap on and the large open mesh Nike Speed Cage+ was the shoe of choice. The Kinvara stayed in the car (rhymed?). Diet had been patchy during the day – had a late soupy breakfast at 11am, rice with potatoes, veg and tofu at 3pm and a small bowl of noodles at 6:10pm. In between 3 bananas while waiting for the race to start, I drained a bottle of sports drink while a smaller bottle filled with pre-soaked chia seeds in raw honey and lime juice would be my fuel for the distance. I had 2 gels clipped to my belt just in case. Some dynamic stretching and then it was time to head to the starting area.We were actually a little late joining the throng of half marathoners at the starting line and as such we were lodged close to the back. No choice then but to worm our way politely towards the middle of the thick crowd. Plenty of Excuse me‘s and Thank you’s.

A few minutes later, we were let off. but for more than 2 minutes we were still standing there wondering if a technical issue had cropped up. It turned out that the starting mat were too narrow and the runners had to funnel through a tight area. A slight tinge of regret crept up – perhaps I should’ve gone further up. All that thoughts vanished as soon as we’re off the start. The road opened up and there wasn’t any excessive dodging of slower runners. My pacee stuck close to me. While the plan was to run according to feel, I wanted to check on the pace of the first 2K to ensure we weren’t running too fast. I brushed off the 5:10 first K as screwy – the watch can’t be right. 2nd K was where I wanted it to be 5:28. Then I shut off the reliance of the watch and just concentrate on getting the rhythm going. Even at this early stage we were passing more runners than we were being passed.

Despite the ups and downs of the roads my pace was reasonably consistent. I took my own natural fuel according to the visual cues of the water stations and therefore could bypass the crowd at those areas. All I needed to do was to just keep the momentum going. The crowd support, at least in the beginning of the race, put together by the organizers were superb and very vocal. Certainly a mark or two above the dour racing atmosphere in this country. It was then that I noticed the heavy breathing of my pacee. Told her to focus on staying relaxed and that we were doing fine, however in the middle of being in my own world and the pacing, I lost her somewhere before the 10K mark. I reckon she wouldn’t be far behind and would have me in her visuals.I passed my colleague Zul who was running the marathon (he was busy snapping photos!) at the Sri Saujana Bridge. Further up, I chatted and passed Winnie before literally running into Pui San (luckily we didn’t go sprawling on the tarmac). You could safely guess that if those 2 ladies are spotted, Mohan can’t be too far away. True enough after squinting hard (must be the age), he recognized me heading towards him and the bantering about Air Asia and photo opp ensued. Time to go!

A nice touch was the placement of large LCD distance markers (complete with canned cheering, LOL!) at some major checkpoints. I noticed running past 3 such displays in my half marathon race. Traffic control had been flawless and everyone could concentrate on running. There were even supporters in superhero and Star Wars costumes. I thought Darth Vader would strike out at the passing runners with his light saber but thankfully he waved it like a traffic warden. The initial apprehension on Precincts 7 and 9 were non-issues and were in fact the most enjoyable long stretch I went through. I was still totally aerobic and hitting the 10K mark in 53 minutes were very very easy. Confidence had build up along the way and the rolling roads were no longer a factor. I had a decision to make, to keep going at this relaxed pace or to give it a go at racing. Giving it a go won the night. At the top of one of the ramps heading towards Shangri-La Hotel, I came up to my training partner Calvin. I didn’t get to link up with him at the start so it was nice to have caught up. I called out to him and said there were just 9K to go. 9K compared to the tough 32K progressions done. 9K which is less than 8 loops around the KLCC Park. I caught a downhill and rolled down expecting him to follow.

Things only started to get a little challenging the last 3K when a stitch hit. No choice then but to grit it out without slowing down. The form was affected but can’t slow down by much. Just keep going and ignore the 4 pebbles lodged inside my shoe! I’ve problems of this nature with the Lunaracer and the Cage. After a while the pebbles didn’t matter anymore as they’re embedded into the insole with each step. Those that were shifting about inside, one just had to ignore. I refused to check the watch. At this point it didn’t matter anymore. 2 more turns to the finish, I passed Michelle who was visibly struggling – not only affected by illness but also the grief of the passing of fellow runner Meei Meei. Luckily Raymond was close by and in attendance and KP Tan was around too.

Lots of huffing and after spotting KA and Ben in the crowd by the finishing chute, I crossed the line just missing the bonus goal by a minute at 1:53.15. Got my finishing pack and drinks and ambled up to a quiet section to rest up.

With Adeline. Her 50D sure beats my 8-year old S3 IS.

Just as I stood up to walk to the car to change into dry clothes, I bumped into Adeline (actually we spotted each other at the same time!). Chatted a bit before hustling to the car. Changed up and I was back to the finish area distributing the race entry forms for the Run For Your Heart and MPIB Run. After that it was time to link up with my pacee whom I thought did well considering the conditions she was running under. As I said she really gutted it out and will have her PR another day (she can take heart in a points I mentioned in a recent post). It’s just the nature of racing. Some days everything comes together, some days despite what you do or how you’ve prepared, things just don’t align themselves. It comes down to how we manage with what we’re dealt with, which was why I thought she did great.

With newly wed Stanley.
Gone but not forgotten. Many ran in memory of Cheah Meei Meei who passed after returning from her winning outing at the Perhentian Island Challenge. Many drove to her wake after the race.

I had a good race – it was more of a training run actually. It needed to be a strong and focused run and I think I nailed that. The legs are strong and the focus is there.I surprisingly found the rolling terrain quite enjoyable, what with the cooperative weather. What counts on Nov 25 would be pace discipline. I’ve a final 32K to go next weekend before the double 11K running legs at the Powerman Duathlon. Need to make those workouts count.

Splits: 5:10 > 5:27 > 5:24 > 5:21 > 5:30 > 5:24 > 5:18 > 5:15 > 5:21 > 5:10 > 5:15 > 5:05 > 5:05 > 5:15 > 5:15 > 4:58 > 5:10 > 5:21
5K – 26:52 | 10K – 53:24 | 15K – 1:19 | 21K – 1:50

Brooks Half Marathon 2013

More a training run than a race, this was perhaps the longest time I spent deliberating on whether I should sign up or opt out. Reason being the somewhat prohibitive entry fees. Eventually the significance of the timing – start of another cycle of marathon training – won out and there I was, at the starting line this morning.

Before I get to the race recap, I need to put a note here that the race pack collection area was pretty well done. Even though there weren’t many booths, the number of brands represented were many. The Marathonshop, Powerbar, Aeco, Key Power, Brooks pretty much covered 80% of sports products in the market. As I was hard pressed for time (when wasn’t I?), it was a touch and go affair for me. In fact I didn’t even park inside The Curve. In and out in 15 minutes (including a brief stopover at a teashop for a takeaway).

So at 4:35am I found myself already parked near Vista Komenwel, wondering what the crap I was doing up so early on a Sunday morning. Calvin arrived soon after and as soon as we kitted out, we made for the stadium grounds.Minutes later we rendezvoused with Yvonne, CY and Nick who had warmed up. Right about then my stomach started to churn. After 10 minutes of trying to control the feeling, I gave in and joined the portaloo queue. The feeling went away thankfully and I rejoined the gang for the start.

The organizers did away with the start inside the National Stadium which was a downer. I reckon they couldn’t get around the crowd control getting into and out of the stadium, or maybe the cost of rental was too prohibitive. Instead, 2 different spots of the expansive car park were to be the starting and ending points of the race. No matter. It was after all going to be a long easy run for me. The plan was a 6-minute pace (this race had better teach me to go slow for my long runs!), keeping things as aerobic as possible which isn’t easy since the route can be treacherous in a few stretches. Good thing I lived around this area for close to 8 years, so I was prepared insofar as race route is concerned. 13,000 runners were rumored to have registered for this event (covering the Half Marathon, 10K and 5K) which was an amazing number. The half marathon alone drew 5,000 according to chatter amongst runners.

Lining somewhere in the middle of the pack at the start definitely gave me the impression of being in a large event. After the starting gun was fired, we didn’t move for awhile. By the time we got going we knew it was going to be a tough day out. The humidity was so high, it was hard not to be affected by it. Not 2K into the run, the stomach issues returned and I thought what with the strategy this morning, I’ve nothing to lose (except the dump) if I stop and take care of business. Asked my fellow pacers to carry on and headed to the row of loos by the side. It turned out to be wasted time as everyone seemed to want to use the loos at the same time. I gave up and by the time I rejoined the hordes of runners, a few hundred have passed me and I found myself in unfamiliar territory, many of whom were already walking not far from the start! It was super tiring zig-zagging the thick crowd I’d otherwise gladly follow had their pace be close to what I was running. Soon after a guy on wheelchair (the hospital, not the racing version!) worked his way through the crowd. I thought it wasn’t a good idea at all. While I was sure many applauded his faith and determination, the roads around the area are very poor. A large section of the route passed through construction sites. A question of safety, for him and other runners, more than anything.

My stomach issues temporarily subsided and I was able to put in some quicker splits – if only walkers, courting couples will let runners past! I called out firmly numerous times for walkers to keep to the left but nearly everyone of had their ear plugged! Sigh… The outing was fast becoming a sore outing for me. Just before the 10K point, I spotted Calvin in front but at that exact moment, my foot pod came loose. So I quickly veered to the side and ripped off the cable ties and chucked the pod into my pocket. Screw timing. From then on, I was running by feel, and I was feeling the hot spots on my soles, the replacement insoles of my shoes being the culprit.

The crowd became exponentially worse when the half marathoners merged with the 10K runners at the narrow turning into Vista Komenwel. The cones laid in the middle of the road separating runners and vehicles became a safety hazard than markers. The crowd was so thick that it was impossible to spot humps, potholes and the said cones – until you run into them. I spotted a runner being given CPR in this section and learnt that he wasn’t successfully resuscitated. After being on the receiving end of 5 elbows, I finally cleared the treacherous mile and tried pushing the remaining distance. I’d ran all the uphills that came before but decided to just walk the last 400m of climb.

Finished in over 2 hours, but that was the plan. The spacious finishing area was a vast difference from what we encountered on the roads. I believe the event has grown too large for this route. Either entries are capped off or a different route be mapped for the 10K category. Hung out for awhile before heading home to poo (twice!). Lots of endurance work to be done and the next one in Bidor will definitely be different.

Photo credit: KH Tang
Photo credit: Elaine
About to execute the leap. Photo credit: Tey ET

Summary: It wasn’t a good outing with the crowd, shoes, foot pod and stomach. Plenty of malfunctions. A good thing the compression gear I was wear-testing worked well. Review of that to come.

Bidor Half Marathon 2013

It’s almost ironical that in a year of little running pursuit, I finally had the opportunity to participate in the Bidor Half Marathon. Bidor is a small little town situated 1.5 hours from KL but unlike Radiator Springs (those who watches Pixar animation would know), Bidor sees a bit more life than the one off Route 66, in that it’s home to the famous (some say overrated) Herbal Duck Noodles, best Hong Kong Chee Cheong Fun in the country and a few other hawker-fare.

As such, it’s a popular stop for the traffic plying the North-South Highway. Thankfully, the small town charm hasn’t deserted it and after a year’s hiatus, the Half Marathon is back.

The plan was made early with Frank to make the trip up and the accommodation was promptly secured – the Grand Kampar Hotel located 30 minutes away in another small town further north was to be our home for a night. Kampar, a former bustling tin-mining town, is another charming spot in the Peninsula though nowadays it hosts more students of a local university than miners. I’ve stayed at the nice hotel some years ago when RunnersMalaysia helped a local community kicked start their fun run initiative.

The posse consisted of Roy, Cham, Frank and I. It would be a bit unusual as in our case, the driver was the woman. The drive up was smooth and we headed to the race pack collection at the community hall. Bidor is basically served by 2 main roads and thus the venue was easy to locate. The day was turning into a scorcher and by the time we were through with the haphazardly organized collection, we hunted for an eatery for a late lunch. Alas there was non to be found and we had to settle for Pun Chun. Only that we didn’t order the famous herbal duck noodles. Everyone unanimously agreed that the dish is overrated. The guys ordered mix rice which was great value but the womenfolk’s wantan noodles were poor.

The stomachs somewhat satiated, it was time to continue with the journey northward to Kampar, to check into the Grand Kampar Hotel. It wasn’t my first time there having stayed there with the family some years ago. The Family Suite was perfect for the 4 of us. The plan was to put in a short run around the scenic lake/mining pool but the weather was so hot, I hopped onto the treadmill instead for a 30-minute easy jog. The 6:00 pace was so pedestrian that I thought I could be a little aggressive on race day.

3-Comrades Marathon bound. I felt out of place.

 

 

Once Francis was checked in, the group headed out to look for dinner and what else to eat but claypot chicken rice, a dish Kampar is famous for. By now, you’d have detected a trend about this trip – mostly about caloric intake. The hot weather called for something icy, so the group chilled out over dessert for awhile at a nearby cafe near the hotel. As the area is mostly populated with university students, I remarked that I suddenly felt very old. Back at the hotel, the usual pre-race rituals took place – every one slunk into their own corner laying out their gear. Then it was lights out for me at 10pm.

2 Samsung Galaxy Notes provided alarm services the next morning and my “breakfast” was a Clif Bar and bottled water, before the 30-minute drive to Bidor. At 6:20am, the area was already teeming with cars and runners. We were lucky to have found a car park close to the race start. Nothing is ever too far away in Bidor. Unknown to nearly everyone, I was testing out 2 pieces of gear that morning – Yurbuds Inspire Duro and the asics Hyperspeed 5. I’m usually not a fan of listening to music at the races but thought that the half would provide a tough test. However, I would caution against wearing new gear in a race.

7am and we, the half marathoners, were let off. The crowd was just nice and the narrow streets posed no problems. After a kilometer or so, we found ourselves heading out of the town and into the outskirts. The residents were out, observing us quietly. It’s done well to progress from a tiny community event to something a little more international. Some Caucasions and most certainly some Singaporeans were observed to be in the crowd. In this first section of the race, I found myself zeroed in on Uncle Fila (a familiar road racing vet) but he was slowly but surely putting pedal to the metal. My pace was sub 5:30 and felt very easy. The sun was already up and warming the countryside air. There were a few hints of what’s to come i.e. rolling hills in the 2nd part of the course. An early climb was easily tackled and I thoroughly enjoyed the brisk yet comfy pace. I fell into pacing with Wind Fong from the 3rd K up to around the 6th K and that gave me something to focus on. I was cautious not to follow him too closely as he’s a habit of taking off rather quickly. Needed to conserve for what’s to come.

Pacing with Wind Fong. Photo courtesy of Dannie Choong.

One K after the 1st u-turn I was surprised to find myself running alone. The sun was getting warmer and warmer and the trees on both sides of the road would soon be unable to provide much shade. Exiting the 1st section of the course and heading into the waterfall section, runners found themselves having to squint into the sun. I rebuked myself for deciding against wearing the sunglasses. I duly got to the undulating and twisty sections and my pace began fluctuating – my legs were fine but the heat was slowly but surely getting to me. Having not raced a half marathon this late (Brooks started much earlier and therefore was over earlier too) for sometime, I was so not conditioned for running in the heat. Tried to refocus and successfully brought my pace back down for a few Ks until the final climb over a ramp which I walked up, sapped dry by the sun. With just 2Ks to go I caught back to Roy and Frank and we finished close together in 1:58.16.

No longer smiling. Notice the strong shadows?
Hanging on Frank and Roy’s coattails. 2 other ultra runners have finished way ahead. There’s something about these fellas. Photo courtesy of Jason Tan.

What followed after the race was more eating before heading back to KL, to wrap up a nice road trip. A word of “Thanks!” go out from me to the organizers and volunteers of Bidor Runners for putting up this race. I hope they can start earlier – the route is nice and should be very pleasant to run when it’s cool and early. I’m grateful too to the many photographers who were present on course for capturing memories for us runners. They too, had to deal with the heat. I’m now more confident to be a little more aggressive in attacking the next 2 races i.e. Standard Chartered KL Marathon and the Gold Coast (Half) Marathon.

Gold Coast Asics Half Marathon 2013

After 2 years of participating in the main event, I decided to take a cue from TLC’s song and put aside the pursuit of goal times in the marathon for the year.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls.
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you’re moving too fast.

While dreams are there for everyone to strive towards, nothing is ever owed to us. There’s a price to pay in training and a goal put on-hold doesn’t mean giving up or the absence of pursuing another different one. It’s all about rolling with the punches. Re-adjust and move on. Who knows, spending some time not fretting about an obsession may hopefully yield the results I’m looking for sometime down the road.

It would be a quick trip down under for me, saving my vacation days for the family in December. Once we arrived at the Gold Coast Airport, we were whisked to the hotel to drop our bags and then to the expo to pick up our race packs. The expo has grown over the last few years and this year, the exhibitors were really giving some sweet deals to shoppers. That done, it was all free for the rest of the day and we wandered around Surfers looking for a late lunch.

At the expo.
Met Bret Butler (President of Knox Runners Club of Melbourne) and his wife at the expo.
Compression wear companies were throwing prices at the expo. I didn’t buy any because I had strong will-power 😛
Cold? Who said it was cold?!
This blog is not (yet) sponsored by Olympus.

The next morning, pick up was early at 4:30am so that we won’t be caught by the road closures and bigger crowds. I found myself among the 8,000 strong half marathoners facing the direction of Runaway Bay, instead of Burleigh Heads. I expected conditions to warm up significantly as the race progresses therefore I was just in a single layer of running tee, a pair of arm warmers just to keep things from being too cold and shorts. No calf sleeves and I decided to go with the GOSpeed just to see how it feels like. Pre-race fuel was a Clif Bar washed down with orange/mango juice. Tucked into my shorts was a single gel and in my hand, the TG-2 to capture some photos. I approached the race in a very low key manner and all that sort of thing, as you can see.

Portion of the MY contingent ready to rock.
The crowd behind me at the start. The large presence from Japan meant the GCAM starts will always have a Japanese feel to it.

I couldn’t spot the 2-hour pacers anywhere, undoubtedly swallowed up in the sea of runners. It would take me 4 minutes to cross the start line but after that point the pace quickly picked up. Everyone was just running briskly so even with the large group of runners, there wasn’t a feeling of being impeded. I just went along at an aerobic pace. 10 minutes into the race and the sun started to peek over the horizon. There was just a little breeze to keep things cool.

Soon enough I found myself latching on to a couple of runners – one in form-fitting fuchsia singlet and another in a pair of grey 3/4 pants. Both were passing runners regularly and were at about the pace I was moving. The plan if there was any to start with, was to hydrate according to thirst yet be mindful of the dehydration in the dry wintery conditions. The first station was a little too early, so I skipped that one. Reached the second one soon enough and took in some water. Spotted the 2-hour pacers with their dark green (or was it black) balloons before the first u-turn at Lae Drive (Runaway Bay) and picked up the pace just a tad slightly. I didn’t want to chase them and I wasn’t even very conscious about my actual pace. All these while I was trading leads with the 2 women I had my sights on.

Tailing Ms Fuchsia. I know the color doesn’t look like it in this shot.
These folks, already on the return, were hammering it under sub-1:30 pace. Body size and age don’t matter, really. Shoes too, as that dude in Hoka showed.

Meanwhile I was enjoying taking photos and was even playing around with different modes of shooting! It was really easy covering the miles briskly and being distracted by the camera. Once the 2nd u-turn was tackled at Paradise Point I briefly thought of just slowing down, walk or just taking my time at the aid stations just because I was being so casual about the whole affair. However, I caught myself from doing that almost instantly – somehow the competitive nature in me hadn’t been purged entirely. I took a peek at the watch at 11K mark and thought that if I kept this shindig going, I could actually end up with a pretty decent timing.

Hairpin turn and all the way back to the finish!

Here’s to my Pacee! Overtaking the 2-hour pacers. Vamonos!

I rolled the arm sleeves down my sweaty arms and dug into the race. Passed the 2-hour pacers with 3.5K to go when they stopped at aid station. I reckoned they ran too fast and had to pause for a little in order not to finish too much under the goal time.

I clicked off frame after frame of shot as I counted down the remaining miles and made it a point to no longer look at the watch. Rounding off a couple of turns and the finishing chute came into view. The sight never gets old, really. From the photos, I definitely looked like a goldfish out of water but I was very glad for the effort I put in. It wouldn’t be my PR but one of my quickest efforts in a long while.

A few more steps!
That’ll do it!
Someone told me this dude’s cute.
Not bad at all 😀
Relax-lah!
The obligatory “toast”.

Weather had been near perfect – the 6am start certainly helped as it began to warm up significantly soon after. Grabbed a bottled water, some orange slices and a banana and headed towards the Suncorp Bank tent to collect a neat lawn sheet before collecting my baggage before doing what the Aussies were doing – soaking in the sun on the expansive lawn and watching Yuki Kawauchi’s assault on the lead pack unfolded.

Now that I’ve added the Half Marathon medal and t-shirt into my collection there’s a temptation to include the 10K ones into it. Really enticing. The following day was action packed – from an early recovery run in the direction of Southport followed by a boat ride out to the sea to marvel at our wondrous mammals of the ocean before heading up into the sky to the Q1 Observation Deck. Dinner was at a swanky restaurant at QT.

Distance covered in the 3.5-hour whale watching boat ride was over 60K!
View to the South from the 77th Floor of Q1.

These fellas have no fear. They did the Skypoint Climb http://www.skypoint.com.au/SkyPoint-Climb/SkyPoint-Climb.aspx
I took the liberty of ordering Tey a lager. I settled for a Pinot. Can’t remember which red Christina had.

I’d like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland for hosting my visit and stay, and to my fellow travelers who provided some great company. Change your Aussie Dollar now and see you next year?

And er.. there’s a Gold Coast 100K and a few quite noteworthy trail ultras in the Nerang Hills too for those who just need to run a few more yards than a marathon!

CAPAM 22K 2014

In my PNM (Half Marathon) race report, I wrote that I was, for once, smart enough NOT to have registered for the marathon distance. Now that I’ve ran the same tough course the second time in two weeks, I guess I’m not that smart after all! However, having done PNM and coming so close to hitting 2 hours despite not starting out with a racing mindset, CAPAM presented an opportunity to right the “wrong”. This time around, I was better prepared. 2 gels and the iPod Shuffle were added to my gear and after some slight rubbing experienced on the little toe, I opted for a pair of thinner asics socks along with the Boston Boost. Finally I adjusted the Virtual Pacer on the Garmin 620 to 5:20.

CAPAM was such a low-key event that having failed to pull in the crowds in an already congested running calendar, the organizers reopened the entry. That was when I signed up along with Nick. We often get ourselves in such situations – you go, I go kind of thing. Except for next year’s Nuang Ultra where he’s on his own! Out of the 5,000 expected entries, the event saw only around 2,000 runners across all categories and distances, which ranged from 22K, 10K and 5K. There were no porta-potties at the start (runners were to use the limited public toilets opened at that time) and along the route. With 25 minutes to the start, the car park was still sparsely filled. By the time we entered the corral, we saw that harboring all hopes of sneaking a 10th position (RM200 purse) would be stupid because there were at least 20 Africans amongst the bunch of runners. I won’t go into the controversy involving phantom runners and cheats among this group of runners but from recent investigations by other runners, something definitely smells fishy.

Due to the small number of participants in the 22K category, Nick and I found ourselves only 5 rows from the start line. The gun went off sharp 6:30am and by the first left, we were already running at 5-min pace. That would be normal for race starts and pace correction will set in quickly enough. However we found it hard to keep the pace down. Through constant monitoring, we managed to keep things manageable. The first walk break came at the 12K mark. This was where runners encounter the short but sharp incline section just after the Precinct 20 cemetary. I’d taken my first gel at 8K so it was more of self-preservation rather than hitting the wall that I chose to walk up. The Putrajaya route is a tricky one and one simply has to run (or walk) smart.

Until that point, the going had been slightly easier than what I went through during PNM last weekend. The morning weather was cooler, there were more visual distractions, I had music pumped into my ears and gels pumped into my system! On the other hand, the visual cues also made me more impatient as I found myself questioning how far it was to the next landmark! Ironically, the visual sensory deprivation associated with night racing that PNM was made focusing easier.

The second power-walking episode happened at the sharp climb up to PICC (14K @ 6:06) but I quickly cut back on the deficit with 5:10 and 5:09 splits over the next 2Ks. It was still too early into the race to be surging, so I quickly pulled back to a more manageable pace thereafter. I constantly kept Nick, who was about 50-80 meters ahead, in my radar just so that I don’t fall back too far. I popped my 2nd gel at the 16K aid station. Just before the 18K mark, hordes of runners from the 5K category merged into the route and we had to execute a few dodging maneuvers.

Photo credit: Calvin Toh

The pace over the next 2K was like a roller coaster as I was tiring. A peep at the watch revealed the sub-2 goal to be in danger. It was already 1:41 at the 19K mark and this course exceeded 22K. I would have to run low 5s the rest of the way to be able to nail it. The final bridge proved to be a minor irritant which slowed me down to a 5:35. That must have got me into a panic mode because I didn’t realize I ran the remaining distance at 5:16, 5:04 and 4:33! My mouth was as large as a feeding whale shark’s as I gasped for air like crazy. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The finishing photos also confirmed my suspicion that I’ve to correct my hip weakness if I’m to run more efficiently. Right now, I’m just not pushing off strongly enough. Too much wasted energy.

Photo credit: Tey ET
Photo credit: Mrs Cap’n

 

Anyways, I did get that sub-2 with a 1:57.57 for the 22.3K course. The 21K split was 1:52 which wasn’t a personal best – the most recent being 1:50 in Gold Coast 2 years ago – but it was certainly my best in dreaded Putrajaya. Until the official timing is published, I don’t know where I placed. It doesn’t matter much as there was just too many controversies surrounding this event. I got the timing I wanted, averaged 5:19 against my goal pace of 5:20 and was able to dedicate another race to a friend. That’s all that matters. #FTT!

Aside: Tey, you asked about my max HR recorded during the race. It was 191!

BSN Putrajaya Night Half Marathon 2014

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.

A few more strides to the line. Photo credit: Victor
Photo credit: Vivien Tay

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!

 

PJ Half Marathon 2015

I’ll say this upfront – I signed up for this year’s PJ Half due to a change of route. As race day got nearer, the importance of getting the mileage under the belt became greater, what with an unplanned marathon to be tackled before 2015 comes to a closure.

The organizers certainly pulled out all the stops to have a unique, if challenging, route. The race started from Dataran PJ (in front of the Civic Center), heading to NPE, back to Old Town before Jalan Templer, SS1, SEA Park, Jalan University, Padang Timur before finishing where we started. There were so many major road crossings that I truly doubt that the traffic management could be pulled off well, if at all. A minor fiasco at the REPC didn’t add to the level of confidence and by the time I toed the line at 5am (I was awake since 2:40am!) with Zijill and Frank, my expectations were quite low. Nick had opted to accompany his wife in her 10K since he wanted to keep things on the conservative side for the time being post-injury. All of us were so casual about it that we were positioned near the very back of the start. In hindsight, it was a mistake, even if we had wanted to keep things easy.

The roads were not fully closed and it was hard running with the large crowd within the coned confines of the allocated lane. Congestion was so bad that I found myself fast walking at one stage.

It was easier to up the ante once we hit NPE since the roads were much wider. Until then, Frank and Zijill were never too far away and it was good to run together, pulling each other along. I chugged from my bottle of Gatorade and thus was able to skip a few water stations. Up until this point the marshalls and water station crew were doing a fantastic job, as were the uniformed officials.

Training has been extremely patchy but I found myself progressing pretty steadily. I’d bumped into many familiar faces which was a welcome diversion. The pee break I had just before the Honda dealership helped tremendously in reducing the feeling of discomfort from a bloated gut, undoubtedly from overdosing of fiber (from the copious amount of veg I stuff myself) the night before.

The route was tougher in the second half of the race, first with the climb past the cemeteries at SS1, followed by the devilish bump at SEA Park before the very long incline along Jalan University. I was able to negotiate those pretty ok, but the average pace dropped by 10 seconds in those sections. The morning was cool but humid so the plentiful sponges were helpful.

The legs eventually got as heavy as lead, as I ran pass Taman Jaya but with the finish just a KM away, there was no point in taking the foot off the pedal. Rounded the corner and gutted out a 1:55.28 finish.

The timing was to expected with my time spent training at a premium lately. Added to the challenging route, it was a fair result. More important was to be out there with friends while getting the workout done.

The organizers generally did a great job with traffic control and marshaling, and as a result prove my fears to be unfounded. The route was a nice change, albeit pretty tough.The start and finish were efficiently handled and I liked the fact that the Half Marathoners were diverted away from the larger crowds of the 5 and 10K categories. The bummer was the reported lack of finisher medals for some runners. I’d have given them mine if I’d known but it was a misstep on the part of the organizers.

PJ Half Marathon 2011

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.

Photo credit: Siew Chee Meng of Malaysian Runners Network.
Photo credit: Siew Chee Meng of Malaysian Runners Network.

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.

Photo credit: Siew Chee Meng of Malaysian Runners Network.
Photo credit: Siew Chee Meng of Malaysian Runners Network.

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 !

RMAF Half Marathon 2008

Efficient delivery of runners to the starting point, prompt flagoff, spectacular first section of the race, accurate distance markers, ample refreshments, Powergels, post-race breakfast, nice finishers medal. Could this race really be in Malaysia? As it turned out, yes! Just about the only thing wrong was my lack of training. So it wasn’t surprising that even when I boarded the bus that would be ferrying us to the start (felt that I was heading to Fort Wadsworth for the NYC race!), I had no clue as to how I would be running the race.
All doubts were laid to rest by the excitement of starting off from the runway of the AFB (Air Force Base). Just after the gun went off, we were treated to a fireworks display and all of us took off to the runway. The area was sufficiently lit as the KL-Seremban Highway was just parallel to the 2K strip but the organizers shot plenty of flares into the early morning sky to ensure a surreal experience for all of us. I felt like an army grunt running to take up positions in the trenches to fend off enemy attacks – think WW2 and Vietnam War scenes!

Frank reported that he ran very comfortably – I was too until the 10K mark. The early splits were very fast nevertheless, for a Half Marathon. I reached the 10K mark in 51 minutes and promptly realized that I won’t be able to sustain the pace until the end. The course was quite all right but with most tackling the 10K distance, the half marathoners were somewhat spread out, making the Federal Highway and Seremban link quite boring and very challenging. A few of the climbs late in the race made things extra difficult too. So it was with great relieve when I crossed the line in 1:48.28 (average pace 5:18). After the customary photo sessions and catching up, I drove off the base with nothing but admiration for the uniformed personnel who handled their duties professionally. I made sure I thank each one I passed on the way out. All of them waved back with a smile and one even replied “You’re Welcome!”

Next race will be the Sundown Marathon. It will be difficult but I’m placing enjoyment over performance. With little or no training, that’s the only strategy to adopt.





Photo credits: Tey, Runwitme and Ronnie.