Nagano Marathon Race Report

A short a trip to Japan but what a trip it was as I caught the Sakura season and there was a marathon too! Read about the race here.

Gear Reviews

All the reviews here...

Trans Nuang 2013

5 runners. 42km. 16 hours. Elevation gain 2,878 meters / 9,442 feet. All here.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 Race Report

After a long long wait, I finally nailed it. Full story here...

 

Looking Forward

Note: If this post appears thematically similar to Nick’s, you’re right. You can read his post here. Sometimes I wonder if we’re twins separated at birth :D . The truth is that, however, I’ve had this one in draft for some time.

We’ve gone past mid-year by some margin and September has already got me thinking about next year, on running and other aspects of my life. The projects that I’m looking at are all long-term undertakings and from the looks of things, huge sacrifices will need to be made. I’m prepping myself up such that I won’t find myself in denial when the time comes.

To look forward, I’ve to review my races from end-2013 right up to the recent Starlight Ultra. I revisited the SWOT analyses (yes, the quadrant!) I put up as part of my self assessment pre-GCAM14. Taking into consideration all aspects of resource constraints I’ll be facing next year, I’ve come to the conclusion that Full Marathons shall continue to be my focus for the foreseeable future. I’ve been neglecting the Halves too and so they will feature more in 2015. The HMs and FMs appeal much to me because in preparing for them, they present a good mix of training volume and challenge for me. A good fit, I’d say.

Where I won’t be continuing are my dalliance with ultra distances of 84K and above. 50 milers, 84 and 100Ks are entirely different beasts. To attempt such distances is to commit beyond the time and financial resources. For me there also has to be the whys, simply because they’re not exactly your typical walk-in-the-park jaunt, even if some events do allow an ultra generous cut-off for newbies. Incidentally my request to downgrade from my first 100K attempt has been accepted by the organizers, much to my relief. I’ll leave it here and save the rest for my next post.

Suffice to say for now that the Threat quadrant will exponentially grow. No doubt new challenges will come into the picture. C1 will be entering a crucial phase in schooling and I’ve to seriously think about post-rat race. There may be hard decisions to be made by the family. I hope that by honestly evaluating the challenges and focusing on where my strength lies, I can continue to develop as a stronger runner despite the constraints.

Press Release: Standard Chartered KL Marathon Announces New Route for 2014

STANDARD CHARTERED KL MARATHON ANNOUNCES NEW ROUTE FOR 2014
Kuala Lumpur’s most iconic long distance running event has a new route for the second time in six years

Kuala Lumpur, 8 September 2014 – For the second time in six years, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2014 will have a new route to test runners’ endurance and skills on more elevated roads.

Scheduled to be held on Oct 12, participants will start and finish as usual at Dataran Merdeka. However, the new route will take them along the Duta-Ulu Klang Highway and the Ampang Elevated Highway instead of the previous years when they ran mainly on city roads.

With the anticipated increase in the number of participants this year, the new route will be an added impetus to participate in the event, apart from helping it to stay ahead of the growing number of marathon events in Malaysia.

Rainer Biemans, Director of Dirigo Events, event owner and organiser of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, said there were several considerations when designing the new route.

“Our first consideration is always the safety of our runners. When designing the routes, we looked into various ways of leading runners onto roads that presented the least traffic hazards.”

“We also look into providing our runners with the best experience and therefore aimed at maintaining as much of the scenic landmarks such as the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers, KTMB Station Kuala Lumpur, the National Monument and the Kuala Lumpur High Court to name a few.”

Full Marathon Route Map. Details, click here

Honda Half Marathon Route Map. Details, click here

“Running on elevated highways means that runners get to enjoy the rare experience of a bird’s eye view of the city skyline plus traffic is more manageable and we are optimistic that the runners will enjoy the experience,” he said.

He also said special attention was paid to the Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman turns, so collisions and congestion between Full Marathon and Half Marathon runners returning and 10km, 5km runners heading to their start points could be avoided this year.

Being the sixth edition and one of the longest-running marathons in the country, the new route is also believed to help further increase the number of participants.

“We have grown from 33,800 last year to 35,200 as of Sept 1, 2014 and we are confident the new route with the highways, will be able to take on that number during the event.

“As the event organiser, our efforts have always been channelled towards making the race better and for our runners to constantly experience something new. I believe we have achieved this once again with the new route,” Biemans said.

Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia’s Managing Director and CEO, Osman Morad, said the new route will be challenging, but he believed the Standard Chartered KL Marathon runners are Committed, Confident, Courageous, and they are up to the challenge.

“I hope this will be an exciting run, one that will stretch the participants in achieving their goals. I wish them a fun and safe experience!”

Numerous precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the runners’ safety on Race Day. These include:

  • Engagement of 400 traffic police and DBKL enforcement officers to ensure a traffic-free running route and pre-race road closures
  • Public conveniences such as 350 toilets, surau facilities and 28 water stations on the route as well as Dataran Merdeka
  • 450 medical personnel both on the route as well as Dataran Merdeka
  • 350 race officials both on the route as well as the start and finish areas
  • Public transportation services from as early as 3am

For more information on the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2014’s new route, please visit www.kl-marathon.com or call +603 7886 1717.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact:

Dirigo Events Sdn. Bhd
+603 7886 1717 | dirigo@dirigo.com.my

essence Burson-Marsteller at 03-7493 5588:
Cheah May-huen, ext. 206 | +60 19 650 3105 | mayhuen@my-essence.com
Michelle Wong, ext. 211 | +6013 751 2701 | michelle@my-essence.com

About the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2014
Back for the sixth year, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon is scheduled to take place on 12 October 2014. The marathon aims to grow to 35,000 total participants, ranging from elite professionals to first-time amateurs. A truly international event, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon boasts participants from all over Malaysia and over 48 countries. The Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2014 continues as Malaysia’s flagship running event with top runners competing for a total of USD 116,740 prize money.

For more information on the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon, please refer to:
http://www.kl-marathon.com/
  and http://www.facebook.com/SCKLmarathon.

About Standard Chartered Bank
Standard Chartered – leading the way in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Standard Chartered is a leading international banking group. It has operated for over 150 years in some of the world’s most dynamic markets and earns more than 90 per cent of its profits in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This geographic focus and commitment to developing deep relationships with clients and customers has driven the Bank’s growth in recent years. Standard Chartered PLC is listed on the London and Hong Kong stock exchanges as well as the Bombay and National Stock Exchanges in India.

With 1,700 offices in 70 markets, the Group offers exciting and challenging international career opportunities for nearly 87,000 staff. It is committed to building a sustainable business over the long term and is trusted worldwide for upholding high standards of corporate governance, social responsibility, environmental protection and employee diversity. Standard Chartered’s heritage and values are expressed in its brand promise, ‘Here for good’.

For further information please visit www.standardchartered.com. Follow Standard Chartered at www.facebook.com/standardchartered and on Twitter @StanChart.

Standard Chartered in Malaysia

Standard Chartered Bank, a member of the Standard Chartered Group was established in Malaysia in 1875 and incorporated as Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad on 29 February 1984.  As Malaysia’s first bank, Standard Chartered leads the way through product innovation, consistent and strong growth performance and sustainability initiatives. The Bank provides a comprehensive range of financial products and services to corporates, institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and individuals through its network of over 40 branches across Malaysia.

In 2001, Standard Chartered UK established its third global technology & operations centre, Scope International, in Malaysia – the first international bank to do so in the country. Scope International provides software development, banking operations, IT support services and customer service capabilities to the Bank in up to 70 countries. It now houses the biggest software development company in the country, International Software Centre Malaysia (ISCM) and has a total workforce of more than 3,200 people.

Price Solutions Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank UK is also located in Malaysia. The company promotes and markets Standard Chartered’s financial products in Malaysia through a network of direct sales agents.

Standard Chartered Saadiq Berhad, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad’s Islamic Banking subsidiary was established in November 2008. It offers a full suite of Shariah-compliant products and services to individuals and corporates through its financial centres.

Standard Chartered employs close to 7,000 employees in all its Malaysian operations.

About the Event Organiser

Dirigo Events Sdn Bhd

Established in 2011, Kuala Lumpur-based Dirigo Events Sdn. Bhd. is an award-winning event management company that has created and executed marketing strategies across borders in Europe, Brunei, India, Singapore and Malaysia. Spearheaded by owners Rainer Biemans and Gloria Ng, the company has a collective experience of some 48 years in conceptualizing, managing and executing events spanning mass-participation sports to high impact corporate events for the banking, automotive and retail industries.

One of Dirigo Events’ prominent projects include the Standard Chartered KL Marathon which has achieved many milestones, including winning the Platinum Award for Kuala Lumpur Mayor’s Tourism Award 2014 under the Events category. For more information on Dirigo Events, please contact +603 7887 1717 or email dirigo@dirigo.com.my

Press Release: Inov-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kuala Lumpur, 5 September 2014 – The INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 was officially launched today at the Garden Mid-Valley Mall, Kuala Lumpur. Organised by Pacesetters Athletic Club (PAC) with title sponsor INOV-8, the event was officiated by Mr. Robert Lu, the President of Key Power International and Mr. Wan Yew Leong, the President of Pacesetters Athletic Club.

With all 8 categories opened for registration since 16 July 2014, the event has garnered good response from runners. The organisers targeted to get 3,000 runners over the 3 distances – 30km, 20km and 10km.

Wan Yew Leong said that “PAC’s vision and aspiration is to be the leading running club in the country and region. To achieve this, we will organise three events that aim to be “best in class” in the region. The INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 is the first of these three events. 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the club and having a 30km run to celebrate this special occasion would be really memorable. There are 10 marathons and several more half marathons in Malaysia, but there are no 30km events. This is a boutique event and provides an opportunity for those wanting to test their readiness for the full marathon. For seasoned marathon runners, this is a long run that is essential for their marathon preparation”

INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 is to be flagged off at Padang Merbok. Runners will get to experience some of the finest run routes in Kuala Lumpur, running through leafy Kenny Hills and Sri Hartamas. They will be well catered to, with 13, 8 and 3 drink stations on the 30km, 20km and 10km routes respectively.

“As a running club, we encourage our members to go natural in their diet as we feel the best fuel the body can get is from natural sources, therefore we aim offer fruit-themed refreshments. We will serve bananas before, during and after the run. In addition, water melons, oranges & apples will also be provided as post run snacks” Wan added.

Wan Yew Leong, President of Pacesetters Athletic Club (left) and Robert Lu, President of Key Power International (right)

“Our club’s tagline, ‘Setting the Pace Together’ will be printed on the finisher’s shirts. The INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run originated from a 30km training run organized by runners for runners many years ago. We hope this event will inspire other running clubs in the country to have their own events in their towns. We have a vision of a circuit of runs organized by runners for runners across the country. PAC will provide the lead in co-ordinating a series of runs by running clubs in 2015.” concluded Wan.

Robert Lu said, “The Ministry of Youth and Sports’ vision is to champion the empowerment of a superior youth and sports development and to inculcate sports culture within the society by year 2015. Our focuses include Exposure and Opportunities for confidence building; Engagement and Activism for community development and Support and Engage, to the youth of Malaysia.

This is our sixth 30km event and it is made possible by title sponsor INOV-8 in partnership with event owner and organiser, Pacesetters Athletic Club. Garmin is the official fitness watch and Running Malaysia is the media partner of the event.

For immediate registration, go to www.myraceonline.com and for more information, please visit www.pacesettersmalaysia.blogspot.com or https://www.facebook.com/groups/1507084776194776/

- END-

For further information, please contact:
Wan Yew Leong 019-3569031, wanyewleong@gmail.com

About the INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014
The INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 is scheduled to take place on 2 November 2014. The event aims to get 3,000 runners, ranging from elite professionals to first-time amateurs. A truly ‘best in class’ event, the INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 boasts participants from all over Malaysia and neighboring countries. The INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014 continues as Malaysia’s boutique running event catering to the running fraternity with different capabilities. Registration is opened since 16 July 2014 at www.myraceonline.com

For more information on the INOV-8 Pacesetters 3030 Run 2014, please refer to: www.pacesettersmalaysia.blogspot.com or https://www.facebook.com/groups/1507084776194776/

About Inov-8
Established in 2003, Inov-8 is the leading fitness equipment manufacturer with the dedication to celebrate the grit and glory of the committed athlete. Inov-8 operates at the extremes of sports. As a brand, Inov-8 does not settle or stop ever. In the pursuit of excellence, there is no finish line, only continued development, hard work and sweat. Driven by a team of elite athletes, having competed in and coming from various

About Key Power International
Founded in 2006 by avid runners and triathletes, Key Power is the leading distributor and retailer for performance sporting goods. With a deep focus and understanding on the needs of the markets, Key Power International has delivered the promise in providing the best performance gears. Today, through Key Power International’s extensive distribution network and a footprint in 4 key regional markets, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, Key Power International has provided the experience and opportunities to consumers in their pursuit of active lifestyles.

About Key Power Malaysia
Key Power Malaysia is the subsidiary company of Key Power International (Asia) Pte Ltd. Founded in July 2011, Key Power Malaysia has been active in the sporting industry with a focus on providing the best performance sporting goods for consumers. With 3 key outlets in Malaysia and many other exclusive dealers, Key Power Malaysia has achieved a strong presence in Malaysia’s sporting industry. Apart from that, Key Power Malaysia has also participated actively in sporting events to bring forth opportunities for consumers to pursue active lifestyles.

BHP Orange Run 2014 Race Report

Short races are incredibly hard. There – I’ve said it. Right from the start, it’s eyeballs out until you cross the finish line totally wasted. It’s worse if the last 10K race I’ve done was more than a year ago. Yet it was a good diversion from the usual longer stuff and not a moment too soon either, since there’s a handful of such races I’ve signed up for.

Before the start. Photo courtesy of Jeanie.

With an entry fee of RM5 and Jeanie’s help with the registration, it’s hard to resist the BHP Orange Run. Sore calves be damned, I thought it would be nice to see if I could equal the average pace recorded previously (2008 | 2011) or as a bonus, go under an hour for the 12K. Dipping under an hour is not impossible on a good day as a 5-minute pace is all it requires. Stacked against me, however, were persistently sore lower legs, lack of speed and anaerobic fitness.

The start area was quite narrow and the organizers should’ve placed the starting line after the little roundabout. The hazard could’ve resulted in an accident. Anyways, I surprisingly cleared the first 2 twists of the route and found myself along Persiaran Surian quickly enough. By then Piew had distanced himself further and further away from me, despite my splits between 4:37 and 4:50 the first 4K. After clawing back the pace for another K, inevitably, the pace and long gradual climbs got to me and I gradually fizzled out.

Down the finish chute. Photo courtesy of 2009Tonton

The race became a lost cause when side stitch hit and I was reduced to shuffling and short walks (3 times, gasp!). The women leaders passed me when I got to KBU. The finish couldn’t have come quicker and I limped home in 1:01. Piew ran a cracking 56 minutes and Yan Leng 1:02.

Before adjourning for breakfast. Photo courtesy of Jeanie.

Message for someone to get specialist help.

12 keychains, 3 magnets, 5 car stickers in the finisher bag! The packers must’ve just thrown everything in.

Met many friends back at The Curve and when everyone gathered up, the group headed for breakfast at Ikano before heading home. The lower legs are extremely sore now and I’ll give them another day before doing some foam rolling. No complains on my timing and I know I’ll be back again next year. That sub-1 is going down!

Adidas adizero Ace 6 Review

I was on the lookout for possible footwear in the weeks leading to Starlight (race report here). because, believe it or not, I didn’t have a pair that met my criteria for a road ultra: lightweight (under 10oz), breathable, not over-engineered, perfect blend of responsiveness and cushioning (meaning, not ultra soft), medium-stacked, with just a hint of structure/support to carry me as I straggle like a zombie towards the finish. Oh boy, was I in for a surprise. Little did I realize that I am that hard to please when it comes to shoes!

The original plan for Starlight was to go with 2 pairs – the GRU Nite Owl for the first half before swapping it for the Kinvara 5 Runshield for the second leg – but I finally decided to keep things simple by going with a single-pair approach. The GRU wasn’t an option as in the lead up towards the race, it caused some blistering on the top of my 4th toe. I even contemplated cutting out a hole where that problematic overlay ran over. The last time this happened was when I wore a overly small GR3. I was puzzled that this cropped up in a correctly sized GRU. The crucial question was then, “Which pair should I go with?”. The Strada and the regular version of the Kinvara 5 weren’t available as well.

With a few days to D-Day and in desperation, I’d tried on the asics Excel 33, Electro 33, adidas Revenergy Boost (photo). I found the silky smooth Revenergy too heavy (felt like over 10oz for my size 10) to be carrying over 84K, while the 2 asics just didn’t feel quite right and a little too thin on the forefoot midsole. I also checked out the several Nikes but they also felt off.

Just when I was this close *holding up my thumb and index finger* to giving up, I chanced upon the adiZero Ace 6 (aZA6). The aZA6 weighs under 9oz for my US10, which makes it lighter than the GRU, DS Trainer 19, Revenergy Boost, Zoom Fly, Zoom Elite 7, Pegasus 31 and Launch. More importantly it felt just right in the store – not too snug in the midfoot, sports a roomy forefoot (a shocker since adidas typically runs narrow) and has a little toe spring. It also didn’t feel like one with a high offset, more like between 6-8mm.

Forefoot is wide with a medium to high toebox. Atypical of Adidas.

The removable sockliner is as thin as that found on the GOrun 3 but is overall slightly stiffer and contoured around the arch. And not as hard as Nike’s FitSole.

The upper of the aZA6 shares the same design philosophy as GR3 and GRR3 – simple, minimal overlays over just the necessary areas. Interestingly, there’s an area just behind the forefoot flexpoint that is a little stretchy allowing the foot to splay further. This small area is reminiscent of the Biomorphic Fit found on the DS Trainer 9. The entire upper of the aZA6 down to the laces, tongue, padding, heel counter, is likewise kept simple. In all the miles that I’ve covered in the shoe, I’ve found the ventilation to be excellent.

Midsole is typical adidas with the firmer adiPRENE®+ employed in the forefoot and regular adiPRENE in the heel for cushioning duties. Where the Boost midsole accords a smooth and cushy ride, the adiPRENE setup creates a more responsive ride. It has that snappy feel to it, though not to the extent of the GOspeed.

adiWEAR compound is known for its durability.

Darker colored material used are “sticky rubber”. Note the inscription on the outer edge of the forefoot.

adiWEAR material can be found in the high-wear areas while the lighter Quickstrike in the other areas of the outsole. Sticky rubber is well deployed on sections of the outsole and I’ve found the forefoot grip to be astonishingly good. I certainly felt very assured wherever I ran, even on wet surfaces. Exposed midsole foam are evident throughout the outsole too. There’s a tiny strip of TPU which I don’t think serves any purpose due to its size. If I had a say in the design, the strip wouldn’t have found its way into the shoe. Flexibility is, however, just average.

The Torsion strip is so small, why have it in the first place?

The ride? The aZA6 is somewhat similar to the Wave Rider 17 but definitely firmer than the Kinvara 5 and Boston Boost. While I wore them over 84K, alternating between running and walking, it’s definitely a shoe that’s more suited to faster-paced running. I’ve also found that I needed to lace up tighter in order for the shoe to lock down better. Although there were no blisters post-Starlight, my feet slid back and forth a fair bit especially on the descents.Lacing up tightly wasn’t an option at that time due to foot swelling encountered over the course of an ultra. The aZA6 would definitely be more comfortable tackling quicker-paced runs and marathons than slow burns.

All things considered, the Ace 6 would find itself in the company of traditional performance trainers such as the Kinvara 5, DS Trainer 19, Zoom Elite 9, Zoom Fly, 890 v4, Launch, Wave Rider 17, Wave Sayonara 2. At 9oz for the US10, the aZA6 is the lightest of those I mentioned above. However, if you prefer an even lighter, softer and way more flexible option, you won’t go wrong with the GOrun Ride 3 (8.7oz).

It needs to be mentioned here that I’ve never taken to adidas shoes, even as a shoe geek for 15 years. I’ve found their training shoes to be too narrow, too clunky and heavy while their racing shoes too hardcore (read: ultra minimalist, firm). Lately the company seemed to have made some good moves addressing the middle ground. I’m impressed with the Boost midsole material. Its durability (my Energy Boost has logged over 300K with the outsole showing hardly any wear and tear) and that of the adiWEAR outsole is excellent. Of course, durability without a ride that fits the wearer is pointless. The Ace 6 thankfully has that. It won’t make waves in the running circle because it’s an understated shoe. Added to that, it’s not easily available.

I’ve logged over 110K in the adiZero Ace 6 and the shoe is available from the adidas boutiques in 1Utama and Sunway Pyramid for RM360. Information is scant on the Ace 6 unfortunately, but head on to the brand’s UK site and you’ll be able to see it there.

Starlight Ultra Race Report

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”
― Sigmund Freud

One does not race an ultra. Not unless you’re an elite or someone who enjoys the pain and suffering. To the majority of runners out there, an ultra is to be experienced once just because. Some do it because their friends are doing it. Fewer do it as a penance and to seek something more spiritual out of the experience. Even fewer actually thrive on them. I fall somewhere between “for the experience” and “spiritual”.

To seek anything more than that on top of finishing the run injury-free is simply foolhardy. A week off GCAM14, a week down with flu and cough and 2 weeks left to Aug 23 really are not circumstances to be preparing for one. If you’ve been following developments, Starlight was rescheduled from May. Be it May or August, it sat in between marathons. Simply put, be careful in scheduling your ultras alongside your marathons. More so if you’ve gunning for a PR in your marathon. Ultras can be disruptive not only to a rocky marriage but also marathon training! Here, I’ll need to clarify that my personal (and I emphasize “personal”) qualification of an ultra is a 50-miler, 84K and above. 50Ks aren’t ultras in my books unless they’re of the bat-crazy Skyrunning variety where even a 10K distance is enough to crush the legs and soul.

Stubbed my toe on the way to Tesco for supplies.

That said, I’m glad that the whole ordeal is over last weekend. Unlike fellow runners’ (you know who you are) preparations of weekly diet of Genting Sempah, mine as explained earlier had been non-existent. Too late to chicken out, I found myself at the start with a small group of 150-200 runners, some of whom were in the relay or shorter categories, on a wet yet humid Penang night. My approach to this was really on a KISS approach – don’t overdress, don’t over-gear and just run/walk very easily right from the start.

Finish point at Straits Quay.

Prior to leaving our Marina Suites unit for the start.

I went with the Inov-8 Race Ultra 1 rather than the UDSJ pack because I didn’t want to over-strain the shoulders over the longest distance I’ve ever attempted. A single 500ml bottle on one side and the other water bottle pouch was freed up to carry other knick-knacks like food and miscellaneous stuff. Met many friends from Singapore, Penang and KL prior to the flag off from Straits Quay.

Met hardcore TPC on the way to check in my baggage.

Things were uneventful from the beginning with the highlight being walking the entire length of the crowded Gurney Drive. Aromas of Penang famed street and hawker food wafted through the night air, teased me to no end. The hawkers were literally just inches from me over the Weld Quay stretch. Oh to be in Penang, yet with no chance of savoring the delicacies! To rub salt to the wounds, I was subjecting myself to extreme discomfort!

First, let me give the thumbs up. Photo credit: JAC Photography, the official photographer.

OK Nick, now your turn! Photo credit: JAC Photography, the official photographer.

I reached CP1 in around 1.5 hours, sweaty but comfortable. Nick called out that he’ll be slowing down due to a buggy knee. From there on, I was pretty much running alone, at least as far as my friends are concerned. A handful of runners were around me but it was the start of a long journey battling my demons. The Jelutong stretch were familiar to me and those who had run the past editions of Bridge Marathon. A new experience would be the detour to a concrete pathway off the highway along the waterfront. Youths on motorcycles loitered the dark area, boys smoking, girls played coy with the boys – you get the idea. I was just glad to exit this dingy section.

Next up after CP2 located before Queensbay Mall, was the Bayan Lepas industrial area. Runners weaved through the factory complexes gradually moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city towards the outskirts of Georgetown. I wasn’t having such a ball even if my body conditions were good. The motivation was just not there. I was really on a “let’s just try to wing-it” mode. Ran past the junction leading to the haunted WWII War Museum and pitch dark stretch of road in Batu Maung. Dimly lit CP3 was at a petrol station and I spent a bit more time there. 4.5 hours had passed and the going wasn’t smooth. The mind just didn’t click with the body. The nice thing at CP3 was cold Coke. There wasn’t any bananas so I relied on my bar. Also mixed in the first sachet of the Hi5 4:1 carb-protein drink. Leong was already there. No signs of Piew, Yan Leng and MC who had stormed off much earlier. I called Nick on the phone thinking I’d wait up for him and he said he was about 2Ks away. I downed more Coke but after 10 minutes, I decided to get going.

The next section after Teluk Kumbar would be a tough climb but I found it very enjoyable. Perhaps the muscles were just too tired of the flats already and the glutes and quads were just raring to fire up. I passed a number of runners who left CP3 ahead of me and thoroughly enjoyed the climb. Air was very fresh after the rain and the sound of crickets and bull frogs’ mating calls reminded me of childhood days. An affable runner from Singapore savored the moment too and said he missed those days when Singapore wasn’t overdeveloped. I overtook more runners on the descent, running all the way down. I was mindful of not pounding my quads coming down and cleared the section quite easily.

Posted this then. Some effort needed to cast away the negative thoughts.

CP4 – halfway mark where many would be making their go/no-go decisions. For the life of me, I can’t remember for sure what my timing was now. I reckon it was between 6:10 to 6:15 because I was averaging between 1:20 to 1:30 for each 10K (didn’t turn my GPS on). I ate half a cup of corn in butter (took it easy with the corn because I didn’t want to take on too much fiber), half a cup of noodles and half a Clif bar. I didn’t see any fruits or bananas. Drank 3 cups of Coke and refilled my bottle and got back on the road. I didn’t want to linger too long for fear of unwanted negative thoughts creeping in. After all, if things go south for whatever reason, there’s always CP5 to make the call. So far the RELA marshals were doing excellent jobs. Intersections were manned and they patrolled the roads too. After passing the narrow streets of the town, we gradually found ourselves on along village roads. Other than an occasional dog, boredom and fighting the mental demons, the journey was uneventful. I wasn’t focused on anything specific in particular. Thoughts flowed in and out and there wasn’t anything that I could grasp or focus on. The roads were in equal parts well lit and dark, nothing a good headlamp can’t remedy.

Things started to get difficult after CP5. The soles were aching and lower back began tightening up. Sat down twice for a few minutes at bus stops along the way and was passed by 4 runners. Nice of them to ask if I was OK. A few minutes later, I was back on the road, trudging along and running short stretches. The early morning sky was breathtaking as the haze-free air revealed so many stars in the skies that you couldn’t count! It was such a treat, truly a moving and inspiring experience. We get so much light pollution from cities and metropolises these days, that to witness such sights were truly rare. At least not in KL. The lesson here was surely to keep one’s head up even when the going gets tough.

I struggled for a few more hours before arriving at the foot of the long and arduous but should I add, enjoyable climb up the highest point on the race course? It was already 5:30am and some senior folks were on their way down from the morning walk. The endless tight twists and turns were welcome respite from the long and boring straights. Again, it was over the climbs that I overtook those who have passed me. All the lunges that I’ve put in seemed to have paid dividends! Along the way, I ran past a few small and medium-sized waterfalls that dot the section including the famous Titi Kerawang Falls. Would’ve been nice to soak in the icy cold water!

When I arrived at CP6, the volunteers said that there were only around 30 runners behind me. I wasn’t sure how accurate that information was but that got me moving quickly enough once I got my water refilled. It was downhill all the way to the Teluk Bahang Dam but unfortunately I didn’t have the strength nor endurance to capitalize on that unlike earlier. Neither did I have any time to enjoy the stunning sights of the dam. The sun was up and the morning was getting hotter by the minute as more and more cyclists (Penang have a large cycling community and Penangites are canvassing for a bike lane) rode past me.

CP7 located right next to the Teluk Bahang was such a welcome sight. The RELA members warned that we should get going as the traffic was building up. I wasn’t going to waste anymore time anyway as I just wanted to get the whole thing done! If only I could move quicker than a sloth! 14 Km of the most hair-raising stretch of road I’ve ever ran laid between CP7 and the finish. It really was like this classic scene from Bowfinger, right down to the script. Yup, I was doubting myself. I was in boat loads of pain. My tank was empty. Hard wasn’t even an accurate word to describe it as the sun baked me good. Like Eddie Murphy’s character, I even thought of the remaining 14K as an errand. I just wanted coffee but I only stopped at a convenience store for a RM1 ice lolly. I had to fantasize that the bus drivers as professional stunt drivers too and just trust that I’d get through unscathed :) .

14K was actually 13K over-distanced for me at that point. I was busy exchanging texts with my wife – not that she was busy encouraging me to keep going but she was updating me on the critical condition of a family member in hospital. I kept that thought in mind whenever the pain came up and just jobbled (jogged+hobbled) towards the finish. When I crossed the line, I’d “only” taken 14 hours 15 minutes to cover the 84K, 45 minutes more than I’d projected when I hit CP6. If anyone asks me now the first feeling that struck me when the clock stopped for me, I’d say 1 word – RELIEF. For sure, completing this distance was pretty amazing. And I’m glad that I kept going and saw it through even when the urge to quit was so strong but I’m quite sure these traits are common amongst ultra runners. I had doubts that I could see it through with not a single mile of specific training put in. And that’s not because I don’t give it any respect. Race scheduling, marathon training and life just got in the way. It’s because I’ve too much respect for an ultra that Starlight will be the first and last time I’m committing to such things with no preparations. Now that I’ve done it, I can attest that with adequate preparation, 84K is not an impossible adventure to be undertaking. Physical conditioning over the months and years will certainly get you there. On the mental aspect, it depends on how you’re wired.

Other than extreme sleepiness and tight legs a day after the longest distance I’ve ever covered on foot, I’ve thankfully emerged unscathed. By rebuilding back the lost nutrients, I hope to resume marathon training between 7 to 10 days’ time. Huge props to Yan Leng (3rd placing in women vet category), Piew and Gan who totally ate up the roads of Penang. That’s what weeks of training at Genting Sempah will get you. Big congrats too to Nick who really stuck it out despite losing his way – he had all of us biting our nails waiting for him. And finally, Leong who recognized his limits will only get way better from his experience.

Positives:

  1. Volunteers were great along the course and back at the finish. I wasn’t in a rush for time, so I was served well and avoided the congestion of the fast group of runners at all the aid stations.
  2. Plenty of chilled drinks at all aid stations.
  3. Slow runners get their deserved welcome back at the finish.
  4. RELA members did a good job manning the junctions and traffic. I always felt safe with their patrols. They were friendly and supportive too.
  5. Supportive Penang folks along the way, even though they probably thought we were crazy.
  6. Southern and Western portions of the island provided the best experience in terms of scenery and environment.

Could be better:

  1. Though I see no solution except to exclude this stretch, the Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah road was dangerous. No other way to describe it.
  2. No portable toilets. Many bushes benefited from my contribution. I did my share giving back to nature.
  3. No 5K distance markers.
  4. Don’t recall seeing fruits at the CPs. Some bananas would be nice.
  5. Many roads in Penang are being upgraded. Runners and organizers should be wary of safety issues. To everyone’s credit, no untoward incidents happened during the event.
  6. Received the finisher tee for the 84K relay but it’s no big deal . I didn’t run this for the t-shirt :) .

After thoughts:

Taking on 2 marathons on zero ultra-specific training should not be attempted simply based on what I managed. I was physically hammered and the soles of my feet hurt so badly that I wanted to (but thankfully didn’t) lie down. Mentally I experienced the expected lows of wanting to quit but I recognized those symptoms (through plenty of reading, learning and listening from seasoned runners) and just cast those thoughts out. I ran and walked mostly in a blank state of mind and didn’t even listen to my specially compiled playlist on my iPod. The motivation to look beyond the pain only came after CP7 when my wife updated me on the condition of the family member (who had very sadly passed away).

What got me through uninjured? A few factors probably mattered. I’m listing them here to remind myself that I could’ve done better had I actually trained and optimally motivated. It’s also to caution anyone out there who thinks completing one without training is something that can be done. As everyone is wired differently, you could in fact do it better. Or much worse. So do make your own evaluation.

  1. I’m not a weight-challenged person. A heavier person would’ve pounded the pavement with much more impact than I did, more so in the later miles when the running form has deteriorated. More damage, more pain, higher chances of quitting.
  2. I didn’t carry any injuries going into Starlight.
  3. I adopted the run-walk routine right from the start, not when I was exhausted. I recognized my shortcomings and was on a conservative and self-preservation mode.
  4. When I ran, my pace was so slow that I think it hurt me more to have run that slow!
  5. The slow pace allowed me to burn fat instead of carbs. As a result, I truly bonked only around the 60K mark.
  6. I’ve had consistent monthly mileage since middle of last year. I was always in an “in-training” mode and have done a number of 50s since then.
  7. I’ve had strength training built into my program.
  8. While I was a newbie to ultra distance, I wasn’t a newbie in terms of “book knowledge”. Of course theory and practical execution should not be mixed, but I didn’t enter the event totally blind.

 

Returning To Laksa Island

Photo by Michael J. Lowe from Wikipedia under CC by SA2.5 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/

It’s been hard picking things up again after the last marathon. The general sense of lethargy isn’t helped by 2 bouts of cough and flu, short-lived yet enough to derail any form of consistent progress. The most recent incident was after the group run last Saturday. I started to hack like crazy along the drive back and before I had time to grab a bag or something, I vomited a disgusting glob of goo and some coffee into my palm. Body’s all achy now.

Such has been the frustration thus far – one step forward, two steps back. It’s a given that I’ll be put through the meat grinder this Saturday over a back-heavy course. I’m so dreading it. The gear’s all packed, iPod’s loaded up and barring a fever, I’ll be at the start line at 9pm. I’ve pretty much decided on my goals for 2015 but will only make a final call after Starlight. Let’s take one step at a time, shall we?

P/s. It’ll be nice if we have time to savor a serving or two of Penang’s Asam Laksa. And here’s the recipe should you want to give it a go. Nope, this blog isn’t about turn into a foodie one. Plenty of experts in that area :)

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