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Kasumigaura Marathon 2016

When \\\\\\\"blustery\\\\\\\" wasn\\\\\\\'t even the right word. Read the race report here!

31st Marathon and my 6th Consecutive GCAM. Race report here.

 

Category Archives: Night Runs

Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100 Miles (78K) Race Report

When entries for this year’s final edition of the Putrajaya 100 (rebranded Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100) opened some months ago, I didn’t bite. It has been a bruising year at work and I’ve struggled with moving the mileage beyond what’s needed for general fitness. In case you’re unfamiliar with the venue, Putrajaya didn’t get to be infamous for nothing. Even when Nick signed up for the 78K category, he earned more ribbing from the gang than admiration. There was even a hint of sympathy for him too.

So it was unbelievably perplexing, that in the course of  the next couple of months, more of us found ourselves to be part of Nick’s troupe. For the life of me, even now, I can’t believe I was suckered in. And like lemmings, Lum, Cherly and Jeanie came along too! The monies paid, there was really little chance of not turning up, even if all the running I did leading up to that night was just the maintenance sort, fluctuating between 30-50K weeks.

However, at least on the runners’ side, was the favourable weather forecast for the night. Evenings have been stormy (conditions which I love) and certainly beat being put on a slow roast. The list of mandatory items were long and carrying the load presented an equally challenging task for the long haul. But you can’t negotiate on safety.

The plan was to pack as light as I could. Where possible, I brought along alternative gear in my carry box. The red Saucony Palladium packable jacket was eventually replaced by a RM5 Daiso poncho when rain didn’t appear to be on the cards. I also reduced the number of nut bars I carried and ditched the single pack of gel, relying on 2 remaining bars and a bag of mixed roasted nuts for fuel. From my experience in TNF Hong Kong, my primarily nuts fuel plan worked pretty well, staving off hunger while providing denser calories. A single 500ml soft flask was included being a much lighter option, instead of the UD bottle. I decided to bring along a clear lens shade as eye protection from rain, insects and what-have-you.

Book was placed there as a reference for the pack size.

My final load was comfortably packed into the UD SJ pack. The new Salomon 1L race vest would’ve been ideal but there wasn’t much room in that one, unfortunately. Apparels were also of the bright and light variety, Saucony’s Speed of Lite vest and shorts, a buff and a safety vest over all that. Footwear duties went to the Kinvara 7 instead of the earlier intended Guide 9. Again, it was part of the “go light” strategy. Socks were the Pacific & Co ones which feature reflective nubs. No compression wear. Drop bag facilities were extended to only the 100K and 100 milers, so the Petzl Nao will have to be carried throughout my 78K distance.

Frank was kind enough to drive Jeanie and I to Putrajaya and since we were early, we made a short detour to Equine Park for a light snack. I had a large bowl of ABC to stay hydrated and cool myself down but skipped actual food since I wasn’t hungry. It’s never easy running in a heavily stuffed mode. When we got to the race site, and having gone through kit inspection and race number collection, it was just chilling around sipping on the Americano which I’d brought along. It was getting clearer that there would be no rain that night. Thankfully, the air was cooling with a slight breeze going.

Prior to flag off, Arman gave a quick briefing covering the important safety reminders and route updates. Finally, along with 40 or so other runners, I was finally let off. I emptied my mind of any doubts or emotions and just went with the flow. The number of 78K runners was smaller than the nearly 100 52K and close to 140 runners for the 100K categories.

Photo credit: Rany Tan

With Jeanie running strongly, I decided to hang back. Nick, Lum, Cherly, Frank and Leong (who turned up to lend support) were all close by and we took things really easy, walking frequently and not the least bothered that people were passing us. The night was still young and self-preservation was of utmost importance.

Photo credit: Run & Explore

When we got near to the hotel where Nick’s wife was waiting, we put on a grand show of 5:45 surge. Naturally as soon as we passed the section, we resumed our walk break! Nothing like these nonsensical moments to take the mind off pressing matters :) .

Photo credit: Nick’s wife. I was just a blur. 5:45 pace ma….

We got to CP1 pretty smoothly and after a quick refill of the bottle and a bite of 2 slices of bread,  we resumed our journey. Several mouthfuls of ice-cold Coke helped to freshen things up too. Not long after that, we had more company in the form of CY, Richi, Zijill and Julia who biked along. As much as I’d like that ice-cold beer (CY and Richi kept reminding Nick and I), I kept my focus on the task at hand. Thankfully, the McDonald’s along the way was so crowded I wasn’t tempted to head in for a snack!

Photo credit: CY

It goes without saying that with many of the gang present, there would be more than one photo taken!  I felt a little bad as we were proceeding rather slowly, and these guys were on bikes. After CP2, we lost them, thinking that they could’ve backtracked to support Frank, Jeanie and Cherly. It must’ve been difficult for them but they somehow appeared again when we arrived at CP3! We’ve covered 26K, which wasn’t even halfway but I was comforted that we’ve about to start the difficult 13K to CP4, the halfway point, and the same distance back to CP5 (CP3) for a total of 26K.

Photo credit: CY

With the clock past midnight, Nick and I gingerly (and should I say, briskly) got through the Muslim cemetery stretch before the route joined up with the highway to CP4. Along with Nick, we covered another 6K before I spotted someone hustling at great speed towards us. Somehow I knew from the running form, that the person was Frank and I was proven right. He had put in some serious afterburners to have caught up with us. Jeanie and Cherly were still in the game much further back.

As we continued our run-walk strategy towards CP4, egging Nick along, we cheered the returning runners from the 100K category. Then there was Jeff, on his way back and in the lead in the 100 miles category. After sharing some pain management tips with me, we wished him the best as we moved along. Several stretches of this sector were in total darkness, so it was great to have Frank’s powerful headlamp to complement our Petzls.

Status update at approx 35K mark for us, from eventual 100-mile champ Jeff.

CP4 was located at the top of a steep climb but boy, was it a relief for me to get there. Nick was in some pain with his inflammed knee. We urged him to consider resting longer and should conditions turned for the worse, he could at least hitch a ride on any marshall vehicle heading back to the staging area or earlier CP. With some hope that somehow he’d make it, Frank and I departed for the final half of the race. Perhaps triggered by copious quantity of Coke, there was a greater sense of urgency and I felt that the timing was right to focus and close down the distance to the next 2 CPs (52K and 58K respectively) the best we can. My legs were still fine and there was some confidence in my strides and I thought, “Just go with the flow”. With Frank, we made some good progress, passing runners along the way.

Then in the distance, we spotted 2 lights – it was Jeanie and Cherly! So good to see that they were still in it! And with that we went our ways. Our spirits lifted, no doubt. Next party we ran into was Piew, Yan Leng, Kien Siong and Li Leen – our next bunch of supporters. We hit the 2 CPs in very good timing, with pace ranging from 6:10 to 6:30, passing more runners than ever before. Fatigue started creeping in only after the 58K mark, with the discomfort stemming more from the pain in the metatarsals than anything else. I had encountered no cramps, no gas in the stomach, no water retention issues on the extremities, just some mild discomfort in the tummy – nothing a hot drink can’t settle. I’d been fueling well on nuts, bars and some bread slices but a hot drink would’ve been great. But Frank has been kind enough to pace along and we were still power walking!

By the time we embarked on our final 8K, Piew and Yan Leng had had to leave us. The progress was slow but it was already too near to completely stop.

7K to go! Photo credit: Khairul Nizam

With 4K to go, Frank and I were operating on getting to the next lamp-post or bin and so on, but with the spirits lifting as we drew ever nearer to the finish, we ran more than we walked. We passed 2 more of our category before crossing the finish line in 12:55, and not a moment sooner as the day was warming up quickly.

Relieved to have finished. Photo credit: Jeff

All in all, it was a great outing for me. My expectations had been really low, with hardly any significant mileage, but with friends’ support and right fueling, I somehow finished in a relatively comfortable state, with no injuries. Thanks to the GCAM gang, whose names I mentioned earlier, for turning up and Frank for not abandoning me over the 2nd half of the race. We covered the 2nd half faster than the 1st which was a wisely executed strategy, getting us the 5th and 6th position respectively. It was only at the finish that I learnt that Nick has decided to stop at the 52K mark on account of his condition. We were just glad he made the hard call as there are upcoming races to be run – and yes, we need him for more vain shots! I should thank all the volunteers, crew and the PACAT organizing team for the hard work out there. It’s never easy putting everything together and staying out there for the runners for such a long period of time! This year’s edition was the last time we run the roads of Putrajaya and we look forward to finding out where next year’s edition will be held.

Saucony was also a sponsor for the Toyo Tires Putrajaya 100 this year and all 100 mile finishers, over 20 of them, won themselves new pairs of shoes!

Photo courtesy of Frank.

With the longest run done, it’s time to enjoy a little downtime before revving up the legs for an early 2017 marathon over the next few weeks.

Note: I wonder if there’s any leftover Sapporo’s from that night? ;)

Shape Night Run 2015 Race Report

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

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

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

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

With CY, Nick and 2 unsuspecting mannequins.

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

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

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

Photo credit: Run & Explore

With 500 meters to go, I dropped 2 more runners and tried to chase down an F1 girl in the final straight. She must’ve sensed it and promptly found another gear and scooted off like there was a Prada sale. I crossed the line tired but not spent. A 53:26 for the 11.2K (category position 16) course was a good outing for me, more so a 47:46 PR for the 10K. Nick and CY also scored their PRs, which meant the GCAM15 teamsters had a great night out. The 4:46 average pace was what I reckoned was possible with the greater focus on the strength this time around. With the crucial period of marathon training approaching, the key would be to develop the endurance part.

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

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

 

BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon Race Report

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 :D . 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!

 

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.

 

Press Release: Energizer Malaysia announces EPIC Homes as partner for “Light Up the Dark” initiative

Kuala Lumpur, 22 July 2014 – Energizer Malaysia is pleased to announce EPIC Homes as its CSR partner of “Light Up the Dark” initiative for this year’s edition of the Energizer Night Race. EPIC Homes is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide sustainable homes for the underprivileged communities. Under the partnership, Energizer Malaysia hopes to raise RM180,000 in funding and lighting support to build up homes for Orang Asli in rural Peninsular Malaysia.

“The Positivenergy created by runners and supporters of Energizer Malaysia enables us to create change that matters. The Energizer Night Race is not only a race to promote healthy lifestyle but to gather and empower runners in making a positive impact to the society that we live in – together we race for a brighter world, “said Mike Foong, Managing Director of Energizer Malaysia and Singapore.

John-Son Oei, CEO of EPIC Homes, “EPIC Homes is honored to be part of the Malaysia’s largest night race and work with a passionate brand like Energizer – its Positivenergy philosophy is truly inspiring and infectious. With Energizer’s generous contributions and quality lighting products, together we literally are brightening lives to ‘Light Up the Dark’, a meaningful initiative that is closely related to what we have been doing for the underprivileged Orang Asli communities”.
Energizer Night Race 2014 which will flag off on August 9 at Dataran Merdeka is now the largest night race in Malaysia following the close of its registrations with 15,000 runners just three weeks after its launch.

To date, Energizer has collected RM100,000 from the participants’ registration fees and contributions made by its wholesalers and partners. The funds would be further raised from Energizer sale proceeds at all AEON & AEON BIG retail stores, GIANT stores, TESCO Stores and MYDIN stores from 1st August until 30th September 2014. For every pack of the Energizer Batteries, Lightings & Specialty products sold, RM 0.20 from the sales will go towards the initiative. On top of sale proceeds, Energizer Malaysia will be supplying household lighting products to the Orang Asli for their everyday use.

Participants and supporters can support the initiative by contributing in cash or in kind – purchase and donate any Energizer battery pack and lighting product – at the Energizer Night Race 2014 race site. The EPIC team will be there to meet and greet visitors and cheer on the runners as they complete Malaysia’s largest night race. To date, the social enterprise has built 24 homes in Malaysia and targets to ensure that every Orang Asli has a safe home in 5 years.

The Energizer team will not only provide funding and products but will sweat it out and join in the construction.

“We are looking forward to building homes with the EPIC team after our night race and realizing the cause with a lucky supporter or contributor. Do stay tuned to our website and Facebook for upcoming news and information,” Foong added.

For latest updates, public can visit Energizer Malaysia official website at energizer.com.my/nightrace/ or Facebook page www.facebook.com/EnergizerMY .

Pick One, Or Two

In what must certainly be a mouthwatering prospect for hardcore, wanna-do-it-all-since-I’m-awake breed of runners and ultra-runners, this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) will flag off 8.5 hours after the marathoners cross the start line of the BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon (PNM).

Nothing has been announced by both organizers other than the confirmation of the dates, with PNM happening on the night of Oct 11 and SCKLM the wee morning of Oct 12. Folks are already salivating at the prospect of hitting both events even though the respective websites are yet to be updated.


Nevertheless going by last year’s details, runners could in fact gauge which combination works best for them. Several challenges await the ones who want to do both events. Obviously the first has to be about how quickly one can complete the 1st race. Then there’s the issue of getting from Putrajaya to KL City Center. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for the runners. They could car pool, take the shuttle buses or drive-and-ride. Here’s what I’d do, if I’m one of these nuts.

I’d drive to Putrajaya, start the marathon at 8pm and be done with the race by 1am (a conservative 5-hour). Then, I’ll take a short 20-minute drive home to shower and nap before driving to the nearest train station, in my case, the Sri Petaling or Kelana Jaya station to catch the special ride downtown (assuming the service starts extra early for the event). I’d leave the car at the station since I wouldn’t want to be caught by the inevitable road closures.

Folks who live a little more out of the way than I do would have to pool their resources together by perhaps showering at a friend’s place closer to the city or bear with each others’ manly or womenly scents for a few hours be it in the car or while killing time at the 24-hour mamak stall watching a BPL match. Naturally, they need to be wary of their finishing times as well as take into account their lengthy commute into downtown KL.

Of course, the PNM organizers could provide mobile showers for runners at the finish, creating a win-win scenario for both events. Both events could benefit from one another as runners could mix and match the distances to run on both.

By this post, I’m neither endorsing the PNM over SCKLM or vice versa. Runners who want to do both need to be sure of their physical abilities and SCKLM organizers better have adequate medical personnel standing by to attend to emergencies resulting from runners silly enough to overestimate their conditioning – and there could be many!

Be it running both marathons or mixing one long with a shorter race, the choice is with the runner. Never had the running scene in Malaysia been so vibrant. I’m excited even if I’m just picking one Half Marathon from these 2. Nature and Mankind’s foolishness may very well have the final say in the proceedings, though. Don’t know what I mean? Read this.

Race Report: Titi 50

To approach Titi 50 merely as an extended River Jungle Marathon (RJM; race reports here and here) would be wrong on so many levels. Firstly, it wasn’t just 8K more to run (it’s closer to 12K), the extended section happened over the most challenging parts of the RJM route. Next, the 50K category started at midnight when the body and mind would’ve slowed down (more on sunlight, melatonin and the circadian cycle). Which meant that at a window when the body was supposed to rejuvenate and produce growth hormones, we would be outside slogging away.

Having run RJM (race reports 1 and 2), I knew what awaited us. Instead of starting from the Chinese School at Bt.18, we would be starting from the Waterfront Thai Restaurant at Bt.14, taking the RJM 1st edition route towards the dam. Nearly everyone from the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) Training Group reported for the race and from the outset I saw that the venue was a well chosen one. Ample parking and spacious grounds meant plenty of space for runners to mingle and chill. There was no pressure, at least non visible. It was just going to be a social run for me, an opportunity to put on some mileage with friends and to test out the Skechers GOrun Ultra (GRU). It also won’t be the longest distance I’ve undertaken as I’ve taken to tagging on extra distances prior to race starts since last year. Instead of the distance, the actual test would be the long ascents and descents on top of sleep deprivation.

 

From previous experience of running a large part of the route, I knew that I won’t have much problems clearing the initial 15K. That involved tackling the 3K climb up the first hill and down the other side towards CP1 by the dam. Up to that point, I had only a short walk break – inserted near the summit of the 3K climb. It was around there that I caught up with Nick, him having taken off like a rabbit on steroids. Soon after we had to run through ashes in the air from an earlier fire in the bush. The weather was that hot, of late. I was glad to have my buff, which I used to cover my nose and mouth. It made breathing a little difficult but hey, no ingestion of ashes! Just as I thought Nick was the only one I knew around me, McIjam scampered past us like a rhino on steroids. As we refilled our bottles with the help of Weng Woo, Wai Yee and the scouts at CP1, I asked McIjam what the heck he was doing running so fast. “Going downhill ma,” he replied sheepishly.

Don’t remember where this was taken. Photo courtesy of Victor/Elaine.

Not wanting to waste time at the CP, I carried on towards CP2. Other than the start/finish 3K, this section was relatively flat and I increased my pace a little. It was a conscious decision on my part, knowing fully well that I’d be walking at some stage up the 9K climb. I reached CP2 under 1:45 and still felt wakeful (thanks to the Coke) and pretty good. Jeff was there encouraging the runners and checking on the CP. The long climb started out gradual enough and indeed very runnable, at least the first 3K which RJM covered. This winding section was both a pleasure and a pain to run. I liked the solitude – the runners were spread further by then – and the sounds of trees rustling in the wind. As I headed upwards, the cooler the air and the stronger the wind got. I admit that it can be an unnerving experience, alone along the backroads but the full moon was bright enough to light the way and we’re still pretty much on the road and not in the jungle. Occasionally some hell riders and support cars would pass us but the longer the climb got, the more tiring it became. I began alternating running with walk breaks to keep moving and caught up with and passed Kew. The lead exchanged again a short while later and dropped me for good. The run-walk routine would continue until the Negeri Sembilan border marker and a descent followed before finally climbing towards CP3. Gan, Kew and Richi were already there and I asked them to not wait for me as they were obviously stronger climbers.

I had some Perpetuem tablets in my mouth when this was taken except I can’t remember where this was taken! Short term memory loss? Photo courtesy of Tey ET.

At this point, I felt a little empty in the stomach (but it wasn’t hunger) yet somehow I couldn’t see the need to eat. It was sheer stupidity to have thought I could deal with the remaining 26K on what I had left inside. All I downed were 2 sticks of KitKat, 2 slices of watermelons and a few Perpetuem tablets. It was getting chilly and I put on the windshell In hindsight, I should have also opted for the bread to settle down the stomach. On my way back to CP2 there were still many on the other side of the road making their way up to CP3 and I saw that I wasn’t in too bad a position – probably smacked in the middle of the pack. The lead runners were already too far ahead to be seen. The long descent proved to be a torture for the stiff legs. While the GRU provided excellent impact protection, the stiff legs were proving inefficient in tackling the downhill. Disappointingly, I couldn’t capitalize on this “easier” section. There was some walking down this long stretch and I caught up with Tay Poh Chye who was on his way to finishing yet another 100. Chatted him up a bit before I went on my way.

I reached CP2 with Khairi in attendance. We chatted for awhile and as I stretched out the legs (standing up, no sitting down for me please!), Nick suddenly popped in followed closely by Piew and Yan Leng. Both Piew and Yan Leng looked so fresh that one could’ve thought that they were just starting their run!

With Nick, Piew and Yan Leng at the final CP. Photo courtesy of Wai Yee.

Again not wanting to rest too long, I set off by walking up the slope immediately after the CP. Once I cleared that uphill, it was back to the run-walk routine. The air was fresh and quiet, disturbed only by the barking of the village dogs. It was 5am-ish already and would be getting light soon. The mind was focused just on 1 thing – getting to the next CP which thankfully isn’t far off. The trio of Nick, Piew and Yan Leng drew up and pulled away. At one stage, they were as far as 200m away. They were running so effortlessly in efficient strides. I dug in and halved the gap just as they checked into CP1. Took a 10-minute break before the 4 of us headed up the final 4K climb which was steeper than any sections we’d undertaken earlier.

A little more to the finish line. Photo courtesy of Tey ET.

Grateful to have finished!

The push to the top was not easy of course, but we kept the walking pace quick and even managed to pass a few stragglers. Once we crested the top, all 3 took off like they just saw a ghost and suddenly I was alone. The final 4K was neverending, which was unfortunate since it was really the easiest and flattest section. I’d bonked and no matter how much I willed the mind, I couldn’t get the legs going. some toiling later, the race was done. Tey who was at the finish line informed me that my timing was 7:08. It would’ve been nice to dip below 7 but I’d messed up my fueling and there was no 2 ways about avoid the bonk when one committed the stupid error.

Everyone’s a Finisher! There’s only 1 in the photo who held up both hands indicating he’s ready for the century mark.

Yet I enjoyed the outing tremendously. The weather was excellent, though I did catch a slight cold after, and everyone in the GCAM group finished. Time to get onto the next one in 2 weeks’ time!

Some thoughts on the event:
The organizers can take heart with a lot of things done right, for a debut event.

Positives:

Good choice for a Start/Finish site

  1. Ample space for parking and mingling
  2. Shower facilities.
  3. Baggage handling
  4. Mini buffet at the finish

Adequate Safety Personnel

  1. Medics from National Sports Institute
  2. Mahamas ambulances
  3. Rela
  4. Police

Excellent and Enthusiastic Volunteers

  1. Fellow runners
  2. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides
  3. Unofficial supporters/runners who ply the route offering food and drinks

Well-stocked Water Stations

  1. Fruits, drinks, bread, jelly beans, candies

Could be better

  1. Mandatory gear check not enforced resulting in tricky situation with errant runners.
  2. DQing of runners must include proper tabulation (eg timestamp, location, reason) to avoid ambiguity
  3. Attendance taking at all CPs not done
  4. More police presence could’ve reduced the Mat Rempit menace

Beyond control

  1. Burning from the dry and hot weather
  2. Mat Rempits (if the cops can’t manage them, who can? Charles Bronson?)
  3. The notorious rubbish dumps of Hulu Langat
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