Monday, July 31, 2006

Penang Marathon 2006 - An enjoyable run

What preparation?

I have not been updating this blog for sometime now. The two weeks leading up to the Penang marathon saw me working, eating and sleeping... but no running except for the last few days where I had a few short runs. There was nowhere for me to run in India and I was totally tired from the trip, not to mention having put on 5 pounds.

I was supposed to drive to Penang, but since Leow wanted to drive as he would be coming back only on Monday, I was happy not to. However the return journey would later be quite a sight with 7 grown men who are sore all over squeezing into Oon's Toyota Unser.

Anyway we arrived in Penang around 3pm. The eight of us were scattered all over. Oon and his friend were staying in Seri Malaysia. Leow, Peter, Lee and Naidu were staying in the Anggerik Inn which is in Gelugor just 1km from the staring point. Lim and myself were to stay in Jana's apartment in Bkt Gambir. This is the result of doing things at the very last minute!

Since we were split three ways, it was difficult to hang around much after dinner, so we all headed back to try and sleep early. Throughout the night I could not get much sleep as Lim was quite restless and visited the toilet at least 6 times, not to mention the snoooooorrrrrringggg. Sorry ya captain Lim, just couldn't help myself writing it here.

Bridge, here I come

We woke up at 3.30am to get ready. Registration for the half marathon was between 4am to 5am, but we also wanted to catch some of the 42k runners in action as they pass the starting point again (it would be their 6km mark). I was looking out for Peter and Lee but didn't manage to see them. Saw quite a few PMs including Tey, Jason, Shine. Some others even 'boooed' me for not running the 42k... how I wish I could guys but I am not in shape.

As we walked towards the gate leading into the USM campus where we were supposed to register, I was stunned to see the crowd. It was only then I realised there could possibly be a couple of thousand people running the 22.3k. I'm not sure if this is the normal response this event gets, or is it because the event has not been held for over 3 years or did the organisers do a really good job in promoting the event?

Once we were in, we had to walk quite a distance over a large field towards another gate where everyone waited to be let out. It was something similar to the Ipoh International run, but of course the grounds here was much better. Chatted a bit with Adam and Yong before we were allowed out of the gate to the starting point.

A first time for everything

The last event where I stood amidst thousands of people was in last year's Singapore marathon. There were 9000 participants then in the 10k event which I took part in. However at that time I managed to stand almost just behind the elite runners so I wasn't trampeled by the crowd. On the other hand, here we had to walk quite a distance to the starting point using a really narrow street.

For the record, I am hardly ever late for my appointments and have definitely never been late to any running event or race. However there are times when this isn't entirely left up to us and I found that out yesterday. As I didn't wish to battle with the large crowd so early in the morning and since I didn't have any time targets for the race, I was taking my own time with many others walking to the starting line.

All of a sudden, there was a 'BANG' and off they went... with me staring open mouthed still from a distance. But to be honest it really didn't make any difference actually since our timing was not going to be recorded on our certificates like the 42k runners would have. So I took my time in getting to the starting point before starting my stopwatch and giving the Works Minister a glare for not waiting for someone as important as me... haha!

A breezy event

I started really slowly at first, allowing all those speedy gonzales runners to push their way ahead of me. Even though I was going to take this run really easy, I knew that I would be overtaking at least 70% of them later. Many looked like they were students who were in it for the fun of it. Later I found out that they actually got extra credits from their schools for taking part in this event and that would be useful for university applications and scholarships.

As we made our way on the access road towards the bridge, it was quite a tight squeeze. Now I knew why they seperated the woman runners from the men for the half marathon by 30 minutes. Jamie passed me at this point and I tried to keep up with him and check out his pace, but it felt a little faster than what I was up to for the day. Later even CM passed me... so it looked like I was not the only PM caught off guard at the starting line.

By now I was cruising comfortably and enjoying the feel of running with a larger than normal crowd. For the first 6 to 7km most runners were able to maintain a steady pace. The bridge had distance markers (for vehicles) at every 100meters in the center, and this proved very useful for me and I'm sure many other runners as well. Using my Triax, I found that I was initially averaging a 6m40s pace and slowly increased to a 6m30s pace.

In most places along the bridge, there was a barrier preventing runners from either side being able to see whats happening on the opposite side. I suppose this could be a safety barrier to reduce the wind resistance on the vehicles using the bridge. To me that was quite frustrating actually as it would have been nice to see our friends, especially the 42km runners and be able to greet each other.

The part I enjoyed the most was when we approached the center of the bridge and for quite a long stretch there wasn't any barrier. We were able to see the 42k runners and enjoy the view of the opposite coastline at the same time. There was quite a strong cold breeze blowing from the other side. While it felt really good, it did form a strong resistence as I ran up the gradual slope.

I had skipped the first water station as it was really too crowded. I reached the 2nd station as my watch showed 68min. The water being served was really chilled and it felt great. The first station was located just before we made the U-turn using the underpass before the toll gate. At this juncture, I was still feeling really relaxed and there wasn't a hint of tiredness at all. Going slow really makes a huge difference!

Cruising home

As I continued running on the other side of the bridge, I could see the sun starting to rise. Looks like the sun wakes up earlier in Penang than it does back here. By now I had decided that I would not increase my pace and instead just enjoy the rest of the run with the same comfortable pace. I was still clocking an average of 6m40s per km. As I closed on the 15km mark, that's when the first woman runner overtook me.

After the 15km water station, the only visible problem was my soles which seem to be heating up. This could have been caused by the thin socks I was wearing. It was the same pair which I wore for my KLIM. It was somewhere around there a loud commanding voice greeted me. It was Tony (Penguin Runners) with some of his buddies. I was quite surprised to see them coming from the back at such a late stage. Apparently they had started almost 20 minutes late.

A little later, we had to merge with the plentiful 10k runners who were making a U-Turn somewhere in the middle of the bridge. This slowed me down a little as many of them were just walking in groups taking up almost two lanes of the bridge. It did bring back memories of me in my school days where I probably ran the first 1km and walked the balance 6km in my cross country runs.

At the end of the bridge, there was a sign which said 'FULL MARATHON - 1km to go'. I was not sure if it applied to the 22.3k as well since I hadn't bothered to look at the map before the run. I was actually quite skeptical that it was the same distance left for me as my watch showed appx 2h13m and I thought that my pace was too slow and easy for me to complete 22k in less than 2h30m. The last thing I wanted was to pick up pace to find out we still had to run a few additional loops before completing.

Well my skepticism was to my loss, because soon after that I saw that all runners were turning into the USM gates and running towards their respective finishing lanes. I managed a little dash over the last few hundred metres to finish in 2h19m37s. I was really very happy with my run because initially I didn't for a moment think I could run continuosly for over 2 hours in the condition I was in, and it turned out I hadn't walked a step besides slowing down to grab some fluids at the water stations.

Post mortem

There is nothing much to evaluate in this race. What I learned is that starting slow works well for me. In Ipoh when I started at a sub 6 min pace for the first 5k, it actually worked against me later. I think it works best for me to start slower until my body is sufficiently warmed up before picking up the pace.

Even in the book 'The Competitive Runner's Handbook' the author says that running faster before the body is sufficiently warmed up uses more of ones glycogen stores as compared to running the same speed when your body is properly warmed up. Since I normally use the first few kilometers as a warmup, this would be important to remember.

The only question remains to be answered is when to pick up speed in a race and how much speed to pick up. I suppose that depends a lot on my form on a particular race day as well as the race distance and race course. And this can only be realised by taking part in more races.

Overall I must say this was one of my most enjoyable runs. Of course mainly because I hadn't set any expectation to meet and was taking it more like a Long training run rather than a race. The early starting time was something that must have helped as well. I just don't perform well under intense heat and my form deteriorates very fast the moment the sun comes out.

What's next?

I will be in Langkawi on Sept 10th and in Melbourne on Dec 3rd, so this rules out my participation for the Putrajaya and Singapore marathons. Since I don't see any other marathons on the calendar, the only events I would possible take part in for the rest of this year would be the Shah Alam 10k and perhaps a couple of other 10k runs. I shall however continue my LSDs on Saturdays whenever I can.

Speaking about travelling, I shall be leaving for Dallas, Texas on August 12th for 2 weeks. It will be my first trip to the US and the only continent that I have yet to visit. The temperatures there are in their mid 40s now as the heat wave in that region continues. I should be able to get in some time of running there unlike when I was in India.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mumbai blast kills 147

What is it with these people who plan and carry out such vicious attacks on the innocent? I guess most of us will never understand what goes through the minds of these terrorists. The world is no longer a safe place to be in. Riding the LRT or Commuter train in KL doesn't feel safe after you see these kinds of headlines.

Well as for me, I still have to fly into this 'war zone' just as it's at the height of all possible chaos. My wife is really upset and so are my parents. For all I know, I could be held up longer than expected as there could be delays and hiccups in the project due to the aftermath of this incident. I might even think twice about doing any running there as I had initially planned on. Read about it

Monday, July 10, 2006

Weekend runs

I was supposed to join Choi and some others at Bukit Aman for a 20k on Saturday morning. When I woke up at 4.45am it was pouring with rain so I send an sms to him saying that I would not be coming. Kenneth was also supposed to join me and he had the same thought, so we decided to do some hill training later in the evening.

Met Ken at the reservoir hill around 5.45pm. After doing 5 hill repeats and one loop of the jungle trail I was totally flat out. I knew that this kinda training is what I need to improve my speed and also endurance. I was impressed with Ken that despite putting on some weight he was still way ahead of me on the hill repeats.

Yesterday evening I took my son for his first bike ride around our housing area. He must have cycled well over 1km by himself. I am amazed how fast children learn these days. Later I decided to do a tempo run. Started the first lap at an average pace and pickup up the pace slowly. Total distance covered was 5.7k in 27'04" which translates to a 4'45" pace per km. I wonder if I could hold a 4'55" pace per km in a flat 10k race?

I will be leaving for Mumbai this Wednesday night. My trip is primarily to ensure that our first project there at the State Bank of India runs smoothly. My return flight is booked for the 22nd of July. My sister will be down from Sydney at the beginning of August. We had some things planned as I've not seen her for almost one year, but I've just had to setup an interview to get my US visa for a 10 day trip to Dallas early August as well.

All this travel is not something I enjoy. Too much travel was the main reason I left my previous job two years ago. Looking through my old passport as I need it for my US visa, I noted all the countries I have been to between 2001 and 2004... Australia, England, Scotland, Greece, Holland, Dubai, India, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philliphines. I used to be away for months at a time. Most of my travel time was spent in Autralia, India and Dubai.

I must say that I used to enjoy my previous job much more as it was more technical in nature and I use to 'get my hands dirty'. However part and parcel of all the perks in moving up the corporate ladder is that we need to do all the 'boring' stuff like prepare monthly budgets, work on sales forecasts and attend 'kick ass' meetings. However I am grateful for this job as it pays for more than what my family needs and allows me more time with them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Getting reacquainted

I left office a little early yesterday and managed to get home by 6pm. Now that I have got my new pair of 767 and plan to retire my 680, I was toying with the idea of putting my pair of Nikes back into action. Not wanting to wear out any shoe, alternating between the 767 and the Pegasus was something to consider.

The moment I slipped on my Nikes, I almost got a feeling of euphoria. It was comfortable beyond description. I started remembering what I really missed about that shoe. "Why did it have to bring me injuries just before my KLIM?!" Slipping out of my gate, I started cruising around my housing area at an easy pace.

Lap after lap, the shoe was so tender to my post race sore feet. The 767 does not come close to the Nikes in terms of comfort. However I can't really say which shoe would be better for me in really long distances. I was quite happy with the 767 performance in my recent Ipoh half. I shall continue to rotate both pairs leading up to the Penang race before deciding on which one to wear.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ipoh International Run 2006

To go or not to go?

I almost decided not to go for this race. Having registered online much earlier, I was not certain if I would be around in KL as my business trip to India has been long pending. Besides that, the stories from my running friends from Klang about the poor organising, lack of medals or plastic medals made me think twice.

In the end with so many PM members going for the race I could not resist the urge to join in the fun. I knew that in the last few months I was sorely lacking training and this would be a really good opportunity to get in the mileage and some race experience in the 21km category. Two weeks to the race weekend, I was putting in some decent mileage at the KLCC track and I noticed some improvement in my fitness levels.

Family event

Most of the PMs were staying in Merloon Hotel which is a budget hotel. I would have bunked in there as well if I had gone alone but with my wife and son coming along, I decided to get a room at Syuen so that they could enjoy the facilities like the swiming pool.

We arrived in Ipoh around 2pm but spent almost 20 minutes looking for the hotel. Having stayed there before I was pretty confident of finding the place but once again my sense of direction failed me. Once we had checked in, it was just a short walk to the Dataran where I collected the running numbers for myself and some others.

Nicholas was quite excited about the whole trip and he was hard to keep up with for the rest of the day. I told my wife that I would be drained of energy even before the race began. Later at night we did some shopping at Parksons and then walked down to a nearby hawker center for our dinner where we met Ronnie and the others.

Race morning

I woke up at 5.30am feeling quite fresh, having slept a good 7 hours. After a quick shower and change into my running attire, I downed a packet of chocolate milk and did some stretching. From my room's window on the 9th floor, I had a perfect view of the race starting point and registration area. I could see that it was really crowded.

I made my way down to the lobby by 6.20am and was surprised to see Ron and Shine coming into the hotel. They were going to visit the toilet for a 'big job'. Ah Loong was waiting outside the hotel and we went on ahead to register ourselves. The packet of power gel I had with me was quickly consumed before we made our way to the side gate where all the runners were being confined like a pack of bulls waiting to be released.

The first 5k

Once we had been released out of the gate to the starting line, I saw that it was not such a big crowd as I had initially thought. From the running numbers, I could see that there were over 300 registered runners in the mens open category, out of which many of them looked like they were in it for the fun of it.

We were allowed to start close to 7am, and I was thankful for the cool weather. It seemed to have rained the previous night. For the first two kilometers, most runners were running at an easy pace while trying not to trip over one another. I was glad to see that the km markers were in place and seemed pretty accurate.

After the 2nd km, I knew that all the runners whom I knew were probably way ahead by now. I just continued to cruise at a sub 6min pace. My Nike Triax was proving to be very useful with the pacer mode turned on. At the 5km marker I was a little behind my target for a 2 hour timing, but it didn't really bother me.

5k to 18k

By now I was starting to enjoy the run. The first 5k had warmed me up sufficiently and my tight muscles were now quite relaxed. As much as possible I tried to maintain my pace but towards the 10k mark, I found that I was starting to slow a little.
After a little analysis, I realised that despite not stopping completely at the first two water stations, I had slowed down quite a bit which put me off pace. My timing at the 10k mark was just below 60 minutes. I decided I would not try to make up for lost time but just continue to maintain a comfortable pace and complete the race without walking.

I was pleasantly surprised when we were given a power gel at the 15k mark. I'm not sure if it really helped me push on, but perhaps it did help me mentally. The first two water stations did not have isotonic drinks. At the third water station I decided to stick to plain water despite 100plus being served there. My stomach was feeling good and I wanted it to remain that way.

By the time I reached the 17k mark, I could feel the tiredness starting to set in. My legs were also starting to feel a little strain. I had counted that not more than 6 category 'A' runners had passed me in the last 10k and intended in keeping it that way.

The final 3km

In the last few kilometers, I had been running quite closely with runner A64 who happenned to be from the Kelab Roadrunners Ipoh. Seeing me almost contemplating walking, he urged me to push on and pace with him. This enouraged me and lifted my spirits. Closing in to the 20k mark, I saw Aeow and Jason Lim on the opposite side of the road and waved at them.

Knowing that they were only a few minutes ahead of me gave me some extra energy to push forward. After taking the u-turn and getting my second ribbon I dug deep into my reserves and picked up the pace a little. My calves were really starting to ached badly by then.

My new friend 'A64' was still quite close and as we neared Dataran, he asked me to turn on the turbo if I could. As I turned the final corner towards the finish line there stood a colourful looking bunch of people cheering for me. Of course they were none other than the Pacemaker gang and friends. This gave me a big boost to turbo 'kau kau lat' across the finish line.

Race summary

My total time was 2h09m52s, and position 97 in the mens open category. Overall I enjoyed the event quite a bit and will come back again next year if I have the chance.

I think Rohaizad is right that it takes a few races before we can finally get the right pace. I believe that I am getting there. The medal is quite nice even though its not pewter. It's definetly heavier than the KLIM medal that I got for running the 42km.

I'm now looking forward to my Penang race on the 30th of July. Being an overdistance half marathon at 22.3km, I think I will set my target to complete within 2:15. This week will be my last week of serious training before leaving to India for two weeks.