Monday, July 31, 2006
Penang Marathon 2006 - An enjoyable run
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!
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.
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.
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.