Thursday, 26 November 2015

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2015 - Annie Yee's Race Report

I regretted when I registered for this marathon 4 months back. But, after cancellation of SCKLM, I was praying hard to run this marathon to prove myself. Three days before the race, I did feel my body is weak like jelly. Flu started to buzz me. I opted not to eat any medicine as I do believe that ANY medicine might affect my body.
3 days.
Rolls of toilet papers
7 fresh coconuts water.

Still, I felt the uneasiness on Saturday evening after waking up at 1030pm. 3 Hammer Nutrition gels in my pouch pre-prepared, there I departed. Arrival at Queensbay Mall carpark around 11:40pm. The organizer prepared instructions to runner so that they dont get confused where to go. (Thumb up!). Along the way, I met friends from KL and Johor as well. I was unsure if I was too nervous as I went to toilet more than 5 times in between 11:45pm-1:00am. I did my proper warm up. Starting with jogging, followed by stretching and drills, ended with striding to heat my body up. My nose was still clogged with buzzing mucus and I tried to ignore it. It was so annoying!

Followed the pacers to front starting point (Well, organizer recruited elite runner and I registered myself) and stood there around 15mins. The countdown started with fireworks and chief ministers short speech and 321..

Setting my watch ON, I ran with my easy pace. Surprisingly to bump into my hometown friend. I focused on the road as the way from Queensbay to BOSCH roundabout, it was dark! Deborah Chin, champion for unknown times of Ultra and Adventure of Mount Kinabalu tailed and we chatted awhile. She informed that her watch could not detect GPS and she did not know her pace. I decided to run with her side by side after knowing she wanted to do a sub3:30. (Years back, I could just look behind her back and now I could run side by side with her, it is my pride!).

A-U turn and we headed to Bank Rakyat. It was 10km when we passed by E-gate and my watch alerted 47:14mins (Not bad still). I reminded Debbin when we both dropped to 5mins pace so we could speed it up. When we reached Bank Rakyat, the water station was crowded with families and supporters (This is what we should have in Malaysia, SUPPORTERS MA!!) We made another U-turn and headed to the bridge. We passed by the 3:30pacer whom apparently was the same guy who motivated me during 3R marathon.

I started to feel uncomfortable with my right toes. Thinking that I over-tightened my shoe laces. (Ignore it). I sped up my pace to 4:40mins/km and followed Debbin. My 2 packets of gels fell when I attempted to take out from my pouch(almost 20km with one gel). I reversed to collect and quicken my strides to follow Debbin who was 20metres ahead. We met Choi Fern when we reached the slope of the bridge. She increased her speed whilst Debbin and I maintained our speed.  My speed started to slow down when we reached big U-turn toll. Debbin urged me but I couldnt speed up. I stopped to adjust my shoe lace. A guy stopped on the left divider caught up with me. Glancing on my watch, realizing I was slower with speed of 5:10mins/km when I exited the toll. Debbin seemed farther from me and I was slowing down (ALAMAK!). This Malay guy was a good companion as he slowed down whenever I slowed down and even passed me extra water. I tried not to focus by chatting with him and knew he came from Perlis. I was choked when I bite the plastic bag with ices. He purposely slowed down to see if I was alright. (Nak , 1MALAYSIA, NO RACISM OKAY?)

We came slowly to a guy with cap. Realizing he was William who did his 3:16 in Melbourne Marathon, I felt slight relieved! (Na na na..I am not the only one slow >.<) The Malay guy followed him and I was behind them. Guess that I was too slow already. I pushed myself a bit harder yet the pace maintained at 5:10mins/km. (Kenapa dengan ku?) I knew I had few km to go, and I walked for few seconds after sipping the water. By this time, it had reached 2hours 55mins. Oh! Dave Ang, 330pacer passed by me. Oh NOT!!!! Had not 21km runners around, I would have started to brisk walking. I kicked my legs to check my leg and no any pain like previous marathons. This was a good sign. I just need to fight with my laziness. I re-focused and thought of how coach taught me, how he mentioned about staying power, thought of winning to get the cash so that I could have bring my parents oversea.(Yes, I am saying that I need to win this, because I need to make my parents happy). It seemed like I could maintain my pace when I imagined my parents smiles.

Up to the slope, down the hill, it left 5km. I know exactly the way back to Queensbay mall. My pace from 5:30mins/km reduced to 5:10mins/km. Every single km was like 10km for me mentally, but I was physically strong when I tried to flash back my previous marathons. Normally, I walked for last few kms. I came across to a Kenyan at the last two km. Turning to left hand to Queensbay roundabout, my Forward running buddies, Mrs Boon, Calvin Boon, lawyer Lim and Mr Boon cheered for me(I had only realized after the race).I heard sounds but I couldnt see them! Lawyer Lim joked that my soul flew away on last 1km.

I pushed together with William and watching the digital clock showing 3:35, I crossed the finish line!

I sat down immediately. I was so dizzy and my leg was so weak in sudden. My team member,Jun Shen appeared from somewhere and accompanied me.Cp Tan came a few minutes later!

I still couldn't stand up in spite of St John messaged me leg. I was very dizzy and wanted to vomit. Jun Shen insisted me to the medical tent. I was aided to sit on wheelchair and strolled into the medical tent. I was given drip. Medical team was quick(thumb up!). 

While I was resting, Jun Shen was with Mr Ant as Mr Ant vomited! He was given drip also! I felt much comfortable after the resting.

So,this was how I ran my PBIM. I learnt lessons from this marathon.

1.When you are in sick and you insisted to run, do expect the worst. You need strong mental to overcome the illness.

2. Biting the ice cubes and place the ice cubes on shoulder do ease the pain.

3. Train yourself not to walk starting from beginning if you register for marathon. I saw many "walkers" walked in the beginning of the course.

This year,the route was definitely better than previous years! Marshalls,water stations and emergency teams were sufficient. For myself,certainly this was not good enough. There is a huge room for me to be better and faster.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Langkawi Ironman 2015 Race Report

Team 2ndskin athlete Ironman Chan Jun Shen successfully overcome all challenges and completed the Langkawi Ironman 2015, the second toughest Ironman in the world after Kona Ironman World Championship! Let's read up what has this 5 X Langkawi Ironman Finisher has got to share with us.


Can I finish an Ironman with 14 days of preparation? It was one tough decision when I accepted the last minute free slot offered by Tadonamo Tri Club under RudyProjectMalaysiaBrunei sponsorship. Thank you Mr Syerol and Mr Marcus. I did not foresee myself doing any triathlon this year because I was transferred all over the places by the Navy to fulfil my career courses; it is a mess to travel around with all the triathlon gears. The whole year’s training has been primarily focusing on breaking my marathon PB. Since both of my marathons got cancelled due to haze, I called 2ndskin team principal Eugene Teoh to inform him about my last minute decision to race an Ironman. I told him, “Eugene, I want to do something big since I can’t race any marathon”. I needed someone to talk to at that time. Having 4 Ironman finish gives me a lot of confidence, but I have to be realistic. Nobody is going to finish an Ironman without enough mileage, even if I could survive the distance, I will be racing against the cut off time. The last time I cycled was last year’s Ironman which was more than a year ago, I had no idea how was my cycling endurance. 

7 days of training + 7 days of tapering = 5th Ironman In The Making

Photo courtesy Azrul Adnan.

The pre-race jitters was manageable, I slept for about 4 hours after eating really heavy Thai Food dinner. I always get sleepy after meal which is a good thing.

Entering the water. Photo courtesy Mr Tey Eng Tiong.

The swim course was a counter clockwise swim, I couldn’t be happier because I prefer to breathe on my left side. Two days before race day, race director changed the course to a clockwise swim and there will be no running at the beach on completion of the first loop. Not really a bad news because I had expected a clockwise swim before the course was announced. Knowing that swimming is just a small part of the challenge, I am confident that I can finish it more than half an hour before cut off. I studied the tide table and current condition at Pantai Kok, confirmed the reading during the practice swim and I have no problem other than jellyfish with the first discipline. Open water swimming is rough in nature, nobody is going to stop and say sorry if their strokes or kicks hit you in the face. When the Pros lapped me in my second loop, one of them smacked my head from behind and followed by their super powerful kick as they pass. Be prepared for the worst and just keep swimming. I tried to draft to peek less to navigate, but all swimmers in my pack was zig zagging so I opt to swim at my own pace. My game plan was a textbook strategy for amateur, do not go hard and save it for the bike and run. I finished my swim 1 hour 30 minutes, 5 minutes faster than last year.

I spent some time getting my calf sleeves on and make sure all the mandatory bike equipment ready before exiting the transition. It is going to be a very long day under the sun. I rode in heart rate below zone 4 all the way to keep my tummy well fed and I could only hope that I don’t get bonk too bad at the end of it. I had no mileage on the road at all, so by surviving the 180km cycling is already a miracle. 
The start of my maiden road ride for 2015. 

Photo courtesy Imagines.
The two loops course made us climb Datai at the first 21km, it is a good thing to complete one major climb early. Then we passed Kampung Kelubi area, the road was sheltered with trees and kampong houses so not much of cross winds. The villagers were all cheering for us and traffic control was very good. I had trouble holding my aero position when I felt the strain in my neck, I just couldn’t look front. Every now and then I sat up straight to stretch my neck, I’d expected this to happen anyway. The posture on the bike takes a lot of time to get used to and it will not happen within the two weeks of my preparation. The aid stations were set up around every 20km, so I grabbed a banana and a gel at every station with electrolytes as required. Being a Malaysian, I always speak in Bahasa Malaysia because the volunteers will definitely serve Malaysians first! Haha. I will shout “THANK YOU” once the food was handed to me. I consume one Hammer Perpetuem Solid and Hammer Endurolytes every hour. Maintaining at heart rate below zone 4 kept my digestive system functions like normal. Garmin 920xt gave me all the data that I need, heart rate zone, speed, average speed and distance. As long as I can buffet on the bike, I strongly believe that I can do this maiden long ride of the year 2015 without any training. Suffer is for sure, but I am trying to delay it.

What if I rode based on speed? Let say 30km/h without checking what the heart rate zone was. I might get my heart rate shoot up to my lactate threshold, and shuts down my digestive system or even burn out all my glycogen storage. The ever ending climb caused a lot of cyclist to push their bike while I slowly pedal my way up the hills. Langkawi Ironman has always been hilly, so please get the correct cassette for climbing. The Wingspan57 Rudy Project helmet was super comfortable, light in weight and aerodynamic. Absolutely fell in love with “the comfort” especially the ventilation and soft ear covers that ease up the transition process. I opt for no visor because Langkawi is just too hot to have half of my face covered. Thank you Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei for the opportunity and support.   
Photo courtesy Imagines,

I started to suffer slightly after the second Datai climb, I took full aerodynamic advantage by bending down and let the bike cruise down the hills. The handle bar wobbled so badly and I was so worried of my rusty bike handling skills. Haha. I had forgotten left or right lever is for the back brake and I pulled the front brake when the bike speeds down the hill at 60km/h. I saw Doc Yap Eng Hui ascending while Henry started to catch up. The final 20km was a hell for me but I am happy to get this far actually. My groin area started to chaff but I didn’t bother so much because I can’t do anything about it at that time. I had lost count how many riders overtook me, just too many. Unlike previous years, I could gain time and overtake 80 over riders in cycling. I was still very lucky to stay away from mechanical failures; many riders had to stop to fix punctures due to the poor road conditions. Every kilometer felt like forever, I just couldn’t wait to run the marathon! Please let me start the run, damn! If I have to dig 200% to finish it, I will give my all like any other Ironman on the course.
Which bugger drafted my backside.

I spoke to OP Sofian multiple ironman finishers and also Kannan Murugasan the Ultraman, they said I can finish the 180km as long as I ride it constant cadence in light gears. Both of the Malaysia sporting legends gave me a lot of confidence prior to race day, and both of them are people whom I really look up to. I ended my 180km cycling in 7 hours 20 minutes. Not too bad for someone who didn’t cycle for a year=p

End of the 180km. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Transition was brisk, no hanky panky. In fact, I was thinking of fly dismount from my bike to save some time. I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if I could still fly dismount after a year. Haha. I try to save every possible minute in transition because I was overtaken by many riders on the bike; it’s time to gain back some time.

Photo courtesy Imagines.

Running has always been my strongest leg, Skechers GoSpeed2 was my choice of gear. I tried to run slower but the legs felt really good at pace 5.25mins/km. No idea what happened, I overtook so many runners and if I could keep this pace going, sub 13 is in hand! The legs were fresh so why should I slow down right? After an hour of miracle, everything came crushing down so suddenly. Soon, I started walking. I have yet to understand what went wrong because I constantly fuel myself at every station. My breathing slowed down, my hands and head felt numb. 30km to go.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

The stomach bloated as I walked along the airport, I believe I had hit the wall. Every energy gel I squeeze in got rejected but I forced it down my throat. I am a soldier with a trained mental toughness. Soldiers never quit, hoisting a white flag shames the nation. I am the master of my pain. Should I fail to cross the line, I shall collapse trying. The second loop passing the finishing arch, the cheers from the crowd did not help at all as I know I need to survive another big loop. Keep eating at every station, cool the body with cold sponge, hydrate myself with electrolytes, one Hammer Endurolytes capsule for every hour, and keep breathing! I consciously breathe deeply as I could feel my breathing weaken. Karen Siah passed me and said “Hey Leftenan Chan” but I was so tired at that time, she ran a very strong marathon. I dug so deep that I knew I might pass out anytime; Lifeline ID was on my wrist so please call my loved ones. How did I survive the last 21km? I do not know. The wearing fatigue eats me up bit by bit and the mental blockage became worse.

Struggling. Photo courtesy Imagines,

However, I did not see quitting as an option. I shall not disappoint those who supported me all this while. Why stop if I can still walk? I was hardly at home with my parents when I returned to KL, I was out either to Kg Pandan pool or run around the MINDEF area to gain mileage at the very last two weeks. I became anti social. By the time I went to my bed, I get so tired that my time talking to my girlfriend shortens tremendously. I also came back early from the Bandung trip with my course mates just for the sake of doing Langkawi Ironman. All this time and emotional investment shall not go down to drain. If I DNF this Ironman, I will face a year of disappointment until I finish another Langkawi Ironman. My schedule is really tight so I am not even sure if I will be doing it next year. I am living my present life to the fullest.

Pardon me for the ugly face. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Final few kilometres was well spent with Henry, we walked and talked all the way. It’s going to be his 5th Ironman finish too! Mr Syerol passed by and asked if we were doing okey. Really appreciate it. Many people DNF this race. The sky turned dark and rain cloud started brewing, we up the pace a little by run-walk-run in the rain all the way to the finishing line. We jogged slowly towards the finishing arch hand in hand and Adele announced “You are an Ironman!”. 
Photo courtesy Dannie Choong.

I am now a 5 times Langkawi Ironman Finisher! Although 14 hours 52 minutes is far from my personal best, I overcame all the challenges and survived the distance. Ultimately, I am a living testimony that Ironman is doable within 14 days of preparation.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

I really gave my all. Photo courtesy OP Kam Kasturie.

Cameron Brown the multiple Ironman Champion hanged the medal on my neck and I walked a few steps to call for medical assistance. I blacked out for a while when they put me on wheelchair. After resting in the medical tent, I felt a bit better so I requested for BP check, BP90 and heart rate 54. I am really grateful for all the support from my family for understanding my mission to complete Ironman in 14 days’ preparation, thank you to my girlfriend for the encouragement. Thank you to my UPNM support crews who eased my logistic burden, they are the amazing Vignesh, Cash and Seargent Yusri. Huge congratulations to Officer Cadet Teoh Jian Sheng for completing his maiden Ironman. Thank you 2ndskin team mates &amp; sponsors, Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei, Tadonamo crews, Old Putera support team, Royal Malaysian Navy, Organizers and Volunteers, and all the friends who cheered for all the Ironman participants. 



Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Heart Rate Zones and Pace Management

Knowing our heart condition and body capacity should be made the utmost priority in planning the training program. As the gun goes off, adrenaline kicks in and cloud our pace judgement. We were so focus in positioning ourselves among the front echelon without realising that we’ve been in Zone 5 for quite some time. The success of the run solely depends on the execution of a perfect game plan. Running a few seconds slower could bring our heart rate into lower zones which totally change the primary energy system our body is using and ultimately determine how soon we will hit the wall.

The very famous heart rate zone diagram I found from the internet.

Pace management is interrelated to the heart rate zones while the heart rate zones determine what kind of fuel to burn. For example, an athlete warms up and heart rate is at 130bpm. Push the pace 15 seconds faster and the heart rate most likely goes 140bpm, 150bpm and very soon 160bpm. The lower intensity workout results in lower zones or the running community like to call it the fat burning zone. Does aerobic (low intensity) activity burns only fats as the only source of fuel? The answer is it burns fat more than the anaerobic (high intensity) activity. It does burn carbs in this zone but fats are the primary source of fuel.  In the anaerobic zone, the body burns carbohydrates in the form of glycogen which is then changed to glucose for the body’s consumption. On the other hand, fats need more oxygen and takes longer to metabolize. In long distance races, fats are able to fuel an athlete longer. In Ironman races which stretch 17 hours long, it is definitely not possible to do Zone 4 and above all the way because the glycogen stores can last less than 2 hours. Before the marathon, this athlete would have burned out all his fuel.

If we compare athletes of different levels running at the same pace, the heart rate zone varies from one person to another.  More conditioned athletes could be running 4.00mins/km at Zone 3 while the newbies might be hitting Zone 5 already at such high pace, the primary fuel they burn is absolutely different. How to get the Zones right? Get to know the Maximum heart rate first. High Intensity Interval Training is a great training to achieve maximum heart rate, so once a week get your Maximum heart rate updated !

In conclusion, manage the pace by knowing the heart rate zones. Then, reschedule the training program to gain the most out of every workout.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Kuching Marathon - Deo's Experience

The registration for Kuching Marathon 2016 has just opened on Sunday. The 3rd edition will be held on 14th August 2016 and based on the reviews from its first two editions, we are sure that all the slots will be taken up in no time. It is one of the youngest marathon in the country but has proven to be well-managed, and it is not surprising that Kuching Marathon has came to par (or maybe even better) with the 'big brothers' of local marathons. And the host city, Kuching, is also a lovely city to visit with various interesting activities for either a short weekend, marathon trip or an extended stay.

Our team athlete, Deo, was lucky to be able to experience Kuching Marathon this year and the way he put it, we are sure that he will make a return next year (and come back with a big box of ikan terubuk masin and kek lapis for us, too!). Read Deo's experience below and hopefully it will help you to decide to sign up for the marathon.


Kuching Marathon, or the one I dubbed as KUMAR (for its shortform), has never been in my planned marathons for this year. In fact, I don't have much marathons outlined for this year. So far, I've only done two full marathons, Tokyo and 3R Putrajaya, this year and only one more to go, which is the SCKLM. However, it changed when a friend invited me to have a short trip to Kuching to run KUMAR. After reading good reviews from last year's inaugural KUMAR, I thought it would be great to give it a shot and KUMAR should be a good LSD training as preparation for the TMBT100, two weekends after that. All arrangements done sometimes in June and it was just waiting game for the KUMAR weekend to arrive.

Thursday and Friday approaching KUMAR, my facebook timeline was filled with updates by running friends who were already flying off to Kuching. It was quite a shock to me as if all familiar runners in peninsular flocked Kuching during the weekend. And it was not surprising when it was easy to spot running faces at every corner of the area surrounding the Padang Merdeka, Kuching after I arrived in the city. So, Saturday morning was my turn to be at the airport en route to Kuching for the marathon. ManBaik was my travel buddy this time around so both of us like cats whose whiskers have been cut, making our ways around the City like lost cats. Actually I had been in Kuching some ten years ago accompanying PROTON FC team playing Sarawak FA in the FA Cup football match but none seems familiar to me except for the waterfront walkpath and the Padang Merdeka. Luckily we were accompanied by Marlin, who ran KUMAR last year, who turned out to be our guide even for a while.

First stop after we arrived at the airport was Plaza Merdeka, that is located next to Padang Merdeka where the race venue is, for the race pack collection. Eventhough I saw some complaining about the long queues at the RPC earlier, it was all smooth by the time I picked up mine and it was all done in a jiffy. But I have to agree that the venue is rather small for a big marathon like KUMAR. RPC done, followed by late lunch at the nearby Brooke's Bistro at the waterfront for the sumptuous laksa sarawak. Then, we walkde to the nearby Borneo Hotel, our home for the night, for a short rest before making our ways for a seafood dinner at the famous Topspot Food Court, which is also within walking distance from where we were staying.

At the race pack collection venue in Plaza Merdeka.

It was early lights off for both of us as we had to wake up around 1.30am to get ready for the 3am flagoff. I have mixed feeling about this odd hours flagoff time as on one hand, you want to finish off your race before the sun comes off and saves you from being roasted but on the other hand, it is quite hard to go to bed really early, around 9pm and normally I would wake up still feeling sleepy. In the end, I only managed to get some 3 hours of sleep that night but luckily I didn't feel too sleepy (just a little groggy) that morning. But having a room mate to talk to in that wee hours before the race helped a bit.

We walked to the start line like many others did. With just 30 minutes to go before the flagoff, I quickly dumped my luggage at the dropbag center with a fee of RM5. I trust with the fee, my belongings will be in safe hands. More familiar faces spotted so, it was all pre-marathon routines with exchange of well wishes, photo takings, not much stretching and the countdown to the flagoff. I had not put any expectation for this marathon especially realizing that the last time I ran a marathon was in April and I had a tough time finishing it (and with a mediocre timing, too!). And I am in the middle of an ultramarathon training so I wasn't sure if I still have the marathon speed. So, not putting too much of hope, the plan was just about finishing it under 4 hours and injury-free.

Since this is an international marathon and the prize money was quite lucrative, it wasn't surprising to see host of African runners toeing the front of the start line. It was quite cold that morning as it rained on the night before. I stayed within maybe some 30 meters from the front line and as the race was flagged off at 3am, it was a walking start to cross the start line. Once start line was crossed, I have to zigzag around those runners who started at the front and not long after that, I found my comfortable pace. But a glance at my watch after the KM1 showed that my pace was 4:39-minute which wasn't as what I expected. It was too fast than the 5:00-minute pace I had in mind, to sail me though this marathon safely under four hours.

But, I told myself that since it was a comfortable pace, I would continue with the pace as long as I could in order to have ample time buffer for a much slower pace later. So, I continued with sub 5:00-minute pace until at KM10.5 when I had an urge to pee. Normally I would just pee by the roadside but this time around, I detoured to a petrol station and did what I had to do there. It was a quick stop though but I felt lighter after that. I ran my first 5km in 24:05-minute and the first 10km in 48:46-minute. The generally flat route and generally cold weather were actually helping me with the run and maintaining the pace I was doing for quite a long time. Actually to be frank, the route wasn't all flat, like many runners told me earlier. There were some climbing for elevated roads or bridges (crossing those rivers) and the nastiest one was in the city with 5km to go but those four or five climbing were not too bad to run up.

After 10km, I still feel like I could maintain the sub 5:00-minute pace forever and there were no signs of cramps coming or any muscles tightness. At times, I feel like I would be able to run a sub 3:30-hour marathon, or even bettering my PB of 3:29:15 done in Tokyo this year. That thought was playing in my mind and although I wasn't pressured to do such timing, it still motivated me to continue running at that pace. The pace was good, my body condition was good, I didn't stop to walk except for brisk stops at each water station (they were abundance of water stations, maybe some 15 altogether along the full marathon route). And eventhough I was running at quite a fast pace to the local average standard, I could still see runners in front of me and those behind me trying to catch up with me and that had kept me 'alive' during the run.

Soon enough and it was still dark, KM15 arrived in 1:13-hour and KM20 covered in 1:39-hour. By that time, I knew that another sub 4:00-hour marathon is well within reach. Only that PB is slightly hard to achieve. So, I was left with the battle to run a sub 3:40-hour to mark a new best timing for a local marathon (marathons done in Malaysia). I started to feel a little tired after KM25, not sure if I hit the wall or what? The body legs were just refusing to run swiftly like before but there were no cramping signs and muscles tightness, which I thought was great. 25km was completed in 2:05-hour which was ok but earlier on I had hoped that I could cover the distance under 2:00-hour. So, it was all mind over body from there onwards.

My mind was talking about under 3:40-hour finish but the body told the mind that I can walk for a long time and still finish off the race under 4:00-hour. So, it was a tussle between the mind and the body which they had to come to a compromised position where I would take longer walk breaks at water stations and halfway up any elevated road or bridge and when it was time to run, I need to run at least at 5:15-minute pace. And it worked for me although at times, from my mental calculations, I could miss the 3:40-hour mark by a whisker using that strategy. 30km was completed in 2:31-hours and I had to run the last 13km (in my calculation, I would always anticipate the route would go up to 43km in distance) under 68 minutes, which means that I would miss my target even if I run at an average pace of 5:30-minute from KM30 onwards. Even to be able to run the last 13km at 5:30-minute pace was not guaranteed (that I would be able to do it) as my muscles have started to feel some soreness. It was quite frustrated thinking about it.

But I trudged on. The only hope I had was for the route to be accurately measured to 42.195km in distance (I got 42.28km on my Garmin) and I would still be able to finish under 3:40-hour. This motivated me a bit and I didn't drop my pace much, still able to run between 5:15- to 5:25-minute pace except for one stretch when I walked for quite some time. 35km was done in 2:58-hour and I was glad to finally get back to the city, knowing the finish line was getting nearer. The distance marker along the roadside showed that the race will not be overdistance but I still had doubt in me so, I continued to run. And with some four kilometers from the finish line, a marshal on a bicycle cycled alongside me. I thought it was going to be for a short while but he cycled alongside me until the finish line.

At the last water station. On my left is the marshal on the bicycle who paced me in the last four kilometers of the race.

It was hard to keep up with the marshal. I was in my last 3km and I had to run at 5:00-minute pace. I thought it was good to have a pacer and it was just few more kilometers to go to give everything that I still had left in me but at the same time, my heart was screaming! I slowed down for a while thinking that he might speed off and leave me behind but he didn't. When I slowed down, he slowed down too while encouraging me to keep up with only few kilometers to go. I obliged, and pacing with the marshal on the bicycle, I did the fastest pace in the entire race during my last 1km, how is that?! So, I crossed the finish line in 3:35:44, making it a personal best timing of all 20 marathons I've done locally. Previous best was 3:49:16. It was also my 32nd full marathon race and continuing a streak of 14 sub 4-00-hour marathon finish dating back to August 2013. The timing got me in the 26th position in the Men's Open category and 40th overall which entitled me for the 'Top 200 finishers' special edition finisher t-shirt.

With some familiar faces after the marathon.

Personally, everything was great with KUMAR, my race was less-problematic and I didn't suffer from DOMS for too long post-marathon. I only had a few hours of sweating, dizzyness and feeling like throwing up after the race but recovered well after an hour of sleep. On the organisation of the marathon, I think the reviews I read from last year spoke the truth and the organizer had maintained (or maybe improved) the standard of the marathon. Water stations were abundance and some were accompanied with medic stations, route was super nice especially for a first timer like me, weather was awesome and I will not be surprised if KUMAR would now become a favorite local marathon, overtaking the disastrous and never-improved Penang Bridge Marathon as well as the boring and overhyped KL Marathon.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Medibank Melbourne (Half) Marathon 2015 - Race Report

Team 2ndskin athlete Eugene Teoh finished strong in the recent 21km Mediback Melbourne Marathon Festival after recovering from back injury. Despite the lack of mileage and training, Eugene managed to complete the race by managing his pace using his experience. Read up his report here. 

A classic case of it’s alright to listen to your body and not get caught up in the hype. Two weekends ago was the Medibank Melbourne Marathon Festival, one of the largest running events (if not the largest) in Victoria, Australia. I had registered for the full marathon category for the longest time, maybe within a week of the registrations opening and I had all intentions to make it my 2nd FM run in Australia after the Great Ocean Road Marathon which I completed in May.

The lead up in my training was going well, I was putting in the mileage until end of July (sometime in mid winter) when I sustained a back injury which put me out of running for almost 4 weeks. A hell lot of trigger point therapy and foam rolling put some measure of mobility back into me and I thought I still had about 6 weeks to put in some work before the Melbourne Marathon on th 18th Oct. All that notion flew out the window when my trip back to Malaysia for 3 weeks was shrouded by haze and the conditions were just not suitable for running outdoors.
The total mileage I had logged in the preceding 2 months was probably something I could have run in under 2 hours.

Back from Malaysia on the 1st of October, I was 2 and a half weeks out to the 42km run with barely a long run of 7km in the bag. I decided there and then I would gauge my fitness over the next 2 weeks to decide the outcome of the day.
True enough, I laboured through 6-7km run sessions and pulled out a 59 min 10km longest run 5 days before the Marathon.

Obviously I didn’t have the legs for the 42km, and having done my fair share of marathons and distances beyond, I knew a lot about respecting the distance. I had friends from Malaysia coming for the run and other running friends in Melbourne also going to be there, and all of them were running the full marathon distance. It was a tough decision, but it had to be made.

The Thursday before the event, I went over to the race kit collection expo and decided to “downgrade” my event distance from the full marathon to the half marathon. Honestly as I was standing in line waiting for my turn at the counter, I was still undecided and still wondering if I could just hack the full distance but I after the dust has settled and writing this now, I felt it was the right decision.

So there I was, swapping my event category from 42km to 21km and all my friends would be starting an hour earlier than me and I’d be running alone. But I guess listening to my body and my level of fitness then was the right thing to do. Without proper mileage and training, the full distance would probably have been an injury waiting to happen. Being sidelined for 4 weeks due to injury and only recently getting back on my feet, I didn’t want to take that risk and go through the downtime again. Now I’m not saying that the half marathon distance doesn’t require the training and commitment to run it, what I’m just saying is that based on how I felt my body coping, I could finish a half marathon in a decent time but going double that distance would open up the risk of overstress and injury.

Pre-race day, I managed to catch up with some running kakis from Malaysia, William and Yi Heng and several Malaysians from Melbourne, Eugene Tan, Pearl and Yee Vien. All of them were down to do the full marathon and it was pretty agonising to sit through a carbo-loading lunch being the only one doing the half! I made sure I didn’t eat as much as they did!

The course map.

Race morning, we all managed to get together before the start together with Sing Hoe from Adelaide and after wishing them all well, they had their race start at 7am. The half marathon was to be flagged off an hour later, so I spent some time inside the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) stadium, soaking up the early morning revelations. My pre-race rituals were simple; I finished up a slice of bread with peanut butter which I kept in my dropbag, 2 caps Hammer Endurolytes and I brought along one Hammer Energy Gel for halfway. Laced up my Skechers GoRun4’s (in different colours no less!), took off my jacket and kept my dropbag with the volunteers and I was on my way to the start line at Batman Avenue, approximately 10mins walk away from MCG.

Race Day weapon of choice 

There were abour 11,000 runners in the half marathon event and we flagged off on the dot at 8:00am. I was hovering near the 2:00 hour pacer area at the start line and my initial target was to put in a time of 2:10 or thereabouts, taking into account my 59min 10k session a few days ago as a benchmark for my current fitness level. The weather was cool, around 12-13 deg and it took a while to warm up.

The course was dead flat, except for a gradual climb out of Batman Avenue at the start and an incline at the end back into MCG and my Garmin 920XT recorded a total elevation gain of only 67m over the 21km distance. This is definitely a PB course if you are at the right fitness level. My initial plan was to stick to a 5:30/km pace and hold that for as long as I could, which I expected to be around the 10km mark and then gradually slow the pace as tiredness and lack of fitness creeps in and I’d probably end up with a 2:10 timing as I had forecasted.

The first 5kms were pretty much getting into stride, and I was surprised to see I was averaging 5:25/km after the first 2 water stations. The crowd was still massive at this point but it started to spread out a little gradually after as pace tends to create gaps between groups of runners. When my GPS beeped the 8km distance, I thought to myself that I was still feeling pretty good at this point, and lets see if I could possibly hold this pace for another 5km (exceeding my expectations).

I hooked on to several “targets” whom I sensed had a consistent pace; a guy who was in a neon yellow shirt, a couple running together and chatting loudly and a guy in a 100km finisher shirt (!!). I distinctly remember the couple having a chat about the distance and the guy telling the girl that the last 5km is all mental and its all in the mind. That conversation had me thinking that the girl might be running the half distance for the first time, but we were going at a 5:15-5:20/km pace!

At 13km I stopped for about half a minute at the water station (in Albert Park) and downed my Hammer Espresso Gel. I could feel a bit of fatigue setting into my leg muscles and my left calf felt a bit twitchy. A short stretch and I was off, and the pit stop actually did me good. I hit the 15km marker and glanced at my Garmin; 1:20 on the clock. Hey! I could possibly slow down to a 6min/km pace for the remainder of the 6kms and finish in Sub-2 hours; way better than I expected! At that moment, bar any final meltdown (or cramp) I was pretty sure I would be doing better than I had initially expected.

The last 6kms were just ticking away at the distance markers and referencing my 920XT. Every km that ticked away and I saw I was still running in the region of 5:20s/km. I took my time at the last water station and slowly drank a cup of water, thanked one of the volunteers for helping out before I continued along. There was a last climb up the bridge before we turned into MCG and as the light emerged at the end of the short tunnel, I could hear the applause and cacophany of shouts and chatter from inside the stadium.

The 300m (or so) finish inside the stadium was one of the most memorable experiences in my running life so far. A ¾ lap around the stadium whilst supporters in the stands applauded was truly a moment to savour. I stopped my Garmin at just under 1:55 as I finished under the balloon arch. Collected my finisher’s medal on the way out of the stadium and the entire experience was over in half a morning.

Race data from Garmin Connect.

Looking back at my finish at the 21km distance, I could probably finish the 42km with a run-jog-walk routine and come back to the finish in under 5:30, giving myself 3:30 to cover the balance 21km. However, the impact may have been much greater if I had sustained more strain and pain and I was not about to risk getting back onto the rehabilitation table.

I guess there is always another marathon to conquer, another race to run, another experience to fulfill. Here’s looking forward to Melbourne Marathon 2016!!