Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Race Report - Penang Bridge International Marathon 2012

Date: 18 November 2012
Location: Queensbay Mall, Penang
Distance: 42.195 km (42.60 km)
Bib No.: A 00093
Registration Fee: RM60 (early bird)
Gears: Asics DS-Trainer, Garmin Forerunner 405
Starting Time: 2.00am (2:00am) - Very ZHUN!!!!!
Running Time: 04:07:08
Pace: 5:48 min/km

This was the race of the year.... home ground.... familiar place which is the Penang Bridge that I cross every day to earn my living for 5 years +. I thought it was manageable, or not that difficult, but many had told me that PBIM route is not easy at all. I was not going to let anybody rock my confidence in breaking the barrier, but I was surrounded by much, much annoying things during the most critical week of the race.

In the race week, I had some bad experience. Batu Kawan runners were running the last easy run at Mengkuang Dam. I was late because of oversleeping. I joined the group at 6:15am and as soon as I started to run at slow pace after some static stretching, my ankle was giving me some signal, it was aching but I thought it was temporary and finished the ~9k run over some hills with pace as high as 5:00min pace.

The next day, it was still aching. I began to consider my race shoes, I was planning Pure Connect which could give me fast pace and good response, but it shall be very taxing on the ankles. I tried not to think about it and stop all running but doing bicycle riding to keep the muscles working. At the same time, the bloody hell CQE trial exam was in the morning of 17-Nov. I was mentally tortured reading and studying all those dry subjects.

I tried to apply analgesic cream on my ankle and do the warm water rinsing. It was working for me. Then, I tried on the alternative shoes, which is the red Asics DS-Trainer that never hit the pavement more than 10km in any training session. I ran 1km on it and I made up my mind to give myself a peace mind to study.

In Saturday morning, I settled the CQE exam in 5 hours, 160 questions. I hate it and the real exam would be on 1-December. Then, I went home to sleep from 3 something to 6pm, then I got myself prepared to attend friend's wedding dinner. Then, went home, checked my things and crossed the bridge to race site at 11:30pm. Bridge was scheduled to close at 1am.

I was early, parked my car at the road side, intention was not to pay any parking fee. I was told that the open parking lot was RM5 per entrance and the multilevel car park is charged at RM1 per hour. I paid nothing. I started to apply the Sloan analgesic cream all over the legs, the popular spots (for myself) like ankles, calves and tights. Then, searched for portal pottie to settle small business and went back to put on my shoes.

Car park slots were filing up fast. It was around 1:15am and I met Qamarrul and Ling Teoh on the way to Queensbay Mall. Then, met Dr.Tham who was chasing the sub-4 target as well. He did well in PBIM 2011 with 4:06 O.o' His wife helped us to take a photo together and I off to see the Batu Kawan gang which is around the area in front of Coffee Bean outlet. Again we took a few photos together then I decided to sit down, not to waste too much energy standing.

WJ who is aiming to be WJ* was wearing her timing band aimed for 4:30, which means I needed to run <3:30 a="a" beat="beat" better="better" concentrate="concentrate" for="for" is="is" it="it" much.="much." my="my" on="on" own="own" rather="rather" run="run" so="so" task="task" than="than" thinking="thinking" to="to" too="too" tough="tough" was="was" wj="wj">

1:54am, almost there. I locked in the satellite signal on my Garmin Forerunner 405 and went to the starting line, I could be at the front 10 rows but I walked back. I still like to build confidence and ramp slowly rather than being pushed from the back running as the front-liners since I am not that fast. I did not want to be left too behind as well, because it could be difficult to clear the human traffic in the first 1km, so I was right at the center of all the runner queue.

 At 2:00am, gun off. I just went off and it was quite difficult to move because some people were moving quite slow in pace of 7:00 or 8:00 and I had to ran zig-zag to set my own pace at 6:00 min/km. Luckily I was be able to do so and hit the target pace at 6:01 min/km. We were running towards Seagate, my previous company. Along the way, I was trying to get into rhythm, relax and focus on form, I told myself I will tuned into 5:30 from 3rd km onwards then until 10th km.

At km-2, I'm already running at the first 10k planned pace, it came one km earlier. Personally I am not sure whether this is costly enough for the remaining distance but I keep telling myself to relax, focus and keep the fuel for something more challenging. At the U-turn point at Seagate then going past Queensbay Mall again, I keep re-hydrating myself with my Nathan Trek bottle, although I skipped the first water station which is very crowded. I was feeling the thirst would strike anytime, so my plan is prevention rather than too late. I almost finished 85% of the 660ml with 2 packets of hydration salt inside.

Then, I took the first gel at the 2nd water station which is at km-7 or so, I know that the elevation was not far ahead, replenishment at this station was spot-on as I would not want my precious energy tank to be emptied before finishing mainland bound route. The flyover was steep and I could see clearly the elevation leading up to the highest point of the bridge. Clearly, I could see 2 4:00 pacers in front and my target was to tackle them.

I managed to went past 2 pacers before reaching the highest point. As soon as I went past 10th km, I increased the pace as planned to at least 5:20. I prefer not to push going up the elevation because that was the first out of so many to come. Checked my form, ensure that I'm not putting any stress on the body, smaller cadence and more arm swing, then I was like flying :P It was good to reach the highest point - midspan of the bridge around 13km, water station, took a gel to tackle the coming elevation. Then, it was show time.

I unknowingly ran a sub-5 minute pace going down the elevation but with controlled rhythm and avoiding using extra energy but rather utilizing the gravity force to glide the next 1km. Then I could see another 2 sub-4 pacers in front of me, maybe 500m away. The downward run did set a good momentum and I continued to run at pace around 5:20 until 20km.

Making the U-turn at the end of the bridge, momentum lost a bit and pace dropped. I could feel that it was harder to run, I wonder why, I checked my HR at the first time and I was shocked to see 18x bpm. Anyway, I was feeling OK so I ignore it, my heart was not jumping out from where it supposed to be yet.

Then, I could see KFC 500m after the U-turn with his si-mou following at his back, I was feeling OK, so I said hi and keep moving forward. The km-21 to 24 was the worst part, I had to pay back whatever I got from the previous good moment I had. It was a little difficult to run up to the midspan, but I did not want to overdo it. Let the pace drop and run naturally.

Then, I could see a bunch of 21k-ers coming out making U-turn, I had to run at the right side and often avoiding those walking runners. Haih... why they cannot be more understanding? but anyhow, they pay for it too.... it was the organizer's fault. I had a bad time filling up my bottle with hydration salt too, simply had to bite the packet to tear it off. I was not be able to increase the pace that I wanted. Pace from km-25 until 28 was around 5:30.

km-28, the multiple of 7, that's the point to take another gel. I simply had to increase the pace, that's the point when I was running in front of e-Gate. That's where the multiple hills hunting ground, eating the marathon runners alive. I found it quite difficult to run, checked the HR again for the second time, 18x again.... not a good sign. Tight was giving me some sensation that I did not like. Organizer was giving out PowerGel at km-30 and took it without a second thought, that's where the disaster started.

I felt good and could see one sub-4 pacer struggling going up the elevation, I took my sweet time and managed to overtake him. It was very difficult, back to back hills, then finally the U-turn point at km-33. Plenty of water, I took 2 cups and 1 banana.... cannot finish one in 1 30 seconds, started running and makan it section by section.

I checked the time straight after 33km, I should be able to make a sub-4 with consistent 6:00 pace if it is 42km.I took it conservatively and wanted to take advantage of the downhill towards the water sprinkle. I was running on thin ice (going to cramp anytime) from km-33 onwards. I saw the sprinkles, I loved the water but I did not see the pipe, I kicked it and I stumbled.... a perfect somersault. Cramped immediately. The police officer offered help, I said "I'm OK", I lengthened my leg and continued to run as if nothing happened. That was at km-35.

Is was the beginning of the hell like experience again, all momentum lost. I was getting slower and slower until I could not tahan the pain from the cramp, then I walked. Seeing many 21k-ers again doing their U-turn, had to find a comfortable way to run/walk. It was miserable, even the last gel taken at 35k did not help at all. I could only see FM runners overtook me, one by one.... surprisingly, I could recognize FM runners from their back.

Finishing the last 5-7km was like forever. Ran and walked, ran and walked, I was hoping to hear some motivating music playing from the race site but there was nothing, I guess the organizer wanted to be more considerable to those who were sleeping.

After turning into the Bayan Mutiara, I started to run again. I saw Su Hong and I stopped to let him take a photograph of me. Then, I continued running towards the finishing line. KFC's si mou or Bee Hong overtook me, I did not bother at all because there was no much juice and I did not want to injure myself, since the muscles are already being stressed to max. There is always another race for me to perform, to achieve my sub-4.

 I crossed the finishing line with 4 + 4 fingers, indicating the eighth full marathon, at 4:07. Straight walked to the claim my medal and finisher T then registered for a sport massage. St. John first aid team was cleaning my wound when I was waiting in the queue. No pain.... no pain... but no gain as well.

Race Summary:
  • Did not hit my goal of getting a sub-4 at the final Penang Bridge Run (the current bridge).
  • Completed my 8th full marathon in 2 years time. Not bad...
  • I took the positive from this attempt, I gave it all that I had, given that the external factors were not on my side.
Race Review:

  • Challenging route with multiple hills which will kill your quads if you are not well trained.
  • Started on time.
  • A simple full marathon finisher T. Nice.
  • All roads are closed so no traffic issues.
  • Plenty of water but still giving out water bottles, no environmental friendly and wasteful.
  • Space between water station are not well-designed for full marathon, 3.5km every water station is not sufficient. There should be one water station every 2km after 30km.
  • Category clash or human traffic again. Shorter category runner shall be advised to run on certain side to give way to FM runners.
  • No atmosphere of a marathon event.


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