Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sundown Marathon 2008...

Event: Sundown Marathon 2008
Venue: Changi Village, Singapore
Date: 31 May 2008
Time: 11.59pm
Distance: 42.195KM (43.10KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205)
Shoe: adidas adizero Tempo
By Frank

Warning: Long report ahead...

Darkness, blisters, dryness and cramps are just a few words I can use to describe about the Sundown Marathon 2008. It was sure not easy to run a marathon at night and here is how my first went...
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Our ride down to Singapore, First Coach...

Nice and clean interior. Notice the LCD screen...

The adventure started on Friday, 30 May 2008 when myself together with Cheang, Choi, Jamie, Lim PT, Shine and Guna travelled together on the First Coach bus to Singapore. We were joined by Tey ET and Uncle Sonny who was travelling on the same bus too. After a light breakfast together, we boarded the bus at Bangsar and at sharp 9.30am, we were off! Nothing much happened in the bus as we were all either resting or attracted to the individual LCD TV attached to the seat. It was packed with a variety of movies and musics which kept us entertained till we reach Singapore. At about slightly more than 6 hours, we arrived at our destination, Novena Square. We parted ways with Jamie here as he made his way to Justin's residence. The rest of us decided to check into the hotel first which was Fragrance Hotel located at Selegie Road, Little India. It was a short trip by the MRT and upon checking in, we continued on to Athlete's Circle located in the business district to collect our race kit. The race kit collection was a smooth process but however, the organisers lost Choi's bib and had to replace it with an extra one without his name printed on it. Sigh... I was a little disappointed with the race kit though. Besides my bib which was numbered 6563 and my name printed on it with an attached RFID sensor behind it, it was filled by a variety of brochures from the sponsors. The race vest which was the adidas adizero vest looks pretty nice on the website but upon seeing the real thing, I felt a bit disappointed. But upon putting it on, I took back some of my words as being a racer vest, it sure was light. Without anything to do after dinner, me, Choi, Guna and Shine decided to call it a day and went back to the hotel for some rest. I got a little worried about Shine as migraine struck him and he will be doing the 84KM ultra marathon the next night. I as a migraine sufferer understand how he felt.

After collecting our race kit at Athlete's Circle...

My adizero vest and personalised bib...

Day 2. Race day. Woke up pretty early at 7.30am and had a hearty american breakfast. As it was still early and the rest was still sleeping, me and Choi went back to the room to rest while Lim PT went for some exploring. At 10.15am, when everybody is awake, we all except Shine went back to Athlete's Circle as Choi wanted to change his vest which was too small for him. We dropped by at People's Park at Chinatown later as Cheang wanted to do some chocolate shopping. I was tempted to get some for myself too as the chocolates was imported and it's dark chocolate, my favourite. But as I wanted to save some money, I purchased nothing. We had an early lunch before returning to the hotel for an afternoon nap. I woke up at 4pm to find that it was raining cats and dogs and we got a little worried as our worst fears came true. From here, I started loading in all the necessary carbohydrates. First was coffee to help me stay awake for the night, then some biscuits. Shine dropped by before he left for the race venue at 5.30pm. I'm glad he managed to shake off his migraine and together with Choi, we wished him the very best for his race as it won't be easy. It takes a lot of courage and mental strength to run 84KM. And luckily for him, the rain had stopped just in time. At about 6.30pm, we all went for our dinner. I had 2 bowls of rice plus 2 roti pratas with a bit of steamed chicken. It was a good load of carbohydrate and it filled me up. At 9.30pm, we all geared up and left for the race venue at Changi Village. The journey took about 45 minutes by the MRT and upon arrival, we were greeted by the marshals that directed us to the shuttle bus. The bus journey took us another 15 minutes or so. At the race venue, the sea of runners jam packed the whole area. We made our way in and eventually met up with Jamie and Justine. Bumped into Anil and Kit too. After depositing our baggage, we did our warmup and stretches, and not forgetting having our group picture taken too. At about 11.45pm, we proceeded to the starting zone. As Justin wished us, me together with Cheang, Choi and Jamie checked into the 4:30-5:00 time zone. In there, we waited patiently.

Ready to take on 42KM in the night...

11.59pm. Race time. "Bang" off goes the gun, and I started my fourth marathon, my second for the year 2008 as I gave the thumbs up and best wishes to Cheang, Choi and Jamie. The adventure started at the first route named String Of Lights which covered half the distance. The start was pretty slow as it was very narrow. I was around 200M from the start gantry, which accumulate to around 3 minutes till I got there. It was a very slow jog around a kilometer or so and it was great to bring up the heart rate. Choi and Cheang was stucked behind the sea of runners but Jamie managed to find his way through. I tried to stick with him as much as I can but after 1.5KM, I found that my pace was too slow. I decided to start maneuvering myself through the slower runners although the route was still pretty narrow. It was here I left my 3 friends behind. My first strategy of pacing them was gone. It's all up to myself now. I know I was still off pace as I hit the the 3KM mark or so, and therefore decided to up my pace a little more as I wanted to complete the first 10KM which was a long the long flat and straight roads of the Changi Coast in an hour. During my run here, I managed to witness a few airplanes taking off. As a Qantas plane took off, I felt the urge to take off too. Haha... But I guess it's not wise to do so as it was still a long way ahead. And so, just as I hope, I managed to complete the first 10KM in around an hour.

As I passed the 10KM distance marker, I slipped on a pavement nearby as there was a cement chip missing from it. Probably cracked off. Luckily, I didn't damage anything and kept running and eventually bumped into Keat Seong. Managed to have a short chat before I left him and entered the East Coast Park. The park was packed with weekenders who camped around the seaside for a get together and also barbeque sessions. I can smell the chicken wings and it sure smells great! Some of them even stood at the side and cheered us on. Shortly later, as much as I feared, blisters formed on my left fourth toe. It was painful but I kept running with it moving all my left toes as I ran. It did not slow me down as the Putrajaya Simulation Night Run experience has helped me prepare for the bilisters as Tony had adviced me on it. And along the seaside and with no wind at all, it soon became very dry. Salt crystal began to formed on my forehead, arms and especially my shin. At the 14KM mark, I took my first PowerBar Gel. And with it, I managed to dump the water bottle that I was carrying with me since the start. The water bottle had helped me not to stop at the water station as it was packed with thirsty runners along the first 20KM. Around 500M before the u-turn at the 20KM mark, I bumped into Anil and Raymond who was making their way back. They were fast indeed. Greeted them and off I went running patiently till I saw the u-turn. *Beep* off goes my RFID sensor and I managed to clocked around 2 hours. Everything was still perfect here from my energy, my legs and my postures. And the best part was, the pain on my left fourth toe from the blister is gone. As I made my way back, I bumped into Choi and Jamie who was making their way to the u-turn. Choi was still looking good but Jamie began to hunch a little already. I cheered both of them by giving them the thumbs up and also saying "Pia" which meant "Go for it", something like that. And so after hitting the 22KM mark, I exited the East Coast Park and into the housing area where the running space got wider with fewer runners.

From here on, the route's name was Heartland Twist and it was a bit boring. Shortly into this route, a pedestrian bridge came into sight. Totally unexpected but luckily it wasn't the steps type. At about 24KM, Kit caught up with me. Apparently, he told me that I overtook him just before the u-turn which I didn't notice. He started to slow down as he was not well the week before. I respect him for taking up the challenge despite his condition as I know how it felt like. I told him to think about Ben, Shine and Tey ET who was at that time running their lives out at the 84KM ultra marathon. Our situation was nothing compared to them and that movivated the both of us. We managed to pace for a while before I left him and soon was greeted by the second pedestrian bridge. Later I found myself in a park and I tripped over a raised concrete slab. Luckily nothing happened and soon, the PowerBar Gel station came into sight and I grabbed one. I was little disappointed that they were just stationed next to the water station. Not wanting to waste my time to tear the gel and then to grab a cup of water, I continued on with the gel in my hand. I slowed my pace from here onwards as I wanted to do a recovery run before performing my negative splits from the 30KM mark later. To my suprise, another pedestrian bridge appeared. This time, I had to climb the stair. The agony! I just went ahead ignoring the pain, wanting to get it over as soon as I can. I took one step at a time but at a fast pace.

In a while more, I entered the Bedok Reservoir area and it was the start of the Waterfront Trail route. Just like the previous Heartland Twist, this area is just as boring. The first water station here was in darkness and so I ignore it. And it was in this part of the race, that it was sandy. Although it was softer than those on the tarmac and concrete surface earlier, it was slippery and a bit muddy. I just want to get over it and so it did at the 29KM mark. There was a water station here and it was brightly lighted and I took my second PowerBar Gel here, the one I carried along since the 25KM mark. After I felt the gel took effect on me, it was game time. I gave myself a battlecry and I started my negative splits and up my pace at each kilometer covered. I started using my calf muscles more this time as it help me propel myself to the front more (principles of plyometrics). It all went well, till I hit the the fourth and final pedestrian bridge around the 36KM mark where I slowed down. My legs began to lock up and I was very dry despite drinking quite a lot. I know my strategy is hanging by a thread now and I risked not having to complete the race within my targetted time.

At the point my legs were giving way, I was already in the fourth and final area of the race route named Homerun. And everytime I had the opportunity to regain a steady pace, I always lose my momentum at the traffic light area as I had to tackle the pavements there. At around the 38KM mark, some drunkards was along the route to cheer the runners on. One of them actually cheered me on saying "Come on , BIG GUY!", when I was so skinny. Hehe... I high fived one of them to boost my morale and carried on. Later in front, I took a left turn and nearly lost my balance. My legs was really wobbly at this point and just after a while, my left hamstring cramped up! The pain struck me out of a sudden and I started limping but still running. Not wanting to stop and stretch risking a waste of time, I carried on hoping I will shake it off which I did. A marshall was in front to direct me and she told me to get my spirit up, something which I really need a this point especially when it was a steep climb. I replied to her saying that why must there be a climb now and she laughed. With no choice, I climbed it and was rewarded by the final water station. And so with the final 2KM to go, I decided to empty my tank only to be spoilt by one hump which was hidden in darkness by a tree's shadow! I trip over it and struggled to balance myself to avoid falling down. And although I didn't fall down, it lead to my left hamstring cramping up again, even more severe than the the previous one. I was in pain despite still running and my face tells it all at that time. The marshal who was there saw what happened and started to warn the runners behind me of the potential danger. From here on, I ran and ran with pain hoping to hear the music playing at the finish line but I just couldn't hear it. Either it was too soft or there was none! The final marker which was 400M was misinterpreted. It was still at least 600M ahead based on my experience. And the route to the finish line was very curvy. I had to crossed a small narrow bridge before I could see it. And with the finish line in sight at last and people cheering, I raised both my hands up, looked up at the sky and crossed the finish line clocking 04:30:15, a new personal best for me.

My moment of truth...

I proceeded forward to the rest area and was given a bottle of water, a can of 100Plus and a banana to help replenish what I had lost during the course of the race. And soon, I was rewarded by my hard earned finisher's medal and t-shirt. I found myself a spot to rest and met up with another runner. As we both chatted, I stretched myself while waiting for the others to return. And so in a little while time, one by one returned safely from Yee Hua, Choi, Jamie, Kit and Raymond. I was glad that they made it. Everyone was just so tired that we actually rested for quite a while before proceeding to collect our baggage. And it was here that I learnt from Choi that the distance was actually 43.10KM as recorded by his Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS sensor! Hmmm... Probably the organisers did not measure the pedestrian bridge.

My hard earned 4th marathon finisher's medal...

Rear of the finisher's medal (that's Singapore Changi Airport for those who don't know)...

Red hot finisher's t-shirt (L-Front, R-Rear)...

After changing into dry clothes, together with Choi, we waited for the rest to return at a tent just next to the finish line. We witness many runners making their way back and one of them caught my attention. Just before the finish line, he grab a giant banner from a friend waiting at the side. And with the help of his running friend, both of them took out the banner and ran all the way to the finish line. The banner read "Will you marry me?", a proposal to his girlfriend! A very sweet moment. Guna joined us shortly later after he completed his race 2 hours off his target due to cramps. He was disappointed. At around 6:15am, it began to rain and it became heavier and heavier. But luckily, there wasn't any thunder nor lightning. Managed to witness Haza finishing the race under the rain. She is certainly one tough lady, having to finish this race despite having a tummy upset. Soon later, Cheang and Lim PT too completed their race soaked by the rain water under 7 hours. When the rain stopped, a rainbow can be seen up in the sky. A beautiful sight indeed. Therefore for those who completed their run during this time, they not only experience sundown but also sunup, raindown and also rainbow marathon. A truly unique experience! And so with this, we left the race venue after taking some pictures together.

From sundown to sunup, we did it...

Proud to survive my toughest marathon to date...

It was a long and tiring journey back to the hotel. We were all so tired and sleepy. Upon cleaning ourselves up and having a light breakfast at the hotel, we all took a nap while still waiting for Shine to come back. At 12.15pm, after learning of Shine's victorious return, we all checked out from the hotel. We parted ways with Shine as he was staying another day at Singapore, and we proceeded on to have our lunch nearby before leaving for Novena Square, where we will board the bus to return to Malaysia. Had a short walk in Velocity, and bumped into Ben and Yee Hua. And at 4.30pm, the journey home started and most of us spent the time sleeping in the bus. 6 hours later, we found ourselves back at Bangsar safely. Bid each other farewell and our Sundown Marathon 2008 trip came to an end.

Thumbs up for our trip...

Overall about my performance at Sundown Marathon 2008, I was happy with it despite being my physically toughest marathon to date. I never had any cramps before during a marathon and this being my first, it hurt a lot. The rest of the guys found the route extremely difficult but I just ran along not thinking too much of it. I told myself to go for it no matter what is thrown to me and that includes the pedestrian bridges. Choi mentioned that the concrete surface on most of the route was unfriendly to the legs and it hurt his heels. I do not know if that contributed to my cramp though as my legs were fine. And running a night marathon is not easy. I'm glad I came prepared, and the core training really helped a lot as it helped my body stay upright during the course of the race. Prior to the race, lots of rest is needed to stay awake and alert. And finally, the simulation run organised by Tony at Putrajaya certainly helped.

As for how the marathon was organised out, it could have been better. The only cheerleaders from the organisers were the road marshals and not many of them cheered. The other cheerleaders were from the public especially at the East Coast Park. And not forgetting that the marshals were the medic which left me thinking how knowledgeable were they in first aid. There was no Saint John nor Red Crescent seen. And as for the water station, it was kind of short handed especially during the first half of the race. Most of the cups were empty and volunteers were scrambling around to get the cups filled. But anyhow, it was their first time organising this race, and I think it's acceptable. Perhaps they will be better in their next event.

Respect the distance...

As a conclusion, I enjoyed the trip very much together with the guys. Although not much sight seeing were done, I was glad with how it turned out. Lots of rest was needed to survive the night marathon. I was happy with my timing as it was my new personal record but at the same time disappointed too as I did not meet my target of a sub 04:30:00, missing it by 15 seconds. I know the route was over-distance, so technically I met my target. But at the end of the day, I know that timing is what I achieved and it will be "stored" in my head forever. A little note here. My salute to Ben, Shine and Tey ET for having successfully completed their 84KM ultra marathon. It sure wasn't easy epecially when they have to run the 42KM loops twice! And being over distance, they actually did 86.2KM! So there you have it, my fourth marathon of my running career and also my first night marathon. Till my fifth marathon...

12 comments:

Bink said...

Wow man, what an adventure you got there. Honestly this is the first marathon that involve a lot of falls. But thumbs up to you man, being able to finish this race.

CapArnabBrand said...

Great going man!! Another marathon under your belt.. and timing keeps getting better!!

haza said...

Frank, 4:33 is great considering the many turns and corners, running on concrete, running on sand, climbing stairs, overhead bridges, and at night too! Plus it's 1km longer, we may even say we ran an ultra haha! Great job. And you describe the route perfectly.

David said...

Congratulations!

Nice vest design.

What are the red T Shirts about?

Anonymous said...

Frank,

First of all, thanks for organizing the accomodation, sure it isn't easy having to run and make all these bookings!

Second and most important of all. WELL WELL WELL WELL DONE for your PR, truly enjoyed my stay with everyone, would have been better next time all of you join 84 (or 86) together!

C-CUBE said...

Frank, you seems to be on the right track in improving in every races. Indeed its good to see that happening but do watch out for over training and causing injuries. Its alright that we sometimes focus on a set of races for PR and not every single one out there. Eventually we will not be able to excel in every races over time. Just watch out for that, else as I said you are on the right track in improving your timing.

Carboman said...

Fantastic PR. As Choi said, balance rest, training with your racing. Running goes in cycles. You can certainly go faster!

Kit Weng said...

hi frank. I was running ahead of you and eventually behind you so I could see how strong you were physically and more importantly mentally. It was a tough route and perhaps our we under trained for the sundown but everyone enjoyed it! Well done again and you did really well.

I enjoyed the suffering as well!

Cheers,
Kit

Runnerz said...

bink: Yeah, it's not easy. And I'm glad not only for myself but also to all my friends.

caparnabbrand: Thanks. Hoping you will join the group soon.

haza: Yeap... We are now ultra marathoners, a 43.10KM one. Hahaha...

david: Thanks. The red shirts are finisher's tee given to those who completed the race.

anonymous: It's not much of a hassle booking the hotel. You have to thank Choi too for coming up with Plan B as the first hotel which was NSS was fully booked. I'm glad everyone enjoyed it, though the room is small. To run 84KM? Yikes... I don't want to think about it!

c-cube: I won't be able to do it without you guys. Being not only training partners, you guys have motivated, adviced and shared with me your experiences. You guys are the true success behind mine.

carboman: To be able to outperform myself and to overcome my past is my greatest achievement. To be able to go faster is more like a bonus to me. And yes, rest. I really need a quality one now.

Kit: You did really well yourself. You went into the race without 100% fitness and yet you achieved a remarkable timing. I know how it feels like as I have been in your situation before. Congratz to you!

Anonymous said...

Congrats, well done and nice write up! For those if us behind your time, the water stops were horrendous for the first half, totally understaffed and mismanaged. The course, with pedestrian overpasses, narrow bike paths, required single-file running in some places for some 4.900 runners, and then we had to wait at stoplights to cross - amazing! And finally, all our Garmins read 26.75 miles, so one full km too long.. a big deal when the final mileage marker says 40km, and you know it's 41km!

Runnerz said...

anonymous: Thanks for the compliments. I'm glad that you didn't mind that my report was too long and also the standard of my English. I just wrote what I can remember during the course of my run. And although it was tough, at the end of the day, I'm glad I made it. I'm sure you feel the same way too.

jue said...

wah, all you guys can really write. i only managed to scribble less than a quarter on my relay4life report .... cinya ...

Congrats!