Venue: Queensbay Mall, Penang
Date: 16 November 2008
Distance: 42.195KM (42.21KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205)
Shoe: Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3
The near perfect conditions, determination, deep thoughts and a pair of superb shoe all contributed to something I did not expect at the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008, though it was a mentally tough route.
15 November 2008. Pre-race day...
Together with Choi and Pueh Tian, the 3 of us boarded the Aeroline coach from Sunway Pyramid at 8am and departed for Penang on a wet morning. Haza was too on the bus with her kids. It took us 5 hours to arrive at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal and was greeted by Chee Kong who came to pick us up. First thing first, we went to Queensbay Mall to pick up our race pack. It was a quick one and within 5 minutes, everyone was done. The race pack contained our running bib, a free size running vest which is too big for me, a t-shirt, race guide and some stuff from the sponsors. Pretty good I would say. Later, we met up with Cheang and Chin PF before heading off for a quick and simple lunch.
Contents of the race pack...
View of Queensbay Mall on the right, while the Penang Bridge on the top left...
After lunch, we checked into Krystal Suites which is rather near to Queensbay Mall and we rested till 6pm before heading out for dinner with Luc at the New Lane hawker street. Jeff and his girlfriend joined in too and we even met a few other runners from Kuala Lumpur including Loke and his family. Kept dinner simple as I do not want to risk any potential diarrhea and it's back to the hotel to call it a day.
16 November 2008. Race day...
The day I'm waiting for. I woke up just before midnight while everyone else was still asleep. I took my time to prepare as I munched down a bun and a Cliff Bar with a cup of hot coffee before hitting the shower. Shortly later, Choi was awake too and by 2am, we are ready to leave. Chee Kong and Pueh Tian woke up just before we left and we all exchanged good luck wishes before heading off to the lobby to meet up with Anil, Kit and Luc. Had a good quality walk to the starting venue, and by the time we got there, our body was partially warmed up.
The course route...
Together with Choi before taking on the legendary distance...
As I know that this will be a race all by myself with no pacers, I decided to go at my own comfortable pace without trying anything fancy like plyometrics. The first stretch was along some service road heading towards Gold Coast resort. It was pretty dark here so I had my eyes on the ground to make sure that I didn't run into any potholes or reflectors. There were a few spectators along the road to cheer us on before we arrived at the extremely long stretch of the Bayan Lepas Expressway that took runners along the coastal road passed the industrial park that houses Intel, Agilent and some other big names.
The whole expressway was closed so runners had the opportunity to run anywhere on it. But as I was going at a steady pace together with an Indian runner, I did not have the privilege on running on the inner lane. Was stuck next to him for a while until he broke away. I was feeling very good here as the weather was just perfect. The light morning sea breeze contributed to a cool morning and me having my weekdays training under the blazing hot sun at 4pm, took advantage of this. Shortly at 5KM, came the first refreshment station but I did not go for it as I had my water bottle filled with Endurox R4 with me, which really did help a lot. I took small little sips every 15 minutes and that save me lots of time from drinking from cups at the refreshment stations.
As I approached the end of the expressway, I saw the first runner which is no surprise a Kenyan, making his way back. Shortly, I saw Luc too as I head towards the Batu Maung U-turn point as I cheered him on. Seeing how fast Luc went eventually motivated me as I hit the 10KM mark in a time 00:53:18. As I made my turn, I kept my eyes on the runners heading towards the turn instead and eventually saw Anil, Raymond, Choi, Kit, Tey ET and Cheang. Gave my thumbs up to them before I head back. At about the 12.5KM mark, Anil came out of no where and went off after wishing me. Slowly and slowly, he began to disappear into the distance.
Arriving at the 20KM mark in a time of 01:47:54 (00:54:33), was the start of my problems. I "crashed" into the human wall as thousands of half marathoners detoured into the race course. And to make things event worst, the PowerBar Gel which is stated to be stationed at the 15KM mark appeared on the 20KM mark instead with no priority given to the full marathoners. I do not understand why did the choose to give the gels to the half marathoners when they just started the race, probably just into their third kilometer. I tried to grab a gel but by the time I got into the crowd, I noticed that there was a long queue for it and therefore decided not to have it. I decided to carry on, but that's of course after trying very hard to run my way out from the crowded gel station.
As I approach the 2 lane ramp heading into the bridge, I had to maneuver myself through the sea of runners. Despite bright yellow signs stating "Slower runners keep left", no one even bothered and I was forced to run on the rather narrow pavement alongside the railing to overtake some of them. I tried to indicate to them that a runner is coming through but no one listened. Yes, not a single one! Some were walking holding hands, calling on their mobiles and even stopping to pose for photos! Honestly speaking, I do not mind but please do it in a proper way so that other runners are not obstructed.
My hydration plan was all messed up here. Without fluid as I had earlier finished my Endurox R4 at the 15KM mark, and with the refreshment station at the 22.5KM mark crowded with runners around a small table, I carried on as a very dry runner. However, it was after this station that I had some breathing space I managed to break free from the crowd.
Knowing my energy level is depleting fast, I took my first PowerBar Gel, without any water leaving me with a rather sticky throat and lips. But I know I had no choice and to rely on my saliva and time to wash away the effect.
As I made my way, I spotted Pueh Tian and caught up with him. Greeted him before I continued on but then, he gave a sprint and stopped a couple of meters ahead and took a video of me, which at first I thought was a photo instead. Haha... Thanks! As I began my ascend up the bridge, Raymond came from behind and greeted me with this message "Good pace", before he sped off like a rolling tomato, hence his nick the TomatoMan! And to make things even interesting, he actually stopped earlier when he had to hit the potty-pot! This guy is awesome!
Shortly in front, a runner from the 25KM category has feel unconscious. Other runners gathered around him but I was guess it was the wrong move. Though it was kind of them in trying to help, the poor guy needed fresh air which was blocked off by others. His legs were raised to allow blood flow and he was slapped lightly a few times hoping to wake him up. The ambulance arrived shortly after I ran pass, and I hope he is fine.
As I hit the 25KM mark, I quickly grabbed a small little cup from the refreshment station only to find out that it was empty. Quickly asked the person in charge to filled it up as I continued on. It wasn't enough though as water was splashed out from the cup as it was poured in. Though desperate for water, I wasn't about to look back and was rewarded at the 27.5KM mark with a good supply of water before hitting it again and arriving at the 30KM mark in a time of 02:46:04 (00:58:09). I was very surprised with my time as I was on course for a sub 4 timing. However, things took a dramatic turn here. Read on...
Arriving at the U-turn point just before the toll interchange, I took my second gel just before making my return trip. Nothing much happen during my return trip on bridge except that I bumped in Chanbai who was running the 25KM category. However, I know I was slowing down and was seriously dry, probably due to the sea breeze.
Before exiting the bridge, I took 2 cups of isotonic and a cup of water before getting kicked on my right heel by a lady runner who was running wobbly left and right. She did not apologise and though it only hurt me a little, it slowed my momentum down. Shortly in front, I notice that she ran herself into the first aiders. Despite still continuing, she was put on alert by the first aiders as from what I heard.
Then came the final refreshment station as I took one final cup of water. As I ran along the final stretches of the Bayan Lepas Expressway, I know my sub 4 timing is fading fast. At the turning into the Gold Coast Resort and with approximately 800M to go, I almost broke into tears when I saw my watch hit 4 hours. Knowing I had to carry on which I did, I fought back and carried on with Seok Ling right behind me.
With 500M to go, as I was making my way around the Gold Coast roundabout, my left hamstring gave way. The pain sent me limping as I grab on my hamstring and ran. The word "Pain" was written all over my face and one of the road marshall spurred me on telling me to drag myself to the finish line if I had to! Gave him a very painful smile as I continued running and counted down the distance marker. 500M, 400M, 300M, 200M and finally into the finishing area as I crossed the finish line with my arms wide open at position 33 with a time of 04:04:44, a new personal best for me! That's 00:25:31 shaved off my previous.
After chilling out at the rest area for an hour plus, I decided to head back to the hotel with Chee Kong and Choi for well deserve shower. It was at this time, I asked myself what had gone wrong? Thought I ran my fastest 30KM distance, it is at this point that things started to fade for me. Now that I know, I know which area I am to improve on. Nevertheless, I am overall very happy with my performance as I was not aiming for a sub 4 timing. I was just giving it a go since I felt good and saw the chance coming. Most importantly, I was glad that I didn't stop at all throughout the entire course. And frankly speaking, I do not know how I did it. All I knew was that during the entire course, my mind was fill with thoughts of my running mates including Choi, Jamie, Luc, Geraldine, Lynn and the others who went through thick and thin with me for the last 3 months.
After cleaning up, we headed to Swatow Lane for our post marathon meal with Luc. He won some prize money and we had a feast of local food there while exchanging our run stories before we head back to the hotel for some quality rest while Luc returned back home to Kuala Lumpur.
About the quality of the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008, I would say it's much better compared to the one organised the previous year. It may have his downside of it, but I guess every races has it. The question is, how bad it is? Probably the organisers should look into the PowerBar Gel station and water issue. Some refreshment station ran out of water, while other ran out of cups. This is really an important issue to look into as life is at risk. So will I be back next year? As for now, I can't really commit myself though I did enjoy the race as it will always be nice to try out different marathons. Unless that I can't meet my target of at least 4 marathons a year, the Penang Bridge International Marathon will definitely be on my running calendar.
Full marathon, Men open
04:04:44 - Frank Chong (33)
04:28:42 - Yip Kit Weng (50)
05:21:26 - Tey Eng Tiong (99)
Full marathon, Men veteran
03:18:01 - Luc Bodart (12)
04:41:44 - Choi Chik Choy (66)
05:36:34 - Chin Phoy Foon
06:23:45 - Cheang Meng Wai
25KM Half marathon, Men open
02:18:00 - Chen Chee Kong
02:26:32 - Jeff Ooi
25KM Half marathon, Women open
02:20:36 - Lynn Guan (14)
02:26:00 - Tan Chin Chin
17 November 2008. Post race day...
The highlight of the day before we left Penang was my lunch with Choi and Pueh Tian at a resurant called T-Bowl at Queensbay Mall. The letter "T" stands for Toilet so I guess you can pretty guess how's the food served. Yes, instead of the usual bowls, it came in mini toilet bowls! Even the seats are of toilet bowls and I hope they are new. Conventional tables are replaced with sinks with a glass top. Even desserts came in mini bath tubs! And after filling up our tummy, we left Penang at 3pm via the Aeroline coach. So it's goodbye Penang!
Desserts served in mini bath tubs...