Thursday, December 31, 2009

Into 2010 We Run...

By Frank

Quickly enough, it's time to say goodbye to year 2009 and hello year 2010. Marking a decade into the millennium, I'm sure most of us, especially athletes will certainly have many plans for ourselves. Before moving ahead, let me review on what I have gone through in year 2009.

71 entries, which is 19 lesser compared to year 2008. Well, I guess it means less racing and more training? Yes... No...? Hmmm... But anyway, that doesn't really matter. Besides that, after coming so close in year 2008, I have finally broke the 2000KM running barrier by running a total of 2245.71KM this year, which includes a 300KM run over 19 days. Tired? No way but just very surprised that I actually managed it with 2 seperate months of laying off due to injuries.

Personally, I don't think I join much races this year. Instead, I focused on major races which I set my eyes on and used the other races as part of my training regime. That explains my running mileage this year. Therefore, not many medals this year but instead, I was rewarded with improvements which all matter more over that shiny thing.

I have made some resolutions for year 2009. One of them is to run 3 marathons which I did. Then to run an ultra marathon which I debut successfully in the Sundown Marathon 2009 and then followed by my second in the MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009. Yeap, I did 2 when I initially only wanted to do only one in my entire running career. Guess the ultra bug hit me hard. Next, to run a sub 4 hour marathon which I did in my final chance of the year at the Macau Marathon 2009, which also happen to be my first ever oversea marathon (Singapore excluded as I'm a Johorian). Halfway through the year, I decided to include an additional "secondary" resolution in trying to run my marathon dream timing of a 3:35 hours marathon. No, I did not achieve it missing it by about 5 minutes plus, but looking on the brighter side of things, I am still here to give it another go in the near future.

Lastly and probably the most important, to stay injury free myself and together with my friends. This resolution did not entirely materialised as myself went down with injuries twice, early in the year and mid year being sidelined for at least a month each. Besides, my very dear friend Lynn too went down with it and it has been dragging till now. Really miss running with her and I do hope the recent situation is showing positive results.

As a bonus to myself, I even "re-ignited" my cycling career although this time on the road and not off it. Pretty different from mountain biking, I kind of find it difficult at first but managed to improve from time to time from just races as I didn't even train on the bike. Hahaha... However, I did complete my first ever Century Ride and even debuted at the Powerman Malaysia 2009 in which both I had serious fun. And not forgetting too that I successfully conquered Mount Kinabalu all the way up the the peak on my first attempt. Truly an experience!

As for the "Platinum Runners", the group hasn't been too active together either. With Geraldine sorely missed as she migrated to Melbourne early of the year, Jamie decided to take a year's break himself after completing his 10th marathon. Luc himself is pretty busy with work travelling around and with Lynn sidelined, that leaves only myself, Choi, Lawrence and Loke to wake the early birds and insects at Bukit Aman on Saturday and sometimes Sunday mornings. Training has been pretty dull without the rest. But the recent "year end dinner" did show positives signs of the group coming back together next year so do watch out! Not to mention that Geraldine will be back for a holiday.

Overall, year 2009 has been pretty fruitful in terms of my sports performance. However, what matters most is friendship as I found lots of new found friends from Chin Ann, Foo, Henry, John, Pathma, Poh Seng, Raymond Hee, Raymond Ng, Tony, Michelle, Jennifer, Saya, Siok Bee, Shih Ming, Wai Mun and the list goes on. And my friendship with Lynn and Keat Seong really blossomed this year. I really enjoyed the time we spent together and the recent trip to Macau and Hong Kong was certainly a memorable one.

Happy New Year from the Platinum Runners (photo taken during year end dinner at Dragon-i, Pavilion by Jamie)...

As the door closes for year 2009, let us bring the fond memories together with us and leave the bad ones behind. And with another 365 days to till the next year, let's start getting things right. As for myself, I will guess it's pretty much the same although I'm raising the stakes a little. And here it goes:

Year 2010 resolutions
- To run 3 marathons and to attempt for my marathon dream timing again
- To run 2 ultra marathons and try to qualify for The North Face Challenge 100K Solo
- With my friends to improve, run more effectively and staying healthy and injury free
- Lynn recovering fully from her injuries

Thus with this year 2009 last entry, comes a close to yet another running chapter of mine. Before signing off, here's a toast to a wonderful new year ahead! HAPPY 2010! *throws confetti*

Sunday, December 27, 2009

MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009...

Event: MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009
Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 27 December 2009
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 10.5KM per loop. Run as much in 12 hours with a minimum of 5 loops.
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Kayano 15 & Nike LunarGlide+
By Frank

What do you get when you combine runners, a 10.5KM trail, a reservoir, loose soil, sand, rocks, roots and a great weather? Easily guessed as it's on the title itself, the MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009. The concept of the MR25 Ultra Marathon is to run the most loops around the 10.5KM trail surrounding the reservoir in 12 hours time starting from 7.00am. And to earn the finisher's shirt and certificate (no finisher's medal), one is required to complete at least 5 loops. However, a new rule was introduced and this made it tougher. To complete a loop in 2 hours time. Trust me, this isn't easy.

MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009...

My second ultra marathon and my first trail run, I travelled to Singapore alone a day before the race before meeting up with Steven, my room and travel mate. I fell sick 2 days before the event going down with flu and it became worst a day before when fever hit me. Even my left eye was reddish and swollen. Took a strong dosage of Vitamin C with just 2 tablets of paracetamol and plenty of water coupled with plenty of rest and hope for the best. And yeah, by evening of pre-race day, I felt a lot better though still a bit feverish.

Let's jump straight to the race as there's nothing interesting to talk about on pre-race day especially when one is sick. Not my usual self of waking up early, I had a little problem climbing out of bed in the morning. Probably still feeling wobbly from the flu. Steven was already up and was halfway done, munching on his breakfast at 4.30am. We were both done by 6am and we managed to flag down a cab with ease to make our way to the reservoir which was actually nearby, at least for me. Upon arriving, we soon bumped into our friends from Cheang, Ching Tai, Mohan, Tey and Amelia. Registered, paid and got our race bibs and soon it was race time at 7.00am.

A low key start as the siren was set off by Mike Dyson, the MR25 president. Just took it easy as the surface was pretty slippery due to the heavy shower the day before. Soon after about 500M on tarmac, runners were then greeted by the first taste of trail. Into the jungle we ran. Pebbles and rocks were everywhere on this 3KM trail that sent runners on a descending and ascending ride. Not easy to tackle as I even slip a few times. Luckily I didn't crash. Hahaha...

A view of the start...

Out from the forest later, the first water station came into picture at 3.5KM but I skipped it as I have my Weider energy jelly with me. Was greeted by a pretty steep but short climb and at the top of it, it's into the jungle again, and soon a ranger post came into picture. Continued my lonely run pass the Jelutong Observation Tower which I really felt like climbing up to witness the scenery. I did not though.

Next was some running on planks and I really enjoyed this part as I felt I was in some adventure movie. Hahaha... Too bad it didn't last very long and I found myself running along the reservoir which was simply beautiful and relaxing, minus the sound of golfers swinging their clubs.

Into the jungle again, and this time it was muddy. Was reduced to walking at certain parts as it required some tackling of huge rocks and tree roots. Felt like tracking on Mount Kinabalu. The reward for successfully tackling this will be the second water station at the 7.5KM mark. I skipped it again and it's pretty safe running on the friendly trail here till I hit the reservoir park which is back on road. From here, it's the run to the start/finish point to complete my first loop at 01:06:45.

This is where runners end their loops...

I carried on without stopping and here I go again repeating the same route. Left feet was bit painful especially at the fore foot. Guess must the pebbles. Felt I was slowing down but I kept going. With the weaken leg, I slipped even more times and I regretted not changing to my "waffle treaded" Nike LunarGlide+ earlier as the ASICS GEL-Kayano 15 has a smooth outsole.

Nothing much happen at the second loop so I jump straight to the third, one after changing into the Nike LunarGlide+ and also taking in a small box of raisins and 2 bananas. And also before starting my third loop, I SMSed a friend of mine and looked forward to a reply after completing my run. And from here onwards, I did just it after completing each loop.

Legs were feeling horrible here but the new shoe I put on did really help with the traction. Plus, it was black in colour so I wasn't too heartbroken with the mud on it. Hahaha... At about 26KM, I decided to start walking to help ease the pain and also that a headache came. But I did not do that for very long as I knew if I don't continue to run, my legs will lock up. It was after the second water station, that I found my groove and actually went faster hence I completed my third loop just a bit faster compared to my second. I guess looking forward to the SMS reply did really help.

Reply from my friend upon completing my third and I fired one back before starting my fourth. Legs were really painful, but I want the finisher's shirt and certificate badly. Keep going, keep going! I don't really know how many times I had to stop during my fourth but I do remember that at the 5KM mark, I felt irritation building up on my right armpit. Not wanting to risk chaffing or a torn skin, I had no choice but to run topless. It was my first time, but I have to admit, it felt "natural". Hahaha...

Completing my fourth, I saw Cheang who just completed his third. He was suffering from some hip pain. As I rested, he carried on. Munch down another banana and replied the SMS before setting off again, back in my running vest again. I got a little worried about this loop as I knew it will be really close to the 2 hour cut off for each loop for my legs were "lost somewhere in the jungle". I managed to force myself to jog a little as I needed some company and managed to catch up with Cheang at about the 2KM mark. We walked together chit chatting as I tried to recover from my earlier headache which eventually subside with more sugar intake Arrive at about 4.5KM before I took off again as I really want to complete the loop within 2 hours, although Cheang told me that he actually clarified with the organisers that as long we complete 5 loops in 10 hours, we are then qualified. Forced myself to endure the pain and run as much as I can and finally managed to conquer my fifth in 01:46:32, the slowest of all 5 loops with a total time of 07:04:39 covering 52.5KM. Was just relieved that I qualified.

I was really hungry at this point hence decided to stop for my lunch break here. Besides, I pretty have enough already as I will still need my legs 2 days later for yet another endurance ride up north in Penang. Lunch was of Chinese mix rice. Though simple, I enjoyed it. Maybe I was too hungry. Completing my meal, Ching Tai arrived and asked me to accompany him which I gladly did. However, I told him to go ahead as I did not have the intention to run on full stomach. All I just wanted to do from here onwards is just to do my sixth slowly enjoying the sights and sounds of the reservoir while searching for my "lost legs" (recovery walk). He accompanied me till the entrance to the trail before he went running again.

I rested at a hut near the 1.5KM mark for about 10 minutes, stretching myself while waiting for Cheang. He arrived shortly later after I restarted my walk and I was glad I had company again. A funny scene at the first water station as a lady was actually asking the uncle who was manning the station for sale of isotonic drinks. No drinks for sale, but he was glad to offer some to her. Hahaha... Continuing on, I advised Cheang to at least run a little to meet the qualifying time. He did after the ranger station and I was left alone again. But that did not stop me from chatting with other runners who are struggling to run. This is what ultra running is all about. Keeping everyone entertained especially when times are tough.

Took a pretty long break at the 2nd water station before resuming with an increase in my walking pace. Out of the jungle, I jog a little and soon I saw the start/finish point as I ran to it completing my 6th loop which also mark the end of my adventure with a total time of 09:46:14 covering 63KM.

My split times:
1st loop (10.5KM) - 01:06:45
2nd loop (21KM) - 02:15:10 / 01:08:25
3rd loop (31.5KM) - 03:48:58 / 01:33:47
4th loop (42KM) - 05:18:07 / :01:29:09
5th loop (52.5KM) - 07:04:39 / 01:46:32
Rest and lunch break - 07:28:48 / 00:24:08
6th loop (63KM) - 09:46:14 / 02:17:26

Rested, refueled with another lunch pack and went to support other runners especially Steven with Tey. And while doing so, an Indian runner who had earlier completed his run suddenly collapsed out of a sudden. Tey asked me if I knew CPR which I did and I went over to see if the poor chap needs one. I monitored him a for a while and was glad he was awake shortly later though still wobbly. An ambulance was called over and he was sent to the hospital. Hope he is doing fine.

After about 10:30:00, Steven is back completing his 8th loop. He decided to call it a day here and with it, he earned himself a 4th placing. Congratulations to him! Shared our stories with Tey and other runners while waiting for the prize presentation. Even met up with other runners too before we returned to the hotel for a well deserved rest where both of us just knocked out. That's how tough ultra running is but it's really fun in a way. We left for home the next day.

The MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009 marks the second longest distance I ran for now. It's certainly more challenging than the 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009 I did for it's trail running, something I have not try before until now. Will I return to this event again? Though it isn't on my to do list anymore, I will definitely return if given the chance to as I highly recommend this event especially for those who likes to be with part with nature.

Acknowledgements
- Steven, for being my travel mate for this trip and also sharing his amazing stories.
- Tey, for coming all the way for photo shooting. Indeed a very dedicated photographer like no other.
- Cheang, Mohan and Amelia, thanks a lot for the tips and for making this event more interesting with your presence.
- MR25 organising committee and runners I met, congratulations to everyone and it has been indeed an experience.
- My friend who has kept me entertained at every loop by SMSes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII...

By Frank

The ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII, the seventh edition in the popular ASICS GEL-DS racing series is certainly not for the faint hearted. A low profile racing flat with a very mild medial support and weights only at 195 grams, it's certainly a fast shoe if you ask me.

The ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII...

I bought this shoe specifically for use at the Macau Marathon 2009 and with it, I achieved a new personal best. With only 2 weeks to "run in" the shoe before the race, I was really glad that it doesn't require much time to do so. With only 20KM ran in the shoe, I was already used to it. It doesn't require much running in as it's build very basic and doesn't implement any mumbo jumbo technology in it.

Medial view of the shoe...

Lateral view of the shoe...

One highlight of the shoe is that it allows me to land on my midfoot or forefoot easily without having to adjust much of my running gait. Even with the I.G.S. (Impact Guidance System) that guides through our natural gait, landing on the midfoot or forefoot is made possibly easy by the very low profile design and that the heel counter doesn't have much weight in it thus allowing balance weight on the entire shoe. And for those who lands on forefoot, you will be delighted with the TPU material used there as it offers superior traction. And being low profile, I can almost feel the earth. Great for those who are trying barefoot running but yet need some protection from the harsh roads.

I.G.S. for natural gait guidance...

TPU material for extra traction for those forefoot strikers...

The first impression of the shoe is certainly the weight. It now stands as the second lightest shoe I have after the Nike LunaRacer+ but yet it balances itself between weight and comfort. Everything around the shoe is reasonably well padded, from the tongue to the collar. Well enough to give the needed protection but yet shedding weight off. The fit of the shoe is great, hugging around the feet where it matters most. However, I do wish the toe box to be a little wider.

The ventilation of the shoe is good and is made possible with the use of the standard air mesh on the overlays. Nothing too fancy here coupled with the traditional ASICS logo design that runs over the shoe.

Traditional air mesh...

The midsole is built on ASICS Solyte cushioning system. However, the use of the GEL word made me wonder if there is really GEL built in the shoe as normally, the GEL unit will be seen exposed at the heel counter. Hmmm... And finally, the medial support is built on their popular DuoMax material running the entire length of the foot arch which helps control the pronation rate. As for the outsole, it is made durable with AHAR (ASICS High Abbrasion Resistant) carbon rubber with the above mentioned TPU materials at the forefoot which adds traction to every forefoot strikes.

DuoMax for added stability...

And at the time of writing, I have ran about 100KM with it including the marathon. The carbon rubber especially on the right side where most of my pressure is, seems to have shown a little wear and tear syndrome, but not much. I will foresee that this shoe should be able to last me about 300KM or so.

The lacing system is the conventional type and not Asymmetrical Lacing Design. Though the laces are of light weight anti slip material, I do find the length to be too short.

A weird thing about this shoe will be the sizing. Wearing a size US8.5 on my other 2 ASICS shoes, I was suprised that only a size US7.5 will fit me on this. I do not know how ASICS determine their sizes, but I was suprised that ASICS choose not to standardised it among their shoes. I was glad that I gave it a try first before purchasing, else it will be major headache.

At the time of writing, the ASICS GEL-DS Racer VIII is already available though it has yet to arrive at our shores. What I have notice besides the colour, is the change of the lacing system to the Asymmetrical Lacing Design while reducing weight by improving the materials used. Therefore with not much changes to it, the ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII remains a popular racing flat and retails at a recommended selling price of RM429.

Comfort: 8/10
Cushioning: 8/10
Design: 9/10
Flexibility: 9/10
Weight: 9/10
Overall: 8.6/10

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rojak Goodness...

By Frank

Rojak as described in Wikipedia, refers to a fruit and vegetable salad. I'm sure many of us Malaysians will know what it is, including the Indian variant call rojak pasembor. However, I'm not talking about food here. It's about the Nike+ Human Race 10K 2009: Ambassador Challenge I took part in back in early October 2009 in conjunction with the Nike+ Human Race 10K 2009.

2 months since it ended, I have finally received my winning prize from Andrew Tan of Marketing Communication for Nike Malaysia earlier today. Being crowned as the winner for the highest mileage clock on Nike+ for the challenge, I was really surprised with the amount of Nike merchandise I won. The contents includes a Nike backpack, hydration belt, water tumbler, arm wallet, knee brace, 2 wristband, 2 pairs of socks, 1 football shirt, 2 t-shirts, 2 basketball jerseys, 3 running vest, 1 running shorts and 1 casual shorts. As for the shoes, I received a pair of Nike LunarGlide+ and a Nike Zoom Speed Lite ST+. However, I was deeply traumatised when I saw the Nike Zoom Speed Lite ST+ as it came in a super striking pink colour! "Am I going to wear that?", I asked Andrew. Hahaha... Guess I will have to as the shoe has yet to be launch and I would really like to give my feedback on it to the guys at Nike.

The goodies I won had to be layout on my 3 seater couch...

I'm very delighted with the amount of goodies I won. Many thanks to Andrew and everyone at Nike Malaysia for this. And also not forgetting Niki who invited me for the challenge. And to everyone at Rojak Runners and Sambal Sprinters, it has been great going one on one with everyone. Till our next challenge. Now, back to the pink shoe. Hmmm...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Malakoff 12KM, Kuala Lumpur 2009...

Event: Malakoff 12KM, Kuala Lumpur 2009
Venue: Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 20 December 2009
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 12KM (11.38KM by Lynn's Garmin Forerunner 405)
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Kayano 15
By Frank

The second edition of the Malakoff 12KM, Kuala Lumpur run saw runners tackling the hills of Bukit Damansara. A tough run but yet one that is certainly very memorable to me.

I arrived at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort as early as 5am as I wanted to get a good parking spot at the Security Commissions. Although it was pitch black, some runners have already arrived with more slowly coming in. With 2 hours to the race, I took my time gearing up before bumping into Amelia, Kevin and Pueh Tian. Together we made our way to the race site before settling down chatting.

Soon, my friends from Lynn, Jennifer, Chin Ann, Choi, Keat Seong and more arrived. Choi as with last year isn't running again but yet he is taking photographs, minus his cute foldable bicycle. Probably his gearless bicycle can't handle the hills of Bukit Damansara. Hahaha...

Lynn who is still nursing her injury took part in this race taking over a race bib from one of her friends. Kind of worried as her injury has been almost a year and it has been an on and off thing. And myself with an ultra trail marathon next week, I decided to take this as a training run while guiding Lynn and making sure she is fine along the way. I also did some study on her running gait. Therefore along the way, I have set my Nike+ SportBand to display the pace, instead of the distance as with this, I can estimate the heart rate I'm going at hence helping my friends too.

I lined up with Lynn and Keat Seong at the back of the pack from the starting line. And at 7am, the race was started and it took us probably a minute plus or even two minutes to actually cross the start gantry. And even after doing so, there were still problems navigating through the number of runners as the road were a little on the narrow side, plus it was an incline out of the resort.

Out from the resort, we only had a short while on the flat roads before we were greeted with the long steep climb along the National Science Centre. Keat Seong has already taken off but my plans to guide Lynn remains. Tey was seen taking videos here in the middle of the runners path. Luckily no one knocked into him.

Arriving at the junction, we then hit Jalan Beringin. And this is where starts the rolling hills part. And as the hills rolled, I got hit my side stitch and it's still way too early into the race.

Running in the neighbourhood of Bukit Damansara with proper traffic control is certainly great. Quickly enough, the first water station appeared but I skipped it and continued on till I pass HP Tower and also the Manulife building. Both happened to be my previous work place and also company headquarter. From here, another climb. Though not as steep, it was still tough and only got a short break as we arrive Bukit Damansara school. This is also where we finally catch up with Keat Seong and this is where the 3 of us began guiding each other.

The third climb here was tough, pretty much as the first but it's here that I finally managed to shake off my side stitch. Reaching the top of it indicates the completion of the first loop which is 6KM. Continuing on, Keat Seong suddenly swayed to the left. I first though he needed to use the loo, but then I noticed a fat Beagle. That explains it. However, the Beagle did not react to him. Hahaha... But it was here that our run got a little more fun with Keat Seong cheekily cheering for other runners especially those who are walking.

Just before the third (first earlier) water station, my vision got irritated by my sweat. I was really sweating a lot and I can barely open my eyes. Quickly took a cup of water and tried cleaning my eyes but it did not help. Had to slowly wipe off the sweat that's flowing down while waiting for the "burn" in my eyes to subside which it did later.

Soon, we noticed Michelle who was at the side lacing up as it came loose. But then, she zoomed pass all of us as she was a rolling boulder. However, we did caught up with her shortly.

Another dog appeared shortly and as expected Keat Seong swayed towards it only to make a u-turn this time as he found out that the dog was a Rottweiler, and a pretty active one too. Hahaha... But that didn't stop him from "barking" as he ran pass it. I'm sure runners around were amused.

Finally, the last climb before heading back to the resort. Lynn was slowing down as I saw her struggling. I signalled to Keat Seong to carry on while I waited. And back down along Persiaran Bukit Kiara, I can hear her panting loudly. I tried to slow her down by reducing my pace which I think helped. And besides, she wanted to let Michelle pass as she did not want to end up among the top finishers as it wasn't her race bib.

Together we run, down approaching the resort...

And so into the resort we ran and Keat Seong was slowing down for us. And as we approach the finish line, we held each others hand and crossed the finish line together with a time of 01:01:17. Well done everyone!

Crossing the finish line together...

We all rested, refueled and collected our race goodies before heading back home respectively soon. No post meal celebrations as everyone had their own plans. And so, I made my way home too.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

To sum it all up, I had an absolutely great run. It wasn't a race to me, but instead it was a friendship and training run. The pace was good and I managed to guide Lynn safely back. I did not use the word "pace" as I don't think we were pacing each other. It's more like making our way to the finish line without sustaining any more injuries or further injuring herself. And how often can one finish a race with a friend hand in hand, especially 3 at one go. This event will go down as one of the best runs I ever had with my friends and this memory will certainly stay with me. And by far means, I have to admit that it feels really good to be running side by side with Lynn again.

And finally, my thanks to all my friends from Andrew, Choi, Henry, Lionel, Tey, Wai Lam and many more who came to support and went trigger happy snapping photos away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sub 4 Hour Marathon Recipe...

By Frank

Following on from my adventures at the Macau Marathon 2009, I have received numerous enquiries on my training regime and of my secret in running a sub 4 hour marathon and also in smashing my personal best by a good 24 minutes. Honestly speaking, I do not have any special recipe in doing so, but here's to just share a little on my training regime leading up to the race.

I started my training back in August 2009 from square one. It took me about a month to get myself in shape for a more intense training followed by base training and long distance runs. My weekly runs are pretty simple, stale and stagnant. Here's how it goes:

Sunday - Rest or 5KM recovery run
Monday to Wednesday - 10KM tempo run
Thursday - 7KM race pace run
Friday - Rest or 5KM recovery run
Saturday - 30KM to 40KM long slow distance run

Told you there's nothing special to it. Might even bore some of you. There's no even speed works to it as I given it up after a week trying it due to discomfort. However, one important thing that I paid attention to is my heart rate. My runs are normally done within 70% to 75% from my maximum heart rate though at times when finishing the run, I will raise it to maybe near 90%. I have learnt that finishing a run strong will be able to produce the "kick" that will be needed during a race and this has certainly proven to be very true.

And with 9 weeks leading to the race, I actually raised my weekly running distance to about 100KM a week for 3 weeks which totalled up to about 300KM. And this came from back to back runs in 19 days. Though not recommended (was lucky that I suffered no injuries), it actually helped me prepare myself especially in the tolerance area.

Following that with 6 weeks till the race, I have 3 different races of different distances and disciplines to help me get prepare. A 10KM race at the Nike+ Human Race 10K 2009 to allow me to test my speed, a Powerman 2009 duathlon for "waking up" my other muscles and finally a 42.195KM marathon long slow distance run at the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009. I sacrificed all of it and took it as training and therefore wasn't expecting anything good out from it and it proved that I made the correct decision.

Coupled with training, a good diet is really important. I don't really limit the type of food I take, but I try to stay away from oily food and especially fast food. Recovery is extremely important for me. I use supplements such as whey protein to aid me for it helps build lean muscles which will contribute to overall strength. Besides that, maintainance supplements such as Glucosamine and essential fatty oils will help too. Not forgetting that I actually detox myself while adding probiotics and this help me felt really "light". And a week leading to the race, I actually ate only vegetarian Subway sandwiches for 3 days and this help kept me "clean".

And during the race itself, mental strength has always been important to me. Mental strength to me is everything as it helps get the mind to work especially when the going gets tough. It also acts as a pain barrier. And with the extra motivation whether is the thoughts of someone special, a charity drive or to something as simple food, you be amazed with how the mind can react. And during my Macau Marathon 2009, I focus exactly on this and didn't think too much on the race itself. I kept my mind simple, turn my chrono away and just ran my best focusing on the thoughts that made me stronger.

Therefore, that's about it. Nothing too special nor is there any secret recipe to my training. If there is one word to describe it, I guess it will be "discipline". Just an advice here. Be patience especially with injuries and don't expect to obtain good results from each and every race. Don't be disappointed too with bad results and take every of it as a learning experience. Choose one major race and do your best there. Believe in yourself...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2nd Putrajaya International 12 Hour Walk 2009...

Event: 2nd Putrajaya International 12 Hour Walk 2009
Venue: Dataran Putrajaya, Putrajaya
Date: 12 December 2009
Time: 8.00pm
Distance: 1KM per loop in 12 hours
Shoe: Nike LunarTrainer+
By Frank

After getting so wasted at last year's edition, I really do not know why did I even bother to sign up this year. And knowing that it's just a week after running the Macau Marathon 2009 and a few days after returning from Macau, I know for sure it's going to be tough.

Though this year's edition attracted more participants, familiar faces were lesser. Some friends who came are Cheang, Choi, Lawrence, Pueh Tian, Terence, Haza, Wai Mun and Yen Erl. Not too bad I guess. The walk started sharp at 8pm. I started with Choi followed by Terence chatting along the way for about 4KM before they both went on a faster pace. Lawrence, being a first timer has already zoomed ahead. With every loops I made, John who came to support Wai Mun was cheering along the side. Really appreciate it.

Along the way, I was glad I was exchanging SMSes with a dear friend of mine. It really kept me entertained with laughter till about midnight before I thought it was getting late to actually disturb someone. Not to mention 2 very "sinful" photos I received. Hahaha... Made me drooled along the walk.

The first meal was served at 10pm and I think I have walked about 8KM. As I did not have dinner earlier due to rushing from places to places, I forced myself to eat whatever that was served. The first meal was acceptable, probably because I was hungry. There were rice, sauteed yet salty vegetables, boiled eggs and nuggets. As for drinks, plenty of Yeo's H-Two-O isotonic drinks were served.

Hungry walkers queuing up for food...

Eat...

Kept walking later with the help of my mp3 player to keep entertain as I was all alone. And as it was late, I did not want to disturb my friends by sending SMSes though I was really tempted to. Fingers and palm were already swollen here. Even I felt my shoes started to tighten. Started to move my arms around flexing my fingers hoping the blood will start flowing again. It did help a little but it did get tired after while.

Before 1am when the second meal was served, I was already tired. Legs were starting to hurt and I was already yawning. The earlier day for me was without any nap at all, and I guess this contributed to the sleepiness. And there is still about 7 hours to go. Oh my...

I started walking really slow, even taking breaks at the sidewalk hanging out with Pueh Tian at times. By 2am, legs were hurting really badly and a huge blister the size of a 20 cents coin started to form on my left foot sole. Decided to take a break by sitting on the bench and taking out my socks to relieve the spot. And I was glad Raymond Ng who came to support and run a 10KM was there to keep me company. We chatted till almost 3am before he called it a night and return to his comfy bed. I wish I could do the same.

My poor legs with a blister on my left foot sole...

Continuing on, I just limped slowly. I know I have already hit my targeted 30KM but even if I quit, I had to wait till 8am to receive my medal. Therefore, I decided to take it real slow, doing a lap or 2 before resting and so on. And at 5am, the final meal was served. Just ate whatever was served as I know I will just collapsed on to bed later without breakfast.

And at about 6am, a very welcomed announcement was made. Walkers that decided to call it quits is allowed to receive their medals. With no hesitation at all after walking 2 more loops with Lawrence, I decided to end my walk at 6.30am with a time of 10:32:14 with 40KM walked.

I'm not upset at all for not walking throughout the 12 hours and also walking a 5KM lesser compared to last year. I am still kind of wobbly actually and legs were still pretty stiff especially my hamstring. I can't even flex properly and at times, I was walking sideways. So why not end it before some damage was done? I'm glad I did just that.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

Felt really wasted, probably even worst than last year. I even had problems driving back as the eyes were already shutting. And back home, after a cool shower, it's a short trip to dreamland as it was just too hot to sleep.

Last year, I told myself that I won't be doing this anymore but yet I still did it. Next year, if the company of friends are there, I might consider again though I know it's really painful. It's fun in a way actually. However, this year's quality took a dip especially on the food serving. Food was either too salty or too plain. No or shall I say very limited coffee and tea was served. And not forgetting how rude the meal servers was. Other than that, it's probably the case of the missing 8 hour results update which everyone was anxiously waiting for.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon 2009...

Event: Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon 2009
Venue: Estadio de Macau, Taipa, Macau
Date: 6 December 2009
Time: 6.00am
Distance: 42.195KM (43KM by Keat Seong's Garmin Forerunner 405)
Shoe: ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII
By Frank

It's been a while since I travelled overseas (excluding Singapore). And this will be my first ever oversea running trip ever with a group of happy go lucky friends which includes Lynn, Chin Chin, Saya, Shih Ming, Jennifer, Keat Seong and Victor. Not forgetting Raymond Hee, our host for Hong Kong and also Shine who joined us a day later. A 42.195KM race and with a marathon dream to accomplish, find out more with this compressed but yet still a long entry.

4 December 2009. Macau, here we come...
It will be a long and tired day. With no sleep and a long flight ahead, Lynn came over to pick me up at 1.30am to go over to her place. Together with Chin Chin, we left for KL Sentral to meet up with Victor before travelling on board the Air Asia's Sky Bus to LCCT for our flight to Macau scheduled at 6.30am. Arrived, checked in and with 2 hours to spare, we rested at McDonalds having our breakfast while waiting for the others to arrive which all did just before 6am.

On board Air Asia AK50, we landed at Macau International Airport in 3:45 hours time. Weather was chilly but acceptable. 4 in each taxi, we had a comedy session here as each of the taxi driver didn't understand the hotel's name in English which was Hotel Grandview . Was lucky myself and Saya understood Mandarin. In the end, I told the the taxi driver that our hotel was just opposite the jockey club and it really was.


On board Air Asia AK50...

Immediately after dumping our bags at the hotel, we proceeded to the Estadio de Macau to collect our race packs which was done in a matter of minutes. Quick lunch and it was over to Mount Fortress and Ruins of St. Paul via Senado Square. By the time everyone completed this area, all of us were so tired especially Keat Seong. Had a short break before meeting up with Lynn's friend Isabel and we all dined at a Portuguese restaurant nearby which was pretty good.


In front of Hotel Grandview...


With our race packs and bib numbers...


On Mount Fortress...


At the Ruins of St. Paul...

A walk around the city passed the colourful casinos and it's back to the hotel for a much needed rest. Trust me we were all really tired although the entry here is pretty short. So tired that I actually slipped and lost my balance on the bus. Whoops...

5 December 2009. Pre-race day...
Everyone was recharged after a good night's sleep. A simple local breakfast at 9.30am and it's off to The Venetian on foot. Pretty nearby and the weather was good. This place is huge and it serves as a casino, hotel and shopping mall. Quickly enough, it was noon and we met up with Shine here who just arrived in the morning. Made our way back and off we went searching for the famous Portuguese egg tarts which we managed to find. It was heavenly especially eaten while it's hot. Then it's a very late lunch at a local noodle shop which served affordable and tasty noodles. It filled me up and it's back to the hotel for rest.

At 6.45pm, we all gathered at the hotel lobby for dinner together. Raymond arrived just in time to join us although Keat Seong and Shine did not as they were unwell. Dinner at a local eatery just nearby the hotel and it's lights off as the race awaits in a matter of hours.

6 December 2009. The race...
I woke up as early as 2am but only managed to pull myself out of bed at 2.45am. By 4.30am, I was all ready. Sat on the bed and though of certain things before I made myself down to the lobby to meet up with the rest at 5am. With an hour to the race, things were getting emotional for me. I was nervous, I was scared, I was everything. I was in my own world.

It was very chilly and I jog myself to the Estadio de Macau to warm myself up. After doing all the necessary, we all made our way into the stadium. Approximately about 3000 plus runners took part. Not a huge number but it was enough to fill up the stadium tracks.

I decided not to start with my friends for I fear I will crash emotionally. With a heavy heart and teary eyes, I delivered my "message" to Keat Seong and took a glimpse of Lynn and my friends and went to the front on my own without informing them. There was something which I was suppose to do here, but I did not. And while waiting for the race to start, I look to the sky and said to myself, "This is it!" and then shifted my thoughts to the "one" that will power through me for the entire race.

At 6am sharp, the air horn sounded and off the runners went. It took me about half a minute to cross the start gantry. The runners around me helped me control my pace. It was until I broke free that I went faster but still not on race pace yet due to chilly conditions that brought my core temperature down during the wait for the start earlier. It was about 16 degree Celsius at that time. At about 1KM into the race, I felt I was ready. Runners after runners I started overtaking along the straight road pass some construction sites and empty lanes. Sorry I couldn't describe the landmarks here as I'm just not familiar with Macau plus the use of language too. I was basically looking on the road as I ran and focusing on as much as I can.

I tried to keep my strides long coupled with fast cadence. And with the advantages of the ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII, I managed to land on my mid and fore foot thus allowing me perform forefoot strikings (pylometrics). The first turning was a left one at about the 3KM mark and this is where the mini marathoners were taken on to another route thus allowing more free space for the half and full marathoners. And this is also where I saw the leading pack of runners running on the opposite side. Knowing this, I was looking forward to the u-turn point which wasn't really far ahead. Took my turn and the first timing mat made it's appearance followed by the first water station. It's here I started drinking small sips from my Endurox R4 filled bottle before I took a cup of water to keep my throat wet before proceeding. Shortly in front, I heard a voice called out "Go Frank!". I wasn't too sure if it was Jennifer or Shih Ming at that time, but it was Jennifer (doubled check after the race). A long straight along the coastal road pass some hotels and buildings and soon I arrived at the much awaited Ponte de Sai Van Bridge.

It was 16 degree Celsius when I arrived at the bridge as indicated by the electronic signage. I have no problems here as my core temperature was under control. However, it was here that the left side of my chest tighten and my entire left arm from shoulder onwards became numb, the same condition I went through during the Nike+ Human Race 10K 2009. I needed both arms to swing to effectively run up the bridge but I couldn't do so. My entire left arm was left at almost a "motionless" position as I swing my right arm. I was really uncomfortable here but I pushed on. Besides this, I also had head and side wind to tackle with. I kept my head down and just ran maintaining my heart rate as similar to the earlier stages which was about 90% from my max heart rate. "The engine must keep moving", I told myself. Was glad I survived the first climb and was rewarded by the descend.

I arrived on Macau Peninsula and into a short tunnel I ran. The tunnel was warm and I welcomed it. My left arm was still pretty "motionless" here though I did try to raise it. Ran passed the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino before I took a left turn into the city area. Volunteers and locals were cheering from the roadside which I really appreciated. There was a water station here which I did not stop for but instead finally finishing my bottle of Endurox R4. With no bottle in hand, running was much easier. Then it's towards Star World Hotel where some of the hotel staff were cheering at the entrance. Then it's into yet another tunnel ahead before I arrived at the Macau Tower. This is where my left arm came back into action again, at a time much needed as the steep climb towards the bridge awaits. It was a tough climb but with both arms swinging, things were made manageable.

The climb back up the Ponte de Sai Van Bridge was a long one, but not as steep as the earlier journey towards the peninsula. Arriving back on Taipa, it will be a mental challenge as about 2KM after the bridge, half marathoners were seen turning into the stadium to complete their race. I kept my heads down as advised by Wai Mun and made my turn at the roundabout heading towards the repeat of the earlier 21KM, only this time in bright conditions.

Though my pace was slowing down, I was still maintaining at a sub 5:30 minute pace which was good. Legs were getting tired, but my focused on the "one" kept me going and I kept repeating it within my head. I was all alone here, sometimes with maybe 2 or 3 runners around me as I ran towards the u-turn point before arriving at the long coastal road again. And just before that, I took my first energy gel. My body was dry but I knew I was still sweating. My face was filled with salt crystals.

Arriving at the Ponte de Sai Van Bridge for the second time, the electronic signage was showing a 14 degree Celsius temperature, a drop of 2 degrees Celsius from my first visit earlier. The head wind and side wind was still there but with both arms in motion, I kept on a decent pace to climb it. I managed to catch up with a few runners who slowed down, some of them even stopped to stretch. I know it will happen to me if I were to do the same, thus I kept running taking in my second energy gel after successfully attacking the bridge.

As I exited the bridge and into the tunnel, the urge to visit the toilet came. I held on, ran and ran passed MGM Grand Hotel and Casino and Star World Hotel again. The locals were some still cheering on the runners which was an amazing sight especially when one is tired. Into the second tunnel I ran towards the Macau Tower, I was rewarded by a mobile toilet which I stopped by. I stopped about 2 minutes here before I continued on with a fellow local runner who was pacing me. Then it was that dreaded short climb up towards the bridge again which brought me down to a 7:00 minute pace. And after conquering it, my right hamstrings showed signs of cramping. I remembered Luc's message here that whenever we feel that a cramp is coming, just run faster to shake it off. And while doing just that, I heard a loud call "Go Frank" from the opposite side of the bridge which was just simply motivational. I look for the source and saw Chin Chin. I gave her a wave before we continued on respectively.

Completing the bridge for the second time, it time for the countdown. First it was the 40KM marker, but it took ages for the 41KM to appear. And when it did, I tried to find that extra gear which I managed to do so and began to surge. A group of runners from Shenzhen was cheering by the side as I aprroach the jockey club and as I approach the roundabout near the stadium, people were all lined up by the side cheering. They shouted "Jia You" and "Ka Yau" in Mandarin and Cantonese which means "Add Oil". Some even mentioned the finish line is near with only 400M to go. Over here, I was hoping for a familiar voice but I did not hear it.

Moments before entering the stadium...

As both my hamstrings are giving way here, I ran even faster with tears slowly flowing down cheeks not from the pain but from emotions. I entered the stadium and with three quarter of the track to run, I ran and ran till the last straight when I look up the sky to say a "Thank You". The thoughts of the "one" and my friends filled my mind here as I finally endured the 42.195KM marathon distance crossing the finish line in a time of 03:40:38, a new personal best with an improvement of 00:24:06 and my first ever sub 4 hour marathon.

Receiving my finisher's medal, finisher's vest and towel I wobbled towards the water station to rehydrate before laying myself down on the track. I was shivering, pale, vision was blur and my legs were hurting badly, and that's all I can remember until Keat Seong and Jennifer came to help me up. I asked Jennifer if Lynn was all right and was I relieved that the answer was yes and off I went to another world again. Keat Seong then woke me up and helped me into the stadium's hall where other athletes rested.

When I was sober again, I dragged myself out to the stadium and was reunited with Lynn who was photographing other runners coming in. Raymond then arrived too. Soon later, one after another, our friends came in. Everyone made it except for Victor who suffered his first DNF (Did Not Finish) as the authorities needed to re-open the Ponte de Sai Van Bridge. Then it was a long painful walk back to the hotel as we needed to check out from the hotel before 12pm to make ourselves to Hong Kong.

My split times:
5KM - 00:24:15
10KM - NIL
15KM - 01:11:46
20KM - 01:35:30
21KM - 01:40:45
25KM - NIL
30KM - 02:27:09
35KM - 02:57:08
40KM - 03:28:03
42.195KM - 03:40:38 (Men full marathon position 137, age category position 24)

Others
Full marathon
Keat Seong - 03:50:45 (Men full marathon position 170, age category position 17)
Shine - 04:10:54 (Men full marathon position 275, age category position 35)
Saya - 04:25:21 (Women full marathon position 40, age category position 5)
Shih Ming - 04:25:22 (Women full marathon position 41, age category position 11)
Chin Chin - 04:37:34 (Women full marathon position 44, age category position 6)
Victor - DNF

Half marathon
Lynn - 01:51:57 (Women half marathon position 20, age category position 4)
Jennifer -02:04:33 (Women half marathon position 67, age category position 30)


Front view of the finisher's medal...


Rear view of the finisher's medal...

6 December 2009. Post race...
My whole world was spinning after the race. Had a little trouble walking in a straight line. But I still managed to clean up and check out from the hotel in time without suffering any falls like Sundown Marathon 2009. With just limited time to spare, we all hop on to the shuttle bus and headed for the ferry terminal. On board the TurboJet, we were all on the way to Hong Kong.

45 minutes later, we arrived at the busy metropolitan. I was greeted by a scolding by one of the immigration officer even when I was queing up on the correct lane. Duh... Not a tourist friendly country I guess. All of us then limped towards Raymond's house at Sheung Wan which is about a kilometer plus from the terminal, dumped our bags in there and headed for a simple lunch to refuel. A short walk around before we head back as Lynn, Chin Chin, Saya and Shih Ming needed to check in at their respective hotels.

Soon, it was dinner time and we were all reunited again. This time we headed to a place known as Lan Kwai Fong, apparently their clubbing area. We didn't dine there though but instead just somewhere nearby before we went to the Peak Tower to catch the night scenery of Hong Kong. It was really cold and windy. All of us were shivering and with our immunities down after a hard run earlier, I pray no one falls ill, which no one did. Phew...


The night view from the Peak Tower...

Back down, we all took a tram ride to witness the busy streets of Hong Kong before heading back respectively for a well deserve rest.

7 December 2009. Busy and wet Hong Kong...
It was a wet day. The weather forecast was correct and it rained since morning. Though just drizzling, it was enough to somehow dampen our holiday, at least a little. Though everyone was recharged, tiredness can still be seen.

Experiecing the Hong Kong rush hour, we all headed towards Tsim Tsa Shui on board the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) for a dim sum breakfast. The meal was on me and Keat Seong, as we both scored our first sub 4 hour marathon. Then we walked around the area of Mongkok for some bicycle stuffs. I also noticed that this area is filled with pets especially fishes and dogs. Truly my area!

Then it's desserts at an area I don't recall the name before heading towards an IT Mall that resembles Kuala Lumpur's Imbi Plaza. Yes, it's Imbi Plaza and not Lowyat Plaza. Kind of shabby actually. It's from here that the group splitted into 2. Myself, Keat Seong and Jennifer decided to head back to the Peak Tower to visit Madam Tussauds Wax Museum while the others headed towards a cafe call Charlie Brown. I wish I could choose both. Sigh...

Had fun at the musuem where I saw lots of wax sculptures of historical people, politician, celebrities and sports person like Aaron Kwok, Lee Kuan Yew, Liu Xiang, Yao Ming and many more. We even experienced the scream tunnel where people dressed up as zombies and ghouls tried to scared us in the dark.

At 7.30pm, we were then reunited with the others and this time, we were headed towards the waterfront at Tsim Tsa Shui to witness the Symphony Of Lights before heading for dinner in one of the shopping malls in one of Hong Kong most prestigious shopping area. Everything was so branded! Filled our hungry stomachs, and it's off for a short ferry ride to take us between the 2 islands before heading back to Raymond's house on board the MTR again. And that concludes day 5.


With the sights and sounds of Hong Kong...

8 December 2009. Back to nature...
Lynn, Chin Chin, Saya and Shih Ming dropped by at Raymond's place as early as 9am. The group was divided to 2 again with Keat Seong and Jennifer opting to go on their own as their legs were still hurting from the run. Raymond is working thus leaving myself, Lynn, Chin Chin, Saya, Shih Ming, Shine and Victor on our own to visit Lantao Island. A simple breakfast before travelling on the MTR. We were busy talking on the train that we actually disembark one station earlier at Sunny Bay which is actually the stop for Hong kong Disneyland. Haha...

Upon reaching our destination at Tung Chung, we then proceeded to the cable car ticketing counter to take us to the island. I enjoyed the ride very much and in about half an hour, we arrived at the beautiful island, housing the giant Buddha statue which I think is the world largest at the moment.


With Lynn on board the cable car heading towards Lantao Island...


Arriving on Lantao Island...

A short while upon arriving, Victor broke away from us and made his way to some fishing village. The rest of us then walked around enjoying the sights and views of this truly magnificient place. It houses great scenery with hills and greens all over. The mind felt really peaceful.


The giant Buddha statue...


At one of the many temples...


At the centre court...

Soon, it was lunch time and we indulged in an affordable simple vegetarian lunch which was simply delicious. Then, it was a climb up to the Buddha Statue. Not only we were rewarded with being close to the statue, the scenery around was awesome. Back down, we then headed for beancurd dessert which was good as well. However, our plans later were dashed by the lack of time and also that the rain got a little heavier. With no other choices, we hung around till about 3.30pm before making our way back to Tung Chung by bus to meet up with Victor.

Back at Tung Chung, we made a sort visit to the shopping mall there which houses factory outlets from Nike, K-Swiss and many more. And this is where we also bid farewell to Lynn and Chin Chin as both of them are extending their stay for another 2 days while we all are leaving tomorrow. I really hated this moment. I wish we all could have spend more time together. But I guess time passes quickly as we all have fun.

As we arrived back at Raymond's place, we are reunited back with Keat Seong and Jennifer. We then went for a luxurious dinner at Central. Raymond's plan of treating us on a fine dinner backfired on him as we all decided to treat him instead. Hehehe...

With dinner done, it's time to bid farewell to our great host. Except Shine, we all are heading back to Macau on board the TurboJet again as our flight back to Malaysia is from Macau the next day. Till we see each other again, thanks Raymond for everything.

At 9.45pm, it's goodbye Hong Kong. Back at Macau, we headed back to Hotel Grandview on the shuttle bus provided and was rewarded with a stay at their executive suite for the same price as the other rooms were fully filled. Supe nice rooms! Without wasting time, together with Victor, Keat Seong and Jennifer, we made our way to the nearby McDonalds as we wanted to try on their pork burger, something which is not available in Malaysia. To our disappointment, the restaurant was close. I guess they don't have 24 hours service. Sigh... In the end, we ended up at the convinient store as we all are a little hungry. A light snack before turning in on the comfortable bed.

9 December 2009. With a heavy heart...
The morning started early. I was up at 6am and by 7am, we all met up for breakfast. Last chance for now to enjoy some of the local specialty and I did just that. At 8.15am, we are all checked out from our hotel and made our way to the airport on taxi.

Checked in and we hung out at the cafe there. However, most of our fluid got thrown away during the scanning process. The Vitasoy which I bought purposely because I did not drink any during the entire trip was thrown away. The immigration officer didn't even allow me to drink on the spot. Sigh... Therefore, I rewarded myself with a 1 liter bottle of 12 years Chivas whisky for collection purpose as Keat Seong say was pretty cheap.

At 10.45am, we boarded the Air Asia AK51. Everyone was so tired that we all had a nap on board. Jennifer took my photo and I hope she deleted it as it was just horrible looking. In 3:45 hours time, we arrived safely at LCCT and the first thing that came to my mind was HOT! I wanted to fly back to Macau or Hong Kong then. Hahaha...

And so, comes to a conclusion to this memorable trip as everyone made for home their own way. I'm sure everyone had their fair share of fun and memories and till our next trip together, recover well and run free!

Acknowledgements...
- Lynn, for the motivation given, the "special word" and photos taken.
- Raymond, for being a great host and guide and for the support given during the race itself.
- Saya & Shih Ming, for a job well done in organising this trip.
- Jennifer & Chin Chin, for organising the itinerary for this trip.
- Keat Seong, for the help, assistance and care given to me. And a big congratulations on a first sub 4 hour marathon.
- Victor & Shine, for the great company during this trip.
- Choi & Loke, for the training we all had together.
- John & Wai Mun, for the tips given on how to run the Macau Marathon.
- Luc, for the training advices given.
- And to those who played a part in this trip and also my success whose name isn't mention here, you know who you are. Thank you!

Holiday, Macau Marathon 2009 and Project DREAM post mortem...
Overall, I enjoyed this running plus holiday trip very much. It may not be even close to perfect but it was truly memorable. As like Shih Ming asked me during the final day of the trip to rate it over a score of 10, I will give it a 7.5. I really enjoyed the time together with all my friends and the trip to Lantao Island really did score. However, I do feel that this trip was very rush. Lots of walking was involved and it was not easy especially after having run a marathon. Even for those who ran the half marathon found it difficult. There are a lots more places we didn't visit. Probably another 2 days will be perfect. But most importantly is that everyone enjoyed it which I think we did and that it all went down as memories to be treasured.

For the Macau Marathon 2009, I felt it was a runaway success. Though the numbers weren't great making it a lonely run especially for the full marathoners, the organisation was great at least for me. No problems during race pack collection, sufficient water, the availability of mobile toilets along the route and good traffic control makes it a race to be recommended. The route was pretty friendly and was mostly flat except for the bridge. The cool weather will be a bonus for most Malaysians as most of us do run better in cooler conditions. The downside of it will probably be the lack of isotonic drinks during the race and also that the full marathon have to be run in 2 loops of the same route.

As for my goal for this run, I finally achieve my sub 4 hour marathon, thus a resolution achieved. As for my Project DREAM, it was my goal to run a sub 3:35 hour marathon. Although I failed missing it by 5 minutes plus, I lived to run yet another race. I don't deny that I'm a bit disappointed that I failed to achieve it, but at the same time, I'm satisfied with my results. The question of whether can I run faster was asked by Keat Seong. To be honest, I do not know. It's a very subjective question. But most importantly, I gave my all for this race and I believed throughout the entire race.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dreams Come True If We Believe...

By Frank

"Believe" is one word that I have carried along with me since young. It carries a strong meaning for me in making me believe in myself and in things I do. And in running, it became my mantra. Thus come this Sunday, I hope what I have believe in will become a reality in the Macau Marathon 2009.

My previous entry has been a really negative one. It's seldom I will let it out especially in writing. Something must have made me do it. I do not know. But thanks to my friends who has given me feedback on my thoughts for it all did help spur me on. And not forgetting a gift I received from one of my personal training clients wishing me luck in my race. A simple shirt from Nike with a meaningful message on it. It reads "The Coach" on the front and "Oregon's Finest" on one of the sleeves. And he explained to me the meaning behind it for he is grateful for all the training and advices I have given him. As a Personal Trainer and a friend, I'm deeply touched. I'm wearing it with pride during this trip for sure.

Wearing it with pride...

Thinking back of my medication years and the battle I fought together with the other children, I guess I will dedicate this run to all of them especially to those who had lost their fight. There isn't any charity body, foundation or donation involve here, but instead, it will be my thoughts of them that counts. Perhaps, I will deliver my message to the hospital we were once in and maybe they will help convey the message.

I will be leaving for Macau in the wee hours of 4 December 2009 on board Air Asia. My travel partners this time will be different from the usual suspects. This time it consists of Lynn, Chin Chin, Saya, Shih Ming, Jennifer, Keat Seong and Victor. Raymond Hee who is now residing in Hong Kong will meet us there. We will be staying over at Macau for 2 nights before we leave for Hong Kong after the race for another 2 nights there. We will then return home from Macau on 9 December 2009. Though I been to both countries before, it has been years and I'm sure much has changed. Therefore, a pretty rush itinerary we have and I regretted for not extending for another 2 nights.

Luggage is all packed up since Monday. It's done so in advance as my checklist was actually ready a couple of weeks before hand. Therefore with free time, I guess it's better to pack early to avoid missing any essential items.

Checklist...

Here's a little something about the race. Starting at 6am together with the half and quarter marathoners from the Stadium Estadio de Macau, full marathoners will be taken twice on a gigantic 21.1KM loops between the islands of Macau Peninsula and Taipa connected by the Ponte de Sai Van Bridge. It's going to be a cool run with an average temperature of about 17 degree Celsius, but there will be headwind especially on the bridge. The race course is almost flat except for the bridge which is about 2.2KM long. Though water station will be stationed every 5KM, only plain water will be serve. No isotonic drinks nor energy gel will be serve. This might be a worrying factor. The race will end at the Stadium Estadio de Macau with a cut off time of 5 hours for the full marathon.

Macau Marathon 2009 race route...

Macau Tower overlooking the Ponte de Sai Van Bridge...

My training started in August 2009 and it came to a close yesterday with a total of 1038.91KM ran and 209.7KM cycled. For 4 months, I have stood with a structural training and an almost strict diet (only had cheat meals twice). And with 6 weeks leading to this race, I have had 3 other races with 2 weeks recovery period between each of them of different distances and disciplines to help me prepare for it. Throughout this period of time, not all sessions were productive and at a certain stage, I even burnt out. Each and every training session has been difficult. Weekday runs were done alone but I'm glad I have Choi and Loke as training partners on weekends for long runs. It really made things much easier.

Now, one final question that I have yet to answer. My marathon dream, my goal at the Macau Marathon 2009. I have set running a sub 4 hour marathon to be one of my resolution this year. I have yet to do so and this will be final chance to achieve it this year. That will be my primary goal. As for my dream goal, I'm sorry to say that I've decided not to reveal it for now. Sorry that I went back on my word but I guess it's not appropriate to actually reveal it for some reasons. The dream goal will be tough to achieve and it's far from just running a sub 4 hour marathon. And frankly speaking, I'm not confident of achieving it even though my training has been pretty fruitful in a way. My advantage of having mental strength over physical is something which will guide me through the distance, but not within a specific time. I guess there is a lot more work to be done but time isn't something I have. With that, it all boils down to this Sunday. To run my best and to give myself "hell" is the one thing I can do to hope. With the guidance of my mantra, the tag line given to me and the thoughts of the children, I just have to believe for my dreams to come true. So, do you believe?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Negative Thoughts...

By Frank

It's 7 days till Macau Marathon 2009. I usually look forward to an event even though I know it's a long and tough one. However this time, not only I'm looking forward to it, I can't help myself from having negative thoughts. In other words, I'm worried and I'm scared.

In throughout my running career, I have always learn to respect the distance especially the marathon. I do not fear the distance of 42.195KM but instead, it tells me or rather act as a reminder on what I can or cannot do. And as I approach my 9th marathon, my respect for it will still be the same, except I fear for something else now. Something of which I do not know how to put in words. Trying to achieve my marathon dream is one, but surviving it will be another issue here.

Frankly speaking, I do not know if I'm ready to run my marathon dream. Only close to 3 years of running, no doubt it's going to be real tough. But once a goal is set, I guess there is no turning back. Returning from a month's layback due to injury and with only 4 months worth of training, things does look bleak.

As a cancer survivor, I have seen life from a different point of view. The ups and downs, victories and struggles, life and death and so much more. I've learn to appreciate the journey through life since that faithful day. I still remember most of them that shared the same ward with me. All of them were just kids, toddlers with most not even 10 years of age. I'm sure they do not know what was going on then, but side by side did we fought together. A few went down fighting and seeing parents shed tears for a lost young one is certainly not a sight that we all want to see.

And on a lonely Sunday today, I went through some of my old photo albums to look back on the journey I had. I look back at my running photos especially those I had with my friends and I even read this blog again from the first entry till the latest. The memories flooded my mind and vision instantly as if they just happened as I went through all of them. I do not know what will happen in next week, but for sure I'm carrying those memories with me even if the one thing I fear happens then.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A New Hope...

By Frank

Nope, not refering to Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. Instead, I found a glimpse of hope to achieve my marathon dream at next week's Macau Marathon 2009. This new hope comes in the form of rubbers, mesh, EVA and GEL! It's a pair of racing shoes from ASICS, the GEL-DS Racer VII. Hehehe...

As mentioned in my previous entry on the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009, I was "poisoned" into getting the ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII upon setting my eyes on it. I have been eyeing on it since reading about it. In fact, the production of this shoe actually came to a halt after the sixth edition. I guess the people at ASICS heard my call for help, hence re-releasing this shoe and boy it came just in time. The shoe actually just arrive in stores last week!

Why did I call this a new hope? I initially had planned to wear the ASICS GEL-DS Trainer 14 for the race. As from what I have written recently on my review on it, I have a little trouble getting into speed with it. It didn't perform as much as I would like it to be. The second choice will be the Nike LunaRacer+. It may be the lightest shoe I have currently but I bought it at a size too small and recently develop some irritation on my Achilles region, probably due to my slightly different running gait now. As for the Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3, though an incredible shoe, I'm still faced with the phobia of getting 2 cramps at once from the loosen laces during my Sundown Marathon this year. Therefore, the ASICS GEL-DS Racer VII instanly became a new hope for me.

The ASICS GEL-DS family. Racer on the left and the trainer on the right...

I'm not going to review the shoe just yet. But initial impression was awesome! A racing flat with a mild medial support, it weights in at about 195 grams. It may be about 40 grams heavier than the Nike LunaRacer+, but it offers great comfort, flexibility, response and not to mention ventilation. It's going to be cool running in this shoe at Macau which is going to be about 16 degree celcius or so on race day. Plus, I simply love the colour combination of white and red. I always do with these 2 colours. With 30KM ran in it, I found no problem so far and hope it continues to do so. With a week till the race, I guess I will probably give it another 20KM or so before it goes into my luggage bag.

Oh and ya. Speaking of my luggage bag, I actually bought 3 bags for this trip. Hahaha... I'm a bag collector actually and am eyeing on a backpack for quite sometimes already. And I don't want to bring my "famous" BBB (Big Black Bag) for this trip as it's bulky and clumsy. Therefore, I bought myself a Deuter Futura Pro 42 which I think should be known as BRB (Big Red Backpack). Not Be Right Back. Haha... Another 2 will be a hip pack and also a camera bag. Wooo... I noticed that I spent so much on bags for this trip. Hopefully I can control my spending when I'm at Macau and Hong Kong. Food is acceptable though. Hahaha...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009...

Event: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009
Venue: Queensbay Mall, Penang
Date: 22 November 2009
Time: 2.30am
Distance: 42.195KM (42.38KM by Nike+ SportBand 2.0)
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Kayano 15
By Frank

21 November 2009. Pre-race day...
I woke up an hour late but I had more than sufficient time to get myself prepared for the early flight to Penang from Subang airport on board the Firefly. Got to the airport at about 7.45am thanks to Jasmine who help drive me from home. Soon later, met up with Choi and Loke and we're off to Penang at 9.10am sharp. Oh yeah, we even bumped into Marvin who is off to Penang for business travel and also to run in the quarter marathon. Slight turbulence on board the airplane which sent my heart dropping a couple of times but we landed safely 45 minutes later.

Our Firefly flight to Penang...

From the Penang International Airport, we boarded the Rapid Penang bus which took us to Queensbay Mall at where we hung around while waiting for Lionel, Pueh Tian and some others to arrive and we had lunch at T-Bowl Restaurant famous for their bathroom settings. And just before leaving, I decided to visit the ASICS shop there which I did not regret as I found the ASICS DS-Racer VII which was just re-released to the market. I was instantly "poisoned" into getting them for my race in Macau.

Then, it's off to Krystal Suites, our hotel where we rested till dinner time at 6pm. As the taxi fare to town was priced at a ridiculous price of RM30 per trip, we decided to walk around searching for food. Took us a while as there were no food stalls around before we settled at a coffeeshop just behind B-Suites for a simple dinner. Chin joined us and we chatted away till about 8pm before he sent us back to the hotel. We each packed a pack of rice back for the extra food we needed. I showered and at about 9.15pm, I tried to sleep but I failed to do so. Choi and Loke was watching the football game between Liverpool and Machester City (final score 2-2). I even woke up once when I heard Liverpool scoring the first goal. Hahaha... Only managed to get myself to dream land just before 10pm. And by 11.45pm, I was already awake.

22 November 2009. Race day...
With less than 2 hours of nap, I was feeling a little wonky. Got myself ready and at 1am, Jeff, Jordan and Lionel came by and off we set off to Queensbay Mall by foot as it was just so near. Weather was perfect as it was cooling with the morning sea breeze.

Jordan, Jeff, myself, Loke, Lionel and Choi ready to take on the bridge...

With an hour to go till race time, we just hung around and did some warm up and stretching by ourselves before making our way to the starting area. Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng arrived on time on board his Mercedes S Class which took us marathon runners by suprised as he came from the rear. Haha...

At 2.25am, 5 minutes earlier than expected and after a short lion dance performance, the gun went off. Good luck wishes among my friends and off we went. Confetti were sprayed all over as we passed the start gantry and we soon found ourselves on the Bayan Lepas Expressway. Quickly enough, the first water station appeared and volunteers were handing out 500ml bottles of waters to each runner. What a waste as some were seen thrown away with still half filled. I skipped most of the earlier water stations as I have my bottle of Endurox R4 with me. I saw Uncle Sunny on top of an overhead bridge cheering for runners with Amelia and I called out to him. Haha... Sunny and SP from the Waterwall Weekend Warriors passed me here though we exchanged places for a few times later on.

The morning breeze was really cooling as I ran on the coastal road towards Seagate which was the u-turn point before heading to the bridge. It was flat so no issues except for my Nathan race belt which was bouncing all over due to it's free size. It even came unbuckle twice during the entire the race.

Soon, I was already on the Penang Bridge. With the widening works completed, the bridge was now with 3 lanes and brightly lighted. Looking to the end, it looks like a golden dragon. Awesome! And this time, runners are running against the traffic which was a first for this race. I arrived at the 10KM mark which was about a quarter of the bridge at 1 hour on the dot. Feeling absolutely great, I continue with my easy pace. Was telling myself not to push myself for this run is just a training.

Then, it's the journey up to the top of the bridge. Gradient was slowly building but not difficult. By the time I got to third quarter of the bridge, smells from the industrial area started to attack my nostrils but they were manageable. Arrived at the end of the bridge, did my u-turn and off I make my return to the island. Exiting the u-turn point, I spotted Jeff on the opposite side. He was still looking good.

As I ran here, I kept looking down on the road as the vision of the long bridge can be pretty disturbing. I continued running and running with my Endurox R4 still in hand. It took me a while to finish it (finished at about 23KM mark) as I only started taking it at the 7.5KM mark earlier with small sips every 2.5KM.

Nearing the start of the climb, half marathoners were seen flooding the bridge already. But it was of no issues as the bridge was really wide. I navigated through the crowd with ease and soon spotted Andy who was among the half marathoners. Blabbered a few words before I continued on. Nearing the end of the bridge, I saw the signage pointing to Gelugor indicating 1KM to the turnoff. Last year's route immediately flooded my mind as this was towards the end of the race. But this time, I had another 15KM or more to go. Darn...

Exiting the bridge towards the Jelutong Expressway, this is where it all began. My right hip started to hurt and my weak legs are starting to feel the weight of my shoe. Continued running with a slower pace and tried to flex my right leg as I ran. When I got to the e-Gate building which was the u-turn point for the half marathoners, I together with the rest of the full marathoners had the whole expressway to our own again. The long stretch of this expressway was a killer but it wasn't an issue for Lionel as he was seen making his return already towards the finish line. He was looking great and there wasn't any fatigue look on his face.

I took my first walk soon later as I didn't want to risk the pain on my right hip. But not wanting to allow the buildup of lactic acid on my legs, I chose something like a lamp post shortly at the front to indicate myself to run again. It was like a short 15 seconds to 20 seconds break. And I did this for all my walks later. There were 3 flyovers heading towards the u-turn point at Gat Lebuh Macallum which runners have to tackle again on the return trip. Though not steep, it was still a problem for the weaken legs. I just want to get it over with as soon as possible.

At the second bridge, while walking, I spotted Choi coming in from behind. I waited for him before I started running again. I tried to pace him, but I failed after less than a kilometer with him. I tried to maintain my sight of him which I did but not for long as he slowly disappeared after the u-turn. As I made my way back, I spotted Loke, Jeff, Chooi Wan, Terence and Ngae. Told each of them the u-turn point is not too far away as a sign to motivate them. As for me, I'm still mixing running and fast walking.

When all the flyovers are at the back finally, I was looking forward to the sight of Tesco and then e-Gate. And when I passed those, I kept looking at the Penang Bridge. The sight of it getting larger and larger was really a motivational sight indeed. And when I finally put it at the back of me, it was then Eastin Hotel's turn. This was a long wait as it was hidden from sight due to condominiums around. But when I saw the 40KM marker, sights of relieve indeed. Though still mixing running with fast walking, my runs were slightly longer and at a faster pace.

It was when I entered Jalan Aziz Ibrahim that I decided to run all the way to the end. And when I ran around the roundabout at the Queensbay area, memories of me cramping up at last year's edition filled my mind. Confident that it will not happen this year, I ran the stretch heading towards the finish line with others cheering from the side. I eventually finished this grueling race from where I started in 04:47:24.

I soon bumped into Choi who completed some 6 minutes ahead of me. Soon it was the others from Terence, Ngae and finally Loke. Congratulations to Loke for achieveing his sub 5 hours timing. Rested for a while and refueled with some bananas with Henry at the rest tent before we decided to return to the hotel for a good rest before returning home on board Firefly again at 1.10pm.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

The rear print on the finisher's t-shirt...

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to Lionel who ran a blistering 03:31:56 race. It was much quicker than his targeted 03:40:00 and though he can hardly walk after the race, I guess it was all worth it for "Pain is temporary while glory last forever". And to both Henry and James who completed their maiden marathon, congratulations too. Not to mention the organisers for the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009 for they did a remarkable job this year. Though not perfect, it was a huge improvement over last year and it may even go down as the most successful Penang Bridge International Marathon ever to date. I guess all the feedbacks gathered especially from Facebook was really worth it.

As for me, I'm glad my 8th marathon is now over. Tough one but happy with my time though I guess I took it too easy which may have contributed to my hip pain. At the moment, I'm not too sure what's the issue behind it. It may be iliotibial band or the piriformis but I hope it's none of those for my main showdown is 2 weeks from now. So right now, resting is part of my game.