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.

12 comments:

Kevin said...

Good Result, your 1st sub 4.
Congrats and Well Done .

Anonymous said...

You are one good example of how perseverance always prevails!

Of course you can go faster!

rgds

yipwt said...

congrats...that's a very good improvement.

Loke said...

Congrats on your 1st sub 4. 3hr 40mins is a a great improvement despite falling short of your target by 5 mins. I am sure you will nail it soon.

Tweet @ Chin said...

Congrats on your sub-4 hour marathon!

Too bad HK is not post-marathon friendly. More days were definitely needed to see more.

Frank@Runnerz said...

Kevin, Anonymous & Yip: Thanks a lot.

Loke: Thanks. The next task will determine whether am I a true sub 4 hour marathoner.

Chin: Thanks a lot. You did extremely well yourself too. I hope the compression tights help. And yeah I agree HK isn't post-marathon friendly. But I really had a good time at Lantao Island with you all. I'm sure everyone did.

Jamie Pang said...

There's no such thing as "true" marathoner - whatever timing you've run and how many times you've consistently run it. Once a marathoner, always a marathoner.

Congrats and well done again. You've trained hard and earned it! I'm sure you have many more targets before the year is over. Go for it and make this year a watershed one.

Anonymous said...

Congrats again Frank! True grit of determination...

Raymond Hee

Frank@Runnerz said...

Jamie: True indeed. I think I'm done for the year. It's the first time I'm plagued with injuries in my running career, twice somemore. But I'm glad I managed to bounce back quick enough with the support I'm getting.

RayHee: Thanks a lot for your support before, during and after the race. Not forgetting too the great tour around Hong Kong. How I wish I had more time there.

dare to try said...

great job done.u wanted it, u trained n you got it. i salute you for your courage, tenacity and running spirit. i need to learn from you. from your story which u told me, i am very impressed with all your achievements. go live your life!

oliver yeoh said...

well done!!! and your great achievement! you have inspired me to achieve better timing for my next year races!

Frank@Runnerz said...

dare to try: Ahh... Finally you commented using your account. Thanks for your compliments. Each and every of us will have a great story behind us, be it a happy or even a sad one. Use it to our advantage and I'm sure we will be stronger and wiser through the lesson we learnt from it. Oh and yeah. It was really nice to have chatted during our journey to Hong Kong via TurboJet.

oliver: Glad I did. Hope to hear great news from you one fine day.