Event: Kuching Marathon 2014
Venue: Padang Merdeka, Kuching, Sarawak
Date: 17 August 2014
Distance: 42.195KM (42.25KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Type A5
As planned, the inaugural Kuching Marathon will be my first trial to get back to my marathon form found in year 2009. A mission to try to run my second sub 4 hours marathon starts with this. And with the campaign launch for next year's Comrades Marathon just few days ago stating that all runners will have to re-qualify again, including all finisher's of the 2014 edition, there was an extra twist to this run. though not important for me at all as I am pretty confident that a sub 5 hours marathon is achievable and that seeding is not a priority for me anymore.
I registered for the Kuching Marathon together with the accommodation at Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites pretty early. However, I forgotten about my flight and only managed to purchase it with less than 2 months to go albeit expensive it was. I flew Malaysia Airlines on Saturday early noon and got to Kuching at mid noon. Upon landing, the MAS stewardess said "Welcome to Kota Kinabalu" which shocked everyone! But she quickly apologize where everyone then burst into laughter. There was a huge welcome banner for the runners and that was a nice touch coming from the organisers. This was my second time visiting Kuching (the first about 10 years back for Andersen's system migration) and the city was still a clean one. I proceed to the hotel immediately and upon checking in, walked to Plaza Merdeka which was nearby to collect my race pack which was a ll done within 5 minutes. For those who came earlier wasn't so lucky as I've heard of the chaotic collection. Met up with Mohan, Foo, Vivien and some other friends before I went to have my very late lunch at Secret Recipe. Yeaps, all the way to Kuching and I was eating shepherds pie here!
Welcome to Kuching!
Returned to the hotel to have my gears sorted out and to rest a little while waiting for Wong to arrive. Yes, we are sharing the room together and will be good to catch up with a fellow Comrades runner. He arrived just before 6pm, and we soon return back to Plaza Merdeka for a simple dinner at the food court before adjourning back to the hotel for rest.
I had a pretty miserable 4 hours or so sleep as I kept waking up in the middle due to noise coming from the field as the race organisers were playing movies on the big screen into the night. I personally find that this was inconsiderate considering knowing that many runners will be staying around the area. At least, keep the volume to a minimal! Not a good start to the morning as I felt tired and my left trapezius is still pretty uncomfortable. However, all my pre-race rituals went smoothly and my meal was a cup of soy coffee, Energade bar from Comrades this year and 2 vegetarian "foo chow" biscuit. Together with Wong, we only left our room at 2.30am as the race start is just below. Managed to find a good spot among the approximately 1,400 starters for the full marathon. And at 3am sharp, we were flagged off!
For this race, I was training under the Phil Maffetone method and hence this will be my first time implementing it in a race. My job is to maintain myself under the aerobic mode with a heart rate of about 145bpm to 150bpm for as long as I can before going into anaerobic. And to help achieve this, even my diet changed.
I settled into my race pace shortly after starting which was a little humid from the earlier drizzle. It was easy to navigate as the roads were wide enough to accommodate the number of runners. Tony spotted me and we chatted a little before we went at our own pace. And as usual, I had my bottle of GU Roctane Brew with me to hydrate me during the early stages. As we exited the city into the village area, the path grew a bit darker as the lamp post were erected further apart from each other but I was relief that the road conditions were fine. And the good thing about running in the village at the wee hours is the fresh air and not to mention that was surprised that the villagers are awake to cheer us on!
My heart rate was good and that eventually contributed to my pace. I was "auto cruising" well and my strides and cadence was consistent. Indeed a good sign from my training and I eventually arrived at the 10KM mark just under 52 minutes. I continued with my rhythm slowly sipping on my own drink at every 2KM till I finally finish it at the 15KM mark.
I started taking only water from the stations before downing my first GU Roctane gel upon arriving at the 21KM halfway point which I arrived in about 1.50 hours. Still in aerobic mode, I caught up with Lai Ling and we moved together at certain stretches. It was also here that a few but very mild climbs welcomed the runners which was rather a welcome sight for me. The urge to pee came at about 25KM. That's also when Jessica came into the picture and was hammering the pace. I told myself not be distracted by others and carried on till the 27KM mark when I went to use the portable toilet to relieve myself. I wasted a minute or 2 in there and found difficulty in resuming my pace later. It was here that I started to struggle and by the time I hit 30KM, I finally entered the anaerobic mode.
I took my second GU Roctane gel here and also increased slightly my intake of isotonic drinks at each water station. My pace dropped hovering just slightly above 6 minutes pace as I shouldered on passing Raymond at the 32KM mark. At this point, some runner which I do not want to mention the name started with his fartlek session with me slowing down just ahead of me. Just like driving, he can actually just slow down at the "slower" lane instead of the "faster" lane. Feeling annoyed by his actions, I just waited patiently for him to take off or slow down. He eventually took off.
Dawn began to break and I was loosing time slowly. But I kept running and eventually heard a familiar voice. It was Yim and he mentioned a sub 4 is doable at this pace. Yes, I know but I need to keep it at the current pace to do so. As we were pacing each other, a short but steep climb appeared at 37.5KM. Although I was caught by surprise, I still attacked it well only to watch it out a little on the other side going down. But it was here that I passed the "fartleker".
It was soon into the city again and Yim broke free. I grabbed a Red Bull energy drink at 38KM and was hoping the effects of it will kick in as soon as possible. Soon it did and I found my rhythm again as I chased my time down. I was reunited with Yim and a quick glance at my watch says it all, we are both under the 4 hours window. However at the final Kilometer, Yim gave a wake-up call to go for it fearing that the distance may be longer. It made sense to me and thus went for it like a rhino charging. The final turn appeared and the finish arch was there to greet and I eventually crossed it in 3:57:25 hours, my first local sub 4 hours marathon, and a second in my running career.
With Yim after the finish. Pic courtesy of Zas.
My second sub 4 hours marathon. Can't ask for more.
Waited for Yim to arrive and to thank him personally as I hung out at the finish area and took some photos with friends before returning to the hotel to clean up before proceeding to the airport. The legs feels ok and I am certainly convinced now that the Phil Maffetone method that I was following certainly does work. All I have to do now is to improve on it for the long term. But all in all, I would still like to thank my friends who have been supporting and training together with me and also to Yim for the push at the final 5KM.
The Kuching Marathon is certainly a run away success for its inaugural event. Distance marker at every Kilometer, ample water stations, the cheers from the locals and supporters and good traffic control (except for the final 2 Kilometers or so) were good for a local event. The only downside was probably the news that a runner passed away, the chaotic race pack collection and the RM5 luggage deposit charges apparently for some charity cause (note: charity is not something about forcing people to give).
Overall, I am happy and satisfied with my result as I thought it was over even before starting upon waking up feeling tired. Honestly, it came a bit unexpected to achieve a sub 4 hours timing by turning the focus from ultra marathon to marathon distance with only just 6 weeks of training. And also, this has earned me a D seeding for next year's Comrades Marathon hence it's a double joy indeed! Till my next trial...