Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014...

Event: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014
Venue: Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, Penang
Date: 16 November 2014
Time: 1.30AM
Distance: 42.195KM (42.34KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Type A6
By Frank

Exactly a month ago on this day, I left for Europe. 4 events over there over 3 weeks before returning home to rest for a week. And to mark one full month, my fifth event in one month will be the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014, this time taking place for the first time on the new second bridge, the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge.

This annual bridge run for me has generally been my Comrades Marathon qualifier race. However, after qualifying early for next year's race and after a very disappointing Amsterdam Marathon 2014, I will be treating this race to experiment on new methods which I've been studying through, basically the MAF method. Besides, memories from last year's edition still kind of haunts me till today.

I met up with Cham, Roy and Jason at Plaza Sri Hartamas on Saturday morning and after breakfast at the nearby noodle shop, we started our journey at about 10.30am. Roy drove till Simpang Pulai before I took over driving till Juru before handing his car back to him as he is more familiar with the roads of Penang.

Drive was smooth and took us about slightly more than 3 hours to arrive in Penang Island via the first bridge. Went straight for lunch at Genting Cafe and met up with Zhen Yang and Junie there. Lunch was simple and from there, we left for our hotel at Georgetown staying at Cozy Inn, where we stayed last year. Jason on the other hand followed Zhen Yang. Got our gears ready, went out for a simple snack and it was back at the hotel to sleep, or rather try to sleep at 7PM!

I wasn't sure if I managed to sleep. Maybe an hour of dozing off perhaps but I was awake since 9.45PM with a major headache. It actually started off mild upon arriving probably due to the hot weather during the drive. I thought it will go off but sadly, it became worse. I tried to massage it off but to no avail. I was also hoping that my normal pre-run coffee routine will also help but it did not. Taking paracetamol was my final option and I have to make sure that I've at least 2 hours before the race start to actually take them. It's been a while since I took them as I am not a supporter of NSAID. With 3 hours before race start, I asked Roy if he had one. He didn't have but instead, he asked from the hostel owner which he had. Took one tablet of 650mg strength and waited for it to set in. But just before leaving for the race site, I threw up so am not really sure if the tablet went in or came out? Am glad I managed to throw up without any difficulties despite not having any food in my stomach.

We left our hostel at about 11.30PM and traffic was a little heavy heading out of Georgetown. But it was smooth as we arrived on Jelutong expressway. My headache slowly became better as I munch down a bun as I did not have appetite earlier. Arrived at the Batu Maung industrial area and managed to find a parking spot not too far away and rested there as we had about 2 hours before race start.

An hour before the race, we walk to the race site. Headache was still around and it can be felt whenever I took a step. Proceeded to have Cham's baggage check in before we met up with some friends. As myself and Roy didn't want to have too much attention, and besides I needed some quite time to myself hoping that my headache will go away, we headed out to the start line and just waited there.

Chit chatted away till the dance, speech and finally the fireworks before we were flagged off at 1.30AM. Start was a mess as there was a water tanker parked in the middle of the starting line which caused a bottle neck. Then another bottle neck came as the ramp up the bridge was only 2 lanes causing a human wall. Roy was pretty good navigating through the slower runners and soon he was no where to be seen.

I started my run slowly and quite carefully too as my headache was still bothering me. And besides, I really wanted to try out the 150 beats per minute heart rate method taught in the MAF method for the entire marathon distance. I was trying to get my rhythm right running at about 5:30 or maybe 5:35 per kilometer pace which should give me an average of the desired heart rate. Another to try out is the nutrition part. Been cutting on my daily carbohydrate intake and increasing on fat instead. It's not a total change yet but am slowly gradually doing it and so far, it has been working well for me. Am also cutting my intake on energy gel and also the sugar laden sports drink during my runs so instead of fully cutting, I half my intake. And my plan was small intake of plain water at every 2KM though I started off with a very diluted bottle GU Roctane Brew which should last me till 10KM.

Back to the run, I found space after about 2KM. I was already on the bridge and it's a long way to the other end, about 20KM or so. My legs wanted to go, but I was controlling it. My starting pace was too fast and I fear I may blow up like in Amsterdam Marathon. I slowed down controlling myself not to repeat the same mistake. And besides, every step sends a throbbing pain to the back of my head. So as I ran with this discomfort, I keep remembering the message "Mind Over Body". It was a teeth grinding moment.

The highest point of the bridge isn't located at the center this time. It's pretty near to the island side and almost immediately after 3KM into the run, I started climbing. It wasn't steep though and it was manageable and can be pretty good for the legs too especially at the return leg. Soon, I found myself at the highest point and was a dash down where I met Wai Hong. We steadily ran together till about 10KM where he stopped at the side to take a pack of gel. I though it was his normal routine but he was no where to be seen later. I was alone again but was glad that my head was back to normal already.

My rhythm was right now. It's all about maintaining or rather sustaining it. It's still along way to the other end, and an even long back to the finish. There was a little headwind but manageable, and it's kind of good too and the wee hours can be very humid and stale. But it also brought some unwanted palm oil smell blowing from the mainland. I took my first and only planned energy gel at the 15KM mark.

Everything was going smoothly and I had the whole 2 lanes to run on. I kept sipping on water at each water station as I finally arrived at the toll plaza. But the u-turn point is not here as runners had to run another Kilometer or so to make the turn. And just before the turn, friendly scouts volunteers were giving out ice cubes in plastic bags as I grabbed one to massage all over my thighs and my bothering left trapzeius. 

I finally made my turn and spotted Roy. He was not far behind me which was good as I was thinking that we may be help each other later. However, I did not slow down to wait for him and carried on with my pace. The return trip was a little bothering for me though as people were calling out to me. Sorry my friends especially to those I did not reply, as I was really on focus. But there was this one that called me Richard! A case of mistaken identity but I hope you are not referring to the that "Richard"! 

I really wanted to run on the outer lane but that will also increase my running distance. Therefore, I stood with my running lane on the inner side of the bridge and carried on. Pace was dropping a little as fatigue and pain set in. Although I still had a packet of energy gel with me, I resist taking it and instead decided to start sipping on the sports drinks provided, in small quantity.

Air was pretty stale now with no breeze. Was getting humid as I took some water to pour over myself too, to keep my core temperature at bay. Roy did not run to me as much as I hope for hence I had to push on myself. Though it was slower than my first half which is now a positive split, I was still moving on a constant pace. So far, the MAF method seems to be working.

The dreaded part came somewhere at 30KM into the run where the we merged into the half marathon runners. Holding hands, taking photos, listening to the music players, it certainly created a major human wall for the faster runners. I had to run zig zag to navigate myself through and this brought discomfort to both my knees and my left ankle. It also takes more effort out of me. And some runners can even run from the left lane to the right lane upon spotting the photographers! As water stations were really short and filled with runners, I skipped some of them unless I really had to drink, squeezing myself through the crowd to grab a cup or bottle of water.

While navigating through the crowd and with 8KM to go, although legs were already sore, they were wanting to go.  However, I told them to stick with the plan and hold on the pace and heart rate. It worked and while running up towards the highest point where most runners were slowing down, I was still maintaining my pace thus allowing me to overtake a huge number of them. 

The descend down was a faster one as I began to increase my pace gradually and carefully. Andrew passed me here and I was amazed at his speed and determination knowing he wasn't well too. I looked at  my chrono and I had 2 minutes buffer to hit the sub 4 hours timing. And besides, I did not know if it will be over distance? I kept calm though and continued with my pace and plan. It can be done cause "Mind Over Body"!

Finally with 500M to go, I finally saw the finish line on the left. And I was glad the ramp down the bridge wasn't crowded as I finally touched down on the island side and ran towards the finish line crossing it in 3:57:49.

Andrew and Kelvin Wan was there too as we congratulated each other and moved forward to collect our finisher pack before resting at the provided space. Grab 2 cups of Milo, a cup of coffee and a bun to recover and soon, Roy too completed his run. Rested and chit chatted while waiting for our friends to come back before leaving back to the hostel with Cham. 

And one thing to highlight is this particular runner with the bib A01781 name Raymond C. A disgrace to the running community, with a foul mouth and running attitude. During my first 10KM or so, he was overtaking me and coming into my running path and slowing down. He did it numerous time too when I managed to pass him back. And not only myself, he did it to my friend too and in the process scolded vulgar words in the process whenever my friend pass him. If he can't outrun anyone, just let it be and run your own run. Why the vulgar words?

Overall, this edition of Penang Bridge International Marathon is badly organised. The race site isn't ready to hold the event of this scale and probably the event organizers went for quantity instead of quality. The run on the first bridge was certainly much better and not as boring as this too. But I shall not talk about it that much as I can only describe it with 1 word, "BAD"! But hats off to the volunteers especially the scouts as I thought they really did their job well!

As for myself, I was satisfied with my own performance. I did not know if the paracetamol did help me but I know at least now that I can actually use the MAF method throughout the entire distance. Just of a matter of patience, I guess. The decision at Amsterdam to raise my heart rate was probably why I failed there. And also that I know now that energy gels and sport drinks are not always the answer cause I did survive this round with minimal of them. Probably I should try to totally cut them off in my next marathon? The following are my splits and it can be seen that it was constant.

5KM - 0:27.19
10KM - 0:53:24
15KM - 1:21:02
20KM - 1:49:33
21KM - 1:55:04
25KM - 2:16:46
30KM - 2:46:28
35KM - 3:15:48
40KM - 3:45:27
Finish - 3:57:49

At the end of this run, I have to point to the paracetamol again as I do not know myself if the it went into my system or did I threw it out? I regretted taking it but at that point of time, I really had no choice, or perhaps the only choice was not to start the run at all. I survived the run with a revised strategy and am still in one piece so I guess I have to move on and hope it doesn't repeat again. And lastly, Thank You for having faith in me and giving me the motivation and push as MIND OVER BODY cause miracles do happen!

* All photos here credited to Hong Chew and Kim Lai. Thank you!

1 comment:

Sue's Ramblings said...

I had zero gels on my one and only marathon a month back though I did alternate Gatorade and water at the WS (every 2 miles)from km10 onwards. I did have a mini Luna bar around km23 or so coz I was starving.