Sunday, June 28, 2009

Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009...

Event: Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009
Venue: Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 28 June 2009
Time: 5am
Distance: 42.195KM (42.41KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205)
Shoe: Nike LunaRacer+
By Frank

I made my decision to run my seventh marathon a week before despite knowing that I won't do well and also risking further damage to what already I think is a damaged left knee. The damage from running the 84KM Sundown Marathon was here to stay for now and 3 weekend runs before this day didn't reveal any good results. However, the decision to run it isn't because of stubbornness but rather due to an emotional stress that I am going through. I haven't been myself and I needed to unwind. To endure through the pain of running the legendary distance, I will be able to shift my attention to something else, well at least during the run duration. Therefore, you can say that I'm going out there to torture myself, to destroy myself.

It's 4am when I arrived at my usual parking spot at Bukit Aman and quickly enough, hooked up with Choi, Lawrence and Loke who was already there. Shortly later, Keat Seong, Jennifer, Pui San and Shih Ming too arrived. However, attention was on Loke as he will be running his maiden marathon. It was an easy 1KM walk to the race venue at Dataran Merdeka where I'm scheduled to meet up with Chee Kong. And so I did, and also met up for a short while with Chin Chin and Lynn too. Soon, rain started to fall but it quickly reduced to a drizzle 10 minutes from the start of the race.

Checked into the starting area joined together with Chin, Kevin, Marvinct, Raymond and Victor. At 5am, runners were set loose. I immediately set myself into a half marathon pace as my strategy will be to run as fast as possible and as long as possible before my legs snap. And even if it does, I told myself that I will complete it.

The first 5KM took runners through the KL Railway Station into Brickfields passed KL Sentral. The road was wet and slippery, not to mention water puddles along the way. At about the 4KM mark, Luc passed me and I managed to get his attention before asking him to go on as even my half marathon pace isn't any match for his marathon pace. Towards Jalan Maharajalela and into Jalan Loke Yew, the road conditions improved. Much wider now with newly laid tarmac, unlike the 2 previous years when it was still under construction. It's here that I felt my left Achilles heel being irritated by my shoe's collar. Tried to avoid getting my skin tear off, I move my ankle around till I finally met up with 3 really helpful members from the Saint John Ambulance. Asked for a plaster to tape up the irritated area, and not only I was given 3 of them, they were actually really kind to ask me about my situation.

With the irritation gone, I ran into Cheras and at 10KM, Marvin caught up with me. I manage to run along side him before getting left behind from a water stop I had to make. Into Jalan Tun Razak, the first sign of my left leg letting go soon appeared near the 15KM mark. My left patella started to vibrate and with every stride, it felt like popping out. Pui San and Shih Ming who ran side by side passed me and had a quick check on me. All I can reply is "Pain pain". I began to slow down though still manage to run and at the 17KM mark near the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Keat Seong and Siok Bee ran pass me. This will be the start where my friends will one by one slowly pass me as next up will be Choi, Kevin and Lawrence.

Entering Jalan Ipoh at 19KM, I began to mix running and walking. Seow Ping caught up and seeing my posture all gone, she asked if I was all right. Told her that my legs were letting go before asking her to proceed on. I didn't want to slow her down, in fact no one should follow my pace.

At 22KM, at the Malaysia Tourism Centre, my left leg finally gave way. In fact, everything from waist down was gone as my right Piriformis muscle was pulling too. As the whole structure failed, I was reduced to walking here and was soon passed by Yee Hua and Loke. And shortly later, Lynn stopped beside me to have a check on me. Though painful, I tried to put up a smile telling her I'm a goner. It feels weird as I normally am the one who checks on her. This time, it's the other way around. Anyway, Michelle who was running with her offered me some energy gels but I politely decline as I was not tired at all. I was just in pain, real pain! Assured them that I will complete the race, before I shooed them off as it's just not right for them to wait for me. I tried here to restart my run to follow them, but my left leg didn't agree. A quick check on it, revealed a slightly swollen part on my rear left knee before Chee Kong who is running with fever too passed me. Continuing into Jalan Kia Peng, Foo and Jennifer passed me.

Took a short rest at the exit of Jalan P. Ramlee near the 26KM mark before Mohan came into the picture at Jalan Sultan Ismail in front of Pavilion. Had a good chat with him, and I'm really thankful to him by asking everybody around to cheer me on. Though feeling embarrassed, it did help to spur me on. He left me when I asked him to go on at the Standard Chartered Tower and into Jalan Raja Chulan I went. The start of bad traffic begins here as I'm just so surprised to see the number of vehicles on a Sunday morning. The fumes were just horrible and being at walking pace, it made me suffocate even more.

30KM mark is where China Town is, and this is where I first saw the water station here running out of fluid. My throat was dry here but with no water, what I can do is just to carry on passed Stadium Merdeka and into Jalan Hang Tuah. As there were ongoing construction works, road conditions were really bad. As I walk below the monorail track, the fear of the wheel dropping on my head was a worry as it did happen once many years ago when a test was being conducted.

Just after Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka, Alex caught up and helped me for a few good meters before proceeding on himself. He was in his cheerful self supporting everyone in need. Thanks Alex!

Into Jalan Damansara at the 34KM mark, vehicles were crawling behind each other contributing fumes to runners running or walking on the fast lane. I was suffocating here and just wanted to end this nightmare quickly. Eugene called me from behind and we walked and chatted together before hitting precious supply of water. I took 5 cups here and it felt really good. And I think the water did him good as he continued on.

Finally entering Jalan Sultan Salahudin at the 38KM mark, I know the end is coming. However, due to an uphill climb and also my walking pace, I will need a good 50 minutes to be on the safe side in allow myself to complete the race within 6 hours. And I only have 40 minutes here to do so as the earlier cushion I built from running is now gone. I forced myself to run here, and every time I started, the pain came and I can barely run 20 meters. So, I had to fast walk bearing the pain, grinding my teeth. And somehow for some reasons, I trip a few times here.

Arriving at Bank Negara, I can see the finish line though it's another 3KM to go where runners were taken to Jalan Raja Laut before making a u-turn into Jalan Tungku Abdul Rahman for the final stretch. I hasten up still walking after my watch reveals that I might not be able to meet the sub 6 hours time. And with 500M to go, I pleaded with my legs as I started to move them into running strides. Though I can move my right leg pretty normally, I had to drag my left sideways as I can't bend it. From a certain angle, it can be seen that I'm running diagonally but I didn't care.

Trying to run myself to the finish...

About 200M from the finish, I can hear voices from my friends calling my name. Though I did not look around fearing that I might trip on the uneven surface, I can recognised some of them from Lynn, Yee Hua, Choi, Lawrence, John and many others. Thanks my friends for the support as I finally crossed the finish line with a time of 05:59:02, a new personal worst for me! Haha...

Though if it wasn't enough, I had to endure another couple of hundred meters to collect my finisher's medal and shirt before joining up with my friends. I was glad to see all of them. I forced a smile out of myself even though everything waist down was in pain. I just didn't want to spoil the mood as completing a marathon regardless of time, is already an achievement.

Thanks Ben for his concern and CONGRATZ on a marvelous 3:13 marathon...

And so, somehow, someway against all odds, I manged to complete my seventh marathon or should I say half marathon, half walkathon. Slower and yet more painful compared to my first marathon, I felt wasted at the end. However, I do feel satisfied completing it. It's a sense of achievement. And at the moment of blogging this, I can't bend my left knee. The rear part is still swollen and I do hope it isn't an ACL damage. This is the price I'm paying for now despite knowing it. Dumb or dumber? You all can call me anything you all wish, as for most of you now witness the "other" side of me running, a painful one.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My 7th Hanging By A Thread...

By Frank

My upcoming 7th marathon, the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009 is coming in 2 weeks time. I've signed up on the very first day upon it's launch back in March 2009. Sadly to say, today on my current condition, I'm not fit to race it. I might be able to complete it, but I will risk further injuries. And the idea of backing out from it came yesterday evening after analysing through my runs.

Upon completion of my 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009 a couple of weeks ago, I actually felt good. I recuperated pretty fast and was ready to go again in a couple of days time though I did not run until the 26KM Malakoff Penang 2009 race. It was at this event that I found a problem on my left leg. First it was my hamstring, then came the patella. My hamstring isn't of any concern now as I felt it was just the tightness as most male runners will experience it. What worries me is my patella. Though I'm very confident that it isn't the dreaded Iliotibial Band syndrome that plagued me a few years back on the same leg, it may still be a runner's knee problem or maybe worst a fracture. And being me, I will not visit the doctor until something goes horribly wrong. I will try to tackle this problem myself first before jumping to my own deciding on further actions.

When I first suffered the fracture on my right patella back in January 2009, I was already told that my left leg will have to substain the extra pressure in bearing my body weight. Though I recovered pretty well from that and returned to running in just about 2 months time, my thoughts now is that I've rushed into things. I have my reasons back then being the 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009.

I've did my last long run yesterday running a distance of 24KM. Though I went pretty well for the first 15KM or so, things went awful after that just like my race at Penang the last weekend. The knocking sensation on my left patella was really uncomfortable as it felt like popping out from it's socket. I can feel it's vibration, even sometimes when not running and I'm not able to squat. My knee isn't reddish, but I can feel that it's slightly swollen when compared with my right.

I do really want to race in the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009. But with things turning out to be like this now, I may have to fore go it. To make me feel better, this event isn't on my hit list to perform well. I will still go however, as a support to my fellow friends.

But all hope is not lost yet. 2 weeks is the time that I have to find a way to tackle this problem. I've decided to stop training and to concentrate on rehab exercises. Plus, I will be taking higher dosage of supplements to help me from the inside. And some of you do know how fast I can recover at times. Therefore, I will leave it all to time and will eventually make my decision whether to run it 3 days before the actual race. In the time being, I'll just have my fingers and toes cross.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Post Sundown...

By Frank

It's been 10 days since I ran the 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009. The hype is slowly fading away but the event will go down into my history books as my first ultra-marathon that I ran in, and completed it on my first attempt. Proud I am, but life goes on as usual for me. Therefore, I would like to sign off from my Project 84 entries with this one last entry.

A post Sundown dinner was held yesterday together with my friends from THG (Team Hyper Gila) at a Peranakan restaurant called Mum's Place at Damansara Perdana. Those who came are Lynn, Jennifer, Michelle, Pui San, Shih Ming, Dr. Ray, Raymond, Tony and Victor. Stories were shared about the adventure I had together with Victor. Questions were asked and in anyway I can, I tried to inspire them to actually give it a go at next year's edition. I believe all of them will be able to complete it, maybe with ease to some of them too. One thing though, I was glad was that "certain" questions weren't asked as I do somehow prefer to keep them to myself, well at least for now.

Back to the dinner, a 7 course dinner was served which includes chicken, beef, vegetables, bean curd and the signature cencaru fish in petai. Some dishes were kind of spicy and we all certainly had a "good" time munching them down. Some faces went red, some perspired and myself having a leaky nose struggling to put the dishes into my mouth with my yet to heal wound on my lips. I actually bit myself on my lips a few days back. However, all in all, we all enjoyed it while chatting ourselves away till the restaurant closes.

Thank you all for the great time...

To the 84KM run now. Yes, it was tough and to make it tougher is the conditions and the route of the Sundown Marathon 2009. But it doesn't take a crazy person to do it. Honestly speaking, I wasn't actually ready for it, but when I stood at the starting line during race day, I thought back of many things from my friends, training and so on. Though physical strength is much needed, I relied on my mental strength to help pull me through. My tag line was an extremely important one which fueled my mind throughout the entire race. It kept me away from negative thoughts even when I cramped up as early as at the 24KM mark. Besides that, I actually enjoyed the race, especially at the second loop. Personally for me, running an ultra-marathon for the first time especially, isn't about timing. It's all about competing with ourselves and to complete it. And to help other runners out whether friends or strangers, it's really a feeling that I can only describe as "satisfaction".

Anyhow, here you go. A closing entry for my first ever Project 84. Though still undecided if I will ever to take up the distance again, I do hope it will be able to inspire many to actually take it up, at least for once. It's really a good experience and all you have to do is to BELIEVE!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Malakoff 26KM, Penang 2009...

Event: Malakoff 26KM, Penang 2009
Venue: Taman Perbandaran Penang, Penang
Date: 7 June 2009
Time: 5.30am
Distance: 26KM
Shoe: Nike LunaRacer+
By Frank

A 26KM run a week after my 84KM Sundown Ultra Marathon 2009? Possible? Yes it is, but a rather suffering one though.

6 June 2009. The "Makanoff" starts.
The word "Makanoff" is a self-created word which means "Off to eat", which is rather suitable for a trip up to Penang with food all around. Therefore, the following first part of this entry will somehow resemble a food blog instead of a running one.

The journey up north to the island of Penang started as early as 5am when I met up with Victor at the Petronas Station at Damansara Jaya. The drive up was a comfortable one with smooth traffic flow and in 4 hours later, we found ourselves at Penang. Met up with Chin Chin and Lynn, our tour guides immediately upon arrival at Taman Perbandaran Penang (Youth Park), the race venue. And with this, we started our food trip.


"Ban Chang Kueh"...

First stop was at Pulau Tikus for "Ban Chang Kueh" (Chinese Peanut pancake) and a taste of their rather different "Wan Tan" noodles. The "Bang Cheng Kueh" was good as the fragrance of the brown sugar was unique to the taste bud. Next, it was back to Taman Perbandaran Penang as the girls needed to collect their race kits which somehow surprised me. I didn't know that both of them were running. I do not know how many times have I done this, but here goes again. SIGH... My race kits along with Victor's were already collected back in Kuala Lumpur thanks to our friendly Pacesetters friend, Angie. Thanks a lot! Hung around meeting some of their friends and running mates from the Waterfall Weekend Warrior group. I even met up with Chin Leong whom both of us had e-mailed each other before but yet to meet up. And also not forgetting a trial session on Newton shoes. I did not try them on though, so off I went snapping photos.

Chin Leong's Miniature Pinscher came to collect race kit only to realise the run is only for the 2 leggeds...

Trialing the Newtons...

Newtons and sexy strong legs...

Next stop was at the popular Swatow Lane food court, famous for their fruit "ice kacang". It is a must have for me ever since Choi introduced it to me last November. It was heaven sent for the hot weather we are experiencing in Malaysia now. Loaded with plenty of fruits from apple, jackfruit and papaya to toppings like red beans, corn and much more, it kept the heat at bay. Well, at least for a moment. And it was here that I found my favourite yam cake which was really good. Creamy and fragrant, I wish I had it back in Kuala Lumpur. However, I only ordered 2 piece which somehow didn't really satisfy me. But it was fine, as you will find out why on race day. Read on...

The famous Swatow Lane fruit "ice kacang"...

Absolutely delicious Swatow Lane yam cake...

Next stop was along Hindu Street at the Chowrasta market area for a unique drink call "Ais Tingkap" which meant Window Sherbet. Before arriving, we had to cross the busy Penang Street and it was here, both the girls taught me the art of crossing it, the Penang way! One must be daring! Haha... Back to the drink, it was some syrup based drink with coconut flesh and "frog egg" sagos in it. Unique yet no funny taste is how I describe it. Refreshing indeed and and most importantly, it was ice cold as the 4 of us were screaming under the hot weather.

Refreshing "Ais Tingkap"...

As the weather was still blazing hot and seeing the tired faces on both our tour guides, I didn't have the heart to allow them to bring us around any more longer. Therefore, it's back to Taman Perbandaran Penang once again as they needed to collect Lesley's race kit before we parted ways.

At mid noon, I checked into Sunway Hotel in the heart of Georgetown and immediately checked out the small and under equipped gym. Decided to give my arms, shoulders and core a little workout here as was feeling kind of "itchy" from work break the last few days. As sweat started to drench me, I decided to head back for a good shower before a short rest and it's off for dinner at 6pm.

Penang from the Sunway Hotel Georgetown's 15th floor...

Took me an hour just to get to Evergreen Hotel at Gurney Drive thanks to the horrible traffic. Met up with Luc and we had our dinner at the over-hyped Gurney hawker centre. As the place was crowded with people and I was lazy to queue for food, I just had yam cake and "muah chee" (glutinous rice ball in peanut). However, I had a good time catching up with Luc as 2 weeks of not meeting up seems like a long time for us.

With dinner done, it's back to the hotel for rest.

7 June 2009. After "Makanoff", it's Malakoff racing time.
Typical me woke up as early as 2am. While Victor is still sound asleep, I did all my usual pre-race preparations from having breakfast to showering. By 4am, both of us were ready and we left to secure a good parking spot in front of Waterfall Hotel. No waterfall was seen though.

Made our way to the race venue and eventually met up with Lesley. Making our ways into the very dark park, we soon found ourselves with Chin Chin and Lynn at the field. Did a few warm ups and light stretches before checking into the starting area where I met up With Raymond Ng whom suppose to meet up for dinner yesterday.

This race wasn't on my hit list, and therefore I decided to take it easy However, since Lynn was running, I just have to make sure she runs it the smart way, not injuring herself any further. And so, I quietly sneak somewhere behind Lynn and decided to tailgate her. And at 5.30am sharp, runners were let loose from Taman Perbandaran Penang. Lynn was already on race pace and navigated through the crowd of runners brilliantly. As I was never good with navigating through the crowd, I just have to keep up the pace and maintain my sight on her. She was running real fast and I have to admit I had a little trouble trying to keep up as my "engine" wasn't really up to temperature yet.

As I made my way out of the park and into Jalan Mount Eskine, I was greeted by hills and more hills. Not an easy start but "If that how things are, it's how things are", I told myself. The route took runners past some spooky cemetery with dogs howling in the dark and it was here that I met up with Lee, who is part of the Waterfall Weekend Warriors too. Chatted for a while before Luc gave me a stare from the side as he started from the back. The stare he gave me was actually pretty frightening though. Haha... I followed his pace, still maintaining my sight on Lynn. At about the 5KM mark at Tanjong Bungah, I noticed she was slowing down and her running style was not her usual self. I passed her to have a check on her and she assured me that she was all right. Although I have doubts on it, I just carried on though I don't deny that I did slow down paying attention to her shadow on the road. The further we ran, the louder each of her strikes became and I know she was already dragging her feet.

Arriving at Jalan Tanjong Bungah which is along the coastal road, I started to think back of the previous trips I made to Penang with my college friends a few years back. The place has changed a lot and even the hotel we stayed at the last time, Hotel Tanjong Bungah has been renovated. It was certainly a good recap of the good old days. However, my mind was still on my friend. But soon, I spotted Luc walking on the pavement. I ran to him only to find out that his hamstring was acting up on him and he decided to call it day. Though I was saddened by it, I was glad he made the decision to quit. I was hoping the same for both Chin Chin and Lynn too. Shortly later, side stitch got me on my right abdomen. Slowed down and I just jog until it went away. Then my left hamstrings felt weird. I ran along with it, performing some "back kicks" to help cope with it.

Shortly later at approximately the 13KM mark, I arrived at Gurney Drive. Enjoyed the scenery here but all out of a sudden, the smell of rubbish invaded my nostrils! It wasn't a good moment but soon, I was rewarded by the smell of "Bak Kut Teh" (herbal pork ribs). What a place to run at! Lynn was still pushing on here despite pain written all over her. Was getting a little worried but knowing her, I know she won't stop running. And so, we made our way into the city via Jalan Sultan Ahamd Shah after hydrating ourselves at the 15KM refreshement station.

The stretch here was another nice place to run as it took me past some heritage sites and the ferry terminal. And it was here that Tsen, another runner from the Waterfall Weekend Warriors past me. Not forgetting that I saw Raymond Ng and Lesley making their return on the opposite side. There were really fast! I finally arrive at the roundabout to make my return trip at the 18KM mark. Saw Victor at the opposite side and not forgetting Siew Swan and Guan Choon too. I miscalculated the next refreshment station's distance and took my PowerBar Gel here which left me with a sticky mouth.

I arrived at the 20KM mark in less than 2 hours but it was here that things went awfully wrong. It was the final 6KM at my 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009 that I found my groove, but it was here, the final 6KM of the Malakoff 26KM, Penang Run 2009 that I lost it. Though my legs didn't give way, it got really stiff and heavy and my left hamstrings was on the verge of giving up. Lynn was too slowing down a lot.

I dragged my legs as I ran and somewhere around the 22KM mark, Victor passed me. I asked him about Lynn's location before he took off. I thought of following him, but I just couldn't engage another gear. Then it was somewhere around Jalan Macalister that I had problem crossing the busy street. Though I tried the Penang way of crossing it, I was just too slow as the cars came zooming past me. I eventually crossed it before hitting the junction and made my way into Taman Perbandaran Penang, although this time from the back way. It was a climb into the park with bends along the way. A couple of hundred meters to the finish line, Kenny and Raymond was at the side cheering. Raymond was going "Go Ultraman!" and all I can reply him was that "Ultraman's chest is blinking red light already". Haha... And just before the finish line, Sam was there cheering the same way as Raymond did. I finally crossed the finish line at 02:33:25 just ahead of Lynn who arrived shortly later.

Did a quick check on Lynn as it was no suprise that her ankle ball was a little swollen. Waited for all our friends to return while "patching up" the pain incurred along the race. Chin Chin soon returned and was glad that she did, though things didn't really look too good for her either. Fortunately, the first aid tent was just around the corner and this gave her space for her to rest at.

When everyone is back and much better again, we then walk around the park taking some photos along the way before settling down at the amphitheatre for the prize giving ceremony. Lesley was crowned champion in the 26KM Women Open Category while Lynn was placed fifth. Congratulations to the both of them. And when all is done, we made our way back and it was back to the hotel for me and Victor for a quick shower before checking out.

Top 5 finishers from the Women Open Category. 4th was missing though...

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

As it was still early, I visited Swatow Lane food court again with Victor where we had our lunch. Remember I mentioned earlier that I didn't have enough of the yam cake here. Well, I ordered another 2 pieces this time. Haha... Filing up our stomachs, we made our way to Queensbay Mall. Just made ourselves busy at the mall while waiting for Lynn and about 4pm, she was ready and I picked her up shortly on the mainland just after the Penang Bridge for a 5 hours long drive back to Kuala Lumpur thanks to the heavy volume of traffic along the highway.

Back to the run, though I did enjoyed scenic route, I did not enjoy my run as my legs just weren't into in, despite having the energy to do it. Even an easy run wasn't easy as the final 6KM somehow felt that I have just done an ultra-marathon. From the start, all I wanted was to make sure the safety of my friends and to get over with the run quickly, which I'm really glad now.

And before signing off this entry, I wish to thank both Chin Chin and Lynn for being such wonderful tour guides bringing myself and Victor around Penang. Despite being a bit rush, I really enjoyed the trip as most important is the company of friends. I am already looking forward to my next Penang trip!