Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Look Back At Year 2015...

By Frank

In terms of running, year 2014 was a good one for me. And when I signed off my 2014 blog entry, I foresee greater challenges ahead for year 2015. And in a blink of an eye, after covering 3,018KM of running distance, I've to say that I had an AWESOME GREAT 2015! Yes, it was certainly full of obstacles and thus I faced them as challenges rather than problems and I've to give myself a pat on my own shoulders for in my very own standards, I think I managed them really well.

Although I was "around", I tried to stay away from the "poisons" from the social media world such as those in Facebook. Too many attention seekers, blamers and "IFters" (a term I use to describe those who always ask IF). Action speaks louder than words and besides that, I rather let my own body and of course legs to do my humble runs. And of course, I will always remember the 2 insults of "Why are you so slow?" and "How are you going to run Comrades like this?" that was thrown at me back last year. Rather than bearing it as a grudge, I guess that will be my driving force. Anyhow, here's a look back from month to month.

The year started with my contract renewal with Saucony who will be supporting me for my third year running which I am really grateful of, for they are a nice bunch of people to work with. But the joy was overshadowed when I discovered my general health wasn't what it seems to be and that was definitely, an alarming wake up call. Upon receiving the news, I was then constantly reminding myself that I need to fill my running "bucket list" as soon as possible and that paved my big plans for the year ahead and also the following year.

Anyway, despite the news, I moved on continuing to pursue my next big challenge, which is to complete my first 100KM trail at the Vibram Hong Kong 100. I continued with my fine form from the previous year pushing my momentum through but although I managed to complete it earning a bronze trophy, it showed how frail I was as my race tumbled halfway into it due to a resurgence of migraine. Nevertheless, I took it as a success and part of "bucket list" was fulfilled.

Completing my first 100KM trail at Hong Kong 100.

And moving on from there, it was all about my fourth Comrades Marathon. My bar was set pretty high this time in an attempt to run a 10 hours or better time at my favourable "Up" run. In me, I knew it was really going to be tough but trust and faith was put on me and hence I had to believe on what was given. After all, to try is better than giving up straight. I took on the challenge and followed my training regime given as closely as possible but at the same time being flexible and most importantly smart about it. And with lots of thoughts in mind, the training kept me occupied and away from thinking too much.

I had 2 long distance races in March to help out with my training which was my first visit to Gunung Nuang for the ultra and also the usual Twilight Ultra Challenge at Singapore. Did considerably ok for the former but didn't do well at the latter due to sleep issues. And in the midst of the training, I was joined by Zijill who will be attempting her first Comrades this year. We trained together and it certainly help us got through the tough back to back runs at least "easier".

There was only 1 event for the month of April which was the King of Bukit Larut 26KM. The rest of the days was as the usual training. As the event neared, I felt a little regretted signing up for it after seeing the very steep profile. It wasn't the ascend that I was worried of, but rather the descent where I was worried about picking up and injury a month before Comrades. But still, I went for it putting full use to my uphill training, and tackling it extra carefully during the descent. And in all, I was surprised I still managed a fourth placing!

May came and it was Comrades month. But before leaving for South Africa, together with CARIF (now Cancer Research Malaysia), I launched my first book entitled "From Cancer to Ultramarathons" which I've written partly at Aberdeen, Scotland during my visit there last year. A biography about myself while stating some facts about cancer, the book was dedicated to my friends, family and those who had to do battle the disease.

My first book, From Cancer To Ultramarathons.

All was well leading to the race as I took extra care of myself. And unlike previous years, I did not fall sick this time. And when Comrades Marathon finally happened on 31 May, my body finally let me down. Although I ran my fastest Comrades, it was only a 10 minutes improvement only, and certainly really shy of the 10 hours target. I knew what happened but it certainly wasn't a question of "If". But in the end, it was still a memorable Comrades as I had a photo finish together with Zijill followed closely by David behind us.

On my way to my fourth Comrades finish with Zijill.

After Comrades, it was another eye opener for me as I visited Namibia as part of the post Comrades reward trip in June. Was joined by Malaysian friends residing in Aberdeen and also met new ones like Edmund, Serene, Hong Jie and Luke. Felt sick for the first couple of days and didn't do much as the weather was really cold during the night at the Namib Desert. But once I was well, it was all business as usual as the trip was certainly a very beautiful one. And to end the month, was the Back 2 Endurance 12 hours looping event at Botanic Gardens by Jeff. Managed again to hit the Comrades distance before taking a short break in July.

Unforgettable trip to Namibia.

In terms of running, July's mileage took a dip. However, it did help in recovering the tired body and legs of mine from the constant pounding from the first half of the year and hence I guess I deserve this rest. But rest I did not as a very dear friend had to undergo a surgery for a recurrence of a knee injury. Although still recovering at time of writing this, I really hope it will be soon before we can hit the roads and trails again together. And I mean SOON...

August came next and I was back in action at the Kuching Marathon, where I started my streak of sub 4 hours marathon last year. However, it wasn't meant to be this year as I lost the "feel" to run when I heard that I could not use it as my Comrades qualifier due to change of qualifying date. However, I still managed to complete the run comfortably with no intention to use it as a qualifier and also had a great time catching up with Cham and Zijill while exploring Kuching.

Fitness wasn't affected from my rest the past few weeks as I carried on into the month of September. However, the annual haze returned and it was extremely bad this year that most of my outdoor long runs had to be cancelled. Instead, I was doing shorter runs indoors. And moving towards the end of the month was the Vietnam Mountain Marathon tackling the 70KM distance. A beautiful but brutally tough race where I fell 8 times due to bad weather and muddy terrain, it was indeed an opener. Nevertheless, I had fun at the race and also visiting the country for the first time which makes me want to return next year, since after all they are introducing the 100KM distance for the first time.

Moments before my first fall at the paddy fields at Vietnam Mountain Marathon.

October came but the haze remained. Most runs were indoor as I waited and trained patiently for the third week to arrive. And when it did, I finally made my trip to Scotland. It was a great trip meeting up friends there and also running a couple of ultra distances there. And this time, I took the opportunity to explore Scotland and also making a short trip to Liverpool to visit the football club I visit. But towards the end of nearly 3 weeks, I found out out that Scotland has just too much to offer that 3 weeks was not enough. Next year again perhaps As Ben Nevis remains unconquered due to bad weather this time.

Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC.

With Chee Kong halfway up Ben Nevis.

I was basically still in Scotland in the month of November. To be exact, I was there till the middle of the month before I made a quick trip to Istanbul, Turkey for a short holiday and also for my Comrades qualifier at the Istanbul Marathon. Almost didn't make it though due to cabin crew strike at Lufthansa which affected my flight but was really glad Turkish Airlines came to the rescue. Expected to qualify but to my surprise, I ran my second best marathon time there. And upon returning back home, I then took on the Putrajaya 100KM where although I ran a good run, it raised an alarm when I discovered blood in my urine during the late stages of the run. However, all is well.

Comrades qualifier at Istanbul dusted!

December is traditionally my rest month and I did just that keeping runs to minimal. Did run the Melaka River Marathon though as part of keeping my fitness in check and besides, just need to get out of town for a while. However, leading to wards the year end was a sad one which will be mentioned in the paragraphs below later.

Overall, year 2015 has been great in terms of running. The health scare was probably my wake up as I began my quest to fulfill my running bucket list. I ran better, enjoyed myself more and had the chance visit Namibia, to run in the mountains of Vietnam and also re-visit beautiful Scotland. And also yes, I finally also threw in the letter resigning from my workplace. Yes, you read this right. I've actually resigned! I am moving on from this hole in mid next year.

Towards the end of the year, it was really painful to witness a friend suffering while battling the big C, sarcoma to be exact which is under the same cancer group type I battled when I was a kid. He was indeed a fighter and a champion even when he breath his last. But nothing ends, it's just the start of a whole new chapter at some other place where we will meet again one day. And for the time being, I will miss you. Thank you Super Kew for everything. #FTT

Our last mile with Kew. #FTT...

On the more cheerful note, I get to know more in person of friends around me and also making new ones in the process. Some of them includes Choon Yuen, Jeanie, Yan Leng, Piew, Zijill and Yew Khuay. And not forgetting my enlarged Scottish family too from Lorna, Minty, Kirsty, Elaine, Donald, Myles. Bill, Steven, Alan, Ross, Jeni, Ruth, Wullie, Chris, Daniel, Patricia, Alison, Ian and Sandra, and many more.

Part of the "mountain" family.

Part of my Scottish family.

Farewell 2015.

Moving forward, I foresee 2016 to be a great year in running as I seek to fill up my running bucket list to "maximum capacity" as I challenge myself to my longest and coldest trail run ever (in my own books), the iconic and the long one at the highlands of Scotland, a distance on trails that I have never attempt before. But before that, it will be half a decade for myself and Chee Kong as we take on Comrades for our fifth time in a row.

My commitments for 2016.

But most importantly, I hope that 2016 will be another trouble free year for everyone as we seek challenges and fun in our daily lives. After all, we are aging gracefully each day and thus should really enjoy every moment of it. Happy New Year everyone!

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Monday, December 21, 2015

International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015...

Event: International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015
Venue: A'Famosa Fort, Melaka
Date: 20 December 2015
Time: 4.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (41.5KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony
By Frank

This is probably the longest name of a running event that I know of, so let's just call it Melaka River Marathon here. I signed up for this marathon not because I wanted to run it but rather I needed to run it. Despite deciding to give the fast Saucony Type A5 a go since it's been a while since I wore it, am not expecting a fast result from it for it's just 3 weeks after my 100KM at Putrajaya but rather as a long run as part of my ongoing training for my long one next year. Besides, I am going to run with my hydration vest which will weight me down. But it's something I needed to do for the long one will require this. And to explore Melaka on foot will be rather interesting since it's been many years since I last visited.

I actually booked the accommodation first before deciding to register for this event as Ken agreed to take part in the half marathon. Not many of our friends took part as the race was only announced a month before. However, due to the generous cash prize being given out, it attracted a pretty huge number of fast runners especially the Africans residing here.

Race pack with 2 "tasty" junk food.

Anyway, Ken volunteered to drive and we departed from Tropicana City Mall on Saturday morning. Drive was very smooth even after entering Melaka. It only took us less than 2 hours and we were already at the race pack collection site. Was a low key event with a short queue which didn't take too long. Once done here, we proceeded to Jonker Street for lunch at one of the chicken rice ball shop before checking into our hotel at Fenix Inn, just nearby to the A'Formosa Fort at Melaka Raya where the race start is. Was a rather clean and basic hotel with all the necessity. Nothing too fancy, and just enough for us to rest in. Rested and chill for a while before it's off to try out the so call first and original crepe at Nadeje which was just nearby.

No trip to Malacca is without chicken rice ball. Brown one is yam rice ball.

Ken's strawberry crepe at the background while mine was the chocolate banana.

Walked around Melaka Raya checking out the shopping malls and of course the race venue before heading back to rest up again. Dinner was pretty good at Fat Boy's Burger nearby. As per the Scottish pre-race tradition, bacon and beer is a must and that is what I included in my order. Hehehe.... However, the mood soon became somber when I received news back in KL that the condition of a running mate and friend who is fighting the big C has deteriorated.

Fat Basterd with pork, lamb, bacon and beet root. Not forgetting some "hydration".

Light were off at about 9PM as I tried to close my eyes which I think I managed to. Was up by around 1.15AM which gives me plenty of time to get ready since the race venue is just within walking distance. Ken was awake too though his race will start 2 hours after mine. Breakfast was simple mung bean bun with black coffee. However, the usual pre-race ritual didn't go very smoothly, probably due to the timing as it's been a while since a race started this early for me. I left the hotel at about 3.15AM but only to turn back as the "feeling" to visit the potty came. Was glad that came and the deposit was done which leaves me without any worry. Phew...

Anyway, a slight drizzle was felt as I arrived at the race venue. Soon it became a heavy downpour as everyone seek shelter under the organiser's canopy. And 1 thing I must point out was that as runners was seeking shelter under the canopy, some inconsiderate technical or committee members which are part of the organiser was smoking and vaping. For God's sake, this is a running event! What a shame!

As I waited, I thought of my friend as a second bib with the hashtag #FTT was hung on my waist. I also thought of my race strategy too and finally decided to actually run comfortably till the 25KM mark before using the run walk tactic to see if I can complete the run in 4.30 hours. The rain was reduced back to a drizzle with 15 minutes before the race start. Someone must been praying hard for it to stop! And I was glad too, to escape the second hand smoke as I went out to the open to meet up with some familiar faces like Cikgu Syed, Yim and Jeff.

There was a race briefing by the race director before the start, a first time I am seeing this for a road marathon. I guess the lack of information on the race website and also there was no race pamphlet or e-mail given out contributed to this. And apparently, there is a slight change of route near to the finish. I was joking with Cikgu Syed about the final distance being reduced and it was overheard by the race director in where he assured it will remain the same after some adjustment. All right, we took his words for it but let's see.

The race started 7 minutes late at 4.07AM according to my watch as less than 300 marathon runners took to the Melaka Roads. Honestly speaking, I don't really know where I am running at hence I need to apologies in advance for lack of race blog info and experience. And this is really going to be my shortest race report.

The first 10KM or so was ran within Melaka Raya and city center which takes runners around famous places like Jonker Street, Stadthyus, Eye of Melaka, Melaka River and also the museum. Although it was dark, the lights emitted from the Christmas decoration did help to brighten the surroundings a little and also to showcase what Melaka has to offer. As for me, I had to keep my eyes on the road to navigate through the puddle of waters as I settled into my comfortable running pace. Legs were a little heavy but other than that, everything was actually in fact fine. The first water station at the 5KM mark and as expected, only water was served. I was all right with it as I do not take isotonic drinks during marathon distance, but I foresee complains from the majority of runners.

After a quarter of the distance done, I spotted Cikgu Syed talking a walk and tried to pull him along. Not sure if he did to try as I did not look back and continue my exit from the city center into even darker places heading towards the outskirts. I was cruising along comfortably but yet at the same time being aware of my surroundings as although there were not many cars yet, some drivers was spotted beating the traffic lights and some ignoring instructions from the enforcers. Truly Malaysians!

The distance was passing rather very slowly for me probably due to runners around me. There was none ahead and none behind. I was indeed lonely but the thoughts of my friend reminded me something else as I continued on my journey to the finish heading towards Klebang if not mistaken.

Fast forwarding to the 25KM mark where I successfully arrived on the dot at 2:30 hours, I switch to the run walk tactic as per intended despite legs still feeling not too bad. If not mistaken, I think I am somewhere near the coastal road at where the Straits of Malacca is as I began run walking as I remembered it was long straight stretch. And as expected, it was the walking part that slowed me down as I am not a good walker. In fact, my walking is too slow that my leg muscles will slowly become stiff. I really need to put some effort in trying to improve on this for Minty did mention that a huge part of success for the long one will require the runner to walk fast.

29KM is where the day began to break as I remember I stop to help a guy whose toe nail is starting to drop off due to shoe tightness. He stopped at a Malay food stall munching on a curry puff by the street while another runner was buying curry puff too for breakfast. I was offered too but had to politely decline. The traffic began to grow heavier too. With lots of road works, road dividers and barricades were set up which leaves minimal space for me. Though most drivers were considerate, there will me one or two who will be monsters as a Johorean car came really close to me near Semabok area.

Passed the Malacca Hospital and a short stint on a highway before arriving at Banda Hilir near to Ujong Pasir. Traffic was already very heavy as I got here but still similar to my early stage of the run. There was nobody ahead nor behind me. The first glimpse of runners only came when I arrived the the junction heading towards the Malacca Straits Mosque. But they were not marathon runners, but instead from the half, quarter and fun distance.

Made my u-turn at the end and soon spotted Jeff on the opposite side as I continued on towards Melaka Raya. Traffic was very heavy as after all Malacca is a tourist state. There were traffic enforcers here but sadly their reaction was unlike those earlier for they are slow. I had to rely on myself to navigate safely through the junctions and street crossings to avoid appearing on tomorrow's newspaper stating a runner was knockdown by a car at Malacca.

But anyhow, eventually I managed to successfully arrive back to where I first started the run earlier. Happily running towards the finish gantry when I took a sneak peak on my watch to realised that the distance is in fact under distance! It was almost 1KM short. Well, so much for the assurance from the race director earlier in the morning and I was gad I did not choose this as a Comrades qualifier. Anyhow, a satisfying training long run it is as I completed it in 4:41:16 hours with a position of 25 out of 46 for the men's international category. There was in fact a men's local category. And most importantly, I dedicate this run to a true fighter, someone I call my friend. #FTT


Linger around the finish area and soon met up with Ken who was directed the wrong way for his half marathon where he ended up running about 2KM extra. On our walk back to the hotel, we passed McDonalds which was the most convenient recovery and hence stop for a meal before continuing back to clean up and rest for a moment. We maximised our check out time to rest up for the drive back later but that will be before our tasty Peranakan lunch at Nyonya Manis Sayang. And thanks a bunch to Ken for volunteering to drive for this trip. It may only be a couple of hours drive, but am sure he was tired himself too.

Personally for myself, though I was "late" for 11 minutes, maybe even close to 20 minutes considering it is under distance, I can't ask for more since I know this isn't intended to be fast run or one to break records. But at least I managed to identify my problem of walking fast, especially with a hydration very that weights me down. It will be challenge to improve this area but it's one that needs to be done over the next 5 or 6 months. Therefore, most of you will be seeing me running and walking with a hydration vest on me in the next few months, even at shorter distance too.

Anyway, despite announcing and opening registration only for a month, the event managed to draw a fairly reasonably well number of runners especially the stronger ones, probably due to the cash prizes too. And in terms of the quality, I think they actually managed to pull off a surprise here as I thought they actually did fine. Not exactly good, but not bad and with certainly rooms for improvements. The organising committee will need to do a fair post mortem on this edition and hopefully can turn "Not bad" to "Good" or even "Great" for the third edition. But anyway, here are my thoughts:

- To announce and open registration at least 3 months before race day.
- Be more informative on website and answer to queries on social media. Facebook site seems almost dead and most queries were left unanswered.
- 5KM for refreshment stations is too far apart for novice runners. Perhaps 3KM will be ideal, or max at 4KM as it may take up to an hour at walking pace just to cover 5KM considering sore legs. Sponging stations can be combined with refreshment stations and need not be given at each stations too.
- Don't recall seeing any post race food except for RO water being served at finish area. Can consider providing light snacks and drinks such as fruits like banana.
- Excellent distance markers at every refreshment and sponging stations. Occasionally distance can be seen on the road too via chalk/spray which is a good thing.
- Traffic enforcers were excellent and friendly, at least most of them. I tried to thank everyone as I crossed each intersections, junctions or places where the are manning and most actually acknowledged! And I must say they are pretty smartly dressed too.
- To have medical personnel moving around the race route for faster response time in case of any mishaps since runners were running on open roads with vehicles coming really close.
- To improve on traffic control by placing cones or barricades at "hot spots" area. May be a challenge since Malacca is known for traffic problems but nobody wants to wait for action until something unwanted happens.
- To ban smoking and vaping at the run area including refreshment stations along the way for it's a running event, a sport that is towards promoting an active healthy lifestyle. Besides, smoking is ban within Jonker Street so I don't see this is hard to implement. Just some education needed for these inconsiderate people.
- To maintain the 5 hours cut-off time for marathon instead of secretly giving a bonus 1 hour. That's what I heard about the secret bonus. Personally, 5 hours cut off is the way it should be. If runners complain, they should train for it. Don't take the distance, organisers and volunteers for granted. But just in case if you read me wrong, I am not discouraging runners especially the novice not to attempt the marathon distance at all. In fact, if one does sign up for it, do train well and for those who don't or those unfortunate to be faced with some unforeseen circumstances, do be prepared to be call to withdraw from the race at a certain distance or be swept by the sweeper bus. Ego aside, just take it as a training run.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Putrajaya 100KM 2015...

Event: Putrajaya 100KM 2015
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 28 November 2015
Time: 7.00AM
Distance: 100KM (104.6KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Zealot ISO
By Frank

To run a very hot 100KM 2 weeks after my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul doesn't seem to be a good idea. With sore legs, tired body and facing jet lag, to run the Putrajaya 100 which I got lost and suffered badly last year, it would have been another disaster in the making. But still, I wanted to run it to see the improvements being made for it's an event organised by the good people over at Team Pacat. And it's an event to remember our late friend, Abang Zack who left us a few months back.

Though I managed to cure the jet lag a week after returning home, I did not know if my legs and body will rebel against me or not. Sure they do feel fine and I kept them going by doing light workouts at the gym, but it will be another story during run day on torturous conditions like the weather.

Anyhow, although I returned home from work early, I couldn't get myself to sleep and only managed an hour or so before I needed to prepare myself to get to the run venue early before 5AM to deposit my drop bag and to collect my race pack. I had a light breakfast at home and while on my slow drive there, I bought myself a set of McDonald's breakfast to slowly munch down while waiting for the run to start at 7AM.

Arrived with 15 minutes before the "cut-off" time to deposit our drop bag, I was delighted to see how strict the organisers were, in ensuring all mandatory items are brought along by the runners via a simple "lay them out" on the table procedure. If any participant is found without any of them, they will not be allowed to collect their bib which in the end, not allowed to run. Mine went smoothly, before I returned to the car to rest while having my second breakfast.

With breakfast settled and feeling energetic, I don't think I am able to rest more and hence geared up and returning to linger with the others. I opt for the Saucony Zealot ISO instead of the Kinvara series as I thought it will be a great send off for this pair which had hit 800KM worth of running. Race briefing 15 minutes before the start by Arman followed by the national anthem and the runners were soon flagged off beginning at 7AM in a wave of 20 starting with the 20 runners doing the 160KM.

Zhen Yang and Barkley taking their "bromance" to another level with a 100KM.

Ken out supporting the runners this year.

Armed with the Garmin eTrex which I borrowed from Roy just in case I get lost again like last year, I started my run in the third wave. Plan was similar like Istanbul, to cruise comfortably within the aerobic zone. This is exceptionally critical as the heat will really mess it up should I enter the anaerobic zone. I was the first runner to lead my wave and hence no bottle neck as I made myself to the Gemilang Bridge. Zhen Yang and Barkley who started earlier was taking their own sweet time "walking" on the bridge and a quick selfie with them before I zoomed off to where Ken was ahead. Selfie with him too as I continued my way to the first u-turn point near the Prime Minster's office. Everything fell into place pretty quickly and I was comfortable with it. The u-turn was after a flight of stairs but what surprised me was the signage was telling the runners to continue running straight. Informed the volunteer there who was assigned to inform the runners to turn about it and he seems bewildered with it too. I hope I don't overshoot this turn when I return later at night though.

Getting cheeky with a slice of Nuttella sandwich.

Anyway, I cruise along the core island and soon arrived at the first check point. Took a Nuttella sandwich and a few sips of water before I continued on. Heard a familiar voice ahead asking me to hasten up. It was Hong Chew and she was asking me to run ahead to where Ben was as she wanted to take a photo of the both of us. A photo with Ben who is running the 160KM distance is hard to resist even if I was munching on a sandwich. Hehe...

With Ben who is running the 160KM distance.

Continued my journey with Ben before I was join by Jeff and Yew Khuay. As the path along the lake has plenty of junctions, I relied on the eTrex. The route was to bring us to a park just behind the Prime Minister's office and it indeed was an eye opener for me as I've never been to this part of Putrajaya. Was cruising with Jeff and Yew Khuay, while Ben was happily tagging behind.

As I entered the park, I found myself with Yew Khuay only as Ben and Jeff has fallen slightly behind. Although this is my first time I am running with Yew Khuay, I know all about his strength and what he is capable of doing.For those who don't know him (although I will be very surprised if you don't know him), he is an uprising young and talented runner, and I am just happy plus honoured to be running with him at this stage cruising comfortably in a 6.30KM/H pace.

Great to have Yew Khuay for company.

We headed for the u-turn which was manned by a volunteer. Though there was u-turn signage there, it was really small, probably the size of an A4 paper and I worried that most runners will miss it especially during the later stage at night when I believe there will not be a volunteer here. Nevertheless, we both made the turn and soon spotted a group of runners making a wrong turn. Told them of the correct way and we moved on, back to the first check point which doubles up as the second. Took in some dates and water, a quick visit to the loo and we are off again towards the third check point at Taman Cabaran.

Check point 3 is 5KM maybe 6KM away making it the closest among all. However, after running along the Pullman Hotel lakeside, it involves a little climb at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) which should take the toll of some muscle. Arrived safely there with Yew Khuay and some familiar faces like Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo and Si Main was there.

Wonderful shot by Maxon as I prepare to leave Check Point 3.

After the closest in distance next will be the longest as the fourth check point is some 13KM away and we had to run along the torturous hot and humid freeway. And before doing so, both of us made sure we hydrated well before making our journey. I had an extra bottle stored in my drop bag here but to my surprise, there were all still in the bag unpacked! I wonder what was the volunteer doing since the bags left the start as early as 5AM! Told them to quickly unpack them after retrieving mine as the majority of runners will soon arrive. Fill all my bottle up and off I went off with Yew Khuay.

Jeff and Ben weren't far behind us as we made our way out. We started slow by walking as we chatted and shared some of race experience. And through this, I get to know a little more of Yew Khuay and also remembered that he was still recovering from a shin injury, which explains why I am still able to be running with him at this stage. He will probably be gone in the distance if not for this. We started running a while later and soon was joined by a young German lass name Nathalie and also Siaw Hua as we entered the freeway. Nathalie was on a vacation study here and doesn't seem to know her way around. Besides, being a German, our weather is certainly "melting" her away. Anyway, all 4 of us run our way but in close proximity.Myself and Yew Khuay slowed down a little to prevent ourselves fro over heating. We even took short walk breaks in between and the extra bottle of water I carried along to splash myself with helped in cooling my temperature down.

Though I was still feeling comfy, the heat on the freeway was slowing both of us down. But with the unselfish support from Marlina, Zaini, YK Foo and some others who appeared along the freeway stretch, it kept our spirits high. And not forgetting the friendly honk from Nick who appeared out of no where on the opposite side! We also caught up with Foo who was running the 160KM distance. Great to be chatting with him for a while but not too happy knowing he was struggling. He has a come a long way in his running career and I would really like to see him complete the 160KM!

Fast forwarding, I finally arrived at the freeway's exit and into the housing area before entering the Taman Rimba Alam which involves steep climbs. The good news is, the check point is just right behind this hill and we successfully arrived there followed closely by Siaw Hua. Budiman and Chandru who both are running the 160KM was already there chilling and resting. And for the first time, this check point comes with ice cubes as I stuff come of them into my clothing. I also needed some proper food which I think the Asda Belgian Chocolate Waffle from Scotland which I allocated in my drop bag here is considered proper enough together with some chilled watermelons. Spent a little longer time here before starting my journey to the halfway point with Yew Khuay, Siaw Hua, Budiman and Chandru.

It was to be another long journey at about 11KM or so to the fifth check point located at Taman Wetland. With the afternoon sun blazing on top of our heads, it will be another torturous stretch where it will involved some freeways too. Anyway, the first stretch was to exit Taman Rimba Alam and we got a little lost when the directional marker was "accidentally" turned to another direction. However, we still got back to the correct route as all of us went through a big loop. We each started running after exiting the park while everyone was slowly easing into it, Siaw Hua was going strong.

We all soon arrived at Precinct 14 together, an area where I got lost last year. Despite having the assurance of not getting lost this time, some minor discomfort on my left metatarsal started surfacing. While the others found their rhythm and took off, I decided to play safe and tried to walk it off. And while doing so, I had Nathalie for company as she was still "melting" under the sun. We walked together and exchanged some of our cultures as I found out that she apparently is a mountain trail runner back in Germany and a good one too. Just as we approach Taman Wetlands, Ewegene who is leading the 160KM distance was making his way out and still looking good.

We finally got to the halfway point but I was shocked not to see Yew Khuay there. A quick check with Siaw Hua before I learnt that he overshot a junction. Was hoping the "damage" wasn't too much so that we can be running the return leg together. Hong Lan who was here to support gave me a can of ice cold Wonda Coffee which I was really grateful to have. Took it down with some chicken soup while I rested my leg feet by taking off the shoe and massaging the metatarsal area. Took some fresh and dried fruits while waiting for Yew Khuay to arrive but sadly he did not. He must have went really far as the last I saw him, he was running strong.

Most were sitting on the floor at Check Point 5. Not easy to get up though.

I couldn't waste too much time and needed to keep moving which I did shortly after Jeff went off. And when I just exited the check point, Yew Khuay finally arrived and didn't happy at all. Hope he is fine and will catch up later. As I had too much liquid earlier, I continued walking as I met many runners making their way to the check point. Some familiar faces was Cikgu Syed and also Renee paced by Zijill, both doing the 160KM distance. Nathalie also passed me in the process but I have no intention to start running yet. And on the freeway, even more familiar faces like Foo, Zhen Yang, Barkley and Kevin as I cheered each and everyone of them to keep moving.

Foo all wrapped up to shield from the sun.

After walking about halfway through about 6KM and arriving back at Precinct 14, I finally resumed my run. Jeff and Siaw Hua was both way ahead already and no where to be seen. As for Yew Khuay, I guess the momentum was lost after getting lost and he was not to be seen too. I was on my own then making my return though there are still many runners making their way heading the direction I came from. Cheered for almost everyone and reminded them to turned right at the Precinct 14 roundabout, as that was where I got lost last year. Most acknowledge with a smile, a thumbs up gesture or in anyway they can except for a pretty rude runner from East Malaysia who gave me that "I don't give a damn" look (he DNF by the way).

Anyway, just before re-entering Taman Rimba Alam, memories from last year where I met the late Abang Zack came flashing back. I remember he was motivating me to go on while I directed him the correct directions towards Precinct 14. Though he is no longer physically with us, am sure he was caring for each and everyone of us on this day. You will be miss my friend.

I shouldered on towards Taman Rimba Alam and arrived safely back at check point 4. And to my surprise both Siaw Hua and Jeff arrived later.They apparently slowed down a little and went back towards the wrong big loop in the park while I used the correct route which explained the switch of our positions. But none of this is important for us for the camaraderie and respect for each other is strong within us. I rested a little longer again to ease my left foot while both of them left earlier.

Took some fruits and away I went. As usual, an easy walk first before resuming my run. Besides, there was some climb back into Taman Rimba Alam before the freeway. The weather got better but the rain did not come. When I re-entered the freeway, I could see Jeff not too far ahead. As for Siaw Hua, she was just a tiny dot in the distance. Must the white powdery thing she mixed into her drink back at the check point which gave her the push!

I managed to catch up with Jeff and we both did the run walk strategy together. Like earlier with Yew Khuay, this helps both of us in arriving at the next check point "faster" without having to think too much. And fast forwarding to it, we both arrived at Taman Cabaran just before sunset with Siaw Hua no where to be seen. According to the volunteers, she has left much earlier! She was really awesome!

Again I took off my left shoe to ease my metatarsal as both myself and Jeff helped ourselves to the watermelons. The volunteers this time was really helpful unlike those from the earlier shift as they motivated us to push on. Jeff left earlier as I slowly put on my reflective vest and headlamp as the sun began to set. It was also an excuse to rest my left foot a bit longer.

Once ready, I was off running as I found myself coming back to "live"! Somehow, I felt refresh again and managed to run without much struggle. Just before arriving at the PICC, I saw a runner running towards me It was Siti and apparently she started late due to work commitments. Hats off to her for even starting the race. She is indeed a tough lady as despite starting late, she still finish her run in third position later!

Next I soon reunite with Jeff as he stop to put on his reflective vest and headlamp. I wanted to wait up but he asked me to go on seeing me coming back to "live". Told him to catch up once he is ready as I continued on through the lake side at Pullman before arriving at the Gemilang Bridge and soon back at the earlier second check point. It was pretty dark as there was no street lamps or lanterns provided and I pitied the volunteers. All they had was just light from the phone and also the headlamp should a runner came by. They were awesome volunteers too and I managed to crack some jokes with them especially the cendol joke where I told them to prepare a bowl for me when I return next.

Once done, I continued my journey towards the park just after the Prime Minister's office along the lakeside. I was alone most of them time. Couldn't see Siaw Hua at the front, nor Jeff at the back. I was also wonder how was Yew Khuay doing. I was still hoping that he would catch up so myself with him and Jeff can complete this run together. About 4KM along the lake side, I saw Siaw Hua heading back. She mentioned she is starting to struggle but apparently she looked very strong as I told her to keep her head up for she is into her last stretch soon. We both pushed on and soon entered the park. But one thing I don't remember is how far was the u-turn. I kept searching for the signage but it did not appear until 1KM in! It was a little one by the left side with a small reflective! I could have miss it!

After making the turn, I decided to rest a little on the bench.  Was feeling sleepy too and instantly enough, I dozed off for 10 minutes or so. The lack of sleep from yesterday has began to take its toll on my heavy eye lids. I continue to push after the power nap and bumped into Jeff making his way into the park. Next was Yew Khuay not too far behind and it seems my wish for all 3 of us to finish together may come true after all.

I stopped for a pee stop when I came upon a toilet. What I didn't knew that time was this is going to change the whole remaining game. It was the first time in my whole running career and life that I was peeing blood! Despite not feeling unwell or any discomfort, I knew there was something amiss with my body. Besides, there were white stains on my hydration vest, signs of dehydration. Besides, I was spending a long time pushing under the hot weather earlier. Despite 2 pee stop earlier, it was clearly my fluid intake wasn't sufficient which led to this. I had to walk back to the check point in order to prevent any damage to myself. I had to go on economy mode now despite still feeling all right.

I made it back to the check point safely. Despite feeling all right, the mood wasn't really there anymore since my earlier pee stop. But still, I remembered my cendol joke earlier and crack it out to the volunteers. Informed them of my situation and the medic who was there wanted to put me on drip. I refused and told him that I wanted to continue on with ease and should I feel uncomfortable, I will give Arman a call to call it a night at any distance later. That was my promise to him and he allowed me to continue.

Took a bottle of isotonic drink along despite having 1 liter of water with me. I don't think I will be needing it, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. Though I wasn't running, I was power walking and soon found myself nearing the Prime Minister office again. It was another 5KM to go till the finish and I asked myself if I can hack this. And based on my condition at that moment in time, it was a "Yes" as  slowly broke into the run.

I ran into the 52KM and 78KM category runners who began their run about half an hour earlier as I approached the Prime Minister's office and most of them cheered me on. I was really appreciative of their kind gesture in spurring me on. Thanks everyone! And as I approached the flight of stairs, I spotted many runners overshooting the u-turn point. As expected, the earlier signage was missing and there was no volunteer to guide them. As I passed my bottle of unopened isotonic drink to a fellow lady runner, I tried to direct as many runners possible to make their turn hoping that the others behind will follow like a chain. Some shouted to the runners ahead who overshot to make their turn, but I guess many will have already been upset by this small mistake by the organisers.

I resume my run after doing what I can. And as made my way around the roundabout, a rather familiar voice called my name. As my own headlamp was shining ahead with many others shining back, it was hard to tell who is who. But I knew that voice, it was Nick who was running the 52KM distance with Jeannie and Foo. And with both of them are Jamie, Zijill, Choon Yuen, Richi, and Lum. We stopped for a chat and shared some of my run story till then, and of course my recent pee stop. And with that, they decided to switch the attention to me to ensure that I make it back to the finish safely. With that, we bid the best of luck to the trio doing the 52KM and parted ways.

I was hustling on the final 4KM return leg at a pace of 5:30KM/H. Did not know where did I find my strength but perhaps knowing the finish was nearing, I came "alive" again with the gang following closely. I began emptying the bottle of water I had by wetting myself on both my arms to keep my temperature in control and also both my soft flask my taking small sips so that I can run lighter. And at one point, my right calf seize up for a moment. Was lucky it didn't turn into a cramp as I managed to shake it off after some hopping around.

Though I took short power walk breaks in between, I believe the pace I had at this closing stages of the run was one of my fastest. I always reminded myself that the fastest pace will always come at the final 3KM of each ultra, a reminder I always had in me whenever I ran the Comrades Marathon. And soon enough, I was back the Gemilang Bridge where the others decided to carry on with their own training run.

The last stretch was dark but I still had some juice left on my headlamp's battery pack as it was starting to blink. I guess it wanted to act as signal to the organisers waiting at the finish line. And with every step, I came closer and eventually arrived back to where I started as I crossed the finish line safely on both my legs in a time of 16:14:31 hours, a new personal best for me considering the distance was almost 105KM! Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of race organisers was all there to welcome me home too and I was really appreciative of that. And not only that, thank you Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo, Roy, Si Main, Maxon, Marlina, Zaini, the GC group and many others for their continuous support. Thanks guys!

I made it back.

Siaw Hua finished earlier as the overall champion for the 100KM category while I settled for first placing for the men's and second overall. Jeff arrived about 10 minutes later, followed by Yew Khuay half an hour later. Am just glad all 4 of us made it back safely as it was indeed a tough day out there. Thanks everyone for the  run together.

Thank you Saucony Zealot ISO!

Overall, I really cannot ask for more for my performance out there today. To clock a new personal best for the 100KM distance a couple of weeks after my Comrades qualifier at a country with a 6 hours difference, it was indeed an achievement. But I guess my recent trip to Scotland did help a lot where I did most of my training runs there since the haze. It helped with not only my fitness but improving my strength a little. As for my position, I personally do not think I deserve to be called a champion for although I was in peak form, Yew Khuay wasn't. Besides, he got lost halfway through. Therefore, I personally do think that he deserves the title of men's champion for he fought hard. As for Siaw Hua, she is one tough lass and bravo to her for coming in as overall 100KM champion. As I mentioned before, as the distance get longer, the women will excel! Siaw Hua was a good example. But all in all, this is a non competitive event and it's a great platform for those who would like to go beyond the marathon distance and hence, everyone is a champion on their own, as long they play the game cleanly with honour.

My split times provided by CheckPoint Spot.

Myself, it was my first time seeing bloody urine. But I assure everyone that there was nothing wrong as I've followed up with a check up. It was probably due to the body flushing out the red cells which was damaged due to the constant pounding on the very hot surface. But thanks everyone for your concern.

As for the event itself, I am glad I am part of the second edition. Though still plenty of room of improvements, I would like to congratulate Team Pacat for a job well done in improving this event over last year's edition for it is important that organisers listens to feedback and implement them. WELL DONE Arman, Mikael and Zul!

But here's some of my suggestion to further improve the event for the third edition:

- To install bigger, preferably A3 size waterproof markers at critical junctions or u-turn with bigger reflective materials such as glow sticks.
- Ensure each marker is installed properly to minimise the chances of it being moved around by the elements such as strong wind. Some were pointing the wrong way at this year's edition as they were easily turned around.
- Use different colour codes or boards for outbound and inbound directions.
- To provide lanterns or headlamps to volunteers at each check point. They are not too expensive. Poor volunteers I met at Check Point 1 and 2 were in the dark.
- To include a senior supervisor at each check point to supervise the overall operations. Was shocked that drop bags were not unloaded at check point 3 despite them being sent out as early as 5AM!
- To inform volunteers to at least assist the runners in filling up their bottle or hydration bladder. Most were just sitting around playing on their smart phones or chatting away as tired runners arrive. But kudos to those I met who have been really helpful!
-Prepare a few chairs for the runners. Chair were all used by the volunteers at the fifth check points leaving runners having to sit on the floor. Volunteers did not even bother to look at us.
- To send out sufficient ice and other necessities such as fruits to the check points as early as possible. Ice was not available till the fourth check point outbound. And ice together with watermelon ran out at the same check point during my inbound journey.

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Istanbul Marathon 2015...

Event: Istanbul Marathon 2015
Venue: Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Date: 15 November 2015
Time: 9.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (42.51KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7
By Frank

Though it’s a distance that needs to be respected utmost, the 42.195KM marathon distance is no longer a distance I favour the most as it requires too much speed and strength, 2 things that I can no longer find balance in me. But come every year, I just need to run a good marathon at the fourth quarter of the year to get myself qualify for the Comrades Marathon the following year. With my first marathon of the year back in August 2015, the Kuching Marathon 2015 which can’t be used due to the change of qualification date, I had only Istanbul Marathon. Many will have said that this will be the better choice as the weather is much better. But I actually have earlier the Jedburgh Dirty Double and Glen Ogle Ultra to tackle for in a span of 23 days. Therefore, I had to go easy on both the earlier event especially the Glen Ogle Ultra to take care of both legs and also cardio.

The Istanbul Marathon came into view when Chee Kong spotted it in the running calendar. Once identifying it as a potential fast course and a city worth visiting, we confirmed our participation in it. However, it was almost a no go for me as my Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt where I was to transit after flying from Aberdeen to Istanbul was cancelled a day before due to the cabin crew strike. I was really disappointed as I wanted to qualify early no matter the seeding so that I can start focusing on training. I started searching for alternative races to use as a qualification race, but then, Chee Kong tried really hard to call Lufthansa help line hoping for a change of flight and after holding on near to 90 minutes, he got through. And within minutes, we managed to switch flights to Turkish Airlines and in an even more convenient time schedule too. Problem solved and it was game on!

Flight cancelled!

Turkish Airlines to the rescue!

We flew in arriving on Thursday evening and after a horrifying taxi ride, we checked into Peyk Hotel at Sultanahmet which is near to the finish line. It was a nice hotel and I am expecting proper rest here before the race. However, due to the change of time zone of 2 hours earlier compared to Aberdeen, I kept waking up pretty early at around 4AM.

Race bib pick up.

Nevertheless, it was Turkish dinner at Sultnahmet on the first night before proceeding to collect our race pack on the second day at the expo which is rather disappointing. From there, we visited the Grand Bazaar and Taksim square. On the third day, we took the ferry ride along the Bosphorus chanel crossing from Europe into Asia and back. A walk around Sultanahmet and I was back at the hotel to freshen up. I had a simple dinner of kebab, kestane (baked chestnut), simit (sesame bun) and fresh pomegranate juice alone at a park near Sultanahmet to calm some nerves before heading back to the hotel to call it a night as early as 9PM.

The Istanbul Marathon race course.

Race day morning, I found myself awake at 3AM despite setting my alarm at 5AM. Went back sleep and woke up again. Didn’t have the feel good feeling though but the show had to go on. Pre-race ritual went smoothly and at 6.40AM, I checked out of my room and left my luggage at Chee Kong’s room as we were allowed an extension of 2 hours for one room for us to clean up after the race. Proceeded to Sultanahmet to catch the shuttle bus at 7AM which was actually very well organised!

Long but fast queue for the shuttle bus.

The shuttle bus took the runners across to the Asia side via the Bosphorus Bridge where the start is. A smooth ride and within 30 minutes or so, we arrived! The place was rather congested though and we had a little difficulty locating the luggage bus and also the toilet. But well done to the organisers for providing overhead plastic covers to keep runners warm while waiting. But what amused us were the numerous coffee, tea and simit carts trying to earn a living. I lost touch with Chee Kong while queuing for the toilet though which was a long queue despite having lots of them. But after relieving myself, I just proceeded to the start and tried to squeeze in as front as possible. Made it to about one quarter of the crowd and just waited for the start at 9AM.

"High-end" mobile coffee machine on the go!

Fresh yummy simit!

Ready for haircut, I mean race.

With the sun blazing at full force from the clear sky without any clouds, I was expecting it to be a hot and cool race. I took off my overhead plastic and within minutes, the 37th edition of the Istanbul Marathon got underway at 9.02AM alongside the 15KM category which I do not know the reason why as it added congestion. With minimal training back home due to air pollution, only to clock in some fruitful last minute mileage which includes races and drills the pass 3 weeks, I wasn't expecting much from this race. I will be happy to settle for anything that can get me qualified for next year's Comrades which is a sub 5 hours finish. And with some fine tuning to the yet to be launched all new Saucony Kinvara 7 as my race shoe, I was just hoping for the best. I didn't wear my regular Saucony Type A6 as I thought my legs will require more protection and also to test out the new ride as part of the test team.

My race strategy was simple. To run with the flow and follow the pace where my heart brings. I've learnt a lot from Amsterdam Marathon last year, and the experience back then will certainly come into good use. Trying to stay constantly in aerobic metabolic zone where body fat is used as my primary fuel instead of my glycogen level. And once again, I am not relying on any energy supplements such as gels. Am only going in with water and just water.

Anyway, back to the race where I will try to recall as many places I ran pass as this is after all Turkey, a foreign land to me. It only took me less than 2 minutes to cross the start gantry. The atmosphere was good with local Turkish musics being played and supporters cheering by the side. The Bosphorus Bridge wasn't entirely flat as seen on photos but yet there were a slight incline towards the center of it. The crowd of runners prevented me from going out too fast on the bridge which really helped and although the tarmac surface was pretty smooth, one need to watch out for gaps and joints along the way, with some of them having tiny holes that look all the way down the straits of Bosphorus. 2 flags were hung along the bridge, with the white being the Asia side and red on the European side. A third French flag were also hung at the center portion to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack.

Preparing to cross the start gantry with the Bosphorus Bridge awaiting ahead.

Bird's eye view of the Bosphorus Bridge.

With less than 2KM into the race, I exited Asia and was back into Europe. Exiting the bridge, the crowd slowly broke up and I began to find my rhythm as I ran along the freeway keeping myself from the main crowd running at the left most side. There was still some ascending involved before arriving at Besiktas some 4KM into the race where the Vodafone supporters were. From here, it was a decent drop to the flats ahead and I made sure I made good use of the opportunity.

Somewhere in Besiktas. Try spotting me.

Ran into or rather passed the town of Dolmabahce and Kabatas where supporters was still aplenty before I cross the Galata Bridge at Eminonu into the Golden Horn area. Once exiting the bridge, I spotted the 10KM champion being directed into the finish line. That was fast! Anyhow, my direction now is toward Feshane towards Eyup. It was rather flattish here but I kept my composure keeping to my pace, not letting any hasty decision come my way, even when a fellow barefoot Malaysian runner Tan Wah Sing passed me swiftly only to do disappear soon after. I reminded myself that this is my race, and not his.

14KM in and 4KM along the Golden Horn, I arrived at the first u-turn as I made my way to the Ataturk Bridge which was just before the Galata Bridge where the 15KM runners were diverted off to their finishing line leaving a clear road ahead for the marathon runners.

I was almost caught off guard somewhere at the 16KM mark when I trip over a pavement. A silly mistake where I would have risk pulling my hamstring but I was lucky to escape with no mishaps as I continued on.

After a pretty long flat along the Golden Horn earlier, it is time to put some climbing muscle to good use as the course started rolling a little pass some underpass with one being rather memorable as it was filled with bicycles. Then as I approach the 18KM mark near Yenikapi, here comes the biggest climb of the race! An almost 800M long climb with around 32M elevation gained, some runners were reduced to walking it. Besides, the weather has really gotten hot at this stage. I continued on, climbing it slowly cheering and clapping for the wheelchair participant as he struggled up the slope till the top where some palace gates or ruins awaits. He eventually conquered it as I looked back a little while later. WELL DONE!

Let's climb!

What goes up, will go down as I ran comfortably along Ataturk Boulevard before arriving at the half way point at Kennedy Cd. in 1:50:35 hours still feeling great though leg muscles has already started twitching a little. And to make matters more interesting, the top 3 runners were already making their return on the opposite side which is some 36KM for them.

Kennedy Cd. is another long straight along the coastal road at about 8KM long heading towards Rauf Orbay Cd. There were less supporters here and it all plays down to the runner's mental strength now as we grin our teeth to push on as the heat rises. Sounds of ambulance sirens came and went as medics and volunteers on the bicycles were seen riding up and down the roads. Some runners were reduced to walking, some sitting by the pavement and some others succumbing to cramps.

With rising temperatures and an open space along the coastal road, I began splashing myself with water to keep my core temperature at bay and was glad nothing happen including my pace which was still pretty constant. Phew... The 3:45 hours pacer also passed me where he went really fast! Perhaps catching up with some negatives splits?

I finally caught a glimpse of Chee Kong some 26KM into the race where he should be at 31KM. Gave him a thumbs up as we both carried on. And later at 28KM nearing the second u-turn, I caught up with Tan Wah Sing who was struggling. I guess he must have went out too fast earlier when I met him. Called out to him for some motivational support before I moved on myself making the turn ahead.

Another 14KM to go, I reminded myself as I started thinking on when to make my move. Though my cardio can probably withstand the remaining distance, I don't think my legs can. With that, I carried on, on the same pace as I pass Aytekin Kotil Park on the seaside. Besides temperatures on the rise, tempers were also flaring up as I saw and heard an elderly age runner cursing in local language at the volunteer on the bicycle. I assume he was blaming him for being a nuisance on the runner's path which I don't think he was, as he was basically doing his job keeping on the left most inner lane trying to help or signal out for any runners face with trouble. Oh well...

I did pretty find the cursing elderly runner a nuisance as he kept cursing along the way. I really wanted to run away from him but as much as I would like to, I fear it will jeopardized my race later. I kept my cool and waited for him to drop off, which he did soon later. Phew...

Towards Koca Mustafa Pasa Park, a fellow runner was happily running before a sudden cramp hit him hard on his hamstring as he fell to ground. I signaled out to medic ahead who was smoking outside his ambulance to my disgust! His reaction was certainly slow but what really disgusted me was smoking while being a medic downing your uniform on duty! I hope the runner was ok to continue.

Arriving at 36KM where I earlier saw the top 3 runners blaze pass, I again thought to myself if I can withstand the remaining 6KM if I were to go anaerobic? "It was like my daily treadmill training or like my run at Duthie Park, Aberdeen", I told myself, but I guess the difference between tired and fresh legs told me to be patient as I continued on without haste. Besides, some minor issues with tummy kept me cautious too, as it felt a little "windy" in there.

Still on Kennedy Cd. but on a new coastal road now heading back towards Sultanahmet, the afternoon sun was blazing at full force. Despite some coastal breeze, the burning sensation to the skin can be felt and sweat slowly flowing down the skin. I continued pouring water over myself as I passed the water stations here. There weren't many runners around me at this stage and all I could do is to hang on to myself and decide on my very own, on when to make my move.

When my Suunto beeped at 39KM, I was still awaiting the sights of the mosque that surrounds Sultanahmet and also Galata Tower at Taksim where it will give the signs of my approach to the finish. Though it did not come into view, I still decided to slowly up my pace and into the anaerobic zone.  I passed the final water station at the 40KM mark with one final gulp of water and also wetting myself before being directed into a park which I think is the Gulhane Park. I had to watch where I ran as the park was covered with cobblestone which was rather uneven. Don't want to trip after coming so far.

I exited the park with 1KM to go on to the Sirkeci's main street of Divan Yolu Cd. where although it's back onto the tarmac, involves tram tracks. And to makes matter even more interesting, it was an uphill to the finish straight! Despite the uphill, I went for it letting out all the remaining energy and strength I had with "BRAVO, BRAVO" cheers from the local supporters with a sudden"JIA YOU" from a Chinese tourist!

And finally, I saw it. the finish straight in between the Blue Mosque and Egypt Obelisk with the gantry ahead with the timer hanging from the top of it showing 3:54:xx hours! I was home with my 5th sub 4 hours marathon finish and my career second best timing as I crossed the finish line with a nett time of 3:52:29 hours! And with that, it's a passport to a D seeding for next year's Comrades Marathon!

My passport to Comrades Marathon 2016.

My gun time splits. Didn't pick up 5KM and 21KM though.

Finisher's cert.

Despite feeling sore, I was feeling great and of course happy as I proceeded to collect my finisher's pack before exiting the area to meet up with Chee Kong at the agreed place. And while waiting, I met up with a Swede and chatted with him before Chee Kong and Mei-Ee arrived. Apparently there were some issues with the baggage collection which was really slow. Anyhow, a quick photo session and we are off back to the hotel for a quick shower. Once we are done, we checked out and went for a quick lunch a nearby Chinese restaurant before heading off to the airport for a long haul back home via Frankfurt. Thankfully, the Lufthansa strike was already over!

We did it!

Flight was almost full and though my seated co-passenger beside me was a pleasant one, the Lufthansa cabin crew wasn't really friendly and attentive unlike those from my flight to Aberdeen 3 weeks ago. Probably they didn't have the mood to work after the strike. And not to mention the lousy food. But still, shame on you Lufthansa!

Nevertheless, I touched down safely back in a wet but haze clear Malaysia 30 minutes earlier. And not forgetting that I collected my checked in luggage in record time before taking a taxi home which ended my 26 days of my adventure and holiday, a smashing one of course!

To recap, the Istanbul Marathon is overall a wonderful marathon and deserves to be on of IAAF's Gold Label Race. The scenery of Istanbul was great and to top it off, it's one of a kind and only running event that takes you from one continent to another, being Asia to Europe. And I am glad the race course isn't exactly pancake flat cause flat is boring (pun intended). And despite minimal training and with some last minute effort being done in Scotland, I am absolutely delighted with my performance and result. Race strategy worked well taking in small sips of approximately 150ML of water at the very evenly spaced out water station at every 2.5KM while splashing myself with the given 200ML bottled water to keep my core temperature in control. Sponges was also given out too at certain stations. And yes, I only consume water and nothing else throughout the entire race. But if there is two things I would like to highlight will be the smoking medic which was really an eye sore. Perhaps the authorities and organisers should take a look into this should they read this or rather find out. Or is it a norm there? Culture perhaps? And the other will be the communication between organisers and runners where I find it lacking and also the use of language, where English is not the main language used which is rather unfriendly for international runners.

Anyhow, I highly recommend the Istanbul Marathon for it's a beautiful fast course that isn't exactly flat. With the cheers and support you get form the locals, it will be an unforgettable experience! And not forgetting, it's great for travel and food too! Finally before signing off from this entry, many thanks to Saucony Malaysia for putting me in as part of the test team for the yet to be launch Saucony Kinvara 7 where I raced and made good used of it at Istanbul.

* All photos here credited to Chee Kong and other respective photographers. Thank you.