Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2016...

Event: Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2016
Venue: Persiaran Flora, Cyberjaya
Date: 24 January 2016
Time: 4.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (42.19KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

It wasn't my intention nor I have the interest to run the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon as it was located pretty far away from where I stay. But when my participation at the Istanbul Marathon last year came into jeopardy due to the Lufthansa cabin crew strike, I in a frenzy mode went in search for a local marathon to be used as my Comrades qualifier. And quickly enough, I found this and signed up without any hesitation. But when my flight was resolved and I managed a good run at Istanbul, I had a little regret signing up for Twincity. But nevertheless, DNS (Did Not Start) was not an option as I was well and besides, I needed the training.

View of Cyberjaya from my room.

The organisers collaborated with Tune Hotels Cyberjaya to have a special rate for runners. Thinking it wasn't feasible for me to drive all the way there to collect my race pack and then driving home before returning back there the next morning, I opt for a night there paying only RM90. Pretty good deal I will say. And thus, I made my way there about 1PM on Saturday and met up with Soon Chung who help collect my race pack before I check into my room. Then it was a quick lunch with Zijill before I return to the room to rest for a while. And did I mention that the hotel bed was comfy, and I had the whole queen size bed for myself! I did sneak out to the supermarket below for a bottle of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice though as that was what I had the night before Istanbul Marathon. Maybe it will work some magic again.

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

Rested till 7PM before Soon Chung return and check into his own room which was just opposite mine. Had a simple dinner at Sushi Zanmai opting for cooked food rather than sashimi or anything raw to be safe. Chatted away till about 9.30PM before we returned to our room to call it a night. But before that, I caught the Liverpool game with Norwich which was nerve wrecking match. Liverpool won with a score of 4-5, with the winning goal coming at the final extra minute! Remind me again not to watch a football game before running a marathon!

With the starting venue just a few hundred of meters away from the hotel, I woke up 1.5 hours before the start at 2.30AM. And I had more than enough time to prepare myself though the usual ritual didn't go very smooth. As the hotel room didn't come equip with a boiler and cups, breakfast was light with only a Gardenia waffle, Twiggies and a can of coffee.

Left the hotel with Soon Chung at 3.30AM and proceeded to the start point. It was already packed with full marathon runners which  was about close to 2,000 runners I think. Met some familiar faces as we lined at the rear of the pack. Chatted away and with all out of a sudden, we heard the gun went off signalling the start at 4AM sharp! Before I start writing further, I should inform that since I am not familiar with the surroundings of Cyberjaya, I can only tell the story of my run through the Kilometers.

Both mine and Soon Chung's target was a simple and easy one, to run the distance at close to 5 hours. As my upper body was still a little sore from the weekday's gym workout, I opt to pass on my hydration backpack which most of you will have seen me wearing during training and my pass 2 races.  But, I remembered to bring along the #FTT bib which I had it on the other side on my waist. The weather was surprisingly good probably due to the rain yesterday although humidity was a little on the high side. And with this, I managed to keep my heart rate in control and cruise at an average comfy pace of about 6.40 minutes per Kilometer.

The first sector was to run around the central district of Cyberjaya's business hub. Was a little pack but enough to navigate through the runners. But this allows us to mingle with some friends like Kevin, Malcalm, Tick Hock and Mohan before I eventually took off near the Cyberview Lodge approaching the Perdana View Lakeside. It was about 12KM here before I needed my pee break and kudos to the organiser for preparing 2 mobile toilets at most of the water stations. Oh and yes, before I forget, most water stations were equipped with generous amount of mineral water and also the newly launched Lucozade Sport which is locally produced. Way off the UK version in my opinion!

I continued on into some highway and was asked to run along the motorcycle lane. A good safety measure for runners. With Soon Chung no longer with me, I was running together with some strangers. Certain stretches of the motorcycle lane was pretty dark but was lucky the road was mostly in good conditions. We had to run through 2 underpass which was lit up by candles. The candles looks awesome if you ask me, but should anyone accidentally farted in the underpass, there could be a minor explosion though. Hahaha...

The second underpass was the first u-turn too which brought me up some elevated flyover which I could see Soon Chung making his way to the underpass. He was not far behind and I thought I can slow my pace a bit for him to catch up so we could run together. However, after a little thinking, I decided to stick my own pace for I am sure the young lad will manage to catch up at the later stage.

A familiar sight as we ran towards Taman Cabaran though we didn't really got there. But it was good to revisit this place again for it's part of the route for the Putrajaya 100. Things got interesting upon arriving at the halfway point in 2.14 hours. I might be able to do a 4.30 hours marathon should I am able to maintain and up my pace a little. It wasn't a target but rather a bonus for me. I can even put in some fartlek training here too which will be especially useful for my upcoming long race. However, I stood with my current pace and will only decide later.

Exiting the Taman Cabaran stretch, I saw Soon Chung on the opposite side and he had already close up the gap.It was a matter of time before he catches up as I stop for my first cup of Cola. Refreshing as I needed some caffeine since it was morning. Hehe...

Into another highway and when out of a sudden, Soon Chung came passing by as we were joined together with the half marathon runners. Told him to carry on with his blistering pace as I wanted to stand by my plan. I passed Eddy and Afiq who was pacing the half marathon runners for a 2.45 hours finish. Well done to them especially Eddy for he improved a lot since I first knew him almost a year back.

The first sight of sun rise soon came as I felt stronger. Maybe it was time my body began to wake up from sleep or maybe the Cola earlier has started to take effect. I caught up with Soon Chung at a climb as my "solar panel" started to generate some energy from the sun. I up my pace a little to see how my legs will feel and surprisingly, there were fine. Tired and sore yes, but working well.

At about 32KM. it was time to make my decision. I think it was realistic to complete the run in 4.30 hours. I looked back to see where Soon Chung was. He was not far and thus decided to wait up while reducing my pace. And once he did, I asked him if he could push towards the finish together as I felt really good here. His reply was straight forward as his legs were a little tired from last weekend's Hong Kong marathon and thus asking me to go ahead. Not wanting to force him, I went ahead myself as I up my pace till arriving at the water station at about 33KM where roti canai was served! I spotted Razif finishing his meal there as I grabbed a slice.I was hungry but didn't want to eat too much. Although I would love a hot cup of coffee too, I skipped it as it was mix with milk and did't want to risk a tummy explosion. I continued with Razif as we walked and chatted away before resuming our run.

I eventually left Razif when my pace pick up again. Was merged back again with the half marathoners and I think the 12KM runners too. But was lucky it didn't clog up the running path as the roads were wide enough to cater for everyone. The only thing I misses was the water station serving the ice cream!

And at the final 5KM, full marathon runners were diverted off to another section. I looked at my watch and knew I was still on time though only at the border. Probably lost some time munching the roti canai earlier. But it was of none important to me. Stood with my pace and carried till the home stretch where I caught up with Azlan before the turn into the final 200M stretch. I didn't sprint to the finish but kept my cool and pace and eventually cross the finish gantry with a time of 4:28:45 (4.30.00 gun time). Made it on the spot for the gun time and I was really delighted though not according to my original plan.

Overall, I was really happy with my run. Yes, it was obvious that I competed my run faster than I would like to, but the more important aspect from my personal view is that I stood with my plan till the final 10KM before going for it. I guess being flexible based on my condition was a good idea to add some variety of running pace into my races. There was some improvements compared to my last 2 events as I continue to train and improve towards both my big races 4 months later. And yes, after completing the Twincity Marathon, I suddenly did not regret signing up for it. Instead, I thought that this event may be a good Comrades qualifier next. It's a mild undulating but fast course with a spot on distance! And not forgetting, plenty of food and hydration along the way with the just right amount of runners. Though I heard of some cases like pacers getting misled and some runners cheating, I must say the organisers did a pretty fine job, at least from my own personal experience. My word to them is to continue from where you left off here, study and learn from the mistakes and may the third edition next year be a better one.

To close up this entry and for all the good effort and happy moments, everything crumbled during my walk back to the hotel as I was disgusted by a particular person. I can't remember his name but he was one of the Penang Bridge Marathon pacer back in year 2012, and if not mistaken a 5 hours or maybe 5.5 hours one. He asked about my run and upon sharing my time with him, I was disgusted when he mentioned about my slow time. With all due respect, you do not know me that well, nor do I know you that well either. I don't even know your name! And knowing runners, we all have our good and bad days, an important race and a so not important race. For me, this is my training run and I do know myself when to push or when not to push, when to perform, and when not to perform. As mentioned in my last Watergate 16 Hours report, all my races till Comrades this year will be as training and a "sacrificial" one. So kindly watch your mouth and do respect not only me, but other runners too. And finally for one more time, be glad I do not know your name!

* Found out later in the evening that one of a Sarcoma patient, Tee Chin Long passed away after the cancer spread to his lungs. :(

Friday, January 15, 2016

Watergate 16 Hours 2016...

Event: Watergate 16 Hours 2016
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 09 January 2016
Time: 8.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7
By Frank

I've never had the chance to participate in Team Pacat's Watergate 16 Hours before as I've never heard of the first edition and it was set a week before the Hong Kong 100 last year. But when I learnt that I did not get the ballot for Hong Kong 100 this year, I finally had the chance to try it out at the third edition and hence it became my first race of the year, or shall I call it first sacrificial for the year. Why sacrificial? Well, it's because as usual all the races leading up to Comrades (and this year I have the West Highland Way Race too) will always be used as training and will always be tackled with much care to minimise any risk of injury.

The format is similar to Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) of Singapore. To try to run the maximum distance in loops over 16 hours. And for Watergate will be 2.5KM out to Palace of Justice and 2.5KM back to Taman Sri Empangan which will give a distance of 5KM per loop.

The race pack collection was moved an hour earlier to 4PM and knowing my type to secure a safe parking spot, I arrived at Taman Sri Empangan 15 minutes later as I didn't want to run with much thinking about the safety of my car. Collected my bib number without any hassle and met up with Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of organisers from Team Pacat. And it was nice of them to throw in a shatter proof mug too. Well, for a no frills event, at least there will be some memento for those who opt not to purchase the event tee, finisher tee and medal. I was one of them.

However, some drama unfolded as the truly Malaysian attitude came into picture when some runners demanded for a change of colour of the tote bag given (first batch was white, second was black), purchase of event and finisher tee on the spot (exact number of tees are made upon orders with ample time given) and also to change of top 3 trophies to teddy bears (previous years was teddy bears).

My mind was set for a 7PM start but I got it all wrong. It was to start at 8PM after being told by Kelvin and Jonathan. I've really no idea where did 7PM come from but I guess I must have relate this to TUC which has the similar format. Was hungry as I soon remembered that I have a pack of cashew, almonds and some dried guava with me. Took some to fill the hunger a little while I continue waiting.

I've never excelled in TUC before. Perhaps looping through the night is something I am weak in for I did not have problems with Back 2 Endurance as it takes place during the day. And I know that it won't be easy this time too as my body was still feeling a little sore from the weight training I did over the past few days as part of my training regime. But nevertheless, it's of no pressure to survive the entire 16 hours although that will be perfect.

Piriformis was still a little tight with a little sore hip and hence wore my compression shorts for a little "squeeze". But for my top, I opt for my striking orange Jedburgh tee (for safety), something for a change as I normally will wear a tight top for long distance races. Need to get back the feeling of running long with a loose tee, but I hope there will be no chaffing. And as part of training, I wore my hydration vest. And to that particular person who gave me an annoying gesture on this, it has really nothing to do with you on what I select as part of what I use. Not even my food or drinks, mind you!

After nearly 4 hours of wait, the third edition of Watergate 16 Hours finally got underway at 8PM sharp with runners bursting across the start line. With 16 hours to go, bursting away doesn't seem to be a good idea as I took my own time to settle to my rhythm. A couple of hundred meters ahead was the Gemilang Bridge and some who "bursted" away earlier was already breathless here. And this is where the experience runners came passing by from behind from familiar faces such as Yew Khuay, Yim and Azlan. And speaking of Yew Khuay, he is a much different runner from Putrajaya 100 a couple of months ago. He is back to his best!

I settled into my pace quite well cruising at about 6.30 minutes per Kilometer. The red rubbery running and cycling path that was laid back during November last year has settled down pretty well and it was nice running on it. Most will agree that it is tough running on the concrete pavement of Putrajaya and hence this certainly will help a little since there is no road closure to this event.

Upon arrival outside the lawyer's department office after about 1KM, I spotted the Starbucks Coffee outlet there. Though it was already closed, I can't help to think of a cup of iced cold Americano since the condition was really hot and humid. And moving on from here, was a little dark stretch with tress overshadowing the lights from street lamps and the bright moon. Was lucky there weren't any chipped or uneven pavement. But thanks Team Pacat for the sufficient blinkers that lighted the way at important sections of the route since the start. It was a simple nice touch.

Everything went smoothly during the early stages of the run completing my first 10KM (2 loops) in just slightly more than an hour. I started taking small sips of water at each u-turn point to avoid being dehydrated and not forgetting to allow my kidney to function properly (a flashback to Putrajaya 100's bloody urine). However to my dismay upon arriving back at the start, the cups and bottles were not placed systematically and not in running numbers. We runners had to search for ours among the 200 plus cups and bottles which was really frustrating even when we were still fresh. Imagine trying to search for it after 10 hours of running!

Fast forwarding ahead to 12.5KM at the Palace of Justice u-turn, I was suddenly paced along by "someone". Happily pacing along just behind and sometimes beside me, I found him to be rather rude and annoying as I dislike being paced especially without permission. I tried to shake him off by slowing down but to my surprise, he actually slowed down too. Darn it. I guess my next move was to take my own sweet time when I complete this loop which I did and eventually managed to shake him off after telling him off that I will like to last the entire 16 hours. And this guy was actually the same guy that gave me that annoying gesture with regards to me wearing my hydration vest at the start!

Everything went smoothly from here onward despite my pace starting to slow at each loop. Nevertheless, I continued running till completing my sixth loop at 30KM before stopping for my long awaited dinner served by the organisers. Took some rice, a fried chicken with a  can of Wonda coffee while I chill with Ken who came to support.

After satisfying my hunger and some gossip sharing with Ken, I continued on walking. As usual, I will walk about an hour after a meal but this time, I made sure I practice my walking. It certainly wasn't easy as the hips and knees were under pressure. And after completing my seventh loop by walking, I continued with my eight with Roy where we walked and chatted together.

My ninth loop onward was a solo effort. Despite legs feeling not too bad, I was feeling tired probably due to the fact that it was sleeping time. At each turn, I washed my face hoping to freshen up but the eye bag just didn't want to cooperate.  And by the eleventh loop, I felt the rear of my right knee connecting my hamstrings twitching. I guess that was the sign that my body, or shall I say legs hinting to me to stop.

Completing eleven loop will only mean 55KM. Therefore I guess rounding it up to 60KM with one more loop should be fine and hence started my journey after a hot cup of black coffee. Running took away the pain a little and I ran whenever I can and successfully arrived at the u-turn point at Palace of Justice. Was joined by Fuad here and we made the return trip together, well at least till the Gemilang Bridge before I decided to walk to the finish completing 60KM with a time of 9:40:04 hours in position of 72 out 279. And with that, I called it a night!

I didn't leave the venue immediately as I hung around to have my meal and to rest up a little while lingering with my friends. But while doing so, I was disgusted once again when the same person who earlier annoyed me came and gave me yet another annoying gesture, this time like "Why I can't survive 16 hours"? That's a total of 3 annoying gesture in less than 10 hours by the same person!

Overall, I don't deny I was disappointed with my result as once again I failed to fully utilise the full 16 hours. However, I guess 12 loops equaling to 60KM is enough for my first long run (and walk) of the year as after all, there were signs that my legs and hips wasn't ready for longer distances at this point of time. I did enjoy the event and only was disgusted by those annoying gestures. Runner's have their ups and downs so as footballers. They don't win games at every match. Football. Get it...?

The Watergate 16 Hours is a decent event and more importantly, it's an event organised by runners for runners where everyone gets to socialised and get together at one big gathering. No event is perfect and there were definitely some misses for this such as:

- Running out of ice cubes and fruits mid way through the event. Considering conditions were hot and humid, ice needs to be made aplenty throughout the event with constant replenishment for runners. Same goes to fruits too as I've noticed more watermelons not being served.
- A more systematic way for BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) where cups and bottles to be spaced out according to running numbers instead of just leaving it on the table at any available space. It's not easy trying to locate our own cup or bottle among 279 of them.
- More info to be shared before the event itself on event website and Facebook site. Some runners were a little blur on the procedure, myself included especially on the timing system.

However, to make up for the above, this even has certainly it's merits:

- The usage of blinkers at important sections of the route not only to guide the runners but also to keep them awake as blinking lights can be an "annoying reminder".
- Volunteers are more cheerful and helpful this time compared to those from Putrajaya 100 last year.
- Plenty of food and drinks served. But please don't hold back serving them such as the watermelons stated above.
- No frills event. You get for what you pay for. For this, I only paid to run and eat and drink. I do not need the t-shirts nor the medal and though the event may be a little on the expensive side, we do get the quality out from it for it's a "boutique event". And well done for including a shatter proof mug for all participants as a memento.

Watergate 16 Hours is a great event for runners wanting to pop their ultra running cherry. Although many may not like looping runs, it does have it's strength for it train one's mental strength. Besides that, refreshments are made nearby for those who are not experience to tackle their nutrition. The third edition is indeed a success and though it will continue for many years on, I've heard that the fourth edition will move somewhere towards the south direction. A change of venue will be interesting and that we shall find out soon later. Thanks Team Pacat for organising this!

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

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Long One...

By Frank

By now, guess most of my friends and blog followers will know that I will be attempting my longest trail run this year, as part of my "final drop of water" into my running bucket list. To finish off what myself as a runner dream of and to do it while my body is still capable, this "final drop of water" is known as the West Highland Way Race, a 95 miler (152KM) from Milngavie, Glasgow through and across the highlands to Fort William at Scotland.

The idea came early last year upon receiving my medical report which in a way wasn't really favourable. And at that point of time, I scrambled in search of races such as this and eventually came upon it since my first trip to Scotland was still fresh in mind at that point of time. With my close relationship with Scotland and my friends there, I knew this was the one. And back in October last year at Jedburgh, I met up with Ian Beattie, the race director and knew I need to put my name into the ballot. And on 8 December 2015, the results was out, and I was selected among 265 (61 applicants were put on waiting list, 2 withdrew and 20 rejected).

WHW route profile credited to Ross Lawrie with slight modification to year.

Taking place during Scotland's summer season on 18 June 2016, the most tricky part leading to it will be that it actually takes place 3 weeks after Comrades Marathon which I will be running too. And this year being the "Down" run which is my weaker direction, I will need to go easy on the race itself to make sure I will still have the legs to tackle the highlands. Yes I am greedy for both races are equally important to me but I will just be aiming for a finish rather than a good result. My training regime has been set out to accommodate both races and although not much has change despite a slight increase in running distance, much resistance training has been added in to ensure overall body strength. And to accommodate the slight increase of running distance, I've signed up for more races this year to help with training, with the first one this weekend. Most will be long with 2 of them going through half the day and night which will be crucial to tackle one of my weakness, sleepiness. And with all the training required, I am glad I've some "crazy" friends to train together with.

West Highland Way Race.

There will be 6 cut-offs between the start and finish. Though I only ran from Glencoe to Tyndrum back in November last year, I do not know how the terrain will be like. While most will be rocky with some rocks as huge as tennis balls, certain sections will be muddy and with roots making it rather technical. I can only listen to the information shared by my friends and do my own homework from there planning out my run pace and also my nutrition intake, hence it will be challenging.

My gears are more or less ready which most of them  with thermal properties and also water repellent and proofing. Yes, they were all prepared way before my acceptance in this race and this time, I can finally put them to good use. There will be no trekking poles allowed though.

After years of hibernation, finally a chance to use this stash of gears.

A few concerns for me will include my ability to stay awake for the race starts at 1AM which will leave me with 2 nights to tackle for. Coffee may help but the question is how much can I take? And the other will be the cold temperatures as although it's summer, it will still be very cold for my standards with the night dipping to zero or maybe even below it. Day may range from 15C to 20C though. And with the race being in summer, midges will be another concern. I've not seen midges before but I was told that they are very nasty little pest (even smaller than sand fly) that comes in swarms which bites can be extremely irritating. Will need some insect repellents or even DEET to minimize their bites.

But anyhow, to address the concerns above will be my amazing crew who will be supporting me for the entire race. A minimum crew of 2 is needed and I have Angela and Chee Kong stepping forward to be part of my team and I am really thankful to them for their job will not be an easy one. However we are definitely still accepting more as the more will be merrier and of course easier for each other too. And I am still hoping a special guest back home will agree to it. Besides, we are going to rent a big vehicle for this, most likely the Volkswagen T5.

West Highland Way Race 2016, 95 miles through the Scottish highlands, my long one. It will be tough and demanding, and while I may not be a fast runner, I promise my crew and everyone else that I will try my very best to make it to the finish at Fort William and enter through that blue door at Lochaber Leisure Centre within 35 hours from the start. That you have my word! So yes, the "sheep" is returning to the Scottish highlands and will be gunning for that goblet.