Thursday, November 26, 2009

Running the race of my life (2) - PBIM09

Photo taken near the finish line with BP in PBIM09.

(This article is a continuation from this post.)

After I crossed the finish line and got my goody bag, I saw Andre. He is my ex-colleague, a friend and runner too. He finished his half-marathon and was waiting for his friend.

When I stopped running, my calf muscles tightened up. Andre helped me to stretch my calf muscles and I felt very grateful to him.

Then I quickly drank more water given to me at the finish line. I also ate a banana with isotonic drinks before I went to the baggage deposit centre to reclaim my baggage.

There were many people already waiting there to claim their belongings. It took me almost 15-20 minutes to get my stuffs. In it, my D40 DSLR camera, a PowerBar Protein Plus and some other small things.

I called my wife and told her about my finishing time. She was very happy for me. At that time, she was waiting near Eastin Hotel (a few hundred metres away) for the start of the Fun Run.

When I started shooting at the finish line, it was already 7:14am. I had promised BP to snap his finishing photo. He targeted to finish in sub-5 hours. While I was shooting other runners, I have to move my legs constantly to stretch and ease the soreness in my leg muscles.

BP finally came in at around 5:08 (after the start), just outside the 5-hour mark. I quickly put away my camera and looked for him. Due to many people around, I lost sight of him while I was putting my camera back into my bag. It was drizzling then, and holding a DSLR in the rain was not a good idea.

I finally saw him near the medical tent and I asked him if his knee was ok. He said it was ok but his leg muscles were very sore. Since his knee was injured, I felt worried and concerned when he ran in any race. Before the injury he could run faster than me. He finished in front of me in GE20km in January and Bidor Half Marathon in April.

I told him that I ran a sub-4 finish and share my happy feeling (that haven't sunk in yet) with him. He was the one that brought up the possibility of a sub-4 finish to me. And I didn't think I could do it then.

I showed him where to get some isotonic drinks and food. I continued to shoot some more photos and waited for my wife to finish her race.

I saw her coming in after 1 hour 8 minutes. She did well for the 10km run. I quickly met up with her and called BP. Then we shot some photos before we left Queensbay at around 9:00am to have our breakfast in Island Glades.

Looking back, I have exceeded my own expectation and target in the race. I felt it was a combination of factors such as encouragement from family and friends, consistent/persistent training, race strategy, home ground advantage, conditions on race day and mental strength.

There were some learnings from this race that I can improve on in the future. I need to learn to run an equal or negative split race. For many races, I had run positive split, i.e. first half of the race faster than the second half of the race. So I need to figure out something to address this.

Until the next run, stay healthy and train hard.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My official PBIM09 results

Based on the result in the zip file on the official website, my official result for PBIM 2009:

Official (gun) time: 03:57:20

Net (chip) time: 03:57:09

Position: 42nd (Men Open Full Marathon)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running the race of my life - Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009

At 39km mark, I closed my eyes, kissed the ring on my finger, took a deep breath and when I opened my eyes again, I ran all out to finish the race of my life.

The morning started when BP picked me up at about 12:20am. We headed to Queensbay Mall together. I knew very well before I step out of the house, if I were to do well today, I would need to run with the support and belief given by my loved one.

We reached the starting point at 12:50am. There were already many people there. We were surprised to find so many young runners (teenagers) already there. The quarter marathon and 10km Fun Run would not start until 6:15am and 7:30am! The quarter marathon was only open to teenagers and the Fun Run for general public.

Some of the booths were still being set up and there was a band playing some rock/pop music. It was a carnival-like atmosphere.

We put our baggage in the baggage deposit centre and rested in the runners' tent to wait for the race to start. I took a PowerBar and drank some water, then we took turn to the toilet before we went to the starting area.

We met Mr Jordan Lee at the starting line. He is a senior veteran runner well-known in the Penang running community. He is such a jovial person and we chatted near the starting line. I also saw Chuah (Seih Seng) and wished him good luck.

Then I got a pat on my shoulder. It was Kwang Leng. He wished me luck and I thanked him. He would run in the half-marathon one hour later. This year, the full marathon, according to the organiser drew about 900 runners and the half marathon, 6000.

Then, the MC announced the arrival of the Chief Minister of Penang. He came in a car from the back of the starting line and was driven right through the runners to the front of the starting line.

We were flagged off with the sound of the gun. There were lion dance troupe performing at the starting line and cheering the runners on.

I started besides BP and pulled ahead and ran at 5 minutes per km pace. I started very near the front and I knew some good runners were still behind me. We were directed away from Queensbay towards the Free Industrial Zone. We passed by Intel and then made an U-turn near Seagate. This was the 4km mark. Lionel overtook me a few hundred metres before the turn. He is a very strong runner. I guessed he was aiming for his personal best. Anyway, I couldn't follow his pace and had no intention to. I just have to focus on my own race.

After the turning, I saw Choo Cheng Liang and called out his name. I guessed he didn't really recognise me but he shouted back "Jia you!" (Words of encouragement in Mandarin, translated literally to "add oil").

I was still pacing at around 5 min/km with an ironman on my side, but then I dropped back a little. I figured pacing with an ironman was not a good idea. I realised he was pacing faster than 5 min/km, when I check my speed reading from my Suunto timer.

About 2km before we were on the bridge, an elite lady runner passed me. Then Kenny Tan also overtook me. He didn't noticed me but I said hello to him. He asked me to go with him, but in my heart, I knew then it was not a good idea to pace with him at early of the race because the strong runner he was. His last marathon was BIM09 where he set his personal best of 3 hrs 38 minutes.

When I was finally on the bridge, I guessed that was around the 9.5km mark. This was where I dropped my pace down to 5:30min/km. At 10km mark, now that I look back at my timer, it showed 00:50:19. A blistering pace for me, good enough for top-100 or better placing in any 10km race.

At around 11km mark, Eugene Chan overtook me. I said hi to him and asked him if he was aiming for sub-4. He said, "Maybe." and then ran ahead of me. I took out my PowerGel and emptied the content. Then I took water in the next water station to wash it down. On the bridge, a few more runners passed me before the gradual climb to the centre of the bridge.

From the start, the condition has been good. With moderate to strong breeze and cool weather, it was really nice to run. I continued my run and eventually reached the other end of the bridge. I overtook Eugene before the U-turn. I was surprised to pass him, but I was feeling good that time so I continued on.

The run back the bridge was a bit crowded by the time I reached the 21km mark. This was where the half-marathoners made U-turn. So I had to thread myself among them. Then at 25km mark, I was surprised to find Kenny Tan was just in front of me. He overtook me before we headed on the bridge. I called out his name and said to him, "Pace me, Kenny." He said that was his speed then and maybe he could pick up later. Then I said to him, "Ok, pace me when you can." I was hoping an experienced runner could pace me to a good finish but at that point I knew I was on my own.

I continued on and got off the bridge heading away from Queensbay. This was the psychological challenge for all full marathoners. After got off the bridge, the runners were directed to Georgetown instead of Queensbay. I was hoping to see the 30km sign, but it didn't appear. It was a difficult run to Lebuh MaCallum as we need to climb three flyovers before reaching the U-turn point. I saw Lionel headed back to Queensbay on the first flyover. Just before the U-turn, I thought I overtook another elite runner, Bong.

At the U-turn, the sign read 35km. I checked my timer and it showed 3:00:12. I could hardly believe it. If it was true, I have another 7.195km to go with about an hour to spare to hit sub-4. This was when I realised the sub-4 was within grasp.

Then, the worse fear struck, I began to feel the pull on both calf muscles. I could sense the cramp on my legs developing slowly but surely. I quickly took the PowerGel that was given to me just before the U-turn and drank more from my Gatorade that I brought along on my waist water pouch. I was sensing the elusive target slowly going away from me.

After the 1km from U-turn, I saw Kenny and Eugene heading to the U-turn and I urged them on. From here, I paced at 6:30 to 7:00 minutes per km hoping to prevent the cramp. I overtook the elite lady runner (who passed me 2 hours earlier) and continued my run. On the way back to Queensbay, I saw many other experienced runners like Jessica, Frank, Choi CC, were on their way to the U-turn. BP saw me and cheered me on. I saw Lawrence and "hi-fived" him.

I slowed and stopped a few times when I felt the pull again. It was agonising, I thought to myself, so near but yet so far away. I had run a perfect first 35km and it meant little if I didn't make full use of this opportunity to try to hit sub-4.

Then I thought of the support given by my wife and best friends including BP and William so far. I thought to myself, "I really need to have a go in this. Leave no regret."

At around 39km, my timer read around 3:42:00, I closed my eyes, kissed the ring on my finger, took a deep breath and when I opened my eyes again, I ran all out. I shouted "Excuse me, let me pass." all the way, as the lanes were crowded by half-marathoners and most of them were walking.

I was running with all my heart out with the 2XU long compression pants given by best friends on my birthday recently. When I reached Eastin Hotel just a few hundred metres from the finish, I was still running as fast as I could as I couldn't see the finish line yet. Then the tall gate that read "FINISH" appeared. I was so happy to see that. At the finish line, Kwang Leng snapped a photo of me.

I crossed the line with an unofficial time 3:57:29. It was unbelievable. I did it! It was the race of my life.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Compass and Timer for PBIM 09

On Friday, I took a day off from my busy schedule and travel with my family to Penang. We plan a birthday party on Saturday for Ashley in Penang with her grandparents. On Sunday, I will run in the PBIM 09.

On the PLUS highway, it was raining quite heavily in most stretches. I also checked the weather forecast for the next few days and it seemed like Sunday will be a wet day as well in Penang.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, and I quickly did a 3km run near Jalan Delima. This was to get my body and mind into running in Penang on Sunday.

On Friday night, we went out for a nice dinner in Gurney with my in-laws. Good place to be to carbo-load my body. Plenty of good food in Penang.

Saturday will be a rest day. I still need to prepare something for Ashley's small birthday party tonight. BP will be arriving later today and he will join me. We will depart together after mid-night to the starting point for our first PBIM.

Initial target is 4:15:00 to 4:30:00. Not sure if I want to push hard for 4:15:00. I think I will try my best. Well, that's just me, I'm sort of a guy who gives his best and not to leave any regret behind. Sometimes, well, most of the time, I give myself much pressure in doing so.

But this time, like many runs before, there is no pressure. Like always, I will run with the compass in my heart, then only look at the timer on my wrist.

(Weather report 11:14am, 21 Nov 2009, raining in Penang).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last long run before PBIM 09

I did my last long run this morning. I covered 27.4km in 2 hours 38 minutes 53 seconds. The average pace was 5'47" per km. This was outside the average pace needed for a sub-4 hours finish in a full marathon distance of 42.195km.

Realistically, the sub-4 target is still beyond me now. I will just try my best and see if I can run an average pace of below 6 minutes per km for the race next Sunday.

The Hunt in November

"I just want you guys to know, no matter what happen, you guys are the best hunters I've worked with. If we have to do the best, we will need to support each other and do this as a team." These were the words that I said to the team before we were flagged off for the hunt last Sunday.

There were so many things happened before the hunt, including one team member's mom was in operation a few days before the hunt.

I have kept the faith in the team and in the end we did the best that we could. Right after the hunt, we didn't think we could repeat what we achieved last year. But at the same time, team were not disappointed over it. I guessed that could be a sign of maturity as a hunt team. We were surprised to be even on the stage last Sunday.

I am now preparing for my second full marathon next Sunday. I need to focus on that first. Maybe I will write more on the hunt later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My PBIM 09 race pack

On Tuesday, I received my PBIM 2009 race pack. It was a reminder to me that I have less than 2 weeks to go to the race day.

The important things are the bib number (only one piece) and the timing chip. Other things are running vest (the smallest "L" size vest I have ever seen), runners' guidebook, sponsors' samples and discount vouchers.

Now, I really need to focus on my last phase of training. A long run this weekend, and start tapering next week.

Oh, I just realise, there is no detail instruction on how to put on the timing chip. In the guidebook, it is mentioned that it is to be tied between the shoe lace. The timing chip is as small as a 50-cent coin. It is so light and seemingly fragile design makes me wonder if I will lose it while running the race. I have just sent an email to the organiser on this matter. I hope they will publish more detailed information on how to secure the chip to the shoe lace soon. Well, I can always tie it on my way, but I would rather be sure and know the right way to put it on so that it will not fall off easily.

The Championchip timing chip on the left of the 50-cent coin.

While BP is dreaming of a number 8, I am just two numbers away from the number 88.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Running - One year on

Thanks to QQLai for this photo taken in the recent Mizuno Wave Run 2009.
I was running up the long steep hill, less than a km away from finish line.

After slightly more than a year of running and road racing, I am now busy preparing for my second full marathon. I will take part in Penang Bridge International Marathon 2009 on 22 Nov.

Preparation is on track. Trainings started few months back with sacrifice on some sleep and lunch time. Then recently, I did two long runs of 30km each inside 3 hours, one of them under pouring rain. I may try to squeeze in another one this weekend or next weekend. BP suggested the possibility of a sub-4 hours finishing time, but I know pretty well, it is an outside chance. It will take a miracle for me to pull this off. The last 12km is the hardest to conquer. Achieving sub-3 hours time for first 30km is not a certain sign for a sub-4 finish. I will be happy to finish within 4 hours 30 minutes.

Wish me luck.

A run for a cause - Terry Fox Run KL 2009

Last Sunday was the Terry Fox Run Kuala Lumpur 2009 in Lake Garden. I was there with my family. I missed the run last year because I had committed to my team mates earlier for a treasure hunt on the same date.

I have been supporting this cause for cancer research for a few years now. I draw a lot of inspiration from Terry Fox about life, running, courage, doing-what-you-can and many more. Also, I feel that finding a cure for cancer and raising awareness about cancer are important too. That's why I tried my best to promote this run in my blog as well as getting support within my company.

This year, I basically walked the 3.5km family course with Ashton under the hot sun. Ashley was with her mother and they were pacing faster than Ashton and I. Ashton was complaining more than walking or running. He was complaining about the hot sun the most. Anyway, I have to sweet-talk him, drag him and at one point, carry him on my back, in order to finish the run.

I thought the response was good this year. I estimated about 4000 runners joined the run. Some big companies came in large number of runners. There were also students from schools, particularly from international schools. Many foreigners and expatriates were seen supporting the run.

I also met some of my runner friends and colleagues as well. My buddy William was there too with his parents and family.

For photos of the run, you may visit my Multiply site here. Hope to see you next year.