Sunday, February 27, 2011

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011 - Around and about

Some notes around SCHKM 2011.

-The start was in Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui just walking distance from the hotel that I stayed. The finishing line was in Victoria Park, Hong Kong Island. Never before I joined a full marathon with different start and end points.

-The race course was hilly and tough. The toughest full marathon course that I had run. But I must say, I had only run 5 FM so far. I may write a commentary on the race course itself later. I tried to research online about the race course before the race, but not much luck.

-For the record, there were 3 bridges, 3 tunnels, 3 flyovers, 1 underpass along the FM course.

-The temperature was about 13-14 degrees Celcius at the start. It wasn't that cold really. Of course different people felt differently. I saw not less than three FM runners without any vest or top.

-I also saw this runner below overtook me at around 12km mark. Imagine my "horror" when I overtook him later before Cheung Tsing tunnel and saw him from the front. Any appeal of red lace bra had on me suddenly dissipated into thin air.

This runner overtook me at km 12, but I overtook him later before km 24. Photo by 马飞。

-The coldest part of the run was when the runners were on the bridges. Cold wind from the sea was really chilly.

-A few runners were with shark costumes. I was not exactly sure what was the message (they were trying to relate). I guessed it was something to do with saving the sharks. I have to say the runners in shark costumes did really well. One of them was just few second behind me at the finish line.

The shark runners.

-Baggage check-in and collection was a breeze. No need to wait or queue. Check-in at Nathan Road where a standard baggage bag was used and deposited to the truck number designated for the runners.

-A very good crowd control at the start, along the route and at the finish line.

-There were 14 water stations along the FM route. On average, one water station every 3km. I considered this ratio was very good. The water and isotonic drink were enough at all water stations.

-There were sweeper buses at a few check points along the FM route. If you failed to arrive at the check points at designated time, you will be ushered to the bus. Traffic will open to public after the time.

-The supporters were GREAT! Even the volunteers at the water stations cheered the runners on with signs and vocal encouragement. There also other cheering crowds on the pedestrian bridges, the balcony of some buildings etc.

-I was prepared to run barefoot for this race if it rains at the start. I trained with barefoot but not for any run longer than 8km. It was a crazy idea at the time.

-I ran with adidas adizero Boston. A very light pair of cushioning shoes. It was the first time I ran a FM race with light-weight shoes.

-The PB I achieved was not without cost. I had a sore plantar (sole of right foot) a week before the race. I aggravated the injury in the course of the race. The last 6km really tested my mental strength, as I had to overcome the pain on the right foot as well.

-No finisher T-shirt, but all runners were given a NB SCHKM dry-fit T-shirt.

Updated 5 Mar 2011:

-They were many timing/video checkpoints for the full marathon:
10km (inside Nam Wan Tunnel)
15.1km (U-turn at Tsing Ma bridge) - Video camera installed
20.1km (U-turn at Ting Kau bridge)
21.1km (between Ting Kau bridge and Cheung Tsing Tunnel)
27.3km (U-turn for half marathon) - Video camera installed
30.0km (on the West Kowloon Highway)
41.195km (last 1km point at Causeway Bay)

-The half-way split time shown on the official results was actually the split time at 20.1km mark. Not really the half-way 21.1km. I had emailed the organiser on this matter and they asked me to call a hotline as if I was complaining.

-Since we were traveling relatively light, we managed to find out a cheaper way to travel from airport to Tsim Sha Tsui. The airport express (train) was very expensive (HKD60/person one-way just to get to Tsing Yi). The cheaper alternative was go out to the bus station and take bus number S64 to Tung Chung. It was only HKD3.50 for one way. Then in Tung Chung, we did some shopping before we took the Metro (subway) to Tsim Sha Tsui. One-way ticket per person was HKD10.50.

-Tung Chung was a nice place to shop. Got a lot of outlet shops of branded label. Even sports brand like adidas, NB, Nike, Puma, K-swiss, etc. were there too. My wife had a "harvest" here.

-Thanks to Lawrence Law who collected my race pack as I arrived only on Saturday afternoon. Not much margin for error really. It would have been a rush for us from airport to Victoria Park.

With Lawrence at the start. Congrats to him for his PB.

-Top Malaysian finishers from the results:

Shaharudin Hashim 2:37:40 (Men Invitation - 14th, Overall 32nd)
NG CHEE HONG 3:23:10 (Men Senior - 178th, Overall 380th)
OH AIK SOON BILLY 3:26:15 (Men Master II - 65th, Overall 452nd)
YENG BOON PIN 3:29:21 (Men Master I - 163rd, Overall 552nd)

-On my flight to Hong Kong, I watched "Chariots of Fire" on board. The movie, especially the opening scene when the runners run barefoot on the beach and at the end, when Eric won the 400m, really inspired me. I was dreaming of a PB before SCHKM. Now after SCHKM 2011, I can dream of Boston.

"Chariots of Fire", the movie that inspired me to a PB in SCHKM 2011.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011 - My first oversea marathon

My last full marathon was SCKLM 2010 (June). Since then, I had taken a break from full marathon races until 20 February 2011. That was the day I ran my first full marathon outside of Malaysia. The event: Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011.

I registered early (somewhere in October 2010 I think) and got a slot in the Full Marathon Challenge category. There was another category called Full Marathon Run 1. The division of categories was more for runners crowd control and logistics, I believe. For Half Marathon, there were three categories.

The total runners in all categories was about 65,000 as announced by the organiser. This was close to four times the number of runners in SCKLM 2010. The organisation of the event was a challenge, but I can say now, it was very well organised (more about this point in another post).

I managed to convince my wife to join me. In fact, I had this in mind before I registered for the event. A trip for two of us, just our time together. We planned only a 2-day, 1-night trip to Hong Kong. Why not longer? Because we just had a family holiday in Hong Kong back in December 2010. Also, we knew that we would miss our children had we stay longer.

I trained very hard for this event. On average, probably about 60-80 kms per week. On one particular week, I managed to run 100km and 130km in 8 days. That was like a breakthrough for me. I didn't even sure my body could hold for 100km per week. But our body is really amazing. It will adapt to trainings if done properly. I also put up many interval and tempo run sessions, to prepare to run with faster pace.

However, just a week before Chinese New Year, my mother was diagnosed with dengue fever and had to be admitted to hospital. I lost my mood to celebrate Chinese New Year, let alone to train. She went through critical period with platelet count down to single digit (normal range is 150-400). I was really worried about her. Fortunately, she recovered and finally discharged on first day of the Year of the Rabbit. I considered that the biggest ang pow that I ever received.

Then my children also being diagnosed with dengue fever a few days later. I really worried about them and brought them to medical attention. My mind was not thinking about SCHKM then. I was prepared to do a "no-show" if their condition didn't improve. With careful monitoring and early medical attention, both of them recovered one week before 20 Feb 2011.

So considering the eventful Chinese New Year that I had, I considered SCHKM 2011 a bonus for me. The fact that I managed to stand in front of the starting line with focus on the race, it was really fortunate. There was no pressure for me to set personal best or anything like that anymore. Just glad that everyone and everything were fine back home.

The full marathon route from my Garmin 405CX.

The more detailed route map from SCHKM 2010. It is the same for SCHKM 2011. (Please click for larger image)

Now the race proper.

I woke up early and changed into my running vest and other gears. My wife followed me to the baggage deposit place just walking distance away from our hotel. Lawrence Law, my runner friend also stayed in the same hotel (who also helped to collect my race pack). We quickly deposited our bags and made our ways to the waiting area to do warm up. It was a cold cold morning with temperature around 13 degrees. I was contemplating all night before what I should wear. I finally settled for the thin and light adidas vest. However, I had a T-shirt over me until I was about to start my run.

With my wife at the starting line, on Nathan Road.

I was trying to look for some runner friends from Malaysia, but soon realised it was not easy among the sea of runners. However, a familiar voice greeted me near the baggage deposit area. Cornelius Koh was there. He was wearing a sweater. I was tempted to ask him whether he planned to run in that. But I didn't.

The runners from full marathon challenge category quickly made their way to the waiting area after the start of the first half marathon category (there were three starts for HM). I managed to get a good position from the front.

The race started soon after. The initial run around Nathan Road was really crowded. Slowly, when I made my way onto the Kowloon Highway around 3km mark, I found more space to run and then there was a drizzle. The climb started there and the gradient become steeper as I reach the start of Stonecutters Bridge.

The course elevation map (taken from the SCHKM runners' guide)

The climb lasted about 1.5km and it was a good warm-up to what was coming. On the 8km onwards for about 1.6km then came the chilly winds blowing from the seas. That when I felt cold for the first time in this race. I was pacing around 5 minutes per km on average so far.

Then came the Nam Wan Tunnel. The 10km marker was inside the tunnel and the length of the tunnel was about 2km. My split time at 10km: 49:24

I was feeling quite good then. I had a feeling that my condition was good today and the weather was nice. I began to think that I could improve on my personal best despite the hilly route.

Then came the Tsing Ma Bridge. There was a slight climb before the bridge. Then race time then was about 1 hour. I saw the Kenyans were already making their way back. I saw also Shaharudin Hashim, Malaysian top runner, pacing with the elite (African) women runners.

Once on the bridge there wasn't much view as it was a cloudy day. The chilly wind was blowing again. There was an U-turn before end of the bridge. On the bridge before the U-turn, I saw Ben Swee. He smiled at me and I acknowledged him by waving. The U-turn point was about 15.3km according to my Garmin.

After my U-turn, I tried to look for my runner friends. I could only see Lawrence. He was doing quite well. I couldn't see Cornelius. I wondered if he was doing fine.

Then I turned to Ting Kau Bridge. There was an U-turn on the bridge at 20.3km mark (my Garmin reading). The wind was blowing strongly until the safety cones along the route were toppled over.

I passed the halfway mark (21.1km) with split time 1:43:39. I was beginning to think the wild and crazy idea of having a crack at 3:30. That was when I continued to maintain the 5 minutes per km pace.

Then came the Cheung Tsing tunnel. This tunnel was about 1km long. Running in the tunnel was pleasant as the runners were shielded from the cold.

After the tunnel, there was a small climb and then we were on Kowloon Highway. From this point onwards, I thought the toughest part of the race was over. The route was gradually descending. At the 30km mark, my split time was 2:27:04. I could sense then the wild and crazy idea was becoming possible.

But at 32km mark, I began to feel the tiredness in my legs. I finished my last Powergel before the entrance to the West Harbour Tunnel. That was near the 34km mark. After the coming out of the tunnel, coming to the 36km mark, there was a steep climb. I conquered that but soon found myself feeling the numb in my arms. I couldn't swing my arms as usual. I had to put my arms down every now and then to ensure the blood flew into the arms.

I tried to maintain my pace but I felt the pull on my calf muscles and hamstrings. There were two more flyovers plus an underpass before the finish line. It was really punishing in the last 6km. I was not sure if I had hit the wall. But mentally, I still wanted to push and leave nothing out there.

At Causeway Bay, about 1km to go. (Thanks to Christy)

As I approached the last 1 km marker, I saw an official timer besides it. It read 3:26:00 dead when I crossed it. My heart suddenly sunk. It was too much for me to push a 4:00 minute per km for the last km. I pushed as much as I could and also tried to look for my wife in the crowd. I had initially asked her to be at the finish line around 9:50am. It would mean then, she could have missed me around the finishing area. There were so many people around Causeway Bay and Victoria Park. She could have a hard time finding a space among the crowd.

I crossed the finish line with a lot of satisfaction as I ran a very focused and determined race. It was the best race that I had run. Finish time 3:31:21 (official gun time) for my personal best in a FM.

I tried to look for my wife after the run. But I could barely walk. So I had to seek help at the physiotherapy tent. This was the first time I went for help after a race.

After the treatment and massage, I managed to find my wife at the meeting point (the rendezvous if we couldn't meet at the finishing area) . She said she didn't see me crossing the finish line. I said to her, "That was not important. The important thing is you are with me now." I was worried earlier when I waited for her for a good 20 minutes.

With my wife after the run.

It was a good run experience and quality time spent with my wife for this short trip. I will remember this race as my first oversea full marathon. We will probably come back again next year.

Until next run, do train hard and smart, and stay healthy too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011 - Quick Update

I thought I have a crack at 3:30. I really tried. It was not to be, at least not on the day.

Unofficial time: 3:31:21 (PB)

Split at 21.1km: 1:43:39
Second 21.1km: 1:47:42

I will write more about my run later.