Monday, July 11, 2016

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016 - Race Report

Set to race with a stretch goal, finished with a strong race!

Since my first Gold Coast marathon in 2014 (my first marathon race ever), I've never missed an edition of the race and this year marked my 3rd consecutive year running the race, personal best the previous 2 races and looking to continue the run. I have always loved running in Gold Coast so much so Nick, I and may be Jamie too felt at home whenever we set our foot for the race.  3:59 was the goal time this time round, but seeing how I strayed in the month of May a conscious decision sacrificing key training for a bigger race later of the year, a long niggling PF issue flaring up (drama here), and without a 30km training run, it is really a stretch goal for anyone who understand how much training one needs to put in for a marathon.


Flew in unusually late this year compare to the previous 2 years. Nick, Yan Leng and I flew in on Saturday morning, from the airport Yan Leng and I traveled directly to the race expo while Nick picked up his rented car ferrying our luggage (thanks man) for his apartment check in. Similar to the year before, the expo was packed with runners and visitors alike, most of the booth setup were selling running related gears with informational booth about races elsewhere. I've got a very good deal for 2 Nathan bottles out of the expo and leaving the venue a happy man.


With the shake down run set to start at 4:30pm, we headed back to Surfer's Paradise for our respective check in, grabbed the much liked bacon pizza at Domino's for lunch. After freshen up back at the accommodation, met up Yan Leng at the agreed meet up point and we walked to the shake down run venue. With the tiring flight and no rest time in between, I didn't run much rather it was really to catch up with the rest of the group for a fun run/walk, fooling around and taking lots of picture. We then head for an early dinner around Surfer's Paradise, grab some essentials from Woolworth and is time to head back to the hotel and get the race gear prep.



Raceday. Jamie, Yan Leng, Selin and I met up at the tram station and head to race precinct together. Upon arriving, we decided to grab a hot coffee nearby to warm ourselves up in the cold and chilly morning, there the rest of the group join us and head to the agreed meet up point for some pre-race group photos, toilet break and warm up. With a blink of an eye, it is already 7am and is time to walked to the race corral getting ready for the race proper. Yan Leng and I had agreed to push each other to a sub4 race seeing that we are on a similar pace, I even worked out on different scenarios on what pace to keep and at which stage of the race to slow or catch. Hence we toed along with the 4hr pacer together with Nick and check ourselves in for the final time before race start.


Race started on time, slowly and steadily we started out with decent pace to warm things up. With the cool weather it was rather easy to go faster than you need to, so I kept checking on my trusty Suunto and warned Yan Leng that we were going too fast and needed to save for the later stage of the race. We were chatting along and the heart rate was kept at a easy stage. At 5km point, we keep a look out for "Coach" Nessa as Nick told us earlier that she will be there taking free photos for us lol. Things are pretty much warmed up by then and we chugged along just as I have planned for keeping a nice and comfortable pace. However, at times I need to put a rope on the wild stallion in Yan Leng to slow her down ever slightly and kept telling her to keep a distance from the gun time 4hr pacer otherwise we will destroy our race later.


Along the run,  I kept feeding her with information on how we were doing so far and where we are right now as a form of keeping the conversation going, taking away the running from the mind. We also have a lady runner in very tight outfit cutting in front of us, her butt so tight I joked with Yan Leng that I wanted to give her a smack haha. Giving high fives to the kids, cheerleaders team and the locals who came out to support was my only way to show my gratitude for their support and needless to say it is also my favorite thing to do in the race. Nevertheless, our focus was to keep the pace right and give a shout out to the elites who were running so fast the opposite direction. At the 15km u-turn, we were running under 5:30 avg pace and things were slightly better than plan, I was cautious with the avg pace that we were doing up to that point, but knowing that my pace will drop at the later stage of the race, so I decided to give it a go keeping the pace


Running form and breathing was at a very rhythmic way for the lack of better word, I then spotted Nick on the opposite side and he was fully focus on his race coming back from a back to back injury. He was running a very good race given the lack of training time and I give a shout out to him " Go Meb Go!!!" a ritual that I have kept for every year upon seeing him in the race. Heading back towards 21km mark was crucial now as it marks the half way point and a logical check on the race overall that I'm doing so far. Stride by stride, Yan Leng and I were on a matching pace, we picked our stops strategically to refuel our small bottle and drink from it passing every water station to keep hydrated at the same time shaving seconds from every stop which could prove crucial later. Out plan worked out really well so far and were still fresh heading towards the half way mark.


Crossing the 21km mark was to me an important milestone, and recording a personal best of 1:56 was a bonus which also means we have built up a healthy 4 mins buffer without pushing. Things are really looking great for the both of us and sub 4 goal was within sight and a step closer. There on I could see Q1 (the tallest building in Gold Coast), and I told myself to just keep doing what I've done right so far and we'll reached to 25km mark in no time.

1175 and 5858 put me to shame
However, things started to took a bad turn down south at around 23km mark, I told Yan Leng my stomach started playing tricks on me and I may need to take a toilet break. I wasn't sure I really needed to go and only knew of the toilet at the 25km mark where we will run pass  at the Surfer's Paradise. To manage the situation, I started to slow my pace a little without telling her so to not hold her back as she was running really well at that stage of the race, at the same time I made sure she was also in sight for me to keep chasing. 3km passed, I have decided to take the break and hit straight to the toilet. No luck all occupied, waited out a little bit and moved on looking out for another hopefully a vacant one as I would lose too much time waiting/queuing. I kept looking at my watch working out on how much time I can afford and turns out I really need to finish it up real quick.


Is hammer time, I've lost all the 4 mins buffer, put in the pace say hi again to "Coach" Nessa heading towards 27- 28km. On that faithful day,  I must have done something really wrong, either that or Lady Luck must have really hated me on that day..... SSSStrikkke 2. Dammit, I had to go again aggrrhhhhh.. this time not knowing where the portables are I just have to keep going until the row of portable potty was in sight at 29km mark...rushed in, hit it and out losing more time. It was heartbreaking for me, I was down but not out. Keeping the spirit high I needed to work out the maths to see if I still have a chance. Crossing the 30km mark saw me 4 + mins over the target time, which mean I have lost a total 9 mins from the 2 excursions. To make up that deficit within 12km with a set of used legs, it would take me something very special with a sting of fast pace to catch up. I tried on the 31km it didn't happen, 32km it did not happen again. Crossing the 35km mark losing more time, at that moment, I knew it was a losing battle for me, heartbreaking moment.

Hammer time going into 27k


Nevertheless, I wasn't going to let that spoil a strong finish and so I marched on. The 4hr pacer finally crossed path with me from the opposite direction, I was keeping a look out for Yan Leng giving her the much support needed, but I didn't spot her for some distance. Then,  I spotted her about 700-800m after the 4hr pacer and I knew it will be very close for her, gave her a shout out encouraging her to push on. I was all pumped up at that point and my legs came back alive setting some fast kilometers after kilometers catching up with Digger (4:15 pacer), exchanging a few words with him before setting myself for another series of fast KMs.

At the bridge heading to 38km, spotted Nick and with both our goal time is already thrown out of the window due to our own set of setbacks. We spend a minute or so exchanging our woes with him having to deal with cramps and I dealing with the toilet break. Saying that, we never forget to give a word of encouragement to each other before setting off to deal with the remaining distance. Again, I felt right at home and was able to churned out under 6 mins pace going into the final stretch of the run. McDonalds' was a very welcoming landmark which signified the finishing line is just a little over a km away.

Heading towards 38k still in good running form

I ran close to the barricade for the whole kilometer wanted to feel and hear all the cheers and shout out from the supporters, I even tapped on a board that says "Tap here to power up" held out by the locals. The experience running down that main straight was exhilarating to say the least, I have gave my best on that day and for the first time I wasn't sprinting to the finishing line not because I wasn't able to, but I wanted to enjoy the moment and say a few thanks to the seas of supporters. Crossing the finishing line short from the goal time, a little disappointed but held my head high knowing I had finished a strong race.


Similar to the past 2 edition of the GCAM that I have ran in, the race has always been able to deliver the trill that I was looking for. Year on year, with the race route so familiar to me I would still have the jitter and nervousness toeing at the start line. The race was truly living up to its expectation of an IAAF Gold Label Road Race. A well organized race, the sea of supporters from young to the old and the musician playing those badass tune was what makes the event amazing.  Although it was me that robbed myself the opportunity of achieving my goal time, but it was really beyond me. As much as I would like to put up a special come back and make it more dramatic, it was not meant to be. I would not go into the "what could have been if..." mode, I have gave it all my best and it was still a strong race. Would I have come back for GCAM17? I would love to, but first I would need to negotiate and get my visa approves by the home minister first.


Saying that, I owe my gratitude to my wife for her unconditional support towards my hours away from home putting in mileages day in day out. Also my gratitude to the Malaysia training team led by Jamie and Nick who brough me up to this point and not forgetting some hard session with the #MMT group. Congratulations to the army of 250 over Malaysian that made it to the race this year..hope everyone enjoyed the race as well as the hospitality as much as I do. I have come to know many new friends and for those that I may not have remember your name, please accept my apology.

We had many good races together

With Yuki who finished 2nd



Not forgetting #FTT

Here's to GCAM17

Photos courtesy by Jamie, Nick and Nessa

Sunday, June 26, 2016

GCAM16 - See Ya Real Soon!!

My first blog post was about Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015 and here I am now, a year later preparing to race in Gold Coast 2016



This would be my 5th marathon proper (excluding a run under influence race lol.. don't ask), lots has changed since I took my first step. Over the 3+ years of running I've been improving and scored a personal best (PB) for the past 4 races, not bad huh? Deep down in me I wish for the streak to continue for a 5th PB in a row, but it would be no easy task this time.

Few #nonamesmentioned (you know who you are) had been telling me with my current fitness level drastically improved, it wouldn't be a problem to continue with another PB. I hope they are right... Well things aren't always straight forward... the fact is I have not been very focus on a marathon training. I strayed away from running for a bit into cycling since Kyoto Marathon (Race Report) and raced in 5 separate events between March and May missing a few key long weekend runs. You may think the crossed training in cycling would help my running.. maybe... but truth is there is no short cut in running unless you are talented which I'm not, missing key runs means PB slipping away bit by bit.



On top of that (drama), both my calves kind of froze up in the early June simulation run planned for 32km but had to cut short to 21km, giving a big blow in the confidence department. Since then, the whole month of June hasn't been very kind to me, and as if finishing a marathon is not challenging enough, it decided to flared up my left plantar fasciitis considerably, forcing me to switch two gears down on my training and I'm still nursing my left leg. That said, I'm not complaining or banging my fist on the table as I know, I will still be toeing the start line in a week time with my head held high and will not be forced to downgrade my race to 21km or a DNS.



With days left before raceday, I am doubtful my left leg will be 100% fit. Running a race without my body 100% with me would be like hanging on to a battered machine, one can only hope everything will held up nicely  during the race and give myself a best shot with whatever may come. Experience counts I hoped and I have not forgotten the electrifying atmosphere of GCAM for the past 2 years. The support and cheers from the locals and kids in their pajamas giving me countless high fives will definitely be my source of motivation and power me to the finishing line.


Ready or not, I am looking forward and will once again enjoy the race which brought me ample sweet memories. Wish me luck!! Remember to cheer for Ah Onz!!



Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2016, I'll see ya in 6 days time mate!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Perak Century Ride - Race Report

Sometimes I think I may have gone too far for something that I'm not ready for.. 166km of bike ride with a bigger one to come

May 2016 was a pretty busy month for me when it comes to weekend events. It all started with 120km Shah Alam Enduride followed by the Watermelon Relay Run and 166km Perak Century Ride all within the span of 3 weeks. I signed up for this event to have one main goal to achieve, that is to find out if I can still run after cycling for 160km. Wondering why? the biggest race for this year has yet to come and I'm doing this to find out if I could possibly do it before deciding whether if I will be racing it.
Photo by Cyclng Plus Malaysia
Prior to this, I have only cycled 3 events 108km, 78km and 120km respectively building up to this 166km and nope I hardly trained on the bike and that makes me a little bit too Gang-Ho leaping to the century ride. Riding 120km (race report here) for the first time ever) 2 weeks before the century ride gave me a pretty good idea the challenges that I'll have deal with especially on the fueling and cramp management. So the going into the race apart from the main goal, is also to work on the fueling strategy to avoid late race cramp

Race required me to travel up north and my ever supporting wife agreed to drive up with me also to be the driver going home after the race ( I would have been too beaten up to drive back). We drove in the afternoon together with a few friends reaching Ipoh in the late afternoon, checked in the bike and hotel room quickly we all head out for a nice dinner before calling it a day preparing for the long race the next morning. 

With the sky still dark, my phone alarm rang and is race day. Putting up race gear and I quickly head down for a breakfast after all, it is going to be a long hard race for a newbie like me going into a territory of distance that I'm not familiar of and not prepare nor trained for. After a quick bite with a few Nick & Sons and Fan, we all head to the bike checked-in area and realized it was raining. It wasn't a storm  but heavy enough to put a thought of DNS for safety reason. Nevertheless, I decided to do a final check on the bike and waited out to see if the rain will stop before deciding. Not long after, the marshal came and signaled the race will go ahead and thank god the rain is slightly lighter now but still a receipt for disaster if one does not respect the nature.


All of us line up at the starting line together, after a few picture taken by Fan, off we go. As this was the first time I ride in wet and rainy condition, I wasn't going to take anything for granted so I started really slow just to get myself comfortable with the ride condition avoiding any early incident. My utmost respect goes to those who sped off and the group of riders I was riding along not giving each other troubles and allow me apologize if I have committed any rookie mistakes.

The first 10km of the ride was on really wet road, I didn't know what to expect and certainly not sure how to handle the situation. Water was splashing all over from the wheels from fellow participants and the same goes to my own. Visibility was not ideal to say the least but every one ride on with a lower speed with safety in mind. Speed was between 23-25km/hr on my bike computer far from the ideal speed I was hoping for.

20-30km into the race, rain got slightly heavier and riding on slick tires are like skating on ice. However, it did not dampen my spirit and as the distance goes I got more comfortable with the riding condition and started picking up some speed hoping to catch up the lost time from the early stage of the race. Had my first energy gel at about 30km mark and there was no problem.


Up to this stage the route are mostly flat and I was able to climb up to 30km/hr with the leg still fresh. Race condition starts get better as the rain cloud was moving away from us and only light drizzles were accompanying us going into the next stage. I was able to keep and and ride along with a peloton or two closely pulling me though the winding roads. Albeit, the road is still damp, but the riding condition at this stage between 40-60km mark has improved tremendously. The peloton was riding at about 35km/hr and I happily tagged along.

The route was still fairly flat with a few minor ups, but nothing that was jaw dropping. Took my second energy gel and a water station later, we are into the half way mark. The nightmare has come... With a pair of used legs, the race route brought us to places that I started to see "walls" yes for the lack of better words. walls.. It was hilly as hell and big climbs were there to greet the riders one after another. Some riders came down to push their bike up and some struggled to keep the bike moving upwards and I was huffing and puffing squeezing ounces of energy determined not to push the bike up, peddling hard up those blardy "walls". After at least 5 or 6 of those "walls", a volunteer on bike at the road side was shouting "enam lagi" (six more) and I was like WHAT?? Six more "Walls"??? this is sick.. really sick.

Really there was no point crying but to peddle on, pull out my third gel but due to my silly way of tearing of the gel, at least half of it splashed out on the bike and jersey leaving maybe a quarter of the pack. I consume what's left and wanted to whip out my fourth pack, then I realized one pack of gel was missing, I must have dropped it while pulling one of the gel out... drama!! Left with one pack of gel and 70km more to go, I have decided to keep it for later stage and will have to survived with only 3 1/4 pack of gel for the whole distance... drama!!!



I started counting down the six "walls" as the legs get more tired with the distance and climb. At this stage there were no peloton to be seen and you are pretty much on your own doing all the climb. Rain stopped and the sun coming out to play. The condition turned from wet and cold to hot and humid. In this part of the world, this is not uncommon and I can only hoped that it doesn't wear me down too fast on this old and used body. Yayyy I have conquered the remaining 6 "walls", now I'm looking forward for some downhill to rest up the legs, but where are those down hills? There wasn't any, but instead I was greeted with some flat route, well everything is FLAT after those 10 or 11 walls (lost count), oh well,  I have no complains there as long as no more climb.

110-120km... things were still pretty cool, avg speed was within the acceptable range that I have put a targeted on but still a snail pace compare to many of you elite out there. I was telling myself, looks like I will make it to the century mark if I keep at the pace and riding consistently for the remaining distance. Things doesn't always turned out the way you want it to be... 118km King of Mountain (KOM) speechless!!! after those blardy "walls" now KOM??? I know I'm going to struggle up like a snail for the next 500m, organizer put up sign-board counting down the distance before reaching the top of the hill... 500m butt glued on the saddle paddle, 400m butt still glued on the saddle, 300m shit the bike is not moving and almost coming to a stand still... time for some hill dancing. Butt off the saddle, throwing the bike left and right, left and right, 200m can't dance anymore butt back the the saddle put my head down and full focus only on the paddle stroke. 100m huff huff huff huff huff huff huff huff.. this is the longest 100m I have traveled. Reaching the top drained!!!


50km or so to go. Legs are busted and only thing I look forward to is the water station up ahead for some cold liquid. Reaching the water station I quickly grab a bottle of water expecting it to be cold but it was warm and the sun was the culprit. There was no ice box to chill the water, boxes of water was left under the sun and the sun duly warmed it all up for us. It really doesn't help, pouring down from the head to toe doesn't help much, so I quickly fill up my bottles , consumed my last pack of gel and move out. Oh yes no power drinks for all the water station too!! Arghhh


The wasn't any more hill on the remaining route, but instead it was full of rolling hills. Along the way I had to come down from the bike to manage the cramp and stretch a little bit before moving on. As the rain has completely stopped, kids started coming out and play cheering all the riders that zooming past their house. Some even carry the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysia Flag) waving showing their support for the struggling me. It 12pm noon by now and the weather became very hot, with 20km or so to the finishing line, I tried to pick up some speed but really I was too wasted to do anything apart from just staying on the bike without falling lol. Then I decided to stopped at the patrol station along the way, quickly pay for bottle of energy drinks and gulp in down within a blink of an eye. Gatorade has never taste this good before hahaha., I can feel the chill flow from my thirsty throat all the way down to my stomach. It was super refreshing, did some more stretching and get back on the bike and ride away.

A few minor cramps snucked up on me with a few more quick stops, finally I'm back into places where I starts to see building from a far where the start/finishing line was. Can't describe the feelings for my virgin century ride, whole body was aching, legs were tired and at the verge of more cramps. I slowed down and reflect why I started all this... it was a promised to a #nonamesmentioned, a dear friend, a promise to complete an Ironman race for him and I had to ride the distance as part of the journey delivering the promise, delivering a dream.. it was really emotional for me as I crossed the finishing line.  

Crossing the finishing line over 6hrs to me was a big mile stone. Need to rework on the fueling strategy again but glad to find out albeit tired the legs were able to start a run. Doesn't matter how far I can go, but if I started it, I will complete it even if I have to crawl.  Race organizer did a good job, overall, 2nd half of the route was extreme challenging and my only complain would be the lack of any energy drinks and cold drinks at all the water stations. With the Malaysia weather, cold drinks is very important for participants and organizer should reflect on this short coming to improve on their future events.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Something Fun with the Watermelon Relay

I wouldn't call this post a race report but since there is a lot of fun in it, I'll just call it something fun

It is still a race, but not the ordinary Half Marathon or Marathon that I usually put up. In this case, a relay race of 3 in a team with a minimum of one female runner and and and... you carry a watermelon as the team's relay baton :D


Story started with Nick receiving one complimentary slot for the race  and asked within the usual suspects forming a team. Race day is right smack at the height of our training for Gold Coast Airport Marathon and running a 3.4 KM loop with a watermelon would really throw a spanner into the training program. Being a good spot (actually being lazy), I thought running a 3.4 KM escaping from what would be a 16KM - 20KM training day wasn't a bad idea and so I told Nick "Onz". Since we need a female runner Yan Leng (YL) being a lazy bum, raised her hand too joining the bandwagon for some fun, after all is just 3.4KM how hard would it be? Boy I was dead wrong!!!


We met up early on race day and had planned for a pre-run around the race course just to warm up the legs, checking out the route as well as clocking in some important mileage. As we did the pre-run, we checked ourselves in without knowing the team name and which race category hahaha.. collected our "baton" which feels like a 2.5kg - 3 kg watermelon, put it back in the car and continue with the pre-run. Not until we run the route, little did we realize the first KM was actually quite hilly and definitely not going to be an easy one especially carrying the "baton". After the pre-run, we got back to our car and get ourselves ready for the race.


There were 2 categories of the race one being the Challenge category which would start 15mins earlier than the Fun category which we are racing in. As Nick was just recovering from a knee injury and would like to take things a littler easier and run the first leg leaving YL (2nd) and Me (last) doing the catching up on his deficits..so he says.  With a not so shabby plan, Nick quickly line up at the start line with other Fun category participants while we take a few vain shots of him at the start line. Ready, set, go!!! Nick was speeding like a bullet.. and he says wanted to take it easy




15 to 16 mins later by my account, Nick completed the loop leading the pack (heck why am I not surprised) passing the "baton" to YL and she did the same stunt speeding like a bullet. Nick catching his breath complaining about how heavy the "baton" became as the distance goes and there were no one best way to carry the melon, one would simply have to keep switching from arm to arm, position to position to carry on. Nevertheless, it was still a solid run from him considering his recovery.. oh wait did I tell you he ran an easy 4:30 min hilly section, yes he did!!


With around the same amount of time taken, YL came back fast still leading the pack and looking fresh wanting for more haha. I wasn't going to let her do that, before the organizer DQ us, I quickly snatched the " baton" away from her and trying to mimic the speeding bullet of Nick and YL. The first KM was really hard not just because of the hilly section, it is also because how slippery the melon was and making sure it doesn't drop itself is challenging. With the weight and alternating ways of carrying the melon, it actually restrained me from swing my arm in my usual running form. As a result of that, my running rhythm went  down south quickly and started catching my breath heavily even before finishing the first KM. I then realized, it is not easy and not the fun run that I was expecting for. Don't get me wrong, the race is still fun just that you need to work hard for 3.4 km to extract the fun out of the race :D


Luckily, soon enough for me the watch beeped completing the first km and I'm done with the hilly section and now to run the remaining distance consistently. Nahhh... I walked, yes was forced to walk a bit due to the lack of upper body strength carrying the melon running the whole course. At times, I had to hold it on top of my head to relief some pressure off the arms and let the head do the work. At that point of time, I lost count of how many runners I overtook and which leg they were running, but one thing I'm sure of, is no one has overtook me which mean I'm leading the pack thanks to Nick "recovery" run and YL speeding bullet


After running the last turn, I can see from afar both of them waiting for me at the pit stop. Pit stop? Pit stop = You stop at a designated section of the race course, cut the melon into half and team would need to finish the melon before allow to cross the finishing line. I knew the second team wasn't too far behind, quickly I ran into the pit stop and the 3 of us start eating the melon like we have been starved for weeks. With me still catching my breath, Nick and YL had to do the heavy duty work eating most of the melon while I only took a few spoonful, but no complaints there the melon was juicy, sweet and delicious to say the least. Finally, we excavated the whole melon and did out final 50m dash, crossing the finishing line 1st !!!!





It was my first podium since 23 years ago and my first for anything more than 200m :D. The race was fun and you do need to do a little bit of work to extract it out and enjoy. Now when's the Durian relay race??? Thanks to Nick and YL as usual putting up their best performance to put me back into the podium albeit a fun run, but it is still a podium :D 
   



Photo courtesy by Jeanie, Foo and Nick