Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Marathon Story - Race day

Malaysia Women Marathon, 7 April 2013, I-City Shah Alam.

It felt pretty surreal as i crossed the gates into the inner sanctum of I-City.  race day had finally arrived and i was going to run that much dreamed about and often dreaded full marathon.  my first ever 42km and to date, the furthest distance i had ever run was a mere 25km.  i sure hope this old body would hold up till the very last km lol.

The chilly morning air only increased my nervousness and in an attempt to shake it off, i chatted up another runner, a pretty young girl who was looking a little lost.  "you running today?" i asked (yup people say the most obvious things dont they lol).  she nodded, and i asked again "what category?" and was rather taken aback when she said "full" (she looked too darn sweet to be doing anything that grueling). then what she said next only increased my nervousness and made me wish i had never said anything in the first place, "its my 15th". Lol, and here i am without even one to my name.

As i rounded the corner, i spied familiar faces.... there at the parking lot suzi & her husband were busy preparing for the race.  somehow the sight of their smiling faces made me feel so much better.  i found out that they had been there the best part of the nite, helping ray sort out the fruits specifically the boxes upon boxes of apples & bananas.  not really knowing my way around i stuck to their side like a leech.

With the girls

When we made our way down to the mwm grandstand, i started bumping into more and more friends.   the air was vibrant with excitement and had the feel of a fiesta lol. surprisingly, my nervousness was slowly dissipating, by then all i wanted to do was to get it over and done with.

Friends were asking me about my pacer and my answer was simple, i just didnt have one.  at the onset, when karen and juney approached me about doing my first full at MWM, we talked about getting a pacer but i didnt really commit myself to the idea.  no, not because i was so confident that i didnt need one, but more bcos i knew myself well enough to know i'd be more stressed out to have someone with me every step of the way.   i guess i've been a solitary runner for far too long.  and, i'm also the type of person who gets pretty darn uncomfortable when i'm out shopping and the salesgirl starts following me around, offering her assistance.  banyak songel la macik nih kannn.... lol, yeah i know.  but having said all that, i knew for a fact that i would be needing all the support & motivation i could get while i'm running the race and in trying to finish it.

And off we go ladies

MWM was flagged off on time.  as i started to run i decided not to go thru with either of my earlier plans; the 10min run 1 min walk or the 2 song run 1 min walk strategy suddenly felt too complicated for me.  it would be much simpler if i just shuffled along as best i could and take walk breaks at the water stations and killer hills.  i wasnt about to let any of my precious energy drain away just to figure out the 10:1 ratio, no sirree lol.... i'd be needing everything i've got to make sure i crossed the finishing line.

One of the many waterstations

Anakmami & gang cheering the runners on

The first 10km was like any of my other runs accept i ran it at a much slower pace. now, with hindsight, i do believe lily's advice of just 'running at the pace of a half'  to hold some merit bcos in the end, we'd be slowing down anyway - start slow and u will end up even slower.  i had by then downed a powergel but by the time i hit the hill right after the kayangan roundabout, the sole of my left foot started to tingle then gradually started to burn. i certainly didnt need a blister so early on in the run and i guess that's how the subuh stopover i made at the sek 13 surau turned out to be a double blessing.  not only was i able to attend to my prayers on time, it also provided my feet with the break it obviously needed.  i actually finished my marathon without blisters or  chaffing.

But then i'm jumping the gun here lol.

A little too dark, a little too lonely

The route between ptpl & msu was a pretty dark & lonely stretch, it would've been much better if there was some sort of checkpoint there.  but we started bumping into the hm runners at the stadium roundabout and by then the sun was also making its presence felt so from that point onwards,  it started to feel like a street party again lol.

I was keeping to my pace, nibbling on my extremely sweet powerbar and taking the rolling hills of shah alam in my stride.  so far so good but still a long way to go.  i hadnt even reached the halfway mark but i was just happy that i was still keeping it all together.  i passed the 22km mark way beyond any decent timing but that wasnt my concern.  i was still up and running (or if u want to get all technical on me, yes it was more of a slow shuffle lol) and so far no pain in any of my joints, blister free, cramp free, no sidestitches.. for me that was all that mattered.

I started to feel the energy drain after the uturn in front of the unisel intersection.  it was during the long slow ascent of the uitm hill that i had my first walk break other than at the water stations.  i also alternated between walking backwards and breaking out into a hiphop dance lol, the music was to catchy to resist. by then i was pass caring about what other people thought.  i was going to do whatever i had to, to finish.

I didnt eat anything before the run accept for my supplements & 2 softboiled eggs.  for the life of me i couldnt even finish a powerbar,  i just ended up nibbling at it all throughout the race.  although i was mindful i needed to eat to keep my energy up, i just couldnt.  back at the McD roundabout, the distance was making itself felt and i was feeling more and more like a wilted daisy.  i quickly swallowed my second gel and plodded on, wishing that the effect would kick in immediately.  that was when i came across the hammer guys.. that was when i had the best drink of my life lol.  and watermelon never, and i repeat, never tasted sooo darn good.

A timely boost

After that i felt better, and ran better.  i reached the 30km tent soon after and that was where they were giving out complimentary powergels and distributing bananas.  now fruits i could  handle and i finished my banana by the time i hit the state mosque roundabout.  as i proceeded to the junction of the pusat seni alquran, i realised i had to turn left instead of going straight ahead.  this was where i had miscalculated the distance bcos when i was checking out the route with golfman, i assumed we would be proceeding onwards to the concode intersection and from there straight back to i-city.  and it was from that point on that the race became mentally challenging for me bcos in my mind, every turn became an extra distance.

I tackled the seksyen 12 hill the same way i did the hill at uitm, by alternating between briskwalking, moving backwards and grooving to the music.  right after the kayangan roundabout was deo's own little water station and i was pretty tempted to turn right and head for home to a nice cool shower lol.  but i kept on going bcos not long after that juney the anakmami would be waiting with her roadside tuckshop and her famous hugs lol.

By then i had bumped into KA and yimster, both having the time of their life 'surrounded' by women lol.  i'd also befriended a sweet young girl who was struggling to keep moving.  what pissed me off to no end was her pacer; he kept leaving her behind.  now arent pacers supposed to be motivating and supporting the runners as best they could?  she was obviously close to giving up and he certainly wasnt doing much about it.

Helping each other along.. run sister run

We ran together for quite a distance but when things were looking better for her, i left her with her pacer. by the time i crested the last hill at seksyen 7, i was on autopilot. whatever happens i was just going to keep moving forward.  i guess after over 6 hours, my energy level was starting to move into 'reserve'.  pretty soon it would reach 'empty'.  and even then i forgot about taking more powergels.  the watermelon, the banana and the consistent intake of fluids was making me feel full but truth of the matter was, my body needed a greater boost if i wanted to run stronger.

And ray kept saying, 'you can do it kak'

When i met up with ray somewhere along the last 2km (bless his soul for keeping his promise to finish the run with me), i was seriously out of juice and running on empty.  i couldnt increase my pace, neither did i have any energy left for the usual mad dash to the finish.  as we turned the corner, my running family (runners from the shah alam pacers) was there waiting to finish the last few meters together with ray & me.  yes, we were indeed a merry lil bunch lol.  and i was so focussed on moving forward that i kept on shuffling even after i crossed the finishing line.  for me if i'd stop, i might not be able to continue moving again.

They waited for me, my cheering squad

And finish i did

The goodie bag collection

When i collected the goodies, congratulations came at me from all directions hehehe.  not only was i happy to finish, so were my friends.  and although my kids didnt share my passion, they were there with a bouquet of flowers to mark my 'graduation'.

The kids sharing mama's joy

After years of pounding the pavement i finally get to call myself a marathoner yayyy ;p

MWM B0339 - 6:41:18.86

To family and friends, you know who you all are, from the bottom of my heart i thank you for your continuous believe and support.  left on my own, i might still be putting it off lol.

Note to self.

1.  2 powergels and half a powerbar wasnt enough.  i should've remembered i did that for my halfmara so i should've at least doubled it for my marathon.  next time, a powergel for every hour on the road.
2. I was hyper aware about the state of my body bcos i wanted to find out for myself about the dreaded 'hitting the wall'.  no, i didnt hit any wall or experienced anything close to it, i just progressively lost my energy...  but then thats probably bcos i didnt really push myself as in 'terjelir lidah sampai kejalan' point so my body didnt rebel or retaliate too much.  point to remember, if i do decide to push myself, be prepared for the wall.
3.  Running with a waterbottle really helped.  but instead of holding it, find a better, more comfortable way to carry it around.
4.  Shoes - skechers prospeed, socks - adidas running, tights - adidas running (commando), sports bra - adidas... and with generous globs of vaseline where necessary.  end result - thank God no blisters, no chaffing.
5.  Again as per halfmara prep - 3 days in advance: oralites 2x/day + glucosamine sulphate 1x/day and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
6.  Extras - pre & post full body massage really helped.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Marathon Story - road to my first 42km

First of all whats this thing with runners and marathons? why so much hoo-ha over that random 42km distance? and in this day & age of ultra modern conveniences, of fast cars and even faster super cars, why the hell would anyone even consider running that distance?

The marathon dates back to ancient greece where Pheidippedes the soldier gave his life to fulfill his duties, and that spirit of heroic running has been kept alive thru the modern olympic games.  bcos it is also an acknowledgement as well as a celebration of the courage & tenacity of the human spirit, to this very day runners everywhere scheme and dream about running that marathon distance.

Me included lol.

Yup, forget about age, level of fitness, appropriateness or whatever.  its just one of those things that needs to be experienced.

I love keeping active and with the kids all grown up, i have the leeway to experiment with a lot of other things apart from running but truth be told, it still holds a special place in my heart.  being the wuss that i am, i have shied away from anything that spells 'unnecessary pain' so i have seldom strayed from my comfort zone or pushed myself beyond my limits.  thus my slow and boring progress lol.  after years of running, i only started doing half marathons in 2011 and although i've always toyed with the idea of doing a full and not to mention the endless stream of encouragement from my running buddies, i've always managed to come up with some pretty legitimate excuses hehehehe.

Until i declared 2013 to be the year of the marathon.  until a friend made it quite impossible for me to chicken out.  until i finally said to myself, enough is enough, this is it.

Malaysia Woman Marathon actually came right out of the blue for me.  i was planning to lose my 'marathon virginity' at SCKLM 2013, which was way out in june and which gave me plenty of time to fool around with lol.  or so i thought.  but God presented me with another option just too good to be ignored.  not only was MWM an inaugral all women run, it was also to be held in shah alam, the place i loved most on this planet.  For a person who grew up without any roots and who has claimed shah alam as her home, running my maiden FM here would mean all that much more to me.

MWM launching & press conference 
I-City, Shah Alam
February 2013

Karen Loh, the heart & soul of MWM 2013

The lovely ladies making up the MWM Team

Press Conference

Ultra ray - he 'sealed' my fate by announcing my participation in the FM

My soon to be partners in crime

So i had to reset my mind and focus on a solid training plan.  instead of 6 months i am now left with 4 but it was still a workable time frame.  i didnt realise i would be going through a couple of major setbacks.

First was an unexpected attack of shingles.  it was bad enough to bring about a change of heart and at one point i had even decided i was just going to do a half marathon during MWM (read about it here & here). second, a challenging period of hormonal instability brought about by my perimenopausal state.  and put together, both collided to turn my world completely upside down.

I guess the realisation that i wouldnt be getting any younger and the high possibility of things going further downhill was what spurred me on.  regardless of whether it would be enough or not, i tried my best to put in whatever training i could muster and during those sparodic days when the grips of fatigue & lethargy left me, i utilised to the fullest.

I closed my ears to that voice in my head when the longest lsd that i could put in was only 25km and even then, only once.

Although it still bothered me, i went ahead with the rest of the pre-race preparation.  topping up on the fluid intake, the oralites, the carbs but truth be told, i was more prepared for my half marathon in 2011 than my full (read about it here & here).

Of course friends and family was supportive and it would have meant the world to me to have golfman around but sadly, he had a prior appointment he couldnt get out off.  golfman will be golfman, enough said.

So to make up for his absence, right after my carbo-loading session eve of the race (by then my appetite had deserted me and i couldnt really eat much), i dragged him along to check out the 42km route.  of course there were no surprises for me.  the route was made up of smaller portions i had covered in my years of solitary & group runs, rolling hills included lol.  but never before have i attempted ALL of them together at one go.

Shah Alam has a lot of roundabouts and at certain points, the route looked quite complicated due to the loops & turns.  i certainly didnt want to get lost in my own backyard but in the wee hours of the morning anything was possible lol.  in fact golfman & i miscalculated the route that nite, we were actually short of about 7km and it was that missing portion which became quite a mental challenge to me during the race.

As is the case with any event, be it a 5k, 8k, 10k or half mara,  sleep was an impossibility but this time, even more so bcos not only was i looking forward to doing a full marathon, i was also dreading it with all my heart.  so i busied myself with the final preparations - clothes, shoes, socks, bars, gels, ipod, waterbottle, small change etc.  and as my mind meandered aimlessly, it was already time to put on the battle gear.  God, never had i put on sooo much vaseline on myself before lol.... but i was thinking better this goey mess than the dreaded chaffing & blisters.  i then realised i hadnt bought anything specific in respect to the marathon that i was attempting. i had actually forgotten all about the existence of the special socks i had read about before, or consider the possible need for compression tights, ankle/knee guards, kinestic tapes etc etc.  i was good for a normal run but definately NOT a marathon.

But it was a tad too late to start thinking about all that and hadnt i already decided that it was going to be a 'lenggang kengkang' marathon (albeit a sadistic twist to the usual 'lenggang kangkung' version lol) for me?

I had been in an anxious state all week so i didnt make any plans to meet up with anyone.  whatever happens will happen anyway so i was on my own when groggy golfman dropped me off at the gates of i-city, 3.15am that fateful sunday morning, 7 April 2013.

Yup, this was it... D-day lol.

Coming up (soon i hope hehehe) The Marathon Story - race day ;-))