Monday, September 25, 2017

Challenge Iskandar Puteri 2017

Dreamt that I lost my wheels on race day morning! Jumped out of bed at 6 a.m. and reached transition area at 6.30 a.m. Set up transition. Took some pictures and went to swim start.

The last time I did a half-ironman race was IM70.3 Putrajaya in 2015. The plan was to do another one in 2016 but I was plagued with multiple injuries. In short, I injured my lower back after coming back from Putrajaya. I injured my knee during a basketball tournament. I twisted the other knee when I slipped over my own perspiration in the gym #facepalm. The year got shorter and shorter. I ended up registering for Penang Bridge International Marathon instead and completed it in November 2016.

So when the opportunity to participate in Challenge Iskandar Puteri came up, I decided to take the plunge again. This time, I did my training with Morph Performance. My goal was to complete the race injury-free. However, I think I only completed 60-65% of the training plan. I know I should have been more diligent :p

Weeks leading up to Challenge, I had to battle with so much self-doubt. Am I ready for it? Can I complete the race? Do I have enough training to send me to the finishing line? Then, 2 weeks before the race, I was hit with a bad flu and cough which reduced my training to just short distance running. 

It was also this time that my family and friends started to pour their encouragement and well-wishes on me. The positive messages spurred me on; it definitely built up my confidence to not just confront my fears, but also to have the courage to go to the starting line! Someone wrote "you must respect the race and respect the distance". I decided to trust my training and just go for it!

This time, family and friends came to support me. I prepared them that they might have to wait for 8 hours :p It helped that we stayed very near to the race site. They had ample time for breakfast and lunch and could still catch me on the run loop and finish. The night before, I reminded myself to just enjoy the race, listen to my body and the worst that could happen was only DNF J


Coach advised me to swim behind the biggest group and they would tow me along. I just kept on swimming and I believed the towing worked. No major drama during swim except I had to tread water to adjust my goggles when someone accidentally pulled it off my face :p During Putra, I came out of the water with leg cramps! But this time, the legs felt fresher and I could run about 200m to the transition area J


I did a Bintan ride in August to prepare for Challenge. Many asked me how the bike route was for Challenge. Anything compared to Bintan was considered flat :p There were no surprises, the usual ups and downs; just like Putrajaya. There were a few crashes and punctures along the route. I might be due to wet floor after a haevy downpour. I also saw 2-3 abandon bikes. After the race, I found out that one of the professionals had some frame issues. He actually abandoned his bike and completed the ride on an oBike which I was not sure if it was against the rules :p

The bike ride was like a buffet for me. I ate round the clock; going from gel, chocolate, salt and electrolyte. Coach gave some advice on HR monitoring. I was tempted to catch up on my speed but somehow the speed and cadence sensor did not work! It turned out to be a blessing because I had no choice but to follow my HR. Even though I knew I was slower; but I was glad that I had enough legs for my weakest leg of the race; which was the run.


During Putrajaya, both my legs cramped the moment I started running. It was a horrid experience. I remembered asking myself “WHAT AM I DOING HERE?” But this time, I was mentally prepared to just run. I told myself “a step at a time”; even if I walked, I want to walk faster than other people… haha… Due to my cramp experience in Putra, I decided to carry a bottle of muscle spray during my run. It proved to be so helpful not just for myself, but I was glad I could offer some relief to many others who were experiencing cramps on that hot afternoon. The sun was merciless and blazing HOT! There were only water and isotonic at the hydration stations. The race was not well-supported. After finishing 2 gels on the run, I had to resort to asking a kind stranger for “food” which she gladly offered half her energy bar to me :) Caring is sharing right? :p

So slowly but surely, I inched forward step by step. The finishing moment was extra sweet as the family was there to cheer for me!

Days after the race, I was still smiling. I could walk properly. No lower backache. Knees were ok. But I think I lost 2 toe nails :p A friend commented that this race was like kampong-style; not as well-organized or well-supported. I agree. But I totally enjoyed this journey to Challenge. Through Morph Performance and weekly runs with ROCKrunners, I have made many new friends. I overcame some mental devils in my mind. Thoughts of panic attack in the water, bike malfunction, DNF, heat stroke, the athlete that suffered cardio respiratory failure during the swim leg at SIT etc, made me more cautious not to push myself too hard…

For RM$600 (less than S$200), I had an event tee, a windbreaker, a finisher tee, a face towel and a solid and heavy medal :) It also included a pasta-party for pre-race carbo loading and a lunch for refueling after the race. Smooth traffic at the customs and our stay at Somerset Puteri Harbour was very decent and value for money. So no complaints from me :)

I am no podium contender; just someone with a little courage and a little bit of insanity; wanting to #livestronglivehealthy and to #keepfitafter40 J

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sundown Marathon vs 2XU Compression Run

I had the opportunity to receive free slots to participate in both Sundown Marathon and 2XU Compression Run held back to back on March 26 and April 2 respectively. I signed up for half-marathon for both races.

The highlight of these 2 races was the presence of RockRunners. They were so supportive; look at all the smiles. Cheering one another at the finishing line. The saying goes "if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This run journey has been made more fun because of my new RockFam. Glad I found them.

Sundown Marathon

2XU Compression Run
Going to do a simple post-mortem of both the races.

Race Pack Collection
Sundown: I went on the first day and everything was in a mess. New race pack collection procedure. Long queue. Weather was hot and there was no shelter. Had to wait close to 2 hours. I decided to leave when a friend offered to collect on my behalf. (0)

2XU: Collection point was inside Marina Square. Even though the wait was about 1hr on the first day, the air-conditioned environment made the wait more bearable. (1)

Goodie Bag
Sundown: Nothing fanciful. Registration fee: $80 (0) 
2XU: Nothing fanciful, but it came with an additional Polo tee. Registration fee: $75 (1)

Race Day
Sundown: Flag off at 1.30 a.m. 3 start pens. (0.5)
2XU: Flag off at 4.30 a.m. 8 waves; 10 minutes apart. (0.5)

Sundown: Start towards Kallang, Sports Hub, Kallang PCN, Gardens by the Bay, Garden Bay East, Fort Road, Republic Avenue, Finish.
- The last 3km was a killer because of the Fort Road slope leading to Republic Avenue.
- Directions signs were not clear. (0)

2XU: Start towards Republic Avenue, Kallang, Sports Hub, Tanjong Rhu, Marine East, ECP, Marine East, Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay, Esplanade, Finish.
- Route was pretty flat with a few expected slopes. Many runners managed to hit their PB in this race.
- A few bottlenecks due to stairways and narrow paths. No complains for me as these gave me opportunities to take a breather.
- Clear direction signs at diversions. (1)

Hydration Station
Sundown: Well-placed at about 2km interval. Drinks and isotonic well-stocked. Gel and bananas were also given. (1)
2XU: Hydration stations were well placed at 2km. Would have preferred paper cups to plastic ones. No gel. Bins for cups were placed opposite the hydration stations; had to zig-zag to throw the cups. (0)

Sundown: Enthusiastic volunteers cheering and quick at the hydration station. (1)
2XU: Minimal cheering and volunteers were slow in filling up cups at the hydration stations. (0)

Sundown: Disappointing... Light, small and the strap was unusually thin... (0)

2XU: Nice design. Solid feel and the strap was beautifully designed. (1)

Sundown: After the race pack collection saga, Sundown wanted to give complimentary photos to all runners. This was what I got... The pic was so dark that I could hardly recognize myself. I would have given a (0) if it was not meant to be complimentary. No extra effort to make sure the runners receive something decent. (-1)

2XU: At the time of this write up, I have not seen any pictures from 2XU. There was a photographer at the finishing line. However, I am not expecting much as there was a huge crowd crossing the finishing line together, unlikely to get a decent finishing pic. (0)

Final Score
Sundown: 1.5
2XU: 4.5

Sundown... Sleep Can Wait... I was totally exhausted after the run. Had to go home and find my sleep. Had to nurse my legs due to cramps. No finisher tee for HM finishers.

2XU... Let Your Heart Set The Pace... HR shot to 183 at one point and I slowed down to "calm" the heart. Finished the run with no cramps, no aches. Not only was there a finisher tee, we were also given cold towels at the end of the run. It was so refreshing.

Monday, March 6, 2017

NTU Bike Rally 2017

NTU Bike Rally has always been a hot local cycling event; sell out within hours after opening for registration. The ride comes in 2 categories; 108km and 168km. After last year's 168km attempt, I told myself I will not do that again. Weather was scorching hot. I was slow like snail. I finished the ride feeling absolutely fatigued. Legs were cramping and woke up with aches the following day. Well, like what people say... We always forget the pain :p

When registration open early this year, I took the plunged again... "Once bitten, twice shy"? Not really... So with a group of about 20 friends, we decided to sign up for 168km AGAIN! 4 weeks before the event, we joined NTU for its 108km dry ride for the safety cyclists. I found myself struggling through the ride; often being dropped by the group during climbs. After the ride, I embarked on a #lose5kgprogram :) which I only managed to shed 3kg. A little encouragement to prepare me for the ride.

Without being too ambitious, I planned to cycle at an average pace of 25km/h; hoping to complete 100km before noon. I planned to make short breaks for bottle refills and sunblock re-application only :) Food was 1 bottle of electrolyte, 4 energy gels, 2 energy waffles, 1 chocolate and 6 salt tablets. 

March 5, 2017 (Sunday). Weather forecast was cloudy; projected showers in the afternoon. Flagged off at 6am with a cool breeze. I could not have asked for a better weather. For 80% of the ride, the cloud provided the shade for me. Only for a short ride along Lim Chu Kang and Neo Tiew where we were heated up. Mandai and Sembawang was not as torturous as I had imagined it to be. After Yishun, all the way from Tampines-Pasir Ris to Changi, there was a light drizzle to cool me off. The floor was wet from ECP to Flyer because a heavy downpour went before us. But the rain kept the temperature down; so the last 10km ride was very cooling. On my way home, met with a heavy downpour! However, it was perfect because my bicycle, which was hanging outside the car, enjoyed a much-needed wash down :)

Only 2 minor incidents happened along my ride. First, I stopped to help a friend who had a minor bike accident. Second, I could not uncleat in time when I stopped to help a friend fix a tyre puncture. I fell unto the grass patch :)

While I took longer than 7 hours to complete the ride. Overall, it was an enjoyable 168km ride. No hunger - I ate 2 gels and 2 energy waffles. No cramps - I ate all 6 salt tablets and probably drank 4-5 bottles of electrolyte. No sunburnt - I applied sunblock on my face and wore arm sleeves. The best part was I woke up with no soreness and aches the following day. I think the plan to keep a consistent pace and to eat and drink on the ride works for me. Of course, together with the power of praying for the perfect weather and the company of great friends who cycled together.

NTU Bike Rally has one of the fullest goodie bag I've ever seen. Finisher tee, coffee and tea - a whole packet of it; not just a sample sachet, biscuits, muscle rub and many, many more samples and vouchers... 

Ample volunteers and hydration support at the checkpoints. Overall, a well-organized event.

NTU Bike Rally 2018. Anyone?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2016

I registered for Penang Bridge International Marathon since registration opened in March 2016. Flight and hotel booked and I was looking forward to the run for 3 reasons:

1) PBIM2016 was held on November 27 which was my dad's birthday. He would have been 76 years old in 2016.

2) To fulfill my 2016 goal to run a marathon overseas. 

3) Holiday with my family. The last time I was in Penang was about 30 years ago with my dad. 

My Preparation - 2 weeks before race day
I have earlier registered for GEWR2016 (earlier post) to prepare myself for PBIM2016. So the longest distance I've ran prior to PBIM2016 was 21km. (not recommended at all)

I always study the race route and locations of water points. This helps me plan the fuel I would need. For me, I usually consume 1 salt tablet every 7km and 1 gel every 10km. (requirement differs according to individual)

Tips #1: Plan how to carry your fuel. For me, 2 gels in arm band with mobile phone and 5 salt tablets in pocket. 

Tips #2: Place mobile phone in ziplock bag, in case of rain. 

1 week before race day
We arrived in Penang on November 23 (Wed). There were not much resting for my legs as there were a lot of walking in Penang. It was good to travel in a group. We ordered a lot of food at each meal for sharing.

We visited Batu Ferringhi Night Market, George Town for food hunt, George Town for Street Art, Gurney Drive and Queensbay Mall. (because it was near to the race site) The navigation around Penang was a lot of hard work. #realandnotposing

A day before race day 
Tips #3: Drink 3 litres of water till the urine was clear in colour. Helps to prevent dehydration. 

Tips #4: Avoid meat or food that takes longer to digest. For me, I discovered that meat is the culprit. No more stitches after I eliminate meat from my diet.

Took an hour of power nap till 10.30 p.m. (Flag off was 1.30 a.m.) I drank a can of coffee and headed to lobby to wait for hotel's free shuttle to race site. 

At starting line 
I took some pictures. Instagrammed. Facebooked. Check hair, check cap, check shades, check MP3, check Garmin. I did some easy stretching. I usually do not stretch stationary cold muscles. Ready for flag off. #fireworks

Tips #5: For long runs, the first 1-2km is warm-up pace for me. 

Was uneventful. Basically we ran along the highway and made 2 u-turns before heading up the bridge. Many people were running past me but 42km is a looooooong run. I resisted the temptation to keep up with the crowd. #bepatient

The bridge was 13.5km long. A friend told me it's flat; not much of a concern. Another friend said it's like running up the Mandai Road but much looonger... Slopes are not all bad news.

Motivation #1: What goes up must come down... That's my motivation to climb slopes. #paynowrewardlater

100Plus spotted at about 8km water point and I drowned a cup down. Huge Mistake! Too sweet. Too much gas. I started to burp... 

Tips #6: Dilute the 100Plus with water for easy drinking.

Felt much better at subsequent water stations. 

The morale of the people were still high. I caught up with the 6hr pacers on the bridge. Due to my low mileage, I was only expecting myself to complete the run before 7hr cut off and without injury (as usual). I told JX not to come before 7.30 a.m. because to finish sub 6 would be impossible. I was also careful not to hurt my knee and lower back. #oldinjury 

However, I managed to pass the 6hr pacers and was contemplating whether I should catch up with the 5.30hr pacers. #tooambitious But I still had close to 17km to go and I did not want to kill my legs. So the plan to play catch up was aborted.

Tips #7: For FM, your race only start after 3hrs. That's where all your race execution comes in. Hydration. Mental Wall. Cramps. Fatigue. #runsmart

Reached the other end of the bridge and I ran out of gel!! Miscalculated the distance of the gel station. I was feeling hungry when I ran past the toll plaza.

Bananas NEVER worked for me. In fact the last time I ate a banana during Sundown Marathon 2016 (earlier post), my stomach churned and I had to make an emergency stop at the toilet. I told myself "confirmed" no more bananas for me. 

At the end of the bridge, I saw bananas and I took a calculated risk! I ate 3 bites and washed it down with water. #badchoice 

Tips #8: NEVER try something new on race day. 

Tips #9: Never repeat the same mistake! #doublereminder

Finally saw the gel station at 35km... Unfortunately the 3 bites of banana took its effect fast :( Stomach was churning and I refused to go toilet... #stubborn My legs started to feel fatigue and the 6hr pacers ran past me. I looked at my Garmin for my average pace. If I could maintain a 8.30min pace; I could still finish sub 6. #bonusforme

By this time, many were walking and some limping. #walkingdead I managed to alternate run and walk on my way back to finishing line.

Motivation #2: If you are in pain, tell yourself everyone else is also in pain. Running an endurance race is how well you can cope with pain. 

Slight cramps here and there... Sun rising. More people on the bridge as route started to merge with 21km and 10km.

Tips #10: When those late race cramps hit, maintain your running form and keep moving. 

Finishing line
I wanted to go faster but there was nothing left in my legs. Managed to pick up speed in the last 50m and was hoping to see JX at the finishing line. (because I told him that it was not possible for me to finish within 6hrs) Yeah! Finished! #shotbyJX

Unofficial time on my Garmin showed 5h57s. #bonus I was happy with the timing; considering the lack of mileage I put into this race. #badexample After run check, no knee pain. No lower backache. No bunion pain. #happyfeet

First overseas full marathon #checked 
Post marathon: Shower. Sleep. Eat. 
Now to plan for 2017. 

Thank you Penang! You have been good to me and my family.