Here I am, staring blankly in front of my laptop thinking of another episode of ramblings to blog about. Without any photos to refer to (unlike my previous few events), I find it hard to recall what I went through during the Energizer Night Marathon last Saturday. So, this entry might be short, boring, and hmmm.. pale.
Before I proceed, I’d like to clarify that in the previous entry where I said I wanted to target for a 4:30 pace (i.e. 4hrs 30minutes to cover 42.195km), that was my number three goal for the race. My number one goal was to cross the finish line, injury free, and smiling. Goal number two was to accomplish goal number one, with a decent timing. A PB would be a bonus drive.
That goal number three was just a gimmick. A gimmick so that I push myself harder.
Anyway, I only collected my race kit the Saturday late morning itself. A strategy I planned out since Cyberjaya is an alien place to me. So having to go there in the morning allowed me to
jampi sikit glance the race start area, and check for parking locations. As experienced by some runners, I was also handed a triple XL size vest, which I requested for a change with a female M size. At least my wife can wear it.
I took a heavy but early lunch. I had a plate of fried rice accompanied by a chicken chop with mushroom sauce, topped off with another plate of white rice. After completed my race kit set up, I only had about half an hour to lie down and tried to get a nap, which I failed big time.
I arrived at race site with more than enough time to do another full set of errands. For the first time, I did not feel any jitters or nervousness for the marathon. Gathering up with fellow runners that I know mostly from their beautiful blogs, we approached the starting line under the burning heat of 5.45pm sun. As I tried to do some warm up run, I forgot that I haven’t stretched my legs. Too much of being calm, huh? Luckily I still got some spare time.
It was so fun to be at the start line among friends, under the tree shades some more. Catching up on latest updates, introducing new friends from near and far. It was like a gathering of an old school or some sort, minus the good foods. We didn’t even bother what was going on at the start line gantry.
Few minutes past 6pm, we were released to begin our long run journey. Some were doing it for the first time, some were doing it for many many times. Everybody came with their own intentions and targets of a marathon run.
I started the run together with Ian. To be frank, I didn’t know what my starting pace was. I just ran with feelings. Breathing felt good, legs felt good, stamina felt good, and I continued plodding. My hydration strategy was to drink at every 10 minutes, which I set my stopwatch (timer) to remind me (the reason why I always run with Fuel Belt, so that I can drink at anytime I set or have to). And my nutritional strategy was to take one gel at each 10km. I also brought along one Nuun tablet, which I regretted a little bit. Oh yeah, the other critical strategy was to try and run as much as possible, which doesn’t necessarily means fast.
Comparing to the 4:30 pace band which I brought along, I clocked negative splits for the first 5km and 10km. My overall body system was still in green, didn’t even feel like I was pushing that hard, yet. With minimal distance marker, I finally lost track of my pacing from then onwards. However, I was still feeling good, running alongside Ian. There was one instance where suddenly Ian ran far ahead of me. I started to wonder whether my engine was slowly getting rusty that early, or Ian just upgraded into a new turbo engine.
Oh yeah, now I know. He might have got the ‘gas leaking’ issues during that time. Ahaha.
Anyway, just as the calling of adzan that we heard from afar was about to finish, we reached the make shift surau at 15km water station. I quickly grabbed a bottle of mineral water for ablution and then spent few minutes for Maghrib. Ian joined me shortly, and as we both finished, I grabbed another few shots of drinks and cool myself down by pouring water all over my body (the reason why I didn’t bring my camera), and continued with my run.
“Go get your 4:30, Nik!”, Ian shouted from behind as I left him who was busy putting on his running socks and shoes. I ran sockless and with quick lace, so I had a little advantage there. But that big shout from Ian did boost up my spirit. Thanks bro.
From then on, I was running alone. Once or twice I turned back to see whether Ian was catching up with me as I didn’t want to feel boring running alone. At this point of time I felt good not to have to spend more time at the water stations to crunch the thirst. My hydration strategy worked well this time. Something I should continue doing in future races.
I tried my best to keep the pace I was having, the comfortable pace. Having that little target focused in my mind, I tried my best to keep up with the pace I was doing, for as much as I could hold. The sky was getting darker with every minute, but the temperature wasn’t getting any much lower.
I was not sure whether I’ve started to run slower, or the water stations were placed further apart. It didn’t feel like 2.5km, not even felt like 3km to get to another sight of water or sponging stations. It felt far. Although water supply was more than enough at each station, what I wanted badly was to cool myself down. I was eyeing more for the icy cool sponging stations, rather than the warm Gatorade they served.
I even stopped at the fire engine for a moment and asked the helpful fire brigade to shower me on with the sprinkler, from top to bottom, front and back. I should have shouted at them, “Help me … I’m burning!!”.
One thing I realized, after I cooled myself down, I felt fresh and strong to increase my pace for a minute or two. And once things dried up and some form of heat started to take over, I can’t push any further and my pace reset itself to the previous value. And the way I cooled myself down at each water or sponging stations might be quite a surprise for the volunteers there.
Getting to the turnaround point (21km mark), I was still clocking a negative split as compared to the pace band. My spirit was elated, but somehow I started to feel that I won’t be able to make it in time. I didn’t know why, but I could sense some ugly cramps were about to pay me a visit. I began to take the Nuun tablet that I bring along, the one and only.
My energy was still considerably in a tip top condition. I did not feel fatigued, or that much tired, yet. As I plodded along past the half way, I was enjoying the view of seeing the runners on the opposite side and cheering for those that I know. Surely enough, my pace has to be reduced bit by bit, as I tried to avoid the cramp from building even bigger.
Wham, kaboom!!! Right there at the spot of 24km distance marker, I had a big cramp on my right calf. Followed suit almost immediately by another big cramp on my left calf. If I were to look down at my calves, I knew I could see my calf muscles being sucked inwards. It was painful, it was nasty. I was not sure whether the brand new 2XU compression calf supports I was wearing contributed to it, or they have helped to keep the cramps at bay prior to that point of time. Whatever it was, 24km distance was not the point I wanted to start walking.
“It’s too early to start walking”, I told myself.
So I continued some form or running, and my pace had long gone. The 4:30 target was already in 50:50 state. It all depended on whether the cramp went away totally and I get back to my pace, or if the cramps decided to stay and developed itself larger.
After a while forcing my self to run with the painful cramps, I was surprised to see that the cramps disappeared. I can’t wait to get to the next sponging station to cool my body and legs down, so as to keep the cramps from re-developing. The journey was still far, and I was hoping so much for the PowerBar gel to do some magic inside of me.
All hope went loose. Regardless of how much drinks I took, or how much I showered myself at every water and sponging stations, the cramps kept on redeveloping and attacking my calves, back thighs and lastly front thighs. Perhaps, next time I should remember to bring more Nuun tablets, or ORS sachets.
Two options came up my mind, to give up, or not to give up.
I haven’t hit the wall yet and I know I can continue running much further. It was just the pain in the leg muscles that were going against me.
The fact that hit me hard in that situation of realizing that a 4:30 target was no longer achievable, did cut my heart into pieces. Yes, although it was only a gimmick target or my number three goal of the event, I felt down for not being able to prepare myself well to fight the cramps even before they decided to attack me.
OK, fine. I changed myself into survival mode, and reset my goal. Now, it was time to go for goal number two.
With the massive cramps over the whole both legs pushing up to my pain threshold, I was forced to take some walk breaks. Certain times the walk breaks helped to reduce the pain, but certain times it just caused the cramps to go crazy on my muscles. And when that happened, I had no other choice other than to continue plodding with the pain. Stopping was never in my choice list. And during previous races where I got similar cramps and tried to stretch it out, well, it didn’t work well for me. My sodium level must have been very low for quite some times, I guess.
Cooling the legs and body with icy cold water did help a lot. The only problem was, they were located pretty much far apart. At least, that’s how I felt.
I wonder why I couldn’t find or see any distance markers after 25 or 26th km. The only point where I could tell the distance was the 29km mark, where they have the water station with PowerBar gel being distributed to all runners under the flyover. I know I couldn’t swallow the chocolate flavored gel, so I just said “no thanks” to the guys there. Another glance at my watch, I knew I have to work hard if I were to at least get a better timing than my previous marathon.
I don’t want to blubber much about the importance of knowing how much further we need to run before reaching the finishing line, especially after running for 30km. This is the point where we runners normally do our final evaluation on whether we can continue pushing and surviving, or give it up to our already-zombie-liked condition. It’s a point where what else remain in any marathon runners is the mental strength. The strength to keep us moving forward.
And having some “verbal distance announcers” was even worse. Sometimes they (the volunteers at road intersections or water stations) mentioned “3km to go”, then at the next point somebody else shouted that we had 5km to go, then it get back to “4km to go”, then it became “7km to go”, then “4km to go” (again?), then “2km to 3km to go”, then “less than 4km to go” (pulak dah!), then “2km to go”. Aiyoh, sakit hati betul lah!!!
With the lack of distance markers, my only survival method (and trying to get a PB) was to try not to walk for as much as I could. Having that much of cramps, I can’t help to ease them up with some short walk breaks. I didn’t allow myself to walk for anything more than a minute at each time because as I know that would jeopardize my already bad timing. I was running very slowly, just to compensate the pain.
With my stopwatch showing 4hrs 44 minutes, I was at the last kilometer stretch. I really wanted to get a PB this time (my last marathon was done in 4hrs53minutes). That last km was among the most painful run I’ve ever done, while keeping myself intact and avoiding any collision with other thousands runners who were happily flooding the finishing gateway area. I had to head up and look around for the finishing gate from afar in the middle of the crowd, just to make sure I could step back on the timing mat before making it to the finish.
My stopwatch was clicked to freeze at the time of 4hr 51mins and with that, I crossed the finishing line with a big smile on my face. (Now, I secretly wish that somebody snapped my photo and email it to me.).
Never mind if later on somebody was saying and claiming that the distance was much less than 42.195km, because if anyone wanted to argue, I would challenge them to go and ask the organizers to take back the prize money from the top ten winners, and tell them “Hey, they did not run the full marathon distance accurately lah, so their finishing times were not valid nor can be counted!”. How about that, huh?
And never mind if my timing this time can arguably not be my new PB, but I know I’ve done my PBE – Personal Best Effort.
Oh yeah, only after the run I realized that one portion of my right foot was bleeding, because I saw a blood stain when I wanted to take off my shoes after the run.
The after-race moment was well spent by congratulating many other friends on their achievements crossing the finishing line. We had a good recovery supper afterwards with the usual gang (in fact this was the first time I ever gathered with them after a race), where I managed to gobbled down a full plate of mutton briyani, courtesy of Mr. MacamBagus (thanks a lot Ian). And I think some of them were surprised to see my ‘carboloading’ skills. Hahaha.
And now, I’m limping. All leg muscles, left and right sides, upper and lower legs were still badly sore (I don’t count muscle soreness as injuries though). But, it was a good experience all together, especially when having good friends around at the same ground. I had a great third marathon.
Some quotes were saying something like “Pain is temporary, glory remains forever”. And I want to have more glorious experience in the future.