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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Fourth Marathon

If Sundown ultra-marathon can be counted as two marathons, then KL Marathon 2010 would become my sixth. But, let’s just leave ultra-marathon and marathon in two distinctive categories shall we? Anyway, they are distinctively different. As Haza puts it, “respect the distance”.

I’m not that newbie, nor am I a veteran in this long distance running arena. But when I thought I’m ready to head up for another marathon, I still can’t find a good sleep prior to Sunday morning. Talk about being nervous. Fortunately, the 3 hours sleep did not make me feel so much musty. I was worried on my unpredictable bowel movement in the morning more than anything else, honestly speaking.

Up until that very morning, I can’t really specify what I wanted to achieve. It used to be “To finish the race, injury free”. But now, somehow, perhaps subconsciously, or perhaps driven by some degree of ego boost, it became “Go get a PB, dude!” kind of goal.

It may be a good kind of goal, but it also dragged me into instability, nervous break down (almost), and sometimes, self doubt. I’m not sure whether I was still burnt out from Sundown or was it due to other job related conundrums, but there were few times where my training went haphazard. I did not feel the ’umph’. With all things mixed up, my final approach was channeled down into doing another personal best effort. By the way, no matter how much we come prepared, a race day is a race day. Anything can happen.

After a failed attempt to empty my bowel at 3.30am in the morning, I made my way to park my car at Bukit Aman parking area. I was supposed to meet Ian there to hand him his race kit. Seeing so many other runners there, it felt just like any other LSD morning. Did not even feel like a big day. I strapped into my running gears in my own sweet time. It was only 4:15am in the morning with a very little amount of drizzle. “Plenty of time”, I comforted my self.

Met Ian and Ijam. These are the two guys who started up the 'blog commenting race'.

We then made our way towards Dataran Merdeka. Many other crowds were already there, filling up underneath the canopies as the drizzle has magnified itself. I quickly went searching for familiar souls.

L-R: Zaki, Nizam and Shakhir.
Giving out “good to go” signs.
(Errr King, awat muka macam tak ready je tu?)

Weekend warriors shaking hands. Ready for another battle of marathon.
L-R: Ian the CorpAthlete, Syah the Kingfisher, Shuk the chief poco-poco and EnAikAY the Sundown lanun (depa kata, bukan saya kata).

Multiple marathon runners standing strong.
L-R: Ijam, Nizam, Azmar, Shakhir, Khairul Anwar, Shuk.
“Err Ijam, what are you cupping covering there?”

I did some warm up run in the drizzle. It brought back my previous year memory, where I was running on the same tarmac in front of Dataran Merdeka together with Kash. It was also the first time I met Syah. This time, I saw many other familiar faces. Some of them are my fellow buddies from JB, some I knew during the few triathlon races I joined, and few other familiar comrades in our relatively small running communities. It was such a good feeling to be surrounded by these happy going people, that I didn't realize we only had another 5 minutes before the gun off.

I placed myself at the back together with Shakhir and Shuk who I knew were aiming for sub 4:30 timing. The 4:30 pacers with white balloons were already in the middle of the pack. I kept telling them that the rain in that morning was just like how it was during KL Marathon last year. Oh, I love running in the rain and I did a little prayer so that the rain continues until 10am or something. We were still chatting around when we suddenly hear the gun off, sharp at 5am on a wonderful Sunday morning. Started the journey with a walk, then a slow run, and I started my stopwatch as I stepped on the start timing mat.

I braved myself to run alongside Shakhir from the start. He looked strong and focused to achieve his target. Shuk was also tagging along.

Twelve minutes into the run, we bumped into Yim.
Shakhir: “Eh Yim, wah lajunya kau pagi-pagi ni. Nak pegi mana tu? Boleh tumpang?”
Shuk: “Wah Yim, cantiklah kau punya vest FMV baru tu. Nak pinjam kejap boleh?”
Yim: “Aaaaah.. syadappp you!!!”

I didn't care much to avoid any pot holes. My shoes were already wet even before the run. I was just hoping no blisters would develop as I was not wearing any socks. For the first couple of clicks, we were running zig-zaggingly among the crowd moving our ways forward, and we still managed to throw in some more jokes here and there. We also bumped into Syah, who I noticed carrying two Gatorade bottles in his fuel belt. Not long after that, we've started to settle down into a stable race pace.

Utilizing my stopwatch's timer to remind me to rehydrate every 10 minutes, I kept on analyzing my body system on whether I can carry on with that kind of pace set by Shakhir and Shuk or not. It felt fast, not like my normal long distance running speed. Anyway, so far so good. Breathing was still light, heart rate was kept at medium intensity, and legs felt pretty strong to carry on.

I apologize for not being good with roads and landmarks in KL city, whether during the dark or in bright daylight. Shakhir and Shuk kept on checking their pace notes as we passed the first check point, 5km distance marker. They said we were right on track, so far.

Somewhere along or before the Sungai Besi Airport, we bumped into this 4:30 pacer. Ian and Azmar were tagging along nearby the group when we were approaching.

We crossed the 10km distance marker exactly at 6am, at which Shakhir said we were early by 3 minutes. That's good to know. I can't really remember now what exactly happened next, but somehow we lost Ian and Azmar. We stopped at every water stations for some replenishment, very quick stops. We even drank while running. I started pouring water over my body for some instant cooling down, as I know my engine doesn't work well when its temperature is high. My second PowerBar gel was downed at KM10. The first one was taken before gun off.

Somewhere after another water station, I lost Shuk and Shakhir. I was running with my training buddy from JB, when another runner offered his help to snap this photo for me. I think I picked up the banana at KM14’s water station.

Shakhir earlier told me that there’ll be a madrasah for Subuh prayer in between KM16 and KM17. Passing by KM15 or so, I had the growling feeling inside my tummy. Oh no. “Mayday, mayday…”. I quicken my pace to tag Shuk along and asked him where the madrasah is. It was a big relief upon seeing the madrasah because I didn’t think I can hold it much longer.

“Shuk, Shakhir, you guys go ahead after you are done with your prayers ok. I need some little moment by myself. Got unfinished business to settle.”, I told them.

So, I spent about 10 minutes flushing out whatever needed to be flushed, including the prayers, and including a quick shower by the ablution area. As I was about to leave, I saw Nizam coming in.

Continuing my run, I couldn’t find any familiar faces around. I knew Shuk and Shakhir, and even Ian were already much further upfront with their blazing paces. There was no way I would be able to catch up. I confessed that I felt a bit down, as I know running alone gives bigger exposure to mental game. I didn’t even carry my own pace note for any guidance. So, after some reanalyzing of body systems, I maintained my journey with ‘personal best effort’ attitude. I had no other choice.

Half way done, and I was glad it didn’t feel that hard this time.

The time as I crossed KM21. Shabby indeed.
I remembered clocking 8 minutes faster during Energizer Night Marathon.
Time for another gel.

Gosh, I can’t remember now on what roads did I run after that. Looking back at the run map, we were brought to run on Jalan Cheras, Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan P-Ramlee. The daylight has slowly started to break open. I was enjoying the city views, in addition to the great cheer groups at Pavilion, alongside Jalan Bukit Bintang, somewhere near the Standard Chartered building and Jalan P.Ramlee. They came unexpectedly, as none were spotted during my marathon last year (as far as I can remember).

The drummers group while we struggled our way up the incline of Pavilion.
To be frank, their beats were not bad you know. Nice.

I’m pretty sure many runners would acknowledge seeing these three taxi drivers clapping their hands non-stop, cheering us all.

The Standard Chartered building standing strong.

The well dressed and propped cheer group from Standard Chartered.

Cool Zone, by Standard Chartered.
It was not cooling at all, sorry. The mist they sprayed, didn’t give any degree of cooling effect to any runners passing by this chute in less than 5 seconds.
But anyway, thanks for putting this up, at least.

As I passed by KL Tower, I remember I haven’t blogged about my KL Tower race last March.
I don’t think I will blog about it anymore lah. Cerita dah jadi teramat basi dah.

Another group of supporters cheering for runners at Jalan P. Ramlee.

Malaysia’s proud – The Petronas Twin Towers.

At one point somewhere after KM24, I started to feel the signs of cramp knocking the door for a visit. I slowed down a little bit, adjusting for a comfort running while not jeopardizing the pace too greatly. From then onwards, I started to take ORS at each water stations to avoid getting cramps. I brought along four sachets altogether. I also took another gel soon later, as I was feeling hungry too.

Normal view to see, where runners trying to stretch out their cramps.

Somewhere after getting back into Jalan Tun Razak, before the IJN, I saw a familiar figure up at the front. It was Syah. He was looking steady with his run. I checked the timing as I passed him…

“Syah, just maintain this pace and you’ll be doing a sub-5, trust me. Keep it up bro!”, I told him.

Ian with his strategy to stop for a good stretching session by a tree.

I spent few hundred meters running together with Syah. Exchanging some little jokes, and checking on the status on other running blogger friends we know.

Ijam, I took this shot specially for you.

Spotted another guy having a crisis with the lamp post.

“Yim, you shoot me, I shoot you back!”

Soon after, we get into the long stretch of Jalan Ipoh. Not that I knew this was Jalan Ipoh before I re-looked at the map just now. It felt long indeed, but luckily the terrain was flat, with some little declination scattered around, almost unnoticeable.

Perhaps I forgot to inform that I stopped at every water stations for some little drinks, or to top up my water bottles, or to take a quick shower. Yup, I needed to cool down myself for some energy recharge. Some of the volunteers were shocked and concerned when they saw me pouring water all over my head, body and legs, because they saw me holding a camera in my hand. Luckily, it’s a waterproof one. On a second thought, I think it’s their first time being volunteers in a running event and I bet they haven’t see anybody taking shower at water or sponging stations before in their life.

Next, another moderately long stretch of Jalan Kuching, with vehicles going alongside the busy road.

My immediate target at that moment was to get to KM35 by 4hours of running time, or faster. That was to ensure that good timing was still achievable. At a point, I started to feel hungry again. Luckily my energy level was still reasonably OK. I did a few walk breaks to ease up the leg muscles, but nothing longer than 30 seconds for each breaks. I didn’t want to jeopardize the timing. I put in more effort to keep on running albeit not as fast as before. I just wanted to minimize the time spent walking for as much as possible.

Another way of checking who’s running behind me, without turning my head around.
Oh, such a boring long stretch here, not sure whether this was Jalan Ipoh or Jalan Kuching. I slightly regretted not bringing any MP3 player.

Upon arriving at the Jalan Kuching - Jalan Duta roundabout, I knew Jln Bukit Tunku was getting near, where Kash n’ Rais kedai runcit was located. With the uplifting support from good friends like them, accompanied by Uncle Allen and Julie Wong, I somehow felt refreshed. The cold orange flavored Gatorade, which is my favorite sports drink at this moment did provide a little more boost that I needed dearly.

Arriving at the best ever water station of the day, with awesomely special support crews.

Sipping on the cool and refreshing Gatorade, courtesy of Kash and Rais.
(Photo by Uncle Allen)

Have you ever thought how much money has been spent by Kash and Rais for all these?
Semoga murah rezeki kalian berdua sekeluarga, amin.

Well, this is the best part of the run, the familiar terrain we visited times upon times during the LSD sessions. If not for the jokes and chats we had during the training, we would have memorized the number of left and right turns or curves along this Bukit Tunku and Tijani scenic running route. That is to show how well we know the route, including the climbs that we had to face after KM37.

It’s the famous Tijani climb. Many runners settled down to walking to save up the almost-cramping legs, including myself.

Getting up to the peak, I smiled. “It’s time for a payback!”, I told myself as I switch my engine back on for a much higher pace running down the other side of the winding road. It was an effort to regain back the few minutes of time lost while walking up the inclination earlier. I was focusing on the run that I didn’t snap any much photos after that. Perhaps, it may also due to me having to focus on not tweaking up the ‘almost-emerging’ big cramps on my legs.

I kept on checking my stopwatch, while doing some basic pace and distance calculations to see how I was doing. I knew by then that sub 4:30 was no longer achievable, but I believe another PB was still viable. I had an instant flashback of my Energizer Night Marathon where I suffered big time just to get a PB back then, with the suffering of cramps since KM24. This time no major cramps as yet, but I have to be careful not to trigger any. I was chasing the time, maintaining my pace and trying hard not to slow down into walking.

At the valley of the downhill, we get into a junction into Jalan Sultan Salehuddin where a little turnaround has to be made. It was slightly inclined on the approach and as I tried to run, I twitch of cramp attacked my left hamstring and both calves. I shifted into fast walk up the incline to scrap off the cramps, with a promise of another revenge downhill until the finishing line – running all the way. As I made the turnaround, I saw Ian approaching and I encouraged him to chase me up.

“Go Nik go! Go get another PB. Yes you can do it. Go get the PB! Just a little bit more. Hold the pain. This is your last chance. This is your best chance!”.

A final mental push I had to play inside my head from KM39 onwards. With three more clicks to go, I put on extra focus with every step I made. My previous best timing for a marathon was 4hr51min and I badly wanted to break another personal best. And there I was, with less than 3km left and my stopwatch was showing that I’ve been running for about 4hrs25min.

“Can I do it?”, this provocative question sometimes emerged as I plodded.

I literally switched off my brain for a while, and just let my legs move steadily, while managing the risk of cramp attack. Although last year I was surprised that they made us detour into Jalan Raja Laut when we could already see Dataran Merdeka at the junction on the right side, but this year I could say I was prepared for that final killer detour.

Into the finale.

Getting into Jalan Tengku Abdul Rahman, where last year, I almost fell down when both my calves cramped up severely. This time around, I was glad I could still run, albeit slowly.

It was a very nice view, both on the surrounding area at Dataran Merdeka with people cheering and clapping, and also the view on my stopwatch. I started to smile as I see the finishing chute from afar.

Ijam managed to get few great shots while I was running on Jln TAR. Thanks bro.

My smile grew bigger and I kept on smiling during the final 50m. I was happy, so happy.
I froze my stopwatch as it shows 4hr43min.
Alhamdulilah,. Finally, a new PB!

I don’t know how to describe the feeling. Happy? Satisfied? Yeah, I think I was satisfied with what I get, looking back at how I prepared for it. Though I was a bit upset for not being able to tag along Shuk and Shakhir until the end, I could say this new PB is what I should be grateful of.

And as a bonus, Shazly Khan of who was hired to become a photographer for the event, took this superb finishing photo.
Thanks so much bro! Really appreciate it.

What came after the race, shall be summarized in below photo-log (I’m tired of writing already). Enjoy!

Immediately after I crossed the finish line, I went to the massage tent to get my calves iced and massaged.

Simple, but efficient finisher’s medal and tee giving ceremony.

Ok, tadi siapa yang kentut dapat PB angkat tangan!

Hanging out and resting with the usual suspects, on the stage.
You can see how happy they were, with their own PB stories to share.

Shuk poco-poco tengah layan wheelie lapan belas tiang tuu…

Where we gathered for the much needed brunch.

Shakhir: “Eh, kau tengok tu! Ada orang berlari kat tengah-tengah panas lah. Apa kes?”
Shuk: “Entahlah bai. Pendatang haram kena rush dengan Imigresen kot”
Dett: “Hah! Imigresen? Wei, cepat habiskan nasi wei. Aku tak bawak passport ni. Kang tak pasal-pasal aku kena hantar balik naik tongkang.”

Where we hung out after we were done with brunch, at the final 100m before the finish line to give out our shout outs to the incoming warriors of the marathon.
Picture captured by Ijam.

Chilling out and getting to know each other, sharing our stories, in between cheering for the remaining runners on that last stretch.

KA: “Bro, what are you thinking? Jauh mengelamun tu.”
Shakhir: “Entahlah bro. Semalam tiga round aku basuh baju tau, dengan tangan. Mesin basuh baju aku tu tiba-tiba je mogok lapar. Aku sedang terkenangkan timbunan baju anak sekolah aku kat rumah tu yang nak kena lipat dan gosok lepas ni…”

Shakhir: “Kau pulak, what are you thinking about?”
KA: “Ehmm, aku tengah fikir samada nak tolong kau lipat baju ke tak. Aku rasa, elok kau lipat sendiri je lah ye.”

We escorted June towards the finish line. It was such a celebration, and I bet she’ll remember this until she turns 67 years old. Then she can tell her grand children this historical event where she finally became a marathon runner.

Haza: ”Ok, tadi siapa yang kirim kat akak beli karipap kat Pavilion? Haa, pegi duduk sana dulu ye, nanti akak edar-edarkan. Banyak dalam beg ni haa...”

A final group photo, before we made our ways home to continue our normal life as, normal human being.

Well done and congrats to all of you who took part in SCKLM 2010.

Whatever your finishing time is, I believe the whole journey from the starting towards the finishing line is the thing that teaches us some beautiful meaning of life.

- The End -