PENANG BRIDGE RUN
MARATHON 2007 by Jamie
This marathon was
classic case where the training went much better than
the race. Having started my comeback in February, and
moving into more serious stuff in April, I'd at least
expected meeting 2 of my 3 goals. The base goal was
to finish, the second was to PR under 4:26 and the bonus
was to dip below 4 hours. The more my training progressed,
the stronger the indications were, pointing to a good
performance. I'd never run a marathon before in my home
state and I'd wanted to make this a memorable outing.
As the weeks were checked off, I had achieved significant
training milestones in terms of pace, strength and mileage.
There were plenty of usual and unusual challenges to my program
over the months in the form of work, time and family. The
usual elements but taken up a notch or so. The more the challenges
presented themselves, the more tenacious and resourceful I
was. That included investing in a 3-month gym membership for
the weights and shower facilities. The membership allowed
me to get my morning workouts in. Any runs in the evenings
became bonus workouts.
|So when I toed the line wearing
the tribute bib to Terence on race morning, I'd some confidence
that at the very least, a PR was a given. Even though
I had a less than ideal 2-week taper. Even though I had
less than 2 hours of light sleep the night before the
race. Due to the early start, we had to wake up at 1:30am,
a disagreeable time for the body to respond to attempts
to remove solid bodily wastes. Except for the socks (Kayano)
and watch (Triax 100), I wore the same gear that I PR'd
in in last year's KL Marathon - the Pegasus 2005, Sphere
Dry vest, Brooks shorts.
We'd checked into the Spartan but clean Anggerik
Lodge the day before and while my running mates
went for a variety of street food, I opted for safer
ones. That would mean noodles with clear soup, nothing
spicy or oily. I even opted for a Subway turkey breast
sandwich as dinner. Altogether all very unexciting fare
that you normally don't associate Penang for. But when
you've come this far in your preparation, what's a few
more "inconveniences" right?
My plan calls for 6-minute pace up to the 11K and 5:40
The total marathoners were about 700 while the bulk of the
reported 18,000 participants were going for the 22K and 10K.
The expected wet weather didn't materialize and while most
will see that as good, I'd very much preferred wet conditions.
As it were, race morning was quite warm and humid. The start
was brisk and I felt good. I had Choi
for company as my planned pacer Geraldine had took off like
a jackrabbit right from the start. Wanting to run a controlled
start, I stuck to my pace. I ran through a mental checklist
and my legs felt good and light, breathing very comfortable
and form relaxed. Our position was somewhere midpack for the
first 15K. The highlight was running past the big crowd as
we took the first 6K loop around the start. It was great to
have people cheer you on and admittedly I found myself upping
the pace just for that stretch. I remembered telling Choi
that we were 2 minutes ahead of schedule as we headed onto
The first challenge came in the form of the climb up the
mid-span of the bridge heading to the mainland, which I scaled
with no problems by adjusting the stride length while maintaining
cadence. The air had noticeably turned very dry from the sea
air. The light breeze was not enough to really cool the body.
While my mouth was getting rather dry, it wasn't a problem
as there were plenty of fluids (chilled water) at the drink
stations. Wet sponges were aplenty as well but there were
no signs of sports drinks.
On the way down the other side of the climb, I told Choi
that our pace was still a bit too fast and we slowed down
a notch. In hindsight we could've slowed down a bit too much
as when I checked my pace again, I found myself already 3
minutes off target split. I'd been running alone for sometime
since exiting the bridge to make the u-turn back to the island.
The runners had been assaulted with unbearable industrial
stench which made breathing difficult. Apparently the smell
came from the Palmco plant at the Prai side. We would only
escape this olfactory discomfort 2K back onto the bridge.
Just after making the turn back to the bridge, I passed Ben
who called out that I was still on target pace and to go for
it. Even though I thought his statement couldn't have been
right, I was uplifted, which was always a good feeling to
have. At this point, the marathoners could see the half marathoners
coming from the opposite side of the bridge and quite a few
familiar faces like Sim,
and Uncle Sonny shouted words of encouragement to me. I felt
strong and maintained this strong controlled pace all the
way until the exit point of the bridge on the island side.
Despite the good progress and pace, I found myself behind
by 8 minutes. This can't be true. This then led me to believe
that some markers were not positioned at the correct intervals.
The 3-minute deficit could've been non-existent as well. I
also can't be sure of my recorded splits as the distance markers
were all for odd distances such as 17.5, 22.5 and so on. Since
I just pressed my watch button as I passed them, I'm now unable
to match them back to the actual distance and pace chart.
This is where all the good stuff ends and here comes the
nightmare part. After tackling the down slope towards 27K,
I felt my lower back tightening up. This problem became very
acute so much so that I had to slow down and deteriorated
to a shuffle/walk struggle to a finish line that didn't seem
to get any closer. It got so bad that any position I adopted
couldn't elevate the pain. I was very concerned about anything
to do with the back and that the pain would not be a sign
of a long term injury. My fear stems from my brother's present
post-surgery state following his slipped disc injury. There
were plenty of cussing and self-deprecating thoughts that
went on in my mind when the direction of my race turned into
a downward spiral.
To cut the painful story short, I limped home in 4:47.16,
way off whatever expectations anyone including myself had
had. After the initial disappointment, I've psychologically
recovered from the disaster. Obviously there are the usual
soreness but that should go away in 2 days' time. I'm taking
the philosophical stance that the marathon is a weird creature.
All the good preparation and time trials in the world will
not guarantee a good race. While all the talk about the anticipated
good performance were going around, deep down I knew how difficult
it is to achieve that, especially a sub-4 timing. Every element
- weather conditions, rest, food, training, favorable race
route and race execution - has to be in place. Having said
that, I didn't approach the race with a defeatist attitude.
I felt that I was ready for a battle and that I was capable
enough to mount a strong challenge at the intended pace. Even
if not for the entire distance, I thought I'd have reserves
to at least carry me to 35K. As it were, things didn't quite
end up as planned.
I refuse to blame the organizers for my results as I believe
that a stronger runner would've coped better in any adverse
conditions. Granted, the organizers could've done better by
extending the availability of undiluted sports drinks over
the entire distance as opposed to serving a very diluted version
from 27K onwards. They could also have planned to have the
entire coastal road fully lit - some stretches were in near
complete darkness. Finally the officials should have prevented
a human traffic jam at the exit ramp up to the USM entrance
by separating the returning runners from different categories
to different routes or by placing the finishing chutes at
the main Jalan Gelugor instead of the poorly planned university
Only 1% of the world's population have completed the marathon.
Which make debutants like Geraldine (4:17) and Haza
(slightly over 6 hours) amazing people who are truly elites
in a world full of marathon-dreamers. Yet, there are even
more amazing stories out there which defy human endurance
and limits. Hit
this link to read one of it and be inspired.
I'm taking a 2-week break before plotting my next move on
this intriguing distance. Next year's KL Marathon will be
my 8th and I have plenty of time to re-look at my previous
training to identify any weak spots.
o Could I have peaked too soon?
o Did I set a reasonable target? I've done the pace
for 32K before so what happened?
o 3am starts may not be so ideal after all
o I'll need to look at some whole-body strengthening
o The route is actually not easy. There are stretches
of "hidden" climbs and some are so gradual that
it's easy to underestimate the difficulty of the course. Aggressive
attempts at PRs should be made on easier courses
o Pace splits written on masking tape. A cheap DIY
alternative to G-Band
training log. It provided just the motivation one needs to
string together a good training routine
o The return of the lower back problems encountered
during my debut marathon in Singapore. I'm really not sure
what caused it. Could the deep tissue massage I had the Friday
before the race caused a flare-up?
o Muscle tightness not encountered before during training
runs. It came at about the time my back gave up
June 26th 2007