Sundown Marathon

This year marks my 4th Sundown Marathon. A last-minute decision to race this event as I have also signed up for KL Marathon which would be held in 4 wks’ time after Sundown. I was worried that I could not recover in time to do a good time for that. After much consideration, Jackie and I decided to just take the plunge and signed up for the full marathon together. We thought it would be a good lead up run to our KL marathon in late June. I could also take the chance to try a different race strategy and some Hammer endurolytes (samples from gels addicts) to see if they help in preventing cramps from setting in.

Still, whether it’s a lead-up run to KL or not, having did my pb of around 3hr 50mins for last year’s Sundown Marathon and failing to do well for last year’s Standard Chartered Marathon, I hope to do better this time. It would be a good gauge to set my target for KL marathon too.

Unlike last year where full marathoners and half marathoners were flagged off at two different timing, 10pm and 8pm respectively, this year everyone was to start at the same time at 12.45am. We were worried that we would have difficulties to get close to the start line due to the crowd. Fortunately, we received a surprise phone call from the organisers that they would be escorting past year’s winners to the start line just minutes before the race starts. All we gotta do is to report to the information counter on race day to get a pass to enter the VIP tent. A truly nice gesture by HiVelocity I must say.

27 May 2012, 12.45am, race day. My plan was to start at 5:30″/km pace and gradually pick up pace to abt 5:12″/km in order to complete in 3hr 40min. However, when the horn sounded, I found myself running alongside with Stella at abt 5 min/km pace. Too fast, I thought. And I tried to slow down. Garmin eventually read 5.06″/km after the 10km mark. Still feeling comfortable, I decided I should just try to hang on. The night was humid. I was sweating profusely. I decided to take one Hammer endurolyte early just in case. Continued running and Stella and I spotted Zhilei ahead and cheered for her to continue running. She ran with us for a while till we reached the point whereby full marathoners and half marathoners separated. I was amazed with the huge balloons which kept the surrounding brightly lighted and also the automated speakers informing half marathoners to keep left and full marathoners to keep right. Good job, HiVelocity!

Crossed the bridge at Marina Barrage with Stella and we caught up with Freddy and Chia from Jurong Safra. Freddy picked up pace and ran ahead while Chia, Stella and myself entered ECP together. By then, my average pace was abt 5:12″/km. Not long after we approached B1 carpark, we spotted the support station set up by Jurong Safra at 18km mark. I decided to take another hammer endurolyte at this point and stopped to take a cup of water from Yanghao. By then, Freddy has ran far ahead and disappeared from my sight. Ran a while with Chia and Stella and eventually had to drop back as I was beginning to feel unwell.

There was some stomach discomfort so I slowed down. I thought I needed some energy to keep me going so I forced myself to take my 2nd pack of gel as planned. Bloated and miserable, I finally arrived at the 25km u-turn point. I was given a packet of Maxifuel which I took a mouthful. The sweetness made me feel marginally better, but as I still intend to take my 3rd pack of gel at the 28km mark, I threw the remaining Maxifuel gel away. Continued my struggle, and saw Freddy from MF Safra handing out a banana to me. “Maybe the banana will give me more energy,” I thought, with the intention of just taking half of it since I was still feeling bloated. It took a while for me to feel better though this time came the urge to visit the toilet.

I finally pick up my pace to chase Stella and Chia who were now within my sight again. I managed to catch up with the both of them at 32 km mark, where Jurong Safra’s support station was. It started to drizzle and with (only) about 10km to the finishing line, Stella and I were feeling quite high. We shouted for sng paos from a distance and were given milo flavoured ones. The support was so good that it was like passing a baton and we did not have to stop at all. Then the drizzle became a shower. At first, I welcomed the rain as it cooled me down immediately. But soon, the rain got heavier and I’m not sure if I like it anymore. Many runners were heading into ECP and I was delighted to see Michelle from FN who shouted for me when I ran past her.

The rain or maybe the sng pao probably gave Stella a boost. She shot off in lightning speed and I lost her. The rain got heavier. I was certainly feeling more awake (hard not to, with the rain drops beating painfully against my face and cold wind blowing). But unlike Stella, I got slower and slower. My current pace then was above 5:30″km. My legs felt heavy and could not seem to go any faster. I did not feel like running anymore but did not want to give up either. I was back to feeling miserable (and now cold) and simply just hope to finish the race, pb or not.

Chia appeared suddenly from behind. He has picked up pace and seemed to be going strong as he overtook me. I tried to keep him in sight, but he faded into the darkness after a while. It was a lonely run along the stretch between ECP to Marina Barrage. There was no one ahead of me and I was demoralised. Spotted Rachel’s husband walking and he said that he was suffering from cramps. The rain continued to pour. Many runners have stopped running and were seeking for shelter. No one was manning the water station anymore. Took my last packet of gel and randomly took a cup of water (or was it rainwater?) from the table to wash it down.

Sky seemed to be clearing up. I felt a little better after clearing Marina Barrage and was at Tanjong Rhu. I could see many half marathoners walking. I was hoping to see some full marathon runners in front so I could push myself to go a little faster. The rest of the journey was a daze. I could not remember what it was like after that. I only remembered that I began to pick up my pace (and myself) again when the rain ceased to a drizzle and finally stopped. At the 38km mark, my Garmin read 3hr 21min.

No chance to go under my first target of sub 3hr 40min. However, I still got a chance to go under my second target, 3hr 45min if I pushed hard enough. Finally, at the last 1km, close to the finishing line and I could once again see Chia running up a slope from a distance. Motivated to see a familiar face, or the back in this case, I chased after him. Did not manage to catch up with him eventually but was happy to finish the race with a timing of 3:42:05, coupled with a 5th position in my category. Stella finished in an impressive timing of 3hr 37min and came in 3rd in the same category.

Though I got a pb and did not suffer from cramps this time, I was not truly satisfied as I did not enjoy the 2nd half of the marathon at all. The terrible stomach discomfort had slowed me down physically and mentally. The Hammer endurolytes could be one of the reasons as I only experimented it once during a long run. Maybe one capsule was good enough. And I could have taken the first one too early. Or perhaps, I do not even need to take any since I have already hydrated myself with isotonic drinks a few days before race day. I probably should not force myself to take energy gels, banana and Milo sng pao (sounds quite greedy!) when my stomach wasn’t feeling too well too. Shall reflect and come up with a better hydration and nutrition plan.

Nevertheless, it was still an unforgettable race and a great learning experience. One of the wettest race ever and I’m glad I managed to finish the race despite the heavy rain. Now, time to focus on recovery and preparation for KL Marathon.

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