I had a good race last year at Newton Challenge. Completing 32km in 2:25:36 and broke the tape for the first time. This result was after a few weeks of long runs and weekly mileage between 80km-85km leading up to the race. I felt confident when I stood at the start line last year. This year, however, I went to the stat line feeling less prepared. I had not done any long runs that last up to 30km in the past weeks as I was more focused on my preparation for KL half marathon. So, even though I feel fitter than before (due to higher intensity workouts), I wasn’t sure if my current training would bring me through to finish the 32km in a good time.
So, I arrived at the start line with no target time in mind. I only have a race plan which was to start at 4:45″/km in the first 8km, followed by 4:40″/km in the next 8km, then 4:35″/km-4:30″/km in the last 16km. I didn’t even know what time I could finish if I really followed this race plan strictly.
The moment the horn sounded, the front pack shot off immediately. Right behind the men were Sue Corser and Asics team mate, Rachel taking the lead for women’s closed category. Jenny was behind me at first but soon overtook me after less than 1 km. I slowed down when I realised I was running at 4:37″/km for the first km and aimed to just keep Jenny in sight. Mok Ying Rong surprisingly, was not ahead right at the start with Sue and Rachel. Her race plan was most likely to start slow and finish fast, and do a negative split like what she usually do for long distance races.
A few more kilometres into the race, the runners had more or less dispersed. I spotted Kenneth ahead of me and decided to follow him since I had settled into the pace comfortably and was getting into the rhythm. Trevor, on the other hand was no where in sight. He must have started out fast like the rest ahead and had disappeared into the distance with them. Shortly after, I overtook Jenny just after we cleared the lagoon.
It was still dark and very quiet. The only sound we heard were footsteps and some breathing. I spotted a familiar figure walking in front. It was Trevor. He was unwell and commented that he must have eaten something bad and felt like vomiting. I told him to take it easy first and to continue once he felt better. I ran on, with Kenneth still slightly ahead of me. Did a pace check at 8km and realised I was already running an average pace of 4:40″/km. (So much for planning =p)
As we turned right onto the path leading towards the NSRCC (where the u-turn point is), we saw the faster runners running on the other side of the road. In the lead was Stuart, Haynes a Singapore PR who has won a few races in Singapore. He was quite ahead of the rest of the men and eventually the winner of his category too. Spotted Kien Mau (2nd place), another Asics team mate, Ang Chee Yong (3rd place) behind him. Shortly after, I was surprised to see Rachel running alongside with Derek and just behind Andy. “Wow, such mean pace, she IS really fast!” Rachel was currently in the first position for the women’s closed category, while Sue was second. There was another female runner, a Caucasian ahead of me, but she belonged to the open category. My target was to catch up with her before the end of the first loop.
After the u-turn, Kenneth increased his pace, going at about 4″30″/km. I followed since my race plan was to increase to 4:35-4:30″/km eventually. Over the other side of the road, I also spotted many familiar faces and we cheered for one another. Jenny and Jasmine, both looking very energized and chirpy; Ezann, Zhilei running well, Jurong Safra team mates, Chia and Daniel, both looking quite relaxed; Trevor has started running again and not too far behind too, Ying Rong, with her brother and a few others pacing her. I know Ying Rong was going to catch up sooner or later, so I dare not slack too.
I ran on, finally overtaking the Caucasian girl after some time of chasing. Along the way to the next u-turn, I spotted the faster runners on the other side again. It was especially motivating to see familiar faces again and I was determined to maintain the pace as long as possible. The next 16 km passed quickly and uneventfully. I was relieved to know that I was able to maintain a 4:30″-4:35″/km pace thus far. However, it was getting more crowded at ECP as we were now running with the 18km runners. I had to slow to a walk at a few water stations in order to grab the cups of water.
Finally, I was approaching NSRCC for the second time. Not long after, I saw Rachel again on the other side, still looking strong. Judging from the distance, she must be at least a few minutes ahead. I kept a lookout for Sue to see if there was any chance of me catching up with her. She has started out so fast, so there might be a chance of her slowing down. Indeed, I spotted Sue on the other side as I was approaching the final u-turn. She was not too far away after all. I thought Kenneth was running well too, but right after the u-turn, he dropped his pace suddenly and waved to me to continue running ahead. I seemed to get a second wind after the u-turn. And with Sue not too far ahead, I was motivated and pressed on to catch up with her. We cheered for each other as I past. One thing I like about local races is the friendly competition among us.
After overtaking Sue, I was in the 2nd place. I kept a lookout of the runners on the other side, to see who were catching up. Strange, I didn’t see Ying Rong, she should be closing up by now. I must have missed her in midst of the crowd. I ran on, glad to be finally on the last stretch back to end point. With Kenneth behind me, I was all on my own to maintain the 4:30″/km pace I have planned. I keep running. However, the adrenaline was quickly wearing off after I overtook Sue. I started to slow down after the lagoon. It was just too crowded at the water station and I had to stop and walked to avoid colliding with the runners. It was getting warm too and I poured cups of water over my head to keep cool; this probably drawing a few dead stares from other runners for accidentally splashing some droplets of water onto them.
At 29km, Mok Ying Rong flew past. So fast, that I did not even have time to react. And before I knew it, she was already a few meters away and pulling away from me quickly. With just 3 km more to go, I tried to increase my pace, hopefully to close the gap between us. She ran past the last water station without stopping. I stopped for water but it was so crowded that the volunteers had no time to top up the cups. I had to wait for a volunteer to pour the water into an empty cup which I grab from the table before I could continue my race. After gulping down the water, I set off to chase the speedy girl again. However, she just got faster and soon faded into the distance. It was when I suddenly felt the arch of my feet cramping, I decided not to chase her anymore for fear of aggravating the cramp and end up injuring myself. Or perhaps, my mental strength has weakened the moment she flew past me and I was giving myself excuses to not to push. =(
Eventually, I finished 32km race in 2:25:16 (net time), about 20s faster than last year, with a 3rd placing in the Women’s Closed Category. Rachel led all the way and win in 2:22:25 while Ying Rong was second in 2:24:28.
With no high expectation for this race, I must say I am quite happy with how the race has worked out. I was feeling quite good throughout the race, until perhaps the last 5km when fatigue set in and took over my mind and body. Still got so much to learn about distance running.
I shall end the post with some photos taken after the race. The best part is always hanging around with friends and exchanging race experiences. =)