Seoul 10 km Challenge

I received an invitation from Pocari Sweat Singapore last November to participate in the Seoul Marathon. There was a change in plan however, after I unexpectedly qualified for Rio Olympics’ women marathon.

As I do not have a coach, SAA stepped in to appoint Mr Steven Quek to be my coach. His first advice was that there is no need for me to do another marathon from now until the Olympics. This is because I have just completed SCMS in Dec 15 and if I were to run Seoul marathon in Mar 16, followed by Olympics in Aug 16, that will be 3 marathons in 8 months and that would be quite taxing on my body. I would not be able to perform with Rio being the last and most important marathon too.

I agreed with Coach and also feel that I was not ready to do another marathon in March. So I quickly requested Pocari Sweat to change my race slot for the 10km race instead. This would also be in line with the training which Coach has planned for me, which is to improve my 10km and 21km timing first before we start preparing for the full marathon.

The Plan 

I met up with coach in late January to discuss my training program for Rio. As the time frame was too short, he does not wish to make any drastic changes to my current training regime. I shared with him my training log, personal bests for my 10km and 21km and he feels that we should focus on improving my speed for 10km first, followed by 21km before we focus on preparing for full marathon. Thus, my training was broken into three phases:

(1) Feb – Mar, 10km focused training and compete in Seoul 10km challenge on 20 March.

(2) Apr-May, half marathon focused training. Find a half marathon race in mid or end May.

(3) June-July, full marathon training. No more races until Rio Olympics.

The Target

My personal best for 10km races were around 41-42 mins. Coach set the target of achieving 40 mins, a personal best for Seoul 10km challenge. We will then target to do a half marathon in May.

Training (1st Phase) 

My training officially began on 1 Feb 2016. As my workplace is at Fusionopolis, which is a stone’s throw away from NUS, I could train with the NUS cross-country team at NUS track on Mondays and Thursday evenings after work. I remembered meeting Janielle and Faith for the first time and both of them shared with me their warm up routine and drills they did before they start their workout. It was the first time I was introduced to these drills and I took some time to learn and do the drills properly.

My weekdays training are intervals, ranging for 6km to 10km, starting with 400m repeats at 10km race pace (96s per 400m). We started with 16 x 500m intervals and coach gradually increased the intervals to 15 x 600m, 13 x 700m, 12 x 800m and finally 10 x 1km one week before my race.

For shorter intervals, it will be at a faster pace, 92s per 400m. At first, I was not used to the intervals as the number of intervals were more than what I usually do back when I train with Jurong Safra Running Club. But after a few weeks, I learnt how to run relax and run comfortably. I rest on Wednesday and do easy runs on Tuesday, cross training/easy run on Friday and Sunday.

There is no major change in my weekend training. I still stick to 20km long run on Saturdays, though Coach emphasized that the long run should not be too hard as I need to recover for the two hard interval training on weekdays.

Frankly speaking, I wasn’t sure if I would be able achieve the target time for my 10km race as I have not exactly been running at 4mins/km pace continuously. No doubt I have several good workouts during this 7 weeks of training, but there were times I struggled through the training. Like the 13 x 700m workout which I felt the fatigue right after 3 sets and in the end managed only 12 sets and did not complete the workout as plan.

Still, Coach is very encouraging and believes that it is possible. I just have to believe in myself and the training. The final workout 10 x 1km was a confidence booster as I managed complete the workout successfully.

Pre-Race

I departed Singapore on 18 March afternoon and arrived in Seoul on 18 March night. One of the Korea Pocari Sweat staff,  Lee Sang Kyu is very kind to pick me up from airport and send me all the way to the hotel. It was close to midnight by the time I settled in my hotel.

I woke up early to meet the Pocari Sweat team from Indonesia at 8am. They have two runners, one a national runner and another a celebrity, participating in Seoul Marathon. We did our easy run at the Gwanghwamun Square, where it would be the start of the full marathon event. I jogged for 30 minutes and did some drills.

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With team Pocari Sweat from Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Korea!

We met up with Team Pocari Sweat for lunch before going to the Olympic Stadium to check out the expo.

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In the evening, Wina and I meet up with Alex and Rudin who were also in Seoul to do the Seoul Marathon. Alex was injured so he decided not to race and support Rudin instead.

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20 March 2016, race day

Thanks to Pocari Sweat’s hospitality, I have no trouble getting to the venue and arrived at the race site with plenty of time to change, attend to a short interview, and warm up. It was easy getting to the front of the start line too with Pocari Sweat’s help.

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The race started at 1030am. Weather was cool at around 10 degree cel. I wasn’t feeling cold at all as the sun was out. Decided that I will not need my arm sleeves, I removed them just before I entered the race pen and put on my shades when I toed the starting line.

Many runners shot off when the race started and passed me. Adrenaline pumping, I ran along, telling myself to keep to my own race pace. My garmin alerted me 3:57min for my first km and it was exactly 4mins when I passed the first kilometer distance marker. I realised I may have to run slightly faster than what my Garmin indicated so as to meet my target of sub 40 mins. My pace for the 2nd km and 3rd km dropped due to undulating terrain and an incline. I was behind my target by 8 seconds when I passed the 3km distance marker.

I pressed on, determined to chase the time. I could see a girl running ahead of me and target to keep her sight. Got a little worried when my 4th km took me 4:08min and I was behind time by 16 seconds. Still, I kept going, knowing that the 2nd half of the race is flat and I still have a chance to do a sub 40mins 10km.

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Half way point, time check at 20 min 12 sec. I was gradually gaining back the time lost. I was also closing up on the girl ahead of me and that got me quite motivated. And at 7km mark, I finally caught up with her. My split read 3:52″/km. She tried to keep up and followed me for a while. 8th km was slightly slower at 3:58″/km so I was still slightly behind my target time. I knew I have to speed up or risk missing my target. It was only until 9km, with my watch reading I finally on track for a 40mins 10km.

As I approached the Jamsil Olympic Main Stadium, I got really excited and sped up a bit. As I entered the stadium and stepped onto the track, I could see and hear many supporters cheering for the runners. Gave my all and ran as fast as I could round the track. The finishing line was in sight and I was determined to finish the race under 40mins.

And I did it! Crossed the finishing line in 39 min 50 sec, a personal best. It is my first sub 40 mins 10km run. 1796440_10153612246761025_7422838963730084352_n

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Wina, country manager of Pocari Sweat Singapore was there welcoming me back with a hug.

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Make a new friend that day. =) This is Nicole, the girl whom I was chasing from the 1st to 7th km of the race. She came in 2nd, not far away from me.

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And what a surprise and bonus to come in first for the 10km race for the women’s category!

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In the evening, team Pocari Sweat hosted a dinner for all of us to celebrate our achievement. We had such a good time eating, drinking and chatting. Thank you team Pocari Sweat for the hospitality and support! So glad to be part of this family.

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Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2015

The Preparation

Having plagued by plantar fasciitis (PF) on my left foot since July, my first goal for SCMS was simply to arrive at the start line, feeling fit and healthy.

During the injury period, I cut down on my mileage and replaced most of my runs on cross-trainers and with spinning classes. I did more strengthening and core exercises too. Though my stamina and fitness declined during this period, I was quite happy with my progress as I felt physically stronger than before. My tight calves muscles (particularly on my left calf) were finally loosening. My PF was on route to recovery. The injury was a blessing in disguise I guess; it has forced me to rest my fatigued legs and I learnt to appreciate the simple joy of being able to run freely without the stress of chasing the time.

In September, I started running outdoors or on treadmills (due to haze) when I no longer feel pain when I run. As the pain usually come after my runs, I was careful not to ramp up my mileage or intensity too quickly. I continued to ice the affected area daily and foam-rolled every other day to reduce the tightness in my calves.

Then came October. My PF was healing well and I was able to put in some decent training in October, choosing quality over quantity. I went back to running 4-5 times a week in mid-Oct, while continuing my gym routine (simply because I really enjoyed the spinning classes). My mileage averaged 65km-70km per week. Training in October went well. I felt more confident in my tempo runs, and managed to run at a faster pace (as compared to pre-injury days) for some of the key workouts.

On 1 November, I participated in the Great Eastern Women’s Run which I completed in 1:31:35. (few seconds slower than last year.) It was lung-bursting effort and I struggled at the last 5km. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the results as I wasn’t sure I could run a sub 1:32 timing. It was a confidence-booster and closer to race day, I decided to base on this race to determine my target race pace for SCMS. Since my average pace for GE Run was 4:20″/km, I thought 4:40″/km or somewhere around would be a good target. Perhaps if I still feel good after the half-way mark, I could try increasing my pace to 4:35″/km. And so my 2nd goal for SCMS was to sustain 4:35″-4:40″/km pace. If all goes well, I hope to finish the marathon in 3hr 15min -3hr 17min.

If it doesn’t go well, my third goal would be to do better than my local PB time of 3hr 23min which I achieved last year.

Training continued as per normal in November. This year, other than Jackie who accompanied me on most of my runs, I am thankful to be able to do my long runs with a few more training buddies on some weekend mornings. I was so used to doing long runs that average about 5 min”/km to 5:15 min”/km pace in the past year. This group pushed me to run close to race pace, and to start slow and finished fast for long runs. It was tough but they made the training bearable and enjoyable.

Three weeks out from race day, I did my longest long run at East Coast Park with Safra Running Club. Jackie had a back pain and had no choice but to skip the run when the pain flare up the moment he started running. I ran 35 km on my own at an average 5 min”/km pace and that brought my highest volume in this 9-wks training cycle to 85km. I was relieved to get the longest run out of the way and looking forward to tapering.

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35km done! =)

The following weekend, I ran 27km with Alex Tiong and Ivan Eng, starting from MR to Upper Peirce to Seletar and back. The guys were kind to follow my pace at just under 5min”/km. I’m sure they are capable of going faster if not because of me. Towards the last 5km, they started picking up the pace and I ran at sub 4:40″/km till the end. Another confidence booster long run.

I remembered I was feeling low and lethargic as I struggled through my intervals two days later. Jackie assured me that it was normal to feel more tired than usual at this time due to the training volume over the past weeks and that I should be able to peak at the right time when race day arrived. Indeed, my energy level was up again the following week. I only had two workouts on the last week leading to race day: 5 x 800 m intervals at avg 3:08 min per set on Wednesday (suppose to do this on Tuesday but it rained) and an easy 40 mins run on Thursday. And when I toed the starting line on 6 Dec, I was feeling fit, healthy, fresh and relaxed. =)

The Day before the Race

Jackie and I went to Sports Hub to support the Kids’ Dash which was held a day before the 10km, half marathon and marathon. My elder brother has signed my 35 months old nephew up for the 700m Kids’ Dash and we wanted to support. It was fun watching the little ones run and walk. After lunch at Kallang Wave Mall foodcourt, where I had a nice bowl of salmon don, Jackie and I headed to City Hall.  This year, I suggested to book a hotel room near the race site so we could sleep in a while more on race day morning.

After checking into Peninsular Excelsior hotel, we rested a while before visiting the National Art Gallery which was just a stone’s throw away from the hotel. In the evening, we had dinner with Ghim at Marina Square. I had Japanese curry rice with pork cutlet while Jackie had the same but with chicken cutlet. We all ordered the set which came with a free salad bar.

By the time we finished dinner, it was about 7.45 pm. We decided to return to hotel to rest, shower and prep our race gears for tomorrow.

The initial plan was to turn in by 9pm to get at least 6 hours of sleep. But I suddenly remembered I have not studied the race route and hydration points to plan the exact distance where I should take my energy gels. So by the time we hit the sack, it was already after 9.30pm. Nevertheless, I was well-rested and slept like a baby throughout the night.

Race Day

I  woke up feeling fresh when my alarm rang at 3am. Washed up before waking up Jackie. I had my breakfast, coffee and bread by 3:30am. I find taking breakfast 1.5hrs to 2hrs before race works for me.

Since our hotel is near the end point, there is no need to deposit our baggage and that save time cause the baggage queue could get really long. We decided to warm up by jogging to Orchard Road. I must say the hub has a really good sense of direction. We arrived at somerset in no time and stopped by Orchard Central to use the toilets before walking towards Ngee Ann City to meet up with our training buddies.

Goodness, there was already a huge crowd waiting to enter the race pens. It would be hard to spot anyone in that crowd. We bumped into Alex Tai and Run’er and a moment later the pens opens and all of us entered the race pen 2 allocated for 3hrs-4hrs marathoners. We quickly made our way to the front, hopefully to find a space as close to the start line as possible.

As we waited patiently for 5am to arrive, we saw more familiar faces and everyone exchanged words of encouragements,”jiayous” and “all the best”. The atmosphere was filled with excitement and positive vibes. The time crept closer to 5am. The chain that held us back from the elites runners were taken down and we moved forward to merge with the runners in the priority pen. No special privilege to start at the priority pen this year but no issue since runners from Pen 1 and 2 would be flagged off at the same time.

The race started promptly at 5am. The runners in front shot off at top speed. Runners at the back pushed and dashed off in a flash. Adrenaline pumping, I ran alongside with Jackie, reminding myself to run my own race and not get “pulled” by the faster groups ahead.

Jackie and I maintained around 4:35-4:40″/km as planned. Joshua sped past us after some time as he tried to catch up with Ying Rong and her friends ahead. The next few km went past uneventfully as we settled into race pace.

Time Check at 5km: 22:57 

By 7km, Jackie was dropping back and I knew I was on my own when I could not hear him behind me anymore. Ran past the Floating Platform and saw many Ekiden runners finished the first leg of the relay. Received some cheers from them too.

It was dark along F1 pit, but I could make out the two ladies in front – Jasmine and Jenny! I ran on and caught up with them after a while. Not long after exchanging some words of encouragement, I was out of the F1 pit and onto Nicoll Highway. By then, most runners have dispersed and I could only see a handful on the road ahead.

Time check at 10km: 46:26

I was feeling good but I knew it was still too early to know how the marathon would fare in the end. So I try not to get too excited and focused on maintaining the same pace. Took my first packet of gel as I approached the next hydration station. Lost sight of Ying Rong and group just before entering into ECP. I pressed on, knowing that I still have a long way to go. It was early in the morning but there were already many supporters out at ECP cheering for all the runners. I gradually caught up with two guys ahead and decided to tag along with them since we were all running around the same pace. Suddenly, I caught sight of Trevor from Safra MF. He joined our group and we ran together for a while.

Time check at 15km: 1:09:40

One of the guys, Julien Guienne (I got to know his name after ironlady, Ling Er tagged him in one of the pictures on fb) asked for the time I was hoping to finish the marathon. I glanced at my Garmin and told him, at the pace we were running, it seemed like 3hr 15min is possible. However as there’s still more than half-way to go, I told him I shall see how it goes after the 21km mark. We pressed on and sped up a little, probably excited about the possibility of completing the marathon in 3:15. Not long later, his friend dropped back and then it was just me and Julien pacing each other.

I took my 2nd pack of gel at the 18km mark as planned. Spotted Baoying just ahead and she was still looking strong and fresh. She was surprised to see me as she thought I was ahead. We chatted briefly, wish each other well and I ran on with Julien. I always like approaching the u-turn point, cause that’s when you could see all your friends on the other side and cheered for one another. It was a sight to behold when I saw a contingent of runners comprising of Andy Neo, Rachel, Poon ZL, Ivan, Baldwin, Alex Thiong, Ewin, Chun Kiat and many more, running at 4:30″/km pace, on route to a 3:10 marathon. Cheered for them as they ran past looking very focused. Not far behind were a few more runners, Ying Rong and her friends. And I knew I was currently in 3rd place for the local women’s category.

Time check at 21.1km: 1:37:29

I was happy to finally reach the half-way mark of the marathon, feeling strong and fresh, vastly different from how I felt during SEA Games and even last year’s SCMS. I was beginning to feel quite optimistic about this race. Julien and I worked together for the next few kilometres. I drank as I ran, picking up two cups at a go, one for drinking and one for cooling down over my head. He on the other hand, prefers to slow to a walk to drink. But he would always caught up with me after that.

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Julien and I worked together from 13km to 30km of the race. Thankful to have him to run alongside me inside ECP, where it could get really mental after the u-turn. 

Time check at 25km: 1:55:14

We had sped up over the last 4km after the half way mark. I was beginning to feel the first sign of fatigue setting in and very much looking forward to the support station set up by Tampines and Toa Payoh Safra Running Club at 28km mark, where I received lots of support and encouragement from fellow Safra members.

The next few km went by in a daze. It seemed more difficult to maintain the pace and I got the feeling that I was then running at more than 4:45″/km pace. But each time I checked the 1km split, to my relief, I was still hovering at 4:35 – 4:40″/km. I told myself to keep going and 30km would be my checkpoint to reassess my pace.

Time check at 30km: 2:18:20

I was gradually overtaking more runners at the last stretch of ECP. At the last water water station, Julien fell back and I was all on my own again. (He eventually finished in a respectable 3hr 23min). I did a quick body check. Running posture ok, breathing controlled. So far so good. I was not feeling as exhausted as I thought I would be. Seemed like the race was really working out well. Still,  it was too early to tell. After all, marathoners would know the race only starts at 32km. Finally, I arrived at the end of East Coast Park and just in time to see Ying Rong breaking away from her friends and running strongly towards the golf course.  Joshua was not far ahead and I was hoping I could catch up with him soon.

At the 31km mark, I was pleasantly surprised to see Jackie again. But there was no time for chit-chat cause I’m in a race! We ran together and overtook a couple of runners. Caught up with Joshua first, and then Poon ZL. As we ran past the golf course, we spotted Ivan too from the 3:10 contingent. We encouraged him to run with us. But he was having bad cramps and slowed to a walk eventually. Jackie and I ran on and saw Chun Kiat and Ngee Hung. We cheered and motivated one other. I was getting really excited as we approached Gardens by the bay. It was 33km and I was feeling better than before now that we were so close to the end! The pain which I was anticipating after 32km never hit me. I took that as a positive sign that the next 9km would be manageable somehow.

At Gardens By the Bay where it was once again a long straight road, I could see Ying Rong less than 50 metres ahead. Not wanting to increase my pace too suddenly and risk cramping, I aimed to just keep her in sight. That being said, I must have gotten a little motivated to see that she was so close, and by the time we crossed the bridge to Marina Barrage, I was closing in and she was just 20 metres ahead.

It was a joy to receive support and cheers from Jurong and Mount Faber Safra Running Club at the Marina Barrage. (After the race, Zhilei told me that we were their first “customers” so they could not react in time.) As I grabbed a cup of water at the next water point to myself down, Ewin, who has slowed to a walk due to cramps, encouraged me to chase after Ying Rong who was just ahead. Motivated, I ran on.

Time check at 35km: 2:40:12

I was finally shoulder to shoulder with Ying Rong as we ran past flower dome. I was hoping I could pull away from her at this point but Ying Rong was determined and hung on closely. I was getting nervous. On one hand, we still have 7km to go and it’s gotta be tough to fight for this 2nd placing. On the other hand, I was glad that Ying Rong has kept up. It’s always better to run together and push one and another to reach the fullest potential. And so we worked together for the next couple of km towards Benjamin Sheares Bridge, the infamous heartbreak hill of Singapore, where it could make or break your run.

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Credit to second wind magazine for this photo. I think this was taken right after Marina Barrage, towards Sheares Bridge. 

With Ying Rong hot on my heels, I dare not slow down. I tried to maintain the same effort as I pounded up the bridge. I thought of those hills I ran on during my training- NTU hill loops, M&M at Upper Pierce, Sentosa etc. “Make them count!” I told myself as I put one foot forward after the next. Step by step, I could no longer hear Ying Rong behind me. But I dare not slack, as she may surprise me when we go downhill after 38km.

As I was approaching the top of the bridge, I saw a familiar figure in pink ahead. It was Rachel! Motivated, I pushed myself and finally caught up with her. I was winded and could barely muttered any encouragement to her. Rachel cheered for me and I pressed on. With the upslope out of the way, I cruised down Sheares Bridge as fast as my legs could carry me, not daring to look back to see how far Ying Rong was behind. It suddenly dawned on me that we weren’t competing for 2nd place anymore, but the first place cause I was now leading the local women’s category!

Reached Republic Blvd road and merged with the 10km and 21km runners. It was so crowded and we spent some effort weaving in and out of the crowd. I wasn’t sure how far Ying Rong was behind, but knowing what a strong runner she is, I knew I could not afford to slow down even one second. I was determined to hold onto this lead for as long as possible.

Time check at 40km: 3:05:01

I had exactly 10 minutes to cover the remaining 2.195km. Can I make it under 3:15? Spotted Alex Thiong as we made our way towards Raffles Ave. I was too breathless to cheer for him, but Alex saw us and tried to keep up with us. Up Raffles Ave and then another right turn onto Esplanade Drive. There was lots of supporters at the side cheering the runners on. Spotted Colin (this year as supporter), shouted for us from the right side. One last bend and I would see the finishing line. The last 200m signboard never feel so welcoming before. Gave my all and sprinted to the finishing line as I watched the clocked ticked 3:14:xx closing onto 3:15.

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And yes, I did it! I crossed the line in 3:15:02 (net time), bettered my local pb by more than 8 minutes! A bonus to come in first for the Singaporean Women’s category too! Gosh, I won the Singapore marathon! I could hardly believe it.  After two years of second placings in 2012 and 2014, and one disappointing 6th in 2013, the victory is especially sweet.

And what was even more astonishing was to receive news that I came in top 10 for the Women Open’s Category; which according to IAAF’s guideline, this is consider a qualification for Rio Olympics! Gosh, it’s like a dream that seems to good to be true!

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Photo with Rachel, my ascis teammate & running bff. She put up a good fight and finished the marathon in 3:19, coming in 3rd for Local Women’s category. So glad that we are both on podium again this year. 

 

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Prize presenation =) Happy to have the chance to raise the trophy this year. And huge congratulations to Ying Rong meimei for her PB and 2nd placing too!  

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And of course a photo with my dearest hubby, who has been so supportive in my running journey. 

Shape Run 2015

A super belated post so am just going to keep this short.

Started the morning with a scare because I realised I had forgotten to bring my time chip when I arrived at the race site! I had left it on my bed after putting on my race bib before leaving the house. =(

I was still contemplating to ask my brother (who has kindly gave me and Peyling a lift to KPT very early in the morning) to drive home and help me pick up the time chip. Decided to check out the information booth first to see if they can help. Thankfully, I am able to purchased a new race bib at S$20. Phew! No need to trouble my brother after all.

The 15km race started promptly at 6am. There was a leading vehicle flashing the time as the clock tick away. Lead cyclists, Trevor and Chris led the way and a whole lot of us followed the moment the horn sounded. Few hundred meters into the race, I was in the lead. There was another female runner running alongside with me for a while and overtook me after 2km. I get to know later that she was the 26 year old RSAF officer, Lynette who appeared in the newspaper some months ago for a full score for her IPPT results. As I was already running  faster than my target pace, I told myself to be patient and stick to my own pace since it was still early in the race. I eventually overtook Lynette and gradually pick up my pace. She was hot on my heels as we pounded on Nicoll Highway. It was until we turned into the F1 pit and I gradually pull away from her when I sensed that she is not keeping up anymore. As I do not know if she would eventually catch up in the end, I told myself to focus on my pace and aim to maintain my position till the end of the race. Lynette later went on to finish 1st runner-up for the 15km race.

There was plenty of u-turns for this race course and it was encouraging to receive cheers from runners and pacers over at the other side. I was running alone most of the time and it was great that I have the lead cyclists, Trevor and Chris to follow.

Shape Run 2015

The race was over in a flash. 15km is actually quite a nice distance. Not the fast and furious, lung bursting 10km, and it’s shorter than 21km which make it seems easier to push a bit more because you know the end is near.

As I ran down the ramp towards Kallang Practice Track, I could see all the 5km runners waiting for their race to begin. I was all smiles when I saw the finishing tape in front of me. Super elated because it’s not often I get to break the finishing tape here in Singapore.

credits to John Tan for this lovely finishing picture =)

credits to John Tan for this lovely finishing picture =)

Completed the 15km run (my garmin read about 14.5km though) in 1:02:42. Avg pace: 4:19″/km. All in all it was a very enjoyable race and as usual, it was fun catching up with friends after the race too. A bonus to come in first for the first time in Shape Run. It was the first year they incorporated a 15km category into the event.

With the two wonderful lead cyclists, Chris and Trevor who led me from start to finish. =)

With the two wonderful lead cyclists, Chris and Trevor who led me from start to finish. =)

With 2nd runner-up, Serene Yang.

With 2nd runner-up, Serene Yang.

Ezann ran well too and came in 4th.

Ezann ran well too and came in 4th.

Happy to meet Cecilia who was there to compete in the 10km category. And she came in 10th position too! Congrats Cecilia!

Happy to meet Cecilia who was there to compete in the 10km category. And she came in 10th position too! Congrats Cecilia!

Prize presentation. =)

Prize presentation. =)

Prize winners for Shape Run' 15.

Shape Run’15 ‘s prize winners for 15km, 10km and 5km category.

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2015

I was hesitant to sign up for SCHKM at first for two reasons: (1) I just completed the Singapore Marathon in early Dec last year; (2) I have also signed up for Tokyo marathon which is on 22 Feb 2015 (which means 4 weeks after SCHKM). Yes, that sums up to 3 marathons in 3 months! Something which I have never thought I would have attempt if you ask me a year ago. But I guess, I am not getting any younger. If not now, then when?

The Training Phase

Some may feel it is a tab too soon to race in another marathon after SCMS. I thought so too but took the plunge anyway. Somehow, the fact that I only have 7 weeks to prepare for the marathon made me treasure my time and training sessions more than ever. The shorter training period made the training phase more bearable too. I find myself putting in my best effort during the training because time is running out and I have to make the most of every training session. Learning from past experience, I also reminded myself to stay positive and happy during training, and not to beat myself up if I had a bad workout, or if I did not clock enough mileage. Undertrain is better than overtrain. So, despite failing to meet my target weekly mileage of 80km in what was supposed to be my peak week, I was not too upset about it. (after all 79.3km was pretty close to 80km =p). I simply have to believe that the hard work and effort put into each training session would be good enough to pull me through on race day.

Pre-Race

Jackie and I arrived in Hong Kong on Friday morning, two days before race day. We spend most of our time on Friday and Saturday eating, walking around, shopping, keeping our legs active and made sure we hydrate ourselves with isotonic drinks. We had about 5-6 hours’ of sleep on the night before the marathon. I was hoping to get at least 8hrs of rest, but we got carried away with shopping and spent a longer time than expected preparing for our race gears the night before.Still, it was a quality sleep and I woke up feeling relaxed and fresh.

Race Kit collection with Jackie and Laichee at Victoria Park.

Race Kit collection with Jackie and Laichee at Victoria Park.

Race day

Jackie and I woke up at 4.15am in the morning to get ready for the race. Breakfast was a chocolate croissant which we bought from Marks & Spencer the night before and a can of warm coffee which we got from 7-11 while we were on our way to Granville Road in the morning. Visited the loo and deposited our baggage at my allocated van. It was not as cold as last year, so I decided to do away with my arm sleeves. There was no need for gloves at all. I also took off an old T-shirt which I was wearing to keep myself warm, leaving only my poncho over my race attire which were just my Asics running vest and shorts. As Jackie did not have a priority start this time round (standards for men raises to sub 3hr for the priority start this year compared to 3:30hr last year), he has to made his way quickly to the start pen, which was already quite crowded by 5:40am. I was thankful to be given a priority entry (standards for women priority start is sub 3:30hr) as it saved me a lot of hassle.

A picture with fellow Asics team mate, Kaifen before the race. She is representing Singapore for the Asian Marathon this year.

A picture with fellow Asics team mate, Kaifen before the race. She is representing Singapore for the Asian Marathon this year.

A picture with Jackie before the race too.

A picture with Jackie before the race too.

After a short warm up jog up and down Granville Road and some dynamic stretching, I entered the priority start pen at the Nathan Road when I see more and more runners with a red stamp on their bibs filling the pen. In front of us was the elites’ pen, including overseas invited runners. They had a gold stamp on their race bibs. The time crept closer to 6am, the working crew who were holding back the general public pen slowly marched forward till they finally let go of their hands and allow the runners to merge with us. We were all pushed to the front as well, merging with the elites runners. It was about 6am. Feeling warm now that all participants are all huddled, I removed my poncho and took a packet of gel while waiting patiently for the flag-off. The emcee shared with us the temperature of the day, which was about 17 degree Celsius. Humidity was on the high side at 80 over percent.

“Ten..nine..eight..” the countdown began. I checked my Garmin for the last time to see that it has not lost the satellite. “Three.. two.. one..Beeeep” The race is on! Upon hearing the horn, the front pack shot off in lightning speed. Runners from behind also started fast, and many dashed past me in a flash. Adrenaline pumping, I ran on, following the runners ahead, running at 4:27″/km pace for the first km. There was a road divider separating the runners into two groups right from the start. Out of a corner of my eye, I saw a runner stumbled forward and fell onto the ground. Thankfully, he did not suffer from any injury, he was up again and continue running.

The race is on!

The race is on!

Three kilometers later we were on West Kowloon Highway. It was then I realised that there was more runners ahead than I thought. There was a long train of runners ahead and I could not even see where this train ended. From this part onwards, it was a gradual uphill. We could see the half marathoners who were flagged off at 5.30am on the other side of the road too. I was feeling ok, but as much as I would like to go faster, I could not seem to increase my pace comfortably. At about 5km mark, my average pace was hovering at about 4:28″/km. I got a little worried because I have yet to get into the “zone” and I could feel my breathing got heavier when I ran up the hills. I decided to just maintain my pace until I reach the 10km mark and hopefully be able to speed up thereafter. It was getting warm and I was grateful for the wet sponges provided at all the water stations. I almost missed grabbing one sponge and a kind runner from behind passed me one. It happened so smoothly and quickly; almost like passing a baton that I forgot to thank him.

Time check at 10km: 44:50 min.

Not too bad though I was hoping I could do 44mins for my first 10km. Nevertheless,  I was pleased that I was finally getting the rhythm and running more efficiently. The downhill just before the 10km was a good breather. A few kilometers later, I could see the elite pack consisting mainly of Kenyan and Ethiopian male runners flying past on the other side, followed by another pack of elite female runners few minutes later.

I wonder how was Jackie doing. He was probably behind me as he has intention to start at a much slower pace. I was also keeping a lookout for fellow Asics team mates, Rachel and Kaifen, wondering where they were too Soon, I find myself running on Tsing Ma Bridge (青马大桥) and I get to see the faster runners on the other side of the road. Caught sight of Ramesh, Singapore representative. Not too long after, saw Rachel running strong. Her husband, clad in Captain America costume was a few seconds behind her. Gosh! They were really fast! I estimate that they were at least 1km ahead.

Knowing the u-turn point at 15km mark was near, I pressed on. I was surprised to see Thow Wee ahead. Caught up with him and chatted a bit with him. He encouraged me to run ahead.

The first turning point at 15km mark.

The first turning point at 15km mark.

After the u-turn, I kept a lookout of the runners on the other side of the road for familiar faces. Saw Jackie not long after and we cheered for each other. He was not as far behind as I thought after all! I know it would be just a matter of time before he caught up with me. I increased my pace unconsciously, looking forward to the next turning point at 20km mark. Spotted a few more familiar faces along the way, Kaifen, Peyling, Sebastian from NB. Heard someone shouted my name but I did not manage to see who it was.

Getting into the zone

There was a right angel left turn as I cruised downhill to North West Tsing Yi Interchange. Somewhere along this route toward the turning point on Ting Kau Bridge (汀九桥),  I found myself relaxing and beginning to enjoy the run. Jackie was catching up. He was just a few seconds behind me after I u-turn at the 20km mark. Am I slowing down? I tried to speed up a little. Crossed the 21.1km marker and glanced at the clock placed beside the marker, which read 1:33:48. “1hr 34 min for the first half, can I do an even split and finish under 3:08?” My mind raced.

Jackie soon caught up with me again and we ran alongside each other for a while. I was glad to have his company as I always have the tendency to slow down after the half way mark.  It was long stretch of downhill and a couple of uphill from 20km onwards. We were definitely on runners’ high, running faster at sub 4:25’/km pace at certain stretches and my fastest split recorded here was 4:15″/km. Jackie was on fire and soon was pulling away from me. I dare not keep chase and was contented with the pace that I hope I could sustain throughout the race.

Fatigue set in

However, by 28km, I was fading away when I approached yet another slope. My running pace dropped to 4:35″/km as I pushed myself up the hill. “What goes up must come down.” I chanted the mantra to myself. By then Jackie, who was stronger at tackling hills, was about fifty meters ahead of me but still within sight.

Passed the 30km distance marker and checked my time: 2:13:22. Am I still on target for 3:08? I have no idea. By then, fatigue was attacking me in waves and I was too drained to work out any calculation. I only know I have 12km to go and less than 1 hr to finish the marathon to get myself a PB.

It was mostly flat for the next three km. I pressed on, hoping to close the gap between myself and Jackie. I was happy to finally see the entrance to the Western Harbour tunnel leading to Causeway Bay. My Garmin lost the satellite a few seconds after I entered the tunnel. It was a long stretch and I could see many runners ahead. I ran purely based on feel, not knowing my pace. By 35km, I could sense that Jackie was slowing down because I was closing up on him. “7km more to go, come on!” I tried to think positive. Soon, I was approaching the exit. The light at the end of the tunnel never feel so welcoming before. Suddenly, Jackie who was just a few meters ahead of me stopped and started walking. Oh no! Did he pick up his pace too fast earlier on? I hope he would feel better and start running soon. I gave him a pat on his back from behind as I ran past. Too exhausted to exchange any words after conquering the hilly terrain, all I could mustered was a eye contact which I hope it conveyed Jiayou for him.

Finally, I'm out of the last  tunnel.

Finally, I’m out of the last tunnel.

The challenging terrains

Despite running the same route as last year, I was totally unprepared for the undulating terrains when I came out of the tunnel. I did not remember this part of the route being so hilly. Little did I expect myself to be huffing and puffing as I ran on the Connaught Road West Flyover. It seemed much easier last year, probably because I was chasing after Jackie and Kenneth right after I came out of the tunnel.

From this point onwards, I was running alone most of the time. The only motivation was that the end point was near and there were now more photographers taking photos and supporters cheering for participants along the roadside. My Garmin did not recalculate the distance even thought it captured the satellite after I came out of the tunnel. Hence, my average pace shown on the Garmin became 4:40″/km. Distance was also not accurate anymore. I kept running, looking forward to hit the streets at Causeway Bay.

Past the 40km mark and I saw a familiar figure in red vest ahead. It was Rachel! I hurried along, hoping to close up the gap. It took a while for me to finally catch up with her and we cheered for each other. I was less than 2km away from finishing point and was feeling excited and anxious all at once because I realised I was very close to getting a personal best.

I could see the 41km mark in a distance on the top of one last hill. I psych myself up to prepare for the steep ascent. Thankfully it was a short one. I tried to catch my breath as I cruised down the slope. There was no chance for a 3:08 finish but there was still hope for a sub 3:10 if all worked out.

Feeling very excited and anxious when I realised I was so close to getting a PB and also so close to missing it.

Feeling very excited and anxious when I realised I was so close to getting a PB and also so close to missing it.

I pounded through the streets at Causeway Bay, soaking in the race atmosphere and running as fast as my legs could carry me. I was getting more anxious by the minute. The organiser had changed the last one km of the route this year. Where was Victoria Park? Where was the prominent green carpet leading to the finishing line?

Ah.. there it was! I took a glance at the clock ahead the moment I stepped onto the green carpet. The clock was already counting at 3:09:xx. I had less than a minute to finish the marathon in under 3:10!

Giving my best at the final stretch.

Giving my best at the final stretch.

With no time to lose, I made my final sprint towards the finishing line, just on the dot too with a gun time of 3:09:59. Mardiah from SAA managed to take a nice finishing shot of me at the end. =)

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So yes, I did it! Completed the SCHKM in 3:09:57 (nett time). Finally a sub 3:10 marathon to my name! A new personal best, shaving about 1min plus from the 3hr 11 min achieved at GCAM last July. =D

With our hard-earned finisher medal.

With our hard-earned finisher medals.

Up next, Tokyo Marathon in 4 weeks’ time!

Newton Challenge 32km

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.

One of the nicest running picture when I can still manage to smile at the camera. Credits to Pictureart for the picture.

One of the nicest running pictures when I can still manage to smile at the camera. Credits to Pictureart for the picture.

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. =(

The finishing line is near!

The finishing line is near!

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.

Yeah! Finally completed the race!

Yeah! Finally completed the race!

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. =)

Friends from Safra =)

Friends from Safra =)

with the bf, who came down to the race venue w me despite working late the previous night and still have to work on the Sunday.

with the bf, who came down to the race venue with me despite working late the previous night and still have to work on the Sunday.

The prize presentation. Missing Ying Rong who was 2nd for the women's closed category.

The prize presentation. Missing Ying Rong who was 2nd for the women’s closed category.

Asics athlete Zhi Yong came in 3rd for his category too! A photo of all of us for Andy =)

Asics athlete Zhi Yong came in 3rd for his category too! A photo of all of us for Andy =)           Thank you Asics!

 

Gold Coast Airport Marathon

I have been wanting to try the Gold Coast Airport Marathon ever since I heard other runners raved about the nice scenic race route and cool climate that make it a PB course. So when Ascis offered a race slot for this event, I decided to go for it. It is my first Ascis sponsored event after all and the idea of running together with fellow Asics team mates excites me.

Training was quite erratic this time as compared to the previous time I was training for HKSCM. Ever since the Safra road relay in early March, Melvin trainer has adjusted the target paces for intervals and tempo runs according to our 1.6km results clocked during the road relay. With faster target times, intensity level went up too. On good days, I could managed a good, confidence booster workout. But more often than not, there were also a few workouts that I struggled through and left me disappointed when I could not meet the target time I set out to achieve. Once, I could not even complete 3 sets of (1.5km x 4 loops), giving up after two sets when I slowed to walk. It was then I realised I might be burnt out from the high intensity workouts on Tues and Thurs.

Long runs in March and April were quite smooth. Jackie and I managed at about 5-5:05″min/km pace for most of our runs ranging from 17km to 25km . However, towards mid April, I fell sick. Training seems to go downhill for me in May. There were a couple of times we just could not complete the distance we have initially set out to do. The longest run leading up to Sundown marathon was a mere 32km at ECP (we usually train up to 36km) which didn’t work out too well towards the last 10km and I struggled to finish it at a much slower pace. Sundown marathon which was supposed to be a lead up run for my GCAM was also a disappointment.

In June, work got busier and I have to skip some training with Safra. But I made sure I was still training consistently, squeezing in a run after work on my own. After all, I only have 4-5 weeks to prepare for Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I was more cautious this time because I knew I could easily fall sick again if I push too hard. I no longer attempt long runs at 5″/min, instead I ran with my feel and keep to average 5:15″/km pace. Jurong Lake Run was a confidence booster and I was glad to regain my fitness and arrive at Gold Coast feeling fresh and strong.

Kaifen, Alex, Brian (Alex’s friend whom Alex roped in to share accommodation with us) and I arrived at Gold Coast on Saturday morning. There was some delay in the flight and also the airport shuttle. After saying goodbye to Peyling and Priscilla, who took the same flight as us, but stayed at different places, we finally arrived at our motel. It was a nice spacious apartment for 5. Boon Wee, who arrived a day earlier was already in the apartment waiting for us.

After putting down our luggage, we grabbed a quick lunch and set off to the race expo to collect our race bibs. As the restaurants in Australia closes as early as 5pm, we did not stay for long at the expo.

Bumped into fellow Safra training mates at the race expo. With Peying, Priscilla and Sew Hyong  =)

Bumped into fellow Safra training mates at the race expo. With Peyling, Priscilla and Sew Hyong =)

Took the bus back to our area and we settled for subway for dinner. Then it was back to our motel to rest for the night. I think it was the first time I actually slept for 9 hours before a marathon. Other than waking up 3-4 times in the middle of night to use the bathroom, I had quite a good rest and woke up feeling recharged and excited.

Race day morning. It was cold! I pulled on layers of clothing and complete with a poncho over my body to keep myself warm. Our apartment was about 1km from the race venue, so we set off on foot at around 6 am in the morning. Some photo takings before we deposited our baggage. Visited the portable loos and headed to the race pen. Kaifen and I got the priority slot, so it was pretty easy for us to get into the pen. Saw many friends from Singapore too and we wished one another well for the race.

A photo before the race. All wrapped up with layers of clothing to keep warm.

A photo before the race. All wrapped up with layers of clothing to keep warm.

The weather got a little warmer by 7am. I decided it was not as cold and decided not to run with my gloves. The marathon started at 7.20 am. It was a perfect weather for run. I went with the flow and was pleasantly surprised to know I was already running at target race pace 4:30″/km at the first 1km. Saw Rachel and Poon Zili ran past us and disappeared into the crowd with the 3hrs pacers after a while. I was running alongside Kaifen and was comfortable with my pace so decided to just stick to it. At 5km, we reached Surfers Paradise. There were many supporters standing at the sides cheering for the runners. Turned into the stretch of private houses and soon 10km was over in a flash.

Kaifen and I were consistently hitting around 4:30″/km for our splits from 1st km to 10km according to my Garmin. However, the distance markers were always a few meters ahead, so we were probably closer to average 4:31″/km pace. I didn’t think too much then but I realised I should have tried to hit 4:30″/km at the distance markers rather than based on my Garmin splits because the few meters difference turned up to be quite a lot of difference by the time I reached the half way mark and means I would not be able to finish the marathon in 3:10 hr at the end.

At around my 12 km mark, I could see many elite runners on the other side of the running route. Was very happy to spot my idol, Yuki Kawachi. He was running alone, looking very focused. I like the race route because you get to see many other runners at the other side at various points. Spotted a few familiar faces, like Jianyong, Rachel when we were running towards to the u-turn point at the 15 km mark. All is well at the first u-turn as Kaifen and myself were still keeping to average 4:29-4:30″/km pace as planned. Spotted a lot more friends after this u-turn, Joe, Richard, Zhilei, Weisian, Peyling, Elaine, Voon Ho on the other side.

It was the same route back to the start point to hit 30km. The race course was unexpectedly undulating though, some ups and downs along the private houses. Not as flat as what I heard from most people. Fortunately, they were short inclines. Kaifen was no longer running alongside with me after the u-turn, but I knew she was close behind. I ran on, hoping that she would catch up. I decided not take my salt capsule as planned at the 18km mark since I was not perspiring as profusely as I thought I would be. Soon, I arrived at the halfway point at 21 km. The clock read 1:35:33. It was then I realised we were 33 seconds off target, despite keeping to average 4:30″/km pace based on Garmin. As much as I wanted to finish in 3:10hr for the marathon, I was afraid to increase my pace when it’s not 30km yet. Another “mistake” because I could have probably shave more time if I increase my pace earlier at this stage when I still feel good. A veteran male runner ran past and we chatted and ran for a while together. He got faster and I hold back, aiming to keep him in sight. I was beginning to feel tired and keeping to 4:30″/km did not feel as smooth as before. I looked for other female runners ahead as targets. When I saw a pack of runners ahead, I also tried to run behind the pack and let them pull me along.

Finally, I was back at Surfers Paradise. Average pace on my Garmin has dropped to 4:31″/km. There were more cameras along the way and I smile at all that I could see. The next 5km was a daze, but eventually I reached 30km mark and was looking out for our number one supporter, Alex. Time check at 30km, 2hr 17min. No good, time seems too tight if I’m still targeting for a 3:10 marathon.

Happy to see Alex after the 30km mark.

Happy to see Alex after the 30km mark.

Someone cheered for me, I suspect it was Alice since Richard was racing too, but I was too exhausted to turn and check. Not long after, I saw Alex on the pavement, taking photos of me and cheering for me as ran past. It was another uphill ahead, and I got a shock when my split read 4:36″/km. At the rate I’m running, I’m not even sure if I could do a PB (sub 3:14). I ran on and with a few more splits at 4:35″/km, my average pace dropped to 4:32″/km. Saw Wen Long at the other side and shouted jiayou to him.

At 35km, my Garmin reflected a split time of 4:35″/min. Then it got stuck at this screen for a long time. I tried pressing the buttons but in vain. Eventually, I switched to the clock mode, showing the real time. I did some calculations in my head. To finish in 3:10hrs, means I had to reach the finishing point at 10.30 am. Without being able to read my current pace, I ran based on feel this time. I was looking forward to the next u-turn point which is the 36.5km mark. Spotted Poon Zili, who looked very happy and fresh on the other side. No doubt a PB run for him. Knowing that Rachel should be not far behind, I kept a lookout for her. True enough, spotted her not long after, she has slowed down quite a bit but still looking good too. Motivated, I sped up, hoping to close the gap between us. The u-turn was further away than I thought and I knew it’s quite impossible to finish in 3:10hr. Made the u-turn and was glad to see Kaifen pressing on, on the other side of the route, despite her flu and sore eye. I ran on and spotted Joe, Richard and Boon Wee along the way as well.

At 40km mark, I no longer know what was the pace I was running at. I only know that the clock was ticking and I had to run a lot faster to finish as close to 10.30 am as possible. Gave my all at the last 2 km and came home in 3:11:06 (net time). A tab disappointed that I did not meet my target 3:10 hrs for the marathon, but overall still satisfied that I managed to finish the race strongly and shave about 3mins from my last PB of 3:14.

Was pleasantly surprised that Run Society wrote about Singapore Runners at GCAM2014 too. Check out:-http://www.runsociety.com/2014/07/15/singapore-runners-set-record-times-at-gold-coast-airport-marathon-2014/

Check out my splits! Slowed down too much betw 30 to 35km. But yhis was probably the most even half way splits I ever did for a marathon. Just a second difference!

Check out my splits! Slowed down too much betw 15km to 20km and 30 to 35km. But this was probably the most even half way splits I ever did for a marathon. Just a second difference.

Happy to complete the marathon in a good time!

Happy to complete the marathon in a good time!

A nice photo from Run Society after the race.

A nice photo from Run Society after the race. From left to right: Zi Li, Rachel, Me, Kaifen, Wenlong and Alex

Met Mr Tadashi from Asics Japan for the first time. Thanks to Kaifen to introduce him to us.

Met Mr Tadashi from Asics Japan for the first time. Thanks to Kaifen for introducing him to us and getting the VIP passes for us.

Wide variety of food at the VIP lounge!

With Asics team mates, Alex and Kaifen. Wide variety of food at the VIP lounge!

The day just got better! We met Yuki Kawachi at the VIP lounge and requested for a photo with him =)

The day just got better! We met Yuki Kawauchi at the VIP lounge and requested for a photo with him. He’s so nice to agree to it! =)

A solo pic with my idol! He came in 3rd in 2:11:27 for the marathon despite a fall during the race.

And a solo pic with the Citizen Runner! Yuki came in 3rd place in 2:11:27 for the marathon despite a fall during the race. Respect!

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon

With just 8 weeks’ of training and a not too fantastic marathon in early Dec, I was wondering if it is too ambitious for me to target for a personal best time for SCHKM i.e under 3:17 hr. I was also feeling unwell during the festive season in late Dec and my fitness dropped. Thankfully, I recovered fully in early January and was able to put in more effort in my training.

Tuesday was intervals with Jurong Safra. Wednesday was lonely tempo runs, usually around NUS. Time was running out then and to increase my weekly mileage, I stepped up the volume from usual 15km (3 loops of NUS 5km route) to 20km (extend a bit more by running around SP). Thursday was easy runs of about 10km to 13km. Sunday was catered for long runs.

Having trained consistently in January, I could feel myself growing stronger and fitter. Tempo runs felt easier and I find myself running faster each week. Same for long runs. By mid Jan, Jackie and I were running close to 5min/km for our long runs and this small milestone got us very motivated to aim to hit the same pace over and over again for the next few weeks. It was a marked improvement from 5:20-5:30″/km we used to do while training for Singapore marathon. The real confidence booster came 3 weeks before the marathon when we managed to run an average 5min/km pace for our 38km long run. Suddenly, a new PB does not seem so distant anymore. I dare to dream a little further too and set my target at 3hr 15min.

Feb arrived and it was Lunar New Year. Having learned my lesson in Dec, I watched what I ate and avoid overeating during the festive season. Soon, it was time to taper. But just the week before the race, I suddenly felt tired and I struggled through some of my workouts. This was possibly due to the accumulated fatigue over the past few weeks of hard training. Due to the fatigue, I started having cold feet. Suddenly 3:15 seems daunting again. Should I be more conservative and aim for 3:20 instead?

16 Feb 2014. Race Day.

The day started as early as 4.45 am for Jackie and myself. After putting on our “customised” garbage bags to block the chill wind, we left the hotel and proceed to the bag deposit area. Having done a sub 3:30 marathon last year, Jackie got the priority stamp on his bib which allowed him to start in the priority pen with all other sub 3:30 marathoners and invited representatives. The bag deposit area for the priority runners was also closer to our hotel. There was even a warm up area for this group of runners. Saw Alex and Kaifen (Singapore representatives) while on our way to deposit our bags. We chatted with them for a while before I left to enter the race pen first.

At 5.30 am, the organisers flag off the Half Marathon Challenge category. Full marathoners were slowly gathering inside the race pen. I quickly get into the race pen before it gets too crowded. Spotted Sumiko inside the pen and after saying goodbye to Jackie, I waited patiently for the race to start. As more people join us inside the pen, it got warmer and I removed the garbage bag and the extra t-shirt I wore over my running vest.

Time was close to 6:10am. I ate my gel. We were slowly moving forward towards the start line. I was getting a bit anxious as I had difficulty capturing the satellites. Suddenly, there was a commotion in front and we realised that the huge air bag has deflated and was falling apart. This resulted in some delay in the flag off. The event crew was quick enough to rectify this though. Minutes later, the “Start” banner was up again and this brought much cheers from the crowd. Everyone was pumped up for the race, just like the newly inflated banner.

The horn sounded and off we went. As much as I tried to control my pace, I found myself being suck into Sumiko’s and other runners’ pace at sub 4:30″/km pace. At 2nd km, I realised I was going too fast when my split reads 4:22″/km. I hold back while Sumiko went on to chase Kaifen who was ahead of us. Shortly later, I saw Kaifen pulling away from Sumiko and ran ahead. I slowed down a little, keeping a look out for familiar faces on the other side of the road where the half-marathoners were. Spotted Zhilei running with Weisian and Xavier a short while later and I called out to her. I was settling into my race pace which was around 4:35″/km and feeling good. Caught up with Sumiko at an upslope about 4-5km into the race. A distance away, I could see Kaifen ahead running strongly. I ran on, hoping to keep her in sight for as long as possible. Reached the first hydration station and I grabbed the isotonic drink which came in a packet. There was plenty of water too along the long stretch of station too. Runners were able to grab their drinks and ran without stopping. No jam or abrupt stops at all.

While running, at the back of my mind, I was wondering where was Jackie. We have wanted to do somewhat a similar pace, so I thought we should have seen each other by now. Since he started with the priority runners group, my first thought was that he was way ahead. 10 km was over in a flash. I took my gel and checked the time: 46min 22sec. (a tab too fast). We entered Nam Wan tunnel shortly later and Kaifen picked up her pace so quickly that I lost sight of her completely after we got out of the tunnel.

I was approaching the first U-turn at Tsing Ma Bridge. I kept a lookout at the other side of the road where the faster runners would be, hopefully to find Jackie. Spotted Alex Ong and also many more fast runners running together in packs.  Still no sight of Jackie after I saw Kaifen. Did I miss him along the way? It might not be possible to see him if he was running with a group. Did my u-turn at 15km mark and we get to enjoy a bit of down slope. On the other side of the road, I saw Sumiko and Trevor Chua. He was still wearing a poncho, probably still feeling cold as the wind was quite chilly on the highway. We cheered for each other and pressed on. Spotted a few other MF runners like Ken, Andrew and Qian yi too.

I was really enjoying the run and was so engrossed that I forgot to take my 2nd packet of gel as planned at 18km mark! I still remembered seeing Alex cruising by for the 2nd time at the other side of the road as I was running towards the 2nd u-turn. He shouted to me, “Go Jieshi! This is easier than Singapore!” Haha! Seemed like the boy who was doing his first overseas debut was also having lots of fun! Encouraged by his enthusiasm, I ran up the incline and and completed the u-turn at the 20km mark. Moments later, I heard Jackie called out to me from the other side of the road. It was then I realised he was all along behind me, not ahead. He must have started at a much slower pace, if not he wouldn’t be a couple of minutes behind me. I was feeling uneasy. Am I going too fast? Or was the run not working out well for him? My worry for him was unfounded; it was just a matter of time before he caught up with me at the second half of the race.

Ran past the big clock positioned at 21.1 km mark. Time check: 1hr 37mins 06 sec. Still within target. So far so good.

I suddenly remembered that I had not taken my 2nd packet of gel. I quickly took one after 22km after doing some calculations. Seem like 4 packets (instead of 5 as planned) were enough to last me for the marathon. I also tried taking the first hammer endurolyte which I kept in a small ziplock bag. However, I was having difficulty opening the ziplock bag with my gloves. Tried taking off my gloves, but they were wet and stick to my hands like glue. It was until 25km, I resorted to tearing the ziplock bag open with my teeth and getting the capsule out from a small opening. Then it was the difficulty of stuffing the ziplock bag into a tiny pocket on my gloves. I probably spent a great deal of time meddling with that while running and I could also feel myself slowing down.

Having some trouble stuffing the pack of endurolytes into the pocket of my gloves.

Having some trouble stuffing the pack of endurolytes into the pocket of my gloves.

I was feeling tired. More runners were overtaking me now. I wasn’t focused and felt as if I was just going through the motion. Got a shock when I realised my split at 28km read 4:53″/km. And just when I thought I was going to slow down some more, someone came from behind, ran alongside with me and said “jiayou”. It’s Jackie! He has caught up with me. And Kenneth was right beside him. Both were still running strong. I was so happy and relieved to see them. It was like a wake-up call to me when they overtook me. I pressed on and tried to keep up with their pace.

Pressing on to chase after the guys.

Pressing on to chase after the guys.

Didn't realised I was running together with the veteran runner (in white top) until I see him appearing in most of my running pictures.

Didn’t realised I was running together with the veteran runner (in white top) until I see him appearing in most of my running pictures.

Crossed the 30km mark together with them at 2hr 18 min 23 sec. Jackie and Kenneth were picking up pace. I tried my best to keep up with them. However, when I noticed my split read sub 4:30″/km, I decided it was time to let them go and hopefully I could still keep them within my sight. Knowing that they were both ahead of me and running strongly, I dare not slacken too. Soon, I arrived at the last tunnel of the race, the Western Harbour Tunnel. I lost the satellite once I entered the tunnel and had no idea how fast or slow I was running. My only consolation was I could still see Jackie and Kenneth ahead, albeit smaller figures now. I lost sight of both of them completely when I came out of the tunnel. We were now on Hong Kong island and It was less than 7km to the finishing point. Exhausted but excited that I was going to complete the race soon, I took my last packet of gel and pressed on.

At about 39km, I could see Kaifen ahead again! Motivated to see a familiar face, I tried to increase my pace to close up the gap. There was one final short but very steep slope at the 40km mark. I ran up as quickly as my tired legs could carry me.

Supporters at the sides cheered for us as we arrived at causeway bay.

Finally arrived at Causeway Bay.

One last turn and we arrived at Causeway Bay. There were lots of supporters along the road cheering wildly for all the runners. I sped up again and finally caught up with Kaifen at 41km. As I ran alongside with her, I cheered, “Jiayou, Kaifen! One last km to go only!” She did not need a second encouragement. She picked up her pace immediately and in unison, we increased our cadence and raced each other to the finishing line.

That's Kaifen, clad in yellow vest. Her finishing is always very strong.

That’s Kaifen, clad in yellow vest. Her finishing is always very strong.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Green and blue carpet greeted us when we turned into Victoria Park. The finishing line was a welcoming sight. As precious seconds ticked away, I gave one last surge over the last stretch and completed the marathon in 3hrs 14mins 19 sec (nett time). A personal best! And my very first sub 3:15 hr marathon! *Elated*

Yay! Completed the marathon!

Yay! Completed the marathon! *Savouring the moment*

Gave Kaifen a hug at the finishing line. I was really happy and grateful to have her pushed me to run so hard over the last stretch. She, too achieved a new personal best time. Jackie and Kenneth, both whom I lost sight of after the last tunnel, finished the race with an awesome time of 3hr 13mins ++.  =)

Double happiness is when both of us got our PBs! <3

Double happiness is when both of us got our PBs! ❤

Thankful for the kind support from my Company, GP Batteries. It was nice meeting some of my colleagues for the first time.

Thankful for the kind support from my Company, GP Batteries. It was nice meeting some of my colleagues for the first time.

Photo taking with GP Mascots =)

Photo taking with GP Mascots =)