Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sundown Marathon: Race Review

On 29th May 2010, at 11:59pm I embarked on what would be my first road marathon should i last the distance. On 30th May 2010, I earned my Marathon stripes, by crossing the finishing line before the sun came up (which is why the tagline for the Sundown Marathon is "Beat The Sunrise"). While the journey over the past 3 months should have put me in good shape to be at the starting line, the journey itself over the next several hours from thereon was tragically anything but smooth. Without further preamble, the race review follows after the detour below.

I had made a customized 3 month plan that had me running 445kms before the actual 42km - my achievement against that plan was 427km, i was about 15k off which could be overlooked. My long run before the race was 28km where for most of the time, i was running at a 9+ kph. At the Passion Run 1 week before the day of the Marathon, I ran 10km in 55m, which was my fastest 10km ever. In the last week before the marathon, i also had 2 full body massages to ensure that i was completely relaxed and ready to take on the 42k challenge. So what went wrong?

As per my original plan, I was supposed to have rested all of Thu, Fri and Sat in preparation for the race. Since Fri was a holiday, I figured I could play an hour of badminton in the morning and still recover in time for the midnight marathon the next day. So i went ahead and played a good hour and a quarter of badminton singles. And then for some unfathomable reason, i thought it would be a great idea to play badminton the next day too. Unaware of my folly, i woke up early on Sat morning and went ahead to play another hour and a quarter of Singles, which included the longest and toughest match i had played for as long as i can remember (26-24 scoreline). Still i thought, "..i can get over the effort on the court, i have more than 10 hours to do so". It takes all kinds i guess....

Rest of the day, i still did not sleep despite having got up relatively early on Saturday morning. I was feeling a little slow but i thought it was just a passing feeling and didnt regard it much. Called a cab and went to the race site via Loyang avenue and found that the road had been closed at a point midway. So i paid the cab off and started walking in the general direction where other runners were walking and ended up doing that for the next 1 hour!! I actually walked 5+ kms to the start line of a 42km run. This was only the beginning of my miseries that night.

The horn went off and the race started. I thought i would run an easy 8.5kph for the first couple of kms and then hold a 9km pace for as long as possible. As long as possible turned out to be 40 minutes. By the end of the 8km, my head was swimming in a sea of mild dizziness, nausea and to boot, tired legs werent helping much. So i walked the next several minutes and then broke into a run again after gathering my wits.... passing the 10km mark in 70 minutes. But soon after that, my body went into rapid shutdown ... breathing became labored, legs started to think for themselves and began to ignore orders from upstairs and I had a strong urge to just call it quits and come back to do this another day. I walked a km and then ran a km .. and kept this up until i crossed the 20km mark in 2:40 hours. But even getting there would not have been possible if Tiwazz from SG Runners and other such helpful folks had not met me at the 14km mark and plied me with ice cold ribena slushies and a H20 can. His calm words of encouragement banished any DNF thought I might have had, and I figured that even if I had to walk, i would, the entire way.

So anyway, there I am trying to do my own version of speed-walking at the 22-23 kms mark, when suddenly i felt a shooting pain on the top of my right ankle, along the leg, in the direction of the veins that go to the big toe. I thought it was a problem with my shoe and that i had tied the laces too tight, so i sat down at one of the several roadside benches to painstakingly undo the laces, remove my shoe, give my feet a bit of a massage and then kept moving again. I would do this another couple of times over the course of the night, but the pain didnt go away and I just ignored it after a point in time because i was getting irritated with it.

I trudged on and hit the 30km mark in about 4 hours. By this time, i was getting really sleepy and was demonstrating signs of disorientation by not necessarily walking / running in a straight line all the time. On Changi coast road, I in fact put my foot down wrongly on the edge of the road and stumbled and that woke me up. For another minute only that is. At each shelter along the road, i stopped to sit down and close my eyes because it was 4past in the morning, and the only thing that i could think of was being at home on my bed and sleeping a sound sleep. I wasnt really sure why i was on the road in the middle of nowhere trying to traverse 42kms on foot. I was glad i didnt stop to think that one out! :)

I had wanted to finish the race in under 5:18 .. and would have been ok if i had finished under 5:30. I knew at the end of the 20km that neither of the two was gonna happen. Heck, i didnt even know how i was gonna last the distance. I would later find out that the last 18km of the race took me close to 3 hours to complete. At the 40km mark, i looked at my Garmin 305 and saw that it was 5:45am and i still had another 2.2kms to go. It seems like a very long time now, but i think it was only a second back then , that i thought ", i have had such a poor show until then, let me atleast give it a shot at the end and see how it goes. May be i can still salvage some part of the race..". WIth that thought in mind i broke into a run ... and it proved to be difficult cos i was trying to run after having already covered 40km on foot. Somehow, i managed to run the 41st km in 6:27, the 42nd in 6:20 and put in an extra burst the last 200kms to come in at 5:59:16. So I did a sub 6 marathon which is good,cos i completed the race but is bad because i still dont know how well i trained.

At the finish line, the sweetest thing possibly that could have happened that night for me did. Sumedha (my best half) was at the finish line holding up hand-written posters saying "Well done" and "Married to a Marathoner" ... Even now, i am completely stunned how she managed to run a half marathon, wait for 2 hours for a cab, go back home at 2.45am, try printing posters and face printer paper jams, make handmade posters, and get back to the finish line at 5am!!! I will do you proud in the next race i run - no playing badminton last week before the marathon for sure!!

So how did i do? I placed 1639th out of 3857 finishers. And 1427th out of 3209 male runners. To give you an idea of how I would have done if i had managed to go under 5:18, i would have placed around 770 in the overall field.

The Sundown experience humbled me in more ways than i choose to remember, but it also did reignite the flame for doing better at long distance running!! So onwards I go, to do the Mt Faber 10km run on June 13th followed by the StanChart KL half marathon on June 27th.

Till then adios, and happy running !!!

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