Singapore Marathon - done!
It was set to be the greatest race yet. Sorry to burst your bubble, it was not.
It was like preparing for your most important exams, and getting bad results. Heartbreaking, eh?
We arrived in Singapore on Saturday, and my friend Richard drove us straight to the Expo. I was pleasantly surprised that the collection hall was indoors as it was drizzling that day. I was even more grateful that the management (by the volunteers, signs) of it all was smooth, and the queue was non-existent. It was the third day of collection, but with 50,000 participants, getting to the counter and your kits in less than 5 minutes is unbelievable.
I browsed through the expo, met Azam and Kash, and Citra there. As an expo virgin, I found it extremely hopeful last minute supplies and gadgets, if you must (why we did not have that in KL?), I walked away with a basic HRM, additional gels (slightly cheaper thank KL, lots of varieties if you must know), bargain running tees, hydration belt, Nuun tablets (SGD3 cheaper off RRP) and PowerBar's Endurance Sports Drink (cheaper here). There were lots of bargain running shoes, but if you are fussy on shoes like me, don't go impulse shoe shopping here.
Cut short the expo as I promised wifey and Iris a lunch outside, and we continued shopping at the Penguin Warehouse sale next door (we missed the one in KL), and only got back to YMCA around 6. Quick freshening up, we hailed a cab to Mustafa and lost in chocolates and EDTs. By the time we got back to the room, putting down all the things and getting ready, it was almost 11. Needless to say, I know.
YMCA being one of the hostel SCSM participants swarmed, I was quickly awaken by many kids making their beeline down the hallway, but I didn't start walking until 4. Walk to the race site was easy and near, but depositing proved quite troublesome as the queue was long. But after 20 minutes of patiently watching people jumping queueing, I squeezed in and managed to get a spot. Good thing was they colour-code the deposit points, so I just have to return to the designated colour with my number and I'd be good to go.
Rushed to our meeting point with Ian to meet Azam and Kash (and Azam's friend Hisham), and by the time we got to the bridge, it was just 3 minutes to start. I did not warm up, or stretch, and was nervous as hell. Damn! We found ourselves clearly at the end of the pack, and as we were talking, the crowd started to move. Well, we started to move along. I think we walked for a good 10 minutes to the gantry, and then started to jog. As jakun as it may sound, I have never seen so many runners! And all of them doing the full marathon. The deejay was great, music was great, and we were running along the CBD at Shenton Way with Christmas decorations and it was awesome!
By the time we U-turned and back to the Raffles Quay, packs of runners were still seen crossing the starting line. That was how much were the full marathoners that morning. I was running with Kash, Azam and Hisham (Ian went to speed for a sub-4), and we made very good progress going around the Esplanade. Kash and I kept running together and paced well pass our 21km mark when we U-turned after the seemingly forever East Coast Park. At that point I had my heads up that a sub-5 is possible, looking at my time. It was all good, a pack of gels every 5kms, ORS every 10km and at one onset of a cramp on my right calf, I sucked a Nuun tablet and it was Godsent! the pain went away almost immediately.
I lost Kash somewhere around 22-23rd km at a water station, and I was panicking a little that my dear pacer is nowhere to be seen. My breathing was slightly feathered, and I lost my pace. From here, I tried few things like forcing a 5 minutes walk every 2 km and it worked. I also figured a new running technique (chewah) - swim run where I had both palms cupped and at every motion I pulled myself forward, as in swimming. Hahahah, I know it sounded corny, but it worked for me till the end!
Everything was great until the 25th km when I started cursing of the mentally challenging stretch at the East Coast Park. Why on earth were they doing that? We ran 10km towards Changi, and now another 10 going back? Bloody hell! I was cursing all the way, and talked to myself out loud that it is OK, take that extra step, keep moving and read the words of encouragement behind the many runners. It was like pages of wisdoms, or quotable quotes from everywhere flying over me, and most of them were the same ones from the same runners that were obviously in a daze like me. I was ready to quit. Unbelievable.
Regardless, I was elated to see the stretch is over and finally arrived at the 30th km and head back towards Kallang but few more long stretches out and the inevitable U-turns was mind-numbing. I was angry at myself not because I hit the wall, but at 33rd km onwards, the mental games of going one way and coming back were too much. From 35th km onwards, I practically run every 3 minutes, walk a minute and went on until the 38th km, stop at every water station to refill my bottles, and down my gels every 5kms. The only thing that pushed me forward is the finisher's tee, and if I am not on a stretcher, I better not see myself DNF!
O by the way, weather was awesome. With most stretches were shaded, but what we had then on was good - breezy, overcast sky. It was until later part when I ran the open stretch at the Singapore Flyer that the sun was burning, all the way to the finishing line.
Finally, I came by the Esplanade at the 41st km, and as mental as it sound, I started running (or moving a little faster than my power walks) towards the finishing line. Came on the Raffles Quay, into the Anderson Bridge and the final stretch. I had a picture of the Team Hoyt playing in my mind as I raced next to the hi-fiving spectators, all hands out to hand you their spirit and support, screaming and clapping, and words of encouragement like, "You are coming home, runner!" was all so... surreal. I could still see it all in flashes, and play it slo-mo. What a feeling! When I crossed the line, I raised both hand, and I almost cried. The anguish of the crazy route, joy of coming home, proud that I have done it, and feeling like a (Grade B) movie-star - surreal! It was such a high!
I came in at 5:30:32 (chip time).
Wakil Geng Bas Sekolah di Singapura
It later preceded like a clockwork - queue to pick up the finisher's tee, the medal, 100+ drink (what - no cold Milo?) and back to the Padang. I saw our meeting point C, and Ian and Shaqi waving. It was later that I found out that Kash has yet to arrive. She was behind me all along, when I thought she was all the way ahead and I was running trying to catch up on her. Stretched, and wait to re-group, drink, change ice-cream, photos, and walk back. Checked-out of YMCA, and in frantic sms to Kash and Ian that I will miss our makan-makan at Little India, we drove towards the Singapore Zoo (there will be a separate entry on this).
We came out of Woodlands at 8p.m. and stopped for dinner, and drove into PLUS. We arrived KL safe and sound at 3 a.m.
Today, we are resting as a family. We had a nasi lemak brunch, I took wifey for a foot massage from all the zoo-walking yesterday, had dinner, I went for my massage later, watch the telly (The Amazing Race Finale) - simple family stuff. And that was rewarding. I can soak on it that another full marathon is in the bag, and apart from a small blister on my toe, and sore all over my calves, I survived this one injury free. I planned to go out for a recovery run later this evening but it was pouring here at home, so will do that tomorrow.
Despite all that, and as of now - I am telling myself, even convinced that I will not run SCSM, ever again. No, don't get me wrong - I personally think that the event is world-class (ok, it was only my second and my view is rather shallow), the crowd was amazing and everything was great. Water station every few kms with water and 100+ (and lots of them), medics everywhere, traffic-free, route markers every km, marshals and supporters all the way, and oh-my-God-that-finishing-line - all except for one. The long stretches and its killing U-turns. It was enough to drop my pace to the ground and screech my face on the tarmac in pain I do not want to allow myself through another torture. Not those same routes.
If it's a post-race me talking, then let it be. It is what it is. I know I will continue running somewhere else if not SCSM irregardless of whatever. We'll just have to wait and see.
This time around as compared to my KLIM, I have prepared myself well - physically and mentally, although the training was never enough. The week leading to the race, I have been hydrated well, and eat well (think I gained 3kg in 2 weeks). The day before the race, I had carbs-heavy breakfast, lunch and dinner with white bread, peanut butter, pastas, nasi beriyani, lots of chocolates and lots of water. During the race, I hydrate properly, eat at designated marks and ORS-ed well. The result was good - no cramps, enough fuel to keep me going to the end, but I need to work on my metal strength (kena bertapa setahun kot).
I have set out to something for myself and went on to complete it. It is not so much of a miniscule reason of a bad race, and a great race for that matter - but in doing things that contributes to the bigger picture. Heh, talk about irony...
Of course I still have the shin pains and my left groin still hurt from time to time, and side stitches whenever I drink too much too fast, but nothing too overwhelming. It was all in the mind and I talked myself through it. It is true that this is an endurance sport, and I need more time to practice all its deserving traits. Sure got time, leh.
That being water under the bridge, 2010 is going to be an exciting year. We have many more great races to participate in. Good luck, all... and God speed.