Monday, 10 March 2014

Singapore 2XU Marathon Race Report - Deo

Team athlete Deo ran his Personal Best (PB) timing for the 42km distance during the recently concluded 2XU Marathon in Singapore. He has truly did his 25th Marathon in style and will work on improving the timing even better. How did he do it? Here is his race report. Congrats Deo! Well deserving PB!

The Singapore 2XU Marathon Race Report : Deo
My 25th full marathon was done safely in the recent 2XU Compression Run in Singapore. It was also my first race in Singapore since MR25 Ultramarathon in December 2012. I dreaded to race in any Singapore marathon mainly because in whatever marathon held in the island, name it whatever you want, half of the distance will be held inside the East Coast Park (ECP). And ECP is notorious for its long, never ending stretch and the hardness of the cement surface. But there is one thing about me that I recently realized - I like to sign up for first-time races (or the inaugurals) provided that the organizer is trustworthy and experienced ones. Although 2XU Compression Run was not held for the first time, the full marathon was a new category. And hearing good feedback from previous editions, I decided to return back to Singapore to run a race there.

On board the early AirAsia flight to Singapore, there were other familiar faces, all taking part in the race. After breakfast at Changi Airport we made our ways to Changi City Point Mall, which is located just two MRT stations from Changi Airport, for the race pack collection and expo. It was held at the small foyer of the mall and got really crowded by noon with runners queuing for the race pack as well as those shopping for merchandise from Key Power International. Nevertheless, it was a hassle-free race pack collection. The rest of the day was followed by eating and hydrating and napping and eating and prepping for the race and finally early lights off around 10pm.  

With some of the Malaysian runners we bumped into at the race pack collection and expo site
[photo by Leena See]
Woke up at 1.45am and headed out from hostel an hour later. Walked for some 2km to the start point with some one hour to spare before the start of the race. It was a peaceful morning, not crowded like in SCMS. Short queues for porta-loos as well as for the bag drops. Bumped into some Malaysian runners. Made ourselves into the race pen some 15 minutes before the race. The morning weather was really nice, not the usual very humid Singapore weather. And I can feel wind blowing at times making it a near perfect condition to run. 

As I said earlier, the weather was nearly in perfect condition to race (for tropical climate like in Malaysia and Singapore). From a glance at other runners' bibs and a look at the crowd lining up in front and behind me, I sensed that there were not more than 3,000 full marathoners that morning so I guessed there won't be any bottleneck anywhere along the route (there were actually 3,420 total finishers for full marathon). The start point of the race was on Republic Avenue, parallel to Nicoll Highway and next to Geylang River (I think). The view at that 4am was quite stunning as we could see the sight of the lighted-up Singapore Flyer at the other side of the river.  
The race route, includes the dreaded 21km inside ECP
The route for the race would take runners from the start line at Republic Avenue, then continued on Crawford Street, Kallang Road, Sims Way before running on Nicoll Highway. There was a u-turn somewhere on Nicoll Highway (KM5.5) followed by Mountbatten Road, Stadium Boulevard, crossed the Geyland River, along Geylang Park Connector before entering ECP at KM17. I can tell you that the route was interesting to run on, helped by the nice weather. I also witnessed that the organizer paid a detailed attention to safety, for example they laid out plank of wood panels to cover uneven surface along the Geylang Park Connector. There were also some dark sections but were all lighted up with fluorescent reflector markers and many marshals were stationed at these dark areas to ensure runners do run on the correct path. 

In terms of gears used, I am being lucky to be under 2ndSkin Athletes Program whereby almost everything that I put on were sponsored. For this race, from top to toe, I wore TeamSpyder Tank shades (although it remained on my head throughout the race), 2ndSkinAsia's team t-shirt in Vaporskin technology, Kraftfit men's long compression bottom, Garmin 910XT watch, Skechers GOrun Ultra shoes, and self-provided Nathan's waist pouch and Wrightsock's socks.
Morning before the race - lacing up my Skechers GOrun Ultra
Apart from the gears, 2ndSkin athletes were also sponsored by Hammer for our endurance fuels and supplements. For this race, I consumed 3 packs of gels at KM8, KM16 and KM32. I skipped KM24 as I had to take Perpetuem Solids and Anti Fatigue Cap at the same time, and skipped taking the gel at KM40 because I was too lazy. For hydration and electrolyte, I took Fizz which I put one tablet into a 500ml water that I carried along the race. I had one or two sips every three kilometers and that 500ml lasted until KM27 where I had to refill my bottle. Initially, I brought another Fizz tablet but dropped it somewhere in ECP. So, I had to resort with Pocari Sweat drinks provided by the race organizer. I also took three tablets of Perpetuem Solids, taken one each at every hour. And for the first time, I used Anti-Fatigue Caps, taken twice, one cap each at the 2nd hour and 3rd hour. Other than these, I didn't take anything else, not even any breakfast prior to the race.

As usual, I always have sets of target, i.e. to run under four hours, to do better than my previous race, or to run with a PR timing. What it means is that I will re-evaluate my target finishing time as the race progresses especially how I fared in the first 10km or in the first half of the race. I am lucky to have the capability to calculate my pace and expected finishing time in my head while running so I would be able to dictate my body on how fast my pace should be to meet the targeted timing or how long of break I could enjoy but still able to meet my target, and so on. 
The start of the marathon race. I was there behind the guy in red
I was lining up quite at the front of the pack, maybe in the front 15%. The race was flagged off at 4am sharp. I started slow due to the slow-moving crowd but it was not too slow. I was running at 5:11-minute pace, good enough for a 1km warm up. And as the crowd started to dispersed, I saw myself doing sub 5-minute pace from KM2 up to KM17 with some slacks in KM12, 13 and 14 where my pace gone up to more than 5 minutes. I was surprised to know that I could maintain that pace for such a long period, longer than I had ever done in any other marathons I did before. In fact, I could never maintain this pace in my training. And my 10km split, 48 minutes 36 seconds, was just 18 seconds slower than my 10km race PR. The 10km split was the fastest 10km split in all my marathons. With the pace I was moving, I was ecstatic to know that I may be able to do a PR that day. I continued to push myself but all started to go wrong (literally) as I entered the ECP.
The dreaded face as I moved closer to the entrance of ECP
The start of ECP section was around KM17. Looking at the KM17 marker, I knew that I will arrive at the same spot again when it was about KM37 (20km inside ECP). My heart sank a little knowing that I would be inside ECP for a long, long, time. The only motivation I had that time was that if I finished off the ECP section as fast as possible, I would only need to run another 4km towards the finish line. So, motivated or not, I continued running. It was quiet inside the park and the day started to get more humid as it was getting brighter. I could not help to sustain sub 5-minute pace but tried to move as quickly as possible. The boringness running inside the park, the surface of road/path (whatever you called it) were not helping in any way. I tried my best to maintain sub 5:15-minute pace and luckily for me, my pace in the first 17km was good enough to cover my slower pace in ECP. In fact, my average pace stayed under 5-minute all the way up to KM26. My 20km split was 1hr 33mins and 57secs, still fastest compared to my previous marathons, and I covered 25km of the route in 2 hours.

I was so relieved when I arrived at the u-turn point at the opposite end of ECP (KM25.5) and I could now see more runners on the other side of the road on the opposite direction of the park. It lifted my spirit a little knowing that my suffering (of running inside ECP) is nearing the end but theirs just about to begin. Nevertheless, I could not run any faster like in the first 17km but I was happy enough to be able to maintain sub 5:30-minute pace by that time. With the pace I was doing, I knew sub 4-hour timing is well within grasp but to do a PR would be quite challenging. I stopped for the first time at KM27 to refill my water bottle as well as to take a loo. And as a result, my average pace has gone up to above 5-minute. There onwards, I stopped for a couple more walk breaks in ECP (KM32 and KM35) as I was so tired and just felt like walking for a while. Before I decided to walk again at KM37, I reached the exit gate of the ECP and my spirit soared that I kept running.
Happy after surviving the ECP. I told my friends that the two thumbs up are for the well-organized race and another one for my PR
Not long after I exited ECP, with some 4km to go towards the finishing line, I joined a crowded half marathoners, those slower ones. I had to zig zag, weaving through them who at most times, crowded the whole lane, walking and forming human barricade to the extent that I had to push them aside just to get through. It continued until the finish line but somehow I found that this kept me motivated to run all the way as I wanted to show these walkers of the half marathon that a full marathoner can still run after been out on the road for 38km. There were few occasions when I told some of them "C'mon, keep running! It's almost over" but they just didn't care. The expression on their faces were telling something like "you want to run, you run lah..." There was also a time while running up an elevated bridge before coming down to the F1 paddock when I was about to overtake a half marathon couple who were walking and holding hands, I said to the couple, "hold hands and run lah..." only to be responded with giggles from them *sigh*. 

I told myself that there is no point of motivating them so, let's just continue pursuing my goal. I knew that if I keep running and the race would not go over distance, I would finish the race with a PR timing. The last three kilometers were not fast but was good enough to bring me home with a PR of 3 hours 40 minutes and 11 seconds (official nett time), two minutes faster than my previous PR set in Auckland in November last year. Average pace was 5:14-minute per km. And the timing puts me in 46th position out of 2,884 male marathoners. Although I missed the 3:3x mark by just 11 seconds, I am still very satisfied with the way I ran this marathon - knowing what I am capable of.
It's always nice to run a marathon PR and everytime it feels different!
If you ask me how I managed to improve my timing again, I have no idea. But I strongly believe that I have been on the right track since joining Team 2ndSkin - with my nutritions, my strengthening and conditioning program by GetAactive, the cross-training I did where I just picked up cycling although I am nowhere near being a fast rider, as well as being around those strong, determined and dedicated 2ndSkin team mates; these have complemented my willpower and determination in doing better each time I run a marathon. And for this race, ladyluck was on my side as the weather was really nice to complement the almost flat route. 

In terms of the overall organization of the event, personally, I think that the event has been well-managed from the safety aspect (as I mentioned earlier), the support (volunteers and marshaling), race information was easily available from the website, half of the route was nice while the other half was in ECP (you know what this means), water stations were located 2km apart - this is aplenty! and the isotonic were served cold even for back runners, the start/finish venue were reasonable for that size of crowd, finisher medal was nice, event vest and finisher t-shirt were ok. My overall rating for the event would be GOOD!

And that wrapped up the story of my 25th marathon.


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