Monday, 12 May 2014

Borneo International Marathon 2014 Race Report : Deo

Somehow, Borneo International Marathon has been a must-do marathon for me. 2014’s edition marked my 4th marathon in BIM since 2011. It has been a great place to run a marathon despite the complaints on the hot weather and the high humidity level, except for year 2012 when the full marathon start time was shifted to 3am, an hour earlier than usual, the weather was all so pleasant and many runners I know had good timing that year. The week heading into the race, many friends in KK have been alerting on the hot weather there and although I prayed hard for the weather to be ok during the race weekend, it didn’t happen. Even when I touched down in KK International Airport at around 8.30pm the night before the race, I could already feel the high humidity and it remain throughout the race. Nevertheless, BIM has been a good marathon venue for me. I never came back from BIM without something to prove, timing wise. 

Twice, in 2011 and 2012, that I registered my PB there. The 2012 race was also when I got so close to coming under 4 hours (4:02) which made me to realize that I was actually capable of running a marathon under four hours (which I did in the next race in Hatyai). As for last year, the race was postponed to September due to the General Election in May. Although I didn’t get another PB, I recorded a BIM course PB. So for 2014, I was hoping for another good takeaway, either a PB or a course PB. To be frank, I didn’t worry much about the humidity or hot weather as I reckoned that I would finish the race by 7am and the weather is still bearable that time. I was more worried with the amount of rest/sleep that I would get before the race. As my Malindo Air flight, which I booked in September 2013, was changed from 1.15pm to 4.45pm (and later delayed to5.30pm), I only arrived in KKIA at around 8.30pm. Checked in at the nearby hotel and quickly headed for dinner. As soon as I settled prepping the race gears and essentials, I forced myself to sleep and only dozed off maybe around 10.30pm, only to wake up again at 1am to get ready for the race.
For the race, I wore Team 2ndSkin t-shirt in Vaporlite material, long Kraftfit compression bottom, Wrightsock socks, Skechers GOrun Ultra, 2-pocket waterproof waist pouch (similar with the Salomon waist pouch given out during Salomon X-Trail Run but a lot cheaper) bought in Bike ElementzGarmin 910XT. For my nutrition, I had four Hammer gel, three caps of Hammer perpetuem solids, three caps of Hammer Fizz and six caps of Hammer anti-fatigue tablets.
Took a cab to Stadium Likas and quickly collected my race number and pack. Thankfully the organizer had set-up a late race pack collection counter for latecomers like myself. Met some familiar faces at the stadium, said hi, exchanged few words, took some photos before I headed to the track to do some warm ups. It was so humid that I was sweating profusely even only after a slow jog for about 400m around the track. 

At around 2.45pm we were told to head out from the stadium where the start line would be. This was a change from previous races where the start was inside the stadium. However, the route for this year’s marathon was in general similar as last year’s except the 30km u-turn point that was a bit farther up, which I think to cater the under-distance route last year. This also means, the two killer hills (or I called the heartbreaker hills) in UMS awaits runners at around KM21
The full marathon route: Likas Stadium flag off - Head south towards city centre via Tanjung Lipat Coastal Highway towards Lorong Dewan. Proceed along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, then turn left towards Karamusing Complex via Jalan Bukit Nenas into a slight gradient uphill towards Bukit Nenas roundabout. Proceed down to Tuaran Road, then turn left into Jalan Punat Tanah pass the Likas Stadium and head north towards Tanjung Lipat Coastal Highway. Proceed towards Tun Mustapha Tower then turn right on the roundabout towards University Malaysia Sabah (UMS). Turn left into UMS main entrance where runners will face a hill challenge. Run the loop in UMS before exiting via the main entrance again. Turn left towards 1Borneo Hypermall and Jalan Sulaman, U-turn at Indah Permai Roundabout and head back south retracing the route along Jalan Sulaman. Wave 1Borneo Hypermall, UMS, Tun Mustapha Tower, Tanjung Lipat goodbye. Smile and run to a strong finish at Likas Stadium.
The race started at 3am sharp. There were obviously more full marathon runners toeing at the star line this year than the postponed race last year. The final result published in the website showed that there were a total of 698 full marathon finishers. I started quite at the front, to save much time in not having to zigzag around the slower runners. I started cautiously, didn’t go too fast like in the 2XU Marathon previously. It was evident from my Garmin splits where I never ran under 5-minute average pace at all. My average pace hovered around 5:01 to 5:05 up until KM29 but ‘disaster’ struck me earlier than that, which I’ll talk about it later. There were not much problems with my run early in the race. 

I hydrated well (taking sips of Hammer Fizz which I was carrying in a 350ml bottle). There were water stations serving 100Plus and water which I did not stop at until the one just before the exit from UMS KM24. I was also taking Hammer Gel every 9km, Hammer Perpetuem Solids every 10km and Hammer Anti-Fatigue Caps every hour starting from the second hour. 10km done in 50 minutes and 20 seconds and that got us back to the Stadium Likas area. And I was on track for a PB if I could maintain similar pace throughout the race. At around KM18.5, we made ourselves into UMS where the heartbreaker hills await us. The first one came just after KM19. The elevation goes from 16m to 54m rise in 1km run and there was a signage along the route stating a 10% gradient. Last year, I walked up after reaching the halfway of the climb. But this year, I ran all the way up but at a very slow pace of5:38. It was also the start of the disaster to my pace onwards where my average pace tumbled one second for every one or two kilometers. I was running all alone in the UMS, could not see anyone in front of me or anyone behind me. Aside from the three water stations in UMS that have the volunteers cheering the runners, the rest of the route was almost quiet and lonely. That did not help my run and motivation. Less than a kilometer from the downhill slope of the first heartbreaker hill, the second one await us. Although a little less steeper, 30m rise in 1km run, I could not take the second beating anymore. I took my first walk break halfway up the slope and took the opportunity to put another cap and a half of Hammer Fizz into my already-empty water bottle before filling up with water at the next water station. 

I exited UMS at KM24, beaten by the heartbreaker hills, with a timing of 2 hours and 4 minutes. By then, I knew another PB is slipping from my hand as I could not run any faster5:20 pace. All I was gunning from there onwards was a course PB which is something better than the 3 hours 57 minutes I did last year. The long stretch from UMS all the way to the u-turn point at KM 29 near the BCCM Sepangar Church was mentally challenging, al it has always been, with rolling elevation and boring sights. The only things that I could enjoy was seeing faster runners coming from the opposite direction as they headed to the finish line. I tried to count how many runners were in front of me but after counting around 20 runners, I lost count. After the u-turn, it got more livelier as now I could see more runners (those behind me) making their ways on opposite direction. Arrived at KM30 in 2 hours and 36 minutes, which mean I would have about 80 minutes for the last 12km for a course PB, which is something doable. 
Closing in to the finishing line. [photo by Glen NF]
En route to the finish line, I stopped at every water station, while using that as an opportunity to have walk breaks. I kept pouring my head with water as the sun started to shine on us and the humidity started to go up. It was a long way home, I told myself, while kept moving at a decent pace of sub 6 minutes. Arrived back in front of UMS at KM34.5 whereby we were joined with the half marathoners, those going on home stretch or those still heading their ways towards UMS direction. KM37 was where I got back to Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen (the coastal stretch) and it was already 3 hours 17 minutes into the race. Although the end is nearer, it was still another 5km++ to go and it didn’t get any easier. 

With ample time to finish the race with a course PB, I reckoned that I shall get myself moving on a 6-minute pace at least, for me to finish under 3 hours and 50 minutes. That was what I did exactly. Although the pace for the last three kilometers was slow (I even wanted to just walk in the last couple of kilometers), I arrived back at the finish line inside Stadium Likas just under 3 hours and 50 minutes. The course was a little over distance (42.52km) but it is better than being under distance previously. I am glad to be able to complete my 4th BIM with a course record, almost eight minutes faster than last year, and extend my sub 4-hour marathon to eight marathons so far. 
Annie Yee en route to her winning performance in the Half Marathon category. [photo by Glen NF]

While I was quite struggling to achieve this feat, my fellow team mate, Annie Yee cruised to win the women’s open half marathon category in a respectable timing of 1 hour 39 minutes. Congrats Annie! 
Annie on the podium.
It has been a good race for both of us :-)
Overall, it was a great event, organized by people who understand marathons and marathoners. Although I heard grouses that some water stations were running out of water, this should not take away the hard works that the organizer has put in to keep this marathon alive. Some also complaints about the hot weather and there were suggestions for the marathon to start one hour earlier at 2am, I think that is unnecessary and the hot and humid weather was something that makes BIM a unique event! 

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