Thursday, 16 October 2014

Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2014 Race Report : Deo Azrul

Love race report? Deo has prepared a report as fast as he ran last weekend's race. His 27th Marathon done in 3:57. Not the timing he was looking for, but we all learn a bit about ourselves in every race we do. Enjoy the race from Deo's perspective.
Standard Chartered KL Marathon : Deo AH

Done my 27th marathon in ‪SCKLM‬ in 3hr 57mins. Not a timing that I wanted. The route was punishing and boring. I couldn't understand on what ground the route testers mentioned that this is a PB course and scenic when all I could see from the highways were tall concrete wall, apartments and many kedai besi buruk along Duke. This is worse than than running in ECP, Singapore.

And I don't understand the reason why SCKLM's route was moved away from the city when 75% (or maybe more) were done on highways. Might as well call it Standard Chartered Highways Marathon. I strongly believe if we want to make running a culture and marathon (and road closures) is slowly acceptable by the public, we should have the course covering the entire city (just like in Majors), not going backward and moving the marathon away from the city.

That was my first reaction after completing my 5th participation in SCKLM overall and 4th just in the marathon category as well as my 27th full marathon altogether. If I were to rate the hardness of this marathon as compared to the other 26 marathons that I have done, it will be among the seven toughest ones. Well, it was not actually about how tough the race was but it was more about the mental challenge and probably the unfamiliarity with the new route were the reasons that made SCKLM2014 a tough nut.

Let's recap on my preparation for this marathon. Obviously, I have not ran in much races this year and SCKLM2014 would just be my 4th marathon for the year after Gammon China Coast in January, 2XU Singapore Marathon in March, and Borneo Marathon in May. Having clocked in a lot of training mileage, I was quietly confident to do reasonably well in SCKLM. Although I was not aiming to do a PB timing of better than 3 hours and 40 minutes done at 2XU Singapore Marathon, I was hoping to at least do better than my previous three SCKLM Marathon, which are 4:31 (2011), 3:50 (2012); 3:49 (2013). To be frank, I was aiming to do somewhere around 3:45.

The only setback to my training was that I did not do much speedworks as my training post Borneo Marathon was focusing on the two 100km ultra marathons - Beaufort and Penang. So, the training was much to do with endurance and a long, long LSDs. The hazy weather when SCKLM was approaching also hindered me from doing the pre-race short runs, which I would normally do two weeks before a marathon. 

I was also having a lot of doubts about racing in SCKLM this year. Firstly, on how would I survive running in hazy condition, would I be able to breathe easily? Would I be out of breath in the middle of the race? That could lead to my first DNF? Well, I think I have a valid reason to be worried as I never ran in such weather condition and I am talking about a fast pace of sub 5:20-minute, not a leisure 6:30-minute pace. Then, the new route. I knew in advance that the new route involves undulating stretch, not one but many, on top of the traditional Bukit Tunku route. And the unfamiliarity to the new route would means that I would not be able to strategize my run - where to attack, where to take it easy, bla bla bla... and when the organizer released the video preview of the route, I knew it was going to be mentally challenging running on the highways, not one, but two plus plus...

The undulating route with sharp inclines at few spots would break (more than make) your target for a good timing :(

Nevertheless, the race day arrived. The organizer has given a clearance that the race would go on despite the haze, as the condition look to be better on Saturday (than throughout the week preceding race weekend) and thankfully it got a little bit better on Sunday morning, although I could still smell burning smells in the air at few spots during the race (but not sure if it was the haze or the rubber smell from the scrap metal yard/shops along the Duke Expressway). 

As I checked in at a hotel around Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, I got extra sleep for an hour or two as I only made my move to the start line 45 minutes before the flag-off time which was at 4.30am. After settling my drop bag business, the announcer made a call for the marathoners to move in the starting pen. I positioned myself about 50 meters behind the front row of the elite runners. So, I reckoned that I would not have much zig-zagging to do at the early part of the race. The reverse direction of the new route which moved towards Jalan Raja Laut at the start would also give the width of the road for runners to break away from the rest of the runners. Bear in mind that the number of registered marathoners this year reached 5,315 (according to the organizer) and from the race photos from various volunteer photographers, you can tell that there were not many instances where you can have only one or two marathon runners in one shot, except for those running with the pace of under 3:45-hour or close to 7 hours. 

The new route that only look nice on paper (and told to be scenic), but in actual it was one of the most boring marathon route I've ever ran.

The race was flagged off sharply at 4:30am after some ceremonial activities by the VVIPs as well as the blunder of Negaraku song played when they played the old version of the song (the marching version) and the song was played incomplete since it followed by Penang state song (I was informed) of which they quickly turned it off. The route took the runners from Dataran Merdeka towards Jalan Raja Laut up to the Maju Junction intersection before turning right into Jalan Sultan Ismail all the way to Jalan Ampang heading towards KLCC. Then moving into Jalan P. Ramlee before getting back into Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan and headed towards Jalan Jelatek via Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Ampang. 9.5km into the race, the dreaded AKLEH Expressway section started as we strolled to the end of the expressway before making a u-turn near Jalan Sultan Ismail and now ran on the opposite direction of AKLEH before we exited at MRR2 (another highway). So, it was already 10km on AKLEH. I got a little depressed on AKLEH as I did not expect the concrete walls at the side of the highways as well as as in the middle of it were that tall. I thought I could see fellow runners on the opposite direction, which could motivate me a lot, but all I could see were their heads and I have no clue of whose heads they were. 

Into MRR2 highway for about 2km before going into the undulating, boring, nothing-you-can-see and dreaded stretch of about 10km on DUKE Expressway. So, that was already 22km on highways/expressways. Exiting the highway on Jalan Kuching towards Bulatan Segambut before entering the Bukit Tunku section. A little twist to this year's route whereby previously we turned into Jalan Raja Laut at the Bank Negara Malaysia roundabout, but this year that spot was just about 37km so we had to head towards Jalan Parlimen, making a big round around the Lake Garden and entered Jalan Damansara (another undulating stretch that killed my quads with 2km to go), passing KL Sentral, the old KTM Station and headed home to Dataran Merdeka. 

My race...

Early in the race along Jalan Sultan Ismail where I was following the 3:30 pacer group
[photo by Running Malaysia Magazine]

As I was targeting to do 3:45-hour race, I think it was a good idea to hook up to the 3:30 pacers as I thought I would try to follow them as long as I could before dropping off from the group in the second half of the race and finish off my race in 3:45-hour. That was what I did. After a short toilet break just after the flag off and before entering Jalan Raja Laut, I had to run a little faster to catch up with the 3:30 pacers. As now I have these pacers to keep control of my pace, I noticed that my pace at the start was not as fast as what I did in 2XU Singapore Marathon where I had my PB. I was comfortable with the pace. It was a small group of people of about 10 or so hooking ourselves to the pacers. So, 10km passed by without much problems where I did close to 51 minutes. I was very much running in the group until nearing the u-turn at the end of AKLEH Expressway (around KM13). The undulating AKLEH route as well as the boring-ness of the route caused me to drop a little behind from the 3:30 pacer group but there were still within 50m in front of me and well within my sight. However, I just could not move faster to do the catching up like how I did early in the race. There was no urgency, the was no strong desire for me to catch up with the group. 

My gap with the group widened up as we exited AKLEH and as we got into DUKE Expressway, the 3:30 pacer group was already some 100m to 150m in front of me. I told myself "that's was it, I would not be able to catch up with them" especially when it was rolling elevation which stopped me from running at a consistent speed if I were to do the catching up. Anticipating it would be a long journey on DUKE, I got demotivated. There were not many runners around me that time to strike a conversation or maybe the other runners also were puffing and huffing at that time, struggling with their pace and in the hazy weather condition. Finally, I made my first walk break at KM22 as my legs almost wanted to gave up on me. But, the decision to have a walk break was made only after I was assured that sub 4-hours would be well within my reach. I calculated that at that point of time, if I were to do an average of 6:00-minute pace for the rest of the race, I would still make it under 4 hours. So I walked. I walked a little before continuing with my run, a little stronger after the walk break, but that walk break prompted me to do many more walk breaks after that and in the end, I walked countless time on DUKE. I hate you, DUKE! 

As I could only see apartments on the right side of DUKE and scrap metal yards most of the time on the left side, the signboard showing that Jalan Kuching was just 500m away was like the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew DUKE stretch would end soon but I still have some 12km to go and that includes Bukit Tunku and the dreaded finale of Jalan Parlimen-Lake Garden stretch. Bukit Tunku stretch was known as hilly and a killer section of SCKLM but at least I knew what to expect, I knew when to take it easy (walk uphill), and when to attack (run downhill). However, as my race was done (literally) on DUKE, I did not have much rooms to play around with my timing. The signs of cramp was also coming to my left calf and right quad so I was just ensuring that I keep moving while not overstretching the muscles that could lock up the entire leg. It was just about 10km to go so it would be a waste to DNF so I took it easy, but still cautious with my pace to ensure another sub 4:00-hour marathon finish. More runners overtook me at this point but I was not bothered by that, it was my own race that I was battling against.

At the Bukit Tunku section where I was battling with so many things - boredness, the threat of cramps attacking my left calf, right quad and even groin area, the wet socks from the sweat, among all...
[photo by EnAiKay]

Arriving at the Bank Negara roundabout and we had to move towards Padang Merbuk/Lake Garden via Jalan Parlimen, the marathoners merged the half marathoners (the slower ones). So, the similar story of slower half-marathoners crowding up the entire Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in the previous SCKLM was happening again this year, on this new route. But unlike the old route when it was just some 2km to deal with problem, with this new route, the marathoners had to deal with the slower half-marathoners for five freaking kilometers. They crowded up the roads, the crowded up the final two (or maybe three water stations) and they were just a crowd of heart-breakers for the marathoners who were struggling to finish their race strongly. The final 5km stretch was not spared from rolling elevation either, and I think cumulatively I walked more than I ran in the final 5km. Only after I reached in front of the Majestic Hotel (near the old Railway Station) that I managed to run all the way to the finish line.

My 10km splits for the race were not pretty: 50:45; 51:38 (1:42:24); 56:28 (2:38:52) and a slow 1:03:24 between KM31 to KM40 >.< Given the dreaded route and how pathetic my pace was (especially in the second half of the race), I was really glad to be able to cross the line with few more minutes to spare before the clock strikes four hours. I was not happy, but was not despaired either. I take it as another full marathon completion for me, 27th to be exact, and another sub 4:00-hour finish which now totals to 13 races (that is 48%) and another finisher t-shirt and medal to keep. Luckily the design and the quality of the t-shirt and medal this year have improved much from last year. The only thing that I was not happy with SCKLM was the route - boring, there was nothing to see, which was in total opposite of what the Race Director, Rainer Biemans said "This is the KL Marathon. We are on the international calendar (of running events) and runners come from all over the world. They don’t want to run in a park. They want to run through the city and see its landmarks and iconic buildings." (read full article here). Other than the new route, the support, marshaling, water stations, race expo, race pack collection, were all commendable.

For the race, I wore Team 2ndSkin World Domination t-shirt in VaporLite material, Kraftfit compression short, Skechers GOrun Ride 3, Wrightsock Coolmesh II socks, Garmin FR620 watch, Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential waist pouch, Lifeline-ID Pro model;

and I consumed Hammer Endurolytes taken pre-race and every 45 minutes into the race (2 caps each time), Hammer Anti Fatigue Caps taken pre-race and every 45 minutes into the race (2 caps each time), Hammer Perpetuem Solids taken every 45 minutes into the race (1 cap each time) and Hammer Gel taken every one hour into the race. 

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.

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