Tuesday, 29 December 2015

1st Nongkhai Marathon - Deo's Race Report

Team 2ndskin athlete Deo was not sure if he could run another sub 3:30-hour marathon, after breaking the 3:30-hour barrier in Tokyo Marathon earlier this year. So, he had carefully chosen his next marathon to have another attempt at it and to close the 2015 season with a peace of mind knowing that the Tokyo Marathon feat was not a fluke but it was just the beginning of many, many more fast marathon timing for him. He went to the inaugural Nongkhai Marathon, at the north of Thailand, where the temperature and humidity level on the race day as well as the fast course gave the perfect ingredients for a near-perfect marathon condition, and came back not just with another sub 3:30-hour marathon, but also a personal best timing, bettering his previous mark by 14 seconds. And to make it sweeter, it was a priceless birthday gift for him which fell on Friday before the race.

Read on how the marathon went for Deo...


Mission accomplished!
Although barely... and I was about to miss it by a whisker but escaped by fate and a little bit of luck.

From the very first time I heard about this marathon, I had put a very serious consideration to run the marathon for few reasons. One, it is held on my birthday weekend and apart from the boring and crowded Singapore Marathon, there were only a few other marathons held during the weekend, one of it is Macao. So, with little options, maybe I should give this inaugural marathon a try. Then, after google-ing the location, it reminded me of Vientiane, Laos. It is the home of the 1st (and the last, so far) AEC Vientiane Marathon, which I ran in 2013 (you can read it here). It was a good race for me, where I clocked my first 3:4x-hour and had a PB, helped by flat route and the cold weather.

Nong Khai is a city in northeast Thailand, lies on the Mekong River, where the city is about 4km from the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge. Just on the opposite of the Mekong River (although not directly opposite) is Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The city is is 626km north of Bangkok and 60km north of Udon Thani. So, from Kuala Lumpur, you may fly direct to Udon Thani (with a transfer in Bangkok) by AirAsia. From Udon Thani, you may take a public van outside the airport at THB200 per person. The journey to Nong Khai takes less than an hour and the van can send you direct to your hotel. In my case, as I wanted to arrive in Udon Thani via the first flight in, I flew out from Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia's last flight to Bangkok, arriving in Don Mueng Airport around midnight and spent overnight at the departure hall before taking the first Thai Lion Air flight out from Bangkok to Udon Thani. For accommodation in Nong Khai, I stayed in Asawann Hotel, just about 1.3km from the race venue. And for Muslim folks, there is one Muslim (Halal) restaurant located along the shop houses a few blocks away from VViang Lifestyle Mall (the race venue). It is owned by a Paskitani (if I'm not mistaken) guy whose wife is a Thai. They can cook any Thai food and for breakfast, you can have roti naan or whatever you want to have (just like how he answered us when we asked what he can cook for us).

In front of the Thasadet Market - one of the main attractions of Nongkhai. The marathon route also passed this place on its way back to the finish line.

At the Wat Mi Chai Thing, one of the many temples in Nongkhai, during my Saturday morning run. The temple is also located along the marathon route.

With the registration done and logistic arrangement made, the challenge for me back then was to look for a traveling buddy. Convincing friends to go to a race at this remote place and non-popular race like this was quite challenging but I knew one friend who would buy into this idea. And true enough, I had Shahidan with me in Nong Khai just like how it was in Vientiane, although I wasn't sure if he would make this trip only until a few days before the trip started. Then, it was to train for the marathon. Post BUTM100, my training went down south and I gained weight. Deep inside, I was quite relieved with the cancellation of SCKLM because I wasn't sure if I could run a good race with my condition that time.

But for Nong Khai Marathon, I had planned it to be a special marathon, probably as a gift for my birthday and was eyeing quite a high target from it. Based from my experience in Vientiane Marathon - the flat routem the high altitude, and the cold weather, I had specifically picked Nong Khai Marathon to try to go for no less than a 3:39:59 marathon, if not a PB (better than 3:29:15, Tokyo 2015). I was in dire need to try to run a sub 3:30-hour marathon again, to see if I'm worthy to be in the league and that the one in Tokyo was not a fluke. In between the cancelled SCKLM and Nong Khai, I focused my training on mid-distance speed (those of 20-25kms) by trying to hold to sub 5:00-minute pace as long as I could, and on the hillworks for cross-training. On weekends, hillworks were done in Gunung Broga and Tokwan but when back then when it was hazy, treadmill was my best friend, set it up with 15-degree elevation and tried to run it. For LSD, I only had one run of more than 25km which was during the Ricky Lightfoot Borneo Challenge where it was a very slow race with combination or lots of hills. I had two other races in between to test out my speed - the 22km 2XU Compression Run and the 15km LHKSNS.

At the race pack collection with the traveling buddy, Shahidan

Done with the bib collection. Hopefully 31 will be the lucky number for my 33rd full marathon.

As expected, it was a chill morning with temperature around 18-degree Celcius (slightly higher than in Berlin 2012) and remained cold and cloudy until race ended (even until noon). Nong Khai, just like Vientiane, is located some 150m asl, and that explains the cold weather, I think. As our hotel is just some 1.3km away, we decided to walk/run to the race site, instead of taking a tuk-tuk ride. We arrived at the race site with some 20 minutes before the flag off at 3am and the place was not crowded at all. Even there was no queue for the drop bag, and even the public restroom inside VViang Lifestyle Mall. After we're done with all that (bag drop and toilet break), we headed to the start line just outside the mall and on the main street. The set-up reminds me of Hatyai Marathon. Again, it was not crowded at all at the start line. From my judgement, I think there were less than 200 runners at the start line (from the race results, there were 125 total full marathon finishers). From there, I knew it would be a lonely run where runners will be spread apart from each other, especially when you're doing sub 3:30- or 4:00-hour pace.

At the start line with few minutes before flag off. Not pack at all! You can walk to the most back of the pack and still walk to the front again to start your marathon :p

The race was flagged off at 3am Thailand time. It was just a short run in the city as we headed out from the city towards Tha Bo, a neighboring town. At about KM3.5, we were on a 2-lane, intercity road that connects Nong Khai and Tha Bo. I've studied the route map and I knew it was a long straight route up to KM18 before you make a u-turn for another long stretch before entering the town with some 8km before the finish line. The long stretch reminded me again about Hatyai Marathon where a major part of the route was ran on a long highway. But for Nong Khai, it was not a highway but a rural intercity road, just like the old road from Tanjong Malim to Bidor, for example, where you can find houses, villages and shops on both sides of the road. The only thing is that, you could barely see much because it was still dark. On map, you could see yourself running along Mekong River but the truth fact is that the the river is behind those houses and villages and you can't see it from the road until you get back into Nong Khai city.

And I decided to start from the front...
[photo by Amazing Field]

As expected, the route was pancake flat and you wouldn't feel the slightest incline. True enough, upon checking my race details in Garmin Connect, total elevation gain was just 29m while elevation loss was 28m. A great recipe for a PB run! But eventhough it was pancake flat, one has to be mentally prepared for the long 30km out-and-back route as I mentioned earlier, and you have to constantly put all your efforts to move your foot in front of another, and repeat throughout, as there was no downhill to give you momentum, and in most time you'll be running alone along the whole course. I entertained myself by calculating my pace with several target finish time, expected finishing time, how much time I have to rest or allowed to have walk breaks, all those things. There was nothing interesting to tell in the first half of the race except that I noticed that water stations were placed every 2km with the local energy drinks served every 6km, if I'm not mistaken. Some stations served fruits but I didn't bother. I was good with Hammer gel which I consumed a pack for every 45 minutes.

My run was great at the beginning. My first 10km was done in 46:35-minutes and the second 10km was done in 46:37-minutes. At that moment, I thought of achieving a lot better than my PB in Tokyo, only if I could maintain the same pace. I even achieved PB for my half marathon, 1:38:38-hour, four minutes better than my HM PB in Sundown JB 2015. The goal at that time was to maintain sub 5:00-minute pace for as long as I could. I was still doing great up to the u-turn at KM18. Approaching the u-turn, I could already saw the front runners making their ways on opposite direction towards the finish line. There were not that many though and I was in 13th position at the u-turn which is not bad, I told myself. Not long after the u-turn, I saw Shahidan on the other side and I reckoned that he was doing a 5:30-minute pace at least, not bad either. But it was not so surprising as he has been training on the high altitude environment in Africa.

I continued running towards the city, still trying hard to maintain the 5:00-minute pace. It was same story about the route and the water stations. At one point, the HM and FM runners merged but it didn't give much problems as the number of participants were small. Only problem was that, I lost count on my position as some runners overtook me whilst I overtook some but I couldn't distinguish which categories they were running in. As much as I wanted to smash my PB by few minutes, my legs wasn't thinking the same. By KM28, my pace started to drop to more than 5:00-minute. Next goal kicked in - which was to maintain my average pace to sub 5:00-minute for as long as I could. I think the legs started to tire early due to the lack of 30km+ LSD training. I slowed down, but I tried as much to minimize the manage by keeping the pace to under 5:10-minute now and it worked. It kept my average pace to be under 4:50-minute all the way up to KM36. My third 10km was done in a slow 49:40-minute, that gave me 2:23-hour for 30km. That means, I have about 1:07-hour for the next 12km+ to finish under 3:30-hour. On paper, it sounds so doable but with the weary legs, I wasn't sure.

Just passed one of the water stations on my way back to the city. At this point, the FM runners were already merged with the HM runners.
[photo by Amazing Field]

We got back into the city with 8km to go. It was a 4km run by the river to the end of the city, make a u-turn and another 4km along the main road and shop houses on left and right to the finish line. My legs got really tired by KM36 and it got worse after the u-turn. The last 4km was like forever and it was so dreadful. I was moving like my legs were strapped with heavy chain that they could barely move. My thighs were tight, my glutes were sore. Thankfully cramps stayed at bay throughout the race. I regretted for missing my LSD runs. It was a mentally long stretch, like never ending. Just like in Hatyai. There were a few times that I stopped to walk for some 15-30 second before picking up my run again. My mind was calculating the pace required in the last two to three kilometers and sending the message to the legs but the legs just couldn't process it and make it happen. The mind got frustrated a bit and just let the body goes with the flow. During those walk breaks, I was even content to finish outside 3:30-hour as it was still a good effort, I think, to finish with the timing. I was ready to accept the defeat, to accept the fact that I was still not a sub 3:30-hour marathon material, that I'm still not ready for this.

It was a very slow 53:11-minute for my fourth 10km split. Something that I need to work on.

I was cursing the never ending stretch, when all shops on left and right looks exactly the same to me, and with my body started to feel cold (which I never felt that way before) like I want to faint, I saw the finishing arch from afar. But I just couldn't gauge how far it was but I was sure that the race will not be over distance or over distance by much (like in Tokyo). Looking at my Garmin FR920XT watch, I thought there could be a possibility for me to PB by the slightest margin. All I had to do was just run until the finish line. In the end, the earlier pace I had made up for the slow final 4km of the race. I was also thankful that the race didn't go to over distance, just ngam ngam 42.22km, again similar to Vientiane, as I didn't have enough buffer time for sub 3:30-hour if it does. I was glad that it was a PB! although by just 23 seconds from Tokyo. 3 hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds - this is a new time to beat for me. Pace wise, I actually did better in Tokyo as it went 1km longer.

That PB moment! Crossing the finish line feeling all satisfied. But still there is a slight painful expression on my face...
[photo by Amazing Field]

It was all jolly after the race. I could not hide my satisfaction and my happiness that I messaged my team breaking the news to them first. I was grinning from ear to ear although the legs were quite in pain. The results came out not long after that, I finished in 13th position overall and 5th in Men's 30-39 age category. No trophy or prize for me as it was just for top three runners in each category but I was more than happy to bring back this PB with me. If in Tokyo, I wasn't sure when I could do sub 3:30-hour marathon again or even coming close to the mark, but after Nong Khai Marathon (and Kuching Marathon), I was sure that it will come more often from now.

Until the next race!

For overall results of 1st Nongkhai Marathon, click here.
For my race details on Garmin Connect, click here.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Garmin Forerunner 225 - Test

Inspired by the debate of capability of optical heart rate monitor has inspired Team2ndskin athletes to highlight some of the interesting features in Garmin Forerunner 225. The conventional chest strap tracks the heart rate closer to the heart so some athletes argue that it is much more accurate than the wrist optical heart rate that read the flow of blood. Eager to stay relevant in the HRM market, the chest straps now are installed with more sensors for more data collection which the wrist optical sensors are still catching up. Since both have its own strength, let's do a reality check to confirm.

Team2ndskin Athlete Tri Stupe wrote the Unboxing and Review for Garmin Forerunner 225 here.http://www.tristupe.com/2015/08/garmin-forerunner-fr225-unboxing-and.html

The Garmin Forerunner 225 needs to be strapped properly to get an accurate reading. Get the green light nicely sealed, the heart rate reading is pretty much comparable to the chest strap. Those days when the the chest strap dominates the market, there's not a choice for us to read our heart rate. In terms of comfort and convenience, definitely the wrist optical heart rate wins the battle.

Garmin Forerunner 225 is equipped with a detachable soft silicon seal surrounding the optical sensor for better light sealing. It cups on the wrist nicely and seals the green light from leaking. It's quite comfortable to be worn over a long period compared to those HRM without silicon seal. 

This is a good watch for the gym goers post office hours, save the hassle of digging the gym bag searching for the chest strap. Surprisingly, it is still able to give me reading with my long sleeve shirt underneath! This GPS watch has a built in accelerometer to capture distance and pace for indoor workout too. Other than functioning as a GPS watch, Garmin Forerunner 225 doubles the value by working as an activity tracker (distance, calorie burned, steps).

Will the Garmin Forerunner 225 give reading underwater? The answer is YES!
I made my mum dip her wrist inside a bucket of water, this is the evidence.

If a bucket of water is not enough to convince u, here is a workout I did in Gunung Keriang Indoor Pool just to get the heart rate data. Disregard the messy GPS because indoor pool swim's GPS data is definitely inaccurate. 

Coming to the ultimate battle between a chest strap HRM of Garmin Forerunner 920xt and wrist base Optical HRM, team2ndskin athlete Lt Chan Jun Shen ran a 20km to test both of the hottest watches in Garmin's product range! 

In general, the pace, cadence and elevation give nearly the same reading. However, the main concern is the heart rate. The first 10km, the Garmin Forerunner 225 was worn slightly loose which gives spiky heart rate graph due to the possible optical light leak during arm swing motion. The 2nd half of the run was done with a tighter fit, proven to have smoother graph and as smooth as the data gained from chest strap of Garmin Forerunner 920xt.  
*the heart rate zone for Garmin Forerunner 225 was not set to max heart rate because I did the test after my teammate Tri Stupe used it so it explains why the zone is different. 

Hope the test clears some of the doubts on the ability of Garmin Forerunner 225. This unit of FR225 is sponsored to Team 2ndSkin by AECO Technologies, the authorised Distributor of Garmin Malaysia. RRP for FR225 is RM1299 including GST and available at all authorised resellers. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Team2ndskin Garmin Clinic Revision - High Intensity Interval Training

Dear Participants of Team2ndskin Garmin Running Clinic,

The High Intensity Interval Training has been successfully completed today with plenty of new knowledge especially on heart rate, pace management, training program and running posture. The 5km HIIT is a very useful tool for you to kick start and juggle around to find what kind of HIIT is best for you. There are so many types of HIITs out there for you to try, I'd suggest all of you to try out and experiment what is best for you. In case of uncertainties, we are always here to help.

Do some revision with the notes shown to you guys just now. 

The workout could be improved and pushed to a new limit by correcting some of the very minor mistakes which are:

Breathing Rhythm
Do not restrict yourself from breathing. The air is free of charge so why refrain from breathing? Get the rhythm right, either 1 inhale 3 exhales, 2 inhales 2 exhales and so on. There is no single method works for everybody, so find what suits you best. Once the breathing is corrected, chances of getting side stitches could be reduced and definitely you can go faster to score your Max Heart Rate in your next HIIT. To cure side stitches, slow down and exhale hard as the opposite foot strike the ground.

I am not a breakfast guy but I take breakfast prior to all major races because it is too important to be neglected. The best time to have big breakfast is around 2 hours before the race. Late breakfast can cause side stitches. Optionally, take light breakfast such as bananas before the workout. 

Maintaining a good posture is a great challenge in HIIT. As the body gets tired, it will be a huge challenge to maintain a good running posture. Remember the 4 points and the centerline, stay focus to maintain it. A good posture is the key to avoid major running injuries. 
Remember the lines and points.

Go Hard or Go Home
HIIT is meant to be intense. You will need to put in maximum effort to make the workout to be called HIIT. Upon completing a fast interval, check your Garmin to see if you've hit zone 5. Normally I'd set my Garmin to alert me once I've get 5 beats closer than my max heart rate. Don't call it a HIIT if it's not max effort.  
Max Effort! Very well done! 

Garmin Malaysia is being very generous for bringing so many different models for all of you to try. As the saying goes, early birds get the worms. Come early and you get to pick the watch first.  Come back to us if you need any assistance. Overall, job well done and plenty of room for improvement. Rest well and come back stronger.

Photos courtesy www.limiteart.com

Best Regards,
Chan Jun Shen
Team2ndskin Athlete
5 X Ironman Finisher

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2015 - Annie Yee's Race Report

I regretted when I registered for this marathon 4 months back. But, after cancellation of SCKLM, I was praying hard to run this marathon to prove myself. Three days before the race, I did feel my body is weak like jelly. Flu started to buzz me. I opted not to eat any medicine as I do believe that ANY medicine might affect my body.
3 days.
Rolls of toilet papers
7 fresh coconuts water.

Still, I felt the uneasiness on Saturday evening after waking up at 1030pm. 3 Hammer Nutrition gels in my pouch pre-prepared, there I departed. Arrival at Queensbay Mall carpark around 11:40pm. The organizer prepared instructions to runner so that they dont get confused where to go. (Thumb up!). Along the way, I met friends from KL and Johor as well. I was unsure if I was too nervous as I went to toilet more than 5 times in between 11:45pm-1:00am. I did my proper warm up. Starting with jogging, followed by stretching and drills, ended with striding to heat my body up. My nose was still clogged with buzzing mucus and I tried to ignore it. It was so annoying!

Followed the pacers to front starting point (Well, organizer recruited elite runner and I registered myself) and stood there around 15mins. The countdown started with fireworks and chief ministers short speech and 321..

Setting my watch ON, I ran with my easy pace. Surprisingly to bump into my hometown friend. I focused on the road as the way from Queensbay to BOSCH roundabout, it was dark! Deborah Chin, champion for unknown times of Ultra and Adventure of Mount Kinabalu tailed and we chatted awhile. She informed that her watch could not detect GPS and she did not know her pace. I decided to run with her side by side after knowing she wanted to do a sub3:30. (Years back, I could just look behind her back and now I could run side by side with her, it is my pride!).

A-U turn and we headed to Bank Rakyat. It was 10km when we passed by E-gate and my watch alerted 47:14mins (Not bad still). I reminded Debbin when we both dropped to 5mins pace so we could speed it up. When we reached Bank Rakyat, the water station was crowded with families and supporters (This is what we should have in Malaysia, SUPPORTERS MA!!) We made another U-turn and headed to the bridge. We passed by the 3:30pacer whom apparently was the same guy who motivated me during 3R marathon.

I started to feel uncomfortable with my right toes. Thinking that I over-tightened my shoe laces. (Ignore it). I sped up my pace to 4:40mins/km and followed Debbin. My 2 packets of gels fell when I attempted to take out from my pouch(almost 20km with one gel). I reversed to collect and quicken my strides to follow Debbin who was 20metres ahead. We met Choi Fern when we reached the slope of the bridge. She increased her speed whilst Debbin and I maintained our speed.  My speed started to slow down when we reached big U-turn toll. Debbin urged me but I couldnt speed up. I stopped to adjust my shoe lace. A guy stopped on the left divider caught up with me. Glancing on my watch, realizing I was slower with speed of 5:10mins/km when I exited the toll. Debbin seemed farther from me and I was slowing down (ALAMAK!). This Malay guy was a good companion as he slowed down whenever I slowed down and even passed me extra water. I tried not to focus by chatting with him and knew he came from Perlis. I was choked when I bite the plastic bag with ices. He purposely slowed down to see if I was alright. (Nak , 1MALAYSIA, NO RACISM OKAY?)

We came slowly to a guy with cap. Realizing he was William who did his 3:16 in Melbourne Marathon, I felt slight relieved! (Na na na..I am not the only one slow >.<) The Malay guy followed him and I was behind them. Guess that I was too slow already. I pushed myself a bit harder yet the pace maintained at 5:10mins/km. (Kenapa dengan ku?) I knew I had few km to go, and I walked for few seconds after sipping the water. By this time, it had reached 2hours 55mins. Oh! Dave Ang, 330pacer passed by me. Oh NOT!!!! Had not 21km runners around, I would have started to brisk walking. I kicked my legs to check my leg and no any pain like previous marathons. This was a good sign. I just need to fight with my laziness. I re-focused and thought of how coach taught me, how he mentioned about staying power, thought of winning to get the cash so that I could have bring my parents oversea.(Yes, I am saying that I need to win this, because I need to make my parents happy). It seemed like I could maintain my pace when I imagined my parents smiles.

Up to the slope, down the hill, it left 5km. I know exactly the way back to Queensbay mall. My pace from 5:30mins/km reduced to 5:10mins/km. Every single km was like 10km for me mentally, but I was physically strong when I tried to flash back my previous marathons. Normally, I walked for last few kms. I came across to a Kenyan at the last two km. Turning to left hand to Queensbay roundabout, my Forward running buddies, Mrs Boon, Calvin Boon, lawyer Lim and Mr Boon cheered for me(I had only realized after the race).I heard sounds but I couldnt see them! Lawyer Lim joked that my soul flew away on last 1km.

I pushed together with William and watching the digital clock showing 3:35, I crossed the finish line!

I sat down immediately. I was so dizzy and my leg was so weak in sudden. My team member,Jun Shen appeared from somewhere and accompanied me.Cp Tan came a few minutes later!

I still couldn't stand up in spite of St John messaged me leg. I was very dizzy and wanted to vomit. Jun Shen insisted me to the medical tent. I was aided to sit on wheelchair and strolled into the medical tent. I was given drip. Medical team was quick(thumb up!). 

While I was resting, Jun Shen was with Mr Ant as Mr Ant vomited! He was given drip also! I felt much comfortable after the resting.

So,this was how I ran my PBIM. I learnt lessons from this marathon.

1.When you are in sick and you insisted to run, do expect the worst. You need strong mental to overcome the illness.

2. Biting the ice cubes and place the ice cubes on shoulder do ease the pain.

3. Train yourself not to walk starting from beginning if you register for marathon. I saw many "walkers" walked in the beginning of the course.

This year,the route was definitely better than previous years! Marshalls,water stations and emergency teams were sufficient. For myself,certainly this was not good enough. There is a huge room for me to be better and faster.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Langkawi Ironman 2015 Race Report

Team 2ndskin athlete Ironman Chan Jun Shen successfully overcome all challenges and completed the Langkawi Ironman 2015, the second toughest Ironman in the world after Kona Ironman World Championship! Let's read up what has this 5 X Langkawi Ironman Finisher has got to share with us.


Can I finish an Ironman with 14 days of preparation? It was one tough decision when I accepted the last minute free slot offered by Tadonamo Tri Club under RudyProjectMalaysiaBrunei sponsorship. Thank you Mr Syerol and Mr Marcus. I did not foresee myself doing any triathlon this year because I was transferred all over the places by the Navy to fulfil my career courses; it is a mess to travel around with all the triathlon gears. The whole year’s training has been primarily focusing on breaking my marathon PB. Since both of my marathons got cancelled due to haze, I called 2ndskin team principal Eugene Teoh to inform him about my last minute decision to race an Ironman. I told him, “Eugene, I want to do something big since I can’t race any marathon”. I needed someone to talk to at that time. Having 4 Ironman finish gives me a lot of confidence, but I have to be realistic. Nobody is going to finish an Ironman without enough mileage, even if I could survive the distance, I will be racing against the cut off time. The last time I cycled was last year’s Ironman which was more than a year ago, I had no idea how was my cycling endurance. 

7 days of training + 7 days of tapering = 5th Ironman In The Making

Photo courtesy Azrul Adnan.

The pre-race jitters was manageable, I slept for about 4 hours after eating really heavy Thai Food dinner. I always get sleepy after meal which is a good thing.

Entering the water. Photo courtesy Mr Tey Eng Tiong.

The swim course was a counter clockwise swim, I couldn’t be happier because I prefer to breathe on my left side. Two days before race day, race director changed the course to a clockwise swim and there will be no running at the beach on completion of the first loop. Not really a bad news because I had expected a clockwise swim before the course was announced. Knowing that swimming is just a small part of the challenge, I am confident that I can finish it more than half an hour before cut off. I studied the tide table and current condition at Pantai Kok, confirmed the reading during the practice swim and I have no problem other than jellyfish with the first discipline. Open water swimming is rough in nature, nobody is going to stop and say sorry if their strokes or kicks hit you in the face. When the Pros lapped me in my second loop, one of them smacked my head from behind and followed by their super powerful kick as they pass. Be prepared for the worst and just keep swimming. I tried to draft to peek less to navigate, but all swimmers in my pack was zig zagging so I opt to swim at my own pace. My game plan was a textbook strategy for amateur, do not go hard and save it for the bike and run. I finished my swim 1 hour 30 minutes, 5 minutes faster than last year.

I spent some time getting my calf sleeves on and make sure all the mandatory bike equipment ready before exiting the transition. It is going to be a very long day under the sun. I rode in heart rate below zone 4 all the way to keep my tummy well fed and I could only hope that I don’t get bonk too bad at the end of it. I had no mileage on the road at all, so by surviving the 180km cycling is already a miracle. 
The start of my maiden road ride for 2015. 

Photo courtesy Imagines.
The two loops course made us climb Datai at the first 21km, it is a good thing to complete one major climb early. Then we passed Kampung Kelubi area, the road was sheltered with trees and kampong houses so not much of cross winds. The villagers were all cheering for us and traffic control was very good. I had trouble holding my aero position when I felt the strain in my neck, I just couldn’t look front. Every now and then I sat up straight to stretch my neck, I’d expected this to happen anyway. The posture on the bike takes a lot of time to get used to and it will not happen within the two weeks of my preparation. The aid stations were set up around every 20km, so I grabbed a banana and a gel at every station with electrolytes as required. Being a Malaysian, I always speak in Bahasa Malaysia because the volunteers will definitely serve Malaysians first! Haha. I will shout “THANK YOU” once the food was handed to me. I consume one Hammer Perpetuem Solid and Hammer Endurolytes every hour. Maintaining at heart rate below zone 4 kept my digestive system functions like normal. Garmin 920xt gave me all the data that I need, heart rate zone, speed, average speed and distance. As long as I can buffet on the bike, I strongly believe that I can do this maiden long ride of the year 2015 without any training. Suffer is for sure, but I am trying to delay it.

What if I rode based on speed? Let say 30km/h without checking what the heart rate zone was. I might get my heart rate shoot up to my lactate threshold, and shuts down my digestive system or even burn out all my glycogen storage. The ever ending climb caused a lot of cyclist to push their bike while I slowly pedal my way up the hills. Langkawi Ironman has always been hilly, so please get the correct cassette for climbing. The Wingspan57 Rudy Project helmet was super comfortable, light in weight and aerodynamic. Absolutely fell in love with “the comfort” especially the ventilation and soft ear covers that ease up the transition process. I opt for no visor because Langkawi is just too hot to have half of my face covered. Thank you Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei for the opportunity and support.   
Photo courtesy Imagines,

I started to suffer slightly after the second Datai climb, I took full aerodynamic advantage by bending down and let the bike cruise down the hills. The handle bar wobbled so badly and I was so worried of my rusty bike handling skills. Haha. I had forgotten left or right lever is for the back brake and I pulled the front brake when the bike speeds down the hill at 60km/h. I saw Doc Yap Eng Hui ascending while Henry started to catch up. The final 20km was a hell for me but I am happy to get this far actually. My groin area started to chaff but I didn’t bother so much because I can’t do anything about it at that time. I had lost count how many riders overtook me, just too many. Unlike previous years, I could gain time and overtake 80 over riders in cycling. I was still very lucky to stay away from mechanical failures; many riders had to stop to fix punctures due to the poor road conditions. Every kilometer felt like forever, I just couldn’t wait to run the marathon! Please let me start the run, damn! If I have to dig 200% to finish it, I will give my all like any other Ironman on the course.
Which bugger drafted my backside.

I spoke to OP Sofian multiple ironman finishers and also Kannan Murugasan the Ultraman, they said I can finish the 180km as long as I ride it constant cadence in light gears. Both of the Malaysia sporting legends gave me a lot of confidence prior to race day, and both of them are people whom I really look up to. I ended my 180km cycling in 7 hours 20 minutes. Not too bad for someone who didn’t cycle for a year=p

End of the 180km. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Transition was brisk, no hanky panky. In fact, I was thinking of fly dismount from my bike to save some time. I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if I could still fly dismount after a year. Haha. I try to save every possible minute in transition because I was overtaken by many riders on the bike; it’s time to gain back some time.

Photo courtesy Imagines.

Running has always been my strongest leg, Skechers GoSpeed2 was my choice of gear. I tried to run slower but the legs felt really good at pace 5.25mins/km. No idea what happened, I overtook so many runners and if I could keep this pace going, sub 13 is in hand! The legs were fresh so why should I slow down right? After an hour of miracle, everything came crushing down so suddenly. Soon, I started walking. I have yet to understand what went wrong because I constantly fuel myself at every station. My breathing slowed down, my hands and head felt numb. 30km to go.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

The stomach bloated as I walked along the airport, I believe I had hit the wall. Every energy gel I squeeze in got rejected but I forced it down my throat. I am a soldier with a trained mental toughness. Soldiers never quit, hoisting a white flag shames the nation. I am the master of my pain. Should I fail to cross the line, I shall collapse trying. The second loop passing the finishing arch, the cheers from the crowd did not help at all as I know I need to survive another big loop. Keep eating at every station, cool the body with cold sponge, hydrate myself with electrolytes, one Hammer Endurolytes capsule for every hour, and keep breathing! I consciously breathe deeply as I could feel my breathing weaken. Karen Siah passed me and said “Hey Leftenan Chan” but I was so tired at that time, she ran a very strong marathon. I dug so deep that I knew I might pass out anytime; Lifeline ID was on my wrist so please call my loved ones. How did I survive the last 21km? I do not know. The wearing fatigue eats me up bit by bit and the mental blockage became worse.

Struggling. Photo courtesy Imagines,

However, I did not see quitting as an option. I shall not disappoint those who supported me all this while. Why stop if I can still walk? I was hardly at home with my parents when I returned to KL, I was out either to Kg Pandan pool or run around the MINDEF area to gain mileage at the very last two weeks. I became anti social. By the time I went to my bed, I get so tired that my time talking to my girlfriend shortens tremendously. I also came back early from the Bandung trip with my course mates just for the sake of doing Langkawi Ironman. All this time and emotional investment shall not go down to drain. If I DNF this Ironman, I will face a year of disappointment until I finish another Langkawi Ironman. My schedule is really tight so I am not even sure if I will be doing it next year. I am living my present life to the fullest.

Pardon me for the ugly face. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Final few kilometres was well spent with Henry, we walked and talked all the way. It’s going to be his 5th Ironman finish too! Mr Syerol passed by and asked if we were doing okey. Really appreciate it. Many people DNF this race. The sky turned dark and rain cloud started brewing, we up the pace a little by run-walk-run in the rain all the way to the finishing line. We jogged slowly towards the finishing arch hand in hand and Adele announced “You are an Ironman!”. 
Photo courtesy Dannie Choong.

I am now a 5 times Langkawi Ironman Finisher! Although 14 hours 52 minutes is far from my personal best, I overcame all the challenges and survived the distance. Ultimately, I am a living testimony that Ironman is doable within 14 days of preparation.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

I really gave my all. Photo courtesy OP Kam Kasturie.

Cameron Brown the multiple Ironman Champion hanged the medal on my neck and I walked a few steps to call for medical assistance. I blacked out for a while when they put me on wheelchair. After resting in the medical tent, I felt a bit better so I requested for BP check, BP90 and heart rate 54. I am really grateful for all the support from my family for understanding my mission to complete Ironman in 14 days’ preparation, thank you to my girlfriend for the encouragement. Thank you to my UPNM support crews who eased my logistic burden, they are the amazing Vignesh, Cash and Seargent Yusri. Huge congratulations to Officer Cadet Teoh Jian Sheng for completing his maiden Ironman. Thank you 2ndskin team mates &amp; sponsors, Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei, Tadonamo crews, Old Putera support team, Royal Malaysian Navy, Organizers and Volunteers, and all the friends who cheered for all the Ironman participants. 



Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Heart Rate Zones and Pace Management

Knowing our heart condition and body capacity should be made the utmost priority in planning the training program. As the gun goes off, adrenaline kicks in and cloud our pace judgement. We were so focus in positioning ourselves among the front echelon without realising that we’ve been in Zone 5 for quite some time. The success of the run solely depends on the execution of a perfect game plan. Running a few seconds slower could bring our heart rate into lower zones which totally change the primary energy system our body is using and ultimately determine how soon we will hit the wall.

The very famous heart rate zone diagram I found from the internet.

Pace management is interrelated to the heart rate zones while the heart rate zones determine what kind of fuel to burn. For example, an athlete warms up and heart rate is at 130bpm. Push the pace 15 seconds faster and the heart rate most likely goes 140bpm, 150bpm and very soon 160bpm. The lower intensity workout results in lower zones or the running community like to call it the fat burning zone. Does aerobic (low intensity) activity burns only fats as the only source of fuel? The answer is it burns fat more than the anaerobic (high intensity) activity. It does burn carbs in this zone but fats are the primary source of fuel.  In the anaerobic zone, the body burns carbohydrates in the form of glycogen which is then changed to glucose for the body’s consumption. On the other hand, fats need more oxygen and takes longer to metabolize. In long distance races, fats are able to fuel an athlete longer. In Ironman races which stretch 17 hours long, it is definitely not possible to do Zone 4 and above all the way because the glycogen stores can last less than 2 hours. Before the marathon, this athlete would have burned out all his fuel.

If we compare athletes of different levels running at the same pace, the heart rate zone varies from one person to another.  More conditioned athletes could be running 4.00mins/km at Zone 3 while the newbies might be hitting Zone 5 already at such high pace, the primary fuel they burn is absolutely different. How to get the Zones right? Get to know the Maximum heart rate first. High Intensity Interval Training is a great training to achieve maximum heart rate, so once a week get your Maximum heart rate updated !

In conclusion, manage the pace by knowing the heart rate zones. Then, reschedule the training program to gain the most out of every workout.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Kuching Marathon - Deo's Experience

The registration for Kuching Marathon 2016 has just opened on Sunday. The 3rd edition will be held on 14th August 2016 and based on the reviews from its first two editions, we are sure that all the slots will be taken up in no time. It is one of the youngest marathon in the country but has proven to be well-managed, and it is not surprising that Kuching Marathon has came to par (or maybe even better) with the 'big brothers' of local marathons. And the host city, Kuching, is also a lovely city to visit with various interesting activities for either a short weekend, marathon trip or an extended stay.

Our team athlete, Deo, was lucky to be able to experience Kuching Marathon this year and the way he put it, we are sure that he will make a return next year (and come back with a big box of ikan terubuk masin and kek lapis for us, too!). Read Deo's experience below and hopefully it will help you to decide to sign up for the marathon.


Kuching Marathon, or the one I dubbed as KUMAR (for its shortform), has never been in my planned marathons for this year. In fact, I don't have much marathons outlined for this year. So far, I've only done two full marathons, Tokyo and 3R Putrajaya, this year and only one more to go, which is the SCKLM. However, it changed when a friend invited me to have a short trip to Kuching to run KUMAR. After reading good reviews from last year's inaugural KUMAR, I thought it would be great to give it a shot and KUMAR should be a good LSD training as preparation for the TMBT100, two weekends after that. All arrangements done sometimes in June and it was just waiting game for the KUMAR weekend to arrive.

Thursday and Friday approaching KUMAR, my facebook timeline was filled with updates by running friends who were already flying off to Kuching. It was quite a shock to me as if all familiar runners in peninsular flocked Kuching during the weekend. And it was not surprising when it was easy to spot running faces at every corner of the area surrounding the Padang Merdeka, Kuching after I arrived in the city. So, Saturday morning was my turn to be at the airport en route to Kuching for the marathon. ManBaik was my travel buddy this time around so both of us like cats whose whiskers have been cut, making our ways around the City like lost cats. Actually I had been in Kuching some ten years ago accompanying PROTON FC team playing Sarawak FA in the FA Cup football match but none seems familiar to me except for the waterfront walkpath and the Padang Merdeka. Luckily we were accompanied by Marlin, who ran KUMAR last year, who turned out to be our guide even for a while.

First stop after we arrived at the airport was Plaza Merdeka, that is located next to Padang Merdeka where the race venue is, for the race pack collection. Eventhough I saw some complaining about the long queues at the RPC earlier, it was all smooth by the time I picked up mine and it was all done in a jiffy. But I have to agree that the venue is rather small for a big marathon like KUMAR. RPC done, followed by late lunch at the nearby Brooke's Bistro at the waterfront for the sumptuous laksa sarawak. Then, we walkde to the nearby Borneo Hotel, our home for the night, for a short rest before making our ways for a seafood dinner at the famous Topspot Food Court, which is also within walking distance from where we were staying.

At the race pack collection venue in Plaza Merdeka.

It was early lights off for both of us as we had to wake up around 1.30am to get ready for the 3am flagoff. I have mixed feeling about this odd hours flagoff time as on one hand, you want to finish off your race before the sun comes off and saves you from being roasted but on the other hand, it is quite hard to go to bed really early, around 9pm and normally I would wake up still feeling sleepy. In the end, I only managed to get some 3 hours of sleep that night but luckily I didn't feel too sleepy (just a little groggy) that morning. But having a room mate to talk to in that wee hours before the race helped a bit.

We walked to the start line like many others did. With just 30 minutes to go before the flagoff, I quickly dumped my luggage at the dropbag center with a fee of RM5. I trust with the fee, my belongings will be in safe hands. More familiar faces spotted so, it was all pre-marathon routines with exchange of well wishes, photo takings, not much stretching and the countdown to the flagoff. I had not put any expectation for this marathon especially realizing that the last time I ran a marathon was in April and I had a tough time finishing it (and with a mediocre timing, too!). And I am in the middle of an ultramarathon training so I wasn't sure if I still have the marathon speed. So, not putting too much of hope, the plan was just about finishing it under 4 hours and injury-free.

Since this is an international marathon and the prize money was quite lucrative, it wasn't surprising to see host of African runners toeing the front of the start line. It was quite cold that morning as it rained on the night before. I stayed within maybe some 30 meters from the front line and as the race was flagged off at 3am, it was a walking start to cross the start line. Once start line was crossed, I have to zigzag around those runners who started at the front and not long after that, I found my comfortable pace. But a glance at my watch after the KM1 showed that my pace was 4:39-minute which wasn't as what I expected. It was too fast than the 5:00-minute pace I had in mind, to sail me though this marathon safely under four hours.

But, I told myself that since it was a comfortable pace, I would continue with the pace as long as I could in order to have ample time buffer for a much slower pace later. So, I continued with sub 5:00-minute pace until at KM10.5 when I had an urge to pee. Normally I would just pee by the roadside but this time around, I detoured to a petrol station and did what I had to do there. It was a quick stop though but I felt lighter after that. I ran my first 5km in 24:05-minute and the first 10km in 48:46-minute. The generally flat route and generally cold weather were actually helping me with the run and maintaining the pace I was doing for quite a long time. Actually to be frank, the route wasn't all flat, like many runners told me earlier. There were some climbing for elevated roads or bridges (crossing those rivers) and the nastiest one was in the city with 5km to go but those four or five climbing were not too bad to run up.

After 10km, I still feel like I could maintain the sub 5:00-minute pace forever and there were no signs of cramps coming or any muscles tightness. At times, I feel like I would be able to run a sub 3:30-hour marathon, or even bettering my PB of 3:29:15 done in Tokyo this year. That thought was playing in my mind and although I wasn't pressured to do such timing, it still motivated me to continue running at that pace. The pace was good, my body condition was good, I didn't stop to walk except for brisk stops at each water station (they were abundance of water stations, maybe some 15 altogether along the full marathon route). And eventhough I was running at quite a fast pace to the local average standard, I could still see runners in front of me and those behind me trying to catch up with me and that had kept me 'alive' during the run.

Soon enough and it was still dark, KM15 arrived in 1:13-hour and KM20 covered in 1:39-hour. By that time, I knew that another sub 4:00-hour marathon is well within reach. Only that PB is slightly hard to achieve. So, I was left with the battle to run a sub 3:40-hour to mark a new best timing for a local marathon (marathons done in Malaysia). I started to feel a little tired after KM25, not sure if I hit the wall or what? The body legs were just refusing to run swiftly like before but there were no cramping signs and muscles tightness, which I thought was great. 25km was completed in 2:05-hour which was ok but earlier on I had hoped that I could cover the distance under 2:00-hour. So, it was all mind over body from there onwards.

My mind was talking about under 3:40-hour finish but the body told the mind that I can walk for a long time and still finish off the race under 4:00-hour. So, it was a tussle between the mind and the body which they had to come to a compromised position where I would take longer walk breaks at water stations and halfway up any elevated road or bridge and when it was time to run, I need to run at least at 5:15-minute pace. And it worked for me although at times, from my mental calculations, I could miss the 3:40-hour mark by a whisker using that strategy. 30km was completed in 2:31-hours and I had to run the last 13km (in my calculation, I would always anticipate the route would go up to 43km in distance) under 68 minutes, which means that I would miss my target even if I run at an average pace of 5:30-minute from KM30 onwards. Even to be able to run the last 13km at 5:30-minute pace was not guaranteed (that I would be able to do it) as my muscles have started to feel some soreness. It was quite frustrated thinking about it.

But I trudged on. The only hope I had was for the route to be accurately measured to 42.195km in distance (I got 42.28km on my Garmin) and I would still be able to finish under 3:40-hour. This motivated me a bit and I didn't drop my pace much, still able to run between 5:15- to 5:25-minute pace except for one stretch when I walked for quite some time. 35km was done in 2:58-hour and I was glad to finally get back to the city, knowing the finish line was getting nearer. The distance marker along the roadside showed that the race will not be overdistance but I still had doubt in me so, I continued to run. And with some four kilometers from the finish line, a marshal on a bicycle cycled alongside me. I thought it was going to be for a short while but he cycled alongside me until the finish line.

At the last water station. On my left is the marshal on the bicycle who paced me in the last four kilometers of the race.

It was hard to keep up with the marshal. I was in my last 3km and I had to run at 5:00-minute pace. I thought it was good to have a pacer and it was just few more kilometers to go to give everything that I still had left in me but at the same time, my heart was screaming! I slowed down for a while thinking that he might speed off and leave me behind but he didn't. When I slowed down, he slowed down too while encouraging me to keep up with only few kilometers to go. I obliged, and pacing with the marshal on the bicycle, I did the fastest pace in the entire race during my last 1km, how is that?! So, I crossed the finish line in 3:35:44, making it a personal best timing of all 20 marathons I've done locally. Previous best was 3:49:16. It was also my 32nd full marathon race and continuing a streak of 14 sub 4-00-hour marathon finish dating back to August 2013. The timing got me in the 26th position in the Men's Open category and 40th overall which entitled me for the 'Top 200 finishers' special edition finisher t-shirt.

With some familiar faces after the marathon.

Personally, everything was great with KUMAR, my race was less-problematic and I didn't suffer from DOMS for too long post-marathon. I only had a few hours of sweating, dizzyness and feeling like throwing up after the race but recovered well after an hour of sleep. On the organisation of the marathon, I think the reviews I read from last year spoke the truth and the organizer had maintained (or maybe improved) the standard of the marathon. Water stations were abundance and some were accompanied with medic stations, route was super nice especially for a first timer like me, weather was awesome and I will not be surprised if KUMAR would now become a favorite local marathon, overtaking the disastrous and never-improved Penang Bridge Marathon as well as the boring and overhyped KL Marathon.