Monday, 17 August 2015

Taiping Cross Country Race Report

Number 8 "very ong" placing for Jun Shen at the Taiping Cross Country run. Congratulations to you teammate. By the way, the organizer were credited for a run well organised.
The month of August has three events awaiting me to keep me committed to improve my running. Taiping Cross Country came the earliest, I was happy to race it even without trail training for ages. The thing with trail running, it is about risk taking, agility and some tactics. Over the years, my trail running skills keeps improving but the way I raced my trail races never changed. Currently I have 4 pairs of Skechers shoes with me in Alor Setar namely GoRunUltra2, GoSpeed1, GoSpeed2, and GoSpeed3. Ultra2 is my recovery run shoes, it helped me a lot during my injury recovery period with its awesome cushion. Speed1 is my training shoes for intervals, aging 2 years old. Speed2 is my choice of gear for SCKLM, and it is slowly being phased out from the Skechers performance series so I wanna save it’s mileage. Speed3 is awesome, super breathable and has my favourite carbon plate underneath.

Friday night, I got all my power banks charged, juiced up my Garmin 920xt, laid out all my compression wears and nutrition plan so that I don’t miss out any gears, filled up all water bottles before packing everything into my car. I was contemplating whether to race in GoSpeed3 or Ultra2. =p Taiping is a raintown, two hours rain could easily double up the difficulty of this race. The organizer (Karen Geh) had uploaded some of the trail pics during her recce with her organizing team, and I presumed a pair of super fast road shoes like Skechers GoSpeed3 should be good since the trail is not too technical. Saturday morning I arrived Taiping, drove around looking for hotel. Most of the hotel looks pretty decent from the outside so Lt Izlan and I checked out their aircond compressor to have a quick guess of the aircond’s capacity *typical engineer*.  All the hotels that we asked charge less than RM100, it’s really cheap and very near to the race site. The organizers had done their homework to make things convenient for runners, thumbs up! So we decided to stay in Panorama Hotel (official hotel), RM106 per night for two person (more discount for race participants). Izlan and I love Taiping’s weather very much! (Afternoon feels like Alor Setar’s 10am). Once picked up our race kit, we walked around the town before entering the cinema to watch Mission Impossible. Later on, I happily dozed off without any pre race jitters. *no podium expectation*

Race kit collection was very fast and convenient. They have race gears on sale too=)

Very comfortable room. Panorama Hotel.
All the shops, food stalls and Taiping Mall are within walking distance.

I felt freakish for not getting palpitation two hours before race=p Pulled up my compression wear and wore my 2ndskin Team Issue Race Vest (maiden race appearance). We walked to Hua Lian High School, 400m from the hotel. I set my Garmin to alert me before every water station, laced up my running shoes and secure the butterfly knot under the criss crossing lace so that I don’r trip in the jungle. The VIP who flagged us off dressed up very smartly, he respects the event I would say. I ran in the front pack for two kilometres before the bunch splitted into two groups at the stream crossing section. I can tell that this time around, the fast runners are mostly road runners because the way they carefully cross the stream is not what trail runners would normally do. We can’t tell what is under the stream, so just took my chances and bulldozed! Overtook 3 runners effortlessly at the first stream. The distance between the first and second stream is really near, all runners were wet at the early section of the race. After the second stream, we ran to the direction pointed by markers which was towards a wooden house. We were misled and ran round and round the house looking for the next markers. I think I wasted around 3 minutes till the pack bunched up to 10 lost runners. Suddenly one runner saw the red-white tape and yelled “jalan sini!” so everyone ran to him.

We ran across parks where the grass is so soft and wet; perfect for training but not to my liking for racing. I never liked too much of cushion when I race because it dampens my speed. I got more convinced that Skechers GoSpeed3 was the right pick as I entered the trail. Kilometer 4, grabbed a cup of water as I ran past to cool my head without slowing down; volunteers were very impressed with the cup grabbing skill=p. Not long later, I got side stitches and back muscle spasm. Hamstring was pulling too! Gosh this is too early! (obviously lack of trail running=p). Base on my experience, side stitches could be solved by slowing down the pace while fine tuning the breathing technique. I synchronized my running steps and breathing rhythm, by the next two kilometres the spasm and side stitches was gone=)   

I did not slow down when descending, just kept speeding and ready to stumble in case I misstep. In trail running, I have less control over the nature so I spread my arms to gain better stability while maintaining high cadence speeding down the slope. The organizers also encouraged runners to carry their own cup to keep the jungle clean.The climbs were manageable and the surface is kind of sandy, very similar to Teluk Batik’s trail. Kilometer 8 & kilometre 12 were the other two water stations but I only sip a bit of isotonic because the chilly weather didn’t make me feel thirsty. The kilometre 13 marker was slightly under distance (compared with many other GPS watches) but the trail was very well marked with red-white tapes and shredded paper, one of the marshall said to me “you’re no 12”. That was too close to miss the podium, not knowing whether overall no 12 overall or men open, I ran harder and harder. My watch alerted me as I hit the road at kilometre 14, I pushed the pace slightly higher although I didn’t see the possibility of crossing the finishing line; we were still far from the town! Overtook two more runners and dropped them to gain a comfortable margin, I don’t wanna repeat any final sprint drama as my podium spot is not guaranteed! By that time, no more distance markers, but marshals and traffic control were sufficient.

The “last kilometre” felt like forever, I really didn’t know how far would this race go over distance so I stopped looking at my watch. When I entered the town and made my final turn, I tried to run faster but I had nothing left already. Crossed the finishing line in 1 hour 25 minutes, was given the 8th position Men Open podium tag. =) I saw so many runners wearing 2ndskin shirts, surely they love the material and I believe the brand is growing each passing days. It feels great to be able to meet my running friends, most of them are ultra runners already and I wonder when am I going to do my maiden 100km ultramarathon. As for this year, I aim to break my marathon PB by at least 10 minutes so all my races are projected towards my marathon goal.
Men Open Podium Ranking No8. 

To sum it all, this is a very well organized race. Karen Geh and the team did a great job promoting this event in facebook, thumbs up for all the volunteers and police/RELA for making this race safe. The selection of Taiping is an awesome venue, the fact that racer’s logistics were taken into consideration makes me more convinced to support this organizer’s event.

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