From left: Chua, me and Tan
(Thanks to CP Tan for 2nd and 3rd photos above)
(Thanks to CP Tan for 2nd and 3rd photos above)
The New Balance Pacesetters 30K 2010 at Padang Merbok was everything I had expected it to be—a very punishing 30km of hilly course, unfriendly to the knees and ankles, and a whole new experience for runners like me. Before the New Balance Pacesetters 30K, I've never run the hills more than 10K (which I did in the Mizuno Wave 2008).
After my disappointing run in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon last December, I did not plan to run races for a while. But I started training again quite soon after that, running a couple of long runs of over 20km over the weekends. I have also done pace runs to work on my speed. But the one thing I did not do was hill training. That's because the New Balance Pacesetters 30K wasn't even in my plan a few weeks ago!
What I really wanted to do was to improve my time in the coming Borneo International Marathon 2010 in April. I'm fairly certain that I can improve my time based solely on consistent training, but I wanted to make sure. So I decided to invest in a Polar Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Only trouble was that I had to fly to KL to buy it. And since April is not so far away, I really needed to buy the HRM as soon as I could. My next trip to KL would be in early March for Uncle Chong's Tiger Hunt, but that would be too close to April. So I decided that I really needed to go this month. But then, I thought I might as well make full use of this trip; I searched the net for any running event. And so I ended up asking my friend, KK Chai, to help me sign up for the New Balance Pacesetters 30K. Chai himself signed up for the 10K event, having recently done a half marathon in another event.
I was lucky to secure a ride to and from the venue with a friend, C P Tan, who's kind enough to go to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Tan is also into running and have been improving steadily. Within such a short period of slightly over a year, he has already conquered the full marathon in under 4 hours. And not surprisingly, he conquered the New Balance Pacesetters 30K in approximately 02:35, a time which I can only dream of ever achieving!
As I said, coming into the New Balance Pacesetters 30K, I had no hill training at all, and I was a bit worried about my knees and ankles. But the time limit for my category was 03:45. During the Borneo International Marathon 2 last October, I reached the 30km mark in about 03:08, so I thought 03:45 should be reasonably OK even if I had to struggle on the hills. But I was hoping to finish in 03:30. It's kinda too risky to run exactly 03:45.
Well, Tan arrived at the hotel around 4:30am and it took us only a few minutes to reach Padang Merbok. When we reached there, there were already so many people. Then we met Tan's friend, Chua, at the car park, and the three of us walked some distance to the starting line. It was a nice cold morning—one that's rightfully spent in a warm bed (smile).
The race started at 5:30am. Immediately after coming out of the start venue, we made our way up a slope, and I was reminded of the Mizuno Wave Run in 2008. Already I was feeling the adrenaline pumping. I felt strong then, but resisted the temptation to charge forward in the early stage.
About 3km into the run, I was still doing quite OK. The hills were punishing just as I had expected them to be, but so far I was coping well. I reached the first water station (about 5km) in about 27 minutes. Only plain water was available. I gulped down 2 cups and continued running. Immediately after that, we passed a very dark uphill path with lots of trees on both sides of the road. I could see quite clearly without my glasses, but still when it's that dark...
The water stations for the race were spaced about 5km apart. So I was very happy to arrive at a second water station about 13 minutes after the first one. But that happiness was short-lived because I was told that that water station was meant for the coming back route!
The actual second water station was a few more kilometres ahead, and by the time I reached it, my watch was showing 01:02. When running on a flat surface, I usually do a little under an hour for the first 10km, but considering the hilly course, I was quite pleased with the 01:02. So 20km more to go.
By the time I reached the third water station, my legs were already beginning to feel the exhaustion, especially my calves. Since only plain water was available so far, I decided to take a power gel that I had brought along. I was sweating profusely, and I knew that I had to replenish my salt level. Otherwise, I would've suffered cramps in my legs. I was also a bit worried because I knew that the so-called "double hill" was coming up around KM18-KM20. And when I finally got to that famous hill, it was indeed a torture. Not only was it steep, but the distance of the climb was amazing. I was so tired, I had to walk 3 times on that slope alone.
Somewhere on that killer slope was another water station, and for the first time we had 100PLUS. But I took another power gel anyway and chased it down with the 100PLUS. By then my watch was showing 02:06. Approximately 10km to go.
Beyond the 20km point, it was mainly mental strength that moved my legs. But I knew that I would finish within the time limit. All I had to do was to maintain my pace and hopefully not develop cramps in my legs. After that it was kinda quite amusing—I sort of lost track of time and distance. After making a few more ups and downs beyond that water station, I could recognise the road that was leading up to Padang Merbok. And that long stretch was a gentle down-going slope too. So I increased my pace...
Fast approaching the junction to Padang Merbok, I could hear the loud music at the finish line. And there were so many runners from the 20km category. I was so happy that I was finishing my race. But that happiness was short-lived. Upon reaching the junction to Padang Merbok, the 30K runners were separated from the 20K runners. The former had to go straight beyond Padang Merbok; whereas the latter turned into that junction to go directly to the finish line.
So I ran beyond Padang Merbok, and at the end of that road made a turn to the left. Then some more hills and turns, all together a few more kilometres before approaching Padang Merbok from the other side. That was such a torture I thought the race would never end!
I finally reached the finish line in about 03:10 and Tan was already there with his camera. It was a relief; I was so happy for exceeding well over my target. Later on, I met KK Chai amongst the crowd and spent a few minutes chatting with him. I'm so glad that I decided to join this race. At least I've added another medal to my collection! Oh! a finisher T-shirt too! I didn't think that I could conquer this hilly course—at least not within 03:10.
What's next? Well, my focus on the Borneo International Marathon 2010 in April is still intact—I'm still hoping to break the 04:30 barrier, but even if I can't achieve that, at least improve on the 04:40 I did last October. In the mean time, I'm toying with the idea of running a 21km in the Energizer Night Marathon in Cyberjaya (March). That one had to be 21km because I don't want to spoil my chance for a PB in the full marathon in April.
Now I've bought the Polar HRM, and assuming that I can figure out how to deal with all those preliminary settings etc (smile), I should continue with my training soon. Now if only Andrew Voon would quickly make the official announcement for the Borneo International Marathon 2010.