Saturday, February 23, 2008

I ran under the sea i.e Hong Kong Marathon 2008

Few days before the event

This was the conversation ( or something like that) I had with Lai,Kit and others:

Lai, Kit and others: Kenny ,I’m sure you will P.R at Hong Kong Marathon

Me : I don’t knowlah , I haven’t been running 30km since GE 30 km race in Jan 20 lah.

Lai,Kit and others : I am confident you can .

Me : I’ll just try my bestlah , furthermore the route at HK is quite hilly I heard.

Lai, Kit and others : Yes , especially towards the end , the tunnel slopes are a killer .

Me : Then probably its just a practise run for me whereby my priority will be just to finish the race and then concentrate for KLIM .

Lai, Kit and others : Wow , then its going to be an expensive practise run for you .

Me : Yalor ,most probably for the experience and to tour HK .

---End of conversation ---

I was not confident enough because even 3 weeks before this event ,I was getting some sort of pain behind the knees and some other muscle aches .In fact , there was once during the long run to Hartamas with Choi that I had to stop to ice my leg before continuing on .

Never run in cold weather before .

I have never run in cold weather before . Hong Kong at this time of the year is having winter and news reports states that it is HK’s coldest in 40 years. It has been averaging between 10-13 degrees celcius. The closest I have run in cold weather was when having a leisure trainning session in Cameron and that was also manageble at 18 Celcius degrees.

Nevertheless , I also didn’t know what to wear in cold weather . So 2 to 3 days before leaving for H K , I turned on the CCTV channel in Astro and this time really observed what people were wearing in cold weather .I also checked in the Internet for past HK marathon participants to see what they were wearing . I noticed that most looked like they were wearing an extra shirt beneath their current shirt .

Saturday :

On Saturday , the day before the Marathon , I had a slow jog in the morning. I wore 2 T-shirts and it was manageble .It was just nice . From then on , I decided that I’ll be wearing 2 Nike Dri-fit shirts for the race .

After that went to collect my bibs at Causeway Bay , at Victoria Park which is also the finishing point . Everything was very organised . The place was huge. I think it was too huge for collection of bibs but just nice for the finishing of 49000 people !!

Some medic researchers were randomly recruiting people to participate in their research on hydration and sodium levels in a marathoner during and after the race and they asked me to participate in this study and I agreed . There was no harm because after the marathon , they will be taking my blood sample to analyse and will then email me the results on the optimum intake of sports drinks I should take during a marathon .

Marathon day, before the race :

I know that I had to be there by 745 am for the start and I also wanted to take out my track top and track bottom only 10 min before the start and leave it to the baggage collection truck which will then drive it to the finishing point . I was not not very sure how to get to the spot with my limited Cantonese .But I knew I have to take the 1st 6am bus from where I was staying to one place and then take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui at the starting point . I was among the first at the bus stop and the bus was not moving yet . It was waiting for 6am . As I got into the bus , lo and behold I saw another marathoner guy as he was also holding the same baggage deposit bag . I said that I’m also going to the Marathon but not sure how to get there . I asked him if I could follow him . That was all in my broken Cantonese and he understood but started speaking to me in Hongky English. It was a great thing that God send him so that it lessened my anxiety . He was helpful all the way and we went together to take out the track suits and deposit the bags . But then I felt it was still way to early ( 45 min before Marathon ) but no choice since I was following him . So we just jogged among the crowd for awhile and suddenly he disappeared .

I then went to the loo . ( still 45 min before the race) . There were many portable loos and very short ques of 2 to 3 people at each loo . After that I found a spot to sit down and waited till the half marathoners started the race .At 15 min before the race , it was the Marathoners turn to go to starting point . The sign says its 13 degrees Celcius . I started onto the road with the rest and suddenly he amazingly appeared again . I told him I thought I would never catch him again in this big crowd of 6000 marathoners . Amazing !!

Race begans , pee story .

As the race began , I suddenly felt the urge to pee but ignored it as I thought I can just join the rest of the guys to pee at any particular area . But then on 2nd thought , this is Hong Kong , what is the culture here ? Is it the same like S’pore Marathon where the Men Marathoners also peed in a particular spot .? After running slowly though the huge throng of people for about 2 km , I noticed a public loo and a few men going for pee and I went in and did the pee . After that, I just continued running and at the 4 km mark and still within the city , there were some trees and I noticed a number of men peeing . I didn’t pee because I did it already but at least I know that in the marathon in Hong Kong , its in the culture to pee . Do take note , in S’pore it was darker , this is really in broad daylight !

Half way , cold hands !

After going through the underground undersea tunnel of about 6 km, we came to the bridge that connects the Island . Right now the race is something like running through Smart Tunnel and then arriving at Penang Bridge to continue the run .. Here the wind blows hard and it is quite cold . My hands were freezing . I’m sure others felt the same . Those wearing gloves should be OK . After coming thought the U turn and back to the bridge , I saw a pair of gloves on the road and thought of taking it to wear but had second thoughts on who the wearer was and the germs inside it, so I didn’t take it . Later on when we made another U-turn somewhere , I glanced at the opposite direction and notice that the glove wasn’t there any more. Someone didn’t have second thought and actually took it to wear !

30 mark surprise !

I was going at a decent speed .There was no race plan . Just to go at my own comfortable speed but also to follow whoever is at my speed .The course is quite challenging on the highway where the gradients are gradually going just a little bit upward . It was easy to go downhill just a little bit faster as my legs were numb and cold and I didn’t know if it was aching or not because of this numbness .I was also praying to God that my muscle pains especially at the back of the knees don’t act up. It didn’t .

At the 30 km mark , I saw my time was 2:35 , my eyes almost popped out because I didn’t expect to be going this fast because although I had achieve this timing before , it was in last year’s GE 30 km race and whereas this year my finishing timing for GE 30 km was about 2:52
( caused by not having enough sleep and lethargy) and my S’pore Marathon split time at the 30 km mark was 2:45 .

Run at tunnel

I quickly did some mental calculations and calculated that I could beat my P.R of 3:52 at S’pore if I maintained at this pace and just slowed a bit at the last 5 km .We then headed for the 6km tunnel again and there was this fast guy who came from behind . The tunnel being flat helped me to run faster and matched his pace . It was about 4min 30 sec per km pace I believed because I felt it was fairly faster than usual whereas before this I was going at about averaging 5 min 9 sec per km pace .

Out of tunnel , 6km more to go , problems arise

At this point , my legs were getting tired and the highway slopes were getting undulating . At the same time , the cold seem to numb the aches but I have sort of slowed down . Cramps were also setting into the calf and at 1 point I had to stop for awhile to stretch the calf . Further troubles brew when I could feel bad chaffing at my legs . I tried to moist it but it just didn’t work because the wind keep blowing and there is just no sweat or lubricant . The legs are just dry all the way , its not like running in KL or S’pore where we are constantly sweating thus avoiding chaffing . Lesson to learn here : Use Vaseline in this kind of weather next time .

Last 2 to 3 km towards the ending

I have slowed down significantly . The legs just couldn’t move fast . I suppose I have hit the wall at this point . In fact , at the last km where there is a big crowd cheering us on ,I just can’t be motivated by the crowd anymore and I’m just going at my pace . A number of runners overtook me . Usually my last km will be a very fast motivated finish but this time as I reach the finish line ,its very slow .

At last I reach the finish line in a time of 3:41:32, position 201 over 1425 in my category and over 6000 + marathoners . A new P.R for me beating my previous time of 3:52:09 @ S’pore 2007 by about 10 min ! The predictions of my friends came true .I surprised myself but I suppose it must have been the cold that helped us not to be so tired during the run .

Lessons learnt when running in this kind of climate next time :

1.Bring along gloves .

2.I found out if you want free T-Shirts , go for the Half Marathon ( which has even more participants) because a lot of people who were wearing 2 to 3 layers threw away the New Balance Dri-Fit T-Shirt which was part of the items in the goody bags and some Giordano can also be found along the road .

3. Use vaseline on your legs .

Split times :

1st 10 km 54:04 (5 min 24 sec per km pace)

2nd 10km 50:47 ( 5 min 04 sec per km pace)

3rd 10km 50:04 ( 5 min per km pace)

Next 11 km : 1:00:49 ( 5 min 31 sec per km pace)

Last 1 km ( 5 min 48 sec per km pace)