Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shape / Men's Health Night Run

After a very successful event last year, Shape and Men's Health Run is back again. This year the event was held at night at Putrajaya. This is my second run at night in Putrajaya, the first time was just a couple of months back when Pacesetters had a fellowship run there.

The response for this run was overwhelming judging from the tremendous increase in participation from 2,000 runners last year to 4,000 this year.
I registered for 11.5km instead of 7.7km which is supposed to be for the veterans. I am lousy with speed, thus running short distance is not for me.

It was hot and the air that night was extremely humid. The condition worsened when runners were instructed to gather inside the crowded gantry half an hour before the race start. So we were all couped up and trapped there. I could see sweat trickling down John's neck. He was already drenched, so was everyone else.

So soon as runners of the 11.5km category were released, everyone started running at full speed...while, I was still trying to search for some space to move away in order to inhale some oxygen. After that, I was struggling to find my rhythm. At the beginning, the running course was rather flat until I reached the slope at PICC (Putrajaya International Convention Center). It was here that I managed to pass a number of runners and regained a little confidence. The rest of the route was running the ups and downs of the roads of Putrajaya and crossing three beautiful bridges. But honestly, I haven't the faintest clue of where I was heading to cos' I was unfamiliar with the vicinity of Putrajaya. Furthermore, it was rather dark with only dim street lights.

Before I realized it, I was running with this Caucasian lady Carmen Robinson (the name I only got to know after the race). We were pacing each other - with Carmen taking the lead downhill while I took over on the uphill. Looking back, although it was quite a task trying to keep up the pace, it was fun and added some light to an otherwise dark and dull run. After the second bridge (Seri Saujana Bridge, if I'm not wrong), I was so surprised to meet who else but my dear husband..."Is it him?" Of course, I was the one who pinned his number on the belt. "What went wrong?" As soon as he sensed my arrival, he told me not to worry - just concentrate my race and keep the pace. I understood his message, obeyed and tried to break away from this Carmen lady with the assurance that John would assist me. But before he attempted anything, the lady eventually slowed down and gave up. I surged ahead, still trying my very best to run as fast as my legs could carry me.

Now with John pacing me from behind and then side by side, I managed to catch up with some more runners and with another 2km to go, we stumbled upon Ang Chee Kiang. When Ang saw us, he picked up momentum and ran even harder..Ha!Ha! As we were approaching 11km, John alerted me that we had only 500 metres and assured me that there were no lady runners behind me. Right after he said that, I asked him the silliest question if I could rest first and it became the joke of that night! What, with just 500m to go and you wanna rest - Yap Wai Mun must've run out of her mind!!! No, no rest for the wicked - I gave my last ditch effort and pushed towards the finishing line, holding hands with my pacer to secure 7th. position. At least, I made it below an hour.

The finale was exhausting but sweet. We were bursting with sweat and were drenched from head down! I remembered the Shape Run last year, I was so privileged I had a sub-3 marathoner senior veteran Lee Keng Boo to pace me so that I could secure a top ten placing. It was not planned for. This year, I was even more fortunate to have my own husband pacing me at halfway. This was not planned either.
There's no denying a good team permeate collective energy that engulfs one another where without exchanging a word, we inspire, encourage and cheer each other on. This contagious collective energy usually brings us together and forms a special vibe that's so raw, rare and pure. With this, I would like to thank John with all my heart for pacing with me; not only in a race but he paces me everyday in our journey in this lifetime.

Apart from a goody bag worth RM300, for 7th placing, I was awarded with heaps of goodies said to worth RM2,400.
1. Clark Hatch 3-month Titanium membership - RM500
2. 6-month subscription of Shape magazine - RM33
3. Origins products - RM1,000
4. Eclipse NatureCare Contoured Pillow - RM240
5. Nature Valley health bars - RM200
6. Sweet Sweat products - RM200
7. Clear Shampoo - RM100
8. Nuvafemme / Cartilamine supplements - RM150
9. Fruitz Organic Snacks
10. Tripo-X products
At least this time, runners were not being short changed.

P/S Picture courtesy of Lynn Guan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pattaya Marathon 2009

Prelude to Pattaya Marathon
It was during one of our Sunday morning runs that we were chatting about running overseas and the Pattaya Marathon came into the topic. After our run, we asked around to check if the other runners were interested and we got in 20 names almost immediately! We booked our flights on that very day and on 19th July 2009, 11 of us made it happened. As the days drew nearer, half of our group decided to cancel the trip due to the H1N1 and ultimately, left 11 of us : Gary, Uncle Hooi, Francis, Teresa, Agnes, Chooi Lin, Patrick, Peter, Lena, John and I. We travelled to Pattaya, ran, ate, enjoyed ourselves and came home in one piece!

Pre Race
We landed on Bangkok soil on Friday evening via Air Asia and immediately boarded the coach to Pattaya which took about 2 hours. Had dinner - checked into our resort and headed to a much needed massage. By the time we finished the massage session, it was close to midnight but everyone seemed happy!

The next day, we had a good breakfast spread provided by the resort. Sunshine Garden Resort is situated at a prime location at the corner of North Pattaya Circle. Therefore, it offers easy access to almost anywhere in Pattaya and especially for us, it is walking distance to the marathon venue.

After breakfast, half the group went to collect our bibs and race kits while the other half opted to take a cruise to Coral Island via speed boat. The sea was rough that morning making the ride extremely choppy. At one point, I thought my heart almost fell out!! Then my raging hormones became confused and started to play a joke on me at the wrong time! Yes, the untimely menstruating...how frustrating!
Anyway, activities in the island had not changed much compared to my trip 20 years ago - the usual parachuting, banana boat ride etc.

On arrival at the Pattaya beach, we moved on to the marathon site and joined our friends there. It was a joyful occassion when we met our bunch of friends from Singapore and we took a group photograph together. Although Thailand is just our friendly neighbour, it's always good to meet people you know in a foreign land.

The 'Pre Race' occassion was like a carnival with lots of happenings, sales and promotions. Rows and rows of stalls carrying various brands of sports gear from running to cycling or treking were on sale.

The Thais never let go the opportunity to promote futures races eg. Khon Kaen International Marathon (Jan 24, 2010). Pretty ladies were there to promote The Blackmores Sydney Marathon in September. A huge contrast to races in Malaysia unless it's organized by our Running Clubs. Otherwise in big events, most of the organizers either do it to make some fast bucks or for some political reasons. Sad..so sad!

After spending sometime at the site, we went for lunch. It was then, I was hit by a sudden nap attack! I slept in the bus on the way to lunch. I almost slept over lunch. I slept after lunch on the way to the so-called World's Largest Gem Factory. The excursion was quite impressive and educational where we were taken by tram into the tunnel where gems were found and made. Reminds me of Disney theme parks but then, I slept too. Later while the rest were still shopping at the factory, I dozed off on the couch and allowed my coffee to sit on the table.

The rest of the afternoon was siesta for me. Some of our friends followed the tour to Nong Nouch to observe some Thai cultural shows. In the evening, we were invited to a Pre Race Beach Party at the marathon site where they served all kinds of Thai delicacies and food. I could see many international runners especially the Kenyans carbo-loading with rice and meat.

I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Thai organizers. They really have deep respect for runners in any race and always feel that it is their responsibility to serve us and ensure that runners are well treated. The people actually cooked the food continuously at the site so that runners were never short of food and drinks. They took accountabilty so that every race is executed with reverence and passion. The volunteers were mainly school children but heck, they did a great job! In Thailand, John and I had participated in the Hatyai Nature Run, Songkla Marathon, Chiangmai Marathon and Ocean to Ocean Relay (from Songkla to Satun) and we could only applaude them!

Race Day
At about 3.30am, Patrick, Francis, Teresa, Chui Lin, Uncle Hooi, John and I started walking from Sunshine Garden Resort to the marathon site. The Full Marathon was to start at 4.30am. At the start line, we met up with Mohan, Terence and all our dear Singaporean friends and had another round of photo session. The one that stood out was my friend Jenap from Singapore. Jenap used to run with many colourful wigs and this time, she was dressed as CatWoman.
It was very humid that morning and so much so that we were already perspiring profusely at the start line. There were about 800-900 runners running the full marathon distance. The race course is a mixture of highways and beaches where rolling hills and strong breeze were the order of the day. It was exhausting and at 26km, I was losing form (perhaps due to heavy menstrual flow)...I wished I was just running a Half Marathon instead. After that, I started hydrating myself at every 2km to keep myself out of oxygen debt.

When I arrived at 35km, I was quite pleased that I had actually come this far - I bumped into Patrick and sensed that something had gone amiss. I asked if he was alright and he murmured that he has already 'knocked out'. I moved on and went ahead only to find a steep hill in front of me! By now, I was so physically spent but kept telling myself that with each step, I am actually getting closer to the finishing line. Yes but not until I had to tackle yet another hill and passed through that long stretch of beach where the winds kept hitting me from the sides.
Soon, I saw the 1km to go marker but that 1km always seemed like eternity! Then, I sighted Gary somewhere at 300metre taking photo and all I could offer was a faint smile. I just want to finish the race, that's all.
Eventually, I did. This time in 4hours 20 mins.
The Pattaya Marathon is not an international marathon but it provided ample evidence of the current healthy state of running in Thailand. The reason for their success is simple : the organizers put up the event with their hearts and with passion. Just as runners. A lot of runners ran with their hearts and minds too. I know I did.

Monday, July 13, 2009

No strings attached...

I must say that the Seremban Half Marathon is the only running race in Malaysia where the medal is the exact same medal that was given out to runners ever since the race was first organized, like two decades ago!! And it is the only medal (in my collection of medals) with no string attached. Boring!!
John and I had actually ban this race from our running agenda for a few years because it was so poorly organized. This year, we decided to give it another chance after hearing about some changes and improvements being made in the route design etc. However, we didn't set any expectation, in fact John reminded me to prepare for the worst and treat it as another 'training' run. So it came as a pleasant surprise for us when we experienced the following improvements :

New Route Design
At least 60 percent of the running course have changed...taking runners to some residential area which I enjoyed most because it's traffic free. The race route is like a roller coaster - hills after hills, which is fine for me.
The other 40 percent of the running course is back to running with the traffic and there were parts where we still had to run side by side with a lorry or a car and inhaled nothing but carbon monoxide!!

Adequate water/isotonic stations and sponging stations
Those days there was only 1 miserable water station at 11km and along the road, hawkers were selling drinking water @ RM1. Today, we had 4 refreshment stations and still plenty of it after the finishing race.

Speedy prize money collection
There is no need to wait for speeches after speeches. There is no need to wait for anouncements. There is no need to line up (like stupid FTAAA always made winners do so) to the podium. We went straight to an officer in charge of our category, present our ID and running bib for checking and that was it. Fast...no time wasted at all...I like this very much.

Fuss-free lucky draw
Yes, I've got coupon which said that I won a mystery gift. With that, I went to the Lucky Draw booth and draw my prize. The prize was half a dozen cans of 100 Plus and a Hotlink pack. Normally, a lot of time were wasted in getting a VIP to draw the lucky number and then waiting for the numbers to be called (not once but several times over), then waiting for the lucky person to check his/her number and then waiting for the person to slowly move to collect his/her prize. And it can go on and on until thy kingdom come...

Overall it was pleasant morning for me. The weather was superb - cooling and breezy. I enjoyed running the rolling hills. I won some prize money and received a small lucky draw without wasting any time waiting. I had a good breakfast with John, Lok and Agnes and headed home, happy!