Wednesday, May 29, 2013

corriendo madrid: part 2 | "hola, hills!!!

Oh, those hills of beautiful Madrid. 

There were quite a few of them in the first half of the 2013 Rock 'n' Roll Madrid Marathon. From flagoff, it was up and down and up again and down again for us. Since these were in the earlier KM’s, I didn’t really mind going up but my problematic right ankle gave way little by little while running down the steep hills.  

Thankfully, towards the middle of the marathon our route became somewhat flat, and this allowed me to bask in the glorious splendour that is Madrid better. It was also around here when I started feeling the love from the Madrileños who came out on that chilly Spring morning to give us constant screams of "¡Animo!" and "¡Venga, venga!" Gotta love the Spanish  :)

All smiles at the Palacio Real de Madrid

No peace signs from me this time. Rock 'n' roll, bebeh!

And then, at KM 25 the crowd thinned out as we approached Casa De Campo. The largest urban park in the city, it was formerly a royal hunting estate and, as I found out the hard way, was basically a huge hill. Those seven-or-so kilometres were absolutely mental; so lonely and never-ending. It was at this juncture when my glutes and lower back started screaming. Great, I thought, just what I needed on top of a wonky right ankle!

By this time, I started taking more breaks for stretching and walking than I’d planned. When we finally exited the park, the cheer squads started to reappear and I got a second wind of energy. I remember thinking that I was still on course for a comfortable sub-5 finish, as my timing at 35K was faster than my New York City Marathon timing back in 2011 (4hrs 06mins vs 4hrs 09mins) where I clocked in my very first sub-5.

So, I tried pushing aside all the pain, fatigue and negative thoughts in my head and just kept going. I was hi-fiveing kids in the streets, posing for the cameras, running with a smile on my face… until I approached KM 37.

Tackling one of the many hills of Madrid

Now, I will not lie: I did do some research on the Madrid route and thus was aware of the uphill climb in the final miles. What I was totally unprepared for, however, was how loooooong those last 6K’s felt at this stage of the race. I mean, joder, it was absolutamente loco! We were forced to go up, up and up, and just when I thought it was over, I turned a corner and it’s more uphill. We’re talking about climbing 100 metres of elevations at KM’s 35 to 42 of a full marathon here. I swear whoever designed this course is a sadist!  =P

Anyway, I tried to run (jog) as much as I could but got demotivated as more and more runners started walking around me. Cold, wet, tired and mentally drained, I was cursing to myself and at one point was even on the verge of tears. 

While drowning in self-pity, suddenly I saw a familiar white top and blue skirt about 300m in front of me. Oh my gosh, it’s Nana! You can’t imagine how happy I was to have spotted her! Forced myself to pick up my pace so that I could catch up with her near the 40K mark. Broken (motivation down the drain) and bruised (me with my diva right ankle, Nana with the stress fracture that she picked up a week before the marathon), we decided to just tread on slowly. 

As we entered the Buen Retiro park, Nana cued for us to run the last few hundred metres towards the finishing gantry. I almost couldn’t make it, for serious, because both my calves were so cramped up that each step I ran made it feel like I was going to fall flat on my face. 

Nonetheless, I pushed myself as hard as I could and when I got my Jalur Gemilang out, a little surge of energy—whatever little I had left—came over me and helped me to finish the race by running instead of hobbling. With a smile on my face to boot  ;)

We started together, and for the first time ever we finished a Full Marathon together  :) 

Just when we thought the drama was over, Nana and I approached the medal area only to be given ones meant for the 10K finishers. Eh? They. Ran. Out. Of. 42K. Medals. WHAT. Didn’t we all pay in advance and hence they’d know exactly how many runners to cater to? ¡Qué tontería! (Nivin informed us later that she was handed a 21K medal after completing her 10K. Disorganised much?)

As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, we weren’t given anything to keep ourselves warm after finishing. Mind you, it was still drizzling and the wind was still blowing hard and we still had plenty of walking to do to take official photos, get refreshments, go to bag pick-up…

And that, ladies and gents, took the cake. The bagdrop, which caused an incredulous amount of drama before flagoff, ended up also giving us grievances after running 42+ kilometres. It took the organisers ten minutes to locate my bag, and another fifteen to find Nana’s! And all the while, we were freezing our behinds off; poor Nana had to be kept warm with my trackbottoms and her Malaysian flag only. Seriously!

Since we’re on the topic, I have two more disapprovals of the folks from the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, the biggest running circuit in the world. Numero uno: toilets were way lacking. And numero dos: the major no-no, to me, was the fact that they gave out 600ml bottles at the hydration stations along the course. Not only was it a huge waste as most runners only took a few sips before chucking the drinks, it was also dangerous as bottles were everywhere and someone could have seriously injured themselves by stepping on one. 

I read a review some time ago by a local Madrileño which said 
the elevation profile provided by the organizers have been played down 
to attract tourists. The bottom chart was extracted from my Garmin. 
The difference is just downright insane. ¡JODER!

I did, however, love the support crew on rollerblades offering sprays and vaselina (vaseline) throughout the route. They made me perasan during the first few KM’s because I thought they were saying “¡Va Selina!” which means “Go, Selina!” in Spanish. Hahaha!

All in all, I’m glad that I got through my seventh Full Marathon in a considerably okay timing of 5hrs 09mins, crazy hills and all. And, even though it was the most challenging course out of all my marathons to date, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity to run the streets of beautiful Madrid for the world. 

Because if I did give it a miss, then I would not have experienced the other awesome adventures that came with this trip… But that is a whole other story.

My 7th Full Marathon done & dusted

Señorita G & the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Watch out for my posting on the uh-maze-balls football adventures
thanks to me signing up for this year's Madrid Marathon  ;)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

corriendo madrid: part 1 | "¡hola madrid!"

Chances are you already know that I am part of the Kuala Lumpur running gang known as The G’s. Within this tight-knit group each of us has our own unique nicknames, and mine is Señorita G because I speak Spanish and love all things español.

So, it was just a matter of time before I started dreaming of conquering the streets of Spain in my running shoes. Since I’d already run my very first overseas race in the trails of Barcelona back in 2011, I thought why not head to the Spanish capital for my first 42.2K in Europe? And the fact that the Madrid Marathon became a part of the funky Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series last year only fueled my desire further. 

I signed up back in December before embarking on a full-on 18-week marathon training. Besides a short nine-day ban from running by my sports doctor no thanks to a little sprain to my already problematic ankle, things went rather smoothly. I even ran a strong Half Marathon three weeks before Madrid Marathon 2013 and got a PB!

Note that I said “rather” smoothly, because ten days before the marathon my ankle started acting up a little. But not enough to deter me from running my race.

Some of the stuff in the racepack
Snuck in a couple of headstands in the middle of my solo 
acclimatisation run through the gorgeous Parque Juan Carlos I


On race day, I made plans to meet my fellow G sisters, Nana and Shanaz, as well as the latter’s cousin, Nivin, near their hotel so that we could walk to the start line together. 

We made our way to the bagdrop area and queued up. After crawling slowly for a while, the line became a complete standstill. Irritated and cold (the weather at this time was 3 degress Celcius), racers all around us started getting aggressive and screamed out their discontenments towards the organisers. Can’t blame them—it took the organisers so long to collect our bags that a lot of us actually missed the flagoff! It was a royal mess, and the main reason is having all the three categories (10K, 42K and the brand-new 21K category) starting at the same place and time but not allocating separate bagdrop areas for each.

Anyway, once that was settled, us four chicas gave each other good-luck hugs and off we went. I started the race with Nana, and we chit-chatted for a kilometre or two before she went on ahead.

The calm before the storm...
(photo courtesy of Shanaz)

Madrid, as you can imagine, is a charming city and the urban marathon took us runners on a journey through the breathtaking autumn scenery and majestic landmarks that the city prides itself on. Being a football fanatic, I was especially excited to pass by the homes of their two world-famous football teams; we had Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Atletico Madrid’s Estadio Vicente Calderon as our views at KM’s 3 and 34 respectively. How awesome is that!

But, as beautiful as it was this year’s Madrid Marathon presented many challenges. Firstly, parts of the route had us run on cobblestone streets—these were pretty to the eyes but pretty tough on the feet! Also, being the highest capital in Europe (Madrid sits at 667m / 2,188ft above sea level) I found it a little hard to regulate my breath in the beginning. 

It also did not help that the weather was very unkind to us that day. Even though set on the last Sunday in April, when typically the average temperature in the late morning/early afternoon is between 15 to 20 degrees, what we got instead was a super-chilly 3 to 6 degrees throughout our race. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to endure sporadic drizzles, and worse still, were forced to battle insanely strong winds that were blowing at 29km/h! As a comparison, the average speed at the airport of the world’s wind capital Wellington is also 29km/h, while the windy city Chicago’s is 18km/hr. 

The strong winds made it really tough to run on flat ground, but joder how they kept pushing me back while trying to tackle the uphills.


Coming up:

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

running the world 2012

Last year, I was blessed enough to continue my quest of traveling the globe and conquering the streets of different continents in my running shoes. 2012 saw me landing yet again in one of my favourite places in the world, Vancouver, as well as a brand-new Canadian city, Calgary. Last but definitely not least, I returned to the Land Down Under after a 12-year hiatus to run my sixth Full Marathon in beautiful Melbourne. I am blessed, alhamdulillah  :)

What joy to be back at the place where I did my first-ever non-stop 10K training run waaay back in December 2009! And to have pushed my second sister to clock in her very first 10K ever at the very same place... It's just priceless.

My second sister's first run at the gorgeous Seawall

The Inukshuk and I

The trails of Stanley Park were just too beautiful. And to have shared the moment with two of my sisters was just priceless.

So happy to be hitting the trails of Stanley Park! 
My third sister's first 5K run

My 5th Full Marathon in one of my favourite cities in the whole world! The place is so breathtaking that Forbes listed the BMO Vancouver Marathon as one of the top 10 marathons worth traveling for this year! And why not? The views of the spanking-new 2012 course were magnificent. From gorgeous tree-lined neighbourhoods of Cambie and West 49 (imagine running underneath leaves of green and deep red), to the forest of Pacific Spirit Park (even spotted a raccoon!), and finally a stunning cityscape with a backdrop of majestic mountains and immensely remarkable ocean view along the Stanley Park Seawall (although, having to run against the strong sea breeze from KM 31 to 38 was really challenging!). Words can't even describe how breathtaking it was! I really regretted not having a camera with me, for serious.

So, how insane is it that I actually made a friend while walking
to the starting line all because we wore the same Running Skirt?  ;)

Lions Gate Bridge. KM 36.


A solo run along the picturesque Bow River, which flows from Calgary all the way to the Canadian Rockies. The latter was why I flew here in the first place: a two-day train ride on the Rocky Mountaineer all the way back to Vancouver to witness breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, clear rivers, prairies, deserts, and wildlife in their natural habitats.

Hello from sunny Calgary  :)

I was so fixated by the red Peace Bridge! 

Acclimatization run before the Melbourne Marathon! Koonung Creek Trail was pretty and serene, and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the occasional visitor of the place, the Little Pied Cormorant.

Mini, my Melbourne Marathon running buddy

My acclimatization run before the Melbourne Marathon

An unexpected Personal Best at an unbelievably scenic race! Despite it being my most challenging marathon campaign as yet no thanks to a nasty thigh injury which sidelined me from running for three weeks, I managed to achieve a 3-in-1 PB fest for my 6th Full Marathon: 4hrs 49mins for Full Marathon, 3hrs 22mins for 30K and 2hrs 16mins for 21.1K. There's just something magical about Melbourne.

The camwhoring moment I'd been waiting for all morning!
It's Flinders Street station, my favourite building in Melbourne
Approaching the finishing gantry with the Jalur Gemilang flying high above me  :)

Ecstatic to complete my 6th full marathon in a personal best time of 4hrs 49mins. Alhamdulillah :) 

Click here to see my whole 2012 journey in pictures. Here's to more running adventures in 2013, insya'Allah  ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

my "a" race for 2012: part 2 | "melbourne memoirs"

We were blessed with beautiful, near-perfect weather that Spring day, a stark contrast to the wet and dreary condish that hit the city in the last few days leading up to the Medibank Melbourne Marathon 2012. The temperature during my race was an average of 16-ish degrees with the sun shining on us all the way through.

Mini and I made our way together down Batman Avenue, right near the Rod Laver Arena (note to self: I gotta gotta gotta return one day for the Australian Open.). We started off slow, partly because we wanted to take our time with the initial warm-up steps and partly because our Malaysian bodies were still a tad frozen from the cold 3 degrees at flagoff! Anyway, after about 1K I told Mini to go on ahead because I knew that with her current fitness level she could maintain a pace fast enough for a sub-4:30 finish.

I, on the other hand, had promised myself to take it easy. Considering the two-week hiatus from running no thanks to a nasty thigh injury—which meant my longest training run for this was just a 22K—as well as the flu bug I picked up just 50 hours before flagoff, I refused to pressure myself too much. Kept repeating in my head that all I wanted was to finish this in good health and so I depended more on feeling rather than my Garmin.

After the first 5K, I felt surprisingly relaxed. Glanced down at my watch and was a little shocked at my paceonly aimed to run at 6:45mpk but found that I’d been running at 6:20mpk! Had to keep on slowing down whenever I peeked at my watch after that, because I knew that going too fast in the first half will definitely burn me out in the later stages. 

The cheer squads in Melbourne were nothing short of amazing.
These signs were my favourite  ;)  BTW, some dude got so excited 
that while trying to hi-five one of these ladies, he actually
backfisted my chest! Ouch. (pic courtesy of

My strategy for the whole race was to take it 5K at a time in no more than 35 minutes each chunk—just like I did at NYC Marathon 2011 in  November. And, remembering my experince at Vancouver Marathon in May, I knew that I had to run all the way for at least 15K (save at the water stations every 3 klicks) before moving on to my run/walk combo so as to not mess up my rhythm.

By the time I reached KM 15, my legs still felt good so I decided to just continue running non-stop until at least the halfway point. It was also at about this juncture when I realised that if I maintained whatever I was doing, I could clock in a Halfie PB. Focused my energy towards this goal and went for it without speeding up too much. Happy to hit 21.1K at 2:16:36—3.5 minutes faster than my previous PB!  :)  

The halfway mark was also the point where I remember feeling absolutely serene with my surroundings. Beaconsfiled Parade/Ormond Esplanade/Marine Parade/Jacka Blvd by the beach was truly a gorgeous setting, one that we were lucky to tread for a whole 15 klicks or so. There was just something about that place that kept my body going while allowing my mind to be totally at ease.

Still smiling at the 20K mark  =D

As I approached St Kilda Marina, I was greeted by a rare sight, one that’s definitely a first for me for any of the races that I’ve taken part in. Imagine seeing bright bursts of colours moving wildly in the sky above you courtesy of tandem skydivers. SUPER COOL STUFF. This vision brought me back to my own memories of skydiving in California and British Columbia four years ago, and somehow gave me a surge of brand-new energy at KM 24 and for that I must say a big, fat thanks to Skydive The Beach Melbourne. 

By the time I hit KM 26 (yup, totally surprised myself by running non-stop for this long—9km more than NYC’11!), I told myself that I’d better start with my run/walk strategy before my legs got too fatigued. Maintained a 900m/100m run/walk combo up to KM 32 when my legs and lower back started feeling tired, after which I changed this to 850m/150m combo. 

Passed by two inspirational golden-aged gentlemen at different times
in the last 10K, and the sight of the both of them journeying on slowly to conquer
the grueling 42.2K distance helped to eradicate those evil negative voices that 

wanted me to just stop or slack off—if they can do this, so can I!

When the going got tough after KM 34, I focused on getting from one distance marker to another, speeding up in the last 60m or so of every KM before taking walk breaks. The good news is that I did not hit The Wall at all, and I was also especially stoked that my left thigh, the thing that sidelined my running for three weeks in August, was absolutely pain-free! 

By the time we got to the pretty Royal Botanic Gardens, however, my inner left ankle started giving me problems (note: it was the most sore amongst all the post-race pains with my lower back being a close second), along with my left gluteus minimus/medius, and left calf. Learning from experience, I sacrificed some time throughout the final 10K’s by stopping every 2K or so to stretch all these areas out because I knew that if I didn’t do this, I might cramp up just like I did during the last mile of Vancouver’12. 

The cruel elevations at KM 36 and again at KM 39 forced me to take longer walk breaks but upon seeing the “40 KM” marker, I switched gear and started speeding up steadily. Once I hit Flinders Street for the second time that day, though, I slowed down a little right near my favourite Melbourne landmark, the Flinders Street Station, as I knew there was a priceless camwhoring opportunity here, hehe. 

The camwhoring moment I'd been waiting for all morning  =P

After that, it was serious business all the way as I sped down Wellington Parade South, Jolimont Road, and Brunton Avenue. With the Melbourne Cricket Ground aka The 'G right in front of me, I dug out my Jalur Gemilang and held it tight as I sprinted down the running track on the historic cricket ground. 

As I crossed the finishing gantry with the Malaysian flag flying high above me, I couldn’t help feeling astounded at the timing shown on my Garmin. Four hours and forty-nine minutes plus change. I actually finished my Full Marathon #6—the most challenging marathon campaign for me as yet—almost nine whole minutes faster than NYC’11! 

An unexpected PB at an unbelievably picturesque race. It’s gonna be pretty hard to top this in 2013, but who knows what the future will bring  ;)  

Finishing off the last few steps of my sixth Full Marathon at the
Melbourne Cricket Ground aka The 'G. Home to both the 1956 Summer Olympics
and the 2006 Commonwealth Games, it is the tenth largest stadium
in the world, the largest in Australia as well as the largest stadium for playing 

cricket. To complete a race at such an iconic landmark is truly surreal.



Thank you to my mates who believed in me and helped me through the tough times back in August, as well as those who left sweet supporting messages before my Melbourne Marathon. If any of you are contemplating this race in the future, I’d say stop thinking and start planning! Sure, there were some shortcomings (eg cups ran out at the later stages of the race, forcing people to catch water by cupping their hands together) but overall you will not be disappointed, I promise  :)

Also, I must give major snaps to the good ol’ treadmill. I know I have dissed you in the past, but now I know and believe in the power of you  =P

Last but not least, I must give the highest praise to The Almighty for being with me every step of the way throughout my journey to Melbourne. I’m extremely thankful that I chose the following mantras on that 14th October morning: repeats of  "Bismillahirrahmanirrahim" and "Allahu Akbar" to the beat of my footsteps

1Malaysia 3PB's  :)
Me with Alexis & Mini, the awesome 4:15 ladies
Mini, Azhar & I. We friggin' did it!
I had no doubt that the both of you would
absolutely smash this one!!
Señorita G & The 'G

my "a" race for 2012: part 1 | “pre-marathon blues”

When I toyed with the idea of running Melbourne back in June, honestly it stemmed from the slight bummerama aftertaste from missing my second sweet n’ sublime sub-5 finish by a mere, cruel 29 seconds at the immensely gorgeous Vancouver Marathon in May.

Started training using a brand-new 18-week programme in late June, which had me doing 4 runs—Tuesday intervals, Thursday tempos, and a mix of a shorter LSD plus a longer one on Saturday and Sunday—and 2 CrossFit sessions weekly with only one day of rest on Wednesdays.

This may sound like a LOT on paper, but two weeks into it I got into the groove and really enjoyed training even though some days felt like I was dragging a dead body along in my running gear.

Anyway, the weekend before Ramadhan I did a hilly 12K night race with a fever in my system and whaddya know… This stressed my muscles so much that I somehow picked up an injury on my upper left leg.

That's what my weekly running log looked likeabsolutely zero runs from 1st to 24th August

My monthly totals.
I logged 147K in September (not visible in this shot) + 185K in October 2011,
the two months leading up to NYC'11 in November.
And earlier this year, I did 107K in March + 185K in April,
the two months leading up to Vancouver'12 in May.
A very sad contrast to August and September this year, before Melbourne'12 in October.

Rested for three days before cramming three runs in three days after that, my version of a big bang before welcoming the first day of the fasting month. The pain in my adductor and hamstring had, by this time, moved to my left quads and I decided to rest further.

But us runners can never be held down, not even with an injury. I continued my training the following week, just running through the pain. This was a-okay at first, but after two weeks the soreness had intensified and my physio demanded me to cease my running.

What was supposed to be a week-long rest eventually became a three-week hiatus just two months before the marathon and I was crushed. Bummerama slowly crept back into my mental, and my morale hit rock bottom.

There goes my dream of a 4:30-ish finish.

Heck, I wasn’t even sure that I could even complete the whole 26.2 miles.

At this point, I was cursing at myself for signing up.


It was the eve of the Melbourne Marathon. As I gathered all my chosen ammunitions for the impending “battle” the following day, I thought to myself, “What the heck am I doing? My head is heavy, my nose is runny, my body temperature is higher than normal.

Gee, as if the three-week absence from running in August wasn’t challenge enough. Hmm, let’s bring along the spare 21K bib that I have… just in case.”

Still can't believe I managed to brainwash Azhar aka Superhuman to do
an on-the-spot registration for the Full Marathon during racepack collection  ;)

My acclimatisation run in Melbourne at the gorgeous
Koonung Creek Trail. Little did I know that I was gonna pick up 

flu bug that night, just 50 hours before flagoff  :/

After everything was all packed, I downed some flu meds with Berocca and went to bed. Not unlike other nights before a race, I could not get a decent shut-eye and the next thing I knew, it was time to get up.

It was a chilly morning, and slight drizzles greeted us outside the door. Thankfully, the sky cleared up once we approached the Melbourne Cricket Ground aka The ‘G, the location of bag dropoff and, more importantly, our finishing gantry.

I felt surprisingly calm that morning, and tried my best to reassure Mini that she’d do alright in her very first cold-weather race. Made sure I went to the loo en route to the starting line—always good to get this out of the way before flagoff. While waiting for the start I did my stretches thoroughly from head to toe, making sure that all the muscles in my body were thoroughly warmed up; something I had never done properly in my last five Marathons.

Before we knew it, “Advance Australia Fair” was being sung and off we went shortly after, along with about 7,000 other 42K contenders (turns out that Mini and I were part of history; with 6,218 finishers, the 2012 Medibank Melbourne Marathon is the largest in Australia to date!)


Coming up: