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!!
SeƱorita 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: