Somehow you’d know that there would be some sort of kok up when the speling of a kompani is speled as konsortium bas ekspres. For the uninitiated, it is actually the bahasa melayu translation for the Consortium Bus Express. Anyway this blog entry is being written on CW’s mac laptop on the way home from KL because my ‘on-board personal entertainment system’ is not working and I’m nursing a very bad case of ITB (which I’ll talk about later)
Karbo-Loading & Race Kit Kollection
CW, SK, JP, RO and I arrived in Kuala Lumpur the day before the race. Yes, we took the Konsortium Bas Ekspres from Singapore to KL. They stayed at the Mandarin Oriental while I stayed with FT (who came on an earlier coach) at the Swiss Garden Hotel.
I slept about 80% of the way from Singapore to KL as I had very little sleep the night before leaving for Malaysia. I had intended to sleep the moment I checked into the hotel but went against the idea, as I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I had taken an extended afternoon nap.
Most of the Trifam contingent met up during the race kit collection at Wisma OCM. I think it’s meant to be an indoor sports hall with sparse seating and 3 or 4 badminton courts. Whatever it is, it was a huge contrast to what Singapore had in last year’s marathon expo. Race kit collection at the OCM reminded me of my secondary school days when we sat for our language aural examinations. Anyway I found out that the sgrunners had already collected my race bib and T-shirt (which wasn’t impressive). We later went out for a ‘carbo-loading’ dinner at the KLCC. I had a serving of fettucini carbonara, shared a fish & chips with CW, and a blended fruit juice as dessert.
I managed to sleep at midnight for a 0445hr wake-up call.
Dataran Merdeka + Urban Setting + Roadkill: The Race
FT and I were doing the half marathon (that’s 21.1km) so we got up at 0445 hrs to prep up. Breakfast was basically pastry from Breadtalk, tea, and lots of hydration between waiting for each other to use the toilet (read: shit). We walked to the race site at the Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square). It’s a beautiful and historic venue to hold any large-scale event. I must say that I was very intrigued with the architecture and the atmosphere of the place. Semangat. Spirit. Somehow I felt it…… until a booming voice came over the PA system, “Okay half marathon runners, you all must get ready in the holding area… blah blah blah” Basically it reminded me of (again) my secondary school morning assemblies.
I had my last minute pre-race bladder release routine and the race began at 0630hrs. With drums giving the upbeat rhythm of pace, the crowd of half marathons ran into the break of dawn.
Some parts of the course were very dark – no streetlights, but only traces of luminescence from runners’ reflective shoes and vests. The course had plenty of ascends up highway ramps and cambering at the banks of highway entrances and exits. As a traffic engineer, I must say that KL roads are designed to satisfactory standards (I say designed, not planned). Even the road tapers and side gradients are okay. You see, I’m quite lucky to be a traffic engineer who is able to appreciate such details of roads and streets. It really does take out the boredom of a long and arduous run. Then again, not many people actually run or enjoy the wonderful art of road design… J
I tried my best to keep to the asphalt instead of concreted roads so that impact is reduced on the knees. I also tried to keep to the top of slope so that the effects of cambering are minimal. But it’s really not too easy to do that in the case of KL highways, and I shan’t go into design details here.
It was mostly highway for about the first 15 km of the race. The remainder was on city streets – most were tarred but some stretches were flat-cobbled. We had to pass through some traffic junctions with errant drivers and impatient motorcyclists. Some didn’t take the traffic warden’s heed to yield to marathoners.
The final 2km was looping deceivingly around a portion of the city that was near to the Dataran (end-point). A peek of the end point teased the runners, as they had to loop around another 1.5km to finish the race. Along the loop, I counted 3 roadkills of rats. Eeks. And to think that there were crazy barefoot marathoners who were running in this race as well. Fresh roadkill, and I thought I saw a stretch of mature trees nearing the Dataran which had birdshit all over the road.
How to Overcome ITB Pains During a Race
At the 10km mark, I sensed the impending ITB problem on the outer side of my left knee. I slowed down and decided to engage the run-stretch-walk strategy to complete the race. 7kmph was the slowest I could afford to walk. Time was on my side as far as I was concerned. Overall I maintained an average of 8.4kmph from the run-walk combination.
The pains got worse as I moved on and I had to psyche myself that I could manage the ITB. I’ll share with you how I distracted myself:
1. I looked for targets to run to before alternating to the walking routine. I looked for wayfinding signages, posters, bus-stops, trees, etc,
2. I looked at my Polar 625X constantly to ensure I was maintaining minimum speed and pace, and
3. I tried VERY hard to remember what the heck ITB stands for! Illytobby Band, Italy Band, Illoytobias Band…… see, I still cannot remember the actual spelling and pronunciation for the ITB acronym. It irks me no end. I even thought of it as the Irritating & Terrible Bane, and Irksome, Trying & Bothersome.
With perserverence and pure grit, I ground my teeth and limped my way to the finishing line in an astonishing (unofficial) time of 2hrs 33min! It’s astonishing because this was exactly my same timing at last December’s Singapore Marathon!
When in Rome, Do What the Romans Do
At the finishing point, I was met by FT who came in about 15 minutes ahead of me. He suggested that I go for a post race massage.
I went to the tent that provided sports massage.
I was attended to by a male masseuse and he worked on my lower left limb first. 2 minutes into the massage and I was already screaming murder because of the excruciating pain on the left ITB. Only I screamed in bahasa “Adoi! Adoi!” I have no idea what took control of me but at emergency situations like these where reflexes usually take control of the being, I actually screamed in bahasa melayu!
If Malaysia boleh, Munnster lagi boleh!
It is quite daunting and somewhat demoralizing when cramps (like I experienced in last week’s duathlon) and ITB sets in. I fight with myself throughout the race and question my sanity. I ask myself if I should carry on. At times, I urge myself to give up. Sometimes I even console myself that the elites have DNFed just because they didn’t ‘feel’ the race accordingly. Alas, giving up has never been an option for me so far. As with life’s challenges and adversities, every one tells a unique story. Every single downside makes me understand myself better. Lessons can be learned from a simple thing such as managing pain or a cramp. There will be harder lessons to learn in life. Never give up – a simple but powerful mantra. The other mantra I live on is Luke 1:37 "Nothing is impossible with God".
Adversity will give us another day to live. Overcoming adversity gives us another day to be proud of ourselves.