I return to the land of dimsum for another crack at a SUB1:30 Half-Marathon. Admittedly, the course got the better of me last year. The 0530h start in the freezing cold, coupled with a less then ideal prep phase caused, it was a Swiss cheese model that flashed out infront of me on race day. Long story short, it was a case of unfinished business.
This year, as I entered my 2nd year of my career, things looked more settled & maybe. I probably seemed that way as I was attending a 5week long course & had the luxury of time to train twice a day without too much fuss. Even as I encountered a few setbacks along the way with a heel injury, I did not give up, choosing to cross-train to other activities like swimming spinning or aquajogging.
Slowly but surely my heel eventually recovered & I even surprised myself by winning the first time in my life at my organization’s X-country event!
I was getting into peak form, my 2.4km times were almost as fast as my best in 2013 but the key differentiator is the mileage base I put in preparation for this run was planned with Tokyo Marathon at the back of my head. In the last two weekends before heading to HK, I clocked two long workouts surmounting to 33.69km & 38km.
I identified the New Balance RC1400v2 race-trainers as my weapon of choice as I knew Nike was not producing Lunarspider LT readily available, hence had to make the jump. The price point was wallet-friendly as I got a pair on web discount followed by three more from the NB outlet store in Jurong East.
I had 4 pairs in total, two to train, two to race. I logged hundreds of miles in the training pair & only one of my long runs in the racing pair to ensure that there was minimal damage done whilst being well seasoned.
I enjoy traveling solo at times, not having to compromise to anyone. You choose the destination, the flight, the accommodation, the itinerary. For me it’s really a moment of solitude to reflect on what has been & what will be. I decided take the chance again w a a local budget carrier even after the they played me out the same exact time last year, what can I say? I’m a fan of local products. Yes, my first MP3 player was even local, remember Creative Technologies?
So back to the flight, I booked it way back when they had a massive sale & saved quite a bit. the good things with big marathon events is that they release the date really early so you can plan ahead. I usually go without all the frills & travel really light, especially on a short weekend trip like this.
flight seating is easily available at the counter as long as you arrive early for check-in. Since you are flying solo, the counter crew can slot you in easily & you still have a choice between aisle or window without the hefty fee. traveling light does have its perks, no waiting at the check-in counter, no worries of missing baggage, no waiting at the belt, once you’ve landed all you gotta go through is the arrival gates & you are good to go.
I like this particular flight as it leaves on Saturday at 0150h, flies by night & lands some 4-5hrs later at 0600-0700h, leaving you in good time to have a yum cha breakfast before collecting your race pack at 1000h. & best thing of all, you don’t waste a night of accommodation & you can save your annual leave! (if you are working). It’s basically a “sleeper train” in train travel terms.
The Race Pack Collection.
Located at Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, it’s really accessible & easy to find once you’ve got out of the Causewaybay MTR station. Located directly opposite from the FINISH Line, the REPC is held specially for overseas runners arriving late into HK. last year I collected my race pack 10mins before closing time on Saturday *close shave* this time I got my packs close to opening time, hence it took just 5mins to collect my pack! the process was fuss free just bring the letter & collect your pack simple as that, no snaking question, nothing! thankful for the scouts who were braving the cold volunteering on the weekend.
The Race Report.
I registered once again for the Half Marathon Challenge starting at 0530h at Nathan Road. After meeting my HK friends for a simple carboloading dinner of eel & frogleg claypot rice, br />
i headed back to do my final gear prep making sure I knew where everything was so I don’t panic in the morning. took a quick glance at the race guide, they had a great breakdown of the course & I singled out the crucial portion of the course to be from the 12-17km which includes the Western Harbour Tunnel. If I were to do well, I had to focus hard to push the pace in the tunnel & rely more on timing rather than pace as the GPS won’t be of use in there. I have been relying a lot on avg pace function of the GPS watch as it is a useful tool to make sure I’m on track. I would say I’m not exact consistent with my kilometer laps but rather with the 5k laps, as I tend to run with the feeling.
I woke up at 0330h & downed two bottles of 500ml plus a lil’ pocari sweat. had a bottle with me as well all the way to the start line. breakfast was a banana, wholewheat bread w cream cheese, milk & some salted almonds to prevent cramping later on.
0425h I left my place & took a short warmup jog to the baggage deposit located on a adjacent street to the start line. For those who haven’t done this race, they have many trucks, all you have to do is attach your luggage tag provided at the REPC to your bag & pass it to the guy at the allocated deposit truck.
Subsequently I warmed up along Nathan Rd keeping in mind the crowd that was building up at the startline. By 0500h I found myself on the tape at the holding area. this year to keep warm, I had my arm warmers, gloves, & an additional t-shirt that I was to toss before the start. I couldn’t find a disposable poncho so I went for the t-shirt instead. I was contemplating on weather I should take a gel before hand as I had one extra on me. after much thoughts decided against it as I could be too full from the breakfast.
0515h The police would hold hands forming a line & slowly guide the runners from 100m to within 20m of the STARTLINE. Elites or seeded entrants got to start on the left side of the pen whilst commoners like me could still be on the tape but on the right side of the pen this is to facilitate the left turn immediately 200m after the start.
0528h had my last gulp of pocari sweat & tossed my t-shirt along with the bottle to the side. final check on the watch, maximum backlit, & watched as the countdown timer counted down from 10s. had a bit of gitters so accidentally activated my watch 1s & loss my footing before the gun went off.
0530h bang! here we go. I started fast as I didn’t want to jostle for space taking the first two ks in 3:35 and 3:50. thereafter slowing down to a sensible avg pace of 3:52/k for the first 5k. I tried to find a running buddy but some were too fast, some were too slow hence decided to go alone throughout. it was a wise decision in the end as many if the fast guys died out on the 2nd half.
5k splits :
0- 5km – 19:20 – avg 3:52/km
5km – 10km – 20:13 – avg 4:02/km
10km – 15km – 20:12 – avg 4:02/km
15km – 21.1km – 23:10 – 3:47/km
After the first U-turn, I started taking water from the 8km mark to wash down my first gel, which I had so much difficulty taking it out from my glove during the race without stopping. I was very cautious during this race to make sure my gloves & socks remained as dry as possible as I suffered last year from the cold as I got my gear wet at the water points. That’s why I was quite pissed when a runner, however unintentionally spilled water on me at the waterpoint just before the tunnel. I but then again in hindsight it was my fault for not keeping the distance. after that incident, I wanted to get as far away from him as possible.
I opened my stride into the tunnel & the downslope was to my advantage. I have been training slopes, both uphill & down in the trails so taking the steep downhill into the tunnel was a breeze, I was flying down overtaking many runners in the process. & yes GPS signal died so I just had to keep going fast to make sure I don’t fall behind when I got out of the tunnel. I had a positive boost when 15km mark came & I did 59:XX leaving me to do 6k. Popped my 2nd & final gel & went fast. In 29mins, which was going to be a relatively easy pace. So I decided to take the chance & see how fast I could go in the last 6km. I liked the feeling of having that final kick enabling a negative split strategy & overtaking many runners giving a psychological boost as well.
Coming out of the tunnel at 17km there was only 4km splitting myself from the finish. I felt so fresh & the crowd support was amazing coming into the final leg. Water point volunteers were so vocal, there was even one girl shouting at me “leng zai! ho fai !” or translated into “handsome dude so fast!” I had a good laugh & decided to run faster.
I came down flying into the final 1km overtaking at least 10runners in the process & running down the last 100m I saw 1:23:xx counting down & I gave it a good sprint & savoured the moment with a loud shout at the finish, at the finish i wasn’t penting hard & using my arms to support myself, a sign that I could go even faster had I not been cautious to get the desire result.
Official time of 1:23’55” – very surprised by the result given that I didn’t have the most ideal of rest the entire week before.
I smashed my SUB1:30HM target convincingly & this can only be good going into these 3 crucial years to qualify for Boston. moving forward, I’m convinced that I will do well in my FM if the conditions are right. however would have to really consider what kind of result do I want to do after seeing fellow Singapore runner Ramesh finishing the SCHKM in 2:53 having the similar kind of splits for 10km & 21.1km. Is a BQ (3:05) possible? Is a SUB3hr marathon possible for me at Tokyo?
stay tuned to find out.