NM Galaxy 15km Series 2

IMG_6307If you love hills, you’d have loved the NM Galaxy 15km race route yesterday. The last time I did that route (Padang Merbok – Bukit Tunku) was my first race post-injury back in November, the 2XU Compression Run.  Yesterday’s event deviated, confusingly, near the end so that the 15km route turned into a mere 14km but more of that later. During 2XU, I walked up the hills, mindful of my PPT-afflicted foot and my low fitness level. Those hills are long! Yesterday I ran up them no problem thanks to some hill-training and the fact that I seem to have a new injury! Yes a route bracketed by injury. Running uphill offered some relief from the pain so I’m guessing that I was probably the only person running NM Galaxy yesterday who was dreading the downhill portions during which I experienced some sort of spasm sensation on my outer left knee which radiated from my buttock. I had to stop and stretch several times. Uphill was fine, flat was fine, downhill was hell! So, instead of the mantra ‘I love these hills’ which I’ve tended to use lately, I found myself chanting ‘I will run through the pain’ over and over. I tried to run this morning but the pain in my hip was too intense. Yes, running through the pain is rarely a good idea but it earned me enough prize money to pay for a couple of sessions of physio, so it was worth it. Maybe. Hopefully. Lets see what my phsyio says today. I suspect he’s going to tell me that I have a tight ass after doing that buns of steel video I found on YouTube. My tight ass is upsetting my ITB. Back to yesterday…

galaxy2prizeThe upside of running with what felt like a sore wooden leg – a peg leg if you like – was that I couldn’t really go very fast, especially downhill. So I didn’t feel nauseous – major victory – and quite enjoyed myself, peg leg aside. There was plenty of fuel left in my tank – and my belt bottles too – near the end so I was able to race to the finish and overtake a lady to come in fourth in the over-40s category. I was surprised to see 1:14 on the clock at the finish line but once I realised that I’d run 14 not 15km, that made sense. It wasn’t a PB but it certainly was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve run, tight ass issues aside.

Overall, this race was a big improvement on the first NM Galaxy race, which is no surprise as the organisers really were very open to criticism back in February and promised to do better. I’m glad to report that they did.

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POSITIVES:

A prompt start. There was no loudspeaker or fanfare but if you turn up for a race, you need to take responsibility for getting to the start line on time without requiring that the organisers herd you to the start. I really appreciated starting on time at 6:20 and not hanging about nervously waiting for runners to assemble.

Bi-gender: Thank you for allowing the men and women start together. It was so nice not to have to run through all the male walkers.

Toilets: There were plenty of toilets at the Padang Merbok start area. In fact, the public restrooms, which have recently been nicely refurbished, were open. For 20 sen you could avoid any queues. I always carry 20 sen in my belt just in case; at times such as yesterday at 6AM it pays off. There were also portaloos at each of the four water stations I think. Thankfully, just knowing that they were there, meant that I didn’t need to use them 🙂

Water stations: Four water stations in 15km race is great. The distance markers on the ground in front of the water stations were very nice too.

Route: I love this route, even with the hills, as there is minimum traffic by KL standards and the city views, amid jungle foliage, are spectacular. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done a lot of races and uttered many an expletive aloud in the Bukit Tunku area but I’ve grown to appreciate the hills and the relative calm amid chaos and concrete that running in this area offers. Mind you, I could have done without the monkeys tight-rope walking across a telephone line over my head but that was hardly the organisers fault!

Clock: Thank you for having a working clock over the finish line. Not all races in KL do this but I think it really is a great idea to see your time as you finish. If nothing else, it reminds you to switch off your timer on your watch (something I have often forgotten to do in the relief of crossing the line).

Organisation: Race-kit collection, baggage drop-off, medal hand-out, banana distribution, prizewinner reporting, all went very well. A massive improvement on Series 1!

Prizewinners: Placing-tags at the finish line, fairly prompt prize-giving ceremony with cash prices in envelopes. Another big improvement on Series 1.

Results: The results for all runners were available online last night. Results. Well done NM Galaxy!

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ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:

Directions: I remembered the route pretty well from November so I knew where to go but I can’t say that this was obvious to the uninitiated. I think there were marshals at most of the junctions however at the point where the route deviated from the 2XU route, there was some confusion with runners, both in the 10km and 15km races, shouting at the traffic police, asking which way they should go. If there was a signpost, I couldn’t see it. I also heard complaints from 10km runners about the absence of course markers. Visible, clear signposts next time would be appreciated.

Distance: NM Galaxy is not alone in getting the distance wrong on a race. In fact, in my experience, it is very rare for a race here to measure what it is supposed to measure. If you don’t know the route well, an under-distance race is frustrating as you hold off on your final sprint – if you’ve got any puff left in you-only to find you’re over the finish line with a medal around your neck before you’ve even hit your top pace. That’s what happened me in Series 1. This time I knew where the finish line was, and wasn’t really paying attention to the distance reading on my watch –  without glasses checking my watch has started to become a challenge – ageing I hate thee! – so I was able to ‘go for it’ at the end knowing where the end was. I’m sure I don’t need to point out the frustration of an over-distance race. It’s kind of similar except you fall across the line, cursing under your heavy breathing about distance deception.

Water Stations: It was impossible to tell on approaching a water station whether the little paper cups contained water or isotonic drinks. Asking the volunteers, which was which, elicited nothing but blank looks and mute stares. I’ll admit I got audibly irritated with this but as I was using the water to pour down my back, I really didn’t want to take Gatorade by mistake!

Water: There was no water at the end of the race. None! I appreciate the banana but the lychee-flavoured drink you can keep next time. Ninety minutes after I crossed the finish line, I still hadn’t had any water. If you can’t afford to give it away, please at least let somebody sell it.

I’ve under four weeks left in Malaysia so I won’t be here for NM Galaxy Series 3 (18km). Unfortunately. I wish I was. I don’t know what racing will be like in Perth but I suspect it won’t be as good-humoured and relaxed as here. I certainly won’t be earning any money at it nor, I suspect, will I have access to free race photographs online. Of some things though I am certain.

I will really, really miss the running and racing scene in Malaysia. I’ll miss the warmth, the smiles, the inclusiveness of runners. I may even miss the hills. I said, may. And then there are the monkeys doing high-wire acts over my head. Australia, how are you going to top that for a race experience. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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 Thank you to the total stranger who took the photos for me as I was on my own. 

NM Galaxy Race 12km- Secret Results & Phantom Prizes

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Apology posted on Facebook by the organisers of the NM Galaxy Race Series 12km run which took place this past Sunday at Lake Titiwangsa.

If you ran the race, you’re very much aware of the NM Galaxy 12km run’s deficiencies – lighting, toilets, loudspeaker, legible distance markers, inaccurate route distance, not to mention the endurance event that was race bib collection! Plenty of people have been voicing complaints and suggestions on these issues, an others, on the NM Galaxy Facebook page so if you didn’t run, but are considering joining the next NM Galaxy race in May – there is a planned series of four races with interconnecting medals – or you’re just curious with some time on your hands, pop over there and have a look. (By the way, I’m sick to death of people going on Facebook after races – not just yesterday’s event, it seems to happen after every race here – complaining about goody bags. You sign up for a race to run for goodness sake, not to get free mouthwash samples and cartons of Milo.) That said, most of the online complaints have been very valid. And to give credit where it’s due, the organisers have not been defensive in their response. In fact, they’ve been downright apologetic promising to do better next time (very like a child who knows they’ve done wrong).

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NM Galaxy 12 km (11.5km) route recorded on my Garmin watch.

My biggest reservation in signing up for this race was the route along a very busy highway, Jalan Tun Razak, in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. However, thanks to traffic police and placement of cones, I felt pretty safe throughout the race on a route that proved to be very pleasant with only a few small inclines. I imagine though that as traffic got heavier, this was not the case for all runners. The route doubled back on itself twice which meant that there were runners running on either side of the central reservation which was actually nice as people could cheer friends along when they passed in opposite directions. (And thank you to the people who shouted ‘Go Expat Runner’ – you really spurred me on to keep going).

Now, cheating is unacceptable but a route with two u-turns does lend itself to such behaviour for the deviants who engage in it. At the first u-turn there were volunteers writing down bib numbers of the leading runners, and at the second there was a timing mat. I really hope there weren’t any participants taking shortcuts and then collecting Finisher Medals. At the end of the day, such people are cheating themselves as much as undermining the efforts of the folk who push their limits to complete a race. And to the person on Strava who only ran 8km of the route? Maybe you weren’t registered and just went along for the ride. Hopefully you didn’t collect medal. I’m looking forward to your response 🙂

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Is this the finish line? Confidence in the organisation being a bit low, and my watch being 500m short of 12km, I had to ask.

Back to me. Since coming back from my PTT injury, I’ve aspired to run a 10 or 12 km race at 5 min/km pace and on Sunday I managed 4.58min/km so I am really, really pleased. I’ve come a long way from the person who moaned and complained and cursed their way around a route as I’ve realised that a positive mental attitude when you’re hurting is everything. I can’t blame the shin splints I suffered for the first 3 km or the side stitch I had for the final 8km on the organiser unfortunately; these were all my own fault, but I managed to run through them thankfully. However, the debacle at the finish certainly was the organisers’ fault, and as no one has yet to mention it on Facebook, I would like to suggest improvements here.

Now I know it took a bit of effort to figure out the event rules, regulations and prize details, as no handbook was provided at bib collection, but being a pedant, I had searched out this information on the event’s Facebook page. Clearly, the lady operating the laptop with the timing information at the finish line had not read the handbook. Or maybe she didn’t like the look of me, or perhaps she’s always rude. Whatever. It is the norm here to place tags around the necks of the placed athletes who cross the line. It hasn’t happened to me often, but when it does, I tend to cry. There were no tears this time, because there were no tags. I knew that there weren’t a lot of women in front of me so I thought I might have been placed but I was only guessing. So I approached the laptop lady to politely ask if she could check my placing. I suggested that place tags at the finish line would be useful but was told quite definitively that this is too confusing. Huh? I was certainly confused.

Laptop lady initially refused to check my placing but I explained that I wanted to know whether I could go home or not, so she relented and tapped her keyboard to check. She showed me four fingers. ‘Fourth?’ I clarified. ‘Yes, but I don’t know how many prizes there are,’ she said dismissively. Thanks to the fact that there were several races on Sunday, and some of the ladies who are faster than me took their chances with other events, I had come 4th place in the Women’s Veteran Category. I’d read the information so I knew this meant some sort of prize. I think I came 5th or 6th overall, but as the organiser is so secretive about the results, I can’t tell you that for a fact. Again, I’m only guessing.

Mea Culpa picture posted on Facebook by the NM Galaxy Race Series organisers.
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Two hours after I crossed the finish line, two hours in which no information was provided to participants and no placings were posted, two hours of listening to dodgy music and the results of some prize draw (in Malay so I can’t tell you if I won anything or not, or indeed whether I had even entered), and five hours after I’d got out of bed to come to the event, I was called to the stage to collect my Rm150 prize.

Except it wasn’t my prize; it was a letter telling me to go to some other part of KL to collect my prize! Yes, I ran for 57 minutes on Sunday, faster than it took to collect my bib, way, way faster than it took to not collect my prize, and no doubt faster than it will take me to drive across town and back to find the organisers office to get 150 Rm. God help me but if they give me a cheque that requires that I queue up in the bank, I will lose my cool altogether.

Having started this post endeavouring to keep calm and carry on as they say, I’ve ended up ranting after all. And only because I won something. I know, poor me! Time for a run.

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On the home stretch, running, which is what it is all about.

At the end of the day, no one was hurt that I know of, and the NM Galaxy race series is a welcome addition to the local racing scene. The more people who are encouraged to run and train, the healthier, stronger (and happier) this nation will become. Yes folks, I really do believe that running is that powerful! I personally had a great run and am grateful to the volunteers as always who gave up their time to facilitate that. I’m sure the lighting, toilets, distance markers, start-line loudspeaker, start-line chaos, protracted bib collection, over-sized t-shirts, finish-line logistics, and unpleasant demeanour of stressed personnel at the start and finish line, and other issues now being aired online, will be improved for the next race, a 15km, on May 18. They had better be, as I’ve already signed up!

Race photo links:

Maszuari Muhamad

Running Malaysia Magazine

RFF Team

UPDATE: Tuesday evening: The results of the NM Galaxy 12km Run are now on the event’s Facebook page here.