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.

Galaxy2results

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!

Galaxy2podium3

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.

galaxy2podium

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

MPIB 12km 2014

20140105-191643.jpg

For once, everything went right, nothing went wrong, and I had a good race! Hilly and hot, and 500m longer than last year’s route, I shaved over a minute off my time and clinched 4th place. Training aside, I was mentally stronger this year. Whenever I felt like slowing down, I repeated the mantra ‘I love to run’ in time with my cadence. It still wasn’t easy to keep going but despite nausea on the final 2 km, I did it. I had no clue where I was placed until I received the 4 th place tag at the finish line. What a nice surprise! I wandered around dehydrated but too nauseous to eat while waiting for the prize-giving ceremony, wearing that tag with tremendous pride, meeting old friends and new. All in all, MPIB 2014 was a blast. Take that Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis (PTT), your ass just got kicked!

MWM Training Session 2

Image 3

As an introvert (who does a good impression of an extrovert), the solitary nature of running appeals to me. But even introverts, and solitary runners, can benefit from company and sometimes they even enjoy it.
Such was the case yesterday at the Malaysia Women Marathon training session, the second in a series of running clinics organised by MWM Race Director Karen Loh in the lead-up to the 10km, 21km, and 42km MWM races on March 16th in Shah Alam.
The meeting point yesterday was Padang Merbok. This is the start and finish location of a number of popular races including the upcoming MPIB 12 km on January 5th. It’s reasonable to expect a car park to be deserted at 6 AM on the last Sunday before Christmas but this place was a hubbub of activity in the dark as runners gathered to embark on their LSDs in the relative cool early morning air. I know – only people who live in the Tropics consider 24 degrees Celsius and 100% humidity to be cool!
Race Director Karen, accompanied by the MWM half marathon mentors, Lorna Wong and Sheela Samivellu, explained that the running session would consist of two 6 km loops along the hilly – very hilly – terrain of Bukit Tunku. For any ladies who had signed up for the MPIB race, this was a great opportunity to check out some of the route.

MWMrouteclinic
Hilly route! Two loops added up to 13.5km on my watch.

After our warm-up,  around 20 ladies and our mentors, took off. We did the first loop, which turned out to be almost 7 km, slow and steady, passing and greeting many other runners en route. Each runner ran at a pace they found comfortable so we ended up breaking into small groups. It was nice to chat and run, and as always happens when I run with company, I marvelled at how much easier it is, than running alone. Just like life I guess.
After refreshments – water, isotonic drinks, mandarin oranges and apples, kindly provided by Karen – we set off a second time, with instructions to try the route at a higher pace. I was a little faster than the leading group and was very fortunate, though somewhat apprehensive, when Sheela, MWM mentor and local champion runner, accompanied me up a hill and started to pace me. We ran the rest, around 4km, of the route together and no kidding it was the fastest I’ve run for anything over 1km – ever. If it had been a race, I’d have slowed or even stopped, but because I was running with Sheela I didn’t want to humiliate myself by showing weakness. There were several lessons learned there, not only about the undiscovered power and speed in my legs, but more importantly I suspect, the importance of the mind in pushing through discomfort in the search for glory (or just a sense of achievement which feels glorious).

MWM1
Post-run stretching and mentoring session.

Back at the car park, Karen once again doled out refreshments, before the group gathered to chat, take photos and do a Q&A session with the mentors. Interval workouts and tempo runs were discussed, before I jokingly, but really quite seriously, enquired if the MWM ladies could meet up and run together every week. Karen informed us that there are plans in place to set up an MWM runners club. As soon as more details are available, I will of course post them here.

Image 4
L-R: Johanna (The Expat Runner), Sue-Ling (who acted as a sweeper during the run), Karen (Race Director) & Lorna (Mentor)

There were many different levels of runners at yesterday’s session. For some it was about pushing themselves up hills, resisting the urge to slow to a walk; for me it was about pushing past my fear of running fast. Irrespective of what our individual ambitions or self-imposed limitations were, every single person at the clinic had three things in common: each one of us was Dreaming, Believing, and Becoming. That’s what MWM is about.

To register for the Malaysia Women Marathon click here.

Sheela, Half Marathon mentor, champion runner and my personal hero yesterday, is third from the right.
Sheela, Half Marathon mentor, champion runner and my personal hero yesterday, is third from the right.

Thank you to Karen Loh for most of the photos shown in this post.

2XU Compression Run, Kuala Lumpur

2xu sign

Rain and hills were the order of the day – though I’m not sure 6 AM is technically day as it’s before sunrise here! As it was my first race since early June, and my longest run since late August due to my PTT problem, I kept my expectations low for yesterday’s 2XU Compression 15km Race. There was no question of aiming for a personal best; yesterday was about running, simply because I was able.

My goals were to:
Find a parking spot not too far from the Start line.
Make one last dash to the portaloo before race start.
Run joyously.
Finish (perhaps not joyously, but in one piece).
Have fun!
Well, tick, tick, tick, tick and tick!

The race started 10 minutes late due to rain. Being Irish the rain didn’t bother me, and anyway after a few kilometers running in the Tropics, even at night, your clothes are sodden so the rain was a good thing – it kept the temperature down to a nice, chilly 25 Degrees Celsius. Yes, I know that’s a heatwave in Ireland but I’ve made some adjustments to my thermostat after 8 years in South East Asia.

Padang Merbok: a popular race venue in Kuala Lumpur.
Padang Merbok: a popular race venue in Kuala Lumpur.

I felt no pressure to be near the front to start, because I wasn’t racing right? Mind you when you find yourself standing beside a girl who is carrying a rucksack and updating her Facebook status on an iPad Mini, it’s probably a good idea to try push a little forward if you have any intention of actually running. So, next time, I will be ballsy, and try squeeze forward nearer the Start line. Though I wasn’t truly racing, I still regret the 2-3 minutes of my life lost trying to get to the Start mat after the gun went off and then through the tight-knit crowd in the first 1.5 km.  The good thing I suppose about starting in the middle of the pack is that you get to pass lots of people throughout the race 🙂

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I had problems with feeling nauseous at my last two runs – a 21km and a 16km. In fact I felt so sick that I slowed to a halt at the Singapore Sundown Half Marathon at 20 km thinking I couldn’t go on without throwing up. I continued to feel sick for at least 15 minutes after both these races finished. On both occasions, I had taken a gel around the 9 km mark. Yesterday, I went gel-less, and instead relied on a 8oz Nathan hand-held bottle containing Accelerade. I also sipped water at every water station. And, no nausea! For the first time in a long time, I actually passed people in the final kilometres and my 15th kilometer was my fastest. Instead, of going over the line, holding my guts and moaning, I sprinted with a guy who challenged me to do so for the final 50m. In the excitement, by the way, I forgot to stop my watch- yet again – but think that my time was 1:26, well down on my 16km with nausea in June (1:19) but the difference this time was that I felt good finishing, and this route was super hilly. And, I wasn’t pushing for a personal best, just a good time (get it?!)

Pace all over the place!
Pace all over the place!

If there is one word that will forever be synonymous with yesterday’s race it is HILLS! I wish I had a photo to show non-KL people what I mean but suffice it to say that one of the two KILLER hills is referred to as ‘La Mur’ – according to my cyclist husband. That’s The Wall in case you’ve forgotten your French. Have a look at the elevation profile if you think I’m exaggerating. The second steep incline was equally challenging and very, very long. I walked up most of both these; though I like a nice hill or two, and ran well on the more moderate inclines yesterday, I wasn’t going to tear my Achilles Tendon or burn myself out on these babies. My goal was to finish (joyously), remember? I ran pretty fast downhill. In fact, my pace was all over the place!

Elevation profile for the 2XU Compression 15km Race.
Elevation profile for the 2XU Compression 15km Race. It looks like the Himalayas, no?

I paid no attention to my watch the whole way around, instead I tried to focus on my rhythm of my stride, the view – spectacular sunrise with a view of the Petronas Towers – and the sense of collective effort that surrounded me. The guy who belched very loudly on the first long incline also served as a brief distraction. Whenever my mind started to give me a bit of grief, as it always tends to, especially near the end of a race irrespective of whether it’s a 10km or a 21 km, I repeated the mantra ‘I Love Running’ to match my cadence. It’s true and it worked. I love running and my recent forced absence, has given me a new appreciation for just how deep that passion is.

2xu medal

I doubt I’ll be in Malaysia next year, but if I was, I’d definitely register for the 2XU Compression 15km run (and do some hill-training in preparation). Plenty of portaloos, well-organised and frequent water stops, excellent route markers, enthusiastic volunteers giving directions and support, nice wide roads throughout the route and some amazing views of KL. The medal is pretty cool too.

Killer hills, rain, 4 AM breakfast, belching runners? Bring it on!

p.s. For those interested in my PTT (right foot) recovery, my foot felt good throughout the race though the Achilles Tendon on the left leg was not happy. As soon as I finished, I felt pain in my right arch and left Achilles, and iced them both before heading home. I’ve been stretching and rolling the arch with a tennis ball in the 24 hours since, as well as icing and elevating as much as possible. This morning, I did a slow recovery 5km. The arch still ached but there wasn’t a murmur from the Achilles so hopefully it has forgiven me yesterday’s  folly exertion.