Race Review: TwinCity Marathon 2017

One of my (running) resolutions in 2017 was to better my last full marathon #GCAM15's time. I wanted also to nail a PB in tropical Malaysia since all my sub 5 full marathons were in cooler climates. Let's say, I was targeting 2017 to be a year of getting myself out for my comfort zone. And when I signed up for Twincity Marathon 5 weeks from race day, I wasn't too confident that I was able to tick off any of my resolutions. Falling sick for a week, missing training for another week because of my sick child and waking up on race day with a case of heartburn weren't quite perfect formulas for a race PB. However, I went ahead with turning up on race day with the idea that I was to try my best and have fun along the way - the good and sound advice from Sifu Terence Poon.

It has been ages since I ran a full marathon as a competitor per se. It didn't count as a pacer for Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2017 as that run was not mine but the pacees who I was to aid them reach the finish line at 6:30 or better.

I woke up at 1:30am. Very early for some folks but I am one of those runners who needs a good, full meal before a run. Toast, 2 soft boiled eggs, peanut butter, Milo with 2 tablespoon of oats, 1 banana with a small serving of kefir. The probiotics in the kefir was to help ease my heartburn and hopefully keep the gut happy throughout the race.

Arrived at the race village at 3am. By then it was a festive affair with 2 very energetic emcees. Did a quick bag drop, checked out the race village so that I would know where the necessary tents were when I crossed the finish line and of course caught up with pals who were running that day. A thorough warm up and stretching for 30 minutes as planned since I am a slow twitch. Eased my way into the start pan, sweaty and heart rate approximately 130. In less that 5 minutes, we were flagged off.

1st Half:
It is always tempting to sprint off as soon as we are flagged off. The usual works, I keep to my left, watch others sprint off and making sure I listened to my breathing and kept a lookout for my average pace on my watch. The idea was to keep within an average of 6:20 for first half of the race. This is a comfortable pace for me and it was easy to speed up. Only problem with speeding up was how long can I hold that pace in humid Malaysia? So I just had to patiently take each step and stay conservative. Sifu Terence's words were playing in my head "Finish strong and enjoy the moments when you overtake the other runners in the later part of the race".

It was a generally cool start but typically Malaysia and Cyberjaya / Putrajaya area, the humidity builds up fast even in the absence of the sun. I skipped the first water stop and only took my water break at all subsequent water stops. Throughout the run, I kept looking out for rabbits and constant paced runners. There was a few including my new friend Indah Wati who was easy for me to spot because of her tee that said "Run for Indonesia". The game plan worked and I crossed KM21 at approximately 2:13 (Fitbit says so) as planned.
The amazing army boys who ran the full marathon in their boots, uniform and bag!
Always smile for the camera!

2nd Half
The sun doesn't have to shine for the humidity to kick in. After the half way mark, allocations are made for 90 seconds walking break at KM21, KM 30 and KM35. The walk breaks were for me to recover, grab my gel, change to my sunnies etc. However, despite the heartburn that has now developed into a burping galore, I felt generally good. Thus the walk breaks were split as and when I felt like walking. I gave myself a max of 90 seconds per sector but took them only when I saw some elevation that I wasn't keen to power up.

A little mucking around when the FM runners met up with the HM runners at the nasi lemak stop. A tempting stop but I wasn't keen to upset my stomach any further. Loved the morning view but wasn't able to capture any pictures because I don't carry my phone during races unless I have my hydration vest on. You will have to run this race next year to enjoy the view!
Nasi lemak!

All seemed good until KM30 when we ran on the highway stretch and I tripped on a rolling stone while being too 'fixated' with calling out to runners in front of me to move back into the 'run lane' as there were cars coming from behind - a pet peeve of mine is when I see runners being reckless with their safety while running. The cones are obviously placed there as a guide for runners to stay inside yet some chose to step out just to be a few seconds faster at the expense of their safety. So there I was shouting "Move behind" blah blah.
I cramped somewhere along this stretch while trying to play Miss Traffic Announcer.

When I stepped on the stone, I was reduced to a sudden stop of trying to catch my balance like a 'chicken trying to fly'. That was bad because the sudden stop caused the right glute to cramp up and the left was threatening to do the same. The allocation of 90 seconds walk breaks came in handy here as I reduced my running pace. I wasn't keen to stop and resorted to my kimono run of tiny steps that Grand Sifu Mohan taught me. 2 slow KMs at approximately 7 minutes per km before I recovered and was able to pick up my pace little by little.
The brilliant Grand Sifu Mohan who taught me to shuffle slowly - kimono run. It works even when one has cramps and I am one step closer to the finish line with every shuffle / step.
I was too happy to see Grand Sifu Mohan. I think I was screaming his name for at least 10 metres before I reached him for my hug.

The runner traffic wasn't easy when we merged with the 12km runners as well. I definitely welcomed the 2KM or so when we were diverted for KM33 to KM35. It was at this stretch that my failure to follow my fuelling plan kicked in. I was beginning to struggle with being a little hungry and the sunny skies was too hot for my comfort. I felt like a withering flower. I knew I had to gel and whipped out my 3rd gel for the race. I recovered soon enough and went on being my usual chirpy runner greeting the marshalls and chatting up some runners.

By KM38 I knew that even if I dropped my pace, I have already achieved a PB in the tropics (I aimed for a sub 5 in the tropics because my best was in Singapore at 5:12). I was a tad surprised when I saw 4:30 pacer Karsten Koebel (from Fit Orange) a couple of metres ahead of me at KM39 or so. So I took my little walk break to hydrate and pour some water on my head to cool down, grab my breath and prepped myself for negative split all out finish. I skipped the ice cream stop (very tempted to stop for it with the sunny skies but I promised myself I will treat myself a big tub of Ben & Jerry's when I get home. So I kept going until I saw Grand Sifu Mohan, I could not resist mucking around with him for a little dance and posing for pictures. Off I went for my last dash, avoiding the firemen with their water spray. Saw 4 hour pacer Jubaque and he urged me to give my all. I saw the timing arch, I had a few more seconds to score a sub 4:30. Off I went and forced my "hate-to-sprint" legs to go all out.

It is a gun time of 4:29:50, nett time of 4:29:42. Yes! A sub 4:30, a new PB and all done in tropical Malaysia. When one nails 3 items off the 2017 resolution lists, you can imagine my joy and happiness. I couldn't quite believe it. Coming in 10th in the Women's Veteran category was something I didn't expect too. Thus explains the silly smile I had on my pics...

Last few metres more
4:29:42. Thank you Ana for this pic!

A brilliant marathon, good support from the friendly volunteers, marshalls, lovely route of running through 2 cities and caring Race Director. The route was generally flat (192 metres elevation gain for a full marathon is easy!). Well lit throughout and at stretches where the street lamps failed, the organisers lit it up with oil lamps - a magical view and feel!
Fast feet Vincent who has just ran a full marathon the week before and Carol. Congras on your PBs!
Fellow TPRC Weekend LSD buddies BJ, Vincent, June and Carol.
THANX Ana for swinging by on your bike to say hello, support and snap our finishing pics. Yes the same Ana who completed her 100 miles in Craze Ultra. Hearing her voice as she rode pass when I bonked was a good wake up call!
Post run breakfast, teh tarik and play catch up with fellow running buddies.
The grinding continues...I will love to better my results.
A must have pic with barefoot buddy Odef.
And I hit the gong hard. It was a satisfying feeling!

Fuel plan:
The game plan was to consume 4 High5 energy gel - KM10, KM21, KM30 and KM35. However, since I was having a heartburn and burping even before the race started, I only gelled at KM10, KM23 and KM34.

I carried my hand held soft flask that fitted into my palms like a soft pillow. The soft flask was to be my backup water in case the water station was too packed as it turned out to be when we merged with the HM and 12KM runners.

I also carried a lil ziplock bag filled with High5 Zero Electrolytes that I crushed to powder form so that I could add it to the drinking water at the water stops. This meant that I didn't have to risk irritating my stomach with sugary stuff while being able to maintain my electrolytes level.

Tasty and most importantly fulfills my electrolyte needs without irritating my stomach. 

My happy white cap, sunnies and arm sleeves to shield me from the sunny sector of the race.  Since the race was partially ran when the skies were dark, I ensured that I had some reflective strips in my choice gears including my socks, tee and my trusted long distance adidas Ultra Boost ST.

The grinding doesn't stop and when the ultra marathon season is over, I will be working to improve the current PB of 4:29:42 in Q4 of 2017.

Follow the TwinCity Marathon folks for the next edition of this amazing race. If time permits I am definitely returning to this race!
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