Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Race report: Marina Run

I'd done this fairly no-frills evening half marathon in 2011, and DNFed due to stomach trouble. But I trust my friends' race recommendations, and Adrienne had had a good time at this one. So I signed up...and then she wasn't able to make it on race day thanks to a janky foot. Here's to sensible life decisions: rest today to run again another day!

I am not good at sensible life decisions.

Hang in there guys, it's going to be a longish one.

Race pack collection: Packet pickup was a breeze - in, out, done in 2 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. Bonus points for offering same-day packet pickup for runners visiting from overseas!
This race also had 10K and 5K fun run options.

The race pack: I don't really notice what's in the race pack so long as I get a bib and a shirt and a finisher medal at the end, but I know some of my readers do. This race pack was pretty dismal (at least for Singapore and for a run that I paid $50!! for): a bunch of flyers, including one for car servicing and one for air-conditioner servicing, and duplicate flyers for children's soccer birthday parties and gym lessons and watches.
There was one coupon for a massage, WHICH YOU BET YOUR ASS I am going to use, and one for an either-or spa deal: a facial or a 'slimming wrap', neither of which I really want, especially because the latter sounds like a poorly filled burrito.

Race site: The race site at Gardens by the Bay East is convenient only if you live at one of the Tanjong Rhu condos. Otherwise, it's about 1km from the nearest MRT station (Stadium). Walking about 1+km to and from the nearest MRT station is not a huge deal for me, but if this was my first half marathon, it might have been somewhat upsetting, I guess.

I went down with my neighbours Aicha and Peter, who were also running and supposed to meet their friend at the medical tent to give her a race pack. Turns out the medical tent was definitely not where it was supposed to be on the map. Thumbs down.

Baggage deposit and pick-up: When we got there, the bulk of the 10K runners were just finishing, and there was a  horrifyingly long queue for baggage pickup. There were definitely not enough people manning the baggage pick-up booth, probably because some of them were handling half-marathon bag drop. Apparently some of the 10K runners waited in line for half an hour, ABSOLUTELY the last thing one wants to do after running 10K, thank you very much.

Fortunately when I finished, the queue for medal, apple, and water was fast, and I made a beeline for bag check. The queue for baggage...well, I probably stood in line for maybe 5 to 10 minutes.

By the way, race organisers: you know what would be really nice? Just hand us a little prepacked box of food so that we don't have to juggle apple and medal and banana and water etc etc, because ain't nobody got enough hands for that nonsense. One more thing - it would also be nice to have more water at the finish area instead of only at the finish chute.

The route: Two loops of out-and-backs, not particularly exciting, but quite pretty because you go around Marina Bay and a little way up the Kallang River and you get to see everything lit up at night. Not bad!

And now...*drumroll*...The run: 
So after a terrible week at work, I promised myself I would do this as a long run, a kind of reward for making it through the week. Of course I was very bad and didn't keep that promise - more on which later.

There were about a thousand half marathoners, which is really, really small for Singapore! It was crowded for the first couple of km or so, but not too bad after I'd sorted myself out. (I tend to try to get out of the crowds right at the start, but this often spells trouble - here's why.) Later edit: I forgot to count the veteran half marathoners! That means there were about 1,500-1,800. Sorry. Still really really small for Singapore, though.  

I could feel myself going too fast right at the beginning, and was desperately trying to slow down, but my legs seemed to be beyond my control. The angel on one shoulder said: "What are you doing? Stop passing people and rein it in now or else you'll die later." The demon on the other shoulder said: "But you feel fine *now*." In the end my shoulders were inexplicably sore so they must have been slugging it out pretty hard.

So what did I do? Of course I went out too hard for the first 11 or 12km. (What? Nothing hurt. Yet.) There was another woman on my shoulder and we kept trading places; I could hear her breathing quite hard next to me, which was quite distracting; I know she couldn't hear whether I was breathing hard because she had headphones in!

Somewhere around 14km I began to regret my initial burst of speed because I suddenly felt like my legs were made of lead. I kept thinking 'just keep running, just keep running'... My pace definitely dropped a bit here, and at this point I just slowed down to relax and enjoy the night air. The woman with the headphones overtook me and all I could do was glare at her back.

On my second loop, one of the drink stations ran out of water and was apologising: "Sorry, we only have isotonic drink left" - a nasty purple, grapey-smelling stuff. From the way it smelt I half expected it to glow. You had better not run out of water, especially when I'm in the middle of the pack and I know there are plenty of people coming along after me. (A note: When I first started doing half marathons I was so slow that some of the drink stations really did run out of water. So now I always, always, always carry my own for any race over 10K.)

At the 18k mark I somehow summoned enough energy to hammer (ok, only in my dreams; in reality I'm quite sure I looked like a spastic rhinoceros) the last couple of k's home.

I finished in about 2:15, which is where most of my half marathons seem to be these days, and with no ill effects but a pair of sore feet. My half times remind me of my 10K times, which were stuck firmly at 1 hour++ for a very long time until an abrupt and totally surprising breakthrough a couple of years ago. So maybe there's a half breakthrough in the offing somewhere within this lifetime!

My team-mate Claire who ran it as well said the course was a bit long; I still don't own a GPS watch so I'm just going to believe her.

After cooling off I found myself totally encrusted in salt - gross. Good thing I packed and ate my good old shot blocks throughout or there would have been blood. I mean cramps.

At the finish line, Jimmy found me and we set off for food and home. By now it was 10pm and NOW I was famished, so we popped into Burger King. Sometimes you just need a large iced Milo after a race. And sometimes you need a large iced Milo and a nap; I nearly passed out.

The verdict: You all know I really have only two key criteria for a race: Does it start on time? (yes) and Is it the right distance? (no) -- I'd give this one a grade B. Maybe some extra marks for scenery and a relatively thin crowd.

Anyway, I think I've learnt my lesson. The real test is the Run350 half in April, a race for which I actually have goals. You know, like goal number one: don' One day I'll be sensible.

I also think I need to do a couple of things in training:
- One, a long run or two with 7 or 8 tempo km in the latter half. Or some sort of progression long run in which I start slooow (an important lesson in reining it in) and work up to finish off at 10K pace.
- Two, aside from one angel and one demon sitting on my shoulders (those guys need to lose some weight), in all seriousness why are my shoulders sore? I have to figure out what to do to fix that.

An update: Results are out. Discovered my team-mate Claire was FIRST - well done her!

What are these mystery 'lap 1/ lap 2' points - what distances are those anyway? 3km? 4.2km? 5km? 10??? Annoying. Race organisers, please don't do this.

Epilogue: Cheer report, Metasprint Aquathlon

I had somewhat ambitious and extremely optimistic plans for Sunday morning: do a recovery run around Sentosa and cheer friends on in the Metasprint Aquathlon there. But we got home at 11.30pm, and by the time I showered and got into bed it was midnight.

Naturally, my body had other plans. I woke up at 8am, but Shirlene's wave was at 8.35 - not going to make it on time for the start, could I get there on time for the finish?

I got there at 9.15 - eek! - and thought I'd missed her, so I wandered around looking for her ('maybe she's cheering her husband out of the water?')...and missed her coming through the finish. When I turned around again she was standing there (sweaty hugs!) and we cheered Eugene and his friend Aylwin in. Those two are not only very competitive with each other, they're also training for a half-Ironman in May, so after Eugene and Shirlene got home...he turned around and went out to run for an hour. I have no idea how people do it. Training to run takes up enough of my time.

What are your best ideas for 70.3 cheer signs? I suggested Shirlene stand at T1 with a sign that read 'ONLY TWO MORE SPORTS TO GO'. ("Trolls," said Eugene, shooting us a dirty look.)


  1. It's so interesting to read about races in Singapore. If I could find ANY half marathon for $50, I'd be all over it! Even small races top that. And f course, I live for freebies in my race bag, so I guess a free massage would make my day. Good job on the race after a tough work-week. I'd be dead by the end of my week.

    1. Yikes, the cost of races is really getting out of hand over there. I read about bloggers who race or fun-run races almost every other weekend; how do they do it?

  2. How did your friend know the course was long? If it was from her GPS watch I'd take that information with a grain of salt - all GPS watches have a margin of error. She may also have not run the tangents particularly well or dodged around people. That can also add to the distance.

    1. Yeah, it was from her GPS watch, which should usually run slightly long. No, the reason I believe her is Claire is an experienced racer and should know what an acceptable margin of error looks like. And she was first woman so I don't think she was dodging too many people.

    2. Char, as there is no certifying body for race distances in Singapore, it seems like organizers can pretty much throw up whatever the heck route they please, call it whatever K marker is approximately closest, and call it good. Case in point: I believe that the 10K version of this race was one loop of the 21K version. Go figure...

  3. Isotonic drink?? That's a new one on me!

    Ugh, the don't-go-out-too-fast is such a hard one because it never feels too fast at the time. I think you are right about doing some progression-type runs where you work up to tempo pace. I think it was ~3 years before I could consistently run a half marathon with negative splits.

    Good luck with your goal race!

    1. Oh, that's what they call sports drinks here. Maybe this is a thing throughout the Commonwealth? I'm not sure. You'd be amused by the range of what's available here: no Gatorade or Lucozade but plenty of 100Plus, H2O and (the one that always entertains people) Pocari Sweat.

      Mnngggh. You're right - it never *feels* too fast at the start; you know you've gone too fast only when you start regretting it halfway through. Going to try one of those progression runs this weekend!

  4. Glad you had a fun run that fit into what you needed.

    Although I have to say that I'm losing patience with inaccurately measured courses, and I'm pretty close to boycotting any race where the water runs out; particularly if it's large and/or not a first year race. It's freakin' the tropics. INEXCUSABLE.

    [^And I don't mean for me. I mean for ANYONE. Absence of water in the finish area (outside the chute)? Also mega bonus points. In fact, the #1 reason I've opted out of 2XU this year. Get. Enough. Water.]