Sunday, February 26, 2017

Race Review : SMDC 21km

 Like in previous year, this year's event had its race start at Mall of Asia grounds.  In the past years, whenever there is a race that had its starting line here, the route was almost always the same - course will go to intersection of Roxas Blvd, turn left on that road till all the way to Luneta Park before making a U Turn back and heading all the way to a certain point (usually Uniwide) along Roxas Blvd (after climbing two flyovers) before making another U turn (and back to same flyovers) that would take runners to the finish line.

Later, however the route had been changed for almost all races held here.  This time instead of the course being 90% Roxas Blvd, it now becomes 90% Buendia Avenue as we run the entire stretch before the U Turn back on the same road.

For this race, the U Turn is right after Kalayaan Bridge ends in BGC.  So we had to do the flyover two times (to and from).  Two more turns near Mall of Asia before making it to the finish line.  I much prefer the newer route (I hate Roxas Blvd.!) as shadier here and downhill when coming back.

I got to the venue early and had no problems parking my car or to look for a toilet and a few minutes before the gun start, I was already at the starting line. I had time to do some quick stretches too.

My goal for this event was to try and finish below a time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.  I noticed that after doing the HK Marathon, I had gotten a lot slower and get tired easily.  My training runs had been nothing but disappointments and I wonder if this will carry all the way to April's big race (another marathon).

So I was hoping to run below 7 minute pace but even that one wasn't certain given that my training runs had reverted to almost 8 minutes per kilometer and effort wise, it was in the red zone.

So I lowered my expectations for this race but still hopeful that I could run at an average pace of 7 minutes per kilometer.  

This was the first race in recent memory wherein I experienced some considerable tightness in both my thighs.  It made running difficult and by 2km, I walked while drinking some water.  When I resumed running, the tightness was still there.  In the beginning of the race, I had started at pace of 6:45 but it wasn't sustainable and by 7km or so, I was going at a pace of 7:20 per kilometer.

Now given this scenario, the 7 minute 2:30 cut off time didn't seem sustainable! But I kept going and tried my best, all the while reciting the Lord's Prayer every kilomter of the way.

We reached Kalayaan Bridge and began the ascend to the other side, where the U turn was located.  Legs were still tight here but at least 9km down.  12km to go.

As I headed back to Buendia Ave. and ran down from the flyover, I felt legs loosened up from the speed and hit 6:30 pace for that kilometer.  The next kilometer was also at 6:30 pace.  It became sustainable and helped me bring down my average pace.  If this continues, I should be able to finish below my target time of 2:30.

I felt a little hungry and took one super old GU gel.  Instantly I felt regret as it was horrible!!! I drank water, spat it and drank water again.  The bad taste lingered in my mouth!  I couldn't get rid of it and got worried if this will lead to upset tummy.  I ran faster with the fear that I might need to use the toilet any time.  So adrenalin rush for some panicking over expired GU gel.  All the while average pace was going down.

Then it was just 3km to go and I kept pushing knowing this will just take 20 minutes of running!  The second U Turn was there and done.  Only 2km to go.  Then it was the final U turn with 1km to go.  Finally the final turn to the finish line!

Yay!  I have achived sub 2:30.  Best of all, it was faster than my 7-11 Skyway Half Marathon in February!  Praise God for this!  Thank You Jesus!!

By the time I finished, it was just 7am.  And I felt good.  So I went back to the car, changed into my finisher shirt and did another 4km at a very slow and comfortable 8:15 pace.  I waited for the raffle prizes and saw Carlito and his friend Cesar at the finish area.

Good and well organized race with lots of water and Pocari stations.  Nice medal and finisher shirt plus some other things in the loot bag.

Total km: 25km

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hong Kong Marathon 2017 - Part 3

This is the first International Marathon that I will be doing a second time around.  The first time I did this race was five years ago.  At that time Per also joined me for the Hong Kong trip but opted to be a spectator.  This time she will run the 21km challenge as well (and hopefully we both make it to the cut-off time).

I am registered for the Marathon 2 wave, which is basically everyone who runs slower than 4:00 hours time.  Gun start time was at 7:00am for my race while for Per's 21km, it was at 8:30am.  

We booked the same hotel (Benito Hotel) as we did five years ago and it was because of its convenience to the starting line (one stress factor removed - travelling to starting line).

On Sunday morning, we were at the start area around 6:30am and were there in time to see the fast runners go off. My arsenal for this race consists of 6 GU gels and 6 salt tablets.  

Weather wasn't as cold as our first day in Hong Kong and that was a good thing as I could revert to wearing just my running shirt and shorts.  Shades, cap and Spi-belt with attached bib, completed my running outfit.  We took some pictures around the area and separated thereafter as my race started while Per went back to the hotel to rest a bit.  In an hour or so, she has her own race to run for!

One thing that benefits me during a road race is proper studying of race route.  To know where the turns are, the climbs and the water stations.

As it was a new route for HK (they changed it last year for their 20th anniversary), I had to look at it again.  And it was all uphill till 19th km!  And three bridges, two tunnels and multiple cut off points throughout the race course.  Definitely not easy!  Luckily weather was cooperating for this year's marathon edition (I read last year was horrible because of the hard rain).

Given the steep climb, I had to take it easy for the first part.  By 2km, I was winded already and took a 1-minute walk break before resuming again.  Next walk was 3km away.  But I enjoyed the weather and the scenery.  There were no specific time goals for me for this race. I was just here to enjoy it and savor the moment of running it among thousands of like minded people.

I may sound a little preachy but I knew that I couldn't do this race alone and needed His strength all throughout.  I usually burn out from 32-42km and hoped this won't happen here.  I quietly recited the Lord's prayer every time I reach a new kilometer and lifted this race up to HIM.  I also prayed for Per that she will do well in her own race.  I did what I can but confident that He will be there to protect me to the end.

The nice thing now is that they have released a live tracking App so friends and family can track your performance back at home. Example of this is the picture above which came from Alvin's phone while he is all the way in Manila, and tracking our progess.  Not that accurate at start of race (my status was saying that I was running at 5 min pace!  And Per was destined to finish her half marathon at 2 hours 15 minutes.) but it all re-adjusted at the finish line.

My goal was to reach 19km mark as that would be the hardest in the course given its ascend. Incidentally it was where the first cut-off was located too at 2 hours 50 minutes.  The bus was there, waiting patiently for any runner who will not make it to the cut off time.  I switched my Garmin screen to that of the time of the day.  From this moment on, I won't see current pace but just base it on the time of day.  This helps me see how far I am from the next cut off as they are spaced about 1 hour apart.  It seems organizers forgot to mention as to which distance cut offs will be imposed and choosing instead to put it in location points.  With the route map, it wasn't clear where said locations or cut off points were.  Given the 6 hour cut off of the race, I knew I had to run below 8:30 pace, and that was achieveable for me.

I was more worried for Per and hoped and prayed that she made it for the first cut-off for the 21km, which was at the 10km mark (1 hour 30 minutes). 

I monitored to when it will be her 1 hour 30 minutes and said a quiet prayer for her.  I kept going.

During this race, I took 2 salt tablets at a time instead of 1.  And did this twice in the race.  GU gels I took at various parts of race along with banana at one point and even a small chocolate bar.  (I ended up taking only two GU gels which was smallest amount that I took in a race.  For salt tablets, I ended up with four pieces.)

From 25km onwards, I split distance to 3-5km segment target goals so that it won't be too daunting. 30km to 32km (20-miler! Woo hoo!) to 35km (back in Hong Kong Island after running inside a tunnel).

This is the hard part.  When you are exhausted after running so long, you have to dig deep and keep going.  Once in Hong Kong Island, runners would go to Central and to Wan Chai and finally Causeway Bay.  In between, there is another flyover that we had to run (or walk) on.  

Then I was at 40km.  Only 2km to go.  My feet are sore.  My body is hurting.  But just a few more minutes and I can finally sit down to rest.

I saw Per in Causeway Bay and felt nice to see her again.  But wondered how she did in her own race.

And there it was - the big mat to the finish line!  Praise God!  The last 100 meters!

Fisted hands raised to the air!  Yes, I did it!!

And then it was over!  Two- time Hong Kong Marathoner!

Per made it too!  Close to cut off time with a time of 2:58 ++ but still sub 3!  

We are both ecstatic with our finish time. Per's bestfriend even called her race NAILBITING as it was too close to the cut-off time.

My race was my fastest marathon since 2012.  That was 15 marathons ago!  Ironically the most recent race that was only faster this one was my first Hong Kong Marathon! And yes, that was 5 year ago.

I got my finisher medal and loot bag and went to find Per at our meeting place in Starbucks Fashion Walk.  This was only 500 meters from the finish line but because they closed off roads for the race, it took me more than 30 minutes to get to her!  A benefit I guess if your hotel is near finish line (like that of Regal Hotel) so can rest right after running!

We were both tired but happy.  And had late lunch of crab congee and wonton noodles near our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Race results came out that same night.  Talk about efficiency!

We did it!  To HIM ALL THE GLORY!


It was now time to celebrate!

Hong Kong Marathon 2017 Part 2

Here are some of the things that we did in Hong Kong prior to the big race:

Day 02 - Friday:
Woke up late and skipped breakfast for the two of us, which was awesome as it shows that we really are on holiday!  No work, no kids to worry about (they are in good hands under my parents care) and no plans for the day except to do one short 5km run in the city.  Reason for run is threefold: to loosen our legs for the race, to remove any anxiety we may have by running in Hong Kong cold weather and to help us to plan on the right attire and gear for the race.  Because of the cold weather, I was thinking of buying a light windbreaker for the race but as I didn't want to spend for it, I figured I would wear two (worn out but super comfy) running shirts and just throw one away when I felt that I didn't need it anymore.  I bought two shoes with me but with some pain in the soles of my feet during the short run, I opted to use the cushioned (read: heavy) New Balance shoes as hoping that it would make me last longer in the race.  My last decision on attire was whether to wear standard running shorts (which I have been doing for the past two years) or CWX compression pants to protect me from the cold weather (shorts won out on this).  With the short run, it helped me with the decision making- I would go to original plan of one running shirt, shorts and change my light running shoes to that of the heavier ones.  For Per, she vetoed her original plan of wearing her pink Soleus singlet in favor of running shirt and with light jacket over it.

Our running route was supposed to be just inside Kowloon Park but it was hilly there so we left the park and ran around Tsim Sha Tsui - from Nathan Road (where  race start will be on Sunday), we did a small loop that took us to the Cultural Center and Space Museum and back to the hotel. As we ran with my cellphone with me, our run became mostly a run walk as we stopped in a lot of places
just to take some pictures!  Tourist mode on! :(

Here are some photos taken from our "run":

Cheap dimsum after the run at One Dimsum in Prince Edward where we met some Cebuanos who are also doing the Marathon.

Day 03 - Saturday

Carbo loading day and I ordered two cheap but big meals at Cafe de Coral.

We also collected our race packs at Kowloon Park, which took about 10 minutes only.

Surprised to find out that Nike is now the sponsor of the race shirts!  Dry tech material! Yahoo!

Some more shopping at Harbour City before heading back to the hotel around 4pm so that we could rest our legs.

Slept a little, fixed our gear, had dinner and rested again.

Finally, race would start in 8 hours time!

To be concluded...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hong Kong Marathon 2017 part 1

For this year's edition, the organizers have changed the registration process.  Whereas for previous years, registration is on a first come first serve basis, this year it is based on lottery draw.  So regardless if you registered early or late, your odds are still the same.

This race wasn't part of my plans.  It was Tokyo Marathon, but since I didn't get in that race (via lottery method too!  And third time trying!), this race became a secondary option.  What luck that I got in.  And so did Per for her Half Marathon.

The one hard thing about this race aside from its infamous hilly route was the strict  cut off time it imposes for Half Marathon and Full Marathon runners.  For Half Marathon, it had a 3 hour official time (gun start) cut off with 1.5 hour cut off at 10km mark.  For Full Marathon, aside from the 6 hour course cut off, there were 4-5 other cut offs in the course, with the first cut off at 19km mark (2:50 time).  This was a race so strict that marshals will put up a net to block runners from continuing the race!  Runners will then be boarded to the sweeper bus and taken to the finish line.  Those who refuse will be barred from joining future Hong Kong marathon events!  Wow, strictness!

So there were a lot of pressure for me and also for Per, who hasn't done any running  in almost two years.  She has to cover the distance and the right pace to be able to be a finisher.  And she had 7 weeks to train for it, with zero mileage prior to it.  Gulp!

For Per, our initial plan was for her to still do the race and do her best.  If she couldn't get the pace done, then she could enjoy the sights of Hong Kong city and at worst case scenario she will still be able to run 10km (and get shuttle bus to finish line).  But she was still
committed to train and do her best for it. So will see how that goes.

For me hopefully a 5:30 finish time, and try to beat my Milo Marathon 2017 of 5:46.  With this target, less pressure as well for the cut off time.  

We paid for our fees and booked our plane tickets (via Cathay Pacific promo) and hotel room (direct booking at Hotel Benito as cheaper than through  

This would be my second time for me
to run the Hong Kong race so wanted to book at the same hotel as we did before (5 years ago!!).  Hotel was super near the race start at around 200m distance only so that was helpful.  Got bigger room this time for us!

I didn't mind doing this race again as organizers changed the route last year for its 20th Anniversary so at least it would be different from the one i ran in 2012.  This also marks the first international marathon that I would do more than once.  A new milestone!

We arrived in Hong Kong thursday afternoon and took airport bus to hotel.  Some shopping and eating and Day 01 in Hong Kong was done!

Three days left before the actual race!

To be continued..