p pol The Adventures of Carboman: December 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sanity Check

I gathered up enough courage to turn up at the Platinum car park this morning. The silence in the car as I drove down to KL - for once I didn't turn on the car stereo - was indicative of the apprehension and dread I had. But the run was something that I had to get in, since the GE30K race is just a couple of weekends away. Given my level of fitness it would've been wiser if I'd registered under the 20K category but then I'm sure I'd be harboring a feeling of regret if I don't do the full monty. So no matter how hard it's going to be, 30K it is.

The menu for this morning called for a 28K-ish long run covering most of the race route. The route is modified this year to include several loops around the Income Tax Building while removing the additional loop around the Hartamas Petronas station. The race organizers also see it necessary to heap more miseries onto the runners, the Matrade link was included into the course.

I'd preferred that it rained like yesterday but it didn't. I made sure that I ran very conservatively so that I can last the distance. For this morning we had several guest runners for company - Suhaimi and friend and Vicki, an American training for an ultra Adventure race, among others. By the 3rd K, I was already huffing and running alone. Frank and Lynn would soon disappear ahead while Lawrence and Vicki were pacing ahead together as well. If anything, my pacing were pretty consistent at 6:30. John who arrived late predictably passed us after the 4th K. I would only get to a level of comfort close to 10K, so I was pretty much focused on the moment of the run and dared not think too much ahead.

To cut a long story short, I'd like to warn fellow runners on how difficult the course is. While many may have run 30K training runs as part of training for the race, not many have run the actual course. All I can say is that it will surprise you. It will hammer you, if you start too ambitiously. There are very little sections of respite from the hills. The start itself involves a climb up the Deer Park. Before long you'll be tackling the long incline just after the Central Bank before doing the reverse Double Hill. Your quads will take a pounding as you run down Double Hill and your legs will immediately be taxed with a climb towards Mahameru (7K mark) and the IRB Building. Then the double climb of Matrade awaits, then Duta Tropika (10K) before the long and familiar length of road towards Desa Hartamas. After Petronas, you'll be running behind the station - a steep climb, a downhill before another uphill curve towards Plaza Damas. Then it's back to Matrade and the IRB before heading back to the dreaded Tijani slope.

A brief respite comes as you run down Kenny Hills and you'll need to drag your legs up to the Central Bank loop. At this stage you'd be mistaken to think that it's time to hammer the pace but wait! There's still the long trek to the Selangor Palace before exiting the hill at the National Monument. And if you're still "fresh" at that point it's 800m to the finish at Tapak A in Lake Gardens. What I'm getting at is "Underestimate this course at your own peril!".

Having mentioned what I did, I'm not complaining about the route. Afterall, if one feels that it's too tough, simply don't sign up. But since runners are generally suckers for pain and are up for the challenge no matter how foolhardy it is, the race is most likely fully subscribed.

I ended up completing just 26K of this morning's run (average pace of 6:16) and was I glad. I decided that running the Selangor Palace at this point won't make much of a difference to the state I'm in, except perhaps to inject a little bit more confidence. Now I won't sign off this posting by presenting everything to be difficult. Check this guy out - if everything goes according to his plan, we may just yet see the world record for the marathon smashed again this year.


2008 Review

Typical of large corporations, my workplace has a semi-annual staff performance review process where supervisors will review the performance of their staff. We use an Intranet workflow system for the preparation, submission and review. At the end of the process, the employee will be interviewed with the supervisor where hopefully a constructive feedback session can take place before a final rating will be accorded and agreed by both parties. The rating goes in some ways towards determining the appropriate increment and/or career progression of the said staff. A good thing about the workgroup that I'm in is that we're all quite matured and very open in communication across all levels. It's easy to see why we're quite well-oiled since the average years of service within my team of 4 members is 12 years, with an average age of 39. In a marketplace where the staff turnover is as rapid and frequent as underwear change, our longevity in our department is a wonder.

Likewise in running, it's a good thing to conduct an annual review on went through, our training, the disruptions and challenges, and achievements. I’ve been doing such reviews since 2005. It's all part of wanting to become a better runner and ultimately a better person in balancing our passion with other aspects of our lives. I'm more than happy with the running I've put in this year. 2008 has to be the best year I've had in my running. I succeeded in lowering my times in distances ranging from 10K to the Marathon and was fortunate to have participated in 3 overseas events. I continued my policy of being selective of the races to run, and even though I took part in 11 races I thought they were spread out quite well and contributed to my key race performances. I’d have to go back to 2004 when I last raced so much. Some may roll their eyes when I regard 11 as plenty. Indeed so, since some of my friends raced as many as 6 times in a month, not counting some of their training runs were like races. Personal highlights of this year include:
  • Recorded PRs in 10K, 15K, Half Marathon, 30K, Marathon (twice)
  • Ran 3 marathons. It was 4 years back when I last did 2 within a year
  • My 10th marathon was a World Marathon Major no less. Only in the sport of running can you run in a world class event and thread the same grounds as the champions)
  • Traveled more than 4 hours to a race
  • Ran 2 races in Singapore, unusual for someone with limited time
  • Participated in the global Nike+ Human Race 10K
  • Embarked on a series of Back to BacksTM
  • Initiated Hell WeekTM
  • Hit 114K mileage per week, 160K in 9 days and despite the volume actually enjoyed it and except for the odd blisters, remained injury and illness free
  • Supplemented running with spinning which proved to be an excellent cross-training exercise
  • Covered just a little bit more in the 12 hours walk
I'm thankful for the company of friends during the long runs, without whom Hell WeekTM and the Back to BacksTM wouldn't have been so much fun. Their presence made waking up at the ungodly hours very much easier. Next year will not be quite the same. The current global economic situation means that sponsors will be hard to come by and organizers will face tough challenges in maintaining race quality in view of rising costs, smaller budgets and tightening purse strings. Events will be done on a smaller scale and we runners will have to contend with smaller or non-existent goodie bags. Unless we’re willing to pay higher race fees, we shouldn’t complain. On the other size of the fence, organizers will be tempted to raise fees, something which I hope will not happen. At the same time, it is also hoped that the organizers will not use the lack of sponsors as an excuse for a poorly managed race. We runners want a well managed race, not a well-stocked goodie bag full of unusable items. I believe, however, niche events will continue to be well-supported, even if there will be a reduction in those who register only to collect the event T-shirt/vest.

My racing plans for 2009 remain uncertain with only January’s GE30K to show. Standard Chartered Bank’s debut sponsor of the KL Marathon in June looks appealing and is almost certain to draw the crowds. Training for it will be tough – which marathon training isn’t – but the added challenge lies in the fact that the project I’m involved in will be moving to the UAT phase then. As high as I got in 2008, I'm praying that I won't be descending to the opposite depths in 2009. I'll just have to make sure that I don't regress that much, do I?

To read previous reports, just go to the Race Report page.

Here's wishing all readers and friends a Happy New Year and many miles of fantastic running!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Malakoff 12K Race Report

I would've been contented to call my NYCM the final race of the year but then I found myself in Putrajaya for the insanely masochistic 12- Hour walk and a week later at the Malakoff 12K. What gives? I just wanted to have a bit of fun I guess. Training had withered down to just weekend runs, so it definitely wasn't for want of fast times that I entered myself for both events. I'm grateful for Lawrence's help in submitting my entry, along with Geraldine's.

It was to be a very hectic race eve for me. After a reversed double hill run in the morning and a shorter slow one with the RunnersMalaysia guys, I had to rush to the Imbi Market for some meat - literally I had to bring home the bacon! There would be no rest as the next stop was the Taman Rimba at TTDI to meet Lawrence and pick up the race bib. I quite like the park and the residents in the adjacent townhouses must be very fortunate to be living right next to a green lung. Collection was promptly conducted enough and quite a few friends were there for their bibs too. The only freebies in the bag were a small sample tube of Nivea facial cleanser besides the overlarge vest. Breathright strips samples were handed out too.

When I got home, the entire household with the exception of C1 and C2, was busy repainting the grilles. Tired as I was, I couldn't just do nothing, so after getting the vacuuming and mopping out of the way, I took care of the metal works upstairs while the rest handled the ground floor. Lunch at about 2:30pm was pasta with mushroom and herbs, an omelet, and a thick slice of bread. All I managed was a 30-minute nap before waking up to get the kids ready for Cheang’s Christmas party. The heavens opened up with a heavy downpour so the short drive to USJ was cautiously slow. The spread laid out at Cheang’s abode was fantastic, all home-cooked. I commented that the host should seriously consider opening up and eatery right next to Choi’s shoe shop with creative menus like “Hit-The-Wall” Value Meal or “Carb Craze” Set. Thanks to Cheang for inviting us to his wonderful home.

We hit the sack at 11:30pm and after a 5-hour plus sleep my alarm went off. A slice of bread, half a Powerbar and cup of black coffee later I left home to pick up Geraldine. Fortunately I made plans to pick her up, which allowed for my 2nd toilet visit. I’d been holding it since I left my place. Somehow my stomach is increasingly not coping well with pre-run black coffee. There was still space at the Kiara car park where I left the car. While walking to the Rimba park, we chatted with Daniel who was doing his warm-up routine and a few others. Frank and our other friends were already near the starting line. The area was very narrow which made for a very long queue up to the start. I was in no shape to race hard and just wanted to ride out this event as the final one for the year. Having a narrow, twisty and hilly route made certain that I didn’t over-extend my capabilities. Nevertheless I still wanted to run an honest pace and not go through the 12K route too easily.

It took me about 3 minutes to cross the start line and most of us were still bunched together. As expected runners started to spread out at the first long and steep climb. I was on a steady pace and even so I passed more runners than being overtook. Many who underestimated the effects of the hills would pay for it during the second lap. I skipped the water station located near the switchback and arrived back at the park entrance in about 25 minutes. Choi in his “racing” wheels were on this occasion snapping photos along with Tey. But the second ascend up the first hill was horribly painful. I was just shuffling along just to get to the top and I was half expecting the quads and calves to snap! Luckily I was able to recover on the flatter and downhill stretches and resumed at a quicker pace. Only the green surroundings and relaxed manner with which some faster runners were taking the run alleviate the level of suffering. John and Wai Mun were for example, running in Christmas mode distributing candies and mini choc bars while Ngae ran in a sarong accompanying a friend.

With 2K to go I went into a reckless abandon mode. I was just focusing on not tripping on my churning legs. Lynn and Frank were already by the finish when I crossed the line in 59:17. The distance was a little short at 11.17K. They had run a blistering race. Just after returning the timing chip I bumped into Chui Lin, my colleague, who did the 6K. Even though she ran in her school days, it was a pleasant surprise to see her back at it, even though at a recreational level. We went to the same Sunday School back in Penang. It was great catching up with fellow runners over a bowl of nourishing Tau Foo Fah – I rank this dessert up there with milkshake as the ultimate post-race food. A little while later it was time to make our way home for our other commitments.

Storming to the finish. Photo courtesy of Choi

With Justin, Geraldine and Lawrence. Photo courtesy of Choi

Even though the race was tough, it was a thoroughly enjoyable outing for me. The race was small enough to be cozy, surroundings were green (even if we didn’t get to run on the highways and tunnel) and there couldn’t have been a better way to start the day. Not to mention a nice race to end the year with too.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annual Med Check...And A Rant

I finally got around to getting my annual checkup done, something which should've been carried out in June! Thinking that 8:30am would be very early was the first mistake I did. A long queue had already formed. The examination package is quite comprehensive but not all-inclusive. Other than the blood works, ultrasound, X-ray, a treadmill stress test and other basic tests, there was no cancer marker check, no bone density nor hearing test. Certainly no testicular ultrasound as what this famous blogger went through!

Having said that, I can't be complaining since the RM1,000 package is fully borne by my employer. The reason I'm mentioning this is so that in the event you're looking for a clinic to perform an extensive array of tests, you can consider where Kenny went.

Since there are only a couple of weeks to the end of the year, there were many colleagues there to "redeem" their benefits and thus what was potentially a 3-hour visit turned into a 6-hour stay. I had my iPod Touch with me and was able to while my time away watching movies and surfing the web via the free wi-fi access. The waiting did many no good since we had to fast from midnight. I was starved. The matter was made worse since the Astro channel was locked on to the cooking channel! In the end I could wait no more and surrendered my lunch voucher at the cafeteria while waiting for the treadmill (I know, no running after food!). I opted for the tasty garlic and mushroom pasta.

The results of the test? The doc gave me a clean bill of health. No presence of H Pylori (this dang bacteria sounds like Helicopter Pirelli!), the good cholesterol is high and the bad is low, no infection of the kidney, prostate looks good. I'm tracking the cholesterol readings though - it's gone up even though it's still in the healthy zone. I attribute that to working late the past few months and not eating as well as last year. That has to change. My BMI is still good at 18, and I haven't yet shrunk - my height still the same. The X-ray showed a little non-permanent scarring of my lung (right lung upper quadrant) which the doc said could've been due to a lung infection. That's strange because I didn't know I had that. Despite that I was told not to worry as it wasn't something to be concerned about. With the good results in my hand, I treated myself to an ice-cream cone on my way back to the office.

Now comes the rant. Not about the med check but about an experience at the recently concluded PC Fair. A salesgirl approached me as I was checking out the Shure earbuds at the EpiCenter booth. She asked me if there was anything I was looking for. Nothing wrong. So I asked if the price stated on the item was any cheaper than sold at their store. Her answer floored me. Ready? OK, here you go. She replied, "Would it make a difference if it was cheaper outside?". Somehow I was able to remain standing and replied (in a rather incredulous tone) "Of course! That's what fairs are for. Why else would I brave the crowds for if not for a better price?". And I walked off. She may just be a part-timer for the store just for the event but EpiCenter had lost a customer.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

1st Putrajaya International 12-Hour Walk Race Report

Participating in this year’s event wasn’t part of the plans, having done 2 in the preceding years. The clincher, however, was that the venue was moved from Penang to Putrajaya. Deciding between a 4-hour drive to my homestate and a 15-minute one is a no-brainer. I save on fuel, time and money and along with the nagging unfinished business of trying to hit 60K in 12 hours made me put my John Hancock on the form.

After a 30-minute afternoon nap, I rendezvoused with Frank and the other guys at Bandar Puteri Puchong for an early dinner of noodles and caffeine. We were running a little late as our cars pulled into the car park adjacent to the event site. There seemed to be more younger folks this year and a nice crowd of approximately 500 if the organizers were correct

Number pickup was quickly done and we each received a nicely stocked environmentally friendly goodie bag courtesy of Genting group. Putrajaya is a nice place to hold events needing ample space and the wide divider stretch between the avenues made for an ideal area for the cooking, information, control and rest locations. There were tents set up for these purposes. On one side were some camping tents erected by supporters and on the other, 6 mobile toilets.

I spotted many familiar and regular faces as I joined the gang in gearing up for the start. I made sure I lubed liberally in all the potential trouble spots, and checked that my salt packs and iPod were kept in a plastic bag inside a clip holster. On top of that I carried a Powerbar Triple Threat to munch. Weather was cool and a gentle breeze was blowing. The race director led the participants in a Birthday Song for one of the walkers before starting us off at 8pm sharp for the long long walk. I hung out with Choi and Frank right at the back as there was no hurry. First lap was covered in excess of ten and half minutes.

For the full report, please click this link.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Marathon

As much as the distance provides the allure to the masses, the appeal of the marathon, at least to me, lies in something more intrinsic. I'm lousy with words, so let's take the story of Tsegaye Kebede as an illustration. If you follow the sport, Kebede, 21, was the 3rd placed finisher of the Beijing Olympic Marathon. Just last Sunday he demolished the course record of the prestigious, elite-only Fukuoka Marathon with a 2:06.10 finish, wiping off Sammy Wanjiru's 2:06.39 no less. If you don't know who Wanjiru is by now, you must've been living under a rock - the man, just a year older than Kebede, is now hotter than The Great Man himself! Read here.

Kebede's background as mentioned in the World Marathon Majors website states that he:

"was born in Gerar Ber, 42 kilometers north of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the fifth of 13 children. His family was exceedingly poor and Kebede struggled to get by, earning less than US $1 a day by gathering firewood and later working as a herder. Just before his first marathon in Addis Ababa a bus he was riding on went off the road, severely injuring several passengers, but Kebede escaped with just a small leg wound and he went on to win the race.

"I am living in a dream," Kebede said when he learned he would run for Ethiopia in Beijing. "This is so big and so important for me. I did not obsess about it all my life, although I wanted to run for my country in the Olympics. I am just surprised that it has come early."

There are many stories like Kebede's. Much like our journey through life, the marathon is fraught with challenges, setbacks and struggles. From commoners to the elites, many marathoners see the race as a way to prove that they can still succeed after all the struggles that they've gone through. The marathon is a paradox and because of this, it's intriguing. But the marathon brings about dangers as much as the hope it offers. If you underestimate it. The marathon teaches you the value of patience and hard work better than your high school teacher.

While many run it to prove that they can succeed in something they do,
equally many run the race to celebrate something - remission from cancer for example - or to dedicate the race to a love one (insert Marci's post). I ran one of the KL Marathons to celebrate the birth of my son. People run the marathon for a reason, much unlike the "Since I've nothing to do that weekend, I might as well run the 10K" mindset.

I forgot who first said it but this quote is very appropriate - "The marathon is so much more than 42K. It is the sum of who we are in one challenge". Not only does the quote captures the essence of the marathon but it is also a statement of challenge - dare you find out who you are, and what you're capable of achieving? What will you find out about yourself?

Labels: ,

Friday, December 05, 2008


The iPod's playing Matchbox 20's Unwell and I'm unwell. 2nd day of my cold. Nose not dripping like a faucet, thank goodness but the meds reduced me to a zombie. Coughing started yesterday. Craving for a large bowl of chicken noodle soup. With croutons. Got my haircut, head felt lighter. Bought bus tickets for the family for their trip back to Penang. Will be home alone from 23rd to 26th. 50K week beckons? 1 hour 15 minutes to 5pm. Sending good wishes to those racing Singapore this Sunday. Am I'm risking hyponatremia-ing? Lasse Viren and Sammy Wanjiru rock! Now, that's what I call racing!

Foot tendinitis has disappeared. Going to make myself a mug of camomile, limeflower and lavendar infusion.

Giving the world economy a kick in the **lls it needs. Nah!

Don't blame me! I was just trying to help!


Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm Back!

It's been a month since THE unforgettable race and all the travel and stuff I gathered for the trip is still scattered about the house. If you want to read the race report and my NYC experience, you can go here or click on this image.

Before the wife comment on the mess, I should really tidy up. I've done very little running since then - only some "maintenance miles" just so that I don't lose too much fitness. I still have a "race" before the year is out and that's coming up on the 13th 8pm. That will be the Putrajaya 12-Hour Walk, my 3rd outing in that series where I'll be trying for a 60K total having progressed through 40 plus and 50K the last 2 years. It didn't cross my mind to skip this year's edition since it's happening near where I live.

I've been carrying an irritating dorsal (top) foot pain since last Saturday. The discomfort is actually a dull pain and it strikes when I flex my foot in any direction. The pain is at the centre of the foot and between the big and the second toes. It's not so bad that I can't run though. The doctor said that it's tendonitis and not a stress fracture, which was a relieve. I checked around that I think my condition is called extensor tendinitis. The doc prescribed diclofenac (a form of NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) but since I'm not in a marathon training, there’s no logging of crazy mileage, I think I can still continue to run. The next race after the 12-Hour Walk, is still more than 1.5 months away, so if I can keep up with these maintenance runs, I should be OK.

Labels: ,