Monday, October 23, 2023

Garmin Run Malaysia : Half Marathon Race Report

Two attempts to break a 3-years old personal best timing for Half Marathon distance in 21 days. The last I went this crazy was when attempting three marathons in 90 days (which I did in 40 days) to earn the right to be inducted into Marathon Maniac (with payment which i did not). While the marathon was to "just complete", these Half-Marathon attempts were a different game altogether. More so when you are trying to break your own personal best.

The Day Before

It all started a week before the world went into chaos with the Covid19. I landed in NYC and went for a run at Central Park. I was fresh from resting, in a very nice temperature condition and has almost a race-like atmosphere (because Central Park in NYC is like a runners' paradise). I scored a 1:34:42 in a 21.1km distance. There were no GPS-drift and all condition I would consider perfect - down to the run being completed in a Threshold manner.

The PB Run

That was 3 years and 7 months ago, and this record has remained standing and unchallenged partly due to Covid restrictions and could not find the perfect opportunity to do so. While the whole lockdown has benefitted me fitness wise - with being able to run a 1:45 HM any day, to replicate and to ultimately renew this PB at 3 years of age later, continue to slip away.

But we continue to try.


Ideally, the PB could had, would had, should had, been rewritten during the KLSCM on October 1st, 2023. We all knew how that went, with the mission failed and only clocking in a 1:39:20. Technically a "real race PB" on an accredited course. But I do not settle for anything less that breaking the NYC timing. So when my sponsor AECO Technologies offered us in EveryMove Sports Club a slot to race in the Garmin Run Malaysia about 1 month after signing up for KLSCM, I took it up in a heartbeat. I have been involved with Garmin Run Malaysia since the inaugural event - pacing for the 10km distance with Farina in the first event, and pacing the HM distance with Shah last year. Both of them now are my EveryMove Teammates. Talk about coincidence.

EveryMove Sports Club - Missing Shah as he was working that day. Farina second from left, standing.
Many has asked me if I am pacing this year's Garmin HM. Apparently me and Shah did such a good job last year there were repeat request for us, particularly for me to bring my portable speakers and play songs while running and sharing running tips with the runners. I hate to disappoint them as obviously i have a personal mission to complete - and Garmin Malaysia already has their own group of capable pacers that will help lead the runners to success. 

modelling the limited edition Garmin Run Malaysia t-shirt
I registered under MEN INTERNATIONAL. The only reason for that is to ensure a potential of being able to podium if I clock a good timing. Based on last year's race, I observed a few friends going up the podium signing up at this category. By registering as Men International, it also meant i am putting myself against the other potentially stronger foreign runners, right?

Organizer also mentioned that "this may come as a surprise"
The story is myself and Rizan Jang signed up under Men International. The other being Farhan (DNS due to injury) and Ashley (for Women International). We decided to test our luck. Needless to say, we were all downgraded. The organizer has placed a few criteria, which also meant anyone that fits the 4 terms and condition, will not be able to race as international. Which also meant many of of foreign friends that is residing in Malaysia doesn't qualify as such.

I guess the organizer has decided on this as to be fair to all parties and racing under Malaysia Men Open isn't such a bad idea after all. Putting myself against many younger runners instead of just my category (Veteran 40 to 49).

First Dilemma - my Elite2 had a tear after KLSCM
My race kit for this race was very similar to the KLSCM. I did not want to change anything to keep to things that works. So, it was the Brooks racing singlet, the Pressio Arahi shorts, the Shokz OpenRun Pro (despite having a choice of racing in the OpenFit), Shokz race belt (the gel placement is a bit off centre but i can live with it), Pacific and Co performance socks, HammerGel, Garmin FR965, Stryd New Gen Pod, and a last minute swap of the Brooks Hyperion Elite2 to the Peaks UP3.0 as the Elite2 had a tear and I do not want to risk the shoe falling apart mid-race.

Peak Sports UP3.0 Version 2. 
The Peak 3.0 is brought in by Sports Paragon Malaysia and it is a carbon plated shoe with 2x Pebax foam as midsole. It's super bouncy and super responsive. However, it wasn't "race" before by me but I put trust in my own experience and the brand that has a legacy and well received by a numbers of reviewers. Perhaps its high time i give this shoe a proper review in my blog (later).

Ready, again!

Onwards, Race Report

I slept by 10pm the night before and woke up at 2.30am. While the sleep was short, I woke up with a bloated stomach that it was really uncomfortable. The only thing I know could had caused it was the effervesant Vitamin C tablet i took post dinner - hoping to boost my immune system and to give me a more relaxed sleep as I was on Day 3 of trying to recover from a pulled Rhomboid Minor (aka the muscle between the neck and shoulder blade) due to a simple stretch that went wrong while sitting down!

Less than Ideal despite the close to 5 hours sleep

I told myself it is ok. It is just muscle pull not related to the legs, and the stomach/gastric gas conditon that may sort it out within the next hour or so. A shower, a quick breakfast of a slice of bread and a cup of water and I was on my way to Putrajaya, 40mins away. I arrived on race site parking with 90minutes to spare to race flagoff.

No. Stomach bloatedness did not ceased despite the bumpy drive
I slept in the car for additional 30mins, and head to the start line area around 4am. It was pretty deserted except for the organiser, crews and MC that has already started their day. I saw many people warming up. Great. But i also see some overdoing it beyond the normal warm up (or light dynamic stretching, some A,B,C Skips, some light running) such as sprinting and stride repeat. Honestly, these energy is best kept to be used at the race. I just stood there, did some light stretching and shuffling, loosen my starting to feel the pain shoulder, and in-come my RMC mate.

Hello Juares
I convinced Juares to be at the front - two reasons, the air is always fresher up at the front with less potential of sweaty BO runners, and you can always be sure your photos will be taken right before flagoff. Of course make sure you have the ability to go fast at the start and not be a nuisance to others behind you.
Spot me in Capt KJRC Syed's posting!

I then did a quick re-check on my racing and pacing strategy. My KLSCM taught me a few important lessons. I was running too fast and was above my fatigue threshold. I was unable to keep to the power effort by KM17 in KLSCM and I am determined not to make the same mistakes.

My Stryd Pacing reccomended me to run between 258W and 270W (average 265W+/1 6W) or at my 91% CP. Compared this to my KLSCM at 285W or at 98% CP (to break 1:30). Admittedly that was over confidence and I learnt it the hard way. 

Stryd Pacing Strategy 90% CP

Marry that to my Garmin PacePro strategy, i found the sweetspot of 4:25 pacing, and I know how to calibrate my effort and strategy as we go along. I opted for steady effort and neutral uphill pacing.

Super Guide for Pacing
All system go. Music was streaming through my Shokz OpenRun Pro, Stryd connected, PacePro activated and I defaulted my screen to just see my power effort. I was all ready.

Half way chatting, I was approached by one of the FTAAA officials asking if I am racing under International category (bib indication: MT) which I told him I am not as I have been re-categorized as Men Open. In fact, i can't see any other MT bib, short of two or three that was running under the organizer (Garmin) as their "elites". The MC shared a few safety precautions, and we were reminded that there are one water station every 3km, which serves water and electrolytes.

I then did a last (10mins) assessment and decided to stop at every water station for some liquid and take the HammerGel at KM9 or about mid-way. While I can race without hydration and fuels, the decision to do so was due to myself wanting to race conservatively. There is the hard/tough way to do it (like how I always does), and there is the smart way (like preserving and keeping race pace/effort discipline and fueling up). Instead of drinking/gulping down the hydration, i will do rinsing - aka put in the liquid into my mouth, gargle and spit out. I just need my mouth to be wet - and the electrolytes or sports drink to be at minimally sufficient without overloading the digestive system.

I still have that tummy bloated issue remember? And yes, it bothered me. I never had wished I can fart it all out when the run starts. 

The race went into the last 2 minutes of preparation. I could hear myself zoning out. The only noise that mattered was in my head. Even the music playing through my bone (conduction) was eerily silent. 

Cone and safety tape lifted. Runners were asked to toe the first timing mat. It was right under my feet. Fingers on start button. 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Go.

Making my way around the pacers in front of me, side stepping and picking up speed to leave the crowd behind, I found my pace with the second group led by Michelle and Olivia. Like bees to honey, male runners were surrounding these two well known strong ladies. It was also then the music streaming through my Garmin finally came up and I found my rhythm.

Thank you Seven Days at KM1
As the front pack pulled away, the first chase pack gathered speed and ran past the first bridge towards KM3. Reminder. Sip. Gargle. Throw into bin. Go. My Pace for the first 3km was solid. I was almost 30s ahead of the planned pace and well above my planned power effort. Reminder to be conservative. Slow down or burn out.

First 3km. Much faster and higher effort
The PacePro was prompting me of my progress while glance over my 3s average remind me to keep to the planned power. Discipline takes over and I held back a little.

The next 4km saw us running along Lebuh Sentosa with approximately 1.1% gradient, peaking at KM5.5 at 52m. I was on-point for the power effort, and was slowing down pace wise. First 7.5km timing mat got me at 32:47. At KM8, I was already behind my target timing by 45s, technically a few seconds behind my PB (1:34:"42")

KM4-7. On plan power-wise. Note that my HR was steady at 90% LTHR
Mental Note. Fuel Up at KM9. I took a 15s walk to open the HammerGel (whichever gel there is, it's always trickiest when you are racing to open), press out as much of the content as I could (It was Espresso with 50mg Caffeine) while taking cup of water from the crew, nodding to say thank you and a wink (bonus), gargle it in my mouth, swallow and grab another as I exit the water station to rinse out whatever that is left.

And some of the residue somehow went up the nose the wrong way. Now with the bloated tummy that refused to fart, and some espresso up the back of my mouth to my nasal passage. Nevermind, keep moving!

Photo around KM 10 by Maestro FizSaid. Follow him on IG here
Not sure if it was a another coincidence, the tummy started to ease up after the HammerGel was digested and I can feel the pressure on the lower tummy being lesser. KM10 timing was 44:32. It was a minute slower than my PB (clocked during KLSCM) and I was about 75s slower than planned. 

Power pacing on point. HR Profile solid. 

285W up the slope past KM10-11. 100% crop from FizSaid photo.
It was almost like second boost as the stomach felt better. I started to push a bit harder, yet still conservatively not to over-effort the power.

Game On. Photo by FizSaid
Picking up the pace as I cross the colorful bridge at KM13, the joy of having a much easier tummy was seen in these photos. You can't fake a happy face.

Thank you 
As we ran around Lebuh Sentosa to be back at Kementerian Belia dan Sukan, we all know there is a short steep climb up the Perdana Bridge overlooking the Convention Centre at KM14-15. The second timing mat was there as I cross the second 7km flat timing. Almost no differences between first 7km timing and 14km timing (Average around 31mins/7km) and I rounded up KM15 in 67mins. It was a pretty strong effort as around this distance, Roihan and Amin came and overtook me pretty solidly. Knowing that they both has much better HM timing, i was very tempted to push myself and run with them. I kept them in my sight until KM18.

Noticed the elevated HR at KM14 and 15 where it was the run up Perdana Bridge
I was catching up on my pace and knowing there is only 3km+ to finish and not felt fatigue was just good. KLSCM KM17-19 came flooding back and cast doubt on myself. At that point, I was almost 2mins slower than my targeted 1:34. I know I would not be able to make or break the PB, but I can come close. The focus now is to finish strong. 

RKShoots shot me at KM19. Bought the photo from my Dear Senior. Check yours here
Mental calculation as I glanced through the timing at KM18 :1:21. If i can push a 3km in 12mins, I get my PB at 1:33. That would meant a pace 4:00 all the way. But this route has history of overdistance - that would add at least 1-2mins depending on how over-distance it could be; so the best bet would still be 1:35-ish. Not gonna PB. Just finish strong. Chin up.

KM19 to finish. All out last mile/1.6km
As I enter KM20.5 u-turn, I heard Tini and Azwan cheering me. It was a fantastic feeling being cheered on, I remember i waved and gave mini-love. Haha. The last 1KM felt endless but it was great with the final 500m filled with folks cheering

Thank you SevenDays at KM20

Thank you Tey Gor. Last 200m to finish!
And for the first time, crossing the line feeling like i won a race - with ribbon and officials cheering. Perhaps it was because they thought a potential winner came in under Men International...
Thank you Bukan Run Club For this photo finish
Crossing the line at 1:36:44 strong. If KLSCM was an official PB in a race, I technically re-wrote it at Garmin HM. But rewinding to how i started today's report - my PB remains to be 1:34:42 for a 21.1km distance.

I arrived at 66th overall out of 4146 HM runners of all gender and categories. 44th in Men Open and 60th by Gender (all categories). I did a quick check on the results for Men International and I am 7th with only the first placing to be a "real" foreigner (the other 5 before me are all Malaysians!). So even if ever, I won't be on Podium, but close enough.

I then normalize/trim the distance on my Garmin Connect to 21.1km, I am still off my PB by 51s (1:35:33), So I am not gonna kid myself that I ever will or did break the timing at the 21.1km distance.

I will take this result as my "season best" and an official race result. Bittersweet for me because:

  • Despite the minor injury and gastric condition, I managed to shut my mind over this.
  • With training lacking of LSD and focusing mainly on "quality" base and shorter threshold, I get what I trained for
  • Older at 3 years and 7 months later, I am "just" slower by 2mins 2s (122s)
  • I pace well though conservatively; 265W planned on Stryd, delivered 260W pretty consistently. I was racing at Threshold and was very comfortable with reserves that I should had (hindsight always 20/20 haha)
  • Fuel up, hydrated at every water stations, this is as rare as me wearing socks

Race Stats Analysis

  • Power - 260W (delivered) vs 265W (planned)
  • My most disciplined race pacing with minimal power spike and within prescribed effort. On hindsight (again... hahah), could had pushed closer to the top power (>260W)
  • Running Effectiveness was at 0.95. My highest in a race (or training), couple that with Form Power Ratio (FPR), it tells of your efficiency. My FPR for this run was 0.27, which places it at average efficiency.
  • Leg Spring Stiffness was solid at 12kN/m. All things equal, the only thing changed was the shoe - and this is the evidence that Peak UP3.0 Version 2 is a super responsive shoe. This may be my go to for future race shoe
  • Heart Rate was at 95% LTHR all the way. Basework contributed to a very strong heart. Explained the smiles and poses (if not because of shoulder and gastric issue while running first 12km)
  • Full Stats of the HM for data verification. Click to Enlarge

What's Next?
I am planning a comeback to active triathlon racing in 2024. May have to shift and refocus on other stuff while keeping the dream of breaking 1:34:42 alive. Wish me luck, perhaps?
fresh from returning - unwashed laundry

joining the medal rack
Congratulations to everyone that has completed the 5, 10, and 21km race. If you did your first race, well done. If you clocked your personal best, superb congratulations and hope more records will be re-written. If you did not manage to complete what you came for - don't be despair, if this uncle (me) did not give up, you should not as well. Chin up, train well, rest better, come back much stronger. We all can and we all will be. Keep showing up, no matter what.

Photo Dumps from event, as captured from my camera post race.

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