Most people wouldn’t have guessed but this was actually my first Half Marathon race, most guys would’ve been involved in it while serving their National Service but I was the lucky few to have been posted to the Navy. The Army Half Marathon is in it’s 22nd year now and a whopping 46000 participants lined up at the start line for the 21km, 10km, 5km and 800m (kids dash) events.
I’ve taken part in a couple of running events but I’ve ran better races only recently. This race was by far, one of the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself and I have to thank Gerrard (AKA Ah Siao) for leading me through the pain cave in the last few kilometers to cross the line at 1:37:26.
Preparations for this race.
It’s been just over a month since Ironman Zurich and things haven’t been really on a roll in the training department. I managed 9 runs during the last month (2 track sessions, 2 x 18km, 1 macritchie, the rest I’ll call them misc.) and felt pretty decent in terms of fitness, but I haven’t been doing much long sessions and my Zone2 10km (I use them as benchmarks) runs where much slower than pre-Zurich. So coming up to this race, I knew my endurance will not be as optimal as before. On the bright side, I was pretty sure the track sessions (with Shem Leong) have given me some “extra spring” in my legs.
Nutrition plan was simple: Peanut butter sandwich with isotonic drink for breakfast, 1 gel 30mins before race, 1 gel 40mins into the race.
Goal: 1hr 35mins
Left home pretty early to get a parking spot at Bras Basah Complex, took a nice morning walk with Jaime and reached the start point at just before 5am (Flag off 0515). I tried to get a good position at the front area to avoid the usual jostling for space at the beginning of the race; managed to get to about 100m from the starting line which was good enough for me. Probably crossed the start line less than a minute after the flag off.
After the flag off, spent close to 10mins trying to get into a good pace, zig zagging through the crowd to get in front. I was afraid of starting off too quickly but at the same time, I didn’t like being stuck in a crowd.
Jaime was at the 2km mark, armed with our annoying shrilling rubber chicken (Gilbert). Gilbert was at it (shrilling) all morning, cheering for the runners, attracting a lot of weird stares and the occasional smile from the crowd.
Setting my pace.
I always pace myself based on heart rate and wanted to run a 166-171bpm (85-88%) based on some run article I read about pacing for a half marathon. I needed a 4:30min/km if I wanted to hit my goal (1hr 35mins) so I picked up the pace once the crowd started thinning out. Ideally I would’ve trained and ran a simulation “race pace” run to know my fitness level before setting a goal, but I didn’t. So first shocker of the day was when I realized 4:30 pace was NOT equal to my target heart rate, instead I was huffing and puffing away at 180bpm.
After the sad reality has set in, I thought the goal was out of reach and I’ll have to settle for a slower finishing time. I remembered my race in Zurich, how sad I was when I couldn’t do anything to hit my target after the half marathon mark. I felt like I didn’t do that race justice, for all the preparation and hours that I put in…. After that day, I thought to myself, no foaming (at the mouth) no count. (Just kidding ah kids, I’m a responsible adult after all.)
I decided to go all crazy at this run. Just run the damn pace! It’ll be over in less than 2 hours anyway. I was prepared to stop and walk if I hit a limit, BUT meanwhile, just try to keep up and see how I feel.
It’s all in the breathing.
I hope I didn’t annoy anyone too much with the heavy breathing. That was the only thing I remember doing during my Standard Chartered marathon last year which helped me keep up the pace throughout a long race.
Breathe in rhythm, keep the heart rate constant, keep the pace constant.
I haven’t read much into this, but it seem to work for me. I just kept breathing really loudly, enough to hear it and keep it in rhythm, that would in turn keep me from going too crazy on the run OR slack off into wonderland. The pace was naturally fall into place after that. This worked like a charm and it kept today’s run at a relatively good pace throughout.
I met a familiar face at about ¾ into the race. Ah Siao is a fellow fund raiser and he’s training to blitz the SCMS 2013 under 3 hours this December 2013. I like his style! Setting a goal, announcing it; and work towards it. He’s really technical about his training methods and I’m sure we’ll hear a great success story this December! Really excited for this chap!
He was taking a leisure stroll when I met him, he had a Taekwando Tournament later and I think he was saving up a little to give his opponent a worthy challenge. I hope he did well in the fight!
Ah Siao dragged me along for a while, occasionally losing me as I was too tired to keep up. By now I was slowing down to a 5:00 pace but he kept with me all the way.
I was fading out the last 2km and that was when Ah Siao went berserk on me and kept me focused. Heart was going at 190plus and all I could hear was him shouting, “overtake that girl! You must overtake that girl!!!”
After overtaking her, he still kept shouting…. I had no strength to argue with this guy.
I crossed the line with my watch saying I took about 1:37hrs (official 1:37:26). I was utterly exhausted. Never in my life have I pushed so hard in a race. And I have to thank this madman for it, without him I would have definitely walked the last 2km.
More importantly, he has brought me into a zone I’ve never been to, where faces were all a blur, muffled voices and heart beating so hard my head was going to explode. I was satisfied. It was exactly how I wanted to feel at Zurich that day. Thank you Ah Siao.
Jaime and I returned to the course to cheer some friends who were still running. Gilbert was having a blast, shrilling at the top of his voice, cheering the runners along. Supporters are so important! I really appreciate Jaime for getting up for my races and being there on the course, and even if it’s just for a split second that I see her while I’m running, it’s like I’m back at “full battery”; better than 100plus or whatever gel x2 caffeine I shove down my system.
We spent some time at the 20km mark cheering people along, met plenty of friends who were running that day. They would’ve missed us if Gilbert wasn’t around…hahahah
Big shout out to fellow racers! Ah Siao, Chuan, Muk, Lee BS, LinLi, Adrian Teo, Raymond Fu, Jia Hui, Kenn, Harry Tan, Cecilia Chia, WenYuan, Nora, Joe, KT, guys-with-wigs, guys from SBR!