Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Melbourne Marathon - Race Report

Target Time:
Achievable With Ease - 4:15
Would Be Satisfied With - 4:10
Intended Target Which Would Make Me Very Very Very Happy - 4:05
Otherwise - Anything below 4:31 is a new personal best

Race Strategy:
1. To maintain at least a 5:45 min/km pace. Max pace at 6:00 min/km.
2. To complete each 10km in at least 57 - 58 minutes.
3. To consume a power gel at every 8KM, except that the 5th one shall be consumed at KM38.
4. To refill water bottle with electrolytes at least twice.

Sunday, 13th October 2013.
We woke up at 4am and got ready. Breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches, muesli bars and bananas were packed and to be consumed along the way. Upon arriving at the MCG parking lot at 5am, we sat in the car for an hour, trying to get a bit of shuteye but we ended up people watching while listening to the radio.

Made sure we first used the loo before dropping off our baggage.

It was funny to see a long queue outside the Men's when there was none for the Women's!

We took a peak of the MCG from the aisles and it felt so surreal, especially knowing that the skies will soon be light.

The Warm Clothing / Baggage Drop-Off area was located at the basement car park of the MCG. Bustling with marathon runners, we deposited our plastic bags* with our change of clothes before making our way to the start line.

 *It was stated in the information booklet that we had to use plastic bags. I felt like a bag lady AND a bloody noob runner when I noticed that not everyone used plastic bags. In fact, duffel bags were also used. Sheesh. 

Oh, I read it wrong. Oops, my mistake. You are allowed to use duffel bags. :D

There were mobile toilets available near the start line called Rows-A-Loo. Made me chuckle.

It wasn't as packed as I thought it would be, seeing that there were 8000 over people expected to run the marathon category. Everyone was just chilling out, chatting with friends, warming up, etc and I was praying for no rain for most of the run.

A few minutes before we were flagged off, the Australian national anthem was sung by a girl with a lovely voice. I don't remember her name, but it was good. (Malaysian event organisers, take note!) Otherwise, the atmosphere was pretty quiet with only the emcees yakking away, without enough music booming from the speakers.

We needed a party atmosphere!

I received some odd looks, not sure whether they really liked my running dress,
or they thought I was overdressed for the run. Dang, I forgot my diva pose! :)

Long sleeve top from lululemon athletica. Running dress from nuu-muu.

Oh, they didn't have warm up exercises led by fitness instructors either, in contrast to our Malaysian events. (Good!)

7am came and we were off.

Before I reached the start line, I had to watch where I was going lest I tripped over piles of sweaters and hoodies scattered on the ground. After keeping warm, runners tend to discard their warm clothing just like that.

Discarded items would be collected and given to the Salvation Army or other op shops, I don't remember which one. sorry. A good way to donate your old/unwanted clothing! :)

I must have crossed the start line at 7:03am, with YB alongside. We shuffled together for the first 50m before I weaved my way through the crowd. 

It was 10'C that morning, but without the breeze, it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. 

The first 5KM was good, as the crowd slowly spread out. Every now and then I found myself stuck behind big bulky runners (some with body odour *gag*) and then moving away before I fell into my comfortable 6:00 min pace. Once on St Kilda Road, I made sure I moved faster. I was excited to hit Albert Park, not sure why.

Spotted a few men peeing by the roadside. Most of us who ran past were giggling and shaking our heads.

Crossed the 10KM checkpoint and was pleased to note that I was on target without any trouble. :)

Was wondering where the other half was when I soon spotted him ... AHEAD. I thought I had left him behind at the start line!

I gradually increased my pace just so I could inch closer to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Even that took a lot of effort and I wheezed at him, "Woah! Aren't you a little fast?"

He mumbled something as he tapped his watch, something about being on target pace. He then gestured me to move along ahead of him but I shook my head and continued at my own pace. I think he was going at 5:30.

We soon reached Beaconsfield Parade towards the u-turn at Bay Street. Honestly, I felt that it was the longest 5KM of my life (at that moment) as I impatiently waited for my watch to beep at Lap 15. I could see the runners on the other side of the road and spotted Yim and Andrew Ooi trudging along with ease.

Photo courtesy of Couple On The Run / Sue and Andrew O'Brien.

The amount of litter is astounding!

Every now and then I would spot the 4:10 pacer and with that, I was comforted by the fact if I kept him in sight, and speed off during the last 2KM, I may as well achieve my target time.

As soon as we crossed the 20KM checkpoint, I checked my watch and heaved a sigh of relief. I couldn't help but smile and felt really excited to have kept to my pace as planned. At 21KM, I glanced at my watch. Did a mini salute to no one in particular, but dedicated to the GCAM group. A sub-2 for half marathon distance has always been an ultimate goal of mine!

Spotted YB on the other side of the road as I approached the u-turn at KM25 and boy I think I was starting to get worried. The aroma of bacon and fried eggs wafting from cafes or houses nearby were very distracting. I was starting to get hungry, and I really wished they served bananas at the aid stations, now that we've passed the halfway mark.

Just before the 30KM mark, I stopped to refill my bottle with a fresh electrolyte tablet. I was worried that I was not hydrating enough, as I only stopped at the aid stations at every 8KM when I needed to consume a power gel. I knew the cramps were going to come anytime now, it was just a matter of when.

Hitting 30KM and being back on St Kilda Road, I was happy that I was really on target with my time. I had to hold back tears of joy, because it was too premature to rejoice at this moment haha!

Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of YB a head of me. What the heck, he was really on a roll, though I noticed he was running strangely. I suppose his left ITB had started to give him some trouble.

I soon caught up with him and asked if his ITB was acting up, I don't remember what he said, but I'm sure he said yes, and also asked me to go ahead. We ran and walked together for 200m before I tumbled along a wee bit faster.

Yeah, I know. 
I'm such a terrible wife to abandon him during his time of need, but he did give me his blessings to go ahead! :D

It was getting harder to stick to my pace. I was stopping more to walk now, and I'd run again. I knew I shouldn't stop, but was getting hungry. The quads were occasionally twitching and I kept sipping on my electrolytes and hoped for the best, yet I felt bloated.

Overtook the 4:10 pacer, which I thought was the wrong thing to do. He must be struggling as well.

Nevertheless, hitting my target at 35KM was just the boost I needed to push on.

The raindrops came just as I reached 36KM and soon the rain was pelting down.

It was uncomfortable as my top stuck to my arms and it felt really chilly. My shoes started to squelch.

Every time I stopped to walk for a while, I had to talk myself into moving my feet again. The finish line felt so far, despite telling myself that it was only 6KM to go and I COULD DO IT. JUST KEEP MOVING!

I knew I was getting slower and slower, with the constant need to stop to walk. I kept sipping on my electrolytes and willed the cramps to go away. It was always the quads. I tried shifting to a forefoot landing but my calves wouldn't cooperate.

I looked down at my feet and it took me a while to register that I WAS looking at my own feet, although they didn't felt like mine. I was running very peculiarly and noticed that my toes were pointing slightly inwards as I landed. 

My posture, my arm swings, my movements indicated that I was slowly losing the will to keep going. Took a power gel.

Reaching 37KM felt like forever.

I mentally slapped myself and told my legs that we only had another 5KM to go and it was going to be over soon. In fact, I was quite happy thinking that I could blaze through the remaining 5KM until

... my watched died at 37.6KM.

I knew I had to push through with pure willpower alone but I could feel the flame inside of me gradually fizzling out.

The route was boring. The rain was annoying. I was feeling a bit cold. A blister was forming on my left arch. The quads and left calf were seizing up every now and then.

You know, sometimes you hear your mind giving you excuses WHY you shouldn't reach for your goal, and WHY you should just quit now because it would be justified? That, my friend, is where you're mentally weak.

I contemplated waiting for YB but as I wasn't sure how far back he was, I decided that it was silly of me to stand at one spot in the rain to wait for him.

38KM came and went.

Didn't see the 39KM marker.

Back on Flinder's Street I tried to hurry on, as I knew the end was near. Spotted a photographer and I straightened my posture. Stopped to walk right after the photographer.

Reaching 40KM felt good, but I wasn't sure how far off my target I was. I was tempted to ask a spectator for the time but decided that I didn't want to know how bad I was doing.

Out of the blue, Jon caught up with me and I surprised. I wasn't expecting to see anyone, despite looking out for him and Alexa along the way. He told me that it was 4:04 and we chatted a bit before he took off.

Why was the finish line SO far? I grumbled to myself.

I soon found myself running on a narrow path leading towards one of the gates to the MCG. Not celebrating yet, of course, because I suspected it was still a long way to the finish line.


We had to run another 300m towards the finish line and as there was a path leading runners towards it, I was considering overtaking the folks ahead of me who were lumbering r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. 

Erm, don't you people sprint to the finish?

I didn't know whether to be rude and just barge my way through, until I spotted 2 runners from the corner of my eye just zooming past, which prompted me to do the same.

And was caught in the act, too!

Crossing the line at 4:13:xx (gun time) proved to be too much for me to bear. I was gutted. I wanted to cry. Spotted Jon before I could start wailing like a banshee. :D

We hung around just in time to catch YB crossing the finish line 2 minutes later and I could tell that he was extremely pleased that it was all OVER.

Photo courtesy of Jon Lim.

Look at me, holding in my disappointment while he was glad to have completed the marathon!

My 4th marathon, and his 3rd one - done!

With Jon.
Congrats to us, yay! The 3 of us recorded our personal best that day.

We hobbled in to collect our medals and grabbed some Powerade, apples and bananas before we reached the drop off baggage area. 

Thanks, official photographer! :D

While in the changing area, I met a girl, Charmaine who had just completed her first marathon in 4:26. She wasn't sure whether it was a good time, but I told her that it was fantastic for a first-timer!

Free massage was available for marathoners and half marathoners, so we took the opportunity to try it out.

Unfortunately, it wasn't much of a massage.

They kneaded our leg muscles as if gently massaging marinade into steak/meat. It was very lacklustre which I felt could have been improved if they had used their forearms to put pressure on the area instead of pressing with their hands.

Nevertheless, I pity them for having to touch sweaty and hairy legs, but at least I was considerate enough to have changed into my clean clothes prior to the massage. :)

You know you're hobbling really slowly when a kid in a
tricycle-pram thingy overtakes you as you hobble along.

Spotted Kon of Run 4 Refugees in his bridal gown,
he just completed his half marathon!

We went to check out the expo before leaving MCG.

Managed to catch Couple On The Run and Karen Loh (of Malaysia Women Marathon) before they dismantled the booth.

Event summary:
1. Having someone sing the national anthem before the race. 
2. Separate baggage drop off area for each of the categories helped to mitigate the crowd and queues.
3. Participants were given a separate access to the toilets, whilst spectators/supporters had to use another entrance.
4. Separate start times for each category. 
5. Sufficient aid station at every 3KM. The volunteers were great.
6. Spectators along the way, with some giving out jelly beans, etc.
7. Traffic control was good. Sufficient barriers were set up to cordon off the traffic.
8. 3 personal aid stations were set up. Runners were allowed to drop off their personal drinks a day before the race.
9. Free massage!

1. No free power gel or bananas after KM25. Unless I'm too used to the Malaysian way of things, I guess each runner has to bring their own food during the run. (Oh wait, I guess I should have made use of the personal aid stations.)
2. One of the aid stations (at KM35, I suppose) should have volunteers offering a spray of CounterPain or deep heat ointment for those in need. (Oh wait, am I too pampered now? :D)
3. The littering of plastic cups and power gel wrappers was terrible. Runners failed in the general sense for not chucking them at least towards the bins' general direction, if not into the bins which were provided for. Litter bins should have been extended to at least 120m out of the aid station zone. A power gel wrapper almost hit my leg as a runner ahead of me threw it away after consumption. Tsk tsk!
4. I didn't hear anyone thanking the volunteers who were extending the drinks to the runners, yet the volunteers seem to have expected such a thankless job. So sad!
5. The medal is a bit of a letdown, very plain on the back.
6. The lack of party atmosphere before the start of the race.

7. It would have been great to have a band playing somewhere at Fitzroy Street to pump up the atmosphere. Just a suggestion, actually, it's not really a con. :)

The event itself was great and it was a different experience altogether. Organisers, runners, volunteers, supporters and spectators deserve a big hug for a job well done!

Post-race thoughts:
I was extremely happy to have stuck to my target time right up to 35KM. Running out of my comfort pace for a long distance proved to be a confidence booster for me.

5KM split times written on my hand. It was the 40KM one which worried me the most, and
true enough, by then I was 7 minutes behind my target time.

For the past 2  days, I have been replaying the last 7KM of the run in my head and it bugs me to no end. I confess that there is an urge to exorcise this demon (oh noes, not another marathon... ) or I'll never be able to sleep properly again! *drama queen*

During lunch that Sunday after the marathon, I told YB that I still felt like crying. It would have been funny, though, if I did cry over my bowl of pho haha!

Anyway, I haven't cried but I have pinpointed two issues which may* have caused my downfall crappy run during the last 7KM: 

1. Lack of Sufficient Training - I failed to clock at least two 30-35KM runs last month. Without these long runs, my legs were not prepared to run the intended race pace for long or to deal with the lactic build up. Our longest run was only 25KM. (Contribution %: 30)

2. Mentally Weak - To this day, I am berating myself for this. I'm extremely gutted for my disastrous performance from KM37 onwards. I failed to talk myself out of the mental rut which I should not have fallen into the first place. I should have pushed on faster with the jog-walk-jog-walk arrangement but I was too easily deflated from the cramps, the rain, squishy shoes and my watch which gave up on me first. I relied so much on my watch that when it died, a part of my motivation died, too. I wish I had been mentally stronger. (Contribution %: 70)

*I'm actually quite certain!

On the other hand, I attribute my awesome finish (of shaving 20 minutes off my previous marathon time) to two factors:

1. Route and Climate - The route was flat with no major inclines. The climate is so much cooler here than it is back in Malaysia. That contributed 10 minutes off!

2. Training - Despite the lack of 2 major long runs as stated above, the training programme must have helped. I modified a 4:00 plan to suit my needs for a 4:15. The weekday runs are the hardest to stick to, especially during winter when the evenings are cold. Wrapped in a beanie, long tights, thermal underwear and/or jacket, running in the July and August nights is no fun at all. That must have contributed 10 minutes off.

Hard work does pay off!

Related posts:

I glanced through the old posts and realised that after each marathon, I'd say, "Last marathon ever! Really!" and here I am, again. They say that the urge to keep doing is because we humans will always crave for perfection, i.e. the need to improve the score.

Before you even dare say it, no, no and nooooooo.
No more ... ! :)


  1. Way to go on the awesome PB! All of us here had no doubts you'd pull it off :D

    And now, since you're in a league of your own, I'm going to unfriend you ... hahaha!

    Errr, by the way, when's your next marathon?

    1. let me unfriend you first, ultracapn! hahahaha!

      thanks. :D
      no more marathons ... for the time being!

  2. Bravo guys,bravo. "Clapping hands"

    1. thanks, Gary! hope to catch you at the next adventure :)

  3. Big woohooooo and congrats on your super timing!!!! Last marathon, yeah? For 2013? ;-)

    9 pros compared to 7 cons. Not pampered much. Hihihi

    1. thanks, Femes Bunny! :)
      last la, LOL, for the time being!

      i'm glad there are no upcoming marathons (doable ones with no crazy climbs) available to sign up for i'd have itchy feet like happiefeet's. :P

  4. Congrats on ur PB! Well done!
    Yes, yes and yesssss..... more marathons to come. :)

    1. thanks, CP!
      LOL, i feel like fainting when I think about the training commitment and taste of power gels in my mouth. :D

  5. Congratulations to both of you!! Timing...wowww. Well done!
    I had goosebumps reading this hehe..
    And I am mentally weak. KM30 is where I start to feel scared of all those demons appearing...

    1. :)
      that's why people keep training until they can exorcise the demon.
      we are mere mortals that's why we are mentally weak. but think about it, there's no way to get home until you've crossed the finish line hehehe

  6. Congrats, getting laju all the time :)