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Monday, November 23, 2009

Run Beta Run # 4

Many a weeks of practice and a few injury-induced drop-outs later, I found myself running at Penang Bridge myself and seventeen thousand other strangers. I reluctantly decided against a road-trip and barely made it to the Saturday morning flight 32 minutes before the departure (my personal best). Predictably, I forgot to pack running gel, earphones, cap and socks among other non-essentials. Spent the major part of the morning in procuring the afore-mentioned. Also collected the running kit (Had forgotten the registration slip as well but my iPhone came in handy as I flashed the email confirmation on the screen). The queue to the half-marathon consisted of just me. Clearly, folks were either committed or having fun. There were not many serious amateurs (Lionel - Thanks for inspiring me into coining this term) around.

Then the realization. I WAS IN MALAYSIA. No even better. I WAS AT GEORGETOWN. One of my favorite destinations. So I did the usual. Went upto the monkey beach, took a dip, threw pebbles at a couple baby monkeys (Somebody had to straighten them up), ate at Nando's and spent the major part of the afternoon and the evening sleeping. You see, my run was to start at 3:30AM in the morning and I had little time in trying to hit an entirely different timezone.

The hotel group coach was due to leave at 2:00AM. A gastrointestinal urgency made sure that I could make it only by 2:16AM. A Hongkong dude pointedly showed his watch to me as the words escaped him. Or he thought I was incapable of understanding English. I found it insulting but apologized nonetheless. The van started moving. An overly friendly French dude engaged everybody in a conversation. I followed suit and asked around for target timings. It turned out that the HK dude was targeting a 1:20 something. I thought he looked down upon the rest of us as he said that. When I was asked, I said that I normally didnt run a half-marathon but I did clock a 3:04 when I ran the full at Richmond, Virginia a few days ago (This incidentally is my superboss's timing). He found new respect for me and exchanged running tips with me for the rest of the journey. I must have added a few minutes to his target timing.

I had my first gel about 15 minutes before the start. Started the race from the back to gain psychological advantage of overtaking (Dont I love such tactical masturbation). Soon I realized that it was more than offset by having to manoeuvre around, especially, some of the kids who were alternately sprinting or standing still. Some had decided to unzip themselves of performance anxiety on the side (I was glad I took that trip to the loo beforehand). I was feeling good and hadnt allowed anybody to overtake me so far except two Kenyan women (Their race actually started 15 minutes after ours. Who says women arent better than men?). Covered the first 10kms easily in 49 minutes despite the bridge incline (I would guess it at around 15 degrees) before having my second gel. By now, breaking the 2hour barrier looked within reach. Overtook an old uncle. Now, I had a lot of space as the better runners were far ahead and I had left all others behind. I told myself - herein lies mediocrity. Another 5kms rolled under as I did the mental math of the remaining distance and the time left.

At around the 16km mark, I started struggling. The incline was steeper, the wind against and the breathing hard to come by. I slowed down to stabilize the breathing. People were overtaking me now but I was helpless in doing anything about it. Tried to busy myself by looking around at the blackness of the ocean and the partial moon upstairs. To boost my ego, I conjured up a new record in being one of the few who have crossed this bridge on foot, by car and by plane. The old uncle had just overtaken me.

Tried to have my third gel of the morning but it wouldnt go down my throat, not without promise of serious retching after. By now, I was crawling. The 20km mark flashed by. I took my speed up a notch but was pretty much stopped in my tracks by another flyover and this one was even steeper. I must have made a miserable picture as I crossed the finishing line. I kicked myself as the clock showed 2:14.

My target time was 2:15 and I made it within that. But I could have paced myself better. Or may be not. As Vincent says in Gattaca - I guess I didnt leave anything for the way back.


Anonymous said...

What hapnd to the HK dude??

thundercat said...

congrats on finishing and even getting there in the first place ! lots of determination for a serious amateur :-)
i'd have slept in and played squash !

Hiren Gajria said...

Dude that is some insane running. Im rather happy that my thrills come cheaply - at the gym. I could never get used to running a marathon.

Even a 25 minute on the treadmill is a pain to get through. I can cover a max of 3.2 or 3.4 km in those 25 mins.

To get into the technicals - how do you monitor the heart rate - and how does it behave (in your case) while doing a 21km half marathon.

2ndly - dont push too hard - its got to do a lot with genetics. Some have them some just dont. Look at the Ethopians / Kenyans. Some insane levels capacity to run.

Beta said...

Anonymous - No idea about HK dude. In the final results tabulation, there was none from HK. So I guess, he was a fraud afterall.

Thundercat (Thats some alias!!) - Thank you.

Hiren - I do have a heart-rate monitor (Its a bra like strap with a wrist watch measuring the heartbeat on the go) but I dont use it (You can imagine why). Currently, I am focusing more on breathing and push myself as long as the breathing is steady. As for Kenyans, the idea is not to compete with them but with oneself. So basically, run as well as one can.

Annoymously said...

So That's why monkeys out there are neurotic..

Amusing account.

I too know nothing of marathon running but most ppl i know, never complete a race. Which makes this not so mediocre.

Hiren Gajria said...

@ Beta

How much did the Bra like strap cost you there. What brand is it. Im thinking of investing in one. Not for the running obviously but to monitor the heart rates during some insane lifting at the gym.

Any recommendations on the brand / features etc.

Annoymously said...

We are in the metrosexual age and all that Mika but would it be wise to walk into your gym wearing a bra? You may attract quite a different type of stalker ;)

Beta said...

Hiren - I have a Polar monitor. Polar is generally considered to be the best in the business. Mine was a free one from the company during one of those health and fitness drives. You can check online about the prices as well as various models. Mine is a basic one which simply monitors heartbeat. There are others that can also monitor distance travelled and speed via GPS.

Annoy - Just like a bra, you wear this strap under a t-shirt. Completely invisible. I personally dont like the discomfort. But then to each his own.