Saturday, November 23, 2013

Putrajaya 50K: Run Report

The moment I got out of the car at the Taman Seri Empangan for the Putrajaya 50K, I had an inkling it was bound to be a hot day. The skies were brutally clear even for that early in the morning. Just how hot it was going to be was something I wasn't expecting.

The Putrajaya 50K, organized by the PACAT Adventure Team is a very small, niche event that's not a race but mainly an LSD around Putrajaya. Only a limited number of participants were allowed for control and safety reason. It was more of a fun gathering of people who enjoy running long distances.

The run was to be flagged off at 7am, something that I was grateful for cos that meant I didn't have to wake up at an ungodly hour. The run location was just a half hour drive away from my place. I had my gear and fueling all sorted out only the night before. Reached the run gathering point around 6.30am and the crowd slowly started coming in.

The staging point
The who's who of ultra running in Malaysia were present, the likes of Shine Teh, Jeff Ooi, Razif, Yimster, well just about everyone except me. I was the official noob among them. Upon checking in I inquired with Zinov on whether it was advisable to bring my rain jacket and he said it probably won't rain so I chucked the jacket bag in the car freeing up a lot of space in my hydration vest which was already full with loads of stuff. While the run would have support in terms of water, food and stuff, I was planning to be totally self sustainable, just in case, hence the packed vest.

The run was flagged off by Arman sharp on the dot and off we went. Seeing as how this was my first 50k attempt, I didn't really have a plan or strategy. We all need to start a benchmark somewhere, right? The start required us to head up a long flight of stairs and I knew this was going to be a problem during the finish. Started off at a reasonable pace. The first part of the run was on familiar ground so nothing much untoward to report.

Before the flag off.
Pic courtesy of Marlina
Was a little concerned though just after the PICC junction cos I wasn't running as efficiently. Something just wasn't clicking. Kept on going and came to the first water station, manned by Arman. Even though it was only around 8 plus in the morning, the sun was already posing a problem. Filled up my bottle and headed off towards the second part of the run (I broke the run into 5 parts). Like I said, the sun even at 8am in the morning was already blistering.

It was around the 13k point when I decided to stop and whip out my arm sleeves, shades and 'kamikaze' cap to get ready for the onslaught of the sun. It was just after this when I hit the motorcycle lane part of the run, one which was simply grueling (for me anyway) and one that almost had me calling it quits! This part was boring, shadeless, hot and absolutely mental.

Just before the first water station.
Pic courtesy of Marlina
For practically the entire race I was running on my own, no one in front of me and no one behind me save for the times when the front runners did their u-turns at the 25km mark and were heading back. Not a good sight to see people heading back while you still had a ways to go before even hitting the u-turn. This was really a mental torture for me. The sun was out in all its blazing glory. I could feel the burn even through my arm sleeves.

This was when I really missed the company I always have during my runs. With Jamie still recovering from illness and Kew opting out, I was basically all on my own and it really made a difference, in a bad way. The only company I had urging me on was the wife's constant text messages telling me to keep going and that she had faith I could pull this off. If it wasn't for her, I would really have just DNF'ed the run, especially around the 25k mark when the cramps hit me like a sledgehammer on my right leg.

The only fans I had cheering me on ...
The cramps were a surprise cos I was hydrating and fueling right on schedule. I had on me Anti-Fatigue Caps, Endurance Aminos, Endurolytes, Perpetuem, gels and isotonics in my bottle with a 1.5L bladder full of water. I was taking them as planned but the cramps still hit. Somewhere through the pain it dawned on me that though I had planned my hydration and fueling needs accordingly, I hadn't planned on the sun sapping my energy at a much faster rate than my fueling could handle. I need to re-evaluate all my hydration and fueling for running under the blistering sun after this.

As I said, the cramps hit me bad. I was reduced to a crawl after the 25k water station. It was so bad that I asked Zul who was manning the 25k station to give me a lift back to the start. He told me to hang on as he had to head back to the 20k, (now 30k after the u-turn) water station and would be back to pick me up but not before spraying my leg with a healthy dose of Salonpas spray. The spray helped heaps cos by the time he came back I was up and running, albeit slowly, again. Told him I'm going to carry on with the run.

The long and devoid of shade motorcycle lane stretch.
Made my way slowly towards the 30k station and took a 10 minute breather there. Gobbled down a couple of watermelons, bananas, sandwiches and topped up my fluids but not before getting a nice ice-cool hose down by Zinov. The sun was blistering by then as it was fast approaching noon. I wasn't looking forward to the trek back on the same reverse leg of the boring, shadeless motorcycle lane again.

My mind was weighing heavily to just call it quits, after all, there wasn't any shame in quitting, right? I think the wife could sense my desperation cos just then, I received a text from her telling me in no uncertain terms was I to take the easy way out. She was rooting for me. That got me going again at a snails pace. The sun and loneliness was getting to me and I was talking to myself to keep me going.

The harsh shadow cast by the unrelenting sun ...
By the time I passed the chicken exit, which was damn tempting mind you, I was resorting to more walking than running. The cramps were coming on and off again and I was sipping water at a more regular interval now. Reached the last water station just before PICC which was unmanned but still had loads of ice cold drinks available. Topped up my fluids, sponged myself down and braced myself to face the final onslaught of the busy prescint 2 and final section.

At this point, every single muscle in my legs were twitching like crazy and the possibilities of totally cramping on both legs were very real. I was walking at 9 minute pace at this point but had to switch to a 12-13 minutes walk pace to nurse the legs back to the finish. Now, those stairs that we had to negotiate at the start was going to be a killer to walk down with legs like these. I reached the stairs, looked at the skies, prayed and crab walked down those stairs one at a time. It took ages and then it was just a 200m to the finish and the end of this misery.

My 'finisher tee' ...
I did it. I suffered practically half the way but I didn't quit. I take away a lot from this experience. Running longer distances is not easy. It's a progressive thing. A lot of training is needed. I'm far from ready to run a real ultra and I recognize my shortcomings. I'm re-evaluating a lot of things concerning longer distances from now on. A lot of factors need to be looked into. I take this as an invaluable experience and will work on this and improve myself for my next challenge. I'm nowhere near being in an ultra class category but with lots of hard work and loads and loads of training, maybe one day I will be.

Before I end, a big congrats goes out to the PACAT Adventure Team for setting up this very well organized no frills event. Everyone was simply supportive and the camaraderie is something that cannot be put into words. Good job guys and I'm already looking forward to your 12 hour challenge next year. Yes Kew, I'm unremorseful ... LOL!

Footnote: I wore the Skechers GOrun 3 as my choice of shoe and it came away just fine handling the distance with no blisters nor hotspots. A highly recommended shoe for long distance running.

12 comments:

  1. Congrats! Crazy, insane you! How's your tan line? :P

    p.s. since when did you start calling me by my full name ah? ;)

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    1. Thanks. The tan line will be something to show off in the office on Monday.

      When one steals someone's pictures, they have to be official and use full name la ... LOL!

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  2. Capt. Nick: you set another milestone, congratulation!

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    1. Thank Foo and thanks for calling to check if I was still alive ... LOL!

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  3. Congrats and I bet you were well roasted yesterday. Get hydrated and rest well :)

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    1. Yeah, totally roasted Kevin but it was a good learning experience.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Kew, wished you were there burning under the sun along with me... LOL!

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  5. Congratulation!
    Completing a 50k under the brutal hot sun yesterday was an achievement :)

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    1. Thanks Neoh, still a long way to go but glad for the experience.

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  6. Well done Captain Skechers! It's another Ultra achievement under your belt... I wonder how those Ultra runners will survive in the blistering 60K Beaufort sun... Goshh!

    So, which route will you prefer? Ultra Back 2 Endurance loop Lake Garden pavement or 50k Putrajaya mental shadeless one? The hot weather really played the main factor ya...

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    1. Thanks. Both routes has its pro's and con's. I take this an invaluable experience.

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