I'm gonna go through much more on the preparation compared to the race itself because honestly THAT'S the huge part of the marathon. So please don't get bored it's really quite informative. hehe :D
THE BEGINNINGActually I wasn't very interested in joining too much running events because I thought it's just seriously money-making and I don't really get excited over collecting medals. Mostly only for self-satisfaction. I saw the poster on someone's twitter and I thought, heyy this is interesting, you know, an all women's run. Girl power and stuff and the poster was pretty too.
The run was in March so it was perfect! I'd still have time to train (it was Nov-Dec when I discovered) and it's in the middle of the semester (Jan-June). Something refreshing outside of medicine and studying, to force me out and go workout. Plus, I'd have like a benchmark, like after this marathon, it's time to shut the door, curtains, shove off everyone and everything and ace that finalsss!!! lol (kill me)
Like I said, I didn't join many running events, only twice before. A 7km Newton Challenge and 10km Penang Bridge Marathon. After Penang Marathon in Nov 2014, I was eagerly looking for another running event (runners will understand. hehe) and MWM being in March, I'd have like 4 months to prepare with a decent background stamina from the previous training. I wanted to challenge myself and step up to 21 km, the half marathon. But.... then... I was just so in love with the medal, the fact that it's 'silver' for half marathon and 'gold' for full marathon, my ego just had to reconsider. lol.
Plus the fee was not that much different anyway. Anddd the vest for full marathon is purple, I just love that purple colour (plus ego boost ;D).**but ended up getting the same boring white colour vest anyway.
What finally pushed me was the souvenir for 42km finisher, a runner's dress with MWM flowery design. I never had something like that, it covers the bum and perfect for running and I just thought to myself seeeriously tutup mata just sign up for a full marathon and train my hardest, because if I don't, I'm sure I'll regret it. Also, I thought to myself, if I don't do this now, I might not have the chance to do this later, being a houseman and all,or maybe, ever! Who knows what the future holds right? So I decided to take my chance here and now!
You have no idea how many people told me I'm crazy after I told them I signed up to run for 42km. haha. No joke. It was more of a motivation for me though instead of getting dicouraged because I just can't wait to see the look on their faces when I emerge victorious to class the day after the marathon. hehe. Though sometimes it was quite frustrating when people say it as though I'm just inviting problem for myself. Some people don't see it like I do, a personal challenge, my one chance. In fact, as though it is something unnecessary especially since my finals is near. (Well they do have their point but I honestly can't afford a strict 6 months study marathon!)
That saying, you can expect, it's a one woman journey. I invited my friends but obviously they're not crazy enough to do a full marathon, they just registered for the fun run. Of course MWM is very proactive in providing so many clinics and running sessions but I just can't afford them, financially and physically. I even asked my brother to sponsor my run because I felt RM88 being a final year, car-using student is a lot.. and he agreed and only asked me to credit him. haha. Plus I'd have to fit in so many things in my schedule I just have to be content with training alone. Being a first-timer, no partner, no other friend who's done a full marathon, welp! It's just me and google then!
ACTUALLY RUNNING TRAINING
Actually the first month I totally bailed on training (bad move). So I'm left with 3 months to train (BIG mistake for first-timer you'll see later). So you can imagine me frantically googling for the best, fastest way and all. But I started off using the NIKE Run App.
There's a Coach section where you enter your target (42km marathon) and date and it will arrange for you a running schedule. It gave me a warning, said it should be a minimum of 4 months to train for 42 km, but being the strong-headed person that I am I want to push through. So it was a pretty bad start because I tried to follow the coach programme and being near to the race it's already arranging for a 5-8 km run where sometimes if not most I cant achieve. But what's even worse is I actually tried to cover my unmet distance the day before and add it up to today's training (noob alert!). like whaaat, of course I cant do that I can't cheat my body. But I didn't know that until much googling later.
Only 7 weeks of serious training, so guilty T_T. See, first week already arranging me for 26 km run and I only managed 10.
I knew roughly from the schedule the Coach thingy provided me that you do alternating long and short runs with very long runs on weekend followed by rest day. Shorter runs faster pace of course. Then I think I was searching on how I can improve my performance when I came across the different paces! gasp! (noob alert!) Beginner runners will understand when I say, we usually run that same pace basking in the gloriness of running with winds sweeping fiercely against your face, hoping somehow you'll get that added distance one day if u just consistently run day after day. Well, that's not how it works. Maybe, but not a very effective way to do it.
This is another reason why a running app is useful. Not just Nike app, whatever app you like. I thought I was slow already but apparently, if I'm not hitting my target distance before I get tired, that means I'm going too fast. My usual running pace is 8.5/km (that's not very fast). I'd have to multiply that by 1 point something (sorry I forgot where I found it) and my pace should be like 9.3/km. That's a slow jog pace! Which basically means... I can't run yet.. I need to jog first *cries*. You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to slow yourself down. Tapi kena sabar la. Ada sekali tu sampai siap kena tegur, 'hai ni joging ke berjalan?' Sibuk je org joging pun nak kacau sHJg%&^*^9gJHG(&5
That was such a performance-changing revelation that I decided to spend the day 'studying' on paces, instead of my Surgery textbooks. hehe. So here is, VERY IMPORTANT training information. There are basically 3 paces you need to shuffle between:
1. Fast pace : about 85-90% effort. Short runs. This builds the body's anaerobic ability, trains the body to clear up the lactic acid more efficiently, stuff like that. Basically this run pushes up your fitness level. TIP: Must not be able to utter a single word while at this pace
2. Slow pace: Long runs. This one is to build endurance, meaning that you can run longer without getting tired quickly and your body and muscles are able to cope with running long distance, long hours without them getting injured TIP: Should be able to have a conversation comfortably at this pace.
3. Race pace: They say race pace because it's the pace you're going to use to reach target time during your race but I just consider it as the in-between pace. TIP: Should be able to say 'pace okay' and no more
bored yet? heheh
In Nike run app the suggested days for running is 5, with one day for cross training (that's anything else besides running) and one rest day. Along the way, I just find myself not being able to meet the target distance a lot of times for multiple factors, like being super tired that day, too many classes etc. I just think that the app does not consider human factor so after i learned about the paces I just followed my own target distance, guided by the app's target, and just made sure that every run is better than before.
Besides showing distance, time and pace, another useful feature that nobody has ever told me was the smiley faces. I would record how I felt after each run. Sometimes I'd run 8km and feel amazing, sometimes I'd run 4km and get super groggy and tired. The former is telling me that I'm well and can maybe do more the next time, and the latter telling me, girl, you need a break. And the next day will be rest day. Gotta listen to your body ;)
You can see at first I didn't record the smiley faces but then I started to for every run.
I monitor my performance through the smiley faces and especially by looking at my pace. and distance of course. and time (basically everything! :P)
And after studying my whole running pattern (which is why keeping track of runs is amazing) I discovered that my body works best if I rest after each run. I come back so much stronger and better than if I do a continuous run. So eventually I only did 3-4 runs each week. More productive, less tiring and overall effective! This is why you'll need to end up personalising your training.
I also try to curi2 masa and do strength training. This is mostly youtube workout videos. I'd focus more on core and back workouts. Lower body, of course, but very tricky since I'm using them all the time so gotta find time when I'm not straining them too much. Why strength training? To build muscle and also to augment my running performance. More muscle=more glycogen store=better hope at surviving :P Also more stability and lesser chance for injury.
My last run before rest and carb loading pre-race
LIVING, STUDYING, TRAINING
It was seeeeriously tiringggg. Final semester, every end of rotation ada exam ;( So was quite stressful. Everyday I would bring down with me 2 bags and one huge textbook in my hand. One bag for class (which is heavy with laptop and all), another one is gym bag (change of clothes, foods) sebab after class and after Asar I'll go straight to Youth Park to jog, or to the gym to save time. Whenever I had free time in between classes or if I finish off early I'd sit in the library to revise. I got out of the house around 7.30 am, and would only arrive home at around 7.30 pm. (Doctor's life much?) Balik, revise some more, prepare tutorial or case, kemas beg and prepare foods untuk esok and try to sleep before 12.
Selalu jugak I'd have cortisol crisis (skeati je ntah la apa namanya). Suddenly woken up feeling fresh but body is still super tired and can't fall back asleep. Yes very stressful. If I strain my body too much I'd get that cortisol spike. Insomnia? yes that too.
The last week, race week tu, I was already pushing my study away a bit and just wanted to get done and over with the marathon -__- Sayur sayurr! Lembik. I was literally pushing my books away. haha. Masetu tengah buat Orthopaedics plak tu. Laagilah takde mood nak study. haha. People would be amazed when they see me so eagerly studying in the library, but I just have to because I chose this, and I need to prove that this is not gonna affect my studies. (Not to mention I'm gonna get into so much trouble if I dont! Like failing, having to answer to my parents, side eyes from the colleagues..haha) People won't respect you if you can't balance priorities.
The last 2 weeks of training I started to focus more on the race itself. I learn about glycogen stores and even tried to do glycogen depletion but that didn't really work out for me. It's essentially trying to drain your glycogen (sugar) level down to so low your body stimulates to produce more capacity to hold more glycogen the next time you take in food(in the liver or the muscles). Why, because glycogen is fuellll. When glycogen depletes, that's when you 'hit the wall'. That's when your body totally gave in and you just want to stop, not do anything and sleep. Though I think that happens more to male runners. I think because essentially, women has a protective instinct (mmg pandai2 je), we tend to not outrun our capacity. So we tend to still unconsciously reserve some along the way, if you get what i mean. I honestly have never read any article about 'hitting the wall' by a female runner.
I did a lot of googling trying to picture the race day and anticipate problems that may arise (which what motivates me to write this post), at the same time trying to calm down both nerves and excitement. A full marathon is different from half marathons or 10 km runs because your body can only store glycogen that will last around 2 plus hours. Unless you are really fast and aiming for the top prizes you definitely have to refuel.
A lot of people eat bananas or chocolates plus I read on someone's blog they prepare bananas for runners at the water stations. Personally, I don't like eating bananas while running, they make me feel thirsty, and I chew like a damn turtle (slowww). At first I wanted to go for snickers (coz I love em, my main refuelling snacks) but I tried eating them on an empty stomach (which is why you need to try everything first) and I think chocolate gave me stomach aches in the morning (plus i chew like a damn turtle). So I prefer the simplest most effective refuelling agent and came across the power gel. hahah!
These babies cost RM7 each (-_-!) but it's perfect!
They are simple sugars, have sodium to replenish salt lost in sweats and most importantly they don't need to be chewed. They have like 20 something grams of sugar. 1 gram of sugar will take about 1 minute to be used by the body (something like that). So 1 pack of the power gel will help me fuel for about 20 something minutes. Because they are so expensive, I figured these will give me energy for about half an hour, another half an hour I can get sugars form the revive drinks that they'll serve because, what's amazing about MWM is that they have water stations every 2 km if I'm not mistaken. So one for each hour, i bought 6 packs (the hours I target to finish). They taste pretty good, sweet and a little salty, but you'll need to drink plain water with it cause it's quite thick.
I sure did my homework. I did TONNES of research especially food-wise. This was me counting carbs (my main nutrient). I was already on a weight gaining diet before I signed up for the marathon. But running and weight-gaining conflicts each other so I dropped my weight gain programme. I took supplement (true mass), the easiest way to get 900 calories without feeling full. I was counting on how I can meet my daily nutrient allowance with cheap, easily prepared food without having to eat A LOT. (cause eating takes time and effort)
Experience from previous runs are also useful. I get very thirsty easily, and I can't drink water a lot at once because I'd have my stomach full of water I'll vomit. So I figured I'm gonna need to carry my own water bottle so that I can take little sips. I'm gonna need to buy those belt bag thingies with little bottles. Also, I'll finish about 10 somthing in the morning, by that time the sun will be up already and sun in your face can be really stressful and tiring. So I figured I need to have a cap. haha. (It's a need okay seriously). I ran with seluar aerobik once, you know the thick-ish butt-hugging pants, my thigh felt like it was burningggg because the heat can't come out and the sweat don't dry very quickly. It was very uncomfortable! So I need (lol) a running pants. The material is lightweight and they absorb sweat so that they can dry.
I tried looking for a running skirt (to cover my bum2 since I'll be wearing those skinny-like pants) but they are all pretty expensive. Found my mum's swimming skirt in her wardrobe, so tutup mata, belasah aje laaa. Janji selesa nak lari. Socks, running socks cost about RM17 BUT it was totally worth it. It grips in the middle and pads the balls of the feet and the soles. I know for sure I was not really ready, so for safety measures, I bought knee guards for each leg just for protection. huhuhu T_T See? I need all the preparations I need to survive because by this time I was soooo cuak! I felt like I'm not ready.
Finally I did carb loading. I don't know how far that worked but at this point I just wanna have all the preparations I can get my hands on. They say it's not really proven but carb loading is pretty traditional almost everyone does it in the hope that it helps. Carb loading phase isn't stuffing your face phase where you just eat more of all the carbs you see. You take the same amount of calories you take on a daily basis (mine is 2700kcal) but change the the carb:protein:fat ratio. Normally it's 60:25:15 % for me but while carb-loading it becomes 80:10:10 %. That means, jams instead of peanut butter, juices instead of milk, potatoes instead of chicken and I was just gulping on 1 L twister orange and 1 bottle of low fat yoghurt drink PER DAY to meet those allowance. I felt so empty -_-. I did carb loading 3 days prior to race. I use fitness pal app to keep track of my food and calories.
What happens if I become lazy and eat fried food. 51% fat. Can't counter that ratio with any (healthy) amount of carbs or proteins.
Hmm what else, the day before the run, we went to trace the running tracks, naik kereta lah, just to have an idea of the road, uphills, downhills, and I was quite scareeed to see a lot of low-sloping uphills but then they were quite balanced. I'd slow down my pace while going uphill and balas balik while going downhill lah. I don't really go faster I just extend my legs longer, I try to keep pretty much the same pace. Planning a strategy hmmm...
That night half an hour before sleep I had a large meal. I slept quite late, past 12 am, when I should have slept wayyy earlier but nevermind. So much to do.
Race pack. I love the bag, it was both pretty AND functional. As you can see, the vest is white, but pretty nevertheless. FM FM FM FM (full marathon) 42 42 42. hahaha :P
YESSS! So nervous! Woke up after like 3 plus hours of sleep, showered, and put on my well prepared running outfit *smug~* haha. So excited! I have like a bread or something I can't remember but something light, and we were already rushing and I had to put on my socks in the car. I've only noticed AFTER the whole marathon that I've put it on poorly one side was over my pants, so selekeh... but well! I've arrived and people are almost finishing their warm up on the stage, I just did it on my own because I just felt so awkward. Everyone seemed to have a group, a pacer (most likely boyfriend, husband, friend, whatever lol) and there I was, awkward and looking for my own space at 4.30 in the morning.
A few minutes after warm up, we were called behind the starting point, and a few minutes after, START. I can't believe I forgot to set up my earphone and everything. I've spent like a whole day arranging songs into my phone to listen to while running. So the first few minutes I was casually WALKING trying to set myself up. haha. Takpelah, wasn't really aiming for the time anyways.
Obviously at 4.30 am it's pretty chilled and dark but was very happening nevertheless. After 1 km we already had to climb up like a flyover and I got so nervous. I can't be climbing so much I have like another 40 km to tread T_T. I got over my nervousness (haha) after 5 km or so and started to maintain a good pace. At about km6 I ran past the 6Hours pacers. So far so good, just need to maintain this pace, make sure the pacers don't run past me and I'll finish under 6 hours.
After 30 minutes I opened up my first power gel. I wasn't really hungry or tired but I shouldn't wait until my body get into hunger phase to start refuelling. Like I've read, MWM really provided water stations about every 2 km. Bravo! I made sure I drink revive at all water stations because revive has sugar and salt to replenish my energy stores. I also had plenty of chances to refill my water bottles with COLD water. Neat. They also provide bananas and at one station they gave one power gel each. Super neat!
Along the way the MWM people will cheer us on, saying things like "you're doing great!, good job!" and stuff like that. I just wished I wasn't so awkward, alone or nervous to enjoy all those cheers. haha. Basically along the way I just made sure I keep my pace so that I breathe comfortably, slowed down a bit if I felt like panting and tried to 'catch up' on my pace every time I find myself going downhill.
Also, I find myself following my chosen 'pacers'. lol. It's some people I see going about the same pace I'm going and I let them run in front of me so I can follow their footsteps so I don't get too bored. haha. Most of the time it's this one young chinese lady :P
Anyways the first half of the marathon I had more motivation because I had to rush to a petrol station near the starting point for Subuh. After the first half my legs started to ache. Ouch -_-! Bad news... but nothing I can do but keep putting one step in front of another.
At 21 km. So proud of myself T_T
I know the tudung is so selekeh but I just want the thinnest tudung. haha
The day started to get hotter too. A lot of people are already walking and I see some people with pacers with the male looking tired and the lady still trying to jog. I thought to myself, 'mcm ni baik lari sendiri'. hahaha. Some pacers don't really interact with their pacee too. Hmm.. I've become more convinced that my choice to not use a pacer was correct. You see, because a lot of people train together, and they apply for pacers and I often question myself during training, am I going to need them. I made the decision not to because I've been training by myself anyway takut dgn orang tak kenal tiba2 dia push lain mcm kang.
I put on my cap properly (sebelum ni letak atas kepala je). By the way I didn't like the way my water bottle was bouncing in my pouch (lol) so I carried them in my hand all the way. Alternating between slow sipping and slow eating my power gel.
Yeah.. it was pretty lonely... lol
Gosh...the last 10 km was the longest, toughest, most arduous 10 km of my life! I've stopped sucking on my power gels or refuelling in any way because I was so in pain, and I just wanted to get to the finish line. erghhh. I'm dreading downhills now because stomping down are even more painful on my knees, thighs and butt. (TRULY, I AM UNDERTRAINED) Actually, it's hard to admit it, but I was already injured. I think I kinda underestimated a full marathon. I thought I could beat this with sheer hobbits' perseverence. It did got me through, but not without a price.
7kms left, the 6 hour pacers ran past me (Nooooo). By this time I was already struggling to continue jog. They jogged past me and told me to keep running. "After the finish line then you can stop. 7 km onlyyyy." wow wooww. 7 km only. Woww. haha. Haiyoo cakap senangggg. But I tried and I tried. The streets are getting busier, some of the roads already opened. Even more weird to struggle when you're running just beside the passing cars.
4 km left. Ada plak brader cute jaga jalan kat simpang. Dia bagi semangat ja kat suma orang. Sampai kat aku dia tunjuk jari dia empat and sungguh-sungguh cakap kat aku, "4km je lagiiii, 4 je lagiiii!!" aku pun tersengih-sengih ckp thank you. hihi. Dahlah comel. What tu du. Terpaksa sambung lari. haha. Ergghhh tapi mmg tak larat hoi. Tak lama lepas tu jalan balik. Lepastu ada lagi org dari belakang naik motor, "go go gooooo" sampai sebelah aku, "you can do itttt!!!" brader jaga jalan jerit kat kitorang bonceng motor. haha. what the hell. So to appreciate his effort, aku pun start lari balik. Kejap je tapi.
Some of the people in the cars on the street cheered for us as well. Oh my god, 1 km lefttt... I was literally dragging my foot in front of another. Cepat laaahh habis. Then I saw the 6 Hour pacers jogging around just before the finish line, waiting for people to cross, I'm guessing they ran too fast. Great! I can still make it under 6 hours....andddd......finish line!!!!
The 6 Hour pacers behind me with the orange balloons.
I almost instantly tried to find somewhere to sit to stretch my legs out. But it was kinda too late, this pain was beyond stretching. haha. I asked Mariam if she can fetch me something to eat or drink from the booths but saddddly, all the booths have closed! At 10.30 pm. I felt so disappointed. I wasn't THAT slow. I felt like I at least deserve a cup of juice, or milo if tak dapat rasa makanan2 pun.. So sad. Should have brought something to eat post-run.
Then I went to take my runner's dress... The design was different from the picture. It was okay, but the purple colour was weird. Had i known the cutting and material of the 'dress' I would have ordered for L size. I wouldn't use this for running ever. Haha. Everything shows. I heard the ladies all around saying, "buat baju tidur jelahh..." but it's an awkward length for me because I'm tall and I'd still need to wear at least a boxer with the dress, so... might as well just wear a shirt or singlet with a boxer why bother the dress. Was pretty disappointed about that too.
From the picture I thought the medal was metal, like a military tag, that's why I thought it was so cool, and to have a distinct gold colour for a full marathon, what a motivation to go straight for a full marathon. What a disappointment it is to find that it's just a lightweight plastic...that peeled off a week after the marathon... I wanted to cry... because it's my first full marathon...haha. Basically all the motivations that drove me to register for a full marathon in the first place was not fulfilled. ALL of it.
All in all, the run itself was great to try and run a full or even a half marathon for a beginner. The environment was supportive, and there's not that much intimidation from male runners or anything. (or weird stuff, what weird stuff I dont really know how to say but weird stuff usually comes from male runners).
Memang muka sangat tanned masa ni. Can't help it. haha. The ladies were all congratulating each other it was quite uplifting.
POST-RUNI walked sooo weird, we went to lunch and I can barely walk everything went stiff ;( I was like, oh damn.... what have I done. Nevertheless I was immensely satisfied with myself for having done this. I took off my shoes and I had huge blisters on my little toes, all my nails were tender and I lost one of my little toenail a day or two after. Later on I lost another 6. haha. They just fell off.. I was jut playing with my toes and they lifted off, un-painfully. It took more than 6 months for my toes to look almost normal again especially having large nails.
With one of the 6 hours pacer. I wanted a picture too, everyone was camwhoring but this was the only picture I can think of taking. haha
Eww. okay. I did ice-bathed my legs, it helped a bit by numbing down the ache and stiffness, I massaged minyak angin on my legs and went to sleep. Woke up to super stiffness again, massaged my legs some more and kemas-kemas barang to go back to Penang. It's just a bit inconvenient doing a run on a Sunday. Almost half the nation can't join because it's working day for some states and there's not enough time to recover before going back to work, or in my case, class.
I can't believe I ran a 42 km, and the same afternoon DROVE all the way from Shah Alam to Penang. I reached Penang at about 10 pm, got ready for class tomorrow (good thing I only have to prepare one bag now!) and went to sleep.
The next few days was pretty amazing. I was pretty proud of myself because people were telling me how inspiring I was and how amazing it is to have done a full marathon. hehe. Some called me a 'superwoman'. Not to brag or anything, but I get called that quite a few times in my life. ;)
The pain continued on for some time especially on both of my knees. The muscle aches subsided after a week of constant massaging, but the knee pain persisted. I was almost scared I got a super early osteoarthritis like come onnn that's a degenerative disease old people gets it I'm not that old yet. My friends were also concerned because I complained about my knee hurting every now and then especially when it's cold, it stings. Ouch.
After a while, I managed to pinpoint the location of the pain and I think I've got myself patellar tendinopathy aka jumper's knee. I rested my leg from running for 6 months and more. haha. Also considering the fact that I'm super busy with finals. So now, after almost a year, there's still some pain but I can still run. A major lesson to myself: I must not underestimate long runs. I must do my weekend long runs. The 25kms, 30kms runs.
I was also a wee bit disappointed (again :P) that I've not a single picture of myself in the MWM facebook page... Maybe they prioritised posting people who actually wears the MWM vest, or people who wears fancy costumes, people in groups.. but... I paid the same fees.. lol. It kinda does felt like a woman's event. If you don't belong in a herd, you're pretty much invisible. hahaha. Okay maybe it's just me but seriously hundreds of pictures but mostly the same people.
Woot woot! I did so much better than expected! :D
After the run, like I promised myself, I shut myself from anything and everything. I still go to the gym ever now and then, strength training, cuci mata (lol!). I focused 100 percent on finals and tried very hard not to fail (which I did anyway, ortho, go figure).
Hope it wasn't too boring! :)