Sunday, April 26, 2009

London Marathon 2009 - Race report

What the numbers mean to me from the past 16 weeks to now:

750,000 - Number of Vittel bottles given to runners today
200,000 - Number of Lucozade bottles given to runners today
35,000 - Number of runners I ran with today
9583 - Overall position in FLM 2007
6086 - Overall position in FLM 2009
732 - Number of kilometres ran in training for the race
237 - Number of songs uploaded into the IPod
73 - Number of kilometres swam for cross training
18 - Number of litres of isotonic drinks consumed
13 - Number of PowerGels consumed
9 - Number of zones in each start line in the FLM
8 - Number of marathon ran to-date
5 - Number of pair of socks changed
4 - Number of hours targeted to finish the race
3 - Number of start lines in FLM
2 - Number of London Marathon ran to-date
1 - Number of shoes changed
0 - Number of Flora London Marathon race left

The historical end of the Flora London Marathon series is marked with the sweet success of me finally achieving a sub-4 marathon.

Thank you for all the congratulatory messages. I guess you learnt about my time much faster than I did officially! 3hrs 47mins 22 secs is 14mins off my previous PB. I was really surprised and happy with my performance.

I love running the London Marathon. It's fun and packed with energy from both the runners and spectators. I should cover more major marathons before saying this but I've never experienced a race where the entire 42.2km route is lined with spectators like it was in London.

Hot air balloons from the sponsors

The level of energy from the spectators was incredible. Bands and choirs were on the streets. Kids were handing out jelly babies and oranges. Some of them raised their hands for a high-five. A few crazy people were doing their BBQ while watching us run.

The race was not short of costume runners. I meet another everytime I overtook one. I would attribute part of the fun to them. These runners get cheered on all the time and they kept me going too. I was running next to Danger Mouse who was cheered on all the way!

The drink stations were fabulous. I had to skip many drink stations since they were spaced close between. Lucozade and Vittel had a combined total of 1 million bottled drinks for runners. What we had could possibly quench the thirst of a-third of KL!

Despite that, I was severely dehydrated. The urine was the same colour as the Chinese Tea! I thought I was going to develop kidney stones!

The weather was good. Too good to the point that it became too hot! It wasn't the tropical KL heat. The sun was directly over us. I had a sunburn. I couldn't sweat much but still I was dehydrated. Initially I chose to believe the weatherman that it was going to rain in the middle of the race and that the temperature would drop to 13deg C. So I wore two layers of clothes.

The unblemished sky of Greenwich before the start of the race

Two layers of clothes

30km passed, still no sign of a change of weather. My body was boiling. I stopped by the walkway and took a layer off. But the damage has been done. I was burnt out.

At the half marathon mark, Wanjiru (this year's men's champion) was running on the other side of the road. He ran like a horse! For a 2hr 5min finishing time, this means his average speed was more than 20kph! I can't even keep to 13kph for more than 1km!

And the 35th km mark to me could only be associated to cramp and exhaustion.

At the 40th km mark, a severe cramp set in and brought me to an abrupt halt. I was assisted to the walkway by a first-aider. It was my first experience being attended to by a first-aider. She gave me a rub on the tight muscle on the left leg. She checked if I wanted to continue and I said yes. I continued limp-running my way to the finish line.
Embankment, the spot where I could no longer move.
Photo taken an hour after the race. The streets were still packed with runners!

The results are out. The split times were telling of the reasons of the cramps that I endured and came as no surprise at all. I started off too fast. I pushed the speed over the average speed I was trained for the race.
Sweet success!
(Notice a layer of clothing of less)

The split times can be found here and this is the summary:

10km - 47mins
21km - 1hrs 41mins 3secs
30km - 2hrs 29mins 6secs
40km - 3hrs 33mins 58secs
42.2km - 3hrs 47mins 22secs

In the summary, my time worsened from the 30th km. It took me 1 hr 4mins to accomplish a 10-km run.

Yes, Danger Mouse overtook me in the end. Still, I am very thankful that I finished and achieved a finishing time I had always dreamed of.

Some photos after the race:

Joe, from Cambridge University Hare & Hounds, finished in 3hrs 2mins.

More runners from CUH&H. Guy in white finished in 3 hrs 8mins (and downing a pint!)

Celebration dinner with friends!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

London Marathon final preps: This is it...

In less than 10 hours I will be running the London Marathon.

You can track me here. I am 5526.

Some shots of the final preparations:

Tower Bridge barricaded

Raymond's friends from South Korea

Pre-race briefing

Race registration

Lambeth, the Borough I'm representing

Props at the finishing line

Goodie bags

The beast that will take on the roads tomorrow

Final checklist:

Charge IPod. Check.
Tie microchip to shoe. Check.
Pin bib number to t-shirt. Check.
Bring PowerGel. Check.
Set alarm clock. Check.

Sleep now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


With only four days to the Marathon, I took the risk to go-karting.

A colleague quipped, "You're not going to kill yourself before you do the run this Sunday, are you?!" If anything, the comment has made me more conscious of my own safety.

However, this didn't deter me from joining 35 others for the driving competition. It was a social event organised by one of our Project suppliers.

The drivers

My experience of go-karting came from two places - Genting Highlands and Disneyland. If you've done any of them, you'd agree that they are both rubbish because they are for kids!

Today's go-karting was real. The cars provided were powerful machines! The event came with a full health and safety briefing and an attire check prior to the race. The go-karts could go up to 70kph. They could kill but they probably can't in this place.
Electric go-karts

Being silly

The go-karts were electric go-karts. So they were little Prius-es and were extremely quiet!

Imagine go-kart without the revs. My go-kart was a good performer. Maybe my weight played a part. The car took corners really well except an occasion when another car clipped me and both of us spun like an action movie scene!

The inertia nearly ripped me out of my seat and my heart felt like it was swinging out of my chest! If only I could learn Physics this way when I was 18, it would have been so much more interesting!

Other than that, go-karting is far safer than I thought. It's almost like doing the one in Genting or Disneyland, except that this is much faster and more serious. Every lap is timed and scored.

We had seven teams - four members in each. Of the seven, we came in third in the race! Yes, it was a podium finishing! Yay!
Podium finishing

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trip to Florence

From Pisa I took a train to Florence. The weather was really good. So I managed to travel light as well.

Florence is a much bigger city than Pisa. It's also prettier in my opinion. I had very high expectations of Florence since everyone I came across recommended it.

When I arrived into Florence, I walked around the city. Everywhere in Florence is within walking distance. It's easy to get sucked into the scenic beauty of the city as I realised I have walked for more than 10km without feeling exhausted!

River Arno cutting across Florence

Narrow roads of Florence

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (The Duomo)

I have to come back to Florence a second time because I didn't get into the Uffizi Gallery and the Galeria dell'Academia where most of the important art pieces of Florence are located. Queuing to get in would have taken half a day!

Queue to the Uffizi Gallery

Florence is crowded with tourists

Florence was once Italy's capital in the mid-19th century. It was also the "playground" of the minds of Donatello and Michelangelo. Perhaps the most famous attribute of Florence is Michelangelo's sculpture, David. It's so famous they have a duplicate in the city!

Florence gave me a very strange feeling. The impression it gave me, especially from Piazza della Signoria was that the place was once where nudism thrived.

Michelangelo's David

Perseus has to behead Medusa in nude?

A peek-a-boo loincloth at Palazzo Vecchio

A silhouette of the sculpture "Rape of the Sabine Woman"

The beauty of the naked body and erotic sculptures must have been worshipped in this place. I was also intrigued by the audacity of sculptors like Michelangelo to present their art to the public.

I stood in front of the sculptures and put myself at the time of Michelangelo. I imagined him unveiling to the crowd his latest creation as he pulls away the canvas. What must have been the reaction from the crowd? What if it was in Malaysia? How would the crowd react then? I could imagine the crowd exclaiming "Choi!"

I stood there laughing to myself as I tried to let my imagination run wild and appreciate the art at the same time.

At Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza, I could spot some people having mixed reactions when they spotted the naked sculptures. Some didn't look comfortable looking at the genitals of David for too long. They blushed. Some giggled away while whispering comments to their partners. Some didn't seem bothered. I was one of them.

But one sculpture kept me wondering after I left Florence. I kept wondering what was in the mind of the sculptor, Baccio Bandinelli, when he sculpted a naked Hercules in such great detail with his genitals annoyingly close to the face of Cacus!

Hercules and Cacus

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring in London

Birdcage Walk and Buckingham Palace

When I ran passed Buckingham Palace two days ago, I spotted a vast array of flowers blooming at St James' Park and along the Birdcage Walk. The tulips immediately reminded me of the time I was in Japan.

Spring has arrived.

Gone are the dull and grey days of winter. There is colour in London now. Yay!

(Photos taken with my phone camera during a run. Apologies for the low quality images)

Trip to Pisa

I was in Pisa on Easter Sunday. Pisa is not a very big place. Tourists like me go there just for the world's famous Leaning Tower.

Emerging out from Pisa Central train station, I followed the crowd whom I believed were there for the same reason - to see the tower. The tower was not immediately sighted until about 2km away from the train station.

As soon as I turned at a junction, the tower was immediately recognisable. It was really strange to see such a beautiful tower on the verge of collapse. The angle was much worse than I expected.

The Leaning Tower from a distance

Compare the angle of leaning with the Cathedral next to it

The Leaning Tower is an architectural splendour but also one of the most shameful engineering feat in history. I stood in front of the tower trying to soak in the architecture and structure of the building. I couldn't stop laughing thinking it's such a joke!

Other than the Leaning Tower, there is nothing much to explore in Pisa.

Really if not because of the Leaning Tower, I find it hard to find the next attraction here. In fact, the tower is the only thing that's keeping this place alive!
Inside the Cathedral - located behind the tower

Isn't this observation a true reflection of life? That adversities are not necessarily bad all the time. Sometimes adversities can present to us life's greatest opportunities!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trip to Cinque Terre

I went to Italy over Easter break and explored Genoa, La Spezia, Pisa and Florence - northern Italy.

This is the first time I did not celebrate the Easter Triduum that I usually would in a Church. I wish you who are celebrating this day a Happy Easter!

I flew into Genoa and took a train to La Spezia. There are two highlights in La Spezia - Porto Venere and Cinque Terre. They are located on the other northern end of the Mediterranean sea.

Porto Venere in La Spezia

Porto Venere and Cinque Terre are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. I found out about Porto Venere when I arrived into La Spezia by studying the local map.

However, the main reason I went to La Spezia was to set base to Cinque Terre, which was the highlight of the trip.

Since it was a long holiday weekend in Europe, Cinque Terre was crowded. The platform from La Spezia was almost at a gridlock!

The temperature was beautiful though, around 20ish by mid-day and sunny all day!

La Spezia station - passengers to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre in Italian means "five villages". Yes, there are five villages to explore. I took the 15-km hiking route to the villages. I started from the south point at Riomaggiore to Monterosso.

Unlike running, I finished Cinque Terre in more than 6 hours! I could have ran more than a marathon with 6 hours!

Cinque Terre is different from the other holiday destinations I've been to so far. Buildings along the steep coastline gave me the impression that people in Cinque Terre are living on a harbinger of a disaster. But these are the very breathtaking sights that captivate people and the camera!

Photos of Cinque Terre...

Riomaggiore - Village no.1

Via della'more (Lovers Lane)

Route to the next village

Some track condition

Manarola- Village no.2

Distance between villages

Corniglia - Village no.3

In Corniglia

Tapped spring water

Vernazza - Village no.4

In Vernazza

Monterosso - Village no.5

In Monterosso