Just when you think you can’t get enough of hilly routes…

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His & Hers – Me in Ultra Top while our 2:10 pacer is in Luke Top

When Sis Eliza (founder of Nashata.com) asked me if I would like to join Men’s Health Women’s Health (MHWH) Night Run 2017, I said YES in a heartbeat. I joined the 12km category this time, compared to 21km at the Johor edition because I had plans to run PJ Half Marathon the following morning (Kids, don’t try this back-to-back event thingy at home!) but however, that plan did not materialize because I had a family event.

This is not my first MHWH event. I have been a fan of this event since 2015, and it has expanded ever since. Why MHWH Night Run is one of my favourite running event:

  • Generous contests and giveaway. AIA Vitality and MHWH chanelled plenty of free slots through various groups and organizations, and luckily Nashata was one of them.
  • Exhibition seem to be one of the highlight of the event. Plenty of lounging spots for supporters to just chill and enjoy the night. There were plenty of food trucks too
  • I love the fun, party-like vibe to the event. Meriah!
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Pacers need to fuel up too! Image courtesy of Kyserun Krew

I had no ambitions to renew my personal best (PB) once the organizers announced that they changed the venue to MARDI Maeps. I had experiences running there previously, and it is known for the rolling hills compared to their original route at Putrajaya. Hence, my aim was to just keep going and don’t give in the the hills – just run to enjoy the view, and that’s precisely what I did.

For example:

Enjoying the view #1

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I did not detour to see what they had inside, but the cute statues did catch my eyes

Enjoying the view #2

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The half marathoners had to go in a loop twice, hence this screen was very useful to keep count if they have completed the second loop

And the rest was too dark to be captured. I knew MARDI Maeps has some pretty calming countryside views in the day; you can see horses running around and some cows grazing. However since it was night time and insufficient lighting even the roads became hard to see. Oh well, at least I can’t properly see the rolling hills ahead of me until I started to ascend it.

When I reached the finishing line at around 10pm the crowd was still buzzing and there was no signs of slowing down. We tried several food trucks however I was already exhausted from running, I did not walk around the exhibition area. Eventually, it was time to go back. I went home with a full belly and only good memories about this event, and hope to run for another MHWH event again in the future.

Ending the night by bumping into a familiar face

Ending the night by bumping into a familiar face

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An event will be incomplete without a group photo with them

If you don’t race, you pace!

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As the official pacer for Ice Watch Run 2016, my task list for the night was simple: make sure my balloon does not pop or get blown away, maintain a pace of 7:30min/km through out 10km, and keep up the positive spirit, and watch out for other runners along the way. We were not assigned a timing target, and were advised by the organizers to take our time to regroup at the water station if necessary. Plus, there was no timing chip attached to the number bib too.

7:30min/km pacers at your service!

7:30min/km pacers at your service!

Very early in the race we were approached by a few runners who were aiming for a PB – an uncle said that he has been running in several events, so he really wanted to maintain the 7:30min/km pace with us. We tried our best to maintain at the assigned pace, but due to the size of the crowd my pacing group was breaking up. We had to pause to regroup. So we urged the pack that followed us who wanted to set a new PB to follow the 7:00min/km pacers instead.

We were the last group of pacer before the sweepers, so we were among the last ones. At this point, the crowd consisted of;

The “Newbies” – the first timers. They have no running strategy or stamina, just the pure will to run. You can recognize them by their irregular walk-run-sprint-sprint-burn out-walk pace , or

The “Funbies” – regular runners who just run for “fun”. You can recognize them by their ability to maintain a steady but slow pace, or

The “Confusies” – if you are not a Newbie or a Funbie yet you are still running at 7:30min/km, then I have no words for you. You fall into this category.

Based on the mix of runners as aforementioned, the vibe of the crowd was more relaxed. Most participants were just strolling and chatting. Clearly, no one were aiming for any PB anymore – they just want to finish the race. The uncle who first approached us earlier had speeded ahead. Most of the runners that tagged along with us were starting to grunt, saying that we were going way too fast although my watch was already approaching 7:45min/km. I sensed that the pack running with us was starting to feel demotivated. However, we had to keep up with the task given and forged ahead with the assigned pace. To give the crowd some boost, we cheered along the way, cracked a few silly jokes, and turned on some music (Clearly, we take our job as pacers very very very seriously!)

We arrived at the finishing line greeted by the impromptu cheer zone that was created by faster pacing groups who arrived earlier than us. They gave us high-fives and congratulatory pat on the back. This gave the runners the final push to sprint towards the finishing line. I was happy to see the crowd that I was pacing to finish strong with smiles on their faces, and that gave me the greatest satisfaction as a pacer for that night. I was grateful for the opportunity given, and I would love to pace again in the future.

Did any of these good-looking pacers greeted you at the finishing line?

If good-looking pacers at the finishing line does not motivating you to sprint, I don’t know what will.

I knew that I have done my best as a pacer when I see fellow runners smiling

I knew that I have done my best as a pacer when I see fellow runners smiling

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner

Words from The Pacer!

Pacers on the go!

Pacers on the go!

It was such a great honour when I was given the opportunity to be one of the pacers for 21km Men’s Health Women’s Health Night Run, for the second time, with improved timing : 2 hours 20 minutes.

My first time being a pacer was in May’16 at 21 km Men’s Health Women’s Health Night Run in Penang for timing 2 hours 30 minutes. And the next is a…surprise!

We can't wait to pace!

We can’t wait to pace!

Are you ready guys?!

Are you ready guys?!

It was raining heavily a few hours before the run, and we were worried and had questions in our minds, “Will there be lightning during the run?” “Will the event run smoothly?” But, yes! I love to run in rain.
When the race was about to start, the rain almost stopped but drizzling. I was quite nervous because my timing for pacing improved to 2 hr 20 mins, and it was raining, the road was wet and may be slippery, this and that..…
I was glad to meet other pacers for my timing and they were very friendly and kept supporting each other. As the race start, everything went smoothly until one of our balloons …popped!,..yes. It was.. at kilometers 2 (yup, as early as that,..am not sure why). Fortunately, we have another one since we were given two balloons. We kept inspiring people around us to keep up with our pace

“Keep running, keep moving guys”
“You can do it!”
“We almost there!”

We tried to maintain the pace, 6.25 – 6.30 min per kilometer. I was enjoying my run with the songs I downloaded a week before the race, and I played them on the loud speaker, and yes! Everyone seemed to enjoy them too. Yayy!

At the kilometers 14, my other pacers started to leave me behind. They ran even faster than the pace we were assigned to. Perhaps they were so used to run faster until they forgot our pace. And I kept running alone, entertained by the songs played on loud speaker. Fortunately, there were still a lot of people following me.I felt relieved –  Hoyeahh! Women power here!

With Amie Pacer 2:40 #nashatarunners

With Amie Pacer 2:40 #nashatarunners

Things got worse when I felt I needed to go to toilet so badly at kilometers 16. Unfortunately, there was no portable toilet, no petrol station, no mosque. It was just a long, straight road ahead. It was a tough run, running with full bladder, but I had no choice but to continue running. I prayed to Allah, to help me finished the race on time, and to finished strong with this full bladder! At least for this time! Please!.… I kept on running.

Hijabi Pacers

Hijabi Pacers who choose to move a little more, to inspire a lot

I passed by the boards with marked “5km to go” then “3km to go” and finally I arrived at the finishing line with timing 2:20:40. Yayyy! I felt like I was on top of the world. It felt like I just crossed the finish line on a red carpet. Lots and lots of people cheered for me, “Good job Nasuha! Good job!”

I feel like a star that night. Alhamdulillah for that night!

 

Pink 50 Ultramarathon

A friend once said “Never trust a runner. If he/she said that we won’t do it again or won’t be running just as fast, you know they are lying”.

 

I wasn’t lying when I said I was done with loops when I ran my first [incomplete] full marathon. But a few days later I when heard that there will be a female-only ultramarathon, I knew that I just had to sign up for it. Plus, a part of me wanted redemption for not being able to complete a looped full marathon. Initially, I signed up for the 50km solo category, which required me to run 17 loops of 3km (17 X 3KM = 51KM), but as the event date approaches a male friend of mine decided to run with me, so we upgraded to the 100km duo category (each participant will run 50km) because that’s the only category that allows male participants.

 

My ultramarathon objective is simple: Just finish the race within the cut off time of 9 hours. To be able to do that, I must prepare myself physically and mentally. For first timers like me, it is advisable to clock in at least 200km in one month before the race, and run at least 30-40km one week before race day so your feet is used to moving slowly but consistently over long distances. All of that training will wear you out, you will feel exhausted even before race day! So spend at least 1 week before the race tapering and resting. Most importantly, you have to come to the race mentally prepared. It is going to be hot, at 42°C there is nothing else that keeps you going except your inner motivation. It is going to hurt, but keep telling your mind to fight through the pain. Like 2 straight lines moving together, both mental and physical preparation must be parallel to able to finish an ultramarathon.

 

My ultramarathon strategy is equally simple too: Run 30KM continuously at a very comfortable pace (8:00 – 8:30 min/km), then power walk (10:30 – 11:30 min/km) for the rest of the way. I was glad that the training paid off. When boredom or negative thoughts started to kick in, I turned up my music or randomly chatted to other participants. There is an encouraging vibe to a women-friendly event, I even made new friends along the way! To avoid wasting precious time, I had to refrain myself from stopping too long at the checkpoint. All I did was quickly drank some water or Coke, refill my bottle, or mix my hydration tab or Gatorade powder, and grab a quick snack, all in less than 3 minutes.

 

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I think my partner’s shirt almost matches my top. True to it’s Ultra name, this top is highly recommended for long distance running. It is bright to minimize heat absorption, evaporates sweat quickly, and very light.

 

IMG_2870The familiar faces that greeted me at the finishing line.

 

IMG_2863Congratulations for finishing 3rd! You go, girl! Oh and the 2 faces behind me and on my right requires no introduction, right? 🙂

 

IMG_2852This medal is for my family who have never doubted my capabilities, my official and unofficial pacers during the event, Nashata for always keeping me covered, late night training sessions, pre-dawn LSDs,  support crew for coming to cheer, messages of encouragement, well wishers, and advisors. Thank you for being a part of my ultramarathon journey.

 

In the end, I completed all 17 loops in under 9 hours, thankfully without any major injuries or cramps. There was the usual muscle fatigue and soreness the next day, but that is normal. I expect to start running again in less than one week, and hopefully I am at least 80% recovered by then. So, what’s next for me? Would I do it all over again if I had to?

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

Park Marathon 2015

This is it. The only thing that stands between me and the recognition of being called a ‘marathoner’ is 2.7km, to be repeated for 16 loops around Bukit Jalil Park. So that will be 2.7km x 16 = 43.2km. In order for me to survive those 16 loops, it was important to have: an experienced friend who acted as a pacer, and an updated playlist on my phone. Ears plugged, we did not make a single sound, except the constant rhythm of our shoes hitting the pavement, with some inhaling and exhaling. I did not mind the silence, it helped me keep my focus. The only time we talked was when “I think we are going too fast/ too slow”, or “Hey, I need to go for a toilet break”, or some words of encouragement. It was too early in the morning for conversations anyways.

IMG_2261One foot in front of the next with the pacer (photo credits to Distance Force)

Suddenly, at close to KM21, there was an outburst of laughter. Has my pacer gone mad for running in loops? “Sorry, I just remembered something funny that my cousin did yesterday”. And then I realised what he was doing. He’s taking his mind off the pain which was slowly setting in, and the thought of repeating 400 meters of gain in elevation for 16 times was slowly eating away my positive motivation.

 

IMG_2272“One 400 meter of hill is ok. I can do this” was slowly turning into “I have to do this again? And again? And again??!!” (photo credits to Seven Chiam)

 

Close to KM30 I was dizzy. I thought that I no longer needed a pacer since I was more than halfway in the race anyways, so I allowed my friend to speed ahead. I tried not to think about it, but my head was spinning and I was starting to lose my balance, so I leaned in the shade of a tree for a few minutes. Thankfully, when I completed that loop there was ice cream waiting at the aid station. I even splashed a few cups of cold water onto my head to cool myself down. The quick-dry Iman hijab I was wearing helped evaporate the water quickly, so my head felt instantly refreshed. I will finish this race!

 

IMG_2269Can you tell how much we love the Iman hijab? High five, ladies! (Photo credits to Intan Suraya)

IMG_2252Is this a run or a feast? Kudos to the organizer for the sweet and salty spread to keep us fueled. Coca-cola, mineral water, and isotonic drinks were aplenty.

Halfway at the 15th loop I realised it was already 10 minutes until the cut off time. Upon reaching the aid station, the organizers handed me my finisher tee and medal, saying that I should stop since I have exceeded 7 hours. I was frustrated since I had just one more loop to complete the race, but at 1pm the park was deserted and it was too hot to continue running without supervision. As much as I wanted to complete the course, I decided it was best to listen and stop. I left the race feeling disappointed and I don’t think I will ever do another race in loops, but I’ll do 42km or more all over again at a different event.

IMG_2268It was so hot, I think I finished at least half bottle of that isotonic drink. (Photo credits to Distance Force)

IMG_2263I am so over. with. running. in. loops…. (Photo credits to Distance Force)

IMG_2257But I’ll gladly do 42km all over again in a normal course.

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

The Weekend Runner: Newton Challenge 30KM 2015

I know that everyone can get a little bit emotional at finishing lines. The welcoming sight of the “FINISH” arch can make you suddenly sprint while smiling and laughing even though your feet hurt, or you may be overwhelmed with thankfulness that you makes you want to cry. In my case my emotions were really messed up; I really wanted to cry because even walking was painful, yet I was so happy because it was finally over that I wanted to shed tears of joy. I bet my tear ducts were really confused that morning.

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This was me at today’s finishing line.(Picture credit: Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon instagram)

When I registered for this race, I plan to treat it as a last minute training for next week’s full marathon debut. The race was 30km, at 70% of a full marathon length it will give me a taste of what is about to come running for 42km. Part of the training also involved a 30km test run last week, however things did not go as planned. Realising that I was low in my mileage, I hastily agreed to a 10km LSD run on the day before the race (Warning: Bad idea, do not try this at home).

To ensure that I made full use of this 30km run as a training session, I deviced a plan to challenge myself to complete in 4 hours. However, it turns out that the race had pacers. I started off by keeping up with the 3:45 hour pacer. They were running at around pace 7:00 to 7:15 minutes/km, which was fine by me since it was still early in the race and I was feeling fresh. However, I lost them at the KM8 water station because I took a longer break to pray Fajr (morning prayers).

I finished praying just in time to keep up with the 4:00 hour pacer. They were cruising at a pretty easy pace of 7:50 to 8:00 minutes/km, so I thought I could cope with that…until I bumped into more hills. My pace slowed significantly by one minute, I can no longer keep up with them at the KM23 marker. By the last 5km, I was seriously contemplating if I should just DNF the race and hitch a ride from the patrolling ambulance because it hurts to even walk. But there was a stronger voice in my head saying “You are so close to finishing! You will finish this, even if you end up crawling!”. So I practically dragged myself to complete at approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes, which was way off target.

 

IMG_2115‘The Plan’ to complete within 4 hours. Does it makes sense to you? Seems pretty straightforward, except for one major flaw: I did not take into account that the route is notoriously hilly, resulting in a significantly reduced pace.

 

IMG_2170Besides running skills, an important characteristic that every pacer should have is being friendly. These two were really helpful and encouraging.

 

No smiling finisher picture from me this time. I was pretty disappointed with myself since I did not complete as planned. On the other hand, I felt accomplished because the hilly route will prove to be useful as part of preparing for next week’s full marathon.

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Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.