Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Phuket Marathon 2006: Field Report


I was cautious this time around, and did my final long run 3 weeks ahead of this full marathon race. I was mentally and physically prepared this time for the hilly Phuket Marathon, the first time a full marathon will be held on this Paradise Island in Thailand. There were quite a number of Singaporeans going to Phuket for this race, including SAFRA Runners, SgRunners and MR25 Runners. I joined in the SAFRA Toa Payoh team’s itenary which Vincent had kindly organized and coordinated. I arrived a day earlier to check into Royal Paradise Hotel @ Patong. A relatively nice gotel at affordable rates, and its at the heart of the tourist Patong belt. The race was to be at Laguna Phuket Resort, about a 40min drive away. We did a bit of shopping in Phuket Town itself and settled in to a nice International Buffet at the hotel. We had a nice evening unpacking and watching soccer, while waiting for the arrival of the rest the next day.

From my hotel room @ Royal Paradise

Lookout Point & Cashew Nut Factory

We were joined by about 20 SAFRA Runners and family the next day, where we did even more shopping and eating, as well as enjoying nice Thai and Oil massages. They SAFRA group had gone to the race expo to collect their race packs...Divey collected for me so I didn't have to go down..thanks Divey. We did some sight-seeing visits to the Lookout Point, Cashew Nut Factory, Live Firing Range. We went on a recce of the race route on Saturday, and was pleasantly surprised to see the scenic forested route with water buffalos and nice beach area. We did the first half of the full marathon route, and skipped the return thinking it was the same…big mistake for it proved to be a challenging 2nd half the next day…hehe. We completed the day with lots of carbo-loading starting with bird’s nest, then a 7-course seafood at a beach restaurant (a little like BottleTree in Sembawang) and then shopping at Central Festival…before retiring early for the night.

Prepared my race gear, pinned on my race bib, and put the Championchip into my Adizero (so I won't forget them), and read the race instructions with a study of the route. I hardly slept the previous night, despite going to bed early at about 10pm. Laid in bed and rested till 2:50am, before waking up to wash up and get changed. I took half a bar of Powerbar, and a banana. I put on my Adizero shoes with Ultimax socks, before going down to the hotel lobby to meet up with the rest of the SAFRA Runners. Our transport was to pick us up at 3.30am, and while waiting, I found some time to tape up my toes. The mini-bus journey took about 30min to reach the race site at Laguna Phuket. I took small bites of the sandwich that came with the packed breakfast, and chatted with Shirlyn, wee san and Sam during the journey. Once at the race site, we took a trolley ferry to the start point, about 1km from the parking area.


We were at the start point at about 4am, and was gathering to take a group photo, when I realized I left my championchip at the hotel…Shucks! WTS! I recalled that I had the chip (with a strap) in my shoes, and while wearing my shoes, forgot to strap it on my ankle. I was not used to this chip with the ankle strap; normally lacing on the chip directly. I quickly talked to the chip people, and requested for a replacement chip…I was fortunate that they gave me one, without collecting the deposit. As I did not have much time to go back to the car-park area, Lee (who was doing 21km and starting an hour later) volunteered to go back to the car-park area, borrowed a mobile phone and called back to Hotel to get Edmund (who was going to the race site later in the day) to fetch my Championchip…thanks so much to Lee and Edmund.

SAFRA Runners At The Start

The race begins

As I proceeded to the start point, managed to take some photos with the SAFRA Runners and met many of my friends who were there running too - RealRunner, Seal, SV, Karen and spotted some MR25 Runners as well. RR who was doing the full marathon mentioned that he was quite relaxed about the race, and I advised him to pace Sam and Eric who were good runners. Karen was quite excited and chatty at the start of the 42km. Speeches and well wishes were given, before the approximately 300 runners started off with the sound of the horn at 5am. I started my timing immediately, and was about 30sec before I crossed the Championchip mat. I saw RR and Sam running ahead, with Eric moving forward. I too started to move at a faster pace to bank in some early miles. By the first km, I have lost most of the crowd, and I moved on to a 5:30min/km pace. The weather was cool but humid. We turned out into the highway after the 2nd km. I felt my bladder getting full as I was running along 2-3 runners. I found a spot along the highway among some bushes to empty my bladder at about the 6km mark. Shortly after that, we turned into a smaller road leading into the woods and forests on both sides. I was running mostly alone, after overtaking about 5 early runners. The cyclist escort was with me for certain stretches, and was really useful in guiding the way and watching for my behind in case some traffic do come in. I ran past the water buffalo area, and then continued on to the 9km point, where there was a Championchip mat placed…hmm, strange…normally they ware placed at the 10km mark. At about the 10km point, a Taipei runner ran ahead of me, and I decided to follow him for a bit. We went through to the 12km point, where the series of many small slopes started. It was starting to get bright..first light seemed to come early at about 6am. I kept up a strong pace of about 5:15min/km, and by that time have already banked in some extra minutes. I took my mini-snickers bar, grabbed a bottle of water, and navigated the slopes from 12km-16km. I took a salt tablet at about the 15km mark as I was worried the heat might cause me cramps later on. I noticed this portion would be the 26-29km on the return leg, and mentally noted that it was steeper on the return…waahh. I struggled a bit with my Powergel pinned to my shorts…shits, must pin properly next time. Slowed down to a walk where 3 other runners ran ahead. I finally got it off, and gave chase to close up on the lost timing.

I ran mostly behind this Taipei runner and the 3 new runners, and finally hit the Na Yang beach area. I knew this was the 18km mark from the previous day’s recce. We ran into the dirt track, and I saw the front runners on the return. I saw Sam coming out strongly…he must be about 800m in front of me then, followed by RR who was about 400m in front of me. I reached the 19km Championchip mat point, took a banana and some water, and overtook the runners including the Taipei runner who stopped to walk. As I ran out from the dirt trail, I saw Eric running in and we cheered each other. I continued along the beach road, and overtook 2 other front runners who seemed to be tiring as the full light was coming out at the 20km mark. The sun was getting warm as I crossed the 21km mark in about 1hr52min…good, I was still ahead of schedule. I continued on and soon was in the company of a few Caucasian runners. They seemed strong, even under the sweltering heat. I decided to just run behind them and trailed 2 particular Caucasian runners for the next 10-15km. On the return stretch, the race got even more challenging with the slopes getting steeper and more numerous…what more with very little shade on the roadside. I could see more runners coming in on the other side of the road. Yap was one of them and he cheered me on…nice steady runner. Karen also came on the other side, and we shouted pleasantries to one another. I still looked ok at that 25km point as I navigated the slopes. After the series of slopes, I was getting tired. There were quite a number of photographers along the course, and everytime I spotted them, I put on a good posture..hee. There was even a mobile television crew on motorcycles who followed me and another caucasion runner for a good 1km..it was tiring as we had to look good and yet navigate the upslopes. Fortunately, they left after a while, and as I was about to relax a little, I spotted a girl with the TV station smiling..so I gotta charge up the hills lah…Arghh. She had a sweet smile though, and that recharged me for the next 5min…haha.

Soon I reached the 29km point where I took my first short walk at the water point. I remembered this point as the one I had turned out onto the long and winding road earlier. Took some Gatorade, and began to chase after the Caucasians. I reached the 30km mark at about 2:39…hmm, still on track for my sub 3:50hr target. I was prepared to slow down to 5:45min/km pace if I hit the wall…and having some extra minutes to play around with was useful. At about 31km I had a sudden seizure on my right calf area…Oops…onset of cramps. I slowed a little and proceeded cautiously. I took my 2nd and final Powergel there and then. By 32km our small group overtook 2 local Thai runners who seemed to be burning out…wow, these Ang Moh runners were still going strong..no choice, I gotta tail them. I got seizures at the 33km mark again…yikes...I immediately changed to my ‘anti calf-cramp’ running posture and proceeded on without stopping. The sun was beating down mercilessly. I was feeling the heat, and my breathing was getting heavy. We ran onto the highway which by that time was quite heavy with traffic and smog. There was no shade on the road at all. I overtook 1 more Ang Moh there who finally stopped to walk. There were 2 more in front, and I continued on this long stretch of highway in a daze. We finally turned off into a small town to loud cheers by villagers and townfolk. They were cheering the Ang Mohs with great gusto and all with thumbs up too…haha. After the small township, one more Ang Moh stopped to walk. I nearly wanted to join in, but decided to delay it a little. There were 2 large slopes at the final 6km of the race. I had to walk up one of those, along with 2 other runners. I was drained at that stage. I took the opportunity to recover and heel-run on the downslopes. The final 5km was really punishing as we had to run up slopey mountainside with construction ongoing, interspersed with some forestry and lake. Finally turned into the dirt track at the 3km mark. Here I bumped into a lot more 21km runners who were slowing or walking…really made me want to walk….waah…I had to tell myself to keep going. The hot sun finally made the Ang Moh who was with me for the last 15km stop to walk. I ran on slowly, maybe at 6min/km pace at that stage. There was even a Caucasian photographer who requested me to step onto the puddles of water for a photo shot. I obliged since it was the final 2km. Soon it became the final 1000m…I was sooo happy to see that. I increased my pace on what was to be a straight road to the finish…500m…400m…300m…I could hear the screams and roars…and with 200m, there was a group of young boys who just finished their 10km run in a dash. I looked at my watch which showed 3hr47min, and I made a sprint for the final 100m to finish in 3hr48min21sec. I raised my arms to the many clicks and flashes of the cameras at the finish. My Championchip was removed from my ankle for recording and printing of the certificate, and the finisher’s medal was placed on my neck. A happy and satisfying finish for me.

Race Certificate with finisher's medal

Satisfied SAFRA Runners @ Phuket Marathon 2006

As I made my way out of the crowd, saw Sandy and Wee San who had finished their 21km in good timings. San handed me a banana, which I held on to for the next 20min before I could eat it…I walked around trying to cool off my heated muscles, and catching some good breaths of air. I bumped into many of my friends who were there congratulating one another. Met with RR’s wifey who did a commendable 21km. I could see quite a few runners in the medical tentage receiving treatment from heat-stroke and cramps. I was fortunate that my cramps were under control from the 37km onwards. I didn’t dare to sit down nor bend my legs too much for fear of having cramps (my lesson at the March KLIM06 taught me not to go for the post-race massage too). I rested for about 30min, before doing a quick wash-up and then joining the rest of the gang to cheer those who were coming back from their full marathon finishes…Benson, Yap, Uncle Lim, Karen, LaoKayu were among the many satisfied ones that arrived below the magical 6hrs. We all collected out printed certificates after about a 1-hr wait after race…neat!

Distance Ran: 42.195km ___Time:3hr48min___Pace:5:25min/km
Position in Age Group: 10 ___Calories: est. 3000KCal

Full Marathon Results
Half Marathon Results

Post Race

We went back to Hotel and I spent the later part of the day relaxing. I had a nice steamboat dinner with the family, watched abit of soccer and had an early night. The next morning we gathered with the friends at Patong Beach and had a nice time walking around the waves, para-sailing and just plain sun-tanning. Prices at Phuket and especially Patong Beach area are pricier and the tourists are made up of mostly Farangs (Westerners). We all did enjoy ourselves with nice food, shopping and massages (some of us had 2 or 3 times). I took an early morning flight home on Tuesday from what is a very enjoyable Thailand marathon-holiday.

Official Press Coverage


The Race Organization

I am quite happy with the organization of the race, and there were many good points
1. Nice scenic and challenging route
2. Distance markers provided for every km, with clear directional arrows and OB areas
3. Sufficient isotonic and plain water provided every 2km
4. After race food was great, though I took only bananas and pepsi
5. Almost on-the-spot certificate and medal collection

Areas For Improvement
1. Start time should be earlier by at least 30min, since first light comes at 6am
2. A few more banana/Powergel stations provided will be great (There was only one this time)
3. Better quality race T-shirt
4. A nice finisher's T-shirt for the full marathoners will be much appreciated
5. A larger finishing area will be nice

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At 12:19 PM, Blogger TekKo said...

Congratulations. You superfast. Sure to break 3:30 soon. Once again.. congratulations.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger The Dream Runner said...

thanks tekko...
3:30 will not be so easy, and will have to take a few more years and most likely to be done in a cooler temperate country...:) will continue to strive towards my Boston Marathon Dream


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