On Sunday, KMN and I ran our third race in Singapore (haven’t written up the second one yet): URun 2013. My “pre-cap” from yesterday is here, but after a good night of sleep and some time to dig up as many photos as possible, it’s time to really dive into this race report. So let’s do it!
This race was the first (of 5) that my parents gifted KMN and I for Christmas. [Digression: Getting a gift for someone living in Singapore, when you aren’t in Singapore, is actually really pesky – online shopping is basically unavailable, buying a gift card online is also pretty much impossible, and it’s freaky expensive to ship things out here.] So instead, my parents gifted us a package of race credits through U-Sports (a Singapore sporting agency), which allows us to register for 4 (of 8-10) running events throughout the year. A fifth race – the URun 2013 race – was included for free. The package works out pretty favorably, financially – and even better for us, since it was a gift!
The URun itself was comprised of a 15K Run +/- Stair Climb, 10K Run +/- Stair Climb, and a 5K Run. We registered early in January, and weren’t quite sure we’d be ready to race 15K, so we opted for the 10K OMB Challenge (Run + Stair Climb). Unexpected bonus of this choice? When final race information came out, we saw the start times:
6:00 AM: 15K Run + Climb
6:30 AM: 15K Run Only
6:45 AM: 10K Run Only
7:00 AM: 10K Run + Climb
Sweeeeeeet! This gave us fully an extra hour of sleep, and meant we could take regular public transit to the race, rather than a paid shuttle or cab. Our alarm went off at 5, and we breezed through our pre-race prep, snapped a photo, and headed for the bus.
In Singapore, most races provide a shirt at packet pick-up (which is mandatory and done a weekend or two before the race), and most people wear these for the race. We had this discussion on race morning:
Me: You’re going to wear the race shirt to the race???
KMN: I was planning on it.
Me: But…what if it chafes? Or is massively uncomfortable? Or….??!??!
KMN: *shrug* You aren’t going to wear yours?
Me: No. It would be weird to wear it before the race, but I don’t race more than 5K in something I haven’t tested. [Plus, you know…Endurance Team.]
Admittedly, the man never chafes. It’s a genetic gift or something.
Anyway, we set out to the bus stop, realized in the nick of time we were at the wrong bus stop (that’s what happens when you go for the bus before 6 AM), fixed our mistake, and hopped on the right bus. In about 30 minutes, we got off 2 blocks from the rally site. I found the slowest moving port-a-potty line (this is a natural gift, inherited from my father), which still only took about 7 minutes. Port-a-potty report: pretty good (it flushed, and there was a sink), but not *quite* as nice as the Green Corridor Run. Note to organizers: Garbage bins outside the p-a-p’s may have prevented people from doing inappropriate things with their used paper towels (down the toilet, on the floor, on the ground, etc.). Thanks!
We took a quick warm-up jog, KMN managed to find a totally empty public restroom with no line (over-achiever), and we made our way to the starting line at about 6:50 AM. We’d been warned that the race would start in waves, spaced 4 minutes apart, but that everyone’s official time would be based on the time from the first wave. I think this is a bit uncool, especially since I’m quite sure there was a chip reader at the starting line – but as KMN pointed out, this ensured for the organizers that the first person to the finish line really was the winner. Fair enough. We were hoping to get into the first wave, but just missed the cut off.
No worries – we were both hoping to run solid tempo paces (depending on feel, but probably 7:45-8:00 min/mi), but neither of us planned to go all out, and races here are large enough that we knew we wouldn’t be in contention for overall or age group placing. We wanted to use this race as a training run/fun experience/chance for a hard tempo run – but not a “peak race”. And being at the front of the wave – even the second wave – has its advantages! Exactly four minutes after the first group of runners left, we crossed the Start Line, and with virtually no dodging or weaving, we were free from the group.
The first 1.5 miles of the course ran along the pedestrian walkway in front of Marina Bay Sands (resort/casino) and Gardens By The Bay, then we crossed a pedestrian bridge/dam for another 1.5 miles through Marina East, a small park with footpaths, before turning around to return the way we came (minus one small split at the very end). In most places, only cones separated the runners coming and going, and from the start we saw a steady stream 15K runners on their way back (they ran the same route, but their turn-around point was further out). This course was pancake flat – even the bridge offered barely a climb! An early start and overcast morning ensured we were protected from the sun and ran in relatively “cool” conditions – maybe 24ºC/75ºF (?), plus humidity.
Maneuvering was easy for the first two miles, and I found myself running in the 7:40s, and feeling pretty comfortable. 10K isn’t my favorite distance to race (40+ minutes of significant discomfort), and I was afraid I felt too good, and considered picking up the pace – but I knew I had another 4+ miles, plus 30 flights of stairs, ahead of me, so I stayed steady at this pace. By the time I crossed the bridge, I’d caught up to the slower 10K Run Only runners (who started 15 minutes before us), and the path started to get more full.
Things stayed reasonable until the turn-around, when we merged with the 15K runners. They were already 60-90 minutes into their race, so I was catching the slower/est of these runners. People were looking strong, but moving slowly. At around 3.5 miles, I had to start the weave/dodge routine, and several times had to pull up short when the path was fully blocked, left-to-right, with slower runners. Mile 4 was my slowest mile, but after that, the path widened again and a bit more room helped me navigate better.By Mile 5, I was ready to be done – but not dying. I held back a tad, still thinking about those 30 flights of stairs. Thanks to well-labeled bibs, volunteers easily directed the Run Only participants into the finishing chute, while the climbers turned a corner and ran a bonus ~0.2 miles to the NTUC building, which was graciously letting hundreds of sweaty runners defile its stairwells.
Based on the location of the Finish for the 10K, I estimated the end of my 10K, and hit the “Lap” button on my Garmin. I slowed my pace for the quarter mile jog to the building, and even grabbed a drink, since my handheld bottle was empty and had hardly put a dent in the fluid I’d lost during the run.
At this point, I was surrounded mostly by 15K Run + Climb participants, who were walking to the stairwell. We entered the stairwell, and I was hit by a heat wave. Everyone moved pretty well through the first 5 floors, but soon tired and began walking. My legs were tired, but I still felt like I could handle a light jog up the stairs. The stairway was narrow, so passing was hard, except on the landings – where I had to travel quite a bit of extra distance to get around someone. So I’d stick behind someone for a flight to see their climbing rhythm/movement, then sneak around as best I could. Repeat, repeat. Understandably, the stairway stunk – and although race organizers had arranged for fans on some of the landings, the air was pretty stagnant (and we lost pretty much any/all evaporative cooling).
Thankfully, as we ascended, the air actually cooled, and passing a (rare) vent blowing cool air was lovely! By Floor 15, I began trying to rally everyone (and myself) with a countdown:
Floor 15: “Halfway there!”
Floor 20: “Just 10 more flights!”
Floor 21: “Single digits!”
Floor 22: “8 more!”
Floor 25: “Come on, guys, 5 more! We can do this!”
Hopefully I helped someone, maybe they wanted to kill me – either way, we all made it up and emerged onto the roof:
There wasn’t much space on the roof, and Security was keeping everyone faaaaar back from the edge.[Dudes, we FINISHED the race. If we wanted to jump, it would’ve been at Mile 4.5 or Floor 20, not now…] Anyway, within 90 seconds of finishing, I was ushered onto an elevator with one-too-many other sweaty runners. The doors closed, and we descended to…the 29th floor. And stopped. And waited…for what felt like an eternity. Just when I was close to panicking (I don’t like elevators, especially when I’m smushed to the middle and can’t hold on, and am packed in like a sardine, and overheating….), we started moving again. Same think happened at the 17th floor, and then, at last, we were released. *Phew!*
I grabbed a water bottle, cheered on some of the runners headed toward the stair climb (to the dude who yelled, “I love you!”, I must tell you that I’m happily married), and was soon joined by KMN. We lined up for our Finisher’s medal, and shirt, and two bananas (I tried to take one, but that apparently wasn’t allowed).
We found a spot on the grass to rest and re-hydrate. Two bottles of water and one bottle of Pocari Sweat (local electrolyte replacement drink) later, we snapped a few final photos.
Overall, I have to say that the race was extremely well-organized. There seemed to be enough Port-a-Potties and on-course/finish line hydration. The course was well-marked and there were volunteers throughout – especially in the stairwells (extra important in case a runner started having trouble). Special thanks to the young man at the turn-around point of the 10K, who was the only person I heard cheering pretty much the whole time – THANK YOU! Having so many runners following different routes and with different finish lines could be a recipe for a big mess – but labeling and direction were clear and easy to follow. Similarly, moving runners up and down the building could easily have led to confusion, delays, and crowds – but kudos to the directors and volunteers for keeping people moving quickly up and down.
I was a bit frustrated by the congestion on the course – but that’s the consequence of having so many people out participating! And while I couldn’t always run as smoothly as I wanted to, at no point was the course unsafe or even claustrophobic (except that final elevator ride…). I wasn’t too happy getting stuck behind so many people on the stair climb – perhaps separating the back of the 15K pack from the front of the 10K pack into two separate stairwells would have been a good idea (they were using two stairwells anyway), but I understand that would have added another level of complication.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the run course, and would definitely sign up for the 15K or 10K run again. However, I’d only consider climbing if I did the 15K, where an earlier start would help ensure an overall more enjoyable – and faster – climbing experience.
By my watch (will be 4 minutes faster than the race-reported time, since we started in the 2nd wave):
10K time : 47:47
Total time: 58:35
My 10K broke down as follows:
Mile 1: 7:47 min/mile
Mile 2: 7:42
Mile 3: 7:50
Mile 4: 8:05
Mile 5: 7:57
Mile 6: 7:53
Final bit: 7:49
AVERAGE: 7:52 min/mile
This is far from PR territory for me, but I’m not in PR shape yet – so I’m OK with this. I do wish I had pushed a *bit* harder on the run, especially considering the stair climb turned out to be a walk, but I’m happy that 7:52 felt like a “hard and steady but not dying and could definitely keep going” effort, at the moment. [Edit: Final results just posted. Singapore doesn’t post a full race results list – I gripe about this here – but they do tell me that I finished 5/265 women, based on my Gun Time. Gun Time was 4 minutes slower than Net Time, since we started in the second wave. Darn! Guess I should’ve pushed my way into that first wave, after all… Speaking of which, if they actually recorded Net Time (they did), then why are results based on Gun Time….?? But I digress.]
And the day after? Metatarsals and IT bands feel good (win). My shins are a little sore, and my calves are tight – stay tuned for some calf stretching tips in the near future. This morning, I went to yoga and swam and easy 2K. Except for the gross dirty pool water, both were terrific.
And with that, I’m outta here. Time to get some dinner going!
Race Reports: Do you prefer reading the nitty gritty course/weather/logistics details, or the personal/time/feeling details?
Bananas: Have you ever seen a banana do this?
PS If you want to read what a fellow runner, who did the 15K OMB Challenge, had to say about the race, check out his post at running (my) life.