2XU Compression Run (2013): Race Report (Part 1)

These weirdo pre-race dreams have got to stop.  

Time: Around 2 AM on Sunday morning….

…and I was running back-to-back races; I’d just finished the 5K and was refueling before heading to the starting line for the 21K (half-marathon).  I was cheering near the 5K finish line when I looked down and saw that I was surrounded by tiny little dinosaurs.  I’m not certain of the exact species, but they were of the Compsognathus style.  This didn’t really bother me.  I believe anyone should be allowed to cheer.  Then, I noticed that one of them had no head (like, looking down at him, I could see a cross-section of his spine, spinal column, esophagus, etc.), even though he was still running around and cheering.  I specifically recall telling him, “I’m sorry, I don’t think you’ll be able to finish the half-marathon like that.”  Next thing I knew, all of his buddies were nipping at my ankles.  Specifically, my Achilles tendons.  Their teeth weren’t sharp, but their grips were strong, and I couldn’t seem to kick them off.  I was genuinely afraid that they were going to crush my Achilles.  I woke up kicking (poor KMN).

[In case you weren’t around a few months ago, this isn’t the first bizarre night-before-a-race-I’m-just-running dream I’ve had since arriving in Singapore.  Back in January, I dreamt that I was duct taping closed my wounded abdomen so I could get to the starting line of the Green Corridor Run.]

But let’s back up for a minute:  This is my 2XU Compression Run race report, which I’ve been promising to post for the last three days now!  We had signed up for this half-marathon (there were also 10K and 5K options) back in January.  At the time, I’d been hoping to do a little bit of half-marathon specific training and use the race as a half-marathon benchmark, since I haven’t raced this distance in over a year.

However, given the PF shenanigans of March, the only pace I ran that month was “easy” (except maybe the Venus Run, which was more like a tempo run), and I opted out of long training runs for a few weeks.  Thus, when we hit twelve miles the weekend before the race, that was my longest run since the PF niggles hit a month ago.  While I was pretty confident I could finish the race safely, I can’t exactly call this strategy an ideal “half-marathon specific training plan”.  Furthermore, KMN spent all of last week fighting some virus that left him tired and coughing, but never sick-enough-to-take-a-sick-day.  He was feeling better, but also not in prime racing shape.  So, we opted to treat the race as a training run, and to (probably) stick together, to keep each other (mostly me) honest.

The half-marathon started at 5:30 AM.  In Singapore, the time of a race start represents a tremendous trade-off: A super early start vs. Running in the sun.  This race opted for the former.  So, we got to bed as early as we could on Saturday (even passing up the opportunity for ice cream with friends!), and popped out of bed when the alarm rang at 3:45 on Sunday morning.  Although in reality, I’d already been tossing and turning for at least an hour.  Dang dinosaurs.

We grabbed our gear, had some soya beancurd, and hopped into our taxi.  (This race started too early for us to take public transport, and although there were shuttle buses available, the closest one was over a mile from our place and still cost $6 per person.)  With a taxi, we were at the starting area in under 20 minutes for just over $12.  Winning!

We had been generous with our time estimates, so we were at the staging area an hour before the race started.  We checked our bags (Singapore has an awesome system for bag check) and walked a bit to find a quiet spot to hang for awhile.  We weren’t too concerned with doing a long warm-up, since we were treating this as a training run anyway.  So, we chatted and people-watched, and I texted with my family.

The Singapore Flyer (big ferris wheel, like the London Eye) lit up at 5 AM.

The Singapore Flyer (big ferris wheel, like the London Eye) lit up at 5 AM.

At about 5 AM, I made a port-a-potty run.  Verdict?  Well, they probably could have used a few more port-a-potties, as the lines were quite long.  Cleanliness was remarkably good, though, considering.  I am coming to realize that standard Singaporean port-a-potties are kind of brilliant.  Not to be too explicit here, but at the bottom of the “bowl”, there’s a hinged plastic flap.  The flap is normally closed, until you make a contribution, when the weight forces the flap open (yes, even liquid contributions) and allows your “deposit” to fall into the standard port-a-potty collection area.  When you’re finished, you step on a foot pump that rinses the sides of the bowl with some of that thick blue liquid gunk, which also goes down the chute.   The result?  A remarkably un-stinky port-a-potty.  I’ve checked out at least 4 such facilities at races since we’ve been here – and none have matched the stink of the US, open-faced port-a-potty.  I really believe that little flap makes a huge difference!  And, there were sinks. YAY SINKS!!!

I collected KMN and we made our way to the starting chute.  I had been looking for a water table since we’d arrived, to top-up my hand-held bottle before the start.  Finally, right at the starting chute, I found one.  We each had some water, and filled up our bottles.  Note that we hadn’t run a step, and were already sweating (see our shiny faces):

Yeah, sure, we're ready!  Why not?

Yeah, sure, we’re ready! Why not?

I could SEE the Starting Line arch, but we were sooooo far back from it. I started getting antsy, thinking about all the runners ahead of us.  KMN kept reminding me that we were just running easy, and it didn’t matter, so I tried to relax.  Actually, I was still anxious and a little annoyed.  I always think a course is better stocked and maintained for the first runners.  But *deep breath* I tried to act relaxed *deep breath*, so KMN wouldn’t know.  😉

A very dark photo of some of the tents at the starting line.

A very dark photo of some of the tents at the starting line. You can see some bits of downtown (mostly hotels, I think) in the background.

We hung out shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of other sweaty people, and at 5:29 AM heard the air horn for the start sound.  Then, we proceeded…not to move an inch.  For at least 5 minutes (not “felt like five minutes”, but “was seriously five minutes, I checked my watch”), we just stood there.  Eventually, we realized that this was going to be a wave start, and we were not in the first wave of runners.  I hadn’t actually seen a notice about a wave start anywhere – including the shiny 14-page information booklet given out with our race packets.  Rather, the start time for the 21K was listed as 5:30 AM.  But, whatever.  TRAINING RUN, Holly.  TRAINING RUN.

Incidentally, this information booklet also included information and profiles on the pacers that were provided for the race (1:45, 2:00, 2:15, and 2:30).  I was planning to do my own thing, but still, I’d read up on the pacer info, and knew they’d be identifiable by their shirts and balloons they were wearing.  This all seemed awesome.  But standing at the start line, just then realizing the start was a wave start, I saw one big flaw: Had I wanted to run with a pacer, I would not have known that I (probably? I guess?) needed to start in the first wave.  I also didn’t see THIS info in the shiny race packet.  Not cool, organizers, not cool.

We started to move forward, and saw we were just being let in to the “official” starting chute, where volunteers were checking bib numbers, presumably to make sure that only half-marathoners were starting.  We hung around for 12 minutes, listening to the announcer droll on and try to encourage everyone to “Shout!” and “Do the wave!”.  He was rather annoying, but does have a thankless job – frankly, no one was interested in shouting or waving.  We wanted to run.  Finally, the second wave flagged off.  But by golly, guess what?  Turns out we were actually in the third wave. 

Cripes.  So, we smushed together closer, sweat a bit more, endured another 10 minutes of the announcer, and counted the seconds.  We were pretty sure that we must be in the third wave.  Finally, we moved up to the starting line and were confident we were going, this time.  Fully twenty-two minutes after the first wave flagged off, we were (finally) off!

Geesh.  I’m already at 1400 words, and according to my informal survey awhile back, you all like to hear EVERYTHING about a race.  And this race was 13 miles!  So, I think I’m going to split this report in two.   Come back tonight (Singapore) or in the morning (America) or in about 10 hours (everyone else) for the rest.

What’s the strangest pre-race dream you’ve ever had?

Would you choose an earlier start, or a hotter race?

22 thoughts on “2XU Compression Run (2013): Race Report (Part 1)

  1. Amy @ Writing While Running

    Ah! The suspense is killing me. Um…can you please take pictures of the 14 page instructional booklet? I can kind of imagine/guess what it might say, but seriously, awesome. Definitely looks nice and sticky, I would appreciate the early start.

    And, yes, my experience with Asian toilets indicate they are either awesome and extremely efficient (Japan and glitzy Beijing places) or just a complete disaster (rural China-think hole or trough in the ground) but still efficient. Way to go Singapore for just doing a little bit that can go a long way.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I most certainly can. Please see Part 2, when it is posted (probably by the time you wake up). Honestly, the contents weren’t that amazing – info on pacers, route map, parking/public transport directions, road closures – standard stuff. I wish they’d saved the money, published it online, and bought more water, though. Again – see post. 😉

      Who knew one little flap could go so far? Have you ever used one with a bidet, that has a music or “running water” feature to cover your toilet sounds? Japan is amazing!

      Reply
  2. runwkate

    Earlier start, no doubt!

    I love your posts I want to know the ending too, but mostly I’m enjoying the ride. I love that you’re quite ok with your race start neurosis. I feel like I have a kindred spirit! If the race starts at 5:30, it should start. None of this wave crap.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Hahaha – the course did definitely need a wave start, even with waves, it was still quite congested in a few spots. But I’ll admit – I still like to be in the first wave! I think the course is emptier, there are fewer people to dodge, and the water/aid stops are better staffed and supplied (this actually turned out to be true). And awards are given based on Gun Time (ie, time after the first wave starts), no matter what wave you start with. I knew that the race I planned to run wouldn’t put me up for any awards, but still – I like to run a fresh, clean course. If we ever race together, we’ll elbow our way to the first wave and leave our significant others to talk about lawyerly stuff. 😉

      Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      If that’s all you’re here for, I can save you the suspense. 2:08. <--training run For me, this wasn't a race to run fast - it was just a race to run. [Evidence: My PR is a bit old, but is solidly 25 minutes faster than this. ;-)]

      Reply
  3. Paul

    Hi Holly

    Nice race report part 1. Gosh! I realised we probably started in the same wave! You started 24 mins after gun time and I started 4 mins after u. So I guess with all my last minute mad scrabble, it wasn’t so bad for me after all. 🙂

    Just to put things into prospective for your readers, by my calculation, there were 9,526 21K runners that morning. It’s logical for the starts to be done in waves to reduce route congestion. I agreed that the waves could have been communicated better. The only thing I saw was electronic signs that directs runners to timing of below 2h30mins and those above 2h30mins; but it easy to miss. As it is, even with 3 waves, the route was terribly congested. I can’t imagine what would have happen if all 9,526 runners were released at one go!

    One more thing, I’m not sure if you know this or not but ranking by nett time is now available for your result. So do check it out.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Yah, yah – waves were totally necessary, as I saw once I hit the course. I will definitely be discussing that in my race report – I like to write my race report from the perspective of how things unfolded for me, on that day (seems more realistic, to me – but that’s a personal preference). Mostly, I was surprised that the fact that there WOULD be waves wasn’t communicated better (like for the URun), and I found NO mention of what runners who wanted to run with pacers should do with respect to waves. If I had been counting on running with a pace group, I would have been sorely disappointed.

      You know, I saw the big flashing sign too, but thought it was flashing “More than 2:30 Half-Marathon” (arrow) and “Sub 60 minute 10K” (arrow). So I had no idea what to make of that, to be honest!

      Thanks for the heads-up on time. Definitely wasn’t a race I was running for time, but good to know. Hope you were happy with your result, and are getting ready for this weekend! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Grace

        By the way, during the Stanchart marathon…all of the pacers were in the first corral. Even the 5:00 pacers. Even though the 5:00 marathoners were in the second corral. /grumbles Do races always work this demented way?

        Also, separately, I would love a little Holly-running-bildungsroman: how’d YOU fall in love with running and when did you get serious about it?

        Reply
        1. Holly KN Post author

          OK, THAT is just plain dumb. Seems like the pacers themselves, if thinking outside the box, could have easily solved that problem themselves. Doh.

          In every big race I’ve done (in the US), there are slower people that start too far forward. But for the larger fields, there’s often an attempt to separate by pace -with pacers in the right places. At least then, if people start in the wrong place, I can get annoyed at the THEM. Here, there’s a very lame attempt at division – so I place fault with the organizers.

          I’m not sure what “bildungsroman” is, but I’m assuming it’s something like “back story”. Sounds like a good topic of a post on a slow day! 🙂 Consider it added to the list!

          Reply
  4. John

    Well I was in the first wave, mostly due to the enforced early pick up @4 am via the shuttle bus. So I had nothing else to do at 0430 than get into the start lane! 25 mins to cross the start line is crazy though – I think they get 40,000 people started in the London marathon quicker than that!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      We arrived at about 4:40, but hung out closer to the bag drop for about 20-30 minutes. I really dislike being crammed in to the hot, tight starting pen so early, but I think that’s what I’m going to have to do from now on. I think I dislike waiting around and starting later even more! 🙂 For some reason, they just left a lot of time between waves. I think it only took each wave a few minutes to cross; but then we waited for quite awhile.

      Not that it eliminated congestion on the course, though – things still slowed to a walk on the stairs, and over the Geylang River, and up onto the bridges – at least where we were. Again, may have been a bit smoother closer to the front.

      Reply
  5. Kristen L

    Wow, that is quite the crazy race night dream! I know I have had a few crazy running dreams, but I can’t remember them right now. Next time I have a good one, I’ll have to post about it. 🙂

    Too bad you didn’t get in Wave 1. It’s frustrating that you didn’t know about the wave start ahead of time! Looking forward to part II.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I think I only remember the ones that are traumatizing enough to wake me up! 🙂 Hopefully you don’t get too many of those….

      Reply
  6. greengirlrunning

    Ok, your pre-race crazy dream was definitely crazier than mine! This post cracked me up because I’ve never actually had a race dream before the other night when I dreamed that I was really far away from the start of Eugene marathon, at some distant *secret* porta potties when I heard the announcer say 5 mins until gun time. Then I realized that I was barefoot and was trying to run fast back to my hotel for my shoes, but my legs wouldn’t go! I kept thinking how there was no way I could run the entire marathon barefoot. Oh, and it was raining! But no dinosaurs trying to crush my achilles (ewwww, btw:) Running a marathon barefoot in the rain? Um, no thanks 😉 Can’t wait to hear the rest of your race report! The suspense!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Hahaha! At least yours makes sense in the context of “pre-race jitters”. Mine is just…bizarre! And – um – make sure you throw your sneakers in the car when you head to the starting line, OK? 🙂

      [I hear rain keeps the dinosaurs away, so it might be a good thing, after all. ;-)]

      Reply
  7. Shoe

    I LOVE that dream. Well. Specifically the part where the dinosaurs were happy and cheering, not after they got all horrible and nippy. So funny!

    Reply
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