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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Shanaz Running New York! Part 3

ING New York City Marathon Logo

Part 3, the last part of Shanaz’s New York City Marathon experience unveiled here. It’s Race Day!! Open-mouthed smile

My NYC Experience (Part 3): I Ran A Race Like No Other

For someone who has never written a race report before, this is quite lengthy. To me, this is more than just a journal of my NYC Marathon experience. It also reflects some of the reasons why I fell – and still am – in love with running.

Enjoy Open-mouthed smile

T-Zero. Pre-Race

I set my alarm at 4am, but I was wide awake way before that - thanks to my jetlag and the little butterflies in my tummy. I got up, showered, put on my running clothes and head down to catch a cab to 34th Street to join the rest of the Autism Speaks team. Three buses had been allocated to take the entire team to Staten Island, the start area, by road via New Jersey. (Nana and Selly left a bit later to take the ferry to the island.)

Getting ready for the big race

The bus departed just after 6am for a 1½ hour ride to the island. There was an awkward silence in the bus and I could sense a mixture of stress, anxiety and excitement among the runners. I myself was totally, pathetically nervous. Anything could happen that day. A.ny.thing. The anticipation was too much for me to handle. I pretty much whatsapp-chatted with a friend back home throughout most of ride and that helped to put me at ease a bit (Thanks! You know who you are *wink*).

On the way to the start village

I arrived at the start village at around 7.45am, approximately 3 hours before the start of my wave (wave #3).  The sun had already started to come out, which was nice as it helped to keep me warm.  There was very little wind and the temperature was slightly warmer than expected. Over my running clothes I only had my grey “I Heart NYC” hoodie which surprisingly was enough to keep me comfy. As soon as I reunited with Nana and Selly, a short camwhoring session began, G-style Winking smile


There were coffee, bagels, water, Gatorade and Power Bars available at the village in plentiful quantities.  I had a small cup of coffee, 2 bananas and a bagel for breakfast.  We pretty much sat on a curb trying to stay off our feet while waiting.  When our wave was finally called, we parted ways and proceeded to our designated corrals.

For the next 4½ hours or so I was going to run for 42km, from Staten Island, into Brooklyn, crossing East River over Queensborough Bridge (a.k.a. Jambatan “Haram-J”) into Manhattan, through The Bronx and finally back in Manhattan for the final mile in Central Park. With five elevated bridges and several inclines throughout the entire course, NYC marathon route wasn’t going to be an easy one. Fortunately I get easily turned on by hills and was looking forward to be “seduced”.

This was the start of my 2011 dream marathon Winking smile 5 boroughs, 5 bridges, 47000+ runners. There was no turning back.


The Start - Staten Island

As I stood among thousands of fellow orange-bibbed third-wavers, my heart began to thump faster, excited about the amazing journey that lied ahead. Images of Casey and TSB appeared in my mind. (This one’s for you, guys!)

And then … BANG!

The start gun shot off and Frank Sinatra started spreading the news over the loud speakers.  As my shuffle deliberately moved to a slow jog, I started to feel the goose bumps.

This is it! Just run your heart out, Shanaz.

I crossed the start line. My slow jog turned into a faster one and eventually I was off running – uphill. Up and up the Verrazano Narrows Bridge for about 1½ km. The crowd was super packed. Zigzagging myself through a mass of runners proved to be quite an effort. Equally-distanced downhill followed.

I glanced left and caught a spectacular view of Manhattan in the distance. Frank Sinatra was right. For an instant moment, I was the King of the Hill.

As I approached a massive crowd of loud supporters at the end of the bridge, I spotted a little girl holding a huge poster high up in the air. It read “Welcome to Brooklyn”.


Both sides of Brooklyn streets were lined with people of all ages cheering the runners on.  Some blew into noisemakers, others clapped and chanted. Music blasted from boom boxes. I got all emotional when I heard my favorite tune, Jay-Z & Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind”, being played as I ran.  

Throughout the borough, there was a different live band at every 500m or so – like switching radio channels - to lend support to us runners. Young children along the route held out their little hands for runners to hi-five as we passed by. It felt great. I even took the trouble to hi-five all the (hot) firemen that stood in line at one corner of the street Smile with tongue out (Come to think of it, there was no trouble at all Smile with tongue out Smile with tongue out)

“Welcome to Brooklyn!”

“Looking good!”

“Good job, Shanaz!”

The loud cheering of strangers and blaring music from the bands took my mind off the fact there were still many more kilometers to cover.  I was in the middle of a big street party and there was a big, ear-to-ear smile on my face.

I was running at 5’40’’ to 5”50” pace, which was a lot faster than what I originally planned. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline, but I just couldn’t bring myself to consciously slow it down a notch. I felt like my body was naturally trying to stay at a faster pace. At the back of my mind, I knew I was going to pay for this later.

After a long while, I was on Pulaski Bridge where there was a short, steep climb, passing the half-marathon mark on the way to the top of the bridge. I looked down at my Garmin. 2:04. Nice. Not only was I on track, I was ahead of it by a few minutes.

I zoomed down the other side of the bridge and entered Queens.

I think this was at 10-mile mark


Just as I was getting comfortable with the initial flat route in Queens, a gradual climb started, followed by a steep one up the Queensborough Bridge (which Selly gladly renamed as Jambatan “Haram-J”).

Here, the mental challenge began. Running across the metal bridge felt long and lonely. I had to dig deep within myself to find motivation to keep on going as the cheering of the crowd was silenced for more than 3km ahead.  

I made a mental check on my body. Calves: good. Glutes: great. Hamstrings: awesome. Yup, I was still going strong at this point.

As I approached the end of the bridge, I chuckled when I saw a huge poster that said something like “If you think the last 10 miles are easier, then welcome to easier”. If only that was really the case!

Boy oh boy, was I glad to finally exit the godforsaken stretch of the race, to be greeted by the largest and loudest crowd on the course.

Oh yeah baby, welcome to Manhattan Smile

Manhattan – First Avenue

When I entered the expansive First Avenue, the road opened up. I thought this was perfect: a wide, flat, open road with loud spectators at both sides. The roar from the crowd was electrifying and energizing. The crowd here was five-row deep from beginning to end. I felt like a rock star.

Towering skyscrapers surrounded me. I was truly running in New York City. My vagabond shoes were indeed straying right through the very heart of it.

Cheerers provided chocolates, petroleum jelly, bananas and moral support just at the point where runners started to struggle and wanted to give up. I saw a huge poster that said “Free hugs here”. I smiled Smile

At the end of the stretch, my legs started to show signs of fatigue. The fact that I was only a block away from Central Park, yet 15km from the finish, was quite a tease. Fortunately, I could still maintain my below 6’00” pace at this stage.



At around 30km, I crossed Willis Avenue Bridge and entered the Bronx. Runners were welcomed by a lady who stood by the street and boomed “Welcome to da Bronx!” with great delight.

The run through Bronx was lamentably short, which was a shame because it was da bomb! Local rappers beat out nice rhythms for runners. It was great, especially for those who appreciated hip hop. Naturally, Nana and Selly entered my mind Winking smile

The Bronx also featured some really cool posters I had seen in miles. Nothing beats messages like “Yo Bitch, Run!” and “You’re The Shit!”

The Bronx truly rocked! I hated to leave.

Manhattan – 5th Ave & Central Park

Before I knew it, Central Park appeared on my right and the crowd cheers amplified. The rush was surreal. The apparent energy from the crowd propelled me.

A huge poster caught my attention. On it was a photo of a running lady and the question “Will you marry me?” Unfortunately (or fortunately?) that wasn’t my photo, so I continued running Smile with tongue out

With only 5km to go, the road started climbing, and continued climbing for almost until the entrance into Central Park. After a short while, I started to become a little bit lazy. Partly because I knew a sub-4:30 finish was already in my hands, and partly because my legs started to feel heavy. The uphill stretch drained the remaining strength out of my legs and I felt as if I had almost zero energy left. I also started to feel some kind of pain on my right thigh.

I then came to realize that I was actually close to a sub-4:15 finish. I got excited. Why should I settle for gold when platinum was well within my reach? All I had to do was ignore whatever pain I was feeling, pick up the pace slightly and just hang in there for a bit. So I sucked it up, and gave it all I got.

“Come on Shanaz. Just a litttttle bit more. Go, Go, Go!”

With only 400 meters to go, I took out my Malaysian flag, waved it proudly in the air and weaved through the crowd, driven by a euphoria that masked fatigue.


And then finally, after 4 hours 14 minutes and 32 seconds of running, I crossed the finish line. I was in pain, but I’m sure I was smiling. Different types of emotions bubbled to surface. How could they not, my dream just came true Open-mouthed smile

Shortly after I finished, I learned that Nana and Selly also achieved their targets. I was ecstatic!

Thank you, New York. I will never forget this moment. Love, love, love, love, love you! Red heart


My splits (Source: Azu)

My new favourite bling-bling. Thanks “Pakwe” for the lovely rose

Thank you, Thank you and Thank you

… kalah orang menang Best Drama award ….

The months of training hit its peak the 6th of Nov on a picture-perfect fall day in New York City.  It was a tiring day, yet extremely satisfying. Although it was my 8th full marathon, I still find running a 42km race a tough feat. I was humbled by the entire experience.

This marathon was not just a personal journey. I was fortunate to have my amazing friends and family by my side. Without their support, I don’t think I could do what I did.

To Nana a.k.a Princess G, my partner-in-crime, I can’t thank you enough. I had a blast training and travelling with you. Thank you for all the bitching and dream-sharing sessions. You kicked ass at the marathon Smile and I look forward to our next project *wink*.


To Selly a.k.a Senorita G, being in different cities didn’t stop us from tracking each other’s progress and motivating one another. Muchas gracias, chica! I’m so happy that you nailed your sub-5 and I have no doubt that you will continue to get stronger and stronger.


To Azu & Izuan, of all our running friends, I think both of you had to put up with our NYC drama the most. I salute your patience Winking smile The fact that you guys stayed up all night to follow our progress (and stole my thunder by posting my finish time even before I had the chance to reconnect with my BB after the run Nyah-Nyah) truly touched me. Thaaaaaanks kitak-kitak! Winking smile

To the familiar faces: Nik, Syah, Marlin, Irwan, Dzul and more … thanks for the good runs and for being accommodating to me in many ways. See you guys on the road soon, once my “gantung kasut” period is over Open-mouthed smile

To my family, thanks for believing in me. I’m proud that you’re proud of me Smile

To my non-running friends, you guys must be reading this and still don’t get what the fuss is all about. But thank you, for putting up with my “kurang-normal”-an.

To those who took the time to send us good luck/congratulation wishes and words of encouragements while we were in NYC, thank you! You guys are simply awesome.

To Casey & TSB … Constant thoughts of you kept me going. They still do. And I’m not just talking about running. You are deeply missed. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Red heart

“Never limit where running can take you” – Bart Yasso

xoxo, Captain G Red heart

Monday, 28 November 2011

Powerman 2011!

Powerman Malaysia

My first foray in a multi-sport event came in the form of a duathlon, and the event was not an easy one, the name Malakoff Powerman Malaysia really lived up to its reputation. The premier duathlon event in the country has long been touted as one of the best, and the toughest in the world, attracting crazy athletes from all over the globe. This year, it is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, which made it quite an occasion if you were one of the participants.

Ready for its first race! Open-mouthed smile

My decision to participate was largely influenced, or rather inspired, by another runner friend of mine, Syah Kamaruddin. When I first bought my road bike a few months ago (also from a friend, TK Tan), the intention was to complement my running workouts, since I am too lazy to go to the gym and do cross-training. It would also probably in a way, able to increase my performance, which I felt has already reached its plateau. That WAS the intention, until one fine evening, after one of our customary runs at the KLCC Park, Syah came up with this idea for us to do Powerman in Manjung, Perak. To add to that, we would compete in the Long Distance category, which would mean the 11km run, 64km bike, 10km run discipline, solo. Confused smile I didn’t know whether to relish it, or to dread the thought, but in the end, due to the ‘intense’ peer pressure (HAHAHAH!! Nyah-Nyah), I registered anyway. Yes, and so did Syah.

Before the start of the race

Come race day, the only concern was the lack of training I had, especially the amount of time spent on the bike. Nevermind the running, I rode only twice prior to the event, clocking 25km each, for a total of 50km. That’s even less than what I was supposed to do in the event itself! I was only counting on my self-belief, and the will to bring me home and complete the event. To beat the 5 hours cut-off seemed far-fetched. Confidence was high though, no thanks to the anticipation and the company from familiar faces; Syah, Diket, Det, Azmar, Azu, and some new friends like Akmal and ‘Nana Tanjung’. Heheh! Smile There were other familiar faces too; Ruby, Azri, Reza, Yim, Pui San, Cynthia, A-Bou and TK Tan to name a few.

The race flagged off at 7:30 am at the Sri Manjung Stadium. The target was to complete the 11km run within the 1:05 to 1:10 range. That would give me at least another ample 3 hours 50 minutes, plus transition, to catch the cut-off time. My calculation the night before, I must complete the cycling leg within the 2 hours 30 minutes bracket, so that I would have a comfortable time balance to run the 10km, which was the most grueling part. Confused smile

The start of the race, everyone seems chirpy at this time

1sr Running LegFamiliar faces in the running crowd during the 1st running leg

The first running leg took us on a 2-lap rectangular route. I maintained my pace slightly faster than planned, as I drifted together with the other runners who seemed to enjoy the settings of the residential area. There were even food stalls along the course. Perhaps everyone were trying to savour their last bits of enjoyment, before suffering the next 3 hours or so! Nyah-Nyah It ended quite well for me, slightly faster than 1:05. I would be ‘transitioned’ into unknown territory now. My first ever cycling race was just minutes away! Disappointed smile

The early part was okay. Pace was at 28-30km/h. Erwan suggested that I kept the pace at around 24-25km/h, but I felt good. I was already upbeat as this could mean an earlier completion time than expected. The bike route was nice, passing through the Lumut Port, and crossing 3 bridges, with the last one being the scenic Raja Permaisuri Bainun bridge, which provided a significant challenge in its incline as well. We had to complete 2 laps of the course, to complete 64 km.

At the end of the 1st 32km (1st lap), already fighting bouts of cramps at this time

Ah well, it lasted until the 8th km, when cramps started creeping in both my calves. The fact that it was the calves kind of surprised me, as cycling requires a different sets of muscles. So for the remaining 56km Surprised smile, the most I could do was to manage the cramps, and rode at the most manageable pace as much as possible. I stopped at every water stations, mainly not for the drinks, but to get the ‘magic spray’ (which helped a lot!) from the medics. After around 2 hours 40 minutes, through all pain, I completed the cycling leg. And when I walked into the transition area, I was all but spent.

The start of the 2nd running leg, look at my face! Sick smile

The final running leg was ‘only’ 10km, but it was the hardest ever 10km race I had ever ran in. My legs were even worst than jelly! The cramps made it even worse. When I reached the gates on the way out of the stadium, I saw Azu, Alwin (who had already completed, and won the relay category) and Akmal offering the participants a bottle of 1.5 liter iced Coke. There was 1:15 or so left on the clock, so by my reckoning, a slow 6:30-ish pace would bring me home. But the run was so painful, I had to reduce myself to the run-walk-run routine. As during the cycling leg, I had to stop at every medics I saw to get them to attend to the legs. I finished the 1st lap unscathed, and spirits increased, knowing there were 5 grueling kilometers to go. Had a bit of Coke from Azu (as did the other participants heheh!), and there I went.

Coke CrewThe Coke crew, Akmal and Azu Nyah-Nyah

At the start of the 2nd lap of the running leg


In the 2nd lap my legs were getting worse, and on top of that was the searing afternoon heat. So when I say that even with 2.5km to go, I was already contemplating to give everything up, and to just complete even outside the cut-off time. But Cynthia provided me that last bit of hope, that necessary encouragement to finish it. To say that she was not there to bring me home would be an insult. She was that one last push that everyone would appreciate in times of dire need. After fighting cramps, the afternoon heat, the pain, that mental barrier, I crossed the finishing line with the official time of 4:58:34, barely over a minute before the 5-hour cut-off! PHEWWWWWW!!!!! Turtle

The joy and relief of completing one of the toughest Powerman in the world

With Syah
With Syah (and the medal Nyah-Nyah)

with Paul, Cyn, Erni
L-R: Paul, Cynthia, Me, Erni

L-R: Ziff, Akmal, Alwin, Syah, Me, Diket

When I first registered, it was quite an uncharted territory for me, especially the cycling part. Never cycled in a race before, let alone cycle 64km! But on 13 November 2011, no thanks to all of you (you know who you are yeah! Smile), who has provided me the encouragement, and the inspiration, I am now officially a Powerman finisher!! Bring on Powerman 2012!

The coveted finisher shirt, and the medal

* At the time of writing, our friend Cynthia was admitted in ICU in Bangkok Hospital, Phuket. She met an accident while cycling downhill in a triathlon event in Phuket. Prayer goes to her for her speedy recovery. Red heart

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