How long does it take a frequent runner to acclimatise from Scottish winter to Equatorial summer, where the mercury hits 30+ degrees? Longer than three weeks, you betcha….and here’s how I know.
The Brunei Half Marathon was entered at the start of 2013, as I rejoiced at finding a distance race in my new home country. I would run the same distance in the UK as a benchmark and then train on heart-rate until I was at a similar fitness and voila, everything would be hunky-dory. As time passed I was beginning to think we wouldn’t even make it over for the race, so 3 weeks to get used to the heat and humidity went something like:
But it wasn’t that bad. Race strategy was (a) don’t race (b) don’t exceed 175 bpm unless it’s a sprint to the loo or the final 10 metres (c) keep salted and hydrated (d) enjoy the city. I managed (nearly) all of those, slowed down when I had to, jogged all the inclines and had a tough but steady event, finishing in a not-too-slovenly 2:13:34 and I can honestly say, I was pleased with that.
Pace splits/heart-rate (the last 3 miles after the morning hotted up were very tough)
5K in 30.55 / 10K in 63.05/16K in 1.42/21K in 2.13
So roughly: 5K/5K/6K/5K in 31, 32, 39, 31 minutes, so you can see where the hills were but it was still pretty even. OK, important to me for this first hotter race but I promise the stats are over now for the descriptive and pictures.
We stayed at The Empire Hotel in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and I enjoyed being go-karted around between our wing and the main building. The complex is mahooosive and I look forward to a more exploratory return. I endured another highly painful foot torture-massage but felt brilliant the next morning for our 4 am start.
We arrived at the Hassanal Bolkiah stadium (named after the current Sultan of Brunei) and the place was buzzing with athlete’s, media and rows of food stalls serving rice and noodle dishes, fruit punch and water; all at 5 am. No queue for the loos and soon we were huddling behind the start-line, waiting to stride out into the dark. I opted to run with the Ipod in 1 ear and carrying an UltrAspire Handheld full of Aquarius sports drink, which is widely available in Seria. The race was sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank who have a series of marathons and half marathons throughout the Far East, including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. We all got very nice turquoise/green tee-shirts and an over-sized mesh cap in our goody bags and can I just say that the expo and registration, although not well attended, was well organised and very friendly, with a personal smiley welcome and good-bye from their meet n greet team (this is proving typical of Brunei hospitality).
Back to the race! I was slightly taller and much paler than 90% of the participants and I felt there were at least twice as many first timers as there were regular runners (evident later when most of the 10K race was walking at the point where the half route merged). Of course this is fine until the last few miles when you’re tired and it’s hot and you’re weaving in and out of groups of walkers! I was in awe of the amount of fully clad head-to-foot in black, compression wearing folks, some with two layers on, including long sleeves and long socks. I saw one wheelchair entrant and at the 5K mark passed one single-legged blade-runner. There were a smattering of ex-pat types as well and I spotted a Dutch flag at the start-line. I tried not to stare at the Bruneian lady runners who were attempting to run in their Muslim headscarves: how hot would THAT have been (shudders). Fair play to them! We were united in our goal though and we eased into the race start at 5.30 am and I waved at the cameras and tried to settle into a pace to the background noise of insects, feet falling on tarmac and ‘The Climb’ playing in one ear! I had opted to run in my grey/blue Nike+ Lunarglide 4s as they matched the outfit and also hadn’t done a long race; I wore the purple versions for my last half marathon. Rest of the attire was my usual garb: Nike dryfit shorts over Skins compression shorts, X-socks run (men’s version), Shockabsorber B4490 in turquoise, new BASIC charity tee-shirt, Scotland Buff, Worm sunglasses (not needed) and Lunarglides.
At around the 5-6K mark, the sun started to come up just as we passed the large gold-domed mosque and the heat wasn’t any worse than I’d experienced over the prevailing weeks. I was drinking frequently, had a short-lived twinge right knee and had some crystallised ginger and some Neurofen stashed ‘just encase’. My fellow runners were friendly, smiled and I felt confident enough to tap a local gent on the shoulder to tell him his shoe-lace was undone. I managed to ditch a rather annoying girl who was overtaking me and then slowing in my line of sight continually, by running through the second water station. My other half was made to jog alongside me to capture these pictures at the next water-station 🙂
The cheering bands were very enthusiastic as we came through the main town and by now, there were people on their way to work and it was getting warmer with every passing minute. Then someone turned on the heat and day broke over the streets just as we made our way to the first of three substantial fly-overs. The gradient would be manageable on it’s own but the addition of the camber as well as the amalgamation of walking HM and 10Kers…it was getting tougher. My strategy was to adopt the classic hill running mentality of lift from the thigh, take very small steps and let gravity put your foot back down. Only stop running if someone walks passed you faster…so I continued, snail-like but steady, taking tiny steps, working my arms, lifting from the thigh and you know? I was passing people. No one around me was jogging the hills! The crest came in sight and I tried not to bomb down the far side as the camber was killing my right leg. Repeated this pretty much 3 times and by then the 10 Mile mark had passed, so mentally I was on my way home.
One last fly-over onto the main road and by now the sun was beating off the tarmac back at me, people were slowing, very fit triathlete looking guys were bimbling, blinded by their own sweat. The water stations were now handing out DEET cream and the flies from the drains as we re-entered the main town, were quite something else. I’d slathered on SPF30 with insect repellent incorporated and just hoped I hadn’t sweated it all off.
My heart-rate was now over 180 BPM but I felt a greater urgency- to get out of the heat! I pulled my buff off my head, wound it round my wrist and felt a momentary relief as my head literally let off steam. The last 2 miles were all about trying not to blow up, keeping form (I could feel my head roll back and my middle start to collapse a few times) and dodging slower runners and 10K walkers. I saw a smaller lady up in front who looked like she was slowing and I just aimed at catching her and passing her. This pre-occupied me as we turned for a very decent 150m straight to the line (although I almost ran into the 10K funnel because a group of guys were cheering right in the finish-stretch). Luckily the Other Half has seen me lose direction near the end of races before (!) and shouted me over to the 21Km mat. I did speed up at the end but it wasn’t a massive push. I passed the girl though 😉
I got over the mat and immediately walked up the steps whilst taking my medal, water and can of 100Plus There were 100s of runners lying out in the sun, stretching, some flaked out and I sat and drank in the rehydration and the atmosphere. I’d completed my first half marathon in the hottest and most humid conditions I’d ever experienced and I had no “issues” – blisters, bad belly, energy dip (and like the Lossie Half in February, I didn’t use carb gels, just the carb drinks and water). Although the time was nothing special (to me), it was apparently representative of the 13th place in the non-local Open Female category and although they don’t publish the full results, I reckon it was a top 30 finish. It makes me wonder what further adaptions I’ll gain in the following weeks and what I can do next time? Mind you, I quite like the feeling of constant effort, sight-seeing and not being dead at the end…….. Brunei is beautiful and friendly and I look forward to running here again 🙂