Monday, 12 May 2014

When a Fire Starts to Burn

This post is related to my maiden full marathon but rather than start from the beginning I thought it would be more informative to report on the aftermath and then come back to the race.

I thought the title song was apt in the circumstances as when the race flagged off at 3am the temperature was sitting at 26C with a lovely 80 percent humidity. The problem right there for me is that I come from a country where if we were to experience temperatures of that during the day everything would shut down. Businesses would close, people would flock to the parks and beaches and smother themselves in baby oil and start sun bathing. I maybe exaggerate slightly but the reality is that I come from a very cool climate so despite being here for over three years my body is never fully going to adapt to the humid conditions. The mistake I made was to think my early morning long runs in Kuala Lumpur would be exactly the same as my marathon in Borneo when it was actually a few degrees higher and the humidity much higher. In essence I started cooking from flag off and the oven pinged before I got to the finish. I didn't managed to finish the full marathon as I collapsed at 41.4 km with heatstroke and was thankfully stretchered back to the stadium nearby where they quickly got me to the local hospital by ambulance.

This seasons colours from Cooking Scotsman
When you run, your core body temperature naturally rises, and your sweat glands produce droplets that carry excess heat to the surface of the skin, where it evaporates. But humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, so the heat stays put. So with the humidity on Sunday I lost a key ingredient in my running set-up to allow me to run not only efficiently but safely. Everything felt okay until the last 5k and then it hit. I started feeling nauseous but put it down to the sun coming up and it being the last 5k. I'm sure you have all been there and fought the same battle in your mind?

"I've come so far I can't stop now", "one more km and i'll see how I feel then", "you've almost got this, man-up!"

Your body temperature continues to heat up and then goes into survival mode. It starts to prioritise blood flow to major organs so they can continue to function so less blood flows to your digestive systems. Any gels I ingested were rendered fairly ineffective. Continuing after the 30km once the sun had come up I added another monkey to my back. I had left my running cap back at the hotel. It's only an hour in the sun right? Should be okay right?

The additional heat to my pale Scottish napper (Heed) was probably the final nail in the coffin. As the temperature in my brain (I do have one) increased I lost the ability to think rationally.

I had all the warnings but choose to ignore them, I battled on and pushed to the finish line. Unfortunately I collapsed at 41.4km and then rushed to QE2 hospital where apparently they kicked of the ceremony by cold showering me to lower my body temperature and then quickly got me on a drip and started re-hydrating me. Saline drip, not my normal Vodka drip.

I re-gained consciousness approximately three hours after admission to A&E and didn't have a clue where I was. I initially thought I had clashed heads with another player playing football, scoring the winning goal in the FA cup final obviously. When I came round a second time I thought I had been hit by a car back in KL and was recovering in A&E. I was eventually discharged on Thursday lunchtime.

I wanted to highlight the above as It's a lesson I have learnt the hard way. I hope that it helps other runners out there in Malaysia and prevents this happening to someone else. You need to have a little chat with yourself and weigh up what you are going to do when those little demons starting whispering in your ear that it's time to stop running up that hill, to slow down and walk or to miss the next drink station. Think of them as friendly telephone customer service reps from your brain who are not trying to derail you best laid plans but to let you live and race another day.

The race itself was thoroughly enjoyable apart from the out come obviously! I met some fantastic people during the start. Friends from F-1 Runners, local bloggers and local runners alike were all in attendance and there was a very supportive atmosphere. Flag-off was at 3am and very efficient despite the large number of runners. The initial 11km took us in a loop round the city and for the most part was fairly flat. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of volunteers around the course mostly cheering and offering encouragement despite the early start.

After reaching the stadium at around 11km it was then off out along the coastal route towards UTM for another 10km. I managed to maintain a pace of around 5:30 per km for the first half of the race and was feeling really good about things until turning the roundabout at UTM and then there it is right in front of you, a massive bloody hill. It wasn't as bad as I had anticipated but i'm sure it took a bit out of me.

It's followed by quite a steep downhill section and I couldn't help but think I was going much further down than I went up. What goes down, must come up right? So next followed quite a long progressive incline which again at the end of the day wasn't quite as bad as thought it would be. I can't help but think there must be a marathon out there thats completely downhill?

After exiting UTM you then head out towards Sepangar Church and the 29km turnaround point. I have to say I thought the turnaround point would never arrive and after passing there that's when I started to struggle. The KM's got longer and the hills seemed larger whilst my legs seemed to shorten and my stride reverted to that of a midget.

I struggled on and was grateful for each drink station when it came. My last memory was turning in towards the road to Likas stadium after just being offered a ice lolly by a group of volunteers. Looking back now an ice lolly would have been a lovely mental distraction to the last few kilometers but at the time i thought it was utterly preposterous that you would offer a runner a ice lolly. I mean how do you run and eat an ice lolly. Monsters.

I have now downloaded my GPS data and can see I managed to reach the 41.4km mark before collapsing like a meths fuelled tramp and decorating the street with a cocktail of Gu Gel and water. Not my best look.

That means I ran for about a kilometer on autopilot. I have no recollection of the last kilometer and that worries me. I was lucky enough that there were people who new me. I was lucky enough that the race organiser was prudent enough to collect emergency details and be able to contact my next of kin. I was extremely lucky that I have such an understanding wife that was there in KK at the time of the race. I spent the next four days in hospital in Kota Kinabalu on drips trying to lower toxin levels in my kidneys and liver following the race.

What I have learnt is the following -
  1. If you feel bad during the race, tingling, hot or cold flushes, nausea stop. Just stop. It's very easy for things to accelerate to a position where you are no longer in control. 
  2. Ensure you have identification. I'm planning on buying a Race ID bracelet to wear during my runs. More about them here The Expat Runner. If you can't afford one then one of those charity rubber bracelets that are popular at the moment will suffice. Mark your emergency contact with a permanent marker. 
  3. Be aware of the conditions. I automatically assumed that KK would be the same temperature as Kuala Lumpur. With hindsight I should really have gone out much slower and enjoyed the race and bagged my maiden marathon. Maybe stopped at the drinks breaks and poured water over my head instead of drink it although given the size of my heed, thats a lot of water. 
  4. Choose the correct clothing. I wore black. Not a good idea when the sun comes up. Choose light colours that reflect the sunlight and wear a hat. 

Hopefully some one will take something away from the above and not have to endure the same.

To end I'd like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the BIM organisers for taking care of me and for the special note awaiting me on my return to the hotel after being discharged from hospital. Cheered me right up so it did.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Tighten Up

I'm painfully aware that I haven't written anything for over a month now mainly due to lack of sleep caused by a marathon training plan that's left me feeling like a zombie most days. It's been strangely cathartic in the sense that I've erased any fear that I had about completing the full marathon distance.
Long runs every Saturday morning starting from 15km at the start of the plan up to a 36.5km run a couple of weeks back have slowly eroded any worries away. It's been a revealing process into what your mind and body can achieve when you really set about to achieve something. At the start I remember finishing a 21km long run and thinking 'holy shitbox, that's only halfway' to now thinking 'will my bodyglide hold up another 6km or are my nipples going to fall off?'
I now start tapering on Monday morning and stuffing my face with pasta, pasta and er, pasta. I had a quick glance on wiki and apparently Beer is a good source of carbs so I shall use that instead of gatorade. The brief recess in training intensity has also allowed my race anxiety creep back in and I now find myself fretting about finishing times when I should really be focusing on just finishing the event. Should I? oh I don't know. I have a target time in mind but I also really want to enjoy the experience. That's not to say I'm not going to try my best but I can be my own worst enemy when It comes to setting targets. By doing so I could end up disappointing myself after spending the last 4 months training, waking the house up in the wee small hours as I creep out the door at 3am and boring anyone within earshot about running in general.
I think when this one is out of the way it'll be time to take a break, to rest and recover.
And maybe think about the KL Marathon in October. No, no, no. No more marathons.
Maybe an Ultra? That's not on the bucket list yet?

Anyway, just a short one this week, more soon on newtons new Motion III's soon.

On the subject of Ultras, there's one in Borneo called The Most Beautiful Thing and it looks absolutely amazing. You can read more about it on the Running Deo's Blog here -

Deorunner's blog

Also a big thanks to the wonderful Cornelius for helping to alleviate some of the pressure by blogging about the Borneo International Marathon route. It's good to read that the course is fairly flat apart from a big mahoooooooosive hill at 21km. Other than that there doesn't seem to be much info out there on the course itself.

Cornelius Blog


Friday, 7 March 2014

Music : Response

So how have you been? Long time no see. Have you missed me? Not half as much as I've missed you.
I was, err, umm,  abducted by an elite team of Kenyan runners last month partly because they wanted to put a dent in my marathon training plans and partly because they just fancied kidnapping somebody. I'm fine and thanks for asking and I guess you can stop worrying now.
So this month I thought I'd blog about music and it's (sometimes) positive effects on my long runs. You see I can't imagine doing anything more than 21km without some form of onboard entertainment. Sure, the KL half was fun last year purely because of the sheer size of the group you are running with but that was my one and only time running without music. I appreciate there is an etiquette to running and being a social event you shouldn't have any headphones on but unless someones going to talk to me the whole way and appreciate that I will be running at a pace that will only allow me to respond in short sharp grunts then you can forget it.
My 33km long run today took me all the way from Ampang through the city centre and back home and as much as I try and be careful with my musical selections there always seems to be a track that sneaks its way onto the playlist for the morning when it quite clearly shouldn't be there. Todays pace killing, positivity sapping mogadon of a track was Peter Frampton - Show Me The Way. Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of Frampton as much as the next man but not during a run. The Eagles could have popped on next and I would have been running like Mo Farah after and I HATE the Eagles. With a passion.

But it got me thinking during my run about how much of an affect music can have on your performance? How much response do you get from listening to a certain track? It's been said that listening to music can boost your performance by up to 15% but i'm not sure what that means. Make your legs go faster by 15%? Overall performance improved by 15%? 15% off your PB? I don't know but what I don know is there are certain songs on my playlist that when I feel I have nothing left to give I can suddenly find a new lease of life in these old legs and things pick up again.
One such genre of music that I love to listen to not only during long runs but during interval training also is northern soul. I'm not going to go into what Northern Soul is here as it's such a long story and I have bored many a partygoer with my views on the same subject. Each track is basically 2.5 to 3 minutes long and very rarely longer than that so during fartleks or interval training you can pretty much set your clock to it.
During fartleks I try and break it into 3 minutes slow and 3 minutes fast or 3 Slow 6 fast. I'll typically start with something slow like this -

And then something more up tempo like this -

and then keep it up there with something like this -

and then back down for three minutes with something like this -

And then repeat again etc etc.

It certainly works for me and it doesn't necessarily have to be that type of music. It would be interesting to see what everyone else listens to and if they listen to music as a way of improving their performance or to just pass the time. A fellow runner offered kudos on one of my recent long runs and the ability to run without a running partner. Music certainly allows me to do just that but I do occasionally find my mind wandering into the strangest of places. One that springs to mind was musings on whether the amount of dog shit on the streets of a capital city can directly equate to how advanced a civilisation is. You see things ARE better with music. This of course is also an opportunity for me to impose my musical tastes on you the general public in the vague pretence that I'm writing a blog.
On that note I'm away to go listen to some more music and drink some lovely beer.

Have a great weekend oh and good luck to the Brooks HM runners on Sunday and ALL THE LADIES (Beyonce face) running next weeks Malaysia womens marathon.
I still hate The Eagles.

Monday, 3 February 2014

You Can't Curl Your Toes Around A Memory

As a species, humans are capable of feeling the six basic emotions (Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise) as well as much more complex ones such as stress, modesty, shame, anger, and patience. I'd like to focus today on sadness and the more complex emotions stirred up by loss or bereavement.
You see today I had to say goodbye to two friends.
Friends that have been with me all the way through this journey. Friends that have helped me along the way, been a source of comfort when at times I felt I couldn't go on any longer.
When I hit that wall they were for me, willing me through what seemed like an insurmountable barrier of pain. Staring up at me through the void.


R.I.P Newton Motions

Anyway, don't feel sorry for me my friends as as painful as my grief and loss were, it was easily cured by popping out to the shops to buy a new pair. Gong Xi Fa Cai, Gong Xi Fa New Shoes as they say in Malaysia. They don't really say that anywhere in Malaysia except for a tiny recess of my mind that has been compartmentalised by my brain as the area that we (Me, Myself and I) store stuff that is called Made Up Stuff. It's a small teak drawer with a tiny paper label on the front that has Made Up Stuff written on the front or that's what I imagine it looks like. It's just down the road from the Fantasy and the Storing Mobile Telephone Number sections of my mind. It once shared a drawer with Personal Details but that went a bit awry and I'd rather not talk about it. Lets move on I say.

Back to the Newtons.

Hello Better

It's safe to say these are the best pair of running shoes I have ever owned hence the reason for purchasing a brand new pair. They are also quite possibly the loudest pair of shoes I have ever worn and this is coming from a man who once owned a pair of purple Kickers.
The older pair of Newton Motions had stuck with me for just over 750 km without feeling uncomfortable, in fact my last run in them was on Saturday past. An enjoyable LSD run of 23 km. Most running shoes last for around 500-600km before needing replaced so these have served me well.
So why change now?

Old and New
Newton running shoes are unique in that they have steered away from the EVA foams and gel types cushioning we have become accustomed to in our running shoes. They also have a set of four strange lugs on each midsole that help promote good running technique by employing the Land-Lever-Lift methodology. Land quietly in an athletic position with each footstrike under your hips; Lever off the front of the lugs; Lift your knee to begin a new stride. I'm not going to lie, it takes a bit of getting used to having these lugs directly under your midsole but the feeling disappears after a few runs and starts to feel natural.

Not much difference other than dirt
After having a rest day on Sunday I had to head out this morning and resume my current training program. The training program called for an easy 8km but the noticeable comfort of having a new pair of boots strapped to my feet resulted in me trying to run as fast as my little legs could possibly go.
My tempo runs recently have been around the 5:20 to 5:40 km pace but this morning saw me run possibly the fastest I have ever managed in recent memory. I had a fair idea that my route was around 8-9 km so I wasn't really paying much attention to my watch and concentrating on running as fast as possible and maintaining a good posture. I ended up running 9km with an average pace of 4:53 per Km which for me is fast. Hello Better indeed in fact hello man on the scooter in front of me not expecting me to overtake you in the traffic. Whilst you pick your nose.
Being a frugal Scot it's quite possible that the shoes needed changing a couple of hundred Km ago but parting with money on shoes has never been one of my favourite pastimes. This morning made it all seem worthwhile and I'm kicking myself as another km would have probably seen me through a sub-50 minute 10k. Oh well, as my granny used to say "Fit’s afore ye winna ging ahin ye", roughly translated from Doric as "What’s meant for you won’t pass you by".
So my emotions now range from Happiness and Surprise to Resolve in this New Chinese Lunar year. Resolve to try and run things a little bit faster, let things go that have passed and look forward to new things happening. If you won't take my word for it then listen to the most excellent Johnny Thunders, You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory. Indeed.

Gong Xi Fai Chai my friends, stay lucky.

PS - If you'd like to try a pair on, head up to see the lovely people at Key Power Malaysia in the Gardens Mall.

If you would like to read a bit more about the science behind Newton Running then go here -

Friday, 17 January 2014


To glide or not to glide. That is the question.
As my weekly mileage continues to increase I find myself looking for a solution to a common running problem caused by the rubbing of two totally pointless (for men) body parts against my running shirt.
Sore nipples.
I am currently sporting a couple of nipples that resemble game show buzzers and boy do they hurt.

It's quite possible Saturday mornings shower after my long run was the most painful in recent memory and you know what they say, "It's in the shower you feel the pain of victory".......Unless your in high security prison. Then it's a whole different story.
So what option do we have to relieve our selves of this burden? 

Tape - I may or may not have mentioned before that I have a hair problem. It grows all over my body like Malaysian Jungleweed. Well everywhere except the areas of the body susceptible to male pattern baldness, they just keep getting balder. Any tape I attach falls off within 20 minutes of a run and I'm back to square one with a pair of braying hooters sticking out of my shirt like a pair of monkeys thumbs. The only tape that's really going to work is Duct Tape and I fear the pain of trying to remove it cancels out any lasting benefits.

Vaseline - Now this I like and I have tried it AND it works but what a mess it leaves on your running gear. I also tripped once and ended up whoooshing down the road on my belly like the silver surfer. A hairy silver surfer.

Nipple Removal - They may be of no use whatsoever but I'm not going to entertain the idea of having someone remove my nipples under anaesthetic. Do they replace them with prosthetic nipples? It's quite possible that they do and I urge you to take my word for it and not carry out a search on google images for prosthetic nipples.  I started writing this blog post on Monday but ended up waylaid carrying out further 'research' on the subject.

Running Topless - Not an option. I am not going back to jail/zoo.

Man Up - The seventies are dead man, let them go.

One of my running friends, Samantha has pointed me in the direction of Body Glide and I shall be purchasing a thingumy of it on Monday from her. I've had a look at their website and it appears to be the real deal although I'm always hesitant to add expense to something that should really only be shirt, shorts and a pair of running shoes. In this case I think the additional expense is worth it if it takes away the pain.

Their website is full of useful testimony such as Elisabeth who has now devoted her life to spreading the word about body glide after it er, um, saved her life after a heart attack. I had to watch that a couple of times as I thought she had possibly had the heart attack because of her chaffed nipples.

So hopefully Monday brings a solution and If you suffer from this affliction yourself then fear not. You are not alone *hugs*. If you continue though the pain then I salute you. Wear those medals with pride, you earned them.

Thanks to Stephen Brown

Stay lucky.

Friday, 10 January 2014


So my mate contacts me last week.
When I say mate I mean MATE MATE. The type of mate that you spend your school years, adolescence, good times and bad times with. Your formative years if you will. It's safe to say that if I ever faced a life crisis of monumental proportion that he would be one of my go to guys.  So he has a confession.
He wears tights.
Not the same kind of tights that Holly wore to hitch hike her way across the USA but a different type of tights. A pair of tights that make you run faster than a dodgy plate of Ikan Bilis (Dried/Fried Anchovies). So I empathise with with my mate and also come clean and admit that yes, I too am a wearer of tights. Come clean to you the readers of this blog. Not to him.

Now, I feel it's important to highlight that the tights in questions are of the compression variety and not the kind a lady would wear. I purchased a pair last year at the lovely sport shop in the Gardens Mall and it was only when I got home I realised my rough Scottish upbringing would completely forbid me from wearing them in public. EVER. That's not to say I have any objections to folk wearing these garments in public but it comes more from the fear that should I ever be photographed at one of the numerous racing events in Malaysia wearing a pair and that photo ever made it back to Scotland and landed in the hands of my friends then god help me sweet baby jesus. It's safe to say if I was ever allowed to show my face on the streets of Aberdeen again it would most probably be whilst being pursued by a gang of youths shouting obscenities and haranguing my every step as if I was wearing a beige safari suit made of crimpolene.

The stay at home and not let anyone see tights

Now lets not get too carried away. I like a performance boost as much as the next person but do they really work? Yes and No. There's a growing body of evidence to suggest that the use of these garments post run (well is there any other sport?) actually aids recovery. I can put my hand on my heart and say that I can totally agree with this and have had many rescued Saturday and Sunday mornings after a long run where I have not only be able to move but been able to waltz across the house like Fred Astaire. When I say like Fred Astaire I'm obviously talking about a 75 year old Freddy with a dash of Alzeimers but you catch my drift.
I visited Brisbane recently and managed to purchase a pair of 2XU compression socks in the local running store and the main reason behind the purchase was:
1 - Smaller and more inconspicuous than a pair of tights
2 - Low Cost
3 - Plain black, no logos, nada, nothing. Just BLACK

Brisbane for those who have not been there before is a city in Australia that was built specifically for runners and runners only. If you don't run, you aint gettin' in mate. Brisbane is Hebrew for 'City that Runs'. Fact.
Anyway, so I'd managed to knock out a couple of long runs before stumbling upon the sports shop and socks so threw caution to the wind and thought what the heck. Buy them.
Unfortunately, the next morning I caught sight of myself in the hotel room mirror and just couldn't do it. It's safe to say I resembled Lou Reeds 'Holly' (see Youtube link above) forty years after the song had been written, a hairy, overweight Pippy Longstockings if you will. I just couldn't do it because in the back of my damaged Scottish mind that bunch of kids are sitting outside the hotel waiting for me.
Last weekend I started the first of my Saturday morning long runs plodding round Melawati and even I know that Scottish Neds are not likely to be awake at 4:30am in the morning so I went for it. I wore the socks.

Goth Socks!!

The first 20 minutes were awful. That's how long it took me to actually get the bloody things over my calfs. After my upper body workout pulling the socks on I headed off on a gentle but hilly route round sleepy Melawati. I'd love to tell you that I noticed a difference but to be honest I couldn't really see what the fuss was about. I felt less 'jiggly' down there. Not 'there' but further down 'there' where the socks are and maybe that's a benefit as there's less muscle movement when you run. I didn't run any faster and didn't feel like I'd be breaking any records anytime soon so the jury is out with regards to using them as a performance aid. I kept them on after the run for a couple of hours and as before with the compression tights I felt like I could go out and do another run the next day without any aches pains or DOMS.
As with everything it's really down to what you feel suits you and what you feel comfortable running in. Sometimes you need to take a walk on the wild side to truly find whats good for you. I'm happy walking on the mild side.
My mate back home? I told him he's owe me a bottle of Whisky or I'll tell everyone he's a transvestite.

Stay lucky.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Year of Giving Dangerously

Firstly, Happy New Year to all you bloody lovely people out there. Yes YOU.

At last 2013 is out of the way and it's onward and upwards with 2014. If 2013 was a good year for you ( injury free, PB's, goals achieved, heavy drinking targets met,  pigs fed watered and flying round the world) ,then hold and cherish that memory. Clutch it to your chest like a baby Orangutan and occasionally glance at it fondly and use it to spur you onto bigger and better things this year.
Now, if 2013 was an extremely bad year for you (injuries, heavy drinking, PB's in reverse etc, etc) then grab that memory, set fire to it and sh*t it into outer space because it's all over now.
I'm not really one for making new years resolutions mainly because it's framed using a strange calender given to us by the Romans and based on Lunar cycles or something or other like that and I'm sure somebody told me that it's all going to go a bit awry soon when the moon speeds up or something. It will probably mean we start to eat our breakfast at tea time and such like but on a more positive note, most of the Malaysia marathons will be run at night  except the PJ night marathon which will be run at some other time. Well, you get the idea. I'm not an expert on these things so please please do not start panic buying at Jusco/Carrefour/Cold Storage just yet. If I hear anything official YOU will be the first to know.
Anyway, in a break from my normal traditions I have decided to set myself a target of running a marathon this year, possibly six. I've never run one before but I figure if man or mankind can land on the moon then surely my hairy little leggys can get me round a 42.195 km course?
What race to choose? Malaysia Womens Marathon is most definitely out or at least it was the last time I looked down in the toilet. That leaves Borneo ( Day after birthday, drunk marathon?), Kuching (sounds like cha ching,a sign I may win?) PJ Day/Night Marathon (moon shift dependent), SCKLM ( Safety in numbers, not far from the house ), Penang (Ran the half in 2012, last ever race on the old bridge yeah except we are going to run on it again 2013 but promise the new bridge will be open for 2014, sorry but I don't trust you anymore kinda thing going on there).
Appreciate any thoughts or advice or insights into the above races but why run a marathon now?
Well I'm not getting any younger and I have a niggling voice in my head. Not the one about the calenders or the one about the dancing man in Taman Tar but one that's pushing me on to achieve more. I'm hoping this doesn't end up with me looking like a pickled walnut in 5 years time at the end of Badwater 2019, gasping for breath wondering why my family has deserted me for a decent, non-running career man who doesn't have to shave twice per day.

It's also a chance to raise money for charity although after this years efforts raising money for Hospis Malaysia at SCKLM13 I think I may have sucked dry any remaining goodwill especially If I'm asking to people to donate to me running 21 km again. I know, I know, not even a mention on the New Years Honors list which doesn't bother me one iota as the Royal Family is as outdated as that bloody Roman calendar.
So if your looking for a reason to do something different this year, to push yourself on to bigger and better things you can do no worse than listen to a hero of mine, Joe Strummer of The Clash. Change the world and change your self at the same time. That's his spiel and it's one that I will continue to use throughout the year.
Over to you Joe -

                                              WWW.Without People You're Nothing

Happy New Year to you all and stay lucky...

PS - A huge Thank You to Mr. Runwitmeblogspot for the interview and publicity!