Post-Run (Sydney Running Festival) account of travel adventures by FatBird Anthony
Following an exciting and fruitful Sydney Marathon where I broke my 8-year marathon Personal Best (PB) by 10min and Qualified for Boston Marathon (BQ), I joined the Media trip sponsored by Destination New South Wales (DSNW) for 3 days of post-race rest and relaxation (r&r) travelling around Sydney and along the many sights and adventures along the Grand Pacific Drive.
In what was an unplanned item in my bucket list, I managed to do the exciting tandem Skydive Adventure at Wollongong. I was with the media group of 4 led by our tour escort Sally from DNSW and driver Edmond on a 2-hour scenic drive along the Grand Pacific Drive to the tandem skydiving centre, Sky Dive the Beach and Beyond. There we filled in a few declaration forms and were whisked away to gear up, perform some safety drills and then met with our respective flight captains.
Mine was Ryan, a large stature of at least 1.5 times my size, who gave me lots of confidence he would be able to steer me easily while in the air. We took a 20min bus drive to the airport and waited for another 30min before boarding the smallish plane. As the plane climbed to a maximum height of 14,000 feet, we soaked in the pretty sights of the land below, with our crew entertaining us with camera and video shots.
And before we knew it, the doors opened up, and the first pair of Skydivers just fell off the sky. This was followed by a few more and it was my turn at no. 5. I did my drill before dropping off the plane, strapped on securely to Ryan. I fell through the clouds in a very fast free-fall, spinning all around, with my mouth opening wide, screaming in delight. The air was freezing cold, and in what seemed like eternity (about 30 seconds), Ryan released the parachute and we slowed down somewhat to enjoy the beauty of the glide and the sights below.
After some maneuvering and lots of aerial photo/video shots, we went for a smooth landing, capping one of the more exciting adventures I’ve had in this trip. I didn’t feel scared at all, just lots of excitement and the feeling of freedom when falling through the clouds and the sky.
We were rewarded with a Certificate and a nice compendium of photos and video capturing the whole sequence of events. I would certainly recommend anyone coming to Sydney/New South Wales to do the tandem Skydive with these group of very professional and entertaining jump crew.
Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures
After the exciting morning of Skydiving, we had a sumptuous lunch before proceeding to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures for the Zipline Tour and Treetop Walk. It is similar to what we have in Singapore as the Forest Adventure, so for me it is a refresher and opportunity to do it in a more cooling weather.
As expected, the safety aspects and focus on eco-friendliness while enjoying the adventure was carefully explained in detail to us. Because it was a weekday, we had almost the whole forest to ourselves, which we proceeded to complete this very fun and enjoyable activity in 2 hours flat. There is also an iFly Adventure for kids, very apt for families with young children.
After a tiring day, we checked into our accommodation for the night at Sebel Bowral Heritage Park. I must say this was the most luxurious apartment suite I have stayed in, with very nice amenities and nice touches to the decoration. Too bad we had only a few hours to enjoy before moving on to the next place in the morning. Still, I managed to maximize the use of the in-room Jacuzzi as well as do a 30min run in the exclusive Gym all by myself.
Tulip Time & Mowbray Farm Stay
After an action-oriented day on Monday, the next day was one of visiting Tulip Festival & Gardens, Centennial Vineyards for wine tasting, a quaint restaurant in a book store called the Book Barn nestled in Bendooley Estate.
The highlight of the day was the farm stay at Mowbray Park where we got to experience country life in a relaxed setting, making our own Billy tea and Damper bread (which tasted really nice). I could still the warmth of the bread and tea glowing inside me, providing comfort to us in that very cold Spring day.
Although there were more programs arranged to the Bondi Beach the next day, I had to leave my media friends to return home for an important event on Thursday. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the itinerary and hospitality accorded to us by Destination New South Wales, with lots of great tasting food, cushy accommodation settings and thoroughly thought-out activities which ensured we never had a dull moment during the whole media trip.
Adios With Fond Memories
With this post-run experience, I now am better able to appreciate and recommend to our marathoner friends how they can make the best of their stay in Sydney from pre, in and post-race.
With the ScootBiz seat booked, I was able to check into the Scoot Dreamliner rather smoothly the next morning in spite of the unusual airport strike by the ground handling staff.
As I waited comfortably at the lounge composing this short summary of my trip, I looked back the past few days with good memories. I was already planning on when I would be back to Sydney again to complete the many sights and tours, and to do the delicious-looking 9km loop at the Mowbray Farm which I missed, and meet with friends whom I have gotten to know. Overall, it was one pleasant and productive marathon & media trip for me.
Race Report Of The Blackmores Sydney Marathon 2015 by FatBird Anthony
This year being the first that Team FatBird has been designated as Training Partner for the Sydney Running Festival, on partnership with CTC Travel and Destination NSW, I was slated to provide an 8-week tune-up program for the Singapore participants in the 9km, Half Marathon (HM) and Full Marathon (FM) categories.
As it was also my first time participating in the Sydney Running Festival (SRF), I signed up for the Full Marathon to get a full personal feel for the course which was known to be challenging with it’s fair share of rolling hills and slopes, and the tough final 10km to max out any marathoner’s resources.
The Blackmores Sydney Marathon also received the much coveted IAAF Gold-Label this year, making it a special event for myself and the running community from Singapore. Way back in March, we have conducted a couple of information workshops and a lead-up run to bring awareness of the event to our Singapore marathoners.
We are heartened to note that by race day on Sep 20, we had 118 runners from Singapore across the various run categories participating at the SRF, a 90% increase from 2014’s number of 62 runners.
As part of my preparations for the Sydney Marathon, I begun watching my weight in a bid to have a better performance and feel of running lighter, after my slight increase in weight in Dec 2014 caused me to suffer quite a bit at the Taipei Marathon. Drawing references from racing weight management gurus like Matt Fitzgerald, I was keeping tabs on the high-sugary night snacks I was regularly taking as well and doing longer endurance runs at our FatBird training operations starting from April.
By August, I dropped off 8kg of excess weight, which would eventually contribute to my scoring my marathon PB after a wait of 8 years, and for the first time ever, qualified for entry (and eventual acceptance) into the prestigious Boston Marathon.
I trained alongside Sydney Marathon participants in Ops Kingfisher, our 8-week marathon training program for those doing the STRun, Sydney Marathon and OSAKA Marathon. With shorter but higher intensity tempo runs, hill and strength work in the weekdays, complemented with progressive long endurance runs in the weekend consolidated my strength and endurance speed for a good build up to race day on Sep 20.
I travelled with the group on early Friday morning on the Scoot 787 Dreamliner and touched down and checked into the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour hotel by Friday noon. As I was also on the DNSW media trip, my race pack was collected and already sent to the hotel. I had an easy afternoon before going for the Welcome Carbo-Loading Dinner organized by CTC Travel for all the package participants. The seafood buffet was so good that long lines formed at the entrance, and we were given a time limit of 2hours to complete the sumptuous dinner – I was never this stuffed in a long time.
I had a good night’s rest before leading a small group of runners for a Conditioning Run on Saturday morning, which was almost derailed by the dawn showers. Fortunately, we managed to run to Hyde Park (part of the Marathon route) when the rain stopped for the warm-up we so needed.
The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing, stocking up on supplies and resting for the important race on Sunday. I joined the Media group for a very good seafood dinner at Nick’s, supplementing the previous day’s carbs with protein for a good fuel balance for the race. We retired early for the night before waking up at 4am on Sunday for the race.
I ate the Muesli, cookies and bananas provided in the breakfast box before meeting the small group of marathoners for the coach to race site. The Half Marathoners had earlier gone by another coach with Janet (CTC Tour Guide) to the race site for their earlier race start at 6:15am.
When we reached the race site, I was struck by the air of calm among the participants as we waited in lime for the portaloos, facing the magnificent Harbour Bridge with the Sydney Opera House (we would end our marathon race there) in the distant.
True to the hilly nature of this race course, the start of the marathon was on an upslope – the good news is there is always a downslope after the upslope. Having seen the very good fuel support plan with ample hydration and good supply of Gu gels, I decided to travel light, with aSspi-belt just to carry my gels and electrotabs instead of my usual fuel belt. The weather at 16C was warm enough for me to just wear a tee-shirt with a short pair of tights (where normally I would put on the long tights with buff and raincoat for the colder races).
I was lined up in the front of the A pen, very close to the starting line and I could see all the Marathon Pacers with their timing flags sticking out from haversacks they carried. After a brief introduction of the elite runners, the race was started without much fanfare. The runners broke off in good pace, spreading out quickly and making room for many of us to go smoothly – what a contrast to some of our local race starts back home.
By 3km, I was able to settle into a 4:50min/km pace with ample room to run and get comfortable. I watched my breathing and told myself to relax for the long race ahead. The first water stations appeared at the 5km mark, and I must say the IsoWhey isotonic drinks sure tastes good. I passed the 3:30h Pacers by the 3km mark and remained in front of them throughout the whole run.
I moved into the 4:45-4:50 pace for the next 10km, interspersed with some jerkiness due to the number of sharp U-turns we have had to make. Entering Hyde Park we were given a treat of Gu gels which came in handy to sustain the pace. By then I was running comfortably at about 4:45h pace and checking constantly my breathing and running form. There was quite a crowd cheering at certain segments of the course, esp. in Hyde Park.
The Next 10km (15km-25km)
We entered into the Hyde Park and I told myself to sustain the 4:45h pace for as long as I could to buffer a little bit of time in case I could reach my Boston-Qualifying (BQ) range. Although I had not planned or targeted to get any BQ prior to this race (a PB would be a very good outcome for me considering that I did not specifically train for this marathon), I felt confident for the first time at the 23km mark that BQ could be a possibility at the rate I was going.
I did feel a niggle and twinge of the upper calves at the 18km mark, although it went away after I slowed the pace a tad. By 25km, we were out of the Gardens and I was still feeling great. I held on to the 4:45h pace, not wanting to push harder for fear of triggering an onset of cramps.
The Next 10km (25km-35km)
It was a series of rolling hills throughout the run, and when we went to the Opera House side at 32km mark, I could hear the cheers of the HM runners who had completed their race earlier, and a few FatBirds shouted my name. I gave a thumbs up and continued running on strongly. I have heard that the course gets very challenging from the 32km mark onwards and I slowed down slightly just to make sure I had sufficient reserves to tackle what might be coming.
The Final Stretch (35km-42.5km)
It started to drizzle at that point and with the winds blowing in from the sea, I felt cold and my legs were also tingling with possibilities of cramps. I popped another electrotab which seemed to work well to keep the twitches at bay. With 10km to go, I was very much on track for a good BQ, which for my age group is 3:30h.
I reminded myself to be cautious and not to work the calves too hard, especially with the many slopes that were about to come – the winding and rather steep stretch at 35-38km stretch being the most notorious. I began employing my glutes more to pick up the legs, as well as maintaining my pelvic rotation to provide the forward momentum. All these worked well to give my legs a breather and avoid an overload towards the end.
By 39km mark, I saw the Opera House in the horizon and could hear the announcer and loud cheers for marathoners who were finishing up. I perked up and picked up speed steadily back to sub 5min pace, and aimed to maintain that all the way to the finish line – all this while calculating the slowdown odds should an unexpected bout of cramps erupt.
Fortunately that never came and as we entered into the final 1km, there were lines of supporters cheering us hoarse. We felt like champions finishing the race in style and that brought new highs of motivation to the tired body.
I maintained the sub-5min pace all the way to the finish chute, and with 200m to go, I could hear the announcer shouting “and here comes Anthony Sum from Singapore…”. I raised my arms for the many photographers clicking away and finished jubilantly in 3h26min (3h25min net time), very happy that I not only beat my PB of 3h36min set in Korea, 2008 by a good 10min, but also managed to qualify for Boston Marathon finally, after 11 years of distance running.
My legs didn’t feel so tired as I ambled on to collect my finisher medal and tee, and sucking on 3 pieces of orange peel. I walked on to collect my baggage (which was a long distance away – this needs to be improved upon) and felt a lot warmer after having my jacket on.
The weather in the last 8km was cold for me, reminding me of the tough wet and cold weather I encountered in Taiwan a few months earlier. I was happy it all turned out well in the end as I proceeded on to meet up with fellow FatBirds and Team SG runners for group photos. The FatBirds did well with some scoring very good PBs and mostly respectable timings in light of the challenging course and weather.
As we proudly wore our finisher tees and medals, and holding up the Singapore Flag, we were all very satisfied with our race. The challenges we faced during the run would not be forgotten so soon.
Overall Race Experience
The Sydney Marathon is indeed a scenic course that is very enjoyable running. I would recommend more to participate in the race, but definitely put in sufficient training (hillwork, strength) before your attempts. The race organization was good in the aspects of hydration and aid stations, but things like the baggage points and ‘no name indicted on bibs’ and ‘no distance indicated on finisher medals” would need to be improved upon.
Overall, it was a great and enjoyable experience for me and my team of FatBirds, and we certainly hope to have a larger contingent from Singapore for 2016.
With my maiden marathon experience at the Sydney Marathon, I have the following observations and takeaway of the entire event:
Well organized race overallWeather (15C-20C) conducive for a good raceScenic route going past many city icons and lush parks
Drinks stations are sufficiently long to cater to even larger crowds
IsoWhey isotonic drinks tastes great and sufficiently provided
Generous supply of Gu Gels for marathoners in 3-4 locationsNice running culture with most runners on the move, providing free access of running pathways
Areas For Improvement
Race Expo can be expanded to cater to the enthusiastic runner shopper
Hilly race course which can prove to be a big challenge especially to the under-trained newbie marathoner
Too many sharp u-turns, especially in the Centenial Park area
Baggage area at end point too far away (> 1km) from the finish line
Runner’s bib has no name printed
Finisher’s medal has no race category indicated
Running route with some pot-holes and uneven surfaces
Start Point right on a upslope
Of course, my journey to Sydney Marathon would not be complete without the post-run celebrations and activities which completed a most memorable and rewarding trip for me in recent times. Check out my Sydney Marathon 2015 Post-run Delights Report for some of the fun and exciting activities I did.
This is the 11th anniversary of my distance running endeavor, and it showed that if I can still do Personal Bests (PB) and Qualify-For-Boston (BQ) after adding 11 years to my age, many more of you can also have your own running aspirations, set your goals, train according to plan, and someday you too will achieve your marathon dreams.
Make Marathon Running Your Way Of Life!
Life Is A Marathon – Do It, Live It, Run It!
All the training runs were led by pace groups for 1:40h, 1:50h, 2:00h, 2:10h and 2:20h comprising of workouts of dynamic warm-up and activation drills, paced runs of 8-15km and closing off with cool-down and static stretches.
With 2 weeks to race day, the STRun Pacers and runners are all primed and pumped for an excellent race on Sep 27.
#STRunAtHub2015 #TFBPacers #FollowOurPace #WinYourRace
Photos From FatBird CK Chin
Training Run #1
Training Run #2
Training Run #3
The hazy weather cleared up to PSI levels of 95 in the morning for a good 20km (HM) and 28km (F) Optimal Pace training run for the Kingfishers. Marathoners bound for Sydney Running Festival in Sep and OSAKA Marathon in Oct took the opportunity to do a trial long run at race pace to gauge their levels of readiness.
A short briefing about ‘breathing techniques’ for distance runners was conducted prior to the run-off as an entire group at 7:30am. With 6 weeks of training under their belts, the Kingfishers were maintaining strong and steady paces for the first 15km along Gardens By The Bay, Marina Barrage and Looping back from the Promontory.
In spite of the humidity and heat, the respective group Pacers and trainees kept up with managed paces and were in high spirits. Shouts of encouragement were meted out by various pace groups as we passed one another.
By the time we reached Parkland Green, we had covered 18.3km at Optimal Pace and the STRun Pacers also completed their requirements at that point, all race ready for Sep 27. The HM and FM groups continued on for another 2km and 10km at sustained Optimal Pace to finish strongly and meeting the morning’ training objectives.
The Kingfshers gave their best effort and was suitably drained and tired from the challenging weather. However, they were given a mental boost to their confidence levels as they persisted to complete the training in good form.
With 20km and 28km under our belts, we will all look forward to our final training and tapering long run next weekend to wrap up our 8 weeks of marathon tune-up.
With the trainees looking strong and feeling motivated, we look forward to them achieving good results at the Straits Times Run and Sydney Marathon in September, not forgetting the OSAKA Marathon in October.
The Kingfishers Are Ready!
Photos from CK Chin