Hulu Langat Marathon 2019

One of the breathtaking views along the race route in Hulu Langat.

Summer marathons are events to look forward to. This is the season for us to try races in Asia since we are already in the region. I found the information for the Hulu Langat Marathon on the Ahotu Marathons website and quickly signed up back in the spring when I figured out the logistical details were not complicated.

We flew via Philippine Airlines from Manila to Kuala Lumpur on Friday, July 5, 2019. As a frequent traveler using budget airlines, I forgot that the ticket fare full meals on board. I enjoyed my chicken meal and relaxed for the three and a half hour flight.

We arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and immediately proceeded to the airport taxi counter. The taxi fare was 140 MYR or US$35 at the current conversion rate of 4 MYR to US$1. The Grab car hailing service in the ASEAN region started in Malaysia but it didn’t cross my mind to book a Grab car until later.

It took us about an hour from the airport to Shangri-la hotel, our accommodation for this trip. We checked in quickly and rested for a few hours.

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The hotel has a free shuttle service to the Suria KLCC Mall beside the Petronas Towers at specific intervals during the day. We hopped on the 5:00 PM service and got off right in front of the luxury mall. We spent the evening browsing stores and checking out the two supermarkets before deciding on a quick dinner at the food court.

It was an easy 10-minute walk back to the hotel. What do you know? HBO is showing Entrapment, the Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones art heist movie set inside the Petronas Tower. Richard stayed up to watch the whole movie.

Shangri-la buffet breakfasts are always  lavish and the Kuala Lumpur version was no exception. I could stay here and just eat all day!

A short run at the fitness center was in order after the full breakfast. I did not run at all since my last race in Rochester in the UK two weeks ago. My joints needed some loosening up!

It was afternoon by the time we were ready to venture out into the city. We booked a Grab car to visit the nearby Batu Caves. The popular Hindu temple attraction itself is only 100 years old but the lime formations surrounding the temple is said to be 400 million years old. I decided not to go up the 200 steps into the caves itself knowing that I have a marathon to run tomorrow.

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The scene at the temple grounds was interesting. Monkeys were running around and grabbing food from tourists, pigeons were swooping in to grab the scraps, and tourists were buying more food to give to monkeys and pigeons!

We took another Grab car to take us to the Suria KLCC Mall. We got off in front of the Petronas Towers for a photo op first. We also came back in the evening for an night shot of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic symbol.

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Back to the hotel for an early night.

We were up at 2:00 AM to get ready for the race and out the door by 3:00 AM. The Grab ride took about 40 minutes (65 MYR) to the race headquarters, the SJK Choon Hwa in Hulu Langat. Richard took me to the race start and took the same car back to the hotel.

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I picked up my race bib and waited quietly for the race to begin. The race was organized by Malaysia Ultra Running. I expected a small race but was pleasantly surprised to see more than 300 runners taking part in the marathon. Some of the runners just wore socks and slippers.

We took off running at 4:30 AM. It was still dark and would remain dark until around 6:30 AM. Once it was light, I could not help but ooh and aah with the scenery along the road.

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Runners started off nice and easy before the fast ones found their grove and hit the speed button. I took my time, confident in the eight hour time limit but knowing that it will not be a flat course. I also noticed that the Muslim runners stopped running at dawn and did their morning prayers right on the side of the road. They packed up and resumed running afterwards. The route had two turn around points with timing mats.

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The aid stations were impressive. What impressed me most was not the usual plentiful bottled water and 100 Plus energy drinks but the fresh fruits at the selected stations. We had bananas, jackfruit, rambutan, coconut, watermelon, and durian! I grew up in the Philippines and am familiar with the durian but I just couldn’t imagine eating durian during the race. They were opening fresh coconuts and serving them to runners with straws. Love this race!

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It was raining intermittently, helping us cool down and make the race pleasant. At around noon, the sun decided to peek through and it became hot.

I crossed the finish line in 6:31:01. They gave us our medals and finisher shirts. We had our pick of sweetened tofu, jackfruit, and rice meal.

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I luckily chanced on a Grab car nearby who took me back to Shangri-la hotel for 40 MYR.

Richard was waiting for me and walked me back up to our room. I took a shower and rested for a while. It was back to the now familiar Suria KLCC Mall where we got some fruits and chips at Cold Storage and Isetan, and takeaway at the food court.

It was time to fly back to Manila before we knew it. We took the noon flight on Monday, July 8, 2019.

I truly enjoyed this race. The registration fee was very reasonable, the route was interesting, and most importantly, the race organizers took very good care of us. I hope to be back to run this race again.

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Enigma Retro Cars Marathons 2019

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The Caldecotte Grill overlooks the lake and the race route.

School’s out and summer break beckons. I wanted to squeeze in a few more marathons before we take off for the Philippines for the summer so I registered for a double marathon weekend with Enigma Running. The two day race cost 78 GBP.

We took the train to Brussels Midi after work on Friday, June 14th. Our Eurostar train left on time at 18:56 and arrived at London St. Pancras International station just a bit before 20:00. It was a 10-minute walk to the Euston station to catch the 20:46 train to Milton Keynes Central station. The last ride was about 37 minutes.

Upon arrival at the station, we got on a van taxi which charged us 13 pounds to get to the Premier Inn in Caldecotte Lake. Hmmm. . . it was only 9.30 pounds with a regular taxi on the way back to the station on Sunday. The van charged us more because it was bigger?

We checked in and settled for the night. We were up early to take breakfast and pick up my bib. Runners doing the double marathon used the same bibs for the weekend.

The race briefing was at 8:20 AM followed up the start at 8:30 AM. We ran counter clock wise on Saturday, and clockwise on Sunday. I finished the race in 5:54:52, and the next day in 6:03.17.

The route was now very familiar. We had to do 7 1/2 laps around Caldecotte lake. It was alternately windy, warm, sunny, and cold the whole time. There is no elevation in this race route, making it perfect for training runs. It also builds mental fortitude because you have to do the lap over and over again.

I cleaned up in the restaurant restroom and took the cab back to the train station to catch our 15:49 train, arriving at 16:21 at Euston. Our Eurostar train back to Brussels was at 17:55.

All in all, it was one productive weekend.

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Beer Lovers’ Marathon 2019

The superhero-themed runners during the Beer Lovers’ Marathon 2019

I skipped the Beer Lovers’ Marathon last year to do other marathons. This year, I decided to participate again because after the Aruba race and travel, I wanted something local and with a generous time limit.

The 2019 edition got even better this year. They had 15 premium beer tasting stations, more entertainment, more runners, and a really fun slide to the finish line! No wonder the race was sold out this year and people were already inquiring about next year’s edition!

Richard drove the 1.5 hours to Liege on June 9, 2019. We did not stay overnight at any hotel so that was a plus. We parked the car at Parking St. Denis which was only two blocks away from the start line in Place St. Lambert.

 

We picked up my bib at the Beer Lovers’ Festival area. I can’t remember how much I paid for the registration; the race pack included the bib, a cap, a plastic cup with a holder, a race belt, and a finisher’s shirt. Indeed the giveaways more than made up for the registration fee.

 

This year’s theme was Run as Heroes. The medal featured a cool flying hero with a cape!

1,827 runners set off at 9:30 AM with all runners already in a festive mood. The promise of 15 unlimited beer tasting was exciting! The race also had a generous time limit of six and a half hours. At the 2K mark, volunteers were handing out breads for breakfast.

We hit the famous Montagne van Bueren staircase at the 5K mark. The weather was great, and the course meandered throughout Liege.

I crossed the line a little after six hours. I haven’t had a drop of beer to drink. There were many who obviously had one too much to drink but still finished way ahead of me! I particularly loved the fact that we had to slide down to the finish line. How cool is that?!

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The finish area had a massage area, and more beer! There was also a hotdog station.

I was truly impressed with how the race organizers took care of the runners!

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KLM Aruba Marathon 2019

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This is probably the most photographed tree on Eagle Beach, Aruba.

Aruba was our first race in South America. We were excited to see the island country but geared up for the long travel ahead. The most convenient route to Aruba was via Amsterdam. We hopped on the intercity train to Amsterdam Schiphol station after work on May 31, 2019. We stayed overnight at the Citizen M Airport Hotel and was up early to prepare for our KLM flight to Oranjestad at 12:25 PM.

The nine-hour trip to the Carribean island was uneventful. We arrived on the same day, Saturday, at 4:25 PM. Airport taxis have the fixed rate of US$30 to any high-rise hotel. The 15-minute cab ride took us directly to our hotel and race site, Hilton Aruba Carribean Resort and Casino. The scenery on the way to our hotel reminded me so much about Guam.

Bib pickup was at the hotel ballroom but it ended at 4:00 PM. Good thing I was able to arrange with the concierge to pick up our race packs. I pre-registered online and paid US$100 for the entry fee $70, finisher shirt $25, and school donation $5.

We checked in and picked up our race packs from the concierge desk.

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We walked a little bit along the road. The hotel itself was located in the tourist area, much like Guam’s Tamuning area. We decided on an early dinner at one of the seafood restaurants.

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We tried to sleep as soon as we could. The start time for the marathon was at 3:30 AM at the hotel’s parking lot. We took off as soon as the starting gun went off. The main roads were well lighted but there were areas on the race course that was pitch black.

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Aid stations had plenty of water and some fruits. Marathoners had to do two loops of the 21K course. The race had a generous cut-off time of seven hours.

Richard did the 10K race at 6:30 AM and achieved a personal best time of 1:36. Yahoo!

I crossed the finish line dizzy and exhausted. The jet lag, the heat, and the humidity got to me. We went back to the hotel room to get cleaned up and do the breakfast buffet which was only until 11:00 AM.

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We had a one hour extension of our noon checkout. We came back and rested a bit. In no time at all, it was time to check out. We walked the hotel grounds for a while and got a priceless photo op with the colorful birds.

We asked the taxi driver to bring us to Oranjestad so we can look around. It was a Sunday so everything was closed. Bummer! It was a quick walk around the quiet city center.

We had no choice but to head to the airport for our flight at 5:15 PM. Took some photos along the way.

Our plane made a brief stop in Bonaire to drop off and pick up passengers to Amsterdam. We arrived in Amsterdam on Monday, June 3rd at 10:30 AM. We took the intercity train to Brussels Midi station and switched trains to get off at Jurbise.

The race was lovely but the travel time is very long. We’d need to have at least a day on each side of the race day in order to rest, run, and recover.

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Crete Marathon 2019

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The Venetian Harbor of Chania, Crete.

The Greek island of Crete has a special fascination for Greek mythology lovers like me. It is the setting for two of the most popular stories: the one where Athenian prince Theseus killed the half-man half-bull Minotaur in his lair, the Labyrinth that is the Knossos Palace and the one that tells of the flight of the imprisoned palace architect Daedalus and his son Icarus whose waxed wings melted when he flew too close to the sun.

History records show an advanced Minoan culture that began in 9000 BC and thrived in 2000 BC. They were known for their construction techniques, anti-seismic protection, indoor latrines, and sophisticated water systems. No wonder then that Venetians came and settled in the island. What they learned here they probably applied to manage the canals in Venice, Italy.

Richard and I took the three-hour Ryanair flight at 13:35 from Brussels South Charleroi Airport on Saturday, April 20, 2019. We landed past 17:00; Greece is one hour ahead of Belgium. I booked our private transfer for 25 euros through Crete Lux Tavel; the female driver was waiting for us with our name on it at the arrivals area.

The driver led us to the pick-up area where her husband was waiting in the car. We made small talk throughout the 20-minute journey. We got out of the car at the parking area beside the Firka fortress. Cars are only allowed into the Old Town until 11:00 AM. The driver walked with us until we reached our hotel, Domus Renier Boutique Hotel. She also generously gave us a small bottle of Greek wine as a gift. Very nice!

Domus Renier Boutique Hotel is part of the Historic Hotels of the World and is located right on the harbor. The hotel used to be the home of the noble Renier family of Venice. Our room had an outdoor Jacuzzi area. We also used the free Handy, a cellular phone provided by the hotel. It offered free local and international phone calls and unlimited browsing.

We dropped off our luggage and walked to the Mosque of the Janissaries. Race expo and bib pickup was at the mosque, also called Yali Tzamisi, along the Venetian Harbor on Saturday from 10:00 to 20:00. Registration fee was 25 euros.

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I received my bib, a string bag, a nice towel, the race shirt, an olive soap, and Cretan honey samples.

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The walk back to the hotel was slower while we checked out the dinner options along the way. Restaurants lined the harbor, and the restaurants employed guys who were aggressive in chatting people up and promoting the menus. We finally decided on the restaurant at our hotel. Grilled chicken and chicken risotto satiated us nicely. I noticed immediately that restaurants here would offer dessert or drink on the house. We politely declined this time, took the stairs to our hotel and called it a night.

Hotel breakfast was from 08:30 – 11:30. I made arrangements for breakfast to go at 06:00. The start and finish line was in front of the municipal market, an easy 10-minute walk from the hotel.

I bumped into my British friend Martin again. This guy is running all the time and all over the place! He’s done 1,300+ marathons to date; I’ve seen him in British marathons and in Sevilla, Spain earlier in the year.

There were not that many marathon runners this year. The bulk of the runners were doing at 10K, 5K, and 2.5K later in the morning. The crowd quickly thinned out as everyone settled into their running paces. The day warmed up very quickly. The race was covered live on television.

The course was out and back, with the first few kilometers along the coastal road. I love running beside the sea; it provides not only serenity but a sense of movement with the waves gently lapping on the shore.

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Aid stations had plenty of water, energy drink, and bananas. There were spots of live and recorded music here and there. The course is not flat but not too steep either.

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I ran with my usual pace and slowed down towards midday when the sun was at its hottest. I was at the 4.7K mark in 32:56, the 21.1 mark in 2:41:45, the 40K mark in 5:27:34 and crossed the finish line in 5:44:51, just a few minutes shy of the six-hour time limit. I apologized to Richard for being slow again; I complained of the heat and the elevation. Richard assured me the conditions does not matter since I still finish the race in around the same time whatever the weather and elevation. So very true!

Richard took some pictures of the area while waiting for me. His face was already red from being out in the sun so long waiting for me.

They gave me a finisher’s bag to take back to the hotel with us.

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We also stopped for frozen yogurt.

I took a shower and rested while we waited for our couple’s massage at Al Hammam spa at 17:00.

The massage was nice; I loved the combination of oil and hot stone used to massage my back but I couldn’t stand the heat from the hot stones when they were placed along my spine.

The massage finished and there was still sun out. We walked along the harbor again, looking at what people were eating. The lighthouse provided the perfect backdrop for our post-race photo.

We settled for dinner at Faro’s restaurant at the corner. We ordered a huge fish mezze. They also gave us complimentary raki to go with our seafood order.

We slept in the following morning and came down for breakfast at 09:30. Richard found a creative solution in my desire to upgrade my engagement ring. He placed the napkin ring on my finger!

I planned us to go to Heraklion that day to see the Knossos Palace. We took the Ktel bus at the bus station. Fare was 15 euros per person and the travel took three hours; the bus made several stops along the way to pick up passengers. We took a taxi (10 euros) when we arrived at the Heraklion bus station by the port.

Knossos Palace entrance fee was 15 euros per person or 8 euros for senior EU citizens and residents.

The palace was not that big but I could easily imagine the minotaur roaming the halls, devouring virgins sent from Athens until it was killed by Theseus.

We took another taxi back to the bus station where we caught the 14:30 trip to Chania.

Dinner was at another Venetian harbor restaurant, again with complimentary vanilla ice cream and local Greek wine.

Tuesday was another leisure day. I went for a short run after a late breakfast. I went all the way to the lighthouse to take photos and  run further to complete a short three-mile run.

We had a 13:00 late checkout. We left our bags and browsed through the municipal market and various souvenir shops to kill the time.

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By 17:00, we were on a taxi to take us back to the airport for our 17:55 flight back to Brussels.

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The trip was refreshing. We did not have to rush to catch a flight immediately after the race, and we got to see a lot. I hope we come back to do this race again. Next time, I would like us to take the 2.5 hour ferry ride from Heraklion to Santorini and spend a day or two there. I also need to remember to pack us some warmer jackets next time. It got cold in the evenings!

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Enigma Week at the Knees Days 6 and 7 Marathons 2019

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Running along the Caldecotte Lake in the UK.

We were back in Milton Keynes after a taste of the Enigma kind of racing in January. This time I signed up for a double marathon weekend, part of the Week at the Knees Marathon series. Hardcore runners were running their 6th and 7th consecutive marathons already. I could not take off work; I had to content myself with taking part in the tail end of the series.

Richard and I took the Jurbise train to Brussels Midi station after work on Friday, March 15, 2019. Our Eurostar train left at 18:56 and arrived at London St. Pancras International Station after two hours at 19:57. We walked over to the Euston train station to catch the Virgin train to Milton Keynes central station at 20:43. Depending on the time, the train to Milton Keynes can take either 30 minutes or an hour. It was a short cab ride to the Premier Inn Caldecotte, our accommodation for the weekend.

We woke up bright and early to the hotel’s breakfast buffet and be ready for the first of two races.

It was cold! I wore a merino base layer and a winter vest, a merino beanie over my racing cap, and gloves.

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A pre-race brief was held outside the pub ten minutes before starting time.

Racers set off at 9:00 AM, with a small lap followed by seven laps around Caldecotte Lake. It was also windy that the race tent was moved to under the bridge.

Multi-lap courses test one’s tenacity. Thankfully it was flat, dry, and the path wide enough for runners and promenaders alike. I finished the first race of the weekend in 6:13:51.

We made our way back to the hotel to rest and have dinner.

The second race was basically a repeat of the first day. Race brief first before the race proper.

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I kept my race bib so I had the same number. As expected, I was slower and came in at 6:17:39.

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Richard already checked us out of the hotel by the time I finished. I changed clothes in the hotel restaurant while Richard waited for our cab to arrive. We made our train to Euston at Milton Keynes central station with plenty of time to walk to St. Pancras International station to grab a bite to go and wait in the pre-departure lounge.

The medals interlock with each other. Cool!

 

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Leeds to Liverpool Canal Canter Marathons 2019

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The start line by Kirkstall Bridge in Leed, United Kingdom.

I signed up for another double marathon weekend right after the Enigma Running Week at the Knees marathon series in the UK. This was my first time to run with the It’s Grim Up North (IGUN) running group and was keen to get to know the people and the place.

We flew to Manchester on the late night Ryanair flight out of Brussels South Charleroi Airport on Friday evening, March 22, 2019. The train station at the airport had a direct trip to Leeds where we caught a cab to bring us to Benley City Stays near the Kirkstall bridge. The young owner waited for us to arrive after midnight to show us the serviced apartment.

We hit the sack soon after we arrived. The race the following morning was scheduled to start at 10:00 AM. We walked to the Leeds Postal Sports Association Club to pick up my bib.

The actual start line was at the towpath on the river paralleling River Aire.

Marathoners and ultra marathoners started at the same time. We headed to the left first for three miles and back to the race start area to complete six miles before continuing on to do 20 miles out and back.

It was cold for me and I was suitably bundled up. I must have been the only one thinking it was cold because I saw a lot of runners running in shorts and singlets! Oh well, to each her own.

The towpath was dry dirt and wide, enough space for runners, walkers, and strollers alike.

I took my time in the first race, coming in at 5:57:17. Richard met me at the finish line and walked me back to the apartment. Finishers each received two chocolate bars and a beer aside from the finisher’s medal.

I took a few minutes of rest after shower before venturing out again so that we could make our couples’ massage appointment at Rosa Thai which was a 10-minute walk away.

Our train back to Charleroi from Manchester was at 18:30. The organizers allowed me and a few other runners to do an early start so that we could finish before 15:00 PM. I knew I was going to be slower for my second marathon this weekend.

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There were three aid stations in this race. One at the three mile turnaround point, another at the six mile marker, and the last at the ten mile marker.

Sure enough, I completed the race in 6:28.41.

We were already checked out of the apartment. I changed into traveling clothes at the pub next door.

I pre-arranged a cab to take us directly to Manchester Airport before I knew that I was allowed to do an early start. I decided to keep the booking to save the hassle. We flew home without a problem.

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