Friday, April 23, 2010

ONH #8: The Longest Night

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A very strong turnout at the Changi Beach area for what would be the longest run of the Operation NightHawk marathon training series, The Coastal Melody run. After a bout of heavy showers in the early evening at various parts of the island, the weather was a cool welcome for the more than 70 NightHawks. In spite of the challenges of getting to the gathering point in Changi, most of the trainees made a great effort to reach the starting point before 10pm...a sign of their determination to go through with this basebuild phase to condition with higher mileage at steady training paces.

Ops NightHawk Running Guides

After admin (collection of gear, sizing for the NightHawk Finisher top) and photo-taking, the runners were grouped into their respective target training paces along with their Running Guides. The training distance of 21km for the half-marathoners and 35km for the full marathoners will take them through 3/4 of the actual Sundown route in the cover of the night, making it safe and advantageous to run in groups for added motivation and pace maintenance. We headed off along Changi Beach Park, passing the junction of Aviation Road (where the actual Sundown would be starting from 2km inside), and then onto the highlight of the night, the 7.5km 'demoralizing' Changi Coastal stretch.



The lighting along the pavements and park connectors were ample and bright, much better than when it first came on during the inaugural Sundown two years aso. With the runners chit-chatting and maintaining their training paces (about 30-45sec off Marathon Race Pace) with the Running Guides, the kilometres melted away along the Coastal Road. A few trainees have remarked that when they were training by themselves or in smaller groups along that stretch, they sometimes hear and see 'things'...hmm, the quiet of the night do play tricks on our minds, and part of the reason why this run is called Coastal Melody - for the 'sounds' and 'distractions' our minds would play on us after running in what seemed like a long and endless stretch.

After about 10km, most of us have settled into a steady comfortable paces, and were enjoying one another's company as we headed into ECP. There were many social bikers sharing the lanes with us, as we bunched up to the left lane, showing our presence with the bright blinkers we had on. We were most happy to see the mobile drinks support station at NSRCC, the U-turn point for the half-marathon NightHawks...thanks to the good efforts of the Support Crew, who have set up that 'life-saving' point in an important mid-section. We had our fill, and cheered on the half-marathoners who were still so strong at the stage, for their final pass back along 'demoralizing' Coastal Road.

A few of us full-marathoner trainees played catch up a little, and soon saw the 4:30h group in front approaching CP C4. We would have covered a distance of 18km by the mid-point, as we soaked in the scenes of a relatively quiet Friday night along ECP. The trainees were doing very well, with most still running in groups, and the intervals between the groups were small. The Running Guides and Sweepers were playing 'ball' to ensure that nobody was left behind or running alone by themselves. The training pace for the returning leg was upped a marginal 10-15sec/km to encourage running a stronger second half. As I passed the 5:30h, 5:00h, 4:30h groups, we cheered one another with applause and shouts of encouragement.

By the 25km mark, we would have gone into the wee hours of the morning. The body clock would be signaling 'sleep' mode, and wanting to slow and shut down. Many runners would be experiencing fatigue with trying to keep awake, and have the tendency to slow down or even walk. The Running Guides were continuing to keep pace and provide encouragement for that most challenging return along the 7.5km Coastal Road. I was running forward amidst the various runners to keep them moving at pace, and also to spot any stragglers who might be facing issues...good thing that all were still strong, with just a few needing to slow the pace down to recover, before the final 6-8km.

There was not much chit-chat by then; just a feeling of one another's presence and pace, and with the end point in mind, all were focused to keep 'punching' along. The very flat and 'hard' course have beaten up the calves, with muscle soreness apparent by then. Any attempts to walk or even run slower (without the assistance of 'momentum') would accentuate the soreness. I moved up to the Changi Beach Park area to accompany and guide the 4.15-4:30h runners along that rather unlit 3km stretch. The pace was upped a notch as we could 'smell' the end point, and motivation was heightened.

The finish of the more than 36km for the full, and 22km for the half, was exciting in itself. The Training Crew was on hand to cheer and take finishing photos for the runners, much like we have completed a marathon race....it could well have been that, for this was one run which would surely be etched in many of our minds as one of the most challenging but fulfilling. I had to walk a bit to dissipate some of the soreness in my soles and ankles after all that pounding. Many of the runners were smiling and offered congratulations to one another for the successful completion of the longest distance run of Operation NightHawk, and one that simlulated race night conditions. 100plus and Accelarade recovery drinks, bananas and apples provided the trainees with replenishment to almost 'empty' tanks. A couple of the half-marathoner NightHawks even had Nasi Lemak from the nearby food centre for that extra kick and reward for a job well done.

Upon successful completion of the second third of the NightHawk program, we will enter into the Tapering & Final Preparations phase for the next 4 weeks. There will be at least another night run of 30km in a different terrain and location to look forward to, and 2 more 25km++ runs to maintain the training intensity. Looking at the finishing timings recorded at session #8, it is evident that the NightHawks would have no problems completing the upcoming Sundown Marathon in good form...the remaining 4 weeks would be a time of honing and conditioning that base, and in building up some speed at tempo paces.

These are encouraging times....these are exciting times....The NightHawks Are In Optimum Flight Zones :)

NightHawk Photos
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