Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seremban Half Marathon 2012

There was one more race to go before taking a break in August (the fasting month), when not a major race would be held...except in Singapore. Runners were spoilt for choice in selecting their pre-fasting/resting run in July – the Ipoh International , Feel Good, Men’s Health and Orange runs. And many more across the causeway.

I chose to run the Seremban Half Marathon in July because this is a race that I’ve known for a very long time. Since I started reading the Star, I think. That must have been more than 2 decades ago. Of course, in those inactive years, I’d not shown any interest or perhaps, hadn’t plucked enough courage to sign up for this, or any other run. The SHM was not a redemption run, but it sure felt good standing at the start line that morning on 15 July, albeit 20 years too late.

Running a half (that’s 21 km) after a series of full marathons was comforting, but I had no less respect for the distance this race carried. Training continued right after the Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2012, but I’d decreased my mileage by 30% to suit the race. The body needed some serious recovery as well. I certainly didn’t want to risk busting another ITB or knee.

Besides the run, I thought it would also be fun to rediscover Seremban’s famous eats while I’m in town. That’d make a nice post-race treat too. Honestly, I was more excited studying the route to the Pasar Besar Seremban (for the infamous beef noodles and Hakka mee) than the race course.

The scattering of July runs saw a smaller turnout, especially in the half-marathon category, I overheard while waiting for the Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Naquiyuddin to flag us off. But it was this intimate scale, coupled with the rare pleasure of roaming the quiet town at the break of dawn, that appealed to me. I was looking forward to a fun and fast (I promised to try) race.

There was no special preparation for this race. All I’d planned for was a good pre-race dinner of rice with a few light dishes. I had that at Restoran TC Keong. Serving some good old Chinese stir-fries (loved the steamed pork ribs with dace) in a neighbourhood away from town, I think we’ve found a restaurant locals throng. For supper, I had half a waffle with butter and syrup from the drive-through A&W (a Seremban landmark), and saved the other half for breakfast on race day.

Except for the unending, intermediate climbs around Forest Heights and passing by an old coffee shop named See Fatt, I have not much recollection of the race. I just ran, happy. At some points, especially after the 10th km, I glided at a new fast speed. I was definitely having a good time; the endorphin was at work. It was only during the final few kilometers, when we merged with the massive waves of walking schoolchildren, where we slowed a little to zigzag through this obstacle, that the calves began to pain.

As I entered the final kilometer of this race, a few thoughts ran through my mind; of completing the last race of the season in one piece, how I would spend my resting month, the anticipation of holding the limited edition of finisher’s medal from Royal Selangor Pewter, the gruesome races in the second half of the year and, of course, the awaiting delicious Seremban food. Soon, the sun was up in full force, blessing us with a Vitamin D shower. I was lucky to have crossed the finish line, celebrating a new sub 2-hour personal record, before it started to burn.

Soon after the race, the Pasar Besar Seremban foodcourt was filled with runners, most of them wearing finishers’ tees, especially the 2012 edition of the KL marathon. This busy pasar was quite the obvious choice for runners to refuel after their run because here’s where some of the most famous Seremban hawker stalls are located. While waiting for the legendary beef noodles to be served, I had, firstly, a plate of cuttlefish beehoon that came piping hot and full of wok hei. It was very satisfying. Next, still waiting for the beef noodles, I had Tow Kee’s Hakka mee, which despite its visual modesty, was a toss of well-proportioned egg noodles, minced pork and lard that resulted in a wonderful taste that I believe, can only be achieved through years of experience. The beef noodles finally came...30 minutes later. The gravy wasn’t as sweet and sticky as I’d remembered almost a decade ago. Bordering starchy and almost bland, it was a rather letdown.

A trip to Seremban is never complete (I was being totally touristy, thanks to the runner’s high that lasted the whole afternoon) without packing a few siew bao home. By the way, what’s the English translation for siew bao? Burnt bun? Or baked bun? We bought ours at the very busy Asia Confectionary. And if we had just one more inch-cube of space left in our stomachs, we would have had a bowl of mouse-tail noodle (also more decently called silver needle noodle) at the nearby Yi Poh before leaving this quaint town.

I must confess that it took me 2 months to complete this blog post, not because I had to think hard about its content or direction, but I was just unfocused. When I did get to draft the last few paragraphs about 2 weeks ago, I asked myself if I’d lost interest in blogging and began to re-read some of my other posts (even the earlier, cringing ones). I tried to find, or remember, the passion for blogging that I might have lost before deciding its demise, for good.

Or has it evolved instead?

Well, evolved is a more appropriate word, I think. Evolved applies to the topics that I blog about. Evidently, these days, it’s about running. Is this just a phase? I don’t know. But the journey’s been rewarding so far. More importantly, evolved means I’ve been posting one-liners on Facebook and Instagram, which to me, are similar forms of blogging, only more convenient, instantaneous (pun intended), fun but can also be too frequent, frivolous and forgettable. Here, however, the expression of ideas and thoughts are more expansive, detailed, and therefore, gratifying. Blog posts are to be kept and read over and over again. So, yes, despite the evolution and the pace that it’s going, this blog is staying. And that’s a pretty fine message to celebrate Black Tie White Lie’s 5th anniversary this month.