REVIEW: Supersports International 10 mile series Bangkok, presented by Skechers

Disclaimer: My participation in this race was sponsored by Skechers Singapore.

RACE REVIEW: Supersports International 10 mile Series - Bangkok 19 May 2019

Introduction

Well you have probably realized by now that my primary blog was dormant for quite some time. Well that's because I've been busy with some part-time studies since July'18, and I've had to scale back quite a bit on the running front. I still do a number of shoe reviews for RoadTrailRun but longer reviews like the ones i typically do on this blog have had to take a back seat for the near future. In fact, i wasn't planning to do any more big races for the rest of the year, with the Tokyo Marathon in March'19 being the my only "A" race for the year.

As luck would have it, I was approached by Skechers shortly after Tokyo about taking part in their races series in Thailand. The series comprises mainly 10 mile races, with 5 legs this year:
1) Phuket 31 Mar 2019
2) Hatyai 28 Apr 2019
3) Bangkok 19 May 2019
4) Korat 29 Sept 2019
5) Chiang Mai 27 Oct 2019

With 20th May being a public holiday in lieu of Vesak Day in Singapore (and indeed Thailand), it made the most sense for me to try the Bangkok race. As it turned out, Vesak Day is an expensive time to be in Bangkok, as despite Skechers' generous sponsorship of my flight and accomodation for the race, i was still out about S$1000 when i decided to bring my wife and 1yo son along. Yes, it costs >$500, even on cheaper airlines like Scoot for a return flight for an adult during this period.

Race Gear

The projected conditions were 29degC and 89% humidity during the race. I had already moderated my expectations (by a lot) for this race, because i am a terrible runner in warm conditions, but this race also doubled as my debut race in the Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper. If you haven't heard of this shoe, well it has been making waves all over the USA for the past 6 months, and rumour has it that Singapore will finally be getting some stocks of this shoe soon. You can read the review of the shoe here on RoadTrailRun, if you haven't already. I wasn't a part of this review, but the verdicts in there is pretty unanimous among the testers.


I paid full retail for my pair (just sayin') and had to get my coach Dave Ross to buy it for me from the NYC Marathon race expo last year, and get Coney Runner Yew Wee to bring it back for me, and I've used it for 90% of my workouts for the past 6 month. Why haven't i raced it in all this time? Well all the races I've done to this point have been marathon-effort races, and I just wasn't sure i could use a 6mm drop shoe for that effort, but that's just my personal running style.

Race Weekend

Fast forward to race weekend. I flew in on Friday 17 May 19, via Thai Airways, and was greeted by 36 degree afternoon sun that felt more like 40 degrees once you factored in the heat from the road traffic and surrounding buildings. This wasn't anything surprising, as it was completely in line with online weather forecasts. Having said that, reading a number on a screen is never quite like experiencing it in person, and stepping out of the hotel onto the street feels like how you would feel in the basement carpark of a major shopping mall in Singapore where all the heated air from above is funneled right down there.

Bangkok is a food paradise if you know where to look, but we mostly played it safe and ate familiar foods before the race. 

This meal was my carboloading dinner at a local franchise called On The Table, Tokyo Cafe at Siam Square, the night before the race. 

I spent most of the 2 days leading up to the race staying indoors, keeping hydrated and out of the sun as much as possible. Skechers put me up at the very posh Holiday Inn which is just around the corner from Central World mall. 


Race Morning

There were a few other Singaporeans (Elaine Young, Pris Chew and Lingderella) and Malaysian Skechers runner Kai Hao in the field, but in the chaos of the race start zone, i could not spot any familiar faces at all. 




My heart sank a little when i saw that the temp at the top of the Big C shopping mall reported a temp of 30degC. Somehow a temp starting with a 3 makes things seem a lot harder, even if it's just 1 deg warmer than the projected temperature. (For reference, the 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon was 27 degC at the finish. You know, the one where Callum Hawkins collapsed from heat stroke at 40km)


The route for the race is pretty straightforward. One small loop, followed by one big loop. The race had 2 categories, a 5-mile and the marquee 10-mile. For some reason, the organizers prefer to send the 5-mile folks off first, with a 10 minute head start. This created some unique traffic issues which i will get into later. When i mentioned this after the race, the reply was that this is the usual order of races in Thailand, with the shorter distance flagging off first.


I was given a pen D bib which put about 100 people in front of me. This normally would not be a big problem, except the race starts off at the parade square outside Central World mall, and goes down a sharp ramp to the left before angling around to the main roads running parallel with the BTS train system. It is very unnerving running down a ramp you are not familiar with and not know what terrain lies in front of you, and yet trying to find gaps to zip through to get around slower folk at the same time! I tried my best to keep calm and remind myself that Melvin Wong does this shit all the time. He deliberately starts behind the crowd then passes everyone in the first mile. Easy right? Except i don't need this kind of fartlek to getting the heart rate rising in this sort of heat.


I was already going by feel so GPS pace wasn't a big priority early on, and as i expected, there were some funny numbers coming off the watch due to the route going directly under BTS train tracks in several parts of the route. My first KM split beeped off at 4:18 and though i was a little alarmed at this, i figured it might be an aberrant number. Sure enough, my second KM split knocked out a 3:40 despite me holding pretty much the same effort throughout. By this time i had gotten some separation from the masses, and was running in clean air with only a few guys visible in the distance. I presumed by this stage that the front pack had already taken off out of sight. A big consolation was that the other watches were sort of beeping at around the same time as mine, so it was likely that the GPS connection was still sound. I tried to settle into a good rhythm of sort of holding a half-marathon ish type of effort for the first 10km at least, but after running the 4th and 5th KM's in 4:05 with a group of 2 other british gentlemen, i decided the pace was dropping too much and decided to push the pace back down a little. I ran the next 2km in 3:51s and found that i was alone now with mostly empty road in front of me and nobody to chase. There was already a lot of overtaking that had to be done with slower 5 milers, and with only one lane being closed for the race, i often found myself stepping outside the safety of the cones and running on the fringe of the lane that was open to traffic to get around the larger groups of people who were visibly slowing to a jog.

Now's a good time to talk about race nutrition support. Race nutrition was a combination of water and gatorade isotonic drinks. As the race was pretty short, i did not use any of the isotonic drink stations but i will say that all the water i drank or poured on my head (and i did this a lot for this race) was ice cold. Pretty damn impressive. The aid stations were also long enough that i was able to get 2 cups of water at every try.

The 8th and 10th KM's were very frustrating for me. As the road junctions were not fully closed to traffic, the police had to make the most of the situation and try to regulate the junctions and allow cars to turn in front of out route at regular intervals. I got stopped at a total of 2 traffic junctions in this stretch, and even though it must have totalled no more than 20-30seconds in total, it still felt like a lifetime under race conditions. The first one was the most frustrating, as it saw a 10s lead i'd carved out against of the British runners completely obliterated as we started running back on level footing. I pulled away again, and again he caught back up by the second traffic stop. I remember raising my hands up in the air as i turned around and saw him coming back up to me and he was very apologetic about the whole thing. Fortunately, shortly after that the 5 mile route split away from the 10 mile route, and i was running on a clean empty lane where i could easily see 500m in front of me. At this stage the British runner dropped back for good, and even though i was feeling terrible at this stagei found that my pace was still holding at around 4:00/km and all i could think of was getting to the finish point at this stage. Any hopes of a good timing were out the window but at least no one else seemed to be catching up to me. In fact, I was catching some people who blew up late in the race. I must have overtaken 3-4 people in the last 3 KM's. The last person i caught happened to be the 2nd overall female in the race, and i only caught her with about 1km left in it and by this point i was running flat out (despite not quite knowing where the final turn back to the finish was).

There was a huge choke point at the final right turn back to the finish line as throngs of 5 mile runners were bottled up in our one allocated lane, and i tried to be as civil as possible as i shouted for people in the extreme right section to keep pushing. I managed to zip around people without slowing too much and once i was clear of the choke point, i was glad to find that there was a dedicated lane for 10-mile finishers and i tried to ignore the burning in my legs as i climbed back up the ramp that was descended to casually at the start, to cross the finish line.

One thing i will say about this race is the distance markers are spot on. And i do mean SPOT ON. A 10-mile race is 16.08km. My GPS watch had me at 16.14km at the finish. How's that for race accuracy.  I finished a very tired 10th overall (9th overall male). 


The top non-Kenyan was one of a pair of up and coming (national team) Thai twins who finished 3rd overall in 50:53 in 30degC heat.  On Bangkok road surface. That's an amazing effort. Twin brother finished 4th not far behind.

In terms of road conditions, generally the road surfaces were in pretty good condition. There were some patches where the tarmac was a little rough and there were odd spots of gravel but overall, the tarmac was better than i expected. The route itself was pretty straighforward once you get running, and there are large signboards along the way to guide anyone who's never done the race before. It is a very flat course. They had managed to avoid all the little bridges and slopes that are in the vicinity that would generate a very fast race, if it weren't for the very warm race conditions, which I think are typical of this time of year.

Post Race 

Even for a relatively small race (~7000 participants), there is live tracking for everyone via mobile apps, with instant results and prize presentation within 1.5hr of the winner crossing the line. I think some of the local Singapore races could learn a thing or two here.


The event also gave out food coupons to finishers, which could be redeemed at a variety of prticipating sponsor stalls set up at the race start/finish area in the Central World Parade Square, including the likes of Yoshinoya, which sponsored bento boxes. This was real hearty warm food, not you usual banana. The buy in from the local sponsors was really visible for all and i think it created great visibility for the sponsor brands.

Conclusion
Overall, i really enjoyed the race in terms of organization. They made the best of the limitations of running a race in the heart of Bangkok, on a very very busy weekend for the city. I would like liked the race start to be on the road instead of having to go down the ramp, but this is strictly a safety concern as running down a ramp in a very tight bunch with limiting lighting in the dark is a recipe for a big pile-up in people get impatient.

Would i do it again? I'm not sure. Like i said, i am not a fan of hot races. I would be keen to try out some of their other races that may promise cooler running conditions, and the chance to visit places I've never visited (e.g. Korat) or haven't been to in a long time (e.g. Hatyai / Chiang Mai).

P.S. The Skechers Razor 3's did a great job at this distance!

Comments

  1. Hi Derek. Why does Skechers not sell any of their high end running shoes in Singapore (besides the Go Run Ride)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Best Reviews Guide analyzes and compares all Kickboxing Shoes of 2020. You can easily compare and choose from the 10 best Shoes for Kickboxing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

REVIEW: Nike Vapor Street

REVIEW: ASICS Sortie Japan Seiha

Review: Kalenji Kiprun SD