This morning I woke up at 5:30 AM to prepare for my first competitive race in Singapore, which was also my first competitive race ever. The event was the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and I jogged the 10k course. Even in the early morning the heat was brutal. And the streets were mobbed by novices. But I will get to that shortly.
The Singapore Armed Forces Reservist Association (SAFRA) organizes a variety of events to build cohesion and camaraderie for the National Servicemen (NSmen). Their events entertain and challenge the NSmen and also serve to evangelize the role of the national services in Singapore. Because the group is ostensibly doing the nation a service, they get terrific access to tracks (the nearly completed Singapore F1 with lights on) and land (the polo grounds).
The NSmen are encouraged to attend and wear matching outfits to show their team pride. The teams dressed for military branch, academy, role, and the like. The encouragement is strong enough to make the event nearly mandatory for them. And since national service is also mandatory, you can imagine the huge number of non-runners that found themselves on the track.
The non-runner presence was one of the challenges of the race. Huge numbers of people sprinted off the line, quickly tired, and then stopped on the course blocking joggers. The entire run I was passing people that made the novice mistake of running out far to fast and becoming a barrier for serious runners. Since the event drew what appeared to be tens of thousands of people and the track was at thin as two automobile lanes, choke points formed where exhausted novices stopped to recover. I expended far too much energy dodging walkers.
The second challenge was the heat. Perhaps the locals have acclimated to the heat and humidity. As for me, I quickly overheated and without a dry breeze to evaporate the sweat I never cooled down. Overheating drives heart rate and heart rate dictates maximum distance. I watched my heart rate start at an easy 155 BPM, climb to the appropriate 165 BPM, rise to an unhealthy 175 BPM and rarely peak at a dangerous 179 BPM. 165 BPM is my 10k running pace so anything above that foreshadows a unanticipated early finish.
But I did finish the race (52:57) and had enough energy in the tank to run the last few hundred meters at a fast run. My conditioning in Singapore has been decent and my California 10k pace was about 48 minutes. The 30 seconds I lost each kilometer were probably due to the heat more than anything.