Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The North Face 100k DUO - Race Report
Pictures courtesy of Frank Chong
The journey to the south started early on a Friday morning(23 Oct 09) to catch a RapidKL bus that will take me from Ampang to the KLCC train station, before boarding the train to Bangsar station. Yes its First Coach again for me and Frank, my traveling buddy for this trip. He will be there to run the Nike Human Race on the same Saturday morning, and gunning for a PB.
The bus leaves for Sg exactly at 9.30am sharp and shud take us no less than 5hrs, meaning we shud reach Sg ard 2.30pm at Novena Square. Was a smooth journey and reaches the Lion City slightly around 2.45pm. We wasted no time in hunting down the direction to our hotel ie Fragrance Oasis Hotel along Balestier Road which is no more than 10mins walk according the the map directions.
Located the hotel, checked in and then wasted no time to go and pick up our race kit respectively. First was to Wisma Atria @ Orchard Road at the Nike Boutique Centre to pickup Frank's bib and then adjourned down to Suntec City Mall for my race kit. Met up with Yuan which is my running buddy for TNF 100k Duo race. By the time we are done its almost 5pm and feeling hungry. No proper lunch and we quickily order some food to fill up our stomach.
Back to Novena Square for a quick catchup with Dominic from Outdoor Venture, which I normally deal with for all the mechardise that I purchased from them. After the meeting, had dinner and back to the hotel for some rest. Clean up, watch a football game before calling it a nite and be ready for the real challenge the next morning,
Theng, Theng, Theng.......ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ !!!!
Woke up around 4am to get myself ready for an anticipated long and challenging day. Had my normal breakfast which I used to take before an LSD run ie Oats and Soy Milk. By around 5am, Frank leave early for the race site and I will wait for Yuan to pick me up at 5,30am before going over to MacRitchie Park Visitor centre. It was a short taxi ride to the destination and reaches there in less than 15mins. Met up with Mohan, whom I need to put my baggage into his car before we all adjourned to the starting point of the race.
Its was warm and slightly humid on the weather condition and we mingled around with some of the race marshalls. Weigh myself before the race and the electronic scale showed 72kg (2kg heavier than my previous race in SCKLM 09). Runners are slowly trooping in and then got ourselves check-in and moved into the race kandang. Pre-race pictures was taken with Mohan and some of his friends which were totally new to me.
And as the clock ticks towards 7am, the countdown begins for a long and challenging race to start. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...... Ka-Boom and out we go (all categories of TNF 100k DUO). The route take us out to the entrance of the park and move towards the reservoir where there were concrete running tracks (like those in Lake Gdns) surrounding it. I think they called it the Lornie Track. After about a kilometre of running, the runners were greeted by trail terrain and I believed this is where the real race begin.
This is where the runners will be hitting the MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Trail. The path was quite narrow and running back-back between runners. There isnt much overtaking as its just the beginning and everyone were conserving energy. The surface was also pretty uneven where there are roots running across the path. So gotta be extra careful not to trip ourselves. The route was not just eneven but uncountable gradual uphills which actually is taking a toll on my legs and starting to sap up my energy. Slowly adjusting to the running momentum as I cannot afford to run too fast as there is still a long way to go. Any instance of a very steep uphill that come my way, I will just do a brisk walk instead of continue running. I hope this will help to relax my muscle and conserve some energy. This route takes about at least 90mins before we are out of the trail and joined into a uphill road. Without much sense of direction of the area I guessed this must be the Rifle Range Road where I start to see some buildings aurrounding the area.
Out of the jungle trail now and there is a steep road to welcome us. This is very similar to the uphill along Plaza Damas in Sri Hartamas but looks like its never ending. Its easily 800m - 900m in terms of distance. Imagine running that after 90mins of trail running. Keep running and running until it hit another entrance back to the jungle trail again. After running for a while it goes thru some kind of kampung atmosphere. And I was wandering in Singapore got kampung environment meh. Without thinking too much I just continue to run along the path but its no easy task as one have to run thru this narrow path which again is going uphill. Puff, Puff, Puff and breathing away heavily and legs started to feel like sotong now. Jelly like feeling and wobbling around. By now I think I have been running for at least 2.5 to 3hrs and the sun is starting to be at the hottest point. Although there are shades along the way but at certain parts the runners are totally exposed to the sun hence making it hot and humid.
By now, I am starting to feel the strain on my body and I think I have only covered around 20k of the total 50k. That is the kind of challenge I am talking about running on trail terrain vs road races. Not even at half way mark and its taking a toll of me. The feeling now is like after reaching the 30k mark of the marathon. Energy level is low and almost gone, legs felt like jelly and worst case it darn hot and humid out there. 5k more to go before I only hit the 1/2 way mark.
Continue to slowly run and walk as and when the energy level goes down or there is a steep hill right in front of you, like the face of a satan welcoming you to hell!!!!! Minute by minute, Km by Km I eventually hit the 25k mark in 3.5hrs. (thats probably my 33k mark in a marathon) At this point I think this is where the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is. This is where runners have to run further into the forest and do a turn and come back out. And also I was told by some runners along the way that further ahead will be the determination point for lotsa of runners last year who gave up the race. The tough terrrain ahead coupled with the unforgiving hot afternoon sun will just stop the runner's body from responding ie it just stop and gave up. And I thot its gonna be a hell breakloose challenge and I am not going to let this evil terrain take over me. Bring it on and I will face the challenge.
The path at this point opened up a bit where there are less shades compare to the first part. This shud be the Zhenghua & Gangsa Track. This is where the runners will take a beating from the direct sunlight. Slowly moving like a tortoise I continued to move on. The thigh muscle is starting to send messages down to the brain that they have enough. The soreness and tightness of the muscles started to creeps in and I have to stop several times to apply oilment over it. Was also helping a few fellow runners who are under the same condition along the way.
At this moment its all down to walk / run routine. Any steep incline that comes my way will be walking up and then a slow jog down. As runners completed this part, we are out of the trail and onto the normal Sg road cutting across the highway and onto another trail. I guessed this area must be the Mandai. This part is more of a very open area with pebble roads and making it very uneven to run on. I am already half dead now and coupled with such rough terrain, it makes the condition even worst. Because of the openess, all runners are very much exposed to the hot sun beaming on us. No way you can escape the sun here and I am starting to feel that my shoulder is about to get burnt anytime soon. Just splashed water over my tired body to cool it down as I continue to move on.
The dryness and humidity level at this moment is so bad that no wonder they said this will be the determination point on whether the runners will give up as there will be the return leg of at least 20+km to cover. Slowly but surely with the determination of finishing the race, I get myself up and focus on the return leg. At this juncture, the each KM went by so slowly. After of at least an hour I am out of Mandai and my watch shows 4.5hrs of running. So its taking me 1hr to complete 5k. I am only now at the 30k mark and 20k to go.
Running 20k to me is sup sup water on road, but under such condition and terrain, it will be a tough, challenging and long way ahead. And now the return leg begins and another 4.5hrs to cut off time (Qualifying time is 9hrs) I reckon I will need at least another 4hrs to reach the finishing point based on a 5k per hour pace. Its walk more and run less pace, and with steep incline ahead.
The return leg will be pretty much similar from where I came from except for a few parts where it go thru an alternative route but its no easy meat. In fact its even tougher. By now most of the runners are scattered all over unlike in the beginning where everyone is almost together back-back. On and off you get to overtake someone and then a fast runner will pass you. There will be an exchanged of conversation saying HELLO and giving encouragement to each other before moving on with their own pace. Some obviously faster and some slower leaving behind.
The energy level is way down now, leaving only my determination and mental strength to carry me on. The clock keep counting minute by minute, then hour by hour......and finally I hit the 42k mark. I complete the marathon distance and its almost hitting 7hrs (total time of running or so call walking) 8K more to cover and gotta do it within 2hrs. Do a quick calculation and even if I do a 12min pace, I can get it done within 2hrs. A bit tight but qualifying for the race is kind of under control unless something really bad happen to me. So I started to revert back to very slow jog and brisk walk (and this is where my experience in trekking Mt Kinanbalu comes in handy) to cover the distance faster in case I needed more time towards the ending.
As I approaches the final 5K mark, the trail terrain are much more shady and flatter. This was not so demanding and I am able to conserve more energy and continue to troop towards the finishing point. As I saw the signboard that showed "2KM to MacRitchie Park" , I saw the reservoir again (where I started the race) and marched into the final part of the trail. Passed thru the golf course before entering into another trail. This 2K is probably the longest I have ever ran and it took me thru the shaddy part of the trail before eventually emerging out of the jungle. I know its gonna be over in no time when I saw people cheering me out. Some runners who have completed were there to lend a support as well. It was really encouraging to have such support after going thru such torturing time.
Once out on the track, I heard my travelling buddy Frank shouting at me. Holding his DSLR firmly, he is starting & ready to go for continuous shot I think. I raised both my hands and punched into the air self proclaiming my achievement in completing the race under 9hrs. As I approaches the finsihing line, there is a sense of great achievement within myself that I had came a long way and overcome the toughness of the challenge. I raised my hands to acknowledge my accomplishments and hopefully for Frank to get some good shots of me.
Crossed the finishing line and jumping up to the gantry and hit the finishing banner with both my hands. The time shown on the clock was 8h 33min 31sec. Immediately the race marshall ushered me to the side and have myself weigh again. The electronic scale showed 69kg (lost 3kg after the race). Got hold of my Finisher medal and Frank, Victor and Yee Hua was there to congratulate me. And its always good to have people to support you after a race. Met up with Mohan where he was kind enough to bring my baggage from his car to the race area for me. Rest for a while before heading back to the hotel with Frank.
And finally my goal to run an ultra marathon was accomplished. Not in style but in a tough terrain that is equivalent to running at least 60k to 70k in a road race. Will I do it again, well I cant make any decision for now. But it will be for a while before I attempt to run another race which is further than a marathon. Time to rest and recover.
Till then seeya in the next race.
Attire and supplements that I use to support my race.
- Fully sponsored K-SWISS shoes (RunOne MiSOUL) and apparels
- INJINJI toe socks (no blisters for the entire race)
- SportShield Anti Chafing stick (Not a single chafe on my body)
- NUUN hydration tablet (No cramps throughout, only sorenes in thigh muscles)
- NATHAN Hydration System (Speed2 Fuel Belt for my water)
- WEIDER IN Jelly (pre-race gel)
- GU Gel (took during the race)
- SPIBelt (to carry my mobile phone)
- 2XU compression (for my post race recovery)
Note: These are the products that are sold under my store (except GU Gel)