Monday, March 29, 2010

NTU Run Round Singapore 2010 218km: Part of History

At the starting point in NTU.

Tobias, Henry Yong

With Lynette..
Janette, Mok, and Kok Chiow

Each core runner has vehicle support...and police escort as well.

Near Kranji way
Mok receiving medical assistance at the first main checkpoint 45km.
The green rubbish can is filled with iced water. You could soak your whole body in there...
The director and Mok having a talk..but he decided to dnf.
Lim Ngee Huat...60 years and still going strong at East Coast park.

Pacing Melvin after Mountbatten..Thank god for flyovers above
Still running happily in the morning sun..
Then it was hell...

PS Sim, Melvin lee..
And the finishing...job done.

NTU ultra run of 218km is organised as part of their alumni celebration this year. Running one marathon is hard. Imagine running 5 marathons. And they would try to do it within 36 hours.

I came with the intention of seeing if I could run the whole thing. I had also looked up google street view of every single checkpoint for route familiarization. I am not so worried about food and hydration at this point. Just need to know which path to take.

Lynette Gan was gracious to provide accomodation at her house near Pasir Ris. The next saturday morning, as usual, had breakfast, and plastered some parts of the feet. Then we took an hour long MRT ride to the nearest station, and then a taxi to NTU. Met with Tobias, Henry Yong, and some new friends as well. Looks like each 9 core runner will have a support car tagging along.

8:30am, and we're off. Since it's the first checkpoint, many NTU students joined in. And as we approached the second, we're relieved from the relay runners (relay runners will run according to set timeline) and we're pretty much left with the core runners and some pacers.

At this point, it's not so hot but humid. We're running all along until Lim Ngee Huat started walking as part of his strategy of running and walking. I told tobias I'll move forward with Adrian Mok, Chua Kok Chiow, with fellow pacer Janette (champion lady of Sundown 84km). The pace was pretty fast. I felt I could keep up but was a bit worried if this is the pace all the way. Had some powerbar for refueling.

Halfway through marathon distance, the temperature went up a few notches. And we're soon drenched with sweat. It was hot, and it reminded me of IM langkawi. Now the amazing thing is, these runners didn't dropped the pace.

By marathon distance around 1pm, I was beginning to wonder if lunch is provided. The first main checkpoint is actually at 45.3km near Evans Road #15. The core runners had cold iced bath to soak their legs into it, as well as massages. Everyone was pretty fine at this time. I tried to have some bread to refuel. Soon, the other runners came along. I think the time spent at the station was half an hour.

Then it was back to running with Mok, Chua KC, and Janette. The temperature was seriously high, and my energy was low. I really felt I needed to eat something solid. Yet these guys were still going fast. I soon dropped the pace and started walking. Tobias who was pacing Ngee Huat came by. In the midst of all that, I decided to stop. I couldn't imagine going through the barren woodlands in this heat. I was also wondering why I came down here to suffer.

So I detour at Sixth Avenue off Bkt Timah Road and tried to have roti prata, and cold herbal tea. The roti tasted horrible, and I could only finish half of it. Then I gave a call to lynette saying I was bailing out. At this point I only did 48km. Then it was a long train ride back to pasir ris. My legs were still ok actually. I just cannot continue because of the heat.

Had some sleep in the train, then more sleep back home. Now each support car has a GPS device, so we could track them real time online. So, estimated time to reach Pasir Ris station (which is quite near our place) was roughly 2am. Lynette and I headed to Tampines for some dinner. I was thinking if I should running from Pasir Ris to the end. That would be another 89km.

Back home, slept a bit more, then we hauled ourselves up at Pasir Ris drive 3. Yong yuen cheng has already went past. But we're in time for Mok and Chua KC team. And these guys were seriously fatigued, in pain, incoherent. They had just completed 129.3km. I know at this point it's the hardest. Lack of sleep will also affects one mental state.

As they went off again, I decided to paced them again. Mok and Chua KC were having some conversation of asking Chua to go first. Looks like signs of quitting for Mok, and he doesn't want to slow things down for Chua. So Chua went ahead, and I was left pacing with Mok. He told me to go ahead as well, but I mentioned I am ok pacing him. We're the only ones both running now.

From our chat, he seemed bogged down with some other issues at work, and an old injury. Signs of quitting was there. I told him if we can last until morning, we can probably make it. Then we stopped some where near changi village at around 3:40am, and he went for a nap. At 4am, he had trouble standing up cause both his legs muscles were stiff. And his body temperature was hot as well.

After sitting at the bus stop for a few minutes, he decided to call it quits. The director of the run came by for a talk with him. But try as he might, Mok can't go on. He was mentally and physically unable to move on. It was a hard and emotional decision for him.

Now, I was left all alone. Melvin lee and Lim NH already left 1 hour earlier. It was 5am now. So I started running hoping to see if I can catch them. It was night but the humidity still lingers. Running along the 9km straight airport road was tough. My only worry was water because I haven't got enough of it. Luckily I reached east coast park and there were some water. Also did the dawn prayers, before running.

It was now morning. Suddenly I saw some blinking lights ahead, and knew it was one of the support vehicle. Turns up to be Lim's car. So I decided to paced with them until Mountbatten. The pace however was very slow. It was running and walking. I really could go fast, but this was not a race. At this point, it's better to support the core runners.

At Mountbatten 161.8km, Melvin Lee's gang was already there. His feet were wrapped up in bandages for blisters, I suppose. Looks like some parts was swollen. I wondered if he can really run now. It's only another 57km.

So we continue on running. The main pacers are now Freddy and Sim PS. Freddy set us for a pace of running and walking of around 8-10 min/km. The morning turns into afternoon, and it was again hot. Amazingly Melvin could still run. He looked pretty stoked, and not much conversation except for directions and support.

The hardest and hottest part was the west coast highway. The hard part is not the distance, but the heat. This makes IM looks easy. At times I felt I could run faster. We had a stop at the final 31km for rest and food. Lynette came by with some food and drinks, and she would support us in the car until the end.

After the highway, we detour into Boon Lay area, and some parts I can't really remember because it went through housing. The last 3km, Melvin was running more consistent, and it was then back to NTU. The crowd was cheering, and he crossed the line in 33 hr 10 min.

Another 4 runners added to the list of core runners to finish. These folks are truly superb. And I was glad to be a part to witness its' dramas, high and lows, and be a part of history. Total distance for 2 days 136.93km.


The hardest part of ultra running is putting forth your mental fortitude after your physical is gone. You're in pain, and it's a lot of pain. Blisters, fatigue, digestive system havoc, heat stroke, lack of sleep is what you have to endure to go through this. I think the toughest part is the heat. For 2 days, the same high temperature stayed.

As for myself, I've got some hot spots on the feet, 1 blister but legs are pretty much ok. Pain as usual, but not as bad as MR25 8 loops.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bareno Run 2010: Speed test

The uncle on my left was sprinting all the I just can't lose...

My bro coming back in 1:16..not too bad.

This was not in my to do list actually. But after hearing the run from Keat Seong, Jenn, and Kevin Siah, during lunch with the rest of the gang, I thought it would be probably a good idea to crash the race. So I egged my brother to join as well.

Woke up around 6am, had a piece of bread and we're off. Managed just to get in time a few minutes before starting. Managed to bump into KS, Jenn, and kevin before the race. We're in the back pack, and when the race started, it took some time before the pack thinned and allowed us to get into running mode.

Soon after the first left turn into the highway, I was picking up the pace and passing runners. Passed by Fairuz, then Yee Choy (Roger Yee's dad). Then it was soon heading back to the stadium. Met Tey (the ever dedicated sports photographer), and that's when I realized the 10km guys were coming in.

So I tried to hook up to an indian runner in blue shorts, but he was too fast. But soon he slowed a bit further down, and I could make a pass.

But the highlight of the day was, when I found out Ronnie and Kenny Tan were in front. You see, we had made a wager to beat Ronnie during lunch yesterday, just for fun sakes. Now that I was tailing him, I tried to think if I should give chase?

Given the pace that I was able to muster, it was in fact doable. So, I ran past the duo, say hi, and then pushed the pace further.

But I wasn't pushing past bonking stage, since I don't know the route well. Then a veteran in orange vest came blazing past. Gave some chase and managed to pass him back. He would turned out to be finishing with both of us crossing the line.

Managed to caught up with Barry Lee, which was another surprise. He was indeed pushing it real hard. So I just keep tailing behind. But when the hills came, he dropped back.

Back to the finishing in 1:05:05. And the weird thing is, I didn't felt bad. The marshalls were wondering about my bib but I just showed I had none.
Based on the timing I could have got 11th in Men Open 15km.

Anyway, it's all for fun.

My real focus is actually on Singapore's NTU 218km run within 36 hours. The furthest I've been on foot is 147km, and that took 26 hours. Tobias (the 3rd guy in his IM langkawi age grouper), is taking part as well. And yes, we are somehow scared.

How on earth do you cover more than 5 marathons distance in one run? I really have no idea.

But remembering this might help..."You don't have to be fast, you have to be fearless..." (quote from the book `Born to Run` when commenting on Leadville ultra 100miles)

*thanks to Frank for the pics...*

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ironman Langkawi 2010: Survival mode

Body marking...

Still not getting my bearings right after the swim...

Now it's time to cycle..

Bukit hantu...

Finally bout golf for a change?

Ironman has long passed. It's never easy. You could do all the training, and still not perform during the race.

As for training, I decided I would take a change and focus on intensity. Reason is, I had done lots of endurance, but lack the speed and raw strength. So, it's less mileage but more intensity during training. Good thing was, after a few weeks, I began to sense I could put in faster speed.
I added some strength workout and weights as well.

Coming race day. Swim was pretty ok at the start. I was near Hugo. Thought of drafting him...but as usual lost him somewhere. I thought I was going fast, but when I took a look at the distance marker, I thought that couldn't be. It seems like all that powerful swim strokes had no effect. Took a very long time before I reached the u-turn. The current was also pretty strong there. Coming back was a bit faster, but still the strong current messed with the direction. I found myself pushed over the red buoys, and once smacked into one big buoy. Upon reaching time was 1:22. Last year was 1:16. I could sensed that it'll be tough for a lot out there.

Then into the transition, and out on the bike. Could hammer in the speed on the big loop, while not pushing it so hard. At this point, the clouds were still in the sky. I really hoped it would last.
As I went into the 2nd small loop, I passed by 3 water stations without water. That was really really demoralizing. Guys were scooping out ice and refilling their bottles. Some supporters
bought mineral bottles and offered them as we passed by.

As the path going into the hills neared, I stopped by one of the houses, and asked the kids to refill. It was hot now. One participant dropped by and mentioned some other guy said 'I am finished...'
I understood it pretty well. During a race, we need all the hydration to keep the momentum going. Stopping the bike just to refill is only, one of the WTF moments.

Then, it was back to pedaling. Raymond Tan was pretty fast as we passed by each other a few times. As I neared the end of it, I popped in some powerbars and drank. Time on the bike is 6 hours.
Improvement of 16 minutes compared to last year's.

Now time for the marathon. And by this's like in an oven. Transition took some time. Went to the loo to pee, and coming out realizing I couldn't feel my balls.
I think too much time on the saddle might have caused this? Or maybe the bike fitting wasn't proper.

Anyway it was then running. And in the possibly worst conditions. I dreamt of lying on the bed back in the hotel, instead of this. For the first 2 loops, it was pretty ok.
But as the third loop ends, I was beginning to slow down. Something wasn't right with my stomach. Looks like I am going to puke but I withheld it. I was trying to pinpoint what went wrong?
The powerbar? gatorade? heat?

At the end of the 3rd loop, I stopped by a medic tent to get some plaster (handyplast) for the feet. Blisters was started to form on both feet due to the heat and soaking socks.
And to my surpise they didn't have any. The guy said he can put some tape and gauze to cover it.
But then how could I run? Another WTF moment. I might as well get it fixed in the best possible manner. I thought this is 101 first aid, but really I was shocked.

Each step is a pain because the blisters are on the soles. But I carried on. If I can't run, then it was walking.
Then by the fourth loop, after done a quick prayer at Condo Istana, I sensed that I got to puke. And I really did. That was a relief. At least now I felt better.

As the day turns into night, I was into my final round. Roger went passed me, urging me to run. But I couldn't. I saw him walking and running into the darkness, going from left to right, then left.
The ambulance were busy up and down. You could hear the siren blaring a few minutes apart. This is hell. There's no doubt about it. And if you are in hell, just move on.

A guy in green shirt (nik), had been cheering a long time. And as I head for the u-turn, he said something like 'Finish strong'. I had been walking all the while. So I forced myself to run, with
the pain, fatigue, stomach upset. Running is faster than walking. And I want to end this fast.

With some walking and running, I finally made it to the turning into the podium. People start cheering. I made a run for it, clapping the hands of the spectators. Finishing an ironman is always sweet.

My time was 13:42. It was way longer than last year. But with all the mishaps, I was just happy to complete it.

To all the supporters, I am truly grateful. Without you guys, we'll probably not survive this or not pushed on.

And as for the management, they could have done better. Seriously I don't mind the simplistic medal, or t-shirts, but during race, adequate care should be given on distributing supplies.
It's like a war. Winning one depends on a good logistic supplies regardless of how strong you are. To not have all this during the race is not right.

They might as well change the title from Ironman to Adamantium-Man. Iron is too soft.


Summary: Still a lot of work to do. It's back to the drawing board. I know my weaknesses, so now it's the time to focus on that.
To all those who have done the IM or DNF, and planning on doing it next year, try training consistently all year round.
This way, you won't feel rushing towards the last 3 months because your work is pretty much done. Bottom line is, each week you got to do something.

I think there's 2 general goals in training.
Train to get back at the same fitness level. Another is to train to reach a higher level. It's time to go higher.