The North Face 100 Singapore - 50km Duo Report
What a race!
I have not seen many races in my new adventures, but this one took the stage so high up on so many levels, I contemplate into moving into Singapore! Why was I so ignorant about this when spending 5 freaking years in JB is beyond me. What a waste!
Anyway, we (Kash, Ian and myself) went into Singapore, and after a quick pit stop at Kash's place to pick up the race kit (thanks Azam!), went straight to The Running Lab at Novena where I have promised my friend Richard to pick up Nike Human Race's kit (yeah, kiasu sungguh). Did some shopping, where among others includes Asics Gel Kayano 15 but a separate entry for that.
We went into Singapore after breakfast, and rendezvoused at Kash's place. Her brother was very kind to drive us to the race site which was very helpful as the carparking is limited, considering the numbers of offiials, and the fact that TNF 100 Solo heroes started at 4 a.m., and were still running. We were dropped off at MacRitchie Reservoir Park, and chilled at the communal cafe to wait for the start. A rather cool and non-hasty approach as compared to the early morning rush for other races. Little did I know...
After some delicious karipaps, we made our way through the zig-zag bridge, have ourselves weighed, and went into the holding area. In this lightly sloping area, overlooking this gorgeous view into the reservoir, participants lounged on the turf under the shade, and times over cheering for the TNF 100 and 50 Solo runners passing through. We met Kash's friend - Team Lucky Beany (Hamim & Fatimah), and were interviewed by North Face's media. Just before 10.00 a.m., the TNF 50 Women's Duo were flagged off, and minutes later we were ushered in into the kandang, and flagged off at about 10.15 a.m.
Team Macam Bagus and Team Kasiris - the calm before the storm (pic credit : Kash)
We, the Macam Bagus team ran off ok in the middle pack. The first 5k along the Petal Trail was good which I paced Ian just fine. Slowly I fell away struggling behind. Nothing serious, just my normal first-time-jitters at everything, and over-cautious-self. Went on running, which I must say, JOLLY FUN! in-out-ing the trails. Man, but by the time I came into the Rifle Range Road, I slowed down at the monotony of the road and steady inclines. I could have done better running this course, but I didn't.
When I arrived at the water station #2, and I was delightful to see the spread (you wouldn't see this here, EVER!) - Mars & Snickers bars (unlimited, and although they are melted in the heat, but wayyyyy better than the gels), gels, Nature Valley's bars, bananas, cold 100+ and water. I took some Snickers and Mars, and a cup of 100+ on the run. Then I ran into the bushes again, mostly downhills, and came out by Hindhede's Nature Park. Although slowly, I went on running, until at the foot of the Bukit Timah summit. I had to stop and looked up at its steep incline (Hamim did warn us earlier about this), and there was nothing left in me to run up.
As I walked (slowly) up, there were many teams by the side nursing their cramps. As there were no meds around, I offered some of my deep heat to them. The journey up seemed like forever, but I was grateful the uncles and aunties around us smiled of encouragement. I tried to walk fast to catch up to my partner, and Ian came running down some just before the u-turn point. I thought, great, I am not that far behind.
Once I reached the U-turn point at the peak, I was cursing (a little, and quietly) at the non-event point of the U-turn. I expected some comical or music at that point to celebrate the long hike up, but it was a micro dissapointment. By the time I ran down, I started to feel cramps coming in on my calves, perhaps as a result of heavy running downhills and had to reduce speed considerably. I was also worried, that as we could see the bottom of the summit all the way with no brake points, leaping down will be downright dangerous (for me, at least). I passed the Kasiris going up about 1k after the U-turn point, and arrived back at Hindhede's place, into the trails and back at water station #2. I grabbed more Snickers and Mars bars, and a banana. I was done with bars quickly (by now, I have consumed 7 Snickers and 3 Mars bars!) and had some water. By the time I ran Rifle Range Road, I had a banana, but the gas purged it back out. Threw the rest, and walked/ran this stretch. I could feel the energy level slowly depletes, but soon found it again after going back into the trails.
Sadly to say though, at this point I only ran the flats and leap downhills, but walked uphills. I paced few runners, and scramble my way in my disorientation under the gorgeous trails. I came out of the trails again, this time along the Singapore Island Country Club's golf course. With the reservoir on my left, and the golf course on my right, we were running under the hot sun. It was 12+ noon/1p.m.-ish, and the deep heat that I put on coming down Bukit Timah peak just started to crack. Man, that was hot. Both my calves, quads and hamstrings were burning, I was close to jumping into the water (literally). I felt like my head was steaming off too. With some runners attempted to run and me pacing them, mostly were pressed to walk. I walked almost this entire stretch, and silently doubting myself returning to Singapore in December for SCSM'09. I thought, if I could not do this 25k trail, then another full marathon will at least be just hell.
Damn! I know I shouldn't, and pushed off the idea, and concentrate in my walks and hope the Kasiris would turn up behind me so I could pick up on their wind.
Things turned better once I got back into the trails with the remaining 2k. There were many interesting runs on the boardwalks, and the trails interweaved with a welcomed window of the reservoir. It was already 1p.m. when a marshall shouted words of encouragement that the end is near, and under those cool shades, I saw Ian waiting in front with his camera, and cheering me on. For the last km, we ran together, stopping few times so I could stretch my quads, and we cleared the covers, and I headed for the gantry.
I raised my hand, and finished the race in a high. What a feeling!
I was greeted with the smiles of the helpful volunteers, ushered into the scales - I lost approx. 4kg from pre-race (83kg with carbo-loading dinner and shoes) to 79 (with one million Snickers/Mars bars etc). Weights done, they put the medal on me (shining and heavy - and precious as Gollum would call it), and showed me towards the post-race counter.
You see, KL's post race meal only meant Milo and 100+ booth, with the exception of Men's Health (some burgers, Nature Valley's bars) and Siemen's (not sure if it's for runners, but there were nasi lemak and some sweet kuihs), but the queue is forever.
What they offered were great - unlimited (they passed plastic bags for us to tapau) chocolate-chip and vanilla giant cookies, oranges, bananas, muffins, strawberries, grapes, mango yoghurts, few varieties of Subway sandwiches and etc. There was no queue there (one guy n front of me do not count), and as I headed to 100+ booth, the queue was like 3 people in front of me, and I got my 3 cups in less than a minute. Amazing!
By the time me and Ian sat down with our drinks, I saw Kash and Azam coming in. By the time they joined us, I had already made 3 trips to the 100+ counter, and later came back with half a bottle. We snapped more pics, the guys were enjoying their post meal, and headed back the cafe, where we had shower. We stepped into the open shower, pulled the lever, and the cold water was a bliss. That open shower will someday appear in my forthcoming house (whenever that is) with herb aromatic garden and open sky.
The shower was however, temporary as we had the second refreshing shower at Kash's place after a quick cab ride from MacRitchie Park, where her mother is very hospitable to prepare us lunch (sorry Auntie, I was bloated with too much 100+). We lepak-ed for a while, but made our way just after Asar. I had earlier promised wifey to go together to our cousin's later in the night.
We hit the road, and passing the Second Link with ease. I thought of passing the wheels to Ian right after Pagoh, but ended up driving all the way into KL. I felt way too energised to stop, was not sleepy or tired at all, and thanks to Ian and Kash who have kept me company and making the boring drive across Johor a fun one. I suspected that I was high on sugar, which may mean I have to consume all sugary stuff hours before the race, together with my carbo-loading dinner lah kot...
We arrived in Bukit Jalil just after 8p.m. and dropped Ian off, before making our way trough some traffic into LDP, and arrived at TTDI soon after, where Rais waited for us patiently (sorry bro to keep you waiting). From there, it was very quick into Penchala Link, then DUKE and I was back home. Picked wife, Iris and m-i-l and went straight to my cousin's where the party just have started. By then, I had nothing in me but litres of 100+, water, nuts, some rice for lunch and many new ghost stories from Ian), and I just started to feel hungry and ready for my well-deserved post-run meal.
I was greeted with chicken chops with mushroom gravy, nasi dagang with ikan tongkol, curry puffs and many ayam BBQ. Fuhhh, memang berbaloi...
All in all, in my limited races so far, this The Northface 100 is without a doubt, a great race. And undoubtedly I will return again next year. I have immensely enjoyed my runs in the woods, and had a fair share of self-doubts etc etc. This was more mentally challenging, even compared to the full marathon but a great race nonetheless. I will bask in its glory for many moons, and dream about its beautiful trails. And thanks to the successful organiser for making this a memorable one.
I wished I could have done better to secure better placing for Macam Bagus team - initial results are in - Team Macam Bagus is (total team is 277);
Position : 92 Team: MACAM BAGUS Total Timing: 06:40:41.98
Tag No Name Team Timing Pos
5164-2 Nor Arfian Yusof MACAM BAGUS 03:06:42.78 119
5164-1 Syahril Nizam Kamaruddin MACAM BAGUS 03:33:59.20 279
To those who wishes to join next year's The North Face 100 Singapore, train well. There are many slopes which gives you the thrills, and the tracks varies - from soft tracks with leaves, to gravels, small boulders, tree roots, to tarmac and turfs, and boardwalks. The are a lot of shades in the woods, but prepare your sunblocks and bring your shades. Water station is sufficiently stocked with water and food (I hardly reached into my supplies), and I am good with a 3-litre hydration pack. If you carry less, refill at water station is very quick and easy. You might want to bring the shower gel they provided in the kits for a quick shower on site, and bring extra pair of change (we wet the cabbie's seats, and filled his air with our sweat). Other than that, the organiser gives you nothing to worry but to enjoy the whole thing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you... now, not coming for SCSM'09? Not a chance!