The Northface 100 - The day we ran the Ultra Trail
It was the day the monkeys overdosed on GU Gels.
Thought I'd write this a little later, when I get my brain back from my soles, but I am still high from the 100+ and Subway chocolate chip cookies, so excuse me.
What a race, eh... I said last year. Like iPhone4's cliched tagline, 'This changes everything, again!"... yup! What a bloody race!
I'd like to start this entry with a special note and thanks to my MacamBagus teammate/partner for sticking on throughout. He who answered my calls to do this insane feat, he who sponsored our bright orange (highly comfortable running tee), he who knows no bounds. Thanks, Ian... love our finishing shots! Who knows we both suffered severely from the last 10k-or-so, kan?
This is our anniversary TNF race, having completed 50k Duo last year.
I'd lie if I tell pounding 50k on trails was not punishing. I was even deadly mistaken for not thinking Singapore does not have such challenging trails and climbs, so my Singaporean friends - forgive me, I stand corrected. This put my feat last year like rotten durians, seriously. OK, the report... (beware, it's a long one).
When we arrived at Singapore, all slightly beaten from our delayed flight, which consequently drew the domino effect to all the things that night. But surely it did not hamper our shopping spirit at Running Lab and Adidas, where we (myself and Ian) were presented to witness the arrival of Kash's secret partner, none other that the Pirate King himself.
Dinner at Burger King, Cold Storage (oops!) and back at Rais' eclectic place in Chinatown, packed and rest. In my hydration bag, I had a pack of Cliff bar, 4 gels, 2 packs of asam boi, 1 Mars bar, 3 Zip bars, 1.5litres of Nuun water and first aid container (plasters, pilchikitteckaun, Salonpas, Nuun tablets), handphone, passport, map, shades, cap and 4 ORSes.
It was past midnight when hitting the sack was the last thing I could do, and it between the cozy bed, my sleep interweaved between looking at time, tuning to Ian's snores (hahah) and mindless staring at the ceiling. We started the day with a gigantic nasi lemak and Gatorade before catching a cab to MacRitchie.
Arrived on site, we were immediately drawn to the familiar faces. Jamie and Frank was there, alongside with our strongest supporter - KA and KD who were faithful on our departure and arrival, Doc Puisan and Mohan, Poh Seng and Chin Chin, and Yim and Haza came in later. No ime to be nervous at this time as the air was festive, lots of camwhoring, final check-ups, strapping, pinning etc.
Zul, Nik, ?, Frank, Jamie, Kash, Doc Puisan, myself, Chin Chin, Ian (and Sam in the front) - all smiles still
Poh Seng and Chin Chin - all strong contenders
Stretching mesti stretching...
baju sponsor, and the bib belum kena belasah
with Malaysia's biggest supporter - En KA
and Miss KD... sakan shopping diorang nih
kamera mana? kamera mana?
Kontinjen dari Malaysia (no... I was not jumping)
We were off at 7a.m., and we were running along the reservoir, into the MacRitchie Nature Track. The fun starts! Team MacamBagus ran together all along, in a somewhat slower pace, keeping in mind of the 50k ahead of us. The trails were familiar, and less beating I felt, going uphills and roll downhills, simple turns and littered with well-wishing hikers, walkers etc. Before we know it, we hit the Rifle Range road, and moving towards Bukit Timah. We reached 10k marker in 1:01, I think.
The left turn at Hindhede, away from the Bukit Timah offered us a steep climb. Then, the runs up Steroid Hill came to my mind like 'soalan bocor SPM' as I sped up. On my was down was when I realizes my partner was not behind, but some Indonesian runners. I was brought into deeper trails, sometimes trails so dense, I only can just run and hoping Ian will catch up. That hope was realized about 9k later when we re-joined at the water station after Mandai. Without my partner, I was mostly running alone along this Park Connector (ZhengHua Park?) and along BKE (Gangsa Track) before coming out at Mandai, just shy of the entrance to the Singapore Zoo and The Night Safari.
The 3rd water station was when I really stopped and rehydrate, refilled my Gulper with isotonic and ice cubes, had my chomps, asam boi and half-squashed Apple Pie, as well as the ice shower. It was then that I realised, I had not been consuming anything prior except for the Nuun water. Stretched, and waited for my partner.
We ran together henceforth, in a much slower pace. I had very little in me, not being able to stomach the gels and Cliff bar I brought. I brought Ian to a walk whenever we go uphills and ran downhills, often enjoying the cool breeze. The sun was up and punishing, and my Team Mercedes cap was soaking wet. We did not talk much, perhaps conserving energy for the return run. When we hit the turn around, we just smiled and kept pushing.
Jamie running strong (pic cilok-ed from Frank)
It doesn't look intimidating here, but it was! Mud sliding best nih!
Kash, Coc PuiSan and Mohan arriving at Station 3
The trails in Mandai and Lor Asrama was really a piece of work - boring stretches of road, almost zero views. The long and winding trails are sometimes open to the skies and sun was at full force. I literally ran out of sweat running and walking it. Good thing to have a strong partner by my side, really. We ran into wide trails fit for jeeps,a nd stumbled into a group of platoons making rounds, few truck stations, and rounds of used ammo on the ground on certain stretches, and somewhat desolate from any runners. Mostly broken aggregates surfaces, there are many rolling hills, and a face of open hill with exposed red lateritic soil looked like copied from the of scenes of Genting Trailblazer.
After Station 3, returning back - good to know we could still afford bodily and facial functions
When we started to see the markers with the word 'Return' on them when we had a slight lift in our pace. And waiting for a very long break at the water station only materialized when we returned to Station 3 before heading out to Mandai. Again, we stopped long to look at our vitals. Bobbing braincells - check. Balls (excuse me) - check. Legs, toes, soles, hamstrings - check, check, check.
We re-fueled our bladders, toilet break, chocolates, chomps etc, ice shower and more stretches. More or less 15 minutes later, we were off back to Mandai Road and back to the trails. The spectators at the mouth of the trail near Mandai were superb - they cheered, offered cool grapes etc. When we got back into the trails, it was sharing with the mountain bike trail, and the width narrows into a cool and shady tracks. We were good on our 30th + km and picked up pace. Similar trail where we came from, we kept running on flats and downhills, mostly loose gravels and hard soils which my TerraX did not handle as well when I first rode it in Kinabalu.
I lost track of time and distance, but whenever we reached a distance marker, we'll celebrate a little, and Ian would utter some words of encouragement. Poor guy, he was suffering from minor chaffing from Station 3 and still towed us together. We came back next to BKE and I was grateful upon seeing few 100k Solo runners doing their second loop, that I am not one of them. Every now and then, few groups of bikers would encourage us to keep on plugging away and never give up. I noticed Ian has resorted to 'lari kangkang', what he mentioned to be a severe chaffing between his legs, but he refused to stop and we trudged on. I have also lost track of numbers of hills I had resorted to walking and dissapointing my partner for slowing things down, but at times, I thought the hills are too pointless to tackle. And of course sometimes, the hills were too long, I wasted us more precious time.
When we arrived at Bukit Timah area, we must have strike a second wind, for some reason, we started running strong again, as we converge with the returning 50k Duo runners. Zigzagging between them, some walking like zombies, some walking cheerfully holding hands etc, while navigating the narrow trails added more thrills. From here, the loose pebbles, bricks, twigs, roots etc were quite bad, every slap of my TerraX sent pain on my soles. That pair's retirement is profoundly overdue! It was when we arrived at the final station at Rifle Range with a final ice bath and more isotonics that I felt good to know that the end is really near.
We hobbled on the tarmac under the cooling shades of the many Ketapang trees, some exposed as we crossed the expressway, before turning right towards MacRitchie, but not without many unexpected turns. By now, the pain for my partner was getting worse.
Somewhere here, I was floored by a sudden pain that we had to stop. The huge blister from my right sole has popped off and it was aduhai painful! We sidelined, and I took off my wet socks and put a fresh one. The feet were so wet and crumpled, the bandage won't stick to it. Put the shoes back on, and continued walking, which was really like walking on glass. After awhile, the pain subsided, and I managed little runs on the side of the foot. The end is near, and we had to keep moving. After all, it was half past one, and I was really hungry.
The trails were in fast forward now, with many 50k Duo runners in between, and no water stations. The last marker seen was on the 40th, and I was just guessing it now. Sometimes, the MacRitchie trail marker gave indication of our bearings, but really it was when I could see visuals of the lake on my right that I know we were really close. We passed by a familiar volunteer that told us the end is only 500m away, and at that point, Ian and I picked up pace until we cleared the trails, into the open park and lake.
The pains that we both suffered are lost in the multiple shots of adrenaline. We stepped down the stairs at the rest area, and the sound of the DJ was more and more audible. We had claps and smiles from the finishers and general public and I felt the hair at the back of my neck stood up. In the euphoric of it all, I quietly cursed at the final hill, climbing to the finishing line, but all I cold see was the gantry, and just before it was Sasha, snapping our pics (thanks!).
OMG, that was the line. It was the moment when nothing else (in running) matters, and indescribable. A moment when I as a runner kept coming back. For that priceless shot of fame, when all the long hours of runs prior to the race paid off, the long nights, the early mornings. That timing mat, that box with digital clock in it.
What can I say. It was an amazing race. It was diabolically amazing!
It's not fair to conclude such wonderful moments, pain and glory, in a report and a full stop. Suffice to say that we have enjoyed our company, and had fabulous time.
the bib all ripped and flabbergasted
I swore the first thought I had when walking to the food counter was - not ever! But being a sucker that I am, I am flipping calendars.
It was a different side of the coin from last year. This year, I came somewhat prepared, and Alhamdulillah, apart from the 2 gigantic blisters on both of my soles, I finished with no other injuries. No cramps whatsoever. Seemed that the asam boi works like magic! My shoulders are a little sore from the Gulper I lugged securely behind me, and the posterior tibialis areas on both feet hurts. Apart from that, I was good.
Before the crowd sets in, I found myself at the medic tent but they couldn't do anything on them blisters, and later I helped myself at the food counter with Subway cookies (butter, chocolate chips, chocolate and raisin cookies), few Subway sandwiches, jellies, fruits, muffins fruit combo, apples, bananas etc. I thought I would need the food for the trip back to KL, but most of them lay idly in the fridge at home :D.
Fuels - 2 Zip bars, 1 GU Lemon, a pack of asam boi, 2 mini Mars bars, quarter of McD's Apple pie, 3 grapes, a bag of Chomps while on the run. Consumed a Subway's Tuna Sandwich and few butter cookies, 2 jellies, 1 cup of grapes and strawberries, chopped fruits post run (and half a bag of Cachos crisps, 3 Oreo cookies, 1 Old Chang Kee's sardine currypuff for the trip back to KL)
Hydrations - 1.5litres of Nuun water, about 5litres of 100+ for run, 2litres of 100+ post run, 2 shots of whey protein, a bottle of mineral water
We had good and cooling shower post race, and light meal afterwards at MacRitchie before heading off to Novena to catch our bus. Didn't manage to do much but to sit down and talk about our experiences. Every other thing cannot be bigger that the race itself.
Doris and Meng completed 50K Duo - no easy feat too!
New Doris - leaving for Venice Marathon soon!
Cikgu Add Maths ni garang beb...
takde nye kitorang nak curik sandwich tu..
dah, jangan tengok lama-lama peha orang...
Irwan - a trail virgin no more
semua ni ada 3 kisah kaki sakit yang berlainan (semua takde dalam gambar)
Nik and Kash returning - good shot, eh?
after all have returned, the smiles all around again
planning trip nak gi Bangkok tuh... thanks Rais for the weekend!
Well, without a doubt TNF100 was tough. Some says that it was tougher than Sundown 84, a different league altogether. The heat, the scorching sun, the unforgiven trails, the long winding road. The long wait between water stations, and the lone running in the bushes of a cosmopolitan city. But I have truly enjoyed running along natural scenes, no supporters to trow you off, no traffic (except one) crossing with weary drivers, and not without its risks. Like why I love running as a solitary sport, trail run offers me that respite of being self-sufficient. Not without severe risks, it is comforting to know I could shut everything out and know I would still be safe. And let's hope it'll stay that way.
The trails are easily navigated with clear directions, marshals at every difficult and confusing corners to direct runners, hydration stations well stocked and marshal on bikes making rounds.
Will I come back in 2011? Not a blink!