Sunday, May 01, 2016

After 121 Days...

By Frank

It has been 121 days since the year started. And it has certainly been those days that training for this year's 2 major races has since started. Am I tired? No doubt yes. Am I feeling strong? Hell yeah! Am I ready? Oh YES! That sums up my feeling I guess.

4 months has passed since all the training officially began. Continuing from March, April is the month to keep the momentum going with a slight reduce in intensity in order for the body to start recovering. It is also the month to identify any areas to improve on and to test out the race gears.

However, April didn't start off really well as there were signs of a "dead" left leg. My initial thoughts was that I may have overused it last month especially towards the final week of it. But to think of it realistically, ample rest time was given to it for recovery before continuing with April's training. Then I got really worried when I thought of some nerve issues. Yes, it was all self assumption and instead of resting completely, I did short and light workouts while taking in more Vitamin B enriched food for it helps with the nervous system. The leg return from the "dead" after a few days and I was glad it was just a scare. Phew...

With no fitness lost during the "dead" leg scare, I was feeling strong and that was just in time for the 70KM Route 68 Challenge on the second week of the month. I held back throughout the entire race to minimise any risk of injury and manage to complete it with my best 70KM result without thrashing out myself, and that was indeed a really positive sign.

Continuing my training with the strength and confidence gained, I was glad that some of my friends are slowly making their return from their injury. And a week after Route 68 Challenge, we were back running together at some of our favourite places and those favourite involves hills! We continued to roll towards the final week of the month together which almost got derailed a bit due to the return of the notorious haze, which was our own Malaysian pineapple farmers doing. Nevertheless, I was glad I successfully followed my regime and went through the final week of the month without any issues. I was really happy about that not only cause confidence is building but will also mean no more tough 100KM weekly mileage too. Phew...

Transfer of timing chip from last year's Kinvara 6 to this year's Kinvara 7.

The big boys turn to play.

I also began to try out my race gears. Due to the different nature and weather of both races I will be racing in, there will be 2 separate race gears for this year. One set for Comrades while the other for the West Highland Way Race. But there is one similarity for both sets as for the the first time, I will be in full Saucony colours. Many thanks to Saucony for this arrangements. The following are the breakdown on what I will be wearing and using.

Part of my race tops.

Comrades Marathon
Race top - Saucony pro team tri top
Race bottom - Saucony pro team tri short
Race shoe - Saucony Kinvara 7
Quad compression - CEP Quad Sleeve
Calf compression - CEP Progressive Calf Sleeve 2.0
Race socks - Balega Ultra Light No Show
Race watch - Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire

A new Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire for these 2 race. And in blue too.

West Highland Way Race
Mid layer race top - Saucony Run Strong Long Sleeve Top
Back up mid layer race top - Saucony Nomad Long Sleeve Top
Race tights - Saucony Omni LX Tights
Water proof outer shell - Saucony EXO Jacket
Back up water proof outer shell - Saucony Razer Jacket
Race shoe - Saucony Peregrine 6
Back up race shoe - Saucony Xodus 6
Beanie - Saucony Drylete beanie
Head gear - Buff
Wind and water resistant gloves - Saucony Nomad gloves
Base layer - BV Sport Anatomical Top
Quad compression - CEP Quad Sleeve
Calf compression - CEP Progressive Calf Sleeve 2.0
Race socks - Drymax Max Protection Trail Sock
Back up race socks - Drymax Trail Sock
Hydration vest - Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin3 Set 12
Headlamp - LED Lenser H14R.2
Race watch - Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire

Let there be light at the highlands!

The fourth month gave me 375KM and hence after 121 days of hard training with a total of 1,488KM, it's time to recharge, re-energize, repair, recover and be ready for my fifth Comrades in 28 days time and then the important long one at West Highland Way Race 3 weeks later. The fifth and final month is next and it's time to enjoy the taper for the "monster" (a nick given by a friend last year due to my commitment to the race and my heavy training mileage) is back!

The journey after 18 weeks.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Route 68 Challenge 2016...

Event: Route 68 Challenge 2016
Venue: Dewan Serbaguna Komuniti Orang Asli, Gombak, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 10 April 2016
Time: 6.00AM
Distance: 70KM (70.3KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7
By Frank

My last super long run as part of my training, I am really excited to be able to run Route 68 Challenge (R68) this year after missing it last year due to race date being too near to Comrades. I was only introduced to R68, the name of the road late last year by my "mountain friends" when we had one of our runs there. Though I only ran part of it till the telco tower at 11KM, I really like it very much due to the climbs there and knew it will fit very well into my training. The only 2 problems, it was too far away and really dark with plenty of blind spots which is really dangerous considering there are many reckless drivers these days. But I guess with approximately 800 participants for this year's edition, there will be at least some safety elements put into place though there will be no road closure.

I chose to wear the Kinvara 7 over Ride 8 as the Kinvara 7 will be the shoe I will be wearing for Comrades next month. With 48 days to go, I thought it will be nice to have the legs ready with the "feel" of the shoe. I did not wear the actual pair but instead the pair that I wore for Istanbul last year. With the shoe already seasoned, it has the "feel good" ride in it. However, I had to hold back as this was suppose to be an easy long run with a plan of averaging 6.45 minutes per Kilometer for the first half before reducing it to walk run pace at the return leg. If everything goes to the plan, I should be able to complete the distance below 9 hours, I hope.

The starting point located in the very sleepy Orang Asli (natives) village in Gombak is about 40KM drive away from my place. Knowing it will be tough to secure  a car park spot, my idea was to arrive there at about 4AM, 2 hours before the race start. The night before, though managed to arrive back home early from work, I had a tough time trying to get myself to sleep. I was still awake though my eyes were starting to close at 1AM, I knew there was nothing much I can do and hence started preparing myself. Everything went smoothly and I was feeling strong. Was on my way at 3.15AM making a detour to McDonalds for a filet o' fish and black coffee. Arriving 15 minutes later than my actual interned time, the place was already swarmed with people. I managed to secure a spot for my car which isn't far away and rested in there having my breakfast before gearing up and proceeding to the tentage area.

Friendly familiar faces to be with.

It was good to meet up with some regular faces like Kim Song, Amanda, Keng Koon and Dr. Wong. And just before the 70KM distance start, there was a short briefing by Jason followed by reflective vest, headlamp and blinkers check. And at 6AM, the siren to signal the start woke the sleepy village up and off we went. I started from behind with Dr. Wong and took me close to minute to cross the the start gantry.

With 253 runners for the 70KM distance, it was a little tough trying to find space to cut through as safety was a concern in the very dark environment. The last thing we want is a speeding car appearing out of nowhere and knocking someone over as there were lots of blind spots due to the winding road. But after a Kilometer or so into the distance, with runners breaking free, I managed to find space and hence "officially" started my run. With the start already a climb though not steep, I knew it was a long one. It will slowly sap away the energy and strength if not managed well and hence I took it easy.

I was familiar with the first 11KM or so till the telco tower. It was dark with winding roads but the environment was cooling due to the very dense tress there. The first check point situated at the Indian temple some 5KM into the run appeared pretty quickly but I skipped it and proceeded on to the next at 10KM with ease. Upon arrival with dawn breaking, Wai Hong was there to greet the runners as the supervisor there. Visited the loo quickly, grabbed a few watermelons and off I went.

The next following areas will be stepping into the unknown for me. I  heard from friend that the next 5KM will involve some steep climbs before dropping into the valley at Genting Sempah and hence dropping a "gear" there. But as I continued on, I felt that the climb was still manageable. Didn't want to get carried away, I stood with my pace and eventually got to the top, with a rewarding view overseeing Karak Highway.

Overseeing Karak Highway.

Feeling "Scotland" with the mist.

And from there onward, it was about a Kilometer drop with spectacular misty view of the hillside, and not to mention cooling too, into the third check point at Genting Sempah where Hong Lan and Seng Heng supervising. Suzie was there too. Upon arriving there in 8 minutes under 2 hours, I took off my reflective vest and headlamp, stuffing it into my hydration vest. Readjusted my phone in there too which has been irritating my lower back since the start before grabbing some watermelons and it's off I went again.

Happening third checkpoint.

With supervisor ala 200KM finisher Seng Heng as I was munching on watermelons!

It was the start of the descend to the u-turn point which is another 18KM away. Though it's only a very mild downhill, I still played it safe causing many other runners to pass me here.. Despite leaving the third check point with Azlan, it was not long before he went ahead of me. The fourth check point situated near the turning to Janda Baik was supervised by Barkley. Great to see another familiar face but the same routine here with some watermelons plus a gummy candy here before I continued on.

Leaving check point 3 with Azlan.

Despite the weather getting warmer, I was still feeling good. I took small sips of water and sometimes gurgling it to keep my throat wet. Winding roads with blind spots was an issue for safety here, while another was that the downhill got a little tougher. The thighs were starting to feel some impact from the earlier descent though not as bad as I kept reminding myself to managed myself.

A word of caution to the drivers.

After 2:47 hours, I finally arrived at the fifth check point, supervised by Kelvin and Kavien (their name rhythms!). I managed to joked with Kelvin about the steam chicken and roast goose, a prank I made with him back at the Gunung Nuang Ultra a month ago. Was certainly delightful to be able to still joke at this stage of the run.

The next sector was pretty scenic with some view of rivers and a waterfall along the hillside. However, the nagging problem of my phone rubbing against my lower back was still there and I had to stop a few times to readjust it, allowing Razif and Gilbert to pass me. Despite a couple of tries, the discomfort was still there and I literary gave up trying to readjust it during my run. I just have to bring myself to the next check point and do it properly there.

A small waterfall out of nowhere!

Check point number 6 was supervised by Jason Thai. I have to apologies to him here as I rejected most of the food and drinks he offered me. Sorry my friend, but I just needed water as I am worried other food especially sugary ones might cause some tummy issues. However, many thanks for helping me with my phone as I finally settled the very irritating "phone rubbing my lower back" issue. Watermelons and it's off to the u-turn point near the Bentong hot springs.

Towards the hot springs.

The u-turn point was just under 5KM away but I could already see the front runners making their return. One of them was Ben who was filming with his action camera. During my journey, Jason Tan called out to me as he was driving towards Bentong. Hazel too was making her way there on a pick up truck! Eventually after passing a struggling Gilbert, I arrived there too, just 8 minutes under 4 hours.

I was pretty happy with myself at this stage as I ran all the way here without much issues. Rested a while here as I wasn't in a rush to make my way back. But a mistake I made was the amount of watermelons I had here. Too much and I had trouble restarting. But that was fine as my plan was to start my run walk strategy from here till the finish.

Suzie was here too as she handed me an ice cold assam popsicle before I restarted. Thank you Suzie! As I was enjoying it, I noticed a few lucky runners to receive the same too throwing the plastic wrapper away by the roadside. No names are going to be mentioned here at least for this entry but what I can disclose is one of them was my friend wearing a orange top. Shame on you! The race course isn't exactly clean with much rubbish along the way and by throwing even just a single energy gel wrapper or just even the tip make things worse! Runners were made to run with a hydration vest or even a belt, so if one is able to carry their snacks with them, it is no excuse that one can simply just hold on to it after consuming it while waiting for a rubbish bin to appear later. It's not a tough task.

Anyway, back to my return journey, I basically had to walk about 2KM before the watermelons settled in my tummy. By the time it did, I was only left with less than 3KM to arrive back at where Jason Thai was. More watermelons here (oops...) as I refilled my bottle with water as I needed it to splash myself with to keep my core temperature in control along the way later.

A super helpful supervisor, Jason Thai.

The weather was indeed warmer as more runners seek shelter below trees. But as the journey now is of an uphill direction, it works to my strength. All I had to do was to keep my heart rate and my core temperature in range. It was all about control and control I did as I made it back to where Kelvin and Kavien was in 5:24 hours. Sam Sam was there too helping out and what I didn't know that time was that she had already threw in her towel for the 50KM distance. Managed a quick laughter with them before I went on again.

The ascend to Janda Baik was next on the list and I managed my pace very well here powering up the hills with ease. During the journey, I managed to catch up with both Phand and Razif and managed a quick conversation with them before continuing on and arriving at the check point where Barkley was. Refilled my tumbler with water again, a sip of Root Beer and off I went for the final 5KM or so climb before the drop.

The next check point at Genting Sempah and I remember Hong Lan mentioned earlier that she will pass me can of ice cold coffee. That was certainly my motivation to get there. Despite a few walks in between my runs, I managed to pull ahead of Razif. But knowing he was strong at the descend, I know he will eventually catch up later.

Hills, hills and more hills as I literary grin as I made myself up. Nope, it wasn't steep and that was the reason I could still grin. Hahaha... Met lots of 50KM distance runners and suddenly, the race course became more crowded. Soon a concrete bridge came into view followed by a white structure and I knew what lies ahead. I am almost to the top and coffee awaits there.

6:42 hours was how long it took me to arrive back here, some 54KM into the race. Hong Lan quickly passed me the can of coffee as promised as I gulped it down instantly. It was refreshing indeed as I quickly continued on as the check point was really busy and I didn't want to hold Hong Lan up for too long too.

A 1KM steep climb was what stands next before the 15KM drop. Like the Polly Shortts of Comrades, I decided to walk the entire of it to conserve some leg strength and energy for the drop. Besides, it will be a good idea to let the coffee settle down in my tummy too. Arriving at the top, I was offered either a can of Red Bull or Livita by some prominent figure of some running "club", but had to decline. I had long stopped drinking those energy drinks for it's really bad for the body especially during intense exercise like these.

Successfully conquering the climbs, it was time for the final 15KM drop. I resume my run, saving at least "2 gears" to protect my legs. It was important that I did for it's a critical time now. And as expected, Razif caught up. He asked me to follow him which I did albeit only for a while as he was pushing the downhill. To follow him will be to fire my next "gear" and risk an injury. I had no intention to do so and hence, he disappeared slowly into the distance.

Took my time with my descend not only paying attention on my foot strike but also the traffic as it was getting busy along the winding road. the second last check point with 11KM to go till the finish soon appeared. Wai Hong was busy cutting the watermelons for we still had time for a little chat, particularly about the watch we are using, Suunto. I also took a little time to sit down as I spotted a chair before resuming.

The next sector to the final check point at the Indian temple can be considered a homestretch. Though the downhill wasn't very steep, I still had to be careful albeit I don't deny I went a little faster. As I approach one of the big corners near the telco tower, there were lots of people surrounding it with police. There was also the police line which indicated some sort of accident or crime that had happened. I didn't see anything and didn't want to be a nosy parker and hence carried on, only to find out later that a corpse was spotted at the ravine below. Yikes!

As the hills becomes more manageable, I also arrived at the final check point. That should be another 5KM or so till the finish. Took small sips of water and I continued on as I began emptying the bottles on my hydration pack to lighten my burden. I didn't run any faster though as I wanted to enjoy the final sector. And besides, traffic was really heavy as the finish nears.

Final 300M or so.

Happy to complete 70KM.

As the traffic got heavier, I knew I was getting nearer too. With the sights of cars being park by the roadside and with Tey snapping photos along the final straight, I finally saw the white tentage and some other buildings. I was "home" and with one final left turn into the field, I managed to complete the 70KM distance in a of 8:43:48 (nett time), a new best for me!

YES! A personal best!

My splits.

Collected my entitlements and hung around with my friends for a while before heading off to cheer for the other runners. As I begun feeling sleepy, I decided to leave at 4PM, the cut off time for the 50KM distance and that was before cheering the runners from my car. I could see the many faces of determination as the clock started ticking down for them. Most made it, while some did not. But most important, accept defeat gracefully and try again.

Another best for the Kinvara 7.

Overall, it was a very productive run and at the same time I really enjoyed the Route 68 Challenge. I managed to stick with my plan and held back for the entire course, thus managing to save the legs from any potential damage leading into the final month of training.. I felt good and strong throughout the entire run and the same too upon completing it, without having to limp or walk awkwardly the next few days. It was indeed a confident booster for me and I really felt I am ready for my big race soon.

Many thanks to Jeff and Jason Tan for a very successful second edition of Route 68 Challenge. And of course not forgetting to the team whether official or unofficial behind it from Alexa, Hazel, Hong Lan, Barkley, Seng Heng, Wai Hong, Kavien, Sam Sam, Kelvin, Maxon, Raymond, Jason Thai, Suzie, Maui, Tey and many others for helping out. Till the next edition!

My reward the next day. Main reward was a different kind though.

* All photos here credited to their respective photographers. Thank you.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Of 3 months, 10 years and 24 years...

By Frank

I made it through again! YES (*inserts fist pumps into the air), as once again, I successfully tackled March, the toughest third month of training leading up to Comrades Marathon and this time West Highland Way Race.

As usual, when I saw the training regime given, I will ask myself if it can be done? The distance that needs to be cover, the intensity to be put in, the time needed for it plus some other side training, all of it seems so difficult and even "painful" by just looking at it. But I know that it needs to be done and hence just hope that I will be able to follow it as close as possible and survive it. Besides, I can't be complaining as these are 2 races I am totally committed to.

March didn't start of very well though as my legs were pretty thrashed up from Gunung Nuang Ultra which took place on the last day of February. Talk about perfect timing! Walking straight seems to be a problem for 3 days and hence I could forget about a short recovery run. But when the soreness had subside, it was business as usual as I punished the tarmac and treadmill as per the regime given.

However, there was another problem. With the most from the Gold Coast training group participating in Powerman Putrajaya on the first weekend of the month, my first weekend long run of the month seem to be hanging on the balance. But with some planning, I still managed to run it before and during the event while still able to support my friends. Moving forward, with some of my friends laying off running from injury and also taking note that the Gold Coast training isn't suitable for me, I had to improvised. Weekend long runs were still long but they were at reduced intensity on flat routes, while weekday shorter runs became more intense with speed and hills incorporated into it. Flexibility is the key to a successful training regime and I am glad mine can be done this way. And with that, 415KM was covered for the month of March 2016 bringing the year's running mileage up to 1,113KM, the one thousand barrier broken in my personal record time. A successful third month of training reaping positive benefits from it.

Midway into March, while out on one of my runs, I realised that I've been running for 10 years. And that's 10 year's of injury free running! Time has passed swiftly from my first marathon till my ultra adventures today. And I am glad that this year will be my half decade's of Comrades Marathon and also my first West Highland Way Race, a race that will fill my bucket list to the max. I guess that explain the reasons I am feeling "tired' already from all this running.

And finally. March is always remembered as the month I was diagnosed of Rhabdomyosarcoma some 24 years ago. No, it's not something to celebrate, for it's nothing proud nor happy about it being diagnosed, treated or surviving it. Rather, it's a month of remembering on what this deadly disease can do to all living beings and also to those who have fought or affected by it.

For now, it's time to move on to the fourth month of training. Again the same old question of how am I going to survive this month? But am sure I will and by the month's end, it will be something to be rejoice. Onward to April!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016
Venue: Sengkang Riverside Park, Singapore
Date: 19 March 2016
Time: 7.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Ride 8
By Frank

In a blink of an eye, Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) is now into it's sixth year. A no frills looping based ultra running event by Ben and his team behind Running Guild, this is one event that I've never miss and it's one that I started running a year before Comrades too. Treating it as one my longest run in my Comrades training, the sad news is that I have never excelled in TUC due to sleep issues. Yeap, 5 years of trying and never really hit the 100KM mark. Maybe in this sixth edition I will, or will I?

The sixth edition of TUC sees a change of race site to Sengkang Riverside Park due to renovation works at the original site of East Coast Park. Certainly a welcome change after half a decade of running there. And besides, the new site's running path are built on the softer tarmac surface as per compared to concrete at East Coast Park. Certainly much more friendlier for the good old legs.

Unlike previous years, this time round I will be travelling alone to Singapore. With the Malaysian currency so weak, even staying at backpackers inn is pretty costly. Ian and Teck Sim did mentioned that I could always stay at their place whenever I am in Singapore but the problem is, I am not the type that simply likes to intrude into others privacy and personal time. However, I guess this time I needed their help and besides, I guess it will be nice to actually agree once. And so, I traveled down to Singapore on board First Coach from One Utama on Friday morning only to spend almost 2 hours at Singapore's immigration. For reason I do not know why, it was packed with people and the officers weren't very efficient that day. Took me almost 8 hours to arrive at Novena and it was almost time for dinner. And during the bus journey, my troublesome trapezius starting aching and it will proof to be a nuisance for days to come.

Ian and Teck Sim came and pick me up and straight away we went for an early dinner at Monniker located just next to Balestier Food Court. It was a nice little cozy restaurant and the people there were really friendly, and not to mention their awesome food. I needed some fat for the ultra next day so I ordered a pork dish call Porketta (not sure if it is spelled correctly) and a banana bread beer from the UK. Both were really good.

Delicious food at Monniker. Porketta on far right.

After a satisfying dinner, we returned to their place, IResidence which was nearby. Rested for a while before a quick dip at the warm jacuzzi and it's off for dessert next at United Square. A very rich durian sago dessert with pamelo was what I had. A little risky considering my sore throat due to overdose of chocolates 2 days ago, but it was just too tempting. After satisfying the stomach, it's back home to call it a night.

I've planned for a deep long sleep. However, that did not happen as the weather was pretty much hot and there were neighbours talking through the night which kept me awake in between sleeps. I woke up at 8.30AM and knew that the run later at night will be tough due to once again sleep issues. While going back to sleep will be tough, I cleaned myself up and joined both Ian and Teck Sim for breakfast at Balestier food court while waiting for time to pass. Back at their place later, I tried to catch a 2 hour nap which I do not know if I did, and eventually made my way to Novena for an early dinner at 4PM before catching up with colleagues from Singapore.

Found myself back at Ian's place at 5PM and proceeded to freshen myself up. He was back by 6PM and we were then off to Sengkang which is about 20 minutes drive away. Collected my race number and saw many familiar faces in the process from Ben, Yee Hua, Roy, Si Main, Kim Lai, Eu Gene, Barkley, Hong Chew, Kim Song, Karl and many more. Was certainly nice to be seeing them again. Weather though was hot, was in fact greeted by a much welcome light breeze.

Bibs Third, Second and First!

At 7PM, the sixth edition of TUC was flagged off with Ben, the event director leading the way. Although I knew the surface was of tarmac, I chose the Saucony Ride 8 as my shoe of choice. Though a tad heavier than my everyday Kinvara, it offers much more cushioning, something I needed a little after a very intense and heavy workout last week. And instantly, I can feel my legs being protected already as I try to settle my rhythm in.

Off we go at 7PM!

The run which is of 2.5KM along the canal or was it reservoir at the Sengkang Riverside Park was part of the Craze Ultra 100 Miles route and all the memories or rather nightmare came flashing back. At the far end where the u-turn point was, Yek Bun was leading the team there. A run back to the start will complete the 5KM loop. As simple as that over the next 16 hours and I planned to have small intakes of watermelon and water at the end of each turn to keep me going, filled and hydrated.

I was struggling with my sore left trapezius at the start. I can hardly turn my head and hence not able to reply to anyone calling me from behind or the side. The pain had actually ease a little compared earlier but it was still uncomfortable to be running with it with the constant pounding of the muscles. At that point of time, I was just hoping that my pain tolerance will take me through the distance or the pain will continue to subside. And moving forward after completing 20KM equaling to 4 loops, the pain started to subside a little. And although it was a little breezy especially towards the first half, humidity was actually on the high side.

I had my first cup of black coffee courtesy of LiveCoffee who is on site to serve the runners. Operated as a complimentary beverage for the runners by a a group of coffee lovers, their coffee was actually very good, and not to mention strong. I told myself to "recharge" with a  cuppa after completing every 4 loops and this was certainly a motivational push.


As the pain on my left trapzeius continues to subside, run and walks with friends like Karl and Rozman at certain stretches did help to cope with the time and distance. I continue to push using landmarks like the flyovers to guide me. Running from flyovers to flyovers ranging around a Kilometer in distance did help with managing my leg strength as it gave ample time for them to recover before resuming my runs.

Lonely in the dark.

40KM covered in slightly more than 5 hours and already pass midnight, it was time for my second cup of coffee. The legs were hurting but it wasn't as thrashed up compared to the old venue at East Coast Park. I do not know if its the surface, the shoe of the legs being stronger but I certainly hope it was the latter.

With the second dose of the much needed caffeine, I continued on. Nothing much happened for the next 4 loops except for me going slower and slower. Hahaha... But I did meet up with Samantha who recognized me from my Putrajaya 100 blog last year. We chatted while running behind Hong Chew, Yee Hua and Kim Song, and it was great to be sharing with her some of my run experiences.

Was looking forward to my next cup of coffee after completing 60KM as the critical part for me is from 3AM to 5AM, the time when the body is the weakest and when sleepiness starts to set in. And upon completing 60KM at about 4AM, I met Gary at the race venue and share with me on his daughter's story of fighting osteosarcoma. I would really like to hear a happier version but sadly, she lost her battle. But nevertheless, I was glad that Gary accepted the fact and that life goes on and believes that cancer treatment, research and treatment is going the positive way.

Before pushing off for my next loop for 65KM, Ian arrived just in time too with my much needed early breakfast. I didn't know what I wanted when he asked earlier, but I did mentioned that perhaps a roti prata (canai) will be nice. And that was exactly the food I had in my mind when I was out on the run. Sat down and chatted away with him while having the actually pretty delicious prata with hot coffee. That gave my legs a little time to recover too.

With the breakfast settled down in my happy tummy, I push forward. And surprisingly, I managed to complete the next loop without stopping with quite an healthy pace too. The prata had worked it's magic, well at least for this loop. A short while after starting my next loop, there was an urge to visit the potty. I was already almost a Kilometer away from the starting point and hence to decided to "nurse" myself all the way to the other end. Runners who passed me tried to pull me along but I didn't want to risk running with that urge in me just in case of an unwanted "explosion".

Eventually, I got to the u-turn point and made my deposit in the small but clean potty. Took me a while but what had to be release, just got to be release. But in the process, I think I strain or pulled one of my ankle muscles. It became a little stiff and even walking feels a little painful. However, I still caught up with Hong Chew and Kim Song just before completing our 70KM together.

I was tempted to stop after completing 70KM as I knew I have broken into the 1,000KM distance milestone for this year's training. In all my Comrades training across the years, this was my shortest time that I got to here and indeed it was a personal achievement. But the show had to go on and I continued with Hong Chew, Kim Song and Kelvin with the sun now shining bright.

The pain on my right ankle become more irritating upon completing 75KM but the 4 of us decided that we shall make it 80KM before deciding to call it a day. We walked and ran together using lamp post as indicators and after 12:59:44 hours, 80KM was completed by my dear legs. And together with Hong Chew, we decided to stop here, with Kim Song and Kelvin still going for it.

I was a little disappointed that once again I could not hit the century distance after 6 attempts. Despite still with 3 hours to go to hit that desired distance, I just didn't want to risk any injuries on my right ankle. Just worry something might snap in there. Nevertheless, this was my fastest time with this distance in TUC and it's certainly a positive sign.

Ian and Teck Sim came just before the closing of the event as we cheered the remaining runners on. We left soon after everyone completed their run and headed back. A refreshing shower before resting up a little and then it's off to Novena for lunch and for my coach back home at 3PM. The journey home was once again like the journey into Singapore 3 days ago. Immigration was really slow with 4 ladies cutting into my queue despite being told off. But luckily, traffic was smooth and by 10PM, I arrived safely at One Utama with dad picking me up from there.

Overall, I enjoyed once again the Twilight Ultra Challenge, now into its sixth year. With the introduction of Sengkang Riverside Park, it adds a new dimension and challenge to this event. Besides, my legs didn't feel so thrashed up compared to be running at East Coast Park. I could still walk properly after the event. The only downside, no proper toilet and shower area, despite the community centre nearby.

Thanks Ben, Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun, Tee Li and the team at Running Guild for yet another successful edition Twilight Ultra Challenge. Ant not forgetting to the friendly people behind LiveCoffee for being there through the night serving the runners great coffee which kept us going and going. I had 4 cups and I could drink more actually cause it's just so good. And to the rest of the runners, it was really nice to have catch up and befriended some of you. And finally, to my host Ian and Teck Sim for your awesome hospitality. I didn't expect all that is provided and now I owe you both a Porketta and a bottle of banana bread beer! Till the next edition!

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saucony Kinvara 7...

By Frank

My to go road shoe, the Saucony Kinvara which I have been relying since the third generation till the sixth has been serving me very well from short distances up till 161KM to multi stages event, in my training and also races. It has been the shoe that had allowed me to run from strength to strength at the Comrades Marathon and I believe it will continue to do so. I really like the fact that Saucony only gave the Kinvaras some minor tweaks and changes for the past sixth generations with the third and fifth being the biggest overhaul but yet still maintaining its DNA. That's a good thing for me, but I guess to meet market demands in the very challenging running shoes sector now, Saucony needed to up their game and take the risk and challenges in making the Kinvara an even better shoe, or risk a downfall for one of their most successful model.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara 7 (K7).

The Saucony Kinvara 7.

I was lucky enough to be part of the test team for the yet to be launch K7 back in September 2015. First in Malaysia to receive the shoe, I had my big plans back then to run my Comrades qualifier with it after just a few runs in them. The reason was simple, the shoe is awesome!

Lateral view of the Kinvara 7.

Medial view of the Kinvara 7.

While most of the K7 upper looks pretty much the same to the naked eye, one will notice the big change when they look closer and feel the "foam" texture on the lateral heel and also by turning the shoe upside down paying attention to the outsole. The big overhaul are there!

Same but not same? Kinvara 7 on the left vs. Kinvara 6 on the right.

So let's start with the outsole. From triangular pods at the forefoot section that acted like trampolines in the previous generations of the Kinvaras, the K7 now see a design call Tri-Flex reinforced with XT900 carbon rubber for extra durability. It basically are flex grooves designed like some jagged arrows in allowing for more flex. And according to Saucony, this new design will also allow more impact absorption but yet still providing one of the industries highest rebound rate when worked together with it's new midsole material which I will explain shortly. Honestly speaking, I wasn't really convince on it upon first seeing it back at the trade show in June 2015 as it I felt traction will be compromise. However, my runs in them had proved me wrong. Not only the shoe feels more lively with a slight increase in flex, it's actually more tacky too. Traction has been improved, most noticeable on smooth pavements such as cements and those red inter-lockable bricks.

New Tri-Flex outsole.

Next, the main highlight of the K7, the midsole material. Gone is PowerGrid which had been the driving force since the 4th generation. Introducing EVERUN, a foam like TPU material which is not only more durable, but more efficient in absorbing impact but yet at the same time, lively in giving back with up to 83% of rebound rate from the impact it absorb. However unlike the plushier models such as the Hurricane ISO 2, Triumph ISO 2 and Guide 9 which gets a full length EVERUN midsole insert coupled with a EVERUN topsole, the K7 only gets its insert on the heel. This according to Saucony is to give the K7 a fast feel without being over plush. To me, it does make sense. And the rest of the midsole material are made out of Saucony's SSL (Saucony SuperLite) EVA rubber, the same as its predecessors.

Different setup of the EVERUN insert across its models. 
Kinvara 7 setup shown on the lower far right which is the same setup as the new Peregrine 6 in the heel.

"Foam" like texture on the heel indicating where the new EVERUN material is. 
It's hidden inside though.

Now moving to the upper. Again, first time impression upon seeing the K7's upper was not exactly promising.  It gets a new open mesh looks which looks rather weak. It looked pretty much from the good old days of the Triumph and Hurricane series which has toes busting out from the top and side. However, upon a closer inspection, it actually has the quality from the same mesh of the Triumph ISO. And together with FlexFilm, a light weight synthetic film that replaces stitches and to give the shoe some lock down and structure, the K7's upper is indeed a different class from its predecessors.

Close up on the new open mesh.
Yellow and Green pair are Kinvara 7. Grey is of another shoe.

The mid foot locking mechanism call Pro-Lock which was introduced back in Kinvara 5 sees a slight upgrade. It doesn't look like much of it but it does feels shorter especially from the forefoot point of view. This means less irritation with the correct wrap location around the mid foot area. And for the collar, the moderately padded RunDry collar has been retained to soak up and wick away moisture such as sweat flowing down from the shin and calves.


The RunDry collar.

So with all the mumbo jumbo technical aspects of the shoe explained, the most important question right now will be its ride. The initial testing phase was primarily all done at the dirt road at the Old Deeside Way at Aberdeen, Scotland during the end of autumn and I must say that the first few ride was rather firm. It was firm enough for me to be comparing it with the Type A6. However, after covering about 50KM in it, the shoe felt ready. With the shoe broken in especially the EVERUN TPU foam at the heel, the cushioning of the K7 felt like no other and it was noticeable different from its predecessors, for a good reason. Good protection for heel strikers but yet still bouncy, that is what the EVERUN is all about I guess.

The toe box built with the new upper mesh was roomy and stretchy, even better than the fifth and sixth generations I must say which was already very good. The only downside, it was hard to clean especially when you have dirt and mud sticking to it as I was running on the dirt road of the Old Deeside Way which is always affected by the typical wet Scottish weather.

Dirt on the yellow Kinvara 7's mesh is tougher to clean compared to its predecessor.

The lock down of the shoe provided by the Pro-Lock felt a bit more comfortable compared to the sixth which I had some issues during my fourth Comrades Marathon. On the K7, I did not feel any rubbing at all and it's double thumbs up for this for it felt much more like the setup on the K5. If I had one complain for the K7, it will be the collar which I felt it was built a little too high. My ankle ball was rubbing on it a little, a sensation that I do not feel on previous generations except the K3. I managed to minimise the sensation by wearing mini crew socks though. Oh and yes, the laces on the K7 remains the same as its predecessor which comes undone easily. I can't seem to understand on why Saucony can't change them to flat elastic laces found on their other models. Sigh...

My ultimate test was done at my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul Marathon last year. The K7 performed so well that I ran my second career best marathon time with it and hence the shoe easily gets a 5 star rating from me! And today, at time of writing this, my K7 has covered approximately 350KM and durability is definitely holding up. Overall, I felt the K7 will show its full potential at fast pace while still providing enough protection at slower pace and hence, my second pair will take on this year's Comrades!

Kinvara 6 (400KM) vs. Kinvara 7 (350KM) wear and tear.

With all these upgrades, the K7 still remains at it's legendary light weight of 218 Grams offering at the same stack height of 22MM at the heel and 18MM at the forefoot, a sweet 4MM off set. That's the same over 7 generations of Kinvaras. And the Kinvara series has gone from strength to strength as I continue to improve on my runs at the same time. So by overhauling an already great shoe, is this gamble worth it from Saucony? I bet it is and I am already very excited to see how much the Kinvara can still be evolve into. Amazing work there Saucony.

The Saucony Kinvara 7 will retail at a recommended selling price of RM429.00 and will be available nationwide at Running Lab - Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets this April 2016 in 3 colourways for the men and 2 for the ladies. Like Max ad Miles from Saucony says, "You should get your feet on this stuff!".

This pair of the Saucony Kinvara 7 is kindly provided by RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the authorised distributor of Saucony in Malaysia for test and review purposes and all opinion are based solely on personal takes.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date: 28 February 2016
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Nomad TR
By Frank

My third event of the year and one that I look forward to as it was my second visit to Gunung Nuang. Yes, I did not visit this place since the event last year as it was just too far and it requires time to cover the trails there. The Gunung Nuang Ultra in a 10KM looping format fits the bill for my West Highland Way Race training for it covers most trail aspect of it in a controlled environment. Besides, it will also contribute to my Comrades training too in building stronger legs for the second half downhill segment of the race.

I did 60KM last year and hence had the intention of going for 70KM this year. However, a gentle reminder from coach  a few days before the event reminding me not to go beyond 60KM prevented me from doing so. Had to hold back since I believe his advice was the best for me.

With 269 registered participants this year, I had to make my way to Gunung Nuang pretty early for fears on insufficient parking lots. I was up at 2AM only managing a couple hours of sleep in between, and eventually left home at 4.15AM after settling all my necessary. Was a smooth and easy drive there with a slight detour to a convenience store for coffee and light snack. Arrived an hour later and was surprised that cars were already parked outside. I managed to find a spot not too far from the entrance and rested in there for a while, while munching on my second breakfast. And when all is done, it's a visit to the "secret" toilet.

Hung around the food and refreshment area while preparing my gear and soon realised that I forgot to bring along my heart rate strap. I brought along the transmitter though. Nothing much I can do now hence no heart rate reading for this race. I also chose the Saucony Nomad TR this time as I wanted to give this model a shot at Gunung Nuang after running in the Peregrine last year. And next, I opt for a hydration backpack this time instead of belt. Not a very good decision as a recurrence upper back problem came haunting me a few days ago. And since no trekking poles are allowed for West Highland Way Race, I did not bring them along this time. Not the best of decisions, but I went ahead with it for the sake of preparing myself for my long race in June.

I started second row from the front this time hoping not to get stuck among the crowd of runners after learning from last year. Along side Keng Koon and Yew Khuay, 240 runners were were flagged off at 6.30AM sharp. With an open road ahead, I had the opportunity to go at my desire pace, but of course with my headlamp turned on at brightest settings as it was pitch dark. The first Kilometer was on cement paved surface which I slowly made my way up. And when the trails appeared, I was like Bailey (my dog) set loose enjoying every step and incline of it with my focus on footing, making sure I don't slip or misstep. Everything went well on my first ascent as I arrived at the turning point of 5KM successfully in about 36 minutes before making my first descent down.

Still in darkness, I had to navigate the downhill with extra care. Besides, I am now running against the runners who are making their way up and the last thing I want is to knock into them. The glare from our headlamps makes things tricky but one can just be more courteous and alerted in minimising any mishap, unlike "Mr Football coach" who tailgated me closely and dangerously from behind. He can actually just slow down a little to wait for an opportunity to pass or at least let me know if he is passing through from the left or right. I eventually told him to move forward when I felt it was too dangerous.

I arrived at the foot hill completing my first loop in 68 minutes when the sun has slowly creep out from the horizon. I quickly kept my headlamp into my baggage and grab a cup of water before resuming on my second loop.

Nomad TR for Nuang!

Was still feeling good for my second loop and I intend to make goof use of this opportunity before slowing down at my next. Making use of my preference and strength of climbing, I made my second ascent slightly faster this time as the trails were clearly lighted by the sun now. However, half way down, I spotted a fellow participant sitting on the ground with his hand clutching on his right calf. Asked if he suffered a cramp and he replied he was before I stopped to give some assistance. Helped him stretch and also perform some light massage, and after a short rest and few chats to keep his mind away from the pain, I helped him up and he was ready to go again as I continue my way down.

Blazing down.

Nothing eventful happened as I completed my second loop. Took a slightly longer break compared to my first before continuing on. And as planned, my third will be a run walk strategy as I did not want to strain those leg muscles. Besides, my swollen upper back is feeling sore already.

My time was getting slower but that's nothing to worry about. I just have to practice to overcome the fatigue and also walking skills especially in these types of trails. While my third was completed without stopping, my fourth included a few stops during my ascent. There were a few huts along the way up and I targeted them as my reward of reaching there. Took a short breather at almost each of them while taking off my backpack to ease my swollen back and was glad nothing eventful happened during the course of my fourth.

One tough climb.

A longer rest before going on my fifth. Took in more fruits and water but not the lunch pack of chicken rice before continuing with Keng Koon who was on his fourth. And almost a Kilometer up on the ascent, we both spotted Kok Peng sitting at the side with Josephine with him. Apparently both his legs were cramping. Stopped to help which initially I thought it was his calf and hence performed the wrong stretch on him until I realised it was his quads instead! I slowly ease away without informing him though fearing he may panic but eventually, he recovered and asked us to continue on. We did after seeing him in a much better state.

With Keng Koon.

I eventually sped up leaving Keng Koon behind without noticing. I stood with my target of aiming at the huts and taking a short breather there. Though there were some light breeze blowing through the trees, the weather was really hot. But with each step slowly at a time, I managed to find my way to the turning point before making my way down where I met Hong Lan with Soon Chung who were going up. I also met Josephine and Kok Peng at one of the huts and was glad that he was all right.

About 1.5KM from the foot of the hill, came Yew Khuay from behind and we both ran together (and walk) together completing our fifth loop hand in hand. Though with much time left on the clock, he decided to call it a day due to lack of training. Didn't want to pull him along as I respected his decision as I rested my longest before continuing on for my final sixth loop.

Everything went as per normal towards my ascent to the turning point with a couple of short stops in between at the huts. I started running slowly running downwards to cover as much as ground in the shortest time possible as also to make full use of this time to practice my footing. Also had a some time chatting with Kelvin and Afiq. However, the biggest drama came at 1.5KM from the foot of the hill when I notice Chor Guan laying down at the hut there. Went to see if he is all right and found out that he was cramping on both legs. He also had already lost some "senses" and couldn't control himself. I asked a few runners still running if they had electrolytes with them and managed to find 2 packs of them. Gave Chor Guan a pack while helping stretch and massage his legs, particularly his right one. Still not coming to his senses, he asked for an ambulance. With 2 casual runners with him, I continued on my way down to complete my run and also to deliver the message to Jeff.

Eventually, I arrived at the bottom and managed to complete 60KM in 10:15:04 hours, my target distance achieved. Marginally, there should be enough time to do another loop as my evil side tried to conquer me. But I stood firm to my training plan and also in respect to coach and stopped here. Went over to Jeff and told him about Chor Guan and the decision is to let him rest there for a while. The pack of electrolytes should have taken effect by now and he should be on his way down soon, which I hope.

My splits.

I hung around the area resting and catching up with the rest of the runners while taking in some light snacks and drinks to recover. Chor Guan returned shortly and I was glad that he was all right. Same goes to Kok Peng too. There was a sense of accomplishment as not only I managed to shave 45 minutes off from last year's time an completed in position 20 out of 240, but also to help 3 runners in need during the course of the race. That should the beauty of running especially in ultra distances. It's not about time but rather the camaraderie among the runners.

Mission accomplished.

Credits to Jeff for once again successfully organising the fourth edition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra. Indeed a painful race but one that I once again look forward to next year. And thanks to Wai Hong, Kelvin, Maxon, Si Main, Roy, Soon Chung, Sam Sam, Kavien, Renee and the rest of the volunteers for helping out. And to the runners I had the opportunity to meet and run together with like Hong Lan, Cikgu Syed, Yew Khuay, Afiq, Keng Koon and many more, it was a pleasure.

And lastly, not forgetting Chang too for the refreshing finisher's ice cream!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A Tough Second...

By Frank

The second month of the year is usually tough in training due to the shorter month and also Chinese New Year celebration. But this year, it was made even tougher due to an unexpected accident involving everyone in the family.

I carried the training momentum from January into the second month of training and continued to build upon it. It started well and everything went as plan as I began interval and time trial training. Then came Chinese New Year on the second week of the month. What was supposed to be a rest day soon became disastrous when mum was attacked by a stray dog while bringing Bailey, my family dog out for a walk. Mum suffered multiple bites which needed 21 stitches on both her palm and one cut on her left eyebrow, while Bailey suffered 2 puncture wounds himself. I am not going into details of what happened for this is something personal for me, but all I can say is that it drained everything out of me from physical to mental strength. But all in all, I am glad both of them are safe and all right.

Training almost got derailed from the above. But I guess it must have been a hurdle or task set out against me, to test me out. I knew I wanted to complete both Comrades Marathon and West Highland Way Race in about 3 months time badly and so I dug dig, stay calmed and find time to fit in my training regime. Slowly and surely, all the pieces came back and by the the third week when both mum and Bailey had recovered, everything was on track again despite feeling a little tired.

However, a quick recovery with more eat and sleep followed by some active recovery did the trick and by the start of the fourth week, I was feeling energised again. And by then, I was feeling ready to tackle my third event of the year, the Gunung Nuang Ultra which went pretty well as planned.

All in all, after a difficult February and against all odds, I've still managed to hit my training target by covering a total of 352KM. Though the running distance is covered, what I lack this month was strength training as I lifted less weights. I hope it will be better in March as fitness, motivation and confidence is high now. However, with the high volume of training required the next month, I will need to seek the assistance of my friends to help me journey through it. It's not call Hell March for nothing!

Monday, February 01, 2016

A Positive Start...

By Frank

The start of the new year will always mean one thing, the restart of my training. It's not a regime I look forward to, but rather a regime that needs to be done as the big races slowly approaches. Yes, I used the word races (plural) as there are 2 important ones for me which I've mentioned in my earlier blog, the Comrades Marathon and also the West Highland Way Race. And with the first month now behind, as usual, here comes my first report card of the year.

Although I have the momentum swinging in from last year, I started the year from square one following closely to the training regime provided. With increased running distance compared to last year that needs to be covered together with weight and resistance training, I already knew that it would be tough. But the good thing is, the regime is flexible and that was the key to success. And with the Watergate 16 Hours and Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon, it made the task a little easier.

I also knew that I've "crazy" friends who will embark on my journey with me. And during this month, I was introduced to the FRIM's (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) 10 hills run, a very good workout.

The only downside was work which in a way almost jeopardized from top to bottom . Am not particular happy with my management down south as lots of empty promises were given. And not only that, communication was really bad especially from the HR department that not only angers me but also messes up my training regime. A staff exchange was done and lots of information wasn't given prior to that which not only caused confusion for my staff here but also increases the stress level. I foresee the handover will not be a smooth one, but honestly, I don't really care.

Anyhow, I still made it through the first month with 346KM running distance covered which also includes some other form of training as mentioned above. All in all, there were definitely some positive results as I felt better and more confident as each day passes. Indeed a positive start to this year's training as I now look forward to the second month.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2016...

Event: Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2016
Venue: Persiaran Flora, Cyberjaya
Date: 24 January 2016
Time: 4.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (42.19KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

It wasn't my intention nor I have the interest to run the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon as it was located pretty far away from where I stay. But when my participation at the Istanbul Marathon last year came into jeopardy due to the Lufthansa cabin crew strike, I in a frenzy mode went in search for a local marathon to be used as my Comrades qualifier. And quickly enough, I found this and signed up without any hesitation. But when my flight was resolved and I managed a good run at Istanbul, I had a little regret signing up for Twincity. But nevertheless, DNS (Did Not Start) was not an option as I was well and besides, I needed the training.

View of Cyberjaya from my room.

The organisers collaborated with Tune Hotels Cyberjaya to have a special rate for runners. Thinking it wasn't feasible for me to drive all the way there to collect my race pack and then driving home before returning back there the next morning, I opt for a night there paying only RM90. Pretty good deal I will say. And thus, I made my way there about 1PM on Saturday and met up with Soon Chung who help collect my race pack before I check into my room. Then it was a quick lunch with Zijill before I return to the room to rest for a while. And did I mention that the hotel bed was comfy, and I had the whole queen size bed for myself! I did sneak out to the supermarket below for a bottle of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice though as that was what I had the night before Istanbul Marathon. Maybe it will work some magic again.

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

Rested till 7PM before Soon Chung return and check into his own room which was just opposite mine. Had a simple dinner at Sushi Zanmai opting for cooked food rather than sashimi or anything raw to be safe. Chatted away till about 9.30PM before we returned to our room to call it a night. But before that, I caught the Liverpool game with Norwich which was nerve wrecking match. Liverpool won with a score of 4-5, with the winning goal coming at the final extra minute! Remind me again not to watch a football game before running a marathon!

With the starting venue just a few hundred of meters away from the hotel, I woke up 1.5 hours before the start at 2.30AM. And I had more than enough time to prepare myself though the usual ritual didn't go very smooth. As the hotel room didn't come equip with a boiler and cups, breakfast was light with only a Gardenia waffle, Twiggies and a can of coffee.

Left the hotel with Soon Chung at 3.30AM and proceeded to the start point. It was already packed with full marathon runners which  was about close to 2,000 runners I think. Met some familiar faces as we lined at the rear of the pack. Chatted away and with all out of a sudden, we heard the gun went off signalling the start at 4AM sharp! Before I start writing further, I should inform that since I am not familiar with the surroundings of Cyberjaya, I can only tell the story of my run through the Kilometers.

Both mine and Soon Chung's target was a simple and easy one, to run the distance at close to 5 hours. As my upper body was still a little sore from the weekday's gym workout, I opt to pass on my hydration backpack which most of you will have seen me wearing during training and my pass 2 races.  But, I remembered to bring along the #FTT bib which I had it on the other side on my waist. The weather was surprisingly good probably due to the rain yesterday although humidity was a little on the high side. And with this, I managed to keep my heart rate in control and cruise at an average comfy pace of about 6.40 minutes per Kilometer.

The first sector was to run around the central district of Cyberjaya's business hub. Was a little pack but enough to navigate through the runners. But this allows us to mingle with some friends like Kevin, Malcalm, Tick Hock and Mohan before I eventually took off near the Cyberview Lodge approaching the Perdana View Lakeside. It was about 12KM here before I needed my pee break and kudos to the organiser for preparing 2 mobile toilets at most of the water stations. Oh and yes, before I forget, most water stations were equipped with generous amount of mineral water and also the newly launched Lucozade Sport which is locally produced. Way off the UK version in my opinion!

I continued on into some highway and was asked to run along the motorcycle lane. A good safety measure for runners. With Soon Chung no longer with me, I was running together with some strangers. Certain stretches of the motorcycle lane was pretty dark but was lucky the road was mostly in good conditions. We had to run through 2 underpass which was lit up by candles. The candles looks awesome if you ask me, but should anyone accidentally farted in the underpass, there could be a minor explosion though. Hahaha...

The second underpass was the first u-turn too which brought me up some elevated flyover which I could see Soon Chung making his way to the underpass. He was not far behind and I thought I can slow my pace a bit for him to catch up so we could run together. However, after a little thinking, I decided to stick my own pace for I am sure the young lad will manage to catch up at the later stage.

A familiar sight as we ran towards Taman Cabaran though we didn't really got there. But it was good to revisit this place again for it's part of the route for the Putrajaya 100. Things got interesting upon arriving at the halfway point in 2.14 hours. I might be able to do a 4.30 hours marathon should I am able to maintain and up my pace a little. It wasn't a target but rather a bonus for me. I can even put in some fartlek training here too which will be especially useful for my upcoming long race. However, I stood with my current pace and will only decide later.

Exiting the Taman Cabaran stretch, I saw Soon Chung on the opposite side and he had already close up the gap.It was a matter of time before he catches up as I stop for my first cup of Cola. Refreshing as I needed some caffeine since it was morning. Hehe...

Into another highway and when out of a sudden, Soon Chung came passing by as we were joined together with the half marathon runners. Told him to carry on with his blistering pace as I wanted to stand by my plan. I passed Eddy and Afiq who was pacing the half marathon runners for a 2.45 hours finish. Well done to them especially Eddy for he improved a lot since I first knew him almost a year back.

The first sight of sun rise soon came as I felt stronger. Maybe it was time my body began to wake up from sleep or maybe the Cola earlier has started to take effect. I caught up with Soon Chung at a climb as my "solar panel" started to generate some energy from the sun. I up my pace a little to see how my legs will feel and surprisingly, there were fine. Tired and sore yes, but working well.

At about 32KM. it was time to make my decision. I think it was realistic to complete the run in 4.30 hours. I looked back to see where Soon Chung was. He was not far and thus decided to wait up while reducing my pace. And once he did, I asked him if he could push towards the finish together as I felt really good here. His reply was straight forward as his legs were a little tired from last weekend's Hong Kong marathon and thus asking me to go ahead. Not wanting to force him, I went ahead myself as I up my pace till arriving at the water station at about 33KM where roti canai was served! I spotted Razif finishing his meal there as I grabbed a slice.I was hungry but didn't want to eat too much. Although I would love a hot cup of coffee too, I skipped it as it was mix with milk and did't want to risk a tummy explosion. I continued with Razif as we walked and chatted away before resuming our run.

I eventually left Razif when my pace pick up again. Was merged back again with the half marathoners and I think the 12KM runners too. But was lucky it didn't clog up the running path as the roads were wide enough to cater for everyone. The only thing I misses was the water station serving the ice cream!

And at the final 5KM, full marathon runners were diverted off to another section. I looked at my watch and knew I was still on time though only at the border. Probably lost some time munching the roti canai earlier. But it was of none important to me. Stood with my pace and carried till the home stretch where I caught up with Azlan before the turn into the final 200M stretch. I didn't sprint to the finish but kept my cool and pace and eventually cross the finish gantry with a time of 4:28:45 (4.30.00 gun time). Made it on the spot for the gun time and I was really delighted though not according to my original plan.

Overall, I was really happy with my run. Yes, it was obvious that I competed my run faster than I would like to, but the more important aspect from my personal view is that I stood with my plan till the final 10KM before going for it. I guess being flexible based on my condition was a good idea to add some variety of running pace into my races. There was some improvements compared to my last 2 events as I continue to train and improve towards both my big races 4 months later. And yes, after completing the Twincity Marathon, I suddenly did not regret signing up for it. Instead, I thought that this event may be a good Comrades qualifier next. It's a mild undulating but fast course with a spot on distance! And not forgetting, plenty of food and hydration along the way with the just right amount of runners. Though I heard of some cases like pacers getting misled and some runners cheating, I must say the organisers did a pretty fine job, at least from my own personal experience. My word to them is to continue from where you left off here, study and learn from the mistakes and may the third edition next year be a better one.

To close up this entry and for all the good effort and happy moments, everything crumbled during my walk back to the hotel as I was disgusted by a particular person. I can't remember his name but he was one of the Penang Bridge Marathon pacer back in year 2012, and if not mistaken a 5 hours or maybe 5.5 hours one. He asked about my run and upon sharing my time with him, I was disgusted when he mentioned about my slow time. With all due respect, you do not know me that well, nor do I know you that well either. I don't even know your name! And knowing runners, we all have our good and bad days, an important race and a so not important race. For me, this is my training run and I do know myself when to push or when not to push, when to perform, and when not to perform. As mentioned in my last Watergate 16 Hours report, all my races till Comrades this year will be as training and a "sacrificial" one. So kindly watch your mouth and do respect not only me, but other runners too. And finally for one more time, be glad I do not know your name!

* Found out later in the evening that one of a Sarcoma patient, Tee Chin Long passed away after the cancer spread to his lungs. :(