Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Fourth Comrades...

By Frank

Leaving in a less than half a day's time, 2AM later on board an Emirates flight to Dubai for transit before off to Durban to be precise, this will be my fifth and final report card on my build-up to my fourth Comrades Marathon, which is also the 90th edition in history happening this Sunday on 31 May 2015. After 3 years of experience and with this year's training of 1,618KM log by my beloved legs through about 180 plus odd hours from the beginning of the year till today, I guess I got no choice but to say I am ready for the challenge once again. At least the mind games in terms of training mileage will certainly be helpful.

Besides myself and Chee Kong going for our fourth, this year will also see some of my friends gunning for their back to back. Selva, Shanaz, Dr.Jagjit and Kai Yuan will be 4 of them. Besides, 2 novices from Malaysia, Zijill and Dr. Yani will join in the ranks too.

My journey to my fourth Comrades.

Training this year despite the usual time consuming and tiring process has been everything smooth sailing except for a bee sting back in April. And as per previous years, training for the Comrades Marathon though involves mostly running, does include weight and resistance training too, well at least for me but not exactly too hardcore on it.  A look back in training where it all started in January which normally is the easy month of base building. However, with the fitness and momentum gained from the end of last year, I pushed forward and tackled my first 100KM trail at the Hong Kong 100 as part of my "Bucket List To Do" and also training. Despite suffering from migraine mid way through the race, I nevertheless completed it without any further mishaps nor injury and carried on training for the month easy. And in that, January gave me 300KM worth of running. Off to a good start!

February came later where the shorter and also festive month poses a challenge. WIth Chee Kong back for Chinese New Year, some runs with him helps to keep the momentum going. And is also that this month started the speed training which involves interval, time trial, fartlek and also hill training which made me starting to hate every Tuesday of the week! But all in all, the target of the month was achieved with 260KM ran.

March otherwise known as "Hell March" is where the mileage increased. As like previous years, my highest distance will come from this month and with Gunung Nuang Ultra at the beginning of the month and Twilight Ultra Challenge at the end, it made things easier. 2 long runs sandwiching my other forms of training in between is certainly working for me this time and that gave me 453KM worth of running. And its also beginning this month that I joined up with Zijill who will be running her first Comrades in training together. We supported and back each other through the tough times on the road on Saturdays and Sundays, and I was really amazed on her performance. She will be one of the novice runner to watch out for this month end. We also got the Gold Coast Malaysia training group to assist us in training. With Jamie, Nick, Choon Yuen, Julia, Kew and few other new faces, it made the training more fun.

April saw me continuing my momentum from last month. And knowing that I've fallen sick in this month the previous years, I took extra precautions this time. I continued to work on speed on the weekdays and long runs on the weekend before ending the month with the Bukit Larut 26KM run to train for hills, in conjunction with my final long run too. And with that, the hard training was done with 328KM covered this month.

My life in words.

And quickly enough, May came. After all the hard work, this month can be pretty frustrating due to tapering. The urge to run but the need to slow down to recover was what was required for this month. And this month was a little stretched as I was launching my biography in conjunction with this year's Be Frank campaign. And not only that, as usual some people down in head office just do not understand the the term staff welfare! But in all, I made it through together the usual suspects with Zijill and the Gold Coast group, and I rounded up my training yesterday with an easy run. But of course there will be a couple of very easy runs more at Durban before race day just to keep the legs fresh.

Live tracking for Comrades runners.

This is also my second year under the guidance of a coach. And for the first time too, this year's Comrades is trained using the MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) or more commonly known as the Maffetone method. Besides, I was partially following the Low Carbs High Fat diet rules, where one of the most important element I followed was the massive reduction of sugar and lactose from my diet. And judging from the work done and also effort, and the "Up' run being my stronger direction, it looks pretty sure that I will excel in this year's race. However, I shall just remain realistic as anything can happen on race day. Anything from body condition to weather will have an effect on the overall results. Besides, due to road works, there will be an extra 877M to this year's route totaling to 87.72KM in total distance making it one of the longest "Up' run in Comrades history. The bar is raised pretty high for me but I will be happy to just better my time. And whether will the body be able to take the punishment will be a totally different story.

The list is long but I sincerely would like to thank those who have played a part in my buildup this year whether in support, donations and also the long training together. The pain, sweat, tears, laughter and blood for some, you all have my biggest THANK!

And reality sets in now. My fourth Comrades Marathon is on the horizon and here's to the hills! Let's Bamba Iqhaza! And yes, I am so gonna miss the pooch back home.

Come home quick to play with me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Comrades 2015 Travel Plan...

By Frank

As my fourth Comrades Marathon is fast approaching, it's time to have the luggage bags sorted out for. Though the packing has started last week, the planning started months ago. Nothing much especially in numbers has changed from last year, with the exception of adding in some hiking essentials this time round as the holiday seekers will be heading towards Namibia post Comrades.

Usual packing list.

What's new tagging along this time will be the new Osprey Shuttle duffle wheel bag that's replacing the aging and slightly damaged Hush Puppies version. Damn... I got to stop buying bags! And with winter now in South Africa, the under privilege will be in need for some clothing and hence like last year, I will be bringing along some unwanted but still new shirts I've gotten from races. I will also be donating off my trustworthy Saucony Ride 7 that has served me so well to a lucky but needy fellow there.

The trip will officially begin on the wee hours of Wednesday, 27 May 2015. I will once again be flying on board Emirates heading to Dubai for transit before heading into Durban. Pretty similar flight path as last year but I will miss the company of my friend as I will be flying alone. Once arriving at Durban, I will pick up my ride for one night, the Hyundai i10 before heading to check in at Belaire Suites.

First ride, Hyundai i10.

Zijill, Chee Kong, Mei-Ee and Selva will arrive the next evening and hence I got the whole day to myself for some light running on the beach side in the morning before heading to the Comrades expo. Will be returning my ride in the evening before welcoming Zijill for her first trip to South Africa. Will wait for Selva and Chee Kong's arrival too before heading back to the hotel on board our next ride, the trustworthy Nissan NV200 from last year. Yeap, it's a van again for Team Malaysia!

Nissan NV200 for Team Malaysia!

Next day will be a short morning run with Team Malaysia before the usual expo and route tour towards the Comrades house at Pietermaritzburg. And in the evening, it's the Runner's World pasta party again for some loading up and last minute tips from Lindsey Parry, the official Comrades Marathon coach. And on the race day eve, it will be free and easy for all though I guess everyone will end up at the expo again before a light lunch, rest and an early dinner as per previous years. Won't be participating in the morning's youth run though but may just be a spectator there or at the nearby Park Run.

Hope the race will go well for everyone as the usual post race dinner will be at Jiran Cafe before a well deserved rest as I will be leaving early the next morning for Windhoek, Namibia with Chee Kong and family.

A Ford Ranger camper.

Upon arrival at Windhoek, we will pick up our vehicles, mine and Chee Kong being the Ford Ranger together with the highlight, the camper which is our moving "house" for this part of the trip. A night at Windhoek before a long drive to Sossusvlei where we will stay put at Sesriem campsite for 2 nights there. And this is also where we will rendezvous with Jack and Chun Hock and family who will be driving in from Cape Town on their very own adventure.

From Sossusvlei, it will be another over 400KM drive the next day to Swakopmund where we will rest in the caravan for the night before resuming the journey to Damaraland the next day, a close to 500KM drive.

At Damaraland, we will visit Mount Branberg before driving to Etosha National Park, about 260KM away where we will camp Gondwana Etosha campsite for 2 nights. And from there, it's back to Windhoek for a night there before our flight to Johannesburg the next morning.

We will part with Jack, Chun Hock and family there before continuing to stay at Johannesburg for one more night. Flight back home is scheduled on the next evening which leaves me and Chee Kong plenty of time to catch up with friends there!

It will be a truly different trip this time especially the post Comrades part. Still safari themed, but a more adventure like one. But certainly for sure, this trip will certainly be missing someone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Comrades 2015 Race Gear...

By Frank

20 days till my fourth Comrades Marathon. And yes, it's tapering month which so far despite a little frustrating is going pretty smoothly. And after wrapping up the testing of this year's race gear, here by tradition again unveiling it.

The Saucony Kinvara since I started wearing them beginning from the 3rd edition has changed the way I run (it also changed the way I looked at Saucony as I wasn't a fan of them 4 years ago). An awesome shoe that moves the way the feet does and at the same time providing enough protection, it has protected and improved my performance and timing since my second Comrades Marathon in year 2013. The fourth had came a long way with me too though it skipped the Comrades Marathon as I was introduced to the fifth in time. It was the introduction of the Kinvara 5, the game changer that met and surpasses all my expectations and had given me a fantastic running season since I first received it last April till today.

The army of Kinvara 6.

And thus for this year, the Kinvara which had been code-named "Fast" will once again take on the duty of driving my 4th Comrades. The sixth generation of it, the Kinvara 6 thanks to Saucony Malaysia was first received in mid April 2015 and as usual I had been testing it indoor before moving on to the roads. And I am glad that the DNA of the shoe stood very closely with the fifth with only some adjustments to the FlexFilm making the shoe slightly more natural and flexible. I have faith in the shoe and I am sure it will deliver on race day. And coincidentally, I will be racing them in bright ViziOrange colour which is the same as my qualifier shoe the Saucony Type A6 and also 2 of my workhorse for this year's training, the Saucony Ride 7 and Zealot ISO.

From the qualifier, workhouse to race shoe, orange was the colour to the buildup of my 4th Comrades.

As for my socks, for my first time, I will move away from Drymax as I put my faith either on SwiftWick or Balega this year. Judging from the material used, both are pretty similar to Drymax and on the plus point, it has some added compression for SwiftWick and support for Balega to the necessary area such as arch and Achilles.

As for my apparels, moving away from SKINS, this year's duty will be on CompresSport Trail Tank Top and Trail Shorts, a new set I purchased myself. The top will be white this year which I hope will help with the heat as I remember the weather incident from 2 years ago when the heat wave struck. However for my calf sleeve, I am still undecided on the BV Sport Booster Elite or the CompresSport Calf R2 which the latter I felt over rated. Both will travel with me and I will decide on the morning itself I guess.

The super light Rudy Project Rydon will protect my eyes with my Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire tracking and giving me the info as I tackle the race.

The only piece of gear which failed me  this time was the Mont Bell Zero Line race brief which sadly was not fitting due to my waist line. Therefore, I had to revert back to the trusty Renoma sport boxer trunks which I have trusted over the months.

My gears will be in a pretty neutral colour this year with the exception of the Kinvara 6. But what's important is they perform to my expectations in being functional and comfortable. And many thanks to Saucony Malaysia again for proving me and the team with the Saucony Kinvara 6 as our race shoe. Like the tagline for it, it will be a fast ride. Seek And You Shall Fly!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Four"ward To Final...

By Frank

I'm just glad it's behind now. The fourth month April has came and went. Billed as the second toughest month with back to back long runs on weekends, I am glad I survived. As coach says, I should feel tired which I was but yet strong.

April has been in tradition a difficult month for me the past couple of years. I normally fall sick in this month and this year, I took extra precautions. I was glad that the haze did not return this month so that was  a plus sign. I washed most of my clothing and bed sheet in Dettol hoping to minimize any potential bacteria building up. I also took in more supplements and drank more water to keep body heat at bay.

I carried on the momentum from March though it started a little slower due to recovery from the Twilight Ultra Challenge. And for the first 2 weeks, the gauntlet was thrown down as I kept my focus steady on what was needed. But I was unlucky during the first weekend when a bee stung me on my neck while running at Mayor's Hill. Though not serious, it caused some irritation. And then came the second weekend which was my critical back to back long runs. I almost did not survive that but with the help from Zijill, Jamie and the Gold Coast group, I completed the daunting task.

Training almost got derailed on the third week as there was the Pisang Relay to manage. No weekend long runs and hence I needed to find time on weekdays to maintain my fitness. It was really tough but I needed to hang on and am glad I did before everything went back to normal at the fourth week.

While most will be doing their last long run at the final week of April, I decided to finish off the month with the King of Bukit Larut 26KM run at Taiping. I signed up for it was an extremely hilly course but as the race drew nearer, I regretted for fears the downhill may hurt the legs after seeing the profile. However, I still went for it and took the opportunity to train uphill there while tackling the downhill with extreme careful measures. I completed it nevertheless with a fruitful uphill training there but with a little soreness to my quad muscles, but glad no injuries. And all in all, that closed my fourth month off with a total distance of 328KM ran, target achieved once again!

In this month too that I finally received my race shoe which as per my tradition will reveal it together with the rest of my gear next month.

Anyway, am so glad the 4 months of pure grit and smart training is in the pocket now. It's time to embrace the fifth and final month where we Comrades runners starts to taper off. It will be a frustrating month as intensity is greatly reduce but we just had to hang on for 30 days more and then it's RACE DAY!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

King Of Bukit Larut 2015...

Event: King Of Bukit Larut 2015
Venue: Bukit Larut, Taiping, Perak
Date: 26 April 2015
Time: 7.30AM
Distance: 26KM
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

The last weekend of April was suppose to be my Comrades long run and Chee Kong tried to tempt me over to Scotland near Glasglow for the Hoka One One Fling 53 Miles. I was really tempted to go as most of my close international Comrades family from Caroline, Susan Hui and John Sneddon will be there. And not to mention my Scottish friends too. However, Scotland isn't a taxi ride away and was glad that the registration for this race was a quick sold out hence leaving me with no choice but to stay put back home. Instead of sulking, I found myself the King Of Bukit Larut which I signed up with Roy after seeing it's hilly profile.

Fat forwarding to the week leading to the race, I almost regretted signing up after studying the route profile. Although it was a steep long climb which I need, it's also a very steep long downhill. Total of 1,250M gain and then 1,250M loss will be damaging should it be not tackle properly. And knowing I am weak and clumsy with downhills, I had doubts for the descend.

Anyway, myself and Roy still made our way there on Saturday afternoon with me driving. Traffic was smooth albeit raining for most of the stretch and by 2.5 hours at 5.30PM, we arrived safely at Taiping and proceeded  to check into our comfy and cheap hotel at Legend Hotel. Although there was a dinner scheduled with Ewegene, Hong Lan, Barkley, Renee and a few others at Kuala Sepetang about 17KM away, myself and Roy went to the nearby market for some quick bites first as we were just too hungry before meeting them at their hotel.

Panoramic Kuala Sepetang.

Kuala Sepetang is a nice small fishing village. We had our dinner just next to the river. It's been a while since I had seafood and for the first time, I tried on the thorn snail. It's actually tasteless but with some chili paste, it's actually pretty good. Then flower crab which I do not know when was the last time I had them. Anyway, dinner was satisfying and we made our way back to the hotel for some rest.

Thorn snails.

Sunset at Kuala Sepetang.

After cleaning ourselves, myself and Roy decided to call it a night. He doze off pretty instantly and I was surprised he was snoring, which I do not remember. Guess he was tired. Kept me awake for a moment, actually throughout the night! 

I woke up about 5.15AM and got myself ready. Breakfast was a Honey Stinger waffle and a Clif Mojo bar with a cup of Starbucks Tribute Blend Americano. Everything was OK except my bowel which seems a bit "stuck". However, by 6.30AM, we made ourselves to the foot of Bukit Larut which was not too far away.

Upon arriving, I saw Barkley with his camera and instantly realized that I forgot my GoPro. Sigh... And the tummy began to show some signs of a potty visit. Quickly collected my race pack and made my "deposit". But to my horror, I "lost" my underwear within my compression shorts! OK, let me get this clear. I was testing out a new underwear I bought from Hong Kong back in January, the Mont Bell Zero Line. It's not a cheap gear but I hope to be using it at the upcoming Comrades Marathon. It's made of a very thin layer of micro fiber, so thin that it actually drop into my compression pants. Perhaps due to the size too. But anyway, I managed to "locate" it back.

The compact venue was filled with runners. After race briefing and singing the national anthem, the 26KM category was flagged off at 7.30AM sharp. It was immediately climbing and this is where I will train and test myself out. In fact, my initial plan was to go hard on the up, and easy on the down.

I was glad that the road was wide enough to accommodate the runners and quickly enough, I broke free from the main pack and started climbing. It was really steep but with fresh legs, it was still fine. Besides, the training at Mayor Hill helped a lot here. But not only it was steep, it was winding too. Soon enough, the first water station appeared at 3.5KM mark and I was told I was in position four. I was really surprised but that didn't bother me as I did not come here to race with another.

The climbs just kept coming till about 6KM up with a little rest for the legs at a short flat part. But rest I did not as it was advantage on the flats. Arriving at 10KM is where the small resort is. Nice place and I could see the magnificent view while enjoying the fresh air. 3KM to go to the top and it got a bit technical with the slippery concrete surface and a few metal grill covering the drain. Up wasn't too bad but I knew those will be trouble when making the return trip later.

Eventually I got to the top in 1:38:40 hours and Fathudin was there to greet me and pass me a ribbon. And from here, it's time to make my way down. It's hard not to run down as it's steep. Thus I ran but with caution. Yim was near to me and soon after he made his turn, he zoomed pass me and disappeared almost immediately. Roy was not far behind too.

With some descending skills I learn from Chee Kong, I set myself free and just ran.Though it felt fast, I was holding back especially on slippery surfaces and sharp turns. I need to protect my knees but at the same time, I was actually having fun. Everything was going smoothly and I met my friends along my way down. At the final 5KM, I bumped into Hong Lan but shortly later, I was passed again by an ex-pat from United Kingdom. I was down to position 6 instantly but I didn't want to give chase. I did pass the 5th runner though as he was walking down ahead. Guess his legs must be hurting.

Anyway, everything went smoothly and I eventually crossed the finish line 2:39:40 hours later coming in position 5 with absolutely no pain, soreness nor mishaps. In fact, I was very happy with my performance. Collected my medal and had 2 bowls of their famous but over rated Ansari cendol Hung out for a moment before leaving after Roy returned.

Happy with my run.

And after cleaning ourselves and checking out of the hotel, we returned to the market for a simple lunch before starting our journey home which was a smooth ride. And thus came to my closure of 4 races in the name of Comrades training. It's 34 days to go from now and hence, it's time to make good use of the training I had.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nuking March...

By Frank

Those who grew up as gaming teenagers in the late 90s will mostly have played and remember the game Command and Conquer: Red Alert. And if so, you would have remember the awesome theme from the game,  Hell March. As March nears each year since I began running the Comrades Marathon in 2012, I will always listen to it via YouTube to get the mood ready cause that is what March is all about!

With March 2015 over now, so is the tough training. I was worried that I may not be able to meet training expectations for this month as the total time and distance required to be spent on the road and legs are just too demanding this time round. Besides, like last year too, this month proof to be an emotional ride for me. Feeling dejected, I was confused. And even a friend mention that this month brought the "monster" out of me too by training till I lost my self consciousness. I am not sure if that happened to me and hence leave it to you all to judge me. And I guess it's through this that I went running to cast things aside. And traditionally, Twilight Ultra Challenge at the last weekend of the month will help with this, but this year saw the addition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra in my regime. And thus, things were made just a little easier.

Unlike last year, was pretty lucky that the haze did not return and there was no water rationing. I managed scored a perfect 100KM or above weekly mileage for this month too with the help from Zijill and the the Malaysian Gold Coast Marathon (GC group) group led by Jamie and Nick for training, just like last year. With my speed and tempo being done during the weekdays, I needed the long distance on weekends. However, unlike last year, the GC group were not entirely into long runs on the weekends for this month and the route chosen wasn't exactly favorable due to the terrain factor. Despite still joining them, I had to find an alternative to this and am glad Zijill who is going to run her first Comrades came into the picture. We both needed the distance and of course the hills, and hence we supported and help each other by going for our runs together, at places with a lot of hills!

In terms of running, March was in fact not a tiring month but instead a time consuming one. Weekends saw me lose my sleep to awake early for my runs. And I am still very grateful to the GC group for without them, things will be absolutely be very tough and I will continue to seek their assistance for the month of April.  For now, I am glad that yet another month of March is finally over. All I have to do now for the month of April is just to carry on with the momentum with a slight reduce in intensity and to improve on the areas I can improve on. Oh and yes, it's a total of 453KM covered for this month of March with a perfect week of 100KM or above per week giving a total combined distance of 1,013KM since the start! Nuked it for the fourth year in a row!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2015...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2015
Venue: East Coast Park, Singapore
Date: 28 March 2015
Time: 7PM
Distance: 10KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Zealot ISO
By Frank

The illusive 100KM at Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC). For 4 years in a row, I've failed to manage that distance. I came close last year managing 90KM throughout the entire 16 hours but was left in a slow recovery state that derailed last year's April training off in the early stages. Therefore, for this fifth edition, despite all the irritating reminders, I went into this run with one aim in mind, to run it as my last long run no matter the distance and time as part of my Comrades training.

It all sets to be a good trip with me staying with Ken this time at the plush hotel at Park Royal, Beach Road courtesy of his company. I flew down via JetStar on Friday morning while Ken was already there a day earlier. Everything went smoothly and I traveled to Novena to meet up with Ken there for lunch before adjourning back to the hotel for rest before dinner at Bugis.

I turned in at midnight after watching Man of Steel and on the comfy bed, I slept through the night and morning too, a total of almost 11 hours! The bed was just too comfy and Ken was kind enough to let me rest through without turning on the lights. Everything seems to be going well for a good night later. We managed to delay our checkout by 2 hours and so it was lunch nearby before hanging out at a Swedish Cafe for coffee and cake. Then it was at the hotel lobby for some last minute preparation before we made ourselves to East Coast Park 2 hours before the start of this year's run.

Race pack collection was the usual smooth process by Ben and his group, Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun and Tee Lee. Prepared my run essentials before friends like Junie, Hong Lan, Hong Chew, Carin and some others slowly arrived.

Fellow Malaysians.

Fast forwarding to 7PM, the run started after a 91 seconds moment of silence to remember and respect the late Lee Kuan Yew who recently passed away. At the signal of the start, I let the main group go first. No point in squeezing through with everyone trying to find space as eventually, there will be one as it's after all a 16 hours run.

Once I found my space, I also ran my intended race pace at 6.30 per Kilometer. It was going well with the excellent breezy conditions except for one thing, I didn't had the mood to run. The legs didn't seem to show interest too. And I know that time that this is just one of those days. No matter the feeling, I was determine to carry on running at least at the early stages of the run. And I did just that for the first 2 loops before I started to slow down though not much.

Took in some coffee hoping it will help to boost some mentality and the mood but to no avail. And upon completing the third loop, I was already feeling sleepy. Gulp down the remaining coffee and carried on. There were already some walks in between but it was fine cause after all, walking is part of the training regime too.

Upon completing 4 loops, I was surprised to see Nelly there. She bought some canned coconut juice for the Malaysian runners and we had a chat before I resumed my run. I took a can with me and slowly sip from it. It was certainly refreshing but as I made my turn at the 2.5KM point, my stomach felt uncomfortable as I detoured into the loo. My first big business in 5 years of TUC!

No big damage from the loo visit but I was feeling really sleepy already. Legs despite not wanting to move felt fine though except from the usual soreness. I continued with my run walk strategy till I hit 50KM and it's from here, that together with Hong Lan, we walked together. She needs 1 more loop to complete her intended 50KM and I thought it will be a good idea to walk with her hoping that I can recoup some strength and hopefully mood by catching up with this friends of mine.

We chatted and gossiped throughout the entire 10KM loop and was glad with that, time quickly passed. She stopped upon meeting her intended target while myself, drank my final can of caffeine, Red Bull hoping that it will help kick start me. And while it didn't help at all, I still managed to complete my 7th loop and thus made some calculation myself here. I needed half a loop more to complete a 100KM weekly mileage, which so far I am hitting throughout the month of March. And thus, I went for it.

And after 11.28 hours, I finally managed to complete 75KM and that was where I decided to call it a night. Not my best performance at TUC but I will take it with arms wide open. After all, it has been a tough month of March and what important is, I stood with my training regime and not getting injured in the process.

Enough for me.

It was a little too cold for me to have my shower and hence I took in some hot food and beverage while waiting for day to break. Hong Lan too awoke from her sleep and we accompanied each other while cheering for our friends who are still out there like Ken, Hong Chew, Phang and Poh Chye. I managed to shower up shortly later and just hung out till the event ended with the sky opening up. The record was broken too with 160KM coming from the champion. Amazing run!

Myself and Ken was the last among the runners to leave the run site as the rain came down furiously and we couldn't get a taxi. But in the, we still managed after the rain came to a halt and with 4 hours to spare, we hung out and rested at Changi Airport while waiting for our flight at 6PM which was delayed almost an hour. 

Anyway, yet another successful TUC by the team at Running Guild. Good job guys! Despite feeling a little bored of it already after 5 years of participation in it, I will still return for the sixth edition next year, that's if everything still goes well for me. It's no longer about the distance in this 16 hours of run, but rather as a gesture of supporting a friend's event, my Comrades training and also an annual meet up with my Singaporean running mates.

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Halfway Through...

By Frank

The blog title is indeed misleading. No, we are not halfway into 2015. In fact, I am referring to my Comrades Marathon training for this year. In a blink of an eye, on 15 March 2015, 74 days has passed by since official training started on the first day of the year. With 795KM in the bag as of this morning having run back to back weekend long runs with one fellow Comrades novice runner, running across approximately 80 hours or so in training (varieties of recovery, tempo, long and time trials), the attempt to try to run the sweet distance of 1,500KM for the training is going smoothly as planned.

With 2 events done being the Hong Kong 100 and also The Gunung Nuang Ultra, everything seems to be falling into place. I've not fallen sick nor getting injured from training too and I hope to remain that way, though some have said that I've lost my soul in training. With the entire team qualified now, I can rest my mind for most of the logistics too are starting to fall into place now. Flight has been booked and hotels secured. What is left now is our transportation which should not be a problem.

My gears has been holding up well too with the Saucony Ride 7 and Zealot ISO being the workhorse this time with the Kinvara 5 occasionally seeing some action in between.  And I can't wait for my race shoe to be delivered soon too. The next generation of "Fast" will be continuing the tradition of my Comrades race shoe since year 2013 for it has proven through the last 2 editions that this is indeed the shoe for me. I will also need to sort my race apparels out. Not sure what to wear this time round but for sure it will be tights again, a style I trust for its functionality.

As for the team, I foresee some exceptionally AWESOME result (you know it yourself) on race day for some of them. A few has been training pretty hard while I do see some slacking away. Nevertheless, there is still some time to turn it around so hopefully those slacking will be able to pick themselves back up again.

With 78 days to go till race day, I hope everything will turn out smoothly for not only myself but for everyone else. It ain't going to get easier from here for the anxiety builds up, but I am certainly looking forward to it. A journey of self discovery for this route to Comrades will certainly define all of us.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Saucony Type A6...

By Frank

The Type A series by Saucony is highly regarded as one of the most explosive racing flats in the market. My first pair was the Type A5 which I managed to purchase during my visit at South Africa back in end year 2012. The shoe has remained faithful to me and am still on active duty, although only in marathon distances and it scored me my second sub 4 hours marathon time at last year's Kuching Marathon.

The Type A5 (in green) with it's successor Type A6 (in orange).

A year half later during last year's Comrades Marathon 2014, I managed to find myself the Type A6 from Fourway's Sweat Shop, the same place I bought the Type A5. Without any hesitation and despite knowing the steep price there, I quickly bought it as at that time., I was assuming that it will not be officially available locally, and because I thought so that way, I never really had the intention of reviewing it here only after I found out last week that the Type A6 will finally and officially enter the Malaysian market brought to us by the folks at Saucony Malaysia.

A handsome Saucony Type A6.

And so, here's my take on the Type A6. It's a no frills shoe which has undergone a big change from the A5 and no doubt, it's a change for the positive. Build from scratch with ideas input from Saucony's elite athletes such as Linsey Corbin, the A6 has all the characteristics of a racing flat. Weighting in at just 147 Grams in size US9.0 with a 16mm heel stack and 12mm forefoot stack which gives a 4mm off-set, this is the sweetest spot a shoe of this caliber can get. Highly responsive build on Saucony's GRID EVA with SSL midsole rubber, the firmness and bounce of this shoe is much superior to the one found on the A5. On high wear and tear area such as the heel and forefoot area, the XT900 carbon rubber should do the job in protecting the rubbers.

Type A6's outsole.

The plastic shank on the medial arch area has also been removed. This allows the shoe to be lighter, feel more naturally and flex better, and no doubt to give the wearer a full ground contact feel.

The outsole of the Type A5 (above) as compared to the Type A6 (bottom), both after hitting 160KM in them.

Near the mid span of the lateral side travelling to the ball of the feet is where you find Saucony's IBR+ rubber, the rubber that gives you the cushion protection and also the bonce for lift off, Oh and yes, there are drainage holes on the outsole too to to drain those moisture out. But do remember, it also allows water to get into the shoe should you step on those puddle of water. Though the number has lessen, the size grew just a bit bigger. I am fine with the holes and though the last one near the heel do tend to pick up tin rocks, it is certainly not as bad as the A5 where all holes tend to be stuck with something. Oh and yes, I absolutely love the quotes printed on heel area, "Life's Hard" and "Run Harder".

Love these quotes.

Next the upper construction. Once I put those shoe on, I felt awesome in it. True to size, the shoe basically just wrapped around my feet and the lock down was good. Though toe-box is slightly more roomier and stretchy compared to the Type A5, I still foresee that this will be an issue for those with wide feet as racing flats generally does not come in width. With no seams in it, the inner felt smooth and I did not had to worry about hot spots at all.

Closeup on the mesh and notice the FlexFilm.

Am not sure what material was used but the upper does look like the mono mesh used in the original Virrata. Only difference was the FlexFilm over it. I've no issue with the ventilation as it was superior. When I was running in the cool Amsterdam Marathon, cool air can be felt and the inner dries quickly.

A nifty trick will be the backtab loop at the collar. It's elastic and will stay flat around the collar until you pull it when you are wearing the shoe. Excellent idea for triathletes. As for the lace, it's a stretchy flat lace that I did not had any problems of it coming undone. Hope this will be used in future Kinvara's too as the latter always suffer from lace coming undone.

Backtab loop staying flat just above the "Saucony" word on the heel counter.

My review so far seems to be too good. In fact, it is and I can't find fault in this shoe. After all, it has accompany me through 3 times out of 3 attempts at a sub 4 hours marathon last year. However, you will need to be a sucker of firmness to be enjoying this shoe, as it will not be suitable for those who will like the cushy plush feel. And the good news, the local pricing will be an affordable one for a shoe so light and yet so durable. Yes, it is very durable!

The Saucony Type A6 will officially be available in Malaysia with a retail price of RM379 (much affordable to how much I bought in South Africa). They will be exclusively available at Running Lab, Tropicana City Mall in very limited numbers, hopefully by the end of March 2015.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2015...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2015
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date: 1 March 2015
Time: 6.30am
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4.0
By Frank

My second event of the year and coincidentally, like last month's adventure at Hong Kong 100, it's a trail run again and this time at our very own Gunung Nuang. Despite moving up to Selangor some 18 years ago, I've never actually been to Selangor's highest point. And since mid last year, I been wanting to try new challenges and thus, the Gunung Nuang Ultra fits the bill. Besides, it's an event organised by a fellow friend, Jeff who has been organizing this event for the past 2 years. And without hesitation, I page Jeff over social media indicating my interest in the third edition and in an instant, I was in. The format was simple. 5KM into the halfway point before turning back to the start giving a total distance of 10KM per loop. And we have 12 hours to cover as many loops possible. The challenge, climbs climbs and climbs.

As the Comrades training for March has always been the longest and toughest, Gunung Nuang Ultra will really help. And thus, I kept in mind that I will run this as part of training rather than a race, remembering not to fall, sprain or break some bones in me. CAREFUL was the key word.

However, I wasn't careful with my sleep and woke up with a mild headache which I believe was due to my sleeping posture. Was hoping some sugar and my morning cup of coffee will help but instead, it gave me another problem. While the morning rituals back home was well, I decided to make myself a cup of hot Americano to sip during my long drive to Pangsun, about close to an hour. And while doing so, the urge to visit the potty came again. Ergh...

My last visit to Hulu Langat was like a year ago for the Titi 100 back then. And while driving through the roads there, I can't help but to think of those moments back then. Moments that I enjoyed and cherished.

Anyhow, I arrived at Pangsun around 5.45AM and the place was already filled with runners. I parked outside which was about 300M away from the race site. Had to power on my headlamp as it was pitch black but I was glad that I had my gears all packed up in my bag. Made my way for registration and although the urge to make my "deposit" was still around, the mood was cancelled out due to the toilet's cleanliness status and the number of people using it. I decided to hold on but was glad to have bump into Ken later who told me to use the chalet's one instead. Much cleaner with nobody in it, I left my mark, I mean deposit at Gunung Nuang. Feeling much better and of course lighter, I was ready to go.

And while waiting for the start, I met Daniel Chow, a reader of my blog and we chatted away even after the race started at 6.30AM. It was an immediate climb at the start and this caused some human traffic, like the start at Hong Kong 100. Despite feeling frustrated, I wasn't in a rush and hence continued my chat with Daniel. Despite having my LED Lenser lighting at 300 Lumens on me, it was still dark so it may be a good idea to go slowly with the other runners as I am not sure what to expect along the way since it's my first visit here.

The start area which due to corrosion is now being cemented. Though not entirely completed yet, certain parts were already done. And it was like a Kilometer long with patches in between still not cemented yet. Not so "trail" anymore and it can be dangerous on the descend.

Anyhow, once I found the space, I started my runs and broke free from the main crowd. Despite the climb, I attacked. Probably too "gungho" as it was just the start of the event, I was like a terrier wanting to go. With the headlamp lighting the way and with the sun slowly rising, the path was slowly visible to the eyes soon. And the environment at that time was cooling too. Pretty spectacular I will say since it's my first visit here.

Up up and up.

The climbs were pretty steep and tough with technical terrains at certain parts of the route. And the turning point is located some close to 500M above sea level! Soon, the leading runners was already making the return and I hope the turn was not far. And the sounds of water flowing from the stream on the right indicates that. Made my turn and with mostly descend now, I increase my pace.

I literary dashed down to the starting point and completed my first loop in about 73 minutes. Removed my headlamp, took a sip of water and off I went for my second loop, this time in broad day light. And the best part was that I was still having fun.

Nice bamboo formation.

With the crowd now broken up, I literary have lots of space to run around. With the path clearly lighted now, I can see clearly the terrain now. However, as much as I was enjoying running, the thing that got me worried was the insects, particularly the bees. Some can be seen hovering around the u-turn point area, and one little fellow came exploring of all places, my arm pit! I let it there for it to roam around for fears of it stinging me if I shooeed him away.

Continued my run and soon my second loop was in the bag. Took some Cola and a tiny peanut butter sandwich as I was beginning to feel hungry. Chatted with Jason and I joked to him that I wanted ChaTime when I next come back.

As my upper body felt a little sore, I brought along my trekking pole for the third loop. Though I began by running, it was at a reduce pace especially with the pole around. I felt a little clumsy with it but it did help with supporting my upper body as I pushed myself up certain slopes. I managed to reach the turning point in not a too shabby time but had to clumsily make the return trip. Legs were really sore and I was really hungry too! I was really hoping that food will already be serve when I get back down.

And yes, on the way down, I was told that lunch is served with fried rice and fried chicken on the menu. Any edible food will do for me as I made my way down. It was hot when I completed my third loop so I guess it will be a good time to stop for lunch. The fried rice was actually pretty good though was a little on the spicy side. Fried chicken was also very tasty. I guess I was just hungry. And while enjoying my meal, I chatted away with friends around. I spent about half an hour before resuming my run.

For my fourth loop, I ditched my trekking pole and armed myself with my GoPro camera. First time snapping photos while running, Gunung Nuang was the perfect place to start.I walked all the way to the turning point as I was just too heavy to run with the rice and chicken in my tummy. And therefore along the way, managed to snap some photos of the surroundings and also selfies with fellow friends. Selfies, yes I can imagine myself doing that!

Took me about an hour to reach the turning point. I was sweaty and it attracted the bees again with one of them checking out my arm this time! I waited for it to fly off before I started my run as I felt better with the food settling down. Managed to run walk back down and while doing so, saw Hazel who delivered a message from Jason saying something special is awaiting for me below. I thought it was Pokka coffee but upon arriving, it was bubble tea from Share Tea! I was just joking about the ChaTime earlier but really appreciate Jason and Hazel for buying this cup of tea for me.

With Jason, Khairi, Jeff and the guys from CompresSport Malaysia.

I rested while sipping the tea together with Jeff, Jason and Colin and Egeune from CompresSport. And when I decided to resume my run, my tummy once again was heavy due to the tea. Had to walk again but this quickly settled down. Nothing much happened along my fifth loop as I completed the minimum requirements in about 10.5 hours. Not too bad I guess with the stops in between. And I still had plenty of time for one more loop.

With Ken on my 6th and his 5th loop together.

And so my sixth loop, was literally done to catch up and to support Ken who is doing his fifth. Besides, it was also to morally support Zijill who was running at the Beaufort 60K at the same time. A little miscommunication with Ken though as I waited for him to return from his toilet break at the support station. I was happily eating oranges there when I thought the time taken was too long already. Apparently Ken took off from the toilet but glad he wasn't too far ahead as I managed to catch up to him. And from there, we just chatted along the way which really time passes faster. Soon, we arrived at the turning point, thank the volunteers there and made our return trip by walking all the way down.

Looks like I am finishing it off here but this isn't my last loop. Just like this photo very much.

And just after the last bend, we ran a little just to make sure we ran to the finish line side by side together in 11.01.00 hours with a position of 20. A good last loop with Ken here as we are travelling together this month end to the Twilight Ultra Challenge.

I truly really enjoyed my time at the Gunung Nuang Ultra. Many thanks to Jeff and his crew for organising this. Overall support and service was excellent but if there is one thing that I may suggest will be a 2.5KM/7.5KM marker along the way. I guess it will really help the runners know the distance they are at rather to keep relying on their GPS which may sometime be inaccurate or by remembering the environment around.

As for Comrades training wise, it's good to have 60KM in the bag on the first day of the toughest month of training. However, this is also a wake up call that I have still much to do especially in the strength department.

Now I am looking forward to visit this place more frequent now. But it's so darn far! :(

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Second Month Dusted...

By Frank

I remember I was just starting to enter my January's month end report and in a glimpse of an eye, I am now entering February's one instead.

The second month of the year certainly came and went. I had certain worries that I would not be able to fulfill my training regime. But in the end, I did it with a total of 260KM covered. I dug deep within and question myself if I really wanted it. "YES" came instantly and in the first 2 weeks of the month, with a slight modification to the regime, 200KM was covered by those legs of mine, 100KM each every week. And surprisingly, instead of feeling tired, I was feeling fresh and good. Not great but good and that is all I can ask for. I guess I owed it to my food and drinks intake which are vital for recovery and also the active recovery runs I put in between.

February wasn't easy to start with. The introduction of speed workouts at the final week of January was carried into this month with more intensity added in. Gradually, inclines were added to them. I guess this is an important element when training for the up run this year. So yes, although tough, it has to be done cause there is no point training easily.

Besides that, back to back runs on weekends has also started. Though distance isn't exactly long yet, I am slowly starting to lose my privilege of having to sleep longer. And this I had to endure for another 12 odd weekends or so still!

Anyhow, with the two easy months completed, it's time to embrace "Hell March", probably the toughest training month in the Comrades training. An increase of running distances, speed and back to back long runs, you will probably see me dozing off at work throughout the month! And to start it off will be my first attempt at tomorrow's Gunung Nuang Ultra which is also my first visit to this rather famous training ground for lots of runners.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

First Milestone in Training...

By Frank

It has been 7 days into February 2015, the second month of the Comrades training. Despite suffering an almost dead car battery, cracking my car's side mirror signal cause I bang into another side mirror and dropping my GoPro, it was a good start to the second month. My first 100KM per week of running distance this year, my very first milestone in training for this year (I don't consider Hong Kong 100 to be a milestone).

Neither was it planned nor was it accidental. It was a wake up call when I missed my morning run at the last day of January which I overslept which sent me thinking. "Can I do this training with my my health concerns and also limited time"? I looked into my regime given again and gave it a slight modification going against it, well at least a little from what was given to me. Sorry coach! The plan was to to hit this milestone, and then maintaining the fitness gained here while recovering the next 2 weeks during the festive season before the onslaught into the third month.

I took the modification with extra caution in hoping that I do not suffer any burn out from it. I took into lots of fluids, oats and went a little clean with my diet increasing in vegetables of all sorts of colours and at the same time increasing my fish intake while reducing meat. This cause extremely active bowel movement which resulted in a very "light" me and hence I do feel and run better. The lightness can be felt, but obviously I would need to wake up way earlier for my usual pre-run rituals.

Going WHOA with the all new Saucony Zealot ISO.

And with courtesy from Saucony Malaysia, I got myself a new pair of rubbers to help with the distance, the all new Saucony Zealot ISO and together with the Saucony Ride 7, these 2 heavy duty pairs offers propulsion and protection, and at the same time keeping my legs "safe". With a public holidays smack in the middle of the week, together with Roy and Si Main, we explored the hilly part of the Bukit Tunku route taking us to the hockey stadium route and also mayor hill which was challenging but yet satisfying.

View from mayor hill.

All in all, I was satisfied to be able to hit the 100KM distance per week this early without any burn out. In fact, I felt good and strong, just hope the internals are coping well. And after a hard 1 week of work, I guess it's time to pamper myself a bit before some "tough" running with Chee Kong next week when he returns for the festive season. Have mercy!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

January, A Good Start...

By Frank

"Here we go again"! That's what I told myself when the new year started on 1 January 2015. A whole 365 days  new year awaits but what beckons is 150 days throughout 5 months of training otherwise known as blood, tears and torture. The training for my fourth and "toughest" to date Comrades Marathon begins.

Why did I say that it's going to be my toughest even before the race? As mentioned before, my target for this year is set pretty high and I am not sure if I am able to do it. Outrunning last year's time seems pretty realistic though but hey, I got nothing to lose to try what has been set for me. To succeed is a bonus, to fail is to go back to the drawing board and try again. That was my mentality, that was what I told myself. And I've got 2 messages lock into my mind, "Mind Over Body" and "This Can Be Done", both given and reminded to me by someone dear and also my coach.

January 2015 marks my 6th month of transition into the Maffetone training method. It has so far proven to be very effective and hoping that the journey ahead will be better with it. And January 2015 like my others January's' the previous years seems to be an easy month to build the foundation to the training ahead. But with the fitness gained at the final quarter of last year and with very minimal fitness loss during my down time, this month is all about maintaining and perhaps improve on it.

I stood with the program that was given to me, and didn't get over adventurous in trying out new stuff. Pretty easy runs for the first 2 weeks of the month before a 100KM race at the Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race, an eye opener for me. Took me a while to recover from that though as I went down with cold for a couple of days. I guess that's the results of defying the doctor's order. Yeap, you did not read this wrong. I didn't mention this before but I underwent a medical checkup a couple of weeks before the race and was not given the green light for the 100KM race. Then the final week of the month introduced speed session for me with time trial being the first. Speed isn't something I favour but I guess it's a necessity to improve on my timing.

And all in all, I slightly overshot my estimated targeted running distance by achieving 300KM worth of it.Certainly a nice number to start the first month of training with but as a reminder to myself, it's not about the distance, but time. And it's going to get tougher and tougher for the next 4 months as not only I train myself for this year's biggie but at the same time to look after my health. I may not be 100% but I will go on and on, till the day I can't anymore. Embrace myself I need!

Time to burn those rubbers! 
Thanks Saucony Malaysia for supporting myself, Zijill and Jason for our 
Road to Comrades 2015.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2015...

Event: Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2015
Venue: Pak Tam Chung, Hong Kong
Date: 17 January 2015
Time: 8.00AM
Distance: 100KM
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4
By Frank

My first blog post for the year almost took a month to be published and coincidentally, it is also a report on my first ever 100KM trail run.

I personally thought to myself that I've come a long way in long distance road running. Having accomplished what's on my bucket list there, it's about time I move on seeking my next challenge. A 100KM trail run is next and after seeing my friends running it over the past 4 years and hearing stories from them, I thought the Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race (HK100) will fit my bill in my first ever attempt. It's after all, one of the milder trail race out there so not knowing what to expect, I guess this is a good call for me. The only downside for this edition is the introduction of the balloting system due to over flowing numbers of participants.

The race route profile.

Ballot was done in early September 2014 and by the end of the same month, the results were out and I was lucky enough to secure a spot. And thus, I was in. Much has been said about the number of stairs and steps in Hong Kong trails. However, till race day, I did not train any at all. In fact, I just carried on maintaining my fitness level and also used 2 trail races at Scotland to gain some trail and also cold weather experience.

Breakfast at McDonald's KLIA2.

Fast forwarding to my travel day on Thursday, I set off from 1 Utama taking the SkyBus to the new KLIA2 as early as 5AM. I bumped into Foo and Vivien there and it was certainly good to have travel companions together. I found myself at the airport an hour later and proceeded to do the necessary before Yik Yee, Gan and Kevin and many others joined in. Breakfast at McDonalds before we boarded our flight scheduled to take off at 8.45AM. However, it was delayed for a while to missing travel documents, not from the passengers but from the plane itself. Anyway, the flight was smooth and close to 4 hours later, we found ourselves at Hong Kong. Checked into our hotel at AhShan Hostel at Mong Kok where I shared the tiny room with Yik Yee.

Malaysia contingent arriving safely at Hong Kong.

Eating, walking a bit while trying to rest the legs was all we could do at Hong Kong together with Hong Lan, Hazel, Hansen, Wind,Wilson and Alan who joined the group. Race pack was picked up from Racing The Planet at Sheung Wan. Quiet a fast process but it was a tad messy and could be improve. By the way, things weren't exactly cheap here and thus resisted buying some rather tempting stuff. Dinner was simple back at Mong Kok at the nearby market before calling it a day as we all deserved some rest.

Dim sum breakfast.

Next morning started easily. Having rest up, breakfast was simple but awfully delicious at a dim sum place. Price was dirt cheap too! We then continued with shopping while making food stops in between. And of all the food I had, I just have to mention the Yi Shun milk pudding. It was rather rich and am not sure if this was the cause for things to come at the race. Anyway, dinner was early at 6PM at the same market place again as yesterday. And by 9PM, we were all back at the hotel to have some final gear check before calling it a night as a long day and night awaits the next day.

Pre-race dinner.

By the way, my gears was simple. I wanted to go as light as possible hence I started lightly with 2 X 500ML bottle on my chest, 2 X 200ML water on my waist, few small packs of nuts, 2 slices of dried meat, a jacket, phone, headlamp and emergency blanket. What I wore for the start was the CompresSport On/Off Tank as the base layer with the Trail Tank the outer layer, and also the trail short and R2 calf guard. The rest including my trekking pole and super bright LED Lenser was at my drop bag at Check Point 5 located 52KM away from the start.

My gears.

I was up early. Took some bread and a can of coffee before my normal pre-race rituals started. Everything went well and by the time I was ready, Yik Yee was awake too. I skipped breakfast with the others though hoping to get in some last minute rest as it's going to be a long night later. And by 5AM, everyone was already downstairs and some cabs were already waiting. Myself together with Gan, Kevin and Yik Yee shared a cab together and just before an hour later, we arrived at the start venue at Pak Tam Chung at Sai Kung and the place was already filled with runners and supporters.

Malaysian contingent ready to rock the trails of Hong Kong,

With Siaw Hua and Yik Yee, the 2015 Comrades bound.

The morning chill was there but it was manageable. Guess my experience at Scotland is proving to be working. Caught with some friends, took some photos and we were off to deposit our drop and finish bags. And while warming up and performing my stretch, a familiar face stood in front of me. It was my Comrades pal, Dr. Wong and we chatted till the race started at slightly passed 8AM.

With Dr. Wong at the start.

And as seen from the video, the start was a little narrow along the road. And starting from almost the back of the pack, I waited about 3 minutes before I officially cross the start gantry with Dr. Wong, Hong Lan and Warren. It was a short run along the road before all the runners were concentrated at the entrance to the Maclehose Trail, It was a very narrow single track entrance and it was pretty frustrating as I was not able to run due to the number of runners around. And this continued on for about 4KM or so before I found some space and broke free.

Upon breaking free, like a bird free from its cage, I settled soon into my race pace, a comfy one of course. I was having fun along the trails here as it's very much like the Rover Trail found in FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia). Out from the trails for a certain stretch was the magnificent view of the oceans and beaches Hong Kong has to offer. The scenery was captivating and soon, I arrived at the support station at East Dam, some 11KM into the run. I needed to pee, but as the toilet queue was rather long, I held on and moved on. I didn't take in any refreshment or snacks here as my backpack was still filled from the start. Besides, other runners was rushing to get some snacks.

Running across the dam.

A wide road and an uphill was all I need to pass as many runners as possible to make up for time lost at the start. And this climb brought us to Sai Wan Shan, another place with awesome view. Ran passed some beautiful beaches too and that caused sand to get into my shoe despite having gaiters on. But with the beautiful scenery, distance and time seems to pass by quickly as I soon arrive at Check Point 1 at Ham Tin. Found a spot to squeeze in among the runners to grab a handful of almonds and cashew nuts before I finally had the opportunity to relieve myself at the toilet here before continuing.

Ermm... My first attempt at GoPro selfie. Can't believe I am doing this!

I was having lots of fun here. So much fun that I actually passed a very prominent runner who actually took note of me and increased his pace. Nothing to care of, I let him go and enjoy my very own moment. The scenery and weather was good, and trail running is really exciting. I felt strong too with the exception of my backpack. I felt I was over packed and my left trapezius felt a little sore. A common problem though but I thought I could be lighter. Passed more beaches and some pretty steep steps as I made my way to Check Point 2 at Wong Shek which was 28KM into the race along the seaside. Beautiful place but I though the checkpoint to be a little messy. I took in quite a lot of oranges and rice ball here and thought I overate.

Not sure where is this though?

Heading out of the check point was a little slope. As my tummy was a little heavy, I took the opportunity to walk it up and at the same time to rest the legs. But despite that, I was still really feeling good. I resume my run once I got to the top and back into the trails. Most of the terrain was still manageable with some mild to tougher ascends and descends. On the rocky descends, I took it easy as knowing the clumsy me will just slip if I was too adventurous. I even let faster runners pass me. Pass a few small villages and at one of them, I stop by to clear my shoes and socks of sand that entered earlier.

Soon enough, it was Check Point 3 at Hoi Ha, 36KM into the race which was rather special where it was partially manned by visually impaired people where they cheered and served us. I skipped the rice ball here but took in again a lot of oranges. Hansen checked in as I was about to leave and he caught up when I was clearing my shoes of sand again shortly in front.

Getting ready to leave Check Point 3, Hoi Ha.

I can't really remember the route here with the exception of running along the coastal part. Passed a few small villages and farm too as I remember clearly a family of expats was having breakfast or tea at their garden and cheered the runners on. And also while on the coastal trail, despite concentrating, I still managed to knock my right knee on a boulder. It was painful as blood started oozing out. I stopped to massaged it and stop the bleeding before I carried on.  And at the end, I know I was just glad to arrive at Check Point 4 at Yung Shue O, 45KM into the race. It was within a pretty decently sized hut with tables and chairs. And seeing runners eating cup noodles, I thought that this will be a good time for me to eat something solid too. I ordered one and while waiting for it to cool down, I text my friends. It was nice to have chatted with them, at least a little time off from all the running.

I did not finish my noodles as it was pretty "rich" and hence I though it will be good to stay as clean as possible. Grabbed a few nuts and off I went again. Really looking forward to the next check point which was just 7KM away. A steep climb towards Kai Kung Shan (Cockrel Mountain) awaits but I though that it will be fun, at least for me. And when the climb came, I started attacking. Despite a tough climb, all I can say is I enjoy climbing. And out of a sudden, I heard my name being called. I looked back and it was Foo dressed up like a commando, and a very macho one too. However, it was sad and painful to see both his knee strapped up and himself struggling. I slowed down to have a chat with him and found out that his ITB flared up. What a shame indeed.

Photo-bombed at Kai Kong Shan!

I continued with my climb and successfully arrived at the peak of Kai Kong Shan. Kinda over rated though but I still took out my GoPro for a selfie. Hahaha... Leaving the top wasn't so fun as it's a steep descend with loose rocks along the way. But I told myself to at least arrive at Check Point 5 before sunset and thus I pushed on. Slowly but surely, I started hearing noises from vehicles and soon people talking. I was near and finally, an open area where the check point is at Kei Ling Ha, 52K into the race. I made it before sunset too in 9:33 hours! Not bad I told myself.

Check Point 5 was rather small and in a mess. I did not know where to go to retrieve my drop bag and had to ask around. But as the first tent was some snacks, I took the opportunity to eat some oranges first before finally manage to locate where the drop bags are. I stood there hoping to flag down one of the volunteers to help locate my bag albeit to no avail. However shortly later, a very kind local Indian volunteer spotted me and quickly retrieve my drop bag for me. I thank her for her efficiency.  I found a spot, sat down and quickly unloaded my extra gears from the bag which includes my second high powered head lamp and also my trekking pole. Loaded more snacks as I gulp down the can of Red Bull I inserted in earlier. And once everything done where I've spent almost half an hour here, I continued on.

The journey to Check Point 6 at Gilwell Camp will be a long and tough one, as of what I heard. It's 13KM in distance which is the furthest and longest of all check points. And after crossing the road with the help of traffic marshals, the journey started where runners were taken through a park of some sort with a mild climb on the road. I did not run as I believe I've stopped too long earlier which cause my legs to stiffen up. I needed to loosen up a bit through walking and as the sky grew darker, I put on my headlamp. I restarted my run when we re-entered the trails and as I powered on my 300 Lumens LED Lenser, the whole area brighten up. I could actually run, I told myself, and so I did.

Despite a drop in pace, I was glad I was still running. But the running had to stop when the trail got a bit too technical and the surroundings got too dark. Even with my very bright headlamp on, I didn't had the confidence to tackle the trails here. Besides, it was an uphill struggle to Ma On Shan (Horse Saddle Mountain). Things got nasty halfway through my journey here when I felt a sensation I've never felt for years. The hammering on the back of my head and my left eyeball. My migraine which I've managed to keep it at bay decided to return and I wonder if it was the very rich milk pudding I mentioned earlier that have caused this. The pain became very bad and I had to stop halfway into the journey at at open area to rest up. I threw up twice in the process and a very kind Chow Kean Fatt came to my assistance. Knowing nothing much he can do, I told him to carry on. I was really grateful to him though. Thanks Kean Fatt! I had a CoEnzyme10 tablet with me and I took it hoping it will help. It was a mild dosage though but I guess it's better than not having it.

Many fearless runners shouldered on as I was still resting there trying to get my pieces together. The pain was not getting any better soon but I knew I had to move on. I was in the middle of no where, in the darkness and in pain. All I had was myself, my strength and the thoughts which comes into me. I picked up my trekking pole, used it to support my already weaken body and carried on. Sounds dramatic but heck that was what happened!

I was moving slow enough  and every step was a torture. The weather was getting cold especially when the wind blows but I was lucky I already had my third layer on, the water proof and wind proof Saucony Razor Jacket. And when In finally got to the top of Ma On Shan, I could clearly see both side of Hong Kong, Sha Tin and Tai Po. It was a very open area and I can't stop due to the wind factor. I had to carry on hoping I will make it to an enclose area to shield me from the wind. Soon I did along the descend and while the pain from the migraine got better, my body has weakened.  There were a few more unnamed hills to climb, and climb I did before I finally heard some noise. The check point was near!

The path slowly cleared up and trails became tarmac. A few steps and soon Check Point 6 at Gilwell Camp, Tate's Cairn was in sight. It was pretty dark and cold. I found a spot along the railing, rested my pole there and went to refill my bottles. And while doing so, the inexperience young scout overdid it with the water pump causing overfilling of my bottle and hence my gloves was icy wet. Took some rice ball here, before I heard that the scouts did make a camp fire nearby. Pick my stuff up and headed there which was nearby along the race course. I took a long 15 minutes break here and while doing so, try to dry up my gloves. A few other skinny runners like me came by as the fire did help a little in keeping us warm in this cold night. I tore my first pack of hand warmers and stuff it into my gloves for the extra warmth.

And when I thought that rest was sufficient, I resume my journey. My head got better but my legs got worse. The muscles has stiffen up and the journey next was downhills on the road. I walk at first hoping to shake the stiffness off and I was glad a familiar face came about. It was Ping whom I met at the Craze Ultra last year. While I was tired, he was sleepy and chatting away did help us, well at least till we got to the bottom of the hill where he zoomed off into the trails. My legs was kind of glad to be back into the trails as it was easier for it. However, the darkness prevented me from running and besides, the journey to Beacon Hill was a single track pretty technical trail with loose rocks. I had to be careful for one wrong step, I will roll into the unknown. To make things worse, my headlamp gave out the low battery warning by flashing every 30 seconds halfway into my journey. I hope it will last till I get to the check point but it did not and everything just went BLACK!

I had my spare batteries with me but as the surroundings was just too dark to change into them, I took out my spare headlamp instead but the strength was just 100 Lumens. Indeed a huge difference but at least I could see the route ahead, at least a little. I just kept moving and apparently, I thought the journey was so long. I was getting a bit impatient to get to the check point, probably because of my lighting. But I finally found a spot, like a picnic spot where I sat down with a few other runners and finally changed my headlamp into new batteries. I asked one of the runners there on the distance to the check point and was delighted to know that it was about 800M above only. Yes, I said above as it was a uphill climb to it. As I continued on, I kept reminding myself that it was near. Just keep climbing and going!

Finally, I got my sorry self to Beacon Hill, some 73 KM into the race. And to welcome the runners, the scouts places light sticks all over the ground together with some motivational quotes. Certainly a nice touch from them. A young lass also gave me an "ang pau" with the Happy New Year message on it. It made my race truly more meaningful. Made my way to the camp fire and sat around it with a blanket provided by the scouts wrapped over me. Took some hot coffee and tomato pasta too to keep myself warm and filled.

And when I thought I was ready, I moved on. I felt much better as I resumed my journey though the technical downhill here was rather tricky. Was a pretty long journey down the trails but eventually I got there. The view at the bottom was familiar, it was the road towards the Golden Hill Road where the monkeys were as seen on the official video. Feeling much better on the legs, I ran crossed the road via the pedestrian bridge and slowly up the road. No monkeys around though as it was still dark here though I can here some noises from them.

Twist and bends but on tarmac, I slowly grew tired again. Looks like sleep time is almost on me but I was glad that this place was covered and there was no wind blowing around. I took a short break halfway up the climb as there was a platform to sit on which was too much to resist. Took off my shoes and massage my legs before resuming. And fast forwarding to 83KM, I arrive finally at Check Point 8, Shing Mun Dam.

I've no idea, but my body felt like shutting down upon arriving here. I felt miserable and just rested by the corner. I took in nothing too, no water, no food. 7KM to the next check point was all I need but I have to get to Needle Hill first before Grassy Hill, 2 very steep peaks to conquer. It's not an easy task.

Picked my pole up and venture off and soon, the entrance to the trails and climbs greeted. It was no doubt steep and technical. And from an enclosed area, it quickly became an open area with wind blowing again. The view from the distance was just a trail of lights in an upward manner. "Just concentrate on the road ahead", I told myself. One step at a time should get me to the top and eventually I got to Needle Hill at 532M above sea level.

The tougher one done, but from Needle Hill, I could see the peak of Grassy Hill. Though not as steep, it was higher and longer in distance to get there. A very technical descend from Needle Hill before climbing again. Oxygen was thin and I stopped a few times to catch my breath before continuing. I couldn't stop long though as it will get too cold and hence needed to push on. I got to the peak of Grassy Hill at 647M from the sea level and was glad to see lights below. It was all down hill now. It was winding but was not too technical as the descend from Needle Hill. I soon heard the sound of generators and I knew the check point was near.

However, I was wrong. Although I could hear noises, it kind of took me long enough to get to the check point at Lead Mine Pass. I needed to get there fast as I needed some hot beverages. I was glad I arrive at the bottom safely and after a few turns, I finally arrived at the 90KM mark, Check Point 9.

I felt sick though upon arriving at Lead Mine Pass. Feeling drowsy, I unloaded my backpack and just sat at one corner. The idea of having a hot beverage was soon forgotten as I just had no appetite. It has since been no intake since the previous check point and though I know it's going to spell trouble, I just didn't put anything in. A familiar voice called to me. It was Hong Lan and she asked if I was ok. Told her I was and we set out together later with her friend Teng Teng.

The last mountain and the highest in Hong Kong, Tai Mo Shan (Big Hat Mountain) is beyond us. Standing at 957M tall, it is the last obstacle that we had to go through. Not too long after resuming my journey, I suddenly had the appetite to take in something sweet like isotonic drinks. I looked back and knew it was too late to make a return to the check point. Therefore, I will only get my drink should I chase down Hong Lan. But she is a very experience and good hiker where she scaled the climbs confidently as she moved swiftly. I was loosing her and soon enough, I can't even see her headlamp. I was on my own.

I was glad despite standing tall, Tai Mo Shan was not as tough as I though it will be. It's a gradual climb and one just need to find the correct easier path.Most were big rocks or boulders, but once that area is cleared, things got easier. Ping came into the scene suddenly as his headlamp was running out of batteries. But he was moving fast while myself still struggling with drowsiness.

I exited the trails safely and it was now all tarmac to the end. But first, a second climb before I hit the top. All I can see is a giant dome there and that was my indicator. The surrounding here is pretty open and the strong winds channeling through can hit runners pretty hard. I took out my last pack of  hand warmers and stuff it into my gloves as I moved on to keep myself warm. And after winding through the road, I finally arrive at the station where the dome is. Not exactly at the top though as there was a gate that prevented us from entering the area.

The final 4KM or so through the zig zag winding road down to the finish is what stands between success and failure. And despite no intake of fluid or food since Check Point 8, I found my strength back as I started running downhill. Each of my steps were loud. But then, the sudden urge to pee came and I just had to do it at Tai Mo Shan. Sorry Hong Kong! After relieving myself, I continued my run and while doing do, started emptying my backpack of any water that may weight me down. I folded my trekking pole too hoping I can run faster. I wanted to finish this race before the sun rises. I push on and "flew" downhill.

I heard announcements from a far. It's definitely the finish. But like the earlier Lead Mine Pass, I will not let the noises deceive me again. It's an open area and noises travel well here. There should be another couple of Kilometers more I told myself. But eventually after circling around , the view came into sight and what I saw on the video came into reality. The last bend on the grass with the grave on the right was upon me as I zoom onto it, then on to the red carpet and finally crossed the finish in 23:05:08 hours earning the bronze award! My first 100KM trail completed, and one for the bucket list.

Successfully completing my first ever 100KM trail!

I hung area the finish area after collecting my finisher's items as I had to wait for the arrival of my friends, especially Yik Yee, Gan and Kevin. As I waited, had a few chats and photos with friends like Hong Lan, Alan, Hansen and few more while updating my results to my friends back home. Eventually Gan and Yik Yee return safely too, and with close to the 30 hours cut-off time, we found out that Kevin had decided to pull out from the race to help an injured runner at the halfway point. Hats off and well done to Kevin for this unselfish decision. You are a good man!

Feeling tired, sleepy and cold at the finish area.

My splits.

It was a painful journey back to the hotel. With only a single mini bus to ferry the runners from the finish area to the nearest MTR station, we decided to opt for public transport instead. We waited pretty long for the public bus to arrive to drive us to the MTR station before taking the train back. Kevin and Wilson helped a lot with our luggage as myself and Yik Yee was not feeling well. Thanks my friends.  And once back to the hotel, myself and Yik Yee had to drag our luggage to our new room which was a tad little smaller than the previous. Cleaned up and threw up again in the process to clear my air way and it was bed time for me and Yik Yee. I really had no appetite and decided to give dinner a miss while the others did. I woke up around 9PM, message some of my friends back home, had a little gastric pain but eventually fell back to sleep again.

Next day was good as I woke up feeling better though the airway still felt blocked. Had breakfast with Yik Yee before I went to explore the town of Mong Kok myself before joining Kevin for the rest of the noon. I had a great time with Kevin as he shared his stories with me. At dinner, I finally ate some solid food despite not finishing the lovely roast pork and goose rice. Rested early back in the hotel after packing up as the final day at Hong Kong beckons.

Flight was at noon and hence we had sometime to have a very delicious porridge breakfast at the market nearby. Myself, Gan and Kevin explored the city one last time while Yik Yee went to meet up with his relatives. Then an absolutely lovely lunch with Gan's friend at the Regal Hotel before we adjourned to the airport for our flight back. And thus came an end to this trip which despite my migraine, was truly memorable.

Lunch at Regal Hotel with Gan's friend.

All in all, HK100 is a very doable race. I did enjoy it though not really please with how things turn out as little did I expect that my race will be ruin by migraine. Despite not having any target beside just wanting to complete it, I don't deny that the lust for silver came into mind when Foo told me that I had the chance while we met on the way to Kai Kong Shan. At that point of time, I looked at my time and thought it was doable, at least how I felt at that time. I lost some confidence after this race though for I ask myself, how can I achieve my next on my bucket list?

One for the bucket list.

Amway, it's my first 100KM trail and I now know on what to expect from it should I get another shot at it or another event. It's a different game compared to road running as I felt miserable and sick out there. I really had no idea on how one of my friends did it with her ligament injury for 2 years in a row While I ran, walk and limp, I thought of her back then. She was certainly awesome! But thanks to her and my friends especially Roy who had given me many advises for this race for all of it did help me manage better. Else, I will certainly go into this race blindly. My Scottish and South African friends too who had been tracking me, thanks! Not forgetting my travel mates too - Yik Yee, Gan and Kevin for the time together.

Before closing off this entry, I guess there is something worth mentioning here. There were some debates over the past years comparing Comrades Marathon and the HK00. After finally having done both, I guess it's fair enough that I bring this up again. My personal take will be each has their own challenges and difficulties, and that both falls under different categories especially the running surfaces. Both races are doable, but however I guess Comrades Marathon will be tougher due to the strict cut off time at each check points. That's just my 2 cents though.

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