Friday, August 01, 2014

Why Run the 90th Comrades...

By Frank

It's been 2 months since the Comrades Marathon 2014, and now we are just another month away before registration opens on 1 September 2014 for next year's edition. And to make things even more interesting and perhaps more memorable when the day comes, the Comrades Marathon 2015 will mark the 90th edition of this great run.


The 90th edition of The Ultimate Human Race will take place on 31 May 2015. It will be an "Up' run after many speculations that it will be a "Down" due to the anniversary factor. Therefore, it will be run from Durban to Pietermartizburg with an official distance of 87.96KM.

While most of my friends do prefer the "Down" run, I personally favour the "Up" run instead for it's my strength. Not being light weight or what so ever, but my legs and running style are more accustom to it. I don't generally run faster, but I am able to last longer on it compared to the opposite direction where I am needed to take extra care of my legs when descending.  However not to be confused with the word "Up", the run does consist of a lot of descends too and it will be a rolling affair. Not forgetting the climb at Inchanga and the notorious Polly Shortts.

So what is so special about the 90th edition? Honestly speaking, I do not have the details just yet. I've receive no marketing materials yet but knowing that it is the Comrades Marathon which is already special and with its rich history, the 90th edition is going to be a blast. With 18,000 caps each year, we may see an increase to over 20,000 this time. A run being a run, there is nothing much it can be done but perhaps special performances and extra cheers and supports along the race course will be implemented to commemorate this anniversary run. Then there will be definitely other specials events prior and after the race itself like perhaps a bigger expo, pasta parties, after parties and so on.

The 90th edition will also mark the third year I am taking the role of the international ambassador for my home country, Malaysia. Though my ambassadorship for the past 2 years has been a roller coaster ride especially where I had to witness 2 very close friends of mine not able finish the race, I still somehow manage to pick up my pieces and pull it through to share the story of this amazing run. Personally I do feel the amazing sense of achievement whenever I see my fellow countrymen stand on the start line of the race each year, and even though my 2 close friends did not finish their respective race, I am still VERY PROUD of them for taking up the challenge. They tried, and I know they did and that certainly shows the true Comrades spirit within them. I do not know if they will attempt the race again next year as I leave it to their own hands, but for sure, I do hope they will and that I will be there (I hope) to guide them together with coach yet again.

Anyhow, although it may sound too fast, but myself and Chee Kong are already planning our itinerary for next year's trip. We do have a few plans in mind but nothing is firm yet. But at least the mains are being finalized as I wrote this entry.

Therefore, get your credit card ready, mark down the date and time of 1 September 2015, 6am local Malaysian time and head on to www.comrades.com when the registration opens for the 90th edition for the Comrades Marathon. Will we see a double digit figure from Team Malaysia standing on the race start line on 2015? I do hope so. And to those who have been asking and showing interest (you know who you are), think no further for I personally think that you are ready for this!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remembering MH17...

By Frank

When  Roy delivered the news to me last Thursday, 17 July 2014 regarding the crash of a Malaysia Airlines flight, I was totally shock! I was driving back home and was caught in the jam at Persiaran Surian after having durian with Jason and Soon Chung. I ask him where was the flight from and heading to and he told me Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and instantly at that time I knew it was flight MH17! Yes, for some reason, I do know this flight number by heart but at that time, I was hoping the news wasn't true. I quickly got home and turned on my television and saw the news. My heart sank and I was really sad when the news became a reality to me and upon seeing the images, it was heartbreaking. 


A week later, just yesterday, a vigil was held at Empire Shopping Gallery at Subang not only to remember flight MH17, but also the missing flight MH370. I was there to remember those who perish and to give my silence support to those affected. But as the ceremony was about to start at 9.30pm, I was told by Chee Kong of another aviation accident at Taiwan where a local domestic flight crash landed at Penghu claiming 47 lives. Indeed sad for there are just too many aviation accidents within this year.


Malaysian Airline flight MH17 meant a lot to me. I wasn't on board it nor do I know those who was. But it holds a special place in my heart, something which I only can understand myself. Today, MH17 is retired as a mark of respect and the duty taken over by flight MH19. Will continue to fly with Malaysian Airlines when needed for its a homegrown airlines, one that gives us fellow Malaysians a warmth touch to the heart.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Feeling 2009...

By Frank

2014 has been smooth sailing so far, at least in my running form. Though the year started off with just trainings and being pretty quiet in the race scene, with half the year behind now and with only 4 races in the bag with Comrades Marathon being the highlight of it, I do feel I am on a roll now.

Titi100 in February 2014 was done in a pretty comfy pace and while there was a little difficulty at the Twilight Ultra Challenge in March 2014, it was both fruitful enough to contribute to my best performance at the Comrades Marathon this year.

Comrades Marathon will always be my annual Class A+ race and hence everything will be paid attention to it. And after returning from a very successful one, one month ago, I am not stopping as where it is this time which was the mistake I made last year. I took 2 weeks rest and was back running again, completing another 90KM at the Back 2 Endurance. And from there, I continue on with the momentum and hope to bring this forward to some next races I  have on my calendar starting with Kuching Marathon where I will use it as my seeding race for next year's Comrades before reverting back to ultra distances especially on the illusive 100 miles Craze Ultra.

In terms of running, I am feeling great now, so much similar to the feeling I had back in year 2009 where I ran my fastest marathon at Macau. My one and only sub 4 hours marathon, I certainly hope I am able to do it again this year. It will be pretty impossible to out run my best time, but a sub 4 does sound possible. It has been close to 5 years since I started focusing on ultra distances hence it will be a challenge to build speed to challenge this. Therefore, I restarted with interval sessions, something which I actually did back then and seriously hating it till today. But ever since I returned from South Africa this time, I've somehow unleashed the inner "monster" in me in where being a sadist, my pain threshold somehow increased as I began my own torture. 

With the feeling of 2009 back in me now, I hope I will be able to roll forward from here and to achieve further. But what happened at the end of 2009 that destroyed the momentum with an injury will hopefully not happen this time round as I move towards my fourth Comrades. And whether will I crash and burn whether from injury or from other life event or factors, that remains something yet to be answered.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Fourth South African Holidays...

By Frank

South Africa here we come!

It was my fourth trip to South Africa for my third Comrades Marathon. This time round, I travelled with Susanah and spent 13 days there, probably one of my shortest trip. My idea was to get there early, this time a week before the race day to settle down and rest up. It was to ease up the jet lag, breathing issues and leg strength before we tackle the big race. However, there is a concern as upon arrival at Durban as I was worried I am not able to fully make use of the available time to bring Susanah around. Durban hasn't a lot of attractions and most are at least long drives away, half a day long to be exact. However, I guess it had to be done as the race was the biggest priority.

As for myself, it didn't go down very well either as I did not recover fully from my cough. It had been a month and although it went away, it returned just before making this trip. And during the course of the trip, I am both grateful and thankful to Susanah for caring for me and providing me with Vitamin C and also to CP for buying all the way from Malaysia some cough lozenges. But anyway, to cut things short, let's get into the details of my holidays there.

Day 1, 26 May 2014
Flight was at 2am on board Emirates. So the plan was to arrive at Susanah's house at 11pm and her dad will drive us to the airport. However as dad was not well, he drove me to her house and I arrived early at 10.30pm and hence I waited. However, there was a little drama as Susanah's main luggage was locked up and the combination code wasn't working. We tried various numbers hoping that we will get lucky but to no avail. Without any solutions, we decided that we shall think about it upon arrival at South Africa.

We left for the airport together with Catherine and Moxie too. Everything went smoothly and upon checking in our luggage, we just hung around till we boarded the plane. Flight was smooth and we treated ourselves to the movies on the entertainment system before arriving at Dubai. It was a 5 hours plus transit there. We shopped for a while for nuts and drinks before finding a spot to rest till our next flight to Durban.

Surprisingly, the flight to Durban was not fully occupied. We finally arrived at King Shaka Airport at Durban at around 5pm. A little drama at the customs as our bags needed to be check and we still can't get Susanah's bag open. Finally, it was decided that we shall use a screwdriver to remove the zipper's latch and that finally worked and we got ourselves cleared.

Proceeded to collect our rented car which was the Nissan Livina before driving to Belaire Suites. Upon arrival at our hotel, a little drama as there was a beggar came begging for money and food immediately after I parked my car. He was crying and even I gave him some money, he wanted more. I couldn't make up what he was saying as it was in Afrikaans but the parking attendant chased him away. Unloaded our luggages and checked in our room at 202, a nice one though not high enough to enjoy the sea view. As we have spent almost a day travelling, decided to just have a simple dinner downstairs at Cafe Jiran before resting up.

Day 2, 27 May 2014
The sun rises as early as at 6.30am and that woke us up pretty instantly. Put on our running shoes and off we went to the North Beach for a run where we ran till the uShaka Marine Park entrance before heading back which gave us a healthy 7KM. A quick sower and it was breakfast, the most anticipated part of our stay at Belaire. It was still as good as my past 3 visits with bacons, scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, waffles, fruits and many more. The only difference this time for me is that we sat at the little garden which was nice and cozy. We certainly had our fill which was like a combination of breakfast and lunch.

Next on the itinerary was to drive to Umlanga Rocks, another beach. Though the sun was a little scorching and warm, it didn't dampen our walk along the beaches walkway which was rather a nice view of the Indian Ocean. Then while on our way back to our car, we stopped by a little craft shop to purchase some gifts before we headed to Gateway, Durban's largest shopping mall I guess. And yes it was huge!

Spotted the Springboks team bus at Umlanga Rocks.

Although the mall was huge, it was still like any typical shopping mall back home. I bought myself a First Ascent jacket hoping to use it for the Vibram HK100 next year. And from Gateway, we headed back to North Beach as we paid a visit to uShaka Marine Walk before heading to Piatto for an early dinner.

We returned to our hotel room early and I was worried. Durban's attraction wasn't a lot and we still had days to kill before the race day. I was worried Susanah was bored and hence tried to look out for places to visit. We found a hiking place call iSithumba near the Valley of 1000 Hills and decided to head there tomorrow and hence we rested early.

Day 3, 28 May 2014
We woke up early again and hence proceeded to North Beach for our 7KM run again before breakfast. Although it's only the second day, I think I can actually go by this lifestyle. Wake up, run, eat, shower and so on. A very carefree life.

Tourism Durban and the Comrades Marathon Association has organised a complimentary trip to Imflonzi National Park for the Comrades ambassadors today. It was certainly a good package for us but I opt to pass on it as I will rather spend time with Susanah., hence it was still according to our own plan.

First stop for today's trip was to a nearby craft market call Victoria Street Market for some local crafts at down to earth prices. I felt I was at Petaling Street there and it's really down to bargaining skills which Susanah was really good at, and I mean REALLY GOOD! I did not buy anything for myself as most were already purchased back during my first trip. However, it was still an eye opener for me and I was glad that we made this stop.

Once done, we set our GPS hoping it will lead us correctly to iSithumba. We drove along part of the Comrades race route for this and finally we got lost in some housing estate where the GPS guided us. Apparently, I think the place was huge hence it was plotted wrongly. Again, my worry came as we search for another place to visit and decided on a private wild life park near to Drummond. And upon arrival, it was sad to know that the park wasn't really attractive and the charges was pretty high. Another plan was needed and hence I brought Susanah to the Comrades Wall of Honour and also halfway point at Drummond before stopping over at The View for lunch or rather tea time while enjoying the view of the Valley of 1000 Hills. I ordered the Bunny Chow. I also brought her to the puzzle store to have some brain "exercise".

Bunny Chow and they are not made of bunnies.

We headed back to Belaire Suites to freshen up before walking over to Sun Coast Casino for dinner at John Dory's Seafood. We then visit the casino to try our hands on the slots machine and we won a few Rands, as in a few cents before heading back to call it a night.

Day 4, 29 May 2014
No morning run today. Instead, it's leg exercise at the race expo for it's the first day. Breakfast as usual and off myself and Susanah went. I initially thought the first day is going to be brisk and easy, but I was wrong. Though there weren't many visitors yet as it was a working Thursday, many of the international runners had already arrived which caused a long queue at the international race pack collection. Mark from the USA and Bruce from Australia, 2 of the most outstanding ambassadors were already there and were busy entertaining and giving out drinks to the others.

It took us almost an hour to collect our race pack and it wasn't an experience that I would like to remember. It was slow as they have trouble locating the race packs and the contents were inconsistent. Nevertheless, I was delighted to have met up with Kai Yuan whom I've met from Facebook first.

With Eric, organisers of the Year to Year 6 Days Circuit Race.

With Allan from New Balance. Sorry but I do not wear NB.

With Saucony South Africa.

Later on, it was shopping time and along it, I've met many of my dear South African friends like Eric, Philip, Allan, Spike, Anthony and Susan. Again, I bought myself an iFitness belt, the same as my previous 2. Can't leave South Africa without it I guess. Then some small gifts from the official Comrades charities like PinkDrive. WildLands and Community Chest. And not forgetting the official merchandise from New Balance which I have to say was disappointing. Susanah herself bought quite a number of things though and she was good in bargaining.

Anthony and Pierre, awesome and a little crazy South African friends.

I opt to pass on the ambassador's run, international meet-up and also the AIMS World Congress Dinner and we stayed on till about 3.30pm before heading to the airport as our friends Cham, CP and Selva are scheduled to arrive around 6pm. And after picking them up, we headed off to Ocean Basket at uShaka Marine Walk for a welcome dinner. Chee Kong and Mei-Ee soon landed safely too and headed to Belaire Suites straight where I met them later for some catching up before resting up as most were tired from all the travelling.

Cham, CP and Selva' arrival at King Shaka Airport.

Selfie with Xi-Ning.

Day 5, 30 May 2014
With the team almost complete now, we headed off for our morning run before the usual breakfast. Durban is now busier and also noisier than before with the arrivals of the runners. Expo was next and while the rest collects their race pack, it was shopping part 2 for myself and Susanah before we headed off to the Comrades Marathon House at Pietermaritzburg.

Team Malaysia's morning beach run.

Spotted Renee and Johann with family at the expo.

At the Comrades Marathon House, it was my pleasure again to meet Sian, the museum curator. Just a short stop here before we started our journey back to Durban via the race route stopping along major landmarks. It was also a preview for the novices. We made a stop at Drummond which was very windy and chilly before a stop at the fame Wall of Honour for some photography session and it was back to Durban from there.

With Sian.

A very windy situation at the Wall of Honour.

A short rest before we headed to Sun Coast Casino again for the Runner's World Pasta Party. As last year we went rather late and had a little difficulty with our seats, this time round we went too early. In fact we were the first to arrive. But this time round, the seats were already allocated and all of us were seated together. We even made sure we were seated with Susan and Caroline who arrived shortly later. The dinner started a little late but this time round, food was served first rather than starting off with the talk. And when the announcement was made, Susanah, Caroline and Chee Kong took the honours of being up at the "podium" for top 3 food grabbers. The food was better than last year that we took a few servings. Some of the food served was cheesy spaghetti and fettuccine, mushroom lasagne, mince beef sauce and potato salad being served. Fruits and dessert came at the closing stage though. And while eating, the famed Dr. Ross Tucker took to the stage with 4 of his speakers from the sports science faculty of University of Cape Town.

At the Runner's World pasta party.

They spoke about training, injuries, bio-mechanics and also the Comrades Marathon which was very interesting especially from Ross himself. We continued with our dinner while they talked and quickly enough, the event came to a close. Susanah approached the physiotherapist for some advise which back fired instead as the reply wasn't something favourable to her. At that time, I really hope it didn't dampen her spirit as we return to our room next to prepare our race gear before turning in.

Day 6, 31 May 2014
Today, the plan was to rest. No Youth Run as per last 2 years and I slept in. The other went for the Park Run though. I slept a little longer and woke up just in time for breakfast with Susanah, Cham and CP. Then we decided to walk over to the expo to have embroidery done on our event tee. Halfway walking, I asked Susanah on whether did we bring our tee and silly us, we left it back in our room hence we got to walk back. Take it as our warm up for tomorrow's race.

We got to the expo and handed in our tee. 2 hours was the waiting time and hence we walk around the expo hoping for some further reduction of price. However, nothing caught my attention and quickly enough, our tee was ready. Walked back to North Beach and settled at Wimpy for an easy lunch before heading back to the room to get our gears prepared and to rest.

As my gears was ready, I helped Susanah with hers and also to study a little on the race course before I started packing my luggage a little. It won't be easy to pack after the race as we are checking out the next day so I guess it's better to pack as much as I can before the whole body starts aching.

And quickly enough, it was dinner time at 6.30pm and this time, we have pre-booked Cafe Jiran downstairs for a simple but yet satisfying dinner of chicken chop. The mood was good though I can see in the eyes of especially Susanah and Cham that they were nervous. However, each of us kept positive, or at least tried to. By 8pm, everyone was back in their room and it was an early lights off after some final preparations.

Day 7, 1 June 2014
COMRADES MARATHON 2014  RACE DAY! Read all about by clicking the link.

Day 8, 2 June 2014
I believe most of them slept through the morning. However for me, I woke up pretty early and boy my entire body especially the legs were sore. And when I woke up, my phone was flooded with messages back from home congratulating on my success. Thank you my friends but at that time, I wasn't still very comfy as I was still worried about Susanah. She too woke up early and felt better already. We freshen ourselves up before heading down for breakfast with the rest.

It was the usual funny scene at the lobby where we see funny walking Comrades runners. Those wanting for a bite had to make themselves to the food. Some were seen wearing their medal around their neck too. We all enjoyed our breakfast for this was a meal that tasted so tasty after a hard run. Besides, this would be our last meal at Belaire this year before retuning next year so we better enjoy ourselves before our long drive later.

One for the album before we leave Durban.

After breakfast, we headed back to our room to clean ourselves up and to packed up before meeting downstairs for check-out. We hung around at Cafe Jiran for a while before I sent Cham, CP and Selva over to Gateway before I headed off to King Shaka Airport to return my car. Myself, Susanah, Chee Kong, Mei-Ee and Xi Ning will continue with our trips to Kruger National Park via Zululand and Swaziland while the rest will make their way home.

The journey to Zululand was on familiar roads. Nothing pretty to much to see so it's mainly chatting and sleeping throughout the journey. Chee Kong was a machine though as he didn't look very tired after all the running and was driving all the way without an complaints. Salute to him!

We stopped by a nearby small town to buy some food to braai for dinner later from the SPAR supermarket before entering the safari. Nothing much to see though and hence we headed straight to our lodge call the African Spirit Lodge. It was a nice place and we stayed over at a huge bungalow that came with a nice garden for bomo and braai.

South African Spirit Lodge.

I became the "guard" for the living hall this time. Don't be mistaken though as it was actually pretty comfy and with the huge space, I was king. The only worry was perhaps warthogs and baboons came invading during the night. Hahaha... We are in a safari after all. Settled down, and we started preparing dinner. Unlike last year where I was ill and did not take part in the preparation, this year I was all systems go, well except for my legs. There was a big step separating the house and garden hence it was difficult to move up and down there hence with the help of Susanah, we passed the food using the "conveyor" system. Chee Kong was doing what he does best, the fire while myself and Susanah cutting and preparing the salad in the kitchen while cooking the pasta. It was all a team's work and soon enough, a wholesome dinner was served. There was chicken, borewors, butternut, pumpkin, salad, macaroni and not forgetting Castle Lite too! Well, I only had a sip of the beer though.

Life's good and simple.

We sat around the fire enjoying our dinner under the stars twinkling at the clear sky. We chatted away and life was good and this was a moment to be cherish. It took things away from the mind as we relax in the cool weather. I will certainly remember the moment we all spent here.

Day 9, 3 June 2014
Next stop was Hlane Royal National Park in Swaziland. Yeap, we are are exiting South Africa to another country. I woke up pretty early and though I had a good sleep, I though I heard sounds from animals during the night. However, Chee Kong mentioned that it was from Xi Ning. Hmmm...

Anyway, breakfast was just plain simple, bun and coffee and we were already on our way. It's about 2 to 3 hours drive so it isn't too taxing. We arrived at about 2pm, just in time for lunch and I had a shock upon entering! As the gates were all manually open, I had to do the honours. Did not noticed that it was electrified and without any precautions, I touched the wire which send a high voltage shock to my body. My body went numb and though painful, I didn't end up being braaied.

Got electrocuted here.

Rhinos.

After checking in and registering myself and Susanah for the sunset drive, we had lunch there while enjoying the spectacular views of the rhinos at the water hole. Then we moved into our huge bungalow where each of us has a separate room. 2 issues with this park will be that there is no electricity hence candles is used to light up the night. Even the shower uses gas hence the inconsistency of hot water. And speaking of water, the pipe water can't be drink at all as its murky. Luckily we had plenty of mineral water.

Ooops...

With the ladies.

Rested for a while and soon it was time for the sunset drive. The truck used wasn't as big as those in Krueger and somehow, the view was distorted by a net. The only good thing is that it is almost guaranteed that we will spot the animals as although this is a wild safari, it is owned by the Swaziland King and the park isn't very big. Only myself and Susanah went though as Xi Ning wasn't allowed hence both Chee Kong and Mei-Ee stayed back.

Lioness.

Lioness among the pride.

Soon, we spotted the lions, both lioness and the cubs. Amazing sight. The male lion was actually around, just that he was sleeping and was showing us his bum. What a rude lion! Next stop was with the elephants, a lot of them and we were really close to them. I thought we were too close in fact! We stop near them and the ranger served us drinks while we ask questions and see them feed.

Elephant.

Beautiful Swazi sunset.

After a while, the sun began setting. It was a beautiful sight to behold. And before darkness came, we returned to the spot where the lions were. We waited longer this time and it paid off. The male lion finally woke up from his long slumber and with a kill with him, he began to feast. We also spotted a lioness feasting on a kill. We ended our drive here and returned to the camp. It was overall a fruitful one, a first for Susanah too and I hope she enjoyed it despite some uncomfortable stories about the difference between men and women in Swaziland.

The male lion is awake!

We headed back to our hut or rather bungalow to clean up before heading back out for dinner. We had to bring our lamps with us as it was pitch dark. Talk about candlelight dinner. Once done, it was back to the hut. Susanah rested early as guess she was tired from the drive while I chatted away with Chee Kong. A nice chat with a buddy face to face rather than our usual Facebook Messenger. Had a good time with Xi Ning too before we all grew tired and sleep awaits.

Day 10, 4 June 2014
Despite no electricity and the hut smack in the middle of trees, I had a good sleep. No sounds from animals, or at least I did not hear them nor mosquitoes attack. Everyone was awake at the same time and it was the same simple breakfast like yesterday. Life is just better being simple. Lots of warthogs were around though and after some photography, we were soon on our way to Krueger National Park.

Our entry point will be Crocodile Bridge Gate. Drive was pretty smooth including clearance at the customs back into South Africa. Had a few stop along the way for food before the usual stop at the petrol kiosk just outside Krueger where we stock up with some food for braai later in the night.

The Crocodile Bridge Gate river crossing.

Upon arriving at the Crocodile Bridge Gate entrance and having our registration done, a few warthogs welcomed us. We then took a short drive towards Lower Sabie Camp, a camp famous for the hippos and the nice view of the Sabie River. And on the way there, we spotted elephants, rhinos, impala, giraffes and so on. Once arrived, we were surprised to see that the cafe has been upgraded to Mugg & Bean and we had our lunch there while enjoying the lazy view of hippos sleeping away.

Hippos with one opening it's mouth!

We then moved into our nice cozy safari hut located by the river bank. After unpacking a little and rested for a while, we then went for an evening drive of our own, a time where the hippos come out and play by the nearby water hole. It was a fruitful drive but I wish my camera lens was longer. We then headed back, clean and freshen up and its time to braai again.

Sunset at Sabie River.

For tonight's braai, we had avocado salad prepared by myself and Susanah, while Chee Kong took charge of the fire department with steak, mushroom and sweet potato. Nice simple dinner as again, we chatted under the bright twinkling stars. The only thing missing was the sound of the hippos. Surprisingly pretty quiet compared to my last visit. So I guess it's going to be a pretty good night sleep as we turned in early to get some rest for tomorrow's morning drive.

Day 11, 5 June 2014
It isn't that quiet after all in the night. I did hear some sounds from the hippos but that wasn't the reason that I was awoke most the night. My mind was thinking or rather somewhere else. It's an on and off night for me. And soon, it's 7am, time for our drive. Except for the major cape buffalo road block, there wasn't anything much to see and hence after an uneventful drive, we were back at Mugg & Bean for breakfast before turning to our hut to clean up before leaving for our next destination, Satara Camp, famous for its lions.

Cape buffalo.

It was a pretty long drive there and the sun was rather scorching. We had a stop in the middle of our journey for snack but later, it was pretty fruitful as we saw a few big tusker elephants together and some interesting sight of them digging and drinking from the ground. The rest was the usual impala, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, giraffe and so on before we arrived safely at Satara Camp.

Young elephant drinking from the ground.

Big tuskers!

Waterbuck spots a white ring around their bum.

Though the Curio shop was open, it was only half in space as it was under renovation. Nothing much to buy here and after registration, we again ended up at Mugg & Bean for lunch before checking into our hut. It was nice little cozy hut but not as nice at the one at Lower Sabie. The usual unpacking and resting before myself and Susanah went for the sunset drive.

The sunset drive was 3 hours long and initially I gave up hope on spotting any of the big 5 as I thought the ranger wasn't really good. He was explaining to us birds and grass! But he had some instinct in him where later in the drive, when the sun has set, he stopped at a spot. And out of a sudden, appeared the leopard! After 3 trips to Krueger National Park, I finally spotted the leopard.  Everyone rushed to grab their camera and snapped away as this is one predator that is rarely seen. I only managed 4 shots and weren't very clear but was satisfied. And on the way back, we spotted the African black civet cat and also chameleon. Trust the ranger to be able to spot the chameleon which is so small resting on the tree branch. 

Finally, the leopard!

African black civet.

We arrived back safely at the camp after a successful drive and this is where I stop my entry for this day as I do not want to talk further from here.

Day 12, 6 June 2014
We left Satara at about 6.30am, or was it 7am?  It's going to be a long drive to Johannesburg hence the early departure from Satara. We exited Krueger National Park from Orpen Gate and proceeded to Graskop for breakfast at Harrie's Pancake. On the way there, we got flagged down by a traffic officer for entering the lane just a little too late at the traffic lights. The fine was R500 and Chee Kong needed to go over to the police station. And apparently, a ticket is to be issued on the spot where it can be paid at the post office. Apparently the lady officer didn't agree with it and we did not have the traffic act with us which can proof that we were right. But after a while, the officer I guess got fed up and let us go. Basically, I think she just wanted some side income for herself.

Arriving at Graskop, the town this time was clear without any mist unlike my previous visit and I had my usual trout pancake with plunger coffee. Bought my favourite dark chocolates from The Chocolate Shop before getting 20 packs of macadamia nuts from the locals. It was all down to negotiating again and Susanah and Chee Kong did most the job and we got a pretty decent price for it. 20 packs for R260!

We continued our journey via Panorama and we skipped Dullstroom and headed straight onto the highway before making another stop at Alzu's Petroport. Wanted Susanah to catch the view of the animal farm here which consist of the handsome Eland antelope, rhino, ostrich, emu and zebras. It was a short stop here as we needed to head to McDonald's at Witbank where Chee Kong is to meet up with his friends there before our final destination at Johannesburg where we need to check into our accommodation by 5pm.

After some drama of our vehicle almost running out of petrol, we finally arrived at The Fourways Guest Lodge just a little late. However, the owner was kind enough to stay back a little to process our check in. It was a nice cozy place, pretty similar to where Chee Kong stayed back at Springfield Park. After settling down and freshening up, we headed to Monte Casino. Though not much has changed, it was still nice to be back here again. We spent some time in Skoobs browsing through some books before leaving.

Next was dinner with the Fourway Runners at Lonehill. Great to meet up with Mark, Trevor, Andrew and the rest of Fourway Runners. I wasn't feeling too good and had a little too much Castle Lite till rashes appeared a little. Dinner done, and we headed back to have our luggage packed up before calling it a night as one more run awaits tomorrow before we leave.

Day 13, 7 June 2014
And so, after 13 days in South Africa, the trip comes to an end at Johannesburg. But before leaving, all of us managed to put in one final run at the MTN road race. Myself, Susanah and Chee Kong ran the 10KM distance while Mei-Ee ran the 5KM event pushing Xi-Ning in her jogger. The event was the usual South African weekly event, and although it wasn't as good as my previous 2 last year, it was still a good event. I ran with Susanah at a recovery pace. However, it wasn't easy due to the dry air and the high altitude. But surprisingly, the legs managed to move freely, not much of sore from Comrades Marathon and I managed to compete the run in 1:04:03 hours.

Cold start at the MTN road race.

We rush back to shower up and to pack our luggage up before going over to Fourways Crossing for breakfast and some last minute shopping. I bought a pair of Saucony Type A6 from Sweat Shop while Susanah bought some Castle Lite for her dad before we went to the airport to catch our 2pm flight back home via Dubai on board Emirates.

Before boarding out flight. Thanks again to Chee Kong and Mei-Ee.

We landed home safely after a long haul to this very hot and humid country. In a blink of an eye, our holiday was over. I wish it will have lasted longer and will be memorable. In terms of holidays, it wasn't exactly smooth sailing as there were some pretty poor planning especially at Durban in bringing Susanah around and I felt really bad. And also, one regret I had was the lack of photography opportunity during this trip hence I can only try to remember them in my mind. I hope that there will be another chance that we will be able to travel like this again, a chance that I can really hope for now. And till then, I can only hope for now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back 2 Endurance 2014...

Event: Back 2 Endurance 2014
Venue: Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 15 June 2014
Time: 6.30am
Distance: To run as many 2.3KM in 12 hours
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

Back 2 Endurance 2014 was scheduled 2 weeks after the Comrades Marathon. I did not know on whether should I participate in it as it will be risky to injure myself. After all, a full recovery for Comrades Marathon is one full month. However, Jeff who was the event director mentioned to me that should I feel good after my biggie, just give him a buzz as he would have extra race bibs with him.



So I text Jeff from South Africa while at the Satara Camp to inform him on my decision to run the event. My decision was done hastily and I thought to myself that I needed to "torture" myself. And so, I was registered.

The format is to run as many 2.3KM loops around Lake Gardens in 12 hours with the direction switching every 3 hours. It is not as simple as it sounds, as the pavement is hard there and with the scorching hot weather, this is one tough run, a good prepration for the upcoming Craze Ultra. But I still started it with one aim, to complete the Comrades distance and I reminded myself that I had the 6 days circuit race experience to help me in this.

The morning did not start well though as I dropped my bottle of frozen SlowMag (Magnesium) onto my left big toe which caused it to swell. I tried to roll it off and numb the pain by using the same frozen bottle but the discomfort was there already. Guess the damage has been done. Oh well, since I mentioned earlier that this is going to be a "torture", might as well take it to another step higher.

I arrived at Lake Gardens at 6.10am and was a little distorted. The run was to begin in 20 minutes time from the playground as I dashed to collect my bib and to find a spot to put my cooler box which was filled with my nutrition. I'm glad to have found a spot next to Jason and Hong Lan. Once all my gears are finally checked, the run started. Phew... Just on time.

Immediately at the start, I threw away my hammer and went for it. I tried to run on the softer tarmac surface when available else I had no choice to run on pavement. However, as there were construction on the opposite side where the ground was broken into gravels, it became a cross-country race instead! Though uneven and risky to run with rocks small and big scattered around, I continued with my journey and went for it, well at least for my first 20KM, all done in 2 hours. At this pace, I know I won't last long, but I did not care nor think too much. And sorry to those who called me out. I was concentrating on my run and although sometimes I did not hear nor see you, I did so and ignore a few of you. Apologies on this.

From the distance onwards, I took the run walk strategy where I walk at the rocky segment of the course while running on the rest of the surface. The swollen big left toe began to hurt but I bear with the pain and continue on with my venture. I was mostly running alone though the supporters and photographers were very supportive cheering the runners on. And if not mistaken, Jason join my run at the 30KM plus distance, or maybe nearing 40KM. We were also joined by David who took the run easily after running a great Comrades 2 weeks ago. Tey at this time was somewhere around the mid loop snapping photos and also armed with the water spray to cool runners down. A simple but yet thoughtful gesture. Thanks Tey.



I completed the 44.5KM in about 5:14 hours, a bit slower than what I did at Comrades by arriving at the halfway point of Drummond. Yes, I have a lot of thinking of Comrades while I ran this together with some other thoughts. And with this, at least it took my mind off the scorching heat. My legs were badly thrashed at this point and it hurts everywhere with every step. My pace got a lot slower and I mean a lot! I started using the ice therapy here to cool myself down and to rub off the pain. And upon completion of each loop, I used iced water which I've frozen back home to splash all over me to cool myself down. Then I took in a combination of electrolytes with SlowMag or Coke with water upon completion of each loop to ensure I did not dehydrate.

Splashing ice water all over.

At about 2pm upon completing about 55KM or so, Susanah arrived with some food and drinks. She helped pace me and although it wasn't consecutively pacing during the early stages,I was really grateful for her kind gesture. I was worried at the same time too that her foot's injury will flare up but she kept me going, chatting with me and sharing positive vibes with me. Although in daze, I could hear everything she was saying and that kept me moving. With just slightly more than 4 hours to complete 30KM, I started hallucinating and am taking longer time cooling and rehydrating myself at the end of each loop.

In pain and the thoughts going through my head.

My calves, hamstrings, adductors and piriformis were starting to twitch and I know the next big thing that is going to happen will be cramps should I not manage it well. I started stuffing ice into those areas and I thank Yik Yee for helping to dig them out from the ice box. Wai Hong and Andrew was helping spray water all over me to keep my core temperature down. At point, I was grumpy but I always remember to thank them. If I did forget at any point of time, do accept my apologies my friends.

Water spray to keep the temperatures down.

Fast forwarding to the final 17KM or so with 2 hours to, Susanah once again paced me. I knew at that time that her foot was already hurting and that she had to go home to celebrate Father's Day, but she stood by me and controlled my pace. Realistically the 90KM distance can still be achieved but it's going to be very tight and I can't afford to lose too much time from then onwards. And with my right medial knee area hurting, things got complicated. I relied on her positive vibes to push me on.

Runners who has completed their run and the volunteers cheers as I completed each loop. Susanah stayed with me till my final 7KM. Thank you Susanah for all the pacing and yes, miracles do happen! I started my third final loop and found Wai Hong coming to assistance. Appreciate it Wai Hong! I believe this will be my fastest loop as I had about 48 minutes or so to complete the distance. Time is running short and I need to find all my remaining strength and energy. And yet, I had to visit the loo to relieve myself! Damn it! However, I couldn't take the punishment of the pace and slowed eventually at the second final loop. I thought that I can find one more extra gear at the next final loop and hence conserve some energy for that.

The final loop. 15 minutes was all stand between 90KM and failure. I took one quick splash and dash before starting. I bombarded the descend near the waterfall but soon the legs started screaming. I guess the extra gear was no where to be found and hence just maintained my pace. "It should be all right", I told myself as Wai Hong ran alongside me. And after the construction area, the final straight was the home stretch. Quick glimpse on my watch and it was showing 9 minutes till the 12 hours cut off. It can be done and hence it was to manage the legs till I reach the end. And eventually, I did just that with 2 minutes before the cut-off, completing 90KM in 11:58 hours earning 3rd spot for the men's category and 4th overall.

With Jason's trophy since I did not get mine due to insufficient stock.

I was in daze upon completing my run though I did not forget to thank my friends. In fact, I remembered that I actually shook hand with each of them. And that was before lights out for me as I laid down on the bench. Not sure if it happened, but thought I had blacked out for a moment before my right hamstring cramped up and Ewegene and Jason came to help.

One for the album!

All in all, although my friends told me that it was my own effort in running yet again this distance 2 weeks after the gruelling Comrades Marathon, I know for sure it was a combined effort from Susanah, Jason and Wai Hong that took me there. And of course not forgetting the support both morale and actions from friends like Yik Yee, Andrew, Tey and many others. So yes, THANKS everybody in helping out the very blur and distorted me on this day.

I thought the event was overall pretty well organised. Well done to Jeff and his team. However, it was not without it's flaws. A certain volunteer actually asked me for refunds for the toe shoe that wasn't even bought from my workplace. Hey... I am there to run not to discuss on this matter! And next, the mysterious case of holding back food and drinks caught the attention of lots of runners as those were not only felt but spotted. What happened to the big pack of chips that was not served at all? What about the sudden disappearance of Coke? And what's with the hold back on the watermelons? If someone or somebody wants to treat us runners like prisoners waiting for food or to wait till we collapse, you certainly do not deserve to be part of Jeff's team. I hope Jeff will be able to investigate on this matter and hope it will not surface again in the next edition. But all in all, well done Jeff and thanks for the opportunity!

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Many thanks to them.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Comrades Marathon 2014...

Event: Comrades Marathon 2014
Venue: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Date: 01 June 2014
Time: 5.30am (South Africa time) / 11.30am (Malaysia time)
Distance: 89.28KM (90.28KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank


Before getting started, here's the link to my previous 2 Comrades Marathon :
Comrades Marathon 2012 "Down" run
Comrades Marathon 2013 "Up" run

My fourth visit to South Africa, my second year as the Malaysia Comrades Marathon ambassador, my third Comrades Marathon and also second "Down" run saw 9 Malaysian standing in the chilly temperatures of 10c at the start at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on 1 June 2014. But before getting into the race, here's a recap to how it all began. Won't be blogging about my South African holidays as usual as it will be in another entry.

I was battling cough and phlegm since the day of arrival almost a week ago. Been whacking Vitamin C to hopefully get rid of it though I failed to do so. However, I myself thought it was manageable at least from my own perspective and hence I told myself that I was good to go. And I slept through the morning before race day as for the past 2 years, I participated in the Youth Run. This year, I would think a change might be good to rest those legs.

Pre-race day dinner was early at 6.30pm and simple one at Cafe Jiran, Belaire Suites just at the lobby. Unlike last year, this time round, all ate together and was just a simple dinner of chicken chop. Not too much,not too filling, it was just all right and safe. By around 8.30pm, everyone was back in their room trying to sleep. I had my race gears all laid out the day before and so is Susanah's. Went through a little about the race course and it was lights out for the both of us.

Sleep was critical and just like last year, I woke up feeling good with about 5 hours sleep despite suffering cramps on my right calf. Just my bad habit of stretching after waking up. Must remember not to do it anymore. Susanah was still asleep as I started to prepare myself breakfast which consist of Old Town Coffee, Nakd Bars and "bak kwa". I also tried to clear my airway of phlegm as much as I could while cleaning and freshening myself up. Bowel movement was good and by 3am, together with Susanah, we were good to go as we were all scheduled to meet the others at the lobby at 3.15am. Group picture and off to Pietermaritzburg with Chee Kong driving and Mei-Ee taking over later to support along the race course at the Fourways tent.

A group photo just outside Belaire before leaving for Pietermaritzburg.

We arrived an hour later at Pietermaritzburg and there was a slight hiccup upon disembarking from our vehicle. Everyone was trying to hard to put in last minutes gear check. Mine was literary all ready hence I helped out to tear open the hand warmers as the temperature was chilly about 10c and also took in a GU Roctane gel to give myself a jump start. Myself and Susanah lost touch with the others as we approach the starting coral but were soon reunited for a group photo together. And once all wishes were made, we headed to our respective starting pent. I was with Susanah at the G coral.

Before entering our seeding pent.

I remained calm though I can see from Susanah's expression that she was nervous. And with the clock ticking away till the start at 5.30am, I just hope that she will be able to embrace into the start atmosphere which was magnificent as I wished her the best in her run. And then, it finally started with the South Africa national anthem Nkosi Sikelel Afrika being played followed by Shosholoza and Chariots of Fire. I sang along and then, it was silence for a moment before the cock's crow from Max Trimborn. I told Susanah to start her chrono and soon, the cannon went off to signal the start at 5.30am sharp! The crowd went crazy as we started to move.

As the start at Pietermaritzburg is narrower than Durban, it took us 7 minutes to cross the start gantry. That was about a minute faster compared to year 2012 when I was seeded H. We both started our run together as I removed my t-shirt which kept me warm earlier. My gloves remained on with the warmers in them. A Kilometer in,  I had the urged to pee and off I went to the side where many runners were as well. It must have been the cold start that caused the urge. Once done, I tried to look for Susanah as we agreed to meet back somewhere in the middle of the crowd. I spotted her easily and we continued on. However shortly later after the first junction, she asked me to go ahead. I knew at that time her foot was starting to hurt already. I would have continue with her but knowing her that when she asked me to go ahead, I had to go ahead. And at that time, a decision had to be made and hence I surged forward after wishing her a safe and good run, telling and keep reminding myself that this isn't only for the Be Frank campaign only, but also for my dear friend.

Surging ahead through the crowd along the narrow path, I caught up with Susan and exchanged a couple of words before I surged ahead again. The locals were already out cheering and supporting the runners while some poor villagers were asking for our unwanted tops. The urge to pee once again came at about 6KM and this time it happened near Polly Shortts, the place where I stepped on "human land mine" back in year 2012. I chose my spot wisely this time as I did not want to soil my spanking new Kinvara 5 and relieve myself. There weren't a lot of pee actually, just that the cold weather kept weakening my bladder.

Day breaking at Polly Shortts.

The descend at Polly Shortts and Little Polly didn't bother me much as day began to break. And before it got too bright, I went again to relieve myself at 14KM. And it was here that I finally finished my tiny 300ML bottle of GU Roctane Brew I had from the start. I been sipping small amounts in at every 20 minutes interval to keep the nutrients flowing in my system and also to avoid the human traffic at the earlier water stations. Soon I've arrived at Lion Park, where the first timing mat was. I knew there was a video cam somewhere hence I continued running. Hahaha... Here, I've managed to passed a pretty huge number of runners already and hence has broken free from the main crowd. I've also passed all the 11 hours bus (pacer) and hence will be building buffer to ensure that all of them or at least one of them will stay behind me.

Next was the approach towards Camperdown and when the smell of chicken which was pretty nasty came, I knew I was near. I spotted Johan Grassman and took the opportunity to have a short break while catching up with him before resuming my run. Then I spotted the lady in pink wig and tutu, Caroline. Johan too caught up and we had some photos and chat together before I went ahead. As I arrived at Camperdown, I tried spotting to Mei-Ee but like year 2012, I failed to do so. I wanted the sun block lotion to apply on my shoulders. I even missed my first salty potato here as I went ahead too fast. No point turning back, I took my first pack of GU Roctane gel here.

Local supports were just as amazing.

"Bumpy" ride at the not so flat Harrisons Flats.

So far so good on the legs and energy level, next to tackle was Cato Ridge, a pretty mild area before arriving at Harrison Flats. And if I remember correctly, this is where I cross path with Kai Yuan. Both areas are filled with supporters and this kept runners going. However not entirely to be confused with the word "flat", this part has actually pretty small nasty climbs, bumps I will say. The weather was slowly getting warmer as I hope that it will not be a repeat of last year. Took in in my first pack of "bak kwa"  here and although I made sure I chewed properly before swallowing, it resulted in stomach cramps. Trust me it did not happen when I tried it back home. And with the constant coughing since the start, it made matters more uncomfortable. Sigh... But Ethembeni School came into view  shortly after completing Harrison Flats as I began to high five the underprivileged kids. I believe that not only they felt good, I personally felt great and honoured too for it gave a little energy to withstand the pain as I rain. And at the end of this stretch, a major nightmare awaits, Inchanga, the descend into Drummond.

For the "Up" run, Inchanga is a long winding climb and hence I knew it will be painful and demoralising to run down. I took walk breaks in between my runs and had my second GU Energy Gel here hoping to recuperate. And while my legs and body does the job of making a single step at a time to get closer to Kingsmead, my mind was fix else where. What is happening back home? Where is my friend?

Drummond, the half way point.

And like last year, I once again bump into David from Singapore here. It seems like we just like to meet at Inchanga and snap a selfie of ourselves. We ran together for a while though sometimes we are just not able to keep up with another. I finally arrived at the halfway point at Drummond in 5:11:42 hours. I arrived on time as I've told Manette that I shall be there between 10.30am to 11.00am. And yes, she was there at the same spot as last year and she offered me a can of Coke and bottle of water. Am really thankful for her kind gestures as we chatted a little and had a photo together before I continue on after spotting David. DANKIE Manette!

Approaching the Wall of Honour just after the halfway point.

Next was Arthur's Seat and I was surprised that no flowers was given out this year as back then, each runner will get a flower to wish Arthur Newton a "Good Morning Sir" by throwing flowers into the seat as the saying says that we will enjoy a stronger second half of the race. I however, gave the plaque a tap and said the message. Whether a stronger half, that depends for as long I did the tradition, that was the important part.

Arthur's Seat.

Drummond is located in a valley and hence climbing out will be a real challenge. And the route to take us was via Alverstone. A 11 hours bus came and both myself and David was following it. However, the driver was going to fast and at one point even climb 2 hills consecutively. David managed to stay with him but I played safe and held back as I felt he was certainly going too fast. Even a fellow runner was cursing him and told other to hold back and not to be suck in. I am pretty sure I am still well below the 11 hours finishing time and hence played on my own strategy.

I spotted Willie on a climb and caught up with this friend of mine. He was having difficulty with one of his foot and hence was walking. Although it was nice to have chatted, I couldn't stick with him for too long and hence carried on with my journey passed Kearnsey College with the students coming to cheer for us before I entered Botha's Hill. At this point, I would have conquered 50KM or so and my legs were starting to give way. Though I managed both my calves well as these are the 2 muscles that normally cramp first, both my adductors and right piriformis was in a sorry state. They were not only sore but painful with every steps.

I took my third GU Energy Gel while trying to shake off the pain at Botha's Hill hoping the nutrients will do some good to the tired muscles. This area is once again filled with supporters and the climbs were all right. I've managed to grab some ice cubes from the locals supporting from the side which I am really grateful as I massaged them into my adductors and piriformis. It helped sooth the pain for a while to allow me to run, but not for long and hence I kept looking for ice cubes.

Exiting Botha's Hill and into Hillcrest, yet another area filled with huge number of supporters, I spotted a familiar back. It was Selva and I ran beside him. We paced each other for a while before eventually one of us drop back. It was not easy for us to follow each other at this point when the legs were thrashed so badly already. We both however had a funny moment when we crossed the Winston Park timing mat. I spotted it from afar and told Selva that there will be a video cam there, hence we needed to run. And run we did and made funny gestures and eventually we were caught on camera. That's one for the album! Hahaha...

Try spotting myself and Selva at Winston Park.

Next was the long stretch beside the N3 Highway as we ran towards Kloof. It was pretty hot here as there were minimal coverage of trees as I took my fourth energy gel to ensure replenishment of electrolytes I've lost. But as we entered Kloof, things changed when the Nedbank Green Mile came into view. Everything was green here with plenty of tress. Even the Energade served here was green in colour, apple I assume. Cheerleaders welcomed the runners while some were dressed in Scottish bagpipe blowers kept us entertained. Some puppeteers were there too. This is one place where I find it hard to walk as the supporters just kept asking us to keep running! But at certain stretch, I still walked and was caught on camera! Yikes!

Entering the Nedbank Green Mile.


Into The Green Mile.


Giant puppeteers cheering runners on.

A gigantic South African flag to signal the almost end of the mile.

At the end of the Nedbank Green Mile, I was once again back on the open highway. And this will probably be the toughest descend into Durban for the winding Fields Hill awaits. The descend was so steep that I had difficulty running straight and hence went zig zagging. I stopped numerous times and I recalled cramping at a certain spot back in year 2012. And if that is the spot, yes I did stop once again to stretch by the wall as others bombarded down Fields!

After conquering Fields Hill safely, I arrived in Pinetown at about 66KM into the race. Like Botha's Hill and Hillcrest, this town is filled with supporters. And with my adductors and piriformis still acting up, I've asked for ice cubes numerous times from the supporters and they were kind enough to provide me. It was pretty obscene when I started rubbing my right glutes and both my upper adductors with the ice cubes. But at this point of time, it didn't really matter already. And as I approached the fourth cut-off point at St John's Avenue, a group of people called out tome. It was the folks from Saucony South Africa! WOOHOOoo... Thanks guys for the support!

Next up,the final tough climb at Cowies Hill. To protect my legs, I used the run walk strategy and successfully conquered it. And at the top of Cowies, to my surprise, I spotted CP and ran to him. He was struggling with cramps and I notice he was only wearing a pair of socks. We ran together for a moment passing ice cubes to each other to ease our discomfort. I slowly pushed forward as we approached Westville, yet another open area on the highway. It was hot and dry, and I took in small sips of water as I did not want to cause my stomach to bloat. The remaining water, I used it to wet myself. The roller coaster terrain here was still madness but the supporters kept cheering on us which kept us going.

Conquering Cowie's Hill!

Finally, I arrived at the final cut-off point 45th Cutting at Mayville. I had 49 minutes till the bronze cut-off time with 7KM to go. With the legs thrashed, it's going to be a very tight battle for it. But as the saying goes, "It ain't over after it's over", and hence I battle forward after taking in my final fifth energy gel. It was smooth sailing till the final 4KM where my right calf locked up and cramped! Not sure if it was the after effects from the cramp I suffered in the morning but as I had 4 water sachets with me, I quickly punctured each of them and watered my calf hoping the coldness will help ease the pain. My world came into daze when it all happened as I hop to the side to support myself on the highway barrier. I looked at my watch and it was 27 minutes till the bronze cut-off. The bronze is slipping away as I quickly try to shake the cramp off. I did a quick massage and immediately started walking away, limping more like it. A local runner came along side me telling me that I needed to run a 6 minutes pace should I really want the bronze. At that moment, I told myself that I WANT IT and for the sake of my dear friend, friends and supporters back home, I will try.

With the near cut-off experience back in year 2012, I used it once again this year to run my fastest final 4KM on the N3 Highway at Berea before entering Durban city. It was all done below a 6 minutes pace. I took one final sachet of Energade followed by water sachets to wash myself up as I finally entered the city. It was a flat final 2KM stretch into Sahara Stadium Kingsmead. Then the final turn into the Toyota Mile and that certainly felt the longest stretch before entering the stadium.

Entering the Sahara Stadium Kingsmead. Can you see me?

And as I entered the Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, I had 4 more minutes and I knew I will make it should no drama of cramping or crawling happens. Out came the Jalur Gemilang as usual and like many would say, the pain and tiredness will disappear once stepping on the grass of Kingsmead. This time, I agree as I approach the finish line. I spotted Manette by the spectator stands and pointed out to her as a gesture of appreciation! And finally, the finish gantry as I raised my Jalur Gemilang and successfully completed my third Comrades Marathon with a time of 10:57:34 hours shattering my year 2012 "Down" run's time by an hour and last year's 2013 "Up" run's time by 27 minutes and earning finally the bronze medal!

Completing my 3rd Comrades.

With Sian at the finish line and this time, I remember to have a photo with her!

Sian was as usual at the finish point and this time, I remembered to have a photo with her. A quick tap on the Comrades grass before approaching to collect my medal and have my photo taken. Took in some fluids while congratulating other runners too. However, the show isn't over yet as I continue to worry for my other friends who were still out there particularly Susanah. I wonder where she was and how she was doing. I exited the finish area and waited just outside hoping to see her soon.

Oops... Flag the other way round.

With my first ever bronze medal. Try spotting it.

I stood and waited paying attention to the big screen and also the exit point and saw Selva coming through. He ran a good run and earned his first ever Vic Clapham medal. Well done to him! And as the time ticks away, everyone shouted and started banging the metal sheet barricade to urge runners to hasten up. And at 5.30pm, the gun went off to signal the cut-off for Comrades Marathon 2014. My hopes for Susanah to complete her run were dashed but I still had my fingers cross that I was somehow wrong. I waited for an extra 15 minutes before heading to the international tent. Everyone from CP, Cham, Selva, Chee Kong, Kai Yuan and David was there with their medals. Susanah was not in sight! I kept waiting till both my calves cramped up and in agony, I screamed as Chee Kong and David came to my assistance.

And finally, we spotted Susanah walking down the final stretch. It was painful to see her and I dashed to the finish point hoping to catch her there. However, I missed her as apparently there was another exit point. We were all reunited back at the international tent. We rested, took some photos before we left. Honestly at that point of time, I did not know what to do except to keep talking to her. I knew she was trying to stay strong but deep within, I do not know what is going through her. I wish I could...

One for the album. Comrades Marathon Team Malaysia 2014.

With David from Singapore.

Fast forwarding to the post run dinner at Cafe Jiran, it was simple one to celebrate our runs. Susanah did not join in as room service was called, though I wasn't too happy with them as they sent the food to the room instead telling them that I will do so myself as I had the key card to the room. She needed to rest and eat which I was glad she did just that. And by the time I got back to the room, she was almost asleep.

The next day will be better for Susanah, I hope. I am very proud of her for making the entire race course. Yes, she may not have finish it within the cut-off time, but to experience it while carrying an injury and missing it by just 26 minutes is something to be proud of. Not everyone can do it and I certainly hope she will bounce back stronger. She is certainly a warrior and a true Comrades that fights till the end! All I can say is WELL DONE SUSANAH!

A small dedication to the many in this cause against cancer.

And to others from Team Malaysia from Chee Kong, CP, Cham, Selva, Shanaz and Jagjit for successfully completing the gruelling race, congratulations to everyone! And not forgetting to Mei-Ee and Xi Ning too for the awesome support once again from hoping from town to town. And to my South African and international friends, well done too to you all and it was a pleasure running alongside you. To those who did not make the cut-off, try again as Comrades will always be there for you to run.



So yes, 1,508KM in total training mileage for that just 89.28KM, a successful outing again but in tough conditions as the weather was once again warm where it hit 32.8c as recorded by my watch. To have started the run with cough and phlegm was not the ideal choice but it had to be done. To have train so much, it will be a shame not to run a better race and I am glad that I did. Twitching and cramps came, but they were put to bay. And with my third Comrades Marathon in the bag, here comes a closure to this year's chapter as I would like to thank the following people (in no particular order) for helping, supporting and providing me with all the strength and support throughout my journey:

- Susanah for the care, motivation and moments of laughter together

- Team Malaysia consisting of Susanah, Chee Kong, Mei-Ee, Xi Ning, Cham, CP and Selva who has made the trip together in making it a memorable one

- The rest of Team Malaysia of Dr. Jagjit, Shanaz, Jason and Yik Yee whether making the trip or not for the camaraderie shown in this year's race

- Professor Dr. Teo, Jane, Sook Yee, Sook Huey, Hadi and the folks at CARIF who has been supporting my cause together with them since my first Comrades Marathon 3 years ago.

- Sian and Thami from the Comrades Marathon Association for helping sort out issues faced by the Malaysian runners

- Lindsey Parry, the official coach for the Comrades Marathon for his guidance

- My South African and international Comrades family of Susan Hui, Caroline, Anthony, Susan Bold, Pierre Jordan, Willie, Johan Grassman, Johann Pierre Jonck, Phillip Nell, Eric, Mannette, Bruce Hargreaves, David Wong, Kai Yuan, Renee, Berlinda, Allan, Spike, Tobie, Wayne, Mark, Trevor, Andrew and many more whom I met along the way

- Alicia and the rest from Saucony Malaysia for not only in sponsors of gears and the support given

- My friends back home from Zijill, Hong Lan, Yim, Khim, Alvin, Boon Keat, Chee Hon, Soon Chung, Tey, Jagdeep and many others for the support given

- The GC group from Jamie, Nick, Julia, Choon Yuen, Kew and Richi for helping me through my training for this

- To those who have donated, supported and ran the Frankathon event as part of the Be Frank campaign for their sweat, effort and contribution to the cause

- Last but not least to both dad and mum for once again supporting and making sacrifices to allow me to train till the race day

Till the 90th anniversary at the Comrades Marathon 2015, here's HARD IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT for you are all ULTRAORDINARY, a true Comrades! #Shosholoza

My splits at the 5 checkpoints.

Statistics for Comrades Marathon 2014 as follows:
Starters: 14,620
Finishers - 11,984
Lowest temperature - 10c
Highest temperature - 32.8c

* My run data recorded by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire can be seen HERE.

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Many thanks to them.