Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Doing It Again, For The 3rd Time!

It's the time of the year again. With the Comrades Marathon 2014 fast approaching, here I am again together with Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF) in "re-launching" again the Be Frank campaign. Similar to the previous 2 years, I will once again dedicate my Comrades Marathon towards cancer research and staying true to how it was done, special edition shirts were printed. And this year, we went a little more adventurous by using brighter colours in celebration of life. The following is CARIF's write-up about this year's campaign.

Frank Chong, a cancer survivor who has inspired the "Be Frank" campaign is going for his 3rd attempt at the Comrades Marathon downhill run in South Africa on 1 June 2014. Why is he running the world's most challenging ultra-marathon instead of taking a walk in the park? We speak to him to know more:

Why are you running the Comrades Marathon?
The Comrades Marathon is certainly the toughest run I have ever done and as part of a cause to raise awareness and funds for cancer research in CARIF. I am uniting my passiion of running and a role as a cancer survivor, hoping it will be a small step towards a future free from fear of cancer. Like the 89.28KM Comrades Marathon, fighting cancer is one long and tough journey. Therefore, support cancer research, support CARIF!

Frank donating his Comrades Marathon medals from 2013 to CARIF. Receiving it, Professor Teo (CARIF CEO) and YM Tunku Tan Sri Dato' Seri Ahmad (Trustee)

What is the "Be Frank" Campaign?
I strongly believe that cancer is not a death sentence and that hope is certainly out there. With CARIF, the "Be Frank" Campaign was launched in order to inspire and urge the public to join us to raise funds and awareness for cancer research in Malaysia.

How can you contribute?
Again this year, Frank will dedicate this year's "Downhill" run of the Comrades Marathon towards cancer research in CARIF. You can support Frank by a simple donation of any amount or by purchasing the official Be Frank t-shirts priced at RM50.00 which are tax-exempted, available at Running Lab, Tropicana City Mall or call us at +603 5639 1874 to place your orders.

For more info, do visit the following site:
CARIF - www.carif.com.my
Be Frank - www.befrank.com.my
Be Frank Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/befrank.my

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Correct Breathing Tips for Runners...

Do you love to run? Are you just planning to start running as part of your exercise regimen? Running is a rewarding, and at the same time, exhausting exercise, but if you know how to do proper breathing, you can certainly reap the optimum benefit of this cardiovascular activity. Run a lot farther, and for much longer, by remembering the following things:

Do deep breathing exercises.
Proper breathing while running is important. Breathing techniques can contribute significantly to improving your speed and resistance. The proper way to breathe is by inhaling a lot of oxygen without affecting your running efficiency. Because of this, you have a greater advantage among other runners who struggle to breathe properly.

Train your lungs.
A lot of runners make the mistake of thinking that training their legs for running is enough. Don’t forget the importance of training your lungs as well, when preparing for a marathon, a triathlon, or even your early morning jogs.

Did you know that the more chest heaves you do, the more you struggle to breathe. Your lungs go into overdrive when you reach the end of a speed interval. Your breath becomes shallow and rapid, as your heart starts pumping more blood and you pull in more air. You end up being exhausted, bending over to gasp for air.

According to Mindy Solkin, the owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City, "A strong respiratory system can improve your running. It's a simple equation: Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance."

There are a lot of breathing exercises you can try to boost your lung power.

Avoid leg sprain.
Have you experienced leg sprain while running? Did you know that right breathing can also prevent leg fatigue? Taking deeper breaths gives your body more oxygen, which it feeds to your muscles, including your leg muscles. Take slow and deep breaths as you run to enhance the process.
Breathe through your diaphragm.

Most runners are used to breathing using their chest rather than their belly. Whenever you breathe in, your belly should fill up like a balloon, and then deflate when you breathe out. Chest breathing can be a hard habit to break. You can try breathing through the mouth so you can take in more oxygen and be able to release more carbon dioxide.  

Breathing in patterns.
When we do exercises, we count 1 to 8 or up to 16, then repeat them in sets. The same can be applied to breathing exercises. This method is called rhythmic breathing and is an effective way to avoid injury. To start breathing in patterns:
- Start with a 2-2 pattern: Breathe in while stepping left then right
- Breathe out while stepping left to right
- Advance to a 3-3 pattern: (Breathe in, step left, right, left; breathe out, step right, left, right), and then a 4-4 pattern.

Do cross-training exercises.
You may also try doing cross-training exercises to reduce huffing and puffing. Exercises like Pilates or yoga can also help you train your lungs and perfect your breathing techniques.

The breathing exercises mentioned above will not only keep you away from any injury—whether it may be leg sprain, muscle fatigue, and more—but also help you run or jog without feeling too strained.

Running is a great activity to engage in, and proper breathing can do a lot to improve your running experience. You may be exposed to some injuries, as with any other exercise activity, and in such cases, a medical insurance can come in handy. 

Want to know more about medical insurance? Check out MoneyMax’s comparison tool and find the best medical insurance plan for you today. 

*disclaimer: The above article is contributed by Cristina Beltran a blogger and writer from MoneyMax.ph..

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Milestone...

By Frank

It's about a week into the fourth month of the year and also the fourth month of my Comrades training for year 2014. And with all the positive vibes and progress, I am absolutely proud and happy to myself that I've managed to hit the 1,000KM running distance milestone. 

Hitting 1,000KM distance isn't exactly a priority in the regime, but to hit the magic 4 digit distance within the given short span of time  is certainly something I can pat my own shoulders on. 4 months seems and sounds short, but the journey has been a long tiring one. But at the end of each session, the feeling is just absolutely great knowing that my effort will be justified on race day itself.

I didn't recover very well from the recent Twilight Ultra Challenge 2014. Probably due to the travelling and also the bad timing of the company's audit period. A bit behind schedule now but that's fine as I do not intend to add back any lost session in the next. Am just moving forward with each day.

Another which isn't exactly a good news will be after battling haze back in March, April "welcomed" another challenge in the form of water rationing. With the critical level of water in our local dams, my residence  has been put under Phase 4 of the rationing period with water only flowing in every alternate 2 days. After a sweaty run, clothes are screaming for a wash. And with no water, they will pile up and certainly will smell. In the mind, I was telling myself not to train because of this, but certainly, that isn't the answer. Therefore, the show must still go on while I await things to turn for the better. In the meantime, I will just have to find my own way to prevent the smell from spreading.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

"March"ing Through The Toughest Month...

By Frank

It's 60 days to go as we enter a brand new month again, this time April, the fourth month into training. When I first started drafting this entry, I really do not know on what to talk about for the month of March. I was tired but at the same time satisfied. Tired from the long haul of long training which was almost marred by factors including the weather and also some of my emotional trouble, the one thing I had in mind was just to get pass "Hell March" with positive results. I'm glad I did though it was done the hard way.

And so, I achieved 371KM, once again achieving what I was set out to do. When the month started, I didn't think I can achieve my training target due to the very bad haze. But as I was a gym member, I kept myself positive about it and made full use of the facilities without thinking too much of it. Yes, running long distance on the treadmill is not easy and its bored, but something needs to be done and run on it I did. And I guess, running keeps emotional troubles at bay too. Then of course I had work to juggle with. And the month of March is certainly the month I hated most as it was audit month. But am just glad I survived the audit.

Long distance progress.

I also called upon Jamie for his help too as I needed his assistance to run long during the weekend. We managed 2 outings together the first together with Zijill and Nick with the latter bringing me to new places around Subang. It was a nice run indeed at 19KM for me only to be plagued with a little haze on that day. The second saw me returning to Kinrara Puchong, the every famous "Amah Hills" together with some from the Gold Coast Marathon group. I managed a long 32KM there with the help of Julia and it was a good build-up to the following week's 16 hours Twilight Ultra Challenge at Singapore.

And to close the month off, came Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC). This event has been an annual thing for me since the first edition back in year 2010. And when Comrades Marathon became a part of my running life, it was automatically upgraded to an annual event where I am suppose to peak for my training. Though I ran my best Twilight Ultra Challenge this time, I still thought I was unlucky again as I was hit by headache even before the start of the run. But the post run feeling the next day was good and that was the result I was looking for. Legs didn't feel too thrashed out and the physical cardiovascular health was feeling good too.

Back in my previous TUC entry, I mentioned briefly about my weight and fat percentage being very low. Despite all the effort in trying to gain, it was loss that I went through. A dip into the abyss, my fat percentage drop to a drastic 3%! The reading was taken mid March and although I felt good, I was really shocked at what the training did to me. 3% can't fuel me long for the distance I am tackling and I really hope to bring it back up to my normal level soon.

I need to EAT!

So talking about gaining weight, in this month too, I was introduced to Joey's homemade peanut butter. I wasn't a fan of peanut butter during my childhood days but that changed drastically when adulthood hit me. Peanut butter is essentially a sport's person type of food where it provides good fat to our body, and being homemade, I find myself eating Joey's version like a peanut butter freak. It was simply delicious too! I did overdose on it once and had to run to the toilet during one of my weekend runs with Jamie. I guess that not only it provides all the essential nutrients to the body, but it also helps to clear the bowel contents too! Talk about trying to gain weight! Anyway, if you are interested on Joey's homemade peanut butter, do visit his link HERE and all purchasing methods and contacts are listed there.

Yummy homemade peanut butter from Joey.

Now having survived the "longest" month, I will now enter the "fastest" month where April will involve lots of interval and hill training to build pace. Pace will be build during the weekdays while weekend will see the usual long runs. Interval training isn't exactly my favourite, in fact I favour long distance more. But once again, it has to be done as per instructed. And if everything goes smoothly, the following month of May will certainly be a month to be look forward to. So let us feel the need for speed this April!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2014...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2014
Venue: East Coast Park, Singapore
Date: 29 March 2014
Time: 7.00pm
Distance: 10KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4
By Frank

The 4th edition of the Twilight Ultra Challenge is also my fourth year running it downing the number 1 bib. And as much as the training for Comrades Marathon goes, this should be last of my longest run as I complete the tough training month of March.

I travelled down to Singapore together with Jason on board First Coach. A slightly lengthy journey down as we were stuck in traffic at the second link causeway but eventually found ourselves resting at the 5Footway.Inn Project backpacker at Chinatown. Easy dinner at around the area and it was lights off early as we tried to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up the next morning with a slight headache and a little stiff neck. I am blaming the pillow or my sleep posture. And to make matters worst, I forgot to bring along my Coenzyme10 tablets to control my migraine. Initially I though it was over before it all started but I remained positive. And another problem I had was my fat percentage. It dropped drastically in the month of March and certainly the percentage I had (reading taken in mid March) can't be enough to fuel me through 16 hours. Therefore, I have to manage my nutrition and food intake to perfection in this event.

Myself and Jason representing Saucony Malaysia.

With Shanaz and Jason, part of the 2014 Malaysian Comrades Marathon runners.

Fast forwarding to the run, we arrived at the event site at 5.30pm. The first 3 editions was held at Car Park D but this time it was changed to F due to some construction works and I certainly welcome the change of environment. The run towards the west side remains unchanged where we still passed the seafood restaurant before turning back near to Car Park D. The run towards the east brings runners to a "fresher" place to run at especially for international runners. And with a slight gradient, the run towards the east was actually preferred, at least by me.

Chilling out before the start.

The usual photography session and socializing around before the run was flagged off at 7pm. Was great to have met up with David, Jennifer, Carin, Hong Chew, Ngah Ling, Xiu Fang, Yim, Kai Wei and not forgetting the organisers Ben, Yee Hua and Phil. My aim was to run 45KM within 6 hours. Why that distance and time? 45KM is where Drummond is, the halfway point for Comrades Marathon so this can roughly give me a benchmark. As close to 300 participants run along the park, navigating through was tough. However, I managed myself slowly under the humid weather and eventually found my way through. The only problem I had was the discomfort I was experiencing behind my head. It was a throbbing pain with every step I take. I grinned my teeth with every step I made and I myself at that time wasn't sure how am I going to pull through this stage of training.

Pain management was utmost important now. I managed my breathing properly and took in more fluids which resulted in frequent visits to the toilet during the course of the run. A little caffeine may help too and I was shocked I left my Kopiko candies back home! I switched to GU Roctane Brew for the caffeine and was just glad that it helped, at least a little. Though the pain subside, it was still there.All I had to do, I told myself was just to bear with it and hope time will pass by quickly.

Hammering the pace.

When everything was a little more under control, I went for my race pace managing an average of 6:30 to 6:45 minutes per Kilometer. It was a grab and go for me at each support station. Conversation was also kept to a minimal as I needed to focus. And focus I did as my first 30KM was of non -stop running before I took a few breather moments by walking quick steps before resuming. And after 4.5 loops, I've finally arrived at "Drummond" 45KM with a time of 5:43 hours. A pretty decent and satisfied time for me and a benchmark for me to improve in speed when training resumes n April.

With the main task completed, I slowed my pace down and switch focus to the next attempt, to try achieve 100KM. Time was certainly sufficient but another challenge came, to try to stay awake. It will be absolutely great to have someone to run together with and the best person was Jason. However, we were moving in opposite directions. After running for hours, I can't be expecting both of us to hasten up to try catch each other. Hence, I slowed down, taking a break occasionally to eat. And after 65KM, Jason finally "sync-in" with me and we were running and walking together. At this point, I was glad my legs were fine. It's just the headache was irritating and uncomfortable. And to make it worse, I was getting sleepy. 

Fast forwarding to the journey back to 80KM, we spotted Carin from a distance. She was limping and we found that her arch was painful with every step she took. Was glad a medic was cycling around and Yee Hua was nearby too. She was in tears due to the pain and we all knew it was over. We told her to stop running and was glad she took the advice before hopping on the ambulance to be driven back to the event site.

When I arrived at 80KM, I saw that I had 2:10 hours to make 100KM. There is still chance for a 100KM though it will be really difficult. Nevertheless, I am willing to give myself a go for it and offI went after informing Jason. I started attacking the distance with a 5:30 per Kilometer pace. The pace was demanding but I told myself to just hang on for just another 2 hours. Pain tolerance is absolute the main thing now till the journey back to 85KM where I felt I pulled some nerve or muscle behind my head where the throbbing pain is. Not risking any injures or any potential health risk, I guess I had to forego the distance and just make it back to 85KM.

The thoughts going through me.

Jason caught up back at the event site and encourage me to follow him for a 90KM. We still had slightly more than hour to cover the next 5KM and it was certainly enough to walk it through. I shouldered on by walking and chatting along. And after 15:47:38 hours, we both finally achieved 90KM together. In fact, it was 92.8KM as per recorded by our GPS where the west side seems to be a little longer than the east.

We completed it together! Thanks Jason!

Firstly, I was glad to go the distance throughout the entire event time, a first for me after 4 attempts which is now considered my best Twilight Ultra Challenge experience. Though it was uncomfortably done, I went through it injury free. Though I achieved 45KM in under 6 hours, I was a little sad that 100KM was not in hand. I wanted it for some reason. But all in all, I guess I am human. I got to be satisfied at the end and look forward.

Overall, once again well done to Ben, Yee Hua, Phil and the rest of the Running Guild people for successfully organising yet again another Twilight Ultra Challenge. However, here are my 2 cents about certain issues, both good and bad:

- Awesome organisation at least from the event organising committee themselves where each and all participants were treated very well. KUDOS and THANK YOU to them all!
- As it's a night event, to disallow participants in wearing ghostly and spooky costumes as some of us isn't going to be comfortable with it. Am sure everyone noticed it, a participant was wearing some ghostly black costume with white and red make-up on her face. And to make matters worst, she was scaring other participants which I found out it was intentionally. It happened twice to me where she just stop and just whisper in ghostly manner to "cheer" me on. Though I know her as much as almost everyone else, I am not revealing her name here. The bib was 55.
- No issues of support station on the east side though it was a little lifeless. The west side headed by Joe, was superb. He with the rest of the volunteers was full of energy as they cheered us as we arrive there.
- The main support station  at the event site was good overall though some volunteers were having too much fun to themselves till participants was neglected where had to serve ourselves. A credit to "Sotong" though for his excellent courtesy and care to each participant.
- The isotonic drink provided was actually terrible. I only took 2 cups throughout the entire event. However, the rest of the food and beverage provided was good. They include Coca Cola, sausages, nasi lemak, instant cup noodle, sandwiches, chips, banana and watermelon. I was missing the oranges though.
- A good initiatives by implementing BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and including a collapsible cup in the race pack. However, volunteers should reserve a few unwanted mineral water bottle at the side after empting them. Most were immediately crushed and some forgetful participants may need them.

The "conqueror" pack.

Overall still, it was still an awesome event, one that is friendly for all sorts of runners whether long or short distance. The main thing is that each of us aren't pressurised to perform. And for myself, this has been my annual peaking phase for my Comrades Marathon training and this year, I was glad to have gone through the entire time given despite the headache. Anyhow, overall I had a good time there. Guess I will still have to return for the fifth edition next year for the illusive 100KM. *grin*

And a group photo to round this edition off!

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Halfway Through...

By Frank

Time certainly  flies. It is now past 11 weeks into training for this year's Comrades Marathon since it all began on the first day of the year. With half the journey through which has already covered base building and improvement phase which has went really well, sadly the peaking phase for "Hell March" did not actually started well due to bad weather and a sick me. However, I managed to at least pick up some pieces left of me and shouldered on. And as of this entry, everything is still pretty "safe".

It's 2 weeks now into the month of March and it all started with exceptionally hot and dry weather, and not to mention the unexpected haze. It was so bad that I hardly can see anything beyond 500M at one point. I was lucky that I am a member of a gym and I can put the treadmill to use. Running was certainly not affected although it was really tough to run long on it. Taking it as a mental training I guess. Besides this, the month started with me feeling bloated. The gut felt bloated probably due to indigestion. It got a little bad towards the end of the first week and I slowed down there, giving my body some well deserved rest. Besides the physical problems, I too had some issues to myself too. Some emotional and mentally draining issues.

The workhorse for this year's Comrades training.

As for shoes, running very close and frequent with me are my Saucony Virrata and Kinvara 4. Once a while, the Saucony Mirage 3 will be out for some action too, though it mainly served as my recovery shoe. The Virrata I am referring to is actually my very first pair which was courtesy from Saucony Malaysia. I used it mainly for speedworks though once a while for longer distances such as close to 30KM. I am going to retire them soon as I've already ran  close to 500KM with it averaging at about RM0.60 per Kilometer, a very cost-affordable-comfortable shoe. Then I've the Kinvara 4 which is also my first pair courtesy of Saucony Malaysia after the launch last year. This pair is still pretty healthy  and am still on active duty. The Kinvara 4 is the workhorse for my training this year as it will be my race shoe come this 1 June 2014 hence its good to train in them to get the best out of everything. As I've picked up  a second pair of Kinvara 4 for the recent Titi 100 and coupled with my second pair of Virrata, there is no issue with my footwear. And in addition, my actual race shoe which is the ViZiGLO edition of the Kinvara 4 has just arrived too!

The outsole of my first Virrata after close to 500KM.

Anyhow, I am still keeping myself positive on training. With another 11 more weeks to go before the big day, there is still a sufficient time for more work to do and to improve. And hopefully in a couple of week's time after this entry is posted, "Hell March" will be completed with a positive result at my fourth Twilight Ultra Challenge, my usual annual peaking event. Here's to the other half of training as my journey to Kingsmead continues!

The Kingsmead Stadium at Durban.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"GLO"ing Into Kingsmead...

By Frank

Sooner than expected and I am absolutely thrilled by it. It's here, my race shoe of choice for the Comrades Marathon 2014, introducing the Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO (K4V) edition!

The Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO.

The K4V shares all the same DNA and technology aspect of all others Kinvara 4. The only change made was the cosmetic of the shoe which is built on an all rounder 360 degree reflective material. "ViZi" represents the Safety Orange colour found on men's colourway while Coral Pink for the ladies. "GLO" represents the reflective from the shoe. Put them together and you get an awesome looking handsome shoe that is made to be seen!

The K4V in its full "GLO"ry!

With the arrival of the shoe ahead of schedule, this will allow more time to be spent with it. Not that I've no K4 to run with, but running in the exact shoe to be use on the race day gives me confidence boost and believe especially on race day. Last year, I only managed to get my pair of race day Kinvara 3 a month plus before the race day, hence this time round, I am so thankful for Saucony Malaysia to have actually rush the delivery of this particular pair to make my journey into the Kingsmead Stadium where the Comrades Marathon 2014 finish line a much smoother one.

The Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO edition retails at the same RM399.00 and it's made only exclusive to Running Lab Malaysia available in both men and women's colourway.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Finding Strong in February...

By Frank

Last day of the second month of the year, and its time for a look back at it. February, a shorter month and one with festive season, but yet with an increase in running distance and intensity compared to January, the mind was telling that it is quite impossible to actually achieve the regime. But lesson learnt from the previous year, I managed to conquer February this time with one aim, to IMPROVE. And improve I did!

An amazing 335KM was achieved in February which was a little more than what was intended. Frankly, I did not know myself how did I achieve this. But for sure, I found a strong (pun intended) this month that kept me going. Someone, something or some happy thoughts? I shall leave it as my little secret here.

Major improvement compared to last February.

Last year's lack luster February was caused by an inflamed left trapezius muscle probably caused by over doing it on weights. This time round, learning from the mistake I made, I was careful not to repeat the same hence tackling it safely.

Work resume after 2 days rest on the second day of the Chinese New Year. While everyone was busy celebrating and eating away, I was out running hence the reason I lost weight during the festive season. Ooops... Most of my runs were longer in distance but at a more comfy pace, in preparation for the Titi 100 in the middle of the month. With the increase in distance and with still speedwork implemented once a week, nutrition has been paid extra attention so that I can return faster. And with all the Chinese New Year goodies, food and drinks was not problem. The only problem I had was rest but I managed it pretty well.

Feed me!

Soy products were used as part for my recovery and the soya bean drink was the one I consume the most, those with none or less sugar version. And to aide in recovery, I bought myself the Tiger Tail portable roller foam which I've used to roll off those sore muscle. And thus far, the nagging problem on my left calf has not been reoccurring hence it's a good sign. Probably a trigger point there.

The Tiger Tail portable roller foam.

And when Titi 100 finally came and went, I was glad to have ran it with Susanah completing it without feeling too battered. The training since starting 6 weeks ago has certainly paid off with results beginning to show.

With base building last month and to improve this month, it certainly shows the advantages of planning out a very structural training regime. Planning is one, but implementation is another and I am glad that it has been going smoothly so far.

And now with February behind now, it is time to prepare for the toughest month in training, known as "Hell March"! Higher and longer than what was achieved this month, March is the month where the highest running mileage is suppose to be achieve. And if everything goes well, myself and everyone else is suppose to peak at the end of the month. It will be a challenging 31 days of training and I hope I can find my strong once again. And with the achievement this month,, it certainly is a good sign and confident booster telling me that I can. Run, lift, eat, sleep...  Let's march into March!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Titi 100 2014...

Event: Titi 100 2014
Venue: Restaurant Water View, Batu 14, Hulu Langat
Date: 15 February 2014
Time: 4.00pm
Distance: 100KM (101.5KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4
By Frank

My second 100KM ultra marathon was meant to be ran as as support role (not a pacer) and that I did. No target was set, not even to finish the distance. All that was set out to do was to support and accompany my friend. To run her pace, to walk with her, to accompany her, to support her and to do whatever I can throughout the entire journey was the least I can do. My friend I am referring to is Susanah.

Route profile with checkpoints cut-off time.

The day started as per usual. Sleep was normal and I hope it was last me through the night. After all the packing which was rather simple, I was off to pick up Susanah to head to her physio centre to have her ankles and knee tape. And it's from there where we then proceeded to the race venue located at Restaurant Water View (previously known as Sawadee 88 Thai Village), Hulu Langat. With slow moving traffic and wrong GPS coordinates, we were slightly late but was glad that the organiser were still accepting bag check-ins. Changed into our gear and caught up with some friends before the run officially started at 4pm.

Some memorable shots before the start with Susanah.

I started the run pretty heavily like a navy seal. With 2 litres of water and another 2 litres of frozen water together with other necessities like phone, food and first aid, I felt like going to war. The sun was blazing as we set off and soon after a kilometre in, Susanah's leg was already showing signs of discomfort. As we were rushing earlier, we did not have a proper stretch hence I suggested that she pull over and do some dynamic stretching. A quick one and we are on the way again. The climb began shortly. We run when we can, walk when we can't, but all done together following her pace.

Step by step, stride after stride, side by side.

Conquering the first climb, Susanah blazed downhill. This is one area I am weak in. Although I tried to follow, I can't keep up. I tried my best to ensure she was in sight though. After some 9KM of uphill and downhill, we soon arrived at the first checkpoint. Vivian, Hong Lan, Wai Yee and Yim was here to support, in fact the latter was moving around everywhere to snap photos. Thanks a lot for the simple gestures. Took in some fruits and a delicious peanut butter sandwich while Susanah did her refill. Once done, we were on our way again. We managed our conversations well to keep her mind off things, at least for this part of the run. And it's with this conversation that we did not realised that we arrived at the second checkpoint shortly which was just about 7KM later.

Exiting Checkpoint 1 at the background.

Thumbs up at Checkpoint 2.

The journey to the third checkpoint at 25KM was the start of the major climb. The weather got better and the evening breeze started to flow.  As we near the border separating Selangor and Negeri Sembilan at Jelebu, we spotted open burning. Yim was there too with some traffic polices as he handed us a bottle of ice cold Gatorade. Thanks again for it was really refreshing as it sent Susanah blazing down the hill again. As sun sets and the sky darken, it also decided to open up sending rain pouring down just before arriving at the awesome third checkpoint. The energy here was high as Tey and Yim kept reminding runners to put on their safety equipments especially the lights for the journey in front is going to be a dark one. We both stop a little longer here and I took the opportunity to down a lot of watermelon as I was hungry. It was dinner time too so putting in the fuel to continue is important at this time. Jason arrived shortly as we joked a little. And before setting off again, I once again thank Yim and Tey for all their effort in helping out. Then, I put on my all new 165 lumens Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp and also Buff headwear as we run into the cold night.

Drench from the rain before exiting Checkpoint 3.

Journey to the fourth checkpoint at Chennah located some 11.5KM away did not start well for Susanah. It was cold and wet and she was in a lot of discomfort and I felt helpless in not able to help her. All I can and could do at that time was just to be with her. Our conversations was reduced now as being the "un-creative" and quiet me, I do not know what to bring up.  As a support, I think I failed. Nevertheless, despite a few stops, she shouldered on and made good use of the descend here to her advantage as we soon check into the fourth checkpoint where the rain has stopped

Checkpoint 4 at Chennah was manned by Marlina and a few others volunteers. We were showered with plenty of care as Jeff and Yim (again) was there. Took chips and oranges here while Susanah prepare her next journey as we rested a while. And before we began or journey to the halfway point, Jason came in too.

Fifth checkpoint at 48KM located at Poum was made better when Jason caught up with us shortly. With him, conversations were good and it kept Susanah's mind off things. But we did not want to slow him down and so  we asked him to go on. But I was glad that she felt better here and as we approach a small village, kids was there to cheer on us. Am sure they cheered Susanah up a lot. However, things got lonelier as we moved away from the village. I brought up some conversations about dogs and movies and hope that this will keep the distance"short" in a way. Steps after steps, pain after pain, we finally spotted some weaving red lights from the scouts. Both scouts welcomed us to the halfway point, 48KM into the run at the village of Poum.

Susanah with the kids at Chennah.

Checkpoint 5 was the longest checkpoint where we spent our time at. Suzie was there busy helping out preparing hot beverages for tired runners. Myself and Susanah ate a pack of fried rice which may be a little spicy. We also had our top changed as we refilled our gears. I filled up a bottle of grape flavour GU Roctane Brew and that proved important for the journey ahead. Caught up with Foo and Kean Fatt here as they have called it a night for some discomfort issues. They after all have just completed the Hong Kong Vibram100 recently hence a wise decision for them. Susanah had her leg massage by the medic here before we both pack up to start our journey back "home", the remaining half of the run.

Resting up while having my fried rice at Checkpoint 5.

Susanah massaging her legs at Checkpoint 5.

We left Checkpoint 5 feeling better after a simple meal. However, I could not run much as the rice was still settling down in my tummy. We slowly walked it off before slowly turning our pace from jogging then into running. The journey was dark ahead and my headlamp ran out of juice. And I though the battery was new! Was glad I had a spare headlamp and used that instead as it was too much trouble to change battery. There were construction works ahead and the road were rocky with more ridiculous ascend and descend. Leslie and Edwin caught up with us and we spent a little time chatting before we went our own way again.

8KM later at 56KM, we arrived at Checkpoint 6 and a familiar face was there. Khairi was one of the volunteers. This checkpoint is however a "mini" version and hence not very well equip. Only water and isotonic was available with a few snacks. We didn't stay long and continued on, but that's before stopping by at a proper toilet just ahead.

With Khairi at Checkpoint 6.

Journey to Checkpoint 7 which was the fourth earlier was 7.5KM long. However, the terrain was a much friendlier one for me, but not for Susanah as she has difficulties running on flats. We did had a short stop at a nearby bus stand to have her toes plastered due to blisters forming. And during the journey here, was glad that we managed some conversations to keep her mind off things. And I thank Susanah for trusting me in telling me some rather personal things.

Checkpoint 7, 63.5KM into the run. We are reunited with Marlina and this time, her hubby Hu'Zaini was there too. Yim was still there and they were all again awesome in helping us out. I took some oranges, some Cola and refilled my bottles before continuing. And from here, it's through all the climbs again from where we came from earlier.

Climbs, climbs and more climbs as we walk most of our way to Checkpoint 8 located at 75KM. It was pitch black and things got a little negative when a middle age runner were spatting negative thoughts saying that we won't make it to the finish due to insufficient time. I kept quiet and shouldered on but Susanah gave her some thoughts of her own and we just walk him off. It's not the end until it's the end!

We also met Tong Lai here and this is also where I lost both my Kopiko caffeinated candies to him. It was all right though as I believe he needs it more than me. The climbs was getting really ridiculous and some really bad stench did stir our nostrils up. When the climbs got better, Susanah managed to pick herself up and ran a few distances. We checked our chrono and we needed to implement the run walk strategy for time is running out a little.

We safely arrived at Checkpoint 8 and Yim again was there to help out. A long stop here and I took the opportunity to rest my legs utilising the chairs while hydrating myself with isotonic. Appetite wasn't really there but I was holding on well. Just a little sleepy.

10.5KM was the distance to Checkpoint 8. A few ascend to tackle before a fast one for Susanah as it will be descending. The morning breeze started greeting us and I began unloading the water in my backpack for the next 2 checkpoints are pretty close. And besides, I can always rely on my front bottles. It's the reservoir that weights me down. A few fast downhill runs and just when the sun rises, we arrived at 85.5KM and Soon Chung was there to greet us.

I wasn't too happy at Checkpoint 8 though as the volunteers was packing up and asking us to move along. After battling through 85.5KM on foot, instead of caring for us, they were shooing us away. I did not argue back and just moved on from there once Susanah is ready.

Exiting Checkpoint 8 at the background.

And during our journey to Checkpoint 9 at 91KM, Tong Lai managed to catch up with me to deliver the message that a few runners were disqualified from the run as they did not arrive on time at the previous checkpoint. I quickly ran to Susanah and told her that we needed to run, for we need to to arrive on time to the next checkpoint. And ran we did as it's going to be a tight battle to the finish. She took a long stop to put on her compression socks.I didn't mind to wait but she asked me to carry on which I did, slowly. And soon, we were back together again and arrived at the final checkpoint on time, with Jeff there.

9KM and 90 minutes is what is left to complete the journey. I refilled a little water into my bottles as it's going to be a hot climb up the last hill. We started off walking up but when we got to the top, Susanah prepared for her dash to the finish. She ran downhill and I started chasing her but to no avail. She was fast! We reunited soon after it was back on flats and it was about 2KM plus till the finish. However, as we are on flats, she had difficulties running. Checking on our GPS position, I know we are safe from the cut-off and hence did not want to push her much. When she ran, I did too. And when she walk, I did just that. We were just hoping for the sight of the blue signboard indicating the finish.

As we saw the entrance to Restaurant Water View from a short distance away, Susanah began running again and I followed. But just before we made the turn into the finish area, she reduced to walking. We both walked up the slope and slowly approach the finish line where Allan, Jason, Soon Chung, Tey, Hong Lan and few others are waiting and cheering for us. There was no victory smile nor victory dash. Just a plain simple walk through the finish line after 17:55:44 hours on the road. I know Susanah was battered and in pain, and as much as I would like to give her a hug for a job well done, I did not. Not even  a finishing photo together. Only a simple "Well done" message which I doubt she heard it. But in the end, I am just glad that she completed her second 100KM just shortly after her Hong Kong Vibram100. I am just so extremely proud of her.

Finishing our 100KM.

Well done to Jason for his first 100KM success.

All in all, the inaugural Titi 100 2014 was a well organised event with room for improvement. Though the cut-off time is generous, the demanding course may proof too tough for some especially for the beginners. Therefore, one should be well trained especially with ascends and descends should they decide to take on this challenge the following year. And not to mention to prepare mentally to go through the lonely night. But anyway, hats off to Jeff, Allan, Cally and all that is in the organising community for a job well done. If there are improvements to look into for the next edition, pethaps can suggest the following:

1) Strict implementation of rules such as not allowing entries for those who did not meet mandatory requirements such as headlamps, blinkers, hydration, etc...
2) Strict cut-off times at checkpoints
3) Taking down times of runners checking in and checking out of each checkpoint to ensure safety of all.
4) Route patrol was good but can be improved with organisers doing frequent drive around rather than depending on polices and medics.
5) More volunteers to be deployed at half way point for 50KM and 100KM categories for these are the checkpoints that is going to be swarmed. Checkpoint 5 for 100KM runners were under man power when I got there. Poor Suzie was doing all she could.
6) Road markers were too few, small, too low and not reflective. Suggestion to install them onto lamp post where it is higher and more visible especially at critical junctions.

Thanks to Saucony Malaysia for providing this pair of Kinvara 4 to battle the hills of Titi 100.

The finisher souvenirs.

As for me, as mentioned earlier, I did not think I played a good support role. My intention was good but my implementation was poor. Being lost and helpless when a friend is in pain or in need of something, the feeling is just plain horrible. Though Susanah offered kind words and thanks to me, I still think I will need to improve a lot in playing this role again. But I was glad to have journeyed with her together and made it back to the finish safely together. It was better this way rather that her going alone and me wondering what was happening during that period of time and I thank her for allowing me to be part of her journey. And in the end, this journey together with Susanah will certainly go down as part of our memories as we look back a few years later.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Heavy Transport Vehicle"...

By Frank

I guess there is nothing to hide now since most have found out that I will be running long this weekend. Darn... should have worn a cap (or maybe a coconut shell) while collecting my race pack the last Saturday so nobody recognise me. :p

Well... I was not suppose to run this event and instead was actually interested to run the The North Face Thailand 50KM. However, the idea was called off as I can't find friends to go along with. And when a friend told me that she will be running long this weekend, I told myself that I will support her as she is currently injured. And so the idea came, to run as a support role since the event did not allowed support or pacers. With the registration closed, I had no choice but to contact the event director directly and was glad that they opened a few slots. And so on the 3 January 2014, I am officially registered in the event.

My Comrades training had to be modified a little to accommodate this event in and that was one of the reason that I actually trained very well in January, well at least to my standard. And currently in February, the whole training went up by another level as I felt I improved so much since a quarter year ago. However, too early to tell yet so let's not get over confident. Anyway, this event will be part of my training too and hence, I've gotten myself a spanking new pair of Saucony Kinvara 4 to be worn as it will be my shoe of choice come the big day in June 2014.

A new pair of Kinvara 4 in red overlooking the first yellow pair in the background.

Training for this weekend, I spent a pretty huge amount of time on my feet. Pace was reasonably slow as I need to get use to spending long hours on them during the event to go along with my friend's pace. As my role is more like a "heavy transport vehicle" rather than an "assault tank", I will be carrying a pretty heavy load with me too.

You will get the meaning of this picture if you watch Mask during the good old days and also know my nick.

So yeah. Running is no longer a personal thing for me. It's more than myself now and hence the charity and fund raiser I do nowadays together with the runs I do. And now, a role where the camaraderie is something yet more important compared to the achievement of crossing the finish line. And the longer the distance, the stronger the bond. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

6 Days Of February...

By Frank

It's 7 days into the Lunar New Year and 6 days into February. My training to my third Comrades continued from where I left off in January with a couple of days rest due to the celebration. This allowed my body to recover and to come back fresher for a brand new start into my second phase of training.

While back in my hometown, I took the opportunity to run around my "kampong". It was indeed an eye opener as I ran towards places I never been and it was filled with various gradients, giving me variety in training.

Overlooking Desa Park City from Bangla Hill.

And since then, I have been training till today, the 7th day of the Lunar New Year where I visited Desa Park City with Chee Kong who is back for the holidays. We ran an easy 13KM with 2 sets up the infamous "Bangla Hill" before rewarding ourselves with dim sum breakfast.

With Chee Kong at Bangla Hill.

At this point of writing, my running mileage for the month of February stands at 66KM, which not only it looks positive, but myself feeling absolutely great too. Things should start to shape up next week when things get intense. And if everything falls into place as plan, results should start showing by then. Till then, focus it is for now.

* all photos credited to Chee Kong

Friday, January 31, 2014

January Survived...

By Frank

Before starting this entry, and since it's the Chinese New Year, here's taking the opportunity to wish my readers a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year!

January 2014 came and went, and I survived my first month of Comrades training and I am feeling great about it. The first month of the official training to me is dubbed to be the base building month. Of the estimated given 242KM worth of running distance, I managed to achieve 251KM, a slight increase on what was given and definitely an increase from last year. Easy runs, long runs, speedworks and also strength training were part of the training and I must say that I really hated speedworks which falls on Tuesday. Am just so breathless.
An improvement over a year ago.

I managed to follow closely to what was given with the exception of long runs on the weekends where I've to do it over 2 sessions due to work and time. The main advantage will be allowing me to recover in between for the next session but the downside will be minimal chance to build strength over one single long run. Anyway, I felt good throughout the month and this certainly is a confidence booster. Tiring indeed but after a good rest, I felt rejuvenated again and will always be looking forward to a hot cup of coffee for breakfast the next day. And this has to be done with putting in quality recovery food and drinks. I been trying to maintain my weight but sadly,it has been dropping due to the heavy session. But the good news is, it isn't dropping dramatically hence there is still chance for me to quickly top it back.

My training program overlooking my work desk.

And so, base building January 2014 is now behind me and I have February 2014 dubbed improvement month ahead. To troubleshoot my weakness and to improve within a shorter month with a longer given estimated distance to conquer, it will be a challenge indeed especially  with a "centurion" awaits. Onward it is...

Monday, January 13, 2014

It Ain't A Walk In The Park...

By Frank

2 weeks into the new year and 2 weeks since official training kick started. Training has gone pretty smoothly for me thus far. Feeling fresh from all the sessions, it's still too early to tell how will things shape up. For now, I am just trying to stay as close as possible to the training regime given. It may not be 100% thus far, but flexibility is key due to the nature of my job. This may and hopefully change within a couple of months to come if everything goes well.

My training aside, the focus of this entry in fact highlights on my other countrymen who some will attempt their maiden Comrades Marathon. As Facebook as been a very powerful communication tool and also in relaying activities by others, I can see the year started extremely well for some, but only to end up in shatters just 2 weeks in. It's too early to lose focus now but also not too late to have it sorted out.

Cramps is just part of the game.

Comrades Marathon is full of dramas and it did not earn the title to be one of the greatest but toughest road ultra marathon to date. The scenery is beautiful with the run taking us through the Valley of Thousand Hills. And not to mention the awesome support given by the South Africans. However, this isn't a walk in the park and one can't just simply walk the entire 89KM distance. If you thought by registering for the Comrades Marathon is all about the glamour and it's long history, think again. The 12 hour cut-off time is in fact a little misleading. Yes, that's the cut-off time to arrive at the finish line, but do not forget that there are 5 cut-off to be met along the entire race course. One may not even arrive at Durban should race strategy isn't plan out together with training.

The rush to the finish nearing the 12 hour cut-off.

The training this year focuses a lot on quality of the run and also the rest time. It isn't about quantity anymore although a certain distance is most advisable to be met. When feeling unwell, do not train. When running halfway and discomfort sets in, STOP! And when injured, pay attention to getting it heal first. Seriously, there is no point pushing it beyond the pain barrier only to result in long term chronic injuries which is worst! Are you going to be spend your life complaining to yourself and others about pain? Are you going to be an attention seeker in telling others that you can do it despite the injury and the pain? You may think you are great, but to me, you are a lame joker who seeks attention!

Runners falling like flies being smack at the 2013 edition.

To date, 2 Malaysians is already among the  DNF (Did Not Finish) status. I do not want to see another added to the list and sincerely advised my fellow countrymen to train and rest as when needed. 1 June 2014 will come in a blink of an eye!

* a little harsh on a few sentences above but somethings just needs to be convey
* all images courtesy of Comrades Marathon Association

Friday, January 03, 2014

It All Begins, AGAIN...

By Frank

Yes, we have moved into the new year. And it's the time again where it all restarts again, new year resolutions. Did you managed to hit your previous or was it just a simple wish on the first day of the new year and you simply forget about it the next day?

For myself and perhaps, the other 11 Malaysians heading to South Africa for the Comrades Marathon 2014 come this 1 June 2014, it marks the start of our training. 3 sets of different program were given and am glad to actually know that some of them has started off with their training. This year's training is "slightly" less gruesome compared to last year with attention made towards quality and rest. However, having said that, it's really down to ourselves to get it done. The program does not guarantee success on race day, but it will definitely spell disaster if not taken seriously. As a double finisher myself, I am not taking it lightly for sure, as I know how tough the race is, especially when it's the down direction, my Achilles heel.

For the past 2 years, for the first half of the year, it has all been sweat, tears and cramps, and sometimes lack of sleep too (so far no blood shed yet :p). Trying to train for Comrades with the nature of my job is tough. And it certainly makes no difference this year, if not even tougher with the direction I am heading towards, something which I hope will change soon.

My training gears has been chosen. It will reflect on what I am going to use on the actual race day. Whether shoes, apparels or nutrition, I simply put them into 3 categories. Train, Strengthen and to Recover.

The shoes that will be part my training.

Anyway, just a short entry rambling about it here. I've started my training as per given. Not a new year resolution to me as I've stop making them few years back but just simply something I've been doing since my first Comrades Marathon. It's really down to ourselves to make something happen. And as for my journey to Comrades Marathon, it's just as simple as saying, BUILD, PROGRESS, MAINTAIN, IMPLEMENT! All that thousand plus Kilometers of running coupled with other forms of training just for 1 aim, to complete the 89KM journey within 12 hours. COMRADES MARATHON 2014 - HARD IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT!