Monday, February 01, 2016

A Positive Start...

By Frank

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2016...

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

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

View of Cyberjaya from my room.

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

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Watergate 16 Hours 2016...

Event: Watergate 16 Hours 2016
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 09 January 2016
Time: 8.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7
By Frank

I've never had the chance to participate in Team Pacat's Watergate 16 Hours before as I've never heard of the first edition and it was set a week before the Hong Kong 100 last year. But when I learnt that I did not get the ballot for Hong Kong 100 this year, I finally had the chance to try it out at the third edition and hence it became my first race of the year, or shall I call it first sacrificial for the year. Why sacrificial? Well, it's because as usual all the races leading up to Comrades (and this year I have the West Highland Way Race too) will always be used as training and will always be tackled with much care to minimise any risk of injury.

The format is similar to Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) of Singapore. To try to run the maximum distance in loops over 16 hours. And for Watergate will be 2.5KM out to Palace of Justice and 2.5KM back to Taman Sri Empangan which will give a distance of 5KM per loop.

The race pack collection was moved an hour earlier to 4PM and knowing my type to secure a safe parking spot, I arrived at Taman Sri Empangan 15 minutes later as I didn't want to run with much thinking about the safety of my car. Collected my bib number without any hassle and met up with Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of organisers from Team Pacat. And it was nice of them to throw in a shatter proof mug too. Well, for a no frills event, at least there will be some memento for those who opt not to purchase the event tee, finisher tee and medal. I was one of them.

However, some drama unfolded as the truly Malaysian attitude came into picture when some runners demanded for a change of colour of the tote bag given (first batch was white, second was black), purchase of event and finisher tee on the spot (exact number of tees are made upon orders with ample time given) and also to change of top 3 trophies to teddy bears (previous years was teddy bears).

My mind was set for a 7PM start but I got it all wrong. It was to start at 8PM after being told by Kelvin and Jonathan. I've really no idea where did 7PM come from but I guess I must have relate this to TUC which has the similar format. Was hungry as I soon remembered that I have a pack of cashew, almonds and some dried guava with me. Took some to fill the hunger a little while I continue waiting.

I've never excelled in TUC before. Perhaps looping through the night is something I am weak in for I did not have problems with Back 2 Endurance as it takes place during the day. And I know that it won't be easy this time too as my body was still feeling a little sore from the weight training I did over the past few days as part of my training regime. But nevertheless, it's of no pressure to survive the entire 16 hours although that will be perfect.

Piriformis was still a little tight with a little sore hip and hence wore my compression shorts for a little "squeeze". But for my top, I opt for my striking orange Jedburgh tee (for safety), something for a change as I normally will wear a tight top for long distance races. Need to get back the feeling of running long with a loose tee, but I hope there will be no chaffing. And as part of training, I wore my hydration vest. And to that particular person who gave me an annoying gesture on this, it has really nothing to do with you on what I select as part of what I use. Not even my food or drinks, mind you!

After nearly 4 hours of wait, the third edition of Watergate 16 Hours finally got underway at 8PM sharp with runners bursting across the start line. With 16 hours to go, bursting away doesn't seem to be a good idea as I took my own time to settle to my rhythm. A couple of hundred meters ahead was the Gemilang Bridge and some who "bursted" away earlier was already breathless here. And this is where the experience runners came passing by from behind from familiar faces such as Yew Khuay, Yim and Azlan. And speaking of Yew Khuay, he is a much different runner from Putrajaya 100 a couple of months ago. He is back to his best!

I settled into my pace quite well cruising at about 6.30 minutes per Kilometer. The red rubbery running and cycling path that was laid back during November last year has settled down pretty well and it was nice running on it. Most will agree that it is tough running on the concrete pavement of Putrajaya and hence this certainly will help a little since there is no road closure to this event.

Upon arrival outside the lawyer's department office after about 1KM, I spotted the Starbucks Coffee outlet there. Though it was already closed, I can't help to think of a cup of iced cold Americano since the condition was really hot and humid. And moving on from here, was a little dark stretch with tress overshadowing the lights from street lamps and the bright moon. Was lucky there weren't any chipped or uneven pavement. But thanks Team Pacat for the sufficient blinkers that lighted the way at important sections of the route since the start. It was a simple nice touch.

Everything went smoothly during the early stages of the run completing my first 10KM (2 loops) in just slightly more than an hour. I started taking small sips of water at each u-turn point to avoid being dehydrated and not forgetting to allow my kidney to function properly (a flashback to Putrajaya 100's bloody urine). However to my dismay upon arriving back at the start, the cups and bottles were not placed systematically and not in running numbers. We runners had to search for ours among the 200 plus cups and bottles which was really frustrating even when we were still fresh. Imagine trying to search for it after 10 hours of running!

Fast forwarding ahead to 12.5KM at the Palace of Justice u-turn, I was suddenly paced along by "someone". Happily pacing along just behind and sometimes beside me, I found him to be rather rude and annoying as I dislike being paced especially without permission. I tried to shake him off by slowing down but to my surprise, he actually slowed down too. Darn it. I guess my next move was to take my own sweet time when I complete this loop which I did and eventually managed to shake him off after telling him off that I will like to last the entire 16 hours. And this guy was actually the same guy that gave me that annoying gesture with regards to me wearing my hydration vest at the start!

Everything went smoothly from here onward despite my pace starting to slow at each loop. Nevertheless, I continued running till completing my sixth loop at 30KM before stopping for my long awaited dinner served by the organisers. Took some rice, a fried chicken with a  can of Wonda coffee while I chill with Ken who came to support.

After satisfying my hunger and some gossip sharing with Ken, I continued on walking. As usual, I will walk about an hour after a meal but this time, I made sure I practice my walking. It certainly wasn't easy as the hips and knees were under pressure. And after completing my seventh loop by walking, I continued with my eight with Roy where we walked and chatted together.

My ninth loop onward was a solo effort. Despite legs feeling not too bad, I was feeling tired probably due to the fact that it was sleeping time. At each turn, I washed my face hoping to freshen up but the eye bag just didn't want to cooperate.  And by the eleventh loop, I felt the rear of my right knee connecting my hamstrings twitching. I guess that was the sign that my body, or shall I say legs hinting to me to stop.

Completing eleven loop will only mean 55KM. Therefore I guess rounding it up to 60KM with one more loop should be fine and hence started my journey after a hot cup of black coffee. Running took away the pain a little and I ran whenever I can and successfully arrived at the u-turn point at Palace of Justice. Was joined by Fuad here and we made the return trip together, well at least till the Gemilang Bridge before I decided to walk to the finish completing 60KM with a time of 9:40:04 hours in position of 72 out 279. And with that, I called it a night!

I didn't leave the venue immediately as I hung around to have my meal and to rest up a little while lingering with my friends. But while doing so, I was disgusted once again when the same person who earlier annoyed me came and gave me yet another annoying gesture, this time like "Why I can't survive 16 hours"? That's a total of 3 annoying gesture in less than 10 hours by the same person!

Overall, I don't deny I was disappointed with my result as once again I failed to fully utilise the full 16 hours. However, I guess 12 loops equaling to 60KM is enough for my first long run (and walk) of the year as after all, there were signs that my legs and hips wasn't ready for longer distances at this point of time. I did enjoy the event and only was disgusted by those annoying gestures. Runner's have their ups and downs so as footballers. They don't win games at every match. Football. Get it...?

The Watergate 16 Hours is a decent event and more importantly, it's an event organised by runners for runners where everyone gets to socialised and get together at one big gathering. No event is perfect and there were definitely some misses for this such as:

- Running out of ice cubes and fruits mid way through the event. Considering conditions were hot and humid, ice needs to be made aplenty throughout the event with constant replenishment for runners. Same goes to fruits too as I've noticed more watermelons not being served.
- A more systematic way for BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) where cups and bottles to be spaced out according to running numbers instead of just leaving it on the table at any available space. It's not easy trying to locate our own cup or bottle among 279 of them.
- More info to be shared before the event itself on event website and Facebook site. Some runners were a little blur on the procedure, myself included especially on the timing system.

However, to make up for the above, this even has certainly it's merits:

- The usage of blinkers at important sections of the route not only to guide the runners but also to keep them awake as blinking lights can be an "annoying reminder".
- Volunteers are more cheerful and helpful this time compared to those from Putrajaya 100 last year.
- Plenty of food and drinks served. But please don't hold back serving them such as the watermelons stated above.
- No frills event. You get for what you pay for. For this, I only paid to run and eat and drink. I do not need the t-shirts nor the medal and though the event may be a little on the expensive side, we do get the quality out from it for it's a "boutique event". And well done for including a shatter proof mug for all participants as a memento.

Watergate 16 Hours is a great event for runners wanting to pop their ultra running cherry. Although many may not like looping runs, it does have it's strength for it train one's mental strength. Besides that, refreshments are made nearby for those who are not experience to tackle their nutrition. The third edition is indeed a success and though it will continue for many years on, I've heard that the fourth edition will move somewhere towards the south direction. A change of venue will be interesting and that we shall find out soon later. Thanks Team Pacat for organising this!

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

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Long One...

By Frank

By now, guess most of my friends and blog followers will know that I will be attempting my longest trail run this year, as part of my "final drop of water" into my running bucket list. To finish off what myself as a runner dream of and to do it while my body is still capable, this "final drop of water" is known as the West Highland Way Race, a 95 miler (152KM) from Milngavie, Glasgow through and across the highlands to Fort William at Scotland.

The idea came early last year upon receiving my medical report which in a way wasn't really favourable. And at that point of time, I scrambled in search of races such as this and eventually came upon it since my first trip to Scotland was still fresh in mind at that point of time. With my close relationship with Scotland and my friends there, I knew this was the one. And back in October last year at Jedburgh, I met up with Ian Beattie, the race director and knew I need to put my name into the ballot. And on 8 December 2015, the results was out, and I was selected among 265 (61 applicants were put on waiting list, 2 withdrew and 20 rejected).

WHW route profile credited to Ross Lawrie with slight modification to year.

Taking place during Scotland's summer season on 18 June 2016, the most tricky part leading to it will be that it actually takes place 3 weeks after Comrades Marathon which I will be running too. And this year being the "Down" run which is my weaker direction, I will need to go easy on the race itself to make sure I will still have the legs to tackle the highlands. Yes I am greedy for both races are equally important to me but I will just be aiming for a finish rather than a good result. My training regime has been set out to accommodate both races and although not much has change despite a slight increase in running distance, much resistance training has been added in to ensure overall body strength. And to accommodate the slight increase of running distance, I've signed up for more races this year to help with training, with the first one this weekend. Most will be long with 2 of them going through half the day and night which will be crucial to tackle one of my weakness, sleepiness. And with all the training required, I am glad I've some "crazy" friends to train together with.

West Highland Way Race.

There will be 6 cut-offs between the start and finish. Though I only ran from Glencoe to Tyndrum back in November last year, I do not know how the terrain will be like. While most will be rocky with some rocks as huge as tennis balls, certain sections will be muddy and with roots making it rather technical. I can only listen to the information shared by my friends and do my own homework from there planning out my run pace and also my nutrition intake, hence it will be challenging.

My gears are more or less ready which most of them  with thermal properties and also water repellent and proofing. Yes, they were all prepared way before my acceptance in this race and this time, I can finally put them to good use. There will be no trekking poles allowed though.

After years of hibernation, finally a chance to use this stash of gears.

A few concerns for me will include my ability to stay awake for the race starts at 1AM which will leave me with 2 nights to tackle for. Coffee may help but the question is how much can I take? And the other will be the cold temperatures as although it's summer, it will still be very cold for my standards with the night dipping to zero or maybe even below it. Day may range from 15C to 20C though. And with the race being in summer, midges will be another concern. I've not seen midges before but I was told that they are very nasty little pest (even smaller than sand fly) that comes in swarms which bites can be extremely irritating. Will need some insect repellents or even DEET to minimize their bites.

But anyhow, to address the concerns above will be my amazing crew who will be supporting me for the entire race. A minimum crew of 2 is needed and I have Angela and Chee Kong stepping forward to be part of my team and I am really thankful to them for their job will not be an easy one. However we are definitely still accepting more as the more will be merrier and of course easier for each other too. And I am still hoping a special guest back home will agree to it. Besides, we are going to rent a big vehicle for this, most likely the Volkswagen T5.

West Highland Way Race 2016, 95 miles through the Scottish highlands, my long one. It will be tough and demanding, and while I may not be a fast runner, I promise my crew and everyone else that I will try my very best to make it to the finish at Fort William and enter through that blue door at Lochaber Leisure Centre within 35 hours from the start. That you have my word! So yes, the "sheep" is returning to the Scottish highlands and will be gunning for that goblet.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Look Back At Year 2015...

By Frank

In terms of running, year 2014 was a good one for me. And when I signed off my 2014 blog entry, I foresee greater challenges ahead for year 2015. And in a blink of an eye, after covering 3,018KM of running distance, I've to say that I had an AWESOME GREAT 2015! Yes, it was certainly full of obstacles and thus I faced them as challenges rather than problems and I've to give myself a pat on my own shoulders for in my very own standards, I think I managed them really well.

Although I was "around", I tried to stay away from the "poisons" from the social media world such as those in Facebook. Too many attention seekers, blamers and "IFters" (a term I use to describe those who always ask IF). Action speaks louder than words and besides that, I rather let my own body and of course legs to do my humble runs. And of course, I will always remember the 2 insults of "Why are you so slow?" and "How are you going to run Comrades like this?" that was thrown at me back last year. Rather than bearing it as a grudge, I guess that will be my driving force. Anyhow, here's a look back from month to month.

The year started with my contract renewal with Saucony who will be supporting me for my third year running which I am really grateful of, for they are a nice bunch of people to work with. But the joy was overshadowed when I discovered my general health wasn't what it seems to be and that was definitely, an alarming wake up call. Upon receiving the news, I was then constantly reminding myself that I need to fill my running "bucket list" as soon as possible and that paved my big plans for the year ahead and also the following year.

Anyway, despite the news, I moved on continuing to pursue my next big challenge, which is to complete my first 100KM trail at the Vibram Hong Kong 100. I continued with my fine form from the previous year pushing my momentum through but although I managed to complete it earning a bronze trophy, it showed how frail I was as my race tumbled halfway into it due to a resurgence of migraine. Nevertheless, I took it as a success and part of "bucket list" was fulfilled.

Completing my first 100KM trail at Hong Kong 100.

And moving on from there, it was all about my fourth Comrades Marathon. My bar was set pretty high this time in an attempt to run a 10 hours or better time at my favourable "Up" run. In me, I knew it was really going to be tough but trust and faith was put on me and hence I had to believe on what was given. After all, to try is better than giving up straight. I took on the challenge and followed my training regime given as closely as possible but at the same time being flexible and most importantly smart about it. And with lots of thoughts in mind, the training kept me occupied and away from thinking too much.

I had 2 long distance races in March to help out with my training which was my first visit to Gunung Nuang for the ultra and also the usual Twilight Ultra Challenge at Singapore. Did considerably ok for the former but didn't do well at the latter due to sleep issues. And in the midst of the training, I was joined by Zijill who will be attempting her first Comrades this year. We trained together and it certainly help us got through the tough back to back runs at least "easier".

There was only 1 event for the month of April which was the King of Bukit Larut 26KM. The rest of the days was as the usual training. As the event neared, I felt a little regretted signing up for it after seeing the very steep profile. It wasn't the ascend that I was worried of, but rather the descent where I was worried about picking up and injury a month before Comrades. But still, I went for it putting full use to my uphill training, and tackling it extra carefully during the descent. And in all, I was surprised I still managed a fourth placing!

May came and it was Comrades month. But before leaving for South Africa, together with CARIF (now Cancer Research Malaysia), I launched my first book entitled "From Cancer to Ultramarathons" which I've written partly at Aberdeen, Scotland during my visit there last year. A biography about myself while stating some facts about cancer, the book was dedicated to my friends, family and those who had to do battle the disease.

My first book, From Cancer To Ultramarathons.

All was well leading to the race as I took extra care of myself. And unlike previous years, I did not fall sick this time. And when Comrades Marathon finally happened on 31 May, my body finally let me down. Although I ran my fastest Comrades, it was only a 10 minutes improvement only, and certainly really shy of the 10 hours target. I knew what happened but it certainly wasn't a question of "If". But in the end, it was still a memorable Comrades as I had a photo finish together with Zijill followed closely by David behind us.

On my way to my fourth Comrades finish with Zijill.

After Comrades, it was another eye opener for me as I visited Namibia as part of the post Comrades reward trip in June. Was joined by Malaysian friends residing in Aberdeen and also met new ones like Edmund, Serene, Hong Jie and Luke. Felt sick for the first couple of days and didn't do much as the weather was really cold during the night at the Namib Desert. But once I was well, it was all business as usual as the trip was certainly a very beautiful one. And to end the month, was the Back 2 Endurance 12 hours looping event at Botanic Gardens by Jeff. Managed again to hit the Comrades distance before taking a short break in July.

Unforgettable trip to Namibia.

In terms of running, July's mileage took a dip. However, it did help in recovering the tired body and legs of mine from the constant pounding from the first half of the year and hence I guess I deserve this rest. But rest I did not as a very dear friend had to undergo a surgery for a recurrence of a knee injury. Although still recovering at time of writing this, I really hope it will be soon before we can hit the roads and trails again together. And I mean SOON...

August came next and I was back in action at the Kuching Marathon, where I started my streak of sub 4 hours marathon last year. However, it wasn't meant to be this year as I lost the "feel" to run when I heard that I could not use it as my Comrades qualifier due to change of qualifying date. However, I still managed to complete the run comfortably with no intention to use it as a qualifier and also had a great time catching up with Cham and Zijill while exploring Kuching.

Fitness wasn't affected from my rest the past few weeks as I carried on into the month of September. However, the annual haze returned and it was extremely bad this year that most of my outdoor long runs had to be cancelled. Instead, I was doing shorter runs indoors. And moving towards the end of the month was the Vietnam Mountain Marathon tackling the 70KM distance. A beautiful but brutally tough race where I fell 8 times due to bad weather and muddy terrain, it was indeed an opener. Nevertheless, I had fun at the race and also visiting the country for the first time which makes me want to return next year, since after all they are introducing the 100KM distance for the first time.

Moments before my first fall at the paddy fields at Vietnam Mountain Marathon.

October came but the haze remained. Most runs were indoor as I waited and trained patiently for the third week to arrive. And when it did, I finally made my trip to Scotland. It was a great trip meeting up friends there and also running a couple of ultra distances there. And this time, I took the opportunity to explore Scotland and also making a short trip to Liverpool to visit the football club I visit. But towards the end of nearly 3 weeks, I found out out that Scotland has just too much to offer that 3 weeks was not enough. Next year again perhaps As Ben Nevis remains unconquered due to bad weather this time.

Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC.

With Chee Kong halfway up Ben Nevis.

I was basically still in Scotland in the month of November. To be exact, I was there till the middle of the month before I made a quick trip to Istanbul, Turkey for a short holiday and also for my Comrades qualifier at the Istanbul Marathon. Almost didn't make it though due to cabin crew strike at Lufthansa which affected my flight but was really glad Turkish Airlines came to the rescue. Expected to qualify but to my surprise, I ran my second best marathon time there. And upon returning back home, I then took on the Putrajaya 100KM where although I ran a good run, it raised an alarm when I discovered blood in my urine during the late stages of the run. However, all is well.

Comrades qualifier at Istanbul dusted!

December is traditionally my rest month and I did just that keeping runs to minimal. Did run the Melaka River Marathon though as part of keeping my fitness in check and besides, just need to get out of town for a while. However, leading to wards the year end was a sad one which will be mentioned in the paragraphs below later.

Overall, year 2015 has been great in terms of running. The health scare was probably my wake up as I began my quest to fulfill my running bucket list. I ran better, enjoyed myself more and had the chance visit Namibia, to run in the mountains of Vietnam and also re-visit beautiful Scotland. And also yes, I finally also threw in the letter resigning from my workplace. Yes, you read this right. I've actually resigned! I am moving on from this hole in mid next year.

Towards the end of the year, it was really painful to witness a friend suffering while battling the big C, sarcoma to be exact which is under the same cancer group type I battled when I was a kid. He was indeed a fighter and a champion even when he breath his last. But nothing ends, it's just the start of a whole new chapter at some other place where we will meet again one day. And for the time being, I will miss you. Thank you Super Kew for everything. #FTT

Our last mile with Kew. #FTT...

On the more cheerful note, I get to know more in person of friends around me and also making new ones in the process. Some of them includes Choon Yuen, Jeanie, Yan Leng, Piew, Zijill and Yew Khuay. And not forgetting my enlarged Scottish family too from Lorna, Minty, Kirsty, Elaine, Donald, Myles. Bill, Steven, Alan, Ross, Jeni, Ruth, Wullie, Chris, Daniel, Patricia, Alison, Ian and Sandra, and many more.

Part of the "mountain" family.

Part of my Scottish family.

Farewell 2015.

Moving forward, I foresee 2016 to be a great year in running as I seek to fill up my running bucket list to "maximum capacity" as I challenge myself to my longest and coldest trail run ever (in my own books), the iconic and the long one at the highlands of Scotland, a distance on trails that I have never attempt before. But before that, it will be half a decade for myself and Chee Kong as we take on Comrades for our fifth time in a row.

My commitments for 2016.

But most importantly, I hope that 2016 will be another trouble free year for everyone as we seek challenges and fun in our daily lives. After all, we are aging gracefully each day and thus should really enjoy every moment of it. Happy New Year everyone!

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015...

Event: International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015
Venue: A'Famosa Fort, Melaka
Date: 20 December 2015
Time: 4.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (41.5KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony
By Frank

This is probably the longest name of a running event that I know of, so let's just call it Melaka River Marathon here. I signed up for this marathon not because I wanted to run it but rather I needed to run it. Despite deciding to give the fast Saucony Type A5 a go since it's been a while since I wore it, am not expecting a fast result from it for it's just 3 weeks after my 100KM at Putrajaya but rather as a long run as part of my ongoing training for my long one next year. Besides, I am going to run with my hydration vest which will weight me down. But it's something I needed to do for the long one will require this. And to explore Melaka on foot will be rather interesting since it's been many years since I last visited.

I actually booked the accommodation first before deciding to register for this event as Ken agreed to take part in the half marathon. Not many of our friends took part as the race was only announced a month before. However, due to the generous cash prize being given out, it attracted a pretty huge number of fast runners especially the Africans residing here.

Race pack with 2 "tasty" junk food.

Anyway, Ken volunteered to drive and we departed from Tropicana City Mall on Saturday morning. Drive was very smooth even after entering Melaka. It only took us less than 2 hours and we were already at the race pack collection site. Was a low key event with a short queue which didn't take too long. Once done here, we proceeded to Jonker Street for lunch at one of the chicken rice ball shop before checking into our hotel at Fenix Inn, just nearby to the A'Formosa Fort at Melaka Raya where the race start is. Was a rather clean and basic hotel with all the necessity. Nothing too fancy, and just enough for us to rest in. Rested and chill for a while before it's off to try out the so call first and original crepe at Nadeje which was just nearby.

No trip to Malacca is without chicken rice ball. Brown one is yam rice ball.

Ken's strawberry crepe at the background while mine was the chocolate banana.

Walked around Melaka Raya checking out the shopping malls and of course the race venue before heading back to rest up again. Dinner was pretty good at Fat Boy's Burger nearby. As per the Scottish pre-race tradition, bacon and beer is a must and that is what I included in my order. Hehehe.... However, the mood soon became somber when I received news back in KL that the condition of a running mate and friend who is fighting the big C has deteriorated.

Fat Basterd with pork, lamb, bacon and beet root. Not forgetting some "hydration".

Light were off at about 9PM as I tried to close my eyes which I think I managed to. Was up by around 1.15AM which gives me plenty of time to get ready since the race venue is just within walking distance. Ken was awake too though his race will start 2 hours after mine. Breakfast was simple mung bean bun with black coffee. However, the usual pre-race ritual didn't go very smoothly, probably due to the timing as it's been a while since a race started this early for me. I left the hotel at about 3.15AM but only to turn back as the "feeling" to visit the potty came. Was glad that came and the deposit was done which leaves me without any worry. Phew...

Anyway, a slight drizzle was felt as I arrived at the race venue. Soon it became a heavy downpour as everyone seek shelter under the organiser's canopy. And 1 thing I must point out was that as runners was seeking shelter under the canopy, some inconsiderate technical or committee members which are part of the organiser was smoking and vaping. For God's sake, this is a running event! What a shame!

As I waited, I thought of my friend as a second bib with the hashtag #FTT was hung on my waist. I also thought of my race strategy too and finally decided to actually run comfortably till the 25KM mark before using the run walk tactic to see if I can complete the run in 4.30 hours. The rain was reduced back to a drizzle with 15 minutes before the race start. Someone must been praying hard for it to stop! And I was glad too, to escape the second hand smoke as I went out to the open to meet up with some familiar faces like Cikgu Syed, Yim and Jeff.

There was a race briefing by the race director before the start, a first time I am seeing this for a road marathon. I guess the lack of information on the race website and also there was no race pamphlet or e-mail given out contributed to this. And apparently, there is a slight change of route near to the finish. I was joking with Cikgu Syed about the final distance being reduced and it was overheard by the race director in where he assured it will remain the same after some adjustment. All right, we took his words for it but let's see.

The race started 7 minutes late at 4.07AM according to my watch as less than 300 marathon runners took to the Melaka Roads. Honestly speaking, I don't really know where I am running at hence I need to apologies in advance for lack of race blog info and experience. And this is really going to be my shortest race report.

The first 10KM or so was ran within Melaka Raya and city center which takes runners around famous places like Jonker Street, Stadthyus, Eye of Melaka, Melaka River and also the museum. Although it was dark, the lights emitted from the Christmas decoration did help to brighten the surroundings a little and also to showcase what Melaka has to offer. As for me, I had to keep my eyes on the road to navigate through the puddle of waters as I settled into my comfortable running pace. Legs were a little heavy but other than that, everything was actually in fact fine. The first water station at the 5KM mark and as expected, only water was served. I was all right with it as I do not take isotonic drinks during marathon distance, but I foresee complains from the majority of runners.

After a quarter of the distance done, I spotted Cikgu Syed talking a walk and tried to pull him along. Not sure if he did to try as I did not look back and continue my exit from the city center into even darker places heading towards the outskirts. I was cruising along comfortably but yet at the same time being aware of my surroundings as although there were not many cars yet, some drivers was spotted beating the traffic lights and some ignoring instructions from the enforcers. Truly Malaysians!

The distance was passing rather very slowly for me probably due to runners around me. There was none ahead and none behind. I was indeed lonely but the thoughts of my friend reminded me something else as I continued on my journey to the finish heading towards Klebang if not mistaken.

Fast forwarding to the 25KM mark where I successfully arrived on the dot at 2:30 hours, I switch to the run walk tactic as per intended despite legs still feeling not too bad. If not mistaken, I think I am somewhere near the coastal road at where the Straits of Malacca is as I began run walking as I remembered it was long straight stretch. And as expected, it was the walking part that slowed me down as I am not a good walker. In fact, my walking is too slow that my leg muscles will slowly become stiff. I really need to put some effort in trying to improve on this for Minty did mention that a huge part of success for the long one will require the runner to walk fast.

29KM is where the day began to break as I remember I stop to help a guy whose toe nail is starting to drop off due to shoe tightness. He stopped at a Malay food stall munching on a curry puff by the street while another runner was buying curry puff too for breakfast. I was offered too but had to politely decline. The traffic began to grow heavier too. With lots of road works, road dividers and barricades were set up which leaves minimal space for me. Though most drivers were considerate, there will me one or two who will be monsters as a Johorean car came really close to me near Semabok area.

Passed the Malacca Hospital and a short stint on a highway before arriving at Banda Hilir near to Ujong Pasir. Traffic was already very heavy as I got here but still similar to my early stage of the run. There was nobody ahead nor behind me. The first glimpse of runners only came when I arrived the the junction heading towards the Malacca Straits Mosque. But they were not marathon runners, but instead from the half, quarter and fun distance.

Made my u-turn at the end and soon spotted Jeff on the opposite side as I continued on towards Melaka Raya. Traffic was very heavy as after all Malacca is a tourist state. There were traffic enforcers here but sadly their reaction was unlike those earlier for they are slow. I had to rely on myself to navigate safely through the junctions and street crossings to avoid appearing on tomorrow's newspaper stating a runner was knockdown by a car at Malacca.

But anyhow, eventually I managed to successfully arrive back to where I first started the run earlier. Happily running towards the finish gantry when I took a sneak peak on my watch to realised that the distance is in fact under distance! It was almost 1KM short. Well, so much for the assurance from the race director earlier in the morning and I was gad I did not choose this as a Comrades qualifier. Anyhow, a satisfying training long run it is as I completed it in 4:41:16 hours with a position of 25 out of 46 for the men's international category. There was in fact a men's local category. And most importantly, I dedicate this run to a true fighter, someone I call my friend. #FTT


Linger around the finish area and soon met up with Ken who was directed the wrong way for his half marathon where he ended up running about 2KM extra. On our walk back to the hotel, we passed McDonalds which was the most convenient recovery and hence stop for a meal before continuing back to clean up and rest for a moment. We maximised our check out time to rest up for the drive back later but that will be before our tasty Peranakan lunch at Nyonya Manis Sayang. And thanks a bunch to Ken for volunteering to drive for this trip. It may only be a couple of hours drive, but am sure he was tired himself too.

Personally for myself, though I was "late" for 11 minutes, maybe even close to 20 minutes considering it is under distance, I can't ask for more since I know this isn't intended to be fast run or one to break records. But at least I managed to identify my problem of walking fast, especially with a hydration very that weights me down. It will be challenge to improve this area but it's one that needs to be done over the next 5 or 6 months. Therefore, most of you will be seeing me running and walking with a hydration vest on me in the next few months, even at shorter distance too.

Anyway, despite announcing and opening registration only for a month, the event managed to draw a fairly reasonably well number of runners especially the stronger ones, probably due to the cash prizes too. And in terms of the quality, I think they actually managed to pull off a surprise here as I thought they actually did fine. Not exactly good, but not bad and with certainly rooms for improvements. The organising committee will need to do a fair post mortem on this edition and hopefully can turn "Not bad" to "Good" or even "Great" for the third edition. But anyway, here are my thoughts:

- To announce and open registration at least 3 months before race day.
- Be more informative on website and answer to queries on social media. Facebook site seems almost dead and most queries were left unanswered.
- 5KM for refreshment stations is too far apart for novice runners. Perhaps 3KM will be ideal, or max at 4KM as it may take up to an hour at walking pace just to cover 5KM considering sore legs. Sponging stations can be combined with refreshment stations and need not be given at each stations too.
- Don't recall seeing any post race food except for RO water being served at finish area. Can consider providing light snacks and drinks such as fruits like banana.
- Excellent distance markers at every refreshment and sponging stations. Occasionally distance can be seen on the road too via chalk/spray which is a good thing.
- Traffic enforcers were excellent and friendly, at least most of them. I tried to thank everyone as I crossed each intersections, junctions or places where the are manning and most actually acknowledged! And I must say they are pretty smartly dressed too.
- To have medical personnel moving around the race route for faster response time in case of any mishaps since runners were running on open roads with vehicles coming really close.
- To improve on traffic control by placing cones or barricades at "hot spots" area. May be a challenge since Malacca is known for traffic problems but nobody wants to wait for action until something unwanted happens.
- To ban smoking and vaping at the run area including refreshment stations along the way for it's a running event, a sport that is towards promoting an active healthy lifestyle. Besides, smoking is ban within Jonker Street so I don't see this is hard to implement. Just some education needed for these inconsiderate people.
- To maintain the 5 hours cut-off time for marathon instead of secretly giving a bonus 1 hour. That's what I heard about the secret bonus. Personally, 5 hours cut off is the way it should be. If runners complain, they should train for it. Don't take the distance, organisers and volunteers for granted. But just in case if you read me wrong, I am not discouraging runners especially the novice not to attempt the marathon distance at all. In fact, if one does sign up for it, do train well and for those who don't or those unfortunate to be faced with some unforeseen circumstances, do be prepared to be call to withdraw from the race at a certain distance or be swept by the sweeper bus. Ego aside, just take it as a training run.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Putrajaya 100KM 2015...

Event: Putrajaya 100KM 2015
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 28 November 2015
Time: 7.00AM
Distance: 100KM (104.6KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Zealot ISO
By Frank

To run a very hot 100KM 2 weeks after my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul doesn't seem to be a good idea. With sore legs, tired body and facing jet lag, to run the Putrajaya 100 which I got lost and suffered badly last year, it would have been another disaster in the making. But still, I wanted to run it to see the improvements being made for it's an event organised by the good people over at Team Pacat. And it's an event to remember our late friend, Abang Zack who left us a few months back.

Though I managed to cure the jet lag a week after returning home, I did not know if my legs and body will rebel against me or not. Sure they do feel fine and I kept them going by doing light workouts at the gym, but it will be another story during run day on torturous conditions like the weather.

Anyhow, although I returned home from work early, I couldn't get myself to sleep and only managed an hour or so before I needed to prepare myself to get to the run venue early before 5AM to deposit my drop bag and to collect my race pack. I had a light breakfast at home and while on my slow drive there, I bought myself a set of McDonald's breakfast to slowly munch down while waiting for the run to start at 7AM.

Arrived with 15 minutes before the "cut-off" time to deposit our drop bag, I was delighted to see how strict the organisers were, in ensuring all mandatory items are brought along by the runners via a simple "lay them out" on the table procedure. If any participant is found without any of them, they will not be allowed to collect their bib which in the end, not allowed to run. Mine went smoothly, before I returned to the car to rest while having my second breakfast.

With breakfast settled and feeling energetic, I don't think I am able to rest more and hence geared up and returning to linger with the others. I opt for the Saucony Zealot ISO instead of the Kinvara series as I thought it will be a great send off for this pair which had hit 800KM worth of running. Race briefing 15 minutes before the start by Arman followed by the national anthem and the runners were soon flagged off beginning at 7AM in a wave of 20 starting with the 20 runners doing the 160KM.

Zhen Yang and Barkley taking their "bromance" to another level with a 100KM.

Ken out supporting the runners this year.

Armed with the Garmin eTrex which I borrowed from Roy just in case I get lost again like last year, I started my run in the third wave. Plan was similar like Istanbul, to cruise comfortably within the aerobic zone. This is exceptionally critical as the heat will really mess it up should I enter the anaerobic zone. I was the first runner to lead my wave and hence no bottle neck as I made myself to the Gemilang Bridge. Zhen Yang and Barkley who started earlier was taking their own sweet time "walking" on the bridge and a quick selfie with them before I zoomed off to where Ken was ahead. Selfie with him too as I continued my way to the first u-turn point near the Prime Minster's office. Everything fell into place pretty quickly and I was comfortable with it. The u-turn was after a flight of stairs but what surprised me was the signage was telling the runners to continue running straight. Informed the volunteer there who was assigned to inform the runners to turn about it and he seems bewildered with it too. I hope I don't overshoot this turn when I return later at night though.

Getting cheeky with a slice of Nuttella sandwich.

Anyway, I cruise along the core island and soon arrived at the first check point. Took a Nuttella sandwich and a few sips of water before I continued on. Heard a familiar voice ahead asking me to hasten up. It was Hong Chew and she was asking me to run ahead to where Ben was as she wanted to take a photo of the both of us. A photo with Ben who is running the 160KM distance is hard to resist even if I was munching on a sandwich. Hehe...

With Ben who is running the 160KM distance.

Continued my journey with Ben before I was join by Jeff and Yew Khuay. As the path along the lake has plenty of junctions, I relied on the eTrex. The route was to bring us to a park just behind the Prime Minister's office and it indeed was an eye opener for me as I've never been to this part of Putrajaya. Was cruising with Jeff and Yew Khuay, while Ben was happily tagging behind.

As I entered the park, I found myself with Yew Khuay only as Ben and Jeff has fallen slightly behind. Although this is my first time I am running with Yew Khuay, I know all about his strength and what he is capable of doing.For those who don't know him (although I will be very surprised if you don't know him), he is an uprising young and talented runner, and I am just happy plus honoured to be running with him at this stage cruising comfortably in a 6.30KM/H pace.

Great to have Yew Khuay for company.

We headed for the u-turn which was manned by a volunteer. Though there was u-turn signage there, it was really small, probably the size of an A4 paper and I worried that most runners will miss it especially during the later stage at night when I believe there will not be a volunteer here. Nevertheless, we both made the turn and soon spotted a group of runners making a wrong turn. Told them of the correct way and we moved on, back to the first check point which doubles up as the second. Took in some dates and water, a quick visit to the loo and we are off again towards the third check point at Taman Cabaran.

Check point 3 is 5KM maybe 6KM away making it the closest among all. However, after running along the Pullman Hotel lakeside, it involves a little climb at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) which should take the toll of some muscle. Arrived safely there with Yew Khuay and some familiar faces like Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo and Si Main was there.

Wonderful shot by Maxon as I prepare to leave Check Point 3.

After the closest in distance next will be the longest as the fourth check point is some 13KM away and we had to run along the torturous hot and humid freeway. And before doing so, both of us made sure we hydrated well before making our journey. I had an extra bottle stored in my drop bag here but to my surprise, there were all still in the bag unpacked! I wonder what was the volunteer doing since the bags left the start as early as 5AM! Told them to quickly unpack them after retrieving mine as the majority of runners will soon arrive. Fill all my bottle up and off I went off with Yew Khuay.

Jeff and Ben weren't far behind us as we made our way out. We started slow by walking as we chatted and shared some of race experience. And through this, I get to know a little more of Yew Khuay and also remembered that he was still recovering from a shin injury, which explains why I am still able to be running with him at this stage. He will probably be gone in the distance if not for this. We started running a while later and soon was joined by a young German lass name Nathalie and also Siaw Hua as we entered the freeway. Nathalie was on a vacation study here and doesn't seem to know her way around. Besides, being a German, our weather is certainly "melting" her away. Anyway, all 4 of us run our way but in close proximity.Myself and Yew Khuay slowed down a little to prevent ourselves fro over heating. We even took short walk breaks in between and the extra bottle of water I carried along to splash myself with helped in cooling my temperature down.

Though I was still feeling comfy, the heat on the freeway was slowing both of us down. But with the unselfish support from Marlina, Zaini, YK Foo and some others who appeared along the freeway stretch, it kept our spirits high. And not forgetting the friendly honk from Nick who appeared out of no where on the opposite side! We also caught up with Foo who was running the 160KM distance. Great to be chatting with him for a while but not too happy knowing he was struggling. He has a come a long way in his running career and I would really like to see him complete the 160KM!

Fast forwarding, I finally arrived at the freeway's exit and into the housing area before entering the Taman Rimba Alam which involves steep climbs. The good news is, the check point is just right behind this hill and we successfully arrived there followed closely by Siaw Hua. Budiman and Chandru who both are running the 160KM was already there chilling and resting. And for the first time, this check point comes with ice cubes as I stuff come of them into my clothing. I also needed some proper food which I think the Asda Belgian Chocolate Waffle from Scotland which I allocated in my drop bag here is considered proper enough together with some chilled watermelons. Spent a little longer time here before starting my journey to the halfway point with Yew Khuay, Siaw Hua, Budiman and Chandru.

It was to be another long journey at about 11KM or so to the fifth check point located at Taman Wetland. With the afternoon sun blazing on top of our heads, it will be another torturous stretch where it will involved some freeways too. Anyway, the first stretch was to exit Taman Rimba Alam and we got a little lost when the directional marker was "accidentally" turned to another direction. However, we still got back to the correct route as all of us went through a big loop. We each started running after exiting the park while everyone was slowly easing into it, Siaw Hua was going strong.

We all soon arrived at Precinct 14 together, an area where I got lost last year. Despite having the assurance of not getting lost this time, some minor discomfort on my left metatarsal started surfacing. While the others found their rhythm and took off, I decided to play safe and tried to walk it off. And while doing so, I had Nathalie for company as she was still "melting" under the sun. We walked together and exchanged some of our cultures as I found out that she apparently is a mountain trail runner back in Germany and a good one too. Just as we approach Taman Wetlands, Ewegene who is leading the 160KM distance was making his way out and still looking good.

We finally got to the halfway point but I was shocked not to see Yew Khuay there. A quick check with Siaw Hua before I learnt that he overshot a junction. Was hoping the "damage" wasn't too much so that we can be running the return leg together. Hong Lan who was here to support gave me a can of ice cold Wonda Coffee which I was really grateful to have. Took it down with some chicken soup while I rested my leg feet by taking off the shoe and massaging the metatarsal area. Took some fresh and dried fruits while waiting for Yew Khuay to arrive but sadly he did not. He must have went really far as the last I saw him, he was running strong.

Most were sitting on the floor at Check Point 5. Not easy to get up though.

I couldn't waste too much time and needed to keep moving which I did shortly after Jeff went off. And when I just exited the check point, Yew Khuay finally arrived and didn't happy at all. Hope he is fine and will catch up later. As I had too much liquid earlier, I continued walking as I met many runners making their way to the check point. Some familiar faces was Cikgu Syed and also Renee paced by Zijill, both doing the 160KM distance. Nathalie also passed me in the process but I have no intention to start running yet. And on the freeway, even more familiar faces like Foo, Zhen Yang, Barkley and Kevin as I cheered each and everyone of them to keep moving.

Foo all wrapped up to shield from the sun.

After walking about halfway through about 6KM and arriving back at Precinct 14, I finally resumed my run. Jeff and Siaw Hua was both way ahead already and no where to be seen. As for Yew Khuay, I guess the momentum was lost after getting lost and he was not to be seen too. I was on my own then making my return though there are still many runners making their way heading the direction I came from. Cheered for almost everyone and reminded them to turned right at the Precinct 14 roundabout, as that was where I got lost last year. Most acknowledge with a smile, a thumbs up gesture or in anyway they can except for a pretty rude runner from East Malaysia who gave me that "I don't give a damn" look (he DNF by the way).

Anyway, just before re-entering Taman Rimba Alam, memories from last year where I met the late Abang Zack came flashing back. I remember he was motivating me to go on while I directed him the correct directions towards Precinct 14. Though he is no longer physically with us, am sure he was caring for each and everyone of us on this day. You will be miss my friend.

I shouldered on towards Taman Rimba Alam and arrived safely back at check point 4. And to my surprise both Siaw Hua and Jeff arrived later.They apparently slowed down a little and went back towards the wrong big loop in the park while I used the correct route which explained the switch of our positions. But none of this is important for us for the camaraderie and respect for each other is strong within us. I rested a little longer again to ease my left foot while both of them left earlier.

Took some fruits and away I went. As usual, an easy walk first before resuming my run. Besides, there was some climb back into Taman Rimba Alam before the freeway. The weather got better but the rain did not come. When I re-entered the freeway, I could see Jeff not too far ahead. As for Siaw Hua, she was just a tiny dot in the distance. Must the white powdery thing she mixed into her drink back at the check point which gave her the push!

I managed to catch up with Jeff and we both did the run walk strategy together. Like earlier with Yew Khuay, this helps both of us in arriving at the next check point "faster" without having to think too much. And fast forwarding to it, we both arrived at Taman Cabaran just before sunset with Siaw Hua no where to be seen. According to the volunteers, she has left much earlier! She was really awesome!

Again I took off my left shoe to ease my metatarsal as both myself and Jeff helped ourselves to the watermelons. The volunteers this time was really helpful unlike those from the earlier shift as they motivated us to push on. Jeff left earlier as I slowly put on my reflective vest and headlamp as the sun began to set. It was also an excuse to rest my left foot a bit longer.

Once ready, I was off running as I found myself coming back to "live"! Somehow, I felt refresh again and managed to run without much struggle. Just before arriving at the PICC, I saw a runner running towards me It was Siti and apparently she started late due to work commitments. Hats off to her for even starting the race. She is indeed a tough lady as despite starting late, she still finish her run in third position later!

Next I soon reunite with Jeff as he stop to put on his reflective vest and headlamp. I wanted to wait up but he asked me to go on seeing me coming back to "live". Told him to catch up once he is ready as I continued on through the lake side at Pullman before arriving at the Gemilang Bridge and soon back at the earlier second check point. It was pretty dark as there was no street lamps or lanterns provided and I pitied the volunteers. All they had was just light from the phone and also the headlamp should a runner came by. They were awesome volunteers too and I managed to crack some jokes with them especially the cendol joke where I told them to prepare a bowl for me when I return next.

Once done, I continued my journey towards the park just after the Prime Minister's office along the lakeside. I was alone most of them time. Couldn't see Siaw Hua at the front, nor Jeff at the back. I was also wonder how was Yew Khuay doing. I was still hoping that he would catch up so myself with him and Jeff can complete this run together. About 4KM along the lake side, I saw Siaw Hua heading back. She mentioned she is starting to struggle but apparently she looked very strong as I told her to keep her head up for she is into her last stretch soon. We both pushed on and soon entered the park. But one thing I don't remember is how far was the u-turn. I kept searching for the signage but it did not appear until 1KM in! It was a little one by the left side with a small reflective! I could have miss it!

After making the turn, I decided to rest a little on the bench.  Was feeling sleepy too and instantly enough, I dozed off for 10 minutes or so. The lack of sleep from yesterday has began to take its toll on my heavy eye lids. I continue to push after the power nap and bumped into Jeff making his way into the park. Next was Yew Khuay not too far behind and it seems my wish for all 3 of us to finish together may come true after all.

I stopped for a pee stop when I came upon a toilet. What I didn't knew that time was this is going to change the whole remaining game. It was the first time in my whole running career and life that I was peeing blood! Despite not feeling unwell or any discomfort, I knew there was something amiss with my body. Besides, there were white stains on my hydration vest, signs of dehydration. Besides, I was spending a long time pushing under the hot weather earlier. Despite 2 pee stop earlier, it was clearly my fluid intake wasn't sufficient which led to this. I had to walk back to the check point in order to prevent any damage to myself. I had to go on economy mode now despite still feeling all right.

I made it back to the check point safely. Despite feeling all right, the mood wasn't really there anymore since my earlier pee stop. But still, I remembered my cendol joke earlier and crack it out to the volunteers. Informed them of my situation and the medic who was there wanted to put me on drip. I refused and told him that I wanted to continue on with ease and should I feel uncomfortable, I will give Arman a call to call it a night at any distance later. That was my promise to him and he allowed me to continue.

Took a bottle of isotonic drink along despite having 1 liter of water with me. I don't think I will be needing it, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. Though I wasn't running, I was power walking and soon found myself nearing the Prime Minister office again. It was another 5KM to go till the finish and I asked myself if I can hack this. And based on my condition at that moment in time, it was a "Yes" as  slowly broke into the run.

I ran into the 52KM and 78KM category runners who began their run about half an hour earlier as I approached the Prime Minister's office and most of them cheered me on. I was really appreciative of their kind gesture in spurring me on. Thanks everyone! And as I approached the flight of stairs, I spotted many runners overshooting the u-turn point. As expected, the earlier signage was missing and there was no volunteer to guide them. As I passed my bottle of unopened isotonic drink to a fellow lady runner, I tried to direct as many runners possible to make their turn hoping that the others behind will follow like a chain. Some shouted to the runners ahead who overshot to make their turn, but I guess many will have already been upset by this small mistake by the organisers.

I resume my run after doing what I can. And as made my way around the roundabout, a rather familiar voice called my name. As my own headlamp was shining ahead with many others shining back, it was hard to tell who is who. But I knew that voice, it was Nick who was running the 52KM distance with Jeannie and Foo. And with both of them are Jamie, Zijill, Choon Yuen, Richi, and Lum. We stopped for a chat and shared some of my run story till then, and of course my recent pee stop. And with that, they decided to switch the attention to me to ensure that I make it back to the finish safely. With that, we bid the best of luck to the trio doing the 52KM and parted ways.

I was hustling on the final 4KM return leg at a pace of 5:30KM/H. Did not know where did I find my strength but perhaps knowing the finish was nearing, I came "alive" again with the gang following closely. I began emptying the bottle of water I had by wetting myself on both my arms to keep my temperature in control and also both my soft flask my taking small sips so that I can run lighter. And at one point, my right calf seize up for a moment. Was lucky it didn't turn into a cramp as I managed to shake it off after some hopping around.

Though I took short power walk breaks in between, I believe the pace I had at this closing stages of the run was one of my fastest. I always reminded myself that the fastest pace will always come at the final 3KM of each ultra, a reminder I always had in me whenever I ran the Comrades Marathon. And soon enough, I was back the Gemilang Bridge where the others decided to carry on with their own training run.

The last stretch was dark but I still had some juice left on my headlamp's battery pack as it was starting to blink. I guess it wanted to act as signal to the organisers waiting at the finish line. And with every step, I came closer and eventually arrived back to where I started as I crossed the finish line safely on both my legs in a time of 16:14:31 hours, a new personal best for me considering the distance was almost 105KM! Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of race organisers was all there to welcome me home too and I was really appreciative of that. And not only that, thank you Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo, Roy, Si Main, Maxon, Marlina, Zaini, the GC group and many others for their continuous support. Thanks guys!

I made it back.

Siaw Hua finished earlier as the overall champion for the 100KM category while I settled for first placing for the men's and second overall. Jeff arrived about 10 minutes later, followed by Yew Khuay half an hour later. Am just glad all 4 of us made it back safely as it was indeed a tough day out there. Thanks everyone for the  run together.

Thank you Saucony Zealot ISO!

Overall, I really cannot ask for more for my performance out there today. To clock a new personal best for the 100KM distance a couple of weeks after my Comrades qualifier at a country with a 6 hours difference, it was indeed an achievement. But I guess my recent trip to Scotland did help a lot where I did most of my training runs there since the haze. It helped with not only my fitness but improving my strength a little. As for my position, I personally do not think I deserve to be called a champion for although I was in peak form, Yew Khuay wasn't. Besides, he got lost halfway through. Therefore, I personally do think that he deserves the title of men's champion for he fought hard. As for Siaw Hua, she is one tough lass and bravo to her for coming in as overall 100KM champion. As I mentioned before, as the distance get longer, the women will excel! Siaw Hua was a good example. But all in all, this is a non competitive event and it's a great platform for those who would like to go beyond the marathon distance and hence, everyone is a champion on their own, as long they play the game cleanly with honour.

My split times provided by CheckPoint Spot.

Myself, it was my first time seeing bloody urine. But I assure everyone that there was nothing wrong as I've followed up with a check up. It was probably due to the body flushing out the red cells which was damaged due to the constant pounding on the very hot surface. But thanks everyone for your concern.

As for the event itself, I am glad I am part of the second edition. Though still plenty of room of improvements, I would like to congratulate Team Pacat for a job well done in improving this event over last year's edition for it is important that organisers listens to feedback and implement them. WELL DONE Arman, Mikael and Zul!

But here's some of my suggestion to further improve the event for the third edition:

- To install bigger, preferably A3 size waterproof markers at critical junctions or u-turn with bigger reflective materials such as glow sticks.
- Ensure each marker is installed properly to minimise the chances of it being moved around by the elements such as strong wind. Some were pointing the wrong way at this year's edition as they were easily turned around.
- Use different colour codes or boards for outbound and inbound directions.
- To provide lanterns or headlamps to volunteers at each check point. They are not too expensive. Poor volunteers I met at Check Point 1 and 2 were in the dark.
- To include a senior supervisor at each check point to supervise the overall operations. Was shocked that drop bags were not unloaded at check point 3 despite them being sent out as early as 5AM!
- To inform volunteers to at least assist the runners in filling up their bottle or hydration bladder. Most were just sitting around playing on their smart phones or chatting away as tired runners arrive. But kudos to those I met who have been really helpful!
-Prepare a few chairs for the runners. Chair were all used by the volunteers at the fifth check points leaving runners having to sit on the floor. Volunteers did not even bother to look at us.
- To send out sufficient ice and other necessities such as fruits to the check points as early as possible. Ice was not available till the fourth check point outbound. And ice together with watermelon ran out at the same check point during my inbound journey.

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