Thursday, August 17, 2017

Comrades Marathon 2017 and West Highland Way Race 2017...

By Frank

It has been 3 months since my 6th Comrades and 2 months since my second West Highland Way Race. Sorry my race report took so long but here it's goes and it will be really a quick one.

COMRADES MARATHON 2017

The Comrades Marathon doesn't get easier nor tougher. However, the course and also the unpredictable weather will throw everything at the runner if one runs it under prepared. After 5 years of improvement, I was one of the under prepared runners this year. Yes, I did complete my 6th Comrades but like the tagline Zinekele, it really took everything out of me despite being my favoured "Up" run.

The run got underway at a rather warm morning at 5.30AM sharp on 4 June 2017 where together with some 17,031 runners, we started our journey just outside the Durban City Hall. I started from the "H" seeding and took me about 5 minutes to cross the start gantry before I slowly started my run. This is also my first time running with my phone and hence there will be some photo galore and at the same time Facebook Live. Everything went well and my muscles warmth up by the time I arrived at the highway where I was reunited with Selva and we continued on together.

One for the album with Caroline.

Team Malaysia for 2017.

Starting from the last seeding, H.

I had fun running with Selva as our pace was pretty even. And when dawn decided to break, it was fun time as I took out my phone and did a little Facebook Live. We ran together for about 30KM till Botha's Hill when my legs began to tire. Told Selva to go ahead without me as he was feeling strong as I slowly picked myself up moving forward slowly. With the incredible crowd support, I regain my run despite walking in between.

Going into Pinetown together with Selva.

The very steep Fields Hill.

I kept reminding myself to get to halfway Drummond where I shall meet up with Manette there. As I near Drummond and with the rolling hills behind me now, passing the Wall of Honour and Arthur's Seat in the process, I pick up my pace a little as the profile began to drop as Drummond is located within a valley, The Valley Of A 1,000 Hills. Indeed it sound scary and I knew what lies ahead, which is to climb out of it via the mighty Inchanga. But the good thing was that being the halfway point of the the race, the crowd support here was awesome.

The Wall of Honour.

Arthur's Seat.

Manette wasn't at her usual spot this year as I was informed by her before hand. She will be somewhere along Inchanga, about a Kilometer or so after the halfway mark. I kept pushing myself hoping to see her soon. And while doing so, I was also paying attention to see if David was around for we have met here for the past 5 years.

Soon, I spotted a red tent indicating the Roodies support station where Manette was. It was great to catch up with her while I rested and took in some biltong and also some savories before continuing on.

With Manette who had been helping me at halfway since 2012. Dankie!

Although I conquered Inchanga, my legs were pretty thrashed up and was struggling to move fast as cramps was slowly settling in. Am not sure if it was the correct decision, but I sat down a couple of times to give them a rest which may have caused them to tighten up. And at Harrison's Flat, this is where I met David. A little late this year but we still bump into each other. Tried to stick with him together with one of the bus driver but my legs couldn't hod on and I had to let them go. Nevertheless, I pushed myself on with rest ahead at one of the Fourways tent.

Finally met David at Harrisons Flat.

Camperdown is all red with Coca Cola supporting here.

Passing Camperdown where the NedBank Green Mile has been replaced by the Coca Cola "Red Mile" this time, I began to surge a little but it did not last as the cramps were getting bad, both legs to be exact. Almost toppled to the side a few times but I managed to balance myself. The buffer time I have built was slowly disappearing and I told myself to get my sorry state to Polly Shortts as soon as possible.

Ashburton also known as Little Polly was the appetiser of the final big climb ahead. With the Comardes app on my phone not working, I started to panic not knowing if I have sufficient time to meet the cut-off. Perhaps the support car knew of my thoughts and just before Polly Shortts, came them with the cut-off time clearly indicated on their windows. I had slightly under an hour and that was certainly a relieve at that time.

Another Kilometer till Polly Shortts.

I still needed to push ahead for I know it will be tough even after Polly Shortts and that time may not be enough if taken lightly. I literary walked up Polly Shortts and slowly settle into a jog just before hitting the top. The energy was strong there and the long straight with mild rolling hills was on the horizon. 7KM remains.

A couple of Kilometers later, unlike previous years where runners just ran straight, we turned left. I have to admit it make things a little easier as most of it was descending. I tried pushing as hard as possible, but perhaps a little too hard as both legs were then resisting to move. Time was running out and despite the distance markers, it was my first time on this route, I do not know how far and what other hills lies ahead.

The promise I given myself that I will complete Comrades no matter the pain I will endure, I told myself to keep calm and continue hobbling forward. It ain't the ain't till it's the end. Many were struggling around me but we all push forward. The pain will be over soon and with 1KM to go, I picked myself up. The crowd was helping to push everyone forward as time ticks away. Ad as the sun slowly sets on the horizon, the Scotsville race course appeared.

And just when I thought everything will soon be over, as per my previous years where just before entering the stadium, I took out the Jalur Gemilang. But this is where the "main menu" was served where both my legs decides to cramp up big time. Grabbing the flag tightly with one hand and using the other to try to balance myself, I toppled to the side. No, I did not fall to the ground as my right arm supported my ailing self, but I thought that this was it. About 8 minutes was all I left between a successful finish or a DNF. All other runners zoomed into the race course and myself do not know how far ahead still.

"Keep calm keep calm. Shake it off! It won't be a DNF after 87KM", as I reminded myself. Pick myself up, stood up, look up and took my first step since falling to the side. Hobbled and limped myself and soon on one end of the race course, I finally saw the finish gantry. And the the final straight came and with the official timer hanging over the gantry showing 4 more minutes, I knew at that time, that I made it home safely. 11:54:56 hours in position 13,314 was what it took me to finish my 6th Comrades. which really destroyed me as it took every single will and energy out of me to overcome my demons. But despite my worse ever time, I had a sense of relieve and achievement. Comrades to me will never be a race, but rather a journey.

Just after collecting my medal and badge, I was reunited with Caroline who finished just ahead of me. Both of us were really tired and feeling thrashed from the race but we still managed to get a quick photo taken before we had to bid each other farewell as she had a plane to catch to return to Johannesburg. I also bump into Manette who was waiting for her husband who completed his 20th Comrades for his second green. Awesome! Then just before climbing the dreaded red bridge, it was Pierre who sadly had to pull out of the race.

It was a painful climb at the red bridge where I suffered massive cramps on both my calves again causing me to sit down blocking the walking path. But glad all runners were fine with it and some even offered a helping hand. Eventually after resting, I managed to get myself to the international tent and was reunited with Selva who ran a sub 11 hours for a bronze! Congrats!

I was in a lot of pain as standing was really painful but sitting causes cramps. And I was feeling cold too as temperature began to cool with the sun already set. Selva assisted me and got my tote bag where I had extra clothing. And after an hour of rest, we both took a slow walk to the bus station to catch the bus back to Durban where it was a slow journey due to heavy traffic. But both of us was almost knock out during the journey and after arriving back in Durban, I had to walk a pretty far distance, almost 2 miles back to Belaire. And from there, it was a well deserve rest and comes a conclusion to my sixth Comrades.

* Selva who had been part of my 2014, 2015 and this year's 2017 Comrades sadly passed away 27 June 2017, 3 weeks after completing his third Comrades. Thank you Selva for the memories and we all at Team Malaysia will continue the run for you! Rest in peace! Shosholoza!

Thank you Selva.

WEST HIGHLAND WAY RACE 2017

3 weeks after Comrades Marathon, my adventure continued at the West Highland Way Race. And like Comrades, I went int this race under prepared and again, it punished me. Almost a week spent at Tydnrum for some final preparation covering 100KM in wet weather conditions, it gave me a little extra confidence. But boy, I was wrong for the weather on race day had it's own plans.

Kept a low profile on this race too and only shared my live tracker with a handful of really close friends to avoid being "laughed" at. *tsk tsk...

I got to Milngavie from Glasgow just before 9PM with Chris whom I bumped into on board the train. We were first to get there and even the race pack collection was not ready yet. The familiar faces from Ian Beattie, Sandra and Sean were already there. And when everything got underway where collection was a breeze, I did a little of the tourist thingy visiting the starting area before meeting and catching up with Alexa. Alexa who supported me last year was part of another team this year whom I met a little while later.

Mr. and Mrs. Race Director.

Alexa, always part of the team.

The legendary Norma Borne.

I rested and in a while later, Angela and Tom arrived. Chee Kong will join up the next day from Tyndrum if everything goes as plan. I just rested while waiting for the race to start at 1AM and in the process, meeting up with my friends from John, Helen, Amanda, James, Fiona, Norma and many more. It was good to see them again.

My ever supportive friends, Tom and Angela. THANK YOU for doing this.

With James Stewart, WHWR 2016 champion.

At 12.30AM, a short race briefing by Ian and Sean got underway before 210 runners were all flagged off at 1AM sharp from Milngavie railway station. Like last year, I started from the front but was quickly passed by the faster runners. Rain was fore-casted an hour later but it never arrive which I was glad. Weather conditions at that time was great for me, neither too cold or humid, which means 2 top layers was what I needed. But things didn't started well as I felt bloated, though not a serious case and with careful management, I should be able to get shake it off.

I knew I wasn't as fast as last year which was part of my plan. I had to keep reminding myself to take it easy for the first half and to arrive at Bridge of Orchy feeling good, else it will be like last year. And with that mindset, everything went well as Noanie who was marshaling near Drymen called out to me in the dark as I slowly run towards the first big climb, Conic Hill.

Conic Hill ahead!

Despite a gloomy journey up Conic Hill this time, I was joined by Andrew Paterson as we made it to the top together before the weather started to show it's darker side as it began to rain together with strong wind blowing. Downhill wasn't my forte and I had to be careful from getting blown off while descending from Conic Hill which was slippery.

At Conic Hill overlooking the magnificent Loch Lomond.

After the technical section, I was back into the woods where the rain stopped for some reason and I knew the first checkpoint, Balmaha was just ahead where Angela and Tom will be waiting. I was 10 minutes slower than last year but it didn't matter and as planned, a bacon roll with a hot cup of black coffee was waiting, together with some midges. I guess the wind is keeping the midges from coming out at full force which was good news. Breakfast did help with the earlier bloatiness though it didn't get rid of it entirely. After all is done and with the gear checked, Angela walked me to the main road before I restarted my run towards the tough section of Rowardennan and Inversnaid along Loch Lomond.

First check point, Balmaha.

Bacon roll for breakfast.

Tackling Rowardennan together with Alan Kerr.


Climbing towards Rowardennan.
Weather was holding on as I continue to make my way and with hardly any issues. However, as I near Rowardennan, I got a little sick from my stomach's bloatiness which returned. Alexa was there waiting for her runner as we chatted for a while, while I rested. Noanie was there too.The good thing about Rowardennan this time was there were hardly any midges. I got better after a short rest and continue towards Inversnaid.

Arriving into Inversnaid.

Ruth welcomes me at Inversnaid.

The path towards Inversnaid will be the preview towards the next section and I had my gloves ready to take on the roots and big rocks which makes up the technical section. And soon, the sound of the waterfall followed by a white building came into view as Ruth together with part of the Mountain Rescue Team was there to welcome the runners. I was craving for something sweet as I salvage the leftovers from the faster runners where I took a bottle of refreshing Lucozade. Thank you to the runner who left it there! Was lucky it didn't act on my stomach and after a quick photo with Ruth and the others, I pushed towards the technical section where I called it the slowest 5 miles of the race where giant roots and rocks awaits. And yes, I meant giant as per compared to big I mentioned earlier.

The very technical Inversnaid along Loch Lomond.

Made it through Inversnaid with Niall.

I left with Alan Carr as we tackled the demanding section before I powered on as the gloves I had on helped a lot with the climbs. I survived the technical part and arrived at the open section where runners will have to climb towards Loch Lomond's end to be greeted with Dario's post. The rain came and went but despite that, I decided to strip down to my base layer which was a good decision made as I was overheating a little in 2 layers.

A moment with Dario's post.

Got to Dario's post and spent a little time there thanking the man who brought life to this event before I carry on towards Beignlas Farm. As I approach the check point, I was surprised to see John Kynaston there with his wife and also John Munro who was awaiting for Helen. John Kynaston pulled out of the race at Balmaha due to an injury sustain a couple of weeks ago.

With John Kynaston and his lovely wife, Katrina.

I arrived at Beinglas Farm with Angela and Tom welcoming me with Jeni who was supporting Sharon and John Duncan who was marshaling. Took in some minestrone soup and coffee for some calories and alertness for the next section along Clainrarich will be long and demanding due to long climbs. And just before leaving, I had a wee strong hug from all 4 of them but I have to say the one from John Duncan was hilarious, till my coffee was spilled. LOLz...

One for the album before leaving Beinglas Farm.

The journey to Auchtertyre via Clainrarich was an uphill battle for there will be long ascends. My legs started to tire and I took a short break at the same spot I did last year, removing my shoes to allow my toes to splay. And when I decided to continue on, the weather started to change and down came the rain. It started with a slight drizzle but that was only the preview of what is to come later.

I made it through Clainrarich crossing without much issue as the path wasn't too wash out from the drizzle but as I entered Ewich Forest, the drizzle became rain and soon, I was wet. I had to power on slowly and watch my core temperature as it slowly became cooler as after all, I am in the woods. And once I got to the opening and road crossing, I was already looking forward to be meeting Angela and Tom again, which I did eventually after arriving in Auchtertyre farm, got myself weight and into the support vehicle.

I rested in the support vehicle as the rain got heavier and also to keep myself warm. Had a tomato sandwich and hot cup of coffee as I rested which I think was little longer than what I had hope for. But the good thing was that the rain returned to drizzle and after a short catch up with Mark Cooper whom I met and ran with last year at Glencoe, I was feeling good again with Angela pacing me. She was training for her upcoming St. Cuthberts Way 100KM so all the running and walking she can get from here will certainly be helpful.

I was really happy to be able to run with Angela this time.

Just before exiting the farm, a familiar face suddenly appeared from a vehicle. It was Carolyn Hare, the Back 2 Endurance 2016's women's champion! Was great to see her albeit just for a short catch up. The weather turned for the better as I continued on towards Tyndrum with Angela where we both managed to run a little. Going pass By The Way, Kirsty wasn't around to greet us like last year and hence we continued towards Bridge of Orchy. Chee Kong called Angela later who arrived just after we left Tyndrum and said to be meeting us at Bridge of Orchy.

Everything was fine till the under pass, and with 5KM to go till we hit the checkpoint, the weather turned and began to show nature's darker side of things.Rain began to fall and the wind kept building on strength. My core temperature began to drop and seeing how I was struggling, Angela offered me her down jacket and plastic poncho to keep me warm. Seeing little effect it had on me, she hug me as we slowly move together hoping to transfer body heat into me. We were drenched from head to toe as we arrived at the train station where Chee Kong together with Mei-Ee and their little girls (in protective gears) was there waiting for us, as we all made our way into the Bridge of Orchy Hotel to keep warm.

Stomach was showing signs of acting up so I made my early deposit here before taking in 2 cup of hot chocolate which helped a lot. It was a long rest here before I put on some more extra layers of clothing as the journey towards Glencoe will be a long and tough one. Rain was still pouring and wind speed still building, I told Angela to push me as I lost nearly all of my buffer time I built on earlier. I was getting near to being cut-off, and I started to panic. I needed to get to Kinlochleven safely as that was the final cut off point.

Quickly, I got myself to the checkpoint and had my timing chip scanned before hustling on. With the cold condition, I had to keep moving to avoid my core temperature dropping. But moving has it's challenges for I can't keep a good balance for strong winds are blowing from almost every side. Kept reminding that every step forward brings me nearer to Fort William and my next target is to get to Jelly Baby Hills before Inveroran.

Got my sorry self to Jelly Baby Hill where Murdo was awaiting and grab 2 jelly baby candies before continuing on. Another 52KM to go as Jelly Baby Hill marks the 100KM distance of the entire West Highland Way. Descending downwards to Inveroran was quickly done before I got blown off from the highlands and it was a short easy run towards Victoria Bridge with Angela. Then Rannoch Moor began, where the big rocks will thrash most of the tired legs. Traction was poor too and my condition made it even worse.

Last year, most runners were getting burn here but this time round, I was shivering in the cold trying to keep balance and keep moving forward. Everything looks the same and I was in a miserable state. 2 runners, one of them a Finnish caught up and that took my mind away for a while as we spoke about Malaysia as he worked at Lumut before. That also gave Angela some "break" time away from me which I think she will appreciate as I just wasn't the runner she knew. Not that I was grumpy, but it will take a lot to support someone weak like myself.

The duo was stronger in cold conditions and they went ahead while I continued to struggle. Glencoe Ski Resort was near when Chee Kong appeared on the horizon and together, dragged my sorry self to the checkpoint, got my timing chip scanned by the concern marshals and into the resort to keep warm.

Yet another cup of hot chocolate to bring my core temperature up before I was "freshen" up. Lorna McMillan who was part of the volunteers here was concerned as I believe I looked pale. Alexa was here too. I wanted another drink and opt for a mocha but it was really terrible. I believe it was just coffee added with some chocolate powder. I slowly sipped on it just to keep warm. Alison McLaren who was Niall McLaren's wife whom I ran along with along Inversnaid was there too and offered me some chips. And surprisingly, I had the appetite and ate everything of it which literally saved my race, else Lorna and even Angela will have pulled me out.

Slowly put on more layers and this time, I had 6 layers on the top, and 3 layers for the bottom. Chee Kong's waterproof shell may have added another top layer but the size was just too big and the wind speed which was up to 50MPH will drag me off balance. With everything in place, I was in for another round of torture towards Kinlochleven. But first, it's to conquer the Devil's Staircase first, and this time, it was Chee Kong's turn to pace me as Angela deserves a well deserved rest.

My last photo from my GoPro when I was still feeling all right just before leaving Glencoe.

Immediately out of Glencoe Ski Resort, I was already feeling cold and drenched again as the weather continued on for the worse. But at least I was feeling not too bad after the rest and managed to run a little as I got myself to the foot of the Devil Staircase. It was getting dark and my condition was back to the bad shape earlier. I had to stop a few times to cough it out while ascending the steepest climb of the run. But as I got to the top in the dark, the reward was a can of Pepsi as there was an honesty shop there. Despite being cold and wet, the carbonated drink did help a little especially in bringing back the taste in my mouth.

Descending was very tricky as conditions were like a mini stream flowing downwards into Kinlochleven. The rocks were slippery and I had to watch where I step on and one silly mistake will send me tumbling down which I made. I knew I shouldn't step on the large smooth rock but still I did which caused me to fall on my bum which somehow sent my head torch flying off my head. During the fall, I've used my weaker left arm to support myself which caused some bruising on my palm but somehow which I don't know how, my left knee took quite a big knock. Got stun for a while as Chee Kong helped me up. Disorientated for a moment, I readjusted my gear especially my head torch before continuing on with a sore left knee and bum. But I was still determined. Get myself to Kinlochleven within the cut off time, and I will have plenty of time to drag my sorry self to the finish.

Made it to the woods without any further mishaps and we were shielded from the rain and wind here before a very chatty Sharon Hassan and her pacer Alan Cormack caught up. We moved together and it was absolutely great to have their company as we moved together till the checkpoint where once again Angela and Tom was there to greet me.

Had my weight check and immediately I went into the hall to catch a quick nap which eventually became half an hour's nap. Dod Reid was worried about my condition as again I look pale and shivering from the cold. Ate some watermelon and hot minestrone soup which gave me back some colour to my face and that again save my race. Once I am ready, Dod gave me the green light to continue on with Chee Kong pacing me towards Lundavra.

Climbing out from Kinlochleven through the woods, I was passed by a very positive Fiona Rennie with her pacer. And once out of it at the top, it was the long dreaded stretch of Lairig Moor made of never ending horizons and also tiny wet crossings. It was miserable and the weather despite the wind slowing down, was still raining. I was cold, I was wet and I was sleepy. So sleepy that I fell asleep standing twice and Chee Kong had to wake me up.

I can't wait for the view of the mountain rescue team of Patricia Carvalho and Jeff Smith to appear on the horizon and surprisingly, they did, much earlier compared to last year. Exiting from their vehicle and quickly came to my aid, I told them that I wanted a 5 minutes nap in the vehicle which was quickly turned down by Chee Kong. With no choice, I took a short rest only had a cup of Dr. Pepper before continuing on as it will still be a distance away as they were stationed midway this time.

Dawn was on the horizon as I finally saw Lundavra. I arrived and caught a quick glimpse of Sharon and Alan just about to leave. Angela was already ready to pace me till Fort William but my body, or rather head had something else in mind. I needed to sleep. Angela allowed me and I was really grateful. 10 minutes nap became 20 minutes but the rain did not stop. I knew I had to continue despite the body retaliating.

Got out of the car after bidding Chee Kong and Tom farewell, and I continue on for the final 10KM. The ground condition was slippery and muddy from the rain as forestry works was underway. Despite feeling really wasted, tired and sleepy, I was determined to get out of the forest quickly for the final 5KM will then be on the tarmac. I felt really sorry but yet grateful to Angela for being with me in these conditions cause I know supporting me is one really tough job. But she did not complain a single bit and kept giving me all the support she can.

Eventually, we made it safely to the final part, the long winding road down to Braveheart car park. The rain was reduced to drizzle and wind had almost disappear. The majestic Ben Nevis was shrouded in clouds and I could see Fort William. Although I know I am almost there, I had no strength to run nor the mood to talk as I took one step at a time.

Once arriving at the Braveheart car park, it was the final stretch. About a mile to go. I tried to run but my legs protested as Fiona once again passed me in a very jovial mood. Believe me cause I was literary in tears not because of the pain but knowing I have gotten this far. The emotions got over me. Once I got near to the roundabout, I "squeezed" out all my remaining strength and told my legs to "Shut up and run" and I did just that with Angela. And finally, after 30:36:45 hours spent on the West Highland Way, I arrived safely the Lochaber Leisure Centre, Fort William in position 138 out of 159 finishers in one of the race's harshest weather in history. And with that, my quest for my second crystal goblet comes to a successful end.

Not the best looking but made it safely and alive to Fort William.

Ian Beattie the race director together with Carolyn, Sean and other volunteers was there to assist me with my finish. It wasn't the prettiest of finishes as I was shaking and looking pale. And due to that, after taking my weight which was all right, I was brought over to the medical side where Sean and a lady who I didn't get her name, spent some time with me, taking care and making sure I was all right. I was certainly all right as I was pretty chatty at that time and things got better when I got a hot tea.

A very tired Team Frank with the people behind the race.

Tom and Chee Kong came later and after cleaning up, it was back to our respective hotel for a quick rest before the prize giving ceremony at the Nevis Centre. And as per last year, the ceremony was not only special but a touching one. And when Ian Beattie called out my name, I hobbled down to stage to be greeted and high-fived by Adrian Stott before he handed me my goblet. Sean and John Kynaston was there to witness it as well. And after the end of the ceremony, a quick get together with some fellow friends and runners before I embark on the journey back to Aberdeen.

Survived my second WHWR.

Friends who made it possible.

Dod Reid who almost stopped me at Kinlochleven.

My splits at the checkpoints.

Like my sixth Comrades Marathon, my second West Highland Way Race took everything out of me as nature and weather threw everything it had at this skinny weak tropical guy. The wet, cold, windy and tricky conditions was so unlike last year's run and that I nearly got stopped for looking really bad. But pulling out wasn't in my mind throughout the entire duration out there and I am glad I kept my word. And for this, I can't thank Tom and Chee Kong enough for helping me get there. And a special mention to Angela for sticking it through thick and thin with me since last year despite being unwell last year (only found out this year!) and also going through the long hours, distance, tough weather and the challenges that made up this race. And of course, a huge THANK YOU to many more of you who had cared and supported me. Susanah, Ian Beattie, Sandra, Sean, Alexa, Carolyn, Ian Minty, Mark Cooper, Noanie, John Duncan, Chris Paton, Jeni, Sharon Hassan, Alan Cormack, Alan Kerr, John Munro, Helen Munro, Amanda Hamilton, John Kynaston, Alison, Niall, Lorna Sinclair, Dod Reid, James Stewart, Patricia Carvalho, Jeff Smith, Yi Zhang and many many more of you. In case I accidentally miss any of you, you know who you are! AYE!

6th Comrades and 2nd goblet.

Most of you who have been following my blog all these years would probably noticed the slowing down of me posting updates here. No doubt about that as it has been tough blogging these days. And with these 2 event reports and with a heavy heart, I have decided that I will stop blogging from now onward. One of the reason that these 2 reports took so long despite them being my "A" race was that I can't find any more inspiration, motivation or ideas to carry on blogging. I stared at my blank notebook and just couldn't type anything out. I guess after 11 years of blogging, this is where my "creativeness" has ran dry.

Most of you know that the West Highland Way Race last year was my way to mark my first decade of running. Into my second decade now, a few of you know of my plans where I plan to head to and what I am training for. It won't be soon, for I really have to prepare for it. But, I do have a decade ahead of me to sort out my plans for it as I am into rebuilding myself now after a lackluster year 2017 so far. In fact, I have just returned from yet another failed 100 Miler at Craze Ultra, my fifth DNF in my career. It will be a crazy journey forward as I venture into tougher territories and knowing the capabilities I have, there will be more DNFs as I will try to overcome them one step at a time. That's if if I am still able to run, and that's a big IF. And on that part of my journey there, there will be not be any blog entries for it. But instead, I maybe will turn to Facebook for I think it's easier to let the photos log my journey. And perhaps, maybe I will start to be a little more verbal in there.

Anyway, I hope that all my entries all these 11 years long have helped and inspired many runners to go the distance and also learn more about me. It won't be easy to know that I am and will leave the blogging world, but it will certainly bring memories back one day when I am old and not able to run anymore, to read back at the adventures I have done. Thanks to everyone who had been part of it. So yes, this is it, the end of my blog and I shall just let my running (and walking) do the talking. And before signing off, remember that Cancer Ain't A Death Sentence! AYE!

-BELIEVE-
-NEVER TRY, NEVER KNOW-

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Of Highlands, Midges and a Goblet...

By Frank

The West Highland Way Race (WHWR), like the Comrades Marathon holds a special place in my running career. It’s after all the race that defined the first decade of my running career and my also longest trail running experience till then. But more important, it’s my Scottish friends and community that makes this race special.


Ran a pretty well deserved race last year despite breaking down towards the last quarter of the race and suffered numerous irritating bites from the damn midges. Never thought that I will be doing it again since travelling, accommodation and logistic expenses costs a bomb. But when the balloting process got underway last year and that I saw my well earned crystal goblet being lonely alone sitting there, I thought it may look better in a pair, and that I would like to challenge myself again to kick start my second decade (kick started at Route 68 though didn’t have the best ending). And when the ballot results got announced, I was successfully chosen and hence I was in.

Training for it like the Comrades Marathon this year didn’t go well. As of this entry, I only had about 555 Miles (888KM - damn lucky) ran between my legs as compared to 1,000 miles the previous year. Comrades will likely give me a benchmark of where I am and running a personal worst of it, I am ready to suffer. There will be concerns though, as I worry the wound on my surgery area before I left for Comrades last month may not hold. It did hold during Comrades though, but the amount of time and stress that I will go through WHWR is twice of it, and that may be an issue. But let's see.

Flight to Edinburgh, Scotland got delayed for a day as I missed my connecting flight at Doha as Qatar Airways had to take an alternative route which added an additional hour of flight time to avoid Saudi Arabia and Dubai’s air space due to the gulf situation there. But in a way, I managed to recharge myself up when they provided me with accommodation at Doha with 3 absolutely well deserved meals. And when I got to Edinburgh and the Aberdeen, I was fresh, well except for the sore legs.

Completing the Westhill 10K with Chee Kong.

A week in Aberdeen doing almost nothing until the weekend when I ran the Nicol of Skene Westhill 10K where I clock a 50 minutes over a hilly 10KM route. Not a bad time as it has been a while since I race a 10K. I felt good and I guess my recovery from Comrades has gone pretty well. Then it was off to the highlands, a total of 4 nights over at Tyndrum. Covered 100KM around Crianlarich, Inveroran, Ben Lui and the surroundings there testing out my race gears in horrendous wet conditions. Everything worked instantly well except for my race shoe, the ON CloudVenture Peak where I had to adjust the fitting a few times before I finally found a perfect fit. And from there, I took on the highlands with confidence. Legs were good, core was stable, upper body in the right position and my head was clear. I think I am ready again.

Free and alive while training on the highlands.

The ON CloudVenture Peak is now ready to take on the highlands.

Always sad to leave Tyndrum for it’s a place that I am away from the noises and distractions. And before I return to Aberdeen, it was a short trip to Glasgow where I had a quick catch-up with Chris who will be running his first WHWR and also Angela who will be part of my team again. Thank you Angela for doing this again! After having done the race last year and knowing what to expect, we had a quick discussion and planning over dinner at Pipers’ Tryst before calling it a night.

Good catch up with Chris.

Race planning and catching up with Angela over dinner.

Overslept the next day and didn’t manage to run around Glasgow as I had to catch the train back to Aberdeen. And once in Aberdeen, it’s all about preparing my race gears and resting the body. A little running around the Old Deeside way to keep the legs moving but it’s all about recovering and hence there is plenty of healthy eating before returning to Glasgow on Thursday to rest up there for a night.

Lobster feast at Aberdeen with the usual gang.

Plan was to get to Milngavie by 9PM Friday where I will register myself and to meet and greet my friends and fellow runners before a little time for myself to chill out before the race gets underway at 1AM (8AM Malaysian time), Saturday, 24 June 2017.

Looking forward to the journey and experience again over the Scottish highlands. Am glad and honoured that I am given the same race number as last year at number 10. Thanks Ian. Should be 11 as this is my 11 year of running after all but it's always nice to stick with a special one. Though Alexa and Edmund won’t be crewing for me this year, I am glad that Angela and Chee Kong are still part of my team. And a warm welcome to Tom Anderson who will be joining this year. Thank you everyone for taking time off for this! And despite me mentioning that I am ready at the above paragraph, I know that it will be tough 152KM and also equally tough for my team. I won’t be expecting to improve on my time as completing the race is the main goal. Struggle I will, but like Comrades this year, I know in my heart that this can be done and it will be an unforgettable journey yet again. To the organisers, volunteers and community, a big shout out to you all. And to all 213 runners, “Let’s go get that Goblet!”.

From last year.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

For 6th and 2nd...

By Frank

It will be my 6th Comrades in a matters of days time. It's all happening this Sunday, 4 June 2017. Then 3 weeks later on 24 June 2017, it will be my second at the West Highland Way Race (WHWR). And this time, it's more on completing it rather than clocking a new personal best as build-up to it was just a bumpy ride.

Unlike previous years, there was no monthly report card from me this time. Due to work commitments as I ventured into a new career (more like returning to revive a previous setup), I know the first half of year 2017 will be a tough one in terms of running. Going into the year with a DNF from BTS 100 last year and a barely made it Comrades qualifier, and starting it with my second attempt at Vibram HK100, I tried my best and did all I could to get my mileage into my legs. All I got was 3 races thus far and with 2 successful one despite clocking poor timing. Then another DNF at Route 68 Challenge, managing only 63KM out of 168KM.

Packing list.

Work was horrendous and I was deprived of sleep and rest. Just couldn't find the strength to run. I did what I could cause running isn't just about running. I tried to build strength in other areas but I knew it wasn't going to be enough especially when we are talking running long distances. It's all about mileage and that was missing.

And besides training, most around me knew what had happened between me and Saucony Malaysia. No longer I am their ambassador despite being offered a new contract as the new team behind it is just basically pure bullSh1T! Promises after promises made, marketing methods that I am just so not agreeable for and lousy services provided, it's best for me to be staying away from them. Myself and the previous team had worked so hard to build to what it is today, and we are deeply saddened to see how it became now. Till at least the current brand manager whom is an embarrassment to the brand leaves, there will be no way I am going back to them. No your initials does not make you part of the brand! Oh and yes. I am no longer the admin for the Facebook site too as you probably have notice the standard of English there. But I am glad I have good friends from Saucony global so technically, there isn't any problem with the brand but rather the local distributor here. In fact, I will still be visiting them during my visit this time. And trust me, it hurts to be saying these above for it's a brand that I am closely attached to.

The "CloudTroopers" as I will call them.

With no race shoes (despite being promised that I will have them), I am glad that another company took note of me. Enter ON, from Switzerland. I was a little skeptical with the shoes as I didn't like them at all, at least on the earlier generations. But as they move forward, the have streamlined their models and I was offered the ON Cloud model to try on. Then came the CloudFlow which felt really close to the Kinvara which I have became so accustomed to. No, don't get me wrong. I wasn't offered a contract to be their ambassador but rather involved in their seeding program first. At least I needed to know and feel if the shoes work for me, else I am no different to those whom I call "Play take only!". and those that only have interest to their own. And if it works, and if they really offered me a contract, then maybe I will think really hard about this. But for now, I am really thankful and grateful that ON stepped in just in time for my shoes for both Comrades Marathon and West Highland Way Race was finally chosen and settled for. The On CloudFlow and CloudVenture Peak it is, for both models I have tested since late March 2017.

From 5, 2 was chosen. The ON CloudVenture Peak for WHWR and CloudFlow for Comrades.

Moving forward to May 2017, I finally found some time to actually run. With Tropicana closure in mid May, my running finally return as I chased down some pretty good quality mileage among my legs. I felt alive and honestly did not felt happier running. I am finally back! Then a week before I am schedule to fly, my problematic tooth where my wisdom tooth was extracted last September decided to give me some problems. A quick check with the dentist reveals that there were 2 options. To remove it or to have a root canal procedure. I don't think either is suitable for it may bring down my immune system and hence we decided on a temporary emergency measure, to remove some nerves from it and to patch it back. It should be able to do the trick I hope and by the next day, the pain was gone, well at least temporary and I hope that it will last. But sadly it didn't and the discomfort returned 3 days later. Another emergency procedure was done in patching it back, but this time at another dentist near to my work place and I hope it will be a better job. It certainly looks better and I really hope that it will hold.

For the first time, I will be flying Qatar Airways with a transit at Doha. Looking forward after hearing much positive things about this airline. And from South Africa I will leave for Scotland the day after Comrades and will be arriving at Edinburgh before heading to Aberdeen via the train. Then I will lay off a little by visiting Tyndrum and Glasgow as I prepare for the big WHWR. A plan recovery at a "new destination" next before heading home with Chee Kong and family to Malaysia on the first weekend of July. Yeap, that's a total of 38 days away and am certainly looking forward to it after a hectic first half of the year. However with all the terrorist attack around the world with one recently happening at UK, it is definitely worrying. Nevertheless, positive vibes it is.

To close off this entry and despite only clocking 612KM since January 2017, what I can promise is that I will not DNF both of these races unless I break down physically. My mental will keep thrive over pain, my past will be strength, my experience will guide me, my dear friends will be my pillar and you will keep me going. My sixth Comrades and my quest for my second goblet. I am BACK!