Thursday, April 06, 2017

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2017...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2017
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date 26 February 2017
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Xodus 6.0
By Frank

My third year in a row outing at Gunung Nuang Ultra (GNU) and my second race of the year. Something I certainly look forward to but certainly physically not prepared for it as my fitness level has dropped tremendously due to my hectic work.

I woke up to a sore upper back. However to my surprise, it wasn't my usual left side but instead it was for the first time, the right side. Had difficulties turning my neck and tried to stretch it away but to no avail. After the usual and with more than enough time, I rook a slow long drive to Pangsun which took me about an hour. Arriving there, I learnt that I am not the only early one as the main car park was already fully filled leaving me park at the entrance. Not too bad for a parking spot anyway as it was just next to the guard house.

Made my way to the hut to drop of my drop bag and prepare myself before the urge to make my "deposit". To my horror, my usual secret toilet was locked off and I had to use the dirtier public toilet. But when one needs to go, he needs to go.

Fast forwarding ahead, I was hanging out with Jeff and Wai Hong and the start line which eventually led me to start at the front later. And at 6.30AM sharp, after a short briefing, some close to 300 runners were set loose to loop from the foot hill to Lolo and back for 12 hours.

Due to the heavy downfall yesterday evening, the surroundings was humid and the first stretch up which was made up of cement pavement was really slippery. Slowly making my way up while trying to balance myself wasn't easy and it required additional strength and attention. I believe most was struggling as I passed some other runners ahead. Not many of them but they were good runners and this showed how tough it was. Only a few zoomed into the darkness ahead.

Eventually, I entered the trail section after a Kilometer. Things didn't get any easier as the rocky sections was just as slippery and also certain patches were muddy. This is Gunung Nuang at one of it's toughest., at least from my previous visits here. A mile into the race, the first hut is where an extra water station was set up by the organisers. Good effort from them as this will be helpful in the later stages.

I pushed on alone till the mid span where it then began to drop. From there slowly, runners after runners soon began to caught up and eventually passing me as I tried to find balance as I headed towards the u-turn point at Lolo. Got there safely and there were signs of dawn. Head torch was still needed though as I made my way down. It was relatively much easier compared to the journey up earlier, as I waited for the morning sunlight to break into the forest.

It was getting congested too with runners from the opposite directions filling up the tight running space. But was glad that most runners were courteous to give way to each other. And when the surroundings finally brighten up, it was time to remove my head torch and it was a sense of relieve fro my head.

Halfway down, I spotted a runner sitting my the side. Sensing something was amidst, I asked if he was all right. He replied that he was experiencing cramps on his quads as I helped him stretch a little before helping him get back up once he mentioned that he had felt relieve. Glad to be able to help as I continued my journey down and eventually completing my first loop with some extra little effort, especially in trying to keep my mid off my sore upper back.

The face says it all. I am not really enjoying myself.

Quickly took in some crackers and deposited my head torch back into my drop bag before continuing on my second loop. Was already struggling and things doesn't look too good as I slowly walked up the first stretch as the cement pavement despite the break of dawn was still slippery. I was already on survival mode and it was still 4 more loops to go to meet the minimum requirements. But the most important thing was that I am still positive and was still pushing on, hoping to meet 6 loops which was the same distance I did the past 2 editions.

Got "snipe" by a Taariq who was hiding behind the bushes.

Nothing dramatic except for the dip in strength and energy for my second and third loop before I decided to stop for my lunch break. Was hungry and was hoping the food will help me regain some strength as I rested my legs. And while doing so, I took the opportunity to remove and shoes and socks to check out on the burning sensation I was experiencing on my right heel. And to my horror, my Drymax socks has begun to tear there. I didn't blame the socks though as it was foolish of me to choose this pair as it had already served me close to 1,000KM worth of running.

After close to 1,000KM, my Drymax decided to call it a day.

Anyway, lunch was simple fried rice and it was enough to satisfy my hunger. Readjusted my socks higher so that the hole won't be rubbing on my heel. It did the trick for a while as I went on for my fourth loop, but the socks eventually fell back. Despite still walking (and struggling), the socks was still irritating my heel and I decided to stop by at the first hut a mile up to have it readjusted again. Then an idea struck me. To change sides and that help did the trick as my left foot was slightly larger.

Run Anywhere with the Saucony Xodus, Nomad TR and Peregrine.

Knowing at this point of time that I will not be able to hit 6 loops, I took my time and was aiming for the huts along the way up and down. Some I passed, but some I took the opportunity to rest and that helped me complete my fourth loop without much hassle and also blister free on my heel.

The start of my fifth loop was a mentally challenging one. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible but my tired body was hesitating. But after a couple of ice popsicle, I began my journey and eventually caught up with Kim Song and Amanda. Kim Song was struggling with some cramps as I told him to use my strategy of aiming for the huts along the way an opportunity to rest a little before continuing on. We both then arrived at the hut a mile from the bottom and rested a while there while I check on my heel which was relatively still blister free. Phew...

Feeling pump for my final descent.

After a pretty lengthy rest, I resumed on my journey upwards, feeling a little pumped up now. No I didn't run, but I did feel that I was walking faster, well a little. I took a little breather at the next hut to wait up with Kim Song and Amanda. However, the wait was longer than I expected and that they both did not arrive, and at that point of time, I guess Kim Song has made the call to turn back down.

I continued on running when I can, and walk when I couldn't. That gave me the extra push to arrive at Lolo for the fifth time. And at this time, I found out that they were quickly running out of water here which I relatively told myself that there won't a be sixth for me then. And with that, I started my journey down for one final time which I was really glad. And being glad will mean that I am going faster too!

As I made my journey down, I was reminding the others that they were quickly running out of water at the u-turn point. Some was shocked to hear that while some others did not bother. I gave away my water to one of the runners too as I won't bee needing much of it. With the last mile to go, I was still reminding others to fill up the hut there before making their way up and eventually caught up with Hazel who is on her way down. And from here onwards, I walked with her while chatting away till we both arrived at the bottom completing my fifth loop in 9:08:47 hours.

My splits.

Looking at my time, I could have gone for my sixth loop and finishing it just in time before the 12 hour cut-off. However, I have made up m mind at that time that I will stop at my fifth and be realistic with my current fitness level. To continue will be a struggle to my body and a higher risk of injury. Besides, the u-turn point at Lolo has probably ran out of water too. So yeah, overall I am satisfied with my third edition. Despite much slower than my previous two, I had to be realistic and to accept that I am coming back from square one and that I have been extremely busy with the new business venture. To complete the minimum five loops is already an achievement for me and it will also be a good training run for me.

All in a day's work.

Took time to refuel the body from what is left over of the food. Oranges, bananas and some vermicelli and that was good enough for the craving body. Wai Hong was kind enough to offer me a place to shower at his room as I quickly cleaned myself up before leaving Gunung Nuang for a long drive home.

And once again, many thanks to the organising committee and volunteers for another enjoyable edition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra. But honestly, I didn't enjoy myself too much this year due to lack of fitness. But despite clocking my worst this year round, I am already waiting for next year's edition! Yeah yeah.. I am looking for trouble. :p

* Photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2017...

Event: Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2017
Venue: Pak Tam Chung, Hong Kong
Date: 14 January 2017
Time: 8.00AM
Distance: 100KM
Shoe: Saucony Xodus 6
By Frank

The Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race (HK100) holds a special place in my running career. It’s after all, my first 100KM trail race that sparked my interest in running through nature and the demanding challenges but yet beautiful aspects it has to offer. And in a way, it’s also the race that I got to be introduced and to befriend a dear friend of mine 4 years ago.

No, I did not run the HK100 4 years ago, but in fact I only ran it once back in year 2015. With an unsuccessful ballot results from last year which in a way was a blessing considering the race had to be cancelled after 20 hours due to the freezing conditions which left the roads of the highest point of the race course at Tai Mo Shan (Big Hat Mountain), to be frozen, I tried my luck again to return to better my results for one final time (do you believe in me?).

With the ballot results announced in late September 2016, I was glad that I managed to get in this time together with Yee Hoo. However, quite a few including Yan Leng did not get it. But it was a chance not to be missed and with swift action, I laid out a plan with Yee Hoo and quickly made our purchase and bookings for our flights and accommodation.

Fast forwarding to December 2016, just after my final race of the year at the Putrajaya 78KM, I was struck down with migraine. Coincidently, my HK100 race back in 2015 was also affected by it, the only difference was it was during the race back then. From migraine, I was then affected by a bad diarrhoea followed by fever and cough. It was just plain bad luck for me and thus affected my preparation for this race. I did almost no running and knew that it will affect both my physical strength and also cardio fitness. All that I have built the last 3 years that gave me my best Comrades results and my achievement at the West Highland Way Race is gone.

After a long whole month of battling the above illness, and with just a week more to go till the race, I was again struck down by a sudden cough which prolonged till race day, and even when I was blogging this. I knew back then, it was a race to suffer or maybe to even pull out somewhere during the course should my condition is bad.

Thursday, 12 January 2017
On Thursday, 12 January 2017, I travelled to Hong Kong with Yee Hoo and William from Johor on board the first Air Asia flight out at 6.30AM. Flight was smooth and by 4 hours later, we touched down and immediately started doing the necessity like getting ourselves sim card, travel card and of course getting to the place we are staying, Ah Shan hostel at Mong Kok. Bus 21 and everything was simply familiar and by close to an hour later, we found ourselves at the busy district.

Touching down at Hong Kong Aiport with Yee Hoo and William.

Checked into our tiny “pigeon hole” room, and it was off to Action X Store at Sheung Wan to collect our race pack after a quick lunch of porridge Sea View Congee shop below our hostel. Boarded the wrong train though but was quickly to realise it. Was glad that there wasn’t much of participants arriving yet and hence we managed to collect our race packs pretty smoothly before heading off to Racing The Planet where Yee Hoo was the first casualty to fall prey to the urge of buying running gears.

Tiny room for 2 at Ah Shan hostel.

Returned back to the hostel to prepare our race gear which consisted of a drop bag for the halfway 52KM point and also finish point of the race. Rest up before heading out for dinner nearby having some beef noodles. Nothing much else later as all 3 of us were really tired and hence called it an early night.

My race gear all laid out.

Friday, 13 January 2017
By 8.30AM, the 3 of us were ready to explore Hong Kong. First stop was of course breakfast just below where we had Hong Kong’s famous polo bun and simple plain noodle soup with some slice meat before we went to the Museum of History at Tsim Tsa Tsui. 2 hours there learning about Hong Kong’s long history before we headed off to the seaside to enjoy the breeze and also the view of Hong Kong city. But sadly, the Avenue of Stars was closed for a major renovation which will last till about year 2020.

At Victoria Harbour water front.

Short walk around Tsim Tsa Tsui before heading back to Mong Kok to visit the running stores there basically All Weather, Overlander and Blue Mountain Sports. William was the second casualty where he bought a pair of running shorts while yours truly was the third where I bought a complete set of the new generation of BV Sport top and half tights at Blue Mountain Sports. I was a happy buyer though. Jeff arrived and met us there before we returned to the hostel to rest up before meeting Foo and Vivien for dinner at Fa Yuen Street Market. Just a simple dinner among us before it was lights out for the mountains awaits the next day.

A simple pre-race dinner.

Race day. Saturday,14 January 2017
Didn’t manage to get a good sleep due to my cough. Hope it didn’t affect Yee Hoo though. And I must highlight the very irritating WhatsApp messages that were coming in late. Yes, I understand those are wishes for the race but to text late into the night, I don't think those are good vibes. This isn't the first time happening and despite turning off the phone's sounds and vibrations (not everyone does that), there is always the notification light. And when you realised that I did not reply your message, it will mean I am pissed!

All pre-race rituals went smoothly before I joined them for breakfast downstairs at Sea View. It was drizzling and it was cold. The weather forecast so fast has been correct, but I believe our race gears are well prepared for it, I hope. Once breakfast was done, we returned to our room to get our gears before flagging down taxis after taxis to get to the race start at Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung. Familiar faces from the Malaysian contingent appeared, from Tey, Keng Koon, Warren Lim, Warren Mok, Sook Ann and more. Myself, Yee Hoo, William and Jeff was last to leave at 6.45AM but time was sufficient. The only thing was that our taxi driver was a little chatty and I had trouble resting through the journey as he chatted with Jeff.

We arrived at Pak Tam Chung about 40 minutes later. It was still drizzling and the venue was wet and a little on the cold side. Quickly made our bags deposit and headed to the bushes to relieve ourselves as the queue for the toilets was just too long. The usual Malaysian contingent group photos session was next before we headed off to the sub 24 hours start area to prepare for the start. It was a wave start this year with 5 minutes interval in between and hence this is going to be the third wave.

Looking fresh before the 100KM struggle.

11 minutes after the first wave started, it was our turn as I wished Yee Hoo and William a safe race. I was in no hurry as the front pack will probably be packed with runners entering the MacLehose Trail and hence took my time. After close a Kilometer later, indeed the entrance to the trail was stuck as runners slowly form a single line. I was glad I was William and hence had someone to talk to. Hahaha...

As frustrating as it was being not able to run but to walk for about the next 4KM or so, I was actually prepared for it. But with the cool weather, it will only mean that there will be the urge to pee. With almost no place to go to and with too many people around, I held on. Slowly, I forgot about it but suddenly, I felt hungry instead.  Breakfast was too early earlier and guess I have to hold till I arrive at the East Dam support station which was located 11KM from the start.

Finally, after being stuck behind human traffic for about slightly more than an hour, I arrived with William at one of the dams with the ocean greeting us from one side. Spectacular view but first things first as we headed to the bushes to relieve ourselves before climbing the roads up to the area above. We then quickly set off as the roads here were wide enough to break free and that we did. I bump into Keng Koon during the climb, chatting with him for a while before resuming my run with William. Had fun throughout and I was trigger happy snapping photos of the beautiful surroundings when suddenly, a familiar face caught me. It was David, my fellow Comrades from Singapore. Meeting him annually at the Inchanga climb at Comrades Marathon, I hope East Dam here won't be our annual meet up. Hahaha...

Having fun with a Japanese "Spiderman" runner.

Meeting my fellow Comrades David at East Dam.

Terence supporting runners at East Dam.

While I ran and chatted freely with David, William took off on his own. Eventually, I spotted the East Dam support station. Another beautiful place where then another familiar face came running towards me. It was Terence Poon who welcomed runners to East Dam. Quickly grab some nuts here to help curb my hunger. Although I left East Dam with David. I powered up the next hill on my own as I headed towards the first climb at Sai Wan Shan some 314M above sea level. I needed to use my strength here before I was going to be slowed down by my weakness at the down section.

Beautiful surroundings of Tai Long Wan.

Not an easy climb upwards to Sai Wan Shan but neither it was tough. And as expected, I slowed at the next section descending from it as it was slippery especially on the cement stairs and David passed me just before arriving at the beach. I've lost count on the number of beautiful beach we had to run pass, but it was worth it with the sound of waves and the foot strikes of the runners only to be heard. And after 3:25:11 hours, I arrived at Check Point 1 at Ham Tin where I took some nuts, chips and a cracker with some water before moving on.

Remembering from my experience 2 years ago, we needed to climb a pretty steep but short ascend to exit Ham Tin. Ropes were installed to aid some runners too but I used my bare hands instead. Feeling still good and fresh, and still having fun, I was glad that my lack of training and recent sickness did not affect much, at least till this point. Even if it did, it had affected my speed which was relatively much slower.

Anyway, it was rolling up and down hill towards the next check point and Wong Shek, some 7KM away. The first section wasn't too bad with trails to run on, but when it got to the stairs, this is where things got tougher. More strength is needed to power up them, while more impact and balancing is needed to descend it. But I made it there in 4:50:03 hours without any mishaps with friendly volunteers welcoming the runners to this check point located next to a jetty with big boats and yacht were parked at.

Beautiful scenery but had to be careful going down the slippery stairs.

Took a slightly longer break here to fuel myself up with some yummy vinegared rice balls, chips and oranges washing down with water and Cola. And with the weather warming up, I decided to remove my Saucony Nomad long sleeve top and to just go with my base layer. And just before leaving, I saw a runner being carried down the stairs from where I came from. Though conscious, I assumed he was hurt probably twisting his ankle or falling at the trails. Hope nothing serious.

An orangy shot where Piew and Yan Leng will understand. Hehe...

Close to 5 hours and only 28KM covered. I was losing a lot of ground compared to my experience 2 years ago. Nevertheless, I wasn't too bothered about it and slowly resume my journey with a slightly heavy tummy from over eating. Ooops...

I slowly got my groove back and resume some running pass some villages and also the through the pathways by the seaside. Nothing much to blog about it here except that the serendipity of the beautiful and yet calm surroundings bought positive thoughts to me.

Check Point 3 at Hoi Ha was a check point I was looking forward to as it was partially manned by those who are visually impaired. And just before arriving there, I made a quick detour off course to visit a public toilet where I used the opportunity to wash and freshen up my face and arms. And just before entering the check point which was within a park in a time of 6:23:44 hours, I tried to high five as many of the volunteers there as a mark and token of appreciation for being there for the runners. An even longer stop compared to the earlier one, I took in lots of oranges here while trying the official sports drink for this race, Overstim which I kind of like it. Pleasant taste and wasn't too sugary. Pretty like Pocari or even barley. And just before leaving, I spotted some hot ginger tea and stop for a cup. And while having it, I had a chat with Joshua who was having some noodles by the side.

Yung Shue O which was 9KM away is where I shall have my dinner, I told myself. After all, that is what happened 2 years back and that will something to look forward to again. I took my time to slowly walk off the food and drinks I had earlier as I continued with my journey. Re-entering into the woods, I found a very similar bench where I sat down 2 years ago to remove my gaiters. This time round, I remove my shoes to clear off sands that were collected during my earlier run at the beach and also to have my mobile phone and Suunto charge. I left the Suunto on my wrist to charge and hence had to carry my phone on my hand. And with it, I started texting and updating my friends back home, some silly photos included. This kept my mind off from the fatigue which is slowly setting in.

Thumbs up and thank you to the photographers along the way for their effort.

Slowly made my way through the villages along the coastal side before re-entering the trails which more steps to climb. Weather was still good with some breeze but my legs were starting to tire. And once I exited the trails and got back on to the coastal trail, I knew I was nearing the check point. It's after all, the stretch where I knocked my knee 2 years back where big boulders were blocking certain parts. Sights of houses soon appear in the distance and I hurry before I was greeted by volunteers welcoming us to Yung Shue O, 45KM into the race.

Checking into Yong Shue O at 45KM.

8:23:31 hours. I know I was still loosing time but I was in no rush. The only issue I had was that the check point was located at a different place which is much smaller than the one 2 years back. Hardly had any place to walk around and not to mention sitting. My plan for my dinner had to be on hold but I still took my time with some light snacks here and snapping silly photos of me eating oranges to be sent over to my friend back home. I also message Jasmine who was at the Lion Park Country Park near Golden Hill Road at the bottom of Beacon Hill not to wait for me as she expected me to run like an elite! #FacePalm!

Hot coffee, tea and ginger drink, a little of each before I started going again. It's only 7KM before hitting the halfway point at Kei Ling Ha but the journey there is one that I am looking forward to. Kai Kung Shan (Cockrel Hill) sitting at 399M above sea level is located in between these 2 check points. Not an easy climb as it's pretty steep but somehow, I was looking forward to it.

Before entering the climbing section, I passed through more villages before a small descend into the forest trails. And when the forest started opening up, the climb began too. Slightly damp orange soil made up the terrain and I was glad I had the Saucony Xodus 6 on where the traction of the shoe helped a lot. The sunset view on top of the hill is something to look forward to, but I guess I had no luck this time as the weather didn't seem suitable. Besides, I was rushing to get myself to the check point before darkness takes over.

Made it to the top of Kai Kung Shan.

Wasn't struggling very much with the climb as I expected would be and got to the top without any mishaps. Quickly snap a photo and off I went descending the hill and back into the forest trail. It was getting dark and I don't think I can get myself to the check point without having to rely on a head torch. However, I was lucky enough when a runner ahead of me powered on his head torch which was relatively bright enough to light the way. I tailgated him from behind running the same path and pattern as him. Was all good till he decided to take a breather just a bout a Kilometer before the check point. Without any choice, I use the torch function on my phone to light my way. It wasn't very bright but it was good enough. And with that, soon the noisy sounds at Kei Ling Ha was heard.

10:00:51 hours was what I took to get myself to this point at 52KM. And as expected, Kei Ling Ha was a busy check point. I quickly grab some oranges before making my way to collect my drop bag here. But immediately as I left the food tent, a young girl from the volunteer team came to me asking if I had a drop bag. Replied her that I do and she quickly took a glance at my race bib and dashed away to collect for me. And in a less than a minute later, she returned with my drop bag. So very efficient and I was really thankful and appreciative to her. Well done!

Was looking for a spot to sit down but the surroundings was just packed with runners. A familiar voice and face appeared suddenly. It was Terence Poon and he guided me to the side to rest while he asked if I needed anything. Told him that all I needed was some oranges as I showed him my most important thing at that time, my can of coffee which I had in my drop bag! We both broke out into laughter. Hahaha...

First thing first. I needed light and hence powered on my 800 Lumens LED Lenser. Dim the power down and soon, Terence returned with a big fat orange! Joshua joined in too and we joked that it was deja vu to be meeting here again. We gave ourselves a toast for that with me using my can of coffee and him, his cup noodles! However sadly, he decided to throw the towel in and just stop here for his leg is acting up. Tried to pull him along with him, but I guess he had already decided. Once I was ready, I deposited back my drop bag and put on my jacket, assembled my trekking pole and powered on my head torch to the max. It was time to for the second half of the race and the big climbs awaits.

Being funny before starting the second half of my race.

Next stop, Gilwell Camp and it's the longest stretch with 13KM of technical trails and climbs involved. I just can't wait to get this stretch over with as it can be mentally torturing. As I crossed the road from the check point, it was a long road climb, about a mile up till we arrive at the trail entrance. However, just ahead and out of no where, surprise surprise, there was a mandatory gear check. The volunteers checked for our mobile phone, thermal blanket and of course head torch. It may take a while especially to locate the first 2 items buried deep in the back pack or so, but I applaud and thank the organisers for doing so. After all, it was each and every runner's safety for anything can happen up in the mountains ahead.

After repacking, I continued upwards into the darkness. It was getting cold and hence I need to keep going to ensure my core temperature doesn't drop. Finally about close to a mile or so, I arrived at the trail entrance with a volunteer there ensuring everyone went the correct way. It's not easy for him to be alone there in the dark and cold and I applaud him for his undying support!

In the trail, I began to run a little, but that's before hitting the climb which is actually pretty steep. And this is where those who frequent to Gunung Nuang back home will benefit. For myself, I needed my trekking pole to help lift my body up to the higher level. This kept going and going as I made my way to Ma On Shan at 580M above sea level. And when I looked back, I could see the trail of head torches lighting the forest. It was a nice view, but also reminded me how high I was climbing. And remembering my migraine incident 2 years back, I started looking forward to the open space with a few benches where I rested there back then, as I intend to do the same again. I arrived finally at the same area and sat at the exact same bench. Took off my shoes to allow both my feet to "breathe" and stretch a little while I pop in a mild dose of Coenzyme Q10 just in case of migraine. During my 10 minutes rest there or so, many runners whom I passed earlier, is now ahead of me. I have no intention to pass them again and let my pace take it's course.

I caught up with a few runners as I approach a very windy Ma On Shan. Nothing spectacular about the view here except for lights emitting from the apartments from both side of Hong Kong and Sha Tin. There was a back log there as we hardly could pass the runner ahead on the single track trail there and hence had to keep moving till we get the chance. Just hope that I don't get blown away. Haha... The chance to overtake finally came when the descend started as I broke free.

My legs was getting battered as I descended from Ma On Shan and I was getting tired. The climbs wasn't very steep now but it was a rolling one and it kept coming. And fast forwarding, after countless of rolling hills, I finally arrived at the long stretch which eventually led to an open space, at Gilwell Camp, where Check Point 6 is at. 65KM in 14:05:26 hours, I was just glad to make it here safely.

The organisers have moved the check point at Gilwell Camp to an open space much nearer to the trail exit compared to 2 years back and this is certainly much more welcome as there were much more space for runners to rest. With night upon us and the temperature starting to drop, I made use of the hot food and drinks here to fill myself up. A hot cup of noodles while I chatted with a team of 2 medics who are sweeping the course from Check Point 5 to the finish. And coincidentally, one of them is a fellow Malaysian from Alor Setar, Kedah. We had a good chat as I was really taking my own sweet time, especially with the awesome hot ginger tea.

And finally, when my legs thought it was time leave, I got ready and slowly made my way passed the scout's campfire which I remember that I stop by 2 years back to get some heat into me. I was freezing back then!

It was mainly downhill on the road here for a couple of Kilometers before re-entering the trails for some rolling hills again before a major climb towards Beacon Hill. And somehow, I think I got good memories here. I managed to run a little on the open trails but as soon as I got to the climb towards the check point, it became a single trail and I got stuck behind some slower runners. I didn't want to pressurize the runners ahead and only waited for the overtaking chance to come. This also allow me to conserve some strength.

Eventually the overtaking chance came and finally some glow lights and soon music in the lonely night. Beacon Hill, manned by the scouts was a happening check point. Check Point 7, 73KM into the race at 16:37:07 hours. As we are fast approaching the Lunar New Year, I was presented a red packet by the scouts here which contained a chocolate wrapped in gold paper.

Most runners were wrapped in blanket and seated around the campfire to warm themselves up. I found a corner and took some hot coffee plus some hot ginger tea to maintain my core temperature. Filled my flask up and noticed that it was time to have my head torch battery change. Got it change with the help from the scout master as my hands was shaking due to cold and off I went!

It was a slippery steep descent from Beacon Hill. I had to be careful not to trip over something else there might be a mini avalanche me. From trail to road, I know I was near to the main road where I had to cross it via the pedestrian bridge before embarking up Golden Hill Road. This is where Jasmine was much earlier but now, only a few volunteers were there to guide the runners. I made good use of the toilet across the road and took a breather at the bus stand to adjust my shoe. And while doing so, I could hear the sound of the monkeys moving around the bushes nearby. Yes, this place will be swarming with monkeys should I arrive later, say at dawn. I better get going before I had to fend myself from them with my trekking poles!

So up Golden Hill Road. The long winding road in darkness before suddenly, a pair of reflective eyes ahead. I thought there were from monkeys but judging from the way it moves and the sheer size of it, I was wrong. It was a pair of wild boars but they certainly was very different from the Malaysian version. Huge, tall, skinny and grey in colour, they were actually pretty peaceful, grazing along the bushes. Reminds me of South Africa's warthog.

Anyway, I continued ascending Golden Hill Road which was filled with bread crumbs, some banana peels and litters by the side courtesy of the monkeys. Got to the top and it was a slow descend into another dark area where a lady runner suddenly just zoomed passed me ahead and was no where to be seen. Please do not ask me if she was a runner or not!

I got to the entrance of the trail greeted by some steps. Was just a short journey in the trails overlooking some dams or reservoirs before exiting into another area.Continuing on the flat road before running on concrete, I know I was near and soon, after 18:53:23 hours, I arrived at Shing Mun Dam, Check Point 8!

Again like Gilwell Camp, the check point at Shing Mun Dam was move forward compared to 2 years back and it was certainly a welcomed choice as there was much more space for the runners. 2 years back, I was remember I was shivering at this check point due to the cold. This year although much more prepared, I reminded myself to keep warm and hence took in some hot ginger tea before I spotted a camp with a heater in it and quickly moved into it. It was full of runners, some covered in blanket and napping away. Found a chair near the heater and made myself comfortable there. I know my legs will get heavy and that I will lose more time, but the heat generated here was just too hard to resist.

After 15 minutes or so, I decided it was time to continue on, for 2 of the biggest climbs await. Exited the camp and jog a little to loosen the very stiff muscle before I slowly made my way towards the trail entrance mark by the wooden gantry, Maclehose Trail, Stage 7. The first hill to conquer was Needle Hill standing tall at 532M from sea level. It was no easy climb especially when we were already 84KM into the race. Legs were heavy and tired, and some of us including myself was feeling sleepy.

To keep moving and to keep climbing will bring towards Needle Hill and eventually the finish. The new thoughts gave me a new motivation as I used the strength left on both my shoulder to push my trekking poles towards the ground to propel me up the next step. I did that will full momentum till I had to slowed down when I bumped into a big guy ahead of me. And while following him close from behind, I suddenly took note of his body movement and also the hanging map from the very familiar backpack! I called out to him and asked if he was at the Bromo Tengger Semeru Race last year? And indeed he was. It was Rais whom I trek with along the Bromo rim. Absolutely small world and delighted to meet up with him again, especially during a race like this.

Both myself and Rais paused for a moment to catch up before resuming like how we did at Bromo. He led and I followed, and we chatted away. And it was through here, that I found out that he actually completed BTS back then. BRAVO!

As we kept climbing, the pace dropped and my core temperature too. It was getting colder and I realised that I can't be following Rais pace. And when the opportunity came, I passed him and continue powering up every steps using the help of my trekking pole. I did paused for moment to look back to check on Rais but I did not see him despite sitting down for a moment to adjust my shoes. I continued on myself and got to the top of Needle Hill before  downhill to the bottom of the next hill.

Grassy Hill, 647M above sea level was next. I don't remember much that it was actually tarmac from 2 years back. Climbing on tarmac wasn't actually easier especially with the open surroundings. It was getting cold and I could feel my gut acting up a little. I needed to eat. I moved quickly and soon, found a concrete structure where I sat down, removed my shoes and ate some of my left over cranberries and washing it down with water. And when everything was settle down in my tummy, I continued on before the cold took over me.

Got to the top feeling rather tired but a fellow runner "woke" me up to be careful with the descent to Lead Mine Pass as it's going to be slippery due to mud and rocks around the grassy surface. And when I began my descent, I fully understood what he meant as it was wet too. The more agile runners disappeared into the bottom while the clumsy me was taking a step at a time.

Eventually I got to the bottom and a marshal was directed me to the left where the sound of generators was coming from. It was Lead Mine Pass, Check Point 9, located somewhere at the foot of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong's highest peak.

Just another 10KM to go and it was going to be really cold on the journey upwards to the peak. I needed to recharge myself and hence took a breather inside the tent where the heater was located. A very helpful volunteer asked if I needed anything and told her that all I needed was a hot cup of ginger drink. She helped me got it after a couple of minutes. Thank you!

Some other runners were napping here as I made myself comfortable and befriended a local name Kam Tim in the process. More and more runners arrived including Rais and when I was about to leave, the rain came! I continued resting and out came my thermal blanket which was really old. So old that it actually fell apart. I still managed to wrap myself partly with whatever is left of it though.

Knowing the rain won't be stopping anytime and that I just wanted to get the final 10KM over with it, together with Kam Tim, we made a decisive move to continue on under the rain. Our strategy was simple, to keep moving forward so that our core temperature will not drop drastically. And during that, we kept chatting away to keep our minds off things and through here, I learnt that he was actually part of the original technical team of the race and a very fast runner. He was definitely a silver or gold runner for this race if not for his gut acting up back at halfway.

Kam Tim led the way through a very watery, muddy and slippery journey up Tai Mo Shan where I followed his every foot steps. The weather got worst as we headed upwards and it reminded me of my attempt at Ben Nevis back in year 2015. The rain was firing on my face like needles and the wind was trying to blow me off my footing. The feeling, MISERABLE!

I slowed a little and Kam Tim stopped to ask if I was all right and offered me his jacket. Replied that I was all right, just getting slower due to the wind factor. Told him to keep moving and that I will call out if I needed anything. We pushed on and soon, we entered to the road. The technical part is over, so what now is to keep climbing to the top.

On the road, I soon caught up with Kam Tim as he told me to keep going. With the cold temperature, I can't afford to stop for too long and hence obliged to him. I kept following the road ahead and eventually got to the top by noticing 2 volunteers there as the Hong Kong Observatory weather radar station was covered in fog and nowhere to be seen. I looked back to see if Kam Tim was nearby but he was not.

Another 5KM or so to go and it's all downhill to the finish. The winding road of Tai Mo Shan awaits my weakened legs but this has to be done. I ran when I could, walked when I can't. One leg at a time, I told myself. The rain was reduced to a drizzle but no doubt I was still feeling rather cold. One final pee stop by the bushes and I managed to find my rhythm and started running till I was redirected back into the trails by a group of volunteers. The final Kilometer or so was n the trail as this was the diversion crated last year due to the extremely cold temperature that frozen up the road.

The trail was slippery as there were steps and rocks all over. No falling or tripping over at the closing stages and hence I walked through it before finally arriving at a building. It was another few hundred meters more I guess and from here, I ran and ran, and soon arrived back on the road where I heard my name being call out.

My finishing moment.

No sprinting or dashing as I ran naturally towards the finish line, completing my second Hong Kong 100 in a time of 24:58:15 hours. 2 hours slower than my previous attempt but I was just lucky to have completed it after recovering from illness and also lack of training. The slippery conditions made it challenging it this year too and there is a lot of work for me to improve on my footing especially on slippery ground.

My splits.

Nevertheless, a job done here as I waited for my fellow friends to arrive back. One by one, they did from Kam Tim, Rais and the Leong as I waited together with Keng Koon and his mum, both very supportive despite the former pulling out from the race due to coldness.

Thank you Keng Koon (and his mum - not in pic) for the assistance given post race.

Kam Tim who led the way for me from CP9 till the top of Tai Mo Shan.

Together with Keng Koon and his mum, both myself and Leong took a taxi back to Mongkok. A tiring ride back where I was totally knock out during the journey. Back at the hostel, the cleaning part was rather difficult due to the room size and the stiffness of muscles. And after a well deserve shower, we headed downstairs with William for lunch who completed the race in a remarkable time of below 20 hours. We were joined by Tey for lunch at the porridge place before heading back to the hostel for a well deserved sleep.

Well deserve post race recovery meal with Tey.

Monday, 16 January 2017
Sleep was good and by 8AM, I was awake. As William is flying back home today, only myself and Yee Hoo had a simple breakfast at the famous Kam Hua coffee shop which luckily was within walking distance. The polo bun with butter is good here as the coffee shop was packed to the max. Made an appointment at 10.30AM to meet up with Jimmy, Saucony Asia Pacific's International Brand Director and off we went to Tsim Tsa Tsui. After walking for quite a distance, I eventually arrived at the office at China Hong Kong City. A great catch-up with him after first meeting him 2 years back as we discussed on the brand's potential and also problems.

The Wolverine World Wide group of companies.

With Jimmy, Saucony AP International Brand Director. More than a brand principal and a friend.

Later together with Yee Hoo, we made our way to Kowloon Park before returning to Mong Kok for some shoe shopping at Sneaker Street where I purchased 2 valuable pair of hot Saucony racing shoes. Returned to the hostel to rest up before heading to Temple Street at night before we found out that Poh Lai is n Hong Kong too!

Facebook gave Poh Lai's location away and we quickly contacted him for a meet-up.

After a quick bowl of hot 6 treasure desserts which was smacking delicious, we made our way to Yau Mah Tei MTR station to meet up with Poh Lai before heading towards Tsim Tsa Tsui again for the night view there. It was chilly but worth it despite a short stay there before we head into the city area to look for food before heading back to call it a night. But that was before some painful packing as we needed to check out early the next morning.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Woke up just before 7AM to prepare for an early check out at 8AM. Left our luggage at the hostel's reception and headed off to Yau Ma Tei to meet up with Poh Lai for breakfast at the famous Mido Cafe after visiting the Thian Hou Temple to make some blessings for a dear friend heading to Europe to further studies. Mido Cafe was supposedly famous as there were many TV series and movies filmed here but I had no impression of it at all. Hahaha... Nevertheless, breakfast was simple yet satisfying before we parted ways with Poh Lai who was catching the 3PM flight back home later.

With some extra time to kill, we headed towards San Sui Po for some gadget shopping was the prices here was dirt cheap! Only bought a blinker worth less than RM3 though but Yee Hee bought an action cam which only cost slightly more than RM200. What a bargain!

We headed back to Mong Kok for lunch at DimDimSum Dim Sum Specialty Store. We over ordered but still managed to almost finish everything except a last piece of "Nian Gao". Everything here was delicious and I highly recommend this place. After a satisfying meal, we collected our luggage and hop on to the bus 21 to head towards the airport to check ourselves in before meeting up with my long lost friend, Jasmine!

My long lost "sifu"!

It was a good catch up with Jasmine before we boarded our half an hour delayed flight at 6.15PM. Flight was rather uncomfortable though and since I am not able to sleep through it, I took some time to blog about this entry, well only part of the start. But eventually, we touched down back home and surprisingly, luggage retrieval was pretty quick this time. Took a cab home after parting ways with Yee Hoo, and with that, came an end for my adventure at my second HK100.

* Photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016, Rewind Of My 10th Year...

By Frank

Another year came, another year passes. It sounds so familiar and as we aged, this phrase seems to come faster too. And with year 2016 coming to an end in a few hours time, here's again to reflect back on the year it has been. Will only touch on running here this year round as honestly, the first 9 month's of the year has been pretty emotionally tough with passing of friends and patients to cancer.

2016 was meant to be my 10th year of running. To be precise, it will only start in the month of March 2016. But celebration can't come sooner that December 2015, when I was successful in my ballot for the West Highland Way Race in Scotland, the final race that was in my to do list. Building on a strong 2015 I had and continuing my momentum from there, all my resources was concentrated into this race as well as Comrades Marathon, as I continue into the new year. 

January 2016
Swinging into the new year in high momentum with a new mission in hand, my training plan as given by coach was all laid out together with my diet plan under the "Low Carbs High Fat" plan. With an unsuccessful ballot for the Vibram Hong Kong 100, my first race for the year was the Watergate 16 Hours. Didn't do well there though only managing 60KM in close to 10 hours due to my usual sleep factor but it did "wake me up" to try rectify this problem which I normally have to face during long distance races over the night. Nevertheless, I was in no panic mode and carried on with my regime and eventually finding myself at the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon which I enjoyed very much with Soon Chung.

February 2016
The second month of the year was just to continue and improve on from the first. And with the Chinese New Year celebration, it may sound like a derailment for me. But what actually that derailed my training was due to an unfortunate accident that involved mum and Bailey. But was glad nothing much more serious happened and that everything was back to normal for them and me as we head towards the end of the month where I paid a visit to Gunung Nuang, for the 12 hours ultra there. My second attempt here and there were already positive results being shown which boosted my confidence.

March 2016
The third month came, and besides the month that marks my 10th year of running, it's also the month where I remember all of the 24 months of cancer fighting. In terms of training, it wasn't easy and I had to readjust as I soon notice that my usual group's training regime isn't helping at all. I had to improvised quickly for this is a critical month and managed to do just that with Twilight Ultra Challenge taking place in mid month covering 80KM in 13 hours. Not exactly ideal but was certainly productive as the month concluded with really positive results.

April 2016
All the first 3 months of training and sacrifices began to show here. I felt stronger and fresher during my training and with all the energy and strength gained, Route 68 Challenge was like an early trial for me. However, had a scare during the start of the month when I experienced the "dead leg syndrome", probably due to over used of it. But glad there was nothing about it, and my legs was performing as it's best when I ran a pretty good Route 68 Challenge. From there, I knew I was ready for both my big races ahead. What I had to do is to maintain on it and to avoid any potential injuries.

May 2016
It's all about getting ready here. Despite leaving my job at Running Lab (yes I resigned!) late last month, I was actually pretty busy with other stuff such as photo-shoots and product launches, both associated with Saucony. And yes, this is also the month that I parted ways with Saucony as their athlete to give way for new blood to join the team.

As for my 5th Comrades, for the first time, I am not raising funds for Cancer Research Malaysia this time round due to personal reasons and I am glad that they understood and stood by my decision. There were no races this month as I slowly tapered off my training before eventually flying off to South Africa on 25 May, 4 days before my first big race, the Comrades Marathon.

Half a decade of Comrades.

An accidental personal best of 10:27:07 hours at my 5th Comrades Marathon was achieved and was glad everything was good despite being my weaker "Down" run. That certainly boosted my confidence as all the sacrifices are showing results. Nevertheless, it was just a short stay at South Africa this time before I flew over to Scotland to recover and prepare myself for the West Highland Way Race 3 weeks later.

June 2016
The main highlight of my running career took place in this month, some halfway around where I came from. Running 152KM across the iconic Scottish highlands, the West Highland Way, a completion of this race will make my running achievement come full circle. Wasn't an easy race for I ran, walk, limp, struggled, slept and even pooped during my entire journey from Milngavie to Fort William. But I had a strong and supportive crew of Angela, Alexa, Chee Kong and Edmund who take care of me as I successfully finish off the race in a much faster time than estimated. And not only them, my "warm Scottish family" who were out there in full force were also there when I tackled through the trails. Indeed, everything of my running career came full circle here as I crossed the finish line at Lochaber Leisure Centre. My race report to my West Highland Way Race 2016 HERE.

My amazing WHWR team.

My moment of truth.

July and August 2016
After achieving what I set out to do, I began my totally deserved rest and also started a new career. Runs were kept to a minimal as I started to enjoy myself on the weekend. Nothing much happened for these 2 months as life was carefree and good.

September 2016
First race since West Highland Way Race, I know myself I was up for trouble at my third attempt at Back 2 Endurance. All I wanted was a Comrades distance in 12 hours and though I only managed the "Up' run distance, I was content with my performance. After all, it was my "downtime". And also, that it was after this race, that I needed to get my tooth fix. I was referring to my problematic left lower wisdom tooth which had been disturbing me for a couple of years already. And hence I had it removed through a very scary surgery procedure which left me out of action from physical activities for almost 3 weeks. And it was after that it had all settled down, that an "emergency trip" with Yang Leng and Piew to Gunung Nuang was done traversing through it, to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Cameron Ultra-Trail.

October 2016
Looking forward to get back into a little running at a brand new local event at the Cameron Ultra-Trail. Not for the faint hearted, this event was tough as I suffered badly at the final quarter of the run heading up and down the 2 peaks. But it was through this event, that my friendship with Wai Hong grew stronger when the both of us made our journey back together from halfway point. There is too much to say about my experience with him so I suggest you click on my race report link to read more on what we both went through together. Thanks Wai Hong for being that friend that stood by me at the peaks of Cameron Highlands. And indeed, this event was an eye opener to many and it will be an important preparation to what lies ahead next month.

Tasty oranges at Cameron Ultra-Trail.

Completing the Cameron Ultra-Trail with Wai Hong.

November 2016
November seems to be an important month.  With 3 weekly back to back events, I had to be careful with my expectations as it involves my Comrades qualifier for next year's edition. With almost no runs since the Cameron Ultra Trail last month and with my return to Running Lab (yes, I made a u-turn), I faced the Bromo Tengger Semeru (BTS) Ultra like a rookie runner. Yes, the BTS Ultra will mark my step forward into my next chapter of running, towards the "unexplored territory" beyond my comfort zone. I may not have complete my 10th year of running but since the opportunity came, I guess I might as well grab it and give myself  a head start. Besides I had no expectations from it and even before the race, I knew my chances of suffering a DNF (Did Not Finish) will be high.

And so, it happened. With barely any experience running on volcanic terrain and a fall I suffered 3 quarter distance into the race, I threw in the flag and earned my 3rd DNF of my running career. I may have plenty of time to make the distance, but with risky conditions, I did not want to risk it. I wasn't sore at all with my decision but was glad that I actually was brave enough to take up the challenge. And after all, I had a memorable holiday too.

Next to Mount Bromo's crater.

The week later, was my Comrades qualifier at the Putrajaya Night Marathon. Again, very low expectations for this and I only hope to complete it within 5 hours. Jut slightly below 5 hours I did, suffering from halfway distance. But most importantly, my ticket to Comrades is secured.

Then my final event for this triple weekend back to back and also my final race for the year. A downgrade from the previous 2 editions, I opt for the 78KM distance at this year's Putrajaya Ultra, running together with Jeannie, Jamie and Nick. A steady run which not I only felt good, but somehow satisfied to help them through the distance. And with that, my running for this year came to an early "end", as I took a long rest in trying to rebuild my career and my hope to spend time with someone important.

December 2016
Things didn't go pretty well in life here. Struck down my migraine in the early days of the month that prolonged till the end of the year, everything that I hope for was derailed. I was supposed to even jump start my training for next year with the Vibram Hong Kong 100 fast approaching on the 3rd Sunday of January 2017, but I guess I have to lower my expectations for that race now. Guess this is the result from taking a too long break from running. 3 years of improving from strength to strength, this is where I am going back to square 1 again.

And with all that from above, a total of 3,128KM was ran in the entire 2016 with more than 2,000KM coming from the first half of the year.

As most welcome the new year for a much welcome change and a renew hope, it won't be particular easy for me as 2017 will be the year I start to seek out new frontiers. Call it my second chapter of my running career and with my failed attempt at BTS 2016, I know that the new "adventures" and "challenges" I seek will not be an easy one. I expect lots of DNFs (Did Not Finish), but without trying, I will not know. After all, it's this that makes one look further.

Won't touch further on things here, but all I can say is that I foresee 2017 to be a really difficult for me. Building on a new career, getting into my second chapter of running, juggling time for personal matters and also trying to come to terms with other things, 2017 might just not be the year that will be smooth for me. But since I was given the opportunity for yet another year, I will embrace it for all I can since moving forward is the only option. So AYE, Happy New Year to everyone!

Coming full circle in my first 10 years of running.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Putrajaya 78KM 2016...

Event: Putrajaya 78KM 2016
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 19 November 2016
Time: 9.00PM
Distance: 78KM (78.1KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7 RunShield
By Frank

Despite getting lost on the first edition of the Putarjaya 100KM 2 years back, this event has proven to be a pretty good "hunting" ground for me. Organised by the friendly people at Team Pacat, the same organiser as Cameron Ultra, this event is a very friendly and community based non-competitive one. With last year surprisingly emerging as the men's champion for the 100KM distance, only to be out-ran by Siaw Hua, the heart and legs wanted to return for a third 100KM here. However, with Nick and Jamie registering themselves in the 78KM distance, I thought that it will be a good idea to be running with them. Besides, it's not always that we get to see these 2 fellows running beyond the marathon distance. And with that, 78KM it is then, a downgrade for me.

However, during my trip to Bromo, I was informed by Jeannie that she too had register herself for the 78KM distance. I am glad she did, upgrading herself and rising to the challenge as she successfully completed the 52KM last year. With her participation in this, I decided to lend her my support in helping her get through it.

I decided to lay back on Saturday in trying to get the most sleep and rest I could. However, things didn't turn out as planned as I was awaken and disturbed big time as early as at 6.30AM. I managed to sleep back in though it wasn't a smooth one as phone messages were still coming in. I finally gave up and woke up at 10AM. Coffee was my best fix for the long night ahead later as most of you know, that although I can go pretty long till I eat something, I normally will crash early due to sleepiness.

I left home at 3.30PM picking Jeannie up from Bandar Utama before Jamie at Puchong. We then proceeded to Seri Kembangan for an early dinner and I was glad there was beetroot juice offered at the place we dine. Though slightly diluted,  I was rather happy with it as it help wash down the "pan mee" I had.

Dark rain clouds were hovering over the sky everywhere from Seri Kembangan to Putrajaya, a sign of a very wet race later, or will it? Arrived at Taman Seri Empangan at about 6.30PM I think and proceeded to collect our race pack. I was rather surprised that the volunteers did not check through my mandatory gear though despite me reminding them twice if they are sure. This is so wrong, as should anything happen to me or other runners due to lack of gear, who is to be blamed? Hope the organisers will constantly remind volunteers of this important procedure for their other races cause it can help make a difference between life and death. Like mandatory gears, this is a mandatory check!

With 2 more hours till the race gets underway, we just hung around the area doing what most people do best nowadays, playing around with our phone. Nick who booked himself a room at Dorsett is happily resting there. Leong joined us a while later who came to lend us some support.

With the Saucony ambassadors ready to rock Putrajaya.

Anyway, fast forwarding ahead, Arman the race director gave us some last minute race briefing before singing our national anthem. And at 9PM sharp, some 40 of us started our journey. We slowly made our way to the Gemilang Bridge and even joked among all of us on why is nobody running yet? Hahaha... However, the pace started to slowly pick up as we approached Dataran Gemilang. Nick was setting the pace while I was with Jeannie and Jamie following him slightly behind. Cheryl and Lum are also running and it was their fast time and they settled with us too with Leong supporting.

With Jeannie and Cheryl on their first 78KM.

And just before arriving at the Palace of Justice, I was glad that everyone noticed that the pace was a little to fast to begin with. Everyone slowed down and regroup as we saw a few familiar faces making their return trip from their 100KM adventure. Some of them were Budiman and Ben. They were fast, much faster than my winning time of last year. And I can't say how much I am happy for Budiman who took on a more realistic distance after 2 failed attempts at the 160KM.

As I slowed to chat with my friends, Jeannie had went ahead with Nick. No worries though as I slowly made my way heading towards the Prime Minister's office where I caught up with the rest, up the steps before heading to to the first check point just beside the lake, below the Gemilang Bridge. Leong bid farewell to us here after running 10KM with us.

There was water aplenty at the first check point ranging from mineral water to isotonic. However, sad to find out that there weren't' much food here except for some kaya sandwich and watermelons which was running low and the cuts were rather small. Indeed not a good sign and was way below standard compared to last year. Oh and yes, even timing was manually recorded as they had some issues with the timing provider.

Nick and Jamie had continued on while I waited for Jeannie and Cheryl before we took off together to round the core island of Putrajaya. I allowed both of them to set the pace while I followed. While the rest had taken off, we were then joined by Choon Yuen, Richi, Zijill and Julia who came to support on their bikes. At McDonalds just down the road, we all regroup once more before deciding that Nick, Jamie and Lum will go ahead, while I stayed back with the 2 ladies.

The 4 on their bicycles were constantly cycling ahead and back to us to check on both groups. About halfway around the core island, I noticed that our elapsed time wasn't exactly very favourable and hence suggested to the ladies that we should start counting the streetlamps where we will run for 10 of them before walking 5 of them. It started well but we eventually lost count. Hahaha... But it still got us back to the first check point below the Gemilang Bridge which is now acting as the second check point. As we arrived, Nick and Jamie with few other runners already started making their way to the third check point at Taman Cabaran.

After refueling, we headed our way towards Pullman Hotel around the lake before heading towards Putrajaya International Convention Centre where we will turn right into Taman Cabaran. Along the way, there were more 100KM runners making their return trip and one of them was Kim Song where we stopped to have a brief chat. And just before arriving at the check point, we once again saw Nick and Jamie making their way.

Had a pretty lengthy stop at Taman Cabaran as I was told to go ahead by Jeannie. I was reluctant to do so but she assured me that both herself and Cheryl will know the way and will make it to the finish. After hesitating for a while, I agreed and gear up myself to chase down Nick and Jamie. And with everything in place and a pair of still pretty fresh legs, I zoomed off feeling rather fresh after a spray of bio water and managed to maintain myself at about 160 beats per minute heart rate at about 5.30 minutes pace.

I managed to pass a few runners en route to Persiaran Selatan as I soon arrived at the long miserable stretch of the rolling highway. Was glad that most street lamps were operational as I ran on the motorcycle lanes though certain stretch was pitch black like the underpasses. But as my headlmap was on full power mode, I navigated with ease as I try to spot a green blinking light (Nick's blinker) and a blue one (Jamie's blinker).

I think it was almost 5KM since I left the check point before I finally spotted 2 headlamps seated by the roadside. Yes, it was both Nick and Jamie and it appears that Nick was struggling with his knee which has swelled up. He asked the both of us to go ahead as he needed some time to relieve the discomfort but we did not want to leave him behind. We needed to get him at least to the check point at Taman Rimba Alam for safety concerns and will let him decide there if he should continue on. We weren't in a hurry and just took the opportunity to rest up a for a while before he finally got back up and resume the journey, slowly walking into it.

When 2 78KM runners meets the 100 Miles runner.

It wasn't long again before we stopped by for a chat, but this time with the leading 100 Miler runner, A familiar face. It was our friend Jeff! Good for him for he was leading by a huge distance. We pushed on after wishing Jeff the best of luck as we started to climb a little towards the mid span of the highway. Jamie pulled ahead when I noticed that Nick was struggling with the climb and decided to slow down to regroup with him. And when we got to the top, Nick managed to find some momentum and strength to run a little down hill before exiting the highway into the Lebuh Perdana Timur before finally turning uphill towards the check point. And there will always be a hill for us to conquer before the check point, huh! Was taking my time and hence gulp down a can of black coffee I had with me before finally arriving to a very dark check point with only a single light bulb lighting the area. Shame on the municipal!

All 3 of took our own sweet time to recompose. As my head was itchy, I took a bottle of ice cold water and rinse it while scrubbing my scalp. It felt really good but could been better if I had some shampoo with me. Haha... While doing so, I heard someone snoring which at first I thought was a 100 Miles runner. But apparently, it was one of the volunteers. Volunteering can be tiring, so respect the volunteers ya!

With myself and Jamie ready to go, we gave Nick some words of encouragement and let him decide whether to push on or call it a night. Both of us slowly restarted our journey back and just before the turn-off back into Persiarang Selatan, we saw 2 ladies making their way to Taman Rimba Alam. It was Jeannie and Cheryl! I am so glad to be seeing both of them here and that lifted all our mood. AM sure they will do just fine as after all, they aren't very far apart from us. And with Nick still resting at the check point, they may just help each other.

We started to run a little once we re-entered the highway but soon realised that we needed to climb a little. We were about a marathon into the run already and surprisingly, I was still feeling rather good. Must been the earlier coffee and my hair wash! We power walked up the slope into darkness before soon spotting 2 headlamps heading our way. We at first was surprised to see that there were more runners heading towards Taman Rimba Alam but soon, we realised that they were actually Yan Leng and Piew who came to lend us support.! Many thanks! And with them, we managed to find our groove too as our pace increased tremendously, like say marathon pace! We were heading back fast, and managed to passed some other runners. Good on you legs!

With companionship, the supposedly long torturous stretch of Persiaran Selatan was soon behind us as we arrived at Taman Cabaran feeling still pretty awake. Despite that, Piew offered me a can of black coffee that he had with him since he started running with us. He had 5 cans with him and with all 5 distributed among ourselves, he mentioned he felt much lighter. Haha...

It was only less than 7KM to the next check point by the lake side via Pullman Hotel. But with one whole can of black coffee just going into my tummy, I needed some time for it to settle down as I slowly walk it off. The gap within myself and the trio was getting bigger but I needn't panic for I slowly resume my run and finally managed to catch them up just before arriving at the check point.

There were signs of sun rise as we refueled ourselves. It's not going to be another mentally torturous section around the core island and I hope to get by it with ease like the earlier highway section. We resume our journey by walking and it was a rather lengthy one. And for those who know, my walking speed is pretty miserable. I was loosing sights of them but I knew they were just ahead. And when the sun is finally up, I removed my reflective vest and also my headlamp which was a much relieve to me, especially my head.

Feeling "lighter" on my head, I began to play catch up to the trio ahead and caught up just before arriving at the park near the Prime Minister's office. And just ahead, we bid farewell to Yan Leng and Piew as they needed to head home for family duties awaits. Thank you for coming and supporting us through the night.

I continued on with Jamie, walking for most of the journey here. At this point of time, despite still feeling rather awake, my foot bed of my right foot is actually aching and I can't wait to reach the check point to have my shoes and socks removed. That I did when I arrived there and gave a good massage to my poor foot before lacing up for the final 10KM.

The final 7KM.

The final 10KM will bring us through all the administrative offices within the core island. The exact same way where we first started our race yesterday night. First we needed to head towards the Prime Minister's office some 5KM away. We started with a 100KM runner who was on sandals and went towards the wrong way. I gave him a good shout to bring him back to the race route and he remained with us for a while as he was just too out of focus at that time. He joined up with his friends later as I continued with Jamie till the park just next to the Prime Minister's office where we rested for a moment. It was also here where we learnt that Nick has call it quits back at Taman Cabaran after about 54KM while Jeannie and Cheryl was still moving forward.

Hanging on.

We pushed for our final 5KM using markers such as street lamps, bus stops and dustbins to allow our legs to run and also to rest. It worked well and after 12:55 hours and through the Gemilang Bridge one more time, we soon arrived back at Taman Sri Empangan completing the third edition of this Putrajaya ultra race with a distance of 78KM.

Glad to have made it without any "tire puncture".

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my performance at Putrajaya 78KM, definitely better than last weekend's Putrajaya Night Marathon. Legs was feeling rather good and surprisingly, I managed to stay awake. I had 7 cups or cans of coffee since yesterday morning till during the race and that kept me going I think. Talk about caffeine overdose!

We ran Putrajaya 78KM! We didn't drive ya. 

After hanging around and cleaning up, together with Jeff who eventually won the 100 Miles category (WELL DONE JEFF!), we headed to the newly open McDonald's for a quick meal and also some over ordering of french fries, and also catching up before driving them home respectively.

With Jeff, the 100 Miles champion holding our ticket to our cheat, I mean recovery meal.

As for the event itself, although I did enjoyed it, I personally felt it was downgrade in terms of quality compared to last year's edition especially in the food department where lesser varieties was served. As for the directional markers, there were hit and misses but the organisers did provide the GPX files for reference so that is actually pretty acceptable, at least for me. But I was glad that Saucony managed to be able to sponsor this event as the official shoe and had sponsored 12 pairs of shoes to the 12 finisher's of the 100 Miles category. I am just glad that my suggestion did somehow managed to pull through at the final hour. Phew...

For what Putrajaya 78KM is to me this year which I enjoyed very much once again, it was my final race for this year as I decided to give myself a lengthy break before resuming with Comrades training. And it was also a fruitful one as both Jeannie and Cheryl ran their furthest when they successfully completed the 78KM distance. Well done ladies! But for many others, I believe we all will miss this run as according to Team Pacat, this third edition will probably be the final one as the authorities has decided to increased the rentals and charges for not only the venues, but also the check points. What a shame but I do hope something can be done else, we might just see Team Pacat moving this event to another place which may also be favourable to us runners.

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