Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My South Africa Adventure...

By Frank

As mentioned in my Comrades Marathon 2012 race report, here I am talking about my South African adventure. As most of you will have known, I was on a road trip along the South Western Cape after completing my Ultimate Human Race. It certainly was a holiday trip not to be forgotten and I really felt sore that it actually ended so quickly. Anyway, here is what happened in a summary of course. Hope this entry doesn't bore you down.

29 May 2012
A small gesture by Katrina from CARIF and some of my running mates to see me off at Coffee Bean, KL Sentral in the late afternoon before I caught the express train to the airport. Upon disembarking from the train, met up with Wong and we proceeded for the check-in before having an early dinner at Secret Recipe. Flew to Singapore and had a 3 hours lay off there before resuming flight to Johannesburg at 2am.

Seeing off and the journey to South Africa...

30 May 2012
Had all 3 seats to the window by myself but could't sleep throughout the entire journey. Met with a South African who is flying home from Melbourne name Andrew who is doing the Comrades Marathon for his second time.

Flight was about 10.5 hours long and finally, we landed safely at O.R. Tambo International Airport at Johannesburg at around 7.00am in the morning, South Africa time. Airport was huge and immigration process was really smooth. A beagle was called into action to sniff on Wong's bag probably due to the dried meat he brought over for Chee Kong.

Arrival at Johannesburg, South Africa...

Chee Kong and Mei-Ee arrived shorty to pick us up and was soon welcomed by the friendly South African culture by 2 locals. Upon our drive back to Chee Kong's house, we soon experience the rush hour.

Rested for a while in Chee Kong's house before departing to visit the Rhino and Lion Park some 30KM aways. Mei-Ee was too tired to follow though. I had fun at this park simply because I like to see animals. Spent a pretty long day here before going back to pick up Mei-Ee for her new car awaits.

Rhino and Lion Park...

A short run in the evening and for the first time, I struggled on a short 6KM run. Despite being sleepy, it was the altitude and dry air. But this run was needed to be run to acclimatise myself.

Car collection, evening run and dinner...

Dinner was nearby at a Brazilian churasuria restaurant with some fellow Malaysian friends working in South Africa being Peter, Seah and Shu Lin. Didn't really enjoy the dinner though was I was bonking out. It has been hours since I last slept.

31 May 2012
A visit to poorer side of Johannesburg at Soweto. A historical side where Nelson Mandela's use to live at, and also the memorial for Hector Peterson.

The Hector Peterson Memorial...


From Soweto, we continued on to the Apartheid Museum. A lot of the South Africa history is being shown here, and one can actually stay up to hours to actually study through everything. Well, I personally just zoom pass. And before leaving, we had quite a lousy lunch at the cafe there.

The Apartheid Museum...

Shopping mall or Chinatown? I opt for the latter instead although being told that it is nothing spectacular. But its a must visit if you ask me as we are Chinese after all. Indeed nothing to shout about, as it was just a short street.

We returned back home later as Chee Kong had an appointment with his Fourway Running Club runners for a time trial session. All of them ran but I did not despite just being a short one. Dinner was pizza bought from a local eatery and after that, I bonk out again early, still feeling tired.

01 June 2012
The 600KM plus long drive to Durban and the free way has nothing to see except for animals and plenty of mountains. But still, amazing view. Halfway through, we stopped by the small town of Harrismith for some very English breakfast I had pancake with savoury mince and it was simply delicious. Bought some ginger cookies too and they simply taste awesome too.

En route Durban stopping by Harrismith...

Continuing with our journey, we soon arrived at he legendary town of Pietermaritzburg, and soon found the original first starting line of the very first Comrades Marathon back in 1921. We then proceeded to the Comrades Marathon House was simply blown away by the exhibition there! The stories, legendary runners and the medals and trophies were all shown here.

The Comrades Marathon House...

We drove along the race route and even paid an early visit to the Wall of Honor. And from there, we drove till Botha's Hill before turning off on to the free way as it was getting late. Arriving at Durban, it was straight to the Race Expo at the convention centre. It was huge but we did not start our shopping today. We just collected our race pack and met up with some friends. I met up with Kelly from Singapore to pass her some stuff and off we went to check into our hotel by the seaside, Belaire Suites.

Pietermaritzburg and the Wall of Honour...

Dinner later was with some other Comrades runners at a pasta restaurant call Spiga. New friends like Karsten, Caroline and Susan were made. Didn't really enjoy the dinner though as the taste wasn't impressive. But probably I was cold and tired too.

02 June 2012
Woke up rather early and just roll around on the bed before going down to the cafe for breakfast. Pretty good breakfast I will say before we all proceeded to the Youth Run just around the corner. Mei-Ee was taking part in this 10KM run and I witness the strong African runners in action. Indeed an eye opener for me. Wrong shoes, torn shoes or even no shoes at all, they can really run!

10KM Youth Run...

Mei-Ee completing her Youth Run...

After cleaning up, its back to the expo for some shopping. Things were really expensive compared to Malaysia but at times like this, I just have to buy some of them as they served as important mementos for the run. Spent quite a long day here before going back.

Comrades Marathon race expo...

And in the evening, a quick visit to the seaside to catch the lighthouse before dinner at Ocean's Basket. Good dinner but race mood is kicking in. And after dinner, its back to the hotel and its rest for the big run awaits!

03 June 2012

04 June 2012
A long drive back from Durban to Johannesburg. Stopping by halfway along the freeway at Harrismith for lunch at Nando's, we spotted lots of Comrades runners clad in the official yellow tee limping around. As I was limping around too, we all smile and even joked at each other. Even the store manager and waiter and waitresses at Nando's saluted each of us for participating in the run.

Upon reaching Johannesburg, we proceeded to the nearby supermarket to buy some food for braai (barbeque) later back at home as part of our celebration together with our Malaysian friends Peter, Seah and Shu Lin.

05 June 2012
An early climb out of bed to catch a flight to George, we also going to miss Wong as he will be leaving back home to Malaysia on this same day. The flight to George was on board Kulula, and I was quite surprised at how good it was compared to our local low budget airlines. The only complain was the super hard landing at George some close to 2 hours later.

Upon arrival at the small airport, we soon got our rented car, the Nissan X-Trail Gear. Pretty comfy car and we soon zoomed off into the mountain enjoying the scenery while on the way to ostrich town, Oudtsshoorn. Upon arrival at the Safari, we had lunch there and I had a SUPERBLY DELICIOUS ostrich kebab.

Ostrich Safari at Oudtsshoorn...

And at the stroke of noon, we began our tour with a short video presentation before heading out to the farm. The ostriches were huge but they do look stupid. And once the tour of the farm is done, it came the moment of true where I was suppose to ride an ostrich. Sucky the ostrich was chosen to be my ride. With my legs still sore after the Comrades Marathon, I can't really cross my legs below the belly properly. And before I can sit properly on it, off came the face mask and off he went. After 2 small loops around, I fell off the big bird! I wasn't injured except for some scratches on my arm and was just glad that his big feet did not stamp on me! However, it was still an experience.

And before leaving the safari, we then proceeded to witness ostrich racing with "Jenson Button" taking on "Fernando Alonso". It was rather an amusing race where Jenson won!

It was all the way to Mosselbay later and we finally arrived at our hostel, the Santos Express Train. A very unique hostel in the shape of a decommissioned train by the beach, we spent most of our time at the cafe while enjoying the sea breeze and also the flight of seagulls before calling it a day after a long drive.


06 June 2012
It was a terrible morning to start with. As the hot shower facilities at the Santos Express Train is run on geysers, the high possibility of the fire being blown off by the strong wind is there. And this is what exactly happened to me during shower. The water just turn ice cold!

After a very nice breakfast, we continued our road trip journey to the southern most tip of South Africa, Cape Alguhas. Taking a break halfway at Albertinia, we visited a local wine shop there. The lady owner was super friendly and even asked for our autographs as myself and Chee Kong ran the Comrades Marathon. We eventually wrote or wishes in her log book. And next to the wine shop was this stall selling roosterkoek, some sort of sandwich which was very TASTY! 

We soon arrived at Cape Alguhas Backpackers Inn. 2 very friendly dogs being Milo and Coco welcomed us as we checked into our respective chalets. It certainly was comfy looking and most important, it came with powered showered facilities! After checking in, we checked out the beautiful beach hoping to see some stingrays but failed to do so.

Cape Alguhas...

Then it was to Cape Alguhas, where the 2 oceans Indian and Atlantic meets. It was simply magnificent and I think I can actually stay at this small town. Just love the peaceful environment here. 

A short stop at the local supermarket to buy some food for dinner before returning back to the hostel to clean ourselves up. But dinner did not turn out to be as the food we bought was too little and by the time Chee Kong found out, the supermarket is already close at 7pm. Therefore, we had dinner at a small restaurant where my dinner turned out to be pork knuckle without realising it!

Further up from Cape Alguhas was the ship wreck. Sunset taken back at hostel...

Back at the hostel, it was some hanging out at the bar area while updating and updating photos on to our Facebook with Chee Kong. It was a chilly night but I was glad that the room has a heater and I quickly called it a night

07 June 2012
I simply adore this small town that I decided to go out for a short morning run with Chee Kong. Very cold morning with reasonably strong wind, I was struggling with every steps as my legs is still painful from my big run. After hitting 3KM, I asked Chee Kong to go ahead while I ran walk while taking videos and photos of the nice waves. And back at the hostel, I had trouble opening my room's door as my fingers were too cold to actually turn the door knot. Waited for Chee kong to return before I managed to enter.

Yesterday;s dinner became our breakfast this morning and thanks to Mei-Ee for preparing it. We left this fabulous town on route to Cape Town. It started pouring soon and the wind was so strong that the car was shaking.

We stopped by at Hermanus, the place known the best to spot whales. We had an early lunch at a cafe by the seaside and sat for quite a while hoping that the whales will appear. Sadly, none came. But at least lunch was good and service was super friendly. This small but yet modern town is also very nice to live in too. Perhaps another visit next year.


Continued our journey to Cape Town and it rained the entire journey. And when we finally got there, we checked in to the Green Elephant Backpackers. Kind of run down and my room themed Dolphin is actually pretty scary with a huge painting of a mermaid on the wall! I slept with the washroom lights on for the next 2 nights!

We then finally met our Singaporean Phil who is actually staying very nearby. We all drove to Hout Bay for the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge race pack collection and briefing. Nothing much there and after all is done, we ended up at a small cosy Thailand restaurant for dinner after avoiding being "cut throat" at some rather expensive seafood restaurant by the wharf. This is the start of our oriental dinner now after having meat and seafood the previous days. And the quality of the food here is actually very good too.

Then it was back to the hostel for some photo uploading again before calling it a night.

08 June 2012
Probably one the most beautiful drive around South Africa along the coastal roads of Cape Town. Picked up Phil and while just exiting the town, I spotted some fins out of the water, There were dolphins! Out of excitement, Chee Kong drove our vehicle up the curb to park along the road and we got down the car to have some photo shoots. Despite being far from us, it was still a very good experience to see a school of them.

Simon Town...

We then ended up at Simon's Town, the town where Able Seaman Just Nuisance lived and served the Navy. He is actually a dog, a Great Dane in fact. We had breakfast at yet another cosy seafood restaurant call Salty Dog which is absolutely fantastic. And after a satisfying breakfast, we carried on to Boulder National Park to witness penguins. Cute birds, it was rather amusing see them walk as we do walk like them now after running the Comrades Marathon.

Penguins of Boulder National Park...

Next stop was the big one within Table Mountain National Park visiting Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, the western most tip of South Africa. The weather played a fool with myself and Phil every time we wanted to walk up to the light house at Cape Point. Every time we spotted the rainbow which means rain halfway walking up, we turned back. And after 2 efforts, we decided to take the cable car instead. However, the view at the top was simply beautiful. Back at the bottom, while opening the car door, my pizza lunch after flew off my hand and onto the car's mat. Imagine how strong the wind is? Cape of Good Hope was just along the sea. Witnessing strong waves, I still prefer Cape Alguhas.

At Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope...

Next was a coastal drive up to Chapman's Peak cruising along the running route for the Two Oceans Marathon. Spectacular view indeed. We then returned to Hout Bay and stopped by the fisherman's wharf to witness some really fat seals. Then it was snack time before continuing our journey to Signal Hill hoping to catch a glimpse of Table Mountain. It was really cold there and it rained. I hid in the car with Mei-Ee while Chee Kong and Phil went out adventuring in the cold. And thankfully, the cloud manage to stir away and we caught the glorious view of Table Mountain. And from there, we proceeded to a shopping mall by the seaside to check it out before returning to the hostel to clean ourselves up. Everyone was beat to the max.

Dinner was Chinese this time as Phil recommended a pretty good restaurant owned by mainland Chinese. It was probably so good that Phil ate 5 bowls of rice!

An early night after dinner as it was race day again the next morning.

09 June 2012

After completing the race, together with Phil, we returned to the China Mainland Restaurant for dim sum buffet which was actually pretty good. Had a good meal there before we proceeded to Rhodes Memorial not too far away. Just a short visit there before we bid farewell to Phil and then returned back to the hostel as Chee Kong needed to pack up for his flight tonight to the Texas. And in a rush, he though he has lost his newly bought mobile phone to the hostel's cleaner which then Mei-Ee lodge a complain the next day (phone was found in Chee Koon'g luggage when he arrived at Texas).

Rhoedes Memorial...

We then proceeded to the airport in the evening. It was my first time to Cape Town International Airport. huge and spacious but kind of quiet. A simple dinner at Ocean Basket before we say goodbye to Chee Kong. I then proceeded for some light shopping and finally bought a few Vuvuzelas before going back to the hostel to rest.

10 June 2012
A really tough day as this will be the day that I will bid farewell to South Africa after having so much fun. Flight was at 11.35am with Mei-Ee's flight to Johannesburg a few minutes later. As we are earlier, we had an easy breakfast at Wimpy before bidding farewell to each other.

I was on the flight to Johannessburg and it was pretty empty. After laying off for about an hour there, more passengers boarded the plane and it soon filled up. As I only had the middle seat empty this time, I could't get myself to sleep hence I started drafting out my Comrades Marathon event report till the battery of my notebook went flat. And after 12 hours of flying, I finally landed at Changi Airport and quickly transited for my next flight back to Kuala Lumpur an hour later.

Upon retrieving my main luggage back at Kuala Lumpur, I realised that it was wet. Immediately I know that my wine bottle broke and I just can't wait to get back home hoping all my important stuff especially those from Comrades Marathon are not soaked. And once everything was unpacked, it was back to reality where I went back to work. 

Till my next South Africa adventure...

Good things always come to an end fast without realising when we are having fun. And I would like to take this opportunity to THANK my very good friend Chee Kong and Mei-Ee for their excellent planning and hospitality. And to those friends that I met along my trip, it was really great to have met all of you. I'm really awed by the awesome friendliness of your country. Till my next South African trip and I can't wait for it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2012...

Event: Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2012
Venue: Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 24 June 2012
Time: 4.30am
Distance: 42.195KM
Shoe: Asics Skysensor Neo
By Frank

Woke up or shall I rather say flip up from the bed with zero hours of sleep at midnight and sat there thinking on whether shall I run this race. Recovering from cough and also migraine, I was feeling moody. Laid back on bed only to officially step out of it half an hour later telling myself that "Yeah, I will go for it to just try to finish it".

With mum not around, the kitchen wasn't stock up on food hence I only managed to find a single pack of instant noodles for my breakfast with a cup of warm water. Didn't go with my usual coffee or hot chocolate due to migraine.

And after all the necessary preparation which I initially thought so, forgetting my sunglasses, I arrived at Dataran Merdeka at 2am only to find major roads closed to traffic. And I though I was early, the place was already almost fully packed with car parking lots taken up. After 30 minutes of rounding around, I finally found a parking lot just behind the court house which charges a ridiculous RM5 per hour! I thought so that will be the rate on working days since they person taking care of that place weren't there yet. I started calculating though as I only RM60 with me at that time which should be more than enough. (I was charged RM15 later).

With the race still a couple of hours away at 4.30am, I loitered around meeting up with some friends. Fast forwarding to it, I started together with Eugene at the rear. The start was just all right with the start signal no where to be heard. Started ok but the pain on my left knee starts creeping in at one kilometre later. Yeap, the damage from the Comrades Marathon can still be felt, and it got even more painful with every stride taken. All I can do is just to bear with it as much and as long as I could.

And it was quite a busy start for me acknowledging wishes, shaking hands of runners, friends, customers and those who recognised me from the recent newspaper article that was related to The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research on my Comrades Marathon accomplishment. This really came as a shock to me as there were just so many of you. Was really embarrassed but really THANK YOU all for it!

The pain got really bad and I was slowing down just past Sungai Besi highway entering back into KL City. Eugene and Roy came along but I just couldn't hang on to them. And halfway into Jalan Loke Yew, I had to stop to stretch. But came along a motivator, Mohan. He told me this. "Frank, you just did the Comrades. Think of that and don't run this race like the usual Frank. Just run and enjoy it. Remember, you just did the Comrades". This was a wake up call for me and certainly something that spurred me on.

I continued on limping, walking and running with more people coming alongside to congratulate me on Comrades. My hands are just as busy as my legs. Hahaha... Alvin was kind enough to walk together with me and I had a good quality short chat with him as we both chatted about beautiful South Africa. Michelle also later came by to offer me some muscle spray. However, it was my joint that was hurting and I don't use this kinds of spray. Nevertheless, thank you Michelle for your kind thoughts.

Running pass Jalan Tun Razak, the Golden Triangle district, KL Tower, Jalan P Ramlee and fast forwarding back into Jalan Tun Razak, I soon spotted Sky from Singapore helping out a runner laying on the floor stretching his leg. I too stopped to help him out, at least to fan both of them using Sky's very traditional Chinese fan! And then, we continued together.

Into Jalan Ipoh, I suddenly miss Chee Kong's company. 2 years back, we were both limping around here when he was still a novice marathon runner. Look at how much he improved now! My right legs too wasn't in good condition now. With both legs screaming, came along another ultra marathon buddy, Yip. He was on his bike cruising along. He disembark and we both walked and chatted together. Again, a company that I greatly treasured. I needed that walk!

I needed to run a little for I needed to complete this run within the 6 hours cut off time. The buffer is slowly disappearing and the alarm rang when I spotted the 6 hours pacer balloons of Uncle Sonny, Irwan, Alexis and Yen Erl. They are coming in real fast and with both my legs now hurting together with both my adductor muscles screaming along, I ran trying to widen my gap with them as I believe in their pacing skills. And while doing so, I tried to encourage and drag along some other runners who were struggling. "I told them, we need to run. They are coming. Its time to start to believe in yourself that you can do this"! Trust me, the word "BELIEVE" is a very strong word!

No matter how I ran, walked or limped, the balloons got closer and eventually got to me. This is where I tried to hang on to them dearly. Whenever one of them came beside me, I started running to create a gap  before slowing down again.

Into Bukit Tungku and then Kenny Hills, Uncle Sonny and Irwan started to pick up pace. And my legs wasn't feeling really good here as it was a downhill, I lost them. However, both Alexis and Yen Erl was still behind and I knew the chances was still there. 

Run run run. Almost there...
Photo courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

While entering KL City with just 1.5KM to go, Alexis came beside me for some encouragement. I told her my legs were really painful but the show must go on. Time was on our side we have enough of it to walk till the finish. But we didn't and we ran. Faster and faster I ran and soon arrived at the finish funnel to the finish. I stop and all eyes were on me. I told those line up by the side, I owed my success to the pacers and I will finish it with them. The squad of balloons soon formed into a single line as they slowly near me. And when they did, I resume my run again and soon, we all did it together and cross the finish line with a time of 5:51:52!

It was one heck of a painful run and I'm just glad to have actually completed it. Though I did thought of not showing up at all, but once I started the run, all it takes is just an effort to finish it, and that is the main task. Thanks to everyone in the 6  hour pacer group for a job well done and off I went to collect my finisher's medal. Not very well organised, the organisers actually ran short or misplace the full marathon finisher's medal. And when I got mine, there were actually 2 of them in my bag. I returned one quickly to them hoping that there will be one less argument there.

Overall, the event was managed pretty well among Malaysian standard. It's still a long way to go when I now  only have the Comrades Marathon as a benchmark as the best ever event among all I've participated. The lonely and lifeless streets of KL City and the lack of motivational support which also includes from the volunteers themselves is something Malaysian event organisers need to look at to brighten our local events. But one thing I'm really happy to see was the implementation of the stack system for hydration at the water stations. I believe Wan Yew Leong  from Runners Malaysia was the brainchild of this and I'm really happy to say that his idea has finally been accepted and it worked so well!

The finisher's medal...

And so, with the completion of this run, I guess my legs deserve a well deserved rest. Comrades Marathon certainly showed how much it can "damage" the legs and how long does it take to recover. With the Comrades Marathon 2013 training starting in no time, my first stage is to love my legs now! Absolutely no running for now till 3 weeks time. Till then, see you...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Celebrating CARIF's 10th Anniversary...

By Frank

Yesterday (21 June 2012), CARIF or Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation celebrated their 10th anniversary at Sime Darby Convention Centre with a gala dinner. It was certainly a dinner of a different kind for me. It was posh and everyone came in suits, dress and evening gowns. And with a simple but yet powerful tagline for the evening, "Hope Lives Here", it shows that cancer can actually be beaten and we celebrate that this evening.

An evening of celebration...

So very true...

6 years ago, I bought a set of suit in conjunction with Danny's wedding back then. And that was the only time that I actually wore that set which includes the leather shoe as well. And so when I knew of the dress code for the gala dinner, my worry was, will I still be able to it into the suit? Luckily I was able to and the sole of the leather shoe did not come off. Phew...

And so, I arrived really early hanging out just outside the Grand Ballroom before meeting up with some friends of CARIF. Soon, more and more people arrived and so did the 4 people from CARIF that I work closely with being Professor Teo, Sook Yee, Katrina and Peter. Katrina and Peter both introduced me to many people, some of them being well known doctors, surgeons, deans and scientists.  It was certainly nice and fruitful to have exchange conversations with them. At some times, I was embarrassed myself too as many knew who I was and I actually do not know them!

The reception and art exhibition...

And there were also an art exhibition and also auction where paintings inspired by our human body, anatomy and cancer research is being painted out. I really like one of the paintings but just couldn't afford it. Therefore, I bought a 2013 calendar which has the pictures of the paintings on it. Besides, I also bought some merchandise which is for a good cause as all proceeds will go towards cancer research.

The painting which I really like...

In the grand ballroom, there was a presentation being played on on 2 gigantic screens. It showcases the history and achievements by CARIF. And out of a sudden, I saw my Comrades Marathon finishing photo! Was pretty shocked to actually see it there and at that time, I hope no one notice me standing at one corner.

We were all then ushered into the ballroom to our table to await for the VIP guest arrival's which was YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir and Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah. A short speech by the founder and trustee of CARIF, YM Tungku Ahmad Yahaya and dinner was served along with some on stage performance. By the way, I was seated together with Katrina, Peter and Benny.

Dinner is served...

Something fishy I found out...

Dinner was actually very good with the first 2 dishes being prawn and salmon. Soon, it was Professor Teo's turn for her speech which was just inspirational. Her speech was really creative and powerful. Then came YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir's turn after a short presentation. As many will have known, he did not need to prepare a script for what he is going to say and that what just what he did. And he delivered his speech so well that it was entertaining at the same time. All of us laugh!

Tun Dr. Mahathir giving his speech...

Time passes by and dessert coming in the form of a chocolate cake served with either tea or coffee is served. I could not resist the temptation of having something chocolaty despite still experiencing migraine hence in went the cake while enjoying performance by renown pianist Bobby Chen.

And with the end of the performance, comes and end to the dinner as well. We all proceeded out to the reception hall for some catching up. I loitered around for a while trying to catch Professor Teo. She was one busy lady but in the end, I managed to. And at the end of everything, it was already close to midnight.

With CARIF's very important CEO, Professor Teo...

It was certainly a unique evening not to be forgotten. Truly a first experience of this kind for me and also meeting our former Prime Minister in person. Totally enjoyed myself and certainly learnt so much more, I would like to sincerely THANK to Professor Teo and everyone and CARIF for inviting me to this celebration of hope.

And if you would like to know more about CARIF or even what can you do to help out in cancer research, do visit Of course you can always pop a message to myself too and I will be happy to share with you what I know.

My charity haul for the night...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge 2012...

Event: Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge 2012
Venue: Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa
Date: 9 June 2012
Time: 8.00am (South Africa time) / 2.00pm (Malaysia time)
Distance: 20KM (20.78KM by Polar RCX5 G5 GPS)
Shoe: ASICS Gel-Fuji Racer
By Frank

Treated as a recovery run after being tempted by Chee Kong to participate in this race and just can't resist the beautiful scenery as shown on the website, I opt to enter myself in the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge despite knowing my legs won't be in good shape after Comrades Marathon. And a race that is usually sold out in a matter of a day or two with only 300 total runners cap, I doubt the quality can go wrong especially when we are talking about a South Africa event. Like the Comrades Marathon, the direction is alternate each year and for this year, it's actually an "Up" run. However, it will begin to descend to Hoek Bay beginning at about 14KM till the finish.

And so a week after the Comrades Marathon 2012, it was a near no show for me at the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge as I awoke 5 hours before the race start with a bad migraine. After 3 years since it last struck me, it decided to return at this time. Just dumb luck I guess. Trying to shake off the pain, I fell asleep again only to wake up 15 minutes before we are suppose to leave for the starting venue at Fish Hoek Beach Sailing Club. Did almost nothing except for my toilet rituals and off I proceeded to the starting venue with Chee Kong, with Mei-Ee driving us there.

With Chee Kong before the start...

Teeth was not brush, hair in a mess and still smelling of yesterday (hope it wasn't that bad), we arrived safely after about half an hour's drive. First thing first was to have our equipment check. And they were strict. Race passport, water proof ponchos, space blanket, first aid kit and hydration are essential equipments. Less one item, and we are not allowed to enter. I personally think that this should be the way to enforce race entry, as part of the welfare for the runners themselves.

The starting venue at Fish Hoek Beach Sailing Club...

And after all the necessary, it was loitering around the club while waiting for the official start time at 8.00am just at the beach. The race start was a simple one and soon after, I was the last runner trying to catch up with the others. The beach is not an easy place to run with the loose sand sinking in. And with my legs hurting almost immediately, I was moving really slow trying to hang on to the runner ahead of me. The run along the beach was nice actually and runners were laughing away when the waves came close. It was about slightly under a kilometre long before we hit the road and this made my legs condition even more painful. Easier to run on but more painful and I can't wait to enter the trails.

It's the start of the ascend slowly and I could see runners stopping by to readjust their gear. And finally, the entrance to the trails via some steps before the rocky muddy terrain welcomed us. The pain on my left legs started to ease and when I look back from where I started, I was just simply amazed by the scenery. But then, I spotted a beautiful rainbow shining upon Table Mountain and I know the rain is coming! And so did the photographer agreed on and I ran!

The first half of the race...

The rain eventually came and went, just a slight drizzle but I am glad I had Chee Kong's water resistant jacket on. Kept me warm and dry. Arriving at PC1, I met with the Visser family which is made up of Gerard, Louise and their daughter Nicole. It was great to run alongside them and having to chat together exchanging the cultures of our countries. And along the way, we also met some of the mountain rangers together with the Labrador Retrievers. One of the rangers named Clint was 87 years old!

We ran through lots and lots of different terrains such as rocky, muddy, wooden planks, rooted tree branches, crossing of free ways and streams while passing by the PC2 and PC3 checkpoints. As we arrived at the halfway point mark near the Silvermine National Park at about 12KM into the race, all 4 of us were informed by the marshall there that we did not make the cut off time of 2 hours missing it by slightly more than a minute. But the some what good news is that he wasn't the one to make the decisions as the final decision lies with Claire, the event organiser. Well, sad to know but it did not dampen our race. Yes, it did not, and we continued on! That's the spirit!

The halfway point...

Continued on into our next path call Elephant Eye which overlooks Silvermine Dam. Again beautiful scenery and we finally arrived at PC4, the final checkpoint at 14KM. This is the highest point located at Blackburn Ravine. And from here, we can see the finish venue of Hout Bay some 6KM away, DOWNWARDS! The terrain here is simply rocky and yet slippery and its a single lane trail going down. At the immediate start of the descend, being my clumsy self, I knock my left knee on the wall resulting in a blue black immediately. OUCH!

Professional shot of me descending from Blackburn Ravine...

I was really slow and clumsy going down and at times, I actually went down on my bum to actually climb down. And its here, we were joined by Stephan. I was leading the pack and I hope I am not slowing them down. And it was a run till a waterfall where I stop and thought that we ran into a dead end. But Gerard was convinced the path was correct and off he went down through the waterfall. We all followed and it was definitely slippery with loose rocks all over. Shoes was soaking wet here!

The mountain route towards Hout Bay...

Soon, the normal trails were back and the Visser family slowly broke away. Stephan started to slow down probably due to sore legs. I tag alongside him. And when were back to some rather flatter terrain, we began to run and soon into some bushes and finally the road. It was the end of the trails and we both knew that the finish line is near. We can see the Visser family making themselves on to the beach and I really wished at that time that all 5 of us were together.

When myself and Stephan finally got onto the beach, the first thing that I was glad that the sand here was of the "solid" kind and it did not move around loosely unlike those at the start. A Labrador Retriever who was retrieving his frisbee thrown by his owner quickly greeted me. There were a few other dogs at the beach and it was nice to see them play around. One final obstacle was a rather wide rapid stream that was flowing into the ocean. We both stop and while Stephan took off his shoes, I was like thinking, "Let's Do It!" and I dashed across into the icy cold water. Both my shoes was soaked to the max and my toes were numb form the coldness. But it was a fun and unique experience but I can't say the same for my shoe.

Running towards the finish...

Chee Kong who completed his race much earlier was across the stream to greet myself and Stephan. And he ran together with us before detouring off at the finish line. The finish line at Hout Bay was a low key one and upon arriving, we quickly have our passports scanned to ensure we make he cut-off time which we gladly did in 03:57:09 third and fourth from the bottom! We were greeted by the Visser family and all 5 of us took a photo together for a really sweet memento before I left with Chee Kong and Mei-Ee as we had a dim sum appointment with Phil for lunch!

Congratulating Stephan for a run ran well...

With Gerard, Nicole, Louise and Stephan whom I spent most of the time with during the run...

Chee Kong and myself with our fishy souvenir...

I'm glad I turned up for this run despite waking up wonky due to migraine. And despite coming in third from the bottom, I was glad to have made new friends along the way and enjoyed the scenery together with them. This is probably the "true" trail run I experience thus far. The terrain and the running surface truly made it stand out from the others I've participated. And the scenery was one to be enjoyed truly! Simply BEAUTIFUL!

The unique wooden fish finisher's souvenir...

Before closing off this entry, I would like to thank Ms. Kris Lee from Giga Sports Sdn Bhd and Asics Malaysia for sponsoring the pair of Asics Gel-Fuji Racer for this race as it work remarkably well on the very technical course of the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge. It kept me away from rolling down Table Mountain. ;p

And also thanks to Mei-Ee for lending me her Nathan Endurance hydration backpack as it helped saved some of my luggage space.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comrades Marathon 2012...

Event: Comrades Marathon 2012 (Down run)
Venue: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Date: 3 June 2012
Time: 5.30am (South Africa time) / 11.30am (Malaysia time)
Distance: 89.28KM (90.89KM by Polar RCX5 G5)
Shoe: K-Swiss Blade Foot Run
By Frank

This entry was first drafted out while on the flight back home on 11 June 2012. It was further fine tuned before it was officially published. Apologies it took so long to have it published as this epic journey is just truly EPIC!

Blogging on board Singapore Airline SQ479...

To be honest, I really do not know where to start? If I were to start the day I left for South Africa till the final day, this entry is going to be a thesis! And I do not have the habit to actually break down my event report to several entries. Therefore, I guess I just pay attention to the Comrades Marathon itself on this entry while summarising off my road trip in another entry later. I will try to recap as much as I can remember for the journey was really long.

Comrades Marathon 2012 route profile...

Waking up at 1am with about slightly more than 5 hours of sleep, I did my usual pre-race rituals. Plain water this time instead of coffee couple with 2 waffles and an energy bar was on the breakfast menu. We left for an “89.28KM Up” drive from Durban to Pietermaritzburg at about 3am. It was a really cold and to my surprised, the hotel actually pre-packed breakfast for each of us to be taken during our journey before the race start. They really treated the Comrades runners like their idols and heros. I did not take the breakfast though for fears of stomach discomfort. And during the drive, I closed my eyes to get extra rest and also to concentrate. 

Malaysian contingent before leaving for Pietermaritzburg...

The journey was smooth albeit fears of delays due to road works near Pietermaritzburg.  Upon arrival, we disembark just outside the town hall and my worst fear came true. The temperature was really cold. It was about 8 Celsius plus the wind. I was shivering even by putting the Grabber Warmers on and both Chee Kong and Wong came to my assistance by providing me an extra pair of gloves and also to help me put on the black garbage bag to keep me warm. It helped and I began to jump and jog around to bring my body temperature up. It wasn’t an easy task but at least it kept my mind off the cold.

Yeap, it was cold. Wong helping me putting on the black garbage plastic bag...

Garbage plastic bag runners ready to run...

Coincidently, all 3 of us felt the urge to visit the potty loo. I’m glad I brought along some tissues and the “honour “ was to share the small pack with Chee Kong. The loo we visited was dirty and smelly but when we have to go, we just have to. After making our deposit, we made ourselves to the legendary starting line where the original and first run was held back in year 1921 just outside the Pietermaritzburg Town Hall. The atmosphere was unbelievable with runners especially the South Africans dancing and singing away. We took some photos for ourselves and wishing each other before myself and Wong parted ways with Chee Kong who is seeded at Pent C. We both later spent some time outside Pent E trying to warm ourselves up and to stretch. At 5am, Wong checked into his Pent F while I visited the loo again before checking into the last final Pent H.

Race start atmosphere just outside Pietermaritzburg Town Hall...

I loitered around in my pent and saw the many expression of the runners. The joy, fears and dreams were written all over. At 5.20am, runners were then grouped together and from Pent H, we all squeezed into Pent F. I was lined up alongside some HIV positive runners judging from the race gear. The national anthem was soon played followed by ShoShoLoza and finally the official song that gave Goosebumps to all, Chariots of Fire. And finally, the sound of the cockerel and the gun went off. Both was so loud that everyone heard it loud and clear, and we all cheered for it. For me, I actually shed some tears of joys for being able to stand on this legendary starting line. I told myself, “This is it. This is what I came here for, for a cancer free tomorrow”. I started my chrono immediately as this is a gun-to-gun race and 12 hours is all I have to get myself back to Durban.

As time goes by, the crowd began to move and in 8 minutes 32 seconds, I arrived at the start gantry. And just before arriving there, I took of my poncho, black plastic bag and gloves. It was a cold especially on my fingers but I do not want to cross the start gantry looking like a running garbage bin in this historic race.

I started pretty well trying to navigate through the many runners. It was rather smooth sailing here but I kept to my pace. But at about 2KM later, the urge to pee came again and I had to do it by the roadside for no mobile toilet was present. There were a lot of other runners doing that too including the women runners. I guess the cold weather is taking the toll on our bladders. Resuming the run after reliving myself, I soon paid attention to the supporters lined along the streets shouting and cheering. Not hired by the organisers but rather citizens of South Africa, they were wrap in jackets and blankets taking to the streets in the early cold morning to cheer on the runners. They sang, danced and saluted us. Truly amazing!

The first major climb soon came at Polly Shorts but I managed it well. At 10.5KM, my first and a different kind of disaster struck here for I needed to pee again. With no choice, I ran to the road side only to step on POO! Do not ask me where did it come from, human or animal, but just darn it for being there! GROSS!

The journey along the early stages...

I then continued my run hoping with every step, the gooey substance on my right shoe will slowly go away especially running through wet surfaces around the refreshment statin which came into the picture shortly. Took my first water sachet here together with my first GU Roctane. The plan was to have about 100ML sips of water at every 5KM and energy supplement at every 10KM.

The journey along Polly Shorts to Camperdown  was rather “village-like” with long grasses, plantations, mountain views and industrial factories forming the sceneries. However, I just do not understand where the supporters came from? They all lined up beside the roadsides and cheered for us. And it isn’t just about 10 supporters, we are talking hundreds of them! Some brought chairs, radios and even preparing braai (barbeque in South Africa). We runners can actually just ask them for it and they will welcome us to just take it.

Supporters along the route. AMAZING!

Just after passing the highest point at Umlaas Road at 810m above sea level, greeting runners just before Camperdown was a little sandstorm which caused some flying debris and also some smell from the chicken farms. Inside the town itself, again hundreds of supporters were out to support. The first Fourway Runners support crew is supposed to be here at Camperdown town some 30KM from the start but I couldn’t locate them as Mei-Ee was on duty here. She was holding on to my 2 extra GU Roctane but luckily it wasn’t important as I had more with me. It was like a backup. Instead, I had my first taste of salty potatoes that were served here. I took half of the baby potato and tried it. I first though it was at least warm but I was wrong. It was cold but rather tasty with quite a lot of salt added to it which actually burn through my ulcer on my lips which was resulted from the cold weather the past few days back in Johannesburg. And it was here that my legs began to tire and soon came my first walk.

Cheers for us the supporters did, in the spirits of Comrades...

From Camperdown, it was Cato Ridge next, another scenic run along the mountain roads before hitting the second big hill at Inchanga. I do not know how many times I’ve walked as my legs wasn’t feeling good anymore especially my left I.T. Band. It was not just sore, it was painful. The sub-11 hour bus (pacer) soon passed and I knew my buffer was gone. Then came an elderly 7 times Comrades runner (4 times finisher) name Joey. He saw me limping around and offered to pace together which I gladly welcomed. We pushed together positively and he kept reminding me that we will get to the finish in time.

Wind is so strong that the distance marker took a tumble despite having sand bags on it...

I ran together with Joey till about the halfway point at Drummond before I lost him while we both rehydrated ourselves. The place was packed with runners and supporters and despite my effort to slow down and stop to try spot him, I failed to. From here, I again was running on my own pace again. Ran pass the Wall Of Honour as I have already visited it 2 days earlier. Then it was Arthur’s Seat where I quickly grab a stalk of flower nearby and threw it in hoping to get a blessing for stronger second half of the race, as said by the legend.

The Wall of Honour...

Arthur's Seat...

Next major climb was Botha’s Hill. The sub -12 hour bus passed me here. I tried to hold on to the group but they were just moving too fast. With my left I.T. Band hurting like there is no tomorrow and to make matters worst, my left knee was showing signs of discomfort too.  I was limp walking-running and the buffer I built is slowly fading away. And once I arrived at Bothas’s Hill, the route became unknown to me as this was where we turned off into the freeway 2 days ago during our drive to Durban and I was glad with it. Sometimes, not knowing the route will be indeed an advantage to me. I just ran, ran and walk at times.

The bus is the one with the flag. The rest were following...

Soon, another blessing in the disguise of a 9 times Comrades finisher from Johannesburg name Morne who offered to assist me. Like Joey earlier, I gladly welcomed his offer with open arms. We ran and walked together and we kept chatting to motivate each other. We exchanged the culture of our countries and this felt like education on the road. And when I got worried, he assured me that we will get to the finish in time. I trusted him for he is after all a 9 times finisher with none failures. We ran!

Together with Morne, we push forward beyond our pain barrier. When I stop, he stops. When he stops, I stop too. When supporters called me Jackie Chan, Chinaman, Hongki,  Japanese or even greeted me “Konichiwa”, we laughed. And when supporters called him an OZ (South African and Australia sports colour is similar green and yellow), we both laughed. It was pure entertainment in sportsmanship spirit for the both of us. However, things went down at about 68KM. Morne’s stomach was giving him problems. He was slowing down and he wanted me to go ahead. I told him that we came so far together and we should finish it together. He disagreed and urged me to go. With a heavy heart, I finally obliged. We gave each other a hug and we both pushed on with me surging forward first. I was sad, but there is no turning back now. It’s all down to me now.

From here, it all began to go downwards. The actual “down” run begins here and the descend was so steep that even my right legs including my knee began to feel. I ran and walk holding back the pain on both legs for as much as I could. Both my groins especially my right was in pain and it felt like cramping. I remembered Luc’s advice to run faster which I did, to shake it off and it helped a little.

The descend into Durban...

Entering the fourth climb at Field’s Hill, I was just glad that I made the cut-off time here. I had no idea on my time there but was just glad. I continued pushing and soon was running on the freeway. I was still amazingly impressed with the number of supporters lining up by the roadside. With 15KM to go, I was hoping that there was none of them in sight as I needed to pee again! Finally, it was all clear and into the bushes I went.

Down, down and down, I soon arrived at Cowie’s Hill, the last major climb of the race. Morne’s advice earlier was to walk the entire stretch off but knowing my strength of going upwards, I ran. Even my legs felt better this way. And when it was over, it was down again.

The final cut-off point at 45th Cutting and with the final 7KM to go, against all odds and defying the pain, I began to BELIEVE. In goes my final GU Energy Gel for the extra boost. Time is there although not entirely “healthy” but with positive thoughts and believing hope will always be there, I pushed with all that is left in me. I ran for as far and fast as I could even breaking the sub 4 minute per kilometre pace at times. It was the run of my life, whether ascending or descending into Durban.

The final 3KM was a flyover that welcomed me into the city. Into the city and I know I just have to recompose myself and save my legs for the ultimate assault to the finish. My legs were a goner but I knew at that time that all I had to do was to bear with it for like another 20 minutes or so. And so I did reminding myself that what hurts now is nothing compared with having a needle buried in my bone marrow while I was awake! With my energy level still pretty good, I surged forward through the street of Durban before all the inflatable sponsor gantries of sponsors greeted the runners. 1KM TO GO!!!

Into the city of Durban...

Into the Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead...

Supporters were lining along the streets cheering for us. And finally, I saw it. The Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead. Step by step, I was nearing it and finally as I entered the stadium, I finally took out the Malaysian flag stored in my rear pocket for the entire journey and wrap myself with it. The green grass welcomed us and the final run towards the finish line was a three quarter around the stadium. Names and country of origin of each runner were announced as we ran pass the final timing mat. And soon after, I saw it. The FINISH LINE. Flying the Malaysia flag with both arms and with a pink ribbon pin onto my race bib in support for breast cancer awareness, I proudly cross the finish line with a time of 11:53:49! I DID IT!!!

The Comrades Marathon finish line in Durban...
Time shown here is of Chee Kong...

Tears began to flow as I fell to the ground where the Comrades grass (the shape of Comrades Marathon logo) is and gave it a kiss. As soon as I stood back up with my lips covered with a few strands of grass, Mr. Peter Proctor, the president of the Comrades Marathon Association came over to congratulate me and shook my hand. I was really honoured!

Into the medal collection tent I walked with tears still flowing, all runners congratulated each other for a job well done. A kind lady volunteer congratulated me and hung the copper made Vic Clapham medal over my head and gave me my estimated finishing time card. “I DID IT”, I told myself again but at the same time had my eyes glued on to the big LCD screen of the stadium. I have yet to forget about the other runners out there especially both Joey and Morne. With barely 5 minutes to spare, I really hope both of them and as many other runners will make it.


And finally at 5.30pm South Africa time, Mr. Peter Proctor shot the gun at the finish line to signal that the race is over. A human barricade was then immediately formed at the finish line preventing runners from running pass and I could see the dismay of the runners that came so close especially the first runner who happened to be a lady from Singapore. It was just so close and it was certainly cruel to end the race this way.

With nothing I can do, I continued walking to the exit trying to spot Chee Kong, Mei-Ee and Wong. And once I spotted them, I quickly walked over and gave Chee Kong and Wong a huge hug for all 3 of us made the cut. It was a major accomplishment for us no matter the timing. Most important is that we finished and all of them supported my cause for a cancer free tomorrow.

Trying to control my tears as Chee Kong congratulated me...

The Malaysian contingent DID IT and proudly with our national flag...

We rested, chatted and took some photos together. And with Chee Kong’s iPad, we posted live updates on Facebook on our achievements for we are sure that our friends back home in Malaysia and Singapore are cheering and rooting for us and anxiously waiting for updates.

The climb out of the stadium wasn’t an easy task. A series of stairs was needed to be overcome and all 3 of us were limping like penguins. A long walk to the car as we met other runners like Caroline congratulating each other before we make our short drive back to the hotel.

The Malaysia contingent results as follows:

Chen Chee Kong – 08:55:53 (Bill Rowan medal)...

Wong Fook Seong – 10:50:15 (Bronze medal)...

Chong Wei Siong, Frank – 11:53:49 (Vic Clapham medal)...

After cleaning ourselves, we proceeded to the nearby Ocean Basket for some fish and chips. Although appetite isn’t really there yet, we forced ourselves to eat as it was essential for recovery. And once all done, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest for a long drive back to Johannesburg beckons us the next morning.

The Comrades Marathon Vic Clapham medal...

Medal haul from the Malaysian contingent at Comrades Marathon 2012...
From Left to Right
Bill Rowan (7:30 - Sub 9 hours), Bronze (9 hours - Sub 11 hours) and Vic Clapham (11 hours - Sub 12 hours)

And so, the Comrades Marathon 2012 and my first ever joint project with CARIF under The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research finally comes to a close successfully. With my deepest and sincere gratitude, I would like to thank the following people and company (in no particular order) for supporting and believing in my cause:

- My parents for supporting and caring for me since I arrived in this world and also taking time to run the show of the store while I was away.

- Professor Teo Soo Hwang, Yoon Sook Yee, Katrina Low, Peter Kang and the entire team over at CARIF for making The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research a reality.

- Comrades Marathon Association and the people of South Africa for not only making the Comrades Marathon happen but also in making the race experience truly something beyond words. I am still IMPRESSED and AWED!

- Walter Tan, Marc Pereira, Karen Chua, Carey Ooi and everyone at Outdoor Venture Pte Ltd and Running Lab Pte Ltd for the support given.

- Running Lab, K-Swiss, GU Energy Labs, Runners Malaysia and 2ndskin for their support.

- Chee Kong and Mei-Ee for their excellent planning and hospitality for this trip.

- Wong Fook Seong for the new friendship and company together and all assistance given before and after the race.

- Joey, Morne, all runners and friends I came to know about before, during and after the race.

- Kelly Lim and Christopher Koh from Singapore who helped with the TURCR project over there.

- To everyone who have donated, pledged, supported and believe in myself and my cause.

- All supporters back home who were constantly updating themselves on my race progress.

The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research may have come to a closure this year. However, the race for a cancer free tomorrow still rages on and much is still left to do. Donations and supports are still most welcome and more info can still be gotten from myself or from CARIF at Sime Darby Medical Centre, Subang Jaya.

Dedicated to CARIF on their 10th Anniversary and everyone who experienced cancer...

Here are some facts about my run at Comrades Marathon 2012:

- Thoughts of my parents, love one, dear friends, those life affected with cancer and my cause during my run. Did not actually thought too much of the route itself. I just run, and walk when I couldn’t run any longer.

- 19,547 (15199 men / 4348 women) signed up for Comrades Marathon 2012 with 11,952 of them completing the run successfully within the 12 hours cut off time.

- Consumed 4 sachets of GU Roctane, 2 servings of GU Chomps, 2 sachets of GU Energy Gel.

- Consumed 4 half servings of salted potatoes.

- Drank 9 cups of Pepsi, 1 cup each of Mountain Dew and Mirinda Orange. Yeap, I took the risk and gladly no stomach discomfort.

- Drank about half sachet (130ml) from each pack of plain water and Energade isotonic drinks taken. Did not count how many sachets taken.

- No actual cramps experienced during the run although the sensation was felt around the calves, hamstrings and groin regions.

- Ran 90.89KM instead of the official 89.28KM as couldn’t run in tangent resulted from the huge number of runners. 

- Temperature varies from 8 to 15 degree Celsius throughout the run.

- Was called numerous times Jackie Chan, Chinaman, Chinese, Japanese, HongKi, and even greeted "Konichiwa" by supporters cheering for us. Replied twice saying I am from MALAYSIA!

Till Comrades Marathon 2013...

Till 2 June 2013 for the Comrades Marathon 2013 and also the second edition of The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research, here’s signing off from Singapore Airline SQ479 flying over the Indian Ocean on the way back home.

* Photos used are part from myself while others credited to Chee Kong.