Thursday, October 10, 2013

The North Face 100 Singapore 2013...

Event: The North Face 100 Singapore
Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 5 October 2013
Time: 5.30am
Distance: 50KM (49.58KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire - 5s GPS fix)
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4.0
By Frank

My fourth adventure at The North Face 100 Singapore (TNF50), running the distance of 50KM again. Similarity to last year was it was still a solo individual category, but the difference was the change in route. But before going into the run itself, here's a recap of the drama that started an hour before boarding the plane.

Once again, I flew in to Singapore with Roy, Hong Lan and Yen Erl. An hour before boarding, Mercury Backpackers where we all stayed during Craze Ultra a couple of weeks ago called Yen Erl to notify her that our room was not available despite booking it due to some "technical error". Due to geographical location at that time, the issue was not solve hence we boarded the plane first before going over for some face to face conversation with the person in charge of all this mess, Jake.

Upon arrival, Hong Chew picked us up from the airport and drove us to Mercury Backpackers. It was a serious mess-up by Jake for not capturing our booking and only notifying us at the eleventh hour. And despite trying to solve the problem for us, his reply was not satisfactory! With no choice, we tried our luck at a other nearby hotel and backpackers and finally found Value Hotel at Balestier. We were lucky to find a small room for myself, Roy and Yen Erl and this solved the problem, for now at least. Next was the usual race pack collection at Marina Square before some shopping and dinner at Novena Square before lights off for rest.

About 4 hours of sleep and I was glad it was enough as I woke up feeling reasonably well. Took a bun and washed it down with a can of coffee before the usual pre-race ritual. Everything went smoothly and by 4.15am, we were out of the hotel. Linger around the race site with friends before checking into the start pent. Like previous the previous year, our hydration backpacks were weight before entering but I was surprise on how lenient they were. No checking on physical items like maps and mobile phones, just word of assurance. It may contribute to smoothness in crowd control, but on a negative side of things, may cause blunders during the actual race itself. Certainly not the way to go.

Fast forward to the start at 5.30am, Roy felt rain drops. It was certainly windy but I did not felt it until a couple of minutes before the air horn went off. I quickly change my electronics into the water proof compartment of my back pack as rain came out of a sudden. Upon doing so, we were off with rain drops all over. The rain became heavier but I was glad I had my visor on. Just hope that my super cheap Energizer headlamp does not get electrocuted though.

One for the album before the start.

Upon entering MacRitchie Trail, the ground was already wet and slippery. It was my first run in my spanking new Saucony Peregrine 4 and I have to be careful with it. However, after covering another Kilometer or so in the trail stepping over mud, rocks and gravels, I was already confident with the shoe. The traction was fantastic and I was hopping all over to avoid mud and water puddles! As the rain got heavier and heavier, my shoe also became heavier with water and dirt in it. I had to be careful though as my headlamp wasn't really bright and I had to follow the beams from other runners. Was running at the side as it was the drier part of the route.

After about 4KM, we were out on the tarmac for a while before resuming into a muddy section just after the ranger hut. First greeting was a pile of mud which went unnoticed as my entire ankle went into it causing dirt to enter my shoe. It happened again at the exit of this area and was glad the shoe did not become a mudcake. Before continuing on, I had to highlight 2 very dangerous runners here with the name of Desmond (wearing Salomon white) and Lai (TNF yellow tee). They were running together without consideration of the safety of other runners overtaking and jumping around especially at very technical parts of the course especially slopes. SHAME ON THEM!

Next was a long stretch on the tarmac along the broadcasting satellite area. The security fence was put so close to the side and allows 1 single lane for 1 runner. No overtaking here and I was really uncomfortable at one point of time as there was a faster runner behind me. Jump to the side and into the drain I go. I just had to run a bit faster so that I do not slow him down. There was a stretch with a puddle of water which again went unnoticed, I step into it causing wetness again but it did clean up my shoe though. So it was a good thing as the rain has started to subside here as I entered the Rifle Range Road. To my surprise, Roy and Yen Erl was behind me. The 3 of us were running together since the start. Way to go!

Soon we were into some housing area which I find pretty similar as we regroup and ran together. Next was an area that was upmost familiar. The old KTM track where I ran with Roy back in march 2013's TNF Singapore City Race. It was certainly wet here as the route was covered in grass and mud. But it was fun. It was still drizzling though as we ran and passed some friendly supporters that prepared light breakfast for runner. Such humble people. We carried on passed the first checkpoint before arriving at the u-trun point. Feeling hungry, we stopped by at the earlier checkpoint and took out our very delicious breakfast, "bak kwa" (traditional Chinese dried meat). As it was a big slice, may runners took a glance at myself and Roy. Super yummy! Yen Erl arrived shortly and we continued on.

Along the way back, we noticed 2 runners who got stuck in the mud knee deep! They can't get themselves out and had to resort to emergency help. Am sure nearby volunteers will response. It was a long stretch next before exiting to the tarmac as we headed towards the Dairy Farm Road. 

We finally arrived at the next checkpoint at Dairy Farm Road where GU was supposed to be served. To my horror, volunteers can't helped to the reasonably huge crowd of runners here and I had to open the water bottle myself. Even the GU Energy Gel was no where to be found. Not wanting to spend too much time here, I didn't bother and just carried on after re-lacing due to looseness of my shoe.

I did not spend much time earlier at the checkpoint for I know the next is my favourite checkpoint of all, Zhenghua Park and it isn't too far away. I shouldered on and not thinking too much about time, I was there already. Took time to rehydrate myself and event to relieve myself. Roy and Yen Erl went on first as I took a slightly longer time. I finally caught up with them at Gangsa Trail for that area is built for me, climbs climbs and more climbs. We passed Upper Pierce Reservoir along the way before finally arriving at the u-turn at Mandai. Previous years, we are to cross Mandai Road to where Long Asrama and the fame Hill 265 was. Not for this year and I kind of miss that place.

Bumped into Kim Lai at Gangsa Trail.

Nevertheless, after a quick break at Mandai, we carried on after yet another quick break shortly after the official checkpoint for there are supported handing out extremely delicious food and drinks which include Coca Cola, chocolate stick and brownies. My gratitude to them. It was a long journey back to where we came from and it was downhill at Gangsa Track this time. I was not good with it and this is where Roy and Yen Erl headed me. On the way, we spotted Hong Lan who is cramping. With nothing we can do, we can only offer words to encouragement as she shouldered on. We detoured off to Chestnut Track before finally arriving back at Zhenghua Park and bumping into David who is on his second loop as he was running 100KM. As I arrived in this area first, I had a longer rest time and took time to eat. I had a banana and cookies before resuming. 

"Picnic" at Zhenghua Park.

After resuming my run, my tummy did not feel too good. Must be the banana and I was actually looking around. But I held on and the "feeling" went away. Lucky indeed. Back into Rifle Range via the infamous open area with 3 big pipes, it was back to the long stretch again on tarmac passed the satellite broadcasting area. There were some monkey along the way though they did not pose any danger to runners.

With 7KM to go at Jelutong Tower, we headed into the next checkpoint which happen to be the final u-turn. I was struggling on the way there while Yen Erl was on fire! Bump into Lin Hong here as I managed to slowly pick up my pieces here.

Finally back to the Golf Link and it was another 4KM to go. Yen Erl was still on fire and myself and Roy had trouble chasing her. As we entered Lornie Trail, we knew the end was near as all 3 of us visited this area before. But near feels long indeed as we slowly but surely went for it.

Exiting Lornie Trail with 3 smiles.

The 3 of us finally regrouped together and as we exited Lornie Trail with a smiling face and was cheered on by other runners and park goers. The feeling was great as we soon see the finish arch and finally crossed it in 6:55:05 hours coming in position 201 of 523. WOOTZ...

We broke all boundaries together.

Hung around the area for some post race food like nasi lemak, subway and ice cream while lingering around with friends and other runners. Bumped into Walter, Huey-Na and Marc too. Cleaned ourselves up while waiting for Hong Lan to come back and she made it. Well done to her. And soon, it was back to the hotel some well deserve rest before going over to Orchard Road for some shopping and food, and not to mention a small celebration.

50KM finisher medal.

Overall I enjoyed this year TNF50 very much as I ran together with Roy and Yen Erl since the start. And from being a very hot race from previous years, this year took a change by being wet, dirty and muddy. Overall, the organisation of the race was well executed except for the support department where I felt it took a dip due to manpower issues especially at Dairy Farm. Nevertheless, it was still a good event to look forward to again.

Conquered TNF50 Singapore with Suunto!

Before closing off this entry, here's the second part to the drama with Mercury Backpacker as it has yet to come to an end yet. Yen Erl was notified by for charges due to no show. We headed back to Mercury Backpacker the next morning before heading to the airport co clarify the matter. We felt cheated by Jake as he did basically nothing and wasn't there. The staff has basically no idea on what had happened. Jake should have done something 2 days ago but he did not and I felt that he basically just wanted to get rid of us when our booking did not go through. We managed to settle the problem after trusting on what Jake said over the phone and also verifying with Yen Erl's credit card of a no charge. For now, we took it as the matter is close as we headed to the airport to return home. Mercury Backpackers, nice cozy hostel with bad services? Hmmm...

* My sincere thanks to Saucony Malaysia for releasing and sponsoring the Saucony Peregrine to me for use on this race.

* All photos here credited to respective photographers. Thanks a lot to them.

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