Monday, March 31, 2014

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2014...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2014
Venue: East Coast Park, Singapore
Date: 29 March 2014
Time: 7.00pm
Distance: 10KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4
By Frank

The 4th edition of the Twilight Ultra Challenge is also my fourth year running it downing the number 1 bib. And as much as the training for Comrades Marathon goes, this should be last of my longest run as I complete the tough training month of March.

I travelled down to Singapore together with Jason on board First Coach. A slightly lengthy journey down as we were stuck in traffic at the second link causeway but eventually found ourselves resting at the 5Footway.Inn Project backpacker at Chinatown. Easy dinner at around the area and it was lights off early as we tried to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up the next morning with a slight headache and a little stiff neck. I am blaming the pillow or my sleep posture. And to make matters worst, I forgot to bring along my Coenzyme10 tablets to control my migraine. Initially I though it was over before it all started but I remained positive. And another problem I had was my fat percentage. It dropped drastically in the month of March and certainly the percentage I had (reading taken in mid March) can't be enough to fuel me through 16 hours. Therefore, I have to manage my nutrition and food intake to perfection in this event.

Myself and Jason representing Saucony Malaysia.

With Shanaz and Jason, part of the 2014 Malaysian Comrades Marathon runners.

Fast forwarding to the run, we arrived at the event site at 5.30pm. The first 3 editions was held at Car Park D but this time it was changed to F due to some construction works and I certainly welcome the change of environment. The run towards the west side remains unchanged where we still passed the seafood restaurant before turning back near to Car Park D. The run towards the east brings runners to a "fresher" place to run at especially for international runners. And with a slight gradient, the run towards the east was actually preferred, at least by me.

Chilling out before the start.

The usual photography session and socializing around before the run was flagged off at 7pm. Was great to have met up with David, Jennifer, Carin, Hong Chew, Ngah Ling, Xiu Fang, Yim, Kai Wei and not forgetting the organisers Ben, Yee Hua and Phil. My aim was to run 45KM within 6 hours. Why that distance and time? 45KM is where Drummond is, the halfway point for Comrades Marathon so this can roughly give me a benchmark. As close to 300 participants run along the park, navigating through was tough. However, I managed myself slowly under the humid weather and eventually found my way through. The only problem I had was the discomfort I was experiencing behind my head. It was a throbbing pain with every step I take. I grinned my teeth with every step I made and I myself at that time wasn't sure how am I going to pull through this stage of training.

Pain management was utmost important now. I managed my breathing properly and took in more fluids which resulted in frequent visits to the toilet during the course of the run. A little caffeine may help too and I was shocked I left my Kopiko candies back home! I switched to GU Roctane Brew for the caffeine and was just glad that it helped, at least a little. Though the pain subside, it was still there.All I had to do, I told myself was just to bear with it and hope time will pass by quickly.

Hammering the pace.

When everything was a little more under control, I went for my race pace managing an average of 6:30 to 6:45 minutes per Kilometer. It was a grab and go for me at each support station. Conversation was also kept to a minimal as I needed to focus. And focus I did as my first 30KM was of non -stop running before I took a few breather moments by walking quick steps before resuming. And after 4.5 loops, I've finally arrived at "Drummond" 45KM with a time of 5:43 hours. A pretty decent and satisfied time for me and a benchmark for me to improve in speed when training resumes n April.

With the main task completed, I slowed my pace down and switch focus to the next attempt, to try achieve 100KM. Time was certainly sufficient but another challenge came, to try to stay awake. It will be absolutely great to have someone to run together with and the best person was Jason. However, we were moving in opposite directions. After running for hours, I can't be expecting both of us to hasten up to try catch each other. Hence, I slowed down, taking a break occasionally to eat. And after 65KM, Jason finally "sync-in" with me and we were running and walking together. At this point, I was glad my legs were fine. It's just the headache was irritating and uncomfortable. And to make it worse, I was getting sleepy. 

Fast forwarding to the journey back to 80KM, we spotted Carin from a distance. She was limping and we found that her arch was painful with every step she took. Was glad a medic was cycling around and Yee Hua was nearby too. She was in tears due to the pain and we all knew it was over. We told her to stop running and was glad she took the advice before hopping on the ambulance to be driven back to the event site.

When I arrived at 80KM, I saw that I had 2:10 hours to make 100KM. There is still chance for a 100KM though it will be really difficult. Nevertheless, I am willing to give myself a go for it and offI went after informing Jason. I started attacking the distance with a 5:30 per Kilometer pace. The pace was demanding but I told myself to just hang on for just another 2 hours. Pain tolerance is absolute the main thing now till the journey back to 85KM where I felt I pulled some nerve or muscle behind my head where the throbbing pain is. Not risking any injures or any potential health risk, I guess I had to forego the distance and just make it back to 85KM.

The thoughts going through me.

Jason caught up back at the event site and encourage me to follow him for a 90KM. We still had slightly more than hour to cover the next 5KM and it was certainly enough to walk it through. I shouldered on by walking and chatting along. And after 15:47:38 hours, we both finally achieved 90KM together. In fact, it was 92.8KM as per recorded by our GPS where the west side seems to be a little longer than the east.

We completed it together! Thanks Jason!

Firstly, I was glad to go the distance throughout the entire event time, a first for me after 4 attempts which is now considered my best Twilight Ultra Challenge experience. Though it was uncomfortably done, I went through it injury free. Though I achieved 45KM in under 6 hours, I was a little sad that 100KM was not in hand. I wanted it for some reason. But all in all, I guess I am human. I got to be satisfied at the end and look forward.

Overall, once again well done to Ben, Yee Hua, Phil and the rest of the Running Guild people for successfully organising yet again another Twilight Ultra Challenge. However, here are my 2 cents about certain issues, both good and bad:

- Awesome organisation at least from the event organising committee themselves where each and all participants were treated very well. KUDOS and THANK YOU to them all!
- As it's a night event, to disallow participants in wearing ghostly and spooky costumes as some of us isn't going to be comfortable with it. Am sure everyone noticed it, a participant was wearing some ghostly black costume with white and red make-up on her face. And to make matters worst, she was scaring other participants which I found out it was intentionally. It happened twice to me where she just stop and just whisper in ghostly manner to "cheer" me on. Though I know her as much as almost everyone else, I am not revealing her name here. The bib was 55.
- No issues of support station on the east side though it was a little lifeless. The west side headed by Joe, was superb. He with the rest of the volunteers was full of energy as they cheered us as we arrive there.
- The main support station  at the event site was good overall though some volunteers were having too much fun to themselves till participants was neglected where had to serve ourselves. A credit to "Sotong" though for his excellent courtesy and care to each participant.
- The isotonic drink provided was actually terrible. I only took 2 cups throughout the entire event. However, the rest of the food and beverage provided was good. They include Coca Cola, sausages, nasi lemak, instant cup noodle, sandwiches, chips, banana and watermelon. I was missing the oranges though.
- A good initiatives by implementing BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and including a collapsible cup in the race pack. However, volunteers should reserve a few unwanted mineral water bottle at the side after empting them. Most were immediately crushed and some forgetful participants may need them.

The "conqueror" pack.

Overall still, it was still an awesome event, one that is friendly for all sorts of runners whether long or short distance. The main thing is that each of us aren't pressurised to perform. And for myself, this has been my annual peaking phase for my Comrades Marathon training and this year, I was glad to have gone through the entire time given despite the headache. Anyhow, overall I had a good time there. Guess I will still have to return for the fifth edition next year for the illusive 100KM. *grin*

And a group photo to round this edition off!

All photos here credited to respective photographers. Many thanks to them.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Halfway Through...

By Frank

Time certainly  flies. It is now past 11 weeks into training for this year's Comrades Marathon since it all began on the first day of the year. With half the journey through which has already covered base building and improvement phase which has went really well, sadly the peaking phase for "Hell March" did not actually started well due to bad weather and a sick me. However, I managed to at least pick up some pieces left of me and shouldered on. And as of this entry, everything is still pretty "safe".

It's 2 weeks now into the month of March and it all started with exceptionally hot and dry weather, and not to mention the unexpected haze. It was so bad that I hardly can see anything beyond 500M at one point. I was lucky that I am a member of a gym and I can put the treadmill to use. Running was certainly not affected although it was really tough to run long on it. Taking it as a mental training I guess. Besides this, the month started with me feeling bloated. The gut felt bloated probably due to indigestion. It got a little bad towards the end of the first week and I slowed down there, giving my body some well deserved rest. Besides the physical problems, I too had some issues to myself too. Some emotional and mentally draining issues.

The workhorse for this year's Comrades training.

As for shoes, running very close and frequent with me are my Saucony Virrata and Kinvara 4. Once a while, the Saucony Mirage 3 will be out for some action too, though it mainly served as my recovery shoe. The Virrata I am referring to is actually my very first pair which was courtesy from Saucony Malaysia. I used it mainly for speedworks though once a while for longer distances such as close to 30KM. I am going to retire them soon as I've already ran  close to 500KM with it averaging at about RM0.60 per Kilometer, a very cost-affordable-comfortable shoe. Then I've the Kinvara 4 which is also my first pair courtesy of Saucony Malaysia after the launch last year. This pair is still pretty healthy  and am still on active duty. The Kinvara 4 is the workhorse for my training this year as it will be my race shoe come this 1 June 2014 hence its good to train in them to get the best out of everything. As I've picked up  a second pair of Kinvara 4 for the recent Titi 100 and coupled with my second pair of Virrata, there is no issue with my footwear. And in addition, my actual race shoe which is the ViZiGLO edition of the Kinvara 4 has just arrived too!

The outsole of my first Virrata after close to 500KM.

Anyhow, I am still keeping myself positive on training. With another 11 more weeks to go before the big day, there is still a sufficient time for more work to do and to improve. And hopefully in a couple of week's time after this entry is posted, "Hell March" will be completed with a positive result at my fourth Twilight Ultra Challenge, my usual annual peaking event. Here's to the other half of training as my journey to Kingsmead continues!

The Kingsmead Stadium at Durban.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"GLO"ing Into Kingsmead...

By Frank

Sooner than expected and I am absolutely thrilled by it. It's here, my race shoe of choice for the Comrades Marathon 2014, introducing the Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO (K4V) edition!

The Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO.

The K4V shares all the same DNA and technology aspect of all others Kinvara 4. The only change made was the cosmetic of the shoe which is built on an all rounder 360 degree reflective material. "ViZi" represents the Safety Orange colour found on men's colourway while Coral Pink for the ladies. "GLO" represents the reflective from the shoe. Put them together and you get an awesome looking handsome shoe that is made to be seen!

The K4V in its full "GLO"ry!

With the arrival of the shoe ahead of schedule, this will allow more time to be spent with it. Not that I've no K4 to run with, but running in the exact shoe to be use on the race day gives me confidence boost and believe especially on race day. Last year, I only managed to get my pair of race day Kinvara 3 a month plus before the race day, hence this time round, I am so thankful for Saucony Malaysia to have actually rush the delivery of this particular pair to make my journey into the Kingsmead Stadium where the Comrades Marathon 2014 finish line a much smoother one.

The Saucony Kinvara 4 ViZiGLO edition retails at the same RM399.00 and it's made only exclusive to Running Lab Malaysia available in both men and women's colourway.