Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Look Back At Year 2015...

By Frank

In terms of running, year 2014 was a good one for me. And when I signed off my 2014 blog entry, I foresee greater challenges ahead for year 2015. And in a blink of an eye, after covering 3,018KM of running distance, I've to say that I had an AWESOME GREAT 2015! Yes, it was certainly full of obstacles and thus I faced them as challenges rather than problems and I've to give myself a pat on my own shoulders for in my very own standards, I think I managed them really well.

Although I was "around", I tried to stay away from the "poisons" from the social media world such as those in Facebook. Too many attention seekers, blamers and "IFters" (a term I use to describe those who always ask IF). Action speaks louder than words and besides that, I rather let my own body and of course legs to do my humble runs. And of course, I will always remember the 2 insults of "Why are you so slow?" and "How are you going to run Comrades like this?" that was thrown at me back last year. Rather than bearing it as a grudge, I guess that will be my driving force. Anyhow, here's a look back from month to month.

The year started with my contract renewal with Saucony who will be supporting me for my third year running which I am really grateful of, for they are a nice bunch of people to work with. But the joy was overshadowed when I discovered my general health wasn't what it seems to be and that was definitely, an alarming wake up call. Upon receiving the news, I was then constantly reminding myself that I need to fill my running "bucket list" as soon as possible and that paved my big plans for the year ahead and also the following year.

Anyway, despite the news, I moved on continuing to pursue my next big challenge, which is to complete my first 100KM trail at the Vibram Hong Kong 100. I continued with my fine form from the previous year pushing my momentum through but although I managed to complete it earning a bronze trophy, it showed how frail I was as my race tumbled halfway into it due to a resurgence of migraine. Nevertheless, I took it as a success and part of "bucket list" was fulfilled.

Completing my first 100KM trail at Hong Kong 100.

And moving on from there, it was all about my fourth Comrades Marathon. My bar was set pretty high this time in an attempt to run a 10 hours or better time at my favourable "Up" run. In me, I knew it was really going to be tough but trust and faith was put on me and hence I had to believe on what was given. After all, to try is better than giving up straight. I took on the challenge and followed my training regime given as closely as possible but at the same time being flexible and most importantly smart about it. And with lots of thoughts in mind, the training kept me occupied and away from thinking too much.

I had 2 long distance races in March to help out with my training which was my first visit to Gunung Nuang for the ultra and also the usual Twilight Ultra Challenge at Singapore. Did considerably ok for the former but didn't do well at the latter due to sleep issues. And in the midst of the training, I was joined by Zijill who will be attempting her first Comrades this year. We trained together and it certainly help us got through the tough back to back runs at least "easier".

There was only 1 event for the month of April which was the King of Bukit Larut 26KM. The rest of the days was as the usual training. As the event neared, I felt a little regretted signing up for it after seeing the very steep profile. It wasn't the ascend that I was worried of, but rather the descent where I was worried about picking up and injury a month before Comrades. But still, I went for it putting full use to my uphill training, and tackling it extra carefully during the descent. And in all, I was surprised I still managed a fourth placing!

May came and it was Comrades month. But before leaving for South Africa, together with CARIF (now Cancer Research Malaysia), I launched my first book entitled "From Cancer to Ultramarathons" which I've written partly at Aberdeen, Scotland during my visit there last year. A biography about myself while stating some facts about cancer, the book was dedicated to my friends, family and those who had to do battle the disease.

My first book, From Cancer To Ultramarathons.

All was well leading to the race as I took extra care of myself. And unlike previous years, I did not fall sick this time. And when Comrades Marathon finally happened on 31 May, my body finally let me down. Although I ran my fastest Comrades, it was only a 10 minutes improvement only, and certainly really shy of the 10 hours target. I knew what happened but it certainly wasn't a question of "If". But in the end, it was still a memorable Comrades as I had a photo finish together with Zijill followed closely by David behind us.

On my way to my fourth Comrades finish with Zijill.

After Comrades, it was another eye opener for me as I visited Namibia as part of the post Comrades reward trip in June. Was joined by Malaysian friends residing in Aberdeen and also met new ones like Edmund, Serene, Hong Jie and Luke. Felt sick for the first couple of days and didn't do much as the weather was really cold during the night at the Namib Desert. But once I was well, it was all business as usual as the trip was certainly a very beautiful one. And to end the month, was the Back 2 Endurance 12 hours looping event at Botanic Gardens by Jeff. Managed again to hit the Comrades distance before taking a short break in July.

Unforgettable trip to Namibia.

In terms of running, July's mileage took a dip. However, it did help in recovering the tired body and legs of mine from the constant pounding from the first half of the year and hence I guess I deserve this rest. But rest I did not as a very dear friend had to undergo a surgery for a recurrence of a knee injury. Although still recovering at time of writing this, I really hope it will be soon before we can hit the roads and trails again together. And I mean SOON...

August came next and I was back in action at the Kuching Marathon, where I started my streak of sub 4 hours marathon last year. However, it wasn't meant to be this year as I lost the "feel" to run when I heard that I could not use it as my Comrades qualifier due to change of qualifying date. However, I still managed to complete the run comfortably with no intention to use it as a qualifier and also had a great time catching up with Cham and Zijill while exploring Kuching.

Fitness wasn't affected from my rest the past few weeks as I carried on into the month of September. However, the annual haze returned and it was extremely bad this year that most of my outdoor long runs had to be cancelled. Instead, I was doing shorter runs indoors. And moving towards the end of the month was the Vietnam Mountain Marathon tackling the 70KM distance. A beautiful but brutally tough race where I fell 8 times due to bad weather and muddy terrain, it was indeed an opener. Nevertheless, I had fun at the race and also visiting the country for the first time which makes me want to return next year, since after all they are introducing the 100KM distance for the first time.

Moments before my first fall at the paddy fields at Vietnam Mountain Marathon.

October came but the haze remained. Most runs were indoor as I waited and trained patiently for the third week to arrive. And when it did, I finally made my trip to Scotland. It was a great trip meeting up friends there and also running a couple of ultra distances there. And this time, I took the opportunity to explore Scotland and also making a short trip to Liverpool to visit the football club I visit. But towards the end of nearly 3 weeks, I found out out that Scotland has just too much to offer that 3 weeks was not enough. Next year again perhaps As Ben Nevis remains unconquered due to bad weather this time.

Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC.

With Chee Kong halfway up Ben Nevis.

I was basically still in Scotland in the month of November. To be exact, I was there till the middle of the month before I made a quick trip to Istanbul, Turkey for a short holiday and also for my Comrades qualifier at the Istanbul Marathon. Almost didn't make it though due to cabin crew strike at Lufthansa which affected my flight but was really glad Turkish Airlines came to the rescue. Expected to qualify but to my surprise, I ran my second best marathon time there. And upon returning back home, I then took on the Putrajaya 100KM where although I ran a good run, it raised an alarm when I discovered blood in my urine during the late stages of the run. However, all is well.

Comrades qualifier at Istanbul dusted!

December is traditionally my rest month and I did just that keeping runs to minimal. Did run the Melaka River Marathon though as part of keeping my fitness in check and besides, just need to get out of town for a while. However, leading to wards the year end was a sad one which will be mentioned in the paragraphs below later.

Overall, year 2015 has been great in terms of running. The health scare was probably my wake up as I began my quest to fulfill my running bucket list. I ran better, enjoyed myself more and had the chance visit Namibia, to run in the mountains of Vietnam and also re-visit beautiful Scotland. And also yes, I finally also threw in the letter resigning from my workplace. Yes, you read this right. I've actually resigned! I am moving on from this hole in mid next year.

Towards the end of the year, it was really painful to witness a friend suffering while battling the big C, sarcoma to be exact which is under the same cancer group type I battled when I was a kid. He was indeed a fighter and a champion even when he breath his last. But nothing ends, it's just the start of a whole new chapter at some other place where we will meet again one day. And for the time being, I will miss you. Thank you Super Kew for everything. #FTT

Our last mile with Kew. #FTT...

On the more cheerful note, I get to know more in person of friends around me and also making new ones in the process. Some of them includes Choon Yuen, Jeanie, Yan Leng, Piew, Zijill and Yew Khuay. And not forgetting my enlarged Scottish family too from Lorna, Minty, Kirsty, Elaine, Donald, Myles. Bill, Steven, Alan, Ross, Jeni, Ruth, Wullie, Chris, Daniel, Patricia, Alison, Ian and Sandra, and many more.

Part of the "mountain" family.

Part of my Scottish family.

Farewell 2015.

Moving forward, I foresee 2016 to be a great year in running as I seek to fill up my running bucket list to "maximum capacity" as I challenge myself to my longest and coldest trail run ever (in my own books), the iconic and the long one at the highlands of Scotland, a distance on trails that I have never attempt before. But before that, it will be half a decade for myself and Chee Kong as we take on Comrades for our fifth time in a row.

My commitments for 2016.

But most importantly, I hope that 2016 will be another trouble free year for everyone as we seek challenges and fun in our daily lives. After all, we are aging gracefully each day and thus should really enjoy every moment of it. Happy New Year everyone!

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

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