Saturday, December 12, 2015

Putrajaya 100KM 2015...

Event: Putrajaya 100KM 2015
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 28 November 2015
Time: 7.00AM
Distance: 100KM (104.6KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Zealot ISO
By Frank

To run a very hot 100KM 2 weeks after my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul doesn't seem to be a good idea. With sore legs, tired body and facing jet lag, to run the Putrajaya 100 which I got lost and suffered badly last year, it would have been another disaster in the making. But still, I wanted to run it to see the improvements being made for it's an event organised by the good people over at Team Pacat. And it's an event to remember our late friend, Abang Zack who left us a few months back.

Though I managed to cure the jet lag a week after returning home, I did not know if my legs and body will rebel against me or not. Sure they do feel fine and I kept them going by doing light workouts at the gym, but it will be another story during run day on torturous conditions like the weather.

Anyhow, although I returned home from work early, I couldn't get myself to sleep and only managed an hour or so before I needed to prepare myself to get to the run venue early before 5AM to deposit my drop bag and to collect my race pack. I had a light breakfast at home and while on my slow drive there, I bought myself a set of McDonald's breakfast to slowly munch down while waiting for the run to start at 7AM.

Arrived with 15 minutes before the "cut-off" time to deposit our drop bag, I was delighted to see how strict the organisers were, in ensuring all mandatory items are brought along by the runners via a simple "lay them out" on the table procedure. If any participant is found without any of them, they will not be allowed to collect their bib which in the end, not allowed to run. Mine went smoothly, before I returned to the car to rest while having my second breakfast.

With breakfast settled and feeling energetic, I don't think I am able to rest more and hence geared up and returning to linger with the others. I opt for the Saucony Zealot ISO instead of the Kinvara series as I thought it will be a great send off for this pair which had hit 800KM worth of running. Race briefing 15 minutes before the start by Arman followed by the national anthem and the runners were soon flagged off beginning at 7AM in a wave of 20 starting with the 20 runners doing the 160KM.

Zhen Yang and Barkley taking their "bromance" to another level with a 100KM.

Ken out supporting the runners this year.

Armed with the Garmin eTrex which I borrowed from Roy just in case I get lost again like last year, I started my run in the third wave. Plan was similar like Istanbul, to cruise comfortably within the aerobic zone. This is exceptionally critical as the heat will really mess it up should I enter the anaerobic zone. I was the first runner to lead my wave and hence no bottle neck as I made myself to the Gemilang Bridge. Zhen Yang and Barkley who started earlier was taking their own sweet time "walking" on the bridge and a quick selfie with them before I zoomed off to where Ken was ahead. Selfie with him too as I continued my way to the first u-turn point near the Prime Minster's office. Everything fell into place pretty quickly and I was comfortable with it. The u-turn was after a flight of stairs but what surprised me was the signage was telling the runners to continue running straight. Informed the volunteer there who was assigned to inform the runners to turn about it and he seems bewildered with it too. I hope I don't overshoot this turn when I return later at night though.

Getting cheeky with a slice of Nuttella sandwich.

Anyway, I cruise along the core island and soon arrived at the first check point. Took a Nuttella sandwich and a few sips of water before I continued on. Heard a familiar voice ahead asking me to hasten up. It was Hong Chew and she was asking me to run ahead to where Ben was as she wanted to take a photo of the both of us. A photo with Ben who is running the 160KM distance is hard to resist even if I was munching on a sandwich. Hehe...

With Ben who is running the 160KM distance.

Continued my journey with Ben before I was join by Jeff and Yew Khuay. As the path along the lake has plenty of junctions, I relied on the eTrex. The route was to bring us to a park just behind the Prime Minister's office and it indeed was an eye opener for me as I've never been to this part of Putrajaya. Was cruising with Jeff and Yew Khuay, while Ben was happily tagging behind.

As I entered the park, I found myself with Yew Khuay only as Ben and Jeff has fallen slightly behind. Although this is my first time I am running with Yew Khuay, I know all about his strength and what he is capable of doing.For those who don't know him (although I will be very surprised if you don't know him), he is an uprising young and talented runner, and I am just happy plus honoured to be running with him at this stage cruising comfortably in a 6.30KM/H pace.

Great to have Yew Khuay for company.

We headed for the u-turn which was manned by a volunteer. Though there was u-turn signage there, it was really small, probably the size of an A4 paper and I worried that most runners will miss it especially during the later stage at night when I believe there will not be a volunteer here. Nevertheless, we both made the turn and soon spotted a group of runners making a wrong turn. Told them of the correct way and we moved on, back to the first check point which doubles up as the second. Took in some dates and water, a quick visit to the loo and we are off again towards the third check point at Taman Cabaran.

Check point 3 is 5KM maybe 6KM away making it the closest among all. However, after running along the Pullman Hotel lakeside, it involves a little climb at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) which should take the toll of some muscle. Arrived safely there with Yew Khuay and some familiar faces like Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo and Si Main was there.

Wonderful shot by Maxon as I prepare to leave Check Point 3.

After the closest in distance next will be the longest as the fourth check point is some 13KM away and we had to run along the torturous hot and humid freeway. And before doing so, both of us made sure we hydrated well before making our journey. I had an extra bottle stored in my drop bag here but to my surprise, there were all still in the bag unpacked! I wonder what was the volunteer doing since the bags left the start as early as 5AM! Told them to quickly unpack them after retrieving mine as the majority of runners will soon arrive. Fill all my bottle up and off I went off with Yew Khuay.

Jeff and Ben weren't far behind us as we made our way out. We started slow by walking as we chatted and shared some of race experience. And through this, I get to know a little more of Yew Khuay and also remembered that he was still recovering from a shin injury, which explains why I am still able to be running with him at this stage. He will probably be gone in the distance if not for this. We started running a while later and soon was joined by a young German lass name Nathalie and also Siaw Hua as we entered the freeway. Nathalie was on a vacation study here and doesn't seem to know her way around. Besides, being a German, our weather is certainly "melting" her away. Anyway, all 4 of us run our way but in close proximity.Myself and Yew Khuay slowed down a little to prevent ourselves fro over heating. We even took short walk breaks in between and the extra bottle of water I carried along to splash myself with helped in cooling my temperature down.

Though I was still feeling comfy, the heat on the freeway was slowing both of us down. But with the unselfish support from Marlina, Zaini, YK Foo and some others who appeared along the freeway stretch, it kept our spirits high. And not forgetting the friendly honk from Nick who appeared out of no where on the opposite side! We also caught up with Foo who was running the 160KM distance. Great to be chatting with him for a while but not too happy knowing he was struggling. He has a come a long way in his running career and I would really like to see him complete the 160KM!

Fast forwarding, I finally arrived at the freeway's exit and into the housing area before entering the Taman Rimba Alam which involves steep climbs. The good news is, the check point is just right behind this hill and we successfully arrived there followed closely by Siaw Hua. Budiman and Chandru who both are running the 160KM was already there chilling and resting. And for the first time, this check point comes with ice cubes as I stuff come of them into my clothing. I also needed some proper food which I think the Asda Belgian Chocolate Waffle from Scotland which I allocated in my drop bag here is considered proper enough together with some chilled watermelons. Spent a little longer time here before starting my journey to the halfway point with Yew Khuay, Siaw Hua, Budiman and Chandru.

It was to be another long journey at about 11KM or so to the fifth check point located at Taman Wetland. With the afternoon sun blazing on top of our heads, it will be another torturous stretch where it will involved some freeways too. Anyway, the first stretch was to exit Taman Rimba Alam and we got a little lost when the directional marker was "accidentally" turned to another direction. However, we still got back to the correct route as all of us went through a big loop. We each started running after exiting the park while everyone was slowly easing into it, Siaw Hua was going strong.

We all soon arrived at Precinct 14 together, an area where I got lost last year. Despite having the assurance of not getting lost this time, some minor discomfort on my left metatarsal started surfacing. While the others found their rhythm and took off, I decided to play safe and tried to walk it off. And while doing so, I had Nathalie for company as she was still "melting" under the sun. We walked together and exchanged some of our cultures as I found out that she apparently is a mountain trail runner back in Germany and a good one too. Just as we approach Taman Wetlands, Ewegene who is leading the 160KM distance was making his way out and still looking good.

We finally got to the halfway point but I was shocked not to see Yew Khuay there. A quick check with Siaw Hua before I learnt that he overshot a junction. Was hoping the "damage" wasn't too much so that we can be running the return leg together. Hong Lan who was here to support gave me a can of ice cold Wonda Coffee which I was really grateful to have. Took it down with some chicken soup while I rested my leg feet by taking off the shoe and massaging the metatarsal area. Took some fresh and dried fruits while waiting for Yew Khuay to arrive but sadly he did not. He must have went really far as the last I saw him, he was running strong.

Most were sitting on the floor at Check Point 5. Not easy to get up though.

I couldn't waste too much time and needed to keep moving which I did shortly after Jeff went off. And when I just exited the check point, Yew Khuay finally arrived and didn't happy at all. Hope he is fine and will catch up later. As I had too much liquid earlier, I continued walking as I met many runners making their way to the check point. Some familiar faces was Cikgu Syed and also Renee paced by Zijill, both doing the 160KM distance. Nathalie also passed me in the process but I have no intention to start running yet. And on the freeway, even more familiar faces like Foo, Zhen Yang, Barkley and Kevin as I cheered each and everyone of them to keep moving.

Foo all wrapped up to shield from the sun.

After walking about halfway through about 6KM and arriving back at Precinct 14, I finally resumed my run. Jeff and Siaw Hua was both way ahead already and no where to be seen. As for Yew Khuay, I guess the momentum was lost after getting lost and he was not to be seen too. I was on my own then making my return though there are still many runners making their way heading the direction I came from. Cheered for almost everyone and reminded them to turned right at the Precinct 14 roundabout, as that was where I got lost last year. Most acknowledge with a smile, a thumbs up gesture or in anyway they can except for a pretty rude runner from East Malaysia who gave me that "I don't give a damn" look (he DNF by the way).

Anyway, just before re-entering Taman Rimba Alam, memories from last year where I met the late Abang Zack came flashing back. I remember he was motivating me to go on while I directed him the correct directions towards Precinct 14. Though he is no longer physically with us, am sure he was caring for each and everyone of us on this day. You will be miss my friend.

I shouldered on towards Taman Rimba Alam and arrived safely back at check point 4. And to my surprise both Siaw Hua and Jeff arrived later.They apparently slowed down a little and went back towards the wrong big loop in the park while I used the correct route which explained the switch of our positions. But none of this is important for us for the camaraderie and respect for each other is strong within us. I rested a little longer again to ease my left foot while both of them left earlier.

Took some fruits and away I went. As usual, an easy walk first before resuming my run. Besides, there was some climb back into Taman Rimba Alam before the freeway. The weather got better but the rain did not come. When I re-entered the freeway, I could see Jeff not too far ahead. As for Siaw Hua, she was just a tiny dot in the distance. Must the white powdery thing she mixed into her drink back at the check point which gave her the push!

I managed to catch up with Jeff and we both did the run walk strategy together. Like earlier with Yew Khuay, this helps both of us in arriving at the next check point "faster" without having to think too much. And fast forwarding to it, we both arrived at Taman Cabaran just before sunset with Siaw Hua no where to be seen. According to the volunteers, she has left much earlier! She was really awesome!

Again I took off my left shoe to ease my metatarsal as both myself and Jeff helped ourselves to the watermelons. The volunteers this time was really helpful unlike those from the earlier shift as they motivated us to push on. Jeff left earlier as I slowly put on my reflective vest and headlamp as the sun began to set. It was also an excuse to rest my left foot a bit longer.

Once ready, I was off running as I found myself coming back to "live"! Somehow, I felt refresh again and managed to run without much struggle. Just before arriving at the PICC, I saw a runner running towards me It was Siti and apparently she started late due to work commitments. Hats off to her for even starting the race. She is indeed a tough lady as despite starting late, she still finish her run in third position later!

Next I soon reunite with Jeff as he stop to put on his reflective vest and headlamp. I wanted to wait up but he asked me to go on seeing me coming back to "live". Told him to catch up once he is ready as I continued on through the lake side at Pullman before arriving at the Gemilang Bridge and soon back at the earlier second check point. It was pretty dark as there was no street lamps or lanterns provided and I pitied the volunteers. All they had was just light from the phone and also the headlamp should a runner came by. They were awesome volunteers too and I managed to crack some jokes with them especially the cendol joke where I told them to prepare a bowl for me when I return next.

Once done, I continued my journey towards the park just after the Prime Minister's office along the lakeside. I was alone most of them time. Couldn't see Siaw Hua at the front, nor Jeff at the back. I was also wonder how was Yew Khuay doing. I was still hoping that he would catch up so myself with him and Jeff can complete this run together. About 4KM along the lake side, I saw Siaw Hua heading back. She mentioned she is starting to struggle but apparently she looked very strong as I told her to keep her head up for she is into her last stretch soon. We both pushed on and soon entered the park. But one thing I don't remember is how far was the u-turn. I kept searching for the signage but it did not appear until 1KM in! It was a little one by the left side with a small reflective! I could have miss it!

After making the turn, I decided to rest a little on the bench.  Was feeling sleepy too and instantly enough, I dozed off for 10 minutes or so. The lack of sleep from yesterday has began to take its toll on my heavy eye lids. I continue to push after the power nap and bumped into Jeff making his way into the park. Next was Yew Khuay not too far behind and it seems my wish for all 3 of us to finish together may come true after all.

I stopped for a pee stop when I came upon a toilet. What I didn't knew that time was this is going to change the whole remaining game. It was the first time in my whole running career and life that I was peeing blood! Despite not feeling unwell or any discomfort, I knew there was something amiss with my body. Besides, there were white stains on my hydration vest, signs of dehydration. Besides, I was spending a long time pushing under the hot weather earlier. Despite 2 pee stop earlier, it was clearly my fluid intake wasn't sufficient which led to this. I had to walk back to the check point in order to prevent any damage to myself. I had to go on economy mode now despite still feeling all right.

I made it back to the check point safely. Despite feeling all right, the mood wasn't really there anymore since my earlier pee stop. But still, I remembered my cendol joke earlier and crack it out to the volunteers. Informed them of my situation and the medic who was there wanted to put me on drip. I refused and told him that I wanted to continue on with ease and should I feel uncomfortable, I will give Arman a call to call it a night at any distance later. That was my promise to him and he allowed me to continue.

Took a bottle of isotonic drink along despite having 1 liter of water with me. I don't think I will be needing it, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. Though I wasn't running, I was power walking and soon found myself nearing the Prime Minister office again. It was another 5KM to go till the finish and I asked myself if I can hack this. And based on my condition at that moment in time, it was a "Yes" as  slowly broke into the run.

I ran into the 52KM and 78KM category runners who began their run about half an hour earlier as I approached the Prime Minister's office and most of them cheered me on. I was really appreciative of their kind gesture in spurring me on. Thanks everyone! And as I approached the flight of stairs, I spotted many runners overshooting the u-turn point. As expected, the earlier signage was missing and there was no volunteer to guide them. As I passed my bottle of unopened isotonic drink to a fellow lady runner, I tried to direct as many runners possible to make their turn hoping that the others behind will follow like a chain. Some shouted to the runners ahead who overshot to make their turn, but I guess many will have already been upset by this small mistake by the organisers.

I resume my run after doing what I can. And as made my way around the roundabout, a rather familiar voice called my name. As my own headlamp was shining ahead with many others shining back, it was hard to tell who is who. But I knew that voice, it was Nick who was running the 52KM distance with Jeannie and Foo. And with both of them are Jamie, Zijill, Choon Yuen, Richi, and Lum. We stopped for a chat and shared some of my run story till then, and of course my recent pee stop. And with that, they decided to switch the attention to me to ensure that I make it back to the finish safely. With that, we bid the best of luck to the trio doing the 52KM and parted ways.

I was hustling on the final 4KM return leg at a pace of 5:30KM/H. Did not know where did I find my strength but perhaps knowing the finish was nearing, I came "alive" again with the gang following closely. I began emptying the bottle of water I had by wetting myself on both my arms to keep my temperature in control and also both my soft flask my taking small sips so that I can run lighter. And at one point, my right calf seize up for a moment. Was lucky it didn't turn into a cramp as I managed to shake it off after some hopping around.

Though I took short power walk breaks in between, I believe the pace I had at this closing stages of the run was one of my fastest. I always reminded myself that the fastest pace will always come at the final 3KM of each ultra, a reminder I always had in me whenever I ran the Comrades Marathon. And soon enough, I was back the Gemilang Bridge where the others decided to carry on with their own training run.

The last stretch was dark but I still had some juice left on my headlamp's battery pack as it was starting to blink. I guess it wanted to act as signal to the organisers waiting at the finish line. And with every step, I came closer and eventually arrived back to where I started as I crossed the finish line safely on both my legs in a time of 16:14:31 hours, a new personal best for me considering the distance was almost 105KM! Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of race organisers was all there to welcome me home too and I was really appreciative of that. And not only that, thank you Hong Lan, Hong Chew, YK Foo, Roy, Si Main, Maxon, Marlina, Zaini, the GC group and many others for their continuous support. Thanks guys!

I made it back.

Siaw Hua finished earlier as the overall champion for the 100KM category while I settled for first placing for the men's and second overall. Jeff arrived about 10 minutes later, followed by Yew Khuay half an hour later. Am just glad all 4 of us made it back safely as it was indeed a tough day out there. Thanks everyone for the  run together.

Thank you Saucony Zealot ISO!

Overall, I really cannot ask for more for my performance out there today. To clock a new personal best for the 100KM distance a couple of weeks after my Comrades qualifier at a country with a 6 hours difference, it was indeed an achievement. But I guess my recent trip to Scotland did help a lot where I did most of my training runs there since the haze. It helped with not only my fitness but improving my strength a little. As for my position, I personally do not think I deserve to be called a champion for although I was in peak form, Yew Khuay wasn't. Besides, he got lost halfway through. Therefore, I personally do think that he deserves the title of men's champion for he fought hard. As for Siaw Hua, she is one tough lass and bravo to her for coming in as overall 100KM champion. As I mentioned before, as the distance get longer, the women will excel! Siaw Hua was a good example. But all in all, this is a non competitive event and it's a great platform for those who would like to go beyond the marathon distance and hence, everyone is a champion on their own, as long they play the game cleanly with honour.

My split times provided by CheckPoint Spot.

Myself, it was my first time seeing bloody urine. But I assure everyone that there was nothing wrong as I've followed up with a check up. It was probably due to the body flushing out the red cells which was damaged due to the constant pounding on the very hot surface. But thanks everyone for your concern.

As for the event itself, I am glad I am part of the second edition. Though still plenty of room of improvements, I would like to congratulate Team Pacat for a job well done in improving this event over last year's edition for it is important that organisers listens to feedback and implement them. WELL DONE Arman, Mikael and Zul!

But here's some of my suggestion to further improve the event for the third edition:

- To install bigger, preferably A3 size waterproof markers at critical junctions or u-turn with bigger reflective materials such as glow sticks.
- Ensure each marker is installed properly to minimise the chances of it being moved around by the elements such as strong wind. Some were pointing the wrong way at this year's edition as they were easily turned around.
- Use different colour codes or boards for outbound and inbound directions.
- To provide lanterns or headlamps to volunteers at each check point. They are not too expensive. Poor volunteers I met at Check Point 1 and 2 were in the dark.
- To include a senior supervisor at each check point to supervise the overall operations. Was shocked that drop bags were not unloaded at check point 3 despite them being sent out as early as 5AM!
- To inform volunteers to at least assist the runners in filling up their bottle or hydration bladder. Most were just sitting around playing on their smart phones or chatting away as tired runners arrive. But kudos to those I met who have been really helpful!
-Prepare a few chairs for the runners. Chair were all used by the volunteers at the fifth check points leaving runners having to sit on the floor. Volunteers did not even bother to look at us.
- To send out sufficient ice and other necessities such as fruits to the check points as early as possible. Ice was not available till the fourth check point outbound. And ice together with watermelon ran out at the same check point during my inbound journey.

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