Friday, January 15, 2016

Watergate 16 Hours 2016...

Event: Watergate 16 Hours 2016
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 09 January 2016
Time: 8.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 7
By Frank

I've never had the chance to participate in Team Pacat's Watergate 16 Hours before as I've never heard of the first edition and it was set a week before the Hong Kong 100 last year. But when I learnt that I did not get the ballot for Hong Kong 100 this year, I finally had the chance to try it out at the third edition and hence it became my first race of the year, or shall I call it first sacrificial for the year. Why sacrificial? Well, it's because as usual all the races leading up to Comrades (and this year I have the West Highland Way Race too) will always be used as training and will always be tackled with much care to minimise any risk of injury.

The format is similar to Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) of Singapore. To try to run the maximum distance in loops over 16 hours. And for Watergate will be 2.5KM out to Palace of Justice and 2.5KM back to Taman Sri Empangan which will give a distance of 5KM per loop.

The race pack collection was moved an hour earlier to 4PM and knowing my type to secure a safe parking spot, I arrived at Taman Sri Empangan 15 minutes later as I didn't want to run with much thinking about the safety of my car. Collected my bib number without any hassle and met up with Arman, Mikael and Zul, the trio of organisers from Team Pacat. And it was nice of them to throw in a shatter proof mug too. Well, for a no frills event, at least there will be some memento for those who opt not to purchase the event tee, finisher tee and medal. I was one of them.

However, some drama unfolded as the truly Malaysian attitude came into picture when some runners demanded for a change of colour of the tote bag given (first batch was white, second was black), purchase of event and finisher tee on the spot (exact number of tees are made upon orders with ample time given) and also to change of top 3 trophies to teddy bears (previous years was teddy bears).

My mind was set for a 7PM start but I got it all wrong. It was to start at 8PM after being told by Kelvin and Jonathan. I've really no idea where did 7PM come from but I guess I must have relate this to TUC which has the similar format. Was hungry as I soon remembered that I have a pack of cashew, almonds and some dried guava with me. Took some to fill the hunger a little while I continue waiting.

I've never excelled in TUC before. Perhaps looping through the night is something I am weak in for I did not have problems with Back 2 Endurance as it takes place during the day. And I know that it won't be easy this time too as my body was still feeling a little sore from the weight training I did over the past few days as part of my training regime. But nevertheless, it's of no pressure to survive the entire 16 hours although that will be perfect.

Piriformis was still a little tight with a little sore hip and hence wore my compression shorts for a little "squeeze". But for my top, I opt for my striking orange Jedburgh tee (for safety), something for a change as I normally will wear a tight top for long distance races. Need to get back the feeling of running long with a loose tee, but I hope there will be no chaffing. And as part of training, I wore my hydration vest. And to that particular person who gave me an annoying gesture on this, it has really nothing to do with you on what I select as part of what I use. Not even my food or drinks, mind you!

After nearly 4 hours of wait, the third edition of Watergate 16 Hours finally got underway at 8PM sharp with runners bursting across the start line. With 16 hours to go, bursting away doesn't seem to be a good idea as I took my own time to settle to my rhythm. A couple of hundred meters ahead was the Gemilang Bridge and some who "bursted" away earlier was already breathless here. And this is where the experience runners came passing by from behind from familiar faces such as Yew Khuay, Yim and Azlan. And speaking of Yew Khuay, he is a much different runner from Putrajaya 100 a couple of months ago. He is back to his best!

I settled into my pace quite well cruising at about 6.30 minutes per Kilometer. The red rubbery running and cycling path that was laid back during November last year has settled down pretty well and it was nice running on it. Most will agree that it is tough running on the concrete pavement of Putrajaya and hence this certainly will help a little since there is no road closure to this event.

Upon arrival outside the lawyer's department office after about 1KM, I spotted the Starbucks Coffee outlet there. Though it was already closed, I can't help to think of a cup of iced cold Americano since the condition was really hot and humid. And moving on from here, was a little dark stretch with tress overshadowing the lights from street lamps and the bright moon. Was lucky there weren't any chipped or uneven pavement. But thanks Team Pacat for the sufficient blinkers that lighted the way at important sections of the route since the start. It was a simple nice touch.

Everything went smoothly during the early stages of the run completing my first 10KM (2 loops) in just slightly more than an hour. I started taking small sips of water at each u-turn point to avoid being dehydrated and not forgetting to allow my kidney to function properly (a flashback to Putrajaya 100's bloody urine). However to my dismay upon arriving back at the start, the cups and bottles were not placed systematically and not in running numbers. We runners had to search for ours among the 200 plus cups and bottles which was really frustrating even when we were still fresh. Imagine trying to search for it after 10 hours of running!

Fast forwarding ahead to 12.5KM at the Palace of Justice u-turn, I was suddenly paced along by "someone". Happily pacing along just behind and sometimes beside me, I found him to be rather rude and annoying as I dislike being paced especially without permission. I tried to shake him off by slowing down but to my surprise, he actually slowed down too. Darn it. I guess my next move was to take my own sweet time when I complete this loop which I did and eventually managed to shake him off after telling him off that I will like to last the entire 16 hours. And this guy was actually the same guy that gave me that annoying gesture with regards to me wearing my hydration vest at the start!

Everything went smoothly from here onward despite my pace starting to slow at each loop. Nevertheless, I continued running till completing my sixth loop at 30KM before stopping for my long awaited dinner served by the organisers. Took some rice, a fried chicken with a  can of Wonda coffee while I chill with Ken who came to support.

After satisfying my hunger and some gossip sharing with Ken, I continued on walking. As usual, I will walk about an hour after a meal but this time, I made sure I practice my walking. It certainly wasn't easy as the hips and knees were under pressure. And after completing my seventh loop by walking, I continued with my eight with Roy where we walked and chatted together.

My ninth loop onward was a solo effort. Despite legs feeling not too bad, I was feeling tired probably due to the fact that it was sleeping time. At each turn, I washed my face hoping to freshen up but the eye bag just didn't want to cooperate.  And by the eleventh loop, I felt the rear of my right knee connecting my hamstrings twitching. I guess that was the sign that my body, or shall I say legs hinting to me to stop.

Completing eleven loop will only mean 55KM. Therefore I guess rounding it up to 60KM with one more loop should be fine and hence started my journey after a hot cup of black coffee. Running took away the pain a little and I ran whenever I can and successfully arrived at the u-turn point at Palace of Justice. Was joined by Fuad here and we made the return trip together, well at least till the Gemilang Bridge before I decided to walk to the finish completing 60KM with a time of 9:40:04 hours in position of 72 out 279. And with that, I called it a night!

I didn't leave the venue immediately as I hung around to have my meal and to rest up a little while lingering with my friends. But while doing so, I was disgusted once again when the same person who earlier annoyed me came and gave me yet another annoying gesture, this time like "Why I can't survive 16 hours"? That's a total of 3 annoying gesture in less than 10 hours by the same person!

Overall, I don't deny I was disappointed with my result as once again I failed to fully utilise the full 16 hours. However, I guess 12 loops equaling to 60KM is enough for my first long run (and walk) of the year as after all, there were signs that my legs and hips wasn't ready for longer distances at this point of time. I did enjoy the event and only was disgusted by those annoying gestures. Runner's have their ups and downs so as footballers. They don't win games at every match. Football. Get it...?

The Watergate 16 Hours is a decent event and more importantly, it's an event organised by runners for runners where everyone gets to socialised and get together at one big gathering. No event is perfect and there were definitely some misses for this such as:

- Running out of ice cubes and fruits mid way through the event. Considering conditions were hot and humid, ice needs to be made aplenty throughout the event with constant replenishment for runners. Same goes to fruits too as I've noticed more watermelons not being served.
- A more systematic way for BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) where cups and bottles to be spaced out according to running numbers instead of just leaving it on the table at any available space. It's not easy trying to locate our own cup or bottle among 279 of them.
- More info to be shared before the event itself on event website and Facebook site. Some runners were a little blur on the procedure, myself included especially on the timing system.

However, to make up for the above, this even has certainly it's merits:

- The usage of blinkers at important sections of the route not only to guide the runners but also to keep them awake as blinking lights can be an "annoying reminder".
- Volunteers are more cheerful and helpful this time compared to those from Putrajaya 100 last year.
- Plenty of food and drinks served. But please don't hold back serving them such as the watermelons stated above.
- No frills event. You get for what you pay for. For this, I only paid to run and eat and drink. I do not need the t-shirts nor the medal and though the event may be a little on the expensive side, we do get the quality out from it for it's a "boutique event". And well done for including a shatter proof mug for all participants as a memento.

Watergate 16 Hours is a great event for runners wanting to pop their ultra running cherry. Although many may not like looping runs, it does have it's strength for it train one's mental strength. Besides that, refreshments are made nearby for those who are not experience to tackle their nutrition. The third edition is indeed a success and though it will continue for many years on, I've heard that the fourth edition will move somewhere towards the south direction. A change of venue will be interesting and that we shall find out soon later. Thanks Team Pacat for organising this!

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

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