Saturday, March 26, 2016

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016
Venue: Sengkang Riverside Park, Singapore
Date: 19 March 2016
Time: 7.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Ride 8
By Frank

In a blink of an eye, Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) is now into it's sixth year. A no frills looping based ultra running event by Ben and his team behind Running Guild, this is one event that I've never miss and it's one that I started running a year before Comrades too. Treating it as one my longest run in my Comrades training, the sad news is that I have never excelled in TUC due to sleep issues. Yeap, 5 years of trying and never really hit the 100KM mark. Maybe in this sixth edition I will, or will I?

The sixth edition of TUC sees a change of race site to Sengkang Riverside Park due to renovation works at the original site of East Coast Park. Certainly a welcome change after half a decade of running there. And besides, the new site's running path are built on the softer tarmac surface as per compared to concrete at East Coast Park. Certainly much more friendlier for the good old legs.

Unlike previous years, this time round I will be travelling alone to Singapore. With the Malaysian currency so weak, even staying at backpackers inn is pretty costly. Ian and Teck Sim did mentioned that I could always stay at their place whenever I am in Singapore but the problem is, I am not the type that simply likes to intrude into others privacy and personal time. However, I guess this time I needed their help and besides, I guess it will be nice to actually agree once. And so, I traveled down to Singapore on board First Coach from One Utama on Friday morning only to spend almost 2 hours at Singapore's immigration. For reason I do not know why, it was packed with people and the officers weren't very efficient that day. Took me almost 8 hours to arrive at Novena and it was almost time for dinner. And during the bus journey, my troublesome trapezius starting aching and it will proof to be a nuisance for days to come.

Ian and Teck Sim came and pick me up and straight away we went for an early dinner at Monniker located just next to Balestier Food Court. It was a nice little cozy restaurant and the people there were really friendly, and not to mention their awesome food. I needed some fat for the ultra next day so I ordered a pork dish call Porketta (not sure if it is spelled correctly) and a banana bread beer from the UK. Both were really good.

Delicious food at Monniker. Porketta on far right.

After a satisfying dinner, we returned to their place, IResidence which was nearby. Rested for a while before a quick dip at the warm jacuzzi and it's off for dessert next at United Square. A very rich durian sago dessert with pamelo was what I had. A little risky considering my sore throat due to overdose of chocolates 2 days ago, but it was just too tempting. After satisfying the stomach, it's back home to call it a night.

I've planned for a deep long sleep. However, that did not happen as the weather was pretty much hot and there were neighbours talking through the night which kept me awake in between sleeps. I woke up at 8.30AM and knew that the run later at night will be tough due to once again sleep issues. While going back to sleep will be tough, I cleaned myself up and joined both Ian and Teck Sim for breakfast at Balestier food court while waiting for time to pass. Back at their place later, I tried to catch a 2 hour nap which I do not know if I did, and eventually made my way to Novena for an early dinner at 4PM before catching up with colleagues from Singapore.

Found myself back at Ian's place at 5PM and proceeded to freshen myself up. He was back by 6PM and we were then off to Sengkang which is about 20 minutes drive away. Collected my race number and saw many familiar faces in the process from Ben, Yee Hua, Roy, Si Main, Kim Lai, Eu Gene, Barkley, Hong Chew, Kim Song, Karl and many more. Was certainly nice to be seeing them again. Weather though was hot, was in fact greeted by a much welcome light breeze.

Bibs Third, Second and First!

At 7PM, the sixth edition of TUC was flagged off with Ben, the event director leading the way. Although I knew the surface was of tarmac, I chose the Saucony Ride 8 as my shoe of choice. Though a tad heavier than my everyday Kinvara, it offers much more cushioning, something I needed a little after a very intense and heavy workout last week. And instantly, I can feel my legs being protected already as I try to settle my rhythm in.

Off we go at 7PM!

The run which is of 2.5KM along the canal or was it reservoir at the Sengkang Riverside Park was part of the Craze Ultra 100 Miles route and all the memories or rather nightmare came flashing back. At the far end where the u-turn point was, Yek Bun was leading the team there. A run back to the start will complete the 5KM loop. As simple as that over the next 16 hours and I planned to have small intakes of watermelon and water at the end of each turn to keep me going, filled and hydrated.

I was struggling with my sore left trapezius at the start. I can hardly turn my head and hence not able to reply to anyone calling me from behind or the side. The pain had actually ease a little compared earlier but it was still uncomfortable to be running with it with the constant pounding of the muscles. At that point of time, I was just hoping that my pain tolerance will take me through the distance or the pain will continue to subside. And moving forward after completing 20KM equaling to 4 loops, the pain started to subside a little. And although it was a little breezy especially towards the first half, humidity was actually on the high side.

I had my first cup of black coffee courtesy of LiveCoffee who is on site to serve the runners. Operated as a complimentary beverage for the runners by a a group of coffee lovers, their coffee was actually very good, and not to mention strong. I told myself to "recharge" with a  cuppa after completing every 4 loops and this was certainly a motivational push.


As the pain on my left trapzeius continues to subside, run and walks with friends like Karl and Rozman at certain stretches did help to cope with the time and distance. I continue to push using landmarks like the flyovers to guide me. Running from flyovers to flyovers ranging around a Kilometer in distance did help with managing my leg strength as it gave ample time for them to recover before resuming my runs.

Lonely in the dark.

40KM covered in slightly more than 5 hours and already pass midnight, it was time for my second cup of coffee. The legs were hurting but it wasn't as thrashed up compared to the old venue at East Coast Park. I do not know if its the surface, the shoe of the legs being stronger but I certainly hope it was the latter.

With the second dose of the much needed caffeine, I continued on. Nothing much happened for the next 4 loops except for me going slower and slower. Hahaha... But I did meet up with Samantha who recognized me from my Putrajaya 100 blog last year. We chatted while running behind Hong Chew, Yee Hua and Kim Song, and it was great to be sharing with her some of my run experiences.

Was looking forward to my next cup of coffee after completing 60KM as the critical part for me is from 3AM to 5AM, the time when the body is the weakest and when sleepiness starts to set in. And upon completing 60KM at about 4AM, I met Gary at the race venue and share with me on his daughter's story of fighting osteosarcoma. I would really like to hear a happier version but sadly, she lost her battle. But nevertheless, I was glad that Gary accepted the fact and that life goes on and believes that cancer treatment, research and treatment is going the positive way.

Before pushing off for my next loop for 65KM, Ian arrived just in time too with my much needed early breakfast. I didn't know what I wanted when he asked earlier, but I did mentioned that perhaps a roti prata (canai) will be nice. And that was exactly the food I had in my mind when I was out on the run. Sat down and chatted away with him while having the actually pretty delicious prata with hot coffee. That gave my legs a little time to recover too.

With the breakfast settled down in my happy tummy, I push forward. And surprisingly, I managed to complete the next loop without stopping with quite an healthy pace too. The prata had worked it's magic, well at least for this loop. A short while after starting my next loop, there was an urge to visit the potty. I was already almost a Kilometer away from the starting point and hence to decided to "nurse" myself all the way to the other end. Runners who passed me tried to pull me along but I didn't want to risk running with that urge in me just in case of an unwanted "explosion".

Eventually, I got to the u-turn point and made my deposit in the small but clean potty. Took me a while but what had to be release, just got to be release. But in the process, I think I strain or pulled one of my ankle muscles. It became a little stiff and even walking feels a little painful. However, I still caught up with Hong Chew and Kim Song just before completing our 70KM together.

I was tempted to stop after completing 70KM as I knew I have broken into the 1,000KM distance milestone for this year's training. In all my Comrades training across the years, this was my shortest time that I got to here and indeed it was a personal achievement. But the show had to go on and I continued with Hong Chew, Kim Song and Kelvin with the sun now shining bright.

The pain on my right ankle become more irritating upon completing 75KM but the 4 of us decided that we shall make it 80KM before deciding to call it a day. We walked and ran together using lamp post as indicators and after 12:59:44 hours, 80KM was completed by my dear legs. And together with Hong Chew, we decided to stop here, with Kim Song and Kelvin still going for it.

I was a little disappointed that once again I could not hit the century distance after 6 attempts. Despite still with 3 hours to go to hit that desired distance, I just didn't want to risk any injuries on my right ankle. Just worry something might snap in there. Nevertheless, this was my fastest time with this distance in TUC and it's certainly a positive sign.

Ian and Teck Sim came just before the closing of the event as we cheered the remaining runners on. We left soon after everyone completed their run and headed back. A refreshing shower before resting up a little and then it's off to Novena for lunch and for my coach back home at 3PM. The journey home was once again like the journey into Singapore 3 days ago. Immigration was really slow with 4 ladies cutting into my queue despite being told off. But luckily, traffic was smooth and by 10PM, I arrived safely at One Utama with dad picking me up from there.

Overall, I enjoyed once again the Twilight Ultra Challenge, now into its sixth year. With the introduction of Sengkang Riverside Park, it adds a new dimension and challenge to this event. Besides, my legs didn't feel so thrashed up compared to be running at East Coast Park. I could still walk properly after the event. The only downside, no proper toilet and shower area, despite the community centre nearby.

Thanks Ben, Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun, Tee Li and the team at Running Guild for yet another successful edition Twilight Ultra Challenge. Ant not forgetting to the friendly people behind LiveCoffee for being there through the night serving the runners great coffee which kept us going and going. I had 4 cups and I could drink more actually cause it's just so good. And to the rest of the runners, it was really nice to have catch up and befriended some of you. And finally, to my host Ian and Teck Sim for your awesome hospitality. I didn't expect all that is provided and now I owe you both a Porketta and a bottle of banana bread beer! Till the next edition!

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

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