Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sundown Marathon 2009...

Event: Sundown Marathon 2009
Venue: Changi Village, Singapore
Date: 30 May 2009
Time: 7pm
Distance: 84.39KM (86.2KM - 43.1KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205 on last year's reading)
Shoe: Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3
By Frank

When I mentioned Sundown Marathon is the toughest marathon I ever did among all of my 6 marathons, I really meant it. The race route and the conditions to run during sleeping hours is the main hurdle that runners will have to get through to conquer it. And my quest to earn the title of "Ultra Marathoner" will begin here. After 2 loops of the regular 42.195KM race route, 3 cramps, 4 toilet stops, 10 pedestrian bridges and countless rest stops running throughout the night, read on here to find out if my Project 84 is a success.

29 May 2009. Departure for Lion City.
The day started early for me as I awoke at 4am to prepare myself for departure. Though the First Coach bus that I'll be taking will only leave at 7.30am from the Bangsar stop, I had to hitch an early ride from dad as he makes himself to work. And so arriving at the venue an hour early, I met up with Victor instantly. Had a light snack at the nearby mamak eatery but things did not go very well there as Victor got stung by a bee. The wound quickly swelled up and became reddish. Though it is irritating, I don't think it was a serious one. Even if it was, maybe he will turn into BeeMan, as the wound was at the same place where SpiderMan was bitten too. Haha...

My ride to Singapore...

My "famous" huge bag makes a return to Sundown Marathon. This photo is for you Pueh Tian...

The journey to Novena Square was a long one this time which took us close to 7 hours thanks to an Indian passenger who was detained for close to 40 minutes at the Singapore immigration for bringing raw mutton. Though the bus drivers seems pretty humoured by his actions, most passengers weren't. Some even cursed for his act and we all even witnesses a passenger's relative who was waiting at Novena Square telling that Indian passenger off in open public. Having arrived safely, I didn't want to mind too much about it and immediately took a MRT train to town to collect our race packs.

Arriving at Athlete's Circle, I bump into Alex, Peter and few Malaysian runners while I collected 8 race packs. Though the process went really well, I was a little unhappy with the contents. First, the contents weren't standardised as some received a little more stuff in there. Second, the vest that was given was not the one as seen on the website as it went out of stock. Thinking the cutting was the same, I did not check it only to find out later that even the S size was huge for me! Even Chin Chin and Lynn received shirts instead of vest. However, I have to admit it was nicer. Hehe...

I'm running 84KM and my bib number is 00085...

Left for Changi Village Hotel and check ourselves into Room 367. Really nice hotel and the best part is that it is just a 5 minutes walk from the race venue. Unpacked our stuffs and soon we realised it was getting a little late. Left the hotel for Tampiness MRT station where we met up with Cheang as I needed to pass him his race pack before heading off to Paya Lebar for some stamps shopping for Victor and then to Orchard Road. Somehow, I just have to head to Paragon shopping mall at every Singapore trip as I really like checking out a few sports and outdoors shops there. While walking around, I received a hilarious SMS from Jamie. He got confused of the race date and though I was already running the race. Though anyhow, I really appreciate that SMS. Thanks Jamie! Spageddies, one the best Italian restaurant I ate at was on the dinner list but I was left disappointed when I did not have it as there was kind of a long queue for it and time was getting late. Therefore, the alternative was Pastamania at Plaza Singapura. Wanting to have my heaviest meal before the race, I ordered 2 portions of pasta, a Pesto Linguine and Baked Fish Fusilli. Though I didn't like both the taste, I guess it was enough to fuel me up. Filling up, off we return to the hotel to call it a day as a big race awaits the next day.

30 May 2009. Race day.
Woke up early at 9am as I was expecting both Chin Chin and Lynn's visit to collect their race packs. Victor was already out of the hotel to meet up with friends. Sharp on the clock at 10.45am, both the girls came knocking on the door. At that time, my mind was still wondering if Lynn is going to run the race. She was reluctant to answer and that somehow answered my query.

Back to sleep after they left and woke up at 1.30pm for my final preparation and also an early dinner. Didn't really have a comfortable sleep but I guess it should be enough. I left for some of my own adventure around the area after Victor returned to the room for his turn to rest. Checked out the hotel's beautiful swimming pool and the well equipped gym before leaving for a nearby food court for a simple dinner. As like the previous year, I had chicken rice again, but this year's choice was a tasteless and tough to bite one. Haha... Then it's off to the race venue where final preparation was still undergoing. Knowing I won't have time and probably energy left after the race, I took some shots around it before returning to the hotel to get ready.

The marathon start gantry...

The ultra needs tent...

Foo my Seremban friend who will be running his first marathon dropped by to collect his race pack as both myself and Victor got ready. Shortly later, Alex who is running on behalf a fund raising campaign called the Dream Village dropped by to store his luggage. And when everything is done, I send out a "suicide note" SMS to my friends and their replies was just as hilarious as the one I send out. Hehe... A quick visit to the gym to weight myself and it showed I've gained 0.5KG from my carbo loading the past week. I'm weight at 49.9KG for the race.

A photo taken and off we went to the race venue 30 minutes before the start to check in our ultra needs bag at the tent. 15 minutes before the race, we had enough time catching up with friends like Mohan, Shine, Tay Poh Chye, Terence and Michelle where we all started together. I was looking for Tey ET and Chui Miew but I just couldn't locate them.

A photo before leaving the comfort of the hotel...

Thanks Mohan for this wonderful shot of ultra marathon runners and wannabes at the start...

Race the night. The first loop.
At 7pm sharp, the ultra marathon event was flagged off where some 601 runners went off running into the night. Wished my friends and off I went together with Shine. Immediately, I put my tag line into use and kept telling myself "Frank Boleh". Just after crossing the start gantry, I saw Ben on the side snapping photos and I called out to him before proceeding. Unlike the marathon category, the start was along the beach road which led into the Changi Beach Park. Nice shady place but the first signs of the humid weather soon came into place. At just 2KM or so, I was already drench in my own sweat and Shine was no where to be seen. Therefore, lonely run for me ahead into the first stretch called the Strings Of Lights. Nice comfortable run for me as I paid attention to my posture. Soon, I arrived at the Changi Coast along the Changi Airport runway. Felt the roar of a few huge planes taking off here and then the first refreshment station appeared. As it's going to be a long journey ahead, I intend to take small sips of water at every station even though I had my bottle of Endurox R4 with me. First sign of trouble came around the 8KM mark when the right shoe lace came loose despite double tying it with a retention buckle. Completed my first 10KM in 01:06:01 and into East Coast Park I ran where I took my first GU Gel as planned.

The next 10KM was really a "torture" to the stomach. Weekenders spending their time at the beach was enjoying their barbeque session and the smell of the chicken wings was really too much! Nothing happen though as no one offered me any so off I went running. Haha... At about the 18KM mark, I spotted and called out to Victor, Suhaimi and Tay Poh Chye at the opposite side exiting the park soon. They were running fast, in fact too fast I think. Making my u-turn at the 19KM mark and soon hitting the exit at the 21KM mark at 02:11:23, I took my second gel which was the Accel Gel due to it's protein content. Out of the park, I was first greeted by the first pedestrian bridge, the slope type. I ran while going up, but walk on the way down as I didn't want to stress my knees too much.

Into the second stretch called the Heartland Twist, disaster struck me at around the 24KM mark. As my shoe lace came off again, I sat down on a nearby bench only to be hit by a very bad cramp on my left calf. And if that wasn't enough, it lead to another on my right adductor. 2 cramps at a time, it was so darn painful. Worst still, in the dark with no one around me. Imagine someone suffering a stroke and you'll know how I look like that time. Had a long rest coupled with massages and light stretching, off I went again limping with 60KM to go. I know cramps will come, but I did not expect it to arrive so early. And not forgetting that somehow for some reasons, the top part of my left ankle was irritated by my Injinji socks. But one thing for sure, I'm not quitting!

From here, I was slowing down due to the pain but I kept running. At the second pedestrian bridge, I finally met Tey ET where he closed in from behind. Had a short chat and he introduced me to another Malaysian friend, IronMan Hoo before I proceeded on passed Eunos MRT station and finally into the Bedok Reservoir area, the third stretch called Waterfront Trail. As the name implies, it's a 3KM run on a sandy surface which did help cushion the feet's landing and unlike the previous year, it was bright this time. And the scenery around the reservoir was beautiful enough to keep me away from the pain on my left calf. And just before exiting the area, I took my first toilet stop at about the 29KM mark.

Thanks to the videographer who captured this. Yours truly appeared in between minutes 4:14 to 4:19...

I completed 30KM in 03:26:58 and with this time, it can be seen how much I'm struggling now. Took my third gel here, a GU Gel with caffeine to help me prevent sleepiness. Into the Tampiness housing estate and crossing the fifth pedestrian bridge at around the 34KM mark near the Pasir Ris MRT station, it was into the fourth and final stretch called Homerun which took me into the Pasir Ris housing estate this time before exiting to the long stretch of Loyang Avenue. As I ran pass a bus stop, a family with a young kid probably just 5 years of age was cheering on. That kid really made my day as he was just so amazing with his cheers. Small little climbs greeted the runners next and I was really happy when I saw the 40KM distance marker. My time was 04:53:29 now and the marathon event was going to start soon. I initially wanted to complete my first loop before the marathon starts but I guess it's better not to now as the time is too close. The final 2KM was a slow one as there was a major 300M climb up towards Netheravon Road and I didn't want to trip on any humps now along the way like how I did last year.

Into the race venue again, marshalls shouting "Ultra runner coming in" were making way for me as I ran into it. Supporters whom I didn't know at all were clapping and cheering and I felt I belong to the royalty. Thanks people! I completed my first loop in a time of :5:11:41 and off I went to the ultra needs tent for refueling and change of my top. Off came my white top and on came a black one, thus transforming me into a "running ninja" like how Ben and Chui Miew described. Bong, IronMan Hoo and Tay Poh Chye who arrived earlier was already there and we managed to exchange our first loop's adventure before they left. And soon, Tey ET and Chui Miew arrived too and we managed a photo together as I left my camera in my bag, and that's the only shot I have during the run. Haha... Refueled myself with raisins, a slice of bread, a GU Gel, Proviton multi-vitamins and sips of water and Endurox R4, and off I went again after 00:24:53 worth of rest time.

Managing to smile at the ultra needs tent just after midnight...

Here's my first loop split times.
5KM (00:34:20) -> 10KM (01:06:01) -> 16KM (01:44:52) -> 20KM (02:11:23) -> 21KM (02:18:32) -> 25KM (02:48:30) -> 30KM (03:26:58) -> 35KM (04:09:15) -> 40KM (04:53:29) -> 42KM (05:11:41)

The real race begins. The second loop.
The moment I made my first step after exiting the ultra needs tent marks the furthest distance I ran. And it was hard. Probably the rest was a little too long and it's hard to restart my "engine". It's a repeat of the same route I did earlier but I kept myself away from thinking too much about it. I walked a good 2KM before finally "reigniting" myself though only at first gear. And it's this second loop that most will suffer and I intend to help those in need in anyway I can unless they gave me a signal that they are OK. Bump into another ultra marathon runner shortly after the restart and we managed a short chat together to keep ourselves company. As he was leaning to the front too much, I advised him to stay straight but the damage was already done and he soon stopped with backache. He asked me to go ahead as he rested. Just before exiting the Changi Beach Park, a lady runner zoomed past me but was soon seen along the start of the Changi Coast road. She asked me for a sip of my Endurox R4 which I gladly offered her as she was complaining that her heart was beating fast due to the coffee she took earlier. I jog along with her and I found out that she has done 2 ultra marathons, being the Sundown Marathon last year and also the MacRitchie Resovoir run. One tough lady.

Shortly in front just before the first water station of the route, I bumped into Suhaimi who was struggling with sleepiness. I told the lady runner to go ahead as I accompany my Malaysian friend here, chatting with him to keep him awake and reminding him that he didn't come so far to sleep! Fast walk together before arriving at a small shelter where he took a short nap there.

Continuing alone into the night, I was greeted by a light breeze which help cool things down. I helped myself to it with deep breathing throughout the remaining distance as air is energy and I needed it to fuel my muscles which are screaming for help. I found my second gear as I arrived at the 10KM (52KM) mark and managed to start running. Chui Miew caught up and we ran together for a while before I forced a third gear out of me as I needed the toilet again. I even ran past Tey ET who left earlier. My pace here shows that when you need to go, you really need to run! And I was really happy when a public toilet showed up shortly in front. Signs of relieve indeed.

Off came my shoe lace again and what happen earlier repeated again. As I sat down, my right quads cramp up. Though it wasn't as bad compared to the earlier ones, it was still painful. Rested about 5 minutes and took another GU Gel here as I did not want to suffer another cramp and head on, back to first gear though. Darn! As I made my u-turn, I saw Tey ET at the opposite side and shouted to him "Jia You" which means "Add Oil" in Mandarin. He replied the same to me. But soon, I needed the toilet again. Was really happy to see one but was upset that the person-in-charge didn't allow my entry as I did not have 20 cents with me! And I was really disgusted by the way he replied me. Anyway, I'm not going to talk about him, but I guess you readers can imagine what type of a person he is. Was lucky though that a free public toilet was at the East Coast Park's exit at the 21KM (63KM) mark. And my time here was 08:53:00.

Into the Heartland Twist stretch again and climbing the pedestrian bridges, my legs were already in another world. I still managed to jog a little, but I had to stop for stretches along the way as my left calf was still hurting badly from the earlier cramp. It was stiff. Exiting a park connector and into the Eunos MRT station, a marshall cheered "Jia You" and I replied that I have no "oil" left in me. She then replied in Mandarin to add water then. And I did just that at the next available refreshment station downing with it an Accel Gel. At the 25KM mark, I met an 18 year old young lad who is running his second ultra marathon, both Sundown Marathons. We managed a fast walk together for a good 2KM before we made our own way and it really help as I managed to run the entire Bedok Resorvoir area which started again the Waterfront Trail. And just before exiting it, I stopped by at the public toilet to relieve myself as this will probably be the last toilet along the route.

10:15:02 is the time when I got to the 30KM (72KM) mark. There are no words that can describe my legs at this stage. I can hardly jog though the supporters at the refreshment station here was really supportive, cheering us on. A female marshall who saw the blue colour on my bib which indicate ultra-marathon runner offered me 4 cups of water and words of encouragements. I only had 2 cups though before I limp off catching up with Farid who past me very much earlier at the 17KM mark at the first loop. He told me he can no longer run due to the pain on his left leg, but one thing for sure is that he still can walk pretty fast.

Thanks to Ms. Oon Chen Phing for this marvelous shot of me in action...

After the fifth and final pedestrian bridge at about the 34KM (76KM) mark, I took my longest rest here which lasted a good 15 minutes or so. Took my final GU Gel with caffeine as I performed light stretches while massaging my poor legs on a bench. Though it was hard to regain walking and even running again, it all proof to be worth it as I found higher gears as I walk and jog into the final stretch, Homerun. It was then at the final 6KM where I found my race gear and I went for it running at my regular marathon pace bearing all the pain my entire body is taking on. I told myself "This is it!". Though plenty of runners whether marathon or ultra-marathon runners were taking up the space along the pavements, I did not want to slow down so I opt to run on the grass at times when they did not give way.

I slowed a little just after the 40KM (82KM) mark as it was the attack of the 300M hill before engaging my new found gear at the top. I choose to run on the road when I can as the pavement was just a little narrow and not forgetting the humps there. With 1KM to go, I can hear the music blasting from the race venue. I am nearing it! Kept running and as I arrived at Changi Village, I slowed down to adjust myself as I wanted to enjoy the final moments of this ultra marathon.

As I made my way into the venue, I was a little confused with the finishing area where the small little bridge we took last year was blocked. This time, we had to run a big u-turn which led to an increment of 300M or so towards the finish line. However, I did not care much about it as this is the final stretch. Marshalls were making the way for me and supporters were cheering from the side. And as I approached the finish line, I actually shed a single tear of joy while I started looking around for Lynn but I didn't see her. As I look for her, I completely missed the finish line as I ran passed it without even realising it. And so came to an end to this grueling 84KM ultra marathon as I clocked 12:08:16. Yes, running from sundown to sunrise, I completed it and finally earned the title of "Ultra Marathoner". Am proud to say that Project 84 was a success and I really "BOLEH"!

Here's my second loop split times.
5KM/47KM (06:28:37) -> 10KM/52KM (07:13:38) -> 15KM/57KM (07:52:58) -> 20KM/62KM (08:41:20) -> 21KM/63KM (08:53:00) -> 25KM/67KM (09:31:28) -> 30KM/72KM (10:15:02) -> 35KM/77KM (11:15:40)
-> 40KM/82KM (11:48:45) -> 42KM/84KM (12:08:16)

Post race.
Weight myself and the scale showed that I lost 0.9KG which I think should be more as I consumed lots of water. Made my way to the rest area and spotted Victor who was undergoing an interview. He completed in a time of around 12:04:00. Well done, my friend! Collected my finisher's medal and t-shirt before I was interviewed as well. Yikes... Chui Miew arrived shortly and we congratulated each other before I made my way to collect my bag where I met up with Bong and IronMan Hoo who both completed in a respectful time of around 11:50:00. Then it's a painful walk back to the hotel. Though just across the road, it felt so far!

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

The print on the back of the finisher's tee...

Back in the hotel room with Victor, we exchanged our stories while forcing our painful and tired bodies to move around packing our stuff. I even cramped up while climbing out of the bath tub. I'm sure Victor heard the loud "bang" on the toilet door that time. Both Cheang and Foo dropped by too to share upon their stories. And after cleaning ourselves up, Victor took a short nap while I just sat on the chair thinking back of the amazing journey I just had. I thought back of the moments I had during my preparation leading up to the end of the race. Running a marathon isn't an easy task. Running an ultra-marathon will certainly take everything out of one. And to do the 84KM distance over 2 of the same loops, it will drive many nuts. However, it can be done as I myself has now done it and actually enjoyed it too. When the going gets tough, think of the positive things. My tag line and the thoughts of my friends were the ones that pulled me through. The pain and everything I endured, was it all worth it? I won't say it is because there is no words that can be use to describe it. To all who ran and completed both the marathon and ultra-marathon, congratulations on a job well done. To those who did not finish it, don't despair as there is always tomorrow. Look forward.

At 12pm, we checked out from the hotel and proceeded to Novena Square to catch our bus at 2.30pm. Both our reward for completing our runs was Burger King and KFC. Haha... It's been a while since I had "cheat meals", so I guess this is the time though I was actually craving for Carls Jr. Guess I mistook the wrong burger outlet at Novena Square. Boarding our bus back, we were soon reunited with our friends Bong, Farid, IronMan Hoo and Tay Poh Chye. We limped together and it will be a hilarious scene if captured on video. Nevertheless, well done to them as we parted ways some 6 hours later as we all arrived safely back in Bangsar. Home again.

I would like to express my deep felt gratitude to these amazing people (not in any particular order) for my success in the Sundown Marathon 2009. Without them, I may not be able to pull it through it. And here's sharing my that single tear of joy to everyone!

- Lynn, for being such an awesome training mate, motivator and believing in me since the very beginning. Not forgetting the tag line that helped pulled me through.
- Luc, my "mentor" for all the training, advices and patience given.
- Alex, Bong, Farid, IronMan Hoo, Suhaimi, Tay Poh Chye, Tey ET, Victor and Chui Miew for their company before, during and after the run. You guys were great!
- Choi, Jamie, Lawrence, Loke and Geraldine who makes up the Platinum Runners for their support and words of encouragement.
- Keat Seong, Raymond Hee, Raymond Ng, Tony, Chin Chin, Pui San, Shih Ming and the rest of the THG gang for their believe in me.
- Terence, for organising the Putrajaya night run.
- Ben, Shine, Mohan and Seow Ping, for the advices given from those coming out from ultra-marathoners are just priceless.
- Yin Fook and Yee Tze, for their support and also Chinese dumplings. There were delicious!
- Judith Fox-Alder, for the support given and for sharing the inspiring stories of Terry Fox.
- The organisers, first aiders, marshalls, supporters of the Sundown Marathon 2009, for you all did a fantastic job!
- Runners I met along the race route who has kept me company. Thanks.
- To those whom have played a part in my success but not listed here (too many of you), you know who you are and you all have my greatest deep felt gratitude. THANKS!

Now one question remains. Will you see me at the same place and same time on 29 May 2010?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Frank Boleh...

By Frank

As promised, here's 1 last entry before I leave for Singapore to participate in the Sundown Marathon 2009. As the race is just slightly 2 days away from now, emotions are high. I can't explain what is going through my mind now. Of all my 6 marathons done over my past 2 years, Sundown Marathon remains the toughest and this time, I'm doing double the distance. Hence, I don't deny that I'm nervous, but 1 thing for sure is that I'm not afraid at all. Yes, it's 84KM. But do not fear the distance. Respect it and it will all be over soon. It's easier said that done, but this is 1 thing I will have to keep reminding myself.

Looking back at this entry's title, the word "Boleh" is of Malay language and literally means "Can". Therefore, the whole phrase makes up my tag line for this race as "Frank Can Do It". It was given to me by a friend since the day of registration and it's through this simple phrase that has motivated me, making me believe that I can actually conquer this distance. And though I only managed an unimpressive distance of 900.13KM throughout the course of my training, there is no point looking back now. Life is just full of unpredictable moments, so we just have to suck it up.

As mentioned before, I have set no timing target for this one. I'm just aiming to complete it and if possible, in the fastest time possible as I do not want to suffer too much. Therefore, I'm running and setting my own pace. Something comfortable myself will do and will not follow others. Besides, though I know that my migraine has come under control, I'm not risking anything that might trigger off any attack. And I will certainly be looking forward in meeting my friends at the finish line. That will be a motivating factor.

The Sundown Marathon 2009 race route. 84KM is running twice the loop...

The past few days has been a very emotional one. Met up with lots of my friends whether runners or not, and they have given me their full support. I even met up with Kannan Murugasan, Malaysia's first and only Ultraman at the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2009 roadshow at 1 Utama over the past weekend. His super tough Ultraman adventure had took him on a 10KM swim, 419KM cycling and 84KM run in Canada in the year 2007. Talking to him made me realise that what I am going to go through this weekend is nothing compared to his. And not forgetting wishes from my friends over at Australia and Canada too. All these gives me even greater determination to complete this race.

With Ultraman Kannan...

Unlike the previous year where I travelled with 6 of my running friends, I will only be travelling with Victor this year, taking again the First Coach bus from the Bangsar stop tomorrow morning. Will then meet up with the rest of my friends like Alex, Cheang, Foo, Lawrence, Luc, Mohan, Sam, Terence, Tey ET, Chin Chin, Chiu Miew, Lynn and Seow Ping at Singapore. WOW! Listing them out, I realised that there is actually a lot of us!

With this entry, I'm signing off from my "Road To 84" as I will experience the real thing in 2 days time. To all certified and soon to be marathoners and ultra-marathoners running the Sundown Marathon 2009, see you all at starting line at Changi Village, 7pm, and most important at the finish line too. To those travelling to Singapore to lend their support, thank you for your time. Finally but not least, to everyone who has played a part in my first ever ultra-marathon adventure, thank you with all my heart. Till then, adious...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Road To 84...

By Frank

With 6 days to go till my 84KM adventure, it's time to look back at how things went in the buildup to this insane race.

My so call Project 84 was officiated back in 11 December 2008 when I signed up for the 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009. At that time, though at the peak of my running career, I honestly did not know what was going through my mind. Going through the online registration page by page and finally clicking the submit button, I soon realised that I have done the unimaginable! I messaged my training mates immediately after successfully registering and was glad I had their full support. Thanks my friends!

Upon registering, something struck my mind. Why not make my first ever ultra marathon a special and meaningful one? Things got off to a start when I e-mailed Judith, International Director of the Terry Fox Foundation to seek her permission to have a fund raising campaign on behalf the foundation. The initial planning stage went pretty well. However, everything was shattered in mid March 2009 when news came that the campaign had to be fore go as it does not meet certain criteria from the foundation's policy. Besides that, the scale of the campaign is huge and logistic were a problem. Though disappointed, I had no choice but to respect Terry Fox's and the foundation wishes.

Here's a look at my training. Did I train well for this? I don't think so. Here's the reason why. I have planned out a structured training regime for myself at the end of last year. However, things got off to a rough start as I soon fractured my right patella a month later and was forced to stop running for at least 2 months. However to my own surprise and even the doctors too, my recovery rate was amazingly quick and I returned to training in slightly just over a month. It was then already towards the end of February 2009 and I started off with light training to avoid any further injuries from my just healed patella. Slowly building up my momentum with the help from the Platinum Runners especially Lynn, I was back at my peak again in the first week April 2009.

Training got really tough and lonely later as Lynn suffered an injury of her own. Third week into April 2009, Luc and Seow Ping joined me for some serious training and soon I met up with Terence who organised a night run at Putrajaya which I gladly joined in a week before I left for my first ever mountain climbing expedition. Call it high altitude training. Haha...

However, things did not go well during the expedition up Mount Kinabalu. As mentioned in my earlier entries. I was hit by a pretty bad migraine after returning. My fitness took a slight dip but what most important is, I can't continue where I left off in building the strength of both my legs. I believe my energy system will be able to last the 84KM distance, but I'm not too confident that my legs will. Despite all that, Luc continue to train with me, and I managed to salvage at least some important elements that will guide me through the distance. I even managed to run for the second time in Terence's night run at Putrajaya again though I didn't manage very well this time.

At this time of writing this, I am just 2 short 5KM runs away from signing off from this training. Completed my last long run yesterday at a very easy pace, even slower than the one I had at my New Balance Pacesetters 15KM 2009 run. And not forgetting too that I will start with my packing today. Yes, I do have the habit to pack my bags a few days in advance though bit by bit, to ensure I do not miss anything out.

My checklist. Hope I didn't miss out anything...

To sum up everything, here's a look back at some of my so called "memorable" events that took place on my Road To 84:

* 11 Dec 2008: Signed up for the 84KM category of the Sundown Marathon 2009.
* 18 Jan 2009: Took a tumble a few days before the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30KM run but still ran which resulted a fracture on my right patella.
* 23 Feb 2009: Returned to running after laying off due to injury.
* 01 Mar 2009: Ran in my first short race after returning from injury.
* 28 Mar 2009: First LSD to achieve 43KM in a single run. First half was ran by my own starting at 3.45am, before joining in with the others for the second half. Total weekly mileage was a breakthrough at 116.01KM.
* 04 Apr 2009: Second LSD to achieve 43KM in a single run.
* 18 Apr 2009: Night run at Putrajaya organised by Terence.
* 23 Apr 2009: Start of a 4 days 3 nights expedition to Mount Kinabalu.
* 29 Apr 2009: First signs of migraine attack.
* 01 May 2009: Second night run at Putrajaya organised by Terence.
* 17 May 2009: Start of tapering phase.
* 23 May 2009: Last LSD.
* 30 May 2009: Race day.

Looking back at how things went, it wasn't an impressive one. Due to the unforeseen circumstances, I had to abandon my planned training regime which I had planned since the very start. And though I managed to run twice the marathon distance, I failed to run 50KM in a single run which I initially planned to. And with this, I do not know how will my body react to a distance it has never experience before. Physical strength will be important, but it's my mental strength that I will rely on. Thoughts of my friends, the morale support and encouragement given will fill me before, during and after the race. Till my next and final entry before race day, here's wishing all runners of Sundown Marathon 2009, taper and rest well...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Defying The Odds...

By Frank

"My life will change". That was the statement in my mind 17 years ago when I was first diagnosed of Rhabdomyosarcoma. Even the team of doctors of Dr. Tan, Dr. Chiew, Prof. Quah and Dr. Yang that diagnosed, operated and treated me agreed on it. My oncologist Prof. Quah of Singapore National Univeristy Hospital and my radiologist Dr. Yang of Singapore General Hospital said my life will be different, especially physically when compared to other normal people, where I will appear weaker and won't be able to compete normally. In reality, my age will be of the year I am born in, but physically my weaker body may not agree. Though I agree on each statement given by the doctors that I trusted my life with, there is something within me that spurred me on to proof them wrong, well at least half of what they said.

15 years down the road, I started running and 2 years later, this is where I am now. Not a competitive runner but am proud to say that I have competed against myself and successfully completed numerous road races ranging from 10KMs to marathon distances, which includes 6 of the legendary distance. And at this point of writing, I'm gearing up for my first ever ultra marathon race at the Sundown Marathon 2009, one that will test both my physical and mental self for a distance of 84KM.

And thought currently still battling for fitness as I was hit by a pretty bad migraine 3 weeks ago, I have no other choice but to say I'm ready for this race. I was advised to withdraw from this race by Judith, my Canadian friend and sister to the late Terry Fox due to my health concerns, but I am pretty determined to be at the starting line come race day and to complete it no matter the time. I might be taking a big risk and gambling with my life here, but I guess my medical background, thoughts of my friends and my stubbornness are the things that will spearhead my attack.

Though I do not know how will I fare in the race, one thing for sure is that I believe I am able to complete it, unless something goes awfully wrong. And if that really happens, so be it. At least I know I have tried. I have nothing to prove from this race, but it's an achievement that I will really like to live with. Besides I will like to defy my weaker physical self, my past and of course the odds that my life has come upon with.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Balance Pacesetters 15KM 2009...

Event: New Balance Pacesetters 15KM 2009
Venue: Tapak A, Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 17 May 2009
Time 7.00am
Distance: 15KM (15.16KM by Keat Seong's Garmin Forerunner 405)
Shoe: adidas adizero Tempo
By Frank

My third New Balance Pacesetters 15KM run since 2 years ago sees a change in the race route for the second time. And it gets tougher and tougher. Nevertheless, I'm not gearing anything for this run as I will mark my tapering phase for my Sundown Marathon in 2 weeks time with it, hoping to run at a steady 6 minutes per kilometer pace.

New Balance Pacesetters 15KM 2009 race route...

Having ran a 30KM LSD (Long Slow Distance) run yesterday, my legs were pretty heavy. In addition to that, a 8KM run before the race didn't help much especially when my stomach is acting up a little. But I know this needs to be done in order to bump up my mileage as I am seriously lacking from it for I just recovered from my migraine (I hope) a few days ago. Take it as a last minute rush but yeah, these are just how things shaped up in my training's closing stages.

Met up with friends like Ben, Yee Hua, Yin Fook and Yee Tze at the car park and we chatted while walking to the starting point. Quickly passed my baggage to the organisers before checking into the starting pent with Loke when we soon bump into Victor who was looked very tired. The start was in a staggered manner where the men will start 15 minutes ahead of the women. This had to be done as the starting area was just too narrow. I started with Loke and Victor at the back and it took us almost 2 minutes to just cross the starting mat, and not forgetting the way up was so congested that I can't even manoeuvre myself pass the slower runners. It was only when I got to the main road at Jalan Parlimen when I only managed to break free, running my way into the double hills route.

Just before entering Kenny Hills, Raymond who was a road marshall was there directing runners. He called out to me asking me to go faster for the rest are in front. Replied him that I was tapering. Haha... Into Jalan Tungku, I caught up with Alex, Kelvin and Kevin and managed a few good chats and laughter. Even Tony joined the fun when he rode his motorcycle passed us, polluting the morning air. We called out to him asking him to cycle instead. Haha... Soon later, we broke free from each other.

Halfway up the climb, the ribbon station appeared and I heard a familiar voice. Shih Ming was giving out the ribbons with some other marshalls. She reserved a ribbon for me but I thought the runner in front of me wanted to grab it which he did not. I ran passed Shih Ming only to returned back to grab it from her. And at this point, I noticed Lynn was there too shooting photographs.

Exiting the hilly area and into the open area above the Mahameru highway running towards the National Monument, I spotted Wan and greeted him. Paced with him for a while before I noticed that his pace was a sub 6 minute one. Decided to back off and it was a good choice as Kevin soon caught up with me. We ran together all the way to the end chatting and crossed the finish line together after running a loop around Lake Gardens in a time of 01:29:13.

No idea how will my finishing photo look like, but yeah, this is my first ever photo finish side by side with a friend. And I'm glad I managed to control my pace, for I'm really happy with my results. Exactly what I had in mind. It will be perfect if I only can control this for the entire 84KM at the Sundown Marathon.

Chilled around the race village meeting up with others including Adam, Keat Seong, Lionel, Lynn, Michelle and many more. It was good to see Lynn again and we had a good time catching up.

Though the event was really well organise, I didn't really enjoy it as much as I did during the previous 2 editions. I guess I was tired, and maybe the hot weather played a part too. Nevertheless, I had a good time with my friends as after the run, together with Lynn, Pui San and Shih Ming, we all went to Madam Kwan Cafe at Bangsar for breakfast plus lunch. And we were joined by a few other friends like Sam, Carmen, Leslie and Lisa. Though remained pretty quiet throughout the session, I enjoyed listening to the conversations between them as it was filled with laughter.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Awakening The Witch...

By Frank

17 days to go till Sundown Marathon 2009. It's time to reveal my shoe of choice, the Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3. It hasn't seen the light since the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008 and has been stuffed with those brown paper (to keep the shoe in shape) and "hibernating" in the shoe cabinet since then. Almost a year since its purchase, the 100KM has yet been breach. Reason was simple. I totally like this shoe a lot and haven't have the heart to wear it as its outsole can't take much punishment. Call it compassion but one thing for sure is that I know if that I do wear it for races, the shoe won't be here to accompany me to Changi Village this month end. So out comes the shoe from the cabinet now and into my feet for a few runs before the big day.

"Yawn" says the Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3...

The Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3 I have currently is the first ever batch released that came in a fierce bright yellow and a little black colour. Almost a year now, its colour has since been replaced by black and lime green, and a new white plus lime green colour is on the horizon. I only ran in 2 races with it being the Mizuno Wave Run 2008 and the earlier mentioned Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008 which I ran my current personal best in it.

So why this shoe? Reason was simple. Comfort. My current arsenal of long distance running shoe is down to my 2 racers being the Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3 and the Nike LunaRacer+. The latter though offer superior cushioning, is kind of tight as I bought half a size too small. Besides, the ventilation of the shoe is poor. Not wanting my foot to suffocate in the middle of the night, the awesome ventilation of the Fastwitch 3 will help here with it's large meshes and not forgetting holes on the outsole too.

One main concern I have about the Fastwitch 3 is it's cushioning. Pretty comfortable for a marathon distance, but how will it fare for 84KM? It's a low profile shoe and I almost can feel the ground with it. Therefore, I have taken an extra insole and inserted it into the shoe which should be able to soften and cushion my every pounding. So yeah with this, I need to run a few times in it to get use to the feeling. Therefore, it's time for the witch's awakening...

* Here's a little update on my migraine condition. Still experiencing small and short little attacks but they are manageable. No painkillers has been taken for more than 48 hours now. However, I'm still heavy on Neurobions which led to a few sleepless nights. Otherwise, I think things are looking pretty fine.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Larian Bersama Bomba 2009...

Event: Larian Bersama Bomba 2009
Venue: Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 10 May 2009
Time: 7.30am
Distance: 10KM (10.93KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205 - Year 2008 reading)
Shoe: adidas adizero Tempo
By Frank

2 years down the road, the Larian Bersama Bomba (National Firefighter's Day Run) left me with bad experiences. Not on the quality of the run but emotional reasons. Year 2007, though I registered for the run, I did not turn up at all as I went down with a boil. With that, I registered my first even DNS (Did Not Show) in my running career. Year 2008, despite clocking a personal best timing for the race route, I was left humiliated when I got insulted by a fellow runner as I missed out on the medal position by 2 placings. That left me with a "scar" even up till today.

Not sure if it's deja-vu, but I was faced by another problem this year, my migraine. I woke up in the morning feeling an attack was just around the corner. Took down extra dosage of the Ponstan painkillers to keep it at bay and it helped after a minor attack. But still, I waited till the very last minute before I decided to race. Yes, I can be pretty stubborn at times. I arrived at the venue and rested in my car while I made up my decision.

And so, my migraine did not come and I put on my race vest. However, another problem soon came. The extra high dosage of Ponstan left me pretty stoned and my stomach a little problematic. Kept myself occupied by chatting with Loke to forget about it. And just before entering the starting pent, I met up with Keat Seong who was there supporting Jennifer and also as a photographer. With our usual self of playing a prank and pressuring each other, he pressured me to run a sub-48 minutes on this course, which is super tough. But I knew he was joking as he was aware of my current health problem. Therefore, did not take it to heart as I know myself that I'm not fit to race this event. I'm just here to run, and to take it as part of my training regime.

In I went to the starting pent and chatted away with Loke till the clock tower showed 7.30am and off I went. Started at the rear end and had trouble navigating through the sea of runners. Only managed to break free upon entering Kenny Hills. Half way through Kenny Hills, my right shoe lace came loose. Sigh... Wasted a couple of minutes tying them back. Lost my running momentum and soon, side stitch found its way on to my right side.

Slowed down to tackle the side stitch and it slowly went away. As I approach Jalan Tungku, I spotted Adam and Pui San approximately 50M ahead of me, I decided to use them to be my marker. "Just keep them in sight", I told myself. At the exit of Jalan Tungku, a refreshment station was there. Though the marshal were giving out bottles of water, he was really slow. Wasted a few seconds there to grab one as the weather was hot and humid. Gurgled my throat before I pour some water over me.

Then came the dreaded Duta Highway. The usual traffic and fumes problem coupled with the weather did not help at all. I gurgled and spitted numerous times to keep my throat clear of what ever particles I may have breathed in. I was just relieved when I got to the Parliament stretch. With another kilometer to go, just after the Bukit Aman traffic light junction, I finally turned on my race pace and slowly creep into Adam and Pui San. But then, my right shoe lace came loose again. It was too late to tie them back so I ran with it, the shoe slowly loosening up. It was only at the final stretch just in front of the clock tower that I finally made my move on Adam and Pui San and eventually passed them. I finally crossed the finish line in 00:53:48 with my right shoe still attached. Haha... And as expected, all 75 finisher's medals were already snatched up. Though no finisher's medal nor personal best timing for me, I was not disappointed at all as in fact, I was pretty pleased with how I did. And most importantly, no emotional heartbreak this time unlike the previous 2 years.

Spent some quality time with Keat Seong, Loke, Tony, Jennifer, Pui San, Shih Ming and some others before leaving for home. Though no longer feeling stoned or any stomach discomfort, I knew I was a walking "time bomb" as the migraine will soon come. I just need a cool dark room to rest in and I will be in it (my bedroom, haha...) after publishing this.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fighting A Losing Battle...

By Frank
With 26 days till the Sundown Marathon 2009, I have been hit by a major setback. 6 days ago, which was 2 days after my return from my Mount Kinabalu expedition trip, I went down with migraine.

The last time that I was hit by migraine was about 4 to 5 years back. Not sure what had caused its return, but since my lifestyle and diet has been generally good, I can only put the blame on the expedition. The lack of oxygen and air pressure on the way to the Mount Kinabalu summit is the prime suspect here.

Ever since I returned, I have only did 1 long run which was over the past weekend running 32.42KM at the second night run at Putrajaya organised by Terence. And that even almost took everything out of me. I took painkillers before and after the run to control the pain. Besides that, I have to take additional Vitamin B supplements and coffee each day as both has proven to help control it. However, as these 2 generally helps in making one more alert, I was left with sleepless nights. Not forgetting that any attack during my sleep will actually disturb me, thus resulting with huge and dark eye bags on me now.

And as my condition worsen today (record 6 attacks), I am denied from any physical activities even from simple ones like abdominal crunch as any of these will trigger off the pain.

Am I worried? Of course I am! Though I'm no Superman, I know the feeling is like Superman being exposed to kryptonite. See... I'm talking Superman now! The migraine has seriously got into me. Though my fitness hasn't drop much "yet", I'm not sure how am I going to pull this through. This is certainly a bad timing as I'm really fighting a losing battle here.