Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 27 December 2009
Distance: 10.5KM per loop. Run as much in 12 hours with a minimum of 5 loops.
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Kayano 15 & Nike LunarGlide+
What do you get when you combine runners, a 10.5KM trail, a reservoir, loose soil, sand, rocks, roots and a great weather? Easily guessed as it's on the title itself, the MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009. The concept of the MR25 Ultra Marathon is to run the most loops around the 10.5KM trail surrounding the reservoir in 12 hours time starting from 7.00am. And to earn the finisher's shirt and certificate (no finisher's medal), one is required to complete at least 5 loops. However, a new rule was introduced and this made it tougher. To complete a loop in 2 hours time. Trust me, this isn't easy.
My second ultra marathon and my first trail run, I travelled to Singapore alone a day before the race before meeting up with Steven, my room and travel mate. I fell sick 2 days before the event going down with flu and it became worst a day before when fever hit me. Even my left eye was reddish and swollen. Took a strong dosage of Vitamin C with just 2 tablets of paracetamol and plenty of water coupled with plenty of rest and hope for the best. And yeah, by evening of pre-race day, I felt a lot better though still a bit feverish.
Let's jump straight to the race as there's nothing interesting to talk about on pre-race day especially when one is sick. Not my usual self of waking up early, I had a little problem climbing out of bed in the morning. Probably still feeling wobbly from the flu. Steven was already up and was halfway done, munching on his breakfast at 4.30am. We were both done by 6am and we managed to flag down a cab with ease to make our way to the reservoir which was actually nearby, at least for me. Upon arriving, we soon bumped into our friends from Cheang, Ching Tai, Mohan, Tey and Amelia. Registered, paid and got our race bibs and soon it was race time at 7.00am.
A low key start as the siren was set off by Mike Dyson, the MR25 president. Just took it easy as the surface was pretty slippery due to the heavy shower the day before. Soon after about 500M on tarmac, runners were then greeted by the first taste of trail. Into the jungle we ran. Pebbles and rocks were everywhere on this 3KM trail that sent runners on a descending and ascending ride. Not easy to tackle as I even slip a few times. Luckily I didn't crash. Hahaha...
Out from the forest later, the first water station came into picture at 3.5KM but I skipped it as I have my Weider energy jelly with me. Was greeted by a pretty steep but short climb and at the top of it, it's into the jungle again, and soon a ranger post came into picture. Continued my lonely run pass the Jelutong Observation Tower which I really felt like climbing up to witness the scenery. I did not though.
Next was some running on planks and I really enjoyed this part as I felt I was in some adventure movie. Hahaha... Too bad it didn't last very long and I found myself running along the reservoir which was simply beautiful and relaxing, minus the sound of golfers swinging their clubs.
Into the jungle again, and this time it was muddy. Was reduced to walking at certain parts as it required some tackling of huge rocks and tree roots. Felt like tracking on Mount Kinabalu. The reward for successfully tackling this will be the second water station at the 7.5KM mark. I skipped it again and it's pretty safe running on the friendly trail here till I hit the reservoir park which is back on road. From here, it's the run to the start/finish point to complete my first loop at 01:06:45.
I carried on without stopping and here I go again repeating the same route. Left feet was bit painful especially at the fore foot. Guess must the pebbles. Felt I was slowing down but I kept going. With the weaken leg, I slipped even more times and I regretted not changing to my "waffle treaded" Nike LunarGlide+ earlier as the ASICS GEL-Kayano 15 has a smooth outsole.
Nothing much happen at the second loop so I jump straight to the third, one after changing into the Nike LunarGlide+ and also taking in a small box of raisins and 2 bananas. And also before starting my third loop, I SMSed a friend of mine and looked forward to a reply after completing my run. And from here onwards, I did just it after completing each loop.
Legs were feeling horrible here but the new shoe I put on did really help with the traction. Plus, it was black in colour so I wasn't too heartbroken with the mud on it. Hahaha... At about 26KM, I decided to start walking to help ease the pain and also that a headache came. But I did not do that for very long as I knew if I don't continue to run, my legs will lock up. It was after the second water station, that I found my groove and actually went faster hence I completed my third loop just a bit faster compared to my second. I guess looking forward to the SMS reply did really help.
Reply from my friend upon completing my third and I fired one back before starting my fourth. Legs were really painful, but I want the finisher's shirt and certificate badly. Keep going, keep going! I don't really know how many times I had to stop during my fourth but I do remember that at the 5KM mark, I felt irritation building up on my right armpit. Not wanting to risk chaffing or a torn skin, I had no choice but to run topless. It was my first time, but I have to admit, it felt "natural". Hahaha...
Completing my fourth, I saw Cheang who just completed his third. He was suffering from some hip pain. As I rested, he carried on. Munch down another banana and replied the SMS before setting off again, back in my running vest again. I got a little worried about this loop as I knew it will be really close to the 2 hour cut off for each loop for my legs were "lost somewhere in the jungle". I managed to force myself to jog a little as I needed some company and managed to catch up with Cheang at about the 2KM mark. We walked together chit chatting as I tried to recover from my earlier headache which eventually subside with more sugar intake Arrive at about 4.5KM before I took off again as I really want to complete the loop within 2 hours, although Cheang told me that he actually clarified with the organisers that as long we complete 5 loops in 10 hours, we are then qualified. Forced myself to endure the pain and run as much as I can and finally managed to conquer my fifth in 01:46:32, the slowest of all 5 loops with a total time of 07:04:39 covering 52.5KM. Was just relieved that I qualified.
I was really hungry at this point hence decided to stop for my lunch break here. Besides, I pretty have enough already as I will still need my legs 2 days later for yet another endurance ride up north in Penang. Lunch was of Chinese mix rice. Though simple, I enjoyed it. Maybe I was too hungry. Completing my meal, Ching Tai arrived and asked me to accompany him which I gladly did. However, I told him to go ahead as I did not have the intention to run on full stomach. All I just wanted to do from here onwards is just to do my sixth slowly enjoying the sights and sounds of the reservoir while searching for my "lost legs" (recovery walk). He accompanied me till the entrance to the trail before he went running again.
I rested at a hut near the 1.5KM mark for about 10 minutes, stretching myself while waiting for Cheang. He arrived shortly later after I restarted my walk and I was glad I had company again. A funny scene at the first water station as a lady was actually asking the uncle who was manning the station for sale of isotonic drinks. No drinks for sale, but he was glad to offer some to her. Hahaha... Continuing on, I advised Cheang to at least run a little to meet the qualifying time. He did after the ranger station and I was left alone again. But that did not stop me from chatting with other runners who are struggling to run. This is what ultra running is all about. Keeping everyone entertained especially when times are tough.
Took a pretty long break at the 2nd water station before resuming with an increase in my walking pace. Out of the jungle, I jog a little and soon I saw the start/finish point as I ran to it completing my 6th loop which also mark the end of my adventure with a total time of 09:46:14 covering 63KM.
My split times:
1st loop (10.5KM) - 01:06:45
2nd loop (21KM) - 02:15:10 / 01:08:25
3rd loop (31.5KM) - 03:48:58 / 01:33:47
4th loop (42KM) - 05:18:07 / :01:29:09
5th loop (52.5KM) - 07:04:39 / 01:46:32
Rest and lunch break - 07:28:48 / 00:24:08
6th loop (63KM) - 09:46:14 / 02:17:26
Rested, refueled with another lunch pack and went to support other runners especially Steven with Tey. And while doing so, an Indian runner who had earlier completed his run suddenly collapsed out of a sudden. Tey asked me if I knew CPR which I did and I went over to see if the poor chap needs one. I monitored him a for a while and was glad he was awake shortly later though still wobbly. An ambulance was called over and he was sent to the hospital. Hope he is doing fine.
After about 10:30:00, Steven is back completing his 8th loop. He decided to call it a day here and with it, he earned himself a 4th placing. Congratulations to him! Shared our stories with Tey and other runners while waiting for the prize presentation. Even met up with other runners too before we returned to the hotel for a well deserved rest where both of us just knocked out. That's how tough ultra running is but it's really fun in a way. We left for home the next day.
The MR25 Ultra Marathon 2009 marks the second longest distance I ran for now. It's certainly more challenging than the 84KM Sundown Marathon 2009 I did for it's trail running, something I have not try before until now. Will I return to this event again? Though it isn't on my to do list anymore, I will definitely return if given the chance to as I highly recommend this event especially for those who likes to be with part with nature.
- Steven, for being my travel mate for this trip and also sharing his amazing stories.
- Tey, for coming all the way for photo shooting. Indeed a very dedicated photographer like no other.
- Cheang, Mohan and Amelia, thanks a lot for the tips and for making this event more interesting with your presence.
- MR25 organising committee and runners I met, congratulations to everyone and it has been indeed an experience.
- My friend who has kept me entertained at every loop by SMSes.