Tuesday, May 29, 2012

En Route The Ultimate...

By Frank

Who or at least myself will have though that I will be running the Comrades Marathon. A typical Malaysian runner as I describe myself as, I just run. But things change, and in a few days time, I will experience the world's oldest and probably toughest road race ever. Looking back at 21 October 2011 when I first sign up for Comrades Marathon 2012 to qualifying for it at the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2011 and also setting up my cause to raise fund for cancer research with CARIF, time certainly flies when I will be on my way to South Africa tonight. Yeap, by the time this entry is auto published, I should already be preparing to leave for KL Sentral to catch the KLIA express to the airport.

Time certainly flies from counting down from months, 100 days, weeks and finally to just a few more days to race day, the distance of 89.28KM now stands in my way to complete my ultimate and probably toughest road race. Build up to the race wasn't really ideal but I will take the fact how it ended as there is no point crying over spill milk now. But again, in the final 1 month though was really busy, it was fruitful in a way and I hope this will be something positive that I will carry into the race itself. I managed to pull myself together and squeezed in running times despite arriving home late at night. 3 weeks ago, mum had to undergo an operation to have a growth remove from her salivary gland on her left cheek and that particular week has been really tough for myself and dad. But all is good now and the growth is of non-cancerous.

Travel documents and race confirmation slip all ready...

About a couple of weeks ago, together with Professor Teo from CARIF, we had an interview with Sin Chew Jit Poh and she described me as a person with a very strong will and determination. I was really caught by surprised when she mentioned that to the journalist but felt extremely flattered at the same time. I do not wish Professor Teo's  view of me to be a wrong one and I will always remember this not only during the Comrades Marathon, but in my entire running career.

Official cut off time will be 12 hours but organisers do not take into account on nett timing hence being seeded at the last pent, I would have about 10 to 15 minutes lesser. Being an ultra marathon, completion is my utmost priority but I would like to do it within 11.5 hours, or better around 11 hours. I just hope that I will be able to maintain a 6:45 minute per kilometer pace for much distance of the run just like how I did it with a 6:30 minute per kilometer pace back at Sundown 84KM 2 years back. Therefore, I still see my past experience as the most crucial knowledge that I will bring into the race.

So on 3 June 2012, 11.30am local time, do log in to Mr Price Heroes and track me at race number 57056 or simply enter my registered name at Wei Siong, Chong. Else, my Facebook profile at Frank.ChongWS should have auto updates too should it work properly. I've enabled the application and hopefully the initial test done will proof that it is working.

Excitement coupled with nervousness is starting to build. Comrades Marathon 2012, 3 June 2012. 89.28KM is what stands in my way now as I run my ultimate road race for cancer research! To and behalf CARIF, which includes Outdoor Venture Pte Ltd, Running Lab, K-Swiss, GU Energy Labs, Runners Malaysia, 2ndskin and for those who have donated, bought the t-shirt, pledged and supported my cause at The Ultimate Race for Cancer Research, my sincere THANKS for making this happen for hope shines brighter for cancer patients, survivors and loved ones. 4 days to Comrades Marathon 2012. Till then, here's Frank signing off from Malaysia, at least for 2 weeks...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Packed, Set and Ready To Go...

By Frank

When it comes to long distance travel, I don't take chances with my travel items. And this trip to South Africa being my furthest away from home for about 2 weeks, nothing should be taken granted. And as usual for any of my far far away trips, I will always prepare packing list. For those who knows me and have read my previous long adventure, my way of listing down my packing list can be all down to details, systematic at least in my way so that I won't be screaming my lungs out far away from home for forgetting to bring along that particular item.

My packing list. Like moving "kampung" you say...

For this adventure, I will be flying on board Singapore Airline which only allowed 20KG check-in luggage and also 7KG hand carry. Maximum I can go till for check-in luggage is actually 32KG but anything after 20KG, there will be of course extra charges which, I do not wish to pay. 20KG is really little compared to other major airlines. Sad to say, but no choice to acknowledge it as I am paying a much lesser compared to others. So it's pack pack pack, squeeze squeeze and squeeze for me, till everything goes in and hopefully, it does not exceed 20KG else I will have to pay extra!

Looking at my packing list, there will be extras that I will need to bring over for my Malaysian and Singaporean food deprived friends there. Basically Old Town White Coffee for Chee Kong, and Lipton Instant Teh Tarik and Nissin "Chu Chien Yi Ding" noodles for Phil. And why am I bringing 2 tablets there, should you be wondering why? Well, the Samsung is mine, while the New iPad is actually just recently purchased by Chee Kong via the online Malaysia Apple store which is then delivered to me. Reason is simple. Apple products over at South Africa is really expensive and I understand Chee Kong's wish to have it purchase back at home. Well, at least I can play with it first.

"Extra baggage" for my Malaysian and Singaporean friends working at South Africa...

And also some new toys for myself which I just got for myself yesterday. A new camera, the Panasonic Lumix FT4 to be carried along with me during the Comrades Marathon and also The Old Fisherman Trail Challenge, and also a new flashgun the Canon Speedlite 430 EXii to be paired along my Canon EOS 7D. Both I've been wanting to get them since early this year but waited till the very last minute as the former wasn't available back then (it was just launched a month ago) and the announcement of a replacement model for the latter which did not happen. So I be hoping to take some really nice memorable photos from South Africa.

New toys hoping to capture some nice memorable photos of South Africa...

Back to my packing, most important will of course be my race essentials for 2 events there, being the main one at Comrades Marathon and the happy go lucky one, The Old Fisherman Trail Challenge. The latter, I will have extra things to buy over there as the race organisers demand for it. The others are pretty basic and I hope I will extra space in my baggage too actually bring home some gifts and souvenirs. Yeap, some of you will be getting it and some will be getting the famous South African biltong! Those getting it, you cannot say "No" ya! Hehehe...

As for my luggage bag, the every famous BBB (Big Black Bag) makes its return. An expandable 24" trolley bag, this will be my main luggage bag followed by a K-Swiss duffel bag and a K-Swiss backpack. And of course a Deuter waist pouch for my important documents. With all the gargantuan sized luggage, I think I will be clumsy walking around with them. I just hope the weight won't be issue though. But once everything is settle, only my backpack will be travelling around with me at South Africa leaving the 2 bigger ones back at the hotel.

My luggage all set to go, of course after squeezing the Malaysia flag into one of the bags. BBB is the one on the far right, just in case you are wondering which is the "famous" bag...

So yeah, with 9 days till race day and 4 days till my flight for South Africa, I'm all packed and ready to go!  Now am just wondering how heavy is that trolley bag? Hmmm...

* There will be a simple gathering on 29 May 2012, 5.00PM at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, KL Sentral just before I leave. Will proceed to the KLIA Express check-in counter at 6.00PM. Come join me for some photo session together should you be around that area. I will leave for the airport on board the express train at 6.45pm.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

South Africa Travel Plans...

By Frank

To keep it short and straight to the point, I'm just glad that my travel itinerary for South Africa is finally finalised by Chee Kong. Though I do not know of any places of interest to visit, but at least I do know where am I heading to. As mentioned previously, I will be leaving for South Africa on 29 May 2012 and will be back home on 11 June 2012. That's close to 2 weeks, a well deserve holiday after working since 15 July 2011.

A South Africa map...

I won't be bringing a lot of money there as I will be relying on credit card. Reason behind this is because the currency used there which is known as Rand (ZAR) can't be exchange here locally. For your info, RM1.00 is almost equivalent to ZAR2.69. Hence therefore, Chee Kong will probably be my "banker" over there.

South African currency, the Rand...

Anyhow, here's what Chee Kong has planned out for our trip:

29 May 2012, Tuesday - Flying on board Singapore Airline SQ5329 at 9.45pm to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2. And after laying off there for about 3.5 hours, to resume flight on board Singapore Airline SQ478 at 2.10am to Johannesburg for a close to 11 hours flight. *gulps*

30 May 2012, Wednesday - Arrival at Johannesburg and expecting a pick-up from Chee Kong to his place. Upon settling down at his place, a planned visit to the museum.

31 May 2012, Thursday - Still at Johannesburg, a visit to Lion Park in the morning while noon to night is free for all.

01 June 2012, Friday - An early morning 600KM drive to Durban. A planned breakfast at Harrismith before checking into our accommodation at Belaire Suites. From there, a planned visit to Pietermaritzburg for the Comrades Expo.

Belaire Suites at Durban...

02 June 2012, Saturday - Comrades route tour and exhibition with the organisers.

03 June 2012, Sunday - Comrades Marathon 2012 race day!!!

04 June 2012, Monday - A 600KM drive back to Johannesburg and checking in back at Chee Kong's place.

05 June 2012, Tuesday - 1500KM morning flight on board Kulula Air to George. Putting up at Mossel Bay at Santos Train, a train theme hotel that looks really interesting. Will be renting a cross-over vehicle from here and the planned vehicle is a Nissan Livina X-Gear simply known as the Nissan Livina Range at South Africa! A planned visit to an ostrich farm at Oudtshoorn, some 77KM away is on the list for the first day here.

South Africa domestic airlines, the Kulula Air. So green...

Santos Train Backpackers...

Ostrich racing at Oudtshoorn...

06 June 2012, Wednesday - A drive to Cape Agulhas some 280KM away. Putting up at Cape Agulhas Bakcpackers for a night here.

View of Cape Agulhas Lighthouse...

07 June 2012,  Thursday -Drive to Hermanus and finally Cape Town with a total of 240KM. Putting up at Green Elelphant Backpackers. Hopefully Phil who is now working there will be able to join us. A planned visit to Table Mountain follows.

Cape Town...

08 June 2012, Friday - Planned visit to Cape Peninsula, Kalk Bay, Simon's Town, Cape of Good Hope and Hout Bay.

Cape Peninsula...

09 June 2012, Saturday - The Old Fisherman Trail Challenge from Fish Hoek to Hout Bay at Cape Town. Another 21KM of running on trail. Chee Kong will be leaving for the United State of America after the run and I will be left with Mei Ee and Phil here.

10 June 2012, Sunday - Goodbye South Africa! Flying back home on board SQ479 at 11.35am to Johannesburg first before to Singapore. And finally on board SQ106 at 8.35am the next morning, it's back to Kuala Lumpur.

As above, most of the important travel plans has been pin pointed out by Chee Kong. Of course there will still be other places to visit and things to do, but we will see how it goes on the actual day. It won't be easy after running the Comrades Marathon and hopefully, we won't be limping around too much. But still, with 18 days to go, I'm so looking forward to this trip! :D

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Final Push...

By Frank

Finally seeing the sunshine (and rain) out of the box and plastics, this morning, I tested almost all the race gear that I will be using on 3 June 2012 for the Comrades Marathon. The only thing that I left our was my BV Sport compression calf sleeve which I am pretty confident off. From top to bottom, almost every single gear except for my heart rate monitor is new for this race. Even my race brief is new! And for the cause I'm supporting for a cancer free tomorrow, I even had my shoe laces customised to be of purple colour. For those who didn't know, purple represents the awareness for a cancer free tomorrow.

Here's a breakdown of my race gear:

1) K-Swiss Blade-Foot Run - This is actually a second pair and not the one I've used during Twilight Ultra Challenge back in March 2012. Stress tested it the past 2 months and I'm happy and confident that this shoe will give my legs all the much needed. The only difference now will be the elastic shoe laces.

2) K-Swiss tri top and short - Brand new design for year 2012, I've been wearing triathlon apparels for the past 2 years of running and am absolutely happy with it. No worrying of chafing, I can even choose to unzip up to chest level whenever the weather gets hot. Sponges fits well on the shoulder and I even can store essentials in my rear pocket.

3) Polar RCX5 G5 - My trustworthy chronograph, heart rate monitor and GPS tracker, this have been my training companion since I purchased it last October 2011. And this will track my progress on the big day itself.

4) Drymax Running Lite Mesh - Absolutely loving my Drymax socks due to its dryness but the search was not easy. Torn between this and the Hyper Thin Running, I chose this due to the slightly thicker padding to it.

Despite less than 2 hours of sleep, the run this morning was of 30.85KM in distance covering major hills at Kinrara till Equine Park and back. I'm glad all the gears worked flawlessly. I even tested the exact flavour of the nutrition supplements I will be taking on race day minus the Pepsi of course. The run was did with Roy and we started really early at 4.10am. Started well with cool weather on our side (began to drizzle at 8KM onwards), but legs began to feel tired at 22KM hence went into economical mode. At 28KM, I increase my pace a little to finish the run strongly.

Details of my run as per recorded on Polar Personal Trainer can be viewed here.

Overall, this final push is really tiring but it was needed and I felt satisfied with it. After analysing the data from my Polar RCX5, I'm in fact very happy with my heart rate reading and also pace. I certainly hope everything will go well like today on race day. Will continue to wear the gears for a little while longer before they goes into my luggage for race day packing. Oh and yeah. It's 22 days left!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Pressure, Stress and Everything Else...

By Frank

After my lack luster run yesterday night and while waiting for my hair to dry before going to bed, I was chatting with Chee Kong. And we chatted of course about our upcoming Comrades Marathon.

He told me that I was putting too much stress to myself before the big day as I have been running for almost every night now after work. Well... I do not deny that as I'm putting all extra effort in now even if I have to run late at night upon returning late from work. Even with a new "challenge" currently where a family member needs each and everyone of us to be around, I still took time to run, the reason behind very late night runs. To me, it's that every small little thing that I do now that will make a difference and I do hope its for the positive.

I was careful though to make sure I won't injure myself or even over do it. Recovery is absolutely important and I paid extra effort in making sure recovery supplements are pumped into my body within 30 minutes after my workout to speed up recovery. Weekday runs after work is mainly about 5KM or a little bit more around my neighbourhood. These runs are mainly done at faster pace.

On weekends, a long run is in the menu normally ran at my intended Comrades Marathon race pace which is about 6:45 minute per kilometer. However, the sad thing is that since weekend runs are always around 5.30am in the morning, I have failed numerous times already in dragging myself out of bed. It's not easy to leave work late and with minimal sleep, running in the early hours is pretty tough for me.

So, with 25 days to go till the Comrades Marathon, am I stressing out myself too much? The hype is certainly building up all over and I sometimes hope that the run is actually tomorrow. The pressure and stress is building day after day as the run approaches. "One step at a time. Time is still available. Just make good use of it, the smart way and The Ultimate Human Race will be my playground". And this I kept reminding myself.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Going Fishing at Cape Town...

By Frank

After the Comrades Marathon, I will be taking some time out over at the beautiful city of Cape Town together with Chee Kong and Mei Ee while meeting up with Phil who is currently working there. And while there, the first thing that came into a runner's mind is that whether is there any interesting running events there and so, this entry is all about it.

Just a day before leaving South Africa from Cape Town on 10 June 2012, I will be participating in my second running event there, 6 days after the Comrades Marathon. It's basically call the Old Fisherman's Trail Challenge, a trail half marathon, bringing runners from a place call Fish Hoek to Hout Bay. Do check out the website at the link given for some absolutely breathtaking photos of the event.

It was Chee Kong's idea to participate in this and while learning about it and going through some past event details, I was thinking, "Why not?". The scenery is absolutely spectacular, and it will be a good recovery run. Trail and road running is very different and therefore, my legs should be able to take it, I HOPE.

The only thing that came to me as a surprise was the compulsory list of adventure and survival gear that runners have to bring along. And it's a list that requires the runner to be able to withstand the conditions out there for 5 HOURS! I was like, a half marathon on trail at that amount of time don't sound too friendly. Hmmm...

However, as my mind was made, both myself and Chee Kong included ourselves into the waiting list and we managed to register ourselves on the first day upon opening for registration as this event is always a fast sell-out. A very popular event indeed. Damaged to the credit card was surprisingly mild for an event of this scale and I'm happy I chose to participate in it.

Now the problem, I have to get myself a trail shoe!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Month Left...

By Frank

It's now officially 1 month aka 31 days left till the Comrades Marathon 2012. Time certainly flies. It was jut like yesterday when I tried to qualify myself at the Penang Bridge International Marathon last year. A month from now, I will be standing on the starting line at Pietermaritzburg in the chilling weather awaiting for the start. Yeap, as this blog gets automatically publish online, my run will also start at 11.30am Malaysian time on 3 June 2012.

Training hasn't been ideal though this has some similarity with my 84KM Sundown Ultra Marathon 2 years back. At the final 1 month till race day then, I went into panic mode and put in all the effort I could after having "rested" more than the usual and this resulted with a personal best time which I still hold till today. Probably the rest has allowed my body to heal and recover from any past fatigue and the determination to run a good run fueled me at that time. I certainly hope this will happen again though this time, I have the retail fatigue to tackle with.

It will be a case of determination and will power, and my cause of having to run for a cancer free tomorrow. Time is ticking and it's time to rev things up. I hope within this 1 month, something in me will come roaring forward. After 10 ultra marathons thus far, let my experience shine in this ultimate human race. 31 days. Every run, every step, every food and drinks I consume, let's make it count!