Monday, April 29, 2013

Bidor Half Marathon 2013...

Event: Bidor Half Marathon 2013
Venue: Bidor, Perak
Date: 28 April 2013
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 21KM
Shoe: Saucony Virrata
By Frank

The one and only time I ran the Bidor Half Marathon was back in 2008. That was also my very first time I step into this very small town. From then on, I did not have the chance to participate in it due to clash of other events. When the chance came to run it again this year, I quickly sign up for it together with Roy and Jamie.

Fast forwarding to travel day on Saturday, the plan was to meet up at Plaza Damas and leave there by 10am. We were late by 10 minutes but quickly made ground thanks to Cham driving her new Lexus hyrbid. We met up with Hong Lan Renee at the Rawang rest area before travelling together convoy style. And in close to 2 hours time, we arrived at Bidor.

First stop was at Dewan Muhibbah to collect our race pack. Collection wasn't very smooth though as I would say that it was much better back in year 2008. Nevertheless, everything was settled without much issues and lunch was on the menu next. We were late for the famous "chee cheong fun" (rice cake) as the stall was already packed up. With no other choice, we settled down at the rather famous Pun Chun coffeeshop which specialised in the famous herbal duck noodle. But instead, the guys ordered mix rice while the ladies wan tan noodles as we all agreed that the herbal duck noodle was over rated.

After filling up, it was to Grand Kampar Hotel at Kampar town, some 30KM drive north. We booked the family suite which was more than enough to house 4 of us. Francis arrived in the evening and joined us for dinner at the Kampar famous claypot chicken rice. Frankly speaking, I have tasted better. However, this was rather healthy as not much soya sauce was used, with the exception of generous amount of salted fish and preserved Chinese sausage. A short walk at the nearby night market before heading back to the hotel to rest.

Race morning, I had adequate sleep thanks to the very comfy mattress. However, I felt bloated probably due to over eating especially on black sesame cookies the day before. Arriving at the race site, it was a visit to the potty loo while Roy and Jamie tried to locate the others to distributes the race pack.

At 7am, the race started for the half marathon. My initial plan was to better my half marathon time set many years back. But I had to cancel the plan as my body was still sore from the recent treadmill challenge with Devan. Therefore, a sub 2 hours half marathon will be more realistic. I started somewhere mid pack with Roy and had trouble making ground due to the crowd. It was until about 500M into the run at the main road where I found space to navigate through. 

Was pacing with Roy till 3KM or so when my diaphragm starting to show signs of discomfort. Had to slow my pace to nurse it. Roy flew ahead. Arriving at the first u-turn point, I took a cup of water to wet my throat.  My hydration plan was not to drink till the second u-turn point which should be at 15KM. Yeah, I am following the Tim Noakes plan.

I felt better after the u-turn and managed to run just a little faster and managed to conquer the first half in below an hour. Spotted Lai Ling and managed to keep her in sight. Into the second half of the course, beside  having the sun up on shining on us, the rolling hills also began to welcome us. Being a hill person, I believe this is where my advantage lies and with the Saucony Virrata, it really helped a lot on the ascend.

A cup of water to wet my throat.

The "aroma" of cow dung welcomed the runners at about 12KM and I nearly ran into a pile of it! Phew...And from here, I spotted Kian Seng and we ran together, teasing each other with jokes. A very "chill-lax" run. Stride after stride, hills after hills, we edge nearer to the second u-turn point. And as planned, I took a very small sip of isotonic drink here before continuing.

And it's here, that I felt strong with no longer discomfort on my diaphragm anymore and went for it. Kilometer after kilometers, negative splits was achieved till the final 3KM when I spotted Roy and Jamie. Navigated the last few winding turns at the country side road before entering the neighbourhood.

Exiting the countryside.

With 500M or so more to go, I look back to look for Roy. I started to walk but resume running when Roy caught up. And from here on, we ran together till we cross the finish line in 1:57:58 hours. Am really satisfied with my effort here as it will go down as a quality run for my Comrades Marathon training.

All the way to the finish line.

A long wait for prize presentation as Francis, Lai Ling and Yen Erl all went back with something. And after the wait, to our disappointment again, the "chee cheong fun" stall was already close yet again. Settle for a simple breakfast and back to the hotel to clean ourselves up before checking out. And before leaving, we had Kampar's very famous "lou shee fun" (mouse noodles - shape like mouse tail). This did not disappointment as it was really good especially the fish ball as it was packed with fish meat. And from here, we left for home with a very satisfied tummy.

With Francis, Foo, Jamie and Roy.

Many thanks to Cham for taking the initiative to drive all of us up. The guys should just dig a hole in the ground and bury our head in! 

* Photo posted in this entry credits to Cham, Vivien and Jason.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Devan's 16 Hour's Treadmill Challenge...

I got to know Devan through Jeannie of back in January 2013 when I was contacted to be shared upon his story and upcoming adventure. A role which I accepted pretty instantly as I was inspired with his courage and determination. An adventure that will see him running 16 hours on the treadmill come this Monday, 22 April 2013 all in the name of charity, in his case UNICEF.

The role which I took up will be to guide and advice him through his training progress leading up to run day. What makes things more interesting is that Devan isn't a runner and with just a short time frame of just about 2.5 months, this became a tricky task to tackle not only for me, but Devan himself. After a couple of meet-ups with Devan and sharing of thoughts till the day he got clearance from the doctors, I finally delivered him his "crash course' training program which I will say it's pretty tough. Nevertheless, I told Devan to give it his best shot while not to push himself over the limits should he is not able to meet the required training program. However, he is actually doing pretty well till now. 

Running footwear provided by Saucony Malaysia, nutrition fueled by GU Energy Labs and other gears made possible by Running Lab Malaysia, I certainly hope that Devan will find his strong on the run day cause I know he CAN!

With Devan in the middle and Jeannie from on the right.

Everyone has a story to share. The following is Devan's story and his quest for his upcoming fund raising run for UNICEF.

"I will be attempting to run my personal best on a treadmill on 22 April to raise funds for UNICEF Malaysia. I believe many will wonder why attempt something as crazy as this. Looking back I consider myself very lucky - I have been blessed with a good life, a great family and the best of friends. Four years ago I had a life changing moment. My wife passed away. I was forced to reevaluate my life. I came to realize that invariably I have always chosen the easy route when faced with life's challenges. It is time for me to stand up and be counted. My late wife, a music teacher, had a soft spot for children - it was her wish to help children had she recovered.

Education played an important part in my family. I come from a family of teachers. Providing children with access to quality education is one of UNICEF's priorities. 

More info on UNICEF's education programs in Malaysia and globally can be found here:

Children have innate way of making the best of a bad situation. I count many times, my nephews and nieces have brought a smile to my face by just doing or saying something. I guess this is also my way of saying thanks.

I am uncertain if this will make a difference though I am hopeful it will. Please join me in showing your support to UNICEF - let's make a difference for children.

The details of this run is as follows:
Date: 22 April 2013 (Monday)
Time: 7.00am - 11.00pm
Venue: Celebrity Fitness, Subang Parade.

Through you can make safe and secure donations for this good cause towards supporting UNICEF. Using this given platform is really simple and most importantly it's also a really cost efficient way for UNICEF to raise funds."

Therefore, if you are available at the stated above time at anytime in between, do make yourself to Celebrity Fitness, Subang Parade to cheer for Devan or even to run along side with him. Just bring your running gears and run. I will be there running too to assist Devan.

Otherwise, you can simply support Devan by donating to his cause by hitting the following LINK.

* Devan, if you are reading this, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF THAT YOU CAN!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Halting Tumor Cells From Spreading By Blocking "Hostile Mergers"...

I was contacted by Professor Charles Keller of OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to share his research on rhabdomyosarcoma. We all may know that although rhabdomyosarcoma has a cure, there is still much to do to help ease the pain and burden. Here, he explains the research being done to halt the spread of the tumor growth by blocking a certain "hostile merger". Here the below is more on his work.

Project abstract
Childhood muscle cancer is extremely difficult to cure when the cancer cells have spread throughout the body. Our preliminary data suggest that this cancer might actually use our very own stem cells and normal cell-to-cell communication system to metastasize. We believe tumor cells 'talk' to muscle stem cells and convince them to secrete growth factors that enable tumor cells to spread to new sites in the body. In fact, it also appears that tumor cells fuse to muscle stem cells - more than just cell-to-cell talk, and a rather unexpected 'hostile merger'. We have identified a specific receptor that appears to be responsible for this effect. With a blocking antibody to the receptor we can already stop the spreading of tumors to lymph nodes or to the lungs in mouse experiments. While the same kind of blocking antibodies have had successful safety testing in asthma studies by pharmaceutical companies, we have one last critical series of experiments to conduct before partnering to apply our results to the clinic: we must test whether fusion of tumor cells to normal stem cells is the key event, or whether metastasis results when tumor cells and normal stem cells simply cross-talk without merging/fusing. Either possibility exists, but would change the way the intervention is taken to clinical trials. We are seeking to raise $19,634 for the key experiments (1) to observe the time course of tumor cells fusing with normal stem cells, and (2) to test whether fused cells are more or less capable of establishing tumors than mixed but unfused cells. This experiment can be completed within 6 months of raising project funds, and the results will be not only sent for publication, but also shared with (i) the Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial committee for rhabdomyosarcoma and (ii) a major pharmaceutical company with the appropriate therapeutic antibody that might be used in a clinical trial for children with rhabdomyosarcoma.

Why is this important?
We believe our finding of how tumor cells actually use our own stem cells to metastasize is a largely new paradigm that may be relevant to cancers of adults and children alike. Thus, our study begins with the solid tumor of muscle, rhabdomyosarcoma, but may spark similar studies (and similar kinds of treatment) for other tumors if our hypothesis is correct.

Who will benefit from the result of this project?
We specifically seek to improve the dismal outcome of children with metastatic muscle cancer, whose outcome has improved so little since the beginning of national clinical trials in 1972.

For more info, do visit this LINK.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2013...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2013
Venue: East Coast Park, Singapore
Date: 30 March 2013
Time: 7.00pm
Distance: 10KM loops (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Sauvony Virrata
By Frank

The first of my 2 long runs in preparation for the Comrades Marathon 2013 will fall on the Twilight Ultra Challenge, an event which I did not perform well for the past 2 editions due to insufficient sleep from travelling commando style. This year round, I traveled down a day, or shall I say a night earlier to get some proper rest before race day.

Flew down with Roy and Lai Ling on Friday night and without any delays, we arrived at Fernloft Hostel at East Coast as per recommended by Chee Kong close to midnight. After checking into our dorm of 10, we proceeded to the bar below to get our welcome drinks and also to have a little snack which turned out rather huge but tasty. And while munching, we watch the Hungary circuit race on my mobile phone as per posted by Eric before going back up to clean ourselves up before resting up.

Everything was perfect except one. It was a mix dorm of 10 person and we were unlucky that 2 of them were snorers particularly one which is a very loud one. Had difficulty sleeping through the night and when I managed to doze off, I woke up with a tummy ache at about 9am. And from then on, I can't get myself back to sleep due to the "surround sound system".

At 12pm, we checked out, had lunch with Lai Ling's friend before hanging out at a cafe waiting for time to pass. The sky opened up in mid noon but stopped a while later. We proceeded back to the hostel, freshen ourselves and geared up before taking a warm-up walk to the beach, the race site.

The race site was already alive with runners arriving one after another. Took our race number, hung out with friends and prepared ourselves while waiting for the start time of 7pm. And after the lucky draw and briefing, we were let off sharp at 7pm.

With the nutty race director, Ben.

I was feeling good at the start of the run and the all new Saucony Virrata which makes its maiden running mileage is awfully comfortable! And pairing up with my Falke compression socks which both are neon yellow in colour, it sure made the surrounding very "bright"! Feeling so good, that I actually hammer my pace.I took flight and for the first 30KM, I was running below 6 minutes per kilometer pace! I then realised that I was too fast and slowed down eventually.

Setting the pace too early at the first 30KM.

I was getting a bit lonely as it got late. And with my earlier pace which was too fast, I slowed down hoping some friends will catch up. At the 40KM u-turn point, I took a rest there as I chatted away with a Bill Rowan medal finisher at the Comrades Marathon. I think I spent around 15 to 20 minutes sharing our Comrades story before Roy arrived and I took off with him

I've spent the next 20KM with Roy by running and walking with the exception of a long stop after 50KM. We took about 20 minutes break at the main site before resuming together. We had our strategy of walking a certain distance before running again. 

At 55KM, I eventually slowed down after munching in a banana. Caused a little tummy discomfort and slowly but surely, Roy disappeared into the distance. I continued on with the run walk strategy till I hit 70KM in total before taking a long break at the main site. I started yawning and the sleepiness is starting to bother me. As for Roy, out of a sudden, he suddenly felt "awake" and started hammering the distance. Good for him as his monster March is looking exceptionally promising.

At 70KM, I was at the brink of bonking. Sleepiness is taking over Took a long break before deciding to go on for another 5KM. And once I am back with 75KM under my belt, I told the volunteers that I will call it a day. At 12:28 hours, I've completed 75KM (77KM in total base on actual distance). I may not have hit the 87KM distance as planned but I am really happy with my performance this time round for it's my best thus far for the 3 editions I've participated in. Most importantly for me, I ran without any injuries and tested my gears for Comrades Marathon. At least, it now gives me an idea on what to expect from them during the actual race day. The Saucony Virrata performed very well indeed but I am still worried on how the 0mm differential will play a factor at the second half of the Comrades Marathon. A few more strategies will have to be plan for this. As for the Falke compression socks, they were actually good though I guess I will go back to the BV Sport Booster for reason that the compression was better and I will have the option to wear my favourite Drymax socks.

Yours truly conquered 75KM.

Roy was still running and he eventually completed 100KM, being the fastest Malaysian (considering that we have to travel in) to achieve the distance. Lai Ling herself completed 80KM. And so after cleaning ourselves and resting up, together with Bryan Kho, we headed to the airport for lunch before finding a place to doze off. Yes, we doze off at a bar (of course we ordered some drinks), as we had 6 hours of waiting time before our flight. We soon boarded our flight at 7.10pm before arriving safely back home.

Overall, once again my friends at Running Guild organised the Twilight Ultra Challenge to a very satisfactory level. Not only we runners enjoy the run very much, but also the friendship and bond that we all enjoyed together. And it has been proven that outstation runners will need to arrive a day earlier to rest up. And in my case, everything was almost perfect if not for the snoring part. Till the 4th edition!