Friday, September 27, 2013

Craze Ultra 2013...

Event: Craze Ultra 2013
Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 21 September 2013
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 161KM
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4
By Frank

My second attempt at the 100 miles / 161KM journey at the same event that I crashed out last year, the Craze Ultra is all but over now. While, I do not want to keep the suspense of announcing what I achieved only at the end of this entry, I can announce it now that I once again DNF (Did Not Finish) the run. Sadly but this is really one tough nut to crack.

I told myself not to make the same mistake from last year of following the room mates on their adventures for pre-race day rest is up-most important. I flew in together with Roy, Hong Lan and Yen Erl early noon and by mid noon, we were already in our hostel. Despite settling in early, I received something very stressful which may caused my blood pressure to boil. Not that you don't know what I am trying to attempt, but can't you all leave me alone for at least 3 or 4 days? Managed to have lunch with Wind joining us and rested a bit while waiting for Jason to arrive. By the time he arrived, I was already behind my own schedule. Quickly made ourselves to MacRitchie Reservoir to collect our race pack and checking our special needs bag in, then leaving for quick dinner nearby the hostel before turning in. Managed to gain back some precious time to be put into sleep.

Unlike Comrades Marathon this year which I woke up feeling absolutely great, I woke up to a fiery sore throat and running nose. I honestly did not see this coming as I was feeling all right yesterday, at least from the health perspective and not stress. Not a good start to the morning, and not to mention the run itself. I however managed at least 5 hours plus to 6 hours sleep which was enough I guess. By 6am, we all but Jason left for the race site. Jason was to join me as my pacer at CP5 at around 2pm later in the day.

Spent about 45 minutes lingering around with other runners and meeting new ones too, I even had my blood and urine drawn for Phil's study. Not a good experience with the blood drawing though as the person in charge was not exactly experienced hence a little difficulty looking for mine. Roy had the same experience too.

With friends before the start.

The whole idea to starting this year's Craze Ultra is to start light to slow down any upper body fatigue as my right trapezius has been annoying since a couple of weeks ago. I deposited by front 2 bottles at the first checkpoint and only had 1.5L on my hydration reservoir. And finally to pace myself a little slower to conserve the energy.

At 7am sharp, the first wave of the 100 miles runners were set off. I was one of them. I was running at my very own pace with Roy following me behind. Though I got further at one point, we were regrouped at CP1 when we stop to refuel. Still feeling good but that's only 12KM in. We continued on together and though at different pace, we still managed to regroup once in a while as I ran a bit faster than him, while he walked a lot faster than me.

CP2 at Woodlands was facing my home town Johor Bahru. Great to see the city scape fro across the causeway. I turned on my mobile's data plan here and started updating Jason on my progress. And for myself, I was still feeling good. My pace was rather healthy and I am managing it pretty well I guess.

And the journey began.

The journey to CP3 was filled with junction and traffic lights as we ran below the MRT tracks. Along the way, I ran into Xiu Fang and Nyoman too. And with my nose still leaking from the start, Roy passed me some herbal remedy to combat it. Though I know it's too late already, but I guess it is still worth trying. Finally we arrived at CP3, and dig myself into the biltong I've put here. Needed the protein to refuel.

Arriving at CP3 with a wet head.

The sun started to crawl its way up when we left CP3. I put my Buff headwear on to shield my neck and head from the UV rays and continued my journey to next checkpoint. The journey was long through back lanes, canal crossing and junctions, but I made it to CP4 with Roy together. Was really feeling the heat here and my legs is starting to hurt with all the pounding. I took lots of watermelons here and had to walk it off.

Arriving at CP4 with Roy.

It was a tough and super hot journey to CP5. Through Yishun Dam via the long exposed route with long grass and sand dunes on the side, it was really crazy. Roy for some reason managed to find his rhythm and was no where to be seen. I really wanted to get into the Punggol Wetland but as I entered it, it was another long area to conquer. The Punggol Wetland is what we call the "desert" as certain stretch consist of the red soil to run on. However, at least half of it was already tarred. At the Promenade at about 46KM, the first casual support station was there. I was offered Coca Cola and was really grateful to them. I carried on and at 47KM, disaster struck! Triple cramps all at one go. Both my calves and right adductor gave way and I fell on the bench feeling miserable! I waved for help only to see a runner ran past! Was all alone for a while and as I slowly pick my pieces back again, there were a few runners who came to share with me their electrolyte fuel. I thank them for their kind gesture though I already had my share hence did not want to double my dosage.

The sand dunes in between CP4 and CP5.

After a long rest, I continued on, this time limping. The damage to the left calf was pretty painful and I had to drag my left leg. I was way behind schedule to meet Jason at CP5 at 2pm. One kilometre to go,  I text him to let him know I am nearing. But that may require another 20 minutes or so as that was the snail pace I was littering limping at. And finally, I was there. More than an hour behind schedule and it was already blazing hot!

Arriving at CP5 in pain.

Rested at CP5, had some medical attention to my calves, refuelled and was limping again close to 4PM. Next was to complete the giant CP6 loop under very hot circumstances. I wasn't running at all as both legs were pretty stiff after the long rest. I was trying to walk it off together with the pain. And when Jason realised the pain I was undergoing, the took out the Sloan Deep Heat Rub. Applied on my left calf, and although it started off with almost no feeling, it literary became so hot as it burnt through my skin! The agony as the skin turned reddish on my left calf. Had to stop to wash it off a few times. The second casual support station appeared some where halfway throughout the journey located below an overhead bridge. Ice cold drinks with ice cold wet towels, it was certainly a very welcome sight. I used the towel to wet my head and finishing it by wiping off any left over deep heat rub residue on my calf. It helped a lot and soon, I managed to run a little and little became more and more.

The running rhythm came to an end at Buangkok when the pain set back in. It was another 3KM or so till hitting CP6. I continue walking and limping and with a couple of hundred of meters to go, I spotted the third casual support station by Sharon and Rosie. She offered heavenly drinks from soya bean, Coca Cola, "Cheng Teng" and even beer! I skipped the beer though and took the ice cold "Cheng Teng" before checking into CP6 for a rest. It was already dark by that time.

Awesome support station from Sharon and Rosie.

Leaving CP6 in the dark at around 7.30pm, I couldn't run. I had to walk and for a long stretch I did. CP7 is about 5KM away, the nearest of all, but it still took me some time to arrive there. And when I did, it was already close to 9pm leaving me around 2 more hours to make the cut at CP8. I was in a daze and the volunteers a CP7 wasn't really helping. I left after finding not much of a help. Arriving at Downtown East Mall, about 2KM after leaving CP7, I lost concentration and was feeling wonky. After much advice from Jason, I stopped by chrono at 14:17:21 hours to call it a day. And thus, my resume is filled with my second DNF - Did Not Finish.

We headed into the mall and settled in at ChaTime to refuel ourselves. I had a cup of fresh milk and after doing so, we headed to CP8 on board a taxi to collect my essentials. Upon arriving there, Phil and his team "drag" me out of the taxi to have my blood taken for research. I even found out that I lost about 3KG throughout the run too. After all is done, I headed back to MacRitchie Reservoir to cheer runners coming in before heading back to the hostel for some rest.

The next day, we headed back to the race venue to await for Roy's arrival where he came in just slightly more than 31 hours. BRAVO to him for completing his amazing 100 miles journey! We hung around for a while chatting and cheering for others including David, Terry, Angelina, Alex and more. It was an amazing feeling to see them completing their journey, a feeling which is currently illusive to me.

All in a all, despite not finishing and a little disappointed with it, I've learnt to accept the fact that DNF is part of the long distance running game. And there is no one to blame but myself. I've been taking too much time off since Comrades Marathon this year as it was one "weight" off my shoulder. As for Craze Ultra, though I know of the difficulty due to the extreme heat and distance, it is still another running event for my attention will only lie with the Big C now.

And to my pacer Jason, my apologies for not being able to go the distance with him. He flew all the way down hoping to pace me for about 100KM but only ended up with a miserable 20KM walk and run super slow pace. If given the chance again, I will definitely welcome him to be my pacer again for he really respects the runner, and that's the only important personality I am looking for.

With my pacer, Jason.

To Ben, Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun, Tee Lee and the rest of the volunteer and people at work at Running Guild, well done and many thanks for all the care and first class services provided. As for CP7, time to buck up a bit and show some extra care and love for the runners, at least in own view.

As for Craze Ultra 2014, it is still too early too tell. Perhaps it will be one final shot at it, but I won't know.

* all photos here are of properties respective photographers. Thanks a lot to them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Impression On The Saucony Kinvara 4...

By Frank

Finally, the all new Saucony Kinvara 4 has landed in Malaysia and I'e finally gotten by hands on it. Apart from the cosmetics, nothing much has change except for 4 minor tweaks to it. However, I will not go into details yet as I will prefer to run it in before giving a full blown review. And I've the Craze Ultra 100 miles this coming Saturday to test it out, or shall to "Kickassimus" with it!

Upon putting the shoe on, I am glad nothing much has changed. The DNA of the Kinvara 3 which I've fell in love with was still there. The Kinvara 3 was after all the my shoe of choice that went through all the punishment at the 6 days Circuit Race 2012 and the one that conquered the 87KM Comrades Marathon 2013 "Up" run.

Some noticeable upgrades which I can feel immediately after putting them on is the increase in flexibility over the Kinvara 3. Not much but it s something worth mentioning about. The multiple layers of Flex Film has now been reduced at the front making it a more open vamp. This also increase air flow into the shoe, most noticeable if you swing your legs around. A slight increase gush of wind can be felt compared to its predecessor.

The collar also feels softer but yet more secure too. The reduced Flex Film at the toe box is now being "moved" to the collar area giving a snug fit over the ankle. I foresee a much improved stability upon cornering.

And finally, the cushioning system. An upgrade from ProGrid to PowerGrid foam on the heel insert. A lighter, softer and yet more responsive foam to offer protection for those who heel strike. As for the mid foot to forefoot area, it still retains the same firmness I enjoyed so much on the Kinvara 3 which is very balance.

So my early impression on the Kinvara 4 is indeed a positive one most importantly is because it retains much of the same formula as its 3 predecessor. Just minor tweaks to improve from a good to great shoe. How will it fare then? Review soon after Craze Ultra 100 miles and hopefully I can complete the distance this time.

My Kinvara 4 seen here with my all South African Falke Energizer compression socks for this weekend's Craze Ultra 100 miler. Safety yellow for safety first.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

River Jungle Marathon 2013...

Event: River Jungle Marathon 2013
Venue: Pekan 18, Hulu Langat
Date: 1 September 2013
Time: 5.00am
Distance: 42.195KM (42.44KM by Suunto Ambit)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 3
By Frank

Finding myself rolling all over my bed for 4 hours and couldn't get myself to sleep, I know it will be a tough outing at the River Jungle Marathon. The fourth edition and my second outing here after missing it last year, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in my Comrades Marathon 2014 training.

Ran the KPAC Trail Relay with Hong Lan, Roy and Yik Yee the day before, I was awake for 21 hours from the moment I woke up on Saturday morning till the race start time. I picked up Uncle Oliver from Tropicana City Mall at 2.30am and found ourselves at the race venue some 45 minutes later. Linger around and soon may friends started to arrive.

I geared myself up with my Comrades 2013 gear to celebrate the registration opening for next year's edition today. I even wore the Unogwaja red socks too. And with the Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin hydration vest with 2 liters of frozen reservoir and 500ml X 2 bottles in front to try it out for it will be my race gear for the upcoming Craze Ultra. And boy it was heavy but much more comfy compared to my previous. Took a cordyceps ginseng drink before heading to the race village.

A sleepy me with Zijill.

Fast forward to 5.00am, I found myself at the starting line with Fook Seong. And at 5am, fireworks were fired to signal the start of the run. The first 10KM of the route was dark funny smells from durian, cempedak to roadkills filled the nostrils. I had my trustworthy not too bright Energizer headlamp on my forehead to lit just enough pathway for me to run at. Volkswagon safety card were zooming up and down cheering and lighting up the route. I found myself going pretty strong and I guess it must be due to the earlier ginseng drink.

Looks like getting ready to hit the trails with Fook Seong judging from the gear we have on.

Relatively almost flat until about the 10KM mark where the climb started bringing us up to 359M at the 16KM u-turn point. I was literary attacking the ascend which I felt really good but things took a tumble on the way down at 17KM. Was not feeling comfortable as usual descending and took it really easy and careful.

And by halfway point, I was feeling really wonky already. Tired and sleepy, my eyes were burning. I was literary walking more than running and I told myself that each step brings me closer to the finish. But heck, I was 21KM away still and my smelly bed at home is calling out to me!

Along the way to the next u-turn point, I spotted some returning runners. Andrew and Shannon was 2 of them and they told me that there was durian up ahead. I thought they were joking but it was true. At 24KM, the water stations here were packed with runners enjoying themselves to durian, duku, rambutan and mangosteen! I was like, "WHAT THE HECK JAMES"! I was afraid to eat but took the risk and had one. Couldn't resist the temptation of the king of fruits. Ooops...

Carried on and soon, Jamie overtook me. He slowed down and we walked together for a moment till we hit the u-turn point. And from there, I told him to carry on. Had a coconut drink at the 28KM (previously 24KM). It was really refreshing but it could not keep my sleepiness away.

Roy caught up at 34KM and we stayed together for a couple of kilometers before he broke away. I was just too tired to run with him. The sun began to scorched and my shoulder was sore from the weight. From the beginning, I did not drink a single sip from my hydration vest as I thought of keeping the weight to me hence I shouldered on.

Yours truly coming home.

Arriving at the final 2KM or so, I met Foong, a customer who came the day before to purchase his hydration backpack. We chatted a little which includes my medical history before resuming our run. Thought of completing the run together with him as it was his first marathon, but he slowed down a little hence I was thinking he may want a time of his own to complete the journey. And with it, I surged a little and finally saw the finish line crossing it in 5:39:29 hours. A tough one but I will take it. Regroup with my fellow friends and chatted till about 2pm before heading for lunch at Damansara Uptown but was caught in the traffic jam for an hour or so. Then it was back to work. Yeap, not sleep. YAWN!

With good company - Jason, Yik Yee and Susanah.

Overall despite being very tired, I still enjoyed myself very much as this will also the kick start to my Comrades Marathon 2014 training. Not really a productive run, but at least I know where I stand now for next year's Comrades Marathon. It seems, it's all back to square one so lots of work to do.

As for the future of River Jungle Marathon, I certainly hope that James will be continuing the legacy of this very unique boutique marathon next year and for many more years to come as it will really encourage runners especially the newbies in taking running up. Keep the flame burning James!

* photo credits to all respective photographers