Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year That Was 2014...

By Frank

Year 2014 came and instantly in a blink of an eye, we are now just 1 day away from year 2015. Time certainly moves quickly especially when we age. Year 2014 has been filled with exceptionally full of surprises for me, both good and bad, memorable and forgettable. Here's a rewind of things...

"Why are you so slow?" and "How are you going to run Comrades like this?" are 2 messages I received from 2 different runners when the year started. So instead of sulking and retaliating, I stuff it up and moved on. Besides, it was still a long way into the year at that time. And no, I didn't take it as a wake up call for me, cause it wasn't nor did I care about what others thought. These 2 fellows are just not worth my time.

To start off the new year too, I renewed my sponsorship contract with Saucony, with them remaining as my one and only sole sponsor as it has been a very happy working relation and fruitful year with them. Thanks Saucony Malaysia and not forgetting friends I made at Saucony Netherlands and Saucony South Africa. As for the rest, sorry to say it has been an awful experience, not the brand but the people, hence I rejected any contract renewal as I do not intend to be their marketing tool nor puppet.

Then for the first time in my running career and after training many others, I've engaged a coach to guide me through especially for my third Comrades Marathon. To most believes, the third run at the Comrades Marathon will be the strongest and best for each of everyone and here is where my coach comes in to guide me through. Although not physically here with me, the online guidance and analysis provided is just as good.

As per the last 2 years, the first 5 months of the year will all be focused on the Comrades Marathon. And this is where both Saucony and my coach comes in. To provide me with the most suitable training and race gears, and also a training program that will suit my needs and targets with post monthly analysis.

January started off as base building, to prepare myself both physically and mentally for the tough months ahead. Despite the Chinese New Year celebration, training went well as per scheduled. Next was February and I had the opportunity to run my second 100KM alongside with Susanah at Titi100. We ran together from the start till finish and it was a memorable run together.

March was next and personal issues came. My mind was clouded and I was somewhere else. This month was also a scary one where Comrades runners begin to pile on their running distance. Dubbed as "Hell March" and with much strength gain over the past couple of months, I survived the training given despite going off course due to personal issues. And with the turn of things towards month end, I successfully for my first time, survived 16 hours at the Twilight Ultra Challenge conquering 90KM out of looping around East Coast Park, Singapore.

April was just as tough especially when there are no events to participate in, where I can use them as long distance training. Got through it and the final month came, May where I had the whole month to taper off. Tapering off isn't something easy but as  I slowly regain strength from all the training since the beginning of the year, I was soon ready for the big race at Comrades Marathon. And also in May was the launch of this year's Be Frank campaign and the good folks at CARIF went a step further creating the Frankathon event to support me and raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

The launch of the Frankathon.

I flew off to Durban, South Africa with Susanah in the wee hours of Monday, 26 May 2014 giving us about 6 days there to prepare and acclimatize. Met up with the rest of the contingent after a few days there and soon it was race day on 1 June 2014. With the guidance and support, I ran my my best Comrades finally scoring the Bronze medal completing it just under 11 hours. However, I failed in a certain department and like the previous year, this will continue to haunt me.

Upon returning from South Africa, my life was in a total mess. Despite looking like myself, I wasn't myself. To keep myself occupied, I signed up for Back 2 Endurance 12 hours run hoping to keep my mind off things. I push myself in the run and eventually scored third placing. But it wasn't a solution and hence I wanted to escape, and hence I started searching.

July was also the month I started with the Maffetone training methods. To turn things around and to return to my best shape in running, I thought this will also help me mentally. And based on this, I started my self theme "Trial By 4" to get back into running a sub 4 hours marathon, a rather difficult task for me at that time due to lack of speed. I didn't blog about this but it's basically 3 tries to run at least one sub 4 hours marathon before year end. And thus, everything changed here from training methods to diet. This was also the month that I found my "escape route" in a very hasty and secretive decision only to find out that the flight I was suppose to board went down 2 weeks after I purchased my tickets. I stood with my purchase and left it to fate.

August came and my first trial at the Kuching Marathon. And to my surprise, I scored my second sub 4 hours marathon after my first back in 2009 at Macau. And this eventually qualified me for next year's Comrades Marathon with a D seeding. It wasn't a dream as I received 2 very encouraging messages which reads, "Itulah YB yang berpotensi!" and "You are back!", from Chee Kong and Soon Chung respectively.

September saw me entering my third 100KM race and my third attempt at the 161KM distance. Penang Ultra was 3 weeks after Kuching Marathon. Was an enjoyable event where I ran the second half of the 100KM distance with Yen Erl and Zhen Qi. Though it was tough at Penang Hill, we all completed the run comfortably. And 2 weeks later, after 2 failed attempts, I finally managed to complete the 161KM at Craze Ultra.

October finally came. This was the month I was planing my escape. And I told almost no one about it. I sold off my KL Marathon registration telling those who asked about my reason, being I was simply tired which was not the exact case. I also almost did not make the trip only to come to a decision at the final moment due to personal reasons. But on 17 October 2014, I finally took flight en route to Amsterdam. When the news finally broke thanks to Chee Kong posting my flight path, I received many messages from my good friends which I did not reply. Sorry my friends about that and thanks for your concern. Some of you will have thought that I went over to complete off the book I was writing. Some thought I escape to run in races there. Some thought that I needed a break from work. And while some close friends thought I went to discover myself and to escape reality. While the fourth is really close, the exact reason I went was more than just that. It was a personal one, to find back my pieces.

My flight path to Amsterdam on board MH16.

The canal that flows my memories, Prinsengratch at Amsterdam.

My second "Trial By 4 " and also my most important at the Amsterdam Marathon did not go down well. Though still scoring a sub 4 hours run, I did not run well and was left utterly disappointed. And with this, also began my weekly back to back running events.

Dejected after the Amsterdam Marathon.

From Amsterdam, I flew over to Scotland where I stayed most of the time indoor at Chee Kong's house. It was peace and quiet there, and my mind was relax as I wrote my book. Yes, I am writing a book, a biography about myself to be published next year. A week after the Amsterdam Marathon, I found myself at the Jedburgh Three Peaks, a 63KM trail race, my longest trail run. Then it was followed by a road half marathon the next day. Both runs I completed safely and not too shabby for a skinny tropical guy.

A week rest before I was off to Killin for the Glen Ogle 33 Miles (53KM) race. More towards mountain roads in the valley's of Scotland, it was a run that I ran happily for there are turn of events in my life. And since that day, my life had been better as I finally return home safely in early November. And it's also through this trip, that my circle of friends or rather my running family has expanded, this time across to Scotland!

Back home in November, I continued with my weekly back to back runs with the Penang Bridge International Marathon being my third trial. Another successful sub 4 hours marathon, my "Trial By 4" came to a closure with a perfect score. And by this time, I know the Maffetone method was working and I had 2 more months to give myself a total makeover before the tough training for Comrades officially begins again.

December, the final month of the year is where I ended my 8 weeks of back to back runs with the PJ Half Marathon. As I continue to train and let my body recover from the adventure I had, my life too has regain some momentum. And though my current career path is all but going down south, a new chapter may begin soon.

This year, I also saw the many faces of people. The genuine and not so genuine. The friendly and not so friendly. Those that call you friends and treated you like one, and those who call you friends but backstab you at the back. But all in all, I know and am really glad that I had a "Porcupine" a "Fish" and a "Tan Sri" whom had stood by me through my journey. Believing in me, motivating me, listening to my problems and giving me a place to stay in were just some of the very kind gestures these more than friends provided. And I THANK you all 3 of you for these!

Running distances over the 12 months of 2014.

So there, my 2014 story. In terms of my running career, with 4 shoes thrashed and 1 being "immortalized" covering a total distance of 3,222KM ran (my longest and furthest a year to date), I scored a clean sheet in completing races and am glad I am ending year 2014 on a high note and injury free though I am still troubled by my left trapezius which has been bothering me on and off since the beginning of the year. It wasn't as smooth sailing as one will expect, with harsh comments received, fatigue, personal problems and so on, but it was certainly a learning process as I continue to move on. As for my personal life, it has been a roller coaster ride. I thought I will find my answer by escaping but that wasn't the solution. It did open me up and though I returned a more jovial person, deep within me, I know my life isn't complete.

2015 will be another challenging year ahead. In terms of running, my calendar for the first half of the year has been fixed. Am starting it off with my first ever 100KM trail race at Hong Kong 100 about 2 weeks into the year followed by the Gunung Nuang Ultra and Twilight Ultra Challenge in March. And all these will pave the way to my fourth Comrades where my target has been set by coach.

My training programme for my fourth Comrades. Thanks coach!

But most importantly and above everything else, I hope it will be great year for all and that I will be able to spend more time with my love one. After all, my life isn't all focus on running. Anyway, the new year begins tomorrow and hence with this ends my 2014 blog entries. HAPPY 2015 everyone and smooth sailing ahead!

That's all for 2014!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

PJ Half Marathon 2014...

Event: PJ Half Marathon 2014
Venue: Stadium Kelana Jaya
Date: 6 December 2014
Time: 5.30AM
Distance: 21KM (21.02KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Type A5
By Frank

After 7 weeks of running weekly back to back races, the PJ Half Marathon 2014 will mark the end of my this adventure. Though I know that this event is not really well organised and won't be again this time judging from my previous experience, I still gave it a go as it's one event that I am able to run on the Federal Highway and also Subang Airport Road. This time, with a slight change to the route, I am even able to run on part of the LDP highway! And talking about not well organised, I spotted the below signage during the race pack collection. What a shame!

Being my last race of the year too, a target was also set, and this time is all about speed and holding on to it. My progress so far has been tracked and analysed by my coach, and this will eventually pave way for my Comrades training next year where my target has been set, not by me but by him judging from my performance since August 2014..

I had a good night sleep. about close to 6 hours. Everything went well and by 4.30AM, I've arrived at the venue securing a very good parking spot just next to the starting point. Soon Chung who was parked opposite me came over and we had a really short chat about the race's registration and bib number. Really short chat as this is where the drama came. I noticed that I forgot my bib number when we chatted about bibs. This was my second time forgetting my bib number after my first in Powerman 2013. Guess I am getting old. With home not too far away and with sufficient time available, I made my way back, full speed ahead. It was a "negative split" back to the race site and eventually found a parking spot just slightly further. With 10 minutes to spare, I quickly gear up and jog as part of my warm up to the starting line.

I was lined up with Zijill somewhere in the middle of the pack. And while doing so, I was very disgusted when this "person" came to me and asked about my workplace's ongoing promotion. I am here to run for GOD's sake, not to work! As time ticks away, we felt something amiss and soon the emcee announce that the start is going to be delayed as the water stations weren't ready yet. To trust them or not, that is the question, as I've heard different stories. Anyway, the whole start was delayed for about 25 minutes and with a countdown of 10, runners were let off.

I started pretty well, managing to break free from the crowd just before the first turning. My strategy will be to hold on to a 5:10 minutes per Kilometer pace. I managed to find the rhythm quickly and soon, I was on my way. On the Subang Airport road, there was a very mild climb out of it before entering Federal Highway. And I was glad that I need not run on the motor lane unlike previous years.

Next was into LDP highway via the ramp at Freescale before making a u-turn below the Western Digital flyover. I was still feeling awesome here and my pace was constant. Another mild climb to the LDP bridge before turning into the Federal Highway again, this time making the return trip to the Subang Airport road. I been giving each water station so far a miss as I've my own bottle of water with me. And while running on the highway, I was disgusted with a few drivers as they were driving at very high speed. Imagine one losing control and smashing into the side where runners are? Totally unimaginable!

Ramp from Federal Highway into Subang Airport road was the steepest of all here, but I manage it well. And after going through it, I was a little surprise that runners were told to run on the right lane of the road unlike the previous editions where we ran on the left instead. It was a scary running below the MRT construction though, as this is where some accident happened a few months ago with "big" things dropping from above.

By 13KM, my tummy started to act up. Feeling bloated and a little pain, it affected my pace where I slowed down. As the temperature was on the rise too, I took a water soaked sponge to cool down my core temperature hoping it will help with the pain too but it did not. It was not until the Citta Mall flyover that things got better when I let "bomb" away. Hope no one fainted behind me.

The pain eased as I arrived at the airport roundabout and instead of heading towards the airport, we turned into another area, the U3 industrial area I think. It was just a short stretch before we made a u-turn for the return trip. And once I've made my turn, I spotted John who was hot on my tail!

Though my pace has dropped since the discomfort, it was all smooth sailing from here onward. And yes, I've not drank from a single cup from the water stations as it was all isotonic! I wanted plain water! Sigh... And at the final sponging station at about 20KM, I took a very soaked sponge and squeeze it over my head only to be drenched from head to toe. Bad move indeed!

Almost to the finish.

Sadly unlike previous editions where the finish is inside the stadium, the finish this time is at the spot where we started. And just before crossing the finish line, John came to my side and give me tap. He caught up with me as we completed together with a  time of 1:49:18 hours.

Took a 4 cups of plain water while waiting for Zijill and Soon Chung to finish their run. More and more friends completed and even Dr. Wong ran. Chatted, snap some photos and we all then made each of our own way back.

Erm... Selfie with Dr. Wong.

With Soon Chung.

Overall, I did not hit my target. Everything was going smoothly until the tummy ache hit me and I am putting the blame on the burger I had yesterday evening. Sorry, was too hungry. But I was still satisfied with my run as the weather was rather warm and humid. As for the run itself, it was not too bad. Traffic control was actually good thus well done to the traffic police! Only downside was the choice of isotonic over plain water, delayed in start and also post run food and beverage where is was almost non existent. All in all, I completed safely without any injuries as this sums up everything of my whole weekly back to back adventure which began 8 weeks ago. Now to pamper my legs before my official Comrades training starts.

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

OtterBox Salomon Action Asia Malaysia Trail Run 2014

Event: OtterBox Salomon Action Asia Malaysia Trail Run 2014
Venue: Frenz United Football Academy, Janda Baik
Date: 30 November 2014
Time: 7.00AM
Distance: 18KM (17.21KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4
By Frank

Due to the venue of the this trail run (OBSTR) at Janda Baik near Genting Sempah, I initially did not have any intention of participating in it. But when Roy told me that he had signed up for it, that gave me some second thoughts as it will also allow me to continue with my weekly runs too. Besides, I needed some trail runs to prepare for the upcoming Hong Kong 100 in about 6 to 7 weeks time.

As Janda Baik is about an hour's drive from Petaling Jaya, Raymond and Roy came to pick me up from Tropicana City Mall as early as 5AM before heading to pick Si Main up. A slow drive there, and we soon arrived at the Frenz United Football Academy at about 6.15AM. It was packed with cars but we still managed to find a parking spot easily which happen to be just next to the finish area.

With Carin, Hong Lan And Xuan Lim.

Geared up and met up with friends like Yip, Raymond, Michelle, Wind, Hong Lan and many others. Though I had my hydration vest with me, I had only 2 X 500ML bottles of water with some nuts to munch on while running. Yeap, it's all about eating! The start was slightly delayed about 5 minutes which out of a sudden, runners were just flagged off. Though started from almost the back of the pack, I had a clean breakaway as the moment out of the field was already the main road which was spacious.

1KM on the road and later, we were greeted to the muddy trail. The rain from yesterday made the course challenging with some sliding actions along the way. And there is no need to wait for actions as the course was immediately undulating with both uphill and downhill. And this is only the start. I had fun attacking the climbs and managed to descent well too as most of the downhill segments here were still rocky. My heart rate though a bit high at about 160 beats per minute on average, was still acceptable due to the terrain. The first checkpoint appeared at about 5KM and I had my tag scanned before continuing forward.

The air was fresh as we are located far away from the city. Running under some ropes, climbing over tree trunks, going through barb wires and stepping and sliding through mud, we soon arrived at the first river crossing at 8KM into the run , if I remember correctly. The cold stream was really nice though there was a slight current which caused some light weight runners like me off balance. Out from it, my shoe was filled with sand and had to take them off shortly later to clear it.

With a wet shoe, the outsole started collecting more mud and soon the heel became a mudcake. Glad the front was fine and that helped with traction a little. The climbs were getting much more "fun" from here but the downhills were absolutely tough for me. Besides being clumsy, my shoe came off twice due to being stuck on mud. Nevertheless, I managed to chased up to some runners who started way ahead of me and that gave me some good indications of where I am now.

Attacking one of the smaller climbs as seen by Deo.

Deo caught up with me as we arrived at near the 14KM mark where we need to run a big loop to reach the second check point. It was really hilly as we enter the loop but once at the top, we needed to descend down on a very muddy single track. One wrong step and we may fall into the valley just on our left. I slipped a few times but managed to exit the area. And just before exiting, the front runner slipped and I told him I've got his back, indicating that should he fall backwards to him, I will support him by pushing his bum!

Out from the area, I saw Roy and Si Main who are just going to enter the loop. Warned them about the slipperiness before I continued on with Deo. A few more climbs through slippery muddy tracks and soon we found ourselves in a very narrow and muddy descend through the woods. It was so slippery that I needed to grab hold on some trees. And since being on a single track, both myself and Deo was still moving faster than some other runners ahead of us. And so in a hasty decision, Deo took a left turn somewhere along the course hoping to get ahead and I followed. But it was a wrong turn as at the end, we needed to jump down to merge back with the run path. The clumsy me hug a tree upon jumping off the small but yet steep step. What an experience!

And from there, a mud poll awaited us. As the middle part was just so muddy and gross, I ran at the side. Happily running, I suddenly found my right leg suck into the mud knee deep. Trying hard to get my leg out which I did, my shoe was stuck in there! Not going to lose my favourite trail shoe the Peregrine 4, I stuck my arm inside to locate it and pull it out. And once I found it, I look like a mud cake myself covered in brownish mud. Maybe the mud is good for facial.

Luckily there was river crossing ahead and I took the opportunity to give myself a wash. The current here was stronger than the first and the river bed was rocky hence taking a little longer than expected to cross it. But I enjoyed every bit of it as the water was just so cooling.

Towards the finish.

And from there, it was all road, about 1KM or so all the way back to the football academy. And just before entering it, I spotted Soon Chung by the roadside snapping photographs and gave him a high 5 before continuing to the finish which I crossed in 2:13:29 hours.

Hung around with friends while waiting for my 3 friends to return which they all did not long after. The post run food was kind of horrible and very limited in numbers hence we did not care about it so much. We left Janda Baik after changing into fresh clothing and headed to Bukit Tinggi for wan tan noodles breakfast. Was a satisfying one as we shared our race experience together before heading home. And during the drive back, everyone fell asleep in the car leaving poor Raymond to the driving. Thanks Raymond!

My faithful Saucony Peregrine 4 went for a mud bath.

I really enjoyed this run. The race venue and the course was beautiful and the environment was fresh and cooling. Although it was technical and really dirty but it was fun and hope this will be an annual running event.

*All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

CompresSport Gears...

By Frank

I've been wearing BV Sports compression gears for 4 years now and have fully rely on it for my long races. It served me really well and I trusted it over the years. However, sadly the brand did not take off in both Malaysia and Singapore, probably due to poor marketing and also the slightly steeper price compared to its competition. When my BV Sport Tights finally tore at Craze Ultra 2014 after 4 years of heavy usage, I finally open up to options and had the chance to try CompresSport,  a compression company from Switzerland where its products are all made in Europe.

I have a total of 5 CompresSport gears which were put to test at my recent trip and races at Amsterdam and Scotland. With harsh and demanding conditions, the  On/Off Tank, Trail Tank, Trail Short, Calf Sleeve R2 and also the Arm Force were fully max out in the functionality test department.

Wrapped in CompresSport at the Jedburg Half Marathon in Scotland.

The On/Off Tank is my favourite among all the 5 gears. Super comfortable, I used it as my base layer at my trail races in Scotland. Not overly tight but yet still able to compress the important parts of the body, it stretches well too. The On/Off name comes from the 42,000 alveoli, the small little openings all over the tank name after you know those small little grape looking thing in our lungs.They open up to allow air in during our workout so that we can breathe and perform better, and at the same time to lower core temperature. On the other hand, it will close up whenever we reduce our exercise intensity or stop, to maintain core temperature. Am not sure how this works and whether does it work but using this at the very cold temperature at Scotland, the On/Off tank certainly met my expectations of a base layer where it kept me warm and dry.

The trail tank is a super good looking top feels extremely comfortable. I really like the zipper which allows me to unzip when the weather gets  a little too hot, just like how I wear my tri top. However, I find them a little too thin for my liking and did not compress really well especially at the trapezius region. Some say is probably due to my small built but the size did match my measurement. And taking it off is just as tough as taking my other compression top off. So it's definitely the correct size. Probably CompresSport can look into using the On/Off material for their next generation tank series. I would think that will be awesome!

The trail shorts on the other hand when compared to the tank is a different kind of compression gear. Super comfortable as per the other CompresSport gear, the shorts does work.They are a little hard to put on, but once you get it on nicely, it holds the thighs really well. They travel little high up till the hips but they only hugs at the waist area. As this is an unisex model, I thought this to be a nifty good trick by CompresSport for the ladies as their hips generally are wider than men. And to prevent slipping, there are silicone all over it and works well especially when wet. The silicone are also all over the quads areas and besides to prevent slippage, they also work as shock absorbers though I don't really think they work. And speaking of wetness, they wick moisture really well, much more superior compared to nylon lycra materials. With a hand small little pocket at the lower back, you can put some little essentials like energy gels in there. Not perfect though as there are a few little problems. One of them, as this is  a unisex model and being made in Europe, it may not fit some locals here as the length may travel beyond the knee for some. And I wonder why is the logo stitch on the lower part of the shorts at the back of the hamstring near the end? This may cause chaffing to the hamstring area. It can be remove though. And lastly, the decals on mine started cracking and peeling after just 2 washes. Doesn't affect the performance though, just cosmetic damages. Oh... And did I mention that they look really good too! I have a red version and I guess it can make me "run" faster when a bull charges at me. ;p

The Calf Sleeve R2 is a very nice looking calf sleeve. Coming in an array of 10 of colours, one will definitely be able to find their favourite colour to suit their other race gears. And unlike the BV Sport Booster's or the CompresSport trail short's decals and prints, the R2's logo print does not crack or comes peeling off after just a few usage. It stays on solidly at least for a while, so no worries on cosmetic damages. As for compression, it does its job really well in compressing the calf though I have to say that the Booster felt better. I guess it's probably due to the design and construction of it as the R2 is just a hollow sleeve and it isn't anatomically built.

The R2 is also a recovery calf sleeve hence the number 2 on it's name (Race and Recovery). I do not trust nor favour 2-in-1 technologies when it comes to compression. And like instant coffee versus real brew, the latter taste better. I tried the R2 for recovery after my Three Peaks Ultra and while it did help a little, it wasn't superior. I always believe a compression recovery socks or sleeve will always deliver much stronger gradient and is also thicker to be warm to allow the blood to flow more efficiently hence flushing the by products.

The Arm Force are simple pairs of compression arm sleeve. They felt extremely comfortable as per the other models mentioned above and kept my arms warm though not overly suffocating throughout my race at the Jedburgh Half Marathon. Anatomically built and stitch together, it follows the anatomy of our arms. The only downside I fear with the Arm Force will be the durability of it. I really need to be careful when wearing it as a wrong pull especially by loose finger nails may pull the stitching out of its place. This goes to washing as well. However, once in, there is no need to be worry about it unless a loose branch along the woods pulled it. Taking off is a breeze too.

All CompresSports gears above are made out of polypropylene and polyamide instead of the traditional nylon lycra material hence offering much superior graduated compression, cotton-like comfort and moisture wicking properties compared to the latter. They are all also almost seamless hence reducing the chances of chaffing.

The CompresSport gears above retails at the following recommended price and comes with a 2 years warranty against manufacturing defects:

CompresSport On/Off Tank - RM339.00
CompresSport Trail Tank - RM399.00
CompresSPort Trail Short - RM499.00
CompresSport Calf Sleeve R2 - RM199.00
CompresSport Arm Force - RM149.00

* All CompresSport gears above except for the Arm Force are complimentary sets from Photon Athletics Sdn Bhd. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Putrajaya 100KM 2014...

Event: Putrajaya 100KM 2014
Venue: Taman Sri Empangan, Putrajaya
Date: 22 November 2014
Time: 7.00AM
Distance: 100KM (101.1KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

The Putrajaya 100 is an event by runners for runner organised by Team Pacat consisting of friends like Arman, Zinov and Zul. Established runners themselves, I know their capabilities in organising runs judging from the portfolio and hence took the opportunity to sign up my first event by them.

I didn't want to let my mind sway back to what it was before my escape to Europe and hence running is my way of preventing that from happening. Putrajaya 100 may just be 1 week after the Penang Bridge Marathon, but I guess if I tackle it carefully, it should be fine. I wanted to keep the momentum going and since Jamie downgraded his distance to 52KM where no pacers are allowed, I registered for the 100KM distance. There's a 160KM distance but no to that for I've my own reasons.

My legs were still shaky after last week's marathon and knowing this will be a tough course to crack due to the intense heat, I needed to plan in advance. As I will be experimenting new methods too, I will be going in without any energy gels and will try to minimise on sugary drinks intake. Prepared some snacks such as macadamia, cashew, almond, raisins, dried guava and mangoes and told Roy that I may need an apple pie in the noon.  I also had one last chocolate waffle from Scotland's ASDA hypermart which I pack in my bag.

Fast forwarding to race day, I hardly had any sleep at all despite turning the lights off at 8.30PM. With the run starting at 7AM, the need to arrive before 5AM to deposit our special needs bag and to collect our bib number was too demanding in my own opinion. If trail events can collect them till the race starts, I don't see why a road event can't do the same too. Besides, the first 2 checkpoints which are the same is very near to the starting point. And the best part was, the organisers were still giving out till 6.45AM!

I arrived at about 4.45AM with Jamie coincidentally arriving too. Collected our bibs and deposited my bags while donating some tees and shoes off where some NGO's will come collect later. Hung around with Jamie, Nick, Ben, Soon Chung and Jonathon while waiting for time to tick away.

Fat forwarding to the race start at 7AM, the 100 Miles runner started off in a wave of 20 runners. About 3 waves and it was the 100KM runners turn. I was in the third and last wave, a simple "GO" by Arman, and we were off. Raymond started with me while Roy with Tick Hock. The main priority was to settle into my heart rate zone where a 140 to 150 beats per minute will be ideal. And I managed to find just that as I ran around the CBD area of Putrajaya heading towards the first check point 11KM later.

I felt good at the first checkpoint and out of a sudden, my pace increased. And this is where I lost Raymond as I ran towards Pullman Resort where I bumped into Renee. As we ran along, I was caught by surprise when I arrived at Taman Cabaran which was the third checkpoint. Despite knowing the second checkpoint was the same as the first, we still got lost and that includes the runners from the 100 Miles category, Jeff, Ben and Foo were some of them there too. Lost and bewildered, everyone started questioning each other and also the volunteers there. I was pretty disappointed with the volunteers there as they didn't know anything at all. Sigh...

Everything was in a mess at just 15KM into the run. Together with Renee and 3 other runners being Sonny, Jourgen and another expat, we asked the volunteer where to head to, to continue on the right track. They asked us to turn left which was actually wrong! And thus, all 5 of us ended up at Dengkil. However, we were lucky as there was an entrance to South Park which will eventually merged back to the correct run route, well of course with some navigation of course.

Once back on the race route, all 5 of us broke free from each other. Soon, I found myself on a highway which I think will eventually lead to Kajang. Being in an open space, it was surely hot and with temperature starting to rise, so is my heart rate. I find it difficult to continue with my pace and had to resort to walk and run strategy.

I was all alone for a moment in time though I can see runners ahead of me. My legs were stiff and hurting already and I still had 75KM to go! Too early to be experiencing this. But as I took out my phone to update Roy on my location, I managed to find some of my strength back and restarted my run and soon exiting the highway into the housing estate of Taman Bukit Rimba, a very nice place.

Though Taman Bukit Rimba is a nice place, it was certainly very hilly as we ran through the park. Shaded from the sun, I took the opportunity to go faster since finding back my strength earlier. And since it's hilly, it works to my advantage. Arriving almost to the end of the park was this junction without any signage. I took the left turn and saw the checkpoint just below and hence thought I was on the right track. However, I found myself running in circles and knew that I should have taken the other direction instead which I did after circling back to where I came from. Soon enough, Elvin and Jason Thai came into the picture and there as it, the fourth check point.

Took a short break here as the day became hotter. Took in some Cola but had an overdose of watermelon and hence found it difficult to resume my run. But as it was uphills again, this gave me an opportunity to walk fast while allowing to food to slowly settle down in my tummy. And once it did, I found myself in Precinct 14. I managed o resume my run here and was going really well till I hit a huge roundabout with multiple turnings. There wasn't any signage here and instantly, I followed the path I was running on, which is the left.

I ran for about 2KM before soon realising that I may have ran the wrong direction. I took out my phone and started comparing the map provided by the organisers and also Google Map and to my horror, it showed that I should have turn right earlier instead. With no choice, I back track to where i came from and spotted the directional marker on the other side. Sigh...

Continued on the path and soon it was another highway I entered. Ran on the motor lane and caught up with Renee, Rich, Tiru, Jerry, Leon and Eileen. We paced and kept each other company for the next stretch is long and hot. Eventually one by one, each ran out of water. I still had some and gave them but it wasn't enough and had to stop by where the municipal grass cutters were taking a break under a tree to ask for water. We resumed our run once everyone is ready and soon we exited the highway into some park of sort. A little cross country here before we saw Taman Wetlands on the opposite side. I broke away from the group and eventually arrived at the fifth checkpoint hidden well inside a park.

Ben was there resting and I took my waffle and some nuts here. The food served here was dry and spicy and hence decided to skip it. There was even no ice here despite the hot weather! Didn't stop too long and hence continued with my return trip as this was the turning point for the 100KM category.

Weather on the return trip was much better with rain clouds hovering in the sky. Saw more on more runners coming in and cheered them on. But sadly, I spotted some 100 Miles runners which includes Siaw Hua who were lost searching for their sixth checkpoint. I couldn't help much with navigation and all I could do was to offer them water, which I had 1.5L with me. The very fast Slovakian runner (9th overall at Spartathlon this year) got lost too. He couldn't speak English and I really do not know what he was saying but I believe he was cursing. He pointed to my bottle of water and so I gave him as he was without anything. A few other runners came and they left with them. As for me, I continued on.

Fast forwarding to Precinct 14, I made a quick phone call before the rain came. But the rain did not come at all, a false alarm. I took a short break at a bus stop to massage my tired feet before continuing on. And fast forwarding to the park just before the sixth checkpoint which was the earlier fourth, I cross path with Uncle Oliver, Ken, Phang a few others making their way out. Few words of motivation and water too as I know it's a long way for them.

I soon found myself back at the earlier fourth checkpoint. Hong Lan was there and she offered me a ice cold bottle of Pokka coffee which I gulped down almost instantly. Short rest here while packing up some of the dried fruits I left here and it's off on the road again with Renee and the rest from the group earlier.

Through Taman Alam Rimba which I walked all the way before arriving at the highway. While the rest has took off, I was still playing recovery. The aim now was to get to the next checkpoint before sun set. And when I felt I was ready, I resumed my run. And out of a sudden, I heard a car honking. It was Roy with Raymond in it and they were making their way to our next check point. I hasten my pace and started using markers such as bridges, trees or lamp posts to run and rest.

Soon, I exited the highway and was back at the back of Taman Cabaran where suddenly a very familiar figure appeared running towards me. It was Roy and I was glad he was there. We walked together till the rest caught up before he left to meet up with Renee and Eileen at the back. I made my way to Taman Cabaran's entrance where the check point was and took a long rest there as I feeling wonky already. The volunteers here were either really lazy or they are just unhelpful!

The sun has set and it was dark when I left for the next check point which was just 6KM away. I had my headlamp and blinker on as I tried to follow Renee and the group ahead. I eventually caught up with them at the lake side and we all together made our way to the checkpoint. Soon Chung and Jonathon was there unlike  the previous check point, I find the volunteers here very helpful and friendly indeed. Well done you all!

As the sky finally open up, I requested for a hot cup of coffee and Hong Lan made me one. Thanks a lot my friend as it help warm me up as I was feeling rather miserable already. And with it, I continued with my journey which was a 10KM out and back route. This was the route we missed earlier in the day which causes us missing the second checkpoint. And to make it up, we had to do twice here. But as I ran, I did some calculations of my own that I only needed to do 1.5 times here as I had already made up some distance from running the wrong direction at Dengkil and Precinct 14.

The first loop was done in the rain. I wasn't in the mood to talk and thus ran on my own. I hasten up on my return trip and eventually made it back with Yik Yee there waiting. Despite feverish, this friend still came all the way to support us. Thanks Yik Yee.

The half a loop was with Soon Chung. I asked if he was sure to follow me as I was already feeling tired and grumpy but he mentioned it was fine. In the end, I was glad he did as the conversations with him made my entire walk faster and less painful before arriving back at the checkpoint.

One final rest, a quick one and it's off on the final 11KM with Soon Chung. Was really glad again that he accompanied me.We walked around the CBD area before eventually entering back into the housing area. It was a slight uphill climb here and hence was till walking. But once we made the turn around, it was easier and hence I restarted my run. And soon, the Gemilang Bridge came into sight with Taman Sri Empangan next to it. Steps after steps, strides after strides, eventually I completed my run together with Soon Chung in a time of 18:05:35 hours. Though my worst 100KM run, it was still acceptable I guess since I went missing a couple of times.

But in terms of performance, I didn't think I did that well. I couldn't keep my heart rate down and my food intake was poor compared to Craze Ultra. However, I do know now that I can survived on water and also food such as nuts and waffles. No energy gels needed! Anyhow, it's all about experimenting and this run was all about it.

A few friends such as Soon Chung, Jonathon, Roy, Raymond, Hong Lan and Elvin helped me a lot. Then Jason for the "finisher's coffee". And of course, not forgetting another friend supporting me from behind the scene as mind over body it is!. I THANK you all for helping me in whichever way in my fourth 100KM run. This is for you all!

All in all, the Putrajaya 100 is a decent event. It has its flaws but knowing it's an event organised by runners themselves with minimal support and sponsors, we as runners can understand. While some say runners were to blame for not studying the race route which I tend to agree too, I personally do think that organisers have to take most of the blame here. But since the damage has been done, it's really up to them to do a post-mortem to see what went wrong and how to improve on the next edition. Am not going into too much detail on what went wrong but here in point forms is what I thought was worth looking at:

- Improvement of directional markers, and if possible for both sides of the roads whenever possible
- To inform volunteers and marshals of the run route, and also to inform them to be more pro-active in helping the tired runners
- To look into the food and drinks served. I find them too dry, spicy and insufficient at a few checkpoints. Even ice which was important for such a hot event wasn't enough especially at Checkpoint 5
- If organisers were to give out Emergency phone numbers to the runners, please do make sure to answer them when called or at least return call
- Where was the bike marshals that were suppose to be on the road looking out for runners at check point 4 and 5 as per stated on the website? I don't remember seeing any.
- Collection of race bib and drop of special needs bag at least 2 hours before the run? I don't see why can't they still be accepting till at least half an hour before the start?
- Enforcement of mandatory gear? Don't see a check and the poor Slovakian runner was left with nothing during his misadventures looking for check point 6.

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014...

Event: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014
Venue: Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, Penang
Date: 16 November 2014
Time: 1.30AM
Distance: 42.195KM (42.34KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Type A6
By Frank

Exactly a month ago on this day, I left for Europe. 4 events over there over 3 weeks before returning home to rest for a week. And to mark one full month, my fifth event in one month will be the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014, this time taking place for the first time on the new second bridge, the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge.

This annual bridge run for me has generally been my Comrades Marathon qualifier race. However, after qualifying early for next year's race and after a very disappointing Amsterdam Marathon 2014, I will be treating this race to experiment on new methods which I've been studying through, basically the MAF method. Besides, memories from last year's edition still kind of haunts me till today.

I met up with Cham, Roy and Jason at Plaza Sri Hartamas on Saturday morning and after breakfast at the nearby noodle shop, we started our journey at about 10.30am. Roy drove till Simpang Pulai before I took over driving till Juru before handing his car back to him as he is more familiar with the roads of Penang.

Drive was smooth and took us about slightly more than 3 hours to arrive in Penang Island via the first bridge. Went straight for lunch at Genting Cafe and met up with Zhen Yang and Junie there. Lunch was simple and from there, we left for our hotel at Georgetown staying at Cozy Inn, where we stayed last year. Jason on the other hand followed Zhen Yang. Got our gears ready, went out for a simple snack and it was back at the hotel to sleep, or rather try to sleep at 7PM!

I wasn't sure if I managed to sleep. Maybe an hour of dozing off perhaps but I was awake since 9.45PM with a major headache. It actually started off mild upon arriving probably due to the hot weather during the drive. I thought it will go off but sadly, it became worse. I tried to massage it off but to no avail. I was also hoping that my normal pre-run coffee routine will also help but it did not. Taking paracetamol was my final option and I have to make sure that I've at least 2 hours before the race start to actually take them. It's been a while since I took them as I am not a supporter of NSAID. With 3 hours before race start, I asked Roy if he had one. He didn't have but instead, he asked from the hostel owner which he had. Took one tablet of 650mg strength and waited for it to set in. But just before leaving for the race site, I threw up so am not really sure if the tablet went in or came out? Am glad I managed to throw up without any difficulties despite not having any food in my stomach.

We left our hostel at about 11.30PM and traffic was a little heavy heading out of Georgetown. But it was smooth as we arrived on Jelutong expressway. My headache slowly became better as I munch down a bun as I did not have appetite earlier. Arrived at the Batu Maung industrial area and managed to find a parking spot not too far away and rested there as we had about 2 hours before race start.

An hour before the race, we walk to the race site. Headache was still around and it can be felt whenever I took a step. Proceeded to have Cham's baggage check in before we met up with some friends. As myself and Roy didn't want to have too much attention, and besides I needed some quite time to myself hoping that my headache will go away, we headed out to the start line and just waited there.

Chit chatted away till the dance, speech and finally the fireworks before we were flagged off at 1.30AM. Start was a mess as there was a water tanker parked in the middle of the starting line which caused a bottle neck. Then another bottle neck came as the ramp up the bridge was only 2 lanes causing a human wall. Roy was pretty good navigating through the slower runners and soon he was no where to be seen.

I started my run slowly and quite carefully too as my headache was still bothering me. And besides, I really wanted to try out the 150 beats per minute heart rate method taught in the MAF method for the entire marathon distance. I was trying to get my rhythm right running at about 5:30 or maybe 5:35 per kilometer pace which should give me an average of the desired heart rate. Another to try out is the nutrition part. Been cutting on my daily carbohydrate intake and increasing on fat instead. It's not a total change yet but am slowly gradually doing it and so far, it has been working well for me. Am also cutting my intake on energy gel and also the sugar laden sports drink during my runs so instead of fully cutting, I half my intake. And my plan was small intake of plain water at every 2KM though I started off with a very diluted bottle GU Roctane Brew which should last me till 10KM.

Back to the run, I found space after about 2KM. I was already on the bridge and it's a long way to the other end, about 20KM or so. My legs wanted to go, but I was controlling it. My starting pace was too fast and I fear I may blow up like in Amsterdam Marathon. I slowed down controlling myself not to repeat the same mistake. And besides, every step sends a throbbing pain to the back of my head. So as I ran with this discomfort, I keep remembering the message "Mind Over Body". It was a teeth grinding moment.

The highest point of the bridge isn't located at the center this time. It's pretty near to the island side and almost immediately after 3KM into the run, I started climbing. It wasn't steep though and it was manageable and can be pretty good for the legs too especially at the return leg. Soon, I found myself at the highest point and was a dash down where I met Wai Hong. We steadily ran together till about 10KM where he stopped at the side to take a pack of gel. I though it was his normal routine but he was no where to be seen later. I was alone again but was glad that my head was back to normal already.

My rhythm was right now. It's all about maintaining or rather sustaining it. It's still along way to the other end, and an even long back to the finish. There was a little headwind but manageable, and it's kind of good too and the wee hours can be very humid and stale. But it also brought some unwanted palm oil smell blowing from the mainland. I took my first and only planned energy gel at the 15KM mark.

Everything was going smoothly and I had the whole 2 lanes to run on. I kept sipping on water at each water station as I finally arrived at the toll plaza. But the u-turn point is not here as runners had to run another Kilometer or so to make the turn. And just before the turn, friendly scouts volunteers were giving out ice cubes in plastic bags as I grabbed one to massage all over my thighs and my bothering left trapzeius. 

I finally made my turn and spotted Roy. He was not far behind me which was good as I was thinking that we may be help each other later. However, I did not slow down to wait for him and carried on with my pace. The return trip was a little bothering for me though as people were calling out to me. Sorry my friends especially to those I did not reply, as I was really on focus. But there was this one that called me Richard! A case of mistaken identity but I hope you are not referring to the that "Richard"! 

I really wanted to run on the outer lane but that will also increase my running distance. Therefore, I stood with my running lane on the inner side of the bridge and carried on. Pace was dropping a little as fatigue and pain set in. Although I still had a packet of energy gel with me, I resist taking it and instead decided to start sipping on the sports drinks provided, in small quantity.

Air was pretty stale now with no breeze. Was getting humid as I took some water to pour over myself too, to keep my core temperature at bay. Roy did not run to me as much as I hope for hence I had to push on myself. Though it was slower than my first half which is now a positive split, I was still moving on a constant pace. So far, the MAF method seems to be working.

The dreaded part came somewhere at 30KM into the run where the we merged into the half marathon runners. Holding hands, taking photos, listening to the music players, it certainly created a major human wall for the faster runners. I had to run zig zag to navigate myself through and this brought discomfort to both my knees and my left ankle. It also takes more effort out of me. And some runners can even run from the left lane to the right lane upon spotting the photographers! As water stations were really short and filled with runners, I skipped some of them unless I really had to drink, squeezing myself through the crowd to grab a cup or bottle of water.

While navigating through the crowd and with 8KM to go, although legs were already sore, they were wanting to go.  However, I told them to stick with the plan and hold on the pace and heart rate. It worked and while running up towards the highest point where most runners were slowing down, I was still maintaining my pace thus allowing me to overtake a huge number of them. 

The descend down was a faster one as I began to increase my pace gradually and carefully. Andrew passed me here and I was amazed at his speed and determination knowing he wasn't well too. I looked at  my chrono and I had 2 minutes buffer to hit the sub 4 hours timing. And besides, I did not know if it will be over distance? I kept calm though and continued with my pace and plan. It can be done cause "Mind Over Body"!

Finally with 500M to go, I finally saw the finish line on the left. And I was glad the ramp down the bridge wasn't crowded as I finally touched down on the island side and ran towards the finish line crossing it in 3:57:49.

Andrew and Kelvin Wan was there too as we congratulated each other and moved forward to collect our finisher pack before resting at the provided space. Grab 2 cups of Milo, a cup of coffee and a bun to recover and soon, Roy too completed his run. Rested and chit chatted while waiting for our friends to come back before leaving back to the hostel with Cham. 

And one thing to highlight is this particular runner with the bib A01781 name Raymond C. A disgrace to the running community, with a foul mouth and running attitude. During my first 10KM or so, he was overtaking me and coming into my running path and slowing down. He did it numerous time too when I managed to pass him back. And not only myself, he did it to my friend too and in the process scolded vulgar words in the process whenever my friend pass him. If he can't outrun anyone, just let it be and run your own run. Why the vulgar words?

Overall, this edition of Penang Bridge International Marathon is badly organised. The race site isn't ready to hold the event of this scale and probably the event organizers went for quantity instead of quality. The run on the first bridge was certainly much better and not as boring as this too. But I shall not talk about it that much as I can only describe it with 1 word, "BAD"! But hats off to the volunteers especially the scouts as I thought they really did their job well!

As for myself, I was satisfied with my own performance. I did not know if the paracetamol did help me but I know at least now that I can actually use the MAF method throughout the entire distance. Just of a matter of patience, I guess. The decision at Amsterdam to raise my heart rate was probably why I failed there. And also that I know now that energy gels and sport drinks are not always the answer cause I did survive this round with minimal of them. Probably I should try to totally cut them off in my next marathon? The following are my splits and it can be seen that it was constant.

5KM - 0:27.19
10KM - 0:53:24
15KM - 1:21:02
20KM - 1:49:33
21KM - 1:55:04
25KM - 2:16:46
30KM - 2:46:28
35KM - 3:15:48
40KM - 3:45:27
Finish - 3:57:49

At the end of this run, I have to point to the paracetamol again as I do not know myself if the it went into my system or did I threw it out? I regretted taking it but at that point of time, I really had no choice, or perhaps the only choice was not to start the run at all. I survived the run with a revised strategy and am still in one piece so I guess I have to move on and hope it doesn't repeat again. And lastly, Thank You for having faith in me and giving me the motivation and push as MIND OVER BODY cause miracles do happen!

* All photos here credited to Hong Chew and Kim Lai. Thank you!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Glen Ogle 33 Ultra 2014...

Event: Glen Ogle 33 Ultra 2014
Venue: Killin, Strathyre, Scotland
Date: 1 November 2014
Time: 8.00AM
Distance: 52.8KM
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4
By Frank

The Glen Ogle 33 (GO33) was an event that I first couldn't get in due to full registration and I thought I could have escape it and get some rest while supporting Chee Kong. However, something, someone or maybe fate that I was going to run it after all, after meeting Mike, the race director of this event during the Jedburgh's Three Peak Ultra. And yes, registration was confirmed in the mountains while running, a very unique way of registration.

The race was suppose to start off at Strathyre taking runners to Killin and back. However due to bad weather causing flooding at Strathyre and landslides along the race route, a Plan B was quickly executed by Mike. A slightly modified reverse route from Killin to Strathye was implemented at the 11th hour and everyone went AYE! Myself and Chee Kong were lucky too as our hotels weren't book just yet and that Killin Hotel was still available which was just opposite the Sport Pavilion, the start and finish point of the race.

Bags were already all packed on Thursday night leaving a good free and easy Friday morning to myself. I also felt good, if not great today as I felt free, somehow open up and cheerful. Anyway, Chee Kong came home to pick me up for lunch at about 11.45AM and our plan to have fish and chips at Hash were dashed when we found out that they are only open for business at 4PM. Nevertheless, The Ashvale was nearby and although service was slow, I had a good haddock and haggis meal. And from there, while Chee Kong headed back to work and to wait for Mei-Ee, I roam around the city centre for a while before settling at Pret A Manger (gonna miss this place - superb food) for a salmon sandwich and hot soup. And at about 3PM, they were off work and we are ready to leave Aberdeen after picking up Xi Ning from the nursery.

Pepper lentil soup with smoke salmon sandwich. I miss Pret A Manger!

Traffic was a little heavy and we needed to use the trunk road including some diversions due to road works. After 4 hours on the road, we finally arrived at Killin in the dark and I was a little car sick due to the twisting and bending journey. Surprisingly, the weather seems fine, not too cold actually though I still needed my layers. Hope it will hold up on race day too as it was forecasted to be 0C. The room at Killin Hotel which was overlooking Loch Tay was good though not as good as Meadhon at Jedburgh but most importantly, it was warm. Dinner was at he restaurant downstairs where I had salmon fillet before returning to the room for some final packing before calling it a night to rest.

Killin Hotel.

I didn't have a good rest as my room was just next to the mechanical lift, which by right, not allowed to be used after 10PM due to the noise it produces. I woke up a few times, once at 4AM and felt hungry I ate what was supposed to be my breakfast of bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich that was prepared by the hotel yesterday. And when I finally woke up at 6AM, I am only left with coffee and a Belgian dark chocolate waffle from ASDA. Pre-race rituals went smoothly and I was down at the lobby at 7.15AM to put my luggage into the car as check out time was 10AM like Meadhon.

Proceeded to the Sports Pavilion and quickly enough, was reunited with Mike as I collected my race number and paid him on the spot. Thanks Mike! Then it was to check my drop bag in and I was surprised I was called out and greeted by many Scottish people! OH GOSH, now everyone knows me here. And also, am glad that the weather held up as the morning started at about 5C and with no wind, it is still manageable by me as long I had my layers on. And as proven during Three Peaks Ultra, I had my CompresSport On/Off base-layer on together with Saucony's Run Warm and Run Dry technical top.

Drop bag deposit.

Selfie again before the start.

With Wilson.

Out of sudden, I felt the urge to visit the loo. Not the small but the big one. But I held on as the race was going to start which after a speech by Mike, some 237 runners were flagged off at 8.10AM just slightly out of the main town area.

The start!

Start was a little narrow with loose soil, mud and water puddle and this created a bottleneck as everyone was trying to keep their shoes dry. Luckily, it was just a short stretch as runners were then welcomed by the beautiful sights of the Falls of Dorchart. Extremely beautiful with the sound of the river gushing through the rocks. A short run on the road here and into a double track trails along the open woods.

The Falls of Dorchart.

Horror to me, it was climbs, climbs and more climbs. Not exactly steep, but it kept coming. And with my right metatarsal hurting and irritating me for the past few days, this certainly did not help. But I know I had to keep moving, and move I did at least on the left track allowing faster runners to pass me on the right. The route kept climbing and I had to keep my mind away from thinking about that. I look at the trees, admiring how beautiful it was during autumn and soon, it help me got to the top before a descend at about 7KM onwards. And from there, it's all the way pass some mild ascend and descendss before we exited the area to cross the main street where Noanie was marshaling the traffic. Then there it was, the firs check point.

Up, up and up along the double tracks.

Took my bottle of Lucozade and pack of dried cranberries here and started munching on them as I began my journey to the next check point. It's all mountain road from here onward. Tarmac covered with maple leaves did help a little with the pounding as I wore trail shoes but it still kind of hurt especially during descents. However, the long stretch here along the glen which oversees the mountains at the opposite was just so beautiful where tiny white dots of sheep can be seen.

Mountain roads overlooking the glen.

5KM later, the magnificent sight of Loch Earn came into view with the blue skies in between the 2 mountain, it was just a sight to behold. A concrete bridge of some sort which was rather high up was next before we started our descent to the next area. It was pretty a huge descent which I was clumsy at and Wilson caught up but it was great to have company.

Beautiful Loch Earn.

We chatted along the country road before arriving at the second check point which I had my Belgian dark chocolate waffle here. AYE! I didn't eat it on the spot though as I carried along in hand and quickly resume my run after hydrating myself. A mild climb along the country road in a village, handsome steed of horses can be seen with the flock of sheep. One particular one staring at me too.

Nice wooden bridge.

Over the bridge overlooking at another gushing river, I ate my waffle and carried on. Wilson caught up again and we ran, walk and chat along the woods and villages before exiting to a park of some sort before crossing a main street. An unofficial support station was there and we had a group selfie with another bunch of runners before starting our climb up the hills.

It was about 28KM here and the steep climb started after going through some woods. I was glad that the surface was a rocky one but as the climb was just too much to handle, I walk it. About 3KM worth of climb before a 2KM down hill run and Wilson began to fly. And at the bottom, a bunch of loud happening marshals was there to greet the runners before the return to the second check point, which now is the third.

Here I come after exiting the hills!

Took a breather here while munching my pack of dried pineapple before continuing. As most runners were down to their 1st layer, I was still on 3. It was still cold for me as I carried on my journey. The journey to the fourth check point is actually the same route where runners came from the first check point, and right now, it's an uphill effort.

Though I wasn't really tired, both my feet's metatarsal is hurting. I guess the left is from the old injury and also to compensate the right's pain, I began limping. I also began drinking more. And just before the bridge that overlooks Loch Earn which I mentioned earlier, I started running and caught up with Wilson eventually. Yes it was a up hill run and a steep one. And a joke came here. While everyone was walking up, I was running. One of local who was on his morning walk there cheered me and told my friends around "Look, he is showing off!". We all burst into laughter and honestly I do not know where did that come from too? Perhaps the dried pineapples help. 

I continued running along the straight mountain road that overlook the glen and eventually arrived at the fourth check point. Noanie was there and we chatted a little before I left for the final 10KM stretch. And thanks Noanie for helping me with my rubbish!

"Downhill all the way" as one of the supporters cheered for me. It was misleading though as there were a few climbs ahead. Nevertheless, I was glad that I was back on the double track trails again. Wilson passed me again as it seems that he has hit his second wind. He was "uncatchable"!

I pushed on myself as I had about 70 minutes to complete the race in below 6:30 hours. That was my target as I didn't want to get to Stirling too late later. I was glad to exit the trails and soon, the sound from The Falls of Dorchart greeted me again. The final 2KM or so on the roads of Killin and eventually I saw the Sports Pavillion. And just before entering it, Mike was there to welcome me home. Thanks a lot Mike but we should have ran together! Hehehe...

High five Angela!

Into the grassy field, Chee Kong was at the side to snap my photo and asked if I wanted the Jalur Gemilang. It was fine as we can always take a photo of us with it later and thus, I continued to the finish gantry and high fived Angela along the way just before finishing the Glen Ogle 33 in a time of 6:28:32 hours, indeed below my targeted time!

Team Malaysia!

Collected the beautiful medal and proceeded to collect my goodie bag before a very cold shower there. There was no hot water in the shower facilities so imagine the agony of having to shower in icy cold water. Bbrrrr.... And in a very funny place to meet new friends, I befriend David Meldrum in there. Hahaha...

The real purpose of running isn't to win a race, but to test the limits if the human spirit.

My hats off to the BAM (Bill and Mike) team for a well executed race. It was not easy to modify the route and at the same time deploy their resources. In terms of logistics, it certainly was a nightmare but the team pulled it through despite at the 11th hour! Well done BAM team!

The Glen Ogle 33 cake!

I thank you Mike for allowing me to run in the GO33, my third and last run at Scotland before returning home. I have made more friends in the process and although it was really cold in Scotland, it was the warmth I received from my newly found Scottish friends that made this trip enjoyably and unforgettable. Indeed WEE as you all may call it. And thank you and Catriona for the Scottish Buff, for to me, it's more than a headwear itself. Together with the Scottish apple beer, they will be a memento that I will keep dearly. Thank you my Scottish running family! AYE!

Thanks Catriona for the Buff.

We left Killin for Stirling at about 4PM after my lunch of mussels at the hotel. Only an hour's drive separated the 2 towns. And upon arrival, the sky decided to open up. We spent a night at the Youth Hostel which was near the Stirling Castle. Had a miserable Indian dinner before calling it a night as I was really tired.

The next morning was a good one. Weather was good as the sky was blue. Awesome breakfast at the Ground House Cafe nearby where I thought I ordered too huge of a portion. Once the tummy is satisfied, we proceeded to the Stirling Castle for some photo taking at the castle's outer area before heading to the Wallace Monument.

Awesome breakfast at the Ground House Cafe.

Stirling Castle.

The National Wallace Monument.

The Wallace Monument was built to remember Scotland's first hero, Sir William Wallace which was played by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart. This place tells the story of this hero and indeed is a place to visit if you are in Scotland.

The Wallace Sword
The battleground of Battle of Stirling Bridge.

We left Stirling at about 1PM heading home. But before that, we made a stop at Stonehaven, which to me, pretty similar to South Africa's Cape Town, some 15KM away from Aberdeen. We made a stop here for Scotland's best fish and chips at The Bay. Indeed it lived up to its name as it was simply the best I ever had. Stonehaven is also the home to Dunnotar Castle, a stunning looking castle ruins by the seaside. And luck was on our side as the setting sun brighten up the view. And before we left Stonehaven, it's ice cream at Aunt's Betty just beside The Bay. Absolutely delicious ice cream! Stonehaven is indeed a heaven for food lovers!

Fish and chips from The Bay!

Oops... But Dunnotar Castle at the background.

Yummy ice cream! I only had one. Scottish Tablet the flavour.

And with all done including a very filled tummy, we went back home before dinner with Jack at Manchurian. A farewell dinner as the next morning will be my flight back. And after 17 days of getaway to sort out my life, I am finally flying off from Aberdeen to Amsterdam before Kuala Lumpur on board Malaysia Airlines MH19. Scotland has been truly amazing. I came to sort things out and to complete my book, and although it was a tough decision to make this trip, I am returning home with more than I could ask for, for the friends I befriended here were truly amazingly warm to the heart. Thank you Scotland! I had a WEE of a time!

MH19, my flight home from Amsterdam.

* All photos here credited to Chee Kong and the respective photographers. Thank you.