Friday, February 28, 2014

Finding Strong in February...

By Frank

Last day of the second month of the year, and its time for a look back at it. February, a shorter month and one with festive season, but yet with an increase in running distance and intensity compared to January, the mind was telling that it is quite impossible to actually achieve the regime. But lesson learnt from the previous year, I managed to conquer February this time with one aim, to IMPROVE. And improve I did!

An amazing 335KM was achieved in February which was a little more than what was intended. Frankly, I did not know myself how did I achieve this. But for sure, I found a strong (pun intended) this month that kept me going. Someone, something or some happy thoughts? I shall leave it as my little secret here.

Major improvement compared to last February.

Last year's lack luster February was caused by an inflamed left trapezius muscle probably caused by over doing it on weights. This time round, learning from the mistake I made, I was careful not to repeat the same hence tackling it safely.

Work resume after 2 days rest on the second day of the Chinese New Year. While everyone was busy celebrating and eating away, I was out running hence the reason I lost weight during the festive season. Ooops... Most of my runs were longer in distance but at a more comfy pace, in preparation for the Titi 100 in the middle of the month. With the increase in distance and with still speedwork implemented once a week, nutrition has been paid extra attention so that I can return faster. And with all the Chinese New Year goodies, food and drinks was not problem. The only problem I had was rest but I managed it pretty well.

Feed me!

Soy products were used as part for my recovery and the soya bean drink was the one I consume the most, those with none or less sugar version. And to aide in recovery, I bought myself the Tiger Tail portable roller foam which I've used to roll off those sore muscle. And thus far, the nagging problem on my left calf has not been reoccurring hence it's a good sign. Probably a trigger point there.

The Tiger Tail portable roller foam.

And when Titi 100 finally came and went, I was glad to have ran it with Susanah completing it without feeling too battered. The training since starting 6 weeks ago has certainly paid off with results beginning to show.

With base building last month and to improve this month, it certainly shows the advantages of planning out a very structural training regime. Planning is one, but implementation is another and I am glad that it has been going smoothly so far.

And now with February behind now, it is time to prepare for the toughest month in training, known as "Hell March"! Higher and longer than what was achieved this month, March is the month where the highest running mileage is suppose to be achieve. And if everything goes well, myself and everyone else is suppose to peak at the end of the month. It will be a challenging 31 days of training and I hope I can find my strong once again. And with the achievement this month,, it certainly is a good sign and confident booster telling me that I can. Run, lift, eat, sleep...  Let's march into March!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Titi 100 2014...

Event: Titi 100 2014
Venue: Restaurant Water View, Batu 14, Hulu Langat
Date: 15 February 2014
Time: 4.00pm
Distance: 100KM (101.5KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4
By Frank

My second 100KM ultra marathon was meant to be ran as as support role (not a pacer) and that I did. No target was set, not even to finish the distance. All that was set out to do was to support and accompany my friend. To run her pace, to walk with her, to accompany her, to support her and to do whatever I can throughout the entire journey was the least I can do. My friend I am referring to is Susanah.

Route profile with checkpoints cut-off time.

The day started as per usual. Sleep was normal and I hope it was last me through the night. After all the packing which was rather simple, I was off to pick up Susanah to head to her physio centre to have her ankles and knee tape. And it's from there where we then proceeded to the race venue located at Restaurant Water View (previously known as Sawadee 88 Thai Village), Hulu Langat. With slow moving traffic and wrong GPS coordinates, we were slightly late but was glad that the organiser were still accepting bag check-ins. Changed into our gear and caught up with some friends before the run officially started at 4pm.

Some memorable shots before the start with Susanah.

I started the run pretty heavily like a navy seal. With 2 litres of water and another 2 litres of frozen water together with other necessities like phone, food and first aid, I felt like going to war. The sun was blazing as we set off and soon after a kilometre in, Susanah's leg was already showing signs of discomfort. As we were rushing earlier, we did not have a proper stretch hence I suggested that she pull over and do some dynamic stretching. A quick one and we are on the way again. The climb began shortly. We run when we can, walk when we can't, but all done together following her pace.

Step by step, stride after stride, side by side.

Conquering the first climb, Susanah blazed downhill. This is one area I am weak in. Although I tried to follow, I can't keep up. I tried my best to ensure she was in sight though. After some 9KM of uphill and downhill, we soon arrived at the first checkpoint. Vivian, Hong Lan, Wai Yee and Yim was here to support, in fact the latter was moving around everywhere to snap photos. Thanks a lot for the simple gestures. Took in some fruits and a delicious peanut butter sandwich while Susanah did her refill. Once done, we were on our way again. We managed our conversations well to keep her mind off things, at least for this part of the run. And it's with this conversation that we did not realised that we arrived at the second checkpoint shortly which was just about 7KM later.

Exiting Checkpoint 1 at the background.

Thumbs up at Checkpoint 2.

The journey to the third checkpoint at 25KM was the start of the major climb. The weather got better and the evening breeze started to flow.  As we near the border separating Selangor and Negeri Sembilan at Jelebu, we spotted open burning. Yim was there too with some traffic polices as he handed us a bottle of ice cold Gatorade. Thanks again for it was really refreshing as it sent Susanah blazing down the hill again. As sun sets and the sky darken, it also decided to open up sending rain pouring down just before arriving at the awesome third checkpoint. The energy here was high as Tey and Yim kept reminding runners to put on their safety equipments especially the lights for the journey in front is going to be a dark one. We both stop a little longer here and I took the opportunity to down a lot of watermelon as I was hungry. It was dinner time too so putting in the fuel to continue is important at this time. Jason arrived shortly as we joked a little. And before setting off again, I once again thank Yim and Tey for all their effort in helping out. Then, I put on my all new 165 lumens Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp and also Buff headwear as we run into the cold night.

Drench from the rain before exiting Checkpoint 3.

Journey to the fourth checkpoint at Chennah located some 11.5KM away did not start well for Susanah. It was cold and wet and she was in a lot of discomfort and I felt helpless in not able to help her. All I can and could do at that time was just to be with her. Our conversations was reduced now as being the "un-creative" and quiet me, I do not know what to bring up.  As a support, I think I failed. Nevertheless, despite a few stops, she shouldered on and made good use of the descend here to her advantage as we soon check into the fourth checkpoint where the rain has stopped

Checkpoint 4 at Chennah was manned by Marlina and a few others volunteers. We were showered with plenty of care as Jeff and Yim (again) was there. Took chips and oranges here while Susanah prepare her next journey as we rested a while. And before we began or journey to the halfway point, Jason came in too.

Fifth checkpoint at 48KM located at Poum was made better when Jason caught up with us shortly. With him, conversations were good and it kept Susanah's mind off things. But we did not want to slow him down and so  we asked him to go on. But I was glad that she felt better here and as we approach a small village, kids was there to cheer on us. Am sure they cheered Susanah up a lot. However, things got lonelier as we moved away from the village. I brought up some conversations about dogs and movies and hope that this will keep the distance"short" in a way. Steps after steps, pain after pain, we finally spotted some weaving red lights from the scouts. Both scouts welcomed us to the halfway point, 48KM into the run at the village of Poum.

Susanah with the kids at Chennah.

Checkpoint 5 was the longest checkpoint where we spent our time at. Suzie was there busy helping out preparing hot beverages for tired runners. Myself and Susanah ate a pack of fried rice which may be a little spicy. We also had our top changed as we refilled our gears. I filled up a bottle of grape flavour GU Roctane Brew and that proved important for the journey ahead. Caught up with Foo and Kean Fatt here as they have called it a night for some discomfort issues. They after all have just completed the Hong Kong Vibram100 recently hence a wise decision for them. Susanah had her leg massage by the medic here before we both pack up to start our journey back "home", the remaining half of the run.

Resting up while having my fried rice at Checkpoint 5.

Susanah massaging her legs at Checkpoint 5.

We left Checkpoint 5 feeling better after a simple meal. However, I could not run much as the rice was still settling down in my tummy. We slowly walked it off before slowly turning our pace from jogging then into running. The journey was dark ahead and my headlamp ran out of juice. And I though the battery was new! Was glad I had a spare headlamp and used that instead as it was too much trouble to change battery. There were construction works ahead and the road were rocky with more ridiculous ascend and descend. Leslie and Edwin caught up with us and we spent a little time chatting before we went our own way again.

8KM later at 56KM, we arrived at Checkpoint 6 and a familiar face was there. Khairi was one of the volunteers. This checkpoint is however a "mini" version and hence not very well equip. Only water and isotonic was available with a few snacks. We didn't stay long and continued on, but that's before stopping by at a proper toilet just ahead.

With Khairi at Checkpoint 6.

Journey to Checkpoint 7 which was the fourth earlier was 7.5KM long. However, the terrain was a much friendlier one for me, but not for Susanah as she has difficulties running on flats. We did had a short stop at a nearby bus stand to have her toes plastered due to blisters forming. And during the journey here, was glad that we managed some conversations to keep her mind off things. And I thank Susanah for trusting me in telling me some rather personal things.

Checkpoint 7, 63.5KM into the run. We are reunited with Marlina and this time, her hubby Hu'Zaini was there too. Yim was still there and they were all again awesome in helping us out. I took some oranges, some Cola and refilled my bottles before continuing. And from here, it's through all the climbs again from where we came from earlier.

Climbs, climbs and more climbs as we walk most of our way to Checkpoint 8 located at 75KM. It was pitch black and things got a little negative when a middle age runner were spatting negative thoughts saying that we won't make it to the finish due to insufficient time. I kept quiet and shouldered on but Susanah gave her some thoughts of her own and we just walk him off. It's not the end until it's the end!

We also met Tong Lai here and this is also where I lost both my Kopiko caffeinated candies to him. It was all right though as I believe he needs it more than me. The climbs was getting really ridiculous and some really bad stench did stir our nostrils up. When the climbs got better, Susanah managed to pick herself up and ran a few distances. We checked our chrono and we needed to implement the run walk strategy for time is running out a little.

We safely arrived at Checkpoint 8 and Yim again was there to help out. A long stop here and I took the opportunity to rest my legs utilising the chairs while hydrating myself with isotonic. Appetite wasn't really there but I was holding on well. Just a little sleepy.

10.5KM was the distance to Checkpoint 8. A few ascend to tackle before a fast one for Susanah as it will be descending. The morning breeze started greeting us and I began unloading the water in my backpack for the next 2 checkpoints are pretty close. And besides, I can always rely on my front bottles. It's the reservoir that weights me down. A few fast downhill runs and just when the sun rises, we arrived at 85.5KM and Soon Chung was there to greet us.

I wasn't too happy at Checkpoint 8 though as the volunteers was packing up and asking us to move along. After battling through 85.5KM on foot, instead of caring for us, they were shooing us away. I did not argue back and just moved on from there once Susanah is ready.

Exiting Checkpoint 8 at the background.

And during our journey to Checkpoint 9 at 91KM, Tong Lai managed to catch up with me to deliver the message that a few runners were disqualified from the run as they did not arrive on time at the previous checkpoint. I quickly ran to Susanah and told her that we needed to run, for we need to to arrive on time to the next checkpoint. And ran we did as it's going to be a tight battle to the finish. She took a long stop to put on her compression socks.I didn't mind to wait but she asked me to carry on which I did, slowly. And soon, we were back together again and arrived at the final checkpoint on time, with Jeff there.

9KM and 90 minutes is what is left to complete the journey. I refilled a little water into my bottles as it's going to be a hot climb up the last hill. We started off walking up but when we got to the top, Susanah prepared for her dash to the finish. She ran downhill and I started chasing her but to no avail. She was fast! We reunited soon after it was back on flats and it was about 2KM plus till the finish. However, as we are on flats, she had difficulties running. Checking on our GPS position, I know we are safe from the cut-off and hence did not want to push her much. When she ran, I did too. And when she walk, I did just that. We were just hoping for the sight of the blue signboard indicating the finish.

As we saw the entrance to Restaurant Water View from a short distance away, Susanah began running again and I followed. But just before we made the turn into the finish area, she reduced to walking. We both walked up the slope and slowly approach the finish line where Allan, Jason, Soon Chung, Tey, Hong Lan and few others are waiting and cheering for us. There was no victory smile nor victory dash. Just a plain simple walk through the finish line after 17:55:44 hours on the road. I know Susanah was battered and in pain, and as much as I would like to give her a hug for a job well done, I did not. Not even  a finishing photo together. Only a simple "Well done" message which I doubt she heard it. But in the end, I am just glad that she completed her second 100KM just shortly after her Hong Kong Vibram100. I am just so extremely proud of her.

Finishing our 100KM.

Well done to Jason for his first 100KM success.

All in all, the inaugural Titi 100 2014 was a well organised event with room for improvement. Though the cut-off time is generous, the demanding course may proof too tough for some especially for the beginners. Therefore, one should be well trained especially with ascends and descends should they decide to take on this challenge the following year. And not to mention to prepare mentally to go through the lonely night. But anyway, hats off to Jeff, Allan, Cally and all that is in the organising community for a job well done. If there are improvements to look into for the next edition, pethaps can suggest the following:

1) Strict implementation of rules such as not allowing entries for those who did not meet mandatory requirements such as headlamps, blinkers, hydration, etc...
2) Strict cut-off times at checkpoints
3) Taking down times of runners checking in and checking out of each checkpoint to ensure safety of all.
4) Route patrol was good but can be improved with organisers doing frequent drive around rather than depending on polices and medics.
5) More volunteers to be deployed at half way point for 50KM and 100KM categories for these are the checkpoints that is going to be swarmed. Checkpoint 5 for 100KM runners were under man power when I got there. Poor Suzie was doing all she could.
6) Road markers were too few, small, too low and not reflective. Suggestion to install them onto lamp post where it is higher and more visible especially at critical junctions.

Thanks to Saucony Malaysia for providing this pair of Kinvara 4 to battle the hills of Titi 100.

The finisher souvenirs.

As for me, as mentioned earlier, I did not think I played a good support role. My intention was good but my implementation was poor. Being lost and helpless when a friend is in pain or in need of something, the feeling is just plain horrible. Though Susanah offered kind words and thanks to me, I still think I will need to improve a lot in playing this role again. But I was glad to have journeyed with her together and made it back to the finish safely together. It was better this way rather that her going alone and me wondering what was happening during that period of time and I thank her for allowing me to be part of her journey. And in the end, this journey together with Susanah will certainly go down as part of our memories as we look back a few years later.

All photos here credited to respective photographers. Many thanks to them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Heavy Transport Vehicle"...

By Frank

I guess there is nothing to hide now since most have found out that I will be running long this weekend. Darn... should have worn a cap (or maybe a coconut shell) while collecting my race pack the last Saturday so nobody recognise me. :p

Well... I was not suppose to run this event and instead was actually interested to run the The North Face Thailand 50KM. However, the idea was called off as I can't find friends to go along with. And when a friend told me that she will be running long this weekend, I told myself that I will support her as she is currently injured. And so the idea came, to run as a support role since the event did not allowed support or pacers. With the registration closed, I had no choice but to contact the event director directly and was glad that they opened a few slots. And so on the 3 January 2014, I am officially registered in the event.

My Comrades training had to be modified a little to accommodate this event in and that was one of the reason that I actually trained very well in January, well at least to my standard. And currently in February, the whole training went up by another level as I felt I improved so much since a quarter year ago. However, too early to tell yet so let's not get over confident. Anyway, this event will be part of my training too and hence, I've gotten myself a spanking new pair of Saucony Kinvara 4 to be worn as it will be my shoe of choice come the big day in June 2014.

A new pair of Kinvara 4 in red overlooking the first yellow pair in the background.

Training for this weekend, I spent a pretty huge amount of time on my feet. Pace was reasonably slow as I need to get use to spending long hours on them during the event to go along with my friend's pace. As my role is more like a "heavy transport vehicle" rather than an "assault tank", I will be carrying a pretty heavy load with me too.

You will get the meaning of this picture if you watch Mask during the good old days and also know my nick.

So yeah. Running is no longer a personal thing for me. It's more than myself now and hence the charity and fund raiser I do nowadays together with the runs I do. And now, a role where the camaraderie is something yet more important compared to the achievement of crossing the finish line. And the longer the distance, the stronger the bond. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

6 Days Of February...

By Frank

It's 7 days into the Lunar New Year and 6 days into February. My training to my third Comrades continued from where I left off in January with a couple of days rest due to the celebration. This allowed my body to recover and to come back fresher for a brand new start into my second phase of training.

While back in my hometown, I took the opportunity to run around my "kampong". It was indeed an eye opener as I ran towards places I never been and it was filled with various gradients, giving me variety in training.

Overlooking Desa Park City from Bangla Hill.

And since then, I have been training till today, the 7th day of the Lunar New Year where I visited Desa Park City with Chee Kong who is back for the holidays. We ran an easy 13KM with 2 sets up the infamous "Bangla Hill" before rewarding ourselves with dim sum breakfast.

With Chee Kong at Bangla Hill.

At this point of writing, my running mileage for the month of February stands at 66KM, which not only it looks positive, but myself feeling absolutely great too. Things should start to shape up next week when things get intense. And if everything falls into place as plan, results should start showing by then. Till then, focus it is for now.

* all photos credited to Chee Kong