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.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jedburgh Running Festival 2014...

By Frank

The Jedburgh Running Festival is a 2 days event of different distances. An ultra, half marathon, a quarter marathon and even a wheelchair event, it's a celebration of running! And since I am over at Scotland, I might as well use the chance to visit the country on foot, well alt least at the town of Jedburgh. I opt for the greater 2 events which are back to back, being the 38 Miles or 60.8KM ultra trail marathon across 3 peaks there and the half marathon across the country side.

Jedburgh is a small town about 3 hours drive from Aberdeen and about 16KM from the England border. Together with Chee Kong and family, we left Aberdeen on Friday at about 4PM. Drive was smooth without much traffic and soon arrived at Jedburgh and proceeded straight to our very cozy hotel, Meadhon. My room was fantastic and I seriously felt the warm in there. Only complain was the small shower cubicle!

My little cozy and warm room. RM265 a night!

Awesome dinner at Carter's Rest nearby. I had a taste of Scottish specialty, the haggis which is made of lamb's spare parts. Click on this LINK to know more.It taste pretty good so don't think when eating them. Looks like meatball though. Main course was succulent pork fillet and we all certainly had our fill before returning to our room to prepare for our first event the next morning, the Three Peak Ultra Marathon across the mountains.

Tasty warm haggis balls.

Event: Three Peaks Ultra Marathon 2014
Venue: Leisure Centre, Jedburgh, Scotland
Date: 25 October 2014
Time: 8.00AM and 11.00AM
Distance: 60.8KM
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4

A very chilly morning! I was awake at 6AM and all my pre-race rituals went successfully and was ready for breakfast at 6.50AM. I pre-ordered bacon, eggs and brown toast though there were cereals ready for us too. Truly a hearty breakfast for the long day ahead.

Cereals in the jars!

The Three Peaks Ultra Marathon at the point of writing is going to be my longest trail ultra and probably my toughest since the one at Lion City isn't much of a thing ($orry!) A rush to the Leisure Centre nearby after I had to answer the call of nature just before leaving the hotel. Glad we made it in time and collected our race pack which consist of the race number and a piece of very nice and simple event tee. We then dropped our drop bags off at the nearby car park where the support vehicles were. 3 check points over a 16KM distance each with only water each, we runners have to pack well.

Registering and picking up our race pack.

As I am not familiar with the area of the race course, here's the description for the race's website:

The Thee Peaks Ultra Marathon is a 38 Mile event that start and finishes in Jedburgh and follows in the footsteps of Saint and Warriors. The route is a mixture of some road, track, path and hill running and passes through some of the most iconic and beautiful Border countryside.

The 38 miles race takes in some of the most stunning scenery the beautiful Scottish Borders has to offer.

Starting under the shadow of Jedburgh's history Abbey, the gentle opening 10 miles follows redundant railway lines, swing bridges and the pathway used by St. Cuthbert on his way to Holy Island.

Trail through country estates and battlefield on your way to the delightful hamlet of Maxton, where it starts getting tricky. Neptune's staircases help you cut along the banks of the world famous River Tweed before enjoying even more  breath taking scenery as you approach the villages of St Boswells and Newtown St Boswells.

From the Rhymer's Stone, the route take you up and over the Three Peaks of the Eildons. These extinct volcanoes are challenging but allow you the most amazing panoramic views across the entire region. They are tough, but they're worth it.

The Three Peaks of Eildons.

Enjoy the return journey through the idyllic village of Bowden before heading back towards Maxton and onto the home straight, if 10 miles to go can be called a home straight.

It's a testing route, with around eight miles on the country roads and the other 30 on hillside tracks, forest trails, river paths and parkland, but it will be a rewarding one.

A cold morning with Chee Kong. Glad I was blessed with these gears.

At 8AM sharp at a nearby small grassy area just outside the Leisure Centre, 133 runners were flag off. The journey out of town was alongside pavements and grassy area which was about 4KM or so before the first trail welcome the runners. Single track through the beautiful countryside with sheep and cows munching on the grass just beside us, it was an experience I've never had the chance to enjoy back home.

Despite feeling cold, I was running pretty well, at least to my own standards where the rest of the Scottish runners just bulldozed their way through. I had a few other runners around me as I made sure that I will try to stick with a few of them for fears of a Malaysian getting lost in the trails or woods of Scotland.

We had to run through farms and climbing over fences and it's one race that I've step over so many sheep and cow dungs! By the way, the fences are properly built hence there are mini steps for people to climb them over. Even the wooden gates were solid and there was a very nice bridge too bringing runners over a river, River Tweed I assume. And from there, orange maple leaves was all over the ground which was a beautiful autumn sight, though it made my running just a little slippery. The single tracks were not easy to run on though as there were uneven, and some covered in grass which makes things a little tricky for me. My ankles were both rolling and twisting along the way and I had to be careful not to sprain it.

Beautiful bridge across the River Tweed.

Single track along the River Tweed.

There were flight of stairs, both up and down as I ran alongside the River Tweed. A sneak preview of my Hong Kong trail next year perhaps? I enjoyed this part very much as it was really peaceful with the only sound coming from nature, river and ducks.

The flight of stairs. Some dirt while some natural. Seen here is the wooden ones.

And soon after about 16KM of running through the first segment, I arrived at the first check point at Maxton. Most of the drop bags was already gone as I emptied mine into my back pack before continuing on. I ran through a golf course where some of the golfers even joked with the runners. Then a steep climb out of it and into a small town before resuming on the trails again. And it's here I met Mike, before knowing his true identity.

I ran with Mike and some other runners through winding and rocky paths and we were all together for most of the time. It's good to have someone almost run the same pace especially when in a foreign land. And honestly, I was still feeling good although I've started walking. The sun began to rise but the cold was still there.

Fast forwarding through the trails, I soon arrived at Rhymer's Stone where the second check point is located. I was a little surprise though with the distance recorded on my Suunto as it was about 3KM short. It was supposed to be 32KM but it only recorded 29KM. Hmm... A quick check with Mike and it seems true. Oh well... Perhaps the organizers had their reason for the next segment is not an easy one and probably didn't had any proper space for them. I had a yummy chocolate waffle which I've put in my drop back here. Emptied a Sneaker bar and a bottle of Cola into my back pack and off I went again.

A mild climb across the country side welcome the runners. Loose rocks but not technical yet as the views of the peaks slowly came. The wind also got stronger as we approached Eildons. And it's here, I found the out the true identity of Mike as we chatted along the way, in an exchange of our culture. I mentioned that I will be only leaving the week after as I was still hoping to gain entry to the Glen Ogle 33 race which Chee Kong successfully entered. And with all out of sudden, Mike asked if I really wanted an entry and I began to suspect. He was the race director and in a very odd situation, I was entered into the race! AYE! Thanks Mike!

Through the countryside and beautiful rainbow, I met Mike.

Soon, the first peak of Eildons was upon us. The climb started becoming technical and so is the wind getting really strong. Orange soil, loose rocks and a steep climb as some of us start our climb. Though really tough and not reaching the peak yet, the view was already magnificent and when I found the chance where the wind stop blowing at least for a little while, I quickly took out my phone and started snapping away before resuming my climb.

At the top of the first peak, though the view was spectacular, I did not have the chance to take some photos as the wind was just too strong till I almost lose my footing! I can only remember the view which includes a pile of rocks on top there in my mind. I started my descend after enjoying the view and the way down was equally just as tough as it was filled with loose rocks.

Halfway descending, there as a participant sitting down on the trail shivering and receiving aid from a lady. Asked if he needed any assistance and he said that he was only cold and just needed to open up his foil blanket ensuring me that he will be all right. In the distance of the second hill, the medic vehicle was on their way and soon I continued on.

Tackling the ascend to the first peak.

The ascend to the second peak was just as tough as the first as it included more winding paths. I looked back from where I came and clearly saw the participant in cold earlier had already received assistance from the medic. Soon, I arrived at the top and wind the wind manageable this time, I quickly took out my phone and started snapping photos away. I even took video of the magnificent surroundings!

Descending from the first peak. Notice the orange spot where the participant in cold is. It was his orange thermal blanket, mini camp or some sort to keep the cold away. And the white spot where the medic drove to.

Approaching the second peak.

View from the second peak.

The wind was still blowing strong as I started my descend. It was pretty all right this time and the third climb was within reach and it wasn't as steep. It was the easiest among all 3 but still a test of might and strength in this condition.

After scaling the heights of the 3 peaks and from the third, it's now the return trip. A single track welcome the runners with lush greenery before entering the woods again via a park or some sort. It was really a nice stretch to witness the orange maple leaves again by the path. Myself and Mike kept running and soon arrived at a critical junction which was suppose to take us to the village of Bowden. There was  an arrow signage there hence he followed it by turning right. Upon reaching the end with a fence there, a group of 5 runners came fro the opposite saying that they are lost without any markers ahead.

A little drama here as Mike called back to Angela. Though with 6 other runners, I was a little worried as this may be my "DNF" for this year as it has so far been a good clean year for me. We ran back to the junction earlier and Mike snap a photo of the arrow signage mentioned earlier. Apparently, it wasn't part of this race and the actual marker has gone missing! We asked 2 people who were also on their way to Bowden and apparently there weren't too sure too!

The decision came when we were told to follow the path to St. Cuthberth Way. We continued running from where we came from, pass the fence and ended up at a junction which one will bring us down to a farm, through a technical area. No markers again and a decision had to be made.One of the runner went straight and after a while, Mike made the decision to journey to the farm. The rest followed and so did I.

And after a flight of stairs, root, fences and gates through the woods, we soon arrived at the farm with the medic team waiting there. We were on the right track as we treated ourselves to some sweets prepared by the team. Mike also informed them of the runner that went ahead earlier before we continued with our journey.

Back on the right path again, the group started to break away. I however stood with Mike. Sometimes he was fast, while sometime I was faster. It was a good way to motivate and keep each other company although there weren't any much conversation as we were not side by side.

Fast forwarding ahead through a small town, I caught up with Wilson who was part of the Metro Aberdeen running club. We took a stroll together and chatted about our running adventures and in exchanging our cultures. We walked through the golf course where we came from earlier before I broke away. The third check point at Maxton which was the first earlier was just ahead as I arrived there safely.

Loaded everything into my back pack which include an extra bottle of water. Lots of food was left behind by the faster runners which includes sandwiches, bananas and even whisky! As I was about to leave with Mike, Wilson arrived.

16KM is what it remains and I had about 4 hours to get back. It should be doable as the final stretch hasn't had any major climbs nor technical trails. However, I was wrong myself. Though it was the path I came from earlier, the tired legs made things difficult and challenging. I just had to keep moving.

As I arrived back at the farms, sheep and cows was everywhere and not to mention their dung too! I can't myself but to take photos of them. It's a sight and experience I don't get back home and not to mention often. The sheep looks cute and a little dumb as they much on the grass and sometimes stare at me.

Wonder why some sheep's face in white while some in black?

How are you? Baaaa....

A selfie with a cow? Glad wasn't wearing my red CompresSport trail shorts else...

Through the flight of stairs along the River Tweed and pass the wooden hanging bridge, I know I was near. About 5KM or so to go. Went through the final stretch along the River Tweed, up the stairs with volunteers there cheering, across the main road and back on the countryside road again, it was now the real home stretch. No more trails here as myself and Mike ran together as now we chatted more!

Though it has become gloomy, the sun has not totally set hence there wasn't a need for the headlamp which I've carried along since the start. Oh and yes, thanks to John who borrowed his Petzl Nao to be use in this race too. Continued running with Mike and soon, the Abbey was in sight. And in a while more, both Mike's children was seen running towards him as we approach the finish line.

A run to the finish with Mike and his kids!

It's a pleasure to complete the race with Mike, the race director of the Glen Ogle 33. And thanks for the race slot!

And after spending 9:33:18 on the road, trail and mountain, I've successfully completed the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon alongside Mike just before sunset. Truly a beautiful event which I enjoyed very much and unlike marathons like the one from last week, I was on the runner's high! Such a breathtaking route with magnificent views and a chance to be running along side sheep and cows, something I don't get to experience back home. Thanks to both Angela and Noanie for organizing it and to the friends I met along the route, it's been a pleasure! AYE!

A cold start leads to a cold finish too!

Chee Kong already completed the run 2 hours earlier, very fast indeed and was there to pick me up. Back at the hotel to clean up before dinner with the rest of the runners at the nearby Belters Bar. A hearty dinner of Shanty Burger (fish) to recover and to load up for next day's half marathon and from there, it's back to the room to call it a night, a satisfying one.

Dinner aka recovery meal at Belters Bar. Yummylicious!

Event: Jedburgh Half Marathon 2014
Venue: Town Hall, Jedburgh, Scotland
Date: 26 October 2014
Time: 11.00AM
Distance 21.1KM
Shoe: Saucony Type A6

The temperature was pretty similar to yesterday albeit starting at 11AM because I had less cloth on me! But surprisingly, the legs didn't feel that thrashed from yesterday, well at least during my walks. By 8.30AM, I was ready for breakfast. Same brown toast with bacon and eggs, this time I added in a tattie scone and Chee Kong shared with me some black pudding, another Scottish specialty. Click on this LINK to know more.

Tomatoes, bacon, egg, tattie scone (below egg) and black pudding.

The sad thing is that we had to check out of Meadhon at 10AM and that will leave us sweaty and sticky after the race without a place to shower. But we will sort that out later. With our luggage in the car, we proceeded to the Town Hall to collect our race pack which now includes a timing chip.

Cold under the Abbey.

As usual, a selfie before the start with Chee Kong.

Angela and Noanie was both at the start area near the Abbey to cheer for fellow runners especially the Dirty Double, a nick for those doing running the back to back. And at 11AM sharp, runners were flag off on a slope! I think I had a little too much breakfast or was it the black pudding perhaps that caused an irritating right side stitch immediately at the start. I bear with the discomfort though hoping it will go off eventually.

Loud supporters! Thanks Angela and Noanie (both in yellow).

As I exited the town, sadly the discomfort was still there forcing me to slow down a little to have it rectify before entering Woodend and Riverside where I was treated to the magnificent side of Jedburgh's countryside again. Only problem is, there were a few short rolling climbs here which made things a little difficult for my tired legs from yesterday. Yeap, the fatigue showed here though I mentioned that it was all right earlier.

Although I was cruising at 6 minutes per Kilometer, I was caught by surprise but simple amazed that runners of all ages and body build passed me with not much of an effort. They were awesome running machines! And at that point of time, I was worried that I may end up last, a chance to "podium" again! Hahaha...

Running towards Kelso and being chased by the Scottish runners.

Back on the main road approaching Kelso, 10KM runners were already making their return trip. I was still cruising at the same pace as before but was struggling to keep it. Besides, the cold was not helping at all as the first water station, somewhere around 5.5KM mark came into picture. Water was served in 500ML bottles but I skipped it. Then came a slight wind from the back pushing me just before taking a left turn to Nisbet where the wind later hit me from the left instead! I needed to get out of this area before I was blown away!

Quickly, I was back on the main road and this time heading towards Eckford, with the wind pushing from behind. However, as the lead runners made their return trip, I know it's going to be tough for me later going against the wind which was helping me now. I needed to take advantage of the wind right now. And as I ran, I spotted some people especially the elderly waving to us from their house. A sweet gesture as runners including myself waved back!

A candid shot by Chee Kong making his return trip.

There was a climb at Eckford and the rain came. Not really heavy but definitely more than a drizzle and it hampered my vision for I did not have my sunglasses on. I arrived at the halfway point where some volunteers were serving oranges. I was tempted to have some of them but as I had my gloves on, it made things just a bit difficult as I skip it. A loop around this area and soon it was time to exit it where the return begins with the head wind.

The head wind was exceptionally strong and I have to tilt my body to keep moving. Extra effort is needed here and I slowed down a lot, even to the extend of walking. The rain continued till I get to Nisbet and it was dry all the way here and without wind too! My legs however were stiff from the walking and the cold and it was difficult not to run pain free. I wanted a hot cup of tea, an earl grey will be nice! But I needed to keep moving if I wanted it.

4KM from the finish, runners was taken towards Bonjenward and a surprise awaits here for a climb welcome the runners. I only managed to run up halfway before walking the remaining of it. Then it was a slight downhill on the main road beside Riverside and this was the home run section, similar to yesterday's Three Peaks.

Closer and closer, I eventually saw the finish gantry with Angela and Noanie there cheering and giving out the bonus Dirty Double medal, a very suprise sweet touch from the organizers as I completed my run in 2:13:49 (a total of 6 Dirty Doubles). And yes, I got my reward of a cup of hot tea, not early grey though but was good enough.

Tough cold finish!

An addition to our finish photo together, a future runner she is.

The distance may be only a half marathon but having to do it after a 38 Miler trail run the day before is certainly tough. Besides the strong chilly wind with rain did not make things easy for this skinny Malaysian with only 3% of fat! But I had good fun and certainly was an eye opener for me to see Jedburgh's countryside.

4 out the 6 Dirty Doubles with the race directors of the Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, 

A sweet bonus Dirty Double medal!

Hung around the area (in cold) for some photos before bidding farewell to my new warm Jedburgh friends. I had a good and memorable time here. We then proceeded to the Leisure Centre to have a quick shower before starting our journey to Edinburgh for Kampung Ah Lee again to recover ourselves with Malaysian food. A quick one and its back to Aberdeen to meet up with other fellow Malaysians at Manchurian before back home to rest up and to clean up the dirty race gear. What an adventure it was at Jedburgh!

Malaysian food at Edinburgh.

Chicken rice, wan tan mee and prawn mee!

* All photos here credited to Chee Kong, Jethart's Here and the respective photographers. Thanks a lot!