Thursday, March 31, 2016

Of 3 months, 10 years and 24 years...

By Frank

I made it through again! YES (*inserts fist pumps into the air), as once again, I successfully tackled March, the toughest third month of training leading up to Comrades Marathon and this time West Highland Way Race.

As usual, when I saw the training regime given, I will ask myself if it can be done? The distance that needs to be cover, the intensity to be put in, the time needed for it plus some other side training, all of it seems so difficult and even "painful" by just looking at it. But I know that it needs to be done and hence just hope that I will be able to follow it as close as possible and survive it. Besides, I can't be complaining as these are 2 races I am totally committed to.

March didn't start of very well though as my legs were pretty thrashed up from Gunung Nuang Ultra which took place on the last day of February. Talk about perfect timing! Walking straight seems to be a problem for 3 days and hence I could forget about a short recovery run. But when the soreness had subside, it was business as usual as I punished the tarmac and treadmill as per the regime given.

However, there was another problem. With the most from the Gold Coast training group participating in Powerman Putrajaya on the first weekend of the month, my first weekend long run of the month seem to be hanging on the balance. But with some planning, I still managed to run it before and during the event while still able to support my friends. Moving forward, with some of my friends laying off running from injury and also taking note that the Gold Coast training isn't suitable for me, I had to improvised. Weekend long runs were still long but they were at reduced intensity on flat routes, while weekday shorter runs became more intense with speed and hills incorporated into it. Flexibility is the key to a successful training regime and I am glad mine can be done this way. And with that, 415KM was covered for the month of March 2016 bringing the year's running mileage up to 1,113KM, the one thousand barrier broken in my personal record time. A successful third month of training reaping positive benefits from it.

Midway into March, while out on one of my runs, I realised that I've been running for 10 years. And that's 10 year's of injury free running! Time has passed swiftly from my first marathon till my ultra adventures today. And I am glad that this year will be my half decade's of Comrades Marathon and also my first West Highland Way Race, a race that will fill my bucket list to the max. I guess that explain the reasons I am feeling "tired' already from all this running.

And finally. March is always remembered as the month I was diagnosed of Rhabdomyosarcoma some 24 years ago. No, it's not something to celebrate, for it's nothing proud nor happy about it being diagnosed, treated or surviving it. Rather, it's a month of remembering on what this deadly disease can do to all living beings and also to those who have fought or affected by it.

For now, it's time to move on to the fourth month of training. Again the same old question of how am I going to survive this month? But am sure I will and by the month's end, it will be something to be rejoice. Onward to April!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016...

Event: Twilight Ultra Challenge 2016
Venue: Sengkang Riverside Park, Singapore
Date: 19 March 2016
Time: 7.00PM
Distance: 5KM per loop (maximum distance in 16 hours)
Shoe: Saucony Ride 8
By Frank

In a blink of an eye, Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) is now into it's sixth year. A no frills looping based ultra running event by Ben and his team behind Running Guild, this is one event that I've never miss and it's one that I started running a year before Comrades too. Treating it as one my longest run in my Comrades training, the sad news is that I have never excelled in TUC due to sleep issues. Yeap, 5 years of trying and never really hit the 100KM mark. Maybe in this sixth edition I will, or will I?

The sixth edition of TUC sees a change of race site to Sengkang Riverside Park due to renovation works at the original site of East Coast Park. Certainly a welcome change after half a decade of running there. And besides, the new site's running path are built on the softer tarmac surface as per compared to concrete at East Coast Park. Certainly much more friendlier for the good old legs.

Unlike previous years, this time round I will be travelling alone to Singapore. With the Malaysian currency so weak, even staying at backpackers inn is pretty costly. Ian and Teck Sim did mentioned that I could always stay at their place whenever I am in Singapore but the problem is, I am not the type that simply likes to intrude into others privacy and personal time. However, I guess this time I needed their help and besides, I guess it will be nice to actually agree once. And so, I traveled down to Singapore on board First Coach from One Utama on Friday morning only to spend almost 2 hours at Singapore's immigration. For reason I do not know why, it was packed with people and the officers weren't very efficient that day. Took me almost 8 hours to arrive at Novena and it was almost time for dinner. And during the bus journey, my troublesome trapezius starting aching and it will proof to be a nuisance for days to come.

Ian and Teck Sim came and pick me up and straight away we went for an early dinner at Monniker located just next to Balestier Food Court. It was a nice little cozy restaurant and the people there were really friendly, and not to mention their awesome food. I needed some fat for the ultra next day so I ordered a pork dish call Porketta (not sure if it is spelled correctly) and a banana bread beer from the UK. Both were really good.

Delicious food at Monniker. Porketta on far right.

After a satisfying dinner, we returned to their place, IResidence which was nearby. Rested for a while before a quick dip at the warm jacuzzi and it's off for dessert next at United Square. A very rich durian sago dessert with pamelo was what I had. A little risky considering my sore throat due to overdose of chocolates 2 days ago, but it was just too tempting. After satisfying the stomach, it's back home to call it a night.

I've planned for a deep long sleep. However, that did not happen as the weather was pretty much hot and there were neighbours talking through the night which kept me awake in between sleeps. I woke up at 8.30AM and knew that the run later at night will be tough due to once again sleep issues. While going back to sleep will be tough, I cleaned myself up and joined both Ian and Teck Sim for breakfast at Balestier food court while waiting for time to pass. Back at their place later, I tried to catch a 2 hour nap which I do not know if I did, and eventually made my way to Novena for an early dinner at 4PM before catching up with colleagues from Singapore.

Found myself back at Ian's place at 5PM and proceeded to freshen myself up. He was back by 6PM and we were then off to Sengkang which is about 20 minutes drive away. Collected my race number and saw many familiar faces in the process from Ben, Yee Hua, Roy, Si Main, Kim Lai, Eu Gene, Barkley, Hong Chew, Kim Song, Karl and many more. Was certainly nice to be seeing them again. Weather though was hot, was in fact greeted by a much welcome light breeze.

Bibs Third, Second and First!

At 7PM, the sixth edition of TUC was flagged off with Ben, the event director leading the way. Although I knew the surface was of tarmac, I chose the Saucony Ride 8 as my shoe of choice. Though a tad heavier than my everyday Kinvara, it offers much more cushioning, something I needed a little after a very intense and heavy workout last week. And instantly, I can feel my legs being protected already as I try to settle my rhythm in.

Off we go at 7PM!

The run which is of 2.5KM along the canal or was it reservoir at the Sengkang Riverside Park was part of the Craze Ultra 100 Miles route and all the memories or rather nightmare came flashing back. At the far end where the u-turn point was, Yek Bun was leading the team there. A run back to the start will complete the 5KM loop. As simple as that over the next 16 hours and I planned to have small intakes of watermelon and water at the end of each turn to keep me going, filled and hydrated.

I was struggling with my sore left trapezius at the start. I can hardly turn my head and hence not able to reply to anyone calling me from behind or the side. The pain had actually ease a little compared earlier but it was still uncomfortable to be running with it with the constant pounding of the muscles. At that point of time, I was just hoping that my pain tolerance will take me through the distance or the pain will continue to subside. And moving forward after completing 20KM equaling to 4 loops, the pain started to subside a little. And although it was a little breezy especially towards the first half, humidity was actually on the high side.

I had my first cup of black coffee courtesy of LiveCoffee who is on site to serve the runners. Operated as a complimentary beverage for the runners by a a group of coffee lovers, their coffee was actually very good, and not to mention strong. I told myself to "recharge" with a  cuppa after completing every 4 loops and this was certainly a motivational push.


As the pain on my left trapzeius continues to subside, run and walks with friends like Karl and Rozman at certain stretches did help to cope with the time and distance. I continue to push using landmarks like the flyovers to guide me. Running from flyovers to flyovers ranging around a Kilometer in distance did help with managing my leg strength as it gave ample time for them to recover before resuming my runs.

Lonely in the dark.

40KM covered in slightly more than 5 hours and already pass midnight, it was time for my second cup of coffee. The legs were hurting but it wasn't as thrashed up compared to the old venue at East Coast Park. I do not know if its the surface, the shoe of the legs being stronger but I certainly hope it was the latter.

With the second dose of the much needed caffeine, I continued on. Nothing much happened for the next 4 loops except for me going slower and slower. Hahaha... But I did meet up with Samantha who recognized me from my Putrajaya 100 blog last year. We chatted while running behind Hong Chew, Yee Hua and Kim Song, and it was great to be sharing with her some of my run experiences.

Was looking forward to my next cup of coffee after completing 60KM as the critical part for me is from 3AM to 5AM, the time when the body is the weakest and when sleepiness starts to set in. And upon completing 60KM at about 4AM, I met Gary at the race venue and share with me on his daughter's story of fighting osteosarcoma. I would really like to hear a happier version but sadly, she lost her battle. But nevertheless, I was glad that Gary accepted the fact and that life goes on and believes that cancer treatment, research and treatment is going the positive way.

Before pushing off for my next loop for 65KM, Ian arrived just in time too with my much needed early breakfast. I didn't know what I wanted when he asked earlier, but I did mentioned that perhaps a roti prata (canai) will be nice. And that was exactly the food I had in my mind when I was out on the run. Sat down and chatted away with him while having the actually pretty delicious prata with hot coffee. That gave my legs a little time to recover too.

With the breakfast settled down in my happy tummy, I push forward. And surprisingly, I managed to complete the next loop without stopping with quite an healthy pace too. The prata had worked it's magic, well at least for this loop. A short while after starting my next loop, there was an urge to visit the potty. I was already almost a Kilometer away from the starting point and hence to decided to "nurse" myself all the way to the other end. Runners who passed me tried to pull me along but I didn't want to risk running with that urge in me just in case of an unwanted "explosion".

Eventually, I got to the u-turn point and made my deposit in the small but clean potty. Took me a while but what had to be release, just got to be release. But in the process, I think I strain or pulled one of my ankle muscles. It became a little stiff and even walking feels a little painful. However, I still caught up with Hong Chew and Kim Song just before completing our 70KM together.

I was tempted to stop after completing 70KM as I knew I have broken into the 1,000KM distance milestone for this year's training. In all my Comrades training across the years, this was my shortest time that I got to here and indeed it was a personal achievement. But the show had to go on and I continued with Hong Chew, Kim Song and Kelvin with the sun now shining bright.

The pain on my right ankle become more irritating upon completing 75KM but the 4 of us decided that we shall make it 80KM before deciding to call it a day. We walked and ran together using lamp post as indicators and after 12:59:44 hours, 80KM was completed by my dear legs. And together with Hong Chew, we decided to stop here, with Kim Song and Kelvin still going for it.

I was a little disappointed that once again I could not hit the century distance after 6 attempts. Despite still with 3 hours to go to hit that desired distance, I just didn't want to risk any injuries on my right ankle. Just worry something might snap in there. Nevertheless, this was my fastest time with this distance in TUC and it's certainly a positive sign.

Ian and Teck Sim came just before the closing of the event as we cheered the remaining runners on. We left soon after everyone completed their run and headed back. A refreshing shower before resting up a little and then it's off to Novena for lunch and for my coach back home at 3PM. The journey home was once again like the journey into Singapore 3 days ago. Immigration was really slow with 4 ladies cutting into my queue despite being told off. But luckily, traffic was smooth and by 10PM, I arrived safely at One Utama with dad picking me up from there.

Overall, I enjoyed once again the Twilight Ultra Challenge, now into its sixth year. With the introduction of Sengkang Riverside Park, it adds a new dimension and challenge to this event. Besides, my legs didn't feel so thrashed up compared to be running at East Coast Park. I could still walk properly after the event. The only downside, no proper toilet and shower area, despite the community centre nearby.

Thanks Ben, Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun, Tee Li and the team at Running Guild for yet another successful edition Twilight Ultra Challenge. Ant not forgetting to the friendly people behind LiveCoffee for being there through the night serving the runners great coffee which kept us going and going. I had 4 cups and I could drink more actually cause it's just so good. And to the rest of the runners, it was really nice to have catch up and befriended some of you. And finally, to my host Ian and Teck Sim for your awesome hospitality. I didn't expect all that is provided and now I owe you both a Porketta and a bottle of banana bread beer! Till the next edition!

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saucony Kinvara 7...

By Frank

My to go road shoe, the Saucony Kinvara which I have been relying since the third generation till the sixth has been serving me very well from short distances up till 161KM to multi stages event, in my training and also races. It has been the shoe that had allowed me to run from strength to strength at the Comrades Marathon and I believe it will continue to do so. I really like the fact that Saucony only gave the Kinvaras some minor tweaks and changes for the past sixth generations with the third and fifth being the biggest overhaul but yet still maintaining its DNA. That's a good thing for me, but I guess to meet market demands in the very challenging running shoes sector now, Saucony needed to up their game and take the risk and challenges in making the Kinvara an even better shoe, or risk a downfall for one of their most successful model.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara 7 (K7).

The Saucony Kinvara 7.

I was lucky enough to be part of the test team for the yet to be launch K7 back in September 2015. First in Malaysia to receive the shoe, I had my big plans back then to run my Comrades qualifier with it after just a few runs in them. The reason was simple, the shoe is awesome!

Lateral view of the Kinvara 7.

Medial view of the Kinvara 7.

While most of the K7 upper looks pretty much the same to the naked eye, one will notice the big change when they look closer and feel the "foam" texture on the lateral heel and also by turning the shoe upside down paying attention to the outsole. The big overhaul are there!

Same but not same? Kinvara 7 on the left vs. Kinvara 6 on the right.

So let's start with the outsole. From triangular pods at the forefoot section that acted like trampolines in the previous generations of the Kinvaras, the K7 now see a design call Tri-Flex reinforced with XT900 carbon rubber for extra durability. It basically are flex grooves designed like some jagged arrows in allowing for more flex. And according to Saucony, this new design will also allow more impact absorption but yet still providing one of the industries highest rebound rate when worked together with it's new midsole material which I will explain shortly. Honestly speaking, I wasn't really convince on it upon first seeing it back at the trade show in June 2015 as it I felt traction will be compromise. However, my runs in them had proved me wrong. Not only the shoe feels more lively with a slight increase in flex, it's actually more tacky too. Traction has been improved, most noticeable on smooth pavements such as cements and those red inter-lockable bricks.

New Tri-Flex outsole.

Next, the main highlight of the K7, the midsole material. Gone is PowerGrid which had been the driving force since the 4th generation. Introducing EVERUN, a foam like TPU material which is not only more durable, but more efficient in absorbing impact but yet at the same time, lively in giving back with up to 83% of rebound rate from the impact it absorb. However unlike the plushier models such as the Hurricane ISO 2, Triumph ISO 2 and Guide 9 which gets a full length EVERUN midsole insert coupled with a EVERUN topsole, the K7 only gets its insert on the heel. This according to Saucony is to give the K7 a fast feel without being over plush. To me, it does make sense. And the rest of the midsole material are made out of Saucony's SSL (Saucony SuperLite) EVA rubber, the same as its predecessors.

Different setup of the EVERUN insert across its models. 
Kinvara 7 setup shown on the lower far right which is the same setup as the new Peregrine 6 in the heel.

"Foam" like texture on the heel indicating where the new EVERUN material is. 
It's hidden inside though.

Now moving to the upper. Again, first time impression upon seeing the K7's upper was not exactly promising.  It gets a new open mesh looks which looks rather weak. It looked pretty much from the good old days of the Triumph and Hurricane series which has toes busting out from the top and side. However, upon a closer inspection, it actually has the quality from the same mesh of the Triumph ISO. And together with FlexFilm, a light weight synthetic film that replaces stitches and to give the shoe some lock down and structure, the K7's upper is indeed a different class from its predecessors.

Close up on the new open mesh.
Yellow and Green pair are Kinvara 7. Grey is of another shoe.

The mid foot locking mechanism call Pro-Lock which was introduced back in Kinvara 5 sees a slight upgrade. It doesn't look like much of it but it does feels shorter especially from the forefoot point of view. This means less irritation with the correct wrap location around the mid foot area. And for the collar, the moderately padded RunDry collar has been retained to soak up and wick away moisture such as sweat flowing down from the shin and calves.


The RunDry collar.

So with all the mumbo jumbo technical aspects of the shoe explained, the most important question right now will be its ride. The initial testing phase was primarily all done at the dirt road at the Old Deeside Way at Aberdeen, Scotland during the end of autumn and I must say that the first few ride was rather firm. It was firm enough for me to be comparing it with the Type A6. However, after covering about 50KM in it, the shoe felt ready. With the shoe broken in especially the EVERUN TPU foam at the heel, the cushioning of the K7 felt like no other and it was noticeable different from its predecessors, for a good reason. Good protection for heel strikers but yet still bouncy, that is what the EVERUN is all about I guess.

The toe box built with the new upper mesh was roomy and stretchy, even better than the fifth and sixth generations I must say which was already very good. The only downside, it was hard to clean especially when you have dirt and mud sticking to it as I was running on the dirt road of the Old Deeside Way which is always affected by the typical wet Scottish weather.

Dirt on the yellow Kinvara 7's mesh is tougher to clean compared to its predecessor.

The lock down of the shoe provided by the Pro-Lock felt a bit more comfortable compared to the sixth which I had some issues during my fourth Comrades Marathon. On the K7, I did not feel any rubbing at all and it's double thumbs up for this for it felt much more like the setup on the K5. If I had one complain for the K7, it will be the collar which I felt it was built a little too high. My ankle ball was rubbing on it a little, a sensation that I do not feel on previous generations except the K3. I managed to minimise the sensation by wearing mini crew socks though. Oh and yes, the laces on the K7 remains the same as its predecessor which comes undone easily. I can't seem to understand on why Saucony can't change them to flat elastic laces found on their other models. Sigh...

My ultimate test was done at my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul Marathon last year. The K7 performed so well that I ran my second career best marathon time with it and hence the shoe easily gets a 5 star rating from me! And today, at time of writing this, my K7 has covered approximately 350KM and durability is definitely holding up. Overall, I felt the K7 will show its full potential at fast pace while still providing enough protection at slower pace and hence, my second pair will take on this year's Comrades!

Kinvara 6 (400KM) vs. Kinvara 7 (350KM) wear and tear.

With all these upgrades, the K7 still remains at it's legendary light weight of 218 Grams offering at the same stack height of 22MM at the heel and 18MM at the forefoot, a sweet 4MM off set. That's the same over 7 generations of Kinvaras. And the Kinvara series has gone from strength to strength as I continue to improve on my runs at the same time. So by overhauling an already great shoe, is this gamble worth it from Saucony? I bet it is and I am already very excited to see how much the Kinvara can still be evolve into. Amazing work there Saucony.

The Saucony Kinvara 7 will retail at a recommended selling price of RM429.00 and will be available nationwide at Running Lab - Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets this April 2016 in 3 colourways for the men and 2 for the ladies. Like Max ad Miles from Saucony says, "You should get your feet on this stuff!".

This pair of the Saucony Kinvara 7 is kindly provided by RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the authorised distributor of Saucony in Malaysia for test and review purposes and all opinion are based solely on personal takes.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date: 28 February 2016
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Nomad TR
By Frank

My third event of the year and one that I look forward to as it was my second visit to Gunung Nuang. Yes, I did not visit this place since the event last year as it was just too far and it requires time to cover the trails there. The Gunung Nuang Ultra in a 10KM looping format fits the bill for my West Highland Way Race training for it covers most trail aspect of it in a controlled environment. Besides, it will also contribute to my Comrades training too in building stronger legs for the second half downhill segment of the race.

I did 60KM last year and hence had the intention of going for 70KM this year. However, a gentle reminder from coach  a few days before the event reminding me not to go beyond 60KM prevented me from doing so. Had to hold back since I believe his advice was the best for me.

With 269 registered participants this year, I had to make my way to Gunung Nuang pretty early for fears on insufficient parking lots. I was up at 2AM only managing a couple hours of sleep in between, and eventually left home at 4.15AM after settling all my necessary. Was a smooth and easy drive there with a slight detour to a convenience store for coffee and light snack. Arrived an hour later and was surprised that cars were already parked outside. I managed to find a spot not too far from the entrance and rested in there for a while, while munching on my second breakfast. And when all is done, it's a visit to the "secret" toilet.

Hung around the food and refreshment area while preparing my gear and soon realised that I forgot to bring along my heart rate strap. I brought along the transmitter though. Nothing much I can do now hence no heart rate reading for this race. I also chose the Saucony Nomad TR this time as I wanted to give this model a shot at Gunung Nuang after running in the Peregrine last year. And next, I opt for a hydration backpack this time instead of belt. Not a very good decision as a recurrence upper back problem came haunting me a few days ago. And since no trekking poles are allowed for West Highland Way Race, I did not bring them along this time. Not the best of decisions, but I went ahead with it for the sake of preparing myself for my long race in June.

I started second row from the front this time hoping not to get stuck among the crowd of runners after learning from last year. Along side Keng Koon and Yew Khuay, 240 runners were were flagged off at 6.30AM sharp. With an open road ahead, I had the opportunity to go at my desire pace, but of course with my headlamp turned on at brightest settings as it was pitch dark. The first Kilometer was on cement paved surface which I slowly made my way up. And when the trails appeared, I was like Bailey (my dog) set loose enjoying every step and incline of it with my focus on footing, making sure I don't slip or misstep. Everything went well on my first ascent as I arrived at the turning point of 5KM successfully in about 36 minutes before making my first descent down.

Still in darkness, I had to navigate the downhill with extra care. Besides, I am now running against the runners who are making their way up and the last thing I want is to knock into them. The glare from our headlamps makes things tricky but one can just be more courteous and alerted in minimising any mishap, unlike "Mr Football coach" who tailgated me closely and dangerously from behind. He can actually just slow down a little to wait for an opportunity to pass or at least let me know if he is passing through from the left or right. I eventually told him to move forward when I felt it was too dangerous.

I arrived at the foot hill completing my first loop in 68 minutes when the sun has slowly creep out from the horizon. I quickly kept my headlamp into my baggage and grab a cup of water before resuming on my second loop.

Nomad TR for Nuang!

Was still feeling good for my second loop and I intend to make goof use of this opportunity before slowing down at my next. Making use of my preference and strength of climbing, I made my second ascent slightly faster this time as the trails were clearly lighted by the sun now. However, half way down, I spotted a fellow participant sitting on the ground with his hand clutching on his right calf. Asked if he suffered a cramp and he replied he was before I stopped to give some assistance. Helped him stretch and also perform some light massage, and after a short rest and few chats to keep his mind away from the pain, I helped him up and he was ready to go again as I continue my way down.

Blazing down.

Nothing eventful happened as I completed my second loop. Took a slightly longer break compared to my first before continuing on. And as planned, my third will be a run walk strategy as I did not want to strain those leg muscles. Besides, my swollen upper back is feeling sore already.

My time was getting slower but that's nothing to worry about. I just have to practice to overcome the fatigue and also walking skills especially in these types of trails. While my third was completed without stopping, my fourth included a few stops during my ascent. There were a few huts along the way up and I targeted them as my reward of reaching there. Took a short breather at almost each of them while taking off my backpack to ease my swollen back and was glad nothing eventful happened during the course of my fourth.

One tough climb.

A longer rest before going on my fifth. Took in more fruits and water but not the lunch pack of chicken rice before continuing with Keng Koon who was on his fourth. And almost a Kilometer up on the ascent, we both spotted Kok Peng sitting at the side with Josephine with him. Apparently both his legs were cramping. Stopped to help which initially I thought it was his calf and hence performed the wrong stretch on him until I realised it was his quads instead! I slowly ease away without informing him though fearing he may panic but eventually, he recovered and asked us to continue on. We did after seeing him in a much better state.

With Keng Koon.

I eventually sped up leaving Keng Koon behind without noticing. I stood with my target of aiming at the huts and taking a short breather there. Though there were some light breeze blowing through the trees, the weather was really hot. But with each step slowly at a time, I managed to find my way to the turning point before making my way down where I met Hong Lan with Soon Chung who were going up. I also met Josephine and Kok Peng at one of the huts and was glad that he was all right.

About 1.5KM from the foot of the hill, came Yew Khuay from behind and we both ran together (and walk) together completing our fifth loop hand in hand. Though with much time left on the clock, he decided to call it a day due to lack of training. Didn't want to pull him along as I respected his decision as I rested my longest before continuing on for my final sixth loop.

Everything went as per normal towards my ascent to the turning point with a couple of short stops in between at the huts. I started running slowly running downwards to cover as much as ground in the shortest time possible as also to make full use of this time to practice my footing. Also had a some time chatting with Kelvin and Afiq. However, the biggest drama came at 1.5KM from the foot of the hill when I notice Chor Guan laying down at the hut there. Went to see if he is all right and found out that he was cramping on both legs. He also had already lost some "senses" and couldn't control himself. I asked a few runners still running if they had electrolytes with them and managed to find 2 packs of them. Gave Chor Guan a pack while helping stretch and massage his legs, particularly his right one. Still not coming to his senses, he asked for an ambulance. With 2 casual runners with him, I continued on my way down to complete my run and also to deliver the message to Jeff.

Eventually, I arrived at the bottom and managed to complete 60KM in 10:15:04 hours, my target distance achieved. Marginally, there should be enough time to do another loop as my evil side tried to conquer me. But I stood firm to my training plan and also in respect to coach and stopped here. Went over to Jeff and told him about Chor Guan and the decision is to let him rest there for a while. The pack of electrolytes should have taken effect by now and he should be on his way down soon, which I hope.

My splits.

I hung around the area resting and catching up with the rest of the runners while taking in some light snacks and drinks to recover. Chor Guan returned shortly and I was glad that he was all right. Same goes to Kok Peng too. There was a sense of accomplishment as not only I managed to shave 45 minutes off from last year's time an completed in position 20 out of 240, but also to help 3 runners in need during the course of the race. That should the beauty of running especially in ultra distances. It's not about time but rather the camaraderie among the runners.

Mission accomplished.

Credits to Jeff for once again successfully organising the fourth edition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra. Indeed a painful race but one that I once again look forward to next year. And thanks to Wai Hong, Kelvin, Maxon, Si Main, Roy, Soon Chung, Sam Sam, Kavien, Renee and the rest of the volunteers for helping out. And to the runners I had the opportunity to meet and run together with like Hong Lan, Cikgu Syed, Yew Khuay, Afiq, Keng Koon and many more, it was a pleasure.

And lastly, not forgetting Chang too for the refreshing finisher's ice cream!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A Tough Second...

By Frank

The second month of the year is usually tough in training due to the shorter month and also Chinese New Year celebration. But this year, it was made even tougher due to an unexpected accident involving everyone in the family.

I carried the training momentum from January into the second month of training and continued to build upon it. It started well and everything went as plan as I began interval and time trial training. Then came Chinese New Year on the second week of the month. What was supposed to be a rest day soon became disastrous when mum was attacked by a stray dog while bringing Bailey, my family dog out for a walk. Mum suffered multiple bites which needed 21 stitches on both her palm and one cut on her left eyebrow, while Bailey suffered 2 puncture wounds himself. I am not going into details of what happened for this is something personal for me, but all I can say is that it drained everything out of me from physical to mental strength. But all in all, I am glad both of them are safe and all right.

Training almost got derailed from the above. But I guess it must have been a hurdle or task set out against me, to test me out. I knew I wanted to complete both Comrades Marathon and West Highland Way Race in about 3 months time badly and so I dug dig, stay calmed and find time to fit in my training regime. Slowly and surely, all the pieces came back and by the the third week when both mum and Bailey had recovered, everything was on track again despite feeling a little tired.

However, a quick recovery with more eat and sleep followed by some active recovery did the trick and by the start of the fourth week, I was feeling energised again. And by then, I was feeling ready to tackle my third event of the year, the Gunung Nuang Ultra which went pretty well as planned.

All in all, after a difficult February and against all odds, I've still managed to hit my training target by covering a total of 352KM. Though the running distance is covered, what I lack this month was strength training as I lifted less weights. I hope it will be better in March as fitness, motivation and confidence is high now. However, with the high volume of training required the next month, I will need to seek the assistance of my friends to help me journey through it. It's not call Hell March for nothing!