Sunday, March 16, 2014

In A Daze Over Haze

My training recently has not been dictated by the time I have available to run but more by the unhealthy air that we're having. The bad haze situation we've been experiencing lately has really put a huge damper on my training mileage.

For the past two weeks, I've had to wake up every morning, groggily look out the window, sniff the air like an animal and see if it was 'safe' to actually lace up for a run. While the 'lazy to wake up' part of me will rejoice at being able to jump right back into the warm bed, the competitive part of me curses and frets at the missed opportunity to acquire some much needed mileage.

My total mileage has dropped by more than half of the average 80-90k I've been hammering in weekly. As it is, it's already pretty difficult trying to get mileage like that without sacrificing a lot and constantly being under the threat of having to sleep in the porch from spending too much time running, the haze is something that I could do without.

Unfortunately though, the haze looks like something that we're going to have to factor into our lives on a regular basis these days. Certain changes in daily routine need to be done and that includes changes in my training plan. How to achieve that is something I'm not entirely sure at the moment. It's not like I could just drop everything and run when the weather clears up a little (though I wish I could).

Running through rain or sun is no big deal. At least that's doable but not through the haze. That's pretty suicidal if you ask me. Race organization has also taken a beating with the current unhealthy air. I dread to think of the tough decisions the race directors have to make due to the 'unsafe' running conditions. Cancel a race and be damned. Don't cancel and also be damned.

Times like these make me wish I didn't cancel my gym membership two years back. At least then I could have at least utilized the 'dreadmill' to get in the lost mileage. It won't be the same as pounding the roads but at least I'll still be able to run. I could look into getting a treadmill but I'd need to print some money first and once again, the prospect of being locked out of the house is very real. As it is I've been warned that I'm spending way too much on run gear already.

But with a few key races lined up, mileage is something I cannot skimp on. I'm going to have to grab every opportunity to run during good breaks in the air quality, even if it means running late at nights or at ungodly hours of the day. Something will have to be worked out, at least until this hazy weather clears up and things get back to some semblance of normalcy.

'Sniff, sniff', is that clean air I smell out there? Looks like it might be time to lace up for a run!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gunung Nuang Ultra Challenge 2014: Race Report

It's great to take a day off work after a strenuous and hard race the day before. You get to rest, laze around the house, watch TV shows you don't get to see on normal days and also write race reports. The Gunung Nuang Ultra Challenge 2014 that was held yesterday was one of the most painful races I've ever been to. I knew it was going to be difficult but I didn't know just how difficult it would be.

I am getting so fed up of this posing ...
Jamie, Choon Yuen and me car pooled to the race location with Jamie once again graciously volunteering to drive us there. We set out at 5am from our meet point in Puchong and reached Nuang a little over 45 minutes later. The place was already packed with cars and runners getting ready.

I didn't have much to do to get ready seeing as how I decided to go light for the run. With the run being a loop of 5k up and 5k down, with one water stop at the top and the main one at the start, I ditched the hydration vest and opted for the handheld bottle. I sufficed 500ml would get me up to the top, refill and head down again to the main CP.

The GC Group prior to race start.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang.
So armed with just a handheld, one gel for each loop, I left the rest at the main CP and would pick one up at each loop, my anti-fatigue caps and endurance amino tablets with me, I was all set to tackle Nuang. Or so I thought at that time anyway.

The flag off was right on time. We had 12 hours to complete a minimum of 50k to qualify for a trophy and get the finisher tee. The start was slow with the path being narrow. It was mostly a walking start up the inclines which I had no idea how steep they really were cos it was pretty dark. The runners spread out a little along the way and I started running a little, mostly on whatever descents I could find. I was practicing a little caution cos it was dark and I was unfamiliar with the terrain.

Gulp, gulp, gulp ...
Pic courtesy of Kelvin Tan.
About a kilometer or so before the u-turn at the top, the front runners were already making their way down. I shook my head in awe and kept moving. I reached the CP, topped up my bottle and immediately headed out knowing that 80% of the return leg would be downhill. I managed to run at a nice easy pace all the way down and hit my targeted time for the first loop.

Arrived at the first CP together with Jamie. I think both our strategies were to keep moving so there was no dilly dallying around. A quick bite of a curry puff, topped up my bottle and headed out back to the trails. Jamie was out a little quicker than me and I played catch up but by then the sky was brightening up and I was able to see just how steep the inclines I negotiated in the dark during the first loop was. My motivation level dropped immediately. 'Damn, I have to do this at least 4 more times!'

Jason (the tasksmaster), Khairi (who tamed Nuang) and me.
Pic courtesy of Khairi Muin.
I cursed, gritted my teeth and kept on moving. I knew it would get progressively harder each time I hit the climbs. By the time I reached the 15k u-turn mark, I was practically huffing and puffing. Filled my bottled, downed a gel and my tablets and got out within two minutes. Again, I was thankful for the downhill stretch. Started off at an easy pace downward again.

I had on my Skechers GObionic Trail (GBT). It was a bittersweet feeling. Prior to the race, I was toying with the idea of either the GOrun Ultra or the GBT and opted for the GBT cos I wanted more control of the terrain and the GOrun Ultra wouldn't give me that. With the GBT, I had excellent control and traction over the loose and dry trail but the GBT being a minimalist trail shoe, I was taking a pounding from the huge and plentiful rocks along numerous long stretches. Like I said, it was a bittersweet thing.

How long more is this going to take?
Pic courtesy of Lina.
I had to adapt, slower running along the rocky stretches and faster along the non-rocky stretches or at least as fast as my legs would allow. The second loop was also done in target pace. Another quick bite and fill and I was out again. This time though, I knew it was going to be practically impossible to keep to my target pace. The extremely steep and long climbs almost all the way up was going to take its toll. By this time I was totally envious of the runners that had trekking poles with them. It really would have been helpful to have used the tracking poles to transfer the load to my upper body instead of my legs.

Pic courtesy of Tey EngTiong
I tried looking for a stick or something but found nothing that would hold my weight so it was down to just me, my quads and the climbs. It was torturous. I was crawling, willing the legs up the climbs. There were times mid climb where I had to stop, bend over and try to catch my breath. The climbs never seemed to end. It was up, up and up with very little descents or flats. The only consolation was that everyone was suffering just as bad as I was, save for the front runners who made it look so darned easy. Damn you guys!

I was thankful to see the CP at the top finally emerge. Now it was mostly downhill but let me tell you that by this time, with  the feet in utter pain, going downhill was as bad as going uphill! The descents while welcomed was painful simply because they were steep. With fresh legs, it was bearable, but with shot up legs, it was hell. I had no choice cos it was the only time when it was possible to run. I shortened my cadence, took really, really small strides and made my way down slowly. Even then, there were time I had to walk downhill.

With Richi who did a great job.
Pic courtesy of Richi Lim.
Yes, I had thoughts of just DNFing at the time but I was doing this for the wife, who has put up with countless times I've been away from home training out there for hours. If I gave up, then it would have all been futile. So I kept going. Besides, I seriously wasn't doing all that bad, timing wise. I was still within where I expected to be by the end of loop 3.

I was a little hungry by then cos I didn't get any breakfast before the run. I was expecting something a little heavier on offer. I checked with Julie but she said I was a little too early for lunch. I grabbed a couple of slices of watermelons and bananas and some Mentos sweets on offer and headed out. I guess a much longer stop for lunch would have to be done at the end of the 4th loop.

Stealing some of Richi's Success.
Pic courtesy of Lina.
The fourth loop was hell! The legs were so beat up that it took a huge effort to keep going. All aspirations of keeping to a target loop time was all but thrown into the jungles. I was crawling all the way up. It took me an hour to reach the CP at the top and equally the same amount of time to traverse back down. I think the walk/run ratio was close to 80/20 and I was so glad to see the end of this loop.

Lunch in the form of fried rice was ready and I wolfed down a pack, grabbed a few cups of coke, some watermelon and took a 10 minute breather before making my way for the final and last loop. I just wanted to reach the minimum qualification and that was it. I wasn't going to spend an inch further in the trail!

No! Caught walking again.
Pic courtesy of Aron Soo.
As expected, the climb was as tough as ever. But this time, I played it a little different. I took real small baby steps up and they were less stressful than trying to trudge up the climbs with bigger steps. I could practically walk up at a slow but decent enough pace to catch up with some of the runners who were struggling up the climbs.

About three quarters up the skies opened up a little and rain came down. I enjoyed the coolness it brought but was worried about having to run down cos the path would be slippery as hell. I tried to quicken my walk to reach the u-turn so I could make it down before it got too tricky to negotiate. I reached the CP in close to 1 hour 15 minutes, yes I was that slow by then, and headed off almost immediately before the rain got worse.

I hope no one will see me steal the entire bottle!
Pic courtesy of Lina.
A funny thing happened at this point though. I don't know if it was because I was trying to outrun the rain or because it was the final time I was going to be in these blasted trails but I felt re-energized and my spirits were up. I managed to get back to proper running and save for the one or two climbs the downhill stretch had, I was practically flying all the way down. I ran with reckless abandon, which was silly of me cos I almost went flying flat down from stubbing my feet against protruding rocks but heck I was just glad to be finishing.

I was so energized that I was practically yelling at everyone on the way up to 'keep going' and 'good job'. Most of them gave me a thumbs up and a smile but some gave me nasty looks ... hahaha! I would have been pissed too if some idiot was yelling at me to keep going while I was struggling up the climbs.

And finally, after 8 hours 34 minutes (according to my Garmin), I finally completed 50k. The relief and joy was so apparent that I was smiling all the way to pick up my finisher trophy and tee from Jason who was trying his best to prompt me to do another loop. No way was I going to go up there and suffer for another loop but in all honesty, I had ample time to make another loop if I wanted to with 3 hours 25 minutes to spare for the attempt.

Almost done with the torture.
Pic courtesy of Jimmy Teh.
But sanity called for me to call it a day. I went out there and did my best and I'm happy with the results. I gave it my all and dug as deep as I could to keep going without giving up. The good I take out of this was that I suffered practically no cramping, no blisters and no chaffing. The experience I take out of this is immeasurable. Will I do this again? I swore on Facebook, I wouldn't but heck, ask me again in a few days and I might sing a different tune :D

Before I end, let me say that the organization was simply first class. A huge thank you goes out to the volunteers on hand who did an incredible job of catering to each and every runner personally. Every time I was back at the CP, they made it a point to personally take my bottle and fill it up for me and offer me whatever food there was before I headed out. First class job, folks. You played a big part in seeing me through this as well.

A thank you also goes out the Subang LYNR group for cheering me on every time I passed their very vocal and supportive cheer location. And finally, to my fellow GC teammates, a damn fine job you all did! But please, the next time you fellows find an ultra to register, don't include me!

Elevation that tops out at around 503m or so ...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Skechers GOrun Ride 3: Initial Review

Plush is the word I would describe the Skechers GOrun Ride 3 (GRR3) the first time I put my feet into them. I've gone through all three iterations of the GOrun Ride series and I would have to say the latest edition of the shoe, the Skechers GOrun Ride 3 is simply the most cushy of the lot.

I first set my eyes on these pair of gorgeous babies during the GCAM group's Chinese New Year run in Putrajaya back in January. Choon Yuen brought a pair in from overseas and I was drooling at the sight of it. I've had my pair of the GRR3 for close to two weeks and hadn't really had the time to take it for some runs due to preparations for the TITI ultra.

I've been running in them quite a bit since then and I've been loving every minute of it. Between the three iterations of the GOrun Ride's, this has to be the most comfortable of the series. The new redesigned upper is constructed with a 4 way stretch mesh on the front and side panels with added overlays to provide ample support without adding too much weight to the shoe.

The fit was spot on and I didn't have to go a size up like the GOrun Ultra. The upper provided snug lateral and medial support and though the GRR3 looks like a 'hot' shoe, it's actually very breathable and with cushioning that is simply sublime!

With a nice wide toebox and an almost seamless interior, the GRR3 felt real comfy on my feet during my runs in them. It hugged my feet without any slippage and even with slight foot expansion in my shorter runs in them, it still felt pretty darn comfortable. I'm not a sockless runner but I'm sure it'll feel just as comfy to run without socks as well. Oh, did I mention just how cushioned they are?

The Skechers GOrun ride 3 comes in at a relatively light weight of 8.4 oz. for the men's size 9, which is only slightly heavier than the GOrun Ride 2. The GRR3 is a 4mm heel to toe drop shoe that comes with a removeable custom fit insole. I've tried the GRR3 in both modes and being one who loves more road feel, running without the insole works best for me. But on a really long run (which I haven't done yet) I'm betting the added cushioning will be more than welcome.

The outsole consists of the same propriety enhanced Resalyte® cushioning that looks a little bulkier than the GRR2 but is as flexible as the entire GOseries shoes. The difference this time round is that the GOimpulse sensors and pillars on the outsole are repositioned allowing for a smoother transition. But if you ask me, they work way better in keeping pebbles and stones from being lodged between them. The GRR2 can and does pick up some pretty sizeable debris and pebbles and can be a pain when you have to stop and dislodge them mid run.

The GOimpulse sensors this time round has been placed a little further apart and is more rounded around the edges than the previous two iterations which were nice debris traps. In the times I've been out running with the GRR3, not a single stone or pebbles was lodged between them and my run route does takes me to some nice pebbly and off road sections at times.

The GOimpulse pillars (or lugs as I call them) are now placed in slightly different positions to give better feedback while running but heck, the only feedback I got was how darned cushy the shoe was. I did mention that already, didn't I? The four pillars in the arch area are no longer joined together like the GRR2 but they still do provide ample arch support.

The GRR3 still retains and promote the M-Strike technology of midfoot landing that is apparent in all the GOseries. For a shoe that looks rather bulky and padded, it's amazingly flexible and light. I hardly feel the shoe on my feet during my runs and like I've always advocated, a good shoe is one that you forget is on your feet.

But again, no shoe is absolutely perfect. There are some things I'm not very fond of with the GRR3. I find the tongue to be a little too padded. Maybe taking a leaf of the GObionic or the GOrun 3's tongue would have suited me more, it might even have brought the weight down a little more. But that said, there is still no denying that they're super comfy.

For a bulky looking padded shoe, they don't hinder on speed. They're pretty fast if need be and take pace changes nicely in stride. They don't feel cumbersome and without the insole, you're still able to get that road feel but with just a nice hint of cushioning, which suits me just fine.

I haven't taken them long yet, the longest I've been with the GRR3 is for a 14k run and they worked just fine. I believe the shoe is at least capable of marathon distance and works well as a pair of regular day to day trainers. If a reasonably price, lightweight but cushioned shoes is something you're looking for, I'd say give the Skechers GOrun Ride 3 a try cos you can't go wrong with it.

The pair of Skechers GOrun Ride 3 above was kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia for wear testing. This review is of my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Wife's Tale

My second race for the year, the Gunung Nuang 12 hour Trail Challenge is exactly a week away and I'm not sure if I'm ready for it at this point. I've hardly done any trail runs for quite a long while and any runner worth their salt would know that trail running and road running are two entirely different ballgames altogether.

I'm not even familiar with the route since I've never run Nuang before. Everything I have on Nuang are from the experiences and tales I've heard from those who've tackled the route. And judging from their experiences, I foresee a pretty tough outing next week. The 530m elevation is not going to make things helpful either. It'll be like TITI all over again.

But all that aside, I'm strangely excited and looking forward to the challenge. Call me crazy but I'm glad for the amount of experience I can glean from events like these. Let's face it, when it comes to this unusually longer distance runs, I'm practically like a baby just learning how to crawl. I'll take whatever I can gain from events like these to mentally and physically prepare me for when I really am ready for even more crazier and tougher distances.

Thankfully I'll have the familiar company of fellow GCAM crazies Jamie, Choon Yuen and Richi along. But of course at least only until the start when they decide to take off after that. That said, I'm still excited at the prospects of challenging Nuang.

On a different note altogether, I'm pretty happy to see the wife has been progressing well in her 'comeback' training. The past couple of months has seen her saddled with some injuries which demotivated her completely. She was so down to the point of giving up running. Her stamina was shot, her endurance went south and her will to run was practically non-existent. I'm glad she found enough strength to pick herself up and start up all over again.

The fact that we both signed up for a main mid year race (21k for her and 42k for me) did lend a huge hand in putting the drive back into her. She said that no way in hell was she going to be picked up by the sweeper bus ... LOL! She worked up a training plan all on her own and has been religiously following it for the past two months. A nice and easy plan that saw her progressively increasing the intensity of her training.

To keep her motivated, I've been doing my best to get home in the evenings and accompany her for her training runs. It's the least I could do for putting up with my constant weekends away from home out on some run somewhere. She's warned me that she's going to make me compensate her big time for leaving her at home all on her own while I run in some godforsaken place the entire night ... hahaha!

I'm really happy with her progress. She's gone from panting like a fish out of water at the start of her training to being able to chat with me while running these days with much better breathing and more consistent running. Her pace has also increased slowly but steadily.

She's so much more motivated now seeing her own improvements on a daily basis, of course there are one or two bad runs but we all get those from time to time but it doesn't bother her as much as it used to. In fact, it drives her to do better the next day. The Skechers GOrun 3 shoe courtesy of Skechers Malaysia seems to also be fast becoming her favourite running shoe. She's been running with it and has no complains of blisters (she's very prone to blistering) and finds the shoe really breathable though she finds the cushioning a tad on the soft side compared to her previous all time favourite the Skechers GObionic Ride.

Judging by the outsole wear, she's nicely mid-footing ...
In fact, I like the training plan she cooked up. It does benefit me in a little way as well. On days when I manage to run with her will see me doing two runs in a day, one in the morning and one in the evening with her. The run with her tend to work nicely as a recovery run of sorts for me and I find that I'm running better in my morning runs the next day. So it's a win-win situation for the two of us.

The boys are also slowly getting hooked on running with both boys now following her for her runs in the evening. At least I'll be more at ease when I can't make it back in time to run knowing that she has two bodyguards with her out on her runs. The younger fellow shows quite a bit of potential and has been asking to look for a 5K race for him in the coming months.

That said, after the Nuang challenge my marathon training proper goes into full swing again. A lot of sacrifices are going to have to be made again to keep everything in balance - family, work and life. But I'm determined in my quests and we all know there are no shortcuts in anything. It boils down to how much you want something and how much you're willing to put into it to get the results you want. No whining, just get out there and do what you have to do!

I've limited myself to just a few races this year. The ones I've already signed up for are costing an arm and two legs already. Even my budget for gear has been exceeded and it's only February! It's going to be hard to resist buying anything or even signing up for races, especially when I have evil, poisonous running friends who try to brainwash one into signing up for races any chance they get ... hahaha!

Monday, February 17, 2014

TITI 50K 2014: Race Report

The TITI 50K road race that was held over the recent weekend marked my first official race for the year. I've been looking forward to this race for quite a while contrary to what I've led others to believe. Signing up for a 50k or longer race is not something one does on a whim (at least not for me anyway). I've been 'experimenting' with my capabilities to withstand long, grueling distances with the Back 2 Endurance and P50K runs that I took part in last year.

Suffice to say, lots of hard, intense training had to be put in. It was basically down to making sure I could just make the distance in one piece with as little agony as possible. Don't ask me why I do things like this cos I simply have no real answer.

My dog looking strangely at my pinkish trophy.
Come race day, Jamie, CY and me decided to carpool to the race location with Jamie so graciously volunteering to drive seeing as how he was the only one between the three of us who had been to that part of the world before. We set an 8.30pm meet time, had a nice healthy McD dinner before heading to the race start location.

We arrived there close to 10.30pm (can't really remember) and the place was thriving with runners already. The entire GC group arrived almost at the same time and after suiting up, we all headed to get registered for race start and have our mandatory gear checked, which wasn't really checked at all. I just told the volunteer scouts that I had all the mandatory items listed (which I did have) and they just believed me. I suppose that's why there were quite a few runners flouting the law by running with only a bottle of water and no other mandatory item.

The GC Team - One for the album/
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
The 100K runners were already out on the roads since 4pm under the blazing 39C heat (which was what I heard). My utmost respect goes out to them. I reckoned I'd be seeing lots of them on their way back along the route as I headed out later. The race started right on time at the stroke of midnight and off we went to own the night along the roads of Hulu Langat.

The start was relatively flat and easy for the first 2-3k and I headed of at an easy paced trot. My entire strategy was planned on a slow and easy race seeing as how I heard lot of warnings about steep and really long climbs throughout the way. Boy, they weren't kidding!

We reached the first climb just about 3k or so into the run. It wasn't as bad as I thought and I was able to handle the climb without too much trouble. A little walking here and there and soon enough, I was up at the summit of the climb. What followed was a nice long downward stretch spanning about 4km or so. The descent was slightly tough on the legs, even at that early stage of the race. There was some burning going on somewhere along this stretch cos the air was acrid with smoke and dust. I had to cover my mouth and nose with my hand and thankfully the clear lens shades I had on kept the dust out of my eyes.

A smile to hide the pain.
Pic courtesy of  E.T. Tey
Jamie caught up with me just as I was about to descent and we ran along together. At the back of my mind though, I was picturing having to climb this section in reverse and with extremely tired legs. Pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind as we reached CP1, somewhere around the 9km mark. Stopped as briefly as possible to replenish what needed to be replenished and then headed out.

I was a little slow out of the CP1 and Jamie had headed out already. Just as I was heading out, the rest of the GC group arrived. Said my hi and byes to them and headed out. From this stretch onwards, I was basically on my own. Thankfully, it was an easy and relatively flat section (one of the very few flats) of the route. It wasn't long before I hit CP2, which was barely 5k away. All systems were still feeling fine. Grabbed some sandwiches and fruits to replenish and topped up my hydration bladder and soft flasks, texted the wife to say I was still going strong and headed off for the next check point.

A short glimpse of what the inclines resembled.
Pic courtesy of Yim Heng Fatt
About 500m or so away, that long 9k climb I was warned about came looming out of nowhere. What can I say, the climb was every bit as tough as it was made out to be. Nine kilometers of twisty, dark and scary stretches that tested your quads, endurance and resolve to the max. It was at this point where I started slowing down considerably. It was still a long way to go and I decided that I'd walk this stretch and run when I could on any flat sections I found. That was not to be cos there was NO flat sections. It was up all the way.

What was really missing here was company to run with. At least that way, I could focus on running but alone, my mind was wandering and defeatist thoughts kept creeping up. So I did the next best thing, I went and found company, discreetly that is. Saw a few runners in front of me and they were running at a pace I could probably cope on these tough climbs and I tailed them as close as I could without breathing down their necks.

Just before the start with Yan Leng stargazing.
Pic courtesy of Razif Yahya.
And it worked. I was able to run slowly but easily up the climbs and keep my mind focused. But when they stopped to walk and I was forced to overtake, things reverted back to the previous state. I started walking and mumbling rubbish to myself about quitting right there and then, at least until I found a new set of people to tail. It kept on going like this until I heard the familiar and welcoming voices of Piew and Yan Leng telling me to keep going cos it was the last climb before we hit the downhill stretch.

The two of them were doing a remarkable job so far. They were going steady and some of their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. It was also great to have familiar faces along side to run with. Soon enough, we reached the summit of that 9km relentless climb. It was downhill all the way for about 3k to the CP3 checkpoint and the halfway mark before we turned around and headed for the finish, 26k away.

I decided to stop a little longer at this check point to rest up before tackling the route in reverse. Took the opportunity to fill up my fluids, grabbed some food and fruits. My Garmin was running low on battery by then and I hooked up my powerbank to it. At this precise moment, my previous McGyver cable tie modification decided to snap and I was left having to hold the watch and the charging clip attached to the powerbank for the second half of the journey. I wasn't too pleased with that.

The agony finally over.
Pic courtesy of  E.T. Tay
By this time of the journey, the runners were being spread out apart and at times I had to negotiate the route alone. I had all the mandatory blinkers, headlamps and stuff so I wasn't afraid of not being seen. It was more of what I would see that I was afraid of. Let me be honest, I'm a natural born coward when it comes to things that go bump in the dark. That 9k climb we did earlier had to be traversed in reverse and often times, save for when Piew and Yan Leng were running along with me, I was on my own.

That long descent was pretty scary with thick concentration of foliage on the left and right sides. It was dark, lonely and really scary. Not to make up stories or anything but there was this particular spot somewhere halfway down the descent where I was all alone with no one in front or behind me when a gust of strong wind just appeared out of nowhere and leaves started rustling behind me.

I seriously felt every hair I had stand on end and goosebumps just appeared by the hundreds. Every 'pontianak' (vampiric ghost) movie I ever watched as a child came flooding back to me. That was my fastest pace of the entire run! The moment I saw another runner in front, I decided to tail him for as long as I could for the company, at least until my cowardice streak subsided.

A well deserved breakfast.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
Now, I thought the climbs would be tough but the descents were actually way tougher. The legs were taking a huge beating from the long downhill stretches. You really had to focus to keep going and make sure you don't run too fast and slip or something cos you would have suffered big time if you fell along the descent. Even with the thick cushioning of the Skechers GOrun Ultra, the impact of a continuous downhill run was unavoidable. I just needed to make sure I don't injure myself on the way down.

Not soon enough, the reverse CP2 was in sight. It was a huge sigh of relive to see the checkpoint. My feet were killing me by this point and there was still about 14k or so to go with one final steep climb thrown in. Since the next check point was just 5k away, I took in only minimal replenishment and then headed out. Thankfully it was a nice flat section but even then I still had to run/walk the section. It was then that I looked at my Garmin and discovered the watch had stopped recording data for close to 5k. Dammit! I was incensed. I am going to flush the watch down a toilet bowl at the finish and buy a 620!

The elevation data of the run. 
The final check point finally appeared in the distance. I was so hungry by this point I think I gobbled down at least 10 slices of watermelons! No kidding! Topped up my tanks for the final time and headed out with Jamie, Piew and Yan Leng for the journey home. But before that we had to tackle the final 4.5k steep climb. We all decided to walk it up all the way. We didn't have a choice in the matter cos it really was unrunnable at that point. That's what Jamie and me thought until we saw Piew and Yan Leng nicely run past us up the hill! Damn, those two were happening.

Once we finally reached the final summit, it was all downhill to the finish. I took a deep breath and started running again. The onset of cramps were felt around the top front of the thighs and I had to take things slowly to make sure it didn't strike me on this final stretch home. The ORS I've been taking on the hour, every hour must have played some part in keeping it at bay cos soon enough, that crampy feeling went off and I was able to speed up a little. I was completely spent by this time but the thoughts of the finish line not too far away spurred me on. I gave everything I had to keep moving.

The happy GC team after the run.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
The last 2k felt like forever though. Along this stretch many volunteers and supporters in cars passed by offering words of encouragement to keep going and that the finish was in sight. Finally, after almost 7 hours, I saw the tiny, lighted, blue signboard of the restaurant marking the finish. I limped across the finish line in a time of 7 hours (at least that's what I heard the officials say) and my agony was finally over. I can now officially faint and be carted away by the medics.

Was it worth the pain I went through? Yes it was, absolutely. The experience I take from this is immense. I may have cursed, bitched and complained about it throughout the 53 kilometers but deep inside I was happy for what I can bring out of this. It will go a long way in preparation for when I'm finally ready to tackle a 100k (and I will) but not just yet. Right now, it's still small baby steps. More running, more training and more conditioning is needed but at least I'm moving in the right direction. Another important thing is I came out of this injury free.

Overall, it was a very well organized race. One of the better ones I've seen in a long time. True, there are some things that can be improved but generally I give it a huge two thumbs up! The volunteers manning the check points are easily the best crop of volunteers I've ever seen. The ever courteous and helpful boy scouts and girl guides deserves a huge pat on the back. Thank you for making this race all that much easier for us to go through.

And on a final note, congrats to the GC team for the great job you guys did out there. So, when's our next 50K?