Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Back 2 Endurance Ultra 2013: Race Report

Back when I first signed up for this event I simply had no idea what I was doing. It sounded like a good thing to try out, what with my shift towards the ultra level of running. Mind you, I wasn't about to jump into any ultra event unprepared.

The Back 2 Endurance Ultra with a very 'safe' route, looping around the 2.33km of the Lake Gardens within a 12 hour time frame was the perfect platform to get a little feel for what running an ultra would involve. I could use it as a yardstick to gauge what I would need to do and how I would need to train to really attempt one of the more hardcore events.

What? No medal?
Going into this blind, I was pretty worried. I didn't know how to prepare for my fueling and hydration needs, what gear I would need and how much my body and legs could take. About 10 days prior to the race, Jamie kindly emailed me his fueling strategy and gave me an idea on what I would need. Still unsure what was right or wrong for me, I basically cloned his list with some tweaks to suit me and that was it. That was all the preparation I had or did for the event, safe for my usual morning and weekend runs.

Come race day I was there bright and early to get the best parking spot and make my car my staging area to store all my gear and stuff. And a huge amount of gear I had with me too. Not knowing what to bring, I brought almost my entire running closet ... hahaha! Better to have redundancies than not enough gear. You could really tell I was noob!

Is that the finish?
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
The car park was already abuzz with runners getting ready. Decided to keep to gear simple, round necked tee, one of my looser running shorts and armed with the new Skechers Nite Owl GOrun Ride 2 shoes (shoe review to follow soon), I was as prepared as I could be. I had already put in close to 20k plus with the shoe, found it to be nice, plush and comfy and thought it would be just the right shoe to run in though I did have my extremely reliable Skechers GObionic Ride in the car as an alternate shoe should the need arise.

There was a little over a hundred or so runners taking part. Some I knew, some I didn't and some I would get to know during the course of the race. The race started off at 6.30am sharp and off we went. I've run the Lake Gardens loop before and knew the surface was going to be a huge problem. The plan was to keep to the grass sections as much as possible to save the legs from the very brutal hammering of the concrete and brick sections of the lake.

Thumbs up to the volunteers.
Pic courtesy of Running Malaysia Magazine
Ran along with Jamie and we kept to a nice easy pace. The weather was incredibly nice and a cool breeze was always prevalent around the entire Lake Gardens which was gratefully welcomed during the later noon stages of the run. The first 10k was pretty decent. The legs were fine and the Nite Owl was soaking up the pounding pretty well. I hardly felt the jarring impact of the concrete and bricks.

We gave the official staging area drinks station a miss the first couple of loops and stopped around the 8k mark to wash down some Anti-fatigue and Endurance Amino tablets and chew on those incredibly huge Perpetuem solids. It was my first time trying them out and was hoping they wouldn't give me stomach issues.

Where's the girl?
Pic courtesy of Moving on AC
As expected, the hard surface started taking its toll on the legs after the 25km or so and the run/walk sessions started. The jarring impact was being felt a lot more and I was wondering just how I was going to last the distance. Even the highly cushioned Skechers Nite Owl was having a hard time coping with the impact. But we gamely soldiered on. Both our aims were to get to that silver medal cutoff and see how things go. But boy, it seemed like an eternity just to reach marathon distance and even then it wasn't the silver medal qualification yet.

The good thing about this being a loop though was that we could stop at every 2.33km at the staging area to refresh and re-hydrate ourselves, catch up on things and then head off. It was also a bad thing at times cos the lure of ice cool Coke on a hot afternoon was just too impossible to resist. Then there as also the friendly and supportive volunteers and spectators there to chitchat with as you arrived at the staging area sometimes causing me to linger on a little too long.

Still going strong.
Pic courtesy of Azlan Aiman
Most of my race was run/walked alongside Jamie and we only parted ways when we needed to grab things from our cars and then met up somewhere along the loop. I was glad for the company cos otherwise it would have been more mentally challenging.

The Skechers Nite Owl was beginning to get a tad too tight from my feet expansion somewhere around the 27km mark and was pressing my already inflamed toes which prompted me to head back to the car for a change of shoes. My ever reliable Skechers GObionic Ride, with a much wider fit was an instant relief for my sore feet. Even though the shoe had a lot more ground feel, I was more at home with it.

We are not going to jump, ok!
Pic courtesy of Kahwai Low
Some of the GCAM gang turned up to cheer us on after their earlier morning LSD nearby. It really was a welcome relief to see the faces of Choon Yuen, Foo, Keng Piew and YeeHoo at the staging area. Kew came along a little later in the day with an unexpected ice cold home-made smoothie that was not only a hit with Jamie and me but to the volunteers as well. It was a nice gesture by him.

The rest of the run was basically mind over matter with the noon sun coming out a little later than normal. The caps and the arm sleeves came on with more walking than running at this point. It's a good thing there was a lot more shady sections than wide open areas cos the sun was pretty excruciating on the open stretches.

Pretending to look cool for the camera ... LOL!
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing but I hardly ate much during the entire 12 hours of the event. I only stopped at my car once to grab a peanut butter sandwich prepared by the wife and swallowed down a hard boiled egg. Other than the few bananas I picked up at the staging area, nothing else solid was consumed. I was beginning to feel hunger pangs around 3pm or so but somehow ended up gulping more drinks than food. Need to re-look this point cos I'm sure eating is a prerequisite to running an ultra.

My second awesome support/cheer crew consisting of the wife and the two boys turned up around 4pm. It was the boys first time seeing me in 'action' and I hope they were more impressed rather than thinking how silly I was to be running for 12 hours ... LOL!

Bloody tired and not caring if I look good or not!
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
Things were beginning to move slower for me. We needed to reach 22 loops to qualify for a silver medal so off we trudged loop after painful loop. Julie joined Jamie and me on one of the loops and once Jamie qualified for the silver, he had to head home for family matters.

I contemplated calling it quits too but the wife told me to keep going the entire 12 hours. So, with Julie pacing me, we headed off for a slow, easy run (I'm surprised I could still run at this point) and did another loop. What I was really happy about was even up to this point which was close to 66km, there was no cramping evident. That was a good sign I was doing something right.

One for the album.
Pic courtesy of Tristupe
Looking at the time I still had another 30 minutes or so and after some quick mental calculations, I knew I could do another loop before the cutoff time. I told the wife I'm heading out for a final loop and off I went. Took a nice slow and easy run for the last 2.33km and crossed the finish with a total of 68.1km covering 29 loops in 11 hours 38 minutes. A HUGE sigh of relief escaped me as I crossed the finish. All that suffering and pain was finally at an end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this small, niche but fun race. It was well organized. The volunteers were simply awesome, doubling up as a cheer crew with loud claps urging you on for the next loop. Drinks and food were in abundance and the volunteers were ever-ready to hand you an ice cooled drink the moment you arrived. The organizers and volunteers were simply awesome and if you asked me, they worked as hard as we ran. Good job guys. I'm looking forward to next year already.

Yes! I feel like a champion!
Pic courtesy of Ashe Ek
I take away loads of experience from this race that will guide me towards my quest into the world of ultra-marathoning. It's not going to be easy but at least now I have a benchmark to base my capabilities on. I can now make proper training plans and work on my fueling, hydration and nutrition needs. I am now at least a little bit more prepared to know what it takes to make this quest a success but a lot of sacrifices such as juggling between family, work and personal time are going to have to be made. Nothing comes easy in life.

Am I happy with my performance? Yes, I am, ecstatic even. Can I call myself an ultra-marathoner now? No, definitely not, that would be an insult to the real ultra-marathoners. Maybe when I hit that 84km mark will I call myself one. For now though, I'll treat this as getting my kindergarten graduation certificate (though I never did attend kindergarten in my life) for ultra-marathoning :D One step at time.

Pic courtesy of Kahwai Low
Next challenge to tackle will be the Putrajaya Night Marathon next Saturday and for once I am happy to say I have NO goals whatsoever this time around. I'm just going to go and have fun, well at least as much fun as running a marathon around Putrajaya will be. See you all there.

P.S. The wife says I have too many pictures of myself in this post but heck I don't care, it's my blog ... hahaha!

12 comments:

  1. Salute! That requires tremendous patience. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Francis. It was quite an experience, that's for sure.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by to support both Jamie and me, Foo!

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  3. *snigger* ya la, so many pics of yourself in 'action'! LOL!

    congrats on mastering the hamster loops! good to know that you managed it with ease *jealous* and it was so nice to have had support crews giving you the encouragement. :)

    100KM next, right? :D

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    1. Actually got lots more pics but don't think anyone could stomach too many of my pics la ... LOL!

      What ease? I was cursing my stupidity the entire time la. Madness I tell you. But you know what's even more insane? I can't wait for the next one!

      Wait, aren't I supposed to unfriend you? Hahaha!

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  4. The making of an ultra-marathoner!
    Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks Neoh. Still a long way to go and lots of things to learn.

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  5. Really good job! I think the aminos and anti-fatigue caps worked. No cramps and the electrolytes were kept on an even keel for such a hot run. We'll need more solid food, that's for sure.

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    1. I'm guessing the same too which is why I'm going to bring them along for PNM.

      And seriously, thanks for the tips before race day, man! Much appreciated.

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  6. Well done Nick!

    Well done to your wife too for coaxing you to stick till the very end and to your sons too for their support.

    Wah, this time you get the whole support crew behind you, eh? :-)

    You guys made me wanna try it one day. If not for the chance to gauge my ability to run and run how far in a "controlled" route.

    Love your recap.

    Love seeing all the Prez's photos too.

    Didn't put the one with Jamie skipping? ;P

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    1. Thanks. The support does help a lot especially when your mind plays tricks during those long, hot, and painful hours.

      Hahaha ... Jamie skipping was classic. I don't know where he found the energy for it though. I was almost half dead!

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