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?

12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Lina, I'll remember to screen capture this and post it for you when you start doing your ultras ... hahaha!

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  2. The scary thought raise only once thru out my whole 52k journey. When I walked from CP1 toward finish line. I saw one guy sit quietly in the dark. Looks like an exhausted participant. But few other runners in front of me seem to ran past him didn't noticed him. I asked if his needed anything and lucky he answered, and it was about 6:30am in the morning.... else I think I may be charging back to finish line with full speed... :p

    Congratulation on the great run and all the best to explore further into the ultra world.

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    1. I saw that guys to and asked him if he was okay and damn glad he replied too, otherwise, just like you I would have probably done an Usain Bolt to the finish ... LOL!

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    2. Btw, you may want to consider 910XT instead of 620. The battery life for 620 only 10 hours, compared to 910XT which is 20 hours. It will be very challenging to complete a 100k within the battery span :p

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    3. Ya, I'm aware of the 10 hour battery life but I like the data gathering features of the 620. Besides, the 910XT is still pretty steeply priced for dated technology. There's always a powerbank for longer distances :D

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  3. I almost join this one, but I decided to do the 28km trail Hasu Tasuu this year in August first. Need to be prepared. Running road is not the same ehe~ and have yet to attempt over 42km distance. I sked pingsan halfway lols. But I'll consider this once I'm ready.

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    1. Yeah, best take one step at a time :D Where is this 28k trail taking place. Sounds like a nice distance.

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  4. hahahahahha HL running past you uphill just cracked me up!
    and so did the running alone in the dark ... yikes, creepy!

    good job, capn ultra nick skechers! :D

    and 10 watermelon slices, keke, no wonder got pillow. :P

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, she put us all to shame la!

      what to do, hungry la ... hahaha!

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