Craze Ultra 2012 - A Hundred Miles to Remember

All's well that ends well at the end of a hundred mile on a sunny Sunday, Sept 23rd, but one mile before the end I was thinking "I'm gonna continue slogging it out until 10meters before the finish line, and then I'm gonna just stop right there and not enter the finish". That's just one of the many strange thoughts that crossed my mind as fatigue crept in and stayed forever inside.

Sugar, ice, coconut water, salt, coke and everything nice were all nice and helped you tremendously. But after having all those for so long, you just didn't want any of it anymore. You just wanted to finish the damn thing. You can feel the nagging blisters underneath your feet which became increasingly painful with every step. I have watched the Get Ready For: UTMB 2011 Race Report countless times before, so I recited mwolfepaw's words over and over again, to keep meditatively moving one foot in front of the other.

I have ran on Upper Thomson Rd a few times before, so I know it's a long road. Treading it at such late stage of the run was such a mental torture. Seemed like it was ages ago that I ran there in the opposite direction (30hrs before, to be 'exactimate'). My pacer kept trying to keep my spirits up by telling me that MacRitchie was coming nearer and nearer. My internal reaction was, "what? I've only covered 500 meters?".

"Remember Bataan [BDM160]? at this stage [last couple of km] you asked me to run to the finish line?", my pacer said.
I cringed. "My knees are totally gone. The blisters are terrible. Can't run".


Yio Chu Kang,...
Casuarina Curry,..
shophouses...
bus stops...
private houses..
AMK Ave 1,...
bus stops...
SICC,...
Venus Drive,...
people staring...
bus stops...
ouch, dang blisters..
Thomson Plaza,...
bus stops...
shophouses...
private houses..
somebody taking notes...
bus stops...
ouch, dang blisters..
private houses...
shell station...
SPC....
esso...
people staring...
caltex...
ouch, dang blisters.. 
shell...
7-11.....
passers by thumb-ups...
shophouses....
bus stops...
private houses...
ouch, dang blisters.. 
shophouses..
private houses...
bus stops...

Was it going to end? How long is two-mile?

Many a time I reminded myself of a fellow participant I met earlier shortly before the last checkpoint. He was walking tilted to the side, because of the imbalance on one of his legs. The condition started since the previous checkpoint, and I can't imagine the mental test, let alone the physical pain, that he had to go through for the remaining 20km or so.

I'm relatively fine, then.

Except that I wasn't. And of course nobody could have been fine at that point of time.
The last time everything was fine must have been 30-40 hours before. Starting Friday night.


Pre-Race

On Friday night I knocked off work 6pm-ish, had a nice spaghetti for carboloading, reached home and started packing. I have purchased a large number of SIS and Maxifuel gels. These were to be my main gels. I've got a few GU gels too just to mix it up.

(Photo: Energy gels)

Prepared lots of Endurolytes caps,  anti-diarrhea tabs, anti-allergic tabs, Antangin (that's a ginger mix solution) and sliced oranges. I love oranges!

Prepared a set of spare gears: singlets, shorts, knee straps, a few pairs of socks, hats, shoes, and whats not.

Prepared a fully charged phone, fully charged Garmin, fully charged mobile charger, fully charged MP3 player (I don't listen to music during a run, but who knows), fully charged headlights.

Dividing and stuffing all those into 8 deposit bags proved to be time consuming. When I was done, it was close to 11pm! I called my fiancee and had a nice chat for perhaps an hour to keep me relaxed.
And then.. sleep!

Woke up at 4AM, half an hour before my alarm time. Took a shower, had two slices of bread with peanut butter sandwich, and a glass of water. And off I went. Tried to relax during the 15 minutes cab ride.

Reached the already much alive starting point at MacRitchie, deposited my bags, checked my spibelt and its contents, put on the bib.
Stepped on the scale to read my pre-race weight.

Immersed myself in the pre-race atmosphere where everybody was excited.




 (Photo: putting on the shoes after taking weight. Courtesy of Craze Ultra)



Delighted to meet up with fellow Indonesians. There were seven of us taking part in various categories.

(Photo:
L-R: Holip, Aseanto, Muara, Fasta, Zedy, Hendra, and myself. Hendra was here after completing an iron  distance triathlon just the previous weekend!
Courtesy of Craze Ultra)



 

Also with the usual suspects.

(Photo:
L-R: King Sam, Sallehan, Billie, Carin, Ray, myself, Asree, Kamal.
Courtesy of  Sasha)


 






Start - CP1 (first 12km)
(Photo: We toed the starting line... 
Courtesy of  Craze Ultra)











Horn sounded off! Heart rate shot up to the roof from the beginning, so needed to really slow down. Greetings and good lucks left and right with fellow participants. A few said that we're about at the same pace but I knew they would leave me sooner than later.

(Photo: And they're off! Courtesy of  Absoluthal)


Almost everybody who started on the later waves ran past me at this stretch. Vibrant mood all around, except that I can feel I was sweating head to toes. The haze was thick, the blue sky was a grey ceiling, the weather was humid. The cheering cyclists were fun.





(Photo: Early in the day along Upper Thomson RoadCourtesy of  Absoluthal)

















(Photo: Early in the day with FF Duo Kamal and Asree.  Courtesy of  Absoluthal)


After 12km of 'warming up', arrived at CP1. Eager for banana but the first batch of it was gone and the next batch not ready yet.
"Zedy! Hm.. where to get banana?"
"I think it's gone".
Nothing to worry, had my first gel instead. Took toilet break, then off to CP2.

(Photo: Arriving at CP1. Courtesy of  Marcus)
















CP1 - CP2 (Distance: 9.5 km to km 21.5)
Off from CP1, ran a short distance along Mandai Rd before crossing enter to enter Ulu Sembawang PCN. Ashley was at the crossing with camera. He took a photo of me and another runner crossing the street.



(Photo: Crossing Mandai Road. Courtesy of Ashley)

 Then he shouted "Solo!"... I half mumbling replied "yeah Solo!!". Solo. No pacer yet. And not running with any friends.

"No no, let me take your picture solo". Oh.








(Photo: Entering Ulu Sembawang PCN. Courtesy of Ashley)
















The photos that Ashley took of runners waiting to cross the road are quite epic.


Cleared the PCN, crossed the road under SLE, walked the slight uphill near the sports school. Proceeded slowly past Woodlands Civic Centre. Entered St 31. Caught up with Fasta who was part of a two-runner team for the 100 miles. Little chit chat, encouraged him to follow me run walk run walk. He preferred to slow down a bit, probably conserving energy more than I did.
I power walked another slight slope on that street, caught up with a group of Japanese runners. One of them took a glance at my watch, and exclaimed of my heart rate reading: "hundred sixty..nine? wow that's pretty high!"
"I know, I'm struggling!", I replied.
And wasn't that the truth that would last for another thirty hours.

Angie came from the opposite direction with 'game face' on and wasn't she flying! She's doing the 43km and was already returning to the holy reservoir! We hi-5-ed but that couldn't possibly slow her down in any way!

Stayed with Japanese group until the helix entrance to the PCN, caught up with Edwin Tan there. He caught us red-handed not taking he helix (I chose the 'easier' staircase instead).

From there it's a little nice down slope to the waterfront. Greeted Marcus who was there photographing us shortly before reaching CP2.

(Photo: Arriving at CP2. Courtesy of Marcus)

Marcus was at CP1 too earlier! He's awesome!





Had a quick refuel with banana and oranges. I love oranges.






CP2 - CP3 (Distance: 8.5 km to km 30)

Reunited with FF Duo at the checkpoint. They were accompanied by Woodlands keeper Ponytail. We left CP2 together.

A few meters ahead was Barbara ready with her camera! "Camera, camera!", we shouted to Asree who was a few paces behind :)


(Photo: Leaving CP2. Courtesy of Barbara)










"I wonder where's Sam now".
"Probably one checkpoint ahead"
"He's crazy la"

Not long after, the guys went ahead. Was alone again. The BIG WALK started! Zedy caught up with me, walked with me for a while before going ahead himself. Everybody went past me. I took my time.
Bought a bottle of cold coke at Admiralty station. Caught up with Zedy shortly afterwards and offered him the coke. Minutes later, saw Ponytail walking back, he's done 25km of pacing AA and Kamal and was heading for home, I gave him the bottle :).

Slow progress on this stretch. There were a lot of traffic light-ed junctions which were usually frustrating on daily runs but instead were providing more than welcome breaks on this craze day.

Reached Sembawang MRT, somebody shouted out my name. It was AL, asking the FF Duo's whereabouts. "Thirty minutes ahead!", I guesstimated.
Well, I was a little bit off there, because 15 minutes later I reached CP3, and saw the guys there.

Daryl was manning the CP, and we stroke the most common running conversation: injury! I refueled here with banana, nutella sandwich, and oranges.

Kash was there with a whole crew of mobile support! She offered me very cold water to wash my face. God bless you, Kash.

(Photo: with FF Duo and Kash and AL. Courtesy of Asree)












CP3 - CP4 (Distance: 9 km to km 39)
I left CP3 before Asree and Kamal, knowing they will catch up anyway. Walked for 10 minutes with a lady who was wearing slippers and having her shoes hanging from her backpack. Airing the feet, she said! Well, I've seen that before, so I wasn't surprised.

The FF Duo came and for the umpteenth time they asked me to tag along. Honestly I'd love to, but I really couldn't match their pace, however slow they said they're going. So they went ahead again.

Reached Yishun MRT, crossed the road to the 7-11 and bought a nice hot cup noodle and ice-cold Coke. Saw Naomi queueing at the cashier. She must be pacing Charlotte.

Found a good spot to sit down. Zedy came by and he couldn't resist the lure of sitting down under shade. I offered him the Coke. We chatted for a bit while I ate, and then he left. A dozen of runners went past and some waved their hands at me and their eyes at my noodle.

With stomach full, I continued the journey. Arrived at "Blade Runner Support Point", the kids offered cooling sponges! Why Not!!! The people behind Blade Runner's charity run really got their act together; my slightly dysfunctional headcount-counter registered probably a few dozens of support crew and supporters that came together for him. Way to go!

After the sponge bliss, I continued crawling my way past Safra Yishun. Way to go!

Along the canal, saw a couple of 78km runners on their way back to MR. I thumb-ed them up! They didn't respond, though. Way to go!

On to Yishun Ave 6, caught a glimpse of Zedy's back in a distance but couldn't really catch him, until we finally reached CP4. Oh man, it's been forever and it's only 39km!

Holip was there resting and refueling before his return journey back to starting point. He was doing his first ultra, a 50miles ultra at that!

They provided water spray here, so I took advantage of it. Also toilet break.
Wished Holip good luck for his return trip before I checked out.

(Photo: Holip and myself at CP4. Courtesy of  Holip)



Stuffed some ice cube underneath my drape hat and inside my shirt. They didn't last long under that weather, though.


CP4 - CP5 (Distance: 11.5 km to km 50.5)
Left CP4 with Zedy and Edwin and another guy. Edwin went ahead and shortly afterwards he was in 'danger' of running a wrong route. We all shouted our lungs out but he didn't hear. Dang earphones! I ran quickly ahead to catch and 'bend' his way.

From there and then began the Seletar Hell Walk to Punggol Way. Together we marched along the 'barren land' and braved the scorching heat.

(Photo: Yishun Dam shortly after leaving CP4. Courtesy of Edwin)
(Photo: Edwin trying to ease off the heat effect on him. Photo taken by myself. Courtesy of  Edwin)















(Photo: The general condition on Seletar Hell stretch. Courtesy of Mohan - he ran at a slightly different timeline than me)
At the end of the Seletar Hot Hell there was an oasis that goes by commercial name of 7-Eleven!
Bought a bottle of Coke, and a big cup of ice cube to fill my water bottle.

David Tan was there and he enthusiastically talked to us and took this photo. He'd be photographing later on during the night, although I didn't have the chance to see him again.

(Photo: With new friends at 7-Eleven Punggol Way. Courtesy of  David Tan)

David looked at his watch and said "wow, you guys have been out for 7 hours!".  I silently tried to recall what the distance was at that point, and when the heated CPU core returned the integer value of 45, I went "dang, 45km in 7 hours".


From here, it's Punggol Hell Walk :)
Ice water in my bottle, this was where I started the ritual that would last for the rest of the run: spraying the ice water to my head, face, chest, back, and legs. In that order. Sipping it, too. It was the least I could do to cool down the engine.

Xueli was a few steps ahead, and then she stopped to take cover. A few 'fishermen' offered her whatever they had in store. I shared a drop of my iced-water, I'm sure it disappeared right away before she could feel it, no thanks to the heat.

(Photo: The general condition on Punggol Hell stretch. Courtesy of Mohan - he ran at a slightly different timeline than me)











Caught up with Edwin again and we took our mind off the heat by talking about training (or the lack of it), families, Singapore, Malaysia, Jakarta..... and about The Bridge. The Lor Halus bridge that had apparently shifted itself 5km further just to annoy us. Us, the hopeful-to-reach-the-bridge-soon runners.

"You know, I think this leg is 15km".
"No it's not. I've memorized the CP distances".
"Are you sure? I think it's 15km"
"No, it's 11.5km. The 15km is the next leg after CP5".
"Maybe you're right"

"Is that an island over there?"
"Could be. Maybe not. I think it's the beach side that leads to Pasir Ris"
"Really?"
"I'm not sure. But a couple of months ago I ran from Pasir Ris, then went to the beach side, and I turned up at Punggol, the Lor Halus bridge there".


"You know what, perhaps you're right. Maybe it's really 15km".
"Oh well..."

But a little further ahead we saw the following sign: (but the crazy dude wasn't there, though, he left his post?)

(Photo: the 50km sign, posted by organizer a few days before race-day after their course-marking job. Courtesy of Craze Ultra)











"So, it's not 15km, afterall".
"It certainly felt like 15km".
"I agree".

(Photo: Entering CP5. Nice photo at the end of the longest bridge we've run on so far. Courtesy of Dave Poh)

(Photo: Resting at CP5, applying counterpain to my legs. Courtesy of Xueli Lin)


I spent a very long time at CP5. Texted my fiancee about my progress. Kash offered coke and porridge which I finished fast. What a porridge! Henry Yang took time to get me a cold water, and he's a fellow 100 mile participant himself! Gotta love the camaraderie.

CP5 marks the halfway point of the 101km category. A few friends who were in this category decided that they'd go home and cool themselves down before coming back at a later time when the weather would be more forgiving and continue the second half of the run, back to MacRitchie). Yup, we're all sick of the heat. Except that the 100milers didn't have that luxury of time.

Met Muara who had just arrived from his big 15km CP5-CP6 loop (means he's 15km ahead of me), and he stopped for just a couple of seconds, and off to CP7. I took perhaps another 10 minutes before checking out to go to CP6 (which is, actually, 15km later, the same place as CP5).

As I was leaving CP5, a big group of runners coming in. Including Billie, whose hip had been injured for a couple of months, but still decided to give this craze ultra a try. He eventually called it a day at CP5, but what a 50km it must have been for him.
For all of us, actually.





CP5 - CP6 (Distance: 14.5 km to km 65)
Started this part alone. My boss and colleague were planning to come and support and crew and pace me for the second half of the race later on, so I messaged them "Just left CP5 50km. All targets are off. Weather super hot!!!. Will update you again when I reach CP7 Pasir Ris".

I remained alone for the next 12 or 13km or so. Didn't see a single participant until I reached Punggol Park where I caught up to Joe Cheung.
At the entrance of Punggol Park I met a familiar runner whose name I couldn't recall, and he was sitting at the bench enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon. It would be nice doing that instead of this craze, I thought.
A while before, I was confused at a junction, and as I stood there I called Ben (he's the crazy dude on that 50km photo), asking for direction. He asked for a landmark, I looked around, and replied "Institute of Mental Health". What a fitting place!

The Punggol PCN stretch was full with people. Saturday afternoon is so lively in that part of Singapore. People of all ages came out and play and run and jog and walk. Many big groups were doing 'tours'. And struggling amongst them were Joe Cheung and myself. Due to fatigue, I only managed a couple of words exchange with him.

These few kilometers before the CP6 seemed very long; with every slight turn I expected to see the Lor Halus Bridge. With every 100 meters I subtracted the distance that I need to go before the aid station. But the view of the bridge never came. So what's one to do? Gave up the hope of seeing it anytime soon, and marched on :)

When I finally caught a glimpse of it, a figure emerged from the crowded bench by the side of the path. It's the trail enthusiast extraordinaire Pon Loo. Was I glad to see him. He was apparently a mobile volunteer for this Punggol loop, and on his bike I could see he brought a lot of stuffs. He named a few things that he had with him, took my bottles and filled it up with ice-cold water. Gave me an apple. Took a photo. The guy had been exploring countless trails in many places, including the beautiful trail course around Mount Blanc. He's my idol.



(Photo: Shortly before CP6. Courtesy of Pon Loo)



















I arrived at CP6 to find that everybody's gone. I mean fellow runners. Even though there were a lot of volunteers around, I felt lonely. And I had been alone practically for the last 3 hours. I washed my face, rubbed my legs with counterpain, drank Antangin, ate banana, watermelon.

I ate nutella sandwich, too. A couple of runners came in. It's Chris Yeo and his pacer Kai Wei. I heard the check-in volunteer whispered to the other, "First runner". Great! First runner! First runner has arrived at CP6 on return trip! So I was just 30km behind then. As I bit the sandwich, Kai Wei shouted out a reminder "Be careful, don't eat too much". Now where's that trash bag?

Lok Yek Bun (one brain of the core organizing team who plotted this torturing event) chatted to me a little.
"You're okay?"
"Yeah, relatively okay, considering. What's the cutoff at halfway point?"
"11PM"
I looked at my watch.
"Any chance of extension?"
He shook his head.
"15km, you can make it!"

I updated my support-crew-to-be: "sprry just left 65km, maybe reaching pasir ris 2020hrs, changi village 2200hrs".
A while later a reply came in:
"At pasir ris park food stop waiting for nyoman".
Great!


CP6 - CP7 (Distance: 5 km to km 70)
This stretch is the shortest leg, "just" 5km. This part was where people warned us of possible encounter with stray, violent dogs. I wasn't really sure what to do if the creatures really come and attack me. I had whistle on me. "You're gonna blow the whistle and expect them to run away? It's more likely you will attract a whole of them to come near", my boss joked the day before.

Well, I was more than glad that canine attack didn't happen that night.

So, carry on with the running business then!

A year before, I was running the Sundown 100km, and it's an out and back course too. On that day I got very bad stomach problem, and by km 35 I have already seen returning runners; At 35km they were 30km ahead of me in a 100km run?).
So I used that unfortunate occasion as reference. "This one is a 161km run, and I am 30km behind the first runner at 65km. Not bad", I told myself.

From here on I kept counting returning runners to gauge how bad I was doing. When I saw the 70km mark (marking was not exactly at the CP as I thought it would -my memories from the race info-, but it's been that way with most of the previous markings), I counted no more than 5 runners had made their way past me from the opposite direction. That eased up my mind a bit.

When I arrived at CP7, my colleague was standing there with his camera. So glad to see him. The CP itself was manned by another idol of mine, abang Jannatul. Brokie and Angela (I think) were there too. They helped me as much as they could. Abang Jan offered me boiled sweet potatoes, which I declined because I wasn't sure what effect it would have on me if I eat it.

"Where's Sam? This is his special order"
"Sam? He's way ahead of me."
"I haven't seen him"
"Perhaps he was here before you started your shift"

I didn't spent too much time here (well, it's only 5km since the last CP), so I made my way to CP8. But not before spelling out to my colleague of the meal that I would like to have at CP8 later. Hot cup noodle.
Wet wipes, too, I felt like I need to let go later.



CP7 - CP8 (Distance: 10.5 km to km 80.5)
Ten kilometers to the halfway point! Let's get my sorry a** there and have a nice break and nice hot soup of cup noodle, Coke, and banana!

Muara is a solid runner, so I wasn't surprised to see him on his way back to CP7 shortly after I left it. He said he was getting so tired and very sleepy. He's still running strong, though. As I expected.

The part to CP8 was quite familiar, I walked most of it during my ill-fated Sundown Ultra. And I ran most of it during Trans-Sg Fat Ass Run in July. Should be no trouble except for the long slope at Loyang Avenue.

And trouble came where you least expected it. I arrived at junction with Cranwell Road, and I recalled from the map that I needed to turn left to the Cranwell Road. However, I didn't see any marking there, and as I was wondering about it, I saw from a distance a group of runners coming towards me from straight ahead, along Loyang Ave. I thought to myself that there might've been route alteration. So I didn't make the turn. Met more returning runners along the stretch; no worries about wrong route then.

By this time I've lost count of them, but I'd say 20 top. That means two thirds of the 100 milers were still between me and CP8, which should be just a few kilometers ahead, so I kept telling myself that I didn't do so bad, I wasn't that far behind everybody.

When a nice straight Loyang Ave turned into a Y junction, and no marking in sight, I called up Ben. He said that I might've taken a wrong route, but I said I saw a few runners running on the route that I was on. He asked me to take the road that leads to the beach area, so I walked ahead a little to confirm it. As I did that, I bumped into Ray. He confirmed the route. So I carried on.

"So Near, Yet So far" is the main subtitle of the every aid station. CP8 included. But my mood has improved a lot because I started to see more runners, so the 'event atmosphere' was coming back to me and helped me a bit.

One of them was Hendra, my fellow country man. He exclaimed in frustration: "I've got lost so many times!".  I wished him good luck for the return journey.

Caught up with Angela Chong, and we made our way together to CP8. My boss intercepted us, he looked really fresh and energetic and looked ready to sprint a marathon.

He described all the menu that were available at our 'mobile support' car. All I wanted to hear was hot cup noodle, Coke. And probably some coconut water. He ran ahead to prepare them all!

"What a nice friend", Angela remarked.
"Actually, he's my boss at work".

My boss paced us to the remaining few hundred meters to CP8. Or was it a few few few few hundreds?

I checked in at CP8, Tekko was there taking note of our arrival. I stopped only for a little while, my boss said not to hang around too long at 'turn around point', because it's a very dangerous place because many runners rest at turnaround point, and many drop there, too. It would affect me, he said. He's got a point.
"Let's go! Come on, now."
"Whoa no rest ah?", Tekko questioned our decision.
But still, I managed to sip two cups of Pepsi, and took banana.

I might've hurried my way leaving CP8, but not long afterwards was where our mobile support car was parked. And there, I really, really took my time to freshen up and refuel.

(Photo: Total refuelling in progress, shortly after CP8)











I'm tired of writing this post.









4 comments:

  1. Very well written! I could feel the pain you suffered :p
    Can't wait for the continuation and I hope you would do more crazy stuff like this one so that you would write often hehehe... well done for the first part!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Deo.
      No more crazy stuff. no more. :)

      Delete
  2. Good luck for UTMB then, and I will see you there!

    ReplyDelete