Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bedok Reservoir Ultramarathon 2014

I couldn't recall when I signed up for the Bedok Ultramarathon but I did so knowing it was less than 4 weeks after Badwater 135.  The reasons for signing up for this race were simple: I want to re-connect back to running in Singapore weather, and also to try to complete the Bedok Ultramarathon, the Craze Ultra, as well as the Monster 200 Ultra (as completion of all 3 races would give the finisher a special award.)  :)  Getting used to running in Singapore weather shouldn't be a problem since I ran more local races this year.  As for completing the 3 ultras, let's just say I loved to put myself in difficult races.  As with any events that I signed up, I had 3 goals in mind: (A) complete at least 80km within the 12 hours, i.e. at least 19 laps, or (B) complete as many laps as possible within the 12 hours, or (C) complete the minimum laps required to qualify for a Finisher Medal.  :)  Sounds like a simple task.  Or so I thought.

Bedok Reservoir Ultramarathon - A Time-based 12-hour Event!

On race day morning, I arrived just minutes before the flagged off as I had alighted at the wrong bus-stop.  I quickly deposited my drop bag among the chairs, picked up my race bib, and got ready for the race.  I saw many friends and even more familiar faces, some running and more volunteering.  A few friends and strangers congratulated me on my recent race success but I was too embarrassed to be getting such attention.  Nevertheless, Ben Swee (Race Director) flagged us off at 7am sharp.

The Transition Area - Where Runner Kept their Race Essential Stuff!

Running in Singapore was a really torturous affair.  At least for me.  While the weather was not as hot as in Lone Pine (Badwater 135), the humidity could literally slow you down to a death march!  Okie, maybe the humidity might not affect all runners but for someone like me, who had problem in dissipating heat from the body, I really needed something like the X-Bionix to help me in cooling down efficiently.  Before I completed the first lap, Angelina already passed me despite starting the race later than me.  She looked so smooth as she sailed past me.  It was depressing.  The weather was great that day in my own opinion, probably because I came across worse weather conditions.  But such great weather didn't translate to good race performance although I was wearing the X-Bionix gear.  Don't get me wrong.  The gear did what it was supposed to do and I could feel my sweat being "channeled" down the respective areas for the cooling of my legs.  For the Fennec short-sleeved shirt that I was wearing, it didn't work in the same way as it did in Lone Pine though it did cool my upper body.  :)  Perhaps it was the humidity.

My Trusted X-Bionic Gear - Effektor Running Power Pants and Fennec Short-sleeve Shirt

At the 3rd lap, I decided to use my neck cooler which was modified from the one I bought in Lone Pine.  It was Sam's great idea.  (Sam was one of my Badwater crew member and was extremely resourceful.)  The volunteer (can't recall who) helped me fill up with ice before I wrapped it around my neck.  It was cooling indeed but I didn't like the modified version as it was like the original one where the velco was not long enough.  However, the bright orange color was a nice change though the color seemed to come off easily.  Things got better in the next few laps.  When running a ultra, there would always be cycles of ups and downs.  So by Lpa 6, I lost the desire to cover 19 laps and dropped down my expectation to Plan B.  Along the way, I met Juay Seng's young boy who had teamed up with his dad to do the team event.  I encouraged him to run with me and alternate running a 100 steps and walking another 100 steps.  It worked for the young lad for a while but after 2 further sequences of the run/walk strategy, I decided to push on myself or I won't achieve my Plan B.  At the end of the lap, I met Nancy, who had completed 1 more lap than me!

Chatting With Sam - on the Neck Cooler Modification!

After finishing Lap 7, I decided that I would just do the minimum of 12 laps and call it a day.  It was way too humid and the short loops meant that the course was very mental.  I was feeling very bored running alone though there were other runners and park users.  I guessed I was still mentally exhausted after the recent races.  Since there was no need to prove to myself or anyone that I could run a full 12 hours as I had done that before, at the MR25 Ultramarathon and in much difficult terrain, I decided to have some fun in the remaining laps.  I caught up with Ivy and asked if I could run / jog with her.  She was a much faster runner and I thought if I could just hang on near her, I would be fine.  But after just a lap, I had enough of following her pace and decided to drop back into a more manageable pace.  At the Start/Finish Point, I saw Taz who was volunteering for the event and asked if he could pace me.  I had run countless times with Taz previously and he was a great pacer.  He agreed and the next 2 laps were the most fun.  Taz helped to take photos of me and other runners.  I felt more relax and really enjoyed the run.  :)

Wefie - Photo with Taz, Ivy and Fennel (Both at Background)!

Our pace were pretty constant, so we leapfrogged Ivy and Fennel (her pacer cum event photographer) whenever they walked and they leapfrogged us when we were busy taking selfie/wefie.  By then, I had also decided that I would complete 1 lap more than the minimum laps to be clocked.  I.e. 13 laps.  It was a real struggle in the last few laps but having someone to pace you really took your mind off the task.  I slogged the last lap and when I saw Esther and Tan Yan, I was very happy to tell them that I was done for the day!  :)  13 laps, 55.9km in 9hrs 32mins 32secs?  It was not a great result but I was one happy runner.

I always enjoyed running such events.  Small field, great support, endless fun throughout the day.  The enthusiasm shown by the volunteers were exceptional though it certainly helped when you know them personally.  I was always looking forward to seeing the volunteers at the end of the lap, and reluctant to proceed for a new lap when I know it was time to get going.  They even had massage service provided to ease the tightness in the runners' legs.  Unfortunately, I was wearing a long tights and was able to escape the "torture".  I was glad to strike off this race from my list of "To-do Races" after missing it out last year.  Now, I look forward to volunteering for the event in the future edition.

Completion of my 30th Ultramarathon!

13 Laps (55.9km) in 9hrs 32mins 32 secs!

With Race Director - Ben Swee!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Badwater: Darwin To Mount Whitney 135 Miles

Darwin Turn-Off to Keeler 108 Miles
I headed straight to the Port-A-Potty.  Then I went to the support vehicle as I was feeling uncomfortable with the shoes again.  Sam suggested that I tried wearing his shoes (which fit me just nice) so that I could give my feet a breather wearing a different pair of shoes.  After putting on the shoes, I dashed off (time: 10:05am) without refueling anything as I wanted to maintain my momentum.  I guessed the crew was shocked and for a while, Sam was running barefoot while trying to catch up with me as it was his turn to pace me to Keeler.  (Actually, I forgotten to ask Sam about his footwear after he lend me his shoes!  Ooops!)  Sam tried to update me some info about Mr Lim not reaching Darwin yet.  I guessed I must have passed Mr Lim somewhere at Cerro Gordo though I didn't see him.  I first got fascinated with Badwater when I heard that Mr Lim did an unofficial Badwater back in 2007 (if my memory served me right) as he had not meet the race criterion.  If I could keep him within my sight or get ahead of him, it would give me great confidence to finish the race within the cut-off since he had completed the Badwater 135 running the previous course last year.

The support crew continued to stop every 2 miles ahead.  I was able to run this segment due to the slight descent.  Sam by then had put on his sandals and rattled off the pace that I was running and how long I would arrived at Keeler.  It could be a double-edged sword.  If I was fast, I would be feeling positive and motivated.  If I was slow, I would feel dejected and depressed.  It all depends on what Sam told me.  Nevertheless, the "good" feeling running in Sam's shoes was soon gone and I decided to change to my slippers.  Cheryl and Christina helped me with the toe socks and sandals and I was off.  I fast marched most of the way though Sam would occasionally told me to run on the descent, which I did.  It was by now very hot but bearable.  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the intermediate point between Darwin and Keeler - the 100 miles mark which was painted on the side of the road where we were running now!  Soon a runner and his pacer ran past me and I saw them disappeared.  Somewhere along this segment of the race, we also saw Mr Lim and his support vehicle on their way to Darwin.

After a couple of miles walking and running in the sandals, I decided to switch back to my last running shoes.  I was able to run and caught up with the guy and his pacer who passed me earlier.  We sort of keep each other company and at the same time, kept a lookout for the "100 Miles" mark.  I looked at my watch and saw that there was a possibility that I could cross the "100 Miles" mark within 30-hours, aka at 12:00pm.  I would be very happy since most 100 Miles races had a cut-off of 30-hours.  I pushed myself until we saw our support crew vehicle waving frantically ahead!  It was indeed the magical "100 Miles" mark!  Once passed, somehow, my body auto-switched off.  I slowed down though Sam commented that I should still be on track to reach Lone Pine around 6:00pm.  Sam kept spraying the sunblock lotion, as well as changing the ice for my neck cooler.  The afternoon sun was really hot by then and it sapped my energy.  I had not much appetite so I just drank.  Stuart, Christina and Cheryl must have noticed and insisted that I ate some fruits, which I obliged.  But somehow, it was too late and my stomach rebelled.

Since I didn't take in much food, there was nothing coming out from my vomit.  After standing under the hot sun for a few minutes, I pushed on, only to stop again a short while later.  I told Sam I needed to rest a while.  So we crossed the road and went over to our support vehicle.  I went to the front of the car, "jumped" in, reclined the seat and closed my eyes.  I also told them I needed some ice on my chest and neck.  After resting for about 10 minutes, I felt much better to continue.  By then, I could only walk at a leisurely pace.  Because of my weakening condition, the support vehicle decided to stay with me till I reached Keeler before they went back Lone Pine to get replenishment of ice.  By then, I somehow managed to catch up with another runner, Cheryl, with a Bib No. 50 because she had taken a rest in the car probably to cool down at regular interval.  I was lamenting to her that I was not sure if I could make it.  But she said we had plenty of time and she had no doubt I would finish strong.  Her pacer also commented that I looked great and I needn't worry too much.  While I knew I looked awful, their positive remarks spurred me on.  I wasn't able to keep up with her but I was able to catch up with her whenever she took a rest.  :)

 Crossing Of The 100 Miles Mark In 30 hours 2 Minutes!

Keeler to Lone Pine 122 Miles
After Keeler, I felt much better and it was time for Stuart to pace me for this stretch of the race.  The crew had packed everything that Stuart and I needed, including all the remaining ice, so that Stuart could help draped my cap in the ice every now and then, as well as to fill up the ice for my neck cooler.  Then the car left.  The distance from Keeler to Lone Pine was about 16 miles and Stuart reckoned they would be back in 45 minutes (granted that we would be moving towards their direction at the same time).  I knew it was hot by then though the X-Bionic gear was really cool and I felt like someone was holding an invisible aircon blowing at the front and back of my body.  Stuart and I talked about running stuff, which was good.  It was different from when I ran with Sam earlier as Sam would talk more about pacing and timing.  Each had its own advantages.  When I was running strong, I wouldn't mind listening to pacing and timing as I would be able to push myself harder.  But when I was low on morale, I needed to hear other things to perk me up, which Stuart and Christina did an excellent job.  :)  Halfway through walking, I asked Stuart to check if they had left Lone Pine and if not, can they get me an ice cream.  Stuart suggested a large milkshake instead and I nodded in eagerness.

The sun was setting which meant that it was shining directly into my face.  Somehow, I had totally forgotten about re-applying the sunblock lotion on my face!  (Afternote: Perhaps that was the reason why I felt so hot on my face and had to keep looking down on the road!)  After 45 minutes, I still didn't see any sign of our support vehicle and wondered aloud what took them so long.  Eventually, drove past and gave Stuart and me a large milkshake each!  I drank up the whole milkshake in less than a minute and wished I could have some more.  Then Christina took over from Stuart to pace me and I enjoyed her company the most.  She was also very chatty and kept me entertained.  Then for whatever reasons I forgotten, the car had to make a trip back to Lone Pine and I asked them to get me a mashed potatoes and chicken wings!  "How many chicken wings do you want?"  Sam asked.  "2!"  I replied and they left again.  When they returned, we went over to the car for a short break.  The mashed potatoes was different from Singapore's KFC where it had no gravy on it.  So it didn't taste as nice as I would have like.  But I knew I had to eat, having eaten only fruits since the bowl of spicy noodles in the early morning.  I was feeling better and decided to save the chicken wing for dinner.

Stuart took over from Christina after my "mashed potato break" perhaps to push me harder.  Somehow I didn't want to response since I was able to keep Cheryl (Bib No. 50) within my sight.  That stretch of the road was the worse section of the race as it was never ending and hot.  At the Dolomite Loop junction, I made the final stop before pushing on.  Stuart told me that by my speed, I would reach Lone Pine at around 9:30pm to 9:40pm.  This was still within my worst case scenario as I had planned to reach there by 10:00pm.  I thought I might get faster when the sun set (around 7:30pm) but that was not the case.  Stuart pointed out the location of the Visitor Centre.  It looked near, yet far as it was not a direct road towards the Visitor Centre!  It was deceivingly long and took me forever to reach the main junction leading to the town of Lone Pine!  When we finally reached the junction, it was totally dark.  We had to cross the road and walked another couple of miles before we met an official at the junction who signaled us to cross back to Dow Villa Hotel for the time check-in.  What a relieve!

The Junction Of Highway 136 and Dolomite Loop!

Lone Pine to Mount Whitney 135 Miles
When I reached Lone Pine, it was 9:45pm.  I saw some runners feasting with their support crew and a few people around the hotel carpark.  Everyone congratulated me even though I still had another 13 miles to cover.  :(  Stuart left to look for his newly charged Garmin while I ate a piece of chicken wing.  But it was too oily and I felt my throat extremely painful with all the heaty drinks I drank and the heat I had to endure for the  past 2 mornings and afternoons.  Cheryl and Stephanie helped me to the field chair and I drank my Ling Yang which they had prepared.  That should cool down my internal body and I decided I didn't want to wait for Stuart as I knew he intended to push the pace.  I told Cheryl to pace me but I didn't want to waste time waiting for her to get her stuff ready.  I asked her to catch up with me and I pushed on.  The time on my watch showed 9:45pm.  Along the Whitney Portal Road, Cheryl caught up with me.  After less than a mile, the rest of the crew drove up to us and Stephanie hopped out from the car and take over from Christina.  She also told me that Christina would be waiting at Lone Pine and drive to Mount Whitney later.

Stephanie had with her the Garmin that belonged to Stuart.  She was less spontaneous as compared to Christina and Stuart but just as positive.  She kept saying that I was such an amazing runner to be able to complete the race though we were still hiking up towards Mount Whitney.  Once in a while, she would take a glance at the Garmin and told me how far we had cover.  By then, I was walking at a speed of about 1 mile every 30 minutes.  I counted that I should have enough time to complete if I stay on the same pace.  I told Stephanie that I would like her to pace me for 5 miles while Stuart and Cheryl could pace me for 4 miles each.  I would really like to cross the finishing line with Cheryl next to me as she is my pillar of strength.  I made another pit-stop to change to my X-Bionic Effector Running Powershirt as it was getting cold.  Though I was slow, the miles seemed to fly through fast, perhaps due to the gentle incline as compared to the last few miles of the race.  With the 5 miles up, Stuart took over the pacing duty.  Then I told him the reason why I didn't wait for him back at Lone Pine.  I had wanted to relax a bit since I knew I could make the cut-off.  :p

Marching On Towards The Finishing!

Stuart and I eventually reached the last Time Station #8 at 131 mile and Cheryl took over.  The last 4 miles of the race was the hardest as it was rather steep.  By then, besides my aching feet and body, my sore throat was getting really bad.  Every drink and even the saliva I swallowed was painful.  Luckily, Cheryl brought with her my flask of hot Ling Yang.  Every after a couple of switchbacks, I would ask her for a small cup which she would pour from the flask.  During this stretch of the road, approximately 4 runners past me but I didn't care much.  This was a competition for me against the clock.  We eventually entered the Whitney Portal Recreation Area, which was about 2 miles from the finishing.  We entered the parking lot area 1 mile later.  Then, every 0.1 mile we covered, looked like a mile.  We finally saw Stuart and Sam approaching us.  He asked if the Race Director would DQ me if Christina showed up in the finishing photo and I reassured him that we submitted the name of our 5th member and info on the additional car when we did the racer check-in.  :)  We saw Stephanie and Christina just before the finishing line and my crew let me had all the limelight of crossing the finishing line in 46hrs 45mins 15secs!  Mr Kostman presented a finisher tee and belt buckle to me which was a customary ritual before the support crew were invited for a finishing shot.

I was extremely happy that I had completed the race of my dream when I first took up ultra running back in 2007.  I couldn't have completed this race without the help and support of my five support crew, where everyone played an equally important role before the time we arrived at Los Angeles, to when I finally crossed the finishing line.  It was the most intense race where they literally carried me through my ups and downs, especially on the second day.  I must also commended the strong support given by the Lone Pine community, where they were always so helpful to runners in urgent need of stuff: like the field chair we borrowed from the waitress at the restaurant we patronised, the blinking lights we borrowed from the store, and the pepper and salt we used from the restaurant.  For that, the 2014 Badwater 135 would be my most memorable race ever!  Thank you again to everyone making my dream come true and especially to Cheryl, Sam, Christina, Stuart, and Stephanie for the wonderful memories you have given me!  :)

The Elation Of Finally Crossing The Badwater Finishing Line!

Proud Finisher of the 2014 Badwater 135!

With Race Director Chris Kostman Who Presented The Hard-Earned Finisher Tee and Buckle!

 A Lifetime Memory - 2014 Badwater Support Crew!

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Badwater: Lone Pine To Darwin 91 Miles

Time Station #2 - Lone Pine 45 Miles
After checking in Time Station #2, I took an extended break to refuel and sort out all the problems that I had.  Christina, who had been waiting at Lone Pine since morning, joined us at the hotel carpark.  She would be taking over from Stephanie while Stephanie would co-ordinate the logistics from Lone Pine.  As soon as I sat down, my team auto pilot mode swung into action: Cheryl passed me an ice-cold towel to wipe and cool down my face.  I then took off the shoes to air my feet while Sam and Stuart put packets of ice on both my knees as I was feeling rather sore after the long downhill from top of Horseshoe Meadows.  Then Cheryl gave me a cup of hot noodle.  I even had some Coke to drink.  When I was ready and raring to go, Sam gave me a good massage on my stiff back.  It was really painful and I almost screamed but at the same time, I felt so shiok.  (Okie, I admit I'm someone who loves pain.)  I checked on the tape on the arch of my right foot which was still holding up well.  After putting on the same pair of shoes, I left with Christina, feeling totally refreshed!

Resting at Lone Pine After 45 Miles!

A Good Massage For My Stiff Back!

Lone Pine to American Hotel in Cerro Gordo 67 Miles
I decided to walk that stretch of the road till we turned into Highway 136, especially after eating a full cup of instant noodles.  Christina agreed and she walked behind me, to comply with the rules.  She even helped me to carry my water bottle, which was a very nice gesture since there's a difference between running with and without carrying your water bottle, even if it didn't weigh much.  :p  As we walked, I saw some eateries and commented that how nice it would be if I could have some ice-cream.  Christina immediately told me that if that was what I wanted, she could run across the road to check if they had ice-cream.  Wow!  "Okie!" I said to her and she left while I continued power-walking.  A short while later, Christina was back with a small cup of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream!!!  How cool was that!  I thanked her and gobbled up the whole cup.  As we turned into Highway 136, we found the sun shining onto our back, which made the run easier.  At the next stop, Christina ran across the other side of the road where the support vehicle stopped to exchange for a new bottle of water.  Such strategy also meant that she could help me get whatever I needed immediately.  :)

Cheryl Helping Christina To Refill My Water Bottle!

I began the run / walk strategy again.  Christina was very encouraging.  She kept telling me that I was doing very well and to maintain my pace.  It was getting darker and we put on our reflective vests and blinking lights.  We soon turned into the Dolomite Loop, a 5-miles long gravel path.  There, I commented that I might need my slippers later in the race.  I also realized I needed a pair of toe socks to wear it with the slippers.  Christina called Stuart to relay my message.  After a few phone calls to Stephanie, the crew decided that they had to make their way back to Lone Pine to pick up the slippers and socks.  Sam and Stuart also made sure Christina had everything we needed before they left.  We continued to run / walk and we managed to pass a runner and his pacer.  We finished the Dolomite Loop and turned left to run onto Highway 136 again.  Though it was a highway, there was no street lamps like in Singapore.  Except for the vehicle lights and our headlamps, the entire highway was pitch dark!  After a couple of miles, Christina got a call from Stuart to check on our location.  Apparently, we had made great progress and they couldn't locate us!  :)

  Along Highway 136 & Dolomite Loop!

Further up, someone passed me and I noticed it was Andre and his pacer!  I had been expecting him to pass me earlier in the afternoon while coming down from Horseshoe Meadows as he was such a strong runner.  I wished him all the best before he slowly disappeared into the darkness.  Our support vehicle finally found us and Christina managed to top up my water bottle.  We were now very close to Keeler as we could see many vehicle lights in front but took us forever to finally reached Keeler.  This stretch of 14 miles took me 4hrs 45mins to complete.  I had exceeded the timing for my best case scenario but still on pace based on my worst case scenario.  For the hike up and down Cerro Gordo, Stuart would take over the pacing duty from Christina.  It was approximately 7.5 miles up and down, and no support vehicle was allowed due to the very narrow terrain.  We set off immediately after I check-in at the Keeler's Time Station #3.  According to my calculation, I need a minimum of 3 hours to ascend and another 2 hours to descend.  I decided to power walk all the way as the incline was simply to steep to run efficiently (it was a 14% inclination by my calculation).

On the way up, we saw runners coming down from Cerro Gordo, while I managed to pass some runners.  Then I heard someone calling out my name as we approached a runner sitting on the ground.  I realized he was Andre!  I was surprised as Andre was a beast who could run up and down mountains!  I wasn't supposed to pass him!  Nevertheless, I asked him to walk with me but I didn't wait for his response as I wanted to keep my momentum going.  Stuart asked me to eat something and I asked what he had in his bag.  He brought almost everything: rice, hard boiled eggs, sports drink, water, and even my bottle of Ling Yang!  I asked for the plain rice and started eating bit by bit.  I passed another runner which I wasn't surprised as I was strong (at least among runners of my ability) going up mountains.  Mid-way through the climbing, Stuart went to refill the water bottle at the one and only aid station provided by the race organizer.  I continued to walk as fast as I possibly could since I enjoyed the climb up mountains (though it was hard work).  I also wondered when would Andre catch up with me.  Eventually, we reached the old American Hotel at the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town after exactly 3 hours of climbing!

American Hotel in Cerro Gordo to Darwin Turn-Off 91 Miles
We rested for a while and Stuart gave me a hard boiled egg and ordered me to finish it up.  I complied willingly and also drank up the bottle of Ling Yang as it was supposed to cool down my internal body.  A short while later, I was getting chilled and decided that we should make our way down soonest possible.  About 200 meters after we left the ghost town, I finally saw Andre and his pacer, and  I knew it was a matter of time before he passed me for good on the downhill stretch.  Stuart on various occasions asked me if I wanted to do a slow jog.  But I couldn't because I was feeling very sore on my feet.  Besides, I didn't want to bomb down that steepest part of the descent as I didn't want to trash my quads.  Eventually, Stuart gave up on me.  As soon as we had cellphone coverage, he called Christina to prepare the things I needed, most importantly, my hot noodles!  When I reached back at Keeler (now Time Station #5), I saw someone clicking away the camera and I realized they were Mr Lim's support crew!  For the downhill section, I had miscalculated the time I needed as I was too tired to even run.  In fact, I was only marginally faster as compared to the uphill!  :(

After checking-in, we crossed the road to where our vehicle parked.  Christina and Cheryl had prepared the field chair and my hot noodles.  It was hot and spicy and tasted exceptionally good.  Sam also gave me a good massage on my stiff back.  This time round, I almost screamed my head off but was thankful that he continued to massage despite my screaming.  I felt so much better and energized.  In fact, I wanted to cover as much ground as possible before sunrise.  Christina took over the important task of pacing me from Keeler to Darwin.  She was as enthusiastic as in the previous evening - full of energy and positive vibes.  It was flat and cool as well, which made this part of the race the most enjoyable.  I was not sleepy despite not drinking any coffee all this while.  I even managed to pick up my pace a little.  Unfortunately, my feet were still feeling sore and I knew I had to take a look soon.  At the next stop, Sam looked at my shoes and commented they were too large while my orthotics were too small.  He taped over the area of orthotics where I felt uncomfortable while Stuart taped over my feet.  "That's the best we can do!" he said before shooing me off!

 En Route from Keeler to Darwin Turn-Off In The Morning!

By 8am, the sun was up shining.  But I was feeling cool, except my face.  Perhaps the X-Bionic Fennec® gears were keeping my body temperature at the optimum level.  I changed to my sunglasses and shifted my cap and let the neck flap covered the side of my face.  The portion of the route had rolling hills with slight incline.  Christina kept encouraging me.  But my right foot was feeling more and more sore.  I decided to take a break at the next stop to ask what can Sam or Stuart suggest.  Sam told me to change to another pair of shoes and put on an extra sock on my right foot to cushion the sore area.  He then said, "that's all the support crew can think off and you just got to accept the pain and push on".  Perhaps I looked dejected or perhaps I looked frustrated.  But what Sam did next probably helped pushed me get over the difficult patch that I was facing then.  While Christina was refilling my water, Sam took the opportunity to walk with me.  And he started telling me the number of well wishes that friends and strangers had left on our Facebook Page.  I was feeling extremely annoyed as that didn't help my running.  So I picked up my paced to walk really fast, just to get away from Sam.  At the same time, I was wondering what took Christina so long.

Then, Sam caught up with me and started to rattled off all the messages that appeared in the news feed on his iPad!  And I meant all!  "Isaac Tan: Keep going Kelly!  We are all rooting for you from Singapore!", "Karan Chia: Pray for you Kelly, go, go, go!", "Dawn Ng: Go Kelly go.  We are supporting you here in Singapore!", "Tey Eng Tiong: Keep it up!!!", "Jane Tan: Jia You!", "Blessed Irene: 加油哟! We support you all the way from Singapore!" and many many other messages from people I know to complete strangers.  My eyes began to swell up.  I told myself that no matter what happened, I must complete the race.  I could not let the people who had been following my race down.  Friends and strangers who left me well wishes on our Facebook Page.  Even stranger like Christina who was so positive and motivating, as well as Stuart, who crewed me since the start of the race (to until I completed the race).  Miraculously, I began running again!  While I was not fast, I was definitely running and that was definitely faster than walking.  Soon I saw Reuben on the other side of the road on his way back to Lone Pine.  And a while later, Andre.  And finally, I reached Darwin, Time Station #6 at 9:58am, Tuesday morning!  :)

Time Station #6 - Darwin Turn-Off 91 Miles!

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Badwater: Start To Lone Pine 45 Miles

Initial Plan
To run a distance of 135 miles was a mind boggling task.  So I broke up the distance into 4 segments that had a cut-off time:  Lone Pine (after Horseshoe Meadows) @ 44.5 miles, Cerro Gordo @ 67 miles, Darwin @ 91 miles, Lone Pine (before Mount Whitney) @ 124 miles and the finishing line @ 135 miles.

The distance from Lone Pine (Start) to Horseshoe Meadows is 22.1 miles and back to Lone Pine (Dow Villa Hotel) is another 22.4 miles to make a total of 44.5 miles.  Based on my timing at Ocho Ocho, where I completed 72km (around 45 Miles) in 10hrs 55 mins, I should be able to make the first cut-off at Lone Pine within 13 hours.  But it is easier said than done.  When I compared this with the ascent section of the Pikes Peak Marathon where I climbed from approximately 6,300 feet to just over 14,000 feet to cover 13.1 miles in 5hrs 6mins (2008) and 5hrs 26mins (2009) respectively, I got very worried.  This was because I had to cover a further 9 miles in Badwater although the elevation change of 5,990 feet was slightly less daunting - a more gentle 6% incline as compared to 11% incline in Pikes Peak.  Realistically speaking, I would need at least 2 more hours to cover these additional 9 miles.  So I give myself 7 1/2 hours (best case scenario) and 8 hours (worst case scenario) to cover the 22.1 miles climb up to Horseshoe Meadows and a further 4 1/4 hours (best case scenario) and 4 3/4 hours (worst case scenario) to cover the remaining 22.4 miles to reach back at Lone Pine.  This worked out to 11 3/4 hours (best case scenario) and 12 3/4 hours (worse case scenario).  The comforting thing was that I would be running on road as compared to running in Pikes Peak.  Also, runners going up the Pikes Peak mountain were expected to step off the trail and give way to runners returning to the finishing line.  That probably explained why I took so long to ascend Pikes Peak.

 The Start (6,300 feet), U-Turn (14,115 feet) & End (6,345 feet) of Pikes Peak Marathon!

Lone Pine (Start) ~ Horseshoe Meadows ~ Lone Pine (Dow Villa Hotel) - 44.5 Miles!

Start - Horseshoe Meadows 22 Miles
I woke up at 4am and waited for the rest to get ready because I thought I had plenty of time.  I did.  I decided to laze around and not get too excited.  I finally got out of bed at 4:30am, had my breakfast, bathed and changed into my X-Bionic Fennec® shirt and pants.  My crew were getting ready the remaining stuff into the car.  I met Sam at the hallway and told him that I won't wait for them.  I took a slow walk to the start.  The weather was nice.  I met a couple of runners on my way to the intersection which was about 2 blocks away.  We reached there around 5:20am.  More runners and crew arrived, including mine.  The runners were told to check-in and had our weight taken.  Then we mingled with the rest of the runners and their support crew.  Almost all other runners were smiling and relaxed - something I could never do.  I was too focus on the one thing on my mind: to get up to top of Horseshoe Meadows and back at Lone Pine within my target of 12 hours (and faster if possible).  I chatted with Mr Lim and Reuben - the other runners from Singapore.  Both of them looked relax.  After the group photo-taking, where we were made to look like super stars, Race Director Chris Kostman flagged off the 6:00am wave runners at 6:00am sharp!


Racer Check-In (Top Left); Team Ripley Runs 135 (Bottom Left); Singapore Contingent (Top Right); Filling Up Water (Bottom Right)!

Final Advice (Left); Starting of 2014 Badwater 135 (Right)!

Support vehicle was prohibited in the first 4.1 miles of the race.  I started to drop back but I didn't dare to check who else was behind me.  I just ran, or rather jogged.  The weather was great because it was still early morning.  This early portion of the route consist of some flats followed by rolling hills.  I concentrated on my own running though I was mindful of how far the front runners were.  I did eventually turned back to see if there were anymore runners and to my horror, I was the LAST runner!  I told myself not to panic and just run as comfortably as I could.  Once the rolling hills commenced, I started to shorten the distance between myself and the runners in front of me.  Then slowly, I began to pass one runner.  Then another.  And one more runner.  Before I knew, I saw the support vehicles at the side of the road!  I was very happy and started to look for mine.  But it was not easy as some of the cars looked alike.  (Note: Have something unique on your own car that the runner can spot a distance away.)

I eventually saw Cheryl and handed over my almost emptied bottled in exchange for a new one.  I also asked her for a packet of chia seeds in the next stop.  When I walked past the car, Stuart shouted across the road how far ahead they should stop.  Hmmmm.  I thought we already tied down to stop every 5 miles.  Perhaps Stuart saw something that I didn't see.  "3 miles,"  I shouted back, since a full 500ml bottle won't last me for 5 miles..  (Note: We can plan ahead but be open to changes for runner and crew based on actual race day.)  I began to feel more relax and just ran.  I didn't look at my watch too.  When other support vehicles drove past me, the crew would shout out encouraging words, which was nice.  :)  At the next stop, I saw Cheryl again and she passed me the packet of chia seeds while I exchanged my empty bottle with a newly filled bottle.  I told her to prepare my other cap and my sunglasses as the sun was coming out.  When I passed the car, I shouted "3 miles" to Stuart before he could ask.

The Numerous Switchbacks Leading To The Top Of Horseshoe Meadows!

It was a long, straight road before the switchbacks.  Mr Lim's support vehicle drove past me and asked if I needed anything.  I showed a thumbs-up sign and continued.  I began counting my running steps and looking at the road ahead, which could be so demoralising.  Soon, I reached the DeLaCour Ranch (the start of 7 switchbacks) where there was a port-a-potty and a queue of about 5 persons.  I decided to ask the next in line if I could use the toilet first even though I knew that the support crew had been briefed by the RD to give priority to runners (and male runners to give priority to female runners).  Even before I could ask, the lady told me to go ahead to use the port-a-potty.  Usually, there was no need for me to use the port-a-potty in a marathon or 50km race or anything less than 12 hours.  But I was surprised I had to use it so early into the race though I didn't eat much.  (Note: Use the port-a-potty whenever it is available to clear the bowel especially during an ultramarathon.)

After the toilet break, I continued and entered Inyo National Forest where I soon met my crew.  Cheryl handed me my sunglasses and cap while I exchanged my empty bottle with a new one.  We were on auto-pilot mode!  :)  I told her I needed a cold milo and she ran forward to the car and back immediately with the cold milo!  I gulped the entire milo down which tasted so refreshing.  (Note: It is advisable to have a variety of drinks.)  I also told Cheryl that I wanted to exchange my bottle every 2 miles instead of 3 miles.  The incline from switchbacks to switchbacks was manageable.  I adopted a run/walk strategy.  There were some runners in front and I caught one of them.  I passed Mr Lim's support vehicle again and acknowledged their best wishes.  Mr Lim should be among one of the few runners in front of me - I guessed.  But I couldn't recognize which one was him as they were far in front.  I told myself, as long as I could see Mr Lim's support vehicle, I shouldn't be far off from my targeted pace.

Along One Of the 7 Switchbacks To Horseshoe Meadows!

I shortened the distance between myself and the runner in front but I knew there was no need to put in too much effort to overtake the runner.  It was a long race and I should push myself when it was less hot since I hate running in the heat.  I suddenly remembered about the weather: it wasn't that hot at all!  Perhaps it was the X-Bionic Fennec® gear which I was wearing.  Perhaps we were near the top of the mountain.  Then a runner ran past me.  He was running strong and running fast!  He must be a runner from the later wave.  When I was approaching my support vehicle and Cheryl gave me a plate of bread!  :)  I took one and sank my teeth into it.  Yummy!  The bread with Marmite was great though a little salty.  Sam then told me that I had 6km more to go before Time Station #1 and asked where I wanted them to stop next.  I was shocked!  I told them to stick with the "2 miles ahead" strategy.  (Note: Sometime time really flies when you just run instead of looking at the watch.)

More runners had passed me in both directions.  Since Time Station #1 was not far away, we did a quick exchanged of water bottle at the next stop.  I took another quick glance on my watch and reckoned I should reach Time Station #1 before 12:00pm.  This was way better than my targeted best case scenario of 7 1/2 hours!  I passed the parking lot soon after and saw many cars and crew.  I also saw Reuben on his way back to Lone Pine.  A while later I spotted the race volunteers and Stephanie who was waving a purple color flag with a Merlion head, which was hard to miss!  I completed the small loop before meeting up with my team.  I sank into the chair they prepared while they brought me food, elevated both my feet, and massaged my shoulders.  I ate the plain rice which was super good and drank the coconut water.  Sam and Stuart reminded me about pacing as I was ahead of my targeted time.  Ii took me 5hrs 42mins I took to cover 22.1 miles.  (Note: Always have a plan so you know if you are ahead or behind your targeted time.)

 Cheryl & Marmite (Left); Stephanie with the Flag (Top Right); Fueling and Massage (Bottom Right)!

Horseshoe Meadows - Lone Pine 45 Miles
The return trip down Horseshoe Meadows was much easier and we decided for the support vehicle to stop every 3 miles instead.  The miles really flew by.  But I had a problem: a hot spot near the arch of my right foot.  It was impossible not to have any blister while running an ultramarathon, especially in Badwater.  I knew I needed to get the hot spot fix instead of waiting for it to form a blister.  I told Sam and Stuart about my problem when I met up with my team.  I removed my shoes to confirm the hot spot.  Sam taped something around the hot spot and told me to let him know I felt for the next 3 miles.  I put on my shoes and continued running.  After just a few steps, I could feel the rubbing on the same spot again.  But I could only continue running untill I next met up with my team.  3 miles later, I ran over to my vehicle support where Sam proposed to change to a new pair of shoes which I did.  (Note: Always prepare more shoes than you think you might need.)  It seemed to do the trick and I continued running till after the DeLaCour Ranch.

By then, I could feel the heat of the afternoon sun.  But at the same time, I felt cool on my body.  I felt as though I was wearing a portable aircon.  I saw Paper a few times who was crewing for Andre and wondered when would Andre caught up with me.  "A matter of time," I thought to myself.  A few more runners ran past me and I was sure they were from a different wave but none of them was Andre.  Soon I reached the segment where there was no support vehicle allowed.  I changed to a new bottle of water although Stuart asked if I wanted to carry two instead.  This decision of carrying a water bottle almost backfired as it was much hotter than when we started the race at 6:00am.  Luckily, I survived and reached the first cut-off @ Lone Pine, Time Station #2 at 5:23pm.  I was surprised that I took almost similar time to come down (5hrs 41mins), probably because I took 2 long breaks to fix my hot spot.   Nevertheless, I was still 22mins ahead of my best case scenario.  (Note: After Ocho Ocho, I told myself to save my legs later in the race.  So there was no need to bomb down the mountain and trash my quads so early in the race.)

I was extremely happy when I reached back to Lone Pine as I was ahead of my targeted time.  I told myself the next target to aim would be the old American Hotel in Cerro Gordo.  If I could make the cut-off at the Ghost Town, I was quite sure I would complete the race.  :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Preparation For Badwater 135

It is a hectic 2014 such that I have no time to update my blog.  But it is timely to do so now to "record" my preparation for Badwater 135.  So what is Badwater 135?  Well, Badwater is branded as the world's toughest foot race: it starts at Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level and ends at the Mount Whitney Portal, about 8,360 feet high.  Runners have 48 hours to complete the 135 miles (approximately 217km) race non-stop, with temperatures sometimes as hot as 55 degree celsius!  It is indeed the most demanding and extreme running race that I could find - a great challenge for myself as I dislike running even in a relatively "cool" place like Singapore.  For this year, as a result of unjustified, unprecedented, and unnecessary closing of the Death Valley National Park to sports events in 2014 by the current leadership at the park, the Badwater 135 race will take place on a new Lone Pine-based route.  But make no mistake!  This doesn't mean the race is any easier.  And although the temperature may be a shade cooler as I was told, runners have to cover 17,000 feet of accumulative ascent and 12,700 feet of accumulative descent as compared to 13,000 feet of accumulative ascent and 4,700 feet of accumulative descent!

Badwater 135 - The World's Toughest Foot Race!

In order to ensure I prepare myself sufficiently, I signed up for more road races - Pistol Ultramarathon 100 Miles (4~5 Jan), 2XU Marathon (2 Mar), Kawasan Falls Marathon (23 Mar), Paris Marathon (6 Apr) and Sundown Marathon (31 May), though most of these races were signed up even before I applied and subsequently got invited for the Badwater race.  In between, I also signed up for TNF Thailand 100km, Lantau 100km, Eco Trail de Paris 50 Miles, Great Wall Marathon and the Xreid 123km.  Unfortunately, I tore my entire right ankle ligament (okie, maybe not all but almost) after I fell in Lantau 100km, just 8km into the race, sometime in mid March.  It put me off running for 6 weeks.  Even after resting for 6 weeks, I didn't feel 100% right as I could feel some kind of pain whenever I walked down steps.  After the trip to Great Wall (where I took photos instead of running), I got more depressed as I knew I needed at least another couple of weeks off from running.  This meant that I had 10 weeks to train properly for Badwater!  :(

The Swollen Right Ankle After Lantau!

Luckily, I listened to my feet and was able to slowly rake up my mileage.  But while my ankle did not suffer any adverse effect, I hurt my back so bad that I couldn't run for more than 10km without feeling sore.  It was a feeling that I never had before.  I decided to pay a visit to Joan (sports massage therapist) to get my weekly massage.  Every week, I would visit Joan after my weekend training and she would work wonders.  I also visited Elise (a qualified TCM master) who acupunctured my back and right feet to encourage better blood circulation.  I managed to complete the Sundown Marathon though I could sense the back pain that came after 24km.  Subsequently, Alice (physiotherapist) and Wen Yen (podiatrist) diagnosed the main problem that caused my back tightness - a "shorter" left leg.  I was given a pair of orthotics which lifted my left foot.  An appointment was made with NUH Spine Specialist where the doctor referred me to their physio department.  There, I re-learnt the right way to sleep, sit, as well as carry my back pack!

I used the orthotics for Ocho Ocho 220km where Cheryl was my Chief Crew.  It was a great experience for both of us as Cheryl would also be crewing for me in Badwater.  Cheryl was meticulous and she was able to give me the support and encouragement I needed.  All I needed to do is to concentrate on the race.  The orthotics also worked wonderfully and I didn't have any back pain during the race.  I had 3 goals for Ocho Ocho 200km: (1) to complete the 1st loop 115km within the 24 hour cut-off time, (2) to complete 72km (45 Miles) within 13 hours, and (3) to complete 108km (67 Miles) within 20 hours.  The 2nd and 3rd goals were significant as they were the cut-off times required from that of the same distances in Badwater.  This race was able to simulate an almost similar elevation and incline.  I managed to achieve completing 72km (one of the check-points) in 10hrs 55mins and completing the 1st loop which was 119km instead of 115km in 22hrs 26mins.  I wasn't sure if I managed to cross 108km mark within 20hrs but working back, I thought I should.  On the whole, it was a great success even if I stopped after one loop as it was never my intention to complete the race.  There were so many pluses to take away, especially: the support from Cheryl, the understanding between us, the effectiveness of my orthotics, and the water and food fuel intake.  :)

Test Run During Ocho Ocho 220km 1st Loop!

Coming back from Ocho Ocho, I was in high spirit.  Mileage wise, I was prepared.  I just had to continue my other training regime: more heat training by running in the afternoon sun, more sauna training sessions to make myself comfortable under the heat, as well as more power-walking up a 14% incline on treadmill.  Sauna training was great.  It gave me confidence about learning to love staying in the heat.  Power-walking on treadmill was excellent as well, although I knew walking on actual 14% incline mountain would be very different.  However, I was only able to complete a single session of running under the hot sun with Tee Lee when the weather finally co-operated on the last Sunday before I flew to Los Angeles.  Meanwhile, I also got fitted out by X-Bionic from body to toe: the state-of-the-art Fennec® shirt and running pants, Spyker Patriot Edition Calf Compressors and the Marathon Socks!  I tried on the Fennec® shirt and running pants during my last run with Tee Lee and it felt like I was wearing an air-conditioner!  (More of the gear review next time!)

 The Fennec® Shirt & Running Pants (Top Left); Patriot Edition Calf Compressors (Bottom Left); Marathon Socks (Right)!

For logistics side, there were some challenges due to unforeseen circumstances, which left me with 2 support crew: Sam (logistics) and Cheryl (pacer).  I managed to get some positive responses after sending last minute emails as well as postings in the Badwater Facebook chat group.  Joe, whom I met in the Canadian Death Race a few years back, recommended his friend Stuart and Stephanie responded!  In addition, Stephanie also contacted Christina, an ultra runner based in Long Beach, California, who was keen to crew for a Badwater runner!  Stephanie helped to make a few calls in the USA to ensure all were in order, including the ordering and collection of car decal, renting of car and booking of accommodation.  I was back in business, just 1 1/2 weeks away from flying out for the race.  :)  Even then, I still had a few anxious moments when I learned that Christina was hospitalised for dehydration after her 268 miles run over 10 days, as well as Cheryl's flight cancellation due to Typhoon Rammasun striking Philippines.  Despite all these, Christina recovered in time and Cheryl even managed to arrive earlier than expected due to her direct flight from Narita to Los Angeles!  All went so smoothly that Team Ripley Runs eventually met up in LA on 17 Jul for their journey to Lone Pine!  Hip hip hurray!  :)

Back Row: Stuart and Sam!  Front Row: Christina, Stephanie and Cheryl!

17 Jul - This day was spent buying drink and food supply for the race.  It was also the day Team Ripley Runs drove from Los Angeles to Lone Pine in 2 different cars.  It was a very long day and we managed to arrive in Lone Pine only at around 9:00pm.  After checking-in, we went out and found a Chinese restaurant opened by a lady chef from Taiwan!  Sam and I couldn't resist trying the food and Sam managed to order beef soup noodle for all, which was not even available on the menu.  He also ordered a plate of steamed dumplings.  Christina as usual, was eating her home-packed salad, which was super ultra healthy.  :)

Supplies for Badwater (Top Left); Arrival @ Lone Pine (Bottom Left); Dinner Time (Right)!

18 Jul - It was recce day where we would drive the whole course.  This would give everyone a glimpse of what the whole course looked like.  Stuart had the honour of driving while I sat in the vehicle commander seat for a better view.  After a hearty breakfast, we embarked on our journey to Horseshoe Meadows.  The view on the way up was uneventful but once we reached the top and cast our eyes towards Lone Pine, the view was magnificent!  The climb looked manageable though, it was still a big climb from 3,700 feet to 9,900 feet!  We took a short break at the top to appreciate the scenery before driving the same way down to Lone Pine.  Then, we took Highway 136 towards the direction of Darwin.  At the small town of Keeler, we took a left turn towards the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town.  This section of the gravel road was rough and steep just as I calculated.  But I also knew that if I could make the cut-off here, I should be able to complete the race within 48 hours.  At the top of the mountain, there stood the old American Hotel as indicated in the event book!  The caretaker of the hotel brought us around and shared with us the history of Cerro Gordo.  It was an insightful visit.  After an hour or so, we made our way down, where the drive was even more exhilarating!  We continued towards Darwin before making a u-turn and back to Lone Pine.  Then, we drove up to Mount Whitney, the finishing.  The recce gave me a good view of what to expect during the race and I could work on the timings I needed at the various time stations in order to complete the race.  :)

On The Way Up Horseshoe Meadows!

 Way Up To Cerro Gordo (Top Left); At American Hotel (Bottom Left & Top Right); Way Down From Cerro Gordo (Bottom Right)!

Road To Darwin (Left); At Mount Whitney (Top Right); Cheryl's Getting Ready (Bottom Right)!

19 Jul - I didn't set any alarm for the day and was surprised to see the rest of the team at 10am.  Cheryl and I learnt that they managed the permit to summit Mount Whitney on Sunday.  Hmmm.  It seemed like a strange decision to summit Mount Whitney just a day prior to Badwater.  The same day where we needed to attend race briefing and crew training session.  I heard of people going to the summit after the race but not before.  Nevertheless, I had more important things to worry.  I told Cheryl, who had by then assumed the role of my Chief Crew, that she needed to be more assertive as Chief Crew as my success would depend on how she rallied and managed the team.  It was important for the team to go through the rules and regulations so that everyone would be on the same page.  Cheryl informed everyone and Team Ripley Runs decided to go for brunch to talk through the rules and regulations.  It was a fruitful session as we asked and clarified the rules among ourselves, while noting down the questions that needed clarification during the briefing.  After brunch, it was free and easy, and I worked on my split times required and nutritional needs while Cheryl started to prepare the stuff for the race.  I learned that Stephanie had decided not to join the rest as she wanted to be fresh for the briefing and race.  Stuart, Sam and Christina also agreed that they would set off at midnight and be back for the race check-in at 10:30am.   :)

Temperature @ Lone Pine (Top Left); Timing Targets (Bottom Left); Socialising (Right)!

20 Jul - Cheryl, Stephanie and I went for breakfast and met a race volunteer there.  It was a cool morning as it rained overnight.  By 10:15am, we decided to walk over to the School for the race check-in, instead of waiting for the rest.  There we met up with fellow runners from Singapore, Mr Lim Nghee Huat and Reuben Cheang.  They both looked relax!  We chatted a while while waiting for the commencement of race check-in.  Meanwhile, Christina called and told us that she and Sam had hitched a ride back to Lone Pine as Stuart was holding the car key and still on his way down from the summit.  Back in the School, Cheryl, Stephanie and I managed to submit all the various forms, as well as had our mandatory gear checked.  We then collected the race pack and went back to the hotel to put the stuff as it was still early for the race briefing at 1:30pm.  We also met up with Christina and Sam and heard their encounter with snow, lightning and hail storm.  Luckily, they were alright.  Christina apologised for taking such a big risk prior to Badwater and we were all good as long as no one was hurt.  :)  Stuart eventually arrived back in Lone Pine safely as well.  After resting, Team Ripley Runs attended the race briefing which was very useful.  Subsequently, I were on my own to prepare my race while the rest of the team prepared the vehicle and supplies.  Here we come - 2014 Badwater 135!

Breakfast with Cheryl & Stephanie (Top Left), The Badwater Participants from Singapore (Bottom Left); Race Check-In (Top Right); Team Ripley Runs Official Photo (Bottom Right)!

With Andre (Top Left); With Team Ripley Runs (Bottom Left); Race Volunteers (Top Right); 2014 Badwater Participants (Bottom Right)!

Team Ripley Runs Preparing The Support Vehicle & Supplies!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

HK168

I signed up for the HK168 (Hong Kong) weeks before I actually signed up for CM50 (Philippines).  I thought I would target this as my 3rd key race of the year after Rouge-Orleans 126.2 Miles and Craze Ultra 100 Miles.  (Yes, another 100 Miles race to hopefully add on to my race credentials).  But when the idea of running the Clark-Miyamit Falls presented itself, I couldn't help but go back to the Philippines where I had many beautiful memories.  And so, I arrived in Hong Kong barely recovered - both mentally and physically.  It didn't helped when I could only took an evening flight and arrived in Hong Kong at around 7pm.  It was another 2 hours plus before I arrived at the motel.  Luckily, Babumouse had helped me collected my race pack and he was kind enough to accompany me for a late night dinner.  It was almost 11pm when I was ready to rest.

HK168 Race (Top); Carbo-loading Dinner (Bottom Left); Race Pack (Bottom Right)

I woke up at 5am and had my banana and milo for breakfast.  I changed, brought my drop bags and left the motel at about 5:45am to get to the pick up point by cab.  (Babumouse was running the Half 168 so he was still sleeping when I left).  I reached the pick up point at around 6:10am but there was no one around.  I waited. By 6:20am, there were groups of different people gathering and buses soon came and went.  I reckoned this should be the pick up point.  Then runners started to arrive.  I met 3 other runners from Singapore.  We chatted and waited for the bus, which came at around 7:00am.  It was approximately 45mins drive to the start.  We arrived and hiked a short distance from the drop-off point to the starting point.  There, the area was clearly marked out where you could drop your drop bags.  I deposited my stuff to lessen my load.  I met Karin, whom I got to know when we did the shortened Taroko Gorge Marathon (half instead of full) a month earlier.  Seeing someone familiar calmed me down a bit.  :)  At 9:00am, the organiser flagged us (those doing the full HK168) off.  (Note: Flag-off for Half HK168 was on the same day, 12:00pm).

 Runners' Pick-Up Point (Top Left); Starting Point (The Rest)

Start to CP1 (新娘潭) - 11.5km (Total: 11.5km); 2:59hrs (Total 2:59hrs)
I started the race wearing a long-sleeve over a short-sleeve.  But once I started running, my core temperature warmed up nicely.  The first few kms was on road / pavement.  But I knew that was only the beginning as the course details given by the website had indicated that this section has a difficulty of 3 stars (3 being the most difficult while 1 being the easiest.)  Just before we entered the trailhead, I removed my long sleeve and stowed inside my hydration bag.  We started to climb up the mountain.  It was tough as the steps were big.  But I liked it as I was strong going up and I started passing people.  Since it was a long race, there was no need to exert myself too hard in the beginning.  I just let my momentum brought me one step at a time.  Whenever I find a nice gap, I would pass the runner in front, and all the while, using my quads power as I didn't like using poles.  About half an hour into the race, I felt it!  My legs were shaky and though I didn't feel out-of-breadth, I felt faintish.  This was bad.  I still had a long way to go!

 Singapore Runner (Top Left); The 2 Runners Whom I Leap-Frog (Top Right); The Mountain Trails in Hong Kong (Bottom)

I slowed down and whipped out my camera.  I started taking photos of runners ascending the mountain.  Some were happy to see me, while others were panting and possibly cursing and swearing inside their heart why I was snapping their unglam photos.  I let everyone passed before I continued.  From then, I told myself to enjoy the scenery, have fun, try my best and cover as many check-points as possible.  Up and down the mountain, I leap-frog with 2 other runners till they passed me for good.  I met many other hikers coming from the other directions.  All of them were encouraging and amazed that I was in a competition (though I was hiking like them).  By then, I was "running" by myself and couldn't even see anyone in front or behind.  The mountain had lots of steps.  Running was only possible when you descent from the peak before another hike up where the terrain was flatter.  In some areas the trails were quite smooth although some parts nearer the exit to CP1 had big stones across dried streams.  As my watch ticked closer to the 12:00pm cut-off time of 3 hours, I finally emerged from the mountain, crossed the road and arrived CP1 at 11:59am!  Just 1 minute before cut-off!

Smooth Trail (Left); Stony Path (Top Right); CP1 (Bottom Right)

CP1 to CP2 (荔枝窝) - 10km (Total: 21.5km); 1:41hr (Total: 4:40hrs)
I asked the volunteers if I could stop.  They urged me to carry on.  I pushed on knowing that the difficulty to CP2 was easy (given a 1 star by the race organiser).  Just as I was about to continue running, I kicked something and flew forward!  "Thud!"  Luckily, no one was around to witness my attempted flying act.  The rest of the section was fairly easy - no huge steps, no big climbs.  Just some rolling hills.  All I did was to follow the trail markers.  Some parts of the trails were under canopy while others were under the open sky where you could see the nearby mountain ranges.  Unfortunately, there was a missing marker at a critical junction.  I turned left and continued up some easy steps.  After 20mins, I couldn't see any marker and decided to u-turn back to the junction where I last saw the marker.  Back at the junction while searching for the marker, a group of hikers noticed me and pointed out the direction that I should be heading towards.  They probably saw other runners further up.  I thanked them and followed their advice and soon enough I reached the CP2 aid station!

 The Trail From CP1 to CP2 Was Fairly Easy

 Views From The Mountain and Beach

CP2 to CP3 (鹿颈) - 10.5km (Total: 32km); 1:54hr (Total: 6:34hrs)
There was only water at CP2.  :(  I left as soon as I topped up my water supply.  The difficulty of this section was harder than the previous section (given a 2 starts).  However, I felt it was just slightly more difficult.  In fact, the segment after leaving CP 2 was on pavement at sea level before a slight ascent and descent.  The segment just before CP 3 was also on pavement at sea level.  I met some hikers in the middle segment of the trail.  And while I was able to stay much ahead during the ascent, I was no match to their speed of descent!  They literally flew down the mountain!  The views on this segment was not as spectacular but nevertheless, I still got to see the city's skyscrapers from across the island, and cows feeding on grasses next to the pavement!  This segment took me slightly longer (1hr 54mins covering 10.5km as compared to 1hr 41mins covering 10km in the previous segment).  I was pleased with my consistently in running as slow as I did.  :p

 Inside The Trails

 The Views @ Sea Level (Left); CP3 Aid Station & Volunteers (Right)

CP3 to CP4 (鹤藪营地) - 12.5km (Total: 44.5km); 2:49hrs (9:23hrs)
There were many food to eat at CP3!  Instant noodles, biscuits, bread with peanut butter or nutella, Coke, water and bananas!  I should have stopped to eat a proper meal as the next segment was given a 3 stars in difficulty level.  But as I wanted to keep my momentum going, I ate only some biscuits and a banana.  The other reason was because nightfall was coming and I only had with me a smaller headlamp.  I needed to get back to CP4 as fast as possible to retrieve my bigger headlamp from the dropbag for the night segment.  It was not a smart decision and I paid the price for not refueling properly.  This could be seen from the buffer time that I gained from CP1 to CP2 (50mins to cut-off), to from CP2 to CP3 (55mins to cut-off), and to CP3 to CP4 (35mins to cut-off).  Basically, I ran low on energy to push myself.  :(  Overall, although there were ascents and descents, the climbs were not as bad as from the start to CP1 where we encountered huge steps, there were still more ascent and descent.  By the time I came down from the mountain, it was dark.  There were some stray dogs barking but I wasn't afraid of them.  I nearly got lost at a junction as I couldn't see any illuminated marker.  I wondered around for a while before I saw the marker on the lamp post at a distant.  I continued and came to the road - the same road that we took after we alight from the bus to the starting point.  Just before I turned into the park, I saw a few headlamps leaving the park.  I decided to stop for good after reaching CP4, despite having 35mins to spare before cut-off.

 The Trails and The Trail Condition from CP3 to CP4!

 Views From The Top Of The Mountains - The Other Mountain Ranges and The City Skyscrapers!

The Clearly Marked Trail (Left); Arrival @ CP4!

After Thoughts
I learnt something after every race, especially races that I DNF.  I was not proud to DNF any race.  No one likes DNF.  Neither do I.  I also knew I should not schedule back-to-back tough races.  But I guess sometimes, everything happened for a reason.  CM50 was a quick fix to get away from everything after my dad passed away.  I was grieving and I knew I would be very miserable if I were to stay home.  Nothing beats when you could be out there running, especially in the trails.  Yes, I could have gone to MR to run.  But the motivation wasn't there if I was in Singapore.  It was very hard to get myself out of the home to run in MR.  It wasn't very hard to get myself to travel overseas, knowing that I had paid for my race, flight, accommodation and meeting old friends.  But because of running in CM50, I was not fully recovered to attempt another tough race like HK168.  Would I do it again?  Yes, I would do HK168 again but of course I wouldn't do any tough races 2-3 weeks prior.  Otherwise, the lesson I learnt in this DNF would have been wasted.

I am at peace with this DNF and I would come prepared for this year's race, especially I knew exactly what to expect for the first 4 check-points if the route stays the same.  :)

Additional Note
Race info was extremely detailed, with difficulty of every segment indicated with 1, 2 or 3 stars difficulty.  Even info like ascent / descent, accumulated ascent / accumulated descent were given on the info sheet.  The type of food available at the various aid stations were listed together with the time the aid stations open and close.  Overall, this was an extremely well organised race (at least from Start to CP4 where I DNF).  It would be perfect if the marker could be more prominently displayed at critical junctions and big junctions.  Definitely a race that is worth running.  For the 2014 edition, the cut-off time is extended from 36 hours to 38 hours.  A plus point for slower runner like myself.  :)