Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014

I had always wanted to take part in the Penang Bridge Marathon.  In 2012, thinking that I might complete the Ozark Endurance 100 Miles race the week before, I signed up for the 10km race with 4 other friends.  Unfortunately, a sprained ankle during the race meant that it became more of a food trip instead of running trip.  A year later, I was so glad that the new bridge won't be ready but in a rush for work, I decided to leave the registration to that evening and it sold out when I got home from work.  :(  So in 2014, I decided to register for the race as soon as it opened for registration and worry about the flight and accommodation later.  (But with the numerous budget airlines flying to Penang, it would be difficult not to find one that suits your budget and time.  Accommodation in Penang was also affordable, given the exchange rate.)

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014!

A friend, Alan Tan, set up a Facebook Group Chat and we decided to rent an apartment instead for even more cost savings.  Per night accommodation worked out to about S$48/pax per night for 6 pax (or thereabout as I couldn't recall the exact amount paid).  Come race weekend, Alan and gang took an earlier morning flight and helped me to collect my race pack as I arrived in Penang in the late afternoon.  While at the airport, I bumped into Azhar who told me to take the public bus if I wanted to save money.  He was right!  Public bus from the airport to Queensbay Mall cost a mere RM2.00!  At Queensway Mall, I met up with Alan, Andy and Andy's mum for early dinner at Old Town White Coffee.  Then, we went shopping for drinks and bread for the next day's breakfast, before sharing a cab (which cost around RM15.00) to the apartment.

Early morning at around 12 midnight (the Men's race was scheduled to flag-off at 1:30am), instead of hiring a cab to bring us to the start, we hired the cab to bring us to Queensbay Mall.  This was because taking the cab to the starting line may entail us walking a longer distance while the official ferry service would drop off the runners right next to the starting line.  The queue at Queensbay Mall was chaotic at best.  There was no line as runners just gathered around the area.  When the first bus arrived, it stopped right in front of us and we happily boarded the bus (via the rear entrance).  The journey took about 20mins and we reached the starting line way ahead of the time.  We walked around waiting for time to pass.  As the starting time for the Women's race won't commence till 2:00am, I wondered if I should start the race with Alan and Andy, given that they were much faster runners and would be waiting for even a longer time if I start at my actual time.

Race Pack for Penang Marathon and At The Marathon Start Line!

At around 1:25am, the VIPs were ushered to the stage and and they let off a series of fire crackers.  But the fire crackers were tiny and small, with no impact whatsoever.  Nevertheless, it was the first time I saw fire crackers in a marathon in Asia so kudos to the race organiser for doing something unique.  At  1:30am sharp, the Men's Open Category was flagged off.  As I was in the starting line with them, I decided to took off.  A few minutes into the race a male runner commented that I should not have started the race when he ran past me.  I felt guilty but I could not stop as we had by then ran onto the bridge.  I tried to keep to the side of the road so that I didn't block any men.  Most of the men who ran past me also didn't notice my existence or ignoring me altogether.  This continued until 15mins after 2:00am where runners from the Women's Open Category zoomed past me on the other side of the bridge.  Slowly, more women overtook me, including all the fast runners from the Men's Veteran and Women's Veteran categories, which started at 2:00am.  Then I saw Karen Loh, Elaine Pang and Doris Teo.  They must be shocked to see me when they passed me.  :p

Lion Dance Performance!

After I was back running among the ladies,  I began to notice more of my surroundings.  But to be frank, there was nothing much to admire or look at because it was totally dark.  However, there was still some kind of support with some lion dance performances.  Even the nurses from St John Ambulance were clapping and encouraging us.  Other than that, it was truly a boring experience.  Luckily, I slept early enough or else, I might end up sleep-running.  Near the vehicle gantry at the end of the bridge, I thought it was time to make the u-turn.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  We had to run beyond the bridge and further, before making the long awaited u-turn.  I was glad when it finally happened.  Just past the same gantry (now on the other side of the road), some volunteers were holding a water hose and spraying water.  As I was not hot (since it was still early in the morning in the dark), I stayed away from getting wet.  The water stations (which were 5km apart) were at the same point on the bridge as the first half although most of them were not co-shared as the roads (for both directions) were not connected at most part.

 Somewhere Near The Vehicle Entry!

At around 10km from the finish, i.e. the 32km mark (around 5:30am), I saw some back-of-the-pack half marathoners (whose starting time ranged between 3:00am and 4:00am depending on which category they fell under) who were really struggling.  I was motivated to run well, and in even greater spirit as I could count down the last 10km and seeing the sky got brighter!  I also noticed that the bridge got more crowded as I caught up with more half-marathoners and at times I had to find my way around them.  The sky was bright around 6:45am.  A while later, I heard a voice calling out.  I slowed down and looked around where the sound came from and saw a familiar face waving at me!  Karen Loh was standing at the start of the 10km race which would be flagged off at 7:00am!  42.195km was apparently not long enough for her morning workout.  :p  I acknowledged her before focusing back on my task at hand which was to finish strong.  I picked up my pace towards the end although we had to make a little climb before exiting the bridge to the finishing which I completed in 5hrs 43mins.  It wasn't a fast time but I was glad that I ended the race strongly.

After the race, I went to pick up the finisher tee and medal.  I also took a few cups of iced-milo from the milo truck.  There were other food available and many runners were standing / sitting around the finishing line, eating, drinking and chatting.  I decided to take the ferry service back to Queensway Bay so that I could get back on time to wash up and check-out.  Luckily, the volunteers were able to point out the direction where the buses were although they were a distance away.  After a short queue, I boarded the bus and made my way back.  Overall, I was happy that I could strike off this race from my To-Do Marathon list but I realised my effort might not be rewarded with an official time as I didn't start at the allocated time.  I was right after the official results were released as I was DQed.  :(  I couldn't blame anyone except myself since I had chosen to start with my friends.  Would I do so again, definitely not.  But if the same situation happened, I might.  At the end of the day, what's more important to me was not to inconvenient friends whom I was sharing the accommodation.  If getting a result was what you aim, then make sure you and your friends understand the different start time may result in having to wait for a longer time especially if the faster runner starts earlier.

 Finishing Line Of The Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014!

Marathon Time Completion: 5hrs 13mins + 30mins - A Disqualification!

Course: Almost flat course on most part of the bridge less the section where one enters and exits the bridge.

Weather:  The weather was as humid as in Singapore although it was cooler as the race commenced in the dark.

Aid Station / Volunteer Support: Aid Stations were situated every 5km apart with water and sports drinks served.  However, the food choices were limited to bananas and gels.

Verdict: It was a very boring race as there was nothing to see along the course in the dark.  The different start time for the different categories was not the best way to segregate the faster runners from the slower runners.  There are definitely fast and slow runners in the Men's Open, as well as fast and slow runners in the Women's Open.  Being a Men or Women's Veteran doesn't mean they are definitely slower.  So the way the race organiser  flagged off the runners is flawed.  (I am assuming that the reason for such stagger timing is for the faster runner to start off first).  A better way would be for the runners to submit a race time (say limited to the past 1 year) so that faster runners could be grouped in the front and slower runners at the back.  6/10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Taiwan Marathons

I did 3 marathons in Taiwan in 2014 - (1) 信義鄉葡萄马拉松 Sinyi Grapes Marathon; (2) 艋盃马拉松 Monga Marathon; and (3) 阿公店盃马拉松 A Gong Dian Marathon.  Every race had its own uniqueness and these 3 marathons each has its own highlights.  I won't say if one race is better than the other but to share with you the highlights so you can decide for yourself if this is the race for you.  :)

信義鄉葡萄马拉松 Sinyi Grapes Marathon (5 Oct 2014)
The town (信義鄉) hosting the race was about 2-hour drive by car from Taipei.  Sam, who helped me to register all my 3 Taiwan Marathons, arranged his friend, 邵老师 to pick me up in Taipei City.  After meeting up with the rest of the runners in the town late afternoon, we went to a nearby restaurant for a carbo-loading dinner.  Dinner was great and we returned to the hotel for an early rest, especially for those who completed a marathon earlier that Saturday.

The hotel provided early breakfast for the marathon runners, which comprised of porridge, chinese-styled salad and some simple dishes.  But it was delicious, just like another carbo-loading session!  As there was limited parking space at the start point, we had to leave the hotel immediately after breakfast at around 5:30am for the 30mins drive to the start.  Luckily for us, the traffic police opened up more car park spaces in Schools, and other government agencies and we managed to find a parking lot just 1.5km from the start line.

Top Left: Carbo-Loading Session; The Rest: At The Start Prior to Start of Marathon!

The weather was really nice.  There was a mass warm-up exercise led by the locals.  At a corner of the starting line, we saw a group of volunteers busy barbequing potk!  And we could count that there was a lot of pork to be barbequed!  Sam told us that after the marathon, every runner would be given a set of food items, including some pork to fill our stomach.  After more photos and toilet breaks, we proceeded to the start and waited patiently for the organisers to flag us off, which they did so at 7:00am sharp.

Prior to the race, Sam prepared us about the race course.  From the start to the half-way point of the marathon, it would be hilly and undulating.  Thereafter, it would be mostly downhill.  The highlight of the race would be the running through the 6 local villages.  As I had not been training for a speedy marathon (which to me is a sub-5 marathon), I knew this would be a tough race although I should have no problem in meeting the cut-off of 6hrs 30mins.  True enough, after 2km, the hills would just come up upon you before leading you down again and the cycle went on and on.  I saw the front runners ran past me to enter the first village.

Before reaching the first village, there was a rather steep uphill - and so came the chance to take a walk break.  At the village entrance, children were excited to see us and put their hands out for a hi-fived!  This was also where the water station stationed.  After passing through the village, it was downhill and most runners, including me flew down it as fast as we could.  The pattern stayed the same for the other five villages: uphill to enter the village and after passing through the water station, downhill till we came to another uphill.  At the third village, I saw Sam and his friends power-walking the upslope.  I was not surprised.

True enough, by the time I passed though the six villages, where Sam said it would be downhill for a few kilometers, I was unable to run down fast as my quads were totally trashed.  Sam and his friends flew passed me one by one. In fact, Sam flew past me so fast that he almost tripped over a pothole!  That was around the 34km mark.  I decided to take it easy as my knees were hurting.  A check on my watch confirmed that I was ahead of the 6hrs 30mins cut-off.  At the 40km mark, I took a cup and filled it up with grapes.  Then I ate and enjoy the last 2km walking and jogging to complete the race in just a few minutes after the 6 hours mark.

At the finishing line, we were able to get a our Finisher Certificate printed on the spot, as well as collecting our lunch entitlement, which include the barbequed pork and bamboo rice.  Overall, I enjoyed the run as I was able to get close-up and personal with the locals, which I would never had the chance of meeting even if I signed up a tour package as that was not the typical touristy place of interest where tour agencies would recommend.  Not a must-do race but certainly an interesting race where you can see the other part of Taiwan and the beauty of its people.

Course: Hilly and undulating terrain.

Weather: Nice, cool and not humid.

Aid Station / Volunteer Support: While water and food choices were limited, they never ran out of them! There were also many locals supporting and cheering us.  Excellent!

Verdict: If I had been traveling alone and making my own arrangement from Taipei to the town, and to/back from the race, it would have been very tough.  This was due to the small race setup and the town was not accessible via public transport (even though there was a train station next to the hotel we stayed). 7/10

Running Through The First Village!

Running Through 久美 Village!

Supporters and Performers from Two Other Villages (Left and Right)!

Top: Bamboo Rice; Bottom Left: Pork; Bottom Right: Beef Noodle (Bought)!

盃马拉松 Monga Marathon (26 Oct 2014)
This marathon was held in the Taipei City and was organised by a good friend of Sam - 宝哥, whom I got to meet after the aborted Taroko Marathon in 2013.  (宝哥 was also the one who arranged the Ping Tung Marathon in Nov 2013 too.)  Although I couldn't say I knew 宝哥 long enough, I knew it would be a well-organised race.  The race was held within the 華中河濱公園 - something like our Park Connector.  Sam and Nancy chose the nearest hotel which was across the other side of the bridge, about 30mins walking.

On race day, we checked-out from the hotel and lugged our luggage to the race start.  There, I handed over my "over-sized" luggage to the volunteer who placed it nicely according the bib numbers.  Sam and Nancy introduced me to their friends, a few of them either ran very fast or ran a lot of marathons (mostly completed 100, 200 or even 300 marathons).  Most of them were marathon maniacs who could run double marathons (one on Saturday followed by another one on Sunday) or multi-day marathons.  I was very impressed and yet intimidated by their achievement.

At The Start Of The Monga Marathon (盃马拉松)!

The race organisers flagged us off at 6am sharp.  This was a 2-loop course in a figure-of-8: comprising of a shorter 9km small loop and a longer 12km out-and-back loop.  The morning air was cool but I felt humid.  As the path was not wide, it got a little congested at the beginning of the race.  But soon, after 3~4 km later, the crowd started to disperse and we even see the top runners ran past us.  Since this being a 2-loop course, I decided to concentrate on running the first loop and taking photos for the second loop.  The course was pancake flat with 3~4 insignificant slopes.  The first water station (also serving runners going back to complete the small loop) came at around 3km and the second one came next after 5km.  After completing the small loop, we ran past the starting point and proceed to do the longer out-and-back loop which had 3 water stations (serving runners in both directions).

I usually had a cold start and this marathon was no different.  During the second loop, I stopped at every water stations to snap photos.  I also noticed they served fruits that I never seen before, like salted eggs, limes, 豆干, pomegranate, etc.  Just before completing the small loop the second time, I caught up with Nancy - which was a surprise because Nancy was a stronger runner than me.  Just before the u-turn point for the out-and-back loop, I was even more surprised to pass Sam.  Perhaps their exertion in yesterday's marathon took a toll.  Or perhaps they wanna run/walk with their friends and have fun.  I told myself since I was younger and fresher than them, I better run faster.  With some determination, even with the weather getting hotter, I managed to psycho and push myself to run all the way, only stopping at water points for a quick sip of water, before completing the marathon in 5hrs 29mins gun time (5hrs 26mins nett time).

 Food and Fruits Served At The Water Stations!  My Taiwanese friend, RD and Me!

With the marathon done, the next part of the event was a huge surprise!  At least to me!  Runners were grouped in table of 10s and served with a 10-course lunch!  Beers were also served freely and everyone were either busy enjoying the sumptuous food or happily cheering everyone with free beer.  It was certainly something very different from the rest of the marathons I ever completed.  I could replenish my body with food almost immediately after the run which would aid my recovery process.  This is one race that I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoy running a marathon and feasting after the hard effort!  :)

Literally Like Attending A Wedding Dinner - 6 Of The 10 Dishes!

Hungry Runners Feasting (Top Left); Rest of the 4 Dishes!

Course: 2 loops of rolling terrain but otherwise 99% pan-cake flat course.

Weather: Cool in the early morning but hot when the sun rises.

Aid Station / Volunteer Support: Plenty of water and sports drinks.  Food choices were plentiful and you better watch your time spent at each aid station.  There were also volunteers on mobile bike replenishing aid stations with ice.  The mobile bike also stopped to ask any runners who needed ice.  However, there was little support from the public as the run was held in a park

Verdict: The race was held in the city of Taipei so traveling to and from the race start/finish was fairly simple, even for a tourist.  Although the race commenced at 6am, the sun was out in full-force by 9am.  However, never miss the highlight of the race: a 10-course lunch (FOC for the runners) held after the race!  9/10

阿公店盃马拉松 A Gong Dian Marathon (14 Dec 2014)
This race was held somewhere near Kaohsiung (高雄) City.  To reach Kaohsiung, you need to take the high speed rail from Taipei Station (near airport) and the whole journey took about 1hr 40mins with 5 stops along the entire journey.  Once you reach Kaohsiung City (左营站), you need to change to their local MTR system (about 9 stops) before taking a cab (about 20-25mins journey) to nearby hotels.  I decided to take part in this marathon because I was fascinated by the uniqueness of the marathon name.  I thought the shop at the marathon location was called A Gong (Grandpa).  Turn out I was wrong.  The name A Gong Dian (阿公店) is truly the name of a local place in Kaohsiung.  In fact, the dam near the location was named A Gong Dian Dam.  After reaching at our hotel, we went for a quick dinner before returning for an early rest.

The weather at Kaohsiung was warmer than Taipei as it was further south, which was cooler as compared to Singapore's weather.  But of course, no matter what, weather in Taiwan would never be cold enough for me.  Still, it felt cool early in the morning before the sun rise.  Sam, 邵老师, 宝哥, Bayson and me squeezed into a taxi who drove us to the stadium about 10mins drive away.  Once we arrived outside the stadium, we went to the bag deposit area.  Sam and Bayson found it too cold for their liking and decided to delay the depositing of the bag until 5mins before flag-off!  I enjoyed the light breeze blowing across the stadium, which was the end point of the marathon.  At 6:25am, both of them knew they had to deposit their bags.  Once done, we quickly made our way to the starting line.  We reached just in time for the organizer to flag us off at 6:30am.

 At The Start And Just After Starting!

The race took us around the city for 3km before we enter their military air force school!  Although there were signages that forbid us for taking photos, runners did not take heed.  Me included!  Being in the military air force camp, there was nothing much to see except that the camp was pretty big with a huge field.  The aid stations were about 3-4km apart serving a variety of food.  In total we ran about 8-9km inside the camp compound before exiting back to the city.  There, we ran till the 14km mark before the half-marathoners made a right turn to go back to the start while full-marathoners ran across a small bridge before turning left.  With the half-marathoners gone, the run felt more lonely.  Along the bridge, the breeze suddenly got very strong, before dying down when I reached the end of the ramp.  At the 17km mark, I saw a runner on his way back!

 R.O.C. Air Force Academy!

From then on, it became a rather mental race as there was nothing much to see except for the occasional fishing ponds and cheering by the locals.  The other highlight was the entry into a power plant station just after the 23km mark.  It was supposed to be the biggest power plant in Taiwan using coal to produce power (or I could be wrong).  We ran slightly more than 2km within the power plant (which showed how big it was) before exiting from the other entrance.  After that, I slowly plodded along till I caught up with 邵老师 and his group of friends, who were walking, at the 30km mark.  A couple of photos later, I excused myself as I wanted to continue running.  Further up, I managed to latch on a group of middle age uncles until we came to the slope after the half-marathoners left us earlier that morning.  Then, I could finally overtake them.

 Local Support (Top);  It's A Lonely Run (Bottom Left); Power Plant Entrance (Bottom Left)

It was less than 8km to the finish point after the bridge.  I managed to maintain my pace although I saw 邵老师 and his friends not far behind (after yet another u-turn).  The sun was out by then and it was rather warm.  Luckily, the water stations were still at regular 3-4km apart.  Just after the 40km mark, I heard something like the sound of firecrackers exploding from the direction of the stadium!  I looked at my watch which showed that I just ran 5hrs 30mins.  Surely that was not the cut-off time as I recalled Sam told me the cut-off time was 6hrs 30mins.  I panic a little and decided to pick up my pace and ran towards the stadium, which I crossed at a time of 5hrs 40mins (gun time).  Luckily, the cut-off time was really 6hrs 30mins.  So I was not sure what the firecracker was about.  Perhaps it didn't come from inside the stadium after all.  :)

I went for a quick bath at the tentage nearby provided by the race organiser instead of walking over to the stadium for a hot shower.  Then, I met up with the rest of the gang and went to redeem our food item.  Yes.  Most marathons in Taiwan provide food for their runners after the run.  For this marathon, runners can choose between vegetarian, mutton, 風目魚 (a type of fish) and 石班魚 (another type of fish).  I got myself a mutton beehoon soup and gobbled down the delicious meal before following my friends to catch a train back.

For this marathon, I noticed quite a few runners who cross-dressed as ladies and they were not shy to pose a picture for you.  In fact, most of them could run fairly fast and even when they ran at the back, they ran effortlessly, probably to encourage the back-of-the-pack runners.  Also, there were quite a few runners who use this marathon to qualify for their 100-marathons, 200-marathons and 300-marathons achievement!  It was inspiring and very intimidating.  I couldn't see myself completing 200 marathons in my lifetime, let alone 300.  I will continue to dream towards my 100-marathon achievement so kudos to them.

The Cross-Dressed Guys (all photos less Bottom Right); Mutton Beehoon Soup (Bottom Right)!

Course: Loop course and about 99% flat.

Weather: Cool and breezy in the early morning.  Not as humid unlike running in Taipei.  However, once the sun is out, could get warm.

Aid Station / Volunteer Support: Aid Stations were about 3-4km apart and serve with enough water and sports drink for the slower runners.  Food choices were pretty standard: banana, water melon, biscuits, although they have macarons.  One unique thing you will see in this race was the cross-dressing of male runners wearing beautiful or sexy ladies outfit.

Verdict: The race was held near the city of Kaohsiung so one needs to factor time to travel to and from Taipei for overseas runners since most international flight to Taiwan is through Taipei Taoyuan International Airport.  The food provided at the end was delicious although not as sumptuous as the Monga Marathon in Taipei.  8/10

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Craze Ultra 100 Miles - A Bridge Too Far?

Here I was again, on the evening of 19 Sep at MacRitchie Reservoir, to collect my race bib for Craze Ultra which would happen the next day.  It would be my 3rd attempt at that distance and hopefully I would be third time lucky.  But most time in ultramarathon races, the distance to cover was so long that any miscalculation or unfortunate turn of events, would result in a DNF.  I knew what I had to do: drop off my fuel, hydration and gear requirement at MR where the race organiser would assist us to drop them off at the various drop bag locations, eat a nice dinner and sleep early.  Easy plan which I executed to perfection.

The Various Nuts Level - Depending On Which Distances You Signed Up!

The Various Drop Bag Locations Provided By The Race Organiser!

The Four Musketeers of Running Guild!

When I woke up in the morning, I was feeling not so good.  A trip to the toilet confirmed my worst fear - the dreaded first day of period.  I had previously done a 24-hour run back in 2007 (running the 12-hour MR25 Ultramarathon before running to Bedok Reservoir and clocked till the next day 7am for a total of 24-hour run) so I should be able to deal with it.  But while rushing to get ready to leave home, I had only taken 2 additional pads for changing.  Kind of ridiculous if you were to ask me now why did I do so.  I swung by Elise's place to pick her up.  Elise had agreed to pace me for the fist 12km to CP1 and so would start off from MR with me.  When we reached MR, I saw many other familiar faces, including Karin, a runner from Shen Zhen whom I first met in last year's aborted Taroko Marathon.  At 7:00am, Ben flagged off runners from the 1st wave promptly and at 7:03am, I embarked on the Craze Ultra 100 Miles journey for the 3rd time under the 2nd wave start.

 Karin and Me!

It was easy when you have someone to run with.  At least for me, having someone to chat with to take away the boredom of running solo in Singapore.  I just listened to what Elisa talked about, and occasionally replying to her.  I also confided in her about my mensus problem and that I might need her to meet me somewhere later in the night.  She was really supportive and the time really flew past fast.  I reached the CP1 along Mandai Road at around the same time I did last year - 1hr 43mins thereabout.  I thanked Elise, grabbed what I needed and continued my run.  There were some slight changes towards CP2 at Woodlands and I thought the distance was longer.  Nothing could be done as the diverted pavement was the shortest path across the highway.  It was still early in the race and I was feeling not too bad.  However, the weather was getting hot and my speed slowed.  It was getting uncomfortable but nothing I couldn't handle at that moment.  In an ultra, sometimes you just had to deal with the problem as you moved along.  Before I even reached CP2, I already met a runner doing the 43km, on his way back.  That was kind of demoralising.  But all the sadness and worries were gone as soon as I reached CP2 after 3hrs 39mins, when I saw the enthusiastic volunteers and fellow runners at the check-point.  I did a quick refuel as I knew I was off my target pace.

Elise and me at CP1 Along Mandai Road!

Was Always Happy to Say Hi to Volunteers and Fellow Runners!

Halfway on my way to CP3, I felt bloated and nausea.  Then, at one of the traffic light crossing, I vomited what I had eaten earlier at CP2.  There was a group of runners who were crossing the traffic lights at the same time and the group of guys stopped and helped me.  One of them offered a sweet and another some water.  I thanked them and told them I was okie.  Deep down, I knew I had probably drunk too much sports drink while eating the gel.  This, together with my period cramps had upset my stomach even further.  I quickly drank up some plain water and looked out for any convenient store nearby to get some Red Bull, which would give me instant energy boost.  I was in luck as we ran past some MRT stations.  I bought 2 Red Bull and kept one for emergency, just in case I bonked again.  After drinking up, I felt like a red bull ready to charge ahead. :)  I reached CP3 feeling better than earlier.  This year's CP3 was a little further (about 300m) up, which I managed to reach after 5hrs 29mins of running.  This was more than 1 hour as compared to last year.

Knowing how slow I was really affected me.  But I was not done yet.  I met 2 young men power-walking and decided to keep pace with them.  One of them asked if I was still working in the same office!  Turn out that he was an ex-PTI, doing his first ultramarathon with his friend.  I was really grateful for their presence and I managed keep pace with them and reached CP4 in approximately 1hr 30mins, after 6hrs 58mins of running, which means while I didn't make up lost time, I didn't slow down further.  From there to CP 5/6 was a very long march as there was little scenery until you entered the Punggol Promenade.  By then, the weather was quite hot but still bearable as I was wearing the X-Bionic Fenac running gear.  I eventually reached the CP but was way off my target.  Charlotte, who was volunteering there, handed me something I needed - thanked to a resourceful Elise!  I quickly changed up before going for the 15km loop.  I was hungry but the food on offer didn't satisfy my taste bud.  Luckily, an old friend Jennifer was around on a bike and managed to get me some meshed potatoes.

When I reached back CP 5/6, it was getting dark (approximately at 19:02 after 12hrs 2mins of running).  I didn't dare waste too much time there as I was too slow (even if I had made up my mind I would probably stop at the 50-mile mark).  I jogged and walked to CP7 at Pasir Ris and by then, saw quite a few 100-miler runners on their way back to CP5/6.  At CP7, I stopped to refuel a little before embarking on the next segment of the race, 10km to the u-turn.  I was tired and sleepy, and no mood to jog, let alone run.  Along Loyang, I had forgotten if I were to keep going straight or turn left towards the camp site.  I text the race organiser.  But by the time I received the message to go straight, I was more than halfway through the wrong way!  Even then, I saw a fellow runner on his way back the same (wrong) way back to CP7.  He assured me I was on the right way.  Just after the Changi Village, I noticed the sky was turning greyish and managed to quicken my pace.  I eventually reached the 50-mile u-turn point at 23:05pm after 16hrs 5mins on the road.

Left: At CP3.  Top Right: At CP4 with 2 Young Men Doing Their 1st Ultra! Bottom Right: Thunder Storm at CP8 U-Turn Point!

As soon as I made my decision to stop at the u-turn point, the rain bombed down the area (and lasted for almost an hour), as though disagreeing to my decision to stop for good!  But I knew I could never have gone ahead in that kind of weather.  Even if I had, I would be feeling horrible - for the ladies, you would know why.  While I took no delight in giving an easy excuse to chicken out of a race, it was still a good race as I took it as a training session for the bigger scheme of things.  I had vowed that I would only try running a race for a maximum of three tries.  If I still failed by the 3rd time, I might be better off doing another race.  Craze Ultra was really not a difficult race but it was the convenient of stopping, knowing that your home would be just a stop away that made it difficult, as compared to other races, especially those overseas races where you had little local knowledge.  Would I try again in 2015?  Perhaps.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  I still got time to really thing about it.  Meanwhile, I need to prepare for the next race!  :p

Trapped with the Friendly Volunteers @ CP8 after the Rain Bombed Down!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 CCC® (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix)

This was the first time I was attempting the CCC®.  The race is one of five races under the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) series ending in Chamonix, France.  Balloting for the event started back in end December 2013, though before balloting, you have completed enough races with sufficient points to qualify for the race.  For CCC®, I needed 2 points which I had already achieved.  In fact, I had enough points for UTMB but as I was also attempting to register for Badwater 2014, I decided to plan as though I would be selected for Badwater 2014 and completed it.  Hence, I would not have sufficient time to recover to attempt the UTMB, a 168km race around mountain passes and only 5 weeks after the Badwater race.  In fact, I wasn't sure if I would recover in time to do CCC® but decided to give it a go to see I was lucky enough to get picked.

UTMB (168km), CCC (101km), TDS (119km), PTL (300km), and OCC (53km)!

Fast forward to Aug 2014, I was selected for both Badwater 2014 (and completed it) and CCC® 2014.  :)  Lucky me (or unlucky me, depending on how you see it).  My hands were also itchy enough to sign up for the Bedok Reservoir Ultramarathon, which I wanted to use it as a "recovery" walk (but pushed myself too hard to run it).  So I arrived in Chamonix, mentally tired.  Luckily, I would be joining a group of like-minded crazy friends who had signed up for different races.  Wee was the Chief-In-Crime, who was so fast and efficient in booking an apartment, which is a must when doing the UTMB races.  (In fact, some runners even pre-booked the rooms a year in advance before they know if they were selected for the race!)  The rest of the guys were ever so accommodating so Tiffany and I got a room for ourselves while they fight it out among themselves to "ration" who to sleep on the remaining bed, the couch and the floor.  Race expo was a great shopping heaven and I ended up poorer and a heavier luggage stuffed with new trekking poles, food and headlamp.  Arriving 2 days in advance also gave us more time to relax, to fuel and to prepare properly for the race.

Kee Seng Resting on the Couch (L); With Fernanda Maciel at the Expo (C); UTMB Chocolate (R)

Early morning, Tiffany and I woke up to catch the shuttle bus to the start point at Courmayeur, Italy.  The CCC® was effectively, the 2nd half of UTMB (plus another 10~12km or so at the start around the Courmayeur area) and 101km in distance.  If I could complete the CCC® within the cut-off time of 26 hours, I would have some chance to complete UTMB in future.  So that was my plan.  The bus ride to the start was uneventful though we had the chance to admire some scenery.  The bus drop-off was about 1km away so we had to lug our drop-bag for the same distance.  Luckily, the drop-bag collection point was just next to the starting point.  After dropping off our stuff, I waited for Tiffany while she queue for the porta-potties.  An official then signaled to me that he wanted to check my race stuff.  I showed him the items that he asked for until I couldn't find my spare headlamp and batteries!  Oh gosh.  I told him that I must have left it in my drop-bag.  He allowed me to retrieve it which I managed to do so with ease.  (This showed how efficient their system and the volunteers were).  After the inspection, which shook me up a little, Tiffany and I walked into the starting pent and we were flagged off 10mins after the first wave.

Getting Ready For The CCC®!!!

The Profile of CCC® - 6 Significant Mountains!!!

There was a festive atmosphere at the start as many supporters and locals were out in full force, clapping their hands, shouting words of encouragement and making music with bells, instruments or whatever they could find.  The early part of the race were on cement ground so I ran as much as I could.  But soon, the slope became steeper and I had to adopt a walk/run strategy.  The first climb of the race came soon after though it was manageable.  The trail was very crowded but not until you had no room to run/walk.  Though I was just plodding along, I had no chance to admire the scenery until when we reached the steepest part of the mountain.  It was a huge mistake to look up to see where the top of the mountain was.  :(  While my legs could go on and on, my heart rate was going too fast and I was out of breadth.  I decided to stop, ate a gel, took some photos, before I continued.  Even when I was slow, I always managed to pass people on the way up.  This time was no exception although the number of people I passed was just a few.  I decided to climb 50 steps and stopped to catch my breadth.  This strategy allowed me to focus on what I could achieve rather than the feeling of being tired.  I reached CP1 at Refuge Bertone after 4hrs 1min of running 15km.

First Major Climb - Look At The Beautiful Mountains In The Background!

One thing great about running in a trail race was that there was no distance marker every km or miles.  I just aimed for the next check-point, which in this case, was 7km away at Refuge Bonatti.  This section of the race was totally flat and I enjoyed chasing the runners in front of me.  I managed to reach CP2 at Refuge Bonatti after covering the flattish 7km 1hr 27mins.  I rested for a couple of minutes before pushing on for the next segment.  The distance to Arnuva was a short 5km.  The first section of the 5km route was a slight uphill before a steep downhill in the last 2km (or more).  I struggled to keep pace with the runners in front of me but as it was still early in the race, there were plenty of other runners in front and behind me.  I would not need to worry about loosing contact with the runner in front and got lost.  I managed to reach CP3 at Arnuva in 1hr 1min even if it was only 5km.  I was pleased that I managed to somewhat maintain the pace.  I decided to fuel myself properly as the next segment would be a tough climb with a distance of 14km!  In all, I rested 8mins at the tent before setting off.

The First Big Aid Station @ Arnuva Where Many Runners Refueled!

It Was About 3:41pm At Arnuva!

I was right about the fueling myself properly before I set off.  The climb immediately after leaving CP3 was a steep climb of about 4km straight up the mountain Grand col Ferret.  The climb was relentless.  Then, it started to drizzle.  I didn't really give much thought about it as I felt good.  But after about 20 or so minutes, I decided to stop and put on my rain jacket.  This was something I should have done earlier even though I was not cold as it was never a good idea to allow yourself getting wet up in the mountain.  You might feel okie in the beginning but as the night fall and weather get chilly, you might end up feeling very cold.  Just like the saying "drink before we get thirsty", we need to keep warm before we get cold.  Unfortunately, the mistake was done and I could only push on.  I reached the top of Grand col Ferret after 1hr 39mins of climbing.  From there to the next CP was all downhill, something most runners would relish but not me as I was poor.  While the drizzle had stopped, the weather remained cold.  With some part of the terrain muddy and slippery, my speed slowed.  In fact, I fell twice but luckily for me, no big damage. :)  It took me 3hrs 45mins for the 14km to reach La Fouly.  I spent some time (9mins) to have more hot soup as the next CP was 14km away.

This section was approximately 2/3 downhill followed by 1/3 uphill but surprisingly, I didn't fall on the downhill portion.  By then the trail was relatively empty as the fast runners were long gone.  Once in a while someone would ran past me but when I reached the uphill segment, I overtook some of them.  Unfortunately, I also fell while trekking uphill!  Twice!  As my right shoe got stuck by the roots while I tried to lift my foot up the hill.   Luckily, I fell forward and ended up knocking my knee against the ground.  :(  The great thing about running / trekking at night was you could only see where your headlamp could shine - how high to climb or how far the route was in front of you.  But the run felt like forever.  I was elated to the Champex-Lac CP at 23:01pm after 3hrs 18mns and 14km.  The tent was warm and this being the midway point and a major rest point, many runners took the opportunity to refuel and rest.  I tried looking for my drop bag but couldn't find.  I asked the volunteers but they didn't know what I was talking about.  I looked around me and noticed that none of the runners had any drop bag with them which was strange.  The only explanation was there was no drop bag at Champex-Lac at all.  This really screwed me up as my socks were wet and my running shoes had a big hole on top.  There was still time before the cut-off time at 23:30pm but I didn't think I could complete another 45km in the current shoes.  And so, I trudged unwillingly to the race official to pull myself out of the race.  :(

The State Of My Mizuno Ascend Trail Shoes After Covering 56km!

I had committed a few unforgivable school kid errors for this race by not reading through the race booklet and assuming that the drop bag given to us would be deposited at the halfway point of the race.  Because of that, I didn't pack enough dry clothing and socks with me.  This resulted in me not being able to change to a dry set of clothing when needed.  And if I had known there was no drop bag, I would not have drop my 2nd pair of running shoes in the drop bag and wearing my going-to-be-retired shoes.  I would have worn a pair of shoes that could last me the entire 101km.  Luckily for me, the surprised check done at the start of the race by the official meant that I had 2 full sets of headlamp with spare batteries, although by then, I was more in need of a recharge at Champex-Lac than my headlamp.  As I limped out of the tent to catch the shuttle bus back to Chamonix, I cursed at my stupidity and vowed to be back to Chamonix to complete the CCC®!

 The Overall Timing Statistics Of Yet Another DNF!

The Overall Graphics From Start to Champex-Lac

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!