Saturday, October 4, 2008

North Face 100 Challenge

Woke up very early this morning as I would be following thelonelyrunner to MacRitchie Reservoir for the North Face 100 ultra running race. No, me not going there to run the North Face 100 but to take photos. :p I took a bus to thelonelyrunner's place. During the journey, thelonelyrunner said I could make use of his car to drive around the race route so that I could take photos of the race and also to keep Fd company. This was a big surprised as most of my friends would not care to lend me drive their cars as I owned no car and hence my driving experience was limited. In fact, I clocked most of my mileage while travelling overseas in Canada, United States and Australia. I was very grateful to thelonelyrunner who trusted me to take care of his car. [Thanks, TLR!!!]

We reached MR just before 7am. The sky was getting brighter but the little carpark was almost filled. We were lucky to find a parking lot. Once out of the car, I started snapping photos of runners taking among themselves or preparing their race gears. Some were chatting happily while few looked nervous. Met Piglet, Tao, Edwinchiam, at the carpark too. We walked to the race start point near the zig-zag bridge. Once there, saw many other runners and SGRunners like Cheow12, ...Kk..., Bug, Realrunner, Ultraman, Fennel, Moon, Alan98, PeaCeFoOl, etc... Soon, more SGRunners supporters showed up, like PassionRunner, SassyRunner, terry, Spencer256, etc. I also spotter DreamRunner and DO who were wearing the volunteer tee with the word "LEAD" printed on it. And we were told that there's another volunteer wearing a tee with the word "TAIL" and she would be covering the rear of the pack. :)

The race started at 8am sharp. Weather was rather warm. I told Fd that I need to quickly move on to the trail. My aim was to station myself 0.5km inside MR so that I could make use of the bench to put my backpack while setting up my tripod and camera. It was a long walk! About 1.5km long from the race start! By the time I reached the bench, I was perspiring as though I just completed running 1.5km! Soon, Fd called to inform me that the race leaders just ran into the MR trail. I quickly took some pictures of the surrounding to confirm the lighting. :( It was not ideal due to the limited light shining through the thick vegetation. I feared for the worse as taking runners zooming past in low light was really not easy even if I had an attached flash light. Couldn't remember who was the race leader but I spent about 25 minutes shooting the race leaders to the sweeper, the runner wearing the "TAIL" tee. :p

After the last runner ran past me inside MR's trail, Fd and I took a slow walk out to the MR carpark. It was a nice walk. I liked the tranquility afforded sometimes in the quiet trail although occasionally one could be interrupted by running footsteps and singing birds. Once we reached the MR carpark, we saw PassionRunner and the rest of the support team busy transferring stores. They are going to the Rifle Range Road to setup shop. Wished them all the best and that we would keep in touch. Fd and I then pondered and pondered if we should take the car or the cab. I was worried that there may not be any parking lots once we were back. But at the same time, I didn't fancy lugging my tripod and my almost 3kg backpack containing my various lens and camera body. After some deliberation, we decided that we should make full use of the car. :p I examined the race route but couldn't quite make out where would be an ideal place to position ourselves. "Perhaps we should go to the Bukit Timah Hill near the Visitor Centre?", I asked Fd. She agreed. :) We stopped by King Albert's Park MacDonald to get some breakfast. While waiting to make a u-turn along Bukit Timah Road, I decided that stopping at Bukit Timah Hill might not be a good idea judging by the time and distance from the race start. Instead, Fd helped to check out the location where CP 3, 4 and 5 was situated - somewhere near Bukit Panjang. Once we confirmed the location, we made our way there. It was not hard to locate. Once I parked the car, I rushed off to the CP. It was situated underneath a bridge (or was it a flyover?) and was sheltered from the sun and rain.

CP 3, 4 and 5 was really a great place where one could take many photos. I saw many runners coming into the CP, looking tired but relieved that they could top-up their hydration pack. Most of them would wave at me and I obliged by taking their photos. Lighting condition underneath the bridge was not good so I moved myself towards the edge of the bridge/flyover, nearer the vegetation farm. The first few runners I saw were thelonelyrunner, teelee, nutty_sin26, etc. I also saw my Navy friend, Cheng Yin who formed a team with Grace aka nutty_sin26. By then, the fast runners were slightly ahead and the slow one were much further back so I was able to take my time. However, I was faced with another challenge: my very heavy zoom lens weighing 1470g was giving problem to my back!!! Just before 12 noon, I moved from the vegetation farm towards the path next to HDB flats where runners had to come into the CP for a 2nd loop. The sky threatened to cry but only for a short while and I was glad. Otherwise, I would have to close shop and return to MR. By 1pm, I told Fd that we should make our way back or else, we may miss catching thelonelyrunner crossing the finishing line. By the time we reached MR, it was 1:40pm.

I was worried that I would miss taking the first male and female runner crossing the finishing line. And I was right when I saw Lai Chee walking towards the MR toilet to wash up. She finished for quite a while and requested that I only take her picture after she had washed up. :p Haha - didn't know she was vain as well. :p I quickened my steps as I did not wish to miss anymore runners crossing the finishing line. Once I reached the finishing line, I went straight down to business. There wasn't much action until when we reached 2:30pm and 4pm, where the race would officially end, after 8 hours from race start. Especially between 3:30pm to 3:59pm, all of us at the finishing line (runners who completed, supporters, volunteers) were all very nervous and kanchiong while the clock ticked away. Somehow, I felt that the time was ticking much faster than normal! And some of the supporters would message each other to update which runner was coming out from the trail. The last runner who officially crossed the finishing line did so after running for 7 hours 59 minutes! Wow! There were some disappointed runners who just failed to make the cut-off time of 8 hours while the unofficial last runner actually completed the race approximately around 6pm, after running for almost 10 hours!!! Must really give it to them for their will and determination!!! I had a great time capturing the various emotions of the runners from joy to struggle to elation. Whether or not they complete it within the official cut-off time, these runners would always had my utmost respect. :)

No comments: