Monday, March 28, 2011

Twilight Ultra Challenge - Fear No Twilight!

This was my 3rd race of the year and possibly my only one that I had no pressure.  Runner could choose to run whatever distance he/she likes, using the full 16 hours or less.  :)  However, I did have some targets of my own.  This was as part of my preparation for Comrades Marathon in May, the Sundown Ultramarathon in Jun and the Canadian Death Race in Jul.  My first target was to complete 125km within the 16 hours.  This was because the Canadian Death Race had a cut-off time of 24 hours and I reckoned that if I could complete 125km in 16 hours on road, then my chances of success for CDR would be high.  If this was not achievable, I would downgrade my next target to completing 100km instead.  Again, this target was worked out based on the cut-off time of 16 hours for the Sundown Ultramarathon 100km in Jun.  But if I was still unable to achieve these 2 targets, minimally I must complete at least 90km since the cut-off for this year's Comrades Marathon was 12 hours, covering 86.93km for the up run.  But plans are plans, and sometimes, things just won't go as planned, especially when you are attempting to run an ultramarathon distance.

I reached ECP at around 4pm.  After checking-in and gotten my bib number, I deposited both my personal bag and my special-need bag.  There were so many familiar faces.  Some runners, some volunteers.  I took photos and tried to look relax.  It helped a little.  Philip the scientist was also there to conduct some test as part of his sports studies (or something like that).  I didn't take part as I thought I had to provide urine samples every 10km loop but I was wrong.  :p  Around 20mins before race start, the race director, IronmanDreamer, aka IMD or Ben gave out some instructions on the race.  Basically, the start/end where we were, was also the 5km mark.  I.e. we would run 2.5km towards the ECP Hawker Centre direction and back to the start/end for a total of 5km and continue towards the Big Splash direction for 2.5km before turning back to the start/end for 1 loop of 10km.  This would mean a 10km loop with 4 water-stops at 2.5km.  Runners were strongly encouraged to BYOB (bring your own bottle) which we could top up.  I brought my own bottles of H2O and Pocari Sweat.

Sotong briefing the volunteers (Top L); Taz, Charlotte & Ripley (Top R);
Bottom: Runners & Supporters

IMD flagged off the race at 5pm sharp.  Although the run was held in the evening, somehow, I felt warm.  It wasn't so much about the temperature but the humidity.  There was no wind although we were running next to the sea.  ECP was crowded but since it was a small race, the human traffic was manageable.  Marshals were stationed at critical junctions near the hawker centre to help direct the traffic.  Tey, DO, Mohan and Azhar were also running and they were the free-spirited runners who helped make the atmosphere fun by taking pictures, making funny faces and encouraging the runners.  The volunteers were also very encouraging and helpful.  By the first loop at the 7.5km mark, I decided to safekeep my camera with Tekko & Molly so that I could concentrate on the run.

Beginning of Twilight Ultra Challenge

Soon I was struggling as I realised I wasted much time at the start/end point.  Everytime I reached the start/end point, I would retrieve my special-need bag and helped myself to a packet of milo, which I had 12 packets.  At every 20km interval, I would spend more time applying foot powder to my feet and pour the remaining into my running shoes.  Running in loop didn't help.  It was so boring.  After 4 loops (40km) I was looking for LaserRunner desperately.  She was supposed to help some of the runners and supporters get our special order.  For me, it was the Earl Grey Milk Tea with Pearl from Gong Cha that I was craving.  But I didn't see her.  What kept me going was the encouragement of runners who passed you at regular interval (since this was a loop course).

 Into The Twilight..

I couldn't remember when I saw LaserRunner.  But it should be the 5th lap.  I was grateful although it was not my favourite Earl Grey Milk Tea.  Well, any bubble tea at that point would perk me up.  It was like a wonder tea!  :p  I also managed to get Genevieve to walk a lap with me.  She needn't have to as she had been working hard to help out with the recording of the laps of the runners but she did.  And I was grateful to have someone to walk with and talk to.  Of course I could have continue the race alone.  If I was high up in some mountain or remote trail, it would have been easy since I had no one to ask to pace me.  But seeing so many familiar faces but unable to run with them was a torture.  I was not exactly as strong and as determined as others think of me.  In fact, I was rather weak mentally when surrounded by people I know.

The next person whom I walked with was Henry.  He was an accomplished runner but with a very humble attitude.  By then, Henry had already run 1 lap more than me but was happy to pace me for 1 lap.  We talked about our upcoming races and he recommended the Annapurna 100 - Nepal's original ultra trail running race which would be held on 1 Jan 2012.  Runners had the option of running 50km, 75km or the 100km category.  I asked Henry to email the race website URL to me so I could read it for more details, especially on the race and travel requirement.  Time flies when you are having a great time.  Or in my case, I took such a long time as I was walking leisurely.  I knew I wasn't able to achieve my 1st target.  As for my 2nd or 3rd target, it was still achievable but I really had to push myself.  Having someone like Joe hot on your heels really help.  Joe was a very strong walker.  In fact, I think he could walk as fast as I could run in a super ultra distance.  So my motivation was to try to stay ahead of Joe as it was also his aim to complete 10 loops in the given 16 hours.

 Morning along ECP...

When morning came, I knew it was not possible to complete 100km, but I still could aim for 90km.  I was kind of hungry and I had ran out of milo.  The H2O and Pocari Sweat didn't taste as nice.  Tekko & Molly offered their packet of nasir lemak.  It was very tempting.  I decided against eating as I was running out of time.  I decided to call it a day when I reached the start/end point after completing only 8 loops for a total of 80km as I was really tired.  I didn't achieve any of the target.  But I was the type that could find all sorts of reasons to console myself.  It was about 7am plus.  After resting about 20mins or so, I decided to walk towards Tekko & Molly's aid station to get back my camera.  I asked IMD if I were to cover the 5km, could he count it towards my overall total.  He said okie and I got a friend who was volunteering to brisk walk with me!  (Sorry my friend, I could not recall your name!)  I managed to completed the 5km loop at almost 8.30am.  Phew!

The Finishing Line...

Prize Presentation & More Photo Taking of Runners & Volunteers...

The race ended at exactly 9am.  The caterer setup the buffet area with a great variety of food while the volunteers helped to tally up the results of the runners.  IMD then presented the remaining runners with their hard earned finisher medal and finisher tee.  He also conducted a "lucky draw" for 10 winners, which I won myself a Hammer's water bottle.  We took more photos before IMD declared the closure of the race.  I packet some beehoon as I didn't have the appetite to eat then.  I waited for Tekko & Molly, who arrived back at the start/end point after clearing up the 7.5km aid station.  Although I did not achieved my target, I was still able to pick up some learning points.  I hope I would learn from this race and be more prepared on what to expect for Sundown Ultramarathon in May.

The super-sized Finisher Medal & my Conqueror Tee!

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