Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TNF100 Singapore - 1st Lap 50km Race Review

I decided to attempt the TNF100 Singapore 100km again this year to finish my unfinished business from last year.  But as luck would have it, I needed 2 months to recover from the Canadian Death Race and left with only 2 weeks to seriously prepare for TNF100 Singapore.  Also, even though I had started running, I knew I was not 100% fit.  I had to make a choice.  To either try my hardest to finish my unfinished business and risked getting injured again, or to just do a lap of 50km as part of my LSD for my next event.  TNF100 Singapore is a tough race with stringent cut-off.  For a slow runner like me, I had to be 100% fit and done all my preparation.  The choice was obviously easy.  :)

I took a day's leave on Friday to rest at home.  Everything was fine until I decided to leave home in the early afternoon to get something for my dad.  As I rushed off to Tampines, I left my EZLink card at home and had to use cash for my transport.  At the Tampines Bus Interchange, while dropping the coins into the cash box, I also dropped my sim card into it!  (Don't ask me why my sim card wasn't inside my cellphone!)  It was a total nightmare.  Luckily, a friend was kind enough to help me out to getting my stuff to my dad's place and went back to Tampines Mall's Singtel shop to get a replacement sim card.  Then I had to wait anxiously for the sim card to get activated!  At 955pm! Otherwise, I might have to DNS the race.  This seemed to be the start of some good fortune.  :)

At 1140pm thereabout, Alvin Low called me and told me he had arrived at MR, while I was just about to leave home.  I reached MR slightly before 12mn and met Henry Yang at the carpark entrance.  While passing the timing gantry, I commented to Henry that I hoped the organiser won't make us (the 100km soloists) walk the few hundred meters to the transition / drop-bag area to retrieve our bag.  But unfortunately, it was the same arrangement as last year.  :(  I had issue on this because no runner would like walking or running the extra few meters.  Besides, for slow runners like me, every seconds, every minutes counts. :p  If the same arrangement were to be made for next year, I know what I need to do - set-up my own support crew and make sure they had my drop-bag at the right location.  Further down the road where the tents were already set-up, I saw other 100km soloists.  The sight of some of them made me wonder if I should even be thinking of signing up for such races as I was a back-of-the-pack slow runner.  I felt intimidated by their ability and achievement.  A friend commented that runners of my speed would only take on 5km/10km type of races.  But I guessed it was too late to pull out of the race.

 Some Of The TNF100 Singapore100km Soloists

At around 12am plus, we were told to check in our gear and weigh in as well.  Had a little chat with Andre Blumberg from Hong Kong whom I met at the Hong Kong Trail Ultra and TNF100 Philippines, as well as Jeri Collett who did the UTMB (apologies Jeri - but I couldn't recall seeing you last year.  Age is certainly catching up with me. :p ), and Paulina who did the BDM 160 this year.  I also took some pics for/with Sim Whitley, Alvin and Khaliq.  At 1259hrs, the RD told us that 5mins more to the 0100hrs start time.  His watch was certainly faster than my Garmin 510 and I made a mental note that I had until 1004hrs for my 1st lap 50km.  There was not much fanfare since it was early morning.  Even the monkeys were sleeping!  I quickly fell back to the last runner after the race was flagged off.  As I reached the Amenities Centre, I almost slipped while running across the water fountain area!  Phew.  What a lucky escape.  As we ran towards the MR trail head, I talked to Karen from Malaysia.  She and her 100km duo partner were supposed to start the race at 0800hrs but as the race's start time was changed last minute, they had no way to catch their flight back to Malaysia.  Luckily for them, they were allowed to start with the 100km soloists.

 TNF100 Singapore - 100km Start - Photo by Carey Junior

From start to the first WP1, it was fairly straight forward as I ran this route a couple of times.  There was also someone at critical junctions (after I hit the road from the Northern Trail and at the Ranger Station).  After WP1, we ran along Rifle Range Road and were supposed to make a left turn.  Karen was standing at the junction as she wasn't sure which way to go.  This was a different route from last year but since there was a sign there showing a left-turn, I reckoned it should be correct.  I ran up the slope and noticed a biker in front.  Karen followed me closely behind.  Further up the road, there was a group of people clapping and cheering for us before we turned right into the trail again.  This was a short section as we were quickly out of of the trail before crossing the road into another part of the trail.  By then, Karen had ran ahead of me.  After yet another short section of the trail, I came to the carpark area of the Bukit Timah Visitor Centre and into the tricky part of the trail as I got lost there last year.  Luckily, this time round, I didn't get lost.  Somehow, I was able to find my way to WP2 just before we reached Diary Farm carpark.

Before I left WP2, I bumped into Karen and another runner!  Sometimes, such incidents could scar the hell out of you.  Apparently, they got lost inside the trail.  I continued running as Karen requested for some vaseline.  After I went into the trail towards Zheng Hua Park, Karen caught up with me again.  At a critical junction (Belukar Trail), there were 2 signs, one turning left and another turning right.  Karen took the wrong route but luckily for her, a marshaller on a bike shouted the correct route for her as I was too focus on the path in front of me.  I reached WP3 shortly, had a banana, 4 cups of milo before continuing my race.  As I approached Zheng Hua Park, I recalled my failed attempt during the TNF Progressive Run 2 which I had to stop after the BKE underpass.  I was glad that I was still doing fine.  My right leg was still running okie.  I was all alone in the trail and I loved every moment of it.  Just before I reached WP4, I saw some moving lights in front and moved to the side.  A group of runners ran past me and someone shouted for my name though I couldn't recognise the voice.  After a short while, Khaliq (I think) ran past me too!  I reached WP4 and saw Karen and another runner leaving the water point.

The route after WP4 was also different from last year.  Runners had to turn right to go towards Sembawang Park Connector.  When I reached there, there was a marshaller on a bike who followed me as I was the last runner.  At the end of the park connector, there were 2 more marshallers pointing out where I should go to avoid the muddy terrain.  Once inside Lorong Asrama, the biker marshaller followed me until I reached WP5.  Along the way, she gave me words of encouragement. At the WP5, I took some water before going up .265. According to the marshaller there, I had to look for a blue color tent at the 1 o'clock position once I reached the top.  .265 was really not a difficult hill to climb.  It was way too short to be considered a tough climb though it could be slippery.  I saw 3 blinking red lights as soon as I reached the top.  As I walked towards them, I heard someone calling out to me on my right!  It was Karen and the other guy runner again!  Scary man!  Somehow, they didn't notice the blinking lights.

 At WaterPoint 4 - Photo by Chris Voo

After we passed through the timing station, Karen and the other runner pushed ahead and I never saw them again.  I was fine as I enjoyed running alone.  Running at night inside Lorong Asrama was really nice.  It was cool probably due to the open terrain, as compared to running inside the trail earlier in the night.  Unfortunately, I could feel the back of my right knee acting up.  The soreness had returned!  I decided to fast march for the rest of the route until I reached back WP4.  By then, daylight had arrived and after drinking another 4 cups of milo, I continued my last part of the journey.  I whipped out my cellphone and text my remaining Ocean 9 who's doing the 100km duo about the muddy terrain.  Then, Alvin called me!  He said he was approaching the pipe lines and asked me how I was doing.  He also told me what he intended to do once he reached the transition / drop bag area.  I warned him not to rest too long as for some runners, it would be hard to get back into running again after loosing that momentum.

 Somewhere Out There - Photo by Andy Ng

For my remaining journey, which was about 16km, I walked as fast as I could.  Just after I hit WP3, I ran into the leader of the 100km race!  As I applauded him, I noticed his shock all over his face!  I wondered why.  Perhaps he thought I was the race leader.  :p  I had also hoped to complete the Rifle Range Road section of the race before I clashed into the 100km duo runners due to the extremely narrow lane being blocked out for the runners.  I managed just that, meeting Lexxus Tan just after WP1.  From then on, I bumped into more and more runners and many friends running the 100km duo race.  This was another aspect of running (or racing) which I loved.  I saw Kayano who told me that his partner, Shu Ming had to accompany his wife to the hospital and that Jeri Collett had a nasty fall and was sent to the hospital.  I guessed this was part and parcel of running.  Sometimes, you fell sick before the race and sometimes you fell during the race.  I hoped Jeri's injury wasn't too bad.  I also met Mohan, who was always so cheerful, and Winnie.  We took photos before wishing each other best of luck.

 With Mohan & Winnie - Photo by Adeline Lee

Just before I reached the start of the Norther Trail, I saw Alvin sitting on the rock!  He looked totally shagged and wanted to give up.  I told him he still had plenty of time and he should keep going.  I had to push on too as I wanted to finish the 50km lap before the race for the 50km duo race was flagged off at 1000hrs.  Otherwise, I might get crashed.  Somehow, my knee began to co-operate!  I felt better and I started running intermittently again.  As soon as I exited the trail head, I picked up my pace and completed my 50km in 8hrs 48mins!  At the finishing area, I declared to the volunteers that I won't be continuing my race, before going back to the tent for some nice food.  I loved the grapes but not the strawberry.  It was alright since I had no appetite to eat.

While my timing for 50km was about 38mins slower than last year, I felt great and had enough energy to follow Tekko to support the rest of our friends.  In fact, I even had the energy to pace Alvin for the last 16km from WP4 to the finishing line, to ensure he was the last runner, last finisher of this year's TNF!  I was happy that I could help a runner complete the 100km race within the cut-off of 18 hours.  The race had met most of my expectations:  I didn't get lost and I didn't get hungry.  The only 2 complaints I had which might have affected my race, was that I had to walk the extra distance to the transition / drop bag area, and that there wasn't a clear path for the 100km soloists to go through to the transit area.  TNF100 Singapore was already one tough race due to the humidity and heat.  We needed no other injects to make the already tough race an even tougher one to run.  Break All Boundaries but break no promise made to the participants.  :)

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