Saturday, October 27, 2012

Craze Ultra 100 Miles (Singapore)

I wasn't obsessed with running 100 milers but I always wanted to support local races as much as possible, especially the ultra distances simply because it took a lot of effort to organise such runs.  I gave myself ample time to decide if I would be ready for Craze Ultra as I was not sure if I would be able to do it so soon after Lean Horse 100M held 4 weeks earlier.  As I didn't complete Lean Horse, I decided I should recover sufficiently to attempt the Craze Ultra 100M.  And so, I was nutty enough to enter my name into the list of nuts attempting the first 100 miler race in Singapore!  There were 4 categories - 160km, 101km, 78km and 43km, all starting on 22 Sep, 7:00am, at the MacRitchie Reservoir Amenities Centre.  For the 160km race, runners were given 32 hours to complete - a luxury as compared to Bataan Death March in Philippines with a cut-off time of 30 hours and a much difficult terrain.  I was convinced that I could complete if nothing goes wrong.

I deposited my drop bags at MacRitchie the night before the race, had dinner and tried to sleep early.  I had to wake up early to take a special tablet as part of Philip the researcher's subject and urine for submission at the race start.  Once done, I was able to change to my race gear and left for the start.  When I arrived at MacRitchie, there were already a lot of runners gathered.  I had to look for Philip to do other my tests, including taking my weight and blood!!!  It was nerve wrecking especially the taking of blood.  Luckily, the "nurse" was super efficient and I didn't felt as much pain and anxiety as I would feel if I were to do this in my office.  After all were completed, I tried to mingle with the rest of the runners but as usual, felt nervous and worried.  Sometimes, I wondered how did these runners act so cool before a race start.  I never felt confident.  Not even for a marathon.  In fact, I would be so nervous that I would frown all the time and wouldn't even be able to smile.  I was unable to learn how to relax.  If not for the friends around, I would definitely look unapproachable, stuck-up and unsociable when in actual fact, I was like a duck paddling really hard trying to stay afloat.

Race Start to CP1 (12km; 1hr 42mins)
At about 6:40am, the Race Director (RD) Ben Swee (otherwise known as IronmanDreamer - IMD) conducted a race brief.  And at 7:00am, the RD flagged of the 1st wave of 100 milers!  I was in the 2nd wave of 100 milers to be flagged off at 7:02am.  As usual, I always took my first few miles of a race as my warm up.  I didn't run with my watch as the strap to my Garmin broke and I hadn't met up with Vivian to get hold my my new Timex watch.  It was fun running without a watch and I could zone myself out.  I saw someone familiar ran past me - Deborah!  I caught up to her and wished her all the best before slowing down.  Then I saw David Wong and Angela Chong, the only other Singaporeans whom I knew had attempted and completed Comrades Marathon.  I also saw Fia (on a bicycle I think) cheering for the runners.  Route to CP1 was along Upper Thomson before turning left into Mandai Road.  I didn't realise it was actually that far - 12km.  Seemed a little easy although it was early in the race.  I saw Tekko who asked me why I was so fast.  I also saw the RD busy taking photos.  Volunteers were trying their best to help out with the runners.  I saw Hong Soon whom I had not met for a long time.  I went to look for my drop bag, which was neatly lined up on the table according to the runner's bib number.  :)  I ate a gel and drank a milo - always learn to consume early, especially in an ultra.  I saw Jamie and might have wished her all the best before I left.

CP1 to CP2 (10km; 1hr 30mins)
CP2 was at the Woodlands Waterfront.  But I had a mental block as visually, the distance felt longer than just the 10km.  As it was early in the race, I ran with some other runners along the Mandai Road, before we had to cross a traffic junction and into Ulu Sembawang Park Connector.  I saw Roy and Whitley who were pacing each other.  I was surprised as they were much faster and stronger runners than I was.  I guess Tekko may be right that I was too fast.  I decided to slow down further though the good weather (then) was encouraging me to put in a little more effort.  I didn't like the stretch after we came out from the park connector, crossed the traffic light and onto the Woodlands Park Connector.  There were too many traffic lights and it broke the momentum.  There were also a couple of uphills and steps climbing though manageable.  The park connector then connected with Marsiling Park Connector.  Then I saw the first runner running back towards me.  He should be doing the 43km category.  Soon I saw more runners running back.  It was demoralising.  I saw the 20km distance marker a while later and I noticed the familiar route - this year's route for our SGRunners' Banana Relay!  I knew I was really close to CP2 and true enough, after another few minutes, I finally reached CP2!  Unfortunately, CP2 wasn't well stocked.  They ran out of banana which I needed badly as I was alternating between eating a gel and a banana.  I decided to give the gel a miss as I couldn't stomach another.  And this would eventually proved costly.

CP2 to CP3 (8km; 1hr 29mins)
After leaving CP2, I made a small loop within the Woodlands Waterfront Park.  It was a little confusing getting out of the park and I felt kind of embarrassed when I had to be led out of it by a fellow participant - an angmoh runner!  :p  We ran along the Admiralty West Park Connector towards the directions of Admiralty MRT and Sembawang MRT.  Weather was still great and I was still having "fun".  There were more traffic lights and crossings to do and the Saturday morning human traffic were getting more crowded.  It was very refreshing to be running around the neighourhood, seeing the residents performing their daily activities like marketing, strolling, jogging around the estate, etc as compared to running along the ECP.  There was much to see and it took my mind away from the race.  After the Sembawang MRT, we made a left turn into Sembawang Road along the Canberra Sembawang Park Connector which would eventually lead us to CP3.  When I reached CP3, I looked for the mobile toilet due to a distress stomach.  Felt relieved when I was out and managed to eat some water melon.  Sotong was busy manning the aid station with other volunteers.  They seemed short-handed.  Apparently, 1~2 volunteers did't showed up when needed.  A supporter then came over to ask if I needed anything.  I declined her offer at first but saw that she had a box of ice-cream!  I decided to try my luck and was rewarded for asking.  THANKS!  Though the weather was still manageable, ice-cream was always a welcome food item.  After thanking her, I left CP3 still enjoying the ice-cream.  :)

CP3 to CP4 (9km; 1hr 30mins)
The race was getting a little harder as noon time approached.  We ran into the Simpang Kiri Park Connector which was next to the Yishun Industrial Estate before turning left onto Yishun Avenue.  The hot sun had finally come!  Luckily, I was still able to get some shade by running underneath the MRT track.  Again, there was quite a number of traffic light crossing.  By then, human and vehicle traffic were heavy around the Yishun estate and some people were looking at the runners, probably wondering why we were running at that time of the day.  That was also the place I lost Roy and Whitley.  After I tuned right towards the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, I saw a group of supporters providing drinks and iced cold sponges!  I took a mouthful of 100 Plus as my own drink wasn't cold anymore.  A few kilometer later, I saw a few runners taking a break at the void deck of a HDB flat.  I saw someone familiar who waved at me.  Unfortunately, I was extremely bad at remembering people and though I knew I saw them before (runners and supporters), I just couldn't recall when I met them.  Nevertheless, that didn't stop them from offering fruits and drinks to me.  I gratefully took a few pieces of kiwi before I told them I need to push on.  There was another lady who was running not far from me at that point.  And when I almost missed the turn left sign, she shouted out to me!  Phew.  After that, it was about another 1km plus to the next CP, which was also the u-turn point for those running the 78km race.  I searched for my drop bag, refill my milo and took another gel before I took off.

CP4 to CP5 (11km; 2hrs 6mins)
This leg was one of the hardest leg as there was absolutely no shade whatsoever.  It was just past 1pm when I left for CP5.  The stretch out from CP4 was not easy to run due to the uneven "drain covers".  I saw two runners just in front of me.  They were applying sunblock which I then realised was something I should have done but forgotten completely.  I asked them if I could have some of the cream and they obliged.  We ran to the end of the road together, after which a marshaller pointed the direction to our left.  We thanked the marshaller and crossed the road.  The two runners ran ahead.  I was feeling damn hot and didn't feel like running at all.  A while later, I caught up with the other two runners as they stopped to get some cold drinks from their friend on a bike.  They asked if I need some and I accepted their offer!  Then, I left them as I wanted to get into some shade.  I soon passed some other runners and continued to push hard.  The weather was awful but I still had energy and was still feeling good.  I reached an area where there were loads of lorries carrying loads of sand.  It must be for the sand stockpile that I just saw.  Hoping to avoid the dust churned out by these lorries, I ran consistently until I entered the Punggol Park Connector!  It was truly the most unpleasant stretch of the route.  I noticed the 45km marker and knew it was another 5.5km to CP6.  My water was running low so I tried to slow down my consumption of water.  Luckily, there was a drink stall vendor next to the Punggol Promenade and I bought a can of Red Bull and a 500ml of cold water.  I saw three runners resting near the toilet.  The heat seemed to take a toll on them.  I knew I had to continue as there was food at the CP.  Just before I reached the Sunrise Gateway Bridge, Deborah ran towards my direction!  She had made it through the 50km u-turn and was on her way back!  I wished her all the best before I passed the 50km marker, crossed 2 bridges, before I arrived at CP5!

CP5 to CP6 (15km; 2hrs 57mins)
I saw Sallehan left CP5 for the 15km loop just before I arrived at the CP.  I dumped my camera since it was a loop and I won't be taking any pics along the way.  After getting what I need from my drop bag, I left.  The Punggol Park Connector was a really nice place to run but certainly not under the hot sun.  Two ladies ran past me soon after I left the CP.  I decided to keep pace with them but it was really hard.  I told myself since it was so hot, might as well run harder to get into shade whenever possible and walked under the shade.  It sort of worked.  I managed to catch up with them and passed them.  But I didn't enjoy myself one bit.  What pushed me on and on, was the Coke that I promised myself when I reached the Seng Kang Sports and Recreational Centre, about midway through the 15km loop.  I went up to the MacDonald and got myself a medium coke and Evian mineral water.  I was sad to leave the air-conditoned MacDonald but I knew I had to.

After I rejoined the course, I walked and jogged, rewarding myself with sip of Coke during my walk segment.  I saw one of the two ladies I met earlier.  I asked where her friend was and she said her friend was walking due to a recurring injury.  We talked for a while before split.  Further up, I caught up with Sallehan and Frank (from Malaysia).  I was surprised as they were both stronger runners than me.  Maybe they pushed too hard early on.  Nevertheless, I knew I had to push on.  I was out onto the Buangkok Park Connector eventually, which took me past more housing estates and traffic light crossings.  Then I passed the 60km marker before I reached Institute of Mental Health.  A fellow supporter was there taking photos but I was unable to slow down for a pic with him - SORRY!  The route brought me through Buangkok Drive, onto the Serangoon  Park Connector along the Sungei Pinang and Sungei Serangoon back to CP6!

CP6 to CP7 (5km; 51mins)
When I reached CP6, I felt much better as the sun was almost gone.  I saw many weary runners resting and was surprised to see Roy, Whitley, David Chung and David Wong, who were leaving for CP7.  I reloaded my milo and gel into my hydration bag and took a banana provided.  After about 10mins, I was ready to push on as I knew the next leg was a short 5km and I would see Brokie at that CP.  :)  I saw Kayano happily snapping pictures as I left CP6.  This segment was also familiar to me as I came to this area pretty often for the past one year.  After I headed out from the Pasir Ris Industrial Drive, it was straight all the way to CP7.  At one of the traffic lights, I caught up with David and his pacer Soo Eng.  He had pain on his ITB and wasn't pushing too hard as it might aggravate his problem.  I decided to push on and soon reached CP7!  I was always very happy to see familiar faces and especially happy to see Brokie.  She and her group of volunteers were very proactive and asked if i needed any cold mist, they could spray some on me.  I thanked them and asked for some ice, which was given to me in double quick time.  After finishing my milo, I left with an angmoh runner out of CP7 just as David and Soo Eng came into the CP.

CP7 to CP8 (10km)
I was able to keep pace with the angmoh runner until just before Downtown East.  It was very crowded and not easy to pass the Sat crowd.  I decided not to waste my energy trying to pass them.  After crossing the traffic light, I was running alone again though there are other human traffic.  The temperature was alright in the evening but I was getting tired.  My pace was slow and I walked more than I ran.  At the end of the Pasir Ris Park Connector, I turned left onto Loyang Park Connector.  It was dark by then as the park connector was away from the lights on the main road.  It was getting boring as there was nothing much to see.  Near the junction of Loyang Avenue and Cramwell Road, Henry Yang came running past me.  We wished each other though I probably looked like a zombie.  The Changi Park Connector stretch was the most boring as it was all hills and pitch dark with occasional vehicles driving past.  It got better when I reached Changi Village as there were many people spending the night enjoying the breeze, fishing and barbequing.  I saw an ice-cream vendor and asked if he had ice-cream with bread, but he hadn't.  :(  I then passed the SAF Ferry Terminal and onto the stretch where it was pitch dark due to existing construction.  I knew CP8 was really close.  Roy and Whitley then passed me on their way back while I reached CP8 at around 9pm.  I was dead tired and sat down for a rest.  I saw Tekko volunteering at the aid station.  He asked if I wanted some longans which I gladly accepted.  I should have a gel but I didn't take as it tasted awful.  I left after finishing the longans.

CP8 back to CP7 (10km)
On my way back, I met David and Soo Eng.  I couldn't tell if he looked okay.  I felt sleepy and tired, and did more walking although I was also able to run.  After I came back onto the Loyang Park Connector, I felt much better.  This stretch had more uphills than downhills but it was okie since I walked the uphills.  At one of the bus-stop, I met Jamie and her pacer(s).  I urged her to take care of herself, knowing that she hurt her foot not long ago.  Just before I turned into Pasir Ris Park Connector, I past Adam One Armrunner.  I was getting slower and slower and before the mosque, a runner ran past me with her pacer.  I wished I had the energy to follow her pace back to CP7 but I didn't.  When I eventually did reached CP7, I believed she and her pacer was already out of the CP back towards CP6.  In fact, the runner who came into CP7 just after me also left before me.  I knew I had to take in something solid.  I ate a banana and drank a can of milo.  I decided to rest for a while to let my food settled in.  But I was unable to.  I threw out everything I ate onto the park connector.  Brokie quickly came to my aid.  She then whispered to me and asked if I want some chicken rice.  I said YES!!!  She came back, was very apologetic, and scraped clean the entire box for one spoonful of chicken rice as that was what was left.  But it was enough for me.  I felt much better and was able to continue.

CP7 back to CP 6 (5km)
The journey back to CP6 was slow.  But at least I was able to digest the spoonful of chicken rice, which I believed gave me a little energy.  I also started to whatsapp Poonster to tell him that I had left CP7 on my way back.  Poonster was a colleague and he stayed just opposite the Lorong Halus Wetland and Visitor Centre.  He offered to pace me for the 15km loop on the return leg.  After receiving his reply, I told him of my ETA.  I also asked if he could bring some foot powder as my foot was feeling sweaty and sore.  He acknowledged my message and said he will be there on time.  By then it was almost midnight and I was really sleepy.  I realised that I had missed out packing cans of coffee into my drop bags.  :(  But it was too late.  After I turned into Pasir Ris Industrial Drive, I was anticipating seeing some wild dogs but I didn't, which was uncommon.  And I arrived back at CP6 just after midnight.

CP6 back to CP5 (DNF!!!)
Back at the Lorong Halus CP, I attempted to drink up another can of milo.  Thankfully, it stayed in this time round.  I quickly took out my new set of shoes and socks, applied some powder before putting them on.  I decided that I should push on, which on hindsight, wasn't that good an idea.  I thanked the volunteers before embarking on the next segment with Poonster.  A short while after we left the CP, someone ran up behind us.  I didn't pay much attention to the person at first.  Then I realised that he was following us.  When I slowed down, the person would slow down and when I sped up, the person would do the same.  I asked Poonster to check out the person and he told me he was a fellow runner.  I decided to walk instead.  To my amazement, the runner also stopped and walked behind us!  I was getting edgy and a little annoyed.  A while later, I turned and asked him to carry on.  I was felt he was like pacing me and I was kind of stressed out.  He politely said that I was running a good pace and hoped to run at my pace.  So I told him that I won't mind running together with him (i.e. next to him) and not him following me.  That's what people did in ultras (unless the route is narrow and no one can run next to each other).  It was not about pacing for slow runners like me but the encouragement and pushing you have to each other when you run together.  But this guy just didn't get it.  I decided to shake him off and pushed myself running hard.  Even when we reached traffic lights, I would proceed if there wasn't any traffic.  Our distance became further and further apart though I kept asking Poonster to check out how far behind he was.  At first, it as 50m.  Then, it became 100m, and then 200m.  I felt safe when eventually, we couldn't see him anymore.  But this sustained "hard" effort took a toll on me.  Just before we entered the Punggol Park Connector, I had to go pee.  It took me a while and Poonster told me the runner past me during my business trip to the loo.  It was a relief.  But somehow, with no one "chasing" me, I lost all desire to run!  After passing the Sports and Recreational Centre, I told Poonster I had to sleep for 10mins.  The short rest didn't rejuvenate me and I decided to call it quits.  I called Philip and he told me to rush back to MR to take my remaining readings for the research test.  And that was the end of what proved to be another unsuccessful attempt at the 100 mile race.  :(

Lessons Learnt
While it was another DNF for me, I learnt that I was not very thorough when preparing for ultras.  :p  For this race, I forgotten to pack sunblock, foot powder and some coffee.  I also didn't stick to my fuel plan.  I should have eaten a gel when banana wasn't available at CP2, instead of skipping it totally.  At certain CPs, even though I was supposed to take in a gel, I forgotten and only too focused on leaving for the next CP.  On a positive note, I knew I was able to push myself hard (especially in the second half of the race) when the going gets tough (though I tend to be able to do that when extrinsic factors arised).  Hopefully, I am able to apply what I have learnt here in my next ultra - The North Face 100km in 3 weeks' time!  :)

Overall Race Experience: 7/10
The race was very well orgnaised.  From the race pack collection, the race brief, submission of drop bags and the conduct of the race itself.  The course was very well marked (although I almost missed a turning through no fault of the organiser as I wasn't paying attention).  What could have done better is the choice of food made available at the aid stations, as well as the quantity of food.  Also, some of the aid stations had a shortage of volunteers due to no-show.  Although the race route was pretty flat, the weather and humidity made it difficult and it showed: the number of finishers for the 100 miles was low - less than 23 finishers out of 65 registered runners for the 100 miles category.  All in all, I would say the race was a great success.

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