Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TNF100 Singapore

This would be my 3rd time attempting The North Face Singapore 100km race.  In 2010, I bailed out when arriving back at the start/finish/transit point after covering the 50km 1st loop in 8hrs 10mins.  I still had 9hrs 50mins to complete the 2nd loop but I had weak minds and with the extremely tempting food spread made available for the 100km runners, I stopped.  :p  In 2011, a running injury suffered in the Canadian Death Race 3 months earlier put me off running and training.  I started the race nevertheless but took 8hrs 40mins to cover the 1st 50km loop.  My injury also flared up in the middle of the run so the logical thing was to stop.  This year, runners were given 20 hours to complete so I decided to give it one last try.

The day before the race, I met up with Cheryl, a Filipino runner whom I first met in the TNF 100  Philippines last year.  She completed the TNF Singapore 25km in 2010 and the TNF Singapore 50km in 2011.  This year, she decided to give the 100km a try.  I had no doubt that she would make it as she had completed other 100km races before.  Besides, she completed the TNF 100 Philippines, which was a much tougher race as compared to the Singapore edition.  I was eager to extend my hospitality by updating her on some changes to the route, cut-off time at the various check-points, the overall cut-off and possible places along the route where her brother could support her if that was her plan.  It was a good session where we update each other on what we had been doing and it was always nice to meet up with overseas friend whom you met in overseas races.

On 12 Oct, Friday, I took the day off to rest as the race was starting at 11pm that night.  My friend Ian from South Africa had also just arrived for a visit to Singapore.  Luckily, being a multiple marathon, Comrades, multi-stage race and Ironman finisher, he understood the runner's mentality and was adventurous enough to venture out on his own despite that being his 2nd day in Singapore.  ("Phew", and so much for being hospitable.)  :p  That evening, I met Ian for an early dinner at Pastamania and went home for a short nap straight after the dinner.  At 9:15pm, I woke up but felt tired.  I was feeling edgy but knew I had to get going.  After changing into my running gear, I left for MacRitchie Reservoir with Ian.

When I reached MR, I saw many runners had already gathered.  I looked for the bag deposit to put my belongings.  The area was smaller than last year but it was also more orderly.  I saw a few familiar faces like Cheryl, Terence, Henry, Jamie, Jeri, etc.  There were also runners from Malaysia and Hong Kong.  Most of them were excited and thrilled.  As usual, I was worried.  Someone (I think Jeri) asked me how was my preparation (or something like that), and I replied "like that lor".  Not sure if she was pissed with my response but was how really how I felt just before any race - the longer the race, the more worried I would be.  Soon, the runners were told to do their gear check.  Our gear must be at least 2kg (not sure how they come up with such a magical figure) and I had no problem meeting the criteria - 2 x 500ml water, 2 gels, 2 x 240ml milo, hydration bag and headlamp.  Then we were told to proceed to the race start line 100m away.

At 11:00pm sharp, the runners were flagged off!  I became more relaxed.  No more being worried, I was just concentrating taking one step at a time.  And since I had 20 hours, I could really take my time!  The section towards the northern trail was really hard - it was very humid and I couldn't really feel any wind.  Luckily, running in familiar terrain was easy even though it was at night.  Soon, the fast runners were way ahead of me and I found myself running alone just before coming out from the trail onto a very short section of road.  I could see another runner in front of me.  Somehow, he did not see the huge signboard with an arrow pointing to the left.  I shone my headlamp on its reflective background but he still walked straight on the tarmac road.  I shouted at him that we were to make a left turn before I went underneath the barrier and continued.  Not sure if the runner followed but I didn't really care if a runner chose to cheat and take a short-cut.  After arriving at the Ranger Station, we made an immediate right turn.  This was different from last year's route.  I won't say it was easier but at least I could run most of it as it was not as rocky.  I caught up with a runner but was caught by another runner further up just before the route merge with last year's route towards the Rifle Range Road.  At the exit of the trail, there was a water point.  I took a quick sip and continued.  The next segment inside the Durian Loop was almost the same as last year.  I saw the 10km marker at about 12:35am, after 1hr 35mins of running.  After coming out from the trail near the Bukit Timah Visitor Centre, we made a left turn and ran along the old railway track.  It was refreshing to run along the old railway track where the track was removed and now covered by grass.  There was a fallen tree across the route where runners had to climb over the tree trunk.  Further up, there was a MRT construction site and they seemed to be working even at such a late hour.  Unfortunately, this new route was short.  Near the Railway Mall, I made a sharp right turn and ran towards the Diary Farm direction.  At the Diary Farm water point, I stopped to take a gel and some more water.  Luckily, I had sufficient sleep in the day so I wasn't feeling tired.

After leaving the water point, I ran towards Zheng Hua Park's direction.  This was the same as last year's route.  Along the Gangsa Track, something incredible happened!  I saw a runner running towards me!  He shouted words of encouragement before flying past me and was gone in a split second!  Wow!  I felt very demoralised at once.  Last year, the front runners past me near the exit at Mandai Road.  But now, the lead runner past me even before I reached the 20km mark!  I wasted no time to feel sad and past the 20km marker soon after.  Nearer to the Mandai Road exit, I made a right turn and did a small loop before coming out to the junction at the Singapore Zoo.  Crossing the road at such early hour (it was almost 2:45am) demands your full attention and not just rely on the traffic lights.  Especially along Mandai Road where vehicles tend to speed!  I reached the water point at Lorong Asrama entrance, where they served GU Chomps and GU Gels.  But I was only interested in the bananas.  The volunteers looked tired.  They must have been exhausted from all the preparation earlier on Friday.   Kudos to them for still being helpful when I needed them to grab a can of my trusted milo from the back my hydration bag.  Just as I was about to leave, I saw 2 ladies running into the water point.  They looked familiar but I couldn't recall their names.  :(  I thanked the volunteers and left.  I dreaded the next segment - "journey" to hill .265, the "toughest" hill in Singapore.  I know what to expect.  :p  I slowed down considerably, preferring more walking due to the rocky terrain.  I saw a flashlight from a distance behind - must be one of the runner I saw earlier.  Then I reached the training shed next to hill .265.  I didn't notice anyone there this year.  I crested the hill with some effort and felt happy to go up this hill than to go down, which was my weakness.  A while later, the runner whom I saw the flashlight appeared.  We exchanged greetings before she disappeared.  I passed the 30km marker shortly and was happy to be on my way out from Lorong Asrama!

The route back to the start was almost similar from last year.  Except we had to do a loop round the Chestnut Track.  Before reaching Chestnut Track, a shadow blew past me with words of encouragement again!  It must be the leader!  From then on, my only mission was to reach the 50km  mark before he completed the race.  Halfway running into Chestnut Track, I saw someone lying next to the trail on the ground - he said he was taking a break so I continued.  After passing through a lighted path next to a PUB fenced-up area, my headlamp flickered.  Though I had run there before, I wasn't that familiar how long I would need before I reached Zheng Hua Park.  I was afraid that my light (the strongest light since I was very blind in the dark) was not able to last me till I was out of the trail but luckily it did.  There was a CISCO Police at the exit point and that was where I saw the 40km marker.  Phew.  A short while later, I reached the Zheng Hua Park water point, and changed my headlamp battery.  It was just past 5:00am (6 hours of running) and I reckoned I was on track to reached the end of my 1st loop within my target of 8 hours.  I was on a high and the thought of starting with the 50km runners at 6:45am brightened my day.  Returning from Rifle Range Road and back into the trail, I made a right turn into the Rifle Range Link/Golf Link trail.  At the Jelutong Tower, I whatsapped Ian to update him on my location.  He had arrived at MacRitchie with Tekko and Molly at about 5 plus!  From that point, I just kept running and running, past the golf course, fitness corner, and finally out of the trail!  I crossed the 50km mark at about 6:45am without the leader running past me!

I saw Ian and he pointed to the tent where I was supposed to get my drop bag.  :)  I must have looked very shacked.  Upon entering the tent, I saw Cheryl and Terence and I thought I also saw Sallehan.  I heard the flagged off for the 50km runners.  So I focused back on what I need to do: changing of new running shirt and new socks.  I also stocked up 3 cans of milo and 2 x 100 Plus Edge drink. There were a few volunteers helping out in the tent and one of them asked if I need anything.  "Banana!" and I was given one.  After I was handed a banana, I was ready to go.  Cheryl was still at the tent so I told her I would go off first, knowing that she would catch up.  Ian then walked with me while I had my breakfast of banana and milo.  He said he would walk the 10.5km loop around MacRitchie later.  I also saw Tekko and Molly who were running the 25km starting at 8:00am.  It was 7:05am when I starting running the 2nd loop.

By then, MR was full of other park users.  After a long night of running alone (most of the time), it was fun running alongside other people.  It was also less stress compared to running next to another participant.  I didn't know where I got the extra motivation and energy to run but I ran.  Before I exited from the Northern Trail, I ran past Cheryl (who overtook me at the Amenities Centre).  The next stretch of trail was uneventful until I passed the Rifle Range water point.  I stopped to remove the stones inside my shoes and both my calves cramped up.  I wasted a bit of time trying to relax before I continued.  In a distance, I saw Terence.  The temptation was to catch up with him.  But I decided to run at my pace and not push myself too much.  Slowly, I was getting closer and closer till I eventually overtook him.  He was looking strong but exhausted.  As I was still full of energy, I decided to continue running.  At the water point before turning into the Durian Loop, someone called out to me.  He looked familiar but I just couldn't tell when I met him before.  He said he was Tin Tin (of SGRunners.com from Canada but now back in Singapore!)  We chatted a while and I learned that he was planning to run 16km that morning.  I asked if he could run with me till the 60km mark so that he could help me take a picture.  He obliged and we ran and talked.  It was time like this that makes running easier.  Soon we stopped for a picture at the 60km marker at 8:40am.  Two uncles also stopped to took a photo for us and were amazed there were crazy people in Singapore who would run 100km of trails.

At the Bukit Timah Visitor Centre, a lady laid out her ice box with cold drinks and a packet of ice.  Though we had not met before, she asked if I needed anything.  :)  I asked if I could have some ice as it was getting warm and she readily handed me the whole packet for me to take.  I grabbed a handful of ice, thanked her and continued.  Then we had to run along the old railway track again and I was afraid of running it in the morning as there was no shade.  But my worry was unfounded.  The weather was superb.  Halfway through my run, I saw someone zooming past me.  Then another runner whom I recognised as Michael.  And another.  I realised they must be the runners running the 25km!  I felt demoralised to be caught but was happy when some of them gave me words of encouragement.  I walked and puffed and just before the Diary Farm water point, saw Kayano and Sotong taking pictures at strategic points!  Tin Tin helped me get my milo and banana for refueling.  Once done, I pressed on although by then, I was slowing down considerably.

The stretch from Zheng Hua Park to Gangsa Track and the loop before the Mandai Zoo junction was torturous and very boring.  We passed the 70km marker at around 10:20am - which meant I took 1hr 40mins to cover the 10km.  This was actually not too bad (unless the distance was wrong).  Tin Tin went ahead after that and I just tell myself to close the gap.  After coming out of the loop before the Mandai Road junction, I saw Cheryl going for her loop.  I told her that she could catch up with me as I was tiring.  Before turning into the Lorong Asrama water point, I met Tiwazz and his merry men next to the road side offering goodies to exhausted runners.  I took a stick of electrolyte and left.  Into Lorong Asrama, I could only walked most of the time.  Tin Tin noticed and imparted his knowledge of walking fast.  Unfortunately, it was not a good time to put into practice as I was listening one ear in, another ear out.  The constant conversation helped though - I was disassociating with the exhaustion I was experiencing and was able to reach the training shed next to hill .265. at 12:10pm.  We rested for about 5mins.  Meanwhile, a 50km participant also arrived at the training shed.  He asked the volunteer if there was a way out from there as he didn't expect running on the trails for the event.  Tin Tin told him that it was dangerous to exit from that point as it was next to a highway and his best bet is to continue and exit out from Lorong Asrama instead.  With that, we went ahead, "scaled" .265 and reached the 80km marker at 12:25pm - 2hrs 5mins to cover that last 10km!

Upon reaching back at the Lorong Asrama water point, there was no more ice cold drink water available.  Luckily the weather was still great and Tiwazz had ice cold Coke to offer!  Tin Tin had to leave by then and I took the opportunity to dump my compact camera (which weighed like 10kg) with him.  I knew that I had plenty of time to make it back to the finishing line even if I walk unless something catastrophic happened.  I thanked Tiwazz and Tin Tin and continued, always focusing on the next marker which was less than 10km away.  As it was mostly flat, I was able to jog more than I walk and I wasn't surprised that I reached the 90km marker at 2:10pm (1hr 45mins for that 10km segment)!  I also saw Terence's support team of Yankee, Tao, Regina and Tiwazz, and took in more Coke (I think).  Just before the Zheng Hua water point, a 50km runner ran past me and I encouraged him to continue running and never let me catch up with him, or else, he won't make the 3.45pm finishing cut-off time.  At the Zheng Hua water point, I saw him with another 50km runner who also ran past me much earlier.  I urged both of them to push on (and I was glad I didn't see them anymore) and hopefully they did complete within the cut-off.

Coming out from the pipe lines, I had great difficulty climbing across the road barrier and the volunteers had to point out an easier section to climb.  But once done, the tarmac road meant easier footing and my chance to jog till the Rifle Range water station.  At the intersection point before Jelutong Tower, I met Lincoln volunteering there as a marshaller.  I continued and reached the Jelutong Tower at 3:25pm, which was about 5km from the finishing line.  I knew by than I would finish the race well within the cut-off time and eased off.  I took the opportunity to take pictures with a group of volunteers there, before taking a short walk along the wooden boardwalk with the family who help took the picture.  They were visitors from Holland and were surprised that we had a 100km running event in such a small country.  After the boardwalk, I wished them a pleasant stay and continued jogging.  After the golf course, I met a 100km runner who seemed to have some injury and was walking with 2 improvised trekking poles.  (The runner was June Kit Leo from Singapore and I was glad that he finished the race eventually.)

At the fitness corner, 2.5km from the finishing, I whatsapped Ian and Tekko that I should be reaching MR at 4:15pm thereabout.  Tekko was still hopeful that I could reach the finishing by 4:00pm and kept encouraging me to get back fast.  I tried my hardest to run but my energy level was almost empty.  Near the end, I closed in on a runner but he was able to sprint away upon hearing my heavy footsteps.  I had nothing left to give chase and saw him disappeared out of the trailhead and out of my sight.  When I came out of the trailhead and near the finishing, I could hear people clapping and cheering and it gave me extra energy to carry through to the finishing.  I was completely exhausted and was very very glad to complete the TNF100 Singapore in my 3rd attempt.  Cheryl also completed the race some 15mins after me.  She was elated and was full of smiles and cheers, unlike me who looked as though I was dying.  :)

Overall, the race was well organised with enough directional signs that were huge - we knew exactly where we were supposed to run and turn.  The water points were also nicely situated although it would be good to have a "mini water point" serving ice or something cold at the top of .265.  The starting time of the event (11:00pm) was also nicely planned out for the 100km category with a reasonably cut-off time set at 20 hours.  Post race ice-cream and sandwich were fantastic offers although the sandwich didn't feel appealing to me at that point.  I hoped to see more runners challenge themselves further by attempting the 100km category next year.  It was a tough race but certainly doable with proper training.  :)

P.S. The details may have been recorded wrongly unintentionally due to the time lapse from the actual event.

1 comment:

racingtips said...

Out of sheer curiosity, my mom and I went today to take a look. At the entrance where there are gantries as you see above, you can use your ez-link card to pay a $3 entry fee to the Lower Grandstand, which are the cheap seats but where you can experience the most hype from the punters ? Horse Racing Singapore.