Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sundown Ultramarathon 2011 - Part 2 / 2

We were running through the HDB estates at Pasir Ris. Some stretch of the footpath we were running on were not properly lit. The lamp posts were not switched on. I was trying to focus my attention on finding where were the directional signs and bicycle lights. The dark surroundings made me felt like sleeping.

Soon, we emerged out at TPE. Turning right we came to the overhead bridge. I could see runners running through it as I went up the ramp. A couple more runners were coming back in the opposite direction. IKEA was on the opposite of the bridge.

The next thing to look out for would be Bedok Reservoir, the 50km mark!

Shortly after turning left onto Tampines Avenue 10 at around 43km, there was a big group of supporters at the bus stop. I thought they were from SAFRA. Among them was Chin, Nancy, Hazel and Kee Seng.

There was another bridge beside the bus stop. A saw a group of them was standing next to the ramp going up. I shouted: "Its not up right??!"

"No! No! No! You go straight!"

Phew ..

They handed me a piece of ice cold banana. Splendid!

Going down Tampines Avenue 10 was slightly easy as it was downslope. More and more runners were making their way back on the return leg. I saw Reuben and also Lai Chee running back. I also met Rosalind and Genevieve at a bus stop. They had driven all the way here to continue supporting their friends.

The turn into Bedok Reservoir came at around 46.5km. i saw a toilet when I entered the footpath around the reservoir and quickly went to relieve myself. It has been close to 6.5 hr since race start and I just kept drinking water.

We were supposed to do a U shaped loop around the reservoir. Bumped into Jacqueline Tan on her way back. She was fast. At 48km we went onto the gravel path. I saw Fumi - chan and shouted "Gambatte" to her. She shouted "Aligato" back to me. A shorter distance down I saw Charlotte Teoh but she did not see me. She had now tied a colourful piece of sarong around her. I wanted to ask her why but she was going too fast. Maybe the sarong adds to the speed?

I remembered Lixin said she was looking forward to the Bedok Reservoir portion. I asked her why and she replied the reservoir was very beautiful at night. It did look nice but I must admit I was not in much of a mood to admire it.

It was more difficult to run on the gravel so I ran at the edge of the gravel on the grass. The midpoint was just less than 2km in front. I guess it would be situated somewhere near the pump house. Just a bit more! Just a bit more!

Finally I saw the white tentage in front of me and volunteers were shouting out the BIB numbers of the runners approaching.

Yes, halfway down!

Time: 0007Hr
Distance: 50 km
10km Split: 01:26:17
Food: Snicker Bar

I was close to 20 mins ahead of schedule.

Inside the tentage, runners that arrived before me sat down to rest and ate some snacks. There was a wide variety of food at the tentage. Sandwiches, biscuits, cakes, hotdog bread, fruits and many many more. There were separate tentages for runners to change into a new set of running attire.

I met Sam and Ashley resting at the side of the road. I would very much like to sit down and rest too. Yet I was worried I may lose the momentum. I did not even went to collect my special needs bag. I figured I need not have a change of attire. Looking through the buffet spread on the table, I tried to select on something which was easy to go down the throat. There was no appetite for anything. I chose the hotdog bread as it looked the nicest. It was steaming hot as there was a hot dog heater at the side and the volunteers were busy churning out hotdogs after hotdog. I made sure my bottle was refilled before setting off. Just before going off, I saw Rosalind and Genevieve at the tentage. They also saw me. Rosalind said: "We met again!"

Second half.

As I made my way back on the gravel path, I ran into Pui San, Winnie, Alexis, Azhar and Amy. Just a little further down, a person dressed in a light blue tee pushing a bike stopped right in front of me. The person opened up both her arms and shouted my name. I realised it was GY! She held on to my left hand (the hotdog bread was still unfinished in my right hand) and said a few times: "相信你自己! 你行的! (Trust yourself! You can do it!)" The only thing I could do was to hold on back to her hands tightly and kept nodding my head. I could not speak a word as I was tired and I was still chewing on the hotdog bread.

I knew my body was draining off slowly. Or I hoped it was slowly.

Back through the loop around Bedok Reservoir and we were back onto Tampines Avenue 10. It was now a slight upslope run. Pace was still ok.

Do not think so much. Just keep going.

Along the way, I saw Rosalind and Genevieve again! "Huh?!! They are everywhere!" Could tell that they are starting to feel tired too. Its not easy being a supporter either.

Further up, I bumped into Chin and Nancy. Chin was busy taking photographs of the runners. Nancy was handing out fruits to the runners. I asked her if she still had the lemon slices but it was all finished. She only had pineapple slices now. Its good enough. I almost swallowed immediately them right after putting them into my mouth.

Then came the bridge at IKEA bringing us back to the HDB estates at Pasir Ris. You feel good seeing the same sights again but this time in the opposite direction.

Seeing the 58km marker was a little demoralising. "Hey! I just have another full marathon to go!" I almost felt like breaking up the big signboard but decided not to as there were still many runners behind me. I would let them do the job. Hahaha .. :)

I could really feel my body weakening. The pace had slowed down.

Time: 0244Hr
Distance: 60 km
10km Split: 01:36:44
Food: Snicker Bar

Did not stay long at the aid station again. Besides the tired runners, the volunteers were also showing signs of fatigue. You could not fault them as they had been standing there the whole night. Yet some of them still cheerfully offered runners drinks and helped to fill up their hydration bags.

The run along Pasir Ris Park was in a slow, tired mode. The only thing I could do was to just keep moving forward and keep a lookout for the bicycle lights and directional signs. Some parts of the park was a little dark. I did not wish to steer off course.

The walk breaks became more frequent and not was at 15 mins interval anymore. My muscles were tightening up. Especially my ITB. Up till a point I had to stop to sit down on a bench and stretch it. Another runner was kind enough to ask if I was ok. I smiled back and said yes. Or rather I hoped so.

As I continued running, I saw Steven Ho at the side waving at me. He had came down to cheer for the runners. "Do you want gum?", he asked. I asked him what gum was it and he told me chewing gum. Its for the sugar. He poured from a bag several small bits of chewing gum onto my hands and said: "Just dont swallow them."

Ok. I hope I could remember. :p

Its had been a long while since I had chewing gum. So now besides my legs and body, even my facial muscles were working out. Steven told me the 64km mark was just near in front. That would be the end of the Pasir Ris Park and back onto the roads. I spit out the chewing gum before exciting Pasir Ris Park. They had became bland and I did not want to risk really swallowing them.

We got onto Pasir Ris Drive 2 and turned left into Pasir Ris Drive 3. There was a another group of supporters at the bus stop. They cheered for us as we passed by them.

Pasir Ris Drive 3 was upslope. I was very tired so I walked up. Ran down Loyang Avenue as it was downslope. I started to feel the impact of the long distance on both my feet. This stretch of the route leading back to Changi Village was exactly the same as Sundown Marathon 2009. I remembered I was so shagged at that time running along here. I had went into the bushes and relieved myself along the fences of the Hendon Camp. At that time, I was a little worried that they might come out to catch me. "It might be better if they had just caught me," I thought to myself, "so I have a legitimate reason not to continue the run." Fortunately, or unfortunately, they did not.

I did the same thing again today. They did not catch me again. :p

Netheravon Road was another upslope followed by a downslope. We passed by Changi Village Hotel and crossed the small bridge again. Finally we arrived at the aid station. I looked at my watch and I knew my body was on a downhill journey.

Time: 0426Hr
Distance: 70 km
10km Split: 01:42:25
Food: GU Gel

Fatigue had caught up with me. Grabbed some oranges and kept soaking myself with the cold wet sponges.

Changi Beach Park was very quiet now. Everybody was asleep. Inside their tents or under the sheds. There was no more fire coming out from the BBQ pits but only white smoke. I did not think anybody noticed us running pass.

"You keep moving! You dont give up! You keep moving! You dont give up!"

Whenever the thought of giving up passed through my mind, I would think of my good friend. She had been a big source of motivation to me when I was training for this race. This 100K was nothing compared to what she was going through. If she could hang on there, so could I! She said although she could not be around physically to cheer for her friends who were running, her spirit would be always around. I had always told her not to give up. So I must also not give up. This was the least of what I could do for her to support her. I told she would be the first person I send an update to after the race and it would be I had finished!

I thought of my friends in KL. The race would be starting soon for them. I wonder how were they feeling now. Wish them all the best for their race.

People overtook me when I walked. I overtook them when they walked. Those who ran together were too tired to talk. Energy was a scarce commodity now.

We reached coastal road. The long stretch of never ending lamp posts. I kept my eyes fixed on the end of the trail of lights at the far end. "This is the end of the tunnel!", I told myself. The noise of the engines of the the planes taking off or landing at the airport seem exceptionally loud. To an extend it was irritating. Besides the occasional cars or bikes going pass, there were only us running on along it. At some point it seemed that I was the only person left. Silently moving one foot in front of another.

I was getting more and more tired and sleepy. Up to a point I knew I need to stop for a while. I encountered the same experience when I was training for Sundown 2010. I did night runs for trainings. A lot of times I ran until I felt very sleepy. It was very dangerous to keep running when you were feeling very sleepy. You could accidentally slip and fell or something. I discovered the best remedy was to actually sleep off the fatigue. Just a short nap would be enough. I sat down at the next shelter I came to, removed my hydration pack and lied down. I covered my eyes with my arms and hugged onto my hydration pack. Initially I could hear my breathing. It was hard and deep. Gradually it softened until I no longer hear it.

Zzzzzz ..

I woke up in a short while. Ok, I felt better now. Taking a look at my watch and saw that I had only slept for 3 min. At least it was good enough to keep me going. I was not sure how many people had overtaken me while I was asleep. I could not be bothered either. They must be curious why was I sleeping at the shelter. Or maybe they would understand.

The run continued. I kept looking at the end of the trail of lights. After what seemed like forever, I came to the end of coastal and turned left to the canal. Of all the times I ran coastal road, this time it seemed to be the longest.

Following the canal, I came to the aid station. It was a relieving sight.

Very relieving.

Time: 0617Hr
Distance: 80 km
10km Split: 01:51:10
Food: Snicker Bar

Morale was higher now. I grabbed some fruits. Refilled my bottle. Soaked myself with the cold sponges again.


I saw volunteers sleeping next to the fence beside the canal. It must had been a tiring night for them.

The sun was now up. Some cyclists passed by us as we ran towards NSRCC and cheered for us. It did help to lift up our moods.

Reached NSRCC. Alright, everything was a familiar sight now.

As I was running passed NSC, I heard somebody shouted my name. "Its Jacky! Its Jacky!" I looked closer and realised it was Jennifer Lem and the Punggol Runners!

Seeing them was a boost in morale!

Their watermelon tasted wonderful! When I left them, Simon (pictured) shouted: "Go! Jacky, go!" I raised up my hands into the air and clapped.

At a short distance in front was the 84km marker. The time taken was 12:58. Hey, I had improved from my TUC timing! I started to pick up my pace. I was a little surprised I could find the strength to do so.

The time was now 0700 in the morning. The sky was bright. ECP was getting crowded. I was running beside two other runners as we approach F1 car park. I said to them: "Good morning." They greeted back. All three of us laughed.

There seem to be small groups of people along ECP who were cheering the runners but I could not clearly make out who they were. At Bedok Jetty, I met Elaine Tee running in the opposite direction. I could not recognise her initially as I was feeling tired. We gave a pat on each other's back as we passed.

I was running near the youth skate park when I saw 2 familiar figures running towards me. It was Soon Teck and Joanne. I was just telling them to come and support the runners at the end point or at ECP. They asked if I needed people to run with me. I told them if they wanted to run they were more than welcomed. They really came!

Having them beside me lifted my moral further up. Joanne told me she had a bottle of sour plum drink with her and I could have it anytime. I nodded and smiled back at her.

I saw Daniel from New Balance cheering for the runners at just before reaching the food center at the lagoon.

I kept checking my pace. It was around 6 min pace. I was a surprised I could still go such a pace now. "Maintain! Maintain!"

Very soon, we reached McDonald. "Just in front! Its just in front!"

I could see the shape of a white tentage far ahead. Slowly, it gets clearer and clearer as I got nearer. Its the 10km / 90km aid station.

Time: 0743Hr
Distance: 90 km
10km Split: 01:26:01
Food: GU Gel

I grabbed a sponge on each hand and squeezed all the cold water onto my head.

Final stretch! Go! Go! Go!

I carried on the run towards Fort Road, looking out for the turn towards the underpass. I passed other runners who walking back. I looked at them and just smiled back. Soon Teck went ahead to help me see where to turn just in case I missed it. Joanne seemed to have slowed down a little at the back.

We came to the underpass and got to the residential areas across the road.

"Jacky, you are reaching soon!", I told myself.

I was tracing the road in my mind. "Yes, I was here yesterday. I came from this way." We passed Katong Swimming Complex and turned right at Mountbatten Road. I walked up the bridge. At the same time resting my muscles and take a breath.

I continued running along the Sungei Geylang. I remembered the small narrow bridge. This was 95km!

I took another pack of GU gel.

Soon Teck was encouraging me all the while as we ran. He kept telling me to focus and pointed out to me the different distance markers. We were now at the condominiums at Tanjong Rhu. My body was screaming in pain trying to maintain the pace. If not because of having him at the side I would have just slowed down and walked.

We went under the Benjamin Shears Bridge and were now running along Marina Bay. Marina Barrage was in sight!

Weather had now turned hot. There was head wind as I ran on. Just 2km more. Push, Jacky! Push!

As we got nearer to the barrage, Soon Teck left me to carry on the run while he went back to find Joanne. I turned right and got up the barrage. It was a nice feeling running through it. As I got to the end, I heard Sandy called me. She and Hazel were there waiting for us to return.

The path was laid out for the runners.

I saw the ramp as I got into Marina Barrage. Going up made my muscles screamed like hell but I still tried to maintained a smile. I must admit this was actually the toughest part of the race. Hahaha .. :)

I was thinking of how to cross the finish line. Just run through? Too plain. Aeroplane style? I already did it at SDM. I was thinking of doing a star jump but I was not sure if I can still jump. I also did not wish to risk landing and cramping right at the finish line.

I began to see the finish arch but still had not made up my mind. "Comon, Jacky! You cant possibly stop in front of the finish line to think. Make up your mind!"

When I got nearer, I saw there was a finishers tape at the finish line.

I did it!

Time: 14:51:23

Category Placing: 109 / 321

My good friend, I finished the race. :)

There was a buffet spread at the rooftop. I had no appetite yet I knew I need to eat something. I ate a few bread but drank quite a few cans of 100Plus.

Fumi-chan won 4th in her category with a timing of 12:57:17!

With Jennifer and Fia.

With Joanne and Soon Teck.

With Sandy.

With Hazel.


This entry was written 2 weeks after the race, when all the emotions have calmed down and while I still had a vivid memory of the race. I really want to thank all the supporters who turned up to cheers for the runners. It was very much appreciated. Also wish to thank all the fellow participants who were running with me. You guys did very well. Good job.

Why I wanted to run the race?

Non running friends called me crazy. Running friends too. "Why do you go torture yourself?" More often than not, this question comes from a non running friend, or even colleague. I also asked myself that question many times. Most often it was through the form of cursing at myself and asking why the fuck I went to sign up for the 100km.

In 2009 after I completed my first marathon, I looked upon those who did the 84km in awe. I still do right now. I told myself I would never ever be able to do that. My maiden marathon almost killed me. I went for more marathons. Slowly, I grew confident of completing a marathon. I remembered it was some day in the later part of 2010, when I was thinking in my mind about the marathons which I had done and I told myself: "Lets do 84km next year."

That's it. Nothing to show. Nothing to prove. I just wanted to try.

*The organisers removed the 84km and replaced it with the 100km in 2011.

Looking back, the moment when I held up the finisher tape into the air and screamed, I knew that all this six months of training, all the weekend back to back runs, training runs amounting to 1701km spread over 237 hr, GU Gels, snicker bars, bouts of Endurox R4, was all worth it.

During my training, the more I ran, the more I came face to face with my weaknesses. It was then that I realised that I was just an ordinary human being. Not superman. Just the normal guy you would see on the streets every day. Of course, I enjoyed the trainings. I also enjoyed the race itself very much. Loved the participants, the volunteers, the supporters and the organisation.

Yet, strangely, the most enjoyable part of the race for me, was not actually crossing the finish line. Yes, crossing the finish line was an accomplishment. However, I most enjoyed the last few km of the race. When you knew you just had a few more km to go, even though you were already feeling very tired and fatigued and your muscles were begging you to stop, the feeling of knowing you could actually do it was absolutely wonderful. Somewhere in the bottom of your heart, there even seems to be a voice that says:

"You mean its gonna end soon?"

1 comment:

Fumi said...

Once again, Great job!!! and thanks so much for the support! I wouldn't even been able to reach at the starting point without you!
Good luck on the coming races and looking forward to see your new posts:)