The inaugural race was supposed to take place in May 2011. It was postponed due to the seismic scale 9.0 earthquake in the eastern coast of Japan on 11th Mar 2011 and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Participants were given the option to go for the race in May 2012 or to have a refund. The organising committee also opened up more slots for other interested people for the race in 2012.
I wanted to give the race a try when I heard it was going to be held in May 2012. I was pondering should I go for the 100M or the 90km. I thought about it and asked more experience runners for their opinion. Seow Kong explained to me since my first 2 ultras were both road races and I had never did a trail ultra in the past, I should just go for the 90km Shizuoka to Yamanashi (STY) first. The 100M Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF) could wait.
I thought it made sense and signed up for the STY. That was in Nov 2011.
Training started roughly around Christmas 2011. Venue was the same as before. Macritchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah, Lower and Upper Pierce Reservoir on Saturdays. Mount Faber, Kent Ridge and NUS on Sundays.
Training was done "blindly". There was no map, or elevation profile of the race route available at that time. I have never been to Mount Fuji. I could only go for milage. Prior to this, the only trail races I did was TNF 100 Duo Singapore. I knew my experience of running "mountains" was really, really lacking.
Thankfully, my HK friends knew that I had signed up for the race. So when I went for SCHKM in February, Jennifer brought me to trek / run section 6, 7 and 8 of Maclehose Trail the day after the marathon (and for that I earned the nickname 新加坡外星人), which was the last 20km of the Vibram Hong Kong 100. It was really tough. Needle Hill (针山) was a killer. Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) was a never ending trek up to the weather station at the top. I still remembered the conversation we had about "这段不是山, 这段只是斜路!" (this stretch of route is not a mountain, its only an upslope). Jennifer also pointed out shortcomings in my footing and breathing, which was actually something very simple which I had forgotten.
After the trekking experience in Maclehose, I realised I am very poor at maneuvering technical trails. My old running route at BT needs to change. I switched to going up BT from the Dairy Farm side where the trail was slightly more technical with roots, mud and stairs! Pace was slowed down to a crawl but it could not be helped.
I explored new routes. I found out where is Butterfly Trail and finally knew where is Woodcutter's Trail. Both are mountain bike trails so its not "good" to run. Uneven ground, roots, stumps, fallen logs and mud made running more difficult. But it was good. Besides the trail, I started climbing stairs at my block to prepare my legs for the climbing.
It was not possible to simulate the kind of elevation gain of the race, or the weather or the terrain which I had no idea what would it be like. I could only try to make use of what's available here and squeeze out what I can from them.
The long runs on weekends were also testing ground for nutrition. I tried Hammer Perpeteum, Recoverlite and Anti-Fatigue capsules. I like the slow releasing of the Perpeteum. Its taste is also not that strong. I also tried organic stuff. I swear by chia seeds now and put 1 spoonful into my glass of water every morning.
I learned to run with the weather all over again. As my milage increased, I could run from early morning to late afternoon. From April onwards, running in heavy rain on Saturdays seems a sure thing to happen. It just varied on when the rain would start during my run and how long it will last. I also learnt to run with the hot sun as my companion. If it was not raining, I would take in the full wrath of the sun from late morning to early afternoon. I told myself to enjoy them, the sun, rain and the wind. Since I had no control over the elements, I might as well enjoy them. They will always be there, besides the road.
Waking up to a heavy rain for training was really demoralising. You keep telling yourself to go back to sleep. You cursed at yourself why you need to do such things when others are still tossing away on their bed. I still forced myself to get out of the house. 风雨不改.
RULES & REGULATIONS
Initially when we signed up for the race, we were told there would be 2 bag drops for UTMF and 1 for STY. I was planning to deposit some of my nutrition and my fleece at the bag drop so that will help save my some energy for the run. However, when the race route was confirmed in Mar 2012, they announced there would only be 1 bag drop for UTMF instead. Worse, STY would have no bag drop!
It was a WTF moment. Now we have to carry EVERYTHING we need with us. When the rules changes, you change your game plan according to suit it.
Next, there was a new item inside the mandatory kit list. A portable toilet. The first thought that surfaced in my mind was: "We need to carry a toilet bowl to run?!!"
I sent an email to the race enquiry. It was an adventure tour group that was in charge of handling the questions from oversea participants. They also came up with accommodation packages for oversea participants and was also in charge of translating the Japanese race website into an English version website. I told myself to keep my tone to a neutral in my email but I was certain my words still went somewhere along the lines of "WTF!". They replied that they had reconfirmed with the organising committee and yes, we ARE required to have a portable toilet with us. It was demanded by the environmentalists. After finding out more information about the portable toilet, the tour group posted photos of the portable toilet on their website. Luckily it looks rather small so it should be able to fit into my hydration bag. No, it does not look like a toilet bowl but rather just a plastic bag.
Talking about the change of Rules & Regulations, just the day before this was posted, we received another email informing us they have added a compass and race course map into the mandatory items. The only thing we can do is to play according to the rules.
This is the first time the race will be held and I do believe the organising committee is working very hard on the race organisation and in distributing race information to the participants as early as possible.
People asked how do I prevent myself from getting injured from running so much. I replied them I just run slowly and I try to maintain a proper form while running. Others may feel sleepy if they were to run at my slow pace. I had already grown used to not looking at my garmin during my runs. I wore it more for recording the distance which I covered. I relied mostly on my feelings now. By that I do not mean I would stop or slow down even more the moment I feel tired. I still do continue to push forward when I feel exhausted and when my muscles are aching and screaming. I find it a little difficult to explain. The simplest way for me to put "rely on my feelings" across is: I feel happy about it.
Happiness. Is it not what running was all about ultimately?
Did I really escape injury? I was injured. Or rather I was at the verge of sustaining injury. Very often, either I would kick, trip onto some roots or rocks or my ankle would twist from landing on an uneven surface. Fortunately I was able to quickly land forward or shift my body weight such it would not cause my ankle to be really twisted.
However, there was once when my right ankle became swollen after a run for no reason. I did not twist it during the run or hit it against something. I just hoped it would quickly go off. I was able to continue running the next weekend as the swelling subsided. Just as I thought it was alright, both the bottom of my foot was aching after the run. I was so worried and suspected it was plantar fasciitis.
I told my friend about it and she just told me off and said I should just rest. I listened and skipped my weekday run for the week. During the weekend, I carried on with the long runs. Before I started I told myself I would stop and call off the run at the slightest sign of discomfort. Thankfully my feet did not give any problems.
This further testifies to the fact that when you need to rest, you NEED to rest.
I wish to thank my friends who stood with me during my training and for giving my advices for the race. I skipped a lot of New Balance weekly runs during these few months. Occasionally when I felt I have not seen them for quite a while I would go back to join them for a run. It feels really nice to be running with them. After not meeting them for a while, seeing them run gave me a sense of happiness for them.
不管出赛当天会发生什么状况，我都会坦然面对。不断向前。Continuous forward motion.