Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 .. For the Love of It

回首 2012

2012 has been an exciting year. A year where I continued to learn and grow. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could in the past. I laughed. I cursed and sweared. And I cried too.

~ January ~

The year began with me training for STY which I had signed up in November last year. The race was schedule in May and it would be my first ever overseas trail race. I did not know what to expect but I carried on the usual weekend back to back long runs and the weekday shorter runs.

There was Vibram HK100 in Hong Kong. I needed to skip this as I was intending to focus on my training for STY. In the end, all my friends went for it without me. Sigh .. :s

As the HK100 race progressed, all of us watched in awe (on the actual race course and on FB for me) as Ryan Sandes from South Africa won the champion, along with it slashing the course record to a sub10 at 09:54:57. For the rest of the 36Hr cut off race, there was a very common question asked among all the runners still out in the field:

"What might Ryan be doing now?"

~ February ~

Taking photo with Mr Lai Hok Yan, HK #1 at SCHKM 2012
I did the SCHKM for the second time. My first SCHKM was in 2010. Several of my friends also went with me for the race. It was their first time doing HK so naturally a lot of them were very excited about it. Reason being they have heard good reviews about the race. Partly also because it was their first time running in colder weather. For me, it was more of a chance to meet up with my friends from HK, and of course eating the delicious HK food. I tried to go for a sub 4 again at the marathon. In the end, I fall short of target by around 11 minutes. What got me excited about this trip was the hike which Jennifer went with me the day after the marathon. HK has many trails with beautiful sceneries and Jennifer agreed to bring me to hike some parts of it when we went to River Kwai Half Marathon in Sepember 2011. Ivan was sick on that day so he could not tag along. Jennifer brought me to Maclehose section 6, 7 and 8. The weather was very foggy on that day, thus we were unable to admire the wonderful view on the top of Needle Hill.

The hiking was so tough to me as i was not prepared for the terrain. This would be a terrible weakness to me when doing the STY or even future races. Upon returning to Singapore, whenever I did my long runs to Bukit Timah, I no longer go up from the visitor centre side but from the Dairy Farm side. I needed the trails and steep steps instead of the smooth asphalt road.

~ March ~

The venue for Twilight Ultra Challenge was at East Coast Park. The race format was still the same: as many loops of 10k as possible within 16hrs. Ben was organising a new event in the later part of this year called the Craze Ultra Challenge. In order to get participants get used to running under the sun, he pushed back the starting time of TUC from 5pm to 12mn. This meant we would run through the noon time sun the next day. I was doing well all the way till 80km. My body broke down following that and I ended up walking the next 10km. I could have continued to walk another 1 loop to make it 100km. It was, however, already raining heavily. I knew my body was weak at the moment and did not wish to risk getting sick. My main priority was STY, not a 100km. I stopped after doing 9 loops.

~ April ~

This was my peak period of training for STY. Items on the mandatory gear list have been ticked off one by one. Naturally, my bank account also screamed and shrunk too. I kept telling myself to think of it as long term investment and I would be using them again for future races. It helped a little, until my credit card bill arrived. The staff at Outdoor Life at Novena Square must have gotten so sick of seeing me visiting their shop every time, looking around without buying anything.

~ May ~

Start point of STY
The big day finally arrived. I flew to Tokyo feeling nervous and anxious. That was my first time visiting Mount Fuji. The mountain was simply majestic. I met many new friends at the race, all of them more experienced than me in trail racing. Many of them were elites too. We all share a common interest that is trail running. There was never a dull moment being with them. I was able to learn a lot from all of them too. One common characteristic amongst them was they were all very humble.

The race was a totally enriching experience for me. Being my maiden overseas trail race, I hope to be able to complete. I expected it to be tough. Very tough. However, it was much more worse than I could ever, ever have imagined. Honestly, I was going to give up during the 27km Tenshiyama mountainous stretch from A8 Nishi-Fuji to A9 Motosu-ko. The slopes were really unforgiving. Endless upslopes. Endless downslopes which were twice as steep. It was a PURE NIGHTMARE ! What stopped me from giving up was in fact there were no official vehicles or aid stations along the mountainous stretch. If I wish to give up I would still need to make my way to the next aid station, or back track to the previous one. It was Harry’s encouragement to me when I finally crawled my way to A9 Motosu-ko, telling me that I had already completed the most difficult part of the race that kept me going. I went on to finish the race in 23:39.

I really learnt a lot from this trip. From nutrition, to training for a race and to race preparation like how to pack my gear, what are the additional things I need to have. All those would have took me many more races or even years to learn by myself; yet the others were more than willing to share with me. Mostly importantly, I managed to push myself beyond the comfort boundary that I had been used to. Up till now, I still can visualise myself slowly going up the steep slopes of the 27km mountainous stretch. The experiences from this race would help me greatly in TMBT in Sep in Kota Kinabalu. I believe it would continue to help me in future races too.

~ June ~

Me, Fumie and Mizuna
I followed my friends for SCKLM. They did the running. I did the eating and of course the cheering. I should do this more often.

I managed to meet up with Fumie! I first met her in Phuket 2010. During that time we were running together for the final 2 - 3km and she was chasing so hard behind me. We came in together at 4:43.

This year, she did another FM in India and "unknowingly" achieved a BQ at 3:22!

(I forgot what was the name of the race. It was not one of those internationally well known races like Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. What I did remember was the race has a 4 hr cut off!)

CW was a 5:30 pacer for SCKLM
Finally met Chooi Wan in person too! She signed up for those working traveling programmes where you work and travel at a location over a period of 6 mths. She is currently in New Zealand.

~ July ~

Setting off after our lunch break
The guys planned for a 60km run to celebrate Edmund’s 60th birthday. We ran from his house in Bukit Panjang through Novena, Macritchie Reservoir, Hougang, Punggol and ended at Eunos MRT. New friends were made. A few of them also did their first long distance run of 42km or longer. I was surprised by how well Eve and Ivy ran for the day. Potential long distance runners, maybe? Hehe .. We ended the day with a good hokkien mee dinner.

Thank goodness Edmund is only 60 years old.

London 2012 Olympic Flame Cauldron
by Chris Snowden
The London 2012 Olympic Games opened. Familiar faces like Mr Bean, Spice Girls performed at the opening ceremony. I like Daniel Craig's James Bond opening scene and the design of the Olympic Flame cauldron.

Now, I wondered why trail running was not included in the Olympics.

~ August ~

Training continues for TMBT in Kota Kinabalu.

In France, inclement weather affected the 10th edition of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc again. Race orgnaisers were forced to make a last minute decision to revise the 168km 9600m D+ race spanning across France, Italy and Spain into a 100km with around 6000m D+ (did I get the figures correct?) passing only through France.

~ September ~

Kee Seng, Osbert, Amy, Me, Trish
I travelled to Kota Kinabalu for my second overseas trails race at TMBT. It was also my first ever overseas 100km trail race. I went together with Trish, Amy, Kee Seng and Osbert. This time I was more experienced, having learnt valuable lessons from STY. The weather was fair when the gun went off in the morning but slowly it got hotter and hotter. The route was some sort of a figure of 8. I got lost twice in the night time. The route markers were just terrible. The reflective tapes were reflective was not at all. We could only see them in the beam of our headlight when we pass by them. I made more new friends who also loved trail running as me. I went for the race just wishing to complete. I would say I was quite pleased with the results.

Start line at Macritchie Reservoir
One week after TMBT was the Craze Ultra Challenge. There were 43km, 78km, 101km and 100M categories. Edmund signed up for the 101km. I had promised to pace him if he signed up for 100km. As it was just one week after TMBT, I told him I will run with him for the second half. On Sunday morning 7am, I went to MR to send off Edmund and those taking part in the other categories. I told Edmund I would be waiting for him at the halfway point at Punggol Waterway in the afternoon. Kee Wee would pace him for the entire journey. There were a lot of other people running with Edmund too. Edmund had told me their ETA at the halfway point will be around 7.5Hrs, which means around 1430Hr.

At the 50km U turn mark at Punggol Park
I arrived at around 1400Hr. Joanne, Soon Teck, Boon Leong and Loss were also there to set up their mobile support station for Edmund. The sun was scorching hot. I knew there was a long stretch of route leading to the halfway point where there is totally no shade. I stood at the shelter and waited, eagerly hoping that the next runner that comes into sight would be him. From the expressions of every runner than turned in, you could tell the sun was just merciless. Edmund arrived at around 1515Hr. After resting for around 30 mins, we started our way for the second half.

It was encouraging to see everybody persevere through the run. One of the advantages of having others to run with you was that you can have company throughout the highs and lows of the journey. You can help to “push” each other or “pull” each other along. The race itself provided excellent support. The mobile support station of our friends was also incredible. They had stuff like cold towels, cold cut fruits, porridge, instant noodles, bread, cold towel, etc. What else can we ask for? They really did a fantastic job. Yet, I seem to sense some form of negative effect it had on Edmund and Kee Wee. As much as it was meant to help them finish the race, it also slowed them down to some extend. From what I could see, they had too long a break for too many times. Each time they rested they were treated with the good stuff like instant noodles, fruits and bread and stayed rested for a long period of time. We had good intentions of helping them, but I guessed rather it turned out to be pampering them (too much) instead. As a result, their body need to restart the engine every time they continue the run, only to stop for another long break a while later. They ended up taking a longer time than they actually could to finish the race, and this longer time on the road caused even more fatigue and sleepiness for them.

Nevertheless, it was a job well done for Edmund and Kee Wee and the rest of the people who came. A few of them also clocked the longest distance they have had ever done too. Eunice did 40km. Jasmine Chan did 70km over (74km??). Eve and Jasmine Tay did the whole 100km!!!? Not a very good move though, Eve injured herself at the end of the run.

~ October ~

Before the start of the 25km at the zig zag bridge
I did the TNF again. I did not sign up but ran the 25km with the NB fellows. I guess I had got tired of running Asrama after doing the 50km for 3 years.

I ran with Ivy for the race. It was her debut TNF (or rather debut trail race) and also her first time venturing out of MR. The 25km started at 8am in the morning. As she needed to rush off to work in the afternoon, I asked what time she needs to be back.

The conversation went something like this:

Ivy: hmmm .. 1130am will be good.
Me: ok .. (in my heart: wah! 3hr 30min!)
Ivy: 1115am will be even better.
Me: eerrm .. ok .. we try (in my heart: oh no! 3hr 15min!)

The trail in MR was packed with runners we had to slow down at several points. I tried to take the side of the trail to cut to the front and Ivy followed. The route brought us to Rifle Range Road, Durain Loop, Dairy Farm, Belukar Trail, back onto Rifle Range Road and finally back into MR. Ivy was able to keep a good pace for a long stretch of the route, with some walking here and there. Some parts she seemed to struggle a little as she had not ran there before. We made it back in 3hr 12mins. Not bad for someone’s first 25km trail race and also the first time out of MR. We also came back before 1115Hr. Haha ..

I remembered telling Ivy after the race she did a good job and had ran hard. She replied “Well, I definitely ran much harder than you!” Errm .. :p

The NB people at scape organised a 50km run. The run seem to be organised by those inspired by Edmund who did the 100km (he was idolised by the Scape runners after the race, hahaha ☺). It was a good idea, letting more people experience running long distances, but the only bad thing was it falls the day immediately after TNF. Not really sure who planned the date. I was told the run was planned by Edmund and me. Hmmm .. Strange, why am I not awake ah?

We started from Novena Scape and went down to Singapore River, Esplanade, Floating Platform, Marina Barrage, Fort Road, East Coast Park. We had lunch at ECP food center. Edmund introduced me to this Roxy Laksa. It just tasted wonderful! I left early from ECP while they continued their way into the night, clocking 50km when they hit back to Scape. Well done to everybody! They ended the night with a well-deserved steamboat buffet.

There was something that turned me off though. That night after the run, some of them went onto FB and openly proclaimed that they were now ultrarunners. Sigh .. if you wanted fame and recognition or was trying to prove something .. do not come into long distance running .. its not for you.

Love the mountains!
There was a long weekend in October so I flew over to Hong Kong and asked Bernie to bring me to the trails. I knew training in Singapore would most probably be insufficient. Hong Kong has several very beautiful, and challenging, trails for us to train. On Day 1, Bernie brought me to Maclehose Section 3, 4 and 5 stretching from Pak Tam Au to Tai Po Road, somewhere around Sham Shui Po. On Day 2, we went to Lantau Trail. I was totally (totally!) drained at the end of each day but I really enjoyed myself. Love the mountains they have. :)

~ December ~

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
My last race of the year was Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. Along with SCSM, macau and Shanghai, they always fall on the first weekend of December. We were talking about it since March. In the end, Joanne, Soon Teck and me went together. The race has a very scenic route. We took a day to tour the major temples before the race itself. They have very interesting history behind them. I especially remember the temples being converted from Hindu to Buddhist and vice versa when there is a change of king of the country. Having done the temple tour before the race, when we ran passed the temples we were able to identify them. There were also many small children lining up at the side of the route to cheer for us and to high five with us. The place has very nice food too and we also had our fun searching for a good massage place. We also visited the silk farm and the floating village on Tonle Sap river, the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia. One bad point was the weather was scotching hot. :p Thanks to Joanne and Soon Teck for the wonderful company during the trip.

With the delicious food
By Alex Tai
There was a gathering on Christmas Day at Edmund's mom's house. She cooks superb laksa. Really superb. There was a spread of other good food too. Some of us were even keen to learn a skill or two from her.

Christmas dinner
By Alex Tai

Following that, we went to Brian's place for the gift exchange and dinner. There was this affirmation session where everybody was supposed to write something good (and only good things) about a person. Each of us wrote about Joanne as her birthday was just around the corner. I am not that good with words so I just wrote something short while the rest was like going on 滔滔不绝. :p

It was definitely a very meaningful session seeing everybody giving credit to others for the things that they did no matter how small, or simply for being the person that they were. I should join them more often if I could, because the cake and cookies baked by Alex and the muffins by Roons were very, very delicious. Kekeke .. :)

Continuous Forward Motion
By Eve Woo
MR25 was always on the last weekend of the year. Many of the runners would run it as a closing for the year. As many loops of 10.5km in 12 hours as you can but with at least 5 loops. This year, many of the NB runners were running it for the first time. It was nice to see them training together every weekend at MR pushing and encouraging each other along. May this run be a new experience for them. Kee Wee, Eve, Neo and Desmond did 7 loops! Hope all of them enjoyed the race and would take up more long distances in the future.

(Why the photo looks so Macritchie Reservoir ah?)

I did not sign up for MR25 as I was already in the tapering phase of training for HK100. I would not be doing up to 50km for a single session. I had planned to run with them for a section of the race but in the end could not turn up for the event. Some of my friends would know why. I thought some other things were just more important. It was, after all, just running.

展望 2013

Looking forward to 2013, similarly to 2012, I will be doing a small number of races. I find it better to train hard and go run a race. Its more fulfilling, I learn more through the process. The training also makes me (seem to) suffer a little lesser.

Finally, I had signed up for HK100 in January. The race was getting so popular it was closed in 3 days after registration open in November.

There is of course, THE race in April. Those friends of mine will know which race I am talking about. I was so anxious to sign up for it I sat in front of my laptop waiting and staring at the website during my working hours 10 mins before registration starts. I shall not speak too much about it here.

I am still looking for a race for the second half the year. Or maybe I should go for a backpacking trip.

Some friends had offered their help to support me for the race without me asking them. I really want to thank them. It will be a very good opportunity for them to take part in the race, without running it. Being out there in the field, they will be able to experience what the runners go through. See for themselves how the runners put themselves through the grueling course to complete it. From there they will have their own stories to tell. Maybe, I hope they may even want to try running one themselves in time to come. However, the weather will be cold and hours long. As much as I wish for a friend to be there as a support crew, I also do not wish to see them suffer out in the course waiting for me. However, they are the first people that will come to my mind if I require support for a race. I had travelled with them before and I know they are able to tolerate me and my odd, sometimes demanding, character.

Thank you New Balance for the wonderful support rendered these few years. Very happy to have been part of the family. Let's use what you have given to me to other even more deserving runners to encourage them to achieve greater goals. :)

Speaking about character, I had heard people told me before that I do look proud to others. Oops .. well .. I cannot do anything much about it. Haha .. :)

Thank you everybody for a wonderful 2012 and to another exciting new year 2013 ahead.

In 2013 we run mountains. Again!! :)

From Petzl Sport

Appreciate more.

Be more thankful.

Run safe.

Good health to all, always! :)

~ jacky ~

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