Tuesday, December 31, 2013

and you just keep moving .. 2013

My impression of 2013 was it seems to pass by so fast. Things happened. People came .. and people left. Here is what I remember of 2013.

~ January ~

2013 started .. errrm .. rather with a full stomach. There were some gatherings where we met for dinner, while the food from Christmas 2012 were still digesting inside us.

25 Dec 2012
Photo from Alex Tai

25 Dec 2012
Photo from Alex Tai

31 Dec 2012
Photo from Alex Tai

06 Jan 2013
Photo from Alex Tai

The new season was opened with Vibram HK100 in Hong Kong. A 100km trail race that brings runners from Sai Kung in eastern Hong Kong to the New Territories in the west. The route cuts through a major part of the Maclehose Trail, except where some sections brought us to several beautiful beaches like Ham Tin. Ever since signing up for UTMF in Apr of this year, HK100 had became a “step-up” race. A race to help build race experience and confidence for the bigger race coming up in line. However, the training for HK100 was never leveled down but just as intense.

Weather was cold. Just over 10 degC. I used the same attire that I had worn for STY the previous year. It was also a good chance to meet up with many running friends, both from Singapore and overseas. The 2 joint RD, Janet and Steve, flagged of the race at 8am. The starting of the race was still all right for me, but I felt I missed some bits. I did not have a good night sleep due to the loud snoring of my roommate. There was some fatigue in me that slowly wore my body out. By the time I hit the halfway mark at Kei Ling Ha, I was already half gone. My subsequent climb up the next mountain Ma On Shan was like a walking zombie. That was until after I ascended Ma On Shan, where I began to push myself to move forward using a power hike, a trick that I learnt from others in TMBT last year. Finishing the race with a bronze trophy for coming in under 24hrs, I was totally wasted. I immediately fell sick after that and could not even properly hold a bottle of water and pour water out of it.

~ February ~

Chinese New Year! Gong Hei Fatt Choy!! We met up on the 15th Day of Chinese New Year (元宵节) for lou hei. A lot of food again!

24 Feb 2013
Photo from Alex Tai

~ March ~

This was the most crucial time for my UTMF training in the next month. Yet at this very moment, I injured myself during training. I still remember Jacq scolding me for not knowing how to take care of myself. I just kept quiet and listen. I knew she meant well. Very fortunately, it was only a very light injury and healed within one week. Thank goodness!

A piece of sad news suddenly came to by a message from a running friend. Another avid running friend met an accident during a diving trip in Tioman and did not make it back. His last journey was attended by all the people whom he had known or helped in his life. There was a request sent out to turn out dressed on how we remembered him. On that day, people turned up wearing running gear, finisher tees, ballroom dancing suits, etc.

There was a chalet organised by the gang at Pasir Ris. There was a BBQ and there was so much salad I loved it. Hehehe .. :)

16 Mar 2013
Photo from Alex Tai

~ April ~

Final stage of preparation of the big race was in place. I swear running the race was easier than doing the planning. I had never attempted a miler before so everything was planned on a “I think this should work” theory. I tried to leverage on my experience from STY last year, especially on crossing the dreaded Tenshiyama mountain range.

The overall amount of nutrition I planned turned out like this! After the race, I only consumed slightly lesser than half of them. Well, I always learnt things the best way possible: That is the hard way.

The race started at Yagasaki Kouen on 26 Apr 2013, 1500Hr. The distance was a loop of 161km going CCW around Mt Fuji with an elevation gain of 9164m. The official drop bag was at A4 Kodomono-Kuni at 79.3km halfway into the course. Having signed up for the support package with Avid Adventures, we had additional drops at W1 (36km), A3 (54.9km), A7 (105.3km), A8 (121.7km) and A10 (142.8km).

It was really a journey of self exploration, with beautiful sceneries along the way. When I started the section with the Tenshiyama mountains, memories of STY keep flashing in my mind. Back then 1 year ago, crossing Tenshiyama was a nightmare. A pure nightmare! I was on the brink of giving up at the Tenshiyama mountains during STY but I just slowly pressed on one step at a time. Wee told me before it was good I did not give up at that time. If I had given up, the memory would forever keep on haunting me in the future and I would forever stop at that point. Having done STY before really help me a lot in preparing mentally for the race.

I reached A4 Kodomono-Kuni at 17:16, which is the next day morning 0816Hr local time. The moment I received my drop bag and sat down, my phone rang. It was from my friends in Singapore who were tracking my progress for the race! I tried to describe to them what had transpired over the past 17hrs in around 10 mins. If they had been standing in front of me my saliva would have spat all over their faces. Thank you for making the call. You know who you are. :)

The next half loop of the course brought us to the highest point of the course at 1800m. Running down the volcanic soil was really fun. Just let everything go and run .. and pray you do not trip! The second night was much colder than the first night. We also had to cross the very technical section between A8 – A9 where we had to use both hand and legs to climb up the slope. It was just like rock climbing. I remembered by the third day, I was hallucinating as I began the ascend up the final mountain of the course. I had not sleep at all since the start of the race. I did tried to sleep when I was at A7 on the second day afternoon but my mind was turning too fast to go to sleep.

I crossed the finish line at 40:52, proudly holding the Singapore flag above me. Thank you very much for all my friends who had cheered and supported me.

~ May ~

The big race of the year is over. Now is the time to rest and recover. Some of us had signed up for the TriFactor Tri Swim at Sentosa so I went down to give support. It is my turn of giving back.

My friend told me she did a sub 4:30 for her FM at Sundown. I was so happy for her.

~ June ~

There were monthly Fat Ass runs carried out by a group of long distance fanatics. In Jun, their run was 230km in length! *sweat* I ran into some of them at Dairy Farm toilet during my own run.

08 Jun 2013

The annual SCKLM was scheduled to happen in June. Some of us signed up for the race. Some of us, like me just want to tag along for the food. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen weather conditions, the race was postponed due to the heavy haze. Fortunately, we still decided to go ahead with the trip. Not having to run allows us more time to go more places to have more food! Hahaha .. :)

30 Jun 2013
Photo from Alex Tai

I had only planned 3 races for 2013. Only 3. That was what they always say. Now there was a new race coming up in Hong Kong. TNF100 HK scheduled in mid Dec. That became my #4. I shall not repeat this kind of mistake again. I will try.

~ July ~

Training for the next race, TNF100 SG begins.

20 Jul 2013

~ August ~

There was a long weekend during the National Day week. I flew to Hong Kong and asked Bernie to bring me to recce part of the TNF100 HK route. We did the last 15km from Cloudy Hill through Ping Feng Shan, Wong Leng, Pat Sin Leng and to Tai Mei Tuk. Very nice sceneries. Very technical trails. I am wondering more and more if I can ever complete the race, given the high elevation gain and very high cut off time.

09 Aug 2013
Pat Sin Leng in the background

The next day we went to Sunset Peak on Lantau Island.

10 Aug 2013
Photo from Bernie Kwok

~ September ~

The SDUM was held at the end of the month. Some of our friends were brave enough to sign up and attempt their first ever 100km. Their training began since the beginning of the year. The route this year was 2 x 50km, instead of a to-and-fro route like the first year in 2011. As few of us went to send them off at the start. I returned at around midnight to run with them for the second loop.

It feels really good to see people cross the finish line, after putting in months of hard work. I believe to them, this maiden 100km will be forever etched in their memories. A big thank you also needs to go to those who stationed themselves at ECP to provide us with fruits and drinks.

~ October ~

First, we have those who attempted their maiden 100km road race at SDUM in Jun. Now, we have those who dare to attempt their first 100km on a trail terrain. For me, it was a race to be done so I could remove it from my list. Come on, if you had travelled overseas to run 100k, and there was one 100k in your own backyard but you have not done it before? Although it was a boring flat route of 2 x 50km and so freaking expensive!

Photo from Andrew Lin
The race gunned off at 2200Hr on 04 Oct at MR. The first loop was pretty ok. I was flagged off in the second wave 5 mins later but I did managed to catch up with a few runners of the first wave. After going through the drop bag and replenishing my stuff, I went off for the second loop. It started to rain heavily around 20mins into my second loop. It was now mud sloshing all the way for a long stretch of the race. As I made off just slight before the 50km people, they also managed to catch up with me. Some parts were quite narrow so I was indirectly “pushed” forward by the 50km’ers. Not really a good thing, especially when you already have 50km in your tired legs.

After 14:15, I finally finished the race. Alright, now this is off my list! All of us managed to complete the race. However, it was very obvious that a few were not prepared at all. So they may be very lucky to have even finished it.

I rested for a few weeks and training resumed. There was still a race that I had no confidence at all coming up in Dec. :p

~ November ~

I had to revise my training for TNF HK as HK trails was very well known for having a lot of steps. I placed more emphasis onto hill repeats at BT. That was the best resource I could find which was closest in condition to race route.

~ December ~

The dreaded race had come! Arriving a few days earlier for shopping and eating (carbo loading), we found ourselves toeing the start line at Tai Mei Tuk. It was the very first overseas race for Ivy, Eve and Neo. Ivy and Eve were doing the 50km, Neo signed up for the 100km! The 100km and 50km started at 0800Hr together. It was 100km with 6300m D+ under 26hr.

As usual, when the route enters the trail at around 1km later, the bottleneck happened again. It took a good 4 – 5km to clear the bottleneck. The 100km’ers had their drop bags at CP4 37.7km. At CP4, we were allow to switch to the 50km if we wish to. I knew the route was only going to get tougher after this but I had came to attempt the 100km. So if need be, unless I am injured, I would rather be pulled off the course.

Long Shan (Dragon Mountain) was really difficult to cross. Really steep and technical both going up and coming down. The climb up Tai Mo Shan took like forever. At CP7 on Tai Mo Shan, it was freezing my ass off. My hands were shivering as I texted my location to the others who attempted the 50km. I had a comfortable buffer of 2.5hr at CP5 47km. The second half of the route slowly ate into the buffer I had built up. By the time I reached CP9 88.8km, I was left with 1hr buffer. I was so happy when I reached Pat Sin Leng as I know it was ending soon. Yet, the RD just had to have his day when he made us run though a steep, muddy slope 1 km from the finish.

I finished at 25:14. Very, very lucky to be able to finish. This race closed the 2013 season.

I made a trip to Bhutan at the end of the month. I need to clear my annual leave and was searching for a place to go. Bhutan had always been a place that I wish to visit so I began to search for information on the net. One important piece of information was I needed a visa, which the government of Bhutan will only issue to people who signed up with travel packages linked to them.

Sipping tea at Dochula Pass, a 3050m high mountain pass with the Himalayan Bhutan mountain range in the background.

It was meant to be a trip for relaxing and enjoyment but became a trip for me to seek for answers to things that suddenly happened around me. The mountains were really beautiful. The people were really nice and hospitable. People in the mountains are more simple and direct. I like that. At the end of the trip, I seem to have found some of the answers I was looking for.

Pho Chu Suspension Bridge, Punakha
(L - R): Tshering (my guide), me, Karma (my driver)

~ Those who left ~

This is to the friend to have left, although I guess you will never bother to read this.

I wish you will be always cheerful, happy and healthy, wherever you are. :)

~ Those who are kind enough to stick with me and give me another chance ~

I have nothing fanciful to say but a simple thank you.

Andy: It is really time for prata again. Really.

Jacq: I really miss seeing your smile! *muak!*

Edmund, Joanne, Soon Teck, Eve, Roonz: Thanks. ;)

Eve, Eunice: Hey, do not just just tell me where have good salad or vegan burgers. Bring me there and treat me! Thank you eh!

Sandy: Even though we seldom meet up now, I am still grateful to you for not being angry with me as I was like contacting you only when I need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Terence, Patrick: Thank for putting up with my slow pace and sharing our conversations during our long runs. Oh yes .. whatever said / happened in the trails, stays in the trails. :)

Alex: Thanks for always helping with my stuff and asking me if I need new dairies. I hope your back recovers fast so you can resume your running. It will take time, but if you persevere, it can be done. :)

Neo: Thanks for the chat and company during TNF100 HK. Hope you are not discouraged, or scared by the outcome of your first overseas race. I believe you did gain a very good experience from it. Train hard, gain more race experience. Improve, improve, and improve. Go back one day and finish it.

Chooi Wan: Wai! Leng lui! 终于都返到来马来西亚!Thanks for chatting and always sharing nice Cantonese songs, especially Jacky Cheung’s songs.

窗外阴天了 人是无聊的

Hurhurhur .. :)

Bernie: 好多谢你每次都带我去操山。大嶼山系没有个乜“狗牙岭”?

Nora: You need to bring me to play at your playground!

Edmund told me to go back in the mountains, where I was strong and had found my own identity before, to find back myself again. I will take some time (to find a mountain in Singapore is really hard if you still do not realize but I will make do .. bleeeeeehhh). Maybe I need one day. Maybe I need one run. Maybe I need one race. The Jacky who will feel happy by just looking at mountains and can draw positive energies from them, who will smile when he sees a steep slope (the more technical and steeper, the better!), who slowly and steadily cruised through the dreaded Tenshiyama mountains in UTMF, will be back in the trails some day. If you were to see him, try to stay aside as he likes to splash through mud puddles. Muahahaha .. :p

For the upcoming year, I wish not to be fast in the mountains but to be strong.

Because in order to be fast, first you have to be strong.

~ 2014 ~

More mountains .. of course!


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