Monday, September 29, 2014

Craze Ultra 2014...

Event: Craze Ultra 2014
Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 20 September 2014
Time: 7.00am
Distance: 161KM (164.1KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

After 2 back to back failure's, I am back for my third attempt at Craze Ultra. Though not a priority nor important run to me, I still went back to the drawing block to see what went wrong the past 2 years hence this time round, I was more well prepared. The strength and fitness gained and carried on from Comrades Marathon till my 7 weeks slam of 42KM Kuching Marathon and 100KM Penang Ultra before ending it with this run, it's going to be a real sense of achievement should I am able to complete it this time round.

As I am not going into each stretches details this time as I have more or less cover them in my past 2 runs, if you are interested, you may read up on my experience at Craze Ultra 2012 and Craze 2013.

So the travel down to Singapore was on Friday morning with Jason on board First Coach from Bandar Utama. Journey though felt slow was actually on time as we arrived at Novena at close to 2PM where we then continued to lunch. We soon found our way to where we will put up a night at Classique Hotel near to Lavender. We rested for a while before joining Zhen Yang and Junie for dinner. A simple dinner of noodles before we proceeded to MacRitchie Reservoir to collect our race pack and to deposit our special needs bag. This time round, I made use of all 8 check points as I will run as light as possible. Back at the hotel. a quick final check on the race gear as it was bed time.

Dinner selfie?

I had a reasonable 5 hours or so sleep though I woke up a couple of times in mid sleep. I do not think it will be sufficient to keep me awake through the distance but I kept positive. Coffee with a small pack of jerky and 2 packs of Meiji biscuits was enough I guess. And once all pre-race ritual was done, we checked out and departed to the race site.

Jason and myself are nuts.

Arriving at MacRitchie Reservoir half an hour from the start was all that was required. Deposited my luggage and lingered around with friends. I made sure I warmed up and stretch too. Unlike previous years, there was no research by Phil this time round. No urine and blood taking. But there were not on my mind this time as I've been unlucky the past 2 years by doing so. Perhaps a change of luck by not doing it this year? And before the start, I made sure my phone was put to silent mode as I just want to purely concentrate on the run.

A new bib, a new refresh strength and motivation. 11 is the number this time.

My bib was A11, a difference from  the past 2 edition of A4. Perhaps another sign here. I was among the first 28 to be flag off at 7AM. As simple flag off by Ben and off I went. As usual, I settled into my very comfortable pace based on the MAF method.  Runners were one after another passing me but I did not care much. To go the distance is to conserve as much as possible especially during this early stages. Half an hour through, my tummy began to rumble. I was hungry as I took out my energy bar and munch a quarter of it. Soon later, the urge to pee came as I quickly arrived at a coffee-shop to relieve myself. Upon exiting, I was joined by Renee and Barkley who was the among the second wave. We ran together till the first checkpoint at Mandai, 12KM from the start just below 90 minutes. All system was still good for me as I down a sachet of GU Roctane gel here and munch on a few slices of watermelon slices before continuing on.

The second checkpoint was located about 10KM away at Woodlands hence the journey there was a rather familiar for me. It was hot too as the sun began to show its strength.  Though I started off with Renee and Barkley, they soon fell back as I arrived at Woodland town. The stretch along the town here reminds me when I was travelling between Singapore and my hometown of Johor Bahru during my treatment days. Much has changed though some landmarks remained. Soon, I arrived at Check Point 2 which oversees my hometown of Johor Bahru on the opposite side. I was again hungry here and took a slice of Nutella sandwich which proof to be a game changer. It was not only delicious but it did not cause any tummy upset. David joined in and after mixing my Roctane Brew and munching a few slices of watermelon, we set out together.

It was good to have the company of a fellow Comrades runner as we set out to the third checkpoint at about 8KM to 9KM away. But unlike the previous journey, this was a shady one as we ran below the MRT tracks shading us from the ferocious sun. With multiple traffic lights junctions, we also had the opportunity to rest whenever the lights turn red. I also took the opportunity to mail Yik Yee's letter at Yishun MRT station if not mistaken. Yes, I was a delivery runner. Haha... Just doing a favour for my friend here. David was setting a good comfy pace here as we were joined by Hendra. My legs were still fine and honestly speaking, I am kind of enjoying myself here as soon we arrived at the revised location of Check Point 3, which is just behind the familiar Crab Village restaurant at Sembawang, a much better location.

A longer break at the third check point where a cup of cold refreshing Coke awaits. I had another slice of Nutella sandwich, a jerky and watermelon slices here before settling out again slowly with David. Next stretch takes us pass the Yishun township for about 9KM or so and we really have to enjoy as much here as possible for the next stretch after the fourth Check Point will be a hot affair! Some runners join in but I can only recognized Deborah who completed her 100 miles last year This year, she was running the 101KM distance instead. Halfway through the journey, I slowed down to munch on the balance of my earlier energy bar and this is where I lost David. Nevertheless, I continued on and soon arrived at the fourth check point where Yishun Dam is.

Lowering down the body temperature with mist spray at Check Point 4.

Check Point 4 was all about hydrating and keeping our temperatures down for it will be a long and hot journey to the next. Watermelon, Nuttela sandwich and cold HTwoO isotonic was what I had here before picking up a wet and cold "Good Morning" towel wrap with ice cubes. With that I started my journey only to realized shortly later that my wrist suffered a cut from my Suunto Ambit. A small piece of skin peeled off but the damage wasn't as bad yet. I used the towel given to wrap my wrist up with my watch sitting on it to prevent any further cuts. That solved the problem. All the ice cubes I've taken with me was inserted into my top at the back to keep my body temperature down.

Leaving Check Point 4 with ice cubes in hand.

Surprisingly, it wasn't as hot and sunny compared to the previous 2 years, Rain clouds was seen hovering up in the sky. However, don't be mistaken by my words here as it was still a temperature not to be taken lightly. There were small drops of rain coming down but it was the mini "sand storm" that was the main highlight this time. A ship, pumping sand from the sea bed to the land sent sand flying all over. I used my headwear and convert it into a mask covering my nose and mouth as I pass that stretch. Survived that and it was into Punggol where I met with Seah who was running the 100KM distance. We chatted for a while before he parted ways. The stretch here was better this time as the pavement was even this time. There was also a new row of shops with 7-11 near the mid span where I stop to buy myself a bottle of ice cold green tea. Needed a change of flavour as the HTwoO was not to my taste anymore.

On Halus Bridge into Check Point 5.

Fast forwarding ahead, I arrived at Check Point 5 at Punggol Wetland Visitor Centre feeling awesome this time round. Barkley's mum was there as we chatted for a while before I went to hydrate myself and take in some food which include half a cup of noodles and a cup of ice cold fruit cocktail. I thin I spent a pretty long 20 to 30 minutes here before setting out again and the mentally stretching 15KM round back to Check Point 6 which is actually the same Check Point 5.

With Seah at Check Point 5.

I started my journey with Gan who was wearing the bib A1. We chatted for about 2KM or so as I wanted my food to settle down well in my tummy before resuming my run. We had a good one. This stretch now is all about my mental strength as I try to conquer it alone. I did not had Jason with me this time so my main aim was to keep moving to avoid any negative thoughts of being alone. But all I can say that this time round, my mindset was a strong one. Though my friends are not physically with me, they are all in my mind and that kept me going.

There was an unofficial support by Marcus at the swimming pool area about halfway through the stretch. He gave me a packet drink which I think was mango flavour. It was really nice as my taste bud is craving for some sweet drinks now. I befriended 2 runners here, Eric and Ping running the same distance as me too. As I arrived at Buongkok neighbourhood, I befriended Alistair, an English residing at Jakarta and we kept each other company for a while till we arrived at Punggol Promenade before going our own way. And finally, the sight of Halus Bridge came into view and Junie was on the bridge supporting. I updated myself with the status of others from her and was glad everyone was doing fine before checking into Check Point 6.

With Eugene at Check Point 6.

An achievement for me here as it was I arrived earlier than expected and that sunset was still about 2 hours away.  A quick one and I was on the road again for Check Point 7 was just about 7KM away. And if can get quick enough before sunset, all I can say is that my buffer will be great. Into Pasir Ris township and the initial plan was to have my dinner here with McDonalds nuggets in mind. But as Nuttela sandiwches and jerkies was working great for me, I went ahead without it and soon arrived at the check point.

With 80KM conquered in day light, I was feeling confident already.The sun began setting as I started my journey to Check Point 8. Took out my headlamp and lighted the road ahead with my rear blinker signalling to others. I was running and fast walking as I pound the pavement in reducing the distance as I arrived at Loyang, the familiar sight of the last stretch of the original Sundown Marathon route. Halfway point was near now, with just about 3KM or so through the Coastal Park along Changi Beach. There were already runners making their return which includes David. But I kept my focus telling myself not to chase them for preserving my legs was up most important. It was a dark stretch here and with only my headlamp lightening the road ahead, it was sure a lonely stretch. The sight of a white tent with lights brighten up my mood as it signals the half way point where Check Point 8 was.

The volunteers at Check Point 8 was great as this is where I had my so call light dinner. Nuttella sandwich, jerky, watermelon and a cup of ice cold longan was enough to fill me as I will try push to where I had not been in Craze, the return journey. After walking the entire Coastal Park stretch to have my food settle down in my tummy, I began running into Loyang. There were still other runners coming in, but not many and I fear for Jason. The journey out of Loyang was not easy as it involves some mild rolling climbs.I walk the descend and jog the ascend. Sounds weird but that's what I do to protect my legs. And with that, it was into Pasir Ris and back at Check Point 7.

Phil was at Check Point 7 as I spent a little longer here chatting with him and also to check if Jason did arrive here. Sadly, he did not check in and I knew it was over for him. Took in some watermelon and filled half of my bottles only here to lighten my backpack for the next check point isn't far. And with the "not too far" distance in mind, I ran. As I closed in back at the Punggol Wetland Visitor Centre, there were volunteers on the bicycle cycling around to welcome us back and also perhaps to keep an eyes on stray dogs around the area. A nice touch by them. And when the area began to light up, I knew I was back.

The sky began to rumble as I arrived at Check Point 6 as news that certain areas are experiencing heavy rain came. I drank some Red Bull here for I needed the caffeine to keep me awake. The rest, I diluted it and stored it in a bottle for me to sip along the way. Poh Chye arrived shortly and asked if he can pace me. At first, I was reluctant as I fear being paced will mess up my rhythm. But I gave in at the end and allowed him. However, as he was still having his food and drinks, I started my journey first telling him to catch up. Most were using the anti clockwise direction, but I opt for the clockwise instead as I wanted to experience the so call original route back using the opposite direction from where I came from. There isn't any right or wrong, it's just me. But as I began my journey out, the rain arrived and it was heavy. It was so heavy that my shoe was soaked up quickly as there were many water puddles. Poh Chye indeed caught up soon as I was struggling in the rain. I asked him to go ahead if he can.

My pain was coming from in between my legs at my crotch area. The rain caused chaffing and it was a fiery pain with every step I take. I tried various ways to ease the pain but to no avail. I was in a miserable state as I exited Punggol Promenade and into the Buongkok neighbourhood. I told Poh Chye to go ahead giving him directions before I stopped by at a HDB flat and just sat there. In a sorry state I took off my shoes for the first time hoping to dry both shoes and socks as much as possible. And while doing so, I was surprised that Poh Chye returned to me. He was lost. Told him to turn on his headlamp and pay attention to the reflectors on the markers as I know it was there. He continued later.

After sitting down for close to half an hour, I restarted my journey. I believe I've stop for too long as my legs was stiff and my body temperature has drop too much. I was trembling in the cold night. I went off the run path and walk through the HDB flat sheltering me from the rain. However, the wind was channeled through here and it was really cold. When I was about to cross the street at the mental hospital junction, I spotted David at the opposite side and shouted before running over to him. He was going the opposite direction and after a short chat, we parted ways. As I was still navigating through the HDB flats, there was a point till I hit a dead end on the 2nd floor and had to take the lift down to the ground floor. A funny moment for me before I was back in the rain though I was glad it was reduced to drizzle. It was back into the Punggol connector and it was really dark albeit street lamps along the way.

I've already ran the longest distance of my running career here breaching the 105KM mark  I ran  recently at Penang Ultra. I had to shoulder on into the darkness and hope to find light at the end of the connector as soon as possible. Though there were no blisters on my feet, I needed a change of socks and of course my attire especially my shorts hoping a dry one will help with my chaffing at the southern region. I ran and walk and finally, I arrived at Sunshine Bridge where I bump into Alistair and David making their return trip to the fourth check point. And from there, it was Halus Bridg and into Check Point 5 again. In a miserable state, I asked for a hot cup of noodles before dragging a chair into the toilet to have shorts change. Yes, I needed the chair to sit down. And while doing so, I found the cause of my chaffing. My 4 year old BV Sport Anatomical Tights decided to tear on this very long distance race. What a time to tear! But I still thank it for the services it game. 4 years is indeed a long time.

After changing into dry attire, the hot cup of noodles was very welcome as I try to raise my body temperature up. My legs are starting to itch really badly and I believe are from the sand flies bites. I lowered down my calf sleeve before continuing and it brought some relief. Before leaving, I received a request from a pacer to would like to help me. However, I decline his help for I know that I am not in a state to be accepting pacers. I ran walk and managed to conquer the Punggol Promenade till the Marina Country Club without any much discomfort.

The next stretch along the 2 reclaim Punggol island was tough though. It was really dark and the amount of sand flies here is a huge problem. I could see them from my head lamps and I knew they were stinging me like no tomorrow. I needed to get out of this area as fast as possible and I can't wait to see the overhead bridge which was really far. I know it was my mental strength weakening here but when I saw the lights at the Selatar Airport where the bridge was, I was back in groove as I push towards Check Point 4.

Very helpful volunteers at Check Point 4 as they helped me with all my request as I swallowed in some jerky before continuing on. The drizzle has stop which was a good thing but my biological clock is also taking its toll. I am feeling really sleepy. I slept ran walk along the Yishun neighborhood before finally arriving at the Khatib connector where I found a bench and simply just sat down without realizing that I actually doze off for a few minutes. After 10 minutes or so, I know I can't keep doing this and had to carry on. Dawn came and soon twilight as I arrived at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and the streets were starting to buzz with people.

At Yishun MRT station, I spotted a Starbucks and need my caffeine boost. However, I ended up at 7-11 instead fot the coffee here was much cheaper, and probably the worst tasting cappucino I had. Probably it was due to my ailing taste bud. However, the caffeine did help a little as I felt more awake before Adam tap me from behind. He was on his morning run and cheered me on. He even volunteer to pace me but like earlier at Check Point 5, I politely decline as I am not in the state to run long. I will just probably ruin his morning run. Nevertheless, Adam if you are reading this, you have my sincere THANKS!

Completing Yishun Connector and arriving at Simpang Kiri Connector, I thought I've arrived at Check Point 3. I was wrong as the path kept getting longer. But still, I arrived at Check Point 3 at Canberra Sembawang Connector shortly later. Did a quick check on the status of runners behind and apparently, not may were left. Loaded my backpack with all the food I've stored in my special needs bag here, took a gulp of Coke and off I went without spending too much time here.

It was morning and my biological clock is some what back to normal. Or was it the effects from the coffee I had earlier? I was a little on a roll here as I began running a little longer. The chaffing is kept at bay too. There were lots of traffic junctions pass Canberra Sembawang, Sembawang and Woodlands Connector. I set my plan here to run each stretch and to take  a breather at the junction while waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. A strategy that definitely works for me.

Arriving at Admiralty Connector, Boon Heng and his pacers came from behind. I thought they should be way ahead but it seems that they took a rest somewhere behind. But I could not keep up with his pace and thus ran walk alone till hitting Woodland Waterfront. A big turn around the park here and there was it, Check Point 2, where Sarah and her team was there. Here, I finally took out my phone to and 140 WhatsApp messages caused my phone to hang here but still managed to update my status for the first time to my friends. I loaded empty all my special needs into my backpack before deciding to have another shot at coffee from the dispense. It was a risk to gulp in the Pokka Premium Cappucino, but it was a risk I am willing to take at this stage of the race. Besides, I've taken this coffee before and I hope my tummy will recognize it. And it did!

Oun from Thailand arrived and we exited together. Our pace was different but we could still spot each other. I gave him some guidance whenever we are together for he was not familiar with the route especially with the junctions around Woodlands town. A half marathon was what stand in the way now and it was getting really HOT! The stretch was Marsiling and Woodlands Connector was really bad as there was no shades here. The major climb was at the Singapore Sports School and from there, it was all the way to Sembawang Connector before entering Mandai Connector.

Long but rolling stretch at Mandai Connector and I finally arrived at Check Point 1. 3 helpful lady volunteers helped me to my drinks and watermelon as I thank and apologize to them. Apology as because I can hardly move to bring over my stuff and needed them to help me do so. I am grateful for their help.  A quick look at my watch and it shows I've 3 hours to complete the remaining 12KM. It was doable even by walking and I know I was already safe. A quick check with the volunteers to know how many more behind and it seems there was about 3 more. And with that, I resume my journey.

I did not entirely walk back. I did some running too, but at a rather slow pace just to avoid any unwanted mishap along the way. Besides, I needed to protect those legs. I also began emptying my backpack eating up the food I had with me. I even detoured to a petrol kiosk to buy myself a bottle of herbal drink which was ice cold refreshing. It was for recovery too as my body was already overheating. The journey back took longer than expected though and it was a climb back into MacRitchie Reservoir. Not steep, but definitely can be felt by the tired legs. Thomsom Plaza and Upper Thomsom Road, it was getting nearer with every step I made.

The moment of truth came when I saw the huge traffic lights junction at Thomson Road which I remember. A familiar face suddenly appear as the sight of Jason running to me was really a happy one. I know I was near. Both of us chatted and shared our horror story as we walked together to the finish. Jason' completed only 75KM of his run due to a swollen arch. It was still a good effort though as myself took 3 attempts to get to where I am today. And as I entered MacRitchie Reservoir, Ben and Yee Hua was there to welcome me home. And on my third attempt, after spending on foot for 31:41:43 hours on the road, I am finally a certified nut! A Craze Nut that is! I AM A 100 MILER! (*pun intended. Jason will get this)

I am finally home!

A certified nut finally!

Some say this year's edition of the Craze Ultra is easier compared to the previous 2. At first I agreed but upon completion, I though it was just a s tough. Yes, the weather during noon was a little more forgiving, but this year's edition threw rain at the runners during the wee hours which turned the temperature so cold that I felt so miserable. Hot, cold, dryness, loneliness, swelling, chaffing, blisters, shivers, itchiness, soreness, pain and many more were thrown at us runners this year. And with only 16 certified finisher's in total for the 100 miles category out of 54, this is certainly one tough nut to crack.

Big to small nuts, peanuts to macadamia nuts, we are all nuts.

Conquering 100 miles isn't any easy feat for my frail body. In all, The entire distance and at all the time spent on the run course, besides my legs, my mind was working just as hard too. Yes, I've improved on the art of eating during long distance runs but its the thoughts of many people that help me through the distance and to endure the pain. Positive vibes and memorable moments from the past spent together drive me through as I am glad to have good people who have supported this journey of mine, be it this year, or the last 3 years or so. My sincere THANKS to them which includes, in no particular order:

- Jason, a travel companion, team mate and sidekick in Team Saucony Malaysia and for accompanying my final Kilometer walk back to the finish. And most importantly, a good friend!
- Ben , Yee Hua, Phil, Yek Bun, Tee Lee and the entire team at Running Guild for putting their effortless working spirit together in making this event a success for 3 years in a row
- Alicia, Zijill and the rest from Saucony Malaysia for the support and progress tracking back home
- Susanah, Roy, Hong Lan, Cham, Yen Erl, Ian, Teck Sim, Soon Chung, Alvin and the friends back home for the moral support and advice given. *am glad that Roy didn't scold me :p
- Runners from the Malaysian contingent, Zhen Yang, Karen, Jimmy May, Elgy, Nizar, Poh Chye, Bryan, Renee, Barkley and not forgetting Junie for her support crew role in driving around to catch us
- Friends I met along the way, whether runners, support crew and even strangers. Some of whom I remember the names were David, Alistair, Oun, Hendra, Deborah, Eugene, Gan, Eric, Ping, Marcus, Jennifer, Ngah Ling, Boon Heng, Seah and others.
- Last but not least my parents for helping me back while I train and also to oversee the operation at work while I am away

Dedicated to everyone for help make this journey a dream come true!

With my success in conquering the 100 miles distance and a 7 weeks slam of 42KM, 100KM and 161KM , my road running cycle can be considered completed. The sense of achievement is finally fulfilled as I don't think I can run any further. For now, it's time to switch back to my next focus which will be a marathon, one that will define a lot of things for me be it my life, running career and important people in my life.

* All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Many thanks to them.

1 comment:

Boon Heng Sng said...

Well done Bro! See you again next year!!!