Photo Credit : Running Shots

I have been looking forward to the finale race for the year 2016 with the Performance Series Race 5 for various reasons.  One of which is about homecoming.

For this race, it has been a homecoming race in many ways.  It’s held at Kranji Farm, much closer to my home in Choa Chu Kang area so I wouldn’t need to wake up many hours in advance.  It’s a 10 km race which is a distance I’ve grown to love and question a lot – done a dozen of them this year.  (eg Why can’t I ever go faster by just running more 10 km distances ?)

And it is my first race since I broke my back, or to be precise, I fractured two vertebrae (spine, lumbar region L1 and L2 with compression of L1 by 20% in height) just in early November in a bike accident.  I was afraid then I couldn’t even walk properly, not to mention race.  This is also the fifth and finale race for Performance Series and my last race for this year.  And I was hoping to raise some funds for the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) through this race.

I had participated in all the previous 4 races in the series with fairly different experiences though I enjoyed everyone of them in different ways/degrees.   JustRunLah! has been very kind to offer all 5 slots to me for this series, a big THANK YOU.  But this one was the suiting finale for me.  Transcending Yourself is the theme for this Performance Series.  To me, it has been somewhat a tumultuous year (read previous blogs) due to injuries.

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Lots of the folks who participated in the series may have attempted to better their PBs for 10 kms through the 5 races.  For me, it was about becoming a stronger runner for me, both mentally and physically.  The regular 10 km races had meant that I had become much more accustomed to 10 km distances vs last year.  But I had not been able to better my PB for 10 km unfortunately due to injuries.  This last fall from the bike incident had reset my running to almost base zero or so I thought before Sunday.

One week after my fall, I had tried walking despite the tremendous pain I had in my hips, bottom and spine.  I had difficulties putting on my shorts and my socks even.  A cough or sneeze meant very very sharp pain in the whole body, somehow the muscles got pulled very tautly.   In less than a week I lost 2 kg – perhaps it was just water loss, as one friend mentioned.  (I got it back by now.)  I rested and rested, for 19 days – no walking, no running.   For each day of rest that I had during the first week, I could also feel my back stiffening up.

It was only in the last week of November, that I was able to start walking/jogging.  And I learnt like a child again, how running is different from walking.  Running is when you have both feet off the ground for that suspended few sub seconds or so.  And the impact is greater as one foot lands on the ground and the impact travels up the legs to the hip and spine and then you lift off again.  I felt the pain with each step initially, and tenderly adjusted my pace.  I kept having this disconcerted feeling of the disjoint between the spine and lower body.  But I persevered on because I felt I had a mission to accomplish.

So I progressed from 11 min per km pace, yes, that’s walking for most, to 9 min.  I had to give myself more rest each time though.  But I just told myself to keep moving.   Doctors’ advice was not as helpful or I didn’t take them too well.  Just rest.  Just rest.  Don’t run.  6-8 weeks at least…before physiotherapy is recommended.  Forget about running for SOME time….

When the time came (2 weeks before race), I collected the race pack as usual and there was no long queue.  By then, I had managed to get down to 8 min and 7:40 min pace for my jog/run.  I did a 7 km run at the park connector.  Rested the next two days for the back pain to ease off.   I didn’t post too much about the running preparation this round on Facebook (FB).  Some friends were already advising me to quit running or not doing this coming race out of good intentions.  I knew that I will run still, I have to run.  I needed to start and complete the finale race for many reasons.  I focused and ran 3-4 km at the park as the day drew near, always at pace 7:30-7:40 average.

When Saturday came, I had this strong feeling that it would be raining on Sunday.  I didn’t want to jinx it too by commenting on facebook.  Somehow staying in the area near Kranji, you tend to be able to predict what would come.  Sure enough, at 4.15 am in the morning, I woke up to heavy downpour.  But somehow there was a certain tranquility which I felt.  So I just went about doing my usual preparation before driving down in the rain to Turf Club and joined the queue for the shuttle bus service.  I was also lucky to spot Francis Tan or rather he spotted me when I was making my way to join the long queue behind.  He was my colleague in the past and we kept in touch and both of us began to run more regularly past couple of years or so.

If it was my usual self, I would probably have gotten frustrated with the queue to the car park, the queue to the shuttle bus and then seeing the shuttle bus turned and joined the queue along Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and finally to the farm (Gardenesia).  But strangely that sense of tranquility continued to envelope me somehow.  In fact, I appreciated the use of the car park free at Turf Club and the provision of shuttle buses.  In fact the schedules were upset by the early downpour and I’m sure a lot of negotiation must have gone on to make it possible to extend the timing beyond what was initially planned both ways for the shuttle services (kudos to the organizers and volunteers).

We were running late but my FB photographer friend (Hock Chuan ANG) messaged me that the starting time was delayed to 6.45 am while we were on the bus.  It was further delayed to 7.10 am and Francis and myself managed to join the long queue again to the starting point.  But by then the heavy rain had already petered out and everything was cool.  At least to me.  I realized for the first time I wasn’t sweating before the start line despite the huge crowd.  Then we heard the announcement that we would start with count down from 5 and the mass started to move forward.

I knew I was going at a slower pace so Francis had already sprinted ahead.  He did his fastest 10 km todate with this race (sub-55).  The route consisted of slopes up and down but strangely, I didn’t feel the slopes at all.  Around 1-2 km mark, there was a narrow stretch and folks slowed down to a walk due to the bottleneck created.  It suited me as I didn’t want to jeopardize my spine’s healing by going ‘too fast’.  The scenery along the route was familiar to me though it was still a refreshing change from the usual running routes.  At one stretch, most might not be very used to the ‘farm smell’ though again, it didn’t bother me.  We passed farmhouses, tall grasses, trees but we were running on normal road surfaces albeit there were puddles in parts.  To me, the weather was just fantastic.  Believed there were 3 hydration stations (nice Lucozade drinks !)  and adequate as I stopped only at one.

I carried my smartphone in my hand in a race for the first time to monitor my pace.  The idea was not to get too carried away.  For most of the route, my runkeeper apps was telling me 7:07 pace.  This was already much faster than the 7:30 or so pace I targeted.

I was mindful too that I had only done one 7 km distance after the injury and had experienced some after effect pain the day after in the back.  So it was only when I saw that I had passed the 9 km mark, I started to pick up on my pace.  In the end I completed the race at about 7:01 pace finishing in 1:10 plus based on Runkeeper.  The net timing captured by the Performance Series was 1:09:45, pace just under 7 min.

Whichever timing, I was happy.  It isn’t fast by any standard but I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.  For I was prepared for a one and half hour race because of my condition.  And also, I could now say I have completed the race and hope to get some generous contribution for SAMH. (Here’s the url:  https://simplygiving.com/c5b0ff8b-469f-4928-b9f9-dba8bca2b4c0 )  My modest target of $1000, was to reach out to about 100 folks who could contribute $10 each.  THANK YOU !

Another bonus to this race was that I finally got to meet my FB friends in person.  One was  my photographer friend Hock Chuan.  He is an amazing guy who runs races with a camera and takes beautiful photos.  I bumped into him in the first few km of the race and said hello briefly in person.   After a few words, he saw something interesting and snapped away while I continued with my ‘mission’ to complete this final 10 km.  Our alliance had started with the Performance Series and then concluded with this finale face to face meeting.  How apt !  He is the source for many of the beautiful photos you see in my Performance Series blog shots, including this one.  I’m grateful to him and I’m sure we will meet up again in future running races.

At the finishing line too, I met Chris Shaw, another amazing runner, FB friend I got to know through running/blogging.  He has always been encouraging and positive in his posts.  I just learnt recently, not from himself though, that he had also had some serious injuries in the long past but recovered to run very fast half marathons and 10 km races.   He had commented on one of my earlier running blogs and I had got to know him better through FB.  He was waiting for his ‘favorite manager’ who came in with great timing.  I attempted to take a wefie but it didn’t turn out well due to my inexperience.  He joked we had become certified running kakis now !

I knew another running pal SY Chia and his twins would have completed another of their family bonding races.  Just too bad that we didn’t meet up due to my slower pace.  He had joked that he and Francis would cheer me on as I came running in late in the race !

I believe that The Performance Series (TPS) had achieved its objective of bringing individuals, families and communities to advance, excel and experience the joy of living better through running.  I certainly still enjoy my running despite my injuries.  The heavy rain earlier had not deterred the ones I saw that finale morning.  Those who had done the whole series would have experienced all the different settings : oasis/island, lake, city, reservoir and farm and enjoyed them in different ways.  I just saw that there will be a 2017 version too and that’s great !

On a personal note, no PBs for 10 km race this year, but I felt I had transcended myself with this race beating some of life’s odds to some extent, and not forgetting God’s Grace to come this far too.  I still squirmed uneasily when I sit for too long due to the pain that I experienced as a result of that incident.  But I have learnt to embrace pain well, too well perhaps !    At this stage,  I am just happy to know I could still run.  I’ll take a rest for now although I’ve to complete a virtual 100 km challenge with Men’s Health for the injury period till end of December.  It is not an issue to complete as I have about 10 km more to do at point of blogging, with 10 days to go before end of the year.   In running, and in life, I learnt not to take things for granted and value every moment.  So I continue to run life’s journey and strive for improvement through the challenges.

Here’s an early Merry Christmas to all, celebrate the year 2016 well and welcome 2017.   So Run Happy, Run Safe.  Till the next round (…soon as I reflect on 2016’s gains and misses).

(Side note : For those who had followed my ‘adventures’ since one year ago on the blogs, you will know this is a 53 year old rambling on about trying to run his best, while adding some varieties like obstacle courses, aquathlon and biking, starting his active life just over two years ago.  Do not attempt to ignore better professionals’ advice BUT understand your body well and yourself too.)

KenJoe
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