This race report is way overdue. I decided to sit on it until now hoping that it will somehow motivate me for this Sunday’s Garang Warrior Ultra !
This 6th Edition was only my 2nd time doing it. Last year i did 95k in 15 Hrs 19 Mins – ranked 24th Overall, and 18th in the Men’s category
This year i was out running just as long; 15 Hrs 16 Mins but covering further distance, 15km more. I completed 110km, and enjoyed my first podium ever ! Men’s 3rd – Overall 5th !
New Venue :
Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC) 2016 was the 6th Edition since it’s inception back in 2011, but was also the first time it’s being held in a new location – Sengkang Riverside Park, opposite Blk 335C Anchorvale Crescent. The previous had all been at Casuarina Grove, ECP. This new venue was deemed more challenging mentally. Where as the one at ECP was 10k per loop; 5k on either side of the main admin / start point, this SengKang one was a 5k loop as described above.
Do as many 5km laps as possible within 16 hours ! Participants head out 2.5km from the start point, before u-turning and running back 2.5km back to where they started from. This would be the equivalent of 1 lap or 1 loop of this year’s Twilight Ultra Challenge.
PROs of New Venue (vs Old ECP one)
- More motivations / cheers from fellow participants ! you see them more often than you would at the old venue bcos of the 5k loops (as opposed to the 10k loop)
- Better quality of the track – Park Connector standards, unlike ECP uneven, loose gravel, sandy tracks, and even potholes !
- No (ECP) BBQ and ciggies fumes to contend with
- No need to keep dodging the large crowds awaiting their tables at the Seafood restaurants, and especially errant parents not keeping an eye on their little ones
- No food centre to distract runners like me
- No dimly lit dark stretches
CONs of New vs Old Venue
- Bikes, more as the night went on
- No separate lanes for bikes
- that said, thankfully there was no accidents nor any close-calls between bikers and runners
I decided i was going to put my Coleman cooler box to use for this loop ultra again, just as i’d done so for GRUC. I packed it with several beverages of my choice, amongst which was Nescafe milk coffee drink. I’d tried this only once before on a run, and did not suffer any GI issues then. I’m banking on the caffeine to keep me awake thru the night. Coke, Coconut drinks, coconut juice, Lucozade, and water made up the rest of my personal hydration
I made the mistake of leaving home a little later than i’d hoped for. I decided to book a cab instead of flagging one down. I would face lesser problems with the cabbie not allowing my cooler box into his cab.
The Cabbie – at first he was a typical laojiao (old hand) cabbie. Didn’t wanna listen. When told to make a left to get out of my car park, he turned right. When told we’d have to go round and round and be back where we were, he suddenly had a change of heart and started to reverse. We nearly got hit on the back by a car coming perpendicularly at us (blind spot). Then when i asked him to take the SLE via Woodlands, he decided to go via Mandai Rd (to Lentor) instead. Many traffic lights, further delays, which stressed me even more as having departed later than i’d planned … i now found myself wondering how i was going to get dinner before the flag-off. We finally arrived and credit to him for helping me remove my cooler box from the boot. We’d done so, when suddenly he handed me a wheel. It had come off from the axle. Together we searched the boot for the nut in a patient manner but to no avail. He also waited a while (a few minutes) before he drove off
Upon crossing the road to the event site, i came across Jeeb Akid and family. He was headed for the event site too. I showed him the wheel in my hand as I continued to struggle with the cooler box. Next thing I knew, he’d returned with a trolley he’d borrowed. I loaded my stuff onto it and got to the site much earlier than if i not had his help. Thanks bro 🙂
Bib settled, photos and wefies taken, there was still a matter of dinner to worry about. Last year I’d overlooked dinner. Ended up wasting an hour to consume it afterwards sometime after the race was underway. I prayed it would not end in the same fashion this. Just then with slightly over 30 mins before flag-off Lily asked if i needed anything as she was on her way to get Chicken Rice for her boss Esmond. With about 15 mins left, we both got into our dinner ! Fishball Noodle ! A first for me, eating so soon just before the flag-off. It was actually quite exciting ! Lily was also to help me in other aspects throughout the night and into the morning. Really appreciated the Coke with salt, as well as keeping us runners company by staying up all night. This personal milestone would not have been possible if not for her help. Lily, you were instrumental ! Huge Thanks !
The Race :
I came for this race with the sole target of completing 100k ! The rest was experimental, a works in progress. The cooler box was part of the experiment. I didn’t wanna waste time queuing waiting for drinks especially Coke from the volunteers. Every second wasted is a second lost especially in the early stages when one is still fresh. Having my own cold beverages cut down on the time lost.
My original goal was to break down the loops completed into quarters, as in 5 loops per quarter. So my goal was to complete 4 quarters.
I started the race slow and easy. Logical since i’d just consumed my dinner only minutes ago. My buddy was Esmond for the first few KMs before i lost him to Daniel Ong, his go-to running partner for races. This new route was preferred since it allowed me to keep track of who’s ahead and where i stood in the ranks.
The first 8 loops came and went. I remembered glancing at my watch and noticed it was in good pace too. 42.5k in 4 Hrs 30 Mins ! Would have been my SCMS PB had this been in the daytime … 4 Hrs 30 Mins inclusive of breaks taken after each loop. The last 2 or 3 of these loops were with Jeremy Lee ! I lost his company on his final 2 loops to Guru Sng Boon Heng whom he was pacing
10 loops completed, 50k done ! Soon the pair of Esmond & Daniel, along with Joshua Lin Lu caught up to me when i was refuelling and recharging myself. Had wanted to start the next loop with them, but when they elected to spend a few minutes to nap and rest i decided to go solo. I came across them again closer to the completion of my 11th loop. They looked as fresh as when they started the first few loops.
New Objective :
11 loops completed, and bro Jian Hong who had decided to stop after completion of 50k (he was faster than i to 50K) came over to tell me something that was to change the whole complexion of my Twilight race. He updated me on the rankings ! From 6th placed in the Male category after 10 loops, i now found myself in 3rd after 55K. 3 faster runners had decided to call it a night. I was pumped but knew the night was still young. There was still many KMs to go. From being casual, i was now focused and purposeful. And soon i became so engrossed that i forgot all about completing the loops in quarters. Every loop completed was +1 over the previous. I started paying more attention as to who the 2 male runners who were ahead of me; Bibs 150 & 58. Both Caucasians. Optimism was raised when i was told these guys might be targeting 100K only. And suddenly, i was strategizing and planning as i was looping the circuit like a hamster. My breaks after each 5k completed were also kept to a minimal.
As the night went on, I started becoming more and more apprehensive of who’s ahead and who’s just behind within striking distance to capitalize on any time wasting or slow down on my part. It was quite exciting really, and i think the adrenaline kept me wide awake, as do too the many friends i kept coming up along during the loops, and also maybe the caffeine from the Nescafe canned drinks i had in my cooler box.
70k in or so, and someone told me that i might have been overtaken by Joshua & Szeto. They also told me about the Indian runner whom i had no idea who he was. The name Thomas did not ring a bell to me at all. Just then i spotted Szeto coming in and almost immediately heading back out without even stopping for a sip. That was like a wake-up call to me. I playfully called out : Run Szeto, run ! I am coming for you ! and hurriedly left in pursuit. I only managed to catch up to him at the u-turn point near Gerald Drive. A quick chat and my fears were unfounded. I was still holding down the Men’s 3rd placing since the 11th loop. We run-walk together till the CP. The pool of runners was considerably much smaller since 7pm, and Szeto tells me he’s going off in the morning. I was in no doubts that he be a formidable rival in my quest for podium had he had the time to run till the cut-off time at 1:00 PM. Szeto eventually completed 85k in 12 hours ! I also had the opportunity to run with my buddy from my Monster Ultra 200k attempt Jason Cheong. The Monster (Finisher) would go on to complete 80k in 11 hours 34 mins, and this was his Lantau recovery run !!! And what of Thomas the Indian ? Well, it finally dawned on me, after 5km it was my friend Tejo, or more affectionately referred to as TT or TJ
My standings in the Male Category remained unchanged since loop 11 until the start of the 17th loop. The runner just ahead of me had decided to stop after 80k. I suddenly found myself in 2nd place, 3rd place Overall, with Faith Tan who was leading the Ladies’ category just ahead of me, and the lead runner #150 at least 1.5 loops ahead of me then. There was no way i could over haul his position in a straight race if we both kept going the manner in which we were doing till the end of the event. I could only hope he really does stop after 100k.
I was still feeling good about myself and my body. I was still going strong despite not having eaten anything solid except for the Fishball Noodle dinner that i had earlier prior to flag-off. I did not want to waste any time so i politely declined any offers by friends to prep cuppa noodles. Besides, i didn’t wanna take unnecessary risk as a consequence of the food i consumed.
And finally I need not fuss nor worry about charging my iPhone. That spared me a lot of hassle and time. I no longer relied on my Runtastic Pro App. I got myself a Suunto Armbit 3 Peak Sapphire back in Feb ! The only mistake i made was forgetting to Lock the button of the watch. I lost 15 mins of personal tracking when i Paused the tracking without realizing it.
The other thing i did which i hadn’t done for a few ultra distance runs was immersing myself in music. My new Sony Bluetooth water-resistant earphones worked wonderfully. Throughout this whole run, i only ever needed to recharge it only once and that was when the battery went completely flat. Rated to last up to 6 hours only, it surpassed it’s specifications (granted i wasn’t blasting the music on full blast). It had gone at least 8-9 hours. I left it to charge (so i was running one loop without music) and by the time i returned it was already fully charged
[it’s actually quite interesting writing this report so many weeks since the event. as i’m going thru my fellow ‘competitors’ stats, i learned and saw how the race unfolded on that day. Faith Tan, the Female Champ led the field after completion of her 11th loop, 52.5k. She lost the lead to the Men’s leader shortly after the u-turn on the 14th loop. And got pegged back further after the u-turn on the 15th loop to the next male runner. She’s now 3rd placed overall, but she made a strong comeback to regain the lead being the first to clock 90k that day. She eventually surrendered that lead for good after 97.5k but was strong enough to maintain her lead in the Ladies category, and finished the race in 2nd place Overall. 120km in 15 Hrs 22 Mins !]
Still Men’s 2nd, 3rd Overall … since the start of the 17th loop, i knew my only chance of topping the Men’s category was up when i saw #150 still going strong. He did not look like he was going to call it a day anytime soon. This was when i’d just completed my 90th km. He must have been at least 2 loops ahead of me by then, and he had just set off on yet another loop. My best bet was to buckle down and hold down my fort in 2nd place (Men’s).
Handa (a friend) whom i’d first met at Craze 101k back in 2014 was still breathing down my neck for an eternity. First signs of trouble felt on my 19th loop. Right ankle did not feel right. I tried not to think too much of it, but it certainly made me exercise caution. This lap took ** 44 mins (to complete the 5k loop) – longest i’d taken to complete a single loop since the start of the event. 95km done.
** Checkpoint Spot, The Official Time Timekeeper & live tracking provider’s splits were taken without including the idle time when a runner was resting at the main CP area. In other words, the splits were calculated from the moment the runner started on a new loop (eg loop 9) (crosses timing mat A), u-turn at the midway CP (timing mat B), crossed timing mat A again (one loop of 5k – 9 loops completed). If say, the runner then rested 55 mins before setting off on his next loop (10), and took 40 mins to complete his 10th loop, the split on the results page for that runner would indicate Lap10 Finish 40 mins, and not 1:35:00 (55 + 40 mins) **
Out for another loop, and suddenly the same sharp pain on my right ankle became increasingly painful. I was stopped dead in my tracks for the first few occurrences. Handa was approaching ever closer. I tried my best to run, to at least maintain a distance between him and i. I had to. I was not going to give him any encouragements from seeing me struggling. 97.5k – U-turn … i continued running in spite of the pain becoming increasing frustrating ! Round the bend, out of sight … i walked, praying he’d do likewise after the u-turn. But alas, he was still running ! and as he passed we cheered each other to push on ! Loop20 : 42:30 : 100k done : Men – 3rd : Overall : 4th
Mayday, Mayday ! :
I was distraught. The ankle was hurtiing. Plus i knew i could no longer run ! Frustrated because i was no longer in control of the situation. There was still time, but what good if no longer able to run ? Run … pushing through pain … and risking an extended period on the sideline was not my idea of how i should run. I am not a professional runner. Decisions decision, call it quits or continue prodding along. At which point now, time becomes the enemy because now those trailing behind me have the time to overtake me. Quit, and for sure lose out on the possibility of my first podium finish. Walk, and then the bitter reality that i had been narrowly edged out of Top 3. Lily & Eugene Teo (he was here last night to support the runners before going home) watched on somewhat bewildered at how fast my situation had changed from one of optimism and hope to one of utter despair and anguish. I laid down on the groundsheet to get my head sorted out. In the meantime, i’d asked Eugene to help me fill up the plastic bags i’d given to him with ice. Minutes passed, how many i hadn’t a clue. I finally got up, went to my belongings and switched out from shoes to my Teva sandals. I had to try … as the saying goes, you’ll never know if you never try ! I headed out on my 21st loop !
This was the most difficult loop of my TUC ! Demoralized, deflated, despair, tired, plus the sun was now out, and as if things could not get any worse the PCN was now bustling with activities – joggers, runners, cyclists ! 2 attempts to try running in the sandals both ended in failure. I had to walk … no more running. Loop21 : 52:49 : Men – 3rd : Overall : 5th
Busy working out the permutations, weighing the odds, checking with Checkpoint Spot on how much lead I had from my ‘chasers’ … and in the midst of it all, Daniel and Esmond returned with another loop conquered. They both just finished their 100k ! At one point i suspect i was almost 10k ahead of my buddies ! Daniel was contemplating stopping for good, but Esmond was still eager to go on. Eugene Teo was getting ready to head for home. We reached an agreement. We’d all walked together for this loop.
Loop22 : 1 Hr 01 Min : my slowest ever of TUC 2016 : As at the time of my completion of this loop … Men’s : 3rd : Overall : 5th … Gun Time : 15:16:48 ! 33+ Minutes of waiting to see if i was still in the Top 3 …. Loop 22 as it happened : we walked cos we both could no longer run except for Esmond. He soon left us to go on ahead on his own. Daniel – foot blisters from wrong choice of footwear; racing flats ! Eugene Teo – departed shortly after Legends Cafe to get home. And then there were 3 : Daniel, myself, and ST Ngoo (Daniel’s pacer friend). This loop was painful, but it could certainly have been a lot worst had i not had company. I’d probably might not even have attempted this loop had it not been for Daniel who went out on a last loop simply for my sake. Thanks Daniel Ong ! He completed 105km, a TUC PB for him.
Tejo arrived 10 mins after us at the CP. He still had 33 mins to complete his 23rd loop. RD Ben Swee & Yee Hua cajoled him to head out for one more. Tejo headed out and i was joking with Ben & his wife about my 3rd placed finishing prize being robbed ! I was resigned to the loss. I totally lost tracked of time nor of what i was doing since i completed my race. Soon, Tejo came roaring back in style ! I cheered him and congratulated him on his awesome finish ! We shooked hands !
In all, 16 runners completed 100k (20 loops) or more vs last year’s 23 (2014 – 25, 2013 – 26, 2012 – 16, 2011 – 15), bearing in mind this was at a new venue and each loop being only 5k (vs the 10k ones at ECP) so it was mentally more draining and monotonous.
3 outstanding runners to point out, all happened to be ladies – Mary & Esther. Both started the race slow and easy, and i think i was ahead by 2 loops at least at one point during the race. Both showed great tenacity to finish strong ! Mary completed 110k in 15:44. Just found out she saved her best and fastest lap for last. She completed her final 5k loop in 31 mins !!! Esther did 105k in 14:54 to finish 3rd & 4th in Ladies category. The other lady i hadn’t mention was Thricey. Gritty, resolute and tough … she endured the pain in her knee from pretty early on and pushed herself to complete 100k in 15:37 to finish 5th in her gender category (though the Results page erroneously reflected her as a male runner)
Last runner to cross the Finish Line before the 16-Hour cut-off time was up was #150 Moog Antoine, the man whom i was ‘plotting’ against, the Overall Champ from France … 125km, 25 loops, 15:52 ! The Female Champ Faith, the 2nd placed Overall – 120km in 15:22 !
All good things gotta come to an end … and soon 16 hours had come to past. Time for the prize presentations. I was completely taken by surprise when Ben called out my name for Men’s 3rd placed Finisher. I’d been pranked ! Apparently Tejo had turned back prematurely on his last loop. I’m still not sure if he was in on the prank, but regardless i had not seen it coming. $100 store voucher courtesy of sponsor Key Power Sports, put to good use with the purchase of the Ultimate Direction Stereo Hi-Fi running belt i’d been eyeing. Just as well cos i’d ran the first 50k with my iPhone 6s Plus in my hand, before removing the casing and slotting it into the back pocket of my TNF Long Haul Shorts for the rest of my journey in this year’s TUC
And how did i fare for this year’s TUC ? i think i did good, better than i could have anticipated. But most importantly, i did it in the manner that i always do my races. Cheerfully, merrily, clowning around with friends and kakis, laughing and generally having a great time even thru the hardest and darkest periods of the race. To me, that is why i continue to love running. The camaraderie is the quintessential component of an Ultra race, probably one that cannot be matched by lesser distance races. The runners are all in tuned with the fatigue, the mental drain, the suffering … Elites not exempted
Fishball Noodle, Coke, coconut water, coconut drinks, Nescafe canned, H20 isotonic, Lucozade, water, 4 lychees, 5 seedless dates
Credits And Thanks :
- The Officials : Running Guild – Ben, Lok, Phil, & Teelee. Yee Hua, Checkpoint Spot, The volunteers, The medics on standby
- The photographers : Run Mo Cap – Nora & Joe, Tony Goh, Wilson Ong, Running Shot Marcus, Run Shoot Repeat, Nyoman, Ming Ham, Satay & Joyful Runner.
- My fellow Ultra runners and friends. This event would not have been possible without your continued support and participation. We kept each other running through the night, and for a few … into the morning and after ! Too many to name here, you guys know who you are ! Heartfelt Thanks ! 🙂
- Jeeb Akid – for returning with the trolley to aid me with the broken cooler box. I think your act was key to the whole thing. It set everything in motion, and i was able to be calm instead of being a nervous wreck worrying over no time for this and that
- Lily Bimmo – for dinner, and just about everything else. PB Support / Supporter. can’t thank you enough sis
- Eugene Teo – for your kind words of advice and concern after finding out i was injured. I think i might have stopped at 100k. you played a part in my continuing on. and thanks for helping me to fill the bags of ice, as well as walking out on the last loop when you were bound for home
- Daniel Ong – for your constant cheering throughout the night, and especially for talking me into going out one last loop and accompanying me too even though your feet were suffering just as badly. Proud to have known you, and to be a friend of yours bro 🙂
- Jason Cheong / Chung Kit Szeto – for running / walking with me; your company, your continued encouragements and support to fight for podium, for hearing me blah3 lol
Final Words :
Lesson from this race : While you see a chance, Take it !
i leave you readers with this thought : A lad, young runner … passing (towards me) as i was going out on another loop sometime in the middle of the night, 3 AMish, maybe even 4 … suddenly asked me : “don’t feel tired one ah ?” I just smiled at him and “Jiayou” back ! but in the back of my mind was : yes i’m tired too, but i’ve got a podium to catch ! LOL … it all comes down to how much you want it, and knowing how much you willing to suffer for it. Me, i was lucky in that the injury struck pretty late after i’d completed 100k. Any sooner, and the outcome of this post would have been an entirely different story, different mood, more sombre ! I was not willing to risk a long term injury for something which i could not even be certain of, in this case the 3rd placed (Men’s) finishing … and i came to within a whisker of losing it too. I will cherish this for a long long long time 🙂