Kinda late in this, but here comes the review.
After completing Craze 101 last year, I thought it might be time to try something with a longer distance. So I took a look at Titi when I heard about it.
They had the usual 50 and 100 on offer. But what caught my eye was the 200 and 250. As much as I wanted to try 250, the COT seems a little too short for comfort with the difference between 200 and 250 being only 2hrs in COT. So in the end I plumped for the 200.
Prior to the run I did a couple of long runs especially the CNY 100miles and a couple of Mt Faber to test out gear and running condition at night. I wouldn’t say I was thoroughly well prepared but I think I was as prepared as I thought I can be. Jeri was generous enough to let me have some Tailwind samples as well to try out so that boosted my confidence a little too as I always hear about how Tailwind helps runners during long runs.
I arrived at race site at about 1530hrs and saw the brave souls attempting 250km having their race briefing. I did my gear check, collected my BIB, deposited my bag, went around the site taking photos, saw the 18 brave souls depart before going to have a meal of Pineapple Fried Rice at the restaurant.
Our race brief started at around 1715hrs or so. And I looked around and saw everyone in rather relaxed mood. No pre-race tension was felt. Good! After the brief, the 3 of us from Singapore, Henry, Kenneth and myself went for a photo with our Singapore flag near the start line.
Right on cue at 1800hrs, under relatively cooling weather, the 43 of us started our 200km adventure.
I took it rather easy from the start and soon find myself near the end of the pack. But I know it was early hours and I was never fast anyway. So I maintained a comfortable pace and ran along the road. Happened to see a crushed python along the road and must say it was a rather big one. The smell was rather unpleasant. After running for about 5km I started to adopt the “uphill walk, flat and downhill run” strategy even though it had been only 5km. But knowing the long road ahead, I decided to save my legs. After running downhill for about 3km and seeing my Fenix showing 9km, I was expecting to see CP1 and right on the dot, just to left of the foot of the hill is CP1. So I refilled and left within like 3mins.
Route to CP2 took me past a local village and I saw the local kids playing by a small wooden shack. I could not help but wonder if our local kids are able to grow up in such rural environment without WiFi and smartphones. I reached CP2 at around 1950hrs, which was about 1hr ahead of COT. Making good time.10.5km next.
Route to CP3 involved quite a bit of climbing so it took me a while. Whole place was generally dark and my headlight was all that I had to show me the way forward. There were the occasional vehicles coming from both directions but generally I felt it was safe for us. Also saw quite a number of support vehicles for other runners moving up and down. Upon reaching CP3 I took out my first packet of Tailwind and drank it down (which I later found out from Jeri it was not meant to be consumed at a go). Then off I went to CP4, 11.5km away.
After clearing about 2km of climb, I started to speed downhill. Feeling rather good with Tailwind kicking in and the cooling weather, I maintain my running till CP4, even running on some uphills as I was feeling good. Arrived at CP4 at 2235hrs, which was 2hrs ahead of COT. Took abit of Coke and off I went again without needing to refill as I did not feel the need to drink during the last stretch.
This part was generally downwards too so I made good time. I did slowed down about 2km before CP5 upon entering a small town as I was unsure if I had missed a turn because I was not seeing the signs anymore. So I slowed and waited for 2 runners behind me until they told me to just keep going straight as Titi route does not do turns. So off I went again at arrived at CP5 exactly 12mn, which was 6hrs since flag off and now 2.5hrs ahead of COT. There were safari beds here and food but I did not feel a need to eat. This was also the drop bag point but my drop bag only contained 2 Red Bulls. So while some runners changed, I just recharged Fenix, had some drinks and went off again at 0030hrs targeting to be back at starting point i.e. 100km mark by 0800hrs.
I met Henry at CP6 as he was getting his swollen ankle checked. We ran together for a while before he told me to go on ahead. There were some serious climbs from here to CP7 but I still arrived at CP7 in good spirits with a 3hrs COT buffer.
Started to get sleepy en route to CP8 and started to sleep walk at some parts. About 5km before CP8 I met 2 runners and I started to keep up with them to keep myself awake. They were real good and we even hit 5min pace while going downhill at this stage of the run.
At CP8 I took Tailwind again and bid my 2 new friends goodbye. This section was pretty down so I started to chiong down along the winding road under very dense fog. My headlight could barely shine through but I learnt to shine it slightly to the side for me to see straight ahead. After zig zagging down about 6km of continuous running I arrived at CP 9.
After stopping a while I carried on to CP 10, final 14.5km to 100km mark! During my short chat with the volunteers I was told the 250km leader was already on his 2nd leg out and will reach this CP within 20mins. Power man! And soon enough I saw him approaching from the opposite direction and we shouted words of encouragements to each other as we passed. With day breaking and some exhaustion setting in, the return leg somehow feels longer than when I went out earlier. After more turns than expected, I arrived CP10 around 0640hrs. So I had 80mins to clear the balance 9km. Just before I departed one of the volunteers told me left 9km but uphill now. Somehow I did not feel downbeat as spirits were still high so I cheerily said uphill also must go!
The uphill ah really no joke. As I slowly made my way up I kept trying to recall if I did run down so much the day before. After about 3km of ups, I finally hit the downs. I tried to run as much as I can down to catch up on the lost time during the climb. Day had broken by then and slowly I started to see runners out on their 2nd leg approaching me. Soon enough I saw Kenneth and he was looking strong and good as we passed each other. And at exactly 0800hrs I was back at CP 11! 14hrs I took to clear the first 100km!
One of my most serious mistake was committed here; I did not change. I had never ran such distance before so I did not see/know the importance of changing and I would pay the price for it later. After having 2 cup noodles and visiting the toilet to clear some ‘stock’ so I wouldn’t be caught out while running, I set off again around 0900hrs for my last loop. Plan was 8hrs to 148km and another 12hrs back.
Sun was out in force by the time I was out again, so I no longer had the comfort of the night to shelter me. I ran when I can but as I was approaching CP12, I realised my thighs started to hurt as I was running down hill. So I had to slow my run to manage the tightness.
After departing CP12 for CP13, the heat started to get to me and I started to drink more. 99% of the route are not sheltered so I was literally roasted along the way. There were also more vehicles on the road now so I can no longer run as easily as I did in the night.
CP14 – 125km mark was reached around 1330hrs under the blazing sun. Took a longer rest there as I was really hesitant to step out into the inferno that was outside. I had also started to feel abrasions along my groin area. The perspirations under the sun and from the previous night had started to create salt crystals and these are giving me lots of discomfort. The abrasions started to affect my ability to run properly too thus my pace started to drop.
Next 11.5km to CP15 took me 2.5hrs, which was double the time I took the previous night along the same route. Somewhere along the way, it started to rain. Really, rain now? Though it stopped after about 15mins, I started to feel for the worse.
Have never felt so despondent while attempting to reach CP 16 which was the 148km mark. I really really do not recall it being so freaking far the previous night! The physical discomfort, the sun and the exhaustion had started to affect my mood and I started to curse and swear and consider hitching a ride somewhere because I was so darn tired. Instead of my planned 8hrs, I took almost 10hrs to reach CP16. I was so sick and tired of having 100PLUS the past 24hrs that I went straight to the mama shop and got myself a F&N orange and a can of grass jelly. Grabbed a bowl of cup noodle as well before I reluctantly prepared myself for the night segment for the last 52km. At this point of time I really had difficulty walking already as the abrasion had gotten real real bad. But there was nothing that can be done as I did not pack any change of clothing at CP16! Newbie mistake.
Midway to CP17 I met Ben, a 250km runner who decided to opt for 200km as he knew timing would be tight for 250km for him already. We started to chat and it helped me get rid of the Zzz monster for now at least.
Grabbed an apple at CP17 before moving off to CP18. By this time both Ben and I were terribly tired and sleepy. So both of us decided to stop for a short nap by the road side and I fell asleep within 5s of sitting down. If he had not woke me up, I would have continued sleeping really. Just before reaching CP18 I told him I intend to sleep for a while there so he moved on ahead and left with his support crew just was I was entering CP18. At CP18 I went straight to the tent wanted to lay down on the safari beds but by then the 100km runners had started to arrive and I saw 2 of them sitting on the beds. I was rather annoyed as both of them do not look to be in any discomfort though I later learned they had already decided to DNF. So I had no choice but to sit on a chair and sleep after telling one of the medics to wake me after 1hr. After about 55mins I woke and the medic saw me waking up, giving me a nod. But I promptly feel asleep again. So at the 1hr time mark, he came and woke me again. After seeing me stoning there for another 5mins, he came over and tell me it was time to go. So I got up, tried to adjust my tights to minimise the discomfort from the abrasions and moved off. 36.5km to go.
Many 100km runners ran past me and some of them on seeing my 200km BIB, gave me words of encouragement and that kept me going. About 5km before reaching CP19, it started to pour. Pour as in really pour. Not really knowing why but I instinctively took out my windbreaker and covered myself tightly leaving only my face visible. Even with rain pouring I started to sleep walk again. That was how tired I was. A few runners seeing the awkward way I was walking came over to check on me and offer muscle rubs/sprays but I told every of them it was abrasion so those would not be able to help me. Then I heard a girl asking me was I alright. As I was sleep walking looking down, I had to look up to see who was talking to me. I told her I was fine but just having abrasions. Then to my surprise she asked if I am David so I tried to take a hard look at her. Then she told me she is Siaw Hua and that was when I recognised her. I am still amazed today that despite me being covered up showing only my face, with my headlight glaring on my head and under darkness heavy rain conditions she was able to recognise me. She offered me Vaseline but I declined as I did not think it can help now when abrasions had already happened. So she wished me luck and told me to be careful before she went on her way in her slippers again. Slipper runners damn power. Finally I arrived at CP19 at 0235hrs, with only 7.5hrs more to COT with 25km more to go.
Decided to take another Tailwind here as I managed to run at the upcoming route the previous day so I wanted to see if I can make myself run more to make back some lost time. 50km runners had also started to ascend at this point and it was getting difficult to see ahead what with all their headlights brightly shining into our faces. In the end I only managed to do continuous running for about 3km at around 7:30pace before I had to stop as I had also started to feel pain on my feet. While walking downhill, Lian Boon on the last stretch of his 100km saw me and decided to walk with me to the next CP despite me telling him to go on ahead as I was really slow already. We chatted as we walked before finally reaching CP20. As 200km and 250km runners were using the timing chip system for tracking while the 50km and 100km were using the usual timing mat, I had to tell the volunteers as I enter the CP I was a 200km runner so they would know to tag my chip.
I rested for about 15mins here while Lian Boon went on his way. I pushed on to CP21 as fast as I could though the return leg felt longer and longer now. With about 2km to go, I decided to make a sprint towards CP21 as I knew it would be a straight road to it, if I can still call a 7min pace a sprint. Arrived CP21 at 0622hrs. 9km more with 3.5hrs to go.
As I slowly made my way up the 3km worth of climb, the sky started to get brighter. This was the stretch where I had the most encouragements from fellow runners. Everyone congratulated me on making it this far for 200km and told me just a little more and it would be over while many also ran past giving me thumbs ups. I saw Amy and she was surprised I was still out there plodding along. I also chanced upon Lisa and cheerily told me well done and she will see me at the finishing line. 9km with 3.5hrs only should had been easy. But this was where I clocked 24min/km pace as I was practically dragging my feet along. I did some mental calculations and realised the possibility of missing the COT was very real so I tried to drag my feet along faster. The last 2km was bloody torturous. The road never seem to end and I tried to make a run for it wanting to end this once and for all but alas my legs gave up after barely 200m. So I had to dragged myself along. With about 200m to go, many CP volunteers were lining alongside the road to cheer us on. A lady from CP2 told me ‘reaching reaching’ and I replied I have been hearing that for a long time but I am not reaching yet! Then she offered to walk with me to the end. Just before the turn up the finishing line, she helped me take out my flag, and I walked across the finishing line carrying our flag above my head. 39hrs 27mins.
So at that moment, I officially became a Titi Ultra 200km Finisher, the 3rd Singaporean to make the cut behind Alex Koh (2015) and Kenneth Lim (2017).
Feeling so exhausted, I went over to collect my finisher tee and finisher buckle. This was when a frustrating ordeal unfurled. I was supposed to get a M size finisher tee, but it seemed they ran out of it. So they wanted to give me a L size instead but then they could not find L. Then it dawned on me that I may not get a finisher tee. WTF! I told the staff there “Do not tell me there are no finisher tee”. They went to fetch the Asst RD, Seow Kong and after he also could not locate the sizes for me, came over to me and explained that it is normal to not have enough finisher tee as they did not print finisher tees for all runners considering there will be DNSs and DNFs. He even went as far as to say because 200km only has so few runners, so the percentage they printed is even lesser. I looked him in the eye and said did he mean I should have ran 50km instead as 50km had so many runners but he said he did not mean that.
Lian Boon joined me at this juncture and we questioned him how can they not print finisher tees for all runners considering we had all paid for them. He said that had all along been their practice and if we are not happy with it we can don’t join their races in future. We raised the possibility of reprint and he said not possible as factories will not print in such small quantity. We then asked him for a solution and he plainly said there was no solution, no tee means no tee. Another couple joined in then and the husband said the wife just completed her first ever 100km run and now they were also told she is not getting her finisher tee. So the problem was not only for us 200km runners who is of ‘small quantity’. Again Seow Kong said nothing can be done. I can tell the husband was getting pissed and he said in that case can he get a finisher tee from other category like 250km and to my utter shock, Seow Kong actually said yes, he can get a 250km finisher tee if he wants. How can this be happening? I was asked if I wanted a 250km tee and I said no, of course not. I did not run a 250km why would I want that?
Then a volunteer said why not try XL for me and at this point anything goes, so I said give me, just give me your biggest size. In the end they handed me a XS. Seriously? XS was the largest they had? I went to look through their shirts myself and I was amazed when I saw a couple of 3XS, 2XS and XS. Why so many small sizes for 200km runners??? I managed to dig out a S which was a actually a defect print as there were some ink smudges but I took that. Then a lady, whom I presumed is Mrs Ng came and apologised for the incident. She then looked through the shirts and also asked aloud why so many small sizes to which Seow Kong had no answer to. She then told me they will contact the supplier to do a reprint for me and they will send my tee to me in Singapore. In the mean time I can take the defect S first. She then took down my BIB number and said will contact me as soon as they had a date. This was the kind of response I wanted to hear and not ‘nothing can be done’. With this unpleasant episode resolved, I went back to the hotel with Lian Boon and began my road to recovery from this toughest test of mine.
The volunteers at the CPs had been amazing. They attended to our needs and were very supportive of us. Kudos to them.
But the finisher tee saga left a bitter taste in my mouth.
200km had 47 registered runners
Meaning only 23 completed. Only 23 and they ran out of sizes. Acceptable? You be the judge
Special appreciation notes:
Jeri for the life saving Tailwind
Ben for the company from CP16 to 18
Lian Boon for the walk till CP19 to 20 sacrificing your own timing
And to Lena who ‘accompanied’ me for the whole of 40hrs
Toughness: Super tough
Support Crew: Excellent
Organisation: Good (except for the finisher tee saga)
Should you do it: If you are prepared. If you are VERY prepared