Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Bye to 2010

What a year, 2010 the year of the roaring Tiger...I couldn't have asked for more, really. Achieved few firsts in this year, the Medoc Marathon in September in France (minus that unpleasant incident in Paris), the scaling of Mt Kinabalu in September and last but not the least, the 100km LTAW event in December. Of course, there were some disappointments too. The failed business venture, only managed to survive for 6months...sigh, among the few!

Hmm, what will year 2011 bring? I don't hope for too much but there are few personal goals in the pipeline. Among others, to cover under 5 hours in Adidas Sundown 42km marathon in May after missing that in last Medoc run and to walk 200km to Malacca for a charity cause. As for career development in my next phase, I will get certification as a trainer of sorts and ACTA, I must work hard to achieve too.

Good bye 2010 and welcome 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Let's Take A Walk (LTAW) - 100km Power Walk

What's the difference between running a full 42km marathon and a 100km walk, which one is actually tougher? I experienced both recently. Most runners will hit the wall at 30km mark (for some even earlier) and at that point cramps around the calves and thighs will start to build up. Much as I would like to run, I had to pull to a complete halt to stretch my muscle for it to loosen up, to apply ointment, whatever it took to relieve the pain and cramps, period. I had to walk, then ran some distance and then stopped to stretch and repeat the whole process again & again to the finishing. The last 10km was always torturous to the point of no return and this is marathon as far as I am concerned.

Walk could be a piece of cake, but to walk 100km, it is not a piece of cake no more. The 100km LTAW event on 18 Dec was by far the longest walk I had ever attempted in my entire 48 years, another first for me if I could complete the route, i.e. Our adventurous group, HTTB sent two teams to participate in this LTAW event, a charity walk event in their 3rd consecutive year. Proceeds this year are pledged to the Boys' Town cause.

The 50km team was led by SP and the 100km team where I was part of it was led by Eric. We had 6 members for each team and the rule requires minimum 3 members of the team to complete the whole journey, failing which, the team will have to join other team to make up the minimum number. Nonetheless, it was a non-competitive event and I believe everyone was in for an experience, to test one's endurance level.

The 100km event started at 8am near Tampines Station whereas, the 50km was scheduled 13 hours later at 9pm at Turf Club. I was up early, 6.30am and was already at Aljunied train station before 7am heading to Tampines. Slowly all my 5 team members made their way to the flag-off venue, Angela, Susa, Ashok, Kwan and Eric and we were raring to go. In this 100km power walk, I was told there some 150 participants but the fall-out rate could be as high as 60%, that gruelling if it did not damper our spirit. Before the flag-off, all of us gathered on the open ground, did our warm-up exercise together. And at 8.15am, we were finally flagged-off. Kwan had 2 friends and Eric had 1 friend who joined us in the walk, all 9 of us then walked together.

In all there were 10 checkpoints along the way, average 10km at each point and the finishing was at Liang Court, some 24 hours later. We had to report as a complete team at each check point to earn a sticker to be placed on our bib. Therefore, anyone walked faster still have to wait for the rest before the team can move out. Hey, this was a team event and team spirit must remain strong, if we were to last to the end. Alas, it was not to be when true colour of one member in our team showed as we progressed further.

We walked along Bedok Reservoir Road, past Kaki Bukit to the direction of Hougang Mall. The first 10km was a breeze for all, we were in high spirit. Along the way, we made friends with other teams, walked with them and joked with them. Piece of cake, we got our stickers at CP 1 at Hougang Mall. Shortly later, we moved out to CP 2 at Yio Chu Kang Stadium. We walked along the long stretch of Yio Chu Kang Road. We had covered 10km and another 10km to CP 2, no sweat lah! When we reached Yio Chu Kang Stadium, SP and Kiat Sing who brought along her nephew were waiting for us. SP was so nice to buy us 'chee cheong fun' and I gobbled all down swiftly. It was around 11am, we were still 'fresh' and energetic.

After a short breather at CP 2, we bid farewell to our supporters and off we go again. We had to walk along Sembawang Road to Chong Pang and to the PCN to CP 3 at the northeastern tip in Sembawang, the water plant. Along Chong Pang, there was a heavy downpour, otherwise the weather was excellent the whole morning. The rain stopped when we reached CP 3 but we were drenched. We took longer rest, to dry our shoes, socks and clothes. We had covered more than 30km at that juncture. It was already way past lunch time but we didn't have our lunch yet and nobody in our group requested for lunch break either, funny.

CP 4 was at Republic Poly in Woodlands. Susa was holding well despite the left knee problem, so too for Ashok who did not actually train much with us prior to this. I asked Eric, our team leader whether we were on schedule at each checkpoint so far and boy, we were actually ahead of our schedule. Going at this rate, we should complete before 9.30am on Sunday morning. Our pace was quite fast and consistent, around 5km an hour and we were among the early groups to clock in.

Before arriving at CP 4, TS and supporters were supposed to meet us for dinner at Admiralty MRT station. We were supposed to arrive at Admiralty station by 6pm and half an hour before our arrival, I made a call to TS to pre-empt him. Dora who was also about to leave to meet her 50km team at Causeway Point for dinner before heading to Turf City for their 50km flag-off, decided to wait for us at the Admiralty station too. Esther joined us shortly. I took a quick bite at Mac's as I was too hungry, having missed lunch earlier. TS and Esther walked with us to CP 4 at Republic Poly. We had finished almost half of our journey, evidently fatigue began to take a toll on some of us.

Our next CP was at Turf Club, also the start-off venue of the 50km walkers. We were walking along the fringe near the causeway where Johor was just opposite us and we cut into Marsiling estate to the direction of Turf Club in Kranji. As usual, Kwan, Angela and I were in the front but we shot past Turf Club, only to turn back when we realised our mistake. Each step forward was 'precious' to us, we tried not to walk the wrong way (if we could) as we needed to conserve as much energy to last the distance. Hooray, we had reached our half way mark, 50km! But Asok decided not to push on, he had exceeded his own mark with this distance - kudos to him.

CP 6 was at Rail Mall, a punishing 15km away. It was getting dark, by my reckoning (didn't check my watch though), it should be past 7pm. Much to my delight again, we were ahead of our schedule. TS and Esther left us at Turf Club - thanks to their support for walking with us.

We were walking along the Kranji Industrial area and I realised Susa was nowhere to be seen. She was lagging way behind. I signalled to Kwan (Eric and Angela were already way ahead) that I will wait for Susa to catch up. Kwan and Eric's friend (she joined us at Turf City) waited too. Finally, I saw Susa and we walked together. She was fighting pain in her left knee and at one point, she remarked to me (with some tinge of sadness in her voice though) that she might not be able to complete and most probably will drop out at Rail Mall, CP 6. We had scheduled to take a break at Bukit Panjang Shopping Plaza where some supporters including my running mate, Chua and his family were waiting for us. When we reached Bukit Panjang Shopping Plaza, it was easily over 60km. Chua bought some paus and isotonic drinks for us. A while later, the 50km team led by SP arrived too. One of SP's supporters bought isotonic can drinks too. Suddenly, there was an oversupply of drinks and food from our kind-hearted supporters. We took longer rest. Before I moved off, I gave each of Chua's kids a big bearhug. Susa decided to listen to her body not to press further, she dropped out at Bukit Panjang. I gave her a hug (would have hoped she could press on, sad) to bid her farewell.

When we reached Rail Mall at around midnight, Siti, Kiat Sing and Yosuke were waiting for us. They too readied a package comprising isotonic drinks and food for each of us too. It was so heartwarming to receive tremendous supports from them, only to inspire us to push on. Two had dropped off, there were four of us in the team now and more so, we should finish. We had covered more than 70km by now. Blisters had already seeped in, damn. To worsen matter, both my ankles started to ache too. Sign of old age, sigh!

CP 7 was at Trade Hub, Mac's. We walked past Bukit Batok and to the PCN. Every step taken was quite painful but still bearable. At Trade Hub, it started drizzling. After a short rest, we put on our raincoats and when I was about to move off, I saw Marcus, Dora's son with his two cousins. I told him his mother will be arriving shortly and then moved on with the team. Eric's car was parked near Buona Vista station and we were scheduled to arrive at the station to get some refreshment from his car and then, to take some rest. We walked along the PCN to the direction of Ulu Pandan and Clementi. Around 3am, we arrived at Buona Vista station. Surprise, surprise, Siew Hoon and her friend turned up at that hour too. She brought along paus, coffee and even toothbrushes for us. I told her no one was likely to eat, we were simply too tired & sleepy but the coffee was certainly a 'go-send' to me. She had not fully settled down, Angela decided to move on. At that point, I felt it was rude of Angela to insist to move on when Siew Hoon and her friend took all the trouble to bring us water and food at 3am, should we be more appreciative? I was simply put off by Angela's behaviour, to say the least. Eric, always the obliging chap decided that we should move on though we were ahead of our schedule. I knew Eric needed longer rest to recuperate but...for the team's sake, he acceded to her demand.

CP 8 was at Kent Ridge Park, up on the hill top. We reached in good time and I even joked to the volunteers to consider having that CP 8 at the foot of the hill instead of on the highest point, as if we were not 'punished' enough. We didn't rest much, registered our team and off, we left. Siew Hoon and friend were walking with us too. I was chatting, joking with Siew Hoon most time whereas Eric was behind us, quietly throughout. At Hort Park, I turned back and realised Eric was way behind. He wanted us to move first while he will take a short nap. Kwan and Angela were already way infront. He told me he needed sleep, even for that precious 5 mins. As we lied on the ground to catch few winks but I jumped up, deciding not to do so fearing we will doze off completely. I kept waking up Eric and finally, he decided to move on too. I knew he was fighting real hard to stay awake, poor Eric. Siew Hoon and friend were with us, to pep up our spirit too.

CP 9 was at Tiong Bahru Plaza and it was first light when we reached there. The volunteers told us we were the first 100km team to arrive, much to our surprise. Kwan and Angela had arrived earlier, they were having their breakfast at Starbuck by the time we arrived. I skipped breakfast, was on high spirit to finish the last 10km and very quickly, we moved on. My legs, especially the ankles were aching like hell and my back too, from carrying the backpack. Our pace were fast in the 5km but slowed somewhat at the last 5km. It was a long long last 10km as if never ending. We walked past Liang Court but we had to move further to Singapore Flyer, another 5km and then made a U-turn back. We pushed and pushed, everyone was quiet and not talking much to each other knowing the end was near. Finally, we reached CP 10 at Liang Court clocking some 24 hours 30 mins. We had arrived one hour ahead of our own schedule, it was 8.30am on Sunday morning. Tired I was but I was gleeing with satisfaction knowing I have achieved another first. Hip, hip, hip...hooray! (3x)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2010

Indeed, it was a race like no other. Since 2007, I have been participating in the annual Stanchart Marathon event, from 10km to 21km to 42km and if any, it is my report card of sorts detailing my entire year performance. This year is no exception.

As I had already participated in the full marathon in September in France this year (only intended to run full marathon in a year), I’d decided to run the half marathon in this year Stanchart Marathon with a personal target to clock a sub 2 hours time. In August last year, I clocked 2 hrs 15 mins plus in my first 21km event in SAFRA Half Marathon and in May this year, I barely missed the 2 hours mark by a little over a minute in the Adidas Sundown event. It was that close for me and it only fueled me to train harder, with a vengeance to slash it down in this year end Stanchart Half Marathon.

Prior to the 21km half marathon which was scheduled on 5 Dec, Sunday, I have been training regularly with my buddy, Long Chua (who also completed his 4th 42km Stanchart marathon, kudos to him for his perseverance). I was also very much involved in other outdoor activities, such as cycling, trekking and long distance walking with my adventurous groups. All these different training of sorts did help me in one way or another to improve my stamina and endurance level.

Winnie was supposed to run this 21km event for the first time too but with some tinge of regret, she had decided to give it another miss due to her lack of regular training and also the persistent flu that did not seem to go away. Disappointed to say the least but we must always listen to our body. I fully supported her decision not to run this 21km at the last hour, as there’s always another chance to do so when she is fitter and raring to go. Fret not, will have realize your half marathon dream and beyond!

Typically of me, I was unusually quiet the day before the race. If I said I was not stressed up, I lied. The thought of not able to run my best race did rattle me somewhat. Later in the afternoon, Dora called, initiating a dinner with C.K., Anna & Esther and I agreed to join them to de-stress, perhaps. It was a sumptuous seafood dinner at a famous coffeeshop stall in Toa Payoh, recommended by Anna. After dinner, both C.K. and I left for home as we had the 21km to contend with the following morning. An early sleep was vital. The gals continued on their own at Anna’s place; understand they chatted till the wee hours of the morning…guys’ issues, gals’ issues & what not.

I got up at 0445 hrs. Brushed up, put on my running attire with the number tag on done the night before and I was already out of my house by 0500 hrs – that kiasu of me. I drove to HarbourFront, the flagged-off venue for our event. The flag-off was scheduled at 0630 hrs but by 0530 hrs, I already at the bridge warming up and looking out for familiar faces. By chance I met one of our SANL members, Jeannie who was one of the early birds too. I had a quick chat with her, conveyed my best wishes and then, I proceeded ahead to the start-line.

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was the guest-of-honour who was to flag the runners off at exactly 0630 hrs. As the minute was ticking away, throngs of runners slowly made their way to the start-line. There were 15,000 runners registered for the 21km half marathon and on whole, 60,000 runners registered for varied events in Stanchart Marathon, an Asia record I understand. At exactly 0630 hrs, we were flagged-off in three waves. I was in the first wave.

It was still pitch dark running to the direction of Sentosa island. About 2km into the race, I felt quite ‘high tide’ and not wanting to wash much time, I made a dash to the nearest bush to relieve myself. I felt better and lighter after the pee (sheepishly). Around 3km mark, I heaved a sigh of relief when I past the 2-hour pacers and I told myself that I must ensure to stay ahead of the 2-hour pacers if I intended to clock a sub 2 hours timing. I ran a faster than usual pace. My only fear was I could burn off fast if I kept that fast pace for the first 10km. However, the thought of the 2-hour pacers overtaking me anytime soon, somewhat fueled me to keep to a fast pace. With trepidation, I was looking forward to the run through Universal Studio. At 6km mark, I arrived at Universal Studio. The attraction staff and cartoon characters like Shrek and company were on hand to cheer us on. My adrenalin was pumped up and while running, I gave a high-five to the supporters and the cartoon characters including Shrek, of course. This was by far, the best part of the run; runners are always motivated when there are many supporters to root them on – never always seen in Singapore. This time, the organizers got it right.

As each km had past, I was yearning for the 100plus isotonic drinks (a ritual for me in such long race) and finally at the 10km mark, 100plus drinks were offered…phew! I grabbed one and downed it swiftly, heavenly man. At that point, we were out of Sentosa island and inched up the expressway to the direction of Pasir Panjang. I had to push harder going up the highway and my many trekking at Bukit Timah and most recently, Mt Kinabalu really did me a big favour. I was able to run the incline without my problem while many simply ran out of steam. When I was about to make a U-run to the direction of Singapore Flyer at some point, I can still see the 1 hr 45 mins pacer on the opposite side and not far behind me, the 2-hour pacers. I was smacked behind them and by my ‘guesstimation’, I should be more than 500 metres behind the 1 hr 45 mins pacers and lesser than 200 ahead of the 2 hours pacers. If I kept to that, my sub 2 hours target should remain intact. Admittedly, I was confident at that juncture (reckoned it was around 12km mark and still another 9km more to go). .

It was getting brighter by then and sun was already up. It was a long 7km run along the expressway from HarbourFront all the way to the turn at MBS. I began to feel tired, slowed somewhat and some fitter runners began to overtake me. I was conserving my last remaining energy (if it still lasts) for the last 5km to the finish at Padang. When I reached Singapore Flyer, it was already the 18km mark, another 3km left. I decided to open my strides, caught up some runners along the way. I was on cruise control.

After the turn at Esplanade, it was the last 1km to the finish and the 2-hours pacers were never in sight. Barring any major unforeseeable, I knew the sub 2-hour time was within my grab. Finally at the turn to the Padang with about 150 metres to the finishing, I stretched my strides to the fullest, took off my cap and started to wave to the cheering crowd like a winner. I then made the final dash and the big clock above showed 1 hour 56 mins plus and ticking. It was a race like never before, my best 21km race which I will relish for the longest time to come. For the record, my chip finish was 1 hour 56 mins 12 seconds, finishing in 237th position out of 11,274 runners, among the top 2%.

This Standard Chartered Half Marathon has ended on a high note for me and now, the bar has been raised and the target is set on the full marathon in May next year, the Adidas Sundown. 5 hours and under is my target.