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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sundown Marathon 2011

After 3 years playing a passive role in this night race, decided to get involved more directly and signed up for the race itself. Not the Ultra distance or even the full. Just the half to add one more piece to the race jigsaw.

The half starts at 8pm so after a light dinner, we drove there about 6.30pm. There was heavy traffic build up along Changi Aviation Park Road and it took more than 20 minutes just to clear that 2km stretch to reach the race's carpark. So we still had a little bit of time till flag off or so I thought. Had arranged to meet a friend to pass him some stuff but unfortunately, he too became a victim of the jam. After waiting and waiting, finally gave up when I heard the flag off. The sidekick had already gone to the start line earlier and should have started. Ran back to the car to keep the item and ran back to the start. Wasted 5 minutes and started right at the tail end.  

With that inauspicious start, my whole race was blown. While I do not have high expectation for myself, I have hoped to be able to maintain a sub 2 finish and with the flat route and cooler night temperature, maybe even a PB. With this in mind, I have a mental plan to run at certain pace and to do it with as little stress as possible. However, the late start means that I was caught behind all the walkers and stragglers and try as I could, I could not clear the massive crowd in front of me. To do a sub 2, I need to do constant minimum 5.35 pace but the first km was done in 6.37 minutes. The next 2 km were no better. I took 31 minutes + to do 5km. Way too slow. And since I am not a fast or strong runner, there was no way I could do a negative split to make up for the lost time. And the route was so boring. Just one long pitch black road with nothing to see except the back of all the sweaty runners.
After 5km, I managed to clear the main bulk of the stragglers and was able to run at a slightly faster pace. Even then, it was 1 hour on the dot when I hit the 10km mark. I knew the sub-2 was now a pipe dream. There was no way I could do 11km in under 60 minutes. Nevertheless, I wasn't going to do a stroll. Took a gel and after a short breather, started to run with a little bit more urgency. Managed to do the next 5km in an average pace of 5:50 minutes. At 15km, I was staring at the watch and it shows 1:29:34. So I had managed to move into sub-6 minutes region. Even then, 6km in 30 minutes? Was contemplating what should be my strategy when I saw the sidekick just 50 metres in front. There and then, I decided to run with her but not wanting to stress her, I stayed behind her all the way keeping a distance of about 20 metres. Even at the drink point when I caught up with her, immediately fall behind when we resume running. Don't want her to chew my head off for giving her stress:). Consequently, the pace dropped to an average of 6.30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cold Storage Kids Run 2011

4th year being involved in the biggest kid run event in Sg. This year edition is back at the Padang after switching over to the F1 last year. The event keeps getting bigger and bigger with more children, more categories but at the same price. Very rare indeed for a race nowadays not to increase its year on year registration fee. Even the activities by the various sponsors have improved with simple booth games to traditional children game like hopscotch to the usual balloon castle to obstacle course! The kids never had it so good!

Flag off was at St Andrew's Road. There were so many categories including pram rice, parents and children, fun run, 800 metres and 1600 metres races for kids of various age groups.

The kids are fast. Super fast. The first 4 kids in the 1.6km race came in sub 6 minutes and for the kids in the 800 metres, the average time for the top finishers was around 3 minutes +!

 Children from the Spastic Children Association of Singapore also took part 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheap Thrill

Came across this photo contest held in conjunction with the runbikeswim expo held as part of the Sundown Marathon race pack collection. Decided on a whim to submit some photos (each person is allowed 3 entries) and did so 1 day before the contest closed.

And by the grace of God, all 3 photos were accepted and got displayed at the expo. And one even got a merit award which came with a $100.00 cash prize. A nice end to the super shiok week with plenty of good news and cheers.

These are the 3 entries. First time my photos have been displayed anywhere other than in my photo album.
Cheap thrill!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trail in the East - Tampines Eco Green

Running trails have never been this good. For the longest time, there was practically nothing and nowhere to do a trail run in the East. Then the Tampines Mountain Bike Park was opened and it opened up a whole new dimension of running in the East. Unfortunately, that was a victim of its own success and it was soon commandeered by the YOG and closed to the public. Then Lor Halus Wetland opened and with it another new playground abit a rather oily and smelly one.

Now there is a new addition. The Tampines Eco Green. One day after its soft opening, me, the kid and the sidekick promptly ran the short 1km from our place to this new park. 

The whole place is created from a vast piece of empty land which has been left unchecked for more than 20 years. There is a 3km "carpeted" trail and it was fun to run on it. Like running on air. 

The path or trails were clearly marked out with directional sign and the distance clearly marked out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exorcising an old Foe

Last year, I stumbled badly at the 25km TNF 100 Challenge. With the launch of this year edition, I decided it was timely to do a full dress rehearsal and see whether I am able to exorcise the devil in my head With a lot more trail runs this year, I was confident that I would be able to do so otherwise I might just as well hang up my running shoes. 

For this task, I dragged a few friends and of course the trusty sidekick, M along. The target was to complete in 4 hours. Timing was not the issue here. Finishing well was. We replicated the whole route but throw in a pit stop at Bukit Timah Reserve for topping up of water. The other difference was we started at 7am, 3 hours earlier than the actual race start time.

We started off at a 'fast' pace. About 7.30 mins per km. Okay that's not exactly very fast but fast by our standard. One ultra marathoner in our group started complaining it was too fast too! Ha ha the target of 4 hours means a 9 mins pace so fair enough. Her complaint that is. Anyway, knowing that we will start walking sooner or later and with stops for photo-taking and water top up, the pace will eventually average out. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TNF Trail Run Series #4 Butterfly/Gangsa Trail

The 4th North Face Trail run in the series. Another big turnout. This time we are exploring what we called the Butterfly Trail. 

About 60 persons came. We started after a short briefing and ran from the Dairy Farm Carpark B into the Beluakar trail of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. A short run in the trail and we were on the road into the dark, mysterious but scenic Butterfly Trail. Not too sure who coined the name. Certainly we didn't spot any butterflies during the run although there was one right at the end. 

This was a twisting turning 3km trail. The trail was a bit narrow and it was single file in most area. There were some man-made obstacles for the mountain bikers but these were nothing compared to the many tree roots and overhanging branches. Running in this environment was extremely challenging. One really has to be alert. A slight mistake and ........ unfortunately that was what happened to one of the runner. He fell and twisted his ankle and had to cut short his run but not before having to limp a lonely 3km back. This marks our 2nd casualties of the series so guys, please be more alert and careful. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

TNF Enduro Boa Hydration Pack

Last I talked about the things to bring along during a trail run. So how does one carry so many things around and not feel like a rag-a-bone man? The answer, my friends, is a good quality hydration bag. There are hydration bags and there are hydration bags. Some are made for trekking, some for hiking, some for mountaineering, some for cycling and some for running. The difference is the waterproofing and weight. For running, you will want one that is water proof, light weight and yet has enough storage space to keep all the barang barangs.

And so introducing the North Face Enduro Boa hydration pack

The North Face Enduro Boa hydration bag comes with a 1.5l water bladder. 1.5l is sufficient in most cases but even if it is not sufficient, it does not make sense to carry a bigger capacity bag as the weight will be an issue. Just make sure to top up at water point. At the back is a small compartment suitable for putting the first aid kit, a small towel maybe and foods. In addition, the unique patented E-VAP shoulder harness is supposed to spread out the load evenly and reduces abrasion from the shoulders.  
This is one cool bag that comes with a gladiator style front top Velcro strap instead of the usual plastic clasps. There is a small little pouch at the gladiator strap useful for putting some coins. 

The other interesting feature of the bag is that it comes with the Boa system. A simple turn of the dial and the water inside is evenly distributed again to reduce the irritating sound of water sloshing inside.

The bag comes with all the bells and whistle. Literally. There is a whistle attached to the front harness.   In addition, the magnet that is on the vertical strap is so strong that throughout all the runs, the hydration sucking tube never comes off at all. So no irritating dangling tube.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Trail Running 101 (actually 10)

Noticed that a lot of people are into trail running nowadays. Just barely 2 years ago, there were only 3 trail races – TNF 100, the Solomon Trail Run and the MR Ultra marathon. Last year there were 2 new additions both at MR. This year, the number have increased almost 100% with the new addition of the North East Run, the Tiong Bahru Trail Run, the Energerizer Night Trail, and the Tour De Trail.

Me too have kinda got sucked into the fad. Just this year alone, I have done 12 trail runs compared to 16 last years and there is still more than half a year to go. During the course of running and especially while co-leading the TNF Trail Run Series, I learnt some valuable lessons from my co-runners and from observing the other runners. First, the hardware:

  1. Always bring water when running in a trail. The only exception is MR where along the 11km loop, there is a toilet at the ranger station. Even than, for those who plan to venture beyond MR to say Rifle Range Road or just the Tree-Top trail, a bottle of water is useful especially in our hot weather. Another purpose of the water is to wash the wounds if there is bleeding after a fall (touch wood!)
  2. Bring enough water. I have run out of water more than once on my trail runs and I was carrying a 1.5l hydration bag. Do not underestimate the need for water. One can do without water for a 10km run on the road but in a trail, especially a technical trail; a 10km run can easily stretch to 1½ hours or more. And while most of our trails are located in the catchment area or reserve where there is plenty of water, trust me – you won’t want to drink from the stream or the reservoir. A hydration bag with a capacity of 1.5l should be sufficient – just make sure to top up if there is a water point midway.
  3. Carry identification. An id-band or a small card with names and emergency contact number; allergies; etc. Do I really need to spell out why?
  4. Carry your mobile phone. This is of utmost importance especially if you are running alone. You never know when you need to call for help or maybe ask for pizza delivery! But seriously, a phone is a necessity. Again, need I spell out for what purposes?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Trail Running Shoes vs Ordinary Running Shoes

I used to be one of those who think that trail shoes are not necessary for running on trails; in Singapore anyway; and just any ordinary running shoes will suffice. That was when most of my trail running was done at MacRitchie Reservoir. This year I have expanded my trail running from MacRitchie to various other trails and especially the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment area. In these areas, the trails are more “technical”. Some places there are no trails. Just some flattened grass which passes for a trail. Then there are the roots, growing everywhere of various sizes and thickness and I swear placed there by some almighty guardian of the forest to trap us runners. On top of the roots, we have uneven grounds, broken up tarmac, puddles of water, mud, slime. Plus throw in some water crossing and running in such terrains inevitably creates havoc on the legs and body and the shoes. This was reinforced to me in real time when during a recent TNF trail run; a participant fell and sprained her ankle. I myself have fell 3 times in MacRitchie and stumbled many times in the trails but got away unscathed each time. The difference? I was wearing a trail shoes while she did not.

Road running shoes are designed for well, the road. Maybe in MacRitchie where the trail is so worn down by the many people trudging through it on a daily basis, wearing a pair of road running shoes could be sufficient. But try wearing a pair of road running shoes on a technical trail and the shoes wouldn’t last more than 3 runs. It will be ripped to pieces in no time as the sole and upper body is not designed for this type of environment and harsher than normal treatment. Furthermore, most road running shoes are not designed to drain away water and in the trails, there will be pool of waters, streams to cross and if the water doesn’t drain away; there will be lots of water sloshing inside the shoes.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Never Stop Exploring - TNF Trail Run #4 Preview

We are down to Run #4.  This is where we left off from the last run. This run got everything. There are mud, obstacles, gorgeous view, slopes and more slopes and terrains - you name it, it is there - from nice carpet type grass, to clay, to broken tarmac, to logs, to lallang, to  road. And very little 'civilization'. Only the occasional hard core cyclists.

Plenty of logs obstacle
Gorgeous view
Running along the horizon
Going into the valley of ????
Into the heart of the jungle!
Run distance will be 15km. As the routes are in non-car accessible areas, there are no toilets and no water points. If you need to answer the call of nature, do it in the bush. And bring water. Plenty. The return leg is going to be hot. Unless it rains in which case prepare for some mud sliding fun.

We rate this run an 8. There are not so many steep slopes but the varied terrains and the distance makes this a tough run. Not for those with little running experience.

For those who are interested, unfortunately the run slots are all filled up but checked out the TNF Facebook page and put yourself on the reserve list. You never know you may get lucky!