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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gearing Up - Apparel

Another 2 more weekends to go. Time for a full dress rehearsal and so like the NDP, we did the rehearsal over 2 weekends.

First up was the attire. I am normally a singlet and short guy but this time round after taking the recommendation of the race director and looking at the photos of the past 2 editions posted by Cornelius, I have opted to go for long sleeve and tights. 

And this is me modelling the attire that I will be wearing on race day. 

On the head is my trusty North Face cap given to me when I was volunteering with the North Face Singapore in the 2011 Trail Run series. I have contemplated getting one of those caps with a neck flap but I think I just have to apply a lot of sun block to protect the neck.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Run Walk Pray

The past Saturdays has been reserved for long "run". The previous week, the plan was to run 40km. Started from Ngee Ann poly and went the usual way to Bukit Timah to Dairy Farm before we decided to do a different route and went to Butterfly. Butterfly Trail is a small forested area fringing the Peirce Reservoir. The trail is a narrow little thing loves by mountain bikers. There are roots aplenty waiting to trip unsuspecting runners. Being typical Singaporean and not waiting to risk a fall, we walked the entire stretch. Our reward was the gorgeous view of the reservoir as we skirted around it.

We came out of the area after a long walk and the plan was to go on to Gangsa Trail. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up in mysterious forbidden Woodcutters Trail. Too lazy to retract so we decided to risk a fine and continue on. Since Nparks decided to enforce the ban there, the forest has moved swiftly to reclaim the trails. The overhanging branches are now closer, the ground muddier and plant more dense. My hydration bag got hooked on the branches twice. Luckily it was the branches and not something from the current 7th month!

We ended up at Upp Peirce reservoir from where we jog slowly to MacRitchie Reservoir where we had a long pit stop. All was still fine and dandy until we resume our run. Five minutes into the run, I started to get breathless. It was like I was doing an interval sprint. The sidekick blamed it on the can of coke which I gulped down at MacRitchie. Whatever it is, that was it. I was down and out. We walked the next 15km back to Ngee Ann.

One week later, we are back. This time we started at 6am when it was still dark in the forest. This being the 7th month, we were startled out of our skin when right smack in the middle of MacRitchie and in pitch darkness, we heard a horrifying Chinese song. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be one of those idiotic uncle singing at the top of his voice in the stillness of the morning!

From MacRitchie we made our way to Bukit Timah. It was the first time we were running in the dark. We did not bring our headlamp but luckily the sidekick had a torch. We made our way slowly until the Ranger Station when it became bright enough  to see without the torch. From Bukit Timah, we went to the top of the hill before going down to Dairy Farm and going to Mandai Road. 

By then the Sun was out in its full glory  and I was feeling tired. At Mandai, we were already 3.5 hours into our  run but had barely covered 20km. Another 20km to go! By then I was feeling tired. Took a gel and we turned back. But it was too hot and we were soon reduced to walking the  entire length of Gangsa. We consoled ourselves that we have to practice our walking so there was no rush.

At Chestnut, I ran into trouble again and developed a coughing fit. The sidekick decided then to walk all the way back. Sighed... another long long walk. But at least we now know it is not the coke.

This is me, too tired to walk up the hill at Rifle Range.
Picture by the sidekick
We walked and crawled all the way back to MacRitchie. It has been more than 7 hours since we started. Is this good enough training for TMBT? Back to prayer!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Run Climb Pray

2 weeks ago, I achieved my  highest climb ever. Not to mention the highest weekly mileage in my whole entire running life.

I climbed up to a maximum altitude of 404 metres and if I add them all together, I hit a total of 1898 metres.  The joy was short-lived though! The elevation map for TMBT was released and gulped - the total elevation gain is 2910 metres. And that is over 50km in one go whilst my 1898 metres was done over 4 runs + walk spread out over 7 days! 
That was also the week when I hit my highest mileage in my entire running life of 7 years. And it was a grand total of 72km! This was with a run/walk on Saturday of 38km and another hike of 10km on Sunday plus the two weekdays evening run.

I guess all the climbing and running that I have been doing are not really going to help much. I so gonna suffer big time over there but may be, just may be, there will be a miracle and by the time I go over there next month, somebody will have build a cable car up to the peak! So the next phase of the training will be? Pray of course!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The 3 Cardinal Sins of Trail Running

Last week a cyclist died. By itself that is no longer a big news since cyclists are being run down by motorists so frequently that people are kinda used to it. But this cyclist was not killed by a car. In fact, he was not knocked down by any vehicle on or died on any road. He was found dead at Gangsa Trail.

Gangsa Trail, as most seasoned trail runners will know, is a favourite haunt of mountain bikers and trail runners. It is fairly straight and rather easy to run or cycle on. There are no cars, motorbikes and the only danger are probably tripping over roots or hitting overhanging branches. So how exactly this poor chap died is a mystery but one thing for sure - he committed 2 out of the 3 great cardinal sins of going into a trail or forest:

1) Never run alone
2) Be prepared for emergency. Bring safety gear along
3) Bring hydration.

Apparently, he was cycling alone and not wearing a helmet. So the likely cause was he fell and knocked himself against a rock and it being a weekday, there was nobody there to come to his aid and he died alone just like the great Micah True. 2 out of 3 sins - alone and no helmet. 

I know of a lot of trail runners ignore all or most of these 3 pointers. It is fine I think if one is just running in MacRitchie where there are always people around but in more ulu places like Butterfly, Woodcutters, Gangsa? I can imagine if a runner fell in Butterfly trail on a weekday and is immobile and without any means of getting help. In all likelihood, the earliest somebody might discover him would be the nearest weekend since that is really a quiet place. By then, he may have died from loss of blood, snake bite or thirst!

But having said that, I am also often time guilty of these 3 sins. In fact, on Hari Raya morning itself, I ran alone at the Tampines Mountain Bike trail. Throughout the run, except for some workers at the trail head, I did not bum into any other persons. If I had fell and injure myself or got bitten by a snake and there are snakes there, nobody will know. Of course, I tell myself nothing is gonna happen since it was a short run of just 6km; the trail was fairly easy to run and I know the place like the back of my hand. Of course, because it was supposed to be a short run of total 10km, I did not bring my phone or any hydration as well.

On hindsight, it was rather foolish. If I had fall or trip and hurt myself, even if I don't die, I have no means of getting help until somebody chance upon me which might be at the earliest in the afternoon. And I thought I know the place well enough but I discovered a new trail which led to a puddle and another and then another. Initially I had fun splashing through the puddles of water, testing out my new shoes but as the puddle become "ponding", I decided I could not go forward and had to u-turn which eventually  meant I ran an extra 2km. By then I was fairly thirsty. There were water everywhere - on the grounds :) but I was left dry because yes I didn't bring any out! Again, what if something had happened and I was stuck somewhere out there without water? I could get dehydrated in our hot weather and .............. My consolation was that the sidekick knew where I was running and could get help if I didn't return within a reasonable time. But I was exploring the new trail, so would she have found me?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Walking is hard to do

If there one thing that I sucks at that is worse than running, its walking! My colleagues are always asking me why I walk so slow when I can run so long distance. And its true. On my walk to/from work, I am often overtaken by ladies in heels and sometimes aunties and uncles! I remembered when I did my first marathon, I managed to do a mean 6 minutes pace for the first 30km or so and then cramped badly after that and walked the balance 12km back to the finish line. That 12km walk took me more than 2 hours 15 minutes. Ditto the next marathon when I walked 10km in 2 hours 40 minutes!

So anyway I know for the TMBT, there going to be a fair bit of walking so I figure I better get my walking in order. And since the sidekick was complaining of knee pain, decided that for the week, we will skip the hills and trails and just do road run. 

On Saturday together with another couple, we went for a long road run. The plan was to run 35km but as usual after 25km, the lazy mind gave up and I almost wanted to quit. My friend who was pacing me throughout was encouraging enough to nudge me gently to carry on. So I got a brainwave! I can use the opportunity to train my walking!  My friend who incidentally was last year Singapore's TNF 100 first pure Singaporean finisher, informed me that the average walking pace should be around 10 minutes. 

And so I started walking. About 1.5km into it, my left calf started to tingle. I can feel a cramp coming! WTF! Stopped, stretch and hang loose a bit and continued. As the sun continue to rise and the temperature rises, the walking became more and more labored. My mind started telling me to run and just finish off the darned thing and go for a nice brunch. But I already given up running the full 35km so I was determined to at least complete something that I started. So I forced myself to walk. And seriously, it has to be the longest 10km I ever did. It was hard work trying to maintain a pace of 10 minutes. But somehow I did it and completed the 10km walk in 1 hour 41 minutes.

And boy was I glad I did this because now I know I gonna have a lot of work to do - to brush up on my walking judging from what my 2 time TMBT 100km finisher got to say:

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 - First Peek

"Inspired by Lone Peak, one of the rockiest, toughest mountains in the Wasatch Range, The Lone Peak™ was designed to conquer the Wasatch 100. While the foot-shaped design allows athletes to stay relaxed and comfortable for hours, this do-everything mountain shoe promotes happy feet, increases ankle stabilization and improves form with the Zero DropTM platform"
I don't know whether the Lone Peak  can indeed makes a happy feet or where Wasatch Range is but what I do know was  I needed a new trail shoe. My last 2 pairs were bought in 2011 and after 2 years, its time for a replacement especially since the New Balance MT101 bought in December 2010 has given up the run and gone to the great shoe warehouse in the sky after the long run last week.

So when the local distributor for the Altra shoes offered me a good price for the Lone Peak, I grabbed the offer even though I know next to nothing about this shoe. Anyway, the aforesaid quote was from the Altra's website. There are a few other claims but I guess I will only know after running in them and this I haven't done yet.

But before going for a run, let take a look at the physical and overall appearance of the shoe.

It comes in a striking red, white color. Just nice for National Day hor!

This is a zero drop shoe with a wide toe box. There is also the quick dry and abrasion resistant mesh on the upper. It is not seamless but Altra said minimal seam. So hopefully that means no blister, no black toe nails.

This is the sole. There is a footprint imprinted on it. Altra called it the  "trailclaw" lugs and is supposed to provide very good traction. Too bad it is in white. Should turn dirty very soon.

The lace is "asymmetrical" whatever that means. Probably going to dump it and replace with the usual lock laces.

There are 2 holes at the front of the shoe to drain out water easily although I think it can also do the opposite i.e. allow water to get in easily.

The heel comes with a velcro flap What is it for? To put some coins? Keys?

No. Actually is just a flap for sticking a gator to it. Thoughtful! If you need a gator that is. And by the way, we not talking about an alligator here ok!

So does the shoes live up to all that the manufacturer has claimed? Certainly, there are a lot of positive feedback out on the world wide web. For me, the truth will come when I start on it this National Day.