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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nathan Singapore City Race 2014

Last year was the first time I took part in this race. And I enjoyed it a lot despite that being one of the longest race I did. So when this year edition came back with a new apparel sponsor, I roped together last year kakis and signed up for it. The goal was to emulate or even better last year's feat when we covered the race in 38 km 2 km short of the actual distance of 40 km.

So on Sunday morning, together with 2 new team mates and an original member who "bandit" for the fun of it, we found ourselves at the start line at Marina Barrage. 
That us. Forest 6 + 1
The format of the race was similar to last year i.e run either as a solo participant or in a team of up to 6 members. There were 4 categories to choose from - mini, short, mid and long. Each categories has 5 checkpoints except for the long distance which has 6. Of course, we being "itchy backside" has to go for the long distance which has 6 checkpoints and a total distance of 45 km provided the runner run correctly.  For us our goal was to see whether we can take "shortcuts" and this is one race where shortcuts are allowed! In fact the more the merrier.

We started late and so consequently got the map late. They only give us the map when all the members of the team are in the start chute and so 10 minutes after everybody else in our category had gone off, we got our map and we let out a collective groan. The furthest checkpoint was Old Ford Factory way up in Upper Bukit Timah Road. And there were 2 checkpoints which was neither here nor there. For me, the ideal route would be something that can be done in a loop like last year but this year route was different. On the map although it was obviously longer, there was less trail. The dilemma was which checkpoint to go in which sequence so that we don't run further than necessary.

The obvious choice was to go to the nearest checkpoint which happens to be Sultan Mosque and just a stone throw away. We start off at a nice easy pace down Garden by the Bay, cross the Helix Bridge, Rochor Road, Beach Road and 3 km later, we found ourselves in front of the beautiful Sultan Mosque, our first checkpoint!
Sultan Mosque. 
From here, we had a difficult choice to make. The next nearest check point was CP 6 at Shaw House in Orchard Rd. But that was going to be open only at 9 am and we were still early. If we go straight there, we will be too early. However, the other nearer checkpoint was  CP 10 at Alexandra Road. It doesn't make sense for us to go there first and then turn back to Orchard Rd. That would be going on a mini loop - a waste of energy. The other alternative was to go to CP 10, then to CP 8, 9 before going to CP 11, the Old Ford Factory and finally coming back to CP 6. The problem with this option was that we will have to climb Pepys Hill which was not something that I want to do and then we still have to run back from Bukit Timah to Orchard in the afternoon heat. In the end after some hesitation, we decided to go ahead to Shaw House and if we are early, we could grab something to eat while waiting for the CP to open. 

We ran along North Bridge Rd, Bra Basah Rd, Orchard Rd and along the way, took a lot of photos. Still we reach Shaw House well ahead of 9 am and so we sat outside Isetan to wait.
At Shaw House with a volunteer who accompanied us all the way from Dhoby Ghaut to Shaw House
From here, after another lengthy discussion, we made the decision to go straight to CP 11. The rationale was this was the shortest route there from whichever CP and this was also the most "hot" stretch and we should get it out of the way first. So in a repeat of last year's run, we ran from Orchard Rd to Tanglin Rd, Nassim Rd, Evans Road, Bukit Timah Rd, Jalan Anak Bukit and finally Upper Bukit Timah Road. We skipped the Green Corridor which was a good decision as there were big trees along the stretch of road outside the condominiums along Upper Bukit Timah Rd and those provided much welcomed shade from the by now blazing hot sun.
At Old Ford Factory
So far we have covered 19 km in a super slow time of over 3 hours. 3 checkpoints completed and half way done. We walked a fair bit, stopped to buy drinks, take pictures and enjoy the scenery. The return journey was a fairly straight forward route. Go back via the Green Corridor, exit Queensway - CP 10 then CP 9 then 9 and back to finish line. Should be a piece of cake. But we forgot the sun had melted the cake and there was no cake = no energy. It was a hot hot trudge down the freaking never ending former railway track with the sun blazing down mercilessly on us. Unlike last year, we met very few runners. Most of them were going towards Bukit Timah which means they have to tackle Bukit Timah Road later.  We walked a lot along this stretch. Of course, we also took a fair bit of photos:)
Doing this 10 km stretch took us 2 hours!
Finally after 2 hours of sauna, we exit the freaking railway track. Never mind that this was the only trail we were covering this year. A short run down Alexandra Road and we were at the Harley Davidson showroom, which was CP 10! Bladdy hell, the checkpoint has no isotonic drink. Only water. Thank goodness the water was cold. But the bestest was the aircondition inside the showroom.

The air con was so shiok that we spent easily half an hour there. The ladies of course were imagining that they were riding the big Harleys with some hunk whilst the guys were wishing... Oh well, never mind what we wished for! But all good things must come to an end and finally after a long long time, we finally dragged ourselves away to continue our journey. 

But we are smart people and just a stone throw away was this awesome place!
Hell yes, after an half hour break at Harley Davidson, and now barely 1 km later, we took another break - at the famous Alexandra Village Food Centre. We had sugar cane, soursoup, lemonade but no avocado and we were buying from the stall that made the Avocado shake famous! What goodnus!. We took another super long break here. Consequently, for the last 7 km, we took more than 1 and a half hour! Super super slow and super super slack! But what the hell, despite the heat, I think everybody was still having fun.

After we finally dragged our butt away from the stools at the food centre, we made our way to the Hort Park for what else but another 10 minutes break! This time it was a toilet break. Ha ha. The break was also to prepare us mentally for the short climb to Kent Ridge Park
"Climbing the slope of Kent Ridge"
Ok it wasn't much of a slope or a climb but when one is hot and tired, any teeny weeny slope is a hill! But fortunately for us, because we know the area here well, we were able to go straight to CP 9 Reflections at Bukit Chandu which is a war museum by the way and not the Reflections at Keppel! I think we would have love to go inside to enjoy the air con look at the exhibits but we were kinda running out of time. So after just a water and of course photo break, we were off to the last checkpoint.

CP 8 is at Labrador Park. By now I was hoping they make things easy for us and have the checkpoint at the MRT station entrance but sianz, no such luck, it was all the way in at the seaside. And of course to make thing worse, we went to the wrong side and that cost us another 500 metres :( On the way in, we had seen people making their way out so either they were going to CP 9 in which case they were going to be very late back or they didn't know the way well. We smart guys took the scenic route via the park connector.
The view from the Labrador Park
By now it was already after 3 pm. We have been out for more than 7 hours and although we have completed all the checkpoints and were on the home stretch, it was still a long long stretch back to Marina Barrage. And this time there was no respite from the sun. We were reduced to walking almost the entire stretch of  7 km along hot noisy dusty Keppel Road and then down hot quiet Robinson Rd. And of course, the ladies must still have their photos and the air con break at MBS no less!
Outside Harbourfront Centre
And after 8 hours 40 minutes, we jogged past the finish line at Marina Barrage! One of the longest timed run and distance I ever undertaken. We didn't managed to reduce the distance either. Our watches shows various distances ranging from 41 km (mine) to 47 km (sidekick). Brokie's watch was 45.2 km. I think the problem was the many buildings that we went into. So I think we shall take the middle distance which is 45.2 km which means we were spot on on the route! I think a lot of people took much longer distance.
Our finishing run (picture from Finisherpix)
And despite taking 8 hours 41 minutes, we place 15 out of 33 teams. Not bad eh? Frankly, I think if we had not stopped to cool ourselves down so often, we would probably have shaved off at least 2 hours. But timing or how far we ran was never an issue here. We were not doing this to win or race against the clock. If we had pushed ourselves hard, we would not be able to enjoy the race. There will be no photos, no water break at Alexandra Village, no imaginary ride on a Harley and no fun. We were there to have fun and despite the heat, the cramp, the cursing and swearing, I think we did managed to have fun. A lot of it. Although I will think twice about signing up next year unless.....

1 comment:

  1. yet another great writeup !
    i think i got good pointers ... not just planning of distance, gradients, but most importantly, knowing if there are shades to utilize to one's advantage !
    i so looking forward to do my maiden in 2015 edition !

    the cut-off was 9 hours right ? team dropping out 40-50% ??

    and thanks for the photos ... they are an essential part of memories of a hard torturous run imho hahaha