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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Fantasy Island 50

I know and I swear many times that I will no longer do any long races and yet when we decided to tag along with the Princess when she flys in Scotland to begin her studies, the first thing I did was to look for a race to run in - and not any race but an ultra. And almost as soon as I signed up, I begin to regret the decision cause I hated every second of the long runs that I have to do leading up to it. I hated having to wake up at ungodly hours, hated plugging away for 4 to 5 hours almost every weekend in the hot sun and most of all, hated that feeling when I feel so weak, tired and helpless as I attempted to shuffle my way to the end of each training run.

Yet when I finally found ourselves at the start line of the Michael Mover's Fantasy Island 50 in Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae somewhere in Scotland, there was only excitement and this expectation that I was finally going to break the duck and complete my first ultra distance run.

This was not a competitive race if it could be called that. In fact, it was more like a fun run. The format of the run was pretty straight forward. Each runner can run up to a maximum of 5 rounds round the island each round being approximately 10 miles (16 km). There was no prize for those who finish the most rounds neither was there any prizes for those who do the fastest single round or anything of that sort. In fact anybody who runs pay the same registration fee, gets the same thing, a medal, a t-shirt and lots of tlc from the organisers. The run starts at 8 am for those doing 3 rounds and more and 11 am for those who wanted only to do 2 rounds or less. The gungho 2 of us decided to try for 4 rounds ie a total of 40 miles or 64 km. 

There were probably about less than 100 runners in total and when the race director started announcing which participants were doing how many rounds, the reality of what we were going to do sink in and the pressure built up especially when it turns out that we were the only 2 foreigners not from UK there and she kept referring to us as "International Runners". So paiseh :} The run was flagged off at 8+ after a warm up.

The few fellas doing 5 rounds promptly shot off with those doing 1 round also going off at a fast pace. During training, I had planned for us to complete each round in 2 hours but the sidekick caught up in the excitement and nice cooling weather went ahead. I tagged along about 200 metres behind to look at the scenery. And there were plenty of scenery - from beaches, beautiful bay, rolling hills, farmlands, monuments to all sort of water birds and animals. But careful to pace myself, I restricted my photo taking, promising to take more photos in the later rounds when the feet gets more tired and more time will be spent walking and thus photo taking.

Weather was nice initially. Not too cold probably around 16 degree C. There were 2 water points - at 3 miles and 7 miles serving orange juice and water. Because there were so few runners, it soon became a lonely run with the ocassional vehicle and cyclist passing up and every now and then, the runners catch up, got caught up and played "musical chairs". Still I managed to complete my first round in a pretty decent timing of 1 hour 45 minutes. The sidekick had finished her first round earlier and was waiting for me. I decided then to put on my hydration belt as I felt the water points were too far apart for me especially as the sun was coming up. Took about 10 minutes to rest before resuming. The sidekick had went off already and I could see her running with a pack of runners about 200 metres in front. When I came out from a toilet along the promenade, the whole lot of them had disappeared from sight. :{

I decided that I wasn't going to try to catch up. Instead I adjusted my pace to about 7 mins pace and started taking photos as well.  

A rare shot of the sidekick(in pick top)
Even then I managed to complete the 2nd round in less than 2 hours which means I was now ahead of my target pace by almost 20 minutes. But by now, it was getting hot - actually very hot and I was starting to feel unmotivated. The sidekick had already gone far off so far that I couldn't see her at all. But I knew I had to finish this and come out with something. So off I went again. I soon caught up with a gentleman, Paul whom I had overtook just before finishing the 2nd round and who I noticed had continued straight on to his 3 laps without stopping.

We got to chatting. He was attempting his first 3 rounds of this event. Previous year he had completed 2 rounds and now was back for more. But like me he was tiring fast under the hot sun and soon we were walking instead of running. We chatted a lot, walked a lot and run very little. I found out he had not completed a full marathon yet and so when we hit 42km, I congratulated him on achieving his first marathon distance. We talked so much that we walked the rest of the way until we reached Millport. That was when we decided to save some face and ran the last 1 mile back.
That me with Paul
The sidekick had finished about half an hour earlier and was waiting for me. I was surprised that she had not gone on for the 4th round. She said she noticed that the organisers were packing up their stuff and she felt bad if she had to make them wait for her to finish another round. So that was it then? Well not quite. Actually during my last round, I had also decided not to go for the 4th round. It was simply too hot and nothing could be achieved by completing it. But I had 1 unfinished business. 

When I crossed the half century mark 2 years ago, I had decided to do a 50 km run to commemorate the occasion but I left it too late and couldn't find a suitable race. Last year, I signed up for the TMBT 50km race as that falls in September which was my birthday month but sadly I dnf that. So this time, I decided that even thought I couldn't finish the 4 rounds which we had set out to do, I have to do at least 52 km to mark my 52nd birthday which was just a week ago. And so like a crazy fella, I went off for another short run and returned to clock exactly 52 km! It took me nearly 7 hours to do this but I am happy that finally I have done minimally a 50 km distance and in such a beautiful place too with wonderful support from the organisers, Maria, Angela and the many other ladies those names I failed to catch. Thank you very much especially for the delicious chocolate cake.

Here are more photos of the lovely little Isle of Cumbrae taken by the Princess who had tagged along, the sidekick and me.

Photos of the lovely coastline

 Rolling hills and farmlands

Rock formation that couldn't look out of place in Stonehenge

One of many memorials for the islanders of Cumbrae who fought for the country in the past with some dating back to the days of the Viking!

The beautiful town of Millport looking like time had stand still here

And plenty of birds and animals

All in a worthwhile experience in a beautiful place. But will I come back for this again? I said again and I will said it again, no more long races. And someone please remind me of this the next time I sign up for something crazy like this again:)

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