Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Janda Baik International Run 2015 Race Report - Deo

Deo's Janda Baik Rainforest Run. Looking at the photos, I believed he has more fun running it as much as writing the race report for us to read. Thank you for sharing Deo and congrats on the finishing.
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After the completion of the Salomon Otterbox Trail Run in Janda Baik last year, I sort of fell in love with the trail there. As mentioned in my race report, it was like a mini version of the trail that I had experience in Sabah while taking part in the Sabah Adventure Challenge and TMBT100. With all mixtures of uphill and downhills, over tarmac and red clay sections, that took us crossing rivers, running at the side of vegetable farms, it was a great running course away from the city. So, naturally when the registration for this event opened, I did not hesitate to sign up for it and since it will be longer in distance (21km against 18km during the Salomon Otterbox Run), I thought it will give a greater challenge and will take a longer time to complete. 

After a long anticipation between the date I signed up for the race and the race day, the day itself arrived last Sunday. As my race bib has been collected a day earlier by Ijoy, I didn't have to drive to Janda Baik really early in the morning (as the race number pick-up on race day was to be done before 5am). It was a casual move to R&R Genting Sempah to meet up with few other friends before we made our move to the race site. We actually underestimated the time taken to the race site and arrived with just about ten minutes to spare before the flag off at 7.30am. With not much to time to spare, we hastily headed to the start line while bumping into familiar faces along the way. It was a small crowd at the start line - very much to my liking, around 500 of runners, according to my estimation. 

Panicking a bit as I arrived at the race site with just few minutes to spare from the start. For the race, I put on Skechers GOrun Ultra 2, a hybrid shoes that gives good traction on the trail while comfort and cushioning for road runs.
[photo by Ezamidola]

While I tried to move up to the front pack at the start, alongside Ezam and Ijoy, we were flagged off and the front runners were dashing out from the field towards the tarmac section. And I was one of them. It was really a fast start, just like in a 10km race and soon after I caught up with Ezam while trailing Ijoy. I glanced behind to Khairul to get him to tag along me but he stayed with his moderate pace. Upon checking the time splits later after the race, the first 2km that was done on tarmac section was done in 5:05 and 4:51 pace. Then the race went into the trail section.

It was uphill trail that we had to deal with, right away after we entered the trail section and it was already tough for me to continue running especially after running all my heart out during the first 2km earlier. Anyway, I told myself to keep going, even if I need to walk it has to be a very fast walk. There were not that many runners around me, the front bunch had sped away and disappeared from my sight while those behind me were sparsely following me from behind, closing in on me when I walked uphill while I distanced myself from them again during downhill and flat sections. 

The second climb was really badass! It was on concrete and was so steep! I wonder if anyone could run up this section? It was so steep that you can't stand up straight, otherwise you could fall behind and roll down the slope. I think it was about 17 degrees of climb. Luckily it wasn't too long of a climb, maybe around 500m. And once you've reached the peak, it was equivalently steep going downhill, also on concrete. It wasn't easy, either. But the momentum gained from running downhill really fast was that it pushed you up (at least halfway) to the next climbing section. 

Going up the badass concrete section.
[photo by CH Leong}
...and going downhill of the same section which looks like a roller coaster track to me...
[photo by Warren Mak]
I did not notice any similarities between the route of this race and the Salomon Otterbox Run. But after the race when I checked the map on Garmin Connect, I noticed that there were five kilometers of similar route between the two races (KM10.5 to KM15.5) except that it was done on reverse direction.
The trail wasn't as bad and slippery as during the Salomon Otterbox Run, although I was told that it was raining heavily a day earlier. So, dashing downhill was pleasurable without worrying of slipping down the slope (or fell on my butt like what happened to me during the Salomon Otterbox Run). So, I got to recover my lost time going slow or walking uphill but running strongly downhill and along the flat sections. I got better traction this time and better cushioning for running on flat trail and road sections since I was wearing Skechers GOrun Ultra 2, that is suitable for both trail and road runs. 
The first of two river crossings. Cold, clear and refreshing water but I smiled when seeing photos of some runners taking off their shoes while crossing the river. C'mon, this is trail running, you don't want to keep your 4WD vehicle clean just like on the road...

I love the two river crossings, especially the first one that was about knee high deep. The current was quite strong coupled with the slippery rocks underneath the water. One has to be very careful to cross the river and I was lucky that when I arrived there, there were only me and one other runners so we didn't have to worry about human traffic jam during the river crossing. 
The route elevation profile. Nothing that was too hard, actually.

It was uphill and downhill all the way, except for the stretch between KM7 to KM10, and between KM15.5 to KM18.3 (finish line), where there were flat sections and mostly ran on tarmac. And I took advantage of these flat sections where I sped up and ran at below 5:30 pace. At the final stretch before the finish line, I even managed to overtake three other runners in front of me to finish in 12th position in 21km category for male. The race however was under-distance, my Garmin just managed to get around 18.3km, which is about 1km longer than the Salomon Otterbox Run. However, my timing was a lot better this time, 1:54:28, as compared to 2:11:12, thanks to the not-so-slippery trail condition and 30% of tarmac section that I could run my marathon pace.

Organizational wise, it was a brave effort put up by the organizer (known better from mountain biking events) to organize this race, with lots of logistics consideration to think of. I really commend the five (or was it six?) water stations along the route that served icy cold water and 100 Plus. It was so refreshing to get to gulp cold water and poured some onto the head. The route was awesome, great for hillworks and speedworks. Volunteers were very helpful and friendly, race start/finish location was suitable for the size of the event. There were also packed foods served at the finish line. But there were definitely some minus points. Firstly, the unavailability of water after the finish line. Bottled mineral water were just for VVIP tables, while runners were served with air sirap. Then, there were no toilets provided at the finish line and some runners had to use the facility at the nearby mosque which I think quite inappropriate. Then the finisher's t-shirt were not prepared as per the indicated sizes during the registration, they only have M and L sizes. 

With the happy faces of QMR Runners after the event

Overall, it was an event you have to try if you want something different from what was normally offered by other events around Klang Valley. As for myself, I would love to run this route (and race) again and I hope someone can organize a longer distance event on this route. 

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.
For official result of the Men's Open 21km (18km in actual) category, click here.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tips of the Month : Trainers And Rollers by Jun Shen

Amateur multisport athletes or cyclists often face the dilemma of picking either a bike resistance trainer or rollers. I had the same headache doing research and asking friends for their opinion before finally bought a magnetic resistance trainer. Before I proceed to further details, let me explain the difference between trainer and rollers.
Similarity:
Cyclists are able to ride their own bike on rollers or trainer anytime and anywhere they wish. Both trainer and rollers are not a piece of cycling gym equipment; you’ll need a bike to do your workout with it.
Difference:
Rollers are designed as simple as 3 rollers for you to ride your bike on top of it. It has no vertical support to balance, so it gives almost exactly the same “road feel”. However, newbies might take some time learning to balance themselves on the slippery rollers. You cannot increase the resistance.
Resistance Trainers securely hold the rear wheel of your bike and the tyre rests upon a little metal cylinder that generates resistance. Resistance trainer needs no balancing. Once the rear wheel is mounted, it is very stable and I could play with my phone or even eat pizza while cycling.
Rollers
The set of 3 rollers are attached to a frame by a long rubber band that keeps the front and rear rollers turning at the same rate. They are very useful to improve balancing and pedalling technique. If you find it hard to balance yourself while eating energy bar in a group ride, this piece of tool will help to improve your bike handling skills. As a piece of advice, test your rollers next to a wall or any support that you can hold on. For balancing, I put a water bottle in front and stay focus to it to help me balance.

Resistance Trainer

Resistance trainer generates resistance in 3 different ways. The least resistance is the wind resistance; the magnetic resistance generates higher resistance while the fluid resistance produce the highest resistance comparatively. All 3 trainers allow resistance increment and is a very good equipment to build up strength.
Wind Resistance Trainer
Wind resistance trainers are the simplest and the cheapest, checkout local bicycle 2nd hand website for new/used wind resistance trainer at a super cheap price. Normally it sells at around RM 190 – RM 300. For entry level, it is good enough. The fan blades spin as the cyclists cycle while generating resistance through the fan blades’ movement. On the down side, I would say the resistance is a little too low, somehow I felt “no resistance” after hitting 35km/h. Also, the noise could wake everyone in the house!
Magnetic Resistance Trainer

Magnetic resistance trainer generates eddy current through electromagnetic induction which creates the resistance. I bought a Minoura magnetic trainer for RM 450, it offers me 8 levels of resistance. After 4 years of using it, I’m only at resistance 3 for my time trial training =p. The noise is very much lower compared to the wind resistance trainer.
Fluid Resistance Trainer

The silicon within the enclosure generates fluid resistance inside the chamber as the cyclist pedals. The major benefit of a fluid resistance trainer is the gradually increase resistance as the rear wheel spins faster. Due to the complexity of its design, the fluid resistance trainer is heavy but very stable. It is the most quiet among all the types of trainers. For that reason, the price is the highest among all. However, they are prone to leakage and also overheat.   
Conclusion
Whether rollers or resistance trainer, both equipment reduce a lot of risk and hazard cyclists normally face when cycling outdoor. Family need not to worry about our safety and we get to watch our favourite DVD while doing our training. Isn’t that killing two birds with one stone? =) Since I’ve explained the differences, now it is your decision whether to pick which type of equipment to suit your needs.  

Picture of me cycling with a Magnetic Resistance Trainer inside my cabin onboard Frigate KD JEBAT. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Tokyo Marathon Race Report - Deo

A PB completed at a World Marathon Major venue, which was also over distanced by a 1km, this is what dream are made off. Deo showed us how he managed to get his legs and heart to work overtime in this race. This is race with superb ending. Nicely done Deo!
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I've heard so much about Tokyo Marathon from Malaysian runners who have taken part in its previous editions. It has been a highly regarded marathon even before it was elevated to be one of the six marathons in the World Major Marathon series. And it wasn't easy to get in, either. One Japanese I met at the Shibuya Tourist Information Center told me that I am very very lucky to get drafted to run in the marathon after balloting for my first time while she had tried in seven straight occasions and failed each time. Similar stories were heard about ow difficult to get in the Tokyo Marathon. I was informed that they received around 305,000 applications to fill up the 35,500 marathon slots, 8.5 times oversubscribed. And out of 35,500 slots, only about 5,300 runners were from outside Japan. Malaysia was represented by 93 runners and I was one of the tiny fraction of the total number of participants. I also was lucky to be able to run in Osaka Marathon last October and had the taste of what Tokyo Marathon would be like, but in a smaller scale. The organizer of both marathons are the same and the hospitality and the organization was just the same between the two. The expo was almost about the same size except for the different apparel sponsor (Mizuno for Osaka while Asics for Tokyo) and some other booths/products/brands being showcased. Although the expo meant nothing much to me, I was still super-excited upon presented with my bib number, knowing that I would run my second Marathon Major and it would be my 30th marathon.
I had quite a big expectation to run in Tokyo. Deep inside my heart, I really wanted to run a PB timing here, even by a slight seconds but would be nice to break under 3:40:00. With all the expenses incurred, especially, it would be great to come back with something to celebrate other than just finishing the race. And it has been a while since I last ran my marathon PB of 3:40:11 done at 2XU Marathon in Singapore way back in March 2014. I failed in Osaka and don't want to fail again in Tokyo. But I also realized that I had failed to run a PB timing on another big stage before (in Berlin 2012), probably because I put on too much pressure to myself and the cold weather! It was around 16-degree Celcius when I ran in Berlin and I got cramps all over the body - legs, fingers, and even the neck, quite early into the race. And with the forecast of Tokyo Marathon will start under the even colder temperature of 8-degree Celcius and drizzling, I was just afraid that the Berlin history will repeat itself. Based from friends' experience, the course would also be a little over-distance, can go up to 1km over-distance, due to left and right turning in the city and the large crowds that prevent you to run in tangent line. So, in the end, I didn't tell anyone of my target because I wasn't sure and I don't want to put pressure to myself and based from my experience, I had always do well and run a PB timing when I least expected for example in Hatyai 2012, Vientiane 2013, and Singapore 2014. Not only until I reached the marathon expo and upon getting myself pictured at the Seiko booth that I had to actually declared my target timing. I was reluctant, but failing to plan means you planned to fail. So, being modest, 3:39:59 was my target timing.

I was lucky (or unlucky) to get a quick assimilation to the weather as soon as I arrived in the morning of Wednesday when the weather went as low as 3-degree Celcius with rains that lasted from morning until I went to bed that night. It was really cold but couple of days that followed were lovely with sunshine despite low temperature. On Saturday, during the 5km International Friendship Run, it was sunny but windy and it was chilly to the bones. I guess walking around Tokyo for four days prior to the event day under the similar weather and temperature had helped me to settle down with the temperature on the race day. And the walking, really a lot of walking, that I did for four straight days, were helping to loosen up the tight muscles (I think) especially when I hadn't had much mileage after TNF100 Thailand three weeks before and zero mileage during the week of the marathon. Oh, maybe that is what really meant as tapering period, I guess so. And another thing that I would think that was helping was the good dip of the whole body in the hot spring followed by a good leg and upper body massage, a day before the race.
With Mr. Tad Hayano, the Race Director of Tokyo Marathon at the start of the 5km International Friendship Run on Saturday before the marathon.


With a runner carrying "tomatan", a new fueling device by Japanese juice-maker Kagomea. The 18-pound hands-free backpack with robotic arms carries six tomatoes and brings them close to the wearer's mouth for refueling during a race. Read further here

So, on Sunday I had instant porridge for breakfast at the hotel before slowly making my way to the start line at the Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, just a few stations from my hotel in Ikebukuro. It was cold as forecast but the rain has stopped but the road was still wet. I had about 75 minutes before flag-off but the entrance to the race start area was already crowded as there were security checks on each participants - including the waist pouch we were carrying and the contents, and they even restricted liquids/water to be brought for the race to be in a maximum of 200ml in an unopened bottle. I tried to find a bottle of 200ml mineral water but I just couldn't find any so in the end, I decided to just rely on the water provided at the water stations that were place at every 3km and 2km apart. Once I cleared the security checks, I had the urge to pee but the queues were terribly long at all portable toilets provided. And I don't have much time to spare to queue. And the thought of taking my jacket and track bottom (to keep me warm) right until the very end before I moved to inside the starting block was just didn't go as planned as due to the crowd, I thought it was better to deposit my luggage early and head over to my starting block as early as possible. After I deposited my luggage, I only had a disposable poncho I got from one of the booths at the expo to keep me warm. I headed to the starting block D as assigned and the queue for the toilet was a lot shorter so I did what I could do and felt so relieved. Slowly I made my way to the start pen and got to the front of the block, just behind block C, which I think is pretty awesome. 
With Nazri, another Malaysian whom I just met inside the starting pen.

It was still cold and it started to drizzle again and I shivered everytime the wind blew, sometimes smack on my face. Met another runner from Malaysia at the start line, it was great to have someone to talk to to kill the time until the race was flagged off. But with about 20 minutes from the flag off time, I had the urge to pee again and I had to abandon my spot to go to the toilet. I had to queue again and as I had to deal with so many stuffs with me - gloves, poncho, two layers of top, two layers of bottom, just to pee, I accidentally dropped the left side of my glove into the portable toilet bowl and at the same time my foot was pressing the flush button and the glove was gone and I was left with just the right side of the glove. I sensed that maybe luck was against me this time. So, I decided to run without gloves. By the time I got back to the start pen, I had to wait at the really back and at the side as it was already filled. Then slowly we were allowed to move into the pen but I was still at the really back until the actual flag-off. I crossed the start line, some four minutes behind the official flag off. With the amount of crowds we had that morning, the first 5km was done at a relatively slower pace than other parts of the race, and had to zig zag around really a lot. This time, I wasn't paying much attention on or got too excited with other runners in costumes or the crowds at the side as I had experience all of it before in Osaka so, I was just focusing on my pace and calculating the projected finish time.
It was still crowded even after KM5 and the best thing is that they just didn't stop running...

For the marathon, I had worn the Team 2ndskin vaporlite team t-shirt with Nike Procombat long sleeve t-shirt underneath. For the bottom, I put on thermal compression bought in Uniqlo before putting on Kraftfit long compression bottom on the outside. No gloves sadly. Powered by Skechers GOrun 4 that has performed awesomely for me during the marathon as well as the RHB Half Marathon (1:42:54), two weeks earlier. Seriously, the shoes was simply awesome, fast and very responsive to every stride and propulsion - making it my favorite racing shoes for now. The rest I had on were my Garmin FR920XT, Lifeline ID, Compressport socks, Merrell's hat and a pair of sunglasses that I never put on as it remained overcast throughout the race. For supplements throughout the race, I had Hammer gel, a packet for each 8km (around 40-minute interval), and 2 caps each of Hammer Endurolytes and Anti-Fatigue Caps before the race and for every 7km. Route wise, the race took us around Tokyo city with total closure of those roads. Crowds were lining up at the side of the streets - left and right - all the way to the finish line and there were quite a number of performers (of all sorts - traditional, modern, orchestra, yoga, etc) performing for the runners in the cold weather.
The Tokyo Marathon race was flagged off at the side of Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku and took the runners through major roads/areas around the city, namely Iidabashi, Roppongi, Shinagawa, Akihabara, Asakusa before we finish off the race near the Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. The route also took us pass famous landmarks like Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Station, Asakusa Kaminarimon Gate and Tokyo Tree.

Slowly with the zig zaggings and overtaking of some runners who started in block A, I reached KM5 in 0:25:24 and just like in RHB Half Marathon, it wasn't done with much effort. Judging from the time, I thought that PB is possible if I can maintain the pace up to KM30 and slowed down a little the rest of the race. As I had done in 2XU Marathon in Singapore, I was able to maintain average pace of sub 5-minute up to KM26 so I reckoned to try maintaining sub 5-minute pace up to KM30 this time. And I hadn't stopped running since the start except slowing down at the two first water stations. Body all felt great, and the runners around me who kept moving had motivated me to keep running too. I hardly seen anyone walking not just in the first 5km but the entire race. And along the route, there were two u-turn points so you could see the front runners making their ways from the opposite direction and I was lucky that I managed to catch the elite runners, including Endeshaw Negesse, who was the eventual winner of Tokyo Marathon and Stephen Kiprotich, to name a few.
Some of the elite runners who I can identify: Tsegay Kebede (bib #2 who finished in 8th place), Peter Some (#7, 5th place) and Stephen Kiprotich (#7, runner-up). The champion, Endeshaw Negesse, is in yellow vest, partially hidden behind Peter Some.

As the race progressed, I found myself in an unfamiliar territory - my average pace kept getting better instead of worsen and at first, I was worried thinking that I might have gone too fast that I would run out of steam towards the end. But taking it positively, I might just go with the flow, run at the pace which had not troubled me so far. Looking back at my pace average pace, it went down from 5:03 in KM3 to 4:56 after KM7 to 4:50 after KM10 and down further to 4:45.5 after KM30. That was the fastest average pace point for me before it went up again. At KM30, I had all the confidence that I would run another sub 4:00:00 marathon and I thought with minimum effort, by just maintaining a 6:00-minute average pace for the final 12-13km. And that point also, the thought that I could do a PB is possible if my pace didn't drop too much. And although there were thoughts that I could even run a sub 3:30:00 marathon, I wasn't still not convinced at all that it would be possible. I was thinking about 'the wall' that I was going to face soon, just not knowing when is that soon will happen. 
I didn't realize when the crowd was actually eased up (or not at all) but all I cared all throughout the race was my pace...

I was still running stronger than ever until about KM36 when I finally felt that I started to face 'the wall'. Even then, when I was expecting the average pace would go up really quickly as I thought I had slowed down from KM30 onwards and would surpass 5:00 anytime soon but it didn't happen, as it moved up rather slowly, only reaching back 4:50 at KM38. I could fell that my legs were starting to take the beating (of going too fast early in the race). All I wanted to do was to walk, to walk about 500m before running another 2km or 3km then walk again. It would be very easy to do, just walk. PB timing was well within my reach as long as I didn't walk for too long. But then again, I hardly saw anyone walking around me. I did walk on two occasions, going halfway up on two of those bridges near the finish line but those were very short walks, about 50m each time. And each time I was down walking and moved to the side of the road to walk, I was greeted with "Gambare!" and "Go! Go!" by the supporters and as if I was obliged a big time to them, I continued running....

And by KM36 when walking was the best cure for my legs that time, I realized that sub 3:30:00 is within a whisker for me. If I keep running, I would finish with a respectable timing and be one of the few sub-3:30 runners in Malaysia. But the other side of the mind told me that I would still finish with a PB, a 3:3x:xx timing which is still respectable to Malaysian standard. So, I had the options. Which one to take, it was the mind game from there onward. I dug deeper in me, flashes of the memories of how I started running, how I've came this far, achieving so much within this five years of running, how something that was not even in my dream (of running sub 3:30:00) is now right in front of me, just waiting for me to pound it. I braved myself, ignoring the stiff and screaming legs, I kept moving, ignoring the urge to walk, albeit now running a lot slower than in the first 35km. Even if I don't get to finish under 3:30:00, I knew that I won't regret as I had given it a try, I had given it my best. And I kept thinking that if I don't do it today, I wasn't sure when would the same opportunity be presented to me again? 
The sign of fatigue started to show on my face with about 6km to go.

At KM40, I still had about 12 minutes from 3:30:00. It wasn't safe for me yet to take it easy. There was still 2.195km to go, and understandably, it could be more than that. And in the end, I reached the final turn towards the finish line, came underneath the gantry that says, "Last 195m" and I had full 90 seconds to cover the remaining distance. I took it easier this time, confident of finishing under 3:30:00. I slowed down to soak all the phenomenal feeling, hearing the claps and greetings from the crowds, raised my hands as if I was the overall winner and stopped my watch and I stood momentarily underneath the finishing gantry. I felt the world stopped as well, allowing me to have my moment to celebrate one of my greatest achievements, one significant milestone, not only in my running life, achieving something that I had not dared to dream before. 30th marathon. 3:29:15 is the official timing. A PB. And I am officially a sub-3:30 marathoner. It is now to maintain it, and that is a lot more difficult than to achieve it for the first time.
The sign of relief, that the marathon would be over soon with just few steps to take...


One of my proudest moments...

I walked away from the finish line towards the hospitality area, and just like in Osaka, each volunteer there welcomed you back. My tears dropped the moment I was handed with the finisher's medal and the towel and it kept flowing down as I kept thinking that how did this happen, how did I able to do this? and the moment I saw my sponsor, Team 2ndskin, posted on its facebook wall about my PB in Tokyo, I just kept weeping the tears that crazily rolled down my cheek. Thank you for the trusts and thank you for sharing this proud moment. And to Tokyo, you were awesome. I still don't have the answers to what I had achieved but it could be all the lucks (I think I had all of them on the race day, although there was the bad moment when I lost my glove) and all the confidence and well wishes from friends and family. The official result came out few days ago and I was placed in the 4,067th position overall out of 35,310 starters (11.5 percentile) and 3rd of 93 runners from Malaysian. Frankly to me, although the timing was something I cared about, the position didn't mean much to me as there is no point of being fastest Malaysian in Tokyo or anywhere else, but what is most important is to be able to defy the odds and the pains, overcome the obstacles but not taking the easy way out and finally achieving something that is unthinkable before.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The North Face Race Report Part 2 : Deo

Deo Part 2 of his TNF race in Thailand. Admin apologizes for the tardiness. We been busy and has been involved with the Garmin Running Clinic. Intake 1 has been great and we have completed session 2 (of 3). Deo was on site to offer advice and to share his experience with his recent races (this being one of them) and the just completed Tokyo Marathon (report soon). Meanwhile, Enjoy Part 2 of the TNF report.
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Let's continue where I left in the first of two parts of my TNF100 Thailand 2015 story...

I kept running wherever I could in the last 10km before going back to Simalin Resort for the halfway checkpoint break. Along the way since KM25, I had been thinking on how would I run the course again, for the second loop of 50km. Everytime that thought came to mind, I quickly brushed it off not to dwell too much into it. Let's take a kilometer by kilometer and let's think about second loop when I actually doing it later. The single trail section with about 5km to go was my favorite. I am not sure whether it was the same trail as last year because I think that section was a lot easier this time around. I kept moving, quite strongly, never missed a beat until we arrived at the end of trail section where we had to cross a big sort of sandy 'drain', when we have to jump about 3-feet down and get up again on the bank and get on the final stretch of the road section. I was running like I was doing just the 50km race and in the last 5km or so, I passed many 25km and 50km runners. While running back to Simalin Resort, I was expecting to see front 100km runners going out from the resort for their second loop but there wasn't any. So, I thought maybe they've gone earlier or they're taking their time hanging around the CP. After some 2.5km running on the tarmac, the halfway CP was within sight. I was asked to cross the timing chip and quickly I took a seat while the volunteer looked for my dropbag and handed over to me. I arrived at the 50km CP in around 6 hours and 35 minutes, a bit off from my planned 6 hours. Never mind, I told myself. Timing is not so much a factor for me anymore. It was all about finishing it with the best timing I could. 

It was around 11.30am when I arrived at the CP. With the sun was high up since the past one or one and a half hour, the day was getting hotter and the temperature was rising but most importantly, it was close to lunch hour! Luckily I wasn't feeling hungry as I didn't pack any food inside my dropbag. All I had during the halfway point were those served there - watermelon, bananas, drinks and canned Nescafe that I brought along. I wasn't sure how long to go until my stomach will protest of not getting in solid foods but based on previous three TNF100 Thailand races, I would not have problems of hunger. I took my time to change my top, get rid of unnecessary stuffs and just keep them in the dropbag like my camera, my sunnies, Hammer perpetuem solids that I didn't consume at all in the first loop as well as Hammer Endurolyte Fizz as I only used two tablets to refill my water. For the second loop, I would rely on the cold plain water and the energy drink provided at the water stations. While sitting down on a chair, I tried to take off my shoes and socks, and suddenly the cramp attacked me on my calves. I quickly straighten my legs to stretch it and slowly the cramp eased off. It was quite a tough process to take off the socks, afraid cramps would attack again but I had no choice as I had to clean up my foot from all the small stones that got inside the socks. Not long before I left for my second half of the race, Eijoy arrived. I was glad to see him in a still strong condition. I asked him to sit down under the shade to cool down, before I took off. I was hoping to see Ezam on my way out but it didn't happen as I had to detour to get back into the trail section again. 

Taking a break, trying to cool down the body temperature down before heading out for my second loop of 50km.

The same loop all over again. Only that it was bright, sunny day this time around. I could finally see what we went through six to seven hours ago when it was still dark. The early elevation that slowed everyone down at the beginning actually wasn't difficult at all, it was just the darkness that caused everyone to move cautiously, I think so. I ran at a slower pace at the beginning of the second loop but consistently so that I could last as long as I could. Uphills were the place for the legs to rest by walking up. Cramps were kept at bay although at times, they tried to launch their attacks. I brave enough. My pace was decent and consistent until ]I got to the foot of the 'Lord of the Rings Hill'. It was crazy this time, I thought. And I wonder if the Hill got taller, longer and steeper over the hours that it felt forever to reach the top. I was all alone climbing up to the peak this time and as the legs are getting tiring, they've been kicking rocks here and there and whenever a sudden aggressive movement (like kicking a rock) happened, the cramps would attack. Lots of times during the section, I cursed.... to everything, to the extent that I was thinking that this would be my last TNF100 Thailand if it remains in Khao Yai. My pace gone really badly with the LOTR Hill. Descending from the LOTR Hill wasn't easier either. It was dry and slippery and I had to be cautious not to slip anywhere along the section and tumble down the cliff, unattended. No other runners were at sight either in front or at the back. 

After all the curses and the LOTR Hill nightmares, I reached back at the sandy rolling elevation and I wondered if the uphill was actually that steep during the first loop? My hope to continue running consistently was gone up in smoke as I got smoked with the elevation. Then I saw a small shop at the side of the road. At first, I thought that I wanted to buy some cold drinks, maybe a can of Coke but at the same time, I don't want to waste more time, to dig up for the money I brought along way down in my hydration bag and sit down and drink. But at the end, I stopped at the shop, bought myself a can of Coke, sat down at the bench outside the shop, clean up the debris inside my socks, finished off the can of cold Coke slowly and continued my journey after a 10-minute break or so. It was a deserved break, I think. One lady runner from China passed me when I took my break. She was quite elderly but strong! We kept trading places throughout the remaining of the race and she eventually finished four places and eight minutes behind me. I tried to run after the break but suddenly I felt uneasy, I wanted to burp (from the gas of Coke) but I just couldn't burp! I never had this problem before and I thought it was a mistake that I consumed Coke, although I've done it before. After three attempts to burp, I finally managed to get a long burp and really felt relieved. 

I arrive back at CP2 at KM70. The volunteers are still there but less busy now as they did not have to serve large group of runners. But one really good thing about the water stations and checkpoints, they never ran out of cold water and the energy drinks for drinking as well as watermelon and bananas and most importantly they never short of ice supplies. And you could take as much ice as you want, put them in your hydration bladder/bottle, or put them inside your cap or buff (that was what I did), the volunteers never restricted you from not doing that. I checked with Ezam and Eijoy whether ice was still available when they reached respective checkpoints, and they said yes, plenty of them. This is one area I should really credit the organizer! After a brief stop at CP2, I realized that I had another 30km to go. And my watch indicated that I had about 4 hours and 40 minutes from 15 hours finish. That equals to doing an average of one and a half hour for every 10km distance, and that equals to 9:00-minute/km pace. I was holding to that target from that point onwards. Great thing about doing the same loop is that you practically knows what is coming. I broke down the last 30km into three sections of 10km each. And I knew section of KM70-80 would be run-able, followed by the second section of KM80-90 that would be the toughest of all, and the final section of KM90-finish would be hard at the beginning before I could make a home run in the last 5km. With that in mind, I ran/move as fast as I could in the KM70-80 section so that the spare time can be used to cover up the anticipated slower section of KM80-90.

That strategy worked very well for me. Time now has become my main motivator and push factor. I kept monitoring my pace closely so that the average pace would not drop to slower than 9:00 minutes. I was confident enough that I could finish the race within 15 hours and that at times made me smile and pushed me harder. The cramp 'virus' were still around, they never went away. Moving uphill was harder this time, not just because of the elevation but the cramp 'virus' liked to attack when I was going uphill, which was quite strange. Maybe because I tried to save time but taking a longer stride while walking uphill and the 'virus' seems like to attack when I overstride. As expected the KM80-90 section was the slowest of the final 30km but I had enough time saved during the KM70-80 section to cover up this slow section and I knew I can run all out in the final 5km of the race to save even more time. I got back to the main road, the CP4 at KM90 with great relief. There, I took out my headlight as it started to get darker. Last year, I was still doing the loop somewhere in KM85 that I had to pull out my headlight to use. So, I was a little faster this year. With 10km to go, nothing (literally) could stop me from finishing my 9th 100km ultramarathon. I moved confidently and strongly along the short tarmac section before I got back into the trail section. 

Trail section was done in a jiffy as they were not much of uphills, mostly flat trail section. But I had to be careful not to trip or kick on anything as it was pitch dark except for the light from my headlight. I could see the Chinese lady once a while when I slowed down as she was trying to catch up with me. She is another motivator to keep me going strongly too! And while my mind was busy calculating the expected finish time, without realizing it, I arrived back at the road section which means that I have to deal with a short, not-too-hard uphill section right until the temple junction before going into the final trail section of the race. The end was so near, I ran when I could, minimizing my walks. I still took walk breaks in between but they were really short. I ran strong, I think stronger than in the first loop and was quite actually surprised with that. I wasn't sure if I had not used my energy to the fullest earlier and saved them too much for the final push. I wondered if I ran a little faster in the first loop, would my timing be better. But that doesn't matter much as my target at that point onwards were the 15-hour finish. And with all of those playing in mind, I arrived back at my favorite single trail section and ran quite hard inside it. I managed to overtake two other 100km runners who happened to be Foo and another runner from Malaysia. Cross that big 'drain' to cap off the end of trail section and I ran all the way to the finish line like there will be no tomorrow. On the final 2.5km road section, I overtook another runner from New Zealand and we congratulated each other for our soon-to-be crowning of 100km finisher title. I urged him to run with me but asked me to go ahead instead. There were still 50km runner on the course whom I overtook as well. 

the proud moment - crossing the finish line of my 9th 100km ultramarathon
[photo by Refill Marathon]
And the sight of Simalin Resort came into the view of my teary eyes (not!) and the people having their meals and drinks at the stalls along the roadside, were clapping and cheering for me. What and honor! There were some people waiting and congratulated runners as we entered the resort compound for the final 50km run towards the finish line. And as I crossed the timing chip ahead of the finish line, I could hear the announcers announcing my name as another proud finisher of 100km race and both hands raised up in the air! showered with the victory feeling and satisfaction. One of the proudest moment! 14 hours, 35 minutes and 40 seconds was my official finish time. That timing puts me in the 18th place overall and 14th place in the male category, coincide with my bib number 14! I was later promoted to 13th place overall after they organizer made some adjustments to the final results due to complaints and discrepancies. That also puts me as the 2nd finisher among all Malaysian, behind the unknown Yap Chin Choy, who I was told later that he's a Singaporean-based Malaysian. I was handed out the finisher t-shirt and the better-looking finisher medals but those two finisher goodies meant nothing much as compared to the finish and how I've raced this tough TNF100 Thailand! Ezam and Eijoy came back few hours later and I was so glad to see them again after losing them from sight some 10 hours ago or so. And this time, when I saw them, they were already crowned as TNF100 Thailand 100km finisher! Well done to both of you, Ezam and Eijoy!


Eijoy and Ezam at the proudest moment of their running career, I guess, after finishing the grueling race. Well done boys!


That ends my TNF100 Thailand 2015 story. It was still a great feeling to finish another 100km race, no matter whether it was your first one or the zilliont-time finish! Would I return for my 5th TNF100 Thailand? Time will tell...

Detailed splits of my race, according to the official timing chip provider.


For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.
For official result of the 100km solo category, click here.