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.
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.
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.
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.   
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!

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.

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.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The North Face 100 Thailand Race Report Part 1 : Deo

"The North Face 100 Thailand" by Deo. Enough said, where do I sign up? The second part of the report will be ready soon. Meanwhile, enjoy Part Suffering 1.

The North Face 100 Thailand Race Report Part 1 : Deo

Wow! As much as I was and am excited to write (type) this report, it is quite difficult to put it down so that this report would not be the same like my previous three TNF100 Thailand reports. I will try, will try to make it sounds different than the previous three editions and I will try to make you wanna do and sign up for the race next year!

TNF100 Thailand 2015 was the 4th ever edition of the race, having the first edition in a different place in (Amphawa) before the race was moved to Khao Yai in the second edition until today. It was also my 4th TNF100 Thailand, haven't missed a beat of the race. It was also my 9th 100km ultramarathon since my first one in 2012 which I did in Amphawa. So, TNF100 Thailand is my anniversary 100km ultramarathon, I would like to see it that way. As the unofficial results show and what I have recorded with my Garmin, I finished the race in 14 hours 35 minutes and 40 seconds. It was the best timing I ever had of all the four TNF100 Thailand editions. Although it was not much faster than the 14:36'06" I did in 2013, the 2013 route was a lot easier than this year, one section that was not in the 2013 edition was the hilly climb or I called it 'The Lord of the Rings Hill' that goes up to maximum elevation of almost 600 meters. My timing this year, however, was more than 40 minutes faster than what I did last year on a similar (about 90-95%) route. The marked difference between this year's and last year's race was the weather. It was all hot and bright and dry and energy-sapping, oven-like weather from 9am to 5pm last year (read my report here but this year, the weather was almost perfect - raining the night before the race, temperature in the teens at the start, the sun came out during the normal hours around noon for about 3 hours, and even when the sun was bright up in the sky, it remained windy throughout the race before it got cold again after sunset. I can saya that although I'm hearing some runners complaining about the hot weather in Khao Yai this year, I think they were a lot lucky with the weather this year! Just to recap, the inaugural edition in 2012 remains the easiest of all with relatively flat route all the way.

Actually, I had a slight ambition to run this race under 14 hours. I even told my traveling buddies, Ezam and Eijoy, that I would be really happy if I can do 13:59'59" but it didn't turn out as planned. As early as at around KM10 that I knew it was not achievable as I could not go any faster early on for some reasons. But in ultramarathon, the race is too long to finish that a lot of things can happen during the race that could hamper your plan or goal.
The official race course map for this year's race with minimal changes to last year's. I believe the 'Lord of the Rings Hills will be a mainstay of the race, as long as the race remains in Khao Yai.

However easy the race sounds to you, it was not spared from drama, of course...

Preparation-wise. I admit that I didn't prepare as hard as how I prepared for Penang 100. After Osaka Marathon in October last year, my training mileage took a dip, especially in November when I just recorded 170km before I realized that I need to pick it up again for this race. December mileage went up again to 301km despite the holiday and off-season for most runners. I continued with high mileage in January, clocking about 250km heading into the race. While I think the two-month mileage was sufficient for me to finish the race, I failed to do any 50km training run (which I'd always do before any of my 100km race) in the two months. The longest training runs I did was a marathon distance at the Cyberjaya Marathon in December and the two-loop of Padang Merbuk to Hartamas and back that was almost 40km long. And that kept me worried. I got really nervous when Ezam acknowledged my lack of training when he compared to how I trained for Penang 100. In the end, the experience and familiarity of the race, especially the weather and route, had helped me even with the little lack of preparation. I also didn't pack my stuff until the very night before my early morning flight. Without the checklist that I would've normally prepared, I thought I've packed everything I need but at the end, I realized I left the country without perskindol cool/hot spray that helped me to last throughout last year's race or perskindol cool gel that I had used a lot (and helped me a lot, too) during Penang 100. And I didn't bother to look for them in Bangkok, just praying that I would be ok without them.

Waiting for the big tuk-tuk to depart from Pakchong town to our resort in Khao Yai. It was a nervous journey altogether with the daredevil van driver from Bangkok and the slow-mo driver from Pakchong to Khao Yai as we were running late for the race briefing.
[photo by Ezamizudin]
This year, I traveled to Bangkok alone but met a group of runners from Melaka at the airport and we boarded the same flight. I sat next to a newly-found friend, Paul Lee, in the flight and we talked about the race a bit (it was his first time doing TNF100). At one point, he mentioned that he read from a blog about the race, the accommodation, etc. without realizing that I am actually the author of the blog that he read and was quite stunned when I told him that. Ezam and Eijoy, who flew earlier, waited for me at the Don Mueng Airport before we went for some window shopping at the Siam Paragon area, had lunch and went to the Victory Monument to board the public van to Khao Yai. As usual, it was a long drive to Khao Yai, about 200km to the north of Bangkok, on a busy highway. We would not arrive earlier if the van driver was not a daredevil like the one we had, zigzagging around the vehicles on the highway and flying on the fast lane *sigh!* The van stopped at Pakchong town and as this was my first time taking public transport, I didn't know that it would take another almost one hour (including waiting time) via a large tuk-tuk from Pakchong town to Khao Yai. The tuk-tuk stopped in front of the Khao Yai Garden Lodge, where the three of us stayed. We met two other Malaysians, Foo and his lady friend (sorry forgot her name; but both of them finished the 100km race very strongly!) in the tuk-tuk and later traveled to Simalin Resort for the race briefing and race pack collection.
The race briefing that was held outdoor this year.
The briefing was held outdoor this year, which I think is a more suitable, and the sight of the start/finish venue and gantry relived my memories (and the agonies) from last year's race. It was all too familiar and it felt like it was just a day before that I went through the hard time finishing the race and was really relieved to be able to cross the finish line in more than 15 hours but was a little heartbreaking knowing many friends did not finish the race, being victims to the torturous weather. Ezam was the most excited, expressing his disbelief to be able to be at the 'TNF100' race site and to compete in the race the next day. I was happy to have the two chaps together, to see the expression and the anticipation from a fresh perspective. Pictures taken, race pack collected and we arrived back at our resort when it was already dark. Dinner followed suit, then shopping for race essentials at the 7-Eleven next door where I met Emil Soderlund again. The funny part was that I did not remember his name but remembered him as 'the guy who wore the blue UTMB t-shirt last year' and he acknowledged that lol! He finished in fourth place this year. Next, in the room, prep all the gears and attire before lights off. It was a very short deep sleep for me before waking up again around 3am. The resort was kind enough to pack sandwiches for us as breakfast and I just had that before the race.
At the race site while waiting to be called to the start line. I wasn't feeling too excited for the race but more nervous as so many questions were playing in the mind, top up to the drama early in the morning before leaving the resort, all those...
[photo by Ezamizudin]
The drama begun even before we headed to the race site. I left the room confidently and boarded the tuk-tuk to the race venue at Simalin Resort. When we were about to leave the resort, I realized that my hydration bag was without the two water bottles! Damn it I had to rush back to the room and there they were next to the sofa. A good adrenaline rush to kick start my day on a cold morning, I guess. Last year, I forgotten to bring along my cap to the race and raced all the way with just buff to shed my head from the notorious sun. In the tuk-tuk met a group of Singaporean who also happened to read this blog. Luckily it was dark in the tuk-tuk, otherwise everyone could see how blush my face was! Arrived not long after that at Simalin Resort and the venue was still quiet and calm with about one hour to go to the flag-off. Runners started to flock the race site from time to time, as I was sitting at the empty race expo tent quietly looking at all the happenings - people taking photos around, exchanging well wishes, some were doing their stretching and warm-ups and, all too familiar! About 15 minutes from the flag-off, we headed into the start area after checks on our phones and headlights. I stayed at the middle of the pack of the 100km and 50km runners while trying to keep calm. Although it was already my fourth TNF100 Thailand, I still feel nervous, not knowing how the day would turn out to be, whether my training was enough to carry me through the race, whether my body could cooperate with me, all those questions. Some speeches were made, a blessing by the monks, countdown and off we went at 5am sharp. The temperature shown on the race clock was around 17-degree Celcius and it was quite chilling that morning.
We think we're ready so let's go! With Ezam and Eijoy, my traveling buddies this year.
[photo by Pongsak Sarapukdee]
It was a cautious start but after about 50 meters from the start line, before we headed into the sealed road, I tripped on something, and fell on my face, kissing the ground. I was shocked, my head spinning as Ezam tried to get me up on my feet. My palm were covered with sand, I could taste sand on my lips and both my knees hurt. As I heard, some people asking "are you ok?", I asked Ezam whether my lips were bleeding? Luckily it was not but both my knees were quite badly bruised and bleeding while my palms were in pain with some pinhole scars from the contact with the ground. Although I was in shock from the fall, I still managed to ensure that I did not drop any of the mandatory items, the water bottles and the headlight. Ezam was there at my side, kind enough to wait for me, and kept me in check. And I was just lucky that i didn't get stampeded by the charging runners who started behind me. After ensuring that all are in place, I continued running side-by-side with Ezam but I had the thought in my mind about "DNF". I was not sure how the bruises on the knees (and maybe the shaken head) from the fall would affect my race as there will be another 15 hours or so that I had to endure. But I told myself to keep going and see how long I would last in the race. Not long after it got stabilized again, I had to move to the roadside to pee and told Ezam to go ahead and I would try to catch up with him later. It was a long pee, strangely, although I've peed twice since arrived at the race site that morning and many runners overtook me during my pee-stop.
Going downhill as we exited the LOTR Hills. Ezam (in blue t-shirt) was seen here leading me going downhill.
[official photo of TNF100 Thailand]
I continued my run and not long after the pee-stop, we got into the trail section where I could overtake some of the runners again but I could not continue doing so as we moved into a slightly-uphill, single trail section when runners in front of me either slowed down or walked. I had to keep calm and be patience as there will be more opportunities to overtake them later. It was a slightly different route from last year until we got to the CP1 at around KM7 where we had to move into a trail section, do a loop inside and headed out on the same route. I could only catch up with Ezam as we headed into the loop-section and everything seems ok for me by then, although I could still fell the pain from the bruises, I could still run at a decent pace. Ran into the loop with Ezam but lost him somewhere. As we headed out from the loop, we cross-path with oncoming runners but I could hardly recognize anybody as it was dark and the glare from the headlights weren't helping either. Right after CP1, like last year, where we headed into the uphill, single trail section all the way up to the peak of the 'Lord of the Rings Hill'. It was still dark and along the way to the peak, the day started to break. For the first timers here, it was an awesome sight but for me, all I cared was to finish this climb. It was a slow hike up and it was quite congested with runners moving on single file cautiously not to trip or fall off the cliff. The grass there seems to have grown taller, as tall as I am and some were thorny that I got scratches on my arms and calves as souvenirs. At times when those grass slapped my knees and touched the bruises points on my two knees, it felt so painful that I wanted to scream really loud. It was quite a torturous section for me. Moving downhill wasn't easier either as I couldn't set my own pace, afraid of bumping/crashing into runners in front of me who moved a little slowly downhill. By that time, Ezam caught up with me, as we headed into the open brown-sandy (or dusty) route, that surely will change the color of your shoes. It was a rolling section and I lost Ezam and never seen him again until the finish line some 15 hours later.

I was practically alone from there onward, nothing unusual for me, carefully moving myself with a sustainable pace, not to aggressively take on the uphill while going downhill in a defensive run mode (not too fast and not over-striding), taking quick but ample stops at each water stations to drink up one or two cups of iced water and the flavored energy drinks. At the same time and throughout the race, I ensured that I was disciplined enough to consume a pack of Hammer gel, two caps of Hammer electrolytes and two caps of Hammer Anti Fatigue Caps for every 10km. It worked well for me especially with the Hammer gel, when I got a feel of energy boost after every pack consumed that lasted for between 2-4km. However, for the Endurolytes, I wasn't sure why I still got cramp signs coming as early as 40km into the race despite the consumptions and consistent consumption of water throughout the race. After a while after the race, I think the cramps were due to the lack of water intake in the week before the race, especially on Friday the traveling day. On top of that, I was still taking coffee in office (as works are piling up) during the week prior to the race as normally I would quit taking caffeinated drinks a week before a race. Yes, as mentioned I had to deal with the cramps since KM40 of the race. It came attacking behind of my left then right thigh, and then attacking the front, then my calves. And how I dealt with them, to ignore them, stretched once a while, and not to over-stride especially going downhill. The cramps were notorious this time they even attacked when I slowly walking up the uphill sections.
Running alone during an ultramarathon has never been a problem to me, I have been trained in such way since my very first 100km ultramarathon, also in TNF100 Thailand, back in 2012. I believe this photo was taken with less than 10km from the halfway point of KM50 back in Simalin Resort.
[photo by]

So from the point I lost Ezam, the route went from tarmac into sandy, open trails, bushy, rocky (that I many times accidentally kicked those rocks followed by cramp-pinching moment duh!), forever rolling uphill and downhill sections, that you couldn't afford to get a loooonnggg flat or downhill section to run but instead, once you managed to run at a nice pace, you'll have uphill section to deal with not long after that. KM20 to KM40 was the same like last year, with a minor turns, probably, in one of those trail loops that we need to go through. I caught up with Eijoy around KM30 and it was nice to have someone to talk to again (although most of the times, it was drop dead silence between us). Running with Eijoy was kind of mix between bless and stress. It was stressful when he followed me close from behind that I could hear his foot steps - one of his foot step equals to two (or maybe three) of mine and it was a blessing as it caused me to move on a faster cadence to cope with his long strides (of his long legs). As much as I wished Eijoy could accompany me at least until we were back to Simalin Resort (KM50), I lost him somehow at CP4 (KM40) and I was alone again for the last 10km of the first loop.

This entry has gone too long, I guess. So, let's have the rest of the story in the next one. Stay tuned!