Friday, 4 January 2013

Roy : MR25 UltraMarathon Singapore Race Report

We have all heard from Eugene on his MR25 race experience. Today, Roy Yeow, Team 2ndSkin athlete give his point of view. Recovering from an injury, it wasn't an easy race for him to consider taking part. But as someone that has survived two strokes (yes, two strokes), this guy is inspirational. Never say never is always in his vocabulary and this is his MR25 story.
Roy : MR25 UltraMarathon Singapore Race Report
The build up to the last race of 2012 has been eventful to say the least. It was early August when my running career was put to a stop by illness that threatens to bedridden me for life. For two months, it was rehabilitation mode and trying to get off the bed.

Fast forward the story a bit, while trying to make a comeback, the 2nd main setback occurred - I injured my ankle during one of my rehab runs, and that stop me from running for 2 months.
However, being a running maniac, a race opens, is a race to consider….. that keeps playing in my mind. Having discussed the race with Eugene, we got Ben Swee to help with the MR25 Ultramarathon registration and bib collection.
Moving on to race day, I have just started training about 3 weeks prior with still slight discomfort on the ankle, although my rehabilitation has been progressing smoothly overall. The mindset was programmed to take this race as a comeback race without any expectation and just to gauge my level since the catastrophic incident in August. So without any expectation I was ready to hit the trail even if it meant just completing a loop. MR25 is a race which requires minimum of 5 loops (officially 10.2KM) within 12 hrs for the finisher medal and vest.
At 6AM, together with runners from TPRC group, we took cab from our hideout along Boon Keng to the starting point. It has been drizzling all night and there is no sign of the rain stopping. At the starting point, we navigate ourselves through the crowds and throw our luggage into the baggage deposit points. I have decided to wear Asics Fuji Racer with Injinji sock for this race to protect my ankle and to skip all the compression which I have not put on since August. Obviously, Eugene and I were in sync with our 2ndskin’s “Ultra Beyond Forty Two” tshirt. 
Eugene and Roy all pumps up for the final race of 2012
The start of the race was uneventful and I did not even hear the starting siren. A few hundred meters in, Eugene appeared and we started running like a team. As there are plenty of runners lining up along the route, we are not considering overtaking any runners in the first lap. With Eugene just behind me, we run at a comfortable pace. The drizzle has stop at this point but the trail is still wet and certain part was muddy while other parts are rocky.  Obviously the important thing for me was to ensure I maintain the right foot work and not got into another sprain so I was very focus on my every step, especially going down the more technical segment of the trail. 
As this was a race that I have set no expectation and just go with the flow, I did not even plan for my nutrition needs apart from just bringing Hammer Perpetuem Solids and Endurolytes. I did not even remember about nutrition until the end of 2nd lap. I was relying a lot on Pocari Sweat and water provided by the organizer. 
Completing the first lap with Eugene in about 1:23 (forget to press my watch earlier), I went to relief myself and lost him. Decided to move on as I thought he has sped off. Moving slightly faster than the first lap, I was trying to hunt down Eugene. This race is one of the most enjoyable races you can find with its friendly support and opportunity to see fellow runners coming down the other side. A lot of greeting and high fives make any pains you may feel go away, and that makes the 2nd lap feels like nothing. Since I was not sure where Eugene was, I ran up with Susanah who was training for Vibram HK100, and decided to go with her pace. After the u-turn, I finally have to ask her to move on herself as her pace is just too FAST.
Completing the 2nd lap on my own in 1:21, I re-accessed my condition; especially my ankle to make sure it is all still intact. Surprisingly, no major concern was detected and clearing up the debris in my shoe off, and finally found Eugene (who started the 2nd lap after me), we started off for our 3rd lap. 
The goal at this time was to try to complete lap 3 within 4:30 with the delicious fried rice as an incentive for our poor body. I took a tablet of perpetuem Solids as we hit down lap 3 to give me some boost for the uphill section of the trail. I have just begun to remember again that I needed to consider my nutrition at this point and started to plan what to take for the rest of the race. The plan is simple, alternate between the Solids and the Endurolytes. Solids along the route as I am use to chewing these giant tablets while running and Endurolytes will be pop-in while I am at the water stations. With nutrition factor in, 3rd lap was completed in 1:41, well within 4:30 that we have targeted earlier. 
2ndskin team completing another lap in MR25
Since it was still a bit early for lunch at 11:30AM, I grabbed a banana to fill my stomach and started the 4th lap, decided to postpone lunch for another lap. Our plan for this lap is basically to walk the climbs and jog down the hills as there is slight muscle sore on our legs. We reckoned it should take not longer than 2 hrs with this strategy. We noticed there are fewer runners on the trail now, probably most runners would have stopped for their rest and lunch.
Since MacRitchie Reservoir and its surrounding trails are public areas, this does not meant we are alone as we kept bumping into park visitors along the trail. From leisure sightseers to hikers to runners/from children to adults, they make our run interesting as once in awhile there will be sprinters overtaking us, giving us the temptation to follow suits while overtaking the leisurely pace of the sightseers/hikers gave us the boost of confidence that we are still doing good.
Back to the race, with our walk and run strategy, we got back to the starting points 2 hrs on the dot for this lap. This time around, we hang around the starting point for about 30 minutes, grabbing the delicious fried rice, chatting and joking with the friendly organizers. I retrieved my muscle spray and started spraying all over my legs. It proved to be right as for the rest of my runs, there is no more ankle pain.
Having gone 4 laps, I have indeed performed beyond my expectation as I have been worried my ankle would not bring me so far. With my stomached fed and my legs fresh from the rest, we started the fifth round with the same strategy in mind. Eugene mentioned he wanted to do 6 laps while I told him I just wanted to complete this lap and call it a day to save my ankle from further abuse (yeah right, runner word about stopping is never true). With Eugene feeling strain on his calves and me thinking this is the last lap, we go at a slower pace compare to the previous lap. As we were casually chatting on the way, Eugene mentioned that he did 5 laps in 9 hrs 2 years ago and it looks we are well within the timing to break his previous timing. I even suggested to Eugene that we should be able to complete 5 laps in 8:30 hrs which Eugene laughed it off. But deep inside, I was thinking that I should give it a shot to do it in sub 8.5. Slowly without realizing, I started increasing my pace and after awhile I realized that I was running alone again. Without the pains on my ankle and muscles, it was like running anew again. Since I have started it, I was going for it all the way…… As I race against the time to get out of the trail, I saw Lai Ling from TPRC walking towards her finishing. I showed off my mathematics skill by telling her how we can still achieve sub 8.5 and got her to run with me. By the time we were out of the trail, I threw her another idea to do another loop with me since there should be another 3.5 hours to go. I was to ask her at the finishing line and looking at how she can still run at that point of time, I was sure she is going to say yes. As we sped across the reservoir bank overtaking many others, it finally dawns that we are going to finish with much room to spare. And obviously, I get the answer that was expected from any runner that is on a high, let’s go and finish off the 6 laps.
Without any stop, grabbed few sips of water and pocari sweat off we go again. This time, I told her to lead and run only on the descent. But to my surprise, she runs whether it is up or down. I was starting to regret pulling her to run with me as I was having difficulty following her pace, even her walking pace is fast! I was glad eventually when she realized that she is too fast for me and started to follow my pace instead. It drizzled again on this final lap but that will not slow us down in anyway. Little by little, we work our way through the route and as we made our final u-turn, we know even if we walk all the way, we would still complete it. As we came close to the finishing line with about 1.5KM to go, I spewed out another challenge, to get it wrap up before 10:30. With the last hill done, we started to gain momentum and goes for a glorious finish. We completed the last lap in 1:43 and with about 1 hrs 35 minutes left on the clock, well, I am not going to risk another lap, at least not when I have not prepared well enough for this race.
This race definitely gave me a confident boosts that I can run ultra again with proper preparation. There are things that I need to tweak on to work on getting myself back to normal again:
  • Too long without a race, I forget how to plan for my hydration needs. Luckily this was a well supported race and pocari sweat more than make up for it.
  • There is still rehabilitation works to do to improve on my coordination and muscle conditioning, especially upper body that I have been neglecting to focus on recovering my foot work.
  • And not forgetting the advice given by many of my running friends – “Eat your medicine”.
This is a race that is definitely in my yearly to do list and is highly recommended to anyone that wants to venture into ultra trail. Who knows, we will pace each other in the next edition of MR25.

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