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!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Garmin Connect IQ using Mac : Jason

The Garmin 920xt is the first watch that has the Connect IQ function. Think of it as a function that literally change your 920xt into a full wearable - and that includes changing the "watchface". While the setup using PC is a no brainer, those using Mac (you know, they like to be different), has issue making it work for their 920xt. Fear not, as our team mate Jason, managed to "cheat the Mac" and it it running. Disclaimer though, it is with some glitches especially when you try to install more apps (or widgets). In his very few you go
Garmin Connect IQ using Mac : Jason
Want these?
How to temporary enable Apps Watch Faces & Data Fields on the OSX
1. Plug in your Garmin watch to your Mac and launch Garmin Express (Watch will automatically Sync)
2. If you are trying to apply the App via Garmin Express, an error message will prompt. This menu will not work at the moment.

3. Open up your web browser and launch
4. Select your watch type: Fenix 3 Apps, Vivoactive Apps, Forerunner 920XT Apps, Epix Apps

5. Go through the option of downloading either the Popular Data Fields or Popular Watch Faces
6. Once selected the App click Send to Device
7. Sign In to your Garmin account with your username and password. If you do not have one, there is an option to Create One

8. Once signed in, select your watch model and select Confirm Device

9. Your Garmin Express will now show Sync complete and you will have the New Watch Face / Data Fields that you have selected.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

BSG Property 15km Race 2015 Race Report : Jun Shen

Team Athlete Jun Shen and Annie Yee ran a good race over the weekend at the BSG 15KM run. Annie won the women category (Congrats!) and Jun Shen posted a very good timing. Here is Jun Shen's report. Thank you for sharing sir! (by the way, you very the drama lah)

BSG Property 15km Race 2015 Race Report

BSG Property 15km Race 2015 is another race which I signed up when I was at 
Pulau Mabul. I could hardly get connections at sea, so at that time I registered 
3 back to back races hoping that when I come back from operations I can race 
during the weekends. On Friday I was on duty as Officer of The Day, it is part of
my routine to conduct silent round when everyone is sleeping so the next day I 
was a little groggy while driving to Butterworth due to deprive of sleep. 
I met Michael, Jasmine and Ethan at Seaview Tower; one of my favourite pit stop 
in Penang. I am pretty close with them; it started way back in 2012 when I 
coached Ethan swimming during my internship in Prai Power Plant. 
I brought along Ethan’s long due birthday present that I bought from internet. 
Never had the chance to celebrate with him because of my packed schedule.

Bought him a 4WD TAMIYA, one of the toy that I adored very much when I was 
boy. However, the price tag made it elusive for me to own one. I only played 
those China made ones. I’m glad that he likes it.

We had dinner at Xiao Fei Yang Steamboat, Penang Island. The food was really 
good, been craving for steamboat in ages. I always have sleeping problem caused 
by pre race anxiety, somehow on Saturday night I dozed off rather fast after 
stuffing my stomach with all sorts of sliced meat. I got up at 3am in the morning, 
pushed off to race site around 4am.

I found a parking lot right next to race site, just couldn’t believe how close it was 
to the starting line. When I was doing a little warm up, my team mate Annie Yee 
approached me and gave me a biggie Hi 5. She just scored her personal best in 
Hong Kong marathon last week, so this week is not likely she is going to score 
another PB. She doesn’t need PB to thrash the field anyway=). We chit chatted 
during the warm up before I introduced her to Hammer Anti Fatigue Capsules. 
I finished my Hammer Perpetuem drink as my pre race food and planned to 
carry one Hammer Gel Apple Cinnamon flavour with me (another gel given 
to Annie).

Flag off was super congested. Penang has plenty of super fast runners, my plan 
was to place myself in the chase pack with 4.00mins/km pace, then slowly drop 
the pace to around 4.30mins/km. Over the years I have learned to run in my 
own stable pace instead of chasing the front pack like a man possessed. 
Garmin Forerunner 920xt will be making its first appearance in racing today. I’ve tested it during training to get familiarized with the functions. I got dropped by a 
lot of runners in the early few kilometres despite my watch says 4.00mins/km. Recently I feel some discomfort in my knees, Patellar Tendonitis maybe? 
Hopefully not. I opt to use Kinesio Tape given by Major Kumar when I did my 
physio with him in Lumut Armed Forces Hospital.

The course was pancake flat, we ran around Gurney Drive then turn back to 
Tanjung Tokong. At kilometre 9, I sucked in my Hammer Gel as I felt I was at 
my 80% effort already. The Kinesio Tape supported my knees till this point 
before it starts peeling off. My pace was gradually dropping to 4.30mins/km 
I really gritted my teeth and close my eyes every now and then to close up the 
gap with the bunch of runners in front of me. I would say today’s field is really 
strong. I suffered 3km to bridge that 50m gap! That means they are increasing 
their pace at every distance marker! Distance marking along the course is 
very accurate and easily sighted; marshals were way better than the FTKLAA 
Sports Toto Run. The final 3km was a hell for me, my abs was cramping and
my back was getting spasms. My breathing rhythm went one inhale and 
one exhale synchronized with my steps to support my effort, I guess my 
body is not ready for this intensity but the mind just says “shut up legs” 
and keep digging deep! 

Like Kevin Siah said to me during Ironman, “Dig Deep! Dig Deep!”. I don’t know 
how deep could I dig somemore or I’m digging my own grave=p I showered 
myself at all water stations to keep my overheating engine cool, it’s not gonna 
make my race kit heavier as my 2ndskin team tee is made of Vapor Skin 
material, ultralight and breathable; as I always tell my team, “feels naked but 
it got you covered”. After making the final turn, Annie from the opposite site 
yelled my name but I was dead tired to respond. She was first placing in her 
category yet still has time to greet me; she made it look so easy. 
The finishing line was in festive atmosphere with drum beats welcoming the 
finishers to cross the arch.
GPS is always ready, only me not all the time ready. Haha. 

By the time I crossed and stopped my watch, I was about to pass out. I don’t remember when was the last time I pushed myself this hard. With my work commitment yet I’m able to do average pace 4.19mins/km, I’m contented. I 
pressed the start button a bit late so that’s why the distance is short about 
Team 2ndskin in action. 

Annie told me the Anti Fatigue worked for her, so I gave him my whole bottle. 
Gonna order another bottle for myself soon. She chose to run in the stiffer 
Skechers GoSpeed while I ran with my Skechers GoSpeed2. Annie sounds very 
mature and wiser now, life has toughen her up perhaps. 
Meet Calvin Boon, man behind the Alpha Project. He ran a 55mins 15km, 
did extra distance somemore due to wrong turning at the final U-turn yet doesn't change his champion position. Super fast runner. 
It feels like Chinese New Year already. 

I rushed back to Lumut immediately after race to rest my body before I close up 
duty as Officer of The Day again on Monday. I had a good massage by Annie 
(not Annie Yee), the thai lady that fixes my aching muscles. She is about my 
mum’s age, has abundance of strength pressing those trigger points. As I’m
typing this race report, I feel so much fresher and great. Next race, next 
week's KL City Day Run, see you there. Hopefully I won't get lost again at 
the same course=)