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Penang 100 Ultramarathon 2014

Penang100 logo
One week after conquering the Army Half Marathon 2014 in the Marina Bay area, I was in Penang to mount another challenge – the inaugural Penang 100 Ultramarathon. The Penang 100 is the first ultramarathon in Penang, and comprises 3 categories of 50km, 84km and 100km. I was registered in the 84km Round Island challenge. This would be my second ultramarathon race this year after my adventure in Trans Lantau 2014 back in March.

Gear check
The 100km Challenge and 84km Round Island course started and finished in Esplanade, Padang Kota Lama and went through the Unesco World Heritage Site Georgetown. The route also passed by the Penang Bridge and the newly built Penang Second Bridge. The terrain and route of Penang is foreign to me even though this was the second time I was running in Penang, after the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2012.

The race started on a humid Saturday night at 9pm on 6th September, Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, flagged the race off. Once the starter horn sounded, about 400 of us trudged past the Penang Town Hall, ran past Fort Cornwallis, dodging Saturday night traffic meandering along the jetty road, and ran in the direction of Bayan Lepas. Mobile traffic police officers were on the ground manning traffic junctions to stop traffic flow and let runners ran on uninterrupted.

84km run map
The first water point at 12km mark (opposite QueensBay Mall), and checkpoint 2 at 25km mark (industrial estate near airport) were reached pretty uneventfully as I maintain a comfortable pace of 7.30min/km. At both checkpoints, I downed an ice cold bottle of Revive isotonic drink and continued on.

The next leg of the journey were met with resistance as we tried to overcome a 3km long incline. We ran on an elevated highway, reaching 130m at its highest point at 33km, before descending all the way till 37km mark where checkpoint 3 was located in a school compound. Many runners including myself walked the uphill section, and ran the downhill to recover much time lost.

running on elevated highway

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The route from checkpoint 3 to checkpoint 4 was a long flat stretch of road, passing by many plantations and various Malay kampungs. It was a pity it was the middle of the night, and the residents were fast asleep by then. At this point, I was feeling tired and sleepy, I was counting lamp posts and willing myself to put one foot in front of the other. Was I glad when checkpoint 4 came into view. It was the 50km mark of the race where we could retrieve our drop-bag. Kudos to the crews and volunteers, the bag retrieval process was fast. I changed my socks and decided not to change shoes and running top as it was not raining. After taking some chicken porridge and replenished my water bottles, I was on my way for the second half of the ultramarathon.

Once we left the compound, the road started on a steady incline over the next 5km on long, dark and winding mountain road and reached its peak of 228m. Similar to the first hill climb, I fast-walked the uphill, and in the darkest of dark nights on the mountain road, I could make out red blinking lights and headlamps of runners in the distant ahead. Then we started the 7km descend until we reached the Telok Bahang Dam, and checkpoint 5 was just after the dam at 62km mark.

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At this point I was tired beyond words but giving up never crossed my mind even though there was over 20km left to cover. I guess it was at dark moment like this that the months of toiling, night training and sacrifice stood up to the test. I was feeling hungry but only managed to eat half a bun and downed half a bottle of Revive and I was out pushing for checkpoint 6, which was about 9km away.

This leg of the race was quite a suffer fest as we tackle the undulating coastal road of Batu Ferringghi. I was adopting the walk uphill, and hobbled downhill on this stretch. By now daylight has broken, and vehicular traffic has gradually increased despite it being a Sunday morning. I’ve never been to this part of the island before this race, and was treated to beautiful sea view along the route.

Somehow checkpoint 6 came and went in a blur, and I was hobbling along towards checkpoint 7 at Gurney Drive. With a nice sea breeze blowing and a picturesque view, the checkpoint near the waterfront was a godsend.

checkpoint 7

sea view

The sun was pretty high up by the time I left checkpoint 7, by then my quads were busted and I walked all the 5km to the finishing line at the Esplanade. I finally crossed the finish line in 14h 22m, totally spent but happy that I’ve completed another ultramarathon within the cut-off time.

Finsiher pose

Finisher medal

I want to thank the organisers for a superbly executed event over such a long course. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey. I was touched by the friendly and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers who aided and guided us in the various checkpoints. I was very impressed by the challenging route, and the safety team who worked tirelessly roving up and down the route in their bicycles and motorcycles. I promised I will be back in another time to attempt the 100km Ultramarthon challenge!

PhotoGrid


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SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon 2014

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The 23rd edition of the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon was flagged off at 5am on 31st August at the Esplanade Bridge. I was among the 21,800 runners in the starting pen of the 21km run. There was also a 10-kilometre race, a five-kilometre “fun run” and a father-and-child event.

AHM RaceRoute-2014

Besides running along iconic landmarks, this year’s half marathon was slightly diverted at Tangjong Rhu area to avoid the bottleneck encountered last year. Additionally, the new route also ran past the newly minted Sports Hub.

AHM2014running shots

I crossed the finished line in 1h 50m, 4mins slower than my SSBRAHM 2013 result.

AHM2014 results

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AHM conquered

AHM2014 grid


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Bring On The Night

SD 2014 logo

In the 7th edition of Singapore largest night marathon, the organisers of the Sundown Marathon 2014 wanted to “Bring On The Night”. However, due to the unforeseen presence of environmental and magnetic interference, the official nett time of around 2000 runners, including myself, were not captured.

Fortunately, the gun time was recorded when I crossed the finished line, and it was not far off from the time recorded on my GPS watch of 4h 40m.

sundown 2014 result

Thus, the e-certificate did not indicate my official time.
sd cert 2014

Nevertheless, I completed my thrid Sundown full marathon in a much slower time compared to the last two editions.
SD 2014 medal front

SD 2014 medal back


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My TransLantau100 Adventure

translantau route map

I was in Lantau island, Hong Kong, from 13 – 17 March not for vacation but to run the Translantau 100km. It was my first time in Lantau island and it would be my first ever attempt in a 100km ultra trail marathon.

start point pose

The 100km race started on 14 March at 11.30pm, the start/finish point was at Silvermind bay beach, Mui Wo. On that chilly night (16 – 18 deg C), the race director flagged about 400 of us off without much fanfare as the majority of the runners in the 50km category would be starting the following morning.

night start

I’ve little recollection of what went on during the night run/hike, except the suffering from the wind-chill while we were ascending the peaks. Besides the cold, I vaguely remembered there were lots of queuing to go uphill, and bottlenecks when going over obstacles and steep downhills. There was a very steep downhill on single track where many runners were sliding down on their backsides.

Translantau Profile

The 100km route included the second and third highest peak in Hong Kong – the Lantau Peak at 934m above sea level and Sunset Peak at 854m above sea level, respectively.

It was daybreak after descending Sunset Peak, and that was when I’ve the opportunity to enjoy the race running through the Lantau South Country park, Ngong Ping Plateau where the Big Buddha is situated, Keung Shan country walk, going around Sheik Pik reservoir as the route brought us to Tai O, a fishing town located in the northwest of the island.

Po Lin monastery

keung shan

observatory

After Tai O, I headed towards Ngong Ping CP6 and by the time I reached, night has fallen and I’ve been running for 20 hours over 69km! My sleep-deprived mind was screaming for much-needed sleep and to be honest, the thought of DNF has crossed my mind. After CP6, the route would take us to the summit of Lantau Peak, and to make this climb in the night and in less than idea physical and mental state would be a very risky venture.

At that moment in time, my body was ready to give up. My running buddy, Frances from Philippines, whom I met at TMBT 2013, encouraged me to give Lantau Peak a try. After refueling at the CP, I decided to press on. It proved to be the best decision in the whole race, as the experience of climbing Lantau Peak was the scariest and most memorable experience of my life! Every step up the stone stairs felt labored and excruciating to the knees, but we were able to see the Big Buddha in all its glory. As we ascended higher, the darkness and heavy fog reduced visibility until we could see the Buddha no more. Once near to the peak, we were practically on all fours moving on the ridge line as what felt like 100km/hr wind pounded on us and threatened to blow us off the face of the mountain!

When we finally reached the summit, the wind was blowing so fierce that a crew member (he was holed up in a dug-in shelter) instructed us to quickly get off the mountain as fast as possible. After descending thousands and thousands of steps, we finally reached the next CP at 84km mark. I’ve conquered the highest point in Lantau island in darkness and lived to tell the tale!

From 84km onwards till the CP9 at Shap Long, it was all a blur to me. It was way past midnight, I’ve been on my feet for 2 nights without sleep. I struggled, sleep-walked and tripped my way through this last leg of the route and finally tumbled my way towards CP9 within the cut-off time. I’ve been running the race for 30.5 hours and i absolutely hate it!

From CP9, it remained 5km to the finish point at Silvermind bay beach. As daylight broke, my body awoken a little and I made a late “dash” to finally crossed the finishing line in 31hrs 46mins to complete my first ever 100km ultra trail marathon!

Finisher pose

Finisher medal

Translantau PowerMatix results

Yes, I finally made it! I felt so privilege to have run and completed this beautiful race in Lantau. The course was brutal, and all the finishers must have climbed no less than 50,000 steps up and down the many peaks along the race course. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual figure was double that!


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Higher, Further, Crazier

After going through the epic adventure that was TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon in Sabah last September, I was surely bitten by the trail-running bug (if there’s such a thing). I am ready to embark on my next challenge and had in fact chosen to test my endurance in a 100KM ultra race – TransLantau 100 – in Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

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The race is coming up in mid-March and here’s a snippet of the race from the organisers:
The 100-km Translantau will cover the most scenic trails on South Lantau, for a cumulative elevation gain of 5,800 meters. This is a challenging trail run which requires adequate training to complete the full route within 32 hours. The route includes steep climbs and downhills, the highest climb being the Lantau peak (934m).

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Enjoy this video made for the inaugural Raidlight Lantau100 which was held in 2013.

Raidlight Lantau100 from Lloyd Belcher Visuals on Vimeo.


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