Monday, 19 March 2012

- Twilight Ultra Challenge 2012 - For once, I took a race very easy like any other average runner ...... -

                               (Words by Muhammad Sallehan Zainuddin )

- With some of the Freaks running the Ultra Challenge -
It's been quite some days since Twilight Ultra Challenge concluded on Sunday afternoon but the memories still lingered around, perhaps thanks to the still on-going FB postings on Twilight and the tagging of pics.

This was the 2nd race of the year after Bataan Death March 160km in Phillipines. The painful memories still haunted me, considering the failure to complete the 160km race due to overall fatigue, injuries and low electrolyte level despite a good start in that ill-fated race. On that day, I pulled out of 73km mark despite the fact there were a lot of runners still behind me at that point. Eventually, most of these runners continued and finished the race before the 30 hr cut-off time while I woke up from the sleep in the hotel, still shell-shocked and was only imagining if I would have still ran with them.

For that, I decided to take it easy in Twilight, for once, far contrast to my relentless approach in races, regardless of the distance. I came up to the race, with nothing to lose, and just like  other average runner, I just wanna enjoy the run.

- The race route -
 Quite a number of familiar faces I met. The likes of  Ford, Khaliq (supposedly injured but made a comeback at last minute), Frank, Victor Loh, Robson, Adam, Mohan and DO. Even Mr Yong, the 2010 Run Round Singapore 218km champion was in attendance that I took a pic with him before the race. Yes, for the first time, the race witnessed perhaps the three vibrant young runners from the same minority Malay race competing together (myself, Rahmat and Khaliq), who had rocked the ultramarathon fraternity with displays in ultra races in recent years.
- Did the 1st 25km with him -

First 25km: Running a 6 minute pace with Ford, who just like me, hoping to last the whole 16 hrs. Both of us were in comfortable speed such that, I took my first hydration after 10km. at 25km mark, Ford took himself to the resting tent, perhaps feeling bored, having going through the mind-boggling route from car-park E2 to Big Splash area. I continued maintaining my pace, with Sky and Khaliq already in front and soon, Rahmat overtook me.

30-35km: Already started walking, hoping to avoid injuries in the next part of the race. I already had the bad experience of injured in early part of the race. The knee injury hit me at 20km during the BDM 160km race. I decided to swap shoes so early. I realised Saucony Kinvara 2 is not ideal for me if I were to run long distances. So, I changed into K-Swiss Kwicky Blade. In between, I jumped into ice bath and I felt great. Haha.

- The Freedom Freaks support group !! -
35-40km: Slowly walked and ran till I dropped by at BBQ pit organised by the Freedom Freaks running grp, who celebrated their 1-year anniversary. Asree was ard, Idayu was there too. Surprisingly, my ex-national team mate in silat, who slowly get involved into running, Nadhirah, was around too, staying back in the early hours with the Freaks. So, I had someone familiar there to talk to. Haha. I ate the chicken and whatever real food that I could have in addition to longan drink.

45km mark: I dropped by at a toilet near the Skate park to do my big business. First time in my running life, that I had to shit in a race. Coming out of the toilet and  met up with one unknown lady, Mingming, who was already 10km ahead of me. Was told that actually she did a 40km time trial as she hoped to do sub-4 marathon in the coming race. No wonder, she was quite fast early in the race. Lol... Slowly I ran and picked up pace as the race went on to catch the sunrise.
- Super-duper hungry !! -
55km mark: The sun just got up and I dropped by again at the Freaks BBQ pit. We're eating whatever scraps left as the Freaks were about to leave ECP at 8 am. I slowly walked to the tentage and got some hydration. The stretch between the tentage and Big Splash is a bit further than the one between tentage and the other point near Skate park. I decided to walk till the Big Splash as part of fatigue limitation. Met up with Mingming who was also walking. For that 5km, we were all talking about running and running, though I never seen her in any of the races prior to this. At the end of the day, I was the one being asked alot of questions on running although I felt I have alot to learn in ultra running despite my experiences in grueling distances. Khaliq and Rahmat were still going strong.

60-85km:- I was fine once more and ready to pounce on the lost time under the sun blazing heat. Along the way, I met Mr Yong, who was already doing 80km before 9.5 hrs. In his last 5km, both of us ran together, talking at the same time. For all his running reputation, he's a very down to earth guy who's willing to share his experiences. I was told that on daily basis, he normally do a 30km run in the morning, 20km in the afternoon, 10km in the evening and 5km at night. *faint* . His daily mileage is like our average weekly mileage.

From 65km mark onwards, Ariffin went to join in to pace me as he was already sleepy, having stayed at the tentage for so long to support the runners. Mind you, Ariffin is only 15. When I was at his age, I never even got active in sports at all, unlike now. Thanks to him and Neyton, I'm able to maintain the pace although runners would easily crumble under the heat in the day, having going thru the humidity at night time. Neyton paced me for the 10km and went back to tentage while Ariffin continued pacing me, this time in barefoot.

- Push yourself when everything goes against you - 
 At 82km mark, I was already sleepy and rested near the lamp post nearby for few minutes. It was understandable that I only had one hour of sleep in the Saturday afternoon. Afterwhich, I was awake again and continued running. Soon, heavy downpour came and it spurred me to go faster to avoid any future lightning and thunder. Thank God, there was none of them, only the heavy showers.

85-100km: I remembered doing only 85km in last yr Twilight and I stopped because I was already puking non-stop at the time. That was done without any training before this. Now, I'm set to eclipse the mark and hopefully I could go on and hit the full 10 loops. I was still in good condition to run.

I went on the same strong pace and eventually completing the 10 loops. Never mind, it took 15.5 hrs to do the 100km, after a much slow start. My aim was to make sure Im able to last the 16 hrs, knowing that I have a more challenging 28 hr DART selection to endure in few months time. I may have gone on to do another 5km but with 30mins to go, perhaps too much to ask, if I were to consider the future effects on my left knee.

I went down to my knees, thanking God for able to do the 100km on home soil finally after a 2 year wait. In 2010, I did a TNF 100 solo and had to DNF at 82km mark. In 2011, I was already taking a long break from running due to my long awaited comeback to silat, and therefore, did not compete in Sundown 100km. Finally, I had something else to add on to my achievement of completing a BDM 102km, that was done in 2010.

I wont be joining any future races, at the most till Sep, where Im looking to do what I had failed to do in Jan. To run a 160km. In another race organised by Ben Swee. And perhaps, I may make a comeback to accomplish what I failed to do in 2010, TNF 100km solo. Probably, 2012 shall be a year of ultramarathons.

- Perhaps, the cream of the crop of young ultra runners from the minority Malay race, also born in 1986-1988. Hopefully, we can shake the ultra-marathon world for the next decade or two. myself, Rahmat and Khaliq -

 A number of things I noticed since my comeback to running late last yr. Rahmat and Khaliq has been stronger these days. Robson for his fast pace in ultra distance, getting better as well. Mr Yong was still as superb as he is.
At the same time, its nice to know new friends in running. Sky, for his vocal, lively character and his bursting start to the race. Mingming for going so fast early in the race, such that me and Ford was like "wow" and to have completed her first ultra at 70km. Max Yeong and Jacky Lee, known for the consistent pace for most part of the race towards the 100km feat, that spurred me to fight on. Victor Verry for his typical Filipino fighting approach, the type who never gave up although everything went against him and went on to do 100km. Jamie, for her determination to push all the way to her 85km feat and she's only 23. Shahrul and Ming Zheng for their ability to last as well. Oliver, being the eldest statesman, showed age is no barrier in ultra running. and the list goes on and on to other runners.
- With Mr Organizer, Ben Swee -
 I would like to thank Ben Swee and his wife for another well-organized race and to those crazy humans, who started the race and completed it, no matter what distance, well done to you all and wish you all speedy recovery and the best in future races. Hands down, without the support of runners as well, I wouldn't have done this elusive feat.

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