Been 3 days since the The North Face 100 Singapore leg has concluded. Hopefully everyone has just recovered from the fatigue/injuries.
This year, I made the comeback to the event, competing in 100km solo category, aiming to make amends for the DNF in the same category dated 2 years ago. The participation came by chance simply because I did not make it in my SCDF DART selection in June. Had I made it in the selection, I would have gone to stay in the DART course, which coincidentally clashed with two ultra races, the Craze Ultra and TNF100.
Having DNF-ed in Craze Ultra 100 Miles due to constant puking, simply gave me some shitty feeling as that was my 3rd DNF throughout my time racing since almost 4 yrs ago. The other DNF race was Bataan Death March 100 mile race in PH in late January this year.
That made me much determined not to fail in this race. Such that I had been doing my own running most of the time in the trails since early July. Such that I did a recce route at midnight with my good old ultra running friend, Henry Yang a week before the race, covering the whole loop, except Lorong Asrama area.
Attempted to sleep in the Friday afternoon after the Friday prayers. However, no thanks to some Malay family doing a full-blast karaoke downstairs, I could not sleep. Such that I posted a status on FB later in the evening, threatening to beat them up if I didn’t complete the race. LOL.
Rode myself to the race site and most runners were already there. It was 2230hrs. Met Razif, Fred Tai, Henry Yang and Quek, as well as others who came down to support such as Sam, Asree, Jagong, Sasha, Yao Ming and Halim to name a few.
|- With King Sam and Ultra-Ray -|
|- With fellow competitor Fred Tai and Freaks co-founder Asree -|
The likes of Ford, Jeri, Quek and Henry were all ahead in the leading pack. As for myself, I’m just pacing myself and using a hand-held torchlight was more comfortable to use as compared to headlamp. Most will argue with me but that's the way I prefer to.
|- Smiling minutes before flag-off -|
Reaching the Ranger Station after 5km mark, I took heed on what Jeri told me to. Pop up the Endurolyte every half hour and I have to, considering that I easily sweat alot. Maintained the pace till Rail Mall, where I dropped by at Ah Mei Cafe to eat Roti Prata with Egg. Harsh lessons learned from worst ultra race displays taught me that the best food to eat has been solid food, and I can only point out to the example of BDM 160 and Ultra Craze, where I didn't have a big meal during the race.
|- Fueling up before continuing the journey -|
Took some minutes to digest and action resumed. Lots of runners had gone ahead since I was having my own pit stop. Picked up pace from Dairy Farm and thanks to the solid food, I was much awake and slowly overtook runners along Zhenghua Park and then Mandai area.
Reached Lorong Asrama at 0200 hrs and saw someone familiar at the checkpoint. Ford was icing his ankle. Calling out for him and he told me to proceed first. I was hoping that Ford would be catching up once he was OK .Lorong Asrama has been such a much dreadful place to run in TNF100 and that could not be helped with the 265 hill steep slopes that made impossible for most runners to run. Surprisingly, I was able to coast through the area with ease, breaking away from the runners tailing behind.
|- The dreaded Hill 265 -|
Exited Lorong Asrama and I was confident that I will blaze a straightforward route back to MR. Once I entered the Mandai trails, I began to sink into Z-mode and had to change the plan into walk-run-walk-run. I was so sleepy that I lied down for 5 minutes at Gangsa Loop and then continued the run. The Z-monsters came calling for me and I took another 5 min rest along the stretch of Chestnut Ave and then another 10 min rest at Rifle Range, that was about 7 km away from completing the first loop. Logged on to FB on mobile and got to know that Ford has pulled out of the race. I felt sorry for him as trail running has been his happy hunting ground all along.
Was approached by Razif, who by then was already energized by Red Bull given to him at Lorong Asmara. Had I chose not to reject the offer of Red Bull, initially at Hindhede Walk and then Lorong Asmara, I would have not gone into sleepy mode, as I had encountered late in the first loop.
Completed the first loop at 6:59 hrs. I ripped off my long sleeve Adidas body tight and could feel the heat that had been trapped for so long. Took a 30 minute nap at the tentage as compared to most runners, who took a slightly shorter break before resuming their 2nd loop. Changed into fresh pair of shoes, socks and top for the 2nd loop. Then met a number of runners along, Kang, the Dark Knight, Shi Wei and then Adam One-Arm Runner. Jacqueline and Helen just arrived at the tentage too.
|- Starting my 2nd loop -|
Made a slow entrance to the 2nd loop and was approached by Halim, who passed me the can of Nescafe, which eventually I never drank for the 2nd half of the race.The mental was there to go for the 2nd loop but the legs were not. They were simply 'jelly' that I ended up most of the time walking to the Ranger Station pit stop. The weather was so humid and the body already being hot, decided to rip off my top and ran barebody. Resorted to water cooler, where I flushed my body to cool down the body temperature and then made my way alone to the Rifle Range.
|- Too hot a weather -|
Barely eaten half the meal, after having a puke. Took quite long to digest as I did a walk-run-walk-run along Dairy farm trails. Till I found the momentum back again before approaching Zhenghua trails. Running past the 50km runners, who just returned from their U-turn at Lorong Asrama, simply gave me the kick in the ass to keep on soldiering on. The words of encouragement and thumbs up spurred me on. Thanks to them.
Reached Lorong Asrama right before 12 noon and the sun was up there. I kept pouring cold water over my head non-stop. Was told by some 100km runners who just finished their Lorong Asrama loop, to take it easy and keep on running. Time was still favourably on my side though I already told myself I already run that badly in the 2nd loop.
I puked once again, perhaps after drinking a sip of 100 plus, which already added to a bloated stomach. I lied down once again, trying to relax myself after the vomit. Dark clouds followed and Thank God, it was raining at Lorong Asrama. I was really let off the hook by the rain.
Made my way with ease to the Lorong Asrama exit and I was simply confident that the race is there for me to lose. Attempted to run back all the way back to MR. But was affected by niggling injuries along the way that I chose to walk the final 15km. I knew I could have run instead but you will never know anything can happen later in the race. What if I injured my knee? What if I twisted my ankle again?
I was all smiles once entering the MR again. Saved it for the last 100 metres, where I made a sprint to the finishing line. I went down to my knees, thanking God for my feat.
|- Satisfaction at last -|
Post-race reactions simply never shown any tiredness or cramps after finishing a grueling race. I am happy to know that I crossed the finish line without limping, partly due to the 15km walk I did. I took a photo of my hard-earned finisher's medal and immediately whatsapp-ed to my fiancée, who was worried about me all day during the race.
Met quite a number of runners, while making my way back to the carpark. One of them was J-Ing, who won 3rd place in Women 15km category. And it was her very first trail race. Well done to her. And she’s only 19.
|- In years to come, she's gonna fly .... -|
Special thanks to all my fellow running friends who has been giving moral support to me in my comeback to ultra races. I may not have been in the same form as who I was used to be 2 years ago. But most importantly, the hunger for glory and mental are still not lost in running crazy races.
For now, I shall take a back seat for now before looking forward to the coming SCMS race. I wont go for 3:15. A humble sub 4 hour shall do good for me.
Words by Muhammad Sallehan Zainudin
*Pics credit to Sasha Farina, Alexander Asree, Jayve Macfudge, Running Shots and Sallehan himself.