Monday, October 11, 2010

My Bike For Sale : Merida 903 Road Race Series

Dear All,

If you're reading this... that means that I've decided to part with my bike. It had served me well, but I realized i'm more a runner than a cyclist. Therefore, i've decided to stay loyal to running. :)

I'm including here the details, accessories and parts of my bike that i'm willing to part with for a very special price.


Make: Merida
Model: 903 Road Race Series (Tiagra & Shimano Clip On)
Size: XS
Color: Black, White & Red

Additional Accessories Bundled:

1. Tranz-X Trainer
2. Merida (Emergency Hand Pump - for Race)
3. Merida Saddle Pocket (for spare tube - Race use)
4. Front & Back Lights
5. X-Mission Carbon Bottle Holder X 2 (Ultra Light Weight - Race Optimized)
6. Spare Tube
7. Tube Change Tool Kit
8. Top Peak Tri-Bag (for Easy Access to Energy Gels)

Additional BONUS Bundled:

1. Cratoni - Ceron Helmet
2. Gaerne - Italian Race Shoe (with Clip On)

Asking Price RM 3,300.00 (all in - Slightly Negotiable if buyer really keen) -
Credit Card Accepted

If you're interested, please call me at +6012 322 8268 (James)

Actual Images below:

My Merida 903 mounted on the Tranz-X Trainer

Close UP on Tranz X Trainer

My Tranz X Trainer, Bought only in September 2010

Merida Saddle Pocket (for spare tube and tool kit - included)

Top Peak Tri Bag (Energy Gel Storage and for mobile phone / wallet while riding)

The Wheels - Panaracer Closer

Front View and Light
Back Light Blinker
Merida Emergency Hand Pump - Race Friendly
X Mission Carbon Bottle Holder - Minimum Weight, Race Optimized
The Bonus Items: Cratoni Ceron Helmet

Full View of Helmet

The Italian Beauty : Gaerne Race Shoe with Clip Ons


Monday, June 7, 2010

2nd June 2010: Adidas Sundown Ultra-Torturethon 2010 - Mission Accomplished

PROLOGUE

When a writer writes, he needs to be inspired. Unfortunately, I am neither inspired, nor am I a writer.

There are times where words pour out and are easily translated into digital 0 and 1 on the screen through the simple action of typing on a keyboard. All this can usually be done without too much brain activity required. Strangely, today seems different; I found it hard to bring myself to start anything. Uninspired, I scour the World Wide Web in search of an inspiration on how to start my biggest blog entry detailing my journey, thoughts and achievement for THE ultra-marathon event of the year. I read several other fellow ultra-runners’ blog entries and they were very interesting.

Now, what about me? As I sit here in my Adidas Sundown Ultra-Marathon 2010 84KM finishers t-shirt, I will try to put together the account of my first ever Ultra Marathon.

Here it goes!

PART 1: THE ARRIVAL

27th May 2010, Thursday

Time: 09:30 PM

I had just finished packing everything I needed for my trip down to Singapore. I remember double and triple checking the items just to make sure I have everything I need.

“Passports?” I asked.

“Yes” my wife replied.

“Are you sure?” again I insisted her on re-checking.

“YES!” again she replied, a little agitated this time.

You see, we were just about to head out for a 4 hour journey by car to Singapore for my first ever Ultra Marathon. Travelling twice the usual marathon distance of 42.195KM was definitely something that gives me the jitters. If a marathon was tough enough, now imagine going through it twice! Yes... TWICE!

That means 84.4 kilometers, 84,400 meters or 52.4 miles which ever you prefer (statute or metric) non-stop, on foot and within 15 hours.

We placed our bags into the car, set out to pick up Kent and his girlfriend Lee Heong as I had coaxed them into coming down with us to Singapore earlier in year as my personal support crew! Kent had called earlier to inform me that his girlfriend can only be back at half past 10, so with time to spare, my wife and I headed to the nearby burger stall for some refueling. As we approached the time to leave, we swung by and picked them up. All a little tired from the long day earlier, we got into the car a little indifferent, a little excited and off we went on our adventure.

You see, the reason why we decided to leave on a Thursday was because my wife and friends wanted to visit Universal Studios in Singapore. We had planned the visit for a Friday, because Saturday was my race and it would only end on Sunday morning. I was uncertain how my physical condition would be like post 84km, so Friday made most sense.

The journey was uneventful, I’d put in a movie into the DVD player for our long journey ahead and time flew by.

28th May 2010, Friday

01:30 AM

All I was looking forward to was a hot shower, a nice warm bed and a good night sleep. I know, for a fact that rest before the few nights leading up to any race is more important that the rest that you get the night before a race. It was however a sacrifice I had decided to give, to create a win-win situation for all of us. I was there for my race, but my buddies were there to support me and have a holiday too!

When we reached the petrol station along the highway heading towards the Second Link, I recall cleaning my windshield and removing the squashed bugs with the wiper cleaner. I remember silently thinking to myself, I wonder if I would feel like a squashed bug post completion of my race. I shook off the thoughts, fueled up the car and moved on. It was a great sensation when we finally past the immigrations checkpoint and while driving on no-man’s land, the thought of the hot shower and nice warm bed caused me to accelerate a little faster.

I wonder, if there are speed limits on no-man’s land. If I ever got a ticket there, will it be issued by Malaysia or Singapore? Hmm…

Upon reaching Tuas checkpoint, the place was completely deserted. We could choose which counter we wanted to go to and naturally, being Chinese and a little superstitious, I drove into counter 18. Getting through immigration was a breeze and off we were in Singa-Land.

We finally reached our home away from home at Nanyang Technology University. Fortunately, my father in-law was an associate professor there lecturing, so accommodation was pretty much covered. Settled in quickly, and it was bed time.

It was almost 3am.

09:00 AM

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The synthesized alarm sounded from our mobile phones.

I pulled myself up and headed into the showers. Tired, stoned, sleepy and drowsy. We merely had 6 hours of sleep. After the usual morning rituals, I woke my wife up and her usual antics of the “5 minutes more” drama ensued. After a good 15 minutes, she was finally up and about.

Upon opening the door, we found that our friends were already all ready in anticipation to head out to Universal Studios. Without wasting too much time, we got into the car, turn on the GPS and off we were to the highly acclaimed theme park. We decided to head out early as it was a public holiday. I’m not much of a crowd person but I went along with it. When we finally got found ourselves a parking spot, we boarded a train that took us to the entrance. It was only about 10.00am, and the ticket counters were already displaying ‘SOLD OUT’ signage.

We were thankful; my father-in-law had purchased the tickets for all of us a week in advance. Else, we would probably be cursing and whining about the tickets being sold out. Took pictures, pictures and more pictures and then we finally headed in to the theme park.

It wasn’t as big as I had imagined; where the whole theme park was laid out in a circle. One loop and you’re more or less done. We went on rides, had lunch and took pictures. Not all rides were open, and the crowd was a little crazy. The Mummy roller coaster was quite thrilling, but the main feature, a super crazy roller coaster called Battle Star Gallactica was not operational. We managed to go to the Far Far away land, where we saw Shrek in 4D, Waterworld with big explosions and high flying action pack movie sequence, Jurrasic Park and others. It was interesting… but somehow I think paying SGD 66 per person wasn’t really value for money.

04:00 PM

We stayed at the park until about 4pm and decided that we would try our luck at the new casino. It was nice, full of people and very expensive to play. I noticed that the minimum bets were usually at least SGD 100, so no choice but to leech on other big time gamers. Lady luck was on our side as we made some winnings which was enough to cover our expenses for the day.

06:00 PM

We decided to leave the casino as I planning to meet my dear friend Mohan who had kindly helped pick up my race pack for me a week earlier. He gave some directions and we finally ended up at a Bak Kut Teh restaurant in Havelock Road. We caught up for a little while with Mohan, Hazel, Freddie and his friend whom I seem to have a difficult time remembering his name.

When runners gather, guess what will the topics be? Haha!

We talked about running, and I learned from Mohan that Freddie was the founder of the Run2Eat club in Singapore. He was so kind to have provided me with a special “members only” sticker for the support crew pit stops that his team will be preparing along the ultra marathon. Wow… being in the right place at the right time sure was helpful. I have been secretly quite concerned about having a support crew but now that Freddie has accelerated me as an adopted Run2Eat member, I was much less worried.

Once we bit our farewells, we headed over IMM Mall for our celebratory dinner from the little winnings that we made where we had the famous Pork Ribs in Cafe Cartel. Food was good, but the late night and early morning was starting to get to me. I desperately needed to sleep.

10:00 PM

Finally, we were back home and I slept like a log without setting any alarm clock for the next morning.

PART 2: RACE DAY!

29th May 2010, Saturday

09:30 AM

My biological clock decided it was time to wake up. I opened my eyes, looked around a little bit and my wife as usual was still sleeping like a log.

I looked at the time and decided that I should sleep a little more to compensate for all the lack of rest the night before. The race was only hours away. I forced myself back to sleep and tossed and turned a little before I finally went back to dreamland.

10:30 AM

I woke up again, but this time no matter how hard I tried, I just can’t seem to get myself back to sleep. After lying there on the bed for a little while, I decided to just get up. Everything was slow that morning, I was in the state of slow motion. It took me almost an hour to get ready and finally at half past 11, I was out of the room. With nothing much to do except waiting to eat, we all watched some Singaporean movie titled 3 ½ women. It was surprisingly quite interesting but as lunch time approached, we decided to forgo the movie and head out for lunch.

01:00 PM

We headed out for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Had a hearty Chinese set meal where we were served soup, prawns, fish, vegetables and fruits. The rice was plentiful and I ate a little extra in anticipation for the long journey that is to come. We finished up what felt like the sweetest fruits we’ve ate, paid the bill and went home.

The plan was originally to head home, repack my running gear and then get some more sleep. It was almost 2 in the afternoon when we reached home. I thought that it would take me no more than 15 minutes to repack and figured that I would still have plenty of time to sleep before we head out to Changi Village for the race. Being a nervous wreck, by the time I had laid out all my running gear and repacked them into my ‘Ultrarunners Special Needs Bag’ it was almost 3:30pm.

I took the opportunity to take a quick nap and 20 minutes later, I was up. Took a quick shower, changed into my running attire and woke my friends up. It was time to leave. It felt as it I was just about to head out for a battle. With the amount of gear I had, it resembles grenades, rocket launchers and some other heavy artillery. Lee Heong, suggested that we took some photos before we headed out.

04:00 PM

The drive there was long, almost 40km long. It was on the other end of Singapore coming from where we stayed. I drove myself and by the time we got there, it was almost 5pm. As we approached Aviation Park road, we could already see the distance markers along the road. This was the first time I had seen the site and route myself, and to my dismay, it was a long a never-ending straight road. Unless you are an airplane fanatic, there wasn’t really anything else to see along the way leading to the starting point.

05:00 PM

When we finally got there, we were told that the runners were not allowed to head into the event area yet. We waited momentarily and the race organizers finally announced that we can now go in. The event site was huge, massive, it’s no wonder they choose this place. I was pretty sure it could fit 20,000 people at one go. There was a lot of space, and a whole lot of nothingness. Pretty boring actually, except for a few booths selling food, drinks and energy gels.

It felt strange, but at this point I wasn’t nervous at all. I was feeling rather, indifferent. One thing’s for sure, it felt wonderful seeing all the familiar faces again like Mohan, Winnie, Amelia, Ching Tai, Frank, Choi, Pui San, Alexis and the list just goes on and on. I took some pictures with my family and friends, and off I went to the ultra-marathoners transition tent to check in my bag. Feeling like a lost puppy in a big city, I wandered around and headed back to where my wife and friends were.

I was treated to a cup of mash potatoes and a huge sausage by my wife, ate almost all of it and passed it on to Kent when I couldn’t finish it. It’s not good to waste right? Oh, by the way, Kent blames it on me and his girlfriend for his increasing size as we are apparently the cause that he became the DBKL. Eating whatever we usually cannot finish. (Ok… I acknowledge it’s sort of true)

The Malaysian Ultra-Marathoners took group photos and chatted as we were in high spirits. I bid my wife and friends goodbye and told them to come back at 6am or so the next morning. I’ve read that for an ultra-marathon, the formula to estimate your time is to multiply your average marathon time by 2 and add another 2 hours to it.

Well, I am about a 5 hours marathoner, so (5 hours X 2) + 2 hours would be around 12 hours… or so I thought.

Soon, we could hear the commentator requesting for us to get ready as it was almost time to start. We slowly made our way to the starting line but it was strange. Very strange.

For the first time in my life, I’m participating in a race where no one seems to want to be close to the starting line! In other races, we get loads of people who push up so that they could get a spot as close to the starting line as possible but not this race. The starting line was scarce. Then again, there were only about 400 total participants for this category. The starting line had a few familiar faces in it… the usual podium finishers like our Moroccan friend Ahmad who went on to finish 2nd with a timing 6 hours 50 minutes. Shattering last year’s record by almost 30 minutes.

The other runners; like me. Didn’t seem all to interested to be near the starting line. I wondered why?

I guess what I have heard is true, Ultra-Running isn’t about glory or big prize money. It was about overcoming yourself and pushing the limits of the human body. There wasn’t a US 50,000 cash prize at the end. It was something you want to do and to overcome yourself.

3…2…1… and the buzzer sounded!

We were off and looking around me I could see everyone in high spirits.

Mohan, with his usual attics has been running back and forth taking pictures with everyone he can see. Just looking at him gives me a sense of belonging. It felt good, that we were all part of the team.

One journey, one goal, one destination… one distance of 84.4KM (except for Mohan where I could swear he was probably doing a 100KM race instead of an 84.4KM. You have to factor in the fact that he was constantly moving up and down the course instead of only heading one direction!)

I looked up at the sun… and remembered the tagline. Beat the Sunrise. Well, it just reminded me of the awfully long journey as the sun has not even set yet and we need to been the sunrise!? Phew! As we progressed through the race, the sun slowly went to sleep and soon the moon started rising. All these time, I was accompanied by the other runners in the race and the occasional sound of airplanes landing and taking off. The route was a little dry and boring… there wasn’t really much to do or see. I wish I’d brought my camera. J At least I could take a little more photo for my maiden ultra. At least, I thought, it would be something that could keep me occupied. The road was straight… “pot-hole-less” being Singapore and flat. No exciting bends with plenty of water stations filled with 100 plus and H20.

Things got a little better when we turned into East Coast park… at this point, I could already see the moon. A perfect circle… a full moon… so full, so big, so round that it struck me. Anyone with a lycanthrope curse would start transforming into a werewolf. I chuckled… knowing there are many other types of wolves roaming the night. The other type… “color-wolf”! Haha!

I didn’t really have a plan or a strategy for my ultra, I wasn’t all that prepared as I had almost completely zero mileage besides the occasional races and runs I have with my friend Lee. I had given up work to start up a little business on my own called The Marathon Shop. This little venture took up most of my training time… or it was perhaps I started to become a little lazy with my training. So the plan was really just to go slow, tough it out and overcome the challenges as they come along.

On East Coast Park, the journey was a little less boring. At least there were pretty girls on rollerblades and bicycles whizzing pass us every now and then. There were also the occasional sight of other runners who were not in the race training or just keeping fit.

With the sea on your left, a full moon now starting to rise above the head, an occasional breeze and a whiff of burned and tasty chicken wings barbequed by families, friends and supporters along the park. Things finally was a little more interesting… a little less taxing on the brain. Time passed a little faster at East Coast Park. People. Food. Booze. Partying. It’s quite happening there. Fancy restaurants, fast food… Carls Jr. Ooo…. Carls Jr. More than once I was tempted to just side-track and walk in to grab a nice little burger. This thought crossed my mind a total of 4 times that night as I the route made us pass through the same spot 4 times. Oh… Carls Jr. I had earlier carried SGD 110 in my Fuel Belt, for situations like this but somehow, I just couldn’t bring myself to move out of the course to grab a bite.

Talk about kiasu-ism.

As I head back from my first marathon, the last 2KM seemed like forever. It felt way longer than a usual 2km. Upon approaching the ultra-runners transition tent, the service was 5-star. We were handed our bag and the crew had requested for us to sit down and rest. I looked at my Garmin 310XT, the one which I had to buy specifically for this race and it showed 5 hours 2 minutes. OK. Not too bad. I was originally targeting to finish my first loop in 5 hours and my second hopefully within 7 hours.

So, as I sat there for a moment, I started unpacking my bag. I decided to change out of my attire from the first loop of the ultra marathon. I went into the changing room and removed my red Nike running vest, my brand new 2XU long compression pants that I had bought from Frank a week before, my green Vibram Five Finger spint series and put on my white Nike running Vest, shorts and shoes. Suddenly I felt like a walking Nike advertisement minus the fact that I’m still carrying the Fuel Belt.

Took the time and re-pin the bib onto my new shirt. After the change, it felt good and refreshing. I’ve been handed bananas, muffin and a bottle of water. I dug into my bag and pulled out my “reserve tank” of energy gels, jellybeans and what not. Topped up my battle belt and after about 17 minutes or so, I was up and ready for my second round!

I’ve been trying to psych myself into believing I was only doing a marathon. I was trying to suppress the fact in my head that I had already completed a marathon before this and this will be my second continuous loop. Well, it worked for a while and fatigue started to set it.

As I headed out for my second loop of the marathon, it was quite lonely as the ultra runners were quite scarce apart. I was looking out for Mohan, Pui San and any other ultra runners I know. Finally, I saw Mohan on the other side heading towards the transition tent and offered him a banana! Well, he didn’t want one…

Upon reaching the junction of Aviation Park Drive, I was quite prepared for another long and lonely journey accompanied again only by sound of airplanes and the sign of occasional runners. I think I did pretty alright up to KM 65 clocking in a total of about hours 29 minutes which included my transition time of 17 minutes. As I met Alber along the way and decided to do our run-walk together. He told me his strategy for the second loop was to run for 20 minutes and walk to 10 minutes and I felt it was a sane strategy and subsequently followed suit. Shortly after, we could see flashing lights and hear sirens indicating that the leader for the marathon category was approaching quick. Zoom… he went pass us and subsequently, one more, and another and suddenly there were an endless supply of marathon runners overtaking us.

Well, it felt a little motivating and de-motivating at the same time. I remember there were a few time where the marathon category runners would motion us saying things like “Young man, we’re only 15 KM into the race and you’re already walking? Don’t give up!” A little too tired to respond… I pointed at my bib, a little corner that indicated 84KM and said, second loop bro. Haha! I thought it was funny.

The walk – run with Alber has been good as we chatted almost about everything and anything. About how he did his Ironman this year in Langkawi and about how I want to do Ironman next year! He talked about his inner-groin cramp. He also talked about how much he could really use a beer right now…

Beer? BEER?! Isn’t that de-hydrating in our situation? Well… shortly thereafter, a friend of his ACTUALLY handed him a Heineken I think. Other runners passing by us actually gave us the thumbs up… and a European actually shouted to Alber “Beer during a race? I like your style mate!”

Now it made me wish of having one too! I’d almost quit drinking completely after taking up running, minus the occasional festive seasons and maybe a few celebrations.

As we continued with our walk run strategy, and Alber was happily sipping his beer saying that he can now skip all the water stations as long as he had the beer. We caught up with Adam, The One Arm Runner.

Alber shouted “Oi! One Arm…”

One arm looked trashed… he has been zooming during his first loop. Doing a 4+ hr marathon and it seems that it is now taking its toll on him. He told us he has been taking naps at almost every water station during the second loop… and he mentioned repeatedly how sleepy he was. Yeah… sleepy we were! It was almost approaching 3am in the morning.

He subsequently mentioned that he needed to take a leak and requested for a little assistance on pulling down his pants for him. Alber, being such a kindred spirit assisted him while I assisted Alber to “carry” his beer. J After that, I took out some Jelly Beans and fed One Arm, hoping that maybe some sugar will keep him awake. I’m just so impressed with his determination. I was moved, and it kept me going.

Along the way, I kept myself occupied by inviting the volunteers to join us for the run… J There was a volunteer and his girlfriend who were sitting by the beachside smooching. As I passed them, I said “Wah! That looks so comfortable. Can we switch places?” I also kept shouting to those people who were barbequing to “Throw us a chicken!”

Yes, I think the ultra distance was getting to my head.

The walk – run strategy stared becoming more like a walking strategy as I approach my last U-Turn which indicated I only had 21KM more to do. The last half marathon became a 21km walkathon. After making the final u-turn, I told myself. I think, I deserve a break. I then looked out for the next nearest gazebo and decided to take a quick nap. I must have napped for about 10 minutes or so, sat up, took a pack of the Perkisdol Warming gel and gave my legs a quick rub before standing up to continue my journey. Boy, I was beginning to feel extreme fatigue.

I inched my way back to the route and tried to do a little bit of running. No can’t do.

My legs just won’t move. I resorted to walking. The strategy that Alber mentioned earlier didn’t apply for me anymore. From 20 minutes run and 10 minutes walk became a 20 step walk and a 10 step run, where the pace of running the 10 steps was more or less the same speed as my 20 step walk. Haha! It just suddenly felt so funny… and I laughed out loud. People around me must think I’d gone insane. Every KM thereafter, I was forecasting my finishing time. I recalled my wife who did her first half marathon in Borneo with a timing of 3 hours 14 minutes. It was inconceivable to me as I won’t be able to accept it if I personally did a half marathon beyond 3 hours. I kept telling myself, I think I would be able to do better.

Upon hitting the 30KM distance marker (which mean I had completed 72KM with only 12KM to go) I was hoping to find a second wind. I was hoping for rain, to cool down, freshen up and run the fastest 12KM I had ever ran. No such luck… There was no ice cold sponge or bananas. Nothing. It was a twilight zone of nothingness and you come to a point where you know the only thing that will get you through this is yourself.

It’s you, overcoming you…

As we approach the final stretch along the airport again, I met new company. His name was Samuel Tay who had an amazing interesting story on why he decided to run an Ultra Marathon. Well, this story I will never forget. Running his first ever marathon only in Standard Chartered Singapore last year, he decided to run the Adidas Sundown Ultra-Marathon. Why?

“Well, I tried signing up for the Marathon category… but it was full. So I sign up for 84 km lo.”

I was… dumbfounded. He completed the race 1 second behind me. Not bad ei?

As we approached the finish line together, to the final turn where we could see the horizon starting to brighten up. The sensation was amazing… we did it! We beat the sunrise. We are officially… an ultraman, certified, medal-fied, and finisher t-shirt-fied. We gathered up all the strength we have left and ran slowly in the last 200m, just to ‘look good’ for the photographs. Just to look ‘macho’ a little for the video… the journey that lies behind, the pain, the joy, the torture and pleasure will forever be etched into our memories as we have now completed our first (and not last) ultra-marathon.

As my new found friend said post finish line “Let’s do this again next year…”

THANK YOU NOTE!

I would just like to express a formal thank you to all that had supported me in my quest to become an ultraman.

My wife who had to endure my long hours of training and midnight runs. My parents for their support and the ‘replenishing nutrition’ food. My in-laws for the encouragement and free accommodation in Singapore.

John, who had stood beside me and helped out in managing the business while I was in Singapore for the Ultra marathoner’s quest.

My friends, Kent and Lee Heong who came along for the trip to ‘watch me suffer’.

My running buddies, Daniel, Lee who had ran and trained with me on some of my training runs and the endless words of encouragement.

Mohan, for guiding me, showing me the joy of running without chasing a personal best timing, and also for picking up my race kit.

Freedie Sim, who ‘s Team Run2Eat provided me with refreshments when I needed.

Team Safra runners had provided me the elusive wet sponge that wasn’t provided by Hivelocity.

And to all other whom I may have missed out… thank you for making this possible.

Till next year at Sundown again!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Back Track) 14th March 2010 – The Bareno Run 2010: Take a little; Give a little

Now, I’ve always heard people saying this… Win Some, Lose Some. I’ve lately also heard another phrase, Take a little; Give a little.

Well, what does this have anything to do with running?

While there are plenty of us runners out there (including myself) who is trying to break a certain record, regardless of whether it is being a personal best, the most number or races, the most number of medals or maybe even the most number of marathons ran in a year (like a certain somebody I know in Singapore), it has very much been about what we have achieved? Yes?

I guess so, that was, until before I was ‘requested’ to volunteer for Bareno Run 2010

The Bareno Run 2010 : A race by Taman Bukit Jalil Running Club

I have Mr. Ronny Yong to thank for… yet again, for it was he who called me up one fine day asking if I would be free for the Bareno Run. I did hear about it before, a 15km run, and instantly I said… “Of course!”. What shocked me after was the fact that he wasn’t inviting me to participate in this race; he was asking if I was free to volunteer! Honestly, the action is out there on the road, isn’t it? At least it was what I’d felt. I would rather be out there running a race, than to be handing out the race ribbons, filling up water, cutting up watermelons, arranging safety cones and on and on and on.

YES! I would rather be participating in a race! Anyhow, instead of telling him that I would rather be running (anyway, I think he knows), I decided to volunteer instead. It was the first time that I’d volunteered for a race, what more it was a race that is targeting 3,000 participants. That was considered a reasonably sized race actually.

In my personal assessment, I think race sizes, at least within Malaysia are categorized as the following:-

Small Race 1,000 participants and below

Medium Race 1,001 – 3,000 participants

Large Race 3,001 – 10,000 participants

Mega Race 10,001 participants and above

I will however validate this assessment with my mentor and sifu, Mr. Wan Yew Leong at a later stage. He is, after all one of the pioneers and early President of Pacesetters Athletic Club Malaysia. Almost all runners I know seem to have high regards to his knowledge, passion and talent for race organization and management. I have no doubts either.

I must say, it was a good experience. One of which I will certainly do again (very soon, as a matter of fact). I invited a friend, John to volunteer too! He, being Mr. Nice Guy obliged. We soon went for our first volunteers’ meeting. I remember it well as it was a Sunday evening, the Sunday that John and I decided to do a day trip hiking up to Gunung Nuang, the highest peak in Selangor. It was a tiring day as we have been up since 3.30am and started hiking at around 4.30am – 5.00am. It was almost an 8 hour hike, up and down and we didn’t even manage to reach the peak as we feared that we wouldn’t be able to make in back in time for the meeting. (Yes! We were that committed… *yeah right!*)

When we finally reached down from the mountains, we were tired, hot, sweaty and oh, did I mentioned tired? We rushed home to get whatever rest we could and within an hour or so, we were out again heading towards Bukit Jalil Stadium. The day was a daze, as I was feeling groggy and sleepy from the early morning. Come evening, I could hardly open my eyes and was dying to crawl into my bed and just catch some Zzzz.

At the Stadium, amidst the yawns and sleeping postures that we’d assumed, John and I managed to dig into our spare battery and do a meet and greet session. We’d met several other runners who have also decided to volunteer for Bareno. I guess, we can’t be in every race right?

The meeting went on, and we were briefed by Hee Kin about our roles and responsibilities. I’ve been told before that I will be a timer, but even being a timer, as I’ve learned has many different responsibilities. There was the person who writes the time down, the person who holds the stop watch (ME!), the person who gives out the position numbers and so on. It was eye opening, but I was feeling exciting as I was assigned the job of timing the men 15km category. I guess, as it was the main distance of the event, it would be the most exciting thing to do seeing the winner cross the finish line and it was!

The day started early as we had to be there by 5am. When I woke up, the sky was still pitch black. Waited for John to reach my place and headed over to pick up Yoke Kuan, who had also volunteered for the race. We all reached there on time at 5am… phew!

Once there, the volunteers were served breakfast. It wasn’t anything lavish; some bread, hard boiled eggs and mineral water. We’ve each got our committee T-Shirts sponsored by New Balance. Pretty decent quality with several sponsor logos stuck on it. I downed whatever my half asleep stomach can handle and decided to call it breakfast! We then quickly moved into our positions for a quick last briefing of our jobs.

We helped out, with some manual labor: carrying cones, medals, and eventually positioned ourselves to start handing out ribbons. One the participants have done their warm up, they then headed our way to check-in for the race. It was still reasonably dark, but they made their way to the starting point. Which by then, John and I had positioned ourselves eager to press the Start button on our respective stop watches. For the first time, I was right ahead of the race, ahead of all the participants as I was the one who needed to release them for the race.

It was almost time; and I’d removed the barricade preventing the runners pushing forward. Some quick speech by the VIP and bang! Off they went!


Once the Start button has been activated, the stop watch was the most crucial item in the whole race as it determines the winner and loser, the record breaker and the guide for each participant. It was an important device, and I was responsible for it. Concerned that I may screw things up, I checked the stop watch every few minutes just to ensure that it continues to be working. We then hurried over to turn around the starting line to become the finishing point. As the fastest runner was estimated to come back within 50 minutes or so, we didn’t have much time. Fortunately, the volunteers were very cooperative in helping with the turnaround and it was completed in a matter of minutes.

Now, with that out of the picture, the race timers have now positioned themselves at the finishing line. Looking far ahead; eagerly awaiting any sign of the first winner coming back.

30 minutes…

40 minutes…

50 minutes… and Mr. Tang, one of the race officials shouted “Get Ready… the first one is just around the corner!”

52 minutes and 30 seconds: The first winner of the Bareno 15KM race appeared.

That was fast. Really fast, but unfortunately the special prize that was reserved for the record breaker of a sub-50 minute runner was not achieved. It was; a tough course after all. There were plenty of ups and downs. A rolling course, as some of the runners later described. The special prize, a home jacuzzi was then given out as a lucky draw instead.

The rest of the runners started to roll in one after another, scarcely at first and more cluttered in the later stage. And one by one, we timed, and gave them their positions. All sorts of expressions were on their race. Some dismayed, some overjoyed and some, frankly, a little hard to describe. Not sure if they felt constipated or was just too tortured by a 15km race.

We stayed till the very end, and I’m glad I did as I’d witness the determination of a XXXL sized chap who pulled it together and completed the race in almost 3 hours. It was sheer determination, and for that, I respect him. 110%!

To wrap things up, we helped with some quick packing, headed over for prize giving ceremony and met a few celebrity runners like Tan Wah Sing, our barefoot runner. It was all in all, a good day… and a good race.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

(Back Track) 3rd March 2010 – A Life Changing Decision

Early March, some opportunity presented itself which would allow me to alter my life completely.

It would be a decision I would have to make. It would be a bold and brave decision. It would also be a decision that will be full of risk with assured challenges and plenty of ups, downs, coupled with huge financial impact. Financially, it would impact me negatively, greatly, before it would become positive again, if it ever will… so what should I do?

It would determine if I will be changing my life from a role as an employee to becoming a future employer. Do I have the brains and guts to do it? More importantly, will I be able to sustain myself financially before the positive impact of this decision comes about?

Questions, questions, and more questions. Answers… I told myself, I needed answers. Who can I turn to? It is after all a question that I would have to answer on my own.

Will I fall or will I rise?

It was then decided, I’ve decided to leave the corporate world – one whom I’m so familiar with to venture into the great unknowns. I’d given tutorials on Linear Equations and thought student on how to find answers to the unknowns but this was a completely different context. There was no sure win formula to this… there is no surety to success, but I’d decided, to start a business of my own.

The plan will be revealed when the time is right… but for now, it will be kept locked safely in my head.

(Back Track) 27th February 2010 – The Toughest Race on Earth

Working through my stress and emotions for missing my first International Marathon of 2010, I’d somehow manage to pull myself together and contacted a dear friend from the Bukit Jalil Running Club.

Prior to signing up for the Koh Samui Marathon, I’d been asked if I was interested to join them in Langkawi to support the participants and to recce the route for Ironman. Now that I wasn’t able to be in Samui, I’d called Ronny Yong, a fun-filled 50 something year old gentleman whom I’ve met through one of my friends back in my college days.

“Hi Ronny!” I recall saying. “Something happened and I can’t go to Samui already…” I continued.

Before I could even finish, Ronny welcomed us with open arms and told us that we should then just join them for a quick getaway at Langkawi then.

Everything was arranged for us.

Food, accommodation, transport and even the itinerary of our travel! Amazing…

Day 1

Christ McDougall's Born to Run kept me busy during the long ferry transfer

You see, the ferry ride was long and bumpy, like a baby's cradle that rocked many to sleep...

We took a ferry over from Kuala Kedah and subsequently after arriving at the ferry terminal in Langkawi we took a taxi to rendezvous with the group for dinner. I was then introduced to more Bukit Jalil Running friends.

"Dinner was good..." From Left: Mang Sir, Ronny, Ronny's Wife, Suki and John

We met Mang Sir (his nick name), Suki, John, Loong and many others. They were all very interesting people. It was obvious they came from all walks of life but we all shared one single thing in common… we all love to run! At dinner, I started to notice that my feelings of despair and disappointment were starting to ease away. Though tired, with a very sore and blistered feet, the food and company was absolutely enjoyable.

Oh, the reason why I had super blistered covered feet was because I decided to run my heart out the night before – barefoot. I knew that would be the result of my stupidity but I thought, so what?

I was limping around Kuah town with the rest of the gang in my Vibram Five Fingers. Strangely enough, it felt better to be doing slow bouncy runs on my blistered feet as compared to walking. After dinner we took a drive down to a happening spot by the beach just for a quick walkabout and subsequently we just called it a night.

The plan was to get up early the next morning to be at the starting line of the Ironman to cheer on the participants!

Hardly any of us woke up in time for that…

Day 2

By the time we got up, it was almost 10am. Sleep was blissful, though my wife and I had to share a single sized bed. We got up, went out and had breakfast. We decided to do a little sight-seeing and along the way, we zoomed pass several Ironman participants who were already on the 2nd discipline of their race, cycling 180km. We honked at them and cheered, and the guys cheered even louder when they spotted pretty female participants! Hilarious!

Ronny and I at the Marina near Dr. M's bread shop

We then visited several tourist spots like Dr. Mahathir’s Bread Shop and the Langkawi Cable Car but it wasn’t very productive as there were just too many people. None of us managed to get onto the cable car ride; the queue was just too long!

Oh, we made a quick stop at The Andaman too!

We decided to rush back for a quick lunch as we wanted to be at the finishing line before the winner of the race got back. We’d estimated that he would be back within 8 hours or so, and with some quick mental calculations, we decided we should be at the finish line no later than 3pm.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom… we were back Dataran Lang where the finish line of the Toughest Race on Earth was.

Back at the finish line, while waiting for the Champion

A grueling feat covering a distance of 3.4km swim, 180km worth of cycling, and 42.195km on foot came to an end at 8 hours 22 minutes 31 second for the Champion! All these participants can almost reach Ipoh from KL!

The Champion : Marino Vanhoenacker

A couple of photographs, a snap here, there and we were off to see other participants who were just coming in for their transition. It was a sight to remember… the poor tortured souls were blatantly expressed on their faces. Some limping, some throwing up but there were also many that were giving the thumbs up and smiling positively as they continued their journey to greatness!

The 3 Kings of Ironman 2010 Malaysia

We left and headed back to our apartments, and as we got back – we realized that the final leg of the race, the marathon was 4 loops of 10km that passed right outside our temporary residence! Darn, we should’ve just stayed put at our condo and they would’ve just came to us!

Some of the participants running right in front of our condo

We stood around while some of us went up to freshen up. It was almost 5pm when we got back. I met familiar faces like Frank some of his friends. It felt good being so close to the race. We then drove out for dinner and had another feast. Over dinner, we were discussing over dinner on whether we can become pacers or mules for those runners who needed the extra push. We weren’t doing it for any reward or attention, but we felt that it would just be good if we could just do something nice! I cannot imagine going non-stop for 15 – 17 hours and not being able to complete the race. It would crush me, if I were the participants.

Photographing the Photographer : Frank Chong

So after dinner, John and I geared up and we picked runners whom we felt needed some additional motivation and ran with them.

“Do you need a pacer sir?” We asked. Some said no, some said sure! It was a night of running… as we helped about 5 people complete their race. We carried their water, talked to them to take their mind off the pain and we paced them to get a better time. As we ran, I recall how much I admire their spirit, determination and discipline. The race was only a small part of the commitment. It was the training that drains you… the hours and hours of repetition required. I know what it feels like; I am after all training for an Ultra Marathon so I kinda know what it feels like.

The race ended at 12.30am with the last participant coming in only a few minutes short of disqualification. How great a sense of achievement it must have felt for her…

It was then, I decided after doing my first ultra in May 2010.

Ironman 2011 will be my next goal.

20th March 2010 – A Series of Unfortunate Events...

Some of my loyal blog followers have asked me, why have I not updated anything for more than a month now despite the many events and runs that have happened in between?

Well, here are some answers…

Right after Chinese New Year, there has been a series of unfortunate events that has happened. Though I will not dwell into the events that have transpired, it did cause me to miss one of my few important scheduled Marathons which was suppose to be part of my overall training plan leading up to my first 84km Ultra Marathon.

This is the second time I’ve ever missed a race since I’d started my running career in April 2009. The first being the 12km Malakoff race in December 2009. I recall clearly the reason for missing the Malakoff race last December was because I was foolish enough to think I would be able to do a hike a day before up to Gunung Nuang and still be physically in-tact to run the tough 12km course the following day. Boy, was I proven wrong!

It did slap me back into reality, and it made me realize that I have a long way to go before being able to achieve optimum fitness.

I recall telling myself that I will never miss a race again, but somehow, a higher power once again wants to prove that life isn’t in my control. Now, I’ve missed the Inaugural Koh Samui International Marathon which was originally scheduled for Feb 28th. It was something that I had spent a fair amount of time preparing for, I recall the countless runs in the afternoon heat that I’d done to acclimate myself for the hot race in Samui but this time round; it wasn’t an act of stupidity or heroism that cause me to miss the race.

I remember feeling thoroughly disappointed, having to cancel my hotel booking, flight tickets and etc. In the process, I lost some money as well; being forfeited of the advance payments for some of the travel arrangements. A depressing event, topped up by another depressing event…

Finding a Silver Lining

I remember myself giving advice to friends and loved ones in the past about making the best out of an awful situation. This is what I would usually tell them in dire situations…

“If it’s raining outside, no amount of tears that you shed will make it sunny again… you can continue shedding tears because it’s raining, or choose to smile and appreciate God’s work!”

Well, it took me a while, but I choose to smile… I reviewed the whole situation and try to find a way to make the best out of it. Since I’m feeling down, I decided to try and cheer others up!

I’d decided to support and cheer on the 2010 Ironman Malaysia participants in Langkawi!