Monday, June 02, 2008

The Sundown 84km Ultra-Marathon

I was cajoled by well-meaning friends into signing up for the inaugural Sundown 84km Ultra-Marathon at the SCSM07 expo, and have never looked back since. Since the initial 100 places of the Ultra-Marathon have filled up within 2 days, the organizers have upped the limit to 175, and then to the final 310. This was the first ever night race in Singapore, and the first official nation-wide 84km Ultra-Marathon race. With so many firsts, I would definitely have to be a part of the excitement and aura. A group of us at SgRunners even laid down a comprehensive training and route familiarization plan. I have enjoyed the many months of training and get-together sessions in the run up to this event.

Pre Race

It rained just before DO and I were about to set off for Changi Beach Park. We staked out at Meridien Changi Hotel prior to the race. Visited the SgRunners' booth and met up with familiar faces, before proceeding to check in our needs bag. We were wondering about the large number of runners at that time, since we knew of only 300+ Ultra-Marathoners who were to start earlier. We later found out they were the 10kmx4 Corporate Team Challenge runners. Met my FIL while DO and I rested at the Massage Tent. Angela was there too to get a last-minute check on her recent fall.

The Race

The 10km corporate team challenge started off with the Ultra-Marathoners at 8.30pm. It was a large crowd, and we took a while to clear off. Our plan was to do a 25min run, 5 min walk routine, with DO being the lead and timer. kk and SealBoon joined us, with Brokie just behind. Alber and Eddie also formed a team to do their run/walk routine. The first part through Changi Coastal was as usual boring and mental....the street lamps were lit though. To conserve energy, we did not speak much. Once the Ultra-Marathoners turned off towards East Coast Park, it was a rather lonely journey. It was one long night ahead.

I was glad to finish the first loop of the East Coast Park, with the turn back from The Big Splash area. Once we got on to Bedok Town Park, there was a banana point and the much anticipated pit-stop set up by Tekko, Wend88, Ham, HophIng, Molly and their team of helpers. I had a lotus bun, topped with hot kopi-O. Nice. Brokie, kk and Raven soon came to join us in the shed. DO and I stayed for a short while, before moving off from that 27km mark. Just out from the shed, we saw SAFRA Alvin and Karen who were offering sandwiches...really impressed with their kind effort to support. We met Trainer Ong, Kumaran, Jaime and Melvin How who had come in the wee hours of the morning to support us...very touched.

We completed the first 42km in about 5hr7min without much fanfare. I took quite a long time in transition, wondering what to eat and change. I swapped my PI SynchroFLOAT2 for my new DS Trainer 13. Moving out for the next 42km was a real daunting task. I was tempted to walk often, and my calf cramps did not make things any easier. Saw just a few runners along the way, and most were already taking long walk breaks. I was hoping to just complete the 2nd marathon below 6hrs to make a sub-11hr target. Changi Coastal Road again....very mental. I was trading places with SealBoon and Alber mostly. DO and Prata were slightly ahead.

Going into the East Coast Park stretch for a second time was most wicked. I had Prata and DO for company mostly. Prata offered me a salt tablet when he found that I was going through cramp seizures. It was most unpleasant, as I even had cramps under my ribs and neck. To prevent any major eruptions, I walked a lot more in the second 42km. My mind was just focused on getting out from ECP and going to the Tekko aid station for a final time....that would mean I would be left with 15km. Along the way, many supporters showed up offering cheers and food. I was just too zoned out to acknowledge most of them...haiz.

After a long struggle, I finally made it to the SgRunners' aid station. The first thing I asked for was potato chips and coke. I was so famished, but yet could not stomach much. I was feeling so weak too with having to deal with the cramps. Sassy reminded me not to stay too long, and complete the final 15km. The tought of it then sent shivers down my spine. My legs ached so badly, and were calling out to me to spare them the agony. I still had about 2 hours to make the sub-11hr target.

Unfortunately, the cramps hit me real bad, and I was forced to walk the entire Bedok Reservoir sandy patch, as well as the Tampines Ave 9 stretch. Each time I try to start a slow jog, my calves threatened to seize up. I even had to look for a lampost and a tree to stretch...wah, something which I have not done before in any races. I felt the agonizing pain on my heels from walking, and I knew I had to do some running to alleviate the soreness...a real dilemma. When I finally got onto Tampines Ave 9, after what seemed to be a long long time, I was shocked to learn that I had covered only 3km....Shucks, another 12km to go.

Then the rains came, and I was soaked. I had overtaken the tail end of the 42km runners by then, and many of them took shelter. I pushed on, and started to run. The rain cooled my muscles a little and offered some relief. I managed to run a little and kept at it for as long as I could. Each time the cramps came, I stopped to walk. My wet thights caused me some abrasion at the groin area....arhghh, didn't need another negative at that point. My resolve was severely tested.

SealBoon was my companion for the final 10km. We traded places for a fair bit. After a long struggle, I finally got to Downtown East area, and was flabbergasted to learn that there was a good 7km left. After much snaking around the 42kmers, I was at the final stretch of the Loyang area with just 4km to go. I persisted to slow jog stretches at a time, with 1-2 quick walk breaks up the slopes. Finally it was just 1.5km to Changi Village. I kept a steady pace, and finished the gruelling 84km (many reported it was 86km or more) in 11hrs18min to the cheers of Bev, Passion. Prata, Alber and the other supporters.

I was so glad the painful ordeal was over. However, the finisher T, medal and towel made up for some of the pain...hehe. I joined the rest for the next few hours supporting all the runners coming in, especially the 84kmers. My FIL completed his maiden Ultra-Marathon with just 8min to spare. He was elated, and we were happy for him. It was not an easy race, especially for a man his age.

With Prata & Alber at the Finish Line...SealBoon just trotting in

It was a memorable race for me, what with Bev completing her maiden marathon and FILhis maiden Ultra-Marathon. Of course, completing with friends and kakis in the Ultra-Marathon, as well as getting support from friends from SAFRA RC, SgRunners, and cheering for all those Ultra-Marathoners added on to the great experience. I am glad I was part of this race, and I look forward to supporting it again in future, wether as a runner or a helper.

As I settle down to rest my weary body and sore legs, there are a couple of lessons I have learned. For one, I am not to sure if the walk breaks made me feel even more tired, and took a heavier toll than continuous running. Furthermore, I find that I am a slow walker as I lose most people during the walk breaks. I may attempt to take jog breaks instead of walk breaks for future Ultra-Marathons....that will be one thing to look at.

Race: Sundown Ultra-Marathon
Distance: 84km
Time: 11hr18min

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At 9:57 AM, Blogger roentgen said...

Congrats on successfully completing the SD ultramarathon! Admire your endurance ... :)

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Sling Runner said...

Dream - Well done & congrats !

At 10:26 PM, Blogger weishan said...

Amazing perseverance! :)

Time to give your tired legs & body a good rest! :)

ps: i can so understand the bit of trying to run/& keep your spirits up when feeling sick/unwell/cramps during the race... though i bet yours will be so much more sever than mine!

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Tey said...

wah..congrate..good timing !!!cheers


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