Tuesday, July 01, 2014

2014 Mid Year Review

Yes, half of 2014 has gone by. Just when you thought you were having loads of fun running here, there and everywhere else. I try as much to do a mid year review, predominantly as a reminder to myself how I've done, or have achieved or areas that requires further tuning or improvements.

In summary, I've well sort of cut down on shorter events and focused mainly on longer events, ie ultras. In contrast I've only completed 3 full marathon in the first half. In the years before, I would have done a dozen or close to that number. Having said that, the number of ultras for the first half have gone up quite a bit year on year. 4 last year (100km ultras mainly) compared to 9 for 2014 (mix of 100km road/trails and 100 miles). That said, trying to get back at speed for full marathons took a beating looking at the result of my 1st full marathon this year in Hatyai that returned a so so 4:38 timing. To which I did try to focus back on speed and was rewarded with a 3:57 timing in Melaka's International Marathon early June. See? Tough to juggle both paces or perhaps I was just looking for reasons.

Part of the collectibles for the 1st half of 2014. There should be more. Not sure if my cats played with them and left them somewhere in the litter bin.

Here's a quick list of the events for the 1st half of the year by chronological order.
No Race Name Date City Country Finish Time Distance
12 Salomon MR25 X-Country Marathon 06/22/14 Singapore SGP 04:52:00 Marathon
11 Melaka International Marathon 06/08/14 Melaka MYS 03:57:36 Marathon
10 Hatyai Marathon 05/25/14 Hatyai THA 04:38:16 Marathon
9 TNF100 Australia 05/17/14 Sydney AUS 16:49:47 100 km
8 TNF100 Philippines 05/03/14 Baguio PHL 24:32:30 100 km
7 Ultra Trail Mount Fuji UTMF 04/25/14 Tokyo JPN 42:41:09 168 km
6 Twilight Ultra 03/30/14 Singapore SGP 14:38:01 100 km
5 Translantau 100 03/15/14 Hong Kong HKG 28:48:28 100 km
4 TNF100 Thailand 02/08/14 Khao Yai THA 14:40:44 100 km
3 H1 Hardcore Cebu 100 miles 01/31/14 Bogo PHL 25:47:00 100 mi
2 Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra 01/18/14 Hong Kong HKG 17:54:51 100 km
1 Watergate 16 Hour 01/05/14 Kuala Lumpur MYS 14:10:00 100 km
  • Total of 12 events. 3 full marathons, 7 100km ultra, 1 100mile ultra and 1 168km ultra
  • Furthest distance being 168km UTMF in April. A first for me for such a distance on trail
  • Best achievement would be improvements in my Vibram100, slashing 2 hours from last year and grabbing another silver trophy with a time of 17:54. Still plenty to work on if I want that gold trophy next year
  • Best back to back succession, 3 in 4 weeks. UTMF 168km, the following week TNF100 Philippines and 2 weeks later TNF100 Australia. Bloody tough is all I can say but with the proper recovery, not truly impossible. TNF100 Philippines was more of a revenge for me since I DNF-ed in 2013 so it was something I had to absolutely cross off this year!
  • 2 DNF. Yes, I am human too. The hard to crack H1 Ultra 100 miles which I could only manage to 100km and the recent Ocho Ocho 220km which I managed to get up to 200km. That said I am still happy to overcome the 160km limit and go past 200km for once. Not the last for me attempting bigger distances.
  • A total of 1,154km just for the 12 events above excluding those that I've DNF-ed or the shorter events in between which I've not mentioned.
I am forever grateful I finished the above relatively injury free. Well some small ones here and there but nothing to big to manage that some rest and ice can't fix. In between I did do a century ride which I loved and will be doing a few more as the months go by. 

What's the highlight so far? Has to be UTMF and the recent Ocho Ocho 220 ultra. Learnt so much from both. Physicality is one thing but I'd figured the mentality to uphold sanity is more crucial after being on the road for over 40 hours. Like I've said before, I'm still learning myself. Not something you'd get from books solely or from theories. It's when you 'walk' it yourself, you'd understand better. No substitute unfortunately.

I am pleased thus far. Some hits. Some falls. But hey, that's part and parcel of life. Here's looking for more new adventures for the 2nd half of 2014. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Beyond 100 miles - Ocho Ocho 220 (OO220)

One doesn't stop challenging themselves. Something I believed in. The more complacent one is, the lesser you'd move forward (or try for that matter). Trying in itself to me is a form of challenge already. Maybe you'll conquer it on your first try. Then again maybe not. But the act of trying itself dictates so much in oneself, and I found out with this road ultra in the Philippines.

Say hello to Ocho Ocho 220. Ocho in Spanish simply means the number 8. Double Ocho Ocho just means 2 loops that forms the figure 8. 220 means ... well 220km (give and take). Fortunately it wasn't 220 miles!

The upper loop with green arrows will be the 1st look, back to the starting point being the Baguio Municipal Hall and then make the 2nd loop denoted by the orange arrows. Give and take, each loop will be about 110km or so. More on the distance later.

I am fortunate to be able to 'sample' such distances within this region. Something rarely heard of and not many race directors would want to go the 'extreme mileage'. Then again I do know Singapore has begun to remove the limit of 100 miles and gone 200km already! I've done the Craze Ultra (facebook link here), twice. Once in 2012 and another 2013. I can safely tell you that running in hot and humid countries like Singapore or Malaysia ain't an easy feat. The sun is already a big factor dragging you down when you accumulate the distance. And running in the sunlight for 2 days well ... is unthinkable! :)

For a start, there weren't any elevation profile given by the Race Director. Perhaps since this is the first inaugural time this is being held in Baguio. Baguio for those uninitiated, is perched up high at around 1,500masl (metres above sea level). Something like Genting Highlands that we have here in Malaysia. Nice and cooling throughout but since winter has long passed, the day time can get a bit too warm for my liking.

I'm a data geek in my ultra events. And yes, it does pay to do a bit of homework to understand what you'd be facing and hopefully, that would make you wise in the preparation of both mileage, inclines, gears and even hydration and nutrition needs. After all, 48 hours in this single stage race .... is a bloody long time! I tried to plot the route in MapMyRun using just the route graphics above. Not that hard really since it's purely done on the Philippines highway and few turns. I expected some elevation but having approximately 5,200m of elevation gain over 220km is ... quite insane! Worse still the elevation ascend/descend comes in 1 big chunk and not progressively. That involves from the start, going down about 30km from 1,500masl down to sea level! Mind you it's not all downhill but included some elevation upwards to tackle ok. Then flat for about 50km and then make your way up Baguio again (for about 30km) to complete the 1st loop for about 110km. Repeat again for the 2nd loop (slightly different from the 1st) and voila! Finished. So I thought.

There we have it! 12 brave (or crazy depending which way you look at it!) stood in front of the Baguio Municipal City Hall on a Friday, June 13 2014, 5am, in the drizzling rain. No, those specks are not snow but secretly I wished it was. I think it was a cool 18C or so. Not overly cold, just nice to kick things off. Those 12 are accomplished ultra runners with many completion under their belts. We do have a lone female though (hey what happened to the rest?) from Singapore, Kelly Lim which I'd want to give mention for braving this ultra! Writer being the one in blue on the right side with that inverted L lightsaber.

The Race Director, Jonel Mendoza (crazy fella but most loved for coming up with insane distances), gave a quick briefing on the water stations. This is generally a self supported race. Don't expect water stations and goodies every 10km or so, cause there are none. There were only 3 water stations and checkpoints in the 1st loop spread out over 110km. The rest is up to you. Have a support crew if you will. Else like me, loving the tough difficult ways decided to just hack it! Yes do or die, kamikaze assault if you like!

I've done similar self supported ultras before, the last being H1 Cebu Road Ultra 100 miles generally self supported. Most about everyone had a support crew except I think 3 or 4 of us. But I'd have to say the other support crews were generous, kind and every supporting the lone us. More than happy to extend what they have in their vehicle to us, from drinks to food to massages (kidding!). I wasn't that afraid of the day time. Plenty of sari sari (local small sundry shops in hut style) littered around the whole route and where you can get drinks (coke, water, mountain dew and some small bits of food). Once in a while when you get into the bigger towns, even 7-Eleven can be had (and the aircond!).

The rain wasn't the hard kind. In fact, I loved it. Small little drizzle which can get your top wet but not your shoes or socks. At 5am, after Jonel said a prayer for the safety of everyone, we were let off. Daylight will break in an hour or so but it was still headlamps out. Immediately, the faster few went off into the dead of the night. I was generally in the mid or back group with another few. I needed half an hour before I was fully awake and digested that I am in a 220km ultra. Then only would my engines fire up.

The pictures I stole here are not mine. Credits to those who snapped these. Either the support crew or volunteers! This was that long 'tunne' which we ran through. I noticed this during the bus ride to Baguio each time and was fascinated to run through it! The eerie echo sound it made from the engine roar was a bit spooky, specially the 2nd loop when i had to traverse this in the dark.

So the few of us was in a little group. Sometimes they in front, sometimes I was. Anyway it was downhill and occasionally some bits of steep uphill. The thing I didn't like was the diesel smoke from the trucks and buses which was ok for a while but unbearable as time ticked away. And yes, I had to make a pit stop in some bushes. No guessing what I had to do next but I was good to go next. It was Bryan from Malaysia that I tagged at the back after my break, all the way to the 1st pit stop.

A surprise water station at Pugo/Tubao junction was there around km 34 after we were done with the downhill. It was still drizzling as you can see I have my waterproof jacket on. Not too heavy at all. Refueled and off I went again. Still far far ahead to conquer.

This was the 2nd checkpoint/water station called Agoo at km 49. That eagle reminded me on Langkawi as we have a similar eagle there too. It was big! After this water station, a right turn towards Caba. Now, were at sea level. The rain stopped here. And I could feel the humidity even though it was somewhat cloudy! And sweat I did! Buckets! One funny incident happened here. I think the locals were bewildered by us runners. Granted there were not many of us but you can't miss us with the big bib in front and running around like a mad man! The aunty was selling Dragon fruits along this stretch. You could see many small stalls selling dragon fruits and others, such as mangoes. As I passed here, I smiled and said hi. She smiled back, greeted me and thrust a Dragon fruit in front of me. Heh, I stopped abruptly looking shell shocked. She said, 'take it, it's free for you. You're a runner right and you're no 4 now!'. I could only grin ear to ear hearing that. Not because I was number 4, but the warmth of the locals there.

I said thank you as I didn't want the prospect of getting my hands blood/purplish red peeling them. Well unless she peeled it for me lol. The rest of the route to Buang was flat, humid. I was running on the right side of the road, since Philippines is a right hand drive country, and therefore i was facing oncoming traffic. Cement pavements were there. Now it's tough to run on something so hard. More over trying that over 200km! Sometimes none in the more rural places. In place were gravel and big rocks, sometimes grass. The grass and small gravel were no issue were fine with me. Those with bigger rocks was my concern in the 2nd loop. More later.

Then I kinda got bored. It's been over 12 hours on my feet. Nothing to appeasing with the scenery and decided to do selfies to keep me sane. So from time to time, I whipped out my handphone and shot some selfies. Wicked, I know.

Some where heading to Buang after crossing a long bridge and just before reaching the last check point of this 1st loop. What was going through my head? Don't you wanna know!

Buang! Km 72! It was getting to 5 or 6pm I think. The Bawinas (Tom and Gay) husband and wife tag team were here, graciously manning the last 2 water stations round the clock till the past runner had gone by. Thank you and good to meet you again after H1 Ultra trail in February! Then it started to drizzle yet again. But I found it refreshing with the drizzle. Didn't cause me to have wet shoes or socks.

The last 50km was generally going up hill already. The long long climb back to Baguio where we started. And we climbed non stop. It could only make you or break you. Mental toughness is where I summoned from my past experience. To make it easier, I just break it to each 5km. And each 5km done, I will sit by the roadside for a couple of mins to drink, eat or just have a breather. It was already dark. The Naguilian Road was endless in the dark. I haven't eaten anything solid in the last 15 hours and I was hungry. There were a trucker lay by somewhere there where i see many truckers parked, and eating. So I decided that I wanted rice. Something warm, The lady was very nice. I just pointed to the rice. Then I said anything that has meat on it. Vege or anything warm or soupy. I was served some rice (not too much), grilled pork I think and some vegy soupy combo that looked like chop suey.

Who cares. I had hot coffee too and that was heaven warming up stomach. The 2 truckers next to me joined in the conversation of what/why/how I am running. When I told them the 1st 110km loop, they looked crazy shit at me. And then I had to mention the 2nd loop of 110km and they just shook their heads, looking bewildered. The lady said I was 4th still. I had a good 30mins break and with that I peeled my ass from the comfy seat and head on. Another 30km or so and I'm done with the 1st loop.

When we started, there were many support cars that zoom past me and waited for their respective runners. Something like drive 5km ahead and wait. Repeat until ... you're done. I see them a lot in the 1st 50km and by now I see none. Perhaps they were all lagging behind. Don't know but it was a lonely lonely last 30km. Not before I suddenly bumped into Marcello who was supposedly be with the top few. He is a fast runner winning many ultras but I guess it wasn't his day. I could make out he was hurting inching his way up the remainder of the inclines. It seemed he had very bad chaffing and diarrhea. And that is a lethal combination in any ultras. I tried to urge him to fast walk with me up the inclines but lost him after a km or two. Sigh.

Then May, support crew for Robert swung by. Heh, I was delighted but a real presence haha. You can tell I was disillusioned by now. Seeing things which may or may not be there. The occasional bus or truck swings by  and the exhaust smoke were killing me! At times I resorted to running on the right side as there were no pavement on the left. Then back to left and then right. Safety first I told myself. I had a blinker on my back and headlamps in front.

You can almost hear me jumping for joy when I am finally made it back to civilization! The bright lights! The sounds of pubs/discos and whatever nots making music or sounds! And yeah more exhaust fumes lol. Then I saw the most delicious thing ever in my life! A life saver! The thing I most long for in any ultra!

 Yes 7 Eleven! You just can't imagine how glad I was seeing this! The aircond! The cold drinks! I sat there for half an hour I think pondering what can I do with the remaining 110km or so. Everything was on a all time low and it does work if you take some time out and regroup. So I had a delicious pack of milk chocolate (called Moo there what else lol) which I might add has loads of protein to begin muscle repair. Also a cold cold cold Gatorade which I downed like a madman in a single go.

Then I had to peel myself off the comfy seat and continued on. I think it was a good few km before I got back to the Baguio Municipal Hall, and man that certainly boosted my ego for a bit! I was exhausted and seeing Jonel, his wife, and good old Nick Pasiken eased some of the worries away. Had some soup, some drinks and told them I just wanted to snooze for a bit. I was wrecked. It was just before midnight I arrived there. Meaning I took around 19 to 20 hours completing 120km (that was on my Garmin Oregon 650). Dang, had extras I thought. Ah well then I guess the next loop should be less than 110km so I thought ... hmmm....

Watched showed 12.15am. Was in 3rd. Robert arrived earlier. 1st was Wilniar and I think by the time I arrived, he had already gone off for his 2nd loop. Didn't care. Needed sleep. Told Nick to wake me up at 1am. 45mins of siesta should be good to energize I thought. Then I was dead. As a log.

Nick took this. I was dead on that bench for 45mins. Thanks to Jonel for the emergency blanket. After all, we were back up high at 1,500masl and the winds got a bit chilly.

Soon 45mins were up and awoken by Nick. I got up in a daze. Where am I? No, not my comfy warm bed unfortunately. Took me a while to realise that I have another 110km or so to complete sigh. Went to pee, washed my face. So far my plan was going ok, hydration and nutrition wise. Felt I could go on. If not running most of the time, a walk/run plan was on my mind. I had some food, filled my bottles and off i went close to 1.30am. Ahem... Robert was still snoozing haha. But I thought he'd catch on soon. I was told Wilnar was already 30km ahead near the eagle statue station. I thought oh well, he's doing well.

Thanks to Jonel for getting Nick and his pal as my unofficial 'support crew'. They had to get to Agoo water station but it was still early as not many have begun the 2nd loop. So they went ahead every few km and waited for me. It was dark. The downhill highway was rather lonely at 2/3am. The occasional bus coming up or trucks liven things up. Then I remembered, creap the dreaded exhaust fumes yet again. I did what I could with my Vibram bandana, cupped to me nose. Did help although it was drenched with my smelly sweat. I felt ok. Where I could, I just jogged downhill, letting gravity do the work. Legs were working ok, perhaps a bit tight every now and then on my quads.

So every 5km or so, I will meet Nick and partner. Refilled where I could and soon daylight broke as I reached sea level. Then at 8am, the sun came out. No rain whatever but it was so scorching hot it stings. I was reduced to walking and the occasional hiding at the littered bus stops, catching my breathe and reducing my heart rate that shot up to max easily in the heat. There weren't much shading to be had and it was a matter of gritting my teeth and moving step by step. After like 3 hours of hot sweltering heat, it turned cloudy. And yes, it poured thereafter. Heavily I might add drenching my socks and shoes.

I finally reached Agoo water station (the last one I might add), before making a left turn towards Santo Thomas. It was pouring cats and dogs. Thank god for the heavenly Red Horse, alcohol laden beer and sweet juicy mangoes! Who said beer is bad for you in an ultra? I was still 2nd and Robert I presume wasn't too far behind. Later I heard he wasn't that a happy chappy realising I sneaked off first lol. 49km in a about 9 hours for the 2nd loop. Not the best but I shall not complain with the heat and rain. So long I can still move without much issue, I am fine with it.

The left turn went through through a small town. Not sure if that was Agoo town, didn't quite cared. But it was way way busy. Pavements, be it concrete or rock/gravel were sometimes non existent. Flooded even but I didn't care anymore. Would just walk/run through it. Sometimes the cars/buses/trucks will splash them up all over me. Thanks. Shower I needed much but it didn't bothered me. But here's where my problem began.

I decided not to change my top or socks after the 1st loop. No blisters or chaffing that time (I was too lazy t change really). Socks were dry and so were my shoes. But now, it sang a different story. It was drenched wet. When large amounts of moisture meets your shoes and socks, hell breaks loose! Socks were soggy. Shoes were soft, specially the soles as it was wet and didn't offer much cushioning in the wet. I was wearing my Brooks PureDrift. Not a lot cushioning which works out well for marathons. With the absence of concrete pavements, and not replaced with grave/rocky pavements, my soles were being tortured way too much. Poke. Poke. Poke. Part of my mind closed off the pain. Rubbing of the balls of my feet clad in squishy socks and the soles of the my shoes weren't helping. Soon I was developing lots of hot spots on my forefoot.

Rosario. The last small town before the ascend to McKennon road begin. McKennon I think was like 40km of inclines to be had, and all uphill. Some were steep. Worse that the climb back to Baguio in the 1st loop. That picture was to appease myself but I know my soles were hurting lots. Coming up to Rosario there were a steep hill, and the rain was like a big flood flowing down the hilly road. I find that it was a bit dangerous here as they pavements were already flooded and vehicles tend to be a bit too fast. Not much safety net to run on the pavement, so i had to switch to the right, to the left, many times. And only the rocky gravels as pavements.

Into McKennon road was already getting dark. It was getting a bit cooler now with the ascend. The MNR/McKennon turn was a bit confusing for me. Thanks to the map and loading the whole route on my Oregon 650 helped me. The last thing I wanted know was to get lost with 50km more to go. McKennon road was a tolled road. At the start vehicles had to pay toll to use it. And I thought there were no tolled roads in the Philippines lol. It was single lanes both sides. Sometimes with concrete pavements, sometimes no. Since it was uphill and downhill, vehicles came fast and furious specially the opposite ones. Scary. Took out my headlamps and blinker at the back and walked gingerly.

Man, it was a long long uphill at McKennon. Somewhere halfway I saw that hanging bridge! The same hanging bridge and CP5 in the recent TNF100 Philippines! Awesome I thought. But luckily I didn't have to traverse the bridge at night! My soles hurt badly now since the last 20km. I think if I had clean dry socks, that might help reduce the hotspots. Or even dry shoes to change. That's the hindsight I guess for not having a support crew. I cursed myself lots but on the other hand, I slapped myself silly and told myself to suck it up and move on!

I wished Robert would overtake me at some point. The climb into darkness was starting to play plenty tricks on me. This was coming to 40 hours on the road with just 45mins of sleep. As I glanced on my Oregon 650 it showed 200km! A bit of joy since i've breached the further of 100miles thus far. So I thought another 20km and I shall be done with. As the distance dragged by, my lower back was getting so sore. That's the problem I have with too much walking over extended periods. My quads and calf were very tight. Every now and then a couple of stretches helped. From Camp 1 at McKennon road I was supposed to make it to Camp 7 and back to civilisation. It never came. When I saw a flurry of lights ahead, my heart jumped with joy thinking it's civilisation. But with every twist and turn of McKennon road, it wasn't. I was dismayed and felt broken.

It goes round and round and round uphill. Someone mentioned Lion's head before the race. What lion head? I don't see anything resembling that at all or perhaps it was just too dark, I quipped. The elevation kept going up at some point reaching 900masl. Dang, to get to 1,500masl means a long lony to go. I finally reached the 2nd toll.Crap. It read 220km on my gps. Looked at the gps route, there's a good 15km to 18km or so of uphill to go. Calculated quickly and that would take me another 3 hours or so gingerly walking up the remainder. It was like 11pm and I was broken. The soles took the last beating. Every new poke got me ouching and ouching deep inside. My back sored like hell. My legs muscles were extremely tight.

I lay there at the toll gates for over 15 mins in case Robert would show up or May. None. It was close to midnight. I asked the locals and I was right. It was still far from town, another 15 to 20km and all uphill and that steep pass to the Lion's head. Part of me wanted to go on despite the agony. Part of me said, that's it. I came here to overcome 200km and I did just that. Yeah, I didn't finish so I'm still wondering till today, what's it like to finish the remainder distance? Don't know. Can't tell. Apart of me felt accomplished but yet a small part of me keeps on wondering ....

I took a cab back there to the Baguio Municipal Hall and man, was the ride really steep uphill. A km or two ahead, the nice lady and her husband (the driver) chatted with me. Again the horror story of running 220km got them bewildered and intrigued. She said she worked in Malaysia for many years ago and speaks good english and even a splatter of Malay. Then she opened her mouth and said ... the 1st runner came by 2 hours ago. I was stunned. Wilnar should be home and dry by now with a champagne in hand celebration. a few km from the last tool gate, she pointed out to Wilnar and his support crew as we passed them. I was surprised really and glanced to my right. There was Wilnar, his expression showed lots of pain and agony as his made the steep ascend to the Lions Head, assisted with a push on his back by his crew. I could only watch in tears thinking would I face the same should I have continued ..... (?). But well done to Wilnar for not throwing in the towel despite the difficulties. That is what Ultras are all about really. What pain?

I got back to the municipal hall and made my way up with long steps with a smile on my face. I was beaten but I was happy I managed to breach the furthest I've gone so far in a single stage event, unassisted. Whether I stopped at 200km or 220km, it didn't matter so long I've breached the 200 numbers. Jonel, wife and Nick greeted me as I told them what happened. The insane Jonel even wanted to ferry me back to the last toll gate and continue hehe. But I declined cause I'm done for today. I know they were disappointed and I can't say I wasn't at all. There's a lot to take away from this experience with the DNF. There I said it! So that I could rework these shortcomings and ensure it doesn't happen again with such distances. Events are aplenty. There's only 1 of you. Remember that. We are in these for the long haul.

Many thanks to the city of Baguio. I have seen pretty much the whole of Baguio on foot. Ran up and down the highway where the buses to Baguio ply. Had the rain. Had the sun. Had the sweet juicy mangoes. St. Miguel and maybe next time Nick, Red Horse too! Thanks to Jonel, wife and their crew for making such an event possible. How else can I ever attempt an ultra above 200km? Out of 12 brave, 7 finished triumphantly and 2 finished without assistance. It's tough I know. Been there too. Also to all the volunteers, the Bawinas, and many others that I didn't have the privilege to thank individually. You know who you are and also the many pictures by all the photographers which I stole!

Salamat and we shall meet again in another time and event!

More information of the ultra and results found here and well done to all finishers, you have my utmost respect! As for me, so close yet so far! :)

From the left, the author, OO220 Race Director Jonel Mendoza, Wilnar the winner and fellow countrymen, Bryan Kho. Needless to say we rocked Baguio for 40 over hours!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Melaka River International Marathon (MRIM) 2014

What can I say but I am a happy man today! Things went well despite some shortcoming in the initial stage. At the very end happy days for me indeed.

Let's talk about this Melaka International Marathon first ya. Race kit collection was ok. No dramas there. Move on to race day, we were eagerly waiting for the gun to go off. A quick glance at the back showed perhaps 300 participants. Not that great really.

Supposed to start at 4 am but we waited. And waited. Crowd started to get anxious and some boos aiyo. 17 mins later after some lengthy explanation of what to do and look out for the full marathoners,  we were kinda reluctantly left off! Bang went the gun and off we went into the night.

I didn't quite like the initial 5km in town. We went through back alleys. Under some bridge thingy.  Corner here. Corner there. Confusing really. And the high humidity and lack of wind was torture to us. Reminded me of Hatyai Marathon and perhaps a tad worse off.

So hot and humid it was. I sweat buckets. Not good. Let alone water stations are like 5km apart. So going through town in the dark I finally got to the 1st water Station. Sigh. They were giving out 500ml bottles. Bad. Very bad. Many took 2 mouthful and threw it away. Next to it was 100 plus served in the tiniest plastic cup like those you take for cough medicine. Best off all they filled it only 1 cm high. Double sigh. Water station need improving heaps. Worse still no ice. Everything was room temperature. That goes for all subsequent water stations. Ice too expensive?  Given the high humidity and heat, ice is required seriously.

I felt it was very difficult running in the high humidity. A case of seriously throwing in the towel. But I just pushed on gingerly. Any higher pace left me gasping for air and a heart beat that played to the samba beat. I know this will be a tough 42km. I just told myself to just take it easy as I've not trained much for full marathons lately.

The other big issue was the roads being shared with vehicles. No cones were lining the sides if the road for us to run. So so many times vehicles zoomed so close to me when all I had was a 3 foot width path to run on my left. I was terrified for my safety when 7 am broke and the number of vehicles raised exponentially.

By the time I got to 21km, I felt so torn with the heat and humidity.  Sun was coming up too. Not going to help. I trudged on. At some water stations they had sponges but with warm water. Duh. Used the drinking water or whatever water to douse my head. I rarely do this but was required to cool my engine which overheated all the time

From here on I latched on to familiar places but at times I had the sudden surge and urge to pace higher and left them behind. It was a lonely run sometimes. No one in front. And no one at the back. I could spot sometimes a runner far in front. I used again what I have grim my ultras to urge on. Everything threatened to shut down by 30km and I've already began breathing or rather gasping for air with my mouth a long while back.

But I won't back out. At the current pace there's a tingling chance to sub4. Do I want it? Hell yeah. Haven't tasted sub4 for a long while now and this being my 2nd full marathon this year and my 80th marathon. So why not cross no 80 with a big bang? With that motivation in place I pressed on. Digging very deep for the last 10km. Watch showed 2 hours 45mins. Plausible. If only I can keep the last 10km to a 6 minutes pace or below. Dig yimster I told myself.

In the last 15km I overtook around 5 to 6 runners.  Evident from their faces exhaustion,  heat and humidity taking its toll on them. No exception for me too. I swear the last 5km was forever. I thought I started to see bling bling stars already trying to keep that pace to sub4. More water baths that helped and it was a relief indeed.

Last 2km came. Happy hour time. My own term really cause I know the end is near. 1 more km read the marker. That was the longest 1km. You can see dataran pahlawan but need to detour left up a hill and a right down to the field in front of dataran pahlawan. I didn't have much in me already and just pushed on with all my might crossing the finishing gantry.

Oh joy! Done. Finished. Not before I was handed a no 10 card! Ironically I managed to snag 10th placing in my men veteran category! Heh how lucky can I be! Thereafter made a bee line to collect my finisher medal tee. A bone to pick here abs there were no signs telling us where to get that nor were there staffs at the there he finishing line telling us. It would be much easier to just hand them goodies art the finishing line itself me thinks.

My unofficial timing is 3:57:43 phew. In the nick of time! Gps read 42.47km which is acceptable. Am elated to get back to the sub4 club and the 10th placing is is a blessing in disguise. For that I earned myself RM250! Now let's go eat Melaka up!

Not a perfect marathon. Not the worse either. Many areas to improve and I heard certain stations ran out of water for the slower runners. Not good at all. I do hope they will take in the comments constructively and improve on next year. It'll be a shame if it's only happening once and only once.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Before & After. The Fairytale So Far

Yes that is both me. The one on the left was taken in June 2009. It was my 1st official 10km event in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon. I wore a XL vest back then. Completed that 10km in a ultra slow 1 hour 40mins. Sigh.

And then fast forward 5 years later, I am more thank capable of doing a 50 mins for a 10km. This post isn't really about showing off what I've accomplished so far but to let you know that if you put your heart and mind to it, impossible is nothing.

Now I am down to size S. Shrunken but happier. From a mere 10km to ultras of a 100 miler. That's what I have achieved bit by bit thus far. The journey has just begun really. So keep at it no matter how much or how long. Results will show at the end of the rainbow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Malaysia's Own Road Ultra

Bored of running the usual full marathon? Or perhaps finding a 100km ultra marathon not good of a challenge for you? Well fret not! Here's an event that could perhaps get you into the mood for new challenges. Similar to the path that I've taken, once you get onto the ultra bandwagon, you just want to go further ... and further. Where it stops? You tell me in the end.

Such ultra adventures are hard to come by and the friendly folks at Pacat Adventure Team have taken the time and effort, to plan one just for you. From my experience, it's an easier transition from the usual full marathons into an ultra by means of a road ultra. I would definitely not encourage you to jump onto the trail ultras yet. Those are a different beast on its own. Tougher. Longer hours on the run. And lots of elevation to challenge too.

Here's why I would recommend a road ultra and not a trail ultra for beginners. Note that the term beginners here are those who have frequent the full marathon arena and would like a longer and tougher challenge now.

1. Get used to the longer distances. This is what endurance is all about. Longer distances. Longer hours to complete.

2. Keep it simple for a start. Work on the longer distances and hours and remove the elevation gain/loss for the moment. They can come much later when you're on a comfy level with road ultras. Remember, keep it simple. Don't toss in all the ingredients at a go and make it a 'rojak' (a mix of everything and anything). That's akin to taking things a step at a time.

3. There's heat involved as you'd be running day and night. Typically within a 24 to 30 hours time frame. So attention must be paid at training with heat. Which simply means you must be able to run in the heat. For hours at times.

4. The experience would also teach you about hydration and nutrition needs over those long hours. You can take it as a test bed what can or can't work for you with those 2 important criterias. But do experiment also during your very long runs and/or simulation. Nothing new should be tried and tested on race day ya!

You can head over to the Pacat Adventure Team website here and look at their available events. I've participated in some of their events before, typically for my own training too and am pleased to say they have covered all grounds needed for a ultra. Form aid stations, to hydration, to markers, to safety aspects. And why not right since they themselves are runners and runners think and act along the same lines when planning for an ultra. That's a given!

Watergate16 was the event I entered in January. Simple format of running as much as you can in a time of 16 hours and in a 5km loop. And recently I participated in their King of Bukit Larut road race that involved running up .. Bukit Larut in Taiping of course! Had loads of fun with that one, specially with the runners and the organising team which did a very good job indeed. Take it from me as I've completed over 30+ ultras to date and 40+ marathons. I've experienced some of the best as well some of the mediocre ones too.

The upcoming ultra event in November 2014 is aptly named Putrajaya 100 Ultramarathon. Details found at this link.

Here's a snippet of what's on offer. You can try your hands at distances of 52km all the way too a 100 miles. This way you can decide what's the most optimum distance you'd like to give it a go, so to speak. And since it's a controlled environment with the route, aid stations and marshalls, it's highly unlikely you'd be lost or without the necessary aid when time comes.

So please do head on to their official website for further details of each race category and the mechanics for this ultra. And should you have questions, please leave a comment here and I'd help sort you out based on my expertise and experience in ultras. But here's a caution, please do take an ultra lightly as there's much preparation that's required before hand for you to do well ya. After all, nothing comes easy in life!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Lure of The Blue Mountains - TNF100 Australia

No, fret not. I've not forgotten about Part 3 of UTMF heh. Still fresh in my mind and will be for a very long time. Takes a back seat for now ya but rest assured it will come out in full details soon. Let's just try to keep the suspense up shall we!

So let's talk about Australia shall we? I've not run much in Australia before, just one in last year's Great North Walk 100 miler which I DNF by the way. It was my 1st 100 miler ultra and boy did I get a good taste of the Australia harsh hot sun and cold. Anyway, that's another story for some other time ya.

Blue Mountains in the far yonder as seen from my hostel room early in the morning. It's a sight that photos do not do justice at all.

TNF100 is a part of the the TNF100 series in asia pacific. An event that I've been eyeing for the last 2 years and decided I shall attempt it this year. Word has it that this was supposed to be one of the tougher ones in the TNF100 series and I was about to find out. 100km, 4,100m D+ elevation gain and a lower than usual 28 hours cut off time. You can head on to this official site for the low downs of this event. I know that it will get rather cold in the higher ranges as winter was about to set in Australia. Therefore, the list of mandatory items were by far the most I've seen in any ultra event!

I got into Sydney early morning Thursday via cheapo budget air line Air Asia. If you plan things way in advance like I do, you can secure rather decent priced tickets. Life for me, I've decided for this event like the year before and bought my tickets (not on sale or discounts either) 6 months ahead of time. For that my ticket came to RM982, with baggage 20kg both ways, double meals both ways. Not too bad really. Again, I would advise to get in as early as possible, at least a day in advance to rest sufficiently after a 8 hour flight, which can be rather tiring.

Enroute from the international airport to Sydney Central Station

From Sydney's International airport, just take the airport rail link to the Central train station in like 20 mins only. Quick and easy. From there you can purchase a railway ticket to Katoomba station where Blue Mountains is. To save you time, you could also purchase a railway ticket at the airport to Katoomba station. Slightly cheaper but you would still need to change/transit at the Central station for intercity lines. I decided I would alight at Central station for a bit of walk around and to do my mandatory items check (more later on this).

Snapshot of the long list of mandatory items for this TNF100 Australia taken from the race kit collection place.

The above will give you an indication how extensive the mandatory items were! And they kid you not. You will be warned of time penalties should you be missing any of them through 3 secret spot checks along the 100km route. Yes, all of them are big items and definitely your pack will be quite full. Ensure you do have enough space to store all of them.

Some tips that I can give you are on the bulky items. The wool thermal top and bottom can be bulky and I realised that there are different 'weights' for this 2 items alone. Look for items with the 150g/m specification. It's thinner and much lighter and more importantly it packs in very small. That's the lightweight ones. There are also thicker thermal top/bottom at 215g/g that's much heavier and bulkier to store. And there's also the heavier ones for heavy duty action. Thermal tops and bottoms are mandatory as they have been years where the temperature ran down to 0C at night! So keeping warm is very essential to avoid hypothermia. Remember to get those sweat wicking ones too. The same goes for the fleece where it should be as lightweight as possible and sweat wicking. It's an extra precaution from the cold where it can be really bitter.

 My TNF thermal top

 Thermal bottom

Flashdry technology to keep it dry

Also very important was the worker's reflective vest which had to be Australian approved, indicated by certain codes given on the vest as indicated above. Which also simply means you can only get it there. Took me a while to hunt it down. Cost around AUD15 to AUD20.

The reflective workers vest which also comes in green. Prefer this orange ones though. More happening me thinks specially in the dark when it glows!

For the mandatory item check, you can actually do it at designated stores in the city or at the race kit collection area. I've decided to do it in the city since I will be there and secondly, to avoid the queue at the race collection area on Friday. The list of outlets for the mandatory checks were provided and with google maps, it's not hard to locate one near the Central station.

So they check every single items on the list and ticks it off as you go along. Scrutinized every inch of each item to be compliant! My fleece top was initially rejected cause well, it wasn't 'fleece' material to begin with. Fleece material have that rough surface, woolish kind that's supposed to trap heat picture like the one below.

And luckily I brought along many other stuffs and had this one that is considered a fleece top!

And when every single item is satisfied, you'll get this signed off certificate and off you go happily to Blue Mountains!

A spot of late lunch and off I went from Central Sydney station to Katoomba station where the Blue Mountains were. A trip that takes about 2 hours on a comfy train ride and a scenic one too. Trains run about every half an hour so please do check on the schedule found here and plan your trip accordingly so as not to waste time.

The intercity train bound for Katoomba from Central Sydney station

 Inside the double decker train. The seats can actually be positioned either direction so as to follow the direction of the train. No more motion sickness.

Finally you get to Katoomba station which was a chilly since I got there around 5pm in the evening and light was fading fast.

Classic station setup that gives you that old rustic feel.

All about a town called Katoomba. The where to go map for your needs.

I stayed in a hostel called No14. Yup that's the name of the hostel. A victorian classic house with a little lovely garden complete with a patio abound 300m from the quaint and small Katoomba town. It actually overlooks the Blue Mountains depending which room you are in. More about No14 hostel found here. Nothing fancy here with the accommodation. Simple, clean, cosy and warm. Simple breakfast provided and rooms of 4 or even 2 are available but do book in advance as it fills up quite fast.

My double room. Clean and cosy with heating of course. It got down to 19C at night in my room. Bathroom outside shared.

View out of the window. Leaves browning signifying the start of winter soon.

A quick shower and all and it was time to take a walk in that small little Katoomba town and a spot of early dinner before calling it a day.

The small little town that has almost everything. Many eateries and restaurants from thai to chinese to turkish. Also have 2 supermarkets Woolsworth and Coles so everything is accessible here. Many cafe line up the street too. Loved this small town feeling and with friendly folks. Australia is where when you try to cross a zebra crossing, vehicles do stop way in advance. In Malaysia, you would already be part of the i-was-run-down-at-the-zebra-crossing statistics.

The sleep was actually quite good perhaps due to all the travelling and the sun was up by 6am. Something about sleeping under the thick quilt in a cold weather makes it all so comfy and nice. Woke up and some cereal and bread for breakfast before heading to town later on to get some food supplies and last minute items. Then it was back to packing my drop bags and backpack.

The allotted checkpoints and distances between them as well as the cut off timing. Note that the checkpoints can be quite far. Anything from 9km to 20.5km so due care should be given to hydration to ensure you do carry enough for that leg.

There were 3 drop bags made available which I thought was very generous. Usually in ultras, you'd only get ... 1 at the half way mark. Then the headache comes deciding what to put in each bag. You'd have to figure out approximately what time you'd get to those checkpoints and what makes sense for you to get from your drop bags. I had food replenishment at CP3 including my powerbank to recharge my Fenix. I'd reckon I'd get to 46km in about 8 to 9 hours.

Then to CP4 which is at the 57km in the next 2 hours thereafter and by then would be getting to 5pm or 6pm so a change of clothes to long sleeves would be good for the cold night. To CP5 which is at 78km I had more food supplies. You'd see some chocy bars there which works for me.

And that's how my UD Adventure backpack looks. Mind you this is the biggest of the UD series at 12l. Packed to the brim and using the rip cord externally allows you to hook on a few more things. It probably weighs 5kg mind you with water and all.

Took a bit of a rest later in the afternoon before getting to the race kit collection place by 6pm as well as for the briefing and drop bags to deposit. The good thing is there's a free bus shuttle every 10mins or so shuttling from the town to Scenic World/KCC where the collection would be. Nice of the organiser. This would also run on Saturday race day as well as on Sunday.

On the bus enroute to Scenic World. That chap in the beanie took note and saw my UTMF finisher vest I was wearing. He said 'hey you did UTMF and wasn't that like 3 weeks ago?' I just nodded and smiled. He said it's on his to do list and asked me how it was. I just said ... bloody tough and chuckled!

Got off the shuttle and a brisk slow walk up some small hill to the expo and registration area.

Main entrance to expo and registration. Nice and warm inside.

The ever popular TNF store where you'd pick up some nice souvenir for this ultra or do some last minute shopping for your mandatory items.

Inside. Bustling with people with so many activities going on at the same time.

Not to worry, just follow the steps outlined above and you'd be done in a jiffy!

First up was to collect my waterproof matches and fire starter block. Why? In case you do get lost the waterproof matches would be handy to start a fire with the help of the fire starter block. Just don't burn down the whole of Blue Mountains can lah.

Then off to collect my race kit. Everything nicely organised and best of all ... no queues! Trust the Aussies to work this out to perfection. Bear in mind there's about 1,200 runners just for the 100km alone.

Very obliging and friendly staff/volunteer they have that helped to tone down the seriousness and jittery for the evening. Well, at least for me.

Q&A happening with some of the elite runners happening and I stood there for a while listening intently to the experience and advice given. Helpful indeed.

Me with my official bib with the timing chip behind the bib. Don't let that face fool you know cause deep beneath that smile, the butterflies were churning madly!

Walked around the expo for a bit and they have this medal hanger to the TNF100 Australia tune. A bit pricey for me though.

Dropped all my 3 drop bags at the specific trucks outside. And after all that, hopped on the bus back to town with a few other familiar faces of Magdelene and Shi Wei from Singapore for a spot of chinese food at the 3 sister's restaurant in town. After that back to the hostel for an early night and last minute checks before trying very hard to get some shut eye.

Then the alarm went off at 4.30am and I got up very reluctantly cause I felt I didn't sleep at all. A quick simple breakfast and out the doors to catch the shuttle to starting line. Boy, it was chilly cold outside. Got to the starting line by 5.30am. Starts at 6.30am but flagged off in batches by 3 to 5minutes to ensure congestion can be managed at the single tracks later. I was put into Group 3 starting at 6.38am based on my timing merits. I had no choice but to layer on from the cold and wind. It felt like forever before 6.30am came and then the 1st group was off.

From here onwards I don't have pictures at all so just my narration would ya. 6.38am came, the countdown started and off we went. The first 2km was an uphill out and back again to the starting line. Perhaps to give the supporters a final rah rah before bidding them goodbye and seeing them all at the next checkpoint. I started gingerly as usual. Always a case of my engine needing 30mins or so to warm up proper. Some of the uphills I was heaving quite a bit cause everyone ran uphill!!!

The elevation profile. Take a bit of time studying them and understand what you'd be facing when. The big ones are actually at km 85 onwards where you drop down all the way and up again to nearly 1,000m to the finishing line.

I had my Nike short sleeve compression on and a loose drifit long sleeve on top of it for good measures from the cold.. It stayed that way till checkpoint 5. To checkpoint 1 was a 10.5km. Actually TNF1100 Australia is very runnable than most ultras I've been too. Sure there are technical bits here and there but a big portion of it are wide 15 foot runnable paths. I'd say 50% of the course is more than runnable at a decent pace. Just have to be contended with ups and downs throughout the route. This portion started on the roads and then going into the single trail path. Thereon, it's a bit hard to overtake but good trail ethics were observed here where those in front were polite to ask from time of anyone from the rear wanted to pass, or the ones at the back would voice out they wanted to pass and the runner in front would be more than happy to give way.

Then there were some rocky down path and you'd get to checkpoint 1. Tea, coffee, lollies, water, endura sports drinks, endura gel, banana were available. I kinda liked that endura gel with mint flavour. The minty flavour was palatable to me. Refilled and off we went for the next section to checkpoint which was a good 20.5km away. This part became a bit technical with rocky bits up and down testing your quads out. Temperature was a cooling 20ish degree which was just nice. From time to time some light wind observed that chilled my bone for a bit but manageable. Along the way before reaching that Tarros ladder, the wide clay tracks went on for a long stretch. Very runnable indeed as pictured below.

From the official photographers. Don't mind the watermark ya :P. Gravel, dusty tracks that's wide and runnable from CP1 to CP2. Being able to run most of this section was heaven indeed trying to soak in the surrounding blue mountain ranges.

At km 20 was the Tarros ladder, a vertical climb down but the human traffic jam was long! As an alternative, there was a downhill detour for about 400m. My 'group' running the same at the moment decided to take this alternative so as not to wait. Wasn't a difficult run and completed in like 5 minutes or less. Then it was onto checkpoint 2. What I am amazed about each checkpoint were the supporters of family and friends. They were there at each checkpoint from day to night waiting for their loved ones. Runners had a big tent to refill and rest and outsiders are not permitted to enter. And whilst waiting for their loved ones to arrive, they would unselfishly cheer on the others including me. Shouts of 'Go Heng Fatt' - well that was my name written on my bib, claps cheers and even the children were having a gala of a time high-5ing the runners! Such a fantastic atmosphere me thinks that I hardly see in other ultras.

At CP2 I took it a bit easier to eat, refill and have a bit of a sit down. I think this was were my friend Sitor from Indonesia caught up with me (we weren't far from each other from the start as we were in the same start group) and called at me. Apparently he had a bit of tumble and had scratches and a bloody wound at his left arm. I tried to help bandage it for him before asking him to be more careful since the road ahead is still long and off I went to attempt checkpoint 3.

To CP3 was another 15km and called the 6 foot track. More runnable tracks here until I got bored of the same scenery over and over again and the long tracks. Ah well I told myself, just run it and get it over with as much possible. Some small talks with the runners from time to time and I engaged with one who said i was crazy trying to complete 3 ultras in a month. Some of the mountain range was nice and took some moment appreciating them through the pain. I remember there was an out and back loop climb upwards and on top of the climb, I could hear drums and a didgeridoo being played which was super awesome indeed. A showcase of Australia's heritage which was indeed welcomed and then steep downhill for a long while.

Then it was onto some mountain path, more like those marlboro country path running through like farmyards or similar looking ones. Not long before reaching CP3, refueled, ate some solid food, bananas and a cup noodle. Tasted yucky these australian cup noodles - tasteless! Also took my drop bag stuff as well as the mandatory rain pants. Took a longer rest here since I've now covered 46km nearing the halfway point. Overall I still felt good.

I can't exactly recall where exactly it was but should be between CP2 and 3 I guess. The view was quite awesome. Different from my past experiences and what Australia's trail have to showcase.

From CP4 to 5 was quite a distance, 21km to be exact and was glad there would be a water station only at at 9km from CP4. The in between water station was timely as I was running out of water fast. This part running quite a bit through a small town and through tarmac roads. Again very runnable. If my memory serves me right this track brought us back to the Katoomba centre, which was the start line. Running past the tourists was fun lol. But of course they understood these nuts are here to run and they are more than willing to give way when they hear you coming trudging at the raised platforms or steel/wood/concrete ladders. Yes, many many steps and ladders up and down! Horrors! The donwhill steps were fun but not those near vertical steps up. We also passed through a few beautiful waterfalls, magnificent to watch but also chill around that area due to the mist. But still very very scenic.

A bit jungle-ish this section but was a good change away from the sunny getting into evening. Pretty inside there and if you're there as a tourist, do try to hike this path ya.

I got to CP5 just before 7pm at km78. Changed into warm clean clothes, ate another noodle cup, refilled my water and rested much longer here. I picked up more stuffs from my drop bag including the mandatory item of my fleece. The good news was if I were to leave this CP5 before 7.30pm I would not have to bring along my waterproof pants and fleece, woohoo! To which I discarded both items to the drop bag. My wool thermal top is still there so that would keep me warm if i needed. By this time headlamps were out and so was my windproof/rain jacket on top of both my long sleeve compression top and the additional long sleeve drifit loose top. Seemed warm enough.

Another scenic picture taken of the cliffs and terrain we traversed. The nice thing is you'd get many official photos which you'd have to buy. There were over 10 photo stations along the route. 20 to 40m before the auto triggering camera, you'd see a sign warning you so. So pretend to run even if you're tired to look good in them photos and make sure you're alone!

From CP5 to the finishing line was a total of 22km. Now it's a case of following the dotted lights ahead. In between at km 13 there would be a water station only. These were wide open roads for some few km before turning into wide tracks which were runnable. And yes this was the downhill path. Steep descend sometimes where I needed to put on some brakes. After an eternity of downhill and some small uphills, the water station was there. Refilled some and off we went for the final 9km!

The adrenaline started pumping wildly since in your mind, it's registering a final 9km to the finishing line! Ooops ... did I forget to mention it's all uphill, steps and what nots from now on? Yes it was sigh. Steps and more steps upwards, some were vertical climbs that pumped my heart to the max, spiking up the heart rate almost instantly. Rested in between to stabilize my heart rate or fear of a heart attack! The only way was up. Many including myself was struggling at this final stretch. Some seemed fallen by the side but in actual fact taking a good breather from such extremities of mother of all climbs!

The last 1 km was the worse. Vertical ups. Bad. Really bad. You could sort of make out the bright lights of the finishing area which was the scenic world but it was all the way up there. Upon the top of this cliff you were trying to wrestle. Hearts pumped max. Blood running wildly. Sweat pouring profusely in the cold 15C. You feel warm whilst your sweat in the light cool winds made it cold. Now I understood what hot and cold really meant!

Don't despair I told myself. Just a step. And another. It will end. It will. And finally I could hear the volunteers on top there shouting 'Give it all you've got, it's the end here!' And with a big might, I took in a good long inhale and off to tackle the remaining 20 steps. And yes, I made it to the top. Heaved in oxygen for a bit and off to the last remaining 50 metres of tarmac road to the finishing line where the emcee yelled out my name and country as I crossed the finishing line triumphantly!

Hands in the air as I crossed the finishing line 16hours 49minutes and 47seconds earning myself that much elusive bronze buckle awarded to those finishing in below 20 hours!

My official timing. Not too shabby but I know I could do better after 3 ultras in a month, I will gladly take it!

Another buckle to my collection. My 2nd in fact after H1 Cebu 100 miler road ultra in the Philippines earlier this year. Looks good eh?

My trilogy of TNF finisher items. 1st was UTMF 100 miles finisher vest week 1. Following week my TNF100 Philippines finisher medal and 2 weeks later, TNF100 Australia bronze buckle. 3 big ultras in 4 weeks. No, I won't do this again as it's very straining to my mind and body! But I made it somehow!

I enjoyed this Blue Mountain TNF100 trail. Different from the others I've been to. To be honest, each country has it's own trails, different terrain and different magnificent views really. No 2 are ever the same. To put it into perspective, TNF100 Australia is tougher than TNF100 Thailand. Easier to manage than TNF100 Philippines and perhaps a tad easier than Hong Kong Vibram100. You just got to look out for the bitter cold which could be a problem. This year it was mildly cold. The year before it went down to 0C which was bad and there were rain too.

So if you're up for a trail adventure, I'd recommend TNF100 Australia wholesomely. Spend a few more days thereafter and really explore the beauty of the Blue Mountains!