Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Of Highlands, Midges and a Goblet...

By Frank

The West Highland Way Race (WHWR), like the Comrades Marathon holds a special place in my running career. It’s after all the race that defined the first decade of my running career and my also longest trail running experience till then. But more important, it’s my Scottish friends and community that makes this race special.

Ran a pretty well deserved race last year despite breaking down towards the last quarter of the race and suffered numerous irritating bites from the damn midges. Never thought that I will be doing it again since travelling, accommodation and logistic expenses costs a bomb. But when the balloting process got underway last year and that I saw my well earned crystal goblet being lonely alone sitting there, I thought it may look better in a pair, and that I would like to challenge myself again to kick start my second decade (kick started at Route 68 though didn’t have the best ending). And when the ballot results got announced, I was successfully chosen and hence I was in.

Training for it like the Comrades Marathon this year didn’t go well. As of this entry, I only had about 555 Miles (888KM - damn lucky) ran between my legs as compared to 1,000 miles the previous year. Comrades will likely give me a benchmark of where I am and running a personal worst of it, I am ready to suffer. There will be concerns though, as I worry the wound on my surgery area before I left for Comrades last month may not hold. It did hold during Comrades though, but the amount of time and stress that I will go through WHWR is twice of it, and that may be an issue. But let's see.

Flight to Edinburgh, Scotland got delayed for a day as I missed my connecting flight at Doha as Qatar Airways had to take an alternative route which added an additional hour of flight time to avoid Saudi Arabia and Dubai’s air space due to the gulf situation there. But in a way, I managed to recharge myself up when they provided me with accommodation at Doha with 3 absolutely well deserved meals. And when I got to Edinburgh and the Aberdeen, I was fresh, well except for the sore legs.

Completing the Westhill 10K with Chee Kong.

A week in Aberdeen doing almost nothing until the weekend when I ran the Nicol of Skene Westhill 10K where I clock a 50 minutes over a hilly 10KM route. Not a bad time as it has been a while since I race a 10K. I felt good and I guess my recovery from Comrades has gone pretty well. Then it was off to the highlands, a total of 4 nights over at Tyndrum. Covered 100KM around Crianlarich, Inveroran, Ben Lui and the surroundings there testing out my race gears in horrendous wet conditions. Everything worked instantly well except for my race shoe, the ON CloudVenture Peak where I had to adjust the fitting a few times before I finally found a perfect fit. And from there, I took on the highlands with confidence. Legs were good, core was stable, upper body in the right position and my head was clear. I think I am ready again.

Free and alive while training on the highlands.

The ON CloudVenture Peak is now ready to take on the highlands.

Always sad to leave Tyndrum for it’s a place that I am away from the noises and distractions. And before I return to Aberdeen, it was a short trip to Glasgow where I had a quick catch-up with Chris who will be running his first WHWR and also Angela who will be part of my team again. Thank you Angela for doing this again! After having done the race last year and knowing what to expect, we had a quick discussion and planning over dinner at Pipers’ Tryst before calling it a night.

Good catch up with Chris.

Race planning and catching up with Angela over dinner.

Overslept the next day and didn’t manage to run around Glasgow as I had to catch the train back to Aberdeen. And once in Aberdeen, it’s all about preparing my race gears and resting the body. A little running around the Old Deeside way to keep the legs moving but it’s all about recovering and hence there is plenty of healthy eating before returning to Glasgow on Thursday to rest up there for a night.

Lobster feast at Aberdeen with the usual gang.

Plan was to get to Milngavie by 9PM Friday where I will register myself and to meet and greet my friends and fellow runners before a little time for myself to chill out before the race gets underway at 1AM (8AM Malaysian time), Saturday, 24 June 2017.

Looking forward to the journey and experience again over the Scottish highlands. Am glad and honoured that I am given the same race number as last year at number 10. Thanks Ian. Should be 11 as this is my 11 year of running after all but it's always nice to stick with a special one. Though Alexa and Edmund won’t be crewing for me this year, I am glad that Angela and Chee Kong are still part of my team. And a warm welcome to Tom Anderson who will be joining this year. Thank you everyone for taking time off for this! And despite me mentioning that I am ready at the above paragraph, I know that it will be tough 152KM and also equally tough for my team. I won’t be expecting to improve on my time as completing the race is the main goal. Struggle I will, but like Comrades this year, I know in my heart that this can be done and it will be an unforgettable journey yet again. To the organisers, volunteers and community, a big shout out to you all. And to all 213 runners, “Let’s go get that Goblet!”.

From last year.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

For 6th and 2nd...

By Frank

It will be my 6th Comrades in a matters of days time. It's all happening this Sunday, 4 June 2017. Then 3 weeks later on 24 June 2017, it will be my second at the West Highland Way Race (WHWR). And this time, it's more on completing it rather than clocking a new personal best as build-up to it was just a bumpy ride.

Unlike previous years, there was no monthly report card from me this time. Due to work commitments as I ventured into a new career (more like returning to revive a previous setup), I know the first half of year 2017 will be a tough one in terms of running. Going into the year with a DNF from BTS 100 last year and a barely made it Comrades qualifier, and starting it with my second attempt at Vibram HK100, I tried my best and did all I could to get my mileage into my legs. All I got was 3 races thus far and with 2 successful one despite clocking poor timing. Then another DNF at Route 68 Challenge, managing only 63KM out of 168KM.

Packing list.

Work was horrendous and I was deprived of sleep and rest. Just couldn't find the strength to run. I did what I could cause running isn't just about running. I tried to build strength in other areas but I knew it wasn't going to be enough especially when we are talking running long distances. It's all about mileage and that was missing.

And besides training, most around me knew what had happened between me and Saucony Malaysia. No longer I am their ambassador despite being offered a new contract as the new team behind it is just basically pure bullSh1T! Promises after promises made, marketing methods that I am just so not agreeable for and lousy services provided, it's best for me to be staying away from them. Myself and the previous team had worked so hard to build to what it is today, and we are deeply saddened to see how it became now. Till at least the current brand manager whom is an embarrassment to the brand leaves, there will be no way I am going back to them. No your initials does not make you part of the brand! Oh and yes. I am no longer the admin for the Facebook site too as you probably have notice the standard of English there. But I am glad I have good friends from Saucony global so technically, there isn't any problem with the brand but rather the local distributor here. In fact, I will still be visiting them during my visit this time. And trust me, it hurts to be saying these above for it's a brand that I am closely attached to.

The "CloudTroopers" as I will call them.

With no race shoes (despite being promised that I will have them), I am glad that another company took note of me. Enter ON, from Switzerland. I was a little skeptical with the shoes as I didn't like them at all, at least on the earlier generations. But as they move forward, the have streamlined their models and I was offered the ON Cloud model to try on. Then came the CloudFlow which felt really close to the Kinvara which I have became so accustomed to. No, don't get me wrong. I wasn't offered a contract to be their ambassador but rather involved in their seeding program first. At least I needed to know and feel if the shoes work for me, else I am no different to those whom I call "Play take only!". and those that only have interest to their own. And if it works, and if they really offered me a contract, then maybe I will think really hard about this. But for now, I am really thankful and grateful that ON stepped in just in time for my shoes for both Comrades Marathon and West Highland Way Race was finally chosen and settled for. The On CloudFlow and CloudVenture Peak it is, for both models I have tested since late March 2017.

From 5, 2 was chosen. The ON CloudVenture Peak for WHWR and CloudFlow for Comrades.

Moving forward to May 2017, I finally found some time to actually run. With Tropicana closure in mid May, my running finally return as I chased down some pretty good quality mileage among my legs. I felt alive and honestly did not felt happier running. I am finally back! Then a week before I am schedule to fly, my problematic tooth where my wisdom tooth was extracted last September decided to give me some problems. A quick check with the dentist reveals that there were 2 options. To remove it or to have a root canal procedure. I don't think either is suitable for it may bring down my immune system and hence we decided on a temporary emergency measure, to remove some nerves from it and to patch it back. It should be able to do the trick I hope and by the next day, the pain was gone, well at least temporary and I hope that it will last. But sadly it didn't and the discomfort returned 3 days later. Another emergency procedure was done in patching it back, but this time at another dentist near to my work place and I hope it will be a better job. It certainly looks better and I really hope that it will hold.

For the first time, I will be flying Qatar Airways with a transit at Doha. Looking forward after hearing much positive things about this airline. And from South Africa I will leave for Scotland the day after Comrades and will be arriving at Edinburgh before heading to Aberdeen via the train. Then I will lay off a little by visiting Tyndrum and Glasgow as I prepare for the big WHWR. A plan recovery at a "new destination" next before heading home with Chee Kong and family to Malaysia on the first weekend of July. Yeap, that's a total of 38 days away and am certainly looking forward to it after a hectic first half of the year. However with all the terrorist attack around the world with one recently happening at UK, it is definitely worrying. Nevertheless, positive vibes it is.

To close off this entry and despite only clocking 612KM since January 2017, what I can promise is that I will not DNF both of these races unless I break down physically. My mental will keep thrive over pain, my past will be strength, my experience will guide me, my dear friends will be my pillar and you will keep me going. My sixth Comrades and my quest for my second goblet. I am BACK!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2017...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2017
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date 26 February 2017
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Xodus 6.0
By Frank

My third year in a row outing at Gunung Nuang Ultra (GNU) and my second race of the year. Something I certainly look forward to but certainly physically not prepared for it as my fitness level has dropped tremendously due to my hectic work.

I woke up to a sore upper back. However to my surprise, it wasn't my usual left side but instead it was for the first time, the right side. Had difficulties turning my neck and tried to stretch it away but to no avail. After the usual and with more than enough time, I rook a slow long drive to Pangsun which took me about an hour. Arriving there, I learnt that I am not the only early one as the main car park was already fully filled leaving me park at the entrance. Not too bad for a parking spot anyway as it was just next to the guard house.

Made my way to the hut to drop of my drop bag and prepare myself before the urge to make my "deposit". To my horror, my usual secret toilet was locked off and I had to use the dirtier public toilet. But when one needs to go, he needs to go.

Fast forwarding ahead, I was hanging out with Jeff and Wai Hong and the start line which eventually led me to start at the front later. And at 6.30AM sharp, after a short briefing, some close to 300 runners were set loose to loop from the foot hill to Lolo and back for 12 hours.

Due to the heavy downfall yesterday evening, the surroundings was humid and the first stretch up which was made up of cement pavement was really slippery. Slowly making my way up while trying to balance myself wasn't easy and it required additional strength and attention. I believe most was struggling as I passed some other runners ahead. Not many of them but they were good runners and this showed how tough it was. Only a few zoomed into the darkness ahead.

Eventually, I entered the trail section after a Kilometer. Things didn't get any easier as the rocky sections was just as slippery and also certain patches were muddy. This is Gunung Nuang at one of it's toughest., at least from my previous visits here. A mile into the race, the first hut is where an extra water station was set up by the organisers. Good effort from them as this will be helpful in the later stages.

I pushed on alone till the mid span where it then began to drop. From there slowly, runners after runners soon began to caught up and eventually passing me as I tried to find balance as I headed towards the u-turn point at Lolo. Got there safely and there were signs of dawn. Head torch was still needed though as I made my way down. It was relatively much easier compared to the journey up earlier, as I waited for the morning sunlight to break into the forest.

It was getting congested too with runners from the opposite directions filling up the tight running space. But was glad that most runners were courteous to give way to each other. And when the surroundings finally brighten up, it was time to remove my head torch and it was a sense of relieve fro my head.

Halfway down, I spotted a runner sitting my the side. Sensing something was amidst, I asked if he was all right. He replied that he was experiencing cramps on his quads as I helped him stretch a little before helping him get back up once he mentioned that he had felt relieve. Glad to be able to help as I continued my journey down and eventually completing my first loop with some extra little effort, especially in trying to keep my mid off my sore upper back.

The face says it all. I am not really enjoying myself.

Quickly took in some crackers and deposited my head torch back into my drop bag before continuing on my second loop. Was already struggling and things doesn't look too good as I slowly walked up the first stretch as the cement pavement despite the break of dawn was still slippery. I was already on survival mode and it was still 4 more loops to go to meet the minimum requirements. But the most important thing was that I am still positive and was still pushing on, hoping to meet 6 loops which was the same distance I did the past 2 editions.

Got "snipe" by a Taariq who was hiding behind the bushes.

Nothing dramatic except for the dip in strength and energy for my second and third loop before I decided to stop for my lunch break. Was hungry and was hoping the food will help me regain some strength as I rested my legs. And while doing so, I took the opportunity to remove and shoes and socks to check out on the burning sensation I was experiencing on my right heel. And to my horror, my Drymax socks has begun to tear there. I didn't blame the socks though as it was foolish of me to choose this pair as it had already served me close to 1,000KM worth of running.

After close to 1,000KM, my Drymax decided to call it a day.

Anyway, lunch was simple fried rice and it was enough to satisfy my hunger. Readjusted my socks higher so that the hole won't be rubbing on my heel. It did the trick for a while as I went on for my fourth loop, but the socks eventually fell back. Despite still walking (and struggling), the socks was still irritating my heel and I decided to stop by at the first hut a mile up to have it readjusted again. Then an idea struck me. To change sides and that help did the trick as my left foot was slightly larger.

Run Anywhere with the Saucony Xodus, Nomad TR and Peregrine.

Knowing at this point of time that I will not be able to hit 6 loops, I took my time and was aiming for the huts along the way up and down. Some I passed, but some I took the opportunity to rest and that helped me complete my fourth loop without much hassle and also blister free on my heel.

The start of my fifth loop was a mentally challenging one. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible but my tired body was hesitating. But after a couple of ice popsicle, I began my journey and eventually caught up with Kim Song and Amanda. Kim Song was struggling with some cramps as I told him to use my strategy of aiming for the huts along the way an opportunity to rest a little before continuing on. We both then arrived at the hut a mile from the bottom and rested a while there while I check on my heel which was relatively still blister free. Phew...

Feeling pump for my final descent.

After a pretty lengthy rest, I resumed on my journey upwards, feeling a little pumped up now. No I didn't run, but I did feel that I was walking faster, well a little. I took a little breather at the next hut to wait up with Kim Song and Amanda. However, the wait was longer than I expected and that they both did not arrive, and at that point of time, I guess Kim Song has made the call to turn back down.

I continued on running when I can, and walk when I couldn't. That gave me the extra push to arrive at Lolo for the fifth time. And at this time, I found out that they were quickly running out of water here which I relatively told myself that there won't a be sixth for me then. And with that, I started my journey down for one final time which I was really glad. And being glad will mean that I am going faster too!

As I made my journey down, I was reminding the others that they were quickly running out of water at the u-turn point. Some was shocked to hear that while some others did not bother. I gave away my water to one of the runners too as I won't bee needing much of it. With the last mile to go, I was still reminding others to fill up the hut there before making their way up and eventually caught up with Hazel who is on her way down. And from here onwards, I walked with her while chatting away till we both arrived at the bottom completing my fifth loop in 9:08:47 hours.

My splits.

Looking at my time, I could have gone for my sixth loop and finishing it just in time before the 12 hour cut-off. However, I have made up m mind at that time that I will stop at my fifth and be realistic with my current fitness level. To continue will be a struggle to my body and a higher risk of injury. Besides, the u-turn point at Lolo has probably ran out of water too. So yeah, overall I am satisfied with my third edition. Despite much slower than my previous two, I had to be realistic and to accept that I am coming back from square one and that I have been extremely busy with the new business venture. To complete the minimum five loops is already an achievement for me and it will also be a good training run for me.

All in a day's work.

Took time to refuel the body from what is left over of the food. Oranges, bananas and some vermicelli and that was good enough for the craving body. Wai Hong was kind enough to offer me a place to shower at his room as I quickly cleaned myself up before leaving Gunung Nuang for a long drive home.

And once again, many thanks to the organising committee and volunteers for another enjoyable edition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra. But honestly, I didn't enjoy myself too much this year due to lack of fitness. But despite clocking my worst this year round, I am already waiting for next year's edition! Yeah yeah.. I am looking for trouble. :p

* Photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2017...

Event: Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race 2017
Venue: Pak Tam Chung, Hong Kong
Date: 14 January 2017
Time: 8.00AM
Distance: 100KM
Shoe: Saucony Xodus 6
By Frank

The Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race (HK100) holds a special place in my running career. It’s after all, my first 100KM trail race that sparked my interest in running through nature and the demanding challenges but yet beautiful aspects it has to offer. And in a way, it’s also the race that I got to be introduced and to befriend a dear friend of mine 4 years ago.

No, I did not run the HK100 4 years ago, but in fact I only ran it once back in year 2015. With an unsuccessful ballot results from last year which in a way was a blessing considering the race had to be cancelled after 20 hours due to the freezing conditions which left the roads of the highest point of the race course at Tai Mo Shan (Big Hat Mountain), to be frozen, I tried my luck again to return to better my results for one final time (do you believe in me?).

With the ballot results announced in late September 2016, I was glad that I managed to get in this time together with Yee Hoo. However, quite a few including Yan Leng did not get it. But it was a chance not to be missed and with swift action, I laid out a plan with Yee Hoo and quickly made our purchase and bookings for our flights and accommodation.

Fast forwarding to December 2016, just after my final race of the year at the Putrajaya 78KM, I was struck down with migraine. Coincidently, my HK100 race back in 2015 was also affected by it, the only difference was it was during the race back then. From migraine, I was then affected by a bad diarrhoea followed by fever and cough. It was just plain bad luck for me and thus affected my preparation for this race. I did almost no running and knew that it will affect both my physical strength and also cardio fitness. All that I have built the last 3 years that gave me my best Comrades results and my achievement at the West Highland Way Race is gone.

After a long whole month of battling the above illness, and with just a week more to go till the race, I was again struck down by a sudden cough which prolonged till race day, and even when I was blogging this. I knew back then, it was a race to suffer or maybe to even pull out somewhere during the course should my condition is bad.

Thursday, 12 January 2017
On Thursday, 12 January 2017, I travelled to Hong Kong with Yee Hoo and William from Johor on board the first Air Asia flight out at 6.30AM. Flight was smooth and by 4 hours later, we touched down and immediately started doing the necessity like getting ourselves sim card, travel card and of course getting to the place we are staying, Ah Shan hostel at Mong Kok. Bus 21 and everything was simply familiar and by close to an hour later, we found ourselves at the busy district.

Touching down at Hong Kong Aiport with Yee Hoo and William.

Checked into our tiny “pigeon hole” room, and it was off to Action X Store at Sheung Wan to collect our race pack after a quick lunch of porridge Sea View Congee shop below our hostel. Boarded the wrong train though but was quickly to realise it. Was glad that there wasn’t much of participants arriving yet and hence we managed to collect our race packs pretty smoothly before heading off to Racing The Planet where Yee Hoo was the first casualty to fall prey to the urge of buying running gears.

Tiny room for 2 at Ah Shan hostel.

Returned back to the hostel to prepare our race gear which consisted of a drop bag for the halfway 52KM point and also finish point of the race. Rest up before heading out for dinner nearby having some beef noodles. Nothing much else later as all 3 of us were really tired and hence called it an early night.

My race gear all laid out.

Friday, 13 January 2017
By 8.30AM, the 3 of us were ready to explore Hong Kong. First stop was of course breakfast just below where we had Hong Kong’s famous polo bun and simple plain noodle soup with some slice meat before we went to the Museum of History at Tsim Tsa Tsui. 2 hours there learning about Hong Kong’s long history before we headed off to the seaside to enjoy the breeze and also the view of Hong Kong city. But sadly, the Avenue of Stars was closed for a major renovation which will last till about year 2020.

At Victoria Harbour water front.

Short walk around Tsim Tsa Tsui before heading back to Mong Kok to visit the running stores there basically All Weather, Overlander and Blue Mountain Sports. William was the second casualty where he bought a pair of running shorts while yours truly was the third where I bought a complete set of the new generation of BV Sport top and half tights at Blue Mountain Sports. I was a happy buyer though. Jeff arrived and met us there before we returned to the hostel to rest up before meeting Foo and Vivien for dinner at Fa Yuen Street Market. Just a simple dinner among us before it was lights out for the mountains awaits the next day.

A simple pre-race dinner.

Race day. Saturday,14 January 2017
Didn’t manage to get a good sleep due to my cough. Hope it didn’t affect Yee Hoo though. And I must highlight the very irritating WhatsApp messages that were coming in late. Yes, I understand those are wishes for the race but to text late into the night, I don't think those are good vibes. This isn't the first time happening and despite turning off the phone's sounds and vibrations (not everyone does that), there is always the notification light. And when you realised that I did not reply your message, it will mean I am pissed!

All pre-race rituals went smoothly before I joined them for breakfast downstairs at Sea View. It was drizzling and it was cold. The weather forecast so fast has been correct, but I believe our race gears are well prepared for it, I hope. Once breakfast was done, we returned to our room to get our gears before flagging down taxis after taxis to get to the race start at Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung. Familiar faces from the Malaysian contingent appeared, from Tey, Keng Koon, Warren Lim, Warren Mok, Sook Ann and more. Myself, Yee Hoo, William and Jeff was last to leave at 6.45AM but time was sufficient. The only thing was that our taxi driver was a little chatty and I had trouble resting through the journey as he chatted with Jeff.

We arrived at Pak Tam Chung about 40 minutes later. It was still drizzling and the venue was wet and a little on the cold side. Quickly made our bags deposit and headed to the bushes to relieve ourselves as the queue for the toilets was just too long. The usual Malaysian contingent group photos session was next before we headed off to the sub 24 hours start area to prepare for the start. It was a wave start this year with 5 minutes interval in between and hence this is going to be the third wave.

Looking fresh before the 100KM struggle.

11 minutes after the first wave started, it was our turn as I wished Yee Hoo and William a safe race. I was in no hurry as the front pack will probably be packed with runners entering the MacLehose Trail and hence took my time. After close a Kilometer later, indeed the entrance to the trail was stuck as runners slowly form a single line. I was glad I was William and hence had someone to talk to. Hahaha...

As frustrating as it was being not able to run but to walk for about the next 4KM or so, I was actually prepared for it. But with the cool weather, it will only mean that there will be the urge to pee. With almost no place to go to and with too many people around, I held on. Slowly, I forgot about it but suddenly, I felt hungry instead.  Breakfast was too early earlier and guess I have to hold till I arrive at the East Dam support station which was located 11KM from the start.

Finally, after being stuck behind human traffic for about slightly more than an hour, I arrived with William at one of the dams with the ocean greeting us from one side. Spectacular view but first things first as we headed to the bushes to relieve ourselves before climbing the roads up to the area above. We then quickly set off as the roads here were wide enough to break free and that we did. I bump into Keng Koon during the climb, chatting with him for a while before resuming my run with William. Had fun throughout and I was trigger happy snapping photos of the beautiful surroundings when suddenly, a familiar face caught me. It was David, my fellow Comrades from Singapore. Meeting him annually at the Inchanga climb at Comrades Marathon, I hope East Dam here won't be our annual meet up. Hahaha...

Having fun with a Japanese "Spiderman" runner.

Meeting my fellow Comrades David at East Dam.

Terence supporting runners at East Dam.

While I ran and chatted freely with David, William took off on his own. Eventually, I spotted the East Dam support station. Another beautiful place where then another familiar face came running towards me. It was Terence Poon who welcomed runners to East Dam. Quickly grab some nuts here to help curb my hunger. Although I left East Dam with David. I powered up the next hill on my own as I headed towards the first climb at Sai Wan Shan some 314M above sea level. I needed to use my strength here before I was going to be slowed down by my weakness at the down section.

Beautiful surroundings of Tai Long Wan.

Not an easy climb upwards to Sai Wan Shan but neither it was tough. And as expected, I slowed at the next section descending from it as it was slippery especially on the cement stairs and David passed me just before arriving at the beach. I've lost count on the number of beautiful beach we had to run pass, but it was worth it with the sound of waves and the foot strikes of the runners only to be heard. And after 3:25:11 hours, I arrived at Check Point 1 at Ham Tin where I took some nuts, chips and a cracker with some water before moving on.

Remembering from my experience 2 years ago, we needed to climb a pretty steep but short ascend to exit Ham Tin. Ropes were installed to aid some runners too but I used my bare hands instead. Feeling still good and fresh, and still having fun, I was glad that my lack of training and recent sickness did not affect much, at least till this point. Even if it did, it had affected my speed which was relatively much slower.

Anyway, it was rolling up and down hill towards the next check point and Wong Shek, some 7KM away. The first section wasn't too bad with trails to run on, but when it got to the stairs, this is where things got tougher. More strength is needed to power up them, while more impact and balancing is needed to descend it. But I made it there in 4:50:03 hours without any mishaps with friendly volunteers welcoming the runners to this check point located next to a jetty with big boats and yacht were parked at.

Beautiful scenery but had to be careful going down the slippery stairs.

Took a slightly longer break here to fuel myself up with some yummy vinegared rice balls, chips and oranges washing down with water and Cola. And with the weather warming up, I decided to remove my Saucony Nomad long sleeve top and to just go with my base layer. And just before leaving, I saw a runner being carried down the stairs from where I came from. Though conscious, I assumed he was hurt probably twisting his ankle or falling at the trails. Hope nothing serious.

An orangy shot where Piew and Yan Leng will understand. Hehe...

Close to 5 hours and only 28KM covered. I was losing a lot of ground compared to my experience 2 years ago. Nevertheless, I wasn't too bothered about it and slowly resume my journey with a slightly heavy tummy from over eating. Ooops...

I slowly got my groove back and resume some running pass some villages and also the through the pathways by the seaside. Nothing much to blog about it here except that the serendipity of the beautiful and yet calm surroundings bought positive thoughts to me.

Check Point 3 at Hoi Ha was a check point I was looking forward to as it was partially manned by those who are visually impaired. And just before arriving there, I made a quick detour off course to visit a public toilet where I used the opportunity to wash and freshen up my face and arms. And just before entering the check point which was within a park in a time of 6:23:44 hours, I tried to high five as many of the volunteers there as a mark and token of appreciation for being there for the runners. An even longer stop compared to the earlier one, I took in lots of oranges here while trying the official sports drink for this race, Overstim which I kind of like it. Pleasant taste and wasn't too sugary. Pretty like Pocari or even barley. And just before leaving, I spotted some hot ginger tea and stop for a cup. And while having it, I had a chat with Joshua who was having some noodles by the side.

Yung Shue O which was 9KM away is where I shall have my dinner, I told myself. After all, that is what happened 2 years back and that will something to look forward to again. I took my time to slowly walk off the food and drinks I had earlier as I continued with my journey. Re-entering into the woods, I found a very similar bench where I sat down 2 years ago to remove my gaiters. This time round, I remove my shoes to clear off sands that were collected during my earlier run at the beach and also to have my mobile phone and Suunto charge. I left the Suunto on my wrist to charge and hence had to carry my phone on my hand. And with it, I started texting and updating my friends back home, some silly photos included. This kept my mind off from the fatigue which is slowly setting in.

Thumbs up and thank you to the photographers along the way for their effort.

Slowly made my way through the villages along the coastal side before re-entering the trails which more steps to climb. Weather was still good with some breeze but my legs were starting to tire. And once I exited the trails and got back on to the coastal trail, I knew I was nearing the check point. It's after all, the stretch where I knocked my knee 2 years back where big boulders were blocking certain parts. Sights of houses soon appear in the distance and I hurry before I was greeted by volunteers welcoming us to Yung Shue O, 45KM into the race.

Checking into Yong Shue O at 45KM.

8:23:31 hours. I know I was still loosing time but I was in no rush. The only issue I had was that the check point was located at a different place which is much smaller than the one 2 years back. Hardly had any place to walk around and not to mention sitting. My plan for my dinner had to be on hold but I still took my time with some light snacks here and snapping silly photos of me eating oranges to be sent over to my friend back home. I also message Jasmine who was at the Lion Park Country Park near Golden Hill Road at the bottom of Beacon Hill not to wait for me as she expected me to run like an elite! #FacePalm!

Hot coffee, tea and ginger drink, a little of each before I started going again. It's only 7KM before hitting the halfway point at Kei Ling Ha but the journey there is one that I am looking forward to. Kai Kung Shan (Cockrel Hill) sitting at 399M above sea level is located in between these 2 check points. Not an easy climb as it's pretty steep but somehow, I was looking forward to it.

Before entering the climbing section, I passed through more villages before a small descend into the forest trails. And when the forest started opening up, the climb began too. Slightly damp orange soil made up the terrain and I was glad I had the Saucony Xodus 6 on where the traction of the shoe helped a lot. The sunset view on top of the hill is something to look forward to, but I guess I had no luck this time as the weather didn't seem suitable. Besides, I was rushing to get myself to the check point before darkness takes over.

Made it to the top of Kai Kung Shan.

Wasn't struggling very much with the climb as I expected would be and got to the top without any mishaps. Quickly snap a photo and off I went descending the hill and back into the forest trail. It was getting dark and I don't think I can get myself to the check point without having to rely on a head torch. However, I was lucky enough when a runner ahead of me powered on his head torch which was relatively bright enough to light the way. I tailgated him from behind running the same path and pattern as him. Was all good till he decided to take a breather just a bout a Kilometer before the check point. Without any choice, I use the torch function on my phone to light my way. It wasn't very bright but it was good enough. And with that, soon the noisy sounds at Kei Ling Ha was heard.

10:00:51 hours was what I took to get myself to this point at 52KM. And as expected, Kei Ling Ha was a busy check point. I quickly grab some oranges before making my way to collect my drop bag here. But immediately as I left the food tent, a young girl from the volunteer team came to me asking if I had a drop bag. Replied her that I do and she quickly took a glance at my race bib and dashed away to collect for me. And in a less than a minute later, she returned with my drop bag. So very efficient and I was really thankful and appreciative to her. Well done!

Was looking for a spot to sit down but the surroundings was just packed with runners. A familiar voice and face appeared suddenly. It was Terence Poon and he guided me to the side to rest while he asked if I needed anything. Told him that all I needed was some oranges as I showed him my most important thing at that time, my can of coffee which I had in my drop bag! We both broke out into laughter. Hahaha...

First thing first. I needed light and hence powered on my 800 Lumens LED Lenser. Dim the power down and soon, Terence returned with a big fat orange! Joshua joined in too and we joked that it was deja vu to be meeting here again. We gave ourselves a toast for that with me using my can of coffee and him, his cup noodles! However sadly, he decided to throw the towel in and just stop here for his leg is acting up. Tried to pull him along with him, but I guess he had already decided. Once I was ready, I deposited back my drop bag and put on my jacket, assembled my trekking pole and powered on my head torch to the max. It was time to for the second half of the race and the big climbs awaits.

Being funny before starting the second half of my race.

Next stop, Gilwell Camp and it's the longest stretch with 13KM of technical trails and climbs involved. I just can't wait to get this stretch over with as it can be mentally torturing. As I crossed the road from the check point, it was a long road climb, about a mile up till we arrive at the trail entrance. However, just ahead and out of no where, surprise surprise, there was a mandatory gear check. The volunteers checked for our mobile phone, thermal blanket and of course head torch. It may take a while especially to locate the first 2 items buried deep in the back pack or so, but I applaud and thank the organisers for doing so. After all, it was each and every runner's safety for anything can happen up in the mountains ahead.

After repacking, I continued upwards into the darkness. It was getting cold and hence I need to keep going to ensure my core temperature doesn't drop. Finally about close to a mile or so, I arrived at the trail entrance with a volunteer there ensuring everyone went the correct way. It's not easy for him to be alone there in the dark and cold and I applaud him for his undying support!

In the trail, I began to run a little, but that's before hitting the climb which is actually pretty steep. And this is where those who frequent to Gunung Nuang back home will benefit. For myself, I needed my trekking pole to help lift my body up to the higher level. This kept going and going as I made my way to Ma On Shan at 580M above sea level. And when I looked back, I could see the trail of head torches lighting the forest. It was a nice view, but also reminded me how high I was climbing. And remembering my migraine incident 2 years back, I started looking forward to the open space with a few benches where I rested there back then, as I intend to do the same again. I arrived finally at the same area and sat at the exact same bench. Took off my shoes to allow both my feet to "breathe" and stretch a little while I pop in a mild dose of Coenzyme Q10 just in case of migraine. During my 10 minutes rest there or so, many runners whom I passed earlier, is now ahead of me. I have no intention to pass them again and let my pace take it's course.

I caught up with a few runners as I approach a very windy Ma On Shan. Nothing spectacular about the view here except for lights emitting from the apartments from both side of Hong Kong and Sha Tin. There was a back log there as we hardly could pass the runner ahead on the single track trail there and hence had to keep moving till we get the chance. Just hope that I don't get blown away. Haha... The chance to overtake finally came when the descend started as I broke free.

My legs was getting battered as I descended from Ma On Shan and I was getting tired. The climbs wasn't very steep now but it was a rolling one and it kept coming. And fast forwarding, after countless of rolling hills, I finally arrived at the long stretch which eventually led to an open space, at Gilwell Camp, where Check Point 6 is at. 65KM in 14:05:26 hours, I was just glad to make it here safely.

The organisers have moved the check point at Gilwell Camp to an open space much nearer to the trail exit compared to 2 years back and this is certainly much more welcome as there were much more space for runners to rest. With night upon us and the temperature starting to drop, I made use of the hot food and drinks here to fill myself up. A hot cup of noodles while I chatted with a team of 2 medics who are sweeping the course from Check Point 5 to the finish. And coincidentally, one of them is a fellow Malaysian from Alor Setar, Kedah. We had a good chat as I was really taking my own sweet time, especially with the awesome hot ginger tea.

And finally, when my legs thought it was time leave, I got ready and slowly made my way passed the scout's campfire which I remember that I stop by 2 years back to get some heat into me. I was freezing back then!

It was mainly downhill on the road here for a couple of Kilometers before re-entering the trails for some rolling hills again before a major climb towards Beacon Hill. And somehow, I think I got good memories here. I managed to run a little on the open trails but as soon as I got to the climb towards the check point, it became a single trail and I got stuck behind some slower runners. I didn't want to pressurize the runners ahead and only waited for the overtaking chance to come. This also allow me to conserve some strength.

Eventually the overtaking chance came and finally some glow lights and soon music in the lonely night. Beacon Hill, manned by the scouts was a happening check point. Check Point 7, 73KM into the race at 16:37:07 hours. As we are fast approaching the Lunar New Year, I was presented a red packet by the scouts here which contained a chocolate wrapped in gold paper.

Most runners were wrapped in blanket and seated around the campfire to warm themselves up. I found a corner and took some hot coffee plus some hot ginger tea to maintain my core temperature. Filled my flask up and noticed that it was time to have my head torch battery change. Got it change with the help from the scout master as my hands was shaking due to cold and off I went!

It was a slippery steep descent from Beacon Hill. I had to be careful not to trip over something else there might be a mini avalanche me. From trail to road, I know I was near to the main road where I had to cross it via the pedestrian bridge before embarking up Golden Hill Road. This is where Jasmine was much earlier but now, only a few volunteers were there to guide the runners. I made good use of the toilet across the road and took a breather at the bus stand to adjust my shoe. And while doing so, I could hear the sound of the monkeys moving around the bushes nearby. Yes, this place will be swarming with monkeys should I arrive later, say at dawn. I better get going before I had to fend myself from them with my trekking poles!

So up Golden Hill Road. The long winding road in darkness before suddenly, a pair of reflective eyes ahead. I thought there were from monkeys but judging from the way it moves and the sheer size of it, I was wrong. It was a pair of wild boars but they certainly was very different from the Malaysian version. Huge, tall, skinny and grey in colour, they were actually pretty peaceful, grazing along the bushes. Reminds me of South Africa's warthog.

Anyway, I continued ascending Golden Hill Road which was filled with bread crumbs, some banana peels and litters by the side courtesy of the monkeys. Got to the top and it was a slow descend into another dark area where a lady runner suddenly just zoomed passed me ahead and was no where to be seen. Please do not ask me if she was a runner or not!

I got to the entrance of the trail greeted by some steps. Was just a short journey in the trails overlooking some dams or reservoirs before exiting into another area.Continuing on the flat road before running on concrete, I know I was near and soon, after 18:53:23 hours, I arrived at Shing Mun Dam, Check Point 8!

Again like Gilwell Camp, the check point at Shing Mun Dam was move forward compared to 2 years back and it was certainly a welcomed choice as there was much more space for the runners. 2 years back, I was remember I was shivering at this check point due to the cold. This year although much more prepared, I reminded myself to keep warm and hence took in some hot ginger tea before I spotted a camp with a heater in it and quickly moved into it. It was full of runners, some covered in blanket and napping away. Found a chair near the heater and made myself comfortable there. I know my legs will get heavy and that I will lose more time, but the heat generated here was just too hard to resist.

After 15 minutes or so, I decided it was time to continue on, for 2 of the biggest climbs await. Exited the camp and jog a little to loosen the very stiff muscle before I slowly made my way towards the trail entrance mark by the wooden gantry, Maclehose Trail, Stage 7. The first hill to conquer was Needle Hill standing tall at 532M from sea level. It was no easy climb especially when we were already 84KM into the race. Legs were heavy and tired, and some of us including myself was feeling sleepy.

To keep moving and to keep climbing will bring towards Needle Hill and eventually the finish. The new thoughts gave me a new motivation as I used the strength left on both my shoulder to push my trekking poles towards the ground to propel me up the next step. I did that will full momentum till I had to slowed down when I bumped into a big guy ahead of me. And while following him close from behind, I suddenly took note of his body movement and also the hanging map from the very familiar backpack! I called out to him and asked if he was at the Bromo Tengger Semeru Race last year? And indeed he was. It was Rais whom I trek with along the Bromo rim. Absolutely small world and delighted to meet up with him again, especially during a race like this.

Both myself and Rais paused for a moment to catch up before resuming like how we did at Bromo. He led and I followed, and we chatted away. And it was through here, that I found out that he actually completed BTS back then. BRAVO!

As we kept climbing, the pace dropped and my core temperature too. It was getting colder and I realised that I can't be following Rais pace. And when the opportunity came, I passed him and continue powering up every steps using the help of my trekking pole. I did paused for moment to look back to check on Rais but I did not see him despite sitting down for a moment to adjust my shoes. I continued on myself and got to the top of Needle Hill before  downhill to the bottom of the next hill.

Grassy Hill, 647M above sea level was next. I don't remember much that it was actually tarmac from 2 years back. Climbing on tarmac wasn't actually easier especially with the open surroundings. It was getting cold and I could feel my gut acting up a little. I needed to eat. I moved quickly and soon, found a concrete structure where I sat down, removed my shoes and ate some of my left over cranberries and washing it down with water. And when everything was settle down in my tummy, I continued on before the cold took over me.

Got to the top feeling rather tired but a fellow runner "woke" me up to be careful with the descent to Lead Mine Pass as it's going to be slippery due to mud and rocks around the grassy surface. And when I began my descent, I fully understood what he meant as it was wet too. The more agile runners disappeared into the bottom while the clumsy me was taking a step at a time.

Eventually I got to the bottom and a marshal was directed me to the left where the sound of generators was coming from. It was Lead Mine Pass, Check Point 9, located somewhere at the foot of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong's highest peak.

Just another 10KM to go and it was going to be really cold on the journey upwards to the peak. I needed to recharge myself and hence took a breather inside the tent where the heater was located. A very helpful volunteer asked if I needed anything and told her that all I needed was a hot cup of ginger drink. She helped me got it after a couple of minutes. Thank you!

Some other runners were napping here as I made myself comfortable and befriended a local name Kam Tim in the process. More and more runners arrived including Rais and when I was about to leave, the rain came! I continued resting and out came my thermal blanket which was really old. So old that it actually fell apart. I still managed to wrap myself partly with whatever is left of it though.

Knowing the rain won't be stopping anytime and that I just wanted to get the final 10KM over with it, together with Kam Tim, we made a decisive move to continue on under the rain. Our strategy was simple, to keep moving forward so that our core temperature will not drop drastically. And during that, we kept chatting away to keep our minds off things and through here, I learnt that he was actually part of the original technical team of the race and a very fast runner. He was definitely a silver or gold runner for this race if not for his gut acting up back at halfway.

Kam Tim led the way through a very watery, muddy and slippery journey up Tai Mo Shan where I followed his every foot steps. The weather got worst as we headed upwards and it reminded me of my attempt at Ben Nevis back in year 2015. The rain was firing on my face like needles and the wind was trying to blow me off my footing. The feeling, MISERABLE!

I slowed a little and Kam Tim stopped to ask if I was all right and offered me his jacket. Replied that I was all right, just getting slower due to the wind factor. Told him to keep moving and that I will call out if I needed anything. We pushed on and soon, we entered to the road. The technical part is over, so what now is to keep climbing to the top.

On the road, I soon caught up with Kam Tim as he told me to keep going. With the cold temperature, I can't afford to stop for too long and hence obliged to him. I kept following the road ahead and eventually got to the top by noticing 2 volunteers there as the Hong Kong Observatory weather radar station was covered in fog and nowhere to be seen. I looked back to see if Kam Tim was nearby but he was not.

Another 5KM or so to go and it's all downhill to the finish. The winding road of Tai Mo Shan awaits my weakened legs but this has to be done. I ran when I could, walked when I can't. One leg at a time, I told myself. The rain was reduced to a drizzle but no doubt I was still feeling rather cold. One final pee stop by the bushes and I managed to find my rhythm and started running till I was redirected back into the trails by a group of volunteers. The final Kilometer or so was n the trail as this was the diversion crated last year due to the extremely cold temperature that frozen up the road.

The trail was slippery as there were steps and rocks all over. No falling or tripping over at the closing stages and hence I walked through it before finally arriving at a building. It was another few hundred meters more I guess and from here, I ran and ran, and soon arrived back on the road where I heard my name being call out.

My finishing moment.

No sprinting or dashing as I ran naturally towards the finish line, completing my second Hong Kong 100 in a time of 24:58:15 hours. 2 hours slower than my previous attempt but I was just lucky to have completed it after recovering from illness and also lack of training. The slippery conditions made it challenging it this year too and there is a lot of work for me to improve on my footing especially on slippery ground.

My splits.

Nevertheless, a job done here as I waited for my fellow friends to arrive back. One by one, they did from Kam Tim, Rais and the Leong as I waited together with Keng Koon and his mum, both very supportive despite the former pulling out from the race due to coldness.

Thank you Keng Koon (and his mum - not in pic) for the assistance given post race.

Kam Tim who led the way for me from CP9 till the top of Tai Mo Shan.

Together with Keng Koon and his mum, both myself and Leong took a taxi back to Mongkok. A tiring ride back where I was totally knock out during the journey. Back at the hostel, the cleaning part was rather difficult due to the room size and the stiffness of muscles. And after a well deserve shower, we headed downstairs with William for lunch who completed the race in a remarkable time of below 20 hours. We were joined by Tey for lunch at the porridge place before heading back to the hostel for a well deserved sleep.

Well deserve post race recovery meal with Tey.

Monday, 16 January 2017
Sleep was good and by 8AM, I was awake. As William is flying back home today, only myself and Yee Hoo had a simple breakfast at the famous Kam Hua coffee shop which luckily was within walking distance. The polo bun with butter is good here as the coffee shop was packed to the max. Made an appointment at 10.30AM to meet up with Jimmy, Saucony Asia Pacific's International Brand Director and off we went to Tsim Tsa Tsui. After walking for quite a distance, I eventually arrived at the office at China Hong Kong City. A great catch-up with him after first meeting him 2 years back as we discussed on the brand's potential and also problems.

The Wolverine World Wide group of companies.

With Jimmy, Saucony AP International Brand Director. More than a brand principal and a friend.

Later together with Yee Hoo, we made our way to Kowloon Park before returning to Mong Kok for some shoe shopping at Sneaker Street where I purchased 2 valuable pair of hot Saucony racing shoes. Returned to the hostel to rest up before heading to Temple Street at night before we found out that Poh Lai is n Hong Kong too!

Facebook gave Poh Lai's location away and we quickly contacted him for a meet-up.

After a quick bowl of hot 6 treasure desserts which was smacking delicious, we made our way to Yau Mah Tei MTR station to meet up with Poh Lai before heading towards Tsim Tsa Tsui again for the night view there. It was chilly but worth it despite a short stay there before we head into the city area to look for food before heading back to call it a night. But that was before some painful packing as we needed to check out early the next morning.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Woke up just before 7AM to prepare for an early check out at 8AM. Left our luggage at the hostel's reception and headed off to Yau Ma Tei to meet up with Poh Lai for breakfast at the famous Mido Cafe after visiting the Thian Hou Temple to make some blessings for a dear friend heading to Europe to further studies. Mido Cafe was supposedly famous as there were many TV series and movies filmed here but I had no impression of it at all. Hahaha... Nevertheless, breakfast was simple yet satisfying before we parted ways with Poh Lai who was catching the 3PM flight back home later.

With some extra time to kill, we headed towards San Sui Po for some gadget shopping was the prices here was dirt cheap! Only bought a blinker worth less than RM3 though but Yee Hee bought an action cam which only cost slightly more than RM200. What a bargain!

We headed back to Mong Kok for lunch at DimDimSum Dim Sum Specialty Store. We over ordered but still managed to almost finish everything except a last piece of "Nian Gao". Everything here was delicious and I highly recommend this place. After a satisfying meal, we collected our luggage and hop on to the bus 21 to head towards the airport to check ourselves in before meeting up with my long lost friend, Jasmine!

My long lost "sifu"!

It was a good catch up with Jasmine before we boarded our half an hour delayed flight at 6.15PM. Flight was rather uncomfortable though and since I am not able to sleep through it, I took some time to blog about this entry, well only part of the start. But eventually, we touched down back home and surprisingly, luggage retrieval was pretty quick this time. Took a cab home after parting ways with Yee Hoo, and with that, came an end for my adventure at my second HK100.

* Photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016, Rewind Of My 10th Year...

By Frank

Another year came, another year passes. It sounds so familiar and as we aged, this phrase seems to come faster too. And with year 2016 coming to an end in a few hours time, here's again to reflect back on the year it has been. Will only touch on running here this year round as honestly, the first 9 month's of the year has been pretty emotionally tough with passing of friends and patients to cancer.

2016 was meant to be my 10th year of running. To be precise, it will only start in the month of March 2016. But celebration can't come sooner that December 2015, when I was successful in my ballot for the West Highland Way Race in Scotland, the final race that was in my to do list. Building on a strong 2015 I had and continuing my momentum from there, all my resources was concentrated into this race as well as Comrades Marathon, as I continue into the new year. 

January 2016
Swinging into the new year in high momentum with a new mission in hand, my training plan as given by coach was all laid out together with my diet plan under the "Low Carbs High Fat" plan. With an unsuccessful ballot for the Vibram Hong Kong 100, my first race for the year was the Watergate 16 Hours. Didn't do well there though only managing 60KM in close to 10 hours due to my usual sleep factor but it did "wake me up" to try rectify this problem which I normally have to face during long distance races over the night. Nevertheless, I was in no panic mode and carried on with my regime and eventually finding myself at the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon which I enjoyed very much with Soon Chung.

February 2016
The second month of the year was just to continue and improve on from the first. And with the Chinese New Year celebration, it may sound like a derailment for me. But what actually that derailed my training was due to an unfortunate accident that involved mum and Bailey. But was glad nothing much more serious happened and that everything was back to normal for them and me as we head towards the end of the month where I paid a visit to Gunung Nuang, for the 12 hours ultra there. My second attempt here and there were already positive results being shown which boosted my confidence.

March 2016
The third month came, and besides the month that marks my 10th year of running, it's also the month where I remember all of the 24 months of cancer fighting. In terms of training, it wasn't easy and I had to readjust as I soon notice that my usual group's training regime isn't helping at all. I had to improvised quickly for this is a critical month and managed to do just that with Twilight Ultra Challenge taking place in mid month covering 80KM in 13 hours. Not exactly ideal but was certainly productive as the month concluded with really positive results.

April 2016
All the first 3 months of training and sacrifices began to show here. I felt stronger and fresher during my training and with all the energy and strength gained, Route 68 Challenge was like an early trial for me. However, had a scare during the start of the month when I experienced the "dead leg syndrome", probably due to over used of it. But glad there was nothing about it, and my legs was performing as it's best when I ran a pretty good Route 68 Challenge. From there, I knew I was ready for both my big races ahead. What I had to do is to maintain on it and to avoid any potential injuries.

May 2016
It's all about getting ready here. Despite leaving my job at Running Lab (yes I resigned!) late last month, I was actually pretty busy with other stuff such as photo-shoots and product launches, both associated with Saucony. And yes, this is also the month that I parted ways with Saucony as their athlete to give way for new blood to join the team.

As for my 5th Comrades, for the first time, I am not raising funds for Cancer Research Malaysia this time round due to personal reasons and I am glad that they understood and stood by my decision. There were no races this month as I slowly tapered off my training before eventually flying off to South Africa on 25 May, 4 days before my first big race, the Comrades Marathon.

Half a decade of Comrades.

An accidental personal best of 10:27:07 hours at my 5th Comrades Marathon was achieved and was glad everything was good despite being my weaker "Down" run. That certainly boosted my confidence as all the sacrifices are showing results. Nevertheless, it was just a short stay at South Africa this time before I flew over to Scotland to recover and prepare myself for the West Highland Way Race 3 weeks later.

June 2016
The main highlight of my running career took place in this month, some halfway around where I came from. Running 152KM across the iconic Scottish highlands, the West Highland Way, a completion of this race will make my running achievement come full circle. Wasn't an easy race for I ran, walk, limp, struggled, slept and even pooped during my entire journey from Milngavie to Fort William. But I had a strong and supportive crew of Angela, Alexa, Chee Kong and Edmund who take care of me as I successfully finish off the race in a much faster time than estimated. And not only them, my "warm Scottish family" who were out there in full force were also there when I tackled through the trails. Indeed, everything of my running career came full circle here as I crossed the finish line at Lochaber Leisure Centre. My race report to my West Highland Way Race 2016 HERE.

My amazing WHWR team.

My moment of truth.

July and August 2016
After achieving what I set out to do, I began my totally deserved rest and also started a new career. Runs were kept to a minimal as I started to enjoy myself on the weekend. Nothing much happened for these 2 months as life was carefree and good.

September 2016
First race since West Highland Way Race, I know myself I was up for trouble at my third attempt at Back 2 Endurance. All I wanted was a Comrades distance in 12 hours and though I only managed the "Up' run distance, I was content with my performance. After all, it was my "downtime". And also, that it was after this race, that I needed to get my tooth fix. I was referring to my problematic left lower wisdom tooth which had been disturbing me for a couple of years already. And hence I had it removed through a very scary surgery procedure which left me out of action from physical activities for almost 3 weeks. And it was after that it had all settled down, that an "emergency trip" with Yang Leng and Piew to Gunung Nuang was done traversing through it, to prepare ourselves for the upcoming Cameron Ultra-Trail.

October 2016
Looking forward to get back into a little running at a brand new local event at the Cameron Ultra-Trail. Not for the faint hearted, this event was tough as I suffered badly at the final quarter of the run heading up and down the 2 peaks. But it was through this event, that my friendship with Wai Hong grew stronger when the both of us made our journey back together from halfway point. There is too much to say about my experience with him so I suggest you click on my race report link to read more on what we both went through together. Thanks Wai Hong for being that friend that stood by me at the peaks of Cameron Highlands. And indeed, this event was an eye opener to many and it will be an important preparation to what lies ahead next month.

Tasty oranges at Cameron Ultra-Trail.

Completing the Cameron Ultra-Trail with Wai Hong.

November 2016
November seems to be an important month.  With 3 weekly back to back events, I had to be careful with my expectations as it involves my Comrades qualifier for next year's edition. With almost no runs since the Cameron Ultra Trail last month and with my return to Running Lab (yes, I made a u-turn), I faced the Bromo Tengger Semeru (BTS) Ultra like a rookie runner. Yes, the BTS Ultra will mark my step forward into my next chapter of running, towards the "unexplored territory" beyond my comfort zone. I may not have complete my 10th year of running but since the opportunity came, I guess I might as well grab it and give myself  a head start. Besides I had no expectations from it and even before the race, I knew my chances of suffering a DNF (Did Not Finish) will be high.

And so, it happened. With barely any experience running on volcanic terrain and a fall I suffered 3 quarter distance into the race, I threw in the flag and earned my 3rd DNF of my running career. I may have plenty of time to make the distance, but with risky conditions, I did not want to risk it. I wasn't sore at all with my decision but was glad that I actually was brave enough to take up the challenge. And after all, I had a memorable holiday too.

Next to Mount Bromo's crater.

The week later, was my Comrades qualifier at the Putrajaya Night Marathon. Again, very low expectations for this and I only hope to complete it within 5 hours. Jut slightly below 5 hours I did, suffering from halfway distance. But most importantly, my ticket to Comrades is secured.

Then my final event for this triple weekend back to back and also my final race for the year. A downgrade from the previous 2 editions, I opt for the 78KM distance at this year's Putrajaya Ultra, running together with Jeannie, Jamie and Nick. A steady run which not I only felt good, but somehow satisfied to help them through the distance. And with that, my running for this year came to an early "end", as I took a long rest in trying to rebuild my career and my hope to spend time with someone important.

December 2016
Things didn't go pretty well in life here. Struck down my migraine in the early days of the month that prolonged till the end of the year, everything that I hope for was derailed. I was supposed to even jump start my training for next year with the Vibram Hong Kong 100 fast approaching on the 3rd Sunday of January 2017, but I guess I have to lower my expectations for that race now. Guess this is the result from taking a too long break from running. 3 years of improving from strength to strength, this is where I am going back to square 1 again.

And with all that from above, a total of 3,128KM was ran in the entire 2016 with more than 2,000KM coming from the first half of the year.

As most welcome the new year for a much welcome change and a renew hope, it won't be particular easy for me as 2017 will be the year I start to seek out new frontiers. Call it my second chapter of my running career and with my failed attempt at BTS 2016, I know that the new "adventures" and "challenges" I seek will not be an easy one. I expect lots of DNFs (Did Not Finish), but without trying, I will not know. After all, it's this that makes one look further.

Won't touch further on things here, but all I can say is that I foresee 2017 to be a really difficult for me. Building on a new career, getting into my second chapter of running, juggling time for personal matters and also trying to come to terms with other things, 2017 might just not be the year that will be smooth for me. But since I was given the opportunity for yet another year, I will embrace it for all I can since moving forward is the only option. So AYE, Happy New Year to everyone!

Coming full circle in my first 10 years of running.