This post is dedicated to my family, relatives, Eileen, the Scorpions, RED72 brothers, Team Spartacus and everyone who had supported me through the 320km journey. Without you guys, this feat would not have been possible.
Photo Credits to RED72 Bros who had taken these photos as well as Tony Ton Ton Fun shots (check them out here)
So I had signed up for this race LOONG ago (think it was like..last year??). I had only started training for it 3 months ago, during my school holidays. Mileage per week is as such:
Wk 1: 40km
Wk 2: 55km
Wk 3: 70km
Wk 4: 40km
Wk 5: 75km
Wk 6: 90km
Wk 7: 100km
Wk 8: 90km
Wk 9: 70km
Wk 10: Reservist
Wk 11: 40km
Wk 12: 20km
This time round, I had more preparation, compared to my preparation for Monster Ultra 200 in 2014.
However, due to work, I had to split up my long runs. My single longest run was 24km, however, I did my best to increase my mileage density. For example, my 100km week was done in 5 consecutive days. I still do loads of cross training, such as crossfit style workouts, calisthenics and kettlebell work. I believed all these helped in my conditioning for the 200 miles, as it allows you to keep your running form over the entire course of 4 days.
As for nutrition, I was also more prepared as compared to my 200km race 2 years ago. With John’s advice (check him out here), I was in for a smoother race, thanks to his nutrition tips!
So basically John advised me to consume more whole foods, complex carbohydrates and amino acids instead of relying on processed food, sugar, isotonic drinks and gel. This was really helpful as I had not experienced any gastrointestinal upset (common among ultrarunners) and crashes due to the temporary sugar rush caused by sugar and isotonic drinks.
This time round, I also had more support! Thanks to my family, relatives and friends, there are more people support me on this run which was a tremendous morale booster throughout the race!
NOW, on to the race proper…
It was 0630am when I reached Macritchie Carpark. My family was up as support crew first. Did some final taping of the illiotibial band, some photo taking and then by 7am, Ben set us off!
0-16km: First off to pace me was Bob! Being the start of the race, I was feeling energetic and positive. Unlike the 200km race 2 years ago, this year I came in with lesser doubt and was raring to go. Finished the first 16km rather comfortably.
16km-35km: Was alone. Felt rather comfortable getting into the groove. Maintained all the way till Bukit Batok where Eileen decided to pace me on the run!
35-44km: Stopped for a 1 hour lunch break at Chinese Garden MRT. There I had a great meal of fish soup and rice prepared by my uncle. Did not really have an appetite but I consumed it anyway, knowing that if I don’t do so I will suffer later on due to the massive caloric deficit. Eileen continued to accompany me thereafter till we reached Pioneer MRT station.
44km-65km: My brother took over to pace me. This stretch was really boring, especially the Corporation Road-Yung Ho-Yuan Ching loop! Hit my first low point when I reached 60km mark. It looked it like was going to rain when I reached big box. It was really cold and I felt rather sian because if it rains, it is gonna take a huge toll on me later on in the race. If a torrential rain occurred, I would have taken shelter immediately to preserve my body temperature. Thankfully it stayed that way.
65km-71km: My uncle joined my brother to pace me on the run. Was feeling slightly better, legs were generally fatigued but I could still run and walk. Took a short break at NUS Business school and continued moving till Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music where I had my dinner, prepared by my mum and uncle. At the same time, it was the support crew change over, Steffan, Wenjie, Phil and Adrian took over. Ash and his family came down to support at dinner time as well!
71km-90km: By this time, my hamstrings felt like they were going to drop off but I could keep on moving thanks to the large pacing group following me! Somewhere along Commonwealth Avenue, Florence and Matthias joined the gang as well! It wasn’t for long that we settled into a pace which was really fast; the fastest being a 6:10 minute kilometer. Florence and Matthais left at Bukit Gombak MRT, and we kept pushing on. It was a relatively low point as we moved off from Bukit Gombak MRT station; my legs were feeling really sore and I was getting tired from the day’s worth of running and walking. We were initially scheduled to rest at Star Vista, but due to the slow pace, we aimed to stop over at my Aunt’s house to rest, which is JUST along Jalan Jurong Kechil! Took a shower, refueled and a nap (3hrs total) before moving on.
90km-112km: Alastair took over pacing as Phil and Adrian left. When I woke up my legs felt much better; not sore anymore, just a general sense of fatigue. Took in some food and then started running again. At this point, I hit yet another low. This stretch was rather mental; long straight stretches of roads along Bukit Timah and a hilly stretch after Star Vista. My paced slowed considerably with the fatigued legs and when I reached Alexandra Retail Centre at 6am I was “seeing god”. Thankfully, after having some fish porridge that my parents bought and with the sun coming out, I was recharged and ready to go again!
112km-133km: Yet another tough stretch. After pushing hard from 112km-128km with Alastair, where we linked up with Seetoh at the bottom of Mount Faber, I was shagged out by the blazing sun. Seetoh got us through Mount Faber with a fast hike. Really appreciate it as I was lagging behind time and could use a good push through this monster of a hill. Was considering to eat my meal before the Mount Faber climb but Seetoh advised against it. It was a good choice actually, both physically and mentally!
133km-146km: Had lunch at the carpark at Pender Road, where Zac linked up with me to pace me through Sentosa. As usual, my uncle cooked a meal for me and as usual, I did not have appetite but ate it anyway! This was taking its toll on me. I could not eat as much to get in the calories needed and I suspect this was causing me to slow down. The route in, around and out of Sentosa was BLAZING HOT. The rolling terrain within Sentosa was not helping either. I walked almost the entirely route within Sentosa. The heat was no joke, hottest through the entire 320km race. Seriously a sufferfest. I was seriously worried that I could not finish the race within the 80hrs cut off time. It would certainly be disappointing considering that there were many people rooting for me! I did not want all their energy to go to waste!
146km-150km: Eileen took over pacing as Zac left to work. Paced me till Ion Orchard where we linked up with Ironman Sam!
150km-158.5km: Sam and eileen continued pacing me, Jake joined in along Clarke Quay MRT. I told them that I could not pick up the pace due to my aching hamstring and Sam suggested powerwalking (he was able to powerhike a 5:30 marathon!!). We gave it a try and it was not long before we manage to pick up the pace made up for lost time! Stopped outside Verve Pizza Bar for dinner break where I had CHICKEN RICE!!! Yes, I was craving for chicken rice during the walk through this phase, and it turned out that chicken rice became my main source of fuel throughout the race!
158.5km-183km: Bear and Eric took over my family to support for my race at Stadium. I was joined by Pete, Sam and Wenjie who paced me all the way till Paya Lebar MRT. Along the way, Razip joined in for crew support with his own vehicle, Eddy and Lee joined in the pacing and there was loads of people together with me on this leg! Felt really blessed and super thankful! Was able to make up ALOT of ground. By the time I reached Paya Lebar MRT Station at 11:40pm, there were 4 cars as support and loads of pacers! Linked up with Glenn, Sylvester, Chuck, Kenny and my family at Paya Lebar Square. My dad took 2 huge pails of water along for me to bath in and I did so outside Paya Lebar Square…like a boss.
Took a 3 hours nap thereafter in Kenny’s car (super comfortable with aircon on) after which, Glenn, Sylvester and Almeric took over to pace me!
183km-200km: The walk was a shag one. I was consistently dozing off and feeling tired. I guess it is the time of the day that caused me to have the same low that I experienced the night (or wee hours of the morning) earlier on the first night! However, the four of us managed to reach 201km in 47hrs and..20 minutes? This gave me some breathing space: I was relatively confident to finish the race with 120km left and 32hrs remaining.
200km-222km: John took over Almeric and together with Sylvester and Glenn, we picked up speed through powerhiking and made up LOADS of ground. Had more chicken rice along the way (a packet of rice at 630am, a packet of chicken rice at 730am) and then, it was beastmode once I hit Loyang! Ran ALL the way till I reached 222km where I had DUCK RICE hehehe^^ This stretch was supposed to be boring but somehow I got the energy to push and got myself a boost! We joked that it must be due to Hendon camp being around the corner which gaves me the extra boost needed! Needless to say, with around 10km of running, I made up LOADS of ground. Sylvester left at 222km to leave Glenn and John to pace me for the next stretch.
222km-234km: Managed to hold on to a good pace all the way till Lorong Halus, where we linked up with Steffan. The sun was blazing hot during this entire stretch but somehow that V-power boost lasted!!!
234km-257km: John left at Lorong Halus, leaving Glenn and Stef to pace me through the next few kilometers, which was agonisingly painful due to the SUPER LONG and mundane stretch along Punggol-Serangoon Reservoir. We did loads of powerhiking and by the time we reached Kovan MRT Station, my FEET WERE REKTED. Hammies were super sore, soles were super sore! Rested there for a while, and Melvin came along to visit us!!!
Glenn retired at Kovan, Eileen joined in the fast march with Stef and I till Sengkang Sport Centre. We were moving at a really fast clip; around 7-8km/h. Along the way I did stopped one more time at Buangkok for another packet of chicken rice! It seemed like chicken rice was the V-power which is powering me through the mid-race! Feet and shin starting to hurt alot at around 251km and by the time I reached 257km I was really tired. We did however made up alot of ground and met the eventual Champion of the race, Boon Heng, outside Oasis MRT station.
257km-267km: After another dinner of chicken rice (lol), and a changeover of support crew from my family to Scorpions, we set off at a fast pace! First off to pace is Zac and Junying. They really set a punishing pace! We stayed at it till 265km where my right shin hurts REALLY badly. During the short break, I realised that when I touched my shin bone, it felt really painful. John and I suspected that it might be a stress fracture of the shin from all the powerwalking done for the past..24hrs. We slowed the pace down and took my time to walk. At all times I was really conscious to keep my pace between 10:00-11:50 per km. Reason being: 5-6km/h pace will keep me in the safe zone to finish within 80hrs!
My cousin joined me during the walk somewhere close to Serangoon Stadium and we walked all the way till we hit Potong Pasir MRT Station, where we were greeted by Uncle Bay, Alvin, a few more RED72 people, my aunts, John and Almeric. We stopped at a bus stop for a pit stop where Zac massaged my foot and everyone else helped me maintained my body, while the rest watched on. This had attracted many stares from the public and people on buses; they could not understand what was going on and why one guy sitting on the yoga mat with a sibei shag face was being massaged and given food. I felt a little paiseh but was at the same time feeling blessed to have such tremendous amount of support, which gave me the strength to carry on pushing. By this time, I was beyond tired but I was determined to finish the race!
267km-279km: RED72 bros joined along the run, together with Zac, Junying, my aunt and my cousin. We were a huge group running down Upper Serangoon Road, Bendemeer Road and Moulmein road, where I took a pit stop and was joined by MORE members of Team Spartacus: Anna, Florence, Zibin and Eddy! After that pit stop, I got supercharged again and was able to run REALLY FAST! This time, I ran around for around 2km at a 6:25/km split, which was really fast. When we reached 274km, we took a short break, whereby there after we continued moving. By this time, I was moving rather slowly once again: totally feeling it in my right shin and the soles. Managed to hang on all the way till 279km at AMK HUB where I just crashed for an hour after a bath brought to me by my uncle (he took 2 huge buckets of water along and allowed me to bath with a container!) In addition, he brought along an inflatable bed! Good stuff! Most of Team Spartacus left at AMK and it was left with Almeric, JJ and Adrian to pace me for the next stretch!
279km-290km: THIS WAS A REALLY TERRIBLE STRETCH. Lentor Avenue was plain torture and so was Yishun Avenue 2 and Canberra Link. I am so sorry to have Almeric, Adrian and JJ accompanying me here. This was the lowest of low in the entire race. I was moody and my expression showed it all. Steven linked up with us at Khatib MRT station and accompanied us till Sembawang Road. All I could remember was, shin pain, sole pain and VERY VERY sleepy and demoralised me. My right shin really hurt like shit and so does my feet. Icing was done at Khatib Station and the junction between Sembawang Road and Admiralty Road East. Super emo stretch.
290km-294km: This stretch was yet another slow walk. Just managed to keep the momentum going. Really gotta thank Almeric and Adrian for tolerating my moodiness..this stretch of road there is REALLY NOTHING TO SEE. Plain boring seriously a mind torture. I kept looking at my gps watch; it is the only way that I can calculate my distance and keep myself sane. At the same time I was peeing ALOT and I really suspect it is due to the fatigue…
294km-305km: JK took over Almeric to pace me, together with Adrian. This stretch as usual, was slow. Shin started to hurt alot at around 301km…and I really struggled till 305km, where I iced my feet once again. Reggie joined us at around Woodlands Waterfront Park!
305km-321km: From here, it was an all out push to the finish. I could remember the last thing JK told me: ” WC, I am gonna pick up the pace a little, if not you will suffer when the sun is out”, before I actually just heck everything about the pain and went beastmode: I planned to run all the way back. It was a pretty long stretch but I was confident that I could do it! Emmanuel joined in the run, together with my sister at around 307km. Steffan joined along at around 314km, along with Zac. We were a huge group running and there were like…3 cars following me ( convoy madness). We pressed on all the way till the end, and MANAGED TO BEAT 12PM by 2 minutes!!! I did 10 burpees as someone had shouted for me to perform them!
FEELINGS AFTER 320KM?
I was…happy and satisfied, and also relieved at the same time that it was over. Looking back, 320km was indeed a REALLY long race! My feet really swelled so much after the run and I could not walk properly at all. They felt like they were going to burst anytime soon. I was also really tired! I concussed for an hour after I reached home.
How to further improve performance for subsequent ultramarathons?
Point #01: Include longer runs; time on the feet
I felt that longer runs of 7-8hrs could be done over the weekends. They need not be running all the way, just time walking and running on the feet to get them used to it! This time round even though I had the mileage and thus the engine, my legs weren’t able to hold up as well.
Point #02: Night Runs
As much as possible try to incorporate night runs, especially wee hours of the morning. This is especially true for myself as I keep getting my “low points” during that period of time.
Point #03: Power of Powerwalking
Through this 200 miler, I realised the importance of powerwalking. Running and walking uses different muscle groups. With powerwalking, you are able to keep your heartrate low and still move as fast as 6-8km/h, which is really good. And I think I walked almost 2/3 of the race! Definitely should incorporate more walking into my ultramarathon trainings!
Point #04: POWER of Nutrition
John has shown me the power of nutrition in ultramarathons. Compared to the Monster Ultra that I had taken part in back in 2014, when I had super POOR nutrition planned which had caused me to crash, this time, I am much stronger due to sustenance of energy by consuming proper foods and avoiding refined and simple sugar. Definitely not something that I will want to neglect in future races.
Throughout the entirety of the race, I had learnt alot and that is why I love ultramarathons; they teach you new lessons after each race and ultimately teach you how to live a better life.
Lesson #01: No man is an island, with proper support, you are capable of ANYTHING
This might be cliche, but it is very true. Looking back, I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my family and friends. Everytime I view my phone, seeing those well wishes perked me up quite abit. Do cherish your friends and loved ones as they will be your pillar of support when you come face to face with adversity. At the same time, do put yourself in their shoes and make sure that you will be there for them when they encounter their version of adversity. Little things like a note, a small gift, a word of encouragement, or a hug goes a long way.
Lesson #02: Devise a plan, stick to it and grind it through
Many at times, we focus on how much we have left to complete a task instead of focusing on the task at hand. This is especially true during this EXTREMELY long race. With my pacers navigating for me, I can solely focus on getting through 5km at a time and in no time, I was done. This can be applied to work or school; plan your timetable, and after that, just let it unfold day by day while focusing and grinding through the task at hand.
Lesson #03: Adjust your goals according to the situation
I believe in this. We need to adjust our goals on the fly if the plan went south. This is really true in ultra; whenever you fall off pace, sometimes it is better to re-adjust your goals than to fight to get yourself back on track. The ultimate goal is to finish and as long as you are able to do so, timing doesn’t matter as long as you stick to a plan which gets you there. This is the same for work or school; sometimes due to limitations or constraints, we cannot achieve the results that we desire. Rather than being angry over it or stressed up about it, work within the constraint and try to get the most out of it! The important thing is to NEVER GIVE UP!
Lesson #04: Just..keep..moving
As the saying goes: “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” every obstacle in life can be conquered, as long as you keep at it and don’t ever stop. After completing 4 ultras, I firmly believe in this. Just like every low points that you experience in your ultra are in that short spur of the moment, it is the same for the obstacles and adversities faced in life. I feel that this is the most important mantra learnt in this race. I firmly believe if you keep working on something long enough (wisely of course), you will eventually succeed. Just like the body starts to scream for you to stop due to the hurting shin, same thing for negativities in your life: learn to ignore them. Passion and determination triumphs over negativity.
Zac did asked me about my feelings after completing 320km, and my rationale for attempting this race. I told him that it was a personal journey of self discovery, to show myself that I was capable of much more than I think. He told me that this run is much more than about me: through this race, I was able to inspire him to keep on going, no matter how tough business can get (he is da boss for green wall/ green roof installation if you ever want to install one in your home or facility, he is the man!). After hearing this, I felt really happy! As a coach, there is nothing more meaningful than to be able to inspire others to start working out and spread the values that sports and fitness has to offer.
The sport of ultramarathon is indeed more than just a sport for individuals, it tighten bonds between family and friends, teaches you life lessons and also inspire others! It is certainly a meaningful sport which I will continue to engage in for the rest of my life.
To all those who had read this post, I hope that this race report is value adding to your life and that you guys will KEEP ON MOVING when the going gets tough!!!