Saturday, 29 October 2011

Time to fly!

Hoka One Ones have landed!

Roughly translated, 'Hoka" is ancient Maori for 'now it is time to fly'. These are most definitely non-conventional, and Hoka One One is the brainchild of two French sporting enthusiasts. They have designed a shoe aimed at alleviating fatigue, impact and muscle strain, with the ultimate goal of guaranteeing freedom and enjoyment with every run regardless of ability or terrain.

Fresh out of the box, these are the models currently available locally.

Mafate Unisex
The Mafate for trail running,

Combo XT / Stinson B Unisex
the Combo XT for mixed terrain,
Bondi.B (Women's model) 
and the Bondi.B for road running. 

I tried a pair when I was in Chamonix, and really liked the feel of them. They were amazingly light for their apparent size and had a great bounce and fit.

I'll be trialling these shoes over the next few weeks so stay tuned for more detailed reports .. let's see if this Fatbird will fly!

If you can't wait or would like more info about these shoes, contact Jennifer on (+65) 9765 2278, or email SgpEastCoastTrading@hotmail.sg, or find Hoka One One Singapore on Facebook. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

King of the Mountains

Photo credit: Charles Chua @ A Thousand Words

Best day ever!

I had the opportunity to interview Kilian Jornet today (THANK YOU, SB!!), and spent a blissed out 45 minutes chatting and taking pictures with the man himself. Also thanks to Julien for the translation services! :) A private interview with the world's top trail runner .. a chance of a lifetime!

I presented him with a giant jar of Nutella for his birthday (he turns 24 on Thursday) to break the ice, and proceeded to try and find out what he's really all about. I can't say too much about the interview just yet, but I can say that Kilian has truly impressed me with who he is and what he believes in.

Greg Vollet (former world-class XC MTB racer, and Salomon Global Outdoor Sports and Community Marketing Manager ) with Fatbird and Kilian Jornet 

Kilian has now won all the races in the Salomon 5 Races / 5 Continents project this year - the North Face 100 in Australia, the Western States 100 in America, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc in Europe, the Table Mountain Challenge in South Africa, and the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon in Malaysia. He's now due for a couple of weeks off before he hangs up his running shoes for 6 months and dives into the ski mountaineering season. His philosophy for life boils down to enjoying every possible moment. He's living his dream, now go live yours.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Importance of Rest


I'm tired.

Both physically and mentally. In the last two weeks, both friends and complete strangers I've met have all remarked on how tired I'm looking. It must be bad! And even though I know the best thing for me is rest, I get itchy feet before long. Most runners, ultra or otherwise will know what I'm talking about. We worry we're missing out on a session and most will train through injury or resume training before recovery is complete. The HTFU mentality is great as long as you know can read the fine line between breaking your boundaries and breaking yourself.

I have recovery phases planned into my training program, and that's when your mind and body both get a chance to regroup and rebuild, ready for the next onslaught of mad miles. Even forged metal has to be allowed to cool before it can be made stronger, so who am I to think that I can carry on (and on, and on, and on ...) like the Energiser bunny without much of a break?

After UTMB I dived straight back into work and training, only to have to scale back my training to accommodate long hours at work and an increasing fatigue. Nothing's felt quite right since then and I need to listen to my body if I want to keep running well. After last weekend's run I've decided to make a few more sensible decisions.
I can sleep almost anywhere!
I've taken the Sabah 100km Ultra and the C2K off my list for this year, leaving me with the local marathon to finish 2011. Being realistic, I could do those events, but I couldn't race them at the level I would like given my current fatigue. I've done what I set out to do this year so I have no reason to keep beating myself up.

So now my goal for the next few weeks is rest and recovery. Eat well, swim, stretch and get regular massages. Unfortunately, the massages aren't relaxing, but essential for recovery .. Rosa (my masseuse) could make a grown man cry despite being in her 60s!

Make sure all marker pens are locked away when you take a nap! 
Way back when I used to race triathlon, my mum used to tell me "If you're tired, just stop.". I never used that in my race strategy, but maybe it's time to heed her advice. That, and the windy season should be starting soon .. it's kitesurfing time! :)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

TNF DNF!


Sean, Khaliq, Paulina, me and Henry .. ready for action! 

Yup, DNF'd this weekend. Shame about that, because I was feeling good and started off well.

I rocked up to Macritchie Reservoir about 11.40pm Friday night. Registration was meant to be 12 midnight so no reason to think that I was too early. A sense of deja vu as I get out of the cab and there's no one to be seen. No signage or anything, nothing new from last year, then.

I see another runner walking ahead and we both take a different route to where the start/finish gantry was last year. There's a surprising lack of activity, and further along the tentage for refreshments and the 100km solo pitstop is still waiting to be set up and manned. No one seems to be able to answer our questions and there are now 5 runners sat waiting.

Andre and his kick-ass crew 
Finally someone comes along to say we can leave our bags in a corner, and the girl left in charge is told that she's got to look after all our stuff. I find a spot and lay my kit out, the forecast was for rain after 6am, so dry shoes, socks and clothes at the ready just in case.

Guess who!!
It was good to see familiar faces and meet new people that morning. I do wish the runners I know from Facebook would introduce themselves .. it's hard to recognise who's who if I don't see you that often! Andre is there to complete his TNF Grand Slam .. the final finishers medal for his stash. Khaliq, the young contender .. Henry, Sean, DJ Wee and Paulina, the midnight LSD posse ... ultra brothers Sean (in huaraches!) and Kai Wei .. this was going to be fun! Forgot to charge my camera batteries so not many pics, I'm afraid!

Kai Wei, Henry, me, Khaliq and Sean
Weighed in my pack .. 2.5kg compared last year's 4.5kg! Then weighed myself in .. maybe I shouldn't have been wearing my headlamp and carrying my pack when I stepped on the scales, but no one said anything! :D
My bag gets a weigh-in
Weigh to go!
The start was counted off by the race director, but he didn't give a definitive 'Go' or blast a whistle or horn or anything, so we all sort of looked each other and then off we went. Henry and the men's champion from TNF Beijing took off at a blistering pace, followed by last year's winner Hisao Yamanaka. I see Andre, Sean , Khaliq and the women's champion from TNF Beijing go past as well. I'm taking it easy, I figure a steady sub-12 hour run would keep me happy.
Photo credit: Chris Voo
I really enjoy racing in the dark. this time I've got brand new batteries and clipped an extra headlamp on for better visiblity. It's to my advantage that I know most of the course and I can hear the hesitation of the runners behind whenever we get to a tricky bit. I try to shout a warning wherever I think the non-local runners might need it .. not really sure who's behind me apart from Allan, a first-time TNFer from Malaysia.
The boys in action. Photo credit: Sasha Farina
Allan had asked if he could run with me when he caught up early on, since our pace seemed similar. I was glad for the company, and he'd prove to be a real help later on.
Photo credit: Sasha Farina
Alls well, first 10km in under an hour .. a little quicker than I should've gone, but no harm done. The route's not particularly well marked or marshalled, and unlike last year, none of the directional signs are reflective. This means you don't know where you're going until you're nearly at the sign .. from a non-local viewpoint, there's far too much scope to get lost.
Allan just about to catch up :) Photo credit: Sash Farina
There was also a strange chap halfway along the Durian Loop .. did anyone else see him? He was wearing a black hoodie (hood up) and dark shorts and had his back to us as we came down the trail round a corner. I saw him out the corner of my eye in the light from my headlamp as I ran past. As Allan ran past him we heard him make a funny sound and I'm pretty sure it unnerved Allan a little. If I'd been running alone he would've definitely scared the pants off me! Whoever it was ... not a funny stunt to pull!

Somewhere along the MTB trail in Bukit Timah I trip over something in the dark and go flying. Get up, start running. I know from experience that the pain from bruising will subside after a while and if I keep running it should all feel fine in a bit. Except it doesn't. I'm still trying to assess the pain when Sean (with the huaraches) and someone else run past.

I drop my pace a little to see if it helps. Arm: bruised, but should be fine. Right knee: Feels cut up but no major damage. Left knee: Feels like it took the brunt of my fall and not feeling good at all. Left ankle: sore but bearable.

It's back to Allan and I again and we run through Zhenghua Park towards Mandai. I always worry about wild dogs on this bit, and am grateful for Allan's company as we exchange small talk. Getting to CP4, Paper and Charlie (Andre's crew) are there cheering. There's no directional sign after the CP and I follow the runner ahead at the traffic light crossing to turn right. There's a few more runners up ahead so I guess we're on the right track. Up to this point, I'm appalled at the lack of signage and marshall at crucial junctions.
CP4 water stop, Paper & Charlie in the background. Photo credit: Chris Voo
Through the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector and at the end we reach the SLE and a traffic light junction. No markers, no idea. I go right as there seems to be a trail there and it just leads us back to where we just came from. Allan and I check our maps and realise we should have gone left instead. Back tracking to the junction, we meet another runner who's consulting the Park connector map board. We all decide on the route forward and after another 200-300m spot a lightstick that indicates we're on the right track. That really wasn't adequate, and I worry about the other runners getting lost.

So now we're in Lorong Asrama and my knee and ankle are really bothering me. It's getting harder to keep a steady pace. Allan is having trouble staying awake so I give him a caffeine pill. We get through CP5 and head back to CP4. By now I'm getting shooting pains in my knee and ankle and have to walk sections to ease the pain. Getting out of Lorong Asrama, I have to direct the way as again, there is no signage. Even when we get to the traffic lights it's impossible to spot CP4 as they have no lights on. What gives?? Is this some kind of Special Ops race??

I apply some ice to my knee at CP4 and try to tell an official about the lack of markers. He says he'll make a call. I'm there icing my knee a few minutes and don't notice him making any calls.

Allan's doing a great job pulling me along at this point, and it's also obvious that the caffeine's kicked in! He's got a bounce to his step and is very chatty. I tell him to go ahead if he's feeling good, but he elects to stay with me for the company. He's here to finish and not worried about his finish time, and given the lack of signage so far, he reckons he's better off going slow with me.

So on the way back, we get passed by a few more runners. I can't keep pace and settle for a run/walk strategy. I figure I'll see how I feel further along and decide if I should go on or not. Ice on my knee at every CP, and feels like an age before we're back at the start of Rifle Range Road. More ice at CP1, Back into Macritchie and another fall from me just 200m from the CP. No serious impact this time, but it feels like I've definitely added to the existing damage on my knee and ankle.

I try to run normally as more stuff starts to hurt if I compensate with my right leg. Think it's time to face the facts. I could stick this out, finish and most likely incur an injury that'll have me sidelined for a while ... or I could pull out and save my legs anymore abuse. I'm not worried about a DNF here, I have nothing to prove. I've achieved my main racing goal this year, and definitely feel that I could quite comfortably go sub-12 on this course. No brainer, then. Live to race another day.

It's light enough now to run without headlamps on and 3 miles back to the halfway mark. The last leg goes much quicker only because I know the end is close and I can stop. The leaders go past, the China champion and Hisao, followed by Kai Wei, Andre, Khaliq and Sean. It's good to see my friends doing well! I'm suddenly reluctant to DNF, and would like to keep running with Allan, but I remind myself of my reasons to stop. Oh well. 50km in 6 hr 20 mins, could've been worse.

Running toward the start/finish gantry, it's still a shambles. The 100km duo runners assembling for their start, there was no signage for the 100km solo runners, the area was crammed with runners. It wasn't a problem for me because I knew I was pulling out, but what about the three Aussie runners I'd met that morning? They'd come specially for the race and it was their first look of the course.

I got some ice for my knee and went to see the start of the 100km duo. They started late and as an afterthought someone began pulling the metal barriers out to create a small chute for the 100km solo runners coming in .. who were very likely to get caught in the tide of runners going the other way. The runners lined up at the start gantry tape, and when they were given a start signal (again, no whistle, horn or any sort of definitive sound), there was no one there to untie the tape so the runners in front had to lift up the tape on their own and someone managed to loosen it enough that it came off in the end. Like I said, it was a shambles.

TNF100 Singapore was badly organised and executed, and for an international level race it was a disgrace. I had no issues because I knew the course and didn't need anything from the aid stations apart from water. But for runners like Allan, Andre and the Aussies, it really wasn't fair to come all this way and have to deal with organisational flaws during a 100km race.

C'mon North Face Singapore, step up to the challenge!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Here we go again!

The year's gone by quick! This time last year I did my first 100km at The North Face 100 Singapore. The 2011 edition will be held this weekend, with a bigger field of 100km solo runners than last year. Just a few days to go, hope everyone's feeling fit! I'm almost back in the groove, trying to get as much rest as possible and not running much.

The route hasn't changed much from last year, but the new 1am start will mean that we finish at a decent time on Saturday rather than in the dark (if you're at the back of the field). I'm looking forward to to seeing some familiar faces and getting a decent trail run in. No pressure about timing or placing, but anything under 13h 24min (my time last year) would be nice.

Looking at how the weather's been shaping up, it's a good chance of rain some time in the morning too .. nice!

Best of luck to all the runners for all categories (100km solo, 100km duo, 50km duo). Run smart, hydrate and fuel well, and just keep moving forward!

I've got too much work on this week to post anything else, so see you all on the flipside!
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