Month: August 2015

What I learn about ultra running from my non-ultra running friends

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It is less than a month to Penang 100.

For the past 12 weeks, I have subjected my body to a degree of what some may call, physical and mental torture. Day in, day out.

Fatigue is but a piece of vegetable stuck in my teeth. Heat became my friend. Haze was that annoying friend you have come to love. Rain set the stage for my dance.

And in turn, the body adapts. It understood the value of responding. It is not merely a reaction, but a series of calculated operational protocols happening in the blink of an eye.

My body was no longer human. It was becoming animalistic. An organic efficient machine trained to hunt. An alpha beast. A predator.

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I was astonished to how I can achieve these. Can a normal athlete achieve all this without much fatigue?

This lead to a lingering question:

Was I becoming an elite athlete?

My resting heart rate has dropped to 40bpm. I was recovering at a rate like an Asian Wolverine. In spite of all this, I have a day job.

But me? 
An elite? It was too good to be true, no? 
A fat kid in the past who dislocated his right foot over taekwondo training?

A part of me wished to deny it. That it was far too amazing for this to happen to an average chap like me.

A part of me, however, believed it. That I deserved to be an elite because I was training so hard. I was entitled to this.

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This inner battle of denial vs acceptance pushed me to train harder. I was trying to ignore it, but the more I ran, the more conflicted I felt.

This led on to a trail of self sabotage thoughts, laced with doubts and a bit of pride:

“I shouldn’t run in the haze. It’s dangerous.”
“Of course I can run a 60km. I’m an ultra mah.”
“Don’t I have anything else better to do than to run kah?”
“If only I put this amount of energy and focus into generating more cash.”
“Running is bad for the knees. I know so and so brother’s wife punya nephew punya cousin who now walks in pain because he runs 10km every day.”

Like how my body became animalistic, some part of my mind was too, I was like a deer caught in my own headlights.

I was beginning to lose focus on what I was running for. Or training for. My mental game was slowly spiraling out. I began obsessing over about how fast I finish. I wanted a personal best for my ultra.

I became competitive, and I no longer recognised the runner that I was becoming.

This was when my friends came into the picture. Their responses reminded me what really matters. Anne, Cikgu, Bin, Steph, Ming Ger, Joos and Just, I couldn’t thank you enough.

They made me remembered the camaraderie of the sport. The support of other runners and the non-competitiveness which got me hooked.

Speed is the least important thing I should worry about. It is stupid to apply the mentality of a full marathoner to an ultramarathon. 42km is already unpredictable, what more to say 100km. I would DNF faster than one could text those 3 letters behind the wheel.

Penang 100 is not the highlight. The journey is so much more significant than the finish line.

To be able to finish the training plan, and toe the starting line, that is the main event.

That starting line, is the beginning of an overnight party to commemorate the victory we had.

It is a celebration of how far I have come. How I was inspired, and inspire in turn. It is a celebration of the friends I have met, the not so successful relationships, the job I have despite the bad economy crisis, the brother, the son, the uncle to my 2 year old niece.

It is the triumph over adversaries, the hurdles I have fallen over. And though bloodied and injured, I get up, and journeyed on. All I possess now is ambition and a plan.

I have not seen the finishing line of Penang 100, and who knows, I may not see it.

But I don’t need that. Persistence through times of doubt, in times of when things are hazy, that is what makes triumph so rare, so precious.

Funny how I would even have those negative thoughts.

Those words only comes from those who do not believe in training. Those who are lazy. Those who are opting for an easy way out, all the time. Those who take shortcuts in life.

I am not that guy.

Finally, this race is a celebration of how God has created the perfect version of me. My path has been written.

Whether I am top 3, top 200, or even DNF for this ultra, it no longer matters.

Whether I was becoming an elite athlete, it was not important.

What is, come 26th September, that I am standing on that starting line of Penang 100, knowing that I have given my best, and that in itself, is already triumph.

The Other Race Report: Kuching Marathon 2015

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” (Martha Washington)

PRE-RACE
I knew today would be a bad day to run the 2015 Kuching Marathon.

I pulled off an impossible task at work this week. The preparation and the job itself not only took a huge chunk of my time, but also my mental focus along as well. Meals were not proper and untimely. I did not had the chance to do a proper carboload. Or, even hydrate myself. Sleepless nights became all too common.

And if this wasn’t enough, I was still recovering from a fall which had caused my kneecap to bruise eventhough it was already 2 weeks.

With all these piling up, I have a bad feeling about how this race would turn out.

On the bright side, my ultra training was on par. I have been logging in sufficient mileage the weeks before. I have replaced my off days this week with a few basic strength training routine.

That was the thread that I was holding on to.

FIRST PART OF THE RACE
Still I was hopeful despite the circumstances.  I keep telling myself that these are mere hurdles.

The perfect race exists in the mind.

I was cruising along with a great pace for the first half. I pictured I was running alongside my favourite athletes. Kilian Journet was leading in front. Anton Krupicka in his buff and arm warmers was right behind him. Beside me was Anna Frost with a big smile, while Sally McRae was right behind with her plaited hair in a trucker hat.

I told my legs to keep up with their pace, and it worked . The cool morning breeze resembled the Alpine air. Asphalt road transformed into lovely trails with boulders and a herd of deers lazing on the plains.

Alas, fatigue caught up with me. I remembered I was just so tired that I had to close my eyes to run. I was dozing off during my mid run and I can feel my energy slowly seeping through the holes in my vibram.

When I opened my eyes, my mental imagery was gone. Kilian became some heavy breathing asian dude with loud steps. Anna Frost became a guy. The herd of deers turned into a herd of noisy runners conversing about pace in Cantonese.

My back started to hurt. I became nauseous.  Stomach was bloated from all the sugary isotonic drinks. And for the first in a long time in marathon racing, I had to succumb.

I began to walk.

I felt I had used up almost 40% of my fuel.

It was there and then I had to make a choice.

SECOND PART OF THE RACE
I was considering the value of achieving a PB. Granted, since I started running marathons, my timing was better than the previous ones. By 29 minutes. By 2 minutes. It has always been better.

It seems this race would be a break to this record. And it was a tough pill to swallow. But I know if I had pushed on and gave it all I got, I might be able to do so by the skin of a teeth.

I began to question the value of a PB. Was it something that was 100% internal – a battle against Jonathan Soon in 2014, or was it fueled by an intention of getting Facebook Likes? To prove to others, not only myself, that I was a better runner  than the 2014 Jonathan Soon.

I made the decision of finishing a race strong, rather than to feel like shit and hating the experience altogether.

Once that decision was made, everything became better. I switched mode. Racing was no longer on the agenda. I walked when I felt like walking. I ran when I felt like running. I was free from the chains of PB because I know would have left me in pieces.

It was this freedom that I started running from the first place.

When I rolled into the 36km aid station, I saw Tony, Grace, Charle and Yong Chuan – and then my emotions went haywire. I was so relieved and happy to see them. It felt like I have been running alone for days, and to see them was like seeing ur family in the wilderness.

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Photo creds to KM36 Support Team

With a renewed zest (and their excellent beverages), I tackled the last 6km with a freedom that I have not experienced in a marathon for a while.

I crossed the Kuching Marathon finishing line. The clock showed 04:13. My PB was 4hrs9mins.

4 minutes.

POST-RACE
When I chose freedom over PB, I started seeing things in a new light.

To see friends toeing the finish line was an amazing feeling. And those who have trained so hard and beat their own personal best. There is no jealousy, but only admiration and an overwhelming sense of pride for them.

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But the virgins, oh the virgins. Their postures were totally out, they were dragging their feet over the finish line. Despite of this, they held their heads high. Their tired smiles and the twinkle in their eyes reminded me that this was why I ran marathons.

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It is about conquering your own fears, to push despite the pain, and finishing the distance on your own.

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Photo creds Hobart Kho Photography

It is what marathoners are made of. Resilience and an iron will.

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Photo creds Hobart Kho Photography

And because of them, I am proud to be a Full Marathoner.

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