Some new categories are created for 2013 Sundown Ultra Marathon. Other than the 100km individual category, there is also an option to form a Team of 2 (50km each) or Team of 4 (25km each).
Jackie and I wanted to participate in the Team of 4 mixed category so we quickly contacted Andy Neo and Alex Ong to take the plunge with us. Glad that the guys agreed so readily. So Team J.J.A.A was formed. As it is a relay format, there are 4 legs, with the 1st leg starting at 6pm. Each runner will complete 25km. We decided on the following sequence:
Jackie to start from Marina Barrage to Changi where I will be waiting for him to continue the 2nd leg back to Marina Barrage. Andy will be the third runner and he will pass it on to Alex (the fastest among all of us) who will finish the race for us.
14 September 2013. It was a warm and humid day. The sun was still shinning brightly when Jackie and I arrived at Marina Barrage via public transport at about 4.30pm. There were already many participants getting ready for their run which would all be flagged off at 6pm. Half an hour before race start, Jackie went for his warm up while I proceeded to wait for the shuttle bus which would take me to Changi U-turn point, where all the 2nd runner and 4th runner supposed to be waiting for their team mates.
Since it was still early when the bus arrived at Changi, I took my time to deposit my bag, visit the toilet, eat my Power Bar chumps, chat with Joleen (Ray’s team 2nd runner). At about 7.10pm, Joshua, Baldwin and us went for a short warm up jog. We returned by 7.30pm as the 1st leg runners were expected to arrive any time.
Inside the tent, near the changeover pen, there was a TV screen showing the number bibs of runners who were approaching the check-point. Baldwin was one of the first few 2nd leg runners to enter the changeover pen. Minutes later, Jackie’s bib number appeared too and I entered the pen as well. Shortly after, Joshua joined in, followed by Joleen. Official photographers went around taking photos of the participants. The first runner, a Gurkha who came in was under the Men’s category. Colin, representing NB team was the 2nd runner to finish the 1st leg and he passed it on to Jianyong who shot off like a rocket. It was an exciting wait. Time was close to 8:45pm and I knew Jackie should be running in soon if everything goes well for his run.
As more and more runners started to come in one by one, Joshua, Baldwin and I kept a lookout for runners who were also in the mixed category by observing the colour of their bibs. The first runner to arrive for the mixed category was a male Caucasian runner. He passed on to a female Caucasian runner who look quite pro, carrying a hydration bag. The three of us all agreed that she would be our common target to chase after. Couple of minutes later, Baldwin’s team mate, Alvin arrived totally exhausted. Baldwin ran off. Jackie was the overall 6th runner to arrive at the changeover pen. We were currently in the third place for mixed category. As it was quite dark, I was worried that he would not be able to find the correct way to the pen, so I shouted for him. Touched his hand and off I went, running towards Changi Coastal Road.
The run along Changi Coastal Road was smooth. I was in no hurry to get into my target pace right from the start, but I made sure I wasn’t too far off too. The entire Changi Coastal Road was about 7-8km long but it wasn’t boring at all because it was still early into my race and I’m feeling fresh. And it was very encouraging to see many other participants running towards me. Cheered for those I could recognised under the moonlight and received many cheers too.
The shuttle bus which was chauffeuring runners back to Marina Barrage went past me and was moving slowly on the road. I could hear cheers from the bus for the participants. At about 5km mark, I suddenly caught sight of the Caucasian lady who was initially the lead for the mixed category! She was slowing down and I quickened my pace to overtake her. Heard loud cheers from the bus which was still crawling on the road. Someone shouted my name. (No idea who though)
Checked my pace and was happy to know that my average pace is about 4:25″/km. However, it was still early in the race. I know I must not be too carried away by the excitement. After all, it’s a matter of time before speedy Joshua caught up with me. I kept running, my motivation being the next hydration station which was 5km away from the previous one. Soon, I was done with the long monotonous stretch of Changi Coastal Road and was crossing the traffic light to run along the canal. It was dark but I was greatly encouraged to still see some 100km runners and they cheered for me. Recognised the voices of fellow Safra Jurong runners, Siva and Poh (rather than their faces) as it was quite dark. Finally, I arrived at the hydration station which was my 8km mark (33km of the 100km). My average pace has dropped a little. I quickly grabbed a cup of 100plus and water. As I ran off, I realised I was suppose to get a packet of gel here, but strangely none was provided. Glad that I have brought along my own. I took half a packet of my GU gel and hold on to it, thinking of consuming the rest of it when I was closer to the pit stop, located at OBS school which was just 2.5km away.
It was dark at ECP too. And it was getting quiet as almost all the runners have cleared ECP. Suddenly, I heard Joe called out to me. He said I’m the 5th runner and those in front were all guys. I pressed on, knowing Joshua is just a few minutes behind me. I’m beginning to feel the stickiness of the GU gel in my throat and hope for the Pit Stop to come soon. Minutes later, I could see a sign board that says the pit stop is 100m ahead. However, to my dismay, I realised the pit stop is all the way inside the school which means extra distance covered. I have no time to waste even though I needed the water. Anyway, the next hydration is just another 3.5km away. So I decided to give this pit stop a miss and continued with the run.
Shortly after, I could hear foot steps behind me. No doubt it was Joshua who had caught up with me. Gosh! He was fast! I had hope to delay this from happening as late as possible. Joshua cheered for me before speeding off at a much faster pace and slowly disappearing into the crowd. It would be suicidal if I chased after him since by then my average pace has dropped to 4:31″/km. I am getting annoyed with myself because I couldn’t seem to pick up my pace anymore. It was also getting crowded at ECP especially when most have finished their dinner and were taking a stroll in the park. I kept running straight, looking out for signage in case I was on the wrong route. Ran past the hawker centre and then the lagoon. Realised I was close to covering 13km, I dug out my hammer electrolyte, preparing to take it the moment I hit the hydration station. But where exactly was the hydration station?
Soon, I reached Area D of the ECP and finally acknowledged the fact that I have totally (and unintentionally) missed the hydration station at 38.5km mark. I was dying of thirst and almost wanted to pop into a toilet to drink from the tap. Thankfully, a Japanese lady covering a support station appeared just in time along the way and offered me a cup of ice cold water, which I gulped down thirstily together with my hammer electrolyte. I continued with my run, my pace dropping more significantly with each km to as slow as 4:50″/km at one point. I was beginning to think I was on the wrong route when I noticed more distance markers for Mizuno Wave Run than for sundown ultra marathon.
Finally, I arrived at the 2nd last hydration station located at my 18 km (43km of 100km) of the run and I finished off my 2nd packet of gel. Realised no Viper Boost gel was given out again. Or are we suppose to ask for it? I was hoping for the extra packet of gel to give me a boost at the last few km. Gosh, I think I have to be less dependent on all these perks which I have taken for granted. Once things screwed up, I got all lost, less focused and my pace all messed up. It was getting more lonely on the road as I ran towards Area B of ECP. There was still no sight of runners ahead or behind me. I tried to pick up my pace as I enter the construction zone towards the golf course. Finally, I could see some marshals around. Somewhere towards the end of the construction zone, a cyclist shone his torchlight on the ground to warn me of the uneven ground.
Soon, I arrived at the last hydration point near Gardens By the Bay. I was now less than 5km away from the finishing line! As much as I tried to kick, I was still unable to increase my pace. It seems to stuck at 4:45″/km pace. Upon reaching the gardens, I was directed to turn right to head towards the bridge instead of Marina Barrage. As I ran and did a U-turn, I realised this was probably the point the crew recorded the bib numbers of runners and inform the team mates that we were reaching Marina Barrage.
2km more to go! I could feel a slight cramp setting in on my left calf. Knowing I still got some up slopes to conquer later, I eased off a little to shake the tight feeling off.
Finally, I was out of the gardens, running up the slope and crossing over to Marina Barrage. Then came the 150m sprint upslope to the roof top where Andy was waiting for me at the changeover pen. Oh man, it was the hardest upslope I ever ran. I kept to the side as there were still some people strolling down. Almost to the top, a marshal told me to run on the grass. Finally, I was on level ground and I saw the “New Balance” spot light on the grass. I was a bit stunned to see Morgan ran past me. The next moment, I heard marshals calling him back as being the third leg runner, he was supposed to exit the changeover pen from another side. Saw Andy waiting for me and I dashed into the pen and tapped him to go. Completed the 25km in about 1hr 54 mins. Phew, so glad to have completed my run leg, albeit much slower than my target time.
It was good to see my friends after the transition. Daniel and Yvonne were waiting for their team mates to arrive to start their respective legs. Baldwin and Joshua were already back and resting. Jackie came and gave me a hug. There were lots of photo taking by the officials.
Took the lift to level 1 to collect our baggage. I was still chatting excitedly with Jackie, sharing with him my experience, enjoying the ice-cream I took when suddenly my left leg cramped up. Then the same happened to my right leg. It was so painful! Yet I felt relieved that this happened only after the race and not during the run. Was in pain and had to sit on the ground to stretch and wait for the pain to ease off. A few runners ran past me, as I sat holding my calves, not daring to move in case I triggered any cramps. Yvonne was one of them. Quite funny, come to think of it.
Andy did quite well for his run. He managed to overtake the female’s runner in Baldwin’s team to put us in 2nd position again. He shared with us later of his dramatic (and traumatize) incident: It was too dark and he had a head to head crash with Alex at the changeover pen. Gosh! I feel his and Alex’s pain.
By then, we were about 3 to 4 minutes behind the leading team. So we were all very surprised when Alex came running past the finishing line less than a minute after Gen has finished. So amazingly strong and fast! Total time taken for our team for 100km is 7 hrs 09 min 55 sec and we emerged 1st runner-up for the mixed category. A close fight with less than a minute away from the champion team. =)
It was certainly the most fun event of the year to share the joy with so many others. To run as a team and for a team is definitely a more exciting and rewarding experience as compared to racing individually. Great camaraderie and team spirit and somehow I feel running have brought us closer. New friendships were forged too.
Thank you guys for the great team effort! Proud to be part of Team J.J.A.A. Let’s do it again at the next ultra marathon!