Today’s race was not about revisiting past victories, about getting new ones. It meant so much more and so much differently.
Carrying one of the worst injuries I’ve had in years. My ITB hurt so badly i couldnt walk down steps and not having ran even 50km a week for the past month, all these crept into my head.
Spent the night before race reflecting, i asked myself, why I am so not looking forward to racing. i want to run, but not to race anymore. the fire’s gone. there’s no passion in me to pursue the goals i once set myself. talking it all out to you really helped, i promised before the race, that once i raced finished, it’d be “I’ve Done It” and not “It’s Over”, that’s a world of difference right there. Have a safe race, enjoy the sights and sounds.
Headed out about 545am, without catching any sleep, Lucas picked me up. Was feeling totally fine yet apprehensive about the race. One thing I was looking forward to was actually my large 3m poster! Dropped off at MR, headed to the toilets where many people were also doing their final preparations, water bags, breakfasts, stretching.
Lucas & I were totally unprepared compared to them, we never ran together since probably last year’s TNF100, my waterbag was never used since last year, and we only checked what we needed to bring for the race right then. filling up the waterbag was never one of my forte, i had problems with it leaking and all, until i just gave up and hoped that it could last me the whole journey.
Put our stuff inside the lockers and headed over to the starting line, it was so different from last year. And of course, I searched for my poster before anything else!
Headed to the starting line and stretched. more familiar faces came along, we were chatting and warming ourselves up. The thing about endurance trail races is that we dont go for speed as like road races, we got to ensure that we are properly stretched before heading out. the countdown was on, and honestly i still felt like just wanting to get it over and done with.
With a loud beep and off we went! Kept with the front pack, a vastly different start from last year. Where we just sat back and let others sprint ahead. Come on, there’s a full marathon and more ahead to catch up. took a 5:30 or so pace, much faster than the 5:45~6min pace i was planning to. going into MR, that was where the “warm-up” starts. Climbing the familiar slopes, running all the way towards Rifle Range. Lucas was beside me, we kept pace with each other, soon we were at a 5:20pace, we both knew that it was pretty too fast, thus we decided at Ranger Station to chill things down and take it easy. That’s the good thing about having a partner who knows your running style and habits inside out; we can pace each other really well.
As we turned towards Rifle Range, i had to tear off the soles of my left shoe, it dint bother me much, what was on my mind was that my ITB felt weird and i was worried it would flare up. Maintaining a much more comfortable pace now. Heading into Rifle Range, we took our walk break. Allowing others to overtake us, Lai Chee climbed really powerfully and surged ahead. Lucas & I always had this strategy to chill and not waste energy climbing the slopes, the energy saved could do us well later in the race.
Heading into the bicycle trail off Rifle Range, it was really painful to run! Muddy, stones popping out. I was grimacing almost every other step. There were so so many downslopes that i really was so scared, unlike Lucas who was having a great time gliding downwards.
before we knew it, it was about the 20km mark! sadly i begun to pull away from Lucas, somehow i felt my body having the urge to surge ahead. i caught up with a few others, and soon i was greeted by the sight of 100km Solo runners. there i hoped that the U-turn was nearing. Saw Salleh, John, Patrick and Paulina, really respect them attempting 100km on such a route and under such torturous conditions.
topping up before heading into Lor Asrama, luckily Patrick & Janet were there, SIS gels are really good cos they are liquified and thus wont be too dry on the throat. i had the company of Ben Swee, really nice talking to him for the first few km in, with each upslope encountered, i took numerous walk breaks and i had to tear off another part of my shoe again. soon i found myself alone, sandwiched between 2 runners. i was thankful i had someone ahead of me so i did not have to search for directions much. the slopes were endless, even after the tough Hill 265, there were more to come. a change from last year, but a huge one. it drained a lot out of me, i was really thirsty, the sun was relentless, and the slopes made it all crazy. plugging in my iPod just like last year, it really did help a lot. took my mind off the pain and treacherous terrain. my ITB on both legs were already acting up, i could feel fatigue.
When finally I caught sight of others who were entering Lor Asrama, I was just delighted to get out of there. Filling up my water bag, I headed out without much rest. I guess the dehydration was taking its toll. I was struggling to find any rhythm or pace, I decided to just take it easy, walk all the slopes and gauge by the songs playing how much to walk. Eventually after about 3km or so of walking, I could start my run-walk strategy.
I walked pretty much every upslope, jogging only on flats, gingerly ran down slopes. My ITBs and knees hurt but I knew I could make it back. Although I was far off from last year’s timing but I was just really happy I’ve had such a safe race so far. When I saw the 35km mark, I was pretty scared, my Garmin recorded 38km but nevertheless I told myself to rely on my watch. 12km more, I know even if I had to walk back I could.
Once I neared Rifle Range, I knew that the 25km runners would merge onto this route, so I may just bump into familiar faces. I was walking up another slope when someone in an orange singlet overtook me. As I glanced at his back, I saw Team Run fanatics and it was Andy! He was going really strong, 10km left! Soon a few others caught up but they were all 25km runners. Once I saw Rifle Range, I was really happy, I picked up my pace ever so slightly, but I did not dare to accelerate or try anything that may jeopardize me finishing the race safely.
Cramps were setting in, but I told myself, less than 7km more. Seeing Irene (Patrick’s wife) at Rifle Range exit, I was glad to see her cheering me on. As I continued my run-walk, I was making good progress, all the way back into MacRitchie. Once again I saw the 100km runners, Salleh was looking strong, and so were John, Patrick and Paulina! Really proud of them.
As the end neared, the route seemed never-ending, having music really helped. Running down the final slope inside MR, I saw the exit; I jogged faster and headed out to open air once more. It was refreshing and I was really happy. As I passed the toilets, up the car park slope, and the finish line was in sight. I saw Alex & Shuwie there, cheering loudly for me. I dashed in, crossed the finishing line. Not in as spectacular fashion as last year, but this time when I crossed the line, I DID IT
Went over to grab some Subway and water. Stretched non-stop at the same time. Was talking to Alex, Andy (Alex came in 1st! this awesome pair won 50km Duo Open), Shuwie, Ben Swee, Sharon, Jackie, Ming Hui (he was volunteering). Soon Lucas came in, and honestly we were both relived that we survived the 50km! Headed over to shower and clean up before coming back for Alex’s prize presentation.
While Lucas & I limped back, Shuwie was really nice to help out with our bags, walk so slowly with us and take our nonsense. Alex & Andy went ahead to check their results. When we got there, I saw Alex smiling widely, I knew he won! But what came next was totally unexpected, Elaine (the race director), came over to us and asked: “Hi, Baldwin & Lucas? Team Runfanatics? You guys are 3rd!” saying that I was surprised is a total understatement. I was not only overjoyed & delighted. This win meant so much more.
While waiting for prize presentation, we sat down, talked, chat, took more photos.
I called you; I really wanted to tell you, this 3rd place, are really all because of you. For helping me talk through my fears, my loss of passion for running, my fear that I am not that good anymore, that I run each race to go through the motion. Thank you for bringing me back.