24H 2016 – My Best Ever Ultra Experience!
Yes, this is not the recent 24H that I joined. This post is more than one year late. So why am I writing this now? Why don’t I just skip this and focus on my most recent achievement?
Because without this post, you would not fully appreciate my post on this year’s 24H.
However because this post is more than a year old, I may remember some of the details wrongly, for which I apologise in advance!
My friend Luan had asked me to join the first edition of 24H which was in 2015, but I was not able to because I had work commitments that day. Actually, even 2016’s edition had a work clash, but fortunately I was able to work things around so that I was able to make it.
And anyway, I wasn’t ready to join the 2015 ultra. I know this because I wasn’t prepared for the 2016 ultra.
I hadn’t done any real preparation for this 24H ultra. I had been running, yes; but they were mainly short distances. Up to this point, the longest distance I attempted was about 50km at the Bukit Cinta Ultra 2015, and even that was a terrible struggle for me especially towards the end. I already had one full marathon DNF and the only full marathon I finally managed to complete took me close to 8 hours.
I had done no mileage training, no endurance training, and no stamina training. I had also overtire myself this whole month, with run events the first three weekends in January prior to this event, including a full marathon just one week before this ultramarathon.
This is not a brag. This is to show you how little I prepared for this run, and how much I underestimated ultramarathons, which one should never do!
The 24H was scheduled for 3pm Saturday to 3pm Sunday, and to kickstart the event, they had a pasta party on Friday night. Because it was in Taman Jaya, I was able to make it.
To be honest, I was actually really shy… because I felt I was a complete newbie at ultras, and I was sitting among people whom I felt were much more experienced and far better runners. But everyone was really nice and friendly, and made everyone feel very welcomed.
As for the food… it was homemade and delicious.
24H BEGINS (30-31 JANUARY 2016)
The 24H for the second year has more participants this year than its inaugural year. This year there were 42 participants, 10 of which were women.
Our goodie bag was amazing! We each had a high quality shoe bag, a L’Occitane kit with soap bars, and collapsible cups. We also were given laminated cards with our name to attach to our bags or tents.
My friend Luan had set up her tent which she offered to share with me. The organising team couldn’t watch over our bags, so the bags were left in the open at our risk. So I left my valuables in my car which was at the car park not too far from the starting point. We could access our car in the car park if we needed, but we were not allowed to leave the venue during the event or it would be considered voluntary withdrawal.
I hadn’t packed many things for the run. I brought my sleeping bag and a couple of changes of clothes. I didn’t bring any food or drinks, but I didn’t need to because the organisers had prepared sufficient refreshments.
One loop around Taman Jaya was approximately 1.15km, and they had set up a refreshment station near the Start Line. Disposable cups were not provided; instead we could use the provided collapsible cups or other cups/bottles of our own choice, which we place at our allocated spots based on our participant number.
The run was flagged off at 3pm sharp.
I wasn’t mentally prepared for the run. I wasn’t physically prepared either. I didn’t know what to expect.
I started out by attempting to run fast. I was basing it on trying to complete it based on my half-marathon timing, but the heat got to me quickly. I ended up going much slower than I normally would.
I made the rookie mistake of stopping after every loop, simply because the refreshment station was too readily available. There was an unending flow of a variety of drinks, and I tried them all – which I shouldn’t have.
There was also plenty of food provided – snacks and fruits were available throughout the run. The organisers provided meals – dinner, supper, breakfast, and lunch.
I wasn’t ambitious at all for this run. I had told everyone (and I literally mean everyone) – my friend Luan, the head organiser Jasmine Teng, the head marshall Seow Kong, the volunteers, and of course all fellow runners – that I was only aiming for 50km, and I would stop after that.
The response I got was mainly, “No you won’t.”
And I swear, I honestly did plan to. I watched my progress on the TV screen that displayed the runners’ loops and distances, every time I crossed the timing mat when I completed a loop.
It took some time, because I kept stopping for refreshments, and also because I stopped to enjoy my dinner.
I didn’t stop at 50km though. I stopped after 50 loops, which was approximately 57.5km. I could have stopped at 50km which was about 44 loops, but I think I kept going because I was thinking in terms of loops rather than km.
That was just after 2am.
I stopped running, with the full intention of really stopping. I ordered roti telur through the volunteers (as we were not allowed to leave the venue until the event ended at 3pm on Sunday). I went to take a shower and changed into clean clothes. I went to Luan’s tent and curled up in my sleeping bag and attempted to sleep the rest of the hours off.
The ground was too hard though, and the sleeping bag was not soft enough. I barely got an hour’s sleep, before I gave up and decided to get up. By then, the roti telur had arrived, so I had my midnight snack.
I even visited the medical area and received a physiotherapy massage using foam rollers. That was my first time getting foam roller massages, and that was when I realised how great physio massages were. I was already feeling much better when they were done.
It was creeping past 6am when I started getting really bored. I was watching all the other runners continue determinedly to hit their targeted distance. I had already hit mine, but I looked at the time, and I realised I still had over 8 hours left to wait out the end of the event. I was getting bored out of my mind. And I couldn’t leave!
So… I put my shoes back on and decided to walk out the rest of the 8 hours.
And when everyone saw me back on the track, they told me, “See! Told you that you won’t stop at 50km!”
Yup. They were right.
It wasn’t easy for me to keep going. I wasn’t well rested, and my muscles were tired. I couldn’t run, so all I could do was walk; and I couldn’t even walk fast. And as the day wore on, I got increasingly sleepy. I had to stop a few times to take a brief nap.
I could have stopped completely considering I had already overshot my target distance, but I think the numbers on the TV screen fascinated me a little too much. It was addictive watching the numbers grow.
Plus, I had the opportunity to have a chat with Mr Ng Seow Kong, the head marshal who was observing the runners to make sure we didn’t break the rules. As the president of the Malaysian Ultra Running Association and an accomplished ultra marathon runner, Seow Kong completely understood what we were going through. He was very encouraging and motivated every single runner as he/she crossed the timing lap. Even for a super newbie like me – Seow Kong took the time to chat about ultra running, and gave me good advice. He kept encouraging me to keep going, which was one of the main reasons I kept pushing myself to go on.
Of course, charity was also one of the main reasons. Every km we ran would raise RM2.40 to purchase artificial limbs for the disabled through the Limbs For Life Organisation, which was a really noble cause.
As the sun rose and crept past the zenith, both my eyes and legs got increasingly heavier. Fortunately Taman Jaya had plenty of trees so it wasn’t too hot. But it was getting harder to keep moving.
It was with great surprise and joy when I ran across the line 10 minutes before the close of the event – with 80 loops!
I ran the longest distance ever in my life up to this point – a total of 92km!
END OF EVENT
It was with a lot of jubilation as we waited for the other runners to complete their loops. We watched the TV screen with anticipation, waiting to see if the top runners were able to make it back to Finish line before the horn marking 3pm sounded.
But even if they didn’t, their distance would still be measured based on their current positions at the time the horn sounded.
Everyone stayed back after the event for the prize-giving. Finisher medals were presented by random volunteers to every single participant, and prizes were given to the top 3 male and female runners.
Top 3 male runners:
Champion: Lee Chun How (champion 2 years in a row)
1st Runner Up: Naresh Kumar
2nd Runner Up: Danny Chai
Top 3 female runners:
Champion: Susan Swier
1st Runner Up: Salmiah Rolan
2nd Runner Up: Josephine Poh
We also stayed back to get our finisher tees. The organisers had brought a hot-press machine to print the distance we ran onto our T-shirts for that personalized touch. We had to wait a while, but it was worth it.
So… up to this point in my life, I had run the furthest in my life – 92km!
But in comparison to others, it was a bit low. Many of the other runners had hit a minimum of 100km. Deep down, yes, I do wish that I had hit 100km, just like the others… but then, I had only targeted 50km and I had way surpassed that.
I came out 9th out of 10 ladies, and 39th out of a total of 42 runners.
All the runners ran a total of 4,662km, raising a total of RM11,189!
Overall… it was an extremely well-organised event, where the runners were very well taken care of. I had truly enjoyed the run, and met with a lot of amazing people, including the runners, organisers, and volunteers.
Truthfully, I was reluctant to join another ultra after this experience, because I felt it was self-inflicted torture.
Of course, once the dust has settled and the sunburnt skin had stopped peeling, my itchy fingers didn’t hesitate to sign up for the 2017 edition (post coming soon)!
For more information about the event, you can check out their website at http://www.24hultra.com/.