24H 2017

So, after being tortured at last year’s 24-hour ultra, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to come back again.

Yet, here I was, back again, signing up without a second thought the moment I heard registration was open.

The difference was that this time I was buoyed by my improvement in the recent Bukit Cinta Ultra 2016, and the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon 2017… so I was hoping that I would be able to improve my own record this time in the 24H.

This year, the 24H is in a new location, with more participants – close to 100 signups. Like last year, there was a pasta party on Friday night for the participants to mingle with each other. And I really wanted to go, but this time it was in MAEPS, Serdang. I could not make it in time after work in Petaling Jaya, what more on a Friday night when traffic was the worst. Those who did go seemed to have a blast though!

And with the new location, 24H has obtained the Bronze Label from the International Association of Ultrarunners – the first ultramarathon event in Malaysia to obtain this sanction! This means that the participants in this event will be ranked in the international ultramarathon runners’ ranking.

BEFORE THE RUN

I carpooled with Luan this year, as Serdang was rather far from our place. We had to battle quite a bit of a jam to get there, but we eventually reached MAEPS just after 1pm.

We picked up our race packs, which had a lot of stuff!

My shirt, and my hydration pack

We also walked around to take a look at the setup to get a feel of the place.

This time, each loop was about 1.358km, which was slightly longer than last year’s. There was also less shade, as the trees did not really cover the path. Also, there was a lot more slope compared to last year; the worst was the slope going up towards the bridge that led to the end of the loop!

The route map for 24H 2017

The organisers had set up the usual the refreshment station just like last year – right along the track, with allocated spots for our cups. There was a variety of free-flowing drinks, and plenty of snacks and fruits.

Water stations with the allocated places for our personal cups
The station with the free-flowing refreshments

In addition, they set up several tables and chairs under a tent, with our names marking our designated spots. This was where we can put our own personal items which we wanted within reach during our run, like our own food or drinks, our even our own cooler boxes. This was so that our items would not overcrowd the refreshment station.

The tables and chairs with allocated spaces for the runners. Looks like an outdoor exam hall, haha!
Alexis and I goofing around at the runners’ tent, where we placed our things before the run began. Our numbers were next to each other, so we were allocated spaces next to each other. Photo credit: 24H

This was not where we should be keeping our bags, as there were already allocated gazebos and camp sites further up for our larger items.

The campsite with gazebos that housed the race pack collection, volunteer hangout, and for us to keep our personal belongings
The gazebo where we pitched Luan’s grey tent, next to Kylie’s blue tent

Since we got there early enough, we took a walk around the loop to gauge the terrain… which had more slopes than last year’s route.

The lake we were running around
The bridge that had the flags of the nationalities of the runners in the event. The bridge was part of our route
The finish line that marked the end of the loop
The tent just beyond the finish line. That was the giant timer that would countdown from 24 hours, and the TV would show the current progress of the runners whenever we crossed the timing mat
The portable showers for the runners. The blue ones had hot water!

Jasmine Teng, the lovely organizer gave an opening speech about the event, and our head marshal Ng Seow Kong told us our do’s and don’ts. Penalty if we get caught cheating – 10km! Gasp! This year, Lee Chun How, the champion of the past 2 years, was the co-marshal. During the run, Seow Kong and Chun How would occasionally walk the route to observe the runners, carrying a giant rotan.

Jasmine Teng giving the briefing to the runners, with Seow Keng next to her

It was a reunion of sorts for many of us, as many of the runners were repeat participants of 24H; and most of the participants were familiar faces from other ultra marathons. I wish I could have taken photos with more of my fellow participants, but we were pretty focused on getting ready for the run, so we didn’t socialize as much as we normally would.

Me with my amazing Hot Cup Noodle team (yes, the name is an inside joke!). From left: Colin, Luan, Andy, Nam Kiong, Chun How (who was one of the marshals), and me.
24H 2016 runners’ reunion! From left: Saffary, Dr Chen, Alexis, Loy, Luan. Me in the middle. Photo credit: 24H
Runners’ wefie! Clockwise from top left: Wikky, Selina me, Ben, Nasa, Dr Chen, and Shiela. Photo credit: Dr Chen
Me with Jing Lee and Jojo, two of the friendliest and fastest ultra women runners I know!
Me with Jimmy
We meet again after one year! Sea Pherng and I caught on film catching up. Photo credit: 24H

We took a large group photo before the run started.

Group photo of the runners and the volunteers. Ready to start the run!!! Photo credit: 24H

MY GOAL

Jasmine had conducted email interviews with every participant who had signed up, and unfortunately, my big mouth had stated a target of 120km.

Argh. Me and my big mouth.

It was even on my New Year’s resolution.

The days leading up to the 24H, I actually began panicking. I wasn’t sure if I could hit 120km, because I had never run more than 100km before. I even tried coming up with a schedule to try to keep me on track to hitting my 120km.

This schedule included some nap time, which my running team – specifically, Colin, Andy, and Luan – said I was not allowed. Andy even threatened to keep shaking the tent if I attempted to take a nap!

Got caught doing a dancer’s stretch while waiting for the runner’s briefing. Photo credit: 24H
Got caught in another vanity shot – taking a selfie! Photo credit: 24H
The selfie I was taking
I also thought this photo was cute – a photo catching us taking a photo of ourselves. Photo credit: 24H

THE RUN BEGINS

We were flagged off at 3pm sharp, after the volunteers entertained us with a rendition of PPAP – both the original, and the 24H version.

Runners at the Start Line! Photo credit: 24H

It was a really humid day. It had been raining every day leading up to this day, and I had packed a weatherproof jacket and an old pair of running shoes I wouldn’t mind getting wet. Even though the sky was overcast, we were really blessed that it didn’t rain at all this weekend! There was rain before and after, but not during, which made it easier for us runners.

Being a little more experienced than I was last year, I was normally able to keep running without water for up to 10km; but it being a really humid day, I was forced to make a stop after every loop, and it was too easy to stop because the refreshment station was right on the track.

Runners stopping to get a drink at the water station. Yes, it was really hot at this hour. Photo credit: 24H
A closeup of me having a bite of a pear. I don’t know how I’m still able to smile… this was taken close to the finishing time on Sunday afternoon. Photo credit: 24H

This time, I had announced my participation on Facebook. We could ask supporters to send us encouraging messages via the 24H website, and I was pleasantly surprised to find several messages left for me, placed at my cup’s allocated spot at the refreshment station.

Messages that were left for me! This photo was taken after I got home. Thank you Leong Mei Ling, Cindy Teoh, Andrew Lu, Sally Chung and Viswa for your encouraging messages!!!

But because I made a stop after every loop, I found it hard to keep my pace up.

I couldn’t keep to the schedule I had created. I was a lot slower than I normally was.

So instead, I decided to tell myself that I only deserved a break every 30km.

Once I hit my first 30km (about 7:35pm), I allowed myself a brief dinner stop.

I was again going to allow myself another break only after another 30km, but I was stopped after about Lap 35 (47km, about 10:50pm) by Colin and Jimmy who were part of Klang Pacesetters Athletic Club (KPAC). The lovely team had brought pizza and beer for their runners, and they graciously invited me to partake. I didn’t take the beer though – as we jokingly said, it would have turned into a duathlon for me (I would have ended up in the lake!!!), but I enjoyed the pizza and a soya drink. And I did feel a lot better, and was able to continue in a mode less zombie-like.

I kept going until I hit 60km (about 1:35am), and stopped to take a shower and have a nice little supper.

By then though, my legs were sore and I was already limping. I was considering taking a short nap, but instead I went over to the medical tent to see if the physiotherapists were able to give me a foam roller massage like last year.

There were no foam rollers though. The medics tended to the blisters on my right foot before the physiotherapist gave me a massage by hand.

One of the senior students in the medic area, I made friends with Devon Low who was very knowledgeable and experienced. She worked on my legs to massage the lactic acid out, which had been accumulated from the previous weekend’s Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon (and I hadn’t done anything to remove them, oh dear).

Getting my sore legs seen to at the physio area. Photo with Devon and Jason. Photo credit: Devon Low
Getting gently chided for not taking better care of my legs. 🙁 Photo credit: Devon Low

By the time I was released from the medic tent, I had lost about 2 hours… and was falling behind on my 120km schedule.

So, no nap for me.

I was back on the track to make up for lost time.

I had been using my watch for the first half of the run, but the battery had dropped really low and I left it to charge. I didn’t use my watch for the second half of my run… because I decided to just rely on the timer at the tent.

It was getting really hard for me to keep going though. Although Devon had worked her magic, my legs were tired and unable to run. So I kept walking.

Again, I had to stop after Lap 50 (67km, about 3:40am), and after a simple supper break I took a 5-minute nap before getting up and pushing on.

I couldn’t keep going. I stopped again at Lap 56 (75km, about 6am) and this time took a 10-minute nap.

And then I got up again at forced myself to keep going.

When I hit the 100km mark (about 11am), I was so tempted to stop. After all, this was the most I had ever reached. It was already an achievement for me. Right?

But I thought about my New Year’s resolution, and how satisfying it would be if I could check it off my list. So I kept going.

However as the hours wore on, I knew I couldn’t reach 120km. I observed my pace, and did the mental calculations based on the remaining number of hours, and taking note of the breaks I would need to take, I was sadly aware of the fact that 120km was not achievable. The most was probably about 115-116km. If I had picked up speed and run, then maybe. But the truth was, I was not conditioned for long distance ultras. My legs were not able to move beyond a walk. I think if they could, they would have walked away from me.

So I resigned myself to the fact that this was not one item I could check off my list. But I figured, well… let’s just keep going and see what is the maximum distance I could cover this time. After all, every km counts!

Because like the past few years, every km would raise a contribution of RM2.40 towards artificial limbs under Limbs For Life.

Limbs For Life showing us what the money raised would be purchasing. Jasmine would update the bunting with the amount we had raised as the hours passed. Photo credit: 24H

I stopped again for a short lunch about 12:40pm, and Kay Hao who was seated next to me offered me some grapes he had brought, which were really refreshing.

It got harder to run as the sun crept up, because it was becoming really hot. There was a bucket of ice placed in the shade along the track, which was constantly filled up. Many of us runners kept helping ourselves to the ice to cool us down.

I don’t know how I did it, but I didn’t stop. I kept walking. One of the lovely ladies from KPAC even offered me bird’s nest as a pick-me-up.

At 2pm, the volunteers started banging on tins making a racket, shouting out that it was the last hour.

The last hour! I did mental calculations in my head.

Throughout the run, I had kept checking the lap numbers on the TV screen placed right in front of the timing mat which recorded our progress. Seow Kong who was seated in front of the screen would occasionally call out our lap numbers, and give encouraging remarks to keep motivating the runners to keep going. He would either announce our achievements as we make them (“You’ve hit the 100km mark!”) or let us know how much further we needed to go (“Just 3 more laps to hit 100km!”). When I hit my 100km mark, Seow Kong had already done mental calcuations, and said that if I kept going, I can easily hit 115km by 3pm.

I always took a couple of minutes to look at the TV screen once I crossed the timing mat. This is a photo caught of me looking at the TV screen which is not inside the photo. Clin managed to perfectly catch the look on the face of a runner staring at the screen wondering why the number of loops are still so low!! This was taken during the first half of the event (that’s why it was so dark). Photo credit: Clin Mohd Rukon

Like Seow Kong, Chun How also gave very motivating remarks, although in his case he didn’t speak over the microphone.

Truth be told, it was an amazing feeling to receive such motivation from ultra greats like Seow Kong and Chun How. It was truly very humbling, because they took the time to speak to newbie runners like me.

Anyway. Back to the track.

One of the “cheerleaders” we kept coming across as we ran the route
The volunteers kept sweeping the track to make it easy for the runners to run. No other run event has volunteers this tireless! Photo credit: 24H

So the last hour. I was crossing 113km just after 2pm, so my mental calculations based on my walking pace told me I could get up to 117km.

I crossed the timing mat at 2:49pm at a distance of 117km! 11 more minutes? I wasn’t sure if I could even complete a loop, because by then my average pace per loop was 15 minutes.

But everyone was shouting and clapping, and I remember Jasmine distinctly waving me on, so I decided to keep going.

So I ran. I remember crossing the timing mat with Fakhrul Rambo then, and both of us started running to try to complete the loop.

Of course, I couldn’t keep up with Rambo… I was already really tired. Plus he was a much faster runner. But I distinctly remember Colin and KPAC team clapping and cheering me on, shouting that I was ranked #5.

Ranked what??? I didn’t think very much at that time… I decided to just run. And I ran the whole final loop, crossing the timing mat at 2:59pm!

It was the most exhilarating feeling ever. I was nowhere close to being a champion, but I felt as if I had just won!

Woohoo!!!! Getting applauded as if I had just won! Photo credit: 24H

This is the highest running achievement ever. I managed to complete 88 loops with a total of distance 119km – just 1km shy of my target!!!

And to my shock, I found that I was ranked #5 out of 20 ladies. I was shocked, because I knew there were a lot of other far more experienced ladies who were much better runners. Throughout the run, I did observe the leaderboard, and I was already surprised to find myself within the top 10. All I wanted, to be honest, was just to do better than I did last year. I think I was really lucky to get this ranking, because many of the other runners in this event were much faster and far more experienced than I am. I found out later that some of the ladies unfortunately had injuries.

Would I be able to repeat this ranking in the future? Probably not, I still have a long way more to go to be anywhere near as good as the other experienced runners. But it was amazing to start the year this way.

Me at the Finish with Devon and Jasmine Teng. Finally I get a photo with Jasmine!!! Photo credit: 24H

POST-RUN

We had a brief celebration to celebrate the birthdays of volunteer Jayna Leong (who spent her actual birthday on her feet cooking and serving the runners) and runner Roshan (who was turning 30 the next day)!

Happy birthday, Roshan and Jayna! Photo credit: 24H

After a brief break, we had the medal presentations for the participants, again awarded by volunteers selected at random; and my medal was presented to me by Devon. It’s like jodoh… we were meant to be, haha!

Me with Devon who presented my medal to me. Photo credit: 24H

The top 3 prizes for the men and women were also awarded. Congratulations, you guys!!!

WOMEN

Champion: Susan Swier (who was also the overall champion!!! Way to go!!!!)
1st Runner Up: Amy Khor
2nd Runner Up: Soo Hui Yen

MEN

Champion: David Christopher Willie
1st Runner Up: Jeffrey Ooi
2nd Runner Up: Ben Lee

This time though, they didn’t give us our finisher tees as there were too many of us for the personalized tees to be printed on the spot.

Top 3 winners on the podium with their prizes! Photo credit: 24H
Group photo of everyone with their medals!

ULTRA AFTERMATH

As for me… I couldn’t walk. Literally. After I finished the run, I felt as if my feet and shins were on fire. Seow Kong had to help me walk to my chair to get my things, but after a short rest, I was able to limp my way to our tent.

I seem to get caught on digital film doing the most random things! You can see the extreme pain I was going through as I was peeling the socks of my very sore feet. Photo credit: 24H
Me and Kay Hao celebrating our medals. Kay Hao is one of the most supportive ultra runners I have ever met!! Thanks for your grapes!!!

I had a lot of difficulty walking to the car, but the lovely Jayna and Lynette who were there saw me struggling, and helped me carry my things to the car.

Me with the fabulous Jayna! Lynette had already moved to the car with my things so didn’t get to take a photo with her. Photo credit: Jayna Leong

And when we reached Luan’s home, I couldn’t walk again. I remember when I got out of the car, I couldn’t move. Thank goodness I had a trolley bag, which I used as a crutch for me to shuffle along. And thankfully I drove an automatic, which I could still manipulate to get home.

When I reached home, I took a shower and crashed straight to bed, even without dinner.

Did I suffer after? Tremendously. I had slathered sunblock lotion – but on my arms. I forgot to put them on my back, and was severely sunburnt. But fortunately I kept up a constant treatment of aloe vera gel and black tea, followed by lotion, and the pain only lasted about 1-2 days.

Suffering from the sunburn!

As for my feet – well, the blisters on my right foot during the run caused me to overcompensate on my left foot, which left me with peroneal tendonitis, and I have been on a walking stick for one week after the run.

Getting my tendonitis seen to at the physiotherapist’s. Sigh. The pain was finally gone 1.5 weeks after the run.

But once the dust has settled, and the peeling has stopped… will you see me again at next year’s 24H? You bet. I have not hit my 120km yet, and I have every intention of hitting it next year.

SUMMATION

24H is one of the best events I’ve ever joined, with an amazing support crew. Free flow of food and drinks, amazing goodie bags, wonderful charity, great camaraderie!

And this is my best running achievement ever! 119km, ranked #5 out of 20 ladies, ranked #25 out of 92 participants.

Congratulations on your amazing achievement, everyone!!! Thank you for another amazing event! See all of you again next year!!!

My official results!
More vanity shoutouts. The shot of me taking a selfie appears on 24H’s website. Hahaha!!

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Zyen Hoo

Zyen is a Physics, Chemistry and Math teacher with many interests, including running and dancing. She also enjoys indulging in vanity projects such as her personal blog, and is a self-proclaimed reviewer. She is also notoriously slow in updating her blog due to her constant search for the next adrenaline rush (on top of her heavy workload at school and her freelancing projects), so she asks for your forgiveness and understanding of her very delayed updates.

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