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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We took a large group photo before the run started.
Jasmine had conducted email interviews with every participant who had signed up, and unfortunately, my big mouth had stated a target of 120km.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)!
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!
The top 3 prizes for the men and women were also awarded. Congratulations, you guys!!!
Champion: Susan Swier (who was also the overall champion!!! Way to go!!!!)
1st Runner Up: Amy Khor
2nd Runner Up: Soo Hui Yen
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!