Crazee Ultra. In Singapura!

SATURDAY, September 22nd 2012, 5:00 am:

KRINNGGGG!! The alarm went off. Time for.. CRAZE ULTRA 78 KM (+/- 50 miles)! My first thought was: "Geez, I've just slept for 2 hours, should I go?"

Approximately 10 hours ago, I had dinner with my family at a Thai restaurant. Long story short, there was an extra glass of Thai Iced Coffee on our table. Stupidly enough, I grabbed that glass and drank the caffeine-filled high-sugar concoction.

I was already nervous thinking about my first ultramarathon attempt tomorrow. Plus the Thai Iced Coffee's caffeine and sugar flowing through my veins, the perfect storm to prevent me from sleeping early came to be. I was still awake at 2:30 am, and finally managed to get some shut-eye around 3am. My first thought upon being woken up by the alarm at 5am = "you'll attempt running for over 10 hours, with only 2 hours of sleep? Are you NUTS?!!!"

With a quick self-affirmation "Yes, I am NUTS!!", I got out of bed and got ready. I was at the race site by 5:45am. I met fellow Indonesians Muara, Nyoman and Hendra (each of whom were doing the 160 km/100 miles attempt); my friend Anto and his partner Fasta, teaming up to conquer 160 km/100 miles; and Zedy Ng trying the 101 km "portion." All in all, there were 7 Samurais from Indonesia at this event.

This event is really suited with its namesake "CRAZE ULTRA, are you NUTS?!"

Yes, WE are NUTS!

** DISCLAIMER = This story is NOT about competitive running. The only person I am competing with is myself. There are numerous runners who can go much faster, and over longer distances, than me. I respect each and every one of them, and I respect all runners who are willing to challenge themselves, and go beyond their personal barriers (many of which are "self-imposed"). My note is meant to, hopefully, help others to go after their "crazy moment." Your "crazy" can be your first 5K, or your first 100 miles. Only you know what it is. The only bit of advice is to take everything step by step, and be honest with yourself. Last but certainly not least, keep on praying, because so many things are beyond our control!

"Craze Ultra" allows participants to have one pacer at anytime. At 6 am, I met my first pacer, my friend Desmond Koh, Singapore's national swimmer and 5-times Olympian. With the "whatever happens happen" mentality, I went to the starting line shortly before 7:00am.

What did I bring? Craze Ultra has CheckPoints (CP) every 10 km (6,2 miles) or so. We could deposit one bag at each CP, with whatever stuffs we may need. I filled those bags with plenty of towels, shirts, electrolytes, head-lamp, and energy-chews. These CPs were lifesavers indeed, as they helped lessen the baggage we had to carry. In my case, it meant I didn't have to use my hydration backpack, a big plus point as I wanted to give my shoulder as much breathing room as possible, in the hot and extra-humid weather of Singapore. I ended up only carrying my handheld hydration bottle, one with a pocket for my iPhone, complete with extra battery jacket, to track this "adventure" using the Nike+ GPS app (a journey which would take over 10 hours with the battery-draining GPS being active).

I ran my first 12 km (7,5 miles) to CP (CheckPoint) 1, at a pace of 7,25 min/km. Desmond had to remind me a couple of times, "slow down dude, you got more than 70 km (43,5 miles) to go!" BLEH! I almost puked hearing the word "70 kilometers" and wanted to head home. Desmond said goodbye at CP 1. His farewell words: "You are Crazy, dude!" Coming from a Singapore national swimmer, I took that as a compliment! :)

Upon reaching CP 2 (21,5 km or 13.1 miles) at Woodlands Waterfront, I could see Malaysia across the water. I changed into a white turtleneck shirt at this CP, anticipating the soon-to-come Singapore's scorching heat and sticky humidity.

At CP 3 (30 km or 18.7 miles), I met my second pacer, Vincent Ng, president of the USC Alumni Club Singapore, who was training for his first full marathon this coming December. By that point, the effect of sleeping only 2 hours had taken its toll. I was beat, and I told Vincent that I'd be progressing quite slowly. To conserve power for the remaining 48 km (30 miles), I asked Vincent to do the "5-minute-run-2-minute-walk" scheme. Singapore's infamous heat, and extreme humidity, came in full force starting at 11 am. Muscle cramps set in at approximately 35 km (22 miles). At one point, my left leg and right thigh were so badly cramped that my two legs were skewed. Lucky for me, Vincent was there to help "straighten" them out!

CP 4 was at km 39 (24.3 miles), and the stretch from km 35-39 was indeed the hardest leg for me. With extreme fatigue setting in, and sleepiness from lack-of-rest the night before, I was almost crashing. When CP 4 was about 500 meters away, Vincent told me: "next CP is in sight." I ran towards CP 4, reassuring myself "get to the HALFWAY point, and recollect yourself there!"

I took a seat at CP 4 and almost fell asleep then and there! I refueled with electrolytes, potato chips (for the salt), plus some bread and banana. I also got the "cold-water-spray," which helped to wake me up. Then it was time to make my journey back (my route was from starting point to CP 4, and then back to CP 3-1, before finishing at MacRitchie).

HALFWAY POINT. Condition = extremely fatigued. Almost crashed but not yet burned.

Knowing the glass is half full was certainly an incentive to keep pouring. With what little energy I had, I pushed myself from km 39 to km 48 (CP 3), putting one foot in front of the other. I was really thankful to have Vincent pacing me, as it made the suffering more bearable. Upon reaching CP 3, I calculated that, out of the original 78 km, I had 30 km to go. "More than 60% DONE! Let's finish this!"


Leaving CP 3, I was determined to finish the remaining 38% of this journey. I started picking up the pace. Vincent was originally scheduled to stop pacing me at CP 3, but he decided to keep on pacing me beyond this checkpoint (thanks Vince!). Sensing my increased pace and energy level, he commented, "wow, I guess there is such a thing as the second wind." Comforting myself, I muttered "sure, believe in yourself, and the second wind will come."

Vincent finally said goodbye around km 53. I carried on to CP 2. Before leaving, he commented "hey, this is inspiring!" (I might have misheard that ..haha!). I responded to Vincent "thanks for sticking around for so long, I appreciate it!"

Singapore's lovely weather remained hot and sticky until 4:30 pm. It was after 5:30 pm when I reached CP 2 (km 56,5)... 21,5 km (half marathon) TO GO! At this point, I was 100% convinced that I would finish (something that was not a given just a couple of hours earlier).

I once again got cold-water-sprayed at CP 2. I also changed into my favorite shirt (with the FIGHT ON! wording on the chest), and after "checking into" the restroom, I proceeded to CP 1. Before leaving, I put on a headlight that I had prepared, in anticipation of entering the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector later in the evening (in the map, it was already marked "UNLIGHTED PARK").

After navigating the streets, I finally arrived at the "entrance" of Ulu Sembawang Park around 7:30 pm.


Upon entering the park, there was a small sign saying "YOU ARE STRONG. KM 63" My reaction: "YESSS! 15 more kilometers to the Promised Land!"

This feeling of joy would be short-lived though.

Soon after I entered the park, I discovered what being alone in total darkness, in a park environment, felt like! The light on my forehead, because it only emitted light for a distance of 2-3 meters, actually made the atmosphere more awkward, because of the surrounding darkness (ok, I'll just use the word, it was DAMN SCARY!).

To make things worse, the footpath was going UPHILL! I knew the distance to get through the park was almost 2 kilometers. I speed-walked along the footpath, and it felt like F O R E V E R! Every time there were sounds coming from the trees, I looked in that direction, and the light on my forehead followed suit. It was surreal!

I also looked over my shoulder from time to time, and thinking about it now, what did I expect to find when I turned my head backwards? HUH!?

After what seemed like an eternity, the footpath turned flat, and I started running again. When I finally saw a glimmer of street lights about 300 meters ahead, I swear to God I'd never been so happy to see bright lights in my entire life!

Craze Ultra? Yeah. It was CRAZEE alright!

I continued on, and I finally reached CP 1, i.e. KM 66! YEEHAA!! Twelve kilometers to go. By then my legs have turned to (and felt like) Jell-O. In the bag that I left at CP 1, I had put some mooncakes, meant for the volunteers in that CheckPoint (likewise in the previous CPs). They were happy to get the mooncakes, and I was also happy, because the finish line was "in sight!"

I texted my wife and kids, who were already waiting in MacRitchie by then: "Last CheckPoint. 12 km to go. But this may take a while."

I made a wrong turn after CP 1, and fortunately I realized my mistake early. I then ran along Upper Thompson towards the starting point. After what felt like running forever, I suddenly started wondering if I had overshot MacRitchie. Perhaps because I'd been "out and about" for 14 hours plus, I wasn't thinking straight, and I ran in the opposite direction! Feeling that something wasn't right, I finally got in touch with Ben our race director. After nearly getting ran over by a speeding motorcycle while crossing the street, I finally got back to the right route towards MacRitchie. Ben sent out a volunteer to meet me, and we ran together towards the finish line.

After 15 hours of running + walking + cramping + navigating + running again, I finally FINISHED my first ultramarathon!

FROM Crazy, to NUTS!

When I crossed the finish line, I looked at my iPhone, which had the Nike+ GPS app active. The screen said 78,86 KM. I thought: "Hey, I just need an additional 140 meters to 'round this up' to 79 KM!" There was a small 100 meter circle after the finish line, so... I continued running along the circle, until my screen showed 79.0 KM!

There were people waiting in MacRitchie, and some were clapping when they saw this Mad Man running, AFTER the finish line. I overheard one who shouted "WAH, THIS ONE REALLY CRAZY LAH!!"

I guess that was a fitting end to a crazy day. Nobody said it was going to be easy. And nobody told me it was going to be so challenging, and scary, and, well.. CRAZEE!
I had thought that my 15 hr 29 minutes time would place me at the bottom of my category. There was a total of 240 participants in this inaugural Craze Ultra Singapore, with 18 registered in the 78 KM Individual segment. As it turned out, I was finisher # 7 / 18 (with two DNF and two DNS). Not good by any measure, but not too shabby either.

I thank God for allowing me to finish, and thank my family for putting up with this crazy father and husband. And I thank IndoRunners for motivating me to keep running!
I am dedicating this story to Nyoman, Muara and Hendra, the REAL Three Muskeeters of Indonesia, each of whom FINISHED in their 100 miles (160 km!) category (the DNF rate in the 100 miles division was 63%!!). You guys make Indonesia PROUD!

A hearty congratulations to my friend Anto, the person who pushed me to pick up running, and his team-mate Fasta, who finished the 160 km team relay (80 km each!). And to Zedy Ng who battled the 101 km segment.

As for the Finisher Medal, I am dedicating it to my friend Robby. In early July, I was running with Robby on a Sunday. Both Robby and I are active in AUSCI, the Alumni USC Club of Indonesia, and one of our club's missions is to build/renovate libraries for primary school children in the suburbs. While running, Robby nonchalantly pledged a gift of four AUSCI libraries for primary schools in Jogjakarta, in conjunction with his company's 40th anniversary in August. "A gift of four libraries for children in need, celebrating the 40th anniversary of a friend's company, in the exact same month that I would be turning 40 years old!"  I took this as a God-sent sign to finally register for Craze Ultra.

Happy belated 40th to me. Now that the craziness is over and done with, it's time for me to embrace my Second Wind (in life)!

Crazee Ultra. In Singapura!

Photo credits: various CrazeUltra participants and google sources

And here's how 79 kilometers look like in 25 seconds:

Interview on national TV (in Bahasa Indonesia) with fellow CrazeUltra finishers:

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