The Newton Challenge
There’s only one thing I remember of this race – the heat. Even when the 4 of us (Yim, Pui San, Frank and I) started out at 4:09am this morning for the first leg of our run, there were signs that it was going to be a scorcher. The heavens had poured its content the evening and night before and unless we see a deluge to rival a typical monsoon’s rain on race morning has always looked unlikely. The plan was to cover 2 loops of the 8K (4K out and 4K return) portion of the Newton race route before starting with the masses at 6:30am for the race proper. We hoped that that would make up a marathon distance morning. It was to be my final longest run before The North Face on Oct 9th.
I felt rather great the first phase of the run, everything was kept aerobic and everything felt relaxed. Tey was mad enough – bless him – to be there that early to take some photos of us. I’ve had an early night after a day’s diet of stir-fried pasta and other than a 10K run with the Nike group, my legs were rested. The red bean soup I had was giving me some gas discomfort though, but it never got to the point of impeding my run. As Frank and I were ahead of Yim and Pui San, the both of us had time to refuel back at the car while picking up Loke who was to join us for the 2nd set of 8K. Coach Chan who were busy setting up the race staging area asked us if we’re really heading out again, to which we confirmed. We gained Loke’s company but lost Pui San’s when she opted out of the 2nd loop due to some pain in her ankle. The group paced together tightly to and fro and made it back to the carpark again to complete 17.22K.
I quickly changed my running vest, rehydrated and refueled with a small chunk of Clif Bar, and carried off a diluted bottle of chilled Mountain Dew. We got ready just in time for the mass start and Yim urged us to go ahead first while he changed into the traditional Malay dress and Vibrams [Photos on his blog]. As it turned out he ran faster than Frank and I. Both us us literally started from the back and held a decent pace – not fast nor not too slow – since there was much work to be done. I was prepared to walk since I knew what this mostly shadeless route holds. Met so many friends and blog followers along the way and it took away some of the race anxiety. The water stops were quite adequate in the beginning and I appreciated the chilled water and isotonics. The problem mainly started after coming off the Ammah Hill. The sun just got to me.
Just like the rolling hills and exposed route, the sun was slowly but surely sapping my energy away. From then on, it was a matter of survival, alternating between shuffling and walking back to the finish. I covered 10K in that manner and the irony of it was the longer I stayed out, the worst I was getting hammered by the searing heat. And the more I ran the more I was overheating. It got so hot that the black 2XU tights felt uncomfortably hot. My goose was literally being cooked. But I wasn’t alone in my battle – scores of other runners were suffering as well and the drinks stations were now appearing to be too sparsely spaced. In hindsight I ought to have carried some cash with me for some much needed drinks at the gas stations. I got the wearing of shades right but screwed up the monitory logistics. I expected some heat casualties but surprisingly the ambulances only took off from the finish area and not en route. That meant the affected runners made it back before succumbing to the heat.
It was with much relief that I got to the finish line in 2:51 for the 25.9K distance. If I had not walked as much as I did, a 2:40 would’ve been possible. Anyway, I really just did a marathon distance, in fact more than a marathon – 43.12K for a total of 4:54 finish.
The moment I crossed the line and picked up a bottle of water, medal (surprised!) and a nice finisher tee, I sought out a shady route back to the car. Downed a can of cold Mountain Dew, Endurox and munched a banana while waiting for Frank to get back. Yim and Loke both ran fabulous races and post-race chit-chat is always great. Apparently word got around that 3 mad fellas did the marathon distance! Rested for a while more before driving off – family duties await…