From sniping photographers to mind-numbing looping around the unforgiving concrete surface, yesterday’s B2E seemed to have it all. Positioned as a “fun ultra” by RD Jeff, no doubt itself a paradoxical statement, 100+ runners attempted to go around the lake as many times as possible within a 12-hour window. Completing a loop would chalk up a meager 2.35KM. The route presented hardly a challenge in terms of elevation but the surface would make mincemeat of the legs.
The last I attempted a hamster mode of running was some years ago at the Twilight Ultra Challenge (race report) but while TUC started in the afternoon, B2E kicked off at 6:30am. As would be the case of an event organized by runners, there was much fun to be had before the start right to the end. Except for a few loops where we went on our own, Nick and I ended up covering our distances pretty much together. I decided to run only the first few loops in the Skechers Nite Owl (a review is forthcoming) but since they felt comfortable I stuck to them up till the 18KM mark. My 2nd toenail on my left foot was causing some problems and I knew I’d to nip any issues quickly in a race this long. I quickly detoured to the car to change into the Energy Boost, which is a size larger and the Boost was the shoe that stayed with me till the end. I also had the GOultra in the car should there be another reason to change.
The race for me pretty much started as a run-walk affair. The detour to the bike path offered a good short stretch to walk, which was a relief. No matter how slow we ran, the lower legs were taking a beating. Things became bad when I felt sharp pain around the right knee cap. It became difficult to go down the steep slopes peppering some spots along the route. Things weren’t rosy for sure and downright demoralizing to have occurred so early. I thought, “Legs, please don’t get thrashed at just 20+KM!”. There were only 2 options, quit or just keep moving forward. Chose to keep moving and after 4 very slow loops, the pain surreptitiously went away and I could resume power walking. The objectives were simple from then on, just focus on completing each loop and nothing else. When I was asked how many laps I’d done, I told them I had no idea, which was the truth. My thoughts then went to completing the marathon distance which I hit before the commencement of the route reversal at 12:30pm. By then I was already walking more than I was running. Though my pace couldn’t hold a candle to Uncle Oliver’s, I could still hound a casual jogger up an incline until he gave up!
The weather had been fantastic up till 11:30am and even with the sun bearing down on us at 2:30pm, it didn’t get dreadfully uncomfortable for me. A gentle breeze was always present to cool things down and the 2nd section of the route was very shady and cooling. Barring my legs, I thought I did pretty well in the heat. Nick and I, safe for the brief stops at the checkpoint, kept moving. The funny thing was how the mind was fooled by simple thoughts such as “I’d done 18 loops, I could do another 3!” and before I knew it I was sniffing at 50KM. From there, the motivation was to beat my former hoo-doo of 52KM and when that happened, it was to pull in another 3 loops and then another 2 loops. That went on until I decided to call time at 26 loops (61.1KM) so that I could make it back on time for a dinner with the family. Time check was 5pm or thereabouts.
I’m quite ambivalent about just hitting 61KM even though I know I’ll have less difficulty reaching this milestone on a road race than on a surface as hard as the Lake Gardens’. It was meant to be a run to discover more about myself, what worked and what didn’t. Obviously, leg strength seemed to be an area of concern but there’s time. Of course, the trails will be more lenient but still…
Then there’s the fueling and hydration bit. I was cognizant of how I was feeling, if I was over or under hydrating. When the fingers started to feel a little swollen, indicating water retention, I kept myself off the electrolytes and consumed only water. I didn’t pee the entire 10 hours and thought it was a problem with my hydration or kidneys, something I’ll need to read up on.
There was no cramps the entire 61KM, which was great. What could be better was the fueling part. By 2pm I felt some hunger creeping in and was telling those around me how I wished for Char Koay Teow and Ipoh Hor Fun. I hadn’t take in anything solid other than a banana, a slice of Nutella bread and Perpetuem tablets and completely forgotten about the raisins and peanut butter bars sitting in the car boot. By 3:30pm I was so famished and attacked some junk food while scrounging for something even more solid. Thanks to a volunteer who pointed me to the correct table, I found and wolfed down half a pack of fried rice. It tasted awesome but then again, even if you’d given me something horrendous, I’d probably think it tasted like Jalan Ipoh Bak Kut Teh. I seriously need to pay attention inculcating a fueling discipline.
Mentally, I thought I came out better than when I did TUC several years ago in that I was able to work my way past the pain. And I was surprised that nearly all photos caught me smiling. I didn’t even fish out the iPod to “zone out”.
There’s no denying the value of crowd support in a time-bound/ultra-distance event, from the volunteers to those who came to cheer the runners. There were even 2 unofficial tables set up to provide physical and mental sustenance to the runners. There were sufficient ice, water, isotonics, Coke, bananas, chocolate bars, Pringles, cup jellies, nasi lemak (didn’t dare eat this) and fried noodles (didn’t take this either). The fun atmosphere prevailed throughout the day. The mileage I clocked was meager yet each loop I completed late into the event was greeted by cheers and applause from the volunteers and supporters. I also believe B2E set the record for the highest photographer-to-runner ratio.
B2E wasn’t an easy run, the pavement being the worst culprit. In my opinion overcoming that poses a greater challenge than the number of loops and weather you’ve to face. If you’re game for it, be on the look out for next year’s edition!