Newton Challenge 25K 2012

The objectives I had heading into the Newton Challenge were twofold. Firstly it was to be an opportunity to log my first >30K of the year and secondly to just survive the tough course. Last year I logged a total of 43K (actual race distance of 25.9K) for a 4:54 finish. The actual race itself was completed in a disastrous 2:51. If you’re interested in the 2010 race report head on here.

Now that you’ve read the 2010 report, you’ll understand the reason for my second objective don’t you? Some modifications to the plans for this year. Instead of logging 17K to top off the race distance, I opted to just cover 8K. I figured there’s really no point in running myself into the ground and achieving nothing with a marathon distance training run – I was afterall not down to run any ultra. Any chance of getting enough sleep was dashed with the setting off of the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t even the Chinese New Year and there was already a big bang show of noise. That ruckus resulted in just 3 hours of light sleep for me.

Group 2 (Calvin and Malcalm not in the picture) about to start out.
Group 2 (Calvin and Malcalm not in the picture) about to start out. Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
With Jeff and Mohan before the start. We were lined up close to the back of the crowd. Photo courtesy of Pui San.
With Jeff and Mohan before the start. We were lined up close to the back of the crowd. Photo courtesy of Pui San.

Not wanting to end up rushing back to the starting line for the main event, the group comprising of Calvin, Malcalm, Loke, Wind and I promptly set off at 4:20am. The plan was very simple – head out 30 minutes and return the same time. Jeff, Frank and Roy joined us not long after we started – they were on the way to completing their 17K pre-race run. As it turned out we from the 2nd group managed to cover the 8.27K out and back with adequate time to spare for refuel and re-kit. The average pace of 6:36 really told the story and my average HR was at a low 134. I emptied 3/4 of a bottle of pre-soaked chia seed, 2 packets of gel (thanks for the Roctane, Frank), and changed into a fresh vest. The 2XU cap, shades, BV calf sleeves, Brooks Infiniti III shorts, Kinsei socks and Kinvara ViziPro were my kit for the race.

Speeding up after clearing the Ammah Hill on the return. Photo courtesy of Runner Footprints.Plenty of new year greetings were shared as we waited for the start. The strategy was to run a conservative pace up till the last 5K, when I’ll then amp up the pace to a half marathon and subsequently 15K race pace. I only needed to ensure that I cover the first section before the Ammah Hill conservatively as I find that section tougher than the second part. The execution was according to plan and I let all the runners go about their own pace and not get suckered into running another person’s race. My pace fluctuated between 6:06 – 6:34 the first 5K, which meant that I was running well within my comfort zone. My breathing only laboured in the tough climbs – and were not even hard in the other sections. I skipped the first water station at the 4K mark since I was well hydrated. Took my first gel at the 8K mark and pretty much stuck to this interval until the end of the race.

Heading towards the finish. It was starting to get warm. Photo courtesy of Cham LK.
Heading towards the finish. It was starting to get warm. Photo courtesy of Cham LK.
Kelvin (in red) checking out my hair for dandruff?! Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
Kelvin (in red) checking out my hair for dandruff?! Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
Still smiling! Photo courtesy of Kelvin Yew.

It was great to see Kei Ming, Jason Loh and Kah Wai manning the junctions directing the runners. Their cheers were welcoming indeed. After the 5th K, my pace only dropped to a slow of 6:03 3 times. The rest of the splits were under 6 minutes. Despite the encouraging pace I was pretty much running based on feeling. And to that I was very conscious to keep my pace within my capability. No drastic moves until the final 5K, I kept reminding myself. When the 12K mark was hit, I found that I was still running so very comfortably, so I allowed a slight increase in pace. And held it until the 19K mark when, as planned, the pace was quickened substantially up to the finish line for a 2:22 finish (self timed) and an appoximately 30-minute improvement over 2010’s timing. The distance was a little short at 24.4K (for a total of 32K run).

Streeetch!
Streeetch!
Aladdin Runnerz and friends
Aladdin Runnerz and friends
First medal of the year. Compared to the ultra light Nike vests that I typically wear, the asics was heavier but nevertheless it performed pretty well in the humid climate.
First medal of the year. Compared to the superb ultra light Nike vests that I typically wear, the asics was heavier but nevertheless it performed pretty well in the humid climate.

I’m overall satisfied with the race, no complaints whatsoever. Performance and fueling plans were good but can be better and with a number of over-30Ks planned over a period of 4 weeks from next week, I hope I’ll be able to pace even better. The slight route modification made the race easier certainly. The starting time of 5:30am helped too. All in all a perfect start to the day and year.

Stats:

Newton Challenge 25K 2010

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.

Filling up before heading out for the first loop
Filling up before heading out for the first loop. Photo courtesy of Pui San (left)

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.

Carbokids modeling the finisher tee and medal

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…