Route 68 Challenge: Race Review

Done and dusted my first road ultra marathon. A Malaysian one - Route 68 - since its one of my fave driving route and also in memory of a dear friend whom I had good touge memories along this very route that I ran my first ultra.

Some might ask why an ultra when I have not even run a proper full marathon or even hit a sub 4? Well...
10km √
21km √
42km √
And I am honestly finding it difficult to get any faster while the body is still strong after a full marathon, so why not go further? Of course I don't deny its also because I am seeking more challenge in running so why not an ultra. A road ultra would seem easier per se since I am quite a clumsy person based on my few trail runs with pals. And blah blah blah I gave myself a Christmas present of signing up for Route 68 Challenge 2015 - Women Endurance 68KM.

Technically I should opt for 50km since this was to be my first ultra marathon but I figured if I wanted to play, I might as well play the full stakes and attempt 68km.

Training was fun. Training was a lot more time spending pounding the road and ukur jalan (measuring the road in my national language Bahasa Malaysia). In between, there was the KL Maran Walk that freaked me out as I developed major blisters and had a few purple toes during my attempt of the 205km walk. 
The beginning of getting my feet mummified at the 9th hour (lunch time) of the KL Maran Walk

The blisters finally cleared and 2 nails dropped out a week before Route 68. Had my long runs of up to 35km and there was no blisters showing any signs of popping out. Perhaps my feet preferred running over walking?

Took me 2 days to pack and unpack my gear. Not sure of what to pack since other than the mandatory items such as head light, safety vest etc, I still had to carry some fuel. Not being a fan of gels, I needed alternative fuel i.e. real food. I wanted to ensure that I could treat my blisters on my own in case it happened again similar to the KL Maran Walk. I wanted a change of socks in case it rained (the forecast was a wet race). Dang...there was so much that I wanted to pack along to feel safe.

Finally after an official check and approval by my furkid Shalom, the gear for Route 68 is ready!

No chickening out. Its Sunday 10th May 2015. I arrived at the start line with buddy Crayzee Ana. Took my time and chilled while waiting for the race to be flagged off at 6am. Picture time with friends from my running club TPRC.
Sammie, Ana and I

Flag off is smooth. Its still dark, cool and I smell rain. Hmmm a wet race is about to happen so I took out poncho and had it stuffed outside my bag for me to retrieve it easily in case it poured suddenly. No fancy gears for me. My humble headlamp that I received from the Energizer Night Run came in handy.

It was nice and cool up to CP A3. 16.5km at 2:16:48 on a relatively uphill route. My timing was according to plan. Mind you I don't run with any fancy watches so its pretty much listening to the body and remembering what it felt to run at an approximate pace of 8:15 to 8:30 per km. Refilled my bottles. Plenty to choose from - water, Revive or Coke. There's also food to refuel and the only thing that was palatable was oranges. I would have loved watermelon but there was none. Nothing to fret, I moved along because I wanted to make the best of the cool weather before it rained.

The next part until half way point at Bentong Hot Springs was a mix of downhill and uphill. It started to drizzle and became a long winded light rain for about an hour. Donned my poncho easily and continued my run. Downhill was fun and the choice to wear Brooks Transcend was a good idea as it kept my feet relatively dry as per what I experienced during the KL Maran Walk. Ultimately after a few splashes by passing vehicles, the feet was a little wet inside but I was surprised that when I reach half way point at Bentong Hot Springs, my feet were relatively dry. A combination of the Brooks Transcend  and Thorlos Experia socks (review on socks coming up soon).

A total of 4:47:46 and I covered 34.5km. Oooops at this point I knew I had slacked at this stage because with so much down hill I had expected to come in with 90 minutes to spare not 70 minutes! The cause is hunger and the sun. Hunger pangs kicked in. While there was biscuits and bread, I could not stomach them. Neither did I find the idea of the chocolates that I carried palatable. Forcefully, I had to survive on Revive and pieces of bak kwa that Nick (and wifey) advised that I bring along as my fuel sugar and protein! Thankfully they worked but I couldn't stomach much either.

With 70 minutes to spare, I thought it would be safe to sit awhile to inspect my feet (fear of blisters) since I ran in the rain, grab a coconut, some seaweed and refuel. fruits at this CP and I knew I had to run to the other CP for oranges. By the time I started off, I knew I sat too long. Lesson that I finally learnt despite being advised by Ultra Sifu Ng Seow Kong not to sit, I made the damn mistake of sitting. No more sitting around in the next race Missy!

I hurried off but the sun is now in my face. No good. I found myself walking a lot more that I planned to. The game plan of run 3 lamp post and walk 1 lamp post no longer worked (this is what one does without a smart watch). I was giving in to hunger and the heat. Thankfully there were other fellow runners and we kept close. Joked and kept our spirits up. Reached an aid station that served oranges. Yippeeee! I refueled as much as I could and I ran off.

Ooops again. The heat got to me not long after I left the aid station. The hubster drove pass and did not recognise me in my ninja outfit. And in my head, I plotted that when I see him later, he will get a nice shelling from me. Turns out, he drove pass everyone and was looking for pink shoes. Hmmm guess my pink Brooks Transcend didn't stand out enough! The fact was that I wore the same outfit for my KL Maran Walk and he still could not recognised me? The volunteers recognised me and how did my hubster not recognise me?  Well that's good food for thought and distracted me from the heat. I had to hurry up too because the cut off was at 3pm and I was SLOWWWWWWW. Thankfully there was still oranges to sustain me at the aid stations and of course some mobile stations that running clubs set up. 
Water spritz and shades were a bliss. I seriously contemplated camping till the sun were kinder.
Apparently not many could recognise me in my Naroo face mask and arm covers.

At KM43, he finally recognised me when he drove pass me again. And all this is only possible because Avis recognised me and pointed out to me. Gosh...that husband of mine!

Reach Genting Sempah CP i.e. KM52.5 at 2:34pm. 8:33:43 on the road and it was hot. Secretly I wished for rain but the rain was way ahead of me because I was slow. It was good to meet Renee at the CP and I received my recharge hug. The volunteers fussed over us. Biscuits, breads, chocolate, drinks and whatever remaining fruits were offered to all runners. of course more pictures!
Getting my recharge hug from Renee:D
Blergh....this is what he gets for not recognising his wife!

I start off after a 5 minutes break at Genting Sempah. I need to finish by 4:30pm (latest). I set a target and am way behind time. Secretly I was hoping that I can play catch up but I was hungry and running out of my bak kwa. I wasn't keen to start on the chocolates that I have with me or the emergency packet of gel because I was showing signs of a bad tummy with all the burps (and farts). The sugary stuff was beginning to hit me.

Hurried off. It was a walk up the hill from Genting Sempah. Approximately 500metres (perhaps) and it is then downhill. Good...I ran as much as I could. Met Robert and it was good to see another familiar face. By now, I was sweaty, hungry and I reckon lost quite a bit of weight. This means another OOOOPS because my shorts was falling off. I had no choice but to fold my waist band to run but it kept unfolding and at certain stretches I resorted to running while holding my shorts with one hand. Funny now but it wasn't funny then!

Its all good still with some gummy bears that I chewed on. Offered my last piece to Stacey. 8 more kilometres to go (didn't register to me that Route 68 was over distanced until I completed the race) and I was turning hungrier by the minute. My tummy was rumbling and I had resorted to keeping it quiet by drinking water. Walked more and more - 2 lamp post or markers running and 1 lamp post or marker walking. That kept me going with cheers from passing volunteers. Each time I was tempted to walk instead of run, I had to remind myself that walking gave me blisters previously.

The hubster walked from the finish line towards me. A good 1.5km in his loafers...OK...I love this funny hubster who was trying to encourage me to keep up my run. By now, I knew I didn't make it to my targeted time but I definitely qualified within the stipulated 12 hours. Only managed a faster run the moment I saw lots of buses, volunteers, supporters and other runners. Dashed back because I wanted the toilet and because I wanted food!
Happiness and a big smile because ET said smileeeeeee!

Aha aha aha...I completed my first ultra.
Absolutely loved my Brooks Transcend and Thorlos Experia. Coincidentally pink overdose:P
Call me a spoilt brat but I really needed my feet raised.
Pic with fellow runners, volunteers and friends.
A must have pic with Marlina - the bunny ears that I chased in 2013.

Pic with one of my run idols Uncle Oliver and Steven who paced me during the KL Maran walk.

Finally after 69km (as per certificate) or 70.5km (as what some fellow runners recorded on their GPS watch) in 11:03:23, its a great feeling. I love the joy of completing the race. I love the time spent running and walking. I love the whole challenge. Lessons learnt and I hope I don't repeat the mistake in my next ultra.

Photo credits:
• Ken Lee
• Elvin Tan Chye Guan 
• Hansen Chua Chin Shen 
• Chen Hong Bing 
• ET Tey 
• Cheah CC

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