Sunday, 26 June 2011

Navy SEALs wouldn't want to do this - recapping the F1 "Nature Trail Challenge"...

And a good Saturday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It's been a TERRIFIC weekend for the Bull, filled with good times, good food, good beer, and GREAT cabbie stories, but I think I'll hold all that in reserve until tomorrow - otherwise Shogun will complain that I've become boring again and should revert to eating pineapples. Instead I'll focus on the featured event of the weekend - the F1 Nature Trail Challenge Half Marathon. In a word - WOW. In three words - WOW. NEVER AGAIN.
So I'll just come out and say it - THIS WAS THE TOUGHEST RACE I'VE EVER DONE. There wasn't a level step the entire way, and what was REMOTELY level wasn't paved. This race was something that S.A.S. and Navy S.E.A.L. instructors would threaten trainees with if they misbehave - it was THAT rough. That being said, it was a great experience and about A BASQUILLION TIMES BETTER THAN THE SUNDOWN HALF MARATHON. Here's the recap:
6 AM: Alarm goes off - Sammy grumbles because he went to bed at 10 PM but was TOTALLY UNABLE to go to sleep (this always happens when Muffin Puffin isn't there - the first night is the worst, but it never really gets easy).
6:30 AM: Pick up the cab - head to McRitchie (you have to call it "Magrrrrriiiicheeeeeee" if you want the cabbie to actually understand where the hell you want to go).
7:15 AM: Lexxus Tan (the uber-ultra marathon man of Singapore and race organizer) announces that it's time to start the "safety briefing" (seriously - should this have been my first sign indicator?). I didn't get a whole lot of what he said (because, well, he doesn't really speak English...sorry, Eggrish...), but below is a) what I understood (ellipses indicate a period where he was talking and I was COMPLETELY lost) and b) what went through my head as I translated it (my thoughts in parens, obviously):
Lexxus: "Welcome.....(thanks! Glad to be here)....STEEP...(wait, which part is steep?)....lost, hahahahahaha...(hang on a tick - the route will be marked, right? All the same, that's why I've got 8 hours worth of water and enough energy gel to walk to Mongolia).....rifle range....stay on trail!!!hahahahahaha..(umm...did he just say we're running on the rifle range? DOES ANYONE SPEAK MANDARIN AND ENGLISH!?!?!?!) tough.....HAVE FUN!!! (NOT sellin' it, dude...)
And that was it - 5 minutes of talking at 16,000 words per minute, and I was able to extrapolate 3 sentences. However, I did run in to Lily (Sam's Angels), Victoria (Singapore Shufflers), and Sidney (friend of Lily's that I'd met previously), so at least I knew other people would be lost as hell on the course.
But all joking aside, this race was REALLY well organized. There was terrific signage, 56 marshals along the course, and 6 water stops along the way. Now granted, sometimes you had to SCALE A FENCE to get to the water, but let's not focus on the wrong kind of details, shall we? Let's also not focus on the fact that they marked the course incorrectly and consequently it was .3 KM longer than an actual 21 KM (normally not a big deal, but since this is billed as feeling like a 30 KM, every step was further than you want to run on the Equator). They had tons of photographers on the course, so expect some CLASSIC shots of the Bull laboring like a pack mule going up the Grand Canyon to come out shortly. Here's a quick recap of some of the finer points of the race:
1. 1-4 KM - STRAIGHT UP. I was sweating like a rabid banshee from about the 30 second mark on. I actually didn't know that there WERE 8,000 foot elevation gains in Singapore, but apparently there are. Seriously - going from the South Col to the summit of Everest is easier than this.
2. 4-8 KM - IS THIS REALLY A TRAIL? I had to walk more than 1 uphill. In fact, I walked about TEN OF THEM. But the worst part was walking the downhills as well - BRUTAL. Seriously, you have these INSANE 1 KM long uphills, and then the downhill is so sharp that you an only remain upright if you walk down and hold onto the trees beside the path. I watched one dude wipe out, get back up, and wipe out again 50 meters later. I can't believe I didn't eat it at least 57 times (over under was 13 in the mudpit that was Bukit Timah).
3. 8-12 KM - MONKEY TOWN. Seriously - those little bastards are just WAITING FOR YOU TO THROW OUT YOUR POWER GEL. It was AMAZING to watch them hiss at you, lick the isotonic sports drink off the street (because HEAVEN FORBID SINGAPORE EVER OFFER ANYTHING LIKE POWERADE OR GATORADE FOR RUNNERS), and then grab a used packet of goo, rip it further, and lick out the remaining gel. Those guys are bloody surgeons.
12-16 KM - WHEN DO THE HILLS STOP? I SHOULD BE ON THE SUMMIT OF K2 BY NOW. Miller, I know this wasn't the route you did, but I'm convinced that we did share some trail time. And I gotta tell you - I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU SURVIVED. I was only in Bukit Timah for 10 KM, and I feel lucky to have escaped alive. Between the sun, the humidity, the rabid monkeys desperate for power gel, the mud, the COMPLETE ABSENCE OF A TRAIL, and the hills, it was an absolute DEATH MARCH. I will say that this race is the closest I've come to ever quitting a race. The biggest reason I didn't? THERE WAS NO WAY OUT EXCEPT THE RUNNING ROUTE.
16-21 KM - SOMEONE PLEASE JUST FIND ME A FINISH LINE!!!!!! The last 5 weren't terrible, but I still walked 3 times. I just had NOTHING left in the tank, and all I wanted to do was finish alive. That being said, the finish line was AWESOME, as they hold up the tape for all the runners, and so there's gonna be a GREAT photo of me crossing the finish line looking as though I've won the race (don't worry - I made a big to-do of it). Furthermore, I got the unexpected pleasure of a medal, which I wasn't counting on, as well as the satisfaction of 18 half marathons now in the books.
As for time, I posted 2:20:34 for 21.4 KM (which is .3KM longer than a normal half). I honestly don't think I could have shaved much off that, as I was exhausted in ways that are hard to fathom. In terms of running, I'm honestly glad that I've only got 1 year in Singapore, as the thought of repeating any of these courses is more painful than a bayonette to the face. Seriously - that course was MISERABLE (but well executed - full marks to F1 for being SO MUCH BETTER than the Sundown planning crew).
There's plenty more to say (how I celebrated, the post race relaxation strategy, the rest of the weekend), but I'm going to save that for later in the week. For now I'll just say that I'm REALLY glad I ran that race, and I'm REALLY REALLY glad that it's over. And now, sipping on an Absolut Pear and Sprite with my "Plan B is for Beer" shirt on, all is right with the world.
And Wild Card - I probably owe you an apology for startling you Friday morning your time with a phone call from the Bull. It was probably doubling startling considering that you'd given up on the possibility of me working on a Friday evening YEARS ago.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow! Muffin Puffin - come home soon!!!!
Sam and (somewhere north of the Woodlands checkpoint and REALLY excited about getting fingerprinted by the Malaysian government) Jenny

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