An extreme endurance running race organised by Running Guild, the Craze Ultra comprises of four categories – 43km, 78km, 101km and an insane 100 Miles (160km). This year’s edition took place last weekend, on 5 and 6 of September.
I took part in the 101km category. And it was definitely the toughest race that I have ever done, especially as my longest run in recent months, had actually been the 42.195km race at the Sundown Marathon – which had taken place about two months ago. And that was less than half of the Craze Ultra’s 101km…
I must thank Henry Yang for being my pacer and looking after me throughout the entire gruelling race – as I really don’t think that I would have completed it without his help, encouragement and motivation.
Reaching the starting point
When I reached the starting point at MacRitchie Reservoir that morning at around 6.45am, I wondered how on earth my friends – Kok Whee and Ethan – had managed to brainwash me into signing up for this. I think that I would most probably have never done something as insane and crazy as this, if they had not been so persistent.
Henry was already there, so upon collecting my bib and timing wristband, I met him to pass him his pacer’s bib – which entitled pacers to supplies available at the checkpoints along the race route.
After catching up with several other friends and wishing each other luck for the long and arduous journey ahead, it was then time for me to start running. I flagged off at 7.15am.
As I began my journey, I tried not to think about the distance ahead, but just trying to concentrate on the momentum of the running. It wasn’t hard to do, during the early stages of the race – as I had felt very fresh.
The beginning of the race
The first 12km of the run still felt relatively okay. This was mainly running all the way along Upper Thomson Road towards the Mandai area. I must admit that I have run at MacRitchie Reservoir a few times, but I don’t usually run along Upper Thompson, so it was quite interesting to have that on the route.
I was running at a slow jogging pace for the flat and downhill sections and walking during the uphills to conserve some energy for later. At the time, it had felt like a good strategy, and I hoped that I could last the whole way. Meeting friends along the way and chatting to each other, helped to inject some fun into the race too.
Reaching the first checkpoint
As I had put my bottle of water into the freezer the night before, this also meant that i had ice-cold water to last through at least the first hour or so, during the race.
Upon reaching Checkpoint 1, at Mandai Road, I didn’t really feel like eating yet, but I took some isotonic drinks and water and caught my breath and rested for a short while. The volunteers at the checkpoint were really friendly too, and this also added some enjoyment into the race – during the early stage at least.
I also munched on a few pieces of the Pringles potato chips that was available. At this point I had still felt relatively fresh and energetic, but I was not looking forward to the rest of the race.
At the same time, my water was no longer ice-cold, so my pacer Henry, thoughtfully filled up my bottle with ice from this checkpoint, to last through to the next one. This was a small gesture that he did at every checkpoint. Besides refilling my bottle with ice at the checkpoints, Henry also helped out by running ahead to source for cold drinks from provision shops as well as drink machines between the checkpoints along the race route – as they were an average of 10km apart. These were gestures that I would really come to appreciate, especially as the race wore on during the hot, muggy afternoon.
The race continues
The next section of the race took place through the Woodlands area, and it was another 9.5km until we reached Checkpoint 2, at the Woodlands Waterfront. Due to the relatively early starting time, it was still not too hot and I was feeling okay when I reached the checkpoint at this stage. Again though, I took some isotonic drinks and hung around there for a few minutes – before then leaving to continue running.
But another 8.5km later at Checkpoint 3 (Canberra Sembawang Park Connector), I was already starting to feel the heat and the strain a little bit. It was about 30km into the race and I still had a very long way to go. Usually when I run a marathon, this seems to be the point when I have a tendency to hit the wall. Thankfully the sky was still a little cloudy so it was not as hot as it may have been. But unfortunately though, the PSI levels were beginning to rise and I found that this was irritating my eyes a little during the race.
The Singapore heat
Almost reaching Checkpoint 4, located at Yishun Avenue 6, it was around the hottest time of day – right in the middle of the Singapore heat. At this point, the PSI was in the unhealthy range and I pondered whether I should take out the N95 mask in my pack and put it on. But I decided not to – previous experiences while wearing a mask and running had proved to be useless, especially when I had tried to breathe. While my eyes were getting quite irritated as result of the haze, the tear drops that i had brought along, offered temporary relief.
This part of the route, also took us through the Yishun HDB estate. And along the way, a nice family was also outside their flat, and passing out ice-cold sng bao to runners as they went past. And of course, unable to resist the lure of something so icy cold, I took one gratefully. It felt extremely shiok to be downing this, as it really helped to cool my body down.
It was a great relief to reach Checkpoint 4, as this was a good chance for me to cool myself down and recharge my batteries again – before heading out to the ‘stretch from hell’ between checkpoints 4 and 5. The name is given to this section because at roughly 13km, it was one of the longer distance between two checkpoints. Runners too, usually have to grapple with the hot afternoon sun here. And together with the lack of trees to provide shade, this made it exceptionally challenging.
On the way to Checkpoint 5, we stopped at the Punggol Marina country club, for me to freshen up. Henry had thoughtfully brought along some deep heat spray and cream and I applied this onto my legs. While they are not a complete miracle cure, this solution did help to some extent, to relieve my tight muscles, and so I managed to continue for another few kilometres to reach Checkpoint 5, at the Lorong Halus Wetlands, which was also the U-turn point for the 101km race.
The halfway point
At this checkpoint, I took a longer break than usual – to charge up my GPS, which had been tracking my whole journey so far. And to pass the time away while waiting, I also decided to have some instant noodles, potato chips and some isotonic drinks – which I hoped would give me the energy that I needed to survive yet another 50.5km. After resting for a while, I was getting pretty comfortable and I wasn’t willing to leave the checkpoint. But then again, I realised that I couldn’t stay there and relax forever. There was still a race to be completed!
But eventually, I managed to push myself to leave the comforts of Checkpoint 5 and keep on going. The return leg proved to be tougher than the initial leg. This is because we would be passing exactly the same scenery that we had seen moments earlier – firstly through Punggol Waterway Park. As such, it felt like a never-ending stretch that would simply go on forever.
But the short breaks along the way, such as to the Giant minimart at Punggol Waterway Park and subsequently back again at the Punggol Marina Country Club a few kilometres later, where I refreshed myself with food and drinks, really helped to keep me going. On many occasions though, I must admit that I was tempted to abandon the race and catch a cab home.
Starting the return journey
During the return journey from Checkpoints 5 to 4, I also constantly stopped along the way to stretch my legs, which were starting to ache quite badly. I also found myself thinking that this long road was never-ending and that I would be running forever. Looking at the numbers on my GPS watch was also very depressing and slow-going, to the extent that every 100 metres literally felt like 5km.
But I eventually passed through the Yishun Dam again and then towards Yishun Avenue 1. Eventually, I saw the checkpoint 4 up ahead, at Yishun Avenue 6. Though there was still a long way left to go at this point, I at least felt that another milestone had been reached in this race. Now there was a little bit of time to rest and recharge again, before continuing this never-ending monster of a journey. It was quite hard to think positively at this stage.
As the race wore on, Henry continuously helped me out in between checkpoints by encouraging me to take food to keep my energy levels up. I usually find it quite hard to eat while running, and I tend to feel bloated and uncomfortable when running after a big meal. But I tried to have semi-solid items such as mushroom soup and ice cream, for energy. Once, Henry even took a detour to a McDonalds outlet, located off-route, and got a vanilla ice cream for me!
In addition, my mini butter buns as well as the Hello Panda biscuits – the latter being my favourite snack since childhood – also helped to energise me, to some extent. As well, talking to other runners, such as a group of another 4-5 runners/pacers whom we had encountered and sharing stories with them, had helped to push me along too – as we all struggled together to slay this 101km monster. But after several kilometres together, we parted, as they decided to have a dinner break.
Legs totally giving way
At about 70km into the race, I could feel my legs totally giving way. And I was cramping up quite badly and with every step I took, it had seemed as though a knife literally was piercing into my foot. I felt like The Little Mermaid – who had given up her tail for a pair of legs which causes pain whenever she walked. All the salt tablets and gels that I had taken earlier had worked… up until this point. I think that’s because my lack of mileage to prepare for this race, was finally starting to rear its ugly head.
Now, the only thing that I wanted to do was to simply lie down somewhere and rest till morning. It also did not help that it was a couple of hours before midnight by now, and due to the long and gruelling day, the sleep monster was hitting me in full force. But I could not stop, as there was still many more hours of running ahead…
As I continued walking on and on for what had felt like forever, the pain got constantly worse with each step I took. Icing my feet and stopping to sit down and take breaks and stretching did help, but those were only temporary forms of relief though. I admit that I was starting to question why I had agreed to do something this crazy in the first place. And I was more tempted than ever here, to take a taxi home and simply forego the race.
Could barely walk
I could barely walk as I stumbled towards Checkpoint 2 at the Woodlands Waterfront. In fact I had to lie down while my legs and feet were being soaked with ice. This was also 80km into the race, and after all that running, there was still a half marathon left to complete. This would certainly be the longest half marathon in my life!
I found myself questioning how I would get through it, considering the painful and delirious state that I had probably been in, then. For starters, I could barely feel my legs at this stage and i was in total and complete agony. And also, I was also wondering again – how on earth my friends had managed to convince me to sign up for something like this.
The dark stretch
From Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 1, there was a pretty dark stretch along the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector. There were just no lights here at all.
I admit that if I had been totally completely alone, I would have found this part of the route quite scary – as my vivid imagination may have the tendency to play games on me especially considering the state that I had been in. But with several people around me during this time, I wasn’t so afraid. I think another female runner, who would have otherwise gone in there alone if I hadn’t been there, was probably also grateful for my company. It felt quite heartwarming too, that she smiled at me later and thanked me for running with her.
But I still quickened my walking pace nevertheless so that i could get out of there as fast as I could manage. After all, I had heard stories about red-eyed stray dogs lurking around this area – especially after dark!
Return to Checkpoint 1
It was thus a relief to exit the darkness, and reach Checkpoint 1. My feet were aching more than ever by now. Reaching this checkpoint meant that there was still 12km between me and the finishing line. On a good day with fresh legs, 12km would easily take me about 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete, but then again, this was an exceptional day – which meant that 12km could easily be another several hours of slow agony in the ‘torture chamber.’
Even as late as this stage, I still harboured thoughts of simply quitting and giving up. It was also more tempting than ever, when I saw other runners sitting down or even sleeping at the bus stop benches along the route! At the same time, it was also in the wee hours of the morning by now – way past my bedtime, and the sleep monster was certainly doing me no favours at all. I found myself swearing that I would never, ever do something like this again, if I somehow managed to survived this ‘torture chamber’ – without taking the taxi option.
Along this home stretch too, I also met several other friends, who were running the 101km, and we smiled and passed each other words of encouragement and motivation to keep on going. Many of them were also reduced to walking this stage. But these little encounters were heartwarming, despite the pain that we were all going through, and I’m sure they kept all of us going.
Completing the race
In the end, I don’t know how I did it, but I somehow managed to continue running – and eventually crossed the finishing line, at approximately six in the morning. It had been a long day and an even longer night of running. No doubt, this was definitely the hardest thing that I had ever attempted – certainly no thanks to Kok Whee and Ethan.
And the moment that I had completed the race and collected my finisher tee and medal, I was so exhausted and dead-beat that I found myself sitting there, completely stoned and on the verge of falling asleep, on the plastic chairs in front of the tent that the organiser, Running Guild, had set up for this event. In fact, I was probably so tired, that I don’t think I would even have reacted, if my favourite food had been dangled right in front of me.
It was quite some time before I could finally get off my backside and get moving – in order to replenish my body with some food and drinks… and getting into a taxi to go home. But then again, I suppose that I had finally earned the subsequent rest, many times over.
Other blog posts
- 50km@ The North Face 100 Singapore 2015
- Vlad’s Tips for 100km First Timers
- A short fun run with Vlad and Eti
- The Green Corridor Run 2015
- Energiser Singapore Night Trail 2015