Race (& tired running mum) Report: Conquer The Trails Kiara 2017 13km, 502m elevation in 1:57:32
SUMMARY (in case you are a ‘too long, didn’t read’ and more ‘visual’ kind of person)
As you grow older and once you have a baby, priorities change. Instead of a Friday night out for drinks, or a mani pedi session, the best ‘me time’ I could ask for is being able to do a good, hard race, close to home (or a nice quiet breakfast all alone) so logistics and travel isn’t a hassle as baby-sitting isn’t easy to come by (and you would feel rather guilty having coffee while your baby is at nursery).
I honestly did not plan to wake up & race (heck, I wasn’t even wearing a proper sportsbra wtf) if Ashish did not get up at 6am & wake and urge me to go support our friends & take photos with the MKRC crew. I was down in the dumps on Saturday night, after being in bed for most of the day with a fever, and battling pain in my ankles and metatarsal from my fall exactly a week ago during training in these same trails.
I suppose I was meant to conquer all those things & more during this race. Helps that it was 10 minutes from home.
As a disclaimer, I really don’t encourage anyone to race unprepared or injured, my logic going into this race were:
- Ashish and Asha are close enough to home to Uber it in case she has an emergency (we ran out of diapers!)
- I know the trails well enough to DNF & walk out on my own safely & shortly if I felt any sharp pain in my feet or dizziness from fever
- I’ve had enough dehydration and non-fueled training to know I would last 2 hours with just water & my breakfast of 2 slices of bread
I know I left Ashish hanging with the baby, literally, by running off into the jungle, after he was the one that got me out of bed in the first place. So thank you sayang, without whom I would not have done this race. Helped put pressure on me to finish faster too, so we could get baby home in time for Sunday lunch.
Here’s a few words and photos of the highlights of this race for me, to pique your interest, with the more dramatic version to follow further down:
1. deciding to do a race 35 mins before flag off, after a week full of sprained ankles, sore metatarsals in my foot, fever the day before the race
2. chatting with old and new trail buddies (before, during & after the race!) – there’s something so inviting and happy about being outdoors and with other like-minded people happy to sweat it out
photo: with my kiara trail fairy regular running bunch: the amazing triathlete Kim (who saved me a week before the race from falling down a ledge), my ironman Karen (who is my race buddy partner-in-crime), Reiko (my regular running buddy and my favourite Japanese-turned Malaysian person:)
3. enjoying every single inch of the trails; discovering & conquering new parts of my favourite playground
4. leaving Asha with Ashish without any spare diapers
photo: Asha & Papa waiting in the dark for mama – she was an angel, being out & about from 630am in the dark!
5. racing light with just a water bottle in hand because I did not expect to run
6. finishing in 3rd place Womens Open in 1:57:32 for 13km of brutal trail
photo: generous hampers and goodies from sponsors! cash + trophy to take home!
7. being greeted at the finishing line by my baby in matching ashbenimble tee & her long-suffering papa
Photo: My baby waited for me for 2 hours at the race finishing line – in our matching ash be nimble tee’s.
THE SLIGHTLY LONGER RECOUNT
One week before the race, Sunday 15 January
I arranged for one last training run with Kimbeley, Reiko & Muz exactly one week before the race and at the Fat Tyre Switchback Trail – I stepped on a sharp stump with my right foot, fell it give way as it rolled outwards. I fell to my right where there was a sheer drop, but Kim managed to grab me with her lightning fast reflexes, and I stubbed my other foot trying to wedge it on the slope to stop my fall. As I sat down in the dirt the reality sunk in that there’s probably no chance I could run.
2 days before the race, Friday 13 January
I leave work early and feel so poorly about myself because the ball of my foot still hurts so its likely i wont be able to do my race on Sunday. Pick up Asha from my mum at TTDI – clearly forget to be grateful about having my mum helping out. Didn’t drive as I had an early meeting so mum drove me home. Hobble in and after everything finally remember to ice my foot. Go through 2 ice packs and hope for the best in the morning.
Christina sends me a whatsapp text – to wish me luck for my race. I say I don’t think I can do it – had a fever plus my still sore ankles and metatarsalgia which surfaced on Thursday. She says, no worries, Kiara will always be there and there’ll always be another race. I reply to say there aren’t many trail race so close to home, which make it so convenient with sorting Asha’s day care out!
1 day before the race, Saturday 14 January
Wake up on Saturday feeling out of sorts. Have a sore neck and a slight headache. Take a nap in front of the TV after breakfast. Get ready for a 1st birthday party. Am also annoyed by the fact that Ashish didn’t bother to check the dress code, and assumed it was a pool party. So here I am, incredibly under dressed in a singlet and a long skirt – with asha in a tee and shorts, the room is full of well dressed women and kids in party dresses, heels; the men are all in button-up shirts and pants.
Go home – go straight to bed. Feet are so cold, have chills all over. Take 2 panadol but when I wake up 2 hours later I still have a headache. Mum comes into the room and feels my forehead and knows I have a fever. Goes out to get me 3 coconuts. What a sweetie. Anyway, am resigned to the fact that I won’t be able to run on Sunday.
Although I harbour a glimmer of hope. The eternal optimist in me who says never give up, never stop preparing, never not be ready, never not hope. I ice my foot again. But then we put on a TV series and I watch as Ashish falls asleep again. I think to myself – if I wake up at 6am and am not sleepy, I’ll take it as a sign that I can do this race. I flex my foot to see if I can feel any pain. I feel a bit of a dull soreness.
6am Race day, Sunday 15 January
At 6am I open my eyes. No way. Ankle doesn’t hurt. No more fever. But as if I’m going to race. No way I am prepared, no energy gels. Ashish wakes up, says he wants to go and sibuk at the race and do a team photo with MKRC – his running club buddies, and go cheer them on. I’m like, really? How come this is the first time I’m hearing of this? I ask him, you taking Asha? I also say, hey maybe I should take my camera from the shop along the way to take photos. Ashish says no, he wanted to just pop in, take photos, and come back. I say, ok you go then. I’ll stay home with Asha. He insists we go together. Asha starts to wake up, sits up, rubs her eyes. I feed her. Then its a stressful 15 minutes, realising we have RUN OUT OF DIAPERS. Then we can’t find her baby carrier. And then the backpack I use to pack her things is in his car outside. We have a mini argument – he thinks we should drive, I say are you crazy, there are 600+ runners and extra cars there! We will waste more time. He agrees in a huff. I throw on a navy ash be nimble tee to be matching with Asha, and open the drawer and pull out my lucky socks – the ones with foxes on it I wore for Asha’s delivery. Who knows – maybe Ashish will tell me I should run! I grab my race kit from the car along with my leather work bag with Asha’s shoes and toys and my wallet and keys. Grab 2 slices of bread and a bottle of water, because Asha and I need to eat something – and there won’t be any food at Kiara until much later if we were gonna stay there till the race ends.
6.39am Race day, Sunday 15 January
Ashish is pissed off. We’re so late. He’s missed his group photo. He is missing the whole point of going this early. I say, ok should we come back later? In hindsight, he’ll say I didn’t mean it when I give him all these options for me staying back, him going later. Anyway, we get dropped off at about 639am. I thought race flag off is 7am, its actually 730am. So I need to go to the toilet and the queue is long so I bump into Mel, who’s back from HK – and borrow her keys to run up to her house to use the loo. Get back and everyone is asking me whether I am running and where is my bib? I ask Ashish sheepishly if I can run. He even suggested it when we were talking to Jonas. I think he cant quite decide. He knows I will run if he tells me to, but that’ll mean derailed plans for the day and he will have to hang around with Asha.
So here’s the deal. If you’re a mum, you know what is going through my head. You’ve squeezed your schedule and your motivation so hard to get just those few precious hours to train over the past few weeks. You fight, negotiate, plan, pre-plan, improvise to juggle and balance work, spending quality time with your baby, family time, some sort of semblance of chores and housework, so you don’t feel guilty about having those 3-4 hours a week to run, to do a core workout and then to run again. And if you’re like me and hate working out alone, you will call, message, whatsapp a few people every few days in the hopes someone will say yes, at the right time, but with some flexibility in case something pops ups, for the right time of the day which suits your narrow window, so you don’t have to run alone. And if you’ve had a sick baby, some disruptions to alternate baby sitting arrangements, a crazy time at work, these windows continue to narrow. And then there’s the additional consideration of logistics: if the race doesn’t require traveling for more than 30 minutes and you have the option to exit if your injuries flare up, because you know the trails so well, and its a place you want to truly call your playground. On top of that, its because there are a bunch of people you want to impress, because, well frankly, you run a sportswear brand and you need to show that you aren’t just another person with a vanity project trying to make pretty workout clothes without knowing what runners need and want, and without getting gritty and raw and fighting it out in the trails. Yes there are also considerations of whether it’ll exacerbate my foot injuries and my barely-there recovery from fever. Not that I have to explain myself or owe anyone a reason why I do what I do, to articulate my rationale: I figured, who knows when I’ll race again (have not signed up for another race), and I know the trails well enough to exit if my feet feel unbearable or if I feel like passing out or am getting the chills from my fever.
6.54am Race day, Sunday 15 January
Anyway, so I decide to run at 6:54am. I know Ashish is refusing to make eye contact because he’s not happy I’m dropping the bomb (Asha) on him and that he is thinking, she was just faking her fever and sore feet yesterday. I try to make last minute arrangements: I put everything essential in the back pack (house keys in case he needs to dash back to the house, my phone so he can order an uber, my wallet so he can buy stuff for himself and Asha’s breakfast, wet wipes, a ball for Asha), and tell him to drop off my bag with Mel if need be. Later I find out he’s put all of those things in Muz’s car, and Muz has run off into the trails with Reza?!?! Boys really don’t think to be 150% prepared, at ALL times, do they?
7.30am Race day, Sunday 15 January
I start the race, I tell myself to take it easy. don’t push anywhere as hard as we do when we train. I feel some chills, I tell my body, its just the cool weather, fever, be gone! I chit chat with Karen for a bit as we start the first portion on the tarmac road. We wind up the Kiara parking road side and I tell myself save energy for those climbs, steady does it. Save energy. I might have to pull out halfway but we’ll see. Take sips of water. Watch the ground. Watch every step. Don’t let my mind drift, watch the ground. Watch for race markers. Don’t get lost. We start entering the trails near the water tank, familiar, easy ground. We wind down into magic carpet and then up magic circle. My favourite trails. I pass my Eunice – she’s sprained her ankle. I ask if she’s ok and she says minor issue. I keep going. We reach first tarmac junction, then head up into 2K, i over take a few runners. We get to 4-way tarmac intersection and hit Fat Tyre Switchback. I see Ed. My ankle starts hurting as I get down to the point where I sprained my ankle exactly a week before, its as if my body knows and is telling me to slow down. I walk. Until we get down to the base, where the small sungai is, then I start taking smaller, quicker steps. Ed yells out, Gina is not far ahead! We go up Sungai trail, then hit the tarmac, then reenter the trails. Eventually we wind down the barracuda trail for a short while, get down to the stream again and start the start of many climbs to come. I keep Ashish’s words in my head, of him repeating what Chee Ming said to him, wah your bini can really climb, huh. I overtake a few MKRC guys. I catch up with Gina. She says these hills are really her enemy. We run for a bit, she overtakes me on the downhill, and I hang back to go easy on my ankles. We get to one of the scrambling bits down near the houses on the other side of Pencala Tunnel. Burst sprinkler – what runs through my head is the article in The Star which says almost 40%+ of our water is lost to leakage. I overtake another girl runner. She gets back ahead as we’re back on a flatter portion. I catch up with Nick from MKRC and stick with him for almost the rest of the race.
I feel comfortable now. I’m in my playground. The place where I love to get lost in my thoughts. To feel jungle so close up on all sides, like it’s closing in on me, but yet it gives me so much space in my head and in my lungs. I forget about my heavy legs. The pain in my lungs I channel into my breathing. I take my time, but at a steady rate, getting up the steep bits. I maintain my stride going down. I push a little more on the flats – I pretend like I’m in one of my running shoots – that every stride should have exaggerated form, good form: chest upright, legs clawing into the ground, arms not too high but catching the air to push me ahead. I’m happy. The steepest climb, I look up at Nick, he says, dont think too much, just climb. I forget about the girl coming up fast behind me, Sue’s friend. I forget about chasing anyone. I admire the giant boulders at the top of the trail, I look at each of the trees upholding the earth, partly to anchor myself mentally, and to check for any thorns before i grab them to help me up. The jungle is hoisting me up, I tell myself. Ok then, hurry up, Asha doesn’t have all day – papa will want to go home, and he did say 2 hours will be how long it’ll take me. We get to the top of twin peaks, somewhat. Volunteer says, downhill from here. I start my downhill – figure its my only advantage that I know these parts so well. I get down to the bottom of Angel’s pass. I see Jeremy – he says another big climb. Can’t be. I can’t afford to slow down now anyway. I keep pummelling down. I feel my right knee. But its ok – less than 5-10 minutes to go till I hit the 2 hour mark – it must be close to the end. We connect back on Round the Mountain trail – someone told me we wouldn’t get on this trail but I figured it must be close to the end. I see Kelvin – he jokes, just a few more climbs! I speed up. Large, sprinting strides. Last 300m. I see Muz and Reza – they keep yelling at me and the girl behind me to hurry up. I can feel it. I feel good, I ‘sprint gently’ to the finishing arch, just in case she’s catching up behind me. So relieved I survived. Find Asha. give her a kiss. Find some meds for my ankle. Deal with the aftermath of Ashish waiting around for 2 hours.
9.30am Race day, Sunday 15 January
I finish in 3rd place women’s open. Sweet, sweet victory. Perhaps this is the best way to race – last minute decision, no pressure, no expectations, happy to DNF – because I’d rather a DNF than a half-hearted attempt.
1.30pm Race day, Sunday 15 January
I really shouldn’t have had the beer Ed handed to me. Felt so ill. Headache, felt like throwing up. Eventually did at 1.30pm before going out for family lunch. Left ankle and right knee so sore. Ashish saying no sympathy for me. It’s ok – I had my cake, can’t eat it too. Happy to deal with consequences because I know I pushed it and got a chance in a million (ok in 50) which doesn’t come by often, and I know I did stuff up his morning. But I know he was proud of me, through his anger and frustration and annoyance.
I would do it again, but perhaps with a lot more notice and expectation management, and a stash of spare diapers.