My husband and I took part in The North Face run over the weekend. It was a 25 km trail run where runners have to carry at least 1 litre of water. It was my first time doing a run on gravel trails, navigating over tree roots, climbing up slopes and charging down hills while carrying a water bag. And boy, was it tough! I am still suffering from severe muscle soreness 3 days after the run and I just found out that there may be a name to this, DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
It took me 4 hours to finish the 25 km run! That was 1.5 hour more than what I took to complete a 21 km run on pavement. The maths just didn’t add up! I swear I wouldn’t have put myself through this if I knew it would take me this long to complete the run!
So my husband had ranked this as the most enjoyable finale run of the year. It was a run that he looked forward to the past few years and having completed my 3rd half marathon, he thought I was ready for this. It was just 4km more than a half marathon, surely I could do that extra few kilometers. But he forgot to mention that he took an hour more to do that extra 4km!
Since I got my all singing all dancing trail shoes 2 months ago, I have been running regularly in them every week. On average, I clocked about 20-30km per week. My plan to drive to the nearest nature reserve to test out those shoes never happened. I guess I never felt comfortable running alone in jungle routes that were totally unfamiliar to me.
Then my husband did a trial run about a month ago and came back with a swollen ankle. He had slipped, fell, twisted and bruised his ankle. That accident put him out of action for the whole month. A week before the event and he still couldn’t run. I was quite sure we were going to sit out the race day. I made plans for our charity project and the kids and I decided to sell our wands at our estate’s flea market on that morning instead.
Unfortunately, my husband didn’t quite give up. Two days before race day, he decided that he should still run and run we did.
It was bad. Apart from feeling under trained (I had yet to run with a water bag! Sheesh!), I wasn’t mentally prepared. With both of us away, the kids had to do the flea market themselves. I had spent the night packing the things they needed for the stall and going through with them what needed to be done. They assured me that everything will be A-ok.
I couldn’t sleep well and in the morning woke up feeling nauseous. I was edgy, tired and felt like giving up even before running. Alas, we met up with our running kakis, the horn was blown and the race began.
It was hard to complete something when you have half given up even before you started.
I wasn’t familiar with the route, much less the terrain. The run took us into the forest of MacRitchie Reservoir passed Tree Top Walk, nestled our way to Rifle Range Road, onto the Green Corridor down to Rail Mall and back into the forest.
I couldn’t find a comfortable pace and my eyelids felt like closing less than an hour into the run. I started feeding myself energy gels in a bid to regain some energy. It was my first time taking this horrible tasting ‘food’ during a run. I was so close to giving up at the half way point.
We were running along the old railway track along Upper Bukit Timah when I finally saw the road! I told my husband that maybe I should hail a cab and meet him at the finishing point. He told me he would follow me. We could either take the cab back together or finish the race together. Knowing how badly he wanted to do this race, I let out a sigh of resignation, bit the bullet and stayed on the trail.
The rest of the run was a mixed bag of emotions. At times, I felt that I could continue and complete at a slow and easy pace. But every time we hit an uphill, my mind wandered back to wanting to just give up. In fact, I have never walked so much on a race before. I walked on almost every upslope. The ground was slippery from the rain the night before and there was loose gravel everywhere. It was too easy to lose your footing or trip over a rock. Miraculously, none of that happened.
It was almost 3 hours into the race when I finally found my pace. Maybe the energy gels helped. Or maybe I was just too fatigued to feel any more pain. All this while, my husband was keeping pace with me, bearing a mild pain at his ankle area. The injury from his fall a month ago had yet to fully recovered.
The pain got worse at the last 2.5 km and I was ready to walk with him to the finishing line but this man couldn’t give up. He kept moving even though his leg was hurting badly. He was running yet limping at the same time. I have never seen him exert that hard when running with me. It has always been a walk in the park for him! For the first time, I had to slow down for him. I was amazed by his unfathomable will to complete the race.
We couldn’t have been happier when we exited the final forested segment and the usher ahead shouted ,”JUST 1 km MORE!”. I actually felt that I could accelerate and complete the last kilometre until I reached the last 400m. Drats! Uphill! I felt like crying. Trudging my feet up the final hill, I finally crossed the finishing point and the clock showed 4 hr 1 min.
My legs still hurt and I am still limping down steps and staircases. But I did feel like I achieved something. Half the time my husband was cheering me on. Never thought that I would be the one cheering him at the later part instead.
Never ran anything more than a half before. Never thought I could complete this distance on the trail, not while carrying my own water bag. I guess this is a good grand finale race for 2016.