Sunday, November 25, 2012

Salomon X-Trails Run 2012

Sunday 25 November, 2012: Held at the Mountain Bike Park & Trail in Tampines, this 10K off-road race promised more than distance and irregular terrain for the 2,500 runners comprising newbies and experienced cross-country runners.
After some mile circumnavigation on my taxi, I finally found schools of runners (with the same attire) walking, or waiting to cross the road. I met Charles Teng and his pregnant wife (who ran in the race), Rynette when I arrived. At the start-line, I met Ironman finishers and seasoned trail-runners such as Wilson Ang, KK Chin and Melvin How. I was, somewhat, apprehensive as I rarely ran trails or cross-country except for my MR25 qualification/time-trial and annual Ultra-Marathon, as well as the NorthFace 50K. Most cross-country races occur at the routes on Macritchie Reservoir, so this race course was different. Since my recovery of a 2-month long stress fracture, I was warned to stay off hills and intervals. Thus, I had a disadvantage with these two variables at this morning's race.

The route was hilly, by my standards, with enough water-hazards and natural obstacles (these were distinctly marked and manned by volunteers). A fatigued runner, bashing through the course would be met with an untimely smack on the face, head or shin. I appreciated these active warning signs. 
Too often, you will observe inexperienced runners go ‘too hard, too soon’. Unsurprisingly, I overtook those in front who were less tactically-sound. I also watched how seasoned, veteran runners attack the course. They are so graceful to watch, with varying strides and a honed sense of alertness. Trail-running is akin to fartlek or 'speedplay', and it reminded me of the book I am reading now - 'Running With Kenyans'; fast sprints interspersed with recovery jogs. I assisted a few runners across the final ditch of mud. A lady runner seemed to have twisted her ankle at the 2km mark, while others had their feet or shoes sucked by the muddy pools. Using my Garmin 310XT, I was able to assess my pace and distance left in the course. My watched indicated 10.2km when I crossed the line, and the estimated race distance was about 9km.
The two water-points were adequate for my needs. I believe I coursed through the route in about 56 minutes, about 100m behind KK Chin. Seasoned runner and Ironman, Melvin How agreed with me that the course was ‘technical’ in nature, with wicked turns, sharp turns, fast descents and cruel ascents. Designed by adventure-coach, Wilson Low the course is new, challenging and fun. I sprinted the last 300m strong, with enough gas-in-my-tank. Other than a, distinctly, sore left thigh (because of the numerous left turns, and my unconscious, asymmetrical, landings on that leg) I crossed enervated. The finishing-point offered runners isotonic drinks, water and bananas.
Many runners stayed on for the prize-giving ceremony, cleverly scheduled before the Lucky Draw (10 prizes). The top-10 winners won prizes, with the top-3 in the Open, Veteran, and Male/Female categories bringing home $500, $250 or $125 in cash. We then left the former-competition venue for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games (SYOG) in lengthy trails of muddied footprints.

I was pleased that my legs held on, after yesterday’s 21K easy morning run. Subsisting on a bad diet of four hours of sleep was not optimal racing preparation, but I was pleased for the results. I found the physically challenging, however fun.

Photo-credits: Charles & Rynette Teng

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