MacRitchie Reservoir running is FUN

MacRitchie Reservoir running is SCENIC! I had always wanted to try trail running around MacRitchie Reservoir. When Nick jio (invited) a few Dads, I jump on the opportunity.

Beforehand, I had came across many wonderful photos of the waterway, boardwalks and the views from Jelutong Tower. Love the cloud’s reflection off the waterbody! 

 

The first question. Run clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If you are new to trail running, do an anti-clockwise, starting from the carpark..

Take note water/toilet point is only at Carpark and Ranger station (TreeTop)

 

Follow the markers in the direction of Tree Top Walk,  Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Jelutong Tower.

There are many slopes and rocks to slow you down within the first 4 km.
The pebbles are slippery, run carefully or you might fall.

The last 3 km are on scenic boardwalk.

MacRitchie Reservoir running
MacRitchie Reservoir running

Look bamboos! We were busy exploring our surroundings too.

We detoured and climb up Jelutong tower, the climb is tiring after our 6 km route. But the view from the top is worth it 🙂

At the 7 or 8 km mark (estimated), you will “exit” the woods and come to this waterbody!  VERY NICE!

This area is adjacent to Singapore Island Country Club. Can we wade inside the pool?

 

The whole MacRitchie Reservoir running route is about 11 to 12 Km. I was flat from 8 or 9 km mark onwards, and had to walk back all the way.

Mental note : My fitness has a lot of catch-up!

If you had started clockwise, the last few kilometers will be super tough!

Anyway, we soon reach the performing stage near the carpark. Many student would be familiar with the zig-zag bridge as they run in their school’s cross-country run.

 

We saw more tourist families (and monkeys) than Singaporean families. Hope more will go out and enjoy the beautiful scenic views at MacRitchie Reservoir! The boardwalk is stroller and wheelchair friendly too.

The best thing about running is exploring new corners and connectors. To run with a buddy is a bonus 🙂

 

MacRitchie Reservoir running will start from the multi-storey carpark, hourly rate applies. More details are available on Nparks website.

Check out Nick’s cool Strava mapping here. You may wish to explore Tree Top Walk too, refer our previous experience here.

Unusual Taman Negara activities

Taman Negara activities will keep hikers occupied, but this blog post aim to focus on two aspects :

1)  Me as a proud Father
2) Teamwork and brotherhood of rescue party

My kids never failed to surprise me during our hiking trips. From Gunung Panti to Belumut , the latest Taman Negara hike with Wei (no 1) was no exception.

Kids’ resilience, stamina, and appetite for adventures always exceed my expectations. And we parents can only validate these traits in an outdoor setting.

Family bonding Taman Negara
Family bonding Taman Negara

The Taman Negara activities (itinerary) from Meetup group SANL (Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers) highlighted “1 Cave and 1 Tent”, package include hiking in a primary Rainforest, rapid shooting etc, I was sold.

 

..we are not going to forget Taman Negara anytime soon.

… an incident happened on the first night, and my boy suddenly realised he was on his own. Well, not exactly, as he can still seek help from fellow hikers (mostly Aunties and Sisters).

#Skillset –  We just need to open our mouth and ask for HELP.

Without my constant nagging ( Yup, I am guilty), Wei not only hiked to end-point with a heavier load, he even managed to make new friends. Way to go Young Man!

Photo credit SANL

The experience and memories which we brought home from the “130 Million years old” Rainforest was priceless! I have no doubts the skills which Wei picked up (independence, teamwork, networking) during this trip will mold his character into a better person.

My original intention was just to bond with him, Father and Son.

.. but ideal was dashed on the first night. Someone in our group had been injured and 7 guys were mobilised for stretcher party.

.. Part (1) – The rescue party

0700 Day 2 – As I transferred some of my baggage over to him. I remembered telling Wei “I will see you at camp site tonight“.

In actual fact, I was worried about him but I still needed to instill confidence.

 

Alas, it was a promise which I could not fulfill 🙁
For the next 24 hours, my group struggled to lift someone to safety.

It was tiring for us to lift and drag the stretcher and “R” to our rendezvous point, Gua Luas (Gua in Bahasa means Cave)

3 km – Distance was a mere 3km away, but it was tough to navigate the forest floor with a stretcher.

Taman Negara Map
The two caves (Gua) Luas and Kepayang are 4km apart.

We were at the mercy of the Rainforest. Muddy grounds and thorns, thick roots and trunks, leeches and insects. FORTUNATELY, the Rain left us alone!

AROO! (haha) We kept joking about that Spartan slogan to keep our spirits high and kept fatigue away.

Lost count of the number of times we slipped and lose our footing or got stuck in mud. We were bogged down by narrow paths at some sections.

6 Hours -Progress was miserably aching and slow. We took 6 whole hours to carry “R” to Gua Luas!

What kept me going was the urge to finish my task and get back to my son quickly. I was still worried for him.

We were also concerned about the main group, who had to help carry our load and hike to the camp site.

The gals formed 75% of our hiking group, posing here infront of cave Hotel before they set off on their own journey.

Photo credit SANL

You go Girl! Hiking through water and mud, small thrills for the seasoned hikers. Do read till the end for Xia’s blogpost account from the main group 🙂

Photo credit SANL

As I am drafting this blog post, four of my toe nails are still bruised (black nails), and I injured my left knee again.

My fellow stretcher party did not have it easier. TS, Leon, George, Jason and wife, Keewan and Freddy. (Special mention to two guides Farook and Captain America! and the other guides)

The first 7. Leon stayed overnight with casualty.

Other gossips :
– Leon secret stash kept us high (this is a secret among the 8 of us haha)
– Behind us, we can always hear “Darling Darling are you ok?” so mushy
– Infront, we got a 50 year old TS putting us to shame.  He was the pillar  who always single-handedly pull the stretcher across obstacles (clap clap!)
– George must be wondering how his wife is coping with the main group
– Jia Hui was R’s companion throughout. She attended to R, slept the least and carry a heavy load herself. Salute!

All of us were tired, but none dare to give up

We kept each other motivated (sometimes with lame jokes) when we were exhausted. The intensity of this 3km stretch was equivalent to my recent Sundown Marathon!

During a run, I can estimate my own pace and aim for the next milestone. Deep in the Rainforest, where is the next milestone?

A “Kodak” moment, but you will also see our tired face behind the smiles.

Photo credit SANL

1,2,3 Lift ! We could only managed 50m or 20m at every stretch, before our wrist, back, and shoulder needed a rest again.

Too much doubts…

We did not know whether a rescue team (the Park Rangers) would reached us in time.
Our food and drink were running low, and we ourselves might be affected by hunger and cold in the night.

To make things worse, Jason and Freddy were injured and 7 men went down to 5. Fortunately, Captain America help us in the last 500m.  Otherwise, we would have taken longer to complete our task.

1600 Day 2 – Finally reach Gua Luas, the waiting game begins

A quick 1 hour nap to recharge.  All our arms, shoulders and back, every joint was aching. Guides had prepared hot tea and plain porridge.

2336 Day 2– Fortunately, 16 of the Park Rangers filed towards us in the middle of the night. We were tired but elated to see them.

…we saw Bright Lights and HOPE!

By this time, R has also recovered slightly, and able to articulate her needs. This was a vast improvement when she first collapsed from fits.

RELIEF! Relief! Relief! Smiles all around at the cave 🙂

Taman Negara Rangers rescue
Park Rangers saved our lives!

The Rangers brought us dinner, humble Nasi Ikan Bilis and 100 plus but this was The best meal I tasted throughout our 3D3N trip.

0030 Day 3 – With R secured in Rangers’ hands, the 8 of us made our way to the jetty. We trekked another 4 km in 4 hours through the night.

0400 to 0600 – Slept at broken house near Jetty. We were KO and I woke up thrice shivering uncontrollably due to cold and exhaustion.

0630 to 0700 – Rangers (R and Jia Hui) caught up with us, and we all ferried back to the main group.

Exhausted but super relief!
Photo credit SANL

Above is the timeline for our rescue actions. I hope my own actions to save another person would embed in my kids, the capacity to reach out to help others, and to emphatise.

.. Part (2) This was our original itinerary

2000 Day 0 – We took an overnight bus from Marsiling. We took 2.5 hours to cross both SG/MY custom due to long Labour Day weekend.

0700 Day 1 – Breakfast at Jerantut (Pahang). Click for train map of KTM (Singapore to Jerantut).

Breakfast at town of Jerantut , after 7 hours bus ride.

1000 – Kuala Tahan Jetty ( official name for this location is Jeti Taman Negara, GPS coordinates 4.383445, 102.401541 ).

Kuala Tahan Jetty

This is the start point for most visitors to Taman Negara. We need to take a boat across to Taman Negara National National Park HQ.

1 hour of admin work.  Registration and declaration (of your belongings) to ensure we do not leave rubbish behind. Get ready RM 5 for camera “tax”. Final briefing from our guides etc.

Spotted many with Magnum ice creams, our last indulgence hee hee.

Taman Negara National Parks HQ
Where is Taman Negara
Taman Negara is HUGE (Pahang even bigger).

Map below, Pahang and Taman Negara surrounding. Cameron Highlands is 4 hours away in the West, and Kuantan 2 hrs to the East.

Taman Negara National Park is 4000 km2 , that is about 60 Singapore!

Point 2 is Cameron Highlands (4 hour away)

1145 – Our group of 40 convoy upriver in 4 long boats, we are going deep into the heart of Taman Negara. More land and River details here.

Boat ride up Taman Negara

Meandering up Taman Negara’s Tembeling river. 90 minutes later, we reach the trailhead for our hike (GPS 4.517222 102.475000 estimated)

Photo credit SANL

1310 – Disembark at broken house, this is our hiking start point.

Suspension bridge with a lot of holes! This mark the start of our Hike.

Hiking Fun and explorations

Orang Asli can use extracts from “ipoh” tree for their poison darts (and blow pipe).

Guide Farook knowledge sharing.

We keep seeing the majestic Malang tree, huge tree stump and white trunk reaching for the sky.

Photo credit SANL

What goes up must come down, and there are plenty of slopes for hikers to overcome. Our supposedly 8km hike was actually 12km. The first 3 km was relatively easy, minimum obstacles.  Path was flat and easy to walk.

Lovely NATURE!

The trails were ok for me, but my load was heavy. We needed to carry our dinner and lunch and enough water for 2 days. I had four 1.5l water bottle and 5 cans of food with me.

Streams come and go, offering refreshing respite. I am puzzled why everyone is so scared of mud and water, trying their best to keep their boots dry (haha). These diversions were creating unnecessary bottlenecks and delays.
Taman Negara activities

Rich ecosystem, fauna.in Primary forest.

We came across so much Elephant dungs and footprints (look at the size!), hope we do not cross path with a herd!

Taman Negara elephants
Endless Elephant dungs and footprints!

Besides the constant perspiration from the humid Rainforest, we had to watch out for leeches too.  Everyone was bitten at least 5 to 10 times eeeks!

leeches hiking
Before and after, buffet for leeches

We sprayed everything to get rid of the disgusting leeches, salt, vinegar, lighter or even 风油 (medicated oil)! Once the leech dislodge from our leg, we could flick it away. We were wondering why the leeches seem to latch onto the same wound, and they love to suck from the gals’ tummy area!

 

1630 Gua Luas – First checkpoint after 3 hours.

One of the checkpoint, Gua Luas.

The group might have taken too much time to reach this point. With a few hours left before sunset, we quicken our pace to reach the next Cave (4.5km away).

It would be tedious and dangerous to navigate with headlights in total darkness.

 

1845 Gua Kepayang Besar, our “hotel” for the night

Gua Kepayang for one night stay.

The cave stay was a surreal experience, I had never slept in a cave before and this one was big enough to swallow 100 campers easily.

Photo credit SANL

Self designated toilet for males and females and make do with basic necessities. The only comfort was our bedsheet and headlight.

We quickly change and power-bath (a first for Wei again) before settling down for dinner. By now, we could hear Thunder and Rain lashing outside the cave!

Take note temperature will drop around 2 or 3am in the Rainforest or cave, we had campfire to keep us warm and dry.

Light sleepers will have problem dozing as we can hear people chattering (and echo of laughter) across the wall. Scores of bats will stare back if you dare to shine the light towards the ceiling.

Warm dinner prepared by our guides. We did not need anything elaborate, we would prefer to rest for the night.

Dinner in cave.

 

2000 Day 1 – We knew something was wrong when one of the hikers (call her “R”) had not reached the cave yet. Discussions were ongoing between our guides and organisers on how to extricate R.

She had a seizure (fits) and was immobilised. A group of hikers had stayed on with her to help stabilised her condition.

2200 – The rest of us get ready to rest for the night.

~~~ ~~~

0100 Day 2 – I set off with a team to resupply those stuck outside. I would hate to be in their situation, floor is wet after the rain, and it would be hard to have a proper rest.

0400 – Reached back cave at 4am and slept 2 hours before being activated for stretcher party

0730 – The 8 of us set off for our evacuation mission. We knew it would be tough, but we all volunteered as it was something we needed to do. There was a risk that R’s condition might take a turn for the worse.

..  most of us underestimated the efforts needed

We play rescue workers for the next 6 hours. Transferred “R” 3km to our rendezvous point.

A life was in our hands. We could not afford to give up halfway. There were doubts whether we could make it, but we just got to grit our teeth and carry on.

 

1600  – Reach cave Gua Luas, finally.

 

 

Camp site, back to civilisation.

Meanwhile, the other group had already reach camp site (Danz Eco Resort, GPS 4.390373, 102.411227 ).

0800 Day 3 – Rescue party finally reach camp site.

There are two accommodations options, camp and capsule . Capsule looks nice and posh from outside, but we prefer tent for a more authentic experience. A pity I did not get to admire the stars of Taman Negara.

Do you prefer Aircon comfort or bashing in the humid Rainforest?
Tents around our camp site. We love the outdoor feel, compared to “aircon” capsules

Camp site come with its own “beachfront”.

1100 Day 3 (Last Day) – I had hope to scale the canopy walk with Wei but he was not interested. Sucks, denying my  last opportunity to bond with him at Taman Negara :p

Photo credit SANL

 

Proud of you, my Son !

Back at camp and happy to see Wei well taken care of. The Aunties only had positive feedback about him. Helpful, Independent, Rugged 🙂

You know I could not be by your side because I had a higher calling, but you stood up to the test and completed the hike with the aunties.

You have shown me your independence, maturity and most importantly confidence. Although we miss certain activities this trip, seeing you grown up makes everything worth it !

 

Me and Wei, the tent which I never got to sleep in.

 

We would like to explore Taman Negara activities again, sharing some tips for fellow hikers :

a) Taman Negara is relatively easy, but distance is longer. If I compare to Gunung Belumut (1000m 6 hours up/down, difficulty rating of 3/5) , Taman Negara is (2/5).

b) Use headlamp instead of torchlight. Always free your hands, so you can break a fall or grab a branch for support.

c) No matter how short is the trek, bring extra water and night light. I did not bring night light for the rescue as I had assumed I would reach camp site before Sunset. It is very slow and dangerous to navigate without lights at night (and eerie too)

d) Get a Travel insurance (coverage during trip, and medical expense post trip)

e) Whistle – We can only shout so long before our voice is hoarse, whistle will produce audible sound for Rescuers

f) Proper hiking shoes, (or ask about Kampong Adidas) from Malaysia towns provision shops. We need good grip.

g) Pack your bag , use ABC. A for “Accessibility”, B for “Balance”, and C for “Condense”. Google and YouTube for tips, use hip (not shoulder) for support. (sample video)

h) Anti-mosquitos, spray/patches. I brought saturated salt-water in those cheap Daiso spray-containers to counter the leeches.

g ) Raincoat is a must for trekking, protect yourself and your bags

h) Ziplock bags to keep items dry

i) First aid pouch

j) SG (Coach 8 hours) -> Kuala Tahan Jetty (Jerantut) > Taman Negar Park HQ -> 90min Boat up river – Hike start point

L to R. George, Farook me and son.

Thank you to all our Guides and Rangers! Things could have easily got out of hands, if you guys had not rendered assistance 🙂

‘Teaching is best caught not taught’.

Hoping my kids can pick up some positive traits too.
– Help others but take care of yourself first
– Always look out for each other
– In stressful situations, teamwork is everything
– Naysayers will be there to discourage you, focus on the positive side

Click to see more Taman Negara activities photos on our Facebook album . Follow SengkangBabies Hiking trails here or #skbHiking)

*Read Xia’s blog account from the main group’s perspectives, their boots and “adidas” were never dry hee hee 🙂

** Keewan’s One-More-Night Taman Negara video 🙂

ps..
Check out some other bonding activities with my kids.
– Boon Kang 3D2N (Farm at Koref), our hiking explorations
Taman Negara with Boon Wee, 2D2N Broga Hill and Sky Mirror with Boon Yee

My FIRST Marathon – Sundown Marathon in 6 hours

I completed my First Marathon.

25th Mar 2017 Sundown Marathon 42km dusted, I made it!

At the end point, you will feel soreness and numbness.
Every ounce of muscle straining for attention, I could not even sit down as my calves and thighs refused to coordinate ooops. Finally took off my socks and just lie down for a few minutes.

This is MY Moment, I just completed my FIRST Marathon!

I still could not comprehend how I ran jog walk and hobble 42.195km over the last 6 hours. My body is weak but yet I never felt so ALIVE!

=== Before flag off ===

When you signed up for a crazy run, that was the first step and it demanded courage. When you prepared your attire the night before, you felt excitement and nervousness. But 4 months of training had given me some conviction that 42.195km is doable.

I have blogged about my Marathon preparation here. The weeks and days leading up to race day, you get paranoid about falling sick or injured. You have train hard and long and do not wish to falter at the last phase.

You come up with running strategies Plan A, B, C etc for the race, example :
1) Glue to the 5.30HR pacers
2) Run steady and maintain constant heart rate
3) Make mental note of 10km, 20km, 30km and 40km markers and estimated time checkin (eg 10km at 1Hr 13min, 30km at 3Hr 40min)
4) Take note of Hydration, Nutrition and Banana markers, so you can adjust your own energy and water intake

Then you enter the Start Pen and realised that the pacers are two waves INFRONT!

You try to comfort yourself “Steady”, I will run my own pace and catch up with pacers later.

=== During the Race ===

Everyone else start overtaking you from the start!
You start to worry whether you are running too slow (my pace was 7.00)

3km, 5km, 7km later, where are the pacers’ balloons?
Meanwhile, another 500 runners had overtaken you.

Two weeks before, I followed a pacers (group Team Fatbird) lead-up run at comfortable pace 7.30min/Km (distance 25km). But on Race day, I found it incredible that many Sundown runners were dashing at 5+ pace!

I tried to run slower but my heart rate hovered at a constant 160 to 165. My plan (more plans duh) was to run at a comfortable 150 to 155.

I did catch up the 6Hr pacers at 8 or 9km mark, but my running pace had become erratic. An experienced runner would have been able to manage his expectation right from the start.

I allowed fellow runners’ adrenaline to adjust my pace and I ran too fast in the beginning.

Looking at my watch in the wee hours, 2am, 3am and 4am slowly tick as I got more tired.

I had already forgotten all my running strategies Plans A, B !

To pass time, I tried to calculate my “ideal” pace to complete the race but my mind refused to do Maths haha :p

Anyway, I was not confident that my body was willing to cooperate with my mind’s instruction.

18 to 19 km along East Coast Park (ECP).
More and more runners were affected by cramps, meanwhile Elite runners were already running back in the opposite direction! Clap Clap Clap!

20 and 30km markers are both in ECP, and the paths are never-ending!
Parkland Green, Marine Cove, East Coast Hawker Centre are all eerily quiet, and the camping tents look very cozy.

At this stage, I was actually brisk walking too much and struggled to increase my pace. You start being realistic and re-adjust your targets
( Actually your mind start finding excuses)

Ok, YOU are going to miss a sub-5 timing, sub-6 is DOUBTFUL too, why not just enjoy the run and Complete :p

=== Near the End ===

I kept asking myself why every KM marker seems “farther and farther” away. Every water point (spaced at 2Km intervals) was a welcome cold respite!

Do not start to count the Kilometres, claim them one by one.

Every so often, an enthusiastic volunteer would be shouting Best-Wishes to the runners. Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers! I always try to smile back at their encouragements.

30km onwards, Look left look right, everyone is grimacing by now. Tired, Sleepy, we just want to get it over!

A lot of Walkers (like 7 out of 10 participants), and it does influenced you to run slower or even walk!
If I had started walking, I really do not know whether I would want to run again.

So you scanned in front for a few regular figures who ran around your pace. We took turns to overtake each other, it was not choreographed, but some FUN “competition” does keep up your spirits.

Two of my unofficial pacers are a chap in yellow-tShirt printed “Why you keep chasing me?” and a gal in Orange sports bra (with fish net).
There was an Englishman (or European with orange hoversack) who was limping very badly from 30km onwards, I did not want to lose to him too.

Thank you fellow runners for the motivation!

I saw a few camera flashes infront, quicken my pace and tried to look presentable haha I-am-so-vain 🙂

=== End Point ===

Last 500 metres, but most of us already depleted our energy reserves.
Look at my watch, 6Hr 13Mins Gun time, and my Fitbit indicated 5Hr 58Mins, HOORAY under 6 hours 🙂

Whole torso stiff.
Calves and Thighs tensed.
Toes wringled.
Socks uncomfortable.
Shorts chaffed my inner thighs for last 10km.
Balls felt so confined.

I FELT so HAPPY and RELIVED, I have achieved my Dream!

Collected my Medal and Finisher T-shirt.
YES, I am now a Marathon Finisher 🙂


(My Fitbit clocked total 47km instead of 42km, so my end time should be 5Hr 59Min)

=== What have I learned from this race? ===

a) If you have trained at a specific pace, and ideally with pacers before, be CONFIDENT and maintain your pace. With or without the pacers, just maintain your composure and you will achieve your goal.

b) You can run with buddies during preparation, but come race day, you are on your own. Do anything which will motivate yourself. I only started my favourite music from 20km onwards and it helped to tune out negative thoughts (Plantronics Backbeat Fit review).

c) Keep your hands free. Holding on to phone or bottle will induce more perspiration and sweaty palms. You will have trouble opening your gel or bars. I got a mini waist pouch from Decathon which can hold x2 250ml bottle and x4 gel and my keys.

The beautiful serene night scene helped to distract me from the constant tarmac pounding too (hey why Singapore FLYER always so near yet so far!)

Before Osim Sundown Marathon, the furthest I ran was 25km. Thus I took every Kilometre from 26th onward as a bonus.

At this moment in life, I am at my fittest 🙂
This would not have happen if I did not actively pursue my own fitness.

I hope this would convince my kids that they can strive for their own dreams too, their Daddy just ran his First Marathon!

Set a target, go ACHIEVE it!

Mine was #Training42Sundown2017

I am a 42km Finisher (can brag already haha)

In case you are interested, my training programme helped me to clock my mileage and check whether I am improving month by month. It helped me to monitor whether I was running enough (161km, 135km and 166k for weeks 1-4, 5-8 and 9-12 respectively). I was falling short of “recommended” 40 to 50km per week.
diy Marathon training programme

And this was my IDEAL race plans :p

Beautiful Sunrise again, Sundown completed, another day begins.

If you are attempting for a running milestone yourself, we all start from somewhere. I hope my newbie experience would provide some confidence for you to achieve your own target too. (Marathon Preparation tips for new runners here)

Meanwhile, I will prepare for another Marathon only in 2018 🙂

ps.. try to find your photos at this Facebook link (Running Shots)