Never Stop Exploring – Kent Ridge Nature Trail

Got a bit hot and tired while doing my usual hill route from Mt Faber to Kent Ridge and decided to “take shelter” in the Nature trail at Kent Ridge Park. I had been there previously once a long long time ago and I remembered that it was a very small place with a mountain bike trail as well.

And indeed it was small. A loop within the trail was just barely 1.2 km. But what it lacked in distance, it made up for in ruggedness.09-DSC_0331The trail is fairly technical with lots of turns and small roots and stones. It was also fairly undulating but there were steps built in to help the hikers although I didn’t really see why they were necessary considering that there was no steep climb. 07-DSC_0328A closer look at the steps08-DSC_0329Could this be how the steps at Bukit Timah will look like when the repair works are completed? I hope not – but then again these type of steps will still be preferable to concrete steps.

One thing that was very distinctly apparent was that there were some sort of skirting along some of the trails.10-DSC_0332I guess this is Nparks’ idea of protecting the soil from the side of the trail from spilling over. And me think it a way it will also act as a psychological barrier to people to not step on the side of the trails. Probably we will see these when Bukit Timah re-opens.

But meanwhile, for those who want to do some trail works and do not want to go all the way to MacRitchie or Dairy Farm, this might be a good place to train in. Just be prepared to do loops and loops and loops. And if the slope is not challenging enough, there is always Vigilante Drive or Pepys Hill to work the legs.

Top of the World

Well not quite since the highest point in Singapore is only just slightly over 160 metres. But that is Bukit Timah Hill and Bukit Timah hill is now close so the next highest point is Mt Faber at 105m and that where are the trail runners looking to race overseas are flocking to now that they are deprived of good old Bukit Timah.
I followed 1 group last week and did just 1 loop of the hill. One can get a pretty nice view of the Telok Blangah Estate from the top of the hill. The view stretches all the way to Orchard Rd. On the other side of the road, one can see Sentosa, the cable cars and on a clear day, some islands of Indonesia. Instead of using my own lousy camera to show the view from the top, here is a VR taken by Singapore top VR photographer, Aram Pan. Guess what? I am mentioned inside the post! Cheap thrill!
The beauty of running around these areas is that there are several high ground where you can have that top of the world feeling and look out far far away.
From Mt Faber, I went on to Telok Blangah Hill crossing the beautiful Henderson Waves Bridge. And right smack in the middle of the bridge which is 36 metres high you get these awesome view.

Looking southward towards the sea
The Telok Blangah and Bukit Merah estates
After the Henderson Waves Bridge is the Telok Blangah Hill. There are some mean slopes here including a very short and steep one up to Terrace Garden where you can another panoramic view.

Standing between Telok Blangah Hill and Kent Ridge is a patch of forest and over this is a series of metal bridge called the Forest Walk hovering over the forest. And beside being able to see the flora and fauna close up, one can get another great view of the far beyond.

After crossing the bridge, its up to Kent Ridge Park and here there is a series of zig zag path which leads to what is known as the Canopy Walk which comes with a view of the Hort Park below it.

From here it is a straight run down Kent Ridge Park. That is the easy part. But coming back up, there is either the long and steep Pepys Road or the other long and steep Vigilante Drive. By now after conquering the up and down from Mt Faber to Kent Ridge, I was well and truly beaten and could only managed to walk up Vigilante Drive. At the top of course the reward is another top of the world view.

All in, depending on how one runs, one can do up to 20 km covering Mt Faber, Telok Blangah Hill, Hort Park, Kent Ridge Park with total elevation of more than 500 metres. Not a lot by any other measures but certainly a good enough workout for those who want to do some serious hill runs and get many great view at the same time.
Here is the elevation for the run last week

Laksa Run (The Remake)

In 2006 when social group running was still in its infancy, I joined a group of the Sgrunners for what was known as the Laksa Run where we ran, took photos and end up with a nice meal. Since then, such group run has ran out of fashion with so many races every weekend. 
Fast forward 8 years later and finally we have a remake of the Laksa Run!  This is the then and now photo.
Photo Credit: Jancy
But so much has changed since then. For one thing, the railway track is no longer there. Now this place is called the Green Corridor. And of course back then quite a lot of people have much more hair. Now some have less – almost to zero! And some are of course no longer into running. And last but not least of the original cast of 15, only 4 turned up this time round. Can you identify them?
One of the highlight and sometimes bane of this sort of run is the crazy time taken to cover the route. Like this run which has a distance of just under 10 km but we took more than 1 hour 30 minutes to complete it stopping constantly to “smell flowers” and take photos. Of course it didn’t help that there were plenty of slopes to challenge our creaking joints.
Up the slope at Kent Ridge Park
Up another slope at another part of Kent Ridge Park
The infamous zig zig path at Hort Park
Plenty of slope at Canterbury estate

 There used to be a tank here but it is gone now replaced by this information board.

Canterbury estate has plenty of this type of beautiful black and white bungalow. The air is so fresh and crisp here. 

The last stretch down the Alexandra Park Trail before our final destination

Our final destination. This claypot laksa at Alexandra Village Food Centre.
Our reward after 1 hour 45 minutes of sweat and toil. 
Sighed… the things we do to burn away the calories so that we can enjoy sinful delicious food.

Nathan Singapore City Race 2014

Last year was the first time I took part in this race. And I enjoyed it a lot despite that being one of the longest race I did. So when this year edition came back with a new apparel sponsor, I roped together last year kakis and signed up for it. The goal was to emulate or even better last year’s feat when we covered the race in 38 km 2 km short of the actual distance of 40 km.
So on Sunday morning, together with 2 new team mates and an original member who “bandit” for the fun of it, we found ourselves at the start line at Marina Barrage. 
That us. Forest 6 + 1
The format of the race was similar to last year i.e run either as a solo participant or in a team of up to 6 members. There were 4 categories to choose from – mini, short, mid and long. Each categories has 5 checkpoints except for the long distance which has 6. Of course, we being “itchy backside” has to go for the long distance which has 6 checkpoints and a total distance of 45 km provided the runner run correctly.  For us our goal was to see whether we can take “shortcuts” and this is one race where shortcuts are allowed! In fact the more the merrier.

We started late and so consequently got the map late. They only give us the map when all the members of the team are in the start chute and so 10 minutes after everybody else in our category had gone off, we got our map and we let out a collective groan. The furthest checkpoint was Old Ford Factory way up in Upper Bukit Timah Road. And there were 2 checkpoints which was neither here nor there. For me, the ideal route would be something that can be done in a loop like last year but this year route was different. On the map although it was obviously longer, there was less trail. The dilemma was which checkpoint to go in which sequence so that we don’t run further than necessary.

The obvious choice was to go to the nearest checkpoint which happens to be Sultan Mosque and just a stone throw away. We start off at a nice easy pace down Garden by the Bay, cross the Helix Bridge, Rochor Road, Beach Road and 3 km later, we found ourselves in front of the beautiful Sultan Mosque, our first checkpoint!
Sultan Mosque. 
From here, we had a difficult choice to make. The next nearest check point was CP 6 at Shaw House in Orchard Rd. But that was going to be open only at 9 am and we were still early. If we go straight there, we will be too early. However, the other nearer checkpoint was  CP 10 at Alexandra Road. It doesn’t make sense for us to go there first and then turn back to Orchard Rd. That would be going on a mini loop – a waste of energy. The other alternative was to go to CP 10, then to CP 8, 9 before going to CP 11, the Old Ford Factory and finally coming back to CP 6. The problem with this option was that we will have to climb Pepys Hill which was not something that I want to do and then we still have to run back from Bukit Timah to Orchard in the afternoon heat. In the end after some hesitation, we decided to go ahead to Shaw House and if we are early, we could grab something to eat while waiting for the CP to open. 
We ran along North Bridge Rd, Bra Basah Rd, Orchard Rd and along the way, took a lot of photos. Still we reach Shaw House well ahead of 9 am and so we sat outside Isetan to wait.
At Shaw House with a volunteer who accompanied us all the way from Dhoby Ghaut to Shaw House
From here, after another lengthy discussion, we made the decision to go straight to CP 11. The rationale was this was the shortest route there from whichever CP and this was also the most “hot” stretch and we should get it out of the way first. So in a repeat of last year’s run, we ran from Orchard Rd to Tanglin Rd, Nassim Rd, Evans Road, Bukit Timah Rd, Jalan Anak Bukit and finally Upper Bukit Timah Road. We skipped the Green Corridor which was a good decision as there were big trees along the stretch of road outside the condominiums along Upper Bukit Timah Rd and those provided much welcomed shade from the by now blazing hot sun.
At Old Ford Factory
So far we have covered 19 km in a super slow time of over 3 hours. 3 checkpoints completed and half way done. We walked a fair bit, stopped to buy drinks, take pictures and enjoy the scenery. The return journey was a fairly straight forward route. Go back via the Green Corridor, exit Queensway – CP 10 then CP 9 then 9 and back to finish line. Should be a piece of cake. But we forgot the sun had melted the cake and there was no cake = no energy. It was a hot hot trudge down the freaking never ending former railway track with the sun blazing down mercilessly on us. Unlike last year, we met very few runners. Most of them were going towards Bukit Timah which means they have to tackle Bukit Timah Road later.  We walked a lot along this stretch. Of course, we also took a fair bit of photos:)
Doing this 10 km stretch took us 2 hours!
Finally after 2 hours of sauna, we exit the freaking railway track. Never mind that this was the only trail we were covering this year. A short run down Alexandra Road and we were at the Harley Davidson showroom, which was CP 10! Bladdy hell, the checkpoint has no isotonic drink. Only water. Thank goodness the water was cold. But the bestest was the aircondition inside the showroom.

The air con was so shiok that we spent easily half an hour there. The ladies of course were imagining that they were riding the big Harleys with some hunk whilst the guys were wishing… Oh well, never mind what we wished for! But all good things must come to an end and finally after a long long time, we finally dragged ourselves away to continue our journey. 

But we are smart people and just a stone throw away was this awesome place!

.
Hell yes, after an half hour break at Harley Davidson, and now barely 1 km later, we took another break – at the famous Alexandra Village Food Centre. We had sugar cane, soursoup, lemonade but no avocado and we were buying from the stall that made the Avocado shake famous! What goodnus!. We took another super long break here. Consequently, for the last 7 km, we took more than 1 and a half hour! Super super slow and super super slack! But what the hell, despite the heat, I think everybody was still having fun.

After we finally dragged our butt away from the stools at the food centre, we made our way to the Hort Park for what else but another 10 minutes break! This time it was a toilet break. Ha ha. The break was also to prepare us mentally for the short climb to Kent Ridge Park
“Climbing the slope of Kent Ridge”
Ok it wasn’t much of a slope or a climb but when one is hot and tired, any teeny weeny slope is a hill! But fortunately for us, because we know the area here well, we were able to go straight to CP 9 Reflections at Bukit Chandu which is a war museum by the way and not the Reflections at Keppel! I think we would have love to go inside to enjoy the air con look at the exhibits but we were kinda running out of time. So after just a water and of course photo break, we were off to the last checkpoint.
CP 8 is at Labrador Park. By now I was hoping they make things easy for us and have the checkpoint at the MRT station entrance but sianz, no such luck, it was all the way in at the seaside. And of course to make thing worse, we went to the wrong side and that cost us another 500 metres 🙁 On the way in, we had seen people making their way out so either they were going to CP 9 in which case they were going to be very late back or they didn’t know the way well. We smart guys took the scenic route via the park connector.
The view from the Labrador Park
By now it was already after 3 pm. We have been out for more than 7 hours and although we have completed all the checkpoints and were on the home stretch, it was still a long long stretch back to Marina Barrage. And this time there was no respite from the sun. We were reduced to walking almost the entire stretch of  7 km along hot noisy dusty Keppel Road and then down hot quiet Robinson Rd. And of course, the ladies must still have their photos and the air con break at MBS no less!
Outside Harbourfront Centre
And after 8 hours 40 minutes, we jogged past the finish line at Marina Barrage! One of the longest timed run and distance I ever undertaken. We didn’t managed to reduce the distance either. Our watches shows various distances ranging from 41 km (mine) to 47 km (sidekick). Brokie’s watch was 45.2 km. I think the problem was the many buildings that we went into. So I think we shall take the middle distance which is 45.2 km which means we were spot on on the route! I think a lot of people took much longer distance.
Our finishing run (picture from Finisherpix)
And despite taking 8 hours 41 minutes, we place 15 out of 33 teams. Not bad eh? Frankly, I think if we had not stopped to cool ourselves down so often, we would probably have shaved off at least 2 hours. But timing or how far we ran was never an issue here. We were not doing this to win or race against the clock. If we had pushed ourselves hard, we would not be able to enjoy the race. There will be no photos, no water break at Alexandra Village, no imaginary ride on a Harley and no fun. We were there to have fun and despite the heat, the cramp, the cursing and swearing, I think we did managed to have fun. A lot of it. Although I will think twice about signing up next year unless…..

TNF City Race 2013

The last time I ran a distance above 35km was in December 2008. Since then, the longest distance I clocked was 25km and weekly mileage average around 30km. So what madness made me sign up for this event? 
When I first heard about this race, I thought the concept sound interesting. A no fixed route sort of like an “Amazing Race” type of race. And when some good friends proposed to form a team to do this, I thought why not? But of course since it was going to be a fun thing, I didn’t really put in any effort to train for it.
So on top of the lack of mileage and fitness, on Saturday, the day before the race, I got an attack of the “runs’. I had only 2 small bowls of porridge the whole day and even though I am not a great believer of carbo loading, that certainly left me in a most unsuitable position to do a long run. But the thought of  DNS and letting down my team mates kept me going and so on Sunday morning, I found myself together with a few hundred others hunkered down at Millennia Walk studying a map!
The thing about this race is that there is no fixed route. There are a total of 5 checkpoints which the runners have to reach. The previous day, there was a post circulating around listing the “route” which I thought was far short of the 40km that our route was supposed to be at. So we were all excited to know what was our actual route and when we got our early awaited map, the tension eased but the pressure now starts as we had Singapore Quarry and Kent Ridge Park to navigate!
After some discussions and with tips from friends, we decided to go to Singapore Quarry, the furthest checkpoint first. We decided to go there via Orchard Road so that we can go to another checkpoint at Ion Orchard. So after the flagged off, everybody rushed off. Most I believe had the same thinking and went along Bras Basah or Stamford Rd to reach Orchard. We decided to enjoy the air con a bit more and went down the City Link underpass much to the amazement and amusement of the early shoppers in the mall!
Our team dashing through City Link Mall. Photo courtesy of Kelly Lim
We reached Ion Orchard, about 3 km away in around 30 minutes, pretty slow time I think. From there, we went under ground again into Ion Orchard and crossed over to Wheelock Place  before exiting Orchard Road into Nassim Hills. Running along Nassim Hills was very “enriching” with all the good class bungalows and embassies lining the street. Too bad nobody came out to offer us a drink or a house tour:)

Then it was on to long boring Bukit Timah Road with all the traffic fumes and construction work. But all boring thing must come to an end and we eventually reached King Albert Park where we turned into the former KTM track now affectionately known as “the Green Corridor”. There was another checkpoint somewhere to our left at the old KTM Bukit Timah Station and to reach there, we had to turn away from our ultimate destination the Singapore Quarry but we figured since we were so near about 300 metres, we might as well complete this checkpoint first.
After a long checkpoint break complete with photo taking and chitchatting, we moved on but not before getting a tip from a runner friend that there was a short cut to the Quarry! From our past experience running there, to reach the quarry, we have to run along the stretch of the Green Corridor until the railway mall before turning right towards Diary Farm and then up some road to the Quarry. But the shortcut promised a reduction of almost 1.5 km! Along the way, we bumped into many other runners who told us the same thing and we returned the favour to other runners when we made our return journey. The only problem with this short cut was that it involves a climb up a very short but slippery and steep slope and had everybody gingerly holding on to the grass for stability when coming back down.

From the quarry, we decided to run along the Green Corridor to reach our next destination, the Kent Ridge Park. The only problem was none of us know exactly where to exit. For me, it was my first time running the Green Corridor beyond the Bukit Timah area. Weather was fine, not really very hot and very windy but part of the place was very muddy no thanks to the heavy rainfall the past weeks. We ran and walked, ran and walked and took pictures like this one here.

 We also stopped to ask other runners coming our way how they turned into the Green Corridor and got replies ranging from Holland Rd, Portsdown Rd to “not sure”! A guy told us to turn right at the mosque but warned us that the mosque was far away and after that still had to run some more. We passed by Tanglin Halt and I thought we had overshot our destination. Vincent then decided to take a gamble and led us out to this beautiful looking place which turns out to be the Portsdown area and a blessing in disguise because after crossing the AYE, we found ourself at the bottom of Kent Ridge Park. I don’t know how shorter a distance we saved but when we reached the checkpoint, we were surprised to see some runners that we had met earlier on our way to the Quarry just leaving the checkpoint or even reaching after us! It seems our route was much shorter than the ‘mosque route” and was more straight forward as some runners could not find the checkpoint!
From Kent Ridge, it was a very familiar run to the Henderson Wave but by then I was dead tired. Luckily for me, Kelly was just as tired having not fully recovered from the 2 ultras she did last month and was lagging behind the rest. So I took the opportunity to walk when she walked keeping a distance between her and the team members in front so that we couldn’t get too far separated. But I guess the run/walk strategy also helped me tremendously otherwise I doubt with my lack of mileage + hunger pangs, I could make it back it one piece. 
We reached the Henderson Wave, our final checkpoint before the finish , in about 5+ hours and clocking about 31km on my timex. My guestimate was about 7km back to Millennia Walk which was quite spot on. My Timex recorded 36km, M had 37.5 on hers while Vincent had 38 on his. We took 6 hours 35 minutes making it the longest timed run of my life and I survived it!
I enjoyed this race. Although there were some hiccups here and there, generally the commanderie was great, the 6 of us had been running together on and off for the past 2 years and teamwork and understanding were excellent. Will I do this event again? Maybe yes maybe no depending on whether the novelty value die off and other event organiser start copying the format.

4 Hills Run

It has been a long time since I ran this particular route. This is one of my favourite place to run but also one of the toughest being as the route name suggest, comprising of 4 hills namely Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill, Kent Ridge and Labrador Reserve. Used to be that a main part of this route was on the pavement along  Telok Blangah Road but with the completion of the Berlayer Creek and Bukit Chermin Boardwalk, this has since been very much reduced.
The view of the Henderson Wave Bridge. Sometime we run up Mt Faber and use this bridge to cross Henderson Road or sometime we just cross the road at the traffic light to reach Telok Blangah Hill.

This is part of the Forest and Earth Walk trail at the Telok Blangah Hill which forms part of the Southern Ridges. Looks like there was a landslide and they are pouring concrete to stablish the ground.

From the Telok Blangah Hill, we ran to Hort Park, a showcase of beautiful gardens.

This is one of the dread part of the route – the winding climbing Canopy Walk.

We also went into the 3km long Kent Ridge Mountain Bike Park. Not much running here. We kinda got a little lost and ended up taking almost 40 minutes to walk about 1 km before we found ourselves back where we started.

One of the highlight of the run – a very scenic view of the sea on top of Kent Ridge

Then it was down to the Labrador Reserve. We walked up the little hill and came down via the staircase to the sea.

Another great view of the beautiful Reflections by the Bay from Labrador Park

The Keppel Marina as seen from the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk

The beautiful and posh Caribbean at Keppel Bay. This was previously Keppel Shipyard.

Finally, we toiled up Mount Faber and was rewarded with a great view of the Telok Blangah and Tiong Bahru Estate.

All in the distance is approximately 15km depending on whether we run the full Kent Ridge or part of it (as we did). Likewise whether we cover the whole up and down of Mt Faber or walk down via the staircase. Whatever it is, definitely one of the best route to run in Singapore with minimum running by the roadside.