TNF 100 2016 Eco Ambassadors

Once again it is the TNF 100 trail race in Singapore and a group of us are back for the 4th year running to support the event and to give back to the running community and at the same time play a small role in keeping our trails clean by picking up the trash in the trails.  

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Photo Credit Maggie

It would have been nice if our roles are redundant and not required but unfortunately the sad truth is that many people who frequent our forests, be they hikers, nature lovers, mountain bikers or runners or workers leave behind a lot of trash in their wake.

Every year without fail, we pick up bags after bags of trash although I think there seems to be an improvement and we are picking up less trash nowadays. Or maybe it is because we are doing this yearly and the time gap for more trash to accumulate is shorter and hence less trash.

Anyway back to this year trash picking. The TNF organiser called us Eco Ambassadors – a politically correct and nice word for cleaner. This year there were 18 of us. We split ourselves into 4 groups with each group starting from a different location and covering a part of the race route plus some extra areas.tnf-eco-amb-2016

We picked up a total of 16 bags of trash. Main bulk of the items were bottles, food packaging, shoes and soles, clothing including a men’s brief. dsc_2334

The trails seem to be relatively clean.  Unfortunately there were a lot of trash under the various underpass and behind the fences. People seems to think that it is ok to throw as long as it is out of sight. 

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Photo Credit: Maggie

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Photo Credit Jancy

We  were well underway to complete the cleaning on time when the rain came. And that put paid to our day.

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Oh well I suppose there always another day. And if you are reading this and am interested in participating in this, we do have ad hoc trail cleaning projects be it in conjunction with race organiser, Trail Running Singapore or Nparks and if you interested in joining this effort, feel free to drop me a message via email or pm me on Facebook.

 

TNF 100 Singapore 2015 Eco Ambassadors

And we are back for the 3rd year! Not with a reduced team but an even bigger team of 20. The team has expanded because after last year’s, there were many requests from friends to join in the efforts and so an expanded team but hopefully no expanded trash.Downloads3

We split up into 4 smaller teams each starting from a different location and covering an appropriate distance of 10 km to 12 km.

Team 1 starts from the 50 km u-turn at Tanjong Pagar and covered the straight forward route of the Green Corridor up till the Old Bukit Timah Railway Station. It may be a straight forward route but the poor 4 of them probably picked the most trash covering all sort of weird objects from fishing rod (what to fish along the GC?) to underwear (again!) to condom to of course the energy gels and soles. IMG-20151010-WA0027 IMG-20151010-WA0022For more details of their “finds”, read Nicholas’ account of it on his Facebook here, here and here

Team 2 started from the Dairy Farm and went the reverse route along the Green Corridor all the way to the end of the Durian Loop on Rifle Range Road. Their best find is undoubtedly this chap from Star Wars. He seems to have been discarded by the Force and ended up here!,12112304_10153609172812719_7023604923757980024_n But on a serious note, the team found many many more trash as Mel wrote here

Team 3 started from Chestnut Ave and had the unenviable taste of cleaning up Rifle Range Road which as any regular trail runner here will know is probably the most filthy stretch of road. And look what the poor guys got to do.11224153_10153449940454584_6935238047940883832_n19227_10153449943419584_8953495896404703362_n 12141570_10153449948674584_3764143760640870130_n

And here is Moon’s account of their busy afternoon.

Fortunately for Team 4, which has it base at MacRitchie, there wasn’t really a lot of trash. But we did find a fair bit of trash left behind by SAF personnels such as this dog tack packaging.DSC_0059

What was disappointing was the amount of energy gel packets that we found. DSC_0050Gu was the winner by a clear margin which means since it was provided for in this race, most of it were probably discarded by the participants of the TNF 100. Which is quite sad considering that  people who signed up for this race are experienced trail runners and should know better than to discard their trash in the wild. Oh well I suppose if not for these people, we will not be required at all.

While the trash picking was a back breaking task what with the hot weather and walking and picking trash for 4 to 5 hours, we did have a lot of fun as well. Which is why I suppose we have been coming back to do this year after year. It not just our way of paying back and doing a little bit for Mother Nature but also a time for us to get to know each other better and have lot of fun.

Obviously we do know that come next year this time, there will be more trash to pick up so those who want to join us, do send me or anyone of the team members that you know a message to be on the list. And if we are invited back to do it again next year, you might be on the team having as much fun as we did these few years.

Photo credits: Members of Team 1, 2, 3 & 4

TNF 100 Singapore Eco Ambassadors

The Singapore TNF 100 came back this year on 11 October and we are back too! This time with more members, more litter pickers and more trash bags. Last year there were 8 of us. This year we increased our headcount to 14 although we believed that after last year clean up, there should only be trash from last year till now and so lesser for us to pick. Unfortunately that did not appear to be the case.

Not in photo – Terence, Osbert and Esther
This year we decided on a new tactic. We split up into 4 groups and each group  started from a different area. The idea is to walk shorter distance for everybody and yet still be as comprehensive. Unfortunately we miscalculated the distance and the efforts it took to walk and pick trash and reached back to MacRitchie Reservoir after 7 pm by which time almost everybody else had gone off. Nevertheless, we had a great time together although we do wish that our job would really be redundant and there will be no trash to pick. Sadly though, this was not the case.
Photo by Jancy
All in, we picked up 20 bags of trash each filled with drink bottles, food packaging, soles, shoes, clothing, paper, plastic bags and toys even!
Photo by Mel
Among these items were about close to 350 + gel packets. It is quite sad to see that despite the hype about how trail runners love nature, there is still a large number of them who think nothing of dumping their empty gel sachets on the ground. 
Photo by AC

Other surprising items include 2 underwears along the Green Corridors.

We can figured out probably the reason why these people took off their underwear and disposed of them here but the next item found along the Beluakar Trail have us scratching our head.
Photo by Jancy
Err what did the runner ran in after throwing this away?
We also found numerous shoes’ sole. Most of them appears to be road shoes which mean most runners are not wearing trail shoes and has to suffer the consequences of it. 
Photo by Jancy
I don’t know whether we will be invited back next year though I really hope our job is made redundant if everybody do not litter in the forest and trails but I know it is a dream. More likely, as the number of people taking to the trails increases, we will see more trash and not less and then maybe we will no longer be able to do it once a year but has to increase the frequency. 
Anybody who is keen to join in future clean up, can drop me a message via my FB or email me at ckohst2@yahoo.com.sg.

Here come the Garbage Men @ TNF 100 Singapore

It all started with an idea by a friend who got his inspiration from a  race in Hongkong. One thing led to another and yesterday we found ourselves, a group of 6 runners at the start line of this year edition of the TNF Singapore 100. Another 2 started at the Mandai Road checkpoint. Not to race but to do something very different and I hope inspiring enough for the real participants to do their part.

With Marc Pereira from North Face Singapore
Our mission – to literally sweep – not the last runner but to sweep up all the trash  left behind by the runners. When we embarked on this, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We have ran the trails in the MacRitchie area and Central Catchment area many times and we have seen many of the rubbish left behind by runners and other park users. But I didn’t thought it was that bad.
We started off at about 7 a.m. about half an hour after the 25km runners were flagged off. Our objectives was to stay behind the runners and pick up whatever they left behind. Originally we thought of all of us covering the full 50 km route but as we went along, we realised that it would be faster and easier to split ourselves up and cover different sectors. So 2 of the faster runners in the group, Terence and Voon ran ahead towards the Ghim Moh area where they will start the trash picking from there while the rest of us started picking up the trash from the Durian Trail head. Another 2, AC and Osbert had earlier parked themselves at the Mandai end and will start at around 12 noon after the runners had u-turned.
To help us in our task, the organiser had at our request, kindly provided us with litter pickers. Thank goodness for them  otherwise I don’t know how we were going to do our jobs. With these mean litter pickers, we need not bend down to pick up the trash, need not dirty our hands too much and most of all, they enabled us to reach the trash that were strewed among the bushes and in the drains. 
Jancy with one of her “catch”using the litter picker. Photo by Nicholas
At the start of the Durian trail head, we ran into a minor hiccup. We had no trash bag! The organiser had given us only 2 bags and these we had given to the 2 going towards Ghim Moh. We were asked to pick up more trash bags from the water point and we had wrongly assumed that like previous year there were be a water point at the Rifle Range/Durian Trail junction but there wasn’t! So no choice, in the end we sacrifice one of our poncho to bag our first collection of trash!
Our first lot of trash – just from the Durian Trail
We emptied the lot into a trash bin before entering the Kampong Trail hoping it will not give way. Fortunately, the  bag held on and we soon met up with Terence and Voon who had already completed ‘”sweeping” the Green Corridor from Ghim Moh to Bukit Timah.
Terence and Voon with their loot:) They had already discarded one load of trash earlier!
Terence and Voon then bypass the Bukit Timah portion of the Green Corridor and went ahead to Mandai to meet up with AC and Osbert while we continued clearing all the way to Zheng Hua Park Connector.
Picking up trash along the pipeline trail
We rendezvoused at the Zheng Hua Park Connector at about 1 pm before making our way back to MacRitchie Reservoir – finally reaching the place just slightly after 5 pm. We had spent more than 9 hours on the trail and in the process collected about 8 bags of trash. Sadly, we had grossly underestimated the amount of trash we had to pick. I had thought runners who do trail running frequently would be more responsible and not litter but the number one items we picked up were gel tabs and gel packets. They were everywhere, on the trails, in the bushes, in the drains!
Photo by Nicholas
The next most common item was empty or partially filled plastic bottles and while some were obviously old discards, there were a number of brand new looking bottles strew all over including within the MacRitchie Reservoir area, very obviously dumped by the runners. There were also a couple of TNF route map, the TNF race booklet and a TNF towel. Of course, we also picked up all other trash including Styrofoam boxes, cups, plastic utensils. Other quirky items included a waist pouch, a condom packaging (found in the middle of the Beluakar Trail) – wonder what they were doing in the middle of the trail!; many many shoes soles, a nice looking water bottle and a Fuelbelt bottle! Terence and Voon also fished out 2 shoes from the mud pool at the Ghim Moh side of the Green Corridor!
All in, the 8 of us had a lot of fun. Our only wish could be that our job would be made redundant. If everybody; hikers, cyclist, runners, nature lover, photographers, who visit the trails play their part and bring out their trash, we would not need to do this and that will be what I consider a job well done!
We would like to thank the North Face Singapore for giving us the opportunity to do this social project, for the event tee and Pink Apple Singapore for coordinating this and sponsoring the litter pickers.

The North Face 100 Thailand 2013

For my first race of the year, I decided to kick it off with a slightly bigger bang than the usual road race and flew to Bangkok for the North Face 100 Thailand edition. Having heard from friends that the TNF Thailand was a fairly easy race, I decided to go for this. Of course, I wasn’t up to the task of doing the 100km or even 50km and went for a safe 25km. But then the race site was moved to the more hilly PakChong district and my heart dropped a bit. 
This being my first oversea trail race and with a dismal record in the Singapore edition, I wasn’t very optimistic on how I was going to fare. Will I withered in the heat of the Thailand sun? Will I get another sprain? Excuses excuses. Haha. But I was really not going for any PB or any glorious finish. What I wanted to do is to enjoy and savour the run.
So armed with my trusty hydration bag filled to to the brim with water, gel, first aid, phone and a camera, the sidekick and I found ourselves at the start line at 6 am on a cool dark morning. We then discovered that we were to put it mildly, very “overdressed”. The Thai runners came without any extra – no hydration bag, no fuel belt and not even any hand carried bottles. It seems like only the foreigners were prepared to the nice while the locals apparently don’t need any of these. What did they know that we didn’t?
The 25km was flagged off 5 minutes later than the schedule 6 am to as the MC announced “for safety so that it will be brighter”. Still we found ourselves running in the dark for at least the first half hour before it was bright enough for us to see clearly. And what a sight! We ran into the rising sun! It is moment like this that makes running so memorable!

But not too soon after that, the sun rise was forgotten as we set out legs to tackle the hills and there were many going up and up at least for the first 5km.

The trails were wide ranging from 1.5m to more than 2m wide and with not that many participants, it was fairly easy to run without any “human jam”. The ground for the most part were soft trail with small loose rocks and laterites. While it may be difficult for grip, it didn’t really pose any problems for those with a good pair of trail shoes. However, what we had to be mindful of was “minefields”, not the type that can main or kill but something worse; cow dungs. And they were everywhere since there were plenty of farms around the areas.

For the most part, we were running right in the open and we were thankful that the sun did not come out at all. During the 3 hours we were out there, it was cloudy throughout and the temperature was around 20 to 23 degrees. With our slow pace and the great weather, it was photo shooting time as I snapped photo after photo of the every changing landscape.

The route wind through the base of the hills and the highest we climbed was all the way up to 550metres according to my GPS. Then it was a series of up and down but nothing that was really tough or not “runnable”. In fact, I think at least for the 25km distance, it is easier than the Singapore edition.

This is the course elevation

This being the outskirts, there were relatively few villagers unlike in say Cambodia but nevertheless, what little support from the villagers and the kids were a sight for sore eyes.

We finally finished our sight seeing race in slightly over 3 hours. I dare say if not for the many stops to enjoy the view and take photos, we probably will have finished in under 3 hours. In any case, this was a PB since my last race of the same distance in Singapore was a miserable 3.30+ hours. 

While some may not agree, I think after completing this, that the Singapore edition is tougher. Firstly, the weather here is fantastic and I understand it is like this most time. Secondly, the trails are easier to run as opposed to the narrow and rocky trails in MacRitchie or Bukit Timah. While there are more uphill here, the gradient are not so steep and long to force one to have to walk up the slopes. Unfortunately, I heard they will be moving the race site again for next year otherwise I will highly recommend this race for beginners to trail races.
More photos can be found on my FB and Runningshots.

TNF 100 Singapore 2012

Jinx? Fated? 3 times bad luck? How do I ever start to describe this? How could I once again mess up a simple 25km run?

Ever since 2010 when I first did this event and although I finished it, I wasn’t satisfied with the way I ran it and vowed to do it properly. So the following year, I trained hard, even formed a team to prepare for it but at the last minute, had to sit it out with a injury that forced me to halt running for a long time. So this year, although the long runs wasn’t adequate, I felt fit and confident enough to finally be able to close this chapter of my running in good stead. Instead, just barely halfway into the race, I broke the year’s injury free record and busted my ankle on a part of the trail that I had ran countless time and eventually had to DNF!
The day had started well enough. We reached MR bright and early to secure a car lot. Walked around, meet up with friends, took some pictures before we were flagged off at 8am. The earlier start compared to past years were warmly welcomed. We could at the very least avoid the hot noon sun.

I had no fixed target initially but somehow decided that perhaps I should try to complete it in 3.30 hours. The sidekick and I, we were supposed to run together but she went ahead once we hit the trail head. I was a bit surprised she went that fast but I held back keeping to a slow 8 minutes pace. However, eventually I caught up with her along the long uphill leading to Rifle Range Road. Weather was fine and I had barely touched the water in my hydration bag. Took a sip of water at the water point outside ST Engineering before continuing along the boring road. I was feeling great though. Hit the Durian trail before exiting back to Rifle Range Road. At this place, there is a low metal gate across the entrance to Kampung Trail. Most runners walked over it. But 1 guy, he tried to be a hero and jumped over and landed with a big cramp on his leg and went down. A few of us stopped to check on him. He said he was okay but I was laughing inside. Don’t be a smart aleck and do all sort of stunts while running!
But I laughed too soon. Coming out of the Kampung trail and crossing the last of the 2 drains, I stepped on a loose board and my whole ankle went kaput! A sharp pain shot out and I went shit! I stopped to walk a bit, flex the leg a bit. Seems okay and continued. The sidekick had by then caught up with me. We walked up the small little slope to the KTM trail. This is a new part of the route from the previous edition. It was flat and straight and I managed to run all the way although there was this niggling feeling. But when exiting this trail and going towards Dairy Farm, there was this down slope and the pain shot up with every downward step. I knew this was bad and this was when I started to contemplate giving up.
I told the sidekick to go ahead and I see how. Just before the toilet at Dairy Farm carpark, a friend was taking photograph and I accepted this as a sign for me to stop. If I had continue pass this point, I could have to continue till the end because the rest of the routes does not go near any road except Rifle Range Road and that was nearer to MR by foot than by car! 
So I DNF my first race with a lot of regrets and what’s if.  What if I did not DNF and just run and walk all down slope. I am pretty sure I will still finish well within the cut of time. What if I had just got the medic to give me a spray and that together with the adrenaline from the race, should see me through? But I reasoned to myself that I have greater fish to fry in the coming year and I cannot afford to jeopardise them by taking unnecessary risks all to just complete this race especially since this was the same foot where I had my metatarsal stress fracture.
My wrapped up foot courtesy of the medic at the finish point and Brokenrunner’s wrapped up palm. She fell at the start of the race and ran with her hand like this for the entire 50km!
Reached back MR just in time to see the sidekick completing the race with a PB as compared to the past 2. For me, another TNF Singapore that went to the dogs. But still it was great while it last. We stayed behind to take some photos of the runners, give moral support to friends before the rain and hunger drove us off.
Back to the race, with a new event organiser, this year’s event went tremendously well without a hitch. Learning from the feedbacks from last year, this year there were big sign boards, distance market at every 10km. No stolen directional signs or not that I heard of anyway. Along Rifle Range road, there was proper road divider separating the runners from the cars and wide enough for 3 runners to run together. At MR, the start route was clearly blocked off to other park users. There were plenty of ushers to direct people. Weight in was orderly. Race starts on time. There were free ice cream, sandwiches, muffins, bananas, oranges, biscuits, water, isotonic drinks available. Ample supply even up to late afternoon. Certainly I will be very surprise if there are any complaints.
The first finisher, Ricky Lightfoot(?) from England, in the 100km receiving his prizes from Walter Tan, the General Manager of Outdoor Venture Pte Ltd.
Photos coming up real soon.