Run Walk Pray

The past Saturdays has been reserved for long “run”. The previous week, the plan was to run 40km. Started from Ngee Ann poly and went the usual way to Bukit Timah to Dairy Farm before we decided to do a different route and went to Butterfly. Butterfly Trail is a small forested area fringing the Peirce Reservoir. The trail is a narrow little thing loves by mountain bikers. There are roots aplenty waiting to trip unsuspecting runners. Being typical Singaporean and not waiting to risk a fall, we walked the entire stretch. Our reward was the gorgeous view of the reservoir as we skirted around it.
We came out of the area after a long walk and the plan was to go on to Gangsa Trail. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up in mysterious forbidden Woodcutters Trail. Too lazy to retract so we decided to risk a fine and continue on. Since Nparks decided to enforce the ban there, the forest has moved swiftly to reclaim the trails. The overhanging branches are now closer, the ground muddier and plant more dense. My hydration bag got hooked on the branches twice. Luckily it was the branches and not something from the current 7th month!
We ended up at Upp Peirce reservoir from where we jog slowly to MacRitchie Reservoir where we had a long pit stop. All was still fine and dandy until we resume our run. Five minutes into the run, I started to get breathless. It was like I was doing an interval sprint. The sidekick blamed it on the can of coke which I gulped down at MacRitchie. Whatever it is, that was it. I was down and out. We walked the next 15km back to Ngee Ann.
One week later, we are back. This time we started at 6am when it was still dark in the forest. This being the 7th month, we were startled out of our skin when right smack in the middle of MacRitchie and in pitch darkness, we heard a horrifying Chinese song. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be one of those idiotic uncle singing at the top of his voice in the stillness of the morning!
From MacRitchie we made our way to Bukit Timah. It was the first time we were running in the dark. We did not bring our headlamp but luckily the sidekick had a torch. We made our way slowly until the Ranger Station when it became bright enough  to see without the torch. From Bukit Timah, we went to the top of the hill before going down to Dairy Farm and going to Mandai Road. 
By then the Sun was out in its full glory  and I was feeling tired. At Mandai, we were already 3.5 hours into our  run but had barely covered 20km. Another 20km to go! By then I was feeling tired. Took a gel and we turned back. But it was too hot and we were soon reduced to walking the  entire length of Gangsa. We consoled ourselves that we have to practice our walking so there was no rush.
At Chestnut, I ran into trouble again and developed a coughing fit. The sidekick decided then to walk all the way back. Sighed… another long long walk. But at least we now know it is not the coke.
This is me, too tired to walk up the hill at Rifle Range.
Picture by the sidekick
We walked and crawled all the way back to MacRitchie. It has been more than 7 hours since we started. Is this good enough training for TMBT? Back to prayer!

Woodcutter Trail no more?

Recently I posted a trail run at the infamous Woodcutter Trail. Subsequently I got a message from somebody who tipped me off that the Nparks had started to clamp down on “illegal” entry into the reserve where the Woodcutter Trails is located. 
How true was the above? A quick dug by another friend soon confirmed the worst fear. Indeed Nparks had clamped down on entry into the trails, put up new signages and even fined bikers! Some bikers even had a dialogue with Nparks, Nature Society and other related parties to break the impasse but it seems like it was no good. 
So Woodcutter and even Butterfly and Scorpion Trail is now out of bound to everybody. After so many years, why did Nparks suddenly decided to enforce the “rules”?  To me it was deja-vu all over again.   
A few years ago, runners could run from MacRitchie Reservoir to Upper Peirce Reservoir via what was known as Killer Hill and the SICC golf course. Then one day runners were disallowed ostensibly for their own “safety”. It was a big shock to everybody since nobody had been injured by golf balls in the many years that they have been running that route. But what caused the closure was a group of gangster had went there and beaten up some golfers which prompted the SICC to take the action to close off the access. My post about this here.
So is it the same case with Woodcutters and the rest? Apparently, the real reason was that somebody who went there posted a photo of the helicopter landing site and that incurred the wrath of the SAF who pressured Nparks to keep bikers and hikers and runners out. Sighed!
So it all boils down to responsible usage of the facilities and not to abuse it. On my runs in the trails, I often see discarded isotonic drink bottles and gel packaging. These are items that must have been dumped by runners, hikers and bikers. Then there are damaged trails where bikers forced their way through to carve out “new routes”. All of us as users of these facilities should and must learn to use the place responsibly and be accountable for our actions. If we do not collectively do this, we will soon find ourselves without a trail to run. Already there are many complaints from the public about the overcrowding at MacRitchie Reservoir and how runners are forcing hikers off the trail. If we don’t moderate our behaviour, one day we may even find runners ban from MacRitchie as well. Let’s hope that day will not happen!

Never Stop Exploring – Beyond Woodcutter

Last year one of the highlight of the TNF Trail Run series was the Woodcutter Trail, a place which has reached mystical reputation for its swamp and easy to get lost trails. I ran there once but failed to make it for the official run. Read the account by Brokenrunner here. Since then, none of us has been back there until last week when we finally decided to hit the trails again.
We started at the usual place from Upp Peirce and went in. All was fine and dainty. Except for giant mud pool that keeps wanting to eat our shoes, everything else was exactly the same and looks unchanged. The fallen trees were still there. The overhanging vines, the protruding branches, the web of roots everything that nature can throw at us humans to stop us from desecrating their grounds. But what is a few muddy shoes, some broken skins compared to the joy of hitting the trails? Anyway, we reached where we wanted to go, did our u-turn to go back and that’s where we got itchy and decided to detour from the known path.
Our first detour brought us up this narrow path to a place with a big red sign warning of helicopters maneuvering and to keep out, Did not stop us? Of course not, we went right in hoping to catch a glimpse of helicopters but alas all we got was a big open field.
So the helicopter place is not very happening. We went off in double quick time and continued our way until we came to another fork. We took the one less travelled and went up and up cutting our legs numerous times on the sharp leaves of some ferns on the narrow trail. For our blood and sweat, we reached another big open field. Our GPS showed that we were now nearer to Seletar than Peirce but how to go down? A quick look around the place didn’t show any other path other than the one we can up on. Reluctantly, we made our way back swearing to come back with more experts to figure out the route.
Fast foward one week later and we are back! This time determined to unravel the exit point from the big open ground and surmising that it could be from Seletar, we decided to start our exploration there or at this spot to be precise.
See the red sign there? Did that stop us again? Of course not, in we go with 2 new members but unfortunately after bashing through thick vegetation for 800 metres and taking almost half an hour for that, we decided to give up and retract our steps to fight run another day! What a downer!
So anyway, to the trail runners who know how to run from Seletar to Peirce, this is an appeal – can help help a bit and show us the way? Email me or pm me on FB, SMS, Whats App, Viber, ……..(if you know me personally. Arigato Dozamasu!

TNF Trail Run Series #6 Woodcutter’s Trail

Since I couldn’t run, RSM Jancy or Brokie as she is more famously known has contributed the field report for the final TNF Trail Run Series at the infamous Woodcutter’s Trail. Below is her account of the run with photographs from fellow run leaders, John and Kelly.
Talks about the much anticipated Woodcutter Trail (WCT) Run started on Friday afternoon when parts of the island started to rain.   Those who run trails often enough will know why we the TNF Run Leaders were lamenting.   Slippery…. Mud…. Wet… wash shoes…. Hahahaha….. But aren’t all these what trail running is made up of?

Chris, Molly, Kelly and I arrived in one car at the Upper Peirce Reservoir Car Park  slightly after 7am.  😛  We were late…. 😛   The runners were already interacting among themselves.   Some tying their shoe-laces, some doing final adjustment to their hydration bags, many bantering….  After Chris gave a snappy briefing in his happening new shoe, off the merry runners went.  

We trotted for about 500m, I think, before we came to the entrance of the WCT.   There wasn’t a prominent sign stating that.  Someone who knows the way has to show.  This is precisely what we run leaders were there for.    To show the way…..

We went over a mini orangey yellow mud ridge and came to a rusty green barricade.  What barricade?  Nothing can stop us!  Some went over the barricade while some went around it on the right and down the slope.  After this, it was a long windy, undulating and laden-with-obstacles trail.  

Obstacle #1 : Pools of muddy water.  (Milo Peng?)   

Those who didn’t want to be slowed down will just bash through or leap over.   For me, I wouldn’t want to find out how deep the pools were.  I avoided them all by slowing down to a walk and looking for the driest path around them.  Heh….

Obstacle #2 : Swamps of mud.  (Chocolate Fudge?)

This one I don’t know how the rest did it but I did the same as what I did for #1.   This is to minimize the effort required to wash my TNF Trail Shoes.

Obstacle #3 :  Streams

There were 3 to cross.   There were logs placed across them so the runners can avoid wetting their shoes.  But on the return leg, these streams seemed to have swelled and I got my shoes wet.  Sigh….  I must be damn exhausted by then because I found it a challenge to balance on these logs and needed the help of a fellow runner behind me.  Thanks, Sim!

Obstacle #4 :  Fallen trees

There were about 3-4 of them which fell cross the narrow path.  They were there a week ago when we did a recce run.   

Obstacle #5 : Overhanging branches and Thorny vines

Must be the weight of the rain on the leaves and branches.  There were more low-hanging branches.  These branches would be swung back by the front runners and they smacked right into the faces of those behind.  Don’t just grab anything you see for support in the woods.  There were thorny vines and one would be very sorry to hold onto one for support by mistake.  I think Suan learnt it the hard way.  As for me, I think I ran into one such vine.  The thorn broke off and was embedded in the middle of my thigh.   The wound kept bleeding until I stopped running to remove the thorn.  Gosh!  What a thorn in the flesh!

I am very very bad at running up hills.  My run reduced to a jog and then to a walk every time I came to an up slope.  I really admire those who could sprint up hills…..Boy!  How did they do it?  Doesn’t gravity act on them?

Our first Kodak moment was at this place we called The Four Stones.  Without fail, the task of organizing the group for the shoot was thrusted upon me.  Archer Wee tagged me in this shot and he called me RSM.   Paiseh….   😛

After this, Terence Lim led the way again.  But not long later, he realized it was the wrong way.  We only ran wrongly for a very short distance but when we turned back, the whole party behind us was already on the right track.  Henry Han, our guest run leader, was leading the right way.   I wonder how Terence knew that he was wrong.   Everything in the forest looked the same.  Hm…. Must be the markers we made a week ago.  Our markers were the plastic red-white tapes we tied on the branches at strategic points.  

Soon we were out of the WCT and made our way to the vegetable plots of Zhenghua and the Gangsa Trail.  We brought the runners into an unmarked trail which we discovered in one of our discovery runs.  This trail is called the Fisherman’s Trail (FT).  

Here in the FT, something happened.  A runner called Triple, his nickname in,  suddenly yelled out loud and threw his 2 bottles of water away.  He stopped and pulled his sock down.  Something bit through his sock.  It must be very painful.   I left him to check out his bite and led the runners on.  

When I emerged from the FT, no runners were insight.  I decided to wait at the exit in case the runners behind me didn’t know which way to turn.  Honestly, I needed a break.  Hahaha…. I took this opportunity to catch my breathe.  

Soon, a few runners arrived and they told me something happened back in the trail.  Amy was bitten by something just below her glute.  That something bit through her Adidas tights.  Hm… it must be the same something that bit Triple.  

To buy more time for resting, I told the runners about our friend Francis who was bitten by something.  This something caused him high fever and a swollen leg and a few days in the hospital bed because of blood infection.  I later also told Amy and Triple about it so that they can monitor any not-so-good development.

The whole group then gathered at a little bridge.  We were going to enter the WCT again and the entrance is an obscure one.  It was mainly an uphill course and very soon we came to a flat grassy opening which was the second spot for a picture. We called it the S.  Why?  Because the route traces the letter S.  

Here, our Ultramarathon Queen, Kelly Lim, displayed her photographic skill and the soldier in her.    For the former, she managed to capture all of us… ALL, in one frame and we were all standing in a line.  For the latter, er… I jokingly told her to go into the thick undergrowth to take pictures for us and she did just that!  She stoically trudged into it and took beautiful pictures for us.  Hm… Didn’t know she took me so seriously and obeyed what I said.  😛

After this, it was all the way back to where we started.    Some runners picked up pace and ran all the way.  I decided to take it easy and led whoever was willing to run my pace….. which was snail-pace.  Hahaha….  I was delighted when I spotted the rusty green barricade and called out to Suan who was a short distance behind me.  She, too, was glad to be out of the woods and seeing the sun again.    You see, 95% of the time, we were in the trail under the canopy of the forest.

I would like to mention one runner.  He is Roger.   When I met him 3km into the trail, he had already sprained his ankle.  I told him he could turn back if he wanted to and that if he went further, he would have a longer distance to run back.   He decided to carry on running.  I ran behind him for a while.  Though injured, he still turned back to look out for me a few times.  

Then we came to slippery slope and I witnessed Roger slipped.  OUCH!  Although it was not my ankle, I could feel the pain for him.  Aiyoooo……  But our brave Roger soldiered on.  He could still run faster than me, you know.  At The Four Stones where we took our first group picture, I gave him some heat rub.  

I didn’t see Roger anymore until 2-3km towards the end.  He was walking with his friend, Kok Leong.  I learnt that Roger sprained his ankle for the third time and this time he was beaten.  I must say I admire that die-die-also-must-complete-WCT spirit of his.   I do hope his ankle is feeling better now.

Back at the car park, Karen and Carey, as well as Christopher, welcomed us back with Gu gels, sports wash and sng bao.   Today I brought mangoes.  Ooh la la…. Icy cold mangoes taste so damn good after a run.   The last to return were Roger and Kok Leong.  Luckily there were still some mangoes and sng bao for them.  

Trail running is made of these : friends, mud, sweat, laughter and sng bao…..
With this run, we conclude the first ever North Face Trail Run Series, an initiative by The North Face Singapore. On behalf of my fellow run leaders; Francis, Terence, Shu Ming, John, Alvin, Kelly, Jancy, Molly) we would like to thank TNF Singapore especially Karen and Carey, and all participants for their support. Many thanks also to the Too family led by Henry Han for helping us with the route planning and showing us some of the routes. We hope those who have participated have enjoyed the trails and have as much fun as as we had in bringing this run to you. We also hope that through this series of runs, we have managed to bring the beauty and majesty of nature that can be found in this tiny little red dot we called home to everybody. Once again, many thanks to everybody for allowing us the privilege of leading you in the runs and for the friendship and camaraderie.

Additional field report by Kelly here. More photographs on FB of Kelly and John

Never Stop Exploring -TNF Trail Run #6 Preview

The mysterious Woodcutter’s Trail. Much has been said about this trail. Where is the exact location? How to get in? From which end and how not to end up in the swamp or the helipad? No such problem for us as we prepared for the final TNF run in the series. We got the service of a “tour guide” and we ran, very smoothly I must said from one end to another and back again.

But was the route as difficult to run as it was made out to be by those who have went there before? Certainly, one of the most difficult thing I find about the place was that we were running mainly in heavily forested area along a small trail passable most of the time to a single person. Everywhere looks alike and one can easily get lost if one take a wrong turn. Furthermore, the ground was full of hidden and “visible” dangers. There were rocky paths, leave strewed paths that cover roots, stumps and what not’s that could easily trip an unsuspecting runner. Looking at the ground is not enough, there were many fallen branches, trees, vines hanging every which way waiting for the poor runner to run smack into it. Then there were some water crossings – small little streams with fishes which if one is not careful, could mean a nice little bath. Enough said, a picture is worth a thousand words and here are some pictures of what participants in the next TNF run at Woodcutters Trail can expect.

Most  of the trails were in densely forested area

Everywhere looks alike
Finally out of the woods!

Back into the dark forest

A path that is totally overrun by roots. No running here for sure!
A fallen tree blocking the whole path. Climb over or crawl under?

What to make of this?
Notice the broken off stumps dangling in the middle!

A vine hanging right across the path. No problems?
Don’t be so sure. Check out the thorns!

Another fallen tree. Mind the head!
“River” crossing! Lucky got rope to help walk across the log
No rope for this one. Just balance carefully lah!
Forgot to add. A lot of upslopes

When will this forest end?
Nope more of the same!
A stream, a brook or just a big pool of water?

More upslope!

More fallen tree!
More river crossing!
More forest!

Finally out of the woods! Hurray
Awww we back in there:(