Force of Nature Ultra was held on 7 July 2018, a Saturday that was not too hot or too wet. The trail race consisted of 3 distance categories: 12km, 23km and 64 km. Not yet an ultra-runner, I decided to sign up for 23km. I’ve never done trail running that’s more than 15km long, so I thought 23km was a distance that could truly test my limit.
The race pack collection was held a week before the race at Marina Square. When I went there to collect on Sunday, there was no queue at all. We were done in about 5 minutes. Inside the bag were a race guide, race bib, event tee, GU energy chew, crackers and some brochures.
Getting to the race
The 23km race was scheduled to be flagged off at 7:10 a.m. from MOE Adventure Centre at Dairy Farm. My running partner and I took the Downtown Line to Hillview MRT and managed to arrive at race venue just in time for the flag off.
When we reached the venue, we quickly filled our hydration bag and bottle with mineral water, then grabbed chocolate cookies in case we need to refuel along the run.
The start pen was actually small compared to most road races, but it was not a big deal. We were filled with excitement as we haven’t run on trails for quite some time, and because we have never run at Dairy Farm before.
After a bottleneck at the beginning of the race, just a few metres after the start line, we were off to tackle plenty of hills. I didn’t love the hills, but I was glad they were present at the beginning of the race, not at the end of it. The hills actually warmed up for my legs, so I wouldn’t complain.
After the hills were behind us, we finally caught a slight glimpse of civilisation: HDB flats. Not too long afterwards, we entered the forest again. This time, we were about to meet a huge challenge: a stretch of mud.
I hate mud, but mud is inevitable in almost every trail race. I slowed down and tried my best to manoeuvre to avoid stepping into the mud. Thanks to my tough The North Face Ultra Vertical shoes, my feet stayed dry even though I was about an inch into the mud.
There wasn’t a single distance marker along the route, so I didn’t know how far I’ve run. However, there were numerous direction signages that help runners to stay on the correct path.
There were about three hydration stations along the 23km route which provided not only water but also snacks, such as peanuts, chocolate cookies and bananas. Since I used a 2.5L hydration bag, I found the interval of the stations to be sufficient. I needed to refill my hydration bag just once throughout the entire race.
Somewhere in the middle of the race, two girls approached me and asked whether I could spare them some water while showing me their empty bottle. I had carried more than enough water for my own consumption, so I immediately agreed. During the latter part of the race, when the girls overtook me, they cheered on me. That was a pleasant surprise I didn’t expect at all.
The second half of the race took place in MacRitchie Reservoir, my usual trails training ground. By the time I reached MacRitchie, I was already exhausted. I ate snacks, hydrate myself, tried to enjoy the moment and didn’t want to push myself too hard. Whenever there’s downward slope, I would run. Whenever there’s upward slope, I’d walk. At one point, I felt so tired. I wanted so much to give up and just walk leisurely.
After what felt like forever, I finally came out of the trail and reached Mushroom Café. I thought the finish line was finally here. I could see the finish line. But, an uncle told me, “The finish line is 3km from here!” I didn’t believe him until I found myself running along Lornie Road.
The final stretch along Lornie Road was brutal. It was almost 11 a.m. and the weather was getting hotter. The temptation to give up and walk slowly was so hard to resist. I forced myself to run, no matter how slowly. I repeated a mantra that my friend who runs ultra said, “It’s all in the mind.” I pressed and pressed until I finally reached the finish line.
At the finish line, I posed for the photographer and received my medal before hiding under a shelter to hydrate. I took an ice cube and put it over my head to cool myself down before gulping down the isotonic drinks. My running partner, who had just finished the massage, told me it was a great massage.
I took a moment to catch my breath and to process what has just happened. I have just done a 23km trail run but it felt like I’ve completed a 32km road run. Boy, it was a good run.