Safari Zoo 6K Fun Run (2013): Belated Race Report

This is actually a report from the Safari Zoo Run, back on Feb. 17. Better late than never? Since the Commenters on my most recent race report (URun 2013) indicated that they wanted to hear about everything in a race, from logistics and organization, to port-a-potty reviews and hydration options, to how I felt during every mile of the race…there will be lots of details here.  Enjoy!  [Or click away now, if you prefer.  I’ll never really know…]

The back of the race shirt.

The back of the race shirt. Look closely at the “O”s. Cool, huh?

This race is held annually at the Singapore Zoo, and is dedicated the zoo’s beloved orangutan (proper pronunciation: orang-utan), Ah Meng.  She had been smuggled into Singapore from Indonesia, and in 1971 was rescued by a veterinarian and turned over to the zoo.  She gained huge popularity there, and became the zoo’s “poster child”, starring in promotional materials and meeting dignitaries, until her death in 2008.  The race is in her memory, and serves as a fundraiser for the Singapore Zoo (this year, it raised over $100,000 SGD).

The options for this race were a Competitive 12K Run or a 6K Fun Run.  When we signed up in December, I didn’t fully understand the difference.  Mostly, I just wanted a chance to check out the race, and drag KMN to the zoo.  [Race entry was $46 SGD, and included zoo admission on race day ($22 SGD value).  Whoo!]  We signed up for the 6K Fun Run.  The advantage was that the Fun Run started at 10 AM (compared to the 7AM start for the 12K).  Sweet!  The disadvantage was that the Fun Run was not officially timed.  No worries – that’s what a Garmin is for, anyway!

Thanks to the timing of Chinese New Year, packet pick-up was fully 2 weeks before the race:

Shirt, hat, cereal.  CEREAL!!!!  Of course I was won over... :)

Shirt, hat, cereal. CEREAL!!!! Not shown: Small towel and reusable shopping bag.

KMN also scooped a pair of his favorite Brooks sneakers at the mini-expo – a previous season’s style that were on sale.  Sneakers are expensive out here, so this was a great deal.  Whoot!

Now, here is my Public Service Announcement for anyone going to a race packet pick-up at Velocity (we’ve already done two there): Avoid going mid- to late-afternoon on Saturday, or be prepared to wait.  This is when the line seems to back-up the longest.  Unfortunately, the packet pick-up tables are squeezed into the center of the mall, and there really isn’t enough space for volunteers to work.  They do the best they can, and keep the line moving, but lots of participants + not much space for vollies to move around, get packets, etc. = some waiting time.  Plan ahead, leave yourself enough time, and go early, late, or on Sunday – which generally seems to be the less busy day.

There was also a bit of a hubbub about the substitution of a small towel in place of a stuffed animal in the packets.  I can’t verify what was promised, and frankly…I don’t care.  I’ve been over this before, but I’ll say it again: When I sign up for a race, I figure most of the money is going to race production.  Goodies are (mostly) a bonus – for me. I know Singaporeans feel otherwise, and lots of people made a stink and felt “gypped” without the stuffed animal.  That’s their prerogative, but I’m going to be a little judgmental here: Get over it, folks.  If you really signed up for the stuffed toy…it would’ve been cheaper just to buy the toy.  You’re still getting shirt, hat, towel, cereal, and zoo entry.  OH…and a race, too. Sheesh. *steps off soapbox*

So, when race morning rolled around, we reveled in our 10 AM start time by sleeping in a bit, then donned our race shirts (I know, I just made a point about how I don’t wear race shirts for races over 5K.  But this was 6K. And a fun run. So I did it.), and hopped on a bus to the zoo:

We're goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too! We're goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too! We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

The zoo is a bit out of the city (duh), so there’s only one bus route that actually runs there.  While waiting for our transfer, I found this guy:

I chose to view this as a good omen.

He was trying to get to Sentosa for a beach day. I helped explain the bus schedules to him.

We hopped on the second bus, and I couldn’t help but crack up.  This was a regular city bus, but it was full of race participants, and race participants only – a sea of red Safari Run shirts.  We were in good company! Also?  Three cheers for public transport.  I think the parking situation for the 6K runners was a bit hairy – because many of the 12K runners were still at the zoo, and some of the parking lot was closed for the race rally, parking was pretty limited.  People were being forced to park along the road, over a mile from the start, and walk in.  The bus got caught in this traffic for a short time, but thankfully our driver made his way through it, and we were delivered steps away from the baggage drop ~40 minutes before the start.

We checked our bags (there was NO line), scoped out the scene, found the finish line, cheered for a Kid’s Race that was happening between the 12K and 6K, then made our way to the port-a-potties.  I, for once, didn’t have to go. KMN did, but when I asked him for the p-a-p report, the entirety of his report was: *shrug* “Fine, I guess.”  Sorry, folks. I’ll be sure to have a look for myself next time.

By this time, lots of people had already filled the Starting Chute.  We got very lucky, and were snuck in near the front by a generous volunteer, who opened the gate a smidge.  We squeeeeezed in – and trust me, it was cozy.  We were thankful that the morning was overcast – a sunny 10 AM start could be a very warm race. But the cloud-cover helped a lot, as did the surrounding forest.  I’d say temps at the start were probably 75°F/24°C, plus humidity.

Question: Why do race organizers think it’s a good idea to get a few people (usually from a local gym) on stage to do a “warm up” before the race???  [This is not Singapore-specific, by the way. I just think it’s stupid.]

1. Doing anything but your “regular” warm-up before you race is pretty dumb.  HEY YEAH! Let me do all these things I don’t usually do before I run a big race. Duh.  Please see: Don’t do anything different on race day, in this post.

2. Even if I wanted to follow your moves, I have approximately no space.  My elbow would be in my husband’s face, my foot in the groin of the fellow behind me, if I hop I’ll probably land on someone else’s foot, and if I bend over…yep, no way.

We did do a wave, though, from the Start Line to the back.  That was kinda fun, until it died. And then, we were off!  It took us about 90 seconds to actually cross the Start Line, and that’s when I started my Garmin.

My goal for the race (remember, this run actually preceded this past weekend’s 10K) was to get a feel for my speed.  I’ve been mostly base-building my mileage, without much speedwork, so I really wasn’t sure what my aerobic system – and my IT band – would think of a faster pace.  This race was a test.  I was hoping to hold my pace under 8 min/miles, and see what happened.

The first half-mile ran through the parking lot, and had several tight turns.  With so many runners packed together, this was tricky to navigate.  The route was bounded by temporary metal gates (whose legs actually stuck into the path, not such a wise idea from a safety perspective), and we weaved our way through the masses.  No one had lined up in any kind of order, so we were dodging around walkers, kids, and parents walking backwards trying to take pictures of their kids (there was a parent/child team option).  I’ll admit, I found this totally aggravating.  It’s totally normal in the US, too – but for goodness’ sake…if you plan on walking, start at the back.  I told myself to relax, and to take whatever the race gave – if it ended up being a slow jaunt through the parks, so be it.

But after about half a mile, we entered the Night Safari, through the entry turnstiles and onto the tram path – and I finally understood why we had such a long, windy jaunt through the parking lot: We had to separate a bit before hitting the turnstile, or else there would’ve been a major back-up.  I’m sure the route-planners did their best, but the turnstiles seem like a pretty silly inclusion on a race route, though.  KMN and I have been to the Night Safari several times – but always at night (obviously), and never walking on the tram paths (normally prohibited).

The tram path widened, and by that time I was closer to the front of the pack, so running was slightly easier. Running past all the animals was pretty neat – although they didn’t always agree.  This is probably the only time in my life that I had the opportunity to see an elephant throw poop at a race participant (true story).  We all had a good chuckle, and ran on.

Finally, between three-quarters of a mile and a mile into the race, magic happened, and everything opened up.  The feeling was so strange – peoplepeoplepeople…then…no one.  I felt like I was completely on my own. I cruised up some mild but persistent inclines and headed out of Night Safari and into the Zoo via some sneaky side path at just about 1.5 miles.  The Zoo section was a bit flatter, and still totally devoid of runners.

KMN, mid-race.  He claims he's trying to give the photographer the "OK" sign. ??  Photo Credit: Running Shots

KMN, mid-race. He claims he’s trying to give the photographer the “OK” sign. ?? Photo Credit: Running Shots

The Zoo must have already opened for the day, because there were actually some visitors wandering about!  This could have been annoying – and may have gotten tricky as a steadier flow of runners came through – but for me, it was fine.  Although I did feel like people were looking at me, “What is that white girl doing, running like crazy through here? Doesn’t she want to see the animals??” No, not really – I actually wanted to salvage my harder effort run.  Once things had opened up, I realized I could pick up my pace, and clipped off the next 2 miles pretty tidily.  I was happy to see paces under 8 min/mile coming up on my watch, and I kept my effort hard and steady, but not all-out.

6 Running Shots Safari Run Holly

I never really bought into that whole “the camera adds 10 lbs” thing…but this is a pretty unflattering photo. Also? I need a haircut. Photo Credit: Running Shots

I was sticking pretty well to my plan: Not running full-out, but running hard enough to get a workout.  I stopped paying any attention to the animals – since we were planning to come back to the zoo at a more leisurely pace anyway – and focused on form and keeping my turnover high.  When I got to the Pygmy Hippos, I knew (from my study of the map) that I was almost finished.  I pushed a bit harder, rounded a few bends, and strained to hear the finish line that I knew had to be coming.  Still nothing.

I'm not big on Finsher's Medals - but this one IS pretty cute.

I’m not big on Finisher’s Medals – but these guys ARE pretty cute!

Turn, turn, turn…very steep (short, but steep) climb – kudos to the course designer for that one – and then whoops, there it was!  Just like that, I was across the Finish Line.  Ellen B., I missed hearing you on the microphone!!  [I whispered to myself “You are a Pinnacle of Power!”, though, just for good measure.  <–Fleet Feet Rochester Folks, you know what I mean!]

I collected my Finsher’s Medal and some water.  KMN came through the Finish Line a few seconds later, and we spent five minutes wandering between the water table and the 100Plus (electrolyte drink) table, trying to rehydrate and cool down a bit.  We headed over to baggage claim (again, no line), then planted ourselves on the curb for some further cooling down.  And, of course, some post-race photos.

Overall, we enjoyed the race experience – it’s not every day you get to run through a zoo!  The initial congestion was annoying, but once we got past that, the course was really open and easy to run and follow.  I might suggest that the organizers encourage the parent/child teams, and walkers, to start at the back next time, though.  This was definitely a kid-friendly event, with special kid’s races, snacks, entertainment, etc.  I do appreciate a running event for all ages!!

As far as organization, everything seemed to be pretty smooth, except perhaps the parking situation (which we avoided).  Signs were clear, baggage drop was easy, and port-a-potty lines were short.  There were plenty of volunteers along the course, and 3 or 4 hydration points as well.  The 12K course is actually just a double-loop of the 6K course – I’m not sure it would be as much fun the second time around, though.  Overall, we had a good time, and it was a great bargain, since we used our bibs for admission to the zoo for the rest of the day (read about our day at the zoo in this post).

As far as a running event…I would recommend it 100% if you have kids.  I’d also recommend it if you want to run through a neat location, and spend a day at the zoo.  I also like the fact that it’s a fundraiser (many running events in Singapore aren’t).  Personally, I can’t say this race is an absolute guarantee for me next year – especially if it’s held back-to-back with the URun race again – but if I’m looking for a fun run, and another chance for a zoo visit, I’d certainly consider it!

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my final splits and saw this:

Mile 1: 9:14 min/ mile
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:31
Final 0.55 Miles: 7:27

I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one, and take the liberty to average the last 2.55 miles and call that my 5K race pace.  Since I wasn’t racing all out, I’m going to assume I had another half mile at this pace left in me.  Some may call this cheating, but it’s the best way I can figure to get an approximate 5K pace estimate, for my current fitness. [The congestion of the first mile makes that pace very unrepresentative of what I can actually run.] This works out to an Approximate Average Pace of 7:32 min/mile.

Given that I haven’t been doing much (any) speed work, I’m actually pretty happy with this number. It’s more than a minute per mile off my PR pace, but that’s OK.  I’m a patient girl.  And next weekend, I’ll have a shot at an actual 5K race at the Venus Run 2013.  And after 3 races in Singapore, I may finally be learning something.  Note to Self: From now on, be pushier.  Start closer to the front.  Self: Roger that.

We’ll see what happens next weekend!!

Am I the only one who gets baffled/annoyed by “organized” pre-race warm-ups?

Have you ever raced in/through a really unusual place (like a zoo)?

16 thoughts on “Safari Zoo 6K Fun Run (2013): Belated Race Report

  1. Elena

    SWEET PHASMID!!!!

    Also, that pic of KMN is adorable.

    Did you hang out at the zoo afterwards?

    Yeah I was taken aback at the pre-race warm-up the other day (because look at me, now I’m an expert), but I was just like, “Sorry everybody, I, like, *have my own coach* or whatever, so yeah, like, I’m just gonna do what she says, okayyyy? Like, good luck with your cute little warm-up thing.” Except I didn’t say that. Out loud, at least.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Yep. The report on the zoo is coming. 🙂

      Hahaha. I love you inner monologue. I didn’t even remember to warn you about this, and you STILL DID THE RIGHT THING.

      And OH! She likes my phasmid!! *blushes*

      Reply
  2. Jean

    Ummm…. I would prefer a towel over a stuffed animal any day. Even a cute orangutan stuffed animal. Plus, those are really nice race shirts! AND the medal really is adorable.

    This could just be an urban legend, but I’ve heard the “OK” sign means “asshole” in sign language. Something to think about. And you appear to be dropping a couple “hang loose” signs in your own picture. The couple who makes hand gestures together, stays together…. ? (FYI, this is my take on that one saying and not a comment on your marriage 😉 )

    What a speedster! The only time I see 7:xx’s is when my Garmin goes crazy.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Hahaha! I didn’t even notice my hang loose signs. Hmmm…maybe so!

      One thing he and I DRAMATICALLY disagree on, though? Peace signs. He insists on making them, instead of just smiling prettily for a photo. Drives. Me. BANANAS.

      And to go along with the double meaning of an OK sign, I’ve been told that giving the peace signs backwards (although I can never remember which was is genuinely “backwards”) also means something bad. From now on, I think I’ll play it safe and keep my hand (signs) to myself….

      Reply
      1. Jules

        Lol! I tend to automatically do peace signs too, if someone asks me to pose for a photo unexpectedly! 😛 I don’t know what it is with Asians and peace signs poses hahaha.

        Reply
  3. Cecilia @MommiesRUn

    Awesome recap! I love your medal 🙂 Those animals are too cute. I think it’s crazy when people blow a gasket over race swag. Just deal with what they GAVE you. You payed to race so race. We have a race called Zoom through the Zoo and I can’t wait to do it this year!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Zoom through the Zoo sounds a lot like this. Just watch out for the poop-throwing elephants! 😉 Hope the foot will be healed up by then…

      Reply
      1. Jules

        Ufff, reading that made for a grim picture in my head. Hot, sweaty and covered in poop? Not pretty. Glad you enjoyed the run though, and also, cute medals!

        Reply
  4. Pingback: A Day At The Singapore Zoo! | Run With Holly

  5. Paul

    Hi Holly. Was waiting for your race report on this run 🙂

    1) About the towel vs plush toy issue. This is what happened. When the race was first opened for registration, the plush toy was stated as part of the race pack for the adult. It was sometime later after registration had opened and many had registered (including myself) where it was change. The push toy is now for kids and the adult has a towel instead of the toy. So many of us were upset at the abrupt change.

    And no, I dun think we are making a fuss and that we are hard up for the push toy. Yes of cos we can but it in the store but that’s not the pt. Basically it boils down to the race organiser not delivering on its promises. (I have the screen caps to show the difference but I dun think that’s the pt). Of course what a lot of people forget is that there were things included in the race pack that was *not* promised: box of Fitness Honey & Almond, the muesli bar and the spa voucher and the shoe discount. So while I was not happy about the substitution, it didn’t really upset me too much.I suspect this is the case for most runners. It always the ‘few minority’ that end up making the most noise, right?

    2) Race Pack collection on Sat. I read from many runners that this was quite possibly the worst race pack collection ever. Some waited for nearly 3 hour. How long did you queue? There was a couple of issues that contributed to the delay: i) the change in the race pack mean a lot of people were arguing with the volunteers about their entitlement; ii) allowing the choosing of the plush toys for the kids run; iii) collection for the whole family takes longer than collecting just for yourself.

    I’ve basically gave up on race pack collection on Sat after a particularly terrible experience last yr (the 100plus Passion Run). So now I always collect my race pack on Sunday morning (before noon). The collection on Sunday was probably better. The queue was long but I waited for less than 20mins for my race pack.

    3) The isotoinc drink was not 100+. It was H20 Isotonic drink by a local drink manufacturer. http://www.yeos.com.sg/h-two-o/original/ You mean you can’t taste the difference? I dun know if I’ve been weaned on a diet of 100+ but h20 isotonic just dun cut it for me. *blah*

    4) You were probably lucky that you were semi-racing so you probably finish ahead of many runners. I heard they run out of 6K medals for the slower runners/walkers. Imagine that! Absolutely ridiculous!

    There are some who actually choose the 6K over the 12K because the medal design is nicer! Most of us who run the 12K dun understand why the 12K only has the tiger while the 12K has the giraffe and the elephant. Shouldn’t the race category has the nicest design?

    5) Pre-race warmup. I dun get it either. Frankly I’m surprised that I had not ‘cool down’ after standing in the starting pen for up to 30 mins before the flag off. How does one stayed reasonable ‘warm up’ in the starting pen while waiting for the flag off? Given the cramped situation, I can only managed a few little stretches (tipping on my toes/ mini calf stretch etc) to keep myself loose before the flag off.

    One things I always hope they *dun* play is that inane Gangnam style. I kid you not, I think its being played for every single race I entered last yr! Not everyone is into it. Personally I dun get it and I think its stupid. But that just me *shrug*

    6) As for my race, I did the 12K. It was a cool nice morning when we flagged off. I’m just glad the weather held cos it was raining persistently the week leading up to the race. In fact in 2011, the 12K was cancelled because of heavy rain. So you can imagined there were a lot of unhappy runners that year. That’s probably why they erected that big tentage so that runners can find shelter if it rained heavily again.

    This was the first time running through the night safari and zoo (its been decades since I visited the zoo!) so it was really refreshing. Past participants had warned about the nasty odour and exotic smell but I find it to be the case. I was surprised at the number of slopes to be negotiated for the route and it was challenging (I dun usually do any hillworks for my workout) and to do it twice was not fun. The distance was a little short from the advertised 12K (ard 11.5K by my best guesstimate) and my overall pace was ok. It was an excellent race for me.

    I did stay back for a visit to the zoo after my race (probably while you were running yr 6K) becos that was part of the reason I signed up for this run in the first place. Unfortunately the persistent shower from noon cut short the visit and I wasn’t able to visit all the animal exhibits. Would I run it again next year? Not so sure. It really is one of the most expensive race so if you are not planning to visit the zoo later, it may not be worth yr while. So it may depends on how much the race fee increase (yes inflation! fees have been increasing every yr), the schedules, my motivation etc.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      1 – You’re right. Compared with the total number of runners, there are only a very few people making noise about these things.

      2 – I do think Sunday is a better day; although 3 hours seems ridiculous. When we got on it, the line extended almost back to the MRT, and that took ~45-60 min. A line three times longer?!?! I find that a bit hard to imagine, frankly. I agree – letting kids choose the toy is a bad idea. But people arguing over substitution? See Point #1, to me – that’s just juvenile. Like I said in my report, Sunday is the day to go if you’re worried about a line. It seems that the Saturday afternoon back-up is a common problem – learn from your mistakes people!

      3 – I’m sure you’re correct. I don’t like any of them all that well…

      4 – Yep, I forgot to mention that in my report – as much as I’ve defended the organizers on many fronts, there isn’t an excuse for not having enough medals. They knew final numbers weeks in advance.

      5 – Hahaha! Yep…then it’s in my head the whole race, too!

      6 – People warned/complained about nasty odors and exotic smells?!? Again…I’m gonna go back to my “trail running, dirty feet” thing – it’s a ZOO. There are ANIMALS. Dear City-Dwellers: We cannot make the animal poop not stink, just because it offends your noses. Sorry, Paul…*eyeroll* here for those who complained. 🙂

      We brought ponchos and stayed through the rain (which started just as we began our actual zoo visit); we were surprised by how many others did, as well! And even after 5 hours at the zoo…we only saw about 2/3 of the exhibits. We’ll be back to the zoo – not 100% sure about the run, though!

      Reply
      1. Paul

        Ref #3 – Isotonic drink. Goodness if you dun like any of our local isotonic, you gonna have a tough time with local races in future. The main brands of isotonic in Spore are 100plus (my favourite), Pocari Sweat (not too bad), Aquarius Sportswater (a little too citrusly for my liking but ok) and h2o (the worst tasting of the lot).

        Ref #6 – nasty odors and exotic smells. Sorry if I did not make it clear but no they were not complaining and neither am I. I think I make a mistake in my initial comments as I meant to say ‘I find it *not* to be the case’. I think it falls into the category of ‘friendly warning’ rather than ‘hey organiser pls dun make the place stink so much’. My apologies for the misunderstanding.

        Reply
        1. Holly KN Post author

          I don’t like most of the US isotonic drinks, either – nothing specific against the local ones. To me, electrolyte drink is something I take out of necessity, not pleasure. So I do drink them, just don’t think they’re that nice. Gotta say, though, I don’t understand how people take 100plus while running….all that carbonation!!!!!! My stomach would say :(.

          I’ll also probably continue to “import” a private stash of Nuun, which I find to be one of the least gross drinks. However, no way to bring in enough to cover all my electrolyte needs. =) I’m also experimenting with salt tabs, which let me continue to drink plain water (my first preference), while still getting in some electrolytes.

          Reply
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