The North Face 50K: Pre-Race Thoughts

Well guys, this is it: Tomorrow is race day!  Fifty kilometers of sweaty goodness, starting practically on my doorstep!  [Thank goodness for that last bit, since I am scheduled to arrive around 4:30 AM for a 5:30 AM flag-off.]

I’ll be running in – as they annoyingly insist on calling it – The North Face 100, Asia Series.  It’s the emphasis on the 100 part that baffles and bothers me, to be honest.  All the goodies proclaim: TNF100!! See:

What is being proclaimed in the biggest font?

What is being proclaimed in the biggest font?

The race actually includes 100K, 50K, 25K, and 13K distances – but all of the goodies yell, “TNF100!!!”.  Truth be told, I will feel somewhat sheepish wearing this shirt, knowing that I didn’t actually complete the 100K that is proclaimed on the front.  Further, if I actually DID run the 100K, but found myself living on an island (small enough that you see all the race shirts around, all the time) of 13/25/50K runners wearing “100K” shirts, I’d probably be even MORE annoyed.  I feel like this diminishes both the accomplishments of the 100Kers (because all the shirts are touting “their” distance), and those running the other distances (since we won’t have shirts that accurately proclaim what we did).  I suppose this complaint sounds selfish, when put that way.  Believe me – it’s not that I need the shirt, but rather that the shirt I received is….well, inaccurate.

But let’s see what happens on race day.  While I may not agree with the organizers on this particularly marketing choice, I am still optimistic about a well-managed, safe, fun run tomorrow.  I’m keeping an open mind about the race, I promise.

So let’s talk a bit about the race! I’ve mentioned in the past that race organizers in Singapore don’t release the route until 1-2 weeks before the race.  This route was unveiled exactly one week ago.  However, in Singapore, there are only so many places that a trail race (especially a 50/100 kilometer one) can be held – and precedent from year-to-year provides clues on starting locations, etc.  So the details weren’t a total surprise to me, when I finally got to see a map.

We’ll be flagging off from McRitchie Reservoir, and the first 4 miles will be along the section of trail that I train on the most – a double-bonus, since we’ll be running this section in the dark!   We’ll then turn out toward Rifle Range Road, the Durian Loop Trail, and on to Bukit Timah.  This is exactly the route I ran a few weeks back on my last long training run – it’s a route I know well.  We will NOT be ascending the hill, however.

As the sun rises, we’ll run an approximately 8 kilometer stretch of the Green Corridor, encompassing most of the route of The Green Corridor Run, which KMN and I ran back in January.  This is a flat, easy-footing section, albeit totally exposed.  I hope to get there and through before the sun is too high in the sky.  From there, the route takes us onto some of The Dairy Farm trails (no dairy farm any more, that’s just what the area is called) – and again, I have run this section with one of the trail running groups out here.  This will bring me 24 kilometers into the race.

From there, I’ll enter “unknown territory” for a little while – 7 kilometers out to Mandai Road, then retracing 7 kilometers back again.  I’ve never run this section before, but as runners will be going in both directions at once, I assume it’s a relatively wide path; and as we’re in Singapore, I assume it will be pretty flat; and as I haven’t met any super-gnarly trails out here, I assume the footing will be OK.  Plus, once I reach the turn-around, I’ll be retracing sections that I’ve already run (once)!

We skip the Green Corridor section on the way back, diverting directly to Rifle Range Road.  At ~40 km, we’ll head back into McRitchie, and finish the rest of the Reservoir loop to the starting point, with one short out-and-back.  Incidentally, this is the same way I finished my tough 28 miler a few weeks back – I hope my mental training kicks in at this point, because I’m likely to have exhausted runner brain, and exhausted runner body!

I’m reluctant to make any pace goals for the race, for a few reasons: the dark start, the unknown trail section out to Mandai, and a bit of uncertainty about how my body will race for 5+ hours in the heat and humidity.

Thus, my race plan is based on “feel” and “attitude” than on Garmie.  I’ll start at an easy, steady pace and stay in my aerobic zone by feel (since checking the Garmin in the dark, on the trails, is a dangerous mistake I won’t make!).  If that means I have to walk hills (there are a few in the early part of the race), I will.  If I’m ascending without too much trouble, then I’ll stay at an easy run.  I hope to capitalize a bit on the flatter, smoother sections in the middle by picking up the pace a bit, then go into the “unknown” section with an open mind.  By the time I hit 40K, I’ll be solidly back in familiar territory, and hopefully muscle memory will carry me to the Finish Line!

I’m less nervous about this race than about Perth, probably because of the uncertainties of and flexibility demanded by long-distance trail running.  One small mistake isn’t usually a big deal, because there is a lot of race ahead.  And I don’t plan to obsess over timing and pace – the best way to an ultra finish line is slow and steady progress!

This morning's 4 mile shakeout run felt good!  Only have to do 8 times more tomorrow...

This morning’s 4 mile shakeout run felt good! Only have to do 8 times more than that tomorrow…

And now…there are less than 12 hours until flag-off.  [My start corresponds to 5:30 PM on Friday, Eastern Standard Time.]  At the moment, I’m feeling 70% excited, and 30% dread.  Dread will increase until flag-off tomorrow, and I’ll probably yell at KMN sometime in the wee hours of tomorrow morning (this is, unfortunately, my usual habit).  I will definitely question why I’m doing this.  I will wish I could go back to bed.  But, I’ll get myself to the starting line, the horn will sound, and all will be well. Excitement will take over, and I’ll start ticking off the miles.  Bring it!

But for now, I’m outta here.  I’ve got to start collecting my gear, and applying the Body Glide.

“TNF100”: Annoyance-worthy, or get over it?

How do you feel about racing on a “new-to-you” trail?

If you’d like to adopt a mile for cheering, let me know which one.  I promise to write it down (runner brain), and think of you during that mile.  
[Hey, 31 miles is a long time for me to hang out with just myself, so I’ll take whatever company I can get – even via good mojo being sent thousands of miles.]

36 thoughts on “The North Face 50K: Pre-Race Thoughts

  1. Mom

    I’ll take mile 27. Figure it will be tough by then, so I want to be sure you feel my love. Good luck and have a blast!

  2. Sarrilly

    We will take mile 29! 🙂 It’s just past the longest you’ve run (and blogged about, that is…correct me if I’m wrong!) We are so excited for and proud of you!! 🙂

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      These days, it seems that way.

      You got it, Doug. We’ll head into the finish together. This section is wide enough for 2 across, with good footing – just a few small hills. I’ll leave it to you to convince me that they are still small after 29 “pre-miles”! 🙂

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Awesome! We should be on that open stretch of old railroad bed at that point, so wear your sunglasses! You will be happy to know that it should be flat as the proverbial pancake. 🙂 Elevation, <160 meters above sea level. Make sure you slow down for me!!

  3. Jenny

    I’ll take mile 25!!! Woo!

    I’m running another 5k on Saturday, so I will be thinking of how awesomely far you run (which will help me make my lowly 3.1 bearable) 🙂

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      We are all running our own race – you have worked just as hard – if not hard – for your 5K as I have for my 50. We’re all in this together.

      You take mile 25 for me, and I’ll take Mile 2 for you (the middle mile of a 5K is always the hardest for me: not as easy as the beginning, and the end isn’t in sight yet!). Deal? Deal!

  4. outside time

    Good luck!!!!

    About the shirts: I have a half dozen shirts with “XYZ MARATHON” scrawled across, even though I ran the half. It’s kind of dumb and I do feel like a fraud wearing them, but I figured it’s done this way to save money on multiple printings. I’d rather feel a little weird than pay an additional $5-10 on an entry fee.

  5. erica

    i’ll take mile 1! you might still be feeling dread at that point and somebody needs to help you through that, too 🙂 i am also imagining a sleepy monkey audience cheering you on with little “TNF50” (because monkeys are smart and they will know what distance you are running) flags and soy lattes (because it’s early and they’re posh monkeys).

    i think i gave you plenty of mind material for the first mile. the monkeys and i will see you there!

    good luck!

  6. misszippy

    Best of luck to you, Holly! I know you’re going to have a great day, familiar or unfamiliar territory. Enjoy the new experience and then tell us all how it’s done.

    And thanks for the email the other day–sorry I haven’t responded (thus negating your kind words on that!). Crazy week!

  7. Logan @ Mountains and Miles

    I’ll take anything after mile 31…because if your race is anything like my 50k, it won’t end there =). But don’t worry, you’re strong enough to keep pushing through!

    I would be annoyed about the shirts, too…for both reasons 1) wouldn’t feel badass enough to boast the 100k (even though you are TOTALLY A BADASS for doing a 50k) and 2) if I had done the 100k, I’d be upset that other people were wearing it that hadn’t run that far. Oh well. Maybe they will be selling more specific shirts after?

    When times get tough, just think of all the reasons why you wanted to do this in the first place and just picture yourself crossing the finish line and what it will feel like! You are a rockstar and I can’t wait to hear all about it!!!!!

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Based on all the other distances, I think it’s gonna be pretty close to 31 (again, limited trails and everything is pretty well mapped out here) – but I’ll take your AND Dad’s company for mile 31+. I’ll need all the help I can get by that point!

  8. Hilary

    I’m going to be greedy and take the 5-8 mile section from MacRitchie to Bukit a Timah because I can visualize the route and it’s always been a favourite. Try not to trip over any monitor lizards.

  9. Grace

    I am incapable of thinking in miles but I will take the Green Corridor kms! (I’m afraid I’m a total wuss. It’s 5.30am and I was going to run out to the Rifle Range checkpoint and cheer/ pick litter, but there’s an alarming amount of thunder and general storminess…


    By the time you read this you’ll be done with the race. Be safe out there in the wet!

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      A muddy, sweaty unicorn. But OK. A unicorn. [Easier feeling to capture now that I’m clean and wearing a bright pink shirt. And calf sleeves. DEFINITELY unicorn material!]

      Also, as I said – you got Mile 26. 🙂

      1. Jean

        I guess I didn’t make it in time to wish you good luck! But by the sounds of it (I’m having a hard time deciphering your comment here), you finished!!!! So many congratulations!!

        1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

          Hahhaa – well, I posted most of them before I ran, but did comment to Grace afterward. I did finish. I am alive. I will post. Stay tuned!

          And you got a mile anyway. You’ll have to wait and see which one it was, though. 😉

  10. Debbie @ Deb Runs

    Since it’s 5 PM eastern time as I’m finally reading this, I doubt (and hope) you’re not checking your blog for comments. So since you won’t be thinking of me cheering you on at a certain mile, I’ll toast in your honor tonight when I meet a bunch of my old college buddies at one of our favorite bar hangouts.

    My thoughts are exactly the same as yours in regards to the 100K shirt and for all of the same reasons.

    Good luck and I can’t wait to read your recap!

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Recap coming soon – but my thought on the shirts (as I was running) was, “Well, everyone who actually RAN any of the races knows that we all got the same shirts. Anyone who DIDN’T run any of the races probably doesn’t really care. So…does that mean it’s OK?”

      Deep, mid-race thoughts…

  11. Meagan

    I agree with you on the swag being generic. You’ll just have to leave your bib on the shirt afterwards, so that anytime you wear the shirt, it’s clear you did the 50K 🙂 OR you could draw a big black 50K with a Sharpie marker. The Lynchburg 10 Miler I ran last weekend had a 10 mile run, 4 mile run, and 4 mile walk, and had separate shirts for each event. All of the shirts were technical, all said “Lynchburg 10 miler” and had the sponsors on the back, and then the front of the shirts were event-specific. I thought that was great.

    Since I am late reading this, I hope that you had a great race!! I bet it really helped that you were on familiar trails during the dark, early miles and back in familiar territory during the dark, end miles [clearly I don’t literally mean dark, I’m metaphorically speaking of the end miles being tough 🙂 ]

    Can’t wait to read the recap!

    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Yep – it’s not so much that the event is CALLED “TNF100” – I mean, they have to brand it as something, and the 100 mile race is clearly the “headliner”. But it would be nice to have the back or something indicate the distance. Ah, well – small stuff.

      When you read the first half of the race report, you’ll see that yes, familiar trails in the dark (and, as it turned out POURING RAIN) were a blessing. The metaphorically dark miles came…much later. You can read about THOSE in the second half of the report, tomorrow. 🙂

  12. Pingback: TNF100: The North Face 50K (2013): Race Report (Part 1) | Run With Holly

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