Sunday 23 February 2014

Dragon Back Run 2014 : Race Report

Welcome to the Dragon's Den!

That was what I have been hearing for days leading towards the event day.

Having registered earlier on to as a tune up race a week before 2XU SG, it was meant to be a slow and easy run. Conquering Dragon Back is not an easy task. Talk about 16 rolling hills in the 15KM stretch! Decided not to take up the 23KM category as it defeated my purpose in my 2XU Half Marathon plans.

The morning started extremely early for me. Woke at 3am so that I just could be at the race site by 5am. Klang is really far from where I stay and I needed at least an hour to get there. But it's worthwhile as I love the Dragon Back route; having done it once back in 2012 with the Klang runners. If the hills doesn't kill you, it will still reward you with breathtaking sceneries. Here is the link to my previous experience at Dragon Back.

Met many running kakis; most of them were doing the 23K (smart move!). 15K is way harder anyways. We had to do the dragon twice! Gun off was slightly a bit late due to some technical issues. When it was our turn; we were 3 minutes behind schedule.

I just remained calm and stayed at the back of the pack cause I didn't want to burst my heart rate before I hit the hills.

The first 1.5K was generally flat and saw many started to sprint ahead. And in true fashion of chiongsters, most of them went flat in less than 2km. I kept a steady pace following my usual marathon pace and made sure my heart rate was not more than Zone 3. I started over taking many quite effortlessly due to the fact majority of the runners didn't have headlights! Yerp.... some part of the road were pitch black and you definitely need a light source and a blinker. I learned from my previous mistake. And I was enjoying my new Black Diamond Storm headlight.

Some areas were pitch black! Photo taken just right after the Dragon's Head (U-turn)

After the 1.5K, we turned left and we met the dragon.

The first hill itself presented the first handful of walkers as the hill itself is between a 25-35 degree angle climb. I swear some might be even close to 40! I steadily climbed it reminding myself not to push too soon. The 200m climb was a struggle but it was a good motivational push. I was aiming to finish the dragon to and fro before the sun rises. I just didn't want to visibly see the road later and see how many more hills I have to go!

The journey to the head of the dragon was pretty straight forward. I over took as many runners as I possibly can and soon enough I was quietly running with just a few others who were pacing along. Closing towards the U-turn point (about 2 hills away) , started seeing the leaders heading back in blazing pace. Feeling a bit motivated, I picked up the pace a bit.

The crack of dawn and the last hill!

From the way back from the Dragon's head (U-turn point), I reminded myself about sunrise. I blasted my music through and sped up again wherever possible. A small dim light started to rise and I could see the sky appearing. Around this time, I mentally calculated I should have 3 more hills to go. Not too long after, the leaders from the 23K started passing by and I tried to follow suit as much as I can. Alas the last hill was a killer but I kept pushing and not wanting to stop so I wouldn't break momentum. A few of the photographers were stationed here and I jokingly ask them if they wanted to take pictures of runners suffering at this part of the hill. We shared a short laugh and soon I was on top of the last hill!

I carefully ran downhill and knowing the way back is a flat road. I tried to maintain a 4:30-5:30 pace whenever possible. Traffic was getting a bit heavy and I tried to avoid them as much as I can. In less than 1 km from the finishing, the traffic might had lost a bit of control as there was a "cluttered" jam. I did whatever I could to sway away from cars who were impatient and I saw Julie from a distance. I just sped from there onwards knowing the finishing is just around the corner. Crossed the finishing at a decent time of 1:37 but I secretly would had love a 1:30 but nonetheless I was still satisfied and happy. I previously did a miserable 2+ hours.

Here is a quick summary of the event:

Great things :
1. Excellent route. Dragon Back has always been a favourite for runners looking to do some speed training, hill training or looking to do a scenic weekend LSD.
2. Sufficient water station and well planned. Water and isotonics well spread out.
3. Race site is big and enough to accommodate. (But not so on the car park management)
4. Runners were treated to sufficient food and water after finishing.

Room for improvement :
1. Runners should at least be informed to bring their own headlight and blinker for own safety. Majority of the roads are really dark and no street lights.
2. Great to have race pack collection on the race day itself to accommodate runners who couldn't pick it up during REPC but could at least managed the counter better when the queue got tremendously long.
3. 15K route was slightly under distanced (about 300m) but I think I understand why judging from traffic conditions. Perhaps the organizers decided to make the U-turn earlier instead at the usual traffic light at the end of the Dragon's Head; probably due to the heavy traffic on the connecting main road.

Overall the race was a success and hearing the feedback from many; it was very satisfying.

Definitely would give Dragon Back Run a go again next year. Perhaps try the Viking would like to try 23K? ;)

 For more photos taken at the event + photos of the prize giving ceremony, click on here and here.
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