Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sabah Adventure Challenge Ultra Run: Paradise in Tambunan

Lai Kuan, Edwin Goh & Tony...
I had to smile just for the cameras, but in fact I was pretty wasted...
Trudging along...not easy at all..
Race day 2 start...
Reaching CP6, I think I was in more than 10th placing...
With Aunt Helena's homestay house...
I think the Sabah book was a nice gift...

I'll have to admit. The first time I saw the distance of 60km of trails over two days, I thought it was easy game. After having done them, easy isn't a suitable description.

Initially we're supposed to run 30km day 1 and 30km day 2. However the last few days, with incessant rain pouring over Sabah, they had to changed the route for both ultra runners & adventure racers, due to landslides.

Tony, Lai Kuan, and Edwin, departed in the same flight from LCCT and we arrived at the hotel at KK for registration. Nothing much really, just checking in our name & getting the bib. Then we're all transported via bus to Tambunan.

As for accomodation, I think our homestay owner is one of the nicest person I ever known, called Helena. She has let us stayed for 3 nights and cooked dinner too. Coincidentally it's the starting line for day 2 as well, located at Kampung Mansok. There were 5 of us there, 3 from Singapore (james, Ching Soon, Teo) , and 1 french guy (Vincent Casanova...I am jealous of his name).

Day1 Race:
Julie had told me of Dydimus Talaji, who had clocked 3:41 at Kinabalu Climbathon 2006, doing the race as well. Now, I've tried twice and failed at both accounts. So this is indeed serious competition.

We started running from the Tambunan Village Resort Center, then headed north eastwards for 4km. The adventure racers have to run the same distance as us, and they'll continue with the bikes after the run.

No sooner, Dydimus came to the fore, and I joined in as well. I think we're doing quite a fast pace. Earlier the Aussie Solomon team was ahead. After like 20 minutes, there's a sharp right uphill, which leads to CP1. I wasn't sure and asked him if it was the right trail. After checking the map, it looks like it is. I think I've never seen such a steep trail before, and we had to walked.

After signing in at CP1, it was some more uphill before we reached a gate that can be opened. Then there was 2 roads. One uphill on the right, the other straight ahead. Dydimus took the right, and I was once again questioning if it's the right one. After checking the compass, it was wrong, and we went the other way.

Then we reached a bamboo gate, which you had to climbed over. Some halting here, and the rest of the pack reached us, including the solomon guys, and some other runners. After this, it was kind of like a chase pack. We kept running, and slipping over muddy terrain, with each one of us not willing to slow down.

As the route became smaller & wilder, it was harder to find. Some stop was needed to verify our bearings, but we didn't got lost. I noticed the solomon guys had a tow line tied to each other, something I haven't seen before. The guy at the back would read the map while the front guy ran ahead.

After CP2, it was heading downhill abit towards a stream. Dydimus and some others took a short cut, but the solomon guys, and another guy named Matthiew Ling, proceeded to take the main road. I joined this group thinking it was better to run further instead of getting lost. Anyway, soon we reached the earlier group who had stopped by a hut to ask for directions. I guess not much difference anyway, as we ran together again.

Then we went down some really seriously steep & muddy slopes. I had to slow down considerably. It was here that Matthiew strained his ankle. Dydimus and the front pack soon disappeared ahead.

After the stream crossing, it was uphill again. Now, certain hill sections here are pretty steep. Running is a waste of energy. I think all of us walked, but the solomon guys walking pace is way faster than my walking pace. Soon, they dissapeared as well.

I fell twice on the course. Once during downhill while stepping on a hard stone, and another time after crossing a bridge just before CP4. 2 adventure racers team caught up with me here as well.

As I reached CP 3, a huge guy in white shirt caught up with me (adventure race), we kept on running. Then we bumped into the solomon guys who had headed the wrong direction into a village. Yet after that, they still run/walk faster than my pace.

As I approaced CP 4, the route was made of concrete pavement, which went down a bridge. As I signed in, I was surprised to see no runners had passed. I had actually reached CP4 first. However I still had this feeling that that couldn't be true, until I saw Dydimus running on the opposite direction. Perplexed, I asked him, and he said he had got lost. So he was running to CP4 to get his name there.

Anyway, it's still a long way towards CP4a (ending). The route was made tougher by the heat & many more uphills & downhills. I was just glad to see the finishing, when I spotted some 4wds and tents.

Now at this point I didn't believe I was first until I really checked in. They had a rafia string as the crossing, and some camera men was there. I couldn't be more happy. I finally won a running race. But I wasn't too overjoyed. Dydimus came in second with Abdul Khaliq (Singaporean) together just 5 minutes apart.

Distance: 32km Time:4:12:41

The adventure racers would bike from TVRC, and doing the same route from CP2 onwards. The runners starts at CP2. I've been memorizing the instructions from the map, and could recall every single thing. Rumors had it, that today would be easier.

But easy it was not, as the start is a road that's so steep and long, the only comparison is the sharp turn up Genting Peak. And that was a hundred meters. This was almost 1km or more. We were let off after 7:30am. Immediately I pushed the pace. I think Dydimus followed. I know I had to lost them on the uphill, or just to test if they could really follow my pace. Soon afterwards I couldn't see them. I was confident that if I pushed the same intensity, I could game this race. I had wanted to win this race convincingly & decisively.

Today's route wasn't as confusing as day 1. I went along until CP4 doing 2 hours. Saw some bikes lying there, which means the adventure racers had reached. But it was a hard sight to see some of them pushing their bikes uphill. Running up these steep slopes had been hard. I think pushing a 10kg bike is harder still.

From the start until CP5 (which is also CP2), I was in first position, with Dydimus probably 10 min behind. Now here was my mistake. There's 2 routes up CP6. I took the longer one, which had some stream crossing. CP6 sits on top of hamburger hill, which is a bloody steep hill with uphills & downhills that can kill your legs.

When I reached CP6, the leader had came in 40 minutes earlier. I know then, it was hard to chase them. But I kept on going. By this time it was getting hotter. Had to stopped at a small house to get some water just in case. The 10km almost flat route in the heat back was probably the worst journey of all. I was also low in energy. I had taken only 1 cereal bar & energy drink, and I think it wasn't enough. So the journey back was more to run/walk. My only motivation was sitting at the restaurant at TVRC having iced milo.

Some runners soon caught up, including Abdul Khaliq. But I somehow managed to get ahead until the finishing in 4th place with a time of 5:09:28, that had placed me overall 3rd.

Distance: 37km Time:5:09:28

The next morning, with no race ahead, only did I realized Tambunan is a very idyllic place, with cool breeze, and unique vegetation, unlike any other I have seen. I haven't been paying attention to the scenery much during race, so today was more into savoring what went by.

Some thoughts on the event. It's very well managed, with very punctual timing. If the organiser said it starts at 8, they really mean at 8 and not 5 minutes later. I think one of the nice feeling you'll have, is the organiser makes it as though you mattered. Almost everything is taken care off, so you don't need to worry on the directions & logistics.

Tambunan is really a beautiful placed, situated 500m above sea level. It could be hot, but generally it was cooling after evening. But one thing I didn't anticipate was the hills. If you thought FRIM steroid hill is a killer one, try imagining multiples of that in one race course, and some even steeper and longer too.

By the way, the same organiser will organised a 100km trail run in Sabah in November 2011. I might join this one.

*pics copyright belong to their rightfull owners*

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kenyir Tri 2011: Wettest Tri Ever

Nice view, if sans rain...
The rupiah joke is always up...
New route, the bike route (red) turns right, and we had to climb that #Q$%# hill.
Along side Msia Ironman legend (Sofian)
Opps..a bunch of guys at my tail...
Damn...I missed my running train...
Sofian and Richard Tang should turn pro now...

This year's kenyir tri was probably the wettest in history. I am used to monsoons at the eastern coastal areas during the season, so it wasn't something I haven't experienced. However it's odd that it came at this time of the year. Usually monsoons period hovers end of the year.

With such bad weather, the organiser had almost called off the bike leg.

Now this wasn't something I had wished, neither does the rest of us. The last time I was in kenyir was 3 years back for my maiden tri, so to have that, would have been a bummer.

Fortunately, the race went on.

Now for the swim, I hadn't been doing much swimming. So I wasn't really going fast. The start was ridiculously chaotic, as if suddenly everyone wants to sprint distance swimming. It took awhile to coast down the heart rate, but my strokes were pretty bad. When I came up, I saw Sofian along side. And seems like many athletes had made their way up.

Went up to the bike transition, and took awhile before I managed to get in the socks. I think that could have been 30 secs, as I tried to get my bearings right. I didn't brought the shades, and that proved to be an error later.

Quickly I took the bike and ran to the starting bike line, mount on it, and quickly dashed up the hill. Passed Sofian as I went up. Bike is not my forte, but I've been doing tons of hills at hulu langat, so the hills were pretty ok. But I was afraid I couldn't hammer on flats.

This year's bike route took a change. Rather than turning left towards the dam, now we have to turn right, go down a steep downhill, then turn left for a 12km rolling route, and back.

Since I hadn't got the shades on, riding behind someone has water splashing all over your face. Doesn't help that mother nature dumps torrents of blinding rain when you're going fast.

There wasn't much drafting to be done. I tried to work with someone for a few k, but that guy pace was a tad slow, so I thought I would just do it all alone. I did pulled him for sometime though. Before the 5km u-turn, I saw the first guy on the bike, then a peloton passing by. Opps seems like I am way far behind.

After the u-turn, it was pretty much a lonely affair, save for another athlete who managed to zoom passed. We cycled together, but not much team work, till we reached the dreaded hills back. I reckoned it's steeper than Bukit Hantu. Some cyclist were zig zagging on the way up. I thought, no way I am going do that, so I stood up and went straight up.

As I went down the slopes towards the transition area, I saw Dush, Andy with a bunch of guys already running in a train. Opps, looks like I got some catching to do. I think I could punch this one. The previous day I did a test run 4.84 km flat in 17:37 (pace 3.63m/km), so I know I could muster the speed needed.

Soon enough, passed Andy, then some thai? guys, and finally Dush after the left turn. Then caught up with the first girl winner, and then passed another 2 guys along side her. Afterwards, it was running on the dam itself.

It could have been scenic had it been not raining. I peered at the horizon and could see 4-5 lads around 500m in front. I have been running at high intensity, and this time it was the time to kick it. However it was futile effort, as I couldn't reach any of them.

Surprisingly I saw Shahrom coming down after the final u-turn towards the finishing. So I thought I couldn't be doing that bad.

After crossing the line, I went to checked the clock timing and was pretty surprised to do 2:13:08. I hadn't wore a watch, thus I was racing blind. I guess racing without one feels more carefree and you just go on chasing the next guy.

Got 5th as well in my age group (30-39). Something I thought wasn't possible.

Summary: I was able race at a higher holding heart rate. So, in terms of cardio fitness, I was ready. However the swim was terrible. Yeap... I was actually lazy and skipped some sessions.

So, it's back to the drawing board. Lots of work to be done.