Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tioman Eco Challenge: Warning! For Military Personnel Only

After almost 9 hours from KL, we finally arrived...
My sis's first time here too...
A group pic before the start..
This is the easy part...
Before the start...I noticed a lot of strong guys taking part.
Sky divers putting on a show...
Hills here are indeed steep. The highest point of Tioman is 1000 meters above sea level.

Despite being a Pahangnite, I haven't been to the island before. Since the Tioman Eco Challenge is held there, with a promising 30km of trail run, I thought it would be a splendid way to visit and perhaps enjoy the trails.

Ray Ng, Mich Looi, my sis & I went in my car, with a journey that took 6 hours to reached Mersing. Then it was another 2 hours ferry ride to the island. What struck me upon reaching, was the tall & steep hills which starts almost immediately from the shores. Uh oh, this doesn't look good.

We had some briefing upon registration at Berjaya Tioman Resort. The trail is divided into 5 sections A, B, C, D & E. There's 3 checkpoints for A, B, C, and 2 chk points for D, and lastly 1 checkpoint for E. Cut off time is 7 hours. I thought I could game it in 5.

According to the spokesman, the path from A1 to C2 will be very hard, and if you can get to C2, the rest of the parts will be smooth sailing. Which is kind of untrue. We'll get to that part later.

Race day. Kind of lots of fanfare with skydivers & a VIP from the military to officiate. In fact there's lots of military guys taking part. And, best of all, the route is done by them as well.

The Kenyans were as usual in the international. My focus would be on Jasni, and of course superhuman Dino himself. Strategy is to just run in the front pack.

Race started, and soon we ran along the nice man made path, until we hit the hills. And that's where things get from easy to tough. First it's bloody steep. No one could run up, I just sort of trying to walk up as fast as I could, or as far as the lungs can take it.

Secondly, lots of thorny bushes, on the surface, or grown on trunks that you could have use your hand to hold them. Basically it's a bit of nuisance if you have to pass through them.

Thirdly, almost invisible small roots that you could have tripped if you aren't careful. Yes, even while walking, many times I got my foot stuck, and had almost fallen.

Needless to say, Jasni had already passed me. Dino had disappeared up front. And I was just trying to move as carefully as possible which wasn't a good idea if you want to go fast.

We had to follow yellow ribbons tied as a way point from one location to the other. Sometimes, even as a group, you might missed it, and you'll have to stop & look for it.

The ridiculous thing on steepness is, just imagine from start to A2, the height at A2 is 450 meters. It took me 40 minutes to reach A2. Then it was a bit of downhill, which was steep as well, and running is not a good idea. It's only before, and after A3 (at the waterfall), that you could run a bit.

I think Chan Mei Mei (first local lady), passed me after A2 on the downhill. The group that she was with was going downhill quite fast, and I was too chickened to follow.

The route towards B2 reached a resort at the beach. Then we have to move towards B3, and C1. Then finally go uphill (very steep as well), towards C2. While climbing the rocks near C2, I saw one guy lying on his back and resting. It taxed even the strongest guys I have seen on the trails.
I will see more of this later on.

There were some rain, which made the path more slippery, which made movement more dangerous. I was just adamant of trying to get to C2, in hope that the worse is over. Finally after 4:20, I did reached C2, which was beside the beach. I sat on the stretcher, took some bar, and drank, and it was the first time I questioned if the 7 hours cut off time is doable? Cause the problem was C2 is halfway point up to the finish.

Ok, the route should be easier, as the organizer had said. But easy it was NOT. We have to go back right into the wild bushes & hills, and it was quite wild. There's one section you have to climbed up a rock 4 meters high using a rope. It wasn't going up any major uphills, BUT the route looks like just newly hacked, goes up & down until you reached C3.

I just couldn't believe it. I thought we would be running beside man-made paths or beach, up to the end.

Finally did reached C3, which reaches Kampung Paya if not mistaken. Thoughts of DNFing was really etched in my mind. I was tired, hungry, hot, & disoriented from all the pounding up & down trails. I have got 1hr and 10 minutes left to cover 10km. Ah, this should be the easy part, so I started running.

After 5km, there's some trails we need to go through again. Nevermind, I thought, this could be the last one before we reach the beach. Then I saw the orange coloured apartment complex behind Berjaya Resort, and thought, yes, I finally made it. That's another 3km more...or so I thought.

Upon reaching the beach after the trails, I saw a guy sitting on a log, and he said he's quitting cause we only got 15minutes. I wondered why, until I found what the reason was: we have to go back up the trails again on the right!. And there was some uphills again! My spirit is almost broken, and I couldn't comprehend why we can't run on the beach? F**k this, hell, I would rather swim across than see another rock, tree trunk, roots. But I remembered what David Goggins said "Always open the door, which gave me a few more miles". Alrighty then, it's back to hill slugging.

Finally after much trail navigating insanity, I reached the final E1 checkpoint, to run up some gravel, and finally reaching the tarmac on the golf course. I couldn't be much happier upon reaching the finishing line. My sis had been waiting patiently for 2 hours more, and I didn't want to make her wait longer. This medal is so tough to get, I had thoughts of framing it up.

Time taken was 7:09:00

Dino got first, Jasni 7th, and most of the top 10 was won by military guys.

Ok, compared to Sabah Adventure Challenge, this is indeed harder by a few times. I didn't thought of quitting in SAC, but I had almost quit this due to the cut off time. Definitely the wildest trail I have ever been through. I mean, I have been through thorns & stuff like that, but not in a race where you are chasing for time. Some parts are dangerous, as one mistake could be fatal. I think around 50 made it back. The rest DNF.

Compared to the TNF SG? I am sorry folks, TNF SG is like a walk in the park. On a scale from 1 to 10, TNF sg is at 1 or 2, SAC around 6 and Tioman Eco challenge at 10. So if you want to kill yourself, try this.

Friday, May 6, 2011

PCC Interstate 2011: 5 days of tarmac

Cycling with Poh Seng's group
Start of Day 3...
Ending at Damai Laut...

Interstate this year starts from Raub, and ends at Damai Laut, Lumut. The actual advertised distance for PCC interstate 2011 is 460km, which was a bit too short. So adding a day before and after the 3 days would make it longer.

Day 0: Cycled from KL to Raub. I've done this twice so it was basically a slow one covering 110km. The only serious climb was at Genting Sempah. Also learned that Vong, Adzim & Adeline had done the same as well. For hotels, we got a nice big house under Nice Stay hotel. It was great and not kind of crampy since most of us had bikes to ferry here and there.

This ride was important as a warm up, because I have done no mileage on the bike after Sabah Adventure Challenge, and it was the first time testing out the carbon road bike. Besides that, my right big toe was still in pain from all the impact on downhill running.

Day 1: Raub-Brinchang. This is a tough route. Basically mostly flats until you hit Sg Koyan. From the start I tagged along 2 guys who broke away from the rest of the peloton. We were quite alone until 30+km when swarms of P2K rushed up like soldiers on the battlefield. It was wet from some downpour, so drafting behind someone had water splashing onto your face. I tried to keep up with the front pack, which broke into two, but soon lost them after having the chains fell off from switching gears. Then they were long gone, so I did a lonely cycle till the last 10km up Ringlet. This is the toughest part up, as it was pouring and windy and cold.

Soon, Adzim, Andrea and some other guys caught up. With 2 or 3km to, we stopped for lunch break, which was kind of necessary after the energy sapping climbs.

Afterwards, it was a race up the hills towards Tanah Rata. I think the coffee did the trick, as I managed to put on a consistent power on the climb. When we reached Brinchang, and finally the hotel, I was glad it's done. Thinking back, this time the climb is easier compared to the last one I did under the hot afternoon sun. If it's hot, you won't have any shades, as it's a pretty new route with clearings on both sides.

Distance covered 150km

Day 2: Brinchang-Bukit Merah resort.
Started off approximately at 7am, and I couldn't wait to get back on the bike. We had to climb up Kea Farm, and then do a steep descent to Kg Raja. Now I've had this problem with my front wheel, which I think it's from the hub. Going fast downhill will create some sort of creaking sound. So to avoid that I just had to keep on pedalling while going downhill. Afraid of any mishaps, I decided to slow down just in case.

The route to Kg Raja has some uphills as well. Saw some riders, notably p2k guys, and I tried to attack on the uphills. Was fun until my shades fell off. Dismounted, and they passed. Then it was attacking again, and passed them. And then it was up the steep climb after Kg Raja, where I caught up with Sergio Consen.

Now this is the fun downhill part, but since my front hub is a bit faulty, I choosed not to go too fast. Once in awhile Sergio was in front, due to his size, he had more downhill momentum, and sometimes I was in front.

That was until when the P2k guys came rushing downhill at high speed. I think it's closed to 70kmh, and the leader of the pack is still pedalling! I had all my gears up, pedalling hard and still left in the dust. I decided to dropped back due to safety reasons. It was dangerous weaving through all the sharp corners.

I think Andrea, and a few other guys caught up and we pedalled to Simpang Pulai. Seems like the whole front group had stopped, due to a puncture. I didn't opt to wait, so it was up to the traffics then met with 2 other cyclist. I asked one of them if they know the way, which then he gave an affirmative.

So we pedalled towards sunway city, took a right turn towards Tambun, but somehow he wasn't sure of the way, until we saw the main pack passed by. Shit, it was back chasing the P2k guys, and I had to pedalled furiously to get back into the group. Missing the peloton means missing the fast train to Bkt Merah. Luckily it was some traffic lights that had to make them stop, or else they would have dissappeared.

Riding in the peloton, and going 40kmh was just great. We were riding fast and the locations just passed by without much of a notice. Once I got reprimanded for not 'doing the work' and asked to go to the back. So I tried to figured out what he meant. I think it's probably I wasn't too close to the front wheel or something like that, which could break apart the peloton. But actually I wasn't comfortable drafting such a close distance with the front guy.

I saw something that had me in awe. One of the cyclist took off both hands from the bar, took a bottle, unscrew it, poured powdered electrolytes, mixed it with water from another bottle, and threw the other bottle away, all while doing 35kmh.

Soon, we stopped by at Sg siput for lunch. I had my cereal bar, downed with some drinks. From here it's another 80km to Bkt Merah, still quite a long way to go.

There was a steep climbed next to a highway, and that's where the group broke when some attacked. When I descended, managed to regrouped with Adzim & Sergio. Soon we were racing on the flats and some even drafted lorries. Then I noticed the group was having a rest stop at a petrol station on the right. I decided to push on.

Now it was time trialling session. Riding with the peloton was fast & saved quite some energy, but I preferred a solo more. There's no cues to give to the back or someone to chase. Only you and the bike. The route was flat onwards, so it's easily 35kmh over. I wasn't sure of the road and had to stopped once to ask for directions.

Adzim had mentioned a surprise when we reached the resort, and yes, it was a bloody steep climb up a few hundred meters. After almost 200km, this was tough, but I didn't want to walk up.

Finally reaching the resort at 1:45pm. Distance covered 200km

Day3: Bkt Merah - Damai Laut Lumut
It ought to be an easy day today, with a distance of 110km. The organiser gave us a choice to ride uphill or a longer flat section, of which most of us voted the flat one. From the start, we cycled behind the PCC 4wd vehicle, until the main highway.

As the signal is given, 3 guys in white & green jersey took off, so I mounted a chase, which I was able to caught up with them. We took turns doing some work. Not long after, the main pack caught up with us again. Yet it was still a fast group, as we easily reached 40 above.

Then it was a right turn, then left turn into some village route, which wasn't even, and had holes and certain sections. I found myself at the front, and unfortunately, my back tyre busted. So, it was 10 minutes down fixing the tyre. Poh Seng dropped by and then we're off again cycling. But somehow I lost the fast legs prior, so we weren't going very fast.

He wanted to catch up with his group, so both of us pushed on until we caught up with them. Riding in this group was kind of nice cruising around 30-35kmh. We had a stop for break. Then it was back to riding.

As we were heading towards Pantai Remis, another group doing 40kmh passed by. I couldn't resist the temptation to go fast and hopped on. Unfortunately they stopped at a petrol station soon after. So it was back to solo cycling until some guys caught up.

Then a huge guy with a TT bike surged ahead. I tried to move up draft him, but he seemed so strong mashing the pedals that I soon lost him. He was doing speeds exceeding 40kmh, and it was just hard to keep up.

The route to the resort wasn't easier as there's some hills to conquer. And it's all worth it once you reached the scenic Damai Laut resort.

Distance: 110km

Day 4: Damai Laut-KL
After 4 days of cycling, surprisingly I wasn't too beaten up. I think it's due to all the nice drafting riding in a peloton.

Adzim and I were supposed to ride together, but he started at 7am, while I started 45 minutes later. So, it was a solo ride all the way back KL. To keep things fast, I tried to be aero as possible while maintaining 30-35kmh.

We did a few exhanges of message to meet somewhere ahead, but we were too far ahead, and I sensed that he's going faster.

Route was flat as a pancake, except approaching Sg Buluh, and going into KL area.

After 9 hours on the bike, and 233km, I finally reached home. Bonus was getting an average of 30.3kmh.

Total 5 days: 803.3km