It could have been easier to just write about the brutal tracks, raging rivers, course timing and finishing glory.
I thought, the learning will be more meaningful to note down.
On 28th Nov 2012, I registered for this race, and, I cried, simply because I do not know HOW to do it, never in my logical thought can make the sense out of the decision, the body react with tears...
I drew a 9 months plan, wanted to train 1500 km with once a month trip to mountains and FRIM for preparation; spoke to people who did it before to get some info and still, I do not know HOW to do it.
A month passed and I caught myself into injury after injury for not willing to give up any bit of the races and training, the plan failed and I got myself a 6 months miserable stress fracture on the right shin. Until I eventually returned for training, with 45 days to race, I can only focus on getting back my running posture and some endurance.
Friends and family had asked me to change category to 50km, some had asked me to do it next year, some even commented how I train was wrong. I think they meant for good purpose, care and concern. I did NOT expect them to understand how I feel, how can they ever understand....? With every step to bring back the simple way of running form and breathing, I fear the pain that strikes me for the past 6 months.
1.5 months passed and I did 478 km of road training+races and 2D1N hiking, was I ready? No, I was not.
What have I prepared ? see the pictures
Main source of energy
What were my fears?
I fear the injury strikes back, I fear cold weather at night, I fear hitting the walls.
What did I do about it?
I thank a recent movie that I watched, may be it was a msg from the almighty:
If I fear, I lose the entire life.
So, the day came and we departed. some photos at race bib collection:
Some photos at departure and starting line:
CompresSports trail short and tri-top, calf compression too.
The race flagged off at about 8am after some delays of arrival and getting the runners checked in and gather at starting line. It was all lonely journey with strangers at the front and back, until some points between WS1 and WS2, I met Karsten and Kevin Ngan along the way, they were surprisingly taking their time in this trip. Then I started to bump into a girl many times as we have about the same pace. So, we decided to move together since it was going to be a long journey, she was doing 50 km.
With abit chasing and waiting in between from WS2 to CP1 to CP2 to WS3, I kind of get used to her pace, it was good I did not want to burn myself out too soon, following her allowed me to conserve some energy and stop myself from running too much. One of my fear came early when it started to rain at WS3 which is about 27 km into the race, without any choice but to put on the windbreaker early and off we go. I fell at the cement stairs down from WS3 and injured my left shin, it was intense pain and i could see some blood started to leak through the calf compression. I decided to let compression to hold it there unless the bleeding continues, luckily it didn't.
When we hit the highway, the rain got heavier and any distance further than 50m is not clearly visible, with wind blowing in open area, the temperature dropped further, I started to worry about those 50 kmers who may not prepare enough to battle the rain and wind. Pat (the girl is called Pat) and I reached the WS4 at about 3pm+ but the rain showed no sign of stopping. I later found out that there was a hall for WS4 which we did not enter, we carried on the next 15.6 km journey to WS5. Some of the trails along the way were flooded with water flowing down, we were like walking in a stream, and the ribbon markers were hardly visible.
We hit WS5 at sunset after non-stop uphills and corners. It was an amazing view of sunset near WS5. Pat and I took a quick break and put on the headlights before we head out to the finishing line for 50 km. It started with continuous down hill of the slippery cabbage farm. I was surprised that 2 guys followed us and they did not have any headlamp with them, the reason given was they thought they would hit 50 km mark by sunset... well good luck to them, coz one the guy fell and cut his palm, I used the water from my bladder pack to help him to wash away the mud.
The final stretch towards the finishing was along the highway again which the reflective markers fell, we picked up some in the drains and place them at the divider of the highway so that others don't get lost like we did, although it was just short distance. Pat and I cross the finishing line for 50 km at about 11:30 hours, that placed her unofficially at 17th and possibly 5th for female, I was at 51th for 100 kmers, up from 105th at WS1.
Patricia Lee (from Singapore) and I
We got a lucky shot going up to the finishing line, :)
The heart broken part came when I notice buses came back with lots of runners being wrapped in thermal blanket, they did not make it to continue. The condition of the route must have been bad when the storm hit. I was very worried about Kelly, Renee, Hong Lan, Jason, Wai Hong, Yik Yee and Gan that I knew still far behind when I hit 25 km.
I quickly claim my drop bag and changed to dry clothes, could hear people outside talking about how tough was the situation for those trapped etc... I took out my phone and started to msg them while post some update in facebook. While changing and moving supplies from drop bag to hydration bag, I took my dinner which is bread with chocolate peanut (later only i found out dinner is served at hotel with hot soup and rice...)
After spending about 75 mins doing all the preparation for 2nd 50 km, I departed at 8:45pm, carrying less stuff than I thought ever need. The GPS watch recorded 53 km at this point, not surprised as I was walking around in the hotel area and the tracking continued even when I am not moving. My plan was to cover 30 km by walking in the next 10 hrs before sunrise at 6:30am.
Doing solo at night was very taxing as I had to focus on where I step while looking for markers that could be far away. 3 km down from hotel, save a HK old couple from running away from where markers showed, and I hit a junction without any marker, had to call the emergency line to get direction, by the time I got the right direction, a group of people came down to join me.
Together we crossed the highway before hit the gravel road heading WS7, this time I have a Holland guy with me, it is his final 3 points collection to go UTMB, we chat abit and WS7 is at the end of another uphill torture. Here we met another group of guys from Sandakan, China, Sg and KL, left WS7 at about 10:45pm and this was by far the largest group I ever joined in this trip. The good thing about travelling in group is that, time passed very fast during chit chat and there were more people looking for the markers and I could simply follow the footsteps of others.
We reached WS8 (a school) at the highest elevation of TMBT (1845m) at about 12:30am, where I decided to rest for awhile and took a toilet break, the rest of the group went ahead without me. I thought it would be another solo trip again. Upon departure, a guy who was also leaving but he was heading to WS10 after did the cabbage farm 10 km loop, he told me not to follow the 1st triple markers on the right as many people got lost because of that sign. I did not know what was his intention, but clearly he was misguiding me, I travel passed the triple markers and there was no further market ahead for at least 400m, when I returned to the markers, I bumped in the Chinese guy from the earlier pack again. So, we traveled together in this muddy slippery route which everyone got stained. I started to feel uneasy and feel like vomiting in this journey, probably the body react to long hours of workout without rest and I hardly take anything since WS6, appetite went down hill, survived only on raisin and lemon tea that I refilled in my front bottle.
Once again, we got lost on the way back to WS9, another smart ass who insisted the marked route was a repeat loop to CP3 from WS8, I trusted him and didn't carry on with the chinese guy. We went exploring other open route with more people and wasted easily 45mins there, eventually I made the call to just follow the markers and the route was nothing I had seen before, this has always been the right route...
Reached WS9 (same as WS8) at about 3:50am, bumped into Weng Woo and Swee Kiah who were just about to start the 10 km loop, asked them to just follow markers. I was totally exhausted and had fever, I knew I had to make a choice to rest immediately or I will never make it to WS10 which is 13 km away. Removed my gears and used the chairs in the hall as bed, I quickly took a Panadol and wrapped myself with d extra thermal blanket I brought to warm myself up. I managed to get 1 hour sleep, awaken by the noise of other runners and the tummy felt funny, finally had my smooth toilet break to clear all waste.
By the time I departed from WS9, it was about 5:45am, it was still cold but I can see the 1st ray of dawn came in, slowly my body got warmer and the route is visible by the sunrise, and at this point, the GPS recorded 83 km instead of the course distance of 75 km+, 1 extra km came from my sleep, lol!
A quick check with the marshals at the junction where runners head up to WS8, 80+ people has crossed this point. From WS9 to CP4 was all the way down hill through the 4WD route and some narrow muddy path, I passed by Real Ho who was taking photo of the sunrise. As I didn't have much food in the night, I slowed down to save energy, towards CP4 Real Ho and another couple caught up with me, we were at about 70-75th position at CP4. Thanked to the girl who walked very fast, I was motivated to start running again, blisters on the left toes started to cause trouble as the pain was too sharp. But we managed to hit WS10 fast enough although it has lots of uphill climb.
Refilled just enough water in the front bottles, I left WS10 earlier than the rest, planning to finish the final 12km slow and steady. It started with crossing the main road and a further downhill of about 1-2km before the killer hills started. How I would described it would be the FRIM's Pines Peak uphill 1km that repeated 10 times under hot morning sun.
I was all alone in this route and received msg from Renee, almost heart broken when she said they were leaving to take bus to KK town, not as what I expected they will leave at 1:30pm, I wanted to keep the promise to return between 11am and 12noon... Based on the timing at that time, I probably can reach finishing line by 11am... There came another runner with hiking poles who caught up with me and started to question the distance etc, we missed the final uphill junction and got lost for another 40 mins, long story cut short, I would have come back to the finishing line the wrong way like many others but I will not have to suffer the final 2km torture without water. Luckily towards the end there was this nice guy whom I overtook him at the start of 12km, who spared me some water to last till the end...
I was happy to see the gang at the end of the hills heading the finishing line. So, I crossed the finishing line, in desperation for water more than the medal and all I ever needed, was to finally sit down and rest...:)
So they never left...
A bunch of great people is all you need to keep you going...
GPS recorded 111 km, inclusive of 1.5km at 50km rest, 2.5km lost between WS6-9, 2km at WS9 sleep and 4km lost at final section. Actual course distance could be 101 km, my guess.
As I said, the boring stuff would be about the course and the timing, the learning is far more important. If my story bored you, some other people may have written a better story on the route and weather, what I can share is the below:
1. Before the race I thought it was a test of stamina and strength, at the race I thought it was a drill for the mental, at the end I came to realize it has always been the soul that is being tested. You can run out of energy, your mind may not be able to support you further, your soul will bring you home.
2. Find a companion along the journey, there is no competitor, everyone can be your biggest teacher, I have come to learn from a reliable buddy Pat, a UTMB qualifier Aziz, a humble vegan ultramarathoner Shi Xiang, a devil who misguided me, a lazy ass who dragged me down, and all of them taught me to be a better runner.
3. Bring the food and drinks you like, not the food that all others said good for race, eventually your body only crave what it has always been fed and liked.
4. There is no need to PIA, coz this is not a 60 mins race. You are the journey.
Photos credits to Renee, Hong Lan, Kelly, Vivien, Leslie, TMBT and all others that I may have left out.