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Race Report: TMBT 2013


The TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon was one of the races I was looking forward in 2013. Although I had not been running much prior to the race I was excited to be back in the “Land Below The Wind”. Sabah holds a special place in my heart after I summited Mount Kinabalu seven years ago and opened my eyes to overseas backpacking.

The race doesn’t involve running in Mount Kinabalu itself however, it takes runners to the foothills of Mount Kinabalu.

Registration and Race Pack Collection

The registration and race pack collection was held at Hyatt Regency Kinabalu Keembong Room a day before race day.

Below are some pictures of the registration and race pack collection.

Queuing for registration and race pack collection

Queuing for registration and race pack collection

Registration and Race Pack Collection

Registration and Race Pack Collection

Race Course Map

Race Course Map

June Kit with his race bib and TMBT event shirt.

June Kit with his race bib and TMBT event shirt.

Group photo with the Singapore contingent

Group photo of the Singapore contingent


Race Day

I woke up as early as 2:15am to get ready for the race. I ate 2 pieces of bread for my breakfast before me and Beeping stepped out of Borneo Backpackers just before 4:30am. It was a few minutes walk to the City Park where the buses taking us to the starting point of the race were parked.

There were not much runners yet when we arrived. We left our finisher’s bag on the grass as instructed by one of the race officials. We bumped into Kelly who flew to Kota Kinabalu from Singapore to support some running friends. She gladly took our picture then continued taking photos of the other runners who had just arrived.

Me and Beeping. Photo taken by Kelly Lim

Me and Beeping after dropping off our finisher’s bag. Photo taken by Kelly Lim

We caught up with Tekko, Molly, Sharon, Brokie and her hubby who have also arrived. There was a bit of confusion where the finisher’s and drop-off bags were to be deposited. Luckily I was informed by Kelly to take back our finisher’s bag and hand it ourselves to the guy in the lorry.

A photo op before boarding the bus. Photo by Kelly Lim

At around 5am the buses left Kota Kinabalu in convoy for the starting line at Kampung Lingkubang via Kota Belud.

I took the time to get some sleep during the bus ride. At about an hour and a half into the journey, the bus stopped for a toilet break. While the other buses have left, our bus (bus no. 6) was still waiting for the other runners to come back to the bus. A friendly runner sitting close to us in the bus approached me and Beeping. He introduced himself as Chee Wee and told us he ran the Energizer Night Trail Run in Singapore.

It took almost two hours for our bus to arrive at Kampung Lingkubang. I believe we were the last bus to arrive. There was already a long queue to cross the hanging bridge as only 5 runners were allowed to cross the bridge at one given time for safety reasons. The starting area was about 100m from the opposite side of the bridge.

Me and Beeping while waiting to cross the hanging bridge to the starting line

Me and Beeping while waiting to cross the hanging bridge going to the starting line

Just before crossing the bridge

Just before crossing the bridge

We waited for almost an hour to make the crossing and by the time we crossed the hanging bridge Aman, the race director, was asking us to proceed immediately to the starting line as the race was going to start in 5 minutes as it was already behind schedule.

We hurriedly checked-in at the main hall and then proceeded to the starting line. Tekko, Molly and Sharon were already there. They told us they had been waiting there for 45 minutes now.

Race Proper

At about 7:57am the race officially started. All categories (25K, 50K and 100K) were flagged off at the same time instead of the initially planned separate flag-off time for the different categories.

After a few minutes of running we arrived at the first bottleneck of the race. Runners were queuing to cross the first hanging bridge of the race. Again only 5 runners were allowed to cross the bridge at one given time for safety reasons.

I was right behind Brokie and her hubby while Chee Wee was behind me. Beeping was behind a pack of runners with Tekko, Molly and Sharon not too far off from us. We were stuck there for more than 30 minutes waiting for our turn to cross the bridge.

Crossing the hanging bridge was quite exciting. It entailed focus as it was swaying and quite slippery as well. A runner before me slipped just when he was about to go down the stairs.

Coming off from the hanging bridge we made our way to the first hill. Brokie and her hubby went the wrong turn and I was about to follow luckily Chee Wee who was right behind me called our attention and showed us the right way.

First of the many uphill climbs to come

The first of the many uphill climbs. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

After the first challenging uphill climb it was time to go downhill. The trail was muddy and slippery so I had to go down cautiously. We then arrived at the river bank where we had to make a river crossing. This was the first of the many river crossings we had to do during the race but this was the deepest.

I removed my shoes thinking it was better not to get my shoes wet at that early stage of the race. I queued until it was my turn to make the crossing. The water was waistline deep for me. I held on to the rope walking slowly to avoid slipping. There was a photographer taking photos of runners making the river crossing and when I was somewhere in the middle a guy behind me shouted asking the photographer to shoot his leg. I looked behind and found out that the guy behind me was the inspirational SG Blade Runner. I safely crossed the river and tried to find a good spot to wear back my shoes. SG Blade Runner was having trouble getting out of the water so we helped pull him out of the water.

Brokie and her hubby had also crossed the river and were putting back their shoes. I told Brokie that I was going ahead as I didn’t want to stop for a very long time. I caught up with Chee Wee and we continued on.

Going uphill after the river crossing

Going uphill after the river crossing. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

We have not yet reached WS1 but we already spent more than an hour in the trail (mainly because of the bottle neck). According to the race course description an average runner would only take 30-45mins to arrive in WS1.

At around 9:25am I finally reached WS1(4.4Km) which was a school. I had to make an urgent toilet break. Chee Wee got there a few minutes ahead of me but he waited until I was out of the toilet before continuing to WS2.

After the first river crossing I didn’t bother anymore taking off my shoes as it was already wet and muddy.

We crossed streams, passed by paddy fields, ran alongside the river and crossed a few more hanging bridges. The scenery was just beautiful no wonder the race is called “The Most Beautiful Thing”!

By the river

By the river. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

Crossing the hanging bridge

Crossing another hanging bridge. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

Going downhill

Going downhill. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

Crossing a stream

Crossing a stream. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

The weather was scorching hot on our way to WS2 (Kampung Lobong-Lobong). Chee Wee took out his sunblock and offered me to apply some. I was lazy to get mine from my hydration pack so I gladly accepted the offer.

I was walking for most part of the open trails to conserve energy, only running during the downhill. We crossed a bridge that lead to a tar road with a sign that says Lobong-Lobong. I thought we must be nearby the water station now. However, the moment I started climbing the uphill road I realized I’m in for a lot of hardwork. It was a very steep climb and the heat was unforgiving. I have to make a few stops to rest and catch my breath. Chee Wee had gone ahead of me.

I checked-in at WS2(14.9Km) at about 11:50am, almost 4 hours into the race. Chee Wee was still there refueling. I refilled my bladder with water and ate some bakwa as I was getting hungry. I sat down for a few minutes to rest before I moved on to CP1 which was 3Km away together with Chee Wee.

Leaving  for CP1

Leaving WS2 for CP1. Photo by Chee Wee Ng

We entered a gate which lead us back to the trail. From what I can remember going to CP1 is that we were running in a ridge. CP1 is where the 25K runners split with 50/100K runners.

Going to CP2(Miki’s Camp) we had to tackle several hills with a windmill at the top that was making some weird sounds. It was still sunny and hot. I had to make occasional stops to catch my breath during the uphill climbs. I remember there was a runner I met while I was resting at one of the hills that he wishes it was going to rain as it was just too hot!

I then met another runner who was resting before proceeding the uphill climb. He told me that he got stung by a bee. I asked him if he needed any help and he asked me if I can help him treat it. He took out a brand-new Watson’s first-aid kit from his pack and tore the plastic then handed it to me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to treat it. I looked through the contents of the first-aid kit and found an ointment which I applied to the affected area. He was thankful and we then continued the uphill climb.

I looked ahead and saw dark clouds coming. The trail led to a ridge with a pineapple plantation. I saw a hut with two race marshals. I asked them if this is already CP2 and they told me that it’s another 6Km ahead. I met some runners who were on their way back from the Miki’s camp loop. One runner told me the trail ahead is very tough but he encouraged me to press on.

It was a jungle heading to CP2 and it reminded me of my hiking/mountaineering days in the Philippines. I was mostly hiking at this section. I met more runners who were going back after doing the Miki loop and I was wondering how far I was from CP2 as it already seemed like a long hike in the jungle. I crossed a hanging bridge then continued going up and down the mountain. I had not yet reached CP2 when it started to rain. It seems that the runner who wished for rain had his prayers answered! The rain became stronger so I decided to wear my Salomon light wind jacket but the rain was just too strong for my jacket to keep me warm. I was getting wet and feeling cold. I began to worry if I was going to get hypothermia. I remember telling myself to just get to CP2 safely and decide from there if I should continue the race or not.

I finally reached Miki’s Camp (CP2 – 23.4Km) and felt a bit relieved. The race marshal recorded my bib number and timing then I signed. Some runners who were taking shelter at the hut were about to leave CP2 and I decided to follow them.

By then the trail had become like small streams and waterfalls. Even walking was very challenging at this point. Later on after the race I learned that some runners were not able to cross the river before CP2 as it had turned into a raging river.

As I was going back to the pineapple ridge area I met my Malaysian friend, Steve, who was making his way to Miki’s camp. Despite the rain and cold weather, I saw more runners heading to CP2 which made me feel motivated to continue.

I reached a hut and saw some runners taking shelter from the rain. I heard some runners (I think from 100K category) discussing whether to continue or drop off from the race. I asked a race marshal the directions for WS3(Kiau Nulu) and he told me to continue following the trail and I should find a sign where to turn.

I continued on and saw the other hut with the 2 race marshals. I had completed the loop and will now make a left turn and head downhill. After some sections of steep downhills the trail lead us to some rolling hills. I started running again hoping that I can make it for 8.5hours cut-off time at WS3.

The route finally led us to a paved road that was going downhill. I was running with a group of runners and one runner shouted than the cut-off was nearing. I tried my best to run downhill but it was still raining. My shoes felt heavy and I can feel water coming out from my shoes as it was too wet.

I arrived at WS3(26.9Km), Kiau Nulu, just before the cut-off time. A lot of runners were resting and taking shelter from the rain. I saw Chee Wee again and he offered me some hot tea which helped warm me down.

Me and Chee Wee discussed if we should continue and if we can make it for the next cut-off time at WS4 in Kiau Taburi (31.4Km). In the end we decided to continue and wait until the organizers tell us we cannot proceed.

The rain had slowed down when got out of WS3 and I was hoping it was going to stop soon however as we ran further the rain got heavier and heavier again. The race course took us to uphill roads which was quite tiring but I had to keep moving or else I would feel cold. There was a very steep section just before reaching WS4 in Kiau Taburi. Combined with fatigue and hunger, I was feeling dizzy that I felt like I was going to pass out anytime. I knew I had to take something and not wait until I reach the water station. I took shelter in a hut as it was still raining and took my Maxifuel Viper Active Gel. It was an instant energy booster and I continued the uphill climb. Not before long I reached WS4 which was also the finishing point for the 25Km runners.

I checked in and saw Chee Wee eating rice. My body was craving for solid food so I went to get some rice and chicken. I think I probably ate 2 cups of rice as I was just too hungry.

Chee Wee told me that he heard from someone that the cut-off time was extended for another hour due to the bottleneck at the early part of the race. We wanted to confirm from one of the race organizers but somehow that time we weren’t able to do so.

We left Kiau Taburi for Kinasabaran which was about 15.6Km away. The rain had stopped and we were treated with a clear view of Mt Kinabalu and a magnificent sunset. Seeing it made all the hardships worthwhile.

A beautiful sunset after a heavy rain

A beautiful sunset after a heavy rain

Mt Kinabalu

The majestic Mt. Kinabalu

The night had fallen as we continued trekking in the trail. It was a blessing I was with someone and not running alone because some of the markers weren’t so obvious to me. The trail lead us to the road where we had to a run quite a long stretch (no wonder they called this section “Road Rage”). Some portions were going downhill so I took the opportunity to run. There were cones on the side of the road provided for safety which also helped runners find their way. At intersections there were marshals stationed to tell runners where to go however, there was this one intersection where there was no marshal around. I continued running downhill and Chee Wee was following me until a runner behind us called our attention and asked us to turn back. He explained to us that we missed the marker which was an arrow placed on the roadsign. At first I was a bit hesitant to follow as normally there were marshals at intersections but after he told us that the marshal had already warned him to watch out for the marker ahead, me and Chee Wee decided to follow his advice.

We turned left and as we ran further we saw reflective markers which indicated we were on the right track. We were both so grateful for that guy if not we would have been running in the wrong direction.

The trail was very dark but I saw some green lights ahead. Initially, I thought they were headlamps but they were actually dog’s eyes. It was only me and Chee Wee in the trail and we were constantly checking for the reflective markers to make sure we were in the right track.

I felt like peeing but I was holding myself and just kept walking. Chee Wee asked me if we can take a short rest as he needed to apply some cold rub on his legs. I then took the opportunity to pee in the dark which made me feel so much better. We continued onto the dark trail with only our headlamps lighting the way.

After like an endless walk/run we finally reached WS5 in Kinasabaran. After checking-in we rested for a few minutes. I refilled my hydration bladder and ate my remaining bakwa. I sent an SMS to my friend Beeping asking how she is and found out that she decided to DNF at WS3 as she wasn’t able to cross the raging river on the way to Miki’s Camp due to the heavy rain earlier. She also told me that Sharon is already at the finish line.

Me and Chee Wee left WS5 for the final push to the finish line. The marshal reminded us to put on the reflective vest as we will be running in the highway. He also told us that only 5Km remaining which made me feel motivated however, as soon as we went downhill from the water station, I realized that the trail was very, very muddy and slippery. I had to go very slow holding on to some grasses on the side of the trail to gain some balance. There were other runners in front of me who were also going slow as it was just too slippery. I normally like downhill but this section was just too exhausting for my knees because I had to be overly cautious not to lose balance.

Chee Wee didn’t seem to have any problem with the slippery and muddy trail and soon became out of sight. I decided to just take my own time because I was still quite positive I can make it for the 15-hour cut-off time provided nothing bad happens in the last few kilometers to the finish line.

I was a bit relieved when I finally reached the highway as I no longer had to tackle the overly slippery trail.  A marshal recorded my bib number and told me just another one kilometer to the finish line but the last kilometer seemed like an endless uphill road. When I saw some structure with a bright light I thought it was the finish line but I was wrong. Then, I continued again and I saw another one but it was still not the finish line. I felt like the one kilometer seemed more than one kilometer and it was really testing my wits and patience.

Finally there was this lighted building with a few people outside and they started congratulating the runners arriving. They asked us to continue a bit further inside for the finish line. I made my way to the finish line and saw Beeping. I was so happy it was finally over.

I finished TMBT2013 50Km with an official time of 14:10 hours. TMBT2013 official results can be here.

There’s no doubt TMBT is a tough and challenging trail race. It will really test an individual physically and mentally. Add mother nature into the mix and it gets even more tougher however, the race course is indeed beautiful. It is worth all the pain and effort.

At Finish Line with Chee Wee and Sharon

At the finish line with Chee Wee and Sharon

TMBT2013 finisher's shirt and medal

TMBT2013 finisher’s shirt and medal


Race Report: Bedok Reservoir Ultramarathon


Me and my friend Bee Ping participated in last weekend’s Bedok Reservoir Ultramarathon which was organized by Running Guild.

Before signing up for this run I was trying to decide between this run or the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. I was looking for a run that will help me get prepared for the TMBT Ultra Marathon. After looking into the pros and cons of each race I decided to go for the Bedok Ultramarathon for the following reasons:

  • being a smaller event the race course will not be crowded
  • having a chance to see familiar faces and friendly runners along the race route who give support and motivation to other runners
  • being a volunteer in the past for a couple of races organized by Running Guild, I know that there will be plenty of food and drinks available at the aid station
  • having an opportunity to run with my good friend on her first ultramarathon

I did not run much for the month of August as I was in Africa for almost two weeks. I did a lot of walking though while I was trekking in Mt. Kilimanjaro. My thoughts before the race was just to take it slow and take the race as a training run for TMBT.

Me and Beeping arrived in Bedok Reservoir almost an hour late on race day. The race started at 7am and most runners were already on their way to complete the 2nd loop when we arrived at the starting point. The format for the solo category was to complete as many loops as possible within 12 hours from 7am to 7pm. One loop around the Bedok Reservoir is 4.3Km. One needs to complete a minimum of 12 loops (total 51.6Km) within 12 hours to earn the Finisher medal and shirt.

We collected our race bib and I hurriedly filled up my hydration bladder with water and one of the volunteers helped me put some ice inside. Without any stretching me and Beeping started to run.

Marcus of Running Shots took a photo of me before I started to run

It was first time to run in Bedok Reservoir and I didn’t know that the surface is mostly made up of dirt road. I was glad that I wore the Altra Lone Peak shoes instead of the  Asics DS Trainer 17.

The sun was starting to shine brightly and I was cautious to run slowly as I know I would be having a long day ahead. As the run went on the distance between me and Beeping got wider and wider and soon I was running on my own.

1st loop

1st loop

1st loop

1st loop

I only ate one piece of bread for breakfast and I was getting hungry. After I completed the first loop I stopped at the aid station and ate a few slices of watermelon and half of the banana before continuing for my second loop.

The first three loops went fine but on my 4th loop the heat of the sun was starting to bother me and my legs were feeling heavy. I was running at a much slower pace.

By the time I was going for my fifth loop it was already past 10am and the sun was burning hot! I tried to amuse myself looking at the scenery to distract my mind. Midway I stopped and took a photo of the beautiful scenery.

Kayaks in Bedok Reservoir

Kayaks in Bedok Reservoir

I started to employ run/walk strategy at this stage. Some of the runners who were part of the team category were finishing the race. I remember telling myself that time that it would have been better to just run in the team category as I only need to run for 25.8Km. I didn’t have to torture myself more running under the scorching sun.

I egged myself to continue until I have completed 6 loops as by then I am halfway of completing the ultra.

Running for the 6th loop

Running for the 6th loop

I was somewhat relieved when I finally completed 6 loops. I was feeling very exhausted. I took my time at the aid station to rest and I ate watermelon, banana and some chips. Not long after I saw Beeping arriving to complete her 6th loop. I decided to wait for her so we can run the 7th loop together. Brokie was also at the aid station taking her sweet time chit-chatting with the other runners after she completed the 6th loop.

The heat was taking its toll on most of the runners. The three of us decided to walk the 7th loop together. Along the way the three of us were chit-chatting about the upcoming TMBT race. Brokie was also using this race to prepare for the TMBT. Like me and Beeping she was also wary about the race. She shared to us her preparations which was quite helpful as it gave us an idea what else we needed.

Although we walked the entire loop it was not a relaxed walk as Brokie was walking at a fast pace and we have to catch up with her. I didn’t mind though as we were enjoying talking.

Walking all the way for the 7th loop

Walking all the way for the 7th loop with Beeping and Brokie

It was already past 12noon when we completed the 7th loop. I told Beeping that we only take a brief stop at the aid station to get some drinks and then continue for the 8th loop. Once we have completed the 8th loop we can take a longer break to eat some cup noodles as by then we only have 4 loops to complete and she agreed. Brokie ran in the other direction as she wanted to go to the toilet.

We left the aid station and started to run but after only a short distance the heat was already sucking all our energy. We stopped and decided to walk under some trees. We were mostly walking until we got to a part with some shade and then we ran slowly again towards the aid station.

As soon as I completed the 8th loop I immediately went to the table where the volunteer was serving cup noodles and requested for chicken flavor. I took a chair and sat down while I ate my cup noodles. A couple of minutes after Beeping arrived. She took the vegetable cup noodles and sat beside me. I was craving for a very cold 100Plus but I didn’t get to bring one. Thankfully the watermelon was very nice and I ate a few slices of it. I never ate as much watermelon as I did that day.

After resting for a few minutes I re-applied sunblock, topped-up water and ice then we set off for the 9th loop. I was feeling a bit full so I walked first. The sun was burning hot so we tried to walk under the trees where there was shade. I told Beeping that once we have completed 10 loops the last 2 loops will just be mental.

We completed the 9th loop and continued for the 10th. I had to take a stop at the toilet so I told Beeping to go ahead and I’ll just catch up. Beeping was nowhere in sight when I got out of the toilet so I ran slowly until I was able to see her from a distance. I continued to run until I finally caught up with her. As I was still feeling okay I continued to run but when I got to an open trail I just had to stop and walk.

My feet were aching even if I just walk and my left hip was bothering me again. I waited for Beeping at the aid station before continuing for the 11th loop. We were both very tired and spent. We decided to walk the 11th loop. Midway way we met Angelina and Randall who were running in the opposite directions. They were still looking very strong and they gave us encouragement to continue. Their endurance is just amazing!

The last few kilometers are always the hardest mentally as it always feel like very long. On our 12th loop we were already very drained. The heat was just unforgiving! We marched all the way to the finish line. I asked Beeping if she wanted to run the last few hundred meters however she told me to just go ahead. I decided that we just finish together.

After more than 9 hours we completed 12 loops for a total distance of 51.6Km. It was Beeping’s first ultramarathon. She had never ran an official half marathon or full marathon. Her supposedly first official half marathon in last year’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore did not materialize as she got sick. She signed up for this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon however the marathon got postponed from June 29 to September 29 due to the bad haze conditions.  I was very happy that she completed her first ultramarathon.

After the Ultra my shoulders were badly sunburned

After the Ultra my shoulders were badly sunburned

After completing 12 loops

After completing 12 loops we got our Finisher’s medal