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Race Report: TransLantau100

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Flew to Hong Kong for my maiden 100Km ultra trail race at the TransLantau which is now on its third edition (it was previously called Lantau50/Lantau100). This was my fourth time to be in Hong Kong for a running event. Last year I joined the Lantau50 where I had my first taste of the brutal but scenic Hong Kong trails. I hated climbing the stairs but I must be crazy to have signed up for this race again and even going further the distance.

TransLantau

TransLantau

I wasn’t expecting much as I was under-prepared to tackle this long distance race which I had no previous experience. The farthest I’ve ran was about 70Km during the Peak-To-Peak Ultra last 28th December 2013 organized by Singapore Fat Ass Runs which I didn’t complete. I had not been running in the trail after that so I was really worried. The Translantau100 race course is technical and very challenging. There are lots of steep climbs and downhills with a cumulative elevation gain of 5,800 meters.

TransLantau100 Profile

TransLantau100 Profile

A month before TransLantau, me and my friend Beeping, went hiking in Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. I was hoping that the all the hiking we did was going to help us with the uphill climbs and downhills for TransLantau although it was just a short distance hike about 19Km from Mesilau-Laban Rata-Summit-Laban Rata-Timpohon Gate.

I received a blow about two weeks before the race.  After I came back from the Bohol trip with Beeping, I got sick. For two days I got high fever then followed by diarrhea which left me feeling weak and dizzy for several days. I began to worry if my body will be able to fully recover in time for race day. The night before my flight I remember telling myself that I’ll fly to Hong Kong as I have already booked my flight tickets but I’ll see how my body feels. If I’m still feeling dizzy and unwell I have no choice but to drop out of the race.

I had an early morning flight to Hong Kong arriving as early as 8:35am. I had to wait at the airport as my friends Beeping and Chee Wee weren’t arriving until later that afternoon on two separate flights from Singapore. While waiting for them, I saw Brokie and her hubby coming out from the arrival gate. It was great seeing other runner friends who were also in Hong Kong for the same event.

Hong Kong International Airport Arrival Hall

Hong Kong International Airport Arrival Hall

From the airport the three of us, me, Beeping and Chee Wee, took the S1 bus to Chung Tung Station then transferred to the 3M bus to Mui Wo. We checked in at Silvermine Resort which was just very close to the starting point of the race. We then hurriedly went out to Mui Wo Ferry Pier to catch the ferry boat to Central so we can collect our race pack at Action X in Sheung Wan.

TransLantau100 Race Kit

TransLantau100 Race Kit

After collecting our race pack we proceeded to Wellington St. in Central where we had King Prawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee for dinner. We then decided to drop by Tim Ho Wan in IFC Mall to have some of the famous buns and steamed egg cake before returning to Mui Wo.

KingPrawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee

King Prawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee

It was already late at night by the time we got back to the hotel and I was dead tired after having only 3 hours of sleep the previous night. I dozed off and woke up early the next morning. The race wasn’t starting until late at night, so I took the opportunity to have an early morning stroll in Silvermine Bay Beach. The weather was perfect for walking, it wasn’t as cold as last year.

Here are some photos of that early morning walk:

A bicycle parked just outside Silvermine Resort

A bicycle parked just outside Silvermine Resort

Rocks at Silvermine Bay Beach

Rocks at Silvermine Bay Beach

Tents setup at Silvermine Bay Beach for TransLantau

Tents setup at Silvermine Bay Beach for TransLantau

A buffalo roaming freely in Silvermine Bay Beach

A buffalo roaming freely in Silvermine Bay Beach

The rest of the day was spent resting and eating before the flag off at 11:30pm. I was happy to be at the starting line and seeing familiar faces. Some of them were running the next day for the TransLantau50 and Explorer15 but they stayed up late just to send off the runners doing 100Km.

Me, Beeping and CheeWee at the starting line

Me, Beeping and Chee Wee at the starting line

At the Start Line with Louis

At the Start Line with Louis

Moments before the start

Moments before the start

Start (Silvermine Bay Beach, Km0) to CP1 (Pak Mong Village, Km12)

At exactly 23:30 the 100Km race was flagged off from Silvermine Bay Beach in Mui Wo. We had to run in the sandy beach before turning left to the small road, continuing ahead then turning right heading towards Wang Tong village.

As we were running along, memories of last year kept flashing back in my head. Somehow I still remember portions of the trail going to Lo Fu Tau (465m). At the end of the village, we were greeted by the stairs. I knew it was the start of the endless stair climbing until the finish.

We continued our ascent to Lo Fu Tau. I thought it was better to run this section at night as last year I remember it being quite hot which caused me to stop a few times for a short breather. So far I had not made any stops despite all the stair-climbing and I was still feeling okay.

We seemed to have already reached Lo Fu Tau as the trail was now leading us downhill. We passed through a narrow trail with very thick bushes which was quite painful to the legs. This year they changed the route for TransLantau100, as CP1 will directly head to Pak Mong.

We reached a bottleneck as runners were queuing to go down a steep slope using a rope which was the same as last year. After the steep descent we reached the paved road. Chee Wee was just right behind me. I thought I lost him. I told him that there’s a public toilet ahead and I will be making a short stop. He told me that he will also go to the toilet and wait for me outside.

After the quick stop, we continued on the paved path until we reached CP1 where we had our chip scanned by the timing staff after 2:40 hours of running.

at CP1, PakMong (Km12)

at CP1, PakMong (Km12). Photo by Chee Wee

I had two slices of orange and a half-cut banana. There was no Coke available so I took one tablet of NectarHydro electrolyte which was available at the CP. The electrolyte I had prepared was running out. I knew I had to refuel before proceeding to CP2 as the brutal Sunset Peak awaits.

CP1 (Pak Mong Village, Km12) to CP2 (Pak Kung Au, Km22)

From Pak Mong it was an arduous climb to Sunset Peak (854m) which is the 2nd highest peak in Lantau Island and the 3rd highest peak in Hong Kong. Although there was no sun as it was still in the middle of the night, I still had to catch my breath in between as we climbed the stairs.

The first part looked familiar however after some climbing we came to a very steep downhill that I never recall passing by last year. It was so steep that runners were cautiously going down. There were two ladies in front of us and they were kind enough to ask if we want to pass them and we declined at first as we were also going down slowly.The downhill was quite a long section and as we slowly went down a number of runners caught up with us. I gave way to the other runners who wanted to go ahead. There was this one guy who fell in front of me but luckily he was okay.

Chee Wee made his downhill move as he overtook the racers in front. I was struggling to gain my balance so I thought it’s better to be safe than be sorry. A guy behind me was telling the girl in front to go down slowly as there’s still plenty of time. As I was inching closer with the girl in front, the buff she was wearing looked so familiar and I realized it was Belinda.

Chee Wee was getting more farther so I decided to take a gamble and made my downhill move so I can catch up with him. I was so relieved when the very steep downhill section came to an end. As we continued on I realized the guy behind me was Kenny so we chit-chat for a bit but as the trail continued uphill I slowed down and he eventually went ahead.

The route to Sunset Peak seemed different this year however one thing remains – it’s still very challenging! The uphill climbing just never seemed to end. I was reminded again why I hated Sunset Peak last year. I kept wondering how far we were until we reach the downhill section going to Pak Kung Au.

It was cold and windy en route to Sunset Peak. Good thing I didn’t take any chances and wore my TNF Venture Jacket instead of my lighter Salomon jacket which had no hood. I used the hood together with the buff for added protection as my ears easily gets cold.

As soon as I saw the huts in the hill I knew we were near Sunset Peak. Honestly, I’m not really sure which one was Sunset Peak but I knew we just had to keep climbing until we reach the downhill section.

When we finally reached the downhill section, I was quite relieved as we still have enough time to make it to Pak Kung Au before the 7:30am cut-off time. As it was still dark I cautiously went down the stairs and decided not bomb the downhill like last year. I told myself that the immediate goal is to reach Pak Kung Au safely.

At around 6:04am we reached Pak Kung Au (Km22) after running/hiking for 6:34hours.

I ate a few slices of orange and ham, a cracker and hard bread with nutella which I didn’t finish. I was so happy the CP have Coke. Coke is like heaven for me when I’m racing.

I refilled my bladder with water and prepared to leave for the next CP.

CP2 (Pak Kung Au, Km22) to CP3 (Ngong Ping, Km34)

The trail was rolling at the initial part of the South Lantau Country Trail and even if I just had refueled I was lacking the energy to run. I wasn’t feeling good. My legs were feeling heavy and tired. I told Chee Wee to go ahead as I am just going to do a fast-paced walk as I’m not feeling good. I knew that if I force myself at that point of time my body can’t take it and I will have to retire sooner.

We went downhill which lead to a flat road. A running couple overtook me and encouraged me to press on. I replied that I will just do a fast-paced walk for now. Chee Wee had gone ahead but I can still see him from a distance as he wasn’t really running that fast.

Although I was walking I was quite pleased with my progress. I caught up with a few racers as well as Chee Wee however, not too long after the path lead to some very steep stairs. I felt demoralized. I told Chee Wee again to just go ahead as I will take my own time in tackling the uphilll climbs.

I struggled with the stairs as my legs were already screaming in pain but I encourage myself to just put one foot forward. Soon after I got a reprieve as the trail became rolling. I tried to do a run/walk but whenever I see any uphill I immediately switch back to power hiking. I enjoyed the solitude and the scenery along the way. On my left side was a reservoir which I kept looking. Later on I found that the name of the reservoir is Shek Pik Reservoir.

As I continued my hike I saw some big wooden columns on a hill from a distance (later on I found out those wooden columns are part of the Wisdom Path). I thought I must be nearby now to Ngong Ping however, I didn’t see the big Buddha. I was expecting to see the big Buddha considering it’s enormous size on top of a hill.

Two Chinese runners overtook me and told me that the CP is just nearby. I followed them and finally reached a paved road. I saw a gate which I took a picture without realizing it was the gate going to Lantau Peak which we will be taking later that night.

After 09:51hrs of running/hiking, I reach Ngong Ping (CP3, Km34).

Ngong Ping Lantau Peak Entrance

Ngong Ping Lantau Peak Entrance

At CP3, Ngong Ping (Km34)

At CP3, Ngong Ping (Km34)

Chee Wee was still at the CP when I arrived. He brought me a cup of hot noodles and I ate a bit. I also had a few slices of orange, dried mangoes and ham. I drank Coke again which made me feel so much better. I felt more energized after refueling in Ngong Ping.

CP3 (Ngong Ping, Km34) to CP4 (Keung Shan, Km45)

Took a quick stop at the toilet before continuing to CP4. Chee Wee advised me to treat my blisters before it gets any worst. I taped my right foot where the blisters were starting to form.

We had to run in a road initially until we reached a crossing where the marshal directed us to an entrance of a trail park. After climbing one hill I realized there were many more hills ahead of us. It looked daunting but this part of the race is very scenic. In fact I stopped a few times to take photos as the scenery was just beautiful.

A participant negotiating the stairs at Keung Shan Country Walk

A participant negotiating the stairs at Keung Shan Country Walk

Shek Pik Reservoir as seen from Keung Shan Country Walk

Shek Pik Reservoir as seen from Keung Shan Country Walk

Me taking a photo of the scenery below

Chee Wee caught me taking a photo of the scenery below

The trail at Keung Shan Country Walk

The trail at Keung Shan Country Walk

Still at the  Keung Shan Country Walk

Still at the Keung Shan Country Walk. Photo by Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m)

Keung Shan Peak (459m). Photo by Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m) with Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m) with Chee Wee

After traversing many hills we finally reached the downhill section. Me and Chee Wee moved quite well in the downhill which helped us regain some lost time during the slow uphill climbs.

We reached CP4 around 12:10pm after running and hiking for 12:40hours. The volunteers at CP4 were mostly Filipino and they looked excited when I told them I’m also Filipino. They asked me where I’m from and if I am working in Hong Kong. I asked one of the Filipino volunteers if they still have Coke however, I was told it was already finished. I had no choice but take the electrolyte tablet.

I ate two slices of orange and a few pieces of ham. We didn’t stayed long in the CP and started our move to Tai-O.

CP4 (Keung Shan, Km45) to CP5 (Tai-O, KM57)

The trail started with a very steep uphill climb. I had to go very slow again. This section of the race course seemed very long and tiring. There were never-ending hills that we have to traverse but we just have to keep moving.

We took a few minutes rest as Chee Wee wanted to eat his bakwa. He gave me two pieces which I initially declined however, after he pleaded that I take some I willingly obliged.

After eating we continued climbing the stairs. I was glad I ate the bakwa as it boosted my energy.

We finally came to the downhill section. I was thinking we must be nearby to the CP however, as we reached the paved road the CP isn’t anywhere near to it. Chee Wee went to run ahead while I continued my fast-paced walk.

I can see runners crossing a long bridge ahead and I followed.

at Tai-O leading to the bridge

at Tai-O leading to the bridge

Tai-O Bridge. Photo by Andy Ng Soon Yee

Tai-O Bridge. Photo by Andy Ng Soon Yee

After crossing the long concrete bridge the path lead us to a road with many tourist buses however, CP5 was still nowhere to be found. We followed the markers along the road and finally found CP5 after some confusion.

We reached CP5 at 3:39pm after being on the trail for 16:09hours now. CP5 is inside a school. There were quite a number of runners still at the CP and I saw some familiar faces like Kenny who was taking a nap and Charlotte who seem to be preparing to leave.

I ate three crackers, a few slices of orange and ham then drank Coke. Afterwards, I went to the toilet.

As it was already 4pm I called Beeping using Chee Wee’s iPhone and asked her how she is. She told me that she made it to Pak Kung Au before the cut-off and she’s now walking to the next CP as she doesn’t have much time to rest.  I was very happy to hear this news as I know the chances of finishing is quite high if one makes it to the cut-off of Pak Kung Au.

I topped up my bladder with water before me and Chee Wee continued to the next CP.

CP5 (Tai-O, Km57) to CP6 (Ngong Ping, Km69)

We left CP5 a few minutes after 4pm. Me and Chee Wee were so busy talking  that we ended up missing a turn. We were already walking quite some distance when we realized we had not seen any trail markers so we turned back.

After retracing our steps, we found the marker that we missed. We were careful to follow the markers this time as we were walking in a small village. The path lead us to a bridge but when we reached a junction that seems to be heading to the mountain we didn’t see any marker anymore. Me and Chee Wee decided to split up to check which trail has the markers and come back to the junction. The trail I was on didn’t had any markers and it didn’t seem like anyone was going there. The trail Chee Wee was on had people coming out however, when he came back he told me there was also no trail markers.

We walked all the way back to where we last saw the markers where it was tied to a lamp post. I told Chee Wee that there’s seem no other way but go to the bridge. We checked the map but it’s not a detailed one so we can’t be sure. Chee Wee asked me if we should call the organizers and I said okay. While he was making a call, a Chinese guy who was bringing a camera approached me and told me that we were already in the right direction. The runners we’re all heading in that direction.

I told Chee Wee about this and he dropped the call. We thanked the man and hurriedly went back to the bridge. We have already wasted more than 30 minutes after getting lost twice.

Our 1:40hours of buffer time has been reduced to almost 30 minutes. Both of us were silent as we continued along the path. After a few minutes we found the trail marker so we got confirmation we were on the right path. Chee Wee started running while I continued to power hike.

The time spent trying to look for the trail marker drained my energy. I began to think if we should not have stayed too long in CP5 and instead went together with the others. Then I also thought about the costly mistake of missing a turn because we didn’t paid attention. I was wondering if these mistakes were going to cost us the race.

I ran the downhill paved path and was able to catch up with Chee Wee. Not too long after we were able to catch up with a group of Chinese runners walking the road. We walked together with them until we reached a trail sign leading uphill.

Their group went up first  followed by Chee Wee. I opted to go to last as I know I was going to be slow with the uphill climb. It was quite steep that I have to stop occasionally to catch my breath. The trail was very narrow and the tall bushes made me feel like I was gonna get suffocated if I don’t get out soon. The confined space made me feel claustrophobic and I kept wishing we would be at the peak soon but it was a long torture. It did offer a good view of the Hong Kong Airport. Just as I thought there was clearing ahead, another uphill climb with the tall bushes presents itself.

The Chinese group were quite fast and soon they were out of our sight. Chee Wee looked worried as we seemed to be the last heading to Ngong Ping from Tai-O. I told him that it doesn’t matter if we are the last. We just try and see if we can make it for the cut-off.

It was getting dark and I was wishing we will be out of the tall bushes soon. After a long uphill struggle we finally reached a clearing. We can see the big Buddha on the our right side on another mountain and the cable cars going in that direction. I was wondering if we had enough time to get there.

Across from where we were standing there was a cable car station and we spotted the Chinese runners going up there. We went down the stairs and then climbed up. We found the trail sign and continued ahead.

The trail was mostly rolling at this point and I was glad that my legs can rest for a bit. We can see headlamps ahead of us so we know we are in the right track.

We reached Ngong Ping (CP6, Km69) at 7:37pm after being on the trail for 20:07hours now.

I ate a few slices of orange and crackers then drank my favorite energy booster, Coke. I decided to a eat bit of cup noodles as the next peak will be Lantau Peak (934m) and I needed all the energy I can get.

Chee Wee didn’t looked good. He told me he was feeling cold. We rested for a few minutes in the CP. I asked him if he wanna continue. I tried to encourage him by telling him that it’s not like we are climbing from sea level all the way up to 934m. We are already at an elevation in Ngong Ping based on the race course profile. I told him if ever he decides not to continue I will go on my own to Lantau Peak. He answered me and said he will give it a try and go with me.

He asked a marshal if they got any spare gloves but none of them have. He decided to just use the buff to cover his hand. I advised him to put on his jacket hood so it helps cover his head.

CP6 (Ngong Ping, Km69) to CP7 (Pak Kung Au, Km74)

We left the CP and walked in the dark to the gate where the trail starts for Lantau Peak. It was uphill all the way and quite windy too. We took our time as we climbed the stairs, occasionally stopping. We can see the big Buddha across.

As we were going up, we heard a bursting sound followed by a liquid being sprayed on my face. I got terrified wondering what it was. Chee Wee said it might be an animal. We continued ahead and then the noise came again and the liquid sprayed on my face. This time Chee Wee saw it and he laughed. He said it’s because of my water bottle which had Coke on it. We both laughed and I was relieved it was not something creepy.

We continued the steep climb until we reached a clearing by then the visibility was pretty bad. The Big Buddha cannot be seen anymore. Chee Wee asked if we can rest. I told him it’s not a good idea to rest at this point as it was too windy and cold. We need to get out as soon as possible.

I realized it was not yet the peak. Lantau Peak was still up further ahead. It was quite hard to see what’s ahead due to the fog. We caught up with a couple and we followed their lead. The strong wind was threatening to blow us off the ridge. I held on to the railing and rocks as we climbed to the top.

When we finally reached Lantau Peak, the highest peak in Lantau Island and the 2nd highest in Hong Kong, a marshal advised us to immediately go down. There was no opportunity to take any souvenir photos as it was too windy and foggy. We took another trail going down to Pak Kung Au. The couple went down first and after a few minutes they were out of our sight. As we continued the downhill, the wind was still very strong so we had to be cautious with our steps. The strong windy conditions remained until we reached the CP. I was so relieved when we made it safely down to Pak Kung Au.

We arrived in CP7 around 10:30pm, exactly 23hours after flag-off. We had about 2 hours buffer time.

I ate 2 slices of orange again and some ham. I had no appetite to eat other food. The CP had ran out of Coke but luckily I still have some left from the previous CP.

Chee Wee looked like he wanted to rest more at the CP but it was cold and windy to stay long there. I tried to encourage him by telling him that the trail going to the next CP is mostly rolling but after that there will be an uphill before going downhill. In the end he agreed to move on.

CP7 (Pak Kung Au, Km74) to CP8(Chi Ma Wan, Km84)

We crossed the road to the other side where the kiosk was after going down from Sunset Peak and followed the trail from there. We passed by Kenny along with a few other runners who were taking a short nap on the side of the trail. After hiking a few minutes I asked Chee Wee if he’s okay and he told me that he’s very sleepy.

We decided to take a few minutes break so he can take a short nap. I just sat in the corner while I waited for him to wake up. Kenny and a few other racers passed by and asked if we are just okay. I told them he is just taking a short nap.

After a few minutes he woke up and said we can continue. As we continued hiking in the dark trail Chee Wee didn’t look good as he kept tripping over the rocks. I asked him again if he is okay and he told me that he is sleep walking but he insisted that we continue. I gave him half of my Coke in the hope that it will keep him awake.

I was worried he would fall off the cliff if he’s sleep walking. Every now and then I would look back and check on him if he’s still behind me.

He kept burping and I asked him if he feels like vomiting. He told me he’s not. He just feels sleepy. He reasoned out that it’s because of the orange and Coke that he took.

After about 7.5Km we finally reached the road. A marshal assisted us in crossing the road and informed us that there’s another 2.5km to CP8. Chee Wee asked for a few minutes break so he can take another short nap and I agreed as the next one will be steep uphill climb.

Two runners went past us and asked if we are okay. After a few minutes Chee Wee woke up and said he’s okay to continue.

We climbed uphill and after that it was all downhill all the way to CP8.

We reached Chi Ma Wan (Km84) around 2:26am. We have been running and hiking for 26:56hours now. Our buffer time was cut short to just one hour.

I took orange again and ate a bit of spaghetti.

CP8 (Chi Ma Wan, Km84) to CP9 (Shap Long, Km95)

From Chi Ma Wan it was a steep uphill climb to Lo Yan Shan (303m). My legs were very tired but I know I have to keep on pushing. When we reached the peak there was a bit of confusion where to go as the runner ahead told us he can’t find any trail marker. After surveying the place there was no way but down. Three runners went down first and then after climbing the steps, found the marker.

There was a lot of going up and down the stairs. At this stage of the race I just really hated it.

Chee Wee’s headlamp was running out of battery. Both of us had already used our spare batteries as this was our 2nd night of running. He had another spare headlamp but it wasn’t so bright. From time to time I would look back and help him light his path.

I looked at my watch and I was beginning to worry if we can make it on time for the cut-off at CP9. I walked very fast but it seemed like we were still very far away as we had not pass some areas which I remembered were near to the CP.

I heard runners from behind as they try to overtake me. I started to run as well as I know there’s not enough time and my headlamp battery was also running out. It was was a mad dash to beat the cut-off time. I was pushing myself very hard. During the uphill climbs I just bear the pain and just tried to be quick as possible.

I was so relieved when I finally saw the gate and felt even more lucky the CP was just around there. I didn’t have to run quite far like last year.

I didn’t stop for any drinks. After the timing staff scanned my chip I immediately went ahead as I only had about 1hour and 25 mins to cover 5Km which still includes a lot of uphill.

CP9 (Shap Long, Km95) to Finish (Silvermine Bay Beach)

It’s a paved road all the way to the finish but my legs totally had no power left after pushing myself so hard in the previous section. My quads and calves were in so much pain. I can’t run anymore even a short distance. I told myself that if I walk with a 15mins/km pace I can still make it for the 7:30am cut-off.

Walking was even a pain now but I know I have to keep moving. After about 2.5km I had to go pee in the bushes. As I returned to the paved road I saw Chee Wee. I was happy that he made the cut-off at CP9. He told me that after I started running together with the others he also started to run as his headlamp had ran out of battery.

As we reached the pier area I know we are moments from finishing this grueling 100Km race. Beeping was waiting for us near the ferry pier as she had been tracking our progress from the website. She walked together with me to the finish. A group of Singaporean runners who were gathered outside Silvermine Resort cheered me on as I was nearing the finish line.

After 31:46:06 hours of running and hiking 100Km and more than 32 hours of no sleep, I finally reached the finish line.

I was extremely exhausted but very happy to have finished my first ever 100Km ultra trail race.  It’s hard to believe I did it! I felt grateful and blessed.

Thanks to Chee Wee for being my running buddy during the race, to Kenny Lim who provided encouraging words each time he saw me in the trail or CP and most especially to Bee Ping. I am happy that she also finished her 50Km race.

TransLantau100 Finisher's Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher’s Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher's Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher’s Medal

TransLantau100 Race Results

TransLantau100 Race Results

 

Gear Packed/Used:
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest (12L)
One 20oz Ultimate Direction water bottle
Hydrapak Reservoir (1.5L)
Salomon Soft Flask (237mL/8oz)
Petzl Tikka XP2 with spare batteries
Black Diamond Headlamp – backup headlamp/not used
TNF Venture Jacket
Nike Dri-Fit Shirt
2XU Compression Shorts
Columbia Trekking Shorts
Buff
Nike Dri-Fit Cap
Compressport R2 calf sleeves
Feetures! Elite Socks
Salomon Women’s XR Crossmax Neutral Shoes
Suunto Quest and Suunto footpod
First Aid Kit
Salomon lightweight windbreaker – not used
Drymax socks – spare, not used
Space Emergency Blanket – not used
Coghlan’s Fold-a-Cup – not used

Fuel:
Packed energy gels, energy bars and bakwa but I didn’t really took them. I only opened one Shotz Berry Banana Energy Gel but didn’t finish it. I was mostly drinking Coke and eating the fruits (orange/banana) and other solid foods available at the aid stations. Also took the NectarHydro electrolyte at the CP when Coke was not available.

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Race Report: TMBT 2013

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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

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