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Race Report: The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) 2014

(this report doesn’t have much photos yet, can’t find any at the moment. Will keep updating as I manage to get more)
Last year’s TMBT 50k was my first ever ultra race… also my first DNF (and so far the only one). Stories have been told and retold to death, so there’s no point for me to rehash everything again. Basically I was among the few to be caught in last year’s unfortunate flash flood at Miki Loop and along with 60% of the participants, DNF-ed at WS3. With that in mind, I’ve already decided that I’ll be heading back to TMBT 2014 to try and finish the race. Since then, I’ve completed several other ultras including a road 100k. So instead of going back for the 50k race, I upgraded my race to the 100k.


With my number 198 at the race registration area

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Mandatory kit checking area

Fast forward to last weekend and again I find myself at Lingkubang, toeing the start line for TMBT again. The view of the school field just beside the starting line brought back memories of TMBT 2013. Can’t help but feeling nostalgic that this is where it all started for me. This time around, I had more friends with me – some trying the 55k for the first time, some back to redeem themselves from last year’s DNF. Wish my friend’s good luck before the race and we’re off at 7.06am.


A good luck push and kick from Subang training kakis (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Aw Yang)

Start – WS1: Sort the Ranks
This segment is aptly named “Sort the Ranks” because it’s truly a test of runner’s fitness. The goal is to reach a hanging bridge at Bundu Paka (around the mid point of this segment) as early as possible before the rest of the crowd arrives. You see, these bridges are dilapidated and only 6 runners are allowed to cross at any one time. This was the bottleneck point for last year’s race and I personally waited for 45 minutes then. The section started off at a relatively short flat gravel road before we join into a very steep ascend on a tarred road through Kg. Kebayau.


Up and up through Kg. Kebayau (Photo courtesy of Chang)

Managed to pull myself ahead and position myself in mid pack. Crowd control was fantastic at the bridge this year. There were only 9 other runners in front of me. And we waited for about 3 minutes before being allowed to cross the bridge. As I was crossing the bridge I glanced back and saw that the waiting line for the bridge has grown to about 20 people. There is also a major river crossing at the second part of this section where most of the nicest competitor photos were taken last year. Alas, no protographer at the river this year.

WS1 – WS2: Trail Seeker
Refilled by bottles and bladder quickly and I’m on my journey to Lobong Lobong (WS2). The view of the paddy plantation is beautiful against the backdrop sight of a mountain.  2 race photographers were hiding among the low lying bushes and took our photos when we least expected.


View from the paddy fields (2013 photos from: http://sumatratrekker.wordpress.com/)

There was a slow gradual ascend in a mud trail littered with small size boulders that reminds me of a dried river creek bed. At the end of the trail was a long long long steep ascend in concrete towards WS2. I called this the ‘neverending road’ last year and it proves to be a nightmare again. Many runners slowed down visibly here but I pressed on to reach the top because I knew of a reward for reaching the end of this path. As we were going into WS2, I turned to pick up my “reward” from a local sundry shop. A bottle of Coke and 100 Plus isotonic! After almost 5 hours, these sugar heavy drinks are awesome!!


Surprised shot by race photographers (Photo courtesy of Eugerard Chong)

WS2 – WS3: Ridge Run/Leech Heaven
It’s 12 pm and my nightmare from last year became true as I was leaving WS2. It started to drizzle and I’m worried if we will actually be trapped in Miki loop again. To get into Miki loop, we have to climb 3 mountain ridges with pineapple farms. The ascend wasn’t very difficult because the rain cooled our bodies. Descending those ridges into Miki loop is another story altogether, the loose muddy soil is slippery and every footstep is swallowed by thick mud. One runner couldn’t even lift his feet because his shoes are so caked in mud that it got permanently stuck. In Miki loop, the jungle trail is flooded and its very difficult to differentiate the muddy ground from roots. I tripped a few times in it, but thankfully no injury. The organizers made the right decision to not cross the river at the end of Miki loop this year. I took 4.5 hrs to cover this section of the race, 1 hour longer than my estimated time and the cutoff is looming closer.


Pineapple ridge… you can see the little path leading to the next ridge (2013 photos from: http://sumatratrekker.wordpress.com/)

WS3 – WS4: The Dip
I reached WS 3 with 30 mins to go before cutoff. This was the point where I DNFed last year and it was a similar sight again this year. People wrapped in emergency blanket and shivering. Didn’t wanna waste time, I was out of the station within 5 minutes.At the flat section of this segment I ran my hearts out fearing the cutoff time to the next WS. One lady, Faith from South Africa looked rather lost and distressed halfway along this segment. Even after pointing her to the marker she didn’t notice it so I asked her to follow me. Managed to strike up a chat with her about the Comrades Marathon and rugby. I think listening to familiar topic calmed her down a little and she got stronger uphill, eventually overtaking me. I’m happy at least I helped her to carry on. Finally reached WS 4 after an hour. The marshall warned me to leave the place within 15 mins or I’ll risk a DNF.

WS4 – WS5: Road Rage
Rain stopped at around 6 pm. At the early stages of this segment, we had to navigate unmarked trails surrounded by overgrown lallangs (blady grass) taller than myself. As it got darker the paths got even more difficult to navigate. Was a relief when we finally entered into a highway road. Busses and vehicles zoomed past very quickly. For some reason, although I felt very hungry I didn’t want to eat my food because WS 5 is where they’ll be serving food to us. I was sick of energy bars by this point and craving for some real food. Bad mistake. As I was heading down into Bundu Tuhan to WS 5, I started bonking and moving slowly. Few runners begin to overtake me. When I realized this fact, I quickly ate my energy bar and managed to reach WS 5 in 13:18 hrs. Happy that I made up almost 1.5 hrs in time and I could take my time eating and cleaning up for the next half of the race.

WS5 – WS7: Restart/Stargazer
As I entered the hall, I’m surprised to see all my running buddies there. Wai Hong, Yik Yee, Alvin Chen, Hong Lan, Reyne, Amy, Edmund Ting whom I assumed were way ahead of me. I realized later that they have decided to wait for me to go together in the dark. I’m grateful for this because without them I wouldn’t have completed the race. After a quick change of clothes, repacking of my race kit and some food, we continued on the journey. This segment of the race was uneventful as its mostly on gravel road and in the night. With nothing to see, we’re mostly zombie walking through the 2 waterstations. I did manage to strike up some chatter with Yik Yee, reminding me of the time at Titi 100 (about the same time of day too) we also walked and talked about our life and work. Just as we were about to enter into WS 7 at 1 am, it started raining again and the cold wind at this high altitude is chilling.

WS7 – WS8: The Curve
At the start of this segment, we entered into a technical trail through a small section of cabbage farm. The trail leads downhill for about 600m. On any given day, the trail would be fun to run down. Not so much when its been raining, the mud wet and slippery. The trail doesn’t have any “stop gaps” that we could grab on like rocks or roots. Just a one way slide downhill. I descended slowly at this stage with some slips and fall along the way. The trail ends at a gravel road. With a small stream at the side I decided to clean my hands and trekking pole before carrying on. This made me fall to the back of the 7 men pack. I felt some of the funniest sensations here: something tugging on my poncho, someone breathing beside me. The weirdest was when I thought I saw a cliff just below my feet, blinking my eyes and they’re gone. I knew then that I’m starting to imagine things either from extreme exhaustion or lack of food. I quickly munched my energy bar and felt much better after a short while.

WS8 – WS9: Downfall
The later part of this segment involves a 600m descend into a valley. This was when the first light of dawn broke. I knew then that we will finish this race as long as we stick to the current pace. The worst is over and we have survived the night. As we descend to WS 9, with our renewed strength from the rising sun, some members of our group started to run downhill. I tried to run a little, but my quads were tightening and running downhill is becoming more and more difficult. Instead I chose to walk faster downhill. Reached WS9 which was the third food station for the 100k runners. Refueled on fried noodles and soup, went for a quick toilet break and off we go heading towards the rising sun.

WS9 – WS10: Over the Hill
Not done with the torture, we face a series of steep uphill gravel road. 385m ascend over 5km. Wai Hong and I found our energy and started to hike up the hill quite rapidly, and the rest of the group started falling back. At one of the bend, we heard a runner at our back running at quite a fast pace. Wondering who had the energy to run at such a pace after such a long distance we turned back and saw Vlad Ixel, the winner of TMBT 2013 100km cruising the terrain. Vlad ran the 28km Hasuu Tasu race this year, due to an injury. Soon after a few more Hasuu Tasu runners started overtaking us. Both Wai Hong and I waited patiently for our friend Yew Khuay to pass us. He ran the 55k the day before and again the 28k the following day. When he ran past, we cheered for him, good feeling to see a friend at the race course.

WS10-WS11: Home Stretch
Checking into WS 10, Wai Hong and I made a quick decision to not stop too long and continue on. Although the race is almost over, this stage is the most challenging for us. 665m elevation over 6.6km. What we didn’t expect was the trail hike up for almost 4km. With our quads absolutely destroyed by this point, the ascend was slow, torturous and painful. We were quickly joined by Alvin Chen and the three of us marched on to WS11. We were so exhausted at this point, that we started asking little kids running on the streets if they know the distance to Perkasa (end point). The kids happily ran with us to a checkpoint in the middle of this segment. The last 2 km to the finish was the most torturing. We could see the tower at Perkasa but we just don’t seem to be able to reach it. Then the rain begin falling again. How apt to finish the race in wet conditions, wrapping up our entire race. 3 of us, Wai Hong, Alvin Chen and myself finished in a time of 28 hrs and 50 mins. There were cheers and well dones from people at the finish line and Yew Khuay came to take our finishing photo together. I managed to strike a chat with Vlad Ixel at the finishing tent too.


Finishing photo and medal with Alvin Chen, myself and Wai Hong (Photo courtesy of Yew Khuay)


Photo with TMBT 2013 100km winner Vlad Ixel. (Photo courtesy of Yew Khuay)

We waited for the rest to arrive and the remaining 4 (Hong Lan, Reyne, Edmund and Yik Yee) arrived within cut off time. This race proved to us again that it is one of the toughest yet the most beautiful race course I’ve ever been in. I have finally finished my  “unfinished business” from last year.


Finishing tee, medal and race bib number

Worth Mentioning

  1. The route markers have improved tremendously this year. I cannot think of a reason anyone could get lost with all the markers along the race course.
  2. The decision to add 8.5km of road before the hanging bridge at Bundu Paka is the right decision because there was almost no congestion there this year.
  3. The addition of 3 food stations for the 100km is a great change from previous year. When the body is pushed to go for such long hours, it craves for natural food and I think only food stations are capable of providing such a nutrition.
  4. I believe the key to finishing for myself was because I had company for the night stage of the race. Ever since TMBT 2013 I’ve learned the valuable lesson of pairing up with another runner during the night phases of ultra. The night is when your body starts to go to “sleep mode” and tend to give up when the going gets tough.
  5. I neglected my nutrition for certain parts of this race. And none more obvious than in this race that I learn the importance of nutrition in an ultra. The bonking, imagination and semi-hallucinations proves that improper nutrition could lead to some serious accidents.

Thank Yous

  1. To Wai Hong who trained with me since April and waited for me at WS 5 to finish together. I am grateful for that buddy!
  2. The fantastic 6: Alvin Chen, Yik Yee, Reyne, Hong Lan, Edmund and Amy who went together with me from WS5 onwards. We all finished nicely this time. Amy – go back next year and finish it 🙂
  3. Andrew O’Brien, Kevin Lau, Karen Teo, Yew Khuay, Roy for tracking and updating my progress in the race.
  4. Frank for the weekday speedwork sessions and weekend FRIM strength sessions
  5. Renee for the pre-race hug. It means a  lot to me 🙂
  6. Si Main for lending me the GPS. That allowed my GPS to survive for almost 30 hours 🙂
  7. Subang training kakis: who gave me a kick before the start of the race. Thanks for the good luck kick!
  8. All my other friends: thank you for your wishes and messages before, during and after the race. I hope someday you all will be doing TMBT as well and share your experience
  9. Saucony Malaysia for the Saucony Peregrine 4 used for the 2nd half of the race.



The Saucony Peregrine 4 which survived the last 50 km of TMBT


The Lure of Ultra Running

Its no secret that ultra distance is my favourite running distance. Unlike the marathon where 42.195km is the benchmark for someone to call themselves a marathoner, no clear definition exists for what should be an ultra marathon distance. Most would say “anything beyond 42.195km is an ultramarathon”.  But you can’t really pit someone who ran 43km and 100 miles in the same league although they would both be called ultramarathoners.


And even running ultra marathon distances defy the logical convention of exercising to be healthy. Muscle damage, injuries, heat stroke, dehydration, vomiting, excessive lost of fluid or body weight and too many others to name are common in an ultra marathon. Doctors advise for us to exercise in moderation to stay healthy, but ultra marathoners always push for the extremes to the point of risking their lives.

What motivates someone to voluntarily run in ungodly hours (while the entire population is sleeping), pushing through pain miles after miles just to achieve that distance? Most done through the harshest of weather: blistering heat, freezing cold, heavy thunderstorms. No one can explain really. The book Born to Run by Chris McDougall puts forth the idea that it is in our primal nature to run long distances. That our ancestors practice this as a form of hunting, hence improving our chance for survival.  That seems the most plausible because I can think of no reason we’re so attracted to punishing ourselves and yet after going through it all we always go back time and again.


And the motivation for ultra marathons is not the money either. Prize money for ultras pales in comparison to marathons. The winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon nets USD $150,000. The winner of the prestigious Comrades ultra marathon … ZAR 350,000 (or USD $33,115) . What about other ultras? The Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), Western States 100 and Leadville 100 doesn’t even offer any prize money to the winners of the race. Don’t make the mistake of asking how much prize money is being offered for an ultra. You’ll probably be scorned by the runners at the event because they could care less about the prize money and would be happier toeing the starting line.


I think what really draws the ‘nutjobs’ into ultra running is that sense of self discovery. To know what you are really capable of when put in an impossible and hopeless situation. Every ultra runner must’ve experienced what I call the ‘pit’. A dark gloomy phase of the race when your mind is asking you to give up. That it is not worth it to continue. That there is no point in all this pain and suffering. But what makes or break an ultra runner is often the mind. You will never know how mentally strong you are until you have challenge an ultra marathon. And through ultras you will discover that your mind is the strongest part of your body.


The camaraderie in an ultra is also unlike any other running event. Ultras put runners in a survival mode all the time. The person running beside you, is not competing to put you behind him/her as quickly as possible (such in the case of a marathon). Rather they’re running beside you with the hopes of also reaching the finish line. Friendships are often built in an ultra because you spend so much time running together with the same person. The most common sight in an ultra are group of runners running together, supporting each other to the finish. I remember my own case of running Titi 100 when I ran with a Singaporean from 20km point to 60km. We didn’t always run together, but we passed each other many times and often motivate the other to continue on and don’t give up. Ultra marathon is so much an individual event, but also a team sport with the other runners.

Andy and James leaving Mooney Mooney 2

I believe most ultra runners are risk takers. And they love that uncertainty that comes with the game. You can train as well as you like for an ultra, but no one can very confidently say they are prepared for one. Because it is impossible to train for a 100km race or 100miles. Your body reacts differently each time you run that distance. The risk, akin to a sky diver not knowing if the parachute will open or fail, is what fuels the adrenaline of every ultra runner. Going into the unknown and pulling through whatever challenges thrown at them.


There is a sense of nirvana while you’re running an ultra when you transcend that initial pain and is at peace with it. The long hours running, free from the busy world of technology and chaos. A peaceful world is an elusive place that only ultra runners can find.  Your mind is completely free from your worries and troubles. And the best part of it all, you are not doing this because you’re motivated by worldly possessions or money. You’re doing it because you want to do it. To prove it to yourself. Hence why many who don’t run ultras think that we’re weird, because we seem to embrace and gravitate towards pain. The more painful or physically challenging ultra is more desirable. I can tell you its not the pain we’re seeking, but what comes after that. Peace.


There is so much I can talk about ultra running and why I love it. But I think describing them in words are pointless. You have to experience it to appreciate it. Do try an ultra sometime. I assure you, it will be a life changing experience, like it did to me 🙂



**all photos are taken from the Internet and they’re not mine. Credits to the owners.

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Press Release: Saucony Ride 7 named “Editor’s Choice” in Runner’s World 2014 Summer Shoe Guide


New Ride Redefines Connection between Runner and Road

Reflecting its continued brand momentum and strong focus on award-winning innovation, global performance running footwear and apparel brand Saucony is proud to announce that the Ride 7, the brand’s newly updated neutral running shoe, has been named “Editor’s Choice” in  the Runner’s World 2014 Summer Shoe Guide (June issue). The Ride 7, lighter than its predecessor by half an ounce, delivers a redesigned outsole for greater responsiveness, cushioning and durability. In the Runner’s World Summer Shoe Guide, the Ride 7 received the highest marks of the 22 shoes reviewed by the publication’s shoe lab, its wear-testers and editors to capture the prestigious award.

“The Ride 7 made my job as a runner extremely easy! The cushioning and arch support was superb for my 80-plus miles per week.” – Cheryl Miller, a wear-tester from East Lansing, Michigan

“Our wear-testers of all abilities echoed those sentiments, giving the shoe top marks for comfort, stability, and traction. That last score may be in part because of a  newly designed outsole. The tread pattern and blown rubber—bubbles in the rubber make it softer and lighter—combine to deliver a smooth ride while remaining incredibly durable. Saucony also tweaked the midfoot configuration to deliver a smoother ride by removing a plastic piece from under the arch and filling it in with foam and rubber so the shoe makes complete contact with the ground. Bottom line: A soft ride suitable for high-mileage runners” – Runner’s World review of the Saucony Ride 7

Saucony Ride 7

The new Ride 7 features a reengineered outsole and midfoot configuration: Designers removed the plastic midfoot shank from under the arch and extended the SRC™ (Super Rebound Compound) crashpad into the midfoot to help reduce torque, enhance flexibility and set the foot up for a more fluid transition from heel to toe-off. A new vertical flex groove in the Ride 7’s outsole adds to the shoe’s superior forefoot flexibility.


(From left) Saucony Ride 7 (for men) available in orange/citron and blue/black/citron.


(From left) Saucony Ride 7 (for women) available in berry/vizi/coral; silver/purple/red and green/citron.

(From left) Saucony Ride 7 (for women) available in berry/vizi/coral; silver/purple/red and green/citron.

The midsole of the Ride 7 feature the brand’s exclusive full-length PowerGrid™ technology. This advanced foam recipe is 15% lighter and 30% more durable than traditional EVA, providing the ideal blend of cushioning, responsiveness and propulsion. Further helping to reduce weight is the Ride 7’s IBR+™ outsole, an injection-blown rubber compound that is 33 percent lighter than traditional blown rubber.

Welded overlays in the shoe’s distinctive upper create a seamless feel while a highly breathable open air mesh keeps feet cool and comfortable. A silver reflective synthetic detail at the heel provides visibility in low light conditions. Saucony’s exclusive ComfortLite Sockliner™, a molded sockliner engineered with premium EVA, is contoured to cradle the heel and support the arch while reducing peak pressures in the forefoot. The collar of the Ride 7 features a RunDry™ lining for superior moisture wicking properties.

The shoe’s 8mm heel-to-toe offset positions the foot during impact in a way that creates a greater range of motion for the Gastrocnemius-Soleus-Achilles tendon system, allowing for a more powerful running stride.

Saucony’s ongoing commitment to award-winning innovation and performance continue to earn significant industry accolades for the brand. In addition to the “Editor’s Choice” Award for the Ride 7, Saucony has been repeatedly recognized by Runner’s World for its exceptionally innovative and industry-leading products, including the most recent awards:

  • Peregrine 4: “Editor’s Choice” (Runner’s World Spring Trail Shoe Guide 2014)
  • Triumph 11: “Editor’s Choice” (Runner’s World Italy Winter 2014)
  • Omni 12: “Editor’s Choice” (Runner’s World Fall 2013)
  • Kinvara 4: “International Best Update” (Runner’s World Fall 2013)

Saucony Ride 7 Men’s in Blue/Black/Citroen color (click to view bigger image)

Saucony Ride 7 Women’s in Berry/Vizi/Coral color (click to view bigger image)

The Saucony Ride 7 retails at RM 399 per pair in Malaysia and is now available at the following stores:

  • Running Lab (Tropicana City Mall)
  • The Marathon Shop (Sunway Pyramid, Lot 10)
  • selected STADIUM, Studio R and Royal Sporting House stores nationwide.


Race Report: Sabah Adventure Challenge Day 3


Got up early at Day 3. Beautiful day. Not so beautiful legs. Unlike the previous day, my feet are all blistered up and the soreness is there to stay. The usual morning routine: clean our tent, shower, gear up and breakfast. The 10 minutes walk to the breakfast hall is hilarious with people limping, some literally waddling or shuffling their way to breakfast.

We had absolutely no knowledge of what we’re about to face for Day 3. Tristupe shared with us during breakfast that if its like the previous years we’ll be hiking up to Langanan waterfall, followed by a short ‘treasure hunt’ sort of challenge to differentiate the timing of faster runners vs the more navigational savvy runners. At the starting point the race director informed us that today’s race will not exceed more than 10km and the day’s cutoff is 4 and a half hours.

We started off with a 500m run down the tar road in front of Poring Hot Springs into the trail head leading to Langanan Waterfall. That’s where the nightmare begins. After 2 exhausting days, the SAC organizers made us hike up a hill with 600m elevation gain. It is really a test of endurance, and many racers started to slow down to a crawl, myself included. I knew going into this race that my legs were not ready for hiking. I’ve only been doing road races for the past 4 months. Strangely, WaiHong looked fine today and in fact was going faster than the day before. We’ve stuck to our plan of going together for the past 2 days and I knew I’m just holding him back, so I asked him to go ahead and don’t wait for me.  It took me about an hour to do the 4km hike up to the peak.

Sign says Langanan Waterfall (1,500m head). Bollocks lol.

Sign says Langanan Waterfall (1,500m head). Bollocks lol.

We climbed this all the way to the peak.

We climbed this all the way to the peak.

Sign says "Bat Cave". Hello Batman? You home? Need some help here man.

Sign says “Bat Cave”. Hello Batman? You home? Need some help here man.

At the peak we’re awarded with a magnificent sight of the Langanan waterfalls. I took about 10 minutes break to absorb all the beauty of this waterfall before heading down. Right before I left I overheard a racer asking why there’s no water to refill their hydration pack? Common sense buddy, its so tough for you to hike up, who could carry water for 200 racers to the peak of the hill?

The beautiful Langanan Waterfall. It was totally worth the hike up.

The beautiful Langanan Waterfall. It was totally worth the hike up.

It took me another hour to descend the hill. I’m almost completely drained by the time I reached the bottom of the hill.

I may look cool going down the hill in this pic (Photo credits: Fadzlee)

I may look cool going down the hill in this pic (Photo credits: Fadzlee)

But it ain't that easy lol (Photo credits: TriStupe)

But it ain’t that easy lol (Photo credits: TriStupe)

But then the next challenge awaits. Checking into Poring Hot Springs we’re given another map, this time with 12 points on it. As ultra runners, we’re required to go to at least 5 of these points  in any order and direction as you prefer. No instructions as to how to get there. Each of these points have some sort of bottle with message in it. Once we have all 5 we’ll head back to Poring Hot Springs to end our race. Runner will be given 30 minutes penalty for each point less than the 5 mandatory ones.

We're only given this map with 12 CPs. It's all up to our navigational skills to make it to 5 CPs and back.

We’re only given this map with 12 points. It’s all up to our navigational skills to make it to 5 points and back.

I took about 10 minutes to study the map, plus some measurement. I decided that I’m going to to go points 5 – 7 – 6 … backtrack to the starting point and go points 9 – 10. Head out quickly and I overshot the turn towards point 5  and went into a path that was not EVEN ON THE MAP! With me were 2 other competitors, 1 of them turned out to be the eventual winner of the ultra race. We searched high and low and found nothing. Finally the race director, Claus told us that this path is wrong and not even on the map. Cursing our luck, I backtracked and eventually found point 5.

The message in a bottle.

The message in a bottle. I forgot to take pics of the bottle, but Kian Chong did. (Photo credits: Kian Chong)

Proceed to the next few points. The sun was blazing down on us again, and I felt it was a hotter today than the previous 2 days. I met Yew Khuay along the way, and he shared with me which checkpoints were closer and which to avoid. The journey to point 10 felt very very long and I’m almost dragging my feet. At the back of my head I was sort of concerned that I might miss the cut off time too. When I reached point 10, with 45 minutes left I knew I can still make it in time. Mustered whatever energy to jog whenever I can. I have to point out here that at least 2 groups of racers asked if I wanted to share the point keywords with them, which is against the race rules and should be penalized.

Running back to finish the race.

Running back to finish the race. (Photo credit: Nasier Lee)

I finished Day 3 in 4 hours and 2 mins… the distance, a whooping 18km. So much for Day 3’s distance not exceeding 10km. It was indeed a good race, a very happy feeling when I completed my first multi-day adventure race. In total I’ve covered 36 + 40 + 18 km = 94km in 3 days. Yew Khuay, Wai Hong and Hong Lan were already at camp site busy packing up when I arrived. As we needed to clear the entire race site by 2pm, it was an absolutely mad rush to clean ourselves up and pack our tent.

Finisher lunch. Joyous lunch.

Finisher lunch. Joyous lunch. (Photo credits: TriStupe)

At lunch, the mood around the table was all joyous. Laughter, jokes and discussion was all up in the air. Right after lunch the finisher medal and tee was presented. The medal for this year is HUGE, the size of your palm. The long sleeved finisher tee from 2ndSkin is unique too.

Finisher tee and medal.

Finisher tee and medal.

We boarded the bus at 2.30 pm and left for Tg. Aru which is almost 3 hours away from Poring Hot Springs. And with that ends SAC 2014. Great awesome memories and counts as my BEST race experience so far. I have to give kudos to the organizing team. They did a fantastic job in taking care of all of us and giving us a good experience. I hate to harp on the race cost thing, but again at RM 100 I have no idea how the organized pulled off such a high standard race.


With my race buddy WaiHong in the bus


Hong Lan and Wei Min on the other side of the bus

Until 2015’s edition, I hope this race report has given you a glimpse of our experience. But nothing really beats the experience of being there and doing it yourself.

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Race Report: Sabah Adventure Challenge Day 2


5 am and the first alarm in the tent starts buzzing. Being a light sleeper myself, I got up and immediately noticed a hive of activity at the camp site. People were getting their morning showers and last minute packing done. Breakfast was served at 6am. Again I have to praise the organizers, they’re not skimping on breakfast: toast, porridge, eggs, sausages, fruits, juices are all served to us.

By 7 am the competitors were already waiting at starting point for Day 2 flag off. I did my last minute bag check to make sure I didn’t miss anything this time. I forgot my salt sticks for Day 1 – a critical mistake and I’m happy it didn’t get me into any serious problems. Such an error should not happen for long distance races. Thankfully its a multi-day race so I get to repack my gears/nutrition for the next day but I won’t be so lucky the next time around.

Day 2 flagoff. Yes we can still run after a day of racing.

Day 2 flagoff. Yes we can still run after a day of racing. (Photo credits: Kian Chong)

7.30am and we’re flagged off. The first 500m is on a tar road heading towards a lodge. Surprisingly my legs weren’t that sore from day 1 and we decided to run until we reached a trail path. From the lodge, the 7km gravel and mud trail path ascended for about 400m elevation gain. Path was straight forward and there’s no chance to get lost. But it was clearly a much steeper hill than anything we’ve seen in day 1. We trudged along with the morning sun glaring down at us. The heat caught all of us by surprise considering its only 8.00am in the morning!

Ascend up the first hill.

Ascend up the first hill.

When we’re nearing the peak of that hill, we came across a logging camp. It was quite a sad sight to see the destruction of the forested area around the camp. Trees felled and lying around, reduced to saw dusts. We walked through the thick layer of saw dusts while weaving in between wood blocks on the ground. Quite dangerous because there’s no way of knowing the depth below the saw dusts and our legs could get trapped in between the wood blocks.

Destruction around the logging camp Sad sight.

Destruction around the logging camp Sad sight. (Photo credits: Kian Chong)

Soon we reached the boundary of the Sabah National Park. For this phase, we’re required to follow a trail with thick vegetation along the boundary of the park. This phase provided some much needed shade from the sun. It was clear that some runners are stronger in forested trails, they just blazed past us running up and down the trail with so little effort.

Trekking through Sabah Reserve Park

Trekking through Sabah National Park

Ain't as easy as it seems. Here's where you really understand mother nature's glory.

Ain’t as easy as it seems. Here’s where you really understand mother nature’s glory. (Photo credits: Kian Chong)

Things got out of hand once we exited the park. We came across a junction with 3 branching paths. The instruction told us to look for a Sabah Parks signboard and take the right hand side marked trail. WaiHong and I never even come across any signboard and spent quite some time looking for it. Fortunately we saw a pair of adventure racers walking confidently on a path past us. Had a quick conversation with them and they told us we’re in the right path. The skeptic that I was didn’t trust them, but WaiHong said they looked like locals with confident stride. Left with no choice we follow them. (We later learned that many runners were lost at this section and spent almost 2 hours going into the wrong direction before scrambling back).


Apparently this was the signage we’re supposed to look for. We completely missed it. But thanks to Ee Van I finally know how it looked like 😛 (Photo credit: TriStupe)

About 2km in we finally saw the team of organizers (Dr. Dev Sidhu, Claus and Nasier) with their cameras waiting to capture our shots. We descended the gravel and mud path until we reach Kg. Nalumad where CP 1 is located. The icy sponge water was a blessing. Many runners jumped into the river behind the CP to cool their body.  10 minutes of rest and off we went on our way.

Running down from Sabah National Reserve towards CP1

Running down from Sabah National Park towards CP1 (Photo credit: Dr. Dev Sidhu)

CP1 with the river behind.

CP1 with the river behind.

The instruction for the next phase is simple – “proceed on gravel road to Kg. Perancangan”. Just 1 simple line right? But on the map it shows one hell of a long journey. 8km to be exact. And its not exactly a gravel road, but unmaintained concrete road with broken blocks. WaiHong and I thought … are we gonna be walking this route the ENTIRE 8km? What made the journey worst, there’s almost no shade in sight, just a road with open skies above us. The temp was hitting almost 40 C. We walked the entire journey.

Endless gravel road to Kg. Perancangan. I will remember this route forever.

Endless gravel road to Kg. Perancangan. I will remember this route forever.

We reach our next destination at Kg. Perancangan at around 12 pm. In the middle of the village is a crossroad and its the most confusing thing ever. We saw runners walking along ALL 3 of the roads at the junction. Which to follow towards our next destination Kg. Debut Langsat? Misery was made worst when we asked several locals and they all pointed to different route. Finally a biker came along and told us that we should go straight as all runners on foot are heading that direction. We trudged along that path until we saw a hanging bridge over a river and what sounds like people having a whole lotta fun.

CP3 with 15 minutes of mandatory break.

CP3 with 15 minutes of mandatory break.

We’ve arrived at CP3, the BEST CP in the entire 3 days race. Robert Blake told us that we’re to take a mandatory 15 minutes rest at the river and if we’re thirsty, there’s a ‘kopitiam’ about 100m down the road. I went and got us some Coke then proceed to jump into the river. The cooling river water is such a blessed relief from the soaring temperature. We almost didn’t wanna continue anymore, but a race have got to continue. 15 minutes to the dot, we left the CP.

BEST THING IN THE ENTIRE SAC JOURNEY. Coke in icy cold river water. Heaven!

BEST THING IN THE ENTIRE SAC JOURNEY. Coke in icy cold river water. Heaven!

We ain't the only ones having fun. Other runners took the chance to dip in too.

We ain’t the only ones having fun. Other runners took the chance to dip in too.

The next phase was ironically the MOST difficult throughout the entire race. In 40 C temp, we hiked up a hill past rubber plantations. Even after dipping our entire body in the river, our clothes were completely dried within 15 minutes. Every 300m or so we came across some runner under a shade, just to avoid the heat. The 2km journey took us more than an hour, that was how bad it was at that point of the race. Arriving at CP 6 in Kg. Napong, the first thing we looked for was the icy sponge to cool our body. Surprisingly we were offered 100 Plus isotonic at this CP (surprising because throughout the entire race we’re only given plain drinking water). Apparently its sponsored by another racer who arrived earlier. Thank you whoever you are!

The sun and the elevation turning everyone into zombies (Photo credit to TriStupe)

The sun and the elevation turning everyone into zombies (Photo credit: TriStupe)

Next phase, we’re supposed to cross a main road and follow small gravel road to river. Turn left at the river until you reach a bridge. Follow river upstream and turn left into marked path. WaiHong and I did exactly as the instructions. Cross main road (checked!), follow small gravel road (checked!), reach river (checked!), turn left (checked!), see bridge (checked!). But after walking along the river bed we realized we’re actually at ANOTHER river running parallel with the actual river we’re supposed to follow!! There we bumped into Blake Peugh from Hong Kong. After discussing with her and reading the map, we realized that the river we’re at will eventually lead us to CP 7. We had to take the chance and follow this path because it’ll take us at least an hour to backtrack to the actual river. It’s not fun walking along the dried river bedrock. Large boulder like stones are along the path. While crossing the river, I lost count how many times I slipped and fell.

Walking along the river bed with boulder like stones ain't fun.

Walking along the river bed with boulder like stones ain’t fun.

Finally after about 30 mins, I saw Iris from Singapore at another end of the river bank. I kept shouting at her, but the gushing river flow was so loud it drowned my voice entirely. Fortunately she looked at our way, and we started to communicate in crude sign language. Some confusion ensued and finally she pointed us to a marked path. Blake, WaiHong and I finally trekked back to the right path. If it wasn’t for Iris we would’ve followed the river forever. I thanked her for saving us. Going into CP7 I’m secretly proud that we stuck to our guts, took that ‘modified’ route and still managed to get back to the right path. The path is actually shorter than the actual one, saving us precious time.

Iris from Singapore who saved ALL of us from following the river forever

Iris from Singapore who saved ALL of us from following the river forever

As we left CP7 we stumbled into Eric from Penang, who started as one of the top few competitors for the day, only to be beaten by the route and getting lost so many times. At the end of the day Eric told us he actually did 10km more than all of us.The route back was straight forward and we mustered whatever energy we have left and jogged back to Poring Hot Springs to end Day 2’s race in 9 hrs and 27 mins covering 40km.  Surprisingly we ended the day ranked no 10. I knew right away many runners were lost and hope they’ll arrive before darkness falls.

The same camp routine as the previous day: we cleaned the tent, washed ourselves and packed up for the next day’s adventure. Dinner is served at 7pm with the same nice spread as the day before. But it was obvious to me the camaraderie among racers were stronger today, many shared their stories of getting lost, the tricky route for Day 2 and battling heat exhaustion. Among our friends, we’re worried for Wei Min who have yet to arrive even after sunset. While waiting for Wei Min, we tended to our blisters for the day. The SAC medic team is amazing and very friendly. One even asked me for advise because he’ll be doing the TMBT 55k and his first marathon this year. I asked him “even after seeing all these blisters, you still want to sign up?”. His reply “this is where human spirit is tested”. You know immediately he’s meant to do this. I wished him all the best.

Medic doing a goob job in torturing... I mean tending to our blisters and wounds.

Medic doing a goob job in torturing… I mean tending to our blisters and wounds.

Just for the record. Our feet after day 2. Mine at the bottom. YK's at the top.

Just for the record. Our feet after day 2. Mine at the bottom. YK’s at the top.

Wei Min finally arrived at 8.45 pm, but in high spirits. We heard the last 5 runners arrived together at 10.00pm after almost 14 hours on the road. Really respect them for pushing all the way and not yielding to their weary bodies.

Wei Min finishing with a few other runners way past nightfall.

Wei Min finishing with a few other runners way past nightfall.

There was no briefing for Day 3 as the race directors want to keep it as sort of a surprise for us. Maps and information will only be given out early that morning. So it was lights out for us at 10pm.

Click here for Day 3 report —>


Race Report: Sabah Adventure Challenge Day 1

Before I start my rambling post about the race, let me first warn you that it’s going to be a long long blog post. I mean come on, what do you expect from a 3 days adventure right? This is my Day 1 report. You can jump to Day 2 (click here) and Day 3 (click here) reports too.

About the Race


Sabah Adventure Challenge (SAC) 2014 marked my first foray into multi-day foot race. The race promises 3 days of adventure in remote West Coast of Sabah covering about 75-100km ultra trail marathon (the footrace category) or 120-150km adventure race (the biking & footrace category). All competitors are given topographic maps with checkpoints. Competitors are expected to have basic orienteering and map reading skills to navigate through unmarked paths and trails to reach each checkpoint.

This year’s SAC marks the 15th anniversary of the race. Founded in 1998 by Danish engineer Claus Pedersen, Australian Pilot Captain Taz Lawrie and New Zealander Martin V.Rijwsk as a race that they can compete in to earn bragging rights for the rest of the year. Started with a humble origin of 8 teams, it is now considered one the oldest multi-day race in South East Asia.


I signed up for this race wayyyyy back in August 2013, before I even completed my first ultra. This race reminded me so much of my Scouting expeditions back in my schooling days. We used to walk 40km for 2 days to reach a camping ground and spend a night there. It was tough doing that as a school kid, but it was the best memory I carried from back in the day. I was very surprised when the organizers announced that the early bird fee for 2014 edition of SAC is only RM 100. With race prices soaring rocket high these days, I have to give kudos to the SAC organizers for keeping the race fee low.

The biggest headache for this race is the endless preparation and gears required for a multi-day race. We had to camp out in a field at Poring Hot Springs for 2 nights, so we needed to get our camping gears with us too.  Luckily for me I’m sort of experienced in orienteering and topographic map reading so that was something I didn’t have to get my head in a jam. About a month before the race, my brother decided to pull out from the race because he didn’t have any leave from his new job. So our supposedly first race together had to be delayed to another time I suppose.


Race gear all packed. May look little, but that’s 20kg of stuff right there.

Fast forward to the day before the race, we arrived at Sutera Harbour KK to register ourselves and attend course briefing by the team of organizers. The registration process was fast and we got our documents submitted within 10 mins. Aman warned us of the dry spell that Sabah have been experiencing in the past few weeks. The dos and don’ts were laid out for all competitors. What is made clear to us during the briefing is that unlike other races, SAC is not really a competitive event but more for camaraderie and friendship. Course race director Claus Pedersen briefed us about the route that we will be traversing for the next day.


Participants registering themselves for the race.


Course director Claus Jansen briefing us on the race route for Day 1


We boarded our bus transport to the starting  point of the race at 5 am. Total travel time was about 2 hr and 30 mins and most of the competitors in the bus tried to get some precious shut eye before the race. We hopped off the bus at Kg. Marakau in the Ranau district. This place really reminded me of our starting point for last year’s TMBT. I could see most of us were eager and excited to get things moving. We gathered at what looked like a small school for a short briefing by Aman before flag off. Wai Hong and I quickly agreed that we should stick together to navigate through the checkpoints as a team. Day 1 will have us go through approximately 35km mix of gravel road and off road trail.


All smiles before starting the race (Photo credit: Nasier Lee)

We were flagged off while staring straight at a gravel road climb on a hill. What the hell I thought? This is the first time I’m flagged off in the middle of a hill! Most of the runners took the right choice to walk up the hill, saving their energy to chase the downhill sections. 4km and about 400m climb later we finally reached the peak of the hill. We ran downhill after that and finally reached CP1 after 9km. There were quite a number of runners at CP1 just refilling their hydration bladders. Guess this is a popular strategy used by many to reduce the load of their bag by not carrying too much water in their bladders for the first 9km of the race.

That's a hill alright

That’s a hill alright

HEY! I see Checkpoint 1!!

HEY! I see Checkpoint 1!!

We check out of CP1 pretty quickly and went on our way through a path that leads under a traditional wooden stilted house. I chuckled as I ran under this house, thinking it’ll never happen in KL. Can you imagine letting 100 runners through your house in KL? And you standing there smiling as each one of them trample through your lawn? Yep, it happened in Sabah alright.

Hi Uncle, we don't have to pay toll to pass through your house, do we?

Hi Uncle, we don’t have to pay toll to pass through your house, do we?

The first river crossing of the race

The first river crossing of the race

3 river crossings later, we arrived at Kg. Sedul. I knew from my TMBT experience that whenever we pass by a village, those cheerful village kids will always run along with us. Sometimes even leading us to the right path if we’re lost. I took one candy that I have saved up from downtown KK and gave it to a little girl. That girl gave me the sweetest smile and I knew I’ve made her day. A short uphill run and we arrived at CP2. We were originally briefed that CP2 was not supposed to be a water station. But somehow we’re given water for refill and cold wet sponges to cool ourselves. Temperature at that time has risen up to 38 deg. so those cold sponges are a welcome relief. Here we met with Robert Blake which is such a friendly character throughout the race.

Stunning mountain range

Stunning mountain range

Wai Hong with Robert at CP 2

Wai Hong with Robert at CP 2

We continued through that gravel road and were met with a stunning view of the mountain ranges on our right. Soon we reached CP7 and it was evident that heat exhaustion were starting to play tricks in the minds of some runners. Many runners were crowding into the CP7 tent for a temporary reprieve from the scorching sun.

Checkpoint 7. Very very hot at this point.

Checkpoint 7. Very very hot at this point.

Things started to get interesting after CP7 whereby the road ends here and we’re supposed to follow a riverbed to CP8. When we reached the river, I knew the instruction was to follow the river upstream (on our right). But there were a group of 8 runners turned towards the left, going downstream. Confusion ensued and after rereading the instructions, Wai Hong and I decided to go against popular opinion and go upstream. True enough 100 meters in race photographers were stationed there. I warned the photographers that some of the runners have gone downstream and may be lost. Further upstream we met with a fork in the river. Again instructions clearly asked us to turn left, but so many runners took to the right. I told myself that from now on I should not blindly follow the runners in front and read, reread the instructions to be sure myself. We soon reached CP8 which is just a check-in /check-out tent.

Walking along the riverbed

Walking along the riverbed (Photo credit: Kian Chong)

The road to CP9 was interesting as we passed by many interesting landmarks along the way. An old wooden bridge that looks like it couldn’t hold on to its weight anymore and would collapse anytime.

Rickety wooden bridge

A village built entirely without wires. As the name says Kg. Tanpa Wayar (translated to English as Wireless Village). I wonder if they have WiFi for us?


A dusty stretch of road that kicks up a hell of a sandstorm whenever a vehicle passed us. I had to shield my nose and eyes a few times to prevent dusts from getting to them.


CP9 was a lively checkpoint with plenty of volunteers. I started to realize that my energy was slowly sapping away from me as we’re heading towards this CP. Been neglecting my nutrition thus far in the race and I felt its a good time to spend some time eating before things turn bad. My choice of nutrition for this race is Hammer’s Cranberry bar. Tastes awesome as its made up entirely of fruits.

With the awesome volunteers at CP9


We found this village hall with Coke!! I’ve always said, you can never find any Coke like a Coke in the middle of a race. 🙂

What we didn’t know was the route to CP10 would be a tough uphill climb made tougher with the scorching heat of 40 deg. No shade could shield us from the burning sun. We trudged slowly uphill along with many runners Whenever there’s a hint of a shade, surely another runner will be there taking a quick break from the heat. Things didn’t get any better after the climb. The route looked the same every which direction we turned. At one point I even asked Wai Hong if we’ve actually been walking in circles when I thought we’ve passed the same route 2 km ago. Luckily for us, we bumped into 3 villagers who very kindly pointed us to the right direction and even walked about 1 km with us just to be sure we arrived safely at CP10.


With the villagers who helped us to CP10. Yes that elderly man is holding a machete walking around 😛

We quickly continued on our way to the camping ground which we will end the day’s race and rest for the night. Along the way we were surprised to find this little water fountain in the middle of the jungle spouting cool, refreshing water. HEAVEN! Absolute heaven. Against the heat, anything that can let us cool off is a good thing.


I can never explain why such a thing exist in the middle of a jungle, but its an oasis for us lol

When we finally reached the camping ground, I was relieved that the first day’s ordeal is over. Finished Day 1 in 7 hours and 17 mins covering about 36km. Surprisingly my legs weren’t really sore and no blisters at all. We had the tent quickly set up and took a LONG nice warm shower. At 7 pm we head out towards the cafeteria for a scrumptious dinner. Everyone had a good time catching up with each other on the day’s adventure. At 8.30 pm, Claus briefed us on the next day’s route. Some runners were evidently tired as they snoozed through the entire briefing session.

First scene from campsite, YK snacking for recovery lol

First scene from campsite, YK snacking for recovery lol

Day 1 feet damage. Mine at the bottom, top is YK's

Day 1 feet damage. Mine at the bottom, top is YK’s

Setting up camp for the night

Setting up camp for the night

Friends around the dinner table

Friends around the dinner table

We're really spoilt for 3 days with good buffet meals

We’re really spoilt for 3 days with good buffet meals

Day 2 route briefing by Claus

Day 2 route briefing by Claus

We packed our bags, checked our gear and went through the route map one more time to be sure what’s facing us the next day. Lights out at 10.00pm and I fell into a deep sleep.

Click here for Day 2 report —>

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Race Report: Twilight Ultra Challenge

What does looping in East Coast Park’s infamous concrete pavement + a Ben Swee a.k.a ‘Batman’ organized running event meant to me? A whole lot of fun and a ton of pain. No kidding, this is the hardest ultramarathon for me thus far.


Twilight Ultra Challenge is a 16 hours looping event held in East Coast Park. A single loop will cover 10km in distance with water stations spread every 2.5km apart. Just the mention of East Coast Park conjures up those dark images of the endless path in Singapore Marathon and Sundown Marathon. To make matters worst, its a concrete pavement path which is never forgiving to your knees and legs. There is no minimum distance that one should cover and runners can stop at any point of the race.

Frank and I arrived at the race site pretty early that Saturday evening and the volunteers were busy setting up the area to prepare for the run. The pre-race ritual went on as usual and I always love to mingle and find out what my friends have been up to recently.


With Frank right before the start

I quickly prepared my gears and my special needs bag. Twilight encourages the use of our own bottles with their Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) initiative. Frank and I have prepared 1 bottle for each of us, but in the very last minute we realized that we actually needed 3 bottles for each of the water stations. We got it sorted out pretty quickly, but it goes to show, even with the running experience between the 2 of us, we still make mistakes like this. It didn’t cost us much this time, but in other races it might be crucial.


I only meet Carin and David during races, but we always have a good time catching up.


LYN Runners presence in Singapore. The Tan sisters, myself and Barkley.

Race started sharp at 7 pm and off we went trudging along the path. Few km in I felt a knot at my right hip flexor. Not wanting to risk anything, I slowed down my pace to warm up my body. ECP at that hour was chock full of cyclists, runners and pedestrian visiting the lovely park. Along the beach were campers and the smell of barbecue wafted as we ran past their camp. It wasn’t easy trying to dodge them and at the same time getting choked by barbecue smog.

My goal in those early hours was to try to hit 100km. The effects of running on pavement is not felt until about 20km when my legs felt really sore. Quite unusual for me as that distance is a comfortable one for me. I started to stop more often and longer at water stations. Uh oh I thought, here comes the pain.


1am and we’re all turning into zombies. Neeeed resttttt…

I met with Renee around the 20km point. She was having some trouble with her stomach and felt like throwing up the entire way. Quite puzzling as she’s usually quite a strong runner up to the full marathon distance. I decided to pace with her running most of the time, walking whenever her body starts acting up again. Along the way we kept ourselves entertained by doing intervals, using buildings and natural landmarks as our points. At the 37.5km waterstation, Renee very suddenly told me to go on without her. It’s quite a sad moment as I’ve planned to run with her to her planned 60km finish. But I understand that its difficult to maintain that pace while battling with stomach pains. I gave her a hug and told her not to give up before 60km.


Running through the night.

The next challenge is even more difficult for me: night running. Pretty early on I knew that this would be my weakest phase of this race. 6 ultras in and I’ve never really got over the difficulty of running through the night.My body shuts down after 1 am and continues to struggle through the night till the first dawn of light. For some odd reason I had it in my mind that I was going to end the race early at 70km and started to stop longer and longer at each waterstation. This was a mistake that would come to haunt me later in the race. I was fortunate to catch up t0 Frank at 60km. We’ve ran many times together and that experiences really help us to understand one another. Without much discussion, we went into a pacing mode and the usual chit chat.


Sun is here. And with the sun comes the pedestrians. Frank and I pacing each other.

Sun came at 8 am. Not many crazy Twilight runners were left in the race. Most have gone home (after hitting their target distance) or decided to rest while waiting for the event to finish. Frank shared with me that only 30% of participants are left. I noticed that those still remaining have gone into overdrive and are running faster and faster as the hours goes by. Without realizing it, I have also picked up my momentum.

At 77.5k, Frank and I saw Carin, who was limping and struggling to walk but still headed for the next waterstation. We stopped to help her and found that her arch was hurting badly. Fortunately, Yee Hua (Ben’s wife) and a medic was nearby to bandage her feet.  She was in tears partly because of the pain, but I know an ultra runner’s heart and she’s really crying because that was the end of the race for her. It pains me to see her in that condition. We advised her not to continue anymore and get some much needed rest.


Carin (in the middle) right before we left her. Yee Hua on the right. Get well soon Carin !

We arrived at 80k with 2 hrs and 10 mins left to attempt to hit 100k. I knew then that it will be impossible for me. The decision to spend (or waste) more time at each waterstations at night have put me in a position that I cannot recover from. Frank decided to soldier on and try the 100km target anyway so he took off and I went on a slower pace. I walked mostly after that with some light running in between.  At 85km, I bumped into Frank again at one of the waterstations. He had an uncomfortable feeling at the back of his head and decided to slow down too. I checked my watch. 1 hr 20 mins to try for the next 5km. I knew we had plenty of time and asked Frank to walk with me to the finish. Off we went together, this time in a really slow walking pace with the usual chit chat along the way. We finished the race in 15 hrs and 47 mins.


Finishing the race hitting 90k together with Frank.

It was yet another bitter sweet race for me. 90km achieved after revising my target many times through the night. But failing to hit 100k after getting so close is something I have to regret this time. As with every one of my ultra races, it taught me a valuable lesson. For each minute spent idling and not moving is time wasted that should have gone into additional mileage. Something for me to keep track of next time. On the plus side, this is such an amazing event with very friendly organizers and volunteers. That’s the reason I always come back to races organized by runners because they understand the needs of the participants. Another big surprise for this race: the largest medal I’ve seen in my life, almost as big as my face.


Huge ass medal and my bib. Hope to get it all the way to 100k next year.

Will I go back to Twilight next year? The day after the race my mind said NO with a big N-O. But a few days later, and thinking about the 100k that I missed by a single loop, I think I will go back for another round of Twilight madness. 28-29 March 2015. See you at East Coast Park.


With all the people who have gone through the 16 hours. Runners and volunteers together. Well done everyone!

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Race Report: Malaysia Women Marathon 2014


The Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM) is such a nostalgic event for me. I ran the first edition of this race in a skirt with Kelly who is now having the time of her life in New Zealand. This was where I got to rub shoulders with one of the greats in running, Kathrine Switzer who never stop inspiring us.  I kicked off my awesome journey of running 12 marathons in 12 months starting from this very event last year. So to say that my obsession in running long distances started from this event would be quite right.


Previously: got my Women Marathon book signed by none other than Kathrine herself. “Jason, you wear a skirt & we love you for it! BE FEARLESS & thanks for all you do for so many”

Oddly enough, I wasn’t planning to run MWM 2014 at the beginning of the year. Was thinking I should perhaps volunteer and give my legs some much needed rest. After being persuaded by Reyne, I thought, what better way to be part of this event than to help a woman who cared for us like a mother to achieve her target. Reyne had been gunning for a particular timing for the longest time and I was determined to make it happen.

Pre-Race Event
This year’s MWM was fortunate to be graced by Catherine Ndereba’s presence. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Catherine until her name starts popping up on almost every article about MWM.  Dubbed the Marathon Queen, she is twice World Champion and four time winner of the Boston Marathon. So off I went on day 2 of the pre-race event to attend her workshop. She shared quite a few inspirational stories from her own career in running, in particular how she struggled to finish her first marathon. But what amazed me the most is how she blends faith and God in all her running. Very spiritual person and very humble.


Catherine Ndereba herself on stage.

As usual, I got to make my rounds at the race expo and was really happy to meet up with Andrew and Sue O’Brien of Partnerunning fame. I first met them during last year’s MWM expo and have since built quite a friendship with them. We shared our 2013 race experiences: Sue’s win at her 100 miler, my DNF at TMBT and how Sue injured her legs from yoga. I even for a chance to ‘poison’ them with Craze Ultra, Singapore’s 100 miler in September and hope that they’ll join me this year for Craze.

With Sue and Andrew O'Brien

With Sue and Andrew O’Brien

Race Day
Stepping out from my car at Shah Alam that morning, I knew there is no way the event could carry on. The acrid smell that day from the annual haze in Malaysia is the worst I’ve experienced in recent times. Runners still braved themselves and gathered at the starting line. Quite a number of the runners have decided not to run. Wise decision in my opinion.

Me in a skirt for the second year.

Me in a skirt for the second year. No idea why I looked so happy.

Karen Loh the race director announced that the race would be made into a non competitive event and runners could stop at any water station and end their race there. Prize money will be donated to charity organizations. The mood at the race site have quickly changed from a gloomy situation to quite a confused one as people started discussing about how far they eventually planned to cover. Reyne and I decided to at least run up to 20k before deciding if we’ll do the whole route.

With Reyne before flag off.

With Reyne before flag off.

From the very start it was clear to me that the route profile for this year’s MWM is different than the previous edition. 2013’s MWM was relatively flat until we reach the 20k point. This time we’re served with a series of undulating hills to test our legs from the very beginning of the run. The hills weren’t very tough, but I can see why some newbies struggle on it. Was quite surprised by the amount of water stations along the way too. Was supposed to be every 2 km, but at some points water stations are available every km of the race.  It’s a good thing, but again some people may tend to overhydrate especially in this hazy condition.

Some of the 'RUN Inspired' LYN Runners at MWM

Some of the ‘RUN Inspired’ LYN Runners at MWM

At around the 15k point, when we stopped for water stations, I felt a woozy sensation while walking. Never had that feeling before, I suppose its from the haze. Quite scary to be honest and I started to worry if I’ll faint half way. Decided not to take any risks, I slowed down from that point on.

Some inkling of how bad the haze was.

Some inkling of how bad the haze was.

Soon we reached the 20k point and a decision had to be made. We stopped to take a breather and had to decide if we’re going to turn in for the finish and end our race prematurely. Reyne opted to end it then. I thought, we should go for a little more since we’re already half way there. In the end I persuaded Reyne to continue so off we went with the intention of completing the race.

We merged with the horde of 10 km runners that have just left the starting point at that stage.  All of them were in cheerful spirits. One thing I noticed, women runners don’t really wear skirts to run in Malaysia. Only a handful does. At that hour, the road traffic from the vehicles started to build up too. Traffic is again a problem of MWM. Last year the runners had to literally dodge all the oncoming traffic from the roundabouts, seems like this year we had the same issue again. I was disappointed with this aspect, traffic was the biggest complaint from last year’s race and they should’ve improved it this year with a change of route.

Despite it all, people are still out to have fun. Without fail the costume runners will turn up to cheer the other runners up.

Despite it all, people are still out to have fun. Without fail the costume runners will turn up to cheer the other runners up.

At the 25k point, something peculiar happened. We followed a sign to turn right into a road. The race marshall up ahead told us that we are heading towards the wrong direction and should be turning  left instead. Went back to the sign and there it was, asking us to “turn right”. Few runners were as confused as we were. Moments later, another marshall came and told us that the intended route has been closed and the race is officially cancelled. All runners are redirected back to the race site.

Some mid race fun along the way.

Some mid race fun along the way.

I cannot mask my disappointment at that point. But a decision was made for us, and I accepted it. Off we went turning back into the race site. Since the race is already cancelled, I thought might as well have fun along the way. Started to cheer all the runners along the way. In the final 2 km we bumped into Andrew and Sue O’Brien! Together we ran that stretch and had a great time taking photos with all the supporters that cheered for us. We finished the race with the 4 of us together. What a way to end the run. Who knew that because the race was cut short, I get to complete it with a bunch of awesome friends at the finish line.

Group photo with Jason (as the Hulk!)

Group photo with Jason (as the Hulk!)

Moments before crossing the finish line.

Moments before crossing the finish line.

Met some of my friends after the race. Clearly some of them were disappointed, but some were on high spirits coz MWM is always a fun event. At the end of the day, given the hazy weather, I think the event went as well as it could have. I know it was a difficult decision for Karen to cancel the race, but perhaps this could be a good learning point for next year’s MWM. Hats off to all the brave ladies who came down to Shah Alam and ran despite the haze, many of them first attempt on a new distance.

Some fast runners and some really long distance runners. On a regular day, we won't think about doing this. But on this occasion, skirt is the theme of the day :)

Some fast runners and some really long distance runners. On a regular day, we won’t think about doing this. But on this occasion, skirt is the theme of the day 🙂

Photo with my running group (LYN Runners)

Photo with my running group (LYN Runners)

Me being cheeky as usual. MEN RUN THE WORLD!

Me being cheeky as usual. MEN RUN THE WORLD!

PS: I got a finisher skirt and bracelet from the run. But I don’t really keep finisher items for a race that I didn’t complete. The skirt is sent to someone I missed dearly and I remember her everytime I think about MWM. Anyone wanna venture a guess who? 🙂

Finisher items

Finisher items

** All photo credits to the respective photographers.

** Once again I ran this race in my trusty Saucony Mirage 3. Thank you Saucony Malaysia for that shoe that have gone further with me than any other shoes before.


Race Report: Titi 100km

TITI 100 Logo

My first century. Wow, what an experience I can tell you. The race is Titi100, starting from Hulu Langat, we’ll traverse by foot for 100km through the hilly terrain of Genting Peres and through a town called Kg. Chennah then back to Hulu Langat again. The event was organized by Jeff Ooi, Allan Lee and Cally. There were 2 categories for Titi100: the 50km (9 hours cutoff) and 100km (18 hours cutoff). Don’t even ask me why I signed up for the 100km. I have no idea too 🙂

I wasn’t well prepared for this race mentally and physically. Nov and Dec 2013 I battled with injuries and chicken pox which had me sidelined for most of the 2 months. Jan 2014 I raced Watergate 16hrs which saw me walking for 40k out of 55k. Confidence was at rock bottom. Training for Titi I did a 42k LSD once, but otherwise the training wasn’t consistent enough for me to feel good about this race.

The weekend prior to Titi, Kevin Lau and I recced the route. My mind formed a game plan of walking up the 4 big hills while conserving my energy for a big push at 40-60k, the flattest part of the entire route.

Route profile of Titi100

Route profile of Titi100

The race started at 4pm in a sweltering 39 deg. Celsius heat. Heat was never much of a problem for me, but I did struggle that day. 3k in we met the first of 4 major hills and I stuck to my game plan of walking the hill. That hill wasn’t giving me a hard time as my legs were still fresh. Once I’ve reached the peak, things got rolling and I started to run down hill. It all still feels good at this point. The heat obviously took a toll on many as their pace reduced to almost a slow walk while going downhill.

Reached CP1 (9k) and Wai Yee immediately offered me drinks and food, but I told her a hug will do for now. Yim was there too, and offered words of encouragement by reminding us that the sun will be gone in another 1 hour and asked us to persevere on.  The 5.5k to CP2 was mostly flat, but I couldn’t run it. Legs just felt too heavy after stopping at CP1 so I walked with some light jogging in between. All sorts of negative thoughts came to me, how am I going to finish a 100k when I’m struggling at 10k?

With Hong Lan. Hottest part of the race.

CP 1 with Hong Lan. Hottest part of the race.

Dragged myself to  CP2 (14.5k) and a volunteer, while refilling my bottle, accidentally spilled the drink right onto my shoes. Soggy socks and shoes are never good for long distance and I thought to myself, how can this get any worst? CP 2 – CP 3 was the 2nd major hill climb, 10km of uphill. I walked and walked and walked. There were a bunch of runners who were cursing the hills as I passed them. My thinking, you don’t blame the terrain in ultra, accept it and have a strategy to tackle it if you’re not strong at hills.

Trying to tackle the hill

Trying to tackle the hill

Met Hong Lan half way, and I told her very solemnly that I’ve hit the wall and things aren’t going so well. At 21k, the weather suddenly turned from hot to extremely windy. Someone’s prayer must’ve been answered I thought. Yim drove by and asked if I had a jacket and to start wearing it, coz it’s going to start pouring soon. Sure enough the rain came.

Thinking what the heck am I doing here?

Thinking what the heck am I doing here?

I checked into CP3 (25k) in soggy clothes. Tey was there and took photos of us but not before he asked us to turn off our headlamps, or we’ll look like Guan Yin Ma in his photos, haha. It dawned on me too that perhaps my bonking in the previous CP was due to my nutrition. So from here on, I started to monitor my food intake and made sure that I consume few slices of watermelon, oranges and banana at every CP.

Journey to CP4 was nothing but a pitch dark route accompanied by a full moon above us. It felt like a horror movie scene with fog raising from the ground. Very scary. I ran this entire route alone for almost an hour and a few times I had to look back to be assured that I wasn’t lost and there are other runners behind me. Tackling a night run is never easy, you can’t judge the elevation from a distance and you won’t know which direction the road is bending to until you’re near enough. And with the darkness playing tricks in your head, it gets really daunting.

CP3: Tey, I don't look like Guan Yin Ma also

CP3: Tey, I don’t look like Guan Yin Ma also?

Reached CP4 (36.5k) and saw Jeff Ooi, who asked if my legs are ok due to my previous injury and reminded me that I checked into CP4 in 5:30 so I was in good time. This CP was manned by Marlina and we shared a joke about bring nails to ward off any potential vampires along the route, hehe! After CP4 was where my game plan kicked into action, I started to push and ran through the flat route. Mid way I met with Frank and Susanah. Susanah had a bit of pain on her ankle and needed to slow down. Had a quick light hearted joke session with them and continued on.

Around 45k I entered into Kg Chennah and this was the most memorable part of the journey. From afar I could see the volunteers waving at us. But directly in front of me, I saw something that looked like dogs or goats in the middle of the road. It was completely dark so I aimed my headlamp at them and to my surprise I saw a bunch of 4-5 kids running around ready to give me high fives. In my mind I thought, “am I hallucinating? Kids in the middle of nowhere at 10pm?”. One kid in a green Angry Bird shirt starting jumping when I got near him so he could clap my hand. I asked him to run with me… and he said “OK!” We ran together about 100m and I asked him “adik ni anak siapa?” thinking he’s one of the volunteer’s kids. His reply “saya anak anak”. Kids really say the darnest things, lol. Going through the village, everytime I pass by a coffeeshop, the village folk will stand up and cheer me. I blew kisses to ladies sitting in front of a mosque preoccupied with their own chit chat session and they clapped me on. Village people are the best and super supportive based on my experience in TMBT and now Titi.

Towards CP5: Susanah with the kids from Kg. Chennah, love them

Towards CP5: Susanah with the kids from Kg. Chennah, love them

Checked into CP5 (48k) at around 7 hours. This checkpoint was considered the ‘mid point’ where our drop bag was located and we change to fresh gears and refuel. There Suzie Widyawati was waiting for us. Although she had her hands full with helping all the tired runners, she made it a point to get my bag, food and water. Even made me a cup noodle and asked how am I! Appreciate it so much.  Before I left I thanked her and told her that her husband, Arman Arshad (also running 100k) is coming and just behind. Changed to a fresh pair of socks and shirt and left CP5 with Yik Yee and Alan Lau, 2 buddies from my running group after stopping about 30 mins.

CP5: Yik Yee, myself and Alan resting, changing, refueling before continuing with the 2nd part of our journey

CP5: Yik Yee, myself and Alan resting, changing, refueling before continuing with the 2nd part of our journey

The route from CP5 – CP7 was a boring stretch and completely lonely. I was thankful to have tagged along with both my friends for this route. WaiHong came with his car and followed us for about an hour at 50k. We walked mostly with some light jogs in between. I knew early on, this part of the race will be the toughest for me as its around 1am, and my body clock would keep telling me to doze off based on my experience from night races. Many times I felt like hopping into WaiHong’s car and just sleep. But we kept on going and soon enough we arrived at CP6 (56k). This station was manned by Khairi Muin and he encouraged us to keep moving forward and don’t stop.

3 zombies towards CP 7

3 zombies towards CP 7

Reached CP 7 (63.5k) with 2 hours to spare from cutoff. Marlina’s husband Zaini came and asked us what we wanted for drinks. In my completely dazed state I replied I wanted lemonade or beer. Bemused he asked again and I said Coke will do.  I walked over to Marlina and told her that the Jason that checked into CP4, four hours earlier was a different Jason than this. My mind was in a battle with itself. Yim overheard the conversation and told me that I’m talking nonsense now. We shared a light joke and moved on our way. The journey to CP8 was a steep and long hill climb (the 3rd hill), but we couldn’t judge if we could run it because its so dark. We decided to walk whenever there’s an uphill and run whenever there’s a downhill. Alan Lau who is strong on hills went ahead of us, so its back to Yik Yee and myself to fend for our tired minds.

Lucky the light is bright enough to hide my sleepy eyes

Lucky the light is bright enough to hide my sleepy eyes

Checked into CP8 (75k) with an hour to spare before the cutoff. A little panic started to set in for us as we have lost 1 hour from CP 7- CP 8. We quickly calculated and realized that if we continue at this pace we might even miss the cutoff to CP9 or saved by grace in a matter of 10 minutes. Luckily this was mostly a downhill run so we ran most of the way. CP8 was also the u-turn point for the 50k runners and the route didn’t feel as boring as before with the larger number of runners now. We met Weng Woo and he updated us on the status on our friends. Sad to hear a few have decided to DNF. As we left the CP, an alarming trend started to become obvious to me. Quite a number of 50k runners did not have any headlamps on or blinkers. They were running completely in the dark!! I wonder why would they risk their lives running in the dark in a new route. Just to save RM 100 and land yourself with a bigger medical bill? Silly.

On the way down, Yik Yee and I decided to use a method of pacing each other while running downhill, one of us will lead the pace and when he’s tired the other person will swap and lead instead. This worked well for us, until one point when I was leading, I lost Yik Yee. Not sure what happened, I waited for a few minutes before deciding to continue.

Freezing cold running up and down hills so I had my windbreaker on

Freezing cold running up and down hills so I had my windbreaker on

It was when I’m going down this stretch (about 83k point) that I start to feel really strong again, my legs started to feel better as I kept going. Rather than keeping the cutoff for each checkpoint close, I decided to push the pace a little. Panicking about cutoff is the last thing I want in my mind, so a little timing buffer is always a good thing when our mind is tired at the later stages of an ultra. Somewhere while running down I bumped into my training buddy Kevin Lau for the first time since flagoff. He looked tired and I asked if he’s ok, he said his legs are painful but he’ll walk to finish. His positive response gave me hope that he will go all the way. I asked him not to give up and continued on.

Reached CP 9 (85.5k) with 45 mins to spare. Quickly refueled and went on my way. No point stopping for long since my momentum had started to pick up. Journey from CP 9 – CP 10 was mostly flat with some small hilly bumps. Ran most of it. Also at this point I remember what Wai Yee said to me when I went to CP 1 the day before… “I’ll see you the next morning”. Pumped up, excited I went all the way.

With Wai Yee who've been there since the day before. Thank you!

With Wai Yee who’ve been there since the day before. Thank you!

Arrived CP 10 (91k) with 1 hour to spare. I knew then that I had made time and could finish well within the cutoff. As promised Wai Yee was there. Refueled and quickly went up the last hill for the race. By that point my adrenaline was pumping, I wanted the race to end soon, 9 km was what separated me from the finish. There were people cheering us on along the road and as I was about to exit the last hill I saw Soon Chung, who was there to photograph us! I asked him about the status of my friends and got updates on Frank and Susanah (which I had no update since CP 5) that they just clocked into CP 9 in time. All my other friends whom I ran with at some point in the night are just a little behind me. Really happy and I knew they will all make it to the finish.

Almost there baby!

Almost there baby!

In the final few kms, I came to a realization that I am about to finish my 100k and what started as a struggle, ended with an almost perfect race strategy. Made the final left turn and I saw so many familiar faces waiting for us: Razif, Hong Lan, Jamie, Wai Yee Nick, Khairi Muin, Allen Lee. Some of them just finished their 50k and stayed back to see us finish, I’m touched by this. Hong Lan shouted something as I crossed the line which made me chuckle: “I thought you hit the wall at 20k and still finish 100k!!”. Surprisingly I wasn’t as tired as I was at the earlier stages of the race. I finished with a time of 16 hrs and 30 mins. Overall a good weekend for ultra running. Learning point from this race: sometimes you may feel like giving up (especially the early stages), but persevere a little and you’ll never know how far your body can take you.

Running towards the finish

Running towards the finish

An honor to receive the finisher items from Yim, someone every ultra runner should look to.

An honor to receive the finisher items from Yim, someone every ultra runner should look to.

Finally a chair after 16 hrs and 30 mins

Finally a chair after 16 hrs and 30 mins

Distance and time immortalized in my watch. Lucky the battery life survived as long as my legs did. Lol

Distance and time immortalized in my watch. Lucky the battery life survived as long as my legs did. Lol

With a good friend and fellow Saucony ambassador Frank.

With a good friend and fellow Saucony ambassador Frank.

Some credits:

Jeff, Allan and Cally: for the well organized race. I didn’t meet with any hiccup along the way, hydration, food and support plenty. The volunteers were very courteous and kind to all runners. Also being in the course and talking to us really pushed me on to finish the race. Thanks!

Yim: special thanks to you for motivating me along the way. I think I met you the most among all the other volunteers. And your advise came at the right time at CP 7 and it got me through the race. Thanks!

Hong Lan: busy bee came early to take pic for us and still manage to run a 50k and finish top 10. Thanks for motivating me and congrats!

Wai Hong: who made it to the race site met us. I’m really grateful and I felt the journey he took to visit us and back is longer than the time he could spend with us. Thanks bro!

Tey, Wai Yee, Marlina, Zaini, Khairi, Suzie, Weng Woo, Uncle Kelvin Ng: every CP I look forward to seeing your faces and you kept me going. Thanks!

My LYNR and Subang kakis: thank you for believing in me when I’m at my low point before the race.

Saucony Malaysia: for the pair of Mirage 3 that I’ve used  to complete my first 100k race and chase those hills.

The pair of Mirage 3s

The pair of Mirage 3s

***All photos credit to their respective photographers

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Happy New Year 2014

Happy new year everyone!!! So it’s a new year = a new set of adventures waiting to be had for 2014. This blog was ‘sort’ of abandoned last year due to my really, really hectic running schedule and personal life commitments. But it’s never been far from my mind to update what’s been happening to me throughout the year. I just couldn’t find the time to write. There are so many great personal experiences from last year that have gone unshared from my point. Many high points, some low points makes for a great 2013 in terms of running for me. 

Hence, one of my resolution for this year is to keep this blog updated and going through the year. Hope to share my race experiences and some learning points that I’ve gained during training. Plan for the year is to join less races, instead focusing more on ultra marathon distance events and training. The highlight of the year is surely ‘the road to Comrades Marathon’, an 89km ultramarathon in South Africa. So far I’ve also signed up for the following races:

  • Watergate 16 hours Run (4 – 5 January)
  • Titi 100km Road Ultramarathon (16-17 February)
  • Twilight Ultra Challenge 16 hours (29 March)
  • Sabah Adventure Challenge (18-20 April) **multi-stage race covering 75-100km
  • Comrades Marathon (1 June)

People have said in passing that I must’ve gone crazy to sign up for 5 ultra races even before the year really started. Little surprise for myself though, since I really love doing long distance races. Just hoping my legs could take all the pounding. Here I’m also taking this opportunity to wish all my friends best of luck for whatever goal they are hoping to achieve in terms of running for 2014. Signing off… keep coming back whenever you’re free to check on what I’ve been up to for the year.

PS: I may retroactively go back in time and update past race reports whenever I can find time to fiddle with my time machine 🙂