Monday, October 30, 2017

MPKJ Half Marathon 2017 Race Notes

The 3rd MPKj Half Marathon was held on 22 October 2017 and takes runner through Bandar Baru Bangi area. Pretty rolling hills and different route compared to previous years. Around 600+ runner participated in the men open HM category.

More info:


1. Didn't really thought about the race after TMBT. Only got my act together a week before the race. I had been running a bit and focusing on the peripheral stuff. I did kind of ran a bit HM pace and a bit tempo in training to see what pace I could muster and kind of used that as a guide for race day.

2. Divided the race into 3 parts. 7 x 3 = 21km. Easy 1/3. Kind of hard but maintainable 2/3. Continue  with whatever left till finish (final 3rd).

3. Woke up, did routine, perform subuh prayer near parking lot. Managed to perform 10-15 warm up. Quite a warm morning. Started near the back and at 6:15 the gun went off.


4. The first 1/3 of the race was going through some pretty rolling hills. I slowed down going up but went fast going down.

5. On the 2/3 there were still hills but I was again conservative on the ups and bombed the downs. Downed a gel at 9km.

6. On the last 3rd I was cramping at exactly 15km. But wasn't fully blown. Couldn't really push it. Around 17-18km, downed another gel, grind it out and finished it.


7. Got the medal and finisher's tee and did some stretches. Grab the post race food but didn't feel like eating so went home and had breakfast. Went bowling afterwards with fam.

Race Notes

8. Race itenerary kind of went like this:

05:00 AM: Wake up and breakfast
05:40 AM: Arrived and warmed up
06:15 AM: Race start
08:00 AM: Finish
09:00 AM: Went home

9. The race:

Registration: RM79.50(medal, event t and finisher t)
Accomodation: -
Travel to race kit Collection: 15 min.
Traveling cost: Negligable
Waiting for toilet: No issue
Sorting out drop bag: No issue

10. Race Detail:

1:47:33 (chip) / 1:49:07 (gun)
~193m D+

Full results:

Race Comments

11. For the price I think it's so value for money especially since I live near the area. Organizers delivered a very simple yet efficient event. Race kit collection was smooth, mini expo selling gels and stuff, ample space for parking, prayer facilites, post race food and bonus milo trucks, plenty of space to stretch, course was manned by police very well.

12. I participated last year and this year it's exactly the same arrangement. I love the consistency and to me everything was spot on. Not overly fancy. (Organizers of CIND could really take tips from this race).

13. The route was different from last year.  I think we had a bit donwhill on the way back to finish last year. This year it was just rolling till the end. I also don't know whether the route was under distanced or whether I tangent the hell out of those corners since Garmin showed I did 20+km only.

14. Anyway, this was just another race to measure current fitness and determine viable training paces. Still got the fitness from previous training/races so happy with that. Not much decline. My race was ok, close to home and fun.

15. For this race we got 2 ts. I know it's a good thing to some but I really wish organizers could make event/finishing t's and medals optional. This could cut cost and help runners reduce un-used race t-shirt.

Final Note

16. The race was great and arrangements was good. Also good to see my fitness still there. I can use this race as a platform to build on. That's it for 2017. Next race would be GNU 2018. Til then.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) 2017 - 100km Race Notes

TMBT 2017 was held on 16 September 2017. For the 100km category around 334 runner participated. It was a point to point course where runners had to go from the start line (Lingkubang, Kota Belud), W1 to W11 before finishing at Mount Kinabalu Heritage and Spa, Perkasa, Ranau. The route takes runner through remote and rural local villages, vegetable/pineaple field, steep never ending gravel/tar road, jungles, river crossing and ridges etc. The overall ascent for the 100km category was estimated at 5255m. Cut off time (COT) was set 30 hours after flag off (6:20 AM).

More info on the race at:



1. My A race was finally upon me. I took the morning flight to reach race pack collection (RPC) site on Friday around noon. After some issues, finally got my race bib and went to check in the hotel. Got something to eat, buy some stuff and got the gears ready. Dinner, followed by just chilling/relaxing and went to bed around 9 PM.

Race Day

2. Woke up at 2 AM, oats, hard boiled eggs and coffee equals to toilet. This menu never dissapoint haha. Put on gear, shower and everything and got on the bus at 3:30 AM. It was less than 2 hours bus ride to start line. Performed the subuh prayer, toilet break near the bushes and had to que to cross the bridge to the start line. It was already daylight and the view of Mt. Kinabalu was breathtaking and set the scene for the race. Scanned the timing device and went to the open field with the rest of the runners waiting for the start. 

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3. At 6:20 AM I started the longest race of my life. The first part going to W1 was on tarmac and it was a gentle climb. After few minutes, it started to become steeper so got the pole out. I felt good climbing at a pretty decent pace. I was looking forward to the downhill which will come later after W1. I ran all the parts where I can because I anticipate congestion in the trail. I decided that I would drop back once I got in the trail.

4. I wanted to also ensure I got on the trail with similar ability runner. I ran the downhill or go fast whenever possible. There were still people in front and I was somewhat pressured to go fast from guys behind so I was sure I wasn't running my race.

5. We were running with Mt. Kinabalu as a back drop, across villages, paddy fields and crossed beautiful rivers with these hanging bridges. It felt surreal running in such conditions. I was doing ok but felt sore on the quads and hamstring. Nutrition was good, I ate and stopped to rest a bit.

6. The trail were pretty steep and it was getting steeper. W4 or W5 I think was the infamous pineapple ridge. The climb was never ending but the view was nice. It took a lot to get through that section. By the time I got to W5, my quads were pre-blown and had to walk a bit. We also had this 5 minute van ride which was kind of awkward but welcomed. I planned to run downhill after that and I know there were some downhill. So I ran the downhill going to W6 (halfway) and told my self that I would take care of everything then. I pushed through and the quads were getting worse before I finally arrived at W6. I had to stop and sit by the road side at times because my quads were pulsating. It's been a while since I experienced this. And I had another 50k to go.

7. At halfway, I changed my shoes, socks, buff, shirt. It felt so good and I'm glad I brought some spare clothing/shoes. I felt like it was unnecessary at first but turned out to be a good decision. They were serving some solid food. I went with some macaroni soup, fruits, coke. Filled up my tailwind, 100 plus and coke. Also brought red bull with me. Put on the lights for the night and also my rain jacket since it was raining and I was cold. It was the only cold resistance article/clothing I had with me.

8. I planned to get out W6 at 5PM and I managed to go out at 5:21PM. Not bad I thought. I was still within the 20 hrs target I set. So out I went. I was hoping the quads were ok. The first few steps was painful. My quads were stiff as hell. I walked and it went away. But it was sore. I went down the trail with the intent to run the downhill as planned. I mean, this was it right? I waited for this downhill. However, my quads were cramping. I had to stop and stretch at first and later I had to accept that my quads had properly blown. Every step going downhill hurts. Kinda sucks but I didn't want it to bother me too much. I can still hike this rest of the race.

9. I met a lady and she was also having problem going downhill. She said she was in pain and I gave her panadol to ease the pain. We kept changing positions eventhough she was walking (fast) while I on the other hand was running (slow). During the first half, she would always pass me at the climb with ease. My gut feeling says that if I pace her I would probably be faster going up and who knows, my quads might recover. She didn't use poles so I packed mine away and didn't use my pole for the remainder of the race.

10. It was dark and cold and we're doing some pretty intense power hike (to me at least). We were not strolling. We passed a few people going uphill. I had to really keep up the effort not to get dropped. Considering the final climb was the toughest one and my quads were blown, my only chance of finishing with a good time was to not slow down going uphill. So I continued pacing and later there were also another guy with us. So all 3 of us basically spent the majority of the 2nd half hiking together.

11. The loop up to veggie farm and back to W8/W9 was really tough. It was night time and we were going up to the highest point in the race. It was cold and drizzling. I saw many ran down back to W9 but I know I just didn't have it. My quads didn't recover. It didn't get any worse but it just stayed like that til the end.

12. Based on my plan, I was suppose to run going to W10. But it was impossible with the quads and the surface. We were in the trail, it was slippery and muddy. I had to take it easy and be extra careful. It felt like forever. I looked up and the sky were starry. It was beautiful. I looked up several time and it was just unbelievable. We only had less than 20km to go. I just need to keep doing what I've been doing for the past hours.

13. At W11, I was really struggling. I didn't eat anything substantial. Only gels, water and some bananas. I was sleepy but determined to toughen it out on the last climb. We decided for a short rest so we would't get stiff. The last segment of the race took me the longest. We were climbing for around 2 hours and was wondering when it'll stop. It was steep and didn't seem to end. It's mind boggling to think that this kind of terrain exists and we had to go through it to finish. It was hard. I was getting anoyyed. I just wanted it to end.

14. About less than 2km to go, I went for a toilet break and got dropped. I knew I was going to finish so I spent the last bit looking around the beautiful sunrise beaming the mountain ranges with the clouds and all. I didn't have the energy to get the phone out but it was beautiful and I was alone on the trail. So I would walk and gaze at this beautiful thing laid in front of me. The intense hiking, climbing, finally got to me. My goal was reduced to just finishing. Luckily I was nearing the end. I tought it would be nice to finish under 24 hours and I did. Got to the finish line and felt the cold of the morning. I did it.

Post Race

15. I kind of sit there for a while staring at my bag. I didn't eat or drink anything at first. I wanted to sleep but had to get out of the clothes because I was getting really cold. I decided to shower and then breakfast. I had a nice chat with the runner I met on the trail. Got on the bus at 8 AM and finally reach the hotel around 10+ AM. I ate some more and slept. Later went to KK for dinner and just walk around.

Race Notes

16. Race itenerary kind of went like this:

05:30 AM: Move to KLIA2
08:00 AM: Depart to KK
10:30 PM: Arrived at Airport and took a taxi to Metro town (RPC)
11:30 PM: Race Pack Collection and got a grab car to hotel
12:15 PM: Check in and lunch at nearby restaurant and buy some stuff
06:00 PM: KFC and Prepare gear
09:00 PM: Sleep

02:00 AM: Eat & prepare/put on race gears
03:30 AM: Bus to start
05:30 AM: Arrive
06:20 AM: Race start

06:20 AM: Finish and shower
07:30 AM: Breakfast
08:30 AM: Bus back to Hotel
10:30 AM: Eat and sleep
05:00 PM: Move to KK for dinner and walk around
09:00 PM: Back to hotel and sleep

08:00 AM: Breakfast and walked to tjg aru beach
10:30 AM: Check-out and grab car to KK Airport
02:00 PM: Arrive KLIA, wait for ride, eat
07:00 PM: Home

17. The race:

Registration: RM630 (including bus transfer from and to race site)
Accomodation: RM378
Travel to race kit Collection: From airport approx 30 min.
Traveling cost: Flight: RM457, Taxi to Metrotown RM40, Grab to Hotel MegahDaru RM20, Misc Uber/grab: RM30
Travel distance from hotel to start line: 73km or 1h 45 min
Waiting for toilet: No issue / bushes
Sorting out drop bag: No issue

18. Race Detail:

5,255m D+
69/334 overall
62/275 gender

Finishers = 252/334 ~ 25% DNF rate

Full results:

Race Comments

19. For RM1,555, (not including personal food/meal) I think it was worth it because the course lived up to its most beautiful/brutal thing name. Again, running in places like this is always worth it. Pre-race information I think was pretty good with the dropbox folder containing all the information needed. The FB was lively with videos and pictures of the course prior to the race. Registration was easy. I think it is possible to get a return night flight on Sunday but I didn't want to risk it and also wanted some rest Monday before going to work again Tuesday.

20. In terms of organization specifically RPC, there's a lot to be desired. I don't want to gripe but considering I've invested a lot of time and money to race this, plus all the advertisement in the web page etc., my expectation were high. The RPC took place in Metro town where the organizers office was located. It was in the 2nd floor. The place was already crowded with people from all the categories when I arrived. It was congested with people and their bags and stuff. There was no expo but I was only looking for gels anyway. It didn't take long to get my bib but I had to get out quickly as people started to fill up the place. I ended up buying my gels at the nearby bike shop. Basically, it was just a sport store converted to RPC site.

21. The compressport bag was pretty cool I think. But there was nothing in them except a discount voucher for rudy product. The event T-shirt + finishing T was ok. We also had to bring a photocopy of our IC and me plus few participants had to scour the place to make one. It seems all photocopy machine broke down that day so I ended up taking a picture of my IC and emailed them to the print shop for them to print. I was told it was stated that we had to bring our photocopy IC. I felt it's a bit awkward since in other races, it's not needed unless we were picking up someone else's bib. But they must have their reason and it was stated prior. So maybe it was my fault for not reading or taking it seriously but I still think the whole thing was weird. Maybe it's the norm for a 100k race and above race? To me, it kind of felt like the organizers wanted to make the RPC convenient for them though it should be the other way around. Just saying.

22. Race Hydration/nutrition were ok but coke was to me in short supply unless you buy them from the locals. Maybe I was too tired to notice but I remember having coke only at halfway. In terms of food, Meggi cup, some mushroom soup, Some crackers, bananas. I think it's alright. Solid food at halfway was ok. Macaroni and rice. I think it'll be a waste anyway to have a full choice buffet because no one will eat much during the race. But i think there should be coke especially near the end despite the locals selling them.

23. The transport to race was good. I don't mind squeezing a little bit on the way back as long as I got back to my hotel. Waiting time was ok since finishers were spread through out. Shower facilities were good too. They had a room at the hotel near finish to clean ourselves. The post race meal was ok with choices between rice and pasta. I had no apetite and forced myself to eat the pasta so can't comment much there. Don't know how it is for the runners later.

24. The course. Awesome. I chose TMBT for my first 100km because it's in the end of 3Q 2017 so I had some time to train after SCKLM. I also wanted to use this race to set a race related benchmark and also logistics, like flights/packing and stuff. In local races you can just chuck everything in the car if you're driving and don't have to worry about flight weight limit etc. I also did it for the elevation. I wanted it to be tough but at the same time scenic so if I struggle to finish I can at least enjoy the view (which I did). I also think if I do a really tough race I'll benefit from the experience and learn a lot regardless of how I finish (which I also did).

25. The first half of the race was especially great. The view of Mt. Kinabalu, crossing streams through hanging bridges, going through paddy/pineapple, veggie fields and such. I especially enjoyed the time when we can literally see the inside of the villagers house and the people close up. The things we only usually see in RTM channel. But when it got tough, it's really tough. The steep climb seems never ending. Some part of the trail were really technical, rooty, rocky, slippery and some were quite dangerous haha. But that what makes it fun. It was all natural, raw/genuine. It's different from the single track hiking trails like in nuang/angsi etc though those type are there as well. And if you add in the weather, the cold condition, being wet for hours and the fear of dogs chasing you at 2 AM in the morning hahaha .. it's insane. It makes you wonder how the top runners can go through all of this so fast.The water station was spaced quite ok but some were really far. But I think it's mostly down to how fast you can get there.

26. My race. Well, my plan was working only for the first half. After that I was hiking all the way to the finish. I had never run/hike sleep deprived at night or in the rain or both. Well, apart from the time I got lost at irau and had to spend the night with no supllies. Anyway, maybe some slowdown was expected in the 2nd half. Regardless of the conditions, I'm kind of dissapointed the way it went down towards the end of the race. I was feeling crappy and had "I just want this to be over" attitude kind of like I did at Cultra. The difference was, at cultra I bounced back. In this race, my legs didn't allow it. Oh well. It's kind of embarassing to compare my time with the leaders and I was also 4 hrs off of my target time. For what it's worth, I had gave it my best. But still I went through the data and compared expectation vs reality.

27. It's pretty obvious I was waaaaay to fast going to W1. I was about 26mins faster than my predicted split. I kind of hit all the splits except at the highway with a difference of about 13 mins. This was when my legs were pre blown. But, I sticked to my plan, pushed through at the downhills and going in perkasa I was 31 mins faster than predicted split. I thought it'll get better after the rest half way.

28. After halfway, I failed to run downhill and struggled up hill. But I was doing ok climbing up to W8. I was climbing faster than predicted at W8 and didn't use pole at all which was a suprise. This was when I was pacing the lady. But the downhill section W9, W10 was when the gap opened. Heading to finish was the final climb and it was hard. I struggled there too.

29. I think going too hard in the first part was the main reason for my quads demise in the 2nd half. A difference of almost half an hour from predicted split (twice!) in the first half was just too much. I also never trained running downhill and when you combined all of these, well, RIP quads. Something had to be done about it if I wanted to execute this walking up and running/descending quickly down strategy in a 100km.

30. Secondly, there were less downhill going to W8 and data showed I climbed quite good there with a -3 mins difference from predicted split. Climbing or hiking with our without poles is essential. I also didn't specifically train walking fast and I think it's an essential skill to have.

Final Note

31. I had a plan but failed to excecute properly. The hardest thing to me was to hold back. You kind of think that it doesn't have an impact later in the race but it does. That's just the natural law of the game. In training, consistency is king and specificity is queen and I wasn't specific in my training. If I wanted to run downhill I should've practice running downhill. The use of pole is also something I might have to reconsider. I have a feeling poles slowed me down especially in the trail where I have to think about planting not just my foot but the poles as well. Without them, I felt a more natural rhythm climbing. It does have its benefit though maybe in a more open trail or road and it help with balance keeping upright.

32. The race was beautiful. I truly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the time spent not racing in KK just chilling. The organization can probably do better. If I'm investing considerable time and money, I expect the services to kind of match the value, like I would in a restaurant etc. I can't help but compare the organization to other races I've participated in which was why I found some things perplexing. With a little bit more effort on organization/coordination, which I think can easily be rectified, this race would be one of the best race in Malaysia. It is to me up there among other iconic races in Malaysia. I'm gonna do it again someday maybe with the family there. That'd be nice.

33. That is it. After this rest period going to kick off 2018 with MPKJ half in october as a fitness test and will take it from there. Can't wait to not run.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) 2017 - My 100km Preview

TMBT 100k is around the corner and naturally with an "A" race, I went and immerse myself with all the information available to come up with a plan. Apart from the obvious reason, I think having a plan is comforting. It reduces the unknown and chance of a DNF. It's also a away for me to actually go through the information provided by the organizers. Based on previous ultra races, I am preparing for 3 department in general: Gear, Nutrition and Effort. Preparing for this means I have to know/predict what I'm up against: Elevation gain (how many meters of climbing), gain per km ratio (a number/ratio to compare steepness in relation to distance) and gain/loss difference (low number means there are some parts where I can probably run). Other factor to consider include my estimated ETA at these stations to monitor COT and also weather conditions.

More info:

1. Everything starts with calculating pace/finishing time prediction which I also did for previous races. Only this time I also calculated for each segments/stations.Time and duration estimates are derived from previous race pace vs gain per km trend formula.

Estimated Average pace: 10:41 min/km
Estimated Finish duration: 19 h 45 mins
Estimated finish time: 1:45 AM

2. Forecasted weather and temperature on 16 September 2017:

Temperature: 17 - 28 C
Weather: Rain storm in the afternoon

3. Race profile:

Distance: 103 km
Gain: 5420 m
Loss: 4170 m
Gain/loss difference: 1250 m
Gain per km: 48.81

4. Instructions at each station:

P- Pole, SP - Stow pole, M - Maintenance, R - Rain gear, PR - Pray, B - Fill Bladder, SF - Solid food, HE - High effort, A - attack, LD - long distance to next


1. Looks like it's not going to be that hot but rain is a concern. Based on the profile, generally, the second half has more runnables than the first like going to W2, W7 and W9 - W11. There are some pretty tough climbs especially going to W4 and W5 and biggest climb is reserved for the last climb to the finish.There are also stations that's quite far to get to and coupled that with some climb it's going to be tough as well. These are station W3,W6,W7 and finish (W6). W6 is halfway and also where the finish line is. Expecting that it'll be more stocked and have more facilities.

2. Execution wise, the goal is to keep moving and not spend time idling like I did in CULTRA, always stay on top of nutrition to avoid bonking like in GNU, be competitive like I did in KOKK and stay calm/pace myself like I did in TMMT. Realistically I'm going to have to walk/hike the uphill and try and run the downhill. But first and foremost, I must not mess up my pre-race nutrition by properly eating and tapering/resting/sleep in the final few days leading up to the race.

3. Although I tried to analyze and interpret as much information as possible, there are other unknowns like how I'd respond to running at night and maybe sleep deprived. I also don't know how my body will operate after 65km especially in wet shoes/gear. There are also changing weather and other unforeseen circumstances.

4. Gear:

a) Going to use poles as this has proven to be helpful in training. Trade off is that it's not exactly light and hassle to stow.
b) Rain jacket. Might swap for a lighter one at half way.
c) Bring lots of socks and plenty of vaseline to avoid blisters.

5. Nutrition:

a) Full hydration system with bladder. There are some long sections and I need all the tailwind nutrition in them.
b) Solid food halfway.
c) What ever the station serve - coke, sweet stuff and hopefully fruits.

6. Race effort:
a) Always aerobic unless no choice like climbing steep.
b) Run comfortably at the runnables.
c) Try and attack the second half downhills and grind it out the final climb.
d) Relax and calm.
3) Have fun and take pictures (but not too much).

Final note:

1. The purpose of modelling/forecasting is essentially to produce insights which then be used to help with planning. It is not about being accurate and the outcome of this race largely depend on how the day will go and how I choose to follow my plan/how they actually work.

2. I might look back at this after the race and LOL but this is what I choose to do and how I approach races: preparation and execution. I think you have to be able to understand how you work in races to fulfill your potential and that means before and after assesment of a race.

3. Input is especially important and I've used previous metrics and experiences. That's what training/tune up races is for. Though these numbers is not plucked from the sky or wild guesses, I can't resist to come up with a target which is totally arbitrary. I am hoping for a sub 20hr finish. I'm already LOL.


Ideas adapted from Andrew Skurka. More info at:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Magnificent Merapoh Trail (TMMT) 2017, 70km Race Notes

TMMT 2017 was held on 5th August 2017. For the 70km category around 183 runner participated. It was a looped course where runners had to go from the start line (SMK Merapoh) - check point CP4 all the way to to CP9 before finishing near SMK Merapoh. The route takes runner accross beautiful river crossings, caves, palm and rubber plantations, small villages and few stretch of highways. The overall ascent for the 70km category (officially 65.79km) was estimated at 1363m. Cut off time (COT) was set 13 hours after flag off (4:00 AM). 

The race also served as a platform to spread awareness on the ongoing conservation initiatve, Save Merapoh Caves.

More info on the race at


and on the save merapoh caves initiatve


1. The thought of running in/close to Taman Negara, going through caves, made me signed up for this race. This race is one of the iconic ultra races in Malaysia. For this race, I wanted to properly pace myself and not bomb downhill trying to catch up time like I did in Cultra. The goal was to run as much as possible and spend little time idle. Again, only 1 day taper but rested well after cultra and weekly mileage was not that much. So, went into this race feeling a bit better than I did at cultra.

2. Traveled on Friday, bought some food and stuff, collected the race pack and went to put my stuff inside the dorm. Went for the briefing and then KFC, carbo loading with some friends. I planned to sleep around 9PM and wake up around 2AM only for me to fall asleep around 12AM and constantly waking up in between. Maybe I was nervous or maybe I'm just a light sleeper. The dorm conditions didn't help either. 

The longest run ever and all in the magnificent merapoh trail. I visited Taman Negara twice (kuala tahan) and the thought of running  in (or close) to one was exciting which made me signed up. The caves and rivers were jaw dropping and seeing these huge limestone (is it?) boulders on the run was surreal. Not to mention raw jungle and all of its beautiful contents. Awesome organization involving the locals and I had a pretty decent run. No major issues. Congrats all finishers and organizers. Special thnks n congrats to IM gang safzan, rbj, maman and running gang piji, awi, wan and chin for the company and assistance. All of these made the weekend much more enjoyable. Next up, the big dance.. TMBT 100k.  62+km (underdistance) 8:01:17 1700m d+ Photo: Cik Arnab En Kura2 FB dan Kakironda (awesome job guys) #tmmt2017 #savemerapohcaves #trailrunning #run #nationalpark #tailwindnutrition #byebyehandphone
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Race Day

(Honestly, I can't remember the order in which i passed through these sections. Caves, rivers etc. So it might be a bit jumbled up).

3. Woke up around 1:50AM and decided to just do breakfast. Same race morning routine, same result. Good. Drove to race site, parked my car, met with friends, warmed up, chatted and at 4 AM sharp, we're off. There were fireworks and people were just happy and it was great start. The lack of sleep didn't seem to effect much with the help of coffee.

4.  The first part was on tarmac and I do feel like I could go a bit faster. I let my legs naturally settle into a sustainable pace. I was warming up and although slow, it was early in the race so I accepted the pace. I was moving and slowly passing people. Arrived at the first CP (CP4) and they were serving coffee in a small cup, just nice to help wake you up. Apart from coffee, I had a toilet break and went off without taking anything other than water. Then moments later we were in the trails and the fun stuff began. It was pitch black and I was just following blinkers and guided by other runners in front. We were actually climbing small waterfalls and it was slippery but so much fun. Then it was a bit of trail and then a river. This time quite deep. This is exactly what I signed up for.

5. I tried to wade the river going a little faster. I gained momentum and just maintain the speed I was going and ended up at the front of a small group. So there I was, having to make decisions on where to go. At one point, I observed that there were two way to go , left or right. I went to the right and immediately dunked myself in the water up to neck high. Seeing I was struggling in the water, the runners behind me gingerly went to the left where it was more shallow. I learned my lesson and proceeded the rest of the way following others while chuckling at that funny moment. Wanted to go fast but ended up losing more time swimming in the river. 

6. By the time the 1st river section was over, it was runnable trail section. I can't recall what happen at CP5 or how I got there. Then went into some road section in the villages and CP6 where there was a surau and I stopped for subuh prayer. I also changed my socks which was soaking wet. Got some food and really refuel. I wanted to step it up a bit after halfway. So from CP6 to CP7 I increased the intensity and ran the short hills and powerhiked the long steep hills. It was a mix of trails and tarmac and at one point we had to cross the highway which btw totally ruin the landscape of the whole area. 

7. Can't remember whether the cave were before or after CP7 but we all had to go into one. It was short but had knee high water. The water was murky but I don't think it was dirty water. Saw some runners on the ledge near the wall which looked like a pretty clever way not to get wet. I also think this was around where we had to go through this beautiful river crossing. People were getting selfies and my kids were the first thing that entered my mind. I wondered what they would say and how excited they'd probably be in that moment. I had to wait to climb up the bank of the river. Some decided not to que and made a new path. It was like 5 minutes queing but I didn't mind waiting in such a beautiful place. 

8. After about halfway was when I decided to focus and get on with business. It was on. I was running the downhill pretty hard and kept it steady at the runnables. I refueled both bottles and my bladder. This was a good decision as it feels like forever to get to CP8. It was getting hot and I'm glad I refilled and refuelled properly. I knew I can't f**k up my nutrition if I was going to run till the end.

9. Again, don't know whether if it was before or after CP9 but I continued and we were in another, bigger cave. This was again a jaw dropping moment for me since this was the first time I ran in a cave. I didn't use my head lamp and just use other runners to guide the way. At one point I didn't know where to go and the photographer showed me the way. I was looking around while fast walking but once I saw the cave opening (exit) I concentrated on running again. Getting to CP9 was hard. At CP 9/u turn/last CP I refuelled everything, regrouped, got some food and ran hard again. I was passing runners. I didn't know which category they were but I was adamant to pass as many as possible. These were my main motivation to keep running. I was feeling quite ok but not great, probably just enough to run. 

10. In the final palm plantation I grinded it out. I crossed path with the no. 2 and no. 3 runner while they were going to the finish.Then got on the tarmac but I was reserved on the uphill considering I already ran about 60+ km by then which was the furthest I ever ran. I wanted to get to the next CP not totally bonked and push on the last few kms. I also did not want to get passed by anyone and I knew if I slowed down I'd get passed and that would suck especially nearing the end. There are many races where I would pass people and they would later passed me and I would just buckle while feeling a bit embarassed as well.

11. But all of a sudden I heard the mc. My watch showed about 63km. The race was underdistanced and like all other races my watch recorded even lower distance due to the lost signals probably in the caves or obscured by trees etc. No CP then, just the finish line. I was suprised when I crossed it but relieved to have finished. I did it in about 8:01 hrs enough for a 6th place overall finish. Had I known, I would've tried to go for a sub 8.

Post Race

12. I helped myself to the freshly cut watermellons and coconut water. I can't remember how much I ate but quite a lot. I spent at least 10 minutes eating until I felt better and got back to my car. My phone's display went kaput because it got submegered underwater. Went back to the dorm, shower and clean up/wash my gear. Got back to race site, got some food which was delicious. Hang around with friends and also stayed around at the finishing line while watching other runners complete their journey.

Race Notes

13. Race itenerary kind of went like this:

09:00 AM: Move to Merapoh
11:30 AM: KFC Lunch at Petronas Genting Sempah
01:20 PM: Friday prayer just before Kuala Lipis
03:00 PM: Race Pack Collection and check in dorm
06:00 PM: KFC Carbo load
08:00 PM: Prepare gear and sleep (sort of)

01:50 AM: Eat & prepare/put on race gears
03:40 AM: Arrive, warm up 
04:00 AM: Race
12:10 PM: Finish Race, rest/hydrate/eat & check phone (phone got submerged)
01:00 PM: Shower and clean gear
02:00 PM: Got back to finish line, hung around and eat
05:00 PM: Went to hotel and dinner
08:30 PM: Sleep

09:00 AM: Depart home 
01:30 PM: Arrive home

14. The race:

Registration: RM283.60 (including accomodation and admin fee)
Accomodation: RM30
Travel to venue & Race kit Collection: ~5hr
Traveling cost: Conservative estimate at RM0.40/km : 532 km X RM0.4/km = RM215 (plus toll)
Travel distance from hotel to start line: 1km
Waiting for toilet: No issue
Sorting out drop bag: No issue

15. Race Detail:

1,363 D+ (Garmin showed 900+ - wtf garmin?)
6/185 overall
5/140 gender
5/140 men open 

Full results:

Race Comments

16. For RM283.60, I think it was worth it for the experience running the course alone. I think I got what I paid for which was running in beautiful places which otherwise would be impossible. Marking was good, volunteers were plenty at CPs and at at junctions/trailheads. Distances between CP were a bit inconsistent I think. Some were really far and some were spaced quite ok. Don't know whether this was just psychology/mental or it is in reality far.

17. Hydration/nutrition were ok and it had coke not some cheap cola which was good. In terms of food, I found that some were not practical especially if you were racing. But water and coke were plenty and I depended mostly on tailwind. The bananas were huge and I think cutting them down to pieces might reduce wastages but at the same time increase the likelihood of spoiling/oxidizing them. I shared and asked people for some of theirs cause I knew most couldn't finish the whole thing. The post-race food was good but I was wondering if there would be enough for those who finished late. Can't really tell. Rice and the fish which was good. I didn't go to the after race dinner. From what I hear and see it was good with BBQ lambs and all. 

18. The dorm, hmm.. 30 bucks for 2 days was not that great. I wish the organisers would asked those staying in the dorms to bring their own bedsheet and there were also water issues. But there weren't many mosquitos which was my main worry. But I enjoyed the space afforded. I prepared my breakfast outside and drank coffee in the wee morning before the race which was peaceful. Can't do that in a hotel room. The 2nd night I squatted in my friends hotel and slept like a baby. 

19. The course was great. First off, I just don't like highways cause in this race it disturbs the trail experience but it is sometime unavoidable since these roads connect the trails. I don't like them also because of conservation reasons. I know it could somehow help in better connectivity for local people. This is where development goals and conservation goals have to intersect. Seeing that it is being built I assume the local authority already did the Enviromental Impact Assesment on the project and hopefully it does not causes unreversable harm to the surrounding natural areas. We would not be getting that land back. I also don't really prefer running on tarmac in my trail shoes cause it kind of hurts.

20. Now the good stuff, the river sections. I loved it. It feels like a real adventure, sort of indiana jones-eque. I also felt like the kids in the goonies movie trying to find their way to the pirate ship (the reference to 80s movies makes me feel really old). Some rivers were deep and some had small waterfalls which require you to climb over them. It certainly was not "trail running" but those who loves being outdoor would probably loved these. I felt like a kid again. 

Adventure! The goonies.
21. The caves was another great experience. Running in one for me was the premium that I have paid for. You certainly would not be allowed (or if common sense were applied) to run in one in normal circumstances. I was trying not to stop much, so I couldn't really enjoy the view and experience the caves. But it was magnificent. We had to go through many plantations but I think it was ok. Soft ground and all so it's good. The climbs were short and sometime steep. Otherwise they were rolling and most of it were quite runnable.

22.  Did what I intended to do which was pacing and not stop too much. Decided to finish strong and see where I might end up in the rankings and also in terms of finishing time. This race has validated Tailwind as my main nutrition of choice. Pacing wise, I had a rough idea of the pace I was trying to hit. Before the race I developed my own pace chart based on previous races. I adopted the idea from andrew skurka and it wasn't far off from what I have calculated so while it is not entirely accurate it does gives me an indication of my finishing time.

23. After halfway I went quite hard running uphills and bombing some downhills but at the same time managed to avoid blowing up. Proper refuelling, carrying a bladder, regrouping instead of pushing through when I felt like shit was one of the many small decisions that led to a pretty decent finish for me.

24. Looking at the result, the first runner completed the course in 6:47:39. That's like almost a 1h15m gap. This for me was quite ok at this stage considering the front runners probably went blazing at the tarmac and going downhill. I just don't have the speed/endurance. Moving time was 7:42-ish which was quite good which suggest I didn't stop much. I finished the race feeling quite ok and recovered well the following days. Also had no cramps at all which I attribute to proper race nutrition and pacing. 

25. The difference between Cultra and TMMT is quite clear which was the elevation. I struggled on long climbs at cultra and I felt ok in this race. The river crossing also cooled down the muscles. Long climbs and heat is something I'm going to try to address in the remaining (and limited) training period. Glad I did both of these races which totally revealed my weaknesses and also what I can actually do.

26. Kudos for the MC and organizers who were around in the heat near finishing. I also spent a considerable amount of time just looking at 100k runners finishing the race. It makes me question the very definition of racing and competing etc. Ultra running is too long and brutal to be conventionally raced. Based on what I see, to some, it's borderline survival. Same can be said about the 35km finishers finishing close to the generous cut off time. Seeing them still soldiering through the heat to finish was admirable and a bit mind boggling at the same time. This will probably be me at TMBT in few weeks time.

Final Note

27. I came in and did what I intended to do. In terms of gear and nutrition I have a pretty good idea of what to do. I need to practice using poles for the long climbs and also do some hill training and maybe do some of them in the heat.

28. The race was worth the money and time spent to get there. There were a lot going on like rivers,caves, jungly sections etc and time just flies by. It was fun. The objective of the race was to raise awareness on conserving the merapoh caves and to me it served its purpose. I can't stress enough how development if not carefully planned will ruin the landscape and flora/fauna. Plus it also interfere with the natural habitats which houses exotic/rare animals. There are lots of issues like setting up cement factories, the highways, loggings etc at merapoh and I hope we don't have to go through more highways or any unncessary development in future edition of this race. Ironically I also picked up some gel wrappers on the ground discarded deliberately or otherwise. 

29. Next up, TMBT 100k (while biting my lips and closed eyes thinking about it). 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cameron Ultra Trail (CULTRA) 2017 (55km) Race Notes

Image result for cameron ultra trail

The Cameron Ultra Trail (CULTRA) 2017 was held on 22 July 2017. For the 55km category around 296 runner participated. It was an out and back course where runners had to go from check point (CP) 1 to CP7 and back to CP3 before finishing at Tanah Rata. The route takes runner accross Mount Jasar, Sg. Pauh Campsite, Mount Berembun, Robinson waterfalls, vegetables plantations and Boh (Tea) Plantations. The overall ascent for the 55km is estimated at 2,505m. Cut off time (COT) was set at 14 hours after flag off (5:00 AM).

More info at


1. Cultra = Cold + Ultra. That was my first impression. Cold is good. I had a pretty decent time running in (relative) cold conditions. Went into this race with just a day of taper since I'm currently building for TMBT, so I didn't want to reduce mileage. I accepted that it might affect the outcome of the race but it doesn't matter much since TMBT remain top priority. The strategy for this race is basically choosing my battles. This means, to run the runnables and go as fast as I can comfortably go on the technical/uphills. I also wanted to use this race to rectify few things and experiment.

2. It was the first time I used tailwind nutrition (naked flavour) in a race and I wanted to see whether it worked or not. So far, I did a 20km trail hike/run and it held up well. I also wanted to use poles and hike the climb with them, only for me to find one of them broke while packing the day before. My daughter admitted she over extended the poles. I was quite upset but shit happens and I guess it can happen even before race starts. They were cheap poles anyway (cost me RM30 for a pair) so this was probably expected. I also wanted to really pace myself so that I'd finish feeling relatively ok and hopefully recover enough for a basketball game on Sunday. I was also racing for the first time with the merrel all out crush shoe that I got for RM35 thanks to discount voucher I won from King of Kampung Kemensah 2017 race.

3. Traveled on Friday, bought some food and stuff, collected the race pack and set up the tent at Sg. Pauh Campsite which happens to be one of the check points (CP2). I planned to sleep early around 9PM or so. It was quite peaceful in the afternoon once everybody got their tents up. Had a long chat with a camper who also loves being outdoor. That was nice, talking about other stuff than running and just sharing each other's experience being outdoors. There was also another runner camping and we talked about the race a bit, running and also other races. That night I couldn't sleep too good and kept waking up. It wasn't exactly comfortable, there was a group who were pretty loud and also dogs barking. But I never slept well before a race anyway.

Race Day

4. Alarm/woke up at 3 AM. Boiled some water for the oats+chia seed and had a boiled egg. Topped it off with some coffee. It was a good breakfast due to the cool environment and just the stillness/quiteness. The warm meal plus me moving around and about the campsite helped bowel movement as well. Yes!

5. Went to the car and packed all the stuff I intended to bring including my 30 sachet of 1 scoop tailwind, 2 bars of mars chocolate bar, some salt pills and raisins. Apart from tailwind, I never touched any of the other food I brought during the race. Parked at the event hotel, dropped bag and warmed up. 5 mins before the race, went to the toilet and did some warm up routines but never really got warmed up. It was pretty cold. 5 AM sharp, we're off.

6. The first few km was on tarmac heading to G. Jasar. I started from the back and saw plenty of runners in front of me which based on previous trail races lead to bottlenecks. When we finally arrived at the jungle section, everything came to a complete stop. Some were a bit careful on the steep technical section. So we were moving slowly, starting and stopping. Some runners including me were pretty agitated. I knew I could climb a bit faster. But it was so early in the race and I thought this bottleneck could probably be good for me to really hold back and pace myself. It was a sensible thing to do as it was dark, steep with roots and on some parts we were on a ledge. I'm sure no one wants to accidentally plunge into the dark abyss or face plant themselves.

7. But still, everyone was getting impatient and as if the traffic wasn't annoying enough, my 5:30am alarm went off from inside my pack. I admitted that the annoying sound was coming from me and apologized to those around. Going down, I finally got to go faster and the runners were understanding and gave way. I might have been a bit too aggressive going down but the trail condition were asking for it to be run on. The surface was great, cool, misty and we finally were (trail) running. I thought I might shot my quads but it didn't happen so it was all good. I had to also move quickly because I needed to perform the Subuh prayer.

8. Upon reaching Sg. Pauh campsite I passed the water station and immedietly went to perform the Subuh prayer. I didn't go back to refill to save time. I passed by my campsite and the camper who I had the conversation with the day before wished me well. That would be the last time I'd see him as I found out later that day he'd left.

9. Going to G. Berembun, again, some traffic but it wasn't as bad as before. We were moving. It felt like going up G. Nuang. We were on all fours on some parts. And again, I went down as quickly as I could. Just can't help it. I really enjoy going downhill.  I refill my tailwind at CP3 and was fumbling trying to get tailwind into my bottles. It took sometime for me to ensure every ounce of that powder went in.Once we were out of the jungle it was time for some tarmac climbs. I remember running for 3 electric pole and walking 1. The 3:1 run/walk ratio helped my mind off the climb and provided some rhythm. It wasn't steep but it was pretty long.

10.  I planned to run the downhills after CP3, CP4, CP5 and CP6 and maybe CP4 return and they were a mixture of tarmac/gravel. After CP3 most of it were in the tea plantation and it was cool. We could see other runners. The view was stunning and it was hot but the breeze was nice and it wasn't as humid. I felt like this was when I learned the importance of a cushioned trail shoes. Ouch indeed. The all out crush was very responsive but there was little cushioning and on the tarmac section I could feel the impact it was having on my foot. And, on the gravel section I could literally feel the rocks pushing up both my foot.

11. I was worried the pounding and impact might lead to cramp up but it didn't. This somehow suprised me. Was it tailwind? Was it the shoes? Was it pacing? Was it the weather? I don't know but I'm sure it's a combination of these factors. The pain/soreness was tolerable and I kept focus on moving quickly. Especially on the downhills.

12. At CP7, the U turn point, I had instant noodle and just sat down. After I got my act together I started going again. I felt like I was moving but I was moving slower and was getting passed. A quick look at my pace confirmed that I was slowing down. Probably the lack of sleep and the 1 day taper were starting to take its toll. I tried to keep up the intensity but every time I thought about walking, I walked. So the best solution was to walk/run. And later it was reduced to just walking. I was struggling to enjoy the view and the tea plantation seems endless. I don't know whether I was bonking because it didn't feel like the usual bonk, but it was hard and was one of my low point of the race.

13. This continued but at CP5 there were some downhills. I also struggled on the downhills and was getting passed. But I was running or at least was resembling running. But, no cramps. I kept eating at the aid station and making sure I stayed hydrated and even took toilet breaks. All system go it seems. So at CP4, going downhill, I just said "f**k it", I'm gonna run this downhill as hard as I could until it's over. While running I felt ok. And I continued with the same intensity going up the robinson falls climb.

14. Once I got back on the tarmac (CP3), there was about less than 2km to go. I took my time at the CP. I then hurried up and finally walked to the finish. Got my medal and was happy it's over. My first 55km run and in terms of duration, the longest run I ever did in my life.

Post Race

15. Had some meal provided by the organizer and took a bath. Went to get some food at Brinchang and also stroll around Brinchang night market before heading back to rest at the campsite. It rained in the afternoon. Ate some isntant noodle and went to sleep around 9pm. Didn't wait around for the prize giving ceremony the next day because I had a basketball game to attend to, but looked like it was pretty chill via videos on facebook.

Race Notes

16. Race itenerary kind of went like this:

09:00 AM: Move to CH
11:30 AM: KFC Lunch at R&R Tapah
01:00 PM: Race Pack Collection and pack some food for dinner
02:00 PM: Set up tent
04:00 PM: Dinner and shower
09:00 PM: Sleep (sort of)

03:00 AM: Eat & prepare race gears
04:45 AM: Arrive, warm up & sort out drop bag
05:00 AM: Race
02:30 PM: Finish Race, rest/hydrate/eat & check phone
03:00 PM: Shower and went to Brinchang for some (real) food
05:00 PM: Got back to camp
08:00 PM: Quick meal
10:00 PM: Sleep

06:00 AM: Pack tent/quick breakfast
08:00 AM: Depart home & breakfast
12:00 PM: Arrive home

17. The race:

Registration: RM314.60
Accomodation: RM12
Travel to venue & Race kit Collection: ~6hr
Traveling cost: Conservative estimate at RM0.40/km : 500 km X RM0.4/km = RM200 (plus toll)
Travel distance from hotel to start line: 1km
Waiting for toilet: No issue
Sorting out drop bag: No issue

18. Race Detail:

2,200m D+ (2,768m D+ w/elev. correction)
31/296 overall
24/229 gender
15/119 men open

Full results:

Race Comments

19. For RM314.60, I think it was well worth it considering the services provided. The baggage drop was quick, everything was well marked, volunteers were plenty, hydration/nutrition were good. They had this banana chips which was the first thing I consumed upon reaching the CPs. I would stand in front of it and help myself. There were also dates, gummy bears (my daughter would've loved these) cola, 100 plus, water and you could actually see bottles of them. In short, hydration is a non issue. The post-race food was great. An apple, some bread, water and pasta was there. I really enjoyed camping in Sg. Pauh and for RM12 you'd have to sacrifice probably hot shower and maybe a good bed. But I know that in advanced and was ready for it.

20. One thing that I thought was super cool (I'm a noob so this thing is probably the norm) was having the elevation map on the bib. I was planning to do the same myself to see where the climbs and descent were. The bib map was really helpful in planning or in my case "choosing my battles".

21. The course, phew. Where do I start. It had so far everything I came across in an ultra, mountains, tarmac, gravel, stairs, jungle roots, scenic view but no river crossing. The cold weather was probably the draw of the race apart from the view of the tea and veggies plantations (we had to go through one veggie plantation and I thought I got lost). The weather throughout the race was perfect and the trail was almost dry throughout. The start/finish at the huge field was brilliant with all the open space to warm up or do what ever. Parking was good, traffic was good, drop bag was swift, RPC was very professional and the crew were accommodating, always smiling and very helpful. The information provided in advance on facebook and the guidebook was informative and had everything you need to know in them. I do however think that info on total ascent of each CP and also total cumulative ascent would be better instead of maximum elevation as that would determine the difficulty of the section.

22. As far as my race is concerned, I slowed down but didn't bonk. I think when I finally reached CP7 I stopped for some instant noodles. It cooled me down and it was hard to get going again. I was feeling the fatigue and had to force myself to run and when I did it wasn't that bad. I just never stopped for too long at a CP before. I know it's important to stop, do a quick maintenance and asses the situation. But you'd feel the fatigue set in and it's hard to get back going again. But that doesn't mean the race is done. Don't know how I'm going to train for that.

23. But, I did not cramp at all. The main contributing factor has to be nutrition. I had no doubt that eating at every CP and consuming tailwind for most of the race helped. It's just that putting them in the bottles was such a pain. For shoes, a bit of cushioning would be great espcially at the tarmac/gravel section. The merrel all out crush shoes were meant to be used for obstacle races and should hold well in muddy conditions so it wasn't a surprise that it held well on the jungle and technical section. On the tarmac, not so much.

24. This race was like a really long fartlek run. I was experiencing different kind of challenges and it's good to know that I can actually push through them. The suprising part was probably that I was walking quite well the next day and felt ok. My recovery capability seems to improved a bit and that means I can hopefully continue training in a few days time.

25. Looking at the result, the first 55km runner completed the course in 6:41:23. That's like almost a 3 hour gap. The front guys were probably running uphill faster than I was running downhill and I was in awe when we crossed path. These front runners were pretty bad ass running up those hills and I imagine they must be committed in what they do to be able to do that. One thing that surprises me was the amount of time I spent idle. My moving time was 7:46:29. That's like an hour and 45 mins of standing around. Maybe the bottlenecks, the little breaks and the CPs all add up to the final idling time. Surely this is an area I can improve.

26. For TMBT, 100km with around 5,000m D+, I'm just so nervous about it. I was observing 100km runners coming in to CP2 at sungai pauh and even some while I was driving back home and I can tell they were exhausted. Imagine coming down G. Berembun, cold, soaking wet and hungry to a bunch of campers cooking BBQ, singing songs accompanied by music from acoustic guitar and basically people having a good time chatting/laughing. This was probably the best time to ask, why are we running 100km and subjecting our body and mind to such challenges? For everyone that I managed to see that day, they had their answers and they had no doubt they'll finish the race regardless of the many temptations to quit.

27. The runners were not the only relentless ones. The volunteer were very cheerful through out the night. Every now and then I'd hear them cheer runners coming into CP2 and some of the campers would cheer as well. Every time I went to the toilet, I had to go through  CP2 and all the time, the crew seems like they genuinely wanted to be there. They took care of the runners and understood that some of them are in pretty bad shape physically, mentally and emotionally. After cut-off, they were cleaning up the place, calmly and probably as tired as some of the runners. Having seen that first hand was amazing. Huge respect to them. Not forgetting the photographers who were out there taking picture for us to enjoy later. They were at the course, some even on the ground, waiting for runners with their equipment, lenses etc. It doesn't look easy, but they made it look easy. Thanks for capturing the journey guys.

Final Note

28. The race though, was worth the money and time spent to get there. Having seen first hand 100km runners running at night in the rain and also some in the morning got me really nervous. >24 hours of being outside, moving. Sounds a bit crazy to be honest. But I'm looking forward to find out whether I, like all of the 100km finisher that day can endure till the finish.

29. I still have TMMT (70km) to sort out gear issues and pacing. TMMT has less elevation from what i hear (no maps etc. is published yet). This would present another challenge as the furthest/longest run I ever done up to this point was CULTRA. So I don't know whether I can run the entire 70km or the majority of the course and I'm excited to find out.

30. And finally, job well done to those involved in the organization and execution of this race. I'm sure they contributed to someone finishing their 1st ultra/trail race that day. Congrats to all finishers as well. To those who fell short, train harder/better and have no doubt that you will eventually reach the finish line.

Next up, TMMT.