Elevation Gain: 2,303 m
Cut Off Times: 17 hrs
Organizer: Kow Kow Sport
1. After Penang Eco 100k, I decided to take it easy. Recover, run a bit, be healthy for Ramadhan. Goal was to avoid a 2nd straight DNF while experimenting some stuff. Leading up to the race, organizer sent a PDF race info kit/guide. Pretty insightful but there wasn't much info on the course. You sort of have to estimate the gain by looking at the profile image.
2. So I did some google research on the course and turned out the route was basically a famous out and back hike to Gunung Semangkok (GS) and some trails around town. Due to the mysterious "land slide", the route was altered to cater for the missing section after GS. So it's basically a duo-state ultra.
3. As I dig deeper, I realized that it's going to be tough but since the distance was only for about 50k, I assume it was going to be ok. My assessment has never been off.
4. I did the REPC at KL so I was in no rush to get to race site. Arrived and parked at the nearby mosque and went straight to the expo. Nothing interesting and new. I asked the organizers for some basic stuff which wasn't in the guide like baggage drop but they thought I meant drop bag. So they say there's no baggage drop (turned out there was). Tried to sleep at around 9PM and woke up at 11PM to get the gears ready.
5. Did the mandatory check and listened to the briefing. Race starts at 1 AM and started with the poles in hand.
6. The first 10k was basically a rolling road run around the town area. There were some short trail section before going up to pine tree hill peak.
7. Suprisingly, I didn' realize we have passed pine tree hill peak and was on our way to GS. By the time I was at CP3, I was glad to hear that there are about 5k (climb) to go to GS.
8. I didn't refill as I assumed that 1L would be enough. However, I used most of it to perform ablution for subuh prayer by the side of the trail. At the top of GS (CP4) there were just guys taking our number. No water or food so, I consumed my supplies and had to save whatever water I have left before heading down. I also stowed the poles and tried to go down as quickly as possible. It was also already daylight by then.
9. Back at CP5/CP2, refilled my water and swiftly made my way to Jeriau (CP7). It turned out to be quite a downhill/hike. I hit my head from an overhanging branch and immediately stopped. It felt like I was hit by a metal pipe. I stopped and found that my eyebrow were bleeding but not gushing or anything. I walked it off and realized it's not that (relatively) serious. At the Pine tree hill peak - I can finally see the amazing view.
10. I also ran out of water and luckily these 2 guys who decided to DNF gave me some of theirs. That probably saved my race and I am grateful for that and why I love this community of trail runners!. Out from Jeriau/CP7, we had to endure this uphill road section back to town. Once in town, one of the crew in a car pulled up and told me to turn right at the roundabout to finish. He even said it's close and semi-congratulated me. This makes sense since I've already covered 50k+. Upon reaching the roundabout though, I saw a sign that says "50k go straight". I followed that sign which lead to Bishop trail.
11. In Bishop trail, I was alone and doubt started to creep in whether I should've turned right at the round about and finish the damn thing. The race was pretty disorganized so they might have decided to cut it short. I arrived at a junction in the trail that leads to more trail and to town. I decided to head to town even though the marking indicates to continue straight down the trail (I tought marking was ok). En route, saw the 2nd runner up in his car and was encouraging me to keep going (more reason to love the community). He quickly pointed out I was off course which meant that I was given the wrong advice by the crew in the car. I was probably assumed to be a 25k finisher or DNFer.
12. I was not that dissapointed though since I was not competing. Having lost about maybe half an hour, timing didn't matter much and I just want to finish the race since I'm nearing the end anyway. There were other runners/spectators encouraging (did I already mention how cool the community was?) which really makes my day.
13. So I continued on, hiked the remaining trail in town, Bishop, Rompin etc. before arriving at the finish. I enjoyed the last bit as I felt like I was sight seeing Fraser Hill in one day!. I had to somehow alert the organizer upon finishing as they were busy doing I don't know what.
14. If there was food, I wasn't directed to it. Got the customary shirt/medal. Went back to the car, shower, prayed, got some food and drove back home.
15. My race was pretty good. The reason to run this race was because it starts at 1 am. I seldom (never?) train in the middle of the night and this run provide the experience to run with inadequate sleep and test my cheap headlamp. I did 2 ultra that involves running through the night (TMBT/PenangEco) and I didn't do too good. In those races, I lost motivation towards the end and I contributed it to lack of sleep. In this race however, I was positive throughout and rarely screaming "F**k this s**t!" inside. Those negative moments was probably down to nutrition because after I got some calories in, my head/thinking felt better. In TMBT/PenangEco my head was so fuzzy and negative.
16. I also ran with the poles for the 1st half and found that it's pretty useful at the steep road section but quite a hassle at technical section and at downhills because you need to use your hands a lot. I wouldn't rule them out and will practice more with them.
17. Nutrition was something I also tested out. I mainly consume tailwind/water, 1 tesco chocolote chip granola bar, 1 cocopie, some watermelon and banana (at Jeriau). So the fact that I can recall the quantity of stuff I consumed was pretty cool. No major cramps and still ran some parts towards the end. In my previous race I consumed too much, countless gels and hanging around aid station eating.
18. I have mixed feeling for the overall race experience though. The course was challenging and beautiful and I believe most runners truly enjoyed the course (up to a certain point) but from a consumer point of view I have to question the value of doing this race.
19. A typical consumer would compare goods and services to try and get the best value for money. I value a race according to these main item:
i) location (course uniqueness/challenge/training effect)
ii) services (from pre race info, UTMB points to race day organization);and
iii) goods (REPC goodies, t shirt, medals, aid station content).
I think for item i) there's no doubt it that it was well worth it. But for item ii) and iii) there's a lot that can be improved when compared to other races at around the same price point.
20. Goods and Services - I don't know but it felt a bit disorganized. From the beginning there were a lot of anomaly. For example, the statement "PLEASE NOTE AID STATION POSITIONS ARE BASED ON VOLUNTEER AVAILABILITY" in the guide was a red flag. The profile on the guide/website doesn't show elevation gained between station which I would normally use in training to determine point to point climb/descent difficulty. The correct GPX file was uploaded the day before the race (less than 24 hours actually). The baggage drop looks like a last minute kind of thing with the masking tape, the finishing line snub/lack of hospitality etc.
21. Granted, this probably sounds a bit entitled. I mean ultra runner are suppose to be bad ass right?. But there are things from a paying consumer/runner point of view that should be prioritized. For instance, aid station distance (time wise) was probably a bit far especially when you have steep climbs. At Jeriau (last CP) I saw tons of energy drinks, bananas etc. and felt like supplies could probably be better distributed among CPs. Apart from the tough course conditions, this too probably contributed to the amount of DNFers. DNFers had to hike back out so it's not as if they get to ride in a car (except at last CP - better access to road). So the general effort to preserve the well being of runners and evacuation of DNFers/injured runners feels like an afterthought.
22. I also think that some safety aspect was overlooked. Safety concerns can't be stressed enough especially after what happened at PD tri. This course is tough and at some point dangerous. A crew or two at critical sections (i.e. wall/rock climbing section at night!) in case anything happen can mean a lot. A medic would be better but feels like I'm asking too much.
|Rock climbing - fun, but a bit dangerous (pic: fraserhill.info)|
24. Speaking of course design, I also feel like I can cheat the course since the race didn't have proper tracking electronically or manually towards the end of the race. I literally saw no crew after Jeriau except by chance - the guy in the car that gave me the wrong direction.
25. I have to qualify some of the statements made though. The guide did show no water/food at GS and there could probably be some food at the finish (I didn't check). But generally runners, myself included, didn't pay enough attention to the guide given, assumed the CPs are like other races and was too tired to think hoping for the crews to (correctly) assist during these times.
26. Upon checking their FB page, the reviews sort of validated my observations of this race. The common theme of safety and aid stations are prevalent. Generally people felt like they were ripped-off. It is also regretful to see some trail runners scoffing at the comments/reviews. I feel like there's a clique forming. I hate that participants are arguing among themselves. The fact that participants chose to pay to run this race (yes, self inflicted) does not take away the fact that the organizers didn't do their job properly. This to me is a threat to this sport because any mishaps would involve the authority and could effect other races. This threat is real based on actual accounts of injured/DNF runners.
26. The review section is also interesting because you can observe range of runners in terms of ability and understanding. It's the responsibility of the organizers/crew to ensure that their services cover all spectrum of runners.
27. And for heaven's sake, RDs out there, can we stop with this finishing medal/Ts BS. Let's just call it a participant medal and be done with it.
28. Entry Fee: Early Bird, RM265.90
29. Result: 14:02:04, h:m:s, 25/97 overall, 24/80 gender, 14/41 category
30. Finisher rate:
97/144 - 67.4% (50km)
85/220 - 38.6% (25km)
196/223 - 87.9% (15km)
*My garmin didn't properly record and was unable to download the data. What a tragedy.
31. The trail were amazing and some sections were runnable. I truly enjoyed the running part. It is also challenging and I love that too. I was happy with the way I ran it and manage again to discover and experience something new with my running.
32. However, as a noob/mid pack runner, I consider things like safety and aid stations as a basic standard feature in any race. Heck, for the elites, the risk is even greater especially when descending at high speed. IMHO, having measures to minimize risks gives you more confidence and a peace of mind to finish the race even when you are f**cked up.
33. Also, when you pay almost the same as other races, you expect comparable goods/services. When an organizer do something because it makes their job easier instead of the paying customer/runners you know something is off. For this tough race, the lack of crew and basic organization (to me at least) was a clear symptom of this. Some I can live without but some are just basic and is commonly practiced by other races/RDs.
34. In general, the whole community is involved in producing a good race experience:
- Runners/praticipants in general - Train for the race, be informed of the risks, provide feedback;
- Organizers - Provide clear information, assist runners to finish and enjoy the race as much as possible regardless of their ability pre race/race/post race;
- MURA/MUL or whatever association - They are doing good job voluntarily reviewing races. But maybe they can take it a bit further by imposing or at least providing some minimum standard requirement guide for RD/runners. It could be a blog post for all I care. At least we can make more informed decisions;
- Seasoned runners - Their voices are heard and I feel like they could make a big difference in making races better instead of scoffing (not all tho) at how soft new runners are;
- Authorities - Generally, they have been helpful. The BOMBA, police, JPAM etc. I'm more worried when bad things happens and they take the easy way out by stopping any future races because it is deemed dangerous/fatal.
35. I hope organizers use this race to learn and improve for their sake. Consumers (in this case runners), will ultimately choose based on the value they can get with their hard earned money and not just how good the trail and tshirt/medal design are. I don't wish to see runners arguing among each other in socmed. As in any endurance endevour there are risks involved but it can be managed with better information/prevention measures. It's a niche sport with awesome community and we don't want to build a perception that trail running is a wreckless sport ran/organized by wreckless people.
Next race: FGV Tekam 25k