The Most Terrifying Thing!

*all photos are mine unless stated otherwise

After months of preparation, trainings and over-spending on gears, food & stuffs, THE day has come. And for me, it nearly didn’t! I overslept and woke up at 2:47am – our bus was scheduled to depart from Avangio Hotel at 3:30am. Mad rush! Stuffed all my gears in my bag, my drop bag, hauled up wife & kids into the car and off we go! Luckily my house was minutes away and I made it to the meeting point with 20 minutes to spare – and I think I ran over a rat (hopefully not a cat!) along the way.

Took the bus less than 2 hours to reach Lingkubang and after deposited my drop bag into the waiting truck, a quick stop to the loo, had my race tag scanned in the hall, walked out and there I was standing in the middle of the field amongst hundreds of competitors vying for the ‘finisher’ spot.

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The majestic Akinabalu seen from our starting point at Lingkubang, Kota Belud

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Wefie with the crazies

It’s a GO – Start to W1 Kebayau

It was a tense and anxious moment building up to the start. And once we were ‘released’ it was a crazy dash to the finish line! I had set my own pace for the entire race and so I paced myself not to get caught up in the ‘excitement’ and had Massy for company. I took a bit of a lead on the hill as Massy was pacing herself up and reached W1 Kebayau at 7:10am. Was relieved to reach Kebayau in good condition. Had a scare a couple of years back when I did my first TMBT 50km and suffered massive cramps in Kebayau. Filled my bottles with water, took a quick toilet break and off to W2.

W1 – W2 Tambatuan

Headed into our first trail route with Massy taking the lead. However, after a while it seems that Massy appeared to slow down a wee bit and there were quite a number of runners streaming at the back so she signaled for me to go ahead – and that was the last time I saw her that day.

As I went ahead, the trail was still relatively ‘ok’. There were wet, but not crazy muddy. So I felt lucky – not so (I assume) for the several thousand passing through it later that day! Crossed the first river and felt slight roughness inside the shoe. Pebbles? But I didn’t bother taking off my shoes to clean it up and went ahead. After passing through trails, hanging bridges and paddy field, I reached Tambatuan around 8:34am. Good to see plenty of familiar faces. Gisya on the bridge, Hana (heading towards the bridge), Erwan & Siti, Faizal and Dr. Felice. Re-filled my bottles and took a breather. Looked at my Garmin Fenix 2 watch and I was still good with time so I decided to see if Massy would arrive in the next 5-10 minutes. And then I heard Dr. Felice from across the tent, “Rizwan, apa kau buat? Punya relax kau!” The 5 minutes dissipated in seconds. Took a sip of my bottle, say my goodbyes, and off I head towards W3.

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Crossing the hanging bridge towards W2 [Photo by Gisya]

W2 – W3 Lobong Lobong

Was running along paddy field when the lady runner in front of me stumbled and fell inside a dry patch of field. I helped her up and her friend came from behind and he kept on saying, “Its ok, its ok. He’s my friend, he’s my friend”. “Its SHE. Not HE.” I said to myself and off I went. Went into the trail and I took my first stumble myself. Was avoiding roots when one caught my right foot and I stumbled on the ground. My right leg went stiff. Cramps – SHIT! Thankfully the guy behind me helped me up and I forcefully straightened my leg back, did a bit if quick stretching, did a bit of body check for injury, gear check and went ahead. The cramps followed. But was having none of it so it lingers with occasional twitching.

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[Photo by Sher]

Left the trails soon after and was running on kampung road with views of hills and paddy fields. Ran along the river and caught up with Tim Kuda’s Nick Kolos, at his home ground. He pointed where Glen was and I tried to catch up but when I finally caugth up, it wasn’t him. Finally crossed the Bailey bridge before going up the concrete road up towards Lobong Lobong. Yoke Lee, Alex Rich & Symus was there. And Symus had ice! Ice! Scanned my tag at 10:43am and went into the Hall. Glen and some other guys were already sitting comfortably inside. Took off my vest and re-filled my bottles. Original plan to have my lunch here but since it was still early I decided to have them at Kiau Nulu instead. The last time I was at Lobong Lobong it rained heavily. This time it was sunny with slight overcast. Left for W4 with Glen.

W3 – W4 Kiau Nulu

Went down towards the river and crossed the 2 bridges and so it began – trails and hills. It wasn’t long that I was alone again. Glen pressed on ahead and I kept with my own pace. By this time my poles are out and climbing up was better. The occasional ‘muscle twitch’ still occur but bearable. The Bukit Nanas route was never ending. Endless ascend after ascend. Even when I thought that was the end of it, there was another route leading up! There were villagers opening up make-shift stalls selling drinks & homemade ice creams – but I didn’t buy any. Eventually, I saw Nasier & Mag on the ridge. I straighten myself up and moved towards them as if the race just started. Pose is important! Haha. Then it was downhill. Was moving faster to catch up with lost time but held back a little bit fearing the twitches will turn to full blown cramps. Felt a bit of a sting on my left foot. Felt like a blister. Once I left the trail, passed several houses and it was few hundred meters downroad run towards Kiau Nulu. Checked in at 12:58pm. Just in time for lunch! The guys inside were already eating theirs. Took out my packed rice with fried egg, cracked open my can of sardine and pour it in. Give it a quick mix and ate. Well at least I tried to. The food doesn’t seem to want to go in. Took a couple in but that was it. I felt more thirsty than hungry. So I drank and drank and drank. Took a couple of pineapples too from the food station. And few sip of tea. That was refreshing. Dr. Izzuddin left first. Then Glen, Indra, Mat, Azly and few others were ready to go. So a quick gear prep and off we head towards W5a.

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Along the ridge of Bukit Nanas heading towards W4 Kiau Nulu [Photo by Nasier Lee]

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W4 Kiau Nulu [Photo by Gisya]

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With Tim Kuda’s Henry Kudther [Photo by Gisya]

W4 – W5a Highway

Ran along the road before we cut into a trail with concrete steps going downhill towards Kiau Taburi. Again, those guys were furious downhill and I was left behind again. Once the trail ended, it was a short run along a sealed road before the big ascend towards W5a. A runner made an attempt to strike up a conversation but I wasn’t in the ‘talking’ mood so I jogged a bit until I reached the bridge before the right turn going up. The few meters up was ok. But then I started feeling stiffness on both my thighs (and it gets tighter and tighter) as I ascended up but didn’t stop until I reached a flat part of the road. I Stopped. Stretched a wee bit until I felt my muscles eased up a bit. And moved on until I didn’t feel the cramps any longer and I kept on going and going and going and going before I caught up with Dr. Izzuddin and went ahead until I finally caught up with Glen, sitting on the roadside sipping cold Cola. Punya siok. I stopped, went inside the shop and bought a bottle of cold water. Sat next to Glen, opened the bottle and drank. Air sejuk. That was the best feeling ever. After taking a moment, we pressed ahead and turned back into the trails. It was getting grey – it was going to rain! Glen was already getting excited, And finally, it rained, drizzling at first and turned heavier and that was awesome! We reached W5a at 3:16pm and board our shuttle to W5.

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After ascending the looooong road from Kiau Taburi heading to W5a. Here with 2 Filipino runners

Gila sejuk! W5 Puncak Borneo – W6 Perkasa (Halfway point/Drop Bag)

It wasn’t cold inside the van. However, once we reached W5 at 3:25pm and I stepped out of the van, it bit me – it was freezing cold! The rain had stopped but I started shivering. Re-filled my bottle and was contemplating to take my windbreaker out but Glen suggested we try running down to get our bodies warm again. If that doesn’t work, then we can put on our jackets. So we did just that. We ran down the road until we read the junction, and I was already sweating. It worked. Jackets stayed put although it was slightly drizzling. After several twists and turns, we finally came out to the open road and headed up towards Perkasa and reached W6 at 5:40pm. Took my drop bag and changed socks, shirt & shoes. Replenished my Tailwind rations and get the “caffeinated” ones out and filled in my bottles. Give a quick hugs to the wifey & kids and grabbed a quick ‘dinner’ – rice mixed with pasta sauce and chicken. Had the best fruit cocktails too courtesy of the water station. Checked my watch and the battery is about to get low so I took out my Pineng 10,000mAH powerbank and plugged it to my watch and stuffed the battery inside my jacket’s pocket. By 6:30pm we geared up for the night section – headlamps, reflector vests & blinkers and did a quick toilet stop before headed out into the night towards Kouluan.

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Survived the first 50km! [Photo by Gisya]

W6 – W7 Kouluan

The night section was a bit tough too. Had to keep my eyes open for the reflective markers and thus my pace slumped tremendously. That and fatigued started kicking in as well. Earlier in the section we couldn’t locate the marker and the runner behind yelled, ‘its down there!’ and Glen went down… only for the guy to yelled back, ‘Sorry bro! Its up here!’ So we went back up and got back on track. It was downhill at first and passed by several houses (one even had a party of sort) before we crossed the main road and headed down towards the bridge. Stopped. Checked my watch, 100% charged. Disconnect the battery and went ahead. And up and up until we came out to a junction, which looked familiar. I immediately recalled – actually went on the route with chip Daz weeks before. Further up we reached the only T-junction, which in my calculation should be W7 but it wasn’t there. Glen turned right and despite having doubts I followed and went for another approximately 1.6km downhill before we finally reached W7 Kouluan. Refilled my bottles, and off we went again towards W8.

W7 – W8 Mesilau

I don’t really remember some sections of the route. It was dark. We talked about Donald trump. We talked about the Twin towers. I remembered we passed by farms, climbed up hills went on farm roads when we eventually came out to a road clearing and on a sealed road. We were passed by runners who we heading towards W10. Reached W8 at exactly 11:00pm. Had the best hot chicken soup ever! And the hot tea wasn’t bad either! Took off my jacket. Worse decision. Shivered. I even spilled my tea because my hand was shaking! Put my jacket back on. Hahaha. Saw Sham sleeping on the stage. Macam siok. Another person covered with emergency blanket was lying on a couple of chairs next to us. Glen said he too wanted to take a power nap. 10 minutes he said. I wasn’t sleepy. I guess the caffeinated Tailwind worked. Finally a caffeine mix that worked on me. When Sham woke up, he went on to say, “Pame, ok sudah?” That person in the emergency blanket was Pame! Haha. They got ready and moved out. Had a couple more hot soup and tea. It’s the famous “Kubis loop”. Plenty of stories from runners competing the year before. So had to be mentally ready. I think we spent almost an hour at W8 before we moved out.

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It was cold

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The best chicken soup. Ever. I had a few cups.

W8 – CP1 Veggie Farm – W9 Mesilau

Despite being high up, breathing was relatively easy. The main obstacle in the ‘kubis loop’ was the mud, to me anyway! And it was lots of em. Some of the path was almost impassable! So, I had to use ‘alternative’ paths to get ahead. Once we passed CP1 around 12:54am it was all gravel road and sealed road towards W9. Reached W9 at 1:36am.

W9 – W10 Liposu Lama

Spent a couple of minutes at W9. Had another cup of that chicken soup and tea. Glen was sleepy so he took another nap. Sham & Pame was on their way out. ‘Try to catch up”, I vaguely recalled Pame said to me. A few kilometers after we left W9 we crossed path with several friends heading towards W8. Finally bumped onto Massy although we did not even recognize her! After some awkward exchanged of words from afar, we finally established that that was indeed her and we moved ahead. The path ahead was darker. Markers we still visible but the wind made them appeared to be blinking as it turned round and round. Sometimes I saw blinking lights, which turned out to be the eyes of cats/dogs and even fireflies. I looked at Glen and he was already sleepwalking on occasion. Was looking for a suitable place to stop but the surrounding areas was too dark and secluded I couldn’t take the risk. Finally reached a SARS station and took a quick stop to get Glen a bit of sleep. He took a spot on a chair whilst I sat on the ground. Tried to have a quick nap myself. We moved on after that but I felt it took too long to reach W10 and the reflective markers seems to stretch all the way as if it was an airport runway! I started getting frustrated and even the distance in my watch doesn’t seem to change to a point I thought it wasn’t working any longer. After long last, we reached the trails. A downhill clearing before the a short jungle trail and followed by a non-stop downhill stretch, which I took my second stumble. I slipped and dropped to the ground. That woke Glen up I guess. Hahaha. We also had to do a ‘circus act’ crossing over a barb-wired fence and after much lamenting about how slippery and never ending it was, we finally reached W10 at 4:39am.

W10 – W11 Kibbas (dekaaaaaaat sudah.. tapi..)

A crew offered soup, which I took, and we left slightly after 5:00am. The chafing on my thighs felt bad. So bad it actually dried up and stuck to my pants. Took a peek at the medic bag, Glen asked, cari apa? – Then I remembered the “Symus Incident” and I backed off. Took a quick visit to the toilet before we left and had to use my headlamp as the lights were not working and quickly realized why they “purposely” didn’t fix the lights. *Whisper* there was a large poop on one of the squatting pan. Its all road from here, Glen said only to be dampen by the crew saying, ‘there is still trails ahead’. Bummer! Went up and down the road and into a small trail before we went on a steep road and over the ridge before headed down to the main road and I saw the biggest road climb ever. I kept quiet. Glen stopped on the roadside to clear pebbles from his shoes. I couldn’t kept quiet it that long and I asked Glen, “tu ka kita mau naik?” Ya, he said. SHIT! We went down, crossed the bridge and hiked up. I kept on going and going and going one foot after another and finally I saw few runners turned right. W11 is halfway towards the top. Yeah! That was a relief! Reached W11 at 6:19am.

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W11 Kibbas

W11 – Perkasa!

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Last hill! [Photo by Sham]

It was already bright. Put my headlamp and reflective vest in the bag. Refilled and off we went. By this time blister pain already felt like a stabbing sensation on my left foot. Bad chafing on my right thighs and ‘neighbouring areas’. I kept telling Glen, “Mind over matter. Mind over matter”. To gain more time, Glen suggested we ran downhill – which I wasn’t confident enough after feeling much pain on my left foot. We reached the main road, crossed over and headed towards the downhill section. We ran. And ran until we reached the river. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Crossed the river – and the uphill task began. Texted wifey and told her my timing and ETA. 2-hours to cover this climbing section, Glen said. He targeted to reach Perkasa before 9:30am. I set a more modest time at 10:00am. We climb. We climb and we climb. Glen said, last hill. But we still continue to climb and climb and climb. Last one he said. And another continuous climb. Mau sampai simpang jalan kampung sudah, he said. Another last long stretch. Eventually, flat gravel road. We hiked for another kilometer or so before we reached the junction heading up to our FINAL ascend. Bought water at the adjacent sundry shop. Drank a bit and up we went. Almost to the finishing line. Many thoughts gushing through my mind. Glen said after 3 TMBT, he won’t get emotional. I don’t really know how to feel. Excited, perhaps. Happy, maybe. I felt I won’t be crying. So up, up, up we went. Caught up with Sham and Jess half-way and we pushed forward leaving them behind. Once we reached the sealed road, we folded our poles. And then, another small climb. We shouldn’t have folded our poles, Glen said. I couldn’t be bothered taking it off my vest. The road was undulating, up and down and up and down it went. Another runner was coming behind us. His pole strikes was getting into my nerve. I started running a bit. At the last junction we made a pact, we are running in front of another and not side by side so that we can get the best photos. Hehe. And that just what we did. We started running much earlier for the last few hundred meters. Turned the corner, the bell rang. Glen headed up first. I followed from behind. Photographers everywhere.

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[Photo by Ang Siang Chie]

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[Photo by Sher]

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[Photo by Sher]

Then I crossed the line. I did it! We did it! 100km. 26:54:14 hours. 9:24am. No I didn’t cry. I’m done.

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100km. Done. [Photo by Wifey]




And then all pain broke loose!

 

Up next, my Gear review & Tailwind hydration plan.

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4 responses to “The Most Terrifying Thing!

  1. Congrats Hawk! I hope I have the courage to do 100km. 42km pun sa mau mampus sudah.

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