With the blessing from the Almighty, i manage to complete my 3rd 100km Ultra marathon for the year. In fact, 1 year ago (2015), a group of us runners from Hornbill pacesetters running club Kuching came to Penang to do our first 50km ultra marathon. It was our first experience of an ultra running event. After one year, only 2 out of the group of 9 (George Chapman and I), decided to come back and challenge ourselves to the 100km route.

We arrived on 16th Sept (Malaysia day) and stayed in Chulia Mansion, which was a superb accommodation. I would say value for money for its location and facilities. The staff are super friendly and the breakfast was great.

We collected our race pack at the famous Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama). This year, the organizers outdid themselves by getting more exhibitors compared to last year. This was good, as you can do some last minute purchasing of needed items in case you forgotten. They also had the mandatory race items check when you collect your race pack, which I thought was a good move to prevent any last minute mishap by the participants.

The race this year was officiated by the Chief Minister of Penang; Lim Guang Eng. We manage to have a quick photo with him before we started the race. I have to say, the CM is a very punctual person.

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Pre race photo with CM of Penang. (from left: Wei Sung, Gary Kho, Steven, me, Eldon Chou, Lim Guang Eng, George Chapman, Kho Khoon Hiong)

The race flag off was right on the dot at 9pm. There was a total of 160 participants who registered for the 100km challenge. Traffic control by the Rela, PRDM and volunteers was good. All runners safety were well taken care of. The weather was slightly humid. You can see from the island route attached on the actual route. It is exactly the same as the 84km route, except for the Penang hill addition at CP08.

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100km run route

 The signage for the route was good except for some locations, which was not very visible (suggest to use reflective arrows for future runs). The run from CP0 to CP01 was a bit of a tussle between runners, as you try to break free from the crowd. I manage to break away from the large pack, ~2km into the race. As they mentioned, this 15.9km distance had a mixture of tarmac and concrete. For me, this was a good flat path to build your buffer for checkpoint cut-offs. The first CP was set by the roadside. From CP01 to CP02, I found it a bit of a challenge, as i got lost for about 500m,(this was my own fault for not studying the map properly before the run). Lucky for me, i found the correct path and the runners behind me didn’t get lost. Else it would have been,” the blind leading the blind”.

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check points and cut-off times for 100km
As we headed into the construction area, i felt sleepy and started to feel really drain. My aim at that time, was to reach CP2 for some isotonic drinks and maybe some food. Situation improved after the nice short break. Then, it was off to CP03. it started with a 6.5km flat road run followed by a challenging 2.8km uphill run along genting hill. The view from the top of the hill was magnificent. You could see the night light of balik pulau.  Apart from that, the beauty of any uphill was, “what goes up, must come down”. The run down hill was good and relaxing, thanks to a fellow runner i met during Langkawi Ultra (Nazri). He kept me company. Upon reaching CP03, there was a sense of joy in me. I knew, this was where i could refuel before going through the daunting half way point of a 14.3km run (towards CP04 – 49.2km), with nothing to see. Nazri wanted to take a break and asked me to proceed. I refueled with my TinZaitun energy bar and off i went.The gap between me and other runners in front of me was about 3-4 minutes. I tried to mantain a steady pace of 6:30min/km. I managed to pass several runners along the way. At this time, the weather was changing from humid to windy with lightning and thunder. Yes, it looks like it was going to rain. You could see the drains along Jalan Balik Pulau was filling up. I was so pre-occupied in looking at the drain that i over shoot and ran pass the turning in to Jalan Bahru. Luckily, the marshall on motorcycle (Eric Lim) saw me and told me that i was way off. Hahaha. That would have been really stupid of me (I actually went an extra 2km).  At this point, all the runners that I have passed earlier, have already caught up with me. (note to self, “study route properly before going for you run”).  So, Jalan Bahru was a catching up game for me. Just when I was bout to pass the housing area at Jalan Kampung air Putih, it rained. I was happy at first, cause it was cooling. But, then the rain turned to a storm. This was the point that i was really looking forward to quickly reach CP04 and grab my windbreaker.

The warm coffee was good at CP04 with some dates and or course my energy bar (TinZaitun). Manage to change from my Hornbill Pacesetter Running Tee to a dry pair of O-run Utan Running Tee. Applied vaseline on my feet, changed my socks and shoes. As this next half of the route will be more hilly, I wanted my dry Hoka Clifton 2, to do the work of climbing up and running downhill. It was here, that I met Jeff Ooi and Linda Then. I remember, the volunteers at this CP04 were all talking about the 100km race leader; Kho Khoon Hiong from Bintulu, Sarawak. He was leading the entire race and was running at a marathon pace. As I just reached CP04, he had already left CP06, which was 23km away. OMG!!!

I got my hydration filled and i was ready to go, but no before putting on my windbreaker as the rain was still pouring. Unfortunately, I left the darn windbreaker in the room. Stupid me again! hahaha. Just had to endure the rain without the jacket. Here, I decide to switch my headlamp for my handheld flashlight. Reason was, CP04-CP05 will be going up Titikerawang, and down towards Teluk Bahang (thanks Anddrew for the correction). It is always good to have a handheld flash light with a longer beam distance, especially if the road is dark and there maybe incoming traffic. 7/8 of the way up, I met 2 runners; Ooi Siam Meng from Penang, and Elvina Jimin from Sabah (who won 2nd for the womens category). Running alone at Teluk Bahang would be considered dangerous, especially if you are a female. Certain area had faulty street lighting, thus making it very dark.

We reached CP05 at Dewan MPBB with delight. I decided to go to the wash room. While Elvina decided to push-on after her brief break.(Hence, she got 2nd). CP05 to CP06 was practically rolling hills with heavy traffic moving along a single lane road in both directions. The view was nice, but running or walking at this stretch requires alertness. Slowly, but surely, I soon reached CP06. It was good to have the company of Ooi Siam Meng to keep me entertained all the way. We met Shannon Ong from Penang along the way to CP07. It was like “Do Re Me bujang lapok”. He had our laughs even making our way towards Penang Hill in the heavy rain where partial road was flooded. It was a good thing that I had my Hoka Clifton 2 on, the water gushed in, but it also flow out as fast, ensuring that my feet stays fairly dry (slightly damp).

We manage to bump into the top 10 runners for 100km men. Some seemed drain, others seemed pretty pumped. I knew i had to have my game on for Penang hill. Shannon Ong and Ooi Siam Meng told me that Penang hill elevation is a challenge when going up and coming down. They were right !

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Penang Ultra elevation
I have never hike up hill with that kind of elevation in my life. Thanks goodness that the distance was only 5.2km. Prayer and the FREE coconut juice was the 2 things that kept me going.  In Kuching, we normally get our coconuts by climbing coconut trees. But in Penang  apparently, you have to climb Penang hill to get your coconuts. Hahaha! Hence, the coconut juice at the top of Penang hill was the best coconut juice I had ever have.

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Penang hill route (pic courtesy of Penang Ultra Organizers)
I tried to make up for lost time by running down Penang hill. I tried running sideways as the road was wet and i had to be careful. I met some participants coming up hill, but they were well prepared with their hiking stick. Smart! Unfortunately, due to my unpreparedness, I sprained my ankle coming downhill. Yes, my own fault again. Just had to do another 5km from Gurney then, I would be done.

My ankle didn’t bother me until I took of my shoes after passing the finishing line.That was when I saw how swollen it had become. My left feet looked like it came from Frodo Baggins. Hahaha. But, I have something that Frodo doesn’t have… The finisher Medal of Penang Ultra.

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Eat this Frodo Baggins. (still better than your precious ring, hahaha)
At the end of it, even though this was my 3rd 100km run, I still think there are plenty of rooms for improvements.

  1. need to do more hills training. (hills repeat and heart break hills)
  2. run in all weather. (early morning, hot afternoon, rain, mid-night)
  3. study the route before your run
  4. pack hiking stick and jacket
  5. “Stretch you legs as wide as you can on your last 2km”, wise words from Kho Khoon Hiong.

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Nevertheless, I would like to say a special thanks once again to the race director Anddrew Loh and his team (including Rela, PDRM, St John ambulance, volunteers and sponsors), for ensuring our safety. Even during the heavy downpour, you all were there to direct the traffic for us. Thanks !

If you are interested to join the Penang Ultra in 2017, please follow their FB website (Penang Ultra 100).

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