TMBT – “The Most Beautiful Thing”, or some may call it, “the most brutal trail” was an experience for me. It was not only my first trail ultra. But, it was also my 2nd trail run of my life. I did 3km road + 10km trial hybrid challenge last month (Sep 2016) in Permai, Kuching organised by grit event. That event was just a small tip of the iceberg compared to what TMBT had install for us all. I was never considered as a hiking or jungle trekking person. The only jungle that I’ve been, was the roads of the city concrete jungle during my daily runs. Hence, signing up for this event was actually a spur of the moment. It started after I met up with Jetson Hoo from TZActive , who agreed to sponsor me energy gels for my marathons and ultras. I had never though of doing any trail ultra. But after talking with him, I decided to drop my Osaka marathon 2016 (same weekend), and signed up for TMBT 2016. He asked me to signup for 50K. But me, being me, I decided to just go for 100K. Did I regret making that decision. I have to say no. That’s because I have completed the race. Of course during the 100k, I did tell myself, “you fool, you could have just done 50k and you be sleeping in the room now”.
My training program leading to this event was actually more on road ultras and marathons. I was doing 1 major event (marathon or ultra/ month). My weekly regimen was:
- sunday – 3 loops hearbreak hills (33K) & 5K recovery
- monday – hills repeat 11K
- tuesday – HPRC 12K
- wednesday -10K-16K hills
- thursday – HPRC 14K-16K
- friday – rest
- saturday – 16K charity hills
I only manage to squeeze in 1 session of jungle trekking at Jagoi due to family time during weekends. Hence, I was pretty much under prepared for TMBT 100K.
The worst fear I had was the 30hrs cut-off. For an event to have such a long cut-off, the course must be really technical and challenging. The longest I have been on the road, on my own two feet was 14hrs ++ during Titi100 this year.
There was actually a large group of us that flew in from Kuching for this event this year. Much more than 2015. We consist of runners from Hornbill Pacesetters Running Club members, O-run Utan Running Club members, and some Hash House Harriers. Our goal was to finish the race we all signed up for.
The 50K and 100K runners had the same flag off time. Since there where 253 participants for 100K, it was key for me to try to break away as soon as I can. This is to ensure that there is no time loss during the bridge and river crossings before W1. The first obstacle already required us to go uphill, then downhill and followed by more uphill. I thought Titi100 was hard. This was much harder.We soon reached W1 before turning left entering the jungle. The ground was wet, but lucky for me i had my Hoka Speed Instinct on. It helped me with the traction I need going up hills and cushioning when I ran downhill. Soon, we reached a river crossing before W2 (Tambatuan). You could hear the villagers playing the gong, welcoming us. W2 had pineapples, bananas and drinking water. I refilled my hydration before heading out for W3 (Lobong Lobong), which was 9.8K away. W2 to W3 was not that difficult as compared to the track going to W4. After loading up at W3, we went down the football field (being careful not to step on cow droppings), and later down the concrete hill, before reaching the overhanging bridge. Lucky for me, at that time the crowd was still small crossing the bridge. We then had to go up the pineapple farm. At that time, I had 2 thoughts. One was, “should I try to go uphill using my trekking poles?”. The other was, “I pineapple, I have a pen. Ungh! Pineapple-Pen”.
I remember when I reached the top of the pineapple hill, my face looked like crap. I was so happy to see the TMBT marshalls from afar, thinking that is was W4 with cup noodles. Unfortunately, it was not W4, but rather the cameraman. That is why the picture below of me looks like crap. Hahaha. The cameraman asked me to smile. But that was the best I could at that time.
Going down the pineapple hill was much easier, compared to going up. But, there where several path that was just about a foot wide. I recall some runners where running with that small gap, while I move aside and let them pass. One small miss step would mean “baby bye bye bye” – N’sync. I recall, I asked the Marshall how far was W4 cause my fenix 3 showed that it was over. According to them, it was just another 1.2K. I recalled, i ran more that 1.2K but still didn’t see W4. It was more like 3-3.5K. I was hungry as it was lunch. I wanted my cup noodles. I was so happy when I saw marshals wearing the TMBT yellow shirt as we went downhill at the Kiau Nulu village. That was the best cup noddles I ever had. Hahaha.
I was energetic once more after refueling with cup noddles and TZactive gel. Down hill was a breeze, with gaining momentum in each stride. Soon we reach the tarmac, a slight decent before the huge climb of 610m. This kinda reminds me of Penang Hill during Penang ultra. Except that when you reached the top of Penang Hill, you could drink as many coconut juice you wish. But for this, there was nothing there. The only consolation was that it was mostly tarmac rather than trail. This made it much easier for me, as I am more of a tarmac person. Nevertheless, there were occasions where I thought I was lost as there was nobody in front. Lucky for me I met Jami Ramirez, who accompanied me till W6 Perkasa.
Going to W6 was very enduring as the weather was
At W6 Perkasa, first thing to do was to remove my wet shoes and socks. Followed by a fresh pair of warm cloths.I was obviously drench, cause I was trying to be macho and didn’t wear my rain jacket. I applied vaseline on my toes before changing to a new pair or Injinji Trail socks. I also had to change from my Hoka Speed Instinct to my Hoka Challenger ATR2. (I actually prefer the feel and support of the speed instinct, but it was wet. And I still have 50km to go.) I kept my dirty and wet Ahon Gaiters on, as it was still doing its job by keeping pebbles out of my shoes. I also took this opportunity to re-apply my 2Toms sport shield on my inner thigh. I didn’t want to have chaffing since I still have after another 10-15hrs to complete the remaining 50K. I am very glad I made that choice. I didn’t have any blisters or chaffing even after 23hrs 40mins.
I think the organizers can improve on the food at halfway point. We had tomato soup, rice, mix veggie and macaroni mayo. I was hoping for some meat. Especially after seeing the KFC billboard. Nevertheless, beggars can’t b choosers. Or as the Chinese saying goes, “no fish, prawn also can la”. While I was still thinking of my KFC, Jami had left. This made me anxious, as it was 4:30pm and I wasn’t planning to trek by myself at night. Especially in the jungle.
Much to my delight, Eldon came into W6 Perkasa. Hence, we decided to push on together once he was ready. As we turned right to W7 route before heading downhill. We had a magnificent view of mount KK.
Soon, a large group of KL runners caught up with us with 2 Sabahan. This was good, as we took turns pushing each other on to each check point. We soon reached W7 Kouluan, which was 11.9km downhill. Of course this was after passing a tomato farm n a tree trunk make shift river crossing. Unfortunately, W7 had only drinking water. The consolation, was that the volunteers there was entertaining. It motivated us to proceed to W8 Mesilau . Since W8 was just 5.2k uphill, we started to pick up our pace and advanced on.
From afar, we could see a lighted up building, (about 3k away). I recalled saying to Eldon,” I do hope that is W8 checkpoint”. Much to my delight, it was. There, at Melisau we replenished with sweet hot coffee and hot cup noddles (2nd cup noddles for the day) with banana. I recalled, meeting many runners who either where resting before going to loop the cabbage patch CP1, or just got back from looping at CP1 -> WS8-2.
The W8 (Mesilau) 7.6km loop was very challenging. Not technical, but rather muddy and dark. It require very careful trekking and good headlamp/ torchlight to ensure no vegetation where damaged and clear course marker identification. Going through W8 loop during the day would be much easier, as you could look ahead (lesson learnt).
After completing W8 loop.the only thing came to mind was not to rest. But, was to refill our hydration and head downhill 8km through jungle and farm, to W9 Liposu lama. I recalled going on and on yet not reaching W9. even the map on my fenix 3 showed that we have exceed the distance but haven’t arrive. Maybe it was due to the GPS accuracy when I turned on UltraTrac mode, instead of normal GPS mode. Irregardless, I was in delight when we reached W9. By then we only had 16km+ left. We met some runners resting at W9, but soon moved on as we left.
At this point, I could taste victory. W10 did not feel like much of a challenge. But going from W10 (Kibbas) to W11(Perkasa) 11.5K was a totally different matter. Although, it was just a 11.5K uphill. The elevation and course “ada kick”. It require us to go up 850m. With an estimation of 1.5hrs/ 10km. this would take us close to 2 hours. By then, fatigue have kicked in and we were both walking like crabs (sideways). At that time Eldon keep singing Aku anak kampung – Jimmy Palikat. (Hahaha. my favorite kampung song). After repeating several times, i decided to take out my phone and put on my run playlist, which consist Taylor swift – shake it off and Katy Perry – Roar. (I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!). This was the boost we needed.
We reached the finishing line 6am Sunday morning. Yes! we did it. My first trail ultra.
My thoughts of Trail Ultra – never ventured, never gained
As mentioned in my facebook. I would like to thank God our heavenly father for giving us strength and protection through the course (of course we had cuts, bruises and sprains, but it could have been worst). Our families, friends for the morale support, Eldon for the company through the 2nd half of the course. TinZaitun for the gel sponsorship. Charity for my raisin bread (wink). And not forgetting the many new friends we met along the way. Hope to meet you all soon in other events.
I would like to point out that through the 23++ hours of torment, I didn’t get any blisters or chaffing. And this was due to the products (which was mentioned earlier & also in my other blogs) that have been faithful to me through my marathons and ultras.
- 2 toms sports shield
- Injinji socks
- Hoka shoes
You can get yours at Revolution Run Borneo at Green Heights shopping mall Kuching. Make sure you quote #ultrabala when buying, to receive an additional discount on your purchases.
Remember, Run Happy, Run Safe, Run Injury Free.