-“Sure or not? Is it that hard? Cannot be.. ” , those were my exact words, when people who had ran ECO Penang Challenge 2016 (100miles) told me. I have heard many cases of people getting lost and that the trails where un-clearly marked. All I could do was to download the maps given into my Garmin Fenix 5, and keep my eyes peel for signage. That was my plan before the race start. But, as the weeks approaches and my training weeks comes to an end, I soon realized that I am not ready. With the help from fellow runners and my close friend, I manage to get some write-ups on the ECO Penang 2016 races and several videos on youtube.

As I flew into Penang, I decided to stay at one of the recommended hotels (Summit). The location was good if you own your own transport. However, if you came in from outstation. It’s best to find another locations, as getting Grab or  Uber, proved to be a challenge (no issue for normal Taxi). The accommodation is attached to a shopping complex, which seems to be pretty dead. Except for the following stores; Econo-save supermarket, watson, KFC & spa. I didn’t know about the spa until 2 fellow runners told me (its located at level 5, access via hotel). By then, it was too late. We where already in our shuttle bus to the starting point; (Tokun Dam). Hahaha, guess that will have to wait.
I was excited yet worried on what would lie ahead. But as soon as we reach the starting point, we met up with several familiar faces.

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From left -back: Ritchie, Wei Lun, Me, Raymond, Nana

The race directors (Ng Seow Kong and Allan Lee) when through the race briefing with us. It was in-depth, but a bit too late for me to download any info in my head. We then took a last photo as the 100 miles participants before the flag off. As the countdown started, so did my nerves. I could really see my heart-rate going off the roof. “3, 2, 1” Off we went. Just then I realized I haven’t turned on my navigation on my Fenix 5. Duh!!. Stupid me. I had no choice but to wait for 1 minute, before I could start running. As the GPS signal was received and the map was loaded, off I went on my stride. I tried my best to catch up at least with the middle pack. The weather was humid. We started off to CP-A(Juru), there was not much to see. My focus was on the run. I soon made my way to the middle pack and caught up with my buddies; Amirul and Ah Jong. Nana and Ruth where also running with them, at that time, I just want to reach CP-A to pee. Hahaha (me and my bladder). As I reached CP-A, it was a quick pop of 2 watermelon slices and off to pee in the portable loo (Yes, I am civilized). The next target was to CP-B(Fisherman’s Port). I strategy was to cover as much ground as I can while my legs and body was still fresh and before the break of day. As I reach CP-B, the humidity was staring to take a toll on many runners. I poured water on my head reload my soft flask and off I went. I recalled on what I’ve learned with Hammer Nutrition read-up. Stay hydrated with sufficient fluid & electrolytes, take small sips and not big gulps. So far so good. Just need to ensure my hands do not start to swell, as that is the first sign of dehydration.
As we ran pass the coastal, fisherman were going out to sea. The view was magnificent.However, I didn’t spend too much time taking photos. Just manage to snap on and off i went on my journey. Unfortunately, the surroundings had rubbish scattered.

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Just ignore the guy in the picture and look at the scenery behind.

To be honest with you, I do not have very good recollection of CP-C(Permatang Tinggi) till CP-E (Machang Indah). But I do remember the great fan service by the volunteers at CP-D (Bidara). You all rock!
COT final
All I knew, was that it was damn hot and humid and I was just making sure to stay hydrated and follow my gels and salts consumption frequency. I was so delighted when I reached CP-F (Sungai Lembu). 62km done, just 104km to go. Hahaha! Unfortunately, it rained and wreck my plan for changing my shoes and shower. I took of my wet socks and dried my feet. While letting them rest and dry off, I charged my ipod and watch. Loaded up on some lunch and water, talked crap with Odef who was ready to leave CP-F. At that time, the 100km runners where just checking in and manage to meet some of them. Caught sight of Victor and Yimster. After resting for about 30mins, it was time to hit the trails again to CP-1. I knew this next 104km will be a killer. Applied Vaseline on my toes before changing to new pair of socks. Re-apply some 2Toms on my inner thighs, change my shirts and off i went. Surprisingly, that 30mins break was what I needed for my 2nd wind. I was off running again.
I soon reached CP-1(Lunas). I think this hill was at Lunas. I don’t remember that well. hundredmiles04 We had to run up that hill, which I almost trip and lost my balance. Thank God, HE was watching over me. As I came down, the top 10 100km runners caught up with us. It was then I decided to take a walk for a while and recollect my strength. Took the time to say my rosary and thanked the Lord that He had gotten me thus far.On my way to CP-2 (Hidden Landscape), Victor and Boon caught up with me. It was a delight when i was no longer feeling alone. I finally had someone to talked to. We were all going about the same pace, which was ideal.

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Running with 100km runners: (from left: Boon, Me, Victor, Ebi)

I recalled that when I reached CP-3 (Pump house), I felt really drained. I was here that I started preparing myself mentally for the hill climbs, starting with CP-4 (Suling Hill). I was lucky, that I had Victor  with me, and he was giving me pointers and  preview of what I would be expecting for the rest of the journey. We made our way quickly through CP-4, and move to CP-5 (Sungai Lembu). The intent is to rest, shower,  change shoes and reload before going for the dreaded climbs of CP-6 to finish.

When we arrived at CP-5, it was already night fall. Hence, dinner time. Thanks to Chew Hanyu for helping to get my drop bag at CP-5. I quickly got my stuff out, took of my socks, and off to the showers. I really needed to cool down. Victor was at the medic, due to a minor cut on his hand. At that time, the 50km runners started to check in, manage to meet up with Ooi Siam Meng (Misai), Penang Ultra 2016 buddy. The saddest thing at CP-5, was seeing other fellow runners who had already DNF-ed. My heart felt for them. But, they were still very positive and gave me encouragement to push on for the last league. I texted my family telling them I was fine and had another 54.6km to go. Only with God’s grace and strength, will I be able to complete these killer climbs. I replenish all my electrolytes, salts, gels and batteries. I filled my flask with Recoverite for my muscle recovery before we headed out. I personally feel the effect of recoverite, especially after a vigorous workout for > 19hrs.

Elevation-Chart-100miles

Victor and I left CP-5 and headed to CP-6 (Tokun Riverside). I recalled, the hardest part was moving up the trails at night. Trying to be very cautious of your steps while trying to stay awake were the 2 most challenging this for me when comparing trails to road races. Any miss step would mean, a fall that could cause you your life. I’m glad that God was watching over us. By the time we reached CP-8 (Kampung Besar), daylight has broken. It was easier to do trails at this time. Unfortunately, fatigue has also caught up. The only solid food that I have been consuming was fruits at each CP and rice at CP-5. So far my strategy of liquid food (Hammer Gels and Perpetum) with a mix ratio of (1:2) was sufficient. There were occasions where i felt really drained and needed an energy boost, this was when i had to pop in a packet of gel with caffeine. Thanks goodness for the discovery of caffeine (Friedlieb Runge in 1819).

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Translation: “Life so good why make it difficult by running 100miles?”

Our strategy was to capitalized on the downhill after each climbed. Run if possible. My Quads and Calf muscle were on overtime during the entire event. And my right hamstring didn’t help as i pulled it on the way down towards CP-10 (Tokun Hut).

I’m so grateful to Wei Lun, whom already DNF-ed but still was kind enough to support Victor and I at CP-10 and CP-11 (Seraya Trigona). Spraying us with cold water to cool our temperature did helped. It was like a refreshing shower. By CP-11, we where sure we will finish the race, as long as we do not get lost. By then we had 1.5 hours buffer, and if we are careful enough. We should finish the race by 6pm. But, as we where taking our time down the last 6km, two 100mile runners caught up with us. At that time, I had to check with Victor if it was okay for me to go on and finish the race. I kinda felt bad for leaving him behind. (yes, i do have sympathy. hahaha!) Since, he was okay with it. I left him and started running downhills at 6-8km/hr speed. At that time, the last two small climb was considered manageable as my 2nd wind and adrenaline had kicked. “Beer is calling!!!”, was what I kept telling myself, as I had brought 5 cans in my cooler box since Saturday early morning. To my delight, when i came into the finish line, I was awarded 9th placed for men category. More importantly, I have collected 6 points for my ITRA. Now, I am qualified to apply for  #UMTF2018 and #UTMB2018. Amen!

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The dash to the finish (thanks Sunny Lee for the picture)
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Picture with race director (Allan Lee)

This run would not have been possible if it was not for the following:

  1. MURA (Malaysia Ultra Runners Association) & Chandru – for giving me the slot to run the 100 miles, especially with such a heavy bib no of 1601. (Hahaha!)
  2. Endurance Nature-Malaysia and volunteers for, helping with the organisation, water stations/ checkpoints, traffic management, route markers, timing device (Race Yaya). You all did a super job. I appreciate you all! You all are awesome.
  3. Fellow runners; Victor, Ebi, Boon, Odef, Wei Lun, Ritchie, Raymond, Amirul, Ah Jong, Misai. You all inspire me to push on till the end.
  4. Hammer Nutrition Malaysia, Garmin Malaysia and Revolution Run Borneo for allowing me to represent you in this race. Thanks

Opinion

  1. Technical – To me this race was very technical for the 3rd portion of the race (last 45km). It was more technical compared to races such as TMBT and TNF Thailand. The trails, really required the participants to get down and dirty to climb and even slide, run, jump, walk and roll down the route. It is really deserving its recognition of Asian Trail Master & ITRA (International Trail Running Association)
  2. Signage – The signs marked with reflective strips at night is very useful. The letter “E ” marked on trees/ poles/ road, were very clear. The GPX file given in the website was 100% effective.
  3. Checkpoints
    • beverages – sufficient
    • foods – would propose to add more cup noddles at CP with noodles.
    • ice – could do with more
    • medic – available only during day. Night no medic at checkpoints
    • volunteers – very helpful and assertive
    • Weather – normal Malaysian weather with high humidity and heat. Can’t comment any further, except, more heat and hills training
  4. Traffic management – great job by marshals.

For me, my gear used for this run was as followed:

  1. GPS watch – Garmin Fenix 5
  2. Nutrition – Hammer Nutrition Malaysia (gels, endurolytes, perpetum, recoverite)
    • Gels & Perpetum- 1:2 ratio for 1L hydration, consumption for ~10km (energy and electrolytes)
    • Endurolytes- for salt replenishment every 4 hours intake to top up salt lost
    • Recoverite- for muscle recovery during Sg Lembu CP @ 62km, 112km and fininsh.
  3. Shoes – Hoka One One Speed Instinct
  4. Hydration bag – Salomon S-lab set 12
  5. Buff – buff UV
  6. Shirt – Under Armour Heatgear
  7. Headlamp – LED lenser
  8. Hiking pole – Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
  9. Phone – Iphone6
  10. Sunglasses – Oakley Fast Jacket
  11. Running socks – Injinji Trail
  12. Running shorts – Kalanji & CWX
  13. legs, body & mind – father, mother & God
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