Monday, March 3, 2014

Gunung Nuang Ultra Challenge 2014: Race Report

It's great to take a day off work after a strenuous and hard race the day before. You get to rest, laze around the house, watch TV shows you don't get to see on normal days and also write race reports. The Gunung Nuang Ultra Challenge 2014 that was held yesterday was one of the most painful races I've ever been to. I knew it was going to be difficult but I didn't know just how difficult it would be.

I am getting so fed up of this posing ...
Jamie, Choon Yuen and me car pooled to the race location with Jamie once again graciously volunteering to drive us there. We set out at 5am from our meet point in Puchong and reached Nuang a little over 45 minutes later. The place was already packed with cars and runners getting ready.

I didn't have much to do to get ready seeing as how I decided to go light for the run. With the run being a loop of 5k up and 5k down, with one water stop at the top and the main one at the start, I ditched the hydration vest and opted for the handheld bottle. I sufficed 500ml would get me up to the top, refill and head down again to the main CP.

The GC Group prior to race start.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang.
So armed with just a handheld, one gel for each loop, I left the rest at the main CP and would pick one up at each loop, my anti-fatigue caps and endurance amino tablets with me, I was all set to tackle Nuang. Or so I thought at that time anyway.

The flag off was right on time. We had 12 hours to complete a minimum of 50k to qualify for a trophy and get the finisher tee. The start was slow with the path being narrow. It was mostly a walking start up the inclines which I had no idea how steep they really were cos it was pretty dark. The runners spread out a little along the way and I started running a little, mostly on whatever descents I could find. I was practicing a little caution cos it was dark and I was unfamiliar with the terrain.

Gulp, gulp, gulp ...
Pic courtesy of Kelvin Tan.
About a kilometer or so before the u-turn at the top, the front runners were already making their way down. I shook my head in awe and kept moving. I reached the CP, topped up my bottle and immediately headed out knowing that 80% of the return leg would be downhill. I managed to run at a nice easy pace all the way down and hit my targeted time for the first loop.

Arrived at the first CP together with Jamie. I think both our strategies were to keep moving so there was no dilly dallying around. A quick bite of a curry puff, topped up my bottle and headed out back to the trails. Jamie was out a little quicker than me and I played catch up but by then the sky was brightening up and I was able to see just how steep the inclines I negotiated in the dark during the first loop was. My motivation level dropped immediately. 'Damn, I have to do this at least 4 more times!'

Jason (the tasksmaster), Khairi (who tamed Nuang) and me.
Pic courtesy of Khairi Muin.
I cursed, gritted my teeth and kept on moving. I knew it would get progressively harder each time I hit the climbs. By the time I reached the 15k u-turn mark, I was practically huffing and puffing. Filled my bottled, downed a gel and my tablets and got out within two minutes. Again, I was thankful for the downhill stretch. Started off at an easy pace downward again.

I had on my Skechers GObionic Trail (GBT). It was a bittersweet feeling. Prior to the race, I was toying with the idea of either the GOrun Ultra or the GBT and opted for the GBT cos I wanted more control of the terrain and the GOrun Ultra wouldn't give me that. With the GBT, I had excellent control and traction over the loose and dry trail but the GBT being a minimalist trail shoe, I was taking a pounding from the huge and plentiful rocks along numerous long stretches. Like I said, it was a bittersweet thing.

How long more is this going to take?
Pic courtesy of Lina.
I had to adapt, slower running along the rocky stretches and faster along the non-rocky stretches or at least as fast as my legs would allow. The second loop was also done in target pace. Another quick bite and fill and I was out again. This time though, I knew it was going to be practically impossible to keep to my target pace. The extremely steep and long climbs almost all the way up was going to take its toll. By this time I was totally envious of the runners that had trekking poles with them. It really would have been helpful to have used the tracking poles to transfer the load to my upper body instead of my legs.

#@%$!*&@!!!!
Pic courtesy of Tey EngTiong
I tried looking for a stick or something but found nothing that would hold my weight so it was down to just me, my quads and the climbs. It was torturous. I was crawling, willing the legs up the climbs. There were times mid climb where I had to stop, bend over and try to catch my breath. The climbs never seemed to end. It was up, up and up with very little descents or flats. The only consolation was that everyone was suffering just as bad as I was, save for the front runners who made it look so darned easy. Damn you guys!

I was thankful to see the CP at the top finally emerge. Now it was mostly downhill but let me tell you that by this time, with  the feet in utter pain, going downhill was as bad as going uphill! The descents while welcomed was painful simply because they were steep. With fresh legs, it was bearable, but with shot up legs, it was hell. I had no choice cos it was the only time when it was possible to run. I shortened my cadence, took really, really small strides and made my way down slowly. Even then, there were time I had to walk downhill.

With Richi who did a great job.
Pic courtesy of Richi Lim.
Yes, I had thoughts of just DNFing at the time but I was doing this for the wife, who has put up with countless times I've been away from home training out there for hours. If I gave up, then it would have all been futile. So I kept going. Besides, I seriously wasn't doing all that bad, timing wise. I was still within where I expected to be by the end of loop 3.

I was a little hungry by then cos I didn't get any breakfast before the run. I was expecting something a little heavier on offer. I checked with Julie but she said I was a little too early for lunch. I grabbed a couple of slices of watermelons and bananas and some Mentos sweets on offer and headed out. I guess a much longer stop for lunch would have to be done at the end of the 4th loop.

Stealing some of Richi's Success.
Pic courtesy of Lina.
The fourth loop was hell! The legs were so beat up that it took a huge effort to keep going. All aspirations of keeping to a target loop time was all but thrown into the jungles. I was crawling all the way up. It took me an hour to reach the CP at the top and equally the same amount of time to traverse back down. I think the walk/run ratio was close to 80/20 and I was so glad to see the end of this loop.

Lunch in the form of fried rice was ready and I wolfed down a pack, grabbed a few cups of coke, some watermelon and took a 10 minute breather before making my way for the final and last loop. I just wanted to reach the minimum qualification and that was it. I wasn't going to spend an inch further in the trail!

No! Caught walking again.
Pic courtesy of Aron Soo.
As expected, the climb was as tough as ever. But this time, I played it a little different. I took real small baby steps up and they were less stressful than trying to trudge up the climbs with bigger steps. I could practically walk up at a slow but decent enough pace to catch up with some of the runners who were struggling up the climbs.

About three quarters up the skies opened up a little and rain came down. I enjoyed the coolness it brought but was worried about having to run down cos the path would be slippery as hell. I tried to quicken my walk to reach the u-turn so I could make it down before it got too tricky to negotiate. I reached the CP in close to 1 hour 15 minutes, yes I was that slow by then, and headed off almost immediately before the rain got worse.

I hope no one will see me steal the entire bottle!
Pic courtesy of Lina.
A funny thing happened at this point though. I don't know if it was because I was trying to outrun the rain or because it was the final time I was going to be in these blasted trails but I felt re-energized and my spirits were up. I managed to get back to proper running and save for the one or two climbs the downhill stretch had, I was practically flying all the way down. I ran with reckless abandon, which was silly of me cos I almost went flying flat down from stubbing my feet against protruding rocks but heck I was just glad to be finishing.

I was so energized that I was practically yelling at everyone on the way up to 'keep going' and 'good job'. Most of them gave me a thumbs up and a smile but some gave me nasty looks ... hahaha! I would have been pissed too if some idiot was yelling at me to keep going while I was struggling up the climbs.

And finally, after 8 hours 34 minutes (according to my Garmin), I finally completed 50k. The relief and joy was so apparent that I was smiling all the way to pick up my finisher trophy and tee from Jason who was trying his best to prompt me to do another loop. No way was I going to go up there and suffer for another loop but in all honesty, I had ample time to make another loop if I wanted to with 3 hours 25 minutes to spare for the attempt.

Almost done with the torture.
Pic courtesy of Jimmy Teh.
But sanity called for me to call it a day. I went out there and did my best and I'm happy with the results. I gave it my all and dug as deep as I could to keep going without giving up. The good I take out of this was that I suffered practically no cramping, no blisters and no chaffing. The experience I take out of this is immeasurable. Will I do this again? I swore on Facebook, I wouldn't but heck, ask me again in a few days and I might sing a different tune :D

Before I end, let me say that the organization was simply first class. A huge thank you goes out to the volunteers on hand who did an incredible job of catering to each and every runner personally. Every time I was back at the CP, they made it a point to personally take my bottle and fill it up for me and offer me whatever food there was before I headed out. First class job, folks. You played a big part in seeing me through this as well.

A thank you also goes out the Subang LYNR group for cheering me on every time I passed their very vocal and supportive cheer location. And finally, to my fellow GC teammates, a damn fine job you all did! But please, the next time you fellows find an ultra to register, don't include me!

Elevation that tops out at around 503m or so ...

7 comments:

  1. 3. Yeah, right!
    I know you will sign up for one or two next year or so! Hehe

    2. So sweet ya, you did it for the wife ... :)

    1. Congrats, I hope you enjoyed your trail ultra hahaha!

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    1. 3. Aiyaaa, you all know me too well la!

      2. After 'disappearing' from the house almost every weekend, it's the least I could la and besides this is cheaper than buying her diamond rings ... hahaha!

      1. I enjoyed it so much that I'm aching all over!

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  2. At the risk of sounding like a broken record.... crazy people :p

    Congrats. Next year it'll be 60k in 8hours, right?

    P.s. you sure very gaya on Sunday. Lotsa photos!

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    1. Lina, all of us had to run up and down Nuang, you and your hubby on the other hand voluntarily went up on your own and we're crazy? LOL!

      I retire from this already, sticking to 5k fun runs! Hahaha!

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  3. gunung nuang saw to it that you would be more expressive in terms of you're facial expression, perhaps even the most expressive (photo-wise) of all of you're post. though i must say that the dog had the most serene expression than you're good self in this entire race report. heartiest congratulations for making it!

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    1. Not one of the easiest of routes to have any other kind of facial expressions.

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    2. I don't mean ill, I'm quite certain that I wouldn't even be able to attempt this feat. Anyhow, I apologize If you find that my words is in anyway offensive to you

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