Thursday, March 07, 2013

International Hash Challenge 2013 Race Report

Last Saturday I made my return to the Hash Challenge. The last instalment happened in 2010. That was officially my second hash run. I look forward to Hash Challenge that happens once every two years for two reasons - the distance (never less than 42km or a marathon) and the nature. Hash Challenge brings you to places you never knew existed, or you think you knew existed. Places on GoogleMap that you will not even search for. The call for entry started about 3 months before the race aka end of December 2012. Azman started the ball rolling and got himself, myself and Afri to form a team. It was also then I made a commitment to wifey to sign up for Brooks 21km. A month later, i found out that both the races were back to back with each other - I knew I will be having some fun come March 2 and 3, 2013. The race managed to attract 42 teams (of 4, so total 168 people) with one of the team to be my bunch of trail-loving-bike-bashing friends. Hello Shang, Mark, Paul and Denis!
The route marked by Garmin Fenix
Hare You Ready???
Azman informed me that there will be a fourth member in the team, as essentially we needed four to a team, but can finish at the minimum in a team of three. Meaning, one person CAN drop out and the team will still be considered a "finisher". It was a strategic decision likely based on the previous Hash Challenge where almost 60% of the participants did not make cut-off. Yes, it was that tough back then and it will be as tough this time. The previous race was over-distanced and there will be chances that the "promised 42km" will spill over to 43km or more. Many that does not hash or run trail might not know - that 1extra km is actually significant for a long race. Read on.
In the bus at 5.30am
We met the 4th team member, Robin Koh, a hasher with the KL Chapter. Good guy and doesn't looked a year past 18. A quick handshake and introductory, we were then ushered into buses. The organiser has as usual, chartered school buses to ferry participants (here forth will be known as Hashers) from the meeting point in Ampang to the start point. Up till then, no one knows exactly where we will be heading. Route are often kept as a surprise until the race start. True to how Hashers run, they will only know the "meeting point". From there onwards, it's fair game for everyone to find the paper trail laid by the Hare. There will be instances where there will be "Checks" where a few route might be laid with one being the real trail. 
The bus journey took almost an hour and headed towards the Ampang direction. Most parts were still in darkness as we past Pekan 18 Hulu Langat it soon became clear that we could be heading towards the mountains where Gunung Nuang is. The bus then made a sharp left turn and went into a place so dark you thought they are sending us to some concentration camps. But alas, it was Sg Gabai recreational park. Phew.
Ready to roll
A quick roll call, team photo (in case we get lost somewhere inside and to help the searcher identify you if needed) and a group photo later, everyone gathered in anticipation of the starting of the hash. At 7:08am, the fun begin! 
Are You???
The word "are you" are likely one of the most used words in hashing. Of course nothing beats the "On! On!" which is a call sign for going ahead. The race was split into 4-sections (with four Checkpoints or CPs). 
Heading to the unknown trails
The first league consist of 11km undulating trail. Cut off would be 9.30am or 2hours30mins after race start. The first 5minutes was uneventful until the trails break into a small stream. No one wants to get their feet wet that early in the race, but we all know the organiser love these sort of torture. 
Oh! Sinister! Wet within the 1km?
 Now, you see, before the small stream, there is a whole load of soft ground that one need to hop or jump over, missing it will result in a mud-bath. My teammate Robin had the pleasure of becoming the dirtiest Hasher at 7:15am.
Jump - and hope the ground on the other side is hard
Getting your feet wet with ice cold morning river water
Then, as your groans (of wet shoe) was still echoing, in came the first incline. Yeap, a steep climb uphill!
No way
What trails?
Shangpion and team. Paul right behind with Mark in Green and Denis, coaxing the hash-dog to pull him up
 Photo might not give you a sense of how the incline was, perhaps a video might help.
Upon reaching the top of the first climb, there was the first check. I decided to be gungho (and with fresh legs) to see which was the right trail. I ran for about 500m to find that the trail/check ends and backtrack to the main group only to find out that I was the last person! I ran to catch up with my team mates that has taken the other route to check the check. Found them up the trail after 5minutes and begin picking up the speed and breaking away from the "walkers".
Caught up with Afri and back in the "middle pack"
Do not get caught behind walkers, as you will/might not meet cut off. 
The first 11km was an easy 11km. Nothing too tough and many actually ran at this league. From the 2010 experience, walking it might not be a good choice as you will barely meet cutoff. 2:30 in the trail might look like a long time, but time flies before you know it. More so with scenery such as these...
Crawling under fallen bamboos
Bamboo Forest
While it is really hard to resist, a hash can be completed by purely walking. But you have to make effort to walk at a high speed like almost a slow jog pace of 8:00min/km pace especially on the flat ground. With trails that are hardly used, you have to be careful with tripping hazards.
Singletrack with overgrown bushes on left and right
About 7km into the run, we came to the edge of a dam. I was under the impression we were at the edge of Semenyih Dam, but logic says otherwise. Whatever or where ever that was, we know we are close to civilisation - perhaps.
Moving uphill with Shang behind me pressuring
You can almost see the incline
Hashers that took part came from all age, race, sizes and fitness level. The man below is an amputee. He do not have a right hand (it ends at his wrist). He also looked like in his early 50's. Armed with an old knapsack, he made me looked over-geared and over-capable. My respect for this uncle!
Never Give Up
The trail then open up to the dam i just mentioned. It was quite a sight to exit at this part of the world with what looked like an eagle soaring in the middle of the photo.
Marked the POI
Then, in came the next fun thing. The trail markers (papers) lead us down a valley and up again on the other side. Well, there was an easier way which some opted to take aka via the tarmac. But what fun will it be if we skip this? Afterall, not everyday you get to run down a valley and climb up again.
This spot here is the Sungai Langat Dam. Sure looked different coming in from the trail! This is a panaromic shot of the abandoned workers' quarter. Perfect spot for some eerie stories deep in the night?
Anyone, home?
From there, it was a short run towards the first Checkpoint aka CP1, which is just situated off the Gunung Nuang Trail head/park. There, the organiser served watermelon, banana, ORS, Electrolytes and water. Everyone took a break before setting out again. Rule of the race is that the team need to check in at least 3-hashers and should leave with at least 3-hashers from the same team. We are only as fast as the slowest man/woman. Teamwork is essential! We made it to the CP1 with an hour to spare. Not too shabby covering the first 11km.
Don't you just wish to jump into this container of cold melon?
We made decision to rest for 15mins at each checkpoint. This mean we will at most spend an hour resting and recharging. The 15mins does wonder to the body and mind. Refuelling the hydration pack with water and preparing for the next league.
Myself, Azman, Robin and Afri Team Dirty, Nasty, Rough & Hardcore
This race i used the opportunity to test out food I do not take during races. As Team 2ndSkin collaborate with Hammer Nutrition Malaysia, I was given a pack of "starter fuel". For a 12hours race, planning the race nutrition is essential. Up until race time, I had decided to use Hammer's product as primary fuel. It quickly changed to secondary as I noticed that there were food provided at every checkpoint. Immediately, my approach to he hash run when it comes to nutrition changed. I will write about that separately as a review of the product. Suffice to say, the products I tried helped to a certain degree.
Team Super Good Looking : Denis, Shang, Paul and Mark
We left soon after and headed to CP2. A distance of about 9km away that promises the same if not equal elevation gain. In a way, CP1 to CP2 was pretty fun. Two river crossing which allowed me to cool down.
Most of the river are just ankle high with some that potentially goes up to waist high. Some hashers waste no time taking extra break here as cutoff to CP2 is 1330hours. 
The team managed to run with a very strong lady named Nini for the better part of the trail. Here we are, goofing around while I take their photos running through a bamboo forest.
Afri. His recovery run as he just returned from climbing Kinabalu.
Azman. The Head Honco that got the team together.
Nini and Robin. Always the gentleman to ensure the ladies are taken care off
And thank God for auto-timer for self running photo.
Yes, I was running. Honest!
Then, it was more river. Robin resisted on sitting in the ice cold river. :)

Can you imagine if it rains, the amount of water that will come gushing down?
I've been a user of Hammer Endurolytes tablets for about 2 years. It was first introduced to me as a form of cramps/electrolytes supplement during long runs. I used to have my calves seizing due to over or under consumption of water and/or imbalance. I bring these for longer runs to be shared with other runners. My other way of "giving back". Usually, you need 1 or 2 tabs if the weather is not too hot aka the sweating is not excessive. For this race, I bought sufficient (aka the whole tube below) to feed the team of 4 for almost 12 hours. I've not had an incident of cramps the whole 12hours - then again, I am a bad test subject as i believe my diet has contributed to the body's electrolyte balance. However, as an "insurance", I took the tablets as prescribed. :)
Helped in a way. Hammer Endurolytes Tabs. Natural sources of Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium - the three important "salt" to ensure electrolyte balance.
My hydration pack was the one I reviewed here. The Raidlight Dual Chamber hydration pack allowed me to pack 1.5liters of water and 1.5liters of electrolyte/liquid food when needed. The twist and turn selector allow me to shift from one tube to the other on the move. I filled one chamber with one pack of Hammer Perpetuem with 800ml of water - good enough for two hours of "liquid food". That powered me through CP2. 
Drink/Eat up!
Like i mentioned, these things are new to me. I am still testing it though the supply is running low. I am hoping I can give an unbiased honest review of them soon. As these food were secondary fuel for me, it worked really well giving me almost 100kcal/hour extra on top of the other food (banana and watermelon i took at CPs) and the home packed trail mix (nuts and raisins). The remaining 9km was pretty easy rolling hills that allowed us to run downhill and on the flats with manageable climbs that did not trouble us too much. Here are some photos and captions.
Awesome scenery
We also came to an Orang Asli village and this is a panoramic view of the place. Makes you feel lucky to be living in the luxury of your home, isn't it?
Click to enlarge
Surprisingly, there wasn't much wild life that I saw except this one single millipede which were as long as my size US11 GoTrail
And then, more opportunity for dip!
Natural Jacuzzi
We took a short break here as the temperature has started to soar.
Oh no...the PEACE sign.
And did I mention that the GoTrail was very sure even when all immersed in water over slippery rock face?
Wait up for my report, ok?
I was most impressed with how the GoTrail wicks water out just by pressing on the shoe.

I chance upon a small hut by the river. Apparently, it is an Orang Asli hut. I peep inside and saw cooking utensils inside. :)
Creative use of banners
Baskets, pots and other stuffs. Someone uses this place.
Soon enough, we reached CP2 with yet another hour to spare. The 11km was covered within 2hours easy and we spent a bit longer here for lunch. I took the opportunity to empty the bladder and placed in the next item into the bladder. The Hammer HEED, or sports drink. This will allow me energy for one hour. Mixed with about 600ml of water with ice.
Number 3 on the list to be taken. Nutrition planning is important!
As usual, the CPs has fruits. Two servings of bananas provides an equivalent of a pack of gel/liquid food with adequate potassium for electrolyte topping up.
Almost ripe. But when hungry, you gobble down anything
The typical setup of the CP consist of a tent that serves drinks, fruit station and water station. The atmosphere at the CPs were great with Hashers and volunteers (also hashers) joking and talking to each other. Encouragement were given and hi-5 were exchanged. This is not an easy race. By CP2, most of us already on the move for the past 5 hours.
Orderly and clean..but where's
CP2 was where we took our lunch. I packed some bread spread with peanut butter and Nutella. It was an awesome pick-me-up. Azman brought a can or tuna to eat with bread. We rested her a bit longer and we went continued the journey to CP3. Cutoff is at 4.30pm.
Time to change socks and shoes too, if there are spares
CP2 to CP3
The route to CP3 was about 10km and spirit among the Hashers was still high. The next remaining 20km will be under the hot afternoon sun. Already with more open trails, the route to CP3 will be tough.
Going into the hole
We found ourselves starting to gain elevation almost immediately and it started to take a toll on a few Hashers. Cramps setting in for some of them and having to manage that in the middle of the race was pretty sucky. We paced ourselves and keep moving.
I Love Hills!
This section of the race has the most technical descent in the race. Waist high drops and slippery surfaces and loose gravels were not everyone's cup of tea. I noticed that many hashers were wearing proper trail shoes, but most did not "trust" their gears. What a shame as some of these very trail specific shoes cost almost RM600!
If you need some confidence in descending, I shared a few tips in the video above. With gradient at almost 20degree, it is scary for some as they will be afraid they will tumble down. The descending took a toll on Azman as he overheated in the afternoon sun and humidity of the jungle. Thank God for a small flowing stream at the bottom.
You wished it was deeper ain't it?
We chance upon a few large trees shooting up close to 100feet. Like this one below, the trunk was easily 3m across and my 24mm camera manage to capture only the bottom.
Awesome. But how long will this be here?
The route to CP3 were along some ridges that allowed view of the mountains across the valley. We stopped more than just once to take in the sight. Afterall, unless you are planning to hike 10km, you won't see these scenery like the one below.
OK. I must say it looked better live than in photo. Looked like a 10km hike is needed!
Another Quick descent with breathtaking view
This part of the trail was more open to the sun. Yes, we got burnt and the temperature started rising. it was hovering on the high of 36deg C that definitely felt close to
And keeping the spirit high
The organiser decided to set a mid-CP water station and it was God-sent. I guessed many of us refrained from using the water for shower!
Hot Hot Day!
The happy face of everyone seeing the support station can be seen below
Ice Cream? Got?
My Garmin Fenix recorded an all time high 40deg C. It certainly felt like it was 46deg C.
Just as we exit the trail and hit Kampung Pangsoon, Robin spotted an Ice Cream man. I don't usually buy these...but the thought of ICE cold popsicle, no matter HOW unhealthy...was just too much to resist. Thank goodness i brought money!
Don't judge me
Oh yesssss!
We were told that there was a huge deep river upfront and we can take a dip there. Why not?
How to say no?
The short dip in the river brought down the 40deg C to 29deg C almost immediately. That also explained the dip in elevation to negative in the graph (at the end of the report below). Barometer pressure has been constant at 1012kPa meaning the elevation recorded were pretty consistent using the Garmin Fenix. I will write about Garmin Fenix later in a full review soon.
40 to 29 in 5minutes. Nice...
Refreshed, we carry on towards CP3 which is about 3km away from the river. We arrived with an hour to spare and were warned off the last 10km which will see mammoth elevation gain.
Final 10km
We were averaging about 12min/km which translate to a 120mins or 2hours to wrap up the final 10km. The last league was apparently done by "Rambo" and e has reputation for climbs, climbs and climbs. Not surprising as the race guide given out the day before denotes a total of 500m elevation gain.
We spent about 20mins in CP3 to refuel and recharge. That 20mins sure passed really fast!
Thank you for all the CPs. Sufficient is an understatement. Hospitality was awesome.
Almost immediately the route started to climb. And Climb we did for what seems like a neverending hill. The elevation gain was quick and fast, but we were moving too slow.
"How far have we moved?" Robin asked.
" the last 25mins", I answered after checking the Fenix.
See the steepness and body position of the man in yellow?
All I know was the route has only grade - steep. So had to entertain myself by looking at the scenery. Thorny trees, roots, stones, gravel...And the occasional WOW...BIG TREE as I look up to stretch my back.
Will this be here in the next 20 years?
Reward for constantly looking down? Me and Azman found Agarwood aka Black Gold aka Kemenyan. Robin brought a lighter along and sure enough the very distinctive praying incense smell filled our senses. Was kinda like a zen moment.
Black Gold aka agarwood aka Kemenyan
At that time, we have been on the move for close to 10hours. Hydration was good and fuel was perfect. It was time to eat the Hammer Bar to provide additional calories.
Hammer Bar - looked icky but taste not too bad
The climb never end. Like seriously. I swear we already went past the 500m total elevation gain. But it keep coming. Adding fatigue into the equation the last 5km was just pushing you mentally.
Finally, the trail brought us downhill. But it was those steep decline that if you run when tired, you will tumble down. See the video below. I captured Robin at the start of the 1minute video only to see him still there after 50 seconds, and you will think it is just a normal decline. Truth was, it was at least 20deg gradient.

Finally..."flat" land
All still in high spirit
Finally, after what seems like eternity of Ups and Downs, we reached some sort of flatland. 3km more to go and it was a fast walk to regain lost time.
A bit more to another 40mins!
The race 42km almost come to an end as we exit the trail and reach the tarmac. We can see the final line about 800m in front. Happiness!
Can't resist a camwhore pic too!
We waited a bit for Azman to emerge from the end of the trail. El-Kapitan made it this time (after our failed attempt in 2010).
One More in 2015, yes? Team?
The happiness of finishing the race. 42km. 12hours. 2000m elevation (an counting). It was unbelievably fun. For me, the weekend just started. It was then a rush to recover for the next day's 21km. And talking about blessing, it poured the moment the team walks under the tent. Nice.
Robin leading the way to finish with the organisers hi-5-ving everyone
This hash challenge is not an easy race. 42teams and our team came out in the middle. Shang's team came in an hour before us, double awesome. 
The Elevation of the Hash Challenge
At 12hours, there are still many teams inside/behind us and it was getting dark and it was pouring. We left immediately after that with the chartered bus. I did not reach home until me just adequate time to wash up, tend to blisters caused by wet socks, refuel and slept all of 3hours before heading out again for Brooks 21km (yes, race report will be written after this).
Thank you Azman, Afri and Robin!
You know, after all the reading above, the whole entry can be summed up with this video from Robin. :) Thanks Robin for compiling the video. Now I know what you meant when you say you take only a few second shots of everything! Awesome vid! Hope to run with you again in future.

Awesome isn't it when you finish reading the report and then getting it all sum up in 5minutes. :) It sure took me close to 4 days to get this written in-between work and rest at home. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed going through the whole 42km with the three awesome teammate and the other 164 Hashers! Until the next hash challenge - ON! ON!

Full Adventure from Garmin BaseCamp : Click Here


  1. oh my.... tough but definitely exciting challenge.
    okay, 1 more event added in my bucketlist.

    1. Tough and mentally challenging. :) THis race happen once every 2 years. ;-)

    2. thank you team mates. It was fun n awesome, nice video.

  2. Stupe.. dengki betul aku tgk.. sedap tu >40KM in the jungle..

    next year ada lagi kasi tau ekk.. anyway org luar boleh join ke?

    Interested on Hammer Endurolytes Tabs tu.. mana beli stupe?

    1. It is not limited to hashers. I am not attached to any hash group. :)

      And yes, the trail were superb, unlike the usual one we always run ;-)

      Once in two one? 2015!

  3. It is a wonderful compilation, i really shock that you got the energy to shoot all this.
    We are from SmartTag team, 037, we came out at 4:50pm.

    Do invite us for any special event, we like camping very much. pls drop me an email now for future contact.


    1. Kiannie...that explained why it took us 12hours and your team 037 took an awesome 9hours 50 mins! I think we had too much fun in all the river. :)

      yes, email contact established. Lets see how things work out for future event.

  4. Thanks for scribing this report together. also great video from Robin, nice music. For me the third leg was the killer, the 4th was just tough!!

    1. Nick - i had Rambo's smile all over on Section 4....RObin summed up what it took me 4 days to write. :D

  5. Thanks for the report - we came home at 8-40pm after 13 hours and 35 minutes! The last 6 km downhill on partial trails in the dark and pouring rain was tricky..... especially with two injured teammates.

    Next event for you all is the Ball Breaker - similar terrain but only 25km - an individual event

    1. Mike - glad to know everyone is out safe. :) I will consider ballbreaker!

    For those who are interested in the trail run, we have the Ballbreaker of 25km through quite similar terrain, could be sometime October or early this year. Do check out the website above for futher information.
    It is an Open event for hashers, non-hashers, runners, walkers etc as long as you can break your balls.
    I was with the writer at the time when we finished this Hash Challenge from Team Hydro 02.

    1. Hello Volvo!

      Many thanks for the note. I will write a separate promo on Ballbreaker so more can join and will join hashing. :) Time to grow the community!

  7. Well done bro! No wonder la I saw many paper trail during Gunung Nuang Endurance Run the day after.