Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013 Race Report : Hottest Day 2

The biggest task ever for anyone attempting SAC is to wake up the next morning after a tough Day 1 and continue to do the race again. While it is not a norm that Day 1 will always be tougher, participants need to remember that in adventure race, anything can happen - and getting lost is top of the list.
Immediately after Day 1 over, we have to prep for Day 2. This was at 11pm. Clearly shown me and Bandit refilling and refuelling for the next day. Photo thanks to Kam.
Day 2 for us started right after the Day 1 race was over. Re-planning and obviously missing the race briefing doesn't help. Our main aim was to get back to Mesilau, take dinner, stay warm and plan for Day 2. Kam finished Day 1 early and will be our eyes and ears during the briefing. 
For me, it was a good opportunity to audit my Day 1 food intake and customise further for Day 2. I took a serving of Recoverite immediately when I check into the chalet. Essential to push for recovery and that sometime require a whole stretching regime. It was then shower (hot shower, please!) and sleep. 
Day 2
Instruction to start Day 2 came really early. We were told to congregate at the Reception area by 7am. Those of us that did not attend the briefing will need to check in for compulsory briefing with Aman. Wifey woke up with her thigh and calves sore from Day 1. I was perfectly fine; perhaps because I am a little more conditioned and most definitely at the peak of my fitness. Same regime in the morning - Wake up. Perpetuem. Shower. Change. Gear Up. Out of the door.
Despite the tiredness, wifey kept her spirit high.
Organised Chaos - Day 2. 9 4WD. One left as we reached.
The briefing with Aman was essential. Tips and pointers are often shared during race briefing. From the years I have raced, I know how important it is not to take the words from the race and course director lightly. I must give it to the team for their patience, as clearly, some participants came in after the briefing was done and they still took time to explain to them.
Can you see all the tired expression?
A quick look on the map and the instruction we then waited at the reception for the van to send us to the starting point to Day 2 - Kampung Bongkud, nearby Poring hotspring.
But not before we continue to joke around
It was Kam's birthday that day and he as super happy to be racing on that day. We wish you happiness and all good things for years to come, Kam!
Showing his birthday meal - fried rice packed in ziplock bag for the race!
It was a 45minutes drive to the start point. Made a bit longer with a roadblock by the Polis to check for any suspicious movement of insurgents coming from east coast of Sabah. Most of us in the van fell asleep on the way there.
The sky that morning was clear with clouds mostly on the horizon - a sign of things to come. I estimated that we will start racing only past 9am, and it will start to get hot. We were not disappointed. Cap and sunglasses were required the moment we came down from the van. It will be a hot day.
The ponytail assasin
We had a 15minutes chance to do all the last minute preparation and most of us took the opportunity for some photo taking. Not everyday you will come into Kampung Bongkud for no reason. I believe we drove past the Ranau airfield.
For the uninitiated, Ranau is full of history and disasters. Most notably is the Death March during the war (with a War Memorial at the town) and the disastrous Mamut Copper mine that has left a lake in constant blue due to pollution. So, indeed, it was a good historical lesson to be at this humble location for the Start of Day 2. Kampung Bongkud is just 1km away from the old Mamut Copper Mine.
All ready to roll
With UltraDeo. Will have to inspire to be like him.
The game plan for Day 2 was straight forward. Survive. The distance as shared by Race Organiser was a short 24km. This was to compensate for the distance the day before I supposed. With adventure racer, distance is not an issue to be frank. Tell them it will be 150km for all they care and they will still want to race it.
Wifey wore 2ndSkin Vaporlite on Day 2. Stay cool!
Sharp at 9.15am, the horn blasted and we were on our way! Myself, wifey and Bandit stayed back and started to walk slowly.
And the way we go!
CP6 is a short 4km run/walk from the start point. 10minutes into the race start, it started to rain. I know the rain will not last longer than 15minutes and I was right. It stopped just after we crossed the bridge.
We are always the back marker. Bandit can be seen far behind in the photo above.
A bit of feedback on the GoTrail that I used for this race. It performed really well and to my expectations. Sure in the trails with little to no-slip and comfortable on the gravel road. The shoe dries out fast and the one incident that I walked into the river did not cause more discomfort or any blisters due to wet socks. This will be my choice of trail shoe from now on - even if i am no longer sponsored by Skechers.
I somewhat felt like a Ninja when wearing this combo...don't know why
Wifey felt fine after 2km of walk/jog. The muscle warmed up and the aches from the day before went away. The confidence that she managed the 40km with the last portion in the dark could be seen.
"Each KM I take now takes me closer to the end. Can't give up. Not yet." She said.
The uncle told Aileen that he is old and not as fast anymore...

Day 2 posed different challenge by itself. While Mesilau summit trail and Liwagu Trail present a very clear path where we can safely navigate without referring to route marker and the map, the challenge today is really not to get lost. CP7 to CP8 promises a lot of opportunity for wrong turning if we are not careful.
Into the unknown. Literally.
However, at the bridge, we were told by the Marshall that there could be a route diversion at CP7 due to the local not allowing us to go through the plantation/estate and we might have to backtrack from CP7 back to Kampung Bongkud before heading to CP9. In an adventure race, we must prepare for the unexpected.
A path less used by the locals recently. Thicker undergrowth. Pose a new challenge to wifey in case some ssssnakeesss sssslithersss by
We arrived at CP6 after the short river crossing (that got both our GoTrail wet). It was hot and humid (after the short downpour) and I could not resist a bit of cold water, hence the walk-into-the-stream decision.
Bandit showing how not to get your shoes wet. 
It was a mix feeling to see CP6. It meant that the "trail sections has ended" and "We will be out in the sun" feeling. And of course, heading towards the unknown CP7 and beyond. I was told that this is the 2012 SAC route.
CP6. Hot and humid caused one participant to bail out as early as KM4.
Checking into CP6. You can see the participant laying behind the Marshall
CP6 was where the Adventure Team participants will run from  CP5. They will then river tube down to CP7 (which is also CP5, where they left their bikes) and proceed to CP8. It was at CP6 (for solo ultra), that if you are not too careful, you might take the wrong turn and end up lost. I made that mistake and luckily for me, Bandit was just behind me and wifey to lead us back to the right way.
When in doubt, look for divine intervention!

I failed to see that the next CP is at Kampung Langsat. I should had turned right at the fork instead of left. Signboards are everywhere and it is only because you are blind (like me) that you will miss it. Lucky for Bandit being there, else, I would had gotten a good smacking from wifey. I was told later, that many turned left and ended up clocking extra distance! With the right direction sorted, we headed to CP7. It was inspiring to see the Adventure team cycling past and running down. Bear in mind that they cycled from Mesilau to where we were, that's a 45minutes journey by car!
Team 9 passing us towards (their CP5) our CP7.
Then they ran to CP6 to do river tubing - all this while we were still walking to CP7! Damn fast!
We arrive at CP7 and relief that there were some shade. It was also here that we were told of route diversion.
CP5/CP7..the kids were obviously amused by us running like headless chickens
It seems that (confirmed) the estate/plantation owner has made a last minute decision not to allow us into their property. This meant the planned trail route has been cancelled. No more slippery route that 4wd can't go through and less chances of getting lost in a plantation. Was kind of relief to hear that. The initial thoughts of backtracking to CP6 was also cancelled and we were told to march onwards to a new CP8...further down along the gravel road towards Kampung Langsat. 
Point of no return. Do or quit.
It was burning down at 11am and we were reminded to reach CP8 for further instructions. Like good soldiers, we march down towards Kampung Langsat in the heat - kept company by the occasional breeze that offer some respite from the hot sun.
My attempt to stay cool and away from the dust.
One reason why the microfiber scarf (otherwise known as BUFF to most of us) came in useful was because it is a versatile piece of gear. Some of you might think wearing it over my neck and covering my ears and back of my head is silly and hot, you be surprised how cooling it is especially after it was wet with water. I alternate it with the hat that has the back cover to see which is the best way to keep cool.
Open cap by Wifey and me with a cap+back cover
Along the way, we passed a few small villages and the kids were amused to see people in bright clothing passing by. We can't resist not to take photos with them.
The happy kids.
Onwards to CP8 was the Adventure team doing their biathlon league. It is a simple exercise where the two team member were required to run-bike together. Only one person is allowed on the bike at any one time and the other person may run, walk or crawl. It was a testament of good partnership and teamwork. 

We arrived at CP8 not long after (more like 2km from CP7) and received instruction to stop at CP8a for 15minutes COMPULSORY. Race organiser has decided not to add in 15minutes to everyone timing and the rest were made to ensure everyone has sufficient cover and hydrate/soak in the river before continuing.
CP8. Hot Day!
We then cross another hanging bridge, this time in bad condition, before heading to CP8a which is about 3km away from CP8. The diversion has, to my estimate at the point of the race, put extra 3 or 4km to the race. We are looking at a potential 27km or 28km race for Day 2. And what make it more interesting is that the bulk of it will be under the hot hot sun.
A very rickety bridge. Makes you wonder how the locals put their life on the line crossing this everyday
Keep Moving!
The heat was bearable for me and unbearable for some. One participant struggled and Sam (in white above) stayed to keep him company. In fact, Sam spent a lot of time to ensure that guy stayed safe. Well done Sam. Selfless! If you look at the photo above, you can see heat from the road and the photo a bit blurry where wifey was. At an angle to the eyes, i swear to you that you will see mirage. It was burning down. Hot.
It is key to remember to keep fuelling and hydrating. In hot weather like this, we could end up doing more than we should. I stuck to the nutrition plan drawn and biggest difference was upping the Endurolyte tabs from two to three. I was also testing the Anti-Fatigue tablets, which in my opinion, contributed to a big improvement both on managing muscle fatigue and keeping the spirit high. Hammer Nutrition has a product called Anti-Fatigue. What it does it to remove fatigue causing ammonia from our system. You can read more about it here and I will write more about it separately. This race, has really became a testing/experiment for me with Hammer Nutrition products.
Wifey tried to run/job on the downhill. She was given the anti-fatigue pills too.
I estimate myself to be carrying no less than 4kg of items on myself. I have with me about 3kg/liter worth of liquid in the bladder (filled with Hammer HEED, sports drink), a bottle of water in the front for emergency/wetting, race nutrition, race compulsory items. Some may argue that I am over-geared. Perhaps I was, but it was done purposely - never know if i ever get a chance to race one of those crazy Ultras in the near future and this is a good training platform ;-)
Weight down and burnt by the sun
We reached CP8a and it was sort of a relieve. Situated at a cross junction of an incomplete highway, the organiser ensured everyone get a chance to stay out of the heat. CP8a also allowed anyone to walk down the road and soak themselves in the river.
Bandit taking a breather
Sam with his "special meal" Bak chang at CP8a.
Once the 15minutes was up, we were informed and allowed to move forward. Some of us took the extra 5-minutes more while the more competitive participants wasted no time. The short break gave wifey and Bandit some extra strength. They walked faster!
Gravel road for the next 5km under the sun
CP8a to CP9 is the longest route we have to take for Day 2. I estimated it from the map to be at least 5km. What made it even more difficult, apart from the heat, was the gravel road. If you have issues walking on hot gravel road, you could end up with blisters. The dust that kicks up when vehicles drive past wasn't pleasant either.
37 DegC Hot and going up!
My Garmin Fenix recorded a high of 41deg C around KM19. That comes in right before the unofficial water stop you will see in the photo below. The open route exposed us to temperature no less than 36degree C and with the dry air, the sweat on the skin evaporate as soon as it comes out. You can see my arms already burnt - and I had SPF120 on them.
Panoramic view of the route. Open and no shades.
Low clouds and open sky
At one point, Bandit was seen hiding under whatever shade he can find. Poor man. I found myself constantly looking behind to make sure everything is ok. But who am i to kid? This brother of mine are made up of steel determination and it will take more than just 40deg C heat to melt him down. I better be worried for myself and wifey.
Go on first lah. I trained to walk. I catch up in a while. He said.
It was a tough day on Day 2. It was Hell On Earth - with a little tinge of heaven because of the blue sky and clouds....
Are We There, yet?
We saw the hill at the horizon and the road that runs between the hill. We knew that we will have to climb up this hill in this weather. Expected gradient from this angle? No less than 10deg. Need to prepare ourselves mentally.
Hey, are those shops on the left???
It was an unofficial checkpoint for many of us. Heaven sent us a roadside stall that serves ice water and drinks. Many of us stopped for a breather. It was refreshing. Rosli had bad blisters and he actually bought a pair of sandal at CP7. Champion still walks in them in this heat, on this terrain and showed no sign in giving up. Inspiring.

Indeed, you find ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things.
Sam about to reach. Bandit no where in sight.
The unfinished highway is part of the government project to link up a few places. For the record, this is the Kota Marudu - Marak Parak - Melinsau - Poring - Ranau highway. It is 110km long and runs through these area. Expected completion is in September 2014.
Refreshing! Rosli on the left. 
We carried on after that and i caught sight of Bandit checking into the stalls. OK. He will be good. As we approach the end of the gravel run, the paved road leads us up to CP9. Yeap. It was steep. Confirmed to be 10Deg gradient and in the status of tiredness and heat, it certainly felt steeper.

Wifey went straight to the Marshall and asked to have a sponge bath. I bet it was damn refreshing. 
And I can't say no to the offer as well. Only those that had that bath knew how it really felt. I can tell you that it felt DAMN good.
We then headed towards CP10, about 3km and it will be next to Sungai Lohan. Meanwhile, we still need to be under the sun...
Happy. Wet. Cool. For 15mins...
Yes, the sponge bath kept us cool for 15minutes tops. It dried up by the time we reach Kampung Napong 1!
Some shades! Yes!
Kampong Napong 1 was supposed to be the original CP9 before the route change. We were to come out from behind those hills (photo below) and that would meant a different type of "tough".
Kampong Napong 1. Original plan was going through the hills behind. Click for larger view.
The route to CP10 was shaded, to much of our relief. We reached CP10 faster than usual - likely due to the lower heat factor and able to move faster.
Sungai Lohan was not full as it has not rained for weeks in Sabah. I forsee many will take a dip here. I wasn't disappointed as Kam (later) confirmed he spent close to 30minutes inside this river to cool down and Bandit having some nice fun later.
Nearing finish line and it is still daylight! Spirit were high.
Sungai Lohan
It was a short hike flanking the ice cold river (in the heat, anything wet is cold) before we start to make our way into farms, plantations or coups. While there were river, we enjoyed the view.
Clean and cool. :) 
From CP10 to finish, the route were sparsely marked and we need to look out and navigate our way past people's backyard. We were reminded to close all gates as we walk through. It is good to respect the locals that allowed us access through their properties.
First for wifey - climbing homemade ladder/access
Truth to be told, the last few KM was really getting the race done as fast as we can. The route became open again and we start feeling the heat. We kept moving at about 15min/km and stop occasionally under the shade to hydrate (like every 10minutes). The last 3 or 4 km was mental. It was never ending path and trails.
Different terrain, same weather. Hot.
We knew we were near the finishing when we passed some sign of civilisation (in the form of a karaoke competition that echoed through the valley). The finish line was near.
The smile on the face knowing it will all end soon for Day 2.
And we were not disappointed. Check out wifey's expression as we near the finishing!
We checked in at 7:29 for day 2, covering 28km, just 4km off from the planned 24km by race director. But nevertheless, made harder due to the heat and modified route that we had to take.
Even Aman was happy to see us!
Not last. Yet again!
And the reward for wifey? Another ice cold shower. It was, according to her - best in the world!
Bandit came in soon after. he was last at this checkpoint last year and in the dark. This year, he overcame himself by coming in while there was still daylight. The happiness was understandable and he earned many respects from the organising team that knows him as someone that do not give up.
For me and wifey? It was yet another day conquered. We had no argument (hahah!) and Wifey started to appreciate the finer point of adventure racing. In fact, i think I got her hooked on these races...Day 2, Kautim!
Can we start Day 3 now?
These are the map and diversion that we had to take. click on image for full view and appreciation on where we went on the Hottest Day 2.
28km Route. Starting and Ending point is actually only 4km apart by road ;-)
As usual, race instruction. Note the extra reminders below
Day 2 wrapped up with us returning back to Mesilau that took an hour. A quick dinner and a well deserved rest. There were no race briefing for Day 3 and we were asked to be at the start point, 1km from Mesilau Nature Resort for further instructions...It will be the last 15km (we hope) half day race!
With a 40km covered on Day 1 and 28km covered for Day 2, Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013 has now went beyond the 75km promised distance. This is how much I love Sabah Adventure Challenge. More distance for the same entry fee! ;-)
Next : Scenic Day 3


  1. 7 hours on 2nd day seems very short for me. I enjoyed mandi sungai so much when the weather was super hot.

    1. When you were having fun, time flies bro!