Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sabah Adventure Challenge Race Report : Introduction

This post was initially completed. It was scheduled for posting. I then read it one last time and and decided to edit some parts. Thinking it was those word processing software, i pressed Ctrl+Z and everything went missing. The Blogger autosave it immediately and I ended up with nothing.
And now, i am starting from scratch, again. Luckily I have elephant memories (as they say, Scorpio seldom forget ;-)) and this post is written  and finished a couple of hours before it will be published. Enjoy.
Introduction to Sabah Adventure Challenge
My first foray into Sabah Adventure Challenge (SAC) was back in 2007 period where a bunch of my friends flew all the way from KL to KK to "race a well known adventure race". Back then I could not afford to do that due to budget and time reasons. I finally got to do it in 2011 with Azly (Bandit) as a team. We finished the course but were unranked and thus, considered as a non-finisher. Yes, it was that tough to be known as a Finisher in this race. They really make you work for it.
SAC 2013 marks the 14th year the race was held. Usually over the Easter weekend so that the race organisers and participants do not need to take excessive leave to get over to Sabah to race. You see, SAC was started by three friends that wanted to know who will be the best when it comes to navigating and adventure in Interior Sabah. No prize money and only bragging rights for the rest of the year until the next race. Race Director Aman Avtar introduced it rather nicely in this video.
The race has evolved over the years. What started off as a 4person team race has evolved to become a team of 3person and as recent as four years ago, a 2person team. In 2011, SAC introduced Ultra Run category as the sports has gained a big following. Later, SAC introduced The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) where the event are catered only for Ultra Run. This TMBT is on my bucket list.
Justifiable Race Fees
SAC race fee is not cheap. It has progressively became more expensive over the years. But that is totally understandable as the race progressed from roughing out in tents to being put in decent accommodations with creature comfort. If you ask me 8 years ago, I would not have the spare cash to do this. But the leap in 2011 in the Adventure Race category pretty much made me realised why me and Bandit paid close to RM1.2K for the race. Again, this time around in 2013, me and wifey paid RM600 each(as Malaysian) and has no regret. For the amount we paid, the whole "package" includes:
  • Race fees to race proper;
  • Full boarding at Mesilau Nature Resort - a 4star resort, for 4days-3nights with food and drinks all taken cared off;
  • Full boarding at Mega D'Aru Hotel Kota Kinabalu - a hotel used by SAC for years as official hotel, for 1 night with breakfast included. This is post-race hotel;
  • Event T-shirt made by 2ndSkin;
  • Finisher Polo-T (also by 2ndSkin) and Finisher Medal, if you finish the race;
  • Transportation from Megah D'Aru to Race Site (Mesilau);
  • and back to Megah D'Aru;
  • Race transfer for all days at Mesilau;
  • Complimentary airport transfer on last day from Megah D'Aru;
  • Event support such as medical, photography, water stations; and
  • loads of smile from the volunteers and race organisers
The above item are surely worth more that just RM600 (for Malaysian) or RM900 (for non-Malaysian). Don't forget the intangible comfort of having the race Marshall zooming up and down the race trail as much as they can to ensure safety.
consider your last day transport worth RM30 - sorted.

More to that, over the years, the race organisers has roll over any profit from the year before to be used and invested in important equipments such as spinal board, defib (AED) and small portable oxygen tank. Other race organiser "loan" these equipments from other, but SAC has them.
In short, all you need to do is get yourself to Kota Kinabalu, stay on your own for the night/s to T-2 day (aka 2 days before the race start) and make sure you got a return ticket back home. You literally don't even need to load your bag onto the transporter at race hotel!
So, if you ask me, this money is possibly the cheapest holiday I ever paid for - no way it will buy the experience and memories I will have for this race with this money!
T-2 To Race Day
The decision to join the race happened almost 8 months back. It was either SAC 2013 or TMBT 2013. Since it will be wifey's first "Ultra", we decided to see if breaking the race down to a few days would be more manageable. From my limited experience, splitting the 75km over multi-day races are tougher on the emotion and mental well-being, apart from having to bear physical pain day after day compared to needing to complete a "75km distance one shot", is technically tougher. We can agree or disagree on this - for me, I would take a straight on full distance in a continuous manner, then once done, go back and sleep. :)
With that in mind, I've been preparing wifey for what may come. With her almost at full recovery from the accident in October, my greatest fear is her back giving up. It was a gamble for her and us - for I do not want to do the race without her.
We arrived 2-hours before and spend an hour to check our luggage in
We arrived at LCCT on March 27 to catch the 10am flight. The flight was on time and as we walked to the boarding gate, a familiar person walked up to me. It was SC Khoo. He was on the same flight as me and wifey and heading to climb Gunung Kinabalu with a group of friends.
Familiar Friendly Face
We had a pleasant surprise when we boarded the plane. A family of three bought the hot seat at the emergency door. As toddler is not allowed to be seated at the door seat, the flight attendant had to shift the family away - and we were offered the spot. So, yes, hot seat and extra leg room at no cost thanks to the family. Thank you again Sir! The flight was pretty SOP and we killed time reading runners' e-magazine. We arrived KKIA Terminal 2 2-hours later.
Clear blue sky at KK..Hot weather!
Bandit and Kam took the flight two hours after us and arrived shortly before 4pm. To save cost and to stay near to where there are food and shopping, we pre-booked this backpacker lodge known as Travellers' Light near the town Police Station, across the street from Jalan Gaya. Me and wifey has stayed at Borneo Backpackers before and Kam at Bunidon Lodge next door. We were subconsciously "reviewing" each lodging - and we are happy to record that all three that we stayed scored full mark when it comes to hospitality and cleanliness. All three cost about RM25/pax/night in a dorm style double decker setting. No complains here!
Outside Travellers' Light. Photo courtesy of Kam
No shoes policy. Nice.

Once settled down and freshening up, we headed to the outdoor shop at Jesselton Point to grab a few items. This shop is my "must visit" whenever i am in Kota Kinabalu. Happy with the purchases, we headed to the fish market for a quick bite. We walked passed the promenade and were greeted by the sun setting.
Things we take for granted everyday
Later in the evening, we met up with Bandit and Kam batchmates, James (residing in KK) and Tuck Loong, which was overnight in KK due to early flight the next day. Dinner was western and I was surprised that it was not as expensive as I thought. It poured soon after and we got back to the room right after the rain. Calling it a night as we will head to Megah D'Aru to report for the race.
Fellow Old Puteras. Photo courtesy of Kam
T-1 Day To Race Day
It was a good night sleep with minimal disturbance. It rained the whole night, which lend some "white noise" and drown out some "orchestra" in the room. The room we were in fits 3-double decker bed but we had the whole place for ourselves. So, it was comfy to a large extend.
Good Morning!
We freshened up and headed to Jalan Gaya Ip Fung for breakfast. It is a halal kopitiam serving local food. Price is a bit high though.
Self-timer rocks
We then headed back to the room and packed the bag; as we removed out race kit in advance to the race kit check by the race organisers.
Don't forget anything now...
We checked out and got a taxi to drive us to Megah D'Aru. One tip when stopping Taxi in KK, do bargain before jumping into the taxi. Average fees for a 15mins ride will be about RM20/taxi. Pretty standard if you are going from one end of the town to the other end. We arrived at Megah D'Aru and went straight into the room that serves as Race Kit HQ.
Familiar faces.
We wasted no time and got ourselves all that we are supposed to get for the race - which is the event T, race number and baggage number. :) Yeah, no goodies bag - no one need them anyway. :)
With Mandy. :) Nice seeing you again!
Clowning with Aman
With Pam at the merchandise counter and Esther checking out bargain items
Volunteers handing out Race tshirt. This is the first time an event T is given out and in women sizing/cutting too! Thank you SAC and 2ndSkin!
Handsome. And wifey agrees.
The race kit pick up was orderly and we were told that the mandatory race kit checking will be done at random during the race. Good logic, after all, no point showing when the (historically) participants do not carry them on race day. The items requested is very minimal and it is there for safety reasons. We then kept the race bags with our luggage and put the luggage tag onto the bags. They are ready to be uploaded onto the designated van.
One thing i noticed this year was that the bikes were given a protection in form of a custom made tarp sheet. Nice. It will protect the bike during transit and most importantly, separate the bikes and prevent any metal to metal contact that could damage them. I believe these too are possible from the race fees that was paid over the years!
They listen!
At about 1pm Race Director Aman called for everyone to start moving to the designated mini-van as the journey to Mesilau will be about 3-hours. We will have to reach earlier as dinner and race briefing will happen early evening. Th four of us were placed in the same van, together with some new and old friends.
All ready to roll!
The drive towards Mesilau is very scenic. If you are lucky, you will see Gunung Kinabalu peeping out at you in the afternoon. Chances are low though, as the mountain are usually heavily covered by cloud during that hour. As it was Easter weekend, traffic was slightly heavy.
Churches around the mountain. Does make you feel like another country
After 2hours, we arrived at the Park HQ and the entourage stopped for a 20minutes break just outside the Park HQ lay-by. It was opportunity to grab some hot drink and to goof around.
Wild Horse Milk - anyone?
Wifey offered to take a photo of me looking down at the valley. Rare chances that I get a photo taken. :D
Overlooking the playground below
Mist appears frequently around mountain area
The journey continue and it was just another 30minutes to arrive at the Mesilou Nature Center.
All along the way, I noticed the inclination of the road to be in excess of 10degree. If that was not enough, it get progressively steeper as we approaches the park. I spotted 15degree and then...25 degree at the final 100m to the park! Somehow, I knew that we will run/walk/crawl up day, maybe two days of the race...
Appear to be flat...wait till you see it here yourself
The van that ferried us was a bit old and do not have the climbing ability - so we were actually asked to come out so half of the passengers can be sent up first. That was how the photo above could be taken - I was standing outside waiting. Checking in was easy as the resort has been expecting us. Our bags were already on site and waiting for us to pick it up. The four of us were placed in Crockers 7 (chalet) together with an American girl named Jessica (JJ) that is working in KL. Soon, we found out that the path to our chalet, which was at the second highest level in the resort, require us to climb up inclines...Oh...I can imagine how the calves and quads will be screaming walking up and down for the next few days...
No issue on Day T-1...wait till D-Day...
Reached after some 20m elevation gain. Coincidentally, this Chalet was where Khoo and friends stayed during their climb up Kinabalu!
The chalet was big. It has 3-rooms with one furnished with a queen bed. Each room has a heater and hot water. Our chalet also came with a TV and satellite TV! A fridge and coffee/tea making complete the whole setup.
Home for the next three nights.
The Bachelors' Pad
JJ was supposed to share the room with Juliana. As Juliana pulled out last minute due to the passing of her beloved father-in-law, JJ has the room for herself. By the way, did I mention that JJ is fun person?
I was pretending to run when JJ pops out and photo-bomb us. Haha! Photo courtesy of Kam
We then headed to the Dining hall for dinner. Oh boy, what a walk it was...I wasn't kidding about the route we have to take everyday.
Hill Training? This is towards the end of the walkway.
Despite all that, we still have time to cam-whore.
Yeap, I am Donkey's Ear. But do take note where Crockers' Range are situated on the resort plan
I was relieved to see what was served on the dining buffet. Simple food that wasn't oily or has excessive garnishing. Good sign of the food to come over the next few days.
Rice. Fish. Meat. Vegetable. Vegetable. Not shown here were salad bar, fruit bar, pasta and soup
There were no need to carboload if one has prepare the body for the race correctly. I had a serving of rice with fish, chicken and vegetable and called it a meal.
Not easy to eat clean when out. But I try.
After dinner, we headed to the Reception house - a walk down the hill for race briefing.
Aman preparing the race briefing. Can almost hear him say "Torture". Haha.
The theme for this year's race was "Long Live The Brotherhood". It is a tribute race to the late Abang Rabani Ayub that passed away suddenly not too long ago.
The skeleton frog...It has become a permanent logo for SAC. Nice. The fellow racer...well, maybe I will be on the poster next year ;-)
Race briefing started with Aman welcoming the participants, especially those that are racing SAC for the first time. We were also told about the reduction in racers as a big group of VAT69 were on duty at Lahad Datu due to the Sulu incursion. These men and women worked overtime so we can sleep soundly at night. Salute.
Kam and wifey were officially SAC Virgin.
Panorama capture of the race briefing. Distortion causes some of the participants to be seen not  looking at Aman. Rest assured this is camera trick.
Claus then came on and briefed us about what to expect on Day 1 of the race. This is when it all get very very exciting. We were told that Day 1 this year will break heart. Total elevation will not be anything less than 2200m and we will start from Mesilau. We will take the summit trail and head towards Layang-Layang before turning down to exit at Timpohon. From there, we will get to the Park HQ via a closed-off trail known as Liwagu Trail. Landslides and small trail has made hiking here dangerous. Once we exit the trail, we are to make our way towards Bundu Tuhan and head to a village known as Kampung Kinasabaran. We were reminded not to overshoot Bundu Tuhan as the route is steep and will make you cry trekking up again. From Kg Kinasabaran, we are to head towards Kg Dumpiring and then head down towards Zen Garden (closed due to landslide) passing a few plantations, down to a river and up back to the plantations. Then, we are to locate the gravel route and hike up the hill passing Kundasang National Service Camp before ending the day's race at  Hotel Perkasa up the hill.
I see pain. I like.
With the race briefing ended, we were each handed the race map and instructions. Now, you can start to panic. It was less than 8 hours to race.
Like horror movie, everyone smile at the beginning.
Back at the room, I checked to ensure my race pack and wifey's has everything it needed. I will be on full Hammer Nutrition products to experiment the effectiveness and to feedback to Hammer. Both the Garmin Fenix and Garmin 910XT were fully charged and the Skechers GoTrail were checked for any physical damage during transit.
One day or 10hours worth of food. Surprised it wasn't as much as you thought? Wait up for the review soon.
Not forgetting my race attire for the 3-days. My Sponsor 2ndSkin has provided me three VaporSkin T-shirts to be worn to represent the team and sponsors. 
Thank you 2ndSkin, Skechers, Garmin and Hammer!
Before we call it a night, Bandit shared with us some findings from his strategic planning for the race. Important landmark were marked and we were set for the race. Last thing to do is to set alarm. Race will start at 8am and I will have to wake up and have breakfast 3-hours prior. Always has been a good practice to allow food to digest - and avoid heavy food. 
Map Day 1
Instructions for Day 1
Kinabalu Summit Trail Map
Park Trail map
Bring On SAC!
Next Entry : SAC 2013 Day 1 Race Report. Stay tuned.


  1. LIKE!

    The complete coverage!

    1. It is easy when we race so slow and got so much time to think. :D

  2. Nice. Very detail indeed ; )

  3. Stupe. to get your mug on the SAC posters, you will need to develop that glazed, crazed, full of pain look on your face. Cheers, Dev Sidhu :)

    1. Doc - That glazed, crazed, full of pain look will happen, soon. :)

      All i need to do is to chase/push/pressure aileen to go faster.

  4. does that susu kuda liar works?

    1. That, we have to ask Azly Bandit...hahaha!

  5. waiting with bated breath for the next instalment. :-)

    1. Don't hold the breathe too long. ETA next week k. Manyak kena edit and re-live. :( Writing it will cause race withdrawal syndrome.

  6. Great race report! Good to have bumped into you bro!

    1. And thank you for helping to take the photo of me and the three mouseketeers on the last day award lunch.

  7. Salut Stupe, SAC is the hardest, bestest race us ammatuers can hope for. How else can one have a 5-7 day holiday in Borneo, so cheap, so rewarding, going where other can not go. You are the action. Just to finish is such a reward, that the super fit deserve. Take a breather.