Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Most Beautiful Thing - 25km

In short, TMBT.

Saturday, 15th September 2012.

We woke up that morning to the sound of howling winds. The hubby and I looked at each other nervously as we tried to consume our breakfast of bananas, peanut butter sandwiches and Milo, as calmly as possible.

Please, I silently prayed. Don’t rain now and during my 25km run!

After a brisk walk from our homestay to the start area (our car was blocked, so we couldn’t drive out!) across from the Kundasang War Memorial, we hung around with familiar faces from KL while waiting for directions from the race organisers, Aman and Dr Sidhu.

With the power couple, Ray and Mich.

Squeezed into a group photo. (Photo credit to KC Leong)

Just passed 7am, we were ushered down into a gully for our flag off.
Thankfully the winds had stopped howling and the day was getting warmer.

725am and we were off.

(Photo credit to KC Leong)

The first km was a great warm up for everyone. Up and out of the gully and onto the road, it was a gentle downhill slope with the runners facing the one and only Mount Kinabalu.

If you were one of the participants behind, you would have come across a little kitten trying to run along together with everyone.

KC poses for YB Wong. (photo credit to YB Wong)

The second km brought us up a cement road and soon most of the participants stopped running and walked briskly up the slope instead.

At this point, Lawrence Law passed by. I said hi and wished him good luck for his 100km.

I also made small talk to a KK boy who had a pair of hard boiled eggs and bananas in his bag. (If you must know, I was trying to practice speaking like a KK girl. I've lost that slang since I've been in KL for 10 years now!)

It was a natural thing to do, briskly walking up the slopes and running as much as you can on flat ground and downhill. As and when we could, we would run but should we come to a slope, we’d quickly walk up as fast as possible.

My jacket fell off the straps of my hydration bag, probably at KM3.5 and someone picked it up and returned it to me. (Thank you, whoever you are!)

That was annoying.
My Nathan hydration bag was clearly too small to fit my jacket. I took a while to decide what to do with it before tying it around my waist. It wasn’t ideal, but there was no place else for it.

I was looking forward to seeing some cows at the Desa Dairy Farm as the route would bring us along its boundary but alas, I was disappointed.

The black and white cows were probably some place else, lazily chewing their grass.


Uphill again.

As you will notice, I am too slow for the hubby to run alongside. Phhbbbt.

Ooh, note the little markers on the the side!

Are we there yet?

She must have been thinking, "What's with all these people running past my house??"

I kept checking my watch from time to time and noted that we were pretty much on target (my target to be exact). Not too shabby, I thought to myself.

We arrived at WS1 in 2 hours and signed in, noting that we were the 26th and 27th person on the 25km list. As we filled our hydration bags, we discussed our strategy.

No, not a strategy to be the top 3 finishers but as I had set a target of 5 hours for myself and with people telling me that it was too ambitious, I was wondering whether it was possible to meet my targeted time.

 “Let’s try to aim for top 20,” the hubby suggested.

“OK,” I reluctantly agreed.
 “But it may be difficult for me, because I don’t think I can go that fast.” 

“OK then, let’s try to be 24th and 25th first,” He readjusted the goal.

 “Okayyyy,” I finally relented, still unsure whether it was possible.

And off we went, with renewed vigour.

Thankfully, my cough wasn't acting up. I wasn't suffering any cramps of any kind so that was a good sign as well. Perhaps those runs in FRIM over the weekends had helped, I mused.

The next 5km took us downhill for a moment and then up towards the Mount Kinabalu Golf Club. Huffing and puffing while walking briskly uphill was no joke, but with the villagers outside their homes cheering you on, there was no way you'd want to disappoint them by just walking slowly.

Might as well give them a show of sportsmanship and jog a bit!

  How can you not smile back to such a friendly face??

Couple picture with Mt Kinabalu in the background. (photo credit to YB Wong)
(Many thanks to Chae Yin and Seng Chor for our Nike caps. We love them!)

We were running on the roads and wondering where the trails were. Just as soon as we reached the top of the slope, we were directed into an avenue of pine trees.

Pine trees. Just like Salem High Country.

The golf course is somewhere on your ... left, if I'm not mistaken.

In the distance, that's Faizal from Terengganu (in red) and Wilson from Limbang, Sarawak (in black).

Soon we (or was it just me) met a man resting by the side of the trail. We asked him if he was OK. He slowly stood up, brushed the dust off his pants and said yes. He was OK but he felt that the air was too thin, so he was having difficulty in running at a comfortable pace.

He must have been running quite fast to be so far ahead of me to reach at that spot so early in the race!

The hubby suddenly disappeared, running ahead with my walking stick in hand. Not wanting to be left behind, I continue running.

I soon caught up with Faizal and Wilson, who were doing the 100km and 50km respectively. I'm not sure what did we talk about but I told Wilson that he sounded like a Sabahan

We ran past some people who were waving frantically at us. I waved back and teasingly asked one girl how far was it to the finish line.

She cheerfully replied that it was a long way more.

"Bulih kamu hantar saya balik ka?" I teased. (In my Sabahan slang, mind you!)
(Can you send me back?)

"Ehhhh, tidak bulih bahh!" She laughed.
(Ehhh, noooo!)

I eventually caught up with the hubby and we continued trudging along.

Just before we reached WS1 / WS3, we bumped into Cally who was about to start the 5km loop.

We checked in at WS3 (which is also WS1) and drank some water. We were now placed at 24th and 25th.

I couldn't recall overtaking anyone along the way but never mind, it was time to take this seriously and keep moving!

Puppy on guard at the water station. (photo credit to YB Wong)
Don't you just want to stop and play with it?

We were very eager not to waste any more time and to keep moving, but we just had to snap a picture of this adorable puppy. What a distraction!

With 10km left to go, I was nervous. At this time, I was secretly targeting to complete the race in 4 hours.

The hubby assured me that it was downhill all the way and we had a good chance of being top 20. I told him that HE had a good chance and not me, because ... I'm just not as strong as he is.

He agreed that he'll abandon run off on his own at KM20.

We hurried on, with more determination in our heads and running steps.

Huffed and puffed in the sun.

(photo credit to YB Wong)

Twenty minutes later we soon reached KM19.5 and we bade each other goodbye and good luck. The hubby scampered off, eager to catch up with the runners ahead while I continued on at my own pace.

I was determined not to be left too far behind so I kept talking to myself and made sure my legs were moving. 

I kept running and running, and would check on my watch at every km accomplished. 

Oh, another km completed! I congratulated myself. Keep moving!

I began to feel a discomfort at my right bunion and knew without a doubt that a blister was forming.

Nooooo, I silently muttered. No wayyyyy.

I did my best to ignore it.

I don't remember much about the last 5-7km of the race besides waving and smiling at a lot of villagers by the roadside.

I remember asking a group of young girls weren't they hot, standing in the sun the whole morning and they grinned happily and said no.

I remember running past a group of people and some of them were sitting at a verandah. I returned the ladies' waves and smiles who were standing beside the road, and as I was about to run past the verandah,  the folks burst into an applause.

I looked around, and behind me.

For me?

Abashed and not knowing what to do, I acknowledged their applause by waving and smiled in returned.

With the sun out in all its glory, I was parched. I sipped onto my hose but no water came out.

Puzzled, I thought maybe the hose had twisted inside my bag.

I sipped as hard as I could but still no water came out.

I continued moving on, not wanting to stop. I was using my stick more now, as it was a downhill slope. Balancing with my stick while running downhill made it easier to run faster.

I began to feel my left calf tightening.
 "Nooooo... no no no NO!" I was annoyed.

I checked my watch and saw that it was KM23.

No cramps, please, I begged. No effing cramps, please! 
Now is not the timeeeeee ... I wailed in my head.

I shook my leg several times to loosen it, as I continued pounding downhill. The tightness gradually went away after a few minutes.

I was relieved.

Eventually I decided to stop and rearrange my hydration pouch. I was sure I still had some water left.

So I checked.
No water.

Dismayed, I took out a soft sachet of Ribena I had in my bag and took a few tentative sips. With a few km to go, I knew I had to ration it out.

Bless Ribena!

Some goats were blocking my way as I came along.

I checked my time and was satisfied that I was doing fine. Not 4 hours, maybe but well, who knew?

It was a quiet run for me, with not many participants passing me by. For a moment I thought I was lost, but I wasn't.

I took the opportunity to run down as fast as I could, ignoring the blister near my right bunion.

After running down the gravel for almost 5km the road soon became flat and gradually began to incline again.

I stared at the long road in the distance ahead, in disbelief. It looked like 2km of uphill and I couldn't even see the finish line.

I asked two photographers on the left side of the road whether that it was THE road to take. They nodded and said yes.

Holy cow.

I started walking briskly instead.

Soon, a few men passed me by. It was annoying but I just couldn't push myself to jog uphill. I wanted some water.

I walked as fast as I could with the help of my stick, ignoring the blister and my parched throat.

I just kept walking and walking. Someone from the 100km category ran past me.

Just keep moving, don't stop, I said to myself.

I checked my watch and saw that it was 3:52 already.

Why was the finish line so far, I grumbled to myself.

Someone in a Toyota Hilux or something rumbled down the road and the driver told me that it was just 400m to go. I smiled and nodded thanks, not entirely believing him.

I'm sure it's another km to go, I snorted.

I told myself that I'd had better move quickly or I was not going to achieve a sub-4.

Since when was I looking at a sub-4? I asked myself.
Erm, since probably a few minutes ago.

I walked as fast as my chunky legs could carry me and finished the last of my Ribena.

Soon I saw a crowd standing in the middle of the road, marking the finish line for the 25km category.

They cheered as soon as they saw the runner ahead of me and myself. I was tempted to be a brat and rebelled by walking as slowly as possible (like a sulky teenager), but I shook myself out of it (as if anyone was going to care about my sulking!) and made a dash uphill towards the finish line.

Breathless, I signed in at 4:01:03 (according to my watch) to claim the 19th spot.

Top 20.

I made it!

I grinned and thanked them as they hung the medal and finisher necklace around my neck.

I walked into the shelter, my eyes searched for the hubby and I soon found him resting at the back of the shelter.

The look of surprise on his face when he spotted me almost made me chuckle. 

I don't think he was expecting me back so soon.


Completed the 25km, yay!

He finished 10 minutes before me!

So lucky!

Nevertheless, we made it!

Yet all we could think about was:
1. Oh my legs... oh my poor tired legs!
2. How do the 50km / 100km people do it? Man, they're crazy!

See how far we had to run? (photo credit to YB Wong)

Two days after TMBT, we said to each other, "I think we could have done the 50km."

"Of COURSE we could! It's just a matter of how LONG it'll take us!"

Check out the elevation:

TMBT was definitely our race for the year. It was an awesome experience.

It was great to run with the other half again and talked, laughed and noticed things together. What started out as a slow and easy run with photography opportunity for us ended up as a competitive one. Oops.

Many thanks to the organisers, photographers along the way and the smiley friendly people I wave and met along the way!

It was good to be home!!

And thanks as well to the friendly participants who entertained my chatter. ;D

Other stories:
Running For The Wong Reason (hubby's!)
JIRI in Middle East
KC and the Sunshine Runners
Run Wild, Run Free

My pre-race thoughts can be found here.

* Apparently I was 5th female (1st Malaysian female) for my category. YAY! See pic here. :D :D :D


  1. Well done both :). Perhaps both of you are ready for the 50 but do train well. It wont be a walk in the park and twice the fun you had, twice the trouble too :D

  2. Hi there,
    I enjoyed reading your story. Congratulations to both of you! I did 50 km and you could have done it too! It's just double the suffering! *lol*

    Anyway, it was a great experience isn't it? Planning to do 50/100 next year?

    Lee Lee