I am trying my darnest to walk up this very steep incline that had started about 2km back and somehow did not find an ending to....and I'm still huffing and puffing all the way up, hoping that the next bend in the road would be the end to this torture of a hill.
I have another 7 or more kilometers left before I can call it a day and cross out another 50km race off my proverbial race-to-do list.
I am sunburnt....tired....and in need of real food. My GI system has since gone off the likes of GU chomps, much to my chagrin.
I see a couple of chaps in front of me and I'm in no position to chase...and some poor dude or two behind me, staring in disbelief at the task of more hill climb before them.
And I ask myself...again.....why am I doing this?
The race began on that very chilly Saturday morning at Kundasang.
The bunch of us that took up the night before at the dorm at Rina D'Lodge and it was cold.
I had refused to bathe in view of the temperamental water heater.
Sleep had been disturbed by the howls of wind just outside the window.
I was glad morning came about so I could get on with it and head back to my beckoning hotel room back in Kota Kinabalu town for good night rest.
The race started at Kundasang...just opposite the road from the Memorial site.
And suddenly I feel very underprepared.
I know I've said many times that to me, this wasn't a race but a HOLIDAY....but seeing everyone around, all dressed up like they were about to set off to race UTMB, I can't help to feel anything but unprepared.
Of course, I later realized that quite a few of those were racing 100km and I consoled myself with that fact that I would be done before this day is up.
It was great to see familiar faces at the start of the race.
Nothing speaks camaraderie more than catching up with friends, well wishes of good lucks and what nots, and sharing pre-race anxieties. Oh and of course, taking lots and lots of pictures when everyone still looked fresh and very much alive.
There wasn't much of an official start.....we were chatting and laughing and when we turned around, everyone was taking off.
And thus the race had begun.
The first kilometer of so was a dash on tar road downhill.
.....and then we hit the uphill.
It was steep but not too long.
And the view was to die for....
Still early on in the race, there was no need to look out for route markers...just follow the crowd in front....my only aim at this point, is to get to the first water station.
I was with Agnes most of the time......it was good to have someone to chat with and take pictures with as well.
We were both in awe of our surroundings. Every turn of a corner was another great view of the majestic mountain and the luscious green valley beneath us.
The route before the first check point was partially road and partially gravel and at best could be described as undulating....
We ran when the route allowed us to run....and walked those inclines to conserve energy.
And we stopped often for photos.
Got to first check point, at 10km.....at about 1:28.
Filled up hydration bladder....popped some salt tabs into it and off we went.
Right away from the first check point was another steep incline.
Thankfully it was a short one and on tarmac.
Turned a corner and we ran into the plantations......what I'd like to call, the Cabbage Patch.
The route at this point was mostly earth with a fair share of mud thrown in and around for good measure.
I guess the heavy downpour over the past few weeks on a daily basis ensured that no shoe would be left un-mud!
The earth was uneven and there were some tiny hills here and there.
We ran when we could...and walked majority of the time.
I was prone to twisted ankles and Agnes was still in recovery from an ankle sprain.
It was windy....but the sun was pretty strong.
I found that my nose did more running than my legs throughout the first 20km or so.
After check point 2, we headed up hills....more hills...and then some.
Agnes was setting great pace walking up those hills and I was trying my darnest to keep up.
I was feeling very tired and exhausted which I could not explain....and my tummy kinda hurts.
Perhaps I didn't sleep well the night before.....perhaps I didn't eat enough before the race.....perhaps it is altitude.
But I was suffering....and it was only 20-ish kilometers in.
Almost half way.....but I know myself well enough to NOT be feeling this crappy this early in the race and with most of our mileage thus far logged via walking.
I was a little annoyed.
Walking is my forte and walking uphill has always been my thing.
But I didn't feel that great.
Tried to ignore it all by chatting up people around me.
Besides Agnes, bumped into Cornelius....his second time at TMBT 100km....and spoke casually to others, whose name I did not get, along the way.
Cornelius looked extremely comfortable and at ease walking up the hills. Ah...the envy!!!
A turn here and there and next thing I knew, we were back at the Cabbage Patch.
I liked the Cabbage Patch.
The view was brilliant and jumping around to avoid puddles of mud was fun and personally, entertaining.
We came out onto the main road that was tarmac and started running. It was mostly flat and downhill.
My tummy hurts and I figured I needed some "real" food.
I'd try running as much as I can before I can no longer run.
Agnes was running further up in front. She was in great form!!!!
I still hadn't figured out what was wrong with my body.
Again...it shouldn't feel this horrible this early in the race...and it was not like I was pushing myself. I was mostly brisk walking.
Finally arriving at Check point 3, I told Agnes I needed to sit down and eat something. I was feeling rather fatigued and it was worrying me. I shouldn't be feeling this tired this early on.
She said she'll get a move on first and I should catch up when I'm done eating.
After refilling up the hydration bladder and popping more salt tabs into it.....grabbed a Mars bar, started munching on it and got my tired arse up and moving.
And the route there after was mostly uneven earth and loads of gravel.
Gravel, gravel, gravel everywhere.
And the uphills!!!!!
Thankfully the wind was still very strong.
Hearing the forceful gale was a break to the monotony that was the climbing of yet another steep incline.
I could spot Cornelius quite a fair bit in front of me, and I couldn't see anyone behind me.
I was mostly alone at this stretch.
Having spotted Corny intermittently at the top of another incline was very reassuring that I was still on the right path.
After climbed what seemed like a lot of small hills, we hit a descend.....of gravel roads.
It was all the way down for several kilometers.
I knew it was quite a long way down and we were probably in the valley as the wind was no longer strong and at the end of the descend, was barely palpable.
At the base of it was a small village and it was mostly flat road for another several kilometers.
I spotted several participants wearing the 25km bib....and I wondered if I took the wrong turning.
But still.....I could still spot Corny way in front....I had imprinted his image from behind into my head by now, after having to spot him from afar for so long.
After what seemed like another 4-5 kilometer of walking on gravel under the hot, unrelenting sun (and I knew I was in trouble as I was a little sloppy with NOT having put on any sunscreen), I looked up and saw in front of me a road leading up a very steep hill.
I looked again...and on that very steep hill was what seemed like people walking up it!
The profanities that went on a barrage in my head.....I will save you from that.
But let's just say I wasn't that positive about what I will be enduring in a while more.
And finally...I hit that hill.
And it was steep....it was long....it was very hot.....it was pure torture.
Everyone around me attacking that hill looked like they would soon collapse of exhaustion.
And after about a kilometer of climbing.....the 4th check point came into view.
And not a second too soon.
I was almost out of water!!!
Tony, KC and Agnes were there.
Agnes was already preparing to head out.
I told her I needed a sit down and more proper food.
I was starving.
My tummy hurts.
I was exhausted.
I sat right in front of the marshals and told them I'd get up to sign in....after I'm done eating.
At this point, eating was more important.
Tony brought out some bread which I devoured very quickly.
Finally...I think I was ready to head on.....it was already 38km.
Just another 12km more.
I'm almost done.
Got up...signed in...showed them that I had my headlamp and my handphone (the 2 mandatory items that were requested to be shown at that check point) and off I went.
I caught up with a group of 4 locals and was following them for a while....
After we cross the road at Ranau, we were on a bit of a downhill until 40km.
And then..it was uphill all the way.
The 4 dudes dropped me coz I was too tired to hike up.
So I went at my pace.
It got really steep at some parts....but the worst thing about the whole climb was that it never ended.
It was all the way up for 3km...then the incline plateaued for several hundred meters....and then the climb continued for another kilometer of so....plateaued....and climb again.
I couldn't see anyone in front of me...and anyone behind me for quite a while.
Then I would come across some participants who would sit under some shade resting.
I came across Boyd resting under a shade as well.
He was doing 100km and he looked in worse shape than I felt I was.
Finally at the end of the climb, another check point.
I was told this would be the last check point before the end for the 50km race.
I looked at the sign-in sheet....and I guess I felt slightly better knowing I was the 33rd person checking in at this check point.
Could have been worse.
I filled up my hydration bladder despite knowing that the end of the race was near.
You never know....especially since I was terribly thirsty and drinking more than usual.
I still haven't figured out if it was the altitude....the exhaustion....or whatever.
I just know I didn't feel like my usual self.
So better to fill up more just in case.
The route after that was on normal road.
And it was more or less flat.
Knowing that it was just a few more kilometers to 50km was very helpful....psychologically.
Popped more GU chomps.....and kept on walking.
Was walking with a participant for the 100km.
He commented that I was so lucky that I was gonna complete soon.
I couldn't agree more.
He looked terrible.
I felt kinda bad....but I noted that he looked worse for wear compared to me....and he had another 50km to go!!!
Yes...there are many things to be thankful and grateful for in life.
Almost completing your journey on a race was definitely one of those things.
We walked back into Kundasang town...more or less...and I could already spot the school which was the end for the 50km...and the 50k check point for the 100km participants.
I was SO happy!!!
I could finally get my hands on REAL FOOD!!!!!
I looked down at my Garmin...noted that it wasn't really 50km....but only 48km.....not that I really cared....
I was at the finish line and I was ecstatic!!
Especially seeing familiar faces at the end.....Tony came to take my picture!!!
Yes...I'd admit...I LOVE having my pictures taken at finishing line.
Absolutely LOVED the beaded finishing medal!!!
Best finisher's token ever!!
So....in a nutshell....
Finished 50km (48km according to Garmin...not that I'm being particular) in 9 hours and 25 minutes....almost half an hour behind Agnes.
The race was doable.....and in my better days, I would say extremely doable.....
I ran 10% of the course....and walked/hiked the remaining 90%.
The view.....extremely scenic at the Cabbage Patch.....and horribly torturous at certain parts....especially the horrid last climb.
The weather.....I'm just thankful it did not rain.
Sunburnt and currently having 3 tone skin colour on my leg.
Would I do it again?
The view was to die for.
Would I sign up for the full 100km?
Probably.....(ok on good days, most likely)
Oh....when I ended the race and went to change out of my sweaty icky clothes, I found out the reason why I felt like crap during the race.
First day of my menstrual cycle.