It's unfortunate that I was unable to join The Most Beautiful Thing 2013 (TMBT) as it clashed with the Sundown Ultra that I've registered for. I am, however, able to invite my friend, Hana Sue Harun (pic) to contribute an article, seeing the race through her eyes. To the guys who're wonderingyes, Hana is hot...and still single!
Below is her article, in verbatim. Photos are from numerous sources and duly credited to the respective photographers. Enjoy!
How To Earn A Holiday by Hana Sue Harun
Photo credit: Shamsul Adzrin
I spoke about the TMBT Ultra in a certain video and its scenic views like running through vegetable farms and seeing our mountain up close based on last year’s race, my first 100k. For this year’s TMBT I was expecting to experience the same but in true brutal style, the organizers decided to redesign the course, reduce the cut off time from 33 to 30 hours, and best yet, increase 1000m in elevation. TMBT 2013 was going to be an epic adventure in the making.
Prior to race day, I listed blisters and walking in the dark alone (I have a wild imagination) as my two deal breakers. My race plans consisted more on food management and ‘waste prevention’. And by ‘waste’, I don’t mean empty gel wrappers. We were going to be in the jungle I had to know if I was going to be ‘animal-like’ about my bio breaks…
With all the food I was bringing my bag weighed 6-7kgs that morning. I was a walking buffet spread. Felice also brought a stuffed turkey, in the form of Scott Jurek’s Ultimate Direction vest. At the start at Kg Lingkubang while our group posed for the usual photo taking, few people were warming up. Maybe they were elite runners I’m not sure, or probably very nervous too.
Photo credit: Sajirin Sahimin
After some delays, we were flagged off at 8am. Felice, Christy and I were together. Koh began his race by singing the song, “The road is long…” but not even 1km into the race our road was blocked. The hanging bridge for crossing over could only allow six to go at one time. There were 800 of us. We were stuck for 45 minutes (some even longer), so Felice made full use of the wait and bought power coffee from the tuck shop and we posed for this picture.
Photo credit: Annette Jannette Hiu
Then, we were off again, for real this time. We crossed a river waist deep, water was refreshingly cool but we knew it was only the ‘warm up’ section. As we hit a rubber plantation, space was building up between Felice, Christy and I. At WS1 I drank a 500ml bottle of water as planned, waited for a bit, then Felice told me to go ahead and wished me all the best so I was running alone from then on.
Photo credit: Shamsul Adzrin
Next was Tambatuon, a nice place where you can see two mountains together, Kinabalu and Nambayukon. With perfect lighting, it makes a good scenic picture. I caught up with Kairi then Koh and Frankie who did a detour somewhere so I stuck with the two. Walking down a ridge Koh said to me “Don’t fall down, ah,” soon after he slipped and almost ended up in the murky river himself! I could only grab his t-shirt lightly, worried I was going rip it because I’m sure it was an expensive Salomon top. He climbed up and said he was okay so I left him behind. Then I was alone again.
It was the introduction of many muddy and wet surfaces for this race I was actually beginning to enjoy it. At WS2 at Lobong Lobong I met Jai and Pg Rosli I told the Pg, “We meet once a year,” I could never forget him for his classy Louis Vuitton drop bag on the first TMBT in 2011. He told me he was going for Vietnam Mountain Marathon next month and off he went.
I filled up my Hammer Perpetuem before leaving WS2 and I saw Jai drink a can of Coke and he hurried down. I got to CP1 within 4 hours I saw Rodney standing with the radio guys watching the competitors come in.
A million hills later, I finally got to pineapple hill, I knew Miki camp was next. The pineapple hill was nice especially at the ridge because it was quite airy. The bamboo windmills made interesting chant-like noises to scare aliens away. As I got to the somewhat top, I saw Boyd sitting under the windmill. I didn’t see that he had a pineapple with him or I would’ve asked to share some if he did.
Photo credit: Leong Kwan Weng
At Miki camp, I remembered Coach Corny saying (in a wise Yoda way) “try to finish Miki before it gets dark,” so I kept that in mind. Miki was a loop so there would be a two-way traffic, it’s a good chance to see the others. Halfway in I crossed ways with Erwan and posed for picture. Then I met Jonas at the hanging bridge who wanted to throw me into the river (what? bridges not two-way traffic? Sorry Jonas). It was in Miki that I suddenly felt muscle cramps building up on my legs and I began to panic a little because I was alone and wouldn’t know what to do in case the cramp really hits. Then it started to rain and it got darker in that dense jungle, my imagination went wild. Nothing to do with leeches but if it was a different blood-sucking creature chasing after me for a meal I’d be dead meat.
Photo credit: Erwan Kassim
Heading out I saw Brian, Kairi, then Eric S. Soon after more familiar faces hiding in their ponchos, Yoke Lee, Mary, Justine and Christy. That’s when Christy told me Felice decided to DNF. But two seconds later, there was Felice! She decided to continue after all.
At WS3 I met with Victoria J and her husband Alex Q. She happily told me she killed a leech and blood was all over the floor. I’m sure the leech died happy anyway. We were already 7 hours into the race. It was angry rain at this point which actually helped with the hike up the very steep road to Kiau Toburi. But the angry rain continued I was worried about getting fever so I popped some panadol at WS4, which was also the 25k finish.
Rodney appeared out of nowhere before we hit Bundu Tuhan so we decided to keep together – phew! It took us a lifetime to reach halfway point which brought us to the most slippery part of a privately-owned vegetable farm. It was premium, gold standard, beautiful mud, so slippery going downhill that I fell a few times.
We finally reached halfway point in 13 hours, within the cut off time. Spent an hour there ate a decent dinner and reorganized our packs and off we went. I saw Boyd from a distance and gave him the thumbs up to say we were going ahead (to get ourselves hammered again). On our way out, Jai was coming in medal around his neck, looking beautifully beat, and Jumat and Odry who were already cleaned up. Second place and last year’s champion Jimmy Tee ran pass us and wished us good luck.
We went up a ridiculous hill called Kauluan to WS7 by this time it was Rodney, Boyd and I. We overcame the ‘Rock Garden’ and about 3am we did the notorious cabbage farm loop and played with more mud till the sun came up. Here Boyd had already split and gone ahead. I also received a sad text from Claire A to say that both Felice and Christy had DNF due to bad weather.
The next section was a 13km downhill and more mud tracks we were wearing bricks on our shoes. My shin was beginning to hurt. We were beginning to think of other ways to go downhill like rolling down while being inside a drum and sliding down while sitting on a coconut frond. It was obvious that our brains were affected by then. Rodney pointed out Kibbas where WS10 was located. It was an uphill road and looked far. Very far. Then I saw where Perkasa/finishing point was, way up on a hill, in my head I was slowly going down. I couldn’t imagine my legs taking me there but it seemed like my only aim in life.
At 8am under the hot sun we reached CP4/Kibbas, I knew how it felt like being in an oven. The officials said it is the final 12km. It was a sickening 12km, both of us were running low on water and I was feeling light-headed as the elevation went back up 820m. Did we need another hill reminder? I kept looking at the Garmin and started counting the kms, I moved like a snail stopping every 10m. I couldn’t stomach anymore gel nor perpetuem. We were already 26 hours into the race, Perkasa was still up there and I was struggling physically and mentally.
Suddenly I remembered that I had planned a post-race holiday and slowly came some energy reserves. I found my pace back and for the first time during that race I was sure I can finish. With less than 500m to go we were reunited with Boyd. We synchronised our leg work and headed to the finish to the company of a very supportive crowd.
Photo credit: Leong Kwan Weng
It was dead in the afternoon when we finished. I had no blisters. I thought it was an unforgiving course in the worse ever conditions, I was so relieved that the nightmare was over, I couldn’t care for my time all I knew was that we finished the 100k.
Photo credit: Leong Kwan Weng
People ask me why? I say I do it because I love how it feels, in the end.
The question is, will I do it again?