The 14th Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013 took place from the 29th to the 31st of March, and saw about 55 ultra-runners and 20 Adventure racing teams compete not just amongst themselves, but the against elements that were ever present around Mt. Kinabalu.
The following is a diary of my day to day before, during, and after the race. This race marks my foray into the ultra trail marathon scene, and despite being a 3-day staged race, the challenges faced mirror their single staged cousins (aka 1 day race), like consecutive days of running at above sea level altitudes, against steep inclines, brutal weather, and punishing terrain.
But first, I’d like to shout out thanks to Aman, Race Director, Claus Pedersen, Doc Sidhu, well as the rest of the organizing committee and ground staff, for their tireless efforts in making the event a smooth and memorable one. Also, a shout out to all participants of the event, especially those whom I had a chance to interact with;
Hairul, Kim Hong, Saiful, Adam York, Jodi, Gabriel “Gabbie, Beh, Chor Meng, Lilian, Joanne, LeeLian,Jonathan, Jared, Peter Speldewinde.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed, as well as learnt a lot from my experience in Sabah. And with the race being my first time doing an ultra-trail event, I’m confident I can progress further to a single staged event. Now, its a matter of training, and planning which events to enter next year!
Tri Stupe has a great review (with videos!) of the event over at his website.
27th March – ‘Early’ Arrival in Sabah
Arrived at Kota Kinabalu (KK) Terminal 2 shortly after 8pm. Collected my bag, then waited around for the mini bus pickup from the hotel. Spotted a group of Singaporean Adventure Racers, and in turn, spotted the mini bus. The journey to the hotel was a short, albeit rainy one.
Checked in, dropped my bag in the room, then went to have dinner at the coffee shop nearby. A quiet night, but couldn’t get much sleep as my room was closest to the escalator and the lift. Ended up watching Home Alone 2 (which was kinda ironic), before finally sleeping.
28th March – Registration, moving off to base camp
I woke up without the aid of an alarm clock as the early morning sun crept between the window blinds in my room. Had breakfast provided by the hotel, which then led me to discover that there was Wifi connection guests could use. Surfed the web for a while before returning to my room to check the equipment before the registration.
Filled up my information card before handing it over to Aman, then collected my race bib, baggage tag, and event t-shirt.
Registration ended at about 1:30pm, after which our baggage were loaded on separate mini buses to be brought over to Mesilau Resort (base camp). The mini buses made a 30 minute rest stop en-route at Koktas restaurant, Kinabalu Park HQ, before proceeding to base camp. I had a nice hot teh to keep me warm as the cool mist descended on the lower regions near the mountain.
On arrival at base camp, participants collected their bags at arrival point before collecting the room keys for the lodges at the reception building; I stayed at Crocker Lodge 9, Room C, sharing with my room mate Saiful, a runner from KL. Just next door was team Tri Adventure, a Singaporean duo consisting of Hairul and Kim Hong.
Dinner was served at about 6pm, before the race briefing at about 8pm. It started getting colder by evening, so wearing a mid-layer was a daily routing for breakfast and dinner trips from the lodge to the restaurant. It was also worth noting that we had to walk vertically up a steep slope every time we made those trips to and from lodge.
At the briefing, Aman informed us on the administrative and logistical parts of the race, while Claus guided us through the course route and notes for each day.
29th March – Day 1
Started the first day of the race with a climb through Mesilau Trail to CP1, followed by a descent to Timpohon Gate, and further down to CP2. While on the way down to CP2, I encountered some Singaporean hikers, who cheered me on after seeing the flag I had sewed on my hydration pack.
At CP2, topped up the hydration bladder, then continued to the start of the Liwagu trail. The trail was closed to the general public, but participants were given permission to run through this beautiful, albeit, not very maintained trail. The trail was quite slippery, had steep drop-offs, and had been subjected to a few minor land slides. Liwagu trail continued into Sila-Sila trail, which later exited into CP3 at Kinabalu Hall.
Following the main highway through to a kampong area, I got lost and ended up going an extra distance on the way to CP4 on Kinasaraban road. CP5 was straight forward to reach, but the subsequent turn into the vegetable fields got some of the runners confused on where to go.
The final lap to the finish line past CP7 took trail runners up the dirt and gravel road, which was long and steep, leading up to the parking lot at Perkasa Hotel.
30th March – Day 2
Runners were driven to the starting point, where we ran towards CP6 through a slightly modified route that the Adventure Racers were using. Getting to CP7 was not an issue, but the weather started to heat up rapidly as it approached the middle of the day. On arrival at CP7, we were informed that we were taking a route diversion to a new CP8. Apparently the land owners felt that the organizers had not consulted them properly on entering their property for the race. Trail runners and Adventure Racers had to follow the main gravel road to the new CP8, which continued to CP9. Early on after CP8, all participants were issued a 15 minute mandatory rest stop for participants to cool off, which was also near a river.
The journey to CP9 through the new route was long and hot. Walked a majority of the way though I tried to force myself to run in the sweltering heat. Caught up with a fellow Singaporean while we took shelter under a small shaded booth near Kampong Napong 2. While there, I had a chat with a local named Sapri, who told us that CP9 was just up the slope.
Arriving at CP9, got doused in cold water, refilled the bladder, and pushed on to CP10. Once again, got a little lost reaching CP10 which was near a school. Wasted a lot of time and should have just followed the main road. The trail path to the finish was challenging amidst the hot weather, and my hamstrings started cramping intermittently. Getting sponged at the finish along with an ice cold milo was a nice end to the 2nd day of the race.
31st March – Day 3
Final day of the race culminates in orienteering for both Adventure Racers and trail runners. Adventure Racers were required to reach a minimum of 6 checkpoints, while trail runners were required to reach 3 mandatory checkpoints (CP 7, 8 & 9). The CP’s may be visited in any order of the competitors choice. For trail runners, failure to meet all 3 CP’s would result in a time penalty of 1.5 hours.
I finished stronger than the previous days in just a little over 2 hours. Using the spare time, I headed back to the lodge to wash up and prepare my bags to be brought down to the reception area. Had lunch, followed by the prize presentation ceremony for the 75km Ultra Trail Category & Adventure Racing Category. After the event, participants boarded vans departing for Hotel Mega D’Aru, or the airport correspondingly.
1st April – Rest, relax, home
Nothing much to do on the final day at KK. Had breakfast at the coffee shop nearby before staying put in hotel before checking out, and boarding the mini bus to the airport.