Monday, May 13, 2013

Sultan Ahmad Shah Tioman Island Eco Challenge 2013 Race Report

Months prior to this race, I've been warned by my team mates about the challenges I'll be facing for my maiden Sultan Ahmad Shah Eco Challenge at Tioman Island. I have a handful of medals for trail running, so I thought it is very normal when people exagerrate about the toughness of the course. Last year one of the Navy guy had to drink urine because he didn't carry enough fluid. I didn't take it very seriously until my 2ndSkin team mates talked about the race in our WhatsApp group. Yip Weng Tak has completed the race, he said this race is a suicidal one. On the website, race course remained "classified". I believe all other "first timers" were confused as well. How I wished I could find any race report to read! The only race report I found was Yip's race report. No clue about the race, how to train? So much of uncertainties, so my training focused on gaining elevation, nutrition and using the right race gear. This post will focus on the race instead of telling my awesome trip to Tioman because I believe my race report will help future racers to get themselves better prepared.
Check out who is YIP WENG TAK  =)

A day before race, snorkeling at Taman Laut. 

Race Brieifing
 This race director has been organizing this race for 6 years successively. He is Dato' Ir Thong, my father's batchmate in Royal Military College, I was super shocked to see him! The organizer declared upfront that there'll be 3 water stations only, additional water supply is available at the water stream along the way. The crowd was stunned when the elevation profile was projected to the wall. 30km of the race course in a virgin jungle with that kind of elevation is a bit to harsh for first timers. Lastly before the crowd was dismissed, we were given some very useful nutrition tips by the Army Colonel Doctor.

Get the 2ndSkin shirt to match with your race theme! =)

Race Start to Check Point 2 (4.1KM)
Drizzling rain the night before, not a good sign. 30 minutes before race start, heavy downpour! I believe that double up the challenge and hazard we will have to face, and the leeches will be happily waiting to be fed. Starting line to check point one was tarmac all the way. Once we entered the jungle, I did not see any trail for me to run, what I saw was only the red-white tape markers. Yip was right, don't expect any trail to run. It slowed all the racers down, slippery ground made it even worse. 

Check Point 2 to Check Point 3 (11KM)
This is the crazy part. Pokok Bertam and Rattan were the major obstacles, if u think holding tree trunks can help you balance, better watch out before landing your hand on it. I fell many times, got back up and keep moving! We were made to move along the ridge of the mountain, there're some marks of foot prints left by the faster runners that we could follow. However, a lot of the markers were pulled down and I was lost a few times, so had to back track. At one point, I fell so badly that my whole face went into the mud, so does my confidence. How could I fall so many times within such short distance??!!! I wished I could have more control of the situation, I felt so helpless. I've lost confidence with every single step I land, worrying that I'll trip again. I calmed myself down and continued brisk walking in the jungle of thorns. Later on I skidded uncontrollably AGAIN and AGAIN. Garmin 910xt was my only friend in the jungle, I set the distance alert to 2km. The beeping sound every 2km I've achieved gave me so much of motivation, at least I felt that I was progressing. 2km before reaching CP3, I tried to duck walk down the slope which ended up become a 100m roller coaster ride. I saw the evil thorns and spikes on the ground but I couldn't even steer away from it! When the ride came to a total halt, I had 3 big holes on my tri shorts, 2 big holes on my compression socks. Okay, this is not fun. I kept looking at my Garmin 910xt, it felt like forever to complete the 11km! I refilled my water bladder with water from the stream, kinda worry of the rat urine actually. No choice, I needed water. Refilling bladder from water stream is not easy, I rather use a water bottle.

Elevation Profile given by organizer 

Check Point 3 to Check Point 4 (3.5KM)
Bertam thorns and vines didn't get lesser along the way. More and more racers started to lose focus and made silly mistakes, signs of dehydration. Some even threw a tantrum in the jungle like a tarzan. =p I applied the 30% rule mentioned in Hammer's Nutrition Guide, so the food I carried was 30% of what I will totally burn. Basically I had 2 packets of Hammer Perpetuem mixed with 500ml water, and 5 gels with me and some cookies (for emergency). My water bladder was filled with Hammer Endurolytes Fizz all the time. Having a tube of Endurolytes Fizz is the most convenient way to carry compact form of electrolytes. I overtook a few racers at this check point, I believe it was not because I have better trail running skills than them, but I'm nutritionally better prepared. A LOT of them cramped. We were made to hike up and down giant rocks, some have ropes prepared for us, some have giant roots. The craziest one was the 5m high climbing up the almost 90 degree slope. It was REALLY insane! So find your own way. Deep down in my heart, I had to bow to the nature. 

Check Point 4 to Finishing Line
We've finally entered the golf course, road running all the way to the finishing line. I DID thought of attacking. I think I had nothing left in me already, my pace was 5min/km tortoise pace and getting slower and slower! Then the marshalls made us run along the beach, I got minor hamstring cramps. I was too tired to smile back at the girls wearing bikini who waved when I ran past. Hahaha. Before re-entering the main road, we had to run into the water (compulsory). Holy shit! I was lucky that Skechers GOTrail doesn't retain too much water when it gets wet, or else it'll definitely slow me down. 

I made it to the finishing line, with a million cuts and scratches all over my body. Finishing in 5 hours 17 minutes ranking No 12 is considered alright for me since this is my first appearance. If I were to run on the road, 20km I can complete in around 1 hour 30 minutes. In the jungle, time taken can be triple. I was attended by Army medical staffs cleaning up my wound and apply Iodine on it. I looked like the yellow Digi man after that =p

The majority of the 160 participants quit before reaching CP2, 58 finishers made it to the cut off time, the rest all DNF. The local lady category, no winner, no finisher. The organizer has no intention to reduce the toughness of this race course. In fact, they want to make it the toughest Eco Challenge in South East Asia. If you're expecting a properly made trail, water stations every kilometer, don't come to this race. It is far from your expectation. This race is not only about scoring high elevation, it tests your trail running skills and mental toughness to the limit. Definitely is a different ball of game compared to climbing Mount Kinabalu. I recommend this race to those who has the guts to face EXTREME trail and dare to go against all odds to cross the finishing line. Next year I will come again. I hope this race report will offer the new comers some idea what are the challenges you can expect in this race. =)

This is the actual elevation recorded by Garmin 910xt.

*This post wouldn't be a complete one without sincerely thank my 2ndSkin team mates for supporting me, my sparing training mates of the Royal Malaysian Navy. 

More picture HERE


TriStupe said...

Very nice elevation. 600m elevation in less than 200 meter distance! Gila!

Chan Jun Shen said...

never ever take this race lightly. =p

projectAK said...

Nice report Chan. Jumpa again in next race! :D

Chan Jun Shen said...

projectAK, sure ! =)