Monday, 23 June 2014

The Beaufort 100 Race Report : Azrul Deo Hussin

I would very much like to call this race the triple 7 edition, for reasons you will understand later. First, a little background about the race…

Beaufort Ultra Marathon is a road race held on the West Coast of Sabah, from the town of Beaufort to the coastal village of Kuala Penyu, which is rated as one of the hottest sections of asphalt in Malaysia. It was first held in December 2012 and continued a year later in 2013 before being moved to June for its 3rd edition in 2014. The first two editions were a 60km race before it was upgraded to 100km this year. The race has also been dubbed the hottest race in Malaysia due to the notorious heat and humidity, despite its flat route for the first two editions. In 2012, the temperature went up as high as close to 40-degree Celcius on midday and it stayed hot all day long. However, last year the Mother Nature blessed the runners with heavy downpour in the last quarter of the race after roasting us up earlier.

For 2014, the event took a little twist (or actually a giant leap), from 60km to the full 100km in distance. To make it harder, the Race Director has imposed a strict cut-off time to all participants, 15 hours, which is relatively short as compared to other 100km races I have experienced or read about (normally, the shortest cut off time would be 18 hours). Additionally, the all-flat route in the first two editions was replaced with rolling elevation from KM35 onwards. And when the number of participants is capped at 50, I already anticipated a lonely race where you wouldn’t be able to see any runner in front or behind you in most part of the race

This third edition would also mean my third Beaufort Ultra Marathon, having finished the first two editions. It would also be an attempt to complete my 7th 100km Ultra Marathon and befittingly, I was given a race bib with number 7!

Moving on to the race, the race started at 3am on Saturday morning just outside the River Park Hotel in the town of Beaufort. The RD informed that 38 participants actually made the start line this year, against 50 who had registered. A more lonely race, I reckoned. The spirit was high among participants that morning, probably as high as the humidity level. I know most of them from past races or from the social media and we exchanged well wishes before being whistled off by the RD to mark the start of the race.

The route:
The 100km race route
We started out of Beaufort new town heading in a Northern direction towards Klias and Kuala Penyu along the Beaufort-Kuala Penyu/Klias highway. It is a 30km section before reaching the main round about before headed towards the village of Menumbok and Mempakul, a busy little port that is the landing point for car and passenger ferries plying the Menumbok-Labuan and Menumbok-Brunei route. There was the KM64.5 checkpoint, by the seaside where you can see the huge ferry to Labuan crossing nearby. We headed out from the checkpoint towards Kuala Penyu on the same route when we came for about 10km before the race took us off the main road and on to the never-ending village roads along the beach to get to the finish line, also by the sea, somewhere in Kuala Penyu.

The Race:
The morning before we were flagged off at 3am. It was easy to spot me in the dark as I was wearing the glowing Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl.
[photo by Hong Lan Tan]
My plan for the race is to finish within the cut-off time of 15 hours, which is equivalent to an average of 1 hour and 30 minutes per 10km, or 9-minute per km pace. I reckoned that this is easily achieved so I had upped the ante to try to challenge myself to finish under 12 hours and 30 minutes. A simple calculation is to do 50km in 6 hours for the first and second half of the race, with a 30-minute break at the designated midway checkpoint. I know it looks tough to move at the same pace in the second half of the race as in the first half, but I thought it would be good to have a simple plan and try to achieve it.

I was among the top half of the runners throughout the race. I remembered that the first 10km of the race was pretty fast with runners doing between 5:45- to 6:15-minute pace, as if it was a marathon race. I myself completed the first 10k in 1 hour and 5 minutes in 12th position. The legs feel strong although it was really humid that I was sweating a bucket like running in the middle of the day. In the first 30km, I could still have the sight of runners in front of me and tried to follow their pace. But the front five runners, they were gone from my sight little by little. I kept on hydrating myself every one or two kilometer with a sip of my Hammer Endurolytes Fizz and plain water.  I had never been this disciplined in hydrating myself that I would have to fill up at least half of each of my two 600-ml drinking bottles at every water station / checkpoint. Besides cold water and ice, there were cold sponges provided as well. The runners were also blessed with the presence of God-sent ‘independent, mobile support stations’ by Hong Lan Tan and Renee as well as Erwan’s team who provided us with icy cold Coke, 100 Plus as well as sponges.
Enjoying a dose of icy cold Coke from the God-sent Renee and Hong Lan Tan entourage, who supported the runners throughout the race.[photo by Hong Lan Tan]
From KM10 to KM20 checkpoint, I ran slightly faster as my body has warmed up and I tried to cover as much distance as possible before daylight. Managed to reach the KM30 checkpoint (the big Kuala Penyu roundabout) at the break of dawn and when the sun started to peek out looking at us. My timing in the first thirty kilometers as recorded at the checkpoints: 1 hour and 5 minutes (KM10), 2 hours and 4 minutes (KM20), and 3 hours 15 minutes (KM30).

As the day got brighter, the sun came out a little by little, the humidity level got higher, my pace got slower and slower. Nevertheless, I could still run decently and in a long continuous stretch. I took some walk breaks but just for one or two minutes every three to four kilometers or when we had to go up on the elevation. As mentioned earlier, the route was rolling after KM35 so does my pace – faster as we go downhill and slower going uphill. The weather remained hot and humid without any sign that it will rain of get cloudy. Only in certain stretched of the road that it got cloudy for a short while (because of the clouds) before we were exposed to the sun again. I was still on track of my target, doing 50km in 6 hours. In fact, my 42.2km (marathon distance) was done under 5 hours (4 hours and 53 seconds), very much to my delight! while I completed my 50km just a minute under 6 hours.

I could not see other runners in front or at the back of me except for the first four runners (Westerlin, Ahmad Fathi, Aliakbar and Jiffrey) who were already making their ways back from Menumbok to the finish line in Kuala Penyu. I started to walk more and by this time, I knew my target of 12 hours and 30 minutes would just gone in smoke. Nevermind the target, I still had the comfort of 9 remaining hours to complete my second 50km so I told myself to go easy in order to safely finish the race but still be cautious with the cut-off time. It was an uneventful stretch until the checkpoint at KM64.5.
Signing in at KM64.5 checkpoint. [photo by Hong Lan Tan]
I was very looking forward to arrive at the checkpoint as I knew that foods awaited us and as soon as I arrived there after 8 hours and 8 minutes racing, I signed in, put down my hydration bag, and right away took a packet of the ‘expedition dried meal’ of savory beef with rice and while waiting for my meal to be ready, I munched on Pringles while preparing my hydration for the rest of the race. The dried meal that comes in many flavors and can be purchased from Racing the Planet store are those being consumed by participants of 4Desert Race participants.  They’re delicious too! especially when you can’t find other foods around. There were also coffee, tea, 100 Plus and some other foods at the checkpoint.
Please do not disturb me! I was busy and in my elements with the foods served at the checkpoint.[photo by Hong Lan Tan]
I arrived at the checkpoint in 9th place. Not long after I arrived, the three runners in front of me (Herddy, Paviter and Ewegene) were about to leave while Judy Leslie, who eventually became the only lady finisher) took her sweet time to stretch, lay down and changed into fresh clothes while I took my own sweet time to enjoy my meal. There were no other runners arrived at the checkpoint while I was there and I overheard some communication took place saying that there would be a cutoff time imposed at that checkpoint, which is 10 hours, something I don’t have to worry about. Spent a good 40 minutes before decided to make my move to complete the remaining 35km or so. I was in 8th position as I went out ahead of Judy.

Not long after I got out from the checkpoint, I came across other runners making their ways to the checkpoint. Saw one after another, they were between 500m to as much as 2km apart, and we kept encouraging each other. As I knew there would be a 10-hour cutoff to be imposed at KM64.5 checkpoint, I could already estimated runners that would make the cutoff time but I still encouraged them to keep going strong, to at least make it to the checkpoint. It was again, a long and rolling road towards KM74.5, the same road we traveled on earlier but this time on different direction and different side of the road. I arrived at KM74.5 checkpoint at 1.13am which means that I had been in the race for more than 10 hours. It also means that I took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to travel the last 10km.

Arrived at the same spot, again. It was KM40 before but now, KM74.5. The point also marked the start of the long, long, long section before the finish line.[photo by Hong Lan Tan]
At KM74.5, runners were detoured from the main road and took the winding, rolling, and never-ending village route along the beach towards the finish line in Kuala Penyu. But before we arrived at the village, it was a boring route with only palm oil estates on both sides of the road. It was really rolling, beginning with a 10-degree elevation. I made my move slowly but surely, mixing my runs with short but more frequent walk breaks as well as the common strategy of running downhill and walking uphill. Luckily, the weather was on our sides, remained cloudy after noon. At times, I doubted that I was on the right route as I might have overlooked certain junctions or turns while my mind was not concentrating on the race. But once I got into the village area, I knew I was on the right track but I still stopped to ask the villagers and the kids whether I was on the right route to Kuala Penyu.  They could only affirm that but could not tell me how long more to go. Some said, “dekaaatt saja…” (just nearby) while some said “jauuuhh bah…” (still a long way). The funny thing is that, I have my Garmin watch with the race distance recorded and should know how long more to go but I just asked them to get some level of assurance and to get rid of the boredom.

I caught up with Ewegene near the final water station at around KM84.5 and moved into 7th position, which I kept until the end of the race. Now, did you get what number 7 means to me in this race? Bib number 7 for my 7th 100km Ultra Marathon, which I eventually finished in 7th position.
Caught up with Ewegene here. Cold sponges were our runners’ best friends during the race. [photo by Hong Lan Tan]
The two mobile, independent water stations roamed ups and downs checking on us whether there could be anything that we want to have (how I wish I could ask for shredded ice with rose syrup topping!). With around 15km to go, I still have 3 hours and 20 minutes from the cutoff time of 15 hours, which is more than enough even if I were to walk all the way from there onwards to the finish line. As timing is no longer a factor for me, it was all about finishing the race, no matter what my finishing time is. I walked more often and longer but when I ran, I ran relatively faster too. Arrived at KM95 at about 13 hours and 20 minutes but the final 6km++ was really a lazy, painful section for me. It was the longest 6km+, which I could only walk as my thighs and calves were already stiff and painful. I had to walk to avoid any cramp. So, I walked. All the way until 200m from the finish line. And safely, and proudly arrived at the finish line in about 14 hours and 31 minutes (still waiting for the official timing), greeted by Aman, the Race Director, who congratulated me as personally handed out my finisher t-shirt and token.
Finally! Completed my 3rd Beaufort Ultra Marathon and my 7th 100km Ultra Marathon in 14 hours and 31 minutes.
Not long after I arrived, Kian Chong arrived in 8th position, followed by Ewegene, Judy and Khairul Anwar to round up the top 10 positions. We were informed later that only 14 participants met the KM64.5 cutoff time and allowed to continue the race hence the Race Director nicknamed us as the #brave14. The low finishing percentage of 37% proved how tough the race was.  The Race Director had even warned in the race registration page that this race was meant for experienced (and serious) runners and again warned the participants during the pre-race briefing that we have to run and go hard during the race, and we should not expect to finish the race within cutoff time just by walking the entire course. All true! And I was glad that I ran hard in the first half of the race, that allowed me to have a good and lengthy break at KM64.5 checkpoint and took it easy during the remaining 35km of the race as I had a lot of time to spare.

Gear and supplements used:
For gears, I used 2ndSkin World Domination team t-shirt in VaporLite material, Kraftfit compression long bottom, Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl, Wrightsock Coolmesh II socks, Garmin FR910XT watch, TeamSpyder shades, Ultimate Direction Krupicka hydration vest, Nathan waist pouch.

While for my supplements, besides Hammer Endurolytes Fizz which I used one tablet for every 300ml of water top-up, I also consumed 6 packs of Hammer Gel, 4 caps of Hammer Perpetuem Solid and 8 caps of Hammer Anti Fatigue Caps. For foods, I just consumed half of bun before the race and the meals provided at KM64.5.

I guess, after conquering this 100km race, the Bridge is not too far, after all. And after three times participating in this race, would I go for the 4th time? The answer is yes, I would, only if the organizer decides to continue with the race as earlier on, we were told by the Race Director that this would be the last of Beaufort Ultra Marathon.

<i>For my race details on Garmin Connect, click here for the first 660 meters and here for the rest of the race.

No comments:

Post a Comment