Monday, 17 November 2014

Garmin 920XT Introduction

Team 2ndSkin has been collaborating with Garmin Malaysia since 2013 and the synergistic relationship has seen selected product testing and reporting back to Garmin for improvement. The news of the soon to be launched Garmin 920XT has pique the interest with one of us to write about it even before the product reaches the market in Malaysia. The excitement to this is obvious. We hope we will get the chance to experience this soon.
The ever reliable Garmin 910XT will soon see a new upgraded version in the much anticipated 920XT. Many of you would know how well the 910XT works for me in my races since owning it the past 2 years. I've written extensively on the 910XT in this blog and the link is available here:

Garmin Forerunner 910xt [Full Review][Quick Release Strap][GPS Signal][Shakedown]

Since the last write up on the 910XT, i've stopped using the QR strap (it broke before my IM 2015) and I had it repaired under extended warranty for rubber housing leakage (at power button). Expected for the wear and tear as I've clocked in no less than 5000km using the 910XT for both training and races. 
The New 920XT
Pic : Garmin Website
With splash of color and an overhauled casing. One look you will realised the fully rubberised casing is now with individual press button ala Fenix and Fenix 2. The next obvious change is color display on the 920XT. It is now thinner compared to 910xt by a good 3mm. Clear reduction in overall size and weight as well - which may appeal to those with smaller wrist. With a tighter package, the display obviously shrunk as well. I rather like the huge face of the 910XT as it allows me to view all 4-metric at one glance. 

Not Just Physical
As the unit is not in Malaysia yet, and there is no clear indication if I will obtain one for testing or will be able to afford one (hey, selling my 910XT seems to be an option???), I ran through the Garmin website and check the features out. 

In the heart of the watch is the GPS function which include GLONASS of the capability to utilise the Russian satellites together with the US (GPS) satellites for a more accurate location and speed of locking. In short, the 920XT has access to 24 GPS satellites and 24 GLONASS satellites! The 

Here is my summary to help you along and decide if the 920XT is worth the upgrade from the 910XT.
Swim Features
No changes to what is already in 910XT.
Bike and Run Features
No changes to what is already in 910XT

On one look, it doesn't seems that there is a major overhaul where the basic swim, bike and run functions resides. That is a good thing as Garmin is not fixing anything that is already working superbly well.

Pic : Garmin Website
As you look at level of features deeper, the addition to the running features are the incorporation of the Garmin 620 I reviewed here that includes VO2max predictor, race predictor, accelerometer for treadmill use etc. In short, the whole "running dynamic" features.

Going one step up, the 920XT even include what the Vivofit could do like steps counting, sleep quality, daily goal settings. 

Then Garmin throw in the battery capability of Fenix/Fenix2 to have the UltraTrac and upped the battery performance of the 920XT to 40hours (Ultratrac) or up to 24hours in "training mode" (which often meant in race mode as well) and 4-months if used just as a watch on a single charge. 

And lastly, to make this "wearable", full watch functions including dual-time, alarm and calendar is included. 

For a full comparison of the 910XT and 920XT, click on the link here and get all nerdy with the features like I just did in this blog entry.

Worth it?
The functionality for multi-sports, with the capability of 620 and Vivofit, throw in the battery life of Fenix2, I can already see many 620 and 910XT being sold as second hand unit when the unit launch in Malaysia. Price wise is unknown at this point, but if the indication on Garmin website is to be consistent after tax, expect the Garmin 920XT to be about RM200 more than the top range (now) Fenix2 or 910XT.

Yes, I am excited.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Deo Osaka Marathon Race Report

Say what you want Deo, we still think you are crazy - in many good (races) way ;-) Now, shall we make this the team's race next year? Deo's Osaka Marathon Race Report.

Crossing the finish line for my 28th full marathon.

My 2ndSkin team mates think I am crazy for racing on back-to-back weekends and I think so, too! but I know there are crazier people out there who have been doing two (sometimes three) races on a same weekend. I just can't help not to do this as there are so many good races in the final quarter of this year! And Osaka Marathon was my third race in three consecutive weekends after KL Marathon and Climbathon Adventure Race. Anyway, Osaka Marathon was something that I have been really looking forward to since early this year. As there will be Awal Muharram and Deepavali holidays, I just need to take three days of my annual leave to spend my time away in Japan for a good one week and to run is Osaka Marathon, the world's 7th largest marathon. It was also my first ever trip to Japan, not counting my transit in Haneda Airport en route to USA to further my study back in 1996. 

While I was the one who mooted the idea for the trip early this year, the other two friends - Azhar and Sabri were the masterminds behind the planning of the itinerary. Actually, we bought the flight ticket during the Air Asia promotion period (I got the return flight ticket for RM896 inclusive of 20kg luggage allowance) even before the ballot for Osaka Marathon opened. We thought if we don't get the ballot, we'll just fly there for vacation. Luckily when the ballot result was announced, all three of us got in and the anticipation for the trip started. Hotel booking was made and we chose Mikado Hotel, for its rate, location and convenience (close to rail network, grocery store). It is a hostel concept with shared shower (very clean and spacious) and sauna, air-conditioned room, common dining area and kitchen with complete facilities and utilities (and free tea/coffee, sugar, salt, oil for cooking), daily change of towel and bath robe, very fast internet/wifi connection that I uploaded my daily trip photos to facebook in a blink of my eyes, friendly staff, private tv in the room. The three-bed room was very good enough for us as we can have the room all to ourselves.

As it was my first time in Japan (as well as Sabri's first time, too) we made full use of the trip by maximizing our time there visiting interesting places in Osaka and nearby cities. Although the rail network was confusing for visitors as there are so many lines with many operators and connecting trains (a lot more complicated than in Singapore and Berlin), we still managed to visit Kobe, Kyoto and Nara, apart from Universal Studios in Osaka itself and other interesting places within Osaka. Among places that we visited:
Kobe: Mt. RokkoTetsujin Statue and Port of Kobe
Kyoto: Arashiyama Bamboo GroveFushimi Inari TaishaKiyozumi-dera and Gion (home to many Geisha houses);
Nara: Nara ParkKasuga Taisha ShrineWakasukayamaTodaiji temple and Kofuku-ji temple.
Among those places we visited:
Top row (from left to right) - Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto; Tetsujin Statue, Kobe; Kofuku-ji Temple, Nara.
Middle row - Kiyozumi-dera, Kyoto; Mt. Rokko (932m), Kobe; Todai-ji Temple, Nara;
Bottom row - Todai-ji Temple, Nara; on top of Wakasukayama (342m), Nara; Glico Marathon Man in Dotonbori, Osaka; Universal Studios Japan, Osaka

Those were on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively. Saturday was about doing a short morning run around the neighborhood before we spent like half a day at the race pack collection and expo site. Sunday was the day, the day we ran Osaka Marathon. Monday was when we spent all day long doing recovery walking and standing (in queues) at the fantastic Universal Studios Japan. And on Tuesday, we visited Kuromon Ichiba Market, the fresh market where you can have great foods like fresh sushi, sashimi and other Japanese delicacies. We also visited some interesting places in Osaka like the happening Dotonbori, as well as had the best tokayaki, inari and moji! I can say that Osaka is a nice big city to spend a laidback time. It is not too crowded, developed but not too modern, communication with the locals can be tricky but you can still get messages across, and best of all... Osaka is dubbed by the locals as 'Kuidaore' - which literally means "to eat oneself bankrupt" as it is a place well known for foods where people eat non-stop! And not surprisingly, there was even a large hall at the end of the Race Expo just for food vendors and it becomes like a very large food court.

The Marathon

Osaka Marathon is just 4 years old. Yet, they have established themselves to be the 7th largest marathon in the world with a total of 27,674 participants. It falls just behind New York City, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, London, Tokyo while ahead of Marine Corps in Virgina, Honolulu Hawaii, and Walt Disney World in Florida. I was told that the organizer of Osaka Marathon was the same as Tokyo's and it's not surprised that it was so well organized (with detailed planning and execution) comparable to other Marathon Majors. I am not surprised, too, from what I experienced (with the organization, the volunteers and support, the spectators) Osaka would be promoted as the 7th race in the Marathon Majors series. To facilitate the race, there were 10,000 volunteers taking up various roles involved. Malaysia was represented by 51 runners (which I only met less than 10 of them) and became the eighth largest contingent other than the host country. Besides just chasing the numbers of participants (and the world ranking), Osaka Marathon has positioned itself as a 'charity marathon'. With the theme of 'making a rainbow together', each runner registered for the marathon is compulsory to contribute to a minimum two charity themes (out of seven) with minimum donation of ¥500 for each theme. For me, I have chosen "To help conserve clean water" and "To help conserve a natural environment" for my contributions. 
Our photos during the race pack collection and marathon expo where we spent almost four hours there.

The race expo was held at INTEX, Osaka, a very large expo site. The were four sections of the race pack collection and expo. The first one is where you collect your race pack that includes race number, a nice timing chip worth keeping as souvenir, Mizuno event t-shirt, and your charity t-shirt. There were also a big nicely designed plastic bag to be used as bag drop on the day of the marathon. Then, you proceed to the 2nd section which was the expo that exhibited the sponsors. There were booths from the likes of Seiko, Mizuno selling its gears and merchandise as well as the official Osaka Marathon merchandise, and others. They have many designs of Osaka Marathon t-shirts on sale but by Saturday, the small sizes were all gone :( there were also many photograph booths set-up around the expo hall to commemorate your participation in the marathon. As I thought that was the end of the expo (and a little disappointed as it was not as big as in Berlin), I got shocked when we arrived at the 3rd section - the expo hall for non-sponsors. You can get a lot more of merchandise, gears, sports drinks and nutrition, equipment, and so many other things. I ended buying some compression socks and some t-shirts. And the final section of the expo was like what I said earlier, the food expo and the food court! 

It was almost dark when we settled everything at the expo. We had to slowly march to the train station as there were lots of people making their way home from the expo at the same time. After dinner and preparing the essentials including those to put in the drop bag for the marathon, we settled down early that night to wake up early the next morning. Although the race will only start at 9am, we wanted to head out earlier as we were not sure what to expect when we have to deal with 27,000 people (excluding the spectators) going into one direction - the Osaka Castle Park, the start venue of the marathon. After breakfast at the Hotel, we headed to Osaka Castle Park by train. It was two trains away from our place and we arrived at the park quite early. I was prepared for the cold weather - with my gloves, my cap and buff to cover the ears but it was not as cold as what I experienced in Berlin. I was informed that the temperature on the marathon day hovered between 20- to 25-degree Celcius with the sun right up in the sky. The weather was in contrast to what I experienced since arriving in Osaka. And strangely, it got colder again on Monday after the marathon. So, I abandoned my gloves and buff in the drop bag and just ran the way I ran KL Marathon, except that I had my cap on to shield my head from the sun and I had my Spyder sunglass on all the way throughout the 42km+, something that I have never done before. It was still fortunate that the humidity was low that I started to sweat only after 5km or so into the marathon.
Depositing my luggage at the designated truck. The organizer only allowed luggage placed in the big plastic bag provided to each participant during the race pack collection (this is a common practice in big city marathons.

The bag drop was planned in a very systematic and careful manner as we deposited our bags to the pre-assigned (according to our bib number) trucks which would later transport our bags to the finish location. As we arrived at the bag collection venue after the race, our bags have been properly arranged according to our race numbers and the volunteers took a split second (yes, I am exaggerating but the process was really fast, really!) to locate our bags. 
Japanese runners came in many shapes (of fancy dress) and here we have Power Rangers, one of the famous characters during the marathon. People kept stopping them to take picture with them.

The race started quite a walk away from the bag drop location but it was a tireless walk as you see lots of people with lots of antics and we were entertained by the fancy costumes they were wearing. The start pen was organized to blocks according to the timing you submitted during the registration. I was in Block C but by the time I got to the start pen, I was already almost at the end of the block C with the front runners in Block D was just about 10 meters behind me. And the organizer was very strict with the timing, as those arrived at the start pen less than 15 minutes from the start of the race, they were held at the side (which I believe they had to start after everyone else did, not sure...). Although I was in Block C, I could only see a glimpse of the start gantry, and I took about four minutes to cross the start line after the race was flagged off. After some ceremonial speeches (in Japanese) followed by applause from the runners, the race was flagged off at 9am. Due to the large crowds, it was a slow walk towards the start line before I could finally run in small steps as soon as I crossed the start line. 
The race route took us through the city of Osaka (this is what I called a city marathon! not running on highways with nothing to see like in KL Marathon), running along the famous and normally busy area like Namba and Midosuji Blvd (the shopping strip similar to Bukit Bintang) and passing landmarks like Tsutenkaku Tower, Osaka City Hall, Kyocera Dome and Cosmosquare, to name a few. They closed all the roads involved in the marathon from the traffic but strictly enforced the cut-off timing for runners to arrive at certain checkpoints, in order to open back those roads to the public and vehicles. And along the way, there was no silent moment (at all, I swear!) as the spectators came in full force, lining up along the street, all 42.195km and more! They never stopped cheering and giving encouragement to the runners although all I could understand were "Gambate!" (or was it "Gamba-re!"?) and "fighto!" as in fighting! Not just the spectators were cheering, they came in costumes too like those many runners; there were also entertainment along the route with full band, single-, two-, three-piece musicians, cheerleader groups with their stunts and tumbling, and all sorts of entertainment that could make you forget that you were running (or struggling) in a marathon. The cheers and support got more electrified as the runners entered the last 10km of the race. But I had to be cautious because when I got too distracted from my run (by watching those spectators at the sideline), I lost a little bit of focus on my run and my pace dropped *sigh*. Anyway, the sight and amount of support that I (and many other runners) witnessed was a view to behold and a talk for a long time for the runners, I believe. 
With the backdrop of Osaka City Central Public Hall, Japanese spectators came in full force cheering for the runners all along the 42.195km course.

In addition to the supporters, the water station were awesome. Located about 2.5km apart, each station was at least 30m long, enough for a walk break from end-to-end of the station. They served cold and iced isotonic and water at every station (some have bananas) except for the one at KM32.5 when they served not just drinks but candies, carrots, cucumbers, pineapple cocktail, and all the Japanese delicacies that include sushi, inari, moji, takoyaki, etc etc... Did I eat them? NO! as I was in a state of shock looking at what were being served and I was spoilt with choices. As I was also chasing for my time, all I had was the sweet pineapple cocktail served in cup. I have to also give my hats off to the volunteers manning the water station. They were not just busy serving those drinks but they also never stopped giving us encouragement by cheering and clapping for the runners. The official photographers were also aplenty, littered all over the place, sometimes on the left side and sometimes on the right side of the road. I missed a lot of them (I think) but still ended up having a lot of photos taken (worth the price I pay!)

How did my marathon go?

It was a mix - some things did not go as planned but some things were better than what I expected. First of all, I did not get a PB timing of 3hr 40mins or better, due to so many reasons like the course being over distance (of 42.8km), it was crowded in the first 10km, it was a relatively hot weather for an 'ideal' marathon weather, and on top of all, I am not good enough to run sub 3:40 hours yet. Things that went well - obviously the experience, a more consistent pace than in KL Marathon previously, no cramps at all! and best of all the recovery was quick and a lot less sore to the muscles unlike in KL. 
It was really crowded at the start. If you look at the guy in blue at the bottom left of this photo (C13872), I was there partially hidden on his right...

It was still crowded after sometimes but eased up after KM10

After the start of the race, I could not run as fast as I wanted due to the crowd. But that kept my pace checked and I wasn't trapped into running too fast too early into the race (and bonked later). Most of the times I had to zig-zag to get myself ahead of other runners. I had the urgency to pee even before the flag off (although I peed thrice just before going into the start pen). However, peeing on the roadside or in the bushes at the roadside was not as simple in Osaka. The organizer set-up a barricade along the route (maybe to ensure the spectators did not get into runners' path) and there were volunteers manning the route who ensured runners did not go off the route. But they set-up portable toilets within reasonable distance. The only problem was that, you had to detour for some 20 to 50 meters to get to the toilet and in the beginning of the race, there were queues to use the toilet. But I managed to get to a portable toilet at around KM9 with no queue but lost a little time there. One less thing to worry, it was now about maintaining the pace. I covered the first 10km in 52 minutes - not good but acceptable due to the crowded runners. The runners were spaced out after 10km as we exited Midosuji Blvd where the route got a little hilly (just a little). 

It was also along the Midosuji Blvd that we could see the front runners making their ways towards the half marathon distance. Unfortunately, I did not know any of the front runners. It got livelier here as we approached the u-turn in Kitamachi as we can see other runners (in front or behind us) on the opposite direction. I tried to look for any other Malaysian but could not spot any as they were too many people to see. My pace in the next 10km was great, doing mostly under 5:00-minute each kilometer. Maybe the sight of other runners had kept me going strongly. I arrived at KM20 in 1hr 43mins and completed my half marathon in 1hr 48mins. 
Even when you're struggling in your race, don't forget to strike a pose when you see a photographer lol!
But when the going gets really tough, I couldn't even bothered by the photographer's presence.

From there onwards, I could not maintain sub 5:00-minute pace, the route started to get a little rolling and I had my first walk break at the water stations. I walked from one end of the water station to another end before start running again. I drank more this time as it got hotter by that time. Although I had so much urgency to walk more, I make it a point to just walk at the water stations, which I did. There were no signs of cramps coming, which is good, and 30km was done in 2hr 42mins. By the time, I knew sub 4-hr is attainable but a PB dream has all ended. I just continued to run to finish in the best time I could, whatever it is. From KM30 to KM40, I saw many runners have slowed down, some were seen stretching due to cramps and many walked. This was unlike in Berlin when the runners there were still running strongly until the end. Some people told me later that this maybe due to the hotter weather this year. I wonder how would they be if they run in KL? Looking at them struggling, I was worried that I would face the same fate. So, my strategy was to not overdo myself unnecessarily and just cruise at 6:00-minute pace. I think I did great maintaining the pace below 6:00-minute at this point of the race if I want to compare it to my pace in KL Marathon where it gone haywire, going as slow as 7:20-minute pace. 40km was done in 3hr 35mins, which means I have about 15 minutes to cover the final 2km+ to finish the race under 3hr 50mins.
With just some of the many, many great volunteers who made the runners feel like kings and queens throughout the marathon. Thanks Osaka!

The spectators in the final stretch was the reason that kept me going in the final 2.8km and their cheers got louder as I inched closer to the finish line. It was a relief to see the finish gantry with some 100m to go and I ensure that I soaked in all the atmosphere along the final stretch and raised my arms wide as I crossed the finish line, completing not my best marathon but the best marathon experience I ever had. I had no regret at all for not able to achieve a PB timing especially as I walked towards the runners' amenity hall, I was greeted and congratulated by the volunteers who toed in line to welcome back the runners. It really made all runners feel appreciated and treated like a winner (at least I felt that way), regardless of our timings. 3 hours 47 minutes and 46 seconds was the timing for my 28th full marathon race and all I could say is Thanks Osaka! for this great marathon and the great experience. I wish them the best and really hoping that Osaka Marathon will be the next Marathon Major.

My 10km splits: 51:59; 50:57 (1:42:56); 55:28 (2:38:24) and 56:58 (3:35:22); before finishing off the last 2.8km in 12:24. 

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Kinabalu Climbathon Adventure Race Report - Deo AH

Our resident crazy ultra runner came back from Kinabalu Climbathon and sent us this report. He share about being realistic with his aim of just doing the Adventure section, and not the Summit race. For us here reading it, we can't help but be envy with the beautiful scenery of Mount Kinabalu. Oh, by the way, Deo then went on (the following week) to Osaka for a Marathon. That is story for another day. Enjoy Kinabalu Climbathon Race Report today!

Kinabalu Climbathon Adventure Race Report - Deo AH
Before this, I never given much attention to Climbathon due to couple of reasons. Firstly, I think I am not good enough to complete the 33km Summit Race, which you need to go up from Kinabalu Park (1,500m+) to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu (4,095.2 m) within the cut-off time of 2 hours and 45 minutes before going through the Mesilau Trail and all the way to the finish line in Kundasang town within the overall cut-off time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. Secondly, there is the Adventure Race category for people like me. It is a 23km race that only goes up to Layang-Layang Hut (2760m) before finishing off in Kundasang town. Obviously this category looks more doable with 6-hour cut off time, but i had to think many times to decide to travel to Sabah just for a 23km trail run. But, with the rumor flying around saying that this year would be the last year for Climbathon races and after getting Saiful the Catman to commit to participate in this race, I didn't hesitate to register and make necessary arrangements.

Flying to Kota Kinabalu is now seems easier that driving on a busy highway to my home town up north in Ipoh and this trip marked the third time I set foot on the "Land Below the Wind" this year after Borneo Marathon in May and Beaufort 100 in August. As soon as Saiful and I arrived at the airport, we made our ways to Kota Kinabalu downtown via the cheaper option of airport shuttle bus. While waiting for the free shuttle bus to take us to Kinabalu Park provided by the organizer, Sabah Tourism Board, we hang around downtown area to have our lunch and buying essential rations for our 2-night stay up in Ranau. Race pack and number collection followed our arrival at the Kinabalu Park before we attended the race briefing and finally, we were able to check-in at the nearby Kinabalu Mountain Lodge - our home for the next two nights. It was a nice and clean hostel-like accommodation with shared bathrooms, toilets, and common area and located within walking (or running) distance from the Kinabalu Park entrance where the start line is located. The only setback about the place is that it does not provide wifi connection (well, I have to learn to 'nature networking' than relying on 'social networking') and Maxis connection in the area sucks!

On Saturday morning, we woke up early and headed to Kinabalu Park for the start of the Summit Race. It was such a sight seeing many elite runners at the start line, although we didn't have persona such as Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, who ran here in 2012 race. However, there were still the likes of Japan's Dai Matsumoto who were the runner-up in 2013 but emerged champion this year, local heroes - last year's champion Daved Simpat who came in 2nd this year and Safrey Sumping, 4th place finisher while in the women category, there were Everest Marathon champion - Nepalese Ann Chhutin Sherpa, 2013 Women Veteran and the recent Penang 100 winner Deborah Chinn, and not forgetting the Vibram HK100 winner Claire Price from Hong Kong. A total of around 70 participants took part in the race and I can say half of them were local runners.
With Claire Price before the start of the Summit Race

After a short run around Kinabalu Park and transversing Kiau View Trail to acclimatize with the altitude and weather for tomorrow's race, Saiful and I headed to Kundasang town to enjoy life there - having breakfast while touring the morning market as well as the Pesta Kubis (Cabbage Festival) that was also happening on that weekend. Around noon, we waited for the first runner to come back to the finish line and soon followed by the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers. As it was getting late for us to wait any longer as we had to attend pre-race party organized by the TMBT Race Director, we had to leave Kundasang before we could see the rest of the runners coming home. By that time, we heard of news that many runners had to DNF the race as they couldn't reach the summit within the cut-off time. 
Saiful and I went trail-ing after the start of Summit Race to try to get ourselves acclimatized with the weather and elevation.
With the Summit Race winner, Dai Matsumoto from Japan. He finished in 4 hours and 11 minutes ahead of local-favorite and defending champion, Daved Simpat who came in eight minutes behind Dai.

After the party (and thank goodness I really had a good time carboloading!) we headed back to our 'home' for an early lights off as we need to rise early for the Adventure Race the next morning. It wasn't easy to get a good sleep as I was worried with the race, with what to expect from it, with the altitude, the elevation, and the cut-off time. One side of my head saying that it would be difficult to finish within 6 hours as I would have to deal with elevation as well as the high number of participants that will crowded up the trails (so I had to break away from the majority of the runners during the 4.5km uphill run on tarmac from the start line to Timpohon Gate) and I have not ran on trail since April except for one trip to Mt Nuang in August. On the other side of the head, I was confident to finish it well. The side of the head was even challenging myself to complete it under 4 hours. Reason being - I had done the route before during the Sabah Adventure Challenge in 2013 but it was done on reverse direction of Mesilau Trail where we started in Mesilau Nature Resort to Layang-Layang and went down to Timpohon Gate. So, I could not use that race to plan my race. At the end, I told myself to just be at the start line, soak up the atmosphere, run when I can run and walk when I cannot run and enjoy the race. After all, I would not be challenging for podium so why worry?

Woke up early on Sunday morning. Started the day with breakfast at the Lodge. Headed to Kinabalu Park with Arfian and friend who checked in at the Lodge late last night and Saiful. By the time we arrived at the start line, there were more familiar faces. Some did the Summit Race yesterday. So, naturally it was a friendly and warm atmosphere when you have familiar faces around you and that helped to get rid of the nervousness. It was a cold morning but bearable and I could take off my wind jacket way before the start of the race. As there will be adequate water stations along the route, I went on lightweight for the race but still have my Ultimate Direction hydration jacket on for me to keep my jacket, a bun (in case I got hungry during the race), my Hammer Nutrition supplements, as well as to carry my water bottles (as I do not prefer to stop at water stations). 
With Saiful and two Sabah-own strong runners, Erwan and Joe, who had become my friends after I've done many races in Sabah.

The race started at 7am and all the 600+ runners sped off like there is no tomorrow. I started maybe in the first quarter of the flock and with the thought to reach Timpohon Gate ahead of the majority runners, I ran from the start. But it did not take too long for me to start to walk as the elevation increases. Although it was not as nasty as Penang Hill, it was still tough to run at a decent speed as you went from 1500m+ to 1850m+ over the 4km stretch. It was all tarmac right up to Timpohon Gate. Reached there in 37 minutes. And then it was the start of trail section from Timpohon Gate towards Layang-Layang Hut at 2760m. This section will be about 4km long. Although it was a short section but the elevation is nearly 1000m and that really made my heart pumping like there is no tomorrow hahah... Although I have my Garmin FR910XT watch with me which accurately track the distance, I still could not stop wondering when will I reach Layang-Layang Hut? It felt like I was taking forever to cover the endless climb. The trail was a clear, with many 'stairs'-type of path that helped me with my footings. But I still had to put my focus on the trail so that I won't slip or miss my steps. It was also not jammed up with participants since (I think) I managed to get ahead of and arrived at Timpohon Gate in front of the majority runners. So it was about me chasing the cut-off time (or the crazy 4-hour target). Another thing to note, although we got higher on the elevation, it didn't feel as cold as at the start line since the sun was up in the sky and lighted up the open trail. So, it was just a nice weather and perfect body temperature for a run.
The uphill section to Layang-Layang Hut.

I arrived at Layang-Layang Hut feeling really blessed and relieved, knowing (or thought) that it would be mostly downhill from there towards the Mesilau Gate. It took me 70 minutes to cover that 4km stretch from Timpohon Gate to Layang-Layang Hut. Took a short break at the water station there and refilled my water bottle. It was a very much needed break as I did not stop at all up to this point. It had been hard work all the way. I did not stop or pause to catch my breath. I was taking my rest through slower hike up but kept myself moving. At times I wonder if I pushed too hard and would I be able to sustain my energy to last the remaining of the race. But I kept moving, talking myself not to stop as it will costs me lots of time and it will be hard to restart the momentum I already had. 

Layang-Layang Hut to Mesilau Gate. It was a 5.5km strecth and with a more, a lot more, technical and difficult trail section. The trail was a combination of man-made stairs and naturally rooted stairs and they were steep! As the man-made ones could be slippery when wen, the natural ones could cause you to tumble down the trail if you were not careful with and missed your steps. Focus is a priority here. And you can't move in small steps as one step of the stairs was too long or two steep for two of your footsteps. Taking two footsteps for one stair would slow you down. And at most times, you need to kind of hop down the stairs. I had to be careful with loose rocks too. Stepping inappropriately on them would not be a good thing. So, it was focus and foresighting on where would your foot lands next? It was not all downhill along Mesilau trail. There were nasty uphills too. Those were when I took my break, tackling the uphills a little slower than I went downhill. Thankfully the trail was dry despite the heavy rain the day before and that helped me a lot especially going downhill. 
On the way to Mesilau Gate. Look at the loose rocks. A simple missed step would make you tumbled down the downhill.
[official photo by Sabah Tourism Board]
And the man-made and natural stairs...
[photo by Mino Ersyah Arshad]

Finally, after spending 1 hour and 25 minutes in Mesilau trail, I reached at Mesilau gate to start the final section of the race - the 10km run on a tarmac along undulating stretch from Mesilau Gate to Kundasang town. As one thought this would be easier section compared to the other two trail sections earlier, he/she must be thinking wrongly. After laborously overcoming the hurdles during the trail section, it was hard to keep the already-jelly legs to run at a decent pace on tarmac. And the undulating stretch means there was hardly flat section, just either steep downhill or steep uphill. And to make it worse, the sun was high up in the sky, and I could really feel the heat as if my hair was burning. At each water stations, I poured water on my head and refilled my water bottles when necessary. Even my water bottles were emptied in no time as I drank more than I did before in the race. There was only one motivation for me that time - to finish the race under 6 hours and I knew I would be able to do it with lots of time to spare. Finally, I reached at the last climb of the race. It was a 1km section and about 100m uphill to the finish line.

With about 100m from the finish line, I caught up with three runner friends from Sabah, Erwan whom I have been running with since my SAC debut in 2012, and newly-made friends Johnny and Donny. Four of us crossed the finish line together which another friend commented as "like seeing a row of horses running..." I finished the race, safely under the cut-off time but missed the 4-hour ambitious target. But I'll take the 4 hours and 16 minutes finish time very happily as I had completed it safely, ahead of 75% of other runners and achieved it without much and proper trail training. 
Four horses?
[photo by Nicole Chin]

It was a great and unique experience taking part in the race. The organization was perfect with a lot of things being considered to assist the runners especially on the logistics arrangement. And thankfully this won't be the last year that this race is going to be held. It will continue to be held on 17th and 18th October 2015 but will be organized by a different organizer. My wish for the new organizer is to better or at least keep the standard of the organization and if possible, to attract 'big' names to run in the race. Would I be back next year? Not sure but if I would, it will be for the Adventure Race as the Summit Race (with the current cut-off time) would be too difficult for me.

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.
For full results, click here.