First race after a long break of fasting month and aidilfitri, so it was a great opportunity to reheat the engine, burning some fats buildup from the delicacies during the eid. But it was just a week into Syawal and realizing that the insufficient mileage building up to this race, I knew it was going to be tough. And add to the fact that it was a trail race, which is always hard whatever the distance is, it was going to be torturous. I've recce-ed the part of the route before and I knew it surely would max out the heart rate as some of the elevation could be torturous, especially when carrying fats with me.
Race day arrived, I was at the race site early, to secure for parking spot. Early in the morning with 45 minutes before the original start time at 7am, I had to pay a visit to the restroom for my morning routine before the emcee announced that the start time would be delayed to 7.30am. It gave me some time to doze off in the car until about 15 minutes prior to start that I finally made my way to the race site. This race is quite popular each year it was held so it was no surprise that it was quite crowded at the start line. As it was the first weekend after the Eid weekend, the pre-race atmosphere was pretty much about wishing each other with Eid greetings as well as well wishes for the race.
I stayed at the side of the race gantry and as the race was without the use of timing chip, I knew that I don't have to squeeze myself inside the crowd and get under the gantry for the start. When the race was flagged off, I jumped into the crowd and found out that I was already among the front 30 or so runners. When the route was supposed to go to the car park right at the end heading to the trail head, the front bunch of runners took the right turn into the car park, followed by other runners behind including myself. They were not to be blamed as there was a huge right turn arrow signage but it was for the parking and I think the front runners mistakenly though it was the route signage.
As I had recce-ed the place before, I knew they made a wrong turn. So, I stopped for a while at the junction and was hoping any of the marshal or volunteer would yell to us indicating it was a wrong route but there was none. I also thought maybe they've changed the route as there was another entrance to the trail head where the runners were mistakenly heading to, and that the recce-ed that I went to was long before the fasting month. While I was still thinking, more runners headed to the wrong route. And if I were to run to the right route, it would be awkward that I would be the lone runner running in a different direction, and I would be leading the race! Hahaha... So I stood there until came BotakBotak who yelled at me, "Sini lah... drama apa lagi kau tu?" and right after that I was also running on the wrong route. Until we reached another area of car park that was on the elevated land, I saw runners running around the cars parked there, which to me is so illogical that it was a right race route.
[photo by Running Malaysia Magazine]
So, I stopped again and was walking slowly against the direction, against other runners who were dashing towards the 'wrong' trail head. I was still reluctant to head to the right route although my inner self told me so. I was still hoping that there is anyone of the volunteers to tell us that we were on the wrong route. It did not happen. And I continued to run towards the 'wrong' trail head again but a lot of runners have passed me. As I reached the 'wrong' trail head, finally I heard someone yelled "Wrong route!" and without thinking much (unlike others who were confused), I turned around and dashed towards the right trail head near the far end car park. By then, I had to do some zigzagging among the runners. I wondered how far had the front runners gone into the wrong route and how fast would they catch up with the rest. Luckily I was just about 500m into the wrong route but it costs me some time, though.
That was the drama right at the beginning of the race. The rest was business as usual, for me. As soon as we entered the trail head, we headed into some climbing that caused me huffing and puffing. With uphills, there will always be downhills. So, I tried to run up as much as I could and must-run on flats and downhills. It was easy to do in the first 5km. The front runners who went on the wrong route started to overtake me around KM3, just before we entered the dense, single-track trail part that goes ups and downs over a short distance of less than 2km. The trail was a little slippery with wet leaves and grass from the rain last night. Again I was lucky as I headed into this section relatively at the front and wasn't held up by slower runners in front. It was me against time (and heart rate, too!). Easily and safely got out from the section and into the rover track again and it was back to the routine. Walk when it was too steep to run, try to run as much on flats and run downhills.
I finished the 18.84km race (including going on the wrong route) in 2hr and 49seconds and was surprised to be given the 13th placing card for Men's Open category. I would have ran faster (yeah right!) if I knew my placing while in the race, since the prizes were just up to 10th placing. The race used bring-your-own-bottle concept, which I think is good to keep the route clean from paper cups and other litters and the amount of water stations along the route, I think about four, was adequate for the distance. The one complaint that I heard the most was the unavailability of isotonic drinks along the route as well as at the finish line. Although I think it was a small matter (drinking sugared water like 100Plus is not good for you ok!), given the big names of the sponsors, and a lot of them, for the race and the fees paid, I seriously think the organizer should be more considerate to cater runners' expectations. There was only banana and gardenia bun given out at the finish line, when in the previous editions of this race, if I'm not mistaken there were tofu-fah, watermelon, packed nasi lemak served. Which again, quite a small matter to me but runners these days expect value for the money they spent on the fees. Thankfully, the medal is nice.
For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.