Saturday, March 05, 2016

Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016...

Event: Gunung Nuang Ultra 2016
Venue: Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat
Date: 28 February 2016
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 12 hours looping on 10KM loop
Shoe: Saucony Nomad TR
By Frank

My third event of the year and one that I look forward to as it was my second visit to Gunung Nuang. Yes, I did not visit this place since the event last year as it was just too far and it requires time to cover the trails there. The Gunung Nuang Ultra in a 10KM looping format fits the bill for my West Highland Way Race training for it covers most trail aspect of it in a controlled environment. Besides, it will also contribute to my Comrades training too in building stronger legs for the second half downhill segment of the race.

I did 60KM last year and hence had the intention of going for 70KM this year. However, a gentle reminder from coach  a few days before the event reminding me not to go beyond 60KM prevented me from doing so. Had to hold back since I believe his advice was the best for me.

With 269 registered participants this year, I had to make my way to Gunung Nuang pretty early for fears on insufficient parking lots. I was up at 2AM only managing a couple hours of sleep in between, and eventually left home at 4.15AM after settling all my necessary. Was a smooth and easy drive there with a slight detour to a convenience store for coffee and light snack. Arrived an hour later and was surprised that cars were already parked outside. I managed to find a spot not too far from the entrance and rested in there for a while, while munching on my second breakfast. And when all is done, it's a visit to the "secret" toilet.

Hung around the food and refreshment area while preparing my gear and soon realised that I forgot to bring along my heart rate strap. I brought along the transmitter though. Nothing much I can do now hence no heart rate reading for this race. I also chose the Saucony Nomad TR this time as I wanted to give this model a shot at Gunung Nuang after running in the Peregrine last year. And next, I opt for a hydration backpack this time instead of belt. Not a very good decision as a recurrence upper back problem came haunting me a few days ago. And since no trekking poles are allowed for West Highland Way Race, I did not bring them along this time. Not the best of decisions, but I went ahead with it for the sake of preparing myself for my long race in June.

I started second row from the front this time hoping not to get stuck among the crowd of runners after learning from last year. Along side Keng Koon and Yew Khuay, 240 runners were were flagged off at 6.30AM sharp. With an open road ahead, I had the opportunity to go at my desire pace, but of course with my headlamp turned on at brightest settings as it was pitch dark. The first Kilometer was on cement paved surface which I slowly made my way up. And when the trails appeared, I was like Bailey (my dog) set loose enjoying every step and incline of it with my focus on footing, making sure I don't slip or misstep. Everything went well on my first ascent as I arrived at the turning point of 5KM successfully in about 36 minutes before making my first descent down.

Still in darkness, I had to navigate the downhill with extra care. Besides, I am now running against the runners who are making their way up and the last thing I want is to knock into them. The glare from our headlamps makes things tricky but one can just be more courteous and alerted in minimising any mishap, unlike "Mr Football coach" who tailgated me closely and dangerously from behind. He can actually just slow down a little to wait for an opportunity to pass or at least let me know if he is passing through from the left or right. I eventually told him to move forward when I felt it was too dangerous.

I arrived at the foot hill completing my first loop in 68 minutes when the sun has slowly creep out from the horizon. I quickly kept my headlamp into my baggage and grab a cup of water before resuming on my second loop.

Nomad TR for Nuang!

Was still feeling good for my second loop and I intend to make goof use of this opportunity before slowing down at my next. Making use of my preference and strength of climbing, I made my second ascent slightly faster this time as the trails were clearly lighted by the sun now. However, half way down, I spotted a fellow participant sitting on the ground with his hand clutching on his right calf. Asked if he suffered a cramp and he replied he was before I stopped to give some assistance. Helped him stretch and also perform some light massage, and after a short rest and few chats to keep his mind away from the pain, I helped him up and he was ready to go again as I continue my way down.

Blazing down.

Nothing eventful happened as I completed my second loop. Took a slightly longer break compared to my first before continuing on. And as planned, my third will be a run walk strategy as I did not want to strain those leg muscles. Besides, my swollen upper back is feeling sore already.

My time was getting slower but that's nothing to worry about. I just have to practice to overcome the fatigue and also walking skills especially in these types of trails. While my third was completed without stopping, my fourth included a few stops during my ascent. There were a few huts along the way up and I targeted them as my reward of reaching there. Took a short breather at almost each of them while taking off my backpack to ease my swollen back and was glad nothing eventful happened during the course of my fourth.

One tough climb.

A longer rest before going on my fifth. Took in more fruits and water but not the lunch pack of chicken rice before continuing with Keng Koon who was on his fourth. And almost a Kilometer up on the ascent, we both spotted Kok Peng sitting at the side with Josephine with him. Apparently both his legs were cramping. Stopped to help which initially I thought it was his calf and hence performed the wrong stretch on him until I realised it was his quads instead! I slowly ease away without informing him though fearing he may panic but eventually, he recovered and asked us to continue on. We did after seeing him in a much better state.

With Keng Koon.

I eventually sped up leaving Keng Koon behind without noticing. I stood with my target of aiming at the huts and taking a short breather there. Though there were some light breeze blowing through the trees, the weather was really hot. But with each step slowly at a time, I managed to find my way to the turning point before making my way down where I met Hong Lan with Soon Chung who were going up. I also met Josephine and Kok Peng at one of the huts and was glad that he was all right.

About 1.5KM from the foot of the hill, came Yew Khuay from behind and we both ran together (and walk) together completing our fifth loop hand in hand. Though with much time left on the clock, he decided to call it a day due to lack of training. Didn't want to pull him along as I respected his decision as I rested my longest before continuing on for my final sixth loop.

Everything went as per normal towards my ascent to the turning point with a couple of short stops in between at the huts. I started running slowly running downwards to cover as much as ground in the shortest time possible as also to make full use of this time to practice my footing. Also had a some time chatting with Kelvin and Afiq. However, the biggest drama came at 1.5KM from the foot of the hill when I notice Chor Guan laying down at the hut there. Went to see if he is all right and found out that he was cramping on both legs. He also had already lost some "senses" and couldn't control himself. I asked a few runners still running if they had electrolytes with them and managed to find 2 packs of them. Gave Chor Guan a pack while helping stretch and massage his legs, particularly his right one. Still not coming to his senses, he asked for an ambulance. With 2 casual runners with him, I continued on my way down to complete my run and also to deliver the message to Jeff.

Eventually, I arrived at the bottom and managed to complete 60KM in 10:15:04 hours, my target distance achieved. Marginally, there should be enough time to do another loop as my evil side tried to conquer me. But I stood firm to my training plan and also in respect to coach and stopped here. Went over to Jeff and told him about Chor Guan and the decision is to let him rest there for a while. The pack of electrolytes should have taken effect by now and he should be on his way down soon, which I hope.

My splits.

I hung around the area resting and catching up with the rest of the runners while taking in some light snacks and drinks to recover. Chor Guan returned shortly and I was glad that he was all right. Same goes to Kok Peng too. There was a sense of accomplishment as not only I managed to shave 45 minutes off from last year's time an completed in position 20 out of 240, but also to help 3 runners in need during the course of the race. That should the beauty of running especially in ultra distances. It's not about time but rather the camaraderie among the runners.

Mission accomplished.

Credits to Jeff for once again successfully organising the fourth edition of the Gunung Nuang Ultra. Indeed a painful race but one that I once again look forward to next year. And thanks to Wai Hong, Kelvin, Maxon, Si Main, Roy, Soon Chung, Sam Sam, Kavien, Renee and the rest of the volunteers for helping out. And to the runners I had the opportunity to meet and run together with like Hong Lan, Cikgu Syed, Yew Khuay, Afiq, Keng Koon and many more, it was a pleasure.

And lastly, not forgetting Chang too for the refreshing finisher's ice cream!

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