Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gunung Nuang 12-hour Endurence Run - My first ultra trail distance

Ummm…. Consider the options below:

Option 1
Option 2
3 MAR 2013
3 MAR 2013
Brooks Half Marathon
Gunung Nuang Endurance Run
Entry Fee (early bird)
21km (a distance that I run every weekend)
Minimum 40km, run as many complete loops within 12 hours.
Route surface & condition
Tar road, barefoot-friendly
Trail, barefoot-unfriendly.
Qualifying time
12 hrs to complete min 40km
Elevation gain
~330m (est from last year route)
2120m (almost like climbing Gunung Tahan)
Driving time to venue
3 minutes
40 minutes
Possible placing
Top 15 (Jr Veteran)?
Bukit Jalil Running Club
Ultra Running Malaysia

I could choose option 1 or option 2. Of course there was option 3: choose neither and do nothing.

I chose option 2.

Nothing against option 1, really. I just need to get out of my comfort zone and get new experience.

Trail running is really not my specialty. I have little experience on trail. But I had to take it to the next level for the experience or I would never do.

The venue was at Gunung Nuang, Pangsun, Hulu Langat. The rule of the event: run minimum 4 loops within 12 hours. Each loop is 10km of trail, 5km up and 5km down. The elevation gain was about 530m in 5km up. Total elevation in 4 loops would be 2120m, almost the height of Gunung Tahan.

What was I thinking?

After a few trips to Gunung Nuang to train, I found myself standing in front of the starting line.

Just before the race start, I met some familiar faces as well as new friends.

Some barefoot/minimalist runners. (Photos by Chuah Sakura)

I met Deborah from Penang at the starting line. She is a strong runner and would eventually go on to win this.

I decided to wear VFF and Merrell Sonic Glove for this race. Both are of minimalist in nature in order to protect my soles from the difficult terrain of gravel rocks, boulders, uneven muddy and slippery trail

The race started on time at 6:00am. Runners would wear headlight to see in pitch-dark trail. The climb was a difficult one because of the steepness and rocky terrain at many stretches.

I ran the first lap carefully. But still had some missteps into muddy puddles. Other than that, I completed my first lap in 1:14.

Starting my second lap (Photo: Vivien Tay)

The second lap was about the same timing. In this lap I accidentally kicked a rock and I felt some pain on my toe but thought there wasn’t much damage. So I just continued on.
By the third lap, my VFF was getting wet from the perspiration and the water that I poured on my head to cool down every time I got to the small stream at the U-turn at 5km mark.

Photo by Vivien Tay

The wet VFF began to cause some chaffing on my left foot. The chaffing made my running really painful. I stopped at the U-turn check point on my third lap and asked for Vaseline. Unfortunately they didn’t have it and I settled for a plaster. The volunteer told me to look for the medical support personnel at 2.2km mark. I tried to look for them but didn’t see them on that lap.

It was a really difficult lap for me and I began to slow even on downhill. But every time I met fellow runners face-on, I picked up a few extra bit of energy to carry on. I could see their determination, not matter how slow they were going. Also the photographers, some would smile; some would say hi and urged me on. Extra encouragement from Winnie when I stopped and told her it was a difficult to continue on. She told me I could do it and gave me a little hug.

Still can smile for the camera (Photo: Chuah Sakura)

At end of lap 3, I rested at the chalet rest area. Got Vaseline from Shine (a saver), and Karen offered me a bowl of porridge. After re-charging, I changed out my VFF to Merrell barefoot shoes (oxymoron) and started my fourth lap.

I completed my first 3 laps in 4:07. My target initially was only 4 laps, anything beyond that would be a bonus really. So I didn’t really push it at my 4th lap.  Unfortunately I kicked a rock accidentally for a second time. And the pain this time was worse than the first time. I feared the worst (broken toe) then. Luckily the pain would subside and I knew it wasn’t broken. But at that time, I just slowed down and didn’t want to aggravate the injury.  
I completed the fourth lap in a little bit less than 2 hours. It was enough to earn a finisher medal and T-shirt. I took a brief rest and decided to go out one more time to make it 50km.

The last lap was really no pressure and it was the most relaxed lap that I ran that day. I was getting tired and the temperature was rising with the sun shining hot. I finished my 50km in 8 hours 12 minutes. When I took off by Merrell, I saw my toe was swelling. I knew I had sprained my toe after kicking the rock twice. It was really an unusual injury for me. I hoped then it was not too serious.

I took my deserved rest at the rest area at the chalet. I ate some chocolate wafer and drank a lot of water to recover. Thanks to Cally also for a recovery drink.

The finisher medal.

After the rest, I took a shower and went home satisfied with the run. It was my first ultra-trail race, albeit only 50km compared to much recognized 100km.

Eating granola bar on the run (Photo: Vivien)

I felt that I did well on hydration and food strategy. I didn’t take any Powerbar or Powergel although I did bring them in my hydration bag. I was taking water (with electrolytes) in small sips while running. I took granola bars while climbing steep hills (walking). In the end, I didn’t feel thirsty or particularly hungry.

I gave encouragement to other runners as well. Some of them looked exhausted and just sat on the trail. I stopped and asked them if they were ok.

Overall good organisation of the run. Some good points:
1.       Good medal design.
2.       Great support from the volunteer and crew.
3.       Good venue.
4.       Challenging route.
5.       Good supply of food and water at start/finish rest area

Areas of improvement:
1.       No signs at two crucial junctions. One before W1 and one before W2. Had a chat with the runner who ran off course because of no signage. He said he wasted 30 minutes on the first lap because of turning into wrong trail. It’s a pity as I already informed the organizer about the need of a signage before the two junctions.
2.       Ran out of water at the U-turn. I think it was around 1.30pm on my fifth lap when some runners was advising the other runners that no more water at U-turn point. Then I was there, I was the volunteers rushing down to transport water up with motorcycle.
3.       Medical support. There weren’t any medical personnel along the route for the first 2 laps if I remember correctly. I thought there should be some stationed at the U-turn if not along the route.

The swollen and sprained toe and the chaffed area on my left foot.