Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stories from the past... 2007 Kinabalu Climbathon

My old personal blog entry of Kinabalu Climbathon 2007. The 2009 edition just passed us by, and somehow, reading entries from it reminded me of this unforgettable race. I remembered it as the second race I in my life.. as well as the most important event that has ever happened to me.... (those who know me better knows why)... Haven't had the chance to join it again since.. but hmm.. who knows.. hehe..

Here goes..


It’s over, really really over…..I actually summitted. Yep, all the way up the mountain. The race was amazing, I really enjoyed it. It was fun, torturous, refreshing from all the other runs I’ve done before. In short, I plan to do it again next year.

Training…(lest I forget) was 3 and a ½ months of pure torture.. 1-2hrs of strength and cardio training (stairmasters and Personal Training) and 10-20km runs in the evening. Will need to do more trails next year and maybe do a preview run up before the real race itself in August. May join up with the NTUC team next year for their training, but they usually start 6mths before hand. Lazy….

24th August 2007
Flew in from JB Senai airport to KKIA. Flight took 2hrs 30mins and was uneventful. Was sleeping all the way and arrived refreshed. At KKIA, Bobby from Exotic-adventures picked me up in a shuttle van. Nice local guy. We picked Francis ( an event organizer) from his hotel and proceeded on to Kinabalu Park itself. It seems that most of the other contestants were already there at the Park. On the way, we stopped at Tamparuli for their famous Tamparuli noodles which was amazing. Francis kindly paid for the meal…hehe

Arrived at Liwagu resort at Kinabalu Park and proceeded on to register for the race – RM60. Yay!!! Got the race pack which contained:
1. Official Buff SkyRunner headgear
2. Race booklet
3. T-shirt (which I’m wearing now)
4. Other Sabah tourism booklets
5. BIB no. 219 and hairpins
Ok..off to the hotel to chk-in

The Hotel Perkasa was about 10 mins from the Park by van. Bobby shuttled me there. It was on a hill on the mountain. The room was nice, simple, with a good view of the mountains and the peaks. Unfortunately, it was misty when I arrived. Can’t get a good shot today. Rested a while before heading down to the shuttle that brought me to the Kinabalu Park Hall for briefing. Ate some of the chocolate bars and half a can of Pringles during the rest….yummy…. CARBO LOADING TIME!!! The part of the race I really enjoyed…
Hotel Perkasa’s room…nice double bed..haven’t slept in one in ages

Mist surrounding the mountain top…

The briefing started at 6pm. Given by Mr Bhalwant Singh – Race Director – started with a video made for the Climbathon. It showed the women’s winner – Anna Pitchorva – amazing how she runs – gg up and down the mountain. The top 3 runners (heed the word runners, not walkers) were really competitive. To them, timing is everything. This was followed by race rules and Q&A. That’s it, on to the hotels for a good night’s rest.

25th August 2007
Race day
Had a wake up call at 4am in the morning but already had a bad night’s rest. The kids in the room next to mine were shouting till 12am. Put my running clothes on – orange tee with the sleeveless blue dri-fit on top. I looked ridiculous.. Wore an extra T to keep me warm before the race. Haha..better. Had the black shorts and the buff head scarf on.

Bib number in place, shoes tightened and locked. Time to head out.

Breakfast was light and simple at the hotel’s cafeteria, usual bfast, toast, eggs, fried noodles. Skipped the cereal this time round. Saw some other runners there as well before the race. All eating up. The shuttle picked us up at 5am.

Arrived at Liwagu resort around 5.30am as we picked some other runners on the way. Some of them I met the night before on the way back to the hotels. A group of elderly ppl were there too. Seems that they are regulars for the race. They were surprised to hear that I had come alone and fished out as much advise as they can to me about the race. Most important advice: TRY TO REACH THE SUMMIT. It seems that the organizers will turn racers away if they can’t reach certain chkpoints in time, thereby hampering the already tortured spirits from summititng. The cut off for the summit today will be 3hrs30mins, so to reach the summit, must try to arrive at Laban Rata at least in 2 to 2 and a half hrs.

Arriving at Liwagu resort, I decided to at least reach Laban Rata, which is at KM 6. Sayat-sayat hut was at KM6.5 and the summit (Low’s Peak) at KM8.72. Cold, dark but the whole place was filled with eager runners, ready to start the race.The wind was howling as though to give us an early warning of how bad the race will be. Starting point was about 4km in from Liwagu resort. So another shuttle brought us there.

The sun was not out yet at 6.00am when we reached the starting point. Again, strong winds, but otherwise the sky was clear- good, hopefully no rain in the morning. Only had my running clothes on and was shivering cold. Darn, forgot a jacket. Checked in my extra tshirt and bag at the luggage counter. 30 minutes before starting, bib numbers started to be called out to register in the racers. There were a few DNS’s, it seems.

The starting point buzzing with anxious people..

Soon the sun came out and the sky brightened up. The trail became more obvious. Still cold, I went for a short jog into the starting area to warm myself up . Worked up a bit of a sweat that evaporated almost immediately. Man, the wind blows again….. Feeling cold again. My heart races faster as the clock ticks down.
Bhalwat Singh gave a short speech…who cares!!…boring…. 3…..2……1......
The starting flag came down…. OFF WE GO!!!

Initial part of the trek started with a tarped road towards the timpohon gate. Only managed to run slowly up to 2/3 of the way to the first checkpoint at 0.5km. The top runners just sped on, running without looking back. Racers around me also started to walk, evidence of how being at a high altitude really kills the energy to run. Started to walk then and there itself.

The trek was, luckily not too wet. Started out mainly steps cut into the trail with some stairs interlaced in between. The steps are high, and the stairs narrow… phew, can really fall down on this treacherous trek if not careful… HOW IN THE WORLD DO THE TOP RUNNERS RUN????

Anyways… working my way up the trek one step at a time were easy until… I started to run out of breath. The scenery was amazing when you could look out into the mountains, otherwise, the fresh cool mountain air invigorates me with life. I miss all this, being in an urban jungle for far too long already. Right then and there, I decided that I’ll do the race over and over again, if only to feel alive again in the wild outdoors. I stopped at times, but with all the there runners moving, I knew I could not stop long. On the way up, we helped each other with words of encouragement to continue, not to give up till we reach the top. Wen Siong’s words kept playing in my head, come on Jonie, just another one more. Gotta thank him for this when I see him next. Soon, after 2 hrs of torture, Laban Rata was in sight…YES!!!.... Approaching Laban Rata itself was fun, the people who were staying there all came out to cheer the runners… some were even standing on the roofs of the other small huts in the vicinity. Man, I need to climb this mountain again soon…

OK, The summit next!!. The next part of the trek will be highly dangerous, if my memory does not fail. This is where all the rope works begin. My hands were starting to feel really cold as the ropes were cold and wet. Note for next year’s race… bring gloves. Some areas were too steep to just walk upright, and some were like walking sideways while splaying your body on the mountain wall. The top runners were now in sight, running DOWN… RUNNNING DOWN!!!... Amazing, seeing them fly over the rocks, racing against time and one another to reach the end of the race. Nevermind them…. Just continue on. Will make it….

Towards the end, I can feel the air getting thinner and thinner…breathing becomes more and more deeper, and my steps becoming slower. One peak looms ahead, nope..not Low’s Peak. Nevermind, continue to walk

Come on Jonie, another one…. Wen Siong in my head again.

Finally, there it is…Low’s Peak. Ropes were outlining the trek, showing the best way to go up the mountain. There was a huge yellow umbrella marking the last chkpoint of the race… Another 10 mins?...5mins….I look at my watch.. 4098m above sea level. OK.. last push now to the top!!

Low’s Peak.. way at the end there…

I’m THERE!!!!!!
I look at my watch….10:48
SUMMITTED IN 3:48 !!!!

Whoa.. the feeling of achievement was amazing…
The Summit officials held out their hands to congratulate me… Nina ( Phillipino runner) and Lee (from Tawau) did the same… heheh I could only congratulate them back and hand them a huge smile…

At the summit!!!!

Nina, Lee (race official- not racer Lee) and Me on the summit…

I took a breather up there….

Amazing… the air up there was cold but fresh. Can I just stay up here?... Brr… getting colder tho….

After 5 mins at the top.. time to go down… darn.. the hard part begins. Up climb was easy as you only depended on sheer endurance to propel you. Downclimb, is, well downright scary. Especially when it started to rain!!!..No….even the slightest drizzle can make the trek 10x harder…slippery…

Slowly now, one step at a time. Luckily my shoes were able to grip quite well to the rocks so far, if not I would be falling with each step I take. I remembered the last time I went up with tennis shoes… since then, I learned to wear proper footwear to sport events.

Phew, tiring. Going down requires more vigilance, can’t shut the mind off just like that. The slightest miscalculations, and down,…..all the way down you go … once again…

The initial downclimb, was hmm… slow… not used to rocks already since my last climb in 2004 at Nepal. Can’t make it for Finisher already, so might as well make it down ALIVE. After about an hour, I made it back to Laban Rata, but with my knees already killing me. Old sport injuries really picks the best time to present itself again. Aargh. will need to be more careful when I restart training next when I get down. Don’t wanna lose my knees so soon.

After Laban Rata, the trek returned to the normal soft muddy mountain trails. At first rocky, gradually, changed to the soft mud tracks I’m more used to. Navigating through the rocks, I think I fell twice on my buttocks.. luckily got fat pad to cushion the fall..hahah. On the way down, many whom I passed on the way up started to cut in front of me… evidently they were better than me at down climb..hehe ☺. Yup need more practice for next yr’s event. Ok…..slowly now…

Hmm… around KM 5 on the way down, I met Lee (from Tawau).. amazingly, he was jes recce-ing the race for today as his event is actually tomorrow. Hahah… no wonder he was wearing a runner’s tag and not a numbered bib. Tall and lanky, he was a policeman from Penang who was posted in Tawau. We started talking and thankfully for him, he became my partner during the downclimb, and that helped me a lot. That said, I still fell down again…twice …on my bum. Haha…

The drizzle continued, but as there were trees around, I couldn’t really feel the full effect of the rain. The trek was still wet though and at some areas, small streams of water were gushing down the steps. The narrow stairs at this point became even narrower, and soggy from the rain. Slowly, KM 4.5…..3.0….2.0….1.0….Timpohon Gate!!!

Lee bought me a 100 plus then, as he was equally parched. The officials there congratulated up for reaching the summit and waved us through the gate. We continued on. My knees then were already on the verge of giving way, but my spirit was growing with each second that the torture was going to end soon. Hahah

Hmm… we reached the starting point in less then 10mins, and we saw 2 guys walking back in the rain as well. They were drenched. Only then did I realized that the rain was actually heavier than I initially thought. Fairus and Diony, they were out taking photos of Carson’s fall and got caught in the rain. With nothing better to do, all four of us started to head back.

The Finishing Line

We had a lively chat on the way back and managed to hitch a ride with one of the transport (which luckily had 4 empty seats left) bringing the racers back to the ending point. The rain started to lighten up.. and as we reached the end point, a sense of relief and achievement filled me again. I made it to the top… and that felt just great….

Me and Diony at the guy's event the next day


Hey, I still go the Finisher's Medal after all"

Try onz again next yearr!!


Bea said...

amazing! u're at the peak without a jacket!!! xDDD

Tey said...


Tweet @ Chin said...

So the cutoff time is what? 3:30?

jonie said...

for female and veterans, it's 3:30 to Low's Peak ,and 6:30 (i think) to the fin point. not easy tho...anybody doing the sabah adventure challenge?