Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Vietnam Mountain Marathon Pre-Event Activities

En route to Topas Ecolodge, Sapa for the pre-race briefing and collection of bibs on the eve of Vietnam Mountains Marathon (“VMM”) on 20 Sept 2014, the group visited the following attractions:

(a) Museum of Ethnology, the research centre and public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam; 
(b) Temple of Literature, the first University of Vietnam; 
(c) Restored Sword Lake, to visit the Ngoc Son Temple; 
(d) The President Palace and the One Pillar Pagoda.

Do click here to view 95 photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).

 Extra tour for the group 
(left) PK Chan, Chong YF, Billy Goh, KC Leong, Wilson Liew … (lady) Cheryl Tham and Karen Wu.
 A unique house – climbing up the steep stairs requires fitness and skill.

 A model showing the correct way of holding the hand rail that provide the firm support  :-)

 Visiting another attraction

 Boarding the night train from Hanoi at 9:15 p.m. for a 10-hour journey; arriving at Lao Cai at 7:15 a.m. the next morning. The air-conditioned cabin can comfortably sleep four persons with the luggage tugged below the bed.

 The passage way that connects five cabins in each coach complete with toilet, sink and hot water dispenser; there are 21 coaches in this long train. Yuen Yit standing at the passage way; the view outside showing the country that we were almost reaching Lao Cai town.
 Arriving at the simple train station of Lao Cai town.

 The path leading to Topas Ecolodge is lined with flags representing the countries of the respective participants.
 A scenic view of the padi farm leading to Topas Ecolodge.

 A good feeling to be here at Topas Ecolodge

 Gathering of participants for the pre-race briefing. The gentleman with the blue T-shirt (standing in the middle) is Race Director, Asger Køppen.

 Asger Køppen conducting the pre-race briefing under the circus tent (as quoted by him). After hours of exposing to the sun, it was hot in the tent. He quipped that one must accustom to the heat which is almost similar when running VMM the next day.

 Spectacular view of the lodges overlooking the valleys and the mountains

The Main Square of Sapa Town. Buying of The North Face jackets is very much cheaper here with lots of choices to chose from.

Next … post-VMM activities (visiting tribes, villages; closing ceremony; visiting Halong Bay).

Do click here to view photos of the running trail (on VMM day).

Posted by KC Leong

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vietnam Mountain Marathon

Vietnam Mountains Marathon ("VMM") at Sapa on 20 Sept 2014 ... I am glad to complete the full marathon category of 42km in 9 hours 46 minutes running through slippery and muddy trails amid scenic landscape of the rural areas in Vietnam.

Do click here to view 177 photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).

  At the starting point – Mark by an AWAS tape on the road (out of nowhere). According to the Race Director, Asger Køppen, no tourist will come to this part of the rural area in Vietnam, only the brave and the crazy trail runners!

After running in this Vietnam Mountains Marathon, I would strongly recommend all trail runners to try in this event. 

The landscape along the trail route is scenic with the view of the country where runners traversing the mountains; passing by many tribes, villages, and padi fields. And of course, while enjoying the fantastic view, one must be careful not to step on the huge dung on the ground. There were many free roaming pigs along the trail constantly waving their tails that looked like welcoming the runners.  

 Posing with Race Director, Asger Køppen (2nd from right)

The journey to Topas Ecolodge – the finishing point – to attend the pre-race briefing and collection of bibs and T-shirt is a pleasant and memorable one involving a 10-hour night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai; bus transfer from Lao Cai to Sapa town where most participants stayed in the various hotels; and finally another round of bus transfer from Sapa to Topas Ecolodge. The night train offers comfortable bed in an air-conditioned cabin for a good night sleep.

 Rashel from Philippine 

The organization capability involving administrative and technical tasks by the organizer was superb with seamless integration of the various activities. All officials and crew members know their duty well in meeting the runners’ need. As for the Race Director, Asger Køppen, we like his humble and humorous way of conducting the various activities. A participant need not have to worry about food, transport and accommodations at all – all these were well taken care of. A participant’s only concern is to run and complete the race in the category that suit one’s choice – 21km, 42km or 70km.

 Traverse up the mountain overlooking the valley below … Tan Hong Lan, ChongYF, Yuen Yit, KC Leong

 Beautiful scenery

 Good harvest

 Tan Hong Lan posing with the local children

 Taking a breather and having my lunch – two pieces of bread

At Checkpoint #4 – each checkpoint is also a water station that also provide banana. For this checkpoint, it is located next to a village. Hence, the enterprising locals are also selling canned drinks.

 Many free roaming pigs along the trail. They are cute but timid, busy spending their time looking for food in the mud.

While enjoying the fantastic view, one must be careful not to step on the huge dung on the ground  :-)

 Crossing one of the many streams

 Passing by a scenic local village with a breathtaking view of the mountains

 Yeah, one more mountain to climb before reaching the finishing line.

 Yeah, I finally arrive at the finishing point clocking a timing of 9 hours 46 minutes for a full marathon distance of 42km.

Topas Ecolodge – nestled in a scenic landscape overlooking the valley, it is the finishing point of Vietnam Mountains Marathon (for all categories of 21km, 42km, and 70km).

Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, September 14, 2014

USJ Zhineng Qigong Mid-Autumn Festival

USJ Zhineng Qigong Centres Mid-Autumn Festival gathering at Wawasan School, USJ 15 on Wendesday, 3 September 2014.

Do click here to view 136 photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).

 Part of the organizing committee for arranging the potluck of food

 Members taking food in an orderly manner

  Keynote address by Liow Kim Heng laoshi, President of Persatuan Senaman Zhineng Qigong Malaysia (PSZQM)

 The “in thing” these days – self photography (selfie)

 Alan laoshi conducting a Laughing Yoga exercise

 Lots of loud laughter

 Another group game – on disorientation and synchronization

 Passing the eggs competition

 Champion team of “disorientation and synchronization” game

All smile – the champion team of “passing the eggs” game

Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kem Pacat 2 Loops

I managed to do two loops from car park to Kem Pacat of Gunung Nuang today, 30 August 2014, Saturday. Each loop is about 4 hours. First loop started at 7:15 a.m.; second loop started at 11:30 a.m., and ended at at 3:30 p.m. in time to avoid the heavy downpour. One loop is about 19km. The purpose of this long run is to prepare for the coming Vietnam Mountain Marathon on 20 September 2014.

At one time, it was very dark in the trail with dark clouds looming for an impending downpour. I was really motivated to engage full throttle in running down from Kem Pacat to Kem Lolo partly fueled by uneasiness of the sudden change in weather. Then I met ASheEk, who was going up to the peak alone. He was performing the sweeper duty for the G5N trail running event.   

On that same day, there was the G5N event; this event requires a participant to run from car park to the peak of Gunung Nuang FIVE times for a duration of 24 hours. When I ran pass the trekkers, many of them clapped hands and gave me motivational cheers thinking that I am one of the participants ... :-)

G5N - It is the abbreviation for Gunung Nuang Peak 5 Times. Yes, this is extremely challenging and yet crazy stuff. With only about 10 participants, a runner would be alone most of the time. Imaging going up to the peak of Gunung Nuang at mid-night. That would require the nerve of steel not disturbed by the dark and eerie surrounding, and the spirit of the mountain. Bravo to the brave trail runners! 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Tham.

Posted by KC Leong.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TMBT 2014

Borneo TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon on Saturday, 16 August 2014 for 100k and 50k categories, starting at 7:00 a.m … I am glad to complete the 50km run within the qualifying time amid many hours of rain; running in muddy, mud slide areas; overcoming hilly and slippery terrain. 

TMBT is the abbreviation for The Most Beautiful Thing. This is true for the scenery as the runners would run through padi fields, farm lands and villages with a view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu. But this is definitely The Most Brutal Thing to runners as this is the monsoon time, the weather has been consistent that heavy rain will start in the afternoon. 

For this run, the runners were running in the rain for almost five hours until the sky is dark. When the night falls, it was cold in the mountainous areas of Kundasang villages. At the second last water station, i.e. WS5, I was refueling my hydration backpack; within minutes, I was shivering with cold. And I have to quickly continue my run to increase my body temperature.

When I reached the finishing point at around 8:15 p.m. after running for more than 13 hours, I was glad that it was over. But for trail runners participating in the 100k category, that was the beginning of another 50km to go!

The many months of training in local hills and mountains do help to strengthern my body. This time, I ensured that I was well hydrated by drinking lots of water, and to include energy drinks intake at certain fixed interval to sustain the journey.

Do click here to view 210 photos courtesy of yours truly.

Do click here for photos album in Facebook.

 Systematic and organized method of inspecting the mandatory kits, which are utmost critical in bad weather condition. For any missing items, it would be easily detected; hence, penalty may apply.

 Group photos before the run

 Happy faces and getting ready for the race

 Yours truly (KC) standing at the starting line taking part in the 50km category … the bib number is a moral boaster to me that interpreted as “die, die also must survive”

TMBT Race Director, Avtar Singh, addressing the participants and getting ready to flag off the run. Good descriptive in writting, he has been sending out valuable tips to the participants leading to the event.

 The 100k and 50k are flagged off at the same time - at the same spot as last year but the route was different.

Conserving energy mode - Most of the uphill climbs to gain elevation are on trails except a few stretches that are on the road

 A warm welcome by the local folks

 Knee-deep river crossing and follow by many streams crossing along the trail. It is pointless to remove the trail running shoes trying to keep them dry.

 Good to reach thus far

 Scenic and peaceful villages

 The participants run through many jungle trais, and passing by padi fields, pineapple farms and rubber estates

Children happily greeting the runners with High-5 that boast the energy level of running. The next station is Water Station #3. 

 This is water station WS3 and from then on, it was raining for about five hours until the sky went dark.
Last year (2013), many of the runners were DNF here as they were stuck in the Miki's Camp as the stream there swelled due to heavy downpour.

I crossed the finishing line at 8:15 p.m., it was cold and I could not take the photo then. This photo is taken the next morning (Sunday, 17 August) after having a nice and comfortable sleep on a silky smooth bed in the nearby hotel while my 100km trail runner friends were still out there running in the darkness and in the cold throughout the night. The qualifying time for 50k is 15 hours (Saturday, 10:00 p.m.), while 100k is 30 hours (Sunday, 1:00 p.m). And on Sunday, just 30 minutes before the cut-off time, heavy rain came again when I boarded the shuttle bus for a 2-hour journey back to Kota Kinabalu.

Posing with YK and Kian Chong, two very strong runners, who completed 50k the day before and now they are running in the 25k category. Bravo!

Do click here for the unfinished mission last year (2013).

Do click here for all my stories on TMBT (scroll down the pages).

Cheers! KC Leong