Monday, October 31, 2011

Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 (5)

Another Successful Story ...

Written by SK Ng 
I have looked forward to meet up with so many Facebook friends & comrades in this Climbathon event, and it has turned out to be one of the biggest joy and satisfaction of this event.

I also came with some skepticism though. Mt Kinabalu Climbathon – Are you tough enough for The World's Toughest Mountain Race? That's a strong statement to make, especially to elite runners like Killian Jornet and Marco De Gasperi. Do we know what we are talking about?

I mean, how can a 21km mountain race be tougher than a 166km Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB; with close to 10,000km elevation gain and 46 hours cutoff), which Killian won?

I have to do this one for myself to find out. And find out I did.

Perhaps there is no other race in the world that will require you to ascend almost straight up from 1,800m to a high altitude of 4,095m (a gain of almost 2,300m), and then to descend immediately to about 1500m (a loss elevation of 2,600m). Aside from the continuous strain on same sets of muscles going up and down (this with continuous impact to the knees), the runners have to race against very tight cutoffs to reach the peak, and back down to the finish. Of course, there is the added element of high altitude and also lesser oxygen in the air, which could mean Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) for some runners.

SK at the rockface area of Mt Kinabalu

Those were the tough parts. In other longer mountain trail races, most ascent for at most 1,000m, and then follow by descent. The undulating hills allow muscles to recover, thus avoiding fatigue.

It seems that many of the runners repeat participation annually trying to crack the race. Apparently first timers like me will be considered as having done well to complete the race within the cutoff time (3.5hr to reach the peak, 3 hours to go down to the finish, a total time of 6.5hours for men veteran and women).

Having just completed my first 100 miles mountain trail race two weeks ago and Beijing Marathon a week ago, I wasn't sure how much gas I have left in my tank. Will I be tough enough? Will I reach Laban Rata at 6km within 2 hours? Will I reach the peak within 3.5 hours?

I sprinted as far to the front as possible right from the start just so that the trail will not be too crowded with slower runners. Of course I quickly found myself puffing for air as soon as the ascent began. Over these few months, I have conditioned myself to be comfortable enough with climbing up hills and mountains. I hardly stopped at all during the ascent, although it became tougher and tougher as we got to the higher altitude.

On cloud nine ...

I reached the famous Laban Rata in 1h50m, OK. Within what most people have advised – to get there within 2 hours. From then on, I was confident of making the rest of the 2.6km to the peak within the cutoff. I snapped pictures whenever I felt the compulsion to do so. This might be the only time I want to be on this mountain doing this race. There's got to be some thing more than keeping in my memory which will surely fade away over time.

Pulling rope on rockface to ascend is certainly an interesting experience, and yet at that altitude of around 4,000m, it was tough. Low's Peak could never seem to be near enough. I reached it in 3:09.11s (about no. 30 at that point), got the official to snap two photos of me at the peak, and promptly started my descent.

Wow, running on rock face can be so scarily fast and out of control if you're not careful. That kilometer run down on rockface was so tough on the quads that they were begging for rest and recovery. Of course, the downhill finish is far, far away.

I knew downhill on my Vibram FiveFingers sports shoes (VFF) would be my weakest link, and sure enough, and I was passed by many runners through out the whole downhill run. With my right knee (ligament reconstructed in 2004) still relatively weaker and unstable, I favoured my left leg during the descent. For so long that 4 days after the race, my left quads and calf muscles are still feeling sore today. In comparison, I have recovered quite completely 4 days after the 100 mile mountain race.

Coming out of Timpohon, a few more runners overtook me on this stretch of 4.5km. It was quite demoralizing to have my leg muscles so thrashed that little spring power was left. That last 4.5km of asphalt road seems to be so long and winding that when the Finish Point came into view, I couldn't quite believe that the end was near.

Yeah! what a feeling of elation!

All the sprinting to the finish, jumping with joy in my VFF, group photos with fellow finishers were of course part of the Climbathon story. I completed the downhill in a low time of 2:36 (although within the 3:00 cutoff for downhill), the whole race in total time of 5:45.11s, a position of 38 out of how many veteran? (no official statistic, but I think is over 200).

In another race in the Skyrunning Series, the Dolomite Skyrace in Italy, the highest altitude is 3,152m, the terrain varies from earth to gravel (so much easier than Climbathon), and distance is 22km. Yet the winning time is 1:50.55s as compared to 2:37.04s the record for this Climbathon.

So, yes, in terms of racing against the clock to reach the peak and back to the finish within the tight cutoff, in terms of continuous ascent of 2,300m and descent of 2,600m, I'll admit that this Climbathon is indeed the toughest mountain race in the world. As Killian admitted to the Salomon photographer (Greg) after the race, this win is even tougher than UTMB.

This 25th edition of the Climbathon also marks the end of the race to the peak of the second highest mountain in South East Asia. With the change in format for the 26th edition of Mt KK Climbathon 2012 where participants will descend at mid-point (Layang Layang Huts 2,702m) to Mesilau trail and end at Kundasang town, the foothill of the 4,095m high formidable mountain, we hope that it is a vibrant change that attracts more runners.


Note by KC:
SK lives in Shanghai at the moment  working as a Group CFO for an American-HongKong private equity fund. Mt KK Climbathon is his 79th marathon/ultramarathon. He has done the world's highest marathon – Everest Marathon in 2006, starting from altitude of over 5,300m.

He is the first Asian to have run marathons on 7 continents and North Pole. He has run self-supported multi-stage races in Amazon Jungle (222km) in Brazil and Marathon des Sables (250km) in Sahara Desert in Morocco.

The longest single stage race that he has done is the 240km Coast to Kosciuszko in Australia in Dec 2010. He has also run a few 100-mile mountain trail races, completing his first one in Italy in 7-9 Oct 2011.

He is also a barefoot runner, racing in VFF (Vibram FiveFingers sports shoes).


Do click here for preceding Part 4.

Do click here for lastest and all postings on Mt KK Climbathon 2011.

Posted by KC Leong

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 (4)

This is the final album from ChooTS (aka Tuna Bluefin), focus on Men's Open Category of Mt KK Climbathon 2011 that was held on Sunday, 23 Oct 2011.

Do click here for photos (Album 4) courtesy of ChooTS.

 Kilian Jornet 2:37.04s - The Champion of the toughest mountain race 2011

 Marco Gasperi (+44 sec) - First Runner Up

 The top runners of Mt KK Climbathon 2011 - Kilian Jornet (middle), Marco Gasperi (right), Luis Alberto (left)

 Yeah! I made it !!

 Lots of sweat, training, committment and determination to get the medals

 Yeah! When I grow up, I want to be like my daddy man!

 Less pounding to the legs ... Kilian trying out the smoother terrain ... :-)

 Colourful costume in the folk dances

 Graceful and effortless movement

We conclude the Mt KK Climbathon 2011 outings with a stroll at the beach for sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach.

Do click here for previous Part 3.

Do click here for latest and all postings on Mount KK Climbathon 2011.

Posted by KC Leong

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 (3)

The journey for the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 held on 22-23 October continues ...

Do click here for photos by courtesy of ChooTS (a.k.a. BlueFin).

Album 1 ... Album 2 ... Album 3

In photo album, click Slideshow for bigger displays. Stay tuned for more photos ...

Kundasang village where the group from Kuala Lumpur put up two nights here.

The majestic Mount Kinabalu is clearly visible from here

Part of the group members: TeeEK, LeongWW, Patricia Yap, Johar, Dr Shara, Rothman Fong, ChooTS, KC Leong, Weng and ChongYF.

The yow yeng (stylish) runners from Philippine; the vibrant Rashel is 2nd from right.
Journey of countless steps begins

An initial 1km uphill run before reaching the Timpohon Gate

ChooTS - photographer of this photo album

The top lady runner

Another top lady runner

Edwin Goh who made it to the peak within qualifying time

Jason Lee and LimFW double-up as photographer
Congratulation to AB Tan also who made it to the summit

Our photographer, Tey Eng Tiong, busy taking photos after returning from climbathon

Do click here for earlier Part 2 ... click here for latest posting.

Posted by KC Leong

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 (2)

Mt KK Climbathon – A Successful Story
Reported by AB Tan:
I am indeed happy to finish the Mt KK Climbathon 2011 race within the qualifying time of 3.5 hours for the ascent. I first came to know of this race in 2003 when I did my maiden trekking at Mt Kinabalu; I just wondered how it could be possible to race up in 3.5 hours. Then in 2006, I decided to try it at least once in my life.  In 2009, I heard that Yee Choi (2009 and 2010 Mt KK Climbathon medallist) has made it within 5.5 hours, I realized that it is achievable.

In 2010, we trained together in KC Leong's group. In one training at FRIM in August, I broke my right ankle bone and badly damaged surrounding tendons; so I have to postpone the race by one year.

To log in enough 'mileage', after the last road run (Sundown ultra-marathon) on 25 June 2011 a few months ago, I concentrate to practise steps and climbing. I went to Gunung Nuang for trail training every 2 to 3 weeks, and Batu cave for steps training every alternate week. Finally in Sept 2011, I could manage to reach the summit of G. Nuang in 2hr 26min; 20 rounds of Batu Cave in 1hr 45min, and 35 rounds in 3hr 15min. I know I am ready.
The group from Kuala Lumpur posing at the starting line

I reached Kota Kinabalu on Thursday, 20 Oct 2011 to have more rest. I checked into Celyn Resort (at 2000m, possibly the highest lodges) to further acclimatize with the altitude.
Unfortunately, I contacted flu on Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday, headache, sore throat, joint pain and fever all came. I just keep taking Panadol every 5 hours from Thursday night to Saturday morning, and keep drinking water. I felt so tired, sleep almost 10 to 12 hours for those 2 days.

Miraculously, on Saturday morning (the Climbathon race day), the headache and joint pain are gone. I know I have a chance. I met Edwin Goh, a medallist for 2010 Mt KK Climbathon and he advised me on split time required.

Surprisingly, the race seems not so difficult. I stick to the split time:
                        Laban Rata: 2 hours;
                        Sayat Sayat: 2 hours 40 mins
Finally, with some hard scrambling in the last 5 minutes, I reached the summit within the cut off time of 3.5 hours, and earned the coveted "Green Band". I was elated. Standing there for a brief moment of time gave me the top of the world feeling. Satisfied with my achievement, I turned around and race swiftly down from Low’s Peak.

The orange attire... (L-R) Dr Shara, Rothman Fong, ChooTS, KC Leong, Weng and ChongYF
Descending the mountain was straight forward. I just kept running when there were no steps, and brisk walking when there were steps (I think there are no less than 10,000 steps). I crossed the finishing line at 6 hours 5 mins.

Did I enjoy the experience? Yes, very much indeed.
Is it achievable? Yes, but need a lot of hard work, discipline and commitment.
From my heart, I want to thank the following persons:
1) KC Leong and Tony – for giving all the information and organizing many training session in the mountains;
2) Yee Choi – as an inspiration and setting target to achieve;
3) Edwin Goh - for the race split time; and most importantly, motivation and pacer from 7.8 Km to the summit.
4) Peter Chan – for compiling some “Hill Running” training articles and shared with me last year. I shall share will all later.

Written by AB Tan
The main group from Kuala Lumpur posing for photos after collecting the race entry packs... above photos courtesy of TeyEngTiong. (Tony - R1; KC - L4; CK - R3)

From CK Chong:
Thanks to KC Leong and Tony Q, and others whom I have not met, for the impeccable organization. Race achievement aside, the entire event will be an indelible moment in my memory. Even nature favoured us with her blue skies and mountain peaks resting on cloud cushions.
From Lai Kuan:
Welcome home to All the Mt. KK Climbathon Challengers! 
And CONGRATULATIONS to each and every one of you brave souls who attempted this world's toughest mountain race!  It must be a wonderful experience of a lifetime for some.  Kudos to the 6 participants who qualified in this amazing race!
Such fantastic photography by KC ... that even had my adrenalin rushing just by viewing the photos that I half regretted not joining the race too.

Blue sky and bright sunshine before 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, 22 October 2011; thereafter, the moutain is engulfed in clouds and mist, and it started drizzling.

From yours truly (KC):
After chatting with OngLP (from Cameron Highlands) who successfully made it to the peak within 3.5 hours qualifying time, I realised that there is one important factor which we overlooked and not too focus in our trainings.

According to Ong, the journey of going up Mt Kinabalu consists of countless steps. As such, intensive steps training – though unpleasant, tough and boring – is a mandatory requirement other than the usual trail running/training in Gunung Nuang.

When we went for the steps training at Batu Caves on the final week preceding the event, after six rounds of going up and down the flight of steps, I tried to engage double steps in one upward leap. I realised that I could not sustain for much longer duration. That means my legs would only have limited power to propel me up the mountain swiftly. If the double steps leap was given sufficient training, more members would have the chance.

On sunburn – Used to wearing vest for the trail training in the mountains, I wore the usual Adidas running vest for the Mt KK Climbathon. The next day after the event, I felt pain at both my arms. At first, I thought it was the friction or chafing caused by my Deutor hydration backpack; but I have been using it for more than 6 months. A closer look into the mirror, to my horror, the two arms and top shoulders that are exposed to the sun (at the rock-based area of Mt KK) are red. The effect of UV and strong ray at 4,000 meters nearer to the sun is just amazing. Lesson learn: must wear T-shirt and not running vest; unless we can run as fast as the top runners to reduce the exposure time to hot sun ... :-)

Do click here for Part 1 of Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011.
Do click here for latest posting on Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011.
Cheers! KC

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2011

The world's toughest mountain race - the 25th Mount Kinabalu Climbathon – ended with much heightened spirit, excitement and fond memories. We were glad to be there participating in the same event.
The race was keenly contested between Kilian Jornet of Italy who is a 3-time champion of the Skyrunner World Series from 2007-2009 and Marco de Gasperi, the champion of Mount Kinabalue Climbathon in 2003 and 2010.

Do click here to view photos taken by yours truly (KC). In Picasa Web Photo Album, click Slideshow for bigger displays.

 The message is clear ...

With a group of 40 plus runners from Kuala Lumpur jointly organize by Tony and yours truly (KC), this time; we have six members (inclusive of one lady) who successfully reached the summit (within 3.5 hours) and crossed the finishing line within qualifying time of 6.5 hours.

Even Kilian, during the interview, attest that it is indeed the world's toughest mountain race with the unique one way up and down within a race.

Test of endurance and determination - Seen from yours truly (KC’s) eyes on the way up the mountain.

Yours truly (KC) posing before Sayat Sayat, the gateway to the peak.

A lady runner running down the mountain after returning from Low’s Peak, the summit.

 Not good enough ... with all the training that I put in ... click here, I could only go thus far at 7.5km mark, still fall short of another 1.3 km to the peak within the 3.5 hours of qualifying time for ascent.

Wilson Liew and Patricia Yap at the rope area with many runners returning from peak.

The next day (Sunday, 23 October 2011) supporting the Men’s Open category

The Champion - Spain's Kilian Jornet won the 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon, dethroning last year's winner, Marco De Gasperi of Italy. Kilian clocked 2:37.04s ahead of Marco de Gasperi who came in second who is only 44 seconds slower.

Kilian's countryman, Luis Alberto Hernando came in third, who is 5 min 32 seconds slower.

 Dr Shara and Wendy Liu posing with Marco de Gasperi, the 1st Runner Up. Notice that he wear the same green running vest and short as last year... do click here. Though he is only 44 seconds slower than Kilian, Marco de Gasperi was the first to reach the summit in 1:37.49s, earning him a gold medal, but he slipped and fell half way when descending the mountain (according to the news report).

The legs of a champion with the rugged veins that power one up and down the tough, uneven and tricky terrain

Yours truly (KC) posing with the Champion of 25th Mt Kinabalu Climbathon  - Kilian Jornet of Spain

All smiles for a different reason ... For Men’s Open category, the cut-off time is only 2.5 hours (1 hour shorter compared to Men’s Veteran and Women’s categories).
For those who have not ventured deeper or higher into the mountain, they would take much earlier time to return and cross the finishing line.

Yeah, give me a HI FIVE ... a group of lady climbers from Philippine cheering the runners about 200 meters before crossing the finishing line.

Alex AngMoe of Penang (a 7-time Ironman; in yellow) posing with a group of Philippine climbers; Rashel is second from right.

Yeah, my proud daddy did it !!!

The award presentation and buffet lunch for officially closing the event. While the participants dine, we were treat with the local dances.

This would be the last year where the mission is to run up to the peak.

Starting next year – the 26th Mt Kinabalu Climbathon 2012 - a runner would ascend to mid-point at Layang Layang (2,702m) and then descend the mountain by returning via Mecilau and end at a Kundasan village.
Do click here for Part 2 and latest postings of Mount Kinabalu Climbathon 2010.

Posted by KC Leong

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mt KK Climbathon 2011 – Here we Come

In two days' time, we shall be heading to the formidable mountain – Mount Kinabalu – for the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon 22-23 October 2011.
We have been training very hard in the local hills/mountain in Kuala Lumpur and the mother-of-all local Climbathon event is finally here. It is going to be the 25th climbathon and the last race to Low's Peak. As informed, starting next year, it would be more of a trail running event (detour mid-way at Layang-Layang to Mecilau) rather than an extreme challenge.
Yes, we shall charge up the mountain kow kow on event day as this would be the last chance we head to the peak ... :-)
If you watch the movie, Real Steel, COURAGE is stronger than steel for the showdown ... Yeah, we need peak courage for this challenge to reach the summit   ... :-)
The King of Mountains – Marco De Gasperi, the champion (Men’s Open 2010) from Italy only takes 2 hours 33 minutes to return (from running to the peak). One way to the peak is only 01:35:29. Amazing feat !
This is the most satisfying photo taken by yours truly (KC). When Marco extends his arms while crossing the finishing line, it is as though he is carrying the Malaysian flag beneath his arm. (photographic equipment courtesy of SCHOnline)

Let me share with you a light-hearted conversation leading to Mt KK Climbathon 2011:
Challenger A: I am wondering how to bring my Red Bull energy drink along since I only bring hand-carry luggage in the flight to Kota Kinabalu. Hope they sell there.
Challenger B: Have you fined-tune the lead time for the energy drink to take effect? Sound like a good idea to take this drink and charge up the mountain like a bull ... ha ha
Challenger C: Local strategy ... consume bananas every day until this Friday (eve of the Climbathon) and drink plenty of water…. Hmmm, no cramps some more.
Challenger A: 45 minutes of lead time for the drink to turbo-charge your engine.
Challenger B: Okay, the banana and Red Bull drink sound like a potent formula. Not only we charge up the mountain, we can also swing from trees to trees (like monkey) to gain time, if necessary  ... :-)
As for Alex, he has a unique trade secret for the extra boast of energy ... For those who like to drink, Mount Kinabalu is going to be cold so you need extra CALORIES. From now on drink Guinness Stout one bottle or 3 pegs of DOM every night that will give you extra energy and calories.
Do click here to read/view photos of Mt KK Climbathon 2011 happening on 22-23 October.

See you at the starting line
Try Our Best
Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Final training at Batu Caves

The steps training at Batu caves on Saturday, 15 October 2011 mark the final training before we take on the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon challenge on 22 October 2011.

It was a last minute change of venue from Gunung Nuang as this is supposed to be a safe and easy training (since we have come thus far in training).

A few of the other participants are doing their trainings at Apek Hill and Gunung Nuang also.

Do click here to view photos taken by yours truly (KC). Three photos in the album are by courtesy of Mak CK.

The challenging 252 steps of Batu Caves. Try going up in quick succession, you will experience how tough it is ... :-)

L-R: Mak CK, Tee EK, ChongYF, KC Leong, Patricia Yap and Eileen Gan.

Amazing power – 500c.c. x 24 bottles x 3 boxes = 12kg x 3 = 36 kg !!
I helped to carry another box and I have to take a breather at mid-point.

A group of Chinese nationals from Shanghai are visiting Batu Caves. This guy is not very fit. Not used to the steep gradient, he almost fainted that gives us the scare.
We tried to offer our help much to the appreciation of his lady group members who said that we are very helpful and kind.
MakCK is trying to keep him awake by engaging in conversation with him.
We later accompany him to go down the steps for fearing that he would trip and fall.

 L-R: Mak CK, Micki and friend and KC Leong

Micki’s Microsoft Extreme Challenge versus MakCK’s Terry Fox Run. Mak is assisting in promoting the run that will be held at Padang Merbok on 13 Nov 2011.
Terry Fox Run T-Shirt for charity is RM30 each. Get one today from MakCK to raise money for cancer research !!

Very yow yeng pose ... Patricia Yap, Eileen Gan and Micki

 Flexing the muscle ... Steven and his loved one

Auspicious entrance ... L-R: ChongYF, Patricia, KC Leong, TeeEK, Steven Onn and his loved ones, Eileen Gan.

Patricia Yap showing the Terry Fox Run T-shirt that she is supporting ... this photo courtesy of Mak CK.

Temple in Batu Caves

We adjourn for breakfast at the Indian stalls within the compound of Batu Caves ... Patricia holding the nicely done wafer thin pancakes (Dosai) that is in the shape of a hat.

Posted by KC Leong