Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The van ferrying us to the starting line stopped by the road side at Kundasang Village at 6:15 a.m. Looking out of the van, I saw there was no sign at all indicating that the TMBT SAC event was taking place on Saturday, 15 September 2012.
There was no fanfare, no pomp, no banners and no spectators on a cool and windy morning. On a closer look, the 5' x 5' signboard next to the road was collapsed cause by the heavy rain and strong wind during the night before.
At around 7:00 a.m., more runners and spectators arrived. The starting line was located in the gully directly opposite the War Memorial on the Kundasang-Mesilau Road. And on 7:30 a.m. sharp, the race was flagged off by Mr Aman.
rs and spectators were arrived. The starting line is located i tly opposite the War Memorial on the Kundasang-Mesilau Road. And on 7:30 a.m. shoff by Mr Aman..
TMBT is the abbreviation that means The Most Beautiful Thing of ultra trail marathon of Sabah Adventure Challenge. The event consisted of three categories; namely, 100km, 50km and 28km.
Do click here to view photos courtesy of yours truly (KC). Feel free to download the photos from Picasa Web Photo Album.
Pre-race Briefing
Mr Aman briefing participants on Do's and Don'ts when running the race and observe the good spirit of the sports.

On 14 September 2012, Friday, the collection of race package and briefing were done at Mega D'Aru Hotel, the official hotel at Kota Kinabalu. The organizer even allowed samples of running T-shirts for the participants to test out the size before deciding one. I am impressed! They have the trust in runners and I am sure the runners did not disappoint them.

An informative and detailed briefing session was conducted by Mr Aman on Do's and Don’ts when running the race. Most importantly, all participants must observe the good spirit of the sports. I am also impressed by his excellent organizing and presentation skill!

 A group photo with Tony Q (back, left) who helped us in organizing for the transport and accommodation arrangement; yours truly (KC) is at front, left.

On getting the recommended head lamps that could illuminate a distance of 75m or more on high beam, Mr Aman commented that most runners would spend much money in looking good with the running gear but would spend much less in getting a bright and reliable head lamp. For 100km runners, it was a mandatory requirement to own such headlamps. It is understandable that without the head lamp when running in pitch darkness, that would render a runner's immobility.

 FRIM group of trail runners; most of them are running in the 100km category. Team Lead is Alan Lee (front, left 4)

Logistic Arrangement

It took a lot of training and transport effort to be able to stand at the starting line. Though all participants started at the same location, the finishing lines – that are different from the starting location – are different also for 28km and the 50km/100km. For this event to be successfully staged, it required complex logistics consideration, and tackling of issues and concerns by the organizer: the volunteers manning the medical stations, water stations, checkpoints, and the seamless integration of transport arrangement ferrying participants to the right destinations.

As for the participants, most would take a flight to the airport of Kota Kinabalu; took a van transport arranged by the organizer to the official hotel for collection of race package and briefing; then took another 2-hour bus transport to the hotel near to Kundasang Village (that is about 10km from the Mount Kinabalu National Park). Then on the morning of event day, participants took another van transport from the hotel to the starting point. When the event was over, the organizer sent the participants back to Kota Kinabalu town.

Rupert Chen giving a super-charged pose; he is doing 100km !


The night before the event day, while staying at a budget hotel near to Kundasang Village, it was raining heavily and blowing strong wind accompanied by the symphony of sound. Twelve participants cramped into a small dormitory with six double-decker beds, much like Bangla workers, as quipped by Edwin Goh. While we tugged in the comfort and warmth of our beds, we were wondering what would going to happen for those 100km runners if they were to go through the same punishing wet weather at night while completing their distance.

 The background is the magnificient rear view of the formidable Mount Kinabalu

Interesting Observations:

Trail running shoes – the one brand that dominated and used by most trail runners has to be Salomon with all types of attractive designs. Maybe next year, Salomon can help to sponsor the event.

 Connie Yu and Khor, both in 100km category, are from the FRIM group of trail runners

The Trails and Terrains – the trails were very much different from last year: I saw there were many sections of narrow trails; this time, the routes were mostly wide track of gravels and tar road. The terrain was mostly going up and down the hill. Most participants would just walk when going uphill as it was tiring to run uphill, and would then ran downhill to speed up.

Shin ... passing by the vegetable plantation with Mount Kinabalu in background 

The weather – after the heavy rain and strong wind the night before, the weather was just superb on race day: it was windy and cool in the early morning, and cloudy until 11am. It was fairly hot in the afternoon with the sunlight piercing through the thin layer of overcast sky. Without any sunscreen protection, most runners would get suntan, bonus from this event. For most 50km and 100km competitors, they would be running under difficult conditions with extreme heat over the race course.

 David Spence, the Ironman, who overtake me; he is doing the 100km category

Cut-off Time – for 25km – 10 hours; 50kim – 15 hours; 100km – 33 hours. For the 100km category, this is a mind boggling number having to run a course for almost 33 hours.
The Achievement – I quipped that when the phone rings, one can now PROUDLY say, "this is the most beautiful ultra-marathoner speaking, how can I help you?!" Make sure there is not a slip of the tongue and say "ultra-man". BRAVO to the 50km and 100km runners for the achievement!

 A runner happily posing with the village girls

25km Category – according to Mr Aman during the briefing, due to the marking of the trail, the actual distance would be 27km. However, according to my Garmin GPS-enabled watch, we were still running in out-of-no-where route. Finally, after greeted by 500 meters of quite steep uphill walk, the finishing line was seen at a distance of 28.3km – what an auspicious number that mean prosperity in Cantonese.

28km Finishing banner ... yours truly (KC) posing with Tony Q 

28km’s Finishing Point – The finishing point for 28km is also the critical check-point for 50km and 100km runners. The runners would take a breather to replenish their water and seek medical help, if necessary. In this back-to-basics school hall, there was a team of medical staff attending to participants' pain. Other than signing in to confirm one’s present at each check-point, another important protocol before proceeding with their journey was the inspection by the officials on each runner’s mandatory gear – handphone and headlamp. Most runners were a bit lost trying to locate these two items that hid inside their backpacks.

 Finishing point for the 25km category. According to the organizer, the 25km category is actually 27km. But from my Garmin GPS-enabled watch, it is 28.3km. Seen here are runners continuing their 50km or 100km journey.

 Under the zinc-roofing, back-to-basics school hall, a team of medical staff are there to attend to runners' pain

 Check-point for proceeding with 50km and 100km -- inspection of mandatory gear: the handphone and a good quality head-lamp.

 Medals and souvenir for 50km finishers

 At the 50km finishing point (about 15km away from the 28km finishing point)

 A runner returning to the check-point ... for 50km runner, this is the finishing line; for 100km runner, this is the check-point with another 50km more to go !!

Hotel Carlifornia

Yours truly (KC) posing at Hotel Carlifornia

The organizer in Sabah for this TMBT SAC sure have good sense of humour. The special signage in front of a school canteen was erected at around 4:30 p.m. (check the spelling) ... :-) Food and drinks were served at the canteen; the luggage of 50km and 100km runners were also been sent here from the starting point by the organizer.

The original lyrics are modified by yours truly (KC):

On a dark country ultra trail, cool wind of Mount Kinabalu in my hair
Warm smell of my stinking body odour, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
And I was thinking to myself,
"This could be Heaven or this could be Hell"
Welcome to the Hotel Carlifornia
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of food at the Hotel Carlifornia ... before I continue for another 50km in the cold night.

BRAVO to the 100km challengers! May the strength be with YOU!

Jeff Ooi ... getting ready for another 50km of challenge in his 100km ultra trail run. Time at that moment was about 5:00 p.m. He will run in darkness only illuminated by his head lamp! When meeting at hotel Kinabalu Daya after the event, he said he took 23+ hours to complete the 100km. Bravo!!

The TMBT SAC ultra trail marathon was over but the fond memory of the fun and challenges in this event still lingers on in my mind. Running on a course next to the majestic view of Mount Kinabalu and the vast scenic hills of Mesilau villages was just awesome – an experience totally different from those road racing events. There was no car, no pollution, no noise; instead, one is immersed in the fresh and cool mountainous air, and the sound of leaves rustled in the constant gust of wind in applauding excitedly of our presence.

Thanks to Tony Q for his untiring effort in helping to arrange for the transport and accommodation. Though he could not run due to his knee injury, he was with us all the time to see to our needs.

See you all again in 2013’s The Most Beautiful Thing ultra trail Marathon of Sabah Adventure Challenge!

Do click here for photos of TMBT 2013 (14 Sep 2013).

Posted by KC Leong


cRAzYtoMatOmaN-D said...

Great write up!

I missed the Hotel California signage...must have been blown over by the wind when i arrived.

I like your song lyrics! hahaha!

Bin said...

nice write up KC! hope TMBT 2013 will be just as beautiful!