“If this is not fun, I don't know what is.”
When I first know about Genting Trailblazer few months ago, I told myself I have to try this muddy experience. Since the format of this race is that you need to run with a partner, I tried contacting some friends but to no avail, none were available. So, at first thought, I said to myself, “Well, maybe next year.”
In fact, the main reason behind me getting myself the Cascadia 4 was, obviously for Genting Trailblazer (and other trail running events in the future). And I started to tame myself with some trail running, namely at Nuang, and FRIM, and Kiara.
Last Thursday anyway, some friends jokingly said why not I just join the fun and take photos during the run. What I initially thought as a crazy idea, really made my mind crazy that I decided to give it a try.
To become a runner-grapher, pirate version that is.
Putting the risk that I might not come home with a good condition digital camera as I don't have a tough one, I car pooled with Syah and Ian from Taman Melati as early as 0615hrs on cool Sunday morning upon agreeing that they'll do something to turn me into a pirate, and in return I will stick with them and take as much photos as I could.
Oh ya, Ian and Syah coupled up as team Macam Bagus (actually, they were betul-betul bagus).
Upon arriving at the venue and after collecting the race kits, we went to get some breakfast. We had plenty of times before the race begins, enough to order roti canai and half boiled eggs.
My strategy? Humm..
Since I was only the designated photog-runner, I had just one roti telur. I drank up the whole bottle of ORS-ed water which I brought along. It's always my race-day routine to drink as much ORS-ed water as possible, starting from the night before a race to the morning of race day. It may help keep muscle cramps at bay.
The atmosphere that morning was awesome. When we gathered at the field, loud music was already bursting in the air and these people were doing warm ups. I was surprised with the number of turn outs. I'm not really sure how many were there, but the running trail will be cramped with runners later on.
I settled at the back with team Macam Bagus and Grim Duo, taking some more photos while giving myself a good stretching session.
There were two categories in this event, Championship category (14km run, with prize money for top winners), and Adventure category (14km run on the same course as Championship's, but without any prize money). Unfortunately, there were no pirate category, or else I might win!
The Championship category were released at 8.30am if I'm not mistaken. I reckon not more than 50 teams were in this category. There were lots more teams in Adventure category, maybe because the entry fee was cheaper respectively.
We were released at about 0840hrs. Making my first few steps, I suddenly realized how much I missed sports events like this. It's really like a 'payday' after putting hours upon hours of training. And for my case this time, my training was at the minimum. Good enough for me to survive it, but not enough for me to beat both of the teams.
My target of the day was to keep in close proximity as much as possible with team Macam Bagus, Syah and Ian, who both had just finished 25km of trail running the weekend earlier at TNF run in Singapore. Just imagine how tough was it for my slow-inexperience self to be pacing with these two fit runners. But, that was the challenge on my plate that morning, and I took it delightfully.
The first few kilometers had us running by the golf course, on a tarmac. The misty condition that morning was a bonus and I don't think we can ever have it anywhere at our normal running ground down there in Klang valley. At some points, the visibility went down to almost 10 meters, that's how thick the mist was that morning.
There was a sign by the golf course which says “Dropping Zone”, which the gradient of the tarmac started to increase. Some has resorted in walking, and here Macam Bagus has cought up with a member from Grim Duo.
Not so long later, we started to run at the long awaited off-road terrain. The condition was not that bad yet, pretty similar to the trails at FRIM, with not so crazy steep climbs.
First help-yourself-water station. I stopped here thinking that the cups were already filled with water, but the guy said “Help yourself dude!”, and I went pass by without drinking any (need to stay close to Macam Bagus team).
The terrain soon get more challenging with steep climbs where running was no longer affordable (or you'll end up hitting the wall too soon for pushing into anaerobic zone too early). So, with the many runners at the front and back, we all did the fast walk-climb up.
What goes up, must come down, right? Yeah, right. But the downward routes were nothing but 'difficult'. The safest way was to slide down either by squatting down and slide (if you are skillful enough), or just make use of whatever fat left on your butt to cushion yourself as you glide down on your bum.
I could no longer hold my digital camera with my hands as from here onwards many more tactical movements of hand, legs and body were required as we go through. So I just hung my camera at my fuel belt, hoping for it to survive the remaining journey. Luckily it did.
At this very moment, I really wished Olympus would sponsor me the Miu Tough digi-cam that will be tough enough to handle this situation. I was thinking how good if by having a tougher and water-proof digi-cam, I could photographs the entire interesting journey and share with you guys.
The last photos you see above, can only tell you 40% of the whole journey. What came afterwards were much much much more tough. Totally muddy at some places where even with my trail shoes, I lost traction few times. I can't imagine how one would be able to get the sufficient grip or traction for their footings without using trail shoes in that super steep and slippery terrains.
The journey onwards can be considered as crazily long, muddy and steep climbs. Without clinging and pulling yourself up with the support ropes along the route, I don't think anybody can bring themselves up. Majority of the tracks were ranging from 40 to 70 degrees inclination. I pulled myself up either by using the ropes, or trees, or bamboos, or one of those little thorny trees.
Yeah, I once or twice grabbed those tiny sharp thorns
and cried like a small baby while pulling myself up the muddy slopes.
Here, we can also easily see some runners fell down, either due to wrong footings or they just slipped down, or they were just dead tired. Many were cursing, huffing and puffing their way up. This was where the real challenge of trail running came to play, when you were forced to enter your anaerobic zone that causes more production of lactic acid. With more of this lactic acid building up in your muscle, your are getting closer to runners' worst enemy – the muscle cramps.
I have to always remind myself to keep on hydrating while on the run, no matter how the condition of the run was. Or else, one might end up having cramps if no proper rehydrations were done. I only carried my fuel belt with two 200ml bottles filled up with Gatorade, and I was surprised I survived without any cramps (
yeay, the secret training works!).
We also had to cross few small rivers, where I took the opportunity to take the muds off my shoes and clean my gloves.
After I-don't-know-how-far-we-have-run, we came back to a tarmac section, indication that the finish line was getting closer. I was secretly hoping that there won't be any more climbs, but I was disappointed.
At the end, we reached the obstacle course area, where I feel, the organizer did a great work. There were up-to-knee-deep soft mud section, followed by three chest-high ponds, a ramp-and-jump-into-mud-water stuffs, run-on-bamboo obstacle, fences obstacles and lastly the army crawl under the net.
As the obstacle section would require us all to get into the water, I had to keep my camera inside a zip loc bag, which I then have to hold with my hand, or with my mouth, or just tossed it on the ground or asked any spectator to hold it for me while I get myself wet, wet and wet. I lost few valuable minutes here, explaining why I was no longer able to stay close to team Macam Bagus anymore. Some of below photos I took after I finished my run, and some I grabbed from other resources.
As I ran towards the finish line, one official stopped me and asked me to wait for my running partner before I can finish my run. I quickly stopped my stopwatch and ran to the sides, and with that, I considered I've finished my race. Not by going through under the finishing chute though. (I pirated this run, remember?)
Oh yeah, and my unofficial finishing time (based on my stop watch)?
2:00:00 on the dot!
Irregardless, I had the most joy and fun in this event. A definite yes if anyone would ask me to join this event again next year (InsyaAllah).
As I thought the fun ended at the finish line, I was surprised with another fun in the shower room. The water was so cool and it was so refreshing to wash my self down.