By this time, you would have figured it out. It was indeed beautiful, but it was a lot more brutal.
I had run close to 45 kilometres, and I was now already an ultra-marathoner, but it was not enough. I needed to be an ultra-marathon finisher within cut off time. Keeping this in mind, I managed to fight the temptation. Sleeping in a comfy bed could wait. I had more than 17 hours to complete the remaining 55 kilometres or so. I needed, at minimum, to cover 3.2 kilometres per hour, which was highly doable. My motivation was at all-time low so I decided to walk the remaining 55 kilometres, and still be able to finish below 30 hours.
WS5 to WS6
Distance: 6.1km, Elevation gain: 275m, Elevation loss: 250m, Cut off time: N/A.
Next few kilometres shared the same route as last year’s Hasuu Tasu and this year’s Hasuu Tasu Night Trail Run. It continued with short downhill before reaching a bridge and it went uphill on the road afterward, before going downhill again. The climb would be steep but I was familiar with it. I knew what to expect and this helped a lot.
After bidding goodbye to fellow Trailblazerz, I set to embark on a long journey home to the finish line. And what a time to do so. When I was at the main entrance of the hall, I looked around and it seemed that nobody was about to leave. I looked far ahead and I did not see any blinking light. But I could not wait. If I waited for somebody, I might have the temptation to call it a night again. And I might probably lose this time around.
Bear in mind, the race continued passing through villages, deep jungle where there would not be any lamppost to lid the ground. I would not even dare to thread through this path during daylight, let alone in the darkness of night.
The local kids that greeted runners were still there and they were shouting out words of encouragement, clapping their hands at the same time.
“You can do it!”
I smirked as I found it cute but it did not affect me in any way. My heart was anywhere but in the race. Nothing could lift my spirit up. I was now a walking zombie.
I was wary of dogs as the race passed villages, but the cows scared me the most. As I was walking up a hill, there were three cows in the middle of the road who were making intimidating sound. Soon after, I ran into the first person on the road since I left WS5. It was a 61-year old Australian, Lance Williams. Yes, a big SIX ONE. He was with his wife is was 2 years older, but she left him behind.
It was assuring to have a company so I decided to stick with him. We talked about almost everything, from politic, to economy, to life and death. I let him know of my admiration. He was 61, looked healthy and had already run few ultramarathon including an Ironman, where he passed out while riding his bicycle due to heat in Dubai.
I told him that I just lost my aunt due to cancer and she was only in her 60s. Then he revealed that he was a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. Luckily he got it checked quickly. He battled chemotherapy and medication for four years and he was now free of it. I asked him how difficult it was for him to undergo chemotherapy for four years. I heard stories cancer patients would rather die than go through chemotherapy. He said he did not have any other option. Suffer from chemotherapy or die? It was obvious which one to choose. His parents are still alive and they are in their 90s, and he is optimistic that he will live through his 80s.
As a Muslim, I believe that death have been set when we are still in our mothers’ womb. It is inevitable. But it does not mean that we do not have to work and sacrifice to prolong our lives. He told me he does things in moderate. Eat moderately, drink sensibly, rest and sleep sufficiently, exercise frequently, and smoke jangan sekali (Sorry I had to write it in Malay as it rhymes. It means never ever smoke).
He is an inspiration. I would like to see myself still running, cycling, hiking with little Afiqs and little Syafykas in my 60s.
He had run ultramarathons in Australia, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, including TMBT in 2013, and he reckoned TMBT was the toughest of them all.
Time passed by really quickly. Without realising it, we were already at WS6, 1 hour 13 minutes after I left WS5. I refilled my water bottles and continued. It was the shortest pit stop of the race apart from WS1. It only took me 2 minutes and 30 seconds and Lance joked that it was his longest.
WS6 to WS7
Distance: 12.2km, Elevation gain: 500m, Elevation loss: 260m, Cut off time: N/A.
Before leaving, I asked another runner to have a look at the map. It was 12.2 kilometres to the next water station, but I foolishly left out one key detail, that would leave me cursing all the way to WS7.
The course went through gradual downhill mixed with flat and few short easy climbs. Whenever the route went downhill, Lance would ask me to jog with him. I am less than half his age, but he was the one who asked me to jog. How ironic. There were many switchbacks where we could see lights from the headlamps of the runners in front. Surprisingly, we made up a lot of ground with front runners and passed many of them.
After some jogs down the hill, Lance started panting. I asked him to slow down. My race was never about pace. The only parameter, apart from time obviously, that I kept in check was my heart rate. Every time my heart rate started to spike up, I would slow down. The only time I let pace took charge was when running downhill in the rain after WS4.
Lance did not want to hold me back so he told me to go ahead. I refused until we were reunited with a large group of runners. Coincidentally, the course went through a long gradual downhill. Out of blue, I smelled blood. I was in the mood, in the zone.
This was an emotional race. I ran on emotion. When the course was flat or downhill, and it did not matter whether I was feeling great physically or not, if I was not in the mood, I would not run. And vice versa. This was a rare instance which I was in the mood.
I descended fast past many and left Lance behind. I only saw him again on the bus going back to Kota Kinabalu after the completion of the race.
Suddenly, the race went uphill on gravel road. I was uninformed about sudden climb. This was the key detail that I missed out when checking the map at WS6. It was a long steep climb all the way to the next water station. I was cursing all the way up, but strangely, I was happy at the same time. With the aid of my trekking pole, I walked up the hill faster than others. I made up more grounds.
Due to the ever increasing altitude and temperature, it got foggier as I climbed up. I was now running alone in the thick foggy jungle. It got a little bit scary. I did not see anybody for more than 30 minutes. The only sign of civilisation was a house around a bend in the jungle. It was strange because no other houses except for abandoned huts nearby.
I was surprised of the gap between myself and others in front. I expected to run into more runners. Few kilometres before the water station, I ran into Sham again. He was by himself too, but he was taking his own sweet time climbing the hill. I walked past him before starting to see houses. I knew the water station was close. I saw a brightly-lit building on top of a hill. It looked close. So I activated my watch’s navigation feature. I already loaded coordinates of every water stations on my watch before leaving to Kota Kinabalu. The water station was only about 1 kilometre as the crow flies. But according to the distance on my watch, it would be at least two more kilometres before reaching the next water station.
To make to WS7, runners had to turn right at a junction and continued to climb the hill for another 700 metres or so. After WS7, runners had to descend the same hill and go straight at the junction to WS8. As I was climbing the hill to WS7, I passed by many runners who were making their way down to WS8. After running in the woods mostly by myself after a long while, it was a relief to see others.
I checked in at WS7 16 hours and 23 minutes after the start of the race. It was almost midnight and it was so cold. Wanteng was about to leave, again. They had Coke, Milo, and instant noodles at WS7. However, it was a shame that the water heater was not functioning. After probing, it was actually something to do with the wall socket. I was surprised that none of the volunteers did not try to use other sockets, unless there was only one wall socket in the hall, which was improbable.
I was not complaining as I was tired. I poured the water in to the cup and waited the noodle to soften up. It was like eating Mamee. I was never a fan of instant noodle and had not eaten one for a long time, but since I was deprived, I had sudden craving to eat instant noodle. Later, when I was back in Kuala Lumpur, I bought two cups of instant noodle and still was not a fan.
It is human nature, when we are denied of something, we have a longing, or become rebellious. Just like underage smokers. Since smoking is prohibited, they yearn for it. It is fun to be rebellious.
While filling my bottle with Coke, I saw a short blonde minah salleh (white female), just like what Lance had described. It was Lance’s wife. I told her Lance was probably 15 minutes behind.
I was waiting for my noodle to soften up when Sham showed up. He told me not to rest long because there was a chance of hypothermia due to the altitude and temperature. I tried to finish my noodle but it was hard to swallow, so I passed it to Sham. Later, I heard that front runners poured water beforehand so that runners who came in afterwards would not have to wait for it to soften up.
I did not know what took me so long but I stopped at WS7 for 40 minutes. I planned to walk to the next water stations as there would be more steep descents. I just hated steep descent. Given the same gradients, I believe I climbed up faster than descended down.
This is the end of Part 2. The initial plan was to split it into two parts. But since there are no pictures during the night run, I guess it will be too long and too boring without pictures. There will be Part 3 which is the last part, where I had the closest encounter to something supernatural and how I finished the race.
17 hours 3 minutes into the race, 62.5 kilometres covered. Plenty more to come.