Friday, October 28

25th Mt. Kinabalu International Cimbathon - Friends Blogs - by Seow Kong Ng

Seow is a friend of a foreign friend in FB, his post of an ultramarathon pictures in Antarctica caught my attention. I view his pictures with excitement, if it's talking about extreme sports, this one is an extreme adventure. And as I look at his posts, he has been to several races all over the world, one thing I also wanted to do as well. His races and the way he answer comments especially my comments inspires me to aspire for more especially on running. And on the Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon, he was there. All the more I can say, he really is an inspiration, he reach the cut off for the Men's Veterans, the same to that of the Women's Open he really is an amazing guy. I posted his write up in FB, just to constantly remind me that in this sports, age does not matter,  for as long as you want it, you can do it. You constantly amaze me Seow, your strength in running and determination really inspire me to do more. Thank you for being one of my friend. 

I have looked forward to meet up with so many FB 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 skeptism though. Climbathon- The World's Toughest Mountain Race- Are you tough enough? 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 21k mountain race be tougher than a 166k Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (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 requires you to ascent almost straight up from about 1800m to a high altitude of 4095m (a gain of almost 2300m), and then to descend immediately to about 1500m (a loss of elevation of 2600m). 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, which could mean Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) for some runners, and also lesser oxygen in the air.

Those were the tough parts. In other longer mountain trail races, most will ascent for at most 1000m, and then will be followed by descent. These undulation allows muscles to recover, thus avoiding fatigue.

It seems that quite a lot of runners are repeating participants 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 mile 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 6k 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.

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 2.6k to the peak within the cutoff. I snapped pictures whenever I felt the compulsion to do so. I mean, 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 ascent is certainly an interesting experience, and yet at that altitude of around 4000m, it was tough. Low's peak could never seem to be near enough. I reached it in 3:09:11 (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 scaringly fast and out of control if you're not careful. That km 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 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 strecth of 4.5k. It was quite demoralizing to have my leg muscles so thrashed that little spring power was left. That last 4.5k of asphalt road seems to be so long and winding that when the Finsih Point came into view, I couldn't quite believe that the end was near.

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 5:45:11, 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 higest altitude is 3152m, the terrain varyies from earth to gravel (so much easier than Climbathon), and distance is 22km. Yet the winning time is 1:50:55 as compaired to 2:33 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 2300m and descent of 2600m, 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 Climbathon also marks the end of the race to the peak of the second highest mountain in South East Asia. What a pity! Should we lobby for the current route to be maintained as it is?
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  • You, Erl PamesaTey EngTiong and 20 others like this.

    • Cheryl J. Bihag nice pictures Seow...I am really glad I saw you in this event....and again Congratulations for finishing the race.....see you at HK100...
      Wednesday at 12:22pm · 

    • Charlotte Teoh Congrats Seow Kong!! U re definitely too tough for tis! LoL
      Wednesday at 12:36pm · 

    • Amelia Ang Congrats Seow Kong! I will try next year. Need your expert advice
      Wednesday at 1:54pm · 

    • Seow Kong Ng Cheryl J. Bihag, the pleasure is mine too. You're such a cheerful person, of course with also your emotional side too. It's so great!! See you in HK100 then. Glad that now you're committed to it.
      Wednesday at 3:01pm · 

    • Seow Kong Ng Thanks Charlotte Teoh. I wasn't too sure though until I reached the peak within the cutoff time.
      Wednesday at 3:02pm · 

    • Seow Kong Ng I will be most honored to share my experiences and lessons, Amelia Ang. Not sure about the "expert advice" though.
      Wednesday at 3:03pm · 

    • Chen Chee Kong Congrats Seow Kong Ng! Argh... disappointed to learn that next year no more summit route for Climbathon! Was hoping to do it once my weight gone down!
      Wednesday at 3:06pm · 

    • Amelia Ang Thanks, need your advice on how to get prepared for the race. You are a super iron man, I must 'Salute' you as you have so much energy to do endurance races. Are you on VFF KSO or VFF KOMODO?
      Wednesday at 3:12pm ·  ·  1 person

    • Charlotte Teoh Really!! :'m
      Wednesday at 3:13pm ·  ·  1 person

    • Seow Kong Ng Amelia Ang, I have been on KSO Trek all along for trail races. I don't have a pair of Komodo. I am running in Speed for road marathons.
      Wednesday at 3:15pm · 

    • Seow Kong Ng Yes, Charlotte Teoh. 21minute margin can be lost if you're just not in the right condition on race day. Some faster road runners were within few minutes of 3:30 in reaching the peak, a lot more have missed it too.
      Wednesday at 3:17pm ·  ·  1 person

    • Amelia Ang I see. VFF Komodo is comfy too and its for trail and road.
      Wednesday at 3:19pm · 

    • Kc Leong Congratulation and Bravo!
      Wednesday at 5:18pm · 

    • Kc Leong ah... let the 26th Climbathon in 2012 to change route so that more runners (who would doubt their ability to reach the summit) to test it out. When the organizer revert to the summit trail, then more runners will participate ... :-)
      Wednesday at 5:27pm ·  ·  2 people

    • Seow Kong Ng Kc Leong, let's hope that they will eventually revert back to the summit trail.
      Wednesday at 10:09pm ·  ·  1 person

    • Cheryl J. Bihag I wish the same, i hope they will still do the summit trail next year. and hopefully by then I'd be as fast as you Seow, and i'd be able to finish the race within the cut-off time....
      20 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Seow Kong Ng Hehe, Cheryl J. Bihag, let's train to be faster than me, reaching the summit under 3:00hr. Sure you can do it sooner or later!!All the best!!
      20 hours ago · 

    • Cheryl J. Bihag thank you Seow, you're really an inspiration....i know i can do it....i just need to train harder....
      20 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Seow Kong Ng Cheryl J. Bihag, we were really lucky to have such a good day last Saturday. Sunny, no wind, not slippery (mostly), no need to wear gloves and jackets. To have a safer margin, that's why I suggested that you should aim to go faster if you can. You might not be as lucky to get that kind of condition again.
      19 hours ago · 

    • Cheryl J. Bihag i totally agree Seow....saturday was such a good weather after several days of raining late morning prior to the race. going a faster pace is something that I should train, I am not a fast runner ever since, i just main a slow but consistent pace which is a big challenge in races that has cut off time like kinabalu.
      19 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Seow Kong Ng Onto another subject of cutoff for men open. 2.5 hr to the peak, 2 hr to go down to finish line. Total 4.5hr. How tough is this cutoff?

      Only 9 veterans and 4 women have reached the peak under 2.5 hours, and 13 veterans and 7 women completed within 4.5 hours.

      It is therefore, TOUGH!! for the men open category!!

      16 hours ago ·  ·  2 people

    • Seow Kong Ng And of the 9 veterans who reached the peak under 2:30, 3 are non-Malaysians (US, Jpn and Can), and the other 6 are Sabahan Malaysians. No west Malaysians and Singaporeans made it.
      16 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Amy Wong Bcos we are in the urban land too flat to train for sky running or even do a decent trail running. We can only travel out to do all these and to find a decent trail running mountain is also a issue.
      12 hours ago · 

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