Monday, October 24

The Final Day - 25th Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon 2011 - Women's Open

This is it, there wouldn't be any other day than this day, the day that we have been preparing for several months now. I come here not expecting so much on myself, as I always said, I just want to enjoy the race, enjoy the view, have fun on the trail and not put so much pressure on myself to make it to the cut off time. 

We start our day with an early wake up call, earlier than our alarm clocks ring. This  is the result of being excited and anxious at the same time. Our dear Roland knocks our door to prepare breakfast for us while we are busy doing the final preparation, what to bring on the race and our change clothes right after the race that we are going to leave at the baggage counter. 4:30am the van that will pick us from the lodge is already waiting for us at the parking lot. Despite what Datuk told us that it's going to be a good weather today compared to the past few days, it's still cold outside. We are the very first few runners who arrive at the Liwagu Hall, Datuk is already there making sure that the transportation for the runners will be ready. The Philippine delegates are  among the first few runners who are at the starting point.

It's still dark and cold, I went to the rest room several times, eat a little of the food that we bring, drink water, it's still early to warm up and do stretching. Pictures are taken left and right, not just by our fellow Filipino teammates but also by other photographers. As the day slowly breaks and the gun start almost approaching, I just can't explain what I feel, excitement, anxiety, but I was just praying I'd be able to finish the race without any injury at all. Each runner has to check in at the starting point. Slowly the number of runners are becoming more. Few minutes before the start of the race Nina, our PSA President, gather all of us (runners and supporters alike) in a circle and said a prayer. At this point I already cried, I cried because I am glad I bring myself this far in running, I never thought I will be in this mountain again, I cried because I braved myself to accept the challenge despite it's physical demand.

As the gun start was released, I rush to do the race. The start is an uphill asphalt road few meters before the Timpohon Gate. As early as here I already feel the pain in my legs and having difficulty puffing air. I am catching my breathe while beginning to be worried with my legs, but I just do a slow push of myself, hearing our Filipino teammates not running at this time cheering for us gives me a little boost. I pass by fellow runners, reaching Timpohon gate gives a little time to relax my legs, it's a downhill slope before going again to the uphill stairs of stones until the wooden ladder. I pass by other runners but other runners also pass by me. I thought to myself, I will just give my very best shot  on this race. I know I perform better at this time than on our training climb but it is not good enough to reach the cut off. My sore legs and my congested nose adds up to the difficulty that I am feeling on the kind of trail and the elevation gain.

I reach Laban Rata after 2 hours and 10 minutes, with only 1 hour 20 minutes left to do the summit, I know to myself it will be very difficult for me to reach the summit, having to tackle the rock face and the elevation gain at that area. But I said to myself I will not give up, I will still give my best despite my running of time anymore. Going to the very first stairs after Laban Rata, I saw Mon and Mia sitting on both ends of the first step of the wooden ladder. To my surprise I thought why. They said they will not make it anyway. But my thoughts was never give up,  not unless it's already time to turn around. So I go on with my climb, the next one kilometer going to the rock face could be the longest one kilometer ever. I already encounter runners going down. Mia followed, and then Jules. I hear them talking they will push up to Sayat Sayat. Doc Chi followed and pass by me. I said, I will push where ever I can reach the cut off.

After Sayat Sayat, I also give a thought of pushing despite the time, it's like one side of me is saying 'stop now and just join the two girls' while the other side of me is saying 'just go one and push to where ever you can reach'. I followed the latter, pushing myself further, until I reach the more exposed area, it's colder because of the wind blowing, the summit is now visible from where I am I can now see the runners and marshals up there  but it's still far. I just keep on moving upward, meeting other runners already going down, Helen, Merlita, then Seow, they made it. I am really happy for them. I finally made my turn around when it's already 3 hours 30 minutes, the furthest that I did is 7.6kilometers. At this point I now accepted my defeat, that the summit is just too near yet so far. I just enjoy my remaining time on the rock face by taking pictures of runners coming down, the view is just spectacular.

Our fun of getting picture was shortened when Nina arrive, she did not make it to the summit either but she said we need to rush back to the finish line, it's getting colder. I followed them, but upon reaching the last rope, Erl, and Cha which I thought it's Mayan were there. I go on with my descend,  just when I was at Laban Rata Erl was behind me saying she will pee. I said I will join. Few minutes later we continued with our descend, a long descend. I still want to have a strong finish despite my not making it to the cut off going up. But it's really a long descend, at first I told Erl we will just take our time, until she rush down which I followed and we make it together at the finish line. The 4 kilometer downhill road after Timpohon Gate is another killer to the knees. Few meters before the finish line I see Alex waiting for us. I felt alive and eager to cross the most awaited finish line.  Most of the team are there waiting for us. Crossing the finish line I was just nostalgic, Mia hug me then Jules. It was with Jules that I can't hold my tears anymore, I cried. I cried again just being so happy that I made it to the finish line  after 7 hours of running without rest, I cried because I am just happy that  I finish the race with any injury, I cried because I did it, I cried because I  finish the race that I dedicate as my post birthday gift to myself. All in all 7 hours.

When I climb this mountain June of last year and did the via ferata, I said to myself then I will go back on this mountain and do a high altitude rock climbing at the rock face someday. Never in my wildest dream will I ever come back more than a year after and do a mountain race. From the very start of my love of running, I am never a fast runner, infact I never though I will love running at all. I just develop a consistent pace that made me to the cut-off time on most races that I joined. I always thought, there will always be more runners faster than me and I  know there will be some slower than I am. But what is important is not beating others time but rather my own time. But on races like the one that I joined a week before this which is TNF 100 SG and this race, time is just a big factor. I wish to improve on this the next time. The Climbathon is a totally different experience, I can say a crazy experience having to run a distance of 21kilometer with an elevation gain of 2,300Meters. Truly this is the toughest one that I joined and I know this will always be a tough one.

After all, I think to myself, this again is another great work out for the ultimate travel that I have been preparing for several months now. I hope and pray the experience and the exposure that I gain on this trip will give my body a chance to adapt to the worst condition on the trip that I will embark in few months from now.

I thank the team for a great experience.

Picture:Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon - Women's Open

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