To approach Titi 50 merely as an extended River Jungle Marathon (RJM; race reports here and here) would be wrong on so many levels. Firstly, it wasn’t just 8K more to run (it’s closer to 12K), the extended section happened over the most challenging parts of the RJM route. Next, the 50K category started at midnight when the body and mind would’ve slowed down (more on sunlight, melatonin and the circadian cycle). Which meant that at a window when the body was supposed to rejuvenate and produce growth hormones, we would be outside slogging away.
Having run RJM (race reports 1 and 2), I knew what awaited us. Instead of starting from the Chinese School at Bt.18, we would be starting from the Waterfront Thai Restaurant at Bt.14, taking the RJM 1st edition route towards the dam. Nearly everyone from the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) Training Group reported for the race and from the outset I saw that the venue was a well chosen one. Ample parking and spacious grounds meant plenty of space for runners to mingle and chill. There was no pressure, at least non visible. It was just going to be a social run for me, an opportunity to put on some mileage with friends and to test out the Skechers GOrun Ultra (GRU). It also won’t be the longest distance I’ve undertaken as I’ve taken to tagging on extra distances prior to race starts since last year. Instead of the distance, the actual test would be the long ascents and descents on top of sleep deprivation.
From previous experience of running a large part of the route, I knew that I won’t have much problems clearing the initial 15K. That involved tackling the 3K climb up the first hill and down the other side towards CP1 by the dam. Up to that point, I had only a short walk break – inserted near the summit of the 3K climb. It was around there that I caught up with Nick, him having taken off like a rabbit on steroids. Soon after we had to run through ashes in the air from an earlier fire in the bush. The weather was that hot, of late. I was glad to have my buff, which I used to cover my nose and mouth. It made breathing a little difficult but hey, no ingestion of ashes! Just as I thought Nick was the only one I knew around me, McIjam scampered past us like a rhino on steroids. As we refilled our bottles with the help of Weng Woo, Wai Yee and the scouts at CP1, I asked McIjam what the heck he was doing running so fast. “Going downhill ma,” he replied sheepishly.
Not wanting to waste time at the CP, I carried on towards CP2. Other than the start/finish 3K, this section was relatively flat and I increased my pace a little. It was a conscious decision on my part, knowing fully well that I’d be walking at some stage up the 9K climb. I reached CP2 under 1:45 and still felt wakeful (thanks to the Coke) and pretty good. Jeff was there encouraging the runners and checking on the CP. The long climb started out gradual enough and indeed very runnable, at least the first 3K which RJM covered. This winding section was both a pleasure and a pain to run. I liked the solitude – the runners were spread further by then – and the sounds of trees rustling in the wind. As I headed upwards, the cooler the air and the stronger the wind got. I admit that it can be an unnerving experience, alone along the backroads but the full moon was bright enough to light the way and we’re still pretty much on the road and not in the jungle. Occasionally some hell riders and support cars would pass us but the longer the climb got, the more tiring it became. I began alternating running with walk breaks to keep moving and caught up with and passed Kew. The lead exchanged again a short while later and dropped me for good. The run-walk routine would continue until the Negeri Sembilan border marker and a descent followed before finally climbing towards CP3. Gan, Kew and Richi were already there and I asked them to not wait for me as they were obviously stronger climbers.
At this point, I felt a little empty in the stomach (but it wasn’t hunger) yet somehow I couldn’t see the need to eat. It was sheer stupidity to have thought I could deal with the remaining 26K on what I had left inside. All I downed were 2 sticks of KitKat, 2 slices of watermelons and a few Perpetuem tablets. It was getting chilly and I put on the windshell In hindsight, I should have also opted for the bread to settle down the stomach. On my way back to CP2 there were still many on the other side of the road making their way up to CP3 and I saw that I wasn’t in too bad a position – probably smacked in the middle of the pack. The lead runners were already too far ahead to be seen. The long descent proved to be a torture for the stiff legs. While the GRU provided excellent impact protection, the stiff legs were proving inefficient in tackling the downhill. Disappointingly, I couldn’t capitalize on this “easier” section. There was some walking down this long stretch and I caught up with Tay Poh Chye who was on his way to finishing yet another 100. Chatted him up a bit before I went on my way.
I reached CP2 with Khairi in attendance. We chatted for awhile and as I stretched out the legs (standing up, no sitting down for me please!), Nick suddenly popped in followed closely by Piew and Yan Leng. Both Piew and Yan Leng looked so fresh that one could’ve thought that they were just starting their run!
Again not wanting to rest too long, I set off by walking up the slope immediately after the CP. Once I cleared that uphill, it was back to the run-walk routine. The air was fresh and quiet, disturbed only by the barking of the village dogs. It was 5am-ish already and would be getting light soon. The mind was focused just on 1 thing – getting to the next CP which thankfully isn’t far off. The trio of Nick, Piew and Yan Leng drew up and pulled away. At one stage, they were as far as 200m away. They were running so effortlessly in efficient strides. I dug in and halved the gap just as they checked into CP1. Took a 10-minute break before the 4 of us headed up the final 4K climb which was steeper than any sections we’d undertaken earlier.
The push to the top was not easy of course, but we kept the walking pace quick and even managed to pass a few stragglers. Once we crested the top, all 3 took off like they just saw a ghost and suddenly I was alone. The final 4K was neverending, which was unfortunate since it was really the easiest and flattest section. I’d bonked and no matter how much I willed the mind, I couldn’t get the legs going. some toiling later, the race was done. Tey who was at the finish line informed me that my timing was 7:08. It would’ve been nice to dip below 7 but I’d messed up my fueling and there was no 2 ways about avoid the bonk when one committed the stupid error.
Yet I enjoyed the outing tremendously. The weather was excellent, though I did catch a slight cold after, and everyone in the GCAM group finished. Time to get onto the next one in 2 weeks’ time!
Some thoughts on the event:
The organizers can take heart with a lot of things done right, for a debut event.
Good choice for a Start/Finish site
- Ample space for parking and mingling
- Shower facilities.
- Baggage handling
- Mini buffet at the finish
Adequate Safety Personnel
- Medics from National Sports Institute
- Mahamas ambulances
Excellent and Enthusiastic Volunteers
- Fellow runners
- Boy Scouts and Girl Guides
- Unofficial supporters/runners who ply the route offering food and drinks
Well-stocked Water Stations
- Fruits, drinks, bread, jelly beans, candies
Could be better
- Mandatory gear check not enforced resulting in tricky situation with errant runners.
- DQing of runners must include proper tabulation (eg timestamp, location, reason) to avoid ambiguity
- Attendance taking at all CPs not done
- More police presence could’ve reduced the Mat Rempit menace
- Burning from the dry and hot weather
- Mat Rempits (if the cops can’t manage them, who can? Charles Bronson?)
- The notorious rubbish dumps of Hulu Langat