Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Bubble: Living Up To The Challenge

Hey, I'm a newly minted half-centurion today!

I have not been posting much of late ... just bits and pieces here and there when the brain and inspiration functions in unity. This post had been long overdue ... the first draft which had been started weeks before I went on the challenging ultra trail marathon in the mountain and then trying to overcome my fear factor of the deep on an island resort.  While one of this may be on my birthday wishlist ... I'm glad I did not add scuba-diving to the list because it is going to take many rounds of practice to break me from the grip of this fear.  Yes, I failed miserably even at an attempt on scuba discovery.

However,  I had prepared myself mentally to face the physical challenges that comes with the 50km ultra trail marathon.  Everything started a OK in the morning as lo kong and I gathered with most other participants at the designated pickup point.  With our drop bags duly parked with the officials, we boarded Bus #4 and headed out on a 2-hour ride to the starting point along with 12 other buses.  A storm on the previous night had rerouted our bus ride and we arrived exactly at the starting time ... 7am.  As there was already a long queue to cross a hanging bridge before the registration hall, the race was definitely not going start anytime soon.  With every participant registered, the race finally started an hour late. This is the beginning of everything going against us.

Firstly, starting an hour late meant our targeted 12-hour finish would require us to come back in the dark as the day turns dark earlier in Sabah.  In the dark, we would definitely become slower too and we prayed we could make it back within the 15 hours qualifying time.  A short distance after flag-off, everyone is stucked again in a bottleneck to cross another hanging bridge ... 5 persons per trip and we were stuck there for 1.5 hours.  We reached the first water station and were told there will be a time compensation of more than an hour.  The trail wasn't easy as it was muddy and slippery due to the rain on previous days.  This slowed us down a lot as we did not want to risk any injuries.

About 6 hours into the race, it started to rain.  Paths became streams, streams became rapids and rivers were raging.  We were practically making our way in running streams of water until we reach the first checkpoint.  Armed with the thought that we had a time compensation of 1.5 hours, we thought we had arrived within the cut-off time ... only to be told that the organizer had only given a time compensation of half an hour.

What?!!  Delayed by 1.5 hours and we're expected to recover the distance in half an hour and in the rain.  Anyway based on our calculations, we were late by only 8 minutes but the marshall was adamant to have our bibs and so that was it ... we were disqualified from continuing with the race with or without our decision to DNF (Do Not Finish) by then.

Wait wait!  That's not the end ... we still had to trek another hour to the next water station to get our transport to the finish point to get our change of dry clothes and the bus ride back to the city.

The rain wasn't letting up and thus began the looming dangers.  While heading towards the next water station, we were challenged by a stream that had turned into a rapids.  The sound of the rocks knocking against each other as they were being wash away was scary.  Together with 2 other couples, we attempted to cross and that's when lo kong was almost washed away, trying to prevent a lady who had slipped from being swept away.  I heard lo kong's walking stick snapped and amidst the sudden chaos, the lady's hubby managed to grab on to her while lo kong went out of course.  Thankfully lo kong managed to grab on a fallen tree branch and reached safely on the other side.  By then, another group arrived and the men were able to form a stronger human chain across to lo kong's side so that everyone can cross one at a time.  These teamwork brought all 12 of us past the next 2 rapids and on our way to the next water station.

Upon reaching the next water stations, there were many participants who had either decided to DNF or were still contemplating their next move.  The pouring rain has hampered many from completing their race.  As there was a search and rescue effort initiated to help participants stranded by the raging rivers and streams, the wait for our transport back to the finish point took hours.  Soaked to the skin, I was grateful that we had a thermal blanket as one of our mandatory items.  It did not keep me warm but at least it protected me from the cold winds.   While we faced the rain in the jungle, strong winds and rain ravaged the finish point blowing off some of the tents housing our drop bags ... ours were totally soaked.  Without any dry change, we had to take the 2-hour bus ride into the city all still wet but wrapped in a thermal blanket.

By the time we reached our hotel room, we had been soaked to the skin for at least 8 hours!  In a way, I'd consider it a blessing to be disqualified because if we had continued on, we would have reach after the last bus into the city have departed.  We will then have to overnight at the finish point without any dry change of clothes ... I dread to think of hyperthemia in that scenario.

I'm a half-centurion today!  Another birthday wishlist completed but the mission was not fully accomplished.  The registration for TMBT 2014 opens next month, October ... I'm so contemplating another try.  Should I or shouldn't I?

0 Bubbles: