Returning to this magical place; a national park with 1000’s of species of orchids, 100’s of rainbow coloured birds some still unclassified and an eerie mist rolling over the bare rock 4000m above.
I arrived definitely less prepared than in 2010, where I had raced the SkyRunning series and various other uphill mountain races in Europe and America. This year has had more of a focus on stage running, more distance than climbing and unfortunately in a gym. With a heel stress fracture at the start of the year and now a cranky Popliteus muscle (the annoying one at the back of the knee) I wasn’t full of confidence but full of happiness to be participating in such an incredible event that the locals take so much pride in.
Climbing 8.72km up, with an ascent of 2295m, through the rainforest, slipping on wooden steps, grunting over big stones and pulling at the chains to skim up the rocks all the way to the 4095m summit, where….you got it…we turn and hammer it all the way back down…trying at all costs to stay up right even if it means hanging onto the runners still pushing on up.
Like always the field was stacked with high achieving trail and mountain runners from all around the world and this year even more so with it being the SkyRunning World Cup. The women and veteran men took off on Saturday morning with a bang. The little Malaysian athletes sprinting off up the road before hitting the steep trails.
Brandy Erholtz one of USA’s leading mountain runner, put in a huge effort reaching the top in a flying time of 2.11hr, with Danny from Malaysiatouching the summit 9minutes behind her and myself another painful 5minutes further back.
I have never in my life hoped so much that I wasn’t running up a mountain and actually looked forward to the down hill. This year I made a conscious effort to have a couple of seconds taking in the incredible views, the beauty of the rock and like always the huge sense of achievement and freedom there is on the top of such a dominating mountain. With some practise and advice this year from my team mates my technique and confidence on down hills has improved. As the 4th Malaysian woman, Ahineh caught me, I caught Brandy and the battle was on for the next 2 podium spots as Danny had already disappeared with phenomenal downhill talent leaving us in her dust! The battle came right down to the final kilometres, where I managed to hold 2nd while Brandy sprinted into 3rd.
It always amazes me just how different a year can be. And with a year of not great consistency in my training and with 4kgs extra weight due to injuries and dealing with the FAT issue (see my blog: https://frostysfootsteps.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/female-athlete-triad-fat/) to lug up the hill I definitely felt 20minutes slower than last year. Still, I am happy to have been there in the company of so many beautifully happy mountain people.
The open men’s race was on Sunday. Kilian, racing for his 5th win in his 5th continent was always going to have a tough encounter with record holder and 6 time world champion Marco De Gasperi. And didn’t they put on a show!
Marco summited with a lead of 4minutes ahead of kilian with Spanish sky runner champion and ex biathlon Olympian Luis Alberto Hernando close behind.
The nerves were high from the finish area where we were getting kilometre updates with kilian closing the gap on Marco and at 3km to go they were neck and neck. Finally the police escort with its sirens blaring came screaming around the corner with kilian sprinting with a huge grimace on his face. He reached the finish just a close 30seconds ahead of Marco. And Luis finishing 3rd. An incredible show of talent from them all.
A night winning the Rugby World Cup, dancing to some crazy techno pop and a beautiful day recovering on Sapi Island off Kota Kinabalu was exactly what the doctor ordered before every headed back to the ‘real world’.
Gilbert raced really well considering his year of inconsistent training and fighting with injury finished strongly with a big smile on his face in 3oth place.
And then me and Gil made the most of the weather and headed to Langkawi Island for just a touch more of white sands and warm blue waters. Lush!