Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Was that a LSD?

When there were no upcoming event, I became lazy to run on weekday mornings as I did before. There was simply no motivation. I just wait for weekends. The recent weekend was not as interesting as the last two, hence I had to push myself at least for something to sweat about.

My other half had plans to spend the morning in Putrajaya with her siblings, which includes breakfast and breeze walking by the lake. I on the other hand must arrange for another plan at the same venue. I brought along my running shoes and the rest of the attire.

For motivation, I fixed a mission, to test a new running application I downloaded on my phone. Yes, I know I am kind of not-up-to-date despite the existence of the apps many moons ago. I'm trying to inspire myself here.

It was the Runkeeper apps. I still remember having to use Endomondo and Daily Miles. Perhaps this one had some twicks for improvement. 

I started from Monumen Alaf Baru, the torpedo shape structure and cruise my slow pace along the lake taking me behind the Tuanku Mizan Mosque, the Putrajaya Flora Fest venue towards the bridge before PICC.

The yellow concrete pavement was hard on my feet, hence I had to carefully pounce them in order to avoid any reasons to ditch the run. There were many recreation cyclists both families and small groups that I came across. Only a handful of runners. Once in a while I came across the 100 Plus Outrunner directional signage, which will take place that evening. I thought that the lanes could be a bit narrow to cater for the run.

I crossed under the bridge and ran to other side only to find a more secluded place though it seemed like more nice place to run and cycle due to the absence of traffic. But, I decided to turn back and continue my way back while the sun started stinging my back.

It was a great run and the humidity simply threw in buckets of sweat after the run.

Runkeeper seemed OK for the first time using it. Though I found some glitches like inconsistencies recording the current running pace, but I don't mind. I might try it during the next run.

See how slow I am now? Yes, I still enjoy running

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hulu Langat Trail Run & MPAJ Ampang Hill Trail Challenge

Yes. You read it right. I was on the trail...and running, and participating some more. I guess the smell of forest floor lead me back into the trail when weekend comes.

The Hulu Langat Trail Run was never in my list. As usual, with Salomon and the like of branding sponsorship, event like this sells like 'pisang goreng panas' in minutes, despite the steep entry fee. I've been missing the scenario of running event and expensive entry fee. It never did gone. It is blooming profitably with more health conscious minded people participating. So are the sports shops. Expanding and opening more with more sports brands coming in. 

I didn't register for it. The opportunity just flew in when a friend decided to skip and pass his slot to me. It was a great idea to run it, but I realised I wanted more.

I seldom heard of Hulu Langat holding a trail run besides the ultra marathon thing which is basically a road run. Adding to the rareness. the venue itself, IKBN together with the support by the local council was kind of hard to digest. Anyway, the place provided a great playground.

The early morning traffic was bad heading towards IKBN, especially on Sunday. I heard that they closed the registration for both 10km and 16km with a total of up to 3000 runners. No wonder that Hulu Langat road was packed. I rode my motorbike, hence no traffic difficulty.

I found myself simply weird around the crowd. The atmosphere that I left for quite a long time. Warm ups, stretch and chats while the deejay tuning in the atmosphere. And not a single familiar face except for my usual running friends that came together.

Moments later I was between runners being flagged off. The 16K crowd was released first followed by the 10K, both were massive.

We had tarmac, followed by with trails through small plots of orchards, forest and plantations. Interconnected by small 'kampung' roads in between houses, we reached into more trails before ending back at IKBN.

I had a mixture of running and hiking, especially through inclines. However, the 10K may seemed some what endless when the legs felt weak. Luckily they had three river crossings, so we had to splash splosh our way back.

I think I clocked somewhere slightly above an hour. No, I didn't quite monitor my time because I don't have a running or a heart rate monitor anymore. I ditched them ions ago. I had fun instead and enjoyed the breakfast meal after the run while waiting friends finishing.

A week after, I totally forgot that I have registered for the Ampang Hill Trail Challenge. Whilst planning for weekend stuff, a friend reminded me of the event which we have registered under the free slots weeks ago. Great.

It was held at Bukit Indah, Ampang. This time the crowd was way much smaller. Only limited to 300 participants. I started observing and noticed that familiar faces from old running times started emerging into the scene. And I can say that these individuals were legends during their time. It felt like a small running get together. However, I didn't expect that the subsequent challenges awaits with curses.

Bukit Indah are known for it's mountain bike trail. A man made and maintained. Nice with soft rolls and switchbacks. We ran here for the first section. Then we left for the tarmac which I felt bored of until we reached Kelab Darul Ehsan. The hill there was simply terrible, though it was not as ugly as other road running hills but it was simply boring.

We entered another trail but too bad we can't run it due to the super steep staircase. Two hills together. There was a lake or they say used to be a reservoir at the top. Nice place.

The rest of the trail was running downhill but still, it was too steep to gain speed. We came back to a tarmac before finishing at the mountain bike trail head again.

The run clocked almost 9K and I was never bothered how did I performed, but I survived and had fun. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Gunung Semangko - Mission Abort

This project kicked-off almost 2 months after Kinabalu. Should be well rested now, though the craving for high altitude air keeps on coming. Until a friend agreed to guide us, but cramping the normal 3 days 2 nights hike into 2 days 2 nights (first night at a mosque). Until halfway into the trail, we thought this could be slightly an ambitious project.

I can see that it is going to be a tough hike. The distance and the undulating terrain. Almost similar the distance between Pine Tree trail head to Twin Peak, but with more abandoned trails. Still, it follows the Selangor-Pahang border where one can always fine the boundary stones throughout the ridge.

I had a glimpse of the trail head from Twin Peak from my previous hike. The descending was super steep and slippery from loose pebbles at the beginning and endless of slippery dry leaves trail testing your shoes'  grip. The climbing back was never easy either.

19 of us which included 4 kids (two are mine) and 3 teenagers. We left home at 11.00 p.m. and headed straight to Fraser Hill. The Friday night traffic was pretty bad though it was already late. We reached Fraser Hill somewhere at 1.00 a.m. and as usual, chilling. The mosque was our official stay for the night, and so were a few more groups which we presumed hikers as well.

My kids and I chose a tiny spot at the veranda which we thought it was better to occupy just the outside of the main praying hall. Everyone snugged into their sleeping bags and dozed off into the chilling night.

We were awoken by the generous melodies of mobile phones' alarm all over the mosque. Then followed by the azan.

A quick breakfast, white rice and black pepper chicken, together with a few more pot lucks, we were fueled up for the task. We left the trail head somewhere around 7.30 a.m. And there were at least two groups started off around the same time, but perhaps only up to Twin Peak.

We managed to reach Twin Peak at 11.30 a.m. for a quick lunch. A final check and assessment by our guide for every one's condition before proceeding. The first challenge was descending quite a steep terrain. Slippery as well due to loose gravels. Then it goes further down with no roots to place our steps but only slippery dry leaves. With heavy rucksacks, I don't dare take any risk of running down this.

We hit a dry creak at the bottom. Very bottom. Then we climbed steep up again. And this routine continued on for a few more until we reached a junction. There's a simple laminated sign showing the direction to Gunung Semangko, turning left. This juncture may be a bit tricky when coming back since the sign only welcome hikers coming in. Be careful.

The trail that continued provided plentiful of more ups and downs through shrubs, fallen trees and the idea of getting to Kem Sungai Merah, which is supposed to be a low lying area with a river was never seemed possible. Maybe! The river flows against the gravity and up towards the peak of a mountain. Our minds started became clouded by fatigue and boredom.

Due to the lack of drive, energy and perhaps boredom, we only managed to reach Kem Sungai Merah at almost 4.30 p.m., which was a mere 4 hours from Twin Peak. We overshot the so called 'ambitious' target.

Kem Sungai Merah have a few campsites. The closest to the river is down right from the main trail. The other two lies just next to the trail, which are larger that can snugged up to 30 person per night. The one by the river is smaller and can cater up to 15 person, but we really had to squeeze between trees to piece together our fly sheets, hammocks and some single man tent.

We feasted like mad. Every bit of food in our bags were taken out and cooked and served. The idea of continuing onward to the peak Gunung Semangko almost disappeared together with the clouds of smoke from our stoves. We were more excited to be there instead of attempting the peak.

At 6.00 p.m. teenagers started to be a bit anxiety. They urged the guides to lead them to the peak. The peak trail will easily take 3 hours in day light. At pitch black night, that could be double. They left for the peak minutes after a quick light preparation.

The rest of the night was spent nice and cozy under our tents upon cups and cups of coffee. It was so nostalgic. I really missed the moment many years ago. We dozed off into our sleeping bags when there were no more gossips to share, I think it was still 10.00. It gets colder into the night. We were glad it didn't rain.

Later in the morning, we were told that the peak attempt was a no go. They found the trail to be difficult and the night was not helping either. They turned back after an hour and decided to ditch the idea.

We were glad that they decided that way, or else they will lost a lot of sleeping hours and the hike back to the trail head will become tougher.

The hike back took almost the same time though it felt a bit easier or perhaps familiar. We managed to enjoy the hike as compared to the day before. A quick lunch at Twin Peak and crawling our way back to the trail head. More weekend hikers hiking in to Twin Peak as we exited.

Mishaps did happen before where hikers lost their way through the maze of trails around Fraser Hill. A few cases did hit the news. There are lots of factors contributed to mishaps in hiking such as improper planning, fatigue, insufficient hydration and hiking essentials.

We came across a group on our way out. It was already 3.00 p.m. and they were no where half way to Twin Peak. They only had a bottle of 1.5 liter of hydration to share among 4 of them, no other food, no torch light which proudly stated they have their phones. Simply hipsters.

Final climb to Pine Tree Peak

One of the many interesting stops, the huge tree

Twin Peak

Masjid Fraser Hill check-in

Twin Peak. One of those peak behind is probably Semangko

The trail head

Bunga Semangko...?

Mountain range from Pine Tree peak

One of the state boundary stones