Mount Rinjani Ultra 2015 - Here We Go Again

MRU Year 2... geez... what the hell was I thinking?

Apart from the traditional MRU and RAR, Hendra has also cooked up a more sadistic Lombok Ultra Triathlon (, which starts a day earlier and finishes within the same MRU's cut-off time. To nudge my crazy-adrenaline-spiked friends’ spinning, Lombok Ultra Triathlon is a 6k swim, 300k cycling and the icing-on-the-cake is the 52K MRU!
Be rest assured you’ll get a complete Lombok experience of sea, sun and summit. So have I got your feathers ruffled, you full-time athletes, you?

The MRU 2015 overall cut-off time is maintained at 22 hours, but the starting line has been shifted from midnight, to at 22:00 hours. Published with additional one intermediate cut-off time at 11 hours for the summit – complete bollocks! That’s all I have to say.

Malaysian contingent made the largest number, thanks to the overgrowing popularity in trail running in Malaysia in particular, I mean – there are tonnes of trail running events in Malaysia easily almost every weekend. But some say it was partly because of my blog. Really? That’s hilarious… You meant Yim’s blog, right?

My super incredibluos Ultra Facts
Training nowadays, apart from being completely non-existent, is indeed downright unattainable. It is a constant struggle to steal a quality 3K run when there are other more important things in life to keep it well-greased. I did not know I was gonna start running (albeit amateur-ishly) at the age of 32, or else I would have not chosen Architecture as a career. Perhaps I would choose to be a gardener instead.

Ultra may not be my best answer to weight loss – sure it proved my heightened endurance level, but my increased girth cushioned by pay-off dinners, unnecessarily carbo-loading sessions, and prolonged Zero Weeks after mid-training events has more sugar-spikes seems to suggest that.

Ultra trail events seem the only conceivable excuse to see the largely unexplored commercial territories with minimum amount of money. A quick comparison that amount I’d spend at VMM for a 4-day package (airfare included) is still cheaper than joining a local obstacle-course event this year in KL – per-kilometer. It’s madness I know, but that’s how it is. Yeah, whatever happened to RM10 for a 10K race and bottomless Milo van?

Majority of ultra trail runners are very pleasant and great travelling companion, especially whenever they carry with them a humble competitive spirit.

Investment in lightweight kits whenever affordable – there is very little room to play here and they can get quite costly – but you’ll thank them later for a healthier lower and upper back, especially when you are old like me.
And the drama…

Well, I flew into Lombok nowhere near physically fit and ready than the previous year (what else is new? But honestly and truthfully, zero, so please wipe that smirk!… as I was buried 6 feet under statutory books, by-laws and all the boring, but extremely mandatory for my profession, literatures), if not weaker having dragged my swollen right ankles across Kemensah, Australia and FRIM.
But the AA flight out of KLIA2 seemed extravagant with the presence of many KL runners heading for MRU/RAR – a stark difference from last year. The afternoon flight was warm with many smiles and gleaming calves, but the bobbing flight riding the air pockets cuddled me to sleep. Worth to note when picking seats en route to Lombok is to pick the right wing (window seat even so) as Mount Rinjani stands proud above the clouds in the late evening is a sight to behold.

No, I did not fly Garuda. Like most of the glossy pics in this entry, there were all sourced online to prevent my kind readers some anti-sleep placebo
And it was great to be in Lombok again all ready to run the for elusive finisher’s tee after a month of anxiously reading race preparation and training updates from fellow comrades. We exited the airport drama-free, into our rented car, and stopped for dinner at Senggigi. By the time we arrived in Senaru, it was close to midnight. 22 hours to the race!

The next morning I woke up to fuzzy hellos and hot banana pancakes with dribble of melted chocolate. It was a lazy morning which sets to be a lazy afternoon. By noon, bag-drop and registration system has moved from its ‘cowboy-esque’ fashion last year in a newly built cabana overlooking the pool of the most posh lodge in Senaru. But the ‘cowboy-esque-ship’ extends further when there was no proper mandatory gear check or any safety check. I rub your back, you rub my back…
I welcome the Organizer’s durable clear plastic bags in view of making sure everything and my dropbag dry and clean, but all was made to adhere to the max 2kg weight limit (measured by feel), of which my Pocari Sweat bottles were the only casualty.

And that was it. I spent the next hours eating and sleeping – something I am very good at nowadays.

Fast forward – it was raining the whole evening and we have all been extremely anxious on packing the right gear for the run, but in the end I stuck to the original plan with my shorts and drifit. Both Windshell and Stormshell are folded away with no weight whatsoever (magic!). For hydration and fuel, I was modest by carrying only 4 gels, a pack of asamboi, a litre of pre-mixed Gatorade (2 front bottles and a little in the bladder) to keep things light for the first hill attack, few Mars and Snickers and Jellybeans.

I awoke at 5.00 p.m. reluctantly rolling off my wafer-thin bed and ordered the Bibik to heat up my accidental fried rice. The other guys have been off to do what tourists are supposed to be doing but I know I am a completely hopeless when I have little sleep. By then all equipments – Suunto, extra headlamp, Sony Walkman, iPod shuffle have been fully recharged through competent negotiation with my roommate on limited powerpoint outlet use.
It has been almost 24-hours since I arrived in Lombok, and no sign of long toilet break – my bowel showing signs of carbo-storage alert in anticipation of long adventure coming up ahead – regardless what I do. Milk usually does the trick but I am baffled at this new development – probably the thoughts of washing off with iced-cold tap water is a factor I cannot strike off immediately as it is damn painful!

I finished dinner and went through the hydration pack again and satisfied myself with the arrangement. I tested the mouthpiece of the bladder – a little bitter aftertaste of stale Gatorade post-TNF Australia was still apparent… I looked at my Trailroc, it still have the signs of the torturous climbs of Nellies Pass.
The remaining hours I spent tossing around trying to harvest as much shuteyes as possible – to no avail of course as all sorts of zoo animals are wrecking havoc inside of me.

Finally, after a long wait, the group huddled and was ready to move to the starting line – about 2K away from where we stayed. 5 years ago I’d jog as my warm-up stretch but now I am happy to ‘sweep’ behind preparing math quizzes inside my head for the big climbs. It was humid and the road littered with stray dogs, the starless night.

Anticipation build-ups as the hour we were standing pointlessly at the starting line, taking selfies –  literally melt into minutes as I spent worrying looking for the loos and even more anxious queuing in line to get into one. And as minutes were inching closer into mere seconds, it felt like someone was pulling a rubberband so stretched, that as the gun-off came, and the runners disappeared into the blackhole. Immediately I lost sight of Joll, Wan, Ben, Dendang, Israd and Alan – not to mention the 2 Salomon brothers and Bud. Little did many realized only a handful made it back within the cut-off time. The goddamn cut-off time!

A few miles up the trailhead, the course expectedly started climbing steeply in a manic fashion. I have seen this last year, so my target was to keep plugging away as I know my sleep threshold is just 2 hours away, and I need to try to get past WS1 before that happens so I could clear the bushes before midnight. I think this year I maintained a good lead considering my fitness, arriving fairly quickly at WS1. No time to spare (and no food served this year), I quickly headed in the-then now mossy shrubs all around – the clearing is near, and the howling wind moved above me, when all of a sudden RynaRynz came like Jacques Villenueve in his lucky Williams back in 1998. Just like that marks the start of the ‘Bukit Botak section as she smoked me like a deer.
It is such a evil plan to have these gorgeous landscape to be enjoyed only when returning back to Senaru, because it would have been far more palatable to run them in broad daylight
It was close to midnight, and what happened to me in Singapore Sundown 2009 came back to haunt me – almost immediately and without warning, the speed waned and zombieness took over my body. Even though the motion is still somewhat a forward progression, I would need to stop every 50m-or-so to catch a nap. I looked beyond me – the trail of headlamps long before me below the hills, and snakes upward to a never-ending climbs.
My sleep-deprivation-build-up from the previous weeks burning midnight oil (actually mostly catching up on Masterchef Australia reruns and Grey’s Anatomy Season 9) caught up as I mostly slogged on boulders and catching some circling lambs propped by my poles.

WS2 greeted us with no food as I was desperately trying to stay awake, and then I grabbed a can of Milo they handed out. There must be a weird concoction of stupidity and delusion that was as almost immediately my bowel turned and remained at unease for the entire journey. But I know the will be tonnes of killer descents from that point on so I quickly sorted out the fine sand from the mild climb en route, and started to rock’n’roll. I mean – quite literally as the there are some terrifying drops to WS3, and I still carry some kind of trauma when I somersaulted off the edge last year, so I was weary and second-guessed my trust in the shoes and everything. Some amount of comfort however, came from knowing the trail includes many runnable sections so I could gain some grounds.
True enough, I caught on pocket-rocket Wani by the Segara Anak lake, rather relieved to have a strong pacer. We motivated each other silently coming into WS3, and beyond at the otherwise awe-inspiring views, it is also a mind-boggling climbs towards WS4. Even though we were moving ahead silently, my mind played the views I was presented with last year as the rising sun bathed the cliffs and ridges at that particular stretch, but now since my sleep threshold over, I need to haul myself to WS4 by 5:30 a.m.

I knew exactly how punishing the climb is if tackled in broad daylight, so having to do it in stark darkness is mostly welcomed.

By the time I reached the first tent before Plawangan Sembalun, it had been eerily quiet but this soon turned into a festive intersection as the volunteers greeted us runners with much enthusiasm just short of fireworks! I finally caught up with my furious TMBT night buddy, Isaac, and to my surprise – Israd!
In what seemed like a fish market at wee hours of the morning, I located my dropbag fairly quickly to get my stash of chips and Redbull, and as calm as a Tasmanian Devil – put on the compression long socks, double with a base layer and a Stormshell (it was freezing), change of fresh batteries, and refill my bladder. Israd was kind enough to wait for the summit attack together, and I think we were off WS4 in 5 mins – a new achievement for me. No narcissistic selfies involved.

The remaining 8.3 miles would see continuous and monstrous climbs seemed formidable from the get go. It was just starting to break dawn, and we were off plugging away. The first sandy section where we met Puzi coming down very strong, was tackled fuss-free as we hopped on more solid ground to get better traction upwards.

To those who have attempted the summit this year would testify at the sheer beauty of Rinjani – the crazy expanse of Lombok island, dotted farmhouses, and beyond to Mount Agung in Bali. But make no mistake – Rinjani is a not a walk in the park. As tempting as it was to awe at its beauty, I had to encourage Israd and Isaac to keep moving and set achievable rest stops to achieve the strict cut-off time, so up and up we marched, grazing our poles and donning our layers as temperature dropped and cool breeze kicked up with fine ash particles – I was still nursing a post-cold a week prior, am now sure as hell my nasal deposits are all blackened similar to my toes.
From where we stood, the Segara Anak Lake is now further minisculed from our view but the summit is still elusive as hell.
Israd : "Tahun depan kita kasi habis MRU ikut Senaru ye!"
(Israd kata, bukan saya kata)

TMBT and MRU. Next is H100!
This year, my scree section start with an image of RynaRynz doing a half-hearted stationary squat intervals, and the fast boys (Ben, Joll, Wan, Ray and Bud) flying down like a bunch of floating elves. I love it when a mountain could be comical and throw some jokes at me.
Not a bad way to start the eggbeater where the 4 of us rallied emotional support to reach the summit, not without few quick breathers. But we had to keep going as the extra minute we spent not climbing are the extra more we’d entertain our mind’s refusal to finish it.
Needless to say, we did arrive at the peak and did the usual things tourists do kicking themselves silly after such gargantuan effort. Sure it warrants some degree of jubilation, but this year I was more content to think of 2 things – calculate our reserve hours and think if it’d be possible to make it back to Senaru (outside cut-off time, of course), or endure the long slog out through Sembalun. So we all started talking, and in the midst of it, we fell into a long fitful snooze. It scared the hell out me last year thinking people would roll off the cliff, but having done it this year I’d say the chilly temperature and piercing sun combo was surreal and dreamlike.
Sekarang baru boleh senyum...
Our earlier contemplation to do a full course and out via Senaru further dissipated as we inched closer back to Plawangan Sembalun, that I spent a good hour having lunch and get everyone prepped up. Needless to say, we were all beat and having to face a long slow walk out of Sembalun. I know full well the chicken exit is not even close to be easy – if not equally long and hard!

Make no mistake about it as this chicken exit involves a 2 hour hike to Pos 2 Sembalun, and a further 2 hours to the nearest civilization, whereupon some mutual agreement with our fellow comrades, pay for a cold, long hours sandwiched between our collective stench on a pickup truck. Those long hours spent on the feet, and you cannot even extend your feet in the truck and in constant verge to get a massive cramp is not a pretty thought, but that is the chicken exit.
Worth to note, thankfully that this year we grazed upon Abang Rashid of Karat Group who took us deep into the woods and out to safety, but still with all the hikes.

And just like that, my 2015 MRU adventure ended. The fleeting landscape we were put to go through has not hampered my spirit at all – as the RD has upped his game to provide marked improvement in this year’s edition. Most notably would be the money the team could have saved on Pocari Sweats is substituted with ample plain hydration at all water stations and fuel (chocolate muffins, lime and kuih lepat at WS4 and WS6) and efficient crew manning the dropbag section. But hopeful 2016 runners would want to stock their own fuel plan as that seems to have gone minimalistic this year.

As we settled into the comfort of our rented rooms and warm meals afterwards, the finish line stories, no matter how it ended for us, are chock full of tales of success, redemption, and in my case, defeat. At least in the case of the finisher’s tee. With 3K runs my new LSD in the past months, I would selflessly commend myself for being able to go through it all with such stoicism and confidence knowing that I could have finished it. Who knows –  perhaps if I pass my professional papers this year, I’d finally have time to actually put quality trainings in for MRU 2016, eh… TMI? Oh…

But the ultra running’s mortal community, not to be compared with the top crème of professionals and heavily sponsored runners, has always felt like a tightly knit circle of friends. As what Brendan ‘The SolarWeasel’ puts it (of H100), “an infectious experience that draws together talent, encouragement, and curiosity, leaving behind inspiration, gratitude, and new bonds of friendship”. The same blanket theory seems applicable in all ultra events in my little perspective.

Overall, even the Rinjani National Park is presumably mismanaged as evident in ridiculous amount of lack of cleanliness/hygiene driven by mass tourism, nonetheless the RD and  his crew are kind and accommodating with the route well-staffed and every turn of the event is a true Lombok’s hospitality. I left Senaru with my heart content. I also left Senaru with no added point contributed for 2017 UTMB qualifying but that’s ok. I am still on track for UTMB 2020 to mark my 45th year which would be enough time to get my bank account sorted.
Ray : "I'll be back, MRU 2016!"
(Ray kata ye, bukan saya)


RaYzeef said…
Still the best blog ever!

Sempat jugak kau bahan kan aku ! hehehe siap kau Avatar ;)
Anonymous said…
haha..zombie (ni aku kata ye..bukan syah)
IJAM said…
Pergh....kau tak lepas, lagi la aku...baik aku naik rinjani mcm tourist je...huhu

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