Cameron Ultra-Trail 100km, 8-9th October 2016
Last weekend, shouts of “Watch your head!” and “Look out for the hole!” were par for the course at the inaugural Cameron Ultra Trail 100km. Running through a technical forest trail in the Cameron Highlands at 4am requires more than just nimble feet. Protruding tree roots, fallen tree trunks, and a pitch black night were just some of the challenges faced in the first 20km of the run. You couldn’t just concentrate your headlamp beam on the terrain, either, for fear of smacking your head on one of the many fallen trees. Ascending mainly required using hands and legs to pull yourself up steep inclines, while descending was for the brave and ideally, long-legged.
The route starts in the town and takes runners up to Peak Jasar after just over 3km, a nice warm-up for climbing to the summit of Peak Berembun at 16km.
Sunrise was just before 7am and it was nice to see the trail properly in the light. I was running mostly in the company of Ray Lee and Adrian Jeyakumar, and it was good fun to try and keep up with Ray on the descents. So much so that we took the scenic route just over the top of Berembun where we missed a marker which had fallen off, and went downhill for far too long in the wrong direction. We hadn’t seen a marker for a while and Ray was well ahead, so I turned on the course maps on my Garmin Fenix 3 HR and saw that we were well off track. Ray comes back up at this point, having realised his mistake too, and we’re all a bit annoyed with ourselves for having to climb back up again. Lots of runners made the same error, and they turn back when we explain the mistake. We’ve lost about 2km and maybe 30 minutes now, but apparently the front runners went further than we did and some even got to the road at the bottom.
Going down the right route this time, right to the bottom and out towards the tea plantations. I’m still on Tailwind and run through the checkpoint without needing to refuel.
Once we’re out of the trail, it’s mainly undulating gravel track and dirt roads that meander through the BOH Tea Plantation.
The views put a smile on my face. A sea of green shades, speckled with tea workers busy harvesting the leaves. It looks like they’ve managed to introduce some automation to a skilled job that requires painstaking labour. The plantation workers slide a contraption over the top of the tea bushes that plucks the top layer of leaves. It looks to be much quicker and far less labour intensive. We dodge huge piles of fragrant tea leaves in the harvest area, some workers happy to wave and return our greetings as we run past.
For most of the way to CP9 (the 100km turnaround point), I’m running with Ray, Adrian and Andrew. They’re all good company, running steady and full of banter. It feels like a good day out, with the added bonus of being sunny!
At the turnaround point I grab my drop bag, to which the volunteer remarks “It’s so small!” All I have in there is some Tailwind and a Runivore bar. Almost everyone else is taking a break here, changing clothes and making the most of the hot food on offer. I have a few swigs of cold Coke and head off on the home stretch. Everything is feeling fine, and since I’m alone, I plug into some tunes to liven up the journey.
It’s a very sociable run, meeting the other 100km and some 50km runners along the way, and the return leg is dotted with familiar faces heading towards CP9. All the volunteers are super helpful and friendly, making the run much more enjoyable with their support. The second woman is about 20 minutes back, but she’s also in the open category. I’m in the old ladies category so I’m not sure if there’ll be an overall classification. No matter, I’m having fun and it would be an awesome bonus to keep the lead.
I’m enjoying this till it gets dark and we’re back on the trail again. Then I feel the fatigue from the last few weeks set in and it’s the longest 15km ever. The trail feels like it’s never ending, and I’m moving at snail’s pace to keep upright. There’d be no point falling over and ruining my run now for the sake of saving a few minutes. Either my legs have gotten shorter, or the forest stretched itself out – the climbs have me on all fours pulling myself up over the tree roots and my legs are scratched and bruised from walking into branches and roots. I face-plant a few times, on soft ground (thank goodness!) and the only major injury is when I smack my shin on a large tree trunk. I let out some choice expletives and look down to see a small gash in my shin. The skin’s gouged out so it’s just a small scoop of white underneath, gross! I consider stopping to put some antiseptic on, but decide that the blood will congeal over it eventually. It’ll be fine, no scars, no proof! There’s also some kind of singing concert going on in a nearby village and my solo trek in the forest is set to a bizzarely discordant soundtrack of women singing in a language and tune I can’t quite identify. Somewhere along the way I get passed by Shine and someone else, but for the most part, I’m alone.
It’s feels like a lifetime before I’m finally out of the forest and onto the road leading back to the finish. It’s a relief to see the final CP at the corner of the road, nearly finished!
Even though it was early hours of the morning, the CULTRA crew were at the finish, cheering the runners in and making sure everyone was ok. It was a pleasure running this race, a well organised event with a good field of runners and excellent support from the organization and volunteers. Congratulations to Arman, Zul and the team!
Come run this, it’ll be a challenge for sure, but judging from the tears (of joy and relief!) and smiles at the finish line, it’ll be an experience you won’t regret.
I love how passionate he is about catupturing our moments of pain and triumph, all for free as well! If you need photography services, drop him a message here:https://www.facebook.com/
And donations as small as RM1 are welcome, photography is an expensive hobby! Details for donations on his FB page.
A great video of the event by Double F studio: https://youtu.be/mY8Nqve0lcw
Event site: www.cultratrail.com
Dynafit Enduro tank
Dynafit React skirt
Tailwind/Raidlight Responsiv Gilet 8L
Hoka One One Speedgoat
Dirty Girl gaiters
Led Lenser h7r.2
Petzl Nao 2
Alpinamente 3264m sunglasses
16 servings Tailwind (different flavours)
some Coke at check points
half a Runivore bar