Race Report: 2012 Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run By Seow Kong Ng

The following is a repost of Ultrarunner Seow Kong Ng’s Race Report on the 2012 TD 100 Endurance Run which was originally posted on Facebook last December 21, 2012.

Consecutive DNFs in two 100 miles races in Great North Walk 100 miles (Nov 2011) and Taklang Damulag 100 miles (Dec 2011) must have been so devastating. I signed up for 2012 TD100 immediately on 5th Jan 2012, vowing that I SHALL RETURN almost a year later with a vengeance to seek the revenge. It has been a long time coming since, and finally 2012 TD100 was upon us on 15th Dec 2012.

Training for the race has been less than optimal, with the “so cold and so wet” Shanghai Marathon two weeks ago serving as the last long run, but certainly not the kind of “heat training” called for by this TD100 which is known for the ruthless heat on Mt. Taklang Damulag. Although December is normally the wet season, it hasn’t rained for more than two weeks before the race. We were relieved that some river crossings would even be totally dry.

Things like DNF happened for a number of reasons, and I would be foolish not to learn the lessons.

I developed hyponatremia (a complication of other medical illnesses in which excess water accumulates in the body at a higher rate than can be excreted, sometimes a result of over hydration) in 2011 race, and had to stop at Palali (98k point). Why did I drink so much? It was HOT last year, and I stopped regularly at the sari-sari (stores) to buy coke and ice.

And I did not have enough to eat earlier on in the race, and went hungry for most of the race. Worst of all, I did not even have salt to eat, causing me to develop severe cramps even on my first trip ascending and descending Mt. Taklang Damulag.

Back in town again (I mean Fort Magsaysay of course), Allan Lee (my fellow Malaysian participant) and I may have overkilled quite a bit on the nutrition front. Supported by Cally and a vehicle, we had our meals and drinks strategy planned out before the race. Our hired van was well stocked up with watermelons, rock melons, honey dews, apples, pears and etc. If anything, nutrition should be the least of our issue in this race.

2nd TD 100 International Runners. Seow Kong Ng Is 2nd From Left.
2nd TD 100 International Runners. Seow Kong Ng Is 2nd From Right. (From Left, Gilbert Gray of USA, Mark Jolin of USA, Andre Blumberg of HK, Seow Kong Ng, & Allan Lee of Malaysia)

22 100 milers took off from the starting line at 5:00am on 15th Dec 2012. Instead of making myself to the front of the pack like last year, I held back for much of the first 5 km or so. Chatting along the way to Dick Balaba, with whom I got lost together for about 1 hour last year, Allan and I moved in the middle of a pack of runners towards Bacao (5k) and Palali (15.5k) without much incident, covering the undulating trails to Nazareth (27k) with much comfort too in about 3 hours.

It’s another 24k of mainly flat road initially, trails later on to Fernandez Hill. It was during this stretch where we started our spending spree from sari-sari to sari-sari on coke, ice, and ice water. Sometimes it is like striking a lottery to find a store selling ice, so we went around sticking our tongues out to who ever that came in sight, and asked if they know which stores are selling ice. Mind you, we reckoned that Day 1 last year was hotter than this year, and I had a lot more coke taken then. Good for me.

One thing that I did not learn very well obviously is on “not getting lost”. Well, this time we were following a pinoy runner (can’t remember his name now) all the way to Bacao, took a picture with a sergeant and his fellow volunteers there, and ran straight into the trails. Almost like 2km down the trail later, a mountain motorbike came along with this rider who delivered the dreaded message that we’ve got into the “small loops” of the trail instead of the Big loop first. SO, we were not lost, but we got into the wrong trails.

So, instead of reaching Fernandez Hill at 12.00 noon (7 hours from the start), it was almost like 1pm when we could have our proper lunch at the Hill. 25 minutes of lunch break later (and yes, plenty of watermelons later), we headed to the hill to start our first ascent of Mt. Taklang Damulag.

I was intent on avoiding similar cramps at the hill and taking it real easy as I made my way up the hill. Turned out that it was much easier than I imagined. No cramp, and much less sweating than last year. Of course, I have been taking salt tablets every 1-2 hours before. Instead of 3 hours, we completed the first loop and in less than 3 hours, with the second loop slightly faster (cooler) although requiring wearing of headlamp. Returning to Fernandez Hill, there were already some casualties from the heat, and Andre and Dick (last year lone survivor and finisher) have both decided to pull out from the race.

By the time we reached SOCOM (Special Operation Command Centre) at 83km, the end of the 1st loop, it was about 7:50pm. We have completed the first loop in just under 15 hours, and have 17 hours left to cover exactly the same loop. We can’t afford to get lost at all, and will need to push the pace a little just to be on the safe side.

Again, we were well fed before taking on the long night out on the trails. We made sure we have Cally followed us with our support vehicle for as far as possible. Going pass the villages again, the dogs obviously did not believe that they have seen two friendly Malaysian runners passing by earlier on during the day on our first loop. So, went they barked, and barked, but we must be some kind of even more vicious creatures with lights on our heads bouncing along on the trails. No villagers have behaved like that before I’m sure. Especially when we pointed our headlamps towards the dogs, they must have been more frightened than us.

Such was the run through the night and the sunrises, and we were back at Fernandez Hill again at about 6:45am. By then, we have completed 134k in less than 25 hours. We have caught up with most of the remaining survivors of the race, which was 10. 12 runners have DNFed the race at this stage.

Fully energized, and motivated by the remaining distance of 32km, Allan and I shifted our gears right up. Especially Allan, who apparently completed the first loop in only 1.5 hour, whereas I was also faster than before, but a full 1 hour later than Allan. By then, Allan was already on his way passing and catching everyone who has been in front of us since 5am the day before.

The second loop was completed in hot condition between 8:40am to 11:30am, but I still have 1.5 hour to run 6km to the finish line at SOCOM. I was lying in 8th place then, with now 13 runners out of the race already.

Being the midday, the blazing sun was at its full blast on the home stretch of 6km. The water bottle (full of ice) did not last even 2km before it went totally warm in my hand. Passing CJ about 2 k down the road, and narrowing the gap with the 6th runner in front to within 200m, I finally hit the finishing line in 7th place. At 31h21m42s, less than a minute behind the 6th finisher.

Although TD100 is designed to be an easy course, but certainly one with a very tight cutoff, considering the hot weather during the day, which is when most of us will be scaling Mt. Taklang Damulag. Apart from the exceptional Allan and the 1st runner-up, all the remaining 7 finishers finished within 1 hour of each other, at around 31 hours. Not to mention a finishing rate of 40.9%, which is not a high successful rate as well.

In completing the unfinished business that was TD100, I can attribute the success to the following KSFs (key success factors):

1). Food was excellently prepared, catered, served (including the can’t be missed water melons), devoured and digested. In short, no stomach issue, but plenty of energy;

2). No over hydration this time. Drinks, complimented by chia seeds every now and then, were carefully consumed without excesses. Some cokes and ice cream went a long way too. In short, no hyponatremia;

3). No cramp. I sweated profusely last year on climbing the hills, and yet not taking in any salt tablet at all. This year, I have plentiful of them, and popping them at every 1-2 hours intervals. In short, no grimacing on the hills, up and down.

4). Buddying with Allan. Buddying always help in mental games like 100 miles races, especially when you are buddying with a fast guy like Allan. In short, he kept me on my toes, and I better be running;

5). Lastly, I believe I am a slightly different guy this year. In short? Older, but faster!

And wiser as well, even when I got lost again!!

(With this race, the final curtain came down for 2012 with the completion of 9 ultras, 6 full marathons and 1 half marathon. It has been a good year, a no-regret arrival at the door of the End of the World, today).

Seow Kong Ng of Malaysia Receiving His Silver Buckle & Finisher's Medal
Seow Kong Ng of Malaysia Receiving His Silver Buckle & Finisher’s Medal

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