The Korbu Challenge, which was held on 23rd November 2013 in Ipoh, Perak was probably the toughest race I've done to date. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many more races which are way tougher than this. Now I’ve run a little, hiked a mountain or two, so I thought maybe it’s time to try something new.
My very first trail running experience.
The published distance for the race was 37.3km, however we were in for a big surprise!
Along with 3 other people from Warrior bootcamp, we signed up for the race.
Here are some facts we didn’t know about Gunung Korbu prior to the race.
- - It’s the second highest peak in West Malaysia after Gunung Tahan , with the height of 2184m
- - Normal expedition up to the mountain takes about 3 days 2 nights including a short hike to another lower peak
- - Despite being the second highest peak, the trail is deemed tougher than Gunung Tahan’s
We went down to Ipoh a day earlier for equipment check and race briefing. As food lovers, there’s no way we’d missed out on Ipoh’s famous bean sprout chicken, pastries and white coffee. Pre race carbo loading :)
After lunch, we headed towards Lost World of Tambun for registration and equipment check. We walked around in circles only to find out that the organizer had postponed the session to 6pm later that evening. Not cool. Alright, fine.. we checked in to hotel first then back to the water park for registration.
Free entrance to Lost World of Tambun, unfortunately we did not bring our wet suit.
Registration process and bib collection
Race briefing was not until 9pm so we decided to load up on dinner with pasta and pizzas at MichelangelO's. Rock n roll music in the background was an added bonus!
Conor said we're really taking this carbo loading thing to the extreme level but isn't that one of the reasons why people do races? So they could eat whatever they want and then burn off the calories later? :D
Arguably the best pizza meal I've had.
Arguably the best pizza meal I've had.
Then it's back to the park (again!) for the final race briefing updates. That's when the surprise element came. The route map was distributed and we were surprised to find that total distance was actually 59.4km, not the 37km we initially signed up for. That's an extra half marathon!
The full route :
Gathering point Kem PGA -> Starting point Park Gate(4km away from Kem but we didn't have to run this part, lorries were arranged to transport us to the gate) -> Flag off 6.7km run uphill -> 21km up Korbu -> 21km down Korbu -> 6.7km run downhill -> 4km run back to Kem PGA
6.7 + 21 +21 + 6.7 + 4 = 59.4km
It was a scary distance to cover but it was too late to turn back. Why not just....
Okay..alright.. let's do it... warriors don't give up before they even start!
Gathered at 5.30 in the morning at Kem PGA where we were then driven to the Ulu Kinta reserved forest 4kms away by lorries. Breakfast of pears, bananas and water were distributed and we munched as much as we can to load up on energy.
At 6.35am, the race was officially flagged off. The first part of the race consisted of 6.7km run uphill to the first checkpoint where runners will collect their first wristband before going into the jungle. Having had countless number of experiences in jungle/trail running back in the days, Conor went right ahead on his own while 3 of us ladies decided to stick together.
It was a beautiful serene morning run up to Kampung Orang Asli.
Running from Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 was smooth and easy, with very little elevation most part of the trail. It gave us a little bit more confident of making it to Checkpoint 3 easily but we were wrong. The level of difficulty eventually picked up from Checkpoint 2 onwards.
I lost count of the number of rivers and streams we had to cross; some of it with water levels up to our knees, slippery rocks and not to forget one or two balancing act on fallen tree trunks in order to make it to the other side. The cool water was in a way a blessing to the tired feet but also a pain in the arse for getting sands into our shoes. There were also fallen tree trunks and big rocks along the way we had to go under or climbed over, I really didn't quite mind any of that. My biggest fear was leeches. Yes plenty of them along the way and I 'maneuvered' my way around them VERY carefully in order not to give those bloodsuckers any opportunity to get onto me.
Needless to say, the elevation increased. This tough and technical trail truly tested us not only physical but mental endurance as well. Not only on stamina but strength as well as agility. I was lucky to have the ladies as motivation and support the whole way. We worked very well as a team; talking and entertaining each other along the way. It did not matter if we did not get to the top first for we decided we WILL enjoy the race and experience regardless of the outcome.
Furthermore, we also had our lucky stars to thank that day. We met many incredibly friendly and helpful people along the way; some hi-bye friends, some who served as our company on our journey and we would never forget the friendly guides at the checkpoints. At times when we were lost and clueless on where to go, we would be lucky enough to bump into runners who then led us to the right way. When the going gets tough, we took off our wet shoes and socks and soaked our legs in the cool water to numb the pain. We had a big laugh at ourselves for signing up for something so tough for our first trail running experience but neither of us regretted the decision.
We got out from the jungle after 10 hours or so and decided to take a photo because we're finally back in civilization! Silvi said she'd never been happier to see tar road haha
Our happy tired faces :)
And one kind runner helped to take this photo. Smile through the pain ladies!
If you think we're done, you're wrong.. we still had 10.7km long run to go to the finishing line.
Wearing wet socks and shoes for more than 10 hours at that point, we soldiered on with blistered, sore and possibly perfectly scrubbed feet (from the sand).
We took the time to enjoy the scenery around us as we walked. When we got to a bridge with this beautiful river below, we decided to take off our shoes and socks to dry off the feet and did a little sunbathing :)
Tired, painful and wrinkled feet :(
The remaining distance seemed to take forever to finish. But as what one of our WBC instructors used to say, pain is temporary but pride is forever! We will not let ourselves nor WBC down so we marched on!
Conor, who obviously finished hours before us was waiting patiently at the finishing line. We were euphoric as we ran towards the finishing line. We made it! We survived Korbu!
Piece of cake for Conor :P Hard, what hard?
All of us flying the Warrior flag proudly. If it wasn't for the coaching, advice and training to build on both physical and mental toughness, we would have given up long time ago just like other runners before us.
The toughest medal to obtain so far (for me). Total time of 12 hours.
Nothing better than an ice bath, protein recovery drink and a snow beer (or two) and not to mention a nice hot meal to end the long tiring day....
Now I wouldn't say Korbu is not for the faint hearted for I believe everyone can do it if they just put their mind to it. The trail was no doubt very technical and challenging but with the right attitude and mentality (of course proper preparation helps big time too), it is not impossible.
Definitely a race to remember for a long time to come :)
Story shared by Sharon