Word From the RD
GPU (GEPANG ULTRA) 60K / 5713M / 26H
An Ultra Sky Trail Running Race with a gain elevation gain around 5713 meters, distance 60 km, route Cibodas Botanical Garden – Kandang Badak – Mount Pangrango Summit – Mandalawangi Edelweiss Park – Mount Gede Summit – Surya Kencana Edelweiss Park – Mount Putri – Surya Kencana Edelweiss Park – Selabintana – Surya Kencana Edelweiss Park – Mount Gede Summit – Kandang Badak – Cibodas Botanical Garden and Total time limit 26 hours.
Start: 00.00, 28 July 2018
Location : Start/Finish and Race Central at Taman Nasional Gunung Gede Pangrango
Address :Jl. Kebun Raya Cibodas, Cimacan, Kec. Cipanas, Kabupaten Cianjur, Jawa Barat 43253, Indonesia
Goole Map: https://g.page/gunung-gede-pangrango?share
Total Lunar Eclipse
I arrived at the shuttle bus meeting point, FX Sudirman, around noon. I bought some food and snacks for the trip, just in case we wouldn’t get a chance to have dinner, and the bus came a bit late, like an hour or so. During the ride, I tried to get as much sleep as I could because we would start the race at midnight. It was tough with all the noises and the bus’ jerkiness, I was having a half eye open kind of sleep until we hit the highway, we had pretty bad traffic there. When I opened my eyes, we were pretty close to the starting point area, Taman Nasional Gunung Gede Pangrango in Cibodas. The time was somewhere around 10 pm something, which I would not have much time for changing clothes and other preparation, definitely not for dinner. I went to registration, prepped up my gear, and gave them my gear to be checked. I ate my bread and snacks as much as I could, while I changed clothes, lube up my foot with trail toes and whatnot.
It was pretty cold, but I packed back in my windshield when I lined up at the starting line, I had my Swiftwick arm sleeves so they helped a little bit. Thank God they had a pretty quick opening ceremony and we started to move out in a few minutes.
I was probably running way too fast since it was freezing. We came out from the complex, through the street, and heading to the entrance gate of the Gede Pangrango National Park. I started to lose my breath after the first half a mile on the stone stairs kinda trail. Under trained was an understatement. I think the course was pretty much on the switchback stone stairs tracks all the way to Kandang Badak, with some bridges, water crossing, and camping ground area in between. First, we passed the crossing stone bridge, I could see a perfect clear silhouette of Mount Gede and Mount Pangrango with the bright moon over it. We would have a total lunar eclipse around 3 am with a super big and bright red moon. I was really eager to see it from the peak.
This race was semi self-support, which they would only have water on the aid station, especially in the remote area such as in Surya Kencana, but they might have a bit more food supply at the aid station at the villages. We were also allowed to buy food and/or drinks from the local people who opened a little shop under their tarp-tents. Surprisingly these shops were everywhere, even at the peak of Mount Gede. My plan was hitting on the Tailwind and some power bars over the course and would try to get some food at Surya Kencana from local vendors or at the aid station in the villages at the bottoms. I also carried an extra 1 liter of water on my camel bag, on the top of my two front soft flasks.
Despite my turtle slow hike, I was feeling great, ran whenever I could on the downhill area or flat, which was less than how many fingers I had. I was not a fan of those stone stairs, but from Kandang Badak on forwards, the course would be a fun combination of roots, dirt, and rocks. At the Kandang Badak, I made a right turn toward Mount Pangrango’s peak. I had been into this mountain range quite some time, so this was one of a few races that I did not get lost. The beginning section to Mount Pangrango’s Peak was a bit flat, so I could jog a little bit. But after that, the course turned into a technical trail with falling trees here and there, which was kinda fun. On the other hand, the peak was a bit meh, kinda weird that it’s about 3000 meters, but the peak still had trees around it, so it did not feel that I was at a peak of 3000 meters mountain. The course continued for a quarter of a mile to an open space, like a park full of edelweiss. It was a little bit eerie from the darkness with fogs floating around. In addition, there was an inscription of hikers’ names, who passed away in this mountain range, on a stone. I just soaked in the view for a minute and head back to the trail, tracing back to Kandang Badak and then towards the Mount Gede.
On the last section to Mount Gede, at the rocky part above the treeline, I started to struggle. Not sure if it was because of the altitude, which I should not have, or usually not getting altitude problem here, but it felt like it. My hike was slow and some time spent too much time choosing which direction to take. Finally, I got to the peak and my heavy eyes could not bear any more. I started to do what I usually do in a race, sleepwalking on the trail. Suddenly, I got startled by a noise behind me and there was a Japanese girl passed me (months later I found that it was Asuka). Then, not only I was back to Earth, but also I just realized that I got to see the total lunar eclipse in close (er) up. It was at the last phase of the lunar, but what a view. I could not describe with words nor take its picture with my smartphone.
Mount Gede peak was a long stretch of a crater rim, with the highest point on the other side, just by the right turn towards Surya Kencana Edelweis Park. Though it was lower than the Pangrago’s Peak, the view was like 10 times better. I took a quick picture of the peak marker and straight going down as fast as I could to wake myself up.
Another Day To Dodge A Bullet
Surya Kencana Edelweiss Park is a long saddle that stretches between peaks with beds of Edelweiss plants along the trail. Though its current condition was far like it when the first time I hiked in the mid-90s. Back then, it was literally a carpet full of Edelweiss covered the whole saddle. I remembered the 3rd time I went there in 1996, I was sleeping there underneath the stars without a tent, and surrounded by Edelweiss plants, it was thick enough that protected me from the chill wind.
Back to the race. I did not remember how I caught them, but I started to run with Ivan and Asuka on this 1 mile-ish long of stretch along Surya Kencana. It was one of those magical moments where the Sun started to peak and the view was just like a perfect painting in the Louvre Museum. This is the exact reason I do trail running, at the right time and at the right place, I can experience a magnificent view of Mother Earth.
Now that the Sun was up and I got all my senses back, I decided to make up for all my time lost from my slow hike last night. Over these long stretches, I ran like I had Javanese Tiger on my tail, down to the village aid station. I remembered on the course map or elevation chart, the course in this section would be a quick turn around not far from the Putri Aid Station, so I only grabbed a drink and maybe some fruits like banana or orange (couldn’t remember). But this was my first big mistake. The turning around point was on pavement all the way down to the big junction, towards the main road, passed the village and farms. It was probably a couple of miles one way. The downhill was not the issue, but man… on the way up to Putri Aid Station I could feel my early fatigue. Probably on the turn around point, I took only one drink and bananas since it was not an official aid station so it had a limited supply, probably the marshall felt bad about us and prep small supplies.
When I got to the Putri Aid Station, I tried to eat more, probably biscuits and fruits, popped in some salt tablets, filled up all my reservoir, and also I refilled my tailwind flask. I knew this climb would be tough and there would be a ton of hikers at the first half of the section, which meant I would spend more energy to keep passing this line of “ants”. Especially many of them were smoking and sitting at the middle of the trail, which would not allow me to take a break, I could not handle cigarettes smoke very well.
There were probably 5 resting posts in the Mount Putri route, and the trail became more quite after I passed the 3rd post where I met Andre Barlian. It’s funny how this thing works, I found out Andre is an Indonesian who lives in Singapore, and he used to live not far away from my house. We chatted here and there, from a to z along the trail to take away our mind from exhaustion and fatigue. I think at some point we decided to take a break, probably before the rocky trail section, one post away from the Surya Kencana. This route was such a classic Indonesian mountain trail, it did not have many switchbacks, but straight up with many steep steps like as high as my thigh, slippery, and technical. So when we ran down the mountain, it could be as fast as 30-40 minutes to the entrance gate, but it could take like 3-4 hours to hike up. It was though on our mind since we thought it was not that far when we ran down.
Finally, we got to Surya Kencana. It was good that we could switch muscles and did some a little running until we got to the aid stations, where we had our late lunch. I ate two noddle cups while I refilled my water and Tailwind before we headed to the 3rd and last section, Salabintana. This section probably half the distance compared to Mount Putri section in one way trip, but the elevation loss or gain was about 300-400 meters more, which meant it would be even tougher on the hike back. The way to Salabintana Aid Station was not that hard to follow, I think there was only one confusing section where there was a dirty campground full of trashes. But other than that, the trail was pretty obvious. We met Rhenaldi, the winner of this race, hiking up the trail while playing UTMB official soundtrack. And I thought, man… what great motivation music. He was in training mode for TDS next month, which he made to the podium for his age category.
When we got to the Salabintana Aid Station, they had a more well-supplied aid station. I drank a few cups of coke and some electrolyte drinks, while Andre ordered some food, I could not remember a soup or porridge. Probably there was some sandwiches, bananas, and other fruits. Then, here was the hiccup and my second mistake. I went to the bathroom, a very simple basic village’s bathroom, and I saw that they were cooking the food next to the bathroom. Probably I should have just ignored it, and not became a germ-phobia. But, even after 2 years I moved back to Indonesia, I still had this sensitive stomach. It was very easy for me to get stomachache and diarrhea from street food. So I skipped the food, just drink more soda, electrolytes, and fruits. I remembered that I carried 2 bananas in each hand to eat them while hiking up.
The course from the village was a short asphalt/cement road before we took left to get back to the trail. Actually I felt really good after I had some sodas and fruits. Moreover, the thought this would be the last climb before all the way downhill to the finish line had been firing me up. In my mind, I was thinking that we might able to finish by sunset or maybe slightly after. So I was pushing the hike a little harder. At one point, Andre needed to take a leak, and I told him I would keep slow-walked ahead and he could catch up with me in no time. It was on a little right-bending trail, suddenly I felt not really good. I was shaking/trembling all over my body and got a cold fever. Andre asked me what was wrong, I said, I don’t know and I feel awful. I sat down a little bit and suddenly fell on my back, but it made me felt worse like everything left my body that I could not move, and my heart rate felt spiking. I asked Andre to help me to back up and grabbed my salt tablet. I thought probably I needed some more electrolyte and caffeine to boost me up a little. I also started to use my jacket since I felt cold. We walked a little bit, and I asked Andre to go ahead not to wasting his race time waiting for me. At first, he refused, but I told him it would be better if he went ahead and informed the marshall in the Surya Kencana about my situation, and maybe someone could pick me up. I told Andre that I would be ok since there were many runners behind us, they would be able to help me if I could not move anymore. So off he went. With every little step I made, I felt about to pass out. I had to take a break on every step on the hike, to recollect energy to make the next step up. Somehow I got the feeling that I had to eat and to bring back calories. Either an instinct or experience from my bear mountain incident a few years back, or I was just listening to my body. It sucked that I got passed by a couple of people, but I put it aside, kept eating my power bars, and focus on getting better. After an hour, I felt a little better, then I could start my hike in rhythm again. Though I still felt cold, so I kept my wind-shell jacket on. I might have met a sweeper who was on the way to Salabintana Aid Station, and he was that close to cut me off considering my condition. But I told him I felt much better and I would love to reaccess my situation when I got to the Surya Kencana Aid Station. So I moved on.
The third is the charm they say. Like I had not enough problem yet, a wasp decided to give me a greeting kiss on my left hip. The bad thing, it was swollen as big as my fist punch, and actually it would take me 3 months to fully heal the wound. But the good thing was, it distracted my mind from the sickness. In addition to the adrenaline and anger, they fueled me in, and I could hike again as fast as I was at the bottom of Salabintana.
When I got to Surya Kencana Aid Station, it was a half or an hour before the sunset. The marshall check on me, and I was actually totally fine now, I even took out my jacket off. The villagers that selling foods and drinks were in the middle of closing down their shop, so they did not have freshly boiled water. But I ate 2 more half-cooked noodle cups there, and they were delicious. I was starving. After a few minutes rest, I went out back to the trail again for my last pitch to Mount Gede’s peak before I could go down to Cibodas to the finish line.
When I got to the peak of Mount Gede, it was getting dark already. I pulled up my headlamp, two of them, one for direction light on my head, and the other one for ambient from my waist. This would help me on the technical downhill between the peak and Kandang Badak. Guess what, I ate my power bar again on the peak. A sign of feeling hungry and having my appetite back was a good sign. Here in the mountain, under the moonless night, the darkness could engulf us very very fast, even with my 2 headlamps I could feel like I was surrounded by black matter. It went along with my sleepiness that came as fast as the light went. I kept taking the wrong direction that I lost the trail marker. But I was not worried since I knew, as long as I kept going down on this back of the mountain, eventually I would catch up with the trail again. So, I pulled out my secret weapon, my mp3 player. I usually don’t play music when I run or doing outdoor activities. But I always have it in my back in a tough long race for an emergency. I needed to motivate myself and entertained me so I would not fall asleep on this technical terrain. I was probably singing loudly too and scared away all the animals and monsters in the forest.
Soon, I arrived at the Kandang Badak where I found a lot of tents, more than the night before. I smelled food cooking and my stomach was growling again. I ate my power bar while I ran on this rocky trail. It was not technical but I had to be careful if I did not want to break my ankles. Speaking of falling, at one point, I got carried away. This was a small section where there was a steep downhill, followed by a sharp right turn, over a pretty high drop next to a mini waterfall. I slipped over wet slippery rock, and I fell pretty bad. I rolled over like I was the bad guys fall over the stairs in a detective movie. I was a few inches away to fell from the edge, with my head hanging on the edge. I was also lucky enough there was no breaking bone nor cracked skull. Probably only small scratches and little bruises. I got shooked a bit, I walked for a few minutes on the flat camping area before the abandoned restroom. Oh, I forget to mention earlier, there was a hot spring creek that we had to cross in this section. It was pretty hot that I might able to burn my feet, if I plunged it too long, also it had slippery rocks with a drop-dead straight down to the valley on the left side that just secured by a single-line rope. The view of the valley is amazing tho if one looks at it during the day time. But at night, it was pitch black, and I was put extra careful on my step after the last mishap.
Soon, I could run again after a few turns, and singing along with the songs. When I got into the 3-way junctions, one way to the big waterfall and the other to the finish line, I met Andre again. Unfortunately, he got lost and had been up and down the mountain to find the right path. I was glad I had a company and helped me not to fall asleep. The rest it was flying by super quick. We actually just did a small jog and walk all the way back to the gate. Oh, we met with a group of wild hogs.
As soon as we were on the pavements, we started to run again. I asked Andre to run ahead of me since he should have finish way ahead of me, but he refused, and we ended up finish together. What a great guy. Gede Pangrango Ultra was done and done. Time to sleep.