Race Course (translated from the race website)
Taman Hutan Raya Ir. H. Djuanda (Hutan Raya Ir. H. Djuanda Park), is located in the center of Bandung city, West Java, which is what is left from Natural Conservative Land. Taman Hutan Raya is also served as the lungs of Bandung city. It s located about 5 km (3 miles) from the Gedung Sate.
The trail marathon course is a 42 km course that would go through Bukit Bintang (Bintang Hill), a single track in Batu Lonceng, Kasur Cibodas Mountain, Cigombong, Maribaya, and Gua Belanda (the Dutch Cave). The course is 70% single track with 1549 m elevation gain (5082 ft)
We arrived in Bandung by train on Saturday late morning. I haven’t ride a train since like 25 years ago or so, and surprisingly it was very convenience and comfortable. But my friend and his family train’s car was not so much. After having a lunch and a little shop hopping, we went straight to the Taman Hutan Raya, where the expo was held to pick up my race package. It was also my first time to be in this “little jungle” close to the heart of Bandung city. It was pretty neat but it just seems too fabricated. The expo was not that big but they had a few trail gears and accessories booths, too bad they did not carry my favorites stuffs. Since I was worry about the marking, this would be my first trail race in Indonesia, so I went to the pre-race briefing. Surprisingly, there was not many people there, probably it was only less than 20 people. After the briefing, we went straight to the hotel. Before we went out for dinner in the hotel, I prepped up my race gears and nutrition, and I found out that I did not bring my running underwear. After smashing my head to the wall couple times and messaged with a bunch of friends, I concluded that running commando was inevitable. And to make tomorrow would be more interesting, we had thunderstorm and heavy rain all night. Perfect.
I arrived in the starting area pretty early. I felt a little off that morning. Not sure because this was my first race in Indonesia, maybe because running commando, or simply I did not have any preparation. After I had foot injury from Grindstone, I took a break from running till late December. Mostly in gym, maybe a few small run on the road, one 10k road race and only hit trail once the week before this race. So I went through my brain and made plan. I convinced myself this would be just a run-cation, no racing and enjoy the trail. Hike on every uphill, jog if I had to and walk if I needed to.
I was kinda stuck in the middle of runner crowds at the starting line. And it was perfect. I didn’t need any provocation from the front runners. We started from the south side of the park and went through some neighborhoods, so we were on a pavement for the first few kms. There were a few up hill that was run-able in the beginning, but as soon as it got steeper, I stick with my plan, fast hike. When I hit the first trail, it was downhill, but I had to hold my horse since there was a dog on the side. If I was in US, I wouldn’t bother, or maybe I would say hi, but here in Indonesia, dogs could be far from friendly.
Then I started to pick up my pace. It was good to back on the trail, especially the downhill, I might had gone a little zoom zoom there. I kept picking up runners in despite slippery and muddy trail. The trail in here was so different compare to the trail in US or in the Alps. The trail was more surrounded by plants and trees, with sticky and some slippery mud. It was very rare I had any expose trail without surrounded by thick trees, branches, and tall grasses. A classic tropical jungle. I prayed that there would be no snake. I kept holding on my jogging pace despite I slipped left and right now and then. After we crossed a few streams, I decided that I shouldn’t push too hard on these small uphills, it was just wasting energy because I kept slipping.
Then we were back running through villages, it was pretty steep and it was surprising that the runners around me kept running it. I stayed with my plan. Then we continued back to the trail, and still going up until we got to the top of a peak where I grab a water bottle from an aid station. So weird that there is no glass, it was such a waste to use a bottle for every runner. Then the course became downhill. It was pretty slippery so I hold my back a little. Which was a good idea, since I was that close to make a wrong turn to the left. There was a road gate in front of us, but that was the right direction, and fortunately the runner behind me yelled at me to keep straight. We chat a little on the uphill, before I lost him on the downhill. I remembered this runner as a yellow shirt runner from Cirebon.
Unexpected Turn Around
I was having a blast on the downhill, until I was not sure that I was on the course anymore. I hadn’t seen any course marks for a while. I slowed down my decent so I could read the footprint on the trails. I convinced myself that I was on the right track. From far away I saw a runner around the corner, entering another village. Then the course was a little uphill through a village again, before I got into an pine forest (I think they were pines). There was an aid station, I grabbed a watermelon slice, since it was the only edible option on the table, based on my picky eyes. Also there were plenty flies hovering around the food. My brain just couldn’t stomach the view, so I just kept going to the uphill. Probably my stomach became too Americanize. I kept pushing on the uphill with power hike one step after another. I really wished I had my poles.
These trees section reminded me a little bit of a section in Bear Mountain close to Silvermine Lake in NY.
Then, I found out that day dreaming while doing running a fast downhill was not a good idea. I realized that I had gone to the wrong direction since the trail become more like bushwhacking. So I looked up, there I saw the ends of yellow tapes that had been broken. Thanks God it was not that far, tho it was pretty steep. I continued again, slower this time and more paid attention. In one of a junction, I saw a runner just climbed up from the other direction, he told me he made a wrong turn and went down pretty far. He passed me on the next downhill pretty fast, and it was pretty impressive. I did not take the “bait” and saved my ankles for another day, also I had not trained enough to have a proper strength. Then I heard screaming, I really hoped he did not brake his ankle. I went down, I found him on the ground, and he just got a cramp. I helped him to stretch his legs, till he was ready to stand. I said a good luck, and continued my run.
The next section was a winding trail, it was not technical at all, actually it was pretty flat, but it was so slippery that I fell a couple of times when I made a turn. I also saw a pup, with its parents a little bit further ahead. I stopped and walked, I was not sure how the parents would take when I ran pass the pup. But they actually let me pass in one piece and kept their eyes on my skinny ass as I pulled out of their view. When I got off from these slippery sloppy trail, just before the aid station, there was a spectator and he told me that I was number 10. Damn, this was a surprise, unexpected and I wasn’t ready for the news. I barely trained to keep up with my ego challenge. Wished I didn’t hear that. So I told myself, to do what my former coach from Mountain Peak Fitness, Elizabeth Azze, always suggested me, kept on my plan and waited till the last quarter or more to see how I felt, then I could run. So I would wait till mile 21 or so, before I geared myself up.
Next, we were running on a single trail trenches. Thanks to the motor trail rider, they had made the trail became trench. At one point, after a group of motor trail riders stuck in the mud, I stepped in to the mud that was as deep as my hip, bummer. So I went off course a little to take a quick bath in the river. Muds and running commando were not a good combination. Then the course started to get back up again on small switch-back before the course got back to another village. Another thing that was bothering me in this race that we passed too many villages, and how I witnessed the way they just dumped all the trashes on their village’s skirt. Especially this village, we had to run through a giant pile of trashes. Anyway, the course was kept going uphill, and it was a pretty steep one as I remember having my hands on my hips to push up – forward. Then we ran through a bunch of plantation before we ran on the street. We were on the street for a while before we make a left turn, back into the national park.
Engine check happened. I felt not so bad, I was #8 if my counting was correct and I thought that the distance would only 5k left. So I played my wild card to push my limit and switched my gear up. It was all downhill on wet stony foot path. I was jumping around to avoid the people on the trail, while maintaining my pace without fell on my face. Everything went great until I passed the last aid station. Suddenly everything cramped up. While it was upsetting, but it was well expected. With not much training and off the trail run in months, it was kind of a miracle that I was still standing by this time. I ended up walk and jog for the last 1 or 2 miles. Plenty runners passed me, and I might have finished 13 overall.
The race was a well managed event, yet the course markers could have been much better. But it was a great day overall, I also managed to meet my old buddies and some trail runners that I met in Chamonix.