Project Triple8: Chapter Six "Back on the Bike"

Not this bike! This was taken by Rudhra during the parade for the National Day celebrations on the 31st
If I’m honest other than a few brief “dark” moments the run across the peninsular was actually a series of euphoric moments for me. However, with as much honesty, I have to confess that the finish was a bit of an anticlimax. As, with only ourselves to greet us and a lack of clarity as to what was actually the finish line all that was left to do was to retire to our pre-booked room (which was the only thing we had planned after Gua Musang) at the hotel where the Awards Dinner was due to be held the following evening.

After finding the place and determining that leaving stuff here in the truck would not be safe we unloaded Rambo and secured the bikes and gears. Not something I relished doing but it was necessary. We then showered ourselves, consumed some fairly mediocre fish & chips which Elsa had been craving for many kilometres. After which, thanks to Rudhra’s continued updates on the tracker, we made our way back to the finish line (well the area that we had allocated as such earlier ;-) so that we could watch what seemed to be a neck and neck race to the line for second place between Jeri Chua from Singapore and Malaysia’s own Lee Chun How.

Welcoming Chun How & Jeri at the finishing line (Photo from Coast 2 Coast)
In the end, the expectation of a sprint finish to the line dissipated as the two of them did the decent thing after 21kms of trying to break each other by crossing the line arm in arm for the 2nd & 3rd spots of the inaugural Coast 2 Coast event. After congratulating them and hearing their stories of this epic battle over the final sector and grabbing the first of multiple Mango Ice Cream drinks, I eventually found the cotton sheets of the rooms bed and slipped into a long deep sleep.

As a consequence of this serious bit of sleeping, we sadly missed the others that crossed the line in the middle of the night or the small hours of the morning but we were able to get to the finish line in time for the events official cut off time and see home Seow Kong & Wei Keat squeeze home with minutes to spare for 9th & 10th places respectively.

This meant that over 90% of the starters finished this massive challenge and stands as a testimony to the quality and perseverance of the participants of this incredible and really beautiful event. Usually, Ultra’s have a much higher attrition rate. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but to see only 60% of the field finish a 100km event is not unusual. As a result, everyone one that reached the beach that day irrespective of time deserves a serious salute for their ability to endure.

Ten finishers at Pantai Batu Buruk
In fact, as I said at the Awards dinner that evening “everyone that registered for this event and started this event is a winner”! As not only does it take serious balls to take on such a challenge to attempt something that no one else has tried before but to do it as a single stage event is all the more incredible.

The Awards Dinner was an intimate affair with teams rather than just runners sharing their stories and sharing the marvellous Birthday cake that Seow Kong & Allan (The Directors of Endurance Nature, the race organisers) had insisted on buying to help celebrate my 57th year which I had up to that point been trying to keep quiet about.

The fact that the awards wasn’t about winners of losers but about taking part really emphasised for me what was the primary differentiator of this event from all other endurance events that I had previously participated in. As, as well as the heightened sense of camaraderie amongst the racers, this event wasn’t just about the individual runner. It was really about the human dynamics of working with others and being sensitive to others needs rather than just your own. For me, this was the element that makes this event such a fulfilling experience and why, if my body will allow me to, I’ll want to keep coming back to do it again and again.

Shortly after 9pm we (Team Live More) politely excused ourselves and I agreed to meet Chun How, who had also wanted to make the ride back to the start line with us, at 11pm outside the front of the hotel. At precisely 11:16pm on Thursday night with Allan Lee one of the runners and organisers of the event and Jeri Chua and Roberto (Jeri’s “Race Bitch”) to wave us off we rode back to the beach to begin our journey back to Lumut on the West Coast.

Chun How & I before leaving the hotel
This was quite a bit later than we’d originally planned but we still had just over 30 hours to make the journey and spirits were high in terms of the possibilities of getting back to Lumut before 7:29:59 on Saturday morning which would ensure that we were within our self imposed deadline of 168 hours (7 days).

The roads out of Kuala Terangganu at this time of night were as busy as central KL proving once again what a bustling and busy place this area is. However, as soon as we cleared Jambatan Sultan Mahmud, the bridge that spans the Sungai Terangganu we started to enter another world with little or no street lights and very little traffic.

Chun How seemed to struggle to find his rhythm and I had to wait for him at some of the junctions, as with only one support car now, we could not afford to get separated. Given our ability to carry much more hydration ourselves and the coolness of the night air though the need for the truck to stop for us every 5km was no more and Elsa and Rudhra adopted a new formula to support us of waiting for us at major intersections. Despite the extra carrying capability I still chose to stop for fuel though as it was nice to have the interactions with Elsa & Rudhra who continued to be as supportive as ever.

The first of these stops was 35kms down the road where we left the main road of the E3 and joined the A247 heading to Lake Kenyir. At this point I downed a few bars and nuts and told the team I was feeling good which I really was. I could see there though that Chun How was not so chirpy and I sensed that he was struggling. He assured us here that he was OK and that he was just a bit nervous of night riding so he’d prefer if we just made our own way. We agreed that the next stop would be at CP7 at approximately 63kms and I proceeded at my own pace confident that he knew they way there.

After turning on to this minor road the traffic was really non existent and my aero position on my Cervelo P2, the weapon that I had chosen for this section, was put to good effect and the kilometres seemed to tick by very, very quickly. The lights that I had set up for the bike were giving me great visibility as well and before I knew it I’d arrived at CP7. At this point I opted for a bit of a power snooze. We agreed on me sleeping for 40 minutes and it was then that Chun How chose to throw the towel in as he said he was feeling wasted. He retired to the truck and I assumed the “road kill/corpse” position on the mat that Elsa and Rudhra had set up for me.

Photo evidence No.1

Photo evidence No.2

Photo evidence No.3

Photo evidence No.4
On being woken I downed some coffee and nourishment and we agreed that I would press on to try and make Gua Musang by sunrise as per the plan. This was approximately 150kms away and just about achievable in the 5+ hours that we had available to us so long as I made a steady progress and kept the fuel levels right. For much of this ride there were some long climbs but there were also some long descents too and whilst I rode the hills alone without sight or sound of anything but the magnificence of a clear star lite night. It was really heart warming to see the rear lights ahead of Rambo when I crested these climbs and for them to get closer and closer as I descended at speed.

I was tempted to draft the truck on these occasions when I caught up with Rudhra, Elsa and the sleeping Chun How. However, whilst we had not established any formal rules I resisted this on both a point of safety and etiquette and on several occasions actually passed the truck on several faster sections.

The night and the distance seemed to tick by incredibly fast and shortly after passing CP6 at the Shell Felda petrol station the first signs of daylight started to creep through the light mist that I'd been riding in for the past hour. The remaining 40 or so kilometres into Gua Musang ticked by just as quickly and before I knew it Elsa & Rudhra were leading me into a new housing area having contacted Chris Dalton, who I was meeting here, and located the homestay he was staying in.

Chris had had an eventful ride up to Gua Musang the previous day (you can read more about that HERE...) and had camped in what I had been told was a budget hotel but turned out to be a 3 bedroomed bungalow all of his own. As we were chatting I peeked inside one of the bedrooms and spotted some cotton bedlinen and suggested that Elsa, Rudhra and Chun How take Chris for breakfast and to bring me some back as all of a sudden I was feeling very tired ;-)

This was I appreciate now a bit self oriented of me as Elsa and most likley Rudhra had also been up all night as well. However, I confess that at the time the thought did not cross my mind and after a quick shower I slid into the bed and a deep and energy reviving sleep ensued. About 90 minutes later I was woken by the sound of Rambo, a sound that I had by now become very familiar with, and woke to find Chun How fast asleep next to me.

As Chris readied himself I consumed a brilliant breakfast that had been brought back for me. I can’t recall exactly what I ate or in what order but I knew there were eggs, noodles and wanton on the menu. I also can’t recall savouring it much either as my appetite was so ravenous that I shovelled the food in more than ate it. I’m sure this wasn’t a particularly pretty sight for the rest of the team but I can assure you that as unattractive as it was it was a hugely satisfying feeling in terms of the cocktail of protein and carbs that my body and brain were receiving. It set me up perfectly for “Round 2” of the bike leg that I sort of quietly knew was likely to be my toughest test yet!

This "2nd round" of the ride would see us covering 154 kms from CP 5 in Gua Musang to Simpang Pulai at the foot of The Cameron Highlands and about 15kms past CP2. Our aim was to get there with daylight still on our side. Most significantly we would have over 3,700 metres of climbing to do in the heat of the day although our reward for this effort would be to also have over 3,800 metres of descending to do too. The only problem with this would that we we’d need to wait until the end of the day for the bulk of this descent.

For this challenge, after tucking Georgina (the TT bike) away for a well deserved rest, I unloaded Scotia, my Scott Addict who had been waiting patiently and faithfully to stretch her 'cranks' ever since we left Lumut almost a week ago. Hopping on her was a welcome shift of position and feel and Chris and I headed out for the first part of the climb that can be best described as “rolling” all be it in a generally upward direction.

Even though it was just turning 9:30am as we pedalled off from Chris’s palatial overnight accommodation it was already warming up and looked like we were going to get a classically stinky hot day to accompany us up to the Cameron Highlands.

Climbing up to Cameron
One of the gentler hills
Followed by Chris
While we headed up the road, the rest of the team (including Chun How) rallied around to clean up our pit stop and to replenish our supplies including, most importantly, lunch and ice! By the time we had reached CP4 Chris and I had done about 40kms and ticked off over 800 metres of the climbing. However, we were both almost bone “dry” here and thankfully Chris had a few Ringgit in his pocket so we were fortunate enough that the owners of the small cafe here, despite it being a Public Holiday, were willing to serve us a iced lime juice and water. This hit the spot perfectly and shortly after the rest of the team arrived with “Oh Yes” a Pizza lunch. Life could not get much better than this as we sat in the shade picnicking with close friends.

After rehydrating and refuelling the engines we set off again knowing that the sting in the tail of this segment of the ride was still to come. We didn’t have to wait long as over the next 47kms we climbed a further 1,672 metres.

The only consolation of this was that as we climbed the temperature cooled as the clear blue skies that we’d been riding under up to this point, darkened dramatically as a sudden and violent storm loomed. Just before the heaven’s opened I was able to stop and put on a rain jacket. This was kindly lent to me by Rudhra as, at this point, I discovered that I had not packed mine! (Note to self for next year ;-).

Storm ahead
Usually, I would be welcoming the descents on this climb, as they gave you a, all be it, short respite. Unluckily, for me, not for the first time in my life, my timing let me down, as on this occasion I entered probably one of the longest descents of this monster climb just as the rain reached it’s optimum capacity.

Not wanting to give up the speed the descent presented me with I decided to press on and, as a consequence, took the full force of the storm head on. I can say with absolute confidence that this was not the most pleasant period of the ride back. The rain felt like sharp steel nails piercing my face rather than simply water and, having made a note to myself to not ride on the inside lane of this fast descent due to the large pot holes and poor quality road surface whilst I was running it 4 days ago with Jim, I also had to deal with car drivers who were not patient enough to drive behind my 50-60kmph descent speed and who insisted on passing me on my left shoulder. In so doing they covered me in a blanket off water from their wheels and I felt more like a surfer exiting a wave after ‘tubing’ it rather than a rider speeding along on a couple of rubber tyres and tubes.

Thankfully, as is often the case when we grit our teeth and trust ourselves and the others around us I emerged unscathed and okay. Additionally, whilst it was not the most pleasant experience of the ride. It was possibly the most invigorating and even inspiring moment. As there really isn’t anything to replace the adrenalin rush when you push yourself beyond our preconceived limits and prevail in the face of the adversity that only Mother Nature can throw at you.

Riding in the storm
In that moment, I knew that we had this epic challenge beaten and “in the bag”. Rather weirdly but quiet wonderfully, almost simultaneously with me bottoming this descent, the rain eased and in the next moment the storm subsided and very quickly I was back in blue skies and drying out fast.

This sense of dryness, just like the storm, quickly stopped though and I reverted to being drenched again. This time though the cause was perspiration rather than the precipitation. As not only did the humidity kick up several degrees as the road surface started drying out but so did the gradient as in the 13.5km from Moonriver Lodge at CP3 we ascended almost another 1,000 metres. At times the gradient spiked to around 20% perhaps and to make matters worse the road surface on this 13.5km section of road was the worst of the entire journey.

Once again, with this tough moment testing me, the team were there for me. And, when I say there, I mean really there, as Elsa eased Rambo along side me and Rudhra hung out the window like a Tour de France team manager/medic making sure that I was okay and not in need of anything. Both they and Chun How and Chris who was taking a rest in the car at this point were supporting me with words of encouragement that meant that my legs couldn’t stop even if they’d wanted to.

We reached the Mosque at Lojing and now it was game on to get over the crest of the summit and down before we lost light. Thanks here to Chris who really showed his Danny Hart like a love for the downhills and cut smooth and fast lines down a hill that he’d never seen before. It was all Scotia and I could do to hold on to his shirt tails but I wasn’t complaining as we covered the ground beautifully and pulled into the Petronas Garage at the base of the descent just as the final light of the day drained away.

At this final refuel point we were met by young Kasper a young and up and coming Triathlete friend of mine from Ipoh. He had asked if he could ride the final sector which was about another 82km. This wasn’t all downhill but like the previous descent from the top of Cameron Highlands we were blessed with an overall elevation loss.

With Chris and Kasper before the last 82km ride
Kasper, despite having just turned 16 had a specific job in Team Live More which was to suck the back wheel of the lead rider (Chris) just as I’d taught him and provide me with an additional little engine to follow behind. Thus maximising the 'tow' that I was able to get in what was now a relatively flat run to our finishing line which of course happened to be the start line which I had left almost a week ago.

We were escorted along the way by Rambo driven by the ever faithful Elsa and her able and willing but not so beautiful “Assistant” Rudhra and Kasper’s parents Mei & Awah in their car. They provided the necessary fuel and fresh batteries for my head lights that we hadn’t been able to recharge from the previous night and were now like me, almost completely empty of any decent sort of charge.

The momentum that Chris and Kasper provided was invaluable and it kept us moving along so that, in the end, we reached Lumut in just under 3 hours which was, given the circumstances, quite respectable and far better than I imagined. Along the way though I do not mind admitting that I was running on empty. This caused a number of wobbles on my part but thankfully there were no dramas and despite being drained we were able to complete what we started almost a week before with 6.5 hours to spare a comfortably inside our 168 hour (7 day) deadline.

Just like the completion of the run 2 days earlier the final act of crossing the line was a bit of an anti climax. Proving beyond any doubt that whatever challenge we take on in life the journey towards the goal is way more important and significant than the arrival at the destination.


Moments before the official finishing line Chris and Kasper like the true Gents that they both are, pulled over to allow me to cross the line before them. Almost as soon as I did this though I regretted it and cursed myself in side for being too tired to contest this generous gesture as I would have much preferred us to have all crossed the line together hand in hand. That said, that could have been rather risky as, as mentioned earlier, I was a bit “wobbly” and it would have looked seriously stupid to end up in a big mess of bodies and bikes just before the finish line!

No matter how we finished, it will always stand (as long as I am around to remind people ;-) in my mind and anyone else’s that cares to listen to me that this was the first time that anyone has successfully completed a double traverse over the Peninsular of Malaysia in a single stage by way of a run in one direction and and then a bike ride in the other.

Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast within a week
Granted, this isn’t as significant as the first that Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay created on the 29 May 1953 when they successfully scaled & descended Mt. Everest for the first time. However, without a desire to risk freezing my bits off, this was and always will be the equivalent of my “Everest”. As a consequence, we are the current unofficial world record holders of this feat and, whilst we are of course the only ones to have attempted it, we won’t be dissuaded from our feelings of achievement of the feat by these mere details.

More seriously than a world record though we delivered on the promise we made to all those wonderful people that had believed in me and supported me with their pledges to the 3 good causes we were raising money for. This is something that I know the team and I are actually much more proud about than any “world record” and we are all seriously appreciative of everyone’s contributions and messages of support throughout our journey in this regard.


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