Say Hello! Desaru !
The thought of revisiting Desaru after almost 9 years excited me more than the Xterra event itself. Desaru is known being super hot!! It is coastal beach area located in the Kota Tinggi district. If you are not familiar with Desaru, or Kota Tinggi for that matter, this post might be a somewhat brief introduction to you.
Johor is one of the 13 states in Malaysia (besides 3 Federal Territories ; Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya), and is located on the southern most part of Peninsular Malaysia. There are 10 districts in this state with Tangkak and Kulai being the latest district to be ‘inducted’ as part of Johor’s administrative district. So most of you if you are a Malaysia (myself included) would probably be familiar with Johor Bahru being the capital of the Johor state and its proximity with neighbouring country, Singapore.
So what about Desaru? As a triathlete coming in from Kuala Lumpur, I know Desaru is a hot HOT town, far away, and not as developed as the other larger or more populated districts. By statistics, Kota Tinggi’s population is 220 thousand ++ in 2017, 5 times lesser than Johor Bahru, standing at 1.5million ++according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM). By virtue of my memory (or lack of), the only things I remember — apart from the events which took place around the 2 races which I have participated in Desaru 9 and 10 years ago were that Desaru was a pretty quite area, scarcely populated, HOT, but with amazing beach spots. Suitable for quiet weekend aways from the bustling cities. Desaru to me was still able to maintain its serenity despite being a tourist attraction. To give us an idea of where Kota Tinggi and Desaru is, check out the Google Maps below:-
I had mixed feelings as I approached Desaru (you know that feeling when you are revisiting a place you haven’t been to for quite a longgg time?). There is a new highway which opened after the last time I went to Desaru, and it is actually crossing over Johor river (look at the photo slide above for Johor river). This is totally new, and awesome ! I looked it up, and it mentioned that the bridge, opened in June 2011 is the longest river bridge in Malaysia ! Aaa…no wonder ! Same kind of feeling when crossing over to Pulau Pinang on the Sultan Abdul Hamid Bridge @ the crooked bridge ! My daughter asked if we are over the ocean, or lake..and I answered, I am not sure ! Now that I know, I am sharing this interesting fact with you ! The Johor river spans 122.7 km for the record !
Our group arrived at our accommodation in a new development area north west of Bandar Penawar and Desaru. It was pleasant as it it 10-12 minutes away from race venue, located just of E22, the Senai-Desaru express away, and just a couple of minutes away from endless rows of shops, supermarkets and restaurants lining Jalan Desaru. No traffic light too ! It was convenient, and our homestay was a proper one too ! The hotels where the race venue was have not officially opened, but I think some rooms were let for the race purpose and soft launch (at least Hard Rock Desaru). There are 3 hotels situated in Desaru Coast are Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, The Westin Desaru Coast and Anantara Desaru Coast Resort and Villas. Attached to this development is the now opened Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark and The Els Club Desaru Coast ( a 45 hole golf course).
We checked in to our accommodation, rested for a bit (kids needed to refresh!!), before making our way to the race venue, Riverside Desaru Coast, for kit collection.
The thing about participating in a 1-discipline only event is that I do not have to worry of the logistics. I had enough on my plate already ie. having the kids with me this trip ! Plus I am just getting my gig back gradually, so a trail run is good enough ! I did my mandatory round at the start/transition area to say Hello! to colleagues. I arrived early if not on time to do my warm up and a lil stretching. The aim was to just run without pushing it and finish in one piece.
The Xterra duathlon event started first, followed by the run only event. Quite a number of us but not as big as the previous Xterra in Putrajaya, or the one in Kuantan many years back. Anyways, I did look forward for a somewhat challenging trail, and hoped the route wasn’t ‘boring’. Based on the event info water station is available at every 2.5km. Well, I looked forward to that too ! Having experienced Desaru, it can be pretty hot quickly earlier in the day, and worse in the afternoon !
Gun-off. Didn’t scurry (some runners tend to do that as a way to ‘exit’ the crowd and be at the front, early. Me..? Just run lah. Took it easy and was well-aware that trail running is somewhat like, but not like trail running. Especially on a longer course. The official distance for this event is 11km. So, yeah, one step at a time. We had to do 2 loops around the Desaru coast area.
I think it took less than 5 minutes before reaching the beach ! Yeahh !!! Soft-sand run time ! haha.. i really enjoy this section as the beach wasn’t flat, in other words its like running along the slope of a small hill. No jelly fish spotted, just a beautiful horizon on my right, and hundreds of others making their way through the sands. The waves were kind, hence not disturbing any of us. I couldn’t quite tell at the start of the beach section how long or how far it would be. I was just focused on making sure I run one step at a time ! So first loop, plenty of runners around me, and it was fun starting a run on the beach 🙂
Off the sandy path, we passed through a series of old-barrack styled houses. Not sure who were the occupants before. Most of the houses are abandoned already. Not long after the houses, I bumped into Fong’s brother whom I met earlier before the race. So natural for me to start chatting whenever I see a familiar face ! So there we were, chatting away. Fong (Tan Suet Fong) took part in the duathlon category. There were marked presence of participants from the army. Spotted Sangup the day before, and his army colleagues.
Anyways, 2.5km passed and no sign of a water station.. Passed the barrack houses and not long before hitting the main road which is parallel to the beach, before turning off into a patch of land to the left, crossed a road, and on to the next patch of green. This section was somewhat weird to me cause we were running not across a hill, but actually on its slope. It wasn’t exactly a long stretch… say 1km ish.. but the fact the foot wasn’t landing and taking off in a neutral position and angle, made running felt a bit weird. What came to mind, why this section ? Well, I didn’t really think about it that much.. but come round 2…. I think the heat is turning on… not just for me, but I think the rest of us too.
About 1km to the transition/start area, finally, there was a water station.. filled myself up, and continued running. I knew I needed a toilet break, so after saying Hi! to Adele and Boss who were at the transition area, supporting and MC-ing away, I took a short toilet break (aaa..so relieved alhamdulillah !) hheahaa…! Weirdly enough, there was a water station there too, I assume for the duathletes taking part. Continued running now with a less full bladder. Now the beach section was very quite !! It got pretty lonely quickly, and testing towards the end of the section.. mak dah start rasa penat..hehehe (I started getting tired), but kept going..The running stance was a bit all over the place. I know this is the second loop, and I am almost half way through that second loop. Keep going I told myself (yeah, small self-talks work!). Happy to see that patch of green again, the road cross before heading to that weird slope section.
Surprisingly, everyone is running on the tarmac instead on the slope. Well, would be just weird for me to be running up there myself. I looked around and the marshalls nearby seem okay about it. The technical director, Geoff passed by, on a bicycle, and he said nothing too. So I continued to run. A bit more motivated now as I am not too far off from the finish line already. Again, weird positioning of that water station ie end of the run, and too near to finish line. But whatever, picked up some speed [read: most of the time I tend to reserve energy vs bringing up the pace], and finally there I was at the finish line !!! Yeayyy, alhamdulillah !!! Got a pretty Xterra medal too ! So thank you Xterra for the slot ! Totally appreciate it. Based on official result, I am positioned numero uno for Malaysia Women Open Category. But because I did not receive any updates on the official results and the actual categories division eligible to claim prizes (trophies) from the officials on duty. Only was hinted by Lie Wei (official time keeper that she saw my name at the top of the rank.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any ranking given that I was still getting back to proper fitness baseline and that I haven’t been running on the trail (nor sand) for quite sometimes now. You can see also that its a very colourful post with lots of photos ! Momma just want to have a good time ! But the point is, (for my future reference too), official results have to be placed (displayed!) in full to manage expectations of competitors and non-competitors who have traveled and invested in coming and supporting your event. Should any deliverable which can’t be committed, then take that off the list early on, or simple inform the participants. It doesn’t paint a good picture to the race branding, organiser, and even those committee who were not directly involved. Xterra is a big name, and I hope the event can come back stronger, better with a bit more of natural terrain to challenge the competitors. Thank you again Xterra for entrusting me with the slot !
I was on the road back again back to KL slightly before 4pm for another run event the next day (Heart in Action Run 2018 (AXA)) in Putrajaya – got a complimentary slot! Thanks Naluri !
Race result summary :
a) Xterra Malaysia Special Edition 2018 (29 September 2018)
Distance : 12.63km
Time: 1: 42’31
Race type: Off-road run
Position: 1/17 (Cat) , 3/22 (Gen) Results link here
b) AXA Hearts in Action Run 2018 (30 September 2018)
Distance: 5.85km (Official distance 6km)
Race type: Road run