Until last year, I always scrambled for answers whenever someone asked for my recommendations on trail running races in Indonesia. Tahura is a good trail race in Bandung in January, with good organizer and beautiful route, but somehow it is not “Wow” enough for anyone to make an overseas trip to join.
This year, everyone was looking forward to the new Goat Run Race Series, which started with the Guntur Race last Sunday, March 27th. I am happy to report that it has exceeded my expectation. Finally, there is a destination trail race that is worth to recommend in Indonesia that is not only unique and challenging (yet still fun!) but also very well organized up to international standard.
This is part of the 4 Goat Run Race Series where participants accumulate points from finishing and placing in top 40 of each race. At the end of the year the top male and female will be crowned as the Goat King and Queen and awarded free trips to join an international trail race event.
Finishers: 161 (58%) finished within Cut-Off-Time of 8 hours out of 277 registrants and around 240 starters
Would I recommend this race?
Definitely!! Granted, it is brutal and difficult (not few participants said that this was the most difficult race that they have ever done) but the challenges worthed the sweat. The course is really unique with breathtaking sceneries. You will get to experience changing terrains from village roads to forrested area to volcanic rocks to dirt road while surrounded by beautiful mountains. Markings were excellent, almost zero chance to get lost (Race director: “if you don’t see any marking for the last 30m – that means you are lost”). Water station was at every 5km, some with water only and some with electrolyte drinks, milo, fruits, and ice. Kuddos to the organizers who have set the standards on how a trail race should be set-up in Indonesia. So far they have been very responsive, informative, and open to any inputs and questions.
The Long Story
– Long trail runs or a back-to-back long runs on weekend
The Fun Part – Gears
Even though it is only a 25km race, the technicality of the race required us to prepare a bit more. The big question before the race was: WITH or WITHOUT POLES. At the end, I decided with no poles, as I thought they would be useful for around 20% of the course and would be a nuisance for the rest. I was happy with my decision.
The other notable item that you may consider to bring are gaiters. The ones I wore were courtesy of Eric. Did not realize how useful they were but the fact that Eric had to take out and clean his shoes off small rocks at least 10 times because he lent me these while I did not at all, said a lot about the importance.
This is also the first race where I wore Altra LonePeak and I was so happy with them. I found these original version 1.0 in Singapore and aside from the really nice bright colors, they are also very comfortable, giving enough grip, light and nimble enough for most terrains. Very foot-friendly pair of shoes. “Once you’ve gone Altra, it is hard to go back” – quoting the owner of the Singapore’s specialty running store. The zero-drop was a killer if you are not used to them while climbing the steep climbs, but I swear that these pairs helped me to work on my glut.
My gears and clothing – the vest is courtesy of Angga
I really loaded myself on nutrition during this race. I carried 10 gels (and finished 9 of them), a pack of Japanese salt tablets, and 2 Vespa Amino Acid Supplements. The amino acid supplement supposed to reduce our lactate and stabilize glucose level thus reducing fatique and prevent cramps on muscles. I was not sure how much of that was true but I felt my leg muscles were “energized” after I took one sachet of it during the first km of the climb. People were passing me at the start of the climb but I managed to overtake many people during the last half of the climb after taking the supplement, coincidence??
Crazy loads of gels for a 25km race
This was a really fun race since many of my friends joined. The JFS (Jakarta Free Spirit) were well represented as this was supposed to be Andy’s “last” race in Indonesia before he heads back to the UK. Andy joined with his daughter Katie and her partner Steve, and the rest of the gang: Dean, Paul, Moray, Eric, Alex and Ninik. Although I have been regularly running with Eric since last October, this is the first race that we actually attended together. And I am really glad we did. Christovik also travelled back from Manila to do this race, and Anna finally conquered another Indonesian mountain than Mount Salak with this race. Well done Anna and I’m looking forward to your travel guide on Salak! Freddy also managed to squeeze his time to run this race despite his super hectic schedule. Good to run again with you Freddy!
Before the race
We were well prepared with the accommodation, largely thanks to Christovik, so we were staying just minutes away from the start/finish line. Four of us, Eric, Chris, Anna, and I decided to travel early on Friday morning. On the way there, we spotted Alex and Ninik’s car, so we bee-lined all the way to the hotel. The traffic was really bad that it took us a total of 8 hours to get to our hotel.
But we had some beautiful scenery along the way. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
And nice lunch with great company, along with Eric’s “touching” story with a boy. Photo credit: Anna Cottrell
Checked in, we found our favorite hang-out spot for the rest of the weekend at the Chocolate Cafe next door. The rest of the day was basically REST.
The next day, we started the day with a short run along the start of the race route towards the G mountain. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
…and hey, while sporting our Altras ….
….it is quite a cloudy day
During the race-pack collection, the boys and girls with no medical letters needed to do the check up, and we learned a few new things about ourselves.
Well…that is because I just had a nice farewell dinner….
Getting my medical certificate signed. Photo credit: Andy Roby
After one, two, three more meals, we finally attended the race briefing in the evening….Photo credit: Goat Run
The Race Day
The first surprise we had in the morning of the race was how sunny it was. Looked like the pawang (rain’s shaman) worked his magic. Which meant it was going to be scorching hot if we run after 10am. Second surprise for me was Eric’s decision to run with me. I knew that he said so before but was not really sure that he meant it until the start line. By then, I was not very sure what it would mean to have him pacing me but sharing the experience of climbing Guntur together for the first time sounded like a really nice idea.
Before the race started with Christovik, Eric, and Freddy. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
With the Garut’s mayor – errr… the photographer personally handpicked the 3 of us. Photo credit: Goat Run
First 2-3km of the race was a gentle slope on tarmac road before we turned right toward villages’ dirt road. The road then turned to a combination of dirt road and volcanic rocks, all with soft runnable slope until km 7, when the big climb would start.
All the while, Eric did not say anything while I was remembering what he said, which was we should be really fresh when we hit the big climb. That would only mean that we should run the first 7km at easy pace, right?
Lovely view at the start of the race. Photo credit: Freddy Lee
At around km 3-4, we were starting to pass the 10km runners. This was an enjoyable run with views of mountains, paddyfields, and villages surrounding us. I felt pretty good too although I was starting to breathe heavier and kept thinking I needed to slow down, still anxious with the brutality of the climb we would face soon. Dean went ahead of us and at around km 5 and 6, Paul and Moray greeted and passed us as well. They were all better runners than me, so I did expect that to happen. From the beginning, Chris, Ninik, Katie, and Steve had all run much ahead of us. The only person that I expected to pass me but had not yet was Andy. He did have problems with his stomach until the day before.
The BIG Climb
It just started like that…..without much warnings….the road suddenly turned to a forrested walk and we started climbing up the path sometimes needing to use our hands to push up. My legs were not feeling well…or that was just in my head.
“Okay, I guess it is just me then…”
Around 3-4 runners passing us while I scrambled my way through the first part of the climb. Eric kept babbling about a lot of things which I could not remember what. I was trying to listen and answer him but most of the time I only managed a “yes” and a “huh”. Then we spotted Moray, looking cozy at one of the turns.
“Fixing my hair – this is tough ey”
We passed him but not long after, he passed us again. Then the walk turned into an open field where we could spot some tents on what looked like a camping area. Behind it raised the majestic Guntur peaks with a line of runners climbing up the path looking like colorful dots. It looked just brutal. The most brutal part was the fact that we could see the pain ahead as the climb was very exposed.
“You’re looking good, you’re looking very good. You’re doing well”
All the while Eric was cheering me up while taking photos, videos, and giving live updates to our friends. He did not look tired at all. I was all sweats already and he looked very fresh and dry. I decided to shut my mind and not listen to whatever he said.
Eric was doing live updates while I was focusing my next step. Photo credit: Goat Run
We started to pass people during the second part of the climb. I felt I was going really slow, focusing one step at a time, making sure I kept moving. The terrain was mostly loose small rocks where we had to be very careful with our footings. One wrong step and we would slide down. Not the most fun, but good training nevertheless. Half-way, we saw Moray sitting under a shady tree, looking like he was ready to camp.
“Giving live-updates now. This is tough”
He seemed to have a knack on picking cozy places to rest during the race. We laughed and continued on. Not long after we saw one of my favorite runners, Roy, just a few metres above us.
“First time I am using them, a bit awkward”
I could not believe we passed him, he is such a better runner than me. Then suddenly Eric looked enthusiastic and mischievious at the same time, basically giving the Eric’s look.
She seemed to be moving faster after seeing us (or that was just my feelings) but we did pass her not long after. And finally we reached the peak. Wohoo
Trying to run to look good passing the second Water Station. Photo credit: Goat Run
…definitely a failed attempt for me while Eric made it look so easy. Photo credit: Goat Run #keepitreal
WS2 to WS3
After the WS2, there was stil another hundred metres to climb before the downhill. We bumped into Dean and started to run together again. Then the path turned into a steep downhill where I was struggling for some good minutes and being passed by at least 3 runners including Dean.
Looking down from the peak, Dean and myself in the picture. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
“Quick feet, Cheryl! The worst can happen is falling on your butt” – I still have got a lot to learn on downhill running. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
Finally managed to pick-up a bit of speed while running downhill, we reached the flatter part of the route. This was the most beautiful part of the race to me. Eric let me run in front of him and I felt like running above the clouds. The course was meandering through villagers’ field with mist and clouds surrounding us.
Km 11 to Water Station 3 which is around km 16 was really runnable for us. We passed a few more runners again including Dean who was having problems with his feet and certainly caught up with a few more at the water station.
Arriving at WS 3, energized with the nice route we just passed.
Quickly refuelling ourselves
WS3 to Finish
I knew there is yet another hill to climb before the finish line and it happened just after Water Station 3. The path to Gunung Putri’s peak was narrow and steep, while still a bit shady with vegetations, the heat was already attacking us. Eric was trying hard, pushing and pulling me at some bits, I thought that was hilarious, but I did not have the energy to laugh at the time. It was not a very long climb though, I guess after the first one, this second one felt like a tiny bump.
We collected our bracelet at the peak and I was glad that the route was going to be all downhill after. The downhill was challenging though. The organizer provided some ropes along to guide us down. And there were many tree roots which could easily caught our feet.
The last 5km on the village road and tarmac road felt really long. The heat was just on us. We did pass Paul around 3km before the finish line, he was dehydrated and did not have enough trainings for this race. 2km before the finish line, my feet was feeling hot and burning, so I was about to ask Eric if we could stop for a few seconds as I was sure noone else would catch us at the point.
“NO! It is only 2 more km!”
I guess he knew what I was about to ask. So with no more excuses, I tried to grasp what some elites said about running with your heart for the last 2km. I felt there were so many turns before reaching the finish but after the last turn, I saw the line with Jeffri, the race director, smiling, cheering and clapping for me, with that I actually managed to sprint and cross the finish line. Feeling dead-tired, taking out my crumpled bib from my pocket to receive my finisher’s medal, I heard someone announcing I was the third female to finish. Eric was all smile and gave me a big hug. I was so happy that Jeffri made the effort to wait and cheer for the finishers, a nice personal touch.
Open Female Podium – all JFS runners. Photo credit: Eric Chooi
We completed the race in 5:02 hours, a fantastic time for me, and obviously a walk-in-park for Eric. I found out that Katie finished more than an hour earlier becoming the 6th finisher and first female overall. She kicked ass and earn the right to brag about kicking so many guys’ asses but still so humble about it. And Ninik finished around 20 minutes ahead of me. Chris was ten minutes ahead of Ninik. Steve, dehydrated towards the end of the race, finished ten minutes before me. So overall, JFS took all the top3 female finishers. An amazing feat.
Paul, Dean, Moray, and Andy crossed the finish line not long after, all under 6 hours. Then Anna at around 6:30 hours, Alex not long after Anna and Freddy at 7 hours.
JFS after the finish, Steve, Katie, Moray, Dean, Paul, and Andy. Photo credit: Yani Saloh
Anna getting her medal
Freddy crossing the finish line
We had a nice break at Padma Bandung before heading back to Jakarta on Monday. Eric carried all sorts of foam rollers that you can imagine so we spent a lot of time stretching and rolling our sore quads and calves. Thanks to that, I managed to go back to my regular training just a few days after. Some sore quad muscles (embrace the DOMS!) but no particular complaints.
Uglier the feet and legs, tighter the ass…..