Tag Archives: ultramarathon

The North Face 100K Thailand

Plan Better Next Time!

 

Was concerned about how to find the pick up point for the shuttle to race venue. Got there two hours early. Eventually saw some other folks that looked like runners, and sure enough they were also wondering where exactly to meet. “Airport Link Makkasan” was all I knew. I just didn’t want to miss the bus because I was waiting in the wrong spot. At the very least, I wouldn’t be the only one to miss the bus. But two girls from the race agency showed up and got everything sorted. Had two steamed buns while waiting. It was like a 3 hour ride to get to the race.

At the race site, picked up race kit. Heard from a few elite athletes as we waited for the mandatory race briefing. Race director said he wanted to keep the race briefing “brief” like 15-20 minutes, but went over an hour… Maybe he was joking?

Hadn’t eaten much that day. Bought a hamburger that definitely could have been cooked longer. Figured there would be more food options around the hotel. Get on the shuttle and get to the hotel. Check in and drop stuff. There are really only two restaurants within walking distance. Both are full. Go back to my room and figure I’ll go back out later. Try again later and those folks are all still there… they’ve been waiting for over an hour. At both restaurants. Talk to some other foreigners who are also looking for food. And then a group of four women. We join forces and try the other large hotel. There is a large family being served. One table of runners, that are still waiting. Owner doesn’t want to or can’t serve us. Go back to the hotel and get a cup of noodles. Pray that breakfast will be good. Otherwise, tomorrow is going to be rough.

Breakfast is at 3, alarm set for 2:30. I assume there will be a bunch of runners wanting food. Nope. There are only a few runners up. And breakfast is not bacon and eggs like I hoped, it’s rice porridge. Which is not bad, but it’s probably not nearly enough calories to make up for yesterday. Eat and get ready for the first shuttle out to the race. I am the only runner on the shuttle. It’s me and three race volunteers. We get to the race about an hour and a half before the start and I am literally the only runner there. Well, someone has to be the first runner!

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We were required to bring 2 litres of water, a cell phone, a whistle, and the laminated map that they gave us. Before entering the start chute, the director checked that we had a cell phone and headlamp and enough water. (Though I’ll see tons of people on the course that sure don’t look like they are carrying 2 liters of water.)  I think because so many of the Thai runners are new to trail running, the race director wanted to make sure no one got lost. The course turned out to be pretty well marked, maybe even over marked with tons of flags, giant turn signs, and lots of course marshalls along the way.

They count down in both Thai and English and we go. We start on a road. Lots of people are amped up and hustling to the front. Rookies!

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“Pretty sure this is the wrong way…”

In less than a mile, we are plowing through a farm field, off course. Not by much, but still. Whoever’s in front isn’t paying attention. I try to be vigilant and watch for flags and not just follow the person in front of me. It happens again 10 minutes later, but this time I’m paying attention. I run down the marked trail and call them over.

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Soon the sun comes up and I ditch my headlamp. I’m remembering to eat and drink take a salt pill every hour. After a few hours, I realize my biggest mistake of the race.

Race instruction said to pack everything you needed for the race. I packed enough calories, but  they were all sugar calories – gels and chews. I neglected any salty items. (I did have Endurolyte salt tabs for electrolyte balance, but it didn’t help with sugar fatigue.)  Leaving the hotel, I grabbed a half eaten bag of chips as an afterthought. Definitely glad I did. Had to ration those few precious crisps and use them as a reward of sorts. 13 hours of eating sugar just doesn’t fly. Luckily I was able to force myself to eat up until about the 11th hour. I started in on a chew, gagged and spit it out. From then on I just ate watermelon and sport drink at the aid stations.

 

The course was pretty tame for the first 20 miles. Running through farmland and dirt roads, not much in the way of scenery or views, and more road running than I cared for. But eventually we get some nice views. And then finally we got some hills. I think they saved all the climbing for the end. There were some truly challenging sections that were jammed with traffic from the shorter races.

I remember looking at the elevation profile and thinking “3000 feet. Oh that’s no big deal.” But I didn’t notice that I was looking at meters, not feet. So there was a lot more climbing than I expected. But it was just enough to still be fun, and not turn into a critical error.

Another mistake was not reading how drop bags worked. Didn’t plan on a drop bag, then waffled at the last minute to leave a bag at the start.  What I thought was the “Drop Bags” was actually “Bag Drop.” I thought it was just a translation issue, but it was in fact a place to leave your bags.

It turns out that we didn’t return to the actual race start. Instead, there was a turn around a quarter mile away. I was looking for my bag, it was nowhere to be found. They asked if I had labeled it for checkpoint 5, and that’s when I realized my mistake. I didn’t feel like making the trek at that point, so I asked if they could send someone to get my bag. Although I was grateful I didn’t have to get my bag myself, I’m pretty sure they sent the slowest person there. I tried to scarf down a plate of fried rice while I waited. As I waited anxiously, I debated just going ahead anyway. But it had all of calories for the second half, it would have been foolish trying to get by on watermelon slices and bananas. And I thought about taking some fried rice with me, but it wasn’t that good. The girl finally arrived and I took off on the second loop.

For the most part, I ran by myself. Chatted with one guy for a few miles, left him at an aid station. He would catch up and pass me. He “still had his hiking legs” and was moving well. Two or three other guys passed me and that was bothering me. I stopped and wanted to lay down, but all the water in my bladder forced me to lie on my side, which was uncomfortable.

Another runner runs up and asks if I’m okay. I half jokingly tell him I want to take a nap, and he says I need to get to the mountain before dark. I’m like dude, I’m almost finished… ? Don’t know what it was, but something clicked and got me motivated. Remember thinking to myself, “You can sit here whining about it, or you can get up and do something about it.”

The one non mistake of the race was that I finally found my working Ipod and was able to enjoy the magic of music. Nothing lets you forget how crummy you feel and how hungry you are than several good songs. So I put on my music and got going. I passed that ‘get to the mountain by nightfall’ guy. And then a few others. Was working in a better mental head space, even if I was still lacking calories. It made me think where does this energy come from, that can change things around just like that?

As much improved as I was feeling, the last 5K was longest 5K ever. Was so ready to be done. Got on the road, and thought, “This is it!” Nope. There was one last hill. Laid down on the ground in the last mile. Looked back, caught sight of the guy behind me. Got up, put in my headphones and found a Rage Against the Machine song and ran. Taking the final turn into the finish, ran really strong and finished in 13:40.

After the finish I was soooo hungry. I got my medal and beelined for the food. The girl put some noodles on my plate and I asked for more. I slathered on some Maggie soy sauce and oh man! Salt! I ate a few bites… and realized it was too soon to eat. Felt dumb that I had asked for more.

I ate what I could and decided to get on the shuttle back to the hotel. I learned my lesson and bought two hamburgers and three beers to go. The first cold beer was fantastic after drinking water and watered down sport drink.

Another mistake: I didn’t pack a post race bag. Luckily, we got a finishers shirt, so I was able to change into a dry shirt, so I didn’t get super cold afterwards.

There were two other 100k runners in the shuttle. One guy finished and the other DNFed. We chatted about the race and running in general. I shaved my head and bought a giant old man hat expecting it to be insanely hot. I learned that this is usually one of the hottest races in Thailand and that the weather this year was a fluke. It turned out to be perfect!  (Lucky me!) Also, some of the elite runners had complained that the race was too easy, so the crazy hill climb section was new for this year. (Lucky me!) And probably most surprising, was that the race was a Western States qualifier! (Lucky me!)

Overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. Would have been nice to run closer to 12 hours, but I’m okay with 13:40. That was good enough for 17th out of over 200.

Cactus Rose 100

This was probably the most uneventful 100 I’ve ever done.

I started out with high hopes for a Sub 24 hour finish. I made an aggressive training schedule that was going great – for two weeks. But I lost my desire to train, I was just tired. And then it was time to taper. The weekend before was a cramfest of sorts at Ragnar. Ragnar was fun, but was not good preparation leading into race week.

Plan was to focus on consistent eating, especially during the second half of the race. Felt like that went pretty well. Sausage wrapped in a tortilla was awesome, wrapped in a pancake with syrup would have been magical. (Have to remember those cheap HEB tortillas are dry and taste terrible.) Had a tuna fish lunch snack, which was okay.  Don’t eat too much of the same thing. Alternate between salty and sweet works well. Make things that can be eaten in four bites or less. I drank a whole beer after finishing a loop.

Drove up on Friday. Was ready for bed right after the Race briefing. Wondered if Whataburger for lunch was enough food, or should I have had dinner as well? It was nice and cool, but thank goodness it wasn’t as cold as the last time I was at Bandera. (Last time, the water in my Hydro Flask froze.)

Note for future races, have an extra alarm clock, don’t rely on just your phone. The cold sapped my phone’s battery and it died at 2:00 am. I heard it and scrambled to figure out how to set the alarm on my garmin. Luckily, I got that done and started recharging my phone. Even before the phone thing, I wasn’t sleeping well. Another thing to work on for the next race, make sure to get plenty of sleep leading up to a race.

4:00 and I’m up and 4:55 at the start and we’re off. There was no build up, it was like, “Hey it’s time to go.” Kind of how the whole race felt.

Following guy dressed as a Wookie. Hear him huffing and puffing a mile in. I watch his feet as he ran along the trail, his ankles twisting and crumpling every so often. Nike Frees?? Definitely the wrong shoe for this course. Notice how he’s right on the heels of the guy in front of him. Later realize it’s because he doesn’t have a headlamp. Ask him where’s his headlamp. He’s a “Rookie,” and he didn’t think about it. This is his first trail race, which I suspect will be a DNF, imagine my surprise when I see him later in the day.

Met Stewart. Saw him sitting at the Equestrian aid station. He looked like a lifelong runner, but also pretty darn sweaty for such fine weather. We were running about the same pace, so I asked which race he was doing so I’d know whether to worry about him or not. Luckily, he was doing the 50. We talked for a few miles, and I left him at an aid station. I finished the second lap and saw him coming in for his finish, was happy to give him a high five.

German was camped a spot over from Julie and Joe. I squeezed in between them. German came over and asked what people were doing for food. We talked and turns out this was only his second ultra. He won his very first – the Habanero 100K. He was a fast roadie converting to trail. He ran the 50 mile and got second place.

Loryn was a surprise. His girlfriend Sam texted me good luck and that Loryn was running the 50 mile. Luckily, I ran into him pretty early on and we ran together for a few miles. He was using the race as a training run for a 24 hour race in December. He was feeling good and moved on ahead. Later, I caught up to him, he was having knee pain. He wasn’t sure whether to struggle through and finish or pull the plug and save it for another day. He ended up hiking it in.

Carlos and his pacer Mario. We ran together for awhile, and then I would try to drop him. But Carlos kept coming back. With his road training background, he is way better on the flats than I am, and would always catch up. At one point, I saw his pacer Mario run way ahead of him, so I yelled, “Hey Mario, don’t forget your runner!” Turns out, Carlos had told him to do that so he would have to chase him. Later, I would use a similar tactic to get motivated. Whenever I would hear or see the two of them, I would run faster. I especially tried to run harder on the flats.

D Carr at the end. At each aid station, we had to write down our name, bib and the time. Saw her time 15 minutes ahead at one aid station and then 5 minutes ahead at the last aid station. I tried to catch her, but couldn’t. She finished 1:26 ahead of me. I know I could have shaved that time off from several stops. Next time!

Two scenic things. Late in the race, it was cold and I was very sleepy tired. There was a ditch/gulley that you had to climb through. I laid down in the ditch. Sheltered somewhat from the cold, I looked up into the night sky. I could see only the walls on either side of me and the stars. I imagined this is what it looked like from a grave, contemplating how nice it would be to be dead (not running).

The other most amazing thing was the glittering of the ice on the grass. It looked like it was shimmering. Almost like a 3-D version of static on your old TV. Very cool effect.

At the end, I was sooooo sleepy. Rich gave me some caffeine pills, Carbo pro I believe (brand name drugs!) and I held off taking any for as long as I could. I finally took one, and….. not much happened. I honestly couldn’t tell. So the last 20 miles was insanely long. You think, “Oh I know where I am. I turn here, and then the aid station.” But then there are all these other minor turns and sections that seemingly go on forever….

Lowest point during the race was when my after only a few minutes, my iPod said low battery. I was really looking forward to hearing some music on the last loop, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. (Although it probably would have helped keep me awake.) Surprised that I didn’t get super emotional and cry at the end.

D Carr had seen me at the aid station and knew I was right behind her. Wish I had pushed harder and made up that minute and a half.  Finished, changed and waited to see Carlos finish. Was very proud and happy for him.

This was by far the most uneventful, almost “routine” 100 miler that I’ve run. Which is sort of a good thing. Definitely want to keep refining the process and get better at it.