Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The North Face Race Report Part 2 : Deo

Deo Part 2 of his TNF race in Thailand. Admin apologizes for the tardiness. We been busy and has been involved with the Garmin Running Clinic. Intake 1 has been great and we have completed session 2 (of 3). Deo was on site to offer advice and to share his experience with his recent races (this being one of them) and the just completed Tokyo Marathon (report soon). Meanwhile, Enjoy Part 2 of the TNF report.

Let's continue where I left in the first of two parts of my TNF100 Thailand 2015 story...

I kept running wherever I could in the last 10km before going back to Simalin Resort for the halfway checkpoint break. Along the way since KM25, I had been thinking on how would I run the course again, for the second loop of 50km. Everytime that thought came to mind, I quickly brushed it off not to dwell too much into it. Let's take a kilometer by kilometer and let's think about second loop when I actually doing it later. The single trail section with about 5km to go was my favorite. I am not sure whether it was the same trail as last year because I think that section was a lot easier this time around. I kept moving, quite strongly, never missed a beat until we arrived at the end of trail section where we had to cross a big sort of sandy 'drain', when we have to jump about 3-feet down and get up again on the bank and get on the final stretch of the road section. I was running like I was doing just the 50km race and in the last 5km or so, I passed many 25km and 50km runners. While running back to Simalin Resort, I was expecting to see front 100km runners going out from the resort for their second loop but there wasn't any. So, I thought maybe they've gone earlier or they're taking their time hanging around the CP. After some 2.5km running on the tarmac, the halfway CP was within sight. I was asked to cross the timing chip and quickly I took a seat while the volunteer looked for my dropbag and handed over to me. I arrived at the 50km CP in around 6 hours and 35 minutes, a bit off from my planned 6 hours. Never mind, I told myself. Timing is not so much a factor for me anymore. It was all about finishing it with the best timing I could. 

It was around 11.30am when I arrived at the CP. With the sun was high up since the past one or one and a half hour, the day was getting hotter and the temperature was rising but most importantly, it was close to lunch hour! Luckily I wasn't feeling hungry as I didn't pack any food inside my dropbag. All I had during the halfway point were those served there - watermelon, bananas, drinks and canned Nescafe that I brought along. I wasn't sure how long to go until my stomach will protest of not getting in solid foods but based on previous three TNF100 Thailand races, I would not have problems of hunger. I took my time to change my top, get rid of unnecessary stuffs and just keep them in the dropbag like my camera, my sunnies, Hammer perpetuem solids that I didn't consume at all in the first loop as well as Hammer Endurolyte Fizz as I only used two tablets to refill my water. For the second loop, I would rely on the cold plain water and the energy drink provided at the water stations. While sitting down on a chair, I tried to take off my shoes and socks, and suddenly the cramp attacked me on my calves. I quickly straighten my legs to stretch it and slowly the cramp eased off. It was quite a tough process to take off the socks, afraid cramps would attack again but I had no choice as I had to clean up my foot from all the small stones that got inside the socks. Not long before I left for my second half of the race, Eijoy arrived. I was glad to see him in a still strong condition. I asked him to sit down under the shade to cool down, before I took off. I was hoping to see Ezam on my way out but it didn't happen as I had to detour to get back into the trail section again. 

Taking a break, trying to cool down the body temperature down before heading out for my second loop of 50km.

The same loop all over again. Only that it was bright, sunny day this time around. I could finally see what we went through six to seven hours ago when it was still dark. The early elevation that slowed everyone down at the beginning actually wasn't difficult at all, it was just the darkness that caused everyone to move cautiously, I think so. I ran at a slower pace at the beginning of the second loop but consistently so that I could last as long as I could. Uphills were the place for the legs to rest by walking up. Cramps were kept at bay although at times, they tried to launch their attacks. I brave enough. My pace was decent and consistent until ]I got to the foot of the 'Lord of the Rings Hill'. It was crazy this time, I thought. And I wonder if the Hill got taller, longer and steeper over the hours that it felt forever to reach the top. I was all alone climbing up to the peak this time and as the legs are getting tiring, they've been kicking rocks here and there and whenever a sudden aggressive movement (like kicking a rock) happened, the cramps would attack. Lots of times during the section, I cursed.... to everything, to the extent that I was thinking that this would be my last TNF100 Thailand if it remains in Khao Yai. My pace gone really badly with the LOTR Hill. Descending from the LOTR Hill wasn't easier either. It was dry and slippery and I had to be cautious not to slip anywhere along the section and tumble down the cliff, unattended. No other runners were at sight either in front or at the back. 

After all the curses and the LOTR Hill nightmares, I reached back at the sandy rolling elevation and I wondered if the uphill was actually that steep during the first loop? My hope to continue running consistently was gone up in smoke as I got smoked with the elevation. Then I saw a small shop at the side of the road. At first, I thought that I wanted to buy some cold drinks, maybe a can of Coke but at the same time, I don't want to waste more time, to dig up for the money I brought along way down in my hydration bag and sit down and drink. But at the end, I stopped at the shop, bought myself a can of Coke, sat down at the bench outside the shop, clean up the debris inside my socks, finished off the can of cold Coke slowly and continued my journey after a 10-minute break or so. It was a deserved break, I think. One lady runner from China passed me when I took my break. She was quite elderly but strong! We kept trading places throughout the remaining of the race and she eventually finished four places and eight minutes behind me. I tried to run after the break but suddenly I felt uneasy, I wanted to burp (from the gas of Coke) but I just couldn't burp! I never had this problem before and I thought it was a mistake that I consumed Coke, although I've done it before. After three attempts to burp, I finally managed to get a long burp and really felt relieved. 

I arrive back at CP2 at KM70. The volunteers are still there but less busy now as they did not have to serve large group of runners. But one really good thing about the water stations and checkpoints, they never ran out of cold water and the energy drinks for drinking as well as watermelon and bananas and most importantly they never short of ice supplies. And you could take as much ice as you want, put them in your hydration bladder/bottle, or put them inside your cap or buff (that was what I did), the volunteers never restricted you from not doing that. I checked with Ezam and Eijoy whether ice was still available when they reached respective checkpoints, and they said yes, plenty of them. This is one area I should really credit the organizer! After a brief stop at CP2, I realized that I had another 30km to go. And my watch indicated that I had about 4 hours and 40 minutes from 15 hours finish. That equals to doing an average of one and a half hour for every 10km distance, and that equals to 9:00-minute/km pace. I was holding to that target from that point onwards. Great thing about doing the same loop is that you practically knows what is coming. I broke down the last 30km into three sections of 10km each. And I knew section of KM70-80 would be run-able, followed by the second section of KM80-90 that would be the toughest of all, and the final section of KM90-finish would be hard at the beginning before I could make a home run in the last 5km. With that in mind, I ran/move as fast as I could in the KM70-80 section so that the spare time can be used to cover up the anticipated slower section of KM80-90.

That strategy worked very well for me. Time now has become my main motivator and push factor. I kept monitoring my pace closely so that the average pace would not drop to slower than 9:00 minutes. I was confident enough that I could finish the race within 15 hours and that at times made me smile and pushed me harder. The cramp 'virus' were still around, they never went away. Moving uphill was harder this time, not just because of the elevation but the cramp 'virus' liked to attack when I was going uphill, which was quite strange. Maybe because I tried to save time but taking a longer stride while walking uphill and the 'virus' seems like to attack when I overstride. As expected the KM80-90 section was the slowest of the final 30km but I had enough time saved during the KM70-80 section to cover up this slow section and I knew I can run all out in the final 5km of the race to save even more time. I got back to the main road, the CP4 at KM90 with great relief. There, I took out my headlight as it started to get darker. Last year, I was still doing the loop somewhere in KM85 that I had to pull out my headlight to use. So, I was a little faster this year. With 10km to go, nothing (literally) could stop me from finishing my 9th 100km ultramarathon. I moved confidently and strongly along the short tarmac section before I got back into the trail section. 

Trail section was done in a jiffy as they were not much of uphills, mostly flat trail section. But I had to be careful not to trip or kick on anything as it was pitch dark except for the light from my headlight. I could see the Chinese lady once a while when I slowed down as she was trying to catch up with me. She is another motivator to keep me going strongly too! And while my mind was busy calculating the expected finish time, without realizing it, I arrived back at the road section which means that I have to deal with a short, not-too-hard uphill section right until the temple junction before going into the final trail section of the race. The end was so near, I ran when I could, minimizing my walks. I still took walk breaks in between but they were really short. I ran strong, I think stronger than in the first loop and was quite actually surprised with that. I wasn't sure if I had not used my energy to the fullest earlier and saved them too much for the final push. I wondered if I ran a little faster in the first loop, would my timing be better. But that doesn't matter much as my target at that point onwards were the 15-hour finish. And with all of those playing in mind, I arrived back at my favorite single trail section and ran quite hard inside it. I managed to overtake two other 100km runners who happened to be Foo and another runner from Malaysia. Cross that big 'drain' to cap off the end of trail section and I ran all the way to the finish line like there will be no tomorrow. On the final 2.5km road section, I overtook another runner from New Zealand and we congratulated each other for our soon-to-be crowning of 100km finisher title. I urged him to run with me but asked me to go ahead instead. There were still 50km runner on the course whom I overtook as well. 

the proud moment - crossing the finish line of my 9th 100km ultramarathon
[photo by Refill Marathon]
And the sight of Simalin Resort came into the view of my teary eyes (not!) and the people having their meals and drinks at the stalls along the roadside, were clapping and cheering for me. What and honor! There were some people waiting and congratulated runners as we entered the resort compound for the final 50km run towards the finish line. And as I crossed the timing chip ahead of the finish line, I could hear the announcers announcing my name as another proud finisher of 100km race and both hands raised up in the air! showered with the victory feeling and satisfaction. One of the proudest moment! 14 hours, 35 minutes and 40 seconds was my official finish time. That timing puts me in the 18th place overall and 14th place in the male category, coincide with my bib number 14! I was later promoted to 13th place overall after they organizer made some adjustments to the final results due to complaints and discrepancies. That also puts me as the 2nd finisher among all Malaysian, behind the unknown Yap Chin Choy, who I was told later that he's a Singaporean-based Malaysian. I was handed out the finisher t-shirt and the better-looking finisher medals but those two finisher goodies meant nothing much as compared to the finish and how I've raced this tough TNF100 Thailand! Ezam and Eijoy came back few hours later and I was so glad to see them again after losing them from sight some 10 hours ago or so. And this time, when I saw them, they were already crowned as TNF100 Thailand 100km finisher! Well done to both of you, Ezam and Eijoy!

Eijoy and Ezam at the proudest moment of their running career, I guess, after finishing the grueling race. Well done boys!

That ends my TNF100 Thailand 2015 story. It was still a great feeling to finish another 100km race, no matter whether it was your first one or the zilliont-time finish! Would I return for my 5th TNF100 Thailand? Time will tell...

Detailed splits of my race, according to the official timing chip provider.

For my race details at Garmin Connect, click here.
For official result of the 100km solo category, click here.

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