This is another great trail run I have been looking forward to…
There are seven in the series of “The North Face 100″and this is number three for me, following Thailand and Hong Kong.
And the thing about trail running is that we are always looking for the next great run. Translation: “tougher challenge”. And it would seem to me that I found it, again!
I opted for the 50km distance as I considered this a great long run opportunity in preparation for the next 100km run in two months time, which I am preparing for. And I got more than I bargained for. More about that in a moment
Ready early morning for the 05:00am start, Liz as always is there to support me and to cheer for me. I guess only if you do something as mad as this sport, can you appreciate how important this is.
One last energy boost and just about ready to go
I don’t know of a better way to experience nature; and for the first 20km or so we do have the energy to appreciate it …, beautiful sunrise!
And for the first few kilometers the trail is relatively harmless, giving us a good 30 minutes or so to warm up.
But soon it is all uphill from there on, or rather downhill to get started with
It would not stay at this relatively harmless river crossing, soon we found ourselves trekking along the river bed with no way left or right. At this point, progress becomes so slow, a quick picture stop no longer matters to time …
And this went on long, longer, longest…
Just who on this earth stakes out a course like this? Where is the trail???
And all jokes aside, this one was at times rather treacherous. Some of the rope climbing sections were too close to the cliff for comfort. I took no pictures for obvious reason, with no way to turn back, both hands required to hold on for dear life!
I completed the 50 km in TNF Thailand in 7 hours, the 50km in the TNF Hong Kong in 9 hours 30 minutes and now this one would take me a grueling 12 hours and 30 minutes. Only the TNF100 Thailand when I ran 100 km took longer at 15hours and 57 minutes.
So what happened? Well, if the above pictures are not a good indication, an extreme course; 2,086 meters up and the same number down. Trekking along (not just across, but along) river beds. Rope climbing sections; Cosy temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius. In all, not really a run but a climb…
It’s hard to appreciate the ascend on a picture but if the rope is an indication, normal climbing free hand, not an option. Loose soil aside, some parts of the course were in fact rather treacherous.
At the 32km mark and checkpoint 5, I took an extended break of almost 30 minutes. It was here that a large number of runners opted to DNF due to exhaustion. I have never come this close myself and very seriously considered the option. But having come this far and having taken a longer break to somehow recover, I found new determination to soldier on.
And so I did, with the trail becoming a real trail again only at km 38
With the occasional spectator along the way
Only at the finish line a fellow runner told me that apparently at one point I had a cow chase after me. I had never noticed but apparently I must have been making good enough speed myself to get away … 🙂
In one small village we passed through, this entrepreneurial family put up a little table with Sabah (boiled banana) and hard boiled eggs along with water and coke. I could not resist, a banana and a cold coke at about 8 hours into the run – heaven!
With the home stretch in sight, one more glimpse of the landscape
Before finally coming home
And not only was Liz there to take my picture and to cheer me on but to finish the run with me, as the announcer made clear: I was the first finisher to cross the finish line with an escort.
Official results reveal that I came home 43rd of 121 finishers out of 140 starters. That works for me and aside from the sense of achievement to have completed the course, to have done so in the top third of the field, I am quite happy with.
So, after 52,03km in 12:30:36 with 4,200 meters of cumulative altitude gain conquered and 6,071 calories burnt, that makes this medal yet another special one.
And here is the TNF collection; for the avoidance of doubt, two of them are 50km and only one (center) is 100km.
At the time of writing this, I have been sleeping for almost 24 hours straight, walking is not an option in any case …