Thursday, May 1, 2008

Addo Elephant 100 Mile - Here I Come...

Ian and I gathered at the Addo Elephant Park race briefing area at around 2pm. We saw some familiar faces, like last year's 50-mile women's champion, Laura Forster, who will be doing the 100-mile event like me this year. And Jo Mackenzie, Susan Hurter, AO Okreglicki, the 100-mile men's champion last year, and Bruce Arnett the previous years' winner for the men's 100-mile race. I thought I also saw the last woman who crossed the 100-mile event last year but apparently, she's not running this year. After saying hi, we went to collect our race packets from Nadia, who co-direct the race with her husband, Estienne. Ian went to say hello to more old friends while I walked around, snapping photos of runners chatting, and examining the blown-up race route, most looking relax, eager and looking forward to the next day's run.

When everyone had collected their race packets, Estienne commenced his race briefing. He touched on the compulsory items: hydration pack, whistle, space blanket and torch light with batteries. Plus what to expect en-route, stressing on the need to check-in and out at every check-point, as usually, both runners and volunteers were so excited when someone ran into an aid station that sometimes, the runner forgotten to check himself/herself in or the volunteers forgotten to note down who came in or what timing the runner came in. After the race briefing, I deposited my 3 x drop bags at the respective check-points deposit areas. Then Ian and I took a lift from a fellow 50-miler runner to Kirkwood Hotel.

After checking in, we chatted with Laura, Ed (Laura's son), and Bruce (they were staying at the next door unit at Kirkwood Hotel) while we waited for dinner time. Ian knew them from other running events that they also taken part previously. I also learnt that there were lots of trail races in South Africa and they were mostly beautiful areas to run. I could make this an annual trip to South Africa since it would be much cheaper to travel there as compare to traveling to USA. :p Ian and I had dinner at the Kirkwood Hotel while the rest went out for dinner. Although the choice of dinner was limited, it was simple and sufficient enough to fill my stomach. We went back to prepare the rest of our stuff after dinner and had an early night.

I woke up at around 3am in the morning and had 4 slices of bread for breakfast. This was my usual regime for fueling myself prior to events. I went back to sleep after that and woke up again at around 5am. Changed into my gear and went to the front of the Kirkwood Hotel for registration. When we reached there, there were many other runners gathered around the start. Some were doing stretching, while others were chit-chatting and wishing each other good luck. Estienne then gave out some last minute instructions and reminders, before flagging all the runners off at 6am sharp.

As Ian was doing the 50-mile event while I was doing the 100-mile event, I decided to run on my own. As usual, I started off really slowly. However, I managed to pick up my speed after turning into the trail. The weather was cool and scenary beautiful. I encountered upslopes early in the trail but they were all manageable. A few runners who passed me, like Reiner Stucky, had also advised me to walk all the upslopes. I did eventually. For those extremely steep ones which seemed more logical to conserve energy by walking up. By the 4th check-point, I was pleased with my timing as I managed to cover 41.2km within 5hrs 40mins (or thereabout). This was good progress as I covered 1/4 of the total distance.

Unfortunately the 2/4 of the route was not as easy as the 1st part. There were a few streams that I needed to navigate across and it slowed me down as I tried to find my balance wadding across the water. It became worse after the 7th check-point as we had to overcome a stretch of extremely steep slope! The elevation started from approximately 288m and eventually reached the top of 759m! Even the safety vehicle that followed us had a difficult time in driving up! Despite the short distance of only 5.2km, it took me almost 3hours to eventually reached the 8th check-point. Upon reaching the 8th check-point, I quickly poured the Baby Johnson powder over my wet feet before changing into a pair of dry socks and running shoes. Hmmm. My feet felt really comfy now and ready to push on to the next check point, which was also the halfway point (approximately at 79km), which I eventually did around 7.50pm.

This was marginally faster than what I did for the 50-mile last year. I should be pleased. Unfortunately, by then, night fell and I started to walk to allow my eyes adjust to the darkness. The weather by then was cooling although not too cold. I enjoyed myself walking in the ridge line. However, I ran out of water. Halfway through the next check-point, 2 of the volunteers at the previous check-point came to me and handed me a jacket and gloves which belonged to Estienne. They must have noticed that I was getting cold. I thanked them and continued my journey. Not long after, Estienne caught up with me in a MTV. He helped me by using the light of his MTV to shine on my path, which made my walk easier. This went on until I reached the gate into a farm. I thanked him before hurrying into the dark path. After walking for about 10 minutes, I heard a loud "moo" sounded in front of my path. I was startled. Slowly, I used my torch light to shine towards the source of the sound. There was a cow! We were both stunned to find each other. I nervously switched off my torch light and moved around the cow. Somehow, the cow also sensed that I was no harm. After an agonising 10 minutes, I passed the cow and before I knew, I reached the next check-point. Phew!

I remembered that check-point from last year. And the volunteers remembered me as well (although I only seriously remembered the check-point but not the personnel. :p ) Estienne also said that he would walk with me for this part of the trail as we would be walking inside the trail. How glad I was. If not for Estienne, I would have lost my way as I was rather blind in the complete darkness and failed to see the numerous illuminous ribbon. At approximately 1am plus, I reached check-point 11, otherwise known as the Zuurberg Inn. After a quick re-fuel, I thanked the volunteers and Estienne before I continued my journey. I should have run but I continued walking as both my feet were feeling very sore. It proved to be a very wrong move. By the time I reached check-point 12 at Zuurberg Pass Road, it was about 2.40am and I knew I would not make it at the next check-point within the cut-off time. In fact, I was already late although I was not sure why I was allowed to leave that check-point.

So it was no surprised that Estienne picked me up at around 3.11am, before I reached check-point 13. I reckoned I covered about 107km. I did not argue with Estienne as I was feeling cold. However, I kind of regretted my failed mission. On the way back to base camp, I kept going through where I could have done better and I knew where it all went wrong. The wrong choice of running shoes in the first part of the race undone my preparation. I should have used a proper trail running shoes instead of a normal running shoes. I thought the use of trail running shoes for the second half of the run would serve me well. Unfortunately, by then, my feet were too sore to run. As to why I only brought one pair of running shoes, well, its because I lost my 2nd pair on the way to the airport so its some kind of a misfortune. :( Luckily, I was not the only one who dropped out of the race. I was also extremely grateful to both Estienne and Nadia who were so kind as to give those of us who dropped out of the 100-mile event a finisher glass elephant, which was given to all 50-miler finisher. Although technically we did cover more than the 50-miles distance, we did not really warrant any award since we did not complete our event. I promised Estienne and Nadia that I'll be back in 2009 to complete the unfinished business. And next time, I'll plan properly to ensure I finish the race!

1 comment:

Ice said...

So what happened? Am in suspense!!!