Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lean Horse 100

I was calm when I woke up. I told myself I didn't have to worry about anything. I had done whatever preparation I could and when the race began, I just had to do what I enjoyed doing - running super long distances and hopefully, completing it within the official time or within what my body could do. The raisin bread I brought from Singapore was gone. So I ended up having a cup noodle, 2 fruit bars, 1 gel and lots of H20. Went to nap, and an hour before race start, woke up, bathed and drove to the Chamber Office.

As usual, I was nervous but once I stepped inside the Chamber Office and saw the other runners, I sought of calmed down. It helped to talk to fellow runners, took my mind off the fear of the unknown. [To me, every marathon and ultra are unknown. The longer the distance, the more fear I had.] Met Bobby (who will be Dennis's support crew rather than running as he hurt his kidney while doing Leadville in July) and Dennis whom I had pasta with the night before. We chit chat and took pictures and before we all knew, it was 6am and time to start!


I told myself not to start out too fast. And soon, more and more runners zoomed past me. I was enjoying myself, so much so that I didn't really worry even when I seemed to be one of the last few runners. For most ultras, there wasn't any miles marker as it didn't make sense to put so many miles markers. I just focus on reaching the next aid station, which would also meant that I covered a certain distance. Met Curt, the editor of Hot Springs and waved to him. Also saw Bobby who wished me good luck.


The first aid station was 4 miles from the start at Coldbrook Campground. It was still very early in the race and I was feeling great. The second aid station was at approximately mile 10 - Jerry had morphed the original 2nd (8.2 miles) and 3rd (12.2 miles) into 1 aid station. By then, the sun was out shining gorgeously into the trail. I walked all the uphills and jogged the flats. Well, not all the flats but with walk-breaks in between. :) At the third aid station, which was also our 1st drop bag station roughly 16.6 miles from the start, I met Jim, the guy from the radio station. He asked how I was doing. "Great", I replied, though I knew the sun had started to impact on me. I looked for my checked bag, put my compact camera into it, and removed my short-sleeved dri-fit tee. I thought it might be a better idea to run in singlet since I was feeling kinda hot. Unfortunately, it proved to be a bad decision.




Jim walked with me for about 10mins or so. He had his voice recorder in his hand. So its kind of an interview along the race course. It took my mind off the heat, at least for a short while. Jim said from that point onwards, I would be running along the Mickelson Trail, which was mostly flat. I was happy in a way but worried as the trail didn't seem to provide much shade. Jim wished me well and said he would wait for me at the 2nd drop bag station. I thanked him and continued. The route seemed easy and there were no hills. But the heat from the sun was sapping up my energy although I was able to hold on to my slow and consistent pace.


The fourth aid station was 20 miles from the start. I wasted no time by quickly refilled my water bottle and took some fruits. By then, I lost track of time. My aim was just to quickly reach the next aid station, refill my hydration pack, eat something and push on. It was getting harder and harder as the sun rose higher and higher. I saw Jim at the 5th aid station Pringle, 24 miles from start. I searched for my drop bag, teared open 2 packets of electrolyte for consumption. Jim asked how I was doing. I told him "so far so good but the sun was killing me". I removed my cap, poured some water on my head as well as over both my arms. I felt really good. But this seemed to be my 2nd bad decision.

By the time I left the Pringle aid station, some of those front runners for the 50-miles had already u-turned and on their way back. :( The stretch of trail from Pringle to Carroll Creek had become difficult. I constantly slowed to a walk while passing some shades to take a break from the intense heat. It helped initially. But as I ran out of shades, I began walking more and more. Just before I reached the next aid station, I felt giddy and couldn't see very well although I was wearing shades and a cap. Decided to stop and rest for a short while before I continued. By the time I reached the aid station at Carroll Creek, I knew I was done. I slumped into the chair, and informed the two volunteers that I was done with the race. One runner came and urged me to go on - "maybe you just need to rest a while before you continue" he said. After about 5 minutes, I decided to give it another shot. At least, I should try to get to the next aid station, which would was also the 3rd drop bag station. If I stopped there, at least I could get my clothing and my kind of food which I prepared, namely the electrolyte. The 5.5 miles was brutal. And even before I reached the next aid station, the leader for the 100 miles had passed me!

I reached the Harbach Park aid station slightly after 3pm. Completed just 35.5 miles. I was very disappointed to be defeated by the heat element. Most of the people there probably would be also wondering why I had problem with the heat since I lived in Singapore - a hot and high humidity country. Seriously, I couldn't explain except that I just couldn't function in heat. Like my whole body would shutdown. What prompted me to stop was that I wasn't sweating despite the heat and I was afraid I would faint. The memory of me having blacked out after a routine 5km run with my platoon mates during BMT was still vividly playing back somewhere in my mind after all these years. It scared the shit out of my mates and I thought it was not worth the effort to put myself in such position. At the end of the day, there would always be another race, another day. I thanked the volunteers at the aid station and decided to wait for Bobby.

I met Bobby before midnight. He was sorry to hear that I had to quit the race and offered to give me a lift. Since I had no room to stay, I told him that I'll help him out to support Dennis. So we chatted and prepared Dennis' stuff while waiting for him to come into the checkpoint. I also helped out a little whenever there were runners coming into the checkpoint and once even helped out a lady who can't find one of her AAA-size battery in her drop bag. (It was kind of cool to know that my effort was not wasted even though I had stopped running). After Dennis came and left, Bobby drove to the next checkpoint. I didn't feel tired at all and in fact, was so psyched up. At one of the aid station, they were running out of soup and Bobby and I drove to get some can soups from a convenient store. Then we waited for Dennis. He was maintaining a nice pace throughout the night section. At the aid station before the Arglye aid station, Bobby and I decided to take a short nap. And we missed Dennis at that checkpoint! But luckily, Dennis didn't need anything. :p We managed to caught hold of him at the Arglye aid station. He was still looking very strong despite the chill. It was almost morning although the sky was still dark. I then fell asleep. When I woke up, Bobby had drove to the last checkpoint, which was about 4 miles from the end. It was about 8am plus. Bobby was preparing Dennis shades. Soon, we caught sight of Dennis. He was in high spirits and smiling, knowing that he's so close to the finishing. After we sent him off, we stopped for breakfast before Bobby drove me back to the hotel for a shower. We then rushed back to the Race HQ but missed Dennis coming into the finishing line! It was a great run by Dennis and I had picked up valuable experience about what crewing was all about!




Overall, although I did not finished the race, I had enjoyed my experience in Hot Springs. 100 miles was never a easy distance to conquer. Although you could train very hard and smart for the distance, sometimes, there are other elements which you need to study upon. I didn't do my homework well enough - didn't study the surrounding of the terrain. Otherwise, I would not have wore a singlet. Or at least, I would have put on some form of sunblock lotion. It was disappointing but still a fruitful trip. I will come back to Hot Springs in future and hopefully, I can complete the Lean Horse 100!

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