Monday, May 28, 2012

Ultra-Trail Mt. Fujil® 100M Adventure (Part 2)

AS7 to AS8, via W1 (26km)
The distance to AS8 was 25km with a water station at 15km from AS7.  It was about 9.45am when I left AS7.  But I couldn't see the STY runners.  I was feeling good and was able to run-walk.  At around 9.55am I heard some music and sound from afar.  It must be the starting of the STY race!  I reckoned they would run past me soon.  At around 10.20am, the first male runner of the STY (wearing a bib with pink background) zoomed past me!  Then more and more STY runners ran past me with some of them wishing me the best of luck.  Suddenly, I just felt more energized to run faster and picked up my pace steadily (though it was just a tad faster).  I kept to the left to let the faster runners go past me.  At around 10.35am or so, I heard a woman's voice encouraging me.  She was Fernanda Maciel - a TNF sponsored super fast Brazilian runner working in Spain!  And then she was gone.  Many STY runners ran past me but I was okie to let them past.  Jacky Lee, one of 2 Singaporeans running the STY, also said hi and ran past me.  Another Singaporean, Danny Wan stopped and shared with me a piece of dried mango (I think).  I thanked him before bidding farewell as he sped off.  The sun was working hard and I was feeling the heat.  At water station 1, I drank another can of milo, replenished my water bottles and took off my short-sleeved tee so that I would still be protected from getting sun-burnt while wearing my long-sleeved tee.  From there, we had to run downhill past along the power line.  I began to slow down again.  At certain stretch, the pain behind the back of my right knee flared up while I walked down flights of steps.  So I had to descend one step at a time.  :(

After almost about 6 hours of run-walk, I finally reached the bottom of the power line and onto the road.  But AS8 was still out of sight and it wasn't another 25mins before I finally reached the aid station.  Just after crossing the timing mat, I saw the Avid Adventures volunteer again!  She led me to their tent and offered me a seat.  The other lady asked me if I wanted some soba.  I declined politely, saying that I would get it from the official aid station.  She insisted it was the same soba that she stocked up from the official aid station and I accepted her offer.  I also asked if they had any pain killer but they said the medical team would need to see me and not dispense any pain killer.  They then asked if I would like the pain spray instead, which I used it on both my thigh.  Then I saw Seow Kong's wife along the road side.  She asked if I had seen him which was not good news as I knew he was a much stronger and faster runner than me.  Perhaps he had ran past her.  I discovered I lost my gloves.  Seow Kong's wife offered me her stocking, which was better than nothing, while the 2 Avid Adventures volunteers found a spare pair of gloves too!  I was extremely lucky.  Just before I left, the official race volunteers went through my mandatory gears and a doctor examined me!  He told me to perform a squat which I could only perform a half squat.  Then he asked if I could lift up both my knees which I could do.  I even demonstrated that I could jump, before I was dispatched.  Phew!

Distance Covered: 26km
Accumulative Distance: 102km
Time Taken: 06:16:58
Accumulative Time: 24:25:04

AS8 to AS9 (27km)
The next section was the longest and the hardest of the entire race.  It was almost 4.00pm and I left only 2 hours of daylight to cover as much distance as possible.  Just before going up the forest, we were told to put on our bear bell!  This was the steepest part of the climb.  I had the strength in my legs but I had no breadth to keep going.  After every 20~30 steps, I had to stop to catch my breadth.  Looking at other runners suffering at the same time, gave me hope. :p A Japanese lady told me that we were currently at 1,150m elevation and we would have to reach the 1,950m elevation for the first climb!  My goodness!  I was still able to pass other runners although I was also being passed.  My legs were tired though my mind was still alert.  Then a group of runners ran past me with one calling out my name but I couldn't recognise him.  Further up, I saw another runner wearing the tag number 138!  He was SK - one of 3 Singaporeans attempting the UTMF!  I asked if he saw Winston and he said nope.  :(  I asked if I could follow his pace (well, since I caught up with him, I should be getting faster than him).  He told me not to worry and we would make the cut-off.  It was very reassuring.  :)  Then, he told me the bad news: there were 7 sections of short, steep climb till we reach the very top, which was also the 2nd intermediate check-point.  (Due to the difficulty of the terrain, race organisers added 2 more intermediate cut-off between AS8 and AS9.  The first one at the top of Choujyagadake (Choujya Mountain) with a cut-off time at 23.00pm and the second one at the top of Kumamori-yama with a cut-off time at 1.00am Both cut-off times are for UTMF runners with STY runners having a different cut-off.)  I felt damn sian.  While it was getting difficult to climb, it was getting even harder to go down!  Only then I realised the reason why the doctor insisted runners to perform the squat prior to leaving AS8.

Soon, night time came and our speed slowed.  The runners were grouped together as it was difficult and impossible to pass.  I managed to follow 2 runners who had a good pace climbing while not so fast going down.  Still, I managed to slip despite using a branch as trekking pole.  Luckily, as I was closed to the ground, I didn't fall that badly.  SK had by then fallen a bit further back.  I asked around if anyone knew if we had passed the first intermediate cut-off and was glad to hear that we had!  Further up, we passed another group of volunteers and the Japanese runner behind me asked how far were we from the second intermediate cut-off.  "1hr 40mins" was their reply.  It was rather precise!  How they got the time, I was not sure.  Perhaps they did a recce climb before the race.  So the group of us pressed on and on and on.  It was up and up, and then down and down, before going up and down again.  I didn't dare look at my watch to see how much time had lapsed but eventually, we reached the second intermediate cut-off at Kumamori-yama!  As indicated in the event website, we were each given a 500ml bottle of water.  I took mine and rest with the front leader of the group while other runners continued.  When its time to go, I decided to follow the front leader as I didn't see SK yet.  I was told that we had to go further up a few more such ascent before making our way down the mountain.  I followed the leader.  He wasn't that fast but was consistent in his climb.  After 2~3 of such sections, I was visibly tired and couldn't catch up.  I asked if we could take a breather and he agreed.  In the next up section, I fell and broke my branch and to my surprise, he lend me one of his trekking pole which I was extremely grateful!  But after another 2 more climbs, I was clearly in distress and had to let him go out of my sight.  I decided to rest a while and see if SK would catch up, which he did eventually.  He was also cursing and swearing by then.  We encouraged each other and I told him that the top should be near as I could see some lights further up.  But in darkness, sometimes, the light source could be deceivingly far!

And I was right!  I passed another 3 STY runners - 1 man and 2 ladies.  One of them told me to take more frequent stop rest instead of pushing too hard and taking a longer rest, which I agreed as taking a longer rest may make you stiffen up till you refused to move.  Then SK somehow managed to burst past me.  He told me that he would be going slow and asked me to catch up with him.  And that's the last I saw of him until during the later stage of the race.  When I eventually reached the top, I asked the volunteers how far was I from AS9 but none of them knew.  I began my descent, which was a long way down before we go up again.  I felt strange so I asked the volunteers where I was and how far was I from AS9.  Again, they didn't know and I was getting frustrated.  After changing my batteries, I continued my descent again which was another long way down.  Then, I had to go up again!  Luckily, the ascent was only a short section but again, the volunteers at the top was not sure how far we were from AS9.  Dejected, I sat on the ground and rest for a while, changed my headlamp's batteries before making my way down again.  It was almost 4.00am and this time, the descending section was very far down.  I lost count of the number of times I fell on my butt.  My quads were so weak that I had to slide down.  By then, a few runners ran past me occasionally and I was alone most of the time.  Then I heard some voices below and I quickened my pace.  But no one was insight when I eventually reached the bottom of the mountain.  It was bright by then and I asked the volunteers how far I was from AS9 and again, they either didn't know English or couldn't tell me where I was.  There was another Japanese runner with me and he asked if I had anything to drink as he had run out of water.  Thinking that we were close to AS9, I passed him my bottle of plain water.  Then we were both on the way up again.  This time, we didn't have to climb very far and I could see a clear view of Mt Fuji and the town below the huge mountain!  I told the guy to proceed without me while I enjoyed the morning fresh air.

In actual fact, I was still quite a distance from AS9.  I crested around the top of smaller mountain before making my way down.  At one of the switchback, I fell and hit my face on the ground.  Ouch!  I managed to pick myself up, spit out the soil and checked if my glasses were still in tact.  They were but I was also bleeding.  Since I had given away my plain water, I could only use the electrolyte drink to wash the blood on my face.  I continued but it wasn't long before I fell again, on my butt!  This time, I decided that I was too tired and even though the terrain was not difficult to run, I just had to walk.  2 runners ran past me and one offered his plain water for me to wash my face again as more blood oozed out from my nose.  He also gave me a patch of antiseptic plaster.  I thanked him before he left.  Further down, a group of senior citizens commenced their climb early in the morning.  They made way for the runners as I walked down.  Then, I saw Miki!  She asked if I was alright and that if I continued my speed, I would make the cut-off at 8.00am at AS9!  I asked her to shout back at me when she reached the bottom and she did shortly after.  I knew I was really close this time.  Once out of the woods, I had to run around some open field before reaching AS9 at around 6.40am!  I thanked Miki!  While taking a rest, I asked if Miki's friend could help me bring back the unnecessary gear back to the finishing point as it was too heavy to run with those items.  So I removed my bear bell (which was so annoyingly noisy), jacket, trekking pole, headlamp, etc, before I made my way our of AS9!  (Afternote: this was the hardest leg, which took me more than 15 hours to complete the 27km route).

Distance Covered: 27km
Accumulative Distance: 129km
Time Taken: 15:14:02
Accumulative Time: 39:39:06

AS9 to AS10 (13km)
I didn't bother to get something to eat as I just wanted to finish the race soonest possible.  After refilling my bottle, I continued.  This was the easiest section of the race.  I was very tired and even though I could run all the way,  I adopted a run-walk strategy.  And then I saw SK!  He told me we had plenty of time to meet the cut-off at 3.00pm but I wasn't so sure.  I told him I had to push on.  After turning into a small park (looks like a forest with tress far apart) and out onto the tarmac road, and then back in and out of the park again, I was directed onto a pavement next to a main road.  I could see a few runners in front and since it was a slight climb, I decided to fast march.  Boy, this was a never ending road!  I reckoned it was at least 4~5km long!  Once in a while, a car would pass by and sound its horn, and people would shout words of encouragement.  After slightly more than an hour, I finally met a marshaller!  He told me to make a right turn about 100m further up.  I thanked him and walked to about 100m but there was no trail marker or marshaller!  I made my way back but saw 2 runners coming my direction and they said we were on the right track.  Feeling confident, I thanked them and fast marched till the end of the curve road where there was another marshaller.  Phew.  I reached AS10 at almost 9.30am.  I quickly refilled my water bottle before I left for the last 14km!

Distance Covered: 13km
Accumulative Distance: 142km
Time Taken: 02:48:01
Accumulative Time: 42:27:07

AS10 to Finishing (14km)
I knew what I had to do to complete the remaining 14km.  First section comprised of  uphill to the top of the woods.  Second section comprised of descending from the top to the foot of the woods.  And last section the scenic route next to the lake to the finishing line.  But the way to the top of the woods took me forever and ever!  About half way through climbing the trail, Miki and her friend caught up with me.  She asked me if I was okie.  I replied that I was tired, but was looking forward to finishing the race.  :)  She said the trail to the top was much deeper but once we hit the top, it would take us less than half an hour to get to the foot.  I thanked her and urged her not to wait for me.  And then I saw her took off with her friend.  I was not sure how long it took me to reach the top but should be around 1hr 30mins (which meant that I reached the top at around 11.00am).  Once I reached there, I regretted that I left the trekking pole behind.  It was not a steep downhill but it was kind of sandy (and hence slippery).  I slipped for a couple of times before I steadied myself.  And then it happened.  Well, I didn't know exactly what happened at that moment but some how, it just happened.  I was not sure how I managed to get down to the foot of the hill but I did it eventually.  (I'll give details of this separately).  I was kind of relieved that I recalled the trail during the recce on Thursday morning.  Once out of the woods (at around 12.42pm), I was so happy to be surrounded by civilization!  The marshaller directing traffic was kind enough to help me refilled my water bottle although the water was for himself.  Then I saw a Japanese runner who had just came out of the woods too.  I asked if he could walk with me to the finish which he obliged, which was very nice of him.  The last 4km was the most enjoyable walk I ever took as I know I had plenty of time left.  As we got nearer to the finishing line, more and more people congratulate us.  Then I saw Winston!  He was busy snapping photos!  He commented that he had DNF after AS2 as he was not feeling well.  So he was tracking SK and my progress in the race and had been waiting for quite a while.  About 50m from the finishing line, the Japanese runner and I started running and we completed the UTMF in 46hrs 49mins 32secs!  Hurray!  I recognised the Japanese doctor who made me do a squat before I left AS8, only that this time, he presented my UTMF finisher vest instead.  Lucky me.  :p

Distance Covered: 14km
Accumulative Distance: 156km
Time Taken: 04:22:25
Accumulative Time: 46:49:32

From Andre Blumberg's Camera

Post Race
SK completed the race 5mins after me.  Then it was time for us to walk back to our hostel, which was 500m from the finishing line.  Back at the hostel, we learnt that Danny had completed his STY in about 22hrs 08mins.  While waiting for our room,  Winston and Danny were so kind to cook a bowl of Japanese instant ramen for SK and me.  It was one of the nicest instant ramen I ever eaten!  After washing up, I didn't had any dinner as I was completely knocked out till 11.00pm.  Would I do this race again, not likely.  Though we all know how a runner's mind works.  But if I had a chance, I would like to pay my dues by being a supporter next year to support whoever interested in running the UTMF in 2013.  :)  (Afternote:  I would like to thank Miki and her friend who helped me brought back my extra gear from AS9.  And the UTMF Runner No. 892 (or 829) who gave me one of his trekking pole.  And the UTMF runner who gave up his plain water for me to wash my bloodied face.  As well as the young UTMF runner who walked with me for the last 4km.  Without your help, I would probably DNF.  A big thanks to YOU!)

With Winston & SK Lim (from Winston's Camera)

1 comment:

Leafster said...

Inspiring! I need to salute you.. I can feel the passion that all passion runners have in their heart. And you too!

I got a slot in Tokyo Marathon 2013. Was then googling about runners with experience in Japan and trying to find some travel tips. And I saw your blog. Any tips to share?

If I recall correctly, you just completed the TNF100 100km right? I did my 2nd TNF run - 25km, love TNF event. Always more challenging, and love the nature run.

Happy Running!