Thursday, December 5, 2013

Columbia Trail Masters - Pattaya Trail 50km

The Pattaya Trail 50km was just 2 weeks after the Comrades Marathon but I felt I had totally recovered from the exertion.  I was looking forward to the race as it would be a group trip with friends from Trail Running Singapore - Belinda, Frances and Joe.  We would also be meeting up with Rachel - a runner coming up from Kuala Lumpur.  The trip required us to fly into BKK airport, pick up a rental car, and drive about 150km southwards to Pattaya.  As Joe had prior driving experience in Bangkok, he volunteered to drive while I became the navigator.  It was a straight forward drive although the route to the hotel was a little tricky with all the small lanes.  Nevertheless, we never really got loss and found the hotel in relatively quick time.  After checking-in, we drove to the race start to collect our bibs and race packs.

 The Various Stalls Selling Different Products at Great Prices!

 Race Packet Collection Was A Breeze!

There were quite a number of stalls set up at the race pack collection although the area was a little remote.  Collection was a breeze.  You just present your identification and after tallying with their records in the computer system, they would write your category (woman or man) on the bib (made of PVC material) on the spot, ask you your preferred size for the event tee (you could even try your size on the spot) before putting everything into a goodie bag that was pre-pack with other stuff like sun block samples.  Whoever come first will get the smaller number and I managed to "time" myself reasonably well and got a "888" bib.  :p  After collection, we went back to the hotel to pick up Rachel, who arrived slightly later on another flight (and went straight to the race collection to pick up her race pack), and drove out for our carbo loading session.  The drive to the carbo loading venue was further than we thought.  In fact, it was way further than the race start and we probably spent more time driving to and from the venue than feasting.  Luckily, the food was not too bad.  And it was an early night to get ready for next day's race which would start at 7am.

Carbo Loading Session!

We decided to arrive early as the car lots at the race start seemed limited.  But it started raining as soon as we drove out of the hotel.  :(  It got heavier and we decided to stay in the car after parking.  Luckily, it became light enough soon after and we got out of the car.  While getting our stuff ready, Joe was unable to find his bib.  He decided to drive it back to the hotel while the rest of us waited at the race start.  The start of the race was delayed for 15mins due to the downpour earlier.  So we all hope Joe had enough time to drive back and start the race.  (Joe managed to arrive back after the 50km runners had started and he was allowed to start with the 25km runners.  :)

The Pattaya Trail 50km comprised of running 2 loops of 25km, something that I didn't really fancy.  The water point was situated at every 5km interval.  Somehow, the ground was not muddy, at least, not at the beginning of the trails.  The race was flagged off at 7:15am with the first 5km was generally flat and very runnable.  There were enough trail markers when we need to run through a field.  I reached the 1st water point at 5km after 33mins of running.  At around the 6km mark, it became a little undulating with ascend and descend of the hills.  Just after the 7km mark, a few speeding runners zoomed past me!  I guessed they are the top 25km runners.  I made way for them as the trail was narrow.  How these runners ran so fast up and down the hills was beyond me.  I preferred to run slowly and take in the scenery.  :p  There were also volunteers stationed at critical sections to direct and ensure runners went the right way.  Some of these volunteers were also given bottles of water, probably for those runners who may run a little low with water.

 5km/30km Water Point; Volunteers with Bottles of Water; Clear Trail Markers!

The Undulating Terrain; Volunteer; 25km Runner!

I reached the 2nd water point at 8:52am - an extremely slow 59mins to cover 5km!  The water point was also the same water point where we met with the 10km runners.  I quickly topped up my water and left.  The section from 11km to 12km was downhill.  Luckily, the terrain was not that treacherous and I was able to complete the section without falling.  Then I saw someone familiar!  Looked like I had caught up with Belinda.  She said she had some pain (in the leg) so she was trying to ease off a little.  I left, knowing its a matter of time she would caught up with me again.  And she did, about 5mins later, just before the next water point and I never saw her again.  :(  It took me another 61mins to cover this stretch of 5km!  I was getting a little worried if I would make the cut-off of 10 hours.

 2nd Water Point @ 10km; A 10km "Runner"; Belinda; Volunteers with Water

 "River Crossing"; 3rd Water Point @ 15km; More 25km Runners; Towards 20km Water Point!

By then, there were more and more 25km runners who ran past me.  I knew I had to pick up my pace.  I did so and managed to reach the 4th water point at 10:33am, 40mins of pure running due to a generally flat terrain.  I refilled my water but decided against using the sponge.  The last segment of 5km comprised of rolling hills which I loved but needed more time to complete.  There was also a photographer stationed near the end, trying to surprise the unsuspecting runner!  Luckily I was alert and put on a smile.  Once I came out of the trail, I saw the 24km marker and sprinted the last 1km.  It was 11:29am - 56mins for the last 5km.

4th Water Point @ 20km; Sponge for Cooling; More Undulating Terrain; Cows in the Farm!

The Last Stretch; Water Point @ 25km!

The first loop of 25km took me 4hrs 14mins to complete.  I dared not stopped for too long at the 25km mark, which also served as a drop bag point for the 50km runners.  Besides, I didn't deposit any drop bag.  Sometimes, the more drop bag points there were, the more time I tend to waste.  I continued my 2nd loop as soon as I topped up my water.  Since this was a 2-loop course, I knew what to expect.  Well, almost until it decided to pour at around the 7km mark!  Luckily the weather in Pattaya was hot and humid, and I enjoyed running in the rain-soaked weather.  The rain subsided just before I reached the 2nd water point.  The volunteers had started to clear the area but there were still sufficient water for the slower runners.  I then met a Filipino runner on my way to the 3rd water point and we chatted for a while before I left him.  Before the 4th water point, I strayed off course as I was too complacent and didn't saw a marker.  Good thing I realised soon after as I noticed the unfamiliar area.  For the 2nd loop, I was running alone most of the time though I could see runners in front and behind in the open terrain.  Also, I wasn't worried about getting lost due to the clear trail markers and the experience of the 1st loop, since the loop was covered in broad daylight.  I managed to complete the 2nd loop in 4hrs 36mins for a total time of 8hrs 50mins.

Clear Trail Markers; 1st Water Point @ 5km/30km; Muddy Terrain; 2nd Water Point @ 10km/35km!

A Filipino Runner; Water Crossing; 3rd Water Point @ 15km/40km; Clear Markers!

Views from the 15km/40km Water Point Onwards!

This was my 2nd trail 50km (after Vermont 50km in 2007) and while my timing was not fantastic, I had a great time.  Overall, I would recommend this race for anyone who doesn't mind running a 2-loop course.  The trail markers on the course were highly visible (if you pay attention).  Even when you went on the wrong course, there would be markers to indicate so.  The water points had sufficient water, isotonic drink and cola, and some were even stocked up with food like bananas and rambutans! The running terrain was tough but manageable as part of it was flat and smooth and part of it small, rolling hills.  There were also volunteers stationed at critical junctions and some were even stocked with bottles of water.  The only difficulty was actually getting to Pattaya for the race itself.  :p  Verdict: A highly recommended race (25km and 50km) for runners of all ability.  :)

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