Friday, February 14, 2014

Columbia Trail Masters 2014

We've been making mini vacations out of some of the races when Pae is in town.  The only drawback is that we really have to watch what we eat when we are out and about so I get the proper pre-race nutrition...TORTURE! We love to eat!
As training for our upcoming The North Face trail race in February, Eric and I decided to get an introduction to trail distance running by participating in a trail race in Pattaya, a couple hours drive away from Bangkok. The trail is called KMK or Khao Mai Kaew. It is one of the toughest trails for running locally and is where a lot of Bangkok Runners go to train for their trail ultras. We would run the 25km race. There were fun runs, 10K, 25K and 50K distances.
Challenge accepted!

Short pause...

Challenge failed!!
Pae and I brought Bunbun with us and stayed at a hotel where we weren't sure if animals were allowed (not many hotels allow animals) so we stealthily snuck him and his cage into our hotel over several trips back and forth to the car ;) Bun liked the hotel room, but it had an air conditioning unit that was so loud and poured water onto the floor throughout the night...a good room and a good solid sleep are generally preferred when running early in the morning and for supporters who would like to get good rest also.

The race was pretty standard other than the fact that it weaved its way through the local hills and plantations. Pre-race was spent waiting in lines several times for the pre-race poop. Said hi and wished the usual suspects luck in their races, blew kisses to Pae and the horn sounded.
Eric went out so fast before we reached the trail head, and I had a tough time keeping up with him. Eventually we hit the trail which was single trail for a while and difficult to pass people. But it was fun.
I ran with a woman who pretty much wins first or second place in all of the races she runs. I ran with her for a while, maybe until about 15km. 
The turning point of the race to me...changing from a race to an exercise in getting to the finish...started on the first major technical downhill of the trail at 8km. We had climbed up the hill through the forest and what goes up must come down. I was enjoying the technical downhill...gravity seemed to be doing most of the propulsion and all I needed to do was dodge left or right and bounce off of trees and other obstacles.
Well, I forgot about those limitations and I decided I needed to leap outward, kinda like Wile E. Coyote when he runs off of a cliff, hovers there for three seconds and finally falls to the ground clutching his little parasol. I figured that if I "tried" harder to run faster down the hill, I could finish the race faster. Hahaha! That's why we come to these learn...and I learned the hard way, landing on a small stone and twisting my ankle.
My full weight came down on the ankle and it just got smashed. I was holding a Gu Gel to start to open and take down before reaching the checkpoint at 10km...that went flying somewhere into the forest when I fell. I got straight back up and started limping quickly down the hill. It hurt pretty bad but I was still able to make a running motion. I had to make a decision at the 10km checkpoint if I wanted to continue on the jacked ankle. I figured I could make it to the end, but wasn't sure at what cost. I passed the stop and climbed the next hill to about 11km...where I met an old friend, a steep downhill.
I tried my best to just make it down step by step, not worrying about speed. Instead I was worrying that each step down the slope was one more step I'd have to walk back up if I decided to abandon the race...I still wasn't convinced that the ankle should continue.
"Danger Steep Downhill" lesson learned...take what the trail gives you...
Then, in my moment of self pity and gloom, I took a pretty bad step on the left ankle again and went straight down to my knees...This kinda pissed me off more than it hurt, and it sure did hurt. I decided that if the course was going to batter me so much and if I was gonna end up broken, I wasn't gonna end up broken and have  big shiny DNF (Did not finish) next to my name. I didn't care if I was last place, as long as I finished.
The course eventually left the tough hills and wound its way through some farms and plantations. This was in the wide open sun and the roads were uneven and strangely sandy. The sand is a bear to run through, takes a lot of energy and you don't really feel like you're getting out of each step what you're putting into it.
There were literally kilometers of sand roads leading in and out of the plantations...climbing hills was easier
But at that point I was just kinda sucking up the last half of the 25km race. Eventually my pace slowed from my normal 5 minute kilometers to a 7 minute kilometer. Soon I heard Eric sprinting down a paved portion of the course near 19 or 20km.
This was Eric's first trail run and other than the Bangkok Ultra Trail 50k I did in 2013 (non technical, nearly flat) it was really my first one too. Eric and I caught up for a few minutes and I told him my situation. He decided to finish the final 6km with me, even though I was having difficulty going up hill and going down hills without serious pain. Eric gave up quite a bit of time by dragging me to the finish line and I appreciated that he stayed with me and that he encouraged me to take it easy if I needed to. He walked with me up the ups and down the downs...When I could run on the flats, he waited for me to start running, not pressuring me to go faster.
Sometimes we're blinded by the finish line, by our finish time and finish position. Eric sacrificed 20-30 minutes and probably 15-20 places by staying with me. Of course I felt bad about it...bad for him, but at the same time I felt that it was good. You know, good to have a friend who would put their race, their achievements to the side to help a buddy out. This race served as training for our upcoming team race at The North Face 100. We'll both run 50km and combine our finishing times for a 100km distance total. So, getting to the finish was important and running together for a while was good practice as well. It was also a good bonding moment for friends and teammates ;)
We did indeed finish the race. The thing I remembered most about the finish was that as we were eying the right turn to the finish line, the dude in front of us turned left to do another loop of the course (he was running the 50km race)...We both looked at each other, sun beating down like nobody's business, and were like NO WAY!! We felt bad for him.
Pae took me to the doctor the next day to get x-rays taken...luckily they were negative for fractures or breaks. Although the doctor said, "I don't see any breaks, but there is this weird line" pointing at the area right above my ankle...and that's all he said, haha, not like "That line might be this or might be that..."
He said I had a pretty good tear of the ligaments in the area and that I needed to stay off of it for three to six weeks. Hmmmm. The North Face 100 was right around the corner...

1 comment:

mardenheyjude said...

Hi Guy:
That was a tough race, especially the downhill and the uphill part of the trail. You are lucky to have finished without breaking any bones. Your ankle looks painful. Hope it heals enough for you to be able to race at The North Face 100. You have a good friend in Eric. It is nice that you and Pae can make some vacation time. Be Well. Love always, Auntie

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