Month: January 2016

How I nearly gave up for TNF100 Thailand 2016

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I lean on my car. And my legs gave out.

I stared at my legs, or what they used to call it. It was stained with dirt, grime and sweat. The sun has browned them, a stark contrast to the wet, pale, rain-soaked feet.

And the feet. Oh gawd. The big toenail on my right foot was flapping; the 2nd toenail was turning black. With the amount of blisters, dead skin clinging on the whole toe, it looks like they belong to the props division of some horror film.

“Why do I do this to myself?”, I wondered out loud.

Why give up a good sleep on a cold Saturday morning? Why run 50km in one stretch when I can just do that in a car? Why do I choose to walk up the LHDN hill at 1pm under the scorching sun?

There are plenty of answers.

Because I have to. Because this is training. Because I have to climatise. Because I have to simulate the actual race conditions.”

But essentially, why do I do it?

Why sign up for another 100km ultramarathon when I have just completed one barely 4 months ago? Why sign up for ultramarathon anyways?

Honestly, I have no idea.

Am I trying to prove to myself that I am capable of great things? Or are there some deep unresolved issues that I am trying to run away from?

Possibly, but why ultramarathons?

There is NOTHING glamorous about ultramarathons. One loses tons of muscle mass during the LSD. Trail ultrarunners shit behind a bush. The toes are not instagram worthy. Not even VSCO can lighten the damage.

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Ain't shitting in the woods, just in case

You will look like burnt chicken during training. You resemble a panicky goose at the starting line. The race pulls 50 – 60 percent of runners over the course of 18 hours.

If you are lucky, you will be one of the 40 percent.

At the finish line, the photographer clicks, and there you are, looking like a drown rat.

Unless you are a sponsored athlete. They always look badass.

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Vlad Ixel (image creds Action Asia Events)

The rest of mere mortals seems like we have just emerged from some crap hole.

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Mortals of the Craphole (image creds Running Malaysia)

So why run ultramarathons?

I thought, with the completion of my 3rd peak over the course of my very short ultra career, I would at least have one concrete answer that justify everything.

Sadly, there isn’t.

HOWEVER, there are certain fragments which I have walked away with. Tough, unforgiving lessons which only comes with black toenails and a sunburnt neckline.

I will reveal one.

What does shitting in the woods, finding yourself stuck knee-deep on a desolate beach, and wondering how can you run for another 20km when it is 12:47pm on a scorching cloudless day, have in common?

It teaches me that it is okay to be different.

It is a lonely path. But it is okay.

Not everyone would understand the things that you do. The sacrifices that you put in. The physical and emotional pain that you have to go through.

Sometimes, you don’t even understand it yourself.

But really, it is okay.

When the sun heats up the ground beneath you, and you get burnt from both side. When the sun hides behind the storm clouds, all you see are flashes of lightning, sheets of rain and cold wind just beat the crap out of you, it is okay.

You were never meant to exist into any stereotypes. You do not fit into any cookie cutter forms crafted by people who have never run a mile. People who prefer to drive 50km instead of running it. They would never understand. They wouldn’t even begin.

So it is okay to be different.

Not in the I-am-more-superior kinda way. But just, different. You are operating on a whole spectrum. The values you hold are different. Your perception of success is not of the norm.

But it is okay.

It doesn’t have to make sense now. It may not even make sense after you complete 2 ultramarathons.

I have faith that it will eventually be uncovered. It may surface in the form of a DNF during TNF100 Thailand. Or along the trails of Semban. It could come up on a morning run across the waterfront.

Till the day comes, I will just need to keep on training. Getting sun-browned torso and horrendous toenails along the way.

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And that is okay.

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What happens at 7:03pm when you run

7:03pm.

What happens at 7:03pm?

I am now entering the peak week for The North Face 100 Thailand. Most of my midweek runs would start from the traffic congesting hours of 5pm.

What do I witness?

Exhaust fumes, motorcycles going up on pavements (wtf right?), and the blinding evening sun.

But something happens at 7:03pm.

The whole city comes to a stop.

It could be less than 5 seconds. There are no cars in the visible distance. No risk of getting run over by crazy motorcyclists. And the sun bids goodbye to the day.

Kuching transformed into a tranquil haven. The slight buzz of the street lamp. The chirping of the crickets. The sound of my vibram clad foot hitting the ground.

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In that 5 seconds, I was allowed to take a break. To detach from the worries of my pace, the concerns over the lack of training, the goals I want to obtain from the race.

In that 5 seconds, I am once again reminded why I run ultras at the first place.

To experience uninhibited freedom. To be fully aware of one’s existence.

Understanding peace itself can be attained simply by the act of taking one step after another.

7:03pm.