August 28th, 2008

OSIM mini run keeping strong

Hood to Coast - Part 1

The segments. Mine highlighted in red.

Aggressive projections

The start point. Mt Hood.

Some scenic routes.

Night runs on highway. Mine was inside the trail.

Sample of one of the routes.

Briefly, this is how HTC works. The 197 miles is split into 36 legs thus each runner covers 3 legs in a specific sequence. I was the 11th runner so I covered 25km odd in distance. I think the challenging part of this race, was not knowing what was ahead. The handbook which provided details on each course was helpful but not always accurate. Weather conditions couldn't be predicted and the terrains which were sometimes marked easy or flat turned out otherwise. There was also the elevation to consider.

One of the Nike staff came up with an excellent planning spreadsheet which enabled us to project each runner's timings. From this, we could have a rough gauge on our individual start times, whether it was going to be a morning, afternoon or night run etc. It was literally a math game.

We had 2 SUVs that were loaded up with water, vitamins, energy bars, bananas, snacks, first aid kit, wet wipes etc etc. The first 6 runners went into the first, the next 6 into the second. I was in van 2. There were designated exchange points where the race band was handed off from one runner to the next. At each exchange, the team from the van would be there to support. When van 1 was in progress, van 2 rested. Bringing the Singapore flag turned out to be one of the smartest thing that we did. When you run in, you look for the flag and run straight to it with your next runner waiting. It was that simple. Sometimes, it got rather chaotic but I'd say, our exchanges went smoothly.

Our van was pretty sleep deprived so we only had one shower thoroughout the entire 29 hours. Whilst van 1 was in progress, we all trooped over to G's place and had a lovely warm shower, homecooked macaroni soup and tried to rest. Then for the rest of it, it was just trying to sneak in naps whenever and using loads of wet wipes. Sometimes, the energy was low, everyone got grumpy, sometimes we landed up not going out to support our teammates (which was bad actually).

For me, my stomach went completely bonkers and I was in great need to pee at almost hourly intervals and then pooping 4 times and that was terrible. "Honey Bucket" portable loos became our new best friend. We all agreed that it was very decent. Unlike those in Singapore where it usually stinks and you don't really want to visit it unless you need to, Honey Bucket had no odor, loads of toilet paper and we kept seeing the truck doing maintenance. I think there was no odor because they used the 'dry' method. There wasn't a flush so everything could be seen and that was the gross part. But there was a proper toilet seat, urinal for men and proper TP. No sink. So in replacement of water to wash your hands, there was foam sanitizers which didn't require washing. There was one moment before I was due for my run, where I had a bad tummache. So I bolted to Honey Bucket. In the midst of doing my thang, I heard a loud sound outside and then I realized that the trucks were here to maintain and clean out the porta-loos. I panicked and tried to hurry up. Rushed out in time and my teammates were all laughing hilariously. They were wondering if I was going to get ported -_-

When I was nominated for HTC, I thought this was completely doable. But then I underestimated the unpredictable weather conditions and terrain. Most of us did. In fact, one of our seasoned marathoners said this was more difficult then doing a marathon. The hardest part of the race is waiting in between for your legs to start. Imagine this, once you have done your leg, you wait in the van for at least 5-8 hours before you start on your next. Limited space to stretch properly, plus you just want to rest. Latic acid builds up and your muscles get sore and cold from the weather. All of us are sore from the race. For me, it hurts to sit.

I only had one proper meal in the 29 hours. For the rest of it, I stuffed myself with Luna bars, granola, chips, Gu gels and water. It's really tough not having proper food but there isn't much of a choice. I think it was the bars that got my stomach cranky. Post race, I was so hungry, I kept eating. Actually, during the race, most of us could barely eat. I did crave for warm food and a good cheese burger though.

Our project time based on the aggresive pacing that we initially had, was about 28.5 hours. Eventually, we finished officially in 29 hours 2 minutes. The fastest team finished in about 16 hours. Don't ask me how they did it, that is just insane. There were a number of elite runners on the course and in fact, all kinds of runners. One group was actually doing it for a hen's party! The bride wore a veil for the race. Gawd. I would never do that!

So that was the bits and pieces of the race. My personal report to follow. And a lot more pictures :) Stay tuned!

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Cold in Denver

Hood to Coast - Leg 11

Keeping warm

Some of the team mates

Post second leg race with the Portlanders

My biggest concern for Leg 11 was not the course but the time at which I was running.

I was estimated to start around 20:50. I started thereabouts. It was rather chilly at night so I wore my capri tights, a long sleeve top, skully under a beanie and gloves. Gloves are so very important when running in cold conditions. I also carried a whistle and a cell phone with TS' number on speed dial just in case. I would be running in a trail and not expected to get van support so I was really in jitters before it. I went all quiet and was worried.

The team sent me off, I had my reflective vest on and my flashlight clutched tightly in my hand. I didn't think of bringing any water. It was 7km odd so I thought it would be fine. I did regret because I felt thirsty during the race as it was dry and cold.

For 0.5km, it was along a highway so I felt fine. The space between each runner is wide, so I ran fast to keep up with the two runners that I saw in front of me. 5 of us entered the trail and it was dark with no marshals. I only had my flashlight to depend on. I didn't know where I was really going, my heart was pounding. The runners in front of me ran faster and I lost them. One was left, she ran fast, I ran harder. I kept turning back to see if I could see anyone behind me but it was just faint lights which meant there were runners but further behind. I was afraid I would get lost or that something would happen. On both sides of the path were just tall grass. It was scary.

It was cold, I did feel warmer after ten minutes. But I kinda felt safe covered up. I've never run in cold conditions so I wasn't really used to the dry air and lower temperatures. My fingers were still cold beneath the gloves and then they turned clammy.

I was deciding against listerning to music for safety reasons. But then I decided to just plug into one ear and leave the volume at a reasonable level. I think it was a better choice. If not for the music, the silence of the night would have been more scary.

Throughout the run, all I could think of was focusing on the runner in front of me and trying not to let the distance get wider. Sometimes, wild thoughts went through my mind and I was afraid I would be alone and something would happen to me. That I would get lost, that I would get attacked or something. And then I would run even faster.

It seemed never-ending.

Finally, I reached the exchange point. I was so relieved.

41 minutes was my timing.

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