So this past month has been a busy one for me in terms of running. Last weekend I ran the Kuala Lumpur marathon. I’ll keep my time to myself, although officially I was DQ’d for some reason. Working on fixing that. But I ran it just for “fun” so I wasn’t worried about time and my final time reflects that. I mostly ran it for fun because three weeks before I had run my first 100km race.
The race was the Titi Ultra. Last year I ran the 50km version and was sure that it was the hardest race I had ever run and possibly ever would run. Even harder than the 50 mile race I ran a few years ago. The timing of the race had to do with it for sure. The race started at 1am and I finished at about 830am. Brutal. But as often happens, about a week after that race my mind turned to the next challenge and I decided that this year I would run the 100km version. (For the record there is a 200km and 250km race)
Last year I found that writing a blog post loosely named after a great book helped me to get some closure on the event. And this year I need that more than ever. But I also wanted to write it because I ran a 100km race. It started at 4pm and I finished at 9:30am the next time. I ran for 17 hours with no headphones and with no one to talk to. People often ask me what I think about when I run, so let me tell you roughly what I thought about for 17 hours.
I thought about how nice the jungle roads we were running on were
I thought about how hot it was when the race first started.
About 2km in I thought about quitting the race. This will be a constant theme for most of my thoughts for the next 16 hours.
Here I am somewhere in those first 5km when the heat alone made me think about quitting.
The first of two major hills was steep. I thought about how much this sucks but it will be done soon.
Then some flat land in between check points and I thought about how nice this run was.
After the second check point, it was time for the big one. 10km all up hill. I walked it of course. I thought about how lovely the sunset was.
About how lucky I was to be here at this moment.
I thought about quitting a little bit, because I knew I had to come back up this hill again, but this time it would be in the middle of the night. But I didn’t think about that too much.
Sitting here now I can’t remember wanting to quit a lot on this part of the race. As you will see later in the messages I sent to Iris, I clearly did think about quitting. But time has covered my eyes for now.
I spent about ten minutes trying to remember the name of the brownie like treats my mother always used to make me. (chewies and they are amazing!)
I thought I should make some for my co-workers since I was going to be taking Monday off to recover from the race.
Then I got to midway mountain check point. Last year I wanted to quit at this stop. I thought about it seriously last time. I even hung around the medical tent trying to think of some ailment that would allow me to quit. But I decided I couldn’t convincing fake an injury to avoid their judgemental eyes at me quitting, so I continued on.
I think this is a photo of me at that checkpoint, taken by one of the racing photographers. I do not look like I was having fun.
This time I thought about quitting again. Because at this point it really occurred to me that I would have to go back up that hill alone in the middle of the night. And I did not want to do that. This checkpoint was about 25km into the race. It was about 26 more to the big checkpoint at the middle of the race. This is where my checked bag was. My strategy at this point was to make it to there, because then I could quit and take my bag with me. If I didn’t get my bag then I would have to wait until 4am at the earliest to collect my bag back at the starting line.
My main motivation in making it to the half way point was to get my bag and to be able to tell Iris I was quitting before she went to bed. The plan was for her to meet me the next morning at the finish line. This was because she was a supportive wife but also because based on my experience from last year I knew I would need someone in the car to make sure I didn’t fall asleep on the drive home.
The 26km to the half way point were not the hard, relatively speaking, but I hated it. I was starting to chafe in all the wrong place. My under arm was swelled and red. My burung, as they say here in Malaysia, really hurt. When I went to the bathroom I had to spray the front of myself with water because the urine burned on the chafing. And in what would become a serious issues later in the night (and for the next month) my feet were starting to develop blisters.
But I went on. Every hill, up and down, I thought about quitting. When I made it to the half way point, I had the following exchange with Iris.
That’s the last she heard of me for awhile. She went to sleep, I went on. I didn’t change socks at the checkpoint. That may have been a mistake, but I was honestly certain that if I took off my shoes I would not be able to put them back on again, mentally…maybe physically but mostly mentally and emotionally. I changed shirts and headbands though.
I went on to the next check point.
I thought about quitting the whole way.
I thought about going back up that stupid mountain in the dark by myself and the thought of doing it made me want to cry.
But I had to make it to the next checkpoint.
And I did.
At that point I knew I would have to wait until 4am for my bag anyway so I figured I might as well keep going.
I still planning on quitting.
After the next check point I knew I had to make it to the next one, because then I would be at or around 50 miles. I figured at that point quitting would be totally cool. This was the check point before heading back up the mountain. It was getting lonely. There were a few runners near me but I wasn’t talking to them and they were not talking to me.
I made the decision to keep going, to go up the mountain. Looking back on it I don’t really remember why I decided to go on. The blisters on my feet were getting pretty bad. My burung still hurt when I peed. And I really felt like crying.
The mountain was as bad as I thought it would be. I hated myself for doing this stupid race. I tried to sabotage myself. I went slow. Really slow. I thought that if I missed the cut off times that would be okay. Then I could say I tried, still get credit from people for trying, and be happy with myself.
I am glad that didn’t work it. In hindsight I would have be furious.
About half way through the 10km hike up the mountain I realized that I could not go slow enough to miss the cut off time. I would have to stop walking. And that, despite my strong desire to quit, was not something I was going to do. In running and in life I suppose, it is important to always keep moving. Above all us, keep moving. One of my running coaches back in Richmond told me this when I was training to run my first marathon and I have always kept that advice with me.
So I was still planning on quitting, but I was a lot less sure then I was before. I knew I couldn’t stop so I just kept moving forward. I still figured that eventually I would miss a cut off time. I had no idea what they were. Every time I got to a checkpoint I would ask them how long until the next cut off, or how much time did I have to make it to the next check point.
The time kept getting smaller, and in the back of my head I figured it would eventually catch up with me.
But it didn’t
When I got back to Midway mountain checkpoint, I knew. I knew I was going to probably finish this stupid race. There was only one more major climb, and compared to the one I had just done it was a piece of cake. So I figured I would try. If the cut off times caught up to me so be it, but I was going to try.
The sun came up and with it my hopes.
When I go to the Telecom tower checkpoint, the penultimate checkpoint, I was worried. At this point I decided I was going to finish, that I was not going to quit, but I was sure that I had missed the cut off time.
More accurately, I though I would not have time to eat and get more liquid in me. I was certain that I would only have one minute at the check point before I had to go on.
But I didn’t. I had 25 minutes. I knew. I knew for sure I was going to finish. I knew I could walk the last 15km or so (which I did for the most part) and still finish. I was excited
I was going to finish a fucking 100km race.
At the last checkpoint, after not hearing from me for seven hours or so, I sent Iris this:
On the descent of the final hill I couldn’t run because of the blisters on my feet. But I was going to finish. I caught sight of the finish line from the hill and started to cry a bit.
I was almost there.
Two photos from somewhere near the final checkpoint. At this point I had been running/walking for about 16 hours.
At the finish line I collapsed into Iris’s arms and cried. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally spent. I had just run for 17 hours and thought about quitting the entire time.
I ended up having to take an extra day off of work. And when I came back I had to use crutches for a day. I walked with a limp for about a week. I only ran about 8 miles between this race and the marathon, another reason for my terrible time.
My feet are still peeling from the blisters.
I think I will have some permanent scars/marks from one blister in particular.
I lost the nail on my big toe. I think I am still going to lose the nail on the toe next to it, all thanks to this race.
But I finished.
On the way down the last hill I did get a little friendly with a fellow runner. He asked if this was my first 100km and I said yes. I asked him the same question and he said it was his first and his last. I agreed wholeheartedly at the time.
Within two weeks I was looking up 100 mile races for when we go back to the States. I watched a video recently about a 100 mile race (my new favorite hobby) and the guy in it says that we have become too comfortable in our lives. He thinks people run these long races because being uncomfortable is comfortable to us. I kind of agree. There is something so wonderful and freeing about running these distances. There is something magical in that moment when you finish and know that for the rest of your life you can say you finished the fucking race.
That’s it for now
PS-On a side note I became quasi-famous at the finish line area because I walked the last 40km mostly. People wanted to take their picture with me. One guy asked to take my picture when I was running the race because he said he wanted to share it with his friend who is also a big guy, to show him that you CAN run a race like this if he really wanted to. That’s me, a fucking inspiration