Snakes. Maybe a weird place to start a race briefing, but I am VERY scared of them. Actually, very scared. But also fascinated, so I follow “snakes in Taiwan” on FB. Just a few days before this race I watched a crazy guy from Hong Kong, who just recently posted a video of him being in Taiwan. Looking for snakes. At night. In the jungle. He spotted 10 of those killers in just one night. One night. Just saying. Very smart move to watch that video Carsten.
Anyway. 4 am in the morning a few days later the snake guy had left the jungle and I was ready to take his place. There were a lot of excitement at the starting line and hundreds of runners because both the 75 km and the 105 km runners started at the same time. Pretty much everyone looked mean and ready and 20 kg lighter than me.
At the same time, I was wondering what I was doing there. I did the same race last year and remember clearly all the suffering that I had to put myself through. Specially the mountain right after the halfway point still gives me sleepless nights sometimes. 1400 vertical meters in just 6 km with multiple sections where you need rope to climb. BUT I also remember the beautiful course, the friendly crew and the magnificent nature.
Of we went and after 4 km with an easy ascent to get out of town we reached the first big climb. 1100 meters of vertical climb and lots of runners around me, so felt quite protected from the silent killers in the grass and in the trees and just as I reached the first checkpoint, the sun came up and that is still one of the most beautiful moments of the race (also last year). Mountain after mountain, all covered by jungle and the morning haze. Guess you would need to be there to understand it.
The next 40 km looks pretty “flat” on the route profile, but still about 2000 vertical meters. I was just taking it easy trying to stick to my own pace despite all the other runners around me. For many kilometres I stayed behind a girl, how had almost the same running rhythm as me. Just better and faster. But it kept me going and made navigation so much easier. She was a 75 km runner though and eventually I had to let her go.
After 9,5 hours I reached the halfway CP where our drop bags were available. I planned before the race to get clean socks and a dry shirt here, but decided, when I got there, to skip it. My combination of Ashmei merino wool socks and the Columbia TransAlp shoes did well once again. Also, I decided to stay with my already wet shirt, because I knew, that changing it would be waste of time two minutes after leaving the CP.
Next 3 hours and 15 minutes was just about surviving the next mountain. My hope was to get to the top before it got dark, because I knew, how technical the top 500 meters were. I focused constantly on keeping the speed down here, but still had to take brakes now and then. My “snake scanner” was turned on constantly and kept me on my toes. At one point I stopped, scanned the terrain to see how I should move on, and suddenly I heard something just behind me. I looked back and right next to me was a fairly big dog. I got so frightened, but I realized quickly, that it was just a happy and lovely dog. After a quick patting, the dog took off and made the next climb look very easy.
When I finally reached the top, I sat down for a few minutes and called Louise. Shortly after another guy reached the top as well and he also sat down next to me. Next guy coming out of the jungle expressed precisely how I felt minutes before. He asked us: “Have I reached the top”? I replied: “Yes you have”. He then went down on his knees, lifted his hands and shouted: “Yes”.
I smiled, wished both of them good luck and left.
It was close to sunset and I had the remaining part of the race all by myself in the dark jungle. Now it was time to turn the “snake scanner” in position overdrive. It is really exhausting to spend this much energy on such a thing, but at the same time it gave me something to do while I ran. The 75 km runners were no longer on our course, so it was very rarely, that I saw anyone.
At night everything looks very much the same, but now and then I could recognise places from last year. Finally, I started my last long climb, and although I knew it was a long tough one, it also gave me a lot of energy to know, that I would make it to the end, unless I did something really stupid at the end.
Halfway up the mountain I came to the last checkpoint. They had the fire turned on, I was quite cold, and I decided to have a short break, get a little to eat and just enjoy the heat. Just another 5 km climb and 9 km of descent and I would have finished the race once again. Most likely in a better time.
Shortly after being back on the course again I got myself a happy new friend. A bigger dog this time, and obviously he knew the direction well, because he stayed ahead of me almost to the top. That was really nice. Suddenly he was gone.
After 21 hours and 6 minutes I crossed the finish line and although I did not focus on it at all during the race, cutting of almost 2 hours of my time last year was really satisfying to me. I planned this race to be my final long training run before the Spine Race, and were able to get some good training out of it. Good long distance, out on the course for many hours, many hours of darkness, being isolated for quite a while and also a lot of good training in regard to vertical meters.
I kept my pols in the bag for the first half of the race and used them during the second half. That worked out well except on the very steep technical sections where I needed both hands to climb.
As for energy I carried my usual CLIF bloks and some Nick´s chocolate to keep me going on the long stretches, but all other foods I ate was from the CP´s.
As always, I used Ashmei merino wool socks combined with a pair of Columbia TransAlps. That combination worked out perfect, and actually I did not get one single blister during the race which I am happy about. I picked that specific shoe for the rough sole and the toe protection.
I used my Elwis headlamps again and it worked out fine. I use two identical and can switch quick if needed. I use the lowest lumen to save battery (important for Spine Race) and being surrounded by other runners with more powerful headlamps, it is quite annoying, but when I run by myself, it is just fine.
Now resting for a couple of days before it is back to training and preparation.
Bye for now