Why run for 21 h? Endurance Nature here I come…
The friends I had met during the Spartathlon all said the same thing. They believed that I DNFed because of circumstances (lack of rest), not because of my lack of ability. Their advice was to find a 24 h race so I could test my speed. As soon as they suggested a 24 h race, I had found one. Of course I had to join my favorite organisation’s – Endurance nature team – 24 h event in Malaysia. I registered when I was still in Greece. It was a gift I gave myself.
As soon as I registered, I started looking forward to the event…Not exactly the 24 hours running part but the family spirit part. They make the runners feel as if they are part of the family. They put the runners as their top priority helping us perform at our best, you feel like a total Rock Star! That way, we all share a bond, even among the runners, making every event all the more special.
I might’ve registered with too much enthusiasm because I accidently registered for the 100 miles category (with 26 h cut off) instead of the actual 24 h race, Oops.
Ready or not, this 100 miles was what I signed up for. I was excited to see my favorite team again, even more then the starting line 🙂
Training and Life
This race was a ‘test race’, I did not stress too much about it. I trained as usual, nothing less, nothing more. As an entrepreneur, life is always busy…I sometimes struggle to find the right balance between my business and training. I have to admit that my training was far from perfect sometimes…
Ready set go!
On the morning of the race, we got lost on our way to the stadium. The gates were closed, we were at the wrong entrance. Luckily we found a nice police man who offered to drive us on the right road to the right entrance to the stadium.
I arrived just a few minutes before the start. Lucky me!
I was so incredibly happy to see the endurance nature team . I just had enough time to give a big hug to Hwee Peng (my spiritual sister), a quick stop to the toilet which almost made me too late for the group photo.
We were now all ready to start safe and sound. Time for me to become a hamster and run in circles in a 400 m stadium 392 times for my 100 miles.
I knew from the start that I need to run most kms in before that the heat and the sun comes out. For the first hours of the race, everything went perfectly. My body and my mind were good, I felt blessed to be able to live my passion in such a great event. I managed to run 10 km every hour, for the first few hours which was part of my strategy.
However, I knew that the most difficult part was coming. I started to feel the effects of the heat but I didn’t want to change my strategy. I was still progressing fast, so i kept it up. I think that it’s around 10h30-11 am when my body first started to show signs of exhaustion because of the heat. I needed to re-hydrate myself to make sure that I could carry on. For the first time, I took time at the aid station for some shade, drink plenty of waters and eat an unbelievable amount of water melons.
During all the hamsters loops, what I enjoyed the most was the fun I had with other runners. The energy we commonly shared between all runners helped to keep the energy high on the track, it made the event better then expected.
I have to admit that before the start of the race, the simple idea of turning around in a arena for 20 hours was awful. In reality, it was easier then what I had made it up to be in my head. We all shared an common goal; running around a track like crazy hamsters for 24 h . The support was incredible. That why I need to give a special thank you to my husband who supported me for the 21 h, giving me food and drinks. I never had to stop at the aid station! I could focus on what I needed to do: running!
Running in the heat: Embrace the pain!
The weather started to affect me big time during the afternoon. Even if I am used to the South East Asia weather, running in these conditions is always a challenge in itself, heat is heat, it never gets comfortable! I still remember when Seow Kong made a official forecast announcement during the race saying that the real feel of the weather was 38 degree with 68% humidity…It was relieved to know that it was though for a reason! That I was not crazy…Hum….
What I have also learned from all the years of running in the heat, is that as soon as the body starts to heat up, our blood is diverted to the skin: our cooling take place through sweating and evaporation. When you run in the heat, you have less blood available to transport oxygen to the working muscles. Obviously, less oxygen means you can’t run as fast or as hard as you want. The effort to maintain or increase our running pace in the heat dramatically increases. In this way, training or doing a crazy 24 hrs in the heat with no shade becomes similar to running in altitude…
Finally, and obviously, in hot weather conditions our bodies become more easily dehydrated . When our fluid levels drop, our body’s cooling methods struggle. Our ability to sweat erode and we have a harder time controlling our body temperature. This cause a viscous cycle where the core body temperature rises faster, which severely limits performance.
It was so hard to run during the day. Thankfully, I had ice on my head and neck, it was a life saver. Luckily, a team was waiting for us lap after lap to shower us with a water spray! That was an incredible feeling every time.
The one and unique WL Choir was one of the best supporter for all of us throughout the event. One of the most memorable thing he did for us, was that he walked along the track with 2 big bottle of cold water ready to drop on every runners. So I had a shower every 200 meters, which was a true blessing, it helped me to carry on, while maintaining a “normal” body temperature, without losing too much speed in the process. The down side throwing water on myself was the appearance of huge blisters which came soon after…
Running with friends makes us stronger
I was so happy to meet my friend Hendra Siswanto who I had met last year during Titi Ultra. We ran together and kept each others spirit up during the 250km. Siswanto is such a sweet heart person and is an incredible beast- athlete! We ended up running together when I needed it the most. Everytime he saw me, he said: “Let’s go! Come on! Let’s do this together.” He helped me keep my pace and my energy high, loop after loop!
He is so much faster then me, at some point I didn’t understand why he chose me to run with me! Running as a team made the race so much easier, we were together in this perfect zone. I couldn’t have finished this race as strong as I did without Hendra! I am so grateful we shared this moment together.
80km- 9hrs done
My first mini-celebration came at the 80 km mark which I passed at precisely 9 hrs! I made it! As a reward I went for a fantastic massage to give to my legs a chance to keep it up for the next half of the race. The most awesome decision! My legs had a royal treatment!
With the help of Hendra, I sprinted a few loops before the 100 km mark. I was overjoyed when I passed the 100 km mark! After is when the real race began! I was sooo tired, I could’ve of slept anywhere, even the floor seemed like a good idea at the time. It had become so hard… I just kept pushing and focusing on my strategy: 4- 5 loops of running, and after the 5 loop, I walked half a loop. I never once stopped during the race (apart for fantastic massage), I was focused on my strategy and focused on it until the end.
During evening/night time when everyone was at their lowest, a thunderstorm appeared. We were drenched. It was very difficult to keep running in those conditions. The organisation kept monitoring the situation, if lighting was to come near us, the whole event would be paused. I secretly wished it would happen only to have an excuse to rest, it would’ve been perfect for a nap!
My wish never came true. We all had to carry on in the rain. Without surprise, the big change in temperature between the warm day and rainy evening, my body started shivering, I was so cold. I put on a long sleeved shirt and kept going.
Mental strategies when times becomes though: Dedicate kms to the people who are significant in your life
When the race started to become very difficult, I needed use my mental strategy. My first strategy (and my favorite one) is to imagine dedicating as many kms to the people who are important to me. First, I count the kms like mantras, it helps my mind stay busy. Being grateful plays such a big role in my mental strategy. I am thinking consciously of the person I dedicate the km to, I am remembering all the great things that I shared with this person and what this person means to me…I am thinking about every person that I am grateful for in my life, I give them my kms, and I think about them while I run. This strategy helps me to connect with my true self, without focusing on my pain.
One of my other mental strategies is to think about the reasons why I run, why I should be blessed to do those crazy races. Again, thinking about ‘my running why’ makes me focus on a higher purpose rather then just myself. Doing so, it’s like if my tiredness, my pain or any negative emotions simply go away.
If we don’t take the time to create a strong mental strategy, its easy to fall in the negative thinking patterns. When negativity appears during a race, you increase the risk to give it up. Often, the negative thought patterns are spiral loops (That is true in life as in running- it’s even more obvious during a race because of the intensity).
In all my years running (and it applies to life as well) I had to train my mind to consciously remove any negative thinking that can would come up in my mind. As soon as negativity is in your mind, negativity stays and lasts. Then, this negativity can dictate our behaviors, this increases the risk to quit… Which is not why you entered the race.
In a race, you absolutely need to control your mind. The power of your mindset makes or breaks whether you finish or not. The magic of it is that we have control over it, our minds are definitively by far our most powerful assets.
At some point during the race, mostly during the last 50 km, I was thinking that it would never end…That I would be trapped on the track forever…. Either the time and the kms were not moving…I fought against myself to stay strong and to not get angry…The one thing who saveed me was when of one of the runners saw who saw me struggle said: ‘Keep going Vero, you are awesome, you are an inspiration for every one of us’ Those words came at the right time when I needed them the most!!! I felt empowered and I kept going with this extra boost I needed.
I always said to myself: Everything passes, the good and the bad!
Yes…Finally… the kms passed by, and I managed to reach the 150 km mark, it gave me a boost to know that I was at my last 10 kms. It was a pure pleasure to count down the loops down. On the last km, I was over the top! Seow Kong told me: “Vero you only have 2 more laps.”
I was sure that he was making fun of me…It’s when everyone around him told me: “It’ s true, Go Vero! Just 2 simple lap and you’re finished, you can do this.”
I literally sprinted my 2 last victory laps.
My final result for 160.72km on a 400m lap is 21h03! I can not ask for more!
When I finished, I was overjoyed, I couldn’t stop looking at the clock, impressed with what I had accomplished. I couldn’t believe it myself…. Seow Kong and the members of the organisation re-assured me that if it was not for the extras 2 loops (+702 m), my time would be a sub 21 h on a 100 miles!
Even they couldn’t believe how fast I was during the entire event! They were all there and congratulate me, I was over the top! I never, ever imagined to do a sub 21 h on 100 miles and on top of that in such difficult conditions.
Thanks again Endurance nature from the bottom of my heart for creating this event for us runners. You give us the opportunity to the bring the best and challenge ourselves in a very special, warm and friendly environment, in every one your events. Truely priceless.
Again, this UM24 race will always have a special place in my heart.
I run to transform myself, to grow, to feel in contact with myself, with my environment and to have real connections with the people that I am surrounded with. Last week-end, I did all of that. I challenged myself , I reached a level that I never imagined capable of.
During my last week-end UM24 I honored the commitment that I had made a few months ago in Greece which was to always elevate my standard and never settle! Life is good!