A year of Running, 2019 Race Overview [Part I]

2019 is almost over… It’s time to look back and see what we accomplished, and CELEBRATE!

Looking back at our successes allows us to reflect on what we have achieved during the year and give us the occasion to CELEBRATE!

We often forget to look back and see what we have accomplished, the challenges we underwent, the successes that we created, and the stepping stones that we followed-through, all those achievements that transformed ourselves for the best.

Looking back at 2019 will allow you to remember the “old you” you were a year ago versus the “new you” you are now.

Change is everywhere, we all change, we transform our lives from the inside, this is what life is all about. We have 2 choices: resist or embrace the change!

Life puts events on our path to help us to deal with different challenges and shape us in the process. It’s up to us to see the greatness that life brings us. When we embrace change, we can see every “victory” that life brings us like a growth that we had on ourselves.

Each “win” that we enjoyed can be turned into a celebration and a ritual with the people that you love. Learning opportunities are everywhere, we just need to see them and lead your life accordingly, and be the main driving force of your life.

I wish that every one of you looks back in 2019 and celebrates the “victories” it brought you!

Let’s go… Let’s celebrate together!

In my case, looking back, 2019 was a pretty intense year.

Unexpectedly, 2019 was one of my best running years that I had yet. I am not good at statistics, I cannot tell you how many miles I ran, how many pairs of shoes I have used, or how many liters of water I drank… However, I can tell you for sure that my running is driven by passion.

I don’t have any fancy ‘race plans’ that I follow religiously year after year. I am a bit random. I don’t take myself too seriously, I must be a bit crazy! I love to be there for people I love and I believe in and it’s difficult for me to say no to running. I think that describes myself pretty well, so far.

19-01-19, Ultra Trail Angkor – Cambodia – 64km

I kicked off the year 2019 with the “Ultra Trail Angkor” in Cambodia. A race I simply love. (In bonus it also gave me the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Cambodia) I did this race for the third time and it was the first ultra-marathon for my husband. I was really proud of him!

I truly love this race. The race starts in the middle of the night as we run through the temples and the trails. The sight of the old temples entangled by the strangler fig trees is just unbelievable. Crossing villages, we were welcomed by smiling kids giving us flowers and soon after we were running through rice fields with water buffaloes watching us go through… As runners, we have the privilege to see a version of the Angkor Wat temples that normal tourists will never be able to witness. This is an exceptional race to put in your running calendar if you’re looking for an early running season start. Fun, beautiful and accessible for all types of runners and well organized. A must!

02- 03- 2019, Relay for life Singapore 50km

I was so blessed to be able to run with Steven for the Relay for life in Singapore. I ran for 50 km on a 400m loop at the National Stadium in Singapore.  Steven is a super talented runner who wanted to run his first ultra-marathon as a goal and he asked me to pace him. I could not say “no” to such a request!

I was definitively blessed and privileged that the “Singapore Cancer Society” asked me to support Steven out. Even if I knew that in reality, Steven was a much faster runner than me! 😊

Steven is an incredible and super-fast runner who’s fighting against cancer. This race was amazing and overall it was a spectacular event. We so often take life for granted and find problems and complications where we shouldn’t.

I remember this race like it was yesterday and I still don’t know who was pacing whom 😊 !! Ah ah ah! I remember Steven’s talent, simplicity, humanity, and his love for life. I love Steven’s smile. It came directly from a place of love. Love for his family, love of running and love of life. Steven re-centered me with my essential — which we sometimes forget in our busy lives. Thank you, Steven. Get well soon! I am looking forward to running with you again.

18-03-2019: Titi Ultra 250km Malaysia

Titi Ultra 250km 2019 was one of the hardest races I ever did. I still don’t know how I managed to make it. The Malaysian weather, the route and the fact that I had to run 2 nights in a row made this race incredibly tough.

The race totally deserves its title of the” ‘toughest on-road Ultra” in Malaysia. And by far!

This race is a 5 times 50km loop climb through the mountains with a huge elevation. This is definitely not a challenge for beginners. That is tough, really tough. Both physically and mentally. Anyone completing this race is a true hero and has all my respect.

During the first night, I hallucinated everything: weird sounds from the surrounding forest, strange beasts in the woods, and I even thought I was running in the opposite direction at some point.

During the second night, I was so incredibly tired that I wish would sleep directly on the ground.

I kept repeating my running mantra: “Running is faster than walking!” That always helped me to keep going… I still don’t know how I managed to keep my mind strong on that one, though.

What makes this race unique, of course, it’s the organization: Endurance Nature. No doubt the best organizer in the region, in my opinion. Endurance Nature is even better than some race I did in Europe and internationally.

I honestly never found anywhere else, another race organizer who calls you by your name and cheer you up when you need it the most. I remember when I was in my “zombie mode” in the middle of the night and the organizers were there to cheer me up and make me believe that I was still “all fresh.”

They always put the runners in the first seat.  Every runner is treated equally. The same goes for the first as the last one!  The friendliness of Alan and Seow Kong and their team is incomparable.

The conviviality between the runners is also unique. Running with among friends made running almost barrable in these harsh conditions.

Toward the end of the race, I remember that just walking was an almost impossible mission. I felt like puking, my body was shifting from hot to cold and fighting the incredible urge for sleep.

I still recall around 20km before the finish line when I was looking for a quick fix for my stomach ache, without success! The route-loop literally drove me crazy… Nevertheless, the friendliness of the volunteers at the aid-stations helped me to push all the way through it. During that first night, I remember the ladies telling me: ‘”You have to carry on, we need to see a woman succeed and prove that women can do this 250km, too.” (Because, back then, only 1 female completed the Titi Ultra 250km)

The entire team was behind me and this huge amount of love and support certainly helped me keep on going and made the best I can — which I did.

This non-competitive, “full of love” spirit between all of us just helps me to perform at my best.

I never ever imagined winning this insane race as the overall champion and make the race record for females on the 250km with a time of 40: 27:7.

During the last year edition, on the 21 runners who took the starting line, only 2 finished (It means a 98% DNF rate, the higher DNF rate I ever saw! It clearly means this race is crazily tough!)

Definitively, Titi Ultra 250km is one of my highlights of the year.

After Titi, the endorphin of the event was so high that I remember thinking that “If I can complete such a crazy race, I can do everything, nothing can stop me!”

06-05-2019: Margaret River Ultra Marathon Australia

One of the best things that running brought me is friends. Most of my best friends came through running. And what do runners do best together? Running, of course! Therefore, I cannot find a better way to share memories and create a running-project than with the people I love.

I had great fun with the one and only, and my greatest cheerleader of all time, Jackie! I still don’t know what I enjoyed the most, the race or the weekend we shared together in Margaret River, Australia. Enjoying a relaxing weekend watching Kangaroos, visiting wineries, and drinking Australian wine with our team (who I consider as my second family since they’re so welcoming with me!) who also did the relay-run during the same event.

Australia is such a stunning place. I love Australia so much! The race was one of the most scenic races I did during my short career. That was such a great day spent in good company.

I ran from the starting line to the end with my friend Jackie. I always find it special when you run with someone who is truly important to you, which makes the experience more fun, more memorable.

I felt so privileged to run along the coastline of South West Australia. The track made us go through some of the most wonderful Australian forests. The trails surrounded by gigantic trees, mysterious caves, and beautiful green colored parrots. I felt like I was part of a National Geographic documentary.

However, the race itself was really a tough one. When a cut-off time for an 80km race is seventeen hours, it means that it will not be a walk in the park. And I can tell you, it wasn’t!

We ran, should I say we “walked”, for what seemed like an eternity in the soft sand because there was no way we could run in it. At some point, we even had to climb up a huge sand dune (I felt like I was back in the UAE desert). Add to it some rock climbing and sprinkle a few steep hills here and there on top of that and you have a recipe for a disaster run prone for injuries.

When Jackie and I, at last, approached the finish line, we were so excited to cross it together and that this challenge was finally over. You cannot imagine our smiles when the race organizer gave us our medals and our victory beer. Of course, that’s the moment we were all waiting for!

19 to 23-07-2019- C2C- 444 km Coast to Coast Malaysia

My C2C Experience Blog (Part I)

I came first overall and have set a new race record on the “Coast to Coast 444 km run” across Malaysia, with a time of 98h27, in front of the men (Note that I was the only woman runner! Lol!).

Even after these months, I am still searching for the right words to describe the event. I can confidently tell you that I am not the same “Vero” I was since I took the starting line.

I pushed through the event to a point I thought was impossible before. I discovered a part of me I didn’t know nor believed existed before. This event gave me the chance to bring out the best version of myself, a priceless opportunity to say the least!

Running the C2C was one of my best running decisions I’ve ever made. In fact, I think every runner should experience a running journey like the one I’ve undergone with C2C.

This Malaysian race has a huge potential in the ultra-running scene. I can only wish for it to grow in popularity in order to attract more runners from all around the world.

It has some of the most scenic landscapes I’ve seen (And if you are lucky you can even see elephants and baby tigers), although I must admit that I was particularly lucky to pass through the best part of the race during the day.  I really got the “crème de la crème”.

I truly think that the European runners, who have the calling for these extra-long events, should definitively give it a go for the C2C. To all the European and international runners out-there, please, believe me, you will never find an extra-long race where you will find such a friendly atmosphere. The organizers make you feel like a big family for a week, where you will feel like home from a checkpoint to the next. (Figuratively speaking, of course!)

If you considered running such distance, you will not be disappointed (And it’s not a round-trip, that made a big difference for the mind spirit!)

In no other event, you can find the race director is waiting for you at an aid station with an ice cream hidden behind him just to welcome you after the 260km mark. Only to celebrate with you the fact that you reached your longest distance ever in a race (That’s what Allan did exactly for me at around 260km, we laughed, we had fun! Such great memory).

Also, you can never find such a fantastic medic team, who laughs with you, wait for you with a marvelous ice bath during the crazy hot days, and always on standby to help any runners in need. And that is without counting the 2 massages a day to keep you going for the rest of the day. Because of their massage, and their friendly approach, you almost forget that you have been running an insane amount of running beforehand.

At the end of the race, you have the true feeling that you and the other runners and support crews have gained a family. From strangers, you become a family for a week. This is a truly unique feeling.

This race was by far the highlight of my year and the top of all my 11 years of running. I remember saying to Seow Kong, the CEO of Endurance Nature, at the end of the race: “I can retire from the ultra-running races, now.” I felt so complete. I still have the same feeling today. The other races seem pales in comparison to the C2C. Partly because of that, I am ready to tackle an even greater challenge and run through the African continent!

This race taught me so much about running and about myself and that brings me closer to my Africa continent run. This race brought me a lot of humility and was truly the greatest race of my life. Thank you, Endurance Nature, for making those long-lasting memories among runners.

04-08-2019 North Down Ways- 50 miles- United Kingdom

One of the things that I value the most in life is friends! In my opinion, friends are the cement of life. So when I commit to something with my friends, I am doing it. Almost 1 year before, I agreed to run NDW with 2 of my precious friends. At that point, I had no idea what my running calendar would look like.

I had to adjust my schedule around my NDW race since I already made a commitment to my friends.  You will always find another running race but you cannot say the same thing for your friends,  the people that you love.

The months’ pass by. Two weeks after I completed the C2C (And remember that 1 month and a half later, I intended to run the mythical Spartathlon race), I realized that I needed to run the NDW 100 miles!!! Ahhhhh! I entered panic mode! I needed to put my running shoes on again, go with my friends and run what is supposed to be NDW 100  miles?

Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome time with my friends, that I didn’t see since I left the UAE, 3 years ago. We were all excited to be reunited, we all felt like we were kids! That was so good to see them again and do what we enjoy the most doing together: running!

I cannot even count the amount of running that I made with both of them while I was living in the UAE. We were running together almost every day. While we ran, we talked, we redesigned the meaning of life and our own day to day life! Our running discussions helped everyone to make the most from this, sometimes-strange, ex-pat life that we were in in the UAE.

If I am at the level of running that I am now, it’s because of them. We were always together, somewhere, running. We did crazy runs in the mountains. Running around a 500m loop around our houses for more than 12hrs. Or running in Ras Al-Kaima all night long with the Donkeys. Just because we could. We were 3 crazy runners as simple as that!

I was the one who was suggesting the crazy projects and they always said yes to every single of them! Truly incredible!

With them, I felt that my extremeness was normal! Priceless!  When I left the UAE, it felt like if I lost a part of me. So, seeing my friends back again was for me a party in itself.

We really had fun all day long in the UK trails. It was more like a get- together than a proper race. I really didn’t care about the momentum and all those things that we need to take seriously when you race! We were like 3 teenagers. Almost on the 50 miles mark, my friend didn’t feel well, he decides to DNF. So I decided to DNF with him. We ended the evening race in a pub!

In reality, I was really glad that he DNFed, I felt so tired that I doubt I would have made it until the 100 miles….Doing a 100 miles trail race is not necessarily the most clever thing to do just 2 weeks after a 444km race 😊

Part II Coming out soon 🙂

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