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The Samoeng Loop, A Solo Ultra

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The air hung thick and sweet. The full moon was overcast, not quite giving enough light by which to run, at least not enough to see any snakes or scorpions lurking along the road. Starting out in the wee hours of the morning, the only other thing that could trouble me now are the dogs. They become much more earnest in their duties in the pre-dawn dark.

Running the Samoeng loop had been on my bucket list since I first heard of it a couple months ago. I thought that it would be a good adventure for the ChUG (Chiang Mai Ultra-runners Group) some day. However, faced with this “stay-cation” and not really sure how I would spend it, the idea burst into my conscious and I was so excited! This is the time! It didn’t matter that I decided only FIVE days before the decided date (Wed, 6 June) and that I had run 40 miles the Saturday and Sunday before – it was my fun run! I have a whole week of hanging out in Chiang Mai by myself so I might as well do something that I didn’t think anyone else would do with me. You could call it a different kind of road trip! My post-run relaxation plan was to check into the Shangri-la Hotel (at the local price!) for two days so I was especially motivated!

I wish that my Garmin had been set up to record total elevation change ( both up and down) ran because I’m pretty sure it would impress some hard-core people out there. Here is a google maps view of the loop, with the terrain markings. If you have ever traveled in the Northern Thailand countryside, you get the idea. I left out the little loop of road that goes into Samoeng village proper, as I was sure that I had enough fluids to get me to the next village, Pong Yeang. I did manage, but barely. But I was pumped after seeing the sign: “Mae Rim 30km” at the 1096 turn-off and I didn’t want to take the extra time/distance into town. Yep, I’m gonna do this!

The route was GORGEOUS! It was steeper than I had anticipated, less populated than I figured, but more gorgeous and stunning views than I imagined. The haze of morning burned off to give a clear blue sky with rolling clouds and heaven-sent breezes every once in a while.

At the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens. I had a guard snap this shot. Long sleeves and a shirt under my hat helps keep me cool.

At about 5.5 hours, I stopped at a mom & pop general store and took a break for some Coca-cola and potato chips. I loaded up on water and electrolytes in my backpack and bottles, changed my shirt (from tank to long-sleeve), and put on new socks. Feelin’ fresh! Plus, I was done with the serious hill-climbing, as it is fairly rolling until Mae Rim, when it becomes boring flat.

Running through Mae Rim down Highway 107 was demoralizing and quite a shock after the country lanes of the day. Two lanes of heavy traffic with barely a berm that wasn’t occupied by cars and trucks parked alongside, with no shade, and concrete surface – I had been on the road nearly eight hours and was not in the mood for this. The flip side is that I found a 7-11 for a re-fueling stop.

The congestion eased up the further south I went and soon I was on 121, The Canal Road. The home stretch. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the number of stops available to buy water and drinks along the way. By the time I got to the 700 Year Stadium I was totally out of fluids and way behind on calories. Should have stocked up more at that 7-11 some 10km back. I brought enough food, but it is hard to choke it down without water. Fortunately, the tennis pro shop was open and selling stuff, but it was too late. It was 2pm, VERY HOT and running along the canal road all the way back was so I was ready to quit

I called a friend to try to get some encouragement, to see if I should quit or not. I really wanted to quit, or so I thought. I couldn’t get in touch with him and that was a good thing. He told me later would have picked me up and drove me home. After getting some water and Gatorade, stretching and getting my mind around it, I headed out. I wasn’t nearly in as bad a shape as I was at the 10-hour ultra last month, I wasn’t even cramping. Just very tired.

So I started walking. I thought I would try hitching a ride, or flagging down a red truck taxi. Nobody stopped for me. A red truck came by, but I didn’t want to pay that much to get home. I kept going. Another one stopped, but through the negotiation I realized that I didn’t want a ride at all. I waved him off determined to finish on foot. I was going to DO THIS THING! I wasn’t going to DNF my own fun run! Sure, this fun run had no meaning and I wouldn’t even get a t-shirt, but it was my goal. I walked in the hot sun on a highway for the last 5.3 miles, stopping at another 7-11 and running only to make it through a green stop light. I walked up to my house. I had done it! Perhaps I am even the first to complete this on foot!

Total distance: 50.4 miles/81.1km. Total time on the road, including stops: 11:54.

Lessons learned:

  • DNF is not in my DNA.
  • There is a good reason why we taper before races – fresh legs make a difference!
  • Fill up with fluids if you don’t know for sure when you’ll get more.
  • What you eat the two days before an event does make a difference in performance.
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5 thoughts on “The Samoeng Loop, A Solo Ultra

  1. Katherine, what a beautiful but demanding run. So glad you toughed it out! (hooray that your friend did not answer his cell and that 7-11s and tennis shops pulled you through on liquids and calories. What is DNF ( can you write it out or ??) BTW, are you getting my posts? I replied (the first person ) to your previous blog note, but Word Press makes me sign in with a password each time. Never saw it show up on your blog. Is that standard op procedure?

  2. Clydette, DNF = “did not finish”. Clearly, not an option for this lady!

    Katherine: Send me what you want on a T shirt and I’ll make you one!

  3. You give a whole new meaning to “fun run”!!

  4. Pingback: Of Personality and Spiritual Wholeness « A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

  5. Hi Katherine, my friend (Dan H) sent me this link when I mentioned to him that I was going to walk Somoeng Loop over the weekend. Mine was definitely a walk, but reading your post before heading out made it seem a little more do-able. Insane that you ran that, in June none the less. I did it door to door in 36 hours with a solid 9 hour sleep included. I have the GPS track with elevation data if you’re still interested.

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