A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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A Home Away From Home: the Relentless Chiang Mai 24-hour Endurance Run

Dear friends,

Here is the write up about the 24-Hour run I put on for FUN, as well as a fund-raiser for Relentless. However, no photos are found on THIS page because I’d have to go back through and re-load all the photos again here, which I won’t do in the interest of time and saving consternation. I encourage you to click on over  to the page on Relentless where I’ve posted the full deal. The event was truly special for everyone and we all did have fun! It was a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I’m so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers and for all the help by volunteers here! I’m also very grateful for all the donations that came in for Relentless!

Again, I’d like to encourage all of you who follow this blog to also follow the blog on Relentless, as well as the Facebook page to keep  up with what I’m doing.

Blessed to be a blessing!

On 25 May at 2pm, the first wave of runners started off the line for the Second Annual Relentless Chiang Mai 24 Hour Endurance Run. It was quite an international group, with twelve different nationalities represented among the 42 participants. Even so, ultramarathon culture transcends all others as the main aid station along the looped course became a home away from home – even as the many expatriates already call Thailand a home away from home.

Located near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, Huay Tung Tao Lake is encircled by a 3.7 km, nicely paved asphalt loop. The gently rolling road provides just enough diversity to keep the muscles interested, and there is enough shade to keep runners cool for much of the way.

After the swimmers, picnickers and fishermen packed up for the night, the full moon came out so that nobody needed to wear a headlamp. Crickets and frogs joined the chorus. Magical.

Runners had the option of running 6 or 12 hours, and four teens participated in the 3-hour kids’ division! A relay option for teams of up to eight people was offered for the 24-hour time, but nobody took advantage of that – everyone wanted to go hard-core solo!

Another unique feature was that the 3-, 6-, and 12-hour runners had the option of starting at either 2pm, 6pm, or 10pm. Some of the participants wanted to start earlier and get their run in, while others cherished running through the night. This timing also helped to spread out the runners and give the 24-hour people more company through the night.

This event pulled the absolute best from everyone. It was never about “winning” to beat another person – as there were no prizes for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. It was all about challenging oneself – an opportunity to push further than previously attempted. The top 12-hour finisher had never run further than 55 km before his remarkable 85 km distance! Nearly all of the runners set a personal record, either in the most distance ever covered or the fastest time it took to cover a certain distance. Most set personal records of over 20-30 km.

A timed event, unlike a distance-oriented event, gives participants the opportunity, when they are tired, to take a break. They eat something, drink some coffee, stretch, and re-evaluate. Then they are ready to head back out for more. It was a safe environment in which to push themselves further than they thought possible. It was exciting to be a part of an event in which so many people came away having bettered themselves and achieved something great.

The aid station crew was no less exceptional. Many friends and relatives of runners volunteered their services and helped crew everyone – not just “their guy.” The kids who ran the 3 hours also stayed up most of the night and were the most cheerful and helpful crew ever! Several volunteers (including the kids) took laps with runners they had met only a few hours prior to keep them company and encourage them along the way. This was most helpful during the hot, middle part of the second day when we were all flagging a bit.

Finally, another remarkable note about this event is that it was a fundraiser for Relentless, a project that fights human trafficking through health care. Although this was a small event, approximately $8000 was raised, over $3000 of that by a single participant!

I look forward to hosting this event again next year and I hope that those of you who may be traveling through Southeast Asia looking for an ultramarathon will consider joining us next year!

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The North Face Thailand 100km 2013

POWER UP!

POWER UP!

I didn’t go into this race with the goal to win, although defending my title would be cool. I simply had a goal to finish in 10 hours, and if that was good enough for a podium finish, then even better! The field of female 100k participants increased four-fold this year, with quite a few more foreigners signed up, so I had no idea how good my competition may be.

This year the race was held outside of Khao Yai national park and the course was much more interesting. with more variety of trails, fire road, and paved roads. With some several hundred meters of elevation gain, it was not rigorous by ultra standards, but still difficult by Thai standards. Even so, the conditions proved difficult enough. The day was mostly overcast with temperatures only in the mid-80’s (F), but the humidity was still around 80%. Although balmy for Thailand, this still plays a factor in performance and strategy.

final aid station - about 10k to go!

final aid station – about 10k to go!

The male champion finished in 9:47. My time was a very respectable 11:07, beating the 2nd place woman by 1:02 and good enough for 5th overall. The win and the time are also quite good considering I got lost twice and actually ran 103km (64mi)! The first time was early on when the lead pack got turned around in the dark – the course was not marked well! The second time occurred when I was running by myself on the second loop. My head was down, concentrating on the trail and I didn’t see the sign to turn right. I only saw the race ribbons marking the trail going left, but these were for the 10km race. Since all the ribbons were the same color, I didn’t realize my mistake until I found myself on my way back to the finish line!

This, however, became a source of consternation as the marshals, who do not take bib numbers but guide racers at certain points (of course not the point of my wrong turn), thought I cut the course. Of course I did not and had proof I did not, but at the time they didn’t know that and was followed by guys on motorbikes for several miles before the race director got them off my back. A-ya.

At this point, I started sliding into the dark side. I was not only NOT going to make my time goal, but I could lose my first place standing. Combined with some nutrition issues due to drop bag malfunction; I thought I might just walk the final 25 miles. The “dark place” is something that ultra runners recognize and takes experience to be able to climb out of. It wasn’t until I took some more food, and was encouraged by a couple of guys I’d been running with through the day that I came through it and even burned brighter until the finish.

The finish line had a paparazzi feel as I was surrounded with photographers! It felt great to finish, even better to win, but had not expected to be found in the celebrity limelight! I had flashbacks to Unbreakable, and thought, this must be what it feels like to be Geoff Roes winning Western States (not that I’m even close to his ability). After I had had enough, I walked over the grass where I pressed sponge after sponge on my head and neck as I sat talking with my friends – I really wanted to hear about their own race experiences that day (they ran 50k). It is truly wonderful to finish a race and have friends greet you at the end!

winning TNF 100k

Thanks to all my friends for their support in my training and racing! Whether we run together in body or in spirit, I’m often thinking of you when I’m running!

This is the first race that I have ever done twice. Will I repeat a 3rd time? Not sure… It’s a good race, but not THAT great. So many races and places and so little time! My confidence and ability is growing and there are other projects around Asia that I’d like to explore.

Lessons learned:

  • Avoid drop bag malfunction – put plenty of food in each bag. The map of the course was confusing in that checkpoints weren’t labeled. I took the lady organizing the drop bags word thatyes, I’d be passing through check point #3 four times during the race, so I packed extra food in that one.  Nope, it was actually #1. Oops.
  • Aid stations at this race had only water, a Gatorade-like beverage, bananas, and watermelon (typical for Thailand). Therefore, to properly fuel for a competitive 100k race, having what you need in a drop bag is essential.
  • When the race is held in rural Thailand, don’t assume the resort at which the race is to be held will have any decent food to eat the night before. Needless to say, I didn’t start off with the pre-race fueling that I prefer!  
  • Don’t skimp on “time on feet”, strength exercises, or core training if you really want optimal performance.

YES!

ice cold sponges!

ice cold sponges!

the foot...

post-race massage: hurt so good!

post-race massage: hurt so good!

 

For those of you interested, my prizes for winnings included: 50,000 Thai Baht in vouchers to spend at The North Face Thailand store; Petzl aluminum compact trekking poles; Sigg bottle with special Thai design; a finisher’s medal and a ridiculously large trophy.


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Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 Hour Endurance Run

Where to start when writing about this event? I’ll start with gratitude. Thank you Jesus for seeing me through the organization of this event, for all the help you provided, for the beautiful weather (one can expect a least a little rain in July), for keeping us healthy and safe, and for the wonderful place to run. I also must thank MANY other people, but that would take up too much space on this blog. The whole thing would have flopped without everyone pitching in to help and support one another. Entire families were involved and I feel like we became more like family through the event. Beautiful.

Runners at the start!

Although this was not my first crack at being a race director, a 24 hour endurance run is quite a bit different from a pot-luck “Cha-bu-duo”* 10km run! The idea came as sort of a whim as I was thinking of ways to prepare for my first 100 mile race in September. “I need to start practicing running at night, but what if I could practice running all night…” I mentioned this to a couple of my ChUG** friends and they thought that it was a good idea … or did they really say “good”? Anyway, I thought it was brilliant and went for it! Richard told me as we were setting up before the start, “I may not want to thank you later, so I’m thanking you now for having this brain-fart.”

A timed event, where runners run around a fixed loop and count how many loops they can do within the given time frame, is easier to do than a distance race. For example, I only had one major aid station and an unattended water/electrolyte stop halfway around. Furthermore, more people could participate as I made different time divisions: 6, 12, and 24 hour plus a 3-hour kids division!

A total of twenty-two people participated in the  – some were brave enough to travel from other parts of Thailand to participate in this inaugural event. Most people started on Friday evening, but a group of women opted to start on Saturday morning. I was delightfully surprised to see that they were Mennonite! One does not normally associate ultra-endurance events with such groups of people, but they love sport and there are plenty of athletes among them! I love it when people break the mold, break stereotypes and go for it!

The Mennonite women!

The most common question people asked me was, “Do you sleep at all during the 24 hours?” I actually did not know the answer to that. I had never run at night before, let alone all night, and then continue through the next day. Normally, I am NOT a night person – sun goes to bed, I follow close behind – so I was surprised at how NOT sleepy I was through the night. I don’t know whether it was the constant physical activity or just being hyped up about the event, but I never had the urge to lie down and close my eyes. I did take some caffeine, but not nearly enough to account for the alertness.

Amazingly, it didn’t rain as much as it could have as it is the middle of rainy season here. It rained early (about hours 2-3) and so I had to change from my regular shoes into my “miracle shoes” (the ones with 1400 miles on them – one of the kids named them) early on and ended up running most of the race in them.

Faith ran in the 3-hour kids division, then stayed all night, and all the next day to crew the runners! She also ran extra laps as a pacer with runners to support them. A budding ultramarathoner right here! She and her friend Adrianne were a jou I’m so proud of them!

Except for changing my shoes and socks after the rain stopped I never sat down. I didn’t even stop except for the brief hiatus to grab a drink or a bite to eat through the aid station marking each lap. I also took some brief time outs to award medals to participants as they finished – the race director’s privilege!

I suppose I could keep better track of what exactly I ate but generally it was a lot of watermelon, bananas, super-charged peanut butter balls, protein shake + coffee mix, Clif bars, and, the ultramarathoner’s surprise fuel: Coca-cola.

I started my 37th loop at hour 18. Seemingly suddenly, the level of pain that one normally endures at that point in a race jumped a few notches and I was no longer able to run – at least with a decent gait. I decided it was finally time to take a break, perhaps 20 minutes? I could do that and still make 100 miles. However, as I sat down my friend immediately noticed my angry red and very swollen ankle. I took one look and knew I was done – no amount of will to finish could override what I knew as a doctor: I needed to stop immediately or perhaps risk greater damage. I was not disappointed (another surprise)! I had done well and I needed to live to run another day. Besides, 137km (85.1 miles) in 18+ hours is not too shabby, and this was just a practice run for my first 100 miler in September!

Three of the 24 hour runners made it the full 24 hours and Brian cranked out 101 miles in just under the time!

Ajarn Dee, a statistics professor, is in my Bible Study and she came out to cheer me!

Although the event itself was not a fundraiser, I asked people to give towards my personal run and pledge a monetary amount per kilometer/mile run. Amazingly, I raised a total of $880 for my project Relentless!

Lessons learned:

  • I did not have the strength training in my legs that is needed to sustain my legs for such a long distance. Partly because I had been rehabbing some tendinitis in my knee in the weeks prior. Strangely, the knee didn’t bother me at all (argh).
  • I have a much better understanding of what it really takes to excel at such events, especially long distance road races, such as Badwater.
  • I can “DNF^” with dignity and for good reason.
  • I learned a lot about race-directing in Thailand and look forward to next year’s event!

I think everyone who participated or volunteered agrees that the event as a whole was a HUGE success and we are already planning one next year!

THANK YOU:

Sunday brunch celebrating with good friends – runners and volunteers!

Ryan, Richard, Ray, Heidi, Caleb, Henry, Ben, Faith, Adrianne, Karl, Ron, Connie, Sai, Jume, Rhea,  Jung, Atsuyuki-san, Ajarn Dee, and all the other people who came out to cheer and help! You guys have NO IDEA how grateful I am for all your support and help in the prep and putting this on. Atsuyuki-san says it was the attitude of the people involved that made this one of the best races he has ever attended!

For a slideshow of photos from the event, please visit this link. You can also visit the Facebook album. IF these links don’t work, please let me know!

*cha-bu-duo: Mandarin for “close enough” and also the name of an annual 10k in Shenyang, China that I organized in past years. The 4th Annual run happens 1 September!

**ChUG: Chiang Mai Ultrarunners Group

^DNF: did not finish


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Run for 24 Hours of Justice

Dear friends – just a reminder that the Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 hour Endurance Run is just 10 days away! I’m making this an opportunity to raise funds for RELENTLESS by asking people to pledge a monetary amount per mile (or kilometer) that I run. More details can be found on this earlier post. Whether or not you donate, please do think of me and my friends as we push ourselves to the limit for a good cause!

HTT Trek flyer


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The Samoeng Loop, A Solo Ultra

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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Running for Justice

Hello friends!

Many of you know that I like to run long distances. I love challenging myself to see just how far I can run with the time and resources that I’ve got. Many of you know that is how I came up with the name Relentless. The more I do these ultra marathons, the more I want to do the next one. Unfortunately, there aren’t many ultra marathons within a reasonable travel distance – most of them require international travel – which I don’t have the time or money to do. Therefore, why not make my own ultra marathon event? Just for FUN! In China, I organized a Cha-Bu-Duo (“close enough” in Mandarin) 10km run for my friends, and it was a blast!

An ultra marathon distance event, however, requires quite a bit more organizing so I decided to make the race a timed event, as in, how far can participants run in the allotted time? I want to see what I can do in 24 hours, but to get some friends running with me, there will be 6 and 12 hour events as well. My friend’s kids want to run as well, so a 3-hour kids division will also be offered! This event is designed as a “fun run” with participants anteing up an entry fee to help cover the cost of rentals, food, water, and other necessary items for the race. It is not a fund-raiser for my project per se. Other runners are welcome to raise money for their own projects in a similar way as I am. We plan to start our adventure at 6pm the evening of 20 July 2012. We will all be running through the night (cooler that way) and some of us will still be running all through the next day.

For this 24-hour endurance event, I’d like to raise money for my project Relentless (www.gorelentless.wordpress.com). Specifically, I would like to fund medical outreaches to red-light districts and after-care shelters for abused and trafficked people. The money raised through this event will help outfit my medical kit with supplies and medicines such as a blood-pressure cuff, extra stethoscope, scale, eye-chart, commonly used over-the-counter medications, disposable clinic supplies (e.g. gloves, swabs, hand sanitizer), and other items. I could also help fund the expenses of Thai volunteers (nurses, doctors, etc.) who are willing to travel with me to these places. If you have any questions about how the money will be used, please contact me directly.

Please consider pledging a certain amount of money per kilometer run. Yikes! (You might think) Katherine could run quite a few kilometers in 24 hours! I actually don’t know what I can do, since I’ve never done anything like this before. However, knowing that I can raise more money with each step I take will motivate me to push myself!  My goal is to run 100 miles (about 160km).

Upon completion of this even I will inform you of the distance covered and the total pledge amount and the details of how you may choose to give. Donations can be made through my sending agency Interserve by this website:  https://capitaldynamics.com/interserve*, or by check mailed to Interserve USA PO Box 418 Upper Darby, PA 19082-0418. I can also accept cash or a transfer via PayPal and I will issue you a receipt from Interserve for your donation to Relentless.

What I need to hear from you is how much you plan to pledge and the method you would like to use for donation to help me keep track of the person and amount.
 
Please return the following information to me via email pediattude@gmail.com or gorelentless@gmail.com.
 
Name______________________ Email:_____________________________  pledge _________ per km
Preferred method of donation: online or check donation to Interserve_____   PayPal ______  cash_____
 

Thank you so much for your support in this RELENTLESS effort!

Katherine

*note, some people get an error message saying that this is an unsecure site. If that happens, please visit the Interserve USA website for more information.

24 hours of:

justice.compassion.service.joy.freedom.hope.love.patience.endurance.shalom

kindness.humility.peace.sacrifice.perseverance.forgiveness.promise

fun.truth.encouragement.focus.courage.passion.relentlessness