Some fool said he wanted to know more...
Without boring you all with the whole decision making process, my good friend Nicole and I decided it would be a grand idea to go to Mongolia and run 100k! Now, with the pain gone and toe nails growing back I can reflect well on a bloody good decision.
The Mongolian S2S is held in the north of Mongolia in the Hovsgol National Park. For any other maniacs interested check out their website: http://ms2s.dk/
. The area is incredibly beautiful and even if you're not a maniac runner it would be a great place to visit.
Everyone prepares for an event like this in their own way, but there is no secret formula, you just have to put in the hours. For me I was training 5 days a week, over a variety of distances, but doing back-to-back long runs once a week. The theory is that you can split the time required for a long run over 2 consecutive days. In Hong Kong this was a great way to try and beat the heat although my last back-to-back runs should have been 5 hours and 6 hours, but the 36+°c took its toll (plus I couldn't carry enough water) and I managed 4 hours and 5 hours!
Training in the heat was an absolute killer and some days I just couldn't face it, lucky we live on the water and I would go aqua jogging instead.
I felt like I had done my preparation well, even though I was occasionally disappointed and frustrated not being able to keep going in the heat. I always knew that the conditions would be much better in Mongolia where the temperature was going to be max 28°c in the daytime and down to a chilly 14°c at night. While I have completed the HK Round-the-Island race, which is 64km twice I was never 100% certain that I could finish 100km. How can you ever really know that?
The terrain for the race was also a lot more forgiving than what I had been training on in HK with only 3 significant hills and even though the altitude could be a factor, when you got to the top of a hill you came straight back down and didn't spend any time at the higher altitudes.
The whole group of runners and supporters met at the airport in Ulaanbaatar (UB) as we were all travelling and staying together at Camp Toilgot. We had 3 days in camp before race day to acclimatise, go for a few sneaky runs but mostly just R&R. Despite the stress of what was coming people were all enjoying the chilled environment and getting to know each other. A little bit 'Hi De Hi' at times, but I found a lovely big deck chair by the lake to go and read or just contemplate the world.
On race day we were woken at 2.30 am (WTF) by the charming sounds of a local musician. We had all un-packed and re-packed our race bags a hundred times the day before so it was just a matter of getting dressed and heading to the dining hall. The lucky ones managed to ablute before the race, the rest of us had to save it for the wilderness!
Quite a feeling really heading off into the dark forest at 4am: cold, nervous, excited! By the time the sun came up we were making good time heading north along the lakeside before the first big climb. Running is a pretty good pace to get a good look at the views around and for certain that sunrise was something very special.
The race was long... "yes Einstein, 100km" but I can honestly say that I totally enjoyed it. There was never a time when I wanted to give-up. There was never a time when I wasn't awed by the scenery. There was never a time that I wasn't enjoying myself, even those last 10km back along the road to camp when photographic evidence shows that I looked like something the cat drags home. (The picture at the top of this entry!)
I was fortunate to have someone to run with nearly the whole race. Initially Nicole and I ran together, but we split after the 32km aid station. I ran fast for the last 10km of the marathon to finish 1st equal ladies with Rhonda. I had to do a bit of a contortionist change of clothes under a sarong due to chaffing issues!!! Rhonda left well before me, but I managed to catch her up by about 50km. We then ran together until that final 10km, when she just had more left to finish strongly... me like the cat's dinner.
Having spent the previous days together in the camp there was a strong sense of camaraderie and everyone who could still walk came to cheer the runners in as they finished. The last 4 runners crossed the line together about 20 minutes before the rain settled in. Nicole and I popped the corks from our mini-moets, but didn't quite enjoy them as much as normal.
The remaining days were a cloud of anti-inflammatories, deep heat and compression tights! I did go for a long walk to ease the muscles, which did seem to help. After a massive celebration dinner we transferred back to UB for another celebration dinner.
Nicole and I said goodbyes to our new friends and headed south for 48 hours of glamping. We booked into a luxury ger camp where there was really bugger all to do, except eat, read, sleep and relax. There was a bon fire every night and we sipped French wine, toasting the super moon. It was just perfect. If you ever find yourself in UB with a couple of free days, I'll send you the details of the camp.
Despite being certain that the Mongolian Sunrise to Sunset 100km, was going to be my first and last 100km, well, let's just say I'm wavering!