Sunday, February 16, 2014

The North Face 100 Thailand (Feb 8, 2014)

The North Face 100 Thailand (Feb 8, 2014; Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand)
And so my ultra-running year has just begun. And it started last February 8 in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. I joined the 50K event of the The North Face 100 Thailand. It was my second TNF100 50K and it was 2.5 hours easier.

The bus service at Makkasan (Airport Link) Station
Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima is like in the middle of nowhere! You'd think that it is conveniently accessible by public transport because it is just in the outskirts of Pak Chong City but it is not. The roads are empty and almost all the residents there (in Khao Yai) rely on their own cars for transport. I was lucky to secure a seat in the transport service arranged by the organizers. For 370 baht I had a comfortable bus ride from Bangkok all the way to the race briefing venue. 

The Bonanza Resort Khao Yai
The final registrations and the the race briefing were held in The Bonanza Resort Khao Yai. My estimate is that around 50 percent of the participants in the the major events (50K and 100K) were Caucasians. In fact the race briefing I attended was rendered in English (I believe there was another one in Thai). I did see some compatriots there and some of them were even from Cebu.
Ryan Blair (right) during the race briefing, a familiar face in the TNF100. He dominated the 50K event.
If you should join next year's TNF100 Thailand and if it is going to be held in the same location, you'd better book the accommodations promoted by the organizers. The location is practically empty except for the resorts scattered in the area. It is difficult to find any transport service or any place to eat there. I had initially booked an accommodation in Pak Chong City. Google maps says it's just about 7km from the starting point. Then I cancelled it and booked a room in Khao Yai Tana Lagoon because the map says it is close to the starting line. But with the horrible reviews of the hotel, I cancelled my booking 2 weeks before the event. When the organizers of the race opened another set of accommodations, I booked one of the few remaining rooms. It turned out to be just across from Bonanza Resort where the race briefing was held and where the free shuttle service to the starting point would pick up and drop off runners. I was very lucky indeed. I would have spent a lot of money chartering a taxi to take me into and out of Khao Yai for two days if I had not availed of the accommodation services recommended by the organizers.

My accommodation at Larn-yah Khao Yai 
I booked a room good for 4-6 persons on my first night all to myself because according to the organizers, the hotel had run out of single rooms for Feb 7. I was supposed to move to a smaller room on my second night but the owner of the hotel let me stay in the big room for two nights. 
The whole family of the host help each other in running the hotel. The kids take orders and serve food at the restaurant. They sometimes serve as translators for their father. The language in the hotel is rendered in smiles. On February 7th, the restaurant was exceptionally busy as the TNF100 organizers had outsourced some food for the carbo loading party at Bonanza Resort from them. I had to wait for one and a half hours for my dinner! All the others seated were already expressing vexation as they had also been waiting too long. I was also annoyed but I reckoned complaining wouldn't get the food served more quickly. So I just told the owner, who was already frantically confused, to serve my food in my room as soon as it was ready. And he was very apologetic. On my departure, he gave me a free ride to Pak Chong City where I took the bus to Bangkok!

Last year, I used my Columbia hydration pack and my Salomon shoes. But this year, I was practically clad in TNF gear from neck to toe! They didn't let me down. The lightness and comfort made me feel as if I was naked while running. I particularly liked my shoes. They gave me ultimate protection despite being light. I don't know why, but there are still a lot of those who want to go minimalist in a trail run. I saw a lot of runners who moved funnily as the rocks and pebbles pierced the soles of their minimalist shoes. I know one who did not finish the race owing to his hurting arch because of his minimalist shoes.

My TNF Single Track Hayasa before and after the race.
At 3:30 am, I was one of the first to arrive at the starting point. 
The sun rose a bit late during the race day. But when it did, it exhausted all the runners who couldn't get to the finish line by noon. I was expecting a shady location as it was a national park. But I guess it was just the wrong time of year. The trees were all bare and the trail was open and dry. To make things worse, many parts were paved roads!

The dry and open paved road segment of the race
The trail was generally flat with a few ascents. Many parts were dry and dusty I had to literally eat the dust of many runners ahead of me! And the last ten kilometers was 50% paved road again. When a runner from Malaysia told me that I had less than 2 kilometers to run, I sprinted my way to the finish line.
I have no excuses for this race. I really did my best! But there were just a lot of fast runners there. The top 100 was dominated by Caucasians. I finished 95th among6 the 237 runners who participated in the 50K event. 

Although it was a far cry from my ranking last year in Baguio (36th), it was 2.5 hours faster! I am happy with my time and my strong finish. I took the last ten kilometers of the race in just 1 hour and 16 minutes (just 8 minutes slower than the first ten) overtaking about 10 runners who were already walking in the noon sun.  

Couldn't be any happier with this time

YOU deserve a holiday!
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