It was the start to my start of 2017 running adventure. Since, trying my first trail run back in 2016 TMBT, I’ve kinda developed a thirst for doing trail ultra. Not because I enjoy trail runs, but it was more for the ITRA qualification points for UTMF and UTMB qualification; (The requirements are 15 points based on 3 races within 2 years). This trip to Simalin,Khao Yai, Thailand was planned back in 2016 together with Davy Voon and Melissa Wong. We flew in with Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur  – Bangkok. The flight was on time, and everything was smooth. Melissa helped with all our accommodation and transportation booking. She was known as our Genius Booker. Why? well, she was best at getting great deals for our accommodation for the entire trip. She’s kinda our travel planner “on the go trip-advisor”. Hahaha. We stayed one night in Bangkok before taking the bus to Simalin, Khao Yai (race location). We waited for the official pick-up bus at the train station. There, we manage to make small talk with several overseas runners. Some where from Australia, Singapore and Japan. These runners were well toned, unlike myself; with a beer belly, or i’d like to call it – “my spare hydration”.

We soon arrive at the race site, approximately 3 hours later. The race site was set at a very  nice resort. Unfortunately, non of the rooms where available. We soon headed to the race pack collection. There, we could see many people taking their photos after collecting their race pack. I have to say, I was kind-off disappointed with the event Tee colour scheme. I think they could have done better with neon green/ yellow or blue, rather than orange. Nevertheless, the event Tee colour could not be helped. The race pack collection was a bit disorganized. It cold have been a language barrier issue. We found out that, Thai’s in Bangkok generally speaks less english compared to Phuket. After getting our race pack sorted, we walk around looking at the event expo. There were some pretty good deals. Unfortunately, due to our Malaysian currency slump, it wasn’t any better. Hence no point in buying. While Melissa was paying for some of her purchases, we bumped into Harry Jones (an accomplished Welsh international trail, mountain, road and ultra runner who left the Welsh mountains behind to train on the trails of Chiang Mai). It was an honor to talk to an elite runner and gain some simple tips from him. He was there with his girlfriend, who was doing the photo and video taking.

Pic session with legend. (from left: Davy, Harry Jones, Me)
From left (Davy, Melissa, me). Guy in florescent green in background can be ignored.

We soon made our way to our shuttle bus that took us to our accommodation for the next 2 nights; Capitol J. If you are planning to do TNF Thailand next year. Capitol J is the correct place to stay, due to its locality, as the bus stops here 🙂 I was lucky that I asked Robin Tan (who ran TNF Thailand 2016) on where to stay. The North Face organizers and the hotel worked out a deal, to ensure that the runners are able to have our breakfast at 3am before we depart to the starting line.This was good. At least we did not have to look for food before the race.

The route for TNF100 Thailand 2017 was similar to 2016, except that the route was in reverse.

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course map and my actual elevation

It was dark when we were flagged off. Neverthless, we had our headlamps turned on. The run was exciting. Unfortunately, I was not able to see anything. Just follow the person in front and that was it. As they say, the blind leading the blind. Hahaha. This time, I decided to just use my Hoka One One Speed Instinct, due to several reasons.

  1. Hoka seems to have better cushioning when you do long distance
  2. My Hoka speed instinct was 1/2 size larger, it helps in hot weather when our feet tends to swell.
  3. I feel more agile with my Hoka speed instinct compared to the ATR2

    picture before start

The map indicated a hill, then a monastery. Unfortunately, I only noticed the hill. The weather was not that bad in the early morning, about 24-26deg C. It only started to increase about 830am,  where it increase till 36degC by noon.

My strategy for the first loop was to complete as soon as before the temperature rose to much, as most of the route was barren. Yes, it is a trail route. However, due to deforestation and farming, there was not much trees around. Attached are some of the pictures on the race course, which were contribution from Melissa.

You could see how rocky, dusty and hot the route was. But, then again. That is why it is key, to always study your race course and train based on that condition. I did my heat training prior to the TNF event. Unfortunately, it was insufficient. Weather with heat such as this would require large intake of drinking water.race_course_2017-02

The route overall was manageable with several climbs and decent. The only key area which your speed would be hampered, would be from CP4 to CP5, where we were required to climb a huge hill. The pathway for that climb was a single file. Hence, you will have to wait for the person in-front to clear, before you could move. Apart from that, the hill was very rocks with sharp corners. This gave some challenge trying to run done the hill.

I managed to complete the 1st loop before noon. This was good, as i was melting. I even saw a motorcycle peddler selling ice cream. It was so tempting that I wanted to stop to buy. At the end of loop 1, I replenished my TZactive gels and UBEnergybar. Applied vaseline on my toes before I put on my clean dry Injinji socks. The 1/2 size larger for shoe concept worked. I did not have any blisters or chaffing. This mid-way break was the longer than I have planned. I was not too keen to get back out in the sun. A nice cup of ice lemon tea or coke would have been great. Or even and Ice COLD BEER!.

I soon made my way out after 30mins of down time. Didn’t have the energy to run yet, as I have just finished my lunch. Walked till I reached he start of the hill climb, where I started to pick up my pace before reaching CP1 (2nd loop). There was where I met  a new friend from Singapore (Umar). I’m glad that we met up. We had so much BS to talk about. Hahaha. We pushed each other along the way thru the climb and heat. I was surprise he was not concerned about the heat. I guess, that is what happens when you have done sufficient heat training. Our aim together was to complete the CP4-CP5 climb before night fall as it would be dangerous as it became dark. We manage to achieve our goals.As we passed the 95km marked, I could taste the cold beer that we have bought earlier and left in the cooler box. I dashed in the last 3km, till I overshoot the turning into the finsh line and had to retract back. Felt kinda stupid, cause people were watching. Hahaha. I completed my TNF100 Thailand (my 2nd trail) in 16hrs 01min.