Firstly: hell yeah! I DID it!! I completed this extremely beautiful, extremely hard (at certain times) 50km ultra running trail race and completed it in a faster time than I ever would have expected (7 and a half hours). I also came in the top twenty females (either 18th or 19th, according to different people) so got a prize and had to go up on stage during the big prize giving ceremony – more on that later. Not bad for a previously virginal ultra runner, and for a first attempt at a trail race?! Here’s a sneak preview of many many more photos to come of where this race took place: so beautiful don’t you think?
After having arrived at Beijing’s airport, some way out of town, I then spent the next two hours ish getting across town to my hotel next to Bejing West railway station. This was a bit of mission, and the day was so very hot. Initially I got the airport ‘express’ which is a dubiously named train, and by no means express (not after Shanghai’s airport express Maglev train which reaches speeds of 430kmph!) and maybe should be called the airport plodder or airport normal speed train or something. I took this photo of the ticket as it amused me. Hmm, Beijing is not really famous for its blue sky, and even the picture next to this little fibbing phrase showed no blue sky nor any green land. It’s got a nice ring to it though, sounding more like some kind of vertical, space-train perhaps?
I slept a bit and chatted a bit to the other runners (lovely people) on board for the 6 hour ish it took to get to Wuyuezhai.
So, back to the penultimate race day settling in. Once we’d found our rooms (I got lucky hey – for some reason I got a room all to myself! So, my fears re: sharing a room/glass bathroom walls etc, never eventuated) the other ‘laowei’ (foreigner) runners and I met up for some eats and carb-loading beers, in one of the restaurants in this picturesque little town, set into the mountain side, up a long, winding, fairly steep road (one that goes for about 4 kilometres that formed both the start and finish of the race – yes, that’s right: the last 4 kms were spent trudging up a seemingly endless tarmac hill, in the direct burning sun – brutal).
The race pack was a GREAT one! Lots of goodies, check it out:
So, the day started off with a twenty minute aerobic session courtesy of the head coach (I think) of the running group Hey Runners from Beijing who I booked through and who most of the other laoweis (all 8 of us I think?) belong to.
And, nicely warmed up, we then headed to the starting line, excitement and adrenalin kicking in now.
For the first 11kms or so, I was badly needing to go to the loo, but could see no appropriately private tree or bushy area in which to do so. It was getting pretty dire, and was actually causing me to run too fast I think, as I sped up searching for a place to stop and pee. Not good when all the advice you’ve been given is to watch your pace at the beginning and especially going downhill straight off. Eventually it got too much and I found a handy wall/billboard to hide behind. Ahhh. All being much better, I continued with the race.
After about 19kms, just before checkpoint two, I realised something about this race: I would not be able to run the whole thing, as previously imagined and how I thought I would be able to. I eventually succumbed to stopping running up the hills, and began to hike the hard uphill sections, along with everyone else around me. Before then, I had been powering up past others, but perhaps using too much energy too soon by doing so? I had it in my head that I would be able to keep running, no matter what, and come on, even the first hotel was rooting for me:
From 20 to 30kms or so, it was a very steep ascent, and reminded me of a hard day’s hiking, let alone a running race. This is where people’s poles came into play. Initially I was a bit confused as to all the gear people were carrying. I mean, how do you run with poles? And why?? Well, all was revealed when we were hiking up (in single file at some points), and later, scrambling down, this mountain.
Reaching the ‘top’, or so I thought, at the 30kms mark, I was then told we had to ‘just run over there’ to collect a rubber bangle and have photos taken beside the elevation marker. Hmm, maybe ‘over there’ in an ultra event is not the usual ‘just over there’! This bit was tough. But here I am, feeling on top of the world, quite literally:
I can see why people love trail running so much. There were a good many points during the race that I could feel myself grinning inanely and thinking to myself ‘I LOVE THIS!’, especially as I was running through some shady forest sections, with gentle up and downs. It was just such a beautiful course:
The route spread out again between 42kms to 45kms, and I still felt pretty good running. Actually, I felt kind of euphoric – this was the furthest I had EVER run before, and maybe the hardest too (although, I’m not sure –I think the Great Wall event may have been more challenging still, although was half the distance of this one – so, short and sweet/painful?).
Then they told me I was in the top 20 (and someone later told me I was either 18th or 19th place)! Wow. I was amazed. And thrilled. Here’s me with my medal, woohoo:
Ok, that’s enough from me. If you’ve stuck with the race recap thus far, thanks for reading! I now need to catch up on all the things I’ve missed on other running blogs since being away. I did think of all your amazing comments while I was running the race, and I was sending positive thoughts out to Amy over at Run Write Hike who was running a trail race relay over this same weekend! Looking forward to reading all about her event too.
So tell me, what have you been up to over this weekend? What was your high point? What was your favourite part of your weekend?