Running an ultramarathon was never really on my radar until I did the IRONMAN. Then something happens. You realise that you can do amazing things with your body and you want to find out just what you can do. When I decided to take another long backpacking trip I still wanted to maintain the fitness level I had developed with my triathlon training. Mostly I didn’t want to start from scratch when I returned to Australia as plans for my second 140.3 are in the works. So enters the Davao 50 Ultramarathon.
I had Google’d races in Southeast Asia and the Davao 50km race was one that came up. Better still my former boss, Phil, lived a couple of hours outside Davao with his wife and family so I could combine visiting him and a relatively unvisited part of the Philippines as well as have something to focus on and keep fit.
My training did have some fits and starts. I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been at the start of the process and it made running painful. Also I brought a pair of shoes that I initially hated (why I brought them I have no idea). They were heavy, hot and made my feet ache. I still hate them!
While I was in Koh Lanta, Thailand I found my groove. A mixture of running, yoga and Crossfit seemed to be the perfect combination for this little Ms Fit! I felt strong and ready to become an ultra runner. I arrived in Davao just over two weeks before the race. Phil and his family were very welcoming and supportive. Any run I did included a number of dogs, a scooter, Phil, Marisa (his wife) and sometimes Marisa’s son. Mindanao is one of those locations on travel warnings you are not supposed to go too… Like travel warnings have stopped me before.
Anyway I digress. This is the first race I have done in a foreign country without a support crew. My mother came to China with me and when I lived in Dubai my good friend Leroy was my crew (note best crew man ever!). So I was feeling pretty jumpy initially but a chat the day before with my coach helped settle the nerves.
During training I never went over 21km but I felt very secure that I had done enough and that I was ready. I had a nutrition strategy that consisted of organic baby food, pocari sweat and a few jelly lollies and a snickers bar for an extra hit if needed.
The race briefing was at 0330 and when the race director asked if I personally had any questions I had to giggle. I was the only expat female in the race and he wanted to make sure that I was feeling secure. Note: Mindanao is known for not being safe for westerns due to the MILF (not that MILF but rather a dangerous political group that has been known to kidnap expats)
I started out the run with two guys, Alan and Richard but quickly realised that I was not as fast as them and didn’t want to burn myself out. The goal was to reach the 21km mark by the 3 hour cut off with plenty of fuel in the tank. So I let them go. Running along a highway in the dark at 0400 with trucks heading towards felt more like a training session rather than a race but it meant I could settled into running and then something interesting starting happening.
I hadn’t changed my pace but I started passing people. Men and women alike. The initial hype of the start of the race was starting to wind down and my steady pace was now quicker than their pace. I passed the 21km within the 3 hour cut of and in fact hit half way at just over 3 hours. It was at this point the fun began.
The long steady incline of a mountain probably should not have been as difficult as it was. It just seemed to go forever and that meant I spent a lot of time power walking than actually running. I didn’t train to power walk but now I have a better understanding of the walk/run concept of ultra running. Lesson learnt! Perhaps a run 100 walk 400 protocol should have been adopted but I have never had experience with running long inclines or ultras so not overly worried. It is certainly something I will train for in future races with long inclines.
After I passed the 42.5km mark I had a giggle with one of the race marshal’s, ‘this is the furthest I have ever run’. He said ‘well once you finish you will have kicked that in the butt’. My body actually felt pretty good. Yeah my back was hurting, my knees felt like crap but as I steadily made way for the last 7.8km I realised that I wasn’t feeling all that bad. Then just to make things a little bit more hectic I developed a stitch on my left side right under my rib cage. It made running with any sort of speed a bit of an issue!
I also stopped to go to the bathroom and had to scale down an embankment and getting back up was problematic. After that I felt like death… It was here that I ate a snickers and life got better! I tried to keep the pace up so that I would come in under 7 hours. My race goal was 7:13 purely because one of my running inspirations Catra Corbett’s little dog Truman did a 50km ultra in 7:13. I get how insane competing with a dog is given I didn’t have a clue what course he’d run and worse if I couldn’t bet his time I would be shattered.
After I crossed the finish line I had a joke with Richard who had come in first in his age group and then they handed me my medal. 1st Age Group Women’s 30-39. How the hell did that happen? I was 4th female home and the other girls despite being in the same age group had won the open category so therefore I won the age group. I felt so happy for the girls that were local to win the overall race but to get 1st in age group well that just about tickled me pink!
Later that afternoon I went for a swim and basically soaked my sore body in the pool while doing yoga poses. Yes I tried to do the Dancer pose after doing a 50km. Face first into the water I realised that was not such a good idea. I did lots of stretching and had a little sleep. I headed out for food and limping my way around the mall was not the best fun.
Next morning I woke up and felt surprisingly good. General soreness but nothing overly bad. My chaffing had calmed down – I had chaff from my bra, hydration pack (in one tiny spot on my ribs) and from my shorts along my back. I did some more yoga stretches and hung out in the pool again.
It’s now just over a week later. I have been walking, doing some yoga stretches and poses. I had some slight tenderness in my right hip and my ankles don’t appreciate me walking in my flip flops for longer than 2km; I really do need to consider a better choice in shoes, but overall I am pretty good.
After the race I spent a few days in El Nido, Palawan, enjoying the water, islands, sunbathing and reading. Now for the next week I have booked myself in the Bahay Kalipay Yoga and Vegan Centre for 7 days of yoga, meditation, raw vegan food and writing!
This is when I tell you about my next race. It is 3 weeks till entries open but I am going to enter the Blackall 100 in October, back in my home area of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
100km of up and down hills, steps, trails and amazing scenery. I can’t wait! Yep I am crazy but I promise it is a good crazy!
Have to say that I am feeling pretty damn lucky to have an awesome coach Dan, brilliant family and friends and above all a life the I designed for myself. Travel, fitness, yoga, spirituality and endurance! I love my life! Do you love yours?