What I learnt when I did not finish a race

I’ve been delaying this entry for more than a week since I came back from “The Most Beautiful Thing” (TMBT) Ultra Trail held in Sabah. If you have been following me on my social media channels, you would have already known that I did not finish the race. I did not put this entry off because I was ashamed there is a glaring “DID NOT FINISH” in the results list, but because I have been thinking really hard about what I learnt when I did not finish a race.

So here are 3 lessons that I learnt when I did not finish TMBT 2017:

  • There is no shame is not being able to finish a 50km race.

When I signed up for the 50km category, I knew that I had embarked on an adventure that I could not possibly forget. It requires physical training and mental preparation. I built up the mileage needed, consistently did LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs every weekend, and trained for the elevation. In fact, I was mentally worn out from doing the same thing every week.

I can hardly recognize my own feet at 48km.

  • No two trails are the same

I am not a stranger to the world of ultra running. This is my 3rd ultra marathon, and I have ran in several long distance trail events. Yet, I was naive enough to think that since I have completed Cameron Trail Ultramarathon 50km last year, I could pull off TMBT, when in fact, TMBT was a totally different game. Mother Nature is unpredictable. TMBT was the race that I have experienced various types of weather: scalding hot and shivering cold temperatures, bright sunny hours and torrential downpours, all in 16 hours. The only thing missing was probably snow and ice. And weather conditions affects the trail – it can be muddy, dusty, slippery, etc

TMBT – The Most Beautiful Thing or The Most Brutal Trail? I choose to believe in both

Hanging bridges like these seemed to be a permanent part of the route. I have never experienced anything quite like this in other trail runs

  • Never underestimate the mandatory items

I utilized everything listed in the mandatory items, except for the emergency blanket. I was especially grateful for the waterproof jacket, headlamp, and blinkers.

Also, never skimp on anything that you think might become useful in a race. Think thoroughly while packing. Personally, an item that I underestimated its usefulness were tissues (wet and regular tissues) and money. Why?

Tissues – You might never know when you need to go. Decent toilets were available at every checkpoint, but for your own comfort and hygiene purposes you will be glad that you carry a tissue. It is also handy when you need to wipe your muddy hands to eat and drink in the trail.

A typical water station checkpoint. At least there were flushable toilets in mini halls like this.

Taking shelter from the heavy rain in one of the checkpoints. Although there were no designated praying areas, at least halls like this was convenient enough for us to pray.

Money – These villagers were really entrepreneurial! Along the route there were villagers ready with cartons of drinks in ice boxes. There were also food too (eat this at your own risk!). Although I packed enough isotonic drink mix and water, but after a long and hard climb a bottle of cold Coke was very tempting, even if it costs more than RM3.00.

How everyone refuels. Only mineral water was provided, because along the way villagers will set up ‘booths’ selling soft drinks.

 

TMBT will be one of the races that I will never forget. I was happy that I was able to participate in it, even though I did not finish it. If you are up for the challenge and a big fan of trial runs, this route is a must.

 

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