Thursday, November 29

Running 235km in Cambodia: From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Few meters towards the finish line.
Picture from Global Limits album
I survived!!! 
I reached the finish line in one piece, alive and smiling. 
What a great feeling.

My very first multi-staged race, 6 days, 235kilometers, from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, passing by remote places of communities, temples, rice paddies, jungles, forest, swamps and rivers, on hardened tracks, sandy grounds, muddy trails away from the touristy places  under the scorching Cambodian heat. Adding to the fact that I am the only Filipino on the list, all I have in mind is to enjoy the race, make new friends and make the best out of what the place, the people, the culture, the team can offer. 

29 brave runners  from different parts of the world decided to take the challenge: from India, Ireland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, USA, Bulgaria, Spain and yours truly from the Philippines.  

Standing at each starting line each day hoping for the best that will happen to me and crossing every finish line is just a great feeling knowing that I have conquered each stage despite the challenge. It did not come easy to me even with my so used to the scorching heat of the sun, it was the humidity that was killing me. And as it goes longer and we started counting the days, my legs started to get sore and my nutrition has been giving it's toll on me, I always feel I never had enough food even right after eating.

What was constant on the entire race:
Humidity and the scorching heat of the sun. Of the 6 days that we are out in the vast field of Cambodia, there was never a day that I experience a rain while running. It was always hot and sunny which makes the race more challenging. I carry almost 2 liters of water every after each check point and drinking much water is my guiding key to keep myself from dehydration. Even with Stefan's constant reminder not to waste the bottled water and to refrain from pouring water on ourselves, I just can't help but do it. My one 500ml bottle of water is allocated to pour water on my head and body once I feel the heat is just too much.

Constant hellos and goodbyes from the local kids on the communities.
Right from the very first campsite on the day before our very first race, the innocent look of the children and the adults as well are just too amazed with our presence. And since then on, be it on the trail while running or at the campsites and rest areas, the voices of the children with constant hellos and goodbyes has been the music to our ears. To the point that on days with long kilometer distance run, it was just too tiring to wave or say hello back to them. What strike me most on our 4th day though before reaching the first check point, kids prepare bundles of flowers which I cannot resist of accepting while they are all excited to hand it to me.

Happy faces of runners, crew and staff, a friendly atmosphere for everyone
Of the 6 days of running, there are 4 days that  all runners has to start together, 2 days of which slower runners has to start an hour earlier. On the 3rd day I am among those who started an hour earlier. But no matter which part of the race course each runner maybe, it has always been constant, one can always hear words of  encouragements from other runner that will catch up with another one. And it is always on first name basis. Having our name on our bib rather than a number has help us a lot to bond with each other. And on every finish line each of the runner that crosses can always hear the cheering crowd, the clapping sound and the congratulations. And these goes not just to the fellow runners but also to the international and local crew members. Each one is just too supportive to one another.

Trail signs, flaglets, ribbons, dot sprays and arrows, event flags and  banners
Global Limits Cambodia 2012 Trail Master, Chuck Walker did a good job for making sure that the race course will be well marked. Trail signs are properly placed. There was never a day that I felt left alone and uncertain of where I am going for the orange flaglets and signs are just visible even on populated areas that locals obviously take some trail signs as souvenirs. The three dot and arrow sprays on the tree trunks, on the hardened grounds and on the electric posts are just too visible for us to know that we are on the right track. The many sleepless nights of the trail master away from the campsite to make sure that the race course the following day will be well marked and safe really paid off, on each race day the trail has been well marked and each one reached the campsite safe.

A never ending flat land
I never realized Cambodia is ever that flat until I run the place myself. What a race I put myself into, running on flat grounds has always been a challenge to me for I always feel I never have that speed to run faster and here I am running on this kind of terrain. Most of the days we spend most of it on the hardened tracks flat as far as ones eyes can see, without curves without turns, just straight ahead. It's happy days for me on those days that we pass the jungles and forests, on uphills and downhills, at least it gives us the change and a little variety of the course.

On Food
One of my reservations of joining this race is the food. Having to bring my own food on the 6 day race made me think. What kind of food will I exactly bring that can sustain me for 6 days? Can I survive 6 days without eating any rice at all?  I specifically inform Stefan, the Race Director that I eat a lot and I cannot imagine having no rice on my meal especially on a race that I will exert so much effort. He was kind enough to offer some dehydrated food if I feel I do not have enough from my food that I will be bringing. With only hot and cold water provided at each campsite, and no chance for  me to bring a stove due to limited 10kgs weight each runner, my only option really is to bring dehydrated/expedition foods on pouch. I also have to put much consideration the carbohydrates and protein that I needed on the race especially that of which the organizer suggested a minimum number of carbo intake each day and for the duration of the race. But having no more time to order such kind of food in the US and cannot find such kind of food in any of the sports shop in the country, I rely so much on the remaining MRE that I asked from Sir Desi. The rest is really an improvised food. 

What exactly are my improvised food supply?

As much as I really want to count how many carbohydrate intake I will have each day, that was the very least that I can think of when several days prior to my departure all I have in mind is have sufficient balanced food each meal and to get over this part of my preparation. So what I have are the following: for 6 breakfasts  is an option of instant oatmeal, nesvita, champorado with Fortune Cheese bread and an option of de-boned chicken abodo cooked by my sister in law in Singapore, packed cooked diced chicken, salmon, sardines, beef jerky. My dessert is an option of Goldilucks muffins on the first 2 days, choco fudge,  Red Ribbon brownies, mango fudge, sweet green bean dessert. Lunch during the run is always choco fudge, bread, tapang pusit, peanuts, boy bawang, gu jells and chumps and power bars. Lunch after the race is always instant noodles and dinner is another instant noodles, chicken adobo, packed cooked diced chicken, salmon, sardines and beef jerky still with dessert the same as that of what I have during breakfast. One pack each meal for 5 days plus one meal on the last day, each pack properly labeled for what meal on what day on number of kilometers that we are going to  run for that day. 

So how did I survive with my improvised food? 
As much as possible I ate everything that I provision for a particular meal, which I did the first two days.  My appetite is still up with whatever I have. But on the 3rd day, being the longest distance of all the days on this race, first I cannot take anymore the taste of the gu gel on the first 30km distance of the race. I tried to force myself to take even a small zip but really just a smell of it my stomach cannot take it anymore. And even the chumps I also cannot take it anymore. I decided not to force myself anymore on this kind of food. On the road that I see people eating lunch beside their farm land, I attempted to ask for rice but they did not understand me. I’ve been thinking of real food after the long day of run. Upon entry on the temple towards the finish line is an array of restaurants, though it was already dark for it’s already early evening, I am still hoping that there is an open restaurant that will serve real food. I know buying some food along the way is not allowed as per race rule but I did not think of that anymore, I thought I can always ask and explain why I needed to eat real food. Upon reaching the finish line and at the campsite, I see a real food (rice and adobong kangkong) prepared by the local crew. That made my day, I did not hesitate to ask for some. But few hours after, it seems like I haven’t eaten enough I feel hungry again and need to eat any of the food that I brought. 

Fourth day is back to my food provision though all of us will have a real food for dinner as a celebration to Valerie’s birthday. But even before the dinner, aside from my food for lunch, I had young coconut, and fresh pineapple. Happiness. Fifth day, Alaistar bought breakfast for me, fried rice with egg omelet. Another real food. Dinner and breakfast on the 6th day is back to my noodles and instant oatmeal. 

This has been part of my adventure and I am glad I survived with what I have and with what is available along the way.

One thing I learned, I discovered a bread that lasts for more than a week, cheese bread by Fortune. And this is a good partner to the sachet of sardines in tomato sauce. Variety of instant noodles is a big help but I should have brought the bigger cup and on a more different kind of flavor. I believe several pouch of expedition food is still needed in between oatmeal and noodles to get the proper balance nutritional contents needed to go through the race.

On Racing Attire. Note: I am allergy to bushes.
Since this is a trail run, I thought of wearing 3/4 tights with calves compression and arm sleeves. But since it is very hot in Cambodia and humidity is just really very high, at some point I just decided to change from tights to running shorts and let go of the calve compression. On the second day the garter at the upper end of the calve compression is just too tight on my calves that is causing blisters despite the petroleum gel that I put on my skin.

This is my observation:

Race Day 1 is on a hardened wide tracks that wearing shorts and full tank top is just fine. Day 2 to 4 parts of the course passes by the jungle, bushes and tall grasses that on my condition long tights and arm sleeves should be much needed. Day 5 is much fine to be in running shorts again and day 6 should be on running tights a little below the knee. Parts of the course will pass through the holy temples that proper attire is needed.

My shoes is speed cross 3 which majority of my co runners said it is not proper for the kind of trail that Cambodia has. I got two big blisters and my left leg was painful even on the very first day of  the race but I was able to manage both blisters and the pain concern up to the last day of the race.

The petroleum jelly has been a big  help on keeping my skin of getting chafe and wound on the part that touches  the garter of my tights, and tank top despite my hot weather. At some point it was the smell of myself even after the run while inside the tent that I cannot take anymore. Thanks to the river on day 4, that naturalizes again my feeling. Note: For every opportunity there is to pour water in yourself, do it. For the sweat is just endless be it while running or while at the campsite.  

On Global Limits
Months before the race, the race director has been very consistent on sending a follow up messages especially to me on my final decision of joining the race. Every questions asked through email has been answered within 24 hours, and an assurance that a first time multi staged runner like me does not have to worry much on the race for the race course has been designed in such a way that a newbie like me or a veteran runner like Salva will be able to enjoy the race. And true enough it is.

As the race is approaching details like airport pick up, hotel accommodations, reminders on what to prepare, important gears and equipment has been provided. So even if I travel alone on this long race I feel secure and true enough airport pick up has been there upon arrival, a nice welcome on the accommodation is provided, friendly organizer team makes me feel at ease on this new land.

On the race proper, the core international team and the local team through the leadership of the Race Director, Stefan Betzelt, has been a great help on the success finish of every runner. They are comprised of great people who are just there when assistance is needed be it on the campsite or at the race course. They always put the safety of each runner their top priority. They played a vital role in making the race a big success as well. Everything has been well organized, every move has been well think off.

Stage 1 (35km) Testing the water 
The very start and kick off of the race is at 180km north of Phnom Penh in front of a Buddhist Temple where the entire group had the very first camp the night before the race. The course was mainly flat on a well maintained trails and hardened tracks. And it stopped just in the middle of a small village where the runners are to rest on a house that the owner vacated just for us. 

My very first day on my very first multi-staged race. My strategy: take an easy pace, slow and steady. The race will still be a long way to go for me. I am on high spirits standing at the starting line with my fellow runners, hearing the monks and lamas giving us blessings of a safe race, I cant help but feel emotional, a feeling of disbelief that I am finally at the starting line. As soon as we are released, I am just running on my own pace on the flat hardened road until it enters on a well maintained trail. The fast runners are just no where to be seen in front of me and I am among those few runners on the tail end of the group. That did not bother me, I have to set my own pace, feel how my body will react to the humidity of this place. I have to manage my hydration, when to fill my water system as I  pass by a check point and  manage my food intake too. I have to make sure I will be well hydrated and never should wait until I will  get hungry before my next bite of food. That was what I have in  mind and indeed, I manage to follow that plan. Coming from a scary dehydration problem few weeks earlier on my TNF100 Singapore race, I have to make sure I will be well hydrated this time.

But even before covering half of the entire distance, I can already feel something  uncomfortable on my left foot. Blister as early as day 1, my left ankle and left calf are now starting to feel painful as well. I have been thinking, is it the shoes that I am wearing? or the compression calves that I wear for the very first time?

This day begins the day of my blister treatment. 

Stage 2 (42km) This is your race, not anybody else
The very words that each of us hear from the race briefing of the Race Director Stefan,  "Do not just look down the trail, do not just follow the runner in front of you, do not just follow the camera crew. This is not their race, this is your race. Look forward, look ahead, look for the trail signs." That I am very much mindful even before the start of the race. Getting lost is the very thing that I do not want to happen in this foreign land. And true enough the trail signs are just too visible for me even those instances that we know too well that locals get them as their souvenir. 

This day is a continuation of yesterdays flat and hardened road until the tracks enter the trail with rice paddies on the horizon until passing though the forests and the jungle with hardened soil and sandy ground, passing through swamps and many more swamps with a finish at Preah Kham Temple.

It is another sunny day, everybody started with high spirits, I was just taking my own snail pace again. As expected, it's humid and hot again. Seeing the event flag waving on the air is always a sign that I am almost at the 10th km mark of the route, and is also a sign that I can stop, replenish water and rest for a while, though more often than not I really do not sit down. And it's also a great feeling  seeing the members of the crew smiling and always helpful to our needs. So after doing my business of replenishing my  hydration system, I just proceed. I do not want to waste my time.

On the third station on my way to the jungle and the forest, the crew specifically remind me to stay on the track and never go off trail. There are people clearing some landmines. Hearing those words scares me. Few meters after, what greets me are the water on the trail. Is there any other way that I can pass this area without getting my feet wet? is my very thought. But the trail signs are just either on the middle or on the side of the swamp and river. Not a good sign but I cannot do anything about it. I decided to just run through the water going to the first, the second, third and many more. I pass by Abhay of India and Kenny from US, taking off their shoes, I decided to proceed with shoes wet,  sand  and pebbles inside. Few kilometers after the trail enters the jungle. There are people and true enough they are clearing landmines. Oh no, it is true. There are areas that are cordoned with plastic strings and areas with small square plastic string as well which indicates that there are bombs on that area. That made me scared and keep on reminding myself to stay on the trail. 

I continue my snail pace until I catch up with Derek of Hong Kong, we run together for a while until I go move further ahead. The trail to the finish line is just forever. Starting to see some ruins of the old temple already gives me a sign, I am almost there, and true enough few more turns,  I can now hear the sound of the people, and further more I finally see the event streamer hanged at the very entrance of the Preah Kham Temple. Crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face.

I was able to contain the blister that started the day before but this day also marks the start of my painkiller intake. And it is also on this day that my only sports watch died on me. Now I have 4 more days to run without any watch to monitor my time, oh well. 

I did not get much sleep, there were just too many insects flying inside our tent, ants crawling, frog jumping, sand keep sticking on my skin and it never gets cold, it's just too hot and humid. But the evening was great, with the moon and stars gazing through the entrance of the temple, it's just a beautiful sight to witness. Feel very grateful after a day's hard race.

Stage 3 (62km) Look out for each other, help one another. Each one must come out of the jungle safe and alive. We are a team.
'Get ready to swim and become wet, waterproof all your gears inside your hydration packs, be ready with your emergency gears, compass, knife, mirror, incase you will need it. The direction will only be from east to west, follow the sun', the very instruction that we get from Stefan that day.

The group is divided into two, the slower half  will start an hour earlier than the faster runners. The first group includes myself. Without much sleep (or did we ever get any sleep at all) we get up, prepare our things, eat and by 6:00am off we go.

The first 30km of the course is inside the jungle passing by river beyond breast deep and more swamps, muddy parts, more sandy grounds and hardened trails. Even inside the tall forests and thick grass lands it is still hot and humid and all the more when we come out to an open part that is exposed to the sun. The vegetation on this place is just like where I come, the trees, the bushes, the flowers and the plants. Really looks very familiar.

Even before passing by the first check point I can already feel my feet full of sand, one toe nail beginning to get sore. I did not mind it. I can only change to dry socks once outside the forest when no more rivers and swamps to cross, at 30km mark. Now even before reaching the second check point, the fastest runner, Salva already pass by me, followed by Manu and the rest of the second batch of runners who started an hour after us. At the second check point my feet is already sore, I decided to take off my shoes, clean my socks from all the pebbles and sand, refill my water system, pour water on my head and continue on. It's just too hot now. Abhay is just my guiding sign that I am on the right track for the color of his hydration pack is just visible to me even from afar. Reaching the 30km mark is a big relief. Some of the faster runners are still at the station resting, hydrating and replenishing food. All of us know that something is wrong, Flo is on the phone, trying to give instructions to another crew on an accident that happened at the middle of the jungle involving one runner, it turn out it's Gianpetro from Italy that broke his rib from falling on the trail.

Haven't taken much food after changing my socks, I continue my adventure on the next 30km on a well maintained hardened tracks without any shade, a long trail without any turns (it's just flat as far as my eyes can see, no turns, no uphill no downhill, just really flat) under the Cambodian heat. It's just tooo hot. Reaching 40km mark with Tina as the crew and with the kids cheering on my arrival is a big relief. Hearing the sound of the river beside the check point, it's such a nice thought if I can dip myself on the water but we cannot. Until Alastair arrive with a bottle of cold coke. Wow, I wish I have the same cold drink. All I wanted at that time was cold drink, which Al offered us to zip. I did not refuse. Tina offered a $5.00 bill so that I can buy a cold drink along the trail.  I accept her offer.

Abhay walk ahead, I follow with Ed. Now I am just on my  slowest snail pace ever. I am already tired, wasted, exhausted, hungry and can really feel the heat of the sun. Upon reaching a convenient store, we stop, I buy one can of coke and an ice cubes which I wrap on my headwear and put on my head. A cold can of coke and an ice cube on my head is just a big relief. We continue on, until it gets already late in the afternoon, I am taking nothing solid at all which is not a good sign. I know I need to eat something substantial aside from the water that I continue drinking. I cannot take any Gu gel anymore, I tried early part this day but my system just cannot accept it, I spit it out and decided not to force myself to take any of it for the day. 

The three of us reach the last station with the sun almost setting down. Abhay open his beef jerkey which I take a bite. And we continue on. I join  the pace of Abhay, stick to his fast long stride. Ed is just behind us, doing his meditation walk, until he is just too far to be seen. I continue on, focusing my pace on Abhay's pace, it's beginning to get dark, we have to bring out our headlamps. An estimate of 40 more minutes turns out to be almost two hours of fast walk stride. I can feel the blisters on my feet now, my legs sore. But I cannot afford to be left behind by Abhay, the dogs start to bark on us, and worst,  a snake crawling to our direction to the point that Abhay has to extend his hand to stop me from walking, the snake is coming to our direction which I cannot see because I was just looking downwards on less than a meter distance infront of me.

The most awaited glow sticks that will serve as trail signs towards the entrance of  the temple is just taking so long. To my mind, Prasat Boeng Mealea Temple must be very special and precious for it took us this long to reach it. On this unending fast walk pace, I am glad I am with Abhay, we talk so much about running and climbing and beyond. Upon reaching the community we know too well that we are almost there. Until finally the glow sticks beautifully hanged on both side of the entrance pathway of the temple is now visible, event banners are waving up high, and we can now hear the generator, it's now totally dark and been on the field for almost 12 hours. Upon the entrance, it is Manu, the second runner from Spain who greets us, then Salva is there too taking each runner's clock in upon reaching the finish line. Abhay is just too kind to let me cross the finish line ahead of him for few seconds. What a relief. Exhausted, in pain, hungry, all I wanted is just rest. What a great feeling that each runner who finish ahead of us greets us, congratulates us and checks on us how we feel.

Hungry and tired, I look for a vacant tent, put my hydration system and look for my bag. But upon reaching the file of bags, I saw Simon, a star runner from Canada lying on the ground with mat. I cant help but talk to him, until I noticed the local crews' food. Looks familiar, it's adobong kangkong and I look further, I saw a kettle full of rice. Without hesitation I look for the lady crew (so sorry I cant even remember her name now) and ask for some food. At this very moment, all I want to do is eat a real food. Running for almost 3 hours, all I can think of is rice, and this is it. She give me food, rice and kangkong with sardines. That made my day.

I was with Edda on the tent, I wanted to rest early but just cannot, I tried to neglect the sand sticking on my sticky skin but I just cannot avoid noticing it, I can hear the unending snore of other runners, few more turns on my sleeping pad, I feel hungry again. I decided to get up and eat with Alastair at the file of rocks. It is late, only very few runners and crew awake but three more runners are out on the field, still making its way to the finish line.

This part of the course becomes extremely mentally demanding for me. When every part of my body just really feel so painful already, it is my mind that pushes me to keep going. 

Stage 4 (32km)A day of celebration
True enough this temple is beautiful, it's huge and most part has been preserved.
We get up early, though I am not really sure if I ever sleep at all again, pack our things then have everything set for today's run. But before that we make a tour to this beautiful place.
And today is Valerie's birthday, even if we are sad for three runners already DNF from the race, we still have something to  celebrate and look forward to upon reaching the campsite. Race Director Stefan promised us a free birthday dinner at the campsite. As early as now, I already know I will have a real food tonight. What a motivation.

The first 10km is an asphalted road and flat. The next 5km is still on a flat but hardened tracks until it goes uphill on a trail through the ridge with tall bushes passing through local communities and villages then goes to a rolling terrain until it finally enters the forest with big trees and finally descend to Phnom Kulen Water Falls.

This day marks the start of my pricking some blisters on my feet, two on my toe nails and continuously wrapping the blistered part with athletic tape. This has becomes effective. And my drinking of painkiller continues, aside from my blisters, my left calf is not getting any better, in fact it has become more sore. Wearing my running shorts at this time for I feel so warm already when running on my full  tights, it gives minor relief running  on the asphalt road under the scorching heat of the sun. As always I just maintained my slow snail pace, until I notice Edda catching up on me, I tried to keep a pace with her but later I realized it will not do any good to me if I will keep a faster pace on this scorching heat with painful legs already. I let her pass by me and off she goes, what an inspiring sight seeing Edda who has been sick the past 3 days and now recovering and doing strong on her pace. Few kilometers after, I pass by Abhay until he catch up with me as well. Few more kilometers, Robert stop by a convenient store, I have been thinking of getting something cold, but I  decided to proceed.

Until I turn to a hardened tracks now leading to the foothill. The children are too eager to see us, bringing some bundles of flowers, they extend their hands to give it to me.  So sweet of them. Few more kilometers I reach the first check point. Tina is there with her ever cheerful face ready to help me. Opening a bottle of water for me, I did not grab it first, I saw an opened young coconut, she said it belongs to the camera crew. Without hesitation I zip the water of the young coconut, who ever owns it. I refill my hydration system after, pour water on my head and bring out a can of coke, it may not be cold but I know it will help, then off I go to the ascend trail on the ridge.

The bushes are far taller than me, and it's all over the trail. Truly I love the trail part so much, I am just not on my proper trail running attire. Just when I decided to have my running shorts on, it is the day that we pass by this kind of trail. I know too well that I will be having problems with the bushes. But at this point I just cannot do anything about it. Few meters after I catch up with Edda then later with Derek. Passing by a community makes me think to ask for food, but I decided not. One turn on an intersection I saw chicken barbeque, I wanted to buy but I thought I'll just come back thinking that I am almost near the finish line but it turn out I am  not.

The trail  passes by many soft sandy trails until it goes to an uphill hardened track. A never ending turn and turn under several plantation of a certain fruit trees away from the community until I enter again a forest. When legs are tired the 32km distance seems like forever already. I cant wait to be at the finish line. Few more kilometers inside the jungle with big trees, I know I am almost there until it goes down with some tourists cheering on me, down down down, I can now see the river.....wohooo....this is it, with my fellow runners cheering on me, I got confused where the finish line is, until somebody leads me to the hanging bridge, and there is Stefan nicely sitting on his director's chair. Finally day 4 ends with one more young coconut for me.

Our camp is on the open huts with mosquito nets facing the river. And we are allowed to clean our dirty stinky clothes, wash our shoes and socks and most importantly, we are allowed to swim, take a bath. WATER. Happiness. While others are still on the field making their way to the finish line, most of us are enjoying the coolness of the water on the river. I did not even think of going few more meters down to see the 35meter tall water falls. I am having so much fun on the water cleaning every possible dirt that stick to my skin. Oh, what a nice feeling having been able to take a bath, smelling fresh and good.

But on the other hand, our fastest female runner was evacuated due to dehydration which makes all of us so concern of her. Until the chaos settled and finally we hear an update about her condition, that give us a relief. Few hours after, its getting dark, one more runner is still on the field making it's way to the finish line. As the dark comes, despite the circumstances the birthday dinner for Valerie push through. It was a modest gathering on one of the restaurant on the river/waterfalls. Who could have thought they have it there. And the food was great. It's real food with rice. Cambodian food tastes good, I ended my dinner with one more serving of rice. Right after we finish our celebration, the very last runner arrived.

Sleep with a big smile on my face, my legs may be sore, I may have a painful body now but I have so much to be thankful about today, the good run on the trail, the good bathe on the river, the young coconut and the fresh pineapple and most of all the good dinner with real food. HAPPINESS.

Stage 5 Neutralize running
At the end of the day, there is more to life than running. My main concern now is the health and safety of each runner. The very words that we hear from Stefan which sticks not just to my heart but also my soul. While Sophie is still critical in the hospital and the doctor is with her, Stefan decided to call the day a neutralize running. We will still run or walk the trail that we are suppose to race this day but not timed. There will still be aid stations to replenish our water but at this day we can relax, take our time and not force our self to run and race. It still take us the whole day on the field. I just walk, but at this time on a group of runners that most of the time on the lead, Salva, Aisling, Ed, Robert, etc. We are just taking our sweet time walking on the hardened tracks that goes down the mountain. With such pace, the group talk so many things, share individual experiences in running and beyond. What a great experience having been able to hear Salva's adventures on running and beyond as well.

The group arrive the campsite with tents set up at the school ground already almost dark.  This night is no different from the other nights, it's still humid and lots of flying insects. But what is a blessing is that there is a deep well at the other side of the school which we can take a shower to ease the uncomfortable feeling. And the evening is just like no other nights that we are on the tents. Again, it's the Battle between the Germans and the Indians when it comes to providing music of the silent night but really we are just so used to it already, on the last night it's the German that wins.

No matter how I try to get some sleep, I just cannot, probably I am just too excited for this will be the very last night sleeping on the tent, or my body is just too sore especially my legs, my left knee is just too painful that I cannot even bend it if it has been lying on straight position for a while and so hard to straighten it when it has been on bend position for a while. The liniment does not effect anymore. Until I am just counting the passing hours until dawn and morning.

Stage 6 (16.8km) The final moment
This is it. The 6th day of the race. As there are three runners who will start an hour earlier than all of us, we are also up early. I am not even sure if I ever get a sleep at all but at least I am able to rest my sore legs. Now, we have to prepare, pack our things, eat breakfast and be on the starting line for the final day.  All excited.

The usual routine, all gathered at the starting line, listen to the final instructions of our ever vibrant race director Stefan and few minutes after we are all released. The first few kilometers are on the sandy ground until it reach a hard packed trail passing by local communities until it enters the asphalt road passing the temples and temple gates of the Angkor area, beside the Angkor Thom, enter the Bayon Temple and finally finish at Angkor Wat Temple. Running inside these areas is just a nostalgic experience. I've been so amazed with old temples and I never thought I will ever have the chance to run through it. The early start of our race makes us run through several temples on less tourists. Running through temple gates, or beside the temple walls with the view of the temple stupas at the distance is something I will always remember for the rest of my life.

Maintaining my slow snail pace, runners in front of me is just nowhere to be seen, they just sprint the last 16km of this race. Been longing to see the very last temple where the finish line is located. On my last few kilometer with the sight of Angkor Wat on my left, surprised to see my ever running mate, Abhay. We run together towards the temple gate, and slowed down to a walking pace upon entering the stone pathway. Abhay stopped for a picture taken by Steven while I continue on.

I can now see the event banner with my other runners at the finish line, upon entrance to the grass area where we are allowed to sprint, I pull my Philippine flag from the pocket of my hydration bag, wave it on the air with my hands holding it above my head and sprint to the finish line. All the pain in my legs are gone. I can feel goosebumps all over my body as I can hear runners who finish ahead of me and organizing crew as well cheering for my coming, clapping their hands.

Indeed, I cross the finish still standing with a big smile on my face. I survive in one piece. It is an amazing feeling seeing each one cross the finish line, hugging each other for a job well done and taking more pictures on each one as much as we can.

The race challenge each runner's physical strength and mental toughness. The physical training that one puts in prior to the race matters a lot but despite that the race has become  even become more challenging as the race progress, taking care of myself to be well nourished enough to tackle the course to keep the challenge of the race day by day. It's a test of my endurance but more than the physical part of it, it is also about mental strength. After day 2, everything has just become mental.

 No enough words can explain how happy I am for being part of this race. For those who are with me (the runners and the crew), all of them know too well that I just keep a cheerful and happy disposition on the entire duration of the event, be it on the campsite or on the trail. For I promise myself never to think of negative thoughts and feelings while I subject myself on this adventure. I admit it was not easy at all, in fact it was hard and challenging especially seeing our strong runners for some reason cannot continue the race anymore, I am so afraid I might be the next to experience such. But being surrounded with people of the same interest eases that fear inside of me. All of them are just too nice that there was never a day that I feel left out despite my feeling newbie to this field of running. I appreciate each ones concern to one another, all the runners and the organizing crew especially that of the race director. I may have lost several USDollars but I have gained  great memories that is more than enough to last me on this life time. And I gain a new family too.

Of the many days that I spend on the field of Cambodia, this I can say,  I may have the physical strength and the will power to do this race but really it was through the help of the people around me that played a big role of making this dream a reality. They one way or the other helped me provide in this race, monetary,  goods and gears. For I know if it will be me alone, I will never make into this race, I will never be in the starting line or even in Cambodia at all. To Global Limits for giving me the chance to experience a multi staged race, to Sir Desi E. Adaya for the MREs that served as my food in some days, to Chelo and Jerry for some of my gears and the supply of batteries for my head lamp, to Chris and Tina for the place on my lay over before reaching Phnom Penh, for the bread and the chicken adobo, to Rica for all the moral support and the compass and the pineapple before I leave for my trip, to Blue and Elete Electrolytes Asia for my electrolyte drinks the entire race, for Arvin and Era for taking the time to visit me at Phnom Penh the night before leaving to the first campsite.

Thanks to Elete Electrolytes and SLS3 Asia for making things possible for me.

Multi staged race is a challenging one but is one thing that I love to do again, and it would be nicer if it will be on the same group of organizer and runners who become my new found family. What a great way to end the year, gain great memories, found new family. Cheers to all of us.

Pictures posted are courtesy of Global Limits. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cheryl

    I came across your website after clicking around this year's website for the Global Limits Run in Cambodia. I am amateur runner who only started running this year for fun. I just wanted to let you know that reading your story of this run was really inspiring. Thank you for sharing.