Ultra Trail Panoramic 50km, Chiang Mai, Thailand
🏆 1st Place - Perfect Long Run Pacing But More To Give 🏆
This was my first 50k in 4 years. I had been quite nervous in the run up to the event and had been increasing my training load a lot.
In terms of preparation I had been doing long runs for the 4 weeks leading up to the event. These were all around the 20 mile mark and 3 of them including elevations over 4500ft.
I felt prepared mentally and physically to perform and it was quite a relief to be able to get to the start line and just execute my plan. 😄
The route included a substantial flat section before the main climb. Then some rolling terrain until the final 7km to the finish on flat roads.
In order to prepare for this type of elevation profile I had been emulating the profile in my long runs, including flat sections before and after longer climbs.
The checkpoints were really close together which meant I didn't have to carry too much and I opted to take no water until the second checkpoint where I could fill up before the main climb.
I had worked out some rough timings and realised that I could run the whole race below 5 hours which then became the main goal. Rather than focusing on places, I just wanted to use this as 50k experience to build on for the future.
The start was so funny, everyone was absolutely freezing despite it being only 9 degrees. Thai people, and also acclimatised English fell runners, can't deal with the cold very well. I had been training in 30 degree heat for the 6 weeks before and so I honestly was freezing cold. I guess it's good training for heading back to the UK in a few weeks. 😄
When we set off I had a plan of keeping my heart rate in my Zone 2 range, and so headed out at that pace. Within a km I found myself with over 100m of distance between myself and the second place runner and the gap was extending. I looked back and recognised Suki, a local coach and trail runner based in Chiang Mai.
I decided to change my race plan as I really didn't want to be running for 2.5 hours in the dark by myself on unknown trails. I slowed down and started chatting to Suki and we ended up running together for the first 10 miles and having a good craic.
The night before at the debrief a question was asked by a runner who had followed the route on his bicycle.
"I followed the route yesterday and it led to a river, which had no way across. Is there a river crossing or bridge?"
The organiser very comfortably replied.
"Mai Mee" - "There isn't a river"
I couldn't believe it when we got to a river and had to cross up above our knees! I thought it was brilliant how he had kept a straight face. I'm not sure if he wanted it to be a surprise or that he was genuinely not sure. Anyhow it made for an entertaining few minutes.
Suki was going for it in the race because he was pushing the pace a lot on the climbs, whereas I was just sticking to my Zone 2 which I can keep by feel now. So I would drop behind on the rolling terrain and catch up after. In fact it was a real confidence boost for averaging my effort out correctly.
We hit the start of the main climb. To be honest, I was quite cold because my heart rate was in the 130s, which is recovery pace for me. I decided to just push up the pace a little on the climb and see what happened. That's when I began to move away and realised that I should probably continue the effort for the rest of the race.
I continued up the climb at a nice comfortable pace, a lot slower than the tempo efforts I had been doing in Chiang Mai in the buildup. Then some rolling terrain and the middle checkpoint at 20 miles. I felt really comfortable so ramped up the effort just a little and didn't walk any of the climbs from that point.
I knew that at 25 miles I would hit the top of the main climb and so if I had some energy left I could smash it down that. The muscular endurance I had been building previously on big descents came into its own and I let my legs fly.
The last 4.5 miles were on road. Wowser, that was tough. Honestly I was pushing my muscles as hard as they could go, and I was only running 7:30 minute miles. My body just didn't want to go any further. The last mile and my core started to cramp, which happened earlier in the year in the Manchester marathon. But it was a mile through the tourist are of Pai so I just kept going.
Coming into the finish was funny. The race organiser on the loudspeaker said:
"Christopher Phillips, From The United States Of America, Champion of 50K"
I had a quizzical look on my face as I came through. I've been called Australian, German, Dutch, but never American before. I'm not sure the flags look similar but there you go. I'm sure that the race finish photos will look really funny as I look confused and bewildered.
After the race I made sure to eat lots of fruit and white rice which the organisers were handing out. I had seen this from friends before in Thailand. The fruit is just great for replacing water lost and getting that anti-inflammatory action. The rice just replenishes those glycogen stores. After I had some really nice veggie food which Pai has in buckets.
We then waited for a long time to receive the race trophy from the organisers. First it was 12, then 12:30 and finally around 1pm we were called to the stage.
It was great to see that Suki had held on for 2nd place, comfortably ahead of everyone else. He's an upcoming talent in Thailand and I look forward to seeing more of his results and achievements in the future.
Here are some thoughts after the race to consider moving forward:
- Nutrition - For me solid food will always be best. Sweet potatoes and dried mango were brilliant. I had two gels in the last 8 miles just to keep the energy levels high. I took too much food!
- Pace - This was a really conservative pace for me. I felt very slow and sluggish and know I could run much faster. Next time I run 50km I will push myself much more. I know I should have ran all the hills and pushed the flats a lot more.
- Race Kit - Salomon Race Vest was just brilliant. So lightweight and easy to fit everything in. The only issue I found was some soreness on my ribs the day after, but I feel that might be pretty normal.
- Footwear - I always run in New Balance 1400s. They are a racing shoe, but I just feel so comfortable in them over long distances and feel like they have strengthened my feet and calves to withstand the pressure. I'm going to consider getting some more durable trail shoes in the future just to reduce the cost. Everyone is raving about Altra Lone Peak 4 so I might give them a bash.
- Core Strength - At the moment I don't do any core strength work. From this race I can clearly see that I am a lot stronger than earlier in the year but I still had cramps in my core muscle groups at the end. I am going to consider incorporating more strength sessions into my weekly schedule.
I'm looking forward to building on this. I want to improve my speed at these distances and be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges of 2020.