Huskocken Billy rapporterar från The North Face Thailand 100K

Sorry for the lack of recipes! These last weeks my family and I have just returned from 6 weeks away in Vietnam and Thailand. I’m back refreshed and excited to see what adventures 2018 is going to bring!

The food on the trip was amazing. There will be plenty of South East Asian inspired dishes coming up over the next few weeks! There were so many fresh delicious salads, and the fish and shellfish were out of this world. Grilled squid glazed in tamarind sauce, Scallops with peanut, spring onion and coriander, Whole baked Grouper with chilli and the most wonderfully mild and nutty garlic. We were in food heaven.

Halfway though the trip I had signed up for The North Face Thailand 100K. After a few days of eating all these treats and washing them ice cold beer, I began to have some doubts of how the race was going to go. We arrived two weeks before race day so, in theory, it would be great to taper the training and be ready for race day. I ran around 35k the first week when we were on the island Phu Quoc, to try to accustom myself to the heat and humidity. It was a stark contrast to the dry cold we have here in Sweden but the shorter runs were fun, the 20k I tried to do before breakfast one morning was not! It was awful, the hardest run I can remember. How could 100k go well if I struggled with a 20k training run?

100k in the notoriously hot and humid Khao Yai area of Thailand, 250 km north east of Bangkok. Last years race the temperature reached 40C! To say I was a little apprehensive is an understatement! I was nervous of the distance, the terrain, I had no idea how the landscape would be in that area. I was having nightmares about deep tropical jungle, snakes, spiders, I read there was even tigers in the area! But the potential heat was my greatest concern. This would be my 8th ultradistance race but only ever in cold, rainy Sweden and England, I couldn’t even imagine how it was going to be.

We got to the area a couple of days before the race, and stayed in a lovely resort called Eco Valley Lodge, 15 minute drive from the race venue, simple rooms but an extremely talented cook, the food was simple and absolutely delicious. It really feels like people in Thailand are so proud of their food culture that it would be almost sacrilegious to not cook with care and love. We had a great time exploring the Khao Yai national park, so many monkeys that were clearly less afraid of us than we were of them. The park is known for some really beautiful waterfalls and they did not disappoint. Once the kids are a little bigger, we’d love to go back and explore some more of the area.

The race started at 05:00, with the weather forecasted as the coldest day of the year! There was a distinct chill in the air and the anticipation of around 250 runners from all around the world. As the gun start went off, I decided to try to keep a decent pace for the first few kilometres. In my previous race a stayed near the back, thinking I’d be able to make places up later in the race and I think I lost some momentum because of it.

Off we went into the darkness. The first couple of hours were fairly uneventful, the course was runnable for the first 35k, rolling hills and a well marked course made life relatively easy. I always start to struggle a little after 3-4 hours, today was no difference but fortunately it was still rather mild temperature wise. It was a bit of a slog going into the half way point, where I was looking forward to changing t shirts, having something to eat and quickly heading off for lap two.

Once I reached the midway aid station, my drop bag was nowhere to be seen and it turns out there was a mix up and it was at the finish line! Fortunately, it was only a few hundred metres away and someone kindly offered to go and pick it up for me. I had some well needed Pad Thai while I waited for my bag, bouncing from toe to toe trying not let my legs turn into blocks of wood. 20 minutes later, the race volunteer returned with my drop bag. So by the time I was ready to leave with a restocked race vest and a fresh t-shirt, my planned ten minute stop had turned into almost half an hour. In hindsight it was a good lesson learnt about drop back marking and paying a little more attention when at a race where you will encounter a language barrier, but I will admit to being a little irritated at the time.

I left the half way point at around midday with the sun high in the sky, temperatures were around 30C now, which for this time of year in this part of the world is remarkably mild. For a runner from my part of the world, the temperature was certainly way hotter than I’m used to. From the half way point to around 80-85k it was tough. I had some stomach problems, which left me off trail several times vomiting, that was a first and something I’ll try to avoid in the future. Otherwise my body felt good, no pain as such but I just couldn’t get a good flow together. The headphones went on and I found myself singing and run/walking for the next couple of hours.

With 15k remaining I spoke to my wife, Christin, she told me that she’d be at the finish line at 20:00 with the kids and never one to mince her words I should push it to get there before the kids became too tired. That was just what I needed, I had roughly an hour left before it got dark. From the first loop I remembered I was about to reach the most technical part of the route, followed by an enormous hill and a mellow downhill on the road leading to the finish line.

After 85 kilometres and more than 13 hours on my feet I felt great. I started moving well and really enjoying myself, the next hour or so were great. I passed a few people of the technical traverse and I pushed it hard on the big hill. It was the most fun I’d had all day and I couldn’t wait to see my family at the finish line. All that remained was an easy 5k on the road.

Foolishly whilst having such I good time, in the previous couple of hours I completely forgot to eat anything. And in the blink of an eye my wheels completely fell off. I bonked hard! I’ve never felt anything like I, my tank was empty. I managed to shuffle along and eat what little food that I had remaining, a sachet of peanut butter (not recommended!) half a pack of salted almonds and some sweets. It was back to basics again, one foot in front of another. Knowing I had almost reached the goal, I managed to start a very slow jog after a couple of minutes and after what felt like an eternity I saw the silhouette of my family in the distance. There’s no feeling like it, seeing the ones you love the most when you are about to complete something that has really taken everything that you’ve got. I had to hold back the tears.

My five year old son, Walter, now started his final dash, demanding that we race to the finish. He was taking no prisoners, I needed to sprint to the finish line. He beat me, he always does.

The day after the race we moved down to the Islands of Koh Kood and Koh Mak. I can’t think of a better place to recover. It was paradise, perfect golden sand and warm clear blue sea. The food was great. The cook at our small hotel came back every afternoon with squid he had caught and fish for the grill. They had a small but great menu full of fragrant soups and curries. And we were introduced to the local brandy, Hong Thong, which when drank with a lot of ice and lime was the best muscle relaxant I’ve ever used.

Returning home to a snowy and freezing cold Stockholm was not easy but after a few days of acclimatization it’s great to be back and running on the frozen trails. This years races are still a little up in the air but it’s exciting to look through and race calendar and see what looks fun! And I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and getting some great new recipes out to you guys!

Happy running, Billy

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