Thailand Power of Ten Update – 16 Nov
As we begin to climb with serious altitude now, slowly the landscape begins to unfold below us.
The road winds and snakes up and up the mountainside, massive trees perch out of the forest canapé like sentries guarding the sacred path to the top. Every now and then the gold paint and mirrors of a temple décor throws a flash of sunlight like a bolt of lightning ripping through the leaves and dissipates into the swirling rolling mist. As you look down the side of the road, it just drops away into the deep dense belly of the forest; creepers, vines and thick brush make it an impregnable path to follow.
It’s been days toiling through the mountains now on our ultimate quest to reach Cave Lodge. The mountains have their own micro climate, changing hourly. The clouds close out the sun with the warm steamy air now trapped below the clouds seemingly picking up in density as the mist begins to evolve. Like massive shredded silk sheets, the mist rolls and intertwines itself with the forest. The mist then turns to drizzle as the clouds blacken with anger. Lightening flashes in the distance as the thunder growls and moans through the hills.
The wind then picks up and down comes the rain. The rain is first a light pitter-patter on the leaves around us then down it comes, slowly intensifying with strength until it’s a loud crescendo of constant noise. Massive drops hit the hard teak leaves and explode then joining up with other drops, reforming and down they come to the next level through the canopy until they finally hit the forest floor, millions of droplets scurrying around, joining up forming into rivulets and within an instant sheets of water are awash everywhere.
Drenched, we take cover under a little home made shelter used by the farmers. As soon as one stops, the cold seeps in from nowhere as our bodies cool; there is only one solution, hit the road and keep warm – off we go disappearing into the mountain mist and rain.
This day always comes.
I often feel that it’s harder than the first, or the middle section. The last bit is always a mental one; it might only be 58 km to go, after just having run over 800 km but, that doubt is always there.
The eternal question that plagues me every day, the nervous ball that never leaves my core, will I make it, will my leg hold? All these things are going through your mind. Playing out every scenario in my mind, every km of the way, why do I keep doing this? Do all of us have this built-in doubt barometer that we have to keep overcoming?
It was a cool wet morning as we left the outskirts of the temple where we had camped the night, ending up about 800 m away from the temple site to get away from the dogs. Andy gave the usual call, “Pick a marker uncle D” that’s it, choose one and start the first 40 minute set, head down and slowly run the stiffness and pain out of the legs, get into that rhythm and nail the kilometres one after the other at between 5:30 and 5:45 per kilometre.
Get into the groove and float. Switch out all the chatter in the mind. Focus, become one with the road and just skim the surface, lift the feet as little as possible, conserve every bit of energy and just nail it.
Set one came and went, set 2 came and went, and then there was this burning sensation on my nipple. I looked down and there was this red streak of blood down my bright yellow shirt – Dam it, the worst chafe. We called Pete and he turned round. I got out my Leatherman and cut a big slice through the shirt across my chest. Problem solved. We then hit the biggest pass of the trip, winding up to 1667 m. I began the climb head down and digging in deep. The leg burn got worse and worse and eventually I could not any more and stopped – I hit that wall and hard.
I shouted back to Andy.
“I have blown, that’s me I have no energy this morning” The next 7 km were a pathetic attempt to try and run, I could not believe it. After all these days, racing trucks up the passes, that’s it I am fried. I ran for 6 minutes, then once again had to stop, I just could not run. It was now down to a walk. Eventually 6 km and 1 hour later we reached the top. Pete was waiting with refreshments and some thing to eat. We sat and reassessed the situation. It was now less than 20km to go. I had to pull myself together!
It’s been 5 days of mountain and rain forest, the misty wet conditions are now the new norm. It’s now literary just down the mountain pass, turn left and then 8 km through a village and there we are. I got up, put on my Back Pack as Andy’s watched beeped,
Pick a spot uncle D! Off we went.
Down and down the hill we plunge all those days have now evaporated, the hundreds of kilometre have been absorbed and converted into throbbing pain in my knees. But it’s worth it, every step of the way, it’s worth it. What I have been through is nothing compared to what a child born with a cleft has to go through. That is the little picture that I have in the back of my mind when the road gets hard and the pain seemingly unbearable – I can promise you out there is some little innocent child that is dealing with a lot worse.
Get up dust off and deal with it.
As we reached a little turn off in the town of Soppong there was a sign. Cave Lodge 8 km.
My heart screamed with joy, the pain and exhaustion drained away. Head down we picked up pace and put our backs into the last few hills. We rounded the next corner into a smaller village and the folk were cheering and hooting as we passed. Further up the road a scooter came racing down at us. Lights flashing, hooting and cheers. It was Marcus and Julie, the organisers of the Thailand Ultra 100. I don’t know who was the happier to see each other, but it was a special moment, a journey completed, a promise kept, a cause highlighted and we are going to make a difference.
The TU charity in the villages that we run through and the Miles for Smiles initiative changing the lives of children globally.
4 km down the road, running through a beautifully forested area and as the canopy broke ahead the famed cave lodge came into view. Welcome signs, cheering staff and guests – what a little paradise. A few days rest lies ahead and then the real beast begins, The TU Thailand Ultra 100.
(A little foot note – on arriving at the Lodge Julie out of the blue offered to do Andy and my laundry – We found out the actual truth today. Julie said- “When I gave you guys a hug on seeing you run in on the last day, you smelt really bad” I must admit we did pong a bit).