Very Steep Mountains!

I participated in Ez Fun #2 – a trail run in the mountains near Taipei. These mountains are located in the north of the city, near Songshan airport. Compared to previous EzFun run a few things were different:

 Now it is May, and the temperature gets above +30 from early morning
These northen mountains are much steeper than their southern counterparts.
The trail is rather wild, there is no stone pavement. Part of the course goes through a brook.
The mountains are higher than those in the south. On the picture you can see the mountain we were going to climb 5 times during that day

In fact, I arrived to Taipei Friday night and stayed in Taipei Youth Hostel since it is located near Songshan airport. It is just an apartment in a residential building and it is located on 11th floor. So you can enjoy a beautiful view from the balcony. In addition, the hostel was half-empty, so I definitely liked my stay there. For some reason, I could not sleep for long during that night (probably a cup of coffee at 8PM is partly responsible for that), However, when I woke up at 5AM I found out that the city was already bustling with life – lots of people on the streets, cars, etc. Indeed, the city never sleeps.

After checking out from hostel I went to 7-11 convenience store, grabbed a cup of cappuccino and chicken pasta, and this was my breakfast. I went by a small park with badminton courts. The thing that suprised me was there were lots of people playing badminton. On Saturday. Before 6AM. And they’ve been playing for a long time already.

Then I went to subway station. The subway train was waiting for me. It departed right after I jumped into the car. Today is a lucky day, I thought.

The race began at 7:30 AM. We were going to climb a mountain 5 times: up and down, again and again. To make things worse, the path was not clearly marked everywhere, so after being 30 minutes into the run we (a bunch of people running together) lost the track. Then the people from behind piled up, in total about 50 people, and they started calling the organizers to clarify the route. After 10 minutes running around we found the right direction and continued.

Since my previous EzFun run in March, I remembered that the most difficult part is in fact the final climb, so I started slowly this time. Typically, the organizers who plan the route try to put the difficult mountain in the beginning, and easy part in the end. These organizers do it the other way round: the most difficult part in the end. And I like it! I like people who push themselves to an edge. This is why we come to such races: try to do something beyond normal!

So, I did not push myself very hard, and because of that I was always surrounded by people. Most of them were pretty young, probably they were students. For some reason I thought that in this kind of difficult races older (and more mature) people should prevail. But the youngsters have a lot more endurance, as it turns out. Totally surprising.

The interesting part is that there is forest only half the way up, and after that there are stones. Really huge ones. You have to make your way really carefully, otherwise you might end up in a big crack in the stones. This becomes especially dangerous during descent. Since I am not used to this kind of runs, I went down very slowly and carefully. But local people went down very fast. Also I noticed that there was not a single stretch of flat surface in this race. Always either up or down.

After about 12km we approached a mountain area with lots of Buddist monasteries. The architecture is really gorgeous, the above image shows the wide ladder leading to one of the Buddist temples. In fact, this is only 1 stretch of this ladder, it has 3 more stretches. And this is really where people started to suffer because of over heating. The organizers provided water stations at every 5km, but this was definitely not enough in this kind of hot weather. Some people were lying in the shadow, some of them throwing up, one guy just sat on the stairs under the sun and was barely able to speak. We called up the emergency for him, I don’t know whether it arrived or not.

So, things got heated as we approached the final kilometers. And there was the toughest climb – right through the stones, no trees near you, the sun burns you all the time. And there is no water (I did not take any water with me, but most other people did; I did not dare to ask them, though, I thought of this as an additional challenge).

My careful tactis worked out nicely: I still had some energy for the final climb. But overheating was a real threat: I felt like I was going to throw up, but I kept telling myself: 10 more minutes and I am done, and this worked out nicely for entire hour. Sometimes it is possible to convience yourself not to throw up… Please, please.

All right, here I approach the finish line. I got my towel (they always give towels after finish), and then immediately grabbed a cup of water. Another one. And the third one. My breathing gets back to normal, I receive my medal. I walk into the shadow and drink ice-tea. My stomach gets back to normal, not going to vomit today. I am feeling lucky!

Well, my time is not that great today: 4 hours 55 minutes for just 19km, but this race is something special. Many strong people are left behind sitting in a shadow, waiting for ambulance to pick them up. And I already crossed the finish line, and hold my certificate of completion, with a deserved medal around my neck. This race re-energized me. I feel like 20 year old now. Again – young and strong! In this big beautiful city that I like so much! It reminds me of my youth that I spent in NYC, but it is even better, as there are no mountains in NYC.

Big city, tough race, feeling lucky.. What can be better?

Date May 5, 2012
Distance 19 km
Time (hh:mm) 04:55