This picture only tells half the story. You may see a moment of triumph through the smile and raised hands as I crossed the finish line. A successful outing.
But the unseen story is the effort and suffering climbing the notorious Bukit Kutu* twice and covering the 55km distance on forest trails, some of which were quite technical. Also not shown is the amount of time and effort (supposed to have been) invested into training, running on road and trails to prepare the legs and body to handle the stress. The more you train, the lesser you will suffer during the race. But suffering will always be a part of the game because let’s face it, running a trail ultra is hard.
The lack of training made this race harder for me. I started struggling right from my first ascent up Bukit Kutu so much so that I decided I would stop racing 100km ultras. Retiring so to speak. I was already planning how I could sell or give away my registered race entries and cancel hotels and flights. Taking on these races without training properly is asking for trouble. The problem is I find it increasing difficult to find time and energy to commit to the necessary training.
I have a goal to conquer three 100km ultras this year. If I can pull myself together and achieve them somehow, that would be really sweet. But for every public accomplishment, there is a private sacrifice that is often overlooked. More importantly, these sacrifices aren’t just made once, but repeated over and over again. You cannot run an ultra by just training for a week.
That was why during my difficult solitary climbing moments, I thought deeply about the sacrifices I would need to make if I were to continue with this goal. The time spent running or hiking in the forest will take away the time with my family during weekends. Waking up early to run on weekdays requires much discipline and commitment to let go of indulgences the night before. If I want to be successful at this goal, I must also remember the price I have to pay for the success.
It is funny that when I was suffering during the race last weekend, I was very sure and adamant that I would give up running 100km ultras. But just 2 days post-race, the aches disappeared and the body feels so good that only sweet memories remained.
My son once came back from school and told me something he learned:
Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
So profound. Perhaps this is the reason why I am (again) thinking of going back into the mountains and conquer the ultras lined up this year, maybe.
* Bukit Kutu is a popular hiking spot in Kuala Kubu Bharu in the state of Selangor in Malaysia. Not to be fooled by its name ‘Bukit’ which means hill, its height and distance to the peak often caught new hikers off-guard. Due to its constant uphill climb and technical trails, Bukit Kutu is not to be taken lightly.