Mongolia Sunset to Sunrise
Hovsgol National Park, Moron, Mongolia
This race was first run in 1999 and many of my friends have asked me how I discovered it..well that is the beauty of Facebook! The moment I saw this race as a pop up and after doing so research I was hooked.
I flew out to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Friday 31st July to run this amazing race. The race covered a distance of 100km and starts at just before Sunrise and the cut off time is sunset. I had 18 hours to complete a course of 100km (60 miles). The race starts 1,645km above sea level and my total elevation gain will be 3,365m. At my height point I will be at 2,300 metres above sea level.
The race is set in the North of Mongolia in a place called Moron (seriously you couldn't make it up) Moron is an hours flight from Ulaanbatur on a rather tiny plane and the total luggage allowance is 15kg including hand luggage - had to pack light for this one..
The race starts at 1650m above sea level and we had 3 days to acclimatise before hand. The course is pretty much off road but marked out using green paint (little bit challenging in a forest of trees but adds to the adventure).
As the event takes place in a national park this is the only way the organisers can mark the course in an environmentally friendly manner. In the past they had tried using colourful ribbon but the local Mongolians took the ribbon to decorate their yaks and I guess some of us stupid runners would follow a yaks in circles for hours and hours before we realised we were lost so the organisers scrapped that idea!
The start and finish line is our campsite. On the day we started by doning head torches and started running through the woods trying not to trip over trees and roots and face plant into yak poo!
By the time it got light I had climbed the first 'hill' at 2300m the down was tough as it was steep and rocky slowing me down as I'm not so confident on the downs but I made it without doing too much damage to my quads.
We had a lovely flatish section for 10k ish running through beautiful valleys and dry rivers before the next ascent to 2150m.
This was really tough. The incline was incredibly steep and navigation was tough as the forest was so dense. At times i was on all fours as we had to climb over trees too. Under foot was really spongy.and mossy and we crossed little steams too..unfortunately this was where my old achillies injury decided to rear it's head and mosquitoes decided to eat me this slowed me down significantly. Nonetheless, I got to the top of the second 'hill' and started the second descent whilst just as steep as the up I wasn't as scared as the grass surface was much more user friendly to jog and slip on....also the singing crickets sort of numbed ones fear. 35K CP done and dusted and off to the next Checkpoint which was 42K it was great to see the lake and know the worst of the hills were now behind be!
Jogging into the 42K mark I had a glug of coke and some salty dark chocolate and cracked on via a heard of goats to the the next Checkpoint at 55k.
This was complicated ... open green fields and looking for green markers....thankfully a couple of days before the race a team of us went of a recce as a chap front HK got lost in this very area for hours 2 years ago..... he didn't want a repeat of this so we explored a little....however as I go deeper in the wilderness it was tough and slow looking for markers....but just as I felt comfortable as I could see lots of markers through the trees they suddenly stopped at what felt like a forest cross road......where to go? I nervously explored each path looking for further marks and trainer trackers and finally made the decision to go straight .... later when I got back to camp I was told by Julia one of the course marker that some of the trees had been cut down AFTER they marked the course and they didn't realise until the day of the race....marvellous!
I some how managed to stumble across horse fly that decided to join the great 'Joey Feast' with the mosquitos! I did ask about flying biting things at the start of the race and told I had nothing to fear....at the end of the event the organisers told me they had never known anyone to be bitten as much as me.... how special did I feel NOT no amount of antihistamine was sorting out this problem I have bitten calves and arms and looked this arnie! Next year in addition to the warning beware of dogs ...another warning will be made for flying biting things!
Through the forest I could see something that looked like a road and I could hear a strange cooing noise..... turned out one of the Marshalls at the 55k CP could see me and was helping me in. Unfortunately, at 55k I made the decision to stop...it wasn't easy but I so many other races to run in the year as part of my £100k for 100 years challenge I couldn't afford to do anymore damage to the achilies. MS2S was a fantastic experience and I will be going back next year as the UK rep for the event and to complete the 100k!
Highlights of Mongolia...
The event was excellent and all the checkpoints were well stocked with vegetables, jacket potatoes which are fab when dipped in salt, water, tea, biscuits and other Mongolian snacks. My only criticism would be of the food before the event you are vegetarian you might struggle a little and it is worth taking rehydrated food. There are no sports shops in Moron so make sure you don't forget your energy gels because you won't able to buy anything like that once you get to the camp.
In preparation for this event I had been training at The Altitude Centre in London. As you climb higher, the air becomes thinner. each lungful at altitude gives you less oxygen so your body has to work harder to maintain the supply. to successfully reach the heights I will be running at I am training to pre-acclimatise my body to better cope with the lower oxygen levels at altitude. The room I am training in is simulated to 2,7100m and I run, walk, cycle and row, at this level I am training with 15% oxygen). In addition to training at altitude I have been pre-acclimatising my using 'The Pod' where the oxygen level drops to 10% and is the equivalent Kilimanjaro circa 5,500m. The team at the altitude cetre are great and the high intensity training challenging but I can see and feel the benefits of training at altitude and I will continute to use this facility when training for KAEM.
For more information about The Altitude Centre or The race please go to:
The Altitude Centre www.thealtitudecentre.com
Mongolia Sunset to Sunrise www.ms2s.dk