Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov6 - Taroko Gorge Marathon 2010

We were required to be at the train station for our shuttle from Hualien Station to Sincheng Station  at 4.35am/4.45am (Sincheng St is the nearest to Taroko Gorge). We had purchased tickets NT39 per pax + NT900 registration fees (including champion chip deposit NT100).

Shuttle train from Hualien to Sincheng Station

 At 415am, you’ll see ppl walking from their hotels. It had been raining the past few days. Luckily I had brought my umbrella (checked the weather report before coming). Train departed on time and the journey took around 10-15mins.

Shuttle bus at Sincheng Station to Taroko Gorge

At Sincheng Station, we were split between the 5km Fun Run and the 42km/21km Run; because the 5km starts at 8am whilst the others at 7am. So priority was given to the earlier runners. There were various queues located at an open area where shuttle busses were waiting to take the runners to Taroko Gorge. We were sooo amazed at how organized it was. The organizers would count the number of people who would get on board. No one was required to stand nor cramp on the bus. This is a good start.

It was still dark when we arrived at site. The whole area was lit up with spotlights. We made our way to the Taroko Gorge National Park Center for luggage drop-off & last minute toilet-break. Within an hour, the sun started to rise. We could see the scenery welcoming us. To Keat Seong’s dismay, the rain had stopped.

Crossing the bridge to the starting line

An hour before gun time, we made our way to the starting point (the Arch). The MC was really “loud & piercing”, but they got the crowd going.

We were to run 3km out towards the main road, then back again towards the Arch (6km). This was nice & flat with cold wind blowing coz it was open area. After 4km, my body started to heat up.

6km on this road

The Arch to the real road of Taroko Gorge

As we pass the Arch again, cheers from supporters & MC was deafening. This got me more motivated. At this point, we started seeing the incline.

I can’t remember very well what we passed. So bear with me. We first came across the Eternal Spring Shrine, which was a temple in the hills with waterfalls cascading down.

 We ran underneath a lot of tunnels but I didn’t quite like it coz a few of them were pitch dark. This made me very disoriented.
 Then the Swallow Grotto. This route is a tunnel with side openings that enables you to look down at the Liwu River surrounded by long marble and granite canyon.

Oh, I might have my mp3 earphones, but I didn’t bother switching it on. Just hearing the sounds of river flowing, runners footsteps & deep breathing was quite tranquilizing.

Next was the Tunnels of the Nine Turns. I didn’t quite count how many tunnels I went thru, just hoping it wasn’t dark. Seems like there were a total of 38 of the whole gorge. I think this link would give a better picture on what it looks like.

I remember passing Keat Seong (he was on his way back, of course) at this really loooong inclining tunnel. I was practically shuffling my feet. Once I got out, it was another 5km more to the u-turn point at Tianxiang. It was about 18+km from the Arch to Tianxing.

Many supporters were there cheering for you. The water station was extremely equip with their hydration drink, water, biscuits & bananas. First time in a marathon, I was freaking hungry. I had to consistently gulp down bananas. Crossing my fingers it wouldn’t retaliate since I’ve never train myself eating bananas during a run before.

The way back was zoooommiinng coz it was total downhill. Any parts of the route which we went thru scenic, the return is a tunnel. So remember when we went thru the Tunnels of Nine Turns overlooking the gorge, on the way back, it was the vehicle tunnel.

Usually I would hit the wall at 30km, but I felt good. The weather was great and the scenery was superb. But I guess, the time had to come. At 38km, at the last 4km marker, my legs was starting to send vibes to my brain “Can you stop moving even for a second”. Every km that passed from there on felt really endless.

By the time I saw the Eternal Spring Shrine (which was a temple in the hills), I knew I was nearly there. Just another 2km to go. Instead of heading down to the Arch (where we first started), we were directed to another tunnel. I could see finishers walking down, cheering us on. There was even a uncle runner who motivated as he passed by me (I had already slowed down to a walk). I was running with that uncle for nearly 10km. So easy to remember coz he was carrying his own cup. Hahhaha…

Eternal Spring Shrine (another 2km to go)

At the end of that tunnel, I could see a row of port-a-loos (I had using that early morning). I started sprinting. Looking at my watch, another 3mins to sub4.30hrs. Just another 200m to go. I actually felt like crying. Seems like ages getting this PB. It’s so difficult trying to push to better yourself. I can’t say I really trained for this, but it still felt good. I passed the timing mat at 4hrs 28mins (with 2mins to spare). I had shaved off 4mins from my previous PB at Laguna Phuket Marathon 2009 of 4hrs 32mins.
*PB = Personal Best

I got my PB!!

I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel breathless. Just freaking sore. =D

PB = "Perfectly Beautiful" race 

Keat Seong was there at the finish line. He didn’t get his PB (Macau sub4hrs) coz he said he was enjoying the scenery too much. He got his “Perfectly Beautiful” race though.

Great support 

We collected our food and returned our timing chip. Keat Seong even got a gift food box from K-Swiss coz he was wearing his K-Ona. Cleaned up at the National Park toilet, which was extremely clean. Then we started making our way to the shuttle bus to take us back to Sincheng Station, then Hualien Station.

Walking to the bus 

Queue for bus shuttle 

 Food box provided. Ohh...i so love the pork, veggie & rice after a long run

I would definitely recommend anyone this race. As a runner from a humid, hot, wet country, this is a total blessing. You have great organization, great support and most of all great scenery. What more could you ask for!!!

10km – 59.21
15km – 1.35.15 (35.54)
20km – 2.07.27 (32.11)
25km – 2.40.07 (32.40)
30km – 3.11.09 (31.01)
35km – 3.41.03 (29.54)
40km – 4.13.43 (32.39)
41km - 4.15.31 (1.47)
42.195km - 4.28.41 (13.10) *PB*


Kevin Siah said...

Congrats on your PB! Wah, even the medal is so colourful! And did you notice some of your paragraphs rhymed? Haha.

Jenn Jenn said...

10q 10q...haha..i didn't know that. So were u singing?? kekek

Kevin said...

Congrats!!! Will you be running this year?

Jenn Jenn said...

Hi Kevin, thanks. Not going this year. Going for other races instead.

Errr...which Kevin are u?

Kevin said...

I was looking for info on the marathon and I chanced upon your blog. Made me more determined to run. Are you on facebook? You can find my name (Kevin Zhiqiang) there. What other races are you attempting?