The last 2 days all I was doing is sitting on the couch, foam rolling, eating ridiculous amounts of fish oil and then foam rolling again. Why such a meaningless existence, will you ask? Well, my friends, I am sore, Very very sore. Painful-to-sit-on-the-toilet kinda sore. And all of this thanks to a little race here in UAE, called BIG Stinker, organized by Urban Ultra. Stinker Indeed. Or I would rather call it Puker, because that is what many of us did during that race, Including moi. But lets keep all the juicy details for later.
The race was a 12 km loop, 6 uphill and 6 down, and you had a choice to run 1, 2 or 3 loops. Me and my BF have obviously chosen 3 loops and thought it would be a great preparation for an ultra in June. Easy peasy, you will say, just 36 km! Wait till you see this:
This is the elevation profile. Now all those of you who live in some places like Boulder or French Alps with gorgeous mountains and hilly trails can stop reading right now. Here, in Dubai, we live on a pancake. We run on a pancake as well. What does this mean? Exactly – speed bump on the road is considered a serious hilly obstacle and 600 m climb over 6 km IS a problem for us, sissy UAE runners. Occasional weekend runs in Hajar mountains do not count as serious hill training. Add 38 degree heat to that and you get what you call a real “Stinker”.
We checked part of the course once with Al couple of weeks coming to the race and knew that it is going to be a tough cookie.
The race started at 7:30, which is fairly late for this time of the year in the desert, it was close to 25 degrees and temperature was slowly creeping up. We came to the start point at 6:30, checked in, got our numbers, had a quick banana breakfast and met some friends. Looking around I saw some super-fit people in awesome gear that looked like they meant business, like this one girl with the most amazing quads I have ever seen in my life (i’m not gay, she really had great quads! She actually won the women’s 36 km race with some amazing time for the course!)
Anyhow, enough about legs. It was 7:30 and off we went. The first 2 km of the course go through some little farm and are pretty flat, so everyone went out fast. And then – BOOOM! Comes the first incline. Most tried to run up it. I knew what was coming further, so I jogged a little and then mostly power-walked. The next 1.5 km are small rolling hills going up, pretty runnable, and then came the second big incline going up to the 6 km check-point. I was trying to power-walk and get up there as fast as possible. After the check-point, that was basically a car with some water, isotonic and oranges in the boot, the course is looping back to the start line with 6 km of downhill. Running downhill kills your legs, if you didn’t know. But I flew down that road like there is no tomorrow, overtook a bunch of people and was kinda trying to make up for the time lost on the first 6 km uphill. 1 loop done, 2 more to go!
2nd loop was less crowded and I would say pretty lonely, with just a couple of runners in my sight. It was obviously slower and harder than the first, my legs were getting tired but it was manageable and I was trying not to die completely before the 3rd final loop. I passed several guys who were walking and complaining of muscle cramps and was really happy that my little legs are still working the way they should. It was getting really hot by that point and my back was burning under the backpack. I quickly refilled my bottles at the checkpoint, stuffed my running bra with ice, which made people laugh (seriously – its an awesome way to cool yourself down. For women obviously. Men don’t wear running bras I think. I might be wrong though) and took off for the last loop. A friend of mine, Alex, was there at the checkpoint and told me that BF had passed through around 15-20 minutes ago. Fast bastard, I thought, no way I am catching up with him on the third loop.
3rd loop was a real torture. It was hot, my legs were very tired and refused to run, I had a blister forming and both the inclines seemed like a vertical wall. Then I saw some poor guy puking his guts out. And it made me feel better, No, I am not a total heartless bitch as you might have just thought – I asked him how he was, offered him my water and electrolytes, but I also told myself at that point “hey, you see, you are just tired, you are not that bad! Keep moving and stop wining!” The last 6 km down were actually the hardest. Legs were aching and I had to slowly trot down the major inclines. No more flying at that point. My stomach also started playing up, I was beginning to feel nauseous and was afraid that the first thing I do crossing the finish line is puke. Luckily it didn’t happen then, it happened later in the evening. Not joking. Heat exhaustion I guess.
Crossing the finish line was really awesome! There were not many people left, but those who stayed back were cheering up like I have broken a world record. What I later found out is that more than half the runners who started the 36km race bailed out and finished only 1 or 2 loops! So it somehow happened that I managed to finish 3rd woman, my first ever podium finish (insert drum roll here).
BF did great as well, finishing 4th despite feeling like shit for the second part of the race! That is true determination.
Great race overall, rarely you can get an opportunity to race on trails in Dubai and I think the organizers did an awesome job! It is also one of the last races in the running season here, so definitely a must-try for anyone in and around UAE.
Things that could have been better:
- Start a little earlier – 7 or 6:30 AM will be perfect
- Race has no medals. I mean, come on, you need a medal! Its just weird to race and not get a medal. Nuff said.
- The second check-point on top of the mountain was running out of water towards the end. Its hot and as a rule people under-estimate how much they drink on such a challenging course and need to refuel.