Tuesday 9 September 2014

Bromo half marathon 2014

It's already two days ago that I was just under an hour away for the start of the Bromo half marathon in Indonesia. Now I'm in Bali and enough time and internet access to post this write up. It was a great experience, from the moment of the pick up at Surabaya airport to leaving Tosari again on Sunday afternoon.

Tosari, Indonesia

The market area in Tosari where you can find plenty of warungs (small eateries)

At the Surabaya airport I met Rani for the first time, the transportation manager and we kept bumping into each other at various locations over the next 4 days. I arrived 4th September and also met Jeff who is from Idaho, USA at the airport, who ended up finishing 3rd overall in the full marathon. By arriving a few days early, I hoped to be better prepared and acclimatized for the race. I do think it paid off. I was also in the fortunate situation that I had the time do so in-between the recent PADI IDC on Gili Air and the start of the race.

Tosari, Indonesia

One of the steep roads in Tosari, part of the 10km run

We arrived in Tosari at 1600 meters elevation when it was already dark, around 6pm and the first thing I noticed was how cold it was! After checking into my home stay I immediately changed into long trousers, socks, shoes instead of flip flops and my PADI windbreaker jacket, I was not overdressed for the party, that was for sure!
It took just under 4 hours with the bus and the last hour to hour and half was just climbing the mountain with an average speed of 20km per hour on very small, winding roads with some serious hair pin curves.

Bromo marathon

A great sign; Watch out, runners!

One thing that immediately struck though was the friendliness of the local people. For all 4 days that I was there, children were constantly yelling 'Hello' and also the adults were all smiles, friendly and helpful during my entire stay.

Breakfast in Tosari

My favorite warung in Tosari, where I ate a couple of times per day

Bromo marathon

The half marathon route

One shocker was that my sim card had no reception, I especially stocked up on my internet credit before I left Gili Air, only to find out that there was zero reception from my provider! Luckily I found an official state run kind of post office that offered internet and Teddy, one of the organizer was friendly enough to let me use his wifi at his home. He must have had one of the very few wifi connections in the village.

Wonokitri, Indonesia

Mountain people in Wonokitri

Mount Bromo is well known and is a fave destination for Indonesians and a few Westerners visit each year as well. Sun rise is the big thing here and you drive in small Toyota jeep at 3am to the actual Mount Bromo to witness sunrise. Despite a few invitations by other runners I met, I declined the invites and didn't visit Bromo. What I was told later and from pictures, it's well worth the trip but be prepared for some serious coldness whilst waiting for the sun to rise. 

Bromo marathon

Dutch-Thai friendship united at the race expo

The two pre-race days were filled with exploring Tosari village where I stayed and which is considered the main village in the hood. On the 5th I went to the race expo in Wonokitri, a smaller village some 3km away from Tosari. This was a very scenic small village and I enjoyed the day there, especially after hooking up with two runners who where also on the bus from Surabaya.
All day long there were shuttle buses running between all the surrounding villages, where all the various runners were staying. A very well set up service!

Race gear

My race gear

What was really nice is that you kept bumping into runners all the time. The amount of eatery options in Tosari is limited, so whenever I went for some food, I got to talk to runners. Mainly runners from Indonesia and most of them came from Jakarta. A very friendly crowd indeed!

Bromo marathon

Before the race

A challenge was taking a shower at the home stay. I had a clean and basic room with shared living room and shower facility. It was not until the night before the race that somebody moved into the other room, a girl from Singapore who also ran the half marathon.
Back to the shower though, it was a big basin like water holder, which you see everywhere around South East Asia. There is a scoop to throw the water over your head and body, so far nothing new for me, except the water temperature, it was ice and ice cold, straight from the mountain. Once you got the courage to toss the first scoop over your head, you were good to go. Three hours after the race, when I made it back to the shower, my body still gave off so much heat that the mirror was all fogged up.

Bromo marathon

After the race 

Sunday 7th September was closing in though and race day was coming up! I didn't know what to expect, I did know it was going to be tough with a 700 meters elevation during the race. However, upon arriving it was more than I had hoped for. The roads were steep, no, not just steep, but serious steep!
This was a lot more than I bargained for! 

Bromo marathon

Dusty shoes, feet and legs after the race

My expectations for the race weren't that great and I figured everything under a 3 hours finish time would be good, considering the altitude we started at, 1600 meters and the elevation during the race, another 700 meters and the thin mountain air, lacking the 'normal' oxygen amount. Did I mention trails yet? Most of the race is on dusty trails, something I never ran before. Those trials were waiting, especially on my Vibram five fingers. 

Bromo marathon Rani

Rani, transportation manager, who ran the half marathon, Here's the two of us before the race

Various challenges were thrown into one race! The biggest field of starters was also in the half marathon, 644 runners participated in the half marathon and it was really crowded at the start but I still managed to get a nice, close enough to the front but not completely in front position. I was joined by Bastian, whom I met earlier at race morning, when we were waiting for the transfer to the race, both of us all nicely and warmly dressed up, both of us wondering about most of the other runners already geared up for the race just sporting race gear. We both changed at the venue and Bastian did well, he finished the half marathon at third palce, well done! It was only his 3rd marathon ever. At 20 years of age, he has a good racing future ahead of him.

Bromo marathon Teddy

Teddy, one of the organizers of the race, in front of his house. We were practically neighbors

Once the race finally started, I ran my own pace but I kept running as much as I could. The first 5km were immediately very steep up and within the first two km's the trails started. I passed loads of runners and at a turn point I found out to my surprise that I was placed around 50th position in the field. I kept running my own pace, but I kept running. There were however a few spots where the ankle deep dusty trails were too steep and everybody had to walk. I passed many runners though and soon found myself around position 35. Between km 8 and 15 it was really hard, steep and dusty. Cars and motorbikes still kept moving around between the villages and caused more dust on the trails! It all added to the experience. Once on top of the ridge, around km 15, we had a fantastic view over the plain in front of Mount Bromo and the valley. Absolutely breath taking! Once the descent started, which is normally one of my stronger points, I couldn't keep up the pace and a few runners were able to pass me. At two km to go I decided to pace up but had immediately to deal with cramps in the last km, which allowed another two runners to pass me by. I could just keep another runner a second behind me at the finish, whilst humping over the finish line with another cramp. My overall time was 2 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds. Much better than expected and I finished 34th in the male category and 38th all over. I am very pleased with that.
I had to sit down for an hour after the race though! The thin air and the overall effort dictated this.
It was by far my hardest race to date but my I felt great, enjoying a real runners high and I did so much better than expected and I can only hope to be able to join the race next year again or anytime really.

Many thanks to Teddy and Rani for making it such a great event and a big hello to all my new running friends!

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you-DHA said...

I feel ghoosebump by only reading this :)

Anonymous said...

tks so much for the advice. Valuable for me to decide d distance to run n to prepare myself well :-) cheers