UTMB Thailand – Cliffs 100kms, 10th December 2022 – Start Local and Dream for Global!

Incoming the first ever international ULTRA Trail experience of life and yes, we are at Thailand by UTMB 2022 and here to gun down the peaks in the 100km category that can last upto 30hours. Phew!, The elevation stats are already a worry. But no going back it now, see ya Bangalore and Swadikha Chiang Mai.

UTMB stands for Ultra Trail Mount Blanc and this race happens in France. You can enter the lottery for France event provided you have collected the gems over other sister and brother events that are hosted under the same umbrella. FYI, UTMB France is THE GOAL!
Read more about UTMB world series here:-
Why thailand?, one being easy access and second, a comparatively affordable options on short notice among the other series of UTMB events. This was indeed a test of mettle for us boys going out to venture the unknown territory. Heaps excited and Heaps nervous too. Guess, it’s the part of the game. So be it! Yaay.
Alert! Alert! Alert!
This is going to be a looooooonnnnggg read. Because it’s just not about the race , it’s the entire experience like it always is.

Landed a week before the run event in Chiang mai to get hang of the weather conditions. It was hot but not that humid. This was after all Chiang Mai and not Doi Inthanon where the event was held and was comparatively cold which was underestimated . Couple of nights in Chiang Mai and we pushed off to Doi Inthanon. 
Traveling from airport to Chiang Mai hotels and around the city can be done using the local red or yellow taxis. Bikes are available on rent too and ranges from 200-350 baht per day. Download apps like Grab, Klook to check around good information of the localities you choose to stay in. 

How did we reach Doi Inthanon?
Book the Airport Line bus that operates from Chaing Mai Airport to Doi Inthanon National park.

We took the bus on 7th December and had a pickup time of 2pm which never happened. Guess it was too early for the organisers to expect runners to reach the location in advance. After a long wait, we got picked by 4:15 pm but had to halt at a school to pick volunteers at 5pm and then head to our destination. The journey from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon is around 2hours or less. We had booked a homestay 5kms before the end destination and got dropped by 7pm.

All of this is managed by Running Connect.
They also host a app LIVERun where you can track your progress and friends progress on the race day and the app needs to be mandatorily installed and is indeed a help in lot of ways at the event.
There is WiFi available at all hotels. You can still buy a SIM at general stores and enjoy the 4G network across Thailand. It works cheaper too. A 50baht SIM + 200 baht data package is worth. And also, since I was working, I had to pick this up in addition to keeping my SIM number always available internationally for work. After all, it’s work that helps me pay for all the expenses:).

So, we finally reached the homestay by late evening. You may want to search and book your stays well in advance. Booking.com does not have them listed. You can use Google map or Facebook for enquires. Most of the homestay were booked and we were lucky enough to get one that was getting built. This was a very basic room with just a bed to crash. Washrooms were outside and Wifi was available free of cost. This was 500 baht per day for a single bed.

Google location:-
รังบนดอย บ้านพัก
081 168 0382
Home for the next 5 days. Minus one night by the way, as it was spent on the trail. 


A good night sleep was all that was needed on day 1 or rather the 1st night. Doi Inthanon seems colder and gave Bangalore vibes in terms of weather. The night had me rub on the wrong side and guess what it lead to :(. The left eye was swollen due to excessive fiddling with the irritation I developed in the bed.

This cured in a days time though. 
And it was now the time for BIB pickup, the excitement levels as well as the nervous levels were talking that plunge of anxiety. 
Headed to Doi Inthanon National Park Head Quarters that hosted the mega event for 5000+ runners from 60+ countries. This made me feel proud and miniscule at the same time looking at the adundance of ultra runners displaying character without uttering a single word. Every face had a story to tell and was more than eager to experience it first hand. 
The mandatory gears are given a thorough check and only they you qualify to pick the BIB. It doesn’t end here, if you do not happen to carry all that with you on the race and are found in violation, you can be fined interms of time or disqualified from the race. After all, this wasn’t just for them to ensure they have made their rules clear but it’s about you too who cluld be a lone survivor in the trails and the only immediate help is you.

Read more at:-
Note:- If you don’t happen to find some gears in your country, no worries. The stalls at the expo have it all sorted for you and you can buy on the go prior to the BIB collection.
BIB number 9277 was now ready to represent India at UTMB Thailand 2022 – Cliffs 100kms.

Talk about shopping, Iam a online buff but be it for sports, I can go overboard. It was more like getting to know all the ingredients for a perfect meal. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and promised myself to get a few for sure on the way back to India. After all, this is what we live with and keeps us miling too. Be the shoes, the running backpack, trekking poles, attires, socks, sunglasses, support equipments, the only paradise you could ask for at a running expo. No wonder running comes at a cost to bear the brunt on those never ending trails. No  socks have mine have ever lasted longer. It was time to put some thought together and run the trials and deliver the best. 

A day and two nights to go for the ultimate race of the year 2022. The start time for 100kms was scheduled at 5am. The event had also organized for bus pick ups from chom tong to the start line but it worked tricky for us as we stayed just 5kms away from the National Park Head Quarters. Lucky us that a team of four localities stayed at the same resort and were kind enough to drop us to the start line. A night past followed by a full day of rest.
Had a okeish sleep that night as jitters continue to haunt my thoughts. This was majorly due to an overwhelming experience at the expo where the who’s who had turned up and left us stunned just from the appearances and interactions here and there. Talking to a few veterans explaining how beautiful and stretchorous the route is going to be left me spellbound. At this moment, I am thinking what should be the title of my blog. Attempted UTMB or Done and Dusted UTMB Thailand. I definitely felt minor in all aspects and could only wish to show up full heartedly at the start line no matter what the result is going to be.
The day was a working day and continued as usual and just as such I thought that my head started spinning with mild headache in the morning and I waited for it to settle down. An hour of sleep could help but this time it has something else in the store. The headache didn’t seem to rest and continued during the second half of the day. By now, I had to pop up a pill so that I can atleast finish work and take rest during the latter part of the day. But it just didn’t budge. Such excruciating pain had been experienced after a very very long time. I ended up throwing up outside my room and almost puked my guys out. This was bad, real bad but eventually it cleared my system and with some more rest, the headache was finally wearing out slowly. This was a major relief. A pre race meal in India always comprised of Dal Khichdi but it was hard to get by in Doi Inthanon. The need to eat more soupy food made me uneasy and I was looking to eat something sweet that night. Nor did I feel like having too much as my system could not handle it that well. Ended up with some rice and veggies but packed it anyways and bought some sweet waffle and wafers to settle my urge to eat something sweet.
Returning back home after that last meal before the race was something that I never thought of. It wasn’t a satisfactory meal and the weakness that was getting developed was not good sign either. Looked at the moon one last time before hitting the bed and wished for all this to go away by the time I woke up in the morning. 

A 5 hour sleep or so and we were back on our feet getting ready for the ultimate game of life event. This couldn’t get any bigger and there was no turning back anymore. Actually, no options left to do so.
Run was scheduled to begin at 5am and everu effort was being made to reach the venue well in advance. The fellow Thai runners staying at the same homestay were kind enough to give us a ride and our worries of getting to the start line was comfortably handled. We last minute hydration bag check and drop bag checks, we loaded ourselves on the back of the traveller. Attended the natures call once and could ask for second. This was the first of it’s kind and was expected since there was hardly any intake of food the night and the day before. 

A yogurt and a cup of muesli was planned just over 30mins before the run. The hunger kept growing but eating and not running on heavy tummy was a no brainer then. So water and electrolytes were the way ahead and some muchies as backup. 
Headed to the start line and had all I could ask for the race to begin in no time. With doubts still in my mind as I continue to judge my physical health that would allow me last as much as I could. I guess it was on the adrenaline rush that got my feet moving when the air horn blew. The route was majorly tar in first 3kms or so and then proceeded to the trails. This being single trails, there was a clutter in no time and had to make way by the sidelines and move ahead. That’s the usual me not willing to waste time in the initial phases of the run. There wasn’t any day light yet , hence the head torches were a must. Please note that random gear checks can be done at such races and you may be asked to stopped if seen not adhering to any of the regulations. After all, its for your own safety that will help you keep going even in adverse condition. Bottom line is , to run with all the mandatory gears as prescribed by the race organizers. 
Had been running with three layers now, compression tee, t-shirt and a wind proof jacket and yes, it was a bit cold and therefore had the buff and the cap ON too.

Here’s the elevation profile, three climbs in the initial 25kms were dreadful. With 2 hours left for the sunrise, it was advisable to cover as much as possible in the cold weather before the sun starts to burn you out. If you look at the third peak here, it just felt never ending. Quite a climb with acute steepness and was one of the highest of all the peaks that had to be conquered. You could literally kiss your knees while climbing the whole time. The mud below your feet was quite moist and getting a grip on it was tricky. The only advantage that worked on in this case was the freshness in the legs as compared to the latter half of the race. The feeling when you reached the top was unbeatable. This felt like a milestone that made everyone scream on top of their voices. I managed to click a few for the record

and that’s the best I could against the sun.

From the top, the journey to the next checkpoint began. The amount of dehydration caused during the initial hours already had me consume a lot of water from my hydration bagband needed a refill. This has to be startegised well too because the aid stations were placed 10kms apart. The downhill was quite steep and it was just gravity I suppose was pulling me down. I just went with the flow. 
Here’s a published list of aid stations which I had to keep a track of and worked as shorter goals for me to achieve during the entire ordeal.

The downhill lead me to the next water station. Stations marked as W provide only water and electrolytes. The rest of the aid stations had refills for snacks, fruits, soups, chocolates etc.
Every aid stations had a milestone that gave information of the next station and the kilometer readings. This helped in planning your pace well to ensure you don’t miss the check point timings. At this moment, gauging the checkpoint timing was the last thing on my mind as I had advanced a fair bit and had not to worry about it yet. 

So W2 happened and then I proceeded for another 5kms stint just to get some food in my system. This was important because of the last nights episode that dehydrated me to a extent and couldn’t have much food due to the upset stomach. The yogurt and muesli mix before the race is all I had and kept me up till the hunger pranks started playing up. Hence the 4th checkpoint was utmost important for me to load and eat some food. A cup of rice and veggies with boiled chicken was sumptuous. Packed a few oranges for the route but there were surprises in the store for me. The feeling of throwing up was making its way and in no time, I ended up throwing up all that I had. Now again, it was just water that me up and going again. When hungry, I dared to eat the oranges while on the run but ensured I did not gulp as many as it could lead to the same situation that I had been in. 
This was new for me and pushing it hard on the track was a dicey situation that I had to handle so that i don’t run on steam in a drastic manner. A slow process of even consuming electrolytes along with water and oranges is the only survival plan I had in mind. All that now I had to judge is how much longer can it last because I was very well aware the body is going to start asking for solid food. A steady progress is all that I was looking for in terms of the mileage gain and also keeping a tap on the weakening and lack of energy that prevailed throughout this run. 
Phew! By now you could see a lot of negative incidents happening and this was just beginning. While this happened, I chose to think about what has been positive so far. Still standing on my feet and carrying that will to keep moving ahead had given me the much needed boost. I reckon all the strength and fatigue training had played a major role here. Also, not to forget the learnings from major trail run that I took part in India. Be it the hot sun at jumping gorilla trails to the bone chilling cold at Solang Sky Ultra that left a scar for life could never be forgotten and was indeed remembered while I was headpast in this yet another mind baffling trails of Doi Inthanon. 

As the day light ended after a good 12-13 hour run, prior to which the drop bag location at 49th km had come in handy to breath in some new fresh clothes as a feel good factor and does works wonder for some. The food again was attempted to check upon my thresholds again to throw and dear life, it happened again. I ended up puking my guys out. From now on, it was a no brainer for me to be alive on water, orange and Electrolytes. This was the only recipie that can keep me off from throwing out all that I intend to eat over the period of time.
The head torch was out again and within an hour I lost the juice in it. This took quite some time for me to realise and eventually had to switch to another head torch that was carried as a part of the mandatory gear check along with battery backup. I was thankful for having been sorted in terms of the light that was needed on the pitch dark trails. A steepness and the slippery trails just didn’t stop doing what they do best, and that was making every foot rest questionable just so that you don’t trip over a stone or a tree or roots of the ground.
The streams were getting tricky too and you had to escape it to avoid cold feet during the run. 
From 30th to 35th km, the progress was comfy and just when you begin to go with the flow, the rolling hills till the 48th km are head bending. By now thoughts had already trickled down my mind on whether to continue the race considering the severeness of fatigue level my body could reach due to lack of food. Though I was carrying a backup for food and if need be could be gulped to a extent rather than chewing because by now everything that touched my tongue lead to the pukey sensations. With mixed feelings the first step I took was slowing down a notch which was also the need of the hour during night time and a restricted visibility range and extent. The trail could trip off the dead man walking in no time and was too technical to handle in the darkness. Important tip here is overcoming the fear of the dark. You have to deal with these on ultra events like these and choosing to do those 4am training runs are of utmost benefit.

Now, 4 more checkpoints to reach the 83rd km and then the major task for waiting ahead. Thing was the next checkpoint was only after 14-15kms and could get tricky if I hadn’t stuffed my hydration pack with enough water and nutrition. At this point, nutrition was only limited to orange but I did carry a backup of other muchies just incase if things were any better. But medically, when you body is undergoing a lot of fatigue, your immune system can take a hit and can be less tolerant to foreign elements. The plan of setting shorter goals continued and there were times when even gulping could give me the pukey sensations and I stuck to gulping sips ofwl wate rather then tasting it. I managed to have soup at one of the stations as it was getting cold. And no no, i did not gulp it, it was piping hot for me to even think of doing it. I took it slow, one spoon at a time. By the way, all that you eat at checkpoint have to be served in your bowl and your beaker that you carry along and is a part of your mandatory gear. This can be a good investment considering the Covid Norms and also if you are a outdoor person who like to hike and want to minimise the weight of the bag you carry along. 

Among the 4, there was only one station that served food as the map profile indicates and the rest comprised of a water station and the other had refreshments and not food. Hence, it gets very important to plan you food intakes too as you may be left starving if you are hoping to have a good meal option at any of the stations. Also, at the same time, you tend to eat less as the appetite takes a hit at times and you choose to opt only for liquids that can quench your thirst and at this point nothing tastes better than water. 
Tagging along a partner or a fellow runner was out of question here or may be some could end up finding a equally paced runner and the others were the lone survivors. The darkest hour is what we can call it as you are at nature’s mercy now to allow you run through the dense vegetation and peak a boo moonshine that can only remind you of ghost and vampire stories in the night. Mind you, such though do kick in but the goal at hand is all that keep you in mobile and you are ought to reach the next destination. I did see a couple of runners sitting on the trail for some recovery or may be grab a small nap prior to proceeding again. 
Stations past by and in comes the A13 at the 83rd kilometer. Now with less than a half marathon left to finish, the body has broken physically and the willingness to give up on the race passed through a million times. This is when the all the critics that took the liberty in raising the bar and making UTMB sound special is a 100 percent true. This wasnt easy and it want easy for me to continue with just water in the system. I begged for the race to finish but hardwork had to be done if I had to experience the ultimatum, so be it the finish line or me falling on my knees and being submissive of the fact that it needs to end here and cannot risk any further. I took a moment here to think about the events I have run and the conditions that prevailed during those treacherous runs. The only question I asked myself, was it any tougher out here? Solang gave me 32 hours in the making of the most hell bent races in India and yes , it was indeed a 100km run and far more worse than what I was going through here. That gave me the much needed boost to keep moving forward, keep miling forward and plan the recovery after every other kilometer by reducing the pace and taking that moment to sip in some water. With this strategy, there was no giving up, not today. This wasn’t a do or die situation for me, it was all about doing. Yes, it was all about doing and letting my fellow runners back home know that this can be done with proven techniques of survival of the fittest. Don’t just bring in the mileage to the table, work your strength down to every muscle you carry. This needs to be a complete package and just not your legs moving. Well, the spirits were certainly high when you look forward to telling your stories to your near and dear ones and breaking down emotionally at some point of time seems much much easy then trying to be strong or show you are stronger within. 

I would like to admit here that I had mostly kept the fact of me attempting the UTMB event under the wraps and only chose to divulge information to folks who questioned about the next big what. At LAULTRA, I did experience the social pressure when people look upto you and cheer you ahead to make the best at your run. The overwhelming responses and a mindset of expectations make you do things that you may not have wished to do but only do it because of all the emotional and moral support you carry. At the same time, it’s you that has been putting up appearance at events consistently and making a mark gives you that notch to be the best of the breed or atleast stand out of the crowd mattered every bit.
Now comes the last bit from A13 to A14, a stretch of approx 15kms and as a matter of fact, I had already prepping myself to do this last bit without any haste. Afterall there was no giving up now. At this stage, the idea of surrendering to your biggest fears had doused down. Those miles had to be gunned down and ofcourse not getting overboard with the abundance of emotions I was developing within. A tear or two tricked here and there only to believe in yourself that you made it this far despite all the odds. The only feeling I carried now was to finish and tell the world that it is over, the job is done and I made to the finish line well within the expected time set by UTMB which was over 27hours. I just lived the entire last leg on this very admiration of self. 

The uphill was again a mammoth climb, and even if it was not it did feel like one owing to prevailing conditions that I was in and would never want to be in one in my next run. Learnings, Learnings and only learnings and so much to share about the trail running culture that was witnessed. 
Okay now, just when you reach A14 at 99th km, your moment of joy could be short-lived if you hadn’t already read through the route details of it being 104kms and not 100km. Also, this is another comfort zone that intend to develop whole doing you trail runs. The distance for that matter can be more at times and you have to be prepared for such impromptu changes at any given running event. Just accept it as yet another challenge and be a part of the game and take the liberty to vent out at the organisers later at the finish line 🙂
5kms more to the finish line is all you see at A14 and doesn’t matter at this point how much you stare at the milestone standees, it will not show any mercy and as a matter of fact don’t expect any because you dont deserve any, all you deserve is a pat on your back and shoulder to cry on if you have to and let go off all the emotions you have built within for the past 24 hours. 
And yes, it’s a trail again through the pitch darkness as we head to glittering streets of Doi Inthanon that celebrates the finish of every runner that crosses the finish line. The buzz of the celebrations could be heard from a distance and seem never ending, the sound kept me going due to the imagination I was building within of being there at last and putting an end to the journey. A journey that has given the highest sense of achievement while representing nation at a platform where 5000+ runners from 60+ countries stood at the starting with only one intention – Make History happen! 
And while a lasting impression were being left, folks back home are also gunning for your finish and that very call in the wee hours meant a lot for me to just breakdown in no time the moment I hear a familiar voice. Thankyou Rach for all that support and backing to let me know that I can get past this challenge too. Thankyou Roshan for making us sign up for this run. We missed you on the trail. Thankyou Vj for lending me the hydration bag and Thankyou Kireet for all the brainstorming we went through to get this done once and for all. Can’t thank enough for all the messages pouring in from the well wishers  This wasn’t the end, but was yet another begining for the Next Big What!
And thats me crossing the finish line for all you out there, this was immense and heartful. 

Markers on the route #belike that will never make you loose your way. Impeccably put out there and shining enough in the night against the head torch lights. 

Offical results:-

Post Race catchups with Roshan:

Glad to have met Adinath, the co-founder of Jumping Gorilla trail run. His thought process is going to take trail runs in India to another level and can’t wait to witness the process. A malaysian runner asking if India is into trail running, I reckon we go to put India on the map of ultra trail running and there is a lot we can do. Yaay! 

Kireet had a ball at the 50km Pagoda run and the route was quite adventurous, this pic says it all 🙂

The perfect sourvenior that one can take back home:- 

Okay now, finishing the run does not end the misery. When your body stops moving, everything shuts down and your job at hand is to get the drop bags and get in the line for a hot water shower. A pair of warm clothes post the shower and some nourishment had to be done and I literally dozed off while eating for 30mins and had no sense of time. It started getting colder and the emergency blanket very well came in handy. Thanks for the mandatory gear checks, this was of absolute help. 
The Airport Line shuttle a day later will get you back to Chiang Mai on the day of your run and also a day later after the run. This directly heads to the airport and you can expect this to be on time as runners would be chasing flights back home and this keep the transport on toes to not delay any further.
2022 ended on a high, 2023 , here we come!
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