Finally, you did it. You signed up for CULTRA. You paid. And now, you’re a nervous wreck. What will you be expecting? How difficult is it? What are the types of equipment that you must bring?
To aid you, we did an interview with Suyuen (insta: @suyuenwong), who is a podium finisher in CULTRA 2018 – 55km women category!
- Tell us about the whole CULTRA experience. Which was your favorite part? The high tea was a crowd favorite, of course, but we want to know what you liked the most?
I would say the climb at Mount Berembun. It was at the break of dawn when I entered the foothill of the mountain, and the place was surrounded with light mist. The whole atmosphere felt like something from The Lord of the Rings, with thick lush trees and soft mossy grounds. Most people were probably intimidated by Berembun, as it is easily one of the most treacherous parts of the route, but I found it extremely thrilling. You might slip or trip on some wild roots (like I did!), but get up, smile and keep going! Oh and the view in there is perhaps one of the most splendid from the gorgeous trails of CULTRA =)
- During the whole 55km, what was going through your mind? How did you manage to pull through your mental barrier (if there is any)
To be honest, I wasn’t having much thoughts during the run. The intention is always to stay relaxed and calm on course, keep a clear mind and simply enjoy the process. Until a crew told me I was in 10th place, that was when my zen was ‘disrupted’ a tad bit hahahaha. I had a slight desperate urge to defend the title at least. Arriving at the tea plantation, it was very warm and the route felt monotonous at certain times. I was feeling quite exhausted at that point. So I ended up psyching myself: “let’s run 500 steps, walk 50 steps. Repeat till the next CP and reward yourself with a piece of fruit”. Despite feeling competitive, I kept reminding myself to savor the moment being there in the trails. That thought had lifted off a little pressure in me and became my strength to push through till the end.
- What was in your packing list? What did you bring for the race itself?
Besides the mandatory items (which all of us should never compromise on), I make sure that my apparels and gears are always proper. CULTRA has special needs bags (additional support bags for your belongings at mid checkpoints) for the 55km and 100km categories, so make sure you utilize that!
- Favourite dri-fit shirts (two pairs, one for special needs bag)
- Long tights
- My trusted Steigen Anti Blister socks (two pairs, one for the special needs bag)
- Hydration bag – I used my Aonijie 8L hydration bag, it was enough for me
- Hydration bladder – 1.5L capacity
- Headlamp (with spare batteries), at least 100 lumens
- Two emergency blankets
- Waterproof windbreaker/raincoat
- Basic first aid kit
- Bowl (yes you need it, proven useful for 2018’s edition where they served porridge)
- Collapsible cup
– Salt sticks (for electrolyte fix), energy gels, Himalaya salt candy, raisins, nut bars (for hunger and sugar fix), an apple (my comfort food =D)
Also in my packing list:
– Powerbank, sunscreen lotion (Those UV rays are no joke, guys!), DIY course profile, and a picture of my loved ones =)
- Prior to CULTRA, what was your training like? How many months before CULTRA did you start training? Tell us more about your regime (either indoor or outdoor)
I don’t have a specific training period before the race, as I believe consistency is the key to being strong physically and mentally. I always try to incorporate both cardio and strength training in my regime. Honestly, I don’t hit the gym. Instead, I utilize my body weight for the strength workout indoors. You can easily get ideas from the internet. I alternate my weekdays with HIITs, pilates, core workout and always end with full-body stretching. On weekends would be cardio which is road runs on Saturdays, and hikes on Sundays. Both sessions are long and self-supported to get myself prepped up for what is to expect in an ultra trail race. Sounds tiring? Yes, it is at times, but you reap what you sow. Every effort put into it gives me greater strength and confidence to face the challenges ahead in the race. Amidst all the training, don’t compromise on your nutrition. You don’t have to go on extreme diets just to stay lean and hot, and don’t hesitate to eat your carbs. They’re not your enemies only if you know how to keep them balanced as part of your nutrition plan. Plus, carbs are great fuel during ultras and they release happy endorphins, I’m pretty sure you’d need them =)
- Some of us might be new to ultras, and pre-race jitters are probably common. How do you prepare yourself days before any major races, or tips to calm those nerves?
Few days prior to a big race, make sure you get enough quality sleep. Sleep is extremely important to ensure your body is well-rested and it also gives a morale boost to face sleepless nights during the run.
Eating well is a must before your run. Get enough carbs and protein to fuel your muscles. I still eat fruits and veggies despite claims that fiber might cause you stomach problems. Rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t alter too much of your usual regime, but you can consider reducing the amount instead. Try to avoid spicy and greasy food if you can.
If you’re a coffee drinker like me, there’s nothing wrong in caffeine intake a few days before the run. I don’t usually take coffee on the race day itself, but if it helps to perk you up, then go for it, but not too much!
Pre-race jitters? What I personally do is that I don’t dig too much information regarding the race. Sure, it’s okay to find out what the terrains will be like, study the course profile and learn the do’s and don’ts. But discussing too deeply into the difficulty of the route or to listen to stories of past runners’ experiences (some can be pretty dramatic) don’t help much, instead, they make you feel more nervous and dread what is to come. Having jitters is totally normal, it shows that we have led a life with goals and aims to reach higher. Trust in what you have trained for, and go with an open heart.
6. Going into the race, you didn’t expect to be a podium finisher. Tell us, what was the feeling when you crossed the finishing line and found out that you are a TOP 10 finisher for CULTRA.
I run my races without many expectations. The aim is always to cross the finishing line safely. I’m unaware of who I might be competing against, all I know is to keep going and don’t look back. Although this time I had a rough estimation of which placing I was in after being informed at the checkpoints, being a finisher in the Top 10 still brought an immense gratefulness in me. Winner’s tag on my neck, receiving words of congratulations from fellow runners and crews, shoulder pats, and seeing my running buddy walking towards me with a huge smile, they brought tears of joy and relief to my eyes at the finishing line.
7. If there is ONE single advice that you can give the readers out there who is about to join CULTRA, what would it be?
Just like CULTRA’s tagline, “Be Prepared, Be Very Prepared.” Train hard, both in road and trails. Then go finish what you have signed up for. But don’t forget to stay safe and most importantly, have fun.