RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon Blogs 2021

View All Posts 2021 From : Jeanne Chen

Jeanne Chen
Mission accomplished!

21 August 2021 07:45 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

We did it! The last 10km flew by in a series of downhill switchbacks from the Camp 6 to the cave city of Vardzia. And just like that, the race was over. 

Adam flew off the start line in pursuit of 3rd place in his age category. He was 1m 20 sec in overall time behind the 3rd place runner and was trying to close the gap in a final sprint to the finish. It was the first and only stage where Adam and I didn't run side by side. Spoiler sidebar - he and the other competitor went neck to neck for 10km with Adam eventually finishing 2m 10 sec ahead in Stage 6 (50 sec faster overall). It's crazy that in a race of 250km, it came down to the last 50 sec...

The last 10km was beautiful as it wound its way down to the river valley, eventually transitioning from gravel trail to tar road. The last few kilometres on tarmac were a delight. Unlike the previous few days which required a tremendous focus, the last run was relaxed, without pressure, and I was able to actually enjoy the scenery around me. Across the river, the 12th century cave city of Vardzia stood waiting for us to finally arrive. What an epic location to finish this race. 

The last few hundred metres were a steep uphill - a reminder of all the climbs during the race. As I ran towards the finish line banner and focussed on making it through this last uphill, I saw Adam standing with his arms outstretched. It was the happiest sight and I can't imagine a better way to finish a race. It was smiles all around.

Now that we're done - I'm starting to miss the race already. There is a lot to think about and process over the coming days from the emotions on the trail to the wonderful people we met and became friends with. In the meantime, I'm mostly feeling tremendous gratitude for having been able to go on this incredible adventure. 

All smiles post finish

    

Comments: Total (2) comments

Beverly Wang

Posted On: 23 Aug 2021 05:35 pm

Congratulations!!! What an unforgettable adventure!!!

Angela C

Posted On: 22 Aug 2021 08:49 pm

Congratulations to you and Adam!! Wow one week ago you were just arriving, now you’re 250km further! A tremendous success! Muchos besos I love you hermana!!
Jeanne Chen
10km to go!

20 August 2021 06:00 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

 

The long march came and went – 71km passed by “quickly”. I’m honestly not sure I can recall what happened yesterday as those 11 hours went by in a blur.  Mostly I remember the focus and concentration on keeping the tempo up and putting one foot in front of the other. It was steep, hot, windy, dusty and thunder storming all in one day with some mosquitos. Mostly I told myself that all we have to do is finish – it doesn’t matter what you feel now, it all ends as soon as you finish.

 

We went out pretty fast to warm up the legs and were with the “pro” runners for the first section. Our plan was to take it fairly easy and not get too tired too early. I’ve never done a distance past a marathon before, so it was anyone’s guess what would happen after 42km. As per usual, we didn’t really take it easy. We hit the 600m climb section of the trail around 11am, well ahead of cutoff time of 3pm. I felt my left quad start to seize as we started the climb. Not good news with 80% of the day still to go. But a combination of paracetamol and Adam’s encouragement kept me going.

 

One of the nicest things about this race has been the wonderful runners / competitors. Everyone competes in a good natured way. If you pass someone, they tell you well done and wish you good luck. Yesterday, after CP5 with 20km left to go, a Canadian guy we had met passed us and checked that we had sufficient food to get to camp. It was the nicest gesture and really buoyed my spirits. It gave me the energy to run through the last part of the race. In a race this long, it’s surprising how much the small incremental things make a difference.

 

Comments: Total (4) comments

Beverly Wang

Posted On: 21 Aug 2021 12:45 am

Wow, only 10 km to go !!! Almost to reach the end, big achievement !!! So proud of you :)

Angela Chen

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 06:16 pm

It’s 11:11 here in the states and I’m thinking of you and your quad. Jeanne I am so proud of you I cannot describe properly in words! You are a true force to be reckoned with. And yet throughout this whole process it is not only the mental and physical prowess that you share with us but the spirit of humanity through the people you meet and the interactions you have…I feel the fuzzies!!! Love you so much - keep on tapping into that strength and lean on Adam and all of us. You are almost there, you bada$$!!! ☺️

Sophie T

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 04:06 pm

Also your ranking Jeanne WOW 😮

Soph T

Posted On: 20 Aug 2021 03:57 pm

I’m literally in awe of you Jeanne! You guys are a force to be reckoned with! Even with a cramping quad you manage to smash it! Love that the other runners are so nice. Makes such a difference to ones day when a stranger does or says something nice doesn’t it. Keep going! You got this 🤩
Jeanne Chen
The views are great…

18 August 2021 08:00 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

First of all, thank you, thank you to everyone who is reading our blogs and leaving us comments / messages. It’s incredibly cheering. And I’ve been whinging a lot.

 

So, let’s take a more positive look today. Stage 4 was beautiful. We went through the Javakheti plains and over the mountain range. Tonight we’re camped next to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain ranges. Couldn’t be a nicer camp site. We’ve passed through lots of farm lands and villages over the last few days and all the Georgian people have been super friendly – waving at us and cheering us on in Georgian (at least that seems to be what they’re saying). Some of them ask us where we’re from and several people have wanted to take selfies. These villages all seem fairly remote, situated along gravel and dirt roads. Not that dissimilar from some of the rural villages in India. A lot of the farmers are also doing hard manual labour in the fields and it makes me think about how we have the luxury to choose to put ourselves through this heat and “hard work”. Put things in perspective.

 

The course today was 39km and quite a lot of elevation from CP2 onwards. Adam and I decided to go out fast at the start to get into a good position within the pack, which we thought we might be able to hold onto from the hills onwards. We went out really fast with the race leaders and just kept going. I was starting to feel quite tired in the first 10km, but I could feel Adam was on a mission to keep going. So I kept pushing. I’m not sure but I had a sneaking suspicion he was pacing me to overtake the top women… I didn’t come into this race thinking anything would be hard, but Adam was right. The days build up and break you. As we ran down the hills today, my right foot with the collapsed arch was shooting pain with every step. I remembered all the endurance books I read, where the runners all say they run through the pain and eventually it goes away. It is amazing what the mind can do. We came into the last checkpoint fast – in the top 12 I think. And the incredible thing is that for the last 2km with the end in site, all the pain disappeared.

 

Two thirds down. One more really long day to go. Too close to quit now.

Comments: Total (4) comments

Beverly Wang

Posted On: 19 Aug 2021 07:42 pm

I can't image how you run on your painful foot!!! Tough racing!!! Jeanne and Adam: you are inspiring :) Looking forward to seeing you approach the last 1/3 of challenge . Love you

Angela Chen

Posted On: 19 Aug 2021 05:35 pm

Wow the people in Georgia want to take pictures with you even though you’re probably stinky?? Impressive. Just kidding! Proud of you for making it two thirds of the way through!! Get ready world, Jeanne and Adam are about to cross the finish line :) hope you’re staying hydrated, feeling recharged by the beautiful scenery and cheers from the locals, and storing some mental snapshots in that lovely brain of yours to share with us :) woot that’s my sister!!! Love you lots xx Angela

Lizzie Grosso

Posted On: 19 Aug 2021 02:50 am

Wow! Can’t wait to see pictures of where you are. It sounds incredible and a week from now you won’t remember the pain, just your triumph and all the stories along the way.

Beverly Wang

Posted On: 18 Aug 2021 09:16 pm

Go Jeanne and Adam!!! Proud of you :)
Jeanne Chen
50% done!

17 August 2021 08:00 pm (GMT+04:00) Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan

Today felt great. It was a much shorter day vs. yesterday (only 37km) and a lot of descent we can “shuffle” downhill without expending too much energy. We took it easy to CP1 – Adam told me that I get really amped up after my morning coffee, so we deliberately started a bit more slowly. But by CP2, we had already caught up with a few people. CP2 to CP3 is a steep ascent, which is where Adam and I are at an advantage. We’re lighter and experienced at climbing, so we went for it and overtook 5 people. One of the women we overtook had eluded us on Day 1 – we charged past and didn’t look back. She gave us chase for the next 2 CPs, but we kept running. At some point on the massive downhill, every step was painful. My quads and gluts were burning, but walking put pressure on my arches, which had collapsed again. So either way, run or walk, there was pain. Might as well get some distance between us and our chaser.

 

Adam did a terrific job finding the way through the last 3 km. We lost the trail about 1 km from camp and I was worried our chaser would catch us. But Adam’s experience and eagle eyes found the little pink flag and we ran into camp. I have no idea how we made it through today, but it felt great. Onwards to day 4.

 

Comments: Total (4) comments

kelly qu

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 08:48 pm

so amazed at you guys not only doing the ultra but the incredible tenacity being among the top in your very first one!! GOOOO JEANNE AND ADAM!

Jocelyn Cheng

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 08:32 pm

Go Jeanne - so impressive! Love that you are not only doing your first ultra but also amongst the top runners :) think of the khinkali and priyaniki at the end!

Jocelyn Cheng

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 08:32 pm

Go Jeanne - so impressive! Love that you are not only doing your first ultra but also amongst the top runners :) think of the khinkali and priyaniki at the end!

Jocelyn Cheng

Posted On: 17 Aug 2021 08:31 pm

Go Jeanne - so impressive! Love that you are not only doing your first ultra but also amongst the top runners :) think of the khinkali and priyaniki at the end!
Jeanne Chen
Made it through Stage 1

15 August 2021 08:00 pm (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius

Each day is split into 4 checkpoints. We made good time from camp to CP1 in 1.5 hrs and thought we would keep powering through. CP1 to CP2 was much harder than expected with 860+ metres of elevation gain and quite lot of descent as well. We expected to make up some speed on the hills, but I started to flag midway as I could feel the low blood sugar come on. Bolting down 2 protein bar and downing a half litre of electrolytes and I started to revive.

Half distracted by the gnawing hunger and general tiredness, I barely noticed the beautiful landscape. We had topped some lovely summit ridges with the entire Algeti valley below. Crossing one of the fields, there was an amazingly fragrant smell of sage and other herbs.

Adam was looking strong today. He was making good pace on the hills and his experience was really showing. His coaching along the way to CP2 really helped to keep my spirits up. And although he could've gone ahead, we stayed the entire way and crossed the final line together.
 
From CP2 onwards, the trail was fairly gentle grassland and we made good time. We went down the wrong path on the way to CP3, and were told by a kindly farmer to turn around. Before we could get back to the trail, the farmer wanted to have a picture of us with his kids. Mad runner are a novelty!

There were 2 river crossing towards the last 3km. We hesitated to stop and take off our shoes and socks - costing us a few precious minutes.  Having been told at CP2 that we were in the top group, we were motivated to run a bit faster to CP4.
 
We made it into camp after 6.5 hrs. Pretty pleased with our pace today.
 
Now onwards to day 2!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Emilie Esposito

Posted On: 16 Aug 2021 03:10 pm

Congrats on your first marathon!! Looking forward to your next updates, hoping that the next five marathons are pretty smooth!
Jeanne Chen
Camp 1 - day T-1

14 August 2021 09:22 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

It's thunder storming at camp 1 today. We're sheltered in our tent - very glad that we're not on the trail yet. Although chances are good that we'll have to break out our waterproof gear after all. The camp chat has been about what we should do if our gear / shoes get wet - we're a fun lot. Many of the runners have done this before [sidebar: one guy has done 100+ ultramarathons!] so they have a lot of advice for the first-timers. Anxiety levels are high.

Yesterday's arrival into Camp 1 was met with fanfare and excitement. It's the first race in 24 months for the organisers and for the diehard 59 runners who made it to Georgia, it's the culmination of hours of training and planning. There's an energetic buzz around camp, waiting to be unleashed tomorrow morning. 

Today, we'll do the race briefing and kit checks. 20 hours more of nervous anticipation before we're off! 

 

Comments: Total (2) comments

Victor Siu

Posted On: 14 Aug 2021 07:26 pm

Incredible Jeanne and Adam!!! Always wanted to do this. Sending you energy and swiftness from NYC!

Andrew Towne

Posted On: 14 Aug 2021 02:15 pm

GOOOOO ADAM AND JEANNE!!!! Georgia looks amazing!!! Have so much fun!! Rooting from you and excited to follow along!
Jeanne Chen
Made it to Georgia

10 August 2021 07:30 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Adam and I made it to Tbilisi yesterday. A couple of small moments of panic along the way: 

- Checking in for our flight without a negative PCR test as neither Netherlands nor Georgia require it if you are transiting or have a vaccination certificate, respectively. But panicking when the check in desk refused 2 passengers without PCR tests. It turns out we had read the fine print correctly and were fine.  

- Georgia customs flagged our kit bag with all our food rations as agriculatural products and wanted us to open our vaccuum sealed MREs. We had to explain our way out as we had packed the exact number of MREs for our race. Finally the customs guards lost interest and let us go. Whew. We really don't have any calories to spare!  

 

It's 37C in Tbilisi right now. Not quite the weather I trained for in the UK. We'll head out for a light taper run later today. Let's hope we don't melt.

Jeanne 

Comments: Total (0) comments

Jeanne Chen
11 days to go!

04 August 2021 07:22 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

11 days to go before Adam and I set off! 

We are excited (and nervous!) - look forward to seeing everyone at the start line!

Jeanne  

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 05 Aug 2021 09:33 am

Whoop whoop!