Race Report

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 2010
12th annual Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset, July 2010


It has been several weeks since race day, and we miss you already.  Some of you have already written a personal race report (I’ll provide links below) and it is our custom to also publish our “official” report to supplement yours and to encourage you all to keep in touch with us and with each other.

Let's start with an apology:  Sorry it is taking a while to get the official race results off the laptop that remained back in Hovsgul and onto the website, so in the meantime please scroll to the bottom of this email for an unofficial list of the top three finishers in each discipline.

We were extremely fortunate in at least three ways this year:  1. we had spectacular weather (except for the electric hailstorm the day before the race that shocked and awed Tyler and Tamsin), 2. We had a record number of participants (nearly 100) which enabled a larger than usual amount could be raised for the Eco-Leap projects in Hovsgul and UB, and 3. The fields and fields of wildflowers were abundant and STUNNING this year.

To elaborate:

For those of you who have attended one of the previous couple of MS2S’ in previous years when it rained and was cold on race morning, you know the value of a warm and sunny, but not hot, race day.  This year we had warm mild and dry weather on race day and all week.  There were a couple of short 15 min bursts of rain, even on race day, but it was accepted as a natural part of a beautiful day, and was just a reminder of the life force of the mountains.  On race day 21 July, we awoke at 3:00AM to the usual horse melody played by the flautist and camp handyman Zolsaikhan Enkhjargal, who then immediately put down his flute and suited up in his running gear, and went on to win the 42km race.  We all knew it was going to be another mild and warm morning when we stepped out of bed and discovered that a fire in the stove was totally unnecessary.  Around the dining hall, it was all headlamps and pancakes and skorts (part skirt, part running shorts!?).  Quite a few nervous faces, but mostly all smiles and mutual encouragement.  When we were all waiting for the clock to start at 4:30AM it was already warm enough to strip down to one layer of running clothes.  It was wonderful , as it always is, to see so many people so excited to hurtle themselves into the forest trails, some for only a 5 hour trip, others for a longer, 18 hour + day.

Repeat attendees missed Angie’s presence this year on the start line and throughout the week, but we all appreciated Erke’s and Dr. Martin’s reassuring presence.  3… 2… 1…  GO.  And they’re off, the usual insane sprint from the start line into the dark.  Wait, isn’t that Dr. Martin running along with everyone else?  What's that guy doing?   We later found out that he wanted to run the first forest section to be ‘on location’ in case someone hurt themselves, as they quite often do in this section, and he ended up running a nice 6km loop back to Toilogt camp where he took up his station next to Erke to monitor the race by radio.  Maybe thanks in part to him no-one was injured in the first forest section.

The first race-day challenge was a thick layer of fog that enveloped the top of Chichee pass, the first and biggest climb on the race.  We once had snow up there on race morning, but it's pretty rare for there to be thick fog.  The fog was a minor annoyance for most runners this year, only dissipating with the mid morning sun.  Only the back of the pack got to enjoy the fantastic views from Chichee pass over the lake and Northwards to the Siberian snow covered peaks.  For the faster runners who arrived earliest, the fog was at its thickest, and it was hard to see the race markings.  The only real casualty was the famous Tristan Miller.  Tristan, aka “Runlikecrazy” is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks this year around the world to raise funds for UNICEF.  I think MS2S (MS2S = our abbreviation for the Sunrise to Sunset) was his 29th of the year, and his first ever 100km.  Here is a dump from his Garmin:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/41708188 , which includes a huge dip in his pace at around the 2 hour mark, which is when he got totally lost in the fog.  He tells us he wandered around on the mountain top for 5 – 10 min calling out for ANYONE (suggestion for next year Tristan – use the whistle from your emergency pack) and was rescued soon after by Maurice, who heard his voice and pointed the way.  It turns out Tristan hadn’t left the course, but if he had it could have been a much longer day…  As it was, Tristan had an amazing 100km debut with second place at 12:56.  Congratulations Tristan! But come to think of it, what was Maurice doing up there in the front pack on Chichee pass?  He fell off a horse a couple days before the race, reinjured an old back problem, and could hardly walk the day before the race.  Must have owed his recovery to a strong constitution and the mysterious healing powers of the Mongolian wilderness.  Congratulations to you too Maurice on a very fast time against great physical obstacles.

The rest of the long race day proceeded without major incident.  The 42km loop was slightly wetter than usual, but also there were just breathtaking wildflowers everywhere.  At one point on the way up the valley towards climb#2, we were all running on a thin trail flanked on both sides by a mountainside of gushing hip high flowers of all colours imaginable.   The  climb was hard as usual; wet and steep.  but no-one reported getting off trail.  The run down the steep, trail-less meadow on the other side was a blast for everyone (and their thighs!).

For those who continued on to the back 58, the course avoided the central government’s new road as much as possible, with several new sections that move through the forest away from any hint of tourist development.  We were originally concerned that the higher speeds of jeeps zipping along the new road would cause a bit of dust that would annoy runners, but in the end it was no problem.  The sections in the forest along the lake were many people’s favorite part of the 100km, even though it stretched from the 76km aid stations to the last station at 88km, and was therefore already quite late in the race for everyone’s legs.  The little hills on that section were a ruthless surprise for some.

And straight on to the men’s 100km winner, Simon Grimmer of Shanghai, who smashed the 100km with a very fast time of 12:17, slightly faster even than last year’s winner Sylvain Bazin, and the fastest time since 2005 (the year Gregory Feucht ran in 10:33, setting the course record).  Our congratulations to Simon!!

Other notable participants this year included a group of very strong 6 American ladies from a running group in Japan called “Women on Okinawa Trails” whose motto, emblazoned on their t-shirts, was “toenails are for sissies.”  Anna Boom from the Okinawa group took out first place in the women’s 100km race, Andrew Kaltenbaugh of Okinawa won 3rd in the 42km, Corinne Lennard of the Okinawa group was the youngest ever female to complete the MS2S (15 y/o!).

Another tight-knit group of 7 incredible athletes who attended this year was a naval diving platoon from Singapore.  From the Singapore naval divers, Ewin Teo took 3rd place in the men’s 100km, only a few minutes behind Tristan.  (If you look at Tristan’s facebook, during his race he was apparently sms-ing some of his fans back home, describing his close contest with Ewin!).  These Singapore guys are FIT.  Also from the Singapore group was Dave Ling, who deserves the award for the most positive person in the camp.  In fact all the guys in this affable group were fantastic to be around.

This positivity award may have to be shared, however, with Lincoln Bode and his family.  Lincoln raised $1500 for the ecoLeap projects in addition to his race fees before and after the trip, and was one of the people who came down with a stomach problem in the days before race day, never complained, and still finished his 100km ahead of his own race plan.

Congratulations to all of you!

That is not to say that a complaint was not in order.  Whereas weather conditions were awesome this year, up to 10 people of the 100 present in camp came down with a gnarly stomach problem.  In addition to Lincoln, this bug hit 3 of the American runners from Okinawa, as well as Tristan (a few days after the race), and perhaps a few others who suffered in silence.  The race doctor Martin reckons that it was a virus of some kind , rather than food poisoning, but he said there is no way of being certain.  It was the first time for us to have such a prevalent problem with stomach problems at camp, with nearly 10% of the total people feeling unwell.  And a stomach issue is so demoralizing for a runner in the lead-up to a major race!  We are already discussing ways to try to prevent a repeat of this, to the extent it may be in our control to do anything about it in the future.  All 10 affected runners, however, managed to start (and finish) the race, and earned a particularly large portion of everyone’s admiration (and Tim Tam supplies ? )

Except for a shower in the afternoon, the rest of the day was sunny and pleasant for everyone.  Laying around on the grass or in the sauna during the resting day after the race, everyone was swapping all their stories from the trail, and there were too many interesting details to repeat here.  Highlights of people’s tales included the views, the wildflowers, the unexpected difficulty of the hills in the front 42km, the friendly aid station workers, and a particularly persistent theme was the desire to punch out us organizers to have set such a hard course.

For those of you who follow the projects that are funded by the MS2S and by your consistent donations over the years, here is a summary of our progress:

  • ecoLeap continues to organize 100% of the garbage collection in the Hovsgul National park (840,000 hectares, bigger than Yellowstone park!), and we have renewed the agreement with Seina , who operates the service for Eco-Leap.
  • We have been increasing the ecological awareness-building activities in the Hovsgul National park, and especially heartwarming successes include the various activities we run at the local schools in Hatgal.
  • ecoLeap is continuing to organize the innovative garbage bag distribution program at the main gate of the national park.  The bags have ecological messages on them, as well as instructions that all packaging and other garbage brought in to the park must be carried out by each tourist in the provided bags. 
  • ecoLeap is pursing the difficult project to engineer a renewable energy system for a ger (yurt) to avoid the necessity to burn coal for warmth in the winter.  Dirty coal burning in the ger districts of UB is the largest contributor to smog and carbon emissions in Mongolia, and is a huge and worrying problem. 

Please let us know if you have further donations or ideas in support of these projects!  Any donations and personal contacts in support of ecoLeap are much appreciated.

In summary, congratulations to all who attended the MS2S this year, and thank all of the rest of you for keeping up with our activities and for your continued support. 

And one new bit of news for you:  Zvoni Grobenski has signed on to the MS2S organizing team, and will be having a big say about how things proceed for 2011 and the future!  Hip hip hooray!

Thanks all, pls keep in touch.  We will be updating (and then upgrading, hopefully) our website in the coming days and months.  Meanwhile, email us anytime.

All the best and Warm regards,

MS2S Team –
Angie, Tyler, Nicolas, Chris, David, Steen, Shuree, Puji, Erke and ZVONI!

Race Results:

Top 3 100k men:
1. Simon Grimmer, 12:17, NZ
2. Tristan Miller, 12:53, Australia
3. Ewin Teo, 12:55, Singapore

Top 3 women 100k
1. Anna Boom, 14:16, USA
2. Barbara Schulz, 17:54, Germany
2. Suk Fun Tse, 17:54, China HKG

Top 3 42k men
1. Zolsaikhan Enkhjargal, 5:03, Mongolia
2. Zagat Sandagorjiin, 5:18, Mongolia
3. Wayne Rice, 5:39, South Africa

Top 3 42k women
1. Monica Thalmann, 6:31, Switzerland
2. Heather Scott, 6:37, USA
3. Andrea Kaltenbaugh, 6:56, USA

Top Veteran (over 60) 100km
1. Takemi Kikuchai 100k, 20:20, Japan

Top Veteran (over 60) 42km
1. Guy Ogden, 6:29, Australia

Links to blogs and photos from this year:

Tristan’s web site:  www.runlikecrazy.com  (Tristan says he’ll have video of the race online soon)
Tristan’s race stats + gps:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/41708188
Kathleen Lennard’s article:  http://www.stripes.com/blogs/pacificsports-blog/pacific-sportsblog-1.8947/mongolia-sunrise-to-sunset-one-family-s-story-1.112789