2020 HK4TUC – notes (to be updated as preparations continue)

Few notes on what I learned from my training so far:

Pace:

Mac

– 7 hours for the first half seems just about right (as long as it is not too warm and humid).

– that leaves about 11 hours for the second half – around 9 hours sounds like reasonable pace leaving some buffer for F&B breaks if necessary

– the concrete of Mac 1 is pretty punishing – if I am lucky and arrive at East Dam with enough time buffer then smart choice would be to take Mac 1 very easy to save the legs for the next 200km…

REMEMBER – YOU WILL NOT BEAT 4 TRAILS ON MAC BUT MAC CAN BEAT YOU!

Wilson

The start is hilly – not too difficult but the distance progress is quite slow early on on Wilson. Much slower than on Mac – patience necessary.

The “downhill” from Cloudy Hill to Tai Po involves 11 uphill sections. Just suck it up!

When exiting Tai Wo area the Wilson Trail arrows are confusing – pointing right towards small village – just ignore and go straight up towards and under the Tolo Highway.

Climb up towards Leadmine Pass seems to go on forever but is not difficult – just keep on going.

Long runable bit after Leadmine Pass to Shing Mun – need to make the most of it without blowing up!

Shing Mun to Tai Po road – monkey kingdom – focus on the route ignore the monkeys, avoid making wrong turns just because monkeys sit on the signs!

Long catch water after Tai Po road – hope the legs are still fine to run it all and make up some time.

Climb to Shatin Pass – take it steady.

Road climb after Shatin Pass – just keep moving. Before hitting trail again watch out for the resident boars – there are some huge specimens around there.

Once on the trail time to run all the way to start of section 4!

Right at the start of section 4 – a noisy dog somewhere there. Just ignore and go. Some climbing here but nothing serious – keep on going.

Section 3 – dogs and boars – need to watch if here after dark but should not have any issues.

Road to Lam Tin goes on forever.

HK side – lots of steps and further than 9km that the W18 marker at Tai Koo may suggest…

Watch out those stupid steps from last Twin to Stanley – don’t roll the ankle like during the training recce…

HK Trail

This in all the likeness will involve some night running. Hard to tell how I will feel when/if I make it here. By the time HK Trail starts I would be in unknown territory- beyond any distance I ever did. Rule of the thumb – run/walk to feel, keep moving, don’t fight sleep – take short naps once the eyes start closing.

Lantau

Pay attention to the trail especially as by Lantau the tiredness will be out of scale. On the recce I veered of the course just 2km from Mui Wo on the part of the trail I know very well …

Get over the section to Pui O, the small hill may hurt as the legs will be stiff after a long post HK trail break.

Once on the catchwater it is FLAT more less all the way to Tai O – “enjoy” and get some miles on board!

The climb out of Tai O is properly steep but not too long. Use the steps on the side – will hurt the legs less. Ignore the next 3 hills – just get over them.

The road climb to Ngong Ping is long but NOT difficult – some bits are ruinable – jog them!

Make use of the loop around Ngong Ping to digest all the food taken at the Village.

After this only Lantau Peak and Sunset await – these are MUCH EASIER from this side. Last two hills, nothing to save the legs for any more – PUSH!

Nutrition and F&B supplies

Mac

Few energy bars for emergencies – no need too many. Start with a bottle of sports drink, bottle of plain water. Reserve one soft flask of plain water in the backpack. Carry filter. Extra pack of sports drink powder – to avoid stop at TMS kiosk that is off the course and means a detour that should be avoided if possible.

Leadmine Pass – only tap water at the moment but Bonaqua dispenser installed already and works.

Shing Mun – refill with sweet stuff (coke or Pocari – whatever available). Free drinking water available here.

Tai Po Rd – if not hot no need to waste time here – grab a drink and go – watch for monkey thieves

Shatin Pass – proper refill here. Cup noodles may be good idea to have some change after all the sweet stuff. Long section ahead so do not underestimate the supplies here.

Kei Ling Ha – Vending machines hopefully will have sweet stuff. Free drinking water here as well as Bonaqua dispenser.

Pak Tam Au – May need to stock up for all the way to the end. Free drinking water here.

Sai Wan may be good place to restock but most likely all closed when I get there.

Wilson

Not ideal for on the route replenishments – need to carry food on me and plan the drinks. Some detours may be necessary.

7Eleven and/or other shops available at Tai Wo MTR seems to be the first one – requires short detour

Yuen Tun Ha area – there may be options but again would require detour – nothing on the way up.

Leadmine Pass – Bonaqua water refill by the toilets – works now. Few hundred meters down the road is water tap – needs filter.

Shing Mun – Vending machines at BBQ area but require about 500m detour to Mac and back. Not much afterwards until Shatin Pass shop (if open…) so this may be a necessary evil…

2 water pipes on the catch water near the end.

Shatin Pass shop – not reliable – was closed few times when I made it there on my runs.

Clear Water Bay Rd – small shop.

Yau Tong, Lam Tin, Tai Koo – posbilites to eat, drink and refill for the rest of Wilson.

Parkview – may not be open when I am there.

HK Trail

Shek O F&B establishments – but hopefully will have supplies from my crew here.

Parkview supermarket – good place for some proper food if it is open when I am there. Otherwise only the gas station at Wong Nai Chung gap.

Lots water available along the way – filter important.

Food supplies important for this trail!!!

Lantau

By 8-8:30am there was nothing open in Pui O on my recce – better stock up all the way up to Shui Hau.

Shui Hau – small shop only open – only drinks available.

Shek Pik – tap water available.

Fan Lau – small shop, drinks available.

Tai O – restaurant – may be good to eat properly here.

Ngong Ping – hopefully will be open when I am here.

Note: the beetroot bar did not go down well during Mac recce – better stay away from this.

scree

2019 Ronda dels Cims – It did not get any easier the second time…

170km, 13,500m of elevation gain/loss in Pyrenees. Race that goes around the whole Andorra but extends to neighbouring France and Spain here and there – can say the route is bigger than the country.

I failed to finish this in 2018. Mentally exhausted with no desire to continue I stopped after the first drop bag station at Margineda… But a day later still in Andorra I decided to come back and try again in 2019. I signed up once the registrations opened in December. My preparations begun much earlier though with the whole season planned with the sole goal – Ronda dels Cims. Formosa Trail, UTMT were both races selected solely to bring my ultra confidence back. I made several changes in my training and added weekly gym sessions for strength and mobility. And although due to some niggles my training did not go 100% according to the plan I felt quite ready for the challenge. And mentally I was surely there this time.
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Big Boar’s Backyard Challenge

I did not plan any races between UTMT in January and Ronda dels Cims in July. But this Big Boar’s Backyard Challenge sounded like something that could spice up my Ronda training. Concept is simple – nutcases assemble and run 6.7km more less flat loops. New loop starts every hour and who is not ready to start the new loop is out.  The one who is the last one left out there is the winner (provided he/she completed at least 24 loops/100 miles). Everybody else DNFs :-) .

I did not specifically train for this. It was purely part of my training. I did not even taper. The event date felt on my hard training week and I followed my usual training routine up to Wednesday (20km run). Thursday was a rest day but also a day when I developed some cold – runny nose mainly. I did not have the best sleep as a result but I still felt to be in a reasonably OK shape for Friday. My plan was to do at least 50km as a minimal training distance and after that just keep on going as long as all is well without risking any injury. I promised myself to stop if I feel anything “weird”.
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2019 Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan

UTMT 162K

I had few reasons to sign up for this race:

a) I wanted something new, a race in HK I haven’t done before

b) I wanted to do a 100 miler before my second attempt at Ronda as a confidence builder

The month ahead of this race was a big mileage month for me. It started with 100+km race in Taiwan and by the end of Dec I had accumulated 400km of quality mileage. I tapered down few days before UTMT but it was much less aggressive tapering than what I used to do.

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2018 Formosa Trail Taiwan

After failing in my first attempt at the Ronda dels Cims I made the decision to give it a second go next July. With that in mind I planned my races for this winter season. Main goal is get back the confidence – first by finishing a 100km race (my last success at 100km distance was way back in March 2016). But as Ronda is a tough race I picked a tough 100km race too as a confidence booster – Formosa Trail in Taiwan organized by Taiwan Beast Runners.

I went into this race with only one goal – to finish. I heard some stories about the technical nature of this race and the look at the profile also promised some tasty climbs. The strategy was to follow the John Ellis School of Pacing from the start to keep the legs reasonably fresh for the monster climb after 50km. And then see what happens.

4am Start in Puli

4am Start in Puli

Race started very early in the morning, 4am. It was still dark so headlamp was obligatory. I set out in very comfortable pace. I knew that we started together with the 65km runners but seeing people flying by me making noises like a tired steam engine still surprised me. In any case I did not care, I kept on jogging in my relaxed pace. This had one advantage. I had so many people and so much light around me that for first 4-5km I could save my headlamp battery :-) .
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Stupa to Stupa 54km race + Kathmandu Valley Rim (170km)

While planning my OXFAM Trailwalker trophies delivery trip to Kathmandu I realized that some cool things are happening there at that time. First the 54km Stupa to Stupa trail race. Then after a day break one could join the Kathmandu Valley Rim training tour organized by the legend Lizzy Hawker. This would nicely fit to my training for Ronda del Cims in Andorra – so I decided to join both.

Not having chance to recce the race route I actually uploaded the GPX to my watch and finally learned how to use the navigation function :-) . It was about the time. But frankly – it was not really necessary. The route was very well marked, one would have to try very very hard to get lost. My flight schedule made things a bit complicated. I only landed in Kathmandu around 10pm the evening before the race. After the obligatory wait for the luggage to emerge on the belt and the taxi ride it was just about midnight when I made it to the hotel. And 4am I had to wake to be able to eat something and get to the 6am morning start. Not ideal but sleep deprivation is part of ultra races so practising it can’t hurt :-) .

Having Purna picking me up in the morning was a great help. And the more of the AWOO Team Nepal in the team colours showed up at the start – what a great moral boost ahead of my first ever race in Nepal.

Swayambhu Stupa - race start

Swayambhu Stupa – race start


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2018 9 Dragons Ultra – 50/50 (or 54/54)

Last year I failed at this one. I managed to complete the first day 50 miler but a shin injury meant DNS the next day. So there was some unfinished business… This year I was determined to finish. I was very well aware that I am nowhere near this sort of race ready. Completing this event and doing so without any injury was the only goal. Plan was to take it rather easy on the first day to keep the legs as fresh as possible for the second. I guess I was not the only one coming up with this strategy.

Day 2 on Tai To Yan - Photo by @the.drone.runner

Day 2 on Tai To Yan – Photo by @the.drone.runner

The weather at the start (midnight between Fri and Sat) was rather fine although it was drizzling a bit. I started in relaxed comfortable pace. It did not take too long before the field spread out and found myself running on my own. This remained the case for most of the 50 mile race. Here and there I caught someone ahead or someone passed me but I had a pretty lonely day overall :-) .
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2018 HK100 – It has been a while since I last did ultra on home turf…

I haven’t finished an ultra in Hong Kong since 2016 Translantau100. Seems that since I completed my HK Grand Slam in 2015/2016 season the luck was not my side, at least not in Hong Kong. Yes, I have completed UTMB and La Diagonale des Fous since then. But I DNFed 2016 LT70 (not yet recovered fully from UTMB), 2017 HK100 (because of silly injury a week before the race) and thanks to shin splints my 50/50 9Dragons attempt last year only lasted the first 50 miles.

My summer calf injury did not allow me to do almost any running the whole summer. My Diagonale des Fous training consisted mostly of hiking up the hills and jogging them down – no speedwork at all. This somehow worked fine for a slow long hilly endurance event but I knew the fast HK100 would be totally different story. Especially as due to post Diagonale recovery I only had about 6-7 weeks of proper training time for this race.

Unlike last year I did not set myself any specific time target. My primary goal was to finish the 100k race after almost 2 years of this not happening to me. Secondary target was to do it under 16 hours to get that golden buddy trophy.

My strategy was to pace myself and make sure I survive well the first fast 52k before we hit the hills. My watch was on but I was not really checking it. It was run to feel race for me. Enjoying the surroundings and not pushing too much. As I found out afterwards I was not exactly relaxing though – I was running at my HK100 PR pace although it definitely did not feel like that.
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La Diagonale Des Fous 2017 – Back to racing, back to 100 miles

After doing the Chamonix races CCC, TDS and UTMB three years in a row it was time to try something different. After surviving UTMB I wanted to try another 100 miler. As a result of approximately 5 minutes long selection process I picked the La Diagonale. This was back in September 2016.

Since then things went a bit downhill – couple of injuries early in the year affected my HK100 and 9Dragons races. I took few months off training – just jogging and hiking for fun. Then one day in June on a easy morning run my left calf gave up. Sudden sharp pain right across the leg and I knew I have a problem. Just as I was about getting ready to start the proper training for La Diagonale…

There was no running, no hiking for me for the rest of June and the whole of July. Not ideal with tough 100 miler on horizon. Physio treatments were working but the stubborn calf took its time. All I could do for almost a month was the stationary bike. Then at the very end of July I felt reasonably fine to give the calf a test. Very slow and careful walk up and down the road with total elevation gain of about 10 meters over 400 meters of distance – yep, can call that hill repeats. I had about 10 weeks to get from that sorry state of mine to 100 miles ready.
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