2017 HK100 – My first 100km race DNF…

This was to be my A race of the Hong Kong season. After finally getting my golden dude last year I set myself sub 15hours target for this year.

My training went well and I felt I am up to the challenge. I felt I am capable of sub 15 performance. The question was if will be able to do it on the day…

Couple of weeks before the race a mailing arrived notifying us that the race will keep that alternative finish route applied in those freezing conditions last year. As this not exactly common route down from Tai Mo Shan I decided to an easy recce of that bit a week before the race – as a final pre-race outing. It was a very easy jog hike on the last 15-16km of the race route. I noticed during that run some soreness in my right foot but I paid no attention to it. It was nothing different for an ache here and there that we experience on our runs – the kind of stuff that comes and then few minutes later it goes away we forget about it. I finished that jog-hike with no issues, happy knowing that the new ending is not that difficult and ready for the race.

Then when I woke up the next day my foot was really hurting, was swollen and featuring a colourful bruise. During the week the swelling and bruising went away the pain was still there. By Wednesday – Thursday it was getting better so I was cautiously optimistic about making the race. Then on Friday morning it started to hurt more, afternoon it felt better…

I haven’t tried to run for the whole week so I had no idea at all what running will feel like. I went to the start still undecided if I would actually go for it or not. After trying to jog for 15-20 meters I almost made up my mind to opt for DNS… But after some negotiation with myself and out of respect for all those people who could not get a place in this race I decided to at least give it a try. I could always turn back after few hundred meters … So I started.
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2016 LT70 – Finding out like DNF tastes after long long time

I had this plan not to sign up for any race until after I am done with UTMB. That would in effect mean there would be no races after UTMB for me till end of 2016. And that was not a bad idea. It was actually a good plan. So I skipped Moontrekker, OTW, TNF. But when the registrations opened for LT70 back in April I could not resist. I signed up leaving the decision “to run or not to run” till later.

My post UTMB recovery was going slow. I took quite solid break in September and come October I was back in training.

The training was strange. I felt great one day and totally empty another. I enjoyed being on the hills but I could feel that I am definitely far from being ready for another race. Still I decided to give it a try and see how I feel on the day. If nothing else it would be a good assessment of my current condition.

The day was hot as it always is on LT70 day. If I was going to get anywhere I knew I must take it easy at the beginning.
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2016 UTMB – The theatre of pain

I did not expect anything other than a beast of a race this UTMB to be. After all 170km (or 100 miles) with 10,000m of elevation gain and loss is something I have never done before. I was confident though I am fit enough to complete it under normal circumstances – that is if nothing went wrong. My main worries ahead of UTMB were injury before or during the race and bad weather (especially thunderstorms). The biggest unknown that I could not really prepare for was the second consecutive night on the trails.

My training went mostly according to the plan and without any issues. But then just 2 weeks before the race when I was already in taper mode my achilles started to hurt. I suspect it was result of using my day shoes for way too long. I should probably start tracking my walking shoes mileage too. The pain was quite bad and I was a bit concerned. My taper turned into total rest. This helped a bit. Then while on holiday in Slovakia I spent few hours in thermal spa soaking myself in hot mineral waters and the pain was gone. It came back here and there afterwards in some mild form but there was nothing I could do about it – just hope that it would be alright.

I arrived with my support crew (AKA the family :-) ) in Chamonix the Saturday before the race. In the week leading up to the race me and my older son did one about 10km long easy run on the flat bit out of Chamonix (the opposite direction of the last bit of TDS course), one easy hike towards Plan de Praz and we also hiked up to Plan de l’Aiguille (followed by cable car ride up to L’Aiguille du Midi). That was all.

I will not deny I was very nervous ahead of UTMB. I survived CCC and TDS in previous two years but 100 miles in these mountains deserved some respect. I hoped for a good long sleep the night before but that did not happen. I slept very little and not very well. I planned to stay in the chalet and go nowhere on Friday but my final gear check in the afternoon revealed that my poles will not work – the locking mechanism was rusted. I tried to fix it but to no avail. No way I could do the race without poles so off to the town I was for new ones …

It was a bright and hot afternoon. I did not want to get to the start too early and spend too much time under the hot sun. I got there just after 5pm, about an hour before start. The area was already packed but I thought I managed to squeeze into a decent starting location. I took few photos from where I was standing and packed my phone into my backpack. I planned to fully focus on getting to the finish – there would be no more photos taken by me for the rest of the race.

UTMB 2016 - Start - My view

UTMB 2016 – Start – My view

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UTMB Training No 55 – Recovery Sunday

After 8 plus hour baking on the sun in Saturday I had nice 10 hours long sleep. I was ready for some recovery slog.

Martin joined me for this one. It was yet another super hot day so we took it very easy – jog-walk up the road, then jog mixed with some walking on the exposed bits of Cecil’s. Then we walked up Mt. Parker Road to Quarry Gap. It was way too hot and did not have that much water with us so we turned around and jogged down to Quarry Bay and then on back home.

Nice and easy (but hot).

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 54 – The last insane summer run – reverse HK Trail

I picked the whole HK Trail, solo, in the opposite direction as my last long summer run of this training season. This was to be more about the distance, time on the feet and mental power than the overall elevation gain. Although in the opposite direction Hong Kong trail goes from the sea level up the peak. The main reason I picked the opposite direction again was the tree cover and streams at the second half of the route. I also used my poles. HK Trail is not exactly trail one needs poles for but this was the last opportunity to train with poles.

I started much later than I planned – around 8:45am from Shek O. I jogged all the way to Big Way Bay simulating the flat road race start. The climb up was fine and once on the concrete path I was jogging again. I expected hot day out and slow pace as a result. But my intention was to run as much as possible on the runable sections. So I tried.

The contour trail towards Dragon’s Back was fine and so was Dragon’s Back except for a bit too crowded trail even in the early morning. I paused few times to enjoy the views.

The catchwater was not as bad as I expected. I was mixing jogging with walking trying preserve some energy for later on. It was getting really hot by now. There was no way I could push on the entire catchwater and survive the whole planned distance. So I ran most of the sections in the shadow and walked those exposed to the sun.

The heat was slowly getting to me so I was imagining the cold splash in the stream somewhere in the middle of the jungle path between Tai Tam Road and the reservoirs. I made the best of it when I got there, also put my Life Straw to use.

The cold splash helped and I was feeling quite well on the climb up towards Quarry Gap. The water pipe half way up helped again. I took a short break before Mt Butler climb cooling down properly again at the Quarry Gap restrooms.

I knew from the very beginning that the section 5 of HK Trail will be the critical one in this weather. Mt Butler went fine but the Jardine’s Lookout was really rough, same as few weeks ago. The heat was insane, no cloud cover at all. The only thing that kept me going was the vision of cold CocaCola in the supermarket on the other side of the hill… I was struggling but I was still faster than any of the hikers around so it was not all bad I supposed.

After the cold drinks and some food at Parkview I was ready for the second half. The exposed bits of Black’s Link were a bit tough but nowhere near as bad as the Jardine’s Lookout. My pace was slow but I made it to Wanchai Gap without too much trouble. Sections of the trail were bit scary with large chunks of trees still dangling down after the typhoon. But other than that it was now all about keeping the head down and placing one foot in front of another. The sun was getting lower so I did my best to jog all the sections that were not uphill.

The water pipe with 10km to was a great refreshment post before embarking on the short catchwater section and the final climb up to the Peak. I was feeling quite OK – the end was near and most of the route was now under canopy of trees.

Seeing the 007 trail marker was great – from there is only around 3 easy km to the end. I still paused at the playground for some water refill and jogged the rest of the way against the flow of sightseeing tourists.

Although I suffered big way on the Jardine’s Lookout I never really doubted I would complete this run. The route itself is not too difficult but the insane heat turned this into proper mental challenge – nice final bit of UTMB preparations.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 53 – Thursday Parker No 14

Second to last Thursday Parker run of this summer. It looked like I may enjoy rain on the way up. Instead all I had was high humidity thanks to disappearing into the cloud after the first kilometer up the hill.

It did not feel too hot though and running was quite easy all the way up to Quarry Gap. From there switched to fast walk mode. There was some typhoon debris earlier but the final 1.5 km to the radars were full of it – fallen trees (some already chopped up and cleared away from the road), fallen branches. It must have been pretty intense up there during the typhoon…

I made it to radar and added the usual dash to the second radar too. Then I jogged down to Quarry Gap and walked up Mt Butler. I felt quite OK so on the final part of the ascent I pushed a bit harder. After taking few photos of lovely large golden orb spider I ran back down the steps and to Quarry Bay.

This was a really enjoyable Thursday morning work out.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 52 – Tuesday road

The typhoon has passed and so the weather did not disturb my training plan. It was a bit cooler than the last 2 weeks but much more humid.

I noticed it right from the beginning. The legs felt much heavier than on the hotter but drier days. I had to run slower. The road conditions were fine on the first climb but on Tin Hau Temple Road it turned into obstacle course. The post typhoon debris was everywhere. I usually run full power down the road here. This time had to be a bit slower and careful to avoid all the fallen tree branches.

I settled into what on a day felt like fast pace (but significantly slower than the past 2 weeks). At one spot on Bowen Road the path was completely blocked by fallen tree – I had to climb over it. After that the road was mostly clear for the rest of run. Other than the heavy legs at the start and slower pace due to high humidity and messy surface it was a overall a good run.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 50 – Epic Lantau adventure

This was always going to be a crazy. Lloyd is moving away from Hong Kong and this was his farewell run through his Lantau playground.

We did not really know the route, all we knew was it is going to epic.

At the end we spent the whole day on the slopes of Lantau Peak going up and down and up and down on some seriously hard core routes. Shiggy steep approach from Tung Chung side, Dog Tooth down (insane), then another Dog Tooth up all combined with brutal heat under direct sunshine with no cloud cover at all.

It was almost all technical vertical, took us over 6 hours to cover little over 12km.

I was feeling OK and strong on the return climb up the Dog Tooth. But I knew that I would not be able to handle that exposure to direct sun for much longer. And with no access to any streams I decided to play it safe. Once we made it to the Lantau trail just below the top of Lantau Peak I decided to take the direct route down to Ngong Ping. At that time I still thought that the rest will stick with the original plan going on to Tai O. My plan was to cool down at Ngong Ping and go on to Tai O on less exposed route and meet the rest of the group there.

However the sun got the better of everybody. The rest of the guys continued according to the original plan and took the Heaven’s Gate route down from Lantau Peak but then they decided to call it a day at Ngong Ping too.

After the lunch we all jogged down to Tung Chung.

This was rather short outing for Saturday training but what it was lacking in distance it had in the difficulty. And the overall awesomeness :-) .

Links to Strava here (part 1) and here (part 2)

UTMB Training No 49 – Thursday Parker No 13

I stuffed my jersey pockets with 3×0.5l bottles of water and VFUEL for this run to make sure I don’t have to cut it short because of water shortage.

I tried to run as far as possible in the morning heat before switching to fast hike mode. I made it to the big pipe at about 2.2km up the hill. There I cooled down with water over my head and pushed on walking up the rest of the climb.

I made the quick dash up and down to the next radar too. Before running back down to Quarry Bay if went up Mt Butler too, enjoyed the great views for a while and then rushed back down the hill to Quarry Bay.

Link to Strava here