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
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 .
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.
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.
My main target for this season was the Hong Kong grand slam. Many things have to go right complete it. The first major hurdle is to secure a spot at each of the four races. I had luck in my first ever OTW lottery, I was just about quick enough to fill up the applications for TNF and Translantau and I went for charity entry for HK100 in order not to miss out. One also has to keep fit for the whole season, avoid injuries, don’t get sick… And then as we found this year – we also need the weather on our side. Two out of four of these races were stopped early due to the weather this season. There also is the small matter of actually finishing all four races.
After OTW, TNF100 and HK100 the only race left to do was the Translantau100.
Thanks to AFCD the route was brand new making the time predictions a bit difficult. The route looked on paper easier than the old version. Easier but still hard. Based on few recce runs and knowledge of some of the sections I guessed that 18 hours should be possible. My main goal however was to finish and get the slam done. Anything else would be a bonus. The main instruction to the brain before the race was “don’t do anything stupid”.
I planned this race as the A race of my Hong Kong season. I had the same plans last year. However the unfortunate tumble a week ahead of the race altered my race goals a year ago. This time I was determined to finally get that golden dude reserved for those who finish under 16 hours. That was the target.
I never thought the weather would be playing any role. This time of the year it is always nice in Hong Kong, usually almost the perfect running conditions. This year it was a bit different. It was raining more less the whole week leading up to the race. And for the race weekend we had the promise of polar vortex (whatever it means) affecting Hong Kong bringing close to freezing temperatures and even with chances of some snow. The observatory was quick to dismiss the snow fall but the freezing temperatures and strong winds were definitely on the cards.
I was not really worried about the cold itself. I have done some runs and even races in much colder conditions in Europe before. I was however concerned about cramping as a result of both the cold and the faster pace. At the same time I had to re-think my gear for the race.
I originally planned to use my UD SJ backpack with 2 front bottles (filled) and the empty bladder at the backpack to meet the minimum mandatory drinking capacity. But the cold weather called for more layers for the race. I managed to squeeze almost everything in but there was no room left for my waterproof gloves. Also the packing was too tight and getting things in and out with potentially cold hands could be a major trouble during the race. So I decided to switch to my slightly oversized 12l Raidlight Olmo that served me well twice in the Alps. It is a bit too big for race like this but easy to get stuff in and out. And it covered quite large area of my back providing additional layer of weather protection .
Seeing everybody making some New Year resolutions around January 1 I decided to set myself a bit of a challenge too – to do all four 100K races in Hong Kong in 2015. Well with new races popping up here and there they may now be more than four but I went for the original four – HK100, Translantau100, OTW and TNF100. It was not all smooth ride thanks to a silly injury but far from race fit I survived and completed both the early year races – HK100 and Translantau. A month long almost complete rest followed before I went full on into training for TDS. TDS was an amazing experience. But resuming training after that demanding race was not easy. The recovery took some time. But by the time of Trailwalker (after “practice” Moontrekker and LT70 races) I was feeling pretty good to go. Trailwalker went very well for me. Three out four were in the bag. The TNF however was always going to be the trickiest one.
I have never tried to attempt two 100km races within 3 weeks only. Also unlike the other three races I was not completely familiar with the TNF route. I knew most of it but not all. I never trained specially for this race. And of course – this race is a tough one…
I have lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years but somehow I have never done this one. I acted as an obedient mule on two occasions but I have never done the Trailwalker myself. Also – you can’t do HK 100K grand slam without doing OTW. So I made the decision to enter the lottery. Plan B was to find a team in case I fail in the lottery. I was lucky – first time trying and I got the place.
The team assembly was pretty quick – Sean was on board from the very beginning, Martijn and Stuart joined us soon after the lottery . Interesting mix – one OTW veteran, two OTW newbies and one 100K virgin. It took about 2 mins to come up with the team name. We managed several training runs together covering the complete OTW route although we were not always able to train all four of us together.
OTW2015 Awoosome Four Start
This is a special race to me. Back in 2013 LT70 was my first venture into ultra distances. I struggled in the heat last year and I was as close to DNF is one possibly can get without actually pulling out. And this year I signed up again. For fun. This is a happy race. And testing myself over 70km three weeks ahead of OTW sounded like a good plan.
I approached this race as a training race. No special preparation, just a part of training for my upcoming four 100K races. I set myself no specific target. I definitely wanted to finish. Anything sub 13 hours would be fine, getting sub 12 hours would be excellent.
This was a cool concept. Find two team mates holding the same passport as yourself, form a team and have race against other teams on some fun Lantau trails.
Concept was cool but finding 2 team mates with same passport was mission close to impossible for me. But not wanting to miss out on all the fun I explored some other options. And one of the self proclaimed race directors announced that teams coming from other planets of our solar system will be given wild card entries (suggesting for example Uranus) and I was all for it.
Still I had to find team mates. I managed to convince a guy called Vince that he also is from Uranus. He in turn recruited lady called Rachel and Team Uranus was born.
This was a short but very special race for me. Firstly our company was one of partners of the race – we supplied the race tees for the runners and volunteers. And I ran this race with my soon to be 9 years old son – as a team – in the family edition. My racing season was officially over after Translantau but I thought that 8km with my junior running buddy would be fun.
My son was taking this race seriously and obviously hoped we can finish good somewhere near the top of the order. I tried to keep his expectations down – after all there would surely be much older kids than him. My other concern was the weather. After our recce run I was sure that he can handle the course without too much trouble but late April heat and humidity could be a factor…