Tag Archives: MacLehose Trail

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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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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UTMB Training No 34 – Back to Mac 7887

After long but rather flat run last Saturday it was time to some hill work again. I picked my favourite hill training route from Shing Mun over Needle Hill, Grassy Hill, Tai Mo Shan and back. The weather forecast seemed fine – hot with some showers – so nothing stood in my way.

I slept a bit longer than I planned so I started a bit later than I would normally do – around 10:30am. It was quite stuffy at first and with quite a few cars on the road between the minibus stop and Shing Mun dam I decided to take it easy and just fast walk this first bit. I only started to push a bit more on the Needle Hill climb. It was quite stuffy at first but before I made it to the top strong wind brought quite heavy shower. The rest of the Needle Hill crossing was like running up and down a stream. Water was flowing all over and around the steps. The rain stopped when I reached the paved road towards Grassy Hill. In that heat all that rainwater began evaporating, it felt like running through steam bath – stuffy and humid. Luckily the winds kept coming and going and soon the conditions turned into rather pleasant.

I enjoyed the climb up to Grassy Hill – I had no issued, legs felt good and it did not feel too hot. I kept sipping my VFUEL drink. I used this run also as a test for different nutrition strategy and ran with both front bottles filled up with VFUEL rather than having one with VFUEL and other with plain water. Plain water was flowing from the water bladder in the backpack. This worked wonders – first time in long time I was never low on energy. Clearly having energy drink handy instead of having to prepare new mix is definitely more runner friendly…

For the better part of the Grassy Hill climb I was in the clouds and that also made the conditions bearable. The downhill slope to Leadmine Pass was a bit slippery but nothing too dramatic. Rain was beginning to fall again and when I reached the Leadmine Pass it was raining quite heavily. I decided to take a short break and check the weather situation before heading up to Tai Mo Shan. The break was bit longer than planned. First the signal was quite weak there and it took ages to get the HK Observatory app and the weather update loaded. Then Nic, John and Jeff arrived from the opposite direction. And finally a couple of cows hiding there from the rain decided to entertain us.

There was a thunderstorm warning but when the app finally loaded up I could see that all the stormy weather is safely away in Sai Kung area and Tai Mo Shan was safe to go. So I set off and pushed up. I felt good and decided to enjoy one of my favourite climbs in Hong Kong. And I duly did. At the early stages it was quite wet with water running down the hill but for most of the climb the surface was just a bit damp providing quite good grip. Cloud cover and changing winds made the conditions very nice – the best one can hope for in the middle of Hong Kong summer. As I found out later this was my second fastest ascent of Tai Mo Shan – I just felt great.

The road section was easy both uphill and downhill. I remembered the same few weeks ago when I was exhausted from the heat I could not even run the entire downhill. This time it was piece of cake. Real fun run.

Down the Rotary Park and made a quick mid way pit stop for some noodles, Coke and water refill and without wasting too much time I turned around. Back up to Tai Mo Shan. It took me about 3h15mins to get there (including that Leadmine Pass stop). I was hoping to get back in total time under 6 hours. Climb up Tai Mo Shan went well and so did the run down to the hut. After crossing the small hill I ran all the way down to Leadmine Pass with the exceptions of some of technical bits. I am nursing a busted big toe on right foot and just do not need another knock on that poor bugger.

I did not stop at Leadmine Pass at all – I had 4h40mins on my watch and I wanted to get the job under 6 hours. Grassy Hill went very well, more less non stop quite effortless push up the hill and the very pleasant run down the road towards the foot of Needle Hill. I haven’t felt this good in very long time.

Just before I started to climb Needle Hill heavy rain came again. It was a welcome refreshment. But then while I was already on my way up Needle Hill a loud sound of thunder came. And then another and another. This was way too close for comfort. The top of the Needle Hill is quite exposed – not the best place to be while thunderstorm is passing. I decided to turn around and go down to wait out the storm. Luckily the storm went away as quickly as it had arrived and 10-15 minutes later I was again on the way the Needle Hill.

This break interrupted my momentum and also killed my hopes of doing this return trip over Mac 7 and 8 under six hours in the summer but at this point I did not care too much. I was very happy with how my day went. After few weeks of suffering in the heat having a long run and feeling fresh and strong was a real boost for my UTMB morale.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 18 – MacHeat and MacStorm on Mac 7-8-8-7

After couple of long Saturday runs at my backyard I decided to move butt to the other side of Hong Kong and do my favourite hilly training run over Needle Hill, Grassy Hill and Tai Mo Shan and back.

The weather forecast was for hot hot day with some showers and possible thunderstorms later in the day. I kind of hoped I could enjoy those showers while avoiding any thunderstorms.

Well it was hoooot… I set off in easy relaxed pace. I wanted to complete the whole run and that would not happen if I exhausted myself on the first hill…

It was raining when I started from Shing Mun but by the time I begun climbing Needle Hill the rain was gone. Needle Hill was quite fine though, not too many people there and the easy pace strategy was working.

Between Needle Hill and Grassy Hill my brain wandered somewhere away and I missed the turn. It took me a while to realize I am enroute to the reservoir. So I backtracked about 2km and made the turn towards Grassy Hill. I was in no hurry but my pace picked up a bit under the trees. When I reached the top of the climb I decided to go all the way to the top of Grassy Hill before running down to Leadmine Pass. I have never been there… So I turned right and went on extra 100 or 200 meters and the a bit of trail to the trig point.

Did not waste much time there and quickly ran down between the cows to Leadmine Pass. Short break to cool down under the water from the taps and time to climb Tai Mo Shan.

The climb was a bit frustrating – I could see clouds moving fast across the hillside but always in front of me. I never got the chance to enjoy them. I was baking on the sun all the way up … But other than that the climb was OK. No major issues.

I started to feel weak though on the run down. I could not run non stop all the way down, I had to switch to walking from time to time. I could not wait for the water pipe that is about 2km from the top on the way, I so needed to cool down. Just before that pipe I met Bei on her way up. After short chat I went on but first I stuffed my head under that water pipe …

I still had about 3km to go down the road at that stage I was not sure if my body would be able to handle that heat and do the return leg back to Shing Mun. It did not look good. I decided to keep my options open and make the decision after the refreshment break at the “Lin Ar aid station” at the Rotary Park.

I sat down there, got some cup noodles, Coke, refilled my water, made new VFUEL mix, cooled down with tap water, packed a bottle of tap water to have something to pour over my head if hot and decided to go back where I came from.

Surprisingly the climb up to Tai Mo Shan was actually OK. The break and food and drinks helped. I cooled down again under that water pipe by the road but that was the only break on the way up. What surely helped was that the clouds kept rolling over covering the sun. By the time I made it to the top the sky was dark and the winds were picking up – it was actually very pleasant. It was very easy for my to push, run, increase my pace, suddenly I was enjoying this run.

Somewhere half the way down I met Bei again (on her way back up). We exchanged few words and continued in opposite directions. Soon I was down at Leadmine Pass.

It was much cooler now and the winds were quite strong. So stopped for a while and checked the weather info. And what I did not see – screen full of weather warnings – thunderstorm warning and strong gusts warning + message that rain is coming soon to my location. I am fine with rain but I had two more hills to climb. Last thing I wanted was end up on the top of the hill in the middle of the thunderstorm … But the radar images showed that storm is still quite fat away so I decided to go and quickly climb the Grassy Hill.

No lightnings and no sound of thunder but the wind was all of sudden very strong and the rain was lashing at right side of my face. It was fun as long as nothing was going to fall on my head. At least the climb was easy in these cool conditions.

I rushed down from Grassy Hill. On the road I ran into those cows that disappeared from Grassy Hill. At few places between Grassy Hill and Needle Hill the winds were pretty insane abut the rain was slowly going away.

When I started climbing the Needle Hill I looked at Tai Mo Shan – the almost black skies turned to some clear blue grey with very clear views – the storm was going somewhere else. I saw a lightning far in the distance. There were quite a lot of people on Needle Hill (surprisingly, in that weather) so I had to navigate through some traffic. But I made it up quite quickly – again thanks to much cooler conditions than in the morning. From the top it was just short run down to the Shing Mun reservoir – but even on that short run it rained, stopped raining, rained again, stopped raining… Just before the dam I ran into bunch of monkeys. They were minding their own business so no monkey business this time. Only quick jog back to the minibus station.

It was definitely an interesting day. Most important I did what I set out to do and at the end it relatively OK pace given the super hot first half and a bit…

Strava link here.

2016 HK100 – When Hong Kong froze

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.

Preparation

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 :-) .
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2015 TNF100 Hong Kong – The end of the year race

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…
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2015 Oxfam Trailwalker – The Awoosome Four

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

OTW2015 Awoosome Four Start


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2015 TDS Training – Run no. 53 – Back to Mac 7-8-8-7

I was not sure what will be possible to do on Saturday. Thunderstorms were forecasted. Last thing I wanted was to get caught in one somewhere up on the ridge. First thing I did in the morning was to check the weather info. Thunderstorm warning was up. But quick check of radar images revealed there were no lightnings anywhere around. The west part of New Territories looked pretty clear so I decided to repeat the Mac 7-8 and back route.

The clouds were dark and low when I reached Shing Mun Reservoir but it was not raining. After the warm up hike from minibus stop to reservoir I started the Needle Hill climb. I was still a bit nervous about the possible storms so I wanted to have this hill done quickly. No sun and breeze made the climb rather easy. I was up and down in no time with no issues. The grip of the HOKAs also helped on the wet steps.

Clouds over Needle Hill

Clouds over Needle Hill

I ran quickly down from the top and kept on running on the flatter part of the Grassy Hill section. I felt quite good and the cool weather had a lot to do with it. I pushed on the climb to Grassy Hill. At times I could not see much in the fog but otherwise uneventful climb. Run down to Leadmine Pass was a bit slippery but nothing that the shoes could not handle.
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2015 TDS Training – Run no. 49 – Mac 3-4-5

The original idea was to try to do Double Au. My main concern were the thunderstorm warnings – would not be fun being up on the ridges with lightnings around.

The weather in the morning looked OK though. There was the thunderstorm warning but look at the lightning radar images did not show any lightnings anywhere. So this looked all good. It got even better when I was on the bus from Sai Kung to Pak Kung Au – it was raining!

Unfortunately it stopped raining by the time I started. And the rain instead of making things better made them much worse. Firstly – it was slippery. And this being the first wet run in my new shoes I needed some time to get used to the slightly different grip (or no grip at times). Even worse was the sauna the rain created. Thanks to the heat I was simply moving through the steam.
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