I never had chance to run this officially 140km long race in the past. May date was simply not working for me while I was still in Hong Kong. I signed up for the 2021 edition though. However as the 2020 one was cancelled due to Covid situation a virtual challenge was announced. Without thinking too much I signed up. All I needed to do was to run the whole route in one go anytime between June 15 and Oct 15. What could go wrong, right ?
Well quite a lot actually 🙂 . My intention was to go totally solo, on my own, without any pacers or support. Having been back for only couple of months I would not even be able to organize the support. It was much simpler to just rely on myself. This however meant to carry all I would need with me, including most of the food, quite a lot of water as well as some basic change of clothes for the train ride back home. Once I started to research the route it became clear that the logistics of food and beverages will be the main challenge. There were few places early on where getting some drinks and snacks was possible. Very few… And whether I would be able to buy something depended on what time of the day I would get there. I found online where in theory I should be able to get some water from springs along the route. I could only hope that the info was accurate and up to date.
My trusted UD backpack never carried as much stuff as this time. I could not believe how much I could actually fit in 🙂 . I had with me about 10 energy bars, pack of figs and dates and some home made rice balls mixed with salted dry seaweed. Three soft flask (2 filled from the start, one extra for later when more reserves may be needed) and one more flask with filter in case I get desperate. Then the usual primary headlamp with spare power and a back up headlamp, power bank, first aid kit, stronger waterproof jacket (I deliberately picked hot and sunny days with no rain forecasts but one never knows in the summer…), change of clothes, sports towel, sunblock, headband for the night, money, phone, route plan with potential F&B points. On the train they gave me a bottle of water. I decided to take it with me too just in case (what a wise idea it proved to be…). Poles I left home. Haven’t used them since Andorra last summer and I realized that life is easier without them – one less thing to worry about 🙂 .
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.
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
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 🙂 . Continue reading →
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”. Continue reading →
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 🙂 . Continue reading →
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… Continue reading →
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.
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.
A year ago while looking up at Mt. Blanc from our chalet just before leaving Chamonix I more less decided to come back. What I did not want was to return and do the same race again. The 100 mile UTMB was still something I was not too sure about. And so I signed up for the 119km long TDS. Longer than CCC, shorter than UTMB – it seemed to be the ideal next step. For some yet unknown to me reasons the organizers ranked TDS as more difficult than UTMB.
TDS – Difficult
My preparations for this race started unofficially with the Translantau 100. Although I was far from fit for that race it was a good self assessment on a difficult course at the end of previous racing season. A six week break with very little running followed. Then from May 1st a preparation proper and booze free diet begun (all the training notes are filled under TDS tag). In general I followed a similar Tue-Thu-Sat-Sun training routine as a year ago with few changes:
a) I added few Wednesday track sessions early on into the training
b) I decided to alternate trail and road on my Tuesday runs to add some pace to my training
c) I stuck with my Thursday morning Mt. Parker routine but I shortened the overall distance of those runs by about 10km.
d) During my training after studying few TDS race reports and realizing what that “Difficult” rating meant I made an adjustment to my training plan – I focused more on climbing and descent rather than overall distance on my long Saturday runs.
After all the issues I had early this year I was lucky to have injury free preparation for TDS. However just about 2 weeks ahead of the race some strange feeling around the right knee appeared. There was no pain, it did not bother me at all while running but I felt something was weird. I could only hope that it won’t bother me during the race. Continue reading →
A year ago I spent the night in Pak Mong and Ngong Ping check points helping with the Translantau timekeeping. It was a very interesting experience seeing the tired runners approaching the Ngong Ping CP in the early morning hours. Some fresh and eager to push on, some destroyed already with two thirds of the course still ahead. I guess it was then when the idea of signing up for this race was planted somewhere into my brain.
Translantau map and elevation profile – beast of a course
Then later in the year I signed up for the TDS (because CCC was not enough 🙂 ). And I thought that it might be good to end the winter season with a tough run – already as a part of preparation for the TDS. So I signed up with no goal other than to finish. I had no special race plan, I haven’t done any recce and I had no specific time target.
Then came new year and as I had a spot at both HK100 and Translantau100 I set myself the target to finish all four Hong Kong 100km races in 2015. Continue reading →