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Thomas Combisen @ The 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

7 03 2019

(Note: Support Crew in this Race is strictly for the purpose of providing transport to the Runner from one transition area (end & start of the trail) to another and to prepare in these transition areas the needed hydration/nutrition and gears of the runner. In addition, to monitor the progress of the runner through the event’s live tracking website)

This year’s race is the 8th edition of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge popularly known as HK4TUC or “Hongkong Four”. I have written a story/post on this blog about the first finisher which was considered as “survivor”, who happens to be a Pinoy Ultrarunner in the person of Jag Lanante who is a Registered Nurse based in Thailand. Since then, the event had evolved as the “toughest” ultra trail event in Asia and in the world. Aside from the fact that the event is always held during the Chinese New Year celebration where most of the commercial establishments and public transportation are closed or limited in numbers.

What makes this ultra event as the toughest one, even if there is No Registration Fee, are the following: (1) There are NO Aid Stations and each runner should be on “self-sufficient” on his/her needs along the route; (2) Runners are NOT allowed to have Support Crew along the route not until they reach the Transition Areas (Start or End of each Trailhead/Trailend); (3) The Four Trails must be ran in the reverse direction starting with the Maclehose Trail that has a distance of 100 kilometers; then the Wilson Trail that has a distance of 78 kilometers; then Hongkong Trail that has a distance of 50 kilometers; and lastly, the Lantau Trail that has a distance of 70 kilometers; (4) I really don’t know if this had been introduced in the past editions that there are intermediate cut-off times at the end of Maclehose Trail which is 18 hours and at the starting line at the Lantau Trail on or before 56 hours; (5) Relying on the existing Old Trail Markers along the route for direction is a challenge to the runners, most especially, at the Maclehose and Wilson Trails as some sections overlap to each of the trails. Sometimes, a simple arithmetic mentally could do the trick! (6) Lastly, most of the trails are made of cemented stairs and some portions are on paved roads. But each runner must be warned that there are stairs that have narrow steps has a width which is half of the length of ones foot. These kind of trail steps need a special trick in running the descents or downhills.

Thomas Combisen & PAU

When the registration and submission of letter of intent to join this race was announced last July 2018, I asked two of our PAU runners, Thomas Combisen and Ronnel Valero, to send their respective letter of intent to Andre Blumberg, the Creator, Race Organizer and Race Director of the event. After few days, the RD told me that he could accommodate only one runner from PAU, out of the rest of the Pinoy Ultra Trail runners who submitted their letter of intent. The RD had emphasized that he would prefer another female runner to join the only Pinoy he would choose through his own screening process. After some exchanges of messages during the screening process, the RD decided to choose Thomas Combisen to represent PAU and the Philippines.  I find out later after few months that Kristian Jorgensen, from Denmark and residing in the Philippines was returning for his 2nd attempt to finish the HK4TUC, and he is also representing the Philippines.

After finishing the Salomon Cappadocia 120K Ultramarathon Race in Urgup, Turkey last October, we were planning to recon the Hongkong 4 Trails through hiking last November 2018 but due to work, Thomas requested me to cancel or postpone our plan depending on the availability of time. The days passed and with work demands, the recon did not push through. I gave to Thomas the book that Andre Blumberg gave me on the description of the Hongkong 4 Trails and told him to review the book as his reference.

Lunch Meeting With Irene & Jurg In Hongkong

During my trip in Hongkong last August 2018, I contacted and met a couple of Hongkong locals to help me on the details on how to transport Thomas from one trail to another during the event. The couple, Irene Montemayor and her husband, Jurg were very friendly and cooperative as they know and familiar with all the Hongkong Trails as trail runners/hikers. Irene and I had become Facebook friends after she won the 2016 Translantau 50K Ultra Trail Race. With this meeting and assurance from the couple, I knew that the problem of transport/logistics for Thomas during the event was a done deal and had been solved.

Race Proper

The 29 qualified runners to join this year’s event assembled beside a road and under an overpass where the end of MacLehose Trail is located. The runners were required to be in the assembly area at least 1:30 hours before the Gunstart at 9:00 AM on the first day of the Chinese New Year. Since this is a “Fat Ass” Race, there was no Race Bib and other “loot” to receive except for reporting to the RD to be briefed on the carrying/wearing of a “tracking device” by the runner; have each runner to have their Pictures/“Mugshot” taken; listen to the Final Briefing of the RD; have a Group Picture for the HK4TUC Class of 2019; knowing each other among the runners; and wait for the Gunstart. The race started at exactly 9:00 AM of February 6, 2019.

29 Members Of the HK4TUC Class of 2019

After taking a video of the runners few meters from the Starting Area, our Team had to leave the area and went back to our Hotel and monitor the movement of Thomas and the other runners through the Live Tracking link provided by the RD as I would like to take advantage of the Free WiFi provided in our place of accommodation and be able to monitor in a laptop which has a bigger screen and could be easily zoomed as compared to having the race being monitored through the cellphone. One of my companions/team members (who has a cellular data) informed me that Khristian and Thomas were leading the group after 30 minutes from the start. I was surprised to learn this and I had a lot of impressions in my mind why Thomas was so fast on the first 10-15 kilometers of the MacLehose Trail. Knowing the capability of Thomas on road and trail running, I was confident that he will be able to tone down his pace as the race progresses along the MacLehose Trail.

Trail #1: MacLehose Trail (100 kilometers)

The first 4 hours was uneventful until Thomas went off course as he went all the way along Tai Po Road instead of going up along the Overpass to cross the Tai Po Road after passing the Kam Shan Country Park. He ran downhill along Tai Po Road for about 2 kilometers when he realized that he could not see any Trail Marker, he was advised by the RD to return to the overpass and look at the Trail Marker thereat. This was Thomas first experience of being lost along the course. In my estimate, he wasted 30-40 minutes on this part as he was going uphill for him to go back to the overpass. After this, he was very careful and deliberate in his movement making sure that he is following those MacLehose Trail Markers. 

Thomas Along The Maclehose Trail

When the evening came on the first day, the second challenge was to run and cross those sand on the beach in four different sections with him trying to find his exit towards the Dam. It took him few minutes to locate where the trail was as he was leaving the last section of the beach. Thomas did not panic and he was able to finally reach the Dam and in a few kilometers towards the Finish Line of the MacLehose Trail. Thomas was behind a Lady Runner (Sarah) for a few seconds when he reached the finish line of the MacLehose Trail. He had a 15-minute buffer time before the cut-off time of 18 hours. 

End Of Maclehose Trail

Our Logistic Team was there to meet Thomas at the end of MacLehose Trail and asked him what he needed before we leave for the trailhead of the Wilson Trail. It took us 2-3 minutes for Thomas to change his shirt and hydrate and we took off immediately with a Taxi where we advised Thomas to sleep while we were en route to the next trail. The trip from MacLehose to Wilson Trail is a 50-mile travel which would take us 50 minutes to One Hour of travel time. We did not talk to Thomas and let him sleep as we traveled to next stage.

Trail #2: Wilson Trail (78 kilometers)

We arrived at the trailhead of the Wilson Trail in less than one hour and immediately Thomas ate rice and tinolang manok and refilled his pack with water and some solid food. In a few minutes, he left the trailhead rested and fed. We were confident that he will make-up for his lost time in MacLehose Trail as we were able to catch up with at least 3 runners at the start of Wilson Trail who finished the First Leg way ahead of Thomas. We were back to our Hotel at 4:00 AM of the 2nd Day confident that Thomas will allow us to doze off for some hours from monitoring on his movement. But as we opened our laptops, we found out that Thomas got lost at 1.5 kilometers from the start of Wilson Trail. (Note: Our Logistic Team did not sleep for the first night waiting for Thomas to finish the MacLehose Trail and bringing him to Wilson Trail and attending to his needs before jump-off)

Thomas was able to get back to the trail after a few minutes. But after one hour and 15 minutes, Thomas went off course again after passing Km 11.5 at Nam Chung Country Park and I could see in the Live Tracking that he was going down from the mountain at a very fast pace and about to reach the sea shore when he realized that he was off course. It took him some time to go uphill to find out the place where he veered off from the trail. Another lost minutes on this 4th lost of Thomas along the course. At Km 22.5 (Wilson Trail Post #127), instead of veering left along the Wilson Trail, Thomas went directly due south and hit another trail that was way off course. He was able to run another 2 kilometers after he realized that he was off course. As he was going back to the Wilson Trail, he met Soken, the Japanese runner going down on the wrong trail where Thomas was coming from. Thomas warned him that it was a wrong trail and that he had to return but Soken insisted that he was on the right trail.

Lost Moments @ Wilson Trail

Once Thomas reached the intersection, he spent a lot of time trying to locate the Wilson Trail Marker and he told me that he rested here for more than hour. It was evident that Thomas took some time to stay in the said place as his tracker was not moving at all as gleaned from the Live Tracking. After resting, he was able to get back on the trail and Thomas was moving as fast as he could.

Almost 2-Hour Stop At This Point

As he reached the populated area at Wilson Trail Marker #99 at Tai Po Tau Drive, Thomas was looking for a Grocery Store as he needed some water/hydration drinks. The heat of the day was taking its toll to the runners as the 2nd day was hotter than the first day. He went off course again looking for a Grocery Store and he was able to get his drinks/water. However, after 500 meters, instead of turning left at Lam Sen River (Km Marker Wilson #98), he went straight ahead and missed the turn. Thomas was able to get back to the trail when he saw that he could not see any Trail Marker on the course he was running.

Because it was the 2nd evening, Thomas did not notice the intersection of MacLehose Trail with the Wilson Trail. Instead of turning left, he went straight to the MacLehose Trail after the Wilson Trail Marker #66. He lost another 1:30 hours in going back to the Wilson Trail.

About 8 kilometers from the MRT, the battery of his tracker was depleted and there was no way for us to know where Thomas was. We had to contact him by phone and we were able to monitor him as he moved and progressed during the night.

In my interview with Thomas, he missed the last trip of the MRT by 1:30 hours and he was able to sleep at the MRT Station for almost 2 hours and took the first trip to continue his Wlison Trail Leg. As he moved on the remaining 7 kilometers of Wilson Trail (Hongkong side) on the 3rd Day, we estimated that he would arrive at the transition area at 8:00-8:15 AM. Thomas finally arrived at 9:15 AM, completing the Wilson Trail in almost 29 hours! (Note: If Thomas did not get lost most of the time at the Wilson Trail and would have taken the last trip of the MRT (12:50 AM on the 3rd Day), he could have shaved off at least, 4-5 hours!)

Waiting TAXI For Thomas @ The End Of Wilson Trail

Trail #3: Hongkong Trail

Using a Taxi (waiting for us), it took us from the transition area in Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road Bus Terminal for about 30 minutes. We let Thomas took some drinks and food and let him take a nap on the move inside the Taxi. At the Shek O Road Bus Station, Thomas ate rice and Pork Sinigang and refilled his pack with water and food. Initially, we were lost and confused in looking where the trailhead was and asked a lot of locals in the area. After looking and reading at HK4TUC RD’s Guidelines and Notes, I realized that the Shek O Road sign is the start of the Hongkong Trail up to the Old Wave Bay (going back to where we came from while riding in a Taxi). We advised Thomas to run and hike along the Shek O Road towards the intersection and hit the road going to the Old Wave Bay until he would reach the Hongkong Trail Course Marking/Posts. 

It was already 10:00 AM on the third day when Thomas left the Shek O Road Bus Terminal with the advise that we have to arrive at Mui Wo and take the Ferry before 5:00 PM. While I was in the Bus on my way back to the Hotel, I was trying to compute if Thomas can make it at 5:00 PM at Mui Wo within the duration of 7 hours. I was confident that he could make it with no more possibility of getting lost along the Hongkong Trail. With no fresh battery in Thomas tracker, it was very hard to estimate on how much time or the near exact time will Thomas arrive at the Victoria Peak. I was hoping that he could make it in 6 hours despite the fact that HK Trail is a net uphill climb before we could bring him to the Central Ferry Station and be able to arrive at Mui Wo before 5:00 PM on the third day.

Our Logistics/Transport Team was already at the Peak before 4:00 PM and we decided to hike along the HK Trail to meet Thomas. We covered the last 3 kilometers without meeting Thomas and waited for him in a Country Park. After 30 minutes, knowing that he could not make it at 4:00 PM at the end of HK Trail, we decided to go down farther along the trail to finally meet Thomas. As we were going down on the stairs for about 50 meters from the Park where we waited, we finally met Thomas! We immediately joined him for a brisk hike until he finished the Hongkong Trail. Thomas reached the end of Hongkong Trail at 6:35 PM on the 3rd day. His unofficial estimated cumulative time is 57:35 hours for the 3 trails. Thomas missed the cut-off time to start the Lantau Trail in Mui Wo by 1:35 hours.

Thomas At The End Of Hongkong Trail

Knowing the rules of the event, Thomas’ journey on his attempt to finish or survive the 2019 HK4TUC has to end. We took some pictures and waited for our ride back to the Hotel and later got a Taxi.

Thomas was still smiling and strong when he finished the Hongkong Trail. I did not see any limp in his steps/strides while we walked and looked for a Taxi on our way back to the Hotel. Thomas told me that the Pork Sinigang he ate before he started the HK Trail gave him the strength and speed to reach the halfway mark (Km 25) in 2:46 hours! But because of too many tourists who were hiking and walking along the narrow HK Trail after the halfway mark, he could hardly run and maintain his speed/pace and he was forced to walk with the tourist trying to dodge and not being hit by their umbrellas!

Trail #4: Lantau Trail (70 kilometers)

Thomas did not start to run on this trail, instead, we went on a tourist mode to see the island on the following morning.

Thomas With RD Andre Blumberg @ Mui Wo, Lantau

Results

3 Finishers

6 Survivors

20 Retirees

Finishers:

1. Kristian Joergensen, Denmark (based in Philippines), 55:52 hours

2. Tomokazu Ihara 井原知一, Japan, 57:42

3. Nikki Han, United Kingdom (based in Hong Kong), 58:20

Survivors:

1. Abimanyu Shunmugam, Singapore, 64:03

2. Lau Chun Man, Hong Kong, 65:26

3. Chris Kwan Yee Ting 關綺婷, Hong Kong, 66:10

4. Leon Jiang Liang Jun 蒋良君, China, 66:52

5. Habiba Benahmed, France (based in Hong Kong), 68:54

6. Knattapisit Krutkrongchai ณัฐพิสิษฐ์ ครุฑครองชัย, Thailand (based in Hong Kong), 73:28

Finishers & Survivors Split Times

Conclusion

After his shower and recovery meal at the Hotel, we talked about his experience and assessed the things that went wrong and the things where we can improve for the next edition.

In my opinion, without the cut-off time of 5:00 PM on the 3rd day to reach Mui Wo (Lantau), Thomas would have continued the race and hoping to finish the Lantau Trail in 17 or 18 hours, he could have finished within the cut-off time of 75 hours as a “Survivor”. As a consolation/cheer and to compare to what he had achieved on his first attempt to finish the HK4TUC, I told him that Jag Lanante was the first “survivor” or “last man standing” on his first attempt in the HK4TUC and finished the race in 81+ hours with the aid of trekking poles then. But Jag Lanante came back stronger as a sub-75 “survivor” on his 2nd attempt and finally as a sub-60 Finisher on his 3rd attempt. 

Thomas is just starting to warm-up and he is now thinking on how to finish this race as a “Finisher” on the next edition. As I told him on our way back to Manila, “Thomas, Finisher Number 10 will be waiting for you as your Lucky Number on the 9th Edition of the HK 4 Trails Ultra Challenge!” 

In behalf of Thomas, he expressed his thanks and appreciation to the members of the Team Thomas Logistics Team consisting of Irene Montemayor & Jurg; Chari Sevilla; Scarlet Heart; PAU Staff; and myself for the journey/adventure and memorable experience on his attempt to finish the HK4TUC.

Congratulations and here is my snappy salute to you, Hero Thomas!  

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Race Preview: 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

7 02 2019

Here is a Repost of an article from Ultra 168 of Australia about the 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge.

RACE PREVIEW: 2019 HONGKONG FOUR TRAILS ULTRA CHALLENGE (HK4TUC)

The 298km trail ultramarathon with 14,500m elevation gain consists of running all of the four long distance trails in Hong Kong. Namely the Maclehose trail (100km), the Wilson trail (78km), the Hong Kong trail (50km) and the Lantau trail (70km) in a single, non-stop effort.

HK4TUC has become widely recognised internationally through the documentary Breaking 60, which features four participants from the 2017 challenge.

This year 29 athletes from 13 nationalities aged 20 to 52 will race. “The field is diverse with only 7 participants from Hong Kong running. The others joining from countries as far away as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States. We are particular proud to welcome 11 female participants to take on the tough Challenge this year,” said Andre Blumberg, Founder of HK4TUC.

Runners must be self-sufficient along each of the four trails. They are run in reverse of the normal direction with no course markings. There are no aid stations and no outside support such as pacers, crew or stashing of supplies permitted on the trails. Participants will only have support between the four trails, but the clock continues non-stop towards the 60 hours finisher cut-off. Furthermore, trekking poles are banned this year in an effort to bring the event back to basics.

Participants who complete the course within 60 hours are declared finishers. Those who complete within 75 hours (the final cut-off time) are declared survivors. Additional cut-off times are 18 hours to complete the first Maclehose 100km trail and 56 hours to commence the final Lantau 70km trail. There have only been six finishers in the history of the Challenge, with three women completing the distance too.

Eleven former participants are returning this year including two 2018 survivors, Meredith Quinlan from Australia and Abimanyu Shunmugam from Singapore. Both are gunning for a sub-60 hours finish this year.

Other notable entrants include:

HK4TUC Women

  • Habiba Benahmed (France, based in Hong Kong): Habiba dropped early in the 2018 edition. She has revamped her training for the better and finished Top 5 in all four of her races last year.
  • Sarah Pemberton (HK, based in Indonesia): Another early drop in 2018, Sarah grew up in Hong Kong. She has ramped training significantly, with a lot of time spent on the course. She won the TTF Hong Kong 115km in early 2019.
  • Nikki Han (UK, based in Hong Kong): Nikki had a confirmed slot back in 2015. She had to pull out however before the start due to injury. Nikki has spent ample time on the course, and had a couple strong local race performances, plus a sub-36 hours 2018 UTMB.
  • Xiao Jing 肖静 (China): More recently Jing focused on road and timed ultras. However, she Tor des Geants, plus multiple Hong Kong trail ultras under her belt. She mostly finishes in the Top 10.
  • Yang Fei Fei 非非 (China): Fei Fei mostly races in China and Hong Kong and finished Top 6 in all of her 2018 races ranging from 50km to 100km. She’s got the speed, but it will be interesting to see how she holds up over the extended, sleep-depriving distance.

 

HK4TUC Men

  • Kristian Joergensen (Denmark, based in Philippines): Kristian ran in 2018 and lead for pretty much all of the first day. He then dropped out overnight on Wilson trail. Since then, he significantly stepped up his training. He recently spent several days rehearsing the course for tackling the 2019 edition. Kristian won the Pulag 100km, Clark Miyamit 50mile and came 2nd place in Rizal Mountain 50km and TMBT 100km last year.
  • Ian Seabury (Unites States): Ian is based in Los Angeles, California. He has raced and placed well at many of the iconic US 100 miles trail ultras over the years. This includes the Chimera 100, Zion 100, Angeles Crest 100, Pinhoti 100 and Born to Run 100. In 2017 he completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in very respectable times including a sub-24 hours Western States 100 and sub-27 hours Wasatch 100. Interestingly, he raced the inaugural Hong Kong 100 back in 2011.
  • Thomas Combisen (Philippines): Thomas is one of the strongest ultra runners in the Philippines and regularly clocks around 1,500km in races alone each year. In recent years his focus is more on road and timed ultras. He has raced non-stop distances of 250km or above at least three times.
  • Steven Ong (Malaysia): Steven is one of the strongest ultra runners in Malaysia currently. He has has a solid background on both trail and road. Since October 2016 he placed on the podium in each of the 15 races he finished. Winning 11 of the 15. Notable wins include the 2017 Panoramic Ultra Trail 100 miles in Thailand, as well as the 2018 TITI 250km road ultra in Malaysia.
  • Tomokazu Ihara (Japan): Tomo-San has run ultras for at least ten years. His speciality is the 100+ miles distance of which he completed 47 and frequently finished within the Top 10. These include 6 x HURT 100 with a 4th place at the recent 2019 event and 3 x Angeles Crest 100.
  • From an Aussie perspective, watch out for Christian Warren. UK national, but living over in Australia with some excellent pedigree, which includes 6 x TNF100 / UTA, 3 x Buffalo Stampede 75km. He has also raced internationally, including the 2017 Lavaredo and 2018 Tarawera 100mile. Along with UTMB, as well as Hong Kong 100 and TNF100 Hong Kong.

 





Race Report: 2016 TransLantau 100K Ultra Trail Race

15 03 2016

Last year, I joined this race for the reason to visit Hongkong and at the same time, find out if my training on trail running was making some progress and improvement on my capability to run in ultra mountain trail races. For this year, I joined this race for the purpose of earning “points” for the UTMB with the hope of joining this race in 2017 or year after (if my knees are still intact and strong!). This is my Race Report last year.

I was satisfied with the result of my last year’s finish with a time of 28:50+ hours and I’ve earned 3 points for the UTMB registration. I’ve earned another 2 UTMB points in last year’s Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Trail Run. So, I still need 4 points to complete 9 points within this year for me to be qualified to join the 2017 UTMB. On second thought, I am now qualified for the UTMF in Japan this year with the 3 points for UTMB I’ve earned in last year’s TransLantau 100 or maybe, join in next year’s CCC 100K which needs only 3 points to register.

The main goal for me in this year’s TransLantau 100 was to finish the race within the cut-off time of 32 hours, without any injury, and be able to earn another 3 UTMB points. Improving my finish time was considered as a “bonus”, knowing what to expect on the terrain, the stairs, location of Checkpoints/Aid Stations, and the weather (where I assumed that the weather last year was the same for this year’s edition). I did not have any jitters or nervousness on the last few days and hours before the event. I was totally relaxed and ready for the challenge.

But along the course before I finished the race, the prevailing weather for the day turned to be very dangerous to the runners (as per the Race Organizer’s view) and the following is my story about it.

Map Of Lantau

Map of Lantau & Race Route Of TransLantau 100

Pre-Ritual Activities

The usual ritual that I’ve done last year before the race was done again for this year—the trip from Tsim Shai Tsui to Central’s Pier 6 to Mui Wo via the Boat/Ferry (faster one this time); eating McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Hamburger at the Mui Wo Ferry Port; meeting with other SouthEast Asian runners (from Malaysia); and finally waiting for the race to start with my Pinoy Ultrarunner-Friends—Tess Leono, Myk Dauz, and Mic-mic Flores.

We had more than two hours to spare waiting for the Race to start at the Public Park (with Comfort/Bath Rooms and Concrete Benches with Barbecue Grill Areas) and we just sat in one of the benches covered with a roof. All our bottles and hydration packs were ready and we adhered to the instructions that we had to bring the race’s mandatory gears.

photo-30 copy 24

The Four Brave Local Pinoys Of 2016 TransLantau 100 Edition (L-R, Myk, BR, Tess, Mic-Mic)

On Mandatory Gears & Nutrition

I brought two jackets with me, a Water Repellant Down Jacket by Uniqlo and Water Repellant Columbia Jacket with a thin Heat Blanket on the inside portion. I was thinking of what to wear for the race as I’ve observed that the prevailing temperature for the race was colder than last year’s. Finally, I decided to wear the Down Jacket by Uniqlo which is very light and easy to stow in my hydration pack. But I decided to bring the Columbia Jacket with me just in case I need to change my jacket. Just in case of extreme weather condition, I still have my Salomon’s Heat Blanket stowed in one of the pockets of my Salomon Hydration Pack.

I brought also an extra handheld flashlight aside from the Petzl (Tikka XP) Headlight that I was already wearing before the start of the race. I have also extra batteries in my pack just in case my new batteries will be drained during the two nights thatI will be on the course. Last year, my headlight became very weak on my last 10K and I’ve learned a lesson from that experience.

One glaring and significant change in my running gear as compared to my last year’s participation is the use of trekking poles. I have trained for almost 3 weeks using the trekking poles and I was glad I made the right decision as I will explain later in my story.

On my nutrition, this is the first time that I have not used a single GU Energy Gel but just the same , I brought 4 pieces just in case of emergency or “bonking” as compared to last year’s 24 pieces of GU stashed in my shorts’ pockets and hydration pack. However, I brought, at least, 12 servings of CarboPro with me which kept me moving forward without a feeling of being hungry and weak.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.15.24 PM

Elevation Profile Of TransLantau 100

Race Proper

There is NO Public Address System, an Emcee or the RD talking to the runners and giving last instructions prior to the start of the race and it had been like that last year. Once the Lion Dance and Beating of Drums are seen and heard, it is a signal that the Race is about to start. At this point, the four of us Pinoys entered the chute and comfortably waited at the back portion for the race to start. There were NO Gun Start and Cowbells and we just followed the runners in front of us to clear the Start/Finish Arc. The first 100 meters was running on the sand and finally went up from the beach to the paved area of the park until we reached the streets of Mui Wo.

Start Of The Race

Start Of The Race @ Silvermine Beach Park, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hongkong (Photo From Translantau FB Page)

Except for the brief stop due to traffic of runners entering the trailhead, running was done on a paved trail and almost in a flat terrain. I was at the back of my Pinoy friends (Myk, Tess, and Mic-Mic) at this point and I was running on a steady pace trying to observe when my body would start perspiring. I was thinking of removing my Down Jacket once I started to perspire but I was hard-headed not to stop and remove it. I decided not to remove it until I reached the halfway part of the course (Km 44).

I reached the 1st Checkpoint at Chi Ma Wan (Km 7) in 1:09:21 hours with a ranking of #608 out of about 1,000+ starters. I stopped to refill my Simple Hydration Bottle with a CarboPro in it and I was on the go again. Knowing that it was the start of the ascending portions of the route, I immediately removed the trekking poles that were tied on the back of my Salomon Hydration Park and it was time to apply what I’ve trained for using these trekking poles.

After 10 kilometers of relentless and non-stop ascents on rock-stairs using my trekking poles, I reached the 2nd Checkpoint at Pak Hung Au (Km 17) in 3:21:57 hours with an overall ranking of #577. The Aid Station is located beside a Highway and the building structure is a big circular shade/hut with all the foods and drinks in front of it. I refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle and grabbed some bite foods and I was eating and drinking while leaving the Aid Station. I took the opportunity to pass most of the runners who were still eating in the Aid Stations and it was the start to tackle the highest elevation of the course, the Mt Lantau Peak.

The Lantau Peak is the highest elevation in the island and the second highest peak in Hongkong with an elevation of 934 meters above sea level (masl) or (3,083+ feet). In last year’s race, Lantau Peak was Km #70 and this year was made as Km #20. The Race Organizer placed the hardest part of the course in last year’s event on the first half of the race and I felt good with it because my legs and knees were not yet spent and exhausted after reaching the Lantau Peak. The approach to the peak on this side of the route was more forgiving as there are less steeper stairs to step on.

I reached the Lantau Peak in 4:32+ hours and it was starting to be foggy and windy. I was not tempted to take a picture using my iPhone at the peak because I’ve promised myself to refrain from taking any “selfies” along the course and be able to improve my finish time. It was time to go down from the peak but if you think it was an easy one, you are wrong! This is where you can see the steepest rock stairs made in the whole of Hongkong that you have to be slow and deliberate in taking the next lower step. For the 2 kilometers of descending stairs, it took me 35 minutes! Finally, I reached the 3rd Checkpoint at Ngong Ping (Km 22) in 5:08:47 hours with an overall ranking of #522. As a result, I was able to gain a buffer time of 1 hour & 52 minutes (almost 2 hours) and I’ve passed 55 runners within the said section of the course! From Checkpoint #1 up to Checkpoint #3, I gained and improved in 86 positions/rankings! Not bad!!!

I did not stay long in Ngong Ping #1 Aid Station after I refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle and grabbed some bite foods and walked away while eating and drinking. From the Aid Station, it was a Road Running event for about 2 kilometres as we went down along the Highway before going back to the trails. This is where I passed the younger runners and somebody challenged me to a faster pace but I left him behind me as he stopped to walk.

At the Checkpoint #4 in Kau Ling Chung which is located along the Drainage Facility/Canal (a big one!), I did not notice the Marshal to have taken my time as I joined a group of runners reaching the said Aid Station. Anyway, I remember this place where I stayed longer in last year’s event as I was already exhausted and tired that I had to eat a lot here with the help of Filipina volunteers manning the Aid Station. As compared this year, I was still strong and fresh! I just grabbed some Nutella Sandwich and a fistful of raisins and walked away from the Aid Station eating my foods!

Lo Fu Tao Mountain

Trail To Keung Shan (549 MASL)

After one kilometre away from the Aid Station, it was time to go back to the trails and this part made some runners to pass and miss the said entry. The entry to trail from the Canal/Drainage Facility is a quick and sharp left turn where the ribbons on each side of the trail are tied and located. It was time again to go to the ascending trails towards the next peak which was the Keung Shan that has an elevation of 459 meters (1,515+ feet). This time there are less stairs to tackle before reaching the peak. However, from the peak, it was a mix of trail and rock stairs. At a vantage point, one can see the beautiful mountains and town of Tai O. I knew that I will be running along a pedestrian bridge (where a photographer was located last year) before reaching the town and the next Aid Station.

I reached the 5th Checkpoint at the Tai O School in 10:53:55 hours gaining 3 hours as buffer from the cut-off time of 14 hours at this point. I improved my ranking with only one spot (#521). At this Aid Station, I ate Hot Noodles mixed with Salami slices; drank Coke; refilled my bottles with Water and CarboPro; and then changed my wet Down Jacket with the Columbia Jacket with Heat Shield on the inside portion. I think I spent at least 15 minutes in this station. I knew I was faster in my “pit stop” than last year’s time because I left the place leaving those runners who was ahead of me in reaching this place.

As I left the School/Aid Station, I saw Myk, Mic-Mic and Tess approaching the Checkpoint and I assumed that I was 20-25 minutes ahead of them. I was eating some Crackers and Cliff Bloks when I entered the fishing community in Tai O. It was starting to drizzle and I immediately put on the hood of the Columbia Jacket on my head. In anticipation of the draining of my Suunto Watch battery/power, I asked one of the Chinese runners behind me to please get the black wire on the back pocket of my Salomon Hydration Pack and he gladly did it. After “kicking their asses” on the first 50K, I finally asked them to help me. And they did! From here, it was an alternate of jogging and hiking while watching the bridge construction in the middle of the sea which was going on since last year on the left side of the route.

I was surprised that there was the 6th Checkpoint/Aid Station (with water only!) along this part of the course which is a favorite Hiking Area for the locals at Sham Watt (Km 50) where I was timed at 12:13:11 hours and improved my standing to #502. I was thinking that in a short distance from here, it will be the entry to the single-track trail towards Ngong Ping where all the runners “bushwacked” towards the peak and Cable Car Station in last year’s edition. I was wrong as we were made to continue following the paved path all the way to the direction of Tun Chung!!!

After jogging and hiking for about 5 kilometres from the Sham Watt Checkpoint (6th Checkpoint), I noticed that the entry to the Ngo Ping Trail is still far basing it from the Elevation Profile Copy which I brought with me. At this point, I was feeling weak and need to ingest some solid foods before going up to Ngong Ping! I finally decided to drop in one of the stores and asked to buy a can of Coke and later found out that the store serves some sandwiches and hot noodles. The owner and at the same time cook promised me that he can prepare an Egg Sandwich in ONE Minute! And he did! I paid HK$ 14 for the sandwich and HK$ 8 for the Coke In Can. While eating, I noticed lots of taller and younger Chinese runners and European runners would pass in front of the store while I was eating. I was laughing inside my mind how in the hell I was able to run faster than these guys! By the way, I had some HK$ with me because it is part of the event’s mandatory “gear”.

Ngong Ping Stairs

Ngong Ping Stairs & Wooden Planks

Feeling stronger this time, I continued my run until I reached the intersection of the new race route towards Ngong Ping! Later, I found out that the trail going to the top of Ngong Ping is called “Ngong Ping 360 Emergency Rescue Trail” which is 5.6 kilometres long consisting of footpath, cemented stairs, and wooden stairs and boardwalks! It was not so hard in the beginning as I progressed my way along the stairs as the elevation was going higher and higher. And then I reached the “wooden stairs” going down to a flat portion until it ended quickly! The rock stairs had started again thinking that the wooden stairs/trail that I’ve passed was the only one along the route! I was wrong! There will be more wooden stairs and flat wooden planks along the way, piece by piece, segment by segment, to the point that I was already cursing since the wooden planks were wet due to the drizzle as you go up to the mountain. Aside from the fact that most of these wooden planks do not have hand rails on both sides where one could hold on, the planks are slippery!

One by one, even if it was very foggy, I could see that every peak that I reached was the location of each steel post/Tower of the Cable Car that crosses the island of Lantau. I think I slowed my pace in this section for the fear of sliding on the wooden planks plus the steepness of the route! Finally, I reached the 7th Checkpoint/Ngong Ping #2 with a time of 16:17:36 hours with a ranking of #521. I was passed by 19 runners along this segment of the course, 4 runners at the “wooden stairs/planks” and 15 runners while I was eating my Egg Sandwich! I knew it was a temporary set back on my ranking but I knew very well that I really needed solid foods to arrest my body from “bonking” and I could bounce back in the next segment of the course.

I did not stay long in Ngong Ping after quick hot noodle soup & Ice Cold Coke (I really needed more hot & solid foods & sugar rush after my silent curses before reaching this Aid Station). I knew that it was all downhill up to the Canal/Drainage Facility before going back again to Pak Hung Au and jogged most of the way. I followed a very fast runner and hiker and tried to keep in step with him until we reached the flat Canal Area Road. At the flat Canal/Drainage Road, I simply “power hiked” with a tall European runner in front of me using the grasses and unpaved area beside the road to step on in order to relax the feet from the pounding of the hard paved road. At the entry to Pak Hung Au from the Canal/Drainage Road (small paved bridge across the Canal/Drainage Facility), most of the runners in front and behind me took some rest by sitting on cemented barriers along the road. I went alone on the ascending stairs and on midway, I was already being trailed by the runners I left behind by a few steps.

It was already very dark when I reached the 8th Checkpoint Pak Hung Au with most of the runners behind me with a time of 20:02:54 with a ranking of #482, improving my standing by 39 slots! I did not stay long as I only refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle with my CarboPro mix. I left the rest of the runners and I was alone on my way to the Sunset Peak with an elevation of 854 meters (2,820+ feet). It was a very slow and steady climb as I knew this will be the last most challenging part of the before the Finish Line. At the midway of the climb, I became uneasy as I saw nobody coming behind me as I tried to look for light flashes from a distance coming from their headlights! As I got worried that I was the only one going to the peak, the gusty winds started to be stronger as I stepped from one rock stair to a higher one! Just to break my loneliness in the dark, foggy surroundings, and strong gusty winds, I would shout loudly by challenging from the One Above to make the winds stronger!!! And I think He heard my wishes, the winds became stronger! In a short time, I was passed by a couple (lady and a guy, I think they are Locals). I made them as my guide/target for my pace but I ceased from shouting anymore!

I observed that the couple would also be slowed by the strong winds that both of them would sit down in every turn of the rocky stairs and sometime crawl from one rock step stairs to another higher one. For me, instead of my trekking poles landing directly in front of me, both my arms and poles would be landing on the left side of the trail and it was a big effort on my part to maintain my line in front of me instead of going sideways from the trail due to the gusty winds. The trekking poles gave me a BIG help in preventing me from falling down and being swept away by the strong winds! To distract myself from this situation, I would glimpse at my Suunto Watch from time to time and monitor the progress of the elevation data reading on it. I started at 1,500 feet elevation and from there I would know how I progress in my climb as the number of feet gets higher and higher. When I was doing this drill, I could no longer see the couple and their lights even if they are just above me due to the thick fogs as we got higher in the mountain.

I was thinking that my Columbia Jacket’s Hood had been ripped and torn out from my head due to the gusty winds (which has the same intensity with that of Typhoon Lando which I’ve observed in Fort Magsaysay before I cancelled the 5th Fort Magsaysay To Dingalan 65K Run last October of last year). But I was wrong, the Jacket gave me protection from the winds, drizzle, and cold temperature as I trekked towards the peak of the mountain. As I glanced the 2,800 feet reading on my watch, I felt relieved that I would be on the other side of the mountain and being able to escape successfully from the gusty winds. But the winds were relentless even if I was going down the mountain coupled by the zero visibility due to fogs and intermittent drizzle.

On my way down to the 9th and last Checkpoint before the Finish Line at Pak Mong, I peed almost 3 times that some runners would overtake me but in the end I would pass them later because of the slippery trail due to muddy condition and slippery rocks. I was in the company of two other fast downhill runners (one Local and one European) on the last 3 kilometres before the Checkpoint that they finally vanished along the trail after keeping up with them for the 1st kilometer.

Race Stopped

Live Tracking Update Where I Was Stopped

Finally, I reached the last Checkpoint in Pak Mong in 23:37:57 hours and I was ranked #482 and I still have 11.5 Kilometers to the Finish Line which I would confidently finish in 3.5 to 4 hours. However, Richard, Marshal of the Event (which I learned the following day that he is the Manager of the Event) was there to inform me that the Race had been stopped two hours earlier because of the prevailing weather conditions in the mountains. He said that all the remaining runners that had been stopped will be declared “Finishers” and we have to get our Finisher’s Medal at the Finish Area in Mui Wo the following day. I found out that I was one of the 35 runners who had passed the last Checkpoint at Pak Hung Au on the time that the Race was declared to be stopped. I can just imagine how many more runners had to be stopped upon their arrival at Pak Hung Au Checkpoint (Km 75). No amount of appealing and arguing to him that I have to reach the Finish Line on foot with my personal knowledge of the route could allow me to continue the race. So, I asked him for directions for the Bus Terminal in Tun Chung and he gave a detailed instruction which I followed. Once I left the Checkpoint, I came into a parked Van that was instructed to bring me to the Bus Terminal.

More runners would join me in the Van to be transported to the MTR & Bus Terminals in Tun Chung. While we were in the Van en route to our destination, a 50-ish age British guy sitting beside me asked if the windy and foggy situations in the mountains scared the hell out of me and I said, “How I wished the winds were stronger and the drizzle turned into rains like in my country’s typhoons. Actually, I was praying hard to make the winds and rains stronger while I was in the mountain!!!” And he said, “You are Hardcore, Man!” and we both laughed! The guy did not know whom he was talking to. But before we parted ways, we called each other, “Buddy”!

Going back to Lantau Island the following day to get our Finisher’s Medal which became a Day Tour, Eating & Shopping Events was another story.

To be continued.





Shek Pik Trail @ TransLantau 100

28 03 2015

After running, jogging and walking for sixty (60) kilometers and after covering a distance of 4-5 kilometers from Tai O Village, the trail route leads to a single-track trail which is surrounded by grasses, shrubs, rocks, and small trees. One has to veer right from the cemented path/road and start an uphill climb on this trail. This is about 2-kilometer uphill and very steep climb towards the Cable Tram that goes to the Big Buddha.

In order to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the scenery that one can see as you go higher on the trail, I was able to discover these photos/pictures which were taken by Lai Lam Po of Hongkong and posted in the event’s website. These pictures will also serve as a reference for this who are planning to join in the next edition/s of the TransLantau 100 Trail Run.

Very Steep & Thickly Vegetated

Very Steep & Thickly Vegetated

You Are Not Supposed To See The Top Of The Mountain

You Are Not Supposed To See The Top Of The Mountain

Bridge Construction In Progress

Bridge Construction In Progress

Panoramic View Of The Sea

Panoramic View Of The Sea

Patience Is A Virtue

Patience Is A Virtue

After Reaching The Peak, Another Peak Emerges

After Reaching The Peak, Another Peak Emerges

Finally, At The Peak

Finally, At The Peak

Going Down The Stairs

Going Down The Stairs From The Peak

Going Up To Cable Tram Area

Going Up To Cable Tram Area

Trail After The Cable Tram Area, Leading To Ngo Ping

Trail After The Cable Tram Area, Leading To Ngo Ping

These pictures were arranged in this post from the start of the Shek Pik Trail up to the trail leading to Ngong Ping.

These pictures were taken by Lai Lam Po.

Happy trail running and hiking!





Jag Lanante: The FIRST Pinoy Finisher Of The Hongkong Four Trail Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

8 01 2015

When everybody was still sleeping on the early morning of the First Day of the Year 2015, a “low-key” ultra marathon race event was about to start in Hongkong. The ultra event is called the “Hongkong Four (4) Trail Ultra Challenge” (HK4TUC) which had been founded and organized by Andre Blumberg, a German executive based in Hongkong who is a “par excellence” ultra trail runner who lately had finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in the USA and the Lake Tahoe 200-Mile Endurance Run, the first 200-mile trail run done in the United States.

Andre Blumberg, five years ago, had to run the four famous Trail routes in Hongkong for four days, running each trail course each day. The following are the trails: MacLehose Trail with a distance of 100 Kilometers; Hongkong Trail with a distance of 50 Kilometers; Wilson Trail with a distance of 78 Kilometers; and the Lantau Trail with a distance of 70 Kilometers. The total course distance is 298 Kilometers. The total elevation gain is 14,500 meters!

Andre’s feat in running these trails gave him the idea for the other ultra runners to experience the challenge, thus, the birth of the HK4TUC. To make the event more challenging and exciting, he imposed a cut-off time of 60 hours and runners have to run through the trail courses on a reverse direction. If the books or publications about the Hongkong Trails are presented on chronological Stages, from 1-10 or from Start to Finish, as the case maybe, the race event starts from the FINISH area and ends at the START area or from Stage 10 to Stage 1. The clock does not stop when the runners had to be transported from one trail course to another, by land or by the sea ferry.

Starters With The RD (Jeri Chua, Janelle Sleet, Andre Blumberg, Paul Wong, & Jag Lanante)

Starters With The RD (Jeri Chua, Janelle Seet, Andre Blumberg (RD), Paul Wong, & Jag Lanante)

The event’s rules and regulations are very simple. There is NO Registration Fee, No Medals, No Finisher’s Shirt, No Aid Stations, No UTMB Points, No Competition or Rankings, and No Checkpoints. However, runners can take advantage of the convenience eateries/stores and vending machines along the route for their food and drinks. This is simply a “self-support” event. Bragging Rights is the only Prize for Finishing this Event.

After four years of its existence and with an average of 4-5 participants each year, there are only four (4) finishers in this event since January 2011.

Jag Lanante is the FIRST Filipino to make an attempt on this most dreaded ultra running event and he is one of the four ultra runners who were brave enough to toe the line at the Starting Area in MacLehose Trail. I happen to know him by his name only through Facebook and had never seen him in person. But I have so much respect in him as I found out about his running accomplishments which I gathered from his Facebook Wall from the time we became as FB “friends” since the middle part of last year.

Start Of The MacLehose Trail 100K Leg

Start Of The MacLehose Trail 100K Leg

I was sick with Flu (cough and colds) and I was bed-ridden for the duration of this event from Start to Finish but I would be able to glance and peep through my Laptop if my Internet connection is strong from time to time, most specially during midnight and early morning. It was through the HK4TUC Facebook Page that I was able to monitor the progress of the event. Four ultra runners——Two Lady runners from Singapore (Jeri Chua, the favorite one to finish due his previous finishes in the Tor Des Geants and UTMB and Janelle Seet who would take numerous trips from Singapore to Hongkong to train and recon the trails for the past two years; One local runner from Hongkong (Paul Wong); and One Pinoy who is based in Bangkok, Thailand who happens to be Jag Lanante.

Jag was considered as the “underdog” and the “weakest” among the four runners as he comes from a “flat and plain” Bangkok elevation whose training consisted of 500-meter loop course in a Parking Area in a Private Hospital in Bangkok where he works as a Nurse and he does his running in between his 9-hour work shifts, most of his running workouts are done in the early morning. He would also sneak in and secretly pass through their Security Guards if he needs to use the building’s emergency stairs for his “stair climbing and hill repeats” just to put in some elevation gains in his routine. On his “off days” and weekends, he would go to a nearby Public Park which has a 2.5K loop (flat again!) and do his runs in loops where he would only take note of the number of hours he would run, however, his longest running time would be at least 6 hours. Worst information about him is that this trip for the event is Jag’s FIRST trip to Hongkong! He is not accustomed to the cold weather environment of Hongkong and the hilly terrain of the course. He was equipped with his Salomon Hydration Backpack where he stored his food (all bread), water and extra clothing/jacket; a $7.50 worth of Casio Watch which he was using for the past 8 years; and a borrowed HOKA One One Tarmac Shoes! Initially, Jag did not have with him a trekking pole! He would later borrow the trekking pole from one of the runners who DNF’d midway at the MacLehose Trail (1st trail course of the event). Right from the start of the course, he was already a complete picture/description of a “failure” of an ultra runner who would attempt to finish this dreadful and brutal event, a simple example of a DNF runner!

Jag @ The Wilson Trail (2nd Leg)

Jag @ The Wilson Trail (2nd Leg)

And for this reason, my attention would be focused on the progress of Jag Lanante as to where he was during the event. I would make a bet to my “inner self” that Jag would “throw the towel” once he finished the Wilson Trail course (2nd Trail). So, I decided to close my laptop, took my meal, ingest my medications, and went back to bed. I said to myself, “there will be No Finisher” in this year’s event.

I guess, I have to eat my words and committed a mistake of an early misjudgment on the capabilities of Jag!

I found out that while I was sleeping on the first day of the year (due to the effect of my medications), the four runners started the event with a perfect Hongkong weather, blue skies and the sun shining hot providing a perfect running weather for the participants. Jeri Chua from Singapore took an early lead from the other three runners and she was ahead of the expected time of arrival in every stage of the MacLehose Trail (in reverse, of course!) but surprisingly had to deal with her recurring knee injury which became very painful on her part and could hardly maintain her targeted pace. She declared herself as DNF after running and hiking on the course for about 14 hours. She was not able to complete the 100K MacLehose Trail course. Jag Lanante and Paul Wong finished the MacLehose Trail together with a time of 21:30+ hours. The last runner, Janelle Seet finished the 1st trail leg in less than 27 hours but she was already complaining of blisters which made her to register a slow finish time to complete the first trail course.

Jag Lanante In Action

Jag Lanante In Action @ Lantau

Jag and Paul were together in their land transport (Taxi Ride) to the next staging area for the 2nd trail course which is the Wilson Trail, a distance of 78 kilometers. They were able to take a nap while being transported to the starting area of Wilson Trail and that was equivalent to a 45-minute power nap! After being served with Hot Soup and some foods at Nam Chung, Jag and Paul started together for the 2nd trail leg, Wilson Trail. However, being a local runner of Hongkong and thorough knowledge of the trails, Paul Wong started to run faster than Jag Lanante that resulted him to pull away for the lead starting at Pat Sin Leng and finally finishing the Wilson Trail in less than 50 hours. He was already on the third day and barely 10 hours more to go before the cut-off time.

What happened to Jag Lanante after Paul Wong left him on the early start along the Wilson Trail? Jag would tell me that he got at least, two “lost moments” at the Wilson Trail——the first lost moment was when he was left alone by Paul when it was so cold and was sleepy to be more focused on looking for the trail markers. He missed the trail marker in going to the 8 Immortals of Hongkong as he was “sleep walking” for 2 hours going down along the trail only to realize that he could no longer see any trail marker. He would go back up again to finally locate the trail marker; the second lost moment was when he reached Taipo (village) as he could not determine from the map provided by Andre as to where the Wilson Trail would re-start again after hitting the village. Jag’s problem was exacerbated when he impulsively asked a Chinese lady who can speak and understand a little English as to where the Wilson Trailhead is located. Jag was instructed by the Chinese lady to go to the end of a river but Jag was frustrated to find out that the lady gave him a false/wrong instructions. Jag started to panic as he went going around the village trying to find out where the Wilson Trail Marker is located. He tried to compose himself, prayed, and relaxed at the same point/location where he entered Taipo. He decided to wait for the arrival of the last runner, Janelle Seet, knowing that the lady has a lot of friends cheering her along the route who are familiar with the route. Finally, Jag joined Janelle for the final push to finish the Wilson Trail leg. Jag’s total “lost moments” time would add up to almost 7 hours! Jag and Janelle finished the Wilson Trail in 54 hours or 2:00 PM actual time on the third day!

Janelle & Jag After Those Lost Moments In Taipo

Janelle & Jag After Those Lost Moments In Taipo

The transition or travel time from the “finish line” of Wilson Trail to the “start of the Hongkong Trail (3rd leg) is very brief/short as both locations are very near to each other. Paul Wong was already ahead despite of the 10-hour remaining time before cut-off time and Jag and Janelle were barely on a 6-hour time before the cut-off time. All the remaining three runners decided to still push through with the event but it was already a “Survivor Challenge” as to who would last to finish the event and be able to kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo, Lantau Island.

Obviously, Paul Wong was the first runner to start the Hongkong Trail and he was leading for some hours. Jag Lanante and Janelle Seet started later for the 3rd leg of the event. From the very start of the Hongkong Trail, Janelle had to beg off and allowed Jag Lanante to get ahead of her. Jag regained some energy despite numerous and countless “low moments” after finishing 178 kilometers with a very small amount of time to rest and sleep. He was determined to finish the event but he has to reach Victoria Peak and be able to catch up the earliest ferry ride to Lantau Island for the last 70K of the event.

Jag Aboard A Van As Transition From One Leg To Another

Jag Aboard A Van As Transition From One Leg To Another (He Was Awake!)

It was only when he was on the last 6 kilometers of the HK Trail course that he knew that he was already the leading runner among the three “survivors”. He was met by Vic So (2014 HK4TUC Finisher/“Survivor”) along the course to cheer him and informed him that he was able to pass Paul Wong at Km #25 when he went inside a market to eat. Jag finished the HK Trail at Victoria Peak before midnight on the third day and he was able to catch the ferry ride scheduled to leave HK for Lantau at 12:30 AM/Midnight on the 4th day. Paul Wong arrived at the Victoria Peak at 1:00 AM of January 4 while Janelle Seet finished the HK Trail later in the evening. Unknowingly from Jag, the two runners finally decided to “throw the towel” and cease from taking the ferry ride to Lantau. The reason? Extreme exhaustion and sleep-deprived conditions!

Jag Lanante was able to know that Paul Wong and Janelle Seet finally decided not to push through with the Lantau 70K leg from Andre Blumberg who escorted him to Lantua Island. The information was sent through Andre’s cellphone. Jag had already spent 65 hours since the start of the event and he was on the starting line for the Lantau 70K leg!

Slow In Pace But Fighting To Push The Body To The Finish Line

Slow In Pace But  Pushing The Body To The Finish Line @ Sunset Peak, Lantau

I was thinking that Jag was able to sleep during those transition/transfer trips from one leg to another but I was wrong! He told me that he was able to sleep for three times only——first was at the end of Km #33 along the Wilson Trail when he slept while waiting for his order in a Noodle Shop/Eatery; the second one was during the 30-minute ferry ride from HK to Lantau Island; and the third one was a 5-minute nap he requested from Andre while he was experiencing some leg cramps at the Lantau Trail.

Knowing that he was the ONLY runner left in the event and way, way beyond the cut-off time of 60 hours, he asked Andre if he is still be a part of the event and considered as a Finisher in the history of the event. Andre would reply him that this event is not a race and therefore, there are no DNFs, however, if he decides to survive and finish this event, he will get the much-needed support from him no matter how many hours would it take him to reach and “kiss” the green Mailing Post at Mui Wo. Paper, the wife of Andre who is a Thai, informed Jag that the his co-workers in Bangkok are rooting for him to finish the event as he unknowingly seen the cheers and words of encouragement posted by his friends in Thailand through the HK4TUC Facebook Page.

Jag @ Lantau Island (Last Leg)

Jag @ Lantau Island (Last Leg)

These words of encouragement from Andre and Paper drove and fully motivated Jag to finish the event. Lantau 70K Trail Course is a hard one with 3,300 meters of vertical gain, Jag has to be focused and be able to endure the pain, exhaustion, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, blisters, distractions and there is no room for him to get lost along the course. He has to finish this event.

But there is a more pressing situation and uncompromising reason for him to finish the event! He and his wife have to catch a flight back to Bangkok and he has only 19 hours before his plane leaves at 8:00 PM on the evening of January 4! He thought, at all cost he has to be in that plane with his wife no matter what happens!

Few Meters From The Finish Line!

Few Meters From The Finish Line!

With pure grit and determination despite some doubts for him to finish the last 70 kilometers of the event, Jag was able to finally kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo with Andre waiting for him with a Champagne Victory Spray of Moet Rose that served as an informal “body shower” to mask the smell of dirt and perspiration from Jag’s body before proceeding to the Airport. Jag finished the Lantau 70K Leg in 16:30 hours which was in actual time at 5:30 PM of January 4, 2015, 4th day of the event, finishing and surviving the whole event with an official time of 81:30 hours.

The Kiss To The Green Mail Post

The Kiss To The Green Mail Post

After a quick informal conversation/congratulatory greetings and picture-taking among the runners and the RD’s team friends and volunteers, a taxi was waiting for Jag and his wife to bring them to the Airport in order to catch their flight back to Bangkok scheduled to leave at 8:00 PM that evening. I am sure that the 3-4 hours flight time from HK to Bangkok was the best sleep that Jag experienced in his lifetime!

After making sure that Jag had fully recovered from his “brutal but inspirational” finish at the 2015 edition of the Hongkong Four Trail Ultra Challenge, I sent him a Personal Message on Facebook to congratulate him for being the “FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to Finish” the said event. This Facebook conversation led me to ask some questions about him and his experience during the event. Thus, this story is posted as an inspiration to all the readers of this blog, most specially to our Pinoy Ultra Runners.

And The Champagne Victory Spray By The RD

And The Traditional Champagne Victory Spray By The RD

To answer the mystery on the toughness, pure grit and determination of Jag to finish the event as I am not convinced that his one year training on a “flat, plain and boring” loops in his Hospital’s Parking Area and Bangkok’s Public Park prepared him for the event. There could be more information about this humble and ever-smiling runner as to why he has a “strong heart and a positive mental attitude” to finish this most feared ultra running event among the locals of Hongkong and other ultra runners in nearby Southeast Asia, despite the fact that the event is free; a chance to tour the nice scenery of Hongkong on foot; and a good reason to shed off those accumulated calories brought about by the Holiday Season.

My fellow ultra runners would be able to read “between the lines”, so to speak, as I mention the following facts about Jag and his “running career” and background:

1. Jag is 29 years old, a native of Davao City and had been an OFW as a Nurse in Bangkok, Thailand for so many years. He started to train and run for the past 4 years. He is married to Kathleen Faith who works also in the same hospital with Jag. They don’t have any kids.
2. He finished his primary and secondary schoolings in Davao City but decided to finish his BS in Nursing at Mountain View College in Bukidnon after his parents would not allow him to be admitted to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
His best finish time for a Marathon Race is 3:10+ hours which was held on his Birthday, four months after his Boss introduced him to running.
3. His first ultra was the 2013 TNF 100 but four months later, he finished as #10 in a 50K trail run event, both were held in Thailand. And since then, he tried his best to run everyday and prepare for the HK4TUC.

Lastly, I would ask him what would be his next ultra race. He replied to earn his FIRST 100-Mile Buckle in one of the ultra races in the Philippines if his work schedule’s leave would match the scheduled date of his choice of event. But he gave me a 100% assurance that he will be back for a repeat with a better performance at the 2016 edition of the HK4TUC.

I replied back to him immediately, “It will be a honor running with you on the First Day of 2016 HK4UTC on the early miles of Stage 10 of the MacLehose Trail!” His silent answer is depicted on the picture below!

The Ever Smiling & Humble Jag Lanante

The Ever Smiling & Humble Jag Lanante

Congratulations Jag, the FIFTH Finisher in the history of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge!!! My snappy salute to you and from the rest of the Pinoy Ultra Runners here in the Philippines and abroad!

More pictures and stories/details of the 2015 HK4TUC can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/HK4TUC

(Note: Photos Courtesy of Paper & Lloyd Belcher of Hongkong)








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