Trip To Hongkong (2nd Trip For 2019) August 12-15, 2019
This is my second trip to Hongkong for this year (2019). I was in Hongkong during this year’s Chinese New Year to support the participation of Thomas Combisen in the Hongkong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge on the second week of February. Unfortunately, Thomas was not able to make the cut-off time for him to reach the last leg of the Lantau Trail during the race. I promised to Thomas to bring him back to Hongkong purposely to run the Lantau Trail which has a distance of 70 kilometers.
Weeks prior to our trip this month, news had been around about the Protests and Demonstrations that had been occuring in the different parts of Hongkong. Sine we have purchased and made our reservations for our accommodation weeks ahead, we decided to take the risk and continue with our scheduled plan for this trip.
It was supposed to be a trip for four trail runners, including myself, but two of our companions were not able to make it due to personal circumstances. The overall plan for the trip was to recon the Lantau Trail starting from Original Trailhead and from the End of the Trail going on a reverse route. We planned to do this in one day and the rest of the days will be devoted to food trip, shopping, and side trip to Macau.
We left Manila at 5:50 AM of Monday, August 12 and arrived in Hongkong at 8:00 AM. After loading some money into our Octopus Cards, we took the regular bus to Mongkok, where our regular hostel is located. We had been a regular client/customer in the said hostel since I have started joining trail running events in Hongkong. Although I have stayed in more expensive hotels in Tsim Tsai Tsui, Kennedy Town, and Jordan, I always prefer to stay in Mongkok for the authentic Chinese cuisine which are very cheap and lots of shopping in the nearby streets and Nathan Road.
Another interesting reason for this trip to Hongkong is for my new hobby of Seiko Watch Limited Edition Collection! Before this trip, I have been asking some of my FB friends who are residing in Hongkong as to where to buy these Seiko Watches and they gave me some tips. Earlier this year, I was fond of the Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and I had to look and buy a particular model in Causeway Bay. I am done already with the OT sneakers and now I am crazy with Seiko Limited Edition Watches!
On Tuesday morning, Thomas and I took the MRT from Mongkok to Central and then walked to the Ferry Terminal Port #6 for our trip to Lantau. After one hour and half, we were at Mui Wo and walked along the Tun Chung Road going to the Trailhead of the Lantau Trail and it was already 9:30 AM. The distance from the Mui Wo Bus Terminal to the Trailhead is about 2 kilometers which is an uphill road. As we reached the trailhead, we were already sweating because of the hot/warm weather in the area. Thomas and I made an agreement for him to proceed and run the trail as fast as he can while I would hike and jog to the next trail camp and try to follow him. If in case he would determine if his target mileage for the day is done, he can just backtrack along the trail and try to find me. From there we could take the bus in going either to Tun Chung or back to Moi Wo Bus Terminal.
So, that was what we had done. From the trailhead, it was an uphill climb to Sunset Peak and then descend to the next trail camp/rest area and then cross the National Road in going to Lantau Peak. It was a very hard hike for me because of the heat and lack of training. I had to rest for three times before reaching the Sunset Peak and stopped every flowing stream to douse some cold water to my head and body. There is also a water reservoir where there was a faucet on its side that gave me lots of water to fill up my bottles and rehydrate myself. A white guy in trail shorts and shirt passed me on the first 2 kilometers of my ascent; I met two white guys and a lady going down from Sunset Peak; three white guys with big backpacks on my descent from Sunset Peak which I found later that they are from California, USA for some Para-Sailing activity in the area; and two local young guys who were taking selfies on my way down near the trail camp/rest area.
I attempted to start hiking the first kilometers towards Lantau Peak but I could no longer endure the heat of the sun and I was already exhausted due to lack of training. I went back to the waiting shed at the trail camp and wait for Thomas to arrive.
I really don’t know how many minutes I was able to doze off when Thomas arrived. Thomas was also complaining of the heat and humidity but he was happy to recon the place. He was longing for an ice cold Coke that we decided to walk towards the next village along the National Road. But to our surprise, the village was still too far that we decided to stop our hike in a Bus Stop and waited for our Bus Ride to Mui Wo.
In a few minutes, we took our Bus ride and immediately changed to dry clothes at the last row of seats inside the said bus. We went directly to the McDonalds at Mui Wofor our first meal of the day with a Large Ice Cold Coke and Double Cheeseburger!
After our McDo meal, we waited for our ferry ride back to Central. This time, the Ferry was an Air- Conditioned with higher fare BUT with NO Wi-Fi as compared with the slower one, cheap with Wi-Fi which we rode on our way to Lantau.
It was good to be back to Lantau Island to run and hike after finishing the Translantau 100K for two times in the past. Well, I was then a younger and a stronger trail runner then!
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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:
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 杨非非 (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.
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.
I started my serious training on this event in the month of December of last year (2015). Monday in every week was my Rest Day and almost everyday was devoted to running on flat and hilly terrains. My average mileage for my easy runs and tempo runs was 7-8 miles. My longest run in the mountains would be 7-8 miles during the months of December and January and followed by hikes with the same route the following day. However, in my weekends or Saturdays, I would run a distance of 50-60 kilometres on flat & paved roads for my endurance runs. And on the following day, Sunday, I would go out for a hike in the mountains for a distance of 7 miles. I did this LSDs for 4 consecutive weeks. My tempo runs would be included in my flat long runs on Saturdays and lots of faster downhill running from the peak of the mountain where I usually do my recovery or daily runs. I never visited any oval tracks and do some speed intervals during the period of my training but I did a lot of hill repeats of 1 kilometer distance (run in going up and then easily jog or hike in gong down) with repetitions ranging from 10-15 repetitions, at least once a week!
My participation in last month’s Condura Skyway Marathon was also a part of my training as my gauge if my previous ultra distance LSDs were making me a stronger runner but not necessarily a faster one. I was happy that I did not encounter any “cramping/bonking” issues during the said race.
On the last 4 weeks before the event, I did at least 3 sessions of double-traverse in the mountain that I used as my training ground/playground and in every session, I would register a total of elevation gain of 4,250+ feet within a distance of 14 miles (22.4 kilometres) which I usually finish in 5:45-6:00 hours. In these 4 weeks, I was already using my trekking poles during the runs as well as practiced on how to tie or untie them from my hydration pack while on the move. I would also practice on how to hold them with my hand while on the run. I discovered that I was more comfortable in holding both the trekking poles with my left hand rather than holding the each pole on each hand while on the run on flats and downhills. In this way, my right hand is free to grab my food or hydration bottle from the pockets of my pack.
Two weeks before the race, I had my last double-traverse in my mountain with my best effort; without any “pit stops” and eating/drinking on the move, using my trekking poles, and with a faster pace. This workout registered my fastest time of 4:58+ hours for the course! One week before the race, I joined my race, 5th edition of the Fort Magsaysay To Dingalan 65K Ultra Marathon Race, and finished it in 9:19+ hours. Since the elevation profile of the course is hilly, I knew I would get a lot of leg speed and strength on the ascents and descents and be able to fine tune my nutrition/hydration strategy. On the rest of the days before the event, I just did easy 8K and 5K on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. However, I got so much time to sleep and recover before my flight to Hongkong.
Comparing my training this year’s event and that with last year’s, my training in the 2015 edition was more in volume and intensity. But in this year’s edition, I had more rest and recovery days and the use of trekking poles were contributory to my faster splits in the different Checkpoints. Additionally, I improved on my nutrition with the use of CarboPro, instead of using GU/Energy Gels every hour during the run. Being smart of not staying long in Aid Stations and by-passing the earlier ones had also contributed to my faster splits in the different Checkpoints.
Nutrition & Hydration
During my training and preparation, I’ve never used my stash of CarboPro since I only use them in my races. Instead, I used only water; Succeed Salt Tablets; SkyFlakes Crackers; and Coke which I buy at the turnaround of my double-traverse located in a populated area.
During the race, I brought and stashed 14 servings of CarboPro in my Salomon Hydration Pack which I intend to use one serving in one Simple Hydration Bottle filled with water within two hours of running/hiking. I would drink it with my Clif Blok Chews or Clif Meal Bar or with the foods available in the Aid Stations.
I was consistent during the race of consuming one serving of CarPro in between Checkpoints. I would leave the Checkpoint with one bottle mixed with water while the other bottle is filled with the CarboPro Powder without water. As I reached the next Aid Station, I would bring out the bottle with CarboPro powder and ask the volunteers to fill it with water. Once it is done, I would leave the Aid Station immediately and walk while getting one serving of CarboPro from my pack and have the powder fill in the other empty bottle. This drill was done regularly in every Checkpoint in the course.
I brought also Jack N Jill X.O. White Coffee Candies stashed in my Ultimate Direction Race Belt that has two zippered pockets. I would place two candies in my mouth and play them with my tongue while on the run. This would provide me with continuous supply of sugar to my nutritional needs aside from my CarboPro and Chews. One of the pockets of my ASICS shorts was designated as my trash pocket for the wrappers of these candies and the ziploc plastic bags for my CarboPro Mix.
I forgot to bring SkyFlakes from the Philippines but I was lucky to find out that there were crackers being served in the Aid Stations. So, every time I would reach the Aid Station, I would get two packs of crackers and put them in my shorts’ pockets and I would eat them during my run. But I advise you to be careful when you eat their crackers because it made me choked during the run. I stopped choking and coughing when I drank most of my CarboPro Mix!
When there is a chance to eat their Hot Noodles in the Aid Stations, I would mix them with Salami slices and they gave me the much needed fats and salt to my diet. I would also pick-up their Nutella Sandwiches, Raisins, and Chocolate bites as I leave the Checkpoints. I started drinking Coke at Km #44 and every Aid Station thereafter.
Bottomline, I did not have any nutrition or stomach issues during the race. It could be the prevailing cold temperature or cold weather of the day that contributed from having no problems with my digestive system. However, there was only ONE Problem that I’ve encountered during the race…
Peeing During The Race
After leaving the Starting Line and about to enter to the trailhead, a distance of about 1 kilometre, I was already irritated that I need to pee immediately! There was no amount of controlling it that I had to urinate on the side of the street near a fence while the rest of the runners were waiting for their turn to enter the narrow trail. For the rest of the course, I would pee in every 3-4 kilometres!
There are times that I would enter their Public Toilets situated along the popular and visited trails but most of the time, I would just pee beside the trail most specially in the mountains. There was a time that I did not know that a lady runner was running behind me when I just decided to side-step and just pee beside the trail without any cover.
Surprisingly, I did not have the urge to pee when I was battling with the strong winds and fog as I was ascending to the Sunset Peak as well as when I was going down to the Checkpoint in Pak Mong (Km 85).
On hindsight, my regular peeing was a sign that I was regularly hydrated and did not have a feeling that I was “bonking”. Actually, I only ingested two Succeed Salt Tablets during the run.
I could have peed for almost 20-25 times during the race and if it took me 30 seconds to pee, then I would have spent a total stop time of 10-12 minutes and if I would enter a Public Toilet, each pee time would be longer than 30 seconds! I am not sure how I will solve the problem of not peeing so many times in a cold weather environment during a race. I am an expert already in peeing while on the run or on the move but I only do such thing during night running. I did this thing in last year’s participation in this race though where I would here laughter from the runners behind me upon seeing the traces of moisture drops on the dry trail ground as their lights would see them.
On Apparel and Running Kit
During my training in the mountains, I was using alternately, the ALTRA Superior 2.0 and INOV-8 Race Ultra 270 trail shoes. I have observed that the ALTRA shoes was giving me more comfort and cushioning but less in sole traction with the muddy trail/ground/slippery rocks. On the other hand, the INOV-8 Race Ultra’s soles are very aggressive to muddy trails and slippery rocks and there is comfort on my feet in the toe box section but lacking in cushioning. With the help of a weighing scale, I finally decided to use the ALTRA Superior 2.0 because it was lighter than the INOV-8 Race Ultra by 53 grams!
My gray-colored ASICS running shorts had been my favorite shorts since I bought it before the 2015 CM50. It has a side pocket on the left side that fits with my IPhone; a big zippered back pocket; and big slanting pockets on both leg portions of the shorts. I usually use it with my Under Armour Compression Shorts as my underwear/brief and it never gave me any rashes on my groin and butt.
The same as last year, I was using a compression shirt/muscle shirt without arm sleeves (by Adidas) and a white PAU long-sleeved shirt as my Uppers. I brought two Jackets (Uniqlo Water Repellant Down Jacket & Columbia Water Repellant Windbreaker with Hood). I used the Uniqlo Jacket on the 1st half of the course and the Columbia Jacket on the 2nd half which was proven to be very effective against the strong winds in the mountains and maintained my body heat temperature despite of the cold condition of the night. I was using my old Shenza Compression Calf Sleeves; Drymax Trail Socks; and Dirty Girl Gaiters. To protect my ears from getting cold, I used the Mission Buff (Blue-colored) which is thicker and longer in size than the other buffs in the market. For my cap, I used my old white Under Armour Runner’s Cap.
My trekking pole is made by Black Diamond which is the old version of the Ultra Distance Z-poles which is 120 cm. long. It is always partnered with my old and trusted Specialized Cycling Gloves!
I bought the new version of the Salomon S-LAB 5-Liter Hydration Pack on the mid-part of last year and it was my 2nd time to use it in a race. Instead of using the Salomon plastic bottles that go with it, I replaced them with Simple Hydration Bottles with the reason that they have bigger openings where I could easily pour my Powder Mix from the Ziplocs containers that I use. What I like in this hydration pack is that it has a lot of expanding zippered pockets as well as back main compartments which can accommodate my jacket and my nutrition needs. I could easily tie and untie my trekking poles while on the run or on the move without removing my pack from my body. The same is true when trying to reach for my nutritional needs.
I’ve been using a Mission Buff for the past two years and I’ve selected it for the Hongkong event because it is thicker and longer and it is advertised to maintain coolness to the body but for the prevailing situation during the race I’ve used it as a cover to my ears from the cold temperature and at the same time absorb the sweat coming from my head. The buff did its work and it was very useful for me during the race.
Medication & Drugs
Once I ingested the Hopias (Chinese Bread), which I brought from Manila, few minutes before the start of the race, I took 2 pieces of Aleve tablets and one capsule of Immodium. After eating my egg sandwich (Km 55) before trekking the Ngong Ping 360 Emergency Rescue Trail, I took another 2 pieces of Aleve Tablets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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.
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.
These pictures were arranged in this post from the start of the Shek Pik Trail up to the trail leading to Ngong Ping.
Date & Time: 11:30 PM March 13, 2015 To 7:30 AM March 15, 2015
I could be one of the few Pinoy runners who first registered to this running event which is considered as its fourth edition from the time it was created. One of the reasons why I decided to register in this race is to test my present state/condition in mountain ultra trail running and validate my training program as I embarked for more mountain trail challenges in the future despite my old age of sixty-two and my thoughts of considering my retirement from running.
Looking back from the Trail Book given as gift by my friend US 100-Mile Grand Slammer/200-Miler/Race Director of Hongkong’s 4 Ultra Trail Challenge Andre Blumberg and the regular Facebook posts of running pictures from my friend Lloyd Belcher, who are both residents of Hongkong, I was attracted by the beauty of the island of Lantau, thus, it was a good and appropriate event to actually see the beauty of the island by foot.
The Event’s Website gave me the necessary information and data that I needed for me to come up with a a specific training program and look for a training “playground” for me to prepare this event. I even “googled” in the Internet in order to find out if there are specific “journal” or blog of past runners who finished the 100K category race. Luckily, there is only one runner who is generous enough to share his experience through a blog with a nice drama of something that he accomplished. Although it was not as detailed as what I would expect it to be, it was enough to know that the writer mentioned about the course and mentioned the word “steep mountains” and his personnel fulfillment to have finished the race. Although I have some runs on the limited sections of the McLehose and Wilson Trails, courtesy of Andre Blumberg, I could relate and imagine that the general appearance of these trails are the same with that in Lantau’s Island——there will be lots of rocks lined up as steps or stairs which I fondly call “rock stairs” trails of Hongkong. Here is the link of a blog of a 100K Finisher which I made as a reference:
On the first week of December 2014 (yes, last year), I asked my trail running coach that I have the intention of joining the 2015 edition of the TransLantau 100 and he gave me a training schedule/program starting on December 8, 2014 up to March 12, 2015 where my peak/highest mileage for the week was only 54 miles ( 86.4 kilometers). The training program has a duration of three (3) months only. But my ultra coach advised me to train with more elevation gain and look for higher mountains as my “playground”.
Knowing that the entire course of the Translantau 100 has a total elevation gain of 5,800+ meters or 19,140 feet, I have to look for a specific “playground” where I could “mimic”, at least, the elevation gain in a specific distance that I would like to run in my daily training. With a total elevation gain of 19,140 feet, I should look for a 10K distance that has a total elevation gain of at least, 1,914 feet.
Finally, my original playground which I call the “Brown Mountain” offered what I’ve been looking for! For the first 4 miles or 6.4 kilometers of the course, it would give me a total elevation gain of 2,000 feet already! And with lots of rocks and steep ascents and descents! So, I’ve chosen this particular “playground” and this is where I did my training since December 8, 2014!!!!
Going up to the peak of the mountain, I would register an elevation of 1,975 feet but the total elevation I would get in order to reach its peak would be 3,000 feet! To complete one-way of my daily runs, I would go up to the mountain and go down on the other side of the mountain and I would register a distance of 7 miles or 11.2 kilometers. To make it more challenging during my weekend’s long runs, I would make a “Yo-Yo” run which is described as running back on the same 7-mile route that I went through (one-way) in order to complete the workout. Simply put, it is a LSD “Mountain Repeat”! My longest long runs in the mountains would be 15-16 miles which is exactly a “Yo-Yo” run with additional one or two miles of uphill climbs on a paved road. It would take me 5-6 hours (which are done during nighttime) to complete my “yo-yo” runs. Each “Yo-Yo” run would register a total elevation gain of 4,200+ feet and it gave me full confidence that my training will prepare me to finish the race.
Knowing that the race starts at midnight, almost all my long runs are done during nighttime. My daily running schedule are done in the early morning and in the early evening and tried to observe how my body reacts to the different times of the day.
On hindsight, I realized that I was doing Back2Back2Back2Back2Back (5X) on my “peak training week”, from Thursday up to Monday, where the total mileage would be the whole distance of the race event. These “Back2Back” runs were very easy on my body as my workouts were done in the same “playground” with lots of combination on how to run through the mountains. This is where I studied and observed my Average Speed and improved my hiking strength.
I have to train also with my hydration and nutrition intake. I made sure that I would be able to consume my two bottles of Simple Hydration within a distance of 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles. I had to take in some solid foods in my long runs and test on how my body would react when I don’t take any foods except water within the distance of 10 miles. Entirely within my training period, I did not take any pain-reliever medications, Gatorade, salts, and liquid food supplement. I only take Ensure drinks and Whey Protein mix after my workouts as my recovery drinks.
However, I would have my daily massage, courtesy of my training partner, Dannin before going to bed.
Different brands and flavors of Sports Gels had been tried and I knew what to use depending on what time during the run or what distance I was going to run. It was just a matter where I would stash each brand of Sports Gel in my running shorts’ pockets, on my race belt, and on my hydration vest’s pockets so that I will be efficient in using them along the course during the race.
My running apparel would be the same——Patagonia Shorts; a base layer shirt; PAU Long- Sleeved shirt; Salamon Shoes; UD’s AK Race Vest with two Simple Hydration bottles; Uniqlo Windbreaker; and a light Uniqlo Down Jacket tightly packed inside my Back Pocket of my Hydration Vest.
With 600+ runners in the 100K category, my Race Strategy was to simply “follow the runner in front” of me, making sure that I was maintaining my training’s Average Speed (2.5 to 3 miles per hour), maintain a “buffer time” from the cut-off time in every Check Point, and Finish the Race (with a Smile!) within the cut-off time of 32 hours!
With the knowledge of what to expect on the trails of Hongkong through a brief “walk-through” on sections of the McLehose and Wilson Trails with Andre Blumberg and by reading the book that Andre gave me (four years ago) which depicts/describes the Four Famous Hongkong Trails, I would expect a lot of rocks prepositioned on the trail to act as stairs in climbing to the peak of the mountains; some portions to be paved; and lots of single-track paved or hardened earth trails. Practically and realistically, I was prepared to run through the “rock-stairs” of the Hongkong Trails!
My mantra for the race would be “Easy on the Climbs and Easier on the Descents” in order to preserve my knees and my legs up to the Finish Line! There was no point or intention of using my trekking poles during the race as I trained for this race without them.
Strategically, Translantau 100 was just a “test” on myself for a “bigger” mountain trail adventure in the next few months. It is my way of strictly following my “Three-Two” Rule in running through the rest of my life. Simply put, train and finish “Three Important Races in Every Two Years”. All the other running events that I would join and finish are just considered as part of the training for these important mountain trail events.
Nutrition and Hydration Strategy
Eat a Full Meal Before The Race; Drink My Vespa; Intake of One Sports Gel every hour; consume my water in my two Simple Hydration bottles in-between Check Points; eat solid foods in the Aid Stations; and remember to take Ginger Chews/Candies on those hard climbs!
I have to emphasize to follow strictly my food intake procedure which I adopted and applied during my training—-there is a need to stop in order to eat a full meal and NOT eat while on the move. Except when taking in Sport Gels and drinking my water where I have perfected this one while on the move. In the past, I had a problem in “eating solid foods on the move” and I always end up choking and coughing. I’ve learned from this mistake and I made sure to eat my solid foods while on STOP in the Aid Stations.
Travel and Accommodation Arrangements
These arrangements are also important to consider if you travel abroad to join running events…and they are NOT cheap! But with the advent of the Internet, everything is already arranged through On Line and the transportation system in Hongkong is very efficient.
Depending on your budget, you can choose your accommodation and places where to eat in Hongkong. Buy an “Octopus Card” at the Airport and you can have a lot of options on how to travel from Point A to Point B, just read the map that is FREE and available at the Airport, and if you are in doubt, ask someone for directions. If you are in a hurry, just take a TAXI and show the driver your destination (in Chinese characters/writing) and he will take you there fast and safe!
This kind of “drill” is almost THE SAME if you travel abroad for a running event——everything you need to know about the country is available at the Airport. As compared to Manila, a visitor is prepared to be “duped” by a TAXI Driver once he/she gets out of the Airport. And that is just a start of a series of frustrations. If you are a Pinoy runner reading this blog, you would know what I mean.
Lantau is the largest island in Hongkong and it can be reached by ferry/boat, bus, TAXI, and railway from Hongkong or Kowloon. It has a lot of fishing villages, some beaches, and lots of mountains and vegetation. This is where the famous Disneyworld Hongkong, Tallest/Biggest Buddha, and the New Hongkong Airport are located.
As suggested by the Race Organizer, I would take the Ferry Ride from Pier 6 at the CENTRAL Station to Mui Wo in Lantau, where the Silver Mine Beach Resort/Hotel/Park is located. The ride would take at least 40 minutes and then from the Lantau Pier, one has to simply walk to the Silver Mine Beach where a Hotel is located. There is a Park and a Toilet Facility which is FREE for everybody.
I was 2.5 hours ahead of schedule when I arrived at the Starting Area and I just observed the other runners coming in while seated on one of the concrete benches.
Jeri Chua, a famous ultra trail runner from Singapore, approached me at the Pier 6 waiting area and introduced herself. She would advise me to just take it easy on the race on the first half as the race progresses with lots of steep mountain trails on the ascents and descents until the last 5 kilometers. She emphasized on the words “take it easy”. Her advise would be etched in my mind throughout the race and it was the best advise from an expert.
Prior to the start of the race, one of the Chinese runners called my attention and asked me if I am the Bald Runner. After answering him positively, he asked me to have a “selfie” shot with him using his Samsung Note Cellphone. Wow!!! I am a popular figure here in Hongkong! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Lantau 100 Blogs and References
There are lots of blogs on the Internet of those who finished the race, a limited number of blogs are available in the 100K category but most of the blogs are in the 50K category. There is only one word that is the common denominator among these blogs——“steep” ascent/descents! There are NO dramas of pain; frustrations; fatigue; “bonking”; lost moments; injuries; complaints or “whining”. All these blogs simply described each section from one Checkpoint to another and their blogs were boring to read with the usual attached Google Map, Elevation Profile of the Race Course, and pictures of some of the sections! (Note: At the end of this blog, a Google Map Video was posted by Stanley Ho of Taiwan for the detailed direction of the route from Start to Finish)
There are no unnecessary announcements from the Race Director or any of the Race Marshals. Runners simply went inside the Starting Area Chute behind the Start Arc and waited for the Race to Start.
I took time to take some pictures of the runners at the front and at the same time took some “selfie” shots.
Five minutes before the start of the race, I went inside the chute and pre-positioned myself in the middle part of the long queue of runners from the Arc up to the back. Then there was this performance of Dragon Dance with the accompanying Drums and Cymbals in front of the Arc and after the said dance, the Race started on time at exactly 11:30 PM of Friday. And we were off running along the beach.
After about 100 meters, we left the beach by running U-turn along a paved single-track road fronting the Hotel towards the populated area of the Mui Wo Village. After one kilometer of flat paved road, the course started to ascend and up we go to the mountains.
Silvermine Beach, Mui Wo To Pak Mong (12 Kilometers)
I started almost behind the pack with I think about 20-30 runners behind me. I maintained a very slow pace with some walking in-between as we approached the populated area Mui Wo. I started to see runners going up in front of me as we started to tackle the first mountain in the race. I could see far from me that the lead runners are already about to approach the peak of the first mountain peak. However, I have to keep calm and tried to monitor the numbers that are registered in my Garmin Forerunner. I really wanted to have an average speed on this course, from Start to Checkpoint #1 to be more or less to 3.5 miles to 4.00 miles per hour, thinking that the trail is not too technical and narrow.
After 2-3 kilometers, the pace started to be slower as the runners would be lined up going up the mountain in a single-track trail. All the runners were already hiking and more are patiently walking just to be able to progress towards the peak of the mountain. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing, long lines of runners snaking through the peak of the mountain as seen by their headlights/hand-held flashlights. The single-track trail and the steepness of the mountain prevented the runners to jog or run through this part of the course. It would be a crazy idea to jog or run on the ascending trails as early as the first hours of the race. After hiking for about an hour, I thought to have reached a peak but to my dismay, there is another higher peak on the horizon. Darkness in the night had made me a fool and after reaching a flat surface, there is another peak that could be seen with runners approaching it.
At the Km #6+, the single file of runners in front of me just immediately stopped. There seems to be a traffic on a steep descent where it immediately followed with another steep ascent. Some of the runners had lost their footing and they had to land on their butts and I was there next to them and patiently waiting for them to stand up. Finally, I reached the peak of Lo Fu Tau which has an elevation of 465 meters or 1,534.5 feet. It became colder and windy as we go higher in elevation and I was protected by Uniqlo’s Windbreaker. From the peak, there is only one way to go but to go downhill. As they say, what goes up must come down. This is where those Rock Stairs started to come out and the challenge on my legs and old knees were starting to take its beating.
But before those “rock stairs”, there is a single spot where it is too steep that there are two points where one has to rappel from the rope down to the steep descent. The Marshal has to give you two options——rope on the regular steep descent or to the steeper one. I chose the regular steep descent but when I tried to get over the rope, the rope scraped on my headlight and it completely removed from my head. My headlight dropped to one of steep recesses of the rocks on the side of the mountain and the runner ahead of me had to pick it up and handed to me. I would say thank you to the guy who is I think 2 times younger than me. My hiking continues on those steep descent until I reached the First Check point of the course in Pak Mong. There is no way to squeeze in 600+ runners in a single-track with lots of bushes on the sides and a very steep descent. It was unfortunate that the runner in front of me kept on falling on his buttocks on this descending 6 kilometers.
The first section, from Start to Pak Mong, covers a distance of 12 kilometers——6 kilometers of ascent and another 6 kilometers of descent with lots of “waiting” moments because of the traffic of runners on the descending parts. Before reaching the Aid Station, I had my Racematix Timing Wrist Band checked by one of the Marshals. My split time was 2:34:44 hours and placed #420. I took two slices of banana and some slices of orange and refilled my two bottles of Simple Hydration and then left the Check Point.
Pak Mong To Pak Kung Au (9 Kilometers)
The section distance is 9 kilometers but one has to tackle first to the Sunset Peak which has an elevation of 854 meters or 2,818 feet! One has to reach Checkpoint #2 at 7:30 AM which is 8 hours! From the Start to Checkpoint #2 (Pak Kung Au), a distance of 21 kilometers has a cut-off time of 8 hours? It gave me the impression that the climb to Sunset Peak will be a hard and steep one and this is the time that I have to prove it.
The problem in running the 100K category is that you are not seeing your surroundings as it is still dark on the first 5-6 hours. The only things that you can see are the lights of the runners in front of you; the reflectorized strips of the runners’ apparel/shoes directly in front of you; and the few feet or meters ahead on the trail you are stepping on where your headlight can illuminate it.
So, climbing the Sunset Peak was too insignificant as I kept lifting my legs and feet on those “rock stairs” and hardened trail. What was significant for me was the fact that I was passing a lot of runners on my way up to the peak of the mountain.
I did a lot of hiking on these ascending steep trails and focused on my nutrition and hydration. I would take at least one Sports Gel every hour and my energy was transmitted to a non-stop action on my legs! Sometimes, I would jog on the flat parts of the route and made progress on the distance I was covering. I arrived at Checkpoint #2 (Km #21) without any problems. I had my time checked and immediately had my water bottles refilled. I started eating PB & J sandwiches and oranges in this Checkpoint’s Aid Station. I think I was ahead of the cut-off time by almost 4.5 hours at this point.
Pak Kung Au To Ngong Ping (12 Kilometers)
Looking at the my notes, I would see that the first half of this section is downhill and the second half will be another uphill climb. I took advantage to run and jog on the first half and I was already alone running on the trail without anybody that I could see in front and behind me. The Lantau Trail markings are seen on my right side and from time to time, in varied places/distances, I would also see the reflectorized ribbon for the race route.
I would be able to catch up with the faster runners on my way up to the mountains as I’ve observed that most of the average Chinese/Hongkong locals could hardly climb steep inclines without using their trekking poles. I have observed also that they are half younger than my age and I could hardly see among them a runner that is the same age as mine!
Another glaring observation among the Hongkong locals is that they don’t mind if there is a faster runner behind them as they continue with their pace without even having the courtesy of asking the runner behind if he/she wants to pass. So, what I did was to shout “On Your Left” or “On Your Right” just to give them a warning that I am going to pass them. I am glad most of them understands English but there are others who would talk to me in their dialect thinking that I am one of the locals.
When the locals are tired, they simply sit on the “rock stairs” facing the incoming runner and just keep quiet in observing as you pass them. How I wish I could wish them with remarks like, “Good Job” or “Looking Good” or “Are you okey?”
Because of the darkness and fogs on the mountains, some of them would be lost and ask for directions. Some ask for directions from me and I have to answer them that it was first time to run through the course. At one point, I was leading a group of 5 runners but I took a wrong turn due to thick fogs and I’ve realized I made a mistake after a few steps. After that, I did no longer had the courage to lead other runners.
I could see that the locals are very competitive in the race and they are fast hikers/walkers whether on flat and downhill runs. They could be weak on the uphill climbs on those “rock steps/stairs” but they are daring and fast runners on those descending ones. I have the conclusion that they are very familiar and used to the trails in the island as most of their past trail running events are done in the island. I got an information that Raidlight had been regularly sponsoring trail running events in Lantau. And there are other shorter trail running events that are done in the said island.
As for me, I was focused to finish one section at a time within the cut-off time and finish the course. Take my Nutrition/Food in every Aid Station and enjoy the scenery of the island.
The Ngong Ping Checkpoint/Aid Station is a crossroad where the 100K runners would pass for two times. As my time was checked through my Wrist Strap, the Marshal did a random check-up on the mandatory items to be carried. She asked me if I have a cellphone and I showed him my iPhone tucked inside one of the zippered pouched of the UD Race Belt. At the Starting Line (before the race started) one of the Lady Marshals approached me and checked on the mandatory equipment. She asked where I pinned my Race Bib as it was covered with my Uniqlo Windbreaker. During the race, these were the instances that I was asked and challenged about the mandatory equipment in my pack. How I wished another Marshal (in another Checkpoint) should have asked me if I have a bandage and a “space blanket” which I have both in my pack.
I ate a lot of food in this Aid Station (hot noodles, cold cuts/salami, PB &J sandwiches and oranges) and after 5-6 minutes, I was off and back to the race!
Ngong Ping To Kau Ling Chung (11 Kilometers)
From the Aid Station of Ngong Ping, the road is paved/cemented that every runner should run on the shoulder/sidewalk. The road is a winding downhill for about 3-4 kilometers and I was in the company of local runners and European/American runners. We had to cross the paved road depending on how we would be able to shave some distance and be able to cut corners to avoid the winding road. We practically followed a straight path on this winding road. I was able run at a faster pace due to its descending nature and in a relaxed manner but I was sure that on the bottom of this road, we will start an uphill climb to the next mountain peak which is the Keung Shan (454 meters in elevation or 1,498 feet). I passed two runners on this section before we started our climb to the next mountain.
The climb to Keung Shan started in a park and the effort to cover this section was insignificant as the same “rock stairs” would be the nature of the trail. While the other runners are busy using their trekking poles, I was consistently and easily forcing mg legs and knees to propel me from one stair to another higher one. As usual, I have to count the number of steps that I would take in climbing such mountain in order to break the monotony.
Once I reached the peak, it was time again to go down and I was running along a concrete canal which is very wide and deep. Such structure on the side of the road would the drainage or water passageway of water rushing from the peak of the mountain during the rainy season. In my estimate, the concrete canal is 12 feet deep and 6 feet wide. There are places along the canal where there is no barrier from the road and I made sure to run on the left side of the road, farther from the canal, for safety purposes. If someone becomes dizzy along this road on the edge of the canal, there is a possibility that one would fall down to the canal. The people in Hongkong call these canals as water “catchways”.
After almost 2.5 hours of running along this section, we reached the Aid Station which was manned by four (4) ladies to include the Timing/Checkpoint Marshal. I was already at Km #44 and I was 4 hours ahead of the cut-off time. It was time to eat some more!
Knowing that the ladies have the facial features of Pinoys, I jokingly cursed in Ilocano dialect and one of the ladies laughed! They then started the conversation by telling me that 3 other Pinoy runners had just passed their location. I told them that I don’t have the intention of catching them because they are fast and younger runners compared with me. The other 3 ladies are from the Visayas and I started to talk to them in Tagalog.
I think stayed in this Aid Station for 4-5 minutes eating my favorite PB &J sandwiches (runner has to make his own) and slices of oranges. I think I repeatedly ate these foods for 3-4 times while talking to the Pinoy ladies. When I checked on my notes, one of the local runners started a conversation in their dialect but I explained that I can’t understand what he was saying. The runner could be in his early 30s and he was using a Vibram Five-Finger Minimalist Shoes. He asked me if I am on my schedule and I said “yes, more than the enough time that I need to reach in each Check Point” and he said “you are good”. I replied him, “I am trying to be good for my age at 62!”. One of the guys who have heard my reply said, “How I wish I could be doing this Lantau 100 when I reach your age”. I just smiled at the two local runners. After refilling my water bottles, I asked these two gentlemen and the four Pinay ladies for me to get ahead and proceed to the next Checkpoint.
Kau Ling Chung To Tai O (12 Kilometers)
After running for about 1-2 kilometers of paved road along the drainage canal, it was time again to go up to the mountain. I would estimate the next mountain to be a little higher than Keung Shan. Its peak’s assault was very steep but once I reached the peak, I could see a beautiful scenery overlooking the village of Tai O and the sea. Tai O was the traditional capital of the island until it was overtaken by the infrastructural developments of Mui Wo (Starting Area).
The village of Tai O is seen as very near, yet very far on foot! I’ve tried to jog and run the descending portions and flat portions as the trail is made of hardened earth and some are flats rocks but the last half of the descending portion towards the foot of the mountain has “rock stairs” that are constructed very steep. The winding “rock stairs” ended in a paved road of about one meter wide which forms part as the circumferential trail of the island. I turned right and followed the paved trail with a big pipe on the right side which I believe to be a water pipe that connects the water reservoir to the village. After 2 kilometers or so, I turned left towards a pedestrian cemented bridge that leads to the center of the village that crosses a combination of swamp planted with mangroves and the rocky shores of the island.
The village is big and have lots of buildings and wide roads but I could not see much of the people living thereat to include vehicles. The ribbons and directional signs brought me to a school and the Aid Station was set-up inside the school’s gymnasium. Since it was already noon time, I decided to have a full meal and just have some rest and stay in the Aid Station for about 15-20 minutes. I was hoping that I would be able to wait for the other Pinoy runners to arrive or somebody whom I know personally.
But before I entered the school premises, I asked the young Time Checker boy, who I presumed to be one of the students of the school, what was my place/ranking among the runners. He checked on his electronic gadget/reader and told me that I am Runner #362. I was happy to be in this position among the other runners presuming that the total of runners would be 600+.
Tai O is at Km #56 and I was still four hours ahead of the cut-off time. I was feeling strong but I need to eat and stretch my legs. My full meal consisted of chicken noodle soup mixed with thin slices of salami; PB &J sandwiches, French Bread, Crackers, Tea, and Oranges. After my full meal and a drink of Hot Tea, I was ready to leave the Aid Station.
Tai O To Ngong Ping (12 Kilometers)
I left the center of the village through foot bridges on the shore and swamp of the island and had a chance to walk through the village huts which are made of aluminum walls. I was following an American (white) runner in his early 30s who was wearing black tights and compression long-sleeved shirt. He was just walking and I was behind him walking, too! I really enjoyed walking on the circumferential trail of the island that leads to the village of Tai O. There are lots of hikers that I would meet along the way and they are surprised to see us. I tried to run along this paved road which is about one meter wide but I decided to just walk and enjoy the scenery of the sea and the coast. I would enjoy watching the construction being done along the sea which I think would be a bridge that connects the New Hongkong Airport to an island which seems to be a resort or park with white sand.
However, after walking for two kilometers, I said to myself, “Houston, we have a problem!” I need to pee! But the trail is abundant with people who would be coming in front of me as they are going back to the village after their hiking exercises. I could not see any place at the side of the paved trail where I can just pee as there are no covers to speak of. What I did was to run farther in front and looked for a curve where I could see visibly the people who would be approaching such curve before they reach my position. When I was able to locate a place and not seeing any person approaching such curved section of the trail, I just dropped the front part of my running shorts and “let it go”!
I could see in the color of my urine that I was not dehydrated but the volume of fluid coming out is more than what I’ve expected. To my surprise, when I was about to leave my position, there was this local runner who was in all-Salomon black apparel getting nearer to me. I looked at his face and he just smiled. He was a faster walker than me and I followed him along the paved trail. After about 400 meters, the local runner went inside a Portalet that was located on the left side of the road which is near a populated area. I said to myself…Ooppss! I am sorry, man! I can no longer control the pain!!!
I am glad I walked from the village of Tai O for the next 4-5 kilometers. After such distance, ribbon indicators would direct the runners to veer a sudden right turn towards a single track trail which is full of bushes. And once I looked up, I saw a thick vegetated slope of a mountain where the trail is leading to. It is again a “bushwacking” episode for all the runners just like the first 10 kilometers of the course. Ahead of me on the slope were the runners who passed me on the circumferential paved road from Tai O who were partially covered by the bushes on the side of the trail. I could see that they are very slow in their progress to reach the peak of the mountain. I need to take a deep breath and start my mantra again of counting every step I made as I go up to the peak of the mountain. I could no longer recall how much time did I spend on this steep uphill portion of the mountain. Without the aid of the trekking poles, I had to grab every branch of bushes and trunks of small trees along the sides of the trail and made them as my “climbing ropes”. My GIRO Cycling Gloves were very useful in this part of the course as I could easily grab and hold on on such twigs and branches of those small trees and bushes on the sides of the trail. Once I reached a small flat portion, I would rest for a few seconds and then proceed again with my ritual of counting the number of steps as I go up to the slope.
When somebody had to be fast to reach my position, I would make a signal for them to pass me but all of them had to decline and signal their hands for me to proceed. On this part, I was able to pass at least 3 runners and one of them is the American runner who was way ahead of me before reaching the slope. From this place, one could see the New Hongkong Airport full of departing airplanes on queue on the runway before take-off and the sound of their engines’ full thrust could be heard loudly on the mountain slope. While resting, I would entertain myself by watching those airplanes taking-off from the runway.
I found it later that this very steep single-track and full of bushes trail is called the Shek Pik Trail. I will not forget the name of this trail. Most of the local runners whom I spoke during the ascent had only word to say about this trail, it is the word, “Terrible”!
Patience is the key in this part of the course. However, once every runner reaches the peak, the Biggest Buddha beacons and can be seen on the right side of the mountain range with the cable station slightly in front. From one peak to another, runners would reach the Cable tram station through steps/stairs and follow the trail behind it in order to reach Ngong Ping. From The Cable Tram, it still 3 kilometers to the Ngong Ping Checkpoint/Aid Station. I found out later that this place is called “Nei Lek Shan”
We are going on full circle on this one but on the different sides of the island and different scenery and challenges. So far, I have just finished 68 kilometers and the hardest or highest peak is not yet reached——the Lantau Peak, the second highest peak in the Hongkong Area, which 934 meters in elevation or 3,082 feet.
Ngong Ping To Pak Kung Au Via Lantau Peak (5 Kilometers)
I took time to eat the same stuff at the Aid Station——Hot Noodles with Slices of Salami; Slices of Oranges; Cups of Ice Cold Coke; and Boiled Potatoes. While eating, I had a chance to talk to one of the local runners whom I signaled to pass me on the steep Shek Pik trail and he was telling me that this course is the hardest 100K trail race in Hongkong and he promised that he would not dare to repeat this race in order to improve his time. Another local runner in Salomon apparel seated beside me and repeatedly telling me that the course is “terrible”. After I’ve finished eating, it was time to move on.
The first few meters of the trail as I left the Ngong Ping is flat and wide but after about 200 meters, the “rock stairs” would appear again and I knew that this is now the start of a very steep and winding trail to the summit/Lantau Peak. I was following a couple of runners but once they reached the “rock stairs”, they simply walked their way up with their trekking poles. I tried to follow their pace but I had to take some brief stop every time I would step on 20 successive steps/stairs. I briefly stopped in one of the benches on the side of the trail to bring out my headlight as the night was coming and the fogs was becoming thicker as I went higher in elevation.
I was passed by some runners who were with their trekking poles but I patiently kept following them using my hands and arms as support to my knees. As I was nearing the peak, the wind blow harder and I could hardly see the ground due to thick fogs plus the fact that it was drizzling, making the “rock stairs” very slippery to some of the trail shoes. Finally, I would see the steel chain that is placed on the edge of the trail where one could hold on while going up to the assault part of the peak. More steel chain on the trail up to the peak as I moved higher until a Race Marshal approached me and advised me to start taking the descending trail and proceed to the next Checkpoint. He told me that there is no need for a Time Check.
I said to myself that I would be able to finish the race earlier than what I planned for, knowing that every thing will be going down from the highest point of Lantau Peak. However, I was wrong! I was not too confident to move at a faster pace in going down due to the slippery trail/“rock stairs” and thick fogs. I felt that I was not making a progress on my faster pace. I was alone on the trail on my descent but I would be passed by some of the local runners who are very fast in going down even if the trail was slippery.
Finally, I was back on the paved road with a deep canal on the side of the road and I knew that I was approaching the Pak Kung Au Checkpoint. I would cross another hill through “rock stairs” again and went inside a thickly forested area. Once I got out from the forest, I saw a Lady Marshall (a Pinay) seated beside a paved road waving a blinking signal lights. She said that I still have 4 kilometers more to go before I reach the Aid Station.
Finally, I reached the Pak Kung Au Aid Station/Checkpoint and had my bottles refilled with water; ate some slices of orange; and asked for a cup of Coke but they have none. I took in one Sports Gel and continued my run towards the next Checkpoint.
Pak Kung Au To Chi Ma Wan (12 Kilometers)
This is the section where I practically ran alone on the course and it seemed that the trail was the same as the flat trails that I ran through on the other side of the island. After running on a flat trail for about 3-4 kilometers, it was the start again of a descending “rock stairs” which I thought would lead me again to the beach or bay. The steps would be dried this time as compared to the descending parts from Lantau Peak. I would see some headlights from a distance in front of me and it gave a boost to run faster but when the terrain changes to uphill climbs, I would continue with my fast walk. After overcoming a short uphill climb, it was all downhill until I reached the Chi Ma Wan Aid Station/Checkpoint. A Timing Marshal got my time of arrival through his electronic gadget and I asked the Marshal what was my place/ranking among the 100K runners. He said that the device could not show my ranking but he gave me some information that more or the runners are still behind.
As I approached the Aid Station, I saw a lot of the runners who were already lying on the backs and sleeping inside the Checkpoint Tents and more of the runners were just on the ground resting by sitting or lying. I would estimate that there are almost twenty of them.
I tried to sit on a concrete base of an electric post while I ate crackers while drinking an ice cold coke. After I finished two pack of crackers and two servings/cups of Coke, I was on my way to the next Checkpoint.
Chi Ma Wan To Shap Long (10 Kilometers)
I was so frustrated to find out that I am going up again to a trail with stairs but instead of rocks, it was the ground but with with a “concrete” half-log placed on the outer edge of each step. Sometimes, they are wide-U concrete that is filled with earth where one could step most specially on the descending parts of this route. It was a continuos stairs to a peak of another mountain, Lo Shan Yan, which is 303 meters in elevation or 1,000 feet high.
After running and hiking for 83 kilometers, I could already feel the fatigue on my legs and on my body but because of my intake of Sports Gel I would have an instant energy to push my body to a certain distance.
As soon as I reached the peak of the mountain, I would see some of the runners that would pass me on my ascent to be lying flat on the grassy ground to have their rest. Silently and without any word, I would pass them and continue with my run and hike on the descending portions of the mountain.
Later, I was joined by a group of International Runners (from Malaysia and Singapore) and some of the local runners. They would move so fast by just walking and I would keep up with their pace. Looking at their built and appearance, they are on their early 30s. However, they tend to rest and sleep after walking for some distance and then pursue their fast pace once they resume their hike.
At one point, I was in a group of 8 runners and we maintained a very fast hike for about 4-5 kilometers but 4 of them stopped for a rest/sleep until later, I was already alone left walking for the rest of the way. I just kept my composure and did not panic as I walked alone for about 2 kilometers until I reached a junction. I came into a runner who seemed to be lost and could not find any ribbon on the said intersection. I tried to look also for the said reflectorized ribbon but I could see none. In a few seconds, a lone runner came behind us and pointed the right trail to follow and we let him lead the way. I was behind the said runner while the runner I came upon at the intersection was behind me. I found out later that the guy in front of me was a Cantonese and the runner behind me was a Singaporean and we had been meeting each other in every Aid Station where we stopped to eat and have our bottles refilled with water.
We came down to a concrete steps as part of an approach to a water reservoir. There was a marker towards a downward direction and the steps was towards an elevated pedestrian bridge that crosses the reservoir. As it was too dark, my headlight could not see the bottom or what is seen below the said elevated bridge. I would assume that the bridge was too high or the reservoir is too deep for us to see the water below. After we crossed the bridge, we were at a lost and argued if the blue ribbon tied in one of the branches beside the road is part of the race markers. The Cantonese guy was trying to explain that we have to cross the mountain in front of us in order to reach the next Checkpoint. The Singapore guy is not sure if the blue ribbon tied on the side of the road is part of the race. What I did was to retrace the markers and crossed the elevated bridge back to the downward steps just to be sure that we are on the right track. The other two guys started to bring out their cellphones to call the Race Director and asked for directions. While they are dialing their phones, I was crossing the bridge back and forth! At the downward steps before the bridge, I saw two ribbons tied on a branch of a tree and they are colored white and blue for each of them. From what I’ve seen, I would be back to the other two guys and explained to them that we are on the right track by following the blue colored ribbon. I argued to them that we are on the right track and just follow the descending road and hope to find out another marker at the end of the road.
The three of us walked down the descending road and in about 50 meters, we had a glimpsed of those reflectorized ribbons and directional signs. The Cantonese guy hiked quicker towards the trail while the Singaporean guy sticked to my pace as I was behind them. I guess, this episode of being stalled on the trail delayed us for about 30 minutes.
Finally, we reached the Shap Long Aid Station/Checkpoint and at this point, what remains is the last 5 kilometers to the Finish Line. The Cantonese guy was already a kilometer ahead of us.
Shap Long To The Finish Line (5 Kilometers)
The last 5 kilometers is a paved road with about one meter wide which is rolling and part of the circumferential trail of the island. Ok, there are lots of Buffalo Shits on the road and trail on this portion of the course. The smell of the air is a mixture of the sea air; carabao dung smell; and the smell of victory to have tackled this difficult trail running course!
It appeared that the paved trail road is on the slope of a mountain that is near the shore of the island. On the last kilometer, one has to go down to the street level of Mui Wo and pass the commercial center of the village which consists of a McDonald Fastfood; some Restaurants; Bus Terminal, the Ferry Pier, and the main street of the village. After passing a turnabout, just take a Right turn towards the beach and I was on my way to the Silvermine Bay Beach and towards the Finish Line.
My official time of finish is 28:50:11 hours and placed #323 out of 403 finishers with 24% or 97 runners to have been declared as DNF.
I was smiling when I reached and crossed the Finish Line!
Post Critique On My Performance
1. My Proper Training Paid A Lot——The three-month training program for this race has a total of 630 miles or 1,008 kilometers where about 90% was done in my playground which I call the “Brown Mountain” and the rest of the 10% was done on the flat grounds of the Philippine Army Grandstand/Parade Ground Jogging Lane. As I described in the earlier part of this post, I concentrated my training on the trails in running to the peak of the Roosevelt National Park in Hermosa, Bataan with an elevation of 1,975 feet or almost 600 meters. This mileage would not include my participation in the 2015 edition of the Condura Skyway Marathon and other hikes to some mountains. If you try to get the average weekly mileage, it would result to 84 kilometers.
2. More Recovery Days During Training——My Mondays were strictly my Rest Days and did not do anything except to do some calf strengthening exercises; leg stand balances (single leg with eyes closed) and “foam rolling” my legs. No other “cross-training” exercises were done on my rest days. My Back2Back runs were always followed with complete rest on the remaining time of the day. While my Back2Back (5X) workouts were followed with a rest the whole following day.
3. Nutrition Is The Key——I have already perfected the pattern on how to use a Full Meal, Vespa Drinks, Solid Foods Available in the Aid Stations, Water and Sports Gel during the race, most specially in 100K distances. Ginger Candies had became my “thirst suppressant” and at the same my anti-acid reflux weapon. I no longer drink any kind of electrolyte drinks like Gatorade, Propel or 100 Plus in my ultra races. At the TransLantau 100, my full meal before the race (2 hours before Gun Start) was a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Sandwich with French Fries and it was followed with Stinger Waffles and a Power Bar 30 minutes before the start. I took in one Vespa Pack with one Sports Gel with water 15 minutes before Gun Start. This food intake gave me the energy on the first 3-4 hours. From then on, I would take in some food at the Aid Station and made sure that my two Simple Hydration Bottles are refilled with water. I would also take One Sports Gel every hour except when I have to eat a lot of food in the Aid Stations. I got a reserve of GU Roctane Gels (4 pieces) just in case I need them for my last push on the last 10K of the race.
4. Taper Properly——My taper period started two weeks before the race and took advantage of this period for more rest and sleep, more fuel/food to feed my body, and more time looking at the elevation profile of the course/reading the Hongkong Trail Book given by Andre Blumberg and more time to watch movies and stroll in the malls. It was timely that the conduct of the 7th BDM 102 Ultra Race were done during my taper period and I was calm and relaxed during these weeks. My longest run in these two weeks of taper period was 8 miles or 12.8 kilometers!
5. Take It Easy, Stay Relaxed & Have Fun——There is no need to pressure myself with a certain Finish Time goal in this race. My ONLY Goal in this race is to Finish within the cut-off time of 32 hours without any injury or “issues” and would still be smiling once I would be able to cross the finish line. Although I would be cursing silently on those steep ascent portions of the course, I would console myself with the thought that I was passing a lot of the local runners who are half of my age or younger. The “overall” funny part on the race about my performance is when I saw my splits and took notice on my placing/ranking from Checkpoint #1 up to the Finish Line. At Checkpoint #1, I was ranked #420 runner; at Checkpoint #5, I was ranked #362; and at the Finish Line, I was ranked #323. This simply means that my patience resulted in improving my ranking for 102 positions and I would be improving in my standing as the race progresses (or maybe there are more weak and slow runners behind me)!!!
6. Gathered Some Learning Lessons——As an RD in our local ultra races, I was able to learn and pick-up some lessons through my observation on how these international races are being done. It was worth the money, effort and time to join such race if one can pick one or two things which can improve the overall operation of a certain local event.
Hotel Accommodation, Food, Transportation (4 days)—— 15,000.00
Coaching Services & Training Expenses————————20,000.00
Registration Fee —————————————————— 6,000.00
Massage & Spa ——————————————- 1,000.00
T o t a l E x p e n s e s ——————————————P 50,000.00
My Race Kit & Equipment/Accessories
Runner’s Cap: Salomon
Neck Buff: Buff
Baselayer: NIKE Compression Shirt
PAU Long-Sleeved Shirt
Running Shorts: Patagonia
Ultimate Direction’s AK Signature Race Vest with 2 Simple Hydration Bottles
Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek’s Signature Race Belt
Gloves: Giro Cycling Gloves
Calf Sleeves: Zensha
Socks: DRYMAX Trail Running Socks
Shoes: Salomon S-LAB Sense 3
Watches: GARMIN Forerunner 310XT & Timex
Power Bank By Gavio (Dyna Q)
Nutrition: 24 Sports Gels but only used 13 pieces; 3 VESPA Packs but only used two; Stinger Waffles; Ginger Candies
Medications: 2 pcs of Pharmaton Capsules and 2 Aleve Tablets
Leukoplast Adhesive Bandage/Tape
Salomon’s Space Blanket & Whistle
Iphone with Headphone (But did not use my Music throughout the race)
HK$ 200 & Octopus Card
My Personal Thoughts On This Race
I did not realize that this race has 3 points for UTMB and with another successful finish at the latest Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Trail Run last November 2014 which has 2 points, and so far, I have earned 5 points already. However, the fact is that I don’t have any intention of going to the UTMB (Chamonix, France) and I have never considered it as part of my ultra’s “bucket list”. But, you may never know! Maybe, I will start saving my money and at the same time look for sponsor-friends who will support me in this endeavor.
If I add up my Anteloop 100K “run through” in order to determine its official cut-off time on the last quarter of last year, I would say that I am becoming a stronger and a hardened mountain trail ultra runner despite my age as a Senior Citizen. I would be proud to have accomplished these running events and proved to myself that there is NO limit to one’s endurance and capabilities to tackle a certain challenge as long as there is a proper preparation and training that support it.
But there is a bigger and better meaning or message of what I’be been doing and accomplishing in mountain trail ultra running. This had been my favorite and most emphasized “Leadership Principle” when I was in the military service as Commander of various units from being a Junior Officer to a Star-Rank Position——“Set The Example”! This is the very reason why I have to “run through” a course and write about it in this blog before I would make such course as a running event. Almost all the running events which I organize and direct were created through this procedure. It could be a single stage or a multi-day stage runs on my part but my story and experience would be etched in the minds of the other runners. And for this reason, I always say in my stories that “If BR can do it, You can do it, too!”
And for those who are crazy enough to accept the challenge to try and experience what I’ve been doing, my stories and articles in this blog would be a good reference as I try my best to give a “blow by blow” account of the things I’ve done. Blogging about my experiences and the description of the places where I run and join these races is as important as setting the example. This is where I would share my tips and techniques on the things one has to prepare in order to finish any challenging running event. I don’t have any “secrets”; “shortcuts”; or “miracle pills” for me to finish these races. They are all in my stories and it is up for the reader to pick-up what is suited for him or her. They are simple products of hard work, discipline, focus, determination, patience, and simplicity of effort. So, if you have plans of joining this particular race and for one to be exposed in international ultra trail races, you have to simply read my stories and your goal/objective to finish is half-done. As a start, you need to do is to save your money. And the rest will follow.
What is next for the Bald Runner? I will be back again to the mountains after two weeks of rest and recovery. My next ultra running adventure is still a secret and it will be coming soon!!!
On The Other News About The Race
John Ellis, a Blogger of Gone Running, came up with the following Race Report for the Elite/Podium Finishers in each of the Race Categories:
“Australian Vlad Ixel and Santosh Tamang from Nepal traded blows until the brutal bushwhacking climb up to Nei Lek Shan (2km, 500m D+) at around 62km.
From here, Vlad pulled away and never looked back, finishing with a blistering 11.6kph final stage, to win comfortably in 13:25:11. Santosh held onto second place with a brave 14:16:36, and last year’s Lantau Vertical champion Kawai Wong from the Fire Services Department rounded out the podium with a well paced 14:40:07. Special mention goes to Pig Chan and Allen Ng from Asia Trail, who blitzed the Team of 2 event in 15:20:29.
In the women’s race, Tor des Geants finisher Lijie Qu of China started slowly but eventually held on for the win in a very respectable 17:47:43, less than five minutes ahead of fast-finishing Australian Joanna Kruk in 17:52:11. Nicole Lau of Cosmoboys finished third in 17:59:29.
International runners dominated the 50km edition (2,600m D+), with ChengDu-based American Justin Andrews taking first in a relatively comfortable 5:42:31. Australian Majell Backhausen prevailed in a sprint finish with local 2XU athlete Ying Tsang in 5:50:44. The women’s champion was Irene Montemayor from the Philippines in 7:44:27, ahead of local runners Olivia Chan in 7:52:49 and Ivy Chung in 7:57:20.
The winners of the 25km race were Joel Deschamps from France and Ukrainian Oksana Riabova, while American David Woo and Canadian Joyce Edmondson took out the 15km version.”
Lastly, here is the link of my Garmin Forerunner 310XT at Garmin Connect:
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!