Most of the stories I have posted in this blog for this year were blog or journal on the daily adventure of Thomas Combisen during the 2020 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge which was held during the Chinese New Year last January.
The conversation between Thomas and Andre Blumberg in this video validates and proves that Thomas will be going back for the iconic 10th Anniversary Edition next year of this event. Hopefully, we will be back to normal to travel to other countries in the next months. As of now, Thomas is back in his training for this event and be able to finish it in sub-60 hours.
At this moment, I am compiling all the posts and stories of Thomas Combisen from the time he joined my Running Events and his exposure to International Events under the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) and Trail Ultra Races sanctioned by ITRA. I hope I can come up and publish an Ebook about his adventures in Running.
The running kit of Thomas in last year’s (2019) HK4TUC did not change in this year’s edition except for his Hydration Vest and Shoes. Even for his nutrition and hydration, they had been the same but there are some things that we need to add.
Thomas decided not to use the Salomon S-Lab Sense 5-Liter Hydration Vest that he used in last year’s HK4TUC because it was already loose for him and wanted to use the one he always used in his trail and road ultras in the past which is the Mountain Hardwear Fuel 3-Liter Hydration Vest/Pack. If I remember right, I bought the same Hydration Vest three years ago at the Columbia Store in SM Megamall and it is still with me except that the zippers in the pockets are stuck and non-operational already. As I googled this item while writing this post, this particular model is no longer in the market and the brand had already stopped making them.
As compared to the Hydration Vests and Packs that the other runners used in this event, Thomas hydration pack/vest was very small in capacity but I was surprised that it was able to accommodate the Salomon Waterproof Jacket, his food, cellphone, a Windbreaker Jacket, Hydration bottles, handy water filtration unit, Headlights, and other miscellaneous things that Thomas needed in every trail leg. It is surprising to see the big back pocket with zipper could expand to accommodate everything. Since the hydration pack/vest has two mid-rib belts which are not stretchable, Thomas can tighten them to be always snugged on his body. Thomas did not use those Race Belts with pockets which is very popular among trail runners nowadays.
Thomas shirts during the event are our PAU Shirts By Bluprint (Imported Brand) but the Logo is printed locally. He used 3 PAU shirts (white, dark gray, & black) during the event and a shirt from Kalenji/Decathlon. He did not change his NIKE Running Shorts with PAU Logo Patch and RP Flag Patch throughout the event but he always change his underwear with the Decathlon’s Kalenji’s Under Shorts every time he starts a new trail leg. Throughout the event, he was consistently using the Injinji Socks and changed them every time he starts a new trail leg.
The day before the event, Rowell Campos brought us to Cam2Sports Store in Mongkok to buy a new pair of running shoes for Thomas. He was looking for an ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 which he intends to use for the event. Thomas was lucky to find the remaining one pair of ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoesavailable in the store which was ON SALE at 50% discount. This is the shoes that Thomas used for the 2 Trail Legs of the event (MacLehose & Wilson Trails). It was only in the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that he used his old ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoes. It was at the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that Thomas started using his Compressport Compression Calf Sleeves. He did not use any shoe gaiters along the course.
As for his headlamp, Thomas was using a LedLenser Headlamp and another extra one which I could guess to be a regular Black Diamond Headlamp. He used his headlamp at the MacLehose, Wilson, and Hong Kong Trails. In his Lantau Trail, I gave him my Lupine Headlamp which he wore from the start until he reached the lighted portion of Mui Wo Road, near the Finish Line. The rechargeable battery was drained when Thomas gave it back to me. He could have used its High Beam which is 700 Lumens throughout his run/hike along the Lantau Trail. Thomas did not have any negative feedback on the use of his headlamps during those nights that he was on the trails.
As for his hydration needs, Thomas did not have any problem where to replenish his hydration needs, in terms of water or sports/cola drinks. He used his portable filtration unit in places where he can get water in streams in the mountains and in Public Comfort Rooms/Toilets’ faucets. He uses also his Octopus Card to get or buy what he wanted in those Vending Machines available in the vicinity of the Comfort Rooms in each Country Park Facility that he passes. There are also Free Source of Drinking Water which he observed as new additional structure within the vicinity of each Comfort Rooms/Toilets along the trail. And there are commercial establishments in the villages along the trail that Thomas can stop and order some hot food. Thomas can also stop to buy or order some solid foods in commercial establishments in the MTR Stations. There is always a 7-11 Store or Convenience Store in these MTR Stations. It is necessary that a runner in this race has some some Cash and Octopus Card with him during the event.
His food in his pack consisted of “Tikoy” (Rice Cake) from Bicol which we personally ordered for him, “Rice Cakes” (Chinese) from the 7-11 Store, Sky Flakes, Snickers, Yakult, Springs Gels, and Apples. All of these were packed inside the Hydration Pack of Thomas!
Thomas had been alternately using a Visor Cap (during day time) and a Running Cap (during nighttime) to cover his head. However, I have never seen him use any Buff/Neck Gaiter in all his runs in the past and in this event, to include last year’s HK4TUC.
Before he started the Lantau Trail, I gave him my GIRO Cycling Gloves which I know will give him warmth for his palms/fingers during the night and as he approaches the freezing winds of the Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.
After the event, Thomas and I discussed the things that we should improve on and the things we should learn from his experience this year. He told me that he slowed down significantly at the Hong Kong Trail due drowsiness that brought him “hallucination” moments and the cold/freezing winds during the night. The strong, cold and freezing winds at the Lantau Trail had also slowed him down that he had to stop and take a nap, only to be awaken that he was already lying on the floor in one of the Pagodas/Rest Huts along the trail.
After a thorough discussion, I recommended him some solutions for his problems and we will use them in next year’s Thomas participation in the 10th edition of the HK4TUC.
Journal Of “Team Thomas/PAU” @ 9th HK4TUC (Preparatory Stage)
January 22, 2020 (Wednesday)——Team Thomas/PAU departed Manila aboard Cathay Pacific at 8:00 AM and despite the delay of 30 minutes for our departure, we arrived at the Hongkong International Airport at 10:30 AM. After changing our money to Hongkong Dollars, buying our SIM Card with Unlimited Data, and loading some money to our Octopus Cards, we took the Airport Bus to our Hotel. After lunch, we settled and rested the remaining part of the day.
January 23, 2020(Thursday)——Thomas and I woke up early in the morning and prepared for our Recon Run at the MacLehose Trail. We took the MTR and Bus until we reached Sai Kung. From Sai Kung, we took the Green Taxi up to the start of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail. We made sure all the parts and intersections in the said Section were carefully studied and marked by Thomas. This was the part where Thomas spent a lot of time looking for the trail, most specially on the beach sections of the course. With all those stops to eat and hydrate, picture taking, and talking to some people along the way, we finished our Recon Run in three hours.
In one of the Rest Pavilions along the trail, we met Johse from South Africa as he was on his second day hiking the MacLehose Trail, carrying his tent and food provisions for six days in his big backpack. He was resting when we started talking to him. He intends to finish hiking the MacLehose Trail by Tuesday as he takes his time enjoying the scenery and resting along the way. He had been taking a lot of pictures with his camera whenever he was resting for the day and night.
At the 2nd village that we reached, Sai Wan Beach Village, we stopped at the first eatery establishment for water, Coke, and Pocari Sweat. The place did not have any food to offer but it was good that we carried with us a piece Tikoy from Camarines Norte. That would served as our lunch during the hike. As we hiked farther from the business establishment, we reached the Campsite/Beach and we appreciated the beauty of the sea and sand. We took some pictures in this place. According to Thomas, he did not know which way to go once he reached this section as it was already nighttime. We took time to see some markers for him to know which way to go this time.
As we moved further, I was able to see the Sun Dial and took some pictures of it. After which we reached the Sai Wan Stargazing Site. The place is very beautiful and we took some pictures on the said place. Thomas will no longer see these markers and places once he passes during the HK4TUC as it will be nighttime.
As we entered the Tai Long Village, Thomas pointed to me the place where he bought some food and soft drinks. Near the said place, an old man in half-naked attire was eating his lunch. As he glanced at me, he asked me if I am a Catholic and what country I come from. I said, “Yes, I am a Catholic and I am from the Philippines”. He immediately stopped his lunch and asked me to follow him as he went into an uphill stairs until he was leading me to an Old Small Church. He said that St Mary’s statue is inside the Church and it is 120 years old and the church was constructed 60 years ago. He said that every weekend/Sunday, a lot of Filipino, mostly Filipino Ladies would visit and hear mass in the said Church. His name is Philippe and he maintains the cleanliness of the church and its surrounding. He said that he is cutting the grasses to prepare the church for the weekend’s mass and visit of devotees. He said that he is 78 years old! I took some “selfies’ with Philippe and Thomas, the Altar with Mama Mary and the Church. When Philippe left us to continue his lunch, Thomas and I offered some prayers to Mama Mary. I hope and pray that a miracle will happen to Thomas this weekend’s run!
Two kilometers before reaching Pak Tam Au, the end point of Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail, I heard some fast footsteps behind me as I was jogging fast to reach the Rest Room. I did not bother to look behind me as I was focused to maintain my pace. On the last kilometer of the section, I asked Thomas to take some pictures of me while running. With the brief stop that I had to talk to Thomas and hand him over my phone, the guy behind passed me and I was surprised to see him as we did not see him along the trail. After the picture taking, he was ahead of me and reached the Rest Room first.
After he got out from the Rest Room, I asked him the direction going to Sai Kung and that started our conversation. I forgot to get his name but according to him, he finished the Vibram HK 100 five years ago and never came back to improve his time because of knee problems. Instead, he hikes carrying his camera. While waiting for the Bus To Sai Kung to arrive, he told us that he purposely hiked along the Section 2 and reached a place to take some pictures of a plant’s flower that blossoms onlyat the start of the Lunar Year. It is only this part of the year that the flowers bloom and they bloom in downward position. He showed to us the pictures that he took from the said flowers and they are beautiful. The flowers have some white and red color combination. We were amazed by the beauty of the flowers to the point that we forgot to ask his name and the name of the plant. We suspect that he had to veer off from the trail route and reached some peaks just to locate and take some pictures this plant.
We boarded the Bus to Sai Kung and had our late lunch in one of the Noodle Shops before taking the Mini-Bus that would take us to the MRT Station.
January 24, 2020 (Friday)——Due to incidents of being lost at the Wilson Trail for so many times, Thomas was not able to catch up with the last trip at the MRT Lam Tin Station for him to cross the Quarry Bay enroute to Hongkong Island for the last leg of the Wilson Trail before reaching Stanley Gap Road. Once the MRT opened on the 3rd day, Thomas spent so much time inside the MRT trying to figure out what Platform was he going to take. He had to ask the locals for directions where to take the MRT up to MRT Tai Koo Station before reaching the Wilson Trail at the Hongkong Island side.
So, we recon and rehearsed this part of the route and Thomas was able to recall and review the the route. I think we were able to hike about 5 miles tracing this route aside from our trips with the MRT Subway. To make my hike/recon more challenging, I carried a backpack with a weight of 20 pounds consisting of four (4) 2-liter bottles of water.
On our way back to the MTR Lam Tin Station, we saw an old local Chinese man about the age of 80s pushing his wife on a wheelchair on an uphill climb of about 200 meters long. I asked Thomas that we should help the old guy in pushing his wife. So, we did it and we alternated in pushing the wife until we reached their destination. Some of the old guys that saw our effort to help the old couple were cheering us for what we did. It was a good workout for me with the weighted backpack I was carrying.
On the second day here in Hongkong, Thomas and I were able to successfully recon the places where Thomas got lost and places where he spent so much time figuring it out which way to go. Thomas gave me the assurance that his confidence had been boosted with our Recon Runs for the past two days.
In a few hours, the whole Team will take a ride to the starting area for the event. Good luck and have fun, Thomas!
(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!
Thomas Combisen, the lone representative of the Philippines, finished and set a National Course Record at the 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Endurance Run held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last November 19-20, 2016. He officially represented the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU), the National Federation on Ultrarunning, and was invited by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) to join this yearly event. He ranked #8 among the 27 International Runners with a total distance of 203.45 Kilometers covered during the duration of 24 hours of continuous running. The international runners represented the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Chinese Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Thomas Combisen qualified to join this prestigious running event for being a consistent Champion and Podium Finisher in PAU Races for the past years. He won in all the 200-Km+ distance races; set the Course Record for the Manila To Baguio 250K Race in 38:59:53 hours; and about to be awarded as one of the three candidates for the PAU 200K Grand Slam Award and to be considered as the Champion in this 4-event race as he won the past three races, namely, West To East 280K Run, Manila To Baguio 250K Run, and the North Coast 200-Mile Race.
Thomas Combisen is a native of Sagada, Mountain Province and works as a Civil Engineer in one of the Land Developers in Metro Manila and suburbs. He had been an active member of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners for the past three years.
The Letter of Invitation from the IAU and the Chinese Taipei Ultramarathon Federation, as the Host and Race Organizer was officially received by the PAU last August of this year and Thomas Combisen was chosen and informed that he will represent the country in this international ultra marathon event with three (3) months of focused training. Major General Jovenal Narcise AFP (Retired), President of the PAU met with Thomas as soon as the Invitation was received and he informed him of the details of the race, how he will train and prepare for the race, and for him not to worry of the expenses for the travel, accommodation in Taiwan, and other logistics needs for him to join the race. He was advised to prepare his travel papers (passport) and PAU will support for his visa application for Taiwan. On a weekly basis, Thomas was advised to report on the progress of his training to the President of PAU.
The 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Championship Endurance Run was held on November 19-20, 2016 at the World Games Stadium Area in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with 27 International Runners from IAU-sanctioned National Federations and 450 Local & Foreign Runners under the Open Category. The race started at 3:00 PM of Saturday and ended at 3:00 PM on the following day, Sunday. Runners had to run a loop course with a distance of 1.75 kilometers. The loop course has two RFID timing mats placed at the Start/Finish and at the midway of the loop course that would record the time of the runner, the number of loops and distance the runner has covered during the event. The loop course has two Aid Stations and other amenities that the runner could use during the event. Pacers were not allowed and competing runners were not allowed to pace each other for the duration of two loops. Such violation would result to immediate disqualification of the runners.
Our main goal in this race was for Thomas to finish at least 200 kilometers during the duration of 24 hours just for him to gain experience.
On the first two loops, Thomas was leading the race with a comfortable pace of 8:30+ minutes per loop and he told me that he felt easy on the pace and I advised him to just maintain the said pace and make sure to hydrate as often as possible. On the third loop, most of the international runners (IAU-sanctioned runners) started to speed up their pace until Thomas landed on the 4th place on the 5th hour of the race since it started. During the nighttime running, he maintained the ranking of #6. He finished 100 kilometres in 10 hours and 40 minutes and I advised him that our main goal of reaching 200 is doable.
Thomas crossed the Start/Finish RFID mat with 200 kilometers covered with one hour before 3:00 PM and I advised him to just have his recovery run until the horn was sounded to officially end the event. As the event ended with sound of horn and gun fired, Thomas was able to officially register a distance of 203.45 kilometres and placed overall #8 among the 27 International Runners.
As a result, Thomas Combisen had officially set a National Record for a Filipino Runner with a distance of 203.453 kilometres with a pace of 7:05 minutes per kilometre for a 24-Hour Endurance Run.
The following is the Official Result on the Podium Finishers (Top 3 runners) among the IAU-sanctioned International Runner with their respective pace:
For the Male Category:
Barry Loveday (Australia)——235.868 kilometers (6:05 min/km)
Takayoshi Shigemi (Japan) ——230.868 kilometers (6:14 min/km)
John Pearson (Australia) ——224.849 kilometers (6:24 min/km)
Thomas Combisen’s performance on his first international exposure in IAU-sanctioned Championship Races is considered as a success and excellent performance on his part and whole RP Team. Our participation to these kind of events will continue despite the lack of corporate sponsors and financial support coming from the Government.
From the words of Thomas Combisen, he said, “Sir, if not for you, my dream to join an international running event would remain as a dream and I will remember this experience throughout the rest of my life as this is something very special to me and priceless that money could never, never ever buy!” I just smiled and replied to him, “This is just the beginning of your international exposure as more races will come in the future. Keep your feet on the ground and keep on improving on your training as I have plans already for you to join the 2017 edition of this race!”