So before I get to the blow by blow race report of this past Saturday’s epic Hong Kong 100 Ultra, I have to give a small blow by blow account of what was an amazing and easily one of the most memorable weeks I have experienced.
Also worth noting, it’s kind of a long post, so depending on the time of day, grab a strong coffee, or a good micro brew and settle in……..
The trip to Hong Kong was pretty smooth and I arrived at the hotel around 830am and was greeted by Joseph, the local HK Salomon rep. I then dumped my stuff and went exploring, with the goal being breakfast! On the walk back to the hotel I spotted Ryan and we got out for a little jog around the water front of HK. Things then got blurry as we met smiling face after smiling face and ate all kinds of goodness. Not just that night, this went on until Thursday night. It was pretty amazing, I have never meet so many friendly, happy, and enthusiastic people in such a short time before.
On Wednesday we had a group run that was open to anyone that was keen to come out for a jog. It was also a chance for people to try some Salomon kit- head to toe, with EXO Lycra and SLAB or CrossMax shoes. I chatted with a heap of different folks from all over the place and it was really fun to get out on the local trails with some local runners. Many of these runners were also racing the HK100, so we saw them again, while many others turned up on race day at different points during the race and supported!
On Thursday our “baby sitter” Fai took us around to the start, mid point and finish of the course which was nice to see, but the 3hr taxi ride was a struggle. For the 3rd day in a row I was getting a throbbing headache. The first few times I was thinking I must have been dehydrated from the travel, but I’m pretty sure it was in fact the smog/pollution. It hit me pretty hard a few times, to the point I felt like I might faint- very weird feeling. That night we had a small function at The Overlander- a store run by Joseph/Salomon HK. Most of Amer Sports (Salomon parent company) Malaysia had come over for this, as well as Sylvain, the head of marketing for Salomon Running. This was another great chance to meet and talk with local runners, as well as some important “behind the scenes” players in Salomon. Sylvain gave a very interest presentation on trail running and Salomon’s invlovment in it, as well as Ryan talking about the SLAB Skin Pack and Vanessa about the new Mission shoe (very nice door to trail training shoe! It should be available in New Zealand in June).
Friday was a pretty quiet day thankfully. We even gave poor Fai the day off! Both him and Joseph had been taking excellent care of Ryan, Vanessa, Jen and I! I laid low, getting my gear ready for the main event- I was here I had to remind myself to race 100k!
It was pretty nice to see so many of the people that we had met earlier in the week at the race start, excited and ready to go. As always everyone was super friendly! I know that I was going into this race under done, but this was going to be better than the over done feeling I had at CDR last year. I was pretty content to start out conservative and see how things played out in the 2nd half. The field was stacked! Easily the most competitive race I have lined up in I think. We were asked about this on Thursday night, my reply was “a good race for me might be top 5, but any mistakes and your out the back door, top 10 would be a struggle, there are so many fast guys”. Like any race it was a hiss and a roar at the start and Ryan lead a conga line of about 15 thru the first section of single track to the road section around the High Island Reservoir. At this point a group of 6 broke away, with myself in a small chase pack of about 3-4. We climbed and descended headlands via stairs, some concrete, some rocky, crossed beautiful beaches and ran through some fun forest, albeit mostly on concrete covered trails. I had been bouncing between 8-10th spot and feeling good. Dan Parr and I seemed to lose Eric LaHaie around 40km and not long after 45k I managed to gap Dan. Before CP5 there was a steep climb, before descending to the CP. I was really surprised to catch Sudip Kulung from Nepal on the climb and we ran down into the checkpoint together. Here I changed socks, had some coke and a Red Bull and got my ipod. I was told we were 20mins up on last year’s winning time (already about 20mins down on Ryan!) and left just as Dan arrived at the CP. I had the tunes cranking and the caffeine was kicking in. I ran steady up the hill and caught last years runner up Jeremy Ritcey, then past Sudip and was in 6th. I was feeling good and knew last year’s winner Will Davies was maybe 5mins ahead. I was starting to flow. But as quickly as you can get into the flow you can fall out of it. Jeremy on the other hand had re-found his and caught me up and we ran together for a while before he pushed on. I was going through a “patch”, it wasn’t a great patch, but wasn’t really that bad. I think I had stopped eating around here as things were not sitting that well. I started feeling a little better on the climb up past all the monkeys. That was crazy. Some were very cute, some were just plain scary! A few wouldn’t really move as you ran past and a few even made a move towards me. The road topped out and there was yet another long down hill on the road. This course has a real mix of road, single track, concrete and burly rocky trail. And steps and stairs (I can’t wait to hear someone whine about the amount of stairs/steps at TNF100 Aust). I was cruising down, feeling good after I ran strong up the last climb and knew I wasn’t far from the 82km CP where I would have crew with a few things for me. I got to a small parking area at the bottom, where the road ended. I thought it was odd not to see any arrows or flagging on what had been a very very well marked course, but went straight and up some more steps as that seemed pretty logical. As I got to the top of the steps something wasn’t feeling right. I stopped and looked around, I wasn’t sure it was the right way, I looked back, but then turned and went a bit further and arrived at a 3 way junction- no arrows, no flags- ahhhh- this was not happening was it?! I started asking people and showing my race number- “no”. Panicked, I turned and headed back down the steps and back up the road. I was freaking out, flustered and stressing. How far had I come?? I asked some more people, again they said they had seen no other runners. I am not sure how long it took me, things were a blur of bad emotions, but to my relief I spotted a pink bit of flagging- how had I missed that? It was a small trail off the road, that started with steps and on the hand rail were 2 zip ties, where the red arrow should have been…… I was happy to be back on track, but still stressing- what position was I in now?? How much time had I lost? I rushed and tried to make up time- fail- I missed another turn. I was clearly not thinking straight anymore. I turned around and when I got back on course came across Sudip. Sudip’s English was not great and my Nepalis is non existent, so I couldn’t figure out if he was still in 8th place or not. I got into the 82km CP just behind Sudip and Joseph told me I was in 10th. I threw my toys. Not externally, but on the inside I was not in a happy place. I was so frustrated at myself. I changed my top, more coke, red bull and bananas and got on with it. At Needle Hill I got a look at those in front, not surprisingly it was Dan and Eric. What was surprising was Sudip was out of sight. I got a time check- 8mins down. I knew the game was up. 15km to go and I checked out. I could go on about how frustrated I was but I won’t- I ran all the frustration out on the course. I got into the last CP at 90km and as I was leaving heard the next runner being cheered in. OK, I still hand the top 10 to run for, I climbed hard, as hard as I could anyway, up yet another steep section of stairs. It was getting dark and I got my head lamp out. I was still annoyed about earlier getting lost, but then looked up. The stars were out- it was the first time all week I had seen them. I then looked down- I was running up some beautiful single track through a mass of rocks and boulders. To my left were the lights of Hong Kong! And up ahead was Tai Mo, at 957m HK’s highest peak and I was about to climb it. How could I be upset? I had experienced an amazing week and I decided then and there, there was no way I was going to let 10-20mins and a few extra km’s ruin that. If this was not enough to motivate me to pull my head out of my ass, I spotted a head lamp not too far behind me! Lucky this coincided with some nice runnable single track and I opened it up best I could with my head lamp. I then hit the road that climbed Tai Mo and turned off my head lamp, happy to run in the dark and not to let the runner behind me know where I was. I tenderised my quads on the 4km down hill to the finish I crossed the line. It felt great to be done, 10th place and 11hrs45mins.
I was blown away, but not totally surprised with Ryan’s impressive 9hr55min run for 1st place. It was great to chat with Jeremy and hear how he bounced back from his low patch when I past him to go to finish in 4th place and a crazy good 10hrs47! I hung out at the finish, drinking Blue Girls and eating hot dogs, watching fellow racers come in. It was a real treat to see the emotion and happiness of runners as they crossed the line. There were fist pumps, arms raised in victory, some crossed with fellow races turned new friends on the trail, some in all out sprints across the line, while others could only manage a shuffle. Smiles all round!
As I have said this was one of the most amazing weeks I have ever had. The city, the people, the food (Goose feet and Bum Buns…), the taxi rides and an amazing 100km course that took in some wickedly cool scenery- what a way to see Hong Kong. The thank you list is long and I can’t even attempt to remember you all. But there are a few- Joseph and Fai- you guys took great care of us! Jen, Ryan and Vanessa- was a great time hanging out with you guys- great results Ryan and Jen! Thanks for all your help Vanessa! Andre I really appreciated all you info before the race- might see you in NZ. GregV and Salomon Running- your making dreams I didn’t know I had a reality, I think I am the luckiest trail runner around!!
Below are a few photos from race day. Check out my album on Face Book for photos of the whole trip.
Guesestimate my time and win a pack- Richard Scott nailed it guessing 11hr45. Thank you to all those who took part and left a comment! Decent turn out and hopefully we can source a few more prizes and have a few more give away’s (The more support/participation we have in that sort of thing the easier it will eb to get prizes and the more stuff you can win!).